American photographer Jim Dow has long been fascinated by the ingenuity and creative spirit found in the built environment. Between 1967 and 1977, his first decade as a young photographer, he drove along old U.S. highways on numerous cross-country road trips, focusing his large format camera on time-worn signage extracted from billboards, diners, gas stations, drive-in theaters, ice cream stands, burger joints, and other small businesses. Indebted to Harry Callahan, with whom Dow studied at RISD, and the work of Walker Evans, another key mentor, Dow’s early photographs highlight the effects of time’s passage, as commercial tastes and styles shift from one era to the next. Though most of the subjects Dow photographed have long since disappeared, his images avoid nostalgic longing or ironic commentary. With reverence and humor, Dow conveys the importance making one’s mark on the land and celebrates the desire to express individual agency and creativity in the landscape we inhabit.
On view for the first time, Signs includes approximately seventy-six photographs given to the museum by the artist and the Hall Family Foundation, featuring over sixty early black and white prints as well as a small selection of recent color work.
A selection of photographs from the permanent collection, curated by Jim Dow for their visual and thematic affinities with his photographic practice, will be on view concurrently in our photography galleries.
Organized by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, this exhibition is supported by the Hall Family Foundation.
Jim Dow Artist Talk and Booksigning
A Long Career in Slow Photography
September 30 | 6-7 p.m.
Photographer Jim Dow will speak about how works featured in the exhibition Signs: Photographs by Jim Dow, established his artistic trajectory for a career that has spanned over five decades. A book signing for the accompanying exhibition catalogue will follow the lecture.
Signs: Photographs by Jim Dow
Exhibition catalogue is available through the Museum Store.
$50; Hardback; 120 pages; 68 b-w + 8 color illus.
Distributed by Yale University Press