March 7, 2013 - March 28, 2013
Selections: San Francisco 1964, Dream Collector, & Theater of the Mind
Arthur Tress began his first camera work as a teenager in the surreal neighborhood of Coney Island where he spent hours exploring decaying amusement parks. Later, Tress began to use his camera to raise environmental awareness about the economic and human costs of pollution. Focusing on New York City, he began to photograph the neglected fringes of the urban waterfront with a straight documentary approach. This gradually evolved into a more personal mode of “magic realism,” combining improvised elements of actual life with stage fantasy that became his hallmark style of directorial fabrication.
“As soon as I picked up this camera I had a surreal and dream-like emotional response to the remarkable juxtapositions of this fairly poor area that was informed by my liberal Jewish social consciousness I learned from my parents. I was captivated by the Magic and Social realistic artists, such as George Tooker, and surrealists, like René Magritte, whose works I saw at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum. I always felt like an outsider so even my early pictures have a sense of melancholic alienation to them, which I attribute to my Jewish heritage of the ghetto and the Holocaust.”
In the late 1960s, Tress was inspired to do a series based upon children’s dreams that combined his interests in ritual ceremony, Jungian archetypes, and social allegory. Later bodies of work dealing with the hidden dramas of adult relationships and the reenactments of male homosexual desire evolved from this primarily theatrical approach.
“What I really do is improvise out of reality. I create a thought matrix in my mind based on these themes in my head, like being chased by monsters, and allow the real world to produce the kind of things I am thinking about. For example, Flood Dream (1970) resulted from photographing kids playing on the roof of a house sitting around a pier. I asked one to put his head through the roof, which was firmly on the ground. It is not as if I am setting this whole thing up. Rather, I magically pull all these ingredients together and it comes together into a Tress photograph.”
Arthur Tress was born in 1940 and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He took his first photographs while still in elementary school in 1952. His work has been published in several monographs, including Arthur Tress: The Dream Collector, Shadow: A Novel in Photographs, Theatre of the Mind, Reeves and Arthur Tress: Fantastic Voyage: Photographs 1956-2000. His work is in several major public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, George Eastman House, Centre Georges Pompidou, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition “Arthur Tress San Francisco 1964″ debuted at the de Young Museum in San Francisco in 2012, and is also available as a companion monograph published by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and DelMonico Books/Prestel, 2012. He lives and work in Cambria, California.