Los Angeles–based artist Sharon Lockhart’s newest film and photographic project, Pine Flat, will be on view at the Walker Art Center April 23–July 16. Comprising a gallery installation of film loops and photographs as well as a feature-length 16mm film that will be screened in a cinema setting, the project looks at the youth of Pine Flat, a rural community in California.
Sharon Lockhart is internationally recognized for her films and photographs that frame the quiet moments of everyday life while exploring the subtle relationships between the two mediums. Much of her photographic work has involved staging scenes in a method reminiscent of filmmaking, while her films emphasize the photographic basis of the moving image. Formally concise, these works examine structure, sequence, and narrative in a way that aligns them with conceptual art and structuralist cinema.
Pine Flat was shot over the course of three years in a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern California and is Lockhart’s first project to center on a community in the United States. By slowly immersing herself in the life of the town, relinquishing a professional film crew, and operating the camera herself, she created an exceptionally intimate view of contemporary rural life that focuses on the interactions of the community’s children, who engage in everyday activities in stunningly beautiful natural landscapes. Lockhart has worked with children and adolescents throughout her career, from the photographic series Auditions (1994) to the film Goshogaoka and the related photographic series Goshogaoka Girls Basketball Team (1998), in the collection of the Walker. In Pine Flat, she creates a space of mutual encounters between the artist and the children that illuminates the dynamics of personal exchange.
The centerpiece of the Walker exhibition is the 16mm, 138-minute feature film Pine Flat, which Lockhart made to be screened in both a theater and a gallery. For the theater, the film is divided into two 60-minute sections separated by a 10-minute intermission; each section consists of six 10-minute “portraits” shot from a fixed position, with no panning, zooming, or other movement, creating the illusion of watching a moving painting. Each portrait in the first section focuses on an individual child absorbed in a solitary activity, such as reading, hunting, and waiting for the bus; each portrait of the second focuses on a group of children engaged in activities such as fighting for a swing, kissing in a field, and climbing a hill in the snow. In some cases, Lockhart directed the children’s actions, and in other cases they improvised. Although the portraits are remarkably personal, they transcend individual specificity to approach the status of archetypes, as their titles suggest (The Reader, The Hunter, etc.). Moreover, they transcend the documentary to aspire to the imagined by summoning a wide range of references from the history of art, including the genre scenes of Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, the landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich, the chance compositions of John Cage, and the notion of everyday movement as dance pioneered by Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown of Judson Dance Theater. The full-length film will be screened on select Sundays in the Walker Cinema during the run of the exhibition. (Details follow.)
For the gallery Lockhart collaborated with the Los Angeles architectural firm EscherGuneWardena on a site-specific installation of the film for the Walker’s Medtronic Gallery. Recognizing that the experience of viewing a film is different in a cinema than in a gallery, the installation embraces the various ways that time-based work can be experienced in a gallery setting. The film will be divided into the 12 segments that comprise it, which will be shown as individual loops in darkened viewing rooms and rotated over a period of days. Thus, viewers will experience the film differently than they would in a theater: they will have the opportunity to perceive each segment with the close attention normally reserved for static works like paintings because the segments will be on continuous loops that may be viewed repeatedly; to weave the film’s portrayal of everyday life into the fabric of their own everyday lives should they choose to return to the museum on successive days; and to experience a different social relationship to the film and its subjects, as it is likely that in the gallery they will be alone or in small groups, like the children represented, not as part of a large audience.
Also on view will be 19 photographic portraits of the children from the series Pine Flat Portrait Studio. Intrigued by the 19th-century American tradition of the portrait photographer, Lockhart set up a photographic studio in a barn in the center of town. She invited the children to come to the studio to have their portraits taken—the first time they had been photographed with a large-format camera. She shot each portrait against a black cloth backdrop illuminated by natural light. This degree of standardization might suggest August Sander’s typological approach to photography, exemplified by his photographic portrait series of German citizens. But Lockhart disrupts this logic by scaling all the children to the same height so that they cannot be measured against one another—a strategy that also makes it difficult to discern whether some are represented multiple times at different ages, pointing to the difficulty of locating the continuity of personal identity across the constant flux of time. She also encouraged the children to “act” within their stark theatrical setting, giving them the space to create individual personas for the camera; some came dressed in elaborate athletic gear or brought their most prized possessions. The resulting portraits suggest a simultaneous solemnity and intimacy that mark full-length portraits by painters such as Francisco de Zurbarán and Edouard Manet.
After its presentation at the Walker, Sharon Lockhart: Pine Flat will travel to the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University and the Museu do Chiado, Lisbon, Portugal. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by Charta, with texts by Walker director Kathy Halbreich, Fogg Art Museum curator Linda Norden, and artist Frances Stark.
Born in Norwood, Massachusetts, in 1964, Sharon Lockhart lives in Los Angeles. She has had major solo exhibitions at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; and the Kunsthalle Zürich. Her work has also been included in several Whitney Biennials and other group exhibitions worldwide. Her films have been screened at Sundance and Telluride, as well as at festivals in Berlin, Hong Kong, New York, Rotterdam, Toronto, and elsewhere.
Sharon Lockhart: Pine Flat is made possible by generous support from Andrew S. Duff.
Preview and Reception
Sharon Lockhart: Pine Flat
Saturday, April 22, 6–8 pm
$10 ($5 Walker members)
Preview the exhibition, meet the artist, and enjoy complimentary wine, beer, and hors d’oeuvres by Wolfgang Puck Catering. Price includes a free ticket to the screening of the film Pine Flat on Sunday, April 23, at 2 pm. To make a reservation, call 612.375.7600 or walkerart.org/tickets.
Sunday, April 23, 2 pm
$8 (Free Walker members)
Lockhart’s latest film, an almost ethnographic study of rural life, was shot over the course of three years in the lush landscape of Pine Flat, California. In the first section of six 10-minute segments, individuals perform mundane tasks—playing harmonica in a stream, sleeping gently in the grass, or waiting for the bus. The second 60-minute section presents groups of children interacting with each other in activities that give insight into this world devoid of adults. A 10-minute intermission, featuring one of the Pine Flat children performing a solo guitar-and-vocal pop song, separates the two sections. 2005, U.S., color, 16mm, 138 minutes.
Print courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery.
Pine Flat (2005)
Directed by Sharon Lockhart
Sundays, April 30; May 7, 21; June 4, 18; July 2, 16, 3 pm, Cinema
$8 (Free Walker members)
Influenced by the durational structure of filmmakers like James Benning and Chantal Akerman with their use of long takes and static shots, Lockhart explores in her films the relationship of audience to subject and cross-cultural performance through collaborative projects with her subjects.
All films directed by Sharon Lockhart and screened in the Cinema. All screenings are $8 (free for Walker members). Prints courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery.
Friday, April 28, 7:30 pm
Set within a grand opera house in Manaus, Brazil, Lockhart’s camera is focused on an audience of 308 local inhabitants listening to American composer Becky Allens’ minimalist composition performed by an off-screen 60-member chorus. As the music fades away, the sounds of the restless audience take over. 1999, U.S., color, 35mm, 40 minutes.
Saturday, April 29, 2 pm
Consisting of six 10 minute shots of basketball drills performed by the young women of a suburban Japanese middle school, the choreographed action staged by Lockhart and Stephen Galloway of the Ballett Frankfurt shows the synchronized preparation for a game that never happens. The shots are each framed by the proscenium stage at the back of the gym heightening the notion of the action as performance, not sport, fiction instead of documentary. T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2002. 1997, U.S./Japan, color, 16mm, 63 minutes.
This film has been described as a “fixed-frame landscape painting” in which two Japanese farmers perform an intricately choreographed routine based on the seasonal work of mulching a field. 2003, U.S./Japan, color, 16mm, 32 minutes.
Target Free Thursday Nights
The Artist’s Bookshelf
Colors Insulting to Nature by Cintra Wilson
Thursday, June 1, 7 pm
Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab
Chosen to complement the film and photographic installation Pine Flat, Salon.com columnist Cintra Wilson’s semi-autobiographical debut is about a culture that forces its children to come of age well before they—or society—are ready. Set in 1980s California, this story looks at growing up through the lens of one girl. Join a free tour of the exhibition at 6 pm. Books are available in the Walker Shop and at the Minneapolis Public Library (www.mplib.org). Presented in partnership with the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library.
Contemporary Art in Conversation:
Sharon Lockhart and James Benning
Moderated by Walker Director Kathy Halbreich
Thursday, June 29, 7 pm
Free tickets available from 6 pm at the Bazinet Lobby desk
While a generation apart, filmmakers Sharon Lockhart and James Benning have both cited the other’s work as an influence on their own practice. Both work within a structuralist aesthetic, employing long takes and static shots to comment on the tenuous relationship between nature, culture, and humanity. Join them for a discussion of Lockhart’s Pine Flat (on view in the Medtronic Gallery), Benning’s films from The California Trilogy (2000, 2001), and a conversation about the process of creating a picture of America—California in particular—through film.
Target Free Thursday Nights are sponsored by Target. Additional support provided by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
Thursday, April 27, 6 pm, Free
Saturday, April 29, 12 noon, Free with gallery admission
Friday, May 12, 6 pm, Free with gallery admission
Thursday, May 18, 1 pm, Free with gallery admission
Thursday, May 25, 6 pm, Free
Saturday, May 27, 12 noon, Free with gallery admission
Thursday, June 1, 6 pm, Free
Friday, June 9, 6 pm, Free with gallery admission
Thursday, June 15, 6 pm, Free
Walker Art Center
April 23–July 16, 2006
Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University
August 26–November 19, 2006
Museu do Chiado, Lisbon, Portugal