John Divola: Swimming Drunk

April 16 - May 21, 2022
  • Yancey Richardson is pleased to present Swimming Drunk, an exhibition of photographs by John Divola. The exhibition includes two photographic series that represent the breadth of the artist’s more than 40 year career: Zuma Series (1977-1978), and Daybreak (2015-2020). Both series are a result of Divola’s engagement with abandoned buildings, and his interest in transforming a situation through photography. Thus, the
    photographs do not serve as mere descriptions of the scenes depicted but instead are offered as artifacts from the artist’s physical and experiential interventions within these environments.

  • Zuma #30, 1977. Archival pigment print. Image: 40 x 50 inches. Framed: 44 1/4 x 54 3/8 inches. $19,000.

    Zuma #30, 1977. Archival pigment print. Image: 40 x 50 inches. Framed: 44 1/4 x 54 3/8 inches. $19,000.

  • As a young artist in the 1970s, Divola adopted vacant houses as a ready-made studio, both observing the changes to the physical spaces made by others and applying his own interventions using spray paint, string, or thrown magazines. For his ground-breaking Zuma Series (1977-1978), Divola focused on an abandoned property on Zuma Beach in Southern California. The building was repeatedly burned and damaged in various ways by the fire department who used it for training exercises and practice drills. Over the course of a year, Divola returned on numerous occasions to photograph the site, making additions to the interior with inscrutable marks of paint and graffiti, augmented by others’ vandalism, decay from natural elements, and the passage of time. In each image, he has used the rectangular openings of the house’s windows and doors to frame the idyllic seascape beyond, juxtaposing interior dereliction with the exterior serenity of the natural landscape and incorporating the colors of sea and sky as part of his overall palette. In Zuma #70, Divola activates the space further by throwing a colorful magazine into the scene.

  • Divola describes Zuma Series (1977-1978), as “a product of [his] involvement with an evolving situation... My acts, my painting, my...

    Divola describes Zuma Series (1977-1978), as “a product of [his] involvement with an evolving situation... My acts, my painting, my photographing, my considering, are part of, not separate from, this process of evolution and change.” His willingness to physically intervene with his surroundings, combined with his bold use of color, marked Divola’s departure from the status quo in an era that prized the neutrality of predominantly black and white documentary photography.

  • Daybreak (2015-2020) is a result of Divola’s multi-year engagement with the abandoned housing complex at the decommissioned George Air Force Base in Victorville, California. Using rooms altered by military training exercises, vandals seeking copper wire, and kids playing paintball, Divola transforms them into a provisional studio, adding spray-painted marks, cut paper or draped cloth. Photographing primarily at dawn, Divola explores the way in which light illuminates the space and transforms his interventions. By adopting the analog format of 8x10 gelatin silver contact prints for the series, Divola calls attention to the photographs as physical manifestations of his engagement in the site. 

  • George Air Force Base, Daybreak, 4_2020_10, 2020. Gelatin silver contact print on Azo paper. Image: 8 x 10 inches. Framed:...

    George Air Force Base, Daybreak, 4_2020_10, 2020. Gelatin silver contact print on Azo paper. Image: 8 x 10 inches.

    Framed: 14 1/4 x 17 1/4 inches. 

  • “Each photograph represents an index of multiple gestures. The design of the architect, the labor of the builders, the traces...

    George Air Force Base, Daybreak, 1_2019A_10, 2019. Gelatin silver contact print on Azo paper. Image: 8 x 10 inches. Frame: 14 1/4 x 17 1/4 inches.

    “Each photograph represents an index of multiple gestures. The design of the architect, the labor of the builders, the traces of past occupants... my own painting and installations, and ultimately my gestures of selection.” - John Divola

  • Born in Los Angeles in 1949, Divola earned an MFA from University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied under Robert Heinecken. Since 1975 he has taught photography and art at numerous institutions including California Institute of the Arts (1978-1988), and since 1988 he has been a Professor of Art at the University of California, Riverside.

     

    Divola was featured in the 1981 and 2017 Whitney Biennials and was the subject of a three-museum retrospective in 2013 at the LA County Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Pomona College Museum of Art. His various projects have been published in eight monographs. Divola’s photographs have been exhibited and collected by major museums worldwide including the Centre George Pompidou, Getty Museum, Guggenheim, LACMA, Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, SFMOMA and the Tate Museum among others. Among Divola’s Awards are Individual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1973, 1976, 1979, 1990), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1986), a Flintridge Foundation Fellowship (1998), a City of Los Angeles Artist Grant (1999) and a California Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship (1998).