World’s Largest Photograph on View at University of California, Riverside’s Sweeney Art Gallery
RIVERSIDE, CA.- UCR Sweeney Art Gallery & Culver Center of the Arts present The Great Picture: The World’s Largest Photograph & The Legacy Project, an exhibition in three parts that tells the tale of the successful campaign to make the world’s largest camera and photograph. The photo’s mammoth scale of 32 x 111 feet earned it a place in Guinness World Records, and made it a photo history landmark.
“It is also an exploration of the 172-year-old conflict between painting and photography, and the more recent waning of traditional, analog, darkroom photography in the wake of digital dominance,” says Tyler Stallings, artistic director of the Culver Center of the Arts and director of the Sweeney Art Gallery.
The two-story atrium at the Culver Center of the Arts provides a rare opportunity to present such a gargantuan photograph. The Great Picture will be on view through Oct. 8, 2011.
Six well-known photographic artists, known as The Legacy Project, aided by 400 artists, experts, and volunteers, transformed an abandoned Southern California F-18 jet hangar at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro (MCAS El Toro) in Orange County into the largest camera ever made, and then proceeded to make the world’s largest photograph, known as “The Great Picture.” The image is a panoramic view of a portion of the former Marine Corps Air Station, which is destined to become the heart of the Orange County Great Park.
On July 12, 2006, The Legacy Project unveiled the world’s largest photograph at a reception held inside the world’s largest camera. It has been exhibited only twice since then during a short viewing at Art Center College of Design, South Campus Wind Tunnel in Pasadena, Calif., in 2007, and this past winter at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. The Sweeney Art Gallery/Culver Center’s presentation of “The Great Picture” will be accompanied for the first time by additional components that explore the process behind its making and the artists who made it, collectively known as The Legacy Project.
The Great Picture: The World’s Largest Photograph & The Legacy Project is organized by UCR Sweeney Art Gallery & Culver Center of the Arts, and has been curated by Tyler Stallings, artistic director for the Culver Center of the Arts and the director of Sweeney Art Gallery. In the past, Stallings has curated other exhibitions that have examined artistic challenges to photographic media that range from Conceptual Photography from the Permanent Collection at Laguna Art Museum in 2005 to Truthiness: Photoraphy as Sculpture at UCR/Califronia Museum of Photography in 2008.
“The Great Picture: The Making of the World’s Largest Photograph” is a 196-page book, published and distributed by Hudson Hills Press, that accompanies the exhibition with essays by Stallings, Dawn Hassett, and Lucy R. Lippard, and features photographs documenting this monumental and unprecedented project. Lippard is the author of 21 books on contemporary art and cultural criticism, which include Partial Recall: Photographs of Native North Americans (ed., 1992), The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered America (1997) and On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art and Place (1999). Hassett has been a working writer all her life, working in journalism for community-based newspapers and radio programs in Canada. She earned a Master of Professional Writing degree at the University of Southern California where she served on the editorial board of the Southern California Anthology.
Exhibition in Three Parts
The exhibition is divided into three parts. The centerpiece is the 3 stories tall by 11 stories wide photograph featured in the Culver Center of the Arts expansive atrium — perhaps one of the few spaces in Southern California capable of presenting it. This will be accompanied by an exhibition in the Culver’s North Atrium Gallery about the process behind the making of “The Great Picture,” which includes test strips to determine the right exposure in the makeshift airplane hanger pinhole camera, video documentation, and other artifacts. The third component will be an exhibition in the Sweeney Art Gallery, located just behind the Culver atrium, of work by the six artists that compose The Legacy Project: the late Jerry Burchfield, Mark Chamberlain, Rob Johnson, Jacques Garnier, Douglas McCulloh, and Clayton Spada. It will focus on their individual bodies of work created while on site at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro as part of their 15-year commitment to document the transformations taking place at this historic 4,700-acre site.
The Legacy Project
Marince Corps Air Station El Toro Building #115 once served as an F-18 fighter jet hangar, but in 2006 the members of The Legacy Project transformed the building into a camera obscura. The work is part of the project’s ongoing quest to document the transition of the former base into the Orange County Great Park. To date, the project has amassed more than 200,000 images. The Legacy Project artists created the photograph in the summer of 2006.
The significance of “The Great Picture” has been recognized worldwide. It has been featured in hundreds of publications from art journals such as Art in America, Photographie, AfterImage, Juxtapoz and Black and White Magazine. It has been featured in newspapers such as The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Der Spiegel and The Guardian. For more information go to http://www.legacyphotoproject.com.
The Orange County Great Park, with its 1,347-acre master plan, is the focal point of the redevelopment of the publicly owned portion of the 4,700-acre former MCAS El Toro. The Great Park is currently 27.5 acres and includes an iconic tethered helium balloon that rises 400 feet in the air, providing an aerial view of park development. A $70 million development plan to expand the park to more than 200 acres is under way. The plan will build out a core section of the park for the most immediate and wide-ranging public benefit, including the initial components of the sports park, a 114-acre agricultural area, and an art and culture exhibition space.
The camera obscura (in Italian: “dark room”) is the antecedent to all current cameras. When sunlight enters a small hole at the front of a darkened room, it produces an inverted, but sharp and detailed image on the back wall. The principles of the camera obscura have been known for several thousand years. During the Renaissance camera obscuras were used to help draw accurate images; the notebooks of Da Vinci include two sketches of camera obscuras. In fact, the camera obscura is the direct ancestor of the modern camera. When light enters the lens of a camera, an inverted image appears on the back where it is captured by film. In the case of “The Great Picture,” the hangar itself was a very large camera. The image entered the camera through a one-quarter inch aperture installed 15 feet high in the hangar doors. Three-story-high sensitized fabric hung 56 feet back in the darkened hanger, serving as the film.
Concurrent and Related Exhibitions
“The Great Picture” presentation will overlap and be in dialogue with the exhibition Seismic Shift: Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal and California Landscape Photography, 1945 – 1984, organized by UCR/California Museum of Photography, Sweeney/Culver’s sister institution, located next door in downtown Riverside. On view from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2011, Seismic Shift will illuminate the far-reaching consequences of the revolution then taking place in landscape photography by tracing this local and regional history from 1945 to 1984. The exhibition is one of the many exhibition projects throughout Southern California funded by the Getty Foundation in response to the Getty’s initiative, “Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980.” http://cmp.ucr.edu
In the light of this major exhibition, The Great Picture: The World’s Largest Photograph & The Legacy Project will extend into the 21st century Seismic Shift’s examination of landscape photography in Southern California.
UCR/California Museum of Photography also features a camera obscura built into the façade of the building, located on the third floor. Once you enter the room-size camera, one can see people walking, though inverted in their orientation, along the pedestrian mall on which the CMP is located.
Relative to photo-based exhibitions for the Getty’s initiative, “Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980,” Stallings is also a contributing essayist and a member of the curatorial team for Palm Springs Art Museum’s contribution to the Pacific Standard Time project with the exhibition Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982, scheduled for January 21-May 27, 2012.