Thursday, April 3, 2008

We Love the 90s!

Woman wheeling down Sunset Boulevard at 34 mph in Beverly Hills on an afternoon in the summer of 1990

Andrew Bush’s “Vector Portraits” – a series of pictures taken while driving alongside his subjects on the roads and freeways of California – was one of the signature photographic series of the 90s. Original, perceptive, and with a fresh conceptual twist, it explored the culture of Los Angeles as well as issues of privacy, danger, and the American dream.

Now, after a decade in which the pictures were slowly slipping from public sight, Yale University Press is about to publish a selection of 70 photographs along with an interview by Jeff Rosenheim, one of the Met’s brightest curators. (The book comes out next week.)

Bush took the pictures by mounting a 4x5 camera and simple strobe on the passenger side of his car and remotely snapping the picture while driving at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. Photographed when Bush is directly across from them, the subjects are framed by the car window to make a separate picture within a picture.

Deadpan titles record not only where and when each photograph was taken, but information about speed, weather, etc. These captions give a faux-scientific aspect to the work, recalling Ed Ruscha's books of the late 1960's in which Ruscha photographed and catalogued such commonplace symbols of Los Angeles as parking lots, palm trees and gas stations.

Despite their humor, Bush's pictures make for fascinating socio-psychological documents. The car is, after all, a unique area of personal space - half public, half private. And as much as we may be what we eat or wear, we are also what we drive.

Man heading south at 73 mph on Interstate 5 near Buttonwillow Drive outside of Bakersfield, California, at 5:36 p.m. on a Tuesday in March 1992

Woman heading northwest at 67 mph on U.S. Route 101 near Santa Barbara at 2:33:38 p.m. in the early 1990s

Man traveling southbound at 67 mph on U.S. Route 101 near Montecito, California, at 6:31 p.m. on or around the 28th of a summer month on a Sunday in 1994

Man and woman passing through the intersection of Cahuenga and Hollywood boulevards, Hollywood, at 33 mph on February 14, 1997

Man rolling along (and whistling audibly) on U.S. Route 101 at approximately 55 mph on a summer day in 1989

Woman meandering at differing speeds through various parts of Pacific Palisades, California, while singing, before noon on a weekend day in the early part of 1997


glass1/2full said...

brilliant! thanks for illuminating us!
when i look at these i can't help but
think of the norman rockwell painting of the family going to and from the beach.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant series. I came across some of these a while back on the web. They sure deserved to be book in book form for some time. The series falls into the type of project that couples ingenious but really simple concept with complex and layered result -the kind of work that inevitably makes some photographers [I for one] gasp: "Damn, why didn't I have this idea..."

Jessie Cacciola said...

I love's like matching a dog to its owner.
- Jessie -

Alice Olive said...

Brilliant series. Agree with Jessie's comment above - matching a dog to its owner.

To me, there is also some kind of 'Hollywood glamour' to them - something to do with the composition and lighting.

Great series. Thanks for the post!

rg1396 said...

Pixel perfect. At once comfortably reassuring and eerily disquieting, the photographic images Mr. Bush has recorded in "Andrew Bush DRIVE" are as exact in their visual force, psychological acuity and intellectual rigor as anything by far more famous (and FAR more highly priced) artists like Andreas Gursky or Thomas Ruff--without any of their staginess or theatricality. And unlike the works of those two artists, Mr. Bush's VECTOR PORTRAITS (the series from which the book was culled) have acquired equity in a post 9/11 world, suggesting a post-hydrocarbon dystopia that begins to come into focus less and less as the stuff of science fiction and more like the stuff of scientific fact. I am haunted by these image and wish to simultaneously congratulate Mr. Bush and to damn him.

Rachel said...

this is amazing. please alert me when the book comes out!