Monday, October 19, 2015

A Prison Window


Lee Saloutos is interested in exploring places of confinement and incarceration with his series, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Abandoned Prison. In this series, Saloutos explores the abandoned landscapes of the United States prison system. According to Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), a criminal-justice research and advocacy group, the United States has roughly 2.4 million prisoners that reside mostly in state prisons. [i] In addition, the prison population is estimated to steadily rise. Thus, Saloutos’ series offers a powerful dialogue on the historical beginnings of the United States prison system and consciously comments on its future.

Saloutos’ images in this series focus on a variety of spaces within actual prisons, now unused. He includes images of places within prisons such as deteriorating prison cells, rusting facilities, and dispiriting gas chambers. Each space is distinct and evokes imagery of its past inhabitants. Saloutos’ images of two cells from the same building in the abandoned Missouri State Penitentiary especially resonate with the viewer because of the distinguishable similarities and contrasting differences. More specifically, Saloutos stages both images so that the viewer has a tunnel view into each cell. At the center of each image, is a tall and enveloping window, which provides the only light for the cell. Low and concave ceilings further obstruct the space and emphasize the restrictive nature of the cell to the viewer. Despite these many similarities, the images are contrasting in nature. Missouri State Penitentiary #11 showcases a bare space with illuminated white walls. In comparison, Missouri State Penitentiary #19 is cramped with former furnishings. The walls of this cell are deteriorating, allowing the viewer to see the layers of age incurred by the space.
Lee Saloutos, Missouri State Penitentiary #11, 2012.

The themes of time and age are essential to Saloutos’ images. These themes are very apparent in Missouri State Penitentiary #11 and Missouri State Penitentiary #19. In addition, these images reflect on the important and long history of the Missouri State Penitentiary. At its peak, the Missouri State Penitentiary, which opened in 1836, housed over 5,200 prisoners. [ii] The demand and capacity of the Missouri State Penitentiary is evident by its reputation and legacy as “the bloodiest 47 acres in America.” This title was given to the prison by Time Magazine due to the violent events that commonly occurred there. [iii] However, even after its closure in 2004, the Missouri State Penitentiary's violent reputation persists.


Lee Saloutos, Missouri State Penitentiary #19, 2012.
Saloutos’ images of the Missouri State Penitentiary present a different view of the institution. Without the presence of inhabitants, the prison stands empty, masking its long and frightening history. He shows the prison filled with light, allowing for its spaces and facilities to be seen clearly and critically by viewer. Due to this composition, a struggle occurs within the viewer, who views both a jarring and warm scene. The contradiction between these elements presents a twisted and unsettling beauty. This contrasting experience is essential for understanding Saloutos’ work, which is meant to incite reflection on what occurred in each abandoned space. Ultimately, a viewer can find  both a figurative and literal window into the prison system through Missouri State Penitentiary #11 and Missouri State Penitentiary #19. Therefore, I encourage you to look at both images together and independently in order to grasp the overall impact of Saloutos’ work. Perhaps consider the prisoners and events that occurred within each cell. By doing so, you may be able to discover the boundary between the absence within the prison and the presence of its legacy, which is ultimately maintained and challenged in these images.
Lee Saloutos’ works will be on display as a part of Absence/Presence: Selected Contemporary Photography, an exhibition of 23 photos, on view until November 20, 2015 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.
                                             
[i] J.F. (2014, March 16). Whot, what, where, and why. The Economist
[ii] Missouri State Penitentiary: History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from Missouri State 
     Penitentiary website: http://www.missouripentours.com/history.php 
[iii] Missouri State Penitentiary: History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from Missouri State 
     Penitentiary website: http://www.missouripentours.com/history.php 
  

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Howard Hodgkin: Paintings - May 16, 2012

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Prison Window


Lee Saloutos is interested in exploring places of confinement and incarceration with his series, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Abandoned Prison. In this series, Saloutos explores the abandoned landscapes of the United States prison system. According to Prison Policy Initiative (PPI), a criminal-justice research and advocacy group, the United States has roughly 2.4 million prisoners that reside mostly in state prisons. [i] In addition, the prison population is estimated to steadily rise. Thus, Saloutos’ series offers a powerful dialogue on the historical beginnings of the United States prison system and consciously comments on its future.

Saloutos’ images in this series focus on a variety of spaces within actual prisons, now unused. He includes images of places within prisons such as deteriorating prison cells, rusting facilities, and dispiriting gas chambers. Each space is distinct and evokes imagery of its past inhabitants. Saloutos’ images of two cells from the same building in the abandoned Missouri State Penitentiary especially resonate with the viewer because of the distinguishable similarities and contrasting differences. More specifically, Saloutos stages both images so that the viewer has a tunnel view into each cell. At the center of each image, is a tall and enveloping window, which provides the only light for the cell. Low and concave ceilings further obstruct the space and emphasize the restrictive nature of the cell to the viewer. Despite these many similarities, the images are contrasting in nature. Missouri State Penitentiary #11 showcases a bare space with illuminated white walls. In comparison, Missouri State Penitentiary #19 is cramped with former furnishings. The walls of this cell are deteriorating, allowing the viewer to see the layers of age incurred by the space.
Lee Saloutos, Missouri State Penitentiary #11, 2012.

The themes of time and age are essential to Saloutos’ images. These themes are very apparent in Missouri State Penitentiary #11 and Missouri State Penitentiary #19. In addition, these images reflect on the important and long history of the Missouri State Penitentiary. At its peak, the Missouri State Penitentiary, which opened in 1836, housed over 5,200 prisoners. [ii] The demand and capacity of the Missouri State Penitentiary is evident by its reputation and legacy as “the bloodiest 47 acres in America.” This title was given to the prison by Time Magazine due to the violent events that commonly occurred there. [iii] However, even after its closure in 2004, the Missouri State Penitentiary's violent reputation persists.


Lee Saloutos, Missouri State Penitentiary #19, 2012.
Saloutos’ images of the Missouri State Penitentiary present a different view of the institution. Without the presence of inhabitants, the prison stands empty, masking its long and frightening history. He shows the prison filled with light, allowing for its spaces and facilities to be seen clearly and critically by viewer. Due to this composition, a struggle occurs within the viewer, who views both a jarring and warm scene. The contradiction between these elements presents a twisted and unsettling beauty. This contrasting experience is essential for understanding Saloutos’ work, which is meant to incite reflection on what occurred in each abandoned space. Ultimately, a viewer can find  both a figurative and literal window into the prison system through Missouri State Penitentiary #11 and Missouri State Penitentiary #19. Therefore, I encourage you to look at both images together and independently in order to grasp the overall impact of Saloutos’ work. Perhaps consider the prisoners and events that occurred within each cell. By doing so, you may be able to discover the boundary between the absence within the prison and the presence of its legacy, which is ultimately maintained and challenged in these images.
Lee Saloutos’ works will be on display as a part of Absence/Presence: Selected Contemporary Photography, an exhibition of 23 photos, on view until November 20, 2015 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.
                                             
[i] J.F. (2014, March 16). Whot, what, where, and why. The Economist
[ii] Missouri State Penitentiary: History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from Missouri State 
     Penitentiary website: http://www.missouripentours.com/history.php 
[iii] Missouri State Penitentiary: History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from Missouri State 
     Penitentiary website: http://www.missouripentours.com/history.php 
  

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Washington, District of Columbia, United States
"Found In Collection" or simply "FIC" is the way many museums classify the more mysterious items in their possession that have little or no documentation. Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of the George Washington University, we do keep extensive records of our collection, but some of the items we come across in academic buildings or our own storage can leave us wondering. This blog is an effort to showcase some of the more curious examples and their stories, and to provide a glimpse of the great variety of art pieces within the collection. To learn more about the Brady Gallery's history, recent exhibitions, or the George Washington University, take a look at the links below.

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