The Pond is clever and ambiguous. This elegantly crafted narrative leads you on an unexpected journey through an unnamed landscape, and will linger with you long after you have left the gallery.
On view at the Stephen Daiter Gallery, The Pond is comprised of 52 vintage silver print photographs. The photographs were first published as a book of the same name in 1985. While many collections are often dismantled and sold piece by piece, it has been Gossage’s desire to keep The Pond in tact to preserve the storyline presented in the book. Indeed, it would be a great loss not to follow the order of the photographs as they are displayed at the gallery.
In the first few images we are lead down a path into a wooded area. As we move deeper into the area around the pond Gossage reveals tiny details—a broken tree trunk, a discarded beer can, a piece of “Coors” labeled cardboard. This is not the idyllic Walden pond. Rather Gossage is turning Thoreau’s notion on its head. Gossage’s pond, for which we are expected to understand “pond” as the environment well beyond the pond itself—stretching into the small town from where we entered and where we will end up—has been neglected. There is a sense of human’s apathy towards the pond and perhaps all landscapes, that seems to creep into the images. And yet in spite of that, an elegance and mystery weaves through the entire collection.
“In literature, Gossage explains, “landscape inevitably becomes the setting, the background to a story. It isn’t easy to do with language—landscape just isn’t a literary mode. But it is a natural photographic mode—in photography, landscape can be the primary subject.”
The Pond is graceful and provocative in its subtle handling of its subject, and one show I encourage you not to miss.
John Gossage, The Pond, is on view at the Stephen Daiter Gallery (230 W. Superior, Fourth Floor) now through June 23, 2012. Also on view at the gallery are prints from John Gossage’s series The Romance Industry.
Mary E. DeYoe is a poet and freelance art writer. She lives in Chicago.