Divided, Tomas van Houtryve’s 2018 video installation about the Mexico-U.S. border, will be on display at the Annenberg Center for Photography as part of the group exhibition WALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine from October 5 to December 29, 2019.
Since Baja and Alta, California were divided by the seizure of Mexican land by the United States military in 1848, a political boundary has jutted into the Pacific Ocean. Over the years, the border has been reinforced from a simple line to a fence to steel barrier. This single-channel video installation focuses on the timeless repetition of lines of waves as they crash perpendicular into the barrier. The collision of waves is mesmerizing, and we notice unified lines of waves that are divided in two.
About the exhibition
Complex, challenging, and immersive, WALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine is a historical look at civilization’s relationship with barriers, both real and imagined. For centuries, across diverse civilizations, walls have been central to human history. This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls – artistic, social, political, and historical – in six sections: Delineation, Defense, Deterrent, The Divine, Decoration, and The Invisible. These categories overlap and change meaning according to context, much like the walls themselves: erected for one reason, their appearance and use is then altered and modified over centuries, reflecting the civilizations that have grown and changed around them.
Featuring over 70 artists and photographers, WALLS invites guests to contemplate how these structures – from the decorative to the divine – affect the human psyche and why we keep building them.
Selected as a finalist for the 2019 Leica Oskar Barnack Award, seventeen prints of Tomas van Houtryve’s Lines and Lineage will be exhibited in Berlin with the other finalists from September 25 to October 25, 2019.
Lines and Lineage takes aim at America’s collective amnesia of history. The work addresses the missing photographic record of the period when Mexico ruled what we now know as the American West. To visualize the people and places from the remarkable yet unseen Mexican era, Tomas van Houtryve chose to photograph the region with glass plates and a 19th-century wooden camera. Portraits of direct descendants of early inhabitants of the West—mestizo, Afro-Latin, indigenous, Crypto-Jewish—are paired with photographs of landscapes inside the original border and architecture from the Mexican period. Lines and Lineage lifts the pervasive fog of dominant Western mythology and makes us question the role that photographs—both present and missing—have played in shaping the identity of the West. The work will be published as a monograph by Radius Books in Autumn 2019.
The Leica Oskar Barnack Award honors “professional photographers whose unerring powers of observation capture and express the relationship between man and the environment in the most graphic form.” It is named after Oskar Barnack, the inventor of the Leica camera, and it has been awarded since 1979. Previous winners include Martin Kollar, Guy Tillim, Andrea Hoyer, Luc Delahaye, Claudine Doury, Larry Towell, Eugene Richards and Sebastiao Salgado. Tomas’ series, Behind the Curtains, was also chosen as LOBA finalist in 2011. For the 2019 award, the members of the jury were Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Max Pinckers, Milena Carstens, Enrico Stefanelli and Steve McCurry.
Tomas Van Houtryve’s “Lines and Lineage,” a series of photos about the missing photographic history of the American West, is the winner of France’s prestigious 2019 Roger Pic Award which will be presented tonight in Paris.
For the 27th edition of the award, there was a tie and the jury selected two award winners. The other winner is Denis Dailleux for his series “In Ghana – We shall meet again.”
Tomas Van Houtryve followed Mexico’s long-forgotten northern boundary to meet families who have lived in the region, now forming part of the United States, for centuries. His project, “Lines and Lineage,” is featured in The New York Times Lens Blog.
Mr. van Houtryve, 44, wanted to challenge what he calls the West’s “puffed-up mythology” in which Hollywood nurtured the view that the expansion of the United States spread ideas like equality, liberty and democracy in conquered lands.
“In reality, these values arrived in the West straight from Mexico City,” said Mr. van Houtryve, who was raised in California and now lives in Paris. “The main ideological import of Anglo-Americans to the West at the time was actually strident white supremacy.”