Untitled, from the series ‘III’.
Selenium toned gelatin silver print (230 × 156 mm / 9 × 6.14 in.) made by the artist in 2015. Edition of 8. Signed and numbered on label to verso of frame.
The photographs in this series were mostly made in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and are Maddock’s attempt to photograph aspects of the American landscape in a new way, aware that it is a subject loaded with cliches and a sense of over-familiarity through a century of visual saturation. In an attempt to leave something of this assumed heritage behind, Maddock opened himself up to chance, happenstance, and discovery by introducing one of the following items into the frame: a single sheet of paper, pools of spilt milk, or a ping pong ball. Together, the photographs form a pictorial riddle of small interventions, knowingly sharing something of the wry sense of humour present in the 1970s work of John Baldessari, Robert Cumming, and William Wegman.
Throughout Maddock makes a conscious reference to more than one aspect of twentieth century American photography, but insists that he was influenced just as much by the writing of Charles Bukowski, Raymond Chandler, John Fante, and the Beats. ‘They made it possible to see magic in California again, even if you had nothing. To believe in saints perhaps dressed in rags, style transcending the materialistic world,’ he later wrote. ‘For much of the 20th century California was the ultimate promised land, seducing us with myths that we wanted to believe. A consumer / entertainment society served up at nature’s expense. Beauty, health, abundance and fame have always had the very real counter faces of ugliness, sickness, greed, waste, and loneliness. No longer is it an example for the future. It no longer fills us with hope; things are changing as we start to realize the hard fact that the world cannot sustain our appetites. California is still dreaming, but now also of its own demise.
There is set piece in a TinTin story ‘The Calculus Affair’ where a piece of sticky tape travels around the world, caught on different peoples hands. It takes an unshakably inadvertent journey, appearing again just as you had forgotten about it. There is something about this white tape’s significance/insignificance that was on my mind as I started these pictures.’
Robin Maddock (b.1972) is a British photographer, best known for his first two books: Our Kids are Going to Hell (2009), and God Forgotten Face (2011), both of which were included in Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s The Photobook: A History Vol. III (2014). His third book, III, was published in 2014.