Bright Black World by Todd Hido

Reflex Gallery, Amsterdam

Weteringschans 79 A, 1017 RX Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Until November 17th, 2018

“It’s been said that Inuits have many words to describe white. As the polar snow caps melt faster than we ever imagined, I wonder how long it will be before we have as many words to describe darkness.” — Todd Hido

In the above quotation Hido leaves us in no doubt that the overarching theme of his latest body of work ‘Bright Black World’ concerns the impact of climate change, and that this is the source of the portentous foreboding one can discern in the works. Currently on show at Reflex Gallery in Amsterdam, Hido has focussed his attention and his lens on the far north, and specifically the psychological effects of this locale as it is enveloped by the depths of winter, the unremitting darkness and occasional wan light in between, that accompanies it.

Of course, Hido is no stranger to imbuing his works with an ominous tone, but by focusing on such a vast and complicated subject it is difficult to determine if there is an underlying stridency in the work, or instead a plaintive cry. Usually known for his photography of nondescript suburban housing and its sometime otherworldly properties, Hido imbues much of his practice with a cinematic feel – either through the epic breadth of his sweeping panoramas, or through the atmospheric narrative implied by the effects of dramatically diffuse lighting.

118019-1971, 2017
118019-1971, 2017. Archival pigment print

Often shrouded in a nocturnal sfumato and with a hint of disquiet or menace, Hido has somehow, throughout his career, simultaneously channelled artistic visions as diverse as Caspar David Friedrich, Stieglitz, Hitchcock, even Spielberg. In this sense these images are no different, especially since they also evoke profound isolation, communicated either through landscape imbued with canonical traits of the romantic sublime, or by more intimate vignettes of eerie mystery. What sets ‘Bright Black World’ apart, however, is a distinctive and unmistakeable nordic wistfulness, derived in large part from the light one finds there and the unique qualities inherent in it. They are possessed of serene silence that comes with darkness and isolation, or from the barely-there watercolour daylight that is gone almost before it has fully arrived. Thus the works are tinged with longing and melancholy, a characteristic developed further in the intimate portraits, possessed of an emptiness akin to the works of Hammershøi, the great Danish painter of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

11797-3252, 2017
11797-3252, 2017. Archival pigment print

‘Bright Black World’ is as grand and portentous as previous series of works, and as we have come to expect predicated upon Hido’s visionary application of the dramatic possibilities of lighting, either from a single source, piercing and dominant, or from more diffuse grandeur, seeping and spreading. Lonely highways bisect the picture plane, travelling from the viewer’s stance to a distant somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Clouds hover with heaviness, barely supported by the firmament, and press on the terrain below, increasingly ravaged by the effects of climate change and ever-closer to yielding completely. Remnants of rain litter the view and leave residual blurs on the lens. And then there is the cold, the kind of cold that exacerbates the loneliness within the barren landscape. The unheimlich is pervasive. The absence of human habitation, or at the very least the scant evidence of it makes the viewer a particular kind of participant, alone in their view of the landscape, alone in a vastness uncomfortable to contemplate, or alone and forlorn at the start of a journey into the uncharted distance.

About the gallery
Reflex is an established gallery representing both upcoming and internationally renowned contemporary artists, including Miles Aldridge, Nobuyoshi Araki, Harland Miller, David LaChapelle, Todd Hido, Daido Moriyama, Iris Schomaker, Keith Coventry, Marcus Harvey and Ichwan Noor to name a few.

Organising a minimum of six solo shows and group exhibitions a year, the gallery has a wide international reach and offers tailored guidance to private and corporate art collectors. Reflex also operates in the secondary market and is experienced in sourcing exclusive works of photography, painting and sculpture.

Over the last three decades, Reflex developed a strong publishing tradition, producing high quality limited editions, prints and publications. For the latter, the gallery collaborated with the eclectic likes of Wim van Sinderen, Wim Pijbes, Marilyn Manson, Matthias Harder, Marcel Feil, Erik Kessels, Hari Kunzru & Sir Norman Rosenthal to name a few.

Reflex was founded as a family business in 1986. Its name is inspired by the 1948 manifesto of the Cobra group, and can be seen as a gesture of homage.

Gallery website.