"For the Starns, the six-sided nature of snow crystals appears less important than the ways in which the flakes hover between one state and another. As they are being photographed, they are in a process of alteration from solid to liquid, from organized form in space to aqueous blob on a surface, and thus suggest a transitiveness that photography, as a medium devoted to stilling the moment, would seem to contradict. Similarly, as was true of the pictures of leaf veins and tree branches, light seems not so much to shine on the snowflakes as it shines through them. Instead of appearing as specimens, in the manner of 19th-century scientific observation, the snowflakes are objects of transformation. Few of the Starns' snowflakes are models of perfection, and in this they remind one of finding starfish and seashells scoured by the tides and left to dry on sandy beaches. Many have parts missing, or they have all their detailed armatures on one side but not the other. Here again, the Starns' images exceed the aesthetic register of the catalog. Unlike industrial structures, or manmade devices, imperfection is an essential part of their beauty and poignancy. Here is material evidence of the Starns' interest in the phenomenological character of the natural world, cast into being against the certitude of our own impermanence. The photographs speak of the fragile delicacy of our ever-warming world while being themselves a visual bulwark against despair, and they draw us, like moths to light, to the pleasures of sight that but for the camera would exceed the human eye." ‚—Excerpt from Andy Grundberg's introduction in alleverythingthatisyou (catalogue published by the Wetterling Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden 2007)
Mike + Doug Starn
Doug and Mike Starn, American artists, identical twins, born 1961. First receiving international attention at the 1987 Whitney Biennial, the Starns are primarily known for working conceptually with photography, and are concerned largely with chaos, interconnection and interdependence, time and physics. Over the past two and a half decades, they have continued to defy categorization, effectively combining traditionally separate disciplines such as photography, sculpture, architecture and site-specific projects.
Their recent installation Big Bambú: You Can’t, You Don’t, and You Won’t Stop, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ranked fourth in the world in 2010 for total attendance of contemporary art exhibitions and was the ninth most attended exhibition in the museum’s history; the attendance-per-day ranking was the eighth in the world for a solo contemporary exhibit, with 3,913 visitors per day – with a total of 631,000 over the six-month weather-permitting show. Throughout the six-month exhibit, the Starns and their crew of 10-16 rock climbers continuously lashed and sculpted over 7,000 bamboo poles, a performative architecture of randomly interconnected vectors forming a section of a seascape with a 70-foot cresting wave above Central Park. Big Bambú suggests the complexity and energy of an ever-growing and changing living organism. In 2011 Big Bambú continued above the Grand Canal as an official collateral exhibition of the 54th Venice Biennale, spiraling over 60 feet high. In addition to the recent commission of a site-specific installation in Rome (Italy) by Museo Macro Testaccio for the prestigious Enel Art Prize (to be unveiled on December 11th, 2012), several new iterations of the series are being developed internationally (Singapore, Japan and Sweden).
Gravity of Light, a solo exhibition by the Starn brothers featuring eight monumental photographs illuminated by a single, blindingly bright carbon arc lamp, originally commissioned by the Färgfabriken Kunsthalle, Stockholm, Sweden, will be featured by the Cincinnati Art Museum from October to December 2012 at an extraordinary off-site location in Cincinnati, and is accompanied by a comprehensive monograph on the Absorption of Light concept, published by Rizzoli to be released simultaneously. In the spring of 2009, the Starns completed their first permanently installed public commission for the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority. See it split, see it change, a 250-foot long artwork, up to 14 feet in height, presents the artists’ iconic tree photographs and a leaf transposed onto fused glass, marble mosaics and a water jet-cut stainless steel fence punctuate the South Ferry subway terminal. It is the recipient of the 2009 Brendan Gill Prize.
At the former Tallix foundry, their laboratory studio space in Beacon, New York, the Starns continue to build the first Big Bambú, a constantly evolving construction, formed by a network of more than 2,000 fresh-cut bamboo poles lashed together. This studio space allows Doug + Mike to explore in depth the dialogue Big Bambú has with early works such as Stretched Christ, Siamese Twins, Sphere of Influence and Amaterasu, while pursuing their most recent investigations from their Absorption of Light concept, through alleverythingthatisyou, their photomicrographs of snow crystals, and their revival of the late 19th-century color carbon printing process. Through their carbon-prints, the Starns mingle gilding techniques to the painterly photo-process, and further advance their metaphorical lexicon on light with photographs of Buddhist statuary.
Attracted to Light, To Find God, not the Devil’s Insides and alleverythingthatisyou are some of the Starns’ acclaimed monographic publications. The brothers are currently preparing a new artist book based on their iconic photograph of Ganjin.
The Starns were represented by Leo Castelli from 1989 until his death in 1999. Their art has been the object of numerous solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries worldwide. The Starns have received many honors, including two National Endowment for the Arts Grants in 1987 and 1995; the International Center for Photography’s Infinity Award for Fine Art Photography in 1992; and, artists in residency at NASA in the mid-nineties. They have received critical acclaim in the New York Times, Corriere della Sera, Le Figaro, The Times (London), Art in America and Artforum, amongst many other notable media. Major artworks by the Starns are represented in public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art (NYC); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, (NYC); The Jewish Museum, (NYC); the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC); the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC); Yokohama Museum of Art, Japan; La Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris; La Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, amongst many others.