A New American Picture

April 27 - June 11, 2011

Stephen Wirtz Gallery is pleased to present the first solo exhibition of A New American Picture, photographs by Doug Rickard.

Rickard’s series consists of color photographs of American street scenes, located using the internet tool Google Street View. Rickard takes full advantage of the technology’s comprehensive image archive to virtually drive the unseen and overlooked roads of America, bleak places that are forgotten, economically devastated, and abandoned. Collectively, these images present a startling photographic portrait of the socially disenfranchised, providing deeply affecting evidence of the American Dream inverted.

Rickard’s methodology involves dropping himself into the immersive 360-degree experience afforded by Google Street View. With an informed and deliberate eye, Rickard finds and decodes these previously photographed scenes of urban and rural decay. He re-photographs the images as they appear on his computer screen, freeing them from their technological origins and elevating them to a new documentary plane, revealing the devastating effects of an increasingly stratified American social structure. The low-resolution images that Rickard favors have a dissolved, painterly effect, and are occasionally populated with figures who acknowledge the camera, but whose faces are blurred by Google for the practical purposes of masking their identity. The photographs are thus imbued with an unexpected, surreal beauty and visual power.

Rickard’s work evokes provocative connections to a strong tradition of American photography masters, with knowing references to Walker Evans, Robert Frank and Stephen Shore. He both follows and dramatically advances that tradition, with a documentary strategy that acknowledges an increasingly technological world—a world in which a camera mounted on a car can produce moving evidence of the people and places it is leaving behind.
Doug Rickard was born in San Jose, California, in 1968, and studied US History and Sociology at UC San Diego, receiving his BA in 1994. He is the founder of American Suburb X (www.americansuburbx.com) and These Americans (www.theseamericans.com), aggregating websites for essays on contemporary photography and historical photographic archives. Rickard’s discovery of Google Street View as a vehicle for making photography