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Monday, 27 September 2010

Russell Lee: The Middle of Nowhere (A Texas High Plains Survey, 1940)


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Beer joint on the Texas high plains, Dawson County, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, March 1940

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Sign on the high Texas great plains, Dawson County, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, March 1940

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Farmhouse on the high Texas great plains, Dawson County, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, March 1940

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Wreckage of burned cotton gin and compress at Big Spring, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, March 1940

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Power lines, Dawson County, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, March 1940

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Grocery store and filling station in the high plains, Dawson County, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, March 1940

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Farmstead in the high plains, Dawson County, Texas. Windblown field in the foreground: photo by Russell Lee, March 1940

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Telephone poles along the highway, Gaines County, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, March 1940

Grave on the high plains. Dawson County, Texas

Grave on the high plains, Dawson County, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, March 1940


Photos by Russell Lee from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress

4 comments:

curtisroberts said...

This is devastating, all of it, up to and including the "payoff". But this series sent me on a much-too-quick, but highly enjoyable tour of the first nine months of 2010 BTP imagery, which is now whirling around my head just ahead of a later than usual breakfast.

TC said...

Thank you Curtis.

I was particularly drawn to this junket of Lee's -- one of his dozens of close-to-the-grain tours of the Interior.

For a few years we resided at the border of the Plains, and during that time, when I was still physically able to make big paintings, I painted a number of such empty prairie scenes. The minimal quality, the geometrical abstractions of the rectilinear landscape, the monotones of the land, the notational signals of the telephone poles and wires.

The strange sad vast emptiness has a special formal quality in black and white, the absences somehow more absent. "Waste" spaces like these seem to mutely express something. But can one express an absence of affect?

curtisroberts said...

I think one can express an absence of affect; I'm pretty sure that a lot of art I like does this. I'm just trying to work out how to describe this or give some examples.

curtisroberts said...

I'm still working on working out the question you posed. I've been puzzling out the difference (in my mind, at least) between "absence of affect" and "affectless".

A few minutes ago, I had a funny experience where I discovered that a quotation I've been carrying around in my head for years, which I found meaningful and sort of a touchstone, is now said to be a misattribution resulting from an editing error. Curiously, the quotation still seems completely applicable to the person I always thought had said it.