Artist: Sharon Lockhart (American, born 1964)

Date: 1996

Medium: Chromogenic print

Dimensions: Image: 185.4 x 276.9 cm (73 x 109 in.)
Frame: 74 in. × 114 in. × 4 in. (188 × 289.6 × 10.2 cm)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Purchase, Neuberger Berman Foundation Gift and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2004

Accession Number: 2004.62


Lockhart is a Los Angeles-based photographer and filmmaker whose work draws on and extends a specific strain of Western visual culture characterized by precise, contemplative observation of the everyday, from Northern European paintings by Vermeer and Friedrich to the structuralist and ethnographic cinema of Michael Snow and Jean Rouch. She is interested in that moment when the quotidian and ineffable are synched together in an endless loop, the "is it live or is it Memorex?" of contemporary experience as simultaneously lived and imagined.

In 1996, Lockhart made a suite of large-scale color photographs showing figures posed in interior spaces. Known for her "directorial" style of location scouting and obsessively realized mise-en-scène, the artist displayed a bravura talent for atmospheric and psychological effects, redolent with mystery, that both provoke and frustrate the desire for narrative resolution in the viewer. This image showing a young man in a hotel room during the crepuscular "magic hour" separating day from night is perhaps the greatest example from this seminal series.

Essentially a Conceptual artist devoted to the making rather than dematerializing of images, Lockhart creates a remarkable reading lesson in the nature of photographic representation: the play of reflections and doublings across a grid of windows so hallucinatory that it thrusts the protagonist forward into our space, as if he stood with us before this rain-soaked bedroom/skyline that puts interior and exterior-imagination and reality-onto a single plane; the camera's automatic production of significance and drama from each individually banal detail, from the American flag to the aircraft warning lights to the wrinkles on the young man's shirt; and the uncanny replacement of the real with its surrogate or simulation. Ultimately, Lockhart's picture-intentionally uneventful yet unquestionably seductive and intriguing-is about the process of perception that we bring to it. As such, it constitutes an important meditation upon the nature of subjective experience in the late twentieth century.