Three ActsPhotographs by John Divola
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"Once seen, the work of John Divola is not easily forgotten, particularly his photographs made in disused buildings. There is nothing quite like them in the history of the medium."—David Campany
In 1973, artist John Divola began the first of three highly ambitious bodies of work that form this publication. The Vandalism series comprises black-and-white photographs of abandoned houses. Entering illegally, Divola spray painted dots, lines, and grids, creating a series of conceptual gestures that referenced "action painting" and the graffiti that was fast becoming a cultural phenomenon. In Los Angeles International Airport Noise Abatement series, he photographed a condemned neighborhood bought out by the airport to serve as a noise buffer for new runways. Here he recorded evidence of violent entries by long-departed vandals: shattered windows, doors torn from hinges, a crowbar resting in the jamb of a door pried open. The final installment, the Zuma series, is the artist's documentation of the destruction of an abandoned beachfront property. These images juxtapose romantic skies and sunsets with a seaside structure that, frame by frame, deteriorates into ruin. Divola's art shares a tradition with conceptual artists such as Bruce Nauman, whose photographs are considered to be performance, and Robert Smithson, who used photography to investigate the built environment.
John Divola is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, four National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a California Arts Council Individual Artist Grant, and other awards. His work is in numerous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He teaches photography at the University of California, Riverside.