Private View: Thursday 24 January 2008, 7 - 9 pm
It is a modern tragedy that despair has so many spokesmen, and hope so few.
This is a borderland, a liminal territory. It is about as far away as you can get from the classic backdrops of the American Dream whilst staying within the United States. It is separated by more than mere physical distance from the stretch of Sunset Strip where fame is to be found, from the skyscrapers of Manhattan where fortunes are to be won, or the old WASP suburbs of New England where old orders are preserved. Here, in this stretch of desert and arid scrubland that flanks the slow, lazy, last reaches of the Rio Grande, narratives, large and small, national and personal, crawl to forgotten conclusions.
Once the Coahuiltecan Indians lived here, scratching survival from an unforgiving environment. They lost their lands to the Spanish who lost it to the Americans. It was near here that the last battle of the Civil War was fought at Palmito Ranch and here too that Pancho Villa, the revolutionary Mexican commander harried US troops well into the 1920's - useless footnotes in wars that, even then, were long-lost… Now it is inhabited by drifters, outcasts and those who choose to live on the margins, not so much beyond the reach of society and its laws, but overlooked by them. And yet for these people there is hope - in each individual's capacity for self-determination - and each of these personal struggles is heightened and dramatised by the barren landscape in which they are set.
Poppy de Villeneuve's new body of work, This is a story of hope and we are all characters in it, comprises of photographs of people who live in the stretch of desert that flanks the Rio Grande, the river that divides Mexico and Texas, as well as of the landscape itself. Whilst employing a cool, minimal style, de Villeneuve's work positions itself in opposition to the tenets of the still dominant school of Object Photography. It maintains faith in the old Humanist conviction that images can spark empathy and communicate with feeling.
This is Poppy de Villeneuve's first solo show at Paradise Row.