Sarah Hotchkiss, the Visual Arts Editor of KQED, reviewed the Lines and Lineage exhibition at SF Camerawork in San Francisco, part of the inaugural CatchLight Fellowship show that includes work by Sarah Blesener and Brian L. Frank. The exhibition is open through 27 June, 2018. An extract of the review is posted below.
“…Van Houtryve’s Lines and Lineage is based on the Paris-based, San Francisco-born photographer’s long-term interest in what visual records can tell us about the world, and what’s missing from those records. His selection of images opens with a map of North America from 1839: Mexico stretches up the Pacific coast to the 42nd parallel (today the border between California and Oregon), across what we now call Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, half of Colorado and bits of Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma.
That border, which existed from 1821 (Mexico’s independence from Spain) until 1848 (the end of the Mexican-American War), made up van Houtryve’s path as he photographed both the descendants of people who lived in this contested space before it became the United States, and the landscape itself. These photographs, made with glass plates and a 19th-century camera, are van Houtryve’s attempt to fill in the holes from that period’s visual history. The post-1848 American West — that’s well documented, he says, perpetuating myths of white “pioneer” life — but the same land under Mexican rule escaped visual record, simply because photographic technology didn’t arrive in time.
And without visual evidence of a people or a government (one that abolished slavery nearly 40 years before the U.S. did, and gave black and indigenous people the right to vote), it becomes easier to eliminate a history, rewriting California’s past as if it began with statehood in 1850…”