Pictura Gallery

Robert Langham III | Blackfork Bestiary

December 7, 2023| curatorial, gallery walk

Curatorial Note

When we met Robert Langham and began to look through his prints, he told us Snapping turtles are never happy. I don’t know. Maybe they go to birthday parties for their kids and put on little hats and that’s when they smile.”

Langham perceives animals not as specimens, but as mysterious individuals. In the Blackfork Bestiary, he urges us to try on a way of looking – one of special fascination – with common neighborhood animals. Though we may have well-formed ideas of them, we may not actually know them at all. In his photographs, we are free to stare them down and think about their lives, face to face with the raw presence of each one.

Photographs of animals are easy to love when we see them pictured within our comfort zone, but Langham’s work pulls a bit at the edges of that comfort. These are wild animals, in human spaces. But his photographs do not reduce their wildness. He does not dress them in gauze, or re-insert them into constructed environmental scenes. Langham notes that the human hand has laid heavily on the animals’ ecosystem. And so, the human hands are not hidden away, leaving the strangeness of the encounter between the two species inside the frame. Nature arrives alive, in the tame clarity of the studio, in a delicate and momentary collision.

For this exhibition, we selected prints from a collection of work spanning three decades. Images were chosen to bolster relationships between photographs. Two birds in glass containers appear to converse about the experience on the wall. The fearsome nature of a crocodile is mitigated by the awkward flop of its legs, and by the jubilance of a neighboring box turtle that appears to be soaring. The delicacy of a bird in a petal softens the adjacent nightmare of a black widow, cradled in an egg shell. Both are splendid creatures in search of protection.

Robert has also said, When you bump into an animal, it has a message for you.” He approaches them with a listening ear, affectionately searching out what can be learned from our neighbor creatures, asking if we might do the same.

Click to see the full exhibition web page

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Kid’s Workshop

Langham generously helped lead a workshop for kid’s in Bloomington. Participants discussed the work and then learned to draw the animal of their choice in or on a hand. The final drawings will be collated to create a FAR Bestiary.