Harry Wilks: Hudson River Bridges

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday August 8, 2018

On a tip from DART subscriber Elliot Kaufman, I checked out the current show at the Hudson River Museum, in Yonkers, where photographs celebrating Hudson River crossings are on view. In Harry Wilks: Hudson River Bridges, Wilks shows us the Hudson River from a sharply designed perspective. Girders and railings frame or bisect the views; lines of structures intersect with lines in nature, leading our eyes in and around his compositions. 

© Harry Wilks, Bear Mountain Bridge, 1997; courtesy Hudson River Museum

Until recently, Wilks used the Widelux camera, with a rotating pivot lens, to create extreme panoramic views—which also create extreme distortion in scale. What for some would be a deficit, Wilks has turned into a plus by framing his vistas with close-up details of mundane objects, such as guardrails and fences.  In the process he re-frames the picture frame, creating an extraordinary sense of space and scale, as in the 1997 view of the Bear Mountain Bridge, above. He says: “By emphasizing the man-made elements, which sometimes loom large in the foreground, as well as by moving in close with a wide-angle lens, I alter the scene and create a sense of place that is realistic, but also personal and strange.” 


© Harry Wilks, View of the Tappan Zee Bridge; courtesy of the artist

Most of the prints on view are from the museum’s collection, demonstrating the historical importance of covering the built environment through art that is part of the HRM’s mission. The museum is uniquely situated to celebrate the glorious landscape that lent its name to the Hudson River School and to capitalize on the experiences of contemporary artists who make the region central to their practice. For example, the 2013 exhibition, Walks With Artists: The Hudson Valley and Beyond, bridges from the Hudson River School artists including Asher Durand to Ashcan School artists such as George Innes and Gifford Beale, and up through the present day with photographs by Janelle Lynch and paintings by Holly Sears and Juan Bernal—all from the museum’s collection. Info Also see my DART feature on The Hudson Valley from Mannahatta to Kaaterskill at HRM in 2011 Info

Harry Wilks: Hudson River Bridges continues through October 14 at the Hudson River Museum. Info 511 Warburton Avenue, Yonkers, NY Directions Harry Wilks Elliot Kaufman





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