Crossing the Delaware
Jeff Whetstone in conversation with James Welling
Saturday, January 14, 3 pm
RSVP helpful, but not necessary
A bridge is an aspiration: to move forward, to connect, to go above and beyond.
Julie Saul Gallery is pleased to announce our third solo exhibition with Jeff Whetstone. He is known for photographing and writing about the relationship between people, politics, and their environment in the south. Whetstone recently moved to Princeton and has located his new project in Trenton, New Jersey.
One hundred years ago, the slogan “TRENTON MAKES / THE WORLD TAKES” was welded onto the Lower Trenton Bridge across the Delaware River. The letters are nine feet high and lit up in red neon at night. These words have become a trademark of the city, and a curiosity for the millions of Americans traveling to and from New York by car and train. Whetstone photographed the Lower Trenton Bridge in several formats, focusing on structural elements, letters of the slogan, portraits of drivers, birds, and the landscape to mine both cultural and physical infrastructure. He has dismantled the slogan into individual letters to make new words, phrases, and sounds to reflect contemporary aspirations, realities, and mantras. Through a process he calls “aggregate contact printing,” Whetstone has created large silver gelatin prints comprised of multiple negatives that present new words and images. For example, “Heel, Hand, Knee” (83 x 49” contact print) incorporates 186 individual negatives.
At the time of the sign’s installation, the manufacture and design of suspension bridges was Trenton’s most important industry. Trenton’s Roebling Factory was responsible for designing and producing the century’s powerful symbols of American architecture, ingenuity, and infrastructure – including the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. The decline of American manufacturing over the last fifty years has transformed Trenton’s slogan into an omen. Today what is left behind is the city itself, reckoning with the world’s claim on it, in a time when many Americans are questioning connections and metaphorical bridges.
A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Whetstone holds a BS from Duke and a MFA from Yale. He served for five years as an artist-in-residence at Appalshop, Inc., in Kentucky and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007 for a body of work entitled New Wilderness. His work has been reviewed in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and Art News, among other publications. Prior to his appointment at Princeton, he was a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for fourteen years.
His work has been exhibited widely in group and solo exhibitions, and is currently in the Southern Accent show at the Nasher, which will travel to the Speed Museum Louisville, Kentucky and the Blanton Museum in Austin, Texas. Whetstone’s work is in the collections of the Nasher Museum at Duke, the Weatherpoon, Greensboro, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, and the Elton John Collection, Atlanta.