Friday, January 13, 2012

Kenneth Snelson: World Trade Center With Jersey Shore (1980)

I beg your indulgence.

In order to present Kenneth Snelson’s full image, World Trade Center and Jersey Shore here, I needed to turn it on its side. 

I first saw this photograph in December at Gagosian Madision Avenue’s  exhibition of works from Robert Rauschenberg’s art collection.

It was a remarkable show – a real journey through the artist’s mind -- his enlivened, enlightened eye and other five senses.

I was planning on writing a survey of the collection’s high points, but  procrastinated; I thought it would be a boring (not to mention self-indulgent) imposition on readers planning their own holiday highlights.

But thinking about the show, I kept coming back in my mind's eye  to this remarkable photograph taken by the famous abstract sculptor and tensegrity/floating compression inventor Kenneth Snelson in 1980, using a 16” Cirkut camera.

I continued returning to the picture for its formal beauty, its "ordinary grandeur," and the 100% accurate memories it recalls of a world which was my world, Robert Rauschenberg's world, and the world of millions of Manhattan and metropolitan New Jersey residents: the way that world looked and we thought was always supposed to look.

Snelson has written: “My art is concerned with nature in its primary aspect, the patterns of physical forces in three dimensional space.”

His sculpture shows that “mission statement” in real time and spaces, but it’s fascinating and surprising to see it clearly and elegiacally revealed here in frozen time and space.

For me, this photograph is so real and beautiful, I could weep.  It makes Snelson’s other impressive work with the motorized Cirkut (an Eastman Kodak camera I remember from summer camp photos when a hundred or so campers and counselors would be lined up on several rows of risers, one sprinting kid always appearing at both ends of the top row) seem superfluous.

Kenneth Snelson, World Trade Center With Jersey Shore, 1980,  15.5 " X 74  ", Silver print, 16 " Cirkut camera 

Dedicated to Caroline on her birthday.


  1. Such a stunning image. I might add it is equally as interesting in the sideways format. One is always assured that the composition is excellent when it looks pleasing from all angles.
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  2. Hi Helen. It really IS stunning and it was uncommonly, unexpectedly moving to see it, especially as a lifelong (recently transplanted) New Yorker. The Rauschenberg exhibition was pretty stunning in its entirety. Seeing the artist's personal selections really excited curiosity and imagination. This was shown in a small narrow gallery across from a very small Matthew Brady silver print portrait of Abraham Lincoln. It would have been great if the Gagosian exhibition, which was really beautifully executed, could have toured, but I don't think that was the purpose. I imagine many people traveled to see it in New York. Curtis

  3. Nin: Viewed in person this is a very beautiful and surprisingly moving and haunting photograph. I usually don't find myself saying that I wish I owned something, but I do think it would be extremely nice to be able to see the artwork I saw on my wall every day. Curtis