UNTITLED (WOMAN WIPING VAN, QUEENS, NEW YORK), 2002. By William Eggleston.
This new show at Victoria Miro (run simultaneously at a New York gallery) brings together a collection of Eggleston's work since the turn of the century. Though the locations range across the continents — from Eggleston's native Memphis to New York, Chicago, Cuba, France, Russia — there's little in the way of geographical definition: the brightly-lit recesses in the peripheries of the world look much the same from one place to another.
As ever, the sequencing is unclear, non-linear: the photographer has said that he feels his work is "part of a novel [he's] doing", but if that's the case, either fistfuls of page have been torn out, or else we're reading B.S. Johnson's The Unfortunates. One constant is the absence of the human form. Where it does emerge, it's made to seem unreal: the woman contorting her body as she scrubs away at the side of a van, the model Santa Claus tacked onto a windscreen and framed by the car's bodywork, the wraithlike dresses suspended in a Mississippi clothes store. The one direct portrait, of "Leigh in black top", shows a distraught woman; possibly the climactic moment of that novel we're reading, or perhaps a false epiphany. Certainly, Eggleston would not want us to consider his work in such depth. His infamous press conference in Paris in the 1990s, when questions popped by young Left Bank intellectuals were met with gruff responses and incoherent blank stares, suggested a man loathe to think too deeply about his instinctual methods.
With Eggleston, as with many of his contemporaries, the eye pushes the mind to wander past the frame's edge, to wonder about what goes on beyond and behind, in the moments leading up to and developing after the one in which the photographer's finger presses the shutter release. It's a testament to the artist's skill that such a small show can prompt such a world of questions and considerations in the viewer