Memphis After Dark

Published April 7, 2015

Co-founders of Launch F18 Tim Donovan and Sam Trioli mounted over 40 exhibitions at their 373 Broadway location. Now, “Tomorrow Is a Long Time,” marks the inaugural exhibition at the gallery’s new space on the Lower East Side.

Featuring images by photographer Matt Ducklo, “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” presents the viewer with stark black-and-white images of Memphis, a city viewers have most likely seen in color through William Eggleston’s eyes. Ducklo moved home to Memphis after spending a decade in New York City, and chose to photograph only at night—a decision spurred by aimless drives after dark. Through this, Ducklo joins a long tradition of artists fascinated by the nocturnal, including Bill Brandt, Brassaï, Peter Hujar, Edward Steichen, and O. Winston Link. These artists are often more interested in the challenge of harnessing light after the sun has gone down, allowing their eyes to adjust to the darkness in search of hidden stories.

In Memphis, Ducklo captures mundane locations in uncanny ways: a jail, a bus stop, a school. Shooting with a large-format camera, he is drawn to man-made light and the resulting shadows. They are formal in their approach and beautifully composed, to the point of channeling Walker Evans at times.

Many parking lots that Ducklo photographs have church vans locked in cages, secured from theft. The images of these imprisoned vans become an important spine in the show’s development. “When I first began to photograph the cages they felt like essential forms sitting in the landscape or minimalist sculptures filled with content about the world,” Ducklo explains. “It seemed striking that you could both have faith in something greater than yourself, but still know that you live in world where your van will be stolen if it’s not locked up.”

“TOMORROW IS A LONG TIME” IS ON VIEW AT LAUNCH F18, 94 ALLEN STREET IN NEW YORK, THROUGH APRIL 26.