Quote of Note | John Divola on Walker Evans

From left, Walker Evans, “Saint Martin, West Indies” (1974) and a 2007 photo from John Divola’s Abandoned Paintings series.

“What interested me about Walker Evans is probably not what interests other people about Walker Evans. What interests me is that he had a way of looking at things that people made and built, and then appropriating the subjectivity of whoever constructed it. Late in his life he actually collected handpainted signs…he’s photographing buildings that small-scale contractors are making, where they have to make certain kinds of judgments, and he photographs other things as well but there are an awful lot of handpainted signs. That’s something in the work that I’m really interested in—this identifying and appropriating and contextualizing the aesthetic or the literal choices that people make. And in terms of my own work, I’m doing that, except that I’m one of the subjective actors, in a certain sense. I’m taking something that has an inherent set of attributes to it—somebody has either kicked a hole in the wall or chosen to build a kitchen that looks that way or put that kind of wallpaper up. And then my own activity, in relationship to it and in the photograph, simply contextualizes these kinds of actions and choices that are made prior to the capturing of the photograph.”

John Divola last Friday at Paris Photo Los Angeles, in an on-stage conversation with Richard Misrach and curator Douglas Fogle.