Jeffrey Silverthorne
Travel Plans
2011-09-09 to 2011-10-29

Just how to describe the work by Jeffrey Silverthorne displayed here in all its complexity for the first time? Jeffrey Silverthorne has taken a transversal approach to 40 years of photographs and 40 years of questioning, and assumes the inherent risk of an exhibition with no chronological or serial structure. This exhibition relies on our ability to discover a language which draws its inspiration from existing photographic forms and transgresses them.
Jeffrey Silverthorne works with all the uses made possible by photography including collages and photomontage, forging a fresco, a veritable esoteric tableau created by a certain Mr. Lotus, his alter ego, whose writings fill 4 chapters that are part of the exhibition catalogue.
His first pictures date from 1970, at the morgue in Rhode Island. They reply to the statement by Diane Arbus, who declared that there was nothing there to photograph. Then come several series where the style evokes the photographer who is one of the very few whose influence Silverthorne even alludes to. In the early ‘80’s staging starts appearing, with the series Silent Fires where he plays with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. From there, he goes from a documentary style, with the Missing and Tex-Mex series, to a succession of staged scenes, photomontages and collages which incorporate many of the images taken at the morgue, some in color, and add outside elements like post cards, reproductions of paintings or scratches directly on the negative. The way that Silverthorne examines his anxieties, his obsessions, the way he conjures up his demons, makes one think of psychoanalysis or other mental therapies, which bring man to face his suffering rather than avoid it, so as to overcome it. In this way Silverthorne reminds us of Goya with his recurrent ambivalence between celebrating the fact of being alive and the hammered truth of decrepitude and death. And with the sensation of chaos, out of which cynical laughter sometime surfaces.
For Silverthorne “photography is a way to think.” In 1988 he stated: “I make images to remember, not the purpose, but my own feelings and reactions.”
We discovered the work by Jeffrey Silverthorne in
Arles in 2007 thanks to Danish gallery owner and photographer Lars Schwander, and to the little yellow book – Directions for Leaving – which he published following the exhibit of a partial retrospective in Copenhagen. We were stunned, obviously. That same year, there was a presentation during the Paris Photo show of his series Morgue Work and Female Impersonators. Works were immediately acquired by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Fondation Francès and many private collectors. Starting on 9 September, Jeffrey Silverthorne presents the first step in his Travel Plans at the Galerie VU’.