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Phil Bergerson: Emblems and Remnants of the American Dream

January 22 – April 13, 2014
University Gallery, Ryerson Image Centre
Guest Curator: David Harris

Since 1995, Canadian photographer Phil Bergerson has made dozens of extended road-trips, criss-crossing the United States in search of the ‘American Dream’. Drawing upon the social landscape tradition, Bergerson found his material amid the melancholic detritus of the contemporary city: in modest store window displays, hand-painted murals, graffiti, and crudely-made signs. Here is a chaotic urban topography, one fuelled by unmoored dreams, raw desires, commercial fantasies, rampant patriotism, religious fervour, and a smouldering violence. The sumptuous colour photographs elicit a sense of both wonderment and disquiet, and ultimately a yearning for order, for meaning.




Event(s):

Artist Talk
Phil Bergerson
Friday, February 28
7:00 PM

Exhibition Tour and Book Signing
Phil Bergerson and David Harris
Wednesday, April 9
6:00 PM

Exhibition Tours
Daily 2:30 PM

All events take place at the Ryerson Image Centre, unless otherwise noted

A shop window filled with deer
Fig. 1

Phil Bergerson, Martinsville, Indiana, 2006, inkjet colour print from colour negative © Phil Bergerson. Reproduction courtesy the Stephen Bulger Gallery, the artist and the Ryerson Image Centre

A rundown and abandoned storefront with a chipped blue door. Handpainted sign reads "school uniform on sale"
Fig. 2

Phil Bergerson, Birmingham, Alabama, 2006, chromogenic colour print from colour negative © Phil Bergerson. Reproduction courtesy the Stephen Bulger Gallery, the artist and the Ryerson Image Centre

A series of wooden signs attached to a tree, reading "why was I born", "sin will kill you", "my God can do all things be ye Holy be real", "Prayer changes things"
Fig. 3

Phil Bergerson, Orangeburg, South Carolina, 2006, chromogenic colour print from colour negative © Phil Bergerson. Reproduction courtesy the Stephen Bulger Gallery, the artist and the Ryerson Image Centre

A large figurine of a pistol, outside in a commercial area
Fig. 4

Phil Bergerson, San Marcos, Texas, 2006, inkjet colour print from colour negative © Phil Bergerson. Reproduction courtesy the Stephen Bulger Gallery, the artist and the Ryerson Image Centre

A garbage dump with a dumpster, an old car atop a shipping container, and a stained mattress
Fig. 5

Phil Bergerson, Pocatello, Idaho, 2007, inkjet colour print from colour negative © Phil Bergerson. Reproduction courtesy the Stephen Bulger Gallery, the artist and the Ryerson Image Centre

Artist and Curator Bios

Phil Bergerson
Artist

Phil Bergerson has photographed for over 30 years. His work has been exhibited internationally and is found in many prestigious collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. His photographs have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Toronto Life and Walrus Magazine, and his book, Shards of America was published in September 2004. From 1975 - 2007, Bergerson was a professor of photography at Ryerson University in Toronto where he established and organized the annual international Kodak Lecture Series on photography. In 1979, he organized Canadian Perspectives, a National Conference on Photography in Canada, and in 1983, the first International Symposium on Photographic Theory. He has also arranged several photographic study trips to Europe and Asia. Bergerson’s latest book, American Artifacts (2014), was launched in conjunction with the opening of this exhibition.

David Harris
Guest Curator

David Harris is Associate Professor in the School of Image Arts, and director of the Photographic Preservation and Collections Management MA program at Ryerson University. He was Associate Curator of Photographs at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal from 1986–1996. Between 1996 and 2004, he worked as an independent curator and photographic historian. He is the author of Gabor Szilasi: The Eloquence of the Everyday (2009), Eugene Atget: Unknown Paris (2003; an English language edition of Itineraires Parisiens (1999), Of Battle and Beauty: Felice Beato’s Photographs of China in 1860 (1999), and Eadweard Muybridge and the Photographic Panorama of San Francisco, 1850–1880 (1993).

Installation Shots

Square photographs in white frames on grey walls. Text on gallery wall reads: "Phil Bergerson. Emblems and Remnants of the American Dream."
Fig. 1

Phil Bergerson: Emblems and Remnants of the American Dream (installation view), 2014 © Ben Freedman, Ryerson Image Centre

Square photographs framed with a wide white mat on a grey wall
Fig. 2

Phil Bergerson: Emblems and Remnants of the American Dream (installation view), 2014 © Ben Freedman, Ryerson Image Centre

Square photographs framed with a wide white mat on a grey wall
Fig. 3

Phil Bergerson: Emblems and Remnants of the American Dream (installation view), 2014 © Ben Freedman, Ryerson Image Centre