Elger Esser, “Et nous avons des nuits plus belles que vos jours.” @Sonnabend

JTF (just the facts): A total of 13 works, hung in the entry gallery and two of the smaller rooms in the back (center and left). 8 of the works are large scale c-prints from 2010, framed in black and unmatted. These images range in size from 48×73 to 73×92, in editions of 7+1AP. The 5 other works are heliogravures on Butten papier from 2010, mounted and framed in black but unmatted. Each of these prints is 46×52, in editions of 12+3AP. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Monet’s gardens at Giverny have become a place of pilgrimage for countless artists, and the now famous bridge, ponds, water lilies, and reflections have been reinterpreted over and over again to such an extent that it seems difficult to imagine there is much more to be said about this particular location. Elger Esser has taken on this familiar landscape subject, and turned it on its head by making long exposure photographs at night. The results are extremely dark and shadowy, bathed in a silent stillness.

Rather than point his camera at the obvious sight lines, Esser’s images take in smaller, more intimate views of the pond, with dense bunches of trees growing along the banks. The long exposures create misty blurs as the wind moves across the land and water, and stars leave linear trails across the sky. His palette moves between opaque painterly blackness to a muted silver not unlike a tintype, with a few images that bring in an infusion of orange or blue at the beginning or end of the day. Silhouetted tree trunks punctuate the scenes, leaving the viewer with a sense of timeless emptiness.

In recent years, Esser has spent quite a bit of effort examining the nature of memory, especially in his heliogravures, which intentionally recall 19th century photographic landscapes in their framing and style. These new images of Givery are in many ways the exact negative of our expectations, the lively, colorful pond we all recognize turned into something dark and almost foreboding. Given the quiet and melancholy mood, I think viewer reactions to these pictures will range from underwhelmed (and potentially bored) to engrossed by a fleeting glimpse of something previously unseen.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced as follows: the large scale c-prints are either 25000€ or 40000€ each, based on size, and the heliogravures are 8000€ each. Esser’s work has become routinely available in the secondary markets for both photography and contemporary art, with prices ranging from $5000 to $110000 in recent years.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Artist site (here)
Elger Esser, “Et nous avons des nuits plus belles que vos jours.”
Through October 29th

Sonnabend Gallery
536 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011

Send this article to a friend

Read more about: Elger Esser, Sonnabend Gallery

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Mike Brodie, Polaroid Kid

Mike Brodie, Polaroid Kid

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2023 by Stanley/Barker (here). Foil stamped cardboard portfolio box with rubber band, 13 x 17 cm, with 50 loose leaf facsimile prints in varying ... Read on.

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter