Scott Hammond, The Lovely Road: Journeys Through the U.S.A. @L. Parker Stephenson

JTF (just the facts): A total of 15 color photographic works, framed in black and matted, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space and the smaller backroom. All of the works are assortments of Polaroid 600 prints, in groups ranging from single prints to sets of 2, 3, 9, and 16 prints matted together, made between 2001 and 2010 (with some undated). Given the process being used, all of the prints are unique. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: Scott Hammond’s road trip Polaroids capture an easy going America, full of fading signage and quirky attractions, caught in the warm nostalgic glow of the afternoon when a colorful shaved ice is the treat of choice. While his photographs were taken in the last decade, they celebrate fragments of bygone eras, with a loose formality that tucks found geometries into the tidy square format of the white bordered film. His is a world where Jesus faces off with flamingoes and American flags, while prairie dogs, jackalopes, and chili dogs roam the grasslands.

Many of the images in this show have been arranged into grids and arrays, a tactic which tends to emphasize the compositional structure of the pictures. We see roads turned into stripes, angles, and flat geometries, and color fragments chopped into tiles. Like Walker Evans before him, Hammond has an affinity for vernacular signage and architecture, and several groups of photographs gather found murals, billboards, motel signs, and oddball attractions (the ball of twine, the lime capital of the world, the huge frying pan) into typologies of eccentric Americana, with a Stephen Shore-like motel room TV or diner meal thrown in here and there to remind us of the transitory motion of his cross country journeys.

Hammond doesn’t push his pictures to their conceptual edges – his geometries aren’t rigid or extreme, his croppings aren’t wildly angular or unexpected, and his subject matter selections don’t feel either darkly ironic or reverential. Instead, he’s given us something softer and more in the middle – an unpretentious and genuinely curious point of view, a bit sentimental, but not overly so. Mostly, the pictures feel gently relaxed, but without becoming thrown off snapshots.

Hammond’s Polaroids leave me wondering about a larger and more complicated question for American photography – how will someone reclaim the elemental American roadtrip in the 21st century, and do so without getting stuck in the various well worn ruts of Robert Frank, the 1970s colorists, or the New Topographics? Perhaps Alec Soth is the only one who has successfully attempted this task so far, and he did it by trying to reinvent the structure of visual storytelling. Hammond’s vision of America is too wholesome to have much cultural bite, but there are certainly pleasures to be found in his bowling alleys and Dairy Queens. They provide the comfort of knowing that some things remain largely unchanged, even in this age of accelerating time.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced starting at $1000 for the single images and ranging upward to $9000 for the sets of 16 prints, with intermediate stops at $1800 (2 prints), $2700 (3 prints), and $5000 (9 prints). Hammond’s work has no secondary market history, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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JTF (just the facts): A total of 11 color photographs, framed in brown wood/white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space and the smaller side ... Read on.

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