John Brill Self-Portrait 1981
John Brill (born 1951, Newark, New Jersey) is an American photographer, known for his conceptual and subversive approach to the techniques and language inherent in the photographic process. John Brill is represented by Kent Fine Art in New York.
John Brill has been creating photographic records of his everyday existence since 1959. Self-taught in photography, his shift to art in 1981 followed his formal studies within the field of physiological psychology. From the mid-1970s through the 1980s, the artist drove a beer truck in the northeast corner of New Jersey, absorbing the raw visual beauty of a vast industrial wasteland, where he began shooting his seminal series of portraits and self-portraits. He is a self-taught photographer, who has exhibited regularly since the 1980s when of White Columns discovered his work and subsequently gave him his first solo show. Brill has been a school bus driver in Madison, New Jersey for over 20 years and is represented by Kent Fine Art in New York.
John Brill has created several thematically coherent, discrete bodies of work, which include; Family Holiday Album, engrams, ennui, Reliquary, and Cosmophelia. Although his œuvre is composed of versatile and separate bodies of work, all of his images have been created with specific regard for their dual role as two-dimensional representations as well as physical art objects.
Leah Ollman reflects on the artist's early work in the introduction to the 2002 monograph, The Photography of John Brill:
Beginning with staged portraits and self-portraits, his imagery became increasingly nebulous, reflecting his interest "in how resonance could remain unaffected by the systematic removal of content." Toward the end of the 1980s, he began seriously toying with the idea of the "thoughtograph." He scavenged for pictures, made some from life and others from the television screen, then worked to distance the images from their origins through multiple printings, fragmentation, tonal shifts and value reversals. In the end, the pictures derive more from mind than from matter. They're projections of his will, contrived out of pure desire. Physical representations of the incorporeal."
He is present in every step of the creative process, from taking the picture, printing, cutting the glass, and framing the images. Although each of the images he produces necessarily begins its genesis with pure camera vision, all of them undergo an extensive process of post-exposure construction, transcending the seminal act of exposure and inevitably culminating in a polar extreme on the continuum of image transformation. As stated in the text that accompanied his exhibition, Cosmophilia (2003), "The image that is ultimately perceived in the final print is not merely an interpretation of the original camera vision, but is an image—as well as physical object—that exists entirely on its own terms." His love of the process is apparent in his work as he shamelessly pursues new methods of printing and takes risks in creating his work. Some images he prints repeatedly, others he covers in wax, and still others he forms in a process of development that nearly overexposes his subject.
- Solo exhibitions
2006 – Bad Memory, Kent Gallery, New York 2003 – Cosmophilia, Kent Gallery, New York 2000 – Reliquary, Kent Gallery, New York Reliquary, Solomon Projects, Atlanta 1997 – ennui, Kent Gallery, New York 1995 – engrams, Kent Gallery, New York 1990 – Family Holiday Album, Coup de Grace Gallery, New York 1988 Selected photographs, 1981–1987, The Sherman H. Masten Gallery, County College of Morris, Randolph, NJ 1986 – Selected Self-Portraits, 1981–1984, White Columns, New York 1982 – Twelve Self-Portraits, International Center of Photography, Education Gallery, New York
- Group exhibitions
2012 – The Limits of Photography, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago, Chicago 2010 – About Face, Edward Thorp Gallery, New York 2007 – Close Looking, Kent Gallery, New York 2006 – Urban Cosmologies, Kent Gallery, New York 2005 – The Constructed Image, Kent Gallery, New York 2003 – New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship Exhibition, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ 2002 – Endless Summer, Kent Gallery, New York 2001 – Vox, Kent Gallery, New York 2000 – The UFO Show, University Gallery, Illinois State University, Normal, IL (catalogue) 1999 – Dream Architecture, Kent Gallery, New York Faces & Places, City Gallery East, Atlanta, GA The Xmas Project, Kent Gallery, New York 1998 – The Waking Dream: Psychological Realism in Contemporary Art, Castle Gallery, The College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, NY 1997 – Portraits: 19th and 20th Century Photography, Marlborough Gallery, New York 1996 – Black and White Unfixed, Nancy Solomon Gallery, Atlanta, GA Difference, Kent Gallery, New York New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship Exhibition, The Noyes Museum, Oceanville, NJ (catalogue) White Columns 1996 Benefit Exhibition, White Columns, New York Light into Darkness, Kent Gallery, New York 1995 – Fact, Fiction and Truth: Contemporary Portraits, Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, NY (catalogue) the camera i: Photographic Self-portraits from the Audry and Sydney Irmas Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (catalogue) (untitled group show), Tom Cugliani Gallery, New York 1993 – Contacts/Proofs, The Jersey City Museum, Jersey City, NJ 1991 – Fact or Fantasy, Coup de Grace Gallery, New York 1990 – New Life, Coup de Grace Gallery, New York Brut 90, White Columns, New York Twentieth Anniversary Benefit Exhibition, White Columns, New York Heads, Coup de Grace Gallery, New York New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship Exhibition, New Jersey Center for the Visual Arts, Summit, NJ (catalogue) 1989 – Selected Photographs: Recent Acquisitions, The Brooklyn Museum 1988 – Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Life, Coup de Grace Gallery, Hoboken, NJ 1986–87 Update, White Columns, New York (catalogue) New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship Exhibition, The Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ 1985 – Image Making, Pavilion Gallery, Mount Holly, NJ (catalogue) 1984 – (untitled group show), Oggi-Domani, New York 1982 – The World Within, The World Without, The Simon Gallery, Montclair, NJ
- Kent Fine Art: John Brill
- Kent Fine Art (Artist Page): John Brill
- Brianna McGurran. No MFA No Problem: A Look Inside the 2015 Outsider Art Fair. New York Observer, January 30, 2015
- Leah Ollman. The Photography of John Brill. New York, N.Y: Kent Gallery, 2002.
- John Brill: Cosmophelia at Kent Fine Art, 2003
- SPECIAL FINDS AT THE OUTSIDER ART FAIR by Rodger Thompson, February 11, 2015