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Behind Your Eye: Doug and Mike Starn

March 7 - August 8, 2004


Behind Your Eye: An Installation by Doug and Mike Starn is the artists' first large-scale project in New York in recent years. The exhibition will be shown in the Neuberger Museum of Art's two largest galleries, a space of 10,000 square feet. Behind Your Eye coincides with the release of the publication Attracted to Light, an exquisitely produced book of the Starns' extensive conceptual portrait series of the moth's nocturnal journey and the seeming gravitational force that light has over them. More than sixty images from this series form the core of the exhibition. All together, the Neuberger Museum's installation incorporates nearly 80 photographs, drawn from three of the Starns' most recent series, two of their transparent illuminated manuscripts and a large-scale two-channel video projection. (right: Doug and Mike Starn, Nowhere to Fall, a two-channel video projected on scrim, featuring actor Dennis Hopper)

Behind Your Eye is curated by Dede Young, Neuberger Museum of Art Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, in collaboration with Mike and Doug Starn. "This exhibition presents an intimate look into the artists' handmade books and their ongoing philosophical dialogue with life, bridging art and physics, biology and science. Their complex personal lexicon is, in general terms, a reflection of research and thought about the transfer of knowledge," Ms. Young says. The Starns maintain that light is the basis of photography and vision and is the most powerful force for the classical metaphor of light as knowledge and information. "Trees are literally a recording of light, growing, through photosynthesis, towards the source," they write. "We relate the silhouetted black tree bodies to the black of written information, the black ink on the pages of books through thousands of years of transcribed thought and creation."

Behind Your Eye refers not only to the mind but also to visual perception, light, and photosensitivity as a metaphor. The Starns underscore the connection of the internal and external worlds in their work by incorporating elements such as neurons and trees. Structure of Thought 7, a site-specific walkthrough Shoji screen featuring a 10 feet X 50-foot photo-collage of trees in silhouette against a light background, provides entry to the exhibition. Beyond the screen are images of moths and leaves arranged and lit as a study library would be. The moth images include a large film-still mounted on the far wall, which at first glance appears to be a constellation of stars in the night sky. Smaller, individually encased images of moths are shown on tables in Lepidopteron-like specimen boxes: sulfur toned silver prints on hand-coated Thai mulberry paper that mimic the "dusty" wings of the moths. Neuronal scrolls and a preliminary hand-made book of a two-volume dos à dos livre d'artiste are also shown on tables, with digitally printed large-scale scanned leaf images in which the vein structure of the leaf is accentuated.

(above: A site-specific 11 x 55-foot sliding Shoji-style screen at the entrance of Behind Your Eye: Doug and Mike Starn)

The Starns photograph their subjects and conceive printing techniques that intensify their metaphors, mixing non-traditional silver printing techniques and hi-technology with digital manipulation. From their satellite-photographed images in the early-nineties, to the macroscopic and microscopic observations of the nature of moths, trees, leaves and neurons, which have developed over the past decade, they offer a journey into relativity and portray new models of the mind and perception.

Behind Your Eye: Doug and Mike Starn is an opportunity for the public to enter the conceptual world and work of the Starns. Audiences can reacquaint themselves with two deeply creative artists who have been working under the radar in New York during the past several years in their Brooklyn Studio.

Doug and Mike Starn, identical twins, were born in New Jersey in 1961. They have worked collaboratively with photography since age thirteen and have continuously pushed beyond categorization, working with sculpture, painting, video, and installation. During the 1980's, the Starns, known then primarily as the Starn Twins, became widely associated with a group of artists who made conceptual use of photography. The 1987 Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial brought them international prominence. Doug and Mike occupy a unique position within contemporary art practices. Their work has been shown nationally and internationally; in gallery, museum and numerous solo exhibitions; and retrospectives in the United States, Japan, and Australia. The Starns received two National Endowment for the Arts Grants ('87 and '95) and The International Center for Photography's Infinity Award for Fine Art Photography. They have received critical acclaim in The New York Times, Art in America, Artforum, and Flashart, and they are represented by major works in more than 30 public museum collections around the world, including the Neuberger Museum of Art.

The exhibition opens with the release of Attracted to Light, a Blind Spot book published by powerHouse Books, which includes two 6-page gatefolds, 83 photographs, and texts by Victor Pelevin, Demetrio Paparoni, Vladimir Nabokov and Doug and Mike Starn. The Monacelli Press is preparing a 500-page two-volume "dos à dos" monograph to be released in the fall of 2005; its preliminary maquettes are featured in Behind Your Eye. In April 2004, the Färgfabriken Kunsthalle in Stockholm (Sweden) will inaugurate Gravity of Light, a traveling exhibition to be presented in Europe, the United States and Asia.

The Starns' lambda digital prints are printed and mounted by "Duggal Visual Solutions," uniting the finest photographic tradition with the newest technology.

Rev. 6/29/04

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