William Christenberry: Sign, near Greensboro, Alabama, 1978
“Future Rose” are the two words that can still be read on the sign that has probably been exposed to the wind and the weather for some time. They sound like a positive promise, like an element of hope for a future with better times. Yet the peeling paint and the posts, which are only partially intact, quickly lead one back to reality and cause one to think about the impermanence of rosy times, but also about the beauty of the ramshackle and the crumbling. The sign William Christenberry photographed in 1978 near Greensboro, a small town in Hale County, Alabama, is situated on a field in the middle of the landscape. A narrow street can be seen in the background lined by fields, bushes, and trees. The answer to the question of why the object was placed there and what it once stood for remains open.
The artist’s oeuvre, which goes beyond photography to include painting, drawing, and sculpture, is closely connected with his home region of Alabama in the American South. Christenberry (*1936), who taught at the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design in Washington, D.C., for more than 30 years, returned to the region for decades on regular working visits. Besides the objects, signs, and lettering one encounters on an everyday basis, he time and again took color photographs of unremarkable and simple buildings, such as sheds and barns or even small homes and the typical wooden churches. This has led to the creation of a large number of extensive series that each feature a building as it changes over time. William Christenberry was thus on the trail of the symbolism and poetry of the profane, which he understood how to document in an objective way.
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Köln