Since he first began shooting in the mid-1960s, Arthur Tress has been meticulously retaining copies of his best prints. Carefully stored away in boxes in his studio, these photographs have been seen by only a very select group of the artist’s personal acquaintances over the years. The prints in Tress’ possession span every phase of his dynamic career, and include exceptional examples of both published and previously unknown material. Now well into his sixties, Arthur Tress is not only allowing the exhibition but also the sale of his treasured vintage photographs. ClampArt is honored to have the opportunity to present this material to the public.
In order to structure the exhibition, curator and gallery owner Brian Paul Clamp chose to base his selections loosely on one of Tress’ most celebrated series from the late 1960s-Open Space in the Inner City. At that time, the concept of environmental aware-ness was just budding in the United States; and Tress, funded by the New York State Council on the Arts, decided to embark on a project in which he would discover “open spaces” in claustrophobic urban settings, spaces that might feasibly be adapted for recreational use-potential sites for parks and playgrounds, for example.
Tress describes his process:
I used city street gazettes to randomly trace out paths that followed along isolated stretches of decrepit waterfronts or elevated highways, putting myself into a kind of trancelike state almost as a somnambulist experiencing a night walk. I would try to trace these meandering routes as they simultaneously led both through the actual real world of dumps, cemeteries, and schoolyards and through another coexistent path, a path of the archetypal imagination, a path on which I was engaged in a photographic confrontation with the hostile forces and alienated inhabitants of the anxious urban landscape.
Over the course of this project, Tress’ images became notably more and more bizarre; the photographs grew more and more surrealistic; and it was around this time that he ultimately found his style, his true artistic voice. All of the photographs in ClampArt’s exhibition are vintage and were hand-printed by the artist himself in his New York City darkroom on Riverside Drive.