Julie Saul Gallery is pleased to announce its first solo exhibition of photographs by Jeff Whetstone. Whetstone is known for his depictions of rural southern men and the liminal space between culture and wilderness; man and animal. In a new body of work, Post-Pleistocene, Whetstone explores this theme through photographs of the interiors of caves. A native of Tennessee, Whetstone engages the intimacy and community of the world underground.
During the Civil War, caves in Tennessee and Alabama were mined for their saltpetre soil, which was used to produce gunpowder. These caves have since become sites of lore, obsession, and extensive exploration, resulting in an expansive record of human markings, signatures, drawings, and messages. The caves have been so heavily visited that the markings are often several layers deep.
Whetstone sees these cave walls in relation to Pleistocene era drawings, like those in the caves of Lascaux, France. Here he finds the evolution of human expression represented – from frank representations of nature, to layered, expressive gestures reflecting a culture fascinated with personal identity.
The exhibition features twelve large-scale chromogenic color prints of cave chambers and passageways that archive the expressions of visitors – homegrown explorers, wild adolescents, criminals, scientists, slaves. Their names, messages and drawings intertwine with entropic, bodily formations of cave walls depicting complex narratives.
Jeff Whetstone teaches in the Art Department of the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. He holds a B.S. in Zoology from Duke, and an M.F.A. in Photography from Yale. His work is included in many public collections, including the Yale University Art Gallery, The Birmingham Museum of Art, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Gibbes Museum, and the Sir Elton John Collection. He was the recipient of numerous awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007, the Sakier Prize for excellence in Photography (2001), and the North Carolina Arts Fellowship (2006).