About

“Like a sculptor, Armstrong has pared away all but the figure, letting it fly or fall or struggle. Removing extraneous detail, he gives it new life. Armstrong breathes into the darkness to reveal the shadow of man against the light, the classic tale as well as the essence of photography.”
W.M. Hunt, ‘Shadow in the Sun’

Renaissance is a portfolio of photographs in the ongoing Infinity series: an extensive body of work begun in 1997. They are made using a unique process of photographing found images extremely out of focus, with the lens set at infinity. In this case, the source materials are reworked master drawings, mostly from the Renaissance. The multi-layered process of reproduction and blurring, appropriating an image and subjecting it to a series of manipulations (photocopying, cutting, painting, re-photographing) transforms the original images, giving them a new meaning in a new context - a renaissance of the Renaissance.
The original drawings were attempts to capture the human figure in a specific action, either from Biblical, mythological or historical scenes, but the rough sketches are removed from the milieu of the larger whole. Armstrong’s process accentuates the extraction, removing them further from their context and adding a new psychology of colour to the achromatic drawings. Extreme blurring erases features, dissolves identity and obscures individuality while retaining the essence of the original gesture, so that a 15th century religious figure can have secular relevance today.

“My overarching aim is to use blur to create a parallel universe which can act as a spirit double for the material world. While my work pretends to be of the real world, that is an illusion, a conjurer’s trick. My process involves making two-dimensional collages from found or appropriated images, and then photographing them extremely out of focus. By turning the lens to infinity—a setting meant for capturing depth of field—and then shooting close up, I subvert the photographic norm. The setting meant for sharpness and hyper-realism becomes, instead, a tool for magic and distortion. As the blur increases, the edges within the collages melt and disappear. The photographs appear to be integrated, seamless images of things that exist in three dimensional space. It is this sleight of hand that allows me to create a mysterious tromp l’oeil world, hovering between the real and the fantastic.

The blur lifts the subjects from the plane of reality and launches them into an indeterminate ephemeral space. They become meditative objects floating in the ether. While the eye continually tries to resolve the blur, it is unable to do so, and that is unsettling. I am drawn to the idea that we can believe something is real, while at the same time knowing it is illusory. The experience of visual confusion—when the psyche is momentarily derailed—can free us to respond emotionally.
I look to devotional art, particularly Eastern mandalas, for inspiration. My hope would be that the viewer, in trying to decipher the blur, will find themselves transported in some way; that these images might be a starting point for a unique journey of perception, perhaps even a revelation.”
Bill Armstrong, New York City, 2009

Exhibition

Selected solo exhibitions

2011 Photographs From the Infinity Series, 1998-Present, Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, FL, date to be announced
2010 Renaissance, HackelBury Fine Art, London, UK
2009 Renaissance, Gallery Kayafas, Boston, MA
2008-9 Photo Mandalas: Bill Armstrong and Milan Fano Blatny, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, curated by Katherine Ware
2008 Renaissance, ClampArt, New York, NY
2007 Apparition, Silver Eye Centre for Photography, Pittsburgh, PA
Spirit: From Darkness to Light, DeSantos Gallery, Houston, TX,
2006 Blue Sphere, Robischon Gallery, Denver, CO Apparition, Parkerson Gallery, Houston, TX
Photographs from the Infinity Series, Scott White Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA
2005 Apparition, ClampArt, New York, NY Spirit, Gallery Kayafas, Boston, MA
2004 Spirit, ClampArt, New York, NY
2003 Recent Photographs, Sara Nightingale Gallery, Water Mill, NY
Mandala, Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA
Mandala, Joel Soroka Gallery, Aspen, Co
2001 Photographs from the Infinity Series, An American Space Gallery, New York, NY
2000 Recent Photographs, McCann-Erikson Gallery, New York, NY
1999 Recent Photographs, Roy Park School of Communications, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY
1997 Accidental Portraits, International Centre of Photography Education Gallery, New York, NY,
Recent Photographs, Uma Gallery, New York, NY

Selected group exhibitions

2010 The AIPAD Photography Show, HackelBury Fine Art, London, UK
2009 Photography Now: vision, devotion, revelation, HackelBury Fine Art, London, UK
The Scene and the Dream of Photographs, Forma Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Milan, Paris Photo booth
Pingyao International Photography Festival, Pingyao, China
The Christopher Hyland Collection New Britain Museum of Art, New Britain, CT
The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography, Aperture Foundation, New York, NY
Contact Sheet, School of Visual Arts, New York, NY
Paris, Ambient Art Projects, Las Vegas, NV
2008 Faculty Exhibition, School of Visual Arts, New York, NY
2007 Faculty Exhibition: About This, International Centre of Photography, New York, NY
Renaissance, Robischon Gallery, Denver, CO
Faccia a Faccia, Il nuovo ritratto contemporaneo Forma Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Milan, Italy
Oog-Eye: Photographs from Collection Dancing Bear, Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2006 Faculty Exhibition, International Centre of Photography, New York, NY
Figure in the Landscape, Houston Community College Central Fine Art Gallery
On the Edge, Centre for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO, curated by Stephen Perloff,
No Eyes: the Dancing Bear Collection of W. M. Hunt, Musee De l’Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland
2005 Photo National, Lancaster Museum of Art, Lancaster, PA, curated by Kate Ware
Sans regardes, or no eyes: looking at collection Dancing Bear, Recontres D’Arles, Arles, France
Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA
Luminous Forms: Abstractions in Colour Photography, DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA