Todd Hido

San Francisco

at Stephen Wirtz


In Todd Hido’s exhibition of 17 recent large and medium-size C-prints, titled “A Road Divided,” unpopulated, fog-shrouded landscapes are the recurring subject. Playing off the artist’s well-known nocturnal photographs of isolated suburban houses bathed in colorful and ominous light, these new, portentous pictures focus on a very different kind of illumination, but one that also reveals lonely and impersonal worlds. Recalling the moody pictorialism of Stieglitz’s early images, these impressionistic works depict country roads and snow-covered vacant lots, forlorn places that convey an unsettling sense of emptiness.

Hido photographs these landscapes at liminal moments of early morning or late afternoon, when sudden changes in light and atmosphere can dramatically transform their appearance. By shooting all of the images through a car windshield and tilting his camera slightly upward, Hido creates striking compositional effects that gently toy with conventional depth of field. In Untitled #6237 (2007), a curving dirt road runs from a distinct foreground to an amorphous horizon—a route that seems, in essence, to lead us nowhere. Here, as elsewhere, the fog and clouds swirling overhead are seen through layers of frost or condensation on the windshield, resulting in refractions of light that quietly disrupt the legibility of detail.

While a somber and evocative tonalism predominates, surprising flashes of color enliven the works. Untitled #6426 (2007) is the only photograph that features a figure. At the very center of this panoramic composition, a woman in a yellow coat stands on a precipice overlooking the ocean. Ripe with Hitchcockian suggestion, the image especially recalls a scene from the director’s 1958 film Vertigo. Because of the spatial distortion created by the sloping windshield that intervenes between camera and subject, the woman seems simultaneously near and far. This effect heightens her tense body language and enhances theâ?¯enduring ambiguity of theâ?¯moment.

Above:  Untitled #6237, 2007, chromogenic print, 20 by 24 inches; at Stephen Wirtz.