Barry Underwood uses the natural landscape like a canvas, working with artificial light to paint geometric shapes and markings on the world after dark. A new exhibition of his work, “This Land is Your Land” is on view at Sous Les Etoiles Gallery in New York City until April 15. Underwood’s images are made using long exposures and an array of LED lights, luminescent substances and other physical processes, which illuminate rocks and trees in subtle and surprising ways. The result is a sort of spirit photography for the digital age, where quiet places come alive in ways that only the camera can fully see.
The show’s title references Woody Guthrie’s famous song, and like Guthrie, Underwood evokes America from forest to sea. Set in what look like pristine meadows and untouched streams, Underwood’s images hint at marks humans make on the landscape. One image shows snowy woods awash in pink light. Its title, “Pipeline,” perhaps alludes to nearby infrastructure. Another depicts the strip of land between two closely set houses. As Underwood writes in a statement, “My photographs reflect human disturbances, metaphorically suggesting how society divides and surveys landscapes or how humans force their will on the natural environment. By imposing flat and abrasive color (or light) onto a site, my photographic work contrasts human interference with the visually rich, wide tonal range of a natural landscape’s ambient hues. Throughout these Scenes, geometric forms obstruct organic elements to suggest how humans alter their landscape.”
An artist talk and film screening will take place at the gallery on February 20.