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Allstate 7806, from the EMPIRE portfolio

  • Accession Number:
    2012:27.70
  • Artist:
    Hyers + Mebane
  • Date:
    2006; printed 2012
  • Medium:
    Inkjet print
  • Dimensions:
    image: 15 in x 18 3/4 in; paper: 17 in x 20 3/4 in
  • Credit Line:
    Museum purchase

Tags:

About the Photographer

Hyers + Mebane

William Mebane, American, b. 1972; Martin Hyers, American, b. 1964

New York-based collaborative, William Hyers and William Mebane use photography to interrogate contemporary material culture and the sentimentalities people can attach to particular objects. The duo’s sparse, unpopulated views underscore the singularity of the items that they capture, while also questioning how these items are symptomatic or even emblematic of a greater context.

In their extensive body of work Empire (2006), Hyers and Mebane create a collection of photographs taken on road trips through the American South and West. Their images focus on the interiors of homes and workplaces, using the objects found therein as poetic indicators of not only their occupants’ dreams and circumstances, but also of the United States as a whole. In order to gain access to locations of interest, Hyers and Mebane explain to the property owners that they are photographically collecting objects for a time capsule. The result is a visual investigation of twenty-one states at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In its entirety, Empire encompasses 9,000 photographs, with each edit varying to describe a unique perspective of American life and values.

Like Empire, the series Vegas entails multiple images displayed in grid arrangements. Shot in 2008, Vegas depicts the four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard in Clark County, Nevada, commonly referred to as “the strip.” These images show fragments of casinos, ranging from the oldest remaining casino--the Flamingo--to the new complexes such as the Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, and the ESPN. Hyers and Mebane depict a world somewhat apart; the photographer’s off-kilter camera angles give casino fixings the appearance of receding into a dark, unknowable space. Hyers’ and Mebane’s meticulously detailed, but resolutely deadpan, aesthetic resembles forensic photography, which the artists cite as a source of inspiration. By casting signifiers of decadence—including casino games, lush lounge chairs, and gaudy furnishing—Vegas elicits a tension between reckless abandon and censorship. The work’s inclusion of a surveillance camera hiding in a tree amidst flashy scenes reflects a pervasive theme for Hyers and Mebane: the impulse to simultaneously survey one’s surroundings and immerse one’s self in them.

Martin Hyers and William Mebane began their collaborative work in 2004. Based in New York, they work collaboratively and individually as photographers on a wide range of fine art, editorial, and commercial assignments. Martin Hyers is a New York-based photographer whose work has appeared in many and in a wide range of magazines and commercial advertising. Martin lives with his wife, Andrea, and their two children in New York City. William Mebane, completed a BA in Anthropology from the University of Colorado Honors Program, Bolder (1995) and an MFA in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute (2002). He serves as Visiting Lecturer of Social Science and Cultural Studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Mebane is the recipient of the Merit Fellowship for Graduate Studies from the San Francisco Art Institute (2000-2002), the J. William Fulbright Fellowship (2002-3), and the Photo District News 30 Emerging Photographers Award (2005). His work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times Magazine and Esquire. He lives with his wife, Martha, and their two sons.