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Daniel Shea American Framing 22.05–21.11.21

Daniel Shea, American Framing


Daniel Shea | American Framing at the Biennale Architettura 2021

22 May - 21 November 2021

Daniel Shea’s newest body of work explores alternative ways of seeing for the New York-based photographer, whose practice is grounded in studies of architecture, form, and social constructs. Developed, in various forms, over the past three years and still ongoing, Shea’s new photographic language hones in on textures.

The series, comprised mostly of black-and-white photographs, began with Shea taking on new subject matter. Having focused on urban environments and architectural history for his series 43-35 10th Street, Shea turns to the natural world as an alternative photographic environment. In the density of woodland areas – some around New York City, others in places further afield like Alaska – Shea attempts to see the trees for the forest, discerning textures and details amongst the larger mass of greenery (and reimagining the traditional saying). This metaphor runs through the body of work and applies especially to Shea’s method of photographing nature. Shea seeks out his subjects within these landscapes, and in the process confronts how we relate to nature – appreciating and looking at the natural world despite the knowledge of our impact on it, which isn’t always in view – in a time of environmental crisis. There’s a dichotomy, then, between what’s seen in the photographs and what we know of the natural world. Rather than taking in the landscape as a whole, Shea’s granular photographs hone in on the details, the elemental; texture is the defining formal quality.

In this way, Shea also sees cities anew. Taking this newly developed photographic language, Shea applies it to the urban environments he knows so well, seeing them this time through a new lens entirely. Construction sites and architecture become subjects once again – places like steel yards, some busy with people and others empty. These urban scenes highlight the details – a hammer and wood shavings, construction materials – as well as busier moments of labourers at work. It’s not so much where the photographs were taken, as how Shea approached his subject matter as he moves from the natural world to built-up, constructed environments.

This new body of work is seen for the first time at the Venice Biennale’s 17th International Architecture Exhibition, as part of the United States Pavilion, American Framing. The US’ exhibition, curated by Paul Anderson and Paul Preissner, examines softwood construction and framing in American architecture, its history and continued significance as a fundamentally egalitarian material and building practice. Reflecting on Shea’s previous series 43-35 10th Street, and its interrogation of architecture and capitalism, this exploration of architecture’s social implications aligns with Shea’s own practice. In this context, Shea’s new photographs – staged alongside a full-scale wood framing structure, built as a new facade for the pavilion and courtyard – showcase the raw material central to wood framing.