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The Yard Gallery

The Yard

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New York City

Brooklyn Heights Gallery

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Mohawk Valley Gallery

Mohawk Valley

Upcoming Events

April 6–May 20, 2012 - Come join us for the opening of my photo series “The Yard: an odyssey in oxidation”. The show will be at The Arkell Museum at 2 Erie Boulevard in Canajoharie NY.

In the Media

Times Union • Sunday, April 13, 2008 - Photographer goes extra yard to showcase rusty old cars

Curators statement from David Brickman on most recent photo exhibition

Press Release for photo exhibit - Feb 29, 2008

Photographer goes extra yard to showcase rusty old cars

Section: Arts-Events
Page: H2
Date: Sunday, April 13, 2008

By TIM KANE – Special to the Times Union

When most people look at abandoned cars in a field, they see junk and blight. But to the Fort Plain artist Ben Palmeri, decomposing metal and overgrown flora are the source of photos akin to expressive portraits rather than still lifes. More than 20 of his immaculate c-prints are included in the exhibit ``The Yard: An Odyssey in Oxidation'' on view at the Photo Center of the Capital District in Troy through May 18. Curated by critic and photographer David Brickman, the exhibit is, surprisingly, the 59-year-old's first solo show.

His 16-by-16-inch pictures swagger with verve and personality. Taken during a four-month period in 2006, the images seem mundane at first; looking at old cars deteriorating is as interesting as watching grass grow. But a look under the hood, so to speak, reveals a finely cultivated exhibit that isn't just about cars, or plants.

Partially hidden behind thick brush, a single bulging headlight on a hunkered down 1957 Chevy in " '57 Chevy" peers out as if it's playing a game of hide and seek. The mouthlike space between the hood and bumper virtually chuckles at you with a come-and-get-me attitude.
In " '57 Renault," a colorful plant dangles off a headlight like a drooping fake eyelash on a sultry vixen. Perforations from rust are caked on makeup and mascara. She's clearly past her prime, even revolting in a way, but you can't help but gaze at her.

A busted headlight hanging by a single cord is transformed into a badly damaged eye on another '57 Chevy. The grill and bumpers are like gauze and tape bandaging the injury, with the vehicle's demeanor suggesting an old boxer slouched over in a corner after one fight too many.

After a while, Palmeri's subjects become characters in a thickening plot. Even subtle touches, such as plants growing in a back seat, turn into ghostly passengers looking back through a cracked rear window. His photos play on your mind, opening up endless possibilities through man-made and natural geometric forms.

Palmeri has animals in his narrative, too. The dents and nicks around one headlight of an angular, gray 1977 Porsche resembles the eye of a battle tested shark. Meanwhile, two oblong windows on the bulbous backside of a 1937 Olds portray the reflective pause of a walrus after eating or, perhaps, awakening from sleep.

Palmeri used a Hasselblad camera on a tripod, which allowed him to move the square wide-angle lens as close as possible without capturing glare, equipment or himself in the photos, a testament to his technical acumen. The high resolution 120 film draws out the excruciating details, yet there is an expansive depth to them.

A commercial photographic printer by trade, Palmeri was lured to create the series of 50 pictures by his love of automobiles. Seeking a change of pace 20 years ago, Palmeri moved to the Mohawk Valley from New York City. One day something caught his eye.

"I drive by the yard almost everyday," he said during a recent interview. "Then I saw two 1950 Packard's sitting out front. I just had to photograph them ... these cars are from my youth."

Palmeri says he's planning a book based on "The Yard" images, but there is no publication date yet. Nor is there another exhibit scheduled, he added. For years, he has been developing a book on his series devoted to the Brooklyn Heights promenade before and after 9/11.

The final photo in the exhibit is "72 Caddy Hearse," an eerie play on life and death that has tall plants engulfing the car's body where coffins were once laid. It's a fitting summation of Palmeri's art, which finds lively dispositions among carcasses left to rot.

Tim Kane is a freelance writer based in Albany and a regular contributor to the Times Union.

On exhibit``The Yard: An Odyssey in Oxidation: Photos by Ben Palmeri'' Where: Photo Center of the Capital District, 404 River St., Troy When: through May 18 Gallery hours: 5-9 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Friday; noon-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Closed Wednesday Info: 273-0100;

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"The Yard: an odyssey in oxidation"

A solo exhibit hosted by The Photography Center of the Capital District from March 28 – May 16


I have known Ben Palmeri for many years – as a dedicated color printer, as a talented photographer in both black and white and color, and as a friend.

When I saw the first images Ben made in “the yard,” I was immediately taken by the strength of the work, and planned to include it in a show I was curating titled “Rural Visions.” Then, as time went by and he went back to the yard over and over again, Ben kept showing me new, and often stronger, pictures. It wasn’t long before I realized that this body of work could not be contained as a small part of a group show, and the groundwork was laid for this debut solo exhibition.

The 23 pictures shown here are selected from a larger body made over a period of several months. As with all selections, it is subjective. It is not intended to include only the best or strongest pictures in the group; rather, it is a carefully chosen suite of pictures that work together and in sub-groups to give the best possible communication of the range and intention of Ben’s work as I see it. We worked closely together on the selection, but it is ultimately my fault, not his, if it fails to capture and hold your attention.

Now, for an important fact: I am not a car person. Though I believe many viewers will be moved by these photographs because of their content (and well they should be), my own response is much more purely visual. Here we have square, stolid images – not unlike their source subjects in a certain degree of ruggedness – that are also delicate in their shades and textures and lyrical, even romantic, in their sentiments. Palmeri clearly loves these old cars and trucks. But he is not blinded by his love, nor prevented from seeing and showing the objects of it in a variety of ways that move very far both from the original approach he made to them and from the simplest feelings he has for them. The result is a challenging and complex interpretation of what otherwise could be reasonably called a cliché topic for a photo essay.

It has long been my belief that photography becomes art when it transforms its subject matter into something the viewer hasn’t seen before. After all, what would be the point of art that tells you things you already know? Whatever the medium, it is art’s job to enlighten the viewer – to leave us somehow changed (hopefully for the better) by the experience of having seen it.

With his yard photographs, Palmeri clears that hurdle easily. What we get, beyond a straighforward documentation of a fascinating collection of vehicles, is a sort of poetry that uses compositional elements, light, color, and texture instead of words. Palmeri’s mastery of these tools appears nearly effortless; but it is the unstinting effort of his shooting practice (often repeated three or four separate times with one vehicle), and the equally tough process of editing and printing that have led to a body of work as subtle in its colors as it is strong in its evocative meanings. With this wonderful epic poem, Palmeri has added an eminently worthy page to the history of art photography.

David Brickman, March 2008

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For Immediate Release Feb 29, 2008

The Photography Center of the Capital District, 404 River Street, Troy, is proud to present a solo exhibition of photographs by Ben Palmeri titled The Yard: An Odyssey in Oxidation from March 28 to May 18, 2008. The exhibition, curated by noted Albany photographer and art critic David Brickman, features 23 color photographs of an extraordinary private collection of old cars that has been stored outdoors, providing strong interactions with local flora. Made over several years, the images capture their subjects in striking, almost animated poses. It is Palmeri’s first solo show in the area and the first time this body of work is being shown anywhere.

“I was immediately struck by the quality of these photographs the first time I saw them,” Brickman says. “Then, over time, Ben kept showing me new images and the body just got stronger and stronger. I had originally planned to include 5 or 6 of them in a group show I’ve put together for the Chapel + Cultural Center [at Rensselaer], but there was no way – this body of work needed to be shown in full, as a solo. Luckily, Nick Argyros [of the PhotoCenter] agreed, and we were able to schedule Ben’s show to coincide with the other one. So everybody wins.”

Palmeri works with a square-format Hasselblad, shooting 120 color film, which he enlarges in his own darkroom. He worked as a commercial color printer for many years, and now operates a business out of his home in Fort Plain, where he makes darkroom prints for photographers and businesses. “One of the strengths of Ben’s work is that he has such an eye for color,” Brickman explains. “Despite everything you’ve heard about the wonders of digital photography, it is still very difficult to make it look as good as a traditional print from old-fashioned film – and when a seasoned pro like Ben makes the print, it is just beautiful. His personal pictures are almost like paintings in their strong and subtle mastery of color.”

The exhibition received critical support from the Christos N. Apostle Charitable Trust.

The Yard: An Odyssey in Oxidation will open with an artist’s reception on Friday, March 28, from 5-9 p.m. (coinciding with Troy Night Out). The public is invited to attend. The show will remain on view through May 18. Gallery hours are: 5–9 p.m. Monday–Tuesday, Thursday–Friday • Noon–8 p.m. Saturday • Noon–6 p.m. Sunday • Closed Wednesday. For information, call 273-0100.

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