Peter Hutton (b. 1944, Detroit) is one of cinema’s most ardent and poetic portraitists of city and landscape. A former merchant seaman, he has spent nearly 40 years voyaging around the world, often by cargo ship, to create sublimely meditative, luminously photographed, and intimately diaristic studies of place, from the Yangtze River to the Polish industrial city of Lodz, and from northern Iceland to a ship graveyard on the Bangladeshi shore. This comprehensive retrospective of 18 films reveals an artist dedicated to reawakening a more contemplative and spontaneous way of observing and envisioning the world.
Whether seeking remembrance of a city’s fading past or reflecting on nature’s fugitive atmospheric effects, Hutton sculpts with time; each film unfolds in silent reverie, with a series of extended single shots taken from a fixed position, harking back to cinema’s origins and to traditions of painting and still photography. Among the works featured are the two magnificent series that Hutton began in the 1970s—one an impressionistic sketchbook of New York, and the other an exploration of the Hudson River Valley that transcribes and exalts landscape in the manner of Thomas Cole and the 19th-century Luminist painters. “Like the haiku of Bashô,” the scholar Tom Gunning observes, “these seemingly simple films offer lessons in the art of seeing and fashioning images that make you wonder how anyone could produce something simultaneously so humble and so astounding.” The exhibition opens on May 5 with Hutton in conversation with writer Luc Sante. All films are from the U.S. and directed by Hutton.
Organized by Joshua Siegel, Assistant Curator, Department of Film.