Bill Jacobson: An Exploration of Geometry and Space

by Kathleen Larsen

As I continue to look to the future of landscape imagery, I am fascinated by the concepts and imagery that permeate the contemporary realm of landscape photography. The early works of Bill Jacobson were soft, out-of-focus black and white portraits and his images evolved to a series of color interior and landscape images. It is the body of work he produced between 2007 and 2008 that I find mesmerizing. Reminiscent of the paintings of Mark Rothko, the picture plane is split in two by the horizon line creating two rectangular planes in Some Planes. The work evokes a sense of flatness in conjunction with a sense of space. How is this possible? Through the use of color and light, contrast, and textural detail.

Mark Rothko, Ochre And Red On Red,  1954 [1]

Mark Rothko, Ochre And Red On Red,  1954 [1]

Bill Jacobson, Some Planes #410, 2007, pigment print on Epson Ultrasmooth paper, mounted to museum board; print, 49.5 x 36 inches; board, 52.5 x 39 inches; edition of 9

Bill Jacobson, Some Planes #410, 2007, pigment print on Epson Ultrasmooth paper, mounted to museum board; print, 49.5 x 36 inches; board, 52.5 x 39 inches; edition of 9

Bill Jacobson, Some Planes #436, 2007, pigment print on Epson Ultrasmooth paper, mounted to museum board; print, 49.5 x 36 inches; board, 52.5 x 39 inches; edition of 9

Bill Jacobson, Some Planes #436, 2007, pigment print on Epson Ultrasmooth paper, mounted to museum board; print, 49.5 x 36 inches; board, 52.5 x 39 inches; edition of 9

Bill Jacobson, Some Planes #414, 2007, pigment print on Epson Ultrasmooth paper, mounted to museum board; print, 49.5 x 36 inches; board, 52.5 x 39 inches; edition of 9

Bill Jacobson, Some Planes #414, 2007, pigment print on Epson Ultrasmooth paper, mounted to museum board; print, 49.5 x 36 inches; board, 52.5 x 39 inches; edition of 9

When discussing the work with Michelle Aldredge, an artist, writer, curator, and the founding editor of Gwarlingo, an online arts and culture journal, Jacobson states: “I became drawn to the rectangle as something which really doesn’t exist in nature…but which also represents an archetype of our visual journey through the world. So much of what we make is consistently rectangular. You find it constantly in art and architecture, furniture and signage, and all books and photographs. But it’s not only visual…I think the rectangle exists as an emotional portal as well” [2].

When I taught visual arts at the high school level, I taught them about the two basic kinds of shapes we find in the world: geometric which are regular, mathematical, and mainly man-made and organic which are irregular, unrepeatable, and found in nature. It is the organic shapes of nature that draw me to landscape photography, yet I am drawn to the rectangles created by Jacobson in these images and the power in these images is found in them. In the three images below, one would normally think that the soft analogous color palette would be soothing and serene. Yet, the juxtaposition between these pale colors contrasts with the hard edges of the rectangle causing them to vibrate with visual energy. The three-dimensional textural surface of the foreground contrasts with that of the two-dimensional background adding interest and a sense of space. Several of the images also include a curvilinear horizon that moves the eye between the two planes. The two examples here have stronger contrasts than those above, yet resonate with the same visual energy moving between two and three dimensions. The visual energy and tonal values in the images in Some Planes combine to create a body of work consisting of unobstructed landscapes that shift between organic and geometric.

Bill Jacobson, Some Planes #601, 2007, pigment print on Epson Ultrasmooth paper, mounted to museum board; print, 49.5 x 36 inches; board, 52.5 x 39 inches; edition of 9

Bill Jacobson, Some Planes #601, 2007, pigment print on Epson Ultrasmooth paper, mounted to museum board; print, 49.5 x 36 inches; board, 52.5 x 39 inches; edition of 9

Bill Jacobson, Some Planes #514, 2008, pigment print on Epson Ultrasmooth paper, mounted to museum board; print, 49.5 x 36 inches; board, 52.5 x 39 inches; edition of 9

Bill Jacobson, Some Planes #514, 2008, pigment print on Epson Ultrasmooth paper, mounted to museum board; print, 49.5 x 36 inches; board, 52.5 x 39 inches; edition of 9