Harry Wilks: Hudson River Bridges

July 6–October 14, 2018

“By emphasizing the man-made elements, which sometimes loom large in the foreground, as well as by moving in close with a wide-angle lens, I alter the scene and create a sense of place that is realistic, but also personal and strange.” —Harry Wilks

The Hudson River has always played a key role in the development of this region—it could also be a barrier. Before the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge opened in 1888, ferries offered the only access from shore to shore below Albany. It took 36 more years for the Bear Mountain Bridge to provide a transit further south and for general traffic. Hudson River crossings continue to provide infrastructure vital to the economy and to our daily lives. At the same time, their impressive scale and construction have long attracted artists and photographers who see in their grandeur a type of industrial sublime.

Since the early 1970s, Harry Wilks has photographed numerous architectural structures, including an impressive portfolio of Hudson River bridges. In his photographs, Wilks seeks out locations where people have left a mark on the landscape, which he finds enhances the beauty of the river. The current display highlights six examples from the Museum’s permanent collection and three on loan from the artist.

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In each of his photographs, Harry Wilks shows us the Hudson River from a new perspective. Girders and railings frame or bisect the views; lines of structures intersect with lines in nature, leading our eyes in and around his compositions. Until 2005, the photographer used a classic Widelux camera, which employed a pivoting lens to create panoramic exposures. The process causes extreme distortions of scale, which Wilks exploited with striking results. Since then, he has moved from analog to digital cameras, using a variety of techniques to achieve his desired effects, including sometimes printing in color or combining images.

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Harry Wilks. Landscape Painting / George Washington Bridge, 2008. Archival inkjet print. Museum Purchase, 2017 (2017.10).

Selected Press

Harry Wilks: Hudson River Bridges DART (August 2018)
7 Great Things To Do The Journal News (August 2018)
Where structure meets nature on the river The Riverdale Press (August 26, 2018)