From the interview with Bill Armstrong from Aperture:
Aperture: This is your fourth exhibition at ClampArt. Were a viewer to try and trace the arc of these shows’ development, he or she might suggest that your source material and themes have become decidedly more contemporary. Earlier exhibitions involved images of Roman sculpture or Renaissance-era master drawings. This show, while referencing the classic films of the 1940s and ‘50s, seems to use contemporary source material. (Is that Michelle Obama we see in one image?) How do you aim to balance universal, timeless concerns with references to things—films noir, today’s advertising and stock imagery—that might be in the living memory of some viewers?
Bill Armstrong: I see what you are saying about an apparent arc from the past to the contemporary in the source material of my shows at ClampArt, but over entire the course of the Infinity series, the path is more wayward; in fact, the first portfolio, Early Figures, is made the same way as Film Noir. I felt it had been so long since I started the series that it made sense to circle back.
The idea of the Film Noir project is to revisit in color the themes of the classic black-and-white films of the 1940s and ’50s. The solitary figures contemplating the unknown reference the ethical and philosophical dilemmas laid out in those stories. However, the dark, mysterious images remain unresolved to hint at the increased uncertainties of the contemporary viewpoint.
I think of the film-noir subjects of loneliness, alienation, and the existentialist dilemma as universal themes that fit right into the overall trajectory of my work. I’m always trying to bite into the big themes: death, love, redemption, freedom, spirituality. I don’t have the exact quote, but Jack Pierson once said something like, “If it’s not about lonely, it’s not art.” Even though that’s apocryphal, I think the fact that we are alone is a major theme today, as much as faith and hope were in the Renaissance, or mortality was to the Romans. In a way I see all these themes as asking the same question. What is the meaning of it all? Does it matter what we do?
View Bill Armstrong’s series, “Film Noir”
Browse all of Bill Armstrong’s work at ClampArt