press release


Filmmaker’s Luminous and Meditative Studies of Waterways, Cities, and Landscapes Among 18 Featured Works

Opens on May 5 with Modern Mondays: Peter Hutton in Conversation with Author and Critic Luc Sante

Peter Hutton (b. Detroit, 1944) is one of cinema’s most ardent and poetic portraitists of city and landscape. A former merchant seaman, he has spent nearly forty 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 the fjord valley and coastline of 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.

“Hutton sculpts with time,” curator Joshua Siegel observes, “whether in seeking remembrance of a city’s fading past, or reflecting on nature’s fugitive atmospheric effects. 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 that is sensitive to the effects of sunlight and moonlight on the city’s hard-edged geometries; and the other, a series of explorations of the Hudson River Valley that transcribe and exalt landscape in the manner of Thomas Cole and the nineteenth-century Luminist painters.”

The exhibition is organized by Joshua Siegel, Assistant Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

“Like the haiku of Bashô, 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.”—Tom Gunning, Spiral

“Hutton’s Budapest Portrait (1984 - 86) suggests the photographs alternately of Eugène Atget and Bernd and Hilla Becher, if not a lushly entropic gloss on Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera…. Human presence is often suggested merely by indexical signs—photographs, shadows, or bullet holes. This relative absence of the figure, together with the harsh chiaroscuro of the winter light, induces a poignant sense of loneliness and isolation. Voluptuously gray, worn, and lived in, the city is like a stage set for an invisible drama.”—J. Hoberman, Artforum

About the artist: Peter Hutton studied painting, sculpture, and film at the San Francisco Art Institute under the tutelage of Robert Nelson, Bruce Nauman, and Bruce Conner. He is currently the director of the Film and Electronic Arts program at Bard College, where he has been a professor of film since 1984; his students at Bard, and other institutions including Hampshire College and Harvard University, have included Sadie Benning, Matthew Buckingham, Ken Burns, Hal Hartley, and Mira Nair. Hutton’s work has been shown in major museums and festivals throughout the United States and Europe, and he is the recipient of grants from, among others, the National Endowment of the Arts, DAAD Berlin, Rockefeller Foundation, Dutch Film Critics Prize, and John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.


Monday, May 5, 7:00 p.m. Modern Mondays: Peter Hutton in Conversation with Luc Sante

To open his MoMA retrospective, Hutton presents New York Portrait, Part I (1978 - 79) andSkagafjördur (2002 - 04) as part of a special Modern Mondays conversation with Luc Sante, visiting professor of writing and the history of photography at Bard College, and author of Low Life, The Factory of Facts, and Kill All Your Darlings.

Modern Mondays is made possible by Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro. Additional support is provided by The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art. Media sponsorship is provided by Artforum.

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Peter Hutton
Kurator: Joshua Siegel