A Dark Milieu: “Norman Reedus: A Fine Art Photography Exhibition” opens Nov. 12th at L.A.’s Voila! Gallery

By on November 11, 2015

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It’s understandable if the name Norman Reedus first conjures up images of the characters he’s portrayed on both big and little screens — admittedly, right now he’s perhaps best known as TV’s much-loved crossbow-wielding zombie hunter, Daryl Dixon, on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” — but those who know the real Reedus know that his many creative outlets and inspirations are actually expressed in ways other than acting.

We’ve previously featured a few posts here on Night Flight about Norman Reedus’s extra-curricular work beyond his acting career, like the music video he directed for the Bots’s “Blinded,” and his photographs when they were on display at the 9 Lives show at the Castle Fitzjohns Gallery in Manhattan, earlier this year.

And so, it’s a great pleasure for Night Flight to be able to shine a little light on his photography once again, which will now be featured in a brand new exhibition which opens on November 12th in Los Angeles, at the Voila! Gallery on La Brea (the exhibition also features high production sculptural work by New York-based artist Jake Lamagno), with an Opening Reception tomorrow night, Thursday, Nov. 12th, from 7pm-10pm (PT).

Artist Proof prints will be available at the exhibition, the only versions that will ever be made, which makes them even more valuable to collectors. It’s free to the public, but please RSVP: Info@voilagallery.com.

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The Voila! exhibition features many never-before-seen photographs — some of them printed on aluminum — in addition to photos from his first photography book, The Sun’s Coming Up…Like A Big Bald Head, published by Authorscape/Dolphin Books.

Reedus’s work has previously been featured in group exhibitions in Berlin, Hamburg, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, but this marks the first time he’s going to have his own show, certainly a milestone for any creative artist. He is so rarely without a camera in his hand that it should come as no surprise to anyone, considering where “The Walking Dead” is typically lensed, the often empty diurnal streets where dread and death lies just around a corner, that his photos often have a kind of macabre tone as well.

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Norman Reedus with his aluminum-mounted photograph, “C”. Photo: Stuart S. Shapiro for Nightflight.com

His photos often capture what isn’t typically seen, a dark milieu, both real and imaginary. Some of the on- and off-set images from his book — including the photos he took at a maximum security prison in Moscow — were taken in locations around the world where hope often overshadowed by a kind of visceral darkness, drawing his subjects into the light, much the way that you might turn over a big rock to look at the squirming things from the subterranean world just beneath the surface you can see.

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These are images that drop straight into our unconscious where they rest like depth charges. The fact that several of his subjects are wearing what appear to be animal heads reminded us of that scene we stumbled upon in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, where a man in a bear suit is doing something untoward in a bedroom with a gentleman who appears to be wearing a tuxedo. It was a creepy and yet darkly comical scene, not meant to be understood, and presented without explanation, just like many of Reedus’s photos.

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photo by Norman Reedus

The name of the company and the 2103 book title, incidentally, comes from a snatch of lyrics at the beginning of “Sharkey’s Day,” a song that appeared on Night Flight fave Laurie Anderson’s second album, Mister Heartbreak, released in 1984 (“Sun’s coming up. Like a big bald head. Poking up over the grocery store. It’s Sharkey’s day. It’s Sharkey’s day today”). Reedus has previously said that his mother took him to a Laurie Anderson concert when he was just a kid, and he became a big fan of her music (she granted her permission for use of her lyrics for the book’s title).

The real Reedus, we don’t hesitate to point out, is just as comfortable behind the camera, whether he’s directing (he’s made three short films) or taking photos, and it should surprise no one that nice guy Norman donates a large portion of any profits he makes on the sale of his photos directly to charitable organizations, which makes us dig the dude even more.

Proceeds from the sale of his 132-page limited-edition book The Sun’s Coming Up went to charities like the Fallen Heroes program for police in Georgia, where “The Walking Dead” is filmed, and others to charities supporting Boston, where he started his acting career. (His three short films were also all for charities, too).

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Bathtub Fun – Los Angels — photo by Norman Reedus

Incidentally, Reedus’s company published a second book, Thanks For All The Niceness, which is actually a compilation of artworks culled from over 100 fan-submitted images from around the world of Norman Reedus and/or his character on “The Walking Dead” — as it appears in their body tattoos, cake decorations, pencil sketches, mosaics, chalk drawings, digital art, and even children sketches from his youngest fans, from Japan, Spain, Mexico, England, Australia, Italy, Hungary, Brazil, Austria, Indonesia, and the United States — and it was published by Reedus as a way to show his gratitude toward his fans for their support in his career.

A significant portion of the proceeds from sales of Thanks is also being donated to The Bachmann Strauss Dystonia and Parkinson Foundation. Dystonia is a serious neurological movement disorder that causes uncontrollable and, at times, painful spasms in one or more parts of the body. There are very limited treatment options and no known cure for dystonia, but Reedus is committed to help his friend and so many others like him to help find a cure.

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photo by Norman Reedus

Reedus’s next film appearances will be in Sky, alongside Diane Kruger, Q’orianka Kilcher (best known for her role as Pocahontas in Terrence Malick’s 2005 film The New World), and Lena Dunham, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and he’s also appearing in Triple Line — the movie’s excellent cast also features Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Anthony Mackie and Aaron Paul — which is set for theatrical release in February 2016.

Reedus was also just been given his very own six-episode AMC series, “Ride With Norman Reedus,” which will debut sometime in 2016. The reality show — which will also focus on motorcycle culture and its history — will follow Reedus, a motorcycle enthusiast, as he explores local motorcycle culture around the country, talking to collectors, mechanics and custom motorcycle builders. (What we’d really like to see, if anyone’s listening, is a fictional biker drama starring Reedus, like HBO’s “1%” show was going to be).

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“Yeun and me” – photo by Norman Reedus, posted to Instagram

Norman Reedus: A Fine Art Photography Exhibition runs from November 12, 2015 – December 31, 2015

Voila! Gallery
518 N. La Brea
Los Angeles CA 90036

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photo below: Pancakes – photo by Norman Reedus

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.