Main Gallery

Ken Botto: Life Work

October 2 - November 14, 2010

Curated by Linda Samuels

Botto creates elaborate scenes and collages that he photographs in his backyard in Bolinas, Calif. The process doesn’t sound spectacular, but the outcome of his work proves otherwise.

– Lauren Barnard

Ken Botto (1937-2008)  photographed outdoors, using table-top “studios” on which he created and manipulated his set-ups.

Botto created and photographed miniature tableaux using his remarkable toy collection, unique props, and found objects. “A hopeless collector,” Mr. Botto wrote in a 2000 biographical statement, “and like an urban anthropologist, I have spent much of my life rooting and sifting through the debris of our culture. Objects found through this process serve as catalysts and vehicles of possibility when reconstructing the environments that I set up to photograph.”

Armed with his “funky 1973 Nikkormat” he relied on natural light and used reflected mirrors to produce illuminated and atmospheric effects. “Botto’s fictional world teetered on the line between reality and fantasy,” said Ada Takahashi, curator at the Koch Gallery in San Francisco, where Mr. Botto’s work was shown. “His work was like static theater.”

All images were created in the camera with neither digital nor darkroom manipulations. Botto created over 35 series, each containing anywhere from 9 to 153 images. Much of the work comments on cultural contradictions and absurdities of everyday life. Although he dealt with a myriad of themes, his focus was centered on illuminating our cultural identity by critiquing and satirizing the planetary and human condition.

Botto’s 1978 book Past Joys is a collector’s item that found renewed popularity with an enthusiastic audience in Japan in the 1990s.  His color photography has been widely exhibited and is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum  of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Botto received his BFA from California College of Arts and Crafts and his MFA from Claremont Graduate School.