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Persistence or Renewal? On Gregory Halpern’s “19 Winters / 7 Springs”

January 11, 2023

Persistence or Renewal? On Gregory Halpern’s “19 Winters / 7 Springs”

Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa

January 11, 2023


Over the past decade, Gregory Halpern has become an influential figure in American art photography, principally through the release of several wildly successful photobooks. Virtually all that work has centered on the postindustrial Midwest, so that it seems especially apt that the Transformer Station, in Ohio City, Cleveland should host his first major US solo exhibition.



“19 Winters / 7 Springs” comprises forty-one photographs and three floor-standing sculptures, all made in or depicting Halpern’s hometown of Buffalo, NY. In a faint echo of the geography of the region, in which Buffalo and Cleveland share a shoreline with the vast Lake Erie, this former substation has been refashioned into two reading rooms and twin gallery spaces linked by a single corridor. Upon entry, one finds at right a gallery framed by a large, Edenic portrait of a young white man perched on crutches beneath an immense tree, the bushes behind him a buoyancy of yellow flame (Untitled, 2004–2022). At left, in the Crane Gallery, Halpern shows a diminutive portrait of a muddy young African American student listing faintly after football practice, the looming gray trashcan beside him seemingly ready to swallow his weary frame whole (Untitled, 2004–2022). The two portraits map opposing poles on a racial spectrum, and figure the cyclical rhythm of the seasons, describing a world in which beauty and innocence are not merely indivisible from injury and labor, but differently lived.



While portraits constitute the smaller half of the show, accounting for seventeen of the forty-four works, they are consistently its largest objects, its primary numbers, whether rearing up from the rafters, floating in soft pools of open white space, or apportioning themselves to the large scale of staircases and entire walls. It is the delicate specificity of personhood—preponderantly that of the young and the male—that lends structure not merely to the exhibition, but to its episodic exploration of place and time.



There are subtle and queer scenes of languorous ease and restful contemplation, of tender affection and seemingly deep need, of reverie and joyous exultation at the freshness of driven snow, just as there are scenes of desiccation and disarray. The tragic aspect of shrunken dejection in a pigeon stooped against a wall is heightened by the vibrant pink petals strafed around his bony feet (Untitled, 2004–2022)—his slate gray form echoing in the windswept gray cloths that faintly shield an open fire in an encampment for the unhoused, situated nearby. Halpern’s watery portrait of a young black-haired woman (Untitled, 2004–2022) so resembles Henri Matisse’s iconic The Italian Woman (1916) that resonances of religious imagery become palpable throughout the show. There are balaclava-wearing wraiths, impish sprites, and green-haired angels on the walls, and in various prints there’s a halation of light whose radiance seems celestial, even as spaces of abandonment and subsistence are rendered with fleshly density and dimension.



In a modestly scaled and irregular grid, Halpern pictures the ludic sphere of a dirtbike cage at a circus (Untitled, 2004–2022), which faintly resembles Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, while nearby a young man shadowboxes in a flash-lit mirror whose streaked surface echoes the limpid blue sunbursts funneling through cracks into a container twinned at his side (Untitled, 2004–2022). At their feet, the vast black iron doors to Transformer Station’s basement echo an emptiness to the touch of heavy feet that whispers back into the gallery space, pointing up the three-sided husks of Halpern’s sculpted houses perched atop their long wooden stilts.



It is a sense of that vacancy (and perhaps faint expectancy) that runs through the show’s syncopated and fugal flow. “19 Winters / 7 Springs” figures a city of splendid but total isolation, a place whose volatile climactic extremes are of a piece with the epic stakes for economies of subsistence in a culture of obsolescence for many, and plenty for few. This spectrum of extremity is intimated in the sculptures themselves—their sheer stentorian frontality is offset by floorless inner walls that weave a tapestry of blue skies, flowers, and the vestiges of a solar eclipse. Halpern’s sculptures describe something weightless, beautiful, and cataclysmic on the inside of these snow-covered homes. Indeed, the only bounty of which the exhibition seems certain is that of natural cycles of renewal and decay, which is to say that the works prize history as our shared genesis, and that they reckon candidly with death. I am reminded of the interrogative yellow preposition “UNTIL” splashed midway up dark black steps in an image in the show—reminded that the conditional tense of the word offers no promises of after, gives no assurances of another side to the Sisyphean hill. At Transformer Station, Halpern offers us a twenty-year-old image of a city for whom the present is the only article of faith that one can trust.


Gregory Halpern’s “19 Winters / 7 Springs” is on view at Transformer Station, Cleveland, through February 5.


Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa is a British-Ugandan photographer, writer, editor, and associate professor of photography.

Holiday Hours:

November 18, 2022

Season’s Greetings from Transformer Station!

We will be closed the following days in observance of the holidays:


Closed Thursday, November 24, 2022


Closed Friday, December 23, 2022 due to weather conditions
Closed Saturday, December 24 & Sunday, 25, 2022
Closed Saturday, December 31, 2022


Closed Sunday, January 1, 2023


Regular Hours:

Gregory Halpern: 19 Winters / 7 Springs

October 12, 2022

For Immediate Release: October 12, 2022
Transformer Station opens a world-premiere solo show of photography by Gregory Halpern on November 4, 2022.
Gregory Halpern: 19 Winters / 7 Springs


Transformer Station, Cleveland
November 4, 2022 – February 5, 2023

Gregory Halpern, Untitled, 2022, from 19 Winters / 7 Springs. © Gregory Halpern


Cleveland, OH – Transformer Station presents 19 Winters / 7 Springs a solo exhibition by Gregory Halpern. Halpern, a native of Buffalo, New York, and resident of Rochester, has photographed his home county over the past twenty years, in between numerous other books and projects. This mid-career survey is the largest museum show for the photographer to date. An ode to the social landscape of this corner of post-industrial America, the work expands upon Halpern’s distinctive documentary style rooted in both the real and the sublime. 


The exhibition will present a range of 50 color prints, in varying sizes, along with a series of new free-standing sculptures drawn from the Buffalo landscape. 


Halpern tells his stories in both monumental prints and in suites of smaller images, much like musical or poetic phrasing. In this vein, he belongs to — a new post-documentary style pioneered in recent decades by Paul Graham (UK) and Wolfgang Tillmans (Germany), among others.


Halpern has published seven monographs, is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and his photographs are in major public and private collections. He holds a BA in History and Literature from Harvard University and an MFA from California College of the Arts. He is an Associate Member of Magnum Photos and he lives in Rochester with his wife Ahndraya Parlato and their two daughters. He teaches photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology. 


Visiting Hours:
Wednesday – Sunday:
11am – 5pm



Founded in 2013, Transformer Station is a free, privately owned, contemporary art museum located on the west side of Cleveland that presents the work of nationally and internationally recognized artists. It inspires audiences through cutting-edge exhibitions and programming. Exhibitions have included works by Todd Hido, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Christian Patterson, Jess Dugan, Richard Renaldi, Zaneli Muholi, and other leading artists working in photography today. 


Transformer Station
1460 W 29th Street, Cleveland, OH 44113



For more information visit
Press inquiries: Fred Bidwell,
Images for publication
Captions for all images: Gregory Halpern, Untitled 2004–2022 ©Gregory Halpern


‘Dust and Rainbows’ capsule collection designed by Shooting Without Bullets in collaboration with Xhibition for FRONT Triennial

August 25, 2022

Shooting Without Bullets Dust and Rainbows Tee ☁️🌈


Playing with distortion, repetition, and ancient symbols representing motion and time, this design responds to Langston Hughes’ contemplation of dust and rainbows by asking, “What we see, if we see.”


The pixelated, digital dust of a yearbook portrait of Langston Hughes from his time at Cleveland’s Central high school travels through an optical spiral of infinite time, connecting the experiences of Cleveland youth to a rich legacy of renaissance and resistance pioneered by Black artists like Hughes.


The inclusion of FRONT’s theme on the garment represents the coexistence of dust and rainbows in regenerative ecosystems while uplifting the invisible, ephemeral, and unrecognized in Cleveland.


This limited edition tee is available for purchase at the SWOB x Xhibition Pop – Up Activation at The FRONT PNC Exhibition Hub at Transformer Station, in-store at Xhibition Cleveland locations, and online at the link in our bio!


All profits benefit the SWOB agency. We appreciate your support!


FRONT 2022 Pocket Guide

August 25, 2022



FRONT 2022’s pocket guide, the essential resource to navigating your way across the Triennial. When you buy a FRONT 2022 Pocket Guide ($10) and collect a god sticker from each of FRONT’s 11 Presenting Partners, you can receive a free Exhibition Catalog at the end of the triennial ($30 value) while supplies last!


Pocket Guides are available to purchase here at the FRONT PNC Exhibition Hub at Transformer Station, at select Presenting Partner locations, and at FRONT’s online shop.



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