Bill Jacobson


Bill Jacobson (b. 1955, Norwich, Connecticut) is widely known for his out of focus photographs of both the figure and the landscape.  His work is in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and many others.  In 2012, he was the recipient of a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

He began his signature, indistinct images in 1989, and has since been exhibiting in galleries and museums throughout the US and Europe.  These early works, titled Interim Portraits, feature shadowy, pale figures that evoke the loss experienced by many during the height of the AIDS epidemic. The blurred subjects underline the futility of capturing a true human likeness in both portraiture and memory.

Jacobson’s subsequent Song of Sentient Beings continued this interest in the defocused figure. In contrast to the bleached luminosity of his earlier work, this series depicts deep-black backgrounds enveloping ghostly figures, which bend, sleep, stretch and howl.  Towards the mid-1990s, he completed the Thought Series, an almost monochromatic evocation of the flow of life.  These depict a broad spectrum of subjects, from tightly cropped faces and articles of clothing, to fields of grass and surfaces of water. bill jacobson 1989-1997, published by Twin Palms, is a survey of work from this nine year period.

Returning home from a trip to India in 1999, Jacobson switched to color and began photographing urban and rural landscapes in Untitled and New Year’s Day. These images continue to capture our inner journey through the world, referencing the uncertainty of the mind’s eye rather than the sharp clarity of the camera lens. A monograph of this work,Photographs, was published by Hatje Cantz in 2005.

Since 2003, Jacobson has only made images in sharp focus, all the while retaining his meditation on the human passage through the world. His third monograph, A Series of Human Decisions, includes work from 2005 to 2009. These photographs are primarily details of various man-made spaces, which Jacobson considers to be traces of human existence.

More recently, he has been exploring a new body of work entitled Place (Series). These minimal, still-life images are the result of placing rectangles of various sizes in a variety of man-made and natural settings, suggesting both a variety of architectures and the contradictions between architecture and nature. They echo Jacobson’s earlier work, with their dialogue between the abstract and the real, and implied notions of the infinite.

Solo Exhibitions

2019  Bill Jacobson, Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston, TX

2018  Bill Jacobson: A Conversation with Morandi, Robert Morat Galerie, Berlin, Germany

2017  figure, ground, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY

2016  This is, This is (1989 – now), Robert Klein Gallery and Robert Klein @ Ars Libri, Boston, MA

2015  Place (Series), Lines in My Eyes, Haw Contemporary, Kansas City, MO

2015  Lines in My Eyes, James Kelly Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM

2012 Place (Series) New Photographs, James Kelly Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM

2012 Place (Series), Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, MA

2011 Into the Loving Nowhere (1989 till Now), Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY

2009 Some Planes, Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, MA

2009 Bill Jacobson: New York, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY

2009 figure, water, land, Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, East Hampton, NY

2009 funny, cry, happy, Langhans Galerie, Prague

2009 American Trip, 1974-1978 + A Series of Human Decisions, Exile, Berlin

2008 Some Planes, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY

2007 New Year’s Day, M+B, Los Angeles, CA

2007 Interim Thoughts, and Others, FRAC Haute-Normandie, Rouen, France

2007 Interim Thoughts, and Others, Noorderlicht Photogallery, Groningen, Holland

2006 Bill Jacobson, G. Gibson Gallery, Seattle, WA

2006 Bill Jacobson: Photographs, Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, MA

2005 Bill Jacobson: funny, cry, happy, Milliken, Stockholm

2005 Bill Jacobson, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY

2003 New Year’s Day, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY

2002 New Colour Photographs, Rhodes + Mann, London

2002 Bill Jacobson, Zinc Gallery, Stockholm

2002 New Color Photographs, Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, MA

2002 Dust to Dust, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2001 New Photographs, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY

2001 New Work, G. Gibson Gallery, Seattle, WA

2000 Portraits, Songs, Thoughts: Photographs by Bill Jacobson, The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI

2000 Thought Series Photographs: 1993-1999, Rhodes + Mann, London

2000 Photographs, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2000 Portraits, Songs, Thoughts (1992-1998), Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, Houston, TX

Selected Group Exhibitions

2019  50 Years since Stonewall, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TX

2019  newflesh, The Light Factory, Charlotte, NC

2019  Recent Acquisitions: Photography and Abstraction, Bell Gallery, Brown University, Providence, RI

2019  About Face: Stonewall, Revolt and the New Queer, Wrightwood 659, Chicago, IL

2019  Don’t Touch My Circles, Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2018  Framing the City: Photographs from the Permanent Collection, Palmer Art Museum, The Pennsylvania State College of Arts and Architecture, University Park, PA

2018  On Disappearing and Appearing; On the Ephemeral in Photography, Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung, Berlin, Germany

2018  Nature Morte, Guildhall, London, UK

2018  The Nature Lab, LabSpace, Hillsdale, NY

2018  Intimacy, Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NY

2018  Greyish, Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston, TX

2018  Earth, Wind and Water, Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, MA

2018  Billboards & Broadsides, LIU Humanities Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

2018  The Body: Concealing and Revealing, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA

2017 Nature Morte, National Gallery, Warsaw, Poland, UK

2017 Recent Acquisitions, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

2017 Apertures, Hiram Butler Gallery, Houston, TX

2016 Art AIDS America, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY

2016 The Last Picture Show, James Kelly Contemporary, Sante Fe, NM

2016 High Summer, Michael Foley Gallery, New York, NY

2015 Familiar—altered, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, MA

2015 Director’s Cut: Recent Photography Gifts to the NCMA, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC

2015 Art AIDS America, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA and Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY 

2015 Personalities: Fantasy and Identity in Photography and New Media, Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Desert, CA

2015Terminal: On Mortality and Beauty, Photographic Center NW, Seattle, WA

2015 still, museumORTH, Orth an der Donau, Austria. Travels to Haus der Kunst, Baden, Austria and Langenzersdorf Museum, Langenzersdorf, Austria

2015 Dear Dave, Foley Gallery, New York, NY

2015 Nature Morte, Ha gamle prestegard, Stavanger, Norway. Travels to Konsthallen-Bohuslans museum, Uddevalla, Sweden

2014 Private Eye: Allen G. Thomas Jr. Photography Collection, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC

2014 Permanency: Selections from the Permanent Collection, Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, NY

2014 The Thing Itself, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, NY

2013-14 Stories in the Social Landscape, International Center of Photography Education Gallery, New York, NY

2013-14 Image Search: Photography from the Collection, Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL

2013-14 Outsiders: Facing the Camera, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC

2013 The Art of Renewal, James Kelly Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM

2013 Tracing the Fish Bladder, Radiator Arts, Long Island City, NY

2013 Thanks For The Warning, Dolphin Gallery, Kansas City, MO

2013 Encuentros, Beatriz Esguerra Arte, Bogota, Colombia

2012 Repeat, Dolphin Gallery, Kansas City, MO

2012 The Perfect Storm, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY

2012 Do or Die: The Human Condition in Painting and Photography, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum , Dresden, Germany 

2011 The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the W.M. Hunt Collection, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY 

2011 UnscharfAfter Gerhard Richter, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany 

2011 The Garden, Allan Nederpelt, Brooklyn, NY

2011 Fabric as Form, Jack Tilton Gallery, New York, NY

2011 25 Years/25 Artists, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY

2011 Mighty Tacoma, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA

2011 Pictures are Words Not Known, Lishui Museum of Photography, Lishui, China

2010-11 Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, catalogue Travels to The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY and Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA

2010-11 Recollection: Thirty Years of Photography, The New York Public Library, New York, NY

2010 Incognito: The Hidden Self-Portrait, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, NY

2010 Open Season, Flanders Gallery, Raleigh, NC

2010 Surroundings, Dolphin Gallery, Kansas City, KS

2010 Object Lesson, curated by Vince Aletti, New York Photography Festival, Brooklyn, NY

2010 Wall to Wall, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

2010 Do or Die: The Human Condition in Painting and Photography, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, Cologne, Germany

2009 Heads, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY

2009 All Roads Lead to Coney Island, A. M. Richards Fine Art, Brooklyn, NY

2009 Underwater, Western Bridge, Seattle, WA

2009 Windows and Mirrors, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY

2008 Male, An Exhibition of Work from the Collection of Vince Aletti, White Columns, New York, NY; travels to Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia

2008 Modern Photographs: The Machine, The Body, and the City, Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY

2008 Darkside 1, Photographic Desire and Sexuality Photographed, Photomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland

2007 Wall House #2Thought Provoking, Sense Provoking, Noorderlicht Photogallery, Groningen, Holland

2007 Mystery, Frederieke Taylor Gallery, New York, NY

2007 A New York Picture Post: Gotham in the Twentieth Century, Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, KS

2007 Photographs from the Permanent Collection, Palmer Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

2007 OOG-EYE, Foam, Amsterdam

2006 In Sight, Recent Additions to the Permanent Collection, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago, IL

2006 Home is Where the Art Is, Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY

2006 Modern Photographs: The Machine, The Body, and the City, Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL

2006 Sans Regard, Musee de l’Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland

2006 Fifteen and 1/2, G.Gibson Gallery, Seattle, WA

2006 Horrors of War, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA

2005 In Focus, Contemporary Photography from the Allen G. Thomas Collection, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC

2005 New to View, Recent Acquisitions of Photography, Worcester Museum of Art, Worcester, MA

2005 Group Exhibition, Hamiltons, London

2005 New Art. New York: Reflections On The Human Condition, Trierenberg Holding AG, Traun, Austria

2005 Double Exposure. Galeria 2000, Nurnberg, Germany and Brigitte March Galerie, Stuttgart, Germany

2005 Landscape as Metaphor, Blickle Foundation, Kraichtal, Germany

2005 Solitude and Focus, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT

2005 The Anniversary Show, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2005 Fawbush Editions, Sandra Gering Gallery, New York, NY

2005 Home Again, G. Gibson Gallery, Seattle, WA

2004 Il Nudo, Ideale e Realta, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bologna, Italy

2004 Hidden Histories, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall, England

2003 Double Exposure, Edition Schellmann, New York, NY. Travels to G Fine Art Washington, DC; Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, MA; Galerie Graff, Montreal

2003 Photographs: Re-examining the Male and Female Nude, Shapiro Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2003 Scenery, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2003 Blurred, Anne Reed Gallery, Ketchum, ID

2003 Visions and Revisions, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

2003 Fleshtones: 100 Years of the Nude, Robert Mann Gallery, New York, NY

2003 The Disembodied Spirit, Bowdoin College Art Museum, Bowdoin, Maine, Travels to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, KS, and Austin Museum of Art, Austin TX

2003 Boys of Summer, ClampArt, New York, NY

2003 By The Sea, Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NY

2002 Urban Visions, The St. James Group Ltd Photography Prize 2002, Flowers East Gallery, London

2002 Blurred Image, Winston Wachter Mayer Fine Art, New York, NY

2002 Escaping the Vault: The Contemporary Museum’s Collection Breaks Out, The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI

2002 Fiat Lux, Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, MA

2002 A Matter of Degree: Abstraction in Twentieth-Century Art, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI

2002 Everyman, San Francisco Camerawork, San Francisco, CA

2002 The Other Face, Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany

2001The Human Figure in Photography, 1843-2000: Selections from the Grunwald Center Collection, UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA

2001 Secret Victorians, The Fabric Workshop, Philadelphia, PA

2001 Size Matters, Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, NY

2001 Portraits: Real and Imaginary, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TX

2001 Rocks and Trees, Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, Boston, MA

2001 Digital Printmaking Now, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY

2001 Chorus of Light: Photographs from the Sir Elton John Collection, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA

2000 Surviving the Photograph, Princeton University Art Museum, NJ

2000 The Liminal Body, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, Australia

2000 Photography Now: An International Survey of Contemporary Photography, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA 

2000 Focused Reality, Karen McCready Fine Art, New York, NY

2000 In Black and White, Stefan Stux Gallery, New YorkNY

2000 Fusion, Rhodes & Mann, London

2000 Rapture, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA

2000 Breathless! Photography and Time, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

2000 Photographs from the ’90s, Anita Friedman Gallery, New York, NY

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