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Joseph Bellows : Steve Fitch : Drive-In Theaters


Joseph Bellows Gallery presents the exhibition, Steve Fitch: Drive-In Theaters. Drive-In Theaters will showcase a remarkable selection of vintage and modern gelatin silver prints representing the architecture of these distinctly American movie-viewing monuments.

For more than forty years, Steve Fitch has been photographing the American West revealing its changing vernacular landscape and vanishing roadside attractions. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, and while teaching photography at the ASUC Studio on the Berkeley campus, Fitch began work on a project photographing the vernacular roadside of the American highway. He received two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships to aid in completing this project, one in 1973 and the second in 1975, and published the acclaimed monograph, Diesels, and Dinosaurs (1976). His serial photographs of the Drive-Ins, seen together, shape an intriguing typology of a disappearing architectural form. These cinematic landmarks are now mostly artifacts of a shifting cultural landscape; they are, however, perfectly preserved in Fitch’s extraordinary photographs, which mostly picture their subject under the fluorescent glow of the Drive-In’s signage.

Fitch received his master’s degree in fine arts from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 1978. After graduating, He accepted a teaching position at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In 1981, as a member of the “Marks and Measures” project, he began photographing prehistoric Native American pictograph and petroglyph sites in the American West, funded by the last National Endowment for the Arts Survey Grant in 1981. His work on the project, along with that of the other four project members, was published in a monograph, Marks in Place: Contemporary Responses to Rock Art, by the University of New Mexico Press in 1988.

In 1990, after teaching at Princeton University for four years in the Visual Arts Program, Fitch returned to New Mexico and began photographing the ongoing abandonment of the High Great Plains, receiving the Eliot Porter Fellowship from the New Mexico Council for Photography in 1999 to aid in the completion of this project. In 2003, a book of these photographs entitled Gone: Photographs of Abandonment on the High Plains, published by the University of New Mexico Press and the University of New Mexico Art Museum, was organized into a traveling exhibition.

Fitch’s work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York; J. Paul Getty Museum; Amon Carter Museum, Center for Creative Photography, California Museum of Photography, among others.

Monographs on Steve Fitch’s work include Diesels and Dinosaurs (Long Run Press, 1976), Gone: Photographs of Abandonment on the High Plains (University of New Mexico Press, 2002), Motel Signs (Nazraeli Press, 2018), American Motels Signs (The Velvet Cell, 2016), Vanishing Vernacular: Western Landmarks (George F. Thompson, 2018), American Motels Signs II (The Velvet Cell, 2020).

Mike Mulno


Steve Fitch : Drive-In Theaters
January 14th – March 4th, 2023
Opening reception Saturday, January 28th, from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Joseph Bellows Gallery
7661 Girard Avenue
La Jolla CA 92037

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