Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New York Report #1 -- What is Photography?

The International Center of Photography in NYC has a show up now, through May 4th, 2014, entitled What is a Photograph?

The Center says that this show explores "the intense creative experimentation in photography that has occurred since the 1970s."

Photographers in this show "reinvented photography," according to the Center, because they engaged in "rigorous . . . aesthetically adventurous analysis, which probed photography itself—from the role of light, color, composition, to materiality and the subject."

The Center contrasts the work of these photographers to work produced by photographers influenced by "conceptual art."

"Conceptual art," say the folks at the Center, "introduced photography into contemporary art making, using the medium in ways that challenged it artistically, intellectually, and technically and broadened the notion of what a photograph could be in art."

In other words, conceptual photographers were interested in the relationship between photography and the categories of art, as traditionally construed, while the folks in this show are interested in exploring the nature of photography from within.

Ken Johnson, reviewing the show for the NY Times, is skeptical, calling the show "disappointing . . .  a strangely blinkered and backward-looking show," in which almost all the work exhibits a "navel-gazing narrowness" that has "more to do with photography’s past than with its possible future."

Philip Gefter, also writing for the NY Times, is more positive, finding the show a documentation of a moment when "contemporary photographers are doing something that is disorienting yet ultimately transformative."

Southern photographers are usually engaged in using photography to come to terms with the world around us, with all the resources that photography can provide. So subject matter and interpretation tend to be more central to the practice than metaphotographic issues.

But if you are interested in work that foregrounds questions about the nature of the medium, here are the folks in the ICP show:

Matthew Brandt, Marco Breuer, Liz Deschenes, Adam Fuss, Owen Kydd, Floris Neusüss, Marlo Pascual, Sigmar Polke, Eileen Quinlan (see image above), Jon Rafman, Gerhard Richter, Mariah Robertson, Alison Rossiter, Lucas Samaras, Travess Smalley, David Benjamin Sherry, Kate Steciw, Artie Vierkant, James Welling,  Christopher Williams, and Letha Wilson.

You can see some of the images from the show, here.

I do not think there is a Southern photographer in the bunch, but its always good to know what the rest of the world is doing.

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