Al Zoe Leonard: Al río

The day after we went to Paris Photo we went to the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris and got tickets to the Zoe Leonard exhibit, Al río / To the River, recommended by classmates who had seen it the day before. It’s an immense show that goes on and on for rooms and rooms, vast expanses of white space, perhaps conveyed by the images above. We arrived late morning and were, initially, the only ones there, other than the guards. I was almost more impressed at the opportunity to wander through the vast, empty white space of the museum (reminiscent of my trips to NY’s Metropolitan as a kid, when it was often so empty you could go bowling without disturbing anyone) than I was by the photographs.

The images look at the US/Mexico border area, as loosely defined by the Rio Grande/Bravo. On each wall is a series of pictures, looking at a particular scene, over the course of time (seconds, or minutes, I would guess). Some of these are very affecting; cumulatively, they certainly are. But I was unable to guess at the reason for some of them. One entire room was dedicated to pictures of the swirling water taken, perhaps, over the side of a bridge. While they are far from identical, they are all the same. Another follows a man on horse from a distance, behind, as he travels a short way. The final room is a series of color pictures of a laptop showing security footage of people crossing a barbed-wire-surrounded bridge. No indication of whether this is a public website, or if she’d been granted access to a security control room. Beyond the brochure materials about the exhibit (shown at the link above) there are no placards, captions or other text to explain what you’re looking at or why – which is, in itself, a kind of statement, I suppose. I confess, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. Of course, the same might be said of my series of images of the exhibit.

As always, click any image to see them all full-size.

Portrait Room Reflections

UCA, Farnham

Part of a larger Family Ties exhibit in the reception hall gallery of the University, Caroline Molloy, programme director of Fine Art, Digital Art and Photography at University for the Creative Arts, was showing us around the exhibit. When we go to her contribution, The Portrait Rooms, I was distracted by the way the Autumn leaves outside were being reflected in the display case glass.

William Klein at ICP

Just about a week before he died, I went to see Klein’s retrospective at ICP – an excellent show that gave a great overview of the breadth of his creative vision. Here are some impressions, not so much of his work but of the exhibition itself. (Click any image to see them all enlarged – from the browser – if you’re seeing this in email click through to obBLOGato first.)

Fotografiska, New York

Some years ago, on a vacation in Stockholm, I persuaded my family to accompany me to Fotografiska a vast and excellent photography museum there. For something like a year leading up to its opening, I received regular teaser emails presaging the advent of their New York branch. When it finally arrived last year I was disappointed to learn how high ticket prices were and, in the midst of the pandemic mostly forgot about it. But my wife gave me a couple of tickets and a pandemic appointment for an hour last weekend and down we went. (Click any image above to see them all enlarged.)

I have ambivalent feelings about what we saw. There were 3 featured exhibits and a fourth one dedicated to the winners of the Photography 4 Humanity 2020 contest, photo-journalistic work dedicated to human rights issues. There was some excellent work here, in the traditional documentary photography school, some of it dramatically artistic as well.

Next came a powerful exhibit dedicated to death-row inmates who had been wrongfully accused and had been exonerated by DNA evidence, many after years of incarceration and some just hours or days before being scheduled to be executed. While it was a very powerful and moving exhibit, it was only marginally photographic. Each of the subjects was shown in their own floor-to-ceiling portrait, in a darkened alcove, with their voice describing some element of their experience. However, the portraits weren’t still photographs, they were video portraits of their faces.

Next was Naima Green’s Brief & Drenching. The first part was a series of portraits, seeking to explode traditional binary-gendered portrait styles. These were quite good, and certainly had their own style, although they remained, essentially portrait photographs. The rest of the exhibit was less photographic. there was an installation of objects, a video (snapshot of bloody pearls, evidently being pulled from a vagina, above, is from the video), framed collections of motion-blurred, deliberately “artless” Polaroids, and so on.

This was followed by the gorgeous photo-montages of Cooper and Gorfer’s Between These Folded Walls, Utopia, shown in 2 of the pictures above). These were beautiful, sensuous images. I’m not sure exactly how they were made, but certainly not through straight photographic processes.

Finally, there was Andres Serrano’s Infamous. Serrano, no stranger to controversy (think Piss Christ), collected a number of racist artifacts and then photographed them. Taken at face value, they’re a shocking evocation of the extreme racism that was quotidian in this country’s culture throughout its history, reminding us, in the current climate, how important it is to extirpate this scourge. While the photography is pretty straightforward, still-life product photography and the exhibit is powerful, it strikes me that it’s not so much a photography exhibit as a racist artifact exhibit with photography almost incidentally being the medium of display.

So, I came away from Fotografiska having seen some worthwhile, and even important, exhibits but not a lot of photography. Granted, photography is a broad term and all these works can certainly fit within a catholic definition of photography, but only to the extent that the term ceases to mean much more than ‘images created using technology, with content not necessarily concerned with the medium.’ To some extent I know as a white man of a certain age, I tend to think of photography in increasingly outmoded ways. OTOH, it almost feels as if the medium has been exhausted – all that’s left is tendrils of new forms growing out of the corpse of the now-dead photography I grew up with.

Mother and Son Show

Had great fun (and not a little work) this weekend hosting a Pop-up Gallery show of my photographs and my mother’s paintings at Contra Studios in Chelsea. the pivot of the show was a set of 4 images you can see if you look quickly in the video (around the 20-second mark): a snowy photo of mine and my mother’s painting of it and a painting my mother did of some marsh grass in New Jersey and a photograph I took without knowing about hers, which nevertheless has a striking resemblance.

Also in attendance was a large group of my former classmates from PS 198’s class of 1968. I brought our middle school yearbooks, our class photo and set up a screen running a continuous loop of images I shot for the yearbooks back then, our 50th reunion get-together and some random shots around New York in those days. Most of the pictures here are of these friends and were shot by Peter Calvert, a professional artist and/or his wife Suzanne who is a stained glass artist – many thanks Peter and Suzanne!

I also set up an iMac to run loops of slide shows of my street photography set to music which you can see very briefly right at the end of the video (and hear in the background).

Also appearing, a surprise visit from my workshop friend Markus John from Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb‘s Finding Your Vision workshop last Spring, in NY on a brief trip from Germany.

(Click any picture to see them all enlarged and a few captions.)

I’d also like to thank numerous other friends who stopped by: Frank Burrows, Joe Silver, Gary Shoemaker and Kathleen Chan, Laura Tietjen and Steve Moore, Wayne Parsons and others and my mothers friends from her painting class, her quilting group and her neighbors who were very gracious in their appraisal of the show.

Opening

I have a number of pictures in this show that opened last night at the Terrain Gallery, 141 Greene Street in SoHo. Open through September… come on down!

Opening Night for "This Great Diverse City: How Should We See It?"

This Great Diverse City—How Should We See It?

I’ll have a number of pictures in the show, “This Great Diverse City—How Should We See It?” opening March 31st and running through September at the Terrain Gallery at 141 Greene St. New York, NY 10012.

The opening will be Thursday, March 31st from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. Hope to see you there!