Photographers: May 2007 Archives
Michael Kimmelman (I thought he was leaving?) has reviewed the new Stephen Shore show, Biographical Landscapes, being held at ICP.
The show is wonderful. Mr. Shore, who now teaches at Bard College, reprinted the photographs digitally, with rejuvenated colors as fresh and subtle as the day the pictures were shot. The work’s laconic eloquence speaks of an era and a nation. Its wit and affection add buoyancy to scenes of threadbare America from a moment when the country was depressed by war and years of civil unrest. Its formal rigor makes an uncanny order out of images that, at first glance, look like no place or nothing.
Interesting that the prints are new, not vintage, for the reason of "rejuvenating" the original color. How can anyone know what that means? My understanding is that color degrades relatively quickly, so it's up to memory to tell what the original color looked like. And haven't we replaced our memory with the photograph? Start chasing your tail...
More commentary about the new Gursky show and reviews of the show. How "meta".
Tim Atherton: Is Gursky Spent?
Edward Winkleman: ...Or the Inevitable Dulling of One's Edge
Tim Conner: Getting to Gursky
Joerg Colberg: If you treat artists like entertainers...
AFC: Chelsea Gallery Crawl, Part Three
Jon Bakos: Gursky and the Crewdson Effect
Joerg takes issue with the expectation that artists are being treated like entertainers, that we approach each new show the way we would a new musical album. Can they keep cranking out the hits? First, art and entertainment have always been intermingled and I think most people would be hard pressed to say that Gursky's in particular isn't entertaining in some significant way. In a world that mixes high and low culture so freely, it's difficult to make the argument that there are pure arts and pure entertainment. I think what Saltz was commenting on, and I was as well, is the difficulty an artist faces when a certain mode of working becomes a signature style and breaking out of that mode to grow in new directions is increasingly difficult. Oddly, the example that always comes to mind for me is Bob Dylan's risky transition from acoustic to electric instruments in 1966, a move that alienated many of his greatest fans. But then, Dylan's only an entertainer, so I guess that's not really applicable.
In an old interview, Gursky comments briefly on his intentions:
Yes, my pictures really are becoming increasingly formal and abstract. A visual structure appears to dominate the real events shown in my pictures. I subjugate the real situation to my artistic concept of the picture. Apart from the constantly recurring elements I have already mentioned, another aspect occurs to me which explains the way my pictures function. You never notice arbitrary details in my work. On a formal level, countless interrelated micro and macrostructures are woven together, determined by an overall organizational principle.
Jerry Saltz's review of the new Andreas Gursky show at Matthew Marks is in this week's New York Magazine.
Gursky is still trying to render purring pre-9/11 space, where commerce ticked along without an undercurrent of fear. But his rigor and criticality have been replaced by grandiosity and theatricality; figures feel frozen; compositions are stagy; structure devolves into carpetlike pattern. Gursky’s new pictures are filled with visual amphetamine, but now they’re laced with psychic chloroform.
I have not yet seen the show. I probably won't. Saltz's review was almost, in my opinion, inevitable. It's hard to keep topping yourself, particularly when you basically defined the current epoch of photography. Reinvention is no picnic. Nor particularly lucrative.
But the increasing prevalence of digital manipulation in photography, beyond digital darkroom techniques (a blurry line, of course), brings photography closer and closer to painting and, consequentially, loses the distinctive qualities that separate photography from other media.
I have been driving my wife crazy with the photography-oriented movies I've littered across our Netflix queue. I reviewed the first, War Photographer, a few weeks ago. I was looking forward to William Eggleston in the Real World but it sat unwatched on the TV cabinet for two months. We popped it in the other night and after watching the first 20 minutes or so, I fell asleep on the couch.
First, I had to get past the technical problems of the film. The video quality and audio recording are pretty poor, the audio so bad it occasionally requires subtitles for normal conversation. About five minutes in you can start to ignore that and focus on what's happening, a silent recording of Eggleston at work. This reminded me of War Photographer in a way, where you see from the outside what the photographer is doing, but that is nothing at all like seeing through the viewfinder or understanding how he frames the pictures or quickly makes technical adjustments to bring the image into a semblance of what's in his mind's eye for the shot.
After the first 15 minutes or so, the film leaves this mode and follows Eggleston into some stupefied interactions with his local friends and that's where my mind wandered away. One amazing insight from this initial interaction is that Eggleston is completely assured of his own excellence. He is satisfied with his work. He describes a recent project as the best work he's ever done. I found that astonishing.