Comments/Context: The new contemporary photography gallery is probably the only place (save the special exhibits areas) in the hallowed halls of the Met where some real risk taking in exhibit making can take place. The art in this room hasn't necessarily weathered the trials of decades or centuries, and any one work may or may not have yet risen to the top as best of breed for a certain style or time period. It's a place where fresh ideas can be shown, providing interesting contrasts to what's on view elsewhere in museum.
This exhibit takes on the challenge of making sense of the entire sweep of photography since the 1960s. Some of the themes it touches on include:
- The idea of truth in photography
- Conceptual photography
- Photography as a ubiquitous mass medium
- Photographic advertising
- New and old photographic processes
As an aside, there are two entrances to this room, that are nearly equally likely for someone to come through. This exhibit was arranged generally chronologically, so if you came in through the far doors are worked back (as I did), it seems even more of a grab bag, until you get to the other end, where the historical context is more obvious. I think the lesson here is that this room does not lend itself well to a linear narrative, and shows need to be monolithic in this space.
Collector's POV: For our particular collection, there were really only a couple of works that would fit well. The first is the flower image I referenced above by James Welling. This is a large image, hearkening back to various hand crafted processes of the past, but fully rooted in the present and with a strong point of view. If we had a wall big enough, I could imagine one of these in our collection.
A second is Mark Wyse's Mark of Indifference #1 (Shelf) from 2006 (see image at right). This artist was previously unknown to me, but I liked the simplicity of the vision.
While not a fit for us, I think the Sugimoto wax figure portraits in general (there is one of Fidel Castro in this show) are both thought provoking and spectacular. My guess is that they will end up being truly signature pieces from this era.
Rating: * (1 star) GOOD (rating system defined here)
Photography on Photography: Reflections on the Medium since 1960
Through October 19th
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028