Monday, December 22, 2008

Top Photography Shows of 2008 (Abbreviated)

Since just about every other news source and art critic on the planet has already weighed in with his/her "Top 10" list, it seems only fitting that we should offer our own view of what was noteworthy in the world of photography in 2008. While there was of course a major rebalancing of prices in the photography market in line with the larger economy (and this is of meaningful interest to collectors), in the end, it's the art itself that matters most, so that's where we'll focus our remarks.

Since we have only been writing this blog since mid-August of this year, our commentary is limited to the time period since then (thus "abbreviated" in the title). Our general pace would have us visiting approximately 100 photography shows in galleries and museums in any given year; the blog has a total of 43 reviews for the past four and a half months. Next year, assuming we keep the same pace up, we'll be even more comprehensive.

There were a grand total of six shows that received our top rating of three stars during this year. They were, in alphabetical order by artist's name:

William Eggleston @Whitney Museum
(original review here)

Susan Meiselas @ICP
(original review here)

Catherine Opie @Guggenheim Museum
(original review here)

Cindy Sherman @Metro Pictures
(original review here)

Hiroshi Sugimoto @Gagosian Gallery
(original review here)

Minor White @Howard Greenberg Gallery
(original review here)

In our minds, great shows inspire us, move us, force us to think in new ways, and most of all educate us, about the artists and their work, and hopefully about ourselves in some degree as a byproduct. Every single one of the listed shows significantly increased our understanding of these photographers, convinced us of their importance in the overall history of the medium, and produced staggering moments when we were struck dumb by the sheer grandeur of the art on view.

In a world where we are constantly bombarded by images and "stuff", we are constantly on the lookout for the memorable, for the event or outing that will rise above the noise and somehow make a more lasting and meaningful impression. These shows meet that standard. I can in my mind's eye easily recreate each and every one of them: the sublime Sugimoto black room, the brooding and empty Meiselas images of Kurdistan, the pitch perfect satire of Cindy Sherman, Opie's intense and beautiful self portraits, the unexpected compositions and color of William Eggleston, and the quiet meditations of Minor White. Perhaps the common thread among these shows (and the key to their ultimate success and longevity) is that they were each overflowing not just with compelling pictures, but with compelling ideas.

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