Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Photography 2010 @MoMA

JTF (just the facts): A group show of the work of four contemporary photographers, variously framed, and hung in a two room divided gallery on the 3rd floor. The exhibit was curated by Roxana Marcoci. (Installation shots at right.)

The following photographers have been included in the show, with the number of works on view in parentheses:
  • Roe Ethridge (8 chromogenic prints, framed in white, from 2008-2010)
  • Elad Lassry (15 chromogenic prints in matched color frames from 2008-2010, 1 16mm video from 2009)
  • Alex Prager (6 chromogenic prints, framed in white, from 2007-2010, 1 HD video from 2010)
  • Amanda Ross-Ho (2 chromogenic prints from 2010, 1 inkjet print on canvas (unframed and pinned to wall) from 2010, 1 chromogenic print on wood shelf from 2007, 1 sheet rock wall with holes, photographs and other objects from 2010)
Comments/Context: This year's New Photography exhibit at the MoMA might better be called "Offspring of the Pictures Generation". The show gathers together the work of four contemporary photographers who have continued down the path of image appropriation and recontextualization, evolving their aesthetic approaches in the crucible of the recent explosion of media. They borrow from movies, magazines, fashion, and commercial/stock photography with equal ease, often infusing the seemingly random with unexpected significance.

So how have these descendants changed the culture of appropriation, 25 years later? To my eye, they have stripped away the biting humor that made the images from the Pictures Generation so striking; gone is the subtle wry wit with an undercurrent of emotional outrage that lurked beneath those compositions. These new works seem more neutered, much cooler and more distant, rich in intellectualism and conceptual theory, but generally lacking in the spark that grabs and holds a viewer's attention. For Roe Ethridge, only the lusciously furry bowl of rotten fruit provides much of a jolt. His blurry pixelated plate on top of a crisp black and white scarf seems a bit forced and self-conscious. For Amanda Ross-Ho, appropriation and process have been mixed together, documenting a calculated inner landscape of studio remnants and familial connections. Her sculptural installations clearly have layers of conceptual significance, and yet they left me cold.

Elad Lassry's matchy-matchy isolated magazine images against paired colored backgrounds/frames at least have a bit of playfulness to them. I particularly liked the wild pink hat (owned by collector Peter Brant); the red nailpolish on green pedestals and the Herend monkeys against green were also vibrant and memorable. Lassry smartly breaks up the monotony of the commercial photography feel by adding in a blur or multiple exposure here and there, so the walls don't feel like an endless parade of candy colored stock images. Alex Prager is in many ways an outlier in this show, since her large scale photographs aren't direct appropriations or theoretical exercises, but glossy stylistic echoes of cinematic glamour. That said, they are by far the most approachable works in the exhibit, evidenced by the continued clustering of the crowd in her corner of the gallery. Her retro world is invitingly dramatic and visually stunning, and quite a bit less overtly intellectual.

In the end, while I like the thematic construct of this show (and I think it is altogether worthwhile to explore how appropriation is being updated by contemporary artists), the payoff isn't particularly stunning or sensational. I wonder if simple image reuse has now become so commonplace that it wholly fails to surprise us, unless some additional element of originality or shock (visual or intellectual) is introduced. Is this photographic genre slowly being anesthetized by overuse? Most would say no (it's only the beginning), but perhaps it is time to re-evaluate this approach once again, and look for a crackling disruptive jump to someplace entirely new.

Collector's POV: The photographers in the show are represented by the following galleries:
  • Roe Ethridge: Andrew Kreps Gallery (here), Gagosian Gallery (here)
  • Elad Lassry: Luhring Augustine (here), David Kordansky Gallery (here)
  • Alex Prager: Yancey Richardson Gallery (here), Michael Hoppen Gallery (here), M+B (here)
  • Amanda Ross-Ho: Mitchell-Innes & Nash (here), Cherry and Martin (here)

None of these artists has any significant secondary market track record, so gallery retail will likely be the only option for acquiring their work in the short term.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here).

Transit Hub:
  • Exhibition site (here)
  • Reviews: NY Times (here), Huffington Post (here)
  • Amanda Ross-Ho interviewed by Elad Lassry, BOMB (here)

New Photography 2010
Through January 10th

Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019


Anonymous said...

Prager's "echoes" often feel a bit too close to their points of reference. I also argue that her work was most approachable because it was least conceptual and intellectual. The crowds were, predictably, gathered around a video screen.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised by your review on the works by Etrhidge. I can certainly do without the theatrical nonsense of Prager and the coldness of Ross-Ho, as you put it, though I was so enchanted by Ethridge's works when I viewed the show and was wondering what your basis for calling it "forced and self-conscious" was?