Comments/Context: As quite a few gallery owners I know will attest, I have been struggling of late with what I call "the tyranny of the new". This is a disease which afflicts many; its symptoms include the constant search for the new high, at the expense of recognizing the true value of the quality work that has come before but now seems like old hat because we have become used to its pleasures. Since I see a lot of both new and old work, I find that I must try not to compare apples to oranges, and instead force myself to see each show on its own merits, without this filter of the freshness of the new. It's quite a bit harder and more nuanced than you may realize.
But since I have been infected with the tyranny of the new, I am embarrassed to admit that I had a "yeah, yeah, yeah, and so what" kind of reaction to this show. I shudder to say such a thing in public, but it's true. I don't think this grouping of greats adds much to what we already know about this time period or offers any new ideas, relationships, or interpretations of the art on view. It just hangs these spectacular images on the wall. Shouldn't we all just bow and genuflect? This is not to say that I didn't thoroughly enjoy this show, I did; I just didn't get that infusion of new that I have come to crave, and so I was left a little (yikes) unsatisfied.
Such a conclusion is deeply troubling to me. How could such a show of brilliance fail to jump start my brain? Have I become so jaded that I can't really "see" these treasures anymore? Clearly, I need to recapture some of that wonder I had when I saw my first Becher typology and I stood transfixed for what seemed like an eternity, or those hours I spent slowly paging through Baltz' NIP, page by page, savoring the tiny subtleties of each and every image. Those joys are still there, right on the wall, for all to see; I just need an inoculation that will empty my brain of this agonizingly manic "what's new" impulse and return me to a more balanced and less time-relative examination of the truly extraordinary in the world of photography.
While I have a nearly infinite supply of appreciation for Becher typologies, I suppose I was most excited by seeing such a broad selection of Baltz vintage images from NIP, which tend not to be seen together quite as often. It would be shockingly easy to choose one for our own collection.
Rating: ** (two stars) VERY GOOD (rating system described here)
- Review: TimeOut New York (here)
Through May 27th
Yancey Richardson Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011