2:02 pm Aug. 24, 2012
Last year, after the Museum of Modern Art launched its annual "New Photography" exhibit, New York Times critic Ken Johnson used the occasion to launch a critique of contemporary "art photography."
"In the 1980s photography mutated into a monster that threatened to swallow fine art altogether," he wrote, continuing thus:
In the hands of artists like Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, Gregory Crewdson, Andreas Gursky and legions of copycats, photography parsed the day’s most urgent questions about representation, propaganda, truth and reality. But in the ensuing decades, the answers became increasingly routine, and today the beast that art photography was finds itself tired and toothless.
With another year under its belt, will the MoMA change his and other critics' minds? The photographers to be featured in the 27th and upcoming installment, which runs from Oct. 3 into early 2013, were announced yesterday, and according to Eva Raspini, associate curator at MoMA's department of photography, that question is a bit beside the point.
“The show is not intended to be a survey of everything that’s happening in photography at this moment,” she told Capital. “It was our attempt to highlight artists whose work we found particularly new, fresh and exciting, at a time when the definition photography is rapidly changing.”
Last year's show, which raised the number of exhibiting artists to six from the usual four, dealt mainly with photography's troublesome relationship to the truth. Zhang Dali of Beijing referenced the Maoist regime's practice of doctoring journalistic photographs, while Doug Rickard, an American, took screenshots of suburban high crime areas in California using Google Street View, highlighting the rise of surveillance and the disappearance of privacy on the Web.
This year's theme is looser, which may help convince critics like Johnson that there really is new work out there.
Partly, surprises are meant to come from a more global and experimental bunch of featured artists, like Shanghai-based collaborative duo Birdhead. Iranian-born Shirana Shahbazi, who is now based in Zurich, is the first Iranian-born artist in the show’s history. (Her work Composition-22-2011 is pictured at left.)
Then again, New York artists, heavily represented in prior shows, still managed to secure two spots in the persons of Michele Abeles and Anne Collier (Los Angeles-based Zoe Crosher was the other American represented).
“It’s hard not to include photographers from New York,” Respini said.
Collier has re-photographed a collection of self-portraits by Michelle DuBois, the alias of a flight attendant and occasional escort from Oklahoma, to create a strange new narrative of her life.
Birdhead, who use analog cameras and work primarily in black-and-white, capture quotidian details of life in Shanghai set against the city's rapid transformation.
And Shahbazi alternates between photography and other artistic disciplines, commissioning Iranian carpet-makers to weave rugs based on her photographic portraits, landscapes, still lifes, and abstract geometric experiments.
More by this author:
- John Holmstrom talks about founding and editing 'Punk,' the chronicle of late-'70s New York
- Ups and downs of the Great New York City Chicken Frenzy