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Martin Munkacsi

Ode to Munkacsi

November 4 – December 20, 2009

With the passing of Joan Munkacsi in December 2008, our community and the photography world at large lost a dear friend and a passionate supporter of one of the most defining artistic voices of the 20th century.

An internationally recognized expert in vintage jewelry and a highly respected writer who notably served many years as the editor of James Beard’s cook books, Joan left all who were graced to know her bedazzled with her intelligence, humor, and generosity.

The Center for Photography at Woodstock was particularly fortunate to have Joan Munkacsi as a friend. Over the years she served as a member of our board of directors, volunteered as copy editor of our publication, PHOTOGRAPHY Quarterly, and generously made her father’s work available for our annual benefit auction. In 1992, Joan contributed an eloquent article on her father’s oeuvre entitled The Man Who Loved Women: Martin Munkacsi in issue 54 of PHOTOGRAPHY Quarterly.

It is impossible to say whether or not Martin Munkacsi’s legacy would have remained in relative obscurity had Joan not picked up the mantle. Certainly some passionate outsider may have rekindled our attentions toward such a revolutionary artistic voice, but none would have championed his work with the same level of dedication that Joan gave as she shared her father with the rest of the world.

On July 14, 1963, the legendary Hungarian photographer Martin Munkacsi (b. 1896) died after suffering a heart attack while attending a soccer game at Randall’s Island. His New York City-born daughter, Joan, was suddenly left fatherless and saddled with the stewardship of his photographic legacy at the age of 15.

Once billed as “the highest paid photographer in America”, Munkasci had single-handedly revolutionized the look and feel of fashion photography under the watchful eyes of Carmel Snow and Alexey Brodovitch at Harper’s Bazaar. His approach was exuberant, spontaneous, and full of a zest for life –his models leapt, ran, and turned cartwheels on the beach and even in the rain.

Although he was very successful, Munkacsi had never saved any money (in his later years, Joan recalled her father pawning cameras to buy her birthday presents). The radical changes he introduced to photography, which had gone on to influence the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Richard Avedon, had by the late 1950’s become standard practice. The once-illustrious Munkacsi suffered a string of misfortunes – a third divorce, his failing health – which forced him to cut back on assignments. At the time of his death, his work was virtually forgotten and his legacy was in shambles after years of neglect.

Over her lifetime, Joan worked diligently to cement her father’s place within the photographic canon by writing about his work and partnering with Howard Greenberg Gallery, which has represented Martin Munkacsi since organizing an exhibition of his work in 1984. In 1992, she helped the Aperture Foundation publish a definitive monograph of his work, and in 2007, she assisted the International Center of Photography in mounting a major retrospective in New York City entitled Think While You Shoot (a Munkacsi catch-phrase). In the year before her passing, Joan also helped to obtain a long-lost cache of over 4,000 fragile glass plate negatives that had been missing since her father’s death in 1963.

CPW’s exhibition of over two dozen modern prints of Munkacsi’s work reflect upon his major influences (fashion, street photography, his deep love for athleticism, the outdoors, and women), and features key points in his professional photographic career. Munkacsi worked for such publications as Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, the precursor to Life magazine and Harper’s Bazaar, and he was an enormous player in revolutionizing the aesthetics of fashion photography and magazine art direction. His signature approach is evident in his very first assignment for Harper’s, in which Lucille Brokaw runs towards him on the beach, as a “typical American girl in action, with her cape billowing out behind her” (Martin Munkacsi: An Aperture Monograph, p.47)

Richard Avedon said that Munkacsi “bought a taste for happiness and honesty and a love of women to what was, before him, a joyless, lying art. He was the first. He did it first, and today the world of what is called fashion is peopled with Munkacsi’s babies, his heirs.”

Yet if these photographs celebrate the work of a maverick and a visionary of his field, they necessarily pay tribute to his most indefatigable and ardent supporter, Joan Munkacsi. She was the primary force in championing her father’s remarkable contributions to the field and ensuring that his legacy was not forgotten. As such, this exhibition celebrates and remembers Joan Munkacsi, a dear friend and passionate advocate, who embodied the exuberance and joie de vivre evident in so much of her father’s vision in herself.

Special thanks to the Howard Greenberg Gallery, Lester Nafzger, and Bob Wagner for their help and support in making this exhibition possible.

 

Installation View of "Woodstock Generation" August 8 - October 25, 2009

Dennis Stock

Woodstcok Generation

August 8 – October 25, 2009

Woodstock Generation chronicles a chapter in American history; a time when the quest for new social systems drove young hippies into the most remote regions of the United States, forging a new way of life in the form of communes.

Faced with the alienation they felt within a changing American culture and the conventions of their former generation, and filled with a utopian ideal and an anarchistic temperament, these young rebels created intentional communities on the fringes of society.

Dennis Stock spent the entire year of 1969 visiting alternative communities in Colorado, New Mexico, and California. These communities ranged from the hip to the political to the spiritual; from the transient camp to the large and self-sufficient rural community, many of which took on names as if they were cities: New Buffalo and Lorien in New Mexico and Wheeler’s Free and Drop City, California. Each commune was different: a collection of individuals living together with some shared passion or practical function such as music, art, environmental concerns, political concerns, sexual liberation, the practice of Eastern religions, draft resistance, or fear of the apocalypse.

The photographs of “Woodstock Generation” portray a simpler life, closer to the Earth: the members of one commune clear the dry soils of the desert highlands dressed in only loin cloths while a young woman in an urban community bakes bread barefoot, and on a commune elsewhere, young lovers ride a horse in the nude. Stock remarks, “All my hippy pictures are about a search for a better life. I had a predisposition toward what they were trying to accomplish”.

Though the hippies were negatively portrayed in the news media of the 1960s and 1970s and at times blamed for the deterioration of American society, the ideals of the hippy commune were quintessentially American: a pioneering outlook which fits into the country’s heritage dating back as far as the Pilgrims. Dennis Stock playfully demonstrates this neo-Americanism in his Portrait of Couple in Gothic Style, 1969, his reinterpretation of the iconic Grant Wood painting American Gothic.

Dennis Stock can be considered somewhat of a nomad, spending his life photographing a wide range of subjects from movie stars to musicians, bikers, and hippies. All of his subjects shared a non-conformist approach to life which interested and inspired him: “I like being on the road. The photography I like, and the worlds I like are based on discovery… The photographers I admire most are the curious ones.”

Born in New York City in 1928, Dennis Stock’s photography evokes the spirit of America. In 1947 he became an apprentice to Life magazine photographer Gjon Mili after he won first prize in Life’s “Young Photographers” contest. As a result, in 1951 Robert Capa invited Stock to join Magnum Photos, the most world renowned of photographic cooperatives whose mission is to chronicle the world and interpret its peoples, events, issues and personalities. Capa encouraged Stock to move to Hollywood to shoot production stills on movie sets. There he created some of his most iconic photos of celebrities including James Dean, with whom Stock formed a close friendship.

From 1957 to 1960 Stock made lively portraits of jazz musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Sidney Bechet, Gene Krupa and Duke Ellington for his book Jazz Street. In 1968 Stock took a leave of absence from Magnum to create Visual Objectives, a film production company, and shot several documentaries. In the late 1960s and early 70s he documented the hippy movements of California and the American West and the subcultures of bikers, travelers, and motor-home owners along the country’s interstate highways. Today Stock concentrates on tulips: “Each of us needs to have a reverence for life. The object of our reverence should be life itself. In terms of photography, tulips are my perfect subjects.”

Dennis Stock has taught numerous workshops and exhibited his work widely in France, Germany, Italy, the United States and Japan.

He has worked as a writer, director and producer for television and film, and published numerous books of his work including: Portrait of a Young Man, James Dean, 1956; Jazz Street, 1960; The Happy Year, 1963; California Trip, 1970; The Alternative, 1970; Edge of Life, 1972; Brother Sun, 1974; The Circle of Season, 1974; America Seen, 1980; San Francesco d’Assisi, 1981; Provence Memories, 1988; Made in USA, 1995; James Dean: Per sempre giovane, 2005. His photographs have been acquired by many major museum collections including The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; The Art Institute of Chicago, IL; and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Dennis Stock resided in Woodstock, New York and Sarasota, Florida. He was married to the author Susan Richards. Dennis passed away on January 11, 2010. “Woodstock Generation” marked the last exhibition of his work that he worked on during his life time.

magnumphotos.com

A River Runs Through Me

curated by Ariel Shanberg

August 8 – September 20, 2009

In conjunction with New York’s Quadracentennial celebrations of the European discovery of what is now known as the Hudson River, the Center for Photography at Woodstock is pleased to present A River Runs Through Me, an exhibition of work by four artists whose photographic explorations celebrate rivers as a source of inspiration and intersection with personal, historical, cultural, and religious significance. Collectively, their works captures the tremendous influence these natural watercourses have on our lives.

Throughout history, rivers have provided the lifeblood to countless societies and cultures, as well as for commerce and as a source of artistic inspiration. In today’s world of global networks, interstate highways, the internet, and more, such rooted connections to what were once the defining element of a civilization (e.g. the Nile River in Egypt, the Euphrates River of the Middles East, the Thames in London, or Paris’ River Seine) are now lost if not severely disconnected. As often is its role, Art continuously offers us the portal to reconnect us to that from which our daily lives are severed. With their individual explorations, the artists featured in A River Runs through Me rekindle a sense of connection and influence as they draw inspiration from, document the nature of, and define the lasting effect rivers hold on us.

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Barbara Bosworth‘s (Stow, MA) work has long focused on her personal connection to the landscape. Featured in this exhibition are images from two bodies of work including The Bitterroot River series (1995-97) and work from her most recent residency at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Vermont a place that was once her childhood home and now is now part of the national park. In her series The Bitterroot River, made along Montana’s Bitterroot River in the years following the death of a loved one, Bosworth employs the river’s elusive surface and constant state of flux as a meditative offering on our temporality while also embracing a more affirmative outlook in the river’s surroundings. Arranged in grid, the resulting installation offers a powerful visual narrative. Accompanying Bosworth’s work from the Bitterroot River series is a new multi-image landscape depicting one of the rivers that flows near by her childhood home. The enveloping sense of the culminating 40″x 90″ work retains the sense of wonderment and personal connection to nature.

In her series The Spoon River Anthology Albany NY native photographer Christa Parravani‘s (Sunderland, MA) brings the words of Edgar Lee Masters’ same titled collection of 244 poems written in the voice of the deceased residents of a fictional town describing the situations that led to their demise; to life. Set within evocative and lush settings of the MacDowell and Yaddo Art Colonies, each image, imbued with a tinge of mystery and melancholy posits the characters much like ghosts anchored to the setting of their mortal life. To Parravani, the individual is a product of his or her environment, and thereby belongs, embossed for eternity, within it. In their final presentation the each character’s poem is placed alongside the framed photograph collaborate to give voice to these fictional individuals who appear to be born out of and bound to their river setting.

Included in this exhibition are works from two series by Elijah Gowin (Kansas City, MO). The majority of images featured belong to Gowin’s series Watering and bring forth references to the religious importance rivers hold and water’s figurative and actual ability to offer a wiping of the past, and offer a sense of spiritual and physical renewal. With Christianity’s Baptismal tradition as a backdrop to this exploration, Gowin’s images lie within an ambiguous in-between state, like their subject matter, frozen within a state of transformation. Alongside works from the Watering series are images from his series Of Floating & Falling which echo the previous body of works’ religious themes with visual explorations of faith and doubt.

Though the Mississippi River never actually appears in the selection of images featured in this exhibition, by Alec Soth (Minneapolis, MN), the River’s presence reverberates through images of landscapes and individuals who live along its banks in his series Sleeping by the Mississippi. Known to the Algonkian Indians as the “Father of all Waters” the Mississippi River with its tremendous literary influence (perhaps most notably in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn) bares many identities along its course. Traveling along its path which covers ten States, Soth’s subjects appear posed before his 8×10 camera professing their dreams as well revealing as their tethered realities. Like the river whose constant stream can both transport us to our promised destination and pull us down to its haunting depths. Soth, who sees photography as closely akin to poetry, offers us through his images, a poetic journey along the Mississippi one that is both languid and jostling, seductive and haunting.

– Ariel Shanberg, 2009

Ariel Shanberg is the Executive Director at the Center for Photography at Woodstock.

 

"A River Runs Through Me", curated by Ariel Shanberg, August 8 - September 20, 2009Barbara Bosworth

"A River Runs Through Me", curated by Ariel Shanberg, August 8 - September 20, 2009Elijah Gowin

"A River Runs Through Me", curated by Ariel Shanberg, August 8 - September 20, 2009Christa Parravani

"A River Runs Through Me", curated by Ariel Shanberg, August 8 - September 20, 2009  Alec Soth

 

Photography Now 2009

juried by Charlotte Cotton

June 13 – July 26, 2009

The open submission process garnered a lively and diverse range of points of view about what, right now, constitutes photographic practice.

The scope of the photographs was a timely reminder to me that photographers continue to address the rapidly changing notion of photography – both by rephrasing the language and processes of analog photography and also by rendering artistic ideas with the new default techniques that digital photography offers us. The final choice of eight photographers hinged on my belief that they each showed a creative sentience for the enduring capacities of photography within a changing technological climate and a time when the gallery wall rather than the magazine page is the focus of much of the most innovative photography today.

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Lacey Terrell, Yijun Liao, and Betsy Seder each find their own routes through the much trammeled terrain of ‘constructed’ photography. In her offSET series, Lacey Terrell uses her role as a Still Photographer on film sets to find pungent, ‘off-camera’, compositions. She subverts the constructed scenes which are geared towards the vantage point of the film camera by focusing to the side of or in opposition to the conventional view. Terrell merges the fiction of the film sets with the unscripted reality of what her camera finds. That heady mix of photographic fact and constructed fiction is also present in Yijun Liao’s Stills from Unseen Films. In this series of one-off ‘scenes’ each image depicts a figure in an interior from films that exist only in Liao’s imagination. Liao composes her photographs and her subjects into pronounced yet ambiguous scenarios. She transfers the exploration for the narrative of the unseen film from her imagination to ours.

Betsy Seder’s series Time and Space Died Yesterday is inspired by Antonioni’s dystopic 1962 film L’Eclisse and the imposing architecture of the mid-twentieth Century Italian Dictator, Benito Mussolini’s Fascistic Italian city, EUR. Seder eloquently rephrases the monochrome language of Antonioni’s film to create sparse and unsettling visions of EUR. In her choice to photograph the least Italianate architecture of the city, Seder opens up the narrative of the work beyond its specific locale to the universal use of architecture within dictatorships and political regimes of the 20th century.

Clint Baclawski’s free-standing lightboxes are, similar to Seder’s imposing black-and-white photographs, a refreshing injection of drama and physicality into architectural photography. Baclawski’s antenna for the moment when a space and the choreography of its inhabitants fuse into a spectacle is sharp. Coupled with the final resolution of his select images into their sculptural form, Baclawski draws out the material spectacle of photography.

Alex Aristei’s diaristic, off-kilter framing of lived moments is both very much within a current vein of contemporary art photography as-well-as an homage to the enduring potential of photography. His style of photography is one that I call ‘waiting for pictures to happen’ – a vocabulary of pictures that are all culled from the permission that a camera gives to look photographically at the world around us. The cumulative effect of a mosaic of Aristei’s photographs is a reminder of the potent visual charge that the medium gives to day to day experiences.

Shane Lavalette and Stacey Tyrell have both created bodies of work that locate a small community within their distinct landscapes. Stacey Tyrell’s gentle photographs of the people and places on the island of Nevis in the West Indies subtly narrates the emotions of a migrant’s return to ‘home’ and the mixed emotions of longing and displacement. In Shane Lavalette’s portrayal of the landscape and inhabitants of a national park in County Clare in Ireland, Lavalette thoughtfully and plainly brings together the beauty and contemporary politics of this rural area. Both photographers update and re-work the language of documentary photography in substantial ways and, in so doing, remind us how photography continues to commemorate the visual legacy of history upon the earth and its communities.

Toshihiro Yashiro’s strange, vibrant photographs were the strongest fusion of photography and performance that I saw in this year’s submissions. His KAITENKAI series (the title blends the Japanese words for revolving and revolution) documents his performances in public and domestic spaces where objects and human participants’ rotate on fixed points and their circular movements captured with long exposures. Yashiro, resplendent in his clown-meets-superhero costumes, appears as the ring master of the KAITENKAI Live! performances. While the history of photography documenting artists’ performances is playfully being referenced in Yashiro’s work, I have literally never seen photographs quite like these. As with all the photographs selected for Photography Now 2009, they are resonant with photography’s past but make their own departure.

– Charlotte Cotton, 2009

 

Charlotte Cotton is Curator and Head of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Previously, she was Head of Programming at The Photographers’ Gallery in London and Curator of Photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum (1992 to 2004) and Head of Programming at the Photographers’ Gallery in London (2004-5). She has curated many exhibitions of historical and contemporary photography including, “Imperfect Beauty: The Making of Contemporary Fashion Photographs” (2000), “Out of Japan” (2002), “Stepping In and Out: Contemporary Documentary Photography” (2003) and “Guy Bourdin” (2003). Charlotte is the author and editor of publications such as Imperfect Beauty (2000), Then Things Went Quiet (2003), Guy Bourdin (2003) and The Photograph as Contemporary Art (2005). Currently she is preparing for two touring exhibitions for LACMA for 2009 – “Heavy Light: Recent Photography” and “Video from Japan and New Topographics”.

 

   Alex Aristei

Clint Baclawski

Shane Lavalette

Yijun Liao

Betsy Seder

Lacey Terrell

Stacy Tyrell

Toshihiro Yashiro

 

Myra Greene

Character Recognition

JUNE 13 – JULY 26, 2009

Confronted with an up swell of bigotry both personal and public (the rhetoric surrounding Katrina) I was forced to ask myself, what do people see when they look at me.

Am I nothing but black? Is that skin tone enough to describe my nature and expectation in life? Do my strong teeth make me a strong worker? Does my character resonate louder than my skin tone? Using a process linked to the times of ethnographic classification, I repeatedly explore my ethnic features.

Always fascinated by historical processes, I wanted to learn how to make wet-plate Collodion. This process, which is coated onto black glass was popular from the 1850s through the 1880s creates a singular unique image. The glass is first coated with a thin layer of Collodion, and then sensitized in a silver bath. While still wet, the glass is exposed using a large format camera. The plate is then developed and then fixed. When I applied this old process to my interest in the black body and self, the imagery described my body in a way never imagined.

Tainted with the visual history of American slavery, these images point directly to the features of race. Thick lips and nose, and darken skinned; these contemporary studies link the view to a complicated historical past. While the process of wet plate codes the body in this work, the body is able to speak back. Through small facial gestures the body reacts and rejects to these modes and ways of classification.

Throughout much of her work, Myra Greene melds such processes as photography, printmaking, sound, as well as digital production work in order to exploring issues about the body, memory, and the absorption of culture and the ever shifting identity of African Americans.

Greene’s work has been exhibited widely including recent solo shows at such venues as Harnett Gallery, Rochester, NY; Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery, Jersey City, NJ; and Maryland Art Place, Baltimore, MD as well as group shows at Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA; Umbrella Arts Gallery, New York, NY; El Taller Boricua Gallery, Bronx, NY; and The Art Institute of Colorado, Denver, CO among many others.

She has received many awards throughout her career and most recently was awarded the Illinois Arts Council Photography Fellowship in 2009. Greene has been an Artist in Residence at Light Work in Syracuse in 2004 and the Center of Photography at Woodstock in 2003. Her work has been featured in the pages of such publications as The International Review of African American Art, Prompt Magazine, Nueva Luz, Exposure, and CPW’s publication PQ.

Myra Greene received her MFA in Photography from the University of New Mexico in 2002 and her BFA from Washington University in St. Louis, MI. She currently lives and works in Chicago, IL, where she is an Assistant Professor in the Photography Department at Columbia College Chicago.

myragreene.com

Installation view of "Anthology of Trends", April 11 - May 24, 2009

Tarrah Krajnak & Wilka Roig

Anthology of Trends

April 11 – May 24, 2009

(untitled #) is our  first collaborative project.

It began as a response to a critique of our independent work given by an influential artist/critic/curator based in NYC. During separate studio visits we each received the same response: “As with most women who turn the camera on themselves, the work is overburdened with emotion.” This critique sent us on a search for our place as artists and individuals within the art world and within photographic history. What was originally a visual investigation became “(untitled #)“.

“(untitled # )” is composed of several interrelated series: “Hysteria Collection”, “Pose Archive”, “Anthology of Trends”, “Personal Catalogue”, “Studies of Light and Form”, “Cast of Characters”, “Referential Index”, and “Aftermath”. Each segment of this project is a layer that further uncovers its meaning. The project is rooted in the language of the archive and the dialectic of performance. We enact and record a deconstructive visual analysis, shifting our scrutiny from art institution to artist to art object to audience. Through our performances we offer a perspective from each of these positions as well as the opportunity to reconsider them. We expose the rhetoric underlying representational strategies and question their relationship to history and contemporary culture. We invite the viewer to assess, not merely consume, the motifs recurring in contemporary art, its framework, and its presentation.

In “Hysteria Collection” we look back to the beginnings of the representation of women, to the constructed documentation of the sick Victorian woman.  This simulated hysterical condition and the constructed image of the sickly woman was devised to prove an invented feminine affliction. We perform the hysterical body drawn from its historical context and place it in a contemporary context to resurface the historical reference as well as uncover the formulas that yield the recurring contemporary images of women.

In “Anthology of Trends” we perform the contemporary trends we find in the representation of women by other women, and we exchange roles as photographer and model.  We present each trend in diptychs, with each of us being model in turn to prevent the viewer from consuming the image at face value. This doubling creates a literal double-take and encourages the viewer to think twice about the conditions and the context in which the woman’s body is positioned and presented beyond the traditional aesthetics of light and form.

In “Light and Form”, inspired by technical trends and camera user manuals of the 1970’s and 1980’s, we consider trends of photographic technique that have been used throughout photographic history as justification for, or distraction from, the objectified representation of women by men. In donning the unitard, we seek to neutralize the female form as a point of sexual desire. Employing Photoshop, we mimic the visual styling of images from this period including soft focus, hand coloring, airbrush, and the application of Vaseline around the edges.

As “collaborative / women / minority” artists, we continuously explore the sameness and difference within the construct of identity, and the role and meaning of signifiers. We work with self-portraiture addressing issues of gender, body, and representation within various sociological contexts, engaged in the process of photography as performance. We investigate the role and identity of the artist, and that of photography, within the socio-cultural context and the art world.

Tarrah Krajnak was born in Lima, Peru.  Adopted by Czech-American parents, she grew up in Ohio. In 2004, Tarrah received an MFA in Photography from the University of Notre Dame, and she is now based in Winooski, Vermont, where she teaches Photography in the Art Department at the University of Vermont, Burlington. Wilka Roig was born and raised in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. She moved to Ithaca, New York in 1995 and received her MFA in Photography from Cornell University in 2005. Wilka still lives in Ithaca, where she teaches Photography in the Department of Art at Cornell University.

Collaboratively, they have exhibited nationally at such venues as The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; San Francisco Camerawork; the Pingyao International Photography Festival, China; and at the galleries at Johnson State College in VT, the University of Toledo in OH, Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK.  In 2008, they were recipients of artists grants from the Vermont Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Cornell Council for the Arts. Tarrah and Wilka were artists-in residence at CPW in 2008.

tarrahwilka.com

Phillip Toledano

America the Giftshop

January 24 – March 29, 2009

If American foreign policy had a gift shop, what would it sell?

AMERICA THE GIFT SHOP is an installation project that reflects the current foreign policy in the fun-house mirror of American commerce.

My palette is the vernacular of retail tourism. The more familiar it is, the better host it becomes for the idea. Once the sugar coating of the ordinary dissolves, we are left with the grim truth about where we’ve been as a nation.
We buy souvenirs at the end of a trip, to remind ourselves of the experience.

What do we have to remind us of the events of the last eight years?

We have all seen a disfigurement of the things that made America more than a country, but an idea. Even now, in our joy at the prospect of new and hopeful beginning, we need to remember the past. It’s the only way this little experiment in democracy will evolve.

– Phillip Toledano, 2009

Phillip Toledano’s work has been exhibited in New York, Europe, and Asia including solo shows at Colette and Annina Nosei Gallery in NYC and group shows at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, California; the Photobiennale of Thessaloniki, Greece; and Miami Art Space. Two monographs of his work have been published: Bankrupt: Photographs of Recently Vacated Offices (Twin Palms, 2005) and Phone Sex (Twin Palms, 2008). A third, Days with My Father, will be published in 2009. Toledano’s photography has appeared on the pages of such publications as The New York Times Magazine, Interview, Vanity Fair, Le Monde, The London Times, Details, GQ and Esquire. Born and raised in London, Toledano is the son of a French-Moroccan mother and an American Father. He is a graduate of Tufts University in Massachusetts. He currently lives and works in NYC.

mrtoledano.com

Site Seeing: Explorations of Landscapes

curated by Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman

January 24 – March 29, 2009

Recognizing the complex layers found within the everyday landscape, the 11 photographers and film makers featured in Site Seeing: Explorations of Landscape utilize a wide range of visual practices in order to unveil the sublime truths found beneath our feet and before our eyes.
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Historically, artistic representations of the Landscape has been a canvas for the given society’s projection of its values and aspirations, its expansionist dreams and romanticized connections with the natural world. In the 20th Century, such photographers such as Ansel Adams utilized their work to advocate for a stronger connection and greater protection of our cherished environment. Others such as 19th Century photographers, Timothy O’Sullivan and William Henry Jackson created images that celebrated nature’s beauty while instilling Western Society’s notion of natural order. These forbearers and others like them (and many today) utilized the medium of photography as a tool to convey the undiscovered, to share the immense physicality of the untamed Landscape. These images of far off and mysterious places inspired our desire to physically explore the landscape.

We now live in an age where everything has been mapped, charted, graphed. What is left for the explorer to discover, to reveal? Where can the modern explorer go? Today while there are but only a few places on the Earth’s surface which do not bear the mark of discovered, the photographers/artists working in our midst are deeply aware of their presence and affect in relationship to the Landscape. The deep pool of histories which reside within it and the multiple layers of meaning and connections inherent to the Landscape are also far more apparent. Additionally, the Landscape’s ability to bear evidence to our presence and follies is better understood now more than ever. And man’s ability to artificially alter and define the Landscape for our own purposes has grown abundantly clear.

None of these image-makers are contented approaching the Landscape on solely aesthetic criteria. Rather the ‘explorers’ in Site Seeing offer perspectives that take into account the personal, political, cultural, and social layerings embedded in the Landscape – ranging from the documentation of grand land engineering projects as by Sze Tsung Leong which behold the collapse of past, present and future upon the landscape onto a single frame to Joan Fontcuberta’s digitally engineered landscapes which evoke a long lost sense of mystery and romanticism found within the depiction of uncharted places yet to be “discovered”.

Cities, urban centers are perhaps the most definitive mark of man’s historical presence on the landscape. The subtle shifts and transformations embodied within architecture cumulate into a cacophony of past and present. Photographer Sze Tsung Leong’s series History Images are grand gestures in the tradition of photographers such as Carleton Watkins and Eduard Muybridge in their desire to capture a mechanical transformation of the Landscape which embodies the simultaneous depiction of destruction and creation; the past, present, and future. Leong notes that China has over the past century repeatedly broken from and recreated its ties to its own history visa via the Landscape. With the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in the early 21st Century, as well as the spontaneous emergence of luxury housing and shopping centers, Leong notes that China (more specifically its government) reacts to the Landscape as a canvas for its definition of self.

Like Leong, Stephen Chalmers works in a tradition akin to the giants of the Romantic Landscape Tradition however his intent is to articulate the Landscape’s role as witness by accessing a layer of the Landscape’s history which is not visible by its physicality alone. Through research into the significance of the sites he photographs, the Landscape evolves from a seemingly vapid locale into a haunting resting place for those who fell victim to some of the 20th Century’s most sinister serial killers. Chalmers’ purposeful juxtaposition of benign Landscapes with shocking subtext reminds us of the histories buried deep within.

Diane Meyer is also interested in history; however the histories Meyer investigates are ones which are falsely placed on the Landscape. Her series Lone Pines documents visitors to the Alabama Hills in California where 70% of Hollywood Westerns were filmed. These sites have come to be celebrated for what they represent as opposed to what took place in their valleys and along their trails. As Meyer states in her artist statement, “In a strange circle, the Western was originally inspired by the Landscape, and now the Landscape is inspired by the Western”. Meyer’s images observe the behaviors of visitors to Lone Pines as they attempt to connect with a misplaced American mythos.

Exploration of the idea of falsehood in our reading of the Landscape verberate throughout the works of Dawit L. Petros’s series The Idea of North. Inspired by the pianist Glenn Gould’s radio documentary from which he has derived the series’ title, the Eritrean-born Petros who was raised in the Saskatchewan province of Canada creates images which explore the complex issues of self, race and illusion through the metaphor of whiteness found in sites that evokes diametrically opposed environments. His use of confounding and overlapping landscapes spanning from salt deserts of Death Valley to the glacial topography of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa call attention to assumptions held about race and culture in connection with the Landscape.

The Landscape has throughout the centuries, born witness to our need to claim, organize and control. The distress of separating and policing the Landscape on an individual’s creative and physical freedom is revealed through Palestinian-artist Annemarie Jacir’s short film like twenty impossibles. Based on the filmmaker’s actual experience, this reenactment of a film crew’s effort to travel to a location for their film, a seemingly banal task, is magnified by the current tug-of-war over the highly-contested Landscape shared by Israelis and Palestinians. In watching Jacir’s film, we travel along this historic Landscape, bearing witness to the weight of present day events driven by an imbued past. With Jacir, the connection between the artist and the Landscape is derived not from an intellectual curiosity or sense for exploration alone, but goes to the core of her sense of self

There lies a deep deceit in a work of art’s promise to fully communicate the experience held between man and nature. Reka Reisinger’s quirky and playful images from her Cutout series raises that question in a full frontal fashion – attacking the notion that one’s ability to authentically represent our experiences (with the Landscape) through photographs is possible. In injecting a “removed” representation of herself into each Landscape she photographs, Reisigner appears to be asking us whose experience are we witnessing?

Combining photography’s ability to bring light to forgotten places and site-specific installation /performance art’s ability to inject a metaphorical dialogue within a time and place, Mexican photographer, Alfredo de Stéfano’s personal interventions in the desert Landscape, brings awareness to a Landscape whose rich diversity and complexity is under-considered. De Stéfano’s ritualistic and ephemeral performance/installation images rediscover a forgotten terrain.

Taking into consideration a Landscape all to familiar to contemporary Western Society, Matt Siber’s Floating Logos II series reintroduces a sci-fi sense of the spiritual by manipulating the corporate visage which litters the Landscape of our main roadways. In his exploration of the ubiquitous presence of commercial signage and language in our roadside Landscape, Siber seems to ask us (albeit, tongue in cheek) to consider whether these monumental cultural landmarks are no less awe inspiring than Ansel Adam’s Half Dome or Fredric Church’s grand views of the Hudson Valley from his home at Olana.

Hidden meanings within the forgotten Landscape are unearthed in the works of Bill Brown’s non-narrative films. In Brown’s film Mountain State the past and present of the place’s topography are whimsically interwoven. Through the guise of a “historic” investigation that brings to mind such “educational” or “informative” films as those shown to us in grade school or distributed by regional tourist bureaus – Brown takes us on a journey in which forgotten dreams and desired imbued in the American Landscape are dug up and shown, battered, tattered, but still evident. Brown adds the past as an aesthetic tool in his approach through his use of 16mm film whose blown out exposures, scratches, and fallibilities remain as evidence as our societal memory of a place or time.

Expanding this exhibition’s notion of a “site”, David Graham’s images from In Defense of America stand apart from the other works featured in Site Seeing in that their creating was propelled not by the photographer’s curiosities (though they line-up with Graham’s ongoing interest in (in his words) “the odd and semi-unusual”) but by the US Government’s need to document its activities. The images, deadpan in approach reveal our Military Complex’s Nuclear Testing activities in the late 1980’s in the American Southwest. The transformation of the Landscape, both in purpose to test and as a result of those tests, reminds us of the long standing role warfare holds in obliterating the past, clearing the our imprint on the and making room for new Histories to be laid on the Landscape.

Subverting military mapping technologies, conceptual photographer Joan Fontcuberta offers a seductive vision of uncharted terrains that are entirely false. In his series Orogensis Fontcuberta creates what he describes as “Landscapes without memory”. Utilizing software engineered by the military for the purpose of rendering 3-D images of topographical maps, Fontcuberta “feeds” the program images – such as the three photographs referenced here by photographers Bill Brandt, Alfred Stieglitz, and Eugene Atget. Ironically Fontcuberta’s fictitious Landscapes, filled with grand peaks and inspiring vistas are real representations – each river, each hill standing in for the computer program’s reading of such prescribed terrains as the surface of Bill Brandt’s 1947 photograph Isle of Skye or Alfred Stieglitz’s 1926 print Equivalent, reminding us that understanding and perhaps seeing is all in the translation.

Collectively the artists featured in Site Seeing: Explorations of Landscape ignite a dialogue around the explorer’s role in “discovering” / revealing all that is written upon, around, and within the Landscape. With a diverse range of perspectives, agendas, and relationships to their subject matter, they rediscover the Landscape while recognizing the complex layers, which define this relationship. For our part, as viewers, inhabitants, and stewards of the Landscape, their work demonstrates the ongoing need to not just reconsider what is before our eyes but also to explore the layers of history the Landscape has absorbed as to better comprehend ourselves and where we may be heading.

-Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman, 2009

Ariel Shanberg has served as the Executive Director of CPW since 2003. Liz Unterman worked as CPW’s Education Coordinator from 2007 to 2010.

 

Site Seeing: Explorations of Landscapes, Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman, January 29 - March 24, 2009   Bill Brown

Site Seeing: Explorations of Landscapes, Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman, January 29 - March 24, 2009Stephen Chalmers

Joan Fontcuberta

Site Seeing: Exploration of Landscapes, Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman, January 29 - March 24, 2013David Graham

Site Seeing: Exploration of Landscapes, Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman, January 29 - March 24, 2013Annemarie Jacir

Site Seeing: Exploration of Landscapes, Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman, January 29 - March 24, 2013    Sze Tsung Leong

Site Seeing: Exploration of Landscapes, Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman, January 29 - March 24, 2013Diane Meyer

Site Seeing: Exploration of Landscapes, Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman, January 29 - March 24, 2013Dawit L. Petros

Site Seeing: Exploration of Landscapes, Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman, January 29 - March 24, 2013  Reka Reisinger

Site Seeing: Exploration of Landscapes, Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman, January 29 - March 24, 2013Matt Siber

Site Seeing: Exploration of Landscapes, Ariel Shanberg & Liz Unterman, January 29 - March 24, 2013Alfredo de Stefano

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