New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Surface Tension: Contemporary Photographs from the Collection

Just as 20th century theater periodically became obsessed with breaking thru the 4th wall, modern painting and, by extension, photography, often rejected perspective and pledged allegiance to the sanctity of the picture plane. Surface Tensions at the Met is a good selection of photographs which explore this conflict between flatness and depth.

From classic works by Frederick Sommer and Aaron Siskind to relatively more recent ones by Richter and Samaras, the picture plane at the Metropolitan is alive with contradictions and ambiguities. Some, like those of Lee Friedlander, are straightforward camera images that defy the optics of the lens with its almost built in perspective to play with a quasi cubist spatial ambiguity; others, like the little Richter gems, mix media to draw attention to a sensuously textured surface, while still others follow in the New Vision tradition of extreme points of view to create surprising and often abstracted imagery.

As with most things in photography these days the newer work is remarkable less for its invention than for its continuity with earlier modernist tradition. Nevertheless, the Met show does a nice job of surveying work done in a valid and interesting sub-genre of the medium.

Surface Tension: Contemporary Photographs from the Collection

Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave.
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212 535 7710

Thursday, December 10 to
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Hours: Tues - Sun 9:30 - 5:30; Fri, Sat to 9 pm.