New York Photo Review
Volume 2 Issue 42 November 29 to December 5, 2011

Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Soho Photo Gallery
Central Booking Magazine

Flying Mother Nature’s Silver Seed

After the Gold Rush: Contemporary Photography from the Collection
Reviewer #1
Anonymous San Francisco by Katy Grannan.
Katy Grannan, "Anonymous San Francisco"

Coming off a couple of seasons of lackluster exhibitions, the Contemporary Photography Section at the Metropolitan Museum of Art - lets just call it ‘the Mets’ - has fielded yet another disappointing show: “After the Gold Rush.”

Explicitly named after the 1970’s Neil Young song and album, it includes a number of veteran photographers such ad Laurie Simmons, Jeff Wall, Phillip-Lorca diCorcia, James Casebere, a pinch-hitting stint by sculptor Robert Gober, strong appearances by a couple of up-and-coming rookies, (Trevor Paglen and Katy Grannan) and another embarrassing performance as dh by Wolfgang Tillmans. Rounding out the show are utility pieces by Gretchen Bender, Moyra Davey, Curtis Mann, Hans Haacke, Adrian Piper, and An-My Lê.

“Well, I dreamed I saw the knights / in armor coming, / Saying something about a queen.” – After the Goldrush -lyrics by Neil Young.*

No, looking at the lyrics of the song doesn’t help to understand the show. There are some interesting things to see though. Jeff Wall contributes the large “Storyteller” lightbox piece, certainly the brightest work in the show. Now, almost two decades old, its size is no longer quite as remarkable as it once seemed (it’s 14 feet across.) But it still has impact, the reconfigured scene of migrant workers scattered about under a highway overpass remarkable both for its composition and for its evocative, sculptural presence.

“Look at Mother Nature on the run / In the nineteen seventies.” *

There are actually no ‘nature’ pictures in this show, maybe the closest are the 4 pictures from Phillip-Lorca DiCorcia’s ‘Hustler’ series. Hiring young male models to pose in naturalistic but provocative scenes, DiCorcia titles each with the man’s name, the location and the amount he paid each. The resulting pictures are a wry send-up of the homophobic atmosphere following the Robert Mapplethorpe scandals of the time and still witty today.

“I was thinking about what a / Friend had said /I was hoping it was a lie.”*

If there was a disappointing photo in this show it was by James Casebere. For many years he produced marvelous soft black and white images of constructed interiors, often evocative of either prisons or monasteries. But his recent color work, as shown here with “Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #1”, removes much of the mystery, and instead we see just an obsessive, gifted-with-minimalist-tendencies, suburban model-maker (without the trains).

KEYHOLE IMPROVED CRYSTAL from Glacier Point (Optical Reconnaissance Satellite; USA 186) by Trevor Paglen. Source: metmuseum.org
Trevor Paglen, "KEYHOLE IMPROVED CRYSTAL from Glacier Point (Optical Reconnaissance Satellite; USA 186)"

“Well, I dreamed I saw the silver / Space ships flying / In the yellow haze of the sun” *

It’s hard to tell whether the work of Trevor Paglen is by a dedicated CIA-NASA-Black Helicopter nut, or if his photographic projects are elaborate hoaxes–or both! (You can google his appearance on the Colbert Report if you want to know more.) The photograph in this show, however, is a beauty. Taken from that ridge overlooking Half-Dome that has been used by every photographer who as ever gone to Yosemite, it is a long night exposure, with star-tracks across a partly cloudy sky crossed by the trails of three satellites, one of which is supposedly the “KEYHOLE IMPROVED CRYSTAL”. Not too scary in the age of Google Maps, but an engaging photograph none the less.

“All in a dream, all in a dream /The loading had begun.” *

And so the acquisitions continue. It is a bit puzzling to see the erratic, trend-driven pattern that the Mets have followed for their contemporary collections. But it is still early in the season and most contemporary collectors are not really old enough to start bequeathing their collections to museums yet. But, pssst, Mets....it’s Graham Nash who has the big photography collection! Well, maybe next year.

“They were flying Mother Nature's / Silver seed to a new home in the sun.”*

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* Lyrics from “After the Goldrush” by Neil Young, copyrighted material not to be used for commercial purposes.


After the Gold Rush: Contemporary Photography from the Collection


Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave.
UES         Map

212 535 7710
metmuseum.org

Tuesday, March 22 to
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Hours: Tues - Sun 9:30 - 5:30; Fri, Sat to 9 pm.
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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery