Published by Safe-T-Gallery Inc.
Don Burmeister: Owner/Editor
Barbara Confino: Associate Editor
Whether in the layered images of Michele Abeles, the resurrected ones by Anne Collier, the refurbished ones by Zoe Crosher, the methodically constructed ones by Shirana Shahbazi, or the tireless collection by the two person collaborative Birdhead, MoMA’s 27th annual New Photography exhibit showcases photographers whose concerns center on the processing of photographic information itself.
Ms. Abeles combines flat, monochromatic images of newspapers, wine bottles, houseplants and nude males into photographic collages—only recently using the computer to do so. She will often employs a partition to crop and unite two images creating the effect of the swipe-screen image. According to curator Eva Respini, the artist reuses her images to “get to them first,” before the image-devouring masses on the Internet, holding on to a portion of them for future use as photographic sketches.
Zoe Crosher crafts a delicate if critical homage to the notion of fleeting beauty and its fantasy. Working with an amateur photographer who produced a series of “glamourous” self portraits from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, Ms. Crosher deftly re-purposes her images. By scanning, re-photographing and altering them, Crosher gives them new mettle, bringing to light the vague neurosis implicit in the original photographer’s journey of self-discovery.
Anne Collier’s four-by-five foot chromatogenic color prints on the adjoining wall offer yet another interpretation of the found image. Paintings of clouds, an open datebook, an ad spread in a magazine, or a paper cutter, slicing a crisp black-and-white image of the artist’s eye––these images of images present tacit comments by the artist on the use of the body as subject, easily recognized although dismembered.
Shirana Shahbazi’s trio of abstract geometric images along with a black-and-white print of a diver in mid-air fill a free standing wall in the gallery. The analog images are reminiscent of photograms from the 1920’s, juxtaposed with the body-adoration of a perfectly-toned human form. All four images sit on a wallpaper of carefully woven polygons in varying grey hues. They share the wall with an additional three photographs on the other side: a landscape, another geometric print, and a sharp, tightly composed color image of three spheres.
At first, these images appear not to relate, however, the exploration of subject matter in concert with their medium — negative, enlarger and print — provide a document of the pre-digital photograph: the images exist exactly as the photographer perceived them through her lens.
Directly across from Ms. Shabazi’s images is Birdhead’s feverish documentary grid of everyday life in their native Shanghai. Like a Jonas Mekas film, it serves as a diary of a Shanghai in flux. While the collaborators shun the digital medium, they freely use the cinema’s profuse archive of mundane photographic imagery.
For Ms. Respini these images reside on a historical cusp—one that transforms the medium from “a fixed intellectual property to ethereal objects. Information on the Internet is shared, no longer necessarily appropriated since the photographic image is everywhere, everything”. She likens this synapse to the profound change the photographic image sustained with the invention of the hand-held camera.
Interestingly, to enter this exhibition, one must pass through another entitled “The Shaping of New Visions”, a gathering of works—many historical—from MoMA’s collection. The works in this presentation are the preamble of New Photography; working with a medium meant for distribution, early modern artists tossed aside an image’s value as an object, and instead, with abandon and excitement, transformed it into a mere ingredient.
As technological advances continue to drive the image, they also contribute to their anonymity, making them available for consumption by creator and viewer alike. The tools for their definition and longevity are equal to their dissemination.
Yet, in one way or another, the photographers in New Photogaphy 2012 cling to the analog to create an index of the image — as if a tenable material would classify the decisive moment. The photographs themselves are testaments to how images exist by today’s methods: no longer immutable or in one’s sole possession, not even by the artists themselves.