New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

31 Women in Art Photography
Chandra Glick
Ann Woo, Cave, 2007

If you want to see what is going on in art photography now (as opposed to photojournalism, fashion or editorial work) 31 Women in Art Photography at Affirmation Arts might be one of the best chances you’ll get. The young curator, Jon Feinstein, has taken his Humble Arts Foundation endeavors to a new level. This time he has teamed up with Charlotte Cotton and results are striking.

A beautiful horizon line of images traces the perimeter of the gallery’s large open space. No lengthy wall chats or biographies interrupt the clean presentation. Each artist is represented by a singular work, yet together their photographs form an impressive chorus. On an aesthetic level, the color between adjacent photographs harmonizes a variety of agendas and approaches. An image of a female soldier with a warm ocher background by Claire Beckett is in dialogue with a rich green landscape by Rachel Sussman. A group portrait in a bizarre purple frame feels right at home next to Anna Krachey’s candy hued cupcake wrapper.

Conceptually, a sense of confidence and intentionality unify this group of photographs. Personal narratives, political issues, art historical references and even abstraction hold the wall in ways that far exceed their direct compositions or uniformly exquisite printing. Each artist speaks with a clarity that Carol Gilligan might have praised in her 1970s feminist book, In a Different Voice. The visual and theoretical refinement conveys each woman’s investment in articulating her position. Nothing feels accidental or unplanned in the final result even when the subject exists in a destroyed form as it does in Heather Rasmussen’s work.

If I have any criticism of the show, it is the way it tip-toes around feminism in its self-description. The f-word label has many connotations, but to produce a show delimited by gender inherently takes on feminism in it multiplicity of forms. I hoped to see and hear from 31 Women what the members of a new generation have to say about their roles as female artists in contemporary society. Instead the press release tentatively reads, “…gender, in this context, is often obscured or absent entirely.” I disagree. Instead, the show’s celebration of the female voice leaves a certain explicit boldness to be desired. What is absent is standing that ground. The show closes soon, so I recommend seeing for yourself.

31 Women in Art Photography

Affirmation Arts
523 W 37th St.
Chelsea         Map

212 925 0092

Saturday, March 6 to
Monday, May 10, 2010
Hours: Tue-Fri, 10 to 6, Sat 11 to 5