New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Picture of the Week

New Photography 2010
R. Wayne Parsons
Roe Ethridge, “Debora Muller with Tripod.” 2008.

“New Photography 2010” at MoMA continues the museum’s efforts to introduce us to the best work from the rapidly mushrooming crop of practitioners of this popular art form. This current exhibition of the work of four photographers is only partially successful.

The show is posited on the use of imagery appropriated from the popular media of magazines and cinema, with an occasional nod to advertising and fashion. Spicing an image with something stolen from elsewhere does not in and of itself improve the result. This concept was never terribly interesting to begin with, and age has done nothing to improve it. Never mind; if you can’t beat ‘em, just look at the pictures and try to enjoy yourself.

I did enjoy myself with the photographs of Roe Ethridge, the artist whose work is the most traditional, the least in need of the wobbly intellectual underpinning provided by the exhibition text, and the most satisfying of the four portfolios exhibited. His portrait of a young woman posing with a tripod head (a tool that is often used but rarely seen in portraiture) is simply gorgeous. A finely crafted still life of decaying fruit follows the well-trod tradition of this genre while overlaying it with an emphasis on the insults of time and its attendant decay. Despite the fact that we wouldn’t want to touch these mold-covered berries, much less eat them, they do have in this photo a pronounced sensual appeal. Ethridge also enjoys playing witty visual tricks with us, as with his life-size color image of a pumpkin. At first glance it’s just a competent photo of a pumpkin. But closer inspection shows that it is in fact a much-enlarged image of a small sticker containing a printed image of a pumpkin.

 by unidentified photographer.
Amanda Ross-Ho, “Untitled Detail (Atmosphere).” 2007

Some of the work in this exhibition suggests the results of a low-budget advertising campaign. Elad Lassry, for example, gives us a straightforward image of four bottles of red nail polish placed on green pedestals. His images, with their color-coordinated frames and mattes, grab our attention, though they are less successful in holding it.

Alex Prager follows in the tradition of ambiguous narrative photography so effectively popularized by Cindy Sherman and emulated by countless artists since. Her images are attractive, if not particularly distinctive at this stage in the evolution of photography.

Finally, Amanda Ross-Ho has the most unorthodox approach to her material of the four artists, though with only five disparate works displayed it’s hard to generalize about the overall direction of her art. Her unusual substrate is a sheet of sheetrock with holes drilled to simulate pegboard (it’s not clear why she just didn’t buy some pegboard); various objects from her studio (photos, drafting tools, metal washers) are mounted on the sheetrock. Some of these constructions are displayed as is. Another approach is to photograph the object, then display the photo in trompe-l‘oeil fashion in a wooden frame suggestive of a Joseph Cornell box. One gets the impression that it’s more fun to make these objects than to look at them, either in the flesh, as it were, or in a photographic remove.

New Photography 2010

The Museum of Modern Art
11 W 53rd St.
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212 708 9400

Wednesday, September 29 to
Monday, January 10, 2011
Hours: Weds to Mon, 10:30 to 5:30, Fri to 8