The show is made up of some distressed black and white pictures of contemporary young people, as you might expect from pictures that are young and contemporary. They are paired with pictures of cloths, which I assume are curtains, and outright abstract pictures that seem to be the work of a very productive alternative-process class. I first saw Walead Beshty’s photograms at Wallspace back in 2006, and I remember thinking he was clearly onto something different. His description of the work as trying to address photo history without looking like photo history made sense for the large, color, cubist photograms. Around the same time (ok, maybe two years earlier), Saltz was complaining on about the reinstallation of MoMA’s permanent painting collection and how they missed an opportunity to better understand art by including some of the valleys of art history, the trends that didn’t last and the people who made art that was similar to work that became famous. Out of a confluence of these two ideas, I came to see the rise of abstract photography as a mining of untapped veins of art history, things that were lost or discredited, like photo abstractions. I guess what I am trying to get at is this work at one time had a context and a point, but now just feels like people hiding under Roe Ethridge’s rather large umbrella, which makes anything, no matter how oblique or quizzical have value, simply in being contemporary, without aspiring to anything more.
Now there might be something more going on here, but the press release refers to the work as pretty standard alternate-process interventions into the photographs to create larger metaphorical interpretations of the medium, which seem pretty standard for, say, a 70’s copy of Aperture or a sculptures talking about photography, as if its own practitioners have never pondered the materials that make up the medium. Which would all be fine with if the abstractions were attractive, but they have all the appeal of an abstract black and white watercolor or an abstract charcoal drawing minus an appealing surface. Of course this seems to be all the rage, so what do I know?
PS Apparently the work references an early performance piece of some importance, but that was completely lost on me.
Through December 8th