Oh shit, Stephen muther fukin’ Shore is back, the man who launched 90% of MFA photography students in the mid 2000’s! No, not making indulgent iBooks, not making incomprehensible dry work about Venice. No, mark your calendars, the man is back, and to be the man you need to beat the man (to quote Rick Flair). Alex Soth, I feel the ball is your court, because this is the best straight, traditional, what have you, photography show that I’ve see in some time, as well as the best example of what is possible from an artist who is already on top of the mountain. This is on some Rick Ruben, Johnny Cash shit. I can’t stress enough that this is a killer show, and there is an equally impressive book that goes with it.
I saw this work maybe a year ago at one of those MoMA talks, and I was shocked and excited to see more and then nothing. I almost forgot about it. But now with the Chelsea season started, blam! awesomeness. Apparently Stephen Shore has been spending time in Israel and the Ukraine and has taken out all the tools in his playbook from every era of his illustrative career and applied them to hot button social landscapes. There are a grid of off-handed street pictures, stunning large-format landscapes, photographs of high, almost two-dimensional horizons and images of plates of food. It’s like Stephan Shore went to a Stephan Shore fantasy camp and made all the work you would most like to see an older Stephan Shore make. It’s almost disorienting to see this much new work in the varied styles that he’s worked in his whole life.
Now, I know this may sound like the gushing of a fan boy over his favorite band getting back together to play the hits and relive there glory days. But Shore uses his often-dry approach to the world to transform two very potentially fraught political situations, Israel and the Ukraine, into something human and relatable. In the photographs, Israel seems shockingly large and empty. It is hard to see the ancient cities surrounded by large expanses of desert and not find the area’s conflict all the more perplexing. It's a perfect example of things that the camera can show, lots of space that can clearly accommodate two very similar peoples, even with their fraught history. Shore’s trademark dryness is the perfect temperament to get a reasonable sense of the place, which so often is only shown through a constant haze of hysteria. The Israel images are matched with a grid of pictures from the Ukraine that don’t speak at all to the Orange Revolution or the ousting of a president, and outside of a Lenin bust jammed onto a shelf there is no hint of Russia’s influence, much less an invasion. What you do get is a view of a contemporary rural lifestyle that doesn’t feel that removed from the 60’s or even the post World War II era when Jews fled the Eastern Europe to form the State of Israel. The work is just so good that it makes me very happy.
Through Nov. 1st