Friday, July 21, 2017

Victoria Sambunaris, Nexus @ Yancey Richardson

Mark Steinmetz, Paul Mpagi Sepuya and now a large Victoria Sambunaris show, man, Yancey Richardson is on fire. This could be the best run of shows they have had since moving to the larger ground floor space. The photographs in the show are a familiar continuation of the work that culminated in Sambunaris’s wonderful Taxonomy of a Landscape, a book which not only included stunningly beautiful large-format landscapes of man’s presence in the natural world but also weird little diversion: a series of stalactite pictures, polaroids of people she has met while out photographing and lots of vernacular maps and detritus she has picked up on her yeoman-esque journey to photograph the US / Mexican security fence, shipping containers, oil pipelines, the edges of suburban development and very attractive landscapes. 

The show consists of what I guess are technically seascapes of giant container ships along with some landscapes in keeping with what Sambunaris has done in the past. If you are a photography fan, it is hard to deny how good a landscape photographer Sambunaris is. Maybe it is the cultural temperature or just a progression in the work, but the new images seem starker, flatter and more even. The light in her best work was often celebratory, especially in the series of pictures from national parks, but the lighting in her new work almost feels as if Sambunaris has been beaten down and has succumbed to the unrelenting nature of her subject matter. The new sparseness creates an austerity that calls attention to and demands confrontation with the subject matter, be it train tracks or large container ships. The past work posed a conflict not unlike Robert Adams’s work, where the subject matter asked to be critiqued, but the images were so wonderful it was hard not to feel on some level that the photographer really enjoyed how the light hit new suburban developments even when the subdivisions were consuming the western landscape. But in Sambunaris new work, the formal minimalism of the pictures, the neutral light and the murky waters all speak to a world that has gone a miss.

Already Down
Yancey Richardson (525 W 22nd St., Btw. 10th & 11th Aves.)


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