Archive for the ‘Galleries & Museums’ Category

Ran across work by Japanese photographer Masao Yamamoto at Robert Tat Gallery here in SF. It was a trio of tiny prints no more than 2″ x 3″ grouped in a constellation inside a shadow box. The images were random and unrelated — a bird, an outstretched hand, a delicate nude — with the old and tattered look of vintage photos.  Yamamoto distresses his prints, often tearing, rumpling and staining them or carrying them around in a pocket. They have the sheen of well-worn objects.

The image above is from his latest series called “Nakazora,” which is a Buddhist term meaning “a state when the feet do not touch the ground, and the space between sky and earth.” The definition fits perfectly. He captures little bits of the universe that float disconnected and pure. More images here and a write-up from the NY Times.


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jocko_weylandSo I missed this, but artist/writer Jocko Weyland had a show earlier this Spring at Kerry Schuss in NYC called “Almost News.” Wayland works for the AP NewsPhoto Library, which gives him access to a torrent of images going back 100 years.  Many of them, detached from their original news story, beg for explanation.

The catalog copy for the show riffs on the AP archives filing system and the curiously poetic categories used to tame the often banal subject matter:

“Rolling open with a satisfying whoosh, the solid overstuffed drawers would reveal upright cardboard files whose condition ranged from crispy brand new to disintegrating scraps. “Schauffler, Jr;, William G. Col. Airforce D E A D 10/22/51,” for instance, on the Personality side, or on the Subject side: “Toys: Historical,” “Models: Ships and Submarines,” or “Portugal: Industry: Misc.” There were “Hands,” “Magicians and Mind Readers,” “Brushes,” and “Monocycles.” Everything was broken down into a thousand, a hundred thousand, a million different categories, subgroups, subsets, and variations. There were wild unfulfilled notions that had been photographed in the planning, the making, the testing, or the aftermath, curious pursuits, causes, philosophies, social issues, ideas, and adventures never dreamed of.”

The show was laid out with photos streaming in bands along the gallery wall — like racing stripes or lines on a highway.

There was a catalog published with the show, though I’m not sure if it’s still available.

I like the image “Stencil Lips” — for those moments when your hands just aren’t steady.

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Last Days of W.

Stephen Wirtz Gallery is showing Alec Soth‘s photo series, “The Last Days of W.”  I wrote the exhibit up for Flavorpill:

As W. heads back to Crawford for good, he leaves behind memories both pathetic and dire — flying size 10s, bungled phrases, and premature Mission Accomplished banners underscore the outrages of Abu Ghraib and Katrina. Now, with pitch-perfect irony, photographer Alec Soth documents #43’s legacy, capturing the shell-shocked American landscape he leaves behind. Lonely images of Osama Bin Laden piñatas, pawn shops, homeless camps called Purgatory, gull-infested landfills, and dying rustbelt towns evoke a twilight zone where, as Soth says, there’s no telling if it’s “dusk or dawn.”

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In her unsettling photo collages Martha Rosler combines domestic images with snapshots of war. 60s housewives pull the blinds back on soldiers in trenches while teenagers with cell phones yammer as explosions go off behind them. The New York Times recently published a video slide show of her work.

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Salvadoran artist Victor Cartagena’s latest installation, Invisible Nation, fills the walls of Galeria de la Raza with swarms of official Latin American ID photos, many of them passport pictures from the 70s and 80s, thousands of nameless faces that impress with sheer numbers, but also make it seem necessary to look more closely at each of these singular individuals and imagine their story.

For Cartagena, these masses are the reality of immigration so often forgotten in political discussion. Faced with this tidal movement of lives across borders, he insists that identities must be made out within the crowd.

Images are multiplied throughout the gallery. Video loops of faces play on the walls. Armies of photos are tacked with sewing pins to one broad expanse. Boxes covered in brown butcher paper sit in various corners of the gallery looking like so many drug bundles. The front of each package carries someone’s photo, as if all of these lives are parcels to be trafficked.

Cartagena turns tea bags into gauzy envelopes, wrapping each photo in a cottony haze. He then gathers these packets into bunches of 10 or 20 and hangs them from the gallery ceiling. The immediate impression is one of weight, a forest of ponderous hanging cords. A barely audible whisper emanates from somewhere overhead. I don’t speak Spanish, but the few words I can make out are “tristeza más tristeza.” Sadness more sadness.

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valentine_stools.jpgEmilie Valentine started photoblogging before anyone even knew what the word “blog” meant. In 1995, she began a weekly online photo journal called “Snap City” in which she captured atmospheric slices of San Francisco on b&w film, developed the prints, usually about 4-6, and published them to the web with snappy captions—a hint of what Flickr would become. The fact that she was able to pull this off without the easy tools of digital photography now seems both quaint and amazing.

Her images favor a certain nostalgia for the 50s and 60s. She haunted cafés in North Beach, dive bars in the Mission, snapping up shadows of another era—neon signs, movie marquees, bars lined with cocktails and cigarettes, old-time diners with their solid functional dishware and the camaraderie of a row of stools.

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friedlander_car1.jpgMost Americans experience the landscape around them from the comfort of a moving vehicle. Lee Friedlander plays this idea out in his latest photo series, “America by Car,” at Fraenkel Gallery.

In image after image, an American scene is framed by a windshield, a rolled down window, a side view mirror. These modern automobile interiors are cold, anonymous and plastic, but their familiarity is comforting. This is, after all, the way that most of us view the world.

The photographer’s presence is felt as he lets the prosaic environment of his car envelop and fringe the subject he’s shooting—a constant reminder that he and his camera are there. Friedlander’s inventive angles expand his images into other fields of vision—reflections in another  window or a rear view mirror.

In Death Valley, a raven sits eerily perched atop a roadside bluff so close it seems you could reach out and touch it. In Arizona, a tangled prickly cactus looms in a side window, echoed in the garish upholstery of what must be a rented car. And in Las Vegas, pulled up behind a mobile advertising truck with vanity plates, the garish ad on the back door promises “Hot Babes.”

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