A Short History of Photography @ICP

JTF (just the facts): A total of 110 black and white and color photographs, variously framed and matted, and hung against greenish grey walls in a series of three rooms on the upper level of the museum (a few additional images can be found in the cafe on the lower level). A glass case in the second room contains a variety of photographic albums, contacts sheets, magazine covers and other ephemera. All of the works on view come from the museum’s permanent collection and were made between 1865 and 2009. The show was curated by Brian Wallis. (Installation shots at right © International Center of Photography, 2012. Photographs by John Berens.)

The following photographers have been included in the exhibit, with the number of prints on view, process details and image dates as background information:

First Room

Adam Schreiber: 1 inkjet print, 2009

Unidentified: 4 tintype prints, 1865, 1870, 1880, 1890, 1 albumen print, 1865, 1 gelatin silver print diptych, 1880

Eugene Atget: 2 albumen prints, 1913, 1922

Ilse Bing: 1 gelatin silver print, 1936

Walker Evans: 1 gelatin silver print, 1936

Andre Kertesz: 1 gelatin silver print, 1919

Baron Adolph de Meyer: 1 photogravure, 1909

Edward Steichen: 1 gelatin silver print, 1930

Roman Vishniac: 1 gelatin silver print, 1935-1938

Ralph Eugene Meatyard: 1 gelatin silver print, 1963

Edward Weston: 1 gelatin silver print, 1941

Yasumasa Morimura: 1 silver dye bleach print, 1998

Second Room

Miroslav Tichy: 1 gelatin silver print, n.d.

Andre Kertesz: 1 gelatin silver print, 1927

Francesca Woodman: 1 gelatin silver print, 1976

Alessandra Sanguinetti: 1 silver dye bleach print, 1998-2002

Henri Cartier-Bresson: 1 gelatin silver print, 1933

Carl Van Vechten: 1 gelatin silver print, 1954

Irving Penn: 1 gelatin silver print, 1948

Danny Lyon: 1 gelatin silver print, 1964/2006

Christer Strömholm: 1 gelatin silver print, 1959/1965-1966

Philippe Halsman: 1 gelatin silver print, 1966

Cindy Sherman: 1 gelatin silver print, 1999

Chim (David Seymour): 1 gelatin silver print, 1948

John Paul Filo: 1 gelatin silver print, 1970

Vik Muniz: 1 gelatin silver print, 1995

Charles Moore: 1 gelatin silver print, 1963

Ernest Withers: 1 gelatin silver print, 1968/2006

Susan Meiselas: 1 chromogenic print, 1978

Gilles Peress: 1 gelatin silver print, 1972

Cornell Capa: 1 gelatin silver print, 1955

Shirin Neshat: 1 silver dye bleach print, 2002

John Gutmann: 1 gelatin silver print, 1941

Unidentified: 1 gelatin silver print, 1936, 1 gelatin silver print/offset lithograph collage, 1950s

William Hartshorn: 1 gelatin silver print, 1972

Maurice Tabard: 1 gelatin silver print, 1932

Suzanne Opton: 1 chromogenic print, 2004

An-My Lê: 1 gelatin silver print, 2003-2004

Eugene Smith: 2 gelatin silver prints, 1944, 1948

Josef Koudelka: 1 gelatin silver print, 1964

Gordon Parks: 1 gelatin silver print, 1952

Harry Callahan: 1 gelatin silver print, 1948

Brett Weston: 1 gelatin silver print, 1937

Josef Sudek: 1 gelatin silver print, 1948-1964

Glass Case (in Second Room)

Unidentified: 1 album of gelatin silver prints, 1910, 3 gelatin silver prints, 1929, 1960, 1 magazine cover, 1929

Mary B. Huslig: 1 album of gelatin silver prints, 1927-1933

Elliott Erwitt: 1 album of gelatin silver prints, 1950-1955

Robert Capa: 1 gelatin silver contact sheets, 1938

Andy Warhol: 2 gelatin silver photobooth strips, 1964/1965

El Lissitizky: 1 book cover, 1933

John Heartfield: 1 photo montage magazine cover, 1934

James Abbe: 1 magazine cover, 1931

Third Room

Larry Burroughs: 1 gelatin silver print, 1965

Margaret Bourke-White: 1 gelatin silver print, 1945

Robert Capa: 2 gelatin silver prints, 1935, 1944

Unidentified: 1 inkjet print, 2003

Thomas James Howard: 1 gelatin silver print, 1928

Samuel Shere: 1 gelatin silver print, 1937

Mitch Epstein: 1 chromogenic print, 2004

William Christenberry: 1 pigment print, 1978/2009

Marco Breuer: 1 chromogenic print, 2009

Richard Prince: 1 chromogenic print, 1983

Stephen Shore: 1 chromogenic print, 1974/2000

William Eggleston: 1 inkjet print, 1999-2000

Helen Levitt: 1 chromogenic print, 1980

Louise Lawler: 1 silver dye bleach print, 1993

Robert Adams: 1 gelatin silver print, 1976

Robert Smithson: 1 gelatin silver print, 1970

Roman Vishniac: 1 gelatin silver print, 1935-1938

Samuel Fosso: 1 gelatin silver print, 1977

Carrie Mae Weems: 1 gelatin silver print, 1987

Martha Rosler: 24 gelatin silver prints, 1974-1975

David Seidner: 1 gelatin silver print, 1980

Larry Clark: 1 gelatin silver print, 1971

Gerda Taro: 1 gelatin silver print, 1937

Bruce Davidson: 1 gelatin silver print, 1959

Robert Frank: 1 gelatin silver print, 1955/1975

In Downstairs Cafe

Charles Stacy: 1 gelatin silver print, 1913

Aaron Siskind: 1 gelatin silver print, 1939

Fazal Sheikh: 1 gelatin silver print, 1997

Sheng Qi: 1 chromogenic print, 2000

Hank Willis Thomas: 1 chromogenic print, 2004

Simon Norfolk: 1 chromogenic print, 2003

Comments/Context: The ICP’s tribute show for outgoing director William “Buzz” Hartshorn gathers together a diverse mix of its institutional roots in documentary photography and photojournalism, a highlight reel of its recent exhibitions, and a parade of permanent collection acquisitions, telling an indirect story of the museum’s evolution during the past two decades. As a history of photography (even a “short” one), it falls short of being comprehensive or particularly robust, but as a history of how the ICP has seen photography, I think it’s a pretty useful exercise in hindsight.

It goes without saying that any such exhibit at the ICP would contain a heavy dose of classic photojournalism, and of course, this show delivers on that score. Robert Capa, Cornell Capa, Chim, Taro, Cartier-Bresson, Bourke-White, Eugene Smith, Peress, Meiselas, they all make their expected appearances. But from this core point of view, there is a sense of looking outward and finding contemporary connections to this material: John Paul Filo’s Kent State shooting flanked by a Vik Muniz conceptual reworking of the same scene, iconic Eugene Smith WWII images matched with recent soldering pictures by An-My Lê and Suzanne Opton, Bourke-White concentration camp victims and Robert Capa D-Day shots put together with prisoner images from Abu Ghraib. The museum is clearly interested in how photographic approaches are changing, and how these new viewpoints relate to its historic classics.

In the period falling before the museum’s core holdings (and encompassing nearly the entire 19th century), the approach seems to have been primarily historical, with an emphasis on vernacular imagery, found photographs, and other examples of documentary evidence. In more recent times, the strategy seems more diffuse, with a little of this and a little of that: some large color, some conceptual work, some abstraction, some international breadth. The show tries to tie these together on the walls via a few visual and thematic echoes, but the overall effect for the contemporary work is less coherent. This isn’t to discount the quality of the work in any way; I certainly enjoyed the Martha Rosler grid of 1970s Bowery storefronts littered with liquor bottles mixed together with an exhaustive taxonomy of synonyms for “drunk” as well as other gems from Eggleston, Levitt, Weems, Shore, Christenberry and Frank. Mostly, I think the contemporary “mixed bag” feel is evidence of a museum with a limited acquisitions budget trying its best to be everywhere at once.

In a summertime season full of group shows, I think this exhibit will be best enjoyed by those with appropriate expectations. This show doesn’t deliver a scholarly reasoned argument or an elaborate historical lesson. Instead it is a thoughtfully selected, well edited, eclectic jumble, with enough classics and unexpected choices to keep things lively.

Collector’s POV: Since this is a museum show, there are, of course, no posted prices, and given the wide range of artists and work on view, I’m going to forgo my usual collector-driven price analysis.

An-My Lê, Carrie Mae Weems, Chim (David Seymour), Cornell Capa, Helen Levitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, John Paul Filo, Margaret Bourke-White, Martha Rosler, Robert Capa, Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, Susan Meiselas, Suzanne Opton, Vik Muniz, W. Eugene Smith, William Christenberry, William Eggleston, International Center of Photography (ICP Museum)

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