Perspectives 2010 @ICP

JTF (just the facts): A group show containing the work of 5 photographers/artists, hung in discrete sections throughout the main floor of the museum. Since photography is not allowed in the ICP galleries, there are unfortunately no installation shots for this show. The exhibit was organized by Brian Wallis, Chief Curator at the ICP. Details on the works by each photographer/artist are below:

  • Carol Bove: 1 installation, including shelving, books, shells, money, sketchbooks, a peacock feather, paintings, and other found objects, from 2010
  • Lena Herzog: 35 black and white photographs: 18 are framed in white and matted, 3 are printed larger and mounted without frames (including 1 triptych), and 14 are displayed in a pair of glass cases unframed (all of Herzog’s works are displayed in a separate room with black walls and spotlights)
  • Matthew Porter: 6 archival pigment prints face mounted to plexi, variously framed, part of a series entitled High Lonesome, from 2008-2009
  • Ed Templeton: a group of 139 black and white and color images, hung as a single dense edge-to-edge installation across two walls, framed in blond wood with grey mats, entitled 30 Seconds in my Shoes, from 2007
  • Hong-An Truong: 1 video, black and white, four channel, approximately 20 minutes, entitled Adaptation Fever, from 2006-2007

Comments/Context: I’m not sure whether the impetus for this new Perspectives series at the ICP was some kind of response to the well known New Photogrpaphy series at the MoMA, or simply a vehicle for showing contemporary work in the years when the Triennial isn’t on view, but whatever the reasoning, I think it is important that the museums we rely on for expertise and knowledge in photography are forced to make an argument for what they find to be significant in the contemporary medium on an annual basis. So while I’m about to tell you that I didn’t entirely resonate with this show, I applaud the fact that the ICP is at least drawing a line in the sand and standing up for its own point of view.

This show brings together work by five very different artists/photographers, with a tenuous thread of “history and memory” tying them together. Former skateboarder Ed Templeton’s work is by far the standout in this exhibit. His raw insider images of skateboard culture are like a personal diary, an autobiographical portrait of the world around him, filled with thrill-seeking teenagers and messy lives. Kids are covered in blood, jump from trains and bridges, sell American flags, smoke, let the gas burners on a stove run too high, and wander around naked. While there are echoes of Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, and Wolfgang Tillmans here, Templeton has documented an original subculture, with alternating moments of shock and tenderness, always with a rough authentic intensity that is surprisingly gripping. I only wish some of the most powerful images weren’t so crowded by the all-over installation; I’d like to see a tighter edit with slightly larger prints to really engage with some of the best pictures.

Lena Herzog’s ghostly images of the bizarre specimens in Wunderkammern have an elusive, ethereal quality mixed together with a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not subject matter. Most of the images are of fetuses and infants with odd genetic defects and mutations, captured and displayed as otherworldly scientific examples. Faces are deformed and disfigured, twisted in alien expressions and bathed in white mist. The effect is both unsettling and sensitive, the portraits going beyond simple creepiness into something altogether more delicate and subdued. As an accompaniment, don’t miss the images in the two glass cases which document a frightening mouse skeleton orchestra, each white boned rodent playing a small instrument or singing in the chorus, their wispy tails swirling in the background.

Matthew Porter’s images seem clearly descended from a Pictures Generation aesthetic approach, combining image appropriation with conceptual juxtaposition, in this case mixing cowboys and the American West with the Hindenburg and German engineering. While the thematic overlays and connections were there, these pictures just didn’t grab my attention enough to encourage deeper looking. The works by the other two artists on display (Carol Bove and Hong-An Truong) weren’t really photographs at all (one works in sculpture/installation and the other in video), and so I’m not sure their inclusion tells us much about the state of photography, except that many photographers are obviously broadening their definitions of the traditional boundaries of the medium and/or exploring multiple mediums and mixing them together based on their particular aesthetic needs. As such, the selection of these last two left me a bit puzzled about what the ICP was really trying to get across, except perhaps that it doesn’t plan to be limited by how it defines “photography”.

Overall, this exhibit is very much a mixed bag, with not enough photographic excellence to really tell a complete story or make a convincing argument. To my eye, of this group, Ed Templeton is the one to watch carefully on a going forward basis, as his photography shows the potential to evolve into a consistently genuine and original voice.

Collector’s POV: None of the artists in this group show have much secondary market history in the major photography auctions. As such, gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point. The galleries who represent the various artists (that I could find) have been listed below:

  • Carol Bove: Maccarone in New York (here), Kimmerich in New York (here)
  • Lena Herzog: (unknown)
  • Matthew Porter: M+B in Los Angeles (here)
  • Ed Templeton: Roberts & Tilton in Culver City (here)
  • Hong-An Truong: (unknown)

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Carol Bove: no artist site
  • Lena Herzog: artist site (here)
  • Matthew Porter: artist site (here)
  • Ed Templeton: artist blog (here)
  • Hong-An Truong: artist site (here)

Perspectives 2010
Through September 12th

International Center of Photography
1133 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

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Read more about: Carol Bove, Ed Templeton, Hong-An Truong, Lena Herzog, Matthew Porter, International Center of Photography (ICP Museum)

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