Photographic Pictures @Anton Kern

JTF (just the facts): A group show consisting of works by 18 artists/photographers, variously framed and matted, and hung against white walls on the three floors of the gallery. The exhibit was organized by Anne Collier.

The following works are included in the show:

Ground floor

  • Marlo Pascual: 1 inkjet print mounted on museum board, 2017, sized roughly 16×22 inches, in an edition of 3+1AP
  • Jiro Takamatsu: 3 gelatin silver prints, 1973, sized roughly 20×16, 21×17, 18×22 inches
  • Melanie Schiff: 1 digital c-print, 2006, sized 30×40 inches, in an edition of 3+2AP
  • Leslie Hewitt: 1 digital chromogenic print and 1 gelatin silver print, 2021, sized roughly 38×51 inches; 1 gelatin silver print and 2 digital chromogenic prints, 2021, sized 51×65 inches
  • Joseph Grigley: 2 digital pigment prints, 2012, sized 30×36 inches, in editions of 3
  • Jack Pierson: 1 archival pigment print, 2020, sized roughly 53×62 inches, in an edition of 3+1AP
  • Lew Thomas: 2 Ektacolor prints, 1985, sized 16×20 inches
  • Wolfgang Tillmans: 1 inkjet print on paper, clips, 2020, sized roughly 81×54 inches, in an edition of 1+1AP
  • Moyra Davey: 1 digital video with sound, 2010, 4 minutes 23 seconds, in an edition of 5+2AP
  • Hervé Guibert: 1 gelatin silver print, 1989, sized roughly 10×12 inches, in an edition of 25

Second floor

  • Jiro Takamatsu: 1 gelatin silver print, 1973, sized roughly 16×20 inches
  • Judy Linn: 4 archival pigment prints, 1969, c1970s, 1999, 2000, sized roughly 21×19, 21×28, 20×29 inches, in editions of 4
  • Anne Collier: 1 c-print, 2014, sized roughly 50×66 inches, in an edition of 5+2AP
  • Lloyd Foster: 1 installation of video, painted mosquito nets, styrofoam, 2022, dimensions variable

Third floor

  • Jochen Lempert: 1 gelatin silver print, 2016, sized roughly 12×9 inches, in an edition of 5
  • Julie Becker: 1 c-print on aluminum, 1999, sized roughly 51×34 inches, in an edition of 6
  • Zoe Leonard: 1 set of 2 gelatin silver prints, 2016, sized roughly 21×17 inches each, in an edition of 6+2AP; 1 gelatin silver print, 2016, sized roughly 20×24 inches, in an edition of 6+2AP; 1 set of 5 pigment prints, 2016, sized roughly 9×11 inches each (or the reverse), in an edition of 6+2AP
  • Luigi Ghirri: 2 c-prints, 1972, 1979, sized roughly 7×5, 10×15 inches
  • Melanie Schiff: 1 c-print, 2007, sized 50×60 inches, in an edition of 3+2AP
  • Sabine Reitmaier: 1 c-print, 2008, sized roughly 13×8 inches
  • Leslie Hewitt: 1 gelatin silver print, 2012-2017, sized roughly 38×31 inches, in an edition of 5
  • Jack Pierson: 1 pigment print, 2020, sized 62×51 inches, in an edition of 3+1AP
  • Judy Linn: 1 archival pigment print, 2018, sized roughly 29×24 inches, in an edition of 4

(Installation shots below)

Comments/Context: The inwardly nested idea of making a photograph of a photograph, or more broadly a picture of a picture, offers the possibility of multiple layers of seeing and interacting, with the inherent image/object dichotomy of photography placed in the center of the action. This summer group show, titled Photographic Pictures, brings together a range of works that play with this formulation (gathered by Anton Kern gallery artist Anne Collier, who has often explored the complexities of rephotographed archival imagery), replacing the usual summer subject matter themes with something quite a bit more actively conceptual.

Collier built her selections around Jiro Takamatsu’s images from the early 1970s, from a project where he had a commercial photographer make photographs of snapshots from Takamatsu’s own family albums. While these black-and-white images of families at the beach and kids on the swings might originally have had some nostalgic personal significance for Takamatsu, the rephotographed images are obscured by the glare off the glossy surface of the prints, the light creating distortions, reflections, and flares that make the underlying scenes hard to see, almost as if they are dissolving or disappearing. While the conceptual framework might seem straightforward, the results are surprisingly rich and nuanced, with treasured memories, when transformed by time and seen by someone else, becoming something almost unrecognizable, leaving behind a kind of quiet emptiness.

Several other included artists have similarly wrestled with family snapshots, reworking them in different ways to try unlock (or reimagine) some of their power. Zoe Leonard has rephotographed images of family members, perhaps mothers, grandmothers, or other female relatives, as they stand on ferries with New York city in the background, adding a layer of the aspirational immigrant experience to the potential meaning of the pictures. Leslie Hewitt’s connections are more oblique, layering a party picture atop the dense patterning of a circuit board, an image of a flooded TV room over a car crash investigation, and an image of a waiter carrying a dessert with a lit sparkler (which obscures his face) together with an array of painted color tests, the links and associations expanding the possibilities in the snapshots. And Lloyd Foster’s installation uses a repeated video clip of a snapshot of kids floating on trickling water as a kind of question, the image darting in and out of view amid the drapery of painted mosquito netting, like a memory that doesn’t quite want to settle into view.

The motifs of eyes and seeing are used by another group of artists (including Collier herself) to further probe the conceptual layers found in the larger pictures of pictures theme. Collier’s contribution finds her looking back at us from an image about to be placed in an album, while Marlo Pascual’s eye similarly regards us, albeit with tear and a delicately placed band of light. Melanie Schiff uses album covers from Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to reverse the gaze, while Wolfgang Tillmans allows his own shadow to interrupt a blue picture, essentially inserting himself into a world of abstraction.

Collier’s curatorial theme naturally invites an echo of the earlier Pictures Generation artists, and in particular their investigations of mass media and how images can be appropriated and recontextualized. And while this show doesn’t reach back to that era directly, several of the included artists have pushed those original ideas further in their more recent works. Joseph Grigley and Jack Pierson rephotograph images from newspapers, with Grigley capturing open-mouthed singers whose gestures amplify a sense of drama and outrage, while Pierson re-sees images of himself, creating a telescoping view of time and personality. And images of rephotographed TV screens reach back to Lew Thomas’ closely cropped faces adorned with computer font declarations like “I Look Therefore I Am” and then move forward to Judy Linn’s image of James Caan eyeing himself in a mirror.

Collier’s selections have just enough eclectic verve to keep us guessing, with a wry Luigi Ghirri image of headshots in a display case linking to Julie Becker’s image of a screen with a color photograph of a wood paneled wall projected on it, with the wall behind the screen made of the same paneling. With clever twists and turns like these, and the deeper frameworks and sub-themes already discussed, there’s plenty of brainy picture-based richness to dig into here. It’s proof that a summer group show can successfully have some quirky heft, especially when the works can be interpreted on so many different levels.

Collector’s POV: While most of the works in this show are available for sale, given the large number of artists/photographers included, we will forego our usual discussion of specific individual prices and secondary market histories.

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Read more about: Anne Collier, Hervé Guibert, Jack Pierson, Jiro Takamatsu, Jochen Lempert, Joseph Grigley, Judy Linn, Julie Becker, Leslie Hewitt, Lew Thomas, Lloyd Foster, Luigi Ghirri, Marlo Pascual, Melanie Schiff, Moyra Davey, Sabine Reitmaier, Wolfgang Tillmans, Zoe Leonard, Anton Kern Gallery

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