Ray Mortenson, Manhattan @Janet Borden

JTF (just the facts): A total of 30 black and white images, taken in 2008 and 2009, framed in white, with no mat, and hung chronologically in the main gallery space. The images are 9×9 (on paper 18×14.5) and are titled with their location and exact date. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Given all of the famous images of New York (the previous post as just one example of many), the challenge of making contemporary images of classic views and moments of the city without rehashing the recognized masters is a daunting one. And yet, the city has certainly changed dramatically over the years, so there must be new discoveries to be made, even in the context of these traditional subjects.

Ray Mortenson has stepped into this realm with his recent body of work and has found some surprisingly fresh perspectives on old favorites. A handful of images take vertiginous upward views of abstracted skyscrapers that echo the well known images of Abbott and Newhall (linked below), but highlight new sleek forms of glass and steel, rather than the stone carved facades of the 1920s. Others capture light poles, water towers, billboards, and street grates; fragments of the city that become geometric forms. Images taken at morning and night, complete with wispy smoke, use the available light to broaden the tonal ranges. And Mortenson has even found new ways to see many iconic New York moments: skating at Rockefeller Center, the ceiling at Grand Central, the Chrysler building, Times Square, and Bryant Park.

Of course, all of this has been done before, but a good many of these images still find a way to be unexpected. While I think this show would have benefited from a slightly heavier hand in the editing process (the show might have been tighter at 20 pictures instead of 30), it is refreshing to see that overworked subjects can still be new in the hands of a talented photographer.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show have been made in editions of 3, and are priced at either $3000 or $3500, depending on the location in the edition. I particularly enjoyed the image of a skewed angle light post against some tall buildings entitled Broadway & Columbus Circle, 15 April 2008.

Rating: * (1 star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Broken Glass, Photographs of the South Bronx @MCNY, DLK COLLECTION review (here)
  • Berenice Abbott, Canyon: Broadway and Exchange Place (here)
  • Beaumont Newhall, Chase National Bank (here)

Ray Mortenson, Manhattan
Through May 29th

Janet Borden, Inc.
560 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

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JTF (just the facts): A retrospective exhibition, hung against white and black walls, in a series of three connected spaces (and their exterior walls) on the museum’s main floor. The ... Read on.

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