JTF (just the facts): A group show containing a total of 110 photographs by 80 photographers, variously framed and matted, and hung throughout the gallery space (which is divided by several interior walls) and the book shop. All of the works were made between 2003 and 2010. The exhibit was curated by William Ewing and Nathalie Herschdorfer, and was originally shown at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne. A catalogue of the exhibition has been published by Aperture (here). (Installation shots at right.)
The following photographers have been included in the show:
Joshua Bilton Bogdan
David De Beyter
Dyball Lina el Yafi
Salvatore Michele Elefante
Chang Kyum Kim
Agnes Eva Molnar
Andrea Star Reese
Camila Rodrigo Graña
Janneke van Leeuwen
Barbora Zurkova & Radim Zurek
Comments/Context: For collectors like ourselves, the root of what we do on a day to day basis is a process of sorting and sifting. We expose ourselves to an endless stream of diverse imagery from a wide variety of sources, most of it drifting by to be quickly forgotten, some of it grabbing our attention just enough to make us think, a very small percentage from there rising to the point where we dig in much deeper to search for that single image that moves us enough to make the purchasing plunge. While this process has a facade of analytical rigor, the fact is that it is highly personal and subjective, often random and serendipitous, and nearly always difficult to explain.
The curators of this massive group show took on an expansive task: review over 700 entries from 120 photography schools around the world, winnowing the pile down by roughly 90% to get to 80 photographers, and from there generally selecting a single image to represent the artist’s work. In doing so, they imposed no rigid, over-arching theme or thesis, so what emerges is an edited sampler of current “emerging” photography, seen through the eyes of these two people. Not surprisingly, it’s an eclectic and energetic show, spanning multiple genres, geographies, subjects, and working methods.
The challenge with a patternless gathering of work with no organizing principle is that there isn’t any way to make sense of it all. The viewer really only has one option: to pick favorites. So as I surveyed the show, for each image, I asked myself a simple but brutal question: based on this single photograph before me, do I want to see more from this artist? This is totally unfair and inherently flawed as a process; further exploration might find some favorites to be boring and some omissions to be fantastic. But in the end, this kind of show represents the increasing “shuffle-ization” of our world: put an edited group of images on random play and see which ones you like.
Out of 80 photographers with work on view, I found 13 that caught my eye enough to wonder about what else they had done; my apologies to those I would have liked had I encountered an alternate image. The list is below (alphabetically) with a bare minimum of commentary surrounding the image on display (links to artist websites below as available; please add those I’ve missed to the comments):
- Jen Davis: I’ve run across Davis’ strong self-portraits before; this smoke-ring blowing cowboy seems authentic and electrically alive.
- Dru Donovan: A black and white nude portrait of man lying on a mirror; it plays with shadows and skin in unusual and subtle ways.
- Audrey Guiraud: Architectural photographs from skewed angles, creating abstracted geometric compositions.
- Claudia Hanimann: In this image, I liked the play of textures between the blue patterned shirt and the plush cloth seats surrounding it.
- Kalle Katalia: A night beach scene with a solitary figure in the foreground; a modern take on 19th century landscape painting/composition.
- Liu Xiaofang: A small girl looks out on an expanse of sky with a single cloud; highly stylized but still evocative.
- Agnes Eva Molnar: Chaotic, multi-layered images of lively young women.
- Richard Mosse: I’ve seen/reviewed Mosse’s work before; this fire engulfed jet engine pulsates.
- Yusuke Nishimura: A sky scene in delicate pastel gradation like a watercolor.
- Margo Ovcharenko: This was the most memorable image in the show for me. It’s an off-center portrait of a young woman that seems vital and fresh, her green dress twisted and pulled taut.
- Simone Rosenbauer: I liked the crisp claustrophobia of this overpacked hallway shot.
- Catherine Rüttimann: While we’ve certainly seen backstage images of the press before, I enjoyed the crushing theatricality of the nearby sets in this image.
- Su Sheng: Well constructed images of the loneliness and boredom of solitary kids in single child Chinese families.
While other collectors will almost certainly be drawn to a different selection of specific works from this group, I think the optimistic take away for me was that, even with its flaws, this kind of broad curatorial selection process can help to uncover a few durable stars from the sea of those trying, and can expose collectors to the fresh thinking that kicks us out of our established ruts. As always, there are new, original voices waiting to be discovered and brought to the surface, and while the sifting is painstaking for everyone involved, it’s one of the only ways to successfully separate the wheat from the chaff.
Collector’s POV: The Aperture Gallery is not a selling venue, so there are no prices for this particular show. In general, there is little or no secondary market history for any of these photographers, so interested collectors will need to search out gallery representation or contact the artists directly via their personal websites.