The Thing Itself @Yancey Richardson

JTF (just the facts): A group show containing 20 works by 16 photographer/artists, variously framed and matted, and hung against white walls in the main gallery space and the smaller project room.

The following photographers/artists have been included in the show, with the number of works on view and image details as background:

  • Mary Ellen Bartley: 3 archival pigment prints, 2014, each sized roughly 17×15, in editions of 7
  • Anne Collier: 1 chromogenic print, 2013, sized roughly 51×62, in an edition of 5
  • Sara Cwynar: 1 chromogenic print, 2013, sized 30×24, in an edition of 3
  • Roe Ethridge: 1 chromogenic print, 2013, sized 36×24, in an edition of 5+2AP
  • Bryan Graf: 1 set of 3 chromogenic prints, 2013, each panel sized 26×20, in an edition of 5
  • Bill Jacobson: 1 archival pigment print, 2011, sized 28×22, in an edition of 7
  • Kenneth Josephson: 1 gelatin silver print, 1965, sized 7×12, in an edition of 50
  • Laura Letinsky: 1 archival pigment print, 2013, sized 50×40, in an edition of 9
  • Matt Lipps: 1 chromogenic print, 2013, sized roughly 74×50, in an edition of 5+2AP
  • Vik Muniz: 1 silver laser exposed print, 2008, sized 45×63, in an edition of 10
  • Paul Mpagi Sepuya: 1 set of 3 archival pigment prints, 2014, each panel sized 32×24, in an edition of 3
  • Alyson Shotz: 1 set of 4 folded Epson archival dye prints, 2013, each panel sized 40×30, in an edition of 10+3AP
  • Laurie Simmons: 1 archival pigment print, 1991, sized roughly 40×23, in an edition of 5+2AP, and 1 chromogenic print, 2000, sized 10×6, in an edition of 75
  • Wolfgang Tillmans: 1 chromogenic print, 2004, sized 16×12, in an edition of 10
  • Bertien van Manen: 2 chromogenic prints, 2004, 2005, each sized 16×20, in editions of 10
  • Christopher Williams: 1 gelatin silver print, 2009, sized roughly 34×37, in an edition of 10

(Apologies for the overly yellow installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: Back in photography’s simpler days, a picture could generally be relied upon to tell a straightforward story – this is a portrait, or a nude, or a landscape, or a still life. But in photography’s headier contemporary times, we’re not satisfied with just one layer of communication. Instead, we’re diving deeper and deeper inward, piling up images like nesting dolls, rephotographing photographs again and again, and making pictures of pictures of pictures in a seemingly endless conceptual drill down.

This summer group show takes stock of this self-reflexive trend. Mixing gallery artists, references to current museum shows (Winogrand and Williams), and smart inclusions from elsewhere, it looks at photography as subject matter, where cameras, papers, and mainly photographs themselves become the starting point raw material for further artistic explorations and refractions.

A photograph’s ability to simultaneously function as an image and a physical object forms the basis of many of the investigations on view here. Bertien van Manen captures family photos perched on lace covered tables and breezy windowsills like nostalgic makeshift shrines, while Paul Mpagi Sepuya tacks pictures directly to his studio wall in complex sequential combinations. Bryan Graf’s seascapes are iteratively scratched and scraped on the tangible print surface, while Laura Letinsky and Matt Lipps cut up photographs and reassemble them into wholly new constructions in flat white space and on glass shelves. Sara Cwynar and Roe Ethridge introduce a layer of digital intervention, with jiggled scans and Photoshop duplication.

The works in the back room are pared back even further, toward elemental investigations of paper itself. Wolfgang Tillmans and Bill Jacobson find elegance in delicate paper edges, while Mary Ellen Bartley constructs shifting Albers-like geometries from her transparency sleeves. Alyson Shotz adds physical folds to black and white studies of folded paper, and Vik Muniz goes one step further, bringing Winogrand’s famous family with baby monkeys to life from cut paper scraps.

The inclusion of Kenneth Josephson’s 1965 image of his son using the Polaroid image of himself as a play camera is a clever reminder that this intricate photographic layering wasn’t invented recently. Laurie Simmons’ iconic walking camera from the early 1990s is another landmark example of diving into tools and materials and coming out with something original.

Together, these works form a tight sampler of ideas – not a comprehensive or exhaustive look at the variety in the practice, but just enough diversity to succinctly introduce the sub genre and give it some intellectual girth. As summer group shows go, it’s more thoughtful than most. Like a snippet of a good conversation, there’s enough here to get your mind turning as you walk away, perhaps leaving you with a handy set of ideas to revisit when the beach days are through.

Collector’s POV: The works in this group show are priced as follows, by photographer/artist:

  • Mary Ellen Bartley: $2800 each
  • Anne Collier: $20000
  • Sara Cwynar: $4500
  • Roe Ethridge: $14000
  • Bryan Graf: $5600
  • Bill Jacobson: $5900
  • Kenneth Josephson: $7500
  • Laura Letinsky: $9100
  • Matt Lipps: $15130
  • Vik Muniz: $40600
  • Paul Mpagi Sepuya: $4200
  • Alyson Shotz: $14500
  • Laurie Simmons: $25000 and $5500
  • Wolfgang Tillmans: $8300
  • Bertien van Manen: $7800 and $4800
  • Christopher Williams: NFS

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Read more about: Alyson Shotz, Anne Collier, Bertien van Manen, Bill Jacobson, Bryan Graf, Christopher Williams, Kenneth Josephson, Laura Letinsky, Laurie Simmons, Mary Ellen Bartley, Matt Lipps, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Roe Ethridge, Sara Cwynar, Vik Muniz, Wolfgang Tillmans, Yancey Richardson Gallery

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JTF (just the facts): Published in 2023 by Blow Up Press (here). Clothbound hardcover with embossing and tipped in photograph, 160 x 220 mm, 100 pages, with 54 photographs. Includes ... Read on.

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