Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Photography’

Oh, Snap!

August 14, 2009

Yes, the Art Institute of Chicago Renzo Piano’s Modern Wing has been getting all the buzz, and for good reasons: Increasing the gallery space by a massive third? Check! Introducing state-of-the-art technology to maximize the use of light while protecting the artwork of direct sunlight? Check! Showcasing formerly stored masterpieces that position the Art Institute alongside some of the world’s most formidable collections? Check!

But what about the museum goers?

The Art Institute, in collaboration with NBC5, sponsored the Modern Wing Photo Contest to encourage photographers to explore an aspect (both on literal and figuratively plains) that has been missing from the media hoopla and the check-out-this-angle photographs put forth by the AIC’s own talented team of photographers.

The winner was Jungyul Yu, whose work truly captured the spark generated by the interaction of the visitors with the museum’s architecture. Eschewing the rather tempting trap of architectural visualization for a more organic and energetic approach of capturing the hustle-and-bustle of the new wing, Yu has produced an image that is simply and truly refreshing.

Congratulation to Yu and the three runner-ups: Kayo Takasugi, Ricardo Phillips, and Elliot Mandel.

Love it or hate it? Cast your vote on their Facebook page.


The winning image by Jungyul Yu


Review: Michael Wolf at MOCP

January 7, 2009

Michael Wolf‘s photographs of urban life challenge the seemingly balanced dynamic within such dyads as private/public, collective/individual, and real/artificial. The photographs, all taken in 2007, are devoid of a horizon line, and feature closeups of tightly compressed apartment and office buildings in Chicago. The city’s architecture, after all, is famous for its experimental history, which includes–but by no means limited to–the introduction of the world’s first skyscraper. The dressing of steel bodies with sheets of glass allowed buildings to multiply their vertebrae and reach the heavens as much as it engendered a voyeuristic fascination by the newly transparent structures. So it comes as no surprise, therefore, that Wolf has chosen Chicago, with its history of what could be described, perhaps, as the world’s first urban peep show, as the site of his latest project.

The elimination of the horizon line removes associations of architectural photography with postcard-perfect harmony. Furthermore, the gradual physical proximity towards the images turns each one from a meticulous Agnes Martin grid to a claustrophobic if seductive stacking of realities a la Barry Frydlender. Like the former, the images initially allude to a sense of universal perfection that transcends humanity; and like the latter, they convey a too-close-for-comfort jittery and cluttered existence. Together, the effect is as mesmerizing as it is unnerving. The simultaneous peering into multiple lives within a single frame is decadent and perverse, but nonetheless perfectly symbolic of the obsessive truckling to reality television that has come to define us. Wolf’s vision is a supra-technological nightmarish extension of Robert Frank‘s The Americans, perhaps the first exhibition to challenge Rockwellian visions of national utopia. More than ever, Wolf seems to say, we have become disjointed on an interpersonal level, occupying insulated, self-referential pods within which a personalized version of reality is constructed, and unified solely by an unspoken agreement that to each his own. The collective, it appears, is no longer greater than the sum of its parts. And reality, as such, is no longer universal.

Wolf’s body of work is can be viewed at the Museum of Contemporary Photography through January 31st.


Review: Karen Hoyt at Finch Gallery

October 7, 2008

Photographer Karen Hoyt‘s exhibition “Presidents of the United States” at Finch Gallery succeeds on a dual level, as the photographs testify about the subjects’ character as much as they do about Hoyt’s candid exploration of Otherness. Hoyt, a White woman who has made the nearly exclusive African American neighborhood of Englewood her home for a while, is familiar on a personal basis with many of the photographed subjects. While it would be easy to interpret (or rather–misinterpret) a White photographer’s insistence on photographing African Americans as racial voyeurism if not flat out exoticism, Hoyt’s images, in fact, defy that. For starters, as a woman Hoyt would be well aware of the implications of being objectified by the status quo. But more importantly, following the traditions of Richard Avedon and Thomas Ruff , Hoyt allows her portraits to do the talking. Leaving her subjects sans directions, she allows each one to choose the angle they believe best represents them. The absence in the gallery exhibition of names, dates or location eliminates any potentially distracting narrative. Instead, viewers are encouraged to study the nuanced poses, gestures and facial expressions of the subjects, as they softly reveal themselves. A wrinkled hand, a modest grin, a thin gold chain bearing a family photograph for a pendant, among others, become slowly expanding cracks as they permit access to the subjects’ lives.

But Hoyt’s work does not exist in the formerly (and erroneously) accepted axiom that a photograph is an objective document revealing the truth about the subject matter. In fact, the photographs arguably reveal more about Hoyt than they do about her subjects. Naming the series “Presidents of the United States” reflects Hoyt’s motivation to empower her subjects, as well as diffuses the exclusive singularity reserved for the commander-in-chief. The pluralization of the most difficult job on the land speaks of generosity. For Hoyt, it is those subjected to the harshest social categorizations who are worthy of a closer look, which she successfully provides. Avoiding saccharine sentimentality in favor of earnest–even if vulnerable–portrayal, Hoyt’s exhibition is a fine and subtle nod to the everyday person, as well as a page torn out of her mental diary. It is a bold move on her part, as there will always be someone expressing suspicions about the power dynamic engendered by a White woman “framing” African Americans with her lens, especially one in which she openly shares the experience of creating the image (Hoyt is incredibly open and approachable in person, I must add.) But to those who will choose to give Hoyt the benefit of the doubt, a dedicated contemplation of her work will reveal the reverence–and love–with which her portraits are imbued.