"The American Survey image captured the expansionist desires of a fledgling republic after the Civil War. The surveys were meant to provide both valuable geological and topographical information about the West to the Congress, and were also a means of indirect subsidy for the private sector - to encourage land speculation and to attract the development of unsettled territories. Through their pictorial organisation these photographs demarcated land as possession, placing it under the singular view of a privileged eye. In demonstrating that the land could be encompassed in the monocular gaze of the camera lens, these images provided subliminal reinforcement of the idea that man could control it. Writing on the American West, Jane Thompson describes the power of these representations to locate an imperialist desire within the passive experience of the spectator, transferring an agenda in the service of a state apparatus to the psyche of the individual citizen. As she writes: ‘[the blankness of the plain] implies - without ever stating - that this is a field where a certain mastery is possible… the openness of the space means that domination can take place virtually through the act of opening one’s eyes, through the act, even, of watching a representation on a screen.’ As this experience of possession is ‘shared’ with the individual subject, the sense of triumph is claimed as a democratic realisation of personal freedom enabled by the state and economic opportunism. This defined a distinctly American mythology of the West as an area to be mastered and colonised and whose subordination could be experienced as a triumph on the personal level."

— Walead Beshty Notes on the Subject Without Qualities: From the Cowboy Flaneur to Mr Smith" in Afterall, No. 8 Autumn/Winter 2003

"Why landscape now? A few conjectures come to mind: it is certainly true that among educated, middle-class audiences, landscape is generally conceived of as an upbeat and wholesome sort of subject which, like mom and apple pie, stands indisputably beyond politics and ideology and appeals to ‘timeless values.’ This would sit well in our current conservative climate where images of the land (conceptual, historical, literary) from lakes Tahoe to Wobegon are being used to evoke the universal constancy of a geological and mythic America seemingly beyond present vicissitudes.

But this is too simple. Images of landscape cannot be perceived simply as an antidote to politics, as a pastoral fantasy lulling us back to some primordial sense of our own insignificance. Nor should landscape images be regarded simply as the occasion for aesthetic pleasure in arrangements of material objects in ironic constellations, found “happenings” for the lens whose references to the worlds beyond the frame rivet all attention on the sensibility of the artist.

These two prevalent constructions of landscape remind us that landscape as a subject of visual representation is a distinctly modern phenomenon. The taxonomic term “landscape” comes from European art history and refers to a genre of painterly practice that gathered momentum and prestige only in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the aristocratic classical tradition of painting, landscapes were principally fields for noble action—carefully cultivated gardens suited to the gods and heroes who populated them. With the rise in the seventeenth century of the merchant bourgeoisie in Holland, a new sort of landscaper emerged—a seemingly more natural landscape that celebrated property ownership: the working water- or windmill, the merchant ship at anchor, the farmer’s field, the burgher’s estate. English landscape painting in the eighteenth century followed the Dutch model, though it supplanted the formulaic quality of earlier genre painting with scientific accuracy that reflected the increasing prestige and achievements of empirical science and its offspring, technology. The world landscape, in English, initially referred specifically to Dutch paintings and only later denoted the broader idea of a view or prospect.

Whether noble, picturesque, sublime or mundane, the landscape image bears the imprint of its cultural pedigree. It is a selected and constructed text, and while the formal choices of what has been included and excluded have been the focus of most art historical criticism to date, the historical and social significance of those choices has rarely been addressed and even intentionally avoided. (…) 

Thus, whatever its aesthetic merits, every representation of landscape is also a record of human values and actions imposed on the land over time. What stake do landscape photographers have in constructing such representations? A large one, I believe. Whatever the photographer’s claims, landscapes as subject matter in photography can be analyzed as documents extending beyond the formally aesthetic or personally expressive. Even formal and personal choices do not emerge sui generis, but instead reflect collective interests and influences, whether philosophical, political, economic, or otherwise. While most art historical/curatorial scholarship has concentrated on the artistic genius of a select few (and the stake in so doing is obvious), it is time to look afresh at the cultural meanings of landscapes in order to confront issues lying beyond individual intuition and/or technical virtuosity. The sorts of questions we might ask concern what ideologies landscape photographs perpetuate; in whose interests they were conceived; why we still desire to make and consume them; and why the art of landscape photography remains so singularly identified with a masculine eye.”

Deborah BrightOf Mother Nature and Marlboro Men: An Inquiry into the Cultural Meaning of Landscape Photography” (1985) in The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography (1996), or in Illuminations: Women Writing on Photography from the 1850s to the Present (1996)

Photographs by Timothy O’Sullivan, Carleton Watkins, Sze Tsung Leong, Bryan Schutmaat, Susan Lipper and Robert Adams.

@1 week ago with 152 notes
#Art #Photography #History #Culture #Ecology #Economics #Criticism #Theory #Walead Beshty #Jane Thompson #Afterall journal #The American West #Sprawl #Timothy O'Sullivan #Carleton Watkins #Sze Tsung Leong #Bryan Schutmaat #Susan Lipper #Robert Adams 

"It’s shocking to think of how much in current Western experience is ruled out by Koudelka, and nullified as if it never existed. One could search practically in vain for the historical Europe or the tourist scene, the life of the middle classes, plastics, the consumer market, signs, cars, modern diversions, blue-collar existence, productive systems of any kind, in short the characteristic jamboree of the late twentieth century. It takes a certain exclusionary genius to have rejected such sights while still asserting one’s ties to people. A great deal has been made of the solitary spirit of Koudelka’s work, but that spirit protests too much. Because of his rhetorical estrangement, his world may be as inhospitable as it is unfamiliar, but it remains a world of minority cultures, whose religious and funerary rituals it intimately discloses. (…) What happens in his pictures seems to have taken place a long time ago, under archaic conditions, hard to remember… so that their actual contemporaneity appears misplaced."

— Max Kozloff “Koudelka’s Theater of Exile” (1988) in Lone Visions, Crowded Frames: Essays on Photography 

@3 weeks ago with 185 notes
#Art #Photography #Josef Koudelka #Criticism #Max Kozloff 

Two views on Winogrand

image

"Winogrand gets one aspect of the sixties better than any other photographer: the visible divide of contempt of one half of America for another half. Nowadays, visual evidence of one’s political persuasion is blurred, almost gone. Fox News guests sport goatees, and the hosts talk to Ted Nugent. In Winogrand’s world you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the political wind blows. Construction workers bellow at long-haired protesters; everyone peers with hatred at youth. A telling picture from 1969 pictures what looks like a family of out-of-towners dumbstruck at the hippies in Central Park. The world opens in the divide between them—a divide that turns cosmic in the ’70s pictures. Everyone turns into his or her own fun-loving or cloistered cathedral. (…)

Many also claim that these late pictures show a falling-off. I disagree. They, too, follow America in these years: the way places went from being concentrated to being bland, full of burnouts and lost souls riding on packed airplanes. These late pictures complete Winogrand’s atlas of America, his cosmology of the inner life of a country turning inside out, twisting into half-beast, turning back, creating nests of new beings.
Something we’ve been missing also becomes evident here. The whole world is now filled with incredible images—especially on Instagram and other social networks—that owe something to Winogrand’s, documenting life, change, and all the rest. Yet the art world and museums are not.”

— Jerry SaltzPhotographer Garry Winogrand Captured America As It Split Wide Open" in Vulture, (August 2014)

image

"The real problem here is that Winogrand’s praxis — along with the theory that has sprung up around it, drafted by such photographer-critics as Ben Lifson, Leo Rubinfien, Tod Papageorge, and of course Szarkowski himself — is premised on what photographer-theorist Richard Kirstel, in an essay, has called “reverence for the intensity of the glimpse.” And, in the last analysis, the glimpse is simply an insufficient basis for the construction of an epic vision. It will do for lyric poetry — for a Kertész, a Doisneau, a Levitt — but not for those who think on epic scale: Edward Weston, Eugene Smith. Only Robert Frank ever built an epic on glimpses — and he managed that not by glimpsing better than other photographers, but by developing and maintaining a political stance (which Winogrand studiously avoided) and by painstakingly redacting his imagery into a spare, taut, book-length sequence.

Epic scale demands, among other things, the capacity for prolonged attention that Winogrand so clearly lacked. After all, how seriously are we to take the droppings of a gluttonous voyeur who spent the last seven years of his life producing a third of a million negatives without bothering to look at any of them, much less analyze them critically? This was not a photographer; this was a shooter, afflicted with a textbook case of terminal distraction, the quintessence if not the prototype of the dreaded “Hand With Five Fingers” you have surely seen in camera ads on TV.

It’s my guess that, at some time in the future, Winogrand’s main usefulness to the medium will be seen to have been his willingness to go down this dead-end path and explore it to the bitter end — so that no one needs to pass that way again.”

— A.D. ColemanMonkeyCam Redux at the Met" from Nearby Café (originally published in Photo Communiqué (June 1988))

image

@1 month ago with 61 notes
#Art #Photography #Garry Winogrand #Criticism #Jerry Saltz #A.D. Coleman 

"In the realm of photography particularly, abstraction is a fraught term that tends to be tamed by opposing it to figuration. But they are inseparable, one haunting the other, and forcing them apart does not help us understand the medium. Indeed, their separation has led to great confusion about everything from the real and realism to form and formalism. These ideas may be explored through two types of image that seem at first to be the furthest from abstraction: the landscape photograph and the forensic photograph. 

There are certain images that play both roles, or seem to. In 1922 the Parisian journal Littérature published an image attributed to Man Ray with a caption suggesting it was a landscape viewed from an airplane. The new perspectives of aerial-intelligence photography had entered the popular imagination in the years following World War I. But Man Ray’s photograph was not a landscape at all. It was a close-range study of dust accumulating on a sheet of glass for what was to become Marcel Duchamp’s subculture La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même/The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, also known as Large Glass (1915-23). Man Ray cropped the image to leave no marginal evidence that this was Duchamp’s Manhattan studio. Only later was the photograph given its familiar title: Élevage de poussière, or Dust Breeding.”

David Campany “What’s On Earth? Photography’s Alien Landscapes” in Aperture 211 (Summer 2013)

@1 month ago with 33 notes
#Art #Photography #Abstraction #Evidence #David Campany #Marcel Duchamp #Man Ray #Sophie Ristelhueber #Criticism #Aperture magazine 

In Anansi or Ivy, supine black bodies fuse together into sculptural oddities that are borne out of a soluble relation to the earth. And yet a certain ironic dissonance is produced by the whiteness of a shirt in shadow, or the presence of England’s Three Lions on a pair of shorts. The antinomies of blackness and whiteness, of the earthly and the intellectual, the savage and the saviour, are here overt structuring elements of the image. But such tensions as these contrasts evoke do not trouble a long history of ethnic degradation – they reinforce it as a further instance of the theatrical acquiescence we have come to expect from subservient, primitive blacks. (…)

Sassen claims to “focus on the process of addressing the viewer,” arguing that her portraits are “about the gaze of the viewer and about my own perspective” as opposed to “some truth about the photographed subject.”

We are thus invited to consider the extent to which these images, in their repetitive subjugation of nubile black bodies, might expand our sense of ourselves or of the photographer’s perspective – that is, we are invited to consider ‘Africa’ as an expression of the West. On this logic, Africa’s representational function is purely to mirror the pressing nature of largely western preoccupations. And so the bodies in these images exist purely to serve.”

— The Stilled Life of the Pikinini: Viviane Sassen’s Pikin Slee, just published at thegreatleapsideways.com

@1 week ago with 496 notes
#Art #Photography #Viviane Sassen #Portraiture #Orientalism #Fetish #The Great Leap Sideways #Criticism 

"She turns her back on you; this, it would seem, is her appeal. She’s been painted like this for centuries, and, more recently, photographed. Often she is naked, in a bathroom or bedroom, solitary, sleeping or day-dreaming, or at a picnic, momentarily stilled, enveloped in a vague, dark space. The one constant is that her face is obscured. Her identity is fluid, nuanced; it can be elegiac, erotic or sullen, an homage to something lost or never quite gained, a study in both negation and yearning. It’s impossible to know whether she – who appears in so many guises – was ever, in the act of being represented, aware that someone was looking at her (the observed is often innocent of the observer). Whether we read the artist’s rejection of her face as a reflection of her inner life, or read the focus on her body as an indication of sensual preoccupations, she is ultimately irreducible and as such can be whoever we want to her to be."

Jennifer HiggieAlone Again, Or" - Frieze magazine, Issue 124 (Jun/Aug 2009).

Images (in order) by Joanna Piotrowska, Jo Ann Callis, Gerhard Richter, Richard Learoyd, Viviane Sassen and Eva Vermandel

@1 month ago with 158 notes
#Art #Photography #Painting #Criticism #Jennifer Higgie #Frieze magazine #Joanna Piotrowska #Jo Ann Callis #Gerhard Richter #Richard Learoyd #Viviane Sassen 

"Looking at art, we learn about ourselves. Comparing views on art, we learn about one another. Disputing it, we shape culture. Where there is no argument there can be no consequentially meaningful art. Today, what passes for debate has occluded the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual stakes of aesthetic experience, which assumes the odor of a minor private vice. How we cope with the implications will affect what, as parties to history, we become."

@1 month ago with 64 notes
#Art #Public Space #Criticism #Peter Schjeldahl #The New Yorker 

"Williams’s photographs can seem almost like nugatory remnants of a process pursued with devotion that is its own reward. The worst that might be said of them is that they enforce a sort of supply-side aesthetic: profiting an élite and trickling down, maybe, to less privileged folks. But they enable a vicarious appeal: imagining what it’s like to care so much about something, no matter what. And one immediately compelling aspect of Williams’s process is his mastery of the forms and protocols of display. The exactingly considered, quite beautiful arrangements of walls and works in the show sparkle with wit, however elusive the content of the jokes may be. (…)

Both artists glory in cultivating shocks—or, anyway, mild bemusements—of recognition, with pointed evocations of culture either low (Koons) or far out (Williams). The major gap—a chasm—between them is worldly. It has to do with disparate visions of, yes, happiness. Koons exalts a society that is defined and dominated by financial wealth, as flaunted by those who have it and presumably admired by those who don’t. Williams assumes and addresses people who would rather be rich in leisure time and energy to visit museums, read specialized books, and savor wayward discourses. Let a fifty-eight-million-dollar stainless-steel balloon dog that astounds the eye while benumbing the mind stand for the values of the first constituency. Have Williams’s murky photograph of a Renault sedan tipped on its side—referring to a factory site and evoking a barricade, from the political upheavals of 1968 in France—represent the knowingness of the second. One party buys and sells. The other talks and talks. The emptied middle that they bracket buzzes with possibilities for a truly satisfactory art, contingent on whether our time proves itself worthy of it.

— Peter Schjeldahl “Sharp Focus” in The New Yorker, August 4th 2014, on the MoMA retrospective of the work of Christopher Williams, The Production Line of Happiness.

@1 month ago with 71 notes
#Art #Photography #Conceptual Art #Christopher Williams #Criticism #Peter Schjeldahl #The New Yorker 
1 week ago
#Art #Photography #History #Culture #Ecology #Economics #Criticism #Theory #Walead Beshty #Jane Thompson #Afterall journal #The American West #Sprawl #Timothy O'Sullivan #Carleton Watkins #Sze Tsung Leong #Bryan Schutmaat #Susan Lipper #Robert Adams 
1 week ago
#Art #Photography #Viviane Sassen #Portraiture #Orientalism #Fetish #The Great Leap Sideways #Criticism 
3 weeks ago
#Art #Photography #Josef Koudelka #Criticism #Max Kozloff 
1 month ago
#Art #Photography #Painting #Criticism #Jennifer Higgie #Frieze magazine #Joanna Piotrowska #Jo Ann Callis #Gerhard Richter #Richard Learoyd #Viviane Sassen 
Two views on Winogrand

image

"Winogrand gets one aspect of the sixties better than any other photographer: the visible divide of contempt of one half of America for another half. Nowadays, visual evidence of one’s political persuasion is blurred, almost gone. Fox News guests sport goatees, and the hosts talk to Ted Nugent. In Winogrand’s world you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the political wind blows. Construction workers bellow at long-haired protesters; everyone peers with hatred at youth. A telling picture from 1969 pictures what looks like a family of out-of-towners dumbstruck at the hippies in Central Park. The world opens in the divide between them—a divide that turns cosmic in the ’70s pictures. Everyone turns into his or her own fun-loving or cloistered cathedral. (…)

Many also claim that these late pictures show a falling-off. I disagree. They, too, follow America in these years: the way places went from being concentrated to being bland, full of burnouts and lost souls riding on packed airplanes. These late pictures complete Winogrand’s atlas of America, his cosmology of the inner life of a country turning inside out, twisting into half-beast, turning back, creating nests of new beings.
Something we’ve been missing also becomes evident here. The whole world is now filled with incredible images—especially on Instagram and other social networks—that owe something to Winogrand’s, documenting life, change, and all the rest. Yet the art world and museums are not.”

— Jerry SaltzPhotographer Garry Winogrand Captured America As It Split Wide Open" in Vulture, (August 2014)

image

"The real problem here is that Winogrand’s praxis — along with the theory that has sprung up around it, drafted by such photographer-critics as Ben Lifson, Leo Rubinfien, Tod Papageorge, and of course Szarkowski himself — is premised on what photographer-theorist Richard Kirstel, in an essay, has called “reverence for the intensity of the glimpse.” And, in the last analysis, the glimpse is simply an insufficient basis for the construction of an epic vision. It will do for lyric poetry — for a Kertész, a Doisneau, a Levitt — but not for those who think on epic scale: Edward Weston, Eugene Smith. Only Robert Frank ever built an epic on glimpses — and he managed that not by glimpsing better than other photographers, but by developing and maintaining a political stance (which Winogrand studiously avoided) and by painstakingly redacting his imagery into a spare, taut, book-length sequence.

Epic scale demands, among other things, the capacity for prolonged attention that Winogrand so clearly lacked. After all, how seriously are we to take the droppings of a gluttonous voyeur who spent the last seven years of his life producing a third of a million negatives without bothering to look at any of them, much less analyze them critically? This was not a photographer; this was a shooter, afflicted with a textbook case of terminal distraction, the quintessence if not the prototype of the dreaded “Hand With Five Fingers” you have surely seen in camera ads on TV.

It’s my guess that, at some time in the future, Winogrand’s main usefulness to the medium will be seen to have been his willingness to go down this dead-end path and explore it to the bitter end — so that no one needs to pass that way again.”

— A.D. ColemanMonkeyCam Redux at the Met" from Nearby Café (originally published in Photo Communiqué (June 1988))

image

1 month ago
#Art #Photography #Garry Winogrand #Criticism #Jerry Saltz #A.D. Coleman 
"Looking at art, we learn about ourselves. Comparing views on art, we learn about one another. Disputing it, we shape culture. Where there is no argument there can be no consequentially meaningful art. Today, what passes for debate has occluded the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual stakes of aesthetic experience, which assumes the odor of a minor private vice. How we cope with the implications will affect what, as parties to history, we become."
1 month ago
#Art #Public Space #Criticism #Peter Schjeldahl #The New Yorker 
1 month ago
#Art #Photography #Abstraction #Evidence #David Campany #Marcel Duchamp #Man Ray #Sophie Ristelhueber #Criticism #Aperture magazine 
1 month ago
#Art #Photography #Conceptual Art #Christopher Williams #Criticism #Peter Schjeldahl #The New Yorker