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The Arts in New York City — CCNY/MHC Class of 2011

The Arts in New York City

CCNY/MHC Class of 2011

The Arts in New York City header image 1

New Photography at the MoMA

December 4th, 2007 · No Comments

As I read the title, “New Photography 2007:Tanyth Berkeley, Scott McFarlend, Bernie Searle” that was to be featured at the MoMA. I was expecting a spectacular exhibit because the MoMA is a trusted name in the field of art. Going to the MoMA itself was an adventure because it was the first time I traveled to the city alone. The cultural passport waived the normal student entrance fee.
At first I was confused because the opening parts of New Photography 2007 were primarily black and white pictures that dated back to 1900s, perhaps to the time when the camera was first invented. I happened to find that there was great diversity in the artists that were featured, including Russian artist Aleksandr Prodchenko, French artist Eugene Atgeg, Italian artist Tina Modotti, and German artist August Sandr. Among these, the one that caught my eye was Sandr’s “Portfolio of Archetypes, People of the Twentieth Century”. It was a series of photos, stereotyping each kind of person. For example, he featured an “Earthbound Farmer”, “Philosopher”, “The Wise One, Shepherd”, five different pictures of “A Peasant Woman”, “Framer and His Wife”, “Peasant Couple”, and “Farming Generation”. In a way it was almost amusing how each image portrayed was the most traditional view of type of person represented. It is clear from Sandr’s set that the backbone of German society and economy was on the backs of the peasant laborers.
While I weaved through the pictures, I noticed the themes becoming increasingly modern and the addition of color in the photos. Even though the exhibit is named “New Photography 2007”, the point of adding the old photos was to potentially demonstrate how far we have come technologically, as well as to show how history is a part of us. Maybe these artists had in some way inspired the three modern artists that the exhibit featured.
The exhibit for these three particular artists was in a room with one wall in the middle on the third floor of the museum. The first portion of the exhibit featured the work of Scott McFarlend. He was born in 1975 in Canada, and received his Bachelors degree in Fine Arts at the University of British Columbia in 1997. At first glance his photos seem like a panorama. It was only after I read the caption that I realized he had combined negatives of different photos together. Some of his photos included “Huntington Botanical Garden”, “Display of Porcupine”, and my favorite, “Orchard View with Effect of Season”. The latter showed an orchard set, but its transition year long through the four season. I was absolutely amazed me how he altered the environment around him , and in a way “constructing realism by artificial means”.
A yet another interesting artist is Bernie Searle. She was born in Cape Town in 1964 and she completed her BA in Fine Arts in 1987 and her Masters Degree in 1995 at the University of Cape Town. Her art primarily focused on memory and its uncertainty. Two of her pieces, “Still Passing By” and “On Either Side” are completely in red. Both of her pieces explain how memory is a blur, even as we try to flashback to a particular time, but cannot recall everything in exactness.She made these by cutting out red crepe silhouettes and submerged them in water, allowing the colors to bleed. “On Either Side” brought to mind the word abortion for some reason because it seemed like generations of kids were killed in such a bloody way by this one woman’s decision. The other series photograph called “Approach” looked like two mountains cut in half. In each of the halves, the man in the photo is slowly descending from the peak. To me it seemed like a thought process. When the man is atop the mountain he is in his mind. As he descends to the middle, he checks with his soul to see if the decision is right. He finally reaches the bottom and performs what he has through out in his body.
The last artist was my least favorite artist Tanyth Berkeley, in her attempt to show modern feminine beauty. Her subject were randomly chosen, usually street performers, transgender woman, and close friends. Her piece was in a set of five photos of woman, portraying woman who may not be considered so beautiful, but have found beauty in this artist eyes. Perhaps it is in using ordinary people that Berkeley is trying to say lies true beauty. The series brought to mind the Dove ads that made the statement “curves are beautiful”. In today’s mixed crowd, feminine beauty might just be more than anorexic models on magazine covers.
In summation, I enjoyed the exhibit. It seemed as though there was a lot to absorb a once. I was grateful for the fact it was less abstract that the Altered States Exhibit by Zhuang Huan. However,I feel that with each visit, my mind s opening up to accept art for what it is, instead of rejecting it because it does not make sense at first sight or is not appealing to the eyes. I also got a chance to quickly take a glimpse at Martin Puryier’s exhibit which on the floor above and was astounded by it. Now I believe anything can be art, if you can somehow explain how that piece reflects art, because art is a simply a mater of the mind.

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The New Realm of Photography

November 29th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Stepping in the twenty-first century, photographs are no longer the way they were—unchangeable, solid, static— they have been redefined as they meet the waves of technology, infusion of new techniques, and the shifting angles of artists. Taking the opportunity to see images of the new age of photography, I visited MoMA to “ New Photography 2007: Tanyth Berkeley, Scott McFarland, Berni Searle”, organized by the Department of Photography at MoMA, on Saturday, November 24th.This exhibition includes works of three different contemporary artists: Tanyth Berkeley from United States, Scott McFarland from Canada, and Berni Searle from South Africa; the exhibition displays a different element of modern photography in each of the photographer’s works. The photographs are mainly pigmented inkjet prints.

The works of Tanyth Berkeley, the American photographer includes a series of life-sized photographs of different women. To bring the focus of the viewers to each individual, these photographs are printed as tall as the substantive individuals; the title of each photograph derives from the name of the sitter, for instance: “Grace”, “Ariel”, and “Linda Leven”, etc. Berkeley chose to take pictures of these women who she met at the subway stations, or people she knows and has a deep connection with. The identities of these women vary from street performer, dancer and actress to transgender woman. However, they all share one thing in common: eccentric looks. At first glance, I was even startled by these bizarre faces—extremely pale skin, inconspicuous eyebrows, plump figures, misaligned eyes. The eccentricity of their faces is so compelling that viewers cannot just pass by the portraits without pausing for a minute or two to peruse the women in these photographs. These women, although have extraordinary features, are not seen as distinctive beauties by mainstream standard. They are neglected because their “beauty” is not the same as the by-default “beauty” cherished by commercialism. Society is dogmatic; people believe that beauty is what you see in the women on magazine covers and advertisements. Berkeley, through the photographs she has taken, challenges the worldwide standard of beauty and conveys the message that beauty does not necessarily need to be found in what the world unanimously agree on, or preset; rather, beauty can be found outside of normality. While taking the photographs, Berkeley asked each individual to pose or gesture elegantly, or to hold a bouquet, in order to highlight their femininity. Her instructing the sitters to pose involves communication between the sitter and the photographer; therefore her photographs also contain strings of theatrical elements.

The Canadian photographer, Scott McFarland on the other hand, overrides the presumption that photograph is incapable of capturing moments beyond a brief period of time. He found a way to extend the period of time in his photographs of a botanical garden, titled “Orchard View with the Effects of Seasons”. What McFarland did was that he took photographs of the same garden, one in each season. Then he weaved these photographs together remarkably by digital means and produced an image of the garden in all four seasons. Although this is, technically, impossible with camera, McFarland utilized this technique and created a few photographs that have also been digitally manipulated. These photographs were well put together, and therefore were natural to the eyes of the viewers and suggested the least of digital intervention. Personally, I do not totally reject his photography but I do not like the idea of manipulating photographs. Photographs are supposed to mirror the actual objects, authentically. Perhaps photographers today see digitally manipulated photographs as a trend of the new photography, but I see it only as a lower form of art, one that requires not much taste or effort on the artist’s part.

Berni Searle is a South African artist whose works are heavily influenced by her own personal experience and memory. One of the works that I was drawn most toward to was a series of photographs of Searle’s family. Searle cut out the shape of the silhouette of her family on a red crepe paper, in a series of snapshots of family outings. Then, she sank the cut-out in a basin filled with water. The red pigment of the crepe paper was oozed out as the water diffuses into the crepe paper. The figures of family members lost their shapes after being washed and washed by water. Searle named this series of photograph as “About to Forget” to refer to the diluted memory and fading family ties among a family that is once so intimate. Using such technique, Searle narrated the story of her family breakup and the nostalgic feelings she kept to herself about such a painful loss. Looking at the blurry, orange-red photographs, I feel a sense of pathos toward her. As frequent as family falling apart has become, Searle tells a sad story that, unfortunately, a lot of people have also experienced.

After visiting this exhibition, I truly feel that a new era of photography has embarked; different approach of picture-taking, subject being presented and new effects are the hints. These three photographers offer viewers a glimpse of what new photography acquires and loses. Old values are torn down as new values are built. Tanyth Berkeley challenges the worldview of beauty through the lens, Scott McFarland goes beyond the limits of photographs that are imposed by time and space, and Berni Searle employs new techniques to narrate a story of loss in her photographs. This exhibition provides me with new insights and a stronger understanding in the changing field of photography.

Grace in Window

Orchard View with the Effects of Seasons

About to Forget

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ICP: This is War

November 28th, 2007 · No Comments

Something about photography never really sunk in until after my afternoon at the International Center of Photography, where I observed the archives of Robert Capa’s work, “This Is War!” The photographer is truly at work. Where the photographer stands is oftentimes the reason for great images. Even though the subject of a photo is the subject of the talk about a photo, one has to give credit to the boldness of the photographer. Because Capa takes shots of war from all angles, before, during, and after, it makes one wonder how slick he is, but you can most certainly feel like you are there with him. His perspective revolves around every aspect of war, the civilians, the refugees, the soldiers at war, the soldiers in between war, the soldiers approaching their battle, and the aftermath of the war.
Unlike the invaluable experience with sculpture at MOMA, I was dealing with gelatin silver black-and-white photography at the ICP. Martin Puryear’s sculptures were eye-candy, but nothing in Capa’s exhibition jumped out to catch my attention unless I examined each photo in the exhibit. It required more patience on my part, which is rather ironic, knowing that abstract art would seemingly be the one realm of art that would require patience. The more I explore the arts, the more I come to realize that you have to give yourself a chance to give the artist a chance.
At the exhibition, one will notice that there are many snapshots of the same scene taken at different points. For example, a section devoted to D-Day features a series of images of the struggling American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. Capa creates a theme of sequence that I found remarkable, because he does not give me the chance to stop for one moment to take a breath and soak in one photo. I have to look at all of it to see the continuous struggle these soldiers endure. What is truly mind-boggling, though, is that he managed to take the shots from the water, rough waters, not from the shoreline. His risk-taking nature is most certainly noted here. As I found out later, immediately after he took these shots, he boarded a returning ship that was hit and sank, but he made it back on another vessel. This was a wow moment for me.
Because of such risk-taking, I expected to find photos that were almost unreal to believe. One image that I found to be almost iconic was titled, “Marineros, [Rio-Segre, Aragon Front, near Fraga, Spain, Nov. 11, 1938]”. It was a black-and-white blur that suggested confusion in the chaos of war. A soldier is seen walking, rather clumsily, but to where, I did not know, possibly to face even greater danger. If he knew where he was going was a question. Wherever he was going, Capa depicted a soldier’s boldness in moving forward even when, for a lack of better words, “the going get’s tough”. We have no idea what the chaos of a war is like, but Capa captures the core of the moment in its most vivid form.
Although each war may have its differences, one idea surfaced in every corner of the exhibition. Wars do not limit the amount of human suffering and innocent lives lost. The most striking and heart-breaking photo was the “Child killed while trying to save his chicken and piglet during the Battle of Tai’erzhuang, [Xuzhou front, China, April 1938]”. A child lies on his face in the ground with the two animals that he was chasing also dead beside him. Beside the photo was an article from Life magazine, which revealed that the child was shot down by the machine gun bullets of the Japanese during the invasion on China. The child is isolated in the photo, lying without life, abandoned by his parents, who perhaps fled for their lives or died as well. The abandonment of the child perhaps triggered my greatest sympathy. Whatever the war, it is clear that the unnecessary loss of the civilian victims depicts the quality of war that we most dread, the cruel defacing of humanity. Also, in the Battle of Rio Segre section, was the photo of a “Refugee, whose husband and son were killed earlier in the war, waiting with her dog as she flees upward. [Barcelona Spain, November 11, 1939]”. Similar to the child, the lady in this photo also suffers from abandonment. Without a male figure to protect her, she is helpless, vulnerable, concerned for her safety, and uncertain about the direction she is heading. Drawing focus around what happens outside of the battlefield, Capa universalizes war—it dehumanizes without bound.
Robert Capa is the epitome of photographers who dare to take shots at the heat of the moment. In Capa’s case, it is war at its worst. The passion in each of his photos is evident from the Sino-Japanese War to World War II.

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New Photography 2007

November 28th, 2007 · 1 Comment

For my individual visual arts outing, I went to the New Photography 2007: Tanyth Berkeley, Scott McFarland, Berni Searle exhibit at the MoMA. It’s a relatively small exhibition compared to others I’ve since so far, containing only about 3 pieces per photographer. Although there were only three artists, the exhibition covered a range of techniques and themes. Tanyth Berkeley (American and born in 1969) compiles portraits of a variety of people, from transgender women to close friends, celebrating unique beauty, as opposed to beauty perceived by the media. Scott McFarland (Canadian and born in 1975) uses digital technology to stitch together negatives taken over a period of weeks and months to create astonishingly detailed large works that record the passage of time. Berni Searle (South African and born in 1964) questions the processes of recollection and forgetting with the series of photographs About to Forget, based on the memory of her own fractured family.

There was one piece that I found particularly eye-catching. It’s a series of photographs taken by Berni Searle, but it’s not part of the About to Forget series. The title of the piece is Approach (2006). The piece contains seven individual photographs put together to create a large-scale piece that looks as if it were one large photograph. I saw this piece first when I walked into the exhibit, and immediately knew that this was what I was going to write about.

At first glance from afar, you think that that it’s a series of hills with men in a dresses scattered about. However, I realized that this was just an illusion. It’s actually just one side of a hill, with only one person throughout all the photographs. Each photo has the person descending the hill at a new position, on “each side.” After pondering on the pictures, I realize now that half the photos were reversed or flipped to create that symmetrical feel. It’s an interesting technique used by Searle, playing with the audience perception of what is the reality of what they’re seeing.

Another observation that I made about Approach was that as the person descended, they became more submerged into the ground. In the beginning of the photographs, they were sitting at the peak then standing. As the series progresses, the person slowly starts sinking, until at the end they are up to their knees in the mud, defiled by the dirt.

I read the information given about the piece given by the museum after the looking at it, and was shocked to learn the information behind the piece. The hill wasn’t a natural dirt hill at all. Instead, it is a mound created by discarded grape skins during the harvest season in South Africa. Also the person that I thought was a man in a dress was actually the artist, a woman. It’s a new concept to me that the photographer was the subject of her own photos, since the other two artists in the exhibit didn’t do that. And she’s soaked in grapes, not mud. The destruction of her white dress contrasts with the serene atmosphere surrounding her.

Thus, I think the purpose of this piece was for Searle to show us that even though something looks nice and calm from afar, it’s all an illusion. Nothing is what it seems. Even on close inspection, it photos look still look beautiful until you realize the flaw in Searle’s appearance. I’m glad that I chose to go to this exhibition. It allowed me to view a photography exhibit, as opposed to paintings, and to experience the wonder to visiting somewhere new since I had never been to the MoMA.

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Snapshot Day 2007 — Map

November 26th, 2007 · No Comments

Dear all,

A map of your photos is in the page available from the sidebar —> (Click on Snapshot Day 2007)

You may need to click on “View Larger Map” to see everyone’s contributions.

If any of you are interested in adding audio descriptions to your photos, check out VoiceThread!

See you all on Wednesday.

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Push and Pull: A Furniture Comedy for Hans Hofman

November 26th, 2007 · No Comments

Continuance of Art

Upon entering Passerby I was completely confused of what was going on. I had gone there to see Push and Pull: A Furniture Comedy for Hans Hofman part of an ongoing presentation called PERFORMA07. Passerby was a small space in which the gallery event was going on, it is behind a bar and next to an auto shop. It was not located in the most cultured looking place of the city but it definitely had something to offer. Before entering the gallery, we had to pass by darkly lit area that set a mood for disappointment but upon entering the gallery the feeling that would hit you would be confusion.
You look around and what do you see? You see people walking around. They are putting things up, taking things down. Then you notice, some people are looking at you, you feel uncomfortable maybe you are not supposed to be here, this looks like someone’s room but really messy. Then pay more attention and you notice that they also have no idea what is going on. So you feel a little bit more comfortable and you step further in.
This was probably my best experience with an exhibition. This was good because it was one small space in which everyone was able to be part of the exhibit and everyone was art. I enjoyed the fact that we were able to decorate anything that we felt like decorating and take stuff away from things we felt like it had too much. I was able to put my own designs and creations up on silver reflective aluminum paper that represented the walls of our piece. We could do graffiti on it or could tear it down and it wouldn’t matter because it was part of our creative side and that is all that mattered when we were at Passerby while observing Performa07. The most incredible thing is that we were not mere expatiators; we were able to become an important part of the artwork. My hand became the brush with which I would be able to draw and paint with. We were able to move anything around; there were no restrictions to what we could do. Our inner artists were liberated as soon as we knew that we could do anything and that anything was everything that came to our mind. We could put a do not sit sign and across from it a sit please. There was a convergence of what the artist wanted us to do and what the people who attended the exhibit wanted other people to see or do.
This was one piece in which every single one of us was able to become an artist or part of the piece. Every moment in Passerby in Push and Pull: A Furniture Comedy for Hans Hofman was a moment that would never happen again. With each passing second the art that was unique would change. Someone moving would change the piece in its entirety, the only way to keep the piece constant was to not allow anybody to come in and see it, and that would have been a waste of artistic effort. With being in this piece we were able to explore ourselves not as observers of the art world but as artists in the art world and as part of art in the art world. Our ability to change our surroundings is what made Push and Pull: A Furniture Comedy for Hans Hofman so special.

Do you know why i named it continuance of art?

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Foto– Modernity of Central Europe(Guggenheim Museum)

November 26th, 2007 · No Comments

Modernity in Central Europe, 1918-1945

Photographs can capture moments that want to be remembered forever. However, in this exhibition photography was utilized as an instrument of perception, illustrating the ultimate central European model of modernity.  As an immediate result of World War I, much of the mighty empires shattered into several apprehensive nation-states.   The crises of civil war, unemployment, and inflation contributed to the volatility of the central European societies. Popularity of photography in the area led to the rise of the press and other creative techniques like photomontage: which is the result of making a composite photography by cutting and joining a number of other photographs. The exhibition is a significant visual element of what can be called the timeline of the history of photography. It signifies the powerful contribution of Central Europe to the advancement of photography.
In the 1920s and 1930s, photography served as a powerful catalyst employed by progressive artists and the Surrealist movement. The mass media proliferated at a rapid pace, especially in Germany, which was by now producing more illustrated periodicals than any other country in the world. The huge acceptance of photography in central Europe was largely possible because of the established institutions with strong roots in the region like applied art schools, commercial studios, and other photographic training establishments. Innovative approaches to produce powerful and thought-provoking pieces offered a new vision in the technological domain of the period.
An explosion of unconventional forms of photography gave birth to procedures like abstract photograms, photomontages, and combinations of graphic design with a modern touch. Photomontage began as a result of the recovery from war. Response to the horrific automation and the demise of so many human bodies took form of photomontage. This concept was also at times considered as a form of visual poetry, depicting the many attitudes and emotions during the war as well as postwar sentiments like chaos, anticipation, and anxiety.

An entire section of the exhibition was devoted to the “New Women – New Men” concept, which suggested a shift in roles of both men and women alike. The death of so many men in World War I radically altered gender roles.  This “New Woman” was in the middle of intense controversy for many and upset the traditional roles for men and women.

“New Woman”

The exhibition clearly expressed the crucial role of photography in the 1920s and 1930s in Central Europe. The display `decaptured the diversifying works of so many artists; it was almost too much to absorb all at once. However, the unpredictability of the exhibition kept me attentive and asking for more. There were artists like Karel Picka whose pieces incorporated “ethnography”, emphasizing the countryside, giving the impression of an attempt to establish a connection with the people that the artist captured. Similarly, August Sander created a collection of portraits of Germans taken during the first half of the twentieth century in his “Citizens of the Twentieth Century”. The collection includes local farmers, workers, women, artists, the big city, and “the last people.”
Surrealist imagination also greatly influenced the production of the era. Surrealism was the key force that drove avant-garde artists to make interactions with the societal transformations from conventions to spiritual freedom, poetry, and eroticism. An example would be Jindrich Styrksy’s “Emilie Comes to me in a Dream” in which he denounces society for condemning sex while celebrating war and violence.
During a time of terror and hardships, photojournalism updated citizens with the latest important events and providing job opportunities for those battling unemployment. Artists like Kata Kalman experimented with social photography in Hungry. As an activist, she exposed the impoverished lives of workers, poor children, and Gypsy girls. She revealed the reality that was never acknowledged in a way that the audience couldn’t escape it. Photography soon became a prevailing political tool, that spoke the truth about urban life and demanded justice for those like the proletariat.
Factory Worker

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blog vs. assignment?

November 26th, 2007 · No Comments

umm as usual i’m confused to what we’re supposed to blog and what we’re supposed to actually type up, so i just did an essay on the exhibition as a whole, but i think we’re just supposed to focus on connection with the artist? oh well i’ll figure it out.

but today i went with mary to the “Depth of Field” exhibition at the Met, not a huge exhibition but lots of variation within modern photography, in both appearance and concepts. you can view all the photographs online at http://www.metmuseum.org/special/depth/modern_photography_images.asp but all of them truly need to be seen in person to get the real feel of what these photographers are trying to do.

some photos that immediately stood out were Jpeg ny02 by Thomas Ruff, a large photo of lower manhattan on 9/11 with only the north tower standing in a plume of debris. however, it has been manipulated to look like a poorly compressed photo you’d find on google images, so is slightly pixilated.

also there was a familiar cowboy by Richard Prince, which was in a somewhat similar vain to what Ruff is trying to do, and both could be considered ‘appropriation’.

The piece that i felt the most connection with was Annual Rings by Dennis Oppenheim.

the photo itself i thought was very good, and wasn’t trying too hard to be ‘artsy’ or have an especially dynamic or dramatic composition or angle. i prefer this straight-forward style of documenting things as they happen, and the fact that along with the photos he had provided maps with the location drawn on, gave the sense of time and place to the art which i thought was very important to the art. what he did basically was make a sculpture from trampling rings in the snow to mimic the rings of a tree trunk. the rings are carried on the other side of the river, which is also the USA/Canada border. he was one of the first people to really try and break away from the norm in sculpture which i admired.

the exhibition is well worth checking out (and it’s free with the cultural passport B-) ), plus you’re at the met so if you’re bored there’s plenty else to do. there’s lots of different things in one small room, i think everyone would see something they liked.

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Photography, 2007

November 26th, 2007 · No Comments

MoMA Photography, 2007

““Photography, 2007” is an exhibit that is located in the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street in Manhattan. I went to the museum on Sunday, November 25, 2007. The normal price range for students with valid IDs is $12.00, but the cultural passport gets the Honors College into the MoMA for free. It contains pictures from various artists, but they range in topics, from the construction of buildings to the skepticism of feminine beauty.
I really did not know what to expect when I walked into the MoMA. I have been to the MoMA before but usually for the paintings and sculptures. I also know about the other exhibits. Evan’s group presented on the Martin Puryear, and this provided me a chance to see that also. I went straight up to the third floor because I did not want to be distracted by the more famous artworks that the MoMA holds in its exhibits.
I walked and picked up a program and realized that the museum held paintings of Picasso and Monet. But u was able to restrain myself from these once-in-a-life-time appearances.
I went into the “Photography, 2007” exhibit and realized that each wall was dedicated to a specific artist. And it did not matter how many photos the artist had they were allowed one wall. Some artists had only one picture on their walls. The photos were not placed in any type of categories or genres. But it seemed to me that these photos were taken of the most random things and put into random positions. I think that some of the photos that were placed in this exhibit were not about content but rather the quality. The images were sharp and clear. Even if the photo itself did not make any sense to me, it still had impeccable detail and picture quality.
The photographs that were shown in this exhibit were not in fact taken in 2007. Actually, not that I think about it, there were no pictures that were taken in 2007. In fact there are some photos that dated back to 1900. But even these old photographs have outstanding picture quality. It makes you wonder how cameras back then had such good resolution.
The specific piece that I chose is about feminine beauty and the how the artist finds ways of altering that image. And in this case there was a transgender woman, and regal blond and three other women. Each had a distinct quality about why they were not considered beautiful. The artist defied the norms and took five pictures of seemingly random people. These pictures are all full length and they catch the viewer’s eye because of the picture quality. They take up one full wall, and the contrast that the white wall gives to the pictures is unheard of. The artist’s name was Tanyth Berkeley and the each piece had a name, Claire, Ariel, Grace, Linda Leven, and Rick Wilder. This was a series of five photographs and it would have been incomplete if the photos were by themselves.
The pictures were all looking toward the viewer with a look of secrecy and that the subjects were hiding something. On the information plaque the viewer is able to see that the artist randomly discovered these subjects and he used a most of them several times in his works. The subjects themselves probably have nothing to do with the idea that they are portraying. “

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Learning from Visit to the Whitney…

November 25th, 2007 · No Comments

My reaction to the first piece of art I saw at the Whitney…
    “Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart by Kara Walker”- the first exhibition we see as we emerge from the elevators. A white wall is covered in contrasting in black silhouettes. The exaggerated, cartoonish figures give us an Alice in Wonderland -like feel. The first thing that struck me was the overall beauty of the exhibit. Then, as I looked closer, things started getting disturbing.
To the far left, there was a couple, a la “Gone with the Wind.” This looked like a romance between a gentleman and a lady until I realized that there was an extra pair of legs under the lady’s hoop skirt. I believe that the woman is most likely finding her sexual pleasure elsewhere. Then, there is a young black boy who offers a headless chicken to a topless black girl who floats on her back in the water.  I was perplexed by this image. I noted that her body seems to become a boat.  Also, human bodies float after death. This dehumanization of the black female body seems to be a central theme in all of these works.
A sculpture of a bust, or worse, a severed head of a white man looks at a young black girl on her knees performing fellatio on a white boy. To make matters worse, the white boy seems to be captivated by a black boy floating above him with genitalia larger than his body. Sexual experimentation seems rampant as many of the silhouettes are engaged in at least one sex act in the scene.
Finally, a black girl lifts her leg as two babies drop out of her and, all the while, she seems to be laughing and jumping for joy. The babies are obviously dead as we see their heads splash to the ground. This probably signifies the joy she feels from the fact that she is not bringing children into this rotten, disgusting bayou of sado-masochistic desire. In short, the miscarriages save other souls from the Hell that is the American South.

My Love… was a very interesting exhibit for me to step into. I have never been one to visit an art gallery on my own. This really was taking a big risk for me. I would probably have been better off visiting a more traditional gallery. However, as I haven’t visited galleries on my own before this, it is possible that I also had nothing to compare the exhibit to.

Just food for thought,


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