The Museum of Modern Art’s 25th annual New Photography exhibition opened yesterday, featuring the work of Roe Ethridge, Elad Lassry, Alex Prager and Amanda Ross-Ho.
The exhibition, which each year highlights some of contemporary photography’s most interesting voices, includes short films by Lassry and Prager, the first films that have appeared in a New Photography show.
In her curatorial statement, MoMA photography curator Roxana Marcoci writes that the four artists she selected “engage in a kind of post-appropriative practice.” Though each artist appropriates images and ideas to create their photographs (and films), they do so for different reasons than Richard Prince did when he rephotographed ads in the Seventies to question “notions of originality.”
“This younger group of artists reinvest in photographic authorship, creating pictures that often exist simultaneously as commercial assignment and artwork,” Marcoci says.
Roe Ethridge’s contribution to the show includes a collage in which he lays an enlarged and pixilated image of a Crate & Barrel plate taken from their Web site over the top corner of an image of a checkered Comme de Garçons scarf; an enlarged image from The New York Times of a model at a Chanel fashion show; and a photograph of objects in his studio that includes a red bag plastic bag, a second-hand framed photo of a sailboat and a zoom lens.
Elad Lassry presents his images as small prints in frames whose colors correspond to those found in the image. In one work a vintage image of Goldie Hawn and a golden retriever is placed above a series of color-laminated wood blocks that vaguely resemble a TV test pattern. In Lassry’s silent film, Untitled (2009), which he shows at the same small size as his images, actor Eric Stoltz and an actress recreate a scene of director/choreographer Jerome Robbins instructing actress Mary Martin on a flying scene for the 1955 television adaptation of Peter Pan.
Alex Prager’s work borrows heavily from vintage cinema. Her bold color images of young women in wigs and period costumes evoke Alfred Hitchcock and film noir. Her film, “Despair,” in which one such woman throws herself from a window is based on the 1948 film “The Red Shoes,” about a ballerina who kills herself.
Amanda Ross-Ho’s work includes collages and photographs of hand-drilled sheet rock installations hung with found and/or appropriated images and other objects. One of her sheet-rock installations is included in the show.
Appropriation of popular images (i.e. images meant for mass consumption), and references to films, existing images and image styles, play a role in the work of each of these artists. Still, Marcoci believes they are “post-appropriation,” because their motivations are different than previous artists who rephotographed or reused the work of others to call attention to their own ideas.
The artists in New Photography 25 appear to share a curatorial, or editorial, impulse. They absorb images and references and place them together with their own photography create an order from the mass of images we’re bombarded with in contemporary society.