June 5th, 2013

MoMA’s Photography Curator on Underappreciated Photographers

Quentin Bajac, who was appointed chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, gave an interview to critic and author Richard B. Woodward, published last week in the Wall Street Journal. Bajac talked about his ideas for future acquisitions for the permanent collection.

“Artists that he thinks the museum has wrongly ignored or undercollected include Luigi Ghirri,” Woodward writes.  “Among Americans, he cites James Welling as an ‘important’ figure underappreciated in the past by MoMA; and Mr. Bajac was ‘shocked’ it [MoMA] had not a single print by the photojournalist Susan Meiselas.” Bajac also tells Woodward he’d like the permanent collection to represent more Japanese, African and Latin America photographers. (Yes, MoMA’s holdings seem pretty provincial, especially compared to those of other institutions.)

During the interview with Woodward, Bajac also touched on ideas for new shows (note how Martin Parr’s name is mentioned), his thoughts on displaying moving images and media installations, and what role he believes museums and curators should play in a society that experiences “a surfeit of images” every day. One of Bajac’s comments will ring true to anyone who follows photography today: “Photography is no longer about the wall. The book form is basic to photography. Young photographers are self-publishing. We must be aware of that and work closely with the museum library.”

The full article, “Snapshot of a Curator,” can be found on online.wsj.com.

June 5th, 2012

MOMA Appoints Quentin Bajac as Chief Curator of Photography

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City announced today that Quentin Bajac is the museum’s new chief curator of photography. Bajac will assume the position in January 2013, replacing longtime curator Peter Galassi, who retired last year.

Bajac, who currently lives in Paris, is the chief curator of photography at the Centre Pompidou, where he’s worked for almost ten years. His past exhibitions at the museum include a retrospective of William Klein’s work; “Dreamlands,” which explored how World’s Fairs and theme parks have influenced architecture and design; and “The Subversion of Images: Surrealism, Photography, Film.” Bajac began his career as the curator of photography at the Musée d’Orsay.

In a statement released by MOMA, the museum’s director Glenn D. Lowry says:

“Quentin’s superb accomplishments in Paris over the past 17 years, at the Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou, have brought significant attention to the importance of photography in art history and as a critical component of contemporary practice.”

Bajac is also the chair in the history of photography at the Ecole du Louvre, and a graduate of the Institut d’études politiques and the Institut national du Patrimoine.

September 30th, 2010

MoMA’s New Photography 25 Opens; Includes Film For First Time

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.

Comme des Garçons Scarf with Glass Plate. 2010

© 2010 Roe Ethridge. Comme des Garçons Scarf with Glass Plate. Courtesy the artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

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.

Elad Lassry Wall 2008

© 2010 Elad Lassry. Wall. 2008. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fund for the Twenty-First Century. Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery.

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.

Alex Prager Despair 2010

© 2010 Alex Prager. Despair. 2010. Courtesy the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery.

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.

Amanda Ross-HoAppropriation 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.