|Written by Max Houghton|
|15 May 2009|
Walking across Brooklyn Bridge and into Dumbo, you’re already inspired. The cavernous warehouses of New York's up and coming arts area seem like they were built for photographs. The Foto8 space at Dumbo Arts Center has been transformed by Home For Good. We’ve created a lounge area, resplendent with fresh crysanthemums. This domestic setting tends to be the place where we hear the first news of war, as well as where we might create our own personal photo albums. I’m writing this surrounded by Lorraine Grupe’s family photographs from 1940s Chicago, which reveal the great respect shown towards US troops, fighting out in the Philippines as well as Europe. It’s great to have this work here, working together with Tim Hetherington’s Sleeping Soliders (this work and its film installation bringing Tim’s work into a whole new arena, a sidestep from documentary into the less certain area of fiction) and Louie Palu’s haunting portraits of US marines on tour in Afghanistan.
What’s great about curating a group exhibition as opposed to editing a magazine is the way each body of work brings different and sometimes entirely new meanings to the work surrounding it (that might be stating the obvious but I still think it’s exciting). For example, Simon Roberts very English landscapes now have the added resonance of showing the home front of a country at war (they were taken in 2008). This was not the artists’ intention – Simon works in a very Romantic, painterly tradition – yet this new dimension is essential to our show. Venetia Dearden’s work reminds us of the importance of home as an intimate and loving space, and now it speaks of the fragility of our ‘safe’ places, especially when it is observed alongside Bruno Stevens’ reportage from Gaza, taken in January this year. Bruno Stevens is 50 years old today! Happy Birthday Bruno. We’ve hung Bruno’s work on rolls like wallpaper; war imagery has become almost like magnolia. You barely notice it, though it colours all our lives. Bruno revealed his skills at portfolio review yesterday, when we saw two very talented young photographers, Massimiliano, a recent graduate of the Danish school, and Erica, from NY, whose exquisite work I hope you will see on the pages of the new 8 magazine some time in the future.
We’re lucky to have several exhibiting photographers out here in NY, including Venetia, David Gray, whose film installation Surge is luring visitors into our venue’s darkest corner, and Seba Kurtis, whose energy is palpable in his photographs as in his physical presence. Our back wall is resplendent with Seba’s dreamlike images, very sensitively hung by Antonio of PowerHouse. Adam Nadel, whose photographs of steel workers in Geddes facing an uncertain future, were specially commissioned by us and arrived literally hot off the press. Adam and Tim are both here too, though they are both local boys. Chris Killip is arriving today – his stamps from the Isle of Man are in a display case – and don't forget he’ll be talking exclusively at HOST Galery in London in June so make sure you book tickets soon.
Mondongo at I don't really know what kind of girl I am, curated by Jody Quon.
So that’s enough about us (!). I’m really impressed by Jody Quon’s show. It’s called I don’t really know what kind of girl I am, and I have to confess to feeling less than enthusiastic about it initially. It’s always good to have your expectations confounded – it’s a brilliantly curated show, with different bodies of work exploring ideas of girl-to-womanhood. I love Katy Grannan’s Thursday portraits and Grant Worth’s polaroids and check out the house made of sperm and breasts (you have to be there)
Robert Walker at All Over the Place!
William Ewing’s show is befitting of its title All Over the Place! For me it’s most successful in the virtual realm, especially the projections on several screens of Jacob Holdt’s fantastic images of 1970s USA. Robert Walker’s Flowers are so vivid you can practically smell them. Chris Boot was half-expecting his show to be closed down within an hour of its opening. Its content is certainly extreme – Prince Alberts, erect penises, leather clad slaves abound – but its point I think is more profound. As well as revealing a very specific slice of gay culture, of how gay men present themselves as sexual beings, it shows the extraordinary use of photographs to disseminate their availability.Chris traces the history of these images back to Mapplethorpe and he describes with great eloquence his fascination – and concerns – about the proliferation of such photographs
- Max Houghton