More than One Photography, explores photography’s diverse roles in contemporary art through approximately sixty photographic works, all produced in the years since 1980.
Since the 1960s, and especially over the past decade, photographic imagery and techniques have come into common and varied use in the visual arts. One consequence of this development is that photographic works have been collected by all of the Museum’s six curatorial departments—Painting and Sculpture, Drawings, Prints and Illustrated Books, Architecture and Design, and Film, as well as Photography. More than One Photography draws on all six departments as well as on the Museum’s library, which houses many artist’s books.
The Museum has collected to date more than 1,000 photographic works made since 1980 by more than 400 artists. The exhibition surveys the range of this collection: from an eight-by-twelve-foot picture by Gilbert and George to an eight-by-ten-inch portrait by Judith Joy Ross; from a video by Nan Hoover to a photogram by Adam Fuss; from sculptures incorporating photographs by Christian Boltanski and Jon Kessler to photographs of ephemeral studio sculptures by Zeke Berman and Joan Fontcuberta. It also features the delicate Polaroids of William Wegman, the throwaway prints of Felix Gonzales-Torres, a digital photograph by Peter Campus, and a lithograph by Kiki Smith. While more than half of the artists included in the exhibition are from the United States, More than One Photography also represents a number of other countries, including Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, and Spain.
While selected for variety, More than One Photography has been arranged to elicit comparisons and suggest relationships. In one gallery, for example, works by Laurie Simmons, Barbara Kruger, and others set forth the timeless present and impersonal rhetoric of advertising and the media. In another gallery, works by Anselm Kiefer and Gilles Peress address the turmoil of history, while pictures by Esther Parada and David Wojnarowicz invoke the power of memory and feeling.
According to curator Peter Galassi, photography’s appeal to a wide range of artists lies in the medium’s “chameleon versatility: its easy ability to mimic, record, enlarge, reduce, combine, reproduce, and assimilate.” He suggests that, by embracing that versatility, contemporary art has left behind the old debate over photography’s authenticity. “Since 1980,” he writes in the brochure that accompanies the exhibition, “the final erosion of photography’s putative claim on the truth seems only to have nourished its capacity to embody a diversity of truths, and to have multiplied the paths by which they might be reached.”
Organized by Peter Galassi, director, Department of Photography.