Tarkovsky Polaroids by Andrey Tarkovsky

May 4, 2006

Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids
Andrey Tarkovsky
Thames & Hudson / New York / 2006
135 pages / $24.95 (sb)

Few types of photographs evoke the flood feelings and associations like a Polaroid. The familiar whirr and click of the picture being pushed out of the camera and into our hands, the milky white that soon turns to a uniquely muted color palette, the iconic bottom-weighted border; these are there shared experiences of the Polaroid …

Click here to read my entire review.


Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences by Lawrence Weschler

April 26, 2006

Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences
Lawrence Weschler
McSweeney’s Books / San Francisco / 2006
232 pages / $29.00 (hb)

Lawrence Weschler’s most recent collection of essays brings together several of his pieces that originally appeared both in print and online; primarily in the journal McSweeney’s, but also in publications such as The New Yorker and Slate. Illustrated with dozens of color images and featuring the elegant design that has become a McSweeney’s trademark, the book itself is a beautiful object and a superior example of a volume whose cover and content can withstand equal judgment …

Click here to read my entire book review.

Links for Report on NYC Galleries / Whitney Biennial

April 26, 2006

I made it down to New York City this past weekend and managed to check out several galleries as well as the 2006 Whitney Biennial. During this week’s class I’ll try to give an informal “gallery report” for my presentation. I also plan to write a bit more extensively about the work (and the whole experience) in more upcoming blog postings.

Anyway, I created a webpage with some links to galleries I visited and works that I saw. If you’d like to see the list and follow some links, go ahead and click below for a link to that page:

Links for Luke’s Report on NYC Galleries / Whitney Biennial

Comparison of Two Published Exhibition Reviews

April 25, 2006

“Radical Meek” by Mark Stevens in New York
“Biennial in Babylon” by Jerry Saltz in the Village Voice

Both Reviews of

“Day for Night” (the 2006 Whitney Biennial)
Whitney Museum of American Art
New York, NY
March 2, 2006 – May 28, 2006

One has to wonder what about the role of the critic when it comes to massive and highly influential group shows like the Whitney Biennial. Certainly there is too little work by too many artists for them to really dig their claws in and make a meaningful judgment. Sure, there will be “finished” pieces in a show of this nature, but largely the work is still fermenting, and many of the young artists who are featured are just beginning their careers. It seems that the only option for critics in between these particular rocks and hard places is to critique the non-art aspects of the exhibition …

Click here to read my entire comparison essay.

Upstate Invitational at Rochester Contemporary

April 24, 2006

“Upstate Invitational”
Rochester Contemporary
Rochester, NY
March 24 – April 16, 2006

As with all group shows, the Upstate Invitational at Rochester Contemporary gallery is a mixed bag. But one of the main strengths of this show, besides the variety of media and the even-handed survey of cities and towns of the region, is that this bag is a small, manageable size yet still full of interesting items …

Click here to read my entire review.

Chris Bucklow: Portraits I Actually Like

April 11, 2006

PK3969-11.jpg My previous post really unloaded on Suzanne Opton and, to a certain extent, portraiture itself. So in the spirit of balance (and ridding bad tastes from one's mouth) I am showing some portraits I do like.

These images from British artist Chris Bucklow's Guests series devastate me. The process is fascinating – I'm not entirely sure how it is done, but he uses hundreds of small pinholes and a camera to make these images – but beyond the technical considerations, I feel like he's getting at the "essence" and "soul" of his subjects in a much more convincing way than any conventional portrait.

PK 40581.jpgThere's plenty of room in this work for my mind to enter and think about the energy and matter that make up the body, unlike so many conventional portraits that end at the surface of the body or face. The work is also as much about "people" as it is "a person." It's simultaneously universal and intimate – something that I rarely feel from a photo of a specific person's exterior surfaces.


Christopher Bucklow's Website

Gallery: Guests

Suzanne Opton: Snoozing Soldiers

April 11, 2006

Our recent trip to Syracuse has had me thinking quite a bit about portraiture. I've always been skeptical of the camera's ability to show us people, and that skepticism rises from the great emphasis placed on photographs as being "truthful" and "accurate" records. It's as if the concept of the "eye being the window to the soul" was somehow contorted and now the camera (as an extension of the eye) has the power to capture one's "essence" or other harder-to-define aspects of our being. I maintain that this is largely nonsense – the camera gives us an image of a surface, nothing more. What makes a portrait is meaning – the viewers and the creators. Yes, of course the subject of the portrait is a participant, but I'd argue that they are much less in control of their image than those behind the camera and in front of the finished photo.

opton021.jpgWhich brings me to Suzanne Opton's Soldier exhibition. I sometimes worry that I'm not riled up enough about art, that I'm not moved by images to the extent that a visual studies student should be. But viewing Opton's images and hearing the accompanying lecture by critic Vicki Goldberg and Opton's own responses to the audience Q&A left me incensed. Goldberg's lecture was interesting; she presented a thorough history of war photography and portraits of soldiers through the years. But I was disappointed that despite talking about the precedence for Opton's aesthetic (the head posed with hands, the head lying on a surface), Goldberg made no mention of the symbolism of such a pose. The natural visual implications of these poses – submission, defeat, control, sorrow, death – were ignored.

Then it was Opton's turn. During a robust audience Q&A session, Opton seemed to readily admit that she'd not cultivated and sort of meaningful relationship with her subjects. She claimed to have spent only around thirty minutes with each subject. When asked about her own politics being revealed in the work, she did not lay strong claim to any position. She went so far as to acknowledge that perhaps the images could just be about the head as an object – a stance that I would respect had she dropped the wishy-washy "perhaps" and replaced it with "for certain." It was as if Opton wasn't really sure about anything and her answers left me feeling that she was at best confused and at worst someone who had tapped into the emotional turmoil of the current war to make some pretty portraits.

Hail, Hail …

April 5, 2006

… the gang's all here

Identity as Performance: Nikki S. Lee

April 5, 2006


Korean-American artist Nikki S. Lee's photographs feature her involved in various – as she calls them – Projects. The image above is from 1998's The Hispanic Project, a series of photographs in which Lee changed her appearance so as to participate in Hispanic culture in New York City where she both studied (FIT, NYU) and now lives.

Over the course of several years, Lee has engaged in over a dozen of these Projects, including The Punk Project (1997), The Lesbian Project (1997), The Yuppie Project (1998), The Ohio Project (1999), The Exotic Dancers Project (2000), and The Hip Hop Project (2001).

The issues illuminated by these images are myriad and complex, but the one I latched onto as the most compelling was Lee's reliance on stereotypes throughout her Projects. Starting with the naming of the Projects themselves, Lee shows us not only the flexibility of culture and our movement through it, she also illustrates the strange "groupthink" that dominates our perceptions of people and groups. Before even looking at the images of each individual Project, I conjured up a mental image of what a person attempting to look like a member of that group would wear. My perceptions (read: "stereotypes") of these groups were essentially spot on – an image of Lee as a yuppie features her clad in well-tailored black clothing and exiting a boutique with a powder blue shopping bag, and an image of her as a resident of Ohio shows Lee in denim overalls with bleach-blonde hair.

My initial reaction to this was somewhat akin to shame; I felt the guilt of someone who unfairly categorizes people based on their appearance. But a bit of thought brought me to realize that we absolutely must stereotype people in order to mentally organize our world. The problem lies not in making visual associations between appearance and behavior, the problem arises when we rely on these associations (which are only assumptions based on experience both lived and mediated) to make our decisions for us. When we use stereotypes to pre-judge, then we are wrong. But to use them as we might a hand-drawn map (and also keep in mind the adage that "the map is not the territory"), then stereotypes might actually be able to serve us well.


Nikki S. Lee Projects – Review in Afterimage (2001) by Joan Kee

Museum of Contemporary Photography: Nikki S. Lee

Leslie Tonkonow Gallery: Nikki S. Lee

Dorks, Part II

March 30, 2006


So James has posted an image of myself and Kirby titled (lovingly, I hope) Dorks. Here is my image of that exact same moment as reflected in Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago's Millenium Park. [Click here for an image of the sculpture.]

We anxiously await Kirby's photo (looks like it'll be a 'landscape' orientation) to complete the triptych.