New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Greater New York
Reviewer #1
Alice O’Malley,” Storme DeLarverie, Chelsea Hotel 2010”

The third iteration of the PS1/MoMa once-every-5-year extravaganza Greater New York is upon us, and perhaps as befitting a time of financial restraint, it is the leanest, sharpest and perhaps most substantial version yet. The show which is meant to reflect the activity of artists in the New York City region (but which consequentially includes artists from all around the world) reflects the widespread use of photography as just one of the tools artists have at their disposal. Given the focus the NYPR has however, I will stick to the more traditional prints on the wall format. Their were many many videos however, and anyone with a few days of spare time to watch people slowly walking across large fields, can probably find the gems.

I think one of the brave moves the the curators, Klaus Beisenbach, Connie Butler and Neville Wakefield made was to recognize that there is a strong contingent of traditional photographers working with traditional subjects in the New York artistic community. Case in point - Alice O’Malley: two walls lined with twelve 20 x 24 inch silver gelatin prints, straight-forward portraits of various people active, but not necessarily widely known, in the downtown and Brooklyn artistic scene. The portraits are sensitively done, with an understated acknowledgement of the traditions they embody. Or - Erin Shirreff: twentyeight 28 x 20 inch silver gelatin prints arranged in long grid. Each photo is a seemingly small shard lit from the side. They appear at first from a distance to be phases of the moon, or then of an asteroid seen from space. Getting closer you see that the shards are marked with subtle lines, the prints become a minimalist homage to a seemingly lost civilization, perhaps our own.

Of course the modern world intrudes on this silver gelatin paradise, and where would we be without Photoshop anyhow? Two photographers who lean on it a lot seem to be Daniel Gordon, who produces large, Hannah Hoch meets Willem de Kooning collages, that look a bit like subway posters where the layers of advertising have been peeled away, but without the subway serendipity. And David Benjamin Sherry, who likes to play with Photoshop color layer masks to produce images heavily saturated in one color except for selected areas. I can’t help thinking this photographer has spent one too many nights watching Blue Man Group. Then again, one doesn’t need to use Photoshop to be silly. Anyone who has spent any time in a color printing lab knows what happens when the rollers of the processors get misaligned and paper feeds through the works incorrectly – long rolls of photopaper with smears and discolorations. Then before the bad paper is thrown away some joker always says “Don’t throw it away, it’s Art!” People laugh – but not everyone gets the joke, check out the ‘unique color prints’ on the second floor.

The sheer volume of imagery that bombards us daily is the undertext (or maybe the text) of the work of several of the photographers shown. The versatile photographer, Xaviera Simmons, presents a large wall piece of 42 color prints seemingly taken from news videos or cell phone cameras. The images, ‘refugees’ out on the high seas. It is unclear if the pictures are from one incident or many, and no information is given to guide us. There is much drama going on, but the presentation essencially creates a grid of distance – yes, another human tragedy happening, somewhere, out there. A.L Steiner, presents perhaps 5 times as many photographs in her installation piece “Angry, Articulate, Inevitable.“ This young photographer has gathered a collection of young attractive friends and acquaintances, many of whom seem to have difficulty dressing in the morning, and has documented their shared lives. Just a little bit like Nan Golden come to think of it, but younger. But whereas Nan Golden eventually settled on a linear presentation for her work Steiner has adapted a wraparound, frat-boy, paste them all up on the wall approach. In the digital age, the value of each image is limited and ephemeral. Steiner’s witty touch is seen not only in her title, but in one photo of a bulletin-board notice with fringed phone numbers, “Gallerist Wanted.”

Finally, there is one photographer in the show for which just the sheer power of the content is enough. Leigh Ledare presents a large body of work that centers around erotic photographs of his mother, her young lovers, and Ledare himself. Confidently photographed, the pictures are pretty direct, even if the story is all behind the lens.

There were indeed other good and interesting photographers and a few not so good too, plus there is a full carnival of performances, ongoing pieces, rooms filled with strange noises and even more videos. Overall: well worth the schlep.

Greater New York

PS1 Contemporary Art Center
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Sunday, May 23 to
Monday, October 18, 2010
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