Magazine article Artforum International

Andrea Modica: Sandy Carson Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Andrea Modica: Sandy Carson Gallery

Article excerpt

In Andrea Modica's black-and-white photographs, what might seem straight-forward at first glance--a girl in her bedroom, a child with a hula hoop, a nude woman on a bench--quickly provoke lingering questions: Who are these people? What are they doing? Where are they? The images suggest small, potently enigmatic narratives, and their place-name titles provide almost no clue to their meaning. Unlike photographers who wield 35 mm cameras to sweep in and capture moments as they find them, Modica uses a bulky 8 X 10 tripod camera that requires considerable time to set up. This means that she has to construct her compositions painstakingly and that her subjects not only are aware of her presence but are also her willing collaborators. Managed though the resulting scenes may be, they rarely feel contrived. The viewer accepts their staged quality because of the emotional honesty and raw humanity they convey.

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This exhibition showcased thirty-seven of the Manitou Springs, Colorado, photographer's prints made between 1986 and 2003 in what amounted to a career survey. It included examples from most of her main bodies of work, including seven selections from the "Treadwell, NY" series, 1986-99, which features a young woman named Barbara, whom Modica first encountered in 1986 while teaching at the State University of New York at Oneonta. In Treadwell, NY, 1992, the pudgy, photogenic girl, wearing a rabbit-ear headdress, her head cocked to one side, sits frowning alone among withered leaves on the side of a hill. Like a few of Modica's other portraits, it echoes Diane Arbus, but the obvious similarities seem to come as a natural convergence of visions and not from any deliberate attempt by Modica to mimic her famous predecessor.

What became clear in this overview is that unlike, for example, Nan Goldin's photographs, which focus on the photographer and her social milieu, Modica's images are not bound together by their subject matter. …

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