Magazine article Artforum International

Vince Aletti

Magazine article Artforum International

Vince Aletti

Article excerpt

VINCE ALETTI REVIEWS PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITIONS FOR THE NEW YORKER. THIS YEAR, HE COCURATED "AVEDON FASHION 1944-2000," "WEIRD BEAUTY," AND OTHER "YEAR OF FASHION" SHOWS AT THE INTERNATIONAL CENTER OF PHOTOGRAPHY IN NEW YORK; HE ALSO PUBLISHED THE DISCO FILES, 1973-78 (DJHIST0RY.COM).

1 Irving Penn (1917-2009) Penn's death ends one of the most brilliant, productive, and celebrated careers of any magazine photographer. But even if there will be no more new Penns in Vogue, the Getty Museum publication and show of his "Small Trades" photographs from the early 1950s (curated by Virginia Heckert and Anne Lacoste) suggest there is extraordinary material in the archives still to be revealed. The two-hundred-plus photographs in the project are more than twice the number previously published or exhibited. It's a generous parting gift: Penn at an early peak, combining portraiture and fashion--pictures of working men and women by an artist who knew what work meant.

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2 Philip-Lorca diCorcia (David Zwirner Gallery, New York) DiCorcia's "Thousand" set exactly that many little Polaroids side by side on a narrow railing that snaked around the gallery in a continuous line. The effect was mesmerizing, dizzying, overwhelming--a life and a career in pictures. Mixed in with family snaps, landscapes, still lifes, and all sorts of fabulous mistakes were preparatory shots from fashion shoots and virtually all of diCorcia's well-known series: hustlers, pole dancers, urban throngs, isolated passersby. Professional and personal work came together in a casually orchestrated (and deliberately random) flow into which the viewer could wade until immersed.

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3 "Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans" (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) The Met squeezed this sprawling exhibition (organized by Sarah Greenough at the National Gallery of Art and curated here by Jeff L. Rosenheim) into the museum's conventional photography galleries, forcing viewers to follow the eighty-three-image sequence of The Americans through several small rooms. But the work (on its fiftieth anniversary) is too ornery, too tough, to be defeated by an inhospitable installation. Frank's beat masterpiece has lost none of its nerve or soulfulness and gained plenty of heft. Vintage prints of every page in the book are amply supported by work prints, contact sheets, correspondence, and the contents of earlier, equally probing publications.

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4 Troy Brauntuch (Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York) Brauntuch looked good in the Met's "Pictures Generation" show, but he was easily overshadowed in the hectic mix. In this fascinating solo retrospective, however, the mix was entirely his own and included collages, drawings, handwritten notes, rubber stamps, appropriated images, and paintings, many of them never before exhibited. Brauntuch works at the edge of perception, with pictures that hover between legibility and obscurity, meaning and mystery. Seeing the range of his source material--close-cropped, mostly photographic images of war, sex, disaster, and fame--only deepened the mystery.

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5 Richard Learoyd (McKee Gallery, New York) The subjects of Learoyd's big portrait photographs have an uncanny presence: They're not only close to life-size, they're unnervingly lifelike. That impression has a lot to do with the works' shallow depth of field, which renders one layer of the image in incredible detail while the layer just behind it goes soft. …

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