Vince Aletti

Artforum International, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Vince Aletti


1 PAUL GRAHAM (PACE/MACGILL GALLERY, NEW YORK) The British photographer has been looking closely at the American social landscape for some time now, always alert to its funk and flux--its drifters, strangers, and loners. For "The Present," he stalked the streets of New York, inviting comparison to precedents from Strand to Winogrand to diCorcia but staking his own solid claim. Printed from big to huge and hung as diptychs and triptychs, the work focuses on pedestrians passing through a location just seconds apart, incorporating time and incident but stopping to observe ordinary moments with startling clarity.

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2 "RISE AND FALL OF APARTHEID: PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE BUREAUCRACY OF EVERYDAY LIFE" (INTERNATIONAL CENTER OF PHOTOGRAPHY, NEW YORK; CURATED BY OKWU I ENWEZOR) Enwezor (working with Rory Bester) traces the history of injustice and resistance in South Africa through the work of nearly seventy photographers and photojournalists, many little known outside their country. With some five hundred photos, films, magazines, and posters filling every corner of the museum, there's almost more than one can take in, but the material is consistently engaging, with sharp attention to the effects of the struggle on daily life. The largest wall is filled with pictures of protesters, both black and white, holding signs. One sums it up: WE WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED.

3 RICHARD AVEDON (GAGOSIAN GALLERY, NEW YORK) David Adjaye's architecture was somewhat overbearing, but the show's focus on Avedon's four mural-size photographs from the turn of the 1970s was just what we needed. The photographer's sympathies were clearly with the counterculture--represented by the Chicago Seven, Allen Ginsberg, and (in 1969, at least) Warhol's Factory--but the generals and bureaucrats of Vietnam's Mission Council got the most wall space, held in tense and tragic standoff with orphans and napalm victims.

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4 CINDY SHERMAN (MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK), RINEKE DIJKSTRA, AND FRANCESCA WOODMAN (SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM, NEW YORK) The convergence this year of retrospectives (curated, respectively, by Eva Respini; Jennifer Blessing and Sandra S. Phillips; and Corey Keller and Blessing) for three important women photographers was significant. I only wish it had been more exciting. None of the shows were entirely satisfying, often due to issues of layout or design, but each had its moments. Seeing all of Sherman's "Centerfold" photographs in one place was a high point of 2012 for me; spending time in the dark with Dijkstra's sweet, self-conscious dancers was another. And the work of Woodman's that survives is frequently astonishing. All reasons to celebrate.

5 VIVIAN (VIAIER (HOWARD GREENBERG GALLERY AND STEVEN KASHER GALLERY, NEW YORK) Another reason: the out-of-the-blue discovery of this terrific photographer, a nanny who made pictures in her spare time but rarely printed and never published or exhibited them. Her work, nearly all of it made on the street in New York and Chicago, zeros in on her fellow citizens--and herself--with both curiosity and skepticism. At her best, Maier deserves comparisons to Lisette Model, Lee Friedlander, even Walker Evans. She was good--probably better than she knew, but she was confident enough to produce nearly 100,000 negatives in her lifetime. So this is just the beginning.

6 "FAKING IT: MANIPULATED PHOTOGRAPHY BEFORE PHOTOSHOP" (METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NEW YORK; CURATED BY MIA FINEMAN) Since its inception, photography has been promoted as realer than realism, the ultimate proof, but it also learned how to dissemble very early on, hand-coloring, collaging, montaging, and otherwise toying madly with the truth. …

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