Saturday, October 21, 2017

Anna Brown reviews Catherine Opie

Catherine Opie was born in Sandusky, Ohio in 1961. Her work is multifaceted in that she uses photography to navigate anything from political movements to urban transformation and queer subcultures. Her family’s history of strong patriotism has certainly influenced her ability to portray American social phenomena. Opie’s body of work challenges viewers to question their own perception of “the way things should look” and presents an overarching theme of relationships to community. From the Americana imagery of the Obama election, to intimate and uncomfortable self portraits featuring self-mutilation, and candid snapshots of American living, Catherine Opie's perspective sheds light on the complexities and nuances of a contemporary American life. 

In regard to her process, Opie says, "Staring at people's faces is a problem with me. I mean, my wife is constantly saying, 'You're staring at that person.' And I'm just like, 'I'm really sorry. I'm making a picture.' And I do like to stare."

Monday, October 9, 2017

Anna Brown reviews Lars Tunbjörk

Swedish photographer Lars Tunbjörk (1956-2015) is noteworthy for his deadpan snapshots of everyday suburban life in his home country. His early work as a photojournalist during the 1970s paved the way for his later career as a photographer. Lars said, 

“I always try to be very visible as a photographer.”

“I don’t know how much I influence a situation, just by having a camera.” 

Tunbjörk’s quirky take on the banalities of existence in the post-industrial age lead him to document life’s often overlooked moments with a sense of humor and wit. An exemplary photograph, Oland, 1991, depicts a comfortable-looking middle-aged couple relaxing in lounge chairs in the grass of a suburban Scandinavian development, accompanied by two small, yellow umbrellas. It is evident in his documentary-style work that Tunbjörk had an acute sense of what it means to live and work as a Swede.

Lars Tunbjörk’s awareness and exploration of color and composition are initially what caught my eye. However, as I continued to view and analyze his work, I began to find myself more attached to his narratives and the individuals he observed in his work. He certainly had a way of capturing each of his characters in a manner that allows them to speak for themselves. Even in his photographs that exclude the human form, his oeuvre is indicative of a pieced together portrait of Sweden’s contented and lively nature.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Anna Brown reviews Martha Wilson

Martha Wilson was born in 1947 in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Martha, who has lived in New York since 1974, has also worked and exhibited widely both nationally and internationally since 1974. Currently she is a part of the Fall 2017 International Artist in Residency program at Artpace.

This pioneering feminist artist is known for her self-portrait style works, which incorporate performance, photography, and even video. Her early body of work includes documentary photographs accompanied by text, which serve as guides to further understanding the imagery. This can be observed in her 1974 piece My Authentic Self, and even more so in her more contemporary efforts such as The Legs Are the Last To Go. Martha is a master of subtle humors and bringing to light topics which are otherwise viewed as uncomfortable, unpopular, or controversial. She seamlessly fuses her simple compositions with a concise statement or descriptive passage, which acts as a sort of documentation of each concept she sheds light on. 

I have had the unique opportunity of speaking to this artist about her work both past and present. While her photography and performance based work arguably paved the way for later contemporary artists such as Cindy Sherman (see Captivating a Man, 1972), Martha relayed to me that her current body of work is about her age and her feelings about the topic. Martha’s photographs speak to me because they are so honest and casually hilarious, and they are without a doubt an accurate reflection of the shameless, authentic woman she is. If you get the chance, I highly recommend seeing her exhibition this coming November at Artpace.