Brian Sholis

  • picks February 08, 2018

    Steven Beckly

    Twenty years ago, after the dissolution of a romantic relationship, American artist Roni Horn began traveling to London to photograph the River Thames. She created restrained images dense with surface incident and which suggest complex depths. The young Canadian artist Steven Beckly is also drawn to water, but the unframed photographs in this exhibition convey buoyancy and transformation. The dark beauty of Horn's watery images contrasts with Beckly's light touch.

    The show's title, “Meirenyu,” is a transliteration of the Mandarin word for “mermaid.” The mythical creature's hybridity provides a

  • interviews January 02, 2018

    Lucas Foglia

    The San Francisco–based artist Lucas Foglia just published Human Nature (Nazraeli Press, 2017), his third book of photographs. An exhibition of this work is currently on view at Fredericks & Freiser in New York through January 20, 2018. The same body of work will travel to Foam Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam from February 2 to April 15, 2018 and then to the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago from July 19 to September 20, 2018. Here, Foglia discusses the labor and thought that went into creating the photographs in this series and the idea of a “relationship” that underpins them.

    MY FIRST

  • picks May 21, 2017

    Jonah Samson

    In late 1944, the Surrealist writer André Breton arrived on the Atlantic coast of Canada. Haunted by the political and personal ravages of war, he wrote Arcanum 17, a strange, genre-bending meditation on the search for “light” along the paths of “poetry, liberty, and love.” The illumination he sought, Breton made clear, was feminine—an antidote to the toxic masculinity that had torn his world asunder.

    The artist Jonah Samson recently moved east from Vancouver to Cape Breton Island, not far from the site of Breton’s Canadian sojourn. His newest exhibition of exactingly repurposed found photographs,

  • film December 16, 2016

    Nine Lives

    KATY GRANNAN’S debut feature-length film, The Nine, is bisected by an off-screen murder. Police find a body floating beneath the South Ninth Street Bridge in Modesto, California, a hardscrabble Central Valley town about ninety minutes east of San Francisco. The news spooks the film’s central characters, who live in and around the area known as the Nine, and whose vulnerability is sharpened by the prospect of a predator. Grannan and her sound editor, Gus Koven, create a wash of overlapping chatter after the news breaks. Eventually, a woman intones, “They say everybody dies in threes, but this

  • picks August 12, 2016

    Efrat Natan

    Efrat Natan was raised during the middle of the twentieth century on Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin, in Israel’s Beit She’an Valley. Without relying too heavily upon her life story, this thoughtful forty-year survey underscores how Natan connects the everyday materials of that time and place to broader, elemental forces. Undershirts, tent fabric, netting, vinyl records, and farm implements are among the items Natan transforms into sculptures, installations, performance props, and other artworks. As a first-time visitor to Israel, I’m sure I missed this art’s many resonances with the nation’s history and

  • picks April 06, 2016

    Saul Fletcher

    If you only encounter a Saul Fletcher exhibition every few years, as I have, you can miss how his art evolves. It is easier to recall his photographs’ consistencies, such as the small size of the prints or the wan atmosphere created by their pale lighting and muted colors. His first solo exhibition in Los Angeles samples two decades of photographs; in doing so, it reveals the variety Fletcher achieves within such aesthetic constraints. During the late 1990s, the artist drifted through various rooms, shooting from oblique angles to create semiabstract compositions—of his grandmother’s bathtub,

  • interviews June 04, 2013

    Tony Feher

    Artist Tony Feher is the subject of a twenty-five-year retrospective that originated at the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston and is on view at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, until September 15. Feher, known for redeeming everyday objects and consumer goods through careful juxtaposition and placement, speaks about the new works he made for the deCordova and about surveying his art career.

    AS SOON AS I DROVE into the parking lot at the deCordova, I knew I wanted to create a work for the building’s grand staircase. The building is nestled into a hill, and you enter

  • Darren Almond

    For nearly two decades, British artist Darren Almond has demonstrated a fascination with the particular ways in which we chart and divide up time. Some of his earliest and best-known pieces involve retro-style flip clocks, including one the size of a cargo container. He has made films and photographs about trains, which are governed by precisely calibrated timetables, as well as about mines, which operate in unchanging shifts. The sixteen large-scale landscape photographs in this exhibition seem to exist outside the choreographed nature of much of Almond’s other work. The pictures are part of

  • Thomas Barrow

    This exhibition surveyed more than thirty-five years of photographer Thomas Barrow’s art, from the early series “Cancellations,” 1974–81, for which he first became widely known, to a recent body of work, “Detritus Bags,” 2009–, made by placing objects and images into small plastic pouches. At first, little seems to unite the work at the two ends of this time span. The “Cancellations” are small black-and-white prints of banal landscape photographs taken in the American West, each of which is interrupted by an X made by incising the negative with an ice pick. Among the objects tightly packed into

  • Barb Choit

    Memories fade, so we invented a chemical process by which we can affix images of our world to paper. Yet photographs also fade, so we place them behind protective glass or store them away from the very light that brings them into being. By making fading the theme of her second solo exhibition at this gallery, New York– and Vancouver-based artist Barb Choit devised a novel way to frame the impulses behind, as well as the fundamental facts of, the medium. (In doing so, she acknowledges but adroitly sidesteps the pervasive arguments about photography and death.) The twelve pictures she exhibited

  • Joel Meyerowitz

    The first of a two-part survey of Joel Meyerowitz’s fifty-year career as a photographer, this exhibition presented nearly four dozen color and black-and-white prints of varying sizes. Today, Meyerowitz is known for large-format landscape images in often saturated, emotionally resonant colors, a vein of his work that had its spectacular debut with the 1977 exhibition of his “Cape Light” photographs at Witkin Gallery in New York; the book of that series is a milestone in the history of color art photography. By including no photographs shot later than 1976, this exhibition offered viewers a chance

  • Yasuhiro Ishimoto

    Yasuhiro Ishimoto died this past February at the age of ninety. This exhibition functioned as a small homage to the artist, who, over the course of nearly six decades, worked in a wide range of styles. Although he was born in San Francisco, Ishimoto was raised in Japan and returned to the United States in 1939, when he planned to study agriculture in California. He was rounded up by American authorities during World War II and held in an internment camp for Japanese Americans. It was there, surprisingly enough, that he developed his passion for photography, which was to occupy him for the rest

  • picks November 26, 2012

    Melanie Schiff

    Four years ago Melanie Schiff moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. Despite the change in environment, her newest photographs demonstrate her increasing assuredness with motifs she has explored for nearly a decade. Her earliest works, made circa 2004, were beautiful but preciously arranged still lifes; in 2005 and 2006 she used beer bottles, mirror fragments, glow sticks, and compact-disc jewel cases to construct scenarios for her lens, many of which were evocative of post-Minimal or Conceptual art. This exhibition demonstrates she’s now equally capable of finding such scenes in the world around

  • picks November 25, 2012

    Danny Lyon

    In 2007 Les Blank, a filmmaker known for decades’ worth of work on quintessentially American subjects, ventured to China in order to make All in This Tea, a film about a tea importer. Now Danny Lyon, equally identified with America through his important series documenting civil rights activists, motorcycle gangs, prisoners, and urban renewal in Lower Manhattan, has also traveled across the Pacific. The thirty photographs in “Deep Sea Diver” are the fruit of six visits to Shanxi Province between 2005 and 2009. To his credit, Lyon looks beyond the glassy, garish urban surfaces often presented as

  • James Welling

    There are two dominant ways in which photographers have envisioned the landscape of the American West. One, glorying in the land and emphasizing descriptive specificity, is rooted in government-survey pictures of the 1870s; the other, wry and admonishing, arrived a century later under the banner of New Topographics. But outside its well-documented urban areas, how have American photographers framed the country’s eastern half? Eliot Porter rendered Maine foliage in Technicolor, Paul Strand spent time in New England, and Joel Meyerowitz caught seaside towns bathed in rosy Cape light, but prevailing

  • picks October 05, 2012

    Barney Kulok

    The austere geometry and muscular presence of architect Louis Kahn’s late designs infuses the photographs Barney Kulok has taken of the Four Freedoms Park. In this exhibition, however, one won’t find conventional documentation of the park’s allée of linden trees, its open granite “room” at Roosevelt Island’s southern tip, or its bust of Franklin D. Roosevelt created by Jo Davidson. Kulok, who was granted access last year to the construction site, has instead brought back chiaroscuro fragments—moody gelatin silver prints that demonstrate remarkable tonal range and control but explain little about

  • picks August 03, 2012

    “Contemporary Japanese Photobooks”

    With this exhibition, publisher Ivan Vartanian and photographer Jason Evans suggest that Japanese photography is understood best not through “subdued and pristine” gallery presentations, but rather through photobooks. The scores of publications presented here, available for casual browsing by anyone willing to don a pair of white gloves, certainly suggest the breadth and vitality of the medium, and range from small, inexpensively printed staple-bound editions to high-end hardcovers sporting glossy, lushly colored reproductions. The show, which includes only books published in the last decade,

  • Jan Groover

    This long-planned exhibition, titled “Formalism Is Everything,” became a memorial to Jan Groover after she died on New Year’s weekend, at the age of sixty-eight. Trained as a painter, Groover turned to photography in the early 1970s and created an engrossing body of street scenes, portraits, landscape views, and, above all, still lifes. This last genre rightfully predominated in this career-spanning survey, which encompassed more than three dozen small and medium-size images. Groover has consistently been described as a postmodern photographer, but her pictures have never derived their value

  • “Peripheral Visions: Italian Photography, 1950s–Present”

    In the half century after World War II, cities across the United States and Europe underwent structural transformations. In America, middle-class whites fled downtowns for the safety and amenities of the suburbs, leaving behind a minority “underclass” to bear the brunt of the shift to a postindustrial economy. In Europe, it was the poor who were pushed to urban fringes (think Parisian banlieues) while central districts became jewel boxes cosseting the wealthy. On both sides of the Atlantic, cities sprawled outward, absorbing once-independent suburbs into larger metropolitan frameworks. “Peripheral

  • interviews March 28, 2012

    James Benning

    Several years ago, filmmaker James Benning built first one, then another small cabin on property he owns in California. Modeled on the redoubts constructed by Henry David Thoreau and Ted Kaczynski (aka the Unabomber), Benning’s cabins are the subjects of Two Cabins, a new book edited by Julie Ault and published by A.R.T. Press.

    I HAD BOUGHT A “TURNKEY” PROPERTY IN THE MOUNTAINS, and as soon as I got my hands on it I worked for months to make it mine. I got addicted to construction, to solving the problems inherent in taking something apart and putting it back together again. I added a guest room.