Brian Wallis


    Curated by Arpad Kovacs

    In postmodernist critical writings of the 1980s, the catchphrase staged photography was sometimes used to describe the works of artists such as Cindy Sherman and Jeff Wall, who deployed photography to record invented portraits or fictional scenarios, as opposed to depicting “real life.” This exhibition juxtaposes more than forty works created between 1985 and 2008 by seven practitioners in the genre of photographic simulation: Eileen Cowin, Christina Fernandez, Samuel Fosso, Yasumasa Morimura, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Gillian Wearing, and Qiu Zhijie. From widely different

  • Stephen Shore, Breakfast, Trail’s End Restaurant, Kanab, Utah, 2012, C-print, 16 7/8 × 21 1/4".


    Shore has long been revered for his glorious large-format color photographs from “Uncommon Places,” a record of his cross-country road trips of the 1970s and ’80s. Despite the photos’ lush Pop nostalgia for the American strip, what underlies the series and accounts for the continued influence of Shore’s work is his uncanny conceptual observation, utterly lacking sentimentality or irony. Taking the deadpan, saturation-enhanced look of the vernacular postcard as a point of departure, Shore has employed everything from plastic toy cameras to tripod-based

  • Wolfgang Tillmans, Gedser, 2004, ink-jet print on paper, 81 7/8 × 54 3/8".


    Few artists working today illuminate the politics of everyday life with the subtle insight and devastating versatility of photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. He turns seemingly casual observations of simple subjects, like friends or flowers, into potent symbols of youth, community, mortality, and hope. The implicit social engagement of Tillmans’s work pervades the vast but carefully chosen survey now at Tate Modern. But a second exhibition, opening this month at the Fondation Beyeler, offers a more introspective view. This show, focusing on the artist’s studio-based work,

  • Daidō Moriyama, Midnight Accident, Tokyo, 1969, gelatin silver print, 13 × 18 5/8". From the series “Accident,” 1969.

    “Provoke: Photography in Japan 1960–1975”

    THE JAGGED, high-contrast, and blurry imagery often associated with postwar Japanese photography can be traced to the legendary photo magazine that is the subject of the compact and exhilarating exhibition “Provoke: Between Protest and Performance—Photography in Japan 1960–1975,” which I saw at the Paris alternative space Le Bal. Created by a small group of brilliant photographers and intellectuals—critic-photographers Takuma Nakahira and Kōji Taki, poet Takahiko Okada, and photographers Yutaka Takanashi and Daidō Moriyama—Provoke comprised only three issues, published between

  • Walker Evans, Truck and Sign, 1930, gelatin silver print, 6 1/2 × 8 3/4". © W. Evans Arch., The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    “Walker Evans: A Vernacular Style”

    While Walker Evans is known today primarily for the austere formalism of his documentary-style photographs from the 1930s, this sprawling retrospective—the first ever for Evans in France—argues for a different view. The real significance of Evans’s photographic work, it claims, lies in how he taps into the incantatory power of old weird America, the folky vernacular culture evident in the outmoded and overlooked: handpainted signs, rural wooden churches built without architects, rotogravure news photos, penny postcards, Polaroid snapshots. A flaneur of the

  • Ydessa Hendeles, Partners (The Teddy Bear Project), 2002, mixed media, dimensions variable. From “The Keeper.” Photo: Maris Hutchinson.

    “The Keeper”

    A sprawling installation, the exhibition “The Keeper” at the New Museum in New York was really a collection of collections, covering three floors (plus the museum’s lobby gallery) and comprising some four thousand objects—scrapbooks and drawings, toys and quilts, paintings and whittled carvings, snowflakes and butterflies—all arranged into discrete archives collated by some thirty artists, scholars, and tinkerers. These “keepers” included, for example, a famous novelist who preferred to chase butterflies, a French philosopher who coveted polished stones, a folk-music aficionado who

  • Danny Lyon, Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville, 1966, gelatin silver print, 8 × 12 1/2". From the series “The Bikeriders,” 1962–66. © Danny Lyon/Magnum Photos.


    FEW PICTURES CAPTURE the full-throttle thrill of youthful rebellion as well as Danny Lyon’s 1966 photograph of a lone motorcyclist speeding across a bridge over the Ohio River. Helmetless, he looks back over his shoulder, his hair streaming behind, his leather jacket boldly emblazoned with a skull and crossbones and his gang’s name: OUTLAWS. Unlike other iconic images of 1960s rebels, of Woodstock hippies or antiwar protesters, which always seem to summarize the turbulent decade just a little too neatly, Lyon’s photograph seizes a marginal, transitory moment. As a photograph, it is incomplete,

  • “Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography”

    Exactly what photography is at this point is an open question. Proliferating digital technologies and omnipresent smartphone cameras have made photographic imaging ridiculously easy, costless, and ubiquitous—a flow of experiences rather than staccato decisive moments. Reflecting on the fundamental nature of the medium, a host of contemporary artist-photographers have been experimenting with the medium’s obsolescing materials and practices. Some expose outdated papers, some scratch or waterlog their prints, and some reject the photographic apparatus wholesale—generating

  • Sarah Charlesworth, Patricia Cawlings, Los Angeles, 1980, gelatin silver print, 78 × 42". From the series “Stills,” 1980.

    “Sarah Charlesworth: Stills”

    In 1980, when Sarah Charlesworth first showed her “Stills,” six-and-a-half-foot-high black-and-white photographs of falling figures, they seemed huge and out of place. Photography was then not widely shown in museums, and no one made big pictures. But Charlesworth, steeped in Pop art and Conceptualism, presciently grasped the visual seduction of photographs and the political impact of their circulation. For “Stills,” she appropriated Andy Warhol’s own 1964 copy of a found photograph of a man plummeting from a building. And digging into newspaper archives, she found

  • Left: Park Fiction, Planungscontainer und provisorische Parkbenutzung (Planning container for provisional park use), 1998. Hamburg, Germany. Right: Zacharias Kunuk/Igloolik Isuma Productions, Atanarjuat (The fast runner), 2000, still from a color film in 35 mm, 172 minutes.

    Documenta11, plus a roster of participating artists

    Anyone who knows anything about Documenta11 knows that the theme of this year’s rendition of the quinquennial blockbuster is globalism. But these days globalism can mean a lot of things, most of which have to do with economic multinationalism and reactionary geopolitical alliances. So what does the term mean to artistic director Okwui Enwezor, and how has he made it the basis for this sprawling, much-hyped, and notoriously Eurocentric art event? The just-released roster of artists in this year’s exhibition, which opens in Kassel, Germany, on June 8, provides the beginnings of an answer: In

  • Pew Charitable Trusts

    TEN YEARS after Senator Jesse Helms lit into Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe for making “indecent art,” we find ourselves in the midst of another protracted culture war, this time more serious than the first: I’m referring not to the ludicrous attacks by New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani on the Brooklyn Museum of Art, but to the campaign, in Congress and elsewhere, to wipe out America’s rapidly eroding cultural resources. As odious as the mayor’s foray into the art world may be, it pales beside the full-scale ecological disaster brought on by the effects of long-term defunding and deliberate