David Levi Strauss

  • James Nachtwey

    THE FIRST IMAGE ENCOUNTERED in this midcareer retrospective—a color photograph taken in San Miguel Province, El Salvador, in 1984—goes straight to the aesthetic and ethical core of James Nachtwey's documentary work. In the foreground, a middle-aged man bends forward on his knees to cradle a wounded girl, perhaps seven or eight years old, in his arms. The blood on her legs and abdomen has stained the man's shirt. Behind and above them is a group of five soldiers in green fatigues. One lifts a fallen comrade onto the shoulders of another, thrusting the wounded man's clenched fist skyward

  • Daido Moriyama

    “Less art and more truth.” I remember that motto scrawled across a wall in the Robert Frank retrospective at the Whitney Museum in 1995–96. The idea that anyone would use photography to try to tell the truth seems preposterous these days, but Frank has been doing so for over fifty years—very often with success. It is now clear that the one artist who most resembles Frank in this quixotic quest is the Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama, whose work has finally been made available to an American audience in a spate of recent exhibitions: “Stray Dog,” at the Japan Society; “Hunter,” at the

  • Paul Graham

    Paul Graham’s latest series, “End of an Age,” 1999, consists of forty-nine large color photographs of twenty-somethings hanging out in clubs somewhere in Western Europe or the US (Edinburgh? Munich? Helsinki? New York? Graham refuses to specify). Most of these images are portraits that catch the singular subject unaware and unposed, usually in profile, often leaning against a wall. No one looks directly into the lens. One turns three quarters away, like Betty in Gerhard Richter’s eponymous 1988 painting, into a sea of red and gold. Harsh, stark, sharply defined flash pictures alternate with

  • Frederick Sommer

    When the elevator doors opened onto the recent Frederick Sommer show, some viewers might have thought they’d gotten off on the wrong floor, perhaps at an exhibition of midcareer Pollock or (more to the point) early Max Ernst. One might not expect paintings and drawings of organic abstraction in a show drawn from the photographer’s estate, but there they were, provocatively on display among four of the more familiar gelatin-silver prints: four drawings in ink on charcoal paper and four paintings in tempera on stretched canvas. This was a risky and delightful show, both for what it attempted and

  • Jörg Sasse

    The first thing one notices about Jörg Sasse’s new images is that they’re gorgeous, then that they resemble everyday snapshots. Only somewhere down the line does one recognize—in the strange tonalities and heightened formal rhythms—that they have been digitally tweaked. Sasse collects casual photographs made by others, studies them, and then teases out their latent formal and conceptual properties. That he uses digital imaging to effect his changes is almost beside the point, since the resultant works are manifestly about photography—“practicing photography by other means,” as Richter has

  • “Kenneth Josephson: A Retrospective”

    A first-generation product of the seminal photography program set up by Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at the Illinois Institute of Design, Kenneth Josephson, now sixty-seven, gets retrospective treatment at the institution where he taught for thirty-five years. Is the Windy City veteran, best known for his “photographs about photography,” ripe for revisioning in light of contemporary tastes? Maybe; but his images, firmly bound to the old formalist ethos and look of institutional art photography, were never as witty or as plugged-in as those of ’70s-syle LA conceptualists like Robert Cumming

  • Josef Sudek

    In this first of a series of planned exhibitions drawn from the estate of the Czech photographer Josef Sudek (1896–1976), the gallery, in collaboration with curator Anna Fárová, chose to highlight over sixty pigment prints made by the artist between 1947 and 1954. They are all contact prints, laboriously transferred onto small (7 by 9 inches or less) sheets of textured rag paper in golden, rose, and verdant hues. In this process, the images are transposed chemically onto carbon tissue and the pigment is then pressed onto regular paper. In reinterpreting his images in the ’40s and ’50s through

  • Arnaldo Morales

    In his first solo show in New York, thirty-one-year-old Puerto Rico-born Arnaldo Morales displayed what he calls “electrobjetos”—interactive anthropomorphic automatons meticulously fashioned in polished aluminum and stainless steel and powered by small motors and air compressors compressors. He anchored one to each of the four walls of the gallery’s front room and suspended the title piece, Triobegun Ironik, No. 98, 1998, from the ceiling.

    The aesthetic here is Popular Mechanics meets the Critical Art Ensemble’s Flesh Machine, with a conceptual focus on the emotional inadequacies and

  • Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz

    Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz was one of the key figures of the Modernist avant-garde in Poland. Under the pseudonym Witkacy, he was a renowned playwright whose darkly comic plays presage the theater of the absurd. Between his birth in 1885 and his suicide in 1939 (on the day the Soviet army marched into Poland) he produced philosophical and theoretical writings, novels, and a large body of paintings and drawings, many executed under the carefully recorded influence of peyote, mescaline, and cocaine.

    With this recent show we learn of his early and abiding fascination with photography as well. From

  • Ralph Eugene Meatyard

    When Beaumont Newhall compiled the later editions of his canonical History of Photography, he left Ralph Eugene Meatyard out of the picture. Working against an aesthetic orthodoxy that valued naturalism and formal consistency above all else, Meatyard, who died in 1972. at age forty-seven, used the most shameless of contrivances and displayed a reckless willingness to explore the shadowy, subjective side of photography. It is this disregard for “straight” photographic conventions that has made Meatyard’s work relevant to artists as diverse as Cindy Sherman (who cited him as one of only a few

  • “The Cottingley Fairies and Other Apparitions”

    If the birth of photography was the result of an illicit affair between science and art, the question of custody has never been settled. Supposedly objective in their relation to the phenomenal world, photographs are often taken as reliable evidence, but as Fox Talbot recognized at the birth of the medium, they are “evidence of a novel kind”—a volatile mixture of fact and fiction in which subjectivity is the catalyst for belief.

    This smartly curated show essayed the turbulent relation between photography and belief, juxtaposing vernacular, often anonymous late-nineteenth-century “spirit photographs”

  • Nick Waplington

    Nick Waplington has gone out of his way, literally and figuratively, to show he’s no slave to any one style or subject. He followed up his highly successful book Living Room (1991), focusing his modified British snapshot aesthetic on his friends in two working-class families living in the Nottingham council flats, with a book of antiheroic self-portraits in panoramic landscapes, Other Edens (1994), and then added the Living Room sequel, The Wedding (1996). Now comes “Safety in Numbers,” a deluge of images from the First World underground urban youth culture produced in transit from London to