David Levi Strauss

  • Sally Mann

    Like certain photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, Sally Mann’s images of her children growing up in Virginia became widely known for reasons that had nothing to do with the quality of the work. The appearance of her pictures of innocence and experience happened to coincide with a full-blown national sex panic, driven by right—wing moralizing and societal confusions about children and sexuality. In the ensuing clamor, the honesty and intensity of Mann’s images—not to mention their lyric subtleties—were mostly drowned out. But notoriety can he as good as fame these days (

  • Allen Ginsberg

    One of Allen Ginsberg’s talents was his ability to learn from his friends. He learned about music and song from Bob Dylan, prose rhythms from Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, and photography from Robert Frank. Underlying this gift was an insatiable curiosity, which he lavished on friends and acquaintances for fifty years. His camera was an instrument of this attentiveness—always there, always looking.

    This little show included two images from 1953, one from 1976, and nine works from 1985 to 1996. All are black and white portraits, with Ginsberg’s straightforward commentary scrawled below

  • Helen Levitt

    Helen Levitt may well be the most celebrated and least known photographer of her time. Even though she had her first solo show at MoMA before she turned thirty, and is now, at age eighty-four, widely recognized as a modern master, much of the current viewing public continues either to undervalue her work or to take it for granted. Even those who claim to know her photographs well will admit they haven’t looked at them closely for years.

    Part of this is due to the way the work has been framed in terms of the institution of art photography. Her first show at MoMA in 1943, “Helen Levitt: Photographs

  • SMOKING MIRRORS: THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF MIGUEL RIO BRANCO

    THEY SAY THAT CARAVAGGIO ground up flesh to make his colors. They also say he didn’t draw, but of course he did draw, only with paint, alla prima. He didn’t make drawings beforehand because he didn’t have time—only thirty-nine years to live, love, fight, outrage both clergy and humanists, and blast European painting out of the sinkhole of a tired and didactic Mannerism.

    Born fifty years ago in the Canary Islands and later transplanted to Brazil, Miguel Rio Branco has had a little more time, but he doesn’t act like it. Like Caravaggio, he’s a hell-bent verist with a renegade baroque sensibility.

  • Darrel Ellis

    Photography had a profound impact on the art of Darrel Ellis. In this posthumous retrospective of over seventy of Ellis’ works in various media dating from 1979 to 1992, it is the manipulated photographs and their translations into paint and ink that are most compelling.

    Ellis’ relationship to photography was always ambivalent, even agonistic. He was photographed by both Robert Mapplethorpe and Peter Hujar, and his often reproduced Self-Portrait After Robert Mapplethorpe Photograph, 1989, is obviously an attempt to recover his own likeness, to take it back through his hands as he painted. Ellis

  • Thomas Demand

    German artist Thomas Demand’s first solo show in the United States consisted of four huge color photographs, depicting stark architectural interiors and details, with deadpan, generic titles: Corner, 1996, Corridor, 1996, Staircase, 1995, and Archive, 1995. Face-mounted onto Plexiglas, the photographs seemed to float out into the room like projections. The stone-cold visual power and presence of these pictures were so immediately compelling that it took some time to register that something seemed wrong about them. Something was missing. This moment of recognition was visceral, atavistic, and

  • “Distant Relations”

    In the excellent anthology published to accompany “Distant Relations: A Dialogue Among Chicano, Irish, and Mexican Artists,” Mexican art historian Cuauhtémoc Medina writes that audiences expect international exhibitions “to reveal some truth about, say, . . . ‘Mexico and Ireland.’ This is an illusion; the experience of a society cannot be summarized in an object or image. . . . We visit Babel as tourists and come back with a snapshot.”

    The little corner of Babel snapshotted here combines two regions that obviously share the experience of tremendous political and cultural upheaval. While other

  • “Image and Memory: Latin American Photography 1880–1992”

    While the clichéd title “Image and Memory” could be (and has been) applied to photography shows from virtually anywhere, the subtitle “Latin American Photography, 1880–1992,” for an exhibition of 141 photographs from nine countries, was clearly a misnomer. The idea that anyone could do justice in a show of this size to the whole field of Latin American photography from the dawn of the medium to the present is unrealistic at best, and arrogantly condescending at worst. In her introduction to the exhibition brochure, curator Wendy Watriss attempts to take herself off the hook with the extraordinary

  • “The Eye Of The Beholder: Seven Contemporary Swiss Photographers”

    Writing in The Village Voice at the height of the culture wars in this country, Michael Feingold made a modest proposal that U.S. artists and writers apply en masse for sanctuary in Switzerland. His comment wryly reveals some of the stereotypes Americans reflexively invoke to characterize all things Swiss: cool detachment and political neutrality.

    Stereotypes always obscure more than they reveal. Although “Swiss photography” is generally thought to flow from the reportage of earlier masters such as Werner Bischof and Walter Bosshard, the most emotionally expressive and politically direct (

  • Jim Goldberg

    Jim Goldberg’s “Raised by Wolves” is an epic in word and image that probes the gap between dreams and reality in the lives of teenage runaways living on the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ten years in the making, its complete form includes hundreds of photographs, audio- and videotapes, found objects, documents, transcribed interviews, family pictures, home movies, and handwritten statements by the depicted teenagers. This selection of 45 works was drawn from the larger exhibition recently mounted at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., that will be traveling through 1998.

  • Joel-Peter Witkin

    Joel-Peter Witkin’s photographs present subject matter that has long characterized the grotesque (“unnatural,” biologically impossible combinations of human, animal, and plant forms) while providing evidence of extreme physical acts and conditions. In his elaborate apocalyptic tableaux sauvages, based on paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya, Courbet, Seurat, Grant Wood, and others, the imaginary chimeras, cyclopes, harpies, centaurs, and manticores of old are replaced by amputees, dwarves, transsexuals, and androgynes, severed heads, hands, and feet, fetuses, animal carcasses, and an array of

  • John O'Reilly

    In John O’Reilly’s “Occupied Territory,” 1995, a series of 16 small black and white Polaroid photomontages, the helmeted heads of young World War II German soldiers are transplanted onto innocently suggestive male nude bodies from ’50s gay porn mags and stationed within or against portions of Camille Corot’s silvery poetic landscapes. These meticulously mediated and faceted collages are placed against variously toned gray backgrounds and set up on blocks of wood, concrete, or brick, in miniature stage sets. Subtle tonalities of light and shadow combine with shifts in depth and perspective to