New York

“The New Capital”

White Columns

This show seemed to promise more than it delivered, though not from problems in structure or conception. Instead, its difficulties appeared intrinsic to the task of mapping an interesting but indefinable region in the relations between esthetics and culture.

Organized by Tricia Collins and Richard Milazzo, “The New Capital” drew together the very diverse work of some 16 artists. Its thesis concerned the role of photography (or, rather, of photomechanical reproduction) in this last fifth of the 20th century; rather than aping Walter Benjamin, it transmuted his theory into the contemporary vernacular, dealing with the reification of visual forms. Underlying it was a discourse on the progressive abstraction marking late capitalist society, an abstraction by which the characteristics of reproduction—most notably, its surfaces—acquire the force of values in and of themselves. Opaque, shimmering,

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