Catherine Wagner

The Oakland Museum

The subject of Catherine Wagner’s most recent body of photographs is the American classroom. Wagner’s self-assigned purpose was to “photograph the diversity of American education within the context of the classroom.” Not unlike her earlier series about the construction of San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center, this work is anchored in a concept that is deceptively prosaic. If the series’ premise is simple, the subjects she selects are anything but facile. But Wagner’s technical perfection, strong eye for composition, and well-honed intuition make this intrinsically inexpressive subject matter visually potent. She is able to create images rich in description and nuance, and still maintain an illusion of neutrality.

The 20 black-and-white photographs that comprise the “American Classroom” series cover a range of educational settings, from a nursery school in a Los Angeles synagogue to

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