New York

Andy Mattern, Average Subject/Medium Distance 7264 (Contrast), 2019, ink-jet print, 25 3⁄4 × 17 3⁄4".

Andy Mattern, Average Subject/Medium Distance 7264 (Contrast), 2019, ink-jet print, 25 3⁄4 × 17 3⁄4".

Andy Mattern

Elizabeth Houston Gallery

In 1977, Douglas Crimp observed that “while it once seemed that pictures had the function of interpreting reality, it now seems that they have usurped it.” How understated that declaration appears today—with its hedging seemingness—in a world ruled and fueled by images. Crimp wrote the line for the catalogue essay accompanying a modest, generation-making group show he organized at Artists Space in New York, called simply “Pictures” (its title yet another understatement). Crimp’s thought was on my mind in early July, a couple days after his death, when I visited the basement of the Elizabeth Houston Gallery to see Andy Mattern’s small exhibition of Conceptual photographs whose title, “Normal Pictures,” immediately made clear that no such things would be on view and that, indeed, “normal pictures” do not exist.

This was less “photography about photography” than a reminder of that phrase’s

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