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June 13th, 2008

About the Exhibition


Andy Grundberg
guest curator
and chair, photography department,
Corcoran College of Art + Design, Washington DC
and art critic to the New York Times

Image Title
Jack Delano, b. 1914
Boy Scout, ca. 1940
Gelatin silver print, 14 x 11 inches
Museum Purchase, 1996.7.3
Image © the Artist
See larger image >

At heart photography is about looking,
and looking is above all else a sign of
attraction. Photographers point their
cameras, viewers stop in their tracks,
collectors open their wallets and adorn
their walls, all because their eyes insist
on it. In this small grouping selected
from a trove of choice photographic
images held by the University of
Virginia Art Museum, attraction is the
essential and often explicit ingredient.

As these examples suggest, attraction
becomes beauty when it is reciprocated.
Some subjects openly court the
photographer’s gaze with their own
good looks, while others respond to
each other or themselves in situations
made for us, strangers they will never
know. Sometimes the photographer simply grabs us by the lapels and insists we see what he or she has seen, sharing an attention to beauty
that we, left to ourselves, might have missed. Many of these pictures are the result of great timing, and more than a few of ingenious sleight of
hand. If we find ourselves drawn to an individual image, like iron filings pulled by a powerful magnet, then we join the mutual admiration society they embody.

These photographs date from the very beginnings of photography to the current day, although the museum’s collection has its deepest strengths in the century just past. Celebrity, portraiture, and the human body are particularly intriguing territories within this time span. Works by Hans Belmer, Georges Hugnet, and Man Ray portray the Surrrealists’ interest in uncanny states of attraction, a tradition carried on more recently by Les Krims and Joel Peter Witkin. Pictures by Tina Barney, Nan Goldin, and Sally Mann speak in realistic terms about states of modern love, while Carrie Mae Weems and James Welling show us metaphoric and ambiguous signs of emotional meaning. In all these pictures, attraction is both a medium of the message and a message of the medium.

   

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June 13th, 2008

Gallery Talk


Andy Grundberg
guest curator
and chair, photography department,
Corcoran College of Art + Design, Washington DC
and art critic to the New York Times

Andy Grundberg speaks in the Museum about Mutual Attraction
Andy Grundberg speaks in the Museum about Mutual Attraction
Museum visitors study the exhibition
Museum visitors study the exhibition
After the lecture Edwin Roseberry looks at his photograph, #496 (Woman Lying on Porch)
After the lecture Edwin Roseberry looks at his photograph, #496 (Woman Lying on Porch)
Ed Roseberry in front of his photograph taken by Andy Grundberg using his camera phone after the talk
Ed Roseberry in front of his photograph taken by Andy Grundberg using his camera phone after the talk
   

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June 13th, 2008

Andy Grundberg on Look3

Pinch me if I’m dreaming, but walking down the mall of Charlottesville last night was like being in Arles in the late 1970s. Photographers everywhere, clumps of them, sitting at outdoor cafes as the heat of the day left the pavement, a palpable sense of excited anticipation before Mary Ellen Mark’s talk at the Paramount. True, the C’ville mall is larger than the Place du Forum, and few were imbibing Perrier menthes, but there were plenty of gypsy-style vendors lending an air of exoticism to the whole thing. All that was missing was the sight of a young Ralph Gibson holding court surrounded by a bevy of eager, attractive admirers.

This is the third edition of Look, and it really has gotten its act together much faster than the storied Rencontre of Arles ever did. Besides Mary Ellen’s talk, the night was filled with galleries staying open past dark, an open-air slide show, pictures hanging from trees, and a party at the Second Street Gallery for those in the know. U.Va chipped in this year with a photo show at the art museum, thank you. (I guess you figured that out, since the museum is hosting this site.) I gave a gallery talk at the opening before heading downtown

I managed to miss Mary Ellen in conversation with Alex Chadwick (hey, I would have needed a ticket, and I needed a drink after my talk more), but I did peek in on her show at the McGuffey Art Center. You go girl: Mark’s prom pictures, taken with Polaroid’s 20 by 24 camera using black-and-white peel-apart emulsion, are some of her best work ever. Some of the peculiar couples and groups are locals (Charlottesville HS, to be precise), and Mark’s eye for the Arbus-like among us is darned remarkable. The Art Center also is hosting a show of Jeff Jacobson’s work (good to know he’s still in business), Lori Grinker’s powerful “After War” pictures (Iraq amputees, in unflinching detail), and the usual, though condensed, “Eyes of History” award-winners from the White House News Photographers. Too bad the Newsy’s don’t add Grinker to their idea of what photojournalism can be.

I took too quick a peek at James Nachtwey’s show at Les Yeux du Monde gallery (that’s “Eyes of the World,” or something like it, for you English speakers) to be able to say anything more than you need to see it, but he’s on tap for Saturday night’s Paramount lecture so he can talk about the work himself. Joel-Peter Witkin, he of the hyphenated first name, has what amounts to a mini-retrospective at Second Street that reminds me how bizarre his work once seemed. Trouble is, when it first appeared there was no such thing as PhotoShop, and you knew that his models, armless, legless (is this a theme of the festival this year?) and usually naked, were the real deal. Witkin’s own move into digital (see “Night on the Town,” 2007, with a female centaur creature) seems to me to pull the ground out from beneath of all his prior work. Too bad, if you ask me.

Pictures in trees: Look, I’m a big fan of Flip Nicklin’s underwater photographs of whales, dolphins, etc., having seen them at National Geographic gatherings past, but hanging them in shrubbery makes no sense to me. The prints don’t look nearly as vivid and vital as the same images projected, and I had to crane my neck and dodge pedestrians to see them. Next time, why not put prints of trees up in the trees? Or get pigs to fly.

As for the Second Street party: missed it. Had to go home to write this post. But the party seemed already started by the time the sun hit the Blue Ridge. Needless to say, Nick Nichols and Jessica Nagle have done a great job and are on to something big!

   

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