Growth can be slow and hard when you are groping alone. It quickens when you meet other photographers who have worked and thought intensively about their medium. You listen, and ask, and a phrase sticks in your memory like a barb. You see a photograph that blazes with significance. Suddenly a way of working, dim till then, comes clear before you.
—Minor White, 1952.
Minor White, one of the founders of Aperture, believed that the photobook and magazine were the ideal sites for encounters and dialogues along these lines. Sixty years ago, there were few galleries, let alone museums, interested in presenting photography as a valid art form. Since then, Aperture has played a leading role in placing photography, in all its forms, at the center of a global artistic dialogue. Last night an exhibition that links photographers across the years in a new dialogue on the art—and the art of presenting photography in all its forms—opened, in celebration of Aperture’s sixtieth anniversary.
For Remix, Aperture’s publisher of books, Lesley A. Martin, invited a group of photographers to select an Aperture publication that has been influential in forming their work, and to pay artistic homage by creating a new work in response. Each of the works is also being released in a limited edition of five, available through the gallery.
Penelope Umbrico (r) describes her remix of theMasters of Photographyseries to artist Vik Muniz (c) and curator Lesley A. Martin (l).
Penelope Umbrico,in response to the Masters of Photography series, which Aperture published between 1977 and 1999, selected nine volumes that include images of mountains. Photographs by artists from Paul Strand to Eikoh Hosoe became the subjects of her digital investigations, using a new app for her cell phone camera. The result is a crazy-quilt re-visioning of the geographical forms covering the wall in prints of the same size as the book pages, alongside vintage prints of most of the original photographs. Her exploration is also produced as a limited edition book, which echoes the same format and graphics as the Masters of Photography series.
Alec Soth, in response to Robert Adams’s Summer Nights (1985), wrote: Almost all the work I discovered as a young photographer was in book form. When I was twenty and discovered Summer Nights, things clicked. It is easy to see why. Summer Nights is his easiest book to digest. I think of it as the Robert Adams gateway drug. It certainly worked that way for me. I immediately went out and started taking night pictures. It just lit a spark for a kind of romantic solitude.
The video that Soth made 20 years later, Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree (2012), evokes a sense of being in between, on edge, somewhat lost—almost recreating an atmosphere of of youthful confusion that eventually leads to creating work that stands on its own, while recognizing significant influences.
The other artists and their explorations for Remix are:
Rinko Kawauchi in response to Sally Mann’s Immediate Family (1992); Vik Muniz in response to Edward Weston’s The Daybooks: Vol. 1, Mexico (1973); Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebsin response to a selection of Aperture’s essay titles; Martin Parr in response to Issue 103 of Aperture magazine (1986); Doug Rickard in response to Stephen Shore’s Uncommon Places(1982/2004); Viviane Sassen in response to Edward Weston’s Nudes (1977); and James Welling in response to Paul Strand’s Time in New England (1980).
One of the highlights of the exhibition is The Aperture Reading Room(above), in which significant issues of Aperture magazine, in it’s earliest incarnations, are presented under glass, and flanked by a pop-up library wall of books which visitors can enjoy in a comfortably furnished reading room with wallpaper drawings by Jason Polan. The project was assembled by Paul Colarusso and originally shown in August at the Look3 Festival in Charlotteville, NC.
Remix continues at the Aperture Gallery and Bookstore, 547 West 27th Street, through November 17th. Selections from the 60th Anniversary Benefit Auction Gala, which takes place on Tuesday, October 23rd, are also on view in the Gallery through Saturday, October 20th. Tickets for the Gala are available online. The anniversary celebration also includes Aperture’s newly re-invented website, where recent gallery talks and events can be re-visited. Photos: Peggy Roalf.