No holding back

Fotofest focuses on haunting images of contemporary America


News_FotoFest 2010_Road to Nowhere_Erika Larsen_Ruthie's First Kill_2007
Courtesy of the artist
News_FotoFest 2010_Road to Nowhere_Sheila Pree Bright_Untitled 12_2005
Courtesy of the artist
News_FotoFest 2010_Road to Nowhere_Brian Ulrich_Circuit City_2008
Courtesy of the artist
News_FotoFest 2010_Road to Nowhere_Eirik Johnson_Junked Blue Trucks, Forks, Washington_2007
Courtesy of the artist and Rene Bransten Galley, San Francisco
News_FotoFest 2010_Whatever Was Splendid_Todd Hido_8614_from series_A Road Divided_2009
Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery
News_FotoFest 2010_Whatever Was Splendid_Richard Mosse_Cigarette at Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq_2009
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery
News_FotoFest 2010_Whatever Was Splendid_Jane Tam_Aunt's Tin-Foiled Stove Top_2006
Courtesy of the artist
News_FotoFest 2010_Whatever Was Splendid_Craig Mammano_Untitled_New Orleans_2007
Courtesy of the artist
News_FotoFest 2010_Medianation_Leslie Hall_How We Go Out Version 2_2007
Courtesy of the artist
News_FotoFest 2010_Medianation_Laurel Nakadate_Farther from Home than I'd Ever Been_2007
Courtesy of the artist and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York
News_FotoFest 2010_Medianation_Sandra Valenzuela_X-boyfriends Alias Fake Memories_Paco_2007
Courtesy of the artist and EDS Galería
News_FotoFest 2010_Medianation_Kalup Linzy_Sweetberry Sonnet_Remixed_2008
Courtesy of the artist, Electronic Arts Intermix and Taxter and Spengemann Gallery, New York
News_FotoFest 2010_Assembly_Peter Holzhauer_Total Picture Control_2007
Courtesy of the artist and Marc Selwyn Fine Art
News_FotoFest 2010_Assembly_Nicole Belle_Untitled_2008
Courtesy of the artist and Marc Selwyn Fine Art
News_FotoFest 2010_Assembly_Matt Lipps_Untitled_hallway_2008
Courtesy of the artist and Marc Selwyn Fine Art
News_FotoFest 2010_Assembly_Augusta Wood_It turns into nothing on his tongue_2005
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery

For the first time in is its 27-year history, Fotofest is highlighting contemporary U.S. photography. Organizers asked leading curators from different regions of the country to put together four exhibitions that represent "the exciting substance of new U.S. photography in works that look beyond the established conventions of this quintessentially American medium." Subjects range from war, poverty and celebrity to more philosophical issues about the place of American culture in the world. Here are some striking images from each exhibition, along with commentary from Charlotte Cotton, creative director of the National Media Museum in Bradford, England.

Right: Erika Larsen, "Ruthie’s First Kill," 2007, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "The Road to Nowhere?"

In The Road to Nowhere? exhibition, curator Natasha Egan has conflated a politicized photographic lineage, from the Farm Security Administration to Robert Frank’s "The Americans of the mid-1950s" to the New Topographics exhibition of 1975, with the socioeconomic reality of 21st century America in the wake of its earlier golden age. Her selection of 18 photographers convincingly narrates our melancholic and sometimes biting fables about America. 

Right: Sheila Pree Bright, "Untitled #12," 2005, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "The Road to Nowhere?"
Right: Brian Ulrich, "Circuit City," 2008, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "The Road to Nowhere?"

"The Road to Nowhere?" is on display at Winter Street Studios.

Right: Eirik Johnson, "Junked Blue Trucks, Forks, Washington," 2007, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "The Road to Nowhere?"

The title of curator Aaron Schuman's exhibition, "Whatever was Splendid: New American Photographs," takes as its cue a phrase used by Lincoln Kirstein in his 1938 introduction to Walker Evans’s “prophetic” (to quote Schuman) book American Photographs. In a focused manner Schuman has explored the renewed timeliness of Evans’s photography, created in an earlier period of deep social and economic trouble in the United States. Both exhibitions ponder the circumstances and the consequences that a sensitive photographer in America must bear witness to.

Right: Todd Hido, #8614 from the series "A Road Divided," 2009, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Whatever was Splendid: New American Photographs"
Right: Richard Mosse, "Cigarette at Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq," 2009, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Whatever was Splendid: New American Photographs"
Right: Jane Tam, "Aunt’s Tin-Foiled Stove Top," 2006, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Whatever was Splendid: New American Photographs"

"Whatever Was Splendid: New American Photographs" is on display at FotoFest at Vine Street Studios.

Right: Craig Mammano, "Untitled, New Orleans," 2007, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Whatever was Splendid: New American Photographs"

In the "MediaNation: Performing for the Screen" exhibition, curator Gilbert Vicario cites David Antin’s 1976 analysis of the then-emergent artistic form of video as taking its aesthetic and technical cues from the industry of television, by then a mainstream medium.....In an era where the personal computer has taken over from the television set and where telecommunications are secondary to our web-based conversations, he suggests that there are new vehicles and constructs for contemporary artists to co-opt and subvert.

Right: Leslie Hall, "How We Go Out Version 2," 2007, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Medianation: Performing for the Screen"
Right: Laurel Nakadate, "Farther from Home Than I'd Ever Been," 2007, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Medianation: Performing for the Screen"
Right: Sandra Valenzuela, "X-boyfriends Alias Fake Memories (Paco)," 2007, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Medianation: Performing for the Screen"

"Medianation: Performing for the Screen" is on display at New World Museum,the Art League of Houston and Isabella Court.

Right: Kalup Linzy, "Sweetberry Sonnet (Remixed)," 2008, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Medianation: Performing for the Screen"

The legacy of conceptual art since the early 1960s is the most pronounced historical underpinning of "Assembly: Eight Emerging Photographers From Southern California" showing the work of eight artists who have graduated from Southern Californian art schools, selected by the curatorial team of the Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This theme reflects a nationwide refocusing upon a period when artists were preoccupied with what it meant to make art, and what art could speak of in a time of political and societal anxiety.  The ground that Robert Heinecken laid at University of California at Los Angeles, starting in 1961, for exploring photography outside of its traditional genres, nine concepts, or aesthetics still remains fertile.

Right: Peter Holzhauer, "Total Picture Control," 2007, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Assembly: Eight Emerging Artists from Southern California"
Right: Nicole Belle, "Untitled," 2008, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Assembly: Eight Emerging Artists from Southern California"

"Assembly: Eight Emerging Photographers from Southern California" is on display at Williams Tower.

RIght: Matt Lipps, "Untitled (hallway)," 2008, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Assembly: Eight Emerging Artists from Southern California"
Each of these four exhibitions about contemporary U.S. photography, representing over 40 artists, offers up a provocative overview of what preoccupies young U.S. imagemakers today. Their choices of ostensible subjects under analysis range from our ongoing wars, poverty, identity, and celebrity to more philosophical issues concerning what of American culture stands on a threshold or lies in ruins. This bridging of tangible and lived experiences with the intangibility of collective memory and consciousness at the beginnings of a new century seems to be the ample challenge and also the fuel for contemporary photographers. Right: Augusta Wood, "It Turns into Nothing on His Tongue," detail, 2005, from the FotoFest 2010 Biennial exhibition "Assembly: Eight Emerging Artists from Southern California"
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