Elad Lassry. "Herend (Sweet Pea)," 2010. Chromogenic color print.*
The 2010 edition of MoMA's annual photography series highlights the work of Roe Ethridge, Elad Lassry, Alex Prager, and Amanda Ross-Ho, four contemporary artists who engage photography as a medium with fluid borders between editorial work, film, and visual art. Their pictures—whether shot in the real world, manipulated in the studio, or culled from pop culture, advertising, and the movie industry—have shifted contexts at least once, often from the magazine page to the gallery wall. Infusing the seductive language of film and commercial photography with a touch of sly conceptualism, they explore the relationship between straight and constructed photographs and still and moving images. The exhibition features 36 works of photography and film; Lassry's Untitled (2009) and the U.S. debut of Prager's Despair (2010) mark the first time film has been included in a New Photography installation. New Photography 2010 is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.
Roe Ethridge shoots in "editorial mode," directly borrowing images already in circulation, including outtakes from his own commercial work. Drawing upon the descriptive power of photography and the ease with which it can be accessed, duplicated, and recombined, the artist orchestrates visual fugues that acquire their meaning from the salient way in which pictures have been shuffled, sequenced, and laid out in nonlinear narrative structures. Combining and recombining already recontextualized images, Ethridge at once subverts the photographs' original roles and renews their signifying possibilities.
Elad Lassry defines his practice as consumed with "pictures"—generic images culled from vintage picture magazines and film archives. His still life compositions, photocollages, and studio portraits of friends and celebrities never exceed the dimensions of a magazine spread and are displayed in matching frames that derive their colors from the vibrant hues in the photographs. In their pop-culture subject matter, Lassry's works mimic commercial photography. Yet his most direct-seeming shots are upended by an occasional blur, double exposures, or the superimposition of multiple negatives. Lassry often displays his photographs beside 16mm film projections, provoking tension between the stillness within the moving image and the temporality of the static image.
Alex Prager takes her cues from pulp fiction, cinematic conventions, and fashion photography. Resembling movie stills, her unnerving photographs—crisp, boldly colored, shot from unexpected angles, and dramatically lit—feature women disguised in wigs, dramatic makeup, and retro attire. The exhibition presents the United States premiere of Despair, Prager's first film, starring actress Bryce Dallas Howard. The four-minute film, with a score by composer Ali Helnwein, is a full-sensory version of Prager's photographs. Focusing on the actress's face to capture one intense emotion, Prager constructs images that are intentionally loaded, reflecting her fascination with, and understanding of, cinematic melodrama.
Amanda Ross-Ho's work is inspired by the material culture of the artist's studio. Her distinctive installation, expressly conceived for this exhibition, includes a mural-scale picture of studio residue printed on canvas. It also includes a hand-drilled Sheetrock panel covered with found images, scanned from craft manuals and photography textbooks, and pictures with familial significance, such as reprints of photographs taken by Ross-Ho's parents. Ross-Ho grew up in a family of photographers, both commercial and artistic; within this framework of relationships, she renegotiates the roles of craft processes and commercial photography in contemporary art practice.
The exhibition is made possible by the Carl Jacobs Foundation