Recent Shows: Kara Walker, Wayne Liu, James Wendell, and The City Reliquary

Kara Walker at the Whitney, installation photo by Sheldon CollinsI went to the Kara Walker show at the Whitney for the second time this weekend. I’m glad I went a second time because the first was totally overwhelming. I feel like so much has been said about her work that I am not sure what I could add. Her use of a format of the period, the silhouette, to be so explicit is haunting, especially given the silhouette’s inherently evasive nature. American viewers, who are steeped in the dynamics presented in her work, on a whole have no problem filling in the blanks, attesting to our own intimacy with the tragedies Walker explores. The series of watercolor reflections after receiving the MacArthur Fellowship (and the accompanying criticism) incorporates the complicated relationship of artist to art to art world to racism to sexism. The layers just keep stacking up an reinforcing themselves.

wayne liu openingThe Chelsea Market is currently graced with Wayne Liu’s show “China, You are a Lucky Star.” Wayne is a friend from ABC No Rio‘s dark room, though he now works at ICP. The show consists of some 40 images from a one month trip to China. The black and white prints are abrasively photographic with grain and blur printed on expired paper. Wayne is looking at a modernizing China. He identifies himself as a voyeur looking in. The visual texture of the images stands in contrast to the emotional tenor. The images repeatedly focus on individuals, singling them out of the crowd or catching them in isolation. They are content to glide between the gritty modernization of their country, and the aggressive photographic style. The show is up till the beginning of March.

James WendellJames Wendell is displaying a portion of his long term project eyeblink at The Half King. I know James from Magnum Photos, and Magnum’s influence is evident in James’ work. The crisp, intimate images of daily life explore the act of looking as an indulgence in and of itself. James explains that there is no theme or story. Photographing becomes an experiential mode. The variety of subjects, from a snarling dog to women playing with a garden hose, hold together under the persistent delight of a photographer’s gaze.

cityreliquary.gifA friend brought me to The City Reliquary on Saturday, which had me totally giddy. This little museum houses New York City artifacts, from old tokens, to pieces of landmark buildings, to excessive statue of liberty collections. The haphazard assortment of items and facts heeds more to indulgence and obsession than accuracy. A suggested donation of $1 is requested as you go through an old turnstile into the one room museum, packed with curiosities. One case showed an assortment of items gleaned from subway tunnels, such as a very old shovel and an old drill bit. Another case detailed the development of the token and metro card systems, including a Silvester J. Dubosz token, which displayed this city commissioner’s initials in the mid-1980. He was fired when the covert initials were discovered. vintage kissing photographs There are bottles of water from various water ways about the city. I could go on. It was delightful. In the back room, they had just installed an exhibit of vintage kissing photographs. We got a sneak peek. The opening is on Friday. You should go. Working the museum that Saturday afternoon was Lulu Lolo, an Italian-American playwrite and performance artist. She showed us pictures of her performance in Italy playing Mother Cabrini. We talked about the Collyer Brothers and Brooklyn history and old newspapers. Lulu Lolo has a few pieces on the Italian American Network performing Italian superstitions.

I love New York.

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Filed under new york city, photography

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