Tuesday, July 27, 2010

MoMA presents - The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to today

The Original Copy presents a critical examination of the intersections between photography and sculpture, exploring how the one medium has been implicated in the analysis and creative redefinition of the other. The exhibition is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography.

The advent of photography in 1839, when aesthetic experience was firmly rooted in Romanticist tenets of originality, brought into focus the critical role that the copy plays in the perception of art. But if the photograph's reproducibility challenged the aura attributed to the original, it also reflected a very personal form of perception and offered a model for dissemination that would transform the entire nature of art.

In his 1947 book Le Musée imaginaire, novelist and politician André Malraux famously advocated for a pancultural "museum without walls," postulating that art history, and the history of sculpture in particular, had become "the history of that which can be photographed." Sculpture was among the first subjects to be treated in photography. There were many reasons for this, including the immobility of sculpture, which suited the long exposure times needed with the early photographic processes, and the desire to document, collect, publicize, and circulate objects that were not always portable. Through crop, focus, angle of view, degree of close-up, and lighting, as well as through ex post facto techniques of darkroom manipulation, collage, montage, and assemblage, photographers have not only interpreted sculpture but created stunning reinventions of it.

The Original Copy looks at the ways in which photography at once informs and challenges our understanding of what sculpture is. Conceived around ten conceptual modules, the exhibition examines the rich historical legacy of photography and the aesthetic shifts that have taken place in the medium over the last 170 years through a superb selection of 300 pictures by more than 100 artists. Some, ranging from Eugène Atget and Walker Evans to Lee Friedlander and David Goldblatt, are best known as photographers; others such as Auguste Rodin, Constantin Brancusi and David Smith, are best known as sculptors; and others, ranging from Hannah Höch and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, to contemporaries such as Bruce Nauman, Fischli/Weiss, Rachel Harrison, and Cyprien Gaillard, are too various to categorize but exemplify how fruitfully and unpredictably photography and sculpture have combined.

The exhibition will travel to Kunsthaus Zürich, where it will be on view from February 25 through May 15, 2011.

Bruce Nauman. Waxing Hot from the portfolio Eleven Color Photographs. 1966–67, 1970, 2007.
Inkjet print (originally chromogenic color print)
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Gerald S. Elliott Collection
© 2010 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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