Picturing Media: Modern Photographs from the Permanent Collection

October 31, 2000 - April 29, 2001
Adjacent to the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing, first floor

Picturing Media: Modern Photographs from the Permanent Collection, opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on October 31, 2000, is the second of an ongoing series of installations highlighting the Museum's rapidly expanding collection of contemporary photographs. This selection of 14 works, all acquired by the Metropolitan in the last decade, includes a number of very large photographs that are handsomely accommodated by the scale of the exhibition space on the first floor adjoining the Museum's Lila Acheson Wallace Wing for modern art. The exhibition remains on view through April 29, 2001.

The exhibition explores the way that artists over the last half century have responded photographically to the gradual infiltration of the mass media into every corner of public and private life–through film, television, advertising, and now the Internet. Maria Morris Hambourg, Curator in Charge of the Metropolitan's Department of Photographs and curator of the exhibition, noted: "Whereas painters of the postwar period either fled from media culture or, like Rauschenberg and Warhol, actively incorporated its effects, their colleagues in photography, having a briefer history and a more flexible tool, sidled up to the media as if to befriend it, only to reveal its mechanisms of seduction and desire from the inside."

Picturing Media begins with a trio of works made by three of the greatest photographers of postwar America–Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, and Lee Friedlander–who skewered their subjects with razor wit and high irony. Chris Burden's TV Hijack is equal parts Conceptual event and guerrilla theater, in which the artist interrupts the banal media flow of a talk show with his own staged spectacle of violence and menace. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a group of classic works by key members of the so-called "Pictures" generation–Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, and Allan McCollum–whose work is characterized by the use of pre-existing imagery, a directorial style of image making, and pointed cultural critique. In these landmark photographic works from the late 1970s and early 1980s, the "natural" look of fashion advertisements, television shows, and B-movies is dissected and reassembled, revealing how meaning is constructed through the strategies and codes of representation.

Also included in Picturing Media are works by Lutz Bacher, Vik Muniz, Larry Sultan, and Seichi Furuya that examine photography's instrumental role in shaping personal and collective memory in the modern world. The exhibition concludes with an example from Thomas Ruff's latest series, provocative additions to the tradition of the female nude generated from the sea of anonymous examples that flood the Internet; both suave and blunt, it reminds the viewer that sex and commerce are always among the first served by new visual technologies.


November 8, 2000

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