group show 45
New Jack City
One of the most common challenges I hear when speaking with photographers living and working in urban environments is the ability to make insightful, visually arresting work that "hasn’t been done before.” It's the oldest cliche and barrier to to inspiration. While this is likely true to any environment or artistic tradition, cities as subject matter -- either because of their tourist appeal, or natural magnetism to artists and photographers -- have become increasingly tricky. New York City's Coney Island is often perceived as overdone and “off limits,” while Times Square is “tired and trite.” Photographing architecture, at least on the surface, rings of high school photo101 assignments more than a great leap towards pushing photography into the next dimension. In speaking and working with photographers closely over the past decade, I’ve found that this challenge has pushed many urban-dwelling photographers to retreat into their studios, immersing themselves in still life and “process based” photography, away from the potentially cliché concrete jungle outside.
Using this understanding as a launch point, we invited photographers to submit work that addressed a range of approaches to the urban environment with hopes that it might not only free them from the fear of the faux-pas, but potentially surface some unexpected angles on capturing contemporary city life. The results are a range of images from photographers around the world, bridging more traditional “straight” photography, with experiments in appropriation, collage, and subtle abstraction. Jacob Pastrovich’s screen capture of a New York City skyline from 1990’s movie presents an urban view that is equally as nostalgic as it is eerie and confusing, while Lori Nix’s subway car diorama gives viewers a terrifying glimpse into an overgrown city. Rose Dickson aptly addresses the challenge of living and working in an over-photographed-environment by bringing the city into her studio, creating photo-based sculptures and installations using bricks and other structural components that give us a new understanding of what makes a city. Recalling classic traditions in documentary and street photography, Carl Gunhouse, captures ongoing tensions between police and youth in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn, while Noah Addis uses formally composed photographs of architecture in slums to address community resilience to poverty.
Whether it’s a straightforward, approach, or a dive into abstraction, the work included in New Jack City uniquely demonstrates how a range of photographers tackle the arduous, yet rewarding task of making new and engaging work in a crowded terrain.