Category Archives: Exhibitions

New York/Around Town

Tenth Avenue — © Brian Rose

Odds and ends. Things to recommend. Things to dis.

The New York Times reports this morning that the film On the Bowery will soon be available on DVD. I saw it last year for the first time at Film Forum, and wrote about it extensively in my blog here and here. Alan Rogosin’s film is an astonishing portrayal of lost New York and lost souls, controversial then and now for its hybrid documentary/fictional format. Actual denizens of the Bowery, picked out by Rogosin, played the lead roles filmed in the streets and bars of the Bowery near Houston Street. It’s one of the great realist films ever made, a tour de force of editing and photography. The montage of grizzled faces at the end is unforgettable.

Fifth Avenue — © Brian Rose

The Radical Camera at the Jewish Museum, one of the best museum photography shows in recent years, will be up through March 25th. This show is about the New York Photo League and its community of photographers who explored the streets of the city during the 1930s and 1940s. Their work pushed aesthetic boundaries and embraced political engagement. The show is worth seeing both for its vivid depiction of New York and for illuminating the development of documentary street photography leading up to the modern era. There are a number of familiar names in the exhibition, like Berenice Abbott and Aaron Siskind, but most are lesser knowns, many who have fallen through the cracks, and are typically not included in the dominant narrative of photographic history.

From the blog DLK Collection: For me, I finally started to visually understand the small steps that made up the aesthetic and conceptual changes that took place between the 1930s and the 1950s, those missing evolutionary links between Abbott and Frank; The Americans now seems to me less like a thunder strike of genius out of nowhere and more like an innovative, original extrapolation from visual ideas that were already beginning to percolate around. This excellent show tells a uniquely New York story, and is worth a visit simply for the rich historical details of life in the city that it provides. But the reason I found this to be one of the best photography shows of the year is that it also successfully fills in an important (and largely missing) gap in the recounting of the American photographic narrative. Not only do I now have an increased appreciation for the talents of the many members of the New York Photo League (many of whom have been unjustly overlooked), I now understand much more clearly how the larger artistic puzzle fits together.

Read the whole review here.

We think of serious photography now in the context of museums and galleries, but it wasn’t really until the Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art with its “we are the world” sentimentality that the medium began to find favor in elite institutions. The Photo League embraced work that depicted gritty reality whether on the streets of the Lower East Side or the  beach at Coney Island–it did not celebrate the myth of American ascendency, and as a result, ran afoul of the anti-communist blacklisters of the early ’50s. The fact that many of its members were Jewish was also not coincidental.

Imagine. At the time of the Photo League, there was virtually no museums or art galleries that paid any attention to photography. In retrospect, it appears that the Photo League–its shows and its community of photographers–was central to the development of photography as social instrument and as an art form. And this story has not adequately been told until now. Do not miss this exhibition.

World Press winning photograph — © Samuel Aranda

There has already been lots written about this photograph, and I have no inclination to analyze something that’s not worth the effort. First of all, the premise of a grand prize for a single news photograph is wrong. The most interesting single photographs, in my opinion, are often the most open ended, often the least iconic, images that defy easy reading. That’s the opposite of what the World Press jurors usually come up with. They want a Muslim Mary cradling Jesus, or something.

This is a crappy photograph, maudlin, cliche.

New York/WTC

Park Place — © Brian Rose

Friday evening I walked down to the World Trade Center with an invitation to the 48th floor of 7 WTC, the first completed structure in the rebuilding post 9/11. Silverstein Properties, the owner, has made the 48th floor available as an artists’ studio, though soon the occupants will have to make way for a paying tenant.

7 WTC, 48th Floor, painting by Marcus Robinson — © Brian Rose

The entire floor was unpartitioned and open with raw concrete floor, exposed fire proofed steel beams, and wrap around floor to ceiling windows with stunning views. At least four artists were on display including Marcus Robinson who is a painter and videographer. His time lapse images of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center were shown on a large video screen.

Paintings by Todd Stone — © Brian Rose

Another artist, Todd Stone, had a gallery-like exhibition of his paintings on one side of the floor documenting 9/11 as seen from his Tribeca studio. I usually don’t like to see images of the horror of 9/11 itself, but these were done as a spontaneous reaction to what was happening a short distance away, the paint somehow distancing the event while at the same time heightening the attention to it in a way that photographs do not.

View of 9/11 memorial — © Brian Rose

I took a few photographs through the windows, one looking down on the memorial–glass reflections unavoidable.  Stone has been doing paintings of the rebuilding, and he was working on one of the 1 WTC while I was there. I spoke with him for several minutes, and I traded one of my WTC books for one of his exhibition catalogues.

Painting by Todd Stone

Snow scene from the 48th floor with Diebenkorn-ish colors.

1 WTC model — © Brian Rose

A model of 1 WTC stood on the south end of the 48th floor adjacent to the real thing going up outside the window. The late afternoon sun just caught the translucent plastic of the model giving it a golden glow. The actual tower will never appear so crystalline I am afraid, despite its faceted exterior. But we shall see…



New York/The Bowery

The Bowery and Delancey Street — © Brian Rose (graffiti by Kenny Scharf)

The process of making photographs varies with different photographers. There are some who work within conceptual frameworks that require a great deal of calculation ahead of time. Others, like me, tend to think in projects that take in long time lines, or that slowly, image by image, explore the relationship between self and the outside world. However, in any case, there is usually an element of discovery–a path found–a thread identified and then pulled–a momentary recognition of something essential. Often, these discoveries are fleeting, provisional, trivial. Not exactly mind bending paradigm shifting stuff.

So, I pick up the paper this morning, as usual, and flip through the arts section, and land upon a review of a photography show–a rarity these days in the New York Times. It’s about the latest New Photography exhibit at MoMA. I was already aware of it mostly because I knew that Doug Rickard’s Google Streetview images are in the show. Rickard’s work is fascinating in that the images made are essentially available to all. He simply reframes the 360 degree  anonymous pans of the world glimpsed from Google’s ceaselessly cruising eye.

New York City, photo by Doug Rickard (via Google Streetview)

On the one hand, Rickard uses the images as social commentary, focusing primarily on the most neglected and down and out areas of the United States. There’s nothing new about photographing such areas. But on the other hand there is something different about seeing these places through a robotic lens–literally drive-by photography–seen voyeuristically as if through a roving security camera. Rickard has us gaze at the underbelly of society, at poor people, scary looking people, caught unaware by the camera, captured in the barrel distorted, light flared reality of Google–and we all become Big Brother in the process. Guiltily, I cannot stop looking at these disturbing images.

This is work that deserves a good deal of critical thought, and even soul searching. But as I begin to read Ken Johnson’s review of New Photography 2011 I am slammed dead in my tracks by this:

In the 1980s photography mutated into a monster that threatened to swallow fine art altogether. In the hands of artists like Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, Gregory Crewdson, Andreas Gursky and legions of copycats, photography parsed the day’s most urgent questions about representation, propaganda, truth and reality. But in the ensuing decades, the answers became increasingly routine, and today the beast that art photography was finds itself tired and toothless.

If you are searching for signs of rejuvenation in “New Photography 2011,” an exhibition of six artists at the Museum of Modern Art, you will look in vain. 

With that dispiriting introduction, Johnson then goes on to dutifully praise the work in the show including Doug Rickard’s “species of meta photography.” But why bother make the effort if none of the work offers signs of rejuvenation? Why saddle these photographers with this unfair and miserable burden? What a drag for Johnson to have to write this article. What a drag for us to have to read it. And now, excuse me while I resume my pointless search for relevance outside–or inside–I don’t know which–the tired and toothless art photography monster.


New York/WTC

The WTC montage is up and it looks pretty cool. Don’t miss the opening reception this Wednesday. There will be nine WTC images on exhibit in the cafe, which is directly across the street from the installation. Hopefully, the weather will allow for outdoor mingling.

FAB cafe
77 East 4th Street
Wednesday, September  28

WTC, E4th Street between the Bowery and Second Avenue — © Brian Rose

WTC, E4th Street between the Bowery and Second Avenue — © Brian Rose


New York/WTC

WTC montage — © Brian Rose

In my book, WTC, I used cropped close-ups of the facade of the Twin Towers to break up the different groupings , or chapters, of photographs. I found them intriguing as images on their own–abstract, but clearly identifiable. One of them shows a strip of blue, which is the sky between the two towers. A few months ago I began playing with close-ups in Photoshop making montages of the images, eventually settling on a sequence with the strip of sky in the center–as seen above.

I presented the montage to FAB (Fourth Arts Block), which is sponsoring a program called ArtUp. FAB  is located on E4th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, a block full of theaters and other cultural organizations. Several of the groups are renovating their buildings necessitating sidewalk sheds to protect passersby. FAB is making use of these scaffolding bridges to give artists the opportunity to show their work in a public space.

Sidewalk shed on E4th Street — © Brian Rose
Earlier ArtUP piece (top photo), WTC proposal (below)

I am pleased to report that that I have been invited by FAB to mount my WTC montage on the sidewalk shed pictured above. I’ve seen several of the previous installations, and the best of them are site specific. My montage, as originally conceived, almost fits perfectly on the sidewalk shed–4×28 feet. The strip of images will be printed on vinyl or Tyvek and attached to the plywood backing of the shed. Assuming good color and sharpness, it will look something like the superimposed image above. The orange and white barricades will be removed soon reducing a lot of visual clutter. Directly across the street, FAB runs a cafe that caters to the theater going public, as well as the local neighborhood, and I will be able use a wall inside for supporting material, probably a number of photographs and text panels.

Although I have to admit that I hoped for a more prominent location for the piece somewhere downtown, I am wholly enthusiastic about doing this installation here. This is a very busy block with thousands of people walking by each day, and crowds lining up each evening to attend the theaters. Not only that, this is  the block where I lived when I first came to New York, where I worked with the Cooper Square Committee to preserve and build low income housing, and where I first met my wife who was visiting from the Netherlands. It is the block pictured on the cover of Time and Space on the Lower East Side, my book about the neighborhood. It is a very special place to me.

The installation will go up in late September when attention is focused on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I will also be doing a slide talk based on my WTC book at the Mid-Manhattan branch of the public library around the same time as the opening on 4th Street. The dates for both events will be made available soon. WTC–both the installation and book–are modest in scale compared to what will be happening down at ground zero in a few months. But I hope they will serve as a kind of antidote to the Sturm und Drang that will accompany those major public events, and offer images of the World Trade Center that evoke memory and history without a repetition of the violent imagery that inevitably will be exploited by the media.

I feel strongly that artists–and New Yorkers–have a responsibility to step up and express alternate ways of commemorating 9/11. It happened to us, to our town, to our friends and loved ones, and it profoundly altered all our lives. This piece, ultimately, is about the ubiquitous presence of the Twin Towers on the skyline–as architecture and memory–and about its absence. A patch of blue sky.

New York/Governors Island

A few more photographs of the spectacular Mark di Suvero sculptures on Governors Island.

Figolu, 2011 by Mark di Suvero — © Brian Rose

Figolu, 2011 by Mark di Suvero — © Brian Rose

She, 1978 by Mark di Suvero — © Brian Rose

The only troubling thing about the installation on Governors Island was that  people were climbing on the sculptures–all the way to the top of the red Figolu–a scary sight. And kids were swinging on and hanging off  the very heavy wooden platform of She, a serious accident waiting to happen. I usually chafe at unnecessary restrictions on public behavior, but I am hoping that steps have been taken to avert potential disaster.

New York/MoMA


MoMA photography gallery — © Brian Rose

I am happy to announce that one of my photographs is on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. The permanent collection galleries have recently been reinstalled including new acquisitions–like mine–and historic photographs. My print can be seen at right in the picture above. It is one of my recent Berlin images acquired by the museum last fall.

William Christenberry photo above, Brian Rose below — © Brian Rose

Kudzu Devouring Building, near Greensboro, Alabama, photography by William Christenberry

Mauerstrasse, Berlin, 2006 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

My photograph is paired with one by William Christenberry, one of the pioneers of color photography, who is known, particularly, for his images of vernacular architecture, signs, and the rural landscape. A few years ago Christenberry did a series of images of structures enveloped by kudzu, the non-native vine that has become ubiquitous in the south.

There is an interesting symbiosis between the two images–a building being devoured by natural forces, and my multi-layered deconstruction of architecture in the heart of Berlin. The one concealing, the other revealing. It is also an honor to be shown with an artist of Christenberry’s stature, and in the same room with Tina Barney, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Leandro Katz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Jan Groover, and other noteworthy photographers.

Framework Houses by Bernd and Hilla Becher — © Brian Rose

I’ve written in the past that it sometimes seems that the Bechers are overexposed. You can’t go anywhere without seeing their images, often in large grids, like the Fachwerk facades above. But let’s face it, this is brilliant work, especially this grouping. Their approach transcends genres. It is rigorous and seemingly impersonal, but in the end, suffused with pathos for human endeavor.

New York/Governors Island

Mark di Suvero on Governor’s Island — © Brian Rose

Back in New York after five days in Virginia. My father is hanging on at 90 years old. I spent much of the past week visiting him in the hospital, and then as soon as I get back, my son Brendan ends up in the ER with a badly sprained ankle. Before that happened we went out to Governor’s Island in New York Harbor. The Mark di Suvero sculptures currently on display around the island are magnificent.

I just received word today that one of my photographs is on display at the Museum of Modern Art. I’ll go tomorrow and take a look.

New York/Lower East Side

E12th Street, 1980 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose/Ed Fausty

While working on a grant application having to do with urban farming and gardens I went back to my archive of unscanned Lower East Side photographs from 1980. I found one of a garden on E12th Street that I liked–taken on an early spring day it shows a number of people working. It’s interesting to note that the gardeners appear mostly Latino, which runs counter to my assumption that the urban gardening movement on the Lower East Side was largely a white middle class undertaking. This garden, by the way, still exists on E12th Street between Avenue A and B.

When I did my library slide talk a month ago, I was asked by someone in the audience how many photographs I had from 1980, suggesting that they should be preserved for the historical record–including pictures that were left out of the book. There are several hundred.  I do think the entire project should be scanned, and eventually made available to the public.

My exhibition of 14 LES photographs is still up at the Lower East Side Visitor Center at 49 Orchard Street. The next exhibition there begins on May 14th, so I will leave my prints up for a couple more weeks. If anyone is interested in purchasing one or more of the mounted exhibition prints, please get in touch. I am offering them at a favorable price.


New York/Colonial Williamsburg

Last weekend I went to AIPAD, the giant photography dealer’s fair at the Armory on Park Avenue. I don’t have any particular opinion about what I saw–a lot of photographs–no trends spotted. Not enough time or energy to think critically about such a dizzying display of dreck to pearls. Primary observation: more galleries present and a number from outside New York. Business seems to be picking up. So far, it’s not helping me.

Afterward, I dashed uptown to the Guggenheim to meet my sister who was visiting from San Francisco. We wanted to see a video installation by Omer Fast who in 2005 made a piece dealing with Williamsburg, Virginia, the restored colonial capitol, and where we grew up.

From the 2008 Whitney Biennial:

In Godville (2005), a 51-minute, two-channel color video, historical reenactors at the Colonial Williamsburg living-history museum in Virginia describe their eighteenth-century characters’ lives and their personal lives in ways that seem interchangeable. Fast splices the reenacted and real biographies together, often word-by-word, into a rambling narrative that is as aurally fluent as it is temporally dissonant. The work tells the story of a town in America whose residents are unmoored, floating somewhere between the past and the present, between revolution and reenactment, between fiction and life.

Godville by Omer Fast — seen at the Guggenheim Museum — © Brian Rose

Both my sister and I played roles in the open air museum of Colonial Williamsburg. I was part of the fife and drum corps, a professional musical group that performed regularly for visitors as well as for presidents and dignitaries. My sister was a costumed ticket taker, and later a costumed sweeper hostess at the nearby Busch Gardens “old Europe” theme park. A sweeper hostess, as I understand it, picked up trash and chatted with tourists.

I found the film fascinating, though unsure about its ultimate message. I liked the idea of intercutting between real and fictional, and in the process blurring the lines. I have made photographs of the architecture of Colonial Williamsburg, and was particularly interested in the juxtaposition of views of the historic structures and contemporary suburban neighborhoods. Confusing, however, was that many of the contemporary architectural and landscape images shown were not made in Williamsburg, but in unidentified generic locations.  Some of the images included mountains and scenes from the west, which I presume was intended to allude to larger American mythological themes.

Godville by Omer Fast — seen at the Guggenheim Museum — © Brian Rose

Three costumed reenactors spoke either in character or from their real life experiences. Some of the time they were shown speaking uninterrupted, other times their words were chopped up and reconnected. The depiction of these people–and their words–is extremely manipulative, but I can’t say that they were shown unsympathetically or portrayed unfavorably. It is, however, a highly problematic approach. Knowing what I know about art and media, I would be very wary of participating in such an enterprise.

Godville by Omer Fast — seen at the Guggenheim Museum — © Brian Rose

In so many ways Colonial Williamsburg is an easy mark. It is easy to see it as kitsch and a distortion of American history. Too easy. There is lots of room for critical analysis, but unfortunately most of it to date has been facile. Omer Fast’s Godville, despite my reservations, is worth seeing and thinking about. Not that many people visiting the Guggenheim are doing that. In the hour that I spent watching the video in the museum on a busy Sunday afternoon, not one person gave it more than a minute’s attention.

Colonial Williamsburg outbuildings  (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose

Which brings me to my own work dealing with Williamsburg. A number of years ago I photographed the outbuildings and surrounding gardens behind the main buildings. The pictures deal with the structures as architectural vocabulary filtered through modern interpretation and context. On the one hand they reveal the complex dichotomy of old and new, and on the other hand they are what they are–formally composed, often beautiful, collections of little buildings, fences, and trees.

Since it appears I will be continuing to go down to Williamsburg in the future–my father still lives there, and my mother may return there soon, I am thinking I should revisit the project. The idea I have is to photograph some of the new urbanist communities that have been developed outside of the restored area–places that recycle the architectural and urban planning vocabulary of the past–and juxtapose those pictures with the ones I have taken of the outbuildings and dependencies of Colonial Williamsburg.

New York/Lower East Side

The reception at the Lower East Side Visitor Center went well. A mixture of invited guests and people passing through as part of Third Thursdays, a once a month evening when the galleries in the neighborhood stay open later. The prints look great on the wall, and they will be up through April 21. Drop in at 54 Orchard Street, ground floor.

Next up is my slide talk at the Mid-Manhattan library on March 29. I will be presenting Time and Space on the Lower East Side, and I am hoping that Ed Fausty, who I collaborated with on the 1980 photographs, will be present. Ed is working on an exhibition and catalog for a beautiful series of photographs on the landscape and night sky. Unlike anything anybody else has done. I’ll write about it once it’s up.

The following photos were snapped yesterday on my way to and from my LES  exhibit.

Orchard and Grand Streets — © Brian Rose

Delancey Street — © Brian Rose

Eldridge Street — © Brian Rose

New York/Lower East Side

Orchard Street, 1980 (4×5 film) — © Brian Rose/Ed Fausty

My exhibition at the Lower East Side Visitor Center begins this evening–reception from 6 to 8pm. Art galleries throughout the Lower East Side will be open until 9pm. Maps and guides are available at the Visitor Center. Please feel free to stop by and say hello. The show will have 14 images primarily of the area below the East Village, an equal number between 1980 and recent photographs. The show will run through Thursday April 21.

54 Orchard St. (between Hester and Grand)
New York, NY 10002


New York/Greenwich Village

West 4th Street subway station — © Brian Rose

I came across a photo of mine in the West 4th Street  subway station–part of a large installation called “Made in New York,” which features the work of New York City based architects. It’s the image on the top row, second from left, of the Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College by TEK Architects.

Here’s an article about the project. And another.

New York/Long Island City

I went to PS1 in Long Island City to the New York Art Book Fair, an immense bazaar of independent publishers and self publishers. It was overwhelming. Thousands of books and a crowd exuding off-the-charts coolness. I felt I was in some parallel universe, a self-contained world of hyper-awareness and solipsism. Lots of great stuff I’m sure, but it all began to diminish before me, like looking through the wrong end of a telescope, smaller and smaller and smaller.

So, I did what I always do when confronted with such situations–I took pictures. First a security guard leaning against a glass wall. Then out the window, the Citibank tower aglow. Then in the courtyard, a concrete wall and rosy sky. Through the museum entrance and into the street I followed the last shards of sunlight bursting in a kaleidoscope of graffiti painted walls, I walked home toward the G train past a contructivist mashup of shapes and letters.

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose

© Brian Rose