School of Art, Media, and Technology

Aperture Foundation Exhibits Parsons Photography Students’ Work

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Aperture Foundation, a leading New York–based arts institution dedicated to promoting photography in all its forms, and the Center for Photographic Media and Culture at Parsons The New School for Design, a pioneer in art and design education, have partnered to present States of Flux, a group exhibition of works by Parsons’ BFA and MFA students. The show reflects Aperture’s ongoing mission to support the work of promising young artists and marks Aperture’s second student art exhibition, following last year’s Identity Identities (i / i), by alumni of the School of Visual Art’s BFA Photography Department.

Photographic images are more cheaply and easily produced now than ever, with newfound potential for immediate mass distribution and consumption, as well as the burden of almost-immediate, unplanned (or planned) obsolescence. How does the contemporary photographer contend with the forces of rapid technological change? How do these forces affect the ways in which photographers picture the globalized world? In this exhibition, emerging photographers from the BFA and MFA photography programs at Parsons The New School for Design, an institution which aims to maintain a focus on globalization and sustainability, respond to the need to produce and consume images while simultaneously addressing the changing nature of the medium itself—they are working within states of constant flux. In various ways, the show’s twelve artists are all seeking to counter the increasing obsolescence of images; they are engaged in a discourse about post-photographic realism and picturing the complexity of contemporary reality. This exhibition is organized into four thematic groupings:

Artists Ho Chang, Chang Kyun Kim, Grady O’Conner, and Nathan Harger use straight, or depictive, approaches in describing the physical impact of consumer-effected environments. Ho Chang’s visually striking series of mining operations in Arizona at once deals with the aftermath of extraction and the sculptural contours of that process. Chang Kyun Kim’s recent photographs of urban signage systems in Korea depict advertisements competing for attention, polluting visual fields. Grady O’Conner’s haunting photographs depict peculiar details of a disaster response training center. Nathan Harger’s photographs memorialize the infrastructure that powers American industry: cranes, telephone wires, airplanes, bridges, and factories—distribution systems becoming antiquated by a society preferring instantaneity.

Image: Nathan Harger

The Ontology of the Digital Self
From social networks to blogs, there are infinite ways to represent the self. Working with the shift in image-making from the indexical to the digitally malleable, artists Sally Dennison, Haley Jane Samuelson, Jun Ahn, and Bobby Davidson confront the state of flux that the self encounters in digital space. Sally Dennison’s series of manipulated self-portraits examine the anxiety produced by the expectation of perfection in photographic portraiture. Haley Jane Samuelson explores the fantasized world of digitally created fictions. Jun Ahn’s ritualistic performance atop urban high-rises is a direct confrontation with the encroaching urban environment. Bobby Davidson’s work maps the transition away from the humanoid: utilizing a large, cumbersome view camera, an iPhone-wielding man humorously comments on the ubiquity of the photographic activity.

Image: Haley Jane Samuelson

Object of Desire
We consume not based on need, but rather on the desire to consume. To confront this issue, artists Lauren Pascarella, Marie Vic, Luke Burke, and Rachel Porter offer strategies of resistance and subtle subversion. In the work Everything I Own, Lauren Pascarella, examines how objects create identity, hold memory, and define our personal history. Marie Vic plays a complex game of hide-and-seek through a growing archive of Polaroid still-lifes, allowing the viewer to glimpse the fictional female user behind these objects. Luke Burke stages elaborate dinners only to record the theatrical aftermaths of the food artifacts. An event by accident and design, Rachel Porter’s work utilizes the visual language of editorial photography to shatter visions of domestic life.

Politics of Economies
Photography is routinely utilized to distill information into power, shaping markets and governments. Merve Unsal, Patrick Taylor, Erica Campbell, and Olga Migliaressi-Phoca employ photographic projection and video strategies to offer critiques of these systems of power. Merve Unsal’s composited New York Times photographs reveal the contested meaning of the image and the necessity to control it. Patrick Taylor’s 35mm projection piece depicts the silent corpses of recently vacated storefronts shown in rapid-fire succession, becoming an elegy to entrepreneurial endeavors stilled by the failures of overly networked and theorized financial systems. Erica Campbell’s humorous environmental portraits portray her father as the average white-collar worker, vying to maintain his own presence within his surroundings. Olga Migliaressi-Phoca’s video piece depicts the players of the recent financial crisis, providing enigmatic portraits of the human faces of the financial industry.

Image: Merve Unsal

Aperture—located in New York’s Chelsea art district—is a world-renowned non-profit publisher and exhibition space dedicated to promoting photography in all its forms. Aperture was founded in 1952 by photographers Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Barbara Morgan, and Minor White; historian Beaumont Newhall; and writer/curator Nancy Newhall, among others. These visionaries created a new quarterly periodical, Aperture magazine, to foster both the development and the appreciation of the photographic medium and its practitioners. In the 1960s, Aperture expanded to include the publication of books (over five hundred to date) that comprise one of the most comprehensive and innovative libraries in the history of photography and art. Aperture’s programs now include artist lectures and panel discussions, limited-edition photographs, and traveling exhibitions that show at major museums and arts institutions in the U.S. and internationally.

The Center for Photographic Media and Culture is a research center at Parsons The New School for Design devoted to redefining photographic practice in the 21st Century. Through project-based experimentation, critical research, and dialogue with a global network of affiliated practitioners, the CPMC confronts the complexities of image-making in our increasingly media-rich environment. Situating itself at the generative intersection of art, technology, and culture, the Center aims to support and promote emerging forms of photographic practice and practitioners rising from this axis. The Parsons Photography Program, housed within the School of Art, Media, and Technology, offers BFA and MFA degrees.

Opening Reception: Thursday, June 24, 6:00–8:00 pm
Hosted by SNAP! The Aperture Young Patrons’ Program
Exhibition on View: Friday, June 25–Thursday, August 12, 2010

For more information and artwork, please contact: Andrea Smith, Director of Communications, Aperture Foundation, 212-946-7111,

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