School of Art, Media, and Technology

Two Photo Faculty Featured in an Exhibit at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

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Arthur Ou and Talia Chetrit featured in second nature: abstract photography then and now
May 26, 2012 – Apr 21, 2013

Abstract photography challenges our popular view of photography as an objective image of reality by reasserting its constructed nature. In Walter Benjamin’s essay on the history of photography, the philosopher and critical theorist articulates photography’s ‘second nature’ as its inherent ability to detach and abstract the visible from the real. Non-representational photography lives in this contested middle ground between material reality and photographic illusion—fact and fiction—first and second natures. Today, anyone who has a cell phone can take and send digital pictures instantaneously. In response to this snapshot culture, many artists are returning to the study of photography’s underlying properties to consciously construct an image of reality. Second nature looks at the contemporary embrace of the highly fabricated image as a return to an earlier time in photography’s history. As such, this exhibition takes up the subject of abstract photography through a temporal pairing—presenting the scientific and expressionistic experimentation of photography in the first half of the 20th century from the Museum’s collection with current explorations of the medium.

Freed from its duty to represent, abstract photography continues to be a catchall genre for the blending of mediums and disciplines. It is an arena to test photography. By intermixing works from deCordova’s collection by György Kepes, Harold Edgerton, and Aaron Siskind from the 1930s-1950s, with works by photographers practicing today including Eileen Quinlan, Arthur Ou, and Yamini Nayar, second nature focuses on the continual probing and questioning of the medium and conventions of picture-making that complicate our understanding of photography. The artists in second nature grow the ever expanding field of photography by revisiting themes of hyperrealism, constructivism, and the materiality of time through light as well as processes of analog photography.

This exhibition is not intended to be a survey of abstract photography, but rather a focused study of art being made now that revisits and continues some of the themes and creative explorations of 20th century photography. By presenting the works side-by-side, second nature overlays a contemporary lens through which to reinterpret and recontextualize the museum’s holdings of abstract photography, and also highlights the expanded field today.

second nature: abstract photography then and now will be installed on two floors with different durations:
The Catherine S. England Photo Study Space, the Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Media Space, and Arcade Gallery (2nd floor): May 26–August 12, 2012
Dewey Family Gallery (3rd floor): May 26, 2012–April 21, 2013
deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
51 Sandy Pond Road
Lincoln, MA 01773

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