On the road (and at the Wellin) with TYPOLOGY

Now that we are into the thick of summer, what better thing to do on break from exhibition-making than visit other wonderful exhibitions? Luckily our travels are bringing us through some good places to see shows, and we would like to share some of the best of what we come across while we are on the road.


Today’s post features an excellent exhibition at the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. Titled In Context: The Portrait in Contemporary Photographic Practice, the show is curated by Robert Knight and features thirteen artists who blur the lines between conceptual and documentary photography.

Sensitively installed within the Wellin’s expansive galleries, In Context is an absorbing presentation of work that “balances aesthetic and political goals to frame important social issues” as they relate to marginalized individuals and groups of people. Each artist uses inventive strategies in photographic presentation to create compelling, socio-politically complex portraits.


Above, Mishka Henner’s Carretera de Gandía, Oliva, Valencia, Spain (2011) is one of many images the artist culled from Google Street View based on information from online forums on prostitution in Spain and Italy. Like John Rafman’s approach for his Nine Eyes of Google project (which we’ve mentioned in this previous post), Henner acts as an “aggregator” who searches for and selects images from an existing pool. But the specificity with which he has made his selection (the sheer ubiquity of prostitutes on random European byways is amazing) reveals much more with regard to issues of the contemporary sex trade, widespread surveillance, and the increasing overlaps between them.


Above and below, Chris de Bode’s Exodus from Libya is an arresting series of panoramic photos documenting the flight of Libyan refugees (ultimately totaling in excess of 600,000) in the wake of that country’s revolution in 2011. Selected and arranged from a collection of over 500 photographs de Bode took of this seemingly endless procession, the wall-sized composition is expressive of the universality and utter relentlessness of conflict and displacement still plaguing many parts of the world.


Below is one of three towering light boxes by Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. Installed within a darkened room, the glowing, thirteen-foot tall montages are physically and conceptually evocative of the cylindrical high rise apartment building in Ponte City, one of Johannesburg’s most notorious slums, from which the images were taken.



Over several years, the artists captured more than 2000 photographs of the building’s views, interiors and inhabitants, which they then grouped into three typologies for this project: windows, doors, and televisions. Resembling monumental stained glass windows from afar, the visually stunning light boxes resolve into intimate, paradoxically beautiful portraits of some of post-apartheid South Africa’s poorest and most marginalized individuals.


This is just a sampling of work from the exhibition, which includes Magali Corouge, Laura El-Tantawy, Ulrich Gebert, Jim Goldberg, Tom Hunter, Alfredo Jaar, Sharon Lockhart, Taryn Simon, and Alec Soth, in addition to de Bode, Henner, and Subotzky & Waterhouse. In Context is on view through July 27th and is worth the trip to Clinton, NY, which is just west of Utica. A wonderful exhibition catalogue with essays by Robert Knight and Fred Ritchin is also available. As a document of the exhibition, it is satisfyingly thorough, and a steal at just ten dollars.


images, from top to bottom:

In Context: The Portrait in Contemporary Photographic Practice installation view featuring work by Mishka Henner (left) and Jim Goldberg (right)

Mishka Henner. Carretera de Gandía, Oliva, Valencia, Spain. 2011. Archival inkjet prints.

Chris de Bode. Exodus from Libya (installation view and detail). 2011. Archival inkjet prints.

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. Windows, Ponte City (Light Box) (0402) (installation view and detail). 2008–2010. Duratrans prints.
Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. Doors, Ponte City (Light Box) (0403) (detail). 2008–2010. Duratrans prints.

Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum, exterior view.

All photos by Shani K Parsons.

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