Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Images from Michael Wolf & Trevor Paglen

On Tuesday afternoon I wandered the halls of 49 Geary St. & came across 2 photography shows with a shared interest in surveillance.

The Robert Koch Gallery is displaying large color photographs by Michael Wolf. In his Paris Street Views, Mr. Wolf photographed provocative images he found on Google Street View: a nude woman at the shore, a car on fire, a woman
prone on the sidewalk. The artist enlarges the pictures so much that one can see the pixel grid of the computer screen. It's street photography at a creepy remove. Another project captures female passengers squished up against the windows of a crowded Tokyo subway. This time the photographer is disconcertingly close, just on the other side of the glass. Some of the subjects are obscured by rain-streaked windows, making them strangely beautiful, almost romantic. Finally, there are 2 large 4' x 5' photographs of high-rise apartment buildings in Hong Kong. There seem to be hundreds of windows we can peek into. The view belittles the concept of individuality.

The photographs in Trevor Paglen's show at the Altman Siegel Gallery are at first glance banal. One has to read the descriptions to discover that Mr. Paglen is documenting government secrets. A long exposure of the night sky reveals dots of light that are spy satellites that do not officially exist. Views of a Nevada landscape contain a tiny gnat-like blemish that is a Predator aircraft. But do we trust Paglen? The more I considered the works, the more paranoid I felt. As if to emphasize the point, during my visit a staff member invited another gallery visitor into a private office to view a work that is not on public display.

In the back room of the Fraenkel Gallery, I was struck by the beauty & clarity of large prints, credited to Loewy & Puiseux, of the craters of the moon. They bear the unbelievable date of 1897.

February 3 - April 2, 2011

February 10 - April 2, 2011

§ Sol Lewitt
Photographic Works 1968--2004
February 24 - April 30, 2011


Scott said...

I had an almost identical experience at 49 Geary last week. Dug the Trevor Paglen and Michael Wolf photos. Tried and failed to get excited about the Sol Lewitt photographic works at Fraenkel Gallery, then was stunned by the 19th century astronomical photographs in the back room. Didn't know they were taking images like that in the 1890s! Found some info about Loewy and Puiseux here.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks for the link to background on those early astronomical photographers. They are astounding images, but perhaps we shouldn't have been so surprised at the early date. Muybridge was doing his semi-scientific animal locomotion studies at around the same time, for instance.

I always get something out of a visit to the Fraenkel Gallery, but the Sol Lewitt pictures did not interest me much either, though it is surprising that they exist at all.