Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West

We're heading west to Manhattan this weekend to see MoMA's "photography's image of the American west" exhibition. Featuring 120 photos from 70 photographers, themes include Manifest Destiny, the "land of opportunity," cultural dislocation, environmental devastation, and failed social aspirations. The exhibition is a response to the fact that, as MoMA's description puts it: "Photography's development coincided with the exploration and the settlement of the West, and their simultaneous rise resulted in a complex association that has shaped the perception of the West's physical and social landscape to this day."

Ken Johnson, in a review of the exhibition for the New York Times, calls it a "bleak view of America’s realization of its Manifest Destiny." He wonders out loud why the exhibition projects such a dim vision of both "pathetic" people and commercial and environmental degradation of the land.

He ends with some questions:
  • Is it impossible for serious contemporary photography to see something better?
  • Is failure and disappointment the real, unavoidable story?
  • Or is it another myth, a paradoxically reassuring narrative to which many high-minded people now unthinkingly accede?
  • If so, what would be the alternative? That could be an unknown worth exploring.
We're going to take these questions with us this weekend to see whether our suspicion holds up: that an "unknown" alternative--one worth exploring--is being generated by a number of people who are right now responding creatively to the "American West" through a variety of "Artists + Environments" works, collaborations, and projects involving photography.

If you're in NYC sometime between now and June 8, you can see the exhibition too. Next week, we'll post our own response to the exhibition and Ken Johnson's wonderings.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.