Oct 27, 2011

REVIEW | The Anxiety of Photography, Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin

Mat KeeganNew Windows (#6), 2008
The exhibition, "The Anxiety of Photography," currently on view at The Arthouse at the Jones Center, was met with an eager curiosity for the meaning behind the chosen exhibition name.  Assuming the works featured would be related by similar subject content and somehow linked by compositions that documented anxious moments in time, one could not be more pleasantly proven incorrect in their assumption.   Organized by the Aspen Art Museum, "The Anxiety of Photography" features thirty - seven works which explore the varied landscape of the contemporary photography medium.  An exhibition linked less by composition subject and more by the development, manipulation and creative juxtaposition of photography, it was an exhibition that was as educational as it was enjoyable to view.  Andrea Mellard, Interim Curator for the Austin Museum of Art, explains: 

[The artworks] offer a fresh snapshot of contemporary photography, yet they also connect to concerns throughout the medium's history.  Together the exhibited works embrace photography's plasticity, unlimited potential for experimentation, slippery relationship with reality, shifting contexts, and ease of appropriation. . . . The contemporary photography featured here celebrates the ubiquitous, experimental, hands - on, and open-ended nature of the medium.  From its beginnings, photography was never a single practice, method, or medium, and this exhibition pays tribute to its lasting ability to exist in multiple contexts. 
Featured artists include Nic Nicosia, Liz Deschenes Cao Fei, Rose Ethridge, Dirk Stewen and Mark Wyse, to name a few. 

Having learned the intended meaning behind the naming of this exhibition, as one moved through the Jones Center there were works which stood out as best depicting what this exhibition was truly about.  The first, a series of works by Matt Keegan, explores the manipulation and distortion of visual space within an image.  As seen above, his particular subject matter was his New York City apartment and super,   and by manipulating the image he creates a photograph which distorts the actual location, sequence, and possibility of the events which took place.  He further explores this concept of visual manipulation by drawing one's attention to the gestalt of his exhibition.  His ability to put gallery space on exhibit as a subject for consideration is achieved by placing a picture of his cat in one corner, drawing attention to the vast amount of gallery space that typically goes unused.  Further musings of Keegan's about how he alters gallery space and his reasons for it may be read in this interview with him.

A formally trained student of photography, Sarah Greenberg Rafferty explores visual manipulation in photography by dropping water on photos printed on paper to alter the original image.  In this exploration of photography materials and printing techniques, Greenberg Rafferty references history and spirit photography, creating an entirely new meaning and image a work of another artist.  This technique also addresses the idea and definition of artistry ownership.  

Sarah Greenberg Rafferty, Madeline, 2009

The issue of artistry ownership is further addressed in this exhibition by Mark Wyse.  Wyse, who borrows images from magazines, re-photographs them and often re frames the image, displays his photograph for viewers to project upon.  Having described photographs as "containers of relationships," the relationship between a viewer and Wyse's work is vastly different in this context than in its original form.  In addition, his work explores the the idea of this "container" further as his work is ever evolving as the viewers are ever changing, and their memories are ever shifting and being projected onto the piece.

Mark Wyse, Young Woman, 2009

In conclusion, previously undefined expectations for this exhibition were set quickly upon entering Arthouse at the Jones Center.   A truly exceptional exploration of the innovate practice of photography, this exhibition was educational, challenging and engaging to view.  

-Allison Kerrigan


  1. I also thought this exhibit was going to be about actual photographs of anxiety! Do you think the main purpose of this show was to cause anxiety?You said the show was "challenging and engaging to view". Was this because of the subject matter or because you couldn't decide if appropriating images should be considered art or not? I wish you would have talked about how the gallery space was set up. You mentioned that one of the artist's put a photo in a corner. How were all of the other photographs displayed?

    -Julie Morrison

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