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Typologies

Back - I&P Part 1

Typologies
Typologies: nine contemporary photographers

[1Nov] On the recommended reading list for I&P and covered in Part 1 of I&P is,

Typologies: nine contemporary photographers - Marc Freidus, James Lingwood, Rod Slemmons, Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1991

It was selling for £30 when I looked yesterday (it's only an exhibition catalogue) and I was going to add it to my Virus Deficit Library List and speculate here about the contents. I found one for £11 this morning, but I'll speculate anyway. The book arrived on 3rd December.

I had not encountered the term Typologies before I read it in I&P, but when the Bechers were mentioned it was an obvious characterisation and applies to many photographers, particularly in the natural tendency to group together similar, themed pieces when planning or preparing an exhibit or a book - it could be argued that (with the exception of monographs intended to capture a life's work) often the non-typological is the exception these days: I thought of Friedlander's shadows and reflections and Ed Ruscha's garages and consecutive building assemblages. Let's look at who's in the book.

The publisher's inscription is,

Typologies features the work of nine contemporary artist/photographers. Influenced by issues of structuralism rather than appropriation or fabrication, each artist has focused almost scientifically on recording a very specific genre or type."--the publisher. Includes work by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, Ed Ruscha, Judy Fiskin, Roger Mertin, Lynne Cohen, and Candida Höfer. Typologies: nine contemporary photographers

Becher - Cohen - Fiskin - Höfer - Mertin - Ruff - Ruscha - Struth - Conclusion

Becher
Framework Houses, 1959-73
Bernd and Hilla Becher

Bernd and Hilla Becher

The Bechers we already know and love and see also Huebler's witty portrait of Bernd.

And Idris Khan's homage.


Cohen
Factory, 1994
Lynne Cohen

Lynne Cohen

Lynne Cohen
b: 1944 Wisconsin
d: 2014 Montreal
Site - Wikipedia

I could not recall Lynne Cohen, but Terry Barrett cites her "complex institutional interiors" as exemplars of his Descriptive category is earlier editions of his Criticising Photographs.


Judy Fiskin
Untitled (Plate 237), 1988
Judy Fiskin
image from Sam Francis Gallery

Judy Fiskin

Judy Fiskin
b: 1945 Chicago
Site - Wikipedia

A new name to me and a welcome find. Fiskin is known for her small photographs of nondescript buildings and her standardised presentation thereof.

There's a good interview by John Divola on American Suburb X in which she states,

For me, looking at small images somehow recreates the experience of looking through a viewfinder. When you are looking through a viewfinder of a thirty-five millimetre camera the scale disappears; you don’t know the size of the object you are looking at. It’s like receiving an image directly into your brain. Judy Fiskin

Höfer
Flipper, 1973-8
Candida Höfer
image from Art Basel

Candida Höfer

Candida Höfer
b: 1944 Germany
Site - Wikipedia

In æsthetic contrast to Fiskin, Höfer began with a typological approach (pinball machines in Flipper, 1973) but presented as a collage of 47 B&W prints.

Her subject matter has diversified and includes migrant workers, museums and zoos.


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untitled, Rochester
( storefront/pilsner sign), 1972
Roger Mertin
image from Joseph Bellows Gallery

Roger Mertin

Roger Mertin
b: 1942 Bridgeport, Conn.
d: 2001
obit. - gallery

Two of Mertin's typographies were:
portraits of citizens in period costume, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Rochester NY (where he taught);
Carnegie-funded libraries.

That said, none of the images shown on the gallery site from which these details were taken (Joseph Bellows) are from those series. let's wait for the book.


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Thomas Ruff

We first met Ruff in EyV in an exercise comparing two reviews of his Jpegs series. I met his work again at the V&A's inaugural exhibition in its new photography space where he reworked some 1850s images by Linnaeus Tripe. I found the Jpegs exercise quite fun, but the purpose of the Tripe series was entirely lost on me. My current view is that Ruff has some passingly interesting notions but that his renown is difficult to justify. It may be interesting to see how his work comes over in the Typologies book.

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Ed Ruscha

In The Genius of Photography, Gerry Badger describes Ruscha's (pronounced "roo-SHAY") 1960s series on garages and its publication as Twentysix Gasoline Stations as,

… apparently artless photographs … in a roughly produced paperback, these 'bad' photographs revolutionized both the art of photography and the photographic book.
[It] … inaugurated the genre of the 'artist's book', a form which has become extremely important and widespread mode of production for artists, particularly conceptual artists. Badger, The Genius of Photography p. 208

To that extent Ruscha is owed a debt for the way he shook up the craft of photography.

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Thomas Struth

Struth (with Ruff and Gursky) is another member of the Dusseldorf School, educated by the Bechers. Struth is best known for a series of photographs of museum interiors.

My personal view is one of admiration for the Bechers who dedicated their photographing careers to an æsthetically interesting, documentarily worthy, meticulously presented but ultimately rather tedious œuvre. The generation of photographers they educated rode the wave of photography becoming museum and gallery art, where colour is better and big is better still : they are to be congratulated on their financial success.

I am happy to acknowledge, as I have elsewhere, that I was staggered by seeing Gursky's Paris, Montparnasse, 1993 at Tate Modern soon after it opened and it rekindled an interest in photography but that does not change my view as stated.


Conclusion

[1Nov] It seems to me that there is a continuum on which reside typologies, projects, extended projects and obsessions and it is difficult to determine which, if any, of these should not be categorised as typology.

It will be interesting to see what the book brings to this party.

New readers might wish to read the Nichers page.


References

Badger, G. (2007) The genius of photography. London: Quadrille Publishing.

Barrett, T. (1997) Criticising photographs, an introduction to understanding images. 3rd ed. NY: McGrawHill.

Freidus, M, Lingwood, J. & Slemmons, R. (1991) Typologies: nine contemporary photographers. Newport Harbor Art Museum.

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Page created 31-Oct-2020 | Page updated 03-Dec-2020