The Getty is something that is in the back of every Angeleno’s mind, but is never something you “remember” to go to. It watches over the city, always looking at us and welcoming us, but we forget that it’s there. I stopped in last week to see what was going on and, while there were a lot of cool things happening–PST’s Crosscurrents, the self-portrait celebratory Images Of The Artist–one photography show was particularly exciting: Narrative Interventions In Photography.
The show displays the intersect of text and photography in photography by three contemporary photographers: Carrie Mae Weems, Eileen Cowin, and Simryn Gill. Each work with text differently–some require you to read the text, some incorporate the text, some are absent of text–but all play with the idea of “reading” and not “reading.”
The piece at the center of the show is Carrie Mae Weems‘ 1995 – 1996 series From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried. The piece consists of several red/black/white and blue/black/white historical photos of African Americans from slavery juxtaposed with overlayed glass displaying text commenting on the situation, from a present point of view looking back (hence, the title). The photos have phrases on them like “YOU BECAME A SCIENTIFIC PROFILE” or “A PHOTOGRAPHIC SUBJECT” or even a grouping of musical bars, notes, and lyrics. The piece is very powerful and one that challenges you to face America’s past and think about what happened and how that has informed society today. It’s really is an amazing piece.
Eileen Cowin’s series I See What You’re Saying from 2002 is the most abstract of the group and also the most recent piece in the group. The series consists of six large photos grouped into three diptychs. One consists of something literary or “written” or textual placed next to another photo of life, of a person. The photos play with words in the sense that you can’t see words when people speak and how expressions and “performance” in a way dictate how to interpret what is said–and how this relates to lying.
Simryn Gill’s 1996 – 1998 Forest is the only piece that plays with reinterpreting words and books and how that plays with things it describes. Gill turned many pages of books into leaves and veins and stems and “replaced what already exists” in nature. She left these materials in the wild to experience the outdoors–where it came from–even though they are no longer natural. Her piece works with the “politics of change” and the man-made book’s place in relationship to nature. This was by far the easiest to consume and most impressive piece in that, you know, Gill cut out tons of paper leaves and put them in nature (but, like children, all three of these photographic series are equally as brilliant).
Narrative Interventions In Photography is up at The Getty through March 11, 2012. It’s one of the most progressive shows at The Getty now and, honestly, was a bit surprising when encountered (because it was so unexpected to see something so, slightly, inaccessible). If you visit the exhibition page on Getty.edu, there are great two minute-ish videos of each artist speaking on their piece as a slideshow of their works place. Definitely check it out! (And, remember, The Getty is FREE!!! Go see this and the PST shows!!)