“Just because it’s big, does not make it art.”

by Kim Steele

I have always been drawn to Deconstructivism.  Man Ray’s unorthodox approach to image making influenced me early on. Fauvism had a long-lasting effect on the art world with its inherent disrespect for the ‘precious image.’ Taking its cue from the departure from Impressionism, which revered the ‘beauty’ in the world that new art forms, such as Surrealism, were exploring, The Secessionists made the same move from the f64 group.


Breaking the Land © Matt Bryans

Matt Bryans work at SF Camerawork takes found images, in this instance, newspaper photos to their physical limit with glue and cutting into small pieces, and appeals to the Formalist in me.  The Starn Twins rocked the art world in the eighties with scotch tape, throwing the age-old concern of archival qualities, labored over by many photographer, out the window. Method here becomes content!  The images themselves rely on the scale of the collages for their impact, the images themselves are not compelling.



Photohouse © Michael Garlington

Home is where the heart is.  This veritable temple to portraiture and cultural essay, begs the question of ‘why?’ The formal image making here by Garlington is direct and forceful.  The prints are sepia toned either for a historical look or for an appearance of homogeneity.  Very strong imagery confused with their presentation on the side of a shack, dripping in varnish.  The ‘Hillbilly’ tone of the subject matter and locations where the images were made does unify the photographs effectively but diminish them by the house of cards presentation (or photos in this case).  I would much prefer the ability to examine them individually since there are many compelling portraits here demonstrating a strong vision and art direction.  This may be a period of exploration for him.  Early in my career, I printed on photo linen and sculpted them with photographic prints which excited me and were partially successful.  There are far fewer avenue of exploration in photography print making than in other media, such as painting.  The direction photography seems to be traveling now is in the ‘set up’ nature of image making, championed by the leader of this pack, Cindy Sherman. So experimentation in the print making aspect of photography is a refreshing change from the enormous prints that dominate the art world now.  Many would fall flat if they were presented in an 8×10 print.


I remember clearly what the then curator of the Metropolitan Museum, Weston Neff now at the Getty, told me, “Just because it’s big, does not make it art.”

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