MINNEAPOLIS, January 27 2016—The Walker Art Center presents Ordinary Pictures, a group exhibition that considers the stock photograph and other forms of industrial image production in contemporary art and culture. On view in the Target and Friedman Galleries from February 27 through October 9, 2016, the exhibition presents works by some 45 artists who have probed, mimicked, and critiqued generic images in various media over the past 50 years. To accompany the exhibition, the Walker will publish a fully illustrated catalogue exploring this under-researched yet pervasive aspect of visual history and culture.
Examining the various ways in which artists have reimagined the generic image since the 1960s, Ordinary Pictures presents work in a range of media including photography, painting, moving image, sculpture, installation, sound, prints, and multiples. Spanning generations, movements, and artistic strategies—from early Pop art and avant-garde film to Pictures Generation appropriation and various contemporary practices—the exhibition also considers the art world’s own role in the economy of image production.
“The Walker has a rich history of presenting important contemporary group exhibitions that expose new research and overlooked fields of inquiry,” says Walker Executive Director Olga Viso. “I am delighted to share this exhibition with our audiences. It offers a vital lens for us to consider how contemporary art intersects with our image-saturated lives.”
Contemporary culture is more inundated than ever before with stock images so commonplace they largely go unnoticed. The depictions are recognizable but staged and sanitized, with scenes such as business meetings, sunsets, or women shopping. Used as anonymous tools for advertising, marketing, editorial, and corporate operations, they are sold, licensed, circulated, and repurposed. A global industry has taken root that manufactures and distributes the countless images that populate consumer culture. Such pictures for rent, and their far-reaching effects in the marketplace, signal a significant shift in how images are used, valued, and experienced today.
“The stock image is instantly familiar and circulates invisibly in our lives,” said Eric Crosby, the exhibition curator. “Yet a global industry sustains it by perpetuating the demands of advertisers and consumers alike. I’m interested in how artists can prompt us to look differently at the seemingly banal products of industrial image culture.”
This cultural phenomenon began with the rapid technological advancements in photography and film in the 20th century. As the instruments and production methods became more widely accessible to artists, businesses, and consumers, the interest quickly gave rise to an abundant, globalized image culture. Now in the age of the internet, images have become at once more personal, as infinite numbers of photos can be taken on mobile devices and shared instantly via social media. However, there is no longer a need to hold the visual world in memory because it can be held in computers, online platforms, and cell phones. This presents a new cultural condition that dominates current discourses on the image in art that feeds the work of many artists.
As a globalized industry itself, the contemporary art world produces cultural capital and wealth in large part through the circulation of images of its own making—photographs of artworks, gallery installation views, and plates in scholarly publications, not to mention the countless reproductions for websites, books, and more.
Taking the generic visual commodity as a point of departure, Ordinary Pictures examines the ways artists have engaged the industrial and economic implications of images today. Their diverse work, not limited to photography, shares a preoccupation with image production and circulation, highlight acts of appropriation, collage, rephotography, and image exchange.
Artists featured in the exhibition include Richard Artschwager, John Baldessari, Steven Baldi, Mary Ellen Bartley, Lucas Blalock, Tom Burr, Sarah Charlesworth, Anne Collier, Phil Collins, Michael de Courcy, Liz Deschenes, John Divola, Aleksandra Domanović, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Morgan Fisher, Hollis Frampton, Jack Goldstein, Rachel Harrison, Robert Heinecken, Leslie Hewitt, William E. Jones, Owen Land, Elad Lassry, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Guthrie Lonergan, Elizabeth McAlpine, Steve McQueen, Scott Nedrelow, Albert Oehlen, Jack Pierson, Peter Piller, Seth Price, Richard Prince, Amanda Ross-Ho, Edward Ruscha, Stephen Shore, Sturtevant, Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, Jiro Takamatsu, Mungo Thomson, Wolfgang Tillmans, Tseng Kwong Chi, Julia Wachtel, Andy Warhol, and Christopher Williams.
Eric Crosby is the Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. He was previously associate curator of visual arts at the Walker Art Center, where his projects included Art Expanded, 1958–1978, a historical collections-based survey of intermedia practices; Liz Deschenes: Gallery 7, a solo exhibition of site-specific photographic works; the group exhibition Painter Painter; The Parade: Nathalie Djurberg with Music by Hans Berg; and Tacita Dean: Merce Cunningham Performs STILLNESS…(six performances, six films).
A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition featuring contributions by curator Eric Crosby, Thomas Beard, Misa Jeffereis, Lane Relyea, and Eva Respini. Published by the Walker Art Center, this will be the first critical anthology of its kind to explore art’s evolving relationship to industrial economies of the image. Distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers; 208 pages; $50.
Preview Party: Ordinary Pictures
Friday, February 26, 9 pm – 12 midnight
$30 ($20 Walker members)
Winter got you feeling squirrelly? Take stock of your Friday night and celebrate the surprising world of Ordinary Pictures at this extraordinary late-night preview party. Reinvent your favorite stock photos, revel in DJ mash-ups, and recharge with small bites and drinks.
More than a photography show, the Walker’s new exhibition features artists who appropriate, collage, swap, and remix everyday pictures. #OrdinaryPictures
Opening-Day Artist Talk with Morgan Fisher
Saturday, February 27, 2 pm FREE
Join artist and filmmaker Morgan Fisher and exhibition curator Eric Crosby for a discussion focusing on Fisher’s decades-long production of unique avant-garde films, which consistently push the definition of that medium. The program will feature a screening of Fisher’s seminal short film Production Stills (1970) as well as a discussion of the artist’s paintings, installations, photographic works, and writings. In addition, Crosby and Fisher will discuss the themes and art historical contexts of the exhibition Ordinary Pictures, followed by an audience Q&A.
Ordinary Pictures is sponsored by Dorsey™.
The exhibition is made possible by generous support from Jan and Ellen Breyer, Karen and Ken Heithoff, Michael J. Peterman and David A. Wilson, Robert and Rebecca Pohlad, and Elizabeth Redleaf. Additional support is provided by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Media partner Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. Support for the exhibition catalogue is provided by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of Walker Art Center publications.