The third show in Joshua Chuang‘s tenure as Chief Curator of the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona places three contemporary photographers—Lucas Blalock, Owen Kydd and John Lehr—in conversation with masters such as Ansel Adams, Aaron Siskind and Brett and Edward Weston. The exhibition, “The Pure Products of America Go Crazy,” whose title is borrowed from William Carlos Williams’s 1923 poem “To Elsie,” focuses on the interrelation between the work of the contemporary photographers, but Chuang has pulled a dozen objects from the CCP’s collection to “spike” the show. The resulting mix offers both historical perspective and a chance to consider the historic work in contemporary context.
Chuang selected Blalock, Kydd and Lehr as standouts in the “new Generation of American photographers,” he told PDN in May, because their work “goes beyond the means used to make it. Process is certainly an important part of their work, but each of them have gotten beyond that to deal with real meaning.” Though these artists, who embrace digital technology, address contemporary questions about the medium, in other words, their work does more. Each of them considers “an aspect of American retail or consumer culture,” which connects their work, Chuang explains.
Blalock’s works “play with the mismatch” between cheap and cast-off objects and “large-format camera scrutiny.” Kydd’s “durational photographs,” which are minutes-long video pieces, consider storefronts and objects found therein. And Lehr’s work, Chuang says, scrutinizes “disused, closed-up shops and surfaces that have a kind of palimpsest aspect to them.”
The older works that “punctuate” the exhibition, Chuang says, are unexpected. Ansel Adams, for instance, is represented by a still-life he did as a young photographer that “looks very contemporary.”
With “Pure Products,” an upcoming fortieth anniversary exhibition and a Lee Friedlander show in the offing, along with earlier shows of contemporary images and NASA archival photos, Chuang is delivering “a primer for the kinds of things that we might be able to expect from the CCP going forward,” he says.
“The Pure Products of America Go Crazy” runs through Spetember 13, 2015 at the Center for Creative Photography.