The 'Everyday America' Exhibition Was Like a Photo Mausoleum
Feb 23 2013
Everyday America is a photographic exhibition that just opened up at the Steven Kasher Gallery with an exalted line-up partially comprised of dead guys. With names like Dorothea Lange, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston, and more than a dozen other renowned American photographers, the hype for a show like this was intense. I went to check out the opening in Chelsea, Manhattan, hoping they might wheel out some decrepit, artsy corpses as part of the celebration.
About 15 walls in three different rooms were adorned with legendary Americana photographs. The show seemed like a test in photographic knowledge. Almost none of the photographers had their names next to their works, meaning that you had to be familiar with each photographer's style to know who took each picture. It felt pretty cool knowing that certain prints were Mitch Epstein's highly organized and sprawling architectural shots or Walker Evan's black-and-white, in your face yet lonely photographs. At the same time, I felt a little dumb and left out not knowing which work was Todd Hido's or that of other artists I wasn't as familiar with. Maybe at a show with such a sizable and powerful roster, the curator wanted them to be viewed as a conglomerate mass of great works, or maybe it was just a dumb move. I'm not sure.
As with any Chelsea opening, there was your collection of weirdos trying to grab attention. One guy, who looked like he was in his early 50s, was wearing what seemed like his interpretation of a corny pimp getup. He had on a big fur coat, huge red sunglasses, and a matching red bowler hat that sat at a 45-degree tilt at all times. He spent zero time looking at the artwork, and devoted all of his energy to hit on the model-type girls who flock to these events, using his zany old-man charm as leverage. There was also a Afghan hound wandering around, brought by your typical Chelsea girl. The broad and the pooch strutted around the gallery distracting people. Weirdly enough, there seems to be a dog person like this at every other show I go to. Not complaining though. Maybe it serves as a "refreshing pause" when looking at the art, or maybe I just like to pet furry things.
Overall the show was pretty cool. I didn't get plastered off the gallery wine as I always hope to when I go to Chelsea on Thursdays (the bartenders were especially ungenerous). But the art was cool. While everything there was unnamed, you could see the distinct stylistic differences of each artist. You could also pick up the differences of each region and time period of the works. In a way, the gallery worked as a kind of cultural survey. None of the photos were new, although that was sort of expected since these were released from the archive of the Berman Collection and a lot of these photographers have been rotting in a pine box for years. The photographs were also being sold for as cheaply as $2,000. For the caliber of work and the big names, that is crazy cheap.
Here Was the Roster:
Margaret Bourke-White, Harry Callahan, William Christenberry, William Clift, Jack Delano, William Eggleston, Mitch Epstein, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Todd Hido, Evelyn Hofer, John Humble, David Husom, Birney Imes Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Helen Levitt, Martin Parr, Christian Patterson, Gene Petersen, Sheron Rupp, Stephen Shore, Aaron Siskind, Joel Sternfeld John Szarkowski, George Tice, John Vachon, Chris Verene, Camilo José Vergara, James Welling, and Henry Wesse
And Here's How Alive They Are:
Dead, Dead, Alive, Dead, Dead, Alive, Alive, Dead, Alive, Alive, Dead, Alive, Alive, Alive, Dead, Dead, Dead, Alive Alive, Alive, Alive, Dead, Alive, Dead, Alive, Dead, Alive, Alive, Alive, and Alive.
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