North Carolina Museum of Art

Raliegh, NC



The Real, The Surreal, The Unreal in Contemporary Photography


Where can you see a man serve as a human coat rack with seven hats on his head and a raincoat on his outstretched leg? Or a dog in a polka-dot dress lead its companion on a leash:, Or a restaurant overrun with bright red foxes! Only in the world of photography and, in the early months of 2001, only at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

From Jan. 14-April 1, 2001, the Museum hosts "Is Seeing Believing? The Real, The Surreal, The Unreal in Contemporary Photography." The exhibition explores how many of today's leading photographers do not simply document the world around them but actually create constructed realities through the use of costumes and props and the construction of elaborate and imaginative sets.

"The contributions of these photographers have greatly impacted the perception of photography as a fine art, elevating it to a position equal with painting and sculpture," said Dennis P. Weller, exhibition co-curator and the Museum's associate curator of European art. "As a curator of old master paintings, I am very sympathetic to the extraordinarily high degree of craftsmanship and visual appeal found in these photographs."

Visually exciting and beautifully crafted, the 30 images in the exhibition not only relate to performance art and installations but will also resonate with viewers familiar with imagery of print advertisements and television commercials. In fact, perhaps the most widely known of the artists exhibited, William Wegman has posed his pet Weimaraners most recently for photographs appearing in Honda ads.

Several of the exhibited photographers explore aspects of portraiture and specifically self-portraiture. Cindy Sherman's History Portraits, for example, find the artist using period costumes to comment on old master art. Valeriy Gerlovin and Rimma Gerlovina, a husband and wife team, likewise return to an old master source in After Dürer. Nina Levy adorns herself with a fake, oversized head in the series Spare Parts; Janieta Eyre utilizes double exposure to twin herself in photographs that capture the ambiguity of identity; and artist Chuck Close is captured in a series of haunting holographic images. Following the lead of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, Teun Hocks photographs himself in futile situations, as in a Sisyphean image in which he tries to push a huge rock up a daunting slope. And in another comedic twist on portraiture, Laurie Simmons photographed her friend Jimmy DeSana wearing an oversized camera for the image Walking Camera I (Jimmy the Camera).

Other photographs in the exhibition focus on setting more than character. Sandy Skoglund's photographs include a café filled with foxes or an office amidst an avalanche of leaves. Patrick Nagatani embeds often-elegant automobiles in earthy archeological sites. And James Snitzer emblazons text across landscape - as in the image lunadisney - for potentially satirical cultural commentary. (left: Sandy Skoglund, A Breeze at Work, Courtesy of Janet Borden, Inc., New York)

The exhibition is curated by Weller and by Janis Goodman, associate professor of fine arts, the Corcoran College of Art & Design, Washington, D.C. Weller presents the lecture "Is Seeing Believing;" on Sunday, Jan. 14, at 3 p.m. in the Museum auditorium. And an exhibition catalogue features essays by Weller and independent curator Laura McGough, the co-director of NOMADS, a media arts organization in Washington, D.C.

Read more about the North Carolina Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11

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