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Alex Prager (American, born 1979) Desiree from the
Alex Prager (American, born 1979) Desiree from the series The Big Valley. 2008. Chromogenic color print, 36 x 48 1/2" (91.4 x 123.2 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York

MoMA's New Photography 2010

The New York art space kicks off its annual exhibition of upcoming creative talent

MoMA’s annual exhibition of emerging art photographers has showcased the talents of such dignities as Philip Lorca diCorcia, Thomas Demand, Rineke Dijkstra and Sara VanDerBeek. The 2010 exhibition brings together photographers Roe Ethridge, Elad Lassry, Alex Prager, and Amanda Ross-Ho, four artists whose work branches across art, fashion, photography and film. Dazed spoke to curator Roxana Marcoci about this year's selection.

Dazed Digital: This years New Photographers selection looks amazing. What is MoMA looking to explore with the show?
Roxana Marcoci: New Photography looks to bring together a group of artists who have expanded the conventional definitions of the photographic medium and in recent years the medium has become much more complex and varied.  Last year, the exhibition focused on artists experimenting with image manipulation and assembly processes, but this year’s edition features the work of Roe Ethridge, Elad Lassry, Alex Prager, and Amanda Ross-Ho – artists who engage with photography as a medium with fluid borders between editorial work, film, and visual art. Their pictures —whether shot in the real world, constructed in the studio, or culled from pop culture, advertising, and the movie industry—have shifted contexts at least once, often from the magazine page to the gallery wall to the screen. So the show really represents the intersecting currents of photography today. We pay attention to artists working exclusively with photography as well as looking at the integration of photography with sculpture, video, and film.

DD: It's interesting to see artists such as Amanda Ross-Ho and Elad Lassry, who work with other mediums such as illustration and collage, presented in a major photography show.
Roxana Marcoci: Amanda Ross-Ho and Elad Lassry use different modes of production, but their works reflect photographic concerns. Ross-Ho’s installation can be read as an all-over collage spread across the exhibition space and features an installation composed of photographs and material such as manipulated promotional posters and images scanned from craft manuals and textbooks. Lassry, on the other hand, defines his practice as consumed with “pictures”—generic images culled from vintage picture magazines, advertisements, mail-order catalogues and film archives. His vibrant pictures—still life compositions, photo-collages, and studio portraits—never exceed the dimensions of a magazine page or spread; their pop-culture subject matter mimicking commercial photography. Lassry’s vision of film is not grounded in narrative or storytelling, but rather in still pictures in motion.

DD: The Roe Ethridge images combine work with both models and still life. What were your thoughts in selecting his work for the show?
Roxana Marcoci: Roe Ethridge and I made the selection together, orchestrating “visual fugues” by combining and recombining different types of pictures – portraits, still lifes, interior scenes – in his photographs. In this exhibition Ethridge juxtaposed a picture in which he has superimposed an image of a plain white plate on a checkered Commes des Garçons scarf; a photograph of a model dressed in an Alexander McQueen shirt posing against a tripod; two filmic pictures of a Juilliard ballet student; and a still life of moldy fruit. His pictures acquire their meaning from the salient way in which they have been shuffled and laid out in nonlinear narrative structures.

DD: Photographers Ethridge, Prager and Lassry also all have a significant presence in the fashion industry. How relevant does MoMA see the of fashion imagery in photography today?
Roxana Marcoci: MoMA has long recognized the relevance of fashion photography. The museum has a large collection of Irving Penn’s photographs and only a few months ago we presented a series of portraits and fashion photographs by Richard Avedon. In 2004 Susan Kismaric and Eva Respini organized the exhibition Fashioning Fiction in Photography since 1990, which featured many memorable pictures by artists such as Cindy Sherman and Juergen Teller.

The pictures in New Photographers show provoke associations between fine-art photography and images sourced from other contexts such as fashion. One of Alex Prager’s pictures, Crowd #1 (Stan Douglas), was shot for the November 2010 issue of W, but it makes its debut here. Roe Ethridge overrides distinctions between art and non-art photographic genres, freely borrowing outtakes from his own commercial work. Elad Lassry does not have a presence in the fashion industry but in his practice he deftly integrates advertising layouts into the photographic medium.

DD: Much of the work in the exhibition appears to have sense of nostalgia – referencing 1960s/70s culture and photographers. Do you see this era as particularly relevant in today’s photography? And any thoughts on movements that may influence the choices of the New Photography 2011?
Roxana Marcoci: It’s true that a number of the works included in the exhibition reference the 1970s culture, but not for nostalgic reasons. While in the 70s, artists such as Richard Prince questioned notions of originality by re-photographing advertising images and presenting them as their own, these younger artists reinvest in photographic authorship, creating pictures that often exist simultaneously as commercial assignment and artwork. New Photography is always a surprise. It all depends on the itinerary that artists map for us.