March 3, 2024

Burrellguitars

I Fall For Art

The Photographic Metamorphosis: Unveiling the Artistry Within

Embracing Photography as Art

In the 1960s, when Andy Grundberg sought to embark on a photography course at Cornell University, he found himself enrolling in its agriculture school. However, this peculiar beginning mirrors the humble origins of photography’s journey into the realm of art. By the 1980s, photography had firmly established itself as a central force in contemporary art, driving aesthetic innovation in galleries and studios. Grundberg’s own trajectory, evolving from a camera enthusiast and technical writer to a revered photography critic for the New York Times, reflects this transformative period. His book, “How Photography Became Contemporary Art: Inside an Artistic Revolution From Pop to the Digital Age,” offers a personal and critical reflection on this journey.

The Precursor to Artistic Recognition

The aesthetic allure of photography had been recognized long before the 1970s. Pioneers like Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams had already made significant contributions to the art form. However, in the aftermath of World War II, painting and sculpture had dominated the artistic landscape, overshadowing photography. This era shifted when Grundberg arrived in New York in 1971. Artists like Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg had integrated photo-based techniques into their mixed-media creations. The Museum of Modern Art’s retrospective of Dianne Arbus in 1972 marked a pivotal moment in recognizing the artistic potential of photography.

A New Dawn for Photography and the Avant-Garde

The 1970s heralded an era of artistic pluralism, fostering an environment of experimentation within an affordable New York. It was a time of both creative abundance and societal challenges, reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance’s flourishing amidst political turmoil. Grundberg explores the uncharted waters of postmodernism, encountering influential figures like William Wegman and John Baldessari.

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Photography’s Shift Towards Conceptual Art

Conceptual art played a pivotal role in elevating photography’s artistic status. Thinkers like Susan Sontag and Rolland Barthes took photography seriously as both art and cultural commentary. Douglas Crimp’s influence led to the term “pictures” carrying nuanced significance, reflecting a departure from depictive purity in favor of deconstructive reframing.

The Enigmatic Cindy Sherman

The 1980s witnessed the rise of “new documentarians.” Cindy Sherman emerged as a postmodern paragon, blurring the lines between reality and image. Sherman’s chameleon-like practice, where she embodied various personas, epitomized quintessential postmodernism.

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Narrative and Political Photography

The ’80s introduced “new documentarians” who sought objectivity and African American artists who used narrative to convey political messages. Grundberg highlights Nan Goldin’s “Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” equating its significance in the ’80s to Robert Frank’s “The Americans” in the ’50s. Goldin’s meticulous documentation of downtown artist life captures the complexities of human interaction.

The Culture Wars and Photographic Evolution

The 1990s witnessed culture wars, from Robert Mapplethorpe’s appropriation of pornography to debates on originality and commercialism in photography. Cameras were no longer seen as mere recorders; they transformed reality. However, the desire for the truth in an image remains potent.

Photography as a Matured Art Form

As photography matured into an art form and conquered the art market, so did Grundberg as a critic. His book provides a personal yet balanced account of how photography defines us and how we, in turn, define it.