New Directions: Recent Acquisitions
As part of the slate of programs in honor of the 75th anniversary of the public opening of the George Eastman Museum, New Directions: Recent Acquisitions features work acquired by the museum over the past five years and showcases significant developments in photographic practice. The exhibition title echoes New Acquisitions/New Directions/New Work, 1981–1989, organized by curator Robert Sobieszek on what was the museum’s 40th anniversary.
Throughout New Directions, the photographic image figures as a tool to fortify—but also unsettle—ideas about history and identity. Performances staged for the camera enable artists to explore and break with the conventions of gender, making the home or studio an experimental theater for engaging the world at large. While some of the artists embrace photography as a documentary medium, others develop strategies to destabilize the authority of the image. Some work to explicitly make visible the myriad ways that the past shapes the present. As instruments of power, archives become platforms to be challenged, subject to reinterpretation and reconfiguration. Found and appropriated materials offer practical, but also critical, approaches to reflecting on contemporary life and the status of images in the digital era. Likewise, recent approaches to the natural environment and the human landscape register the legacies of modern warfare, industrial pollution, and social inequity.
Alongside photographs made in the past decade, the exhibition includes works by artists who were often overlooked or marginalized in the past, but whose contributions are touchstones for contemporary art.
New Directions also features a selection of photobooks from the museum’s Richard and Ronay Menschel Library. In addition to prints intended for gallery walls, photobooks are a vital way for artists to share their work. In the printed book, an artist can combine and sequence a series of photographs to offer a visual narrative, or they can experiment with printing, layout, or texture. The featured publications take many forms, from traditionally bound pages to more sculptural or even puzzle-like constructions.
Photographers and artists in the exhibition include An-My Lê, Annie Hsiao-Ching Wang, Baldwin Lee, Eileen Quinlan, Erica Baum, Ilse Cardoen, Janice Guy, Joan Lyons, Justine Kurland, Keith Smith, Ken Gonzales-Day, Lola Flash, Meghann Riepenhoff, Sophie Calle, and Zanele Muholi.