Through the Looking Glass
Gallery 364 from April to July 2010
American, born Germany, 1969
This gallery presents two installations by contemporary artist Kota Ezawa. The first, The History of Photography Remix, is a work comprising forty slides; each is a well-known historical or popular photograph the artist has translated using a simplified, cartoon-inspired drawing style. The second is an installation of eight works Ezawa selected from the MIA’s collection of more than 11,500 photographs and arranged frame-to-frame in a horizontal strip. Departing from long-standing curatorial taxonomies, such as chronology, authorship, and style, Ezawa uses the visual continuity of horizons to contextualize photographs ranging from Henry P. Bosse’s Pine Bend (1891) to Lynn Geesaman’s Vista from Terrace, Hinton (1991).
This double installation emerged from a conversation about The History of Photography Remix between the artist and MIA curators. The original plan was to present Ezawa’s powerful slide work, which investigates the issues of selection, history, and memory. As the conversation developed, it seemed there was no better way to address these issues than to use the MIA’s collection as a counterpoint. Both remixes are made up of individual works that encourage close attention, but together ask: What stories of photography do the respective installations present? Which images are most memorable and why? How might your remix differ from the artist’s?
The History of Photography Remix, 2005
35mm slide projector, slide carousel and forty 35mm slides
Courtesy of the artist, Haines Gallery, San Francisco, and Murray Guy, New York
Kota Ezawa’s The History of Photography Remix presents a personal, aesthetic, and critical interpretation of the medium and its history. Inspired by a class on photography at Stanford University, Ezawa decided to create his own unofficial historical survey in the old-fashioned format of the art-historical slide show. He chose forty photographs from various sources and, through a process combining hand-tracing and computer manipulation, translated them into minimal yet evocative versions of the originals. Ezawa’s remix includes images that are both idiosyncratic and familiar. Some, such as Matthew Brady’s Harvest of Death (1863) and Edward Ruscha’s Parking Lot (1967), are commonly referenced in general art-history surveys. Others are drawn from the popular press, such as the widely circulated photograph of kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst brandishing a machine gun. Ezawa’s selection suggests the influence of television, film, and photography in shaping collective knowledge and memory. But the last slide, a portrait of the artist himself, points to the subjective nature of history. In the end, Ezawa’s remix might signify a generational shift in which historical narratives have become a “wikireality” to which any one can contribute.
Interloper – or Illuminator? You Tell Us.
What do you think about the juxtaposition of contemporary and historical art in the galleries, as you see in “Art ReMix”? Share your comments below: