Looking in, Looking Out

The_Traveler

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Looking In and Looking Out-


I went to see two photography exhibitsat the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and it was never more clear that curators had made a mistake by putting two such exhibitions the same building so that visitors could go from one to the otherand, without even intending, see the self-conscious shallowness ofone.
Exhibitions | Corcoran Gallery of Art

The two exhibits were David Levinthal 'War Games' and WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY:Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath

I quote from the exhibit brochures; first of War/Photography

“Thislandmark exhibition revolutionizes our understanding of thismomentous subject, immersing viewers in the experience of soldiersand civilians during wartime. WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY brings together imagesby more than 200 photographers from 28 nations and covers conflictsfrom the past 165 years—from the Mexican-American War throughpresent-day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Organized notchronologically but around themes such as “The Fight,”“Refugees,” and “Remembrance,” it shows how photography hasinformed our understanding of conflict over time, and around theworld. Epic in scope and ambition, and featuring many of the mostindelible photographs ever made, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY takes us from thehome front to the battlefield and back again. It is organized by theMuseum of Fine Arts, Houston, and arrives on the East Coast as partof a nationwide tour. - See more at:WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath | Corcoran Gallery of Art“

And then from: David Levinthal: War Games


“DavidLevinthal, a central figure in the history of American postmodernphotography, has staged uncanny tableaux using toys and miniaturedioramas for nearly 40 years. Mounted to celebrate the museum’sacquisition of a major, career-spanning body of work, this exhibitionfeatures the artist’s photography on the subject of war. It isorganized by students of the Curatorial Seminar at the CorcoranCollege of Art + Design, an innovative course led by curators of theCorcoran’s department of Photography and Media Arts.

Levinthal’s combat-related tableaux constitute a remarkable critique of the ways society experiences conflict through its portrayal. His groundbreaking project Hitler Moves East (1975–77), a series ofimagined scenes from World War II’s Russian front, first established his reputation, becoming a touchstone for the iconoclastic generation of American photographers that includes artists like Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince. Wild West (1987–89),Levinthal’s best-known body of work, explores the American frontierand the American Indian Wars, filtered through the lens of Hollywood westerns and late-20th-century advertising. Mein Kampf (1993–94)luridly re-enacts Adolph Hitler’s theatrical rallies as well ashorrifying scenes from the Holocaust. Levinthal’s I.E.D.(2008)echoes contemporary news imagery of our military campaigns in Iraqand Afghanistan.



So what do we have. In the first, the viewer sees the real stuff, real images, caught in life, 'real' agony, 'real'sorrow, 'real' pain. In the second, the viewer sees toy soldiers withsome light effects, shot with a tilt-shift lens – all giving us his'critique' and his impressions (my term).

And, in contrast, Levinthal's work, his tableaux of little figures, looks thin and shallow and trivial. It looks like what it is, someone looking inside himself, from the safety of his studio, and looking at his own emotions, being 'artistic.'

I prefer the looking out, the capturing of what is real and not digging out my own trivial emotions, cause that's what they are, trivial, in comparison to the reality of the world.

If you can, go to the Corcoran for these two shows.
 

Gavjenks

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I haven't been to the exhibit, but from reading about it, I interpret the combination as a perfectly reasonable comparison of "documentary" and "commentary." The two have entirely different purposes.



The toy soldiers and the title "War Games" makes the second exhibit seem pretty obviously IMO aimed at commenting about the futility and silliness of the whole institution, and how war really IS (inappropriately so) a shallow game where people are treated like toys to push around to help one side win.

I think it's pretty clever. Again, since I haven't seen it, I don't know if it is really all that well done in terms of execution, but the idea at least is pretty cool and sounds like a pretty good juxtaposition to the documentarian side of things.



Were protesters at home in America during Vietnam "shallower" than soldiers were? No. Were they all just "looking in?" and ignoring the world around them? No. And by the same token, I don't think it is fair to say that somebody commenting on war in general can be said to be shallower or ignorant of reality simply because he wasn't on the scene. This isn't the 1600s anymore. We can look up all the information we want about things and everyone has access to plenty of philosophies and books, as well as a much easier time finding people who were on the scene to interview. Also, this is all assuming that the photographer in the second exhibit has not actually served in combat in the first place. I don't know, has he?
 

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Looking In and Looking Out-


I went to see two photography exhibitsat the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and it was never more clear that curators had made a mistake by putting two such exhibitions the same building so that visitors could go from one to the otherand, without even intending, see the self-conscious shallowness ofone.
Exhibitions | Corcoran Gallery of Art

The two exhibits were David Levinthal 'War Games' and WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY:Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath

I quote from the exhibit brochures; first of War/Photography

“Thislandmark exhibition revolutionizes our understanding of thismomentous subject, immersing viewers in the experience of soldiersand civilians during wartime. WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY brings together imagesby more than 200 photographers from 28 nations and covers conflictsfrom the past 165 years—from the Mexican-American War throughpresent-day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Organized notchronologically but around themes such as “The Fight,”“Refugees,” and “Remembrance,” it shows how photography hasinformed our understanding of conflict over time, and around theworld. Epic in scope and ambition, and featuring many of the mostindelible photographs ever made, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY takes us from thehome front to the battlefield and back again. It is organized by theMuseum of Fine Arts, Houston, and arrives on the East Coast as partof a nationwide tour. - See more at:WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath | Corcoran Gallery of Art“

And then from: David Levinthal: War Games


“DavidLevinthal, a central figure in the history of American postmodernphotography, has staged uncanny tableaux using toys and miniaturedioramas for nearly 40 years. Mounted to celebrate the museum’sacquisition of a major, career-spanning body of work, this exhibitionfeatures the artist’s photography on the subject of war. It isorganized by students of the Curatorial Seminar at the CorcoranCollege of Art + Design, an innovative course led by curators of theCorcoran’s department of Photography and Media Arts.

Levinthal’s combat-related tableaux constitute a remarkable critique of the ways society experiences conflict through its portrayal. His groundbreaking project Hitler Moves East (1975–77), a series ofimagined scenes from World War II’s Russian front, first established his reputation, becoming a touchstone for the iconoclastic generation of American photographers that includes artists like Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince. Wild West (1987–89),Levinthal’s best-known body of work, explores the American frontierand the American Indian Wars, filtered through the lens of Hollywood westerns and late-20th-century advertising. Mein Kampf (1993–94)luridly re-enacts Adolph Hitler’s theatrical rallies as well ashorrifying scenes from the Holocaust. Levinthal’s I.E.D.(2008)echoes contemporary news imagery of our military campaigns in Iraqand Afghanistan.



So what do we have. In the first, the viewer sees the real stuff, real images, caught in life, 'real' agony, 'real'sorrow, 'real' pain. In the second, the viewer sees toy soldiers withsome light effects, shot with a tilt-shift lens – all giving us his'critique' and his impressions (my term).

And, in contrast, Levinthal's work, his tableaux of little figures, looks thin and shallow and trivial. It looks like what it is, someone looking inside himself, from the safety of his studio, and looking at his own emotions, being 'artistic.'

I prefer the looking out, the capturing of what is real and not digging out my own trivial emotions, cause that's what they are, trivial, in comparison to the reality of the world.

If you can, go to the Corcoran for these two shows.

It's always been fashionable to bash intellectuals, and artists, and to ridicule intellectuals or serious artists, writers,and other social commentators, and to hold them up to contempt and ridicule. Attempting to determine what is or is not "valid" exploration of all types of topics is one of the key tenets of most totalitarian,authoritarian regimes. Telling others what is worthwhile,and what is worthless is a good example of one of the main tactics of some really awful dictators.

In fact, killing, imprisoning, and exterminating intellectuals, artists, and social commentators, artists, and other opinion-shapers was something that both Hitler and Stalin did immediately upon gaining power. It seems like it might be appropriate that the artist asks people to re-examine the way we in the west viewed Hitler,and Stalin, and others of their ilk, through the lens of our own USA-made propaganda and media.
 

amolitor

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Levinthal is very modern. He's doing a thing which is mainly about inviting the viewer to make something of the work. It does not tell, or even show, it asks.

A pretty common reaction to work like this is "this is crap", and I see no impediment to that. If Levinthal is going to ask "what do you make of this?" he's got to be willing to accept "I think it's crap". His work also suffers in this era from looking like instagram. "fake T/S", "sepia", "square". Of course instagram is copying him and his ilk, but we're unfortunately in that world now.
 
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The_Traveler

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I haven't been to the exhibit, but from reading about it, I interpret the combination as a perfectly reasonable comparison of "documentary" and "commentary." The two have entirely different purposes.

The toy soldiers and the title "War Games" makes the second exhibit seem pretty obviously IMO aimed at commenting about the futility and silliness of the whole institution, and how war really IS (inappropriately so) a shallow game where people are treated like toys to push around to help one side win.

I think it's pretty clever. Again, since I haven't seen it, I don't know if it is really all that well done in terms of execution, but the idea at least is pretty cool and sounds like a pretty good juxtaposition to the documentarian side of things.

You've made some fairly on-point comments about the possible meanings of the toys-at-war exhibit and you've done it without even seeing the images.
If you don't need anything to spark your analysis but the idea where is the contribution of the artist?
Is this only slightly more than looking at a random shape on a wall and projecting meaning into it?

And believe me, the images have no subtly or hidden content; they aren't particularly well done in any parameter.
 

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