Aperture Magazine

The magazine of photography and ideas

Staff Picks: Summer Exhibitions

Aperture editors and staff select the photography exhibitions we’re seeing around New York City this summer, from MoMA to the Guggenheim to Chelsea’s galleries.

 - August 6, 2015

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This article originally appeared in Issue 13 of the Aperture Photography App.  

black and white photograph

Yayoi Kusama, Mirror Performance, New York, 1968. Photograph by Shunk-Kender © 2015 Yayoi Kusama. Photograph: Shunk-Kender © J. Paul Getty Trust. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

Art on Camera: Photographs by Shunk-Kender, 1960–1971 at the Museum of Modern Art showcases works by the photographers Harry Shunk and János Kender, who collaborated under the name “Shunk-Kender.” By presenting the duo’s photographs of artworks and performances by their contemporaries, the exhibition looks at the two photographers’ relationship with the avant-garde, specifically of the 1960s. The relationship is indeed a dynamic one. Sometimes Shunk-Kender acted as a surrogate to the artist; the duo enacted performances as directed by the artist and then immortalized the fleeting moment by documenting it with their cameras. For instance, for David Askevold’s untitled 1971 work from the project Pier 18, the two played a game of hide-and-seek while recording it through photographs. Other times, they were witnesses to scandalous art scenes, as with their images of Yayoi Kusama’s The Anatomic Explosion (1968), a nude performance on the Wall Street. Their photographs are not only a document of the contemporary art scene of the period but also an active participation in it. —Yun Sun Lee, publicity and events Work Scholar

color photograph

Lorraine O’Grady, Art Is. . . (Cop Eyeing Young Man), 1983/2009. Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York © 2015 Lorraine O’Grady/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

There is no shortage of fantastic work up at the Studio Museum in Harlem this summer, ranging from vibrant painting to immersive installations. Lorraine O’Grady’s Art Is . . . uses photo-documentation to take viewers back to a public performance at the September 1983 African-American Day Parade in Harlem. Using large empty frames with the caption “Art is…”, O’Grady turned the parade into a statement about the vibrancy of Harlem’s community and the everyday present of artistic selves. Paraders of all ages stop and pose in front of the fantastical frames, adding exhilarating flare to the day’s festivities. Several images show young black women glaring through the frames at on-duty white police officers; these women stare defiantly, challenging the authoritarian gaze the viewer has come to expect. These photographs archive a powerful event that bleeds public spectacle, performance art, and photography into a fantastic and poignant showcase about one day over twenty years ago in New York City, which proves striking at the current moment. —Joshua Herren, development associate

Storylines at the Guggenheim incorporates the work of contemporary artists, including photographers such as Catherine Opie, Zanele Muholi, and Ryan McGinley, alongside responses from prominent writers, reinforcing the narratives inherent in their work as well as inspiring entirely new tangents. For those who can’t experience the work in the twirling galleries of the Guggenheim, the website offers an equally, if not more engrossing experience. Images float on an open plane where one’s attention can roam freely from work to work within the confines of a screen—after selecting an image, we find Edwidge Dandicat poems paired with Muholi’s Faces and Phases series, or Opie’s Self-Portrait/Nursing (2004) is set off by poems by Denise Duhamel. —Alexandra Pechman, online editor

black and white photograph

Meryl Meisler, Jive Guy on Williamsburg Subway, Brooklyn, NY, 1978

I’m hoping to check out Purgatory & Paradise: SASSY ’70s Suburbia & The City at Black Box Gallery in Brooklyn. The photographs are by Meryl Meisler, who has been photographing the New York nightlife scene since the ’70s. This exhibition, on view until October 12, juxtaposes images of her home life on Long Island with some never-before-seen street and nightlife images. This includes shots of Fire Island, the Rockettes, the Hamptons, Go-Go-Bars, punks, CBGB, and even Girl Scouts. —Elena Tarchi, publicity and events associate

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