Aperture Gallery presents two simultaneous exhibitions exploring the city of Chicago from different vantage points and periods in history. While Michael Wolf’s large-scale color photographs of downtown Chicago’s buildings and their inhabitants examine public versus private space in the context of 21st-century urban life, Barbara Crane’s intimate Polaroids from the 1980s hone in on private human gestures performed in public at Chicago’s summer festivals. Both bodies of work reveal private moments that were intended to go unnoticed, each eliciting very different visceral responses from the viewer while evoking the voyeurism that permeates our culture today.
Michael Wolf: The Transparent City
Chicago, like many of the world’s great urban centers, has recently undergone a surge in new construction, grafting a new layer of architectural experimentation onto those of past eras. Bringing his unique perspective on changing urban environments to a city renowned for its architecture, Michael Wolf chose to photograph Chicago’s central downtown area, focusing specifically on issues of voyeurism and the contemporary urban landscape in flux. His first body of work to address an American city, Michael Wolf: The Transparent City opened at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago (MoCP), in November 2008. The show at Aperture marks the second U.S. venue for the exhibition. The work, which is accompanied by a book of the same title copublished by Aperture and MoCP last fall, was created as part of the Chicago-based U.S. Equities Realty Artist-in-Residence Program, collaboration with MoCP.
Whereas Wolf’s prior series concentrated on the “architecture of density,” this most recent work invites the viewer to examine the transparency and fluidity of the new American cityscape by juxtaposing humanizing details within the surrounding geometry of the urban landscape. Fragments of everyday life—digitally distorted and hyper-enlarged—are snatched surreptitiously via telephoto lenses. Think Edward Hopper meets Blade Runner. In Michael Wolf: The Transparent City, Wolf’s work resonates with all the formalism of the constructed, architectural work for which he is known, and emphasizes his ongoing engagement with the idea of how modern life unfolds within the framework of the ever-growing contemporary city.
Barbara Crane: Private Views
In the early 1980s, photographer Barbara Crane embarked on a photographic project shot during Chicago’s various summer festivals. Armed with a Super Speed Graphic camera and Polaroid film, Crane waded in close to the revelers and focused on capturing the details of clothing and hairstyles, but most importantly, gesture. The images are tightly cropped and terrifically alive, viscerally bringing us into the crush of people eating, drinking, and enjoying the crowd dynamic—an incredible inventory of private gestures performed in public spaces.
The collective effect of the images in Barbara Crane: Private Views is mesmerizing and intensely compelling, creating a palpable sensuality from image to image—an astonishing document, not of a particular event or personality, but of something far less tangible: the public expression of euphoria. Barbara Crane: Private Views is a celebration of the classic 1980s Polaroid snapshot with an experimental flair; Crane’s mixture of natural light and flash combined with her use of Polaroid film highlights the primary colors of ’80s fashion, which still feels hip and contemporary today. An accompanying book of the same title was published by Aperture in the spring 2009.
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