Courtesy of William E. Jones and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles
The Ohio State community might still be buzzing over the recent exhibition by famed artist Annie Leibovitz, but the Wexner Center for the Arts is already set to unveil its next display of photographs.
The new exhibition, titled “More American Photographs,” opens Sunday at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
The exhibit will contain more than 120 works that showcase the effects of two of the most difficult economic times in American history – the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession of the early 21st century.
The Wexner Center’s display of these works is part of a traveling exhibit organized by the California College of the Arts Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco. The exhibit includes more than 50 works by 12 photographers from the mid-20th century, as well as more than 60 photographs taken by 12 contemporary artists in 2011. All of the artists were commissioned to tour the United States and document everyday American life.
The Depression-era photographers were commissioned by the Farm Security Administration, a program implemented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his New Deal to provide recovery and relief to American citizens. Taken between the mid-30s and mid-40s, many of these images have become popular representations of American culture, such as Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph “Destitute pea pickers in California,” which is popularly known as “Migrant Mother.”
“I think it’ll reacquaint people who haven’t seen them how great the FSA photos were and what a great part of American visual history they provided,” said Bill Horrigan, curator at large for the Wexner Center. “(And) how contemporary photographers are still combining some of the same themes and traditions and techniques that the FSA people mastered.”
Horrigan said the FSA photographs explore themes such as urban poverty, rural poverty, farm life and parenting, as well as American architecture. The newer commissions capture imagery of more modern-day issues, such as environmental disaster and the collapse of the housing boom, according to the CCA Wattis Institute’s website.
“This is a way to draw those parallels to that older difficult time, as well as perhaps comparing and contrasting what it means to be somebody struggling in America in the 2000s versus the ‘30s and ’40s,” said Jennifer Wray, marketing and media assistant for the Wexner Center.
The exhibit is set to be displayed in Gallery D, where Horrigan said the photographs will be grouped by era and arranged by artist. Also part of the exhibit are some archival materials, including vintage cameras, documentary film footage and a letter sent to FSA photographers outlining their duties for their commissioned assignment.
Eden Brown, a third-year in human development and family science, said she’s excited to see the exhibit and thinks others will be too.
“I think a lot of people are interested in art history,” Brown said. “People like to dabble in the past and I think that they will relate to some of the photography. I think it’ll probably be pretty emotional.”
Wray said she thinks “More American Photographs” will likely draw an audience similar to that of the Leibovitz exhibit.
“The timing is really nice for this to be happening here at the Wexner Center, coming on the heels of the Annie Leibovitz exhibition,” Wray said. “We think that the same people who were energized and excited to see those photographs will likely also be really excited and energized by this show.”
However, others at the Wexner Center aren’t so sure. The Wexner Center Store’s patron services coordinator, Ashley Hrovat, is less certain about the amount of traffic the exhibit will generate.
“I’ve worked here for nine years and I’ve never seen anything like Annie (Leibovitz’s exhibit), so I don’t think anything will ever compare to (it) again,” Hrovat said. “But I think that this one touches a little closer to home, so hopefully people will connect well with it.”
The exhibit does, quite literally, hit home. One of the contemporary artists, William E. Jones, is a native Ohioan now living in Los Angeles. Wray said he has been highly involved in a variety of projects for the Wexner Center, including his participation in the center’s Film/Video Studio Program.
“We have a great ongoing relationship with him,” Wray said.
Jones’ photograph, “Restaurant, Canton, Ohio” is part of the exhibit.
On Feb. 27, the Wexner Center is scheduled to hold an event related to the “More American Photographs” exhibit at 12:30 p.m called “Double Take: Aesthetics and the Economy.” Two Ohio State faculty members, one with expertise in photography, Jessica Mallios, and the other in economics, history and demography, Trevon D. Logan, will discuss the topics depicted in the exhibition.
While the exhibit will open to the public Sunday, students, faculty and staff can attend the Winter Exhibitions Preview on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. As with all Wexner Center exhibits, students with school ID can see this exhibition for free.
“More American Photographs” will be on display through April 7. Two other exhibits, Josiah McElheny’s “Towards a Light Club” and Chris
tian Marclay’s “The Clock” will be on display at the Wexner Center during the same time.