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MoMA PS1 presents a thematic exhibition investigating the nature of images in contemporary art today
Lucas Blalock, Strange Loop, 2009. Chromogenic print. 40 x 30 inches. Courtesy the artist and Ramiken Crucible.

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY.- MoMA PS1 presents New Pictures of Common Objects, a thematic exhibition investigating the nature of images today. Treating images as raw material, these five artists work in a range of media including sculpture, video, photography, and installation. They recognize the elastic and diffuse nature of images, utilizing pictures that may or may not be created by themselves to challenge expectations of genre, form, and meaning. New Pictures of Common Objects is curated by MoMA PS1 Assistant Curator Christopher Y. Lew and is on view in the Second Floor Project Rooms at MoMA PS1 from October 21 through December 31, 2012.

The title of the exhibition references the 1962 show New Painting of Common Objects, curated by Walter Hopps. This early survey examined how artists first engaged with mass consumption and popular culture. Today artists have a very different relationship to these topics. The divisions between high and low, culture and commodity, the object and its image matter less than before. The collapse of these distinctions has coincided with recent advancements in technology, which have helped to amass a vast archive of images that is easily accessible by computer, smartphone, and other devices. Technology has also amplified the fluid and flexible nature of pictures—early pop culture envisioned throngs of passive consumers while individuals today engage with imagery as active participants.

Twenty-first-century images may still be distributed from central sources, but—unlike the 1960s and even the ’80s, when pictures truly proliferated—today’s imagery is also rapidly circulated and exchanged among peers. This decentralized model has flattened hierarchies, fostering a sense of equivalence and ambiguity in which making, consuming, and sharing are all regarded as creative acts. Speaking about the dissemination of images, artist Helen Marten has said, ―There is a viral mentality that borrows from a mass of known imagery, from accessible and generous vocabularies, but does so understanding that it will become dispersed, boot-legged, pirated.‖

Trisha Baga (American, b. 1985) creates video installations that make loose narrative associations between a variety of imagery and physical objects. Baga says she aims to evoke emotional attachments with inanimate objects by bringing together items from her studio, like cardboard boxes, shoes, and radios, and placing them within video projections of diaristic imagery, music videos, and computer generated imagery.

Lucas Blalock (American, b. 1978) makes pictures that upset conventional genres of photography, such as portraiture, architectural photographs, stock images, and commercial advertising. Utilizing digital and analog methods of production, Blalock photographs everyday objects—such as erasers, fabrics, and hardware supplies— in ways that suggest imagery gone awry.

Josh Kline (American, b. 1979) employs the visual language of advertising to investigate the lifestyle economy. His sculptures of hands and other body parts are based on body scans of the designers, architects, and tastemakers who shape the brands familiar to us all. Kline’s sculptures have the dual role of acting as portraits of the creative workers they are based on and as archetypes of the new labor class. Divorced from the whole body and displayed on commercial shelving units, Kline’s sculptures are metonyms of modern work and the idealization of contemporary life. Similarly, his videos examine service industries and the disquieting experiences they can provoke and ameliorate.

Margaret Lee (American, b. 1980) casts from life and meticulously hand paints sculptures that replicate fruits and vegetables. Her watermelons, cucumbers, and potatoes are what she considers the perfect produce—they never go bad and are always enticing in both photographs and life. The translation from sculpture to photography is crucial for Lee as the works are intended to function as both objects and images.

Helen Marten (British, b. 1985) investigates the connotations of style, design, and idiom in her 2011 video Dust and Piranhas. Two architectural columns are digitally animated and personified, speaking—and at times rapping—about stylistic choices that point towards notions of status and consumer culture.

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October 22, 2012

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