The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Imposing Order: Contemporary Photography
Hiroshi Sugimoto, Gemsbok, 1982; gelatin silver print; 16½ x 21½ in.; Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © Hiroshi Sugimoto.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) presents Imposing Order: Contemporary Photography and the Archive, on view through January 2, 2007. Since photography’s invention, the medium’s unique capacity to produce an exact and unmediated visual record has made it an extraordinarily useful tool for cataloguing objects. Museums, archives, and many other institutions have long relied on photography to record information that defies other forms of description. Primarily culled from SFMOMA’s collection, Imposing Order: Contemporary Photography and the Archive will feature approximately 40 works by 20 different artists who share an interest in the way art, objects, and people are displayed, stored, preserved, and classified.

A number of the artists in the show, such as Candida Höfer, Louise Lawler, Thomas Struth, and Hiroshi Sugimoto, are specifically interested in the art-viewing experience. Photographing inside museums and galleries, they reveal the way context affects art and artifacts and confers objects with value and authenticity. In his extensive series Dioramas, for example, Sugimoto photographs natural history museum displays of prehistoric mammals in simulated native landscapes. By excluding all indications of their museum context, such as labels and glass casings, he invites viewers to perceive the dioramas as eerie but realistic glimpses into the past. As the artificiality of the mounted animals and painted backdrops becomes apparent, so does the transformation of historical reconstruction into fact.

At the core of the exhibition are pieces that examine the behind-the-scenes practices of museums and archives. These photographs are thematically united around the related ideas of counting, collecting, and cataloguing; they chronicle the elaborate and obsessive treatment art and artifacts often receive at the hands of museum professionals and historians.

For her 1998 series Found, Bay Area artist Nigel Poor set herself the year-long task of taking a walk every day and gathering one discarded object on each outing. She photographed each item against a black backdrop, then made exquisite black-and-white prints. By collecting and rendering precious what is, in essence, trash, Poor unexpectedly applies activities associated with art preservation to things that have no inherent value. This gesture boldly reclassifies trash as treasure and speaks to the subjective nature of value.

Richard Misrach’s series Pictures of Paintings considers the role photography plays in museums and academia. In his large-scale photograph Phoenix, Arizona, (1993), Misrach printed three details of a painting in the collection of the Phoenix Art Museum in a manner that highlights the way photo reproductions are used to catalogue and disseminate art.

The last section of the exhibition reaches beyond museological systems to look at photography’s role in other institutional archives. For example, Deborah Luster’s portraits of inmates in the Louisiana prison system consider the way people are catalogued when they become incarcerated. Richard Barnes also examines photography’s relationship to criminology in his diptych Unabomber Cabin. Barnes pairs a photograph of the empty site in Montana where convicted terrorist Theodore Kaczynski lived in virtual isolation with a picture of Kaczynski’s rudimentary cabin erected inside a crime laboratory warehouse. By contrasting the displaced cabin with its original setting, Barnes references photography’s evidentiary value while underscoring the decontextualizing effect archives have on objects.

Organized by Erin Garcia and Terri Whitlock, curatorial associates in the photography department at SFMOMA, the exhibition affords the Museum the opportunity to present its photography collection thematically and to consider common threads among several of its recent acquisitions. According to their curatorial statement, “Many contemporary photographers have looked to museums and archives as appropriate sites to investigate photography’s role as a tool for collecting data. This seems particularly relevant today as digital technologies provoke us to reconsider the nature of photography as well as our relationship to information in general.”

Since its founding in 1935, SFMOMA has resolved to build a photography collection of international stature, and it is has the distinction of being one of the first American museums to recognize photography as a legitimate art form. With the advice and support of renowned Bay Area photographer Ansel Adams and a host of local practitioners and patrons, the Museum strengthened its commitment to the medium steadily over the decades, gaining momentum with the appointment of the first dedicated curator of photography in 1958 and the establishment of a distinct Department of Photography in 1980. Since then, SFMOMA’s collection has grown to include nearly 14,000 photographs spanning the entire history of the medium, from its invention in the mid-19th century to the present day.

In conjunction with the exhibition, SFMOMA will present The Impulse to Order, a panel discussion featuring exhibiting artists Richard Barnes, Doug Hall and Nigel Poor along with exhibition curators Erin Garcia and Terri Whitlock, on Thursday, October 5, 2006 at 7 p.m. Additional information is available on the Museum’s Web site at

Today's News

September 30, 2006

Art Forum Berlin International Contemporary Art Fair

A Mirror of Nature at Nationalmuseum

Nick Mourtzakis Wins 2006 Dobell Prize for Drawing

Imposing Order: Contemporary Photography

Phillippe Halsman: American Artists at Montclair Museum

Family Legacies: The Art of Betye, Lezley, and Alison Saar

Texas Paint, Part II: Out Of Abstraction

Michael Paul Britto: Dirrrty Harriet Tubman

Crossing the BLVD: strangers, neighbors, aliens

LIMN Furniture: New Moves: Fast Forward and Instant Replay

International Artists Herald A New Renaissance

Location Uncertain at NIU Art Museum

Indian Lava & Ritz Mood Guru Present Salve Fiat Romuli Nepus

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Conservation reveals Wellington Collection work was painted by Titian's Workshop

2.- New dinosaur discovered after lying misidentified in university's vaults for over 30 years

3.- Unseen Texas Chainsaw Massacre outtakes and stills sold for a combined $26,880

4.- National gallery reveals conserved Italian altarpiece by Giovanni Martini da Udine

5.- London's Tate Modern evacuated after child falls, teen arrested

6.- Bavarian State Minister of the Arts restitutes nine works of art

7.- Boy thrown from London's Tate Modern is French tourist visiting UK

8.- Child thrown from London gallery has broken spine, legs and arm

9.- £10 million Turner masterpiece may leave British shores

10.- Tourists banned from sitting on Rome's Spanish Steps

Related Stories

Important Judaica and Israeli & international art bring a combined $7.9 million at Sotheby's New York

Tunisia to auction ousted despot's treasures

Andy Warhol's Mao portraits excluded from the Beijing and Shanghai shows next year

China criticises French Qing dynasty seal auction

Christie's announces auction marking the first half century of the popular and luxurious interiors shop Guinevere

Nine new exhibits debut at San Diego International Airport

Rembrandt masterpiece "Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet" back on display at National Museum Cardiff

Amber: 40-million-year-old fossilised tree resin is Baltic gold

Egyptian artist Iman Issa wins the Ist FHN Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona Award

The main chapel of the Basilica of Santa Croce open for visits after five year restoration

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful