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CULTURE
Three Summer Photography Shows
Group exhibitions on both coasts that explore and survey the current state of the medium
by Jonah Samson
on 21 July 2014

As the art season slows down for the summer months and galleries take a breather from the rush of global art fairs, many gallerists take this time to identify and unify themes that reflect some of the concepts being expressed by contemporary artists, and put together group shows. Here are three wonderful shows on both coasts that are surveying the current direction of photography.

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"The Thing Itself" at NYC's Yancey Richardson Gallery examines the use of photography as its own subject matter—cameras, paper and scanners, family snapshots, images in the media—the unifying theme is self-reflectivity. As film, darkrooms and paper recede into obsolescence, many artists have been investigating what makes something a photograph by exploring the tools and materials of the medium. Thus, exploring the more tangible version of an art form that is so over-saturated in the digital realm. The show features established artists like Christopher Williams, Anne Collier and Wolfgang Tillmans, alongside talented new-comers like Bryan Graf and Sara Cwyner. On now through 22 August.

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Curated by gallery artists Matthew Porter and Phil Chang, "Soft Target" at LA's M+B Gallery examines how art can function in many ways, as "an object for discourse, an artifact and a commodity," often at the same time. Hence, art prompts several reactions and responses. The show reminds audiences that photography is about cropping, positioning, choosing and redirecting the viewer's focus. While the show includes a few artists from M+B’s roster, including Hannah Whitaker and Whitney Hubbs, the co-curators have assembled a smart show from a broad range of talented artists working with photography. On now through 30 August.

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On show at San Francisco's Fraenkel Gallery, "Where There’s Smoke" mixes it up by showing works by four artists from outside the gallery’s stable of heavy-hitters. The title of the exhibition references the common idiom that if something looks wrong, it probably is. Questions abound as viewers wonder about the subject, angle and production of each image. In ways that are both subtle and overt, the works in this show—from artists Ruth Van Beek, Jason Fulford, Michael Lundgren and fashion photographer Viviane Sassen—were chosen because of their ability to confront, as well as disorient the viewer. On now through 23 August.

Images courtesy of respective galleries

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