‘Secondhand’ at Pier 24 in San Francisco

Above: Work from Erik Kessel’s series “in almost every picture”

My students and I visited Pier 24’s new show Secondhand this week. It was fantastic, and I was particularly thrilled to learn about two new artists whose work I was unfamiliar with. Pakistani artist Rashid Rana who blends thousands of online images of unrest and protest to create an overwhelming crowd scene that engulfs the viewer and Berlin artist Viktoria Binschtok who scours the expansive archives of Google Street View for scenes of New York and then travels to these locations and produces new photographs, ultimately presenting her pictures and the source images together. Below is a KQED arts review on the entire show. Also –  check out my article from SPE’s Exposure Magazine Losing and Finding Our Past– The Hunt for the Vernacular from 2008 which includes Erik Kessels work from the Recontres d’Arles. – Erika


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Secondhand, the first new exhibition to open at Pier 24 Photography in San Francisco since July 2013, presents the work of over a dozen artists whose practice relies on the appropriation of pre-existing photographs. Paired with vernacular photos from the Pilara Foundation collection (the folks behind Pier 24), Secondhand is more than a survey of a particular artistic technique; it offers a glimpse at the varied relationships between people and photographs.

The found photography collections of Amsterdam-based publisher Erik Kessels, which are given several large installations, set an important tone for the exhibition. The gallery devoted to Kessels’ ongoing series of books, in almost every picture, is particularly salient in light of critiques that younger generations’ relationship with photography is self-absorbed and obsessive.

In almost every picture #1 (2002) is a selection of several enlarged amateur photos of a woman in stereotypical tourist poses, with monuments, mountains, and other envy-inducing settings behind her. The photos on display are a handful of the hundreds of snapshots taken by the woman’s husband between 1956 and 1968. This collection documents the familiar impulse to catalogue memories and boast about exotic exploits. For better or worse, a photo-happy spring-breaker with an iPhone and an Instagram account may be paying homage to his grandparents’ school of photography rather than indulging in newfangled narcissism, as many Baby Boom and Gen X journalists argue. This retro behavior was probably learned through endless slideshows of the Grand Canyon and by spending much of his childhood saying “cheese.” READ ALL

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