Sunday, June 23, 2013

A World of Bonds: Frederick Sommer’s Photography and Friendships

Where: National Gallery of Art, West Building

When: through August 4, 2013

I'd always thought that truth was beauty and beauty was truth, until I saw this show.  The theme of the exhibit is the influence of Frederick Sommer and his friends on each others' art, but the message with which I walked away was: photographs of decaying coyotes may be pictures of truth, but I fail to see the beauty.

Sommer's photographs are often surreal and macabre, and are meant to be disorienting.  To those who balk at using dead chickens in the service of art, Sommer's attitude was that if you are disturbed by depictions of death, you should examine your own fear of death.  I don't know that I was disturbed exactly, but the dead chicken head picture and the photo of the decaying coyotes certainly didn't pass the "would I hang it in my living room?" test.

So does this mean I'm plagued by a fear of death?  No more than any one else, I don't think.  I found his photography self-indulgent.  It seems to say to the viewer, "Look how clever I am!  Look how I can use disgusting objects for my art!  If you don't like it, then you're not as sophisticated as I am!"  It reminds me of teenagers writing poetry about how misunderstood they are.  Terribly important to the author; of little interest to anyone else.

Verdict: This is a one-room show you can easily skip.  Also featured in the display are works by Max Ernst, Man Ray and others, all much of a piece.

No comments:

Post a Comment