Content and Discontent in Today’s Photography

  • Ellen Brooks, Untitled (beam), 1991. Courtesy of the artist.

  • Andres Serrano, Piss and Blood VII, 1987. Courtesy of the artist.

  • Uta Barth, Untitled #15, 1991-93. Courtesy of the artist.

  • Thomas Ruff, Constellation, 1989. Courtesy of the artist.

  • L: Penelope Umbrico, Untitled (digits), 1991-94. R: James Welling, Beacon, c. 1980.

Curated by Andy Grundberg

Content and Discontent in Today’s Photography examines strategies of abstraction within recent photography, focusing on artists who seek to express the problematic relationship between abstraction and representation within art as a whole. The abstract photographs in the exhibition are tempered by a postmodern sense of the contingency of all photographic meanings. While the renewed interest in abstraction in contemporary painting remains grounded in the promise of a purely visual experience, these photographs deny that such an experience can exist independent of cultural parameters. For this reason, these photographs redefine historical definitions of abstraction for a postmodern world.


Content and Discontent consists of approximately 40 photographic works by thirteen artists. The artists are Uta Barth, Ellen Brooks, Christopher Bucklow, Ellen Carey, Susan Derges, John Divola, Adam Fuss, Frank Majore, Thomas Ruff, Andres Serrano, Penelope Umbrico, Oliver Wasow, and James Welling. These artists have rejected the current obsession with popular culture and mass-media images. Some, like James Welling, began their investigation of abstraction in the context of Postmodernism while others, like Serrano and Fuss, employ abstractionist strategies in reaction to media-influenced art. What characterizes almost all the images is the presence of a non-representational beauty and the absence of any claim to spiritual transcendence. This characteristic gives their work a strange and compelling power unlike any earlier attempts at abstract photography.



Andy Grundberg

Andy Grundberg is an art critic and curator who holds the position of Professor, Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University. He is the author of Crisis of the Real, a selection of his essays for The New York Times and other publications. Grundberg has also authored numerous books such as Mike and Doug Starn and Alexey Brodovitch. Exhibitions he has organized include Photography and Art: Interactions Since 1946, Ansel Adams: A Legacy, and In Response to Place: Photographs from the Nature Conservancy’s Last Great Places. Awards include an Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography and a Leica Medal of Excellence for writing. He holds a BA from Cornell University and a MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


touring schedule

Samuel P. Harn Museum, University of South Florida
Gainesville, FL, United States
October 10, 1996 - December 1, 1996

Contemporary Art Museum, University of South Florida
Tampa, FL, United States
August 26, 1996 - September 20, 1996

The Bruce Museum
Greenwich, CT, United States
July 2, 1995 - August 25, 1995

Prichard Art Gallery, University of Idaho
Moscow, ID, United States
March 10, 1990 - April 21, 1990

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