Description of the general exhibition:
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August 5 - September 30, 2021
Opens: Thursday, August 5, 2021, 4-8pm
Now in its ninth year, Social Photography brings together cell phone pictures of participants from a wide range of disciplines, generations, and places. In the spirit of broad access to cell phone image making technology, the emphasis of the project leans toward sensibility and the anecdotal over skill and mastery of the medium of photography.
Taking advantage of technologies that allow for images to be sent from anywhere, which are then formatted, printed, and displayed in an in-person exhibition at carriage trade, the range of participants in Social Photography reflect both the gallery’s community in Lower Manhattan as well as those associated with it in other parts of the world. Linking the virtual with the physical through an online display that is then presented in print form, Social Photography IX might be seen as a counterpoint to the increased placelessness of remote exchanges normalized in the pandemic-era.
Spanning nearly a decade, the growing, informal archive of Social Photography cell phone pictures occasionally reflect significant local, national, and international events (Occupy Wall Street, George Floyd protests, U.S. presidential elections, pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong) existing side by side with the everyday, the personal, the urban, and the domestic.
With a limited curatorial directive, trends are inevitable (a slight increase in pet photos this year is most likely a result of more time spent indoors during the pandemic), while the elusive nature of where to “put” cell phone photography with respect to hierarchies of photographic image production (fine art photography, photojournalism, social media fodder) remains intact. What began in 2011 as an investigation of a novelty medium which simultaneously offered an alternative to the conventional non-profit benefit exhibition has become a kind of tradition, as it sustains and expands carriage trade’s community through its many participants, while helping support the gallery’s upcoming projects.
Description of Muntadas' section:
For those that remained in New York City in the early spring of 2020, it was like inhabiting a ghost town. Street life evaporated and daily life took place almost exclusively indoors. Relief from the deafening silence came only in the form of all too frequent sirens both close and far away. Talking heads now appeared from their living rooms, eager to reassure us with nightly updates on hand washing and disinfectants. The news was a lifeline, a mirror, and a means to either instigate or dispel rumor as imaginations ran wild in a moment of fear. Meanwhile outside, the silence of the streets seemed to mock society's confidence in its own inevitably.
As cities locked down across the globe, the artist enclave turned shopping district of Soho seemed particularly vacant. The absence of tourists pouring into the neighborhood and the flight of many locals when the city went into lockdown created an ominous void which inspired the opulent flagship stores to leave behind plywood-clad facades in their wake. Once lending confidence to Soho’s embarrassment of riches through their structural elegance, cast iron buildings lining the cobblestoned streets turned foreboding in the emptiness. Employing a pre-emptive strategy to defend the luxury goods housed within, a sudden, spare beauty emerged in the absence of frenzied commerce, now muted by massive expanses of plywood grain.
Often lost in historical memory are aspects of the recent past still “too close” to notice. As the past is foreshortened and nuanced memories collapse in favor of dramatic events, the media forges on, too impatient to dwell on the bits that don’t fit neatly into instant story lines rolled out on a daily basis. In an effort to preserve an extraordinary moment when one of the world’s largest cities ground to a halt, the newspaper project CLOSED /LOCKED by Muntadas provides a direct an unembellished account of his lower Manhattan neighborhood during the lockdown that began in March 2020.
Walking through abandoned streets, Muntadas photographed the ubiquitous “closed” signs found in storefronts nearby. With little precedent to rely on, the signs left the most pressing question “for how long?” unanswered. Also documenting the ubiquitous plywood cladding turned billboard for graffiti and political speech, the resulting images were collated into a newspaper format and accompanied by excerpts from Beatriz Colomina’s text on the profound effects of Covid on life in the city.
In what might be seen as alternative media account of the early phases of a transformative period in urban experience whose outcome remains unclear, CLOSED/ LOCKED archives a once in a lifetime moment in the history of downtown New York. Re-presented as large format images applied to the wall and accompanied by copies of the newspaper, the exhibition CLOSED/LOCKED will run concurrently with Social Photography IX, which has been extended through October 30, 2021.
Antoni Muntadas was born in Barcelona in 1942 and has lived in New York since 1971. His work addresses social, political and communications issues such as the relationship between public and private space within social frameworks, and investigates channels of information and the ways they may be used to censor or promulgate ideas. His projects are presented via diverse media such as photography, video, publications, the Internet, installations, and urban interventions.(full bio)