Sunday, November 18, 2018

"New Southern Photography" at the Ogden

Touted as as “the largest photography exhibition at the Ogden Museum to date,” this sprawling “New Southern Photography” show, curated by Richard McCabe, features diverse yet cohesive selections by 25 emerging and mid-career Southern artists. Presented as a series of photographic essays reflecting the contemporary cultural paradoxes that define the old former Confederate states, the works on view pick up where the often deeply psychological pioneers of New South photographic modernism like William Eggleston, Sally Mann and William Christenberry left off.

For instance, Alabama native Celestia Morgan's “Redline” series employs familiar postmodern socio-economic tropes via juxtaposing geometric map-like shapes in the sky with photographs of crumbling old houses in neighborhoods that were “redlined”-- deemed off limits for loans by banks that saw them as risky credit ghettos. If that sounds clinical, many of Morgan's house portraits evoke an elegiac pathos that recalls the poignant aura of abandonment of 1930s social documentary classics by Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange. Postmodern sociology of a more didactic-ironic sort appears in Nancy Newberry's portraits of stereotypical Texans in cowboy hats, Mexicans in sombreros, and flashy marching band majorettes, all of whom portray the self-conscious social constructs of times and places that tend to confuse style with character. Elizabeth Bick's more distinctly formal views of pedestrians navigating Houston's austere architectural canyons appear as figures in a complicated visual “Street Ballet,” above right, recalling the stark musical geometry of classical Bauhaus compositions as well as Harry Callahan's meticulously rhythmic urban industrial photographic streetscapes.  

Andrew Moore's “Zydeco Zinger” view of a ravaged carousel in the post-Katrina ruins of the Six Flags Theme Park in New Orleans East, top, recalls the eerie sense of wonder that characterized much Victorian travelogue photography -– but a similarly near-preternatural quality of presence seen in the photographic portraits of that era when extended exposure times were the norm, resurfaces in Susan Worsham's “Marine,” above left, an image so mysteriously simple yet fully realized that it seems timeless despite its recent, 2009, vintage.

Likewise, Louviere + Vanessa's  “Resonantia” series of musical notes rendered as gold leaf photo-mandalas, above, recall Nikola Tesla's 19th century cyclotron experiments in a vision of time where past and present are as interwoven as the interplay of dark and light in a photographic image. ~Bookhardt / “New Southern Photography: New Views of the Evolving American South," Through March 10, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600,