The Photography of Invention: American Pictures of the 1980s, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
MIT Press, 1989 - Photography - 227 pages
"Perhaps in the future," Man Ray suggested to Duchamp, "photography would replace allart." The Photography of Invention hints at that future by documenting a decade of startling newwork in American photography: work that challenges the accepted hierarchy of the arts and, arguably,establishes photography as the equal of the other arts.Pictures that are made, not taken, are thefocus of this exciting collection of works by 90 American artists who are using appropriation,computer technology, performance, and numerous other sources of inspiration to stretch the limitsand expand the possibilities of photographic art. The selection of nontraditional pictures includesworks by some of the decade's most interesting experimenters -- Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine,Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, William Christenberry, Louise Lawler, Stefan Roloff, and others whocreate or manipulate the subject photographed.Photography has traditionally been used to captureexperience and create images; these works, however, examine preexisting images or image styles thatdominate our culture. As Joshua Smith points out "mass media and popular culture advertising,fashion movies, television, video, and other electronic media have made the world photographic,become the common language, and shaped a generation's visual and critical viewpoint." Rather thancommenting on or representing life, photography is now an independent art form that has expanded thecreative vocabulary of contemporary artists.These "made" pictures encompass a variety of styles andtechniques: the artists may fabricate or arrange the subject matter for the camera; invent orsubvert traditional styles; present themselves in fictive roles invoking allegory or myth, fantasyand illusion; reassemble existing art objects in new contexts; make the psychic appear real and thereal hyperreal.Many pictures are made in the usual optical/chemical manner, creating a tensionbetween the obviously manipulated subject and the inherent "truth" of the photographic print; whileothers are made by the unconventional use of equipment, processes, and materials that intentionallydeny the perfect print There are photograms, photocollages, light drawings, chemical images, markedor painted on negatives, photosilkscreens and photolithographs, and new high tech computer-generatedimagery.Joshua P. Smith is a leading authority on and a collector of avant-garde photography. He wasguest curator for the National Museum of American Art exhibition "The Photography of Invention:American Pictures of the 1980s." Merry A. Foresta is Associate Curator, Graphic Arts, and Curatorfor Photography at the National Museum of American ArtCopublished with the National Museum ofAmerican Art, Smithsonian Institution.