The Power of the Constructed Image
Ringling College of Art and Design offers the antidote to Instagram culture with Photography & Film Constructs, the latest exhibition coming to the RCAD Willis A. Smith Galleries and featuring 20 works in photo and film from more than 15 award-winning international artists. Through a curated collection of constructed images, the show highlights artistic intentionality in the form while simultaneously celebrating the richness of the medium and evoking its power through history. “All of these images I chose because they’re layered and the artists are commenting on contemporary culture,” said Mark Ormond, curator of exhibitions at Ringling College. “In our daily lives, we have to be very focused, and these open our eyes to things in the world that we miss.”
As constructed shots, the work on display represents a discipline apart from the ubiquity of throwaway candids permeating the social media landscape, each being the result of careful planning and direction towards a purposeful image. Some challenge convention, such as Yasumasa Morimura’s gender-bending self-portrait as Marlene Deitrich or the distorted subjects of Adam Magyar’s statement on urban density in Urban Flow 293. Others are more enigmatic but no less intriguing. An untitled work from Gregory Crewdson looms large on one wall—a house in the road, neighbors peeking from windows, emergency vehicles on the lawn—each detail dictated by the artist through months wrangling hundreds of people to capture one moment in time. In the opposite room a pair of Louisiana photographers restage The Sacrifice of Isaac in the dead of night on the bed of a pickup truck.
The other side of the exhibition is, in a way, a love letter to the form and it’s legacy. Adam Fuss distills the discipline to its photochemical bones, working with light sensitive materials sans camera and celebrating the science that made it all possible, while Stan Douglas’ Powell Street Grounds simultaneously echoes modern concerns and nods to the political power of photography with a dramatization that captures every detail of a 1912 protest broken up by police officers with clubs and whips. Vik Muniz commemorates the work of photographer Lewis Hine, whose shots of child laborers led to landmark legislation in American industry. Recreated as a paper pulp construct, Muniz expands the image to 10 times its original size so it can’t be missed.
All the works are large-scale, a further hint to Ormond’s design—that these are singular images in a world of double-prints and digital backups. “It’s very important for the students, the faculty and the community to see the objects, not to see them online or in a magazine,” said Ormond. “If this were a 3x5, you’d never see the detail.”
Photography & Film Constructs opens today in the Willis A. Smith Gallery at Ringling College of Art and Design and runs until April 2.
Pictured: "Olive & Black Market Sreet" by Julie Blackmon. Courtesy of RCAD.