In its early days, photography was a medium that connoted truth: light reflecting reality on film and then on the page. And long before photographs were manipulated and tampered with for nefarious reasons, artists used the medium to deceive in more playful – though still often pointed – ways. This is where we meet at clay street press exposure, These photos are fake!
Running until October 23, the exhibition developed through conversations between Clay Street press director Mark Patsfall, photography collector and dealer Michael Lowe, and artist Peter Huttinger, who curated the exposure.
“We share a passion for performance or concept projects,” says Huttinger. “But we were also very interested in ephemera – the way artists had used records, films or publications like newspapers as a vehicle – as installations, or what 20 years ago would have been called interventions, could now be a social practice.”
The direction of the show crystallized, says Huttinger, when he discovered that Lowe had an archive of a project at the Jean Freeman Gallery by Terry Fugate-Wilcox in his collection.
“It was a concept project that (Wilcox) did in the 70s that was a fake gallery. The piece was made by taking magazine ads and sending exposure announcements about this big project – and it never really happened,” says Huttinger. “But some of these fake artists that he created were planning, or were totally in tune with, different projects that came to fruition (in reality) as major works, like Walter De Maria’s. The lightning field.”
Looking at an early group of works, says Huttinger, “We started thinking about this idea of misappropriation and fraud, but also about using it as a form of social criticism in terms of sociopolitical issues.” Lowe also had a first impression of Yves Klein A leap into the void (which Huttinger describes as “probably the linchpin of all this work”), and things took off from there.
They ventured outside the strictly defined art world and into popular culture and media. For example: “that famous misstep by tv guide where they released an Oprah Winfrey cover and superimposed his head on (actress) Ann-Margaret’s body,” says Huttinger. “Through this kind of play, we’ve continued to explore this notion of what’s set and what’s not, and explore things that are real works of art, certain things that don’t are not.”
With the scope of the work presented – originally, but also contemporary, with pieces ranging from the early 1900s to 2014 – the viewer is able to make connections between them. “Some works of art were informed by things before,” says Huttinger. He adds: “One of the (changes over time) is the fascination with different photography techniques.
“Today a lot of these things would just be photoshopped. But Oprah Winfrey’s piece is actually a photorealistic pencil drawing illustrator based on Ann-Margaret’s ‘best’ photo which they then layered or pasted into this photo from The Head of Oprah Winfrey. It’s a photograph, but it’s a drawing, but it’s a photograph – this superimposition absolutely blew me away.
This freedom, says Huttinger, is why he loves so much “doing projects like this, whether The Carnegie or Clay Street Press, because we can be much more laid back and experimental” than a museum setting allows. He notes the crucial role of scientific research, but for his conservation purposes he prefers small spaces or alternative spaces because, he says, “I want to create a conversation about this stuff.”
This story was originally posted by The goal of FotoFocus and republished here via an unpaid partnership with the arts nonprofit.