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James Welling "6236" in "What is a Photograph" exhibit at ICP
Photograph: James Welling 6236 by James Welling

What’s on at the International Center of Photography

The International Center of Photography mounts two new exhibits this month and kicks off its 2014 lecture series

By Nina Stoller-Lindsey
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the International Center of Photography hosts two new exhibits and launches its Winter Lecture Series, which invites revered shutterbugs to provide insight into their aesthetics and offer a behind-the-scenes peek into their working habits.

“Capa in Color”


On October 22, 2013, ICP marked the 100th birthday of photojournalist Robert Capa by releasing the only extant recording of his voice on its website. The institution’s yearlong celebration of the Hungarian-born cameraman’s centennial continues this month, as ICP unearths a virtually unknown batch of 1940s and ’50s color shots culled from its permanent collection. While some were published in popular magazines of the day—including Holiday, Illustrated, Collier’s and Ladies’ Home Journal—the bulk of these chromatic snapshots have never been printed. Complemented by an assortment of Capa’s personal papers, all 100 of the colorful stunners reveal that the documentarian, known primarily for his black-and-white reportage of midcentury wars, also had a knack for glam. Beaches, ski resorts and French racetracks are just a handful of the escape-fantasy landscapes featured in the exhibit, while its portraits offer an opportunity to study the visages of Capa’s bohemian pals Ingrid Bergman, John Huston, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Pablo Picasso.

“What Is a Photograph?”


This ode to envelope-pushing is a heady treat for experimentally minded museumgoers. Spanning from the disco decade to the present, the display showcases the work of 21 international artists who have twisted accepted notions of light, color, composition, materiality and subject. They’ve also fused older, analog technologies—such as silver-based film and gelatin or chromogenic paper—with the now-ubiquitous digital process to create new photographic hybrids. And what are the results of all this tinkering? Let’s just say they’re way trippier than anything you’ve “liked” on Instagram. Highlights include Greek printmaker Lucas Samaras’s surreal nude self-portraits utilizing an early Polaroid device, and UCLA professor James Welling’s abstractions created sans camera, thanks to a combination of chemicals and photosensitive paper.

Photograph: Marco Breuer

Winter lecture series: Marco Breuer

Things to do Talks and lectures

This erstwhile SVA faculty member’s work has been inducted into the permanent collections of SFMoMA, the Getty Museum in L.A. and the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, Germany—and it was all created without cameras, negatives or lenses. Breuer sands, scratches, cuts and burns photographic paper, sometimes even kicking it around his studio, and winds up with some pretty mind-boggling images.

Discoverer Enterprise, Gulf of Mexico, May 11, 2010; Edward Burtynsky in "What is a Photograph" exhibit at ICP-OTU
Photograph: Edward Burtynsky

Winter Lecture Series: Edward Burtynsky

Things to do Talks and lectures

How do you get your work into 50 major museums across the globe? The key may be to ponder the state of the globe itself. Capturing industrial landscapes such as quarries, mine dumps and recycling yards in large-format color photographs, the Canadian-Ukrainian artist calls attention to humanity’s simultaneous dependence on and destruction of nature, inspiring conversation about more sustainable living.

Wangechi Mutu in "What is a Photograph?"
Photograph: Copyright Wangechi Mutu

Winter Lecture Series: Wangechi Mutu

Things to do Talks and lectures

While Mutu doesn’t actually take photographs, she’s got a lot of ideas about what to do with them. The Kenyan-born, Kings County–based artist is known for large-scale collages that blend photos—often cut from glossy fashion magazines—with found objects, sculptural elements and painted imagery. She’s currently enjoying her first stateside survey at the Brooklyn Museum (through Mar 9), so don’t miss the chance to both hear what she has to say about her work and see it for yourself.


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