The Grain of the Present
Published on the occasion of the exhibition
The Grain of the Present
April 1, 2017 – January 31, 2018
152 pages | 153 images | 106 artwork reproductions | 8.5 x 11 in. | Softcover | 978-0-9972432-1-5
This guide offers readers a detailed look at Pier 24 Photography’s ninth exhibition, The Grain of the Present. The publication documents Pier 24 Photography’s unique installations, and includes titles and dates for the works on view, quotes by many of the exhibited artists, and a brief introduction to the exhibition.
The Grain of the Present examines the work of ten photographers at the core of the Pilara Foundation collection—Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Lee Friedlander, Nicholas Nixon, Stephen Shore, Henry Wessel, and Garry Winogrand—whose works share a commitment to looking at everyday life as it is. Each of these figures defined a distinctive visual language that combines formal concerns with a documentary aesthetic, and all of them participated in one of two landmark exhibitions: New Documents (1967) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, or New Topographics (1975) at the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester.
Looking back, inclusion in these exhibitions can be seen as both a marker of success and a foreshadowing of the profound impact this earlier generation would have on those that followed. Although these two exhibitions were significant, most of these photographers considered the photobook as the primary vehicle for their work. At a time when photography exhibitions were few and far between, the broad accessibility of these publications introduced and educated audiences about their work. As a result, many contemporary photographers became intimately familiar with that work, drawing inspiration from it and developing practices that also value the photobook as an important means of presenting their images.
The Grain of the Present features the work of these ten groundbreaking photographers alongside six contemporary practitioners of the medium—Eamonn Doyle, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Ed Panar, Alec Soth, Awoiska van der Molen, and Vanessa Winship. This generation embodies Wessel’s notion of being “actively receptive”: rather than searching for particular subjects, they are open to photographing anything around them. Yet the contemporary works seen here do not merely mimic the celebrated visual languages of the past, but instead draw on and extend them, creating new dialects that are uniquely their own.