Saturday August 5, 2006

Snap Judgements at Miami Art Central

A scene of rooftops taken from an even higher rooftop. Rubble on one roof, people sitting at a table on another.
Randa Shaath, Untitled, from the series Rooftops of Cairo, 2002-3, Twelve gelatin silver prints, Courtesy of the artist [and crudely rephotographed by me in the gallery, hence the crappy quality]

Three men and a boy hang out in a room with newspaper headline posters covering the wall behind them. 'FURY OVER HIJAK HOAX.' 'MOB JUSTICE SPREADS.' 'DO WOMEN NEED OWN VIAGRA?' 'CHIEFS IN THE DARK AS STAR VANISHED.'
Guy Tillim, Ntokozo and His Brother Vusi Tshabalala at Ntokozo’s Place, Milton Court, Pritchard Street, Johannesburg, 2004, Courtesy the artist and Michael Stevenson Gallery, International Center of Photography, New York

Colorful costumes, celebration in the woods.
Theo Eshetu, Trip to Mount Ziqualla, Ethiopia, 2005, Courtesy the artist

You want to make a snap judgement? Enter Miami Art Central’s gallery. You’ll be faced with several huge, drastically out-of-focus pictures of uniforms. You won’t be tempted to go in for a closer look (large out of focus photos tend not to reward close looking), and you might temporarily question the wisdom of your decision to come. As it turns out, the show, despite making this oddly poor first impression, is full of amazing work. And MAC [flash!] has a habit of saving its best stuff for upstairs.

But let me pick on them a little more. From the brochure: “the recognition of African photographers and their unique visual language has come about only recently.” I’ll have to take curator Okwui Enwezor word for it, because the show certainly doesn’t exhibit anything like a particular “unique visual language.” Many of the individual photographers have a UVL, to be sure, but I perceive no more of a hint of common sensibility in this show then in, say, Aura of the Photograph: The Image as Object recently at the Harn. That show presented photography from around the world, and from the entire history of the medium.

Of course this is a good thing; any exhibition claiming to give even the most cursory look at the photographic work of a continent of 840 million people and 20 percent of the world’s land area had better be pretty freaking diverse, and Snap Judgements is. The show has its share of uninspiring pictures, but it’s full enough (too full maybe; pictures are packed tightly, double-hung in places) to include dozens of pictures that are, in turn, beautiful, alarming, tender, and haunting. Just go already.

Miami Art Central
5960 SW 57th Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
Free Sundays, $5 other days

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  1. Onajide    Sat Aug 5, 08:13 PM #  

    I especially like that bottom series. Very breathtaking.