The first work one encounters in Robert Heinecken: Object Matter, the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) retrospective of the renowned “para-photographer,” is a 1965 piece entitled “Visual Poem/About the Sexual Education of a Young Girl.”
I awoke from a daze when I walked into Boris Mikhailov’s Case History at MoMA. All of the sudden the white walls and sleek designs I’d come to expect from Friday-night strolls were replaced by muted flesh tones and a feeling of being watched. It was almost as if I’d switched roles with the work. Not able to shake the feeling, I began to internally justify why I was so impacted by a few images and listing all the predictable ways they seemed exploitative, but that didn’t help. I’d been affected in a way I couldn’t pinpoint.
MoMA photography curator Roxana Marcoci knows that we are experiencing a “renaissance of performance”. The show she has curated in collaboration with Eva Respini, Staging Action: Performance in Photography since 1960, will explore the role of the photographic image in this surge of performative work, both as a document of the performance and as art work on its own. The MoMA exhibition, which opens this Friday January 28, begins in the 1960s at a time when performance began to emerge as a singular field of art based on the carrying out of specific art actions.
Over at MoMA, there are two big survey shows that focus on a single theme throughout the history of photography from the heyday of the daguerreotype through to the present. The first, Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, is an “installation that comprises more than 200 works by approximately 120 artists.” The second is an examination of photography’s relationship to sculpture titled The Original Copy: The Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today, that “brings together over 300 photographs, magazines, and journals, by more than 100 artists” … A good exhibition is not a numbers game. And in Pictures by Women, which is a little diffuse, it shows.