Archive for January, 2010

Instruments of Empire

Caption Gallery is pleased to announce a dual exhibition of photographs by Amy Stein and Brian Ulrich. The exhibition links two powerful photographic series, Ulrich’s recent “Dark Stores,” and “Stranded,” here presented for the first time.

“Dark Stores” examines the all-too-familiar landscape of global brands and big-box retail in the context of a market economy in crisis. His work is a form of visual sociology, providing a portrait of empty spaces, darkened outlets, and, by implication, people left out when the boom recedes.

Amy Stein’s “Stranded” offers us a vision of people at the mercy of forces beyond their control. Metaphorically, the images stand in for the people we don’t see in Ulrich’s photographs. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Stein had the idea to take portraits of motorists she saw stranded by the roadside. The series became, in her words, “a meditation on the despondence of the American psyche stuck in an unfamiliar space between distress and relief.”

The powerful, dystopic visions of Stein and Ulrich expose the transformation of human beings into consumers, with little power or agency. They recall Napoleon’s dictum: “In the eyes of the empire builders, men are not men but instruments.”

Caption Gallery

Amy Stein’s Website

Brian Ulrich’s Website

When Fear Turns Graphic

articleInlineSWITZERLAND stunned many Europeans, including not a few Swiss, when near the end of last year the country, by referendum, banned the building of minarets. Much predictable tut-tutting ensued about Swiss xenophobia, even though surveys showed similar plebiscites would get pretty much the same results elsewhere.

A poster was widely cited as having galvanized votes for the Swiss measure but was also blamed for exacerbating hostility toward immigrants and instigating a media and legal circus. “We make posters, the other side goes to the judge,” is how Alexander Segert put it when we met here the other day. “I love it when they do that.”

Link to NY Times Article

Link to Slide Show of Propaganda Posters

Brian Ulrich – Copia

Plenty, a plentiful supply: now chiefly in L. phrase copia verborum abundance of words,
a copious vocabulary. Cf. COPY n. 1c.

I. a. Plenty, abundance, a copious quantity.
b. Fullness, plentitude. Obs.
c. esp. of language: Copiousness, abundance, fullness, richness.
copy of words : = L. copia verborum. Obs.

II. A transcript of reproduction of an original.

“Over the past 7 years I have been engaged with a long-term photographic examination of the peculiarities and complexities of the consumer-dominated culture in which we live. This project titled Copia, explores not only the everyday activities of shopping, but the economic, cultural, social, and political implications of commercialism and the roles we play in self-destruction, over-consumption, and as targets of marketing and advertising.”

LINK to full Artist Statement

LINK to Artist Website


Messick_ImpermanenceIn May of 2006, as a workman refinished trim on the second floor, a steel wool spark ignited a raging fire that would ultimately destroy most of the interior of artist Kendall Messick’s historic home on Summit Avenue in the Heights. The blaze consumed his personal possessions, ruined some of his artwork, and left the house a smoking shell filled with burnt rubble.  But when Messick finally reentered the building, his first instinct was not to salvage whatever he could from the charred and water-damaged property, but rather to emotively document and photograph the house’s transformation.  So Messick took pictures.  Coping with what he says seemed like an “unrecoverable loss,” he focused on the abstract imprints the flames and firemen had left, rather than the raw scenes of overwhelming destruction they composed. He sought out patterns burnt into closets, the water stains spread across the remaining Sheetrock, the tufts of insulation clustered on the floor. He processed his own loss in pieces, detail by detail.

Link to Article

Link to Artist’s Website