Previews: Wexner Center’s winter exhibits

By Columbus Alive
From the January 24, 2013 edition

“More American Photographs”

During the Great Recession in 2011, a New York art curator named Jens Hoffmann had an idea. The Farm Security Administration instituted a program 80 years earlier that used photographs to document the lives of those struggling during the Great Depression. Hoffmann recruited 12 contemporary photographers to do the same thing.

The photographers represented a wide range of styles, from those on the verge of abstraction, like Walead Beshty, to those swimming in social documentary photography, like Martha Rosler. The guidelines simply said to explore the lives of modern Americans in the spirit of the FSA program.

Larry Clark headed to Texas. William E. Jones photographed buildings in his hometown. Beshty went to the most affluent community in the U.S., Fisher Island, and what is considered the poorest, a community just south of Rapid City, South Dakota.

The photographic returns of this reportage prompt make up “More American Photographs.”

“The Farm Security Administration is an extreme, special and unique example of how a time capsule is created for a certain period of American history,” Hoffmann said. “At the same time, Farm Security Administration photographs are also responsible for a very particular aesthetic in photography that we’re still looking at and thinking about.”

That’s why, in addition to the Great Recession images, the work of 12 photographers commissioned by the FSA between 1934 and 1944 will also be on view.

The juxtaposition makes clear the ways in which history can repeat itself.

“Josiah McElheny: Towards a Light Club”

The colorful glass sculpture works by former Wexner residency artist Josiah McElheny are as beautiful as they are intellectually onerous. A feature of the exhibition is McElheny’s film “The Light Club of Vizcaya: A Women’s Picture,” a stylized adaption of a 1912 novella by German expressionist writer Paul Scheerbart. McElheny made a dramatic cathedral-esque viewing environment made of glass to enclose the screen showing his film.

“Christian Marclay: The Clock”

To create “The Clock,” artist Christian Marclay spliced together 24 hours-worth of movie clips that portrayed a clock or characters talking about time and put them in chronological order. The Wexner will show the film in real time. Admire how Marclay manages to weave together moments from indie and iconic movies in this pop cultural feat. You’ll never look at cinematic clocks the same way again. You’ll at least never not notice them again.