By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
No one could accuse Philip-Lorca diCorcia of verbosity. A Story Book Life(Twin Palms, $80) is stripped of all verbal guidance save a list of place and date captions at the end. The color pictures are simultaneously accidental and posed, ordinary and filmic, eloquent and banal. Some are reminiscent of Jeff Wall and, inevitably, William Eggleston. The whole thing is painstakingly offhand. Each picture hints at a narrative that the next effectively thwarts. You can get a more economical glimpse of diCorcia’s world in the catalog of the MoMA show (Distributed Art Publishers, $24.95).
If diCorcia’s images are like lucid dreams, the pictures in Sugimoto’s Architecture(Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, $55) are like the fading memory of a dream. His blurred views of the sharp angles of modernist buildings make you squint in the hope that they will appear, finally, in the light of a vanished clarity of achieved form. It never happens, of course, because the photos have a haunting and time-drenched perfection of their own. In American Night(Steidl, $65), Paul Graham takes things even further, bleaching out his photos of streets until it is only just possible to make out any details in the all-engulfing whiteness. We’ve just got used to peering into this near-nothingness when, with an almost physical shock, we are arrested by the bright color images of immaculate suburban homes from which the homeless African-Americans wandering like ghosts in each of the whited-out images are tacitly excluded.
It comes as a relief to turn from Graham’s subversive politico-aesthetic strategies to Wim Wenders’ Pictures From the Surface of the Earth(Schirmer, $35). Wenders’ description of Frank as a European besotted by America applies equally well to his own work. Luxuriating in the vastness of Montana and Hopperesque views of empty streets and rundown stores, his pictures are the opposite of original — and all the more seductive for that. They have, almost inevitably, a cinematic quality, but they are not like film stills, more like still films.
Films are also brought to mind by Robert Polidori’s Zones of Exclusion(Steidl, $50). Or, rather, one film in particular comes to mind. Made in the areas around Chernobyl, these pictures are documentary proof that the Zone imagined by Tarkovsky in Stalker exists. But whereas Tarkovsky’s is a source of hope, this is a blighted place, the site of a pilgrimage of the damned. Where Polidori bears witness to the aftermath of catastrophe, Michael Light has assembled an archive of its radiant prehistory. 100 Suns(Knopf, $45) consists of 100 images from the era (1945–1962) of America’s program of overground nuclear tests. The book blazes with a beauty that becomes more terrible with every page.
Mention should also be made of What Remainsby Sally Mann (Bulfinch, $50), Los Alamosby William Eggleston (Scalo, $65), The Devil’s Playgroundby Nan Goldin (Phaidon, $95), and The Wright Brothers’ Legacy: Orville and Wilbur and Their Aeroplanes in Picturesby Walt Burton and Owen Findsen (Abrams, $37.50).