70s Photographic Book-Works

March 15 – April 28, 2001

Nobuyoshi Araki, Christian Boltanski, Braco Dimitrijevic, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Paul-Armand Gette, Gilbert & George, Jean Le Gac, Urs Lüthi, NE Thing (Ian Baxter).

Andrew Roth is pleased to announce the opening of a group exhibition focusing on photographic book-works produced in the ’70s by nine international conceptual artists.

There was a proliferation of photographic activity in the 70s by artists who were not generally categorized as photographers. It is our assumption that this particular strain of imagery was best wed to the book and conversely the book itself acted as the neutral territory for a hybrid photographic practice that fell outside the established disciplines — documentary, photo-journalism, fine art. We explore the unique relationship between photography and the book; not the traditional photographic monograph, rather a more experimental, slight, imperfect deviation — an artist book, which in essence questions the meaning of photography and its peculiar relationship to time. As Simon Anderson writes in “Suitably Seventies,” published in the accompanying catalogue: “These books tend to share the common language of photography, which, almost by virtue of freezing a measurable fraction of time, leads to speculations about the passage of time. Our individual experience of duration is ill-measured by our mechanical concept of time. And just as the passage from time to duration leads us from physics to metaphysics, photography that deals with time takes us from the realm of the formal into the conceptual.”

The period covered by this exhibition saw fascinating developments in the art world. The introduction of fast and cheap methods of reproduction along with efficient international communication via airmail led to an expanded Zeitgeist of ideas and aesthetics. Included here are works by artists from France, England, Germany, Switzerland, Eastern Europe, Canada, and Japan. This ensemble shares in questioning the nature of representation: Whether humorously, as with Gilbert & George’s blurred bottle shots from their heavy drinking period or Braco Dimitrijevic’s ludicrous comparisons; or rather more formally, as with Paul Armand-Gette’s pseudo-scientific recording. All wrestle with some form of truth carried by the photographic medium. Perhaps in reaction to the anti-establishment politics left over from the previous decade or to the grand-standing gestures of the “Art World,” these artists rejected authority to develop a new visual language — personal and radical.

To coincide with the exhibition, Andrew Roth has published a limited-edition catalogue box which includes ten small booklets. Printed are complete bibliographies of all the photographic book-works produced by each artist in the ’70s and a 2,000-word essay by Simon Anderson, associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Anderson’s previous contributions include an essay in Arranged Marriage, published by Andrew Roth (1999); “Living in Multiple Dimensions: George Brecht and Robert Watts 1953-1963” in Off Limits: Rutgers University and the Avant-Garde, 1957-1963 (1999); and “Fluxus Publicus” in In The Spirit of Fluxus (1993).