Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography

Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography (2018)

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This MCA exhibition, on view April 28–December 30, 2018, celebrates the groundbreaking photography of Chicago-based artist Kenneth Josephson and generations of other artists who have pushed the boundaries of the medium. Here you will find images of artworks in the exhibition paired with labels written by the curators; installation photography; a video tour with Kenneth Josephson himself; and other documentation from the exhibition.

Video

Intro Panel

In the 1960s, Chicago-based artist Kenneth Josephson began making work that challenged the assumption that photographs are just pretty pictures or windows to reality. Instead, he called attention to the photograph as a crafted object: posing rulers against landscapes to foreground scale, staging photos within photos, and collaging images to create playful illusions. By interrogating the nature of the medium, Josephson paved the way for other artists’ experiments in conceptual photography. Rather than directly representing the world around them, artists began expressing ideas through their photographs.

This exhibition showcases decades of Josephson’s pioneering work alongside conceptual artworks by his peers as well as by later generations of artists who have continued his line of inquiry. The playful visual storytelling on view reveals the revolutionary ways of making—not taking—photographs that Josephson championed and that fundamentally changed the way we see the world.

The exhibition is organized by Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, with Lauren Fulton, former Curatorial Research Fellow.

Images Within Images

In Josephson’s ongoing series Images within Images, he experiments with creating photographs that contain other photographs—some taken by him and others found.

Image of Chicago, 1964 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Chicago, 1964, 1964. Gelatin silver print; 9 × 9 in. (22.9 × 22.9 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Chicago, 1964 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Chicago, 1964, 1964
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

While Josephson was studying at the Institute of Design, his teacher Aaron Siskind opened his eyes to a new way of thinking about photographs. Josephson explained, “It was important for me to learn to think of the photograph as a physical object, because I always had thought of the photograph as an illusionistic space and never as a piece of paper that curls up or that you could hold.” This work is Josephson’s first attempt to use photographs as objects.

Image of Matthew, 1965 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Matthew, 1965, 1965. Gelatin silver print; 7 7/8 × 12 in. (20 × 30.5 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Matthew, 1965 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Matthew, 1965, 1965
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

Matthew captures the artist’s firstborn son holding a Polaroid of himself standing in front of the same brick wall. The boy mimics his father, holding the image up to his face as if it were a camera.

Image of New York State, 1970 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, New York State, 1970, 1970. Gelatin silver print; framed: 17 × 21 in. (43.2 × 53.3 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Katherine S. Schamberg by exchange, 2014.4. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for New York State, 1970 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

New York State, 1970, 1970
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Katherine S. Schamberg by exchange, 2014.4

In this work, Josephson plays with perception by placing photographs within photographs, revealing the maker of the image by extending his arm into the frame.

Image of Polapans, 1973 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Polapans, 1973, 1973. Gelatin silver print; 9 1/16 × 9 1/16 in. (23 × 22.9 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Polapans, 1973 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Polapans, 1973, 1973
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

Image of Chicago, 1976 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Chicago, 1976, 1976. Gelatin silver print; 9 × 9 in. (22.9 × 22.9 cm). Courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Chicago, 1976 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Chicago, 1976, 1976
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

Image of Chicago, 1980 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Chicago, 1980, 1980/2001. Gelatin silver print; 9 × 9 in. (22.9 × 22.9 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Chicago, 1980 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Chicago, 1980, 1980
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

Artwork

Kenneth JosephsonChicago, 1980, 1980. Gelatin silver print; framed: 17 x 21 in. (43.2 x 53.3 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the artist, 2014.7. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Chicago, 1980, 1980
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the artist, 2014.7

Marks and Evidence

Amused by the traces that past events leave on the environment, Kenneth Josephson began to develop his Marks and Evidence series in 1964. This was after taking a class at the Institute of Design in Chicago and working on assignments that required students to demonstrate evidence of humanity in various ways. Though they appear manipulated, these scenes capturing natural phenomena are devoid of human intervention: the artist merely confronted them, camera in hand.

Image of Istanbul, 1972 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth JosephsonIstanbul, 1972, 1972. Gelatin silver print; sheet: 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois Arts Council Purchase Grant, 1980.11. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Istanbul, 1972 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Istanbul, 1972, 1972
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois Arts Council Purchase Grant, 1980.11

Image of Stockholm, 1967 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth JosephsonStockholm, 1967, 1967. Gelatin silver print; sheet: 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois Arts Council Purchase Grant, 1980.13. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Stockholm, 1967 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Stockholm, 1967, 1967
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois Arts Council Purchase Grant, 1980.13

Much of my work is intuitive and spontaneous and I wish to have it function purely on a visual level. The following statements about this photograph is afterthought. This image is concerned with three of my interests: photographs containing images within images, allusions to the photographic medium, and the vicarious experience of the sense of touch. The light “shadow” shape of the car was created by the warmth of the sun and the coldness of the air with the shadow. The scene was a natural event and very “photographic” with the suggestion of a negative element formed by sunlight. The viewer may also experience the sensation of hot and cold in a vicarious manner.

—Kenneth Josephson, excerpted from a letter to MoMA, January 28, 1980. Kenneth Josephson Retrospective file, MCA Chicago Library and Archives.

Image of Indiana, 1972 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth JosephsonIndiana, 1972, 1972. Gelatin silver print; sheet: 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois Arts Council Purchase Grant, 1980.14. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Indiana, 1972 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Indiana, 1972, 1972
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois Arts Council Purchase Grant, 1980.14

Image of Chicago, 1976 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth JosephsonChicago, 1976, 1976. Gelatin silver print; framed: 19 1/2 x 19 in. (49.5 x 48.3 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Katherine S. Schamberg by exchange, 2014.6. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Chicago, 1976 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Chicago, 1976, 1976
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Katherine S. Schamberg by exchange, 2014.6

History of Photography Series

With these photographs, Josephson not only references innovations in the history of photography but also targets specific photographers including Edward Weston, Eadweard Muybridge, and his mentor, Harry Callahan.

Image of Michigan, 1970 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Michigan (History of Photography Series), 1970, 1970. Gelatin silver print; 9 × 9 in. (22.9 × 22.9 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Michigan, 1970 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Michigan, 1970, 1970
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

Josephson’s fascination with photography is evident in his many references to the history of the medium. In Michigan, 1970, an early work from the Images within Images series, Josephson constructed a new composition by rephotographing a photo he had taken almost a decade earlier embedded in sand. This purposeful gesture references a series by early 20th-century photographer Edward Weston, who shot model Charis Wilson lying amid sand dunes in a small California town. Josephson’s nude also recalls the work of his mentor Harry Callahan, who made countless nude studies of his wife.

Image of Wyoming, 1971 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth JosephsonWyoming, 1971 (from the History of Photography series), 1971. Gelatin silver print; framed: 19 x 15 in. (48.3 x 38.1 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Arnold Gilbert by exchange, 2014.5. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Wyoming, 1971 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Wyoming, 1971 (from the History of Photography Series), 1971
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Arnold Gilbert by exchange, 2014.5

Taken at the national park site in Wyoming made famous by an Ansel Adams photograph from the 1940s, Josephson’s work captures that same landscape but with a few alterations. By inserting a ruler and a map of the site, Josephson created the illusion of context, though the ruler clearly gives no accurate measurement of the geographical features in the distance.

Image of Matthew again… by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Matthew again … , 1980, c. 1995. Gelatin silver print; 12 1/32 × 8 in. © Kenneth Josephson. Courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery.

Label for Matthew again… by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Matthew again . . . , 1980, 1980
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

By 1980, Josephson was frequently inserting himself into his photographs and using existing photographs within new compositions. Matthew again . . . , 1980 mimics an earlier photograph taken by Josephson, Matthew, 1963. The picture in the photograph captures the artist’s newborn son covered by the artist’s shadow. In this restaging, Josephson references both his history as a photographer and a memory of his son, who was killed in an auto accident in 1980.

Image of Untitled (History of Photography Series) by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Untitled (History of Photography Series), 1991, 1991. Gelatin silver print; 12 7/16 × 9 11/16 in. (31.6 × 24.6 cm). Courtesy of the artist Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Untitled (History of Photography Series) by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Untitled (History of Photography Series), 1991, 1991
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

Image of Thinking of Robert (History of Photography Series) by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Thinking of Robert (History of Photography Series), 2014, 2014. Gelatin silver print; 8 ¾ x 12 13/16 in. (22.2 × 32.5 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Thinking of Robert (History of Photography Series) by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Thinking of Robert (History of Photography Series), 2014, 2014
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

Thinking of Robert is an homage to Josephson’s good friend and longtime Chicago-based photographer Robert Heinecken. Similarities can be seen between the fragmented, burnt images of women that Josephson photographed at a campsite and Heinecken’s Are You Rea (1964–68).

Archeological Series

Rather provide evidence of an event, for his Archeological Series Josephson acted as a surveyor, incorporated measuring instruments in his images to provide a sense of scale. He used this method to measure monuments, distance, or traces that one might create or come upon when traveling. Of the measuring devices used, Josephson has said, “I like placing a meterstick in a scene to give accurate information about the size of things. It creates a sense of authenticity and gives the object a certain level of importance that it wouldn’t have if the stick wasn’t there.”

Image of Chicago, 1973 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Chicago, 1973, 1973. Gelatin silver print; 6 1/32 × 9 1/16 in. (15.3 × 23 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Chicago, 1973 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Chicago, 1973, 1973
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

Image of Washington, D.C., 1975 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth JosephsonWashington, D.C., 1975, 1975. Gelatin silver print; mat: 16 x 20 in. (40.6 x 50.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois Arts Council Purchase Grant, 1980.12. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Image of Washington, D.C., 1975 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Washington, D.C., 1975, 1975
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois Arts Council Purchase Grant, 1980.12

Image of Wisconsin, 1980 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Wisconsin, 1980, 1980. Gelatin silver print; 9 × 9 in. (22.9 × 22.9 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Wisconsin, 1980 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Wisconsin, 1980, 1980
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

Image of Light Penetration by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Light Penetration, 1986. 42 gelatin silver prints and mixed media, edition 6 of 7; 35.5 × 27.7 cm (41 pieces of paper); 22.8 × 15.5 cm (image); 25.1 × 20.2 cm (paper); 36.9 × 97 × 3.2 cm (installation, approx.). Collection Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall, 1999.454a–rr. Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago/Art Resource, NY.

Label for Light Penetration by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Light penetration process, 1986
Gelatin silver prints
Courtesy of the artist

Light Penetration, 1986
Gelatin silver prints and mixed media
Collection Art Institute of Chicago

One facet of Josephson’s experimental work is his exploration of photography as a form of light-writing. The artist constructed this work, the only one remaining from this series, by drilling holes into a box of Ilford photo-sensitive paper. Josephson exposed the stack of paper using light probes placed within each hole. Accompanying each piece is a photograph further explaining his studio process. The results are reminiscent of the photogram, a unique photographic image that was first developed in the 1920s and was created with a four-by-five camera.

Collage, Assemblage

In the late 1960s, Josephson began constructing collages using photographs and postcards. These works present an interesting middle ground between his black-and-white photographs and 3-D accumulations in assemblage works made around the same time and evidence Josephson’s progression in his investigation of the possibilities for the photographic object. Printed in editions, the production of these works points to the natural proliferation and circulation of the postcards he employs.

Image of Illinois, 1970 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Illinois, 1970, 1970. Collage; 5 ¼ × 8 7/8 in. (13.3 × 22.5 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Illinois, 1970 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Illinois, 1970, 1970
Collage
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

Expanding his investigation of photography’s potential, Josephson began combining images with three-dimensional objects. By doing this, he emphasized the photograph as a material object.

Image of Chicago, 1972 by Kenneth Josephson

A black-and-white photo of the Chicago skyline from the north shore of Lake Michigan is overlaid with rectangular color image fragments of the same view. The color images add and subtract people from the lakefront view.
Kenneth JosephsonChicago, 1972, 1972. Gelatin silver print and postcard collage; 4 3/4 x 7 in. (12.1 x 17.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the Foster Charitable Trust in memory of Reuben A. Foster, 1983.37. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Chicago, 1972 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Chicago, 1972, 1972
Gelatin silver print and postcard collage
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of the Foster Charitable Trust in memory of Reuben A. Foster, 1983.37

Chicago, 1972 shows the city’s lakefront, as seen from the Chess Pavilion at North Avenue. Josephson took a black-and-white photograph that mimics a scene from a color postcard depicting the same shoreline. He then cut up the postcard and laid sections onto his photograph. The composite image offers a playful and impossible view of the lakefront.

Image of Sally’s Skirt by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Sally’s Skirt, 1973. Gelatin silver print, straight pin, cotton fabric, and metallic frame with acrylic glazing; frame: 62.7 × 78 × 3.5 cm. Collection Art Institute of Chicago, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, 1996.468. Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago/Art Resource, NY.

Label for Sally’s Skirt by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Sally’s Skirt, 1973, 1973
Fabric and gelatin silver print collage
Collection Art Institute of Chicago

Image of Sally’s Clothes, 1973 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson, Sally’s Clothes, 1973, 1973. Plexi-tube with clothes and gelatin silver photographs; 11 ¼ × 6 × 6 in. (28.6 × 15.2 × 15.2 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago.

Label for Sally’s Clothes, 1973 by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

Sally’s Clothes, 1973, 1973
Plexi-tube with clothes and gelatin silver photographs
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago

Peers and Possibilities for Photography

In 1960, Josephson completed his graduate studies at the Institute of Design and began teaching photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. At this time, his work became firmly rooted in the same concerns conceptual artists in New York and Los Angeles were thought to have introduced almost a decade later. Like John Baldessari and Edward Ruscha, Josephson exploited the medium, creating illusions about representation in time and space.

Image of Three Eyes (with Gold Bug) by John Baldessari

John Baldessari, Three Eyes (with Gold Bug), 1987. Acrylic and photoemulsion on canvas; four parts, installed: 91 x 111 in. (231.1 x 281.9 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of anonymous donor, 1993.28.a–d. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Three Eyes (with Gold Bug) by John Baldessari

John Baldessari
(American, b. 1931)

Fish and Ram, 1988
Tempera on gelatin silver and chromogenic development prints
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Gerald S. Elliott; Anne and William J. Hokin by exchange; and National Endowment for the Arts Purchase Grant, 1989.2.a–e

Baldessari used lines to draw connections between six seemingly unrelated images. The lines are color coded to subtly identify symbolic associations. Red distinguishes images of danger and the abuse of power. Less aggressive colors are overlaid on two animals that, according to Baldessari, are invested with an instinctual wisdom and oppose the images of a rational bureaucratic society run amok.

Image of Fish and Ram by John Baldessari

John BaldessariFish and Ram, 1988. Tempera on gelatin silver and chromogenic development prints; 109 3/4 x 144 ¼ in. (278.8 x 366.4 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Gerald S. Elliott; Anne and William J. Hokin by exchange; and National Endowment for the Arts Purchase Grant, 1989.2.a–e. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Label for Fish and Ram by John Baldessari

John Baldessari
(American, b. 1931)

Three Eyes (with Gold Bug), 1987
Acrylic and photo emulsion on canvas
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of anonymous donor, 1993.28.a–d

Image from Pasadena Freeway Stills by Gary Bedler

Gary Beydler, Pasadena Freeway Stills, 1974. Transferred 16 mm film (color, silent); 6 minutes. Courtesy of Canyon Cinema, San Francisco, and the artist’s estate.

Label for Pasadena Freeway Stills by Gary Bedler

Gary Beydler
(American, 1944–2010)

Pasadena Freeway Stills, 1974
Transferred 16 mm film (color, silent); 6 minutes
Courtesy of Canyon Cinema, San Francisco, and the artist’s estate

Through a tedious process of using stills to create moving images frame by frame—like stop-motion animation but using photographs—the artist condensed time in this structural film. Beydler revealed the illusionistic capabilities of cinema by using a predetermined and simplified structure in which he took photographs from a fixed position, used repetitive looping, and manipulated speed. Of his hands, the artist once said, “I wanted to be a human projector.”

Image of Self Portrait (Double Feet, Five Panels) by John Coplans

John CoplansSelf Portrait (Double Feet, Five Panels), 1988. Gelatin silver print; 33 x 97 in. (83.9 x 246.4 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Anne and William J. Hokin, 1989.11. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Label for Self Portrait (Double Feet, Five Panels) by John Coplans

John Coplans
(British, 1920–2003)

Self Portrait (Double Feet, Five Panels), 1988
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Anne and William J. Hokin, 1989.11

Image of Coleman Cooler, Borrego Desert, CA by Robert Cumming

Robert Cumming, Coleman Cooler, Borrego Desert, CA, 1971. Gelatin silver print; image: 19.5 × 24.5 cm; paper: 19.8 × 24.9 cm; mount: 40.6 × 50.7 cm. Collection Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Arnold and Temmie Gilbert, 1984.1282. Photo: The Art Institute of Chicago/Art Resource, NY.

Label for Coleman Cooler, Borrego Desert, CA by Robert Cumming

Robert Cumming
(American, b. 1943)

Coleman Cooler, Borrego Desert, CA, 1971
Gelatin silver print
Collection Art Institute of Chicago

After training at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Cumming moved to California in 1970 and abandoned sculpture, his area of study, to embark on a career as a conceptual photographer. His skepticism of the medium, however, runs deep throughout his production after 1970, when he began fabricating his own elaborate scenarios for the camera. In this work, a open cooler sits in the middle of a desert, disrupting the natural landscape as well as logic.

Image of Bedroom Dining Room Model House by Dan Graham

Dan GrahamBedroom Dining Room Model House, 1967. Chromogenic development prints; sheet: 37 3/4 x 27 5/8 in. (95.9 ?x 70.2 cm), frame: 38 7/8 x 28 7/8 in. (98.7 x 73.3 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gerald S. Elliott Collection, 1995.42. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Label for Bedroom Dining Room Model House by Dan Graham

Dan Graham
(American, b. 1942)

Bedroom Dining Room Model House, 1967
Chromogenic development prints
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gerald S. Elliott Collection, 1995.42

In 1965, Arts Magazine published an early conceptual art piece by Graham in the form of a photo essay called “Homes for America.” The text was illustrated with images of New Jersey suburban housing and included a table with style and color options for making the standard model uniquely one’s own.

The bland snapshots comprising Bedroom Dining Room Model House, taken two years later, are part of this larger project documenting domestic interiors and architecture.

Image of Are You Rea by Robert Heinecken

Robert HeineckenAre You Rea, 1964–68. Reproductions of photograms; 27 prints, each: 12 3/4 x 10 in. (32.4 x 25.4 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Daryl Gerber Stokols, 1998.42.1–27. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Label for Are You Rea by Robert Heinecken

Robert Heinecken
(American, 1931–2006)

Are You Rea, 1964–68
Reproductions of photograms
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Daryl Gerber Stokols, 1998.42.1–27

For the series Are You Rea, Heinecken took photographs from the pages of magazines and placed them on light-sensitive paper, exposing the front and back of the page to create a composition from two scenes meshed together. His work highlights the media’s definitions of beauty and gender and challenges the viewer to look critically and question the sources.

Though Heinecken rarely worked with a camera, his process was photographic. He founded the photography program at the University of California at Los Angeles and, like Josephson, was one of the earliest conceptual photographers commenting on American consumption of media and culture.

Image of Gregory loading his camera by David Hockney

David HockneyGregory loading his camera, 1983. Photographic collage on paper; sheet: 21 x 14 in. (53.3 x 35.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Paul and Dedrea Gray, 1993.18. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Gregory loading his camera by David Hockney

David Hockney
(British, b. 1937)

Gregory loading his camera, 1983
Photographic collage on paper
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Paul and Dedrea Gray, 1993.18

Image of Door County, Wisconsin by Joseph Jachna

Joseph JachnaDoor County, Wisconsin, 1970. Gelatin silver print; 6 x 9 in. (15.2 x 22.9 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Arnold M. Gilbert, 1974.15.3. Photo: Joe Ziolkowski, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Door County, Wisconsin by Joseph Jachna

Joseph Jachna
(American, b. 1935)

Door County, Wisconsin, 1970
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Arnold M. Gilbert, 1974.15.3

Image of Door County, Wisconsin (2) by Joseph Jachna

Joseph JachnaDoor County, Wisconsin, 1970. Gelatin silver print; 8 1/8 x 12 in. (20.6 x 30.5 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Arnold M. Gilbert, 1974.15.1. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Door County, Wisconsin (2) by Joseph Jachna

Joseph Jachna
(American, b. 1935)

Door County, Wisconsin, 1970
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Arnold M. Gilbert, 1974.15.1

Image of No Number #6 (On Color, Blue) by Joseph Kosuth

Joseph KosuthNo Number #6 (On Color, Blue), 1991. Glass tubing with argon and mercury; 4 x 108 in. (10.2 x 274.3 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Bernice and Kenneth Newberger Fund; and National Endowment for the Arts Purchase Grant, 1991.5. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Label for No Number #6 (On Color, Blue) by Joseph Kosuth

Joseph Kosuth
(American, b. 1945)

No Number #6 (On Color, Blue), 1991
Glass tubing with argon and mercury
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Bernice and Kenneth Newberger Fund; and National Endowment for the Arts Purchase Grant, 1991.5

Label for Things are Queer by Duane Michals

Duane Michals
(American, b. 1932)

Things Are Queer, 1973
Nine gelatin silver prints with hand-applied text
Collection Whitney Museum of American Art

This work’s narrative builds sporadically through a series of somewhat sequential photographs that alters our perception of time and space.

Using a cinematic frame-by-frame approach, Michals delivers stories on human relationships. He adds handwritten titles and sometimes prose that convey what might not be discernible within his images.

Image of Don’t Touch by Joyce Neimanas

Joyce NeimanasDon’t Touch, 1978. Ink, colored pencil, paper, staples, and safety pins on gelatin silver print; sheet/comp: 19 7/8 x 16 in. (50.5 x 40.6 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois Arts Council Purchase Grant, 1980.15. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Don’t Touch by Joyce Neimanas

Joyce Neimanas
(American, b. 1944)

Don't Touch, 1978
Ink, colored pencil, paper, staples, and safety pins on gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Illinois Arts Council Purchase Grant, 1980.15

Image of Waterfalls by Buzz Spector

Buzz SpectorWaterfalls, 1991. Postcards, paper, and aluminum; 71 x 10 ½ x 8 ¼ in. (180.3 x 26.7 x 21 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Bernice and Kenneth Newberger Fund, 1991.22.a–b. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Label for Waterfalls by Buzz Spector

Buzz Spector
(American, b. 1948)

Waterfalls, 1991
Postcards, paper, and aluminum
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Bernice and Kenneth Newberger Fund, 1991.22.a–b

The Chicago-born and Illinois-educated Spector created a clever visual pun with his construction of postcards in Waterfalls. He takes up Manneken Pis (1619), a bronze fountain statue residing in Brussels, as his subject. Using postcards of this famous landmark and tourist keepsakes depicting Cascade Falls, Colorado, and Lower Eagle Falls in Lake Tahoe, California, Spector evokes the spray of this humorous fountain with found images.

Label for Selected works by William Wegman

William Wegman
(American, b. 1943)

Selected works, 1973
Video (black-and-white, silent); 21 minutes, 41 seconds
Courtesy of Video Data Bank

Wegman made these short parodies by performing in his studio using deadpan humor and minimal props. The low-tech, single-take improvisations demonstrate an almost childlike fascination with the most banal aspects of life and reflect his astute observations of the world.

Artist Books

Like other conceptual artists, Kenneth Josephson used print publication to display his ideas through an inexpensive and readily available format. His only print publication, The Bread Book mirrors the banal nature of publications by artists like Edward Ruscha and Sol LeWitt. However, the artist cites the lesser-known work of Robert Cumming and Duane Michals as influence for the project.

Kenneth Josephson, The Bread Book, 1973. Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover. MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Kenneth Josephson, The Bread Book, 1973. Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover. MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Kenneth Josephson, The Bread Book, 1973. Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover. MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Kenneth Josephson, The Bread Book, 1973. Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover. MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Kenneth Josephson, The Bread Book, 1973. Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover. MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Kenneth Josephson, The Bread Book, 1973. Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover. MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Kenneth Josephson, The Bread Book, 1973. Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover. MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Kenneth Josephson, The Bread Book, 1973. Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover. MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Kenneth Josephson, The Bread Book, 1973. Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover. MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Kenneth Josephson, The Bread Book, 1973. Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover. MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406. Photo © MCA Chicago.
Kenneth Josephson, The Bread Book, 1973. Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover. MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406. Photo © MCA Chicago.

Label for The Bread Book by Kenneth Josephson

Kenneth Josephson
(American, b. 1932)

The Bread Book, 1973
Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover
MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, gift of the artist, 81.406

Josephson used bookmaking as a way to share his ideas with a wider audience. The Bread Book is a life-size visual reproduction of a loaf of bread, one slice per page, printed from cover to cover—or end to end. The artist explains, “With The Bread Book there is nothing to get. You can even look at it backwards.”

Robert Cumming
(American, b. 1943)

Picture Fictions, 1971
Offset print on paper; saddle-stitched, softcover
Private collection

Cumming takes an illusionistic approach that is similar to Kenneth Josephson’s books. Watermelon/Bread (1970), pictured on the cover, exemplifies the artist’s fascination with artificial and often ironic reenactments of nature.

Using domestic materials with seasonal associations, the photograph’s production, carving into the object of inquiry, points to Cumming’s sculptural background. Emphasizing his prop’s impermanence and the image’s fictitious nature, it is said that the watermelon was consumed immediately after taking the photograph.

Label for Domaine d’un rouge-gorge/Sculpture 1969 (Robin Redbreast’s Territory) by Jan Dibbets

Jan Dibbets
(Dutch, b. 1941)

Domaine d’un rouge-gorge/Sculpture 1969 (Robin Redbreast’s Territory), 1970
Offset print on paper; perfect bound, softcover
MCA Chicago Artists’ Books Collection, National Endowment for the Arts Museum Purchase Grant and gift of the Men’s Council, 82.217

This book illustrates a temporary installation by Dibbets in a park in Amsterdam. After studying the habits of robins, Dibbets attempted to give the impression of an expanded nesting territory. Decades later, the artist admitted to the deceptive nature of the piece: he attached a dead robin to a stick and photographed it in different locations.

Image of Some Los Angeles Apartments by Ed Ruscha

Edward RuschaSome Los Angeles Apartments, 1970. Offset print on paper; perfect bound, softcover; 7 x 5 1/2 in. (17.7 x 14 cm), 48 pages. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, National Endowment for the Arts Museum Purchase Grant and gift of the Men’s Council, 2012.86. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Some Los Angeles Apartments by Ed Ruscha

Ed Ruscha
(American, b. 1937)

Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1970
Offset print on paper; perfect bound, softcover
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, National Endowment for the Arts Museum Purchase Grant and gift of the Men’s Council, 2012.86

Image of Twentysix Gasoline Stations by Edward Ruscha

Ed Ruscha, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, 1969. Offset print on paper; perfect bound, softcover; 7 1/16 x 5 9/16 in. (18 x 14 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, National Endowment for the Arts Museum Purchase Grant and gift of the Men’s Council, 2012.84. © Ed Ruscha. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Twentysix Gasoline Stations by Edward Ruscha

Ed Ruscha
(American, b. 1937)

Twentysix Gasoline Stations, 1969
Offset print on paper; perfect bound, softcover
Private collection

Image of Various Small Fires by Edward Ruscha

Edward RuschaVarious Small Fires, 1970. Offset print on paper; perfect bound, softcover; 7 x 5 1/2 in. (17.7 x 14 cm), 48 pages. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, National Endowment for the Arts Museum Purchase Grant and gift of the Men’s Council, 2012.87. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Various Small Fires by Edward Ruscha

Ed Ruscha
(American, b. 1937)

Various Small Fires, 1970
Offset print on paper; perfect bound, softcover
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, National Endowment for the Arts Museum Purchase Grant and gift of the Men’s Council, 2012.87

Image of Photo Grids by Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWittPhoto Grids, 1977. Offset print on paper; perfect bound, softcover; 2 copies: 10 1/4 x 10 3/8 in. (26 x 26.3 cm), 52 pages. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, National Endowment for the Arts Museum Purchase Grant and gift of the Men’s Council, 2012.112. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Photo Grids by Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt
(American, 1928–2007)

Photo Grids, 1977
Offset print on paper; perfect bound, softcover
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, National Endowment for the Arts Museum Purchase Grant and gift of the Men’s Council, 2012.112

Featuring LeWitt’s signature organization, Photo Grids examines various gridded structures within a city: manhole covers, street grates, window panes, and doorways. With this publication, the artist highlighted the simple organizational patterns that often go unnoticed within a city.

A decade before Photo Grids was published, LeWitt asserted, “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless.”

Label Art in America by Iain Baxter

Art in America, May–June 1969
Featuring N.E. Thing Co. slides
Commercial offset print on paper; perfect bound, soft cover
Private collection

Iain Baxter can be credited with sparking Vancouver photoconceptualism. In the mid-1960s the artist, along with his partner Ingrid Baxter, formed N.E. Thing Co. “to produce, manufacture, import, export, buy, sell, and otherwise deal in things of all kinds.”

This vague mission statement allowed the company to present everyday objects and environmental interventions within an art context, as they did for the cover of this Art in America issue in 1969. The 35 mm slides survey “impossible art” at a time when conceptualism was on the verge of being defined.

Contemporary Practices

Contemporary Practices

Image of Four-Sided Picture (Red/Green/Blue/Yellow) December 31, 2006, Valencia, CA by Walead Beshty

Walead BeshtyFour-Sided Picture (Red/Green/Blue/Yellow) December 31, 2006, Valencia, CA, 2007. Chromogenic development print; 88 1/2 x 58 7/8 x 2 ½ in. (224.8 x 149.5 x 6.4 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Karen and Daniel Lee, 2008.12. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Four-Sided Picture (Red/Green/Blue/Yellow) December 31, 2006, Valencia, CA by Walead Beshty

Walead Beshty
(English, b. 1976)

Four-Sided Picture (Red/Green/Blue/Yellow) December 31, 2006, Valencia, CA, 2007
Chromogenic development print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Karen and Daniel Lee, 2008.12

Beshty created this photogram, which is a camera-less technique, by intricately folding light-sensitive paper and exposing each side to a different color of light; he then unfolded and processed it. Though he followed a set of predetermined parameters, Beshty embraced the chance involved in making this image. Avoiding all forms of representation, he instead drew one’s attention to the materials and processes that define photography, and, as the title indicates, the moment of creation.

Image of Untitled (Light Years, Douglas Kirkland) by Anne Collier

Anne CollierUntitled (Light Years, Douglas Kirkland), 2009. Chromogenic development print; framed: 50 13/16 x 64 9/16 in. (129.1 x 164 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Field’s by exchange, 2014.19. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Untitled (Light Years, Douglas Kirkland) by Anne Collier

Anne Collier
(American, b. 1970)

Untitled (Light Years, Douglas Kirkland), 2009
Chromogenic development print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Marshall Field’s by exchange, 2014.19

Collier sources objects from popular culture, including record-album sleeves, magazines, coffee-table books, and Hollywood film stills, to reflect the myths and clichés that photography helps perpetuate. She does this through a regimented process that has been described as both forensic and clinical, prompting viewers to recognize the ways that we are constantly manipulated by photographs.

Image of Beach Scene (Louis Feraud) by Roe Ethridge

Roe EthridgeBeach Scene (Louis Feraud), 2008. Chromogenic development print; framed: 40 3/4 x 31 ¾ in. (103.5 x 80.6 cm), sight: 37 1/2 x 29 ¼ in. (95.3 x 74.3 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Emerge, 2013.21. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Beach Scene (Louis Feraud) by Roe Ethridge

Roe Ethridge
(American, b. 1969)

Beach Scene (Louis Féraud), 2008
Chromogenic development print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Emerge, 2013.21

Ethridge seamlessly moves through the worlds of advertising and art photography. His artistic practice has always developed in tandem with his experience as an editorial and commercial photographer, and images that appear in magazines may often be rescaled for presentation in gallery spaces.

In this playful fantasy, Ethridge merged high and low culture, creating a push and pull between the appropriated and the personal, the spontaneous and the artificial. The fabric used in this staged tropical scene is a fragment of a dress designed by 19th-century French designer Louis Féraud, who, like Ethridge, was a talented visual artist working in the commercial sphere of fashion.

Image of Small Basement Camera Shop circa 1937 by Rodney Graham

Rodney GrahamSmall Basement Camera Shop circa 1937, 2011. Painted aluminum light box with transmounted chromogenic transparency; 71 1/2 x 71 ½ x 7 in. (181.6 x 181.6 x 17.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange in honor of Donald Young, 2012.1. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Small Basement Camera Shop circa 1937 by Rodney Graham

Rodney Graham
(Canadian, b. 1949)

Small Basement Camera Shop circa 1937, 2011
Painted aluminum light box with transmounted chromogenic transparency
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange in honor of Donald Young, 2012.1

Throughout his work in film and photography, Graham is the actor and main subject, changing outfits, hairstyles, and surroundings to evoke a snapshot of history in his restaging of photographs from the 1930s. Here he re-creates an image of a photo developer from the mid-1930s, taking us to an era far from our hyperreal digital present.

Image of Untitled (Geographic Delay) by Leslie Hewitt

Leslie HewittUntitled (Geographic Delay), 2009. Digital chromogenic print; framed: 31 1/16 x 37 1/16 in. (78.9 x 94.1 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Jack and Sandra Guthman, 2016.33. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Untitled (Geographic Delay) by Leslie Hewitt

Leslie Hewitt
(American, b. 1977)

Untitled (Geographic Delay), 2009
Digital chromogenic print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Jack and Sandra Guthman, 2016.33

Similar to Josephson, Hewitt attempts to disrupt the conventions of photography. In Untitled (Geographic Delay), Hewitt depicts a maple board that is the same material as the frame. Both the photograph and the maple in the photograph lean against the gallery wall. Hewitt’s works become sculptural, inviting viewers to experience a unique space between photography and sculpture.

Image of Architectural Site 8, Loyola Law by Barbara Kasten

Barbara KastenArchitectural Site 8, Loyola Law, 1986. Silver dye-bleach print; sight: 61 1/4 x 47 ½ in. (155.6 x 120.7 cm), framed: 63 x 49 1/4 x 1 7/8 in. (160 x 125.1 x 4.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Michael J. Wong, M.D. and Marion C. Fay, 2013.20. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Architectural Site 8, Loyola Law by Barbara Kasten

Barbara Kasten
(American, b. 1936)

Architectural Site 8, Loyola Law, 1986
Silver dye-bleach print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Michael J. Wong, M.D. and Marion C. Fay, 2013.20

Kasten, a Chicago native, often blurs the line between sculpture and photography. The works of Kasten and Kenneth Josephson are inspired by the famous Hungarian avant-garde artist László Moholy-Nagy, specifically, the geometric compositions of his paintings and architectural photography. In Architectural Site 8, Loyola Law, Kasten altered the colors and distorted the perspective of the facade of a building located at Loyola University. The bright colors and unclear perspective transform Kasten’s photograph into a composition similar to abstract painting or collage.

Jessica Labatte, Figural Concretion #11, 2015. Unique black-and-white photograph, frame, and pedestal; approx: 73 × 58 in. (185.4 × 147.3 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions, Chicago.
Jessica Labatte, Figural Concretion #11 (detail), 2015. Unique black-and-white photograph, frame, and pedestal; approx: 73 × 58 in. (185.4 × 147.3 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions, Chicago.

Label for Figural Concretion #11 by Jessica Labatte

Jessica Labatte
(American, b. 1981)

Figural Concretion #11, 2015
Unique black-and-white photograph, frame, and pedestal
Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions, Chicago

Having discovered rocks washed up on the shore, Labatte created a series of negatives depicting them and exposed the film to dust for a period of four months. She then scanned each negative, dust particles and all, and presented these hefty prints as objects on pedestals. In doing so, the artifact offers the viewer two distinct ways to reflect on the passage of time.

Image of Imitators by Jessica Labatte

Jessica Labatte, Imitators (from Lazy Shadows series), 2010. Archival ink-jet print and frame; 24 × 20 in. (61 × 50.8 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions, Chicago.

Label for Imitators by Jessica Labatte

Jessica Labatte
(American, b. 1981)

Imitators, 2010
Archival ink-jet print and frame
Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions, Chicago

Like other images in Labatte’s Lazy Shadows series, Imitators presents visual tricks and the playful arrangement of everyday objects found in the artist’s studio. Illusions toy with the viewer’s depth of field and perception in a deadpan, reflexive still life that forces one to question reality. However, Labatte’s constructions provide clues regarding each print’s making, offering the viewer a certain level of access and understanding.

Image of Special Problems (from Library of Photography series) by Matt Lipps

Matt Lipps, Special Problems (from Library of Photography series), 2013. Chromogenic development print; 78 ½ × 50 in. (199.4 × 127 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles.

Label for Special Problems (from Library of Photography series) by Matt Lipps

Matt Lipps
(American, b. 1975)

Special Problems (from Library of Photography series), 2013
Chromogenic development print
Courtesy of the artist and Marc Selwyn Fine Art

Using a collage aesthetic, Lipps references innovations and central figures in the history of photography by assembling cardboard cutouts at various scales that are then arranged and lit. Pulling images from Special Problems, part of a seventeen-volume text series called Library of Photography (1970–72), the artist constructed his own narrative through an arrangement of photo-related objects such as gloves and a tripod, recalling a cabinet of curiosities.

Situated in the bottom-left corner is Kenneth Josephson’s Matthew (1963), one of the first photographs in which the artist, seen hovering above his newborn son, inserted himself into the frame. Included in the Library of Photography’s section “How to Succeed by Breaking the Rules: Shadows to Startle the Eye,” Matthew exemplifies Josephson’s use of shadow, which was deemed successful for its dramatic effect within the composition.

Image of To Want for Nothing Series, 02 by Laura Letinsky

Laura Letinsky, To Want for Nothing Series, 02, 2018. Archival pigment print, edition 1 of 7; 49 4/5 × 60 ½ in. Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson, New York.

Label for To Want for Nothing Series, 02 by Laura Letinsky

Laura Letinsky
(Canadian, b. 1962)

To Want For Nothing series, 02, 2018
Archival pigment print 
Courtesy of the artist, Yancey Richardson Gallery, and Document

Image of To Want for Nothing Series, 03 by Laura Letinsky

Laura Letinsky, To Want for Nothing Series, 03, 2018. Archival pigment print, edition 1 of 7; 49 4/5 × 60 ½ in. Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson, New York.

Label for To Want for Nothing Series, 03 by Laura Letinsky

Laura Letinsky
(Canadian, b. 1962)

To Want For Nothing series, 03, 2018
Archival pigment print  Courtesy of the artist, Yancey Richardson Gallery, and Document

Image of Real Pictures #11 by Nic Nicosia

Nic NicosiaReal Pictures #11, 1988. Gelatin silver print; sheet: 84 x 50 1/16 in. (213.4 x 127.2 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Maremont Corporation by exchange, 1992.95. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Real Pictures #11 by Nic Nicosia

Nic Nicosia
(American, b. 1951)

Real Pictures #11, 1988
Gelatin silver print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Maremont Corporation by exchange, 1992.95

A scene of adolescent destruction unfolds in Real Pictures #11 as a small tree bursts into flames ahead of an awestruck girl and her fellow accomplices. Nicosia’s well-known series Real Pictures marks a turning point in the artist’s career. At this time, he was moving away from elaborate studio sets to “real” locations. With its recurring cast of actors, Real Pictures presents dark and witty scenes of middle-class suburbia—revealing unpleasant drama that often goes unseen.

Image of Split Hinge by B. Ingrid Olson

B. Ingrid Olson, Split Hinge, 2016. Ink-jet print and UV-printed mat board in aluminum frame; 17 × 12 in. (43.2 × 30.5 cm). Collection of Mr. Randall S. Kroszner and David L. Nelson. Image courtesy of the artist and Simone Subal Gallery, New York.

Label for Split Hinge by B. Ingrid Olson

B. Ingrid Olson
(American, b. 1987)

Split Hinge, 2016
Ink-jet print and UV-printed matboard in aluminum frame
Collection of Mr. Randall S. Kroszner and David L. Nelson

Legs, a reflection, a mask—all recognizable in and of themselves, but what do they represent here? Olson combines photography, collage, and sculpture to create a fragmented, layered photographic effect. Using a mirror to photograph her own reflection, she never shows her face; instead she reveals only blurred and distorted parts of her body. Olson appropriates Josephson’s technique of layering in order to transform images of her own body.

Image of Night wave, splitting chain by B. Ingrid Olson

B. Ingrid Olson, Night wave, splitting chain, 2017. Ink-jet print and UV-printed mat board in aluminum frame; 27 × 18 in. (68.6 × 45.7 cm). Image courtesy of the artist and Simone Subal Gallery, New York.

Label for Night wave, splitting chain by B. Ingrid Olson

B. Ingrid Olson
(American, b. 1987)

Night Wave, Spitting Chain, 2017
Ink-jet print and UV-printed mat board in aluminum frame
Valerie Carberry and Richard Wright

Legs, a reflection, a mask—all recognizable in and of themselves, but what do they represent here? Olson combines photography, collage, and sculpture to create a fragmented, layered photographic effect. Using a mirror to photograph her own reflection, she never shows her face; instead she reveals only blurred and distorted parts of her body. Olson appropriates Josephson’s technique of layering in order to transform images of her own body.

Image of Male Fantasy by B. Ingrid Olson

B. Ingrid Olson, Male Fantasy, 2016. Ink-jet print and UV-printed mat board in aluminum frame; 20 × 13 in. (50.8 × 33 cm). Collection of Jean-Edouard Van Praet. Image courtesy of the artist and Simone Subal Gallery, New York.

Label for Male Fantasy by B. Ingrid Olson

B. Ingrid Olson
(American, b. 1987)

Male fantasy, 2016
Ink-jet print and UV-printed mat board in aluminum frame
Collection of Jean-Edouard Van Praet

Legs, a reflection, a mask—all recognizable in and of themselves, but what do they represent here? Olson combines photography, collage, and sculpture to create a fragmented, layered photographic effect. Using a mirror to photograph her own reflection, she never shows her face; instead she reveals only blurred and distorted parts of her body. Olson appropriates Josephson’s technique of layering in order to transform images of her own body.

Lisa Oppenheim, The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else, 2006. Slide projection of 15 color 35 mm slides, continuous loop, edition of 4, aside from one artist’s proof; overall dimensions variable. Collection Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.
Lisa Oppenheim, The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else, 2006. Slide projection of 15 color 35 mm slides, continuous loop, edition of 4, aside from one artist’s proof; overall dimensions variable. Collection Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.
Lisa Oppenheim, The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else, 2006. Slide projection of 15 color 35 mm slides, continuous loop, edition of 4, aside from one artist’s proof; overall dimensions variable. Collection Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.
Lisa Oppenheim, The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else, 2006. Slide projection of 15 color 35 mm slides, continuous loop, edition of 4, aside from one artist’s proof; overall dimensions variable. Collection Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Label for The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else by Lisa Oppenheim

Lisa Oppenheim
(American, b. 1975)

The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else, 2006
Slide projection of fifteen color 35 mm slides, continuous loop
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

The original impetus for Oppenheim’s project came from photographs taken and posted on Flickr by US soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. These anonymous snapshots, sent to family overseas, were rephotographed by the artist in Fire Island, New York. Rather than “completing” the pictures in the style of Kenneth Josephson, she created a dramatic contrast between the charged images she borrowed and the conflict-free landscape she documented.

Image of Ball on Water (Pelota en agua) by Gabriel Orozco

Gabriel OrozcoBall on Water (Pelota en agua), 1994. Silver dye-bleach print; framed: 21 7/8 x 27 7/8 x 1 ¼ in. (55.6 x 27.9 x 3.2 cm), sheet: 12 1/4 x 18 ¼ in. (31.1 x 46.4 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift from The Howard and Donna Stone Collection, 2002.50. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Ball on Water (Pelota en agua) by Gabriel Orozco

Gabriel Orozco
(Mexican, b. 1962)

Ball on Water (Pelota en agua), 1994
Silver dye-bleach print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift from The Howard and Donna Stone Collection, 2002.50

Orozco uses photography as a tool for preserving an experience to document the ephemeral. Like Kenneth Josephson, Orozco engages with the peculiar, natural oddities that often go unnoticed. “My photographs are not just about the instant of movement that you capture in the camera. It’s much more total, about constant movement that became static.”

Image of Socks 1 by Gabriel Orozco

Gabriel OrozcoSocks 1, 1995. Silver dye-bleach print; framed: 22 1/8 x 28 1/8 x 1 3/8 in. (56.1 x 71.4 x 3.5 cm), sheet: 12 1/8 x 18 ¼ in. (30.8 x 46.4 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift from The Howard and Donna Stone Collection, 2002.51. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Socks 1 by Gabriel Orozco

Gabriel Orozco
(Mexican, b. 1962)

Socks 1, 1995
Silver dye-bleach print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift from The Howard and Donna Stone Collection, 2002.51

Label for Untitled by Marlo Pascual

Marlo Pascual
(American, b. 1972)

Untitled, 2010
Digital chromogenic development print, acrylic rod, Plexiglas, and Sintra
Private collection

Sourcing stock imagery from eBay and found pictures at thrift shops, Pascual transformed these images by enlarging and cropping them, adding light bulbs, and placing plants and rocks on top of the figures’ faces. Her disruption of the image here is twofold: a practical means for propping the object upright and for creating a perch for the bird to sit.

Label for Untitled (Folding 2) by Jimmy Robert

Jimmy Robert
(French, b. 1975)

Untitled (Folding 2), 2012
Video (color, sound); 3 minutes, 44 seconds
Exhibition copy
Promised gift of Helen and Sam Zell, PG2013.1

Manipulating a printed image of himself in a seated position, Robert assembled an ever-evolving landscape by folding, unfolding, and creasing. The artist’s background in dance and choreography is revealed by the graceful maneuver of his hands.

Label for Neil Young, Neil Young by Melanie Schiff

Melanie Schiff
(American, b. 1977)

Neil Young, Neil Young, 2006
Chromogenic color print
Collection Judith and Bob Neiman

Image of On Sculpture #2 by Xaviera Simmons

Xaviera Simmons, On Sculpture #2, 2011. Color photograph; 40 × 50 in. (101.6 × 127 cm). Edition of 3. Courtesy David Castillo Gallery, Miami, and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Label for On Sculpture #2 by Xaviera Simmons

Xaviera Simmons
(American, b. 1974)

On Sculpture #2, 2011
Color photograph
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, restricted gift of Emerge, in memory of Andree Stone, 2012.17

Simmons’s work explores issues of identity, stereotypes, cultural narratives, and histories of migration. Fittingly, these aesthetic categories often overlap, mutually informing one another, as can be seen in On Sculpture #2.

The artist’s uplifted hands hold a torn-out magazine image against the seascape ahead. The decontextualized image leaves each viewer to decipher meaning and construct their own interpretations, though this image also references Simmons’s two-year walking pilgrimage retracing the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Image of Index Three, Composition Two by Xaviera Simmons

Xaviera SimmonsIndex Three, Composition Two, 2012. Chromogenic development print; framed: 56 7/16 x 41 ½ in. (143.4 x 105.4 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Arnold Gilbert by exchange, 2014.2. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Index Three, Composition Two by Xaviera Simmons

Xaviera Simmons
(American, b. 1974)

Index Three, Composition Two, 2012
Chromogenic development print
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Arnold Gilbert by exchange, 2014.2

Bearing imagery that conjures immediate cultural associations, Simmons situates her body beneath a rich archive of clippings in Index Three, Composition Two. As with much of the artist’s work, Simmons performs for the camera, objectifying herself by giving the body up to scrutiny and raising questions about what factors into one’s identity.

Image of Untitled (Film Still Collage) XVI by John Stezaker

John StezakerUntitled (Film Still Collage) XVI, 2005. Collage; 8 x 10 1/8 in. (20.3 x 25.7 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Helen and Sam Zell, 2009.23. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Untitled (Film Still Collage) XVI by John Stezaker

John Stezaker
(British, b. 1949)

Untitled (Film Still Collage) XVI, 2005
Collage
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Helen and Sam Zell, 2009.23

In the tradition of Dada and surrealist artists, London conceptual artist Stezaker builds compositions from mismatched, found material. Stezaker appropriates stills of Hollywood film stars, magazines, and postcards, deconstructing other narratives to shape his own.

Image of Diagonal Composition by Jeff Wall

Jeff WallDiagonal Composition, 1993. Silver dye-bleach transparency and light box; 19 1/2 x 22 ½ x 5 in. (49.5 x 57.2 x 12.7 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift from The Howard and Donna Stone Collection, 2002.66. Photo: Michal Raz-Russo, © MCA Chicago.

Label for Diagonal Composition by Jeff Wall

Jeff Wall
(Canadian, b. 1946)

Diagonal Composition, 1993
Silver dye-bleach transparency and light box
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift from The Howard and Donna Stone Collection, 2002.66

Installation Images

Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Installation view, Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.

Exhibition Floor plan

Floor plan for Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography, MCA Chicago, Apr 28–Dec 30, 2018. Image © MCA Chicago.

Videos

Videos

Kenneth Josephson leads a walk through Picture Fiction, 2018.

Kenneth Josephson speaking with Michael Darling Video

MCA Talk: Kenneth Josephson with Michael Darling, Apr 28, 2018

Video documentation of public program (Photoconceptualism)

MCA Talk: Photoconceptualism, Mar 1, 2016

Video documentation of public program (The City Between Image and Fact)

MCA Talk: The City Between Image and Fact, Jan 26, 2016

Funding

Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography is part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art exploring Chicago’s art and design legacy, with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

Picture Fiction is made possible through support from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Generous support is provided by the David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation, Suzette Bross and Allen E. Bulley, III, and Farrow & Ball.


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