If The New Yorker is any reliable indicator of the contemporary cultural scene, then photography has arrived. Of the 21 art shows given short writeups in the latest issue
, 8 are photography. Although this portion is roughly average for recent issues, if you go back twenty, ten, or even five years ago the number of photography reviews would've been much closer to zero. It's only recently that Photography has become the hot new kid on the block, the art form du jour
. I guess I am happy about that, although such a position puts a lot of pressure on photography to stretch into unfamiliar and perhaps illsuited permutations. But at least we're beyond the hurdle of But is it art?
Or perhaps that question has helped spur photography's popularity?Diner Interior, 1987 by Bruce Wrighton
Thankfully, in the listings this week is a good old fashioned straight photography show by Bruce Wrighton at Laurence Miller Gallery
. If you're wondering Bruce Who?, join the crowd. Apparently he was born in Ithaca, NY and lived and worked his whole life not far away in Binghamton, squarely outside any mainstream art circles. He died in 1988 at age 38 leaving behind a small treasure trove of gorgeous work, some of which can be found at the gallery site. Although I'm less enamored with his photos of cars, his public space interiors and street portraits are simply first rate. Horses Think
has a nice review, including a short excerpt of Wrighton's thoughts from an interview in —Yes, you're reading this correctly— a local edition of the Weekly Pennysaver
.Man in Gold Sweater, 1987 by Bruce Wrighton
How he went from the Weekly Pennysaver to The New Yorker is a mystery. I can find very little about his life online beyond what I've written here. In fact, I'm sure that this mystique is registering on some level in my psyche when I look at his work, and perhaps effecting my judgment of it. There's something riveting in the life stories of all those photographers who traced forgotten footsteps only to be discovered as geniuses after dying. Atget, Bellocq, Disfarmer, Salignac, Watkins, etc. The artistic canon is as malleable as trends in The New Yorker, and that fact is a tiny ray of light for many of us anonymous art serfs.
But even without knowing anything about his life the quality of Wrighton's work is obvious. Bruce Who indeed. If anyone knows more about this person's life and background, please email me.