tableau form


THE ART PHOTOGRAPHY OF THE PAST two decades has been marked by the appearance of color photographs on a monumental scale, works conceived and produced to address the public rather than an intimate audience. This work, for instance that of Jeff Wall or Andreas Gursky, embodies what the critic Jean-François Chevrier called, in 1989, the “tableau form,” a term subsequently taken up by Michael Fried. Even to those of us who remain skeptical of Fried’s claim that this development accounts for “why photography matters as art as never before” (to quote the unwieldy title of his 2008 book), it is clear that the form has given us works of extraordinary artistic quality. It has also changed photography’s relation to the art market by providing the kind of “trophy” pieces on which collectors dote. To some extent, the museumization and marketization of photography through changes in scale parallels replacement of monitor-based video works with mural-size video projections during the same period.

more from Barry Schwabsky at Triple Canopy here.