Transgressive Photography Shown in Santa Fe

Want to meet some people who enjoy breaking the rules?  You’ll meet plenty of mavericks who challenged the norm in Transgressions and Amplifications: Mixed-Media Photography of the 1960s and 1970s, an exhibition on view at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe through January 8, 2023.

Edward Weston and Ansel Adams set a high bar for classic, modernist photography, but the generation of image-makers who followed were driven to experiment, shake things up, and see where it all led. 

Detail of 1983 Joyce Niemanas Grandfather Polaroid collage
Detail of 1864 Lady Filmer’s album mixing watercolor and albumen print collage. Courtesy: UNM Art Collection.

Why not go back a hundred years and make new images with historic photo techniques (sun prints, anyone)? Has anyone tried embroidering photos? What about mashing up photo-silkscreen prints with readymade collages decorated with rubber stamps?

Can Polaroids be turned into fine art? Or making a sculpture or kitch card deck out of photos?  What about dreamscapes? What about creatively repurposing magazine photos or TV images?

A stroll through the gallery shows a broad range of creative 20th-century minds at work, with at least one case showcasing some 19th century pioneers.

Meet Lady Mary Georgina Filmer, a London society gal who mastered the art of photocollage as early as the 1860s. A page from one of her albums shows how she merged topsy-turvey photo images, botanical watercolors, and text to tell stories her own way – a true stay-at-home pioneer!

Lady Filmer’s album looks out on dozens of other Americans who went back into the time machine to toy with making albumen prints, stereographs, hand-colored photos, drawing, and cyanotypes. Example: the arresting 1970s hand-colored gelatin silver print by Karen Truax where she ghosts-out her central figure.

1970-1974 gelatin silver print Supernal by Karen Truax, featuring a bleached-out central figure and hand-colored domestic interior

For anyone curious about these old-timey methods, the curators have provided visitors with a place to relax, leaf through books about it, and watch YouTube videos on the gallery iPad.

Another gallery features artists who took photography mixed-media to the next level, like Rauchenburg’s litho that appropriates Bonnie and Clyde movie stills and an over-the-top abstraction by Thomas Barrow that combines gelatin silver print technique with a crazy-quilt of stencils, spray paint, and objects. So totally Eighties!

Detail of Thomas Barrow’s 1980 gelatin silver print Discrete Multivariate Analysis, mixing lights, objects, stencils, and spray paint

The third gallery displays lots of fool-the-eye and 3-D delights. What’s the most fun? Jerry McMillan’s photo-offset inside a “paper bag?” Betty Han’s Soft Daguerreotype of Xeroxed weeds on fabric? Probably Robert Heinecken’s T.V. Dinner/Shrimp. Hard to choose.

Robert Heinecken’s 1971 Van Dyke print T.V. Dinner/Shrimp, #1C. Courtesy: University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography.

Other sections of the exhibition show how 1970s photographers made images in which photography itself was the subject and told highly personal stories.

Take a look at some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Artist book: Keith Smith’s 1972 gelatin silver print Book 32 – a 3D take on photography.

And don’t forget the coda that features a dramatic images by more recent photographers that make provocative social statements and represent voices that were not fully represented within the university system during the 1960s and 1970s.

Lorna Simpson’s 1991 Black, a dye diffusion transfer print with engraved plastic plaques

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