The International Center of Photography may not get a lot of hype, but they sure know how to put on a good show. Located in the heart of Midtown, a block from Bryant Park on Sixth Avenue and 43rd Street, the ICP most often harnesses its considerable resources to put on deep retrospectives of iconic shooters like Weegee or Robert Capa, or broad thematic exhibitions on, say, the Occupy movement, or the founding of Israel, or the revolution in Cuba. For hardcore photography fans and history buffs, these sorts of shows are both instantly engaging and fascinating in a kind of academic way.
The ICP Triennial is Unlike Most ICP Exhibitions
The ICP Triennial is not like any of that. This fourth gathering of the “most interesting” contemporary photography and video art is filled with provocative (even shocking), conceptual, envelope-pushing stuff that wouldn’t feel out of place at MoMA PS1, or that tech/art mecca Eyebeam in Chelsea. Titled A Different Kind of Order, the ICP Triennial emphasizes work from around the world that often slams home the message that political, social, and economic instability has become a part of daily life for hundreds of millions of people. It’s a fantastic show, filled with work that will stop you dead in your tracks and, in the techniques used as well the overall aesthetic sensibility, extremely of the moment. Which is exactly what such a survey should be.
Some of the Photographs Require a Period of Study
I liked almost everything I saw at the ICP Triennial. A couple of pieces of particular note would include Sohie Nishino’s Diorama Maps, surveys of, for example, southern Manhattan, composed of thousands of street-level snapshots sliced up and pasted together to form a whole. Take your time and look closely at this one. It’s pretty amazing. Also amazing: Gideon Mendel’s Drowning World series, classically composed portraits of flood victims in places like Thailand, India, and Haiti, of people who can’t just stop their daily routines because their home and neighborhood sit in three feet of water. They have nowhere to flee to, nothing to “rebuild” with, so life goes on.
There are Works from Around the World at the ICP Triennial
Other things to watch for: Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse’s Ponte City, three lightboxed skyscrapers constructed from hundreds of photos of, respectively, the apartment doors, the windows, and the television sets in Africa’s tallest residential tower. Called Ponte City and located in Johannesburg, this once-luxury building is now, in post-apartheid South Africa, rife with gang violence and structural decay. Subotzky and Waterhouse’s trio of back-lit towers are lovely from afar, oppressive once you really get “inside” and look around. One more: Miskka Henner’s aerial views of Dutch landscapes, in which the “regular” topography is slashed through with jarring, geometric patterns. Thing is, this seeming abstract art is actually the “work” of the Dutch government and Google Earth, collaborating to hide military sites. Very cool.
A Different Kind of Order: The ICP Triennial will be at the International Center of Photography through September 8. The ICP is located on the corner of 43rd Street and Sixth Avenue, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Fridays until 8:00 p.m. Closed Mondays. You can find more info on the ICP and the A Different Kind of Order exhibition here.