Artist Anne Collier’s first museum survey, organized by the MCA Chicago, highlights her unique contribution to 21st-century art while looking to the visual culture of the past.
The photographer Walker Evans once remarked that all photographs are, in essence, found objects or ready-mades, transforming the everyday into art through decontextualization. New York-based artist Anne Collier has taken this dictum to a logical, art-historical conclusion with her deadpan pictures of print ephemera–from magazines and postcards to LP covers and movie stills. Unlike artists of the so-called Pictures Generation, who appropriated images from their contemporary mass media, Collier sources her objects from flea markets and eBay and shoots them at a distance against an austere white or black background. The resulting still lifes return our gaze to these forgotten artifacts of vision, desire, and power.
Collier, who was born in 1970, often focused her lens on representations of women—both in front of and behind the camera—during the first decade of her youth. Those years witnessed both the liberation and objectification of women. The artist ambivalently highlights this paradox by focusing on moments when female subjects seem to take control of the camera: a postcard featuring a bare-breasted Kenyan woman wielding a large camera that masks her face; the cover of a 1978 issue of European photo magazine Zoom depicting a naked woman with her head replaced by a camera; film stills from the 1978 film “The Eyes of Laura Mars” featuring the actress Faye Dunaway peering through a viewfinder; or even photographs of her own eye. In an increasingly rapid and disposable contemporary visual culture, Collier’s images challenge viewers to look as closely as she does, both at the past and in the present.
“Anne Collier” opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, on November 22, 2014 and runs through March 8, 2015.