How Photography Became Contemporary Art: Inside an Artistic Revolution from Pop to the Digital Age

Yale Univ. Apr. 2021. 296p. ISBN 9780300234107. $40. PHOTOG
By some accounts, photography’s widespread acceptance in the contemporary art world began in 1962, when Ed Ruscha produced the photos for his first book, Twenty-six Gasoline Stations, and John Szarkowski embarked on a three-decade directorship of the Museum of Modern Art’s photo department. In this book, art critic Grundberg (Crisis of the Real) focuses on the decades that followed, and particularly on the New York City photography scene of the 1970s (when Grundberg first moved to New York) and 1980s (when he was the New York Times photography critic). Partly autobiographical but always with the discerning eye of a reviewer, Grundberg’s narrative contextualizes the tumultuous emergence of contemporary photography. He emphasizes the medium’s significance for other art forms like performance, earthworks, video, and conceptual art, as well as the feminist movement, art theory, and cultural debate. Each chapter delves into the artists, curators, and critics whose work transformed the nascent field; throughout there are photographs from the 70s and 80s, plus ample endnotes for readers wanting more scholarship, and an index to easily search for a particular artist or photograph.
VERDICT A must-read for photography enthusiasts; Grundberg’s personal recollections will also appeal to readers interested in the late 20th-century New York art scene. This is an important text on the history of photography.
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