Content and Discontent in Today’s Photography examines strategies of abstraction within recent photography, focusing on artists who seek to express the problematic relationship between abstraction and representation within art as a whole. The abstract photographs in the exhibition are tempered by a postmodern sense of the contingency of all photographic meanings. While the renewed interest in abstraction in contemporary painting remains grounded in the promise of a purely visual experience, these photographs deny that such an experience can exist independent of cultural parameters. For this reason, these photographs redefine historical definitions of abstraction for a postmodern world.
Content and Discontent consists of approximately 40 photographic works by thirteen artists. The artists are Uta Barth, Ellen Brooks, Christopher Bucklow, Ellen Carey, Susan Derges, John Divola, Adam Fuss, Frank Majore, Thomas Ruff, Andres Serrano, Penelope Umbrico, Oliver Wasow, and James Welling. These artists have rejected the current obsession with popular culture and mass-media images. Some, like James Welling, began their investigation of abstraction in the context of Postmodernism while others, like Serrano and Fuss, employ abstractionist strategies in reaction to media-influenced art. What characterizes almost all the images is the presence of a non-representational beauty and the absence of any claim to spiritual transcendence. This characteristic gives their work a strange and compelling power unlike any earlier attempts at abstract photography.