Paul Graham @ MOMA
I was at The Museum Of Modern Art recently to see the Paul Graham exhibit, A Shimmer of Possibility. At first look I thought the images were brilliant, and for the most part they are brilliant. Mr. Graham, a photographer from Britain now living in New York, traveled throughout the US as many European photographers seem to have done, making images as he went along. He had no set itinerary or goals at the outset (at least according to the text on the wall of the show). When he started editing the images he found that he could group them into several sequences sort of like a movie as opposed to a sequence in the manner of Minor White (big difference). Some of the sequences are brilliant metaphors for the human condition especially the one of a man mowing the grass in a large field. There is the outline of buildings in the background. Man transforming the landscape, it is a metaphor full of the hope and futility found in all human endeavors. In the middle of the sequence it starts to rain and the drops are beautifully backlit by the sun. There is another set of images, dark and intimate of a man holding flowers. He is very Christ like. The image is followed by others of the flowers the man was holding and of his scarred wrist. Signs of attempted suicide or scars leftover from crucifixion?
At some points in the show I got the uncomfortable feeling of being a voyeur. Some of the images have the look of surveillance photographs. You sense that the photographer is at a distance. You don’t feel him experiencing but sense the photographer as a clinician, coldly observing. This is not the case for all of the images but for only a few of the ones hanging at MOMA. For the most part they are intimate slices of moments in America.
You can certainly see the influence of WIlliam Eggleston and his work fits in well with those of the contemporary practitioners of color. The image of the hand holding a can of beer had me doing a double-take it so looked like an Eggleston image.
The show is up until May 18, 2009 and is certainly worth catching especially on a Friday night when admission is free.