Feature Articles

October 2013

NC Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC, Features Works by Carrie Levy and Brian Ulrich

The NC Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC, is presenting two new photographic exhibits including: Reveal: Portraits by Carrie Levy, on view East Building, Level A through Jan. 26, 2014, and Brian Ulrich Copia—Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores, 2001–2011, on view in East Building, Gallery 2 through Jan. 5, 2014.

Carrie Levy’s portraits reveal everything and nothing at the same time. This solo exhibition features photographs selected from several series Levy created over the past decade and a half. Vulnerable, disquieting, and unsettling, her portraits explore the politics of representation: the gaze of the photographer and the subject of the gaze. Although she has photographed women frequently in her work, this exhibition presents male portraits “under the microscope of a severe female gaze,” as Levy puts it. Works in the exhibition are selected primarily from her series “Domestic Stages”, “Polaroids”, and “You Before All”.

By obscuring or withholding the face, twisting and contorting the pose, and/or tightly cropping the image, the artist creates intimate images of the human body as an abstract form. “Domestic Stages” consists of photographs of her friends and family members in their homes. Portrayed naked, they are all depicted turning away from the camera, hiding their faces. These photographs are extremely intimate and completely revealing but also anonymous and unidentifiable.

In reference to “You Before All”, the artist has stated, these works “capture the way in which we stare at one another in silent judgment … It is not often that we see men represented in a passive role. I’ve chosen to use naked bodies to amplify the vulnerability of my subjects.”

Born and raised in New York, Levy now lives and works in San Francisco, CA. She has a BA from the School of Visual Arts in New York and an MFA from the Royal Academy of Art in London. Her work has been featured in solo shows in New York at White Columns Gallery and Daniel Cooney Fine Art Gallery, and in national and international group exhibitions. At the NCMA Levy’s work is in the permanent collection and on view in the Julian T. Baker Jr. Gallery in Outsiders: Facing the Camera.

Organized by the North Carolina Museum of Art. This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources; the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.; and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibitions.

The exhibition, Brian Ulrich: Copia - Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores, 2001–2011, features works by contemporary photographer Brian Ulrich’s decade-long investigation of American consumer culture. Organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art, Copia (Latin for plenty) features nearly 50 photographs from a series Ulrich started in 2001, after September 11, in response to a national call by politicians for citizens to bolster the economy by shopping.

The exhibition is divided into three parts - Retail (2001-2006), Thrift (2005-2008), and Dark Stores (2008-2011) - and traces a route from the exuberant excess of big-box stores to the bleak suburban landscapes of closed malls and empty shopping centers.

Documenting the decade from 2001 to 2011 that began with a consumer boom and conspicuous consumption and ended with the impact of the global financial collapse of 2008, Ulrich’s compelling images of the American consumer landscape were primarily shot in the Midwest, in cities including Granger, IN; Kenosha, WI; Cleveland, OH; and Skokie, IL, along with Chicago, Miami, New York City, and Las Vegas. There is also one image taken in Raleigh of the Rialto Theater.

“Ulrich’s photographs deal directly with issues of contemporary consumer culture and its reflections on issues of class and excess,” explains Linda Dougherty, chief curator of contemporary art at the NCMA. “His work invites us to contemplate the broader ecology of consumer culture and the interconnectedness of consumers - what they buy and what they choose to leave behind.”

Retail portrays shoppers captured in a consumption trance after being bombarded by an overabundance of choices and an avalanche of advertising. “A suburban anthropologist, Ulrich prowls malls and big-box stores with a medium-format camera and a waist-level viewfinder that lets him discreetly capture images of consumers in their natural element,” says Dougherty.

Kenosha, WI, portrays the glut of choices consumers are faced with - mountains of stacked soda cartons, endless rows of milk jugs - evidence of a society that has more than it needs exemplified by a large puddle of spilled milk left in the middle of the floor. Other photographs in the series hint at the overabundance of both products and choices by showing grocery shoppers staring overwhelmed at cases crammed with food, or children nearly disappearing behind piles of toys for sale.

In Thrift, Ulrich focuses on thrift stores, revealing them as collecting places for discarded and unwanted consumer products. The untitled images portray shoppers and employees standing amid heaps of used clothes, shoes, books, and obsolete computers.

Ulrich explores the impact of the 2008 financial crisis in the series Dark Stores, wherein he captures haunting architectural landscapes of abandoned buildings and empty parking lots that have become commonplace in towns across America.

Often shot at night, the cavernous spaces glow with an eerie neon light. Other photographs present desolate images of shopping malls in ruins, filled with debris. There is uneasy irony in the image of an empty furniture store, Klingsman’s Furniture, whose gilded show window still reads “Over 100 Years.”

The three series presented in one exhibition provide a startling study of consumer culture throughout the first decade of the 21st century, bringing the viewer face to face with the resulting consequences of contemporary consumption.

As Ulrich explains, “The Copia project explores not only the everyday activities of shopping, but the economic, cultural, social, and political implications of commercialism and the roles we play in self-destruction, overconsumption, and as targets of marketing and advertising. By scrutinizing these rituals and their environments, I hope that viewers will evaluate the increasing complexities of the modern world and their role within it.”

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 919/839-6262 or visit (www.ncartmuseum.org).

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