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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

REVIEW: Sara VanDerBeek Monograph

REVIEW: Sara VanDerBeek Monograph

By Elana Kates

Roman Women I © Sara VanDerBeek 2013 courtesy Hatje Cantz 

Artistic process, according to artist Sara VanDerBeek, is like poetry. Her first monograph features the a discussion about process and conceptualism with Roxanna Marcoci, the senior curator at the Department of Photography at MoMA. The artist posits that her method perhaps mirrors that of poet Walt Whitman: “His particular meter often [jumps] from intimate exacting moments to more nebulous grand pictures of existence in a single poem.” The multiplicity she describes is essential; VanDerBeek’s work frequently engages history, materiality, and the facets of our digital culture in stimulating and transformative dialogue. 

Temple © Sara VanDerBeek 2010 courtesy Hatje Cantz

VanDerBeek is interested in a self-conscious and self-referential examination of photography—a practice that renews the values of Pictures Generation artists. Douglas Crimp would call this approach the photographic activity of postmodernism, a concept implying that, “underneath each picture, there is always another picture” (stated in his seminal 1979 essay Pictures).  This complexity manifests throughout VanDerBeek’s work. Sculptures built in-studio are displayed adjacent to their photographic reproductions. The artist summons the unique relationship between three-dimensional objects and two-dimensional photographs fashionably—her color palette is nearly monochromatic and her minimal configurations are stylish and sleek. In other work, VanDerBeek links the archaic past with our digital present. Ancient vases and roman busts are reproduced using modern methods of documentation. These artifacts are printed in otherworldly blues and purples. VanDerBeek is considering the transience of digital information and the physicality of the photograph with these ethereal images.  Her multidisciplinary works invoke complex and sophisticated theory and dialogue about place, temporality and ontology. 

Ancient Solstice © Sara VanDerBeek 2014 Courtesy Hatje Cantz

Mask © Sara VanDerBeek 2012 courtesy Hatje Cantz 

Book courtesy of Artbook/D.A.P.

Article © Elana Kates

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