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October 23, 2006

Going The Long (or Wrong) Way to Brooklyn - Annie Leibovitz

By Now..everyone knows about the new "Annie Leibovitz : A Photographer's Life" show at The Brooklyn Museum.

Sadly, Dr. Quiz, Dutch, Hobbit and I all missed a hot young uptown party & the big 27th street west Gallery Openings to attend a "special" opening this Friday Night. You can read the reviews for yourself..

  1. Roberta Smith in the NYT
  2. Janny Scott preview in the NYT
  3. Deepti Hajela of the Canadian Press
  4. The Associated Press in the International Herald Tribune
  5. Blogger NewYorkology
  6. Wendy Zarganis on Brooklyn and Peter Marshall on Photography both at About.com
  7. Michele Norris of NPR.org
  8. Even CNN ran a review of the Leibovitz Show

Annieleib_demi_moore We all found the show a total bore. It's impressive all these reviewers were even able to find something nice to say. The show proves one thing.. there's a reason why Annie Leibovitz is known as a celebrity portrait artist.. because that's what she does best!  Actually her inclusion of tons of  "personal photo's" of friends and family while cute, and tragic at times, all fall very simple and flat in this show.  These numerous unremarkable images added little to nothing, and are more of a distraction to some of the stronger celebrity portraits.  There are almost no images which show the photographer's interaction with these "Personal Photo's" leaving a cold disconnect. Even after reading the short text in the book, and at the show.. you gain little in site into the Leibovitz/Sontag relationship.  We all felt, presenting these photos along side her commercial work added almost nothing to the show. (FYI, Annie's 2001 photo of the George W. Bush cabinet is amazing....which almost makes the trip to Brooklyn worth the trek.. but not quite!)

In total the show is as painful, as your next door neighbor taking hours to show you tons of slides from their last family vacation. Only in this case it's Annie, her girlfriend Susan Sontag, their children, and her dying father. But what really screams of mediocrity are her huge tacky billboard size landscape/nature photos.  It proves, bigger is not better, and they completely waste occupy one of the largest rooms in the museum.  For us, all of these photo's said nothing other than.. "There are several reasons why Annie Leibovitz is not, and never will be well recognized as a Landscape, Nature or Social/Biographical Art photographer..... "

The show is up in Brooklyn till January, and then it travels to San Diego, Atlanta, DC, San Fran, Paris and even London. Wow!!! Now that's a lot of mileage for so little. I'm not sure if it was even worth the subway ride across the east river.

Also, if you need a few extra dozen pounds of useless paper art book, there is a new giant sized book to rationalize document the show. Look for it on sale at Costco, and I'm not sure who's getting the copy I have for Christmas yet.. but, let me know if you have a mother-in-law and need a big gift??


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Hey MAO.. That was pretty harsh..

What happen.. did someone pee on your Photographic Cheerios this morning?

Awesome Post!

This is what happens when art is dictated by personal emotions --- especially after such a personal tragedy where you think with your emotions not brain --- no one else quite feels or sees the same thing. I haven't seen this show but I really cringed when I heard about it.

Art should be personal. But this and also the recent trend of "personal" art, personal ---->MAPS<---- (man they're getting old), "DOCUMENTARIES" so to speak of peoples daily lives and other weird little takes on peoples (the artist's---if you will) idiosyncracies, etcetera, etc. ...For the most part this stuff NO ONE can get.

I want to see personality in art, but I don't care about some strangers personal daily trials of life, etc. I have my own to deal with.

Whew! Ok, I Feel better now that I got that off my chest. How's that for harsh?

MAO... to all your readers... after seeing the show, not nearly harsh enough. And the "five pounds of paper" was a chore to drag home across the river... thank goodness we have a recycling program in NYC

No, really, let us know how you really feel. Love it!


Give it to a John Lennon fan...

Brooklyn... I remember Brooklyn...

In answer to Kenny T, I -and I think other people too- do care about "some strangers personal daily trials of life". The fact that Ann couldn't engage her audience into her pictures does not invalidate the subject. Arbus comes to my mind, but I don't have to name others to support this idea, or do I?

Okay, so this is about a year and a half after your post, but I just sae the (same) Annie Leibovitz exhibit (closing this week) at the Corcoran in Washington, DC. I completely agree with your assetment. The personal family photos are distracting and completely unremarkable.

What makes Leibovitz a remarkable photographer is her celebrity images, which pull in the power of the celebrities to make the images work in most cases. She is not an especially good landscape photographer (despite the fact she thinks she is) nor does she seem to have the knack for humanizing or glamourizing anyone who doesn't already have the glamour.

But the two photographs that stayed with me were some of her most iconic, Demi Moore's pregnant belly (because it's not just that she's pregnant but the diamonds she's wearing...it's just so...rich-woman) and the Bush administration 2001 shot. That still takes my breath away. The swagger, the contempt, the image looks *just* like a cast photo shoot for Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing. The fact that Dick Cheney just looks like the evil James Bond villian he is.

That and the 2007 image of the Queen...those are the shots that will make me think of her work. But it's not that I'm thinking about her so much as her subjects.

I saw the Annie Leibovitz exhibit at the Corcoran in Washington, DC. a few weeks ago. I guess the engagement must have been extended since the last writer's post. I struggled a great deal with the exhibit. My wife is a fan of Annie's work (mostly the celebrity stuff), so I spent an entire two hours searching for something meaningful. In my opinion, the previous writer has it right. She does a good job where the subject has an inherent power, maybe a glamour about them. I did like the Queen of England and I was stuck by the Bush Cabinet and Ashcroft portraits. On the other hand, I was completely unimpressed with the Mick Jagger photo. Here's a personality that transcends reality in an almost mystical kind of way. Remember "drugs, sex and rock'n roll"? But there he was, just a guy sitting on the edge of a bed. Oh well, I didn't get it and it's my bad as they say.

By the way, the Corcoran also had an Ansel Adams exhibition which I thoroughly enjoyed. Of course it was very different in nature, but moving. Almost every photo swept me away to some distant place. The photos evoked something within me.

Sorry Annie, my wife still loves your work and I'll keep trying.

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