The history of photography as art in the 20th century is the history of the illustrated press or the photo book, and no one stands as a clearer example of this than Walker Evans, who embraced the roles of photographer, editor, graphic designer, typographer, and copy writer. In his books, but especially his magazine work, no one element took dominance over the others. In fact, he used each element as a device to open up rather than reduce the possibilities of the entire network. Evans possessed an acute sense of context and many times used his position within a publication to criticize the ideology of its support structure. Making the jump to the context of exhibition and gallery display, it's of course easy to think of the photographic practitioner extending their role to that of the curator, exhibition designer, etc.
Two things should be noted: Evans was criticized for the physical distance between his photographs and his texts, and it is well known that he locked himself in The Museum of Modern Art to arrange his own pictures, sometimes wheatpasting them to the walls so that they could not be moved.
In this, his seventh exhibition with David Zwirner, Christopher Williams presents a diagrammatic essay in walls and pictures, presenting a display of five or six observational and descriptive models; photographic (photographic prints), architectural (walls), and publication (books and miscellaneous publicity material). This diagrammatic form articulates the production, reception, and the distribution of photographic work.
Also on display will be the artist's new publication Printed in Germany, a condensed, wordless essay using the materials of graphic design and book production (repetition, scale, placement, pagination, binding, etc.). On the occasion of the exhibition, David Zwirner will publish the fifth installment of the artist's publication series entitled Program, which has been accompanying his exhibitions over the past three years. This publication will include visual and textual information by Christopher Williams and a newly commissioned text by the artist Josef Strau.
To be quite frank, while writing this text I found myself completely at a loss for words, and turned to the gallery's vast database to look for information about the work of Christopher Williams. Sifting through the stupefyingly repetitive material, I found this description of one of the artist's newer photographs: "This photograph depicts an American Tourister brand suitcase aboard an Interflug flight from Berlin to Algiers on Sunday, August 28, 1983. Interflug was the national airline of East Germany during the Cold War era. While its destinations included Western countries, the majority of the countries it served were socialist states or within the Eastern Bloc." This, I guess, is as good of a start as any.
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