Since the birth of photography in 1839, artists have used the medium to explore subjects close to home—the quotidian, intimate, and overlooked aspects of everyday existence. This exhibition examines the photographs and videos made by a wide range of artists during the last four decades. Featuring forty works from the Museum's collection, it includes photographs by John Baldessari, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Fischli & Weiss, Jan Groover, Robert Gober, Nan Goldin, Elizabeth McAlpine, Gabriel Orozco, David Salle, Robert Smithson, Stephen Shore, and William Wegman among others, as well as video by artists such as Martha Rosler, Ilene Segalove, and Svetlana and Igor Kopystiansky.
As the counterculture swelled in the late 1960s, daily life as it had been lived in Western Europe and America since the cookie-cutter 1950s came into question. Everything from feminism to psychedelic drugs to space exploration suggested a nearly infinite array of alternative ways to perceive reality; and artists and thinkers in the sixties and seventies proposed a "revolution of everyday life" that would cast off the shackles of deadened perception. In the 1980s, artists' renewed interest in conventions of narrative and genre led to often highly staged or produced images that hint at how even our deepest feelings are mediated by the images that surround us. In the wake of the economic crash of the late 1980s, photographers increasingly focused on what was swept under the carpet—the taboo and the repressed—often in slightly sinister works tinged with dread. At the same moment, Gabriel Orozco traveled the globe using the humblest of cast-off materials, such as an empty shoebox in the snow, to make fragile, economical sculptures that required photography to communicate their existence.
In the following decade, artists created photographs and videos that confused the real and the imaginary in ways that almost eerily predicted the epistemological quandaries posed by the digital revolution. The exhibition also includes recently made works by Erica Baum, Elizabeth McAlpine, and Brandon Lattu that combine process and product in novel ways to comment obliquely on the shifting sands of how we come to know the world in our digital age.