Sarah Anne Johnson’s series “Tree Planting,” about her experience at annual retreats in Manitoba. Some document real people and landscapes, while others are dioramas. (Photo: David Heald/Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation)

If you want to subject your eye and brain to a stimulating exercise in frustration, see “Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Next read the show’s catalog. Then try to fit them together in a cohesive way.

You probably won’t succeed. This show traces photography, photo appropriation and their offshoots, from stalwarts like Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg to newbies like Sara VanDerBeek and Nate Lowman. The catalog, on the other hand, barely makes it past the Pictures artists of the 1980s who helped appropriation — the use of existing images — achieve its current prominence. The book’s four main essays take lots of wonderful detours — into Beckett, Throbbing Gristle, 9/11 photographs, Civil War battlefield photography — and continually invoke Roland Barthes. They read like a series of often interesting papers delivered at a symposium but ignore more than half the artists in the show, mostly the younger ones.


Roberta Smith
New York Times