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‘At heart I’m a frustrated nerd’ … Thomas Demand. Photograph: Christine Nguyen/© J Paul Getty Trust

Interview with Thomas Demand:

What got you started?

I grew up in an area of Munich that was full of artists and architects. My father was an artist; my uncle was an architect; my best friend’s father was an art dealer. I never considered doing anything else.

What was your big breakthrough?

Being part of a show called New Photography at MoMA in New York in 1996. It put me on the map.

You’re based between Berlin and Los Angeles. Which city do you find most inspiring?

At the moment, LA. I lived in Berlin for 14 years – the longest I’ve lived in any one place – but by the end, I felt I needed some fresh air. LA feels freer.

Do you suffer for your art?


Is today’s art scene too commercially motivated?

No. In Germany, it’s seen as a bad thing if artists are making money out of art. In the US, it’s the other way around. I don’t see anything wrong with artists making money. And art really isn’t that expensive compared with other luxury goods – a painting costs less than a sports car. If art makes you feel something, then the expense is worth it.

Which other artists do you most admire?

Ed Ruscha and Gerhard Richter. They both followed their own little paths, and in doing so changed the way we view art for ever.

What’s the worst thing anyone ever said about your work?

People have said that my art is always the same. But they didn’t understand it.

Complete this sentence: At heart I’m just a frustrated . . .


What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

There’s a German saying that doesn’t translate well into English. People tell you to “always keep the ball low” – it comes from football, and means that you should try to keep your focus. My brother said it to me, and I found it useful. Artists are always looking for intellectual advice about their work. But the less you’re trying to load that on to your art, the better.


Laura Barnett


News of a museum’s major art acquisition isn’t usually accompanied by the question, “Why?” So it’s interesting to see it crop up in reports that a huge cache of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs, plus his archives and youthful mixed-media art, has been jointly acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Trust.

The specific gist of the puzzlement seems to be: Why Los Angeles?


Christopher Knight
Los Angeles Times

It’s pretty unusual for a living artist to have his or her own museum. But that honor is going to William Eggleston, known as the father of color photography as an art form.

Eggleston, 71, is lucky to be from Memphis, which is home to a museum for Elvis and to Stax, a museum for American soul music. Two years ago, a group of local philanthropists decided that giving Eggleston a museum would be good not only for him but also for the city. Together, members of the group have pledged more than $5 million to start the ball rolling.


Judith H. Dobrzynski
Real Clear Arts

Hiroshi Sugimoto is often venerated as a Zen master of film photography. But in “The Day After,” an exhibition that opened Nov. 6 at the Pace Gallery in Chelsea, he has assumed a new persona — that of a wild and visionary scientist.

The show focuses on Mr. Sugimoto’s latest work: a series of monumental “Lightning Field” photographs, all from last year, that seem to sizzle with majestic lightning bolts. Marked by incandescent whites, velvety blacks and subtle textural detail, they suggest the birth of stars and planets.

These photographs are the largest that Mr. Sugimoto has ever made, and they took him some four years of intensive research to perfect. “I have always been curious about science,” he said in a recent interview at his Chelsea studio. “But now it’s getting very serious.”


Carol Kino
New York Times

Rinko Kawauchi captures the sky above Brighton, from the series Murmuration. Courtesy of Rinko Kawauchi and Foil Gallery, Tokyo

The Brighton Photo Biennial, now in its fourth edition, has not impacted on the public imagination the way certain literary and art festivals have. This may have something to do with how British attitudes to photography remain, in the main, conservative, and with the lack of funding. No doubt the two are linked.

If anyone can rebrand the Brighton Photo Biennial as a serious contender, though, Martin Parr can. Back in 2004, he was invited by the organisers of the annual Rencontres D’Arles to be guest curator. That year’s Arles festival, in its range and ambition, remains the standard by which all subsequent Rencontres have been judged. Back then, Parr indulged his love for vernacular and found photography, and his passion for new, often eccentric, talent as well as great photographers he felt had been overlooked.


Sean O’Hagan

A portfolio of abandoned buildings photography on The Coolest.

(Photo: MFA Boston)

Nicholas Nixon first came to public prominence 35 years ago. He was one of 10 photographers in what would come to be seen as a landmark exhibition. “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape’’ looked at the interaction of settlement and environment. It was nature photography that encompassed both the man-made and natural.

The Boston cityscapes that Nixon had in that show seem very far, except geographically, from the 75 black-and-white images in “Nicholas Nixon: Family Album,’’ which runs through next May 1 at the Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a long overdue MFA recognition for Nixon, who has taught at Massachusetts College of Art and Design since 1975. The temptation to hail him as a local hero is great, except that Nixon stopped being local in reputation almost as soon as he moved here, in 1974. He had his first Museum of Modern Art show in 1976. He’s had subsequent solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, MoMA again, and numerous other museums.

Yet if “New Topographics’’ has nothing in common visually with the MFA show, which consists of photographs of Nixon’s wife, their children, and her sisters, they share a fundamental thematic bond.


Mark Feeney

Boston Globe

Rick Norsigian unveils the prints made from a stash of negatives he bought in a garage sale that several appraisers say is the work of Ansel Adams. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

A wall painter for the Fresno school district who bought a cache of antique glass-plate photographic negatives at a garage sale 10 years ago laid out his case Tuesday that they were created by Ansel Adams early in his career, offering affirmations from photographic and forensic experts he had hired.

In a Beverly Hills gallery packed with reporters and photographers, Rick Norsigian and the Beverly Hills law firm that is helping him market prints made from the negatives (and promote a documentary about his find) said the negatives of Yosemite, the San Francisco waterfront, and Carmel’s mission and nearby Point Lobos were taken by Adams from 1919 to the 1930s, before he became famous as the visual bard of America’s natural landscape.


Mike Boehm
Los Angeles Times

The West haunts American photography as the South haunts American literature — if for opposite reasons. Lush and complicatedly peopled, the South is burdened with history. “The past is never dead,’’ William Faulkner wrote in words that are as much boast as warning. “It’s not even past.’’

The West, in contrast, could have been created with the camera in mind: stark and empty and bracingly new (terrifyingly new, too). The South may feel foreign to us, but the West looks alien. In documenting it, photographers from Timothy O’Sullivan and William Henry Jackson in the 19th century to Ansel and Robert Adams in the 20th to Richard Misrach today have made it seem at least a little less alien.

Mark Ruwedel belongs in their company. His West is riotously austere and beautifully desolate: a Beckett landscape so empty of human life that even Beckett’s lost souls would feel out of place there. Yet one crucial aspect distinguishes Ruwedel’s work from that of his predecessors. As much archeology as art, his images explicitly remind us that the West has a past, one immensely longer in duration than the past of cowboys and Indians we see in westerns. “California is west of the West,’’ Theodore Roosevelt once said. The parts of Texas, Colorado, Utah, and California that Ruwedel photographs aren’t west of the West. They’re so desolate they almost seem underneath the West.


Mark Feeney
Boston Globe

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