How does an artist become both modish and quaint? Both timely and anachronistic? Such is the predicament of Letha Wilson. In photography circles, the conversation seesaws between ontology and social function–that is, between a modernist concern with medium specificity and a contextualist inquiry into photography’s various “discursive spaces.” Of late, a generation of young American photographers has tipped the scales toward the former topic, insisting on photography’s status as an artistic medium by lavishing attention on its material support. Following the lead of Liz Deschenes, artists such as Walead Beshty, Mariah Robertson, and Farrah Karapetian have turned to the photogram, exploring ligh-sensitive paper’s capacity to register the process of its own production and reflect the space of its display. Others have retained the camera but affix their pictures to supports of almost sculptural heft: the vacuum-formed plastic of Ethan Greenbaum, the twisted steel of Virginia Poundstone, or the bric-a-brac of Kate Steciw. In these respects, Wilson is unimpeachably of the moment, as her first solo exhibition included both photograms and photographs encased in, encrusted with, or backed by concrete.
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