What is the “work” of the work of art? What can the products of human craft do that humanity cannot do for itself?
This exhibition considers two familiar varieties of artifact, the building and the photograph, and the distinct ways in which they embody time and perpetuate memory.
A building, as it ages, becomes a public emblem of its own past. In the arc of its evolution from the newest thing in town to an ancient relic, a structure comes to represent not only the labor of those who built it but also the seasons and centuries that have revised it. In time, history becomes the building’s coauthor.
A photograph is an image carved out of space and time; it is the fingerprint of one location at a unique moment in history. The camera translates fleeting circumstances into a persistent form. The photograph proliferates and circulates; it is as multiple and itinerant as the building is singular and fixed.
Portraying buildings from four millennia and five continents, the photographs in this exhibition date from every decade of the medium’s history, from the 1840s to the present. Five works in other media—a painting, two drawings, a comic strip, and a sculpture—highlight, by contrast, the time-bound character that the building and the photograph share as modes of craft, as agents of history, and as features of everyday life.