Refracting Histories

Opening: Thursday, Nov 10, 2022 5 – 7 pm
Thursday, Nov 10, 2022 – Apr 2, 2023

Columbia College Chicago
600 S. Michigan
Chicago, IL 60605

The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago (MoCP) presents Refracting Histories from November 10, 2022 – April 2, 2023. Refracting Histories is an exhibition that features eight artists who are critically looking at the canon of the history of photography, using the malleable nature of image making to reinterpret and expand upon narrow pedagogies in the field.
Each artist challenges, probes, or deconstructs well-known legacies of photography. Sonja Thomsen (United States, b. 1978) created a site-specific installation in tribute to the work of Lucia Moholy, whose prolific artmaking practice, scholarship, and contributions to the Bauhaus school was largely overshadowed by her husband, László Moholy-Nagy. Tarrah Krajnak (Peru, b. 1979) similarly looks at under-recognized contributions to the field, using her own body to recreate works Edward Weston made of his muses, Bertha Wardell and Charis Wilson. Krajnak amplifies the creative role Weston’s models played in the images, while claiming authorship in one of the most repeated and reductive tropes in photography: the female nude. 
Tom Jones (Ho-Chunk, b. 1964) also reimagines photographic tropes, riffing on Edward Curtis’s romanticized portrayals of indigenous populations by depicting toy trees as stand-ins for the landscapes in the backgrounds of Curtis’s images. Jones names each piece in the series after a tribe of the correlating geographic region of his depicted tree, in a tongue in cheek nod to reductive representations of places and people. 
Kelli Connell + Natalie Krick (United States, b. 1974 and 1986, respectively) place a contemporary feminist lens on Edward Steichen and his role as the curator of the famous 1955 exhibition The Family of Man. Connell and Krick appropriate and remix works that Steichen made or exhibited, collaging forms and interjecting a bold color palette to bring his work into a more current dialogue.
Nona Faustine (United States, b. 1977) and Aaron Turner (United States, b. 1990) consider how photographs shape larger histories. Faustine references the use of early Daguerrotypes to create purportedly ethnographic images of enslaved people by making portraits of herself wearing only a pair of white shoes in locations around the US, the achromatic shoes representing whitewashed histories. Turner utilizes processes from the 19th century to the 21st to investigate Frederick Douglass’s under-recognized and prescient views on the political power of photographic representation. Turner creates multiple translations of an image of the American abolitionist and statesman, who was until recently seldom recognized as the most photographed person during the 19th century. 
Finally, Colleen Keihm (United States, b. 1985) collages fragments of auction catalogs by placing them on scanner beds to critically look at the values placed on some artists over others, and how the market of collecting is in direct correlation with what is taught in art history textbooks. Thinking of new possibilities of radical inclusion, her practice, in her own words, “emphasizes light pushing through absences rather than the shadows created by presences.”
Refracting Histories is curated by MoCP’s deputy director and chief curator, Karen Irvine, and MoCP curator of academic programs and collections, Kristin Taylor. It is in conjunction with the exhibition Shannon Bool 1:1. 

Image: Kelli Connell & Natalie KrickPink River, 2022