Whether by the old-fashioned postcard or via social media, people have long sent other people photographic images, and currently, photos of virtually everything are deluging our lives.
“Snap+share,” a new exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on view through Aug. 4, takes a fun and historic look at this subject.
“This is not an exhibit about selfies,” Clement Cheroux, SFMOMA’s senior curator of photography, assured attendees at a press preview in March.
Subtitled “transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks,” the show combines photography, art, technology and cultural anthropology and traces the evolution of the sent-and-received photograph. It explores how methods of sharing images that say, essentially, “Here I am,” have changed over the decades. It considers how the distribution of images, due to online networks, is occurring at unprecedented levels.
The 21-artist exhibit begins with the analog era and the populist, playful mail-art movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Mail artists distributed postcards and images, often with text, through the postal system and formed a network of participants.
On Kawara’s “I Got Up” (1968-79) contains nearly 50 postcards, each stating, “I got up at 8:15 a.m.” or “I got up at 8:22 a.m.,” or something similar. The work suggests today’s social media in how it documents a person’s existence.
Postcards by Joseph Beuys and Walker Evans, too, are on view as well as stamps by Lynn Hershman Leeson bearing the artist’s image.
Virtual images become material in Erik Kessels’ “24HRS in Photos” (2011), an installation consisting of two enormous mounds of printed pictures. These mountains contain 24 hours’ worth of photos uploaded to Flickr — about 350,000 images. Kessels has described the project as a visualization of the “feeling of drowning in representations of other people’s experiences.”
Jeff Guess considers the makeup of Internet imagery in his video project “Addressability” (2011). In it, images uploaded to the
Internet, composed of pixels, dematerialize.
Corinne Vionnet illustrates the clone-like quality of the pictures people take of tourist sites in “Photo Opportunities” (2005-2014), a series of composite prints.
Bound to attract visitors is David Horvitz’s 2009-launched “241543903,” a refrigerator containing (faux) food. Horvitz invites guests to “take a photograph of your head inside a freezer” and then upload that image to the Internet, using the tag #241543903. Meme- making creativity has ensued.
Kate Hollenbach addresses surveillance in “phonelovesyoutoo” (2016), a three-wall video project featuring images of the artist taken by her cellphone as she performs tasks with it.
Big Brother has whiskers in “Ceiling Cat” (2016), Eva and Franco Mattes’ sculpture inspired by the 2006 Internet meme. People transmit more images of cats than of anything else, and this one, watching from above, is both amusing and creepy.
IF YOU GO
snap+share: transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks
Where: Floor 3, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St., S.F.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (except closed Wednesdays and to 9 p.m. Thursdays); through Aug. 4
Tickets: $19 to $25; free for 18 and younger
Contact: (415) 357-4000, www.sfmoma.org