After two years of rigorous study at the best photography program in the country, students of The Department of Photography at Yale University School of Art are exhibiting their work in a show called The Lovely Dark. The show just finished its debut at the Danziger Gallery, and is currently traveling cross-country to its second stop at Regen Projects gallery in Los Angeles, where it will be exhibited there from July 2 to August 1.
Although the styles and techniques of these ten graduates range from collage, to staged photos, to more traditional portraiture, curator Jack Pierson explained in an interview with VICE that “the one linking thing between all the work in the show is it’s mostly pretty dark.” Pierson commented that another common theme is that “a lot of it is suburban angst…it’s angsty!” and speculated that this trend could be attributed to the average age of the artists, as they are all quite young.
One snag in the otherwise celebrated exhibition is that Yale MFA artist Zak Arctander has been under fire for reportedly appropriating a 2014 photo taken of trans model Hari Nef by Arabelle Sicardi and Tayler Smith without crediting the original creators or subject of the image. Arctander sited the piece as purely his own work, and, according to a Jezebel interview with Sicardi, he did not reach out to the artists to ask for their consent.
Is this yet another example of postmodern appropriation, in line with the tradition of Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince? Or, as Jezebel writer Julianne Escobedo Shepherd comments, does it point to something more nefarious, as “men appropriating, manipulating, and obscuring the work of women artists is a story as old as art history.”
The difference between the appropriation of these big name postmodernists and Arctander’s borrowing is that they repurpose images from popular culture, kitsch, and commercial marketing. They are representatives of a subculture, and their power comes from their ability to decontextualize mass produced images. Conversely, Arctander, a graduate from an elite institution, is not only lifting but not crediting an image obtained from a minority subculture, that of queer women.
In any case, be on the lookout for these ten emerging artists: David Alekhougie, Zak Arctander, Quinn Gorbutt, Isabel Magowan, Sarah Meyohas, Elle Perez, Bryson Rand, David Soffa, Ilona Szwarc and Annie Thornton. In addition to gallery appearances, the exhibited pieces have been compiled into a book.
To find out more about these artists or the art programs at Yale, click here!