Allegories are, in the realm of thoughts, what ruins are in the realm of things.
—Walter Benjamin, 1928
Photographs, often characterized as frozen moments in time, are in truth physical objects in perpetual transition, born of a medium that is itself thought to be disappearing. Created by light falling on photosensitive surfaces, photographs begin as passing instants that continue to evolve as they materialize as images. Even when fixed or printed, photographs remain susceptible to change due to internal flaws, artistic intervention, or environmental factors. As objects in flux from the moment of inception, photographs are like ruins, or fragments of time. Traces and remnants of the past, they are simultaneously stable and transient, present and absent.
This exhibition, a rumination on photography and ruin, presents works that themselves reflect on photography’s particular connection to the ephemeral, mutability, and decay. Featured artists include Lorna Bieber, Myra Greene, Rosalie Gwathmey, Yuichi Hibi, Denny Moers, Bruce Nauman, Philip Pocock, Alison Rossiter, Arthur Rothstein, Robert Smithson, Edmund Teske, Robin Waart, and Witho Worms.
This exhibition has been made possible by the continuing generosity of Miriam and Ira D. Wallach.
Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman.