More than any other medium, photography has the potential to open our eyes to the poetic richness that is latent in ordinary things. The photographs included in this exhibition are by artists who use the camera to capture the unexpected beauty of found still-lifes and modest interventions in the landscape. Most of the photographs on view are deliberately understated in style, yet they are filled with everyday epiphanies. They direct our attention to the lyrical charm of commonplace things—a stack of newspapers flapping in the wind, a crushed tin can on a sidewalk, a rusty mattress spring hanging from a tree—and invite us to see these fragments of the world—our world—with fresh eyes.
Highlights include photographs by Damián Ortega (Mexican, b. 1967), who finds geometric patterns and entropy in the pavement cracks and sprouting weeds that appear on barren patches of Mexico City sidewalks. The slightly melancholy photographs of Jean-Marc Bustamante (French, b. 1952) evoke magical moments in commonplace settings. In an untitled 1998 photograph from his series Something Is Missing, Bustamante records a "found sculpture" he discovered on the street: an orderly newspaper stand with stacks of papers fluttering at the corners.
A 1992 photograph by Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953), taken in Sea Island, Georgia, depicts a mattress spring mysteriously hanging from a tree—a purposeful intervention by residents of the local Gullah community, who believe it will ensnare evil spirits. In her Perth Amboy series, Rachel Harrison (American, b. 1966) photographed the window of an ordinary-looking house in New Jersey where it was believed that the face of the Virgin Mary had appeared. The pictures focus on the accumulated fingerprints left by the faithful as they touched the pane of glass.
A particular focus of the show is the work of Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, b. 1962), whose Cemetery (2002) captures an unassuming yet surprising landscape that the artist encountered on one of his travels: dozens of round terracotta pots, used as grave markers and receptacles for offerings, lay scattered across on the desert sand of Timbuktu. Since the 1980s, this peripatetic artist has used photography as a form of visual note taking, as well as to document ephemeral sculptures he makes on his local walks and world travels.