A couple of weekends ago, we ducked into the American Art Museum to check out the long-awaited new exhibit of Annie Leibovitz, entitled “Pilgrimage”. DC is great for that – most museums are free so checking out a single exhibit and then taking advantage of wide open common spaces where freedom of movement is encouraged are recipe for success for us – we get to see something we’re interested in, diplo-baby gets exposed to some art which is hopefully good for the brain, and then she gets to enjoy a space much larger than her apartment. A word of caution, the atrium at the American Art Museum involves highly accessible water – prepare to come home with wet feet.
I had been reading about this exhibit for some time and was anxious to see it. It’s definitely a departure from Leibovitz’s usual work for several reasons. The first is that there are no actual potraits in it, let alone the thought provoking shoots that have become her stock and trade on the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair. And the second is that this is her first entirely digital project (wow!). The exhibit consists of about 60 photographs curated into three rooms, simply displayed which works to their advantage.
The subject matter is mostly “things that are famous becuase they belonged to legends of the past”, with a couple of landscapes thrown in – most known is probably the shot of Niagara Falls which is on the exhibit poster. That particular piece has quite a backstory – it was one of the first photographs of the project, and shot even though when Liebovitz arrived at Niagara Falls, her credit card was declined and hotel cancelled as this was at the height of her financial woes and soon after the loss of her partner, Susan Sontag, with whom she was supposed to do this project with. So to me, not only do you see a mass of water tumbling down, but putting yourself in her shoes, it must represent to some degree the feeling of being consumed, drowned and lost all in one place.
The photographs of objects are well annotated so that you have a sense of what you’re seeing – there seems to be a reoccuring theme of gunshots: the TV from Palm Springs that Elvis shot a hole in, Annie Oakley’s shooting target, countless Lincoln paraphernalia who of course was assassinated. Many of the objects to me seemed sad, musty…but they do represent people who are, for one reason or another, heroes to Leibovitz and important to the course of the arts or history. In the end, the three rooms go by quickly, and represent to me more of a tour of things from “Exotic America” with a few bits of England sprinkled in. It’s so different from her usual work that it’s certainly worth seeing – both for the images and the history lessons, but I would have loved to see more images included in the work. I left feeling a bit incomplete, and that the pilgrimage was disjointed – but maybe that was the desired effect. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how Leibovitz adapts to this newest phase of her life, and to see whether she’s crossed the digital line – maybe we’ll see more?
Annie Liebovitz, “Pilgrimage”
American Art Museum
On diplay until May 20, 2012
|Annie Oakley’s Shooting Heart…|
|Elvis Presley’s Shooting TV…|
|Annie Liebovitz opens the exhibit in Washington, DC…|
|Historical archived negatives of Abraham Lincoln…|
|Sigmund Freud’s “couch” in England…he also had one in our first apartment in Vienna!|
|Martha Graham’s dance studio…|
All images by Annie Leibovitz.