Wounded Cities and Richard Avedon at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

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Everyone wants to do Obama art! This was taken several years ago, when O was just a mere senator.

Richard Avedon slide show in the lobby…

Going up the steps. The Corcoran is such a gorgeous building. Any kind of art looks striking in this space.
Project room with video documentary in the Avedon Show.
Avedon’s Portraits of Power.
Large prints of Avedon portraits with Wounded Cities exhibit below.
Rows of small Avedon prints contrasted mightily with larger-than-life collaged prints. I wasn’t allowed to photograph the show, so this was all I could muster.

Moving downstairs to Leo Rubenfein’s ‘Wounded Cities’ exhibit, a show of photojournalistic portraits which may or may not document psychological wounds inflicted by terrorism. Below, the large tome of essays by the artist with photos included.

The prints were all HUGE at 5 by 6 feet and all were unframed. Each print was titled by the country and street where it was taken. All were shot on streets which experienced terrorist attacks first hand.

Leo Rubinfien
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Washington, D.C.

After witnessing the attack on the World Trade Center from his apartment window, Leo Rubinfien recognized his own feelings of despair in the faces of his fellow New Yorkers. He began photographing them and, over the next seven years, the project evolved. Rubinfien sought out other urban sites around the world and continued to photograph people on streets where acts of terrorism had occurred.

Is the old man on the side of the road in Karachi mourning a tragic loss, or is he simply waiting for a bus? Is the schoolgirl in Seoul grumpy with hunger, or is she worried that terrorists might strike again? The viewer will never know why the subjects in these large-scale journalistic portraits look battered and uneasy, but that is the point—how the lasting psychological wounds of terrorism integrate themselves into generalized anxiety.

Rubinfien employs an extremely shallow depth of field to reinforce the solitude of the individual within the crowd. Tokyo, 2002, at Shibuya Station, one of three color prints in the show, features a baby-faced woman with cascading blond hair staring vacantly at the camera while a blurry throng swarms around her. For Istanbul, 2004, at Taksim Square, which portrays a group of young men, Rubinfien tightly cropped the image to highlight features such as a furrowed brow on one man’s face while filling the rest of the frame with pixelated noise.

The photos, which were published in Wounded Cities by Steidl in December, were suspended without frames from metal wires, forming an intimidating maze of peopled imagery approaching and receding from view. The unusual installation of the photos recreates the claustrophobic anxiety that Rubinfien’s subjects might have felt in city streets.

—Cara Ober

Selections from this series were on view earlier this winter at Robert Mann Gallery in New York and can be seen at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through April 26.

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