• FEB 12 to MAR 28
    Solo Exhibition


    • Solo Exhibition
    • Contemporary

    Dates and Opening hours

    FEB 12 to MAR 28, 2013

    Hours: Mon-Sat 10-6

    Vernissage: Monday, February 11th, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm

    Event Location

    Gagosian Gallery - Britannia Street

    United Kingdom



    Archiving systems impose an illusory structural order on the radically chaotic and indeterminate nature of everything.
    —Taryn Simon

    Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce The Picture Collection, a new series by Taryn Simon.

    The Picture Collection comprises forty-four works inspired by the New York Public Library’s picture archive, one of the august institution’s lesser-known troves. The archive contains 1.2 million prints, postcards, posters, and printed images, most of which have been cut from secondary sources, such as books and magazines. It is the largest circulating picture library in the world, organized according to a complex cataloging system of over 12,000 subject headings.  Since its inception in 1915, it has been an important resource for writers, historians, artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, and advertising agencies. Diego Rivera, who made use of it for his legendary mural for the Rockefeller Center, Man at the Crossroads (1934), noted how the scope of this picture collection might go on to shape contemporary visions of America.

    On the heels of such ambitious research projects as An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar and A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII, Simon taps this vast yet idiosyncratic archive to further explore the taxonomic, classificatory, and revelatory purposes of photography. The process of archiving images from many disparate sources inevitably exposes the wayward desires at work in the seemingly neutral or objective process of generic image-gathering. Not only does The Picture Collection underscore the extent to which chance, incident, and arbitrary inclusion or exclusion are written into analog cataloging systems, driven as they are by the persistent human impulse to identify, select, collate, and systematize information; as well it suggests how the earlier systems presaged digital search engines and anticipated the widespread use of applications like Google, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

    Each work is made up of a number of images that Simon has selected from a given archival category, such as Chiaroscuro, Handshaking, Haircombing, Express Highways, Financial Panics, Israel, and Beards and Mustaches.  In artfully overlapped compositions, only slices of the individual images are visible, each fragment intimating its whole. Thus multiple related images are transformed into almost abstract color fields and geometric shapes. The framing and mounting has been specifically designed to make reference to early hanging systems in libraries and museums.

    The Picture Collection serves as a tabula rasa where images that are historically inscribed and validated sit beside those that are not. For example, by placing the reproduction of a painting by Kazimir Malevich next to those of unknown artworks hanging in an anonymous hotel room, or a Weegee photograph beside a commissioned advertisement, she puts into question the hierarchies by which visual and cultural materials are categorized. Continually seeking to discover the patterns, codes, and orders within the image overload of contemporary society, Simon questions the very dynamics of contemporary culture as a process of evolution or one doomed to endless repetition.

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