That Which Is: Marcia Lippman

BY Lyle Rexer, July 21, 2013

Marcia Lippman, Canto XMarcia Lippman, Canto X

Outside of New York, it becomes easier (read: less costly) for artists and dealers to take real chances.  A case in point was the exhibition of mostly small photographic objects with large ambitions organized by the photographer Marcia Lippman at KMR Arts in Washington Depot, Connecticut.  Lippman is known for her neo-pictorialist aesthetic, an alignment that puts her closer to Clarence White than to Jeff Wall. In this show she went all in to define her position vis a vis contemporary photography.  She hung her own work salon style in groupings of photos from her collection of vernacular and historic images.  She called these 55 groups cantos, suggesting that each was a verse of a larger poem. More like an epic of battle.  With everything from tintypes and embroidered images to French postcards, the show celebrated the many formats that once populated the photographic landscape, but it also offered an in-your-face response to the dominance of large-format color photography and the crushing institutional sameness it has brought to the medium.  It’s a sameness that many younger photographers are slowly but surely rebelling against, on the one hand through Instagram and on the other through deliberately vernacular postures.  The artist’s own images were anything but casual. Rather they were a deeply personal gathering of old and new photographs shot in locations from Italy to Argentina. Clearly the preoccupation here was the classic one of reminiscence, of memory as a complex of impressions and associations, but constantly revised, never static.  Lippman’s “museum” was as dynamic and open-ended as deck of tarot cards –ideal for plumbing the soul and reading the future.