The J. Paul Getty Museum just launched a multimedia exhibit called “Breaking News: Turning the Lens on Mass Media.”
The show features pieces from artists like Catherine Opie, Donald Blumberg and others who reexamine photojournalism, news magazines and cable news networks through their work.
The Frame's John Horn visited the Getty on opening day and got a tour from Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of the museum's department of photographs.
"Close to Home" by Catherine Opie
Arpad Kovacs: This body of work is actually part of a series called "In and Around Home," and she was trying to figure out a way to deal with the images that she was seeing on the television. So her instinct was to reach for a camera and start photographing her television screen. And she reached for a Polaroid camera.
It's very much about how that information is mediated. I think that's really one of the things that this show tries to contend with, is how information is mediated by printed and televised news, and how artists are reacting to not the raw information, but the mediated form that everyone receives.
"House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home" by Martha Rosler
Kovacs: This is a picture by Martha Rosler of Pat Nixon in the White House — in the Yellow Room, I believe — and she's dressed in a beautiful yellow gown.
Horn: And the portrait above the fireplace has been substituted with an image of somebody who's been shot and killed.
Kovacs: It responds to a conflict that people experienced in their living rooms. She sort of worked with images she found in magazines of these atrocities and of the difficult pictures that were being published, and juxtaposed them with images of sumptuous and beautiful interiors. Oftentimes these pictures — these two very disparate pictures — were published in the exact same magazine.
"CNN Concatenated" by Omer Fast
Horn: So this is a montage of news anchors and it feels like every anchor gets like one word, and then it's cut together into a new narrative.
Kovacs: It was created shortly after 9/11 and focusing on CNN's coverage of the aftermath of 9/11.
Horn: In looking at all of these images, and looking at what Omer has done, did you start to question your own belief in the objectivity and the value of news and how we consume it?
Kovacs: Working on this exhibition has really made me think more consciously about the information that I'm receiving. One of the major ideas that this show tries to grapple with is we have this notion that images have fixed meanings, and I don't think that's the case. I think a lot of the artists in this exhibition are similarly skeptical of the notion that images have fixed meanings.
"Breaking News: Turning the Lens On Mass Media" will be at the Getty Center until April 30.