HUMBLE ARTS FOUNDATION (NEW YORK) -- Beginning in the 1980s, theorists including Allan Sekula and Jon Tagg initiated critical work that analyzed the organization, purpose, and consumption of photographic archives. In doing so, they implicated the medium as a tool of state surveillance and control deployed against often vulnerable populations.
The points asserted by Sekula and Tagg about photographs within an archival setting encouraged numerous artists to utilize archives as the source or focus of substantive work. Those now-familiar lines of inquiry are widened, and the interpretation of archival material in photographic form expanded in Recollected: Photography and the Archive, a group installation that was on view at the Fine Arts Gallery at San Francisco State University through November 16.
Recollected: Photography and the Archive began as a class project assigned to graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in SF State’s Fine Arts Gallery now-emeritus director Mark Johnson’s spring 2017 Art 619 course. Guided by curators Sharon Bliss and Kevin B. Chen, the students worked within specific guidelines — pieces produced by artists who live or have significant ties to the Bay Area — and suggested a range of objects reflecting diverse practices. The result is an economic and beautifully organized presentation of media forms that engage past and present discussions of what archives are and how they function, and what insights may be drawn from them moving forward.