The LACMA fair merges fine art photography and advertising photography

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Objects of desire: the seductive exchange between fine art and advertising photography

At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), “Objects of Desire: Photography and the Language of Advertising” explores how contemporary artists have imitated, appropriated and exploited the language of commercial photography

What is art without manipulation? What is advertising photography without seduction? A new collective exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will prove that in these two worlds, the exchange goes both ways. Entitled “Objects of Desire: Photography and the Language of Advertising,” the exhibition explores how artists have borrowed the motifs and strategies of commercial photography and reimagined them for artistic context.

By the mid-twentieth century, the world had left war-induced frugality behind. The golden age of consumption had arrived, and with it, an advertising strategy built on the psychology of desire. As the focus shifted from “need” to “want”, compelling visual advertising was at the heart of the game. By the 1970s, technological innovations were increasing the potential of photography; artists began to exploit the language of advertising for creative expression. They asked: what exactly do these images want from us?

Elad Lasry, Persian cucumbers, Shuk Hakarmel, 2007, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by the Ralph M. Parsons Fund and Marc J. Lee, © Elad Lassry, digital image © Museum Associates/LACMA

‘Objects of Desire’ delves into this underexplored interchange between art, advertising and photography. “No other medium has such diversity in its applications,” exhibition curator Rebecca Morse explained in a statement. “The exhibition places commercial photography at its center – examining where artists have emulated its look, appropriated its content, adopted its methods of distribution and generally exploited what has historically belonged to a strain of photography in the service of the trade.”

Although the majority of the works are drawn from the LACMA collection, with many notable pieces from the 1980s and 90s acquired when they were created, the exhibition also presents recent acquisitions and contemporary works to highlight the still complex relationship between fine art and commercial photography. The exhibition features photography, film, sculpture and multimedia works by artists such as Robert Heinecken, Victoria Fu, Roe Ethridge, Lucas Blalock, Jo Ann Callis, Sarah Charlesworth, Elad Lassry and Hank Willis Thomas, as well as works exhibited beyond the walls of the museum, such as a billboard by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, and a mock advertisement by Chris Burden. §

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