Stephen Shore’s current exhibition at New York’s 303 Gallery is a portfolio tuned to perfection, showcasing the established American photographer’s wide array of skill. All of the photos come from his trip to Israel and the West Banki n 2009, and his more recent trip to Ukraine, in 2012.
Born in New York, Shore made his name in the ’70s photographing Warhol’s Factory, leading to a show at The Met when he was just 24, only the second solo photo show in the museum’s history. He then set off, using color photography to document the American road in a way so distinct his only true predecessor is Robert Frank. His latest work continues in the documentary tradition.
303 Gallery’s press release describes the works as “realized in zones of itinerant conflict,” but to summarize Shore’s work with such a description would be dismissing its impact. The unique skill Shore possesses in his artist’s toolkit is the ability to iaffect the viewer via simplicity; looking at, say, his photo “Large crater, Negev Desert, September 29, 2009”; the shot, the angle, the frame, all appear straightforward. But then you begin to see the details within the details. The well-worn landscape, the loneliness of an abandoned car, the lack of any societal symbols or sign of civilization, and the commentary on the political strife within them are all what make his work worth viewing.
Truly, though, the ensemble is haunting. One of Shore’s busiest photos, “Beit Jala, January 11, 2010” is heartbreaking, with its bleak close-up of a crawling mountain of puppies stranded in a mound of soil, barbed wire and concrete dotting the background. The contrast of the scenery versus the subject matter is what makes it so cruelly fantastic.
The presentation of Stephen Shore’s work at the 303 Gallery at 507 West 24th Street is open through November 1, 2014, and is the first of many elegant exhibitions he will be presenting through the remainder of the year.