Prior to Sherman’s innovative photograph, “Untitled,” there had been two dominate styles of photography: spatiotemporal photographs, which capture a certain space and time, and fragmentational photographs that transcend both space and time. The former variation of photography can be seen in the work of Ben Shahn, as he captured the space (mid-weest America) and time (the great depression) in his photograph “Children of Destitute Ozark Mountianeer.” A transcendental piece can be seen in Pual Strand’s “Abstraction, Twin Lakes Connecticut” as it defies both space and time, appearing to exist in an almost alternate plane of existence.
Sherman adopted neither of these styles of art, rather she invented her own way of photography.
She used photos to capture a syntagmatic sequence, to tell a narrative, fluid, and sequential story using just one snap-shot. These photos existed in a human plane of existence, yet the story engrained in each photo spanned across different environments and chronologies. “Untitled,” conveys a sense of urgency by way of the photo’s high contrast, worm’s eye-view angle, and the encompassing city-scape. The high contrast expresses a tension and intensity. The camera’s “worm’s eye” perspective augments Sherman’s size, suggesting her affairs are of a larger significance. Finally, the encompassing city-scape represents the charged, almost alarming, fervor embedded in the urban lifestyle. There is also an ambiguity inherent in the photo as it is impossible to situate Sherman in an exact place, but rather she exists in a vague, yet animated environment The sense of nervousness is exacerbated by Sherman’s own anxious expression seen through her pursed lips and sharp glare. There is an implied, but abstruse, narrative in this piece especially when its historically contextualized. Sherman, based on her outfit and surrounding urban environment, is being pictured as “career girl” a label common of working women in the 1950’s. Sherman’s series of photographs capture the disorientation and anxiety of women newly introduced in the workforce. This is seen through Sherman’s use of landscape, spacial placement, and facial expression.
Gonzalez-Torres piece, “Perfect Lovers,” drastically altered the intended purpose of art through empowering the role of the viewer. The piece, which is composed of two poorly manufactured analog clocks, is representative of a shared connection between two individuals. Each clock, which start in-sync, overtime develop its own unique rhythm, until one of the two clocks inevitably stops completely. While this piece was made in regard to AIDS crisis of the 80’s it has applications to many intimate relationships. The brilliance of this piece is the ability it gives viewers to apply their own personal significance to the clocks. Audience members can project their familial, sexual, and martial, etc, relationships on the art piece. Yet, even with such a wide-range of relationships, the piece synthesizes the most basic nature of all human interaction: the unavoidable separation that occurs between two people. Whether the cause of this disconnection be a falling out, or break-up, or death, all human attachments are limited affairs, and our lives, although momentarily in-sync with another being’s, are inevitably an isolated experience with a unique unforgeable rhythm. As an artist with a large audience, Torres is unable to connect with the personal stories of all his viewers. To capture viewers so persuasively Torres relinquished his power as an artist, and rather then introduce his own narrative he let viewers to find their own story within the art piece. This newfound relationship between artist and viewer revolutionized the very purpose of art itself. Art no longer became a platform for artists to air their own unique experiences, but rather it became a means for which creators could identify a minute part of humane nature (in this case relationships/separation) and allow viewers to cast their own personal experiences to fit that basic quality of human existence. Torres made art about a network of humanity, connecting the vast breeds of relationships by a single thread. Although this piece emphasized autonomy, it undoubtedly exhibited the interconenctive features present in all beings.