“Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection” features approximately 110 photographs made by some of the pre-eminent artists working in photography this past century from the dynamic collection of San Francisco native Trevor Traina. The collection appears at the de Young Museum, June 9 to Sept. 16.
Mixing rare black-and-white vintage prints of classic images by Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand with luscious, eye-popping works in color by artists ranging from Stephen Shore and William Eggleston to Cindy Sherman, Alec Soth and Andreas Gursky, “Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection” celebrates photography’s fundamental richness and plasticity.
Curated by art historian Kevin Moore, who also served as an advisor to Traina on the collection, and founding curator of photography and chief administrative curator at the Fine Arts Museums Julian Cox, “Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection” examines different historical understandings of Realism and its changing definitions over time.
It demonstrates photography’s singular, unbreakable connection to the real world, which remains part of its undeniable allure.
Photography’s ever shifting status as an art form is full of twists and turns, and there have never been so many creative talents involved in the medium as there are today.
“Contemporary photographs,” remarked Moore, “are tricky concoctions … Particularly today, in an ultra-mediated culture of tepid Facebook friendships and corporate propaganda and political spin and industrially manufactured foods, the desire to cut through the layers separating us from the real is more urgent then ever. Photography has no claim on the real and never did, except insofar as we insist, that we see our version of the real in it.”
While the core of the Traina collection embraces the documentary impulse in photography, it also tracks the medium’s full-blooded absorption into the world of contemporary art.
Presented in four thematic sections, “Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection” delves into the richness and depth of the Traina collection, positing a playfully unexpected view of the history of photography from the 1950s to the present.
“A photograph is a slippery, ambiguous social construct,” Julian Cox commented, “and it can convey much more than the story it may seem to tell. The Traina collection traffics in this inbuilt ambiguity and unleashes the viewer on a visual and sensory odyssey that has no fixed result.”
On June 8, the de Young presents a public program, “Playing the Field: Photography and Collecting Today,” a discussion with “Real to Real” curators Cox, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Kevin Moore, art historian and advisor for the Traina Collection and artists Daniel Lefcourt and Alec Soth. The program is 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the de Young’s Koret Auditorium.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has published an accompanying book for the “Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection” exhibition. Featuring over 85 plates, the 135-page book includes a foreword and introduction by Cox, as well as an essay by Moore.