Commodities, Traders: Ron Jude and Milton Rogovin
April 8 - May 26, 2017
Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce Commodities, Traders, a two-person exhibition of photographs by Ron Jude and Milton Rogovin. Jude’s series of color photographs Executive Model, which depicts closely cropped views of men’s backs in formal business attire in several financial districts, is paired with Rogovin’s highly specific black and white photographs of coal miners and their families from around the world. For this unlikely presentation of artists from different generations, Rogovin’s photographs will be arranged around the main part of the gallery primarily by region and Jude’s photographs will be placed in a borderline claustrophobic line along the back wall of the gallery behind the front desk. This spatial arrangement heightens the readings of the individuals on view—visible and engaged as opposed to turned away and mysterious. The exhibition comes at a turbulent and unpredictable time in American life when the workers of shrinking industries are being made questionable promises by the president while financial markets are performing at record highs.
Rogovin started making photographs of miners in Appalachia in the 1960s, in the tradition of Lewis Hine, Jacob Riis and Walker Evans and with strong Photo League influences. He continued that work, and by the end of the 1980s expanded his interest in miners internationally. Rogovin’s travels reflect the currents of globalization that intensified in the 1980s. The international workforce shown would have started to undercut the wages of workers back in the United States. The portraits are contextual with the grimy setting clearly shown with the worker often placed in the center of the frame. Their faces are typically covered in soot, rendering their identities subsumed by their occupation. The photographs of the miners with their families offer a counterpoint to lives outside the mine, and are highly empathetic works of art.
Jude’s Executive Model portrays its subjects in an opaque manner. This opacity corresponds to the vagaries of high level financial trading to those outside the world of finance. Jude made the work by following businessmen, usually unnoticed, around Wall Street and its correlates around the country. The men loom large in the frame, matching the partial views of skyscrapers around them. Jude’s project echoes Vito Acconci’s Following Piece (1969), and in the repetition of the business suit, typologies by the Bechers. There is a narrow range of individuality that these men express, usually marked by the presence or absence of pinstripes, slightly different haircuts, and shades of fabric between dark navy and black. As unidentifiable as these men are, the viewer has little idea as to what they actually do. The unaccountability takes on an eerie dimension.
The differences between the two projects are numerous, in form and content, but those differences belie the deep connections between the lives of coal miners and those who work in the financial sector. Curiously, despite the contemporary feel of Jude’s work, it was made in the early 1990s, shortly after Rogovin had concluded photographing miners and other workers in the late 1980s. This contiguity of timing speaks to a kind of break or passing between types of economies, from a market of industrial products to a market of information or even financial products themselves. 1980 marked the year of peak coal industry employment in the United States and the beginning of accelerated neo-liberalization under President Ronald Reagan. While the government is often seen as antagonizing the coal industry, any examination of the matter makes it clear that coal is simply being outperformed and undercut by natural gas on the commodities market. Despite all appearances and the changes in the industries shown, Rogovin’s miners are linked by the market to Jude’s anonymous moneymen.
The exhibition will open on April 8 and will run through May 26, 2017. For more information about the exhibition or artists, please call (310) 453-0043.
Ron Jude (b. 1965, Los Angeles) lives and works in Eugene, Oregon, where he is a professor of photography at the University of Oregon. Ron Jude’s photographs have been exhibited at venues such as The J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), The Sheldon Museum of Art (Lincoln), The Photographers’ Gallery (London), Daugeu Cultural Center (Daugeu, South Korea), Proekt_Fabrika (Moscow) and Roth/Horowitz Gallery (New York). Jude is the co-founder of A-Jump Books and the author of Alpine Star, Postcards, Other Nature and emmett. Lago was published by MACK Books in 2015. MACK is also publishing his forthcoming book Nausea.
Milton Rogovin (b. 1909, Brooklyn, d. 2011, Buffalo) has photographs in the permanent collections of the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He has exhibited extensively at several of the aforementioned institutions and elsewhere, such as the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo. The Library of Congress acquired the artist’s archive, including all of his negatives, in 1999. In 2009, the artist was nominated for a National Medal of Arts. The artist passed away at the age of 101 in 2011 at his home in Buffalo.