Nicholas Nixon: the story of time in images

Nicholas Nixon. “Hyde Park Avenue, Boston”, 1982.

 

 

The exhibition puts together more than 200 images representing the whole career of this author, born in Detroit in 1947. Nixon became internationally famous for his work dedicated to “The Brown Sisters”. Throughout four decades, the photographer captured how years passed by in this family, from 1975 to 2014, condensing this way two of the main topics that interest him the most: time and human emotion.

 

 

Nicholas Nixon. “The Brown Sisters”, 2007.

 

 

The interest in these issues is clear in many other works by this author. The exhibition gathers a sample very representative of this evolution, which initiated in the mid-70’s. Nixon captures with great talent the emotion on faces by using grand format cameras that forced him to stay very close to the people he portrayed. This relation of proximity, based on the confidence and the intimacy, appears in his pictures. The straightforward, sincere and naked looks that welcome the visitor are the result of an unhurried, meditated and careful work with which Nixon built up a whole discourse upon the passing of time.

 

 

Nicholas Nixon. “View of Turnpike Entrance, Boston”, 1976.

 

 

Nixon achieved a significant recognition at the beginning of his career with his works of urban photography. His participation in the exhibition “New Topographics”, with images of Boston and New York, placed him within the panorama of photographers of reference into the second half of the 20th century. The qualitative leap in his career took place from 1975 onwards when he moved with his family to Boston, a moment when he also started his teaching path at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, in the same city.

 

Nicholas Nixon. “F.K., Boston”, 1984.

 

 

The current exhibition offers a tour through his work from the first moments, going from the urban photography to the portraits, gender that has especially characterised this author. This is the perfect opportunity to go deeper into the personal universe of his models, captured without reservations or boundaries.

 

Among the specialised professional profiles that we find in the cultural sector, and more specifically, in the field of visual arts, one of the most recent occupations is that of the curator. The ‘80s put attention on the role of the artist, with its innovative character and the enhancement of its figure as an essential articulator of creative proposals, while the end of the century moved the interest towards the exhibition centres themselves and their work as custodians of current production and as spaces to accommodate all proposals. The change of millennium strongly introduced in this panorama the role of the curator. Perhaps together with a social identity crisis, perhaps with the complexity that contemporary projects are currently acquiring, the need for building, articulating and delving into artistic discourses became evident.

Although the functions entrusted to this profession are not entirely new, since previously they belonged to conservatives, critics or experts according to the themes, the role has gained solidity because it combines all these purposes while allowing the specialisation of other professionals in their fields of competence. Now, as some curators themselves point out, the genuine spirit of this figure, who was born to facilitate the understanding of the discourse, create narratives within a sometimes chaotic and scattered context, mediate between the works and the spectator and create bridges between contemporary art and society.

The art of our day raises a multitude of unknowns for the visitor who must face proposals many times away from the aesthetic standards, which gives way to uncertainty and confusion; but, in turn, these works employ a closer language, materials and even compositions detached from the sophistication and the technical display of yesteryear, something that, far from favouring proximity to the message, generates some distancing. What we have just described is part of the very essence of current art. The questioning of the formalist guidelines and the recourse to tangible elements that are more utilitarian than embellishing are the new criteria of creation, where, above all, the message to be conveyed stands out.

Likewise, another inherent characteristic of the work of our time is the artists' concern for more immediate themes, for social, political and economic issues that seek to create a narrative and conceptual revulsion, leaving behind the aesthetic priority or, rather, making of the message its own aesthetic. In this context, strange as it may seem, contemporary creation encounters a linguistic barrier hindering the viewer's understanding. And to this circumstance, the abundant current production is added, covering a wide range of themes that are nothing more than a transcript of our diverse and globalised society.

The curator helps to facilitate this understanding by articulating a coherent discourse that allows the grouping of related ideas to set up the message. This requires to have an in-depth knowledge of the current state of the art, the lines of work of the creators, the most recent aesthetic proposals and the real demands of society to bridge the dialogue and allow the approach to art. If art deals with the same issues that concern us all, how can we not share its postulates? Cultural mediation requires the work of the curators to open a small window for reflection and to enable a space for exchange and idea generation. We share the thought that José Guirao expressed in a recent interview: "The curator is someone who reveals something new, and it would be a mistake for curators to become managers."

Understood this way curator’s role, many institutions have joined the trend of creating specific calls for new professionals to give light to their proposals. Let us remember, as an example, the call "Unpublished" of La Casa Encendida, or "Curator wanted", of the Community of Madrid or the call of Curating of La Caixa.