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Starburst: Colour photography in America 1970–1980

Kevin Moore ed., Starburst: Colour photography in America 1970–1980, exh. cat. Cincinnati Art Museum, 2010, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern.

Starburst: Colour photography in America 1970–1980 is the catalogue of an exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum in 2010. The 1970s saw a grudging acceptance of colour photography in the art world. The process was difficult because colour seemed to accentuate surfaces in images, and this superficiality gave a new—and for some unwelcome—kind of innocence to the representation of American society. Suburbia, fashion, gardens and landscapes, and material culture captivated the eye for a decade. Colouring was often not subtle. The popular taste for fuschia, orange, and aqua now seems faintly ridiculous, like the fashion for pale blue eye shadow.

Astutely, the curatorship here leavens the truly mundane with the haunting emptiness of William Eggleston, the proto-punk nude photography of Les Krims, the incipient Postmodernism of Robert Heinecken’s appropriation of advertising imagery, and the understated social observation of Mitch Epstein, Helen Levitt, and Neal Slavin. Essays by the principle author Kevin Moore and Leo Rubinfein explain these phenomena, and an essay by James Crump gives an account of what was to settle out of this tidal wave of colour, even as it was overtaken by the cooler, slicker, and more disengaged 1980s.

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