Review: Richard McCabe curates sprawling exhibit of Southern photography

Susan Worsham

Marine, Hotel near airport, Richmond, VA, 2009

Photo courtesy of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art


The largest photography exhibition to date at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, this sprawling “New Southern Photography” show, curated by Richard McCabe, features diverse yet cohesive images by 25 emerging and mid-career Southern artists. Presented as a series of photographic essays reflecting the contemporary cultural paradoxes that define the former Confederate states, the works pick up where we were left by the often deeply psychological pioneers of New South photographic modernism, such as William Eggleston, Sally Mann and William Christenberry. Alabama native Celestia Morgan's “Redline” series adopts a postmodern socioeconomic approach by juxtaposing geometric maplike shapes in the sky with photographs of crumbling old houses in neighborhoods that were “red-lined” — a discriminatory banking practice of denying loans based on demographics. Many of Morgan's house portraits evoke an elegiac pathos that recalls the poignant sense of abandonment conveyed by 1930s social documentary maestros Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange.


Nancy Newberry's portraits of stereotypical Texans in cowboy hats, Mexicans in sombreros and flashy marching band majorettes convey the self-conscious social constructs of times and places that tend to confuse style with character. Elizabeth Bick's distinctive formalistic approach depicts pedestrians navigating Houston's austere architectural canyons as figures in a kind of complicated visual “street ballet.” Andrew Moore's “Zydeco Zinger” view of a ravaged carousel in the post-Hurricane Katrina flooded ruins of the Six Flags New Orleans amusement park in New Orleans East recalls Victorian travelogue photography's eerie sense of wonder. A similar, near-preternatural quality of presence often seen in the photographic portraits of a period when long exposure times were the norm surfaces in Susan Worsham's “Marine” (pictured), a mysterious image so simple yet fully realized that it seems timeless despite its 2009 vintage. Likewise, Louviere + Vanessa's “Resonantia” series of musical notes rendered as gold leaf photo-mandalas recall Nikola Tesla's 19th-century cyclotron experiments in a vision of time where past and present are as interwoven as the interplay of dark and light in a photographic image.


Through March 10, 2019. Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., (504) 539-9650;


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