Assistant Photography & Film Professor Brian Ulrich presents two exhibitions at the VCU Anderson Gallery, and a lecture Jan 30th.
Copia—Retail, Thrift and Dark Stores, 2001-2011
January 18—March 10, 2013
Artist Lecture: Jan. 30th, 5:30-6:30PM
This exhibition features 58 color photographs from Brian Ulrich’s Copia series (2001-2011), a three-part project that confronts viewers with an in-depth examination of consumerism in American culture. Initially using a handheld camera with the view finder at waist level, Ulrich remained anonymous while documenting shoppers engrossed in navigating the abundance of goods found in vast enclosed malls and big box stores. The second phase focuses on thrift stores, the collecting places for discarded and unwanted consumer products, yet a primary destination for a growing segment of the United State’s population. The concluding group features haunting images of the impact of the 2008 financial crisis, highlighted by the exteriors and interiors of dark stores, ghost boxes, and dead malls.
Close Out—Retail Relics and Ephemera
January 18-March 10, 2013
Opening January 18, 5-7 pm
From January 18 to March 10, 2013, VCUarts Anderson Gallery will present Close Out: Retail Relics and Ephemera, an exhibition of objects and images culled from photographer Brian Ulrich’s vast personal archive of retail artifacts. It appears on the gallery’s first floor in conjunction with Copia—Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores, 2001-11, an exhibition of Ulrich’s decade-long examination of the American consumer psyche organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art. Both exhibitions will open with a public reception on Friday evening, January 18, from 5 to 7 pm.
Although Ulrich included several items from his collection with his own photographs in his solo show at Julie Saul Gallery last spring, this presentation offers the first in-depth look at his collecting activities relative to his overall artistic practice. “It also extends the narrative arc of his Copia project by making clear that what he began to document in 2001 has a much longer history,” notes Anderson Gallery Director and exhibition curator Ashley Kistler. A limited-edition artist book will accompany the exhibition.
The compulsion to collect physical things, Urich observes, grew out of the act of making photographs. “After spending countless hours trying to photograph a sign on a long-abandoned mall, I concluded that while the 8×10 camera really does bring about dramatic transformations, some subjects test its limits. It simply seemed to make more sense to move the sign itself,” he continues, “which set in motion a succinct attention to the artifact.” Pictured at left, an electric sign rescued from the now-demolished Belz Factory Outlet Mall outside of Dallas will illuminate the gallery’s façade.
Among other items salvaged by Ulrich and featured in Close Out are images from an extensive newspaper cache of negatives documenting the Great Prosperity, the post-World War II period of unprecedented prosperity for America’s middle class. “I consider these images a prequel to my own work,” he says. Ulrich reedits, reprints, and assembles this found material to underscore a historical narrative that reflects the era’s burgeoning investment and faith in a consumer-driven culture. Elsewhere in the exhibition, a large group of Polaroids of shoplifters and related material scavenged from the demolition of Richmond’s Cloverleaf Mall evokes one consequence as income disparities climbed to new levels during the 1980s and 90s.
Close Out also includes an installation of aluminum door pulls from long forgotten retailer Montgomery Ward; 1970s price label sheets from the former Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois; architect’s renderings and plans; and a myriad of other paper ephemera. A tape machine manufactured by Customusic, one of Muzak’s competitors, will provide the exhibition’s musical backdrop.