In Daniel Lefcourt’s Arrangement series, composite photographs from 2004-5, the artist arrays a multifarious collection of texts, images and objects in precisely ordered compositions that interrogate how a world can be compressed into a single image. The Arrangement series is rife with “tautological references” to image-making and image solving: they tinker with perspectival conventions and the effects of trompe l’oeil to prod what is real and what is artifice, and why we might value one over the other.

The Redwood’s summer 2023 exhibition, The Order of Things, departs from Lefcourt’s signature Arrangements to explore more broadly how photographs reveal the way that we think about and structure the world at specific moments in history. The exhibition is titled for Michel Foucault’s 1966 book, Les mots et les choses, translated as The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, where he proposed that the epistemic assumptions of a time and place can be read through the ways that we choose to pattern or arrange ideas, whether through perspectival modes of painting, structuring metaphors of language, or dominant scientific paradigms.

All photographs are “arranged,” but some highlight their compositional structure to strongly proclaim a certain order as crucial to their meaning. Whether Walker Evans’ tightly cropped showbill fragments, Roe Etheridge’s striations of text, or Ryan McGInley’s vertiginous perspectives, certain photographers order “things” in the visual field to articulate a specific understanding of the modern and contemporary world. The exhibition is drawn from the collection of Trevor Traina, the foremost private collection of contemporary photography in the US today.

The word “arrangement” only came into usage in the late eighteenth century – soon after the establishment of the Redwood – and its coining reflects the Enlightenment’s modern, secular effort to rationally systematize the chaos of the universe through dictionaries, maps, or libraries. On the occasion of the Redwood’s 275th anniversary, Lefcourt has revisited his iconic Arrangement series from two decades ago to create a new composite photograph that meditates on the Redwood, its archives, and the idiosyncrasies of collecting. This exhibition, curated by the artist Daniel Lefcourt and writer Leora Maltz-Leca, contextualizes Lefcourt’s new commission alongside his original Arrangement photographsIt also features a dazzling selection of the work of sixteen other photographers from the iconic collection of Trevor Traina, including photographs by Walker Evans, William Eggleston, and Lee Friedlander, alongside contemporary artists like Alec Soth, Andreas Gursky and Christopher Williams.

Van Alen Gallery

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