The Easel

22nd December 2020

Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern

Despite opening and closing in a flash, this show impressed the few quick critics, one saying “Muholi is breaking ground like no other”. Her “gripping” art is portraiture, some personal, some “communal” in defense of the LGBTQ minority. That produces a salient judgement in a year replete with politically infused art: “Obviously, this event did not set out to prove that communality improves life and diminishes art. But that is what it does.”

Attention Servicemember

What is truth in war? Brody has published a book on Iraq and Afghanistan. He explains how, as an armed forces photographer, his images were used selectively to build optimism and downplay brutality. As an independent photojournalist, Brody frets his images misrepresent soldiers, making them seem “one dimensional superheroes”? Of course, truth is often elusive; as George Orwell wrote “all art is propaganda”.

Struth’s unpeopled photos evoke the loneliness of urban life

A meditation on urban life. Thomas Struth’s photographs of empty streets are acclaimed. What is their allure? Crowded streets sometimes convey “the evidence of people, but no real community”. When empty, New York’s streets show that city “was never a gentle place … What’s revealed is an intrinsic feeling of abandonment that exists below the surface of all human spaces.”