The New ICP : Still the house that Capa built?

The legacy of social consciousness through photography was a cornerstone of ICP, created by Cornell Capa in NYC.
Once housed way upper East Side in a mansion, then moved to mid-town, and now, its new iteration is right on one of the most historic streets in NYC: Bowery!

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So, what’s different? Well, a lot, and yet the DNA is the same.
From the outside, you can see the floor to ceiling glass walls with an inviting cafe as soon as you go through the door.
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Plus there are huge community work tables, so you can hang, have a snack, contact the world with some free wi-fi. At the same time you are surrounded by current photographic experiences covering the walls.
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The new bookstore stocks more bespoke,small press type publications, as opposed to the range in the old ICP, which contained some of these type of pubs, but went up to high-end limited edition book. And they convinced Sarah Goldberg, one of the most knowledgable, and friendly people, to come back and run the store.
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OK, so the vibe walking in is wholly different, and a way more modern approach from the previous space.
The current exhibit, Public, Private, Secret, curated by Charlotte Cotton, begins with a combination of slide shows and film, bringing up the world of social media, and what becomes our combined messaging.
“The real beauty of the time we’re living through is that we can deploy our self-image in ways that can have radical social implications.”
– Charlotte Cotton, Surveillance Revisited, Guernica

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Between the 2 initial exhibition pieces, is a mirrored walkway so you immediately get into the “look at me, look at you” vibe.
No, it’s not Cartier-Bresson, but more on that in a bit.
So that’s the upstairs.
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The downstairs space has been brilliantly curated to lead the viewer through various stages of communicative transparency, over the last century, although the primary focus (sorry) is from mid-century on.
One of my favorite series was a live streaming, live curated, set of monitors, that centers on specific topics: celebrity, lost persons, hotness, outward contact by social media stars, and morality
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There are square monitors that deliver current messaging, and is a living piece of art.
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Created by Mark Ghunheim, who comes from the world of media analytics, curating on-line messages and mentions for clients, he and his team have now used that skill set to create fluid installations that reflect what is going on now. Like, right now. Brilliant! Deserves multiple visits for this alone.

In a hi-tech examination of a woman stretching, you get to hear her thoughts as you watch her, via headsets.
Incredibly high quality CG images.
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yes, there are some vintage images:
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WeeGee is tucked into a corner as wallpaper, but don’t fret – they have a full exhibition of his work, at their Jersey City location.

And a series of salon cards:
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Another highlight is a grouping of stills from the classic movie Blow-Up.
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The series are the images the protagonist shot, almost by accident, of a possible crime scene, that he illuminates the details by yes, blowing up the images. Note that this series as well, is pinned up by push pins on the wall.
The mix of the precious photographic sensibility, and the lo-key mounting of the exhibit, is art of the new wave, according to Charlotte Cotton, it seems.
Please also see her curated show at the Aperture Gallery “Photography is Magic”

I don’t mean to bury the lead, as it were, as I’ve walked you through some first impressions of the current exhibit.
The fact is that this new look at photography will make many classicists angry. No doubt.
This is not the show of reverence of the Sebastio Salagado massive images. Nor the show of Robert Capa color images. (showing in another ICP venue)
Or even the found Mexican Suitcase images.(also now showing at another venue)
It’s new. and current. and relates to our lives today.
Don’t be afraid.
The directors of the ICP know that it is a bold move, they have even scheduled upcoming exhibits that may be an easier transition for you.
They also have other venues.
Next summer, there is an exhibit called Magnum Manifesto, and you can’t get more classic than that.
Earlier this year, the Tisch at NYU exhibited a retrospective of Robert Frank’s work, all printed on newsprint and pinned to the walls. The concept of showing the images in that manner, took away the fragile, highly insured, rare silver prints, and concentrated on the message of the images. Up for only a short time, it was taken down and burned at the close. The catalog was a Steidl printed newspaper, which sold for $5.
The new show at ICP takes this concept to the next level.

As I mentioned in the very beginning of this post, the apparent message of the original ICP, was one of a social commentary brought forth by the still image.
The art form is shifting, while keeping it’s base.
Embrace this show and it’s concept, as that is how we move the power of photography forward.

A note for those, like myself, who also love the masters, and appreciate our collective visual histories, there are currently incredible groundbreaking exhibits on view now, that will inevitably travel.
Or get the catalogs, all of which are beautifully printed.I’d say buy from the museums, for support,but we all know that Amazon has the best deals. I mix it up. Sometime after seeing a show, I want to do a deep dive and dig in right after the viewing, so purchase from the gift shop on site.
Diane Arbus at the Met Breuer
Danny Lyon at the Whitney
Nan Goldin at MOMA

Mix it up. Enjoy the new work, and try to get your head wrapped around it. Do I love it all? No.
Am I challenged by it? Sometimes. And that’s a good thing.

250 Bowery
New York, NY 10012

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