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Milwaukee Art Museum Presents Taryn Simon. Photographs and Texts

The Milwaukee Art Museum presents Taryn Simon: Photographs and Texts on view through January 1, 2012.

Taryn Simon, Larry Mayes. Scene of arrest, The Royal Inn, Gary, Indiana, Police found Mayes hiding beneath a mattress in this room, Served 18.5 years of an 80-year sentence for Rape, Robbery and Unlawful Deviate Conduct, 2002. Chromogenic print, 48 x 62 in. © Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Taryn Simon’s ambitious works are the result of a long process of research and investigation. Her photographs and writings underscore the invisible space between the visual world and language—a space in which translation and disorientation continually occur.

This exhibition features a selection of works from Simon’s major projects from 2002 to 2010. The Innocents (2002) questions photography’s function as a credible eyewitness and arbiter of justice through portraits of individuals who were convicted of violent crimes they did not commit. An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007) comprises photographs and texts revealing objects and sites that are integral to America’s foundation, mythology, or daily functioning but remain inaccessible or unknown to the public. The fourth body of work, Contraband (2010), consists of 1,075 images depicting items detained or seized from passengers entering the United States from abroad over a five-day period, indexed and installed according to their official classification.

By drawing attention to the complex relationship between visual and verbal details, these series underscore habits of inference and judgment. As the operation of civil institutions and the circulation of information become increasingly image-dependent, the concepts of access, knowledge, interpretation, and truth are frequently conflated. Simon’s art acknowledges this and the fallacy of comprehension that photographs invite.

Lower image: Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility, Cherenkov Radiation, Hanford Site, U.S. Department of Energy, Southeastern Washington State, 2005/2007. Chromogenic print, 37 ¼ x 44 ½ in.© Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

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