A critical mass of artists emerging in the ‘70s whose work responded to image saturation in the media and everyday life -- among them Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince -- came to be known as the Pictures Generation.
It could be argued that, thanks to the kudzu-like claims of the World Wide Web, every generation of artists since then, by default if not by conscious embrace, has been a pictures generation.
The designation is a natural fit for Matt Lipps, whose show, “Library,” at Marc Selwyn, addresses head-on the centrality of photographic imagery to our collective history and memory.
For this series the L.A. and San Francisco-based artist has culled images -- instructional to iconic -- from a multi-volume Time-Life series on photography published in 1970-72. He created black-and-white, paper-doll-like cutouts from the pictures and assembled them on glass shelves, like books in a library but even more like a collection of mementos or bibelots in a china cabinet. A single color photograph by Lipps provides the backdrop to each multi-shelf tableau.
Lipps turns the subject of each given photograph into a literal object, staging a kind of paper theater with loose coherence along the themes of exploration, reportage, nature and photography itself.
Scale is skewed and time is flattened. A reflexive game of who’s who recognition (There’s an August Sander! And there’s a Harold Edgerton!) offers some pleasure. As does the evolving awareness that this may be an exercise in taxonomy and archive-building, but it is also, and most engagingly, an idiosyncratic, fractured form of storytelling.
Marc Selwyn Fine Art, 6222 Wilshire Blvd., (323) 933-9911, through Dec. 22. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.marcselwynfineart.com