By NAR Editorial Team
I Thought About Posting This will run from February 13th February 17th at Congruent Space, located at 1216 W Grand Ave. Opening reception Friday, February 15th, from 6-10pm (open bar). For more information, follow Josh Aronson on Instagram @jda.usa and Congruent Space @congruentspace.
It’s probably a little tiresome to talk about Andy Warhol right now. As the recent subject of a blockbuster retrospective at the Whitney, a mass-market fashion collaboration staple (hi, Calvin Klein undies) and the newest spokesman for Burger King, Warhol has seemingly never been so ubiquitous in contemporary pop culture.
Many critics have ascribed his recent surge in popularity to the ways in which his work seems to capture the realities of our overloaded media landscape. Andy eagerly blurred the boundaries between pop and personal, fame and infamy, commodity and art (to which his stratospheric auction prices continue to attest). His silkscreen repetitions of popular imagery, ranging from transcendent celebrities like Marilyn Monroe to mundane foodstuffs like Campbell’s Soup, seem to echo today’s content feeds—entities that allow for the mindless consumption of endless image. That many such feeds have been covertly co-opted by major corporations through influencer campaigns and sponsored posts would probably delight Warhol.
Has this Warholian era of photography undermined its value as an artistic medium? Does the blurring of the medium’s commercial and artistic boundaries create a crisis of identity for photography? That is, when everyone has professional-grade cameras in their pockets, how do we define the line between amateur and professional? Or, should we just be happy such distinctions are now arbitrary? Why even go to a photography show at all when you could just look at other people’s Instagram galleries?
Northwestern alumnus Joshua Aronson’s new show I Thought About Posting This raises these questions. His photographs explore the tenuous relationship between photography and its representation of contemporary identity in our image-saturated moment.
Since leaving campus, Aronson has worked with luxury fashion brands like Off-White and SSENSE and publications including the New York Times, Garage Magazine, and Dazed Digital. Now based in Brooklyn, Aronson grew up in Miami, where he got his first professional opportunities taking pictures of his friends, many of them musicians and artists themselves. Ahead of I Thought About Posting This’ opening at the conceptual Chicago gallery and retail platform Congruent Space next week, Northwestern Art Review caught up with Aronson to chat about how he tackled post-grad life, the challenges of capturing intimacy in photography, and his plans for this inaugural United States solo exhibition.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity)
Can you tell us how you got into photography and share any insights for other Northwestern students who are pursuing a career in the arts?
What lead me to photography is filmmaking. Growing up, I never wanted to be a photographer. I always saw myself as a filmmaker. For me, making films was like being in a relationship. You cared for your movies, you worked on them day in and day out. Sometimes you’d spend months and months making a film. Other times, years. Photography, on the other hand, was really more like a one-night stand. It was quick. It felt good, and you could be out by morning. The way I stopped making films and started taking photographs was by looking at the pace of the life I was living, and realizing that where I was at the time was much more suited to the immediacy of a one-night stand than it was to dating. So I started taking more photographs, and thinking about photography in a new way.
For students who are pursuing a career in the arts, my advice is this: spend less time focusing on technique and equipment, and more time focusing on perspective. Who are you, as a filmmaker or photographer or creative person? What perspective are you adding? And what is it you want to say? Once you’ve found your vision, you’ll find it easy to apply that to any medium—photography, film, etc. Use school as a time to find your thing.
What made you want to come back to the Chicago area for a show after previously exhibiting in Russia and in group shows in Miami, London and Los Angeles?
An Instagram DM. I love the idea of doing something because it could only happen right now. Only in 2019 could we put on a show via Instagram DM. That, and this being my first time back in Chicago since graduating, the lead up felt right to me.
Where do you see the role of photography in our current moment? Where is the line between photography as social media content and its role as an artistic medium?
I don’t believe there is a line. I believe there are norms, things historically conditioned to look and feel ‘right’. But it’s important to consider those photographs, and where they’re being displayed, that don’t exactly feel ‘right’. Just because something doesn’t fit into our preconditioned norms doesn’t mean it’s not valid as a photograph, and so on and so on.
Everybody’s worried about how to stop social media from replacing reality. Well, there’s really an easy way: don’t let it. Images are supposed to represent things, document the world and point to ideas. Don’t let images be things, your world and ideas. There’s a radical difference, and with this in mind, we can better understand the role of photography right now.
What should we expect to see at I Thought About Posting This? How’d you end up with that title?
New images. New ideas. New throughlines. I’m interested in this grey area, this in between space where I feel my friends and I are floating about today. We’re neither pink nor blue, not black nor white, or left nor right. We’re somewhere in between. It’s in that twilight zone space where I hope to make pictures, and where the show came to be. I’m finding that reflecting this twilight zone in pictures demands a certain subtlety. Hence, the title—I Thought About Posting This—because some subtleties can only be perceived in real life, beyond the digital screen.