October 2014

Matthew, 1965 © Kenneth Josephson.

Tell us what you think about this picture.

The Playful Wonder of Kenneth Josephson

Look at almost any Kenneth Josephson photo from the 1960s, and you want to giggle. Or scratch your head. Or giggle and scratch your head. They’re witty and puckish and weird, signatured by a meta use of snapshots that questions the image and medium itself. Matthew is no exception. Here, Josephson’s son is holding an upside-down Polaroid of himself. What do we do with it, besides smile quizzically?

Josephson’s photographs evoke the work of Rene Magritte. Visual tricksters, both artists relish in taking quotidian objects and making them strange. We may not always get what’s going on in their images, but we get that there’s a meaning to get. Like Magritte, Josephson is fascinated by perspective. In several photos, his arm holds a ruler on a vast and distant landscape, its size rendered teeny-weeny, its sublimity stripped, by the rudeness of the gesture. Viewing them, we understand how…