Reviewed June 2014
Mary Wassermann, Librarian for Collection Development
Philadelphia Museum of Art
AMERICAN SUBURB X / ASX was launched by California photographer Douglas Rickard in 2008 as “…an ever-growing archive and fiercely edited look at photography’s always relevant past, rapidly shifting present and dramatically unfolding future.” Rickard and Jose Manuel Suarez of Dalpine, a firm for independently published books based in Madrid, designed the site.
Rickard (b. 1968), is represented in modern collections, including LACMA and SFMOMA. He received media attention in 2012 for his explorations of Google Maps’ Street View, exhibited in several venues asA New American Picture. Rickard has another project, T.A., or These Americans that, at times, permeates the ASX site. This reviewer was, somewhat confusingly, linked to T.A. from the email sign-up confirmation for ASX News. T.A. resembles a Pinterest page and leans heavily on imagery drawn from pulp fiction and soft porn.
ASX has several pull-down categories: Subscribe, Artists, Browse, and Galleries that point to content culled from multiple sources, including published articles and reviews, some of which are contributed solely to the site.
There is a page stating that ASX “accepts submissions of books and portfolios” but it does not clearly indicate submissions would be for review. The Subscribe option allows syndicated content to be delivered to your web-based e-reader (such as Google+) via Feedburner, or you can view the same new content under the Subscribe category.
The Artist section lists about 165 photographers along with other artists, alphabetically by first name, and is international in scope. A sequence in “G” includes Gary Winograd, Gerhard Richter, Graciela Iturbide and Gregory Crewdson. There are plenty of lesser-known artists, such as Joachim Brohm and Helen Levitt. Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama’s page includes a 1999 exhibition review from Art in America, a book review and a few other journal reprints.The bulk of offerings for Moriyama, and throughout the site, are video clips tagged as ASX.TV (which was its own category in earlier versions of ASX).
ASX.TV clips are primarily video art or documentary features. The clips about Moriyama substitute for the lack of a biography on his page; some, but not all, artists represented on ASX have brief biographical information.
The Galleries section is not about venues, but a grid of titled image entry points to artist or theme pages (such as Walker Evans: Polaroids)serving to direct the user visually rather than by the text-based Artist and Browse categories.
The Browse section groups entries under a list of mediums, movements, and themes (Polaroid, pop art, portraiture, provocation…). Some pages are sparsely populated, or will intrigue rather than inform. Surrealism pairs icons of the movement (Man Ray and Brassai), with the Kentucky photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard. If Meatyard’s masked portraits have not previously fallen under the canon of Surrealism, it is an interesting juxtaposition.
During this review process, ASX was simplified, proving a nice improvement. One concern remains in that content is sometimes devoid of explanation or credits. The aforementioned Walker Evans: Polaroids page shows only images that carry no further information, so context is lacking.
While ASX is not a comprehensive site, it is a fun and insightful gateway to photography and its interactions with art in other mediums. The eclectic blend of older, scholarly content with web-based sources and current commentary is to Rickard’s credit, when one considers the myriad of less-ambitious sites from which to choose. And many photo sites mix history with technique and equipment promotion. ASX avoids this and is devoted to the end product, what people are thinking about and doing with photography. Its inclusion of greats like Dorothea Lange and Candida Hofer brings a broader perspective than sites, such as Flakphoto.com, that are focused primarily on promoting new work. ASX does include content for mature audiences and is not recommended for the K-12 set.