On now: Susan Meiselas at SFMOMA, San Francisco

By Martin Herbert

Susan Meiselas, Youths practice throwing contact bombs in forest surrounding Monimbo, from the series Nicaragua, 1978. © Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos


A positive side effect of the all-bets-off approach to museum curating these days is shows like Susan Meiselas’s Mediations, a survey of the intrepid Magnum photojournalist’s work since the 1970s. Among the Baltimorean’s name-making early works, précising her widescreen empathy, were photographs of New England carnival strippers and their raw milieu shot from 1972 to 1975 and her images of conflict-racked Nicaragua and El Salvador during the 70s and 80s. (Typically both indelible and off-the-cuff is Meiselas’s 1979 Molotov Man, a Sandinista torso-twisting like an Ancient Greek athlete, rifle in one hand and Molotov cocktail made from a Pepsi bottle in the other.) For almost two decades from the early 1990s, meanwhile, Meiselas photographed in Kurdistan, firstly after being struck by the plight of the Kurds in the first Gulf War and later travelling deep into Kurdistan and its history, creating a layered, informative tableau aimed at human connection. Expect questions of whether this is art, and whether that matters, to evaporate fast. 

Susan Meiselas: Mediations at SFMOMA, San Francisco, through 21 October

From the Summer 2018 issue of ArtReview