Stephen Shore at MoMA is the artist’s first museum survey exhibition in New York and covers his career of more than five decades. His prolificacy is made clear by the density with which his photographs are packed into the galleries. Despite the exhaustive inclusion of his many different bodies of work, Shore’s aesthetic is clear and consistent. Modest homes, street corners of sleepy towns on overcast days, unglamorous food and friends and strangers caught off guard, captured unapologetically. Shore’s photographs feel urgent, as if he paused for just a moment by accident, that their objective might simply be documenting moments of remarkable stillness.
His landscapes from 1979-1993 felt like the strongest and most moving work in the show. They are pastoral and romantic. There’s an ease and a suddenness with which Shore decides to capture a figure or a building, such as a 1974 photo of Robert and Lucille Wehrly - his sensibility appears to more rapidly determine what and how the photo is. In relation to these selections of urbanity and humanity, the landscapes seem more careful. In his 1979 photo of Merced River at Yosemite there is the sense that Shore had to wait for this image to come together before he could take the photo. The figures had to align, the ripples in the water had to be just so. There is something illuminating in perhaps having to wait till the last possible second, right before all the details fall apart and the image is lost. Shore's ability to recognize this last interval before the image is broken is what ultimately unifies his long career.