Joel Sternfeld
Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America

By Dee Dee Vega

Photographer Joel Sternfeld presents a Technicolor glimpse of some of America's most misunderstood yet pervasive of social experiments, intentional communities. Referencing not only the Utopia of Thomas More, but also the anti-capitalist undercurrent taken from Marx, Sternfeld captures the vibrancy of individuals living according to their own notions of society and the skeletal remains standing on the sites of failed ventures. The thirty photos in the Luhring Augustine exhibition capture these rarely seen groups in the color-saturated glory of the American landscape. (It isn't difficult to see the influence of his teacher Joseph Albers in the gleaming chromatic medleys.) Each photo is accompanied by a description of the community and their way of life. Considering Sternfeld's work as documentary, an aesthetically glorious documentary at that, one must question whether the art exists in his photos, or in the very uncovering of each of these misshapen cultural pearls.