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The Photography Galleries on the East Wing of the Cleveland Museum of Art feature Brian Ulrich’s Copia, a collection of fifty color photographs. This series of images, initially meant to investigate whether shopping and patriotism go hand in hand, takes the viewer on a familiar journey through Ulrich’s three-phase exploration of American consumerism: The first chapter of Copia, Retail (2001-2006), includes photographs of shoppers among an abundance of products in large stores and malls. Images of everyday Americans deciding what to buy in grocery stores are sure to ring a bell with museum visitors. The next phase of Copia, Thrift (2005-2008), examines unwanted or donated goods at thrift stores that have become more and more popular. The viewers encounter compellingly different scenes than those photographed in Retail, a contrast that brings an interesting twist to the collection. The final stage of Ulrich’s Copia, Dark Stores (2008-2011), investigates the outcome of the 2008 financial crisis. The photographs of this chapter include haunting interior and exterior shots of abandoned stores and dead malls, a familiar scene for Cleveland visitors. The must-see collection beautifully captures the ups and downs of the economy and its effects on the American shopper.
Born in 1971 in Northport, New York, Brian Ulrich lives in Richmond, Virginia. He received a MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago and a BFA in Photography from the University of Akron. The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Copia is the first major museum exhibition of his work.