The first picture in Stephen Shore’s current show is of a half-eaten cheeseburger, a packet of fries, and a plastic-lidded cup of ice milk on an outdoor table at a McDonald’s in Perrine, Florida. The name Jenny and a few other illegible hieroglyphics have been scratched into the table’s taxicab yellow enamel, but they don’t really disturb the oddly comforting familiarity of the image. The date is November 11, 1977, and you are there.
Like the other color photographs Shore has gathered under the title “Uncommon Places,” all made in the course of several cross-country car trips in the ’70s, this one is both a document and a souvenir, blandly descriptive and suffused with feeling. His subjects are determinedly ordinary: a motel TV set, a pair of Ping-Pong paddles, a battered green Plymouth, and various intersections, parking lots, homes, and stores. But his pictures are anything but mundane. Although their serenity, precision, and beauty are so casual, so matter-of-fact that Shore might seem to be a lucky snapshooter, there’s nothing artless about this art. Every photo works in every way possible. Shore’s ’70s photos are a crucial link between Walker Evans and Thomas Struth, but as this show proves, they’re far too immediate to be history. (Through October 25, 303 Gallery, 525 West 22nd Street.)