Archive for the 'american photographers' Category



09
Dec
12

Exhibition: ‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – Posting Part 1

Exhibition dates: 11th November 2012 – 3rd February 2013

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This is the biggest posting on one exhibition that I have ever undertaken on Art Blart!

As befits the gravity of the subject matter this posting is so humongous that I have had to split it into 4 separate postings. This is how to research and stage a contemporary photography exhibition that fully explores its theme (NGV please note!). The curators reviewed more than one million photographs in 17 countries, locating pictures in archives, military libraries, museums, private collections, historical societies and news agencies; in the personal files of photographers and service personnel; and at two annual photojournalism festivals producing an exhibition that features 26 sections (an inspired and thoughtful selection) that includes nearly 500 objects that illuminate all aspects of WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY.

I have spent hours researching and finding photographs on the Internet to support the posting. It has been a great learning experience and my admiration for photographers of all types has increased. I have discovered the photographs and stories of new image makers that I did not know and some hidden treasures along the way. I hope you enjoy this monster posting on a subject matter that should be consigned to the history books of human evolution.

**Please be aware that there are graphic photographs in all of these postings.** Part 2Part 3Part 4

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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“On November 11, 2012, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, debuts an unprecedented exhibition exploring the experience of war through the eyes of photographers. WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath features nearly 500 objects, including photographs, books, magazines, albums and photographic equipment. The photographs were made by more than 280 photographers, from 28 nations, who have covered conflict on six continents over 165 years, from the Mexican-American War of 1846 through present-day conflicts. The exhibition takes a critical look at the relationship between war and photography, exploring what types of photographs are, and are not, made, and by whom and for whom. Rather than a chronological survey of wartime photographs or a survey of “greatest hits,” the exhibition presents types of photographs repeatedly made during the many phases of war – regardless of the size or cause of the conflict, the photographers’ or subjects’ culture or the era in which the pictures were recorded. The images in the exhibition are organized according to the progression of war: from the acts that instigate armed conflict, to “the fight,” to victory and defeat, and images that memorialize a war, its combatants and its victims. Both iconic images and previously unknown images are on view, taken by military photographers, commercial photographers (portrait and photojournalist), amateurs and artists.

“‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY’ promises to be another pioneering exhibition, following other landmark MFAH photography exhibitions such as ‘Czech Modernism: 1900-1945′ (1989) and ‘The History of Japanese Photography’ (2003),” said Gary Tinterow, MFAH director. “Anne Tucker, along with her co-curators, Natalie Zelt and Will Michels, has spent a decade preparing this unprecedented exploration of the complex and profound relationship between war and photography.” “Photographs serve the public as a collective memory of the experience of war, yet most presentations that deal with the material are organized chronologically,” commented Tucker. “We believe ‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY’ is unique in its scope, exploring conflict and its consequences across the globe and over time, analyzing this complex and unrelenting phenomenon.”

The earliest work in the exhibition is from 1847, taken from the first photographed conflict: the Mexican-American War. Other early examples include photographs from the Crimean War, such as Roger Fenton’s iconic The Valley of the Shadow of Death (1855) and Felice Beato’s photograph of the devastated interior of Fort Taku in China during the Second Opium War (1860). Among the most recent images is a 2008 photograph of the Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the remote Korengal Valley of Eastern Afghanistan by Tim Hetherington, who was killed in April 2011 while covering the civil war in Libya. Also represented with two photographs in the exhibition is Chris Hondros, who was killed with Hetherington. While the exhibition is organized according to the phases of war, portraits of servicemen, military and political leaders and civilians are a consistent presence throughout, including Yousuf Karsh’s classic 1941 image of Winston Churchill, and the Marlboro Marine (2004), taken by embedded Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco of soldier James Blake Miller after an assault in Fallujah, Iraq. Sinco’s image was published worldwide on the cover of 150 publications and became a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

The exhibition was initiated in 2002, when the MFAH acquired what is purported to be the first print made from Joe Rosenthal’s negative of Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima (1945). From this initial acquisition, the curators decided to organize an exhibition that would focus on war photography as a genre. During the evolution of the project, the museum acquired more than a third of the prints in the exhibition. The curators reviewed more than one million photographs in 17 countries, locating pictures in archives, military libraries, museums, private collections, historical societies and news agencies; in the personal files of photographers and service personnel; and at two annual photojournalism festivals: World Press Photo (Amsterdam) and Visa pour l’Image (Perpignan, France). The curators based their appraisals on the clarity of the photographers’ observation and capacity to make memorable and striking pictures that have lasting relevance. The pictures were recorded by some of the most celebrated conflict photographers, as well as by many who remain anonymous. Almost every photographic process is included, ranging from daguerreotypes to inkjet prints, digital captures and cell-phone shots.”

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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Yousuf Karsh. 'Winston Churchill' 1941

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Yousuf Karsh
Winston Churchill
1941

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Roger Fenton. 'The Valley of the Shadow of Death' 1855

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Roger Fenton
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
1855

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WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath is organized into 26 sections, which unfold in the sequence that typifies the stages of war, from the advent of conflict through the fight, aftermath and remembrance. Each section showcases images appropriate to that category while cutting across cultures, time and place. Outside of this chronological approach are focused galleries for “Media Coverage and Dissemination” (with an emphasis on technology); “Iwo Jima” (a case study); and “Photographic Essays” (excerpts from two landmark photojournalism essays, by Larry Burrows and Todd Heisler).

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1. Media Coverage and Dissemination provides an overview of how technology has profoundly affected the ways that pictures from the front reach the public: from Roger Fenton and his horse-drawn photography van (commissioned by the British government to document the Crimean War), to Joe Rosenthal’s 1940s Anniversary Speed Graphic (4 x 5) camera, to pictures taken with the Hipstamatic app of an iPhone by photojournalist Michael Christopher Brown in Egypt during the protests and clashes of the Arab Spring. (22 images/objects)

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Roger Fenton English (1819-1869) 'The artist's van [Marcus Sparling, full-length portrait, seated on Roger Fenton's photographic van]' 1855

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Roger Fenton English (1819-1869)
The artist’s van [Marcus Sparling, full-length portrait, seated on Roger Fenton's photographic van]
1855
Salted paper print
17.5 × 16.5 cm
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

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Manufactured by Graflex, active 1912-1973
Anniversary Speed Graphic (4 x 5), “Scott S. Wigle camera” (First American-made D-Day picture)
c. 1940
camera
Collection of George Eastman House (Gift of Graflex, Inc.)

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2. The photographs in An Advent of War depict the catalytic events of war. These moments of instigation are rarely captured, as photographers are not always present at the initial attack or provocation. Photographs that Robert Clark took on the morning of September 11, 2001, and the aerial view of torpedoes approaching Battleship Row during the Pearl Harbor attack, taken by an unknown Japanese airman on December 7, 1941, both convey with clarity the concept of war’s advent. (11 images).

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Unknown photographer Japanese
War in Hawaiian Water. Japanese Torpedoes Attack Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor
December 7, 1941
gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Will Michels

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3. Recruitment & Embarkation shows mobilization: the movement toward the front. Mikhail Trakhman captures a Russian mother kissing her son goodbye in Kolkhoz farmer M. Nikolaïeva bids her son Ivan goodbye before he joins the partisans (1942), while a 1916 photograph by Josiah Barnes, known as the “Embarkation Photographer,” shows an archetypal moment: young Australian soldiers waving goodbye from a ship as they depart their home country to fight in World War I. (7 images)

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Josiah Barnes Australian (1858-1921)
Embarkation of HMAT Ajana, Melbourne
July 8, 1916
Gelatin silver print (printed 2012)
On loan from the Australian War Memorial

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Mikhail Trakhman
Kolkhoz farmer M. Nikolaïeva bids her son Ivan goodbye before he joins the partisans
1942

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4. Training explores photographs of soldiers in boot camp or more-advanced phases of instruction and exercise. World War II Royal Navy officers gather around a desk to study different types of aircraft in a photograph by Sir Cecil Beaton. Also included is the iconic Vietnam-era photograph of a U.S. Marine drill sergeant reprimanding a recruit in South Carolina, from Thomas Hoepker’s series US Marine Corps boot camp, 1970. In one photograph, shot by a Japanese soldier and published in 1938 by Look magazine, Japanese soldiers use living Chinese prisoners in bayonet practice. (13 images) 

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Thomas Hoepker German (born 1936)
A US Marine drill sergeant delivers a severe reprimand to a recruit, Parris Island, South Carolina
1970
from the series US Marine Corps boot camp, 1970
Inkjet print
Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos
© Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos

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5. Daily Routine features moments of boredom, routine and playfulness. A member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps wears a gas mask as he peels onions. A 1942 photograph by Sir Cecil Beaton catches the off-guard expression of a Royal Navy man at a sewing machine, mending a signal flag. (13 images)

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Anon. 'Soldiers trying out their gas masks in every possible way. Putting the respirator to good use while peeling onions. 40th Division, Camp Kearny, San Diego, California' 1918

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Anon
Soldiers trying out their gas masks in every possible way. Putting the respirator to good use while peeling onions. 40th Division, Camp Kearny, San Diego, California
1918
National Archives and Records Administration

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Cecil Beaton, English (1904-1980)
A Royal Navy sailor on board HMS Alcantara uses a portable sewing machine to repair a signal flag during a voyage to Sierra Leone
March 1942
Gelatin silver print, printed 2012
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation
© The Imperial War Museums (neg. #CBM 1049)

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HMS Alcantara

HMS Alcatara was an RML passenger liner of 22,209 tons and 19 knots launched in 1926, and taken up by the Royal Navy for conversion to an armed merchant cruiser to counter the threat posed by German surface raiders against shipping. When Jim Hingston joined her as an ordinary seaman at Freetown she was still largely in merchant dress, with wood panelling throughout. Much to the regret of her crew this was removed during their stay at Simonstown – the wisdom of that was apparent to them only too soon.

There were some 53 such ships in all, poorly armed, in Alcantara’s case with eight 6 inch and two 3 inch guns, the former having a range of some 14,200 yards (13,000 metres). Such armament could not be much more than defensive, the intention being that the AMCs should radio the position of the German ship and not only give merchant shipping a chance to escape but delay the commerce raider long enough to allow regular RN warships to get to the scene.

Alcantara’s opponent, the Thor, was laid down in 1938 as a freighter of 9,200 tons displacement and a speed of 18 knots, but commissioned as a commerce raider on 14 March 1940. Though she had only 6 150 mm guns they had a much greater range, at 20,000 yards, than Alcantara and other British AMCs. She also carried a scout floatplane. During the engagement with Alcantara on 28 July 1940 the Thor inflicted significant damage but the Alcantara successfully closed, and after being hit the Thor withdrew in order to avoid the risk of being crippled or being forced to abort her mission. In later encounters with AMCs the Thor severely damaged the Carnarvon Castle and sank Voltaire.

HMS Alcantara later had her 6 in armament upgraded and was equipped with a seaplane, but as the threat of surface raiders receded she was converted to her more natural role of troopship in 1943.

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6. Images of Reconnaissance, Resistance and Sabotage are scarce by nature, as they reveal spies in the act and could be used against those depicted or their families. A U.S. soldier on night watch sits atop a mountain in Afghanistan, wrapped in a blanket and peering into night-vision equipment, in a photograph by Adam Ferguson. A photograph by T. E. Lawrence (known as Lawrence of Arabia) documents the bombing of the Hejaz Railway during the Arab Revolt. Cas Oorthuys’ photograph Under German Occupation (Dutch Worker’s Front), Amsterdam (c. 1940-45), taken with a camera hidden in his jacket, shows the back of a fellow countryman who is helping to conceal the photographer, with German troops in the distance. Also included is Arkady Shaikhet’s 1942 photograph Partisan Girl depicting Olga Mekheda, who was renowned for her ability to get through German roadblocks – even while pregnant. (10 images)

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T.E. Lawrence
Untitled [A Tulip bomb explodes on the railway Hejaz Railway, near Deraa, Hejaz, Ottoman Empire]
1918
Collection of the MFA Houston

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Adam Ferguson. 'September 4, Tangi valley, Wardak province, Afghanistan, a soldier of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division was  attentively monitoring a highway' September 4, 2009

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Adam Ferguson
September 4, Tangi valley, Wardak province, Afghanistan, a soldier of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division was  attentively monitoring a highway
September 4, 2009

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“To me, this picture epitomizes the abstract idea of the ‘enemy’ that exists within the U.S. led war in Afghanistan: a young infantryman watches a road with a long-range acquisition sight surveying for insurgents planting Improvised Explosive Devices. U.S. Army Infantrymen rarely knowingly come face to face with their enemy, combat is fleeting and fought like cat and mouse, and the most decisive blows are determined by intelligence gathering, and then delivered through technology that maintains a safe distance, just like a video game.”

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Arkady Shaikhet Russian (1898-1959)
Partisan Girl
1942
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Marion Mundy
© Arkady Shaikhet Estate, Moscow, courtesy Nailya Alexander Gallery, NYC

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7. Patrol & Troop Movement conveys the mass movements of peoples and personnel by land, sea and air, from the movement of troops and supplies to patrols by all five divisions of military service: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force. Combat patrols are detachments of forces sent into hostile terrain for a range of missions, and they – as well as the photographers accompanying them – face considerable danger. João Silva’s three sequenced frames show, through his eyes, the tilted earth just after he was felled by an IED while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010; he lost both legs in the incident. A tranquil, 1917 image by Australian James Frank Hurley depicts silhouetted soldiers walking in a line, their reflections captured in a body of water. A 1943 photograph by American Warrant Photographer Jess W. January USCGR shows members of the U.S. Coast Guard observing a depth-charge explosion hitting a German submarine that stalked their convoy. (14 images)

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João Silva. 'Soldiers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 4th Infantry Division react to photographer Joao Silva stepping on a mine in the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on Oct. 23, 2010'

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João Silva
Soldiers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 4th Infantry Division react to photographer Joao Silva stepping on a mine in the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on Oct. 23, 2010, in a three-photo combination. For American troops in heavily-mined Afghan villages, steering clear of improvised explosive devices is the most difficult task
October 23, 2010
© João Silva / The New York Times via Redux

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Warrant Photographer Jess W. January USCGR, American
USCG Cutter Spencer destroys Nazi sub
April 17, 1943
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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8. The Wait depicts a common situation of wartime. Susan Meiselas captures a tense moment during a 1978 street fight in Nicaragua, when muchachos with Molotov cocktails line up in an alleyway, ready to initiate an attack on the National Guard. Robert Capa shows two female French ambulance drivers in Italy during World War II, leaning against their vehicle, knitting, as they wait to be called. (8 images)

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Robert Capa (1913-1954)
Drivers from the French ambulance corps near the front, waiting to be called
Italy, 1944
Original album – Italy. Cassino Campaign. W.W.II.
© 2001 By Cornell Capa, Agentur Magnum

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Susan Meiselas American (born 1948)
Muchachos Await Counter Attack by The National Guard, Matagalpa, Nicaragua
1978
Chromogenic print (printed 2006)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase with funds provided by Photo Forum 2006
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

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9. The Fight is one of the most extensive sections in the exhibition. Dmitri Baltermants shot Attack – Eastern Front WWII (cover image of the exhibition catalogue) in 1941 from the trench, as men charged over him. Sky Over Sevastopol (1944), by Evgeny Khaldey, is an aerial photograph of planes on their way to a bombing raid of the strategically important naval point. Joe Rosenthal’s Over the Top – American Troops Move onto the Beach at Iwo Jima (1945) pictures infantrymen emerging from the protection of their landing craft into enemy fire. Staged photographs, presented as authentic documents, tend to proliferate during wartime, and several examples are included here. In 1942 the Public Relations Department of the War issued an assignment to photographers to create “representative” images of combat in North Africa for more dynamic images; official British photographer Len Chetwyn staged an Australian officer leading the charging line in the battle of El Alamein, using smoke in the background from the cookhouse to create a lively image. (21 images)

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Len Chetwyn English (1909-1980)
Australians approached the strong point, ready to rush in from different sides
November 3, 1942
Silver gelatin photograph

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Joe Rosenthal American (1911-2006)
Over the Top – American Troops Move onto the Beach at Iwo Jima
February 19, 1945
Gelatin silver print with applied ink (printed February 23, 1945)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Richard S. and Dodie Otey Jackson in honor of Ira J. Jackson, M.D., and his service in the Pacific Theater during World War II
© AP / Wide World Photos

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Dmitri Baltermants
Attack – Eastern Front WWII
1941
Silver gelatin photograph

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10. The Wait and Rescue bookend The Fight. Among the photographs in Rescue are Ambush of the 173rd AB, South Vietnam (1965), by Tim Page, showing soldiers immediately combing through a battleground to assist the wounded; American Lt. Wayne Miller’s image of a wounded gunner being lifted from the turret of a torpedo bomber; and Life magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith’s 1944 photograph of an American soldier rescuing a dying Japanese infant. Smith wrote about that moment, stating “hands trained for killing gently… extricated the infant” to be transported to medical care. (8 images) 

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Lt. Wayne Miller
Crewmen lifting Kenneth Bratton out of turret of TBF on the USS SARATOGA after raid on Rabaul
November 1943
Silver gelatin photograph

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More information: Kenneth C. Bratton – Mississippi (WWII vet). He was born in Pontotoc, MS, December 17, 1918. He passed away April 15, 1982. Lt. Bratton won a purple heart for his bravery during the attack on Rabaul November 11, 1943.

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W. Eugene Smith American (1918-1978)
Dying Infant Found by American Soldiers in Saipan
June 1944
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Will Michels in honor of Anne Wilkes Tucker
© Estate of W. Eugene Smith / Black Star

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11. Aftermath, with four subsections, features photographs taken after the battle has ended. “Death on the battlefield is one of the earliest types of war images: Felice Beato photographed the dead in the interior of Fort Taku in the Second Opium War (1860). George Strock’s Dead GIs on Buna Beach, New Guinea (1943), which ran in Life magazine with personal details about the casualties, was the first published photograph from any conflict of American dead in World War II. In 1966, Associated Press photographer Henri Huet documented an American paratrooper, who was killed in action, being raised to an evacuation helicopter. Incinerated Iraqi, Gulf War, Iraq, taken by Kenneth Jarecke, was published in Europe, but the American Associated Press editors withheld it in the United States. Shell Shock and Exhaustion shows impenetrable exhaustion after battle. In Don McCullin’s Shell-shocked soldier awaiting transportation away from the front line, Hué, Vietnam (1968), the man looks forward with the “thousand-yard stare.” Robert Attebury photographed Marines so exhausted after a 2005 battle in Iraq that lasted 17 hours that they fell asleep where they had been standing, amid the rubble of a destroyed building. Grief and Battlefield Burials were taken at the site of the conflict, including David Turnley’s 1991 picture of a weeping soldier who has just learned that the remains in a nearby body bag are those of a close friend. Destruction of Property shows collateral damage from war. Christophe Agou, for instance, photographed the smoldering steel remains of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 2001. (39 images)

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George Strock. 'Dead GIs on Buna Beach, New Guinea' January 1943

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George Strock
Dead GIs on Buna Beach, New Guinea
January 1943
© George Strock / LIFE

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Henri Huet, French (1927-1971)
The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter, Vietnam
1966
Gelatin silver print (printed 2004)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase
© AP / Wide World Photos

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Kenneth Jarecke. 'Gulf War: Incinerated Iraqi soldier in personnel carrier' Nasiriyah, Iraq, March1991

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Kenneth Jarecke
Gulf War: Incinerated Iraqi soldier in personnel carrier
Nasiriyah, Iraq, March1991

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Felice Beato
Angle of North Taku Fort at which the French entered
August 21-22, 1860

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Don McCullin
Shell-shocked US soldier awaiting transportation away from the front line
Hue, Vietnam, 1968
© Don McCullin

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David Turnley
American Soldier Grieving for Comrade
Iraq, 1991

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Ken Kozakiewicz (left) breaks down in an evacuation helicopter after hearing that his friend, the driver of his Bradley Fighting Vehicle, was killed in a “friendly fire” incident that he himself survived. Michael Tsangarakis (center) suffers severe burns from ammunition rounds that blew up inside the vehicle during the incident. All of the soldiers were exposed to depleted uranium as a result of the explosion. They and the body of the dead man are on their way to a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital).

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12. Prisoners of War (Civilian and Military)/Interrogation is a frequently photographed subject because such pictures can be made outside an area of conflict. Moreover, the people in control often documented their prisoners as a show of power. The photographs in this section include the official recording of a prisoner of war before his execution by the Khmer Rouge, taken by Nhem Ein. (14 images)

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Nhem Ein Cambodian (born 1959)
Untitled (prisoner #389 of the Khmer Rouge; man)
1975-79
Gelatin silver print (printed 1994)
Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art; Arthur M. Bullowa Fund and Geraldine Murphy Fund. Digital image
© The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA Art Resource, NY. Used with permission of Photo Archive Group

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13. Iwo Jima is a case study within the exhibition that presents the complete thematic narrative in photographs from a specific battle. Included in this section is the inspiration for the exhibition: Joe Rosenthal’s iconic, Pulitzer Prize-winning Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, a photograph he took as an Associated Press photographer in World War II showing U.S. Marines and one Navy medic raising the American flag on the remote Pacific island. (25 images)

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Joe Rosenthal, American (1911-2006)
Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima
February 23, 1945
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Manfred Heiting Collection, gift of the Kevin and Lesley Lilly Family
© AP / Wide World Photos

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Exhibition posting continued in Part 2…

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Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1001 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Friday, Saturday 10.00 am – 7.00 pm
Sunday 12.15 pm – 7.00 pm
Closed Monday, except Monday holidays
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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06
Dec
12

Public talk: ‘This is not my favourite photograph’ by Dr Marcus Bunyan part of ‘What makes a great photograph?’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy

Wednesday 5th December 2012

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We were asked to choose our favourite photograph, one that we could nominate as a great photograph. I chose a slightly different take on proceedings.

Many thankx to my fellow speakers for their talks and to Director of the Centre for Contemporary Photography Naomi Cass for inviting me to speak at a wonderful evening. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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This is not my favourite photograph

A minute’s silence…

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865

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Alexander Gardner
Lewis Paine
26th April, 1865
Albumen silver print from a Collodion glass plate negative

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This is not my favourite photograph
Nor may it be a great photograph…
More interestingly to me, it is a remarkable photograph – one that you are able to make remarks on.

It is also a photograph that has haunted me for years.

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Taken by Alexander Gardner in April 1865, this photograph is a portrait of Lewis Thornton Powell (aka Lewis Payne or Paine) who was one of the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln which had happened the same month. The photograph has a background of dark metal, and was taken on one of the ironclads U.S.S. Montauk or Saugus, where the conspirators were for a time confined. Paine was executed in july 1865 just eight short weeks later.

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Alexander Gardner Lewis Paine 26th April, 1865

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Alexander Gardner
Three photographs of Lewis Paine
26th April, 1865

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This is the triptych of photographs by Gardner in the form they are usually displayed, like a three-panel renaissance altar-peice. The left and right hand photographs were taken within minutes of each other, with the camera in the same position, whereas in the centre photograph the camera has been lowered to show more of the body, and the image has been cropped at the top. In the central plate the figure of Paine has been raised up in the frame – almost prematurely brought back to life by his placement.

The centre image is the only one where Paine stares directly at the camera. He surveys the viewer with a gaze I find enigmatic.

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

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This is a very modern face, a very contemporary face. His hair is just like Justin Beiber’s.

Who brushed his hair across for this picture, and would it normally be this long, or has it just been ignored because of his fate?

He still has good muscle tone – has he been exercising in his cell?

And finally his clothing – is it navy issue, as his top appears to have been given to him, perhaps the coarse, navy blue wool of the Northern states.

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Hot Dead Guys: Lewis Powell

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Noel Cordle
Hot Dead Guys: Lewis Powell
Posted on September 5th, 2010
Mere Musings blog

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There’s even a web page dedicated to him on “hot dead guys” where there’s that awkward moment when one of lincoln’s conspirators is so sexy its ridiculous…

He wasn’t all bad. Biographers of Powell describe him as a quiet, introverted boy who enjoyed fishing and caring for sick and injured animals. Apparently, Lewis was an intelligent, sensitive, soul with great potential.

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Descriptions of Lewis from "The Life, Crime and Capture"

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Descriptions of Lewis from “The Life, Crime and Capture”

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

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Alexander Gardner
Lewis Paine (detail)
26th April, 1865
Albumen silver print from a Collodion glass plate negative

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Could we say that he is left-handed given the different size of his fingers (?)

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Roland Barthes. 'Camera Lucida (La Chambre claire)' 1980

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Roland Barthes
Camera Lucida (La Chambre claire)
1980

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Roland Barthes in his seminal work Camera Lucida said in Section 39: “He is dead and he is going to die…”
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“The photograph is handsome, as is the boy: that is the studium. But the punctum is: he is going to die. I read at the same time: this will be and this has been; I observe with horror an anterior future of which death is the stake. By giving me the absolute past of the pose, the photograph tells me death in the future. What pricks me is the discovery of this equivalence.”

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

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If we were to place this image within the metaphysical school of photography which peaked with Paul Caponigro and Minor White we could say:

Hovering above his head, has his spirit already begun to leave his body?

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865

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One reading of his gaze is that he is really interested in what the photographer is doing – almost the gaze of an apprentice wanting to apply these skills in the future.

Given his fate is he insane because of his interest?

What is really going on in his mind – what is his perspective?

Another reading could be as looking out to the future in the hope of finding that he will be judged in another way.

And another is the immediacy of his gaze – it is a gaze that is happening now!

The other thing that I find quite mysterious is the distance of the photographer from the subject.

Was it fear that stopped him getting any closer or are there deck fittings we cannot see that prevented his approach?

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

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What brought Paine to this place?

Michel Foucault calls the methods and techniques through which human beings constitute themselves, “Technologies of the self.” Foucault argued that we as subjects are perpetually engaged in processes whereby we define and produce our own ethical self-understanding. According to Foucault, technologies of the self are the forms of knowledge and strategies that “permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of immortality.”1

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As we look into his eyes he knows that we know he is going to die, has already died but the intensity of that knowledge is brought into present time. What Paine emanates is a form of i-mortality.

I wonder, did Gardner ever show him the finished photographs before he died?

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

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This is Barthes anterior future, a moment where truth is interpreted in the mind of the photographer, not out there but in here [points to head and heart], where past, present and future coalesce into single point in time – his death and our death are connected through his gaze, the knowledge of our discontinuity. Eons contracted into an eternal moment.

In this moment in time, what we are doing is we are making a list about the human condition when we talk about something that is remarkable. We are moving towards a language that defines the human condition…

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Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' April 1865 (detail)

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But ultimatley language can never fully describe the human condition, much as it may try… and this is why this photograph is remarkable, because it is ineffable, unknowable.

This photograph inhabits you, it haunts you like few others.

Early Wittgenstein described a world of facts pictured by thoughts. he said, “Don’t Think, But Look!”

I would add “Don’t think, but feel and look”

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This photograph is a memoriam to a young man and his present death.
As such it is a REMARKABLE photograph that haunts us all.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan
December 2012

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Postscript

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George Cook. 'Union ironclads firing on Fort Moultrie, S.C.,' 8th September 1863

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George Cook
Union ironclads firing on Fort Moultrie, S.C.,
8th September 1863
Photo courtesy of the Cook Collection, Valentine Richmond History

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George Cook’s photograph of Union ironclads firing on Fort Moultrie, S.C., believed to be the world’s first combat photograph. Monitors engage Confederate batteries on Sullivan’s Island, Charleston, South Carolina. Photographed from one of the Confederate emplacements, the ships are identified as (from left to right): WeehawkenMontauk and Passaic. The monitor on the right appears to be firing its guns. Date is given as 8 September 1863, when other U.S. Navy ships were providing cover for Weehawken, which had gone aground on the previous day. She was refloated on the 8th after receiving heavy gunfire from the Confederate fortifications.

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Kilburn Brothers. 'Four monitors laid up in the Anacostia River, off the Washington Navy Yard' c. 1866

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Kilburn Brothers
Four monitors laid up in the Anacostia River, off the Washington Navy Yard
c. 1866
Ships are (from left to right): USS Mahopac, USS Saugus, USS Montauk (probably), and either USS Casco or USS Chimo
Photo mounted on a stereograph card, marked: “Photographed and published by Kilburn Brothers, Littleton, N.H.”

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Anon. ''Montauk' at left, and 'Lehigh' at right, laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania' c. late 1902 or early 1903

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Anon
‘Montauk’ at left, and ‘Lehigh’ at right, laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pennsylvania
c. late 1902 or early 1903
U.S. Naval Historical Center photograph

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Anon. 'Saugus, in Trent's Reach on the James River, Virginia' c. early 1865

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Anon
Saugus, in Trent’s Reach on the James River, Virginia
c. early 1865
Note the mine sweeping “rake” attached to her bow
U.S. Naval Historical Center photograph

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Anon. 'Officers pose on deck of the Saugus, in front of the gun turret, probably while the ship was serving on the James River, Virginia' c. early 1865

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Anon
Officers pose on deck of the Saugus, in front of the gun turret, probably while the ship was serving on the James River, Virginia
c. early 1865
Note ship’s bell and other details of the turret and deck fittings
U.S. Naval Historical Center photograph

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1. Foucault, Michel. “Technologies of the self,” in L. H. Martin, H. Gutman and P. H. Hutton (eds.). Technologies of the self. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988, p.18 quoted on Wikipedia. “Technologies of the Self.” [Online] Cited 23/06/2010.

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Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
T: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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04
Dec
12

Exhibition: ‘Licht-Bilder (Light images). Fritz Winter and Abstract Photography’ at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2012 – 17th February 2013

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The glorious paintings of Fritz Winter show a beautiful synergy with the abstract photographs. The relationship between painting and photography has always been a symbiotic one, a close mutualist relationship that has benefited both art forms. This is fully evidenced in this outstanding posting, where I have tried to sequence the artworks to reflect the nature of their individuality and their interdependence. Great blessings on the curators that assembled this exhibition: an inspired concept!

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Many thankx to the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Fritz Winter
K 35
1934
Oil on Paper on Canvas
110 x 75 cm
Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Pinakothek der Moderne, München
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Alvin Langdon Coburn
Vortograph
1917 (1962)
Gelatin Silver Print
30.6 x 25.5 cm
George Eastman House, Rochester, New York
© Courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

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Francis Bruguière
Abstract Study
c. 1926
Gelatin Silver Print
24.3 x 19.3 cm
George Eastman House, Rochester, New York
© Courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

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Fritz Winter
Einfallendes Licht II [Incident Light II]
1935
Oil on Paper on Canvas
44.2 x 33.4 cm
Konrad Knöpfel-Stiftung Fritz Winter im Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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“In his lesser ­known early work, the German painter Fritz Winter (1905-1976) made an obsessive analysis of the aesthetic aspects of light. As a Bauhaus student he was influenced by the international avant­garde’s boundless euphoria for light between Expressionism and Constructivism. The light of large cities with headlights, cinemas and illuminated advertisements gave a new impulse to aesthetics; x­rays, radioactivity and microphotography made it possible to perceive previously unknown sources of energy and natural phenomena.

In his pictures of light beams and crystals created in 1934-36, Winter devoted himself with virtuosity to aspects such as the reflection, radiation and refraction of light. His virtually monochrome paintings incorporate crystal shapes and bundles of rays; they focus on the earth’s interior and the infinite expanse of the cosmos; they block the pictorial space with dark grids or lend it a glass­like transparency.

For the first time, 25 Licht-­Bilder by Fritz Winter will be juxtaposed with an international selection of 40 of the earliest abstract photographs in history of art. In the 1910s to 1930s artists experimented with the most varied of photographic techniques to ascertain the genuine qualities of photography beyond the merely representative. The New Vision in photography and abstract painting become immediately obvious through the display of vintage prints and paintings side by side.

The exhibition combines 25 exceptional paintings by Fritz Winter from German museums and private collections as well as 40 international lenders of photographic works including Centre Pompidou, Paris, George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Neue Galerie Kassel, Kunsthalle Mannheim, Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation, Munich and Kunstmuseum Stuttgart.”

Press release from the Pinakothek der Moderne website

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Fritz Winter
Stufungen [Gradations]
1934
Oil on Paper on Canvas
100,5 x 75.5 cm
Konrad Knöpfel-Stiftung Fritz Winter im Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Alfred Ehrhardt
Adular, Maderanertal, Schweiz
1938/39
Gelatin Silver Print
49.5 x 30 cm
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München
© Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung
© Courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

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Fritz Winter
Weiß in Schwarz [White in Black]
1934
Oil on Paper on Canvas
100.5 x 75.5 cm
Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Neue Galerie
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Fritz Winter
Licht, A 1
1934
Oil on Paper on Canvas
59 x 45 cm
Private Collection
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
Untitled (Photogram)
1925
Gelatin Silver Print
23.7 x 17.8 cm
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Fotografische Sammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012 Museum Folkwang, Essen, Fotografische Sammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Alfred Ehrhardt
Beryll, Minas Geraes, Brasilien
1938/39
Gelatin Silver Print
49.7 x 29.9 cm
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München
© bpk, Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung
© Courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

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Pinakothek Der Moderne
Barer Strasse 40
Munich

Opening hours:
Daily except Monday 10am – 6pm
Thursday 10am – 8pm

Pinakothek der Moderne website

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25
Nov
12

Exhibition: ‘open spaces | secret places: composite works from the collection’ at Museum Der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition dates: 20th October 2012 – 3rd March 2013

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Many thankx to the Museum Der Moderne Salzburg for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Janet Cardiff / George Bures Miller
Road Trip
2004
Dia-und Audioinstallation
Fotos: Anton Bures, Ton: Janet Cardiff und George Bures Miller
15 Minuten / Loop
© Janet Cardiff/George Bures Miller / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artists, Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin

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Anthony McCall
Line Describing a Cone
1973
16-mm-Film, s/w, ohne Ton; Installation
30 Minuten
© Anthony McCall / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery, Paris/London
Foto: Hank Graber, © Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

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“In the exhibition open spaces | secret places, the MUSEUM DER MODERNE SALZBURG is showing artistic positions from 1970 until today from the SAMMLUNG VERBUND. The phenomenons of the perception of spaces and places will be visualised. The first part of the exhibition is dedicated to the medium of photography. Jeff Wall stages mysterious fragments of urban environments in peripheral area. Joachim Koester, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Tom Burr, Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler and David Wojnarowicz explore the fragility of the present in the light of historical changes of space and time. Louise Lawler draws our attention to places where works of art are stored and presented. Janet Cardiff/George Bures Miller stage a journey through memories as an audiovisual space of experience…

The increasing spatialization of art goes hand in hand with our life style, which has changed considerably in social and cultural terms as a result of new spatial conditions (virtual space, increased mobility). It is this fluctuating presence which seems to make us more acutely aware of our location. In the past we asked other people on the telephone “How are you?”, today we ask “Where are you?”

All text from the Museum Der Moderne Salzburg website (including below)

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Jeff Wall
The Crooked Path
1991
Grossbilddia in Leuchtkasten
Jeff Wall / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy Jeff Wall Studio, Vancouver and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris

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Jeff Wall

Boys Cutting Through a Hedge, 2003
The Crooked Path, 1991
Forest, 2001

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For more than thirty years now, Jeff Wall has been best known for his large-format light boxes in which the colors of his giant transparencies are brilliantly illuminated. In the first few decades of his career, he was celebrated as a peintre de la vie moderne [the painter of modern life] – to use Charles Baudelaire’s term – on account of his ability to combine traditional composition with themes of modern life. For the past decade, however, he has produced a number of large format black-and-white photographs that clearly belong in the context of his affinity for traditional documentary photography or straight photography. The group of three photographs in the SAMMLUNG VERBUND shows peripheral, unimportant places, underscoring Wall’s interest in the “unofficial use of places” (Jeff Wall). In Forest two people are claiming a makeshift private territory in a forest. The Crooked Path and Boys Cutting Through a Hedge, meanwhile, show places in which people have to find their way on the other side of conventional topography.

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Joachim Koester
The Kant Walks
2003-2004
Aus der 7-teiligen Serie
C-Print
47.5 x 60.3 cm
© Joachim Koester / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Jan Mot, Brussels

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Joachim Koester

The Kant Walks, 2003-2004
histories, 2003-2005

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Historically and philosophically charged places form the prime themes in the photographical work of Danish artist Joachim Koester. The series The Kant Walks follows the great philosopher’s daily and precisely scheduled walks through his hometown Kaliningrad (formerly known as Königsberg), which Kant allegedly never left throughout his life. Drifting through Kaliningrad’s “psychogeography” (Joachim Koester), the artist rediscovers Kant’s walks. His photographs evoke impressions, both from the past and the present, as they visualize overgrown roads, disintegrating concrete buildings, and presumably abandoned and forgotten places.

Likewise, Koester creates a link to the past in histories. Juxtaposing historic, not less than 30 year old photographs – taken by Gordon Matta-Clark or Bernd and Hilla Becher to name just a few – with recently taken shots from the very same location evokes not one, but two “histories”: that of conceptual photography, and that of the places and events depicted.

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Bernd und Hilla Becher
Gasbehälter
1965-2001

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Bernd and Hilla Becher

Entwürfe für Typologien, aufgenommen in den 1960er-Jahren, zusammengestellt 1970-1971
Gasbehälter, 1965-2001

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Within 20th century art only a few artists have been able to combine their enduring artistic concept with an outstanding history of reception of their own work. The German photographer couple Bernd and Hilla Becher has been working strictly with documentary photography since the 1950s, and thus influences publications, exhibitions and art collections worldwide up to this day and even beyond the death of Bernd Becher in 2007, providing crucial impulses for the theory and history of art.

Ever since they started working together, Bernd and Hilla Becher were creating an inventory of industrial architecture, both in Europe and in the United States. Their black-and-white photographs depict furnaces, water towers, winding towers, factory buildings, cement and lime plants, entire mining sites as well as timbered houses. A sense of objectivity is innate to their approach to documentary photography. Bernd and Hilla Becher avoided any dramatic setting and confidently relied on the formal aesthetics of analog photography. Through strictly standardizing the photographic process, the couple created the possibility to categorize their entire work in typologies, adding a whole new and important conceptual level to their oevre.

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Tom Burr
Split
2005
Lackiertes Sperrholz, Zedernschindeln, Asphaltschindeln
285 x 248 x 157 cm
© Tom Burr / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Galerie NEU, Berlin

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Tom Burr

Split, 2005
Unearthing the Public Restroom, 1994

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Tom Burr addresses a long-obsolete phenomenon. In 2005, he presented a white wooden house cut in two halves, entitled Split, outside on a lawn. Burr’s house is a response to the multiple-seat outhouse from the premodern era. Despite (or perhaps because of) the cramped conditions, he sees in it the symbol of “a lost type of intimacy”, repressed by our western societies from their collective consciousness “in favor of cool, smooth, and clean porcelain surfaces.” Considering Burr’s penchant for referencing selected avant-garde works, what comes to mind in relation to this work is Marcel Duchamp’s urinal Fountaine of 1917 and certainly Matta-Clark’s bisected Splitting house, also shown in the exhibition, as well as Minimal Art. Burr stages Split with aesthetic minimalism – cool, austere, and sober. At the same time, however, he unfolds a strange associative field of uncomfortable conditions: of closeness and intimacy, shame, smell, at times even disgust. The earth toilet was common from ancient times up until the 19th century. Installing a version of it in public space today is intended to have the function of an “alien”, a foreign element. Burr’s earlier photo series Unearthing the Public Restroom of 1994 traces experiences of public access, hygiene, privacy, sexuality, criminality, and surveillance that cluster around, and in fact produce, the history of the public restroom. Crime and sexuality, particularly homosexuality, caused many of these spaces to be shut down. What interests the artist is precisely this state of non-use, of abandonment, and the ghost-like presence.

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Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler
Filmstills, Odeon
2000
Aus der 4-teiligen Serie
C-Print
140 x 259 cm
© Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler Studio, Austin, Texas

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Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler

Filmstills, 2000
Arsenal, 2000

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The photo work Filmstills, created in 2000, marks a crucial step in the oeuvre of Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler. Up to this work, the two Irish-Swiss artists were mainly known for their large-size photo series, such as Falling Down, Holes, or Gregor’s Room which were choreographed down to the smallest detail. Filmstills was the first work done outside the studio and on the spot. Filmstills show movie theaters in Berlin, which have been getting on in years. The Rio was closed some time ago and let go to ruin, whereas the Odeon still tries to maintain its hold against the flood of standardized movieplexes. Both shots are based on the same formal principle. A very narrow detail shows the respective main entrance with the cinema’s name written in big letters. The digital processing of the photographs as well as their sizes make the viewers perceive the cinemas as film stills or clips from a movie. In contrast to filmic illusion, here reality is fictionalized. The series Arsenal delivers melancholic interior views of the deserted premises of an abandoned independent cinema in Berlin, wherein only a female usher is still present.

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David Wojnarowicz
Arthur Rimbaud in New York
1978-1979 / 2004
Aus der 44-teiligen Serie
Gelatinesilberabzug
32.8 x 24.5 cm
© Estate of David Wojnarowicz / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy Estate of P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York and Cabinet Gallery, London

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David Wojnarowicz
Arthur Rimbaud in New York
1978-1979 / 2004
Aus der 44-teiligen Serie
Gelatinesilberabzug
32.8 x 24.5 cm
© Estate of David Wojnarowicz / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy Estate of P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York and Cabinet Gallery, London

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David Wojnarowicz

Arthur Rimbaud in New York, 1978-1979 / 2004

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In the summer of 1979, David Wojnarowicz a twentyfour- year old self-taught artist, borrowed a broken camera to produce a series of black-and-white photographs entitled Arthur Rimbaud in New York.

The Rimbaud series proposes hypothetical scenarios involving the French Symbolist outlaw poet as if he existed a century later, showing Brian Butterick, the friend and temporary lover of the artist, with a mask of Rimbaud. Arthur Rimbaud in New York tracks provocative “locations and movements.” Meatpacking district, subway, piers and Coney Island (off-season) further characterize a generally invisible marginalization reinforced by abiding unsightliness, tawdriness, and rustication. Desolate Hudson river pier warehouses or anonymous Times Square’s red-light district allude to cavalcades of outsiders whether artists, thieves, queers, young runaways, sex workers, injection drug users, the poor, or homeless. The Rimbaud series would forge links between the artist’s engagement in his own social marginality to that of peers and prior heroes, each one demonstrating the transformative potential of creative response to existential crisis.

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Louise Lawler
Not Yet Titled
2004-2005

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Louise Lawler
CS #204
1990
Cibachrom auf Polyester kaschiert
99.1 x 135.9 cm
© Louise Lawler / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

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Louise Lawler

Not Yet Titled, 2004-2005
Abbau, 2002
Not Yet Titled, 2004-2005
CS # 204, 1990
It Could Be Black and White, 1994-1996
Wall Pillow, 2010/2012

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Louise Lawler’s gaze is fixed not on a single, isolated work of art, but rather on the institutional environment in which that particular work is viewed; this, astonishingly, turns out to lend works a completely different meaning. It is the private, semi-public or public context of the gallery or the museum which constantly reshapes, redefines, and refigures a work of art. In principle, Lawler takes pictures of existing situations, in the sense that she does not rearrange the works or make any changes to their position relative to each other. She quite often adopts an off-stage stance to this end, enabling her to view an exhibition from an angle which would normally be closed to visitors.

Wall Pillow, for instance, reveals the verso of a painting, while Abbau shows the absence of art – the two nails and a spotlight shining on a bare wall are all that remains after the work itself has been removed. For what she has done is to sever the magic thread that connects the work per se to the aura it acquires through its hanging. What is evident from Not Yet Titled and CS #204, is that the artist is clearly attracted first and foremost by those works of art which she herself values highly, such as by Gordon Matta-Clark’s façades and Cindy Sherman’s self portraits. Lawler’s photographs focus on the other side of the coin of institutional art presentation. Yet for all her apparent deconstruction, one still has the feeling that she wants to “rescue” these works and in doing so restore their original dignity.

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Ulla von Brandenburg
Around
2005
16-mm-Film transferiert auf Digibeta PAL, s/w, ohne Ton
2:30 Minuten / Loop
© Ulla von Brandenburg / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Produzentengalerie, Hamburg

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Ulla von Brandenburg

Around, 2005

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The striking presence of female figures in Ulla von Brandenburg’s work suggests an interest in the conflicted role of nineteenth-century women and the continued complexity of the performance of gender roles and attitudes in contemporary society. Our uncertainty about the position of these women, who are frequently presented in a liminal state, and their potential vulnerability, align perfectly with von Brandenburg’s interest in shifting roles and meaning: Though commanding of attention, von Brandenburg’s female figures are often on the verge of hysteria or loss of control – a state of powerlessness that nevertheless enforces their centrality in the action taking place. The artist’s work Around, 2005 best embodies this state of deferral or ambiguity: von Brandenburg filmed a tightly packed group of figures standing in the middle of a street with their backs to the camera. As the camera travels around the group the figures shift their position so that no frontal aspect is ever revealed. A view of their faces is never revealed in this conspirative meeting. Around we go waiting for the glimpse that will reveal, well, what exactly? We are left standing in front of the projection watching this group of performers, each of us struggling to find the “right” position.

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Eleanor Antin
100 Boots
1971-1973
100 Boots in a Field, Route 101, California.
February 9, 1971, 3:30 p.m.
Aus der 51-teiligen Serie, S/W-Postkarte
11.4 x 17.7 cm
© Eleanor Antin / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

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Eleanor Antin
100 Boots
1971-1973
Aus der 51-teiligen Serie, S/W-Postkarte
Eleanor Antin / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

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Eleonor Antin

100 Boots, 1971–1973

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For her 51-piece installment 100 Boots Eleonor Antin positioned one hundred ordinary black rubber boots on various locations all over Southern California and consequently in New York City. She took photos, printed them on postcards and assembled a mailing list of about a thousand names – mainly artists, writers, critics, galleries, universities and museums – who received the various postcards over a period of two and a half years between 1971 and 1973. The first card, 100 Boots Facing the Sea, was mailed on the Ides of March, 1971, unannounced and without further comment. A few weeks later it was followed by 100 Boots on the Way to Church and three weeks therafter by the next one.

In a total of 51 photographs, Eleanor Antin documented the travels of the 100 Boots, her so called “hero” – from a beach close to San Diego to a church, to a bank, to the supermarket, trespassing, under the bridge, to a saloon and on their travels eastward. Finally, on May 15th, 1973 100 Boots arrived at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. By this time, 100 Boots had long become an epic visual narrative and a picaresque work of conceptual art.

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Ceal Floyer
On Air
2009
Metallbox, Plexiglas, Licht, Kabel
12.6 x 25.6 x 6.2 cm
© Ceal Floyer / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin

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Ceal Floyer

On Air, 2009
Me/You (Love Me Tender), 2009

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The works of Ceal Floyer are minimalist and restrained. Some visitors will walk past them without even taking note of them. What the artist addresses everyday situations and activities. It is this apparent insignificance that Ceal Floyer refuses to accept, and so the conceptual strategy she pursues is interrogating our modes of perception. For her piece Me/You (Love Me Tender) from 2009, the artist installs two loudspeakers facing each other, from which the words “me” and “you” can be heard. Between them, the silence becomes palpable. The title can be read as the key to the work since it makes clear that what is heard is an excerpt from Elvis Presley’s song “Love Me Tender.” Ceal Floyer condenses love to its very essence here, namely, to the notions of “me” and “you.”

On Air (2009) is a work in which title and material are one and the same. The words “on” and “air” do not usher in the work, they are the work itself. Ceal Floyer uses the red neon letters used by radio and TV stations to signal that a live broadcast is going on and mounts them above the museum’s or gallery’s exit door. As soon as the viewer connects with the recording studio it becomes clear that this is about a shifting of our perception: We see five letters and realize that the real content of this work is what can be heard. All the sounds, voices and talks from outside the museum are put “on air” here, and the museum, the place where we have learnt to contemplate works of art in silence, pauses to listen to everyday life outside the walls of the institution.

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Gordon Matta-Clark
Splitting (b)
1974

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Gordon Matta-Clark

Conical Intersect, 1975
Splitting: Exterior, 1974
Office Baroque, 1977/2005
Untitled (Cut Drawing), 1975
Circus No. 14 (from Circus Book), 1978
Artpark, 1974

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In spring 1973 Gordon Matta-Clark presented his gallerists Holly and Horace Solomon with an unusual idea. He wanted to saw a house into two halves, and asked them if they knew of anything that might be available. As it happened, Horace Solomon had just the thing. He had bought a house in a speculative real estate deal, and it was soon to be demolished. Matta-Clark was given permission to do what he wanted with it, although it was clear that the work would not last.

Matta-Clark completely cleared the house and, taking a chain-saw and a plumb line, made two parallel incisions into the house. He then cut diagonally through one half of the foundations of house. Next, one half (weighing fifteen tons) of the house started to slope downwards until a split appeared that measured sixty centimeters at the top of the roof. Lastly, Matta-Clark sawed off the four top corners of the house. These were later exhibited as a sculpture entitled Four Corners. The whole project took about four months in total and was demolished shortly after completion. A film, a series of photographs, photomontages, and an artist’s book – all autonomous works of art in their own right – documented the process.

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Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg
Mönchsberg 32
5020 Salzburg
T: +43.662.84 22 20-403

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Wednesday: 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Monday: closed

Museum der Moderne website

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11
Nov
12

Exhibition: ‘The Body as Protest’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 5th September – 2nd December 2012

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“The past neglect of the body in social theory was a product of Western mind-body dualism that divided human experience into bodily and cognitive realms. The knowledge-body distinction identifies knowledge, culture, and reason with masculinity and identifies body, nature, and emotion with femininity. Viewing human reason as the principal source of progress and emancipation, it perceives “the rational” as separate from, and exalted over, the corporeal. In other words, consciousness was grasped as separate from and preceding the body (Bordo 1993; Davis 1997). Following feminist thinking about women’s bodies in patriarchal societies, contemporary social theories shifted focus from cognitive dimensions of identity construction to embodiment in the constitution of identities (Davis 1997). Social construction theories do not view the body as a biological given but as constituted in the intersection of discourse, social institutions, and the corporeality of the body. Body practices, therefore, reflect the basic values and themes of the society, and an analysis of the body can expose the intersubjective meaning common to society. At the same time, discourse and social institutions are produced and reproduced only through bodies and their techniques (Frank 1991, 91). Thus, social analysis has expanded from studying the body as an object of social control and discipline “in order to legitimate different regimes of domination” (Bordo 1993; Foucault 1975, 1978, 1980) to perceiving it as a subject that creates meaning and performs social action (Butler 1990). The body is understood as a means for self-expression, an important feature in a person’s identity project (Giddens 1991), and a site for social subversiveness and self-empowerment (Davis 1997).”

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Orna Sasson-Levy and Tamar Rapoport. “Body, Gender, and Knowledge in Protest Movements: The Israeli Case,” in Gender & Society 17, 2003, p.381. For the references in the quotation please see the end of the paper at attached link.

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Despite my great admiration for John Coplans photographs of his body, on the evidence of these press photographs and the attached video, this exhibition seems a beautiful if rather tame affair considering the subject matter. Of course these photographs of the body can be understood as a means for self-expression and self-empowerment but there seems little social subversiveness in the choice of work on display. The two Mapplethorpe’s are stylised instead of stonkingly subversive, and could have been taken from his ‘X’ portfolio (the self portrait of him with a bull whip up his arse would have been particularly pleasing to see in this context). The exhibition could have included some of the many artists using the body as protest during the AIDS crisis (perhaps my favourite David Wojnarowicz or William Yang’s Sadness), the famous Burning Monk – The Self-Immolation (1963) by Malcolm Browne, photographs by Stellarc, Arthur Tress, Duane Michals, Nan Goldin, Diane Arbus, Francesca Woodman, Sally Mann, Cindy Sherman to name but a few; even the Farm Security Administration photographs of share cropper families by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange would have had more impact than some of the photographs on display here. Having not seen the entire exhibition it is hard to give an overall reading, but on the selection presented here it would seem that this was a missed opportunity, an exhibition where the body did not protest enough.

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Many thankx to the Albertina, Vienna for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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theartVIEw – The Body as Protest at ALBERTINA

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Ishiuchi Miyako
1906#38
Nd
Courtesy by The Third Gallery Aya

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Hannah Villiger
Block XXX
1993-1994
© The Estate of Hannah Villiger

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Ketty La Rocca
Le mie parole e tu
1974
Courtesy Private Collection, Austria

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John Coplans
Self Portrait Interlocking Fingers No 6
1999
Silbergelatinepapier
Albertina, Wien

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Bruce Nauman
Studies for Holograms
Siebdruck, 1970
© VBK, Wien 2012
Foto: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Vincent
1981
Silbergelatinepapier
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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“The exhibition The Body as Protest highlights the photographic representation of the human body – a motif that has provided a wide variety of photographers with an often radical means of expression for their visual protest against social, political, but also aesthetic norms.

The show centers on an outstanding group of works by the artist John Coplans from the holdings of the Albertina. In his serially conceived large-format pictures, the photographer focused on the rendering of his own nude body, which he defamiliarized through fragmentation far from current forms of idealization. Relying on extremely sophisticated lighting, he presented himself in a monumental and sculptural manner over many years. His photographs can be understood as amalgamations of theoretical and artistic ideas, which in the show are accentuated through selective juxtapositions with works by other important exponents of body-related art.

The body also features prominently in the work of other artists such as Hannah Wilke, Ketty La Rocca, Hannah Villiger, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Miyako Ishiuchi. By means of these positions, such diverse themes as self-dramatization, conceptual photography, feminism, body language, and even transience are analyzed within an expanded artistic range. Moreover, the exhibition offers a differentiated view of the critical depiction of the human body as it has been practiced since 1970.”

Text from the Albertina website

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Hannah Wilke
Gestures
1974-76
Basierend auf der gleichnamigen
Video Performance von 1974
(35:30 min, b&w, sound)
Silbergelatinepapier
12 Blatt je 12,7x 17,8 cm
© Marsie, Emanuelle, Damon and Andrew Scharlatt, The Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, L.A./ VBK, Wien 2012

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John Coplans
Frieze No. 6
1994
Silbergelatinepapier
Albertina, Wien

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John Coplans
Self Portrait (Hands)
1988
Silbergelatinepapier
Albertina, Wien

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Ketty La Rocca
Craniologia
1973
Radiografie mit überblendeter Fotografie
SAMMLUNG VERBUND

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Thomas
1986
Silbergelatinepapier
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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John Coplans
Self Portrait Interlocking Fingers No 17
2000
Silbergelatinepapier
Albertina, Wien

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John Coplans
Back with Arms Above
1984
Silbergelatinepapier
© The John Coplans Trust

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Albertina
Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna, Austria
T: +43 (0)1 534 83-0

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am to 6 pm
Wednesday 10 am to 9 pm

Albertina website

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02
Nov
12

Exhibition: ‘Two of a Mind’ at the Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

Exhibition dates: 12th September – 17th November, 2012

RAY K. METZKER: Pictus Interruptus
RUTH THORNE-THOMSEN: Expeditions

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I like both these bodies of work but it is the enigmatic Expeditions that leave the most lasting impression on my subconscious, out imagining the abstract distortions of Metzker in my mind’s eye. While the images of Pictus Interruptus are interesting in a textural way, the photographs of Thorne-Thomsen are truly magical – like a photographic version of Joseph Cornell’s boxes they engage you wistfully, holding you in a quiet, silent, attentive dreamspace. Some of the photographs are almost Jungian in their holistic balance. Photographs such as Levitating Man and Trio are truly memorable, and in our over saturated media environment it is wonderful to find images that make us slow down and inhale their aura. You contemplate these images: that is the word, contemplation. Enjoy.

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PS. Prima Materia, a title of one of Thorne-Thomsen’s series, “is, according to alchemists, the alleged primitive formless base of all matter, given particular manifestation through the influence of forms… The alchemical operation consists essentially in separating the prima materia, the so-called Chaos, into the active principle, the soul, and the passive principle, Mind-body dichotomy, the body. They are then reunited in personified form in the coniunctio, the ritual combination of sol and Luna, which yields the magical child – filius philosophorum – the reborn self, known as the ultima materia.” (Wikipedia)

Jung undertook an analysis of the ritual and processes of alchemy and found that while the alchemists were trying to turn lead into gold by melting the lead down and reforming it as gold, what they were actually doing was letting go of their old identity and reforming it anew. This could be seen as an early form of psychoanalysis that encouraged the process of what Jung calls individuation, the emergence of a new identity as the ego dissolves into the Self. “The symbols of the individuation process…mark its stages like milestones’, prominent among them for Jungians being ‘”the shadow, the Wise Old Man…and lastly the anima (female) in man and the animus (male) in woman”‘. Thus ‘there is often a movement from dealing with the persona at the start…to the ego at the second stage, to the shadow as the third stage, to the anima or animus, to the self as the final stage. Some would interpose the Wise Old Man and the Wise Old Woman as spiritual archetypes coming before the final step of the Self’.” (Wikipedia)

I see elements of this inner work in the art of Ruth Thorne-Thomsen.

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Many thankx to the Laurence Miller Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (77FK42)
1977

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (77EY24)
1977

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (78AD23)
1978

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (78BW19)
1978

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (80FP9a)
1980

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (77FK28)
1977

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (77FW60)
1977

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Ray K. Metzker
Pictus Interruptus (76EO4)
1976

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“Laurence Miller Gallery is pleased to present Two of a Mind, photographs by Ray K. Metzker and Ruth Thorne-Thomsen, made between 1976 and 1991. Presently husband and wife, these two influential photographers independently created innovative and highly personal work that challenge our willingness to believe and stimulate our need to imagine.

Both achieved this by inserting images and objects into the view of the camera, turning reality on its head. Ray Metzker’s Pictus Interruptus series, made between 1976 and 1981, offers us inexplicable images – landscapes and cityscapes disrupted by abstract forms that combine, complement, and contrast with recognizable elements of the city or the land. Coat hangers, magazine images, folded paper and board were some of the items placed before the camera lens. Ruth Thorne-Thomsen’s Expeditions and Door series, as well as Prima Materia and Songs of the Sea, made between 1976 and 1991, also utilized the insertion of objects in front of her pin-hole camera, things like plastic and metal toys, children’s charms, ornaments and trinkets. The resulting images feel like poems come to life – credible enough to seem real, yet imaginary enough to seem like dreams.

Ray (born 1931) and Ruth (born 1943) met in Chicago in 1980, and immediately felt a kinship of spirit and mind. Each had been pursuing a personal photographic vision which took reality as a starting point and then explored the world of the imagination to challenge the general belief that what a photograph presents is truth. Metzker was more intrigued by the possibilities of form and space, while Thorne-Thomsen pursued the possibilities of mythology and dreams. For each artist, reality and artifice became intertwined and inseparable. This is the first exhibition in which their photographs are presented together. This showing of Metzker’s images also coincides with a major retrospective of his work at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, opening September 25th and continuing through February 24, 2013.”

Text from the Laurence Miller Gallery website

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Echo Wisconsin
1991
from the series Songs of the Sea

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Icarus Figure Wisconsin
1993
from the series Songs of the Sea

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Paper Palms California
1981
from the Expeditions Series

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Trio Wisconsin
1991
from the series Songs of the Sea

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Levitating Man Wisconsin
1983
from the Door Series

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Ruth Thorne-Thomsen
Chair Over Point Wisconsin
1983
from the Door Series

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Laurence Miller Gallery
20 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
Tel: 212.397.3930
Fax: 212.397.3932

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10 – 5.30, Sat 11 – 5.30

Laurence Millery Gallery website

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20
Oct
12

Review: ‘Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th September – 11th November 2012

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Installation photographs of the series Beneath the Roses (2003-2008) from the exhibition Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne (Photos: Dr Marcus Bunyan)

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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Details of one of Gregory Crewdson’s works from the series Beneath the Roses (2003-2008) (Photos: Dr Marcus Bunyan)

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“The American middle-class nightmare: nothing is clean, orderly, idyllic, or romantic. In his perfectly staged, hyperrealistic tableaux, photographer Gregory Crewdson reveals the claustrophobic limbo and abyss of spiritual repression that is the typical suburb. Here, hushed-up violence, alienation, isolation, and emptiness are nothing new or unfamiliar, but rather part of the everyday neighbourhood experience.”

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Gregory Crewdson, In a Lonely Place, Abrams Publishing, New York, 2011

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“I have always been fascinated by the poetic condition of twilight. By its transformative quality. Its power of turning the ordinary into something magical and otherworldly. My wish is for the narrative in the pictures to work within that circumstance. It is that sense of in-between-ness that interests me.”

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Gregory Crewdson

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Downfall of a dream: (n)framing the enigma in Gregory Crewdson’s
Beneath the Roses

After the excoriating, unreasonably subjective diatribe by Robert Nelson in The Age newspaper (“Unreal stills, unmoving images” Wednesday October 17 2012) I hope this piece of writing will offer greater insight into the work of this internationally renowned artist. With some reservations, I like Crewsdon’s work, I like it a lot – as do the crowds of people flocking to the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy to see the exhibition. Never have I seen so many people at the CCP looking at contemporary photography before and that can only be a good thing.

Let’s get the basics out of the way first. The early series Fireflies are small silver gelatin photographs that capture “the tiny insects’ transient moments of light as they illuminate the summer night.” These are minor works that fail to transcend the ephemeral nature of photography, fail to light the imagination of the viewer when looking at these scenes of dusky desire and discontinuous lives. The series of beautiful photographs titled Sanctuary (2010) evidence the “ruin of the legendary Cinecittà studios, which was founded by Mussolini in the 1930s and is associated with the great Italian film director Federico Fellini.” Wonderful photographs of doorways, temples, dilapidated stage sets with excellent use of soft miasmic light creating an atmosphere of de/generation (as though a half-remembered version of Rome had passed down through the generations) interfaced with contemporary Rome as backdrop. The digital prints show no strong specular highlights, no deep blacks but a series of transmutable grey and mid tones that add to the overall feeling of romantic ruin. It is a pity that these photographs are not printed as silver gelatin photographs, for they would have had much more depth of feeling than they presently possess. They just feel a little “thin” to me to sustain the weight of atmosphere required of them.

But it is the series Beneath the Roses (2003-2008) that has made Crewdson truly famous. Shot using a large format camera, Crewdson makes large-scale photographs of elaborate and meticulously staged tableaux, which have been described as “micro-epics” that probe the dark corners of the psyche. Working in the manner of a film director, he leads a production crew, which includes a director of photography, special effects and lighting teams, casting director and actors. He typically makes several exposures that he later digitally combines to produce the final image. Photographs in the series of “brief encounters” include external dioramas (shot in a down at heel Western Massachusetts town), where Crewdson shuts down streets and lights the whole scene; to interior dialogues where houses are built on sound stages and the artist can control every detail of the production. Influences on these works include, but are not limited to:

David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks), Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo), Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters), the paintings of Edward Hopper, Diane Arbus (the detritus of her photographic interiors), film noir, psychoanalysis, American suburbia, the American dream, the photographs of Walker Evans, Cindy Sherman and surrealism. Concepts that you could link to the work include loneliness, alienation, apathy, resignation, mystery, contemplation and confusion, identity, desire, memory and imagination.

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Now to the nuts and bolts of the matter.

Another major influence that I will add is that of the great Italian director Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita – The Sweet Life) who shot most of that film on the sets at Cinecittà studios in Rome. It is perhaps no coincidence that Crewdson, on his first overseas film shoot, shot the series Sanctuary at the very same location. Crewdson’s photographs in the series Beneath the Roses are an American form of  “The Sweet Life.” In 1961, the New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther praised Fellini’s “brilliantly graphic estimation of a whole swath of society in sad decay and, eventually, a withering commentary on the tragedy of the over-civilized… Fellini is nothing if not fertile, fierce and urbane in calculating the social scene around him and packing it onto the screen. He has an uncanny eye for finding the offbeat and grotesque incident, the gross and bizarre occurrence that exposes a glaring irony. He has, too, a splendid sense of balance and a deliciously sardonic wit that not only guided his cameras but also affected the writing of the script. In sum, it is an awesome picture, licentious in content but moral and vastly sophisticated in its attitude and what it says.”1 The same could equally be said of the Crewdson and his masterpieces in Beneath the Roses. Crewdson is in love with Fellini’s gesture – of the uplifting of the characters and their simultaneous descent into “sweet” hedonism, debauchery and decadence using the metaphor of downfall (downfall links each scene in La Dolce Vita, that of a “downward spiral that Marcello sets in motion when descending the first of several staircases (including ladders) that open and close each major episode.”)2 Crewdson’s “spectacular apocalypses of social enervation”3 mimic Fellini’s gestural flourishes becoming Crewdson’s theme of America’s downfall, America as a moral wasteland. Crewdson’s is “an aesthetic of disparity” that builds up a cumulative impression on the viewer that finds resolution in an “overpowering sense of the disparity between what life has been or could be, and what it actually is.”4

Crewdson’s cinematic encounters are vast and pin sharp when seen in the flesh. No reproduction on the web can do their physical presence justice; it is the details that delight in these productions. You have to get up close and personal with the work. His dystopic landscapes are not narratives as such, not stills taken from a movie (for that implies an ongoing story) but open-ended constructions that allow the viewer to imagine the story for themselves. They do not so much evoke a narrative as invite the viewer to create one for themselves – they are an “invitation” to a narrative, one that explores the anxiety of the (American) imagination, an invitation to empathise with the dramas at play within contemporary environments. For me, Crewdson’s extra ordinary photographs are a form of enigma (a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation), the picture as master puzzle (where all the pieces fit perfectly together in stillness) that contains a riddle or hidden meaning. Clues to this reading can be found in one of the photographs from the series (Blue Period, see detail image, above) where Crewdson deliberately leaves the door of a bedside cupboard open to reveal a “Perfect PICTURE PUZZLE” box inside. The viewer has to really look into the image and understand the significance of this artefact.

Another reading that I have formulated is of the transience of space and time within Crewdson’s series. In the disquieting, anonymous townscapes people look out from their porches (or the verandas are lit and empty), they abandon their cars or walk down desolate streets hardly ever looking directly out at the viewer. The photographs become sites of mystery and wonder hardly anchored (still precisely anchored?) in time and space. This disparity is emphasised in the interior dialogues. The viewer (exterior) looks at a framed doorway or window (exterior) looking into an scene (interior) where the walls are usually covered with floral wallpaper (interior / exterior) upon which hangs a framed image of a Monet-like landscape (exterior) (see detail image, above). Exterior, exterior, interior, interior / exterior, exterior. The trees of the landscape invade the home but are framed; exterior/framed, interior/mind. There is something mysterious going on here, some reflection of an inner state of mind.

In his visual mosaics Crewdson engages our relationship with time and space to challenge the trace of experience. His tableaux act as a kind of threshold or hinge of experience – between interior and exterior, viewer and photograph. His photographs are a form of monism in which two forces (interior / exterior) try to absorb each other but ultimately lead to a state of equilibrium. It is through this “play” that the context of the photographs and their relationship to each other and the viewer are “framed.” This device emphasises the aesthetic as much as information and encourages the viewer to think about the relationship between the body, the world of which it is part and the dream-reason of time.5 This intertextual (n)framing (n meaning unspecified number in mathematics) encourages the viewer to explore the inbetween spaces in the non-narrative / meta-narrative,”and by leaps (intuitive leaps, poetic leaps, leaps of faith)”6 encourage escapism in the imagination of the viewer. It is up to us as viewers to seek the multiple, disparate significances of what is concealed in each photograph as “felt knowledge” (Walter Benjamin), recalling to mind the sensory data placed before our eyes, something that can be experienced but cannot be explained by man: “the single moment of the present amidst the transience of life and searching for some kind of eternal truth.”7

Finally, in a more adverse reading of the photographs from the series Beneath the Roses, I must acknowledge the physically (not mentally) static nature of the images where every detail of the mise-en-scène is fully articulated and locked down: from the perfect trickle of blood running from the woman’s vagina in Blue Period, to the reflections in mirrors, the detritus of living scattered on the bedroom floor, the dirty telephone, packed suitcases and keys in locks to the desolate looks of the participants that never engage with the viewer. Despite allusions of despair, in their efficacy (their static and certain world order), there is no real chthonic madness here, no real messiness of the capture of death, murder and the wastage of human life (famine, AIDS, cancer or the blood running over the pavement in one of Weegee’s murder scenes for example). This is Fellini’s gross and bizarre LITE. Americurbana “is being addressed with the same reserve and elegance that ensures that the institution – artistic, political, what you will – is upheld and never threatened. It is pre-eminently legible, it elicits guilt but not so much as to cause offence.”8 I must also acknowledge the male-orientated viewpoint of the photographs, where men are seated, clothed, lazy or absent and all too often women are doing the washing or cooking, are naked and vulnerable. In their portrayal of (usually) half dressed or naked females the photographs evidence a particularly male view of the world, one that his little empathy or understanding of how a female actually lives in the world. For me this portrait of the feminine simply does not work. The male photographer maintains control (and power) by remaining resolutely (in)visible.

Overall this is a outstanding exhibition that thoroughly deserves that accolades it is receiving. Sitting in the gallery space for an hour and a half and soaking up the atmosphere of these magnificent works has been for me one of the art experiences of 2012. Make sure that you do not miss these mesmerising prophecies.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the artist, Gagosian Gallery and the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Special thankx to Director of the CCP Naomi Cass and Ms. James McKee from Gagosian Gallery for facilitating the availability of the media images. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

All photographs © Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Installation and detail photographs Dr Marcus Bunyan

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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“In a Lonely Place presents selections from three major series by Gregory Crewdson, Fireflies (1996), Beneath the Roses (2003-2008), Sanctuary (2010) and, presented for the first time, the video Field Notes (2009). The exhibition title comes from Nicholas Ray’s 1950s film noir of the same name, one of many films that inspired Crewdson. In a Lonely Place is evocative of an underlying mood-a quiet feeling of alienation and loneliness that links the three series selected by curators Estelle Af Malmborg, Jens Erdman Rasmussen and Felix Hoffmann. In a Lonely Place presents the first comprehensive exhibition of Crewdson’s work in Australia.

In Beneath the Roses, anonymous townscapes, forest clearings and broad, desolate streets are revealed as sites of mystery and wonder; similarly, ostensibly banal interiors become the staging grounds for strange human scenarios. Crewdson’s scenes are tangibly atmospheric: visually alluring and often deeply disquieting. Never anchored precisely in time or place, these and the other narratives of Beneath the Roses are located in the dystopic landscape of the anxious American imagination. Crewdson explores the American psyche and the dramas at play within quotidian environments.

In his most recent series, Sanctuary (2010), Crewdson has taken a new direction, shooting for the first time outside the US. During a trip to Rome, he visited the legendary Cinecittà studios, which was founded by Mussolini in the 1930s and is associated with the great Italian film director Federico Fellini. Crewdson discovered fragments of a past glory, with occasional unexpected views of the surrounding contemporary Roman suburbia. Cinecittà is a lonely place deserted by the film crews who once used the site to recreate settings of ancient Rome, medieval Italy and nineteenth-century New York.

In the intimate photographs of Fireflies, Crewdson portrays the mating ritual of fireflies at dusk, capturing the tiny insects’ transient moments of light as they illuminate the summer night. Unlike the theatrical scale of the Beneath the Roses and Sanctuary series, Fireflies is a quiet meditation on the nature of light and desire, as the images reflect not only upon the fleeting movements of the insects in their intricate mating ritual, but upon the notion of photography itself, in capturing a single ephemeral moment.

Gregory Crewdson received a BA from the State University of New York, Purchase, New York in 1985 and an MFA in Photography from Yale School of Art, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut in 1988. He has exhibited widely in the United States and Europe. He is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Photography at the Yale School of Art, Yale University. Gregory Crewdson is represented by Gagosian Gallery and White Cube Gallery.”

Press release from the Gagosian Gallery website

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Installation photographs the series Sanctuary (2010) from the exhibition Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne (Photos: Dr Marcus Bunyan)

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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1. Crowther’s review first published in The New York Times, April 20, 1961. In Fava and Vigano, 105 quoted in Anon. “La Dolce Vita,” on Wikipedia Footnote 30 [Online] Cited 20/10/2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Dolce_Vita

2. Anon. “La Dolce Vita,” on Wikipedia Footnote 30 [Online] Cited 20/10/2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Dolce_Vita

3. Sultanik, Aaron. Film, a Modern Art. Cranbury, N.J: Cornwall Books, 1986, p.408

4. Richardson, Robert. “Waste Lands: The Breakdown of Order,” in Bondanella (ed.), Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism, p.111 quoted in Anon. “La Dolce Vita,” on Wikipedia Footnote 30 [Online] Cited 20/10/2012.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Dolce_Vita

5. Bacon, Julie Louise. “Liquid Archive: On Ambivalence,” in Liquid Archive. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2012, p.119

6. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. “The Museum – A Refuge for Utopian Thought,” in Rüsen, Jörn; Fehr Michael, and Ramsbrock, Annelie (eds.). Die Unruhe der Kultur: Potentiale des Utopischen. Velbrück Wissenschaft, 2004. In German.

7. Kataoka, Mami commenting on the work of Allan Kaprow. “Transient Encounters,” in Broadsheet: Criticism, Theory, Art Vol 41.3, September 2012, p.174

8. Geczy, Adam. “A dish served lukewarm,” in Broadsheet: Criticism, Theory, Art Vol 41.3, September 2012, p.177

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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