Archive for the 'Berlin' Category

20
May
14

Exhibition: ‘Wols Photographer. The Guarded Look’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 15th March - 22nd June 2014

 

Some familiar images that were also seen in the posting Wols’ Photography: Images Regained are complimented by 5 new ones. The two portraits of the artist Max Ernst are eerie (is that a suitable word for a portrait that is strong and unsettling?) and perceptive, Wols responsive to the status of his sitter as a pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism.

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Many thankx to the Martin-Gropius-Bau for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Art Informel

The term Art Informel was originated by the French critic Michel Tapié and popularized in his 1952 book Un Art autre (Another art). A Parisian counterpart of Abstract Expressionism, Art Informel emphasized intuition and spontaneity over the Cubist tradition that had dominated School of Paris painting. The resulting abstractions took a variety of forms. For instance, Pierre Soulages’s black-on-black paintings composed of slashing strokes of velvety paint suggest the nocturnal mood of Europe immediately after the war.

 

 

Wols. 'Untitled [Still life - dining table]' 1937

 

Wols
Untitled [Still life - dining table]
1937
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Wols. 'Nicole Bouban' Autumn 1932 - October 1933 / January 1935 to 1937

 

Wols
Nicole Bouban
Autumn 1932 – October 1933 / January 1935 to 1937
© Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Wols. 'Untitled [Pavilion de l'Elegance - Creating a home with Alix (Germaine Krebs)]' 1937

 

Wols
Untitled [Pavilion de l'Elegance - Creating a home with Alix (Germaine Krebs)]
1937
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Germaine Émilie Krebs (1903-1993), known as Alix Barton and later as “Madame Grès”, relaunched her design house under the name Grès in Paris in 1942. Prior to this, she worked as “Alix” or “Alix Grès” during the 1930s. Formally trained as a sculptress, she produced haute couture designs for an array of fashionable women, including the Duchess of Windsor, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Dolores del Río. Her signature was cut-outs on gowns that made exposed skin part of the design, yet still had a classical, sophisticated feel. She was renowned for being the last of the haute couture houses to establish a ready-to-wear line, which she called a “prostitution”.

The name Grès was a partial anagram of her husband’s first name and alias. He was Serge Czerefkov, a Russian painter, who left her soon after the house’s creation. Grès enjoyed years of critical successes but, after Grès herself sold the business in the 1980s to Yagi Tsucho, a Japanese company, it faltered. In 2012, the last Grès store in Paris was closed. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Wols. 'Untitled [Swiss Pavilion - Wire Figure]' 1937

 

Wols
Untitled [Swiss Pavilion - Wire Figure]
1937
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

“Wolfgang Schulze, known as Wols, was born in Berlin in 1913. As a painter and graphic artist he is considered to have been an important trailblazer of Art Informel. For the first time the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin is presenting the largely unknown photographic oeuvre of Wols. These works foreshadow his development in the direction of non-representational art.

Wols grew up in Dresden, where he had an early encounter with photography as a profession through his attendance at a course in the studio of the Dresden photographer Genja Jonas. In 1932, after a brief sojourn in the milieu of the Berlin Bauhaus – then in the process of breaking up – the young Wols set off for Paris to realize his artistic ambitions.

Soon he was involved with the local Surrealists and made the acquaintance of other personalities in the theatrical, literary and art scenes. In this period Wols was mainly active as a photographer. In 1937 his works were exhibited for the first time in the prestigious Parisian Galérie de la Pléiade, which established his reputation as a photographer. It was at this time that he adopted the pseudonym Wols. One of his commissions was to document the Pavillon de l’Elégance at the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris.

At the same time he produced striking multiple black-and-white portraits of personalities such as Max Ernst, Nicole Boubant or Roger Blin. Over the years Wols’ imagery became increasingly radical. The representational motifs gradually acquired a more abstract dimension and forced the viewer to see the objects represented in a new light. In particular, an extraordinary set of photograms confirms his interest in replacing representational motifs with non-representational ones. Transferred to painting, this trend would later make him a pioneer of Art Informel.

Immediately after the outbreak of the Second World War Wols spent over a year in various internment camps in the south of France. In this period he turned more to watercolours, most of which were lost while he was fleeing from the Nazis.

Living in straitened circumstances Wols fought a losing battle with alcoholism and poor health. In 1951, as a result of his weakened physical condition, he died of food poisoning in Paris at the early age of 38. After his death, Wols’ work was displayed at the first three documenta exhibitions in Kassel (1955, 1959, 1964) and, in 1958, at the Venice Biennale. On 27 May 2014 he would have been 101.

The show covers all of his photographic work, including multiple portraits of famous artists, actors and writers, photographs of the “Pavillon de l’Élégance”, numerous still lifes, and many hitherto unknown motifs. The exhibition has been curated by the Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, where this unique collection will be kept and systematically catalogued.”

Press release from Martin-Gropius-Bau website

 

Wols. 'Max Ernst' Fall 1932 - October / January 1935 to 1936

 

Wols
Max Ernst
Fall 1932 – October / January 1935 to 1936
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Wols. 'Max Ernst' Fall 1932 - October / January 1935 to 1936

 

Wols
Max Ernst
Fall 1932 – October / January 1935 to 1936
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

“Wols permanently settled in Paris in 1933, producing his first paintings but also working as a photographer. His photographic work of this period showed the clear influence of Surrealism. In 1936, he received official permission to live in Paris with the help of Fernand Léger; as an army deserter, Schulze had to report to the Paris police on a monthly basis. In 1937, the year in which he adopted his pseudonym WOLS, his photographs began to appear in fashion magazines such as Harper’s BazaarVogueFemina as well as Revue de l’art. Many of these photographs anticipate the displays at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme held in Paris in the following year, in which much use was made of mannequins.

At the outbreak of World War II Wols, as a German citizen, was interned for 14 months in the notorious Les Milles camp - together with some 3500 other artists and intellectuals. He was not released until late 1940. After his release Wols moved for two years to Cassis, near Marseille, where he struggled to earn a living. The occupation of Southern France by the Germans in 1942 forced him to flee to Dieulefit, near Montélimar, where he met the writer Henri-Pierre Roché, one of his earliest collectors. He spent most of the war trying to emigrate to the United States, an unsuccessful and costly enterprise that may have driven him to alcoholism.

After the war Wols returned to Paris where he met Jean-Paul Sartre, Tristan Tzara and Jean Paulhan. He started to paint in oils in 1946 at the suggestion of the dealer René Drouin, who showed 40 of his paintings at his gallery in 1947. The same year Wols began to work on a number of illustrations for books by Paulhan, Sartre, Franz Kafka and Antonin Artaud. He fell ill but lacked the money to go to hospital, and throughout 1948 he worked largely in bed on these illustrations. In 1949 he took part in the exhibition Huit oeuvres nouvelles at the Galerie Drouin, along with Jean Dubuffet, Roberto Matta, Henri Michaux and other artists with whom he had a stylistic affinity.

Undergoing treatment for alcoholism, he moved to the country at Champigny-sur-Marne in June 1951. His early death later that year from food poisoning helped foster the legendary reputation that grew up around him soon afterwards. His paintings helped pioneer Art informel and Tachism, which dominated European art during and after the 1950s as a European counterpart to American Abstract Expressionism. Influenced by the writings of the philosopher Lao Tzu throughout his life, Wols also wrote poems and aphorisms that expressed his aesthetic and philosophical ideas.”

Text from the Weimar blog 2010

 

Wols. 'Untitled [Paris - Flea Market]' Autumn 1932 - October 1933 / January 1935 to 1936

 

Wols
Untitled [Paris - Flea Market]
Autumn 1932 – October 1933 / January 1935 to 1936
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Wols. 'Untitled [Paris - Palisade]' Fall 1932 - October 1933 / January 1935 - August 1939

 

Wols
Untitled [Paris - Palisade]
Fall 1932 – October 1933 / January 1935 – August 1939
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Wols. 'Untitled [Paris - Eiffel Tower]' 1937

 

Wols
Untitled [Paris - Eiffel Tower]
1937
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Wols. 'Untitled [Still Life - Grapefruit]' 1938 - August 1939

 

Wols
Untitled [Still Life - Grapefruit]
1938 – August 1939
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Wols. 'Self Portrait with Hat' 1937/38

 

Wols
Self Portrait with Hat
1937/38
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
T: +49 (0)30 254 86-0

Opening Hours:
Wednesday to Monday 10 – 20 hrs
Tuesday closed

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18
May
14

Exhibition: ‘Wols: Cosmos and Street’ at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 14th February – 26th May 2014

 

How lucky we are!

Two consecutive postings on the German artist Wols (a pseudonym for Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze May 27, 1913, Berlin - September 1, 1951, Paris), who is today considered a pioneer of Lyrical Abstraction – a type of abstract painting related to Abstract Expressionism undertaken in the post-war years by mainly French artists. He is also considered to be one of the most influential artists of the Art Informel and Tachisme movements. Both movements were opposed not only to Cubist and Surrealist movements that preceded it, but also to geometric abstraction (or “cold abstraction”).

Lyrical abstraction represented an opening to personal expression: Wols was not only a painter and photographer but he also wrote poems and aphorisms and studied the philosophy of Lao Tzu. This fascinating exhibition connects Wols’s photography, drawing and painting, and argues that his art forms (in)formed each other. The number of artists that have successfully worked in both mediums is limited, but as Wols shows they are not, and never have been, mutually exclusive.

The great sadness is that Wols was another talented artist who died young, at the age of just 38 – collateral damage of the conflagration that was the Second World War. He was an army deserter when he moved to Paris and was interned for 14 months at the start of the war, only to be released to live near Marseilles in 1940. The occupation of Southern France by the Germans in 1942 forced him to flee and he spent most of the rest of the war trying unsuccessfully to escape to America. During this time his alcoholism developed, an addiction that caused poor health and which, along with food poisoning, was ultimately to cost him his life.

His photographs have a chthonic darkness. They inhabit a tenebrous reality, a shadowy underworld. Just look at Untitled (Cobblestone) (1932-1942, below) and observe how the dampness of the water seems to have the viscosity of congealed blood. During his internment he produced, as the press release states, “some of the strangest, most intricate and beautiful drawings of modern times.” They possess a certain, undefinable magic, filled as they are with amorphous animals and plants, filled with amour, a secret love. And finally his paintings – shattering, disturbing, bloody, hairy, earthbound and cerebral, homologous to wiring looms of the mind and/or the molecular structure of atoms – circling and popping and fizzing and scrapping their way into existence… creating an expanded conception of space and time that is both micro (cellular) and macro (celestial).

Wols has to be one of the most interesting artists of the 20th century and, elementally, one of its greatest. Such a pity that he died so young.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog
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Many thankx to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía for allowing me to publish the photographs and art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image

 

 

Wols. 'Untitled' 1932-1941

 

Wols
Untitled
1932-1941
Silver gelatin print
14.9 x 18.2 cm
Kunsthaus Zurich

 

Wols. 'Untitled' Nd / 1976

 

Wols
Untitled
Nd / 1976
Silver gelatin print
18.7 x 24 cm
Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, Stuttgart

 

Wols. 'Pepona doll on the cobbles' 1938-39

 

Wols
Pepona doll on the cobbles
1938-39
Silver gelatin print
23 x 17 cm
Acquisition 2004
Centre Pompidou, Paris
National Museum of Modern Art/Centre for Industrial Creation

 

Wols. 'Untitled (Cobblestone)' 1932-1942 / 1976

 

Wols
Untitled (Cobblestone)
1932-1942 / 1976
Gelatin silver print
18.7 x 24 cm
Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, Stuttgart
© VEGAP, Madrid, 2014

 

 

“Wols is one of the most intriguing figures in 20th-century art. Born Otto Wolfgang Schulze into an upper middle class family in Berlin, he broke with Germany as the Nazis were coming to power, changed his name to Wols, and lived the rest of his life in France. During the 1930s he was best known as a photographer. The outbreak of the Second World War changed everything. As the citizen of a hostile country, Wols was continuously displaced from one French domicile, prison or internment camp to another. In these precarious conditions he started to draw in earnest, often by candlelight, lying on his bunk. In the harshness of the camps he developed the alcohol-dependency which contributed to his early death in 1951. At the same time he produced some of the strangest, most intricate and beautiful drawings of modern times.

Wols: Cosmos and Street does not attempt a survey of Wols’s work, nor a retrospective with a chronological structure. A significant aspect of Wols’s practice was that he did not title or date his works. Titles, somewhat over-poetic, were added later by his wife Gréty, and by friends such as the writer Henri-Pierre Roché. Instead, the exhibition presents his work in terms of two distinct kinds of ‘graphism’: one of the light (photography) and one of the line (drawing). It is true that in chronological terms photography came earlier in Wols’s life and was adopted partly for contingent reasons of making a living. He was intermittently a professional photographer but remained always a ‘poetic’ photographer with a inimitable eye.

In the exhibition title, “Street” stands for the everyday, earthbound, nitty-gritty human world revealed in Wols’s photographs. “Cosmos” stands for Wols’s exquisite drawings creating a vision of universal energy expressed in fluid constructs of biological and organic forms. The public is invited to come very close to Wols’s pictures, to peer into them and savour the details of their forms, the refined articulation of even the minutest mark.

During and after the Second World War Wols’s graphic work became increasingly abstract. Its difference from the crystalline and geometric end of the spectrum of abstraction, which is often identified with cosmological speculation, and informed much of kinetic art, could hardly be more marked. Wols’s creations are earthbound, biological, hairy and visceral, but they are no less a model of the universe. Tendencies in art which may have been mutually hostile at the time of their inception can now be seen to be two streams which converging in the desire to find a visual language which could encompass the hugely expanded conception of space and time that has come with the discoveries of modern science.

In its immediate context Wols’s work represents the turning of the Parisian surrealism of the 1930s towards the existentialism of the postwar years, towards l’art brut, l’art informel, and to artists like Fautrier, Dubuffet, Giacometti, and eventually Tinguely and Takis. A new conception of space is struggling to be born among those artists, which was in some ways foreseen in Wols’s works of the 1940s, where a gradual transformation takes place of a terrestrial into a cosmic space.

In 1945 the Parisian art dealer, René Drouin, proposed to Wols that he experiment with painting in oils on canvas. Drouin provided the necessary materials, encouraging Wols to work on a larger scale than he could achieve with watercolour on paper. Wols was philosophically and constitutionally against Drouin’s idea. Paintings in oil on canvas, he would say, “involve too much ambition and gymnastics. I am opposed to both.” Nevertheless, he began to produce oil paintings in 1947. It is as if Wols made paintings by attacking painting itself, an intensely individual position that artist Georges Mathieu at the time described as “shattering, disturbing and bloody.”

It is impossible to ignore the impression of ferocity that Wols’s oil paintings produce at their most audacious. Yet it was not through a simplistic ‘attack’ that Wols achieved this intensity since in these oil paintings passages of uncouth daubing alternate with passages of great delicacy.

Taking into account the contingencies that have helped shape it at distinct moments, and its abiding concerns and sensibilities, Wols’s work can be seen as a continuous play between abstraction and figuration. One of its special features is that it encompasses both photography and painting. In one sense, and allowing for the different technical procedures, the degree of abstraction in the ‘figurative’ photographs just about equals the degree of figuration in the ‘abstract’ drawings, watercolours and etchings. They take part in one another while remaining distinct. A fluid area is created, an area of transition conceived as something vast and tiny at the same time. It is in the creation of this uncertain, ‘unnamable’ but energized space that the insight and wit of Wols’s work really lies.”

Press release from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía website

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Wols: Cosmos and Street' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid 2014

Installation views of the exhibition 'Wols: Cosmos and Street' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid 2014

Installation views of the exhibition 'Wols: Cosmos and Street' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid 2014

Installation views of the exhibition 'Wols: Cosmos and Street' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid 2014

 

Installation views of the exhibition Wols: Cosmos and Street at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid 2014

 

Wols. 'Untitled (Green Composition)' c. 1942

 

Wols
Untitled (Green Composition)

c. 1942
Pen and ink, watercolor, white zinc and scraping on paper
23.3 x 27 cm
Karin and Uwe Hollweg Stiftung, Bremen

 

Wols. 'Composition' 1941-1942

 

Wols
Composition
1941-1942
Pen, colored ink on paper
20 x 12.8 cm
The Menil Collection, Houston

 

Wols. 'Slice of liver-cello' c. 1944

 

Wols
Slice of liver-cello
c. 1944
Pen and ink, watercolor and zinc white
18.3 x 13.2 cm
Private collection

 

Wols. 'Untitle'; also known as 'It's All Over The City' 1946-47

 

Wols
Untitled; also known as It’s All Over The City
1946-47
Oil on canvas
81 x 81 cm
The Menil Collection, Houston

 

Wols. 'The bird' 1949

 

Wols
The bird
1949
Oil on canvas
92.1 x 65.1 cm
The Menil Collection, Houston

 

Wols. 'Untitled' 1946-47

 

Wols
Untitled
1946-47
Oil on canvas

 

 

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Sabatini Building
Santa Isabel, 52
Nouvel Building
Ronda de Atocha (with plaza del Emperador Carlos V)
28012 Madrid
T: (34) 91 774 10 00

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday and bank holidays from 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Sundays from 10.00 a.m. to 2.15 p.m complete Museum visit, from 2.15 to 7.00 pm
Closed Tuesdays

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía website

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25
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Roman Vishniac Rediscovered’ at the International Center of Photography (ICP), New York

Exhibition dates: 18th January – 5th May 2013

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“By repositioning Vishniac’s iconic photographs of Eastern Europe within the broader tradition of social documentary photography, and introducing recently discovered and radically diverse bodies of work, this exhibition stakes Vishniac’s claim as a modern master.”

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ICP Adjunct Curator Maya Benton

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Rediscovered! Rediscovered? Surely, such a splendid artist as Vishniac has never been away…

Revealing “a compositional acuity, inventiveness, and surprising stylistic range” – in other words traces of Josef Sudek, Walker Evans, Rodchenko and New Photography – Vishniac’s best work is a record of its troubled time: a photographic record of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars. What the viewing public must be made aware of is the curatorial reinterpretation of his work, seeking as it does to solidify his place “among the 20th century’s most accomplished photographers.”

While some of the work on view may be new, the claims of curator Maya Benton (above) must be observed with a good deal of scepticism. What we need to understand is how his photographs are being interpreted across a range of frames of reference - from photojournalism, to social documentary photography and art – in order, as Maya Benton says, to “reposition” his iconic photographs within the broader tradition of social documentary photography. This repositioning is a form of re/visioning of an artist’s work to place it in a different context or frame of reference in order to increase its significance; or, by exclusion (as in the case of the S/M photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe that have been occluded by the Mapplethorpe Foundation), another context, make the work of an artist more socially palatable than would otherwise be the case.

The interpretation of Vishniac’s photographs becomes problematic depending on what frame of reference one applies to them and how their interpretation is negotiated between multiple, fluid points of view. Repositioning an artist’s work within a broader context changes the nature of the interpretation of that artist’s work and raises the pertinent question: who is repositioning this work and for what reason(s); who is pushing that agenda and curatorial barrow (in Benton’s case it is because she wants Vishniac’s work to be seen as that of a modern master, to make the credibility of the exhibition and the artist more than it possibly is). What we must be fully aware of is the time and place in which Vishniac made the work and the conditions for its initial reception, not some stake in the ground claim of modern mastership.

Vishniac’s photographs frame the historical discourse of the end of Jewish culture in Eastern Europe and the rise of Fascism in Germany with erudition – for the past, present and future. Any other claims to eclecticism, applying different “repositioning” in particular cases, seems inelegant and shows a lack of consistency in clear thinking. When you really look at his work there is a sensitivity to the human condition in his work that is outstanding, coupled with a clear compositional structure and use of chiaroscuro. He was an excellent visual artist who had strong previsualisation that is evidenced in the prints. These photographs make insightful comment on the surrounding culture at the time of their production. Nothing more grandiose need be said.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the ICP for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for another version of the image.

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Roman Vishniac. 'Herring for the traditional third meal of Shabbath, Mukachevo' 1937-38

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Roman Vishniac
Herring for the traditional third meal of Shabbath, Mukachevo
1937-38
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 13 3/8 inches

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]' c. 1935-38

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Boy with kindling in basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]' c. 1935-38

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Boy with kindling in basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Cross section of a pine needle' date unknown

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Roman Vishniac
Cross section of a pine needle
date unknown
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof, a railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]' late 1920s - early 1930s

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof, a railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]
late 1920s – early 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac Rediscovered, on view at the International Center of Photography (1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street) January 18 – May 5, 2013, brings together four decades of work by a remarkably versatile and innovative photographer. The exhibition includes recently discovered vintage prints, moving film footage, personal correspondence, and exhibition prints made from Vishniac’s recently digitized negatives. His complex and visionary work, much of which is shown here for the first time, reveals a compositional acuity, inventiveness, and surprising stylistic range that solidifies his place among the 20th century’s most accomplished photographers.

Vishniac created the most widely recognized and reproduced photographic record of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars. Yet only a fraction of his work was published during his lifetime, most notably in A Vanished World (1983). Over the course of his career, Vishniac witnessed the sweeping artistic and photographic innovation of Weimar Berlin, the ominous rise to Nazi power in Germany, the final years of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, and immigrant life in America during and after the war.

“By repositioning Vishniac’s iconic photographs of Eastern Europe within the broader tradition of social documentary photography, and introducing recently discovered and radically diverse bodies of work, this exhibition stakes Vishniac’s claim as a modern master,” said ICP Adjunct Curator Maya Benton, who organized the exhibition.

Born in 1897 to a wealthy Russian-Jewish family, Vishniac immigrated to Berlin in 1920 in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. As an amateur photographer, he took to the streets with his camera throughout the 1920s and ’30s, offering astute, often humorous visual commentary on his adopted city and experimented with new and modern approaches to framing and composition. Documenting the rise of Nazi power, he focused his lens on the signs of oppression and doom that soon formed the backdrop of his Berlin street photography. From 1935 to 1938, while living in Berlin and working as a biologist and science photographer, he was commissioned by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), then the world’s largest Jewish relief organization, to photograph impoverished Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe. On New Year’s Day, 1941, he arrived in New York and soon opened a portrait studio. At the same time, he began documenting American Jewish communal and immigrant life and established himself as a pioneer in the field of photomicroscopy. In 1947, Vishniac returned to Europe and documented Jewish displaced persons camps and the ruins of Berlin. During this time, he also recorded the efforts of Holocaust survivors to rebuild their lives, and the work of the JDC and other Jewish relief organizations in providing them with aid and emigration assistance.

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered is a comprehensive reappraisal of Vishniac’s total photographic output, from the early years in Berlin through the postwar period. The exhibition also includes a slideshow of 100 color science transparencies – digitized for the first time – of Vishniac’s microphotoscopy, taken from the early 1950s to the late 1970s. In addition to the exhibition, a primary task of the archive is to make this work available for research, in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.”

Press release from the ICP website

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Street scene with swastika flag in background, Berlin]' c. 1935-36

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Street scene with swastika flag in background, Berlin]
c. 1935-36
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Nazi Storm Troopers marching next to the Arsenal in front of the Berlin Cathedral]' c. 1935

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Nazi Storm Troopers marching next to the Arsenal in front of the Berlin Cathedral]
c. 1935
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Untitled [Beach dwellers in the afternoon, Nice, France]' c. 1939

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Beach dwellers in the afternoon, Nice, France]
c. 1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'People behind bars, Berlin Zoo' early 1930s

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Roman Vishniac
People behind bars, Berlin Zoo
early 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac, 'Untitled [Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939

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Roman Vishniac
Untitled [Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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Roman Vishniac. 'Recalcitrance' Berlin, 1926

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Roman Vishniac
Recalcitrance
Berlin, 1926
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography

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International Center of Photography
1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street
New York NY 10036
T: 212 857 0045

Opening hours:
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12
Oct
12

Exhibition: ‘Dennis Hopper – The Lost Album. Vintage Photographs of the 1960s’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 20th September – 17th December 2012

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“I never made a cent from these photos. They cost me money but kept me alive. These are my photos. I started at eighteen taking pictures. I stopped at thirty-one. (…) These represent the years from twenty-five to thirty-one, 1961 to 1967. I didn’t crop my photos. They are full frame natural light Tri-X. I went under contract to Warner Brothers at eighteen. I directed Easy Rider at thirty-one. I married Brooke at twenty-five and got a good camera and could afford to take pictures and print them. They were the only creative outlet I had for these years until Easy Rider. I never carried a camera again.”

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Dennis Hopper 1986

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“The necessity to make these photos and paintings came from a real place – a place of desperation and solitude – with the hope that someday these objects, paintings, and photos would be seen filling the void I was feeling.”

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Dennis Hopper 2001

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Unlike an earlier posting of photographs by a well known film director (the underwhelming, in fact pretty awful, Wim Wenders: Places, Strange and Quiet), these “lost” photographs by Dennis Hopper are very good. They perfectly capture the social milieu of the time and the pervading ethos of the fracturing of the image plane, a la Gary Winogrand or Lee Friedlander. Nice to see the work full frame as well, meaning that the photographers’ previsualisation was strong in camera; that Hopper had an excellent understanding of the construction of the pictorial frame negating the necessity for cropping of the image. Enlarging the face of Martin Luther King Jr., (below) and then looking into his eyes, I felt I had a connection with this person. Nostalgia, longing, sadness and joy at his life and the feeling that I was looking into the eyes of one of the great human beings of the twentieth century.

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Many thankx to Martin-Gropius-Bau 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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Dennis Hopper
Guy With 5 Hogs
1961-67
Location: USA
6.97 x 9.85 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

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Dennis Hopper
Double Standard
1961
Location: Los Angeles, Ca USA
6.87 x 9.79 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

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Dennis Hopper
James Rosenquist
1964
Location: Billboard Factory, Los Angeles, Ca USA
6.81 x 9.68 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

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The exhibition shows a spectacular portfolio of over four hundred vintage photographs taken by Dennis Hopper in the 1960s. Tucked away in five crates and forgotten, they were discovered after his death. There can be no doubt that these works are those personally selected by Hopper from the wealth of shots he took between 1961 and 1967 for the first major exhibition of his photography. The pictures themselves document how the works were installed in the Fort Worth Art Center Museum, Texas, in 1970 by himself and Henry T. Hopkins, the museum’s director at the time. None of these works have been displayed in Europe before. The portfolio that has now come to light is a treasure. It consists of small plates, sometimes numbered on the back with brief notes in Hopper’s hand and showing traces of wear. Mounted on cardboard, without frame of glass, they were attached directly to the wall.

The images have a legendary quality. Spontaneous, intimate, poetic, unabashedly political and keenly observed, they document an exciting epoch, its protagonists and milieus. These photographs reflect the atmosphere of an era, being outstanding testimonials to America’s dynamic cultural scene in the 1960s. On the viewer they exercise an irresistible attraction, bearing him away on a journey into the past, often into his own history.

Many of these pictures are icons, such as the portraits of Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Paul Newman and Jane Fonda. They also cover a wide range of subjects. Dennis Hopper is interested in everything. Wherever he happens to be, whether in Los Angeles, New York, London, Mexico or Peru, he takes in his surroundings with empathy, enthusiasm and intense curiosity. He seeks and savours the “essential moment”, capturing the celebrities and types of his time with the camera: actors, artists, musicians, his family, bikers and hippies. He leaves an impressive photographic record of the “street life” of Harlem, of cemeteries in Mexico, and of bullfights in Tijuana. Hopper accompanies Martin Luther King Jr. on the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and, in images of great beauty and serenity, he converts the every day life and the neglected into a picture of beauty and silence as if converting Abstract Expressionism from the language of painting into that of photography.

Between 1961 and 1967 Hopper applied himself intensely on photography.

Hopper’s photographs are legendary images, spontaneous, intimate, and poetic as well as decidedly political and keenly observant – documents of an exciting period, its protagonists and milieus. Many of these photos have become iconic: the portraits of Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Paul Newman or Jane Fonda. They also cover a range of topics and motifs. Hopper was interested in everything. Wherever he was, in Los Angeles, New York, London, Mexico or Peru, he was a precise observer, full of empathy and curiosity. He captured the geniuses of his day, the actors, artists, musicians and poets, his family and friends, the “scene”, bikers and hippies. He wandered the streets of Harlem and the graveyards of Durango and watched the bullfights in Tijuana with fascination. Hopper followed Martin Luther King Jr. with his camera on the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. And he paid attention to things small, ordinary, and neglected, transforming the “remains of our world” into images of great beauty and tranquility, as if converting Abstract Expressionist painting into the language of photography.

Press release from the Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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Dennis Hopper
Andy Warhol and Members of The Factory (Gregory Markopoulos, Taylor Mead, Gerard Malanga, Jack Smith)
1963
Location: in The Factory, NYC, NY USA
6.57 x 9.87 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

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Dennis Hopper
Niki de Saint Phalle (kneeling)
1963
Location: USA
6.66 x 9.83 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

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The Lost Album

Gelatine silver vintage prints, 1970
Collection of the Dennis Hopper Art Trust

More than four hundred photos came to light after Hopper’s death. He had selected them for his first photography exhibition in 1970 at the Fort Worth Art Center Museum. They show signs of wear: fingerprints, scratches, discoloration, a frayed corner or tiny dent. Mounted on cardboard, numbered on the back with notes in Hopper’s handwriting, they were hung directly on the wall from small wooden strips without frames or glass. The hanging in the Martin-Gropius-Bau is based on the original installation of 1970.

The vintage prints, in portrait and landscape format, are all of a similar size, ca. 24 x 16 cm; twenty of them are in a larger format (ca. 33 x 23 cm). Of the 429 Hopper chose for his first exhibition, eleven are believed lost; they are replaced here by new prints, which will be clearly indicated. In only two cases was it impossible to locate the corresponding negative, and a placeholder with the title is mounted instead. The rediscovered boxes contained an additional nineteen, unnumbered vintage prints along with the 429, which Hopper took with him to Fort Worth but probably never hung in the exhibition. They have been incorporated into the “Album” here (I-XIX).

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Additional information on the photographs

1. Brooke Hayward, Marin Hopper

Brooke Hayward, born and raised in Los Angeles, was at home in the glamorous world of Hollywood through her parents, the film producer Leland Hayward and Hollywood star Margaret Sullavan, and Hopper in turn knew a lot of extraordinary people through his involvement in the acting and art worlds. Hopper and Hayward’s home became the center of an illustrious group of actors, artists, musicians, writers, and film producers. Soon after moving [into their house] they threw a “movie star party” for Andy Warhol to celebrate his second exhibition at the Ferus Gallery (1963).

“Since I was a small child, growing up in L.A., I remember that my dad was always capturing the scene around him through the lens of his camera. What he always described as taking the most pleasure in exploring, or focusing on, much like Marcel Duchamp signing the Hotel-Green-Sign for him on the night of his opening at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1963, and Rauschenberg’s practice, was the philosophy that an artist can point to something and claim it’s art because in that moment it is to them.” (Marin Hopper, 2012)

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2. Los Angeles Art Scene

Walter Hopps and Edward Kienholz founded the Ferus Gallery at 736A North La Cienega Boulevard in March 1957. Ferus was very underground, like a crazy club with exhibitions, readings and fashion shows. “The openings were wild, everybody had a blast, and nobody made a penny.” Hopper attended every opening and went to performances and happenings, whether it was Oldenburg’s Los Angeles performance Autobodys in 1963, Robert Rauschenberg’s performance Pelican at the Culver City Ice Rink in 1966, or Allan Kaprow’s Fluids in 1967, when with the help of friends he stacked blocks of ice to form enclosures at different sites in Los Angeles.

In 1966, Claes Oldenburg made a piece of plaster wedding cake (which he stamped on the back) for each guest at the wedding party for Jim Elliot, curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Rauschenberg was wearing this stamp on his tongue when Hopper photographed him at the wedding.

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3. New York

Hopper frequently traveled to New York, strolling through the Museum of Modern Art and the galleries, sometimes in the company of Henry Geldzahler, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and visited Warhol, at whose Factory he encountered Gerard Malanga, Taylor Mead or David Hockney. Hopper met Robert Rauschenberg in New York and visited Roy Lichtenstein in his studio.

In London, where he exhibited his assemblages at the Robert Fraser Gallery in 1964, he made the acquaintance of Peter Blake, one of the key figures of British Pop Art, David Hemmings, the star of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow up (1966), and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.

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4. Civil Rights Marches

The Selma to Montgomery March: “[Marlon] Brando got me involved [in the march] … He pulled up in his car and said, ‘What are you doing day after tomorrow?’ and I said ‘Nothing’, and he said, ‘You want to go to Selma?’ And I said, ‘Sure, man. Thanks for asking me!’ [Then at the march, police] dogs were biting, and people were being bombed, and it was like, ‘Where are we?’” (Dennis Hopper)

The third march from Selma to Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, began on March 21, 1965, extended for 54 miles, took five days, and involved 4,000 marchers led by Martin Luther King Jr. and allies such as Ralph David Abernathy, Sr. It was the highpoint of the American Civil Rights Movements. Hundreds of ministers, priests, nuns, and rabbis followed King’s call to Selma. “It was like a holy crusade …” Numerous photographers, such as Spider Martin, James Karales, Steve Shapiro, and Bruce Davidson, documented the largest ever gathering of people during the civil rights movement in the South.

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5. Mexico

He was completely obsessed with bullfighting and began attending fights regularly at the Tijuana arena in the 1950s. Hopper went to Mexico as an actor in 1965 when Henry Hathaway surprisingly offered him a role in his film The Sons of Katie Elder (1965).

A Western town was erected in the middle of Durango. Of course, Hopper had his camera with him. He photographed John Wayne and Dean Martin on the set and natives who were part of the crew or who just stopped by to watch, but he also roamed the area and the streets of Durango and Mexico City. In the 1920s and 1930s Mexico had held a great fascination for European as well as American avant-garde painters, photographers, and writers. Edward Weston lived in Mexico City; Henri Cartier-Bresson went there for a year in 1934, befriending the young photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo. Their images have shaped our perception of that country, a perception that is also echoed by some of Hopper’s photographs.

Wall texts from the exhibition

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Dennis Hopper
Martin Luther King, Jr.
1965
Location: Montgomery, Alabama, USA
9.2 x 13.6 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

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Dennis Hopper
Martin Luther King, Jr. (detail)
1965
Location: Montgomery, Alabama, USA
9.2 x 13.6 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

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Dennis Hopper
James Brown
1966
Location: USA
9.7 x 6.77 inch
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

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Dennis Hopper
Paul Newman
1964
Location: Malibu, Ca USA
9.7 x 6.66 inches
© The Dennis Hopper Trust, Courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

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Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
Phone +49 (0)30 254 86-0

Opening Hours:
Wednesday to Monday 10 – 20 hrs
Tuesday closed

Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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21
Sep
12

Exhibition: ‘Eva Besnyö 1910-2003: The Sensuous Image’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 22nd May – 23rd September 2012

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“Ranging from the experimental to the photojournalistic, from street scenes to portraits, and from new architecture to the aftermath of the aerial bombardment of Rotterdam, July 1940, Besnyö explored the different terrains that photography was opening up, while at the same time helping to define them. The various bodies of work make it difficult to characterize her… she seems to have no signature body of work, which is one of her abiding strengths. Just when you think you have gotten some sense of her, she slips through your fingers.”

John Yau. “Something Special About Her, Eva Besnyö at the Jeu de Paume” on the Hyperallergic website, July 8th 2012

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Eva Besnyö
Self Portrait
1932
Silver gelatin photograph
Private Collection, Berlin
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Self Portrait
Nd
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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One of the purposes of this blog is to bring relatively unknown artists into the spotlight. Eva Besnyö is one such artist. Leaving the repressive atmosphere of Hungary in 1930, Besnyö joined László Moholy-Nagy, Martin Munkácsi, György Kepes and Endre Friedmann (Robert Capa) in Berlin before, sensing the danger of National Socialism, she moved to the Netherlands in 1932. After the invasion of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany in 1940 Besnyö survived four long years in hiding before obtaining false papers in 1944 that allowed her to emerge into the open. She was Jewish.

Exploring elements of the New Vision and New Objectivity in her work, Besnyö explored “the different terrains that photography was opening up” through various bodies of work: “ranging from experimental to the photojournalistic, from street scenes to portraits, and from new architecture to the aftermath of the aerial bombardment of Rotterdam.” As John Yau observes in the quote at the top of the posting, “The various bodies of work make it difficult to characterize her… she seems to have no signature body of work, which is one of her abiding strengths. Just when you think you have gotten some sense of her, she slips through your fingers.”

Continuing the conversation from my recent review of the work of Pat Brassington (where I noted that curators and collectors alike try to pigeon hole artists into one particular style, mainly so that they can compartmentalise and order the work that they produce: such and such produces this kind of work – and that the work produced in this style is not necessarily their best), Besnyö can be seen to be a transmogrifying artist, one that experimented and investigated the same themes through different subject matter – hence no signature body of work. One of my friends observed that this kind of art making could be mistaken for a strange form of nihilism (in which nothing in the world has a real existence). It could be argued that the artist keeps changing subject matter, just dabbling really, pleasing herself with the images that she took, without committing to a particular style. Without seeing the 120 vintage prints it is hard to make a judgement.

From the work posted here it would seem that for Besnyö, observation and exploration of the lines of sight of life were the most critical guide to her art. In other words her shifting viewpoints create a multi-dimensional narrative that coalesces in a holistic journey that challenges our point of view in a changing world. As Victor Burgin notes in Thinking Photography, “The structure of presentation – point-of-view and frame – is intimately implicated in the reproduction of ideology (the ‘frame of mind’ of our ‘points-of-view’)” (1982, pp.146). The frame of mind of our points of view…. this is what Eva’s work challenges, the reproduction of our own ideology. Her morphology (the philosophical study of forms and structures) challenges the cameras and our own point of view. As Paul Virilio observes,

“In calling his first photographs of his surroundings ‘points of view’, around 1820, their inventor, Nicéphore Nièpce came as close as possible to Littré’s rigorous definition: ‘The point of view is a collection of objects to which the eye is directed and on which it rests within a certain distance.’” (Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p.19.)

Besnyö changes the collection of objects to which the eye is directed as she also changes the distance and feeling of the objects upon which the eye rests. Notice how in most of the photographs the human subjects all have their back to the camera or are looking away from the instrument of objectification (or looking down into it). Even in the two self portraits Besnyö – formal in one with bobbed hair and skirt, wild in the other with a shock of tousled hair – she avoids the gaze of the camera. Like most of her subjects she remains hard to pin down. What Besnyö does so well (and why she isn’t just pleasing herself) is to construct a mythology of the city, a mythology of life which resonates through the ages. She creates a visual acoustics (if you like), a vibration of being that is commensurate with an understanding of the vulnerability of existence.

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Many thankx to Jeu de Paume 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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Eva Besnyö
Untitled [boy with a violoncello, Balaton, Hungary]
1931
Silver gelatin photograph
29.4 x 24.3 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Gypsies
1931
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Der Monteur am Ladenfenster
Berlin, 1931
Silver gelatin photograph
20.1 x 17.7 cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam.
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Starnberger Straße
Berlin, 1931
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Untitled [Shadow play]
Hungary 1931
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Untitled [dockers on the Spree]
Berlin, 1931
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Untitled [Vertigo #3]
Nd
Silver gelatin photograph
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö (1910–2003) is one of those women who found in photography not just a profession but also a form of liberation, and of those cosmopolitan avant-garde artists who chose Europe as their playing field for both play and work. Immediately after her photographic training in the studio of József Pécsi in Budapest, Eva Besnyö left the repressive, antiprogressive environment of her native Hungary for ever. Then aged 20, she decided, like her compatriots László Moholy-Nagy, Martin Munkácsi, György Kepes and Endre Friedmann (Robert Capa), to go to Berlin. As soon as she arrived in autumn 1930, she discovered there a dynamic photographic scene, open to experimentation and placed under the double sign of the New Vision and the New Objectivity, whose modern language would allow her to develop her personal style.

Of Jewish origins, Eva Besnyö, who foresaw the threat of National Socialism, moved to the Netherlands in 1932 where she met again her companion the film director John Fernhout. There she was welcomed into the circle of international artists around the painter Charley Toorop, and rapidly became known in Amsterdam, where she had her own photographic studio. A solo exhibition at the Kunstzaal van Lier in 1933 gained the attention notably of the Dutch followers of the “Neues Bauen” (New Building), whose architecture she recorded, in a highly personal manner, over a long period. The invasion of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany in 1940 marked a dramatic turning point in Eva Besnyö’s life. If she managed to come out of hiding in 1944, thanks to an invented genealogy, the traces of this experience would remain acute throughout the postwar decades. During the 1950s and 60s, her family life led her to abandon street photography for commissions. Finally, in the twilight of her career, the photographer militated in the Dolle Mina feminist movement, whose street actions she chronicled in the 1970s.

With more than 120 vintage prints, some modern prints and numerous documents, this first French retrospective devoted to Eva Besnyö aims to show the public the different facets of her work, which is situated between New Vision, New Objectivity and social documentary, at the crossroads between poetry and political activism.

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With other eyes

In 1929, during her second year of apprenticeship to József Pécsi, portrait and advertising photograper in Budapest, Eva Besnyö received the book of photographs Die Welt ist schön (The World is Beautiful), published a few months earlier in Munich. Its author, Albert Renger-Patzsch, is the precursor of New Objectivity in photography. While pictorialism reigned in Hungary, Eva Besnyö discovered the world with other eyes: from up close and under unexpected angles. With these new models in mind and her Rolleiflex in hand, she strode along the banks of the Danube in search of subjects and daring viewpoints, showing concern for a precise, close-up description of the most diverse objects, as well as a taste for fragmentation and for the repetition of the motif in the frame.

As soon as she finished her studies, Eva Besnyö went to Berlin on the advice of the painter and photographer György Kepes – and against the wishes of her father who would have preferred that she chose Paris. The Berlin years, between 1930 and 1932, were for her those of a political and aesthetic awakening. Besides the influence of the revolutionary aesthetic of Russian cinema, she came under that of the New Vision, which took off with László Moholy-Nagy and his book Painting Photography Film (1925), using a whole stylistic grammar, advocating downward perspectives or low-angle shots, a taste for the isolated object and its repetition, as well as optical manipulations revealing an unknown, but very real, world. The activity of the town or the empty crossroads of Starnberger Straße, portraits and images of summer on the banks of Lake Wannsee count among Besnyö’s most successful compositions.

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Worker and social photography

At the Marxist Workers’ School in Berlin, Eva Besnyö schooled her social and political conscience. In her circle of friends gathered around fellow Hungarian György Kepes, she discussed passionately the role of the workers’ movements. In Berlin, as earlier in Budapest, Eva Besnyö took her camera to the principal sites of trade and business, where she photographed labourers hard at work: dockers on the Spree, coalmen in the street, fitters perched on ladders; in the city centre, she followed the workers at Alexanderplatz, in around 1930 the largest construction site in Europe. In Hungary, where she returned from time to time from Berlin, she carried out an extraordinary documentary project on the people of Kiserdö, in the suburbs of Budapest. Blessed with a heightened political awareness, she had already understood by 1932 that, as a Jew, her future was not in this country, and left Berlin for Amsterdam.

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New Vision and New Building

In 1933, the solo show devoted by the Kunstzaal van Lier to Eva Besnyö just one year after her arrival in Amsterdam aroused the enthusiasm of numerous architects – her principal clients in the years to come. Mostly members of the group de 8 in Amsterdam and the radical abstract collective Opbouw in Rotterdam, they discerned in her images, which emphasised the functional side of objects, their structure and their texture, a suitable approach for explaining their buildings.

Equipped with a Linhof 9 x 12 cm plate camera acquired especially for the purpose, Eva Besnyö went to building sites and photographed public and private buildings, notably the studios of the Dutch radio station AVRO at Hilversum, the Cineac cinema in Amsterdam and a summer house in Groet, in the north of the country. Become, in the 1930s, the preferred photographer of Dutch New Building, Eva Besnyö made most of her income at the time from architectural photography.

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Bergen and Westkapelle

From Amsterdam, where from 1935 to 1939 she shared a studio at Keizersgracht 522 with the photographer Carel Blazer and the architect Alexander Bodon, Eva Besnyö went regularly to Bergen and Westkapelle, two villages where many artists gathered. In Bergen, north of Amsterdam, Charley Toorop, Expressionist painter and mother of the film director John Fernhout, whom Eva had married in 1933, held an artistic salon in the De Vlerken studio. It was at Westkapelle, a centuries-old village built on a polder in Zealand, that the family often spent their holidays. In this landscape shaped by the natural elements, Eva Besnyö returned to a free photographic practice, with views of vast beaches of white sand, of black silhouettes against a background of old windmills and cut-out shadows.

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Rotterdam

In July 1940, Eva Besnyö photographed the old town of Rotterdam destroyed by German airforce bombing. Far from classic photo-journalism, these images of ruins and traces of devastation – from which, in retrospect, she distanced herself – are today silent, bare statements of the wounds and scars of history.

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Dolle Mina

The Dolle Mina feminist movement gathered both men and women, mainly from the student protest movement. In the 1970s, Eva Besnyö militated actively within it, alongside sympathisers of all ages. In a second phase, she focused on photographic documentation of the movement’s actions and activities, taking responsibility for sending out images daily, like a press agency.

Text by Marion Beckers and Elisabeth Moortgat, curators of the exhibition

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Eva Besnyö
Untitled
1934
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Untitled [Summer house in Groet, North Holland. Architects Merkelbach & Karsten]
1934
18.2 x 24.2 cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Stadion, Berlin, 1931
1931
16.8 x 23.9 cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Untitled [Lieshout, The Netherlands]
1954
Silver gelatin photograph
25.3 x 17.7 cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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“In 1930, when Eva Besnyö arrived in Berlin at the age of only twenty, a certificate of successful apprenticeship from a recognised Budapest photographic studio in her bag, she had made two momentous decisions already: to turn photography into her profession and to put fascist Hungary behind her forever.

Like her Hungarian colleagues Moholy-Nagy, Kepes and Munkacsi and – a little later – Capa, Besnyö experienced Berlin as a metropolis of deeply satisfying artistic experimentation and democratic ways of life. She had found work with the press photographer Dr. Peter Weller and roamed the city with her camera during the day, searching for motifs on construction sites, by Lake Wannsee, at the zoo or in the sports stadiums, and her photographs were published – albeit, as was customary at the time, under the name of the studio. Besnyö’s best-known photo originates from those years: the gypsy boy with a cello on his back – an image of the homeless tramp that has become familiar all over the world.

Eva Besnyö had a keen political sense, evidenced by the fact that she fled in good time from anti-Semitic, National Socialist persecution, leaving Berlin for Amsterdam in autumn 1932. Supported by the circle surrounding woman painter Charley Toorop, filmmaker Joris Ivens and designer Gerrit Rietveld, Besnyö – meanwhile married to cameraman John Fernhout – soon enjoyed public recognition as a photographer. An individual exhibition in the internationally respected Van Lier art gallery in 1933 made her reputation in the Netherlands practically overnight. Besnyö experienced a further breakthrough with her architectural photography only a few years later: translating the idea of functionalist “New Building” into a “New Seeing.” In the second half of the 30s, Besnyö demonstrated an intense commitment to cultural politics, eg. at the anti-Olympiad exhibition “D-O-O-D” (De Olympiade onder Diktatuur) in 1936; in the following year, 1937, she was curator of the international exhibition “foto ’37″ in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

The invasion of German troops in May 1940 meant that as a Jew, Eva Besnyö was compelled to go into hiding underground. She was attracted to a world view shaped by humanism in the post-war years, and her photographs became stylistically decisive for neo-Realism and immensely suitable for the moralising exhibition, the “Family of Man” (1955). The mother of two children, she had experienced the classic female conflict between bringing up children and a profession career as a crucial and very personal test. Consequentially, Besnyö became an activist in the Dutch women’s movement “Dolle Mina” during the 70s, making a public commitment to equal rights and documenting demonstrations and street protests on camera.

This first retrospective exhibition, showing approximately 120 vintage prints, aims to introduce the public to the life and work of this emigrant and “Berliner by choice”, a convinced cosmopolitan and the “Grande Dame” of Dutch photography. “Like many other talents, that of Eva Besnyö was lost to Germany and its creative art as a direct consequence of the National Socialists’ racial mania.” (Karl Steinorth, DGPh, 1999)”

Press release from the Jeu de Paume website

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Eva Besnyö
Narda, Amsterdam
1937
Private collection, Berlin
40 x 50 cm
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Untitled [The shadow of John Fernhout, Westkapelle, Zeeland, Netherlands]
1933
25.3 x 20.4 cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Untitled
Berlin, 1931
17.4 x 17.4 cm
Collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Untitled [John Fernout with Rolleiflex at the Baltic seaside]
1932
44.2 x 39.5 cm
Private collection, Berlin
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Eva Besnyö
Untitled [Magda, Balaton, Hungary]
1932
40.5 x 30.6 cm
Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam
© Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

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Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
T: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 12.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Friday: 12.00 – 19.00
Saturday and Sunday: 10.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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08
Aug
12

Exhibition: ‘Light Sensitive: Photo Art from the Collection’ at Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland

Exhibition dates: 12th May – 12th August 2012

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Many thankx to the Aargauer Kunsthaus 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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Art Ringger

Eastbourne
1996
Black-and-white photograph on aluminium, embossed
20.3 x 30.3 cm
Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau / deposited by the Andreas Züst Collection

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Art Ringger

Quimperlé
1997
Black-and-white photograph on aluminium, embossed
19.9 x 29.7 cm
Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau / deposited by the Andreas Züst Collection

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Hannah Villiger

Arbeit
1979
Black-and-white photograph on baryte paper, matt
125 x 189.5 cm
Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau / deposited by a private collection

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Claudia Böhm

Leda
1991
Black-and-white photograph with retouching colour on paper
40 x 56 cm
Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau / deposited by the Andreas Züst Collection

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Exhibition view 
Light Sensitive – Photo Art from the Collection

Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau
Photo: Dominic Büttner, Zurich

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“The exhibition Light Sensitive presents works from the rich photography holdings of the Aargauer Kunsthaus. In addition, it shows photographs of urban spaces by Andreas Tschersich and works by Bianca Dugaro.

Light Sensitive is a presentation of works from the collection of the Aargauer Kunsthaus that focuses on the medium of photography. The exhibition delves into the museum’s rich and quite substantial holdings of over 800 photographic works, sounding out core themes. In the process, two thematic focus areas come to the fore: on the one hand an exploration of the human body and on the other an examination of abstract, architectural or public space.

The 20th century has seen a major shift in the status of photography as an artistic medium, a change reflected by the holdings of the Aargauer Kunsthaus. Starting out with rather small-scale works of a documentary nature, photography graduated to photo art and today naturally takes its place among the wide range of artistic media. The exhibition Light Sensitive takes us on a journey of discovery through the collection, contrasting big names with unexpected work. A series of large-scale cityscapes by Berlin-based Swiss artist Andreas Tschersich as well as works by Swiss artist Bianca Dugaro complement the presentation.

Included in the exhibition are works by, among others Claudia Böhm, Balthasar Burkhard, Marie-Antoinette Chiarenza/Daniel Hauser, Hans Danuser, Silvie Defraoui, Achim Duchow, Olivia Etter, Nicolas Faure, Marc-Antoine Fehr, Peter Fischli/David Weiss, Katrin Freisager, Max Grüter/Patrick Rohner, Simone Hopferwieser, Markus Käch, Heiner Kielholz, Fred Knecht Engelbert, Rudolf Lichtsteiner, Urs Lüthi, Max Matter, Billy Eduard Albert Meier, Claudio Moser, Marianne Müller, Anita Niesz, Guido Nussbaum, Sigmar Polke, Markus Raetz, Ursina Rösch, Annelies Štrba, Beat Streuli, Hannah Villiger.”

Press release from the Aargauer Kunsthaus website

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Andreas Tschersich

Peripher 1903 (Detroit)
2011
C-Print / Diasec
198 x 167 cm

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Andreas Tschersich

Peripher 130 (Berlin)
2004
C-Print / acrylic glass
219 x 170 cm

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Billy Eduard Albert Meier

Ohne Titel
1975
Photograph on paper, 8 parts
18 x 26.5 cm
Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau / deposited by the Andreas Züst Collection

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Nicolas Faure

Silvaplana (GR), Juli
1988
Colour photograph on aluminium
63 x 80 cm
Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau

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Nicolas Faure

Saas-Fee (VS), Juli
1989
Colour photograph on aluminium
63 x 80 cm
Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau

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Nicolas Faure

Le Lac Bleu. Val d’Arolla (VS), August
1997
Colour photograph on aluminium
63 x 80 cm
Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau

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Nicolas Faure

Château d’Oex (VD), Januar
1989
Colour photograph on aluminium
63 x 80 cm
Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau

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Aargauer Kunsthaus
Aargauerplatz
CH-5001 Aarau
Switzerland
T: +41 (0) 62 835 23 30

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday 10 am – 8 pm

Aargauer Kunsthaus website

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12
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Metamorphosis of Japan after the War: Photography 1945-1964′ at the Berlin Museum of Photography

Exhibition dates: 9th March – 17th June 2012

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The joy of the discharged soldier (upon survival); the regimentation of the market place; the inquisitiveness of youth.
The blackness (incineration) of the body; the blackest sun; the memorial of mapping.

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Many thankx to the Berlin Museum of Photography 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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Eikoh Hosoe
Barakei (Ordeal by Roses), No. 16
1961
© Eikoh Hosoe

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Tadahiko Hayashi
Discharged soldiers, Shinagawa Station
Tokyo 1946
© Yoshikatsu Hayashi

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Shigeichi Nagano
Completing management training at a stock brokerage firm
Tokyo 1961
© Shigeichi Nagano

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Ken Domon
Children looking at a picture-card show
Tokyo 1953
© Ken Domon Museum of Photography

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“On August 15th, 1945 the Pacific War came to an end and with it fourteen years of bombings, of deprivation and of great sacrifice for the Japanese people. The collapse of Japanese militaristic rule and the arrival of the US occupation forces thrust the nation into a new and uncertain era. It was in this context that photography took on a central role in the nation’s rediscovery of self and it soon became a vital contributor to Japanese society in the immediate postwar years. Metamorphosis of Japan after the War. Photography 1945 – 1964 reveals the changing face of life in Japan from the end of the Pacific War in 1945 to the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964 through photographs by 11 of Japan’s leading post-war photographers. By observing the role of photography in the evolution of post-war Japan, this exhibition shows how photography was able to play a crucial role in the search for the nation’s new identity. The works of these 11 photographers are an extraordinary document of the birth of a new Japan and of a new photographic generation whose dynamism and creativity laid the foundations for modern Japanese photography. The exhibition is divided into 3 thematic sections based around the major periods of the postwar years:

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The aftermath of war

With the end of the war magazines and newspapers flourished as years of censorship gave way to an editorial boom. Publications that had been banned during the war resurfaced just as new ones went to press for the first time. Improvements in printing techniques also allowed the mass production and distribution of publications containing photographic reproductions. Photographs played a central role in this information boom, as people sought objectivity in the place of the military propaganda that they had been subjected to for several years. People turned to photography to find the ‘truth’ that they sought. This photographic explosion brought about a profound reflection on the nature of the medium and on its role in society. The public’s demand for objectivity led to the emergence of a powerful social realism movement in the immediate post-war years. The atrocities of the war and the massive physical destruction of the country led photographers to adopt a direct approach and to focus on bearing witness and documenting what they saw around them. Photographers abandoned pictorialism and the propaganda techniques of the wartime years to immerse themselves in reality. Of those photographers who had already been active in the pre-war years including Domon Ken, Hamaya Hiroshi, Kimura Ihee and Hayashi Tadahiko, Domon became the leading proponent of the photo-realism movement. He advocated “the pure snapshot, absolutely unstaged” and urged photographers to “pay attention to the screaming voice of the subject and simply operate the camera exactly according to its indications.” As a regular contributor to Camera magazine, he became very active in the world of amateur photography and encouraged camera club members to follow this realist path.

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Tradition versus modernity

Despite its predominance in the immediate post-war years, the social realist movement was not to last. It captured a specific moment in time when the nation needed to take stock of the Pacific War and of its consequences. Photographers increasingly began to view the movement as too rigid and heavily politicised. Hamaya for instance chose to break away and adopted a new approach, both in terms of style and subject, when he began his work on the coast of the Sea of Japan, leading to the series Yukiguni (Snow country) and Ura Nihon (Japan’s Back Coast). In these series Hamaya displayed a more humanist approach than seen in social realism and chose to focus instead on a timeless aspect of Japanese rural society, rather than on the social issues linked directly to the immediate post-war. By the mid 1950s many photographers were turning away from documenting the destruction of the war to focus on the stark contrast between ‘traditional’ Japan and the modernisation of Japanese society associated with the American occupation. The hardships of the 1940s were rapidly replaced with rapid industrialisation and economic growth as Japan was modernised. These changes had a deep impact as Japan’s complex social structures were thrown into upheaval with the country’s economic transformation. Photographers focused not only on capturing the emergence of this new economic and social paradigm in Japan’s cities, but also sought to document those areas of Japan which were less affected by modernisation and offered a window onto the country’s past.

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A new Japan

In addition during the second half of the 1950s a new generation of photographers was coming of age. They had grown up during the war but were only beginning to find their photographic eye during the post-war years. From this generation, a new photographic approach referred to as ‘subjective documentary’ was born. In 1959, the most innovative photographers of the time founded the agency Vivo which, despite its short lifespan, was to become a key contributor to the evolution of Japanese photography. With photographers such as Narahara Ikko, Tomatsu Shomei, Kawada Kikuji or Hosoe Eikoh, Vivo put forward the idea that personal experience and interpretation were essential elements in the value of a photographic image. These photographers developed a particular sensibility influenced by ‘traditional’ Japan as well as by the turbulence of postwar reconstruction and the explosion of economic growth. Their photographic eye turned both to the past, to the Japan of their childhood that they saw disappearing, and to the future and the ever-increasing modernisation that was transforming Japanese society. Over 10 years after the atomic bombings, this new generation of photographers also began to engage with the legacy of these events and their future significance, both for Japan and for all of humanity. The series that emerged including Kawada’s Chizu (The Map), Hosoe’s Kamaitachi and Tomatsu’s Nagasaki 11:02, are amongst some of the most powerful statements in twentieth century photography.”

Press release from the Berlin Museum of Photography

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Takeyoshi Tanuma
Dancers resting on the rooftop of the SKD Theatre
Asakusa, Tokyo 1949
© Takeyoshi Tanuma

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Ikko Narahara
Domains. Garden of Silence, No. 52
Hakodate, Hokkaido 1958
© Ikko Narahara

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Keisuke Katano
Woman planting rice
1955
© Keisuke Katano

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Shomei Tomatsu
Fukuejima Island
Nagasaki 1963
© The Japan Foundation

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Kikuji Kawada
The Map. The A-Bomb Memorial Dome and Ohta River
Hiroshima 1960-65
© Kikuji Kawada

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Berlin Museum of Photography
Jebensstraße 2
10623 Berlin

Opening hours:
Tues – Sunday 10am – 6pm
Closed Mondays

Berlin Museum of Photography website

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09
Feb
12

Exhibition: ‘HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture’ at the Brooklyn Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 18th November 2011 – 12th February 2012

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“The possibility of using our bodies as a possible source of very numerous pleasures is something that is very important. For instance, if you look at the traditional construction of pleasure, you see that bodily pleasure, or pleasures of the flesh, are always drinking, eating and fucking. And that seems to be the limit of the understanding of our bodies, our pleasures ….

It is very interesting to note, for instance, that for centuries people generally, as well as doctors, psychiatrists, and even liberation movements, have always spoken about desire, and never about pleasure. “We have to liberate our desire,” they say. No! We have to create new pleasure. And then maybe desire will follow.” (My bold)

Michel Foucault 1

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Minor White
Tom Murphy (San Francisco)
1948
from The Temptation of St Anthony is Mirrors 1948
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in. (11.7 x 9.2 cm)
The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum Bequest of Minor White, MWA 48-136
© Trustees of Princeton University

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(top)
Minor White
Images 9 and 10 in the bound sequence The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors
1948
9.3 x 11.8 cm; 11.2 x 9.1 cm

(bottom)
Minor White
Images 27 and 28 in the bound sequence The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors
1948. 5.3 x 11.6 cm; 10.6 x 8.9 cm

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(left)
Minor White

Tom Murphy (San Francisco)
1948
from The Temptation of St Anthony is Mirrors 1948
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in. (11.7 x 9.2 cm)

(right)
George Platt Lynes

Untitled
nd

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I had the great privilege of visiting The Minor White Archive at Princeton University while I was researching for my PhD. While there I studied the work cards and classic prints of the great photographer, paying particular attention to his photography of the male. What was a great surprise and delight to me were the presence of photographs of explicit sexual acts, men photographed with erections – images that have, to my knowledge, never been published. I don’t think that many people would even know that Minor White took such photographs. Although these images would have never been for public consumption it is still very unusual to find a classical photographer with such a public profile taking photographs of erect penises, especially in the 1940s!

Disturbed by having been in battle in the Second World War and seeing some of his best male friends killed, White’s early photographs of men (in their uniforms) depict the suffering and anguish that the mental and physical stress of war can cause. He was even more upset than most because he was battling his own inner sexual demons at the same time, his shame and disgust at being a homosexual and attracted to men, a difficulty compounded by his religious upbringing. In his photographs White both denied his attraction to men and expressed it. His photographs of the male body are suffused with both sexual mystery and a celebration of his sexuality despite his bouts of guilt. After the war he started to use the normal everyday bodies of his friends to form sequences of photographs, sometimes using the body as a metaphor for the landscape and vice versa. In the above photograph (Tom Murphy, left), based on a religious theme, we see a dismembered hairy body front on, the hands clutching and caressing the body, the lower hand hovering near the exposed genitalia, the upper hand cupping the breast. We see the agony and ecstasy of a homoerotic desire cloaked in a religious theme.

The image comes from the The Temptation of St Anthony is Mirrors (1948), four pages of which can be seen above. While at The Minor White Archive I looked at the only complete, undamaged book in existence. What an experience!

The book has a powerful and intense presence. It was beautifully sequenced as you would expect from Minor White and features photographs of Tom Murphy. There is a series of his hands over the back of a chair in different positions: hanging, curled, splayed, held slightly upwards, and these are paired with photographs of bare feet and turned up jeans, bare feet and rocks, and three other photographs of Tom Murphy. In an excellent paper Cruising and Transcendence in the Photographs of Minor White (nd), author Kevin Moore observes that the hand-bound volume with images paired on facing pages – “mirrors” to both one another and the artist – is a personal account as well as a meditation on the sins of the flesh.

“Temptation (which was never published or exhibited) begins with a sort of prologue, comprising a single full-length nude of Tom Murphy, White’s student and the model most commonly associated with his work. The pose is similar to those found in the beefcake pictures White was producing at this time: Murphy adopts a classical contrapposto stance and is entirely nude, his pale, wiry body positioned against a dark backdrop. A piece of driftwood at the model’s feet proposes a theme of innocence – man in his natural state. The sequence then moves to pairings of images describing man in his civilized state, featuring several loving close-ups of Murphy’s gesturing hands, a shot of his bare feet, and a single shoulder-length portrait, in which he wears a buttoned shirt and looks intently off to the side. Next, there is an interlude suggesting growing dissolution: an image of Murphy’s feet and a petrified stone is paired with a shot of Murphy in full dress slouched on a mass of rocks and staring vacantly off into the distance. The next pairing [images 9 and 10 above] accelerates the descent into temptation. Here, the pose in a second picture of Murphy’s feet suggests agitation, while a three-quarterlength portrait of Murphy, crouched in the bushes and looking back over his shoulder, is as emblematic an image of cruising as White ever produced. The photographs that follow descend further into lust and self-recrimination, conveyed through photographs in which Murphy’s naked body alternates between expressions of pain and pleasure. The sequence ends with a series of beatific nudes [images 27 and 28 above], which express redemption through nonsexual treatments of the body and in the body’s juxtaposition with natural forms – a return to nature.

White may have thought at first that the sequence format would help him transcend the limits of personal biography, that he could use the breadth and fluidity of the sequence to emphasize a universal narrative while exercising control over the potentially explosive and revealing content of individual images. This proved to be overly optimistic, at least in his earliest uses of the form. White’s colleagues, for example, immediately understood Temptation for what it really was: an agonized portrayal of White’s love for his male student.”

Moore goes on to conclude that White obsfucated his sexuality, displacing gay ‘cruising’ “by a universalized mystical searching – sexual longing setting in motion a heroic search” using photography as his medium, and that his photographs became a dreamscape, perhaps even a dream(e)scape: “in which meanings are obscured, not clarified; signs are effaced, not illuminated; beauty is closeted, not set out for all to see. White was attracted to the ambiguity of the dream because it offered cover and protection but also freedom to maneuver. The dream supported the irrational, maintained a sense of mystery, and beautified frustration.”

I have to disagree with Kevin Moore. Anyone who has seen The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors in the flesh (so to speak) can feel the absolute presence of these images, their reality, the connection between image and viewer. Maybe White was a Romantic but he was realistically romantic; his images are not dreamscapes, they offer multiple readings and contexts, insights into the human condition. Even though there was anguish and guilt present about his sexuality, channelled through his photography, anyone bold enough to take photographs of erections in 1940 has some ticker. It takes a clear eye and a courageous heart to do this, knowing what was at stake in this era of sexual repression. Beauty is not closeted here, unless I am looking at different images from Kevin Moore. In fact the magic of the photography of Minor White is his ability to modulate space, to modulate bodies so that they are beautiful, ambiguous and mystical whatever their context. Not everything in this world has to be in your face. Like a Glen Gould playing the Goldberg Variations revelation of beauty takes time, concentration and meditation.

Also, an overriding feeling when viewing the images was one of loneliness, sadness and anguish, for the bodies seemed to be observed and not partaken of, to be unavailable both physically and in a strange way, photographically. For a photographer who prided himself on revealing the spirit within, through photography, these are paradoxical photographs, visually accessible and mysteriously (un)revealing, photographs of a strange and wonderful ambivalence. Two great words: obsfucation, ambivalence. Clouded with mixed feelings and emotions, not necessarily anything to do with sexuality. Not everything has to be about sexuality. It is the difference between imbibing Freud or Jung – personally I prefer the more holistic, more inclusive, more spiritual Jung.

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And so to the image of George Platt Lynes that I have paired with the nude of Tom Murphy.

Platt Lynes was another artist who struggled with is sexuality, but seemingly not to such an extent as Minor White did. GPL worked as a fashion photographer and had his own studio in New York where he photographed dancers, artists and celebrities among others. He undertook a series of mythological photographs on classical themes (which are amazing in composition and feature Surrealist motifs). Privately he photographed male nudes but was reluctant to show them in public for fear of the harm that they could do to his reputation and business with the fashion magazines. Generally his earlier male nude photographs concentrate on the idealised youthful body or ephebe.

As Lynes became more despondent with his career as a fashion photographer his private photographs of male nudes tended to take on a darker and sharper edge. After a period of residence in Hollywood he returned to New York nearly penniless. His style of photographing the male nude underwent a revision. While the photographs of his European colleagues still relied on the sun drenched bodies of young adolescent males evoking memories of classical beauty and the mythology of Ancient Greece the later nudes of Platt Lynes feature a mixture of youthful ephebes and heavier set bodies which appear to be more sexually knowing. The compositional style of dramatically lit photographs of muscular torsos of older men shot in close up (see photograph below for example) were possibly influenced by a number of things – his time in Hollywood with its images of handsome, swash-buckling movie stars with broad chests and magnificent physiques; the images of bodybuilders by physique photographers that George Platt Lynes visited; the fact that his lover George Tichenor had been killed during WWII; and the knowledge that he was penniless and had cancer. There is, I believe, a certain sadness but much inner strength in his later photographs of the male nude that harnesses the inherent sexual power embedded within their subject matter.

When undertaking research into GPL’s photographs at The Kinsey Institute as part of my PhD I noted that most of the photographs had annotations in code on the back of them giving details of age, sexual proclivities of models and what they are prepared to do and where they were found. This information gives a vital social context to GPL’s nude photographs of men and positions them within the moral and ethical framework of the era in which they were made. The strong image (below) is always quoted as an example of GPL’s more direct way of photographing the male nude in the last years of his life. The male is solid, imposing, lit from above, heavy set, powerful, massive. The eyes are almost totally in shadow. Later photos have more chiaroscuro than earlier work, more use of contrasting light (especially down lit or uplit figures) but are they more direct? Yes. The men look straight into camera.

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George Platt Lynes
Untitled (Frontal Male Nude)
nd

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This monumentality of body and form was matched by a new openness in the representation of sexuality. There are intimate photographs of men in what seem to be post-coital revere, in unmade beds, genitalia showing or face down showing their butts off. Some of the faces in these later photographs remain hidden, as though disclosure of identity would be detrimental for fear of persecution. The photograph above is very ‘in your face’ for the conservative time from which it emerges, remembering it was the era of witch hunts against communists and subversives (including homosexuals). Conversely, this photograph is quite restrained compared to the most striking series of GPL’s photographs that I saw at The Kinsey Institute which involves an exploration the male anal area (a photograph from the 1951 series can be found in the book titled ‘George Platt Lynes: Photographs from The Kinsey Institute’). This explicit series features other photographs of the same model - in particular one that depicts the male with his buttocks in the air pulling his arse cheeks apart. After Lynes found out he had cancer he started to send his photographs to the German homoerotic magazine Der Kries under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf, and in the last years of his life he experimented with paper negatives, which made his images of the male body even more grainy and mysterious.

I believe that Lynes understood, intimately, the different physical body types that gay men find desirable and used them in his photographs. He visited Lon of New York (a photographer of beefcake men) in his studio and purchased photographs of bodybuilders for himself, as did the German photographer George Hoyningen-Huene. It is likely that these images of bodybuilders did influence his later compositional style of images of men; it is also possible that he detected the emergence of this iconic male body type as a potent sexual symbol, one that that was becoming more visible and sexually available to gay men.

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The differences between the White and GPL nudes is instructive. White: introspective, haunted, religious with an unrequited sense of longing – hands clutching self, inward pointing; GPL: more closely cropped, more open, one hand firmly grasping but the other hand open, receptive, presented to the viewer above the available phallic organ. It reminds me for some unknown reason, some quirk of my brain association, of the shell of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1486) inverted. There is difference between the two artists – one struggling with his sexuality, being realistically romantic, the other physically doing something about it – posting his photographs to one of the first gay magazines in the world. But both were taking photographs of intimate sexual acts that could never have been published in their lifetimes – that are still are hidden from view today. When, oh when, will someone have the courage to publish this work?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Brooklyn Museum 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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Thomas Eakins (1844-1916)
Walt Whitman (1818-1892)
1891
10.3 x 12.2cm
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute

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Charles Demuth
Dancing Sailors
1917
Watercolor and pencil on paper
20.3 x 25.4cm
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Mr and Mrs William H Marlatt Fund

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George Wesley Bellows (American, 1882-1925)
Riverfront No.1
1915
Oil on canvas
115.3 x 160.3 cm
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio: Howald Fund Purchase

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Marsden Hartley (American, 1877-1943)
Eight Bells Folly: Memorial to Hart Crane
1933
Oil on canvas
Gift of Ione and Hudson D. Walker
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota

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“Harold Hart Crane (July 21, 1899 – April 27, 1932) was an American poet. Finding both inspiration and provocation in the poetry of T. S. Eliot, Crane wrote modernist poetry that is difficult, highly stylized, and very ambitious in its scope. In his most ambitious work, The Bridge, Crane sought to write an epic poem in the vein of The Waste Land that expressed something more sincere and optimistic than the ironic despair that Crane found in Eliot’s poetry. In the years following his suicide at the age of 32, Crane has come to be seen as one of the most influential poets of his generation…

Crane visited Mexico in 1931-32 on a Guggenheim Fellowship and his drinking continued as he suffered from bouts of alternating depression and elation … While on board the steamship SS Orizaba enroute to New York, he was beaten after making sexual advances to a male crew member, seeming to confirm his own idea that one could not be happy as a homosexual. Just before noon on April 27, 1932, Hart Crane jumped overboard into the Gulf of Mexico. Although he had been drinking heavily and left no suicide note, witnesses believed his intentions to be suicidal, as several reported that he exclaimed “Goodbye, everybody!” before throwing himself overboard. (The legend among poets is: He walked to the fantail, took off his coat quietly, and jumped.) His body was never recovered.” (Wikipedia)

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Peter Hujar (1937-1987)
Susan Sontag (1933-2004)
1975
Gelatin Silver print
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute
© Estate of Peter Hujar

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Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Unfinished Painting
1989
Acrylic on canvas
100.0 x 100.0 cm
Courtesy of Katia Perlstein, Brussels, Belgium
© Keith Haring Foundation

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David Wojnarowicz
A Fire In My Belly (Film In Progress) (film still)
1986-87
Super 8mm film
black and white & color (transferred to video)
Courtesy of The Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York and The Fales Library and Special Collection

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“One day before World AIDS Day, the renown painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist and activist David Wojnarowicz, who died in 1992 at the age of 37 from AIDS-related complications, has had one of his most important works, A Fire In My Belly, pulled from The Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery’s HIDE/ SEEK exhibit because of pressure from conservative politicians and the Catholic League.” See a four minute extract from this unfinished film on THE END OF BEING BLOG.

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HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, the first major museum exhibition to explore how gender and sexual identity have shaped the creation of American portraiture, organized by and presented at the National Portrait Gallery last fall, will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from November 18, 2011, through February 12, 2012. With the cooperation of the National Portrait Gallery, the Brooklyn Museum has reconstituted the exhibition in concert with the Tacoma Art Museum, where it will be on view from March 17 through June 10, 2012.

HIDE/SEEK includes approximately a hundred works in a wide range of media created over the course of one hundred years that reflect a variety of sexual identities and the stories of several generations. Highlighting the influence of gay and lesbian artists, many of whom developed new visual strategies to code and disguise their subjects’ sexual identities as well as their own, HIDE/ SEEK considers such themes as the role of sexual difference in depicting modern Americans, how artists have explored the definition of sexuality and gender, how major themes in modern art – especially abstraction – have been influenced by marginalization, and how art has reflected society’s changing attitudes.

Announcing the Brooklyn presentation, Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman states, “From the moment I first learned about this extraordinary exhibition in its planning stages, presenting it in Brooklyn has been a priority. It is an important chronicle of a neglected dimension of American art and a brilliant complement and counterpoint to ‘Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties’, a touring exhibition organized by the Brooklyn Museum, also on view this fall.”

In addition to its commentary on a marginalized cultural history, HIDE/ SEEK offers an unprecedented survey of more than a century of American art. Beginning with late nineteenth-century portraits by Thomas Eakins and John Singer Sargent, it includes works from the first half of the 1900s by such masters as Romaine Brooks, George Bellows, Marsden Hartley, and Georgia O’Keeffe; the exhibition continues through the postwar period with works by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Agnes Martin, and Andy Warhol, and concludes with major works by late twentieth-century artists such as Keith Haring, Glenn Ligon, Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Catherine Opie.

The Brooklyn presentation will feature nearly all of the works included in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition. Among them are rarely seen paintings by Charles Demuth, whose better-known industrialized landscapes are on view in the Brooklyn Museum exhibition Youth and Beauty; a poignant portrait of New Yorker writer Janet Flanner wearing two masks, taken by photographer Bernice Abbott; Andrew Wyeth’s painting of a young neighbor standing nude in a wheat field, much like Botticelli’s Venus emerging from her shell; Robert Mapplethorpe’s photograph riffing on the classic family portrait, in which a leather-clad Brian Ridley is seated on a wingback chair shackled to his whip-wielding partner, Lyle Heeter; and Cass Bird’s photographic portrait of a friend staring out from under a cap emblazoned with the words “I look Just Like My Daddy.” The exhibition will also include David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly, an unfinished film the artist created between 1986 and 1987.”

Press release from the Brooklyn Museum website

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Berenice Abbott (1898 – 1991)
Janet Flanner (1892 – 1978)
1927
Photographic print
23 x 17.3 cm
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C
C Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd., Inc.

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Thomas Eakins (American, 1844 -1916)
Salutat
1898
Oil on canvas
127.0 x 101.6 cm
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
Gift of anonymous donor

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Walker Evans (1903 – 1975)
Lincoln Kirstein (1907 – 1996)
1930
Gelatin silver print
16.1cm x 11.4cm
The Metropolitan Msuem of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Marsden Hartley
Painting No. 47, Berlin
1915
Oil on canvas
39 7/16 x 32 in. (100.1 x 81.3 cm)
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1972

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George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Marsden Hartley
1942
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 19.1 cm
Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, ME, Marsden Hartley Memorial Collection
© Estate of George Platt Lynes

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Beauford Delaney (American, 1901-1979)
James Baldwin
1963
Pastel on paper
64.8 x 49.8 cm
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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Cass Bird
I Look Just Like My Daddy
2003
C-type print
72.6 x 101.6 cm
Collection of the artist, New York
© Cass Bird

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1. Gallagher, Bob and Wilson, Alexander. “Sex and the Politics of Identity: An Interview with Michel Foucault,” in Thompson, Mark. Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987, p.31.

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Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238-6052
T: (718) 638-5000

Opening hours:
Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
first Saturday of each month, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

Brooklyn Museum website

HIDE/SEEK exhibition website

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04
Feb
12

Exhibition: ‘CLOUD STUDIES – The Scientific View of the Sky’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 26th November 2011 – 12th February 2012

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Wolken im Luftmeer (Clouds in a sea of air) (cover)
1917

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I desire (I feel that is the correct word) to own a copy of the above book. Has anyone got a one for sale?
Please let me know as I would love to own one!

Many thankx to the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich 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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Unknown photographer
Wolkendecken, die ineinander übergehen. S.-Cu. und S., from: Wolken im Luftmeer (Merging cloud covers. S.-Cu. and S., from: Clouds in a sea of air)
Photographs taken by German fighter pilots during WW1, Berlin, 1917

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Unknown photographer
Feine Schäfchen. Ci.-Cu, from: Wolken im Luftmeer (Delicate fluffy clouds. Ci.-Cu, from: Clouds in a sea of air)
Photographs taken by German fighter pilots during WW1, Berlin, 1917

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Unknown photographer
Flying above a sea of clouds – altostratus from an aircraft (Plate Nr. 103 from: Wolken im LuftmeerClouds in a sea of air)
Photographs taken by German fighter pilots during WW1, Berlin, 1917

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Unknown photographer
(Plate Nr. 90 from: Wolken im Luftmeer / Clouds in a sea of air)
Photographs taken by German fighter pilots during WW1, Berlin, 1917

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“The English pharmacist and meteorologist Luke Howard wrote in 1802 in the preface to his manuscript On the Modification of Clouds: “Clouds are subject to certain distinct modifications, produced by the general causes which affect all the variations of the atmosphere; they are commonly as good visible indicators of the operation of these causes, as is the countenance of the state of a person’s mind or body.” Eighty years later, meteorologists had still not reached a consensus on how to classify, label, and read the forms of clouds. It was during this time that scientists first began using photography to record and measure clouds. With its help, they attempted to gain precise and accurate images that would provide insight on the interplay between clouds and the atmosphere and which could be used to create and convey a classification of cloud forms.

The exhibition CLOUD STUDIES – The Scientific View of the Sky presents six stages of meteorological cloud photography, from its infancy in the 1880s – in Switzerland with the first images by Albert Riggenbach photographed from Mount Säntis – up to the newspaper images in the United States that were captured by the first weather satellites in the 1960s. At the beginning of the 20th century, cloud formations and cloud systems were investigated foremost by the military and led to fundamental insights into interrelated weather situations.

CLOUD STUDIES – The Scientific View of the Sky is a rich collection of photographs, notes, records and atlases from diverse research sources and depicts the origins of contemporary weather forecasting. Each of the six parts of the exhibition represents a different scientific and photographic view of clouds while reflecting on the “history of the gaze” as well as the history of the medium with its various photographic mechanisms and reproductive technologies.

An additional theme running throughout the exhibition is the development of science and its varying ideas about clouds. The protagonists and working methods change over time – from the ambitious, wealthy amateur Ralph Abercromby to the anonymous teams of weather satellite technicians. Whereas Riggenbach still wished to capture images of ideal cloud types, the view of the cloud constellations and their chaotic systems expands with the introduction of film, at the latest, and with the constant recording and measuring capacities of digital cameras, which transmit images to earth, where they are evaluated and publicized.

Conceived by curator Helmut Völter (Leipzig), the exhibition CLOUD STUDIES – The Scientific View of the Sky explores the question as to how all these changes influenced the intentions, concepts, and technical developments associated with images of the clouds. It shows how similar or dissimilar photographs of clouds can be, when photographed according to individual specifications. Ultimately it is left to the viewer to decide if and how scientific cloud photography differs from related and frequently published motifs from the history of art and photography.”

Press release from the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich website

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Masanao Abe
Cloud Film No. 116 b
Gotemba, Japan, 1932
Filmstill
© Archive Masanao Abe

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Ralph Abercromby
Raggy, Inky Cloud
London, 1884
Gelatin-silver print
© Met Office National Meteorological Archive

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Ferdinand Quénisset
Alto-Cumulus et Cirro-Cumulus
Dugny near Paris, 1916
Gelatin-silver print
© Société Astronomique de France

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Cloud photo over north midwest United States by Tiros II
1960
Gelatin-silver print
© Collection Günter Karl Bose

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Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Wednesday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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14
Dec
11

Review: ‘The mad square: Modernity in German Art 1910 – 37′ at The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th November 2011 – 4th March 2012

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This is one of the best exhibitions this year in Melbourne bar none. Edgy and eclectic the work resonates with the viewer in these days of uncertainty: THIS should have been the Winter Masterpieces exhibition!

The title of the exhibition, The mad square (Der tolle Platz) is taken from Felix Nussbaum’s 1931 painting of the same name where “the ‘mad square’ is both a physical place – the city, represented in so many works in the exhibition, and a reference to the state of turbulence and tension that characterises the period.” The exhibition showcases how artists responded to modern life in Germany in the interwar years, years that were full of murder and mayhem, putsch, revolution, rampant inflation, starvation, the Great Depression and the rise of National Socialism. Portrayed is the dystopian, dark side of modernity (where people are the victims of a morally bankrupt society) as opposed to the utopian avant-garde (the prosperous, the wealthy), where new alliances emerge between art and politics, technology and the mass media. Featuring furniture, decorative arts, painting, sculpture, collage and photography in the sections World War 1 and the Revolution, Dada, Bauhaus, Constructivism and the Machine Aesthetic, Metropolis, New Objectivity and Power and Degenerate Art, it is the collages and photographs that are the strongest elements of the exhibition, particularly the photographs. What a joy they are to see.

There is a small 2″ x 3″ contact print portrait of Hanna Höch by Richard Kauffmann, Penetrate yourself or: I embrace myself (1922) that is an absolute knockout. Höch is portrayed as the ‘new women’ with short bobbed hair and loose modern dress, her self-image emphasised through a double exposure that fragments her face and multiplies her hands, set against a contextless background. The ‘new women’ fragmented and broken apart (still unsure of herself?). The photograph is so small and intense it takes your breath away. Similarly, there is the small, intimate photograph No title (Man on Stage) (c.1927) by Irene Bayer (see below) that captures performance as ‘total art’, a combination of visual arts, dance, music, architecture and costume design. In contrast is a large 16 x 20″ photograph of the Bauhaus balconies (1926) by László Moholy-Nagy (see below) where the whites are so creamy, the perspective so magnificent.

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Irene Bayer
No title (Man on stage)
c.1927
gelatin silver photograph
printed image 10.6 h x 7.6 w cm
Purchased 1983
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

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No title (Metalltanz) (c.1928-29) by T. Lux Feinenger, a photographer that I do not know well, is an exceptional photograph and print. Again small, this time dark and intense, the image features man as dancer performing gymnastics in front of reflective, metal sculptures. The metal becomes an active participant in the Metalltanz or ‘Dance in metal’ because of its reflective qualities. The print, from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is luminous. In fact all the prints from the Getty in this exhibition are of the most outstanding quality, a highlight of the exhibition for me. Another print from the Getty that features metal and performance is Untitled (Spiral Costume, from the Triadic Ballet) by T Grill c.1926 – 27 (see below) where the spiral costume becomes an extension of the body, highlighting its form. Also highlighting form, objectivity and detachment is a wonderful 3 x 5″ photograph of the New Bauhaus Building, Dessau (1926) by Lucia Moholy from the Getty collection, the first I have ever seen in the flesh by this artist. Outstanding.

Following, we have 4 photograms by Lucia’s husband, László Moholy-Nagy which display formalist experimentation “inspired by machine aesthetic, exploring a utopian belief that Constructivism and abstract art could play a role in the process of social reform.” Complimenting these photograms is a row of six, yes six! Moholy-Nagy including Dolls (Puppen) 1926-7 (Getty), The law of the series 1925 (Getty), Lucia at the breakfast table 1926 (Getty), Spring, Berlin 1928 (George Eastman House), Berlin Radio Tower 1928 (Art Institute of Chicago) and Light space modulator 1930 (Getty). All six photographs explore the fascinating relationship between avant-garde art and photography, between they eye and perspective, all the while declaiming what Moholy-Nagy called the “new vision”; angles, shadows and geometric patterns that defy traditional perspective “removing the space from associations with the real world creating a surreal, disjointed image.” This topographic mapping flattens perspective in the case of the Berlin radio tower allowing the viewer to see the world in a new way.

Finally two groups of photographs that are simply magnificent.

First 8 photographs in a row that focus on the order and progressive nature of the modern world, the inherent beauty of technology captured in formalist studies of geometric forms. The prints range from soft pictorialist renditions to sharp clarity. The quality of the prints is amazing. Artists include the wonderful E. O. Hoppé, Albert Renger-Patzsch (an outstandingly beautiful photograph, Harbour with cranes 1927 that is my favourite photograph in the exhibition, see below), Two Towers 1937-38 by Werner Mantz and some early Wolfgang Sievers before he left Germany for Australia in 1938 (Blast furnace in the Ruhr, Germany 1933, see below). These early Sievers are particularly interesting, especially when we think of his later works produced in Australia. Lucky were many artists who survived in Germany or fled from Nazi persecution at the last moment, including John Heartfield who relocated to Czechoslovakia in 1933 and then fled to London in 1938 and August Sander whose life and work were severely curtailed under the Nazi regime and whose son died in prison in 1944 near the end of his ten year sentence (Wikipedia).

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Albert Renger-Patzsch
Harbour with crane
c.1927
gelatin silver photograph
printed image 22.7 h x 16.8 w cm
Purchased 1983
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

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Wolfgang Sievers
Blast furnace in the Ruhr, Germany
1933
gelatin silver photograph
27.5 h x 23.0 w cm
Purchased 1988
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

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August Sander. Now there is a name to conjure with. The second magnificent group are 7 photographs that are taken from Sander’s seminal work People of the 20th Century. All the photographs have soft, muted tones of greys with no strong highlights and, usually, contextless backgrounds. The emphasis is on archetypes, views of people who exist on the margins of society – circus performers, bohemians, artists, the unemployed and blind people. In all the photographs there is a certain frontality (not necessarily physical) to the portraits, a self consciousness in the sitter, a wariness of the camera and of life. This self consciousness can be seen in the two photographs that are the strongest in the group - Secretary at West German radio in Cologne, 1931 and Match seller 1927 (see below).

There is magic here. Her face wears a somewhat quizzical air – questioning, unsure, vulnerable – despite the trappings of affluence and fashionability (the smoking of the cigarette, the bobbed hair). He is wary of the camera, his face and hands isolated by Sander while the rest of his body falls into shadow. His right hand is curled under, almost deformed, his shadow falling on the stone at right, the only true brightness in this beautiful image the four boxes of matches he clutches in his left hand: as Sander titles him ironically, The Businessman.

Working as I do these days with lots of found images from the 1940s – 60s that I digitally restore to life, I wonder what happened to these people during the dark days of World War 2. Did they survive the cataclysm, the drop into the abyss? I want to know, I want to reach out to these people to send them good energy. I hope that they did but their wariness in front of the camera, so intimately ‘taken’ by Sander, makes me feel the portent of things to come. How differently we see images armed with the hindsight of history!

In conclusion, this is a fantastic exhibition that will undoubtedly be in my top ten of the year for Melbourne in 2011.

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Many thankx to Michael Thorneycroft for his help and The National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the accredited photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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August Sander
Match seller
1927
from the portfolio People of the 20th century, IV Classes and Professions, 17 The Businessman

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Robert Wiene, Director
German 1873 – 1938
Still from from the Cabinet of Dr Caligari
1919
5 min excerpt, 35mm transferred to DVD, Black and White, silent, German subtitles
Courtesy Transit Film GmbH
Production still courtesy of the British Film Institute and Transit Film GmbH

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Felix H Man
German 1893 – 1985
Luna Park
1929
gelatin silver photograph
18.1 x 24cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1987
© Felix H Man Estate

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Hannah Höch
German 1889 – 1978
Love
1931
from the series Love
photomontage
21.8 x 21.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1983

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Hannah Höch made some of the most interesting Dada collages and photomontages, including Love, an image of two strange composite female. Höch’s technique of pasting images together from magazine clippings and advertisements was a response to the modern era of mass media, and a way of criticising the bourgeois taste for ‘high art’. In many of her works, Höch explores the identity and changing roles of women in modern society.

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“The Mad Square takes its name from Felix Nussbaum’s 1931 painting which depicts Berlin’s famous Pariser Platz as a mad and fantastic place. The ‘mad square’ is both a physical place – the city, represented in so many works in the exhibition, and a reference to the state of turbulence and tension that characterises the period. The ‘square’ can also be a modernist construct that saw artists moving away from figurative representations towards increasingly abstract forms.

The exhibition features works by Max Beckman, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad, Kurt Schwitters and August Sander. This group represents Germany’s leading generation of interwar artists. Major works by lesser known artists including Karl Hubbuch, Rudolf Schlichter and Hannah Höch are also presented in the exhibition in addition to works by international artists who contributed to German modernism.

The Mad Square brings together a diverse and extensive range of art, created during one of the most important and turbulent periods in European history, offering new insights into the understanding of key German avant‐garde movements including – Expressionism, Dada, Bauhaus, Constructivism, and New Objectivity were linked by radical experimentation and innovation, made possible by an unprecedented freedom of expression.

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World War 1 and the Revolution

The outbreak of war in 1914 was met with enthusiasm by many German artists and intellectuals who volunteered for service optimistically hoping that it would bring cultural renewal and rapid victory for Germany. The works in this section are by the generation of artists who experienced war first hand. Depictions of fear, anxiety and violence show the devastating effects of war – the disturbing subjects provide insight into tough economic conditions and social dysfunction experienced by many during the tumultuous early years of the Weimar Republic following the abdication of the Kaiser.
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Dada

The philosophical and political despair experienced by poets and artists during World War 1 fuelled the Dada movement, a protest against the bourgeois conception of art. Violent, infantile and chaotic, Dada took its name from the French word for a child’s hobbyhorse or possibly from the sound of a baby’s babble. Its activities included poetry readings and avant‐garde performances, as well as creating new forms of abstract art that subverted all existing conditions in western art. Though short‐lived, in Germany the Dada movement has profoundly influenced subsequent developments in avant-garde art and culture. The impact of the Dada movement was felt throughout Europe – and most powerfully in Germany from 1917 – 21.
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Bauhaus

The Bauhaus (1919‐33) is widely considered as the most important school of art and design of the 20th century, very quickly establishing a reputation as the leading and most progressive centre of the international avant‐garde. German architect Walter Gropius founded the school to do away with traditional distinctions between the fine arts and craft, and to forge an entirely new kind of creative designer skilled in both the conceptual aesthetics of art and the technical skills of handicrafts. The Bauhaus was considered to be both politically and artistically radical from its inception and was closed down by the National Socialists in 1933.
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Constructivism and the Machine Aesthetic

Having emerged in Russia after World War I, Constructivism developed in Germany as a set of ideas and practices that experimented with abstract or non-representational forms and in opposition to Expressionism and Dada. Constructivists developed works and theories that fused art and with technology. They shared a utopian belief in social reform, and saw abstract art as playing a central role in this process.
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Metropolis

By the 1920s Berlin has become the cultural and entertainment capital of the world and mass culture played an important role in distracting a society traumatised by World War 1, the sophisticated metropolis provided a rich source of imagery for artists, it also come to represent unprecedented sexual and personal freedom. In photography modernity was emphasised by unusual views of the metropolis or through the representation of city types. The diverse group of works in this section portray the uninhibited sense of freedom and innovation experienced by artists throughout Germany during the 1920s.
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New Objectivity

By the mid 1920s, a new style emerged that came to be known as Neue Sachlichkeit or New Objectivity. After experiencing the atrocities of World War 1 and the harsh conditions of life in postwar Germany, many artists felt the need to return to the traditional modes of representation with portraiture becoming a major vehicle of this expression, with its emphasis on the realistic representation of the human figure.
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Power and Degenerate Art

After the seizure of power by the National Socialists in 1933 modern artists were forbidden from working and exhibiting in Germany, with their works confiscated from leading museums and then destroyed or sold on the international art market. Many avant‐garde artists were either forced to leave Germany or retreat into a state of ‘inner immigration’.

The Degenerate art exhibition, held in Munich in 1937, represented the culmination of the National Socialists’ assault on modernism. Hundreds of works were selected for the show which aimed to illustrate the mental deficiency and moral decay that had supposedly infiltrated modern German art. The haphazard and derogatory design of the exhibition sought to ridicule and further discredit modern art. Over two million people visited the exhibition while in contrast far fewer attended the Great German art exhibition which sought to promote what the Nazis considered as ‘healthy’ art.

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T Grill
Untitled (Spiral Costume, from the Triadic Ballet)
c.1926 – 27
gelatin silver print
22.5 x 16.2cm
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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August Sander
German 1876 – 1964
Secretary at West German radio in Cologne
1931, printed by August Sander in the 1950s
from the portfolio People of the 20th century, III The woman, 17 The woman in intellectual and practical occupation
gelatin silver photograph
29.0 x 22.0cm
Die Photographische Sammlung /SK Stiftung Kultur, August Sander Archiv, Cologne (DGPH1016)
© Die Photographische Sammlung /SK  Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

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Timeline

1910

  • Berlin’s population doubles to two million people

1911

  • Expressionists move from Dresden to Berlin

1912

  • Social Democratic Party (SPD) the largest party in the Reichstag

1913

  • Expressionists attain great success with their city scenes

1914

  • World War I begins
  • George Grosz, Oskar Schlemmer, Otto Dix, Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Beckmann and Franz Marc enlist in the army

1915

  • Grosz declared unfit for service, Beckmann suffers a breakdown and Schlemmer wounded

1916

  • Marc dies in combat
  • Dada begins at Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich

1917

  • Lenin and Trotsky form the Soviet Republic after the Tzar is overthrown

1918

  • Richard Huelsenbeck writes a Dada manifesto in Berlin
  • Kurt Schwitters creates Merz assemblages in Hanover
  • Revolutionary uprisings in Berlin and Munich
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates and flees to Holland
  • Social Democratic Party proclaims the Weimar Republic
  • World War I ends

1919

  • Freikorps assassinates the Spartacist leaders, Karl Leibknecht and Rosa Luxemburg
  • Bauhaus established in Weimer by Walter Gropius
  • Cologne Dada group formed
  • Treaty of Versailles signed

1920

  • Berlin is the world’s third largest city after New York and London
  • Inflation begins in Germany
  • National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) founded
  • Kapp Putsch fails after right‐wing forces try to gain control over government
  • First International Dada fair opens in Berlin

1921

  • Hitler made chairman of the NSDAP

1922

  • Schlemmer’s Triadic ballet premiers in Stuttgart
  • Hyperinflation continues

1923

  • Hitler sentenced to five years imprisonment for leading the Beer Hall Putsch
  • Inflation decreases and a period of financial stability begins

1924

  • Hitler writes Mein Kampf while in prison
  • Reduction of reparations under the Dawes Plan

1925

  • New Objectivity exhibition opens at the Mannheim Kunsthalle
  • The Bauhaus relocates to Dessau

1926

  • Germany joins the League of Nations

1927

  • Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis released
  • Unemployment crisis worsens
  • Nazis hold their first Nuremburg party rally

1928

  • Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The threepenny opera premieres in Berlin
  • Hannes Meyer becomes the second director of the Bauhaus

1929

  • Street confrontations between the Nazis and communists in Berlin
  • Young Plan accepted, drastically reducing reparations
  • Stock market crashes on Wall Street, New York
  • Thomas Mann awarded the Nobel Prize for literature

1930

  • Resignation of Chancellor Hermann Müller’s cabinet ending parliamentary rule
  • Minority government formed by Heinrich Brüning, leader of the Centre Party
  • Nazis win 18% of the vote and gain 95 seats in the National elections
  • Ludwig Miles van der Rohe becomes the third director of the Bauhaus
  • John Heartfield creates photomontages for the Arbeiter‐Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ)

1931

  • Unemployment reaches five million and a state of emergency is declared in Germany

1932

  • Nazis increase their representation in the Reichstag to 230 seats but are unable to form a majority coalition
  • Miles van der Rohe moves the Bauhaus to Berlin
  • Grosz relocates to New York in as an exile

1933

  • Hindenberg names Hitler as Chancellor
  • Hitler creates a dictatorship under the Nazi regime
  • The first Degenerate art exhibition denouncing modern art is held in Dresden
  • Miles van der Rohe announces the closure of the Bauhaus
  • Nazis organise book burnings in Berlin
  • Many artists including Gropius, Kandinski and Klee flee Germany
  • Beckmann, Dix and Schlemmer lose their teaching positions

1934

  • Fifteen concentration camps exist in Germany

1935

  • The swastika becomes the flag of the Reich

1936

  • Spanish civil war begins
  • Germany violates the Treaty of Versailles
  • Olympic Games held in Garmisch‐Partenkirchen and Berlin
  • Thomas Mann deprived of his citizenship and emigrates to the United States

1937

  • German bombing raids over Guernica in Spain in support of Franco
  • The Nazi’s Degenerate art exhibition opens in Munich and attracts two million visitors
  • Beckmann, Kirchner and Schwitters leave Germany
  • Purging of ‘degenerate art’ from German museums continues 1

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László Moholy-Nagy
Bauhaus Balconies
1926
Silver gelatin photograph

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John Heartfield
German 1891 – 1968
Adolf, the superman: swallows gold and spouts rubbish
1932
from the Workers Illustrated Paper, vol 11, no 29, 17 July 1932, p 675
photolithograph
38.0 x 27.0 cm
John Heartfield Archiv, Akademie der Künste zu Berlin
Photo: Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Kunstsammlung, Heartfield 2261/ Roman März
© The Heartfield Community of Heirs /VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

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John Heartfield’s photomontages expose hidden agendas in German politics and economics of the 1920s and 30s. This image was published six months before the National Socialist Party came to power, and shows Hitler with a spine made of coins and his stomach filled with gold.  The caption says that he ‘swallows gold’, alluding to generous funding by right-wing industrialists, and ‘spouts rubbish’.

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Max Beckmann
German 1884 – 1950
The trapeze
1923
oil on canvas
196.5 x 84.0 cm
Toledo Museum of Art
Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey
Photo: Photography Incorporated, Toledo

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1. Timeline credit: Chronology compiled by Jacqueline Strecker and Victoria Tokarowski from the following sources:

Catherine Heroy ‘Chronology’ in Sabine Rewald, Glitter and Doom: German portraits from the 1920s, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, exh cat, 2006, pp. 39‐46.

Anton Kaes, Martin Jay and Edward Dimendberg, eds, ‘Political chronology’, The Weimar Republic sourcebook, Berkely 1994, pp. 765‐71.

Jonathan Petropoulos and Dagmar Lott‐Reschke ‘Chronology’ in Stephanie Barron, ‘Degenerate Art’: the fate of the avant‐garde in Nazi Germany, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, exh cat, 1991, pp. 391‐401.

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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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