Archive for the 'book' Category

21
Aug
15

Art and Design Review (ADR)

August 2015

 

 

I have been invited to sit on the editorial board of the international peer-reviewed magazine Art and Design Review (ADR). And I have accepted!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Art and Design Review (ADR)

 

Art and Design Review (ADR) is an open access journal. The goal of this journal is to provide a platform for researchers and practitioners all over the world to promote, share, and discuss various new issues and developments in all areas of Art and Design.

All manuscripts must be prepared in English and are subject to a rigorous and fair peer-review process. Accepted papers will immediately appear online followed by printed hard copy. The journal publishes original papers including but not limited to the following fields:

BUILDING ARTS

  • Architectural history
  • Architecture
  • Furniture design
  • Historic preservation
  • Interior design
  • Urban design

COMMUNICATION ARTS

  • Advertising
  • Graphic design
  • Illustration
  • Illustration design
  • Sequential art

DESIGN

  • Design for sustainability
  • Design management
  • Fibers
  • Industrial design
  • Jewelry and objects
  • Service design

DIGITAL MEDIA

  • Animation
  • Interactive design and game development
  • Motion media design
  • Television producing
  • Visual effects

PERFORMING ARTS

  • Dramatic writing
  • Equestrian studies
  • Film and television
  • Performing arts
  • Production design
  • Sound design
  • Themed entertainment design

FASHION

  • Accessory design
  • Fashion
  • Fashion marketing and management
  • Luxury and fashion management

FINE ARTS

  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture

LIBERAL ARTS

  • Art history
  • Arts administration
  • Cinema studies
  • General education
  • Music education
  • Teaching (art or drama)
  • Writing

We are also interested in:

  1. Short reports – 2-5 page papers where an author can present an idea with theoretical background, but has not yet completed the research needed for a complete paper or an author presents preliminary data;
  2. Short communications – 2-5 page papers;
  3. Technical notes – 2-5 page papers;
  4. Letters to the Editor;
  5. Reviews (the number of pages is not restricted), Book reviews – Comments and critiques;
  6. Advertisement.

 

 

Art and Design Review (ADR) website

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28
Jun
15

Review: ‘Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne 

Exhibition dates: 31st March – 5th July 2015

Curator: Helen Carroll

 

 

Gorgeous catalogue with luscious plates, insightful text by Bill Henson (below) and evocative poetry by John Kinsella. Stars on the front cover and silver edged pages. No expense spared in production, with money literally thrown at the project, or so it would seem.

The curator, Helen Carroll, talks about ‘wonder’: “It is a capacity for wonder that makes us human”. Henson talking about ‘wonder’ and ‘love’ – about moments that change your life when looking at and breathing in great art. Then why does this exhibition feel so… well, needless? Despite some fascinating individual works of art, collectively there is little wonder on show here.

Perhaps it is because this exhibition looks to be a cut down version of the one first shown at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 2012, with many works missing from what are listed in the catalogue. Or perhaps it is the hang which at the Ian Potter Museum of Art consists of two rooms on the ground floor of the museum, one housing lighter works, the other dark works. Too dichotomous for my tastes. Nothing is ever so cut and dried.

Perhaps it’s the fact that the concept of the exhibition – light in its many guises – seems to have been tagged onto a groups of art works which are anything but about light. Or are about light in a roundabout, merry-go-round kind of way. The wall text states, “Rather than a chronological or stylistically ordered presentation, the exhibition follows a loosely intuitive flow of ideas and imagery, moving through night to day. The artists in this exhibition explore light from the perspective of the optical experience, the connection between the starts and the cycles of life on earth; and from diverse cultural, mythic and spiritual points of departure.” Apparently the works are more about the phenomena of light than about light itself.

While the art works are interesting in their own right they don’t really work together cohesively as a group to investigate the theme of the exhibition. Trying to burden a collection of art bought for investment purposes with a concept not “natural” to the work, or just a curator’s idea of what seems implicit in the work but is just a cerebral construction, simply does not work in this case. As I looked around the exhibition, I felt the works were more about the physicality of time and space (of history and place), about links in the existential chain, than they were about light. For me, this evinced Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the ‘chronotype’ – meaning ‘the connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed’ (in literature). Perhaps the intuitive flow of ideas and imagery and the multiple points of departure work against the very idea the exhibition seeks to investigate. This is so broadly thematic (the effects of light on the world) that it needed to be more focused in its conceptualisation.

It’s also a real worry when text panels in the exhibition quote Richard Goyder, Managing Director, Wesfarmers Limited, as saying that this is the first time that Wesfarmers has showcased the contemporary art of the collection, “and the works selected for Luminous World illustrate some of the ways in which the collection has grown in recent years. For instance, the inclusion of art from New Zealand, where Wesfarmers has a significant business presence, and the heightened emphasis on representing the great diversity of contemporary Indigenous art.”

The inclusion of New Zealand art because Wesfarmers has a significant business presence – not the quality or wonder of the art work – but a business presence. And only now are they collecting contemporary Indigenous art, after the collection has been in existence for more than three decades, 1977 being the first acquisition date. At least he is being refreshingly honest about why the art work has been added to the collection, but it does not give you confidence in the choice of the art work being displayed here. Goyder, Carroll and Kinsella also proselytize about the benefits of employee’s living with this art in their daily working lives and that may be the case. But for the casual visitor to the gallery this collection of art left me feeling cold and clammy – like a fish out of water.

As the add for Reflex copy paper says with more humour than any of this work can muster, I didn’t find “enwhitenment”, or wonder, within the gallery walls. Oh, the luminosity of it all.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

What is the Night?

‘What is the night?’ Macbeth enquires in the banquet scene, once the ghost of Banquo has departed and his wide has dismissed their mystified guests. Deprived of sleep, and half-psychotic, he urgently needs to know the time. But this is also, implicitly, a philosophical question that hints at the ontological meaning of the night…

Macbeth, Shakespeare’s most elaborate meditation on the night, is a sustained, if not obsessive, exploration of the nocturnal as a realm of alternative values – ones that contradict and threaten to undermine those of the diurnal regime that is ostensibly the domain of politics in the early modern period. In this violent, vengeful tragedy, the language and culture of the medieval night, incarnated above all in the witches, irrupts into the more enlightened languages and culture of a purportedly post-medieval epoch. An apocalyptic night, in Macbeth’s barbaric court, is one of the forces that shape realpolitik. In the Renaissance, a period in which daily life encroaches more and more on the night, especially in public settings, in the form of elaborately lit masques at court, Macbeth thus stages the limits of enlightenment.

At a time when more systematic, socially centralized modes of illumination are increasingly disrupting older patterns of rest, including biphasic sleep – so that, for the early modern ruling class at least, night starts to feel like an extension of the day, its observe rather than its inverse – Shakespeare dramatizes the tyrannical attraction, the absolutism, of darkness. Macbeth describes a process of nocturnalization whereby the night irresistibly colonizes the day, fatally infiltrating both the state and the protagonist’s consciousness. To use a word that has some currency in the seventeenth century, but has long since fallen out of use, Shakespeare’s drama is a study of ‘benightment’.”

Matthew Beaumont. “What is the Night?” in Matthew Beaumont. Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, Chaucer to Dickens. London and New York: Verso, 2015, pp. 86-87.

 

Luminous World brings together a selection of contemporary paintings, objects and photographs from the Wesfarmers Collection in a conversation about light. Through works of scale and conceptual invention that chart the range and depth of the collection, this exhibition presents significant contemporary paintings, photographs and objects by leading Australian and New Zealand artists acquired by Wesfarmers over three decades and shared together for the first time with the Australian public.

The Potter is the fifth venue for this touring exhibition which to date has travelled to Charles Darwin University Art Gallery, Darwin; National Library of Australia, Canberra; Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide; and The Academy Gallery, University of Tasmania.

 

 

Brook Andrew. 'Replicant series: Owl' 2005 

 

Brook Andrew
Replicant series: Owl
2005
Ilfochrome print
130 x 195 cm
© Brook Andrew, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

Brook Andrew (1970- ) is a Sydney born/Melbourne based interdisciplinary artist of Wiradjuri and Scottish heritage. Andrew’s conceptual based practice incorporates, sculpture, photography, installation, video and performance. The Replicant 2006 series reflects (literally) upon the act of looking, and consequent interchanges between nature and culture, subject and object, real and represented. These dualities fit broadly within the artist’s addressing of Australian identity, polemics and the politics of difference.

For the Replicant 2006 series Andrew borrowed taxidermied specimens from the education department at the Australian Museum, Sydney. These included native species of indigenous significance such as an owl, possum, flying fox and parrot. He shot each animal – artificially propped in their natural poses – and digitally manipulated each image so as to appear duplicated, a process that evolved out of the Kalar midday 2004 series.

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled' 2009-10 

 

Bill Henson
Untitled
2009-10
Archival inkjet pigment print
127 x 180 cm
© Bill Henson, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

” … And yet certain things – particular experiences that we have are excpetional. They stand apart from the rest of the general activity.

What causes this apprehension of significance – of something in face powerfully apprehended yet not always fully understood?

And why is it that all of us, at some time or other, with have this ‘epiphany’ – Christian or otherwise – in the presence of some work of art, in the experiencing of a performance piece or some unexpected encounter with the true magic of a particular piece of sculpture?

When it happens, I always think of it as being as if one’s life – and everything that it contains – had just been ever so slightly changed, forever. Nothing, if you will, is ever quite the same again.

What happens, I think, is simply that we fall in love – and it’s the apprehension of unexpected beauty that causes us to fall in love.

The sheer force of such beauty can affect us as if it were an act of nature – and of course it is, for despite the arrogance of some theoreticians, culture is never outside nature.

I think that it is this intense, if often quite subtle, love for the subject, and the resultant emotional and intellectual interdependence within that relationship – be it in musical form, something in the visual arts, theatre of dance – that is responsible for – and in fact makes possible at all – these great and fortunate encounters in the arts.

Stare back into time and all kinds of very ‘personal’ things return your gaze. This has always, to me, seemed to a large extent to be what art is about. Sure, it’s personal, but it’s also millennial.

The best art always heightens our sense of mortality. This is not morbidity that I am talking about – rather, we feel more alive in the presence of great art and this is because of a profound sense of continuity – our sense of being inside nature – is expanded.

If you like, art suggests the immortal in all of us.

When we listen to Michelangeli – or, say, Jörg Demus playing Kinderszenen – and we sense that simultaneously proximate and intimate yet utterly abstract presence (was that someone? Schumann perhaps?) and at the same time sense the unbridgeable gulf that exists between ourselves and that distant past – we know that we are in the presence of something magical.

In the end I think that it is love that fuels this activity – that animates the speculative capacity in all of us – and heightens this sense of wonder.

Excerpts from Bill Henson’s speech “Reflections,” in Luminous World catalogue. Perth: Wesfarmers Limited, 2012, pp. 23-24.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

David Stephenson. 'Star Drawing 1996/402' 1996

 

David Stephenson
Star Drawing 1996/402
1996
40 x 40″
Cibachrome Print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1997
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

While the subject of my photographs has shifted from the landscape of the American Southwest and Tasmania, and the minimal horizons of the Southern ocean, and the icy wastes of Antarctica, to sacred architecture and the sky at both day and night, my art has remained essentially spiritual – for more than two decades I have been exploring a contemporary expression of the sublime – a transcendental experience of awe with the vast space and time of existence. (David Stephenson, 1998)

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled 39/139' 1990-91

 

Bill Henson
Untitled 39/139
1990-91
Paris Opera Project
Type C photograph
127 × 127 cm
Series of 50
Edition of 10 + 2 A/Ps

 

Stieg Persson. 'Offret' 1998 

 

Stieg Persson
Offret
1998
Oil on canvas
183 x 167 cm
© Stieg Persson, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

“Works focusing on light and darkness, and how light creates and reveals our world, from one of Australia’s pre-eminent corporate art collections compiled by Wesfarmers over the past 30 years, will be exhibited at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at The University of Melbourne.

The exhibition, Luminous World: Contemporary art from the Wesfarmers Collection, presents a diverse selection of contemporary paintings, photography and works of sculpture. The works traverse a diversity of cultural, aesthetic and philosophical perspectives, with the curatorial premise of how contemporary artists explore the phenomenon of light in their work.

Some 50 artists from Australia and New Zealand are featured in the exhibition including: Susan Norrie, Rosemary Laing, Howard Taylor, Dale Frank, Paddy Bedford, Bill Henson, Fiona Pardington (NZ), Brian Blanchflower, Brook Andrew, Timothy Cook and Nyapanyapa Yunupingu. Included alongside the art is a major new body of poetry by John Kinsella, written in response to works in the exhibition. These are published for the first time under the imprint of Fremantle Press in the book Luminous World, with new writing by artist Bill Henson and composer Richard Mills.

Ian Potter Museum of Art Director, Ms Kelly Gellatly said, “Luminous World highlights the strengths ofthe Wesfarmers Collection, which has generously been shared, through the tour of the exhibition, with the wider community.

“In bringing together works across a range of media by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, Luminous World successfully showcases both the depth and continuing resonance of contemporary Australian practice in a rich, open-ended and exploratory conversation about light.

“To know and experience light and its effects however, one must equally understand its other – darkness. Together, these concerns create an exhibition experience that is at once intellectual, emotional and experiential,” Ms Gellatly said.

The Wesfarmers Collection was started in 1977, and is housed in the Wesfarmers offices around Australia and shared with the community through a loan and exhibition program. A Wesfarmers and Art Gallery of Western Australia touring exhibition.”

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

 

“For more than three decades Wesfarmers has been collecting Australian art. From General Manager John Bennison’s first acquisition in 1977 of a pastoral scene by the Australian impressionist Elioth Gruner, Wesfarmers’ purpose was to accentuate the value of art in the workplace and encourage and understanding of the importance to society of supporting creative thinking and artistic vision. The company has always been committed to sharing its collection with the community through exhibitions and loans and by opening our workplaces for groups to view the art in our offices.

This is the first time Wesfarmers has showcased the contemporary art in the collection, and the works selected for Luminous World illustrate some of the ways in which the collection has grown in recent years. For instance, the inclusion of art from New Zealand, where Wesfarmers now has a significant business presence, and the heightened emphasis on representing the great diversity of contemporary indigenous art.

We thank the artists whose resonant and timeless works form part of Australia’s rich cultural heritage and hope that the Australian public will enjoy these works and marvel at the ingenuity and artistic vision they represent, as Wesfarmers does, surround by inspirational art in our daily lives.”

Richard Goyder
Managing Director, Wesfarmers Limited

 

The visual world is defined by light; everything we see is processed by the eye as patterns of brightness and colour. Monumental formations in the landscape as well as the most subtle nuances of atmosphere are made real to us by the action of light, transmitted in wavelengths as an infinitely varied register of colour that combine within the eye to shape our sense of space and form.

It is the action of light reflecting off, refracting through and being absorbed by the substance of the world that enables the eye to perceive contours, hues, and textures and mark the passing of time from day to night and season to season.

Luminous World presents a diverse selection of contemporary paintings, photography and works of sculpture, acquired by the Wesfarmers Collection over thirty years and considered through the lens of how contemporary artists variously utilise the phenomenon of light in their work.

Rather than a chronological or stylistically ordered presentation, it follows a loosely intuitive flow of ideas and imagery moving through night to day. The artists in this exhibition explore light from the perspective of the optical experience, the connection between the stars and the cycles of life on earth; and from diverse cultural, mythic and spiritual point of departure.

Published for the first time in the Luminous World catalogue are recent poems by John Kinsella, written in response to selected works in the exhibition, together with new writing by artist Bill Henson and composer Richard Mills that extend an artistic dialogue in which all can share.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Hung fire' 1995

 

Rosalie Gascoigne
Hung fire
1995
Retro-reflective road-sign on wood
209 x 176 cm
© Rosalie Gascoigne, licensed by Viscopy 2012 and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

Elizabeth Nyumi. 'Parwalla' 2010 

 

Elizabeth Nyumi
Parwalla
2010
Acrylic on canvas
120 x 180 cm
© Elizabeth Nyumi, licensed by Viscopy 2012 and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

About Parwalla

This painting depicts the country known as Parwalla, which is Nyumi’s father’s country. This country is far to the south of Balgo in the Great Sandy Desert, west of Kiwirrkurra, and is dominated by tali (sand hills). Parwalla is a large swampy area, which fills with water after the wet season rain and consequently produces an abundance of bush foods. The majority of Nyumi’s painting shows the different bush foods, including kantjilyi (bush raisin), pura (bush tomato) and minyili (seed). The whiteish colours, which dominate the painting, represent the spinifex that grows strong and seeds after the wet season rains. These seeds are white in colour, and grow so thickly they obscure the ground and other plants below.

Biography

When Nyumi was only a very young child her mother died at Kanari soakwater close to Jupiter Well. As a young girl, Nyumi lived with her family group in their country. As a teenager she walked along the Canning Stock Route into the old mission with her father and family group. There she was given clothes and taken to Billiluna Station to be trained as a domestic worker and to work for the wives of the station managers around the region.

Nyumi commenced painting in 1987 and emerged as a leading artist in the late 1990s. She is married to the artist Palmer Gordon and has four daughters, three of whom are still living and beginning to paint with strong encouragement from Nyumi. Her elder brothers Brandy Tjungurrayi and Patrick Olodoodi are both senior lawmen and recognised artists. Nyumi is a very strong culture woman and dancer and an enthusiastic teacher of culture to children, ensuring the traditional dances and songs are kept alive.

Nyumi’s paintings are mainly concerned with the abundant bush food in the country belonging to her family. Initially, she worked with a thick brush, covering the canvas with fluent lines in tones of yellow, green and red. She has now developed a strong personal style of thick impasto dotting, to build up fields of texture heavily laden with white, in which motifs of camp sites, coolamons, digging sticks and bush tucker stand out.

 

Gretchen Albrecht. 'Pink and orange sherbet sky' 1975  

 

Gretchen Albrecht
Pink and orange sherbet sky
1975
Acrylic on canvas
166 x 177 cm
© Gretchen Albrecht, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australia

 

Rosemary Laing. 'Brumby mound #5' from the series 'One dozen unnatural disasters in the landscape' 2003

 

Rosemary Laing
Brumby mound #5 from the series One dozen unnatural disasters in the landscape
2003
C Type photograph
110 x 222 cm
© Rosemary Laing, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

Brumby mound #5 2003 is one of a series of photographs by Rosemary Laing that explores the way European culture has often been uncomfortably imposed on an ancient land. Laing chooses a desert-scape that many identify as quintessentially Australian as the setting for her interventions. The location is the Wirrimanu community lands around Balgo in north-east Western Australia. Onto these traditional lands Laing has incongruously placed items of mass-produced furniture painted to mimic the surroundings.

The words ‘brumby mound’ in her title are a reference to the introduced horses (or brumbies) that are feral and roam uncontrolled, much like the spread of furniture. The seductive beauty of these panoramic images shows the vast spectacle of the Australian bush and makes the disjunction of the natural and the unnatural all the more apparent. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Howard Taylor. 'Bushfire sun' 1996 

 

Howard Taylor
Bushfire sun
1996
Oil on canvas
122 x 152 cm
© Howard Taylor, courtesy of the artist’s estate and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

Michael Riley. 'Untitled' from the series 'Cloud [Feather]' 2000

 

Michael Riley
Untitled from the series Cloud [Feather]
2000
Inkjet print on banner paper
86 x 120 cm
© Michael Riley Foundation, licensed by Viscopy 2012 and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

“Feathers float – so do clouds – and dreams.

Feather – a Wiradjuri word for feather and wing are the same, Gawuurra. Probably Cowra, the name of a town to the south, comes from this. In contemporary Aboriginal practices of other groups, feather-appendage is extended in meaning to string tassel, sacred string marking a journey, connecting landscapes, people, family lineages, and, importantly, the embryo cord linking child and mother.

A wing of the eagle hawk, Malyan, a skin name, a scary dream-being overhead. Is it guardian angel or assassin? In the south-east, a feather left behind is often evidence of such a spiritual visit.

At the funeral of actor and activist Bob Maza in 2000, his son held his father’s Bible and recollected his words, ‘to dare to dream your dreams’. It’s interesting that Michael Riley chose to avoid the word ‘dream’ in naming his final photographic work cloud (2000), avoiding glib connections to ‘Dreamtime’. What rolls past our eyes and through our senses is the culmination of self-examination. In a series of poetic photographic texts made increasingly poignant through events in his personal life, these are dreams of childhood memories in Dubbo, New South Wales: dreams of floating, of release…

cloud appears as more personal and free. A floating feather; a sweeping wing; a vigilant angel; the cows from ‘the mission’ farm; a single Australian Plague Locust in flight, referring to the cyclical swarms of locusts; a comforting Bible; and a graceful emblematic returning boomerang. The boomerang is really the only overtly Aboriginal image in the series and the locust is one of the few native species left that is visible and cannot be swept aside. It persists…

Through the large, simply superimposed images of cloud, Michael was trying to minimalise things, to distil his ideas about physical reality and spirit. All are dichotomously connected to Dubbo and Riley and are also universal. They are not about a place but a state, the surrealistic cow with mud and manure on its hoofs floating by. In contrast to Empire’s scenes of a decayed, overworked and desolated landscape, there is no physical land in the cloud imagery.

Aboriginal creation stories begin with a sunrise and follow the journeys of an original being across a physical, seasonal and emotional landscape – seeing, experiencing, and naming this and that plant, animal, climatic occurrence and emotional feelings. Religious song cycles follow this progression. Michael’s set of large, single-subject memories can almost be thought of as a Wiradjuri song cycle of his land and his life.”

Extract from Djon Mundine. Wungguli – Shadow : Photographing the spirit and Michael Riley” on the Michael Riley: sights unseen National Gallery of Australia website.

 

Paddy Bedford. 'Merrmerrji–Queensland creek' 2005 

 

Paddy Bedford
Merrmerrji-Queensland creek
2005
Ochre and synthetic binder on composition board
80 x 100 cm
© Paddy Bedford, reproduced courtesy of the artist’s estate and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

“Paddy Bedford was a senior Gija lawman born at Bedford Downs Station in the East Kimberly region. Like many indigenous artists, he lived a long life as a stockman before he looked upon the Turkey Creek elders – Rover Thomas and Paddy Jiminji – to begin painting. Bedford’s first works were made with the inception of the Jirrawun Aboriginal Art Cooperative in 1997.

The distinctive minimalist style of his work is but a mask to the multifarious layers of meaning. Bedford’s paintings are inspired by the distinctive landscape and stories of his country in the East Kimberly region of Western Australia, as he depicts from an aerial perspective the traditional dreamings of the Cockatoo, Emu and Turkey; the massacres of local Aboriginal people during the colonial period; as well as episodes from his own life as a stockman and as a senior elder of his community.

Merrmerrji- Queensland Creek, 2005 is characteristically sparse in composition with bold forms, a rhythmic application of dotted fluid lines and a powerfully imposing colour palate, which is gained from a wet-on-wet mixture of white and ochre pigments suspended in a fast drying acrylic medium. The effect is a pearly radiant luminosity, an ambience of the sacred.” (Text from the Annette Larkin Fine Art website)

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
The University of Melbourne,
Swanston Street (between Elgin and Faraday Streets)
Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 3 8344 5148

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

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08
Feb
15

Exhibition: ‘Bohemian Melbourne’ at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 12th December 2014 – 22th February 2015

 

Definition

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. (Wikipedia)

A Bohemian is a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.

 

This is a fantastic exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, one of the best I have seen so far in Melbourne this year. I have seen it three times and each time it has been a thoroughly rewarding experience.

  • Visually and intellectually stimulating, with a plethora of artefacts, texts and photographs
  • Excellent curatorship, with the exhibition logically structured in order to cohesively display the history, characters and stories, and strands of creativity and rebellious spirit that make up Melbourne’s cultural life
  • A great hang, with disparate elements and mediums all informing each other, pithy quotes, unique film footage, video, music
  • Not too big, just the right size to indulge your senses and brain power

.
One downside was that the exhibition needed a book or exhibition catalogue to flesh out the themes. Hopefully this will eventuate down the track. Also, it would have been nice to see more of what I would call ‘vernacular bohemianism’ – not just the famous people in each era, but the people that lived the life out on the streets, that supported the subcultures that sprung up from the 1950s onwards, but in a small exhibition it is understandable that there was not enough space.

Another perspective is that, in ordering such a diverse group of people who don’t want to be classified, who lived on the edge of society – you remove their cultural and historical ability to be transgressive, to cross moral and social taboos. By naming them as “bohemian” you seek to classify and order their existence and bring them within a frame of reference that is about control, power and visibility. This disciplinary power, Michel Foucault maintains, relies on surveillance to transform the subjects and the exhibition taxonomy is just that… a form of surveillance of the subject as well as a form of ordering it. Under this phenomena of power, dissonance/dissidence is neutralised and human beings are made subjects: through ‘the systematic linking of the categories of power and knowledge to form a hybrid, power-knowledge.’ (Hirst, 1992, “Foucault and Architecture,” in AA Files, No. 26, Autumn, pp. 52-60)

As John Tagg notes in his book The Burden of Representation (and this is what this exhibition does, it ‘represents’ a particular construction of identity as seen from the viewpoint of the establishment, the institution), “when Foucault examines power he is not just examining a negative force operating through a series of prohibitions … We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms – as exclusion, censorship, concealment, eradication. In fact, power produces. It produces reality. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth.” (Tagg, John. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988, p. 87)

Ultimatley, that is what this exhibition does, it produces a reality that many of these bohemians would not have bought into, for they lived outside the fold. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth that, through their naming, seek to classify and negate the transgressive and subversive nature of many of these people and groups. These people lived in opposition to the tenants and morals of everyday society and that is why we still love them – for their creativity, their individuality, their thoughts and above all their panache, stepping outside the orthodoxies and regi/mentality of everyday life. Against the system, for life.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the State Library of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“The mania of young artists to
wish to live outside of their time,
with other ideas and other customs,
isolate them from the world,
render them strange and bizarre,
puts them outside the law, banished
from society. These are today’s
bohemians.”

.
Félix Pyat (French, 1810-1889)

 

 

Artist, rebel, hippie, hipster?

Revealing Melbourne’s enduring counter-cultures, Bohemian Melbourne celebrates a who’s who of creative free spirits through their art and the bohemian legacy that has shaped the character of this city. The exhibition shines a light on Melbourne’s cultural bohemians from 1860 to today, tracing individuals who have pushed against convention in their lives and art, from Marcus Clarke, Albert Tucker and Mirka Mora to Barry Humphries, Vali Myers and Nick Cave.

Venture into history’s backstreets and smoky salons to discover the stories of the daring poets, artists, visionaries, rebels and rock stars who changed Melbourne forever. (Text from the website)

 

Marcus Clarke: “A Punk in the Age of Steam”

Marcus Clarke, writer, journalist and later a librarian at the Melbourne Public Library, is generally celebrated as the father of Bohemian Melbourne – although he was more its wild child. After a privileged start in a wealthy English family, which allowed him to cultivate the life of a young dandy and to indulge his passion for the writings of Honoré de Balzac and others, a 16-year-old Clarke suddenly found himself in colonial Melbourne in 1863, thanks to a turn in the family fortune.

Determined to maintain a semblance of the life to which he had become accustomed, Clarke was soon to be found strolling the streets of Melbourne as a flâneur, an observer of the city spectacle. A short-lived post as a bank clerk was followed by a stint on the land as a jackaroo, but by the age of 21 he was back in Melbourne and working as a journalist for the Argus newspaper.

Clarke’s bohemian ways soon attracted other young journalists and writers, and they began to congregate at various Melbourne watering holes, in particular the Cafe de Paris establishing the Yorick Club, the early members of which included fellow writers Henry Rendall, George Gordon McCrae and Adam Lindsay Gordon. The Yorick had a human skull for a mascot and rules that parodied the gentleman’s clubs of establishment Melbourne. Its members gathered in rooms adjoining the office of Melbourne Punch to smoke clay pipes, drink from pewter mugs, recite poetry and generally engage in horseplay. Bohemian society had found a Melbourne home and a creative community was born. (Wall text from exhibition)

 

Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke
1866
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

Bohemian culture in marvellous Melbourne

Marvellous Melbourne, which arose out of the egalitarianism of the gold rushes, gave birth to a strong bohemian culture. Marcus Clarke, the London-born journalist, writer, librarian and professional bohemian, joined the Athenaeum Club and founded in 1868 the Yorrick Club, Australia’s first bohemian club, which became a magnet for men of letters.

He was a dressed-up dandy, a flâneur and a heavy drinker, but had a touch of genius with his novel, For the Term of His Natural Life (1874/75), one of the classics of Australian colonial literature. He was dead by the age of 35, with suicide rumoured but rejected by his actress wife, Marian Dunn, the mother of his six children. Clarke in his behaviour and creative achievement became a model for other Australian bohemians to follow.

Extract from Professor Sasha Grishin. “Celebrating Melbourne bohemians at the State Library of Victoria,” on The Conversation website, 16 January 2015 [Online] Cited 03/02/2015

 

Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' (detail) 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke (detail)
1866
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

“In 1863, when the young Marcus Clarke arrived in Melbourne, he could have slipped easily into what passed for mannered society in the booming gold-rush city. His uncle was a County Court judge, his cousin a politician, and Clarke himself was granted honorary membership of the elite Melbourne Club. But he chose to turn his back on the bunyip aristocracy. “I am a bohemian,” declared the man who would go on to write the first great Australian novel. “I live, I walk, I eat, drink and philosophise.”

All of which sounds perfectly normal – except, perhaps, for the philosophising – but in reality, Marcus Clarke’s life was far from average. He became a celebrated satirist of Marvellous Melbourne, by turns outraging and titillating 19th-century sensibilities in Australia’s modern metropolis. He befriended fellow intellectuals and bon vivants to form underground literary clubs that didn’t so much turn their backs on as raise an insulting finger to colonial mores. He was a poet and a playwright, a journalist and a novelist, a jackaroo, a wastrel and, above all, quite the tremendous wit.

Clarke’s most enduring gift is his writing, particularly the classic convict novel For The Term Of His Natural Life. But a new exhibition at the State Library of Victoria pays tribute to his other major legacy – that of Australia’s first bona fide bohemian.

“Clarke was an iconoclast, dangerous to know and a dandy about town,” explains historian Dr Tony Moore, author of Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians

“Most people think of him as a venerable old Victorian gentleman, but I characterise him as a punk in the age of steam.” [Marcus: I don’t know why a venerable old Victorian gentleman – he was dead at 35]

Moore, who is a Monash University academic and passionate chronicler of unconventional Australians, was an adviser to the exhibition and worked alongside curator Clare Williamson to create this retrospective of radicals. Melbourne’s roaming free spirits have been corralled together for the first time using material – some of it never previously displayed in public – drawn from State Library archives and borrowed from public and private collections. Viewed en masse, they comprise a rogues’ gallery of some of the country’s most indelible cultural icons…

His [Clarke’s] image adorns the exhibition posters, a larger-than-life bohemian in breeches and knee-high boots with a cabbage-tree hat perched jauntily above his broad, handsome face. Melbourne’s original radical would be thrilled to see that his notoriety lives on, more than a century after his death.”

Extract from Kendall Hill. “Bohemian Melbourne: Exhibition” on the Qantas Travel Insider website [Online] Cited 03/02/2015

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

installation-k-WEB

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Unknown photographer. 'Members of the Ishmael Club' c. 1900

 

Unknown photographer
Members of the Ishmael Club
c. 1900
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975) 'Fifteen of the Founders' 1944

 

Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975)
Fifteen of the Founders
1944
Oil on canvas and gauze mounted on panel
Collection of the Montsalvat Trust

 

 

Montsalvat is the result of Justus Jörgensen’s vision for a collective experience of art and life. Jörgensen had trained in architecture and then in painting with earlier bohemian Max Meldrum. His studio in Queen Street, the Mitre Tavern and the Latin and Chung Wah restaurants were sites for lively discussions in which Jörgensen put forward his philosophies of art, the revival of medieval craftsmanship and communal living. This vision began to take shape in 1934 when he and his wife, Lily, brought land at Eltham; with the assistance of friends and followers, he built Montsalvat, an artists’ colony of studios, workshops and the communal Great Hall.

While Justus Jörgensen rarely exhibited, his great love was painting. This multi-panelled work comprises portraits by Jörgensen of 15 significant figures from the early years of Montsalvat. They are, from top to bottom, left to right:

Ian Robertson – student of Jorgensen who also ran an antiques shop
Leo Brierley – businessman and backer of Mervyn Skipper’s Pandemonium journal
Helen (Nell) Lempriere – niece of Dame Nellie Melba, painter, sculptor, and an earl student of Jorgensen
Norman Porter – friend and student of Jorgensen and lecturer in philosophy
Mervyn Skipper – author, journalist and Melbourne editor of the Bulletin
Helen Skipper – Mervyn’s first daughter, Jorgensen’s partner for many years, and mother of Sebastian and Sigmund Jorgensen
Justus Jorgensen – founder and architect of Montsalvat, painter, assistant to artist Max Meldrum and teacher.
Sonia Skipper – second daughter of Mervyn Skipper, and painter and teacher
Arthur Munday – law student, sculptor and stonemason trained by Jorgensen
William (Bill) Cook – teacher, philosophy and president of the Victorian Rationalist Society
Norman Radcliffe – student and friend of Jorgensen, and philosopher
Ray Grant – student of Jorgensen and philosopher
Edward Goll – internationally renowned pianist and teacher at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
Arthur (George) Chalmers – pharmacist, student of Jorgensen, stonemason and carver, who also planted the first vineyard at Montsalvat

(Label texts)

 

Montsalvat is an artist colony in Eltham, Victoria, Australia, established by Justus Jörgensen in 1934. It is home to over a dozen buildings, houses and halls set amongst richly established gardens on 48,562 m2 (12 acres) of land. The colony of Montsalvat has a detailed history that reflects the life of Jörgensen and his friends and family; there is also a legend behind its name, while its buildings and gardens are steeped in the art and culture of Melbourne and its surroundings.

Visitors can pay a small fee to walk throughout the colony’s historical gardens, artists’ houses/workshops and explore the surrounding buildings. All of the buildings on the site were designed and built by residents with locally available materials, from various sources. The Great Hall offers an extensive network of spaces from extravagant halls and vast exhibition spaces, to small corridors and tiny balconies overlooking the gardens. (Wikipedia)

 

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) Ella Grainger (1889-1979) 'Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger' c. 1934

 

Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
Ella Grainger (1889-1979)
Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger
c. 1934
Cotton bath towels, plastic, leather and metal
Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

 

“In 1932 or 1933 my wife and I took up again this idea of clothing made of towelling and when in Australia in 1934 and 1935 we were amazed by the beauty of the bath towels on sale in Australia – some imported from England, Czechoslovakia and America, but most of them (and among them the most beautiful ones) manufactured in Australia. Here was a chance to show what could be done with the beauty born of machinery – a beauty as rich and subtle, in its own way, as anything made by hand or loom.”

Percy Grainger, c. 1955-56

 

Unknown photographer
Percy Grainger at White Plains, New York
1936
Exhibition graphic from silver gelatine photograph
Grainger Museum collection, The University of Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015, including at left Albert Tucker, Self-portrait with Joy Hester, 1939 (see below)

 

Albert Tucker. 'Self-portrait with Joy Hester' 1939

 

Albert Tucker
Self-portrait with Joy Hester
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

An Interview with Albert Tucker conducted by Justin Obrien in 1997.
Albert expands on his many insights,during the time he spent with John and Sunday Reed and other artists at Heide during the1940’s. An intimate insight into a unique man.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café
1954
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries

 

Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' (detail) 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café (detail)
1954
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries

 

 

These clips features home movie footage taken by Gertie Anschel (c.1953-1954) with audio commentary by film director Philippe Mora.

Part 1 of 3 features scenes of Melbourne, The Mirka Café and Joy Hester and Gray Smith’s property. Philippe reflects on his childhood and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene. 

 

 

Part 2 of 3 features the property of Roger de Stoop, artist friends and Arthur Boyd at work on his 1956 Melbourne Olympic statue. Philippe reflects on his childhood identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.

 

 

Part 3 of 3 features the Moras, the art gang at a balcony party and late American actor Melvyn Douglas. Philippe reflects on his childhood, parents and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.

 

 

Making Your Own Fun in the 50s

On the surface at least, Melbourne in the 1950s was a rather dour affair. For some non-conformists, such as Vali Myers and Barry Humphries, it was a place to escape rather than a place to be. For others, however, it was a site for creating underground cultures that were largely invisible to the mainstream.

This was no more so than in the case of gay and lesbian, or ‘camp’, culture, as it was known at the time. Homosexuality was illegal in Victoria until 1960, and in the 1950s it was sensationalised in the tabloid press as a subject for mockery if not horror. As a result, homosexual men and women developed alternative bohemian cultures and communities, with their own covert venues, house parties, secret languages and dress codes.

The gala costume arts balls that raised money for mainstream theatre and other arts charities were grand exceptions to the gnerally underground clubs and private parties. They offered rare moments in which camp culture could be expressed in public without fear for reprisal. Theatres and dance companies provided employment for many, and bars, such as the one nicknamed the Snake Pit at the Hotel Australia, and restaurants such as Val’s Coffee Lounge, provided opportunities for the camp community to meet and to mix with others who were outside the establishment.

 

Norman Ikin. 'Vali Myers' c. 1949

 

Norman Ikin
Vali Myers
c. 1949
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

Mark Strizic. 'Barry Humphries in Melbourne' 1969

 

Mark Strizic (1928-2012)
Barry Humphries in Melbourne
1969
Exhibition print from flexible-base negative
State Library of Victoria
Courtesy of the Estate of the artist

 

 

A never seen on broadcast TV programme with Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage made in 1975. Barry Humphries was promoting his film ‘Barry McKenzie holds his own’. Films clips were provided officially by EMI. The interviewer trying to hold things together is Mark Caldwell. The programme was made in black and white.

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with, in the distance, Henry Talbot Portraits of actor Frank Thring 1963, with Thring’s jewellery box and contents in the foreground.

 

It has been said of Frank Thring that he could make most stages or foyers seem small. His larger-than-life personality was almost matched by his frame, often decked out in imposing black and with flamboyant jewellery. Son of Frank Thring snr, founder of Efftee Films and 3XY Radio, Thring jnr earned fame as an actor in London’s West End and in Hollywood films such as Ben Hur, often playing sinister or decadent characters. In the 1950s, he would recite poems laden with innuendo and hold court at the ‘head table’ at Val’s Coffee Lounge. To be welcome at his table was a sign one was part of the ‘in’ crowd. (Label text)

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Arts Ball, Palais de Danse - John Anderson as Sun God' c. 1963-64

 

Unknown photographer
Arts Ball, Palais de Danse – John Anderson as Sun God
c. 1963-64
Gelatin silver photograph
Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

 

John Anderson was first-prize winner at a number of arts balls in the 1960s. His costume shown here reflects the creativity and effort that many put into their outfits. Costumes and headdresses were sometimes so large that Anderson and others regularly hired furniture vans to take them to the ball. One year the van that was transporting Anderson broke down and he completed the journey strapped upright on the back of a ute. His Sun  God costume wowed new audiences when he was invited to take part in a pageant on ice base on the theme of The Kind and I – with Anderson as the King – at the Southland shopping centre ice rink around 1970. (Label text)

But you will go to the ball, you will sweetie!

 

Richard Walsh (editor) 'The Review', Vol. 22, No. 22 Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co., March 1972

 

Richard Walsh (editor)
The Review, Vol. 22, No. 22
Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co.,
March 1972
State Library of Victoria

 

Before editing the irreverent Melbourne weekly The Review (Nation Review from July 1972, Richard Walsh edited counter-cultural Oz magazine with Richard Neville and Martin Sharp. Contributors to Nation Review included Max Harris, Bob Ellis, Phillip Adams, Michael Leunig and Germaine Greer. Greer had been part of the Drift in Melbourne, a loose association of artists, students and graduates. Enrolling in a Masters degree at Sydney University, in 1962 she becomes a leading light in the Sydney libertarian Push, an intellectual bohemia of larrikin anarchists. Gaining her PhD at Cambridge University, Greer then published her groundbreaking book The Female Eunuch. (Label text)

 

Ashley Mackevicius. 'Nick Cave' 1973

 

Ashley Mackevicius
Nick Cave
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2006

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Soapbox Circus - The Fabulous Spagoni Family' c. 1977

 

Ponch Hawkes
Soapbox Circus – The Fabulous Spagoni Family
c. 1977
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park' 1979

 

Ponch Hawkes
Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park
1979
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with artist Ponch Hawkes work at right

 

Rennie Ellis. 'Mirka Mora in her studio' 1978

 

Rennie Ellis
Mirka Mora in her studio
1978
Colour transparency
State Library Victoria
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

 

Vali Myers (1930-2003) 'Passions' 1981-82

 

Vali Myers (1930-2003)
Passions
1981-82
Pen, black ink, sepia, burnt sienna and watercolour
Vali Myers Art Gallery Trust

 

Vali Myers discovered a love of drawing at an early age. Over the years it became her primary mode of artistic expression in place of contemporary dance. She dedicated her life to her art and would spend up to two years creating each of her intricately drawn artworks. Passions contains many elements that symbolically represent aspects of Vali Myers’ art and life. These include a fox (referencing her pet Foxy), ravens (Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven being one of her favourite poems, a gypsy-like figure playing a violin and, at the centre of it all, a woman with flaming red hair. (Label text)

 

Liz Ham. 'Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building' 1997

 

Liz Ham
Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building
1997
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

Australian artist Vali Myers moved to Paris from Australia at age 19 where she lived on the streets, danced in cafes, met Satre, Cocteau, Genet and Django Reinhardt. She moved to New York, tattooed Patti Smith’s knee, befriended Salvador Dali and met Andy Warhol and Tennessee Williams.

Vali was a great influence on lots of famous people Tennesse Williams, Jean Cocteau, Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Jean Genet and Kate Bush.

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

 

Australian artist Howard Arkley interviewed by ABC television shortly before his untimely death in 1999.

 

Howard Arkley (1951-1999) 'The Ritual' 1986

 

Howard Arkley (1951-1999)
The Ritual
1986
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
State Library of Victoria

 

Howard Arkley is recognised as one of Australia’s most significant 20th-century artists. He is unique in embracing not only urban culture but also life in suburbia, a space generally shunned or scorned by bohemians, with exception of that other flaneur of suburbia, Barry Humphries. Like many bohemians before him, Arkley lived on the edge and experimented with mind-altering substances, and, like a good proportion of them, his life was tragically cut short as a result. Despite its large scale, comic-book style and pop colours, The Ritual is as much a cool and judgment-free study in composition and the human form as it is in the rituals or ‘habits’ associated with drug use. (Label text)

 

 

State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000
T: (03) 8664 7000

Opening hours:
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Monday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Tuesday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Wednesday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
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State Library of Victoria website

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30
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals’ at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

Exhibition dates: 1st November 2014 – 16th February 2015

 

Exposing your/self

.
Viva Michals! Viva Michals!

Magician, poet, storyteller, philosopher and dreamer.

Not for him the overblown statement (huge prints the size of billboards) but small, dark, rough prints assembled in photo-sequences, often incorporating text, that examine the human condition in every aspect. This is emotional work and Michals has a unique style and voice as an artist. You always know that you are looking at a sequence by Michals, for his signature is that distinctive.

As he says, his work goes beyond description, beyond surfaces, to reveal the subject – not as it looks but as it feels. In his sequences he usually achieves this by posing a question that has no answer, a question that is like a Zen koan…. what is the sound of one hand clapping? The grandfather ascends smilingly to heaven with little wings on his back as the child waves goodbye (if youth knew, if age could); the man as human condition turns into a galaxy; and the spirit leaves the body as it was left before.

Various Michals sequences, such as The Spirit Leaves The Body (1968, below), have a circular construction. Another sequence, Things are Queer (1973, below) is also a circular spatio-temporal enigma where instead of moving forward, the camera and the viewer are pulled backwards in a space-time continuum… where Michals forces you to question what reality really is. These two sequences are my personal favourites, and I had to scour the internet to find images for them as you rarely see them online.

His most famous sequence, the one that you see most often, is Chance Meeting (1970, below) – again an open-ended, intimate but puzzling encounter with a reflection of the self. Michals sequences are full of ghosts, uncommon intimacies, nubile females and delicious males (Michals is gay and has just celebrated his 54th anniversary with his partner). Dealing “with topics such as death, desire, and the passage of time” his work peers inward to examine “his own thoughts and dreams, to blur the lines between photography and philosophy.”

All is not sunshine and light, and I feel that there is a nebulous, obsidian energy hovering not too far below the surface. The photographs have high contrast and the subjects are very closely framed, giving the sequences an almost claustrophobic quality, as though you are having the life, the energy gently yet forcibly manipulated around you. The photographs rarely breathe freely and you feel as though you are almost trapped within their spaces.

Then there is the text. Never used to excess in the sequences (the title does that job alone), the singular images are extended into a longer narrative by biting, poignant words – sentences that utter harsh truths and tell it how it really is. I can’t look at that image, and read that text, from A Letter from My Father (1960/1975, below) without thinking of my abusive father and wondering what happened to his love – whether he hadn’t hidden it, he just didn’t have any to start with. For any child in an adult who has been abused, this image cuts to the bone.

.
Michals staged, narrative scenes take us on a journey into his reality, one which “has entered a realm beyond observation.” He poses difficult questions that force us to examine ideas beyond the world of phenomena, beyond the world of surfaces. He challenges our repressed inner lives and our idealised image of ourselves, disturbing the boundaries of personality, ego, and identity.1 He wrestles with Sartre’s noumenal world (the world of the subconscious, dreams), the “being-in-itself” or sometimes simply “the in-itself,” as Sartre calls it (what Kant called the noumenal world), where Sartre does not see man comfortably installed in the world.

“All of us, says Sartre, have a “pre-ontological comprehension” of being-in-itself, that is to say, an opaque, inarticulate, but very real sense of its presence and nature. The world is but a “varnish” on the surface of the being-in-itself; or, changing the metaphor, the world is but a “thin crust” of meaning which we impose upon being-in-itself. Ordinarily this thin crust of meaning conceals the in-itself and obscures our awareness of it, but the anguish of being is always there just below the surface of daily consciousness, and from time to time it breaks through to the surface, presenting being-in-itself without disguise.”2

This is what Michals attunes himself to, an examination of the in-itself, one that impacts on our internal poetic understandings of space and time. In his malleable daydreams Michals proffers a ‘releasement toward things’, the glimpsing of a coexistence between a conscious and unconscious way of perceiving which enables the seeing of the ‘Thing Itself’. As Heidegger observes, 

“We stand at once within the realm of that which hides itself from us, and hides itself just in approaching us. That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the mystery… Releasement towards things and openness to the mystery belong together. They grant us the possibility of dwelling in the world in a totally different way…”3

It is Michals great skill as an artist and a human being that enables us the possibility of accessing some aspect of the mystery of our existence.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

1. As discussed in Magee, Bryan. Confessions of a Philosopher. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1997, p. 405-406

2. Olsen, Robert. An Introduction to Existentialism. Dover Publications, New York, 1962, p. 39

3. Heidegger, Martin. Discourse on Thinking. New York: Harper & Row, 1966, pp. 55-56 quoted in Baracco, Mauro. “Completed Yet Unconcluded: The Poetic Resistance of Some Melbourne Architecture,” in van Schaik, Leon (ed.,). Architectural Design Vol. 72, No. 2 (‘Poetics in Architecture’). London: John Wiley and Sons, 2002, p. 74. Footnote 6.

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Many thankx to the Carnegie Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Who gives a fuck about what he had for breakfast? These are stylistic ticks. The digital has changed the paradigms of photography. I had an opening in Boston and this woman had a little camera with her and kept exclaiming, ‘Everything is a photograph!’ That’s the problem. The bar has been lowered so much in photography now…”

.
“Photographers tend not to photograph what they can’t see, which is the very reason one should try to attempt it. Otherwise we’re going to go on forever just photographing more faces and more rooms and more places. Photography has to transcend description. It has to go beyond description to bring insight into the subject, or reveal the subject, not as it looks, but how does it feel?”

.
“I don’t trust reality. So all of the writing on and painting on the photographs is born out of the frustration to express what you do not see.”

.
Duane Michals

 

 

Duane Michals. 'Cavafy Cheats Playing Strip Poker' 2004

 

Duane Michals
Cavafy Cheats Playing Strip Poker
2004
12 Gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
5″ x 7″ each

 

This series of photographs was inspired by the poem The Windows by Constantine Cavafy

In these dark rooms where I live out empty days,

I wander round and round trying to find the windows.

But the windows are not to be found –
or at least I can’t find them.
And perhaps
it is better that way.

Perhaps the light will prove another tyranny.

Who knows what new things it will expose?

 

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

 

Duane Michals
Chance Meeting
1970
Six gelatin silver prints
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

 

Duane Michals
Things are Queer
1973
Nine gelatin silver prints
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

 

Duane Michals
Grandpa Goes to Heaven
1989
Five gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC

 

 

“The best part of us is not what we see, it’s what we feel. We are what we feel. We are not what we look at… We’re not our eyeballs, we’re our mind. People believe their eyeballs and they’re totally wrong… That’s why I consider most photographs extremely boring – just like Muzak, inoffensive, charming, another waterfall, another sunset. This time, colors have been added to protect the innocent. It’s just boring. But that whole arena of one’s experience – grief, loneliness – how do you photograph lust? I mean, how do you deal with these things? This is what you are, not what you see. It’s all sitting up here. I could do all my work sitting in my room. I don’t have to go anywhere.”

.
Duane Michals

 

 

“Opening November 1, 2014, at Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA), Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals is the definitive retrospective and the largest-ever presentation of this innovative artist’s work. Drawing from select loans and the museum’s holdings, which constitute the largest single collection of Michals’s output, and spanning six decades, the works in Storyteller include classic sequences from the early 1970s as well as rarely seen images from later in his career.

Born in 1932 and raised in a steelworker family in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Michals broke away from established traditions of documentary and fine art photography in the 1960s when he added handwritten messages and poems to prints, produced multi-image narrative sequences, and experimented with double- and triple-exposures. His work was poignant and unabashedly sentimental, flying in the face of the dominant photographic aesthetics of the time.

Storyteller unfolds in thematic groupings that range from portraiture to meditations on the mind’s interior world; from childhood and imagination to desire and death. Michals’s love of two very different cities, Pittsburgh and Paris, is evident in sections exploring the beauty, quirks, and particularities of these places. He has riffed on, critiqued, and crossed paths with countless artists, including René Magritte, Cindy Sherman, Joseph Cornell, Robert Frank, Andreas Gursky, Andy Warhol, and others, and a section of the exhibition brings to light the admiration and acerbic wit in Michals’s engagements with other creative minds.

“The exhibition is designed to acquaint the visitor with the many themes that Michals explored over more than half a century,” says curator of photography Linda Benedict-Jones. “Well known sequences such as Paradise Regained and Chance Meeting greet the viewer first, followed by engaging and sometimes surprising Children’s Stories. A section called The Mind’s Eye shows Michals’s absorption with photographing things that cannot actually be seen, such as A Man Going to Heaven or The Human Condition. We could not present Storyteller chronologically, because Michals revisits themes often. One theme, Painted Expression, shows how, in two distinct periods of his life – in the early 1980s and again in 2012 – Michals has picked up a brush to apply oil paint to both black-and-white photographic prints as well as most recently to 19th century tintypes, resulting in unique, one-of-a-kind photographic works. His creative energy is boundless and readily apparent when seen in a large retrospective display.”

“I’m a storyteller,” he often states as he begins a talk in public – equally interested in the moments before and after the “decisive moment” (a term coined by famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson). “When I began to do sequences, it wasn’t because I thought it was cool and the latest thing. I did it out of frustration with the still photograph.” He has observed that his practice aims to transcend mere appearances: “I’m not interested in what something looks like, I want to know what it feels like… My reality has entered a realm beyond observation.” This approach can be seen throughout his career, from early, carefully staged sequences, to hand-painted gelatin silver prints and tintypes, revealing the artist’s hand at work long after the image is captured.

According to curator of photography Linda Benedict-Jones, who organized Storyteller, “Duane Michals is a sensitive and provocative artist who has followed his own unique path. His way of staging narrative scenes, then recording them with a 35mm camera, represented a fresh approach to the medium. This, combined with an uncommon intimacy when dealing with topics such as death, desire, and the passage of time, set him apart as an image-maker.”

Storyteller also touches upon Michals’s extensive portfolio of commercial photography and portraiture, which spans several decades, and includes assignments for Neiman Marcus, Esquire, Vogue, and Gap, as well as commissioned portraits of such figures as Nancy Reagan, Sting, and Willem de Kooning.

CMOA, a fixture in Michals’s artistic upbringing, has acquired 139 of his works, ranging from his earliest images made in Russia in 1958 to hand-painted tintypes that he began creating in 2012. Michals, in turn, has always felt an attachment to Pittsburgh, a subject of many of his photographs, and of two books, the sequence The House I Once Called Home (2003) and poetry collection A Pittsburgh Poem (2013). Lending institutions to Storyteller include Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), Musée des Beaux Arts (Montreal), High Museum of Art (Atlanta), and Museum of Modern Art (New York). Even longtime admirers of the artist may be unfamiliar with several of his bodies of work, and an examination of this full range is long overdue: while Michals has been championed in several solo exhibitions throughout Europe in the past decade, this is his first major museum exhibition in North America since 1998.

Storyteller also touches upon Michals’s extensive portfolio of commercial photography and portraiture, which spans several decades, and includes assignments for Neiman Marcus, Esquire, Vogue, and Gap, as well as commissioned portraits of such figures as Nancy Reagan, Sting, and Willem de Kooning.

Presented alongside Storyteller will be the exhibition Duane Michals: Collector, which highlights works from Michals’s private art collection that are promised gifts to the museum. The eclectic array of objects, ranging from 1799 to 1999, and from Francisco de Goya to André Kertész to Mark Tansey, will be united by Michals’s unique take on the artists, the artworks, and their influence on his own practice. Organized by associate curator of fine arts Amanda Zehnder, Duane Michals: Collector will further contextualize his work from an unusually personal perspective.

Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals represents a refreshing, much-needed reexamination of a historically significant photographer. Michals’s pioneering photography infused the medium with a personal, critical approach that translates universally. In an art world that feels at times jaded and detached, his images retain the same moving, affecting impact that they commanded decades ago.”

Press release from the Carnegie Museum of Art

 

 

Internationally-renowned photographer Duane Michals discusses his eight-decade life and career as a self-described “expressionist.” His work is known for its innovative narrative sequencing and iconic use of text and image. During a period when photography looked out to the world around us, Michals redefined the medium by peering inward to his own thoughts and dreams to blur the lines between photography and philosophy.

 

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

 

Duane Michals
The Spirit Leaves The Body
1968
Seven gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

 

Duane Michals
The Young Girl’s Dream
1969
Five gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'A Letter from My Father' 1960/1975

 

Duane Michals
A Letter from My Father
1960/1975
Gelatin silver print with hand-applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Magritte with Hat' 1965

 

Duane Michals
Magritte with Hat
1965
Gelatin silver print with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Magritte with Hat' 1965 (detail)

 

Duane Michals
Magritte with Hat (detail)
1965
Gelatin silver print with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'This Photograph Is My Proof' 1967

 

Duane Michals
This Photograph Is My Proof
1967
Gelatin silver print with hand-applied text
The Henry L. Hillman Fund, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Young Soldiers Dream in the Garden of the Dead with Flowers Growing from Their Heads' 1995

 

Duane Michals
Young Soldiers Dream in the Garden of the Dead with Flowers Growing from Their Heads
1995
From the series Salute, Walt Whitman
Gelatin silver print
The Henry L. Hillman Fund
Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

 

Lewis Wickes Hine. 'Two 7-Year-Old Nashville Newsies, Profane and Smart, Selling Sunday' 1910

 

Lewis Wickes Hine
Two 7-Year-Old Nashville Newsies, Profane and Smart, Selling Sunday
1910
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Duane Michals
Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art

 

Duane Michals. 'The Human Condition' 1969

 

Duane Michals
The Human Condition
1969
Six gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Rigamarole' 2012

 

Duane Michals
Rigamarole
2012
Tintype with oil paint
The William T. Hillman Fund for Photography
Carnegie Museum of Art,Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

 

Carnegie Museum of Art
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Opening hours:
Monday: 10 am – 5 pm
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm
Friday: 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday: noon – 5 pm

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20
Jan
15

Images from ‘The Americans’ by Robert Frank

January 2015

 

I have scoured the internet for other images from The Americans by Robert Frank, in addition to the photographs in the recent posting Robert Frank in America Part 1 and Part 2 at the Cantor Arts Center. This new posting includes some seldom seen images from the book that are very hard to find online (especially the image Car accident, US 66 between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona which echoes Walker Evans image A Child’s Grave, Hale County, Alabama, 1936, Farm Security Administration).

It is great to be able to gather all of these images together in one meta-resource, instead of spending hours looking for the work. The posting also makes visible the magnificent breadth of vision of the artist, and what a great eye he had for the unfolding scene.

Influenced by Abstract Expressionist painting and the graphic tonality of dark and light, Frank presents a dystopian vision of America where death, loneliness, discrimination and alienation are never far from the surface, both in the rich and poor. You only have to compare the two images Cafeteria, San Francisco and Charity Ball, New York City to eyeball the difference between the haves and the have nots.

There is not a bad image amongst them, testament to Frank’s rigorous selection process for the book, in which he already had a strong idea of the images he wanted to use and the sequencing and layout of the book when he went to the publisher. I particularly like the irony of the atomic bomb at the bottom of the image Hoover dam, Nevada (1955).

Marcus

 

“I sometimes feel that I would like to see you more in closer to people. It seems to me that you are ready now to begin probing beyond environment into the soul of man. I believe you made a fine decision in taking yourself and family away from the tenseness of the business of photography there. You must let every moment of the freedom you are having contribute to your growing and growing. Just as the microscope and the telescope seek a still closer look at the universe, we as photographer must seek to penetrate deeper and closer into our brothers. Please excuse if this sounds like preaching. It is dictated by an interest and affection for you and yours.”

.
Letter dated April 2, 1952 from Edward Steichen to Robert Frank

 

 

Robert Frank and Edward Steichen

 

Robert Frank and Edward Steichen

 

Robert Frank. 'Bar, New York City' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Bar, New York City
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Bar, Las Vegas' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Bar, Las Vegas
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Candy Store, New York City' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Candy Store, New York City
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Coffee Shop, Railway Station' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Coffee Shop, Railway Station
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Funeral, St. Helena, South Carolina' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Funeral, St. Helena, South Carolina
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Los Angeles' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Los Angeles
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Men's room, railway station, Memphis' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Men’s room, railway station, Memphis
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Ranch Market, Hollywood' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Ranch Market, Hollywood
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Assembly line, Detroit' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Assembly line, Detroit
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Beaufort, South Carolina' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Beaufort, South Carolina
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Belle Isle, Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Belle Isle, Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

“Robert Frank was trying to capture facets of American culture within his collection The Americans. Included within American culture is the institution of family, as well as more subtle features like the influence of race. These features of American culture seem to be the focus of the photograph Belle Isle, Detroit. This photo includes the contrast of the black child versus the white child. The white child is near the center of the foreground in the photograph, is wrapped in blankets, and is being held by a woman that we can presume to be it’s mother. This contrasts with the black child, who is in the background, standing on it’s own feet, and is wearing much less clothing. It is unclear who is responsible for the black child, as nobody in the photograph seems concerned with this child. Everybody’s gaze is focused on something else. The contrast of the two children represents the effect of race in 1950’s America. White children grew up under a sheltered upbringing , unaware of the privilege that they held by being white (Shaw and Lee, 75). This privilege is represented in the photograph by the white child being held and wrapped in blankets. Black children held no such privilege, and were cast into a world of racialized injustice from birth. Black people were oppressed systematically by lawmakers, and in cooperation by white people who flaunted their privilege whether they were conscious of this or not. This oppression is represented by the lack of attention and care the black child is receiving, in addition to it’s lack of clothing. Oppression was something that stood out to Frank when he came to the United States. Referencing oppression of blacks in an interview conducted in 2000, Frank said that an initial thought when coming into this country was “there is a lot here that I do not like and that I would never accept.” (Frank et al., 110)

It is important to consider the historical point at which this photograph was taken. This photo was taken in 1955, which was near the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement for African-Americans. This could have been something that Frank considered while taking photographs. In the middle of this photo is a pregnant woman who appears to be of mixed ethnicity. Her expression is perplexed as if she is in deep thought, with her arms crossed. This begs the question, what is she thinking about? She could be contemplating the fate of her unborn child. Her pregnancy makes her a symbol of things to come. With the Civil Rights Movement in progress, it is unclear what kind of world her child will be born into and grow up in. As a mixed child, the child probably won’t have white skin, and it raises the question how big an effect race will have on this child’s life. In a world of changing times, the uncertainty of the future is something that looms in the back of our heads. The pregnant woman stands as a symbol of the future, and her perplexed expression is representative of the uncertainty associated with the future. Frank wanted to capture what was a historical period filled with uncertainty and hope with the fate of the Civil Rights Movement hanging in the balance.”

Extract from Chris Watson. “Oppression versus Privilege in Belle Isle, Detroit,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. Butte, Montana' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Butte, Montana
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Car accident, US 66 between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Car accident, US 66 between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“I developed a tremendous contempt for LIFE, which helped me. You have to be enraged. I also wanted to follow my own intuition and do it my own way, and to make concessions – not make a LIFE story. That was another thing I hated. Those goddamned stories with a beginning and an end. If I hate all those stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end then obviously I will make an effort to produce something that will stand up to those stories but not be like them”

.
Robert Frank

 

Robert Frank. 'Chattanooga, Tennessee' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Chattanooga, Tennessee
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'City Fathers - Hoboken, New Jersey' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
City Fathers – Hoboken, New Jersey
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

“There are two different ways of viewing the photo that may offer differing messages, though they combine to form one broad theme. Viewing the photo as a whole shows five men, separated from the viewer by a lively decoration, looking upon some event nearby. Their mostly large bodies and tall hats, separated by the sky in the background, creates an image like that of great towers side by side. We view them from below as a common person in comparison to their superior position and stature. Capturing the size of this group with the other men in hats behind the main characters relates that this is not a picture of only the men in the foreground, but instead of their class as a whole. This creates the essence of numerical strength and the authority that these men supposedly carry with them in their high positions, though some closer inspection offers a slightly different view. Studying the features of these men allows us to become more familiar with them as people, which one might quickly overlook amidst their uniformity.

The two rightmost men offer the most evidence as characters in this scene, both displaying facial expressions of greatly varying emotions. The man furthest to the right has his lips puckered and his eyes closed, perhaps kissing the air towards some unseen figure. He is not focused on the event as the others are. He could be seen as leaning from his position above to play with someone below him, despite everyone else’s attention being elsewhere. This man represents the sort of pomp and carelessness of those who are above the struggles of the lower classes. The second man, however, is practically opposite to the first. His eyes are squinted, focusing on the event. His face is grim and he stands up straight. This man stands out amongst these elite, not wearing any ribbon, a tall hat, or even a suit. This lack of formal attire ironically serves to highlight his importance. He might be of a position higher than simply upper-class business owners or politicians, possibly a mayor. Regardless, his colder features are easily applied to the group as a whole, as are the “superior” and somewhat unaware features of the first man. Adding together these elements with those taken from the entire section gives us a picture of the rich and powerful as a sizable mob of men, some of which are as large and powerful as they are cold, and others which look down at the masses below with playful, unengaged eyes.”

Extract from Bryan Squires. “Men of Great Stature and Power,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. 'City Hall, Reno, Nevada' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
City Hall, Reno, Nevada
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank’s photograph, number 81 from The Americans collection entitled City Hall – Reno, Nevada, features a young couple in the center of the frame. They take up about a fourth of the frame, however their central location helps show their close proximity to one another. Their proximity, as well as the young man’s arms wrapped around the young woman, creates an intimate feel to the photograph. The intimate feel, as well as the title of the photograph, suggests that an elopement took place. It also looks as if the photographer is above the couple and looking down on them. This makes it seem as if the couple was unaware that the photo was being taken. The couple seems to be looking down at maybe another photographer or a friend or family member who has come to support their marriage at City Hall. Their formal attire shows the importance of this occasion to the young man and woman and their smiling faces show the perceived happiness of the occasion as well. Frank used a 35mm Leica camera, which was loose, fast and cinematic, and was able to create a photo that was a “dark, shadowed, seemingly casual, grainy glimpse” that showed criticism towards the American society (Glenn). In this photo in particular, the contrast between black and white could symbolize both the happiness and anger that marriage brings…

Approximately 50% of marriages ended in divorce in the 1950s (“Nevada Divorces.”). The young couple’s City Hall marriage could show the impulsivity of young people in the United States, and their rebellion against traditional church weddings. Traditionally, young men would ask the father of the bride for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Then, the parents and extended family would all attend a big church wedding to show their support for couple and the couple’s future. The photograph shows no evidence of any family members or friends present and it is not located in a church. This could be an example of the start of the rebellious stage of young people in the United States. Young adults began to stray from the norm of the traditional, conservative lifestyle of the previous generations.  Ironically though, while this photo shows a young couple getting married in Nevada, Reno was known as the “divorce colony” in the 1950s (“Gambling Legal, Divorce Quicker Now.”). After only 6 weeks of residence by one member of the couple, a citizen could get a divorce if they summoned their spouse to Reno (“Nevada Divorces.”). This meant that divorces were quicker and easier then they had ever been before. Hundreds of divorces took place daily and the population of Nevada grew immensely during this time period.  Also, gambling was legalized during this time period as well (“Gambling Legal, Divorce Quicker Now.”). The aftermath of divorce can be seen in other photographs from Frank’s collection such as Casino – Elko, Nevada. The women who were forced to move to Nevada in order to get a divorce were often times seen casinos after their divorce where they were gambling and drinking. This shows the shift from the idea of motherhood and the American Dream, to a rebellious and nontraditional lifestyle. The young couple in this photograph ironically chose to get married in the City Hall in Reno, Nevada. City Hall is one of the same places where thousands of people would go get divorces throughout the year.  While the couple may seem content and hopeful about their future, Robert Frank chooses this ironic situation to show that the look of hope and feeling of bliss you experience when you first get married is fleeting. The look of hope only lasts for so long.”

Extract from Caroline M. “The Simplicity of Marriage,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. 'Bar, Detroit' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Bar, Detroit
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Convention hall, Chicago' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Convention hall, Chicago
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Department store, Lincoln, Nebraska' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Department store, Lincoln, Nebraska
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Detroit' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Detroit
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'En route from New York to Washington, Club Car' 1954

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
En route from New York to Washington, Club Car
1954
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Luncheonette, Butte, Montana' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Luncheonette, Butte, Montana
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Motorama, Los Angeles' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Motorama, Los Angeles
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Picnic ground, Glendale, California' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Picnic ground, Glendale, California
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Public park - Ann Arbor, Michigan' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Public park – Ann Arbor, Michigan
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Public park, Cleveland, Ohio' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Public park, Cleveland, Ohio
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Restaurant, US 1 leaving Columbia, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Restaurant, US 1 leaving Columbia, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Santa Fe, New Mexico' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Santa Fe, New Mexico
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'St. Petersburg, Florida' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
St. Petersburg, Florida
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Store Window, Washington DC' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Store Window, Washington DC
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Television studio, Burbank, California' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Television studio, Burbank, California
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'US 30 between Ogallala and North Platte, Nebraska' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
US 30 between Ogallala and North Platte, Nebraska
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Yale Commencement - New Haven Green, New Haven, Connecticut' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Yale Commencement – New Haven Green, New Haven, Connecticut
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Yom Kippur - East River, New York City' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Yom Kippur – East River, New York City
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

“Glancing at the photograph Yom Kippur, East River, New York City, one might not pay it much attention. However at a longer glance the picture becomes intriguing. The thing that draws interest is why would anyone take a picture of the back of people’s heads? All that can be seen in the photo is the river, a little boy wearing a Yakama, and a man in a grey suit wearing a hat. There are about four other men, wearing black, out of focus to the left, all with their backs turned as well. That’s it. There is really nothing else to the picture. It almost seems like an amateur photograph. However with a little background knowledge, it is clear that Robert Frank knew exactly what he was doing when he took this photo, and created an image that would spark the realizations of oppression and discrimination…

Jewish immigration was not something that was unfamiliar to Americans, however the immigration that occurred after the Second Great War was different. “Once the United States entered World War II, the State Department practiced stricter immigration policies out of fear that refugees could be blackmailed into working as agents for Germany” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). For these reasons and several others, the American public opinion was very confused about Jewish Immigrants, even after America opened its doors for them to enter the country after the war. This led to Jewish people feeling excluded, and extremely misunderstood expanding throughout the rest of the century. By looking at the photo that captured, the viewer can sense the feeling of discrimination and vulnerability from the subjects of the photo. The photo reflects this because they all have their back turned towards the camera, most of them are looking down, and they all just seem very alone. The angle of the photograph is inferring that the Jewish people were not particularly welcomed or understood in American society.

This photo displays a very powerful message of discrimination towards a group of people who were just trying to get by during this time period. This photo perfectly correlates with the rest of Robert Frank’s The Americans as it hold the same themes of corruption in American society as the rest of the photos do. Robert Frank’s Jewish background gave him the knowledge he needed, while the sufferings and oppression his people went through gave him a view that was able to let Frank see the perfect opportunity to capture this beautiful moment.”

Extract from “Post WWII Jewish Immigrants: Discrimination in America,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. 'Indianapolis' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Indianapolis
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Rodeo, Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Rodeo, Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Covered car, Long Beach, California' 1955-1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Covered car, Long Beach, California
1955-1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'St Francis, gas station and City Hall, Los Angeles' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
St Francis, gas station and City Hall, Los Angeles
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank (2005)

 

Robert Frank. 'Drugstore, Detroit' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Drugstore, Detroit
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank’s collection, The Americans, was an exploration of the “underlying racism, isolation, and conformity” throughout the culture of the 1950s (Tannenbaum). While traveling the country, Frank photographed an average drug store lunch counter in the Detroit, Michigan, which intrinsically displays these major themes that he had wanted to portray to Americans. In Drug store – Detroit, Frank shows the public a more realistic view of society during this time period. He displays the issues of segregation and discrimination in a way that could no longer be avoided by society. This issue of segregation created isolation among Americans by splitting them into groups of racial differences and difference in beliefs about discrimination. These disputes also played a huge role in the conformist society highly associated with the 1950s by creating clear-cut social rules for a segregated society. Frank presented these ideas about racism, segregation, and isolation to Americans in a way they had never seen before. The documenting of these issues in Drug store – Detroit helped spark that changes that were reflected in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s…>

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court in the case of Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas unanimously ruled the “separate but equal” unconstitutional, producing the most significant legal development in American civil rights since 1896 (Schwartz). This decision alone created a stronger resistance against desegregation among the public than ever before (Schwartz). Other events, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Martin Luther King Jr. and the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Civil Rights Act of 1957 piled onto the tension of this decision (Vox). Violence eventually broke out between the black and white communities, and a crisis was emerging that Americans could no longer ignore (Schwartz). Drug store – Detroit clearly represents the tension among the people during this time period. The all white men at the counter are definably separated from the black women working and serving them. The men at the counter and the women working are not interacting, also creating a divided between them, and mirroring the reality of the 1950s. The men sitting at the counter are conforming to this segregated society, and none of them look like they are willing to break the unspoken social rules. Almost all of the men at the counter have intense, distant looks on their faces. They are disconnected with the world around them, disconnected with each other. None of them are speaking. They have fell into the isolationist culture created from their segregated society. Many of the men looked distressed and irritated, almost like the tensions growing within their once seemingly flawless culture have taken a toll on them. The racial tensions of the 1950s were growing, becoming a greater part of society against the desire of Americans. It was one of the largest domestic issues they were faced with after World War II, crushing the world they had worked so hard to maintain (Day 120).”

Extract from “The Influence on the Civil Rights Movement,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. 'U.S. 285, New Mexico' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
U.S. 285, New Mexico
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Political Rally, Chicago' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Political Rally, Chicago
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Assembly Plant, Ford, Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Assembly Plant, Ford, Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Ford River Rouge Plant' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Ford River Rouge Plant
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Crosses on Scene of Highway Accident - U.S. 91, Idaho' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Crosses on Scene of Highway Accident – U.S. 91, Idaho
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Hoover dam, Nevada' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Hoover dam, Nevada
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Newburgh, NY' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Newburgh, NY
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Los Angeles' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Los Angeles
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Movie premiere, Hollywood' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Movie premiere, Hollywood
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Rodeo, New York City' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Rodeo, New York City
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

“When thinking of the romanticized American Cowboy, one often pictures the gallon hat wearing lone ranger whose primary objective is to kill the baddies and live a life of solidarity with his trusty steed. In Robert Frank’s collection The Americans, Rodeo, New York City is representative of the idea of the aggrandized American cowboy. His face hidden allows viewers to place themselves in his shoes and become the irresistible John Wayne character that lives a life of commendable seclusion while working with the elusive Native American who barely speaks (but serves as a trusty sidekick) to bust outlaws. Unlike the Bonanza cowboy, however, Robert Frank captures the image of an actual cowboy – a lanky man wearing a gaudy hat and belt buckle, a plaid shirt tucked into well worn jeans tucked into signature cowboy boots. Instead of gazing at the horizon on the open range, he is seen lounging in the city. The legendary American cowboy is clearly indicative of American nationalism, but importantly represented the idea of the individual – rules or authority did not restrain the cowboy – he could simply ride his horse away from all responsibility. The cowboy was not only an image that was emulated by the public, but also beheld by some as what was wrong with society…

For some, the image of the cowboy was not a heroic fictive character. People like Sherman Alexie, a well-known Native American writer who grew up watching as his people were turned into brutish, barely human entities on television, provide different perspectives on the what it mean to be an “American cowboy.” For people of color watching Western shows, which were extremely popular in the 1950s, the cowboy character was the only “good guy.” … Turning Native Americans into negatively portrayed characters only further perpetuated the racialized persecution present during the 1950s – all people of color were stripped of basic humanity and turned into social deviants.

This photo, taken in the 1950s, was captured during a time in which America was front and center of the “world stage… the country had emerged victorious from World War II, saving the world for democracy” (Rodeo, New York City). The idea of independence is inherent to American nationalism – there is a sense of national pride that the government doesn’t have full control over everyday life. Instead, the nation could place more focus on the greater task at hand: becoming “heroes” saving other countries in “distress” and punishing bureaucratic deviants – embodying the cowboy image of “true justice.” Not only is the cowboy indicative of nationalism, but also America’s growing individualistic society. The longing for individual autonomy is so great that the romanticized cowboy, who is one with nature; far from government created social constraints and industrialization, was created.”

Extract from “A History of the American Cowboy,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Georgetown, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Georgetown, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Rooming house, Bunker Hill, Los Angeles' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Rooming house, Bunker Hill, Los Angeles
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Savannah, Georgia' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Savannah, Georgia
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Navy Recruiting Station, Post Office - Butte, Montana' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Navy Recruiting Station, Post Office – Butte, Montana
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, New York City' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, New York City
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Chicago' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Chicago
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Chinese cemetery, San Francisco' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Chinese cemetery, San Francisco
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Factory, Detroit' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Factory, Detroit
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Hotel lobby, Miami Beach' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Hotel lobby, Miami Beach
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Jehovah's Witness, Los Angeles' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Jehovah’s Witness, Los Angeles
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Cafeteria, San Francisco' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Cafeteria, San Francisco
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Charity Ball, New York City' 1955–56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Charity Ball, New York City
1955–56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Casino, Elko, Nevada' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Casino, Elko, Nevada
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

“”American sexuality”, as Alfred Kinsey refers to it, was widely more ambitious and active during the 1950’s than most American citizens believed (Brown and Fee). In this photograph, the woman is overtly portrayed as a sexual icon through the use of a heavy and penetrating light from above. Frank included the illumination from this light methodically in order to show the importance of the sexual image that the woman represents. This sexual image is enforced further through the non-illumination of the surrounding men, who are used by Frank as a means of expressing the woman’s control over her environment. In the years before Frank’s photographs, American society would have strictly seen the woman in this image as inferior and lewd due to her sexual promiscuity. However, additions to American sex culture such as Playboy magazine and the sensationalizing of Cosmopolitan allowed for a more open creation and interpretation of sexuality in America (Beekmen, Cami).

Frank’s photograph pulls heavily on the connection between gambling and sex, a connection that has become engrained in American society and culture. Gambling, an almost sexual act in and of itself, is expressed as an action for the sexually diverse and active through this photograph. Frank’s attempt at “simplifying American sex culture” and keeping it from “confounding with other American ideals” shows through the nature of this photograph (Tucker, Anne). Gambling and sex were intertwined ideals in the 1950’s to the extent where they were often found in conjunction with each other. Frank was able to present both ideals in one photograph and allow them to enforce the prevalence of the other without confounding and obscuring the true meaning of each.”

Extract from “Through the Lens of Robert Frank: Sex Culture in a Post-War America,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. 'US 90 on route to Del Rio, Texas' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
US 90 on route to Del Rio, Texas
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Courthouse square, Elizabethville, North Carolina' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Courthouse square, Elizabethville, North Carolina
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Bank - Houston, Texas' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Bank – Houston, Texas
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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08
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Joel Meyerowitz Retrospective’ at NRW-Forum Düsseldorf

Exhibition dates: 27 September 2014 – 11th January 2015

 

Meyerowitz really comes into his own in the ’70s. Luscious colours and lascivious compositions in which the attention of the photographer is directed towards the relationship between object, light and time. The image becomes an object of fetishistic desire.

The hyperreal colours and placement of figures are crucial to this ocular obsession. Look at the image Gold corner, New York City (1974) and observe the precise, choreographed placement of the figures and how the colours flow, from orange/brown to green/blue and onto turquoise/red and polka dot, the central figure’s eyes shielded under a wide-brimmed hat, hand to head, model style. This is colour porn for the eyes. And Meyerowitz does it so well… the stretch of thigh and shadow in Los Angeles Airport, California (1976), the classic red of Truro (1976) or the bare midriff and raised yellow heel in New York City, 42nd and Fifth Ave (1974).

The best of these photos give you a zing of excitement and a surge of recognition – like a superlative Stephen Shore or an outstanding William Eggelston. At his best Meyerowitz is mesmerising.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the NRW-Forum Düsseldorf for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'New York City' 1963

 

Joel Meyerowitz
New York City
1963

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Untitled' 1976

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Ballston Beach, Truro, Cape Cod
1976

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Los Angeles Airport, California' 1976

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Los Angeles Airport, California
1976

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Dairyland, Provincetown' 1976

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Dairyland, Provincetown
1976

 

 Joel Meyerowitz. 'Truro' 1976

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Truro
1976

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Red Interior, Provincetown, Massachusetts' 1977

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Red Interior, Provincetown, Massachusetts
1977

 

 

“Joel Meyerowitz is a “street photographer” in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, who influenced him greatly at the beginning of his career. Since the mid-seventies he has photographed exclusively in colour.

The artist was born in 1938 in the Bronx. He initially studied art, history of art and medical illustration at the Ohio State University. Back in New York City he began his career in 1959 as an Art Director and Designer. Particularly impressed by an encounter with the photographer Robert Frank, he started taking photographs in 1962 and in the same year he left the agency, devoting himself from this point on, exclusively to photography. He travelled through New York City and capturing the mood of the streets. He soon developed his distinctive sensitivity and his candid, people-focussed style, a very unique visual language. In 1966, he embarked on an 18 month trip through Europe, which both profoundly affected and also influenced him and can be described as an artistic turning point. Meyerowitz photographed many of his works from a moving car. These works were displayed in 1968 in his first exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York: Photographs from a moving car, curated by the photography legend John Szarkowski. From the late seventies onward, Joel Meyerowitz concentrated exclusively on colour photography. In the first half of the seventies, he created numerous unique works of “street photography”. In order to further improve the image quality, the artist took another crucial step: in the mid 1970s he changed from the 35mm format to the 8 x 10″ plate camera.

In 1979, his first book Cape Light was published by Phaidon Verlag. The picture book sold over 100,000 copies and is to this day regarded as a milestone in colour photography. 17 further publications followed, most recently in 2012 with a comprehensive two-volume edition Taking my Time, a retrospective of 50 years of his photography, also published by Phaidon Verlag.

A few days after the attack on the World Trade Center, Meyerowitz began to document its destruction and reconstruction. As the only photographer, he received unrestricted access to the site of the incident. It resulted in over 8000 photographs for the The World Trade Center exhibition, which was displayed in the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City.

Joel Meyerowitz’ works have been and will be shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world; several times in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. On 27 September, the NRW Forum in Düsseldorf opens the most comprehensive retrospective of the artist. In addition, the works are represented in many international collections, including in the Museum of Modern Art and the Boston Museum of Fine Art.”

Text from the NRW-Forum Düsseldorf website

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'New York City' 1965

 

Joel Meyerowitz
New York City
1965

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'London, England' 1966

 

Joel Meyerowitz
London, England
1966

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'JFK Airport, New York City' 1968

 

Joel Meyerowitz
JFK Airport, New York City
1968

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Paris, France' 1967

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Paris, France
1967

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'New York City, 42nd and Fifth Ave' 1974

 

Joel Meyerowitz
New York City, 42nd and Fifth Ave
1974

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Dusk, New Jersey' 1978

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Dusk, New Jersey
1978

 

 

“Joel Meyerowitz (born 1938 in New York) is, along with William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, one of the most important representatives of American New Colour Photography of the 1960s / 70s. After a first encounter with Robert Frank 1962, Meyerowitz decided to give up his job as art director in New York and to devote himself to photography. In particular, his photographs of street scenes of American cities, which he takes with his 35mm camera as fleeting moments, make him a precursor of street photography and his works icons of contemporary photography.
“Watching Life is all about Timing”

A first turning point in his photography was his annual trip to Europe in 1966/67, a trip which allowed him to critically question his color photography. As early as 1968, he had his first solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) of works created in Europe under the title From a moving car. His first book, Cape Light (1978), in which he examines achromatic variations of light at Cape Cod, is now regarded as a milestone in photography. In addition to his film camera, which he always carries with him, Meyerowitz has been working since the late 1970s with the 8 x 10 plate camera, which allows him to capture the relationship between object, light and time in a new and more accurate way for him.
“Time is what Photography is About”

The exhibition at the NRW-Forum presents the entire photographic spectrum of 50 years of his photography for the first time in Germany. In addition to the early black / white and color photographs of the 1960s / there will be years works from all business groups such as Cape Light, Portraits, Between the Dog and the Wolf and Ground Zero series, presented to allow the visitor a photographic and cultural image-comparison between Europe and the USA. In addition, the first documentary about the life and work of the photographer, created over a period of three years in France, Italy and the United States, will have its world premiere.”

Text from the NRW-Forum Düsseldorf website

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Gold corner, New York City' 1974

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Gold corner, New York City
1974

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Madison Avenue, New York City' 1975

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Madison Avenue, New York City
1975

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'New York City' 1975

 

Joel Meyerowitz
New York City
1975

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Provincetown' 1977

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Provincetown
1977

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Roseville Cottages, Truro, Massachusetts' 1976

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Roseville Cottages, Truro, Massachusetts
1976

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'New York City' 1963

 

Joel Meyerowitz
New York City
1963

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Cape Cod' 1976

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Cape Cod
1963

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Pool, Dusk, Sun in Window, Florida' 1978

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Pool, Dusk, Sun in Window, Florida
1978

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Bay Sky, Provincetown, Massachusetts' 1985

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Bay Sky, Provincetown, Massachusetts
1985

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Five more found, New York City' 2001

 

Joel Meyerowitz
Five more found, New York City
2001

 

 

NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft
Ehrenhof 2, 40479 Düsseldorf
Tel.: +49 (0)211 – 89 266 90

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11.00 – 20.00
Friday until 22.00

NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft website

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02
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Nicholas Nixon: Forty Years of The Brown Sisters’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 22nd November 2014 – 4th January 2015

Organized by Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator, Department of Photography

 

This is the most successful, long running group portrait series in the history of photography. I have always liked the images because of their stunning clarity, delicate tonality and wonderful arrangement of the figures. Much as they shield their privacy, as a viewer I feel like I have grown up with these women, the sisters I never had. Some images are more successful than others, but as a body of work that focuses on the “face” we present to the world, they are without peer.

Just imagine being these women (and being the photographer), taking on this project and not knowing where it would lead, still not knowing where it will lead. There is a fascinating period in the photographs between 1986 and 1990, as we see the flush of youth waning, transitioning towards the beginning of middle age. As they grow older and closer I feel that I know their characters. I look for that inflection and nuance of presentation that make them more than just faces, more than just photographic representation. The lines on their faces are the handwriting of their travails and I love them all for that.

In each photograph they are as beautiful as the next, not in a Western sense, but in the sense of archetypal beauty, the Platonic form of all beauty – the beauty of women separated from the individuality of the object and considered by itself. In each of these images you can contemplate that form through the faces of these women – they are transcendent and pure. It is as if they live beyond space and time, that the photographs capture this sense of the sublime. Usually the sublime is regarded as beyond time… but not here. A simply magnificent series.

Marcus

 

PS. Let’s hope that there are more images from the series that we can eventually see and that there are some platinum prints being produced. The images deserve such a printing.

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

 

“Throughout this series, we watch these women age, undergoing life’s most humbling experience. While many of us can, when pressed, name things we are grateful to Time for bestowing upon us, the lines bracketing our mouths and the loosening of our skin are not among them. So while a part of the spirit sinks at the slow appearance of these women’s jowls, another part is lifted: They are not undone by it. We detect more sorrow, perhaps, in the eyes, more weight in the once-fresh brows. But the more we study the images, the more we see that aging does not define these women. Even as the images tell us, in no uncertain terms, that this is what it looks like to grow old, this is the irrefutable truth, we also learn: This is what endurance looks like. …

These subjects are not after attention, a rare quality in this age when everyone is not only a photographer but often his own favorite subject. In this, Nixon has pulled off a paradox: The creation of photographs in which privacy is also the subject. The sisters’ privacy has remained of utmost concern to the artist, and it shows in the work. Year after year, up to the last stunning shot with its triumphant shadowy mood, their faces and stances say, Yes, we will give you our image, but nothing else.”

.
Susan Minot. “Forty Portraits in Forty Years: Photographs by Nicholas Nixon,” on the New York Times website, October 2014

 

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, New Canaan, Connecticut' 1975

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, New Canaan, Connecticut
1975
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Harwich Port, Massachusetts' 1978

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Harwich Port, Massachusetts
1978
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, East Greenwich, R.I.' 1980

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, East Greenwich, R.I.
1980
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Allston, Mass' 1983.

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Allston, Mass.
1983
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Cambridge, Mass.' 1986

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Cambridge, Mass.
1986
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Wellesley, Massachusetts.' 1988

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Wellesley, Massachusetts
1988
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Woodstock, Vt.' 1990

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Woodstock, Vt.
1990
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Grantham, N.H.' 1994

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Grantham, N.H.
1994
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

 

“In August 1974, Nicholas Nixon made a photograph of his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters. He wasn’t pleased with the result and discarded the negative. In July 1975 he made one that seemed promising enough to keep. At the time, the Brown sisters were 15 (Mimi), 21 (Laurie), 23 (Heather), and 25 (Bebe). The following June, Laurie Brown graduated from college, and Nick made another picture of the four sisters. It was after this second successful picture that the group agreed to gather annually for a portrait, and settled on the series’ two constants: the sisters would always appear in the same order – from left to right, Heather, Mimi, Bebe, and Laurie – and they would jointly agree on a single image to represent a given year. Also significant, and unchanging, is the fact that each portrait is made with an 8 x 10″ view camera on a tripod and is captured on a black-and-white film negative.

The Museum has exhibited and collected the Brown Sisters from the beginning; since 2006, acquiring the series both as lusciously tactile contact prints and as striking 20 x 24″ enlargements (a new scale for Nixon). This installation – featuring all 40 images – marks the first time the Museum has displayed these larger prints.

In his first published statement about photography, written the year he made the first of the Brown Sisters portraits, Nixon remarked, “The world is infinitely more interesting than any of my opinions about it.” If he was modest about his opinions, though, his photographs clearly show how the camera can capture that infinitely interesting world. And to the attentive viewer, these silent records, with their countless shades of visual and emotional gray, can promote a new appreciation of an intangible part of it: the world of time and age, of commitment and love.”

Text from the MoMA website

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Marblehead, Mass.' 1995

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Marblehead, Mass.
1995
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Brookline, Massachusetts' 1999

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Brookline, Massachusetts
1999
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Eastham, Mass.' 2000

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Eastham, Mass.
2000
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Cataumet, Mass.' 2004

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Cataumet, Mass.
2004
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Dallas' 2008

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Dallas
2008
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Truro, Mass.' 2010

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Truro, Mass.
2010
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Truro, Mass.' 2011

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Truro, Mass.
2011
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Boston' 2012

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Boston
2012
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Wellfleet, Massachusetts' 2014

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Wellfleet, Massachusetts
2014
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
T: (212) 708-9400

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday, 10.30 am – 5.30 pm
Friday, 10.30 am – 8.00 pm
Closed Tuesday

MOMA website

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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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