Archive for the 'drawing' Category

31
Jan
16

Exhibition: ‘Art Nouveau. The Great Utopia’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 17th October 2015 – 7th February 2016

Among the artists exhibited are: Emile Bernard, Edward Burne-Jones, Peter Behrens, Carlo Bugatti, Mariano For-tuny, Loïe Fuller, Emile Gallé, Paul Gauguin, Karl Gräser, Josef Hoffmann, Gustav Klimt, Fernand Khnopff, René Lalique, Elena Luksch-Makowsky, Charles R. Mackintosh, Madame D’Ora, Louis Majorelle, Paula Modersohn-Becker,  William Morris, Alfons Mucha, Richard Riemerschmid, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Louis C. Tiffany, Henry van de Velde.

 

 

What a memorable exhibition!

The presentation of the work is excellent, just what one would hope for, and the works themselves are magnificent – objects that you would hope existed, but didn’t know for sure that they did.

Particularly interesting are the use of large historical photographs of the objects in use in situ, behind the actual object itself; the presence of large three-dimensional structures (such as the Erkerzimmer for the Hotel Gallia in Nice, 1894-1900) built in the gallery; and the welcome lack of “wallpaper noise” (as I call it) that has dogged recent exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria (eg. the ongoing Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei exhibition). It is so nice to be able to contemplate these objects without the additional and unnecessary “noise” of competing wallpaper behind each object.

The work itself reflects the time from which it emanates – visual, disruptive, psychological, technical, natural, beautiful and sensual – locating “Art Nouveau in its historical context of ideas as a reform movement with all its manifold facets and extremes. Adopting a particular focus on the relationship between nature and technology, [the exhibition] illuminates the most varied disciplines, ranging far beyond the movement of arts and crafts and reaching as far as the history of medicine and the technology of film-making…  The ideal of superior craft in contrast to industrial articles collides with the commercial idea of competition and the marketing strategies at that time. Therefore the exhibition project maneuvers at the intersection of utopia and capitalism.”

One of the most vital periods of creativity in all fields in recent history.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Sports at the beach in Wyk on the island of Föhr c. 1912

 

Anonymous photographer
Sports at the beach in Wyk on the island of Föhr
Sanatorium Carl Gmelin, c. 1912
Collection The Ingwersen Family
© Fotoarchiv Ingwersen Wyk

 

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) 'Manao Tupapau (The Ghost of the Dead awakens)' 1894

 

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Manao Tupapau (The Ghost of the Dead awakens)
Manao Tupapau (Der Geist der Toten wacht) | Manao Tupapau (The Spirit Watches Over Her)

1894
Lithograph on zinc sheet
Sheet: 30.6 cm x 46 cm
© Kunsthalle Bremen – Der Kunstverein in Bremen

 

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) 'Lying Female Nude' Vienna, 1914-15

 

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Lying Female Nude
Vienna, 1914-15
Pencil
37.6 cm x  57.1 cm
© Wien Museum

 

Anne Brigman (1869–1950) 'The Wondrous Globe' 1912

 

Anne Brigman (1869-1950)
The Wondrous Globe
1912
Photogravure (from Camera Work)
21.1 cm x 19.9 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

George Méliès (1861-1938) (Regie) 'Voyage to the Moon' 1902

 

George Méliès (1861-1938) (Regie)
Le Voyage dans la Lune | Die Reise zum Mond | Voyage to the Moon
France, 1902
16 Min.
© BFI National Archive

 

 

Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921) 'Mask' c. 1897

 

Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)
Mask
c. 1897
Gypsum, mounted
18.5 cm x 28 cm x 6.5 cm
© bpk, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Elke Walford

 

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Damon & Colin (Maison Krieger). Erkerzimmer for the Hotel Gallia in Nice, 1894-1900

Damon & Colin (Maison Krieger). Erkerzimmer for the Hotel Gallia in Nice, 1894-1900 (detail)

 

Damon & Colin (Maison Krieger)
Erkerzimmer for the Hotel Gallia in Nice
1894-1900
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision' at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Peter Behrens (1868-1940) 'Salon grand from house Behrens' c. 1901

 

Peter Behrens (1868-1940)
Salonflügel aus dem Haus Behrens | Salon grand from house Behrens, Darmstadt
c. 1901
Execution: J. P. Schiedmayer Pianofortefabrik, Stuttgart; Intarsienwerkstatt G. Wölfel & Kiessling
Palisander, mahagony, maple, cherry and walnut, burl birch, partly coloured red, lapis lazuli and mother of peral inlay
H. 99 cm x B. 150 cm x 192 cm
Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Köln
© Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln

 

 

“The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) would like to dare a quite new approach to the epoch of the Art Nouveau in its exhibition project Art Nouveau. The Great Utopia. In contrast to the period about a century ago, when Art Nouveau was le dernier cri, it can be seen today not just as a mere historical stylistic era, but can open up parallels to complex phenomena familiar to visitors from their own experience: scarcity of resources and issues of what materials to use, precarious working conditions and consumer behaviour, the trade-off between ecological and aesthetic considerations in manufacturing processes or the desire for stylishly elegant, prestigious interior furnishings. These are just a few of the aspects which emerge as central motives common to both the reform movement of the years around 1900 and for the decisions facing today’s consumers. The exhibition has therefore been chosen in order to bring out as clearly as possible in this new setting the roots of the ideas and motives which informed Art Nouveau. The new presentation still revolves, for instance, around the World Exhibition of 1900 as an international platform of modern design. Furthermore the flight away from European industrialization and the march of technology to imagined places of yearning such as the Middle Ages or nature is highlighted.

A further aspect is the change in the way people experienced their bodies in the fashion of the rational dress reform movement and modern dance. The exhibition project will attempt to locate Art Nouveau in its historical context of ideas as a reform movement with all its manifold facets and extremes. Adopting a particular focus on the relationship between nature and technology, it illuminates the most varied disciplines, ranging far beyond the movement of arts and crafts and reaching as far as the history of medicine and the technology of film-making. The exhibits can be read as artistic positions that address technological innovation as well as theories from Karl Marx (1818-1883) to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). The ideal of superior craft in contrast to industrial articles collides with the commercial idea of competition and the marketing strategies at that time. Therefore the exhibition project maneuvers at the intersection of utopia and capitalism. Visitors will be able to see paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, posters, books, tapestries, reform dresses, photo-graphs and films as well as scientific and historical medical apparatus and models.”

Text from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

 

Rudolf Dührkoop. 'Head with Halo' 1908

 

Rudolph Dührkoop (1848-1918)
Kopf mit Heiligenschein | Head with Halo
1908
Platinotype
21 x 16 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Gabriel Charles Rossetti (1828-1882) 'Helen of Troy' 1863

 

Gabriel Charles Rossetti (1828-1882)
Helena von Troja | Helen of Troy
1863
Oil on mahogany
32.8 cm x 27.7 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle
© bpk, Hamburger Kunsthalle
Photo: Elke Walford

 

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) 'Kneeling nude girl against blue curtain, Worpswede' 1906/07

 

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907)
Kniender Mädchenakt vor blauem Vorhang | Kneeling Nude Girl
Worpswede, 1906/07
Oil on canvas
72 cm x 60 cm
© Landesmuseum Oldenburg, H. R. Wacker – ARTOTHEK

 

Naked archer, member of a nudists' community in Zurich, Switzerland 1910

 

Unknown photographer
Ein Bogenschütze “Naturmenschenkolonie” bei Zürich | Archer “Naturmenschenkolonie” near Zurich
Naked archer, member of a nudists’ community in Zurich, Switzerland
1910
From Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, Nr. 34, 1910
© Ullstein Bild

 

Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918) 'Childhood' c. 1894

 

Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)
Die Kindheit | Childhood
c. 1894
Oil on canvas
50 cm x 31 cm
© Städel Museum – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK

 

Elena Luksch-Makowsky (1878-1967) 'Adolescentia' 1903

 

Elena Luksch-Makowsky (1878-1967)
Adolescentia
1903
Oil on canvas
172 cm x 79 cm
Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Wien
© Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Wien

 

Atelier d'Ora. 'Red Hair' 1911

 

Atelier d’Ora
Rotes Haar | Red Hair
1911
Gummidruck
38 cm x 28.2 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Alfons Mucha (1860-1939) 'Salon des Cent' Paris 1896

 

Alfons Mucha (1860-1939)
Salon des Cent
Paris, 1896
Lithograph
63.5 cm x 46 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Alfons Mucha. 'Salon des Cent' Exhibition, Paris, 1897

 

Alfons Mucha (1860-1939)
Salon des Cent
Paris, 1897
Lithograph
63.5 cm x 46 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Eugène Grasset. 'Exhibition poster for an exhibition at the Salon des Cent' 1894

 

Eugène Grasset (1845-1917)
Print: G. de Malherbe, Zinkätzung
Ausstellungsplakat für eine eigene Ausstellung im Salon des Cent | exhibition poster for his own exhibition at Salon des Cents
1894
Stencil
60 x 40 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Verm. Albert Londe (1858-1917) 'Hysterics' Nd

 

Verm. Albert Londe (1858-1917)
Hysterischer Anfall (Bâillement hystérique) | Hysterics
Silver print
9 cm x 12 cm
Bibliothèque de Toulouse
© Bibliothèque Municipale de Toulouse

 

 

Albert Londe (1858-1917) was an influential French photographer, medical researcher and chronophotographer. He is remembered for his work as a medical photographer at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, funded by the Parisian authorities, as well as being a pioneer in X-ray photography. During his two decades at the Salpêtrière, Albert Londe developed into arguably the most outstanding scientific photographer of his time.

In 1878 neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot hired Londe as a medical photographer at the Salpêtrière. In 1882 Londe devised a system to photograph the physical and muscular movements of patients (including individuals experiencing epileptic seizures). This he accomplished by using a camera with nine lenses that were triggered by electromagnetic energy, and with the use of a metronome he was able to sequentially time the release of the shutters, therefore taking photos onto glass plates in quick succession. A few years later Londe developed a camera with twelve lenses for photographing movement. In 1893 Londe published the first book on medical photography, titled La photographie médicale: Application aux sciences médicales et physiologiques. In 1898 he published Traité pratique de radiographie et de radioscope: technique et applications médicales.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) 'Vase with self-portrait' 1889

 

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Vase mit Selbstbildnis | Vase with self-portrait
1889
Stoneware, engobe, copper and oxblood glaze
19.5 cm x 12 cm
Designmuseum Danmark, Kopenhagen
Photo: Pernille Klemp

 

Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) 'Scyphozoans' 1904

 

Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919)
Discomedusae. – Scheibenquallen | Scyphozoans
Table 8 from Ernst Haeckel, Kunstformen der Natur, Leipzig und Wien
1904
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Eugène Feuillâtre (1870-1916) Vase "La Mer" c. 1900

 

Eugène Feuillâtre (1870-1916)
Vase “La Mer”
c. 1900
Cloisonné enamel, gilded copper
37.5 cm
Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris
© Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris

 

The goldsmiths and jewellers of the second half of the nineteenth century constantly strove to perfect and develop the techniques of enamelling for artistic purposes. Eugène Feuillâtre, who headed the Lalique enamelling workshop before opening his own workshop in 1897, specialised in enamel on silver. The dilatation of the metal and its reactions with the colouring agents made this technique difficult. But it allowed Feuillâtre to obtain the blurred, milky, pearly tones that are so characteristic of his work. Feuillâtre’s use of colours illustrates his ability to choose materials to suit the effect he wanted. He is one of the craftsmen whose talent swept artistic enamelling to a veritable apotheosis about 1900.

 

Daum Frères (Manufacturer), 'vase formed like a pumpkin' Nancy, around 1909

 

Daum Frères (Hersteller | Manufacturer)
Vase in Kürbisform | Vase formed like a pumpkin
Nancy c. 1909
Cameo glass, mould blown, etched and cut
29.2 cm x 11.7 cm
Düsseldorf, Museum Kunstpalast
© Museum Kunstpalast – Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK

 

Louis C. Tiffany. 'Pont Lily-lamp' New York, 1900, execution around 1910

 

Louis C. Tiffany (1848-1933)
Pond Lily-Lampe | Pont Lily-lamp
New York, 1900, execution around 1910
Favrile glass, Bronze
57 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Albert Klein (1971-1926) 'Irisvase' 1900

 

Albert Klein (1971-1926)
Irisvase
1900
Execution: Königliche Porzellanmanufaktur, Berlin
Porcelain with glaze and sculptural decoration
61.5 cm
Bröhan-Museum
© Bröhan-Museum
Photo: Martin Adam, Berlin

 

William Morris. decoration fabric Strawberry Thief, London, 1883

 

William Morris (1834-1896)
Decoration fabric Strawberry Thief
London, 1883
Execution: Morris & Co., Merton Abbey/Surrey, 1883
Cotton, indigo discharge print, block print, 3-coloured
518 cm x 98 cm, Rapport 51 x 45 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

William Morris. decoration fabric Strawberry Thief, London, 1883 (detail)

 

William Morris (1834-1896)
Decoration fabric Strawberry Thief (detail)
London, 1883
Execution: Morris & Co., Merton Abbey/Surrey, 1883
Cotton, indigo discharge print, block print, 3-coloured
518 cm x 98 cm, Rapport 51 x 45 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

René Lalique (1860-1945) 'Hair comb' 1898-1899

 

René Lalique (1860-1945)
Haarkamm | Hair comb
1898-1899
Horn, gold, enamel
15.5 cm
Designmuseum Danmark, Kopenhagen
Photo: Pernille Klemp

 

Day dress of a suffragette sympathizer, England, 1905-09

 

Unknown maker
Tageskleid einer Suffragetten-Sympathisantin | Day dress of a sufragette sympathiser
England, 1905-09
Studio work or self-made, cotton, canvas lining, machine-made lace
L. 143 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo. Lady's dress Delphos, Venice, 1911–13

 

Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (1871-1949)
Damenkleid Delphos | Lady’s dress Delphos
Venice, 1911-13
Label: Mariano Fortuny Venise
Pleated silk satin, silk cord, Murano glass beads
L. 148 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Carlo Bugatti (1856-1940) 'Chair' Milan 1902

 

Carlo Bugatti (1856-1940)
Stuhl | Chair
Milan, 1902
Oak, parchment, brass
98 cm x 48 cm x 48 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Karl Gräser (1849-1899) 'Chair in the style of his room furnishings on Monte Verita' Museum Casa Anatta, Monte Verita, Ascona, 1910

 

Karl Gräser (1849-1899)
Sessel im Stil seiner Zimmereinrichtung auf dem Monte Verità | Chair in the style of his room furnishings on Monte Verità
Museum Casa Anatta, Monte Verità, Ascona, um Verità 1910
Unhandeled braches, wooden panel
84 x 66 x 60 cm
Photo: Elena Mastrandrea
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

In the nineteenth century, Europe is shaken by the arrival of industrialization which upsets the social organization. This crisis is particularly felt in Germany where signs of rejection of the industrial world appear as early as 1870. Thus, in response to the urbanization generated by a new organization of work, Naturism appears. Attempting to flee the pollution of the cities, to create communities and “garden city” to live in harmony with nature. Those who share this view soon gather around the movement of Reform of the life (Lebensreform, 1892). The movement attracts followers of vegetarianism, naturism, spiritism, natural medicines, the Hygienism, the Theosophical Society, as well as artists.

In 1889, Franz Hartmann, German astrologer and Alfredo Pioda, a local man into progressive politics, both loving theosophical theories under strong Hindu influence, launched the idea of ​​a “secular monastery” bringing together individuals “regardless of race , creed, sex, caste or color. ” But nothing came of it. Eleven years later, he resurfaced with seven young men from good families, born in Germany, Holland, Slovenia and Montenegro, who landed in Ascona (Switzerland), attracted by the beauty of the place, its climate and possible telluric forces which the place would wear. The clan consists of Henri Oedenkoven (son of wealthy industrialists Antwerp), Karl Gräser (former officer of the Imperial Army, founder of the peace group Ohne Zwang, Unconstrained), his brother, the painter Gustav Gräser, Ida Hoffman (a feminist intellectual) Jeny and her sister, Lotte Hattemer (a beautiful young girl with anarchist ideas, breaking with a father who nonetheless supports herself needs) and Ferdinand Brune.

Spiritualist sects, pharmacists, nudists, philosophical circles, feminist movements, pacifists, socialists, libertarians, gurus, Theosophists, come together to form a nebula of more or less related interest, a band that will unite in a place that combines lifestyle and utopian effervescence. The hill is named Monte Verità, the Mountain of the truth. The group advocated free love, equality between men and women, they gardening scantily clad (or bare), alcohol was banned, meals consist of raw vegetables and fruits. As often, the ideal was overtaken by reality: after several months of reciprocity disagreement appears, especially between Henry Oedenkoven, who plans to open a place of cure, and the brothers Gräser. They who dedicate themselves to self-sufficiency and barter reject this conversion to money. Monte Verita knowns immediately two trends: the bourgeois dream paradise enjoying the modern comfort (water, electricity) and potentially profitable; and aspiration of returning to a liberated state of nature.

Text translated from the La Maud La Maud website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Monte Verita' c. 1900

 

Unknown photographer
Monte Verita
c. 1900

 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 'Chair for the Argyle Tea Room' Glasgow 1897

 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928)
Stuhl für den Argyle Tea Room | Chair for the Argyle Tea Room
Glasgow, 1897
Oak, stained
81 cm x 60 cm x 45 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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07
Jan
16

Exhibition: ‘Goya: The Portraits’ at the National Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 7th October 2015 – 10th January 2016

Sainsbury Wing

Curator: Dr Xavier Bray

 

 

Rushing through a dimly lit gallery I remember stumbling upon my first, larger than life, full length Goya portrait in the Louvre, a portrait of a women in a pale blue dress. It literally stopped me in my tracks, the visceral affect was so powerful. There was a certain tactility to the painting, a presence to the figure that produced this emotive response. And the light that emanated from the painting. I think my jaw dropped to the floor.

Goya can be cutting when he wants to be, as in the pompous portrait of the buffoon Ferdinand VII in Court Dress (1814-5, below); he can be precise and reserved as in Don Valentín Bellvís de Moncada y Pizarro (around 1795, below) where the eyes are the key to the portrait; he can be strong and forthright as in the muscular portrait of Martín Zapater (1797, below); or he can be inscrutably honest Self Portrait before an Easel (1792-5, below) and loving Mariano Goya y Goicoechea (the artist’s grandson) (1827, below). But above all, he is human.

The richness and combination of colours, the sense of space that surrounds the sitter (with their mainly contextless backgrounds and the isolation of the figure in pictorial space), their power – both personal and political – and the certain wariness, weariness and insouciance of their expressions… are just a marvel to behold. It’s as though the sitters had just stopped for a moment to ponder their lives. Almost as though they had conjured or envisaged their own visage, as if from a dream.

Marcus

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

 

 

Francisco de Goya. 'The Duke of Wellington' 1812-14

 

Francisco de Goya
The Duke of Wellington
1812-14
Oil on mahogany
64.3 x 52.4 cm
© The National Gallery, London

 

Francisco de Goya. 'The Count of Altamira' 1787

 

Francisco de Goya
The Count of Altamira
1787
Oil on canvas
177 x 108 cm
Colección Banco de España
© Colección Banco de España

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Countess of Altamira with her daughter' 1787-88

 

Francisco de Goya
The Countess of Altamira and Her Daughter, María Agustina
1787-8
Oil on canvas
195 x 115 cm
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga' 1788

 

Francisco de Goya
Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga
1788
Oil on canvas
127 x 101.6 cm
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Jules Bache Collection, 1949
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Countess-Duchess of Benavente' 1785

 

Francisco de Goya
The Countess-Duchess of Benavente
1785
Oil on canvas
105 × 78 cm
Private Collection, Spain
© Joaquín Cortés

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Don Pedro, Count of Osuna' 1797-9

 

Francisco de Goya
The Duke of Osuna
1797-9
Oil on canvas
113 x 83.2 cm
The Frick Collection, New York, Purchase, 1943
© The Frick Collection

 

Francisco Goya. 'Portrait of the Count of Floridablanca' 1783

 

Francisco Goya
Portrait of the Count of Floridablanca
1783
Oil on canvas
262 cm (103.1 in). Width: 166 cm (65.4 in).
Colección del Banco de España, Madrid

 

Francisco de Goya. 'The Osuna Family' 1788

 

Francisco de Goya
The Duke and Duchess of Osuna and their Children
1788
Oil on canvas
225 x 174 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
© Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

 

Francisco de Goya. 'The Marquis of Villafranca and Duke of Alba' 1795

 

Francisco de Goya
The Marquis of Villafranca and Duke of Alba
1795
Oil on canvas
195 x 126 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
© Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

 

Francisco de Goya. 'The Duchess of Alba' 1797

 

Francisco de Goya
The Duchess of Alba
1797
Oil on canvas
210.1 × 149.2 cm
On loan from The Hispanic Society of America, New York, NY
© Courtesy of The Hispanic Society of America, New York

 

 

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) is one of Spain’s most celebrated artists. He was an incisive social commentator, considered (even during his own lifetime) as a supremely gifted painter who took the genre of portraiture to new heights. Goya saw beyond the appearances of those who sat before him, subtly revealing their character and psychology within his portraits.

Born before Mozart and Casanova, and surviving Napoleon, Goya’s life spanned more than 80 years during which he witnessed a series of dramatic events that changed the course of European history. Goya: The Portraits will trace the artist’s career, from his early beginnings at the court in Madrid to his appointment as First Court Painter to Charles IV, and as favourite portraitist of the Spanish aristocracy. It will explore the difficult period under Joseph Bonaparte’s rule and the accession to the throne of Ferdinand VII, before concluding with his final years of self-imposed exile in France. Exhibition curator Dr Xavier Bray says:

“The aim of this exhibition is to reappraise Goya’s status as one of the greatest portrait painters in art history. His innovative and unconventional approach took the art of portraiture to new heights through his ability to reveal the inner life of his sitters, even in his grandest and most memorable formal portraits.”

This landmark exhibition will bring to Trafalgar Square more than 60 of Goya’s most outstanding portraits from both public and private collections around the world. These include works that are rarely lent, and some which have never been exhibited publicly before, having remained in possession of the descendants of the sitters. The exhibition will show the variety of media Goya used for his portraits; from life-size paintings on canvas, to the miniatures on copper and his fine black and red chalk drawings. Organised chronologically and thematically, we will for the first time be able to engage with Goya’s technical, stylistic, and psychological development as a portraitist.

From São Paulo to New York, and Mexico to Stockholm, private and institutional lenders have been outstandingly generous, including 10 exceptional loans from the Museo del Prado, Madrid. One of the stars of the show will undoubtedly be the iconic Duchess of Alba (The Hispanic Society of America Museum & Library) which has only once left the United States and has never travelled to Britain. Painted in 1797, this portrait of Goya’s close friend and patron shows the Duchess dressed as a ‘maja’, in a black costume and ‘mantilla’ pointing imperiously at the ground where the words ‘Solo Goya’ (‘Only Goya’) are inscribed.

Other patrons who assisted Goya on his upward trajectory to become First Court Painter, as Velázquez had done more than 150 years before him, are well represented: these include The Count of Floridablanca (Banco de España, Madrid) and The Duke and Duchess of Osuna and their Children (Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid) – both key and influential patrons. The immense group portrait of The Family of the Infante Don Luis de Borbón (Magnani-Rocca Foundation, Parma), will be reunited with some of the other portraits Goya painted of the Infante’s young family who were living in exile from the Spanish court.

Other highlights will include the charismatic portrait of Don Valentin Bellvís de Moncada y Pizarro (Fondo Cultural Villar Mir, Madrid) which is unpublished and has never been seen before in public, and the rarely exhibited Countess-Duchess Benavente (Private Collection, Spain). The recently conserved 1798 portrait of Government official Francisco de Saavedra (Courtauld Gallery, London) will be exhibited for the first time in more than 50 years alongside its pendant painted in the same year, showing his friend and colleague Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (Museo del Prado, Madrid).

The Countess of Altamira and her daughter, María Agustina, which has never been lent internationally from the Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, will come to Europe for the very first time to be reunited with her husband The Count of Altamira (Banco de España, Madrid) and their son Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), wearing a fashionably expensive red costume and playing with a pet magpie (which holds the painter’s calling card in its beak). It was shortly after completing his imposing portrait of the Countess, wearing a shimmering embroidered silk gown and shown with an introspective expression, that Goya was appointed court painter to Charles IV, King of Spain.

It was in his royal portraits in particular that Goya managed to combine his insightful observation and technical refinement to create unique, memorable portraits; in these he condensed the various aspects of his sitter’s personality into a subtle look or gesture, which often did not flatter his sitters. Charles III in Hunting Dress (Duquesa del Arco) stands in a pose directly inspired by Velázquez’s hunting portraits of the Spanish royal family in the previous century, but the candid portrayal of a weather-beaten face with its marked wrinkles and a somewhat ironic gesture is unique to Goya, clearly revealing to us the personality of the King – an enlightened man, a lover of nature and his people, who wished to be approached as ‘Charles before King’. Similarly, in the portrait of Ferdinand VII (Museo del Prado, Madrid) we can imagine Goya’s mistrust of the pompous and selfish monarch who abolished the constitution and reintroduced the Spanish Inquisition.

In contrast to the formality of his royal portraits, the exhibition also features more personal works by Goya, including a number of self-portraits in different media, and depictions of his friends and family. 47 years lie between the first Self Portrait (about 1773, Museo Goya, Colección Ibercaja, Zaragoza) in the show, completed when Goya was in his late 20s, and the last, the poignant Self Portrait with Doctor Arrieta (1820, The Minneapolis Institute of Art) painted after an illness from which he almost died when he was 74 years old. There will also be a chance to ‘meet’ the people who were closest to Goya; his wife Josefa Bayeu (Abelló Collection, Madrid), his son Javier Goya (Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Private Collection; Museo de Bellas Artes, Zaragoza) and his best friend and life-long correspondent Martin Zapater (Bilboko Art Eder Museoa / Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao). The exhibition also includes the last work Goya ever painted, of his only, beloved grandson Mariano Goya (Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas) – painted just months before Goya’s death on 16 April, 1828, this portrait is a testament to the genius, skill, and unfaltering creativity of an artist who persevered with his craft to his very last days.”

Press release from the National Gallery website

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Goya: The Portraits' at the National Gallery, London

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Goya: The Portraits' at the National Gallery, London

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Goya: The Portraits' at the National Gallery, London

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Goya: The Portraits' at the National Gallery, London

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Goya: The Portraits at the National Gallery, London

 

Francisco de Goya. 'The Marchioness of Santa Cruz' 1805

 

Francisco de Goya
The Marchioness of Santa Cruz
1805
Oil on canvas
124.7 × 207.7 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
© Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Self Portrait before an Easel' 1792-5

 

Francisco de Goya
Self Portrait before an Easel
1792-5
Oil on canvas
42 x 28 cm
Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid
© Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Self Portrait after Illness of 1792-3' 1795-7

 

Francisco de Goya
Self Portrait
1795-7
Brush and grey wash on laid paper
15.3 x 9.1 cm
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1935
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Self Portrait' 1815

 

Francisco de Goya
Self Portrait
1815
Oil on canvas
45.8 × 35.6 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
© Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Self Portrait with Doctor Arrieta' 1820

 

Francisco de Goya
Self Portrait with Doctor Arrieta
1820
Oil on canvas
114.6 × 76.5 cm
Lent by The Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund
© Minneapolis Institute of Art

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos' 1798

 

Francisco de Goya
Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos
1798
Oil on canvas
205 x 133 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
© Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Portrait of Don Francisco de Saavedra' 1798

 

Francisco de Goya
Portrait of Don Francisco de Saavedra
1798
The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

 

 

The Spanish politician Francisco de Saavedra was noted for his integrity. In late 1798 Saavedra and his great friend and ally, Gaspar de Jovellanos, were appointed to the two highest political offices in Spain: Minister of Finance and Minister of State. Jovellanos was one of Goya’s most consistent supporters, and the two men commissioned a pair of portraits from him.

The two pictures are closely related. In each, the sitter faces to the right, and sits on a round-backed chair beside a table. But while Jovellanos is thoughtful, Saavedra seems about to leave his paper-strewn desk having decided on a course of action. The simplicity of the background may be influenced by Goya’s knowledge of eighteenth-century English portraiture. It could, however, have been chosen by Saavedra, who was known for the wellordered and ‘English’ character of his household.

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Charles IV in Hunting Dress' 1799

 

Francisco de Goya
Charles IV in Hunting Dress
1799
Oil on canvas
205 x 129 cm
Colecciones Reales, Patrimonio Nacional, Palacio Real de Madrid
© Patrimonio Nacional

 

Francisco de Goya. 'María Luisa wearing a Mantilla' 1799

 

Francisco de Goya
María Luisa wearing a Mantilla
1799
Oil on canvas
205 x 130 cm
Colecciones Reales, Patrimonio Nacional, Palacio Real de Madrid
© Patrimonio Nacional

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Portrait of Mariano Goya, the Artist's Grandson' 1827

 

Francisco de Goya
Mariano Goya y Goicoechea (the artist’s grandson)
1827
Oil on canvas
52.1 x 41.3 cm
Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Museum Purchase with Funds Donated by the Meadows Foundation and a Gift from Mrs Eugene McDermott, in honor of the Meadows Museum’s 50th Anniversary
© Photograph by Michael Bodycomb

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Doña Isabel de Porcel' before 1805

 

Francisco de Goya
Doña Isabel de Porcel
before 1805
Oil on canvas
82 x 54.6 cm
The National Gallery, London, bought, 1896
© The National Gallery, London

 

 

The exhibition Goya: The Portraits includes around 70 works unquestionably by his hand, provides us with a unique opportunity to look more closely at Portrait of Doña Isabel de Porcel and ask the question: is she really by Goya? This Room 1 display will present historical information surrounding the portrait and its acquisition by the National Gallery in 1896, together with technical evidence, including an X-ray image which reveals an earlier portrait painted underneath.

Who was Doña Isabel de Porcel?

The sitter has long been identified as Doña Isabel Lobo de Porcel on account of an inscription on the back of the original canvas. Goya exhibited a portrait of Doña Isabel Lobo de Porcel in Madrid in 1805, and this has traditionally been linked to the National Gallery painting. Isabel married Antonio Porcel (Secretary of State for Spain’s American Colonies) in 1802 and the couple had four children. Isabel died in 1842, surviving her husband by 10 years. Antonio, who was a political associate of Goya’s friend and patron Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos (whose portrait can be seen in Goya: The Portraits), was also painted by Goya in 1806, but his portrait was destroyed by fire in 1953.

The National Gallery’s purchase of ‘Portrait of Doña Isabel de Porcel’

The National Gallery bought Portrait of Doña Isabel de Porcel in June 1896 for just over £404. It was among the first pictures by the artist – and the very first portrait by Goya – to enter the National Gallery collection, having made its first Goya purchases (A Picnic and A Scene from ‘The Forcibly Bewitched’) the previous month. The portrait was no longer owned by the sitter’s descendants when the Gallery acquired it, having been sold by the Porcel y Zayas family from Granada, in whose possession it had apparently remained until around 1887, to Don Isidro de Urzáiz Garro (d. 1894). It was from the latter’s heir, Andrés de Urzáiz (1866-1912), that the Gallery acquired the portrait about 10 years later.

A question of attribution

The glamorous sitter is shown wearing a black lace ‘mantilla’, a traditional headdress which became fashionable among the Spanish aristocracy in the late 18th century. Although painted with tremendous flair, the picture’s brushwork – when compared with Goya’s other portraits – lacks his customary subtlety in describing transparencies and textures. Isabel is extremely charismatic but we struggle to grasp her psychological state – something in which Goya invariably excelled.

The hidden portrait

When an X-ray image was made of the Portrait of Doña Isabel de Porcel during conservation treatment in 1980, another portrait was unexpectedly found underneath. The head and striped jacket of the underlying figure are clearly visible in the X-ray, and Doña Isabel de Porcel was painted directly on top of the initial portrait, without first hiding it with new priming. Although perhaps surprising, this is not unique in Goya’s work. During the period of political upheaval in Spain at the turn of the 19th century, Goya – and other artists – had to be resourceful and adapt to circumstance, recycling canvases as their patrons fell in and out of political favour. Doña Isabel de Porcel must have been painted soon after the underlying portrait, since no dirt is visible between the paint layers of the two figures. A clearer image of the underlying portrait has recently been obtained by using an X-ray fluorescence scanning spectrometer, a cutting-edge piece of analytical technology on loan to the National Gallery through collaboration with Delft University of Technology, which maps the chemical elements in the paint.

Letizia Treves, National Gallery Curator of Italian and Spanish Paintings 1600-1800, says:

“Goya is one of the most admired and imitated painters in the history of art. Pastiches and forgeries of his works proliferated on the European and American art market in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The technical studies and provenance information regarding the Portrait of Doña Isabel de Porcel are inconclusive so far as Goya’s authorship is concerned, and the attributional status of the painting rests largely on perceptions of quality and on how close it comes to works that are indisputably by the artist – something we all have a unique opportunity to explore during the exhibition Goya: The Portraits. If it is a pastiche, it has been carried out with such impressive skill that its long-standing attribution to Goya has convinced several generations of specialists and gallery visitors.”

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Martín Zapater' 1797

 

Francisco de Goya
Martín Zapater
1797
Oil on canvas
83 x 65 cm
Bilbao Fine Arts Museum
© Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa-Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Ferdinand VII in Court Dress' 1814-5

 

Francisco de Goya
Ferdinand VII in Court Dress
1814-5
Oil on canvas
208 x 142.5 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid
© Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Don Valentín Bellvís de Moncada y Pizarro' around 1795

 

Francisco de Goya
Don Valentín Bellvís de Moncada y Pizarro
around 1795
Oil on canvas
115 x 83 cm
Fondo Cultural Villar Mir, Madrid
© Fondo Cultural Villar Mir, Madrid

 

 

The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 6pm
Friday 10am – 9pm

The National Gallery website

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02
Jan
16

Exhibitions: ‘Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008’ and ‘Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection’ at the Brooklyn Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 20th November 2015 – 13th March 2016

Curator of Coney Island exhibition: Dr Robin Jaffee Frank

 

 

The first posting of 2016, and it is a doozy – a multimedia extravaganza of sight and sound showcasing exhibitions that focus on that eclectic playground, Coney Island.

Featuring images supplied by the gallery – plus videos, other art work featured in the exhibitions and texts that I sourced myself – this posting documents “the luridness of the sideshow acts, the drunk sailors, the amorous couples and the scantily dressed bathers who were so much a part of the allure and menace of Coney Island.” I spent many hours scouring the internet, undertaking research and cleaning poor quality images to bring this selection to you.

The exhibition is divided into five sections, and I have attempted to keep the posting in this chronological order.

  • Down at Coney Isle, 1861-94
  • The World’s Greatest Playground, 1895-1929
  • The Nickel Empire, 1930-39
  • A Coney Island of the Mind, 1940-61
  • Requiem for a Dream, 1962-2008

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There are some interesting art works in both exhibitions. The correspondence between elephant/handler and mural is delightful in Edgar S. Thomson’s Coney Island (1897, below), while Joseph Stella’s Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras (1913-14, below) is a revelation to me, considering the date of production and the portrayal of contemporary life which is akin to our own. Walker Evans’ Couple at Coney Island, New York (1928, below) seems staged and confused in its pictorial construction, not one of his better photographs, while Edward J. Kelty’s photographs of sideshow revues including a “coloured revue” are interesting for their social context and formalism.

Paul Cadmus’ satirical view of American vacationers Coney Island (1934, below) is a riot of colour, movement and social commentary, including references to homosexuality and Hitler, while his friend Reginald Marsh’s effusive Coney Island paintings play with “reimagined bathers and sideshow audiences in poses derived from Michelangelo and Rubens” packed into compressed, collage like spaces. Particular favourites are photographs by Garry Winograd, Bruce Davidson, Diane Arbus and Robert Frank. Surprise of the posting are the black and white photographs of Morris Engel.

Marcus

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

 

 

“The mixed-media exhibit captures Coney Island’s campy, trippy aesthetic with a hodgepodge of photographs by the likes of Walker Evans, Weegee, Bruce Davidson, and Diane Arbus (since Coney Island was basically tailor-made for a Diane Arbus photo shoot). Also on view are pastoral seascapes from the 1800s; sideshow posters galore; a turn-of-the-century gambling wheel and carousel animals presented like sculpture; film stills from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream; and a modernist abstract composition by Frank Stella. With red and yellow stripes around a blue square, Stella distills the sand and sea and sun into a primary-colored flag for Brooklyn’s most famous destination.

In these pictures, Coney Island serves as a microcosm of American mass culture as a whole, and the chronology of 140 art objects here chart major societal shifts, from the dawn of the Great Depression to desegregation. “The modern American mass-culture industry was born at Coney Island, and the constant novelty of the resort made it a seductively liberating subject for artists,” Dr Robin Jaffee Frank, curator of the exhibit, which Wadsworth Athenaeum helped organize, said in a statement. “What these artists saw from 1861 to 2008 at Coney Island, and the varied ways in which they chose to portray it, mirrored the aspirations and disappointments of the era and the country. Taken together, these tableaux of wonder and menace, hope and despair, dreams and nightmares become metaphors for the collective soul of a nation.”

Carey Dunne. “Dreamland as Muse: A Look Back at 150 Years of Coney Island Art, Photography, and Film,” on the Brooklyn Magazine website 17/08/2015 [Online] Cited 02/01/2016

 

 

Samuel S. Carr (American, 1837–1908). 'Beach Scene' c. 1879

 

Samuel S. Carr (American, 1837-1908)
Beach Scene
c. 1879
Oil on canvas
12 x 20 in. (30.5 x 50.8 cm)
Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; Bequest of Annie Swan Coburn (Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn)

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company. 'The great Forepaugh & Sells Brothers shows combined' c. 1899

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company
The great Forepaugh & Sells Brothers shows combined. Terrific flights over ponderous elephants by a company of twenty five splendid artists in a great contest for valuable prizes, introducing high, long distance, layout, twisting, single and double somersault leapers, enlivened by mirth provoking comedy surprises.
Promotional poster for Forepaugh & Sells Brothers circus
c. 1899
Color lithograph poster

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company. 'The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth /The Great Coney Island Water Carnival /Remarkable Head-Foremost Dives from Enormous Heights into Shallow Depths of Water' 1898

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company
The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth /The Great Coney Island Water Carnival /Remarkable Head-Foremost Dives from Enormous Heights into Shallow Depths of Water
1898
Color lithograph poster
30 1/6 x 38 3/4 in. (76.6 x 98.4 cm)
Cincinnati Art Museum; Gift of the Strobridge Lithographing Company

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company. 'Beach and boardwalk scenes, Coney Island' c. 1898

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company
Beach and boardwalk scenes, Coney Island
c. 1898
Color lithograph foldout poster
approx. 21 feet long

 

George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887). 'Bathers, Steel Pier, Coney Island' c. 1880–85

 

George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887)
Bathers, Steel Pier, Coney Island
c. 1880-85, printed 1940s
Gelatin silver photograph
7 5/8 x 12 in. (19.4 x 30.5 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection
Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum

 

Edgar S. Thomson (American, active 1890s–1900s). 'Coney Island' 1897

 

Edgar S. Thomson (American, active 1890s-1900s)
Coney Island
1897
Gelatin dry glass plate negative
4 x 5 in. (10.2 x 12.7 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection
Photo: Althea Morin, Brooklyn Museum

 

Edgar S. Thomson (American, active 1890s–1900s). 'Coney Island' 1897 (detail)

 

Edgar S. Thomson (American, active 1890s-1900s)
Coney Island (detail)
1897
Gelatin dry glass plate negative
4 x 5 in. (10.2 x 12.7 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection
Photo: Althea Morin, Brooklyn Museum

 

William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916). 'Landscape, near Coney Island' c. 1886

 

William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916)
Landscape, near Coney Island
c. 1886
Oil on panel
8 1/8 x 12 5/8 in. (20.6 x 32 cm)
The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, New York; Gift of Mary H. Beeman to the Pruyn Family Collection

 

Joseph Stella. 'Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras' 1913-14

 

Joseph Stella
Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras
1913-14
Oil on canvas
77 by 84¾ inches
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

 

 

“In 1913, to celebrate Mardi Gras, Joseph Stella took a bus ride to Coney Island that changed his life. The Italian immigrant painter remembered that up until this point he had been “struggling … working along the lines of the old masters, seeking to portray a civilization long since dead.” He continued:

“Arriving at the Island I was instantly struck by the dazzling array of lights. It seemed as if they were in conflict. I was struck with the thought that here was what I had been unconsciously seeking for so many years… On the spot was born the idea for my first truly great picture.” (Joseph Stella, “I Knew Him When (1924),” in Barbara Haskell, ed., Joseph Stella, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, distributed by Harry N. Abrams, 1994, p. 206)

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The result of Stella’s revelation, the enormous oil painting Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras (1913-14), was the inspiration for the traveling exhibition Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008

If the broken planes and neon coloring of Stella’s painting suggest the exhilaration of contemporary life, they also express dislocation and alienation. Stella himself spoke of the “dangerous pleasures” of Coney Island, implying that its unleashing of desires could provoke anxiety (Joseph Stella, “Autobiographical Notes (1946),” in Barbara Haskell, ed., Joseph Stella, p. 213). And yet for all of the dynamism of Stella’s aesthetic, his painting’s sweeping arabesques are checked by the rectangle of the picture plane, and its decorative unity distances the disruptive power of its discordant subjects. The contained anarchy of Stella’s painting is the perfect metaphor for Coney Island’s manipulation and control of the unruly masses, who, at the end of the day, go back to their homes and their ordered existence.

Looking closely at Battle of Lights we might be able to make out fragments of actual rides and even shapes that suggest people, but Stella’s abstraction obscures the luridness of the sideshow acts, the drunk sailors, the amorous couples and the scantily dressed bathers who were so much a part of the allure and menace of Coney Island.”

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

Irving Underhill (American, 1872–1960). 'Luna Park and Surf Avenue, Coney Island' 1912

 

Irving Underhill (American, 1872-1960)
Luna Park and Surf Avenue, Coney Island
1912
Gelatin dry glass plate negative
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection
Photo: Althea Morin, Brooklyn Museum

 

Irving Underhill (American, 1872–1960). 'Luna Park and Surf Avenue, Coney Island' 1912 (detail)

 

Irving Underhill (American, 1872-1960)
Luna Park and Surf Avenue, Coney Island (detail)
1912
Gelatin dry glass plate negative
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection
Photo: Althea Morin, Brooklyn Museum

 

 

Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle (director)
Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton (actors)
Coney Island
1917
25 mins – short, comedy

 

The 5th film starring the duo of Buster Keaton & Fatty Arbuckle, who also directed. Taking place at the Coney Island amusement park of New York City, it’s notable as the only film where Buster Keaton is seen laughing as this is before he developed his “Great Stoneface” persona.

 

Gambling Wheel, 1900–20

 

Gambling Wheel
1900-20
Wood, glass, metal
65 x 14 in. (165.1 x 35.6 cm)
Collection of The New-York Historical Society; Purchase

 

Charles Carmel. 'Carousel Horse with Raised Head, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York' c. 1914

 

Charles Carmel
Carousel Horse with Raised Head, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York
c. 1914
Paint on wood, jewels, glass eyes, horsehair tail
62 x 58 x 14 in. (157.5 x 147.3 x 36.6 cm)
Collection of American Folk Art Museum, New York; Gift of Laura Harding

 

 

Born in Russia in 1865, Charles Carmel and his young bride immigrated to the U.S. in 1883 and lived in Brooklyn for most of their lives. Charles was a perfectionist in his work and a disciplinarian with his family. Their home was located close to Prospect Park and its stable of riding horses, which served as a source of inspiration for Charles’ carousel horse carving work. It is generally accepted that Charles Carmel carved carousel horses from 1905 to 1920, and sold his work to all of the major carousel manufacturers of the time including Dolle, Borelli, Murphy, and Mangels.

In 1911 Charles invested most of his money in a newly constructed carousel that he intended to operate on Coney Island. The day before the park was to open, a fire totally destroyed the amusement park along with the uninsured carousel. This was a devastating financial blow to the Carmel family. Later his health deteriorated due to diabetes and arthritis until Charles closed his shop and carved a few hours a day at home, filling orders. Charles died in 1933 of cancer, but his legacy lives on with the exquisite carousel animals that he produced throughout his life.

Text from the Gesa Carousel of Dreams website

 

Anonymous artist. 'Looping the Loop, Coney Island' 1901-10

 

Anonymous artist
Looping the Loop, Coney Island
1901-10
Private Collection

 

Walker Evans. 'Couple at Coney Island, New York' 1928

 

Walker Evans
Couple at Coney Island, New York
1928
Gelatin silver print
8 x 5 13/16 inches
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Ford Motor Company Collection. Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987

 

Edward J. Kelty (1888-1967) 'X-ray of Ajax, the sword swallower' 1928

 

Edward J. Kelty (1888-1967)
X-ray of Ajax, “The Sword Swallower”
1928
20 x 20 inches
Collection of Ken Harck

 

Edward J. Kelty (American, 1888-–1967) 'Wonderland Circus Sideshow, Coney Island' 1929

 

Edward J. Kelty (American, 1888-–1967)
Wonderland Circus Sideshow, Coney Island
1929
Collection of Ken Harck
© Edward J. Kelty

 

Edward J. Kelty. 'Harlem Black Birds, Coney Island' 1930

 

Edward J. Kelty (American, 1888-–1967)
Harlem Black Birds, Coney Island
1930
12 x 20 in. (30.5 x 50.8 cm)
Collection of Ken Harck
© Edward J. Kelty

 

Edward J. Kelty. 'Harlem Black Birds, Coney Island' 1930 (detail)

 

Edward J. Kelty (American, 1888-–1967)
Harlem Black Birds, Coney Island (detail)
1930
12 x 20 in. (30.5 x 50.8 cm)
Collection of Ken Harck
© Edward J. Kelty

 

Milton Avery (American, 1885–1965). 'The Steeplechase, Coney Island' 1929

 

Milton Avery (American, 1885-1965)
The Steeplechase, Coney Island
1929
Oil on canvas, 32 x 40 in. (81.3 x 101.6 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Gift of Sally M. Avery, 1984
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, courtesy of Art Resource, New York
© 2013 Milton Avery Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Paul Cadmus. 'Coney Island' 1934

 

Paul Cadmus
Coney Island
1934
Oil on canvas
32 7/16 x 36 5/16 inches
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Gift of Peter Paanakker

 

 

Paul Cadmus’s “Coney Island” takes a satirical view of American vacationers. The fleshy members of the human pyramid seem carefree and frivolous in light of the ominous rise to power of the Nazi Party in Germany (Hitler’s face can be seen printed on the magazine resting on the sleeping man’s chest at the bottom of the painting).

 

“… Paul Cadmus, who shared Marsh’s use of old-master forms and techniques but not his heterosexuality, filled his beach painting with purposely ugly women and mostly beautiful men. The main action in Cadmus’s Coney Island (1934) is the human pyramid of men and women at its center. And yet the Adonis who lies on his stomach in the foreground has no interest in this heterosexual game. Instead, he looks off at another muscular youth farther down the beach. For Marsh, Cadmus and their fellow Coney Island artists, the chance to gaze unabashedly at the body of a stranger was one of the great pleasures of the milieu.

… traditional figuration, like that of Cadmus and Marsh, is so dominant that the exhibition arguably offers an alternate history of American art – one in which the modernist painting of Milton Avery or Frank Stella seems like a sideshow. Breaking out of the canon of modernism, “Coney Island” puts new focus on neglected realist painters like Harry Roseland, Robert Riggs, George Tooker and a particular favorite of mine, Henry Koerner.”

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

“Coney Island was the first painting Cadmus made after he ceased working for the federally sponsored Public Works of Art Project. It is typical of his paintings of the period in both theme and form. Cadmus viewed the prosaic activity of bathing on a beach in devastatingly satirical terms. Poking fun at the bathers’ carefree pleasures, Cadmus accumulated an odd assortment of bulging, burnt bodies. The bathers are oblivious to their ridiculous appearance and uncouth behaviour. Swarming the beach, their bodies are strangely intertwined, their faces smiling inanely. Everything is exaggerated, the color verging on the garish to intensify their grossness. In the 1930s Cadmus used oil paint almost as if it were a graphic medium, consequently Coney Island looks more like a tinted drawing than a painting. His small, exacting brushstrokes impart a flickering quality to the surface, which intensifies the impression that the figures are in constant motion. Cadmus actually began to sketch the scene on Martha’s Vineyard, before he visited Coney Island. He was attracted to the Brooklyn beach because it offered him the opportunity to delineate the human figure with as little clothing as possible. Moreover, he considered the beach scene to be a classical subject. His treatment, however, is rather baroque.

As was his friend Reginald Marsh, Cadmus was attracted to the elaborate compositions of old master paintings. Coney Island, with its seminude figures arranged in complex groupings, their bodies twisted and in constant motion, was for Cadmus the twentieth-century version of a baroque allegorical composition. Cadmus claimed that his intent was not to be sensational, but when the painting was exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s second biennial, it suffered the same hostile reception as did his earlier The Fleet’s In!. The Coney Island Showmen’s League, a local trade group, denounced the painting as offensive and inaccurate and threatened a libel suit if the painting was not removed from the exhibition. According to the artist’s incomplete records, it seems that the painting was rejected from several annual exhibitions to which it was submitted soon after it was shown at the Whitney biennial, probably because of the controversy it stirred. In 1935 Cadmus produced an etching from a photograph of the painting in the hope that it would reach a larger public. In the etching the image is reversed but otherwise differs only in a few minor details.”

Text from the LACMA website

 

Reginald Marsh. 'Pip and Flip' 1932

 

Reginald Marsh (American, 1898-1954)
Pip and Flip
1932
Tempera on paper mounted on canvas
48 1/4 x 48 1/4 in.
Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago
Daniel J. Terra Collection

 

 

“Such bodies were the great subjects of Reginald Marsh. Instead of Stella’s spirals of lights abstracted and seen from a distance, Marsh’s George C. Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park (1936) gives us a close-up view of the Human Roulette Wheel where young women are spun into all kinds of unladylike postures. For the Yale-educated Marsh, Coney Island was a chance to go “slumming,” to mingle with the lower classes on the beach and in the amusement parks. Hostile to modernism and abstract art, he reimagined bathers and sideshow audiences in poses derived from Michelangelo and Rubens. And yet, like Stella, Marsh overpacked his Coney Island paintings so that every inch is activated and in motion like a carnival ride. The highly compressed space of a Marsh painting like Pip and Flip (1932, above)with its collagelike play of rectangular billboards advertising human-oddity sideshows, would be unthinkable without the precedent of Cubism that he supposedly detested.”

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

Human Roulette Wheel at Steeplechase Park, Coney Island, early 1900s

 

Reginald Marsh (American, 1898–1954). 'Wooden Horses' 1936

 

Reginald Marsh (American, 1898-1954)
Wooden Horses
1936
Tempera on board, 24 x 40 in. (61 x 101.6 cm)
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut; The Dorothy Clark Archibald and Thomas L. Archibald Fund, The Krieble Family Fund for American Art, The American Paintings Purchase Fund, and The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund
Photo: © 2013 Estate of Reginald Marsh/Art Students League, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Reginald Marsh. 'George Tilyou's Steeplechase Park' 1936

 

Reginald Marsh (American, 1898-1954)
George Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park
1936
Oil and egg tempera on linen mounted on fiberboard
30 1/8 x 40 1/8 in. (76.5 x 101.8 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation

 

Steeplechase Mechanical Horse Ride at Steeplechase Park, Coney Island, early 1900s

 

 

 

“The spirit of Coney Island comes alive with Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 on view at the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition traces the evolution of the Coney Island phenomenon from tourist destination during the Civil War to the World’s Greatest Playground to a site of nostalgia. Covering a period of 150 years, the exhibition features 140 objects, including paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, posters, artifacts, carousel animals, ephemera, and film clips. Also on view is Forever Coney, 42 photographs from the Brooklyn Museum collection.

An extraordinary array of artists have viewed Coney Island as a microcosm of the American experience and used their works to investigate the area as both a place and an idea. Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland offers up early depictions of “the people’s beach” by Impressionists William Merritt Chase and John Henry Twachtman; modernist depictions of the amusement park by Joseph Stella; Depression-era scenes of cheap thrills by Reginald Marsh; photographs by Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, Weegee, and Bruce Davidson; and contemporary works by Daze and Swoon.

“The modern American mass-culture industry was born at Coney Island, and the constant novelty of the resort made it a seductively liberating subject for artists,” said Dr Robin Jaffee Frank, exhibition curator. “What these artists saw from 1861 to 2008 at Coney Island, and the varied ways in which they chose to portray it, mirrored the aspirations and disappointments of the era and the country. Taken together, these tableaux of wonder and menace, hope and despair, dreams and nightmares become metaphors for the collective soul of a nation.”

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 is organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut. The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Connie H. Choi, Assistant Curator, Arts of the Americas and Europe, Brooklyn Museum. A fully illustrated 304-page catalogue, co-published by Yale University Press and the Wadsworth Athenaeum, incorporates the first continuous visual analysis of great works of art about Coney Island by Dr Frank as well as essays by distinguished cultural historians.”

Forever Coney

As one of America’s first seaside resorts, Coney Island has attracted adventurous visitors and undergone multiple transformations, inspiring photographers since the mid-nineteenth century. Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection features forty-two images that celebrate the people and places that make up Coney Island. The earliest works, taken by photographers such as George Bradford Brainerd and Irving Underhill, document the resort from the post-Civil War period through the turn of the twentieth century. Later artists such as Harry Lapow and Stephen Salmieri have photographed the many personalities that have passed through the site.

The photographers included in this exhibition are George Bradford Brainerd, Lynn Hyman Butler, Anita Chernewski, Victor Friedman, Kim Iacono, Sidney Kerner, Harry Lapow, Nathan Lerner, Jack Lessinger, H.S. Lewis, John L. Murphy, Ben Ross, Stephen Salmieri, Edgar S. Thomson, Arthur Tress, Irving Underhill, Breading G. Way, Eugene Wemlinger, and Harvey R. Zipkin. Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection is organized by Connie H. Choi, Assistant Curator of American Art, Brooklyn Museum. It is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008.

Text from the Brooklyn Museum website

 

Morris Engel (American, 1918–2005). 'Coney Island Embrace, New York City' 1938

 

Morris Engel (American, 1918-2005)
Coney Island Embrace, New York City
1938
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 x 11 1/2 inches
Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive, New York
© Morris Engel

 

Morris Engel (American, 1918-2005) 'Mother with Children' 1938

 

Morris Engel (American, 1918-2005)
Mother with Children
1938
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive, New York

 

Nieman Studios, Inc., Chicago. 'Shackles the Great' 1940

 

Nieman Studios, Inc., Chicago
Shackles the Great
1940
Sideshow banner
118 x 108 inches
Collection of Ken Harck

 

'Quito, Human Octopus' 1940

 

Quito, Human Octopus
1940
Sideshow banner
140 x 117 inches
Collection of Ken Harck

 

Anon. 'Steeplechase Funny Face' nd

 

Steeplechase Funny Face
Nd
Painted metal
23 inches
Collection of Ken Harck

 

Henry Koerner (America, born Austria, 1915–1991). 'The Barker’s Booth' 1948–49

 

Henry Koerner (America, born Austria, 1915-1991)
The Barker’s Booth
1948-49
Oil on Masonite
26 x 40 ½ in. (66 x 102.9 cm)
Collection of Alice A. Grossman

 

George Tooker. 'Coney Island' 1948

 

George Tooker
Coney Island
1948
Egg tempera on gesso panel
19 1/4 x 26 1/4 inches
Curtis Galleries, Minneapolis

 

George Tooker’s thought-provoking “Coney Island” places traditional beach goers in a Pietà tableau.

 

Arthur Fellig (Weegee) 'Coney Island' 1940

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig)
Coney Island Beach
1940
Gelatin silver print
8 1/8 x 10 inches
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987

 

 

Looking at Weegee’s photograph, it is easy to be carried away with longing for what seems like a simpler and happier time. Undoubtedly, the picture’s sense of naïve jubilation was part of its appeal for Red Grooms, who essentially copied the image in paint for Weegee 1940 (1998-99). And yet, like much at Coney Island, Weegee’s photograph is an illusion. Taken when Europe was already at war and the Depression had not yet ended, its merriment was only a momentary respite.

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

Unknown artist. 'Modern Venus of 1947' Coney Island, 1947

 

Unknown artist
Modern Venus of 1947
Coney Island, 1947
Gelatin silver photograph
10 3/4 x 13 7/8 in. (27.3 x 35.2 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection
Photo: Christine Gant, Brooklyn Museum

 

Unknown artist. 'Modern Venus of 1947, Coney Island, 1947' (detail)

 

Unknown artist
Modern Venus of 1947 (detail)
Coney Island, 1947
Gelatin silver photograph
10 3/4 x 13 7/8 in. (27.3 x 35.2 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection
Photo: Christine Gant, Brooklyn Museum

 

Homer Page (American, 1918–1985). 'Coney Island' July 30, 1949

 

Homer Page (American, 1918-1985)
Coney Island
July 30, 1949
Gelatin silver print
11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Gift of the Hall Family Foundation
© Homer Page
Photo: John Lamberton

 

Morris Engel. 'Little Fugitive', production still, 1953

 

Morris Engel (American, 1918-2005)
Under the Boardwalk, Coney Island [Production still from Little Fugitive]
1953
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive, New York

 

 

Raymond Abrashkin (as “Ray Ashley”), Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin (directors)
Little Fugitive
1953

 

Joey, a young boy, runs away to Coney Island after he is tricked into believing he has killed his older brother. Joey collects glass bottles and turns them into money, which he uses to ride the rides.

Little Fugitive (1953), one of the most beautiful films featured in the exhibition, conveys the feeling of moving through the enormous crowds in Weegee’s photographThe creation of two master still photographers, Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, and writer Ray Ashley, the film tells the story of Joey, a seven-year-old boy who runs away to Coney Island. But if Joey initially exalts in the freedom of being lost in the crowd, he feels abandoned when the amusement park closes down. Robert Frank’s photograph from the same year of a man asleep on a deserted beach with the Parachute Tower at his back [see below] echoes the film’s invocation of the resort’s fleeting joys. When Coney Island empties out it reveals the superficiality and pathos of the fantasies it evokes. In 1894, even before the big amusement parks were built, Stephen Crane mused about how in winter the “mammoth” hotels became “gaunt and hollow, impassively and stolidly suffering from an enormous hunger for the public.” (Stephen Crane, “Coney Island’s Failing Days,” in A Coney Island Reader, p. 69).”

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

 

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

 

Installation of views of the exhibition Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 at the Brooklyn Museum, New York

 

Cyclops Head from Spook-A-Rama
c. 1955
Mixed media
60 x 47 x 42 inches
The Vourderis Family. Deno’s Wonder Wheel

 

Garry Winogrand. 'Coney Island, New York City, N.Y.,' 1952

 

Garry Winogrand
Coney Island, New York City, N.Y.,
1952
Silver bromide
8 1/2 x 13 inches
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn. Gift of Barbara and James L. Melcher

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Two Youths, Coney Island'From the series 'Brooklyn Gang, 1958' print c. 1965

 

Bruce Davidson
Untitled (Cathy and Cigarette Machine), from the series Brooklyn Gang 1959, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/8 x 12 5/8; sheet: 11 x 14 inches
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn. The Heinz Family Fund

 

Diane Arbus. ‘The House of Horrors’ 1961

 

Diane Arbus
The House of Horrors
1961
Gelatin silver print
14 1/2 x 14 inches
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

“As its carnival rides and sideshows became increasingly dated in the 1960s, Coney Island was unable to maintain even the phony thrills that Miller derided in the 1930s. In Diane Arbus’s The House of Horrors (1961)the fake skeleton and the cartoon ape mask aren’t as scary as the ride’s sorry state and the impression that something terrible has driven all the people away. (The 1970 low-budget slasher film Carnival of Blood, not included in the exhibition, brilliantly uses this seediness to create a sense of uncanny doom.) In Arnold Mesches’s painting Anomie 1991: Winged Victory (1991), the creaky rides mingle with images of war, turning dreamland into an apocalyptic nightmare.”

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

Diane Arbus. 'Couple Arguing, Coney Island, N.Y.,' 1960

 

Diane Arbus
Couple Arguing, Coney Island, N.Y.,
1960
Vintage gelatin silver print
8 1/2 x 6 5/8 inches [image]; 14 x 11 inches [sheet]
Collection Thomas H. Lee and Ann Tenenbaum

 

Robert Frank. ‘Coney Island' 4th of July, 1958

 

Robert Frank
Coney Island
July 4, 1958
15 5/8 x 11 9/16 inches
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Robert Frank Collection. Gift of the Richard Florsheim Art Fund and an Anonymous Donor

 

Frank Stella (American, born 1936). 'Coney Island' 1958

 

Frank Stella (American, born 1936)
Coney Island
1958
Oil on canvas
85 1/4 x 78 3/4 inches
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn. Gift of Larom B. Munson, B.A. 1951

 

Harry Lapow (American, 1909–1982). 'Untitled (Buried Alive)' c. 1960s or 1970s

 

Harry Lapow (American, 1909-1982)
Untitled (Buried Alive)
c. 1960s or 1970s
Gelatin silver photograph
12 1/8 x 9 1/16 in. (30.8 x 23 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the artist
© Estate of Harry Lapow
Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum

 

 

Harry Lapow began frequenting Coney Island to capture quirks of the beach and boardwalk after receiving a Ciroflex camera on his forty-third birthday. He was intrigued by the camera’s ability to isolate details and fleeting moments of everyday life. Here, a toddler’s crossed legs appear above the head of a buried woman whose eyes are covered by a floral towel. In cropping this beach sighting, Lapow crafts a surprising juxtaposition, forming an unlikely dynamic between the lively child and the masked adult.

 

Bruce Davidson. 'Untitled' July 4, 1962

 

Bruce Davidson
Untitled
July 4, 1962
Gelatin silver print
11 x 14 inches
Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Stephen Salmieri (American, born 1945). 'Coney Island' 1971

 

Stephen Salmieri (American, born 1945)
Coney Island
1971
Gelatin silver photograph
8 x 10 1/8 in. (20.3 x 25.7 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Edward Klein
© Stephen Salmieri
Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum

 

Harvey Stein (American, born 1941). 'The Hug: Closed Eyes and Smile' 1982

 

Harvey Stein (American, born 1941)
The Hug: Closed Eyes and Smile
1982
Digital, inkjet archival print
13 x 19 in. (33 x 48.3 cm)
Collection of the artist
© Harvey Stein, 2011

 

Red Grooms (American, born 1937). 'Weegee 1940' 1998-99

 

Red Grooms (American, born 1937)
Weegee 1940
1998-99
Acrylic on paper
56 1/8 x 62 in. (142.6 x 157.5 cm)
Private Collection
Photo: Courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, New York
© 2013 Red Grooms/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Arnold Mesches (American, born 1923). 'Anomie 1991: Winged Victory' 1991

 

Arnold Mesches (American, born 1923)
Anomie 1991: Winged Victory
1991
Acrylic on canvas
92 x 135 in. (233.7 x 342.9 cm)
The San Diego Museum of Art; Museum purchase with partial funding from the Richard Florsheim Art Fund
© 2013 Arnold Mesches

 

Daze (American, born 1962). 'Coney Island Pier' 1995

 

Daze (American, born 1962)
Coney Island Pier
1995
Oil on canvas
60 x 80 in. (152.4 x 203.2 cm)
Collection of the artist

 

Daze (American, born 1962). 'Kiddlyand Spirits' 1995

 

Daze (American, born 1962)
Kiddyland Spirits
1995
Oil on canvas
42 x 71 inches
Collection of the artist

 

'Requiem for a Dream', production still, directed by Darren Aronofsky, 2000

 

Requiem for a Dream, production still, directed by Darren Aronofsky, 2000

 

Marie Roberts (American, born 1954). 'A Congress of Curious Peoples' 2005

 

Marie Roberts (American, born 1954)
A Congress of Curious Peoples
2005
Acrylic on unstretched canvas
84 x 120 in. (213.4 x 304.8 cm)
Collection of Liz and Marc Hartzman

 

Swoon. 'Coney, Early Evening' 2005

 

Swoon
Coney, Early Evening
2005
Linoleum print on Mylar
Variable; overall: 213 x 39 x 113 inches
Brooklyn Museum. Healy Purchase Fund B, Emily Winthrop Miles Fund, and Designated Purchase Fund

 

Swoon’s “Coney, Early Evening” suspends youthful figures intertwined throughout the iconic tracks of a Coney Island roller coaster.

 

Frederick Brosen (American, born 1954). 'Fortune Teller, Jones Walk, Coney Island' 2008

 

Frederick Brosen (American, born 1954)
Fortune Teller, Jones Walk, Coney Island
2008
Watercolor over graphite on paper
17 7/8 x 11 ¼ in. (45.4 x 28.6 cm)
Courtesy of Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York
© 2013 Frederick Brosen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo: Joshua Nefsky, courtesy of Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York

 

 

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20
Dec
15

Exhibition: ‘Art AIDS America’ at Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma

Exhibition dates: 3rd October 2015 – 10th January 2016

 

 

This is the biggest exhibition on art relating to HIV/AIDS since the seminal exhibition Art in the Age of AIDS at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra in 1995, which I was a part of.

I was lucky to survive the initial wave of HIV/AIDS infections. The Centers for Disease Control issued its first statement about a cluster of 19 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer most common in elderly men from southern Italy) and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in young, gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in July 1981… and I had my first HIV test in London in 1983. In those days, as the wall text from the exhibition spells out below, you had to wait 16 days to get the result of a blood test. I vividly remember sitting outside a doctor’s office knowing that when I went in, if he said yes you have it, it was a death sentence. In those early days, there was no treatment. You were going to die. I only survived by luck. Many of my friends and lovers didn’t.

“Art reflects and reacts to social, cultural, and political climates, and in the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS has been a constant presence,” says exhibition co-curator Rock Hushka. “So many of us recall friends, family, and partners we have lost and the terror of the early years of the crisis, while younger people are just learning this story. We seek to create a deeper understanding of the legacy of HIV/AIDS in contemporary American art, and encourage our visitors to see their experiences in these works.”

This deep understanding can be supplemented by this posting. I spent many hours securing more images than were sent to me in the press pack, because I think it is really important to have as great a cross-section as possible of work online from this exhibition, as a record of this time and space in the ongoing HIV/AIDS story. At present, there is no website for the 1995 exhibition Art in the Age of AIDS but I am hoping to correct this in the near future, with installation images, art work, interviews and videos.

In terms of the art, I find the earlier narratives are much more powerful and focused than the contemporary work. One of the most moving of these, and one that I have never seen before, is Keith Haring’s Altar Piece (1990, cast 1996, below). Can you imagine being an artist, being Haring, working on the wax mould in hospital being treated for AIDS-related illness, thinking that this could possibly be the last art work that you would ever complete. That you would never see it produced. And then to make something that is so compassionate, so beautiful that it is almost beyond belief… my heart is full of admiration and, like the crowd in the triptych, I am washed with tears.

By comparison, some of the contemporary works seem to have become mere graphic symbolism (leaves, milk and flowers) rather than engaging activism. For example, Tino Rodriguez’s Eternal Lovers (2010, below) – while referencing his Mexican heritage through skull imagery from Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead – is not about loss with presence but loss without presence: a febrile graphic activity that is pure decoration. Other works such as Derek Jackson’s Perfect Kiss (2007, below) or LADZ’s Eden #31 (2012, below) enact only the most tenuous link to HIV/AIDS and only when it is spelled out in text. Again, while not denying the pain of the death of her mother, her persecution when growing up or the problems with living with HIV, Kia Labeija’s 24 (Mourning Sickness; Kia and Mommy; In my room) (2014, below) propositions us with a women photographed in deadpan photography style as glamorous mother with vivid pink lipstick or a Beyonce music star in sequin dress and 6 inch heels. Only in the last photograph is there any hint of vulnerability and, funnily enough, it is the only photograph that I care about and engage with.

In all of these works the key word is enact, for these works are performances of gender and sexuality conceptualised for the viewer, where living with HIV/AIDS is shown to us at a distance. Instead of ACTing up, unleashing the power of the oppressed, artists are now acting out in this (supposed) post-death HIV/AIDS climate. Look at me, I can be whoever I want to be (and still have HIV). Nothing wrong with that I hear you say, and you would be completely right… if only the art commenting on this post-death resurrection of the author, was memorable.

While 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection in the USA and an estimated 47, 352 people were diagnosed with the disease in 2013, people are still dying by the thousands in America (an estimated 13,712 people died in 2012 of an AIDS related disease – source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website). This is not pretty pink lipstick and sequin dresses, this is 13 thousand people a year still DYING from this disease.

Just think about that for a while.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to the Tacoma Art Museum, Mark I. Chester and Steven Miller for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Did You Know?

 

Art AIDS America at Tacoma Art Museum from Tacoma Art Museum on Vimeo.

 

 

Art AIDS America aims to abolish the silence about the pervasive presence of HIV/AIDS in American art and open meaningful and respectful dialogues about our experiences with the ongoing epidemic. For too long, we have considered art about AIDS as a tragic, closed chapter in the history of American art. This exhibition demonstrates the deep and continued impact of the AIDS crisis on American art from the early 1980s and continuing to today.

For more than thirty years, artists have actively responded with exquisite sensitivity to HIV/AIDS. They have adopted a broad spectrum of styles and messages from politically activist to quietly mournful art that nonetheless thrums with political content. Through poignant portraits, some artists brought much needed attention to personal suffering and loss from the AIDS crisis. Others employed abstraction and coded imagery to reveal the social and political factors that exacerbated the spread of HIV/AIDS. Artists also widely appropriated various art historical traditions to speak about the devastating impact of the epidemic. Art AIDS America offers an overview of how these various approaches redirected the course of American art from postmodern “art for art’s sake” formulas to art practice that highlights the personal experience and expertise of the artist.

Since the first reports of mysterious illnesses in the early 1980s, HIV and AIDS have touched nearly every American in some way, and operated as an undeniable (though often unacknowledged) force in shaping politics, medicine, and culture. Art AIDS America presents the full spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful. HIV and AIDS are not just past-tense problems. As we persist in the struggle with HIV/AIDS, these artworks remind us of humanity’s resilience, responsibility, and history. The legacy of the AIDS crisis and our new relationships with the virus continue to inform contemporary art and American culture.

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987–1995), Let the Record Show… 1987/recreated 2015.

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995)
Let the Record Show…
1987/recreated 2015
Mixed media installation, dimensions variable
Courtesy of Gran Fury and the New Museum, New York
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

 

In 1987, the New Museum’s curator William Olander invited ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to create a work about AIDS. ACT UP, a diverse, nonpartisan, grassroots organization, responded with Let the Record Show… providing information about the crisis.

At the time, the only visual presence of AIDS activism was the Silence=Death stickers. Let the Record Show… recreated here in full for the first time, included an LED reader board with statistics about the unfolding medical and political crisis, the neon pink triangle with “Silence=Death,” a photomural from the Nuremberg trials, and photographs of contemporary public figures with their statements about AIDS.

Using the 1986 graphics from the Silence=Death Project, ACT UP appropriated the pink triangle from the badges assigned to gay prisoners in Nazi Germany during World War II. The artists combined this historic symbol of powerlessness along with the photomural of the Nuremberg courtroom to make an explicit comparison between the severity of the AIDS crisis and government inaction and the Holocaust. The complicated installation asked whether simple silence in a crisis is as culpable as actively encouraging one. The anonymous collective Gran Fury formed as a committee of ACT UP, as a result of Olander’s invitation. Gran Fury continued to make provocative and important works about the AIDS crisis.

For the installation of Let the Record Show… at the New Museum, quotes were cast in concrete under the photograph of the irresponsible speaker:

 

“The logical outcome of testing is a quarantine of those infected.”

Jesse Helms, U.S. Senator

“It is patriotic to have the AIDS test and be negative.”

Cory Servass, Presidential AIDS Commission

“We used to hate faggots on an emotional basis. Now we have a good reason.”

Anonymous Surgeon

“AIDS is God’s judgment of a society that does not live by His rules.”

Jerry Falwell, Televangelist

“Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm to protect common needle users, and on the buttocks to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.”

William F. Buckley, Columnist

” …”

Ronald Reagan, President of the United States

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995) 'Let the Record Show…' (detail) 1987/recreated 2015

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995)
Let the Record Show… (detail)
1987/recreated 2015
Mixed media installation, dimensions variable
Courtesy of Gran Fury and the New Museum, New York
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

Carrie Yamaoka (Born Glen Cove, New York, 1957) 'Steal This Book #2' 1991

 

Carrie Yamaoka (Born Glen Cove, New York, 1957)
Steal This Book #2
1991
Unique chemically altered gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist

 

Carrie Yamaoka takes inspiration from Abbie Hoffman’s iconic Steal This Book, a counterculture manual for social revolution. By photographing a page spread and then obliterating all of the words except “slaughter” and “history,” Yamaoka rejects any passive understanding of history. As an activist and artist, Yamaoka will use any means necessary to affect change. Steal This Book #2 may be considered as referring to Yamaoka’s experience as an AIDS activist and her desire to reshape our understanding of our relations with HIV.

 

Jerome Caja (Born Cleveland, Ohio, 1958; Died San Francisco, California, 1995) 'Bozo Fucks Death' 1988

 

Jerome Caja (Born Cleveland, Ohio, 1958; Died San Francisco, California, 1995)
Bozo Fucks Death
1988
Nail polish on plastic tray
Collection of Ed Frank and Sarah Ratchye

 

One of Jerome Caja’s alter egos was the clown Bozo. Here Caja aggressively turns the tables on death and seeks to gain some control and power over the inevitable, even if only a transgressive, psychological fantasy.

 

Niki de Saint Phalle (born 1930, died 2002) 'AIDS, you can't catch it holding hands' 1987

 

Niki de Saint Phalle (born 1930, died 2002)
AIDS, you can’t catch it holding hands
1987
Book, 52 pages 8 × 10 inches
The Lapis Press, San Francisco
© 2015 Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved / ARS, NY / ADAGP, Paris

 

Working with collaborator Professor Silvio Barandun, Niki de Saint Phalle wrote and illustrated AIDS: You Can’t Catch It Holding Hands for young adults. Using her characteristically colorful and joyous style, de Saint Phalle offers unusually straightforward information about the transmission of HIV from unprotected sex and unclean needles in intravenous drug use. She also uses the same frank approach to assuring her readers that casual contact from flowers, doorknobs, and toilet seats does not transmit AIDS, notions that were not widely understood in the early years of the AIDS crisis.

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950) 'Untitled (In a Dream You Saw a Way To Survive and You Were Full of Joy)' 1983-85

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950)
Untitled (In a Dream You Saw a Way To Survive and You Were Full of Joy)
1983-85
Packaged latex condoms with printed text, each is 2 x 2 inches
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Anonymous gift, 2001

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950) 'Untitled (Expiring for Love Is Beautiful but Stupid)' 1983-85

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950)
Untitled (Expiring for Love Is Beautiful but Stupid)
1983-85
Packaged latex condoms with printed text, each is 2 x 2 inches
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Anonymous gift, 2001

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990) 'Apocalypse I' 1988

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990)
Apocalypse I
1988
From the series Apocalypse, 1988
Silkscreen, Edition of 90
Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation

 

In their first collaboration, Keith Haring illustrated William S. Burroughs’ dystopic poem Apocalypse by mixing references to advertising, art history, and Catholic theology. Haring included his “devil sperm,” the black, horned symbol he created to give shape to HIV and its reign of death and terror.

Burroughs introduced the chaos unfolding:

“The final Apocalypse is when every man sees what he sees, feels what he feels, and hears what he hears. The creatures of all your dreams and nightmares are right here, right now, solid as they ever were or ever will be, electric vitality of careening subways faster faster faster stations flash by in a blur.”

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990) 'Apocalypse III' 1988

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990)
Apocalypse III
1988
From the series Apocalypse, 1988
Silkscreen, Edition of 90
Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation

 

 

Grassroots Activism

Artists provided the early warnings of the AIDS crisis with their artworks deployed at the street level. Posters, stickers, T-shirts and other projects made it impossible to ignore messages about AIDS. These activist artists were informed by earlier precedents of feminist art and artists working on issues of identity politics. Communities coalesced around the calls to action.

The most prominent group to address the AIDS crisis was the anonymous artist collective Gran Fury in New York, a committee of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). The collective used techniques and ideas from advertising, marketing, and the art world to raise awareness and affect political change. Their bold graphic style and refined text continues to influence politically-themed art.

Gran Fury and other activists changed how Americans thought about AIDS. The political and social pressure instigated by their actions and artworks played important roles in changing the approval process for AIDS drugs and treatment protocols. Women’s health issues were brought to the forefront. As a result, American society positively changed their opinions about HIV/AIDS when they had correct information.

 

Memento Mori

The AIDS crisis compelled contemporary American artists to address death with urgency. Artists witnessed a plague sweep through their communities and wipe out their friends, colleagues, and lovers. They used art to express their rage and terror when AIDS had no effective treatment. Their artwork provided a vitally important way to mourn their losses and share their sorrow.

Artists looked back to European and American artistic traditions of memento mori, Latin for “Remember that you must die,” to share their experiences, feelings, and stories. They adapted symbols like skulls and flowers to depict the fragility and fleeting nature of life.

Artists in this section shifted the intent of memento mori away from concepts of death and the afterlife. They refocused on the preciousness and precariousness of life, without forgetting the political and social realities behind the massive wave of death. Nayland Blake’s clock marks the passing of so many individuals with a call to action. David Wojnarowicz rages against the senseless death of Peter Hujar. Bill Jacobson and Karen Finley give form to the fragility of memory. Latino folk traditions connect the living and the dead in the paintings of Tino Rodriguez and Thomas Woodruff.

 

Poetic Postmodernism

In the early 1980s, American art was dominated by a new, postmodern theory. It held that meaning belongs not to the artist who made the work but to their audiences who interpret the works. Called “the death of the author,” the theory was named after a 1967 essay by the French postmodernist thinker Roland Barthes.

As AIDS actually caused the death of thousands of authors and artists by the late 1980s, this metaphor became a terrifying reality. At the same time, a powerful Christian conservative movement aggressively politicized AIDS. Using homophobia and fear of the disease, these politicians passed Federal laws that made it illegal to “promote, encourage, or condone homosexual sexual activities or the intravenous use of illegal drugs” in an AIDS awareness and education bill.

The ramifications for artists and art exhibitions were equally prohibitive. Federal laws were passed that made it impossible for museums to receive government support if an exhibition included obscene content, which was understood to mean gay themes among others, including AIDS-specific art. In this climate, artists knew that overt political content would result in censorship. So they developed a new way to smuggle political meaning into art.

In his research for Art AIDS America, Jonathan David Katz named this new approach “poetic postmodernism.” Artists used the postmodern theory “death of the author” to camouflage their own personal, expressive meanings. Many of the works in this exhibition have the same title format, the word “untitled” followed by a more specific description in parentheses such as in “Untitled” (Water), Untitled (Hujar Dead), or Untitled (Corrupt HIV Activism). The first term, “untitled,” signals the prevailing postmodernist idea that all meanings come from the audience. But the phrase inside the parentheses reveals clues to the artist’s associations and intentions. Because recognition of AIDS content was a product of the viewer’s thought and not the artist’s explicit claim, such works could be shown in museums without fear of being censored under the new laws.

 

Andres Serrano (Born New York, New York, 1950) 'Milk/Blood' 1989, printed 2015

 

Andres Serrano (Born New York, New York, 1950)
Milk/Blood
1989, printed 2015
Chromogenic color print
Exhibition print
Courtesy of the artist

 

Milk/Blood recall the pure, flat color of hard edged abstract painters such as Ellsworth Kelly. But the simple saturated color fields in Serrano’s photograph bear the evocative title Milk/Blood, the two main body fluids that transmit HIV. Serrano appropriates the formal language of modernism for political purposes, a means of potentially slipping AIDS consciousness into a museum context without fear of exclusion or censure. As with HIV infection itself, the photograph underscores how our key sense, vision, is unreliable in the face of AIDS.

 

Andres Serrano (born 1950) 'Blood and Semen III' 1990

 

Andres Serrano (born 1950)
Blood and Semen III
1990
Chromogenic color print, edition 1 of 4
40 × 60 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

Like his Milk/Blood in this exhibition, Blood and Semen III also appears to be a rigorously formal composition, this time evoking the gestural appearance of an abstract expressionist painting. Again, the title references two body fluids that transmit HIV. As examples of poetic postmodernism, Serrano activates meaning in Blood and Semen III and Milk/Blood using formal arrangements and references to earlier artistic styles to inform his photographs with personal and potentially political content.

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957) 'Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)' 1998

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957)
Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)
1998
Ektacolor photograph, edition 1 of 3
32 × 38¾ inches
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957) 'Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)' (detail) 1998

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957)
Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.) (detail)
1998
Ektacolor photograph, edition 1 of 3
32 × 38¾ inches
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

After an extensive period working in Europe memorializing the Holocaust, Shimon Attie returned to San Francisco in 1996 and began his series Untitled Memory. Attie projected old photographs of his friends and lovers onto places with special meaning to him, including this room of a former apartment. His photographs of these projections became personal studies of loss and melancholy.

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) 'Untitled (Hujar Dead)' 1988-89

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992)
Untitled (Hujar Dead)
1988-89
Black and white photograph, acrylic, text and collage on Massonite
Collect of Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol
Courtesy Second Ward Foundation

 

Wojnarowicz was briefly lovers with and then became a close friend of the famous photographer Peter Hujar, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1987. Untitled (Hujar Dead) incorporates still images from a film by Wojnarowicz of Hujar’s lifeless body on his hospital bed. Wojnarowicz then overprinted the text of one of his famous “rants.” In these politically-charged performances and texts, he laid blame for the AIDS crisis squarely on the conservative right-wing demagogues who politicised the disease and continually spewed homophobic rhetoric which only exacerbated the crisis.

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965) 'Eternal Lovers' 2010

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965)
Eternal Lovers
2010
Oil on wood
Private collection

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965) 'Eternal Lovers' 2010 (detail)

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965)
Eternal Lovers (detail)
2010
Oil on wood
Private collection

 

Tino Rodriguez’s Eternal Lovers incorporates aspects of his Mexican heritage, and especially the tradition of skull imagery from Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. This family-oriented celebration of ancestors brings the living and dead into affectionate proximity. Rodriguez here exuberantly conflates familiar American oppositions such as death and life, growth and decay, and even good and evil. Inherently androgynous, the gender of the skulls remains unknown as does their cause of death. But as in the Dia de los Muertos celebration itself, Rodriguez’s image supplants horror with humor and loss with presence, offering the triumph of love and memory over death in the age of AIDS.

 

David Wojnarowicz (Born Red Bank, New Jersey, 1954; Died New York, New York, 1992) 'Untitled (Buffalo)' 1988-89

 

David Wojnarowicz (Born Red Bank, New Jersey, 1954; Died New York, New York, 1992)
Untitled (Buffalo)
1988-89
Vintage gelatin silver print, signed on verso
Collection of Michael Sodomick

 

For Untitled (Buffalo), David Wojnarowicz simply photographed a diorama in a museum in Washington, DC. This image of buffalo being herded off a cliff served as a chilling metaphor of the politics of AIDS in the US in the late 1980s. Rather than an illustration of traditional Native American hunting techniques, Wojnarowicz eloquently expressed his rage, desperation, and helplessness through the great symbol of American identity. His shifting and layering of meaning onto this symbol is a classic example of poetic postmodernism.

One example of how artists hid their message is David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (Buffalo). It’s a diorama of a buffalo fall, a traditional method of harvesting large numbers of buffalo by chasing herds off cliffs. The buffalo are made from plastic. Wojnarowicz photographed the diorama and cropped it. “This is appropriation,” Hushka said. “He used it as this extraordinarily eloquent cry about the state of American politics at the time.” Katz added, “It’s telling that even an artist of Wojnarowicz’s activist fervor engaged in a metaphor that only cohered in the mind’s eye. You needed to be attentive to what it might be saying to read it. There’s nothing specifically AIDS about it.”

 

 

Spiritual Forces

Because of the overwhelming number of deaths, the unspeakable losses, and the constant presence of disease, it should not be surprising that artists also turned to issues of spirituality. Yet, the art history of AIDS often neglects this important aspect. Across the United States, faith communities tended to the spiritual needs of people with AIDS and provided critical services for them. These communities continue to support people living with HIV.

The AIDS crisis exposed deep division within many spiritual traditions. Artists such as Jerome Caja, Robert Gober, and Barbara Kruger expressed discomfort and displeasure in how some religious ideologies oppressed gays and lesbians and worsened the AIDS crisis. Others made inspiring works within long-established traditions like Keith Haring’s altar piece. In other artworks, artists created symbols for the dignity of people suffering from AIDS, ranging from Christian saints and Biblical texts to imagery inspired by Buddhism and healing traditions from India.

 

Keith Haring (born 1958, died 1990) 'Altar Piece' 1990 (cast 1996)

 

Keith Haring (born 1958, died 1990)
Altar Piece
1990 (cast 1996)
Bronze with white gold leaf patina, edition 2 of 9
60 × 81 x 2 inches
Denver Art Museum, Gift of Yoko Ono, 1996.204A-C.
© Keith Haring Foundation
Photo © Denver Art Museum

 

This altar piece by Keith Haring is the last work the artist completed. He worked on the wax mold while he was hospitalized for AIDS-related illnesses. The triptych format echoes traditional Roman Catholic altar pieces. The image of the crying mother holding an infant speaks to the inconsolable losses from AIDS. The mother’s tears fall on the crowds, seeking solace and mercy from the AIDS epidemic.

 

Barbara Kruger (Born Newark, New Jersey, 1945) 'Untitled (It's our pleasure to disgust you)' 1991

 

Barbara Kruger (Born Newark, New Jersey, 1945)
Untitled (It’s our pleasure to disgust you)
1991
Photographic silkscreen on vinyl
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Gift of Eric and Nannette Brill

 

Despite provocative imagery and text, Barbara Kruger intends no specific meaning to her artworks. Rather, Kruger wants to demonstrate how the reader generates meaning each time the text is read. She activates ambiguity and political charge with the phrase “It’s our pleasure to disgust you.” Kruger underscores the gulf between and image and its possible meanings, an issue brought into high relief in the culture wars promoted by religious conservatives, during the period when this work was made.

The work may be interpreted as evidence that artists like Kruger were deliberately insensitive to cultural norms. Alternatively, it could be read as proof that artworks were deliberately manipulated for political purpose by others. Because AIDS was framed in political terms from its earliest moment, Kruger’s Untitled (It’s our pleasure to disgust you) reflects the complexity and deliberate uses of language about AIDS.

 

Robert Gober (Born Wallingford, Connecticut, 1954) 'Drains' 1990

 

Robert Gober (Born Wallingford, Connecticut, 1954)
Drains
1990
Cast pewter Edition of 8, with 2 artist’s proofs, artist’s proof 1 of 2
Collection of the artist

 

Robert Gober’s Drains is meticulously handcrafted to resemble a mass-produced consumer good. Because we think about drains primarily as a tool to remove waste often associated with personal hygiene and cleaning, connections to HIV/AIDS are obvious. By placing the sculpture in an unexpected position on a gallery wall, Gober seeks to generate unanswerable, metaphorical questions about the functions of a drain and the unknown space behind it. The cruciform shape at the back of the drain recalls his childhood and his complicated relationship with Catholicism.

 

Izhar Patkin (Born Haifa, Israel, 1955) 'Unveiling of a Modern Chastity' 1981

 

Izhar Patkin (Born Haifa, Israel, 1955)
Unveiling of a Modern Chastity
1981
Rubber paste, latex theatrical wounds, and
printing ink on a stretched linen canvas
Courtesy of the artist

 

Izhar Patkin painted Unveiling of a Modern Chastity one year before there was any public announcement about a new disease striking formerly healthy young men. This is the earliest work in the exhibition, and, in retrospect, one of the earliest AIDS paintings ever. Troubled by the sight of a group of such young men with similar dark purple skin lesions waiting in his dermatologist’s office, he presciently titled the work to reflect what he felt might be a forthcoming change in sexual culture. The painting’s skin-like surface erupts in what looks like Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions.

Patkin’s heavily textured surface and use of artificial wounds was his effort to destroy minimalism and other traditions of pure abstraction. He wanted to expose the inability of modernist art to contain pressing social and contextual significance.

DID YOU KNOW? The Centers for Disease Control issued its first statement about a cluster of 19 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer most common in elderly men from southern Italy) and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in young, gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in July 1981.

 

Albert J. Winn (born 1947, died 2014) 'Akedah' 1995

 

Albert J. Winn (born 1947, died 2014)
Akedah
1995
Gelatin silver print
171/2 × 21 ¾ inches
Courtesy of Scott R. Portnoff
Photo courtesy of the Estate of Albert J. Winn

 

In the artist’s own words: “Every month, because of my illness, I need to undergo a blood test. During the process, a tourniquet is bound tightly about my upper arm. At times when I’ve been on a study protocol for an experimental medicine, I’ve had my blood drawn every day. Having my blood drawn has become a ritual in what sometimes seems is a new religious practice, an AIDS ritual.

“Over time, I’ve transformed this ritual in relation to my Judaism. I wonder if like Isaac, I am being sacrificed. This time to science. I pray that an angel will intercede and spare my life. When my arm is bound with a tourniquet and the veins bulge, I am reminded that I am bound to my illness. I look at the rubber strap and see tefillin. Sometimes the impression of the leather straps from the tefillin are still visible on my skin by the time the tourniquet is wrapped around my arm. The binding of the tefillin is a reminder of being bound to my heritage. The straps also make my veins bulge. Except for the needle stick the binding feels the same.”

 

 

Art AIDS America at the Tacoma Art Museum

Politics, sex, religion, loss, and beauty – all of the topics that you can’t talk about over dinner but can at a museum – are open for discussion in Art AIDS America, an exhibition that reveals for the first time how the AIDS crisis forever changed American art. Since the first reports of mysterious illnesses in the early 1980s, HIV and AIDS have touched nearly every American in some way, and operated as an undeniable (though often unacknowledged) force in shaping politics, medicine, and culture. Art AIDS America presents the full spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful.

Art AIDS America is a story of resilience and beauty revealed through art, and the community that gathered to bring hope and change. While recognizing and honoring loss and grief, it refutes the narrative that AIDS is only a tragic tangent in American art, exploring how artists’ responses to the crisis and its legacy continue to inform contemporary American art. These artworks offer a vibrant representation of community, caring, creativity and activism. And, Art AIDS America will serve as a vivid reminder that the crisis is not over; HIV infections are increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV.

A decade in the making, this exhibition is co-curated by TAM’s Chief Curator, Rock Hushka, and Jonathan D. Katz, PhD, Director, Visual Studies Doctoral Program, University at Buffalo.

“AIDS fundamentally changed American art, remaking its communicative strategies, its market, its emotional pitch and – not least – its political possibilities. But we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in the making of contemporary American culture, as we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in every other aspect of our lives. This exhibition underscores how powerfully a plague that is still with us has changed us,” says Katz. “Art AIDS America creates spaces for mourning and loss, yes, but also for anger and for joy, for political resistance and for humor, for horror, and for eroticism.”

The exhibition assembles 125 significant works in a wide range of media. The artists are diverse, including the internationally acclaimed such as Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Martin Wong, and those not yet as widely celebrated such as Luis Cruz Azaceta, Chloe Dzubilo, Derek Jackson, Kia Labeija, and Joey Terrill. The works date from 1981 to today, and some, like Catherine Opie’s photographs of the 1986 AIDS/ARC vigil in San Francisco, will be on public view for the first time.

“Art reflects and reacts to social, cultural, and political climates, and in the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS has been a constant presence,” says Hushka. “So many of us recall friends, family, and partners we have lost and the terror of the early years of the crisis, while younger people are just learning this story. We seek to create a deeper understanding of the legacy of HIV/AIDS in contemporary American art, and encourage our visitors to see their experiences in these works.”

Works in the exhibition will generally fall into two categories: art with a clear tie to AIDS, and art that requires the viewer to look beyond the surface to understand its connection to HIV/AIDS. Some artists addressed the AIDS crisis through activist works, community projects, graphics, and direct political statements. For example, the collective ACT UP NY/Gran Fury’s installation Let the Record Show… sears the words of public officials whose actions inflamed the crisis, including the silence of President Ronald Reagan, who would not speak publicly about AIDS until 1987. Other artists use camouflage, coding, misdirection, symbols, or other covert strategies to address the social, political, and physical impacts of HIV. An example is Robert Sherer’s beautifully rendered Sweet Williams, a basket of cut flowers, painted in HIV-negative and HIV-positive blood, about the untimely deaths of so many young men. The exhibition will be organized roughly by works created pre- and post-cocktail (in this case, ‘cocktail’ refers to the combination of drugs and therapies used to manage HIV and prevent the development of AIDS).

“Tacoma Art Museum is a safe space where people are able to address important and challenging issues. We are proud to present Art AIDS America. It is fitting that the exhibition debuts in Tacoma, the city that established the nation’s first government-sanctioned needle exchange program in a proactive approach toward controlling the spread of AIDS,” said Stephanie Stebich, TAM’s Executive Director. “TAM also has the scholarship to support this exhibition through our chief curator Rock Hushka and the exhibition’s co-curator Dr. Jonathan D. Katz, who also co-curated the award-winning Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, which we brought to TAM in 2012.”

The Art AIDS America catalogue is a significant component of the exhibition, with 15 contributors, nearly 300 pages, and more than 200 illustrations. It is published in association with the University of Washington Press of Seattle and London and designed by Marquand Books, Seattle. Art AIDS America is organized by TAM in partnership with the Bronx Museum of the Arts and will tour nationally. See it first at TAM, on view October 3, 2015 through January 10, 2016. The exhibition will then travel to Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, GA; and The Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY.”

Press release from the Tacoma Art Museum website

 

Bill Jacobson (born 1955) 'Interim Portrait #373' 1992

 

Bill Jacobson (born 1955)
Interim Portrait #373
1992
Chromogenic color print
24 × 20 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

Alon Reininger (Born Tel Aviv, Israel, 1947) 'Ken Meeks, PWA' 1985

 

Alon Reininger (Born Tel Aviv, Israel, 1947)
Ken Meeks, PWA
1985
Archival pigment print
Courtesy of Contact Press Images, New York

 

Mark I. Chester (Born Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1950) 'Robert Chesley - ks portraits with harddick & superman spandex, #1–#6' 1989, printed 2015

 

Mark I. Chester (Born Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1950)
Robert Chesley – ks portraits with harddick & superman spandex, #1–#6
from the series Diary of a Thought Criminal
1989, printed 2015
Pigment print
Courtesy of the artist

 

Mark I. Chester gives us the first portrait of a sexually active person with AIDS. Robert Chesley (1943-1990) was a playwright, theater critic for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and music composer. Perhaps his most celebrated play was Jerker, or The Helping Hand: A Pornographic Elegy with Redeeming Social Value and a Hymn to the Queer Men of San Francisco in Twenty Telephone Calls, Many of Them Dirty. At a time when many gay men had come to associate their own sexuality with death, the artist showed Chesley as a vibrant, active person with AIDS, intended as a rebuke to the routine AIDS portraits of mortally ill people. With this series, Chester rewrote the late-1980s codes for representing gay male sexuality from sexlessness and death towards a renewed embrace of life and its pleasure.

 

Steven Miller (Born Tucson, Arizona, 1968) 'Robert' from the series 'Milky' 2004

 

Steven Miller (Born Tucson, Arizona, 1968)
Robert from the series Milky
2004
Inkjet print
Edition 2 of 10
Tacoma Art Museum, Museum purchase with funds from Curtis Man

 

For his series Milky, photographer Steven Miller asked his friends if he could photograph them as he poured milk over their heads. These portraits capture the different reactions to the sensation and convey a sense of discomfort from being drenched by fluids like milk. Miller likens these two aspects to a symbolic infection of HIV. For many gay artists of his generation, HIV looms as a constant presence, and body fluids remain deeply ingrained as transmitters of the virus.

 

 

Portraiture

Artists used portraits to directly convey the devastating effects of the crisis on individuals. Even if we do not know the subject, portraits remind us that someone we know was likely affected by AIDS. Because the science about the retrovirus was new and extremely complicated and frightening, such portraits humanized the disease so it could be understood through personal stories.

Early portraits brought attention to the physical symptoms of AIDS such as the deep purple lesions of the skin cancer Kaposi’s sarcoma and the devastating weakness caused by AIDS-related wasting syndrome. Artists soon refocused on portraits of defiant individuals living with HIV. Refusing to show people as victims of an incurable disease, these portraits depicted fighters and survivors.

From pure abstract representations to straightforward photographic likenesses, portraits continue to illuminate how individuals respond to and overcome even the most complex aspects of HIV/AIDS such as stigma, racism, sexism, and poverty.

 

The Legacy of the AIDS Crisis

HIV is no longer an immediate life-or-death issue facing American artists, but one that quietly and continually persists in intriguing ways. The legacy of the AIDS crisis can be traced either through the motifs and influences of earlier artists or by understanding the psychological trauma and challenges that result from living in a world with HIV.

Artworks made after antiretroviral medicines became available in the mid-1990s beg the questions: If HIV is undetectable in a body and all but invisible in society, why should visibility in art be any different? How do you identify HIV if an artist is unwilling to speak about it but doesn’t live a moment of his or her intimate life without being aware of its near-certain presence?

Artists such as John Arsenault, Kalup Linzy, Patte Loper, and Donald Moffett bring their personal histories as activists and care givers into their artwork. They also use their art to express the discomfort and complexities of living in a world with the constant presence of HIV.

Works of art should be read with empathy and compassion to understand the fullness and richness of the artist’s experience. We need to remind ourselves of the stresses, anxieties, fears, and realities caused by the burden of HIV. To honor these artists’ experiences, we must insist that HIV inform at least part of the meaning of their work. This will ensure an understanding of their art as part of an art history of deep social engagement and connection.

 

Julie Tolentino (Born San Francisco, California, 1964) 'THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey's Self-Obliteration #1' 2008

 

Julie Tolentino (Born San Francisco, California, 1964)
THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey’s Self-Obliteration #1
2008
Chromogenic color print
Edition 1 of 5
Documentation courtesy of Leon Mostovoy
Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles

 

These three photographs capture different moments in the archive/performance of THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey’s Self-Obliteration #1. Tolentino first observes Athey’s performance of Self-Obliteration #1 from a nearby platform; then she and Athey repeat the action on separate platforms as a duet. Finally, Tolentino repeats Athey’s Self-Obliteration #1 by herself.

As needles hidden within the performers’ long blond wigs lacerate their scalps, blood streams down their faces and bodies and smears a plane of glass. This forces the performers into unpredictable psychic territory. The HIV status of both perfomers – Athey is HIV-positive and Tolentino is negative – informs the tension between the two performers that runs like a low current throughout the work. The simultaneous flows of blood from the performers quickly conjoins them in a profound act of communion across pain, suffering, memory, and ultimately, an affirmation of life.

 

Catherine Opie (Born Sandusky, Ohio, 1961) 'Ron Athey/The Sick Man (from Deliverance)' 2000

 

Catherine Opie (Born Sandusky, Ohio, 1961)
Ron Athey/The Sick Man (from Deliverance)
2000
Polaroid
Private collection

 

This work by Catherine Opie, taken with the world’s largest polaroid camera, was made in collaboration with the performance artist Ron Athey. Athey achieved both fame and censure as an HIV positive performance artist whose work involved physical and psychic trials, along with, on occasion, blood.

Clearly a response to AIDS, the pose of Ron Athey/The Sick Man recalls the traditional iconography of the Pieta, in which the Virgin Mary supports the body of the dead Christ. Athey is held by his performance partner Darryl Carlton (a.k.a. Divinity Fudge), two heavily tattooed men in place of the holy family. The implications of self-sacrifice and transcendence through pain and suffering animate both the original scene and this more contemporary incarnation. Opie situated the figures in a beautiful, richly saturated black space. She offers a contemporary allegory of the excluded sufferer whose exile and death can be laid at the feet of those who consider themselves pious.

 

Eric Rhein (Born Cincinnati, Ohio, 1961) 'Life Altering Spencer from Leaves' 2013

 

Eric Rhein (Born Cincinnati, Ohio, 1961)
Life Altering Spencer from Leaves
2013
Wire and paper
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
Purchased as the gift of Louis Wiley, Jr. (PA 1963) in Memory of Paul Monette (PA 1963) and his partner Roger Horwitz

 

Eric Rhein began The Leaf Project in 1996 to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS and chose to memorialize his friends who had died of AIDS-related causes. He selected the leaf motif to honor the individuality of each person, while also evoking the countless leaves shed by trees in autumn. Life Altering Spencer honors AIDS activist Spencer Cox (1968-2012), a member of ACT UP, Treatment Action Group, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Anti-Viral Advisory Committee. In this capacity, Cox and others became experts on drug trials and approval, successfully lobbying to hasten the approval time for new HIV medications. Cox and his group thus changed the course of medicine in America – the first non-physicians to do so – and, not coincidentally, these new treatments saved the life of artist Eric Rhein.

 

fierce pussy (formed New York, New York, 1991) 'For the Record' 2013

 

fierce pussy (formed New York, New York, 1991)
For the Record
2013
Two offset prints on newsprint, two panels, installed: 22⅝ x 70 inches
Courtesy of the artists
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

The collaborative group fierce pussy created this work for the organization Visual AIDS in New York City. Playing off Gran Fury’s 1987 Let the Record Show… and evoking postmodern text based art, fierce pussy asks that we remember the thousands of people who died of HIV-related causes before antiretroviral drugs became available to control the virus. They insist that we continue the work to end HIV/AIDS despite these new drugs.

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950) Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota 'More Time Expected' 2002

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950)
Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota
More Time Expected
2002
Handmade ink and pencil on antique ledger paper, 161/2 x 271/2 inches
Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom in honor of Rock Hushka, 2008.10
Photo by Richard Nicol
© TAM

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950) Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota 'More Time Expected' 2002 (detail)

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950)
Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota
More Time Expected (detail)
2002
Handmade ink and pencil on antique ledger paper, 161/2 x 271/2 inches
Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom in honor of Rock Hushka, 2008.10
Photo by Richard Nicol
© TAM

 

The horse with no rider at the center of the composition represents individuals on the reservation who have died of AIDS-related causes. Using the 19th-century tradition of ledger drawing, with a riderless horse as symbolic of a warrior who fell in battle, Haukaas weaves together the complicated issues of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and the Native American experience with the disease.

 

Robert Sherer (Born Jasper, Alabama, 1957) 'Sweet Williams' 2013

 

Robert Sherer (Born Jasper, Alabama, 1957)
Sweet Williams
2013
HIV- and HIV+ blood on paper
Courtesy of the artist

 

The title Sweet Williams comes from Robert Sherer’s childhood. His grandmother, an avid gardener, often asked him to help gather flowers from her garden and instructed, “Now, honey, cut down the most beautiful ones first.” Upon reflection, Sherer realized that AIDS was deeply correlated to beauty and sexual attraction. He remembers his many handsome friends and acquaintances who died too early – the Williams, the Billys, the Wills, the Willies – memorializing them in an image drawn in HIV negative and positive blood. Of all his colleague friends, two of whom were named William, only Sherer is still alive.

 

Joey Terrill (Born Los Angeles, California, 1955) 'Still-Life with Forget-Me-Nots and One Week's Dose of Truvada' 2012

 

Joey Terrill (Born Los Angeles, California, 1955)
Still-Life with Forget-Me-Nots and One Week’s Dose of Truvada
2012
Mixed media on canvas
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Foundation purchase

 

Long-time Latino queer rights and AIDS activist Joey Terrill makes paintings that resemble the work of such well-known pop artists as Tom Wesselmann. Departing from Wesselmann’s 1960s pop still-life paintings, Terrill subverts the genre through his many queer references, not least the regular inclusion of the HIV medication Truvada. In these his appropriations of the American dream, Terrill shows himself to be a political activist – a role he has inhabited since the 1970s.

Terrill’s addition of the forget-me-nots at the center of the composition pays homage to his artistic hero David Wojnarowicz. He also alludes to the daily routine of the antiviral medicine Truvada and pointedly questions why changes in the social and political realms have allowed this to be a normal part of so many people’s lives.

 

Derek Jackson (Born Boston, Massachusetts, 1972) 'Perfect Kiss' 2007

 

Derek Jackson (Born Boston, Massachusetts, 1972)
Perfect Kiss
2007
Slideshow with found music and original still imagery
Courtesy of the artist

 

Derek Jackson enacts a series of “hookups” in which his sexual activity should necessarily raise issues of HIV. Although not explicitly mentioned, HIV is evoked by the lyrics of his soundtrack. Jackson relies on New Order’s 1987 hit Perfect Kiss to equate unsafe sex with a suicide. The lyrics of the chorus plead with a suicidal friend, “I know, you know, you believe in a land of love.” Jackson’s hookups demonstrate how self-esteem, mutual respect, and communication are necessary to avoid becoming HIV positive.

 

LADZ (John Arsenault and Adrian Gilliland) John Arsenault, Born Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1971 Adrian Gilliland, Born Douglas, Arizona, 1980 'Eden #31' 2012

 

LADZ (John Arsenault and Adrian Gilliland)
John Arsenault, Born Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1971
Adrian Gilliland, Born Douglas, Arizona, 1980
Eden #31
2012
Chromogenic color print
Courtesy of the artists

 

LADZ coined their name after a humorous autocorrect of “ladies” while texting on their smart phones. The artist group finds virtually abandoned industrial spaces where they enact elaborate scenarios reflecting the complexities of life in Los Angeles. The heightened sexual tension combined with the boxing gloves provides a glimpse into the daily navigation of sexual activity and HIV.

 

Kalup Linzy (Born Stuckey, Florida, 1977) 'Lollypop' 2006

 

Kalup Linzy (Born Stuckey, Florida, 1977)
Lollypop
2006
Single-channel video
3 minutes, 24 seconds
Collection of Driek and Michael Zirinsky

 

Kalup Linzy and his friend, artist Shaun Leonardo, lip sync the 1933 Hunter & Jenkins tune. Laden with the sexual innuendo of the song’s lyrics, Linzy attempts to coax treats from Leonardo. The artist playfully raises issues of gender and performance.

Given the high rates of HIV infection of men of color who have sex with men particularly in urban centers, a viewer should keep in mind that individuals like Linzy continually navigate HIV in all their sexual encounters. Unlike a generation ago, young men and women have come to have a different relationship with HIV and no longer fear the virus as a death sentence. Empathy toward their experiences is key to understanding how they cope and survive.

 

Deborah Kass (born 1952) 'Still Here' 2007

 

Deborah Kass (born 1952)
Still Here
2007
Oil and acrylic on canvas
45 × 63 inches
Private collection
© 2015 Deborah Kass / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery

 

Deborah Kass painted Still Here as part of a group of paintings called Feel Good Paintings for Feel Bad Times, beginning in 2006. A response to the ongoing foreign wars and domestic political issues after the second election of George W. Bush, Kass underscored the gulf between the literal and metaphorical significance of the phrases she painted. Still Here comes from the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies in which a faded film star recalls how she persevered. The song opens “Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all, and, my dear, I’m still here.”

The sentiment of the song speaks to the resilience of the many people who lived through the AIDS crisis and those who continue the struggle against the virus and social injustice. Kass’s title may also recall Still/Here, a dance about perseverance, dying, and HIV by the HIV positive choreographer Bill T. Jones.

 

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

 

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990)
24 (Mourning Sickness; Kia and Mommy; In my room)
2014
Inkjet prints
13 × 19 inches
Courtesy of the artist

 

Artist and performer Kia Labeija was born HIV positive. She struggled with HIV throughout her childhood, including the side effects of the medications, the stigma associated with the disease, and the death of her mother. In her three photographs titled 24, she celebrates coming to terms with the disease and her new-found role as advocate and spokesperson for AIDS awareness. The title also commemorates her 24th birthday and her home on the 24th floor of a Manhattan apartment building.

 

 

 

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21
Oct
15

Exhibition: ‘Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World’ at Tate Britain, London

Exhibition dates: 24th June – 25th October 2015

Linbury Galleries

 

 

A national treasure. An old soul.

My favourite period of Hepworth’s is the 1940s-1950s, when she found her true voice as an artist. Working with wood, inspired by the landscape, she carved into the space of form / the form of space. She was a master of inner space. The sculptures with string are like harps, they resonate with the energy of life, sea, rock, wind and become … oracles, evidencing some deep inner knowledge. My god, what an artist. Underrated by some but to those that know, a magical voice of becoming.

Marcus

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

 

 

Sculptor Barbara Hepworth

 

Sculptor Barbara Hepworth

 

Barbara Hepworth banner

 

Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World exhibition banner

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Discs in Echelon' 1935

 

Barbara Hepworth
Discs in Echelon
1935
Padouk wood
311 x 491 x 225 mm
Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Doves (Group)' 1927

 

Barbara Hepworth
Doves (Group)
1927
Parian marble
Manchester Art Gallery
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Large and Small Form' 1934

 

Barbara Hepworth
Large and Small Form
1934
White alabaster
250 x 450 x 240 mm
The Pier Arts Centre Collection, Orkney
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth. 'Mother and Child' 1934

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth
Mother and Child
1934
Cumberland alabaster
230 x 455 x 189 mm, 11.1 kg
Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1993© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Pelagos' 1946

 

Barbara Hepworth
Pelagos
1946
Elm and strings on oak
430 x 460 x 385 mm
Tate
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Pelagos (‘sea’ in Greek) was inspired by a view of the bay at St Ives in Cornwall, where two arms of land enfold the sea on either side. The hollowed-out wood has a spiral formation resembling a shell, a wave or the roll of a hill. Hepworth wanted the taut strings to express ‘the tension I felt between myself and the sea, the wind or the hills’. She moved to Cornwall with her husband Ben Nicholson in 1939, and produced some of her finest sculpture in its wild landscape.

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth. 'Oval Sculpture (No. 2)' 1943, cast 1958

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth
Oval Sculpture (No. 2)
1943, cast 1958
Plaster on wooden base
293 x 400 x 255 mm
Tate
Presented by the artist 1967

 

In the 1930s Barbara Hepworth and her husband Ben Nicholson were members of the London-based avant-garde. Shortly before the outbreak of war they moved to Cornwall with their children. Running a nursery school and living in cramped conditions reduced Hepworth’s output of sculpture to a minimum. In 1943, the family moved to larger accommodation with studio space. Hepworth’s abstract forms, which seem akin to caves and shells, were affected by the Cornish landscape. Her response to nature was not romantic or mystical but more firmly based on actual observation. Circles and spheres had dominated her work. These were replaced by ovals which gave her sculptures two centres rather than one, complicating their interior form.

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) (6)' 1943

 

Barbara Hepworth
Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) (6)
1943
© The Hepworth Estate

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Red in Tension' 1941

 

Barbara Hepworth
Red in Tension
1941
Pencil and gouache on paper
254 x 355 mm
Private collection
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth. 'Group I (Concourse) February 4 1951' 1951

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth
Group I (Concourse) February 4 1951
1951
Serravezza marble
248 x 505 x 295 mm, 19 kg
Bequeathed by Miss E.M. Hodgkins 1977
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

 

“Tate Britain will open the first London museum retrospective for five decades of the work of Barbara Hepworth, one of Britain’s greatest artists. Barbara Hepworth (1903-75) was a leading figure of the international modern art movement in the 1930s, and one of the most successful sculptors in the world during the 1950s and 1960s. This major retrospective opens on 24 June 2015 and will emphasise Hepworth’s often overlooked prominence in the international art world. It will highlight the different contexts and spaces in which Hepworth presented her work, from the studio to the landscape.

The exhibition will feature over 70 works by Hepworth from major carvings and bronzes to less-familiar works and those by other artists. It opens with Hepworth’s earliest surviving carvings from the 1920s alongside works by predecessors and peers artists from Jacob Epstein to Henry Moore. The selection reveals how her work related to a wider culture of wood and stone carving between the wars when Hepworth studied at Leeds Art School and at the Royal College of Art.

Hepworth and her second husband Ben Nicholson made works in dialogue and photographed their studio in Hampstead, London in order to reinforce the idea of a common practice integrated into a way of life. Major carvings like Kneeling Figure, 1932 (rosewood) and Large and Small Form, 1934 (alabaster) will be shown with paintings, prints and drawings by Nicholson, and rarely seen works by Hepworth including textiles, drawings, collages and photograms. Archival photographs will show the two artists and their works in the studio demonstrating their integrated life of art and craft.

In the later 1930s, Hepworth made more purely abstract work as part of an international movement disseminated through magazines and exhibitions. A display of the majority of Hepworth’s surviving carvings of this period will include Discs in Echelon 1935 (padouk wood) and Single Form 1937 (lignum vitae) which will be seen in conjunction with the journals in which they featured alongside the work of artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Piet Mondrian.

In the mid-1940s, Hepworth, in St Ives, Cornwall, began making sculptures in wood that expressed her response to her new surroundings. These will be set alongside her two-dimensional work: the abstract works on paper of the early 1940s and her figurative ‘hospital drawings’ of 1947-8, both expressing utopian ideals.A selection of photographs and film  will consider the different ways in which Hepworth’s sculpture was presented or imagined – in landscape, in a gallery, in the garden and on stage – and the impact such variant stagings have on the work’s interpretation.

One room will reunite four large carvings in the sumptuous African hardwood guarea, made in 1954-5, which are probably the highpoint of Hepworth’s carving career. In the post-war period, Hepworth’s sculpture became a prominent part of the international art scene. This will be evoked through a focus on her retrospective at the Kröller-Müller Museum in 1965 and the display of bronzes that inaugurated the Museum’s reconstructed Rietveld Pavilion.

Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World is curated by Penelope Curtis, Director, Tate Britain and Chris Stephens, Lead Curator, Modern British Art and Head of Displays with Assistant Curator Inga Fraser and Sophie Bowness, the artist’s granddaughter. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. It will tour to the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo in the Netherlands from November 2015 to April 2016 and to the Arp Museum, Rolandseck in Germany from May to August 2016.”

Press release from the Tate Britain website

 

 

 

 

 

Who is Barbara Hepworth?

3 June 2015

 

Who is she?

Barbara Hepworth was a British sculptor, who was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1903. She was a leading figure in the international art scene throughout a career spanning five decades.

Who were her peers?

Hepworth studied at Leeds school of Art from 1920-1921 alongside fellow Yorkshire-born artist Henry Moore. Both students continued their studies in sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London. Both became leading practitioners of the avant-garde method of Direct Carving (working directly in to the chosen material) avoiding the more traditional process of making preparatory models and maquettes from which a craftsman would produce the finished work.

From 1924 Hepworth spent two years in Italy, and in 1925 married her first husband, the artist John Skeaping, in Florence; their marriage was to last until 1931.

From 1932, she lived with the painter Ben Nicholson and, for a number of years, the two artists made work in close proximity to each other, developing a way of working that was almost like a collaboration. They spent periods of time travelling throughout Europe, and it was here that Hepworth met Georges Braque and Piet Mondrian, and visited the studios of Picasso, Constantin Brancusi, and Jean Arp and Sophie Taueber-Arp. The experience was a hugely exciting one for Hepworth, for she not only found herself in the studios of some of Europe’s most influential artists, which helped her to approach her own career with renewed vigour and clarity, but also found there mutual respect. The School of Paris had a lasting effect on both Hepworth and Nicholson as they became key figures in an international network of abstract artists.

By now married and with triplets as well as a son from her first marriage, when war broke out in 1939, Hepworth and Nicholson moved to St Ives. Though she didn’t know it, the seaside town would remain her home for their rest of her life, and after the war she and Nicholson became a hub for a generation of younger emerging British artists such as Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton and Terry Frost – who was Hepworth’s studio assistant for a time. As she had found, the wild beauty of the surrounding terrain offered a counter to the disruption and destruction of the war. And, like her, those artists made paintings and sculptures inspired by the place and the forces and their experience of nature.

Though concerned with form and abstraction, Hepworth’s art was primarily about relationships: not merely between two forms presented side-by-side, but between the human figure and the landscape, colour and texture, and most importantly between people at an individual and social level.

What’s her legacy?

Barbara Hepworth’s name is still intertwined with the history and culture of St Ives and her studio and sculpture Garden remain one of the town’s most popular destinations. In the town where Hepworth was born, as well as housing a rich archive of the artist’s work and serving as a platform for contemporary artists working today, The Hepworth Wakefield also pays lasting homage to an artist who spoke frequently of the effect her surroundings had on her formative years.

The whole of this Yorkshire background means more to me as the years have passed. I draw on these early experiences not only visually in texture and contour, but humanly. The importance of man in landscape was stressed by the seeming contradiction of the industrial town springing out of the inner beauty of the country.

In her lifetime, however, she was also a major international figure, showing her work in exhibitions around the globe. As a woman in a largely male-dominated art-world, Hepworth took an active role in the way her work was presented. She was particular about documentation of her works, and collaborated closely with others. She established innovative ways to push the boundaries of her technique and thematic investigations and sustained a career that saw her mount a retrospective at Kröller-Müller Museum in 1965, represent Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1950 and won first prize at the São Paulo Bienal in 1959. She has influenced countless artists, designers, architects and performers such as Linder Sterling, Peter Jensen and Rebecca Warren citing her as an influential figure in their own creative practice.

Hepworth is known first and foremost as a sculptor, but she also worked in other mediums – and was very interested in documenting her own work through photography. The landscape around St Ives became part of the way her works were presented in the media; St Ives Bay, Godrevy Lighthouse and The Island all become compositional tools for those documenting her works, creating an additional dialogue between the forms and their surroundings.

From 1947-1949, during an illness her daughter suffered, Hepworth produced a series of drawings and paintings based on her time observing doctors and surgeons at St Mary’s hospital in Exeter. Read about their creation in Tate Etc. magazine

What do the critics say?

No militant feminist herself, she asked simply to be treated as a sculptor (never a sculptress), irrespective of sex.
– Alan Bowness

Hepworth was an artist of extraordinary stature whose importance is still to some extent occluded. Over 50 years, from 1925 to her death in 1975, she made more than 600 works of sculpture remarkable in range and emotional force.
– Fiona McCarthy

In these works this brave and indefatigable woman transcends the difficulties and ugliness of modern life and evokes a vision of radiant calm perfection.
– Herbert Read

Hepworth in Quotes…

The sculptor carves because he must. He needs the concrete form of stone and wood for the expression of his idea and experience, and when the idea forms the material is found at once.

From the Sculptors point of view one can either be the spectator of the object or the object itself. For a few years I became the object.

I think every sculpture must be touched, it’s part of the way you make it and it’s really our first sensibility, it is the sense of feeling, it is first one we have when we’re born. I think every person looking at a sculpture should use his own body. You can’t look at a sculpture if you are going to stand stiff as a ram rod and stare at it, with as sculpture you must walk around it, bend toward it, touch it and walk away from it.

Text from the Tate Britain website

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Photo-collage with Helicoids in Sphere in the entrance hall of flats designed by Alfred and Emil Roth and Marcel Breuer at Doldertal, Zurich' 1939

 

Barbara Hepworth
Photo-collage with Helicoids in Sphere in the entrance hall of flats designed by Alfred and Emil Roth and Marcel Breuer at Doldertal, Zurich
1939
Photograph, gelatin silver prints on paper
Private collection
© The Hepworth Photograph Collection

 

Raymond Coxon. 'Henry Moore, Edna Ginesi and Barbara Hepworth in Paris' 1920

 

Raymond Coxon
Henry Moore, Edna Ginesi and Barbara Hepworth in Paris
1920
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Infant' 1929

 

Barbara Hepworth
Infant
1929
Wood
438 x 273 x 254 mm
Tate
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth. 'Single Form (Eikon)' 1937-8, cast 1963

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth
Single Form (Eikon)
1937-8, cast 1963
Bronze
1480 x 280 x 320 mm, 77 kg
Presented by the artist 1964
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

The original of this bronze was a carved plaster column set on a wooden base. The plaster was sent to Paris in 1938 for an exhibition and remained there until 1961. In 1963 Hepworth had it cast in an edition of seven. By the mid 1930s Hepworth had turned from carving semi-naturalistic figures and animals to an exploration of pure sculptural forms. She has written that her interest then centred on the relationship between a form and its surrounding space as well as its integral size, texture and weight. But these sculptures almost always retained an organic character.

 

Constellation of artworks in the Hepworth display

 

Constellation of artworks in the Hepworth display

This constellation forges connections between modern and contemporary works concerned with a sculptural relationship to the artist’s body and to the natural world, revealing a pathway that links geometric abstraction with the surrealist ability to recognise human shapes in natural forms. The phased development of Single Form (Eikon), as it moved through versions in plaster and wood to its final metal incarnation nearly 30 years later, raises questions about the role of sculpture and the importance of materials – concerns that are echoed in the works of Naum Gabo, Marisa Merz and Max Ernst. Louise Bourgeois’ printmaking suite presents a dark vision of biomorphic assimilation and amputation, while the strength and stability of Hepworth’s direct carving method is echoed on an intimate scale by Merz’s knitted nylon works, whose delicate appearance belies their tough industrial materials.

The geometric abstraction of Hepworth’s monolithic bronze highlights her association with the constructive art championed by Gabo in 1936, which focused on the universal nature of pure forms. She also had connections to the surrealist movement. With its phallic quality and contrasting purified aesthetic, the cast bronze sculpture can relate to both of these important movements; like other works in the constellation powerfully oscillating between abstraction and figuration.

In a strong statement on her own artistic philosophy, Hepworth proclaimed: ‘I think every person looking at a sculpture should use his own body. You can’t look at a sculpture if you are going to stand stiff as a ram rod and stare at it, with a sculpture you must walk around it, bend toward it, touch it and walk away from it.’ This invitation to engage in a bodily experience of sculpture shares its premise with Bruce Nauman’s cast plaster and fibreglass work, Isa Genzken’s totemic concrete monuments, and Daria Martin’s film In the Palace, which dramatically enlarges to architectural scale an iconic Giacometti sculpture, enabling performers to inhabit its time and space, in an uncanny fusing of materials and people. (Text from the Tate Britain website)

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Double Exposure of Two Forms' 1937

 

Barbara Hepworth
Double Exposure of Two Forms
1937
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Private collection
© The Hepworth Photograph Collection

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Self-Photogram' 1933

 

Barbara Hepworth
Self-Photogram
1933
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Tate
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Paul Laib. 'Hepworth in the Mall Studio, London' 1933

 

Paul Laib
Hepworth in the Mall Studio, London
1933
The Barbara Hepworth Photograph Collection
© The de Laszlo Collection of Paul Laib Negatives, Witt Library, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London

 

Paul Laib. 'Hepworth in the Mall Studio, London' 1933 (detail)

 

Paul Laib
Hepworth in the Mall Studio, London (detail)
1933
The Barbara Hepworth Photograph Collection
© The de Laszlo Collection of Paul Laib Negatives, Witt Library, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth. 'Fenestration of the Ear (The Hammer)' 1948

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth
Fenestration of the Ear (The Hammer)
1948
Oil and pencil on board
384 x 270 mm
Purchased 1976
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Curved Form (Delphi)' 1955

 

Barbara Hepworth
Curved Form (Delphi)
1955
© The Estate of Dame Barbara Hepworth

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth. 'Curved Form (Trevalgan)' 1956

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth
Curved Form (Trevalgan)
1956
Bronze on wooden base
902 x 597 x 673 mm
Tate
Purchased 1960

 

Val Wilmer. 'Barbara Hepworth in the Palais de la Danse studio, St Ives, at work on the wood carving Hollow Form with White Interior' 1963

 

Val Wilmer
Barbara Hepworth in the Palais de la Danse studio, St Ives, at work on the wood carving Hollow Form with White Interior
1963
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Val Wilmer. 'Barbara Hepworth in the Palais de la Danse studio, St Ives, at work on the wood carving Hollow Form with White Interior' 1963 (detail)

 

Val Wilmer
Barbara Hepworth in the Palais de la Danse studio, St Ives, at work on the wood carving Hollow Form with White Interior (detail)
1963
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Morgan-Wells. 'Barbara Hepworth with the plaster of Single Form 1961-4 at the Morris Singer foundry, London, May 1963' 1963

 

Morgan-Wells
Barbara Hepworth with the plaster of Single Form 1961-4 at the Morris Singer foundry, London, May 1963
1963
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth. 'Sea Form (Porthmeor)' 1958

 

Dame Barbara Hepworth
Sea Form (Porthmeor)
1958
Bronze on wooden base
830 x 1135 x 355 mm
Tate
Presented by the artist 1967

 

Porthmeor is a beach close to Hepworth’s studio in St Ives, Cornwall. A critic thought this sculpture ‘seems to belong to the living world of the sea.’ However, the curling lip of the bronze is quite a literal representation of a breaking wave. At Porthmeor, Hepworth loved to watch the changing tide, the movement of sand and wind and the footprints of men and birds. For her, the rhythm of the tides was part of a natural order to which humankind also belongs.

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Oval Form (Trezion)' 1961-63

 

Barbara Hepworth
Oval Form (Trezion)
1961-63
Bronze
940 x 1440 x 870 mm
Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums Collections
Photograph courtesy The Kröller-Müller Otterlo, The Netherlands. Photograph by Mary Ann Sullivan, Blufton University
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

Barbara Hepworth. 'Squares with Two Circles' 1963

 

Barbara Hepworth
Squares with Two Circles
1963
Bronze
Tate
© Bowness, Hepworth Estate

 

 

Tate Britain
Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 20 7887 8888

Opening hours:
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11
Oct
15

Exhibition: ‘Karl Blossfeldt. From Nature’s Studio’ at Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

Exhibition dates: 24th July – 25th October 2015

Curator: Simone Förster

 

 

Karl Blossfeldt’s photographs have been associated with Modernism (Bauhaus), Surrealism and New Objectivity / New Vision.

“Blossfeldt’s factual yet finely detailed imagery was praised by Walter Benjamin, who declared that Karl Blossfeldt ‘has played his part in that great examination of the inventory of perception, which will have an unforeseeable effect on our conception of the world’. He compared him to Maholy-Nagy and the pioneers of New Objectivity, and ranked his achievements alongside the great photographers August Sander and Eugene Atget. The Surrealists also championed him, and George Bataille included his images in the periodical Documents in 1929.” (Wikipedia)

Hailed as a master for discovering a hitherto ‘unknown universe’ and for his exemplary technical feats as a photographer Blossfeldt’s work is, nevertheless, decidedly subjective as author Hanako Murata notes in her excellent essay on the artist Material Forms in Nature: The Photographs of Karl Blossfeldt (2014). “Not only did he carefully select, arrange, and in some cases physically modify his specimens, but his meticulous attention to detail and image refinement continued throughout each step of production, beginning with his negatives.” Blossfeldt uses the logic of the plant and the logic of his mind to achieve his final vision. A/symmetry as art form.

It was Blossfeldt’s conception of the world that created this inventory of perception. He was the human being who recognised these structures, who used the photographs as teaching aids, who saw them as art and a way of restoring the link between man and nature. His vision and his alone. Nothing was left to chance, everything was controlled. You only have to look at his Self portrait, Rome (1895, below) to see that here is a determined man. His body points one way in suit with braces and stiff, high collared shirt, hand clenched at waist while his head snaps towards us with the most incredible stare, almost piercing the viewer with its ferocity. You can still feel that stare after all these decades.

Ranking his photographs alongside that of Sander and Atget is a big call. Personally, too big a call. If I had to put my finger on it, what they lack for me is any form of context in relationship to an externalised nature. They rely on the form of the plant and not its relationship to the world in which it lives. To discover those forms in science and then transfer them to the field of art is a truly inspiring vision that only Blossfeldt had. He manipulated reality to achieve his beautiful, formal re/presentations. But do they take me to the places that Sander and Atget’s photographs do. No. Here is the thing itself, and not what else it can stand for. Despite their call to Surrealism, their attention to detail leaves the images little room for rumination. Perhaps he took each step of that image refinement too far. Sometimes you need a little chaos in your world order, for the world of pattern cannot exist without randomness and mutation.

Marcus

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

Download Hanako Murata’s essay Material Forms in Nature: The Photographs of Karl Blossfeldt (2.3Mb pdf)

 

 

“If I give someone a horsetail he will have no difficulty making a photographic enlargement of it – anyone can do that. But to observe it, to notice and discover its forms, is something that only a few are capable of.”

“My botanical documents should contribute to restoring the link with nature. They should reawaken a sense of nature, point to its teeming richness of form, and prompt the viewer to observe for himself the surrounding plant world.”

“The plant never lapses into mere arid functionalism; it fashions and shapes according to logic and suitability, and with its primeval force compels everything to attain the highest artistic form.”

.
Karl Blossfeldt

 

“The striking uniformity of Blossfeldt’s photographs suggests an excellent mastery of studio technique, and indeed, for all the prints’ subsequent associations with New Objectivity, Blossfeldt’s work was decidedly subjective, insofar as he was not shy about modifying his subjects or his images to achieve his final vision. Not only did he carefully select, arrange, and in some cases physically modify his specimens, but his meticulous attention to detail and image refinement continued throughout each step of production, beginning with his negatives.”

.
Hanako Murata Material Forms in Nature: The Photographs of Karl Blossfeldt 2014, p.2

 

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Self portrait, Rome' 1895

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Self portrait, Rome
1895
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Self portrait, Rome' 1895 (detail)

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Self portrait, Rome (detail)
1895
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Nature study (chestnut)' 1890s

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Nature study (chestnut)
1890s
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Four Herbariums with groomed Thistels and Delphinium' undated

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Four Herbariums with groomed Thistels and Delphinium
Undated
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Papaver orientale. Oriental Poppy' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Papaver orientale. Oriental Poppy
Before 1928
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

 

“The photographs of plants by the university professor and amateur photographer Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) are among the milestones in the history of 20th-century photography. To mark the 150th anniversary of Blossfeldt’s birth, the Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich is staging a comprehensive exhibition on his life and work.

Focal points of the exhibition are Blossfeldt’s early training as a modeller, his work together with the reformer Moritz Meurer, the photographer’s own handcrafted designs and his teaching at the Königliche Kunstgewerbeschule in Berlin. The preliminary works he made for his seminal publication Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature) of 1928 and the reception it received at that time, for example at the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1929, form an additional aspect.

The exhibition comprises some 120 photographs, including numerous large-format, historical exhibition prints. Collages of his work, drawings in the artist’s own hand, drafts, archival material and documents render the concept behind Blossfeldt’s teaching and work visible.

The Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation manages the Karl Blossfeldt Archive with its unique holdings of original photographs, negatives and documents by Karl Blossfeldt. Together with a large volume of photographs in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, an exceptionally high-quality presentation of Karl Blossfeldt’s photographic work can now be staged and its development shown by means of historical documents and archival material that have hardly ever been seen by the general public.”

Text from the Pinakothek der Moderne website

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Adiantum pedatum. Maidenhair Fern' before 1926

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Adiantum pedatum. Maidenhair Fern
Before 1926
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Eryngium bourgatii. Bourgatis Eryngo' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Eryngium bourgatii. Bourgatis Eryngo
Before 1928
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. Heracleum sphondylium. Hogweed' 1898-1932

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Heracleum sphondylium. Hogweed
1898-1932
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

 

 

Karl Blossfeldt (June 13, 1865 – December 9, 1932 – age 67) was a German photographer, sculptor, teacher, and artist who worked in Berlin, Germany. He is best known for his close-up photographs of plants and living things, published in 1929 as, Urformen der Kunst. He was inspired, as was his father, by nature and the way in which plants grow. He believed that ‘the plant must be valued as a totally artistic and architectural structure.’ Among his students at the Berlin Arts and Crafts School was Heinz Warneke. From 1924, he was professor at the Vereinigte Staatsschulen für freie und angewandete Kunst (United State School for Fine and Applied Art) in Berlin.

Blossfeldt made many of his photographs with a home-made camera that could magnify the subject up to thirty times its size, revealing details within a plant’s natural structure. Appointed for a teaching post at the Institute of Royal Arts Museum in 1898 (where he remained until 1930), he established an archive for his photographs. Blossfeldt never received formal training in photography. Blossfeldt developed a series of home-made cameras that allowed him to photograph plant surfaces in unprecedented magnified detail. This reflected his enduring interest in the repetitive patterns found in nature’s textures and forms.

In Berlin from the late nineteenth century until his death, Blossfeldt’s works were primarily used as teaching tools and were brought to public attention in 1928 by his first publication Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature). Published in 1928 when Blossfeldt was 63 and a professor of applied art at the Berliner Kunsthochschule (Berlin Academy of Art), Urformen der Kunst quickly became an international bestseller and in turn, made Blossfeldt famous almost overnight. His contemporaries were impressed by the abstract shapes and structures in nature that he revealed. Swiftly regarded as a seminal book on photography, Blossfeldt’s factual yet finely detailed imagery was praised by Walter Benjamin, who declared that Karl Blossfeldt ‘has played his part in that great examination of the inventory of perception, which will have an unforeseeable effect on our conception of the world’. He compared him to Maholy-Nagy and the pioneers of New Objectivity, and ranked his achievements alongside the great photographers August Sander and Eugene Atget. The Surrealists also championed him, and George Bataille included his images in the periodical Documents in 1929.

In 2001 Urformen der Kunst was included in “The Book of 101 Books” as one of the seminal photographic books of the twentieth century. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Blumenbachia hieronymi. Blumenbachia' 1898 - 1932

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Blumenbachia hieronymi. Blumenbachia
1898-1932
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Dipsacus laciniatus. Cutleaf Teasel' before 1927

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Dipsacus laciniatus. Cutleaf Teasel
Before 1927
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Equisetum hyemale. Winter Horsetail' before 1929

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Equisetum hyemale. Winter Horsetail
Before 1929
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

 

Pinakothek der Moderne
Barer Strasse 40
Munich

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

Pinakothek der Moderne website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘England’ 1993

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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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