Archive for the 'illustration' Category

26
Nov
13

Exhibition: ‘Melbourne Now’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Part 1

Exhibition dates: 22nd November 2013 – 23rd March 2014

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This is the first of a two-part posting on the huge Melbourne Now exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. The photographs in this posting are from the NGV International venue in St Kilda Road. The second part of the posting features photographs of work at NGV Australia: The Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square. Melbourne Now celebrates the latest art, architecture, design, performance and cultural practice to reflect the complex cultural landscape of creative Melbourne.

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Keywords

Place, memory, anxiety, democracy, death, cultural identity, spatial relationships.

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The best

Daniel Crooks An embroidery of voids 2013 video.

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Highlights

Patricia Piccinini The Carrier 2012 sculpture; Mark Hilton dontworry 2013 sculpture.

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Honourable mentions

Stephen Benwell Statues various dates sculpture; Rick Amor mobile call 2012 painting; Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Melbourne Noir 2013 installation.

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Disappointing

The weakness of the photography. With a couple of notable exceptions, I can hardly recall a memorable photographic image. Some of it was Year 12 standard.

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Low points

  • The lack of visually interesting and beautiful art work – it was mostly all so ho hum in terms of pleasure for the eye
  • The preponderance of installation/design/architectural projects that took up huge areas of space with innumerable objects
  • The balance between craft, form and concept
  • Too much low-fi art
  • Too much collective art
  • Little glass art
  • Weak third floor at NGV International
  • Two terrible installations on the ground floor of NGVA

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Verdict

As with any group exhibition there are highs and lows, successes and failures. Totally over this fad for participatory art spread throughout the galleries. Too much deconstructed/performance/collective design art that takes the viewer nowhere. Good effort by the NGV but the curators were, in some cases, far too clever for their own (and the exhibitions), good. 7/10

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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“Although the word “new” recurs like an incantation in the catalogue essays many exhibits are variations on well-worn themes. The trump cards of Melbourne Now are bulk and variety… It’s astonishing that curators still seem to assume that art which proclaims its own radicality must be intrinsically superior to more personal expressions. Yet mediocrity recognises no such distinctions. Most of this show’s avant-garde gestures are no better than clichés.”

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John Macdonald. Review of Melbourne Now. Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 11 January, 2014

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Many thankx to the NGV for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan unless otherwise stated. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Please note: All text below the images is from the guide book.

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“A rich, inspiring critical context prevails within Melbourne’s contemporary art community, reflecting the complexity of multiple situations and the engaging reality of a culture that is always in the process of becoming. Local knowledge is of course specific and resists generalisation – communities are protean things, which elide neat definition and representation. Notwithstanding the inevitable sampling and partial account which large-scale survey exhibitions unavoidably present, we hope that Melbourne Now retains a sense of semantic density, sensory intensity and conceptual complexity, harnessing the vision and energy that lie within our midst. Perhaps most importantly, the contributors to Melbourne Now highlight the countless ways in which art is able to change, alter and invigorate the senses, adding new perspectives and modes of perceiving the world in which we live.”

Max Delany. “Metro-cosmo-polis: Melbourne now” 2013

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Laith McGregor. 'Pong ping paradise' 2011

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Laith McGregor
Pong ping paradise
2011
Private collection, United States of America

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The drawings OK and KO, both 2013, which decorate the horizontal surfaces of two table-tennis tables and contain four large self-portraits portraying unease and concern, are more restrained. The hirsute beards of McGregor’s earlier works have evolved into all enveloping geometric grids, their hand-drawn asymmetry creating a subtle sense of distortion that contradicts the inherently flat surface of the tables.

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Ross Coulter. '10,000 paper planes - aftermath (1)' 2011

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Ross Coulter
10,000 paper planes - aftermath (1)
2011
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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Ross Coulter. '10,000 paper planes - aftermath (1)' (detail) 2011

Ross Coulter. '10,000 paper planes - aftermath (1)' (detail) 2011

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Ross Coulter
10,000 paper planes - aftermath (1) (details)
2011
Type C photograph
156.0 x 200.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2012
© Ross Coulter
Last photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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With 10,000 paper planes – aftermath (1), 2011, Coulter encountered Melbourne’s intellectual heart, the State Library of Victoria (SLV). Being awarded the Georges Mora Foundation Fellowship in 2010 allowed Coulter to realise a concept he had been developing since he worked at the SLV in the late 1990s. The result is a playful intervention into what is usually a serious place of contemplation. Coulter’s paper planes, launched by 165 volunteers into the volume of the Latrobe Reading Room, give physical form to the notion of ideas flying through the building and the mind. This astute work investigates the striking contrast between the strict discipline of the library space and its categorisation system and the free flow of creativity that its holdings inspire in the visitor.

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Rick Amor. 'Mobile call' 2012

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Rick Amor
Mobile call
2012
Private collection, Melbourne

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Best known for his brooding urban landscapes, Amor’s work in Melbourne NowMobile call, 2012, stays true to this theme. The painting speaks to the heart of urban living in its depiction of a darkened city alleyway, with dim, foreboding lighting. A security camera on the wall surveys the scene, a lone, austere figure just within its watch. The camera represents the omnipresent surveillance of our modern lives, and an uneasy air of suspicion permeates the painting’s subdued, grey landscape. Amor’s reflections on the urban landscape are solemn, restrained and often melancholic. Quietly powerful, his work alludes to a mystery in the banality of daily existence. Mobile call is a realistic portrayal of a metropolitan landscape that opens our eyes to a strange and complex world.

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Steaphan Paton. 'Cloaked combat' (detail) 2013

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Steaphan Paton
Cloaked combat (detail)
2013
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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Cloaked combat, 2013, is a visual exploration of the material and technological conflicts between cultures, and how these differences enable one culture to assert dominance over another. Five Aboriginal bark shields, customarily used in combat to deflect spears, repel psychedelic arrows shot from a foreign weapon. Fired by an unseen intruder cloaked in contemporary European camouflage, the psychedelic arrows rupture the bark shields and their diamond designs of identity and place, violating Aboriginal nationhood and traditional culture. The jarring clash of weapons not only illustrates a material conflict between these two cultures, but also suggests a deeper struggle between old and new. In its juxtaposition of prehistoric and modern technologies, Cloaked combat highlights an uneven match between Indigenous and European cultures and discloses the brutality of Australia’s colonisation.

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Zoom project team. 'Zoom' (detail) 2013

Zoom project team. 'Zoom' (detail) 2013

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Zoom project team
Curator: Ewan McEoin / Studio Propeller; Data visualisation: Greg More / OOM Creative; Graphic design: Matthew Angel; Exhibition design: Design Office; Sound installation: Marco Cher-Gibard; Data research: Serryn Eagleson / EDG Research; Digital survey design: Policy Booth
Zoom (details)
2013

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Anchored around a dynamic tapestry of data by Melbourne data artist Greg More, this exhibit offers a window into the ‘system of systems’ that makes up the modern city, peeling back the layers to reveal a sea of information beneath us. Data ebbs and flows, creating patterns normally inaccessible to the naked eye. Set against this morphing data field, an analogue human survey asks the audience to guide the future design of Melbourne through choice and opinion. ZOOM proposes that every citizen influences the future of the city, and that the city in turn influences everyone within it. Accepting this co-dependent relationship empowers us all to imagine the city we want to create together.

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Installation view of Jon Campbell. 'DUNNO (T. Towels)' 2012 (left) and Reko Rennie 'Initiation', 2013 (right)

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Installation view of Jon Campbell DUNNO (T. Towels) 2012 (left) and Reko Rennie Initiation, 2013 (right)

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Jon Campbell. 'DUNNO (T. Towels)' (detail) 2012

Jon Campbell. 'DUNNO (T. Towels)' (detail) 2012

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Jon Campbell
DUNNO (T. Towels) (details)
2012

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For Melbourne Now Campbell presents DUNNO (T. Towels), 2012, a work that continues his fascination with the vernacular culture of suburban Australia. Comprising eighty-five tea towels, some in their original condition and others that Campbell has modified through the addition of ‘choice’ snippets of Australian slang and cultural signifiers, this seemingly quotidian assortment of kitsch ‘kitchenalia’ is transformed into a mock heroic frieze in which we can discover the values and dramas of our present age.

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Reko Rennie Kamilaroi born in 1974 'Initiation' 2013

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Reko Rennie Kamilaroi born in 1974
Initiation
2013
Synthetic polymer paint on plywood (1-40)
300.0 x 520.0 cm (overall)
Collection of the artist
© Reko Rennie, courtesy Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne
Supported by Esther and David Frenkiel

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Initiation, 2013, a mural-scale, multi-panelled hoarding that subverts the negative stereotyping of Indigenous people living in contemporary Australian cities. This declarative, renegade installation work is a psychedelic farrago of street art, native flora and fauna, Kamilaroi patterns, X-ray images and text that addresses what it means to be an urban Aboriginal person. By yoking together contrary elements of graffiti, advertising, bling, street slogans and Kamilaroi diamond geometry, Rennie creates a monumental spectacle of resistance.

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Installation view of Reko Rennie 'Initiation', 2013

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Installation view of Reko Rennie Initiation, 2013

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Janet Burchill Jennifer McCamley 'The Belief' 2004-2013

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Janet Burchill
Jennifer McCamley
The Belief
2004-2013

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Shields from Papua New Guinea held in the National Gallery of Victoria’s collection provided an aesthetic catalyst for the artists to develop an open-ended series of their own ‘shields’. The Belief includes shields made by Burchill and McCamley between 2004 and 2013. In part, this installation meditates on the form and function of shields from the perspective of a type of reverse ethnography. As the artists explain:

“The shield is an emblematic form ghosted by the functions of attack and defence and characterised by the aggressive display of insignia … We treat the shield as a perverse type of modular unit. While working with repetition, each shield acts as a carrier or container for different types and registers of content, motifs, emblems and aesthetic strategies. The series as a whole, then, becomes a large sculptural collage which allows us to incorporate a wide range of responses to making art and being alive now.”

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Janet Burchill Jennifer McCamley 'The Belief' (detail) 2004-2013

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Janet Burchill
Jennifer McCamley
The Belief (detail)
2004-2013

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Melbourne Now is an exhibition unlike any other we have mounted at the National Gallery of Victoria. It takes as its premise the idea that a city is significantly shaped by the artists, designers, architects, choreographers, intellectuals and community groups that live and work in its midst. With this in mind, we have set out to explore how Melbourne’s visual artists and creative practitioners contribute to the dynamic cultural identity of this city. The result is an exhibition that celebrates what is unique about Melbourne’s art, design and architecture communities.

When we began the process of creating Melbourne Now we envisaged using several gallery spaces within The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia; soon, however, we recognised that the number of outstanding Melbourne practitioners required us to greatly expand our commitment. Now spreading over both The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia and NGV International, Melbourne Now encompasses more than 8000 square metres of exhibition space, making it the largest single show ever presented by the Gallery.

Melbourne Now represents a new way of working for the NGV. We have adopted a collaborative curatorial approach which has seen twenty of our curators work closely with both external design curators and many other members of the NGV team. Committing to this degree of research and development has provided a great opportunity to meet with artists in their studios and to engage with colleagues across the city as a platform not only for this exhibition, but also for long-term engagement.

A primary aim throughout the planning process has been to create an exhibition that offers dynamic engagement with our audiences. From the minute visitors enter NGV International they are invited to participate through the exhibition’s Community Hall project, which offers a diverse program of performances and displays that showcase a broad concept of creativity across all art forms, from egg decorating to choral performances. Entering the galleries, visitors discover that Melbourne Now includes ambitious and exciting contemporary art and design commissions in a wide range of media by emerging and established artists. We are especially proud of the design and architectural components of this exhibition which, for the first time, place these important areas of practice in the context of a wider survey of contemporary art. We have designed the exhibition in terms of a series of curated, interconnected installations and ‘exhibitions within the exhibition’ to offer an immersive, inclusive and sometimes participatory experience.

Viewers will find many new art commissions featured as keynote projects of Melbourne Now. One special element is a series of commissions developed specifically for children and young audiences – these works encourage participatory learning for kids and families. Artistic commissions extend from the visual arts to architecture, dance and choreography to reflect Melbourne’s diverse artistic expression. Many of the new visual arts and design commissions will be acquired for the Gallery’s permanent collections, leaving the people of Victoria a lasting legacy of Melbourne Now.

The intention of this exhibition is to encourage and inspire everyone to discover some of the best of Melbourne’s culture. To help achieve this, family-friendly activities, dance and music performances, inspiring talks from creative practitioners, city walks and ephemeral installations and events make up our public programs. Whatever your creative interests, there will be a lot to learn and enjoy in Melbourne NowMelbourne Now is a major project for the NGV which we hope will have a profound and lasting impact on our audiences, our engagement with the art communities in our city and on the NGV collection. We invite you to join us in enjoying some of the best of Melbourne’s creative art, design and architecture in this landmark exhibition.

Tony Ellwood
Director, National Gallery of Victoria

Foreword from the Melbourne Now exhibition guide book

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Destiny Deacon Virginia Fraser 'Melbourne Noir' (detail) 2013

Destiny Deacon Virginia Fraser 'Melbourne Noir' (detail) 2013

Destiny Deacon Virginia Fraser 'Melbourne Noir' (detail) 2013

Destiny Deacon Virginia Fraser 'Melbourne Noir' (detail) 2013

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Destiny Deacon
Virginia Fraser

Melbourne Noir (details)
2013
Installation comprising photography, video, sculptural diorama dimensions (variable) (installation)
Collection of the artists
© Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser, courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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Adapting the quotidian formats of snapshot photography, home videos, community TV and performance modes drawn from vaudeville and minstrel shows, Deacon’s artistic practice is marked by a wicked yet melancholy comedic and satirical disposition. In decidedly lo-fi vignettes, friends, family and members of Melbourne’s Indigenous community appear in mischievous narratives that amplify and deconstruct stereotypes of Indigenous identity and national history. For Melbourne Now, Deacon and Fraser present a trailer for a film noir that does not exist, a suite of photographs and a carnivalesque diorama. The pair’s playful political critiques underscore a prevailing sense of postcolonial unease, while connecting their work to wider global discourses concerned with racial struggle and cultural identity.

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Darren Sylvester 'For you' (detail) 2013

Darren Sylvester 'For you' (detail) 2013

Darren Sylvester 'For you' (detail) 2013

Darren Sylvester 'For you' (detail) 2013

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Darren Sylvester
For you (details)
2013
Based on Yves Saint Laurent Les Essentials rouge pur couture, La laque couture and Rouge pur couture range revolution lipsticks, Marrakesh sunset palette, Palette city drive, Ombres 5 lumiéres, Pure chromatic eyeshadows and Blush radiance
Illuminated dance floor, sound system
605.0 x 1500.0 x 1980.0 cm
Supported by VicHealth; assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body

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For Melbourne Now Sylvester presents For you, 2013, an illuminated dance floor utilising the current palette of colours of an international make-up brand. By tapping into commonly felt fears of embarrassment and the desire to show off in front of others, For you provides a gentle push onto a dance floor flush in colours already proven by market research to appear flattering on the widest cross-section of people. It is a work that plays on viewers’ vanity while acting as their support. In Sylvester’s own words, this work ‘will make you look good whilst enjoying it. It is for you’.

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Assembling over 250 outstanding commissions, acquired and loaned works and installations, Melbourne Now explores the idea that a city is significantly shaped by the artists, designers and architects who live and work in its midst. It reflects the complexity of Melbourne and its unique and dynamic cultural identity, considering a diverse range of creative practice as well as the cross-disciplinary work occurring in Melbourne today.

Melbourne Now is an ambitious project that represents a new direction for the National Gallery of Victoria in terms of its scope and its relationship with audiences. Drawing on the talents of more than 400 artists and designers from across a wide variety of art forms, Melbourne Now will offer an experience unprecedented in this city; from video, sound and light installations, to interactive community exhibitions and artworks, to gallery spaces housing working design and architectural practices. The exhibition will be an immersive, inclusive and participatory exhibition experience, providing a rich and compelling insight into Melbourne’s art, design and cultural practice at this moment. Melbourne Now aims to engage and reflect the inspiring range of activities that drive contemporary art and creative practice in Melbourne, and is the first of many steps to activate new models of art and interdisciplinary exhibition practice and participatory modes of audience engagement at the NGV.

The collaborative curatorial structure of Melbourne Now has seen more than twenty NGV curators working across disciplinary and departmental areas in collaboration with exhibition designers, public programs and education departments, among others. The project also involves a number of guest curators contributing to specific contexts, including architecture and design, performance and sound, as well as artist-curators invited to create ‘exhibitions within the exhibition’, develop off-site projects and to work with the NGV’s collection. Examples of these include Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now, curated by Fleur Watson; Drawing Now, curated by artist John Nixon, bringing together the work of forty-two artists; ZOOM, an immersive data visualisation of cultural demographics related to the future of the city, convened by Ewan McEoin; Melbourne Design Now, which explores creative intelligence in the fields of industrial, product, furniture and object design, curated by Simone LeAmon; and un Retrospective, curated by un Magazine. Other special projects present recent developments in jewellery design, choreography and sound.

Numerous special projects have been developed by NGV curators, including Designer Thinking, focusing on the culture of bespoke fashion design studios in Melbourne, and a suite of new commissions and works by Indigenous artists from across Victoria which reflect upon the history and legacies of colonial and postcolonial Melbourne. The NGV collection is also the subject of artistic reflection, reinterpretation and repositioning, with artists Arlo Mountford, Patrick Pound and The Telepathy Project and design practice MaterialByProduct bringing new insights to it through a suite of exhibitions, videos and performative installations.

In our Community Hall we will be hosting 600 events over the four months of Melbourne Now offering a daily rotating program of free workshops, talks, catwalks and show’n’tells run by leaders in their fields. And over summer, the NGV will present a range of programs and events, including a Children’s Festival, dance program, late-night music events and unique food and beverage offerings.

The exhibition covers 8000 square metres of space, covering much of the two campuses of the National Gallery of Victoria, and moves into the streets of Melbourne with initiatives such as the Flags for Melbourne project, ALLOURWALLS at Hosier Lane, walking and bike tours, open studios and other programs that will help to connect the wider community with the creative riches that Melbourne has to offer.

Melbourne Now Introduction

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Alan Constable. 'No title (teal SLR with flash)' 2013

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Alan Constable
No title (teal SLR with flash)
2013
Earthenware
15.5 x 24.0 x 11.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Alan Constable, courtesy Arts Project Australia, Melbourne
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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A camera’s ability to act as an extension of our eyes and to capture and preserve images renders it a potent instrument. In the case of Constable, this power has particular resonance and added poignancy. The artist lives with profound vision impairment and his compelling, hand-modelled ceramic reinterpretations of the camera – itself sometimes referred to as the ‘invented eye’ – possess an altogether more moving presence. For Melbourne Now, Constable has created a special group of his very personal cameras.

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Linda Marrinon. Installation view of works including 'Debutante' (centre) 2009

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Linda Marrinon
Installation view of works including Debutante (centre)
2009
Tinted plaster, muslin
Collection of the artist
© Linda Marrinon, courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Supported by Fiona and Sidney Myer AM, Yulgilbar Foundation and the Myer Foundation

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Marrinon’s art lingers romantically somewhere between the past and present. Her figures engage with notions of formal classical sculpture, with references to Hellenistic and Roman periods, yet remain quietly contemporary in their poise, scale, adornments and subject matter. Each work has a sophisticated and nonchalant air of awareness, as if posing for the audience. Informed by feminism and a keen sense of humour, Marrinon’s work is anti-heroic and anti-monumental. The figures featured in Melbourne Now range from two young siblings, Twins with skipping rope, New York, 1973, 2013, and a young woman, Debutante, 2009, to a soldier, Patriot in uniform, 2013, presented as a pantheon of unlikely types.

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Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' 2013

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Brook Andrew
Vox: Beyond Tasmania
2013
Wood, cardboard, paper, books, colour slides, glass slides, 8mm film, glass, stone, plastic, bone, gelatin silver photographs, metal, feather
267.0 x 370.0 x 271.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Brook Andrew, courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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Andrew’s Vox: Beyond Tasmania, 2013, renders palpable as contemporary art a central preoccupation of his humanist practice – the legacy of historical trauma on the present. Inspired by a rare volume of drawings of fifty-two Tasmanian Aboriginal crania, Andrew has created a vast wunderkammer containing a severed human skeleton, anthropological literature and artefacts. The focal point of this assemblage of decontextualised exotica is a skull, which lays bare the practice of desecrating sacred burial sites in order to snatch Aboriginal skeletal remains as scientific trophies, amassed as specimens to be studied in support of taxonomic theories of evolution and eugenics. Andrew’s profound and humbling memorial to genocide was supported in its first presentation by fifty-two portraits and a commissioned requiem by composer Stéphanie Kabanyana Kanyandekwe.

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Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' (detail) 2013

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' (detail) 2013

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Brook Andrew
Vox: Beyond Tasmania (details)
2013

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Daniel Crooks. 'An embroidery of voids' 2013 (still)

Daniel Crooks. 'An embroidery of voids' 2013 (still)

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Daniel Crooks
An embroidery of voids (stills)
2013
Colour single-channel digital video, sound, looped
Collection of the artist
© Daniel Crooks, courtesy Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne and Sydney
Supported by Julie, Michael and Silvia Kantor
Photos: © National Gallery of Victoria

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Commissioned for Melbourne Now, Crooks’s most recent video work focuses his ‘time-slice’ treatment on the city’s famous laneways. As the camera traces a direct, Hamiltonian pathway through these lanes, familiar surroundings are captured in seamless temporal shifts. Cobblestones, signs, concrete, street art, shadows and people gracefully pan, stretch and distort across our vision, swept up in what the artist describes as a ‘dance of energy’. Exposing the underlying kinetic rhythm of all we see, Crooks’s work highlights each moment once, gloriously, before moving on, always forward, transforming Melbourne’s gritty and often inhospitable laneways into hypnotic and alluring sites.

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Jan Senbergs. 'Extended Melbourne labyrinth' 2013 (installation view)

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Jan Senbergs
Extended Melbourne labyrinth
2013
Oil stick, synthetic polymer paint wash (1-4)
158.0 x 120.0 cm (each)
Collection of the artist
© Jan Senbergs, courtesy Niagara Galleries

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Senbergs’s significance as a contemporary artist and his understanding of the places he depicts and their meanings make his contribution to Melbourne Now essential. Drawing inspiration from Scottish poet Edwin Muir’s collection The labyrinth (1949), Senbergs’s Extended Melbourne labyrinth, 2013, takes us on a journey through the myriad streets and topography that make up our sprawling city. His characteristic graphic style and closely cropped rendering of the city’s urban thoroughfares is at once enthralling and unsettling. While the artist neither overtly celebrates nor condemns his subject, there is a strong sense of Muir’s ‘roads that run and run and never reach an end’.

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Patrick Pound. 'The gallery of air' (detail) 2013

Patrick Pound. 'The gallery of air' (detail) 2013

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Patrick Pound
The gallery of air (details)
2013

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For Melbourne Now Pound has created The gallery of air, 2013, a contemporary wunderkammer of works of art and objects from across the range of the NGV collection. There are Old Master paintings depicting the effect of the wind, and everything from an exquisite painted fan to an ancient flute and photographs of a woman sighing. When taken as a group these disparate objects hold the idea of air. Added to works from the Gallery’s collection is an intriguing array of objects and pictures from Pound’s personal collection. On entering his installation, visitors will be drawn into a game of thinking and rethinking about the significance of the objects and how they might be activated by air. Some are obvious, some are obscure, but all are interesting.

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Marco Fusinato born Australia 1964 'Aetheric plexus (Broken X)' 2013

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Marco Fusinato born Australia 1964
Aetheric plexus (Broken X)
2013
Alloy tubing, lights, double couplers, Lanbox LCM DMX controller, dimmer rack, DMX MP3 player, powered speaker, sensor, extension leads, shot bags
880.0 x 410.0 x 230.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Marco Fusinato, courtesy Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne and Sydney
Supported by Joan Clemenger and Peter Clemenger AM
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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For Melbourne Now, Fusinato presents Aetheric plexus (Broken X), 2013, a dispersed sculpture comprising deconstructed stage equipment that is activated by the presence of the viewer, triggering a sensory onslaught with a resonating orphic haze. The work responds to the wider context of galleries, in the artist’s words, ‘changing from places of reflection to palaces of entertainment’ by turning the engulfed audience member into a spectacle.

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Installation view of Susan Jacobs 'Wood flour for pig iron (vessel for mixing metaphors)' 2013 with Mark Hilton 'dontworry' 2013 in the background

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Installation view of Susan Jacobs Wood flour for pig iron (vessel for mixing metaphors) 2013 with Mark Hilton dontworry 2013 in the background

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In her most recent project, Jacobs fabricates a rudimentary version of the material Hemacite (also known as Bois Durci) - made from the blood of slaughtered animals and wood flour – which originated in the late nineteenth century and was moulded with hydraulic pressure and heat to form everyday objects, such as handles, buttons and small domestic and decorative items. The attempt to re-create this outmoded material highlights philosophical, economic and ethical implications of manufacturing and considers how elemental materials are reconstituted. Wood flour for pig iron (vessel for mixing metaphors), 2013, included in Melbourne Now, explores properties, physical forces and processes disparately linked across various periods of history.

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Mark Hilton born Australia 1976 'dontworry' 2013

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Mark Hilton born Australia 1976
dontworry
2013
Cast resin, powder
The Michael Buxton Collection, Melbourne
© Mark Hilton, courtesy Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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dontworry, 2013, included in Melbourne Now, is the most ambitious and personal work Hilton has made to date. A dark representation of events the artist witnessed growing up in suburban Melbourne, this wall-based installation presents an unnerving picture of adolescent mayhem and bad behaviour. Extending across nine intricately detailed panels, each corresponding to a formative event in the artist’s life, dontworry can be understood as a deeply personal memoir that explores the transition from childhood to adulthood, and all the complications of this experience. Detailing moments of violence committed by groups or mobs of people, the installation revolves around Hilton’s continuing fascination with the often indistinguishable divide between truth and myth.

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Mark Hilton born Australia 1976 'dontworry' 2013 (detail)

Mark Hilton born Australia 1976 'dontworry' (detail) 2013

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Mark Hilton born Australia 1976
dontworry (details)
2013
Cast resin, powder
The Michael Buxton Collection, Melbourne
© Mark Hilton, courtesy Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney

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NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
10am – 5pm. Closed Tuesdays.

National Gallery of Victoria website

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21
Nov
13

Exhibition: ‘Nude in Public: Sascha Schneider, Homoeroticism and the Male Form circa 1900′ at The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York City

Exhibition dates: 20th September – 8th December 2013

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*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART WORK OF MALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

Many thankx to The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. More images and information can be found on the exhibition web pages.

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“Schneider was born in Saint Petersburg in 1870. During his childhood his family lived in Zürich, but following the death of his father, Schneider, moved to Dresden, where in 1889 he became a student at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts (Kreuzgymnasium). In 1903 he met best-selling author Karl May, and subsequently became the cover illustrator of a number of May’s books including WinnetouOld SurehandAm Rio de la Plata. A year later in 1904, Schneider was appointed professor at the Großherzoglich-Sächsische Kunstschule Weimar.

During this period Schneider lived together with painter Hellmuth Jahn.  Jahn began blackmailing Schneider by threatening to expose his homosexuality, which was punishable under §175 of the penal code. Schneider fled to Italy, where homosexuality was not criminalized at that time. In Italy, Schneider met painter Robert Spies, with whom he traveled through the Caucasus Mountains. He then traveled back to Germany, where he lived for six months in Leipzig before returning to Italy, where he resided in Florence. When the First World War started, Schneider returned to Germany again, taking up residence in Hellerau (near Leipzig). After 1918, he co-founded an institute called Kraft-Kunst for body building. Some of the models for his art works trained here.

Schneider, who suffered from diabetes mellitus, suffered a diabetic seizure during a ship voyage in the vicinity of Swinemünde. As a result he collapsed and died in 1927 in Swinemünde. He was buried in Loschwitz Cemetery, Germany.”

Text from Wikipedia, where a good gallery of further work by Schneider can be found.

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Sascha Schneider. 'Patriarch' 1895

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Sascha Schneider
Patriarch
1895
Oil on canvas
40.15 x 58.26 in.
Collection of Hans-Gerd Röder

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Images of rulers, emperors, and patriarchs [are] a reminder that Schneider was born into an imperial political system. But like the Babylonian figure of Growing Stronger, this large patriarch isn’t a figure of contemporary life, but an echo of a resurgent classicism. Schneider’s fascination with authoritarian masculinity bookends his interest in male youth, a parallel itself rooted in classical ideals. (Text from the exhibition web page)

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Sascha Schneider. 'Mammon and his Slave' c. 1896

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Sascha Schneider
Mammon and his Slave
c. 1896
Wood engraving, published by J. J. Weber, Leipzig
9.44 x 12.59 in.
Collection of Hans-Gerd Röder

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Sascha Schneider. 'Triumph of Darkness' 1896

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Sascha Schneider
Triumph of Darkness [Der Fürst der Verdammten (Prince of the Damned)]
1896
Mixed media
62.99 x 106.29 in.
Collection of Hans-Gerd Röder

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Sascha Schneider. 'Untitled (study of a reclining male nude with tucked up legs)' 1894

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Sascha Schneider
Untitled (study of a reclining male nude with tucked up legs)
1894
Pencil and charcoal with white highlights on grey paper
20.07 x 15.74 in.
Collection of Hans-Gerd Röder

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Sascha Schneider. 'War Cry' 1915

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Sascha Schneider
War Cry
1915
Charcoal on paper
19.68 x 17.17 in.
Collection of Hans-Gerd Röder

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“The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art will kick off its autumn 2013 season by exploring the German painter Sascha Schneider (1870-1927). At the beginning of the 20th Century, Schneider was elevated to a prestigious post at a German university and was one of the most well-known and well-respected public artists of his time. Only a generation later, he was largely relegated to obscurity. This exhibit examines not only Schneider’s art, but the strange cultural phenomenon that caused his dramatic rise and fall. Curated by Jonathan David Katz, this will not only be the single most extensive one-person exhibition of Sascha Schneider’s art ever mounted since his premature death, but the very first exhibition of Sascha Schneider’s art in the U.S.

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A Strange Historical Interval 

While the history of art is overwhelmingly a history of imaging the female nude, for a brief moment – and in Germany above all – it is instead a history of the male nude. Sascha Schneider was product and beneficiary of this unusual historical moment, one of the most fraught, contradictory and unresolved periods in the modern history of sexual regulation.

This strange historical interval, more developed in Germany in the early 20th century than anywhere else, goes by the English name of the Health and Hygiene Movement. In part a response to rapid industrialization, urban crowding, and the fear that modern life was weakening the inherent strength and drive of Germany’s youth, this reformist movement proposed a bold solution, at once forward and backward looking: it advocated a return to a classical conception of the gymnasium – of training the body as well as the mind through youthful exercise outdoors, preferably in the nude, all in pursuit of a natural health and vitality. Conjoining an idealized youthful beauty, sport and bold nudity, Freikörperkultur (which literally means free body culture) made paintings, photographs, sculptures, and especially public murals that today look strikingly homoerotic, merely part of the visual landscape of early twentieth-century Germany.

Adherents of the movement claimed that only through the confident and shameless exposure of strong, beautiful, male bodies, would young German men throw off the enervating effects of modern life and return to their natural vitality. The emphasis on male nudity had a simple rationale: not only had modern life ostensibly put the German ideal of “manliness” under pressure – a dynamic that would have tragic repercussions with the rise of the Nazis – but since the erotic dimension of female nudity was widely acknowledged, male nudity was paradoxically framed as inherently purer and untainted by eros, as an image of German manhood and its strength and power without any admixture of desire.

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The Cultural Conflict 

Yet at the same exact moment that Freikörperkultur made the sight of handsome nude young men ubiquitous in public spaces as diverse as stadiums and opera houses, another movement was brewing – the very first modern gay-rights movement. Led by such pioneering figures as Magnus Hirschfeld, founder of the Institute for Sexual Research (which was destroyed by the Nazis in 1933), this new political movement sought to make same-sex relationships entirely legal, in part through claiming that gay people were born gay, that same-sex desire was as natural to some as heterosexuality was to others. But whereas Freikörperkultur sought to generalize an (unacknowledged) homoerotic sensibility across all of German culture, this new politics essentially set up the first self-described homosexual minority in history. Thus a collision was set in motion between those who worked to make homosexuality more tolerable by generalizing a gay aesthetic (though distinctly not a gay politics) across the culture at large and those who named their homosexuality, who specifically sought civil rights under the guise of inborn and natural difference.

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Caught in the Conflict 

Schneider, who emblematized Freikörperkultur in almost every work he ever did, nonetheless came to understand the limits of a social world that accepted homoeroticism but not homosexuals. He was forced to resign from his prestigious post at Weimar University and flee to Italy.

Schneider’s fortunes as an artist were so intimately bound up with this historical interlude and its inherent contradictions that his career couldn’t survive its passing. When he died at age 57 in 1927, of complications from diabetes, his star was already dimming. By the end of World War II, he was largely forgotten. But through the efforts of one man, the German collector Hans-Gerd Röder, who became fascinated by this unknown figure while still in his twenties and began to seek out every work by Schneider he could find, a tattered reputation in modern art history has been painstakingly restored. Mr. and Mrs. Röder and their family have generously agreed to lend their collection of masterworks to the Leslie-Lohman Museum.

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The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is the first and only dedicated gay and lesbian art museum in the world with a mission to exhibit and preserve gay and lesbian art, and foster the artists who create it. The Museum has a permanent collection of over 22,000 objects, 6-8 major exhibitions annually, artist talks, film screenings, readings, THE ARCHIVE – a quarterly art newsletter, a membership program, and a research library. The Leslie-Lohman Museum is operated by the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, a non-profit founded in 1987 by Charles W. Leslie and Fritz Lohman who have supported gay and lesbian artists for over 30 years. The Leslie-Lohman Museum embraces the rich creative history of the gay and lesbian art community by informing, inspiring, entertaining and challenging all who enter its doors.”

Press release from The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

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Sascha Schneider. 'Hypnotism' 1904

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Sascha Schneider
Hypnotism
1904
Lithograph, published Breitkopf and Hartel, Leipzig
19.68 x 15.74 in.
Collection of Hans-Gerd Röder

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Sascha Schneider. 'The Anarchist' 1894

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Sascha Schneider
The Anarchist
1894
Lithograph on paper
19.68 x 15.74 in.
Collection of Hans-Gerd Röder

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Sascha Schneider. 'Feeling of Dependency' 1894

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Sascha Schneider
Gefühl der Abhängigkeit (Feeling of Dependency)
1894
Chalk, charcoal and paints on cardboard
27.55 x 19.09 in.
Collection of Hans-Gerd Röder

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“Sascha Schneider (1870 -1927) was an artist who achieved mainstream critical and commercial success in turn-of-the-century Germany despite its striking homoeroticism. Appointed painting chair at the Weimar-Saxon Grand Ducal Art School, and a recipient of prestigious aristocratic commissions, Schneider was once a celebrated painter. Today he is practically unknown, even in Germany. If his name is mentioned at all, it usually is only as the illustrator of the hugely successful Karl May novels, a German adventure series set in the American West. This exhibition seeks to do more than resurrect a forgotten career. It asks why his art was less controversial a hundred years ago than it is today.

Turn-of-the-century Germany was a culture modeled on the classical past, reinvigorating classical ideals in art, architecture, and education. The Greek notion of the gymnasium, where young men developed both mind and body together, continues to be the German word for “high school” even today. Schneider, who actually built a body-building studio in his atelier, was an adherent of this classical ideal. And since this attitude toward mental and physical development was by no means an exclusively homosexual one, it was Schneider’s frank depiction of male beauty that made his art, paradoxically, so mainstream. This exhibition is dedicated to Hans-Gerd Röder, who has almost single-handedly safeguarded Schneider’s work. The art shown is from his collection.

Growing Stronger is a distillation of several of Schneider’s key themes. It features a bearded man whose face and pose are likely drawn from ancient Babylonian relief sculptures excavated by the Germans in the late 19th century and relocated to Germany. This quasi-Babylonian figure is depicted as warmly encouraging the strength of a nude youth. In its original early 20th century context, the image would have been seen as an example of the classical ideal of the gymnasium, where naked youth competed for glory. The paternalism evoked in the image, a celebration of masculine achievement, would have made it in no way controversial in Schneider’s time, when countless such images were painted and sculpted in public settings across the country.

In 1919 Schneider convinced the owner of a Dresden department store to let him have the top floor as a combined atelier and bodybuilding studio. Thus was born Schneider’s Kraft-Kunst-Institut (literally, strength-art-institute). The studio contained a complete gymnasium and some of the participants became models for his art. Privately, Schneider complained that the Institute’s recruits who could afford tuition were not the youthful types he desired.

From the spooky Oak Forest on Ruegen Island to the explicit War Cry, Schneider’s work reflects the tumultuous times in which he lived. Born a year before the unification of Germany in 1871, he saw its defeat in World War I and the onerous peace treaty Germany was forced to sign. Images of death, war, and foreboding are constant throughout his long career.

The image of an ephebic youth, poised at the brink of manhood, as the ideal figure of the classical past, became familiar throughout Germany in the early 20th century. This image of youth was also more broadly associated with modernity and change – the German variant of Art Nouveau. Strong and healthy, lifting weights, these youths were available as a virile, nationalistic metaphor for Germany itself carrying a range of associations, not all of them erotic.

Young men had been familiar subjects in Western art, ranging from Renaissance putti to revelers splashing at beaches or swimming holes in the early 20th century, and as such Schneider’s art reflects a much less guarded ethic governing the representation of youth than we see today. But notably, his subjects are not the realist nudes of an earlier era. Simplified, made over into a repetitious pattern, the body here is an exercise in modernity, in formal patterning and aestheticized contours. Whereas French modernism was generally built over the figure of the nude female, German modernity tended to instead invoke the body of a young man.”

Text from the exhibition web page

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Sascha Schneider. 'Athlete in Basic Position' 1907

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Sascha Schneider
Athlete in Basic Position
1907
Chalk on paper relined on canvas
83.85 x 42.91 in.
Collection of Hans-Gerd Röder

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Sascha Schneider. 'Rear View of Nude with Towel' c. 1920

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Sascha Schneider
Rear View of Nude with Towel
c. 1920
Oil on canvas
40.15 x 14.56 in
Collection of Hans-Gerd Röder

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The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art
26 Wooster Street, Soho, New York City
T: 212-431-2609

Opening hours:
12pm-6pm Tuesday through Sunday.
The Museum is closed Monday and all major holidays.
Admission is free.

Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art website

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22
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Alexander Rodchenko: 
Revolution in Photography’ at WestLicht Gallery, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 11th June – 25th August 2013

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“The modern city with its multi-storey buildings, plants, factories [...], all this [...] has changed the psychology of the traditional perception to a great extent. It seems as if only a camera is able to illustrate modern life.”

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“Photography – the new, fast and real reflection of the world – should make it possible to map the world from all points of view
 [...]. In order to educate man to a new vision, everyday familiar objects must be shown to him with totally unexpected perspectives and in unexpected situations. New objects should be depicted from different sides in order to provide a complete impression of the object.”

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“We must revolutionize our optical perception. We must remove the veil from our eyes.”

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“Contradictions of perspective. Contrasts of light. Contrasts of form. Points of view impossible to achieve in drawing and painting. Foreshortenings with a strong distortion of the objects, with a crude handling of matter. Moments altogether new, never seen before… compositions whose boldness outstrips the imagination of painters… Then the creation of those instants which do not exist, contrived by means of photomontage. The negative transmits altogether new stimuli to the sentient mind and eye.”

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Alexander Rodchenko

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What an impression (on the sentient mind) this artist makes!

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

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Marching column of the Dynamo Sports Club' 1932

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Alexander Rodchenko
Marching column of the Dynamo Sports Club
1932
Vintage gelatin silver print on paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Levels' 1929

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Alexander Rodchenko
Levels
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Sportsmen on Red Square' 1935

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Alexander Rodchenko
Sportsmen on Red Square
1935
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Horse racing' 1935

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Alexander Rodchenko
Horse racing
1935
Vintage gelatin silver print on paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Sports parade. Girl with towels' 1935

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Alexander Rodchenko
Sports parade. Girl with towels
1935
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Radio listeners' 1929

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Alexander Rodchenko
Radio listeners
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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“Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956) was a driving force in the Russian avant-garde and is considered one of the great innovators of photography in the first half of the 20th century. In 1924, already well-known as a painter, sculptor and graphic artist, he conquered traditional photography with the slogan “Our duty is to experiment!” Dynamic compositions, stark contrasts, unconventional angles and the use of photomontage are the defining characteristics of his photographic language.

Rodchenko’s visual compositions and constructivist manifestos have been highly influential in the development of modern photography. With more than 200 photographs on display, the exhibition explores Rodchenko’s dynamic vision and the extraordinary range of his work. Alongside renowned, iconic images like Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1924), Steps (1929) or Girl with a Leica (1934) WestLicht presents many rare vintage prints, which are complemented by a selection of Rodchenko’s posters, publications and typographic works.

As a prominent figure of constructivism, Rodchenko significantly shaped the development of Russian art in the early years of the Revolution. He was also a catalyst of a photography movement, similar to the New Objectivity pioneered by Albert Renger-Patzsch in Germany and the Group f/64 in the USA. “New, unexpected foreshortenings, unusual perspectives, bold light and shadow combinations reproduce fragments of the social reality that are as sharp and clear as possible” (Catalogue for Film and Photo Exhibition, Stuttgart, 1929).

The development of this new reality involved a radical departure from traditional perspectives. As Rodchenko pointed out in an essay on Ways of Contemporary Photography, in 1928: “The modern city with its multi-storey buildings, plants, factories [...], all this [...] has changed the psychology of the traditional perception to a great extent. It seems as if only a camera is able to illustrate modern life.” Central to Rodenchko’s argumentation was the belief that the camera could act as an active eye of contemporaries, destroying the primacy of the normal view – the navel perspective – established by painting. For Rodchenko the camera lens was “the pupil of the educated person in socialist society.”

Just as the revolution created the new socialist man and swept away the old order, photography should overcome the outdated perception and allow a modern outlook. “Photography – the new, fast and real reflection of the world – should make it possible to map the world from all points of view [...]. In order to educate man to a new vision, everyday familiar objects must be shown to him with totally unexpected perspectives and in unexpected situations. New objects should be depicted from different sides in order to provide a complete impression of the object.” According to Rodchenko’s significant and much-quoted claim: “We must revolutionize our optical perception. We must remove the veil from our eyes.”

Curated by Olga Sviblova, Director of the Moscow House of Photography Museum.”

Press release from the WestLicht Gallery website

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Girl with Leica' 1934

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Alexander Rodchenko
Girl with Leica
1934
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Balconies. Corner of the house' 1925

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Alexander Rodchenko
Balconies. Corner of the house
1925
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Guard at the Shukhov Tower' 1929

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Alexander Rodchenko
Guard at the Shukhov Tower
1929
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Pines. Puschkino' 1927

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Alexander Rodchenko
Pines. Puschkino
1927
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Fire escape' 1925

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Alexander Rodchenko
Fire escape
1925
Deduction on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Trumpeting pioneer' 1930

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Alexander Rodchenko
Trumpeting pioneer
1930
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'They gathered for the demonstration' 1928

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Alexander Rodchenko
They gathered for the demonstration
1928
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Varvara Stepanova on a balcony' 1928

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Alexander Rodchenko
Varvara Stepanova on a balcony
1928
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Portrait of the Artist's Mother' 1924

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Alexander Rodchenko
Portrait of the Artist’s Mother
1924
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Pioneer' 1930

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Alexander Rodchenko
Pioneer
1930
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Envelope for Vladimir Mayakovsky's poem "Pro eto" (Darüber)' 1923

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Alexander Rodchenko
Envelope for Vladimir Mayakovsky’s poem “Pro eto” (Darüber)
1923
Reprint
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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Alexander Rodchenko. 'Lilya Brik. Portrait of the advertising poster "Knigi"' 1924

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Alexander Rodchenko
Lilya Brik. Portrait of the advertising poster “Knigi”
1924
Vintage print on Silver gelatin paper, cut out and glued on pink paper.
Collection Museum Moscow House of Photography / Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
© A. Rodchenko – W. Stepanova Archive
© Museum Moscow House of Photography

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WestLicht Gallery
Westbahnstraße 40,
1070 Vienna
T: +43 (0)1 522 66 36 -60

Opening hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri 2 – 7 pm
Thu 2 – 9 pm
Sat, Sun and public holidays 11 am – 7 pm

WestLicht Gallery website

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22
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction’ at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Exhibition dates:  16 February – 26 May 2013

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I don’t often say this about an artist but OMG, I am in love!

Five years before Wassily Kandinsky (he of the book Concerning the Spiritual In Art 1910), before Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich, the images of Carl Jung (The Red Book) and Rudolf Steiner (Blackboard Drawings 1919-1924) - who dismissed her ideas as wrong - was this revolutionary artist and abstractionist, Hilma af Klint, possibly the first purely abstract painter to produced non-objective works in the early 1900′s. While her more conventional painting became the source of her financial income her ‘life’s work’ remained a quite separate practice and hidden from view. She worked in isolation with little knowledge of the Avant-garde movement in Europe and requested that her complex and articulate paintings not be shown until 20 years after her death.

“Through her work with the group “the Five” af Klint created experimental automatic drawing as early as 1896, leading her towards an inventive geometric visual language capable of conceptualising invisible forces both of the inner and outer worlds. Quite apart from their diagrammatic purpose the paintings have a freshness and a modern aesthetic of tentative line and hastily captured image: a segmented circle, a helix bisected and divided into a spectrum of lightly painted colours. She continued prolifically to add to the body of work amounting to over 1000 pieces until 1941. She requested that it should not be shown until 20 years after the end of her life. In 1970 her paintings were offered as a gift to Moderna Museet in Stockholm, which declined the donation.” (Text from Wikipedia)

Ironic then is it not, that this first major exhibition of Hilma af Klint’s life’s work is at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. How times and attitudes change. And yes, I have ordered the catalogue…

Marcus

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“Negotiating around the masculine domain of art making by working through automatism and spiritual séances, Hilma af Klint appears to allow herself more freedom and reverence by working directly through ‘High Masters’ in their masculine form; through instructed spiritualist experience. Influenced heavily by the infamous Madame Blavatsky, the co-founder of The Theosophical Society and writer of ‘The Secret Doctrine’, af Klint’s ‘High Masters’ guided her hand in an attempt to gain spiritual knowledge of the self and of the universe…

Her occult diaries containing symbols of crosses, mystical vowels, dead sea scrolls, astral and metaphysical planes, mystical initials, strange vowels cross over to the larger works, continuing to make the viewer work hard at understanding what message is being sent. It is then that you notice the rest of the space with painting after painting hung mainly in series, working their way with fluidity around the many walls contained within the exhibiting space. Cubicles of watercolours denoting The Tree of Life, Studies of world religions, paintings for the temple, they are all there. It is clear that af Klint was prolific in her secretive world but it is hard to imagine how she managed to keep all these vast works hidden from view.

It is clear that Klint has some understanding of scientific breakthroughs in her time however her occult physics, chemistry and mathematical understanding appears ahead of its time. Her provocative nature appears to ask questions of sexuality, suggests male and female equality and is probably through this enquiry, still seen as revolutionary. In light of this, af Klint experienced continuous dismissal of her working practices and ideas linked to the scientific and mathematical study of spiritual knowledge. Her friends describe her work as ‘inappropriate’ and her contemporary Rudolph Steiner, founder of The Anthroposophical Society dismissed her ideas as wrong when asked by personal invitation to view them, claiming that she couldn’t have contact with spirits in that way although he doesn’t appear to state clearly for what reason.”

Open College for the Arts tutor Hayley Lock on the We Are OCA website

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

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Photographer unknown. 'Portrait of Hilma af Klint' Nd

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Photographer unknown
Portrait of Hilma af Klint
Nd

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Installation views of Hilma af Klint - A Pioneer of Abstraction, 2013

Installation views of Hilma af Klint - A Pioneer of Abstraction, 2013

Installation views of Hilma af Klint - A Pioneer of Abstraction, 2013

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Installation views of Hilma af Klint – A Pioneer of Abstraction, 2013
© Photo: Åsa Lundén/ Moderna Museet

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“In Spring 2013 Moderna Museet is dedicating a major exhibition to Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), featuring many works that have never before been shown in public. This retrospective exhibition of a Swedish pioneer of abstract art is Moderna Museet’s tribute to Hilma af Klint as one of the greatest Swedish artists. A woman artist whose work is still far too unknown to a wider public, Hilma af Klint eschewed representational painting as early as 1906. Between 1906 and 1915, she produced nearly 200 abstract paintings, some of which are in monumental formats.

Like Vassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Kazimir Malevich, who have previously been regarded as the main protagonists of abstract art, Hilma af Klint was influenced by contemporary spiritual movements, such as spiritism, theosophy and, later, anthroposophy. Hilma af Klint’s oeuvre builds on the awareness of a spiritual dimension of consciousness, an aspect that was being marginalised in an increasingly materialistic world. When she painted, she believed that a higher consciousness was speaking through her. In her astonishing works she combines geometric shapes and symbols with ornamentation. Her multifaceted imagery strives to give insights into the different dimensions of existence, where microcosm and macrocosm reflect one another.

Hilma af Klint’s groundbreaking images were created in the early years of the 20th century – before the dawn of abstract art in Russia and Europe. Her works are not concerned with abstraction of colour and shapes for its own sake, but are an attempt to portray that which is not visible. Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian also explored a spiritual dimension. Kandinsky moved away from Expressionism and gradually left visible reality behind. He had a great interest in the occult and published On the Spiritual in Art in 1911. Malevich arrived via Cubism and Futurism at his suprematist, abstract and exceedingly spiritual images. Mondrian successively turned his back on figurative portrayals of that which the eye can see, reducing his compositions to a play of vertical and horizontal lines, and to the primary colours red, yellow and blue, with white and black. As a theosophist, he was striving for a purely spiritual expression of the eternal ideas beyond the visible world. Spiritual searching was thus an essential element to many of the modernists who moved towards an abstract imagery. Unlike Hilma af Klint, Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian did not claim to be acting as mediums in their creative process. This was an experience, however, that she had in common with artists such as the artists František Kupka (1871-1957), Emma Kunz (1892-1963) and the writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885).

Hilma af Klint left more than 1,000 paintings, watercolours and sketches. Although she exhibited her early, representational works, she refused to show her abstract paintings during her lifetime. In her will, she stipulated that these groundbreaking works must not be shown publicly until 20 years after her death. She was convinced that only then would the world be fully and completely ready to understand their significance.

Moderna Museet’s retrospective exhibition presents Hilma af Klint’s most important abstract works, as well as paintings and works on paper that have never before been presented publicly, enhancing our understanding of her oeuvre. Her extensive diaries and notebooks have been included in the research for this exhibition, which comprises some 200 paintings and works on paper and will tour internationally in 2013-2015.

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About the artist

Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) was a pioneer of art that turned away from visible reality. By 1906, she had developed an abstract imagery. This was several years before Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) and Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935), who are still regarded as the pioneers of abstract 20th-century art. Hilma af Klint assumed that there was a spiritual dimension to life and aimed at visualizing contexts beyond what the eye can see. When painting, she believed that she was in contact with a higher consciousness that spoke and conveyed messages through her. Like many of her contemporaries, she was influenced by spiritual movements, especially spiritualism, theosophy and later anthroposophy. Through her paintings, she sought to understand and communicate the various dimensions of human existence.

In her will, Hilma af Klint wrote that her abstract works must not be made accessible to the public until at least twenty years after her death. She was convinced that their full meaning could not be understood until then. One hundred years ago, Hilma af Klint painted pictures for the future.

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A Woman Artist at the Turn of the Century 

Hilma af Klint began her art studies at Tekniska Skolan in Stockholm and also had lessons in portrait painting. Between 1882 and 1887, she was a student at the Royal Academy of the Fine Arts. After graduating and until 1908, she had a studio at Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm. She painted and exhibited portraits and landscapes in a naturalist style. In the late 1870s, Hilma af Klint attended séances, where a medium contacted the dead. There was a great fascination for invisible phenomena at the time. This can be seen in relation to scientific discoveries, such as x-rays that could reveal internal human organs, and electromagnetic waves that led to the development of radio and telephony.

In 1896, Hilma af Klint and four other women formed the group “De Fem” [The Five]. They made contact with “high masters” from another dimension, and made meticulous notes on their séances. This led to a definite change in Hilma af Klint’s art. She began practising automatic writing, which involves writing without consciously guiding the movement of the pen on the paper. She developed a form of automatic drawing, predating the surrealists by decades. Gradually, she eschewed her naturalist imagery, in an effort to free herself from her academic training. She embarked on an inward journey, into a world that is hidden from most people.

Press release from the Moderna Museet website

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Hilma-af-Klint-arbete

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Hilma af Klint
From A Work on Flowers, Mosses and Lichen, July 2 1919
1919
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk/Photo: Moderna Museet, Albin Dahlström

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Hilma af Klint. 'Evolution, No. 7, Group VI, The WUS/Seven-Pointed Star Series' 1908

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Hilma af Klint
Evolution, No. 7, Group VI, The WUS/Seven-Pointed Star Series
1908
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk, foto Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

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Hilma af Klint. 'Untitled' Nd

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Hilma af Klint
Untitled
Nd

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Swan, No. 17, Group IX/SUW, The SUW/UW Series' 1915

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Hilma af Klint
The Swan, No. 17, Group IX/SUW, The SUW/UW Series
1915
© Courtesy Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Foto: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Swan, No. 1, Group IX/SUW, The SUW/UW Series' 1915

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Hilma af Klint
The Swan, No. 1, Group IX/SUW, The SUW/UW Series
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk/Photo: Moderna Museet, Albin Dahlström

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Swan' 1914

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Hilma af Klint
The Swan
1914

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Symbols

Hilma af Klint’s imagery is full of symbols, letters and words. Symbols are like doors into another dimension. For Hilma af Klint, her entire work was about conveying the messages she received, and to shed light on the great existential issues.

It would be pointless to translate the symbols and letters in Hilma af Klint’s works into definite, unambiguous terms. They must always be seen in relation to the entire context. In her notebook Symboler, Bokstäver och Ord tillhörande Hilma af Klints målningar [Notes on Letters and Words pertaining to Works by Hilma af Klint] she attempts to clarify the complex meanings of the various signs. Here are a few general explanations:

The snail or spiral represents development or evolution. The eyelet and the hook,blue and yellow, and the lily and the rose represent femininity and masculinity respectively. W stands for matter, while U stands for spirit. The almond shape arising when two circles overlap is called the vesica piscis and is an ancient symbol for the development towards unity and completion. The swan represents the ethereal in many mythologies and religions and stands for completion in the alchemical tradition. In Christianity, the dove represents the holy spirit and love.

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Terminology

Esoteric and occult denote “the science of the hidden dimensions”. Western esotericism is a mixture of Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, Jewish kabbalah and the three occult “sciences” of astrology, magic and alchemy.

Spiritualism shares the conviction that it is possible to make contact with the spirits of the deceased. Modern spiritism was spread thanks to the Fox sisters in the USA in 1848.

Theosophy is a general doctrine incorporating inspiration from various religions and spiritism. The religions are regarded as different expressions of one fundamental truth. Theosophy teaches that the origin of everything, divinity, is inherent in every being. The Theosophical Society was founded in New York in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky and others. There is also an older form of theosophy that is significantly different to the newer version.

Anthroposophy is a life philosophy that originated in theosophy. Rudolf Steiner, who was the leader of the German branch of the Theosophical Society, left theosophy in 1913 to set up the anthroposophical movement. The two philosophies have a great deal in common, but anthroposophy in general has a stronger Christian element.

According to legend, the Rosicrucians were an esoteric society in Germany who engaged in alchemy in the early 17th century. Today, there are many secret orders that claim to uphold the Rosicrucian traditions.

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Hilma af Klint. 'Tree of Knowledge' 1913

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Hilma af Klint
Tree of Knowledge
1913

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Hilma af Klint. 'Primordial Chaos, No. 16, Group I, The WU/Rose Series' 1906-1907

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Hilma af Klint
Primordial Chaos, No. 16, Group I, The WU/Rose Series
1906-1907
© Courtesy Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Foto: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

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Hilma af klint. 'The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5, Group III, The Key to All Works to Date, The WU/Rose Series' 1907

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Hilma af klint
The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5, Group III, The Key to All Works to Date, The WU/Rose Series
1907
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk/Photo: Moderna Museet, Albin Dahlström

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth, Group IV' 1907

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Hilma af Klint
The Ten Largest, No. 3, Youth, Group IV
1907
© Courtesy Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk. Foto: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Ten Largest, No. 1' 1907

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Hilma af Klint
The Ten Largest, No. 1
1907

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Hilma af Klint. 'The Dove, No. 3, Group IX/ UW, The SUW/UW Series' 1915

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Hilma af Klint
The Dove, No. 3, Group IX/ UW, The SUW/UW Series
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk/Photo: Moderna Museet, Albin Dahlström

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Hilma af Klint. 'Altarpiece, No. 1, Group X, Altarpiece Series' 1915

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Hilma af Klint
Altarpiece, No. 1, Group X, Altarpiece Series
1915
© Stiftelsen Hilma af Klints Verk, foto Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet

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Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Moderna Museet is ten minutes away from Kungsträdgården, and twenty minutes from T-Centralen or Gamla Stan. Walk past Grand Hotel and Nationalmuseum on Blasieholmen, opposite the Royal Palace. After crossing the bridge to Skeppsholmen, continue up the hill. The entrance to Moderna Museet and Arkitekturmuseet is on the left-hand side.

Opening hours:
Tuesday 10-20
Wednesday-Sunday 10-18
Monday closed

Moderna Museet website

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30
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘The Greatest Wonder of the World’ at the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 23rd Feb 2013 – 12th May 2013

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Another fascinating posting, this time featuring Australian colonial photography. In 1951, a hoard of 3,500 glass plate negatives from the nineteenth century was discovered in a garden shed in Chatswood. In time, the find proved to be the most important photographic documentation of goldfields life in Australia. All negatives have now been scanned at high resolution and for the first time in 140 years, it is possible to see what Merlin and Bayliss (from the American & Australasian Photographic Company) photographed, with astonishing clarity and fidelity. “Many of the images in the Holtermann collection were created for an ambitious 1870s publicity campaign to sell the wonders of the Australian colonies to the world.”

What I find particularly interesting is the familiarity of all photographs of goldfields from around the world, whether it be Californian or Victorian – the working class men, the pictures of diggings, etc… but also the particular Australian vernacular that these photographs possess. The photographs could be taken no where else but Australia. Observe the abject poverty of some of the shopkeepers – draper, blacksmith, bootmaker and undertaker (who also acted as carpenter, joiner, builder and cabinet maker) - the timber clad facade of their buildings failing to conceal the bark structure behind (see Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett’s store, Gulgong, 1872 below). And yet in their poverty they still thought it important to spend money on advertising with wonderful examples of distinctive typography that I have highlighted in detail – on the photographers, bakers and tent makers shops, on the undertakers facade replete with horses and funeral carriage, and on the painters and sign writers bark clad establishment. Contemporary typographers could have a field day studying these photographs for new typefaces!

Notice in the detail wonderful things:

The roughness of a man’s hand as they stand in front of their loot, the gold specimens;
The incongruous sight of toy dogs among the rough-and-ready types that inhabited a frontier gold town;
The riding crop tucked under the arm of one of the detectives;
The flour that covers the bakers shoes;
The decorative wallpaper hanging outside the painter and signwriters shack, the word ‘Sacred’ on top of the mirror, and his name ‘J.H. Osborne Painter No.2′ emblazoned on the side of his ladder.

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Of particular poignancy is the way the undertaker William Lewis leans in the entrance of his establishment. Propped up against the door (to stop himself from moving during the exposure), his hands stiffly by his side, his eyes stare straight ahead as though he is in a trance. In the photograph he has almost become the corpse that it is his business to bury. We must also acknowledge the temporary nature of these gold field towns, their unsubstantial character and the transitory life of the people that lived and died in them. Bootmaker William Holmes’ wife passed away a few months after the photograph of her family was taken. It was a tough life living on a frontier town. We can also note how desolate the major cities seem, as can be seen in photographs of Sandridge [Port Melbourne] and Pall Mall, Bendigo, with the odd carriage on the street and a single man standing on a street corner.

This is such a rich photographic collection and to have all the negatives digitised and available online is such a pleasure, such a treasure for Australian photographers, historians, researchers and the general public who, with an inquiring mind, can begin to understand the colonisation and conquest of this never empty country.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

“The State Library of NSW’s world-renowned photographic archive, the Holtermann collection, will be officially included on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World register at a ceremony in May 2013… The Australian UNESCO Memory of the World program is part of an international initiative, which aims to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity and recognise the significance of all heritage materials… Many of the images in the Holtermann collection were created for an ambitious 1870s publicity campaign to sell the wonders of the Australian colonies to the world. The campaign was funded by German-born entrepreneur, Bernhardt Otto Holtermann, who made his fortune from mining in Hill End. For the first time 100 amazing large format prints from the Holtermann collection are on show [until 12 May] in the State Library’s free exhibition, The Greatest Wonder of the World.”

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Beaufoy Merlin. 'Short Street, Hill End' 1872

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Beaufoy Merlin
Short Street, Hill End
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 5/No. 18504

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Hill End in 1872 was a gold town at its peak. According to the Empire 7 June 1872, “The streets were thronged by a motley crowd; the stores and places of business crowded with customers; the little theatre so densely packed by an admiring audience, that there was not what is facetiously called ‘standing room,’ and even the public-houses, whose name is legion, were crammed. Yet I saw less, far less, drunkenness than can be met with in any street in the metropolis after 10 o’clock at night. There were very few inebriates, no filthy dishevelled women, no crouching loafers, no abject vice. The general aspect of the crowds of decently dressed folk who thronged ‘The Hill’ was that of respectability – rough indeed in many respects, and loud and noisy too, in some instances, but not disreputable, and altogether good-humoured.”

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American & Australasian. 'Photographic Company Hawkins Hill 'Golden Quarter Mile'' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Hawkins Hill ‘Golden Quarter Mile’
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. C

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This panorama of Hawkins Hill was taken by Beaufoy Merlin, who erected his camera in a tree more than a kilometre away across a gully nearly 300 metres deep. In the centre of the image is Krohmann’s mine, with the twin buildings and two storied structure of Beyers and Holtermann’s immediately to the left of it. These two mines contributed to the 12.4 tonnes of gold extracted from Hawkins Hill, but such are the vagaries of goldmining, that Rapp’s, on the extreme right, returned little to its investors, despite digging to a depth of over 380 feet [115 metres]. An almost identical view of the Hawkins Hill ‘Golden Quarter Mile’ taken by Merlin appeared as an engraving in the Australian Town and Country Journal 18 May 1872.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. T

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A month before discovery of the 286 kg Holtermann “nugget” [estimated to hold around 93kg of gold], Bernhardt Holtermann (second from left) Richard Ormsby Kerr (centre) and Louis Beyers (fourth from left) posed with 3,663 ozs [114 kg] of gold specimens from their claim. The specimens were described in The Sydney Morning Herald 28 September 1872 ; “To say they were good would be to say but little – they were almost without rival – magnificent – the talk of this town, where specimens are not unknown.” Holtermann took the best to the Sydney Mint for smelting, “as being clotted with gold it would be almost impossible to crush it in the ordinary way.” The item of clothing on the floor to the right is Beyer’s waistcoat.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Gold Specimens from the Star of Hope mine (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 71/No. T

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'A domestic miner [Hill End]' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
A domestic miner [Hill End]
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 10/No. 70154

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Thomas Browne (better known as Rolf Boldrewood) was Gold Commissioner in Gulgong, during the period of Merlin and Bayliss’s photographs. Although this photograph was taken in Hill End, Boldrewood’s description of the domestic miner in his novel The Miners Right seems universal. “The thrifty miner who possesses the treasure, not less common on Australian goldfields than in other places, of a cleanly managing wife, is enabled to surround himself with rural privileges. A plot of garden ground, well fenced, grows not only vegetables but flowers, which a generation since were only to be found in conservatories… the domestic miner is often seen surrounded by his children, hoeing up his potatoes or cauliflowers, or training the climbing rose which beautifies his rude but by no means despicable dwelling.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 9/No. 18850

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The American and Australasian Photographic Company established a studio in Tambaroora Street, Hill End in 1872. Beaufoy Merlin’s assistant Charles Bayliss stands, hands in pockets, in the doorway, with studio operator James Clinton behind him. Beside the door is a frame containing large photographic views of Sydney, including the General Post Office and harbour.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Studio and staff of American & Australasian Photographic Co., Hill End (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 9/No. 18850

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Blacksmith William Jenkyns' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Blacksmith William Jenkyns
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 7/No. 18715

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William Jenkyns’ blacksmith and shoeing forge was situated in Clarke Street, Hill End. The condition of roads around Hill End ensured Jenkyns was busy. A correspondent to The Sydney Morning Herald 23 May 1872 wrote of the road between Bathurst and Hill End, “For miles at a stretch there is nothing to indicate that any money has been spent upon the road for years, and it is doubtful whether any portion of it has ever been properly made.” On 3 December 1872 another wrote, “I think I have travelled the worst of roads; for the sake of humanity, I hope there are none worse than those I have travelled.” Despite a superficial resemblance, the man on the right is not B.O. Holtermann.

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Gibbs, Shallard & Co., Colour Printers [188-?] 'Holtermann's Life Preserving Drops' 1872

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Gibbs, Shallard & Co., Colour Printers [188-?]
Holtermann’s Life Preserving Drops
1872
Poster

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There is no doubt that Bernhardt Otto Holtermann understood the importance and value of maintaining his association with the world’s largest specimen of reef gold. Unable to purchase the monster quartz and gold specimen when it was extracted from the Star of Hope mine in Tambaroora in 1872, he commissioned the American and Australasian Photographic Company to produce a photographic montage of him standing beside it. Photographers Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss seem to have carried out this assignment on more than one occasion, as Holtermann wears different clothing in the several known examples of the image.

Obviously pleased with the result, Holtermann used the montage on his business card and on the label to a patent medicine bearing his name. As an advertising ploy, the image of Holtermann resting his hand on the world’s largest hunk of gold can only have been interpreted as a symbol of success and a guarantee of the worth of his product. (Alan Davies author)

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B.O.-Holtermann-with-the-Holtermann-Nugget-WEB

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
B.O. Holtermann with the Holtermann Nugget, North Sydney
1874-1876?

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During the 1870′s goldrush in central New South Wales, Bernard Holtermann, his partners and miners brought the largest agglomeration of gold to the surface. It was not a nugget of pure gold but he was instantly rich! An even larger gold find was broken up when it came to the surface in late January-early February 1873 but it was not photographed. With his wealth Holtermann financed the photography of the goldfields, a collection of international significance showing the ordinary people from all over the world with their houses and businesses on the goldfields. This composite photograph was put together later to give the appearance of Holtermann with the gold on the veranda of his new mansion at North Sydney, now the site of Shore Grammar School.

Three photographs were used to create this image of Holtermann, (supposedly holding the worlds’ largest accumulation of rock and gold ever brought to the surface in one piece). He was posed in the studio with his hand on a headclamp, the nugget was inserted and both placed on a photograph of the verandah of his mansion, built from the proceeds of his goldmine. The “nugget” was found in Hill End, New South Wales on 19th October 1872. More than half of the 630 lbs weight was pure gold, value 12,000 pounds ($24,000). With gold worth say $1400 per ounce, the value today would be over $A7,000,000. Amazingly Holtermann’s mine had already made him rich before the discovery of this boulder and there was reputed to be an even larger aggregate in the mine!

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“In 1872, the newly rich Bernhardt Otto Holtermann used some of his wealth to employ Henry Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss, of the American and Australasian (A&A) Photographic Company, to photograph gold producing areas and cities in NSW and Victoria for exhibition overseas. These images provide the most comprehensive and detailed record of nineteenth century goldfields life and, with the commissioned photographs, now form the Library’s Holtermann archive of 3500 wet plate negatives. The Greatest Wonder of the World features this extraordinary collection of nineteenth century documentary images. Through enlargements, digital images and a selection of vintage prints and wet plate negatives, the exhibition tells the remarkable story of the A&A Photographic Company and the philanthropy and vision of Bernhardt Holtermann.

In 1951, a hoard of 3,500 glass plate negatives from the nineteenth century was discovered in a garden shed in Chatswood. In time, the find proved to be the most important photographic documentation of goldfields life in Australia. The photographers responsible for the images were Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss of the American and Australasian Photographic Company, who had travelled to the town of Hill End in 1872 to record the rush. From there, they also recorded the burgeoning Gulgong and Mudgee goldfields.

In October 1872, the world’s largest specimen of reef gold, known as the Holtermann nugget, was unearthed at nearby Hawkins Hill and Merlin and Bayliss were there to record it. In an extraordinary act of patronage, the newly rich Bernhardt Otto Holtermann used some of his wealth to employ Merlin and Bayliss to photograph other gold producing areas and cities in NSW and Victoria for exhibition overseas. Proud of his own success, he believed that his travelling exposition would encourage immigration to Australia.  Merlin and Bayliss’s documentation was slow, with long exposures and the difficulty of processing one photograph at a time. Their wet plate negatives captured exceptional detail, but copies made in the twentieth century failed to reveal the wealth of information hidden within.

In 2008, plans were made to digitally scan the Holtermann Collection at very high resolution and this became reality through the generous assistance of the Graham and Charlene Bradley Foundation; Simon and Catriona Mordant; Geoffrey and Rachel O’Conor; Morningstar and numerous other benefactors. For the first time in 140 years, it is possible to see what Merlin and Bayliss photographed, with astonishing clarity and fidelity.”

Press release from the State Library of New South Wales website

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[French warship 'Atalante', Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873]' Aug 1873

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
[French warship 'Atalante', Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873]
Aug 1873

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This photograph of the French warship Atalante in Fitzroy Dock on Cockatoo Island, with Balmain in the background, was taken in August 1873. Built in 1865, the iron clad Atalante had a protruding brass bow for ramming lesser vessels. It had taken part in the Franco Prussian War in 1870 and at the time of this photograph was the flagship of the Pacific Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral Baron Roussin. Beaufoy Merlin was particularly pleased with his photographs of the Atalante and wrote about them in the Town and Country Journal.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[French warship 'Atalante' at Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873 / attributed to the American & Australasian Photographic Company]' 1873

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
[French warship 'Atalante' at Fitzroy Dock, Sydney, 1873 / attributed to the American & Australasian Photographic Company]
1873

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“… One of the solar pictures which I took on the occasion of my last visit to the Atalante, of which an engraving accompanies the present pen-and-ink sketch, is taken  from the rocks to the north-west, and shows her “ram,” with its massive projecting extremity of solid brass, her swelling sides, portholes, section of the dock, and men at work. The steps to the bottom of the basin as well as [its depth], are fairly indicated. Probably there is no one more difficult to please in procuring a picture of this kind than the landscape photographer himself. I may therefore be permitted to say in behalf of the one referred to, that it gave me satisfaction.”

Sadly, these images of Atalante were among the last photographs taken by Merlin. He contracted pneumonia and died, age 43, in September 1873.

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. '[Merlin's photographic cart ?] and Mitchell's London Hotel, Railway Place, Sandridge [Port Melbourne]' 1870-1875

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
[Merlin's photographic cart?] and Mitchell’s London Hotel, Railway Place, Sandridge [Port Melbourne]
1870-1875

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Herbert Street, west side looking north from Mayne Street and showing Barnes' Chemist Shop, Gulgong' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Herbert Street, west side looking north from Mayne Street and showing Barnes’ Chemist Shop, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18242

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The incongruous sight of toy dogs among the rough-and-ready types that inhabited a frontier gold town has been captured in this view of Herbert Street, Gulgong. According to the Empire 28 May 1872 “The streets – so to call the dusty avenues between the rows of shops and Inns – are thronged in the daytime, by much about the same number, though not, apparently by the same sort of persons, as the streets in Sydney. There is not the same bustling activity about them… There are also fewer women amongst them, and fewer well dressed men. The yellow, clay-stained fustian trousers which have never made and never will make acquaintance with the wash-tub, invest the lower extremities of every two men out of three…”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Charles Bird, Medical Hall, Gulgong' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Charles Bird, Medical Hall, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18160

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The Medical Hall of Charles Bird Jnr was situated at the corner of Belmore and Herbert Streets, Gulgong. Charles Bird Snr. conducted another shop at the corner of Mayne and Herbert Streets, until the Medical Hall was sold and converted into a hotel in 1879. The Gulgong Guardian 20 November 1872 noted that Charles Bird had received a new disinfectant “which will be invaluable during the summer months to all who are unfortunate enough to live in those parts of town where stenches are pungent and plentiful.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett's store, Gulgong' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
Holmes, bootmaker, and Spiro Bennett’s store, Gulgong
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18314

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This timber clad facade fails to conceal the bark structure behind and the poverty of its inhabitants. This is Gulgong bootmaker William Holmes and his family outside their shop in Mayne Street west. His wife Emily, in the doorway, died a few months after the photograph was taken. The town’s short-term architecture was described in The Sydney Morning Herald 30 September 1872. “Gulgong is not singular in its buildings. The followers of alluvial rushes have ere this found that business is fleeting. As leads work out so does business tide away. Hence have we buildings of a temporary nature; and, although the town of Gulgong may be reckoned three years old, yet not a single brick building stands on its site…”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'The detectives' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
The detectives
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18246

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These are detectives Charles Powell and Robert Hannan, outside their Gulgong office. They had plenty to do. In a letter to the editor of the Maitland Mercury 16 May 1872, William Collins stated “The people (except the bankers and storekeepers), are in general a rough and ready set, occasionally a fight is to be seen, but the very diligent police speedily settle such hostile engagements, by marching the pugilists to a place called the town cage, from which place they are brought in the morning before the magistrate, who has often heard of mercy, but does not know what it means…” Powell and Hannan arrested 14 Chinese for gambling in January 1872 and the Empire 20 January 1872 noted, “In all these cases the lawyers reap a rich harvest, and it was somewhat amusing to witness their actively and interest within ten minutes of the time of arrest.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'The detectives' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
The detectives (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18246

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American & Australasian Photographic. 'Company William Lewis, undertaker' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
William Lewis, undertaker
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18168

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The establishment of William Thomas Lewis, Undertaker and Carpenter at the corner of Belmore and Herbert Streets was primitive, but his funerals were said to be carried out ‘with his usual taste and completeness’. In 1871, Gulgong lacked a suitable place for burials and the Gulgong Guardian commented several times on the growing outcry for a cemetery. The locals had a valid complaint, particularly because of the considerable mortality rate among the young. In April 1871 alone, nine children died in a fortnight. Even Thomas De Courcy Brown, editor of the Guardian, lost his daughter Rose, age 7 months, in December that year. In January 1872, there were 37 deaths in Gulgong, (including 21 children under 5 years) and 17 births. The newspaper complained that the new cemetery was still unfenced.

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American & Australasian Photographic. 'Company William Lewis, undertaker' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
William Lewis, undertaker (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 2/No. 18168

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'John Osborne, painter and signwriter' 1872

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
John Osborne, painter and signwriter
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 4/No. 18372

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J.H. Osborne, painter & signwriter of Gulgong also supplied decorative wallpaper. It seems he painted faux marble headstones as well. Osborne’s bark clad establishment was located at 2 Medley Street, at the sparsely populated northern end of town, which explains the prominent display of his sign writing skill. The Empire 28 May 1872 commented on the temporary nature of buildings in Gulgong. “The shops and public-houses are, for the most part, of a very temporary and unsubstantial character, considered as buildings. A large proportion of them are capable of being removed, piecemeal, and set up again on a new diggings in the event of Gulgong declining in prosperity, and a rush taking place to another field within a day or two’s journey.”

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American & Australasian Photographic Company. 'John Osborne, painter and signwriter' 1872 (detail)

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American & Australasian Photographic Company
John Osborne, painter and signwriter (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 4/No. 18372

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“A meeting between gold miner Bernard Otto Holtermann and photographer Beaufoy Merlin in Hill End in 1872 resulted in one of the most astonishing photographic documentations ever undertaken. Holtermann had been associated with the recent discovery of the world’s largest specimen of reef gold, weighing 145 kilograms, extracted from the Star of Hope mine at nearby Tambaroora. Merlin, an itinerant photographer, had just opened a temporary studio in Hill End. In January 1873, the two announced their plans for Holtermann’s great International Travelling Exposition, which would publicise the potential of their adopted country to the world through photography.
Merlin and his assistant Charles Bayliss had already photographed some of the gold producing towns of the colony and Holtermann’s patronage enabled them to continue the undertaking, using a larger camera.

Merlin had begun his photographic career in Victoria in 1866 and within a few years had developed a unique style of outdoor photography. Charles Bayliss joined American & Australasian Photographic Company in Melbourne and the pair headed north into New South Wales, photographing towns along the way. When Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss arrived in Sydney in September 1870, they had already completed an extraordinary documentation of “almost every house in Melbourne, and the other towns in Victoria.” They were aware that their venture was unusual and contemporary advertising by the American & Australasian Photographic Company reflects a considered understanding of the photographic medium and an intellectual approach to their work.

“The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of the Company’s style of work, is the introduction of figures into the photograph – the most complete and life-like portraits of individuals who happen, or may choose to stand outside, being incorporated in the picture. The A&A Photographic Company desire further to remind the public that these negatives are not taken for the mere immediate object of sale, but that being registered, copies can at all times be had by or of those parties residing in any part of the colonies wherever the Company’s operations have extended, thus forming a novel means of social and commercial intercourse.”

Nevertheless, it is not surprising that Merlin and Bayliss headed west in 1872 with the new gold rushes. The cry “Rush-O!” meant money for businesses, including photographers. A studio for the A&A Photographic Company was built on land owned by Holtermann in Hill End and excursions were made to surrounding areas by horse drawn caravan. The photographic process of the day required the photographer coat each plate just before use and develop it immediately before it lost sensitivity. For the itinerant photographer, this meant taking a portable darkroom wherever he went. Despite the difficulty of the wet plate process, the comprehensive goldfields photography of Merlin and Bayliss has provided a unique documentation of frontier life.

Merlin fell ill and died from pneumonia in 1873, leaving his assistant the task of documenting towns for Holtermann’s Exposition. Consequently, Bayliss toured Victoria the following year, but returned to Sydney in 1875 and began making giant panoramas of the city from Holtermann’s house in North Sydney. The venture was to cost Holtermann over ₤4000, but resulted in the production of the world’s largest wet-plate negatives and several panoramas. One, measuring 10 metres long, astonished audiences overseas and received the Bronze award at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 and a Silver Medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle Internationale in 1878. Only a small percentage of the A&A Photographic Company’s output has survived, but 3,500 small format wet plates negatives (including extensive coverage of the towns of Hill End and Gulgong) and the world’s largest wet plate negatives, measuring a massive 1 x 1.5 metres, are held by the Library.”

Text from The Holtermann Collection website

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Charles Bayliss. 'The beginning of Home Rule' 1872

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Charles Bayliss
The beginning of Home Rule
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18278

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Home Rule, 11 km south-east of Gulgong, was only two months old when Charles Bayliss took this photograph. A reporter from the Gulgong Guardian was also in town and wrote on 13 July 1872, “During the past fortnight there has been a great improvement for the better in the appearance of the township at the Home Rule. Large and costly buildings are springing up in every direction and being fitted up for almost every trade. In hotels there is a great change for the better, as in several of them notably Messrs Wright, Moss, and Oliver, the accommodation is almost equal to any on Gulgong; so visitors need not fear that they will suffer hunger or thirst.”

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Charles Bayliss. 'Tent city, Home Rule' 1872

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Charles Bayliss
Tent city, Home Rule
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18285

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In the early days of gold rushes, miners usually lived in tents. Here tentmaker J. Booth has confidently set up his canvas shop in Home Rule. The burgeoning new field was described in the Sydney Morning Herald 22 May 1872, “On Friday last there must have been fully fifteen hundred persons upon the ground, and tents and habitations of every description were springing, apparently Iike mushrooms, from the ground, and such is the rapidity with which a gold-fields town is formed, I shall not be surprised to see the place well supplied with stores, and, of course, hotels, when I again visit the place about a fortnight hence.”

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Charles Bayliss. 'John Davey, baker' 1872

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Charles Bayliss
John Davey, baker
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18384

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With his shoes covered in flour, John Davey steps outside his bakery in the main street of Canadian Lead. Bread cost 6d a 2lb [5 cents per 900g] loaf. The woman and children to the right also appear outside Ruth Beck’s North Star Hotel, three doors away. The rush to Canadian Lead began in early 1872 and the Maitland Mercury 6 April 1872 was able to state “the Canadian Lead, where a month ago some four hundred people were, can now boast of a couple of thousands…” Not everyone was law-abiding. The Maitland Mercury 24 August 1872 related the story of Mrs Beck dropping a purse containing £21 [$42, worth about $2000 today], which was picked up by her little boy, but taken from him by two men claiming that it was theirs. The miscreants were arrested in Mudgee two days later, drinking the profits.

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Charles Bayliss. 'John Davey, baker' 1872 (detail)

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Charles Bayliss
John Davey, baker (detail)
1872
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 3/No. 18384

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Beaufoy Merlin. 'Circular Quay from Dawes Battery' 1873

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Beaufoy Merlin
Circular Quay from Dawes Battery
1873
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 58/No. 285

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In mid 1873, Beaufoy Merlin returned to Sydney to continue photographing the city for Holtermann. The Sydney Morning Herald 2 August 1873 noted, “Mr. Beaufoy Merlin has taken a considerable number of photographic views of Sydney for the first section of ‘Holtermann’s Intercolonial Exposition.’” This image from Dawes Battery, past Campbell’s Wharf to Circular Quay can be dated to early September 1873, as the Haddon Hall (r) from London, is loading for San Francisco at Campbell’s wharf. Behind it is Aviemore and the ship in background in front of Customs House is La Hogue. Both Aviemore and La Hogue left for London on 13 September 1873.

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Charles Bayliss [American & Australasian Photographic Company]. 'Pall Mall, Bendigo' 1874

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Charles Bayliss [American & Australasian Photographic Company]
Pall Mall, Bendigo
1874
Wet plate glass negative, on 4/Box 78/No. 2

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After the death of Beaufoy Merlin in 1873, Bernhardt Holtermann engaged Merlin’s assistant, 24 year-old Charles Bayliss, to continue taking photographs for his planned Exposition. This view of Pall Mall from Hadley’s City Family Hotel, Sandhurst [Bendigo, Victoria] was taken in April 1874. Bayliss photographed the town using the Exposition’s standard 10 x 12 inch [25 x 30cm] glass negatives, but for this image used a mammoth camera specially imported by Holtermann which took glass plates measuring 18 x 22 inches [46 x 56cm]. Bayliss also photographed Ballarat in June 1874, using the mammoth camera to produce a panorama from the town hall clock tower.

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State Library of New South Wales
Macquarie Street, Sydney
NSW 2000 Australia
T: +61 2 9273 1414

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

The Greatest Wonder of the World website

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18
May
11

Exhibition: ‘Kurt Kranz: Programming of Beauty’ at the Bauhaus Dessau, Berlin

Exhibition marking the 100th birthday of Kurt Kranz
19th November 2010 – 29th May 2011

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One of the great pleasures of publishing this blog is that I get to research the life of an artist whose work I never knew before. Kurt Kranz is one such artist.

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

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Kurt Kranz
Perspective
1931
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
Foto: Lars Lohrisch / Abdruck mit Genehmigung der Kunsthalle

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Kurt Kranz
Vereinsamung
Dessau
1930
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
Leihgeber: Kunsthalle Bremen

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Installation photograph of ‘Programming of Beauty’ by Kurt Kranz at the Bauhaus Dessau

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Kurt Kranz
Versinkende (Sinking one)
1931
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

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Kurt Kranz
Persischer Garten (Persian garden)
1970
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
Foto: Uwe Jacobshagen

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“The Bauhaus Dessau dedicates a comprehensive exhibition to the painter, graphic designer and photographer Kurt Kranz to mark his 100th birthday. In 1930, the then twenty-year-old lithographer came from Bielefeld to study at the Bauhaus Dessau, where he soon established himself as a pioneer of serial and generative methods. With his avant-garde work, Kranz’s methods anticipated those of later generations.

Inspired by a lecture by László Moholy-Nagy, Kurt Kranz came to the Bauhaus Dessau in April 1930. In Walter Peterhans’s photography class, Kranz began to experiment with photographic techniques and created some of the most striking abstract picture series to emerge from the Bauhaus. Alienated and abstracted faces and hands appear repeatedly in his dynamic picture series. These show Kranz’s early affinity for film as, page for page, the abstract forms interact with one another. Kranz drafted his first concepts for abstract films at the Bauhaus, although he was first able to realise these decades later in 1972.

The exhibition to mark the artist’s 100th birthday shows works from Kranz’s Bauhaus years and his later work as an advertising graphic designer, and focuses on a selection of his large picture cycles. Strikingly diverse leporellos dating from the 1960s onwards take centre stage, as do the so-called “Matrix-und Schiebebilder”.”

Text from the Bauhaus Dessau website

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Kurt Kranz
Selbstporträt en face (objektives Foto) (Self-portrait with face (objective photo))
1931
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

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Kurt Kranz
Rasterfoto (Raster photograph)
1932
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

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Kurt Kranz
Schwarz : Weiß (Black: White)
1928–29
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
Privatbesitz

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Kurt Kranz
Schwarz : Weiß (Black: White)
1928–29
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
Privatbesitz

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Kurt Kranz
Schwarz : Weiß (Black: White)
1928–29
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
Privatbesitz

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Kurt Kranz
Schrift Entwurf aus Satzmaterial (Writing draft from sentence material)
Dessau
1931
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

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Kurt Kranz
Aus der Serie “Sieben Schritte zum symmetrischen Oval” (From the series “Seven steps to the symmetrical Oval”)
1982
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
Foto: Uwe Jacobshagen

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Kurt Kranz
Augenreihe (Eye rows)
1931 (montiert 1981) (1931 (1981 install))
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
Leihgeber: Kunsthalle Bremen

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Kurt Kranz
Mund-Reihen (Mouth rows)
1931
Ingrid Kranz / Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau
Leihgeber: Kunsthalle Bremen
Foto: Ingrid Kranz, Wedel

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Bauhaus Dessau
Gropiusalle 38, Dessau, Germany

Opening hours:
daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Bauhaus Dessau website

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26
Jan
11

Review: ‘Unnerved: The New Zealand Project’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 26th November 2010  - 27th February 2011
A Queensland Art Gallery Touring Exhibition

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Ava Seymour (New Zealand b.1967)
State Highway I
1997
from ‘Health, happiness and housing’ series
Colour photograph of a photomontage

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Ava Seymour (New Zealand b.1967)
Day Care Walkabouts
1997
from ‘Health, happiness and housing’ series
Photomontage on colour photograph

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New Zealand art adrift a myriad of stories and symbols – not a brave ‘new world’

This is an underwhelming group exhibition of over 100 works drawn from the Queensland Art Gallery collection, a show to wander around on a lazy weekend afternoon and not get too excited about. The large number of works in the exhibition make it impossible to review each work individually (although I critique some works below) but one does get an overall sense of the investigation by New Zealand artists into their history, place, culture and identity. While there are a few good works in the exhibition there are also some very mediocre works as well and, other than a few splashes of self-deprecating humour (such as the wonderful The Horn of Africa (2006) by Michael Parekowhai, below) it all seems importantly earnest: an exhibition for serious people (apologies to Oscar Wilde).

On the evidence of this exhibition the country of New Zealand must be a very unnerving place to live, mainly because their artists can’t seem to keep their hand off it  - cultural history that is.

Throughout this exhibition we have psychological unease, physical unease, a little humour, parody, poetry, symbology, allegory, mythology, colonialism, post-colonialism, nationalism, commercialisation, representation, anthropology, travel, landscape, topography, advertising, first contact, sacred spaces, indigenous politics, Māori culture, Pacific Islander culture, pakeha (non-indigenous) culture, tools, guns, rabbits, seals, pianos, traditional tattoos, tourist sites and museums, surfing, suburbia, personal journeys, family albums, androgyny, identity, public housing, ambiguous states, hyperreality, surreality, dislocation, disenfranchisement, alienation, bodies, portraits, subjects, past, present, future (and more!)

Ronnie van Hout exhibits three atmospheric, eerie, dark photographs of constructed model landscapes: of a Nazi doodlebug and the words ABDUCT and HYBRID. The wall text tries, unsuccessfully, to link the images to the obscure and haunted landscapes of New Zealand – a very long bow to draw indeed. Bill Cuthbert’s “nice” photographs offer generalised statements of light and place but really don’t take you anywhere and in fact could have been taken anywhere. The wall text offers that the photographs are a “self-conscious, critical response” to the dismantling of colonial ideas of empire and nation … this is art speak gobbledygook at its worst trying to justify basic photography.

Mark Adams panoramic photograph of one of the sites of first contact – an important historical moment of encounter between Māori and pakeha (non-Māori people of European descent) – are a beautiful photograph of a sound and mountains that has then been dissected, fragmented and individually framed and then mounted unevenly on the gallery wall – just to make sure we get the point about the ‘nature’ of the scenery and its cultural implications. Lonnie Hutchinson’s cut wall work ‘Cinco’ “offers an interplay between paper and space and explores the ‘va’ or space between – a relation between the Samoan people and the landscape saturated with the dialogue of our ancestors … being adrift in a sea of memories caused by feelings related to cultural loss and uncertainty.” I know how they feel: adrift, underwhelmed by the art and overwhelmed by the text.

Other than the striking photograph of the ‘Dandy’ (2007, below) Lisa Reihana’s series ‘Digital Marae’ (2001 – ) also fails to inspire. The marae is a highly structure space where Māori families come together – an outdoor, cleared area, a communal or sacred place which serves religious and social purposes in Polynesian societies. Here can be found male sculptures called poupou featuring diverse forms of masculinity, Māori gods and goddesses. The elder Mahuika, while sometimes described as male, is deliberately depicted in her female state in this series. In Reihanna’s digital interpretation of the marae her gods and goddesses become slick, media-inspired glossy magazine type images printed large, mounted on aluminium and lit for maximum theatrical effect. The unstructured spaces behind the figures have no context, no placement and give lie to the inspiration for the series (a highly structured space) and, as such, they land with a commercial thud onto the cleared earth.

The lowest point in the exhibition must be reserved for the 80 photographs of the series ‘The homely’ (1997–2000) by Gavin Hipkins. Usually when reviewing I refrain from saying anything really bad about works of art but this is an exception. This series is awful. Robert Nelson in The Age describes it as “visually and conceptually incoherent.” Taken over 4 years and supposedly “examining notions of nationhood that are unstable and fractured” Hipkins describes it as “a post-colonial gothic novel.” !!

The series features flat, one-dimensional images of symbols: sculptures, closed doors, open doors, flags, people, repeating circles and vertical elements – where the aggregate of all the images is supposed to MEAN SOMETHING. These are the most simple, most basic of year 12 images formed into a sequence that is conceptually irrelevant in terms of its symbolism and iconography vis a vis the purported critical examination it seeks to undertake. This person really needs to look at the sequences of Minor White to see how a great artist puts photographs together – not just in terms of narrative but the meaning in the spaces between the images, their spiritual resonance or, if wanting to be more literal, study that seminal book ‘The Americans’ by Robert Frank to see how to really make a sequence. Ultimately, these are images I wished I had never seen.

On to better things. For me the absolute gem of this exhibition were the photomontages of Ava Seymour from her ‘Health, happiness and housing’ series (see photographs above). These are just fantastic! Featuring as a backdrop photographs of state houses built in the 1950s and 60s Seymour assembles her cast of characters – composite figures of found limbs, bodies and faces taken from old medical text books – and creates stark, psychological sites of engagement. The can be seen as family portraits, social documents of unseen alienation and dis-enfranchisement with communities and also a comment on the conduct of the welfare system and state housing, but in their ironic, self-deprecating humour they become so much more. Even though they use old photographs the artist recasts them ingenuously to become something new, a new space that the viewer can step into, unlike most of the work in this exhibition.

Most artists in this exhibition seem intent on a form of cultural excavation to make their work, digging and rooting around in cultural history and memory to find “meaning”, to make new forms from old that actually lead nowhere. They excavate symbols and signs and reform them hoping for what, exactly? All that appears is work that is stunted and fragmented, chopped up dislocations that offer nothing new in terms of a way forward for the culture from which these histories and memories emerge. There is no holistic, healing vision here, only a series of mined observations that fragment, distort and polarise, descending into the decorative, illustrative or the commercial. The same can be said of some Australian art (including the exhibition ‘Stormy Weather: Contemporary Landscape Photography’ at NGV Federation Square that I will review next). As Robert Nelson succinctly observed in his review of this exhibition in The Age (Wednesday, December 29th, 2010), this exhibition “reveals a weakness that also exists in our scene: fertile tricks and noble intentions, but patchy skill or poetic imagination for connecting them.” Well said.

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“When the soul wants to experience something she throws out an image in front of her and then steps into it.” (Meister Eckhart) It is an evocation of the image as a threshold leading to new dimensions of meaning. Symbolic images are more than data; they are vital seeds, living carriers of possibility.”1

New dimensions of meaning, vital seeds, living carriers of possibility. Everyone of us is a living, breathing embodiment of cultural history and memory. We know that intimately in our bones, as human beings. What artists need to do is observe this legacy but offer a way forward, not constantly excavating the past and hoping this is enough when creating work. These are not new spaces to step into! The cohabitation of indigenous and ethnically mixed non-indigenous cultures in both Australia and New Zealand requires this holistic forward looking vision. It is a redemptive vision that is not mired in the symbols and archetypes of the past but, as Australia writer David Malouf envisages it, ‘a dream history, a myth history, a history of experience in the imagination’.2 It is a vision of the future that all post-colonial countries can embrace, where a people can come to know their sense of place more fully.

Rather than an escapist return to the past perhaps a redemptive vision of New Zealand’s cultural future, a history of experience in the imagination, would be less insular and more open to the capacity to wonder.

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Many thankx to Jemma Altmeier for her help and to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Lisa REIHANA
Ngāpuhi: Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tu
New Zealander 1964–
Hinepukohurangi
2001
from Digital Marae 2001–
cibachrome photograph mounted on aluminium
200.0 x 100.0 cm
Purchased 2002
© Lisa Reihana

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Lisa REIHANA
Ngāpuhi: Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tu
New Zealander 1964–
Dandy
2007
from Digital Marae 2001–
colour digital print mounted on aluminium
200.0 x 120.0 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2008 with funds from the Estate of Vincent Stack through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
© Lisa Reihana

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Yvonne TODD
New Zealander 1973–
January
2005
from the Vagrants’ reception centre series
lightjet photograph
100.0 x 73.8 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2007. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant

©Yvonne Todd

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Michael PAREKOWHAI
Ngāti Whakarongo
New Zealander 1968–
Kapa Haka (Whero)
2003
automotive paint on fibreglass
188.0 x 60.0 x 50.0 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2009 with funds from Tim Fairfax AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation
© Michael Parekowhai

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“The National Gallery of Victoria today opened a major exhibition celebrating the extraordinary work of 26 contemporary New Zealand artists in Unnerved: The New Zealand Project.

Unnerved explores a particularly rich, dark vein found in contemporary New Zealand art. The psychological or physical unease underlying many works in the exhibition is addressed with humour, parody and poetic subtlety by artists across generations and mediums. Bringing together more than 100 works ranging from intimate works on paper to large scale installations by both established and emerging artists, Unnerved engages with New Zealand’s changing social, political and cultural landscape as the country navigates its indigenous settler and migrant histories. These works explore a changing sense of place, the continued importance of contemporary Maori art, biculturalism, a complex colonial past, the creative reworking of memory, and the often interconnected mediums of performance, photography and video. If the vision is unsettling, it is also compelling and Unnerved: The New Zealand Project offers us new ways of seeing one of our closest neighbours.

This fascinating exhibition explores a rich and dark vein found in contemporary art in New Zealand, drawing on the disquieting aspects of New Zealand’s history and culture reflected through more than 100 works of art.

Jane Devery, Coordinating Curator, NGV said: “The works presented in Unnerved reveal a darkness and distinctive edginess that characterises this particular trend in New Zealand contemporary art. The psychological or physical unease underlying many works in the exhibitions is addressed with humour, parody and poetic subtlety.

The exhibition reflects the strength and vitality of contemporary art in New Zealand with works created by both established and emerging artists, across a range of mediums including painting, photography, sculpture, installation, drawing, film and video.

Unnerved engages with New Zealand’s changing social, political and cultural landscape, exploring a shifting sense of place, complex colonial past, the relationships between contemporary Māori, Pacific Islander and pakeha (non-indigenous) culture, and the interplay between performance, video and photography,” said Ms Devery.

A highlight of the exhibition is a group of sculptural works by Michael Parekowhai including his giant inflatable rabbit, Cosmo McMurtry, which will greet visitors to the exhibition, and a spectacular life-size seal balancing a grand piano on its nose titled The Horn of Africa. Also on display are a series of haunting photographs by Yvonne Todd, whose portrait photography often refers to B-grade films and pulp fiction novels.

Gerard Vaughan, Director, NGV said this exhibition demonstrates the NGV’s strong commitment to interesting and challenging contemporary art secured from around the world; he noted that the NGV has made a special commitment to exhibition the contemporary art of our region.

“Unnerved will introduce visitors to the rich contemporary arts scene of one of our closest neighbours, fascinating audiences with works ranging from the life size installations by Parekowhai through to the spectacular 30 metre photographic essay by Gavin Hipkins. This truly is a must see show this summer!” said Dr Vaughan.

Unnerved will also offer a strong and engaging collection of contemporary sculpture, installations, drawings, paintings, photography, film and video art by artists including Lisa Reihana, John Pule, Gavin Hipkins, Anne Noble, Ronnie van Hout, Shane Cotton, Julian Hooper and many others.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria website

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Gavin HIPKINS
New Zealander 1968–
Christchurch (Mask)
1998
from The homely series 1997–2000
type C photograph
60.0 x 40.0 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane Purchased 2008. The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund
© Gavin Hipkins

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Michael PAREKOWHAI
Ngāti Whakarongo
New Zealander 1968–
The Horn of Africa
2006
automotive paint, wood, fibreglass, steel, brass
395.0 x 200.0 x 260.0 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2008 with funds from the Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund in recognition of the contribution to the Gallery by Wayne Goss (Chair of Trustees 1999–2008)
© Michael Parekowhai

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Fiona PARDINGTON
Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Kati Waewae
New Zealander 1961–
Sweet Kiwi, from the collection ‘Whanganui Museum’
2008
gold-toned gelatin silver photograph
61.0 x 50.8 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2008 with funds from Gina Fairfax through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation (2008.349)
©Fiona Pardington

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Michael PAREKOWHAI
Cosmo McMurtry
2006
synthetic polymer paint on polyvinyl chloride, fibreglass, air compressor
734.3 x 506.4 x 739.1cm (variable)
Presented by the Melbourne Art Fair Foundation with the assistance of funds donated by NGV Contemporary, 2006
National Gallery of Victoria
© Michael Parekowhai

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Max GIMBLETT
New Zealander/American 1935–
Balls
1990–97
brush and ink, synthetic polymer paint and pencil on handmade paper
59.8 x 79.3 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
The Max Gimblett Gift.
Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2000
© Max Gimblett

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Anne NOBLE
New Zealander 1954–
Ruby’s room no. 6
1999
colour digital print
67.0 x 100.2 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2006
©Anne Noble

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1. Ronnberg, Ami (ed.,). “Preface,” in The Book of Symbols. Cologne: Taschen, 2010, p.6.

2. Footnote 6. Daniel, Helen. “Interview with David Malouf,” Australian Book Review (September , 1996), p.13 quoted in Ennis, Helen. “The Presence of the Past,” in Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p.141.

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NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
10am – 5pm. Closed Tuesdays.

National Gallery of Victoria website

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09
Jun
09

Review: ‘Modern Times: The Untold Story of Modernism in Australia’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 21st March – 12th July, 2009

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Roy de Maistre. 'Colour Composition derived from three bars of music in the Key of Green' 1935

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Roy de Maistre
‘Colour Composition derived from three bars of music in the Key of Green’
1935

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Roy de Maistre. 'Arrested Movement from a Trio' 1934

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Roy de Maistre
‘Arrested Movement from a Trio’
1934

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Despite some interesting highlight pieces this is a patchy, thin, incoherent exhibition assembled by the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney now showing at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. Featuring a hotchpotch of work ranging across fields such as drawing, architecture, photography, painting, film, graphic design, craft, advertising, Australiana and aboriginal works the exhibition attempts to tell the untold story of Modernism in Australia to little effect. Within the exhibition there is no attempt to define exactly what ‘Modernism’ is and therefore an investigation into Modernism in Australia is all the more confusing for the visitor as there seems to be no stable basis on which to build that investigation. Perhaps reading the catalogue would give a greater overview of the development of Modernism in Australia but for the average visitor to the exhibition there seems to be no holistic rationale for the inclusion of elements within the exhibition which, much like Modernism itself, seems eclectically gathered from all walks of life with little regard for narrative structure.

With work spanning five decades from 1917 – 1967 we are presented with, variously, Robert Klippel’s kitsch ‘Boomerang’ table from 1955, Robin Boyd’s ‘House of Tomorrow’ from 1949, Wolfgang Sievers ‘new objective’ photographs, Berlei’s scientific system for calculating beauty in woman in use till the 1960s, swimsuits from the 1920s – 1940s, Featherston chairs from the Australian pavilion at the 1967 Expo, a recreation of Australian architect Harry Seidler’s office (the most interesting part of this being the books he had in his office library: Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van de Rohe and ‘Concerning Town Planning’ by Le Corbusier) and the wind tunnel test model of the Sydney Opera House in wood from 1960. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera …

Highlight pieces include the above mentioned test model of the Sydney Opera House which is stunning in its scale and woodenness, in it’s simplicity of shape and form. Other highlight pieces are the colour music compositions of Roy de Maistre which were the tour de force of the show for me, true revelations in their rhythmic synchronic Moebius-like construction with layered planes of colour swirling in purples, greens and yellows. The large vintage photographic print of ‘Sunbaker’ (1934) by Max Dupain was also a revelation with it’s earthy brown tones, the blending of the atmospheric out of focus foreground with the clouds behind, the architectural nature of the outline of the body almost like the outline of Uluru, the darkness of the head with the sensuality of the head and shoulders framed against the largeness of the hand resting on the sand. Lastely the two paintings and one rug by French artist Sonia Delaunay are a knockout. It says something about an exhibition when the best work in the show are two paintings by a French artist seemingly plucked at random to show external influences on Australian artists and designers.

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Sonia Delaunay. 'Rhythm' 1938

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Sonia Delaunay
‘Rhythm’
1938

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Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' 1934 printed 1937

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Max Dupain
‘Sunbaker’
1934 printed 1937

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While the exhibition does attempt to portray the breadth of the development of Modernism in Australia ultimately it falls well short in this endeavour. The most striking example of this shortcoming is the true star of the exhibition – the building that is Heide II itself. Commissioned by John and Sunday Reed and designed by the Victorian architect David McGlashan of the architectural firm McGlashan and Eversit in 1963 the building epitomises everything that is good about architectural Modernism and it’s form overshadows the exhibition itself. In this building we have beautiful spaces and volumes, an amazing staircase down into the lower area, suspended decking overlooking gardens, the blending of inside and outside areas, large expanses of glass to view the landscape, nooks and studies for privacy and the simplicity and eloquence of form that is Modernist design. With money one can indulge in the best of elitist Modernism. With position, position, position one can side steep the alienation of the city and the spread of surburbia where the dream of Australians owning a home of their own still continues in the vast, tasteless expanses of McMansion estates.

Robert Nelson in his review of this exhibition sees the car as creating the suburbs and Modernism as the emptying of the city after 6pm, the lessening of community and the devaluing of space he insists that there is little difference between a Californian bungalow in the suburbs and a utopian geometric neo-Corbusian box by Harry Seidler because they were equally shackled to motor transport.1 This is to miss the point.

Although Modernism in its basic form influenced most walks of life in Australia from swimsuit design to milk bars, from cinema to naturism, from bodies to advertising the most effective expressions of Modernism are architectural (as evidenced by Heide II) and were only open to those with money, power and position. Although Le Corbusier’s concept of public housing was a space ‘for the people’ the most interesting of his houses were the private commissions for wealthy clients. And so it proves here. One can imagine the parties on the deck at Heide II in the 1960s with men in their tuxedo and bow ties and woman in their gowns, or the relaxation of the Reed’s sitting in front of their fire in the submerged lounge. For the ordinary working class person Modernism brought a sense of alienation from the aspirational things one cannot buy in the world, an alienation that continues to this day; for the privileged few Modernism offered the exclusivity of elitism (or is it the elitism of exclusivity!) and an aspirational alienation of a different kind – that of the separation from the masses.

Go to Heide for the glorious gardens, the wonders of Heide II but don’t go to this exhibition expecting grand insights into the basis of Australian Modernism for that story, as Robert Nelson rightly notes, remains as yet untold.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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An excellent review of the exhibition by Jill Julius Matthews can be found on the Journal of the National Museum of Australia website.

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Heide II

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Heide II

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Hedie II photographs by Rory Hyde. More photos of Heide are on his Flickr photoset.

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“The Powerhouse Museum travelling exhibition Modern times: the untold story of modernism in Australia, presented in Melbourne by Connex, explores how modernism transformed Australian culture from 1917 to 1967, a period of great social, economic, political and technological change.

The Powerhouse Museum travelling exhibition Modern times: the untold story of modernism in Australia explores how modernism transformed Australian culture from 1917 to 1967, a period of great social, economic, political and technological change. From the ideals of abstraction and functionalism to the romance of high-rise cities, new leisure activities and the healthy body, modernism encapsulated the possibilities of the twentieth century. This exhibition is the first interdisciplinary survey of the impact of modernism in Australia, spanning art,design, architecture, advertising, photography, film and fashion.

Modern times is presented at Heide across all four of the Museum’s gallery spaces. It unfolds in thematic sections highlighting key stories about international exchange, the modern body, modernist ‘primitivism’, the city, modern pools, and the Space Age. Comprising over 300 objects and artworks, it showcases works by major artists including Sidney Nolan, Margaret Preston, Albert Tucker, Grace Cossington Smith, Max Dupain, Wolfgang Sievers, and Clement Meadmore, key architects Robin Boyd, Roy Grounds and Harry Seidler, and designers Fred Ward and Grant and Mary Featherston. An installation, Cannibal Tours, by Madrid-based Australian artist Narelle Jubelin is a contemporary adjunct to the exhibition.

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Athlete and movie-star Annette Kellerman’s ‘Modern Kellerman Bathing Suit for Women’ which became commercially available by the mid-1920s. The one-piece bathing suit became Kellerman’s trademark.

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Athlete and movie-star Annette Kellerman’s Modern Kellerman Bathing Suit for Women’ which became commercially available by the mid-1920s. The one-piece bathing suit became Kellerman’s trademark.

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‘On hot summer days cool off with Tooth’s KB Lager’, advertising poster (about 1940).

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‘On hot summer days cool off with Tooth’s KB Lager’
Advertising poster (about 1940).

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Inspired by the futurist visions of various European avant-gardes, modernist ideas were often controversial and shaped by many competing positions. Modern times reveals how these ideas were circulated and took hold in Australia, via émigrés, expatriates, exhibitions, films and publications. Australian contact with significant international modernist sources, such as the Bauhaus school in Germany, occurred through figures such as influential artist and teacher Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, who taught Bauhaus principles at Geelong Grammar, and renowned architect Harry Seidler, who played a central role in shaping the modern city in Australia. Hirschfeld-Mack’s extraordinary film Colour Light Play of 1923 is shown for the first time in Australia, and Seidler’s 1948 studio, designed on his arrival from New York, has been re-created for the exhibition.

While modernism was international in character, an ‘Australian modernism’ was first championed in the 1920s by artist Margaret Preston, whose promotion of Aboriginal forms and motifs was important to the understanding of their artistic value. Preston’s designs, Len Lye’s stunning animation Tusalava (1929), Robert Klippel’s ‘boomerang’ table (c. 1955) and other works show the development of a vernacular modernism.

Other highlights of Modern times include works from the visionary experiment in colour theory by Roy de Maistre and Roland Wakelin in 1919, a model of Robin Boyd’s innovative House of Tomorrow (1949), the iconic Featherston wing sound chairs from the Australian pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Expo, and a large wooden model for Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House.”

Text from the Heide Museum of Art website

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Grant and Mary Featherston. 'Expo mark II sound chair' 1967

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Grant and Mary Featherston
‘Expo mark II sound chair’
1967

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Australia Square, 1968, Max Dupain-a keyhole to the future. Courtesy of Max Dupain and Associates.

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Max Dupain
‘Australia Square, 1968′, Max Dupain-a keyhole to the future
Courtesy of Max Dupain and Associates.

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Jeff Carter. 'At the Pasha Nightclub, Cooma' c.1957-59

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Jeff Carter
‘At the Pasha Nightclub, Cooma’
c.1957-59

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“A major exhibition opening for Sydney Design 08 in August, Modern times looks closely at the transformation of modern city life. The advent of cars, freeways, skyscrapers and new entertainment such as cinemas, milk bars, swimming pools, cafes and pubs are all legacies of modernism as revealed through the exhibition. The exhibition spans five decades from 1917 to 1967 – a tumultuous period marked by global wars, economic depression, a technological revolution and major social changes – out of which a modern cosmopolitan culture was shaped.

“The modernist movement was inspired by various European avant-gardes that projected visions of a better future, shaped by many competing positions. It was through émigrés, expatriates, exhibitions and publications that modernism become known in Australia,” Ann Stephen said. Encompassing art, design and architecture, Modern times focuses on seven themes: 1. the human body, image and health; 2. international influences and exchanges; 3. Indigenous art and modernism; 4. Interdisciplinary projects with retailers; 5. city landscapes and urban life; 6. public pools and milk bars; and 7. the space age.

Several great modern public pools were designed in Australia initially as part of an international swimming boom in the 1930s and boosted by the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. These will be shown on a large, immersive, panoramic audio visual screen celebrating the most Australian of past-times, being poolside. The earliest 1920s swimming costumes by silent film star Annette Kellerman, several decades of Australian icon ‘Speedo’ cossies and an early bikini will also be on display.

The much-loved corner milk bar from the 1930s will also be recreated in the exhibition for visitors to enter, complete with lolly jars, milkshakes and a juke box.

Other story highlights in the exhibition include Robin Boyd’s ‘House of Tomorrow’ that featured at the 1949 Modern Home Exhibition in Melbourne; and Boyd’s memorable Australian pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Expo that showcased Australian design including the iconic Featherston wing sound chairs and hostess uniforms designed by Zara Holt, wife of then prime minister Harold Holt.

Modernism also inspired new forms of public art and design like the abstract fountains by Tom Bass on Sydney’s former P&O building and Robert Woodward’s El Alamein Memorial Fountain, a popular tourist site in Sydney’s Kings Cross. Modernism shaped an exultant explosion of experiment as part of the Space Age informing such spectacular architectural feats as Roy Grounds’ dome for the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra and Jørn Utzon’s internationally-acclaimed Sydney Opera House, both featured in the exhibition.”

Text from the Huliq News website

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Robert Klippel 'Boomerang' coffee table 1955

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Robert Klippel
‘Boomerang’ coffee table
1955

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James Birrell. 'A modernist vision of Australia - The interior of the Australian Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal' 1967

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National Archives of Australia
‘A modernist vision of Australia: Grant and Mary Featherston’s wing sound chairs were a feature of the Australian Pavilion, designed by architect James Maccormick with exhibits selected by Robin Boyd, at Expo 67 in Montreal, 1967′
1967

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James Birrell. 'View of the elevated restaurant, Centenary Pool, Brisbane' nd

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James Birrell
‘View of the elevated restaurant, Centenary Pool, Brisbane’
nd

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Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, Victoria 3105

Opening hours:
(Heide II & Heide III)
Tue–Fri 10.00am–5.00pm
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 12.00noon–5.00pm
Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day

Heide Museum of Art website

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‘Modern Times: The Untold Story of Modernism in Australia’, edited by Ann Stephen, Philip Goad and Andrew McNamara, Powerhouse Publishing, 2008 (paperback). Available on the Amazon website.

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1. “Emanating from Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, Modern Times “explores how modernism transformed Australian culture from 1917 to 1967.” But something is missing. The overwhelming modern development in these 50 years was the proliferation of automotive transport, which redefined the layout and function of Australian cities.

The cars created the suburbs; and as the individual bungalow drew out the vast dormitories of Sydney and Melbourne, the city centre was spiritually drained, dedicated to bureaucratic and commercial premises.

The story at Heide emphasises the gradual triumph of the tall buildings of the CBD. It doesn’t really reflect how these abstract monuments didn’t contain a soul after 6pm.

Although the project makes such a big deal of being interdisciplinary, the social history doesn’t have a robust geographical basis. And because of this, the exhibition and book fail to handle the new alienation that modernism brings: the evacuation of the city and the insularity of suburban people in bungalows with little street life and roads increasingly deemed unsafe for children.

What does it really matter if a house looks like a Californian bungalow or a utopian geometric neo-Corbusian box by Harry Seidler? In social terms, they’re structurally the same, equally retracting from a sense of community and equally shackled to motor transport. In this sense, the styles are immaterial, except that one of them gives you a feeling of intimacy while the other has a bit more light and is easily wiped with a sponge.

At the end of the chosen period, the folly of the dominant suburban pattern came to be understood in its dire ecological consequences. Alas, it was too late. The modernist devaluation of space had already occurred, and our whole society had been reorganised around petrol.”

Nelson, Robert. The Age. Wednesday 6th May, 2009.

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14
May
09

Two exhibitions by photographer John Wood: ‘On the Edge of Clear Meaning’ at Grey Art Gallery, New York and ‘Quiet Protest’ at the International Center of Photography, New York

Exhibition dates

Grey Art Gallery,  12th May – 18th July, 2009
International Center of Photography, 15th May – 6th September 2009

 

Fantastic to see such a talented artist, truly a ground breaker, get the recognition he so richly deserves!

 

Grey Art Gallery

“John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning, on view at the Grey Art Gallery from May 12 through July 18, 2009, is the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work to date. Featuring the full range of his career from the 1960s to the present, the show includes over 150 photographs, mixed-media works, and artists’ books. A selection of Wood’s photomontages, Quiet Protest, will be on view concurrently at the International Center of Photography.

 

John Wood. 'Untitled' 1986–89

 

John Wood
‘Untitled’
Stained gelatin silver print from paper stencil
1986–89

 

John Wood. 'Beach Drawing' 1983

 

John Wood
‘Beach Drawing’
1983

 

 

John Wood (born 1922) has consistently challenged traditional photography, often incorporating painting, drawing, and collage as well as cliché verre, solarization, and offset lithography. The artist emphasizes the role of drawing in his work: “Mark making, calligraphy, the kinetic motion of the movement of the hand, are very important to me; probably more important than anything else.” Transgressing the boundaries of “pure photography,” his eclectic practice has helped usher in alternative approaches to the medium. With their adroit manipulations of picture and text, his diaristic, multi-media compositions anticipate today’s digital imagery. On the Edge of Clear Meaning is Wood’s first museum retrospective, spanning his career from the early 1960s to the present.

His early childhood was marked by the Depression, and his family moved frequently. After serving in the Army Air Corps as a B-17 pilot during World War II, he enrolled at the Institute of Design in Chicago. Wood trained as a visual designer and photographer, studying with Harry Callahan and Art Sinsabaugh to hone both conceptual and formal issues in his work. He left Chicago to teach photography and printmaking at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University in Alfred, New York, where he would live for thirty-five years. He now resides in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, Laurie Snyder, who teaches photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art. They migrate each summer to their home and studio in Ithaca, New York.

 

John Wood. 'Eagle Pelt' 1985

 

John Wood
‘Eagle Pelt’
1985

 

John Wood. 'Pear Tree Cooling Tower and Apples' 1991

 

John Wood
‘Pear Tree Cooling Tower and Apples’
Collage, gelatin silver print, Polaroid SX70, and paper
1991

 

 

In keeping with the Grey Art Gallery’s tradition of presenting the work of under-represented artists, this exhibition introduces John Wood as a master of various multi-media processes and testifies to his insatiable curiosity about new materials and repeated use of favorite sources. Through disciplined but lively investigation of different media, the artist eroded traditional definitions of photography and produced work that is both powerful and subtle. As Lynn Gumpert, Director of the Grey, notes, “John Wood has been a life-long teacher, inspiring and training numerous students, artists, and arts professionals. We are honored to bring the breadth of his work to New York City, home to many art schools, colleges, and universities.”

Text from the Grey Art Gallery website and press release

 

John Wood. 'Blackbird Some Have Hunger' 1986

 

John Wood
‘Blackbird Some Have Hunger’
Collage, cyanotype, and graphite
1986

 

 

International Center of Photography

“Quiet Protest is a series of photographic works by the noted mixed media artist and educator John Wood, spanning a period from the 1960s through the 1990s. Part of a larger retrospective at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, the “Quiet Protest” series explores political and social issues of the day through thoughtful photo montage pieces that exist in marked contrast to more traditional aggressive documentary photography. Rather than offering explanations or promoting solutions, Wood’s manipulated photographs present contemplative routes into issues ranging from the Vietnam War to domestic gun violence to ecological concerns. As Wood wrote in 1970, “…maybe the time has come for creative photography to encompass the large problems without propaganda or journalism…”

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

John Wood. 'Rifle Bullets and Daises' 1967

 

John Wood
‘Rifle Bullets and Daises’
1967

 

Triangle in the Landscape: Eleven Second 90 Degree Turn of a Paper Triangle, August 6, 1985 (Hiroshima Day)

 

John Wood
‘Triangle in the Landscape: Eleven Second 90 Degree Turn of a Paper Triangle’
August 6, 1985 (Hiroshima Day)

 

John Wood. 'Loon Drawer and Bomb' 1987

 

John Wood
‘Loon Drawer and Bomb’
Collage, cyanotype, and toned silver gelatin print
1987

 

 

Grey Art Gallery

New York University
100 Washington Square East

Opening hours
Tuesdays/Thursdays/Fridays: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm
OPEN LATE Wednesdays: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Saturdays: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Closed Sundays, Mondays, and major holidays.

Grey Art Gallery website

 

International Center of Photography

1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036

Opening hours:
Tuesday–Thursday: 10:00 am–6:00 pm
Friday: 10:00 am–8:00 pm
Saturday–Sunday: 10:00 am–6:00 pm
Closed Mondays

International Center of Photography website

 

Book
‘John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning’ by David Strauss et al (Hardcover) 2008
Available from the Amazon website

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06
Mar
09

Opening 2: ‘New work’ by Richard Grigg at Block Projects, Melbourne

Opening: Thursday 5th March 2009

Exhibition dates: 5th March – 28th March 2009

 

Richard Grigg. 'New work' opening night crowd at Block Projects, Melbourne

 

Richard Grigg
‘New Work’ exhibition
Opening night crowd at Block Projects, Melbourne

 

Moving down Flinders Lane we ascended to the fourth floor and entered the beautiful light filled gallery space at Block Projects to view the ‘new work’ of Richard Grigg. An eclectic mix of sculpture, painting, drawing, and collage was presented. Preparatory drawings for one of the sculptures, a pencil drawing of two old men debating, a canvas of a camera in tempera, gold leaf and gesso vie for attention with the two standout pieces of the show: ‘No more songs at funerals/hero today gone tomorrow’ (2007) and ‘He can’t read well because of his horns’ (2009), surrealist sculptures both made of compressed cardboard (below).

 

Richard Grigg. 'No more songs at funerals/hero today gone tomorrow' 2007 - 2009

 

Richard Grigg
‘No more songs at funerals/hero today gone tomorrow’
2007 – 2009
Layered boxboard, wood dowel, glue, pine, black gloss enamel, Perspex

 

Richard Grigg. 'He can't read well because of his horns' 2009

 

Richard Grigg
‘He can’t read well because of his horns’
2009
Layered boxboard, gold leaf, wood dowel, glue, pine, black gloss enamel, wood stain

 

These two sculptures are fantastic: the first forming a skull made out of birds perched on a cross surmounted by a bird holding an olive branch, the title deliciously ironic; the second a stooped gargoyle like creature with a massive extrusion for a nose, hanging tongue dripping saliva and phantasmagorical protrusions emerging from it’s head making it impossible for the creature to ‘read well’ in both the metaphorical and literal sense. This is a beautiful but grotesque primordial fantasy with the horns putting roots down in the soil like the roots of a mangrove tree, a gold leaf flower blooming at their outer reaches, the creature exhausted by the effort of trying to keep his head up.

 

Richard Grigg. 'Dream of Rest' 2007

 

Richard Grigg
‘A Late Night Story’
2007
pencil on paper

 

Unfortunately the rest of the exhibition lacked core strength: conceptually the show is not strong. Evidence of beauty in decay and concerns about the process of ageing vie with environmental contexts, slippages in time (‘The Moment Between’) contrast with cameras and their sight lines, Pinocchio lies under a shroud with a camera trapped in the back of a horse drawn cart (‘Dream of Rest’). Apparently the cameras do not signify the capturing of the frozen moment of beauty but they are there because the artist’s father collected cameras. To me they seemed to be defining the nature of our interaction with the world, the surface of the image controlling the interface between technology and earth.

One of the problems with undertaking an exhibition titled ‘New Work’ (not ‘New Works’) is the assumption that the new work being produced hangs together holistically and tells a not necessarily linear narrative story but one that the viewer can investigate, question, tease the pertinent concepts from – something the viewer can hang their hat on (perhaps the horns of a dilemma!) This was not the case here. The bits n bobs approach of this exhibition falls slightly flat but go see the show for the two sculptures – they alone are worth the effort!

 

Richard Girgg. 'Cloak' 2008

 

Richard Grigg
‘Cloak’
2008
Tempera, gold leaf and gesso on board 

 

Richard Grigg. 'Older than the value of beauty' 2009

 

Richard Grigg
‘Older than the value of beauty’ (detail)
2009
Tempera, gold leaf and gesso on board

 

 

Block Projects
Level 4, 289 Flinders Lane,
Melbourne 3000
T: (03) 9662 9148
Web: www.blockprojects.com




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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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