Archive for the 'intimacy' Category

17
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘The Great War: A Cinematic Legacy’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 4th August – 21st September 2014

 

Art Blart is running hot at the moment, with lots of exhibitions finishing up around the 5th October 2014. I shall then scale things back for a while to start making a new body of my own art work. To get the ball rolling the next three postings on consecutive days feature photography and the First World War.

In this posting I have included text about each film, theatrical film posters and video to supplement the media images.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

'The Lost Patrol'. 1934. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

The Lost Patrol. 1934. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

The Lost Patrol is a 1934 war film made by RKO. It was directed and produced by John Ford. During World War I, the commanding officer of a small British patrol in the Mesopotamian desert is shot and killed by an unseen Arab sniper, leaving the Sergeant (Victor McLaglen) at a loss, since he had not been told what their mission is. He decides to try to rejoin the brigade, though he does not know where they are or where he is.

Eventually, the eleven men reach an oasis. During the night, one of the sentries is killed, the other seriously wounded, and all their horses are stolen, leaving them stranded. One by one, the remaining men are picked off by the unseen enemy. In desperation, the Sergeant sends two men chosen by lot on foot for help, but they are caught and tortured to death, before their bodies are sent back. The pilot of a British biplane spots the survivors, but nonchalantly lands nearby and is killed before he can be warned. The men take the machine gun from the airplane and set the plane on fire in a desperate bid to signal British troops. Sanders (Boris Karloff), a religious fanatic, goes mad.

In the end, only the Sergeant is left. When the Arabs finally show themselves, he manages to kill them all with the machine gun. Moments later, another British patrol arrives, attracted by the smoke from the burning plane. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Lost Patrol' original theatrical poster

 

The Lost Patrol original theatrical poster

 

'Seventh Heaven.'  1927.  USA. Directed by Frank Borzage

 

Seventh Heaven. 1927. USA. Directed by Frank Borzage

 

7th Heaven (1927) is a silent film and one of the first films to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (then called “Outstanding Picture”). The film was written by H.H. Caldwell (titles), Benjamin Glazer, Katherine Hilliker (titles) and Austin Strong (play), and directed by Frank Borzage.

 

'Hearts of the World'. 1918.  USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

Hearts of the World. 1918. USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

'Hearts of the World'. 1918. USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

Hearts of the World. 1918. USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

Hearts of the World (1918) is a silent film directed by D. W. Griffith, a wartime propaganda classic that was filmed on location in Britain and near the Western Front, made at the request of the British Government to change the neutral mindset of the American public.

Two families live next to one another in a French village on the eve of World War I. The Boy in one of the families falls for the only daughter in the other family. As they make preparations for marriage, World War I breaks out, and, although the Boy is American, he feels he should fight for the country in which he lives.

When the French retreat, the village is shelled. The Boy’s father and the Girl’s mother and grandfather are killed. The Girl, deranged, wanders aimlessly through the battlefield and comes upon the Boy badly wounded and unconscious. She finds her way back to the village where she is nursed back to health by The Little Disturber who had previously been a rival for the Boy’s affections. The Boy is carried off by the Red Cross. Von Strohm, a German officer, lusts after the Girl and attempts to rape her, but she narrowly escapes when he is called away by his commanding officer.

Upon his recovery, the Boy, disguised as a German officer, infiltrates the enemy-occupied village, finds the Girl. The two of them are forced to kill a German sergeant who discovers them. Von Strohm finds the dead sergeant and locates the Boy and Girl who are locked in an upper room at the inn. It’s a race against time with the Germans trying to break the door down as the French return to retake the village.

“I don’t believe that Mr. Griffith every forgave himself for making ‘Hearts of the World.’ ‘War is the villain,’ he repeated, ‘not any particular people'” said Lillian Gish, actress playing ‘The Girl’ (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'Hearts of the World' lobby poster

 

Hearts of the World lobby poster

 

'The Mysterious Lady'. 1928. USA. Directed by Fred Niblo

 

The Mysterious Lady. 1928. USA. Directed by Fred Niblo

 

The Mysterious Lady (1928) is an MGM silent film starring Greta Garbo, Conrad Nagel, and Gustav von Seyffertitz, directed by Fred Niblo, and based on the novel War in the Dark by Ludwig Wolff.

In Vienna, Captain Karl von Raden (Conrad Nagel) purchases a returned ticket to a sold-out opera and finds himself sharing a loge with a lovely woman (Greta Garbo). Though she repulses his first advance, she does spend an idyllic day with him in the countryside. Karl is called away to duty, however. Colonel Eric von Raden (Edward Connelly), his uncle and the chief of the secret police, gives him secret plans to deliver to Berlin. He also warns his nephew that the woman is Tania Fedorova, a Russian spy. Tania comes to him aboard the train, professing to love him, but he tells her he knows who she is. Dejected, she leaves. The next morning, when Karl wakes up, he finds the plans have been stolen. As a result, he is sentenced to military degradation and imprisonment for treason. However, Colonel von Raden visits him in prison and arranges for his release. He sends his nephew to Warsaw, posing as a Serbian pianist, to seek out the identity of the real traitor and thus exonerate himself.

In Warsaw, by chance, Karl is asked to play at a private party where he once again crosses paths with Tania. She is being escorted by General Boris Alexandroff (Gustav von Seyffertitz), the infatuated head of the Russian Military Intelligence Department. Foolhardily, Karl plays a tune from the opera they attended together. She recognizes it, but does not betray him. As the party goers are leaving, she slips away for a few stolen moments with her love. The jealous Alexandroff suspects their feelings for each other. He hires Karl to play the next day at a ball he is giving at his mansion for Tania’s birthday.

While Alexandroff and Tania are alone in his home office, he receives a parcel containing the latest secrets stolen by the traitor, whom he casually identifies as Max Heinrich. Later, Tania steals the documents, gives them to Karl, and sends him out via a secret passage. However, it is all a trap. Alexandroff comes in and tells Tania that what she stole was mere blank paper; he shows her the real documents. He pulls out a gun and announces that he intends to use it on Karl, who has been captured outside. She struggles with Alexandroff and manages to fatally shoot him; the sound goes unheard amidst the merriment of the party. When the guards bring the prisoner, she pretends the general is still alive and wants to see him alone. She and Karl escape with the incriminating documents and get married.  (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'What Price Glory'. 1952. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

What Price Glory. 1952. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

What Price Glory is a 1952 American Technicolor war film based on a 1924 play by Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings, though it used virtually none of Anderson’s dialogue. Originally intended as a musical, it was filmed as a straight comedy-drama, directed by John Ford and released by 20th Century Fox on 22 August 1952 in the U.S.

 

'Broken Lullaby (The Man I Killed)'. 1932. USA. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

 

 

Broken Lullaby (The Man I Killed). 1932. USA. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

 

Broken Lullaby (1932) is an American drama film directed by Ernst Lubitsch and released by Paramount Pictures. The screenplay by Samson Raphaelson and Ernest Vajda is based on the 1930 playL’homme que j’ai tué by Maurice Rostand and its 1931 English-language adaptation, The Man I Killed, by Reginald Berkeley.

Haunted by the memory of Walter Holderlin, a soldier he killed during World War I, French musician Paul Renard (Holmes) confesses to a priest, who grants him absolution. Using the address on a letter he found on the dead man’s body, Paul then travels to Germany to find his family.

Because anti-French sentiment continues to permeate Germany, Dr. Holderlin (Barrymore) initially refuses to welcome Paul into his home, but changes his mind when his son’s fiancée Elsa identifies him as the man who has been leaving flowers on Walter’s grave. Rather than reveal the real connection between them, Paul tells the Holderlin family he was a friend of their son, who attended the same musical conservatory he did.

Although the hostile townspeople and local gossips disapprove, the Holderlins befriend Paul, who finds himself falling in love with Elsa (Carroll). When she shows Paul her former fiancé’s bedroom, he becomes distraught and tells her the truth. She convinces him not to confess to Walter’s parents, who have embraced him as their second son, and Paul agrees to forego easing his conscience and stays with his adopted family. Dr. Holderlin presents Walter’s violin to Paul, who plays it while Elsa accompanies him on the piano. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse'. 1921. USA. Directed by Rex Ingram

 

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. 1921. USA. Directed by Rex Ingram

 

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) is an American silent epic war film produced by Metro Pictures Corporation and directed by Rex Ingram. Based on the Spanish novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, it was adapted for the screen by June Mathis. The film stars Pomeroy Cannon, Josef Swickard, Bridgetta Clark, Rudolph Valentino, Wallace Beery, and Alice Terry.

The film had a huge cultural impact, becoming the top-grossing film of 1921, beating out Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, and going on to become the sixth-best-grossing silent film of all time. The film turned then-little-known actor Rudolph Valentino into a superstar and associated him with the image of the Latin Lover. The film also inspired a tango craze and such fashion fads as gauchopants. The film was masterminded by June Mathis, who, with its success, became one of the most powerful women in Hollywood at the time.

The film premiered in New York to great critical acclaim. Many critics hailed it as a new Birth of a Nation. However, the German press was less enthused with the portrayal of Germans in the film. With its extended scenes of the devastated French countryside and personalized story of loss, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is often considered to be one of the first anti-war films made. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' Metro Pictures poster for the film (1921)

 

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Metro Pictures poster for the film (1921)

 

 

Opening on the 100th anniversary of the day World War I began, The Museum of Modern Art’s The Great War: A Cinematic Legacy runs from August 4 through September 21, 2014, highlighting 60 feature-length films and thematic programs that attempt to provide a comprehensive view of the war as portrayed in film. The various films focus on prewar activities; espionage; the battlefields in the trenches, in the air, and on and beneath the sea; actualités; and the various homefronts before, during, and after the war. Familiar films, such as A Farewell to Arms (1932) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), along with several lesser-known works from as far away as New Zealand – including Chunuk Bair (1992) – reflect the universality of a war that reshaped the prevailing values of what passed for civilization. In August, the program is predominately drawn from the early years, either during the war or in the succeeding decades, and includes several silent films. The program in September will concentrate mainly on later, more contemporary films up to, and including, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (2011). The Great War is organized by Charles Silver, Curator, with Dave Kehr, Adjunct Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

Many of the films in the series deal with the entrenched stalemate in France, including Verdun, Vision d’Histoire (Verdun, Vision of History) (1928) directed by Leon Poirier. The film, largely pacifist in nature, is based on the great 1916 battle and integrates actual footage with realistic restaged material using many actors who had been soldiers in the war. Similarly, Les Croix de bois (Wooden Crosses) (1932), directed by Raymond Bernard, forms something of a pacifist trench-based trio with Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and G. W. Pabst’s Westfront 1918 (1930). The Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front, adapted from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, depicts the disillusionment of German youth after experiencing the realities of war.

Another series of films highlights the importance of aviation in the war. William Wellman’s Wings (1927) was the first film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. The romantic action-war film, which effectively launched Gary Cooper’s career, features the story of a pair of American pilots fighting over Europe. The film was praised for its spectacular aerial sequences, which have an added air of authenticity because Wellman was himself an ace pilot with the Lafayette Escadrille and winner of the Croix de Guerre. Hell’s Angels (1930), directed by Howard Hughes, includes lavishly produced scenes of aerial warfare and Zeppelin bombing. Howard Hawks’s Dawn Patrol (1930) emphasizes the tension of a commander sending men on suicidal aerial missions in flying crates. Lilac Time (1928), from George Fitzmaurice, stars Cooper as a British aviator in a squadron based in France, who falls in love with a farmer’s daughter.

Several of the newer films in the exhibition exemplify how the horrors of the war have had a lasting effect on civilization. Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (2011), an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel about a thoroughbred in France, reminds us that war, and particularly World War I, is also a horror for non-human creatures. In My Boy Jack (2007), directed by Brian Kirk, Rudyard Kipling pulls strings to get his son John sent to France early in the war. Based on a play by David Haig, the film ends tragically at the Battle of Loos. Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas) (2005), directed by Christian Carion, is a moving re-creation of a Christmas truce on the 1914 battlefield in France, as German, British, and French soldiers fraternize and exchange gifts.

Special thanks to Pacific Film Archive, Janus Films, Universal Pictures, Turner Classic Movies, Pathe.

Press release from the MoMA website

 

'Friendly Enemies'. 1942. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan.

 

Friendly Enemies. 1942. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan.

 

'The Great Dictator'. 1940. USA. Directed by Charles Chaplin.

 

The Great Dictator. 1940. USA. Directed by Charles Chaplin.

 

The Great Dictator is a 1940 American satirical political comedy-drama film starring, written, produced, scored, and directed by Charlie Chaplin, following the tradition of many of his other films. Having been the only Hollywood filmmaker to continue to make silent films well into the period of sound films, this was Chaplin’s first true talking picture as well as his most commercially successful film.

At the time of its first release, the United States was still formally at peace with Nazi Germany. Chaplin’s film advanced a stirring, controversial condemnation of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini’s fascism, antisemitism, and the Nazis. Chaplin’s film followed only nine months after Hollywood’s first parody of Hitler, the short subject You Nazty Spy! by the Three Stooges which itself premiered in January 1940, although Chaplin had been planning it for years before. Hitler had been previously allegorically pilloried in the German film by Fritz Lang, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. In his 1964 autobiography, Chaplin stated that he would not have made the film had he known about the actual horrors of the Nazi concentration camps at the time. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Heart of Humanity'. 1919. USA. Directed by Allen Holubar.

 

The Heart of Humanity. 1919. USA. Directed by Allen Holubar.

 

The Heart of Humanity is a 1918 American silent war propaganda film produced by Universal Pictures and directed by Allen Holubar. The film stars Dorothy Phillips, William Stowell and Eric von Stroheim. A copy of the film is preserved at the EmGee Film Library and in private collections.

The film “follows the general theme and construction of [D. W. Griffiths's film] Hearts of the World and, in places, parallels [its] plot”. The film was made toward the end of World War I and is known for showcasing von Stroheim as a lecherous ‘Hun’. The most notorious scene from this movie is the depiction of a near-rape prior to the defenestration of a crying baby.

 

'Kameradschaft (Comradeship)'. 1931. Germany. Directed by G. W. Pabst.

 

Kameradschaft (Comradeship). 1931. Germany. Directed by G. W. Pabst.

 

 

Comradeship (German: Kameradschaft, known in France as La Tragédie de la mine) is a 1931 dramatic directed by Austrian director G. W. Pabst. The French-German co-production drama is noted for combining expressionism and realism.

The picture concerns a mine disaster where German miners rescue French miners from an underground fire and explosion. The story takes place in the Lorraine/Saar region, along the border between France and Germany. It is based on an actual historical event, one of the worst industrial accidents in history, the Courrières mine disaster in 1906 in Courrières, France, where rescue efforts after a coal dust explosion were hampered by the lack of trained mine rescuers. Expert teams from Paris and Germany – miners from the Westphalia region – came to the assistance of the French miners. There were 1,099 fatalities, including children.

Kameradschaft in German means a bond between soldiers or those who have similar opinions and are in friendship. The word is similar to comradeship, camaraderie or fellowship.

In 1919, at the end of World War I the border between France and Germany changes, and an underground mine is split in two, with a gate dividing the two sections. An economic downturn and rising unemployment adds to tension between the two countries, as German workers seek employment in France but are turned away, since there are hardly enough jobs for French workers. In the French part of the mine fires break out, which they try to contain by building many brick walls, with the bricklayers wearing breathing apparatus. The Germans continue to work on their side, but start to feel the heat from the French fires.

Three German miners visit a French dance hall and one of them almost provokes a fight when Francoise (Andree Ducret), a young French woman, refuses to dance with him. The rejected miner thinks its because he’s German, but it’s actually because she’s tired. She and her boyfriend, Emile (Georges Charlia), a miner, leave, and she expresses her distress over the stories about fires and explosions in the mine. The next morning, he stops in to say goodbye to her before she leaves for Paris, then he and her brother, Jean (Daniel Mendaille), another miner, leave for work.

The fire gets out of control, causing an explosion that traps many French miners. In response, Wittkopp (Ernst Busch) appeals to his bosses to send a rescue team. As they ride out of town to help, the leader of the German rescue effort explains to his wife that the French are men with women and children and he would hope that they would come to his aid in similar circumstances. The trio of German miners breaks through the gate that marks the 1919 border. On the French side, an old retired miner (Alex Bernard) sneaks into the shaft hoping to rescue his young grandson (Pierre-Louis).

The Germans successfully rescue the French miners, not without difficulties. After all the survivors are rescued, there’s a big party with speeches about friendship between the French and Germans. French officials then rebuild the mining gate, and things return to the way they were before the disaster and rescue.

When the film was released in the United States in 1932, Mordaunt Hall, film critic for the New York Times, praised the realism and the screenplay, writing “[Kameradschaft is] one of the finest examples of realism that has come to the screen … [the] scenes in the mine are so real that one never thinks of them as being staged … [and] [t]hroughout the length of this tale of horror one feels as though one were permitted through some uncanny force to look into all parts of the mine … All the noises and sounds are wonderfully natural.” (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Road Back'. 1937. USA. Directed by James Whale.

 

The Road Back. 1937. USA. Directed by James Whale.

 

The Road Back is a 1937 drama film made by Universal Pictures, directed by James Whale. The screenplay is by Charles Kenyon and R. C. Sherriff from the eponymous novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Combining a strong anti-war message with prescient warnings about the dangers of the rising Nazi regime, it was intended to be a powerful and controversial picture, and Universal entrusted it to their finest director, James Whale.

The novel on which the film is based was banned during Nazi rule. When the film was made, Universal Pictures was threatened with a boycott of all their films by the German government unless the anti-Nazi sentiments in the script were watered down. Carl Laemmle and his son, Carl Laemmle, Jr., the former heads of Universal, had recently been ousted by a corporate takeover. The new studio heads, fearing financial loss, caved in to German pressure and the film was partially reshot with another director, and the remainder extensively re-edited, leaving it a pale shadow of Whale’s original intentions. To the director’s further displeasure, writer Charles Kenyon was ordered to interject the script with comedy scenes between Andy Devine and Slim Summerville, which Whale found unsuitable. Disgusted with the studio’s cowardice under its new management, Whale left Universal after completing Wives Under Suspicion, an unsuccessful remake of his own The Kiss Before the Mirror. He returned two years later to direct Green Hell, but never made another film for Universal after that. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Road Back' theatrical poster

 

The Road Back theatrical poster

 

'The Secret Agent'. 1936. Great Britain. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

 

The Secret Agent. 1936. Great Britain. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

 

Secret Agent (1936) is a British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on two stories in Ashenden: Or the British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham. The film starred John Gielgud, Peter Lorre, Madeleine Carroll, and Robert Young. Future star Michael Redgrave made a brief, uncredited appearance; he would play the male lead in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes two years later. This was alsoMichael Rennie’s film debut (uncredited).

Gielgud plays a British officer, a famous writer whose death is faked during World War I, and who is sent by the mysterious “R”, head of British intelligence, to Switzerland on a secret mission. Carroll plays a female agent who poses as his wife. Lorre appears as a British agent working with them, a killer known variously as “the Hairless Mexican” and “the General”. Typical Hitchcockian themes used here include mistaken identity and murder. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'Tell England (The Battle of Gallipoli)'. 1931. Great Britain. Directed by Anthony Asquith, Geoffrey Barkas.

 

Tell England (The Battle of Gallipoli). 1931. Great Britain. Directed by Anthony Asquith, Geoffrey Barkas

 

Tell England is a 1931 British drama film directed by Anthony Asquith and Geoffrey Barkas and starring Fay Compton, Tony Bruce and Carl Harbord. It is based on the novel Tell England by Ernest Raymond which featured two young men joining the army, and taking part in the fighting at Gallipoli. Both directors had close memories of Gallipoli, as did Fay Compton’s brother, Compton Mackenzie. Asquith’s father Herbert Asquith had been Prime Minister at the time of the Gallipoli Landings, a fact which drew press attention to the film, while Barkas had personally fought at Suvla Bay in the Gallipoli campaign. In the United States it was released under the alternative title The Battle of Gallipoli.

 

 

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10
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Cecil Beaton at Wilton’ at Wilton House, Wiltshire and ‘Cecil Beaton at Home: Ashcombe & Reddish’, at The Salisbury Museum

Exhibition dates: Cecil Beaton at Wilton: 3rd May – 14th September 2014
Cecil Beaton at Home: Ashcombe & Reddish: 23rd May – 19th September 2014

Bright Young Things, Costume Balls And Country House Parties
From The Roaring ’20s To The Swinging ’60s
An Exhibition Of Cecil Beaton Photographs
Designed And Curated By Jasper Conran

 

What a gay old time!

Frippery and finery taken by that dandy doyen of chic Cecil Beaton, partying in a highly structured class society that is seemingly oblivious to the approaching horrors of the Second World War (which only adds to the photographs air of insouciance). It must have been so much fun.

The thing is, Beaton was a talented artist who captured it all with total aplomb. To go from the haughty, stylish Georgia Sitwell, Renishaw (1930, below) to the Arcadian beauty of Rex Whistler (1927, below); from the formal organisation of The 15th Earl and Countess of Pembroke dressed for the coronation of George VI (1937, below) to the classic beauty of Princess Natasha Paley (1930s, below); or the structure and stillness of Alice von Hofmannsthal (1937, below) to the vivaciousness and movement of Lady Plunket (Dorothé) and Mr Maurice (1937, below) – takes a consistency of vision and an understanding of craft that few photographers possess.

The photograph of  Lady Plunket is particularly astonishing… to see this composition in the twinkling of an eye: the movement, the joy, the flower in the hair, the women with the crossed legs in the background, and just the sheer grace of the couple, he suspended on one foot, she flying through the air. Unforgettable.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Sotheby’s, Wilton House and The Salisbury Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

East Front of Wilton House

 

East Front of Wilton House
© Wilton House Trust

 

'Cecil Beaton at Wilton House' installation view

 

Cecil Beaton at Wilton installation view
© The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Edith Olivier, Mayor of Wilton, as Queen Elizabeth I for a pageant at Wilton' 1932

 

Cecil Beaton
Edith Olivier, Mayor of Wilton, as Queen Elizabeth I for a pageant at Wilton
1932
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Edith Maud Olivier MBE (31 December 1872 – 10 May 1948) was an English writer, also noted for acting as hostess to a circle of well-known writers, artists, and composers in her native Wiltshire… Olivier had lived with her father and younger sister Mildred, and it was after Mildred died in 1927 that she started to engage a broader social circle. She formed a profound friendship with Rex Whistler and acted as a frequent hostess to an elite, artistic, and largely homosexual, social set which included Cecil Beaton, Siegfried Sassoon, William Walton, and Osbert Sitwell.

Her first novel, The Love Child was published in 1927, and was followed by further novels, biographies, including one of Alexander Cruden, and the autobiographical Without Knowing Mr Walkley. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Georgia Sitwell, Renishaw' 1930

 

Cecil Beaton
Georgia Sitwell, Renishaw
1930
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Georgia Doble, the Canadian-born wife of Sacheverell Sitwell, was born in 1906 to a banker of Cornish descent. She met Sitwell at a party in 1924 while participating in the social gaiety of the London season. Georgia was familiar with Sitwell’s Southern Baroque Art and enjoyed his company, but she waited almost a year before accepting his marriage proposals. They were married in Paris on October 12, 1925. Their first son, Reresby, was born in 1927 and his younger brother, Francis, in 1935.

Georgia found it difficult to blend in with the Sitwell family, which had more than the usual share of dynamics. She did her best to play the self-assigned role of muse, but Sitwell was not a social man and Georgia missed the busy whirl of London. She attended many social events without him, which led to a great deal of friction between them. They both had affairs over the years, but remained deeply attached to one another throughout their lives. Georgia died in 1980.

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Lady Plunket (Dorothé) and Mr Maurice' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
Lady Plunket (Dorothé) and Mr Maurice
1937
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Stephen Tennant (1906-1987), William Walton (1902-1983), Georgia Sitwell (1905-1980), Zita Jungman (1903-2006), Rex Whistler (1905-1944) and Cecil Beaton (1904-1980), Wilsford, 1927' 1927

 

Cecil Beaton
Stephen Tennant (1906-1987), William Walton (1902-1983), Georgia Sitwell (1905-1980), Zita Jungman (1903-2006), Rex Whistler (1905-1944) and Cecil Beaton (1904-1980), Wilsford, 1927
1927
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Stephen James Napier Tennant (21 April 1906 – 28 February 1987) was a British aristocrat known for his decadent lifestyle. During the 20s and 30s, Tennant was an important member – the “Brightest”, it is said – of the “Bright Young People.” His friends included Rex Whistler, Cecil Beaton, the Sitwells, Lady Diana Manners and the Mitford girls. He is widely considered to be the model for Cedric Hampton in Nancy Mitford’s novel Love in a Cold Climate; one of the inspirations for Lord Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, and a model for Hon. Miles Malpractice in some of his other novels.

Sir William Turner Walton OM (29 March 1902 – 8 March 1983) was an English composer. During a sixty-year career, he wrote music in several classical genres and styles, from film scores to opera. His best-known works include Façade, the cantata Belshazzar’s Feast, the Viola Concerto, and the First Symphony.

Zita Jungman‘s accounts of her fellow bright young things of the 1920s stress their high vocal pitch and decibel level – “shrieking”, “screaming”, “howling with laughter”. So it is significant that when, in 1926, Cecil Beaton met Zita, who has died aged 102, in the Gargoyle Club, Soho, he responded to her quietness and understanding. She was, he wrote, a “thoroughly unflashy” original… The antics of the bright young things were relatively innocent: bottle parties, fancy dress balls and pageants, with cocktails and fast cars. The Jungman girls, along with clever Alannah Harper, Eleanor Smith and Loelia Ponsonby, staged treasure hunts, using their connections to arrange a fake edition of the Evening Standard or Hovis loaves baked to order with clues inside. 

Enter aspirant photographer Beaton. He had spotted the sisters at a performance of Edith Sitwell’s Facade, and met Zita again in Venice rehearsing for a ball. Alannah Harper modelled for him; Zita followed. He was financially thrilled. “They certainly would get into the papers … so very saleable.” She spent hours before the lens in the Beaton house: “She loved doing her hair in various exotic ways and looked quite beautiful and quite extraordinarily funny. She is a perfect young lady.”

Beaton described the sisters as “a pair of decadent 18th-century angels made of wax” and wrote of Zita: “With her smooth fringes, and rather flat head, like a silky coconut, like a medieval page, and with her swinging gait, she looks very gallant, very princely. But she can, if she wishes, easily become a snake-like beauty, with a mysterious smile and a cold glint in her upward slanting eyes.” Her reaction to the pictures was to “lay back in a chair looking at them for ages, never speaking, just occasionally grunting a grunt of satisfaction”.

Text by Veronica Horwell in The Guardian, Friday 3 March 2006

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Rex Whistler' 1927

 

Cecil Beaton
Rex Whistler
1927
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Reginald John “Rex” Whistler (24 June 1905 – 18 July 1944) was a British artist, designer and illustrator.

Reginald John Whistler was born in Britain on 24 June 1905, at Eltham, Kent, the son of Harry and Helen Frances Mary Whistler. In May 1919 he was sent to boarding school at Haileybury, where he showed a precocious talent for art, providing set designs for play productions and giving away sketches to prefects in lieu of “dates” (a punishment at Haileybury, similar to “lines” whereby offenders are required to write out set lists of historical dates).

After Haileybury the young Whistler was accepted at the Royal Academy, but disliked the regime there and was “sacked for incompetence”. He then proceeded to study at the Slade School of Art, where he metStephen Tennant, soon to become one of his best friends and a model for some of the figures in his works. Through Tennant, he later met the poet Siegfried Sassoon and his wife Hester, to both of whom Whistler became close.

Upon leaving the Slade he burst into a dazzling career as a professional artist. His work encompassed all areas of art and design – from the West End theatre to book illustration (including works by Evelyn Waugh and Walter de la Mare, and perhaps most notably, for Gulliver’s Travels) and mural and trompe-l’oeil painting. Paintings at Port Lympne Mansion (within Port Lympne Wild Animal Park), Plas Newydd, Mottisfont Abbey and Dorneywood among others, show his outstanding talent in this genre. During his time at Plas Newydd he may well have become the lover of the daughter of the 6th Marquess of Anglesey, the owner of the house, who had commissioned him to undertake the decorative scheme. Whistler and Lady Caroline Paget are known to have become very close friends and he painted numerous portraits of her, including a startling nude. Whether this painting was actually posed for or whether it was how Whistler imagined her naked is a matter of debate.

His most noted work during the early part of his career was for the café at the Tate Gallery, completed in 1927 when he was only 22. He was commissioned to produce posters and illustrations for Shell Petroleum and the Radio Times. He also created designs for Wedgwood china based on drawings he made of the Devon village of Clovelly. Whistler’s elegance and wit ensured his success as a portrait artist among the fashionable; he painted many members of London society, including Edith Sitwell,Cecil Beaton and other members of the set to which he belonged that became known as the “Bright Young Things”. His murals for Edwina Mountbatten’s 30-room luxury flat in Brook House, Park Lane, London were later installed by the Mountbattens’ son-in-law, decorator David Hicks, in his own houses.

Whistler’s activities also extended to ballet design. He designed the scenery and costumes for Ninette de Valois and Gavin Gordon’s Hogarth-inspired 1935 ballet The Rake’s Progress.

When war broke out, although he was 35, Whistler was eager to join the army. He was commissioned into the Welsh Guards as Lieutenant 131651. His artistic talent, far from being a stumbling block to his military career, was greatly appreciated and he was able to find time to continue some of his work, including a notable self-portrait in uniform now in the National Army Museum. In 1944 he was sent to France following the D-Day landings.

In July he was with the Guards Armoured Division in Normandy as the invasion force was poised to break out of the salient east of Caen. On the hot and stuffy 18 July his tank, after crossing a railway line, drove over some felled telegraph wires beside the railway, which became entangled in its tracks. He and the crew got out to free the tank from the wire when a German machine gunner opened fire on them, preventing them from getting back into their tank. Whistler dashed across an open space of 60 yards to another tank to instruct its commander, a Sergeant Lewis Sherlock, to return the fire. As he climbed down from Sherlock’s tank a mortar bomb exploded beside him and killed him instantly, throwing him into the air. He was the first fatality suffered by the battalion in the Normandy campaign.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Palladian Bridge at Wilton House

 

Palladian Bridge at Wilton House
© Wilton House Trust

 

 

“Sotheby’s and Wilton House will pay tribute to the life and work of the photographer, writer and Oscar-winning designer Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) with a new exhibition of photographs from Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, designed and curated by Jasper Conran. Capturing the spirit of country house parties and costume balls, the exhibition will showcase previously unseen images from one of Britain’s most celebrated photographers, giving a fascinating glimpse into his life and a vivid portrait of a charmed age.

Staged at Wilton House in Wiltshire where Beaton was entertained by his friends the Pembroke family at grand parties and pageants for over 50 years, the exhibition will run between 18th- 21st April and 3rd May – 14th September 2014.

Described as “a worldly Peter Pan” who never aged1, Cecil Beaton – the acclaimed photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair - was at the forefront of the fashion for costume and pageantry which swept through British society in the 1920s. Immortalised in the Noël Coward song ‘I’ve been to a marvellous party’, “Dear Cecil arrived wearing armour/Some shells and a black feather boa…,” Beaton was renowned for his flair for fancy dress and costumery, later winning Oscars, Academy and Tony awards for his designs. He invited friends from all over the world to legendary parties at his Wiltshire home Ashcombe, where guests arrived “in the knowledge that they were to exchange reality for a complete escape into the realms of fantasy.”2

As fancy dress became a popular feature of country house parties, and costume balls a highlight of the social calendar, Beaton seamlessly integrated his high-society personal life with his professional artistic quest to experiment with photography and fashion. Using the settings of Britain’s grandest country houses as the perfect backdrop, Beaton persuaded his friends to sit for him in their exotic costumes, often designed by him, for these most unconventional of photographs.

This fascinating collection of photographs will be displayed in a new exhibition space, especially renovated for the event at Wilton House. Situated just a few miles from Beaton’s country houses Ashcombe and Reddish, Wilton was the location for costume balls and theatrical events enjoyed and photographed by Beaton for over 50 years. Despite being pushed into a river at the first Ball he attended there in 1927, Beaton later became great friends with the Earls of Pembroke. Over time he photographed and chronicled the lives of three generations of the family in the surroundings of the house which he described as “perhaps the most wonderful piece in all Wiltshire’s heritage of domestic architecture… at every time of year, in all weathers, unfailing in its beauty.”3 On 14th January 1980, just three days before his death, Beaton celebrated his 76th birthday with a lunch party hosted by the family.

 

The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive 

Sotheby’s is the privileged guardian of the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, a matchless repository of over 100,000 negatives, 9,000 vintage prints and 42 scrapbooks from the celebrated photographer’s personal collection. Cecil Beaton negotiated the transfer of his private archive to Sotheby’s in 1977 in order to preserve its role for future generations. Today, the collection – some of which is still stored in Beaton’s original filing cabinets – is available for use as a picture library, lending images to be reproduced on the printed page and for exhibition worldwide.

Further photographs from the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive will be displayed at Salisbury Museum’s exhibition Cecil Beaton at Home: Ashcombe & Reddish between 23rd May – 19th September 2014. This exhibition will bring together original photographs, artworks and possessions from Cecil Beaton’s two Wiltshire homes, Ashcombe and Reddish which served as retreats, inspirations, and stages for impressive entertaining, to present a fascinating picture of Beaton’s extraordinary life.”

1 Hugo Vickers, Cecil Beaton: The Authorised Biography, Introduction, p. xxiii
2 Cecil Beaton, Ashcombe: The Story of a Fifteen-year Lease, p. 33
3 Cecil Beaton, Ashcombe: The Story of a Fifteen-year Lease, p. 35

Press release from Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Cecil Beaton on the Palladian bridge at Wilton House, September 1968' (detail) 1968

 

Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton on the Palladian bridge at Wilton House, September 1968 (detail)
1968
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Alice von Hofmannsthal, Ashcombe, 1937, in her Costume for "The Gardener’s Daughter" for "The Anti Dud Ball" at the Dorchester Hotel, 13 July 1937' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
Alice von Hofmannsthal, Ashcombe, 1937, in her Costume for “The Gardener’s Daughter” for “The Anti Dud Ball” at the Dorchester Hotel, 13 July 1937
1937
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Princess Natasha Paley' 1930s

 

Cecil Beaton
Princess Natasha Paley
1930s
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Princess Natalia Pavlovna Paley (Наталья Павловна Палей), Countess de Hohenfelsen (December 5, 1905 – December 27, 1981) was a member of the Romanov family. A daughter of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia, she was a first cousin of the last Russian emperor, Nicholas II. After the Russian revolution she emigrated first to France and later to the United States. She became a fashion model, socialite, vendeuse, and briefly pursued a career as a film actress…

Ethereal and glamorous, Princess Natalia would not follow any fashion trend, but would dictate her own. Hats and gloves were her signature. With deep-set gray eyes and pale blond hair, she became a sought after model establishing an image for herself in the Parisian elite becoming a well known socialite. As a model, she appeared in many magazines including Vogue. She was a favorite model for the great photographers of her time: Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, Andre Durst and George Hoyningen-Huene. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Cecil Beaton. 'The Countess of Pembroke acting in Beaton's musical "Heil Cinderella"' 1939

 

Cecil Beaton
The Countess of Pembroke acting in Beaton’s musical “Heil Cinderella”
1939
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'The 15th Earl and Countess of Pembroke dressed for the coronation of George VI' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
The 15th Earl and Countess of Pembroke dressed for the coronation of George VI
1937
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'The Countess of Pembroke in her Robes for the Coronation of George VI' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
The Countess of Pembroke in her Robes for the Coronation of George VI
1937
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Cecil Beaton in "All the Vogue", Cambridge' 1925

 

Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton in “All the Vogue”, Cambridge
1925
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

 

Beauty, decadence and a damned good party: Cecil Beaton at Salisbury Museum

The not so private world of Cecil Beaton – photographer to the Royals, painter, designer of interiors, stage and costume and secret diarist – seems to have been as opulent as his professional career was varied. If we are to believe his candid diaries, it was a world of decadent parties and languid weekend soirees full of bright young things who caroused at his Wiltshire homes against a backdrop of sumptuous interiors and fabulous gardens.

The first of these private pleasure houses was Ashcombe, which he rented for £50 a year between 1930-45. It was followed by Reddish, which Beaton purchased in 1945 and lived in until his death in 1980. By all accounts both were splendid residences, and the stream of celebrities and society people who came and went were photographed by Beaton or captured in his notoriously frank scrapbooks and diaries.

And it is these extravagant worlds that can be glimpsed at Salisbury Museum who, with the help of the vast Cecil Beaton Archive at Sotheby’s, are teasing them back to life. A tantalising glimpse into the photographer’s more hidden moments and the celebrity in-crowd of friends and acquaintances he lavishly entertained, the exhibition brings together 183 unique photographs (including 35 vintage prints) exhibited with some of his artworks and personal possessions within recreations of the interiors.

But it’s the cast of players that grabs the attention; bohemian aristocrats, socialites and some of the biggest stars of the stage, screen, fashion and art world form a procession of decadence that stretched across five decades from 1930-1980. Famous faces include Truman Capote, Leslie Caron, David Hockney, Bianca Jagger and Ivor Novello interspersed here with private snaps of his great loves – the Hollywood icon Greta Garbo, with whom he had an affair, and millionaire art collector Peter Watson, with whom (we are told) he didn’t.

But as well as the society faces the exhibition includes images of the photographer’s inspired garden designs at Reddish and his theatrically-styled home interiors at Ashcombe, which he created so he could ‘live in scenery’, inspired by his visit to Hollywood in 1929. Work in progress shots show the making of Beaton’s fantastical ‘Circus Bedroom’ in 1932 with freshly painted murals of a circus clown, a girl on a merry-go-round horse and a jolly fat lady.

The bedroom was apparently created “on a rainy weekend in 1932″ by a typically decadent gang of dazzling society types that included artists Rex Whistler, ‘Jack’ von Bismarck, Oliver Messel, Lord Berners, Edith Olivier, Jorg von Reppert Bismarck and of course Beaton himself. Whistler also designed Beaton’s theatrical four-poster ‘carousel’ bed with gilded unicorns, stripey circus-top canopy and barley twist bedposts. Beaton is pictured with Watson amidst this baroque creation. And visitors can experience it for themselves courtesy of a full-scale recreation reconstructed for the very first time since it was broken up in 1945. A fascinating glance into a decadent disappeared world.

Text by Richard Moss on the Culture 24 website

 

Rex Whistler. 'Ashcombe House' 1930s

 

Rex Whistler
Ashcombe House
1930s
© Private Collection

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Frontispiece montage for Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook, 1937, Ashcombe' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
Frontispiece montage for Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook, 1937, Ashcombe
1937
© Private Collection

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Cecil Beaton on the front steps of Reddish House, Broad Chalke, June 1947, Reddish' 1947

 

Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton on the front steps of Reddish House, Broad Chalke, June 1947, Reddish
1947
© Cecil Beaton Archive, Sotheby’s

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Cecil Beaton in his first costume of the night for the Fete Champetre, in his Circus bedroom, 10 July 1937, Ashcombe' 1937

 

Cecil Beaton
Cecil Beaton in his first costume of the night (the famous ‘Rabbit’ outfit) for the Fete Champetre, in his Circus bedroom, 10 July 1937, Ashcombe
1937
© Getty Images/ Time Life

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Dorian Leigh photographed for 'Modess… because' campaign, Reddish House, Broad Chalke, 1950s, Reddish' 1950s

 

Cecil Beaton
Dorian Leigh photographed for ‘Modess… because’ campaign, Reddish House, Broad Chalke, 1950s, Reddish
1950s
© Johnson & Johnson

 

Dorian Leigh (April 23, 1917 – July 7, 2008), born Dorian Elizabeth Leigh Parker, was an American model and one of the earliest modelling icons of the fashion industry. She is considered one of the firstsupermodels and was well known in the United States and Europe.

 

Henry Lamb. 'Portrait of Cecil Beaton' 1935

 

Henry Lamb
Portrait of Cecil Beaton
1935
© Private Collection

 

Henry Taylor Lamb MC RA (Adelaide 21 June 1883 – 8 October 1960 Salisbury) was an Australian-born British painter. A follower of Augustus John, Lamb was a founder member of the Camden Town Groupin 1911 and of the London Group in 1913.

Lamb is noted for his unusual portraits, as exemplified by his well-known picture of an elongated Lytton Strachey. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1940 and was made a full Member in 1949. He was a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery from 1942 and of the Tate Gallery from 1944 to 1951. His auction record was set at Christie’s in London in June 2006 when his 1910 Breton Boy oil on panel fetched £60,000. As well as the Imperial War Museum, works by Lamb are held in regional museums throughout Britain, in the British Government Art Collection and in the National Gallery of Canada, which received the majority of Lambs portraits of Canadian troops at the end of World War Two.

 

 

Wilton House
Wilton, Salisbury
SP2 0BJ, United Kingdom
+44 1722 746714

Opening hours:
11.30 am – 5.00 pm Sundays to  Thursdays and Bank Holiday Saturdays
The House is CLOSED on Fridays and Saturdays (except Bank Holiday Saturdays)

The Salisbury Museum
The King’s House,
65 The Close, Salisbury
SP1 2EN
Tel: 01722 332151

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 10.00 – 17.00
Sunday 12.00 – 17.00

Wilton House website

The Salisbury Museum website

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31
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘The Classical Nude and the Making of Queer History’ at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 7th September 2014

 

These were the only press images I could get for this exhibition. I would have liked to have seen many more!

Marcus

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

 

 

Johann Joachim Winckelmann. 'Histoire de l'art de l'antiquité' 1781

 

Johann Joachim Winckelmann
Histoire de l’art de l’antiquité
1781
Leipzig: J. G. I. Brietkopf

 

Winckelmann was murdered in Trieste on June 8, 1768. The frontispiece to this French translation of the History presents an allegory of his death designed by his friend, the painter Adam Friedrich Oeser (1717-1799)

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Nicholas Magallanes and Francisco Moncion in Balachines's Orpheus II' 1948

 

George Platt Lynes
Nicholas Magallanes and Francisco Moncion in Balachines’s Orpheus II
1948
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Private Collection

 

Edwin Townsend. 'Tony Sansone' c. 1950s

 

Edwin Townsend
Tony Sansone
c. 1950s
Gelatin silver print
9.5 x 7.5 inches
Collection of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York

 

James Bidgood. 'Pan' 1965

 

James Bidgood
Pan
1965
Digital C-print
22 x 22 inches
Courtesy of the artist and ClampArt, New York

 

 

“Organized by the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art and curated by scholar Jonathan David Katz, The Classical Nude and the Making of Queer History investigates how the visual iconography of Greco-Roman culture has acted as a recurring touchstone in the development of same-sex representation. Within the canon of western art history, images of the classical past have acted as a sensitive barometer for the shifting constructions of what we today call LGBT or queer culture. The classical past is queer culture’s central origin myth, and tracing how this tradition has been utilized by queer artists over time offers far more information about the cultural context that appropriates the classical than it does about that past itself.

Examining the classical nude across centuries of artistic production, this exhibition considers four major periods: Antiquity, the Renaissance, the nineteenth century, and the modern/contemporary period. Drawn almost exclusively from the collections of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York, the objects are diverse in medium and format. While all periods are represented, the majority of the works illustrate how artists in recent history have utilized classical iconography and themes to explore same-sex desire. It is in the recent past, as artists reimagined a classical legacy that had not accounted for diverse gender and racial perspectives, that we find queer culture’s relationship to the classical tradition at both its most complex and dynamic.

This presentation at the ONE Gallery is a condensed preview of a show to open at the Leslie-Lohman Museum in October 2014. Containing over ninety-five objects, the exhibition in New York will include works by Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo, Jacopo Pontormo, Andrea Mantegna, F. Holland Day, Romaine Brooks, Claude Cahun, Herbert List, Jess, Paul Cadmus, and Pierre et Gilles, in addition to the works presented here, and will be accompanied by a scholarly exhibition catalogue.”

Text from the ONE Archives website

 

Alonze James Hanagan (aka Lon of New York) 'Howard Hunter' c. 1950s

 

Alonze James Hanagan (aka Lon of New York)
Howard Hunter
c. 1950s
Gelatin silver print
13.25 x 7 inches
Collection of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York

 

Artist unknown. 'Replica of The Warren Cup' original c. mid-1st century AD

 

Artist unknown
Replica of The Warren Cup
original c. mid-1st century AD
Silver
Unnumbered issue from edition of twelve
Collection of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York. Image of the original courtesy of The British Museum

 

Bruce LaBruce with Nina Arsenault. 'Tripartite Goddess I, II, III' 2011

 

Bruce LaBruce with Nina Arsenault
Tripartite Goddess I, II, III
2011
Archival photograph
Signed on verso 1/10
18 x 28 in.

 

Austin Young. 'Dani Daniels, Los Angeles' 2011

 

Austin Young
Dani Daniels, Los Angeles
2011
Archival inkjet print
Edition 1/10

 

Wilhelm Von Gloeden. 'Untitled' 1895

 

Wilhelm Von Gloeden
Untitled
1895
Albumen silver print
9 x 6.75 inches
Collection of Sinski/McLaughlin

 

Friedrich O. Wolter. 'Drei Grazien' (Three Graces) Date unknown

 

Friedrich O. Wolter
Drei Grazien (Three Graces)
Date unknown
Photograph
5.5 x 3.5 inches
Collection of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York

 

Del LaGrace Volcano. 'The Three Graces, Jasper, Suzie and Gill, London' 1992

 

 

Del LaGrace Volcano
The Three Graces, Jasper, Suzie and Gill, London
1992
Digital C-print
30 x 23.5 inches
Collection of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York

 

 

ONE Archives Gallery & Museum
626 North Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Opening hours:
Thursday: 4 – 8pm
Friday, Saturday and Sunday: 1pm – 5pm
Closed Monday through Wednesday

ONE Archives website

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19
Aug
14

Review / Interview: Simon Maidment, co-curator of the exhibition ‘David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me’ at NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 9th May – 31st August 2014

 

Here’s winking at you, sweetie…

My apologies for the slightly out of focus nature of some of the installation photographs, but I had to take them quickly as I walked through the gallery with co-curator Simon Maidment. If you relied on the nine press images supplied by the NGV (bottom of the posting), you would have no idea of the complexity of this artists work nor would you possess an understanding of the scale, intimacy, brashness, beauty and confrontational visibility of the art. You would also have no idea what a stunning installation the NGV has produced to display the work.

Simply put, this is the best exhibition I have seen in Melbourne this year.

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David McDiarmid (1952-95) – activist (the first gay person ever to be arrested in Australia) and multi-dimensional artist – proves the personal IS political AND influential. His work moves from early personal narratives through decorative to visually commanding and confrontational art. As homosexual identity transits from camp to gay to queer, McDiarmid deconstructs and redefines this identity using context as a FOIL for his art making. As Robert Nelson in his excellent review of the exhibition in The Age newspaper observes, “McDiarmid’s expression of the erotic is an act of protest as well as festivity. When McDiarmid began in full fervour, gay sex was not only reviled but illegal; and as he ended his career, homosexuality seemed to pass from the police to the undertaker. He began his expose of gay eroticism in the spirit of a demonstration and ended it as an act of compassion.”1

Well said. Homosexuality was illegal were McDairmid started making art and was deathly when he himself succumbed to the Grim Reaper. But during the journey that he took the key thing to remember is that McDiarmid never “passed” as something he was not. He was always up front, out there, doing his thing since he was first arrested in 1971. He was always pushing the boundaries, offering a wider perspective on social histories and political contexts. He questioned the marginalization of minorities (Secret Love, 1976), the boundaries of self and society and examined taboo and transgression in a conservative society. He lived at the cutting edge of culture. Later, he waged a life and death struggle for HIV/AIDS funding, awareness and compassion with a fierce determination combined with sparkling wit, humour and sardonic aphorisms. Sexual politics and safe sex campaigns went hand in hand.

Of course, sexuality and sexual identity were at the core of his creativity. He explored the urban gay male world and the struggle for gay rights, sexual and emotional sensibilities and the cultural politics of HIV/AIDS. Early work was influenced by time spent in New York (where he knew Keith Haring) and San Francisco, where he experienced the development of the clone scene and the music of the clubs. His mode of construction has a lot in common with folk and women’s art (in particular patchwork and quilting) coupled with the use of contemporary materials (such as holographic foil).

McDiarmid’s later work becomes more symbolic and universal but still contains that cutting edge of the personal (DEMENTED QUEEN REMEMBERS HER NAME – forgets to die; POSITIVE QUEEN FEELS NEGATIVE – goes shopping). In the most amazing room of art I have seen this year, McDiarmid uses reflective cut and tiled holographic foils to create moving tribute and biting comment on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In this darkened room the viewer is surrounded by tiles that “scintillate in spectral transience, changing their colours holographically according to your movement. The image is blunt and horny but also melancholy and scary; and similarly the medium impenetrable, deflecting the gaze and forcing you to change perspective.” (Robert Nelson)

But it’s more than that. You are surrounded by metallic flesh and embedded amongst the iridescence is both love and hate, life and death, winking eyes and holographic rainbow coloured skulls. Body language (1990, below) contains the names of McDairmid’s dead lovers woven into its fabric, a Swastika with the word AIDS for a head and the desire for the anus as a man pulls his arse cheeks apart. But here’s the rub – the tiny, puckered hole contains a holographic image of a winking eye, inviting you in, sharing the death/life joke with you. It’s a classic. In this room it feels as though you are surrounded by the fires of hell as the opalescence of the work changes from footstep to footstep, from positive to negative, from love to hate – and the pure beauty of the work is overwhelming. These are absolutely stunning works of art by any mark of the imagination, up there with the very best art ever made in Australia. His famous Rainbow Aphorisms series 1994 (below) are strong but they are are not a patch on the silver foil works. Less successful are the textile and costume designs, the weakest part of the exhibition.

One question springs to mind. Would his art have been as strong without the impetus of “death art” behind it? What would it have looked like?

I wonder which direction his art would have taken after his initial investigation of gay male identity had he not contracted HIV/AIDS and started making art about the disease. This strong focus gives the work the impetus and grunt it needed to move from the purely decorative and graphic, ney camp in some cases, to work with serious gravitas. In these later works McDiarmid lays it all on the line and just goes for it. I am so glad he did. They are powerful, concise, confrontational, beautiful, shimmering renditions of a soul living life to the full while he still had time.

It’s a pity the NGV has not advertised and promoted this exhibition more extensively. With a stunning catalogue, insightful research, amazing installation and world class art this is one exhibition you shouldn’t miss in Melbourne this winter.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

ART BLART: THE ONLY PLACE TO SEE INSTALLATION PHOTOGRAPHS OF THIS EXHIBITION ON THE WEB.

.
Many thankx to Simon for allowing me to take the installation photographs during our discussion and to the NGV for allowing me to publish them, along with the nine press images at the bottom of the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Unidentified photographer. 'David McDiarmid at his first one-man show 'Secret Love', Hogarth Gallery, Sydney, 1976' 1976

 

Unidentified photographer
David McDiarmid at his first one-man show ‘Secret Love’, Hogarth Gallery, Sydney, 1976
1976
Silver gelatin photograph
Dennis Altman Collection, Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA)

 

David McDiarmid Installation photograph of early works

David McDiarmid Installation photograph of early works

 

David McDiarmid
Installation photograph of early works including, in the case, Vest (c. 1972), hand-embroidered by McDiarmid with the words ‘sydney gay liberation’ as a gift for John Lee with photographs of McDiarmid and artist Peter Tully used as a wallpaper on the wall behind at the exhibition David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me at NGV Australia, Melbourne

 

David McDiarmid Installation photograph of early works including 'Secret Love art show, poster' (1976, far left), 'Secret Love' (1976, top centre left), 'Ken's Karate Klub' (1976, centre below left) and 'Tube of joy' (1976, above right) - all from the 'Secret Love' series, 1976 except KKK

 

David McDiarmid
Installation photograph of early works including Secret Love art show, poster (1976, far left), Secret Love (1976, top centre left), Ken’s Karate Klub (1976, centre below left) and Tube of joy (1976, above right) – all from the Secret Love series, 1976 except KKK – at the exhibition David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me at NGV Australia, Melbourne

 

David McDiarmid. 'Secret Love' 1976

 

David McDiarmid
Secret Love
1976
From the Secret Love series, 1976
Metallic paint, red fibre-tipped pen, coloured pencil, collage of cut photo-offset lithograph and red and black ink on graph paper
78 x 66 cm
Collection of Paul Menotti and Bryce Kerr, Sydney

 

David McDiarmid. 'Secret Love' 1978

 

 

David McDiarmid
Secret Love
1978
Collage of cut colour photo-offset lithographs on plastic, metal and plastic
135 x 142.8 cm
Collection of Bernard Fitzgerald, Sydney

 

David McDiarmid. 'Secret Love' 1978 (detail)

 

David McDiarmid
Secret Love (detail)
1978
Collage of cut colour photo-offset lithographs on plastic, metal and plastic
135 x 142.8 cm
Collection of Bernard Fitzgerald, Sydney

 

David McDiarmid Various artworks from 1978

 

 

David McDiarmid
Various artworks from 1978 including Strangers in the night (top second left), Mardi Gras (top fourth left), Juicy fruit (top second right) and Real confessions (bottom second left)
All National Gallery of Victoria

 

Bush Couture, Sydney (fashion house) Linda Jackson (designer) David McDiarmid (painter) 'Paua kimono' 1984

 

Bush Couture, Sydney (fashion house) (front)
Linda Jackson (designer)
David McDiarmid (painter)
Paua kimono
1984
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Interview with co-curator Simon Maidment

MB: First of all Simon, can I ask how long have you been at the National Gallery of Victoria and what brought you to the institution?

SM: I’ve been at the NGV since June 2013 and I joined because of a new vision for the gallery which is making contemporary art a priority, both in collecting practices in the exhibitions that the NGV holds. Recently, there has been a real push for change, precipitated by the appointment of Max Delany who is a friend and colleague I respect a lot and who has been really supportive of my career.

MB: So what was your background in terms of training?

SM: I studied as an artist and immediately before coming to the NGV I was undertaking my PhD at The University of Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts Centre for Ideas with Elizabeth Presa as one of my supervisors.

MB: And what new knowledge was your PhD based around?

SM: It investigated curatorial practices that could be thought of as context responsive, looking at artists who seek to enact some sort of social and/or political change.

MB: So this exhibition would be perfect to fit into that…

SM: Yes, indeed… so largely my background has been working with living artists. I have done a few shows in which I have worked with existing bodies of work, but I have done a lot of shows where I have been facilitating artists works. I started as an artist working in media arts – sound, video, projection and digital technologies – and often worked as a studio assistant for more senior artists, people like Sue Ford, Susan Fereday, Ian de Gruchy and my role with them became more and more about facilitation. Then the directorship of Westspace came up and I got that, and my focus turned more from collaboration and working as a studio assistant to facilitation. I became a curator because basically that is what I was doing.

MB: So can you tell me Simon, what was the lead in time for this exhibition? I know it was postponed and delayed at various times, what were the reasons for that?

SM: It was kind of before my time so I am not really sure, but there have been different curators at different times from the NGV involved with the project. So Ted Gott was involved with the exhibition, even before he began work at the NGV. Ted was involved with David’s estate with Sally Gray, my co-curator, right from the start, so he’s been an advisor to Sally right from the start of this long journey. I think the initial discussion about the show was with Ted, and then when Jason Smith was in my position he was involved in this project. When I was talking with Sally the very first discussions about holding the exhibition at the NGV was maybe 15 years ago…

MB: So to finally get it here and up on the walls…

SM: So when I started 11 months ago there was really very little in place. So Max Delany and Sally started a conversation about working towards this show probably about 14 months ago. When Tony Ellwood started he was like, “We’re doing this show.” He’s a big fan of David McDiarmid. He was very familiar with his work so I think that helped speed things along and he really facilitated getting this exhibition done. It was scheduled for 2011.

MB: To get it together from start to finish in 14 months is pretty amazing really…

SM: It was a lot of work but bearing in mind how familiar Sally is with the material we kind of had a real head start.

MB: But then you have to pull it all together from lenders and institutions that hold works and that would have been very intensive. Then to design it all and to make it look like it does. It looks fantastic! Everyone at the opening was just smiling and having a good time, looking at the work, remembering.

SM: I knew the work en masse would blow people away.

MB: Reading the catalogue, you can see that David comes from a period where there was a ground swell of social movements, which was almost like one movement. Everybody went to everyone else’s rallies and they all protested together. David McDiarmid was the very first gay person to get arrested in Australia and at the moment I am digitally restoring the image of him being marched away by two policemen at the ABC protest in Sydney. It is so degraded it will take a long time to restore but it is a really important image. Out of that there comes a real social conscience, fighting for your rights and freedom. So leading on from that, when you think about having this exhibition here now (after Ted Gott’s seminal exhibition Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS at the National Gallery of Australia in 1994), you observe that marginalised voices rarely enter institutional centres of art, rarely enter the mainstream art. It’s usually ARI’s or small public galleries. Not that the artist is gay (because they are just artists) but that the CONTENT addresses gay issues – which is why it’s so fantastic to see this exhibition here at the NGV.

So were there any barriers here to doing David’s show?

SM: No, not really. I think one of the really important things to note is that they show would not have really happened without the large gift from the estate. Becoming the key holder and custodian of David McDiarmid’s work added extra emphasis and responsibility about doing the right thing. At that point the organisation is implicated in that legacy and somehow we have to disseminate the work out into the community.

MB: It is quite a confronting show, how do you think the general public will respond to it?

SM: I have done a couple of tours of people through the exhibition, members and other, and one of the things that has been surprising to me, in a way, which has only become apparent when I have been describing the show in which David makes work in response to particular social and political conditions and contexts… is how different things are. AIDS is now not a terminal illness. To speak to a younger generation than even myself, they have no idea about dying from lack of a viable treatment, of AIDS being a death sentence.

MB: Last night I had a cry for all the people I had loved and lost. But it’s not just the public coming in to see this exhibition, it’s young gay men who don’t ever see anybody ill, don’t understand about the side effects of taking the medication, about what living with HIV is like. They don’t understand the struggle that went on for them to live as they do now. Do you think they will engage with that?

SM: We have structured the show in a way that teases those things out. One of the aspects of McDiarmid as a figure that I find very interesting is that, in 20 short years of practice, he spanned incredible key moments and periods of change in broader society and also within gay society. The legal, medical, institutional change… and really looking at that 20 years is looking at a period of immense social change. The narrative of the exhibition is then to reflect on that broader cultural shift through the biography of one person.

MB: It’s interesting when I looked at the show, when you start making work as an artist it’s always about personal narratives – lovers, friends, places – which then widens out into more universal concerns. You can see in David’s early work him scribbling, writing and really intimately notating his world, investigating his self and his relations to the world around him. And then to take that insight and then to mould it into these reflective images into the Rainbow Aphorisms at the end is an incredible journey. Stephen Alkins was saying to be last night that even the last works were still grounded in this humorous, ironic look at life. He as a really important multimedia artist when you actually study the work.

SM: Just to pick up on one aspect that you are mentioning, and going back into my own background, one of things that Max Delany and I have been talking about that has in some ways illuminated this project is that, in the 1970s and 80s that saying ‘The personal is political’, is very important. David’s work is talking very much about the political as his own biography. Perhaps there is a shift in his later work to a more symbolic realm, and I would argue that nowadays artists working in a political and social context and to affect social change is not so much now as a personal identity – a woman, a black man, a gay man – it’s not necessarily about individual identities anymore, in some ways those battles seem to have been won within Western society. Actually for artists now in this context it’s more about neo-liberalism or capitalism. So it tends to be more on an institutional level and people tackling that in a much more symbolic realm. For instance I am thinking of such people as Jeremy Deller, an English artist who engages with British history and in particular his Battle of Orgreave, a reenactment of the actual Battle of Orgreave which occurred during the UK miners’ strike in 1984.

MB: People like Tom Nicholson in Australia, then, who did the Monument for the flooding of Royal Park (2008-2010), a proposition for the scattering of nardoo sporocarp throughout Royal Park, a vast Park in Melbourne’s inner north which was Burke and Wills departure point, now commemorated by a small cairn.

SM: Exactly. Artists like Tom are working in very propositional ways about memory, social imagination, monuments and memorialisation. All those kind of things are very much within a symbolic realm now. McDiarmid’s work fills the personal and then moves into the symbolic.

MB: But then Stephen Alkins said it was always personal to David, still based in the personal. He was very loyal to his friends, he was a very quiet person, very loving person with great energy. But he didn’t suffer fools gladly, and I think that this comes out of that culture of standing up for yourself and being strong because of the stuff we had to go through to where we are today. Seeing this exhibition actually shows you that difference and what we had to fight for.

SM: There’s a real drive there in that last room. He made so much work, across so much media, at the end of his life – that impending death drive was the source of so much creativity.

MB: McDiarmid was heavily influenced by international artists such as Keith Haring but he never really showed overseas. What do you think about that diaspora, that going overseas and then returning home to then begin exhibiting?

SM: Well the earlier work is, as you say, heavily influenced by the New York scene, the clone scene that was prevalent in the 80s – San Francisco, New York – so he’s definitely channelling those places… Interestingly, unlike many other artists, his art practice is nearly all Australian.

MB: Finally, what do you think is is his legacy in terms of his standing as an artist?

SM: In the last ten years of his life he was heavily involved as a community artist. He was incredibly busy and incredibly involved with things like the organisation of the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras and the design of the posters and floats. He was director of Mardi Gras from 1988-90 and he worked up float designs for various groups. You really get a sense of, as you said, of the solitary work of an artist and a real commitment to that work. In terms of his legacy as an artist, I don’t think that we will know until the exhibition is over. His work, such as the Rainbow Aphorisms, has been distributed widely but not really in an art context, and certainly not in a museum show such as this. People have not had the opportunity to visualise his work as a whole body of work until now.

MB: That brings me to the international context. The Keith Haring Foundation relentlessly promotes his work through books, exhibitions and conferences throughout the world. Do you think that you will start promoting his work overseas to other galleries and getting it into international exhibitions?

SM: I think the book will open a lot of doors. Because his work reproduces so well, because his writing is so interesting there is a broad range of voices for the scholars to investigate. But I think because the work reproduces so beautifully that will be hugely important. One of the aspects that the book will hopefully communicate to a younger audience is that of an infected muscular, sexually active, virile man not an emaciated artist… but to understand that and where that came from, and how radical that was at the time. I think that is one of the legacies that people will take away from David’s work. He is one of the artists that has been really instrumental in redefining that imaginary representation of a dying gay man.

MB: I remember seeing those + and – posters in gay sex venues, and thinking to myself, wow those are so amazing, who did those!

SM: Yes, those posters are about not closing down, about always been open to possibilities.

MB: Thank you so much Simon for taking the time to talk to me, it’s been great.

SM: Always a pleasure.

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan with Simon Maidment for the Art Blart blog June 2014

Simon Maidment is Curator of Contemporary Art at the NGV.

 

David McDiarmid Installation views of various Sydney party posters with a black and white background wallpaper of David and the HIV Living group's 'Day of the dead skeleton for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1992'

David McDiarmid Installation views of various Sydney party posters with a black and white background wallpaper of David and the HIV Living group's 'Day of the dead skeleton for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1992'

 

David McDiarmid
Installation views of various Sydney party posters with a black and white background wallpaper of David and the HIV Living group’s Day of the dead skeleton for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1992 (commissioned by the AIDS Council of NSW) at the exhibition David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me at NGV Australia, Melbourne

 

David McDiarmid. 'Sleaze Ball, Horden Pavilion, 12 October 1985' 1985

 

David McDiarmid
Sleaze Ball, Horden Pavilion, 12 October 1985
1985
Screenprint printed in black and gold ink
91.2 x 65 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist, 1991

 

dm-o-WEB

 

 

David McDiarmid
So I walked into the theatre
1984-85
Synthetic polymer paint, iron-on transfer, and cotton thread on cotton
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Gift of the Estate of David McDiarmid, 1998

 

dm-p-WEB

 

David McDiarmid
So I walked into the theatre (detail)
1984-85
Synthetic polymer paint, iron-on transfer, and cotton thread on cotton
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Gift of the Estate of David McDiarmid, 1998

 

So I walked into the

theatre and lit a cigarette

I looked around. Then I

saw Tony. He lives in

Brooklyn and has a nice

beard and greasy hair.

He didn’t acknowledge

me, but I expected that.

I’d already made it with

him several times before

and each time, he pretended

was the first. He had

even told me his name

once, and that he lived

with a lover. We always

have great sex, but he doesn’t

want me to do anything

but stand there. He has

an incredible mouth…

 

David McDiarmid. 'Disco kwilt' c. 1980

 

David McDiarmid
Disco kwilt
c. 1980
Artbank collection

 

David McDiarmid Installation view of works, mainly from the series 'Kiss of Light', 1990-92 including at left 'Mighty real' 1991

 

 

David McDiarmid
Installation view of works from the series Kiss of Light, 1990-92 including at left Mighty real 1991 with Kiss of Light 1990 right at the exhibition David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me at NGV Australia, Melbourne
Collage of cut self-adhesive holographic film on enamel paint on plywood

 

David McDiarmid. 'Mighty real' (detail) 1991

 

 

David McDiarmid
Mighty real (detail)
1991
From the Kiss of light series 1990-92
Collage of cut self-adhesive holographic film on enamel paint on plywood
144.5 x 123.6 cm
Collection of Bernard Fitzgerald, Sydney

 

dm-r-WEB

 

Detail of one of David McDiarmid’s holographic film art works showing the winking eyes

 

David McDiarmid. 'Body language' 1990

 

David McDiarmid
Body language
1990
From the Kiss of light series 1990-92
Collage of cut self-adhesive holographic film on enamel paint on plywood
152.4 x 121.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

.
There is a holographic winking eye in the arsehole of this work

 

dm-v-WEB

 

 

David McDiarmid
Thinking of you (detail)
1990
Collage of cut self-adhesive holographic film on enamel paint on plywood
140 x 120 cm
Collection of Steven Alkins, Mullumbimby, New South Wales

 

Installation photograph of the last room showing, at left on the wall, work from the 'Rainbow Aphorisms' series 1994 with in front 'Totem works' 1992-95

 

 

Installation photograph of the last room showing, at left on the wall, work from the Rainbow Aphorisms series 1994 with in front Totem works 1992-95 at the exhibition David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me at NGV Australia, Melbourne

 

David McDiarmid. 'Standard bold condensed' 1994

 

David McDiarmid
Standard bold condensed
1994
Screenprint on mylar on colour laser print
255.7 x 242.3 cm (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the Estate of David McDiarmid, 1998

 

Peter Tully (1947-1992) David McDiarmid Australia 1952-1995 Lived in United States 1979-1987 Ron Smith born Australia (1950s) 'Totem works' 1992-95

Peter Tully (1947-1992) David McDiarmid Australia 1952-1995 Lived in United States 1979-1987 Ron Smith born Australia (1950s) 'Totem works' 1992-95

 

David McDiarmid
Works from the Rainbow Aphorisms series
1994, printed 2014
Computer generated colour inkjet prints
149.1 x 110 cm (image and sheet each)
Collection of the McDiarmid Estate, Sydney

 

Peter Tully (1947-1992)

David McDiarmid
Australia 1952-1995
Lived in United States 1979-1987

Ron Smith
born Australia (1950s)
Totem works
1992-95
Anodised aluminium, found objects (installation)
Dimensions variable
Collection of Ron Smith, Woonona, New South Wales

 

Installation photograph of the last room showing, at right on the wall, work from the 'Rainbow Aphorisms' series 1994 with in front 'Totem works' 1992-95, then at left on the wall 'Pictograms' 1995

 

Installation photograph of the last room showing, at right on the wall, work from the Rainbow Aphorisms series 1994 with in front Totem works 1992-95, then at left on the wall Pictograms 1995 at the exhibition David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me at NGV Australia, Melbourne

 

 David McDiarmid. 'Pictograms' 1995

 

David McDiarmid
Pictograms
1995
Vinyl and reflective plastic on aluminium

 

 

“I never saw art as being a safe thing. I know that exists but that’s not something that involves me.”

David McDiarmid, 1993

 

The vibrant, provocative and pioneering work of leading Australian artist, designer and gay activist David McDiarmid will be presented in a retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. Defying classification, McDiarmid’s work encompasses the complex and interconnected histories of art, craft, fashion, music, sex, gay liberation and identity politics.

David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Mewill bring together more than 200 works, including the artist’s early gay liberation work; New York graffiti and disco quilts; fashion collaborations with Linda Jackson; his pioneering Rainbow aphorisms andGothic aphorisms digital work; material he produced as Sydney Mardi Gras Artistic Director; posters created for the AIDS Council of NSW; and, his significant and highly influential international campaigns developed in the context of AIDS, sexual politics and safe sex in the 1990s.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said, “The NGV is pleased to be staging this retrospective of an artist whose work had enormous impact on both the gay liberation movement and the international dialogue around AIDS, and whose clear messages of liberation, equality and emancipation continue to resonate today. David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me explores the social history, as well as political and art historical context, that informed McDiarmid’s work, which inspires through its courage, poetry, exuberance and cultural impact.”

Defying classification, the work of David McDiarmid encompasses the complex and interconnected histories of art, craft, fashion, music, sex, gay liberation and identity politics; happily residing in the spaces between high and low art, popular culture and community engagement. At once kaleidoscopic, celebratory and darkly humorous in tone, the artist’s idiosyncratic, highly personal and at times, confessional work highlights the redefinition and deconstruction of identities – “from camp to gay to queer” – drawing on the experiences of a life intensely lived in Melbourne, Sydney and New York. Charting the shifts in politics and individual and community expression that unfold across the decades of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, this exhibition also reveals McDiarmid’s artistic and grassroots political response to the impact of HIV / AIDS during the 1980s and beyond, for which he is best known internationally.

Recognising the cultural climate in which the artist worked, including the burgeoning of the gay rights movement, and a decade later, the advent of the AIDS crisis, the playful and provocative nature of McDiarmid’s work was critically related to changes that were occurring throughout this time to sexual identity and politics in Australia.

Dr Sally Gray, Guest Curator, said, “McDiarmid’s work speaks so eloquently of its time yet its importance and relevance endures today. David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me is the first exhibition in which the full scope of McDiarmid’s creative oeuvre is on display and is the culmination of painstaking research, with the support of many of his collaborators, friends and fans.”

David McDiarmid: When This You See Remember Me will coincide with the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne in July 2014.

This exhibition includes coarse language and sexual content. Press release from the NGV website

 

William Yang. 'Artist David McDiarmid' May 1995

 

William Yang
Artist David McDiarmid photographed at the Art Gallery of New South Wales adjacent to his giant artwork on the gallery’s facade for Perspecta May, 1995
1995
© Reproduced with permission of William Yang

 

David McDiarmid (Australian 1952-1995, worked in United States 1979-87) 'Judy' 1976

 

David McDiarmid (Australian 1952-1995, worked in United States 1979-87)
Judy
1976
from the Secret love series 1976
Metallic paint, red fibre-tipped pen, cut photo-offset lithograph and red and black ink on graph paper
78.0 x 66.0 cm
Collection of Paul Menotti and Bryce Kerr, Sydney
© Reproduced with the permission of the David McDiarmid estate

 

David McDiarmid (Australian 1952-1995, worked in United States 1979-87) 'Strangers in the night' 1978

 

David McDiarmid (Australian 1952-1995, worked in United States 1979-87)
Strangers in the night
1978
Collage of cut coloured paper and photocopy on mulberry paper
62.6 x 50.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Proposed acquisition
© Reproduced with the permission of the David McDiarmid estate

 

David McDiarmid (Australian 1952-1995, worked in United States 1979-87) 'Hand and heart' 1984

 

David McDiarmid (Australian 1952-1995, worked in United States 1979-87)
Hand and heart
1984
Synthetic polymer paint on cotton
250.0 x 230.0 cm
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Gift of the Estate of the late David McDiarmid, 1998
© Reproduced with the permission of the David McDiarmid estate

 

David McDiarmid. 'Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, poster' 1989-90

 

David McDiarmid (Australian 1952-1995, worked in United States 1979-87)
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, poster
1989-90
Colour photo-offset lithograph
69.0 x 49.0 cm
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Gift of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Limited, 1995
© Reproduced with the permission of the David McDiarmid estate

 

David McDiarmid. 'Untitled' 1990-95

 

David McDiarmid (Australian 1952-1995, worked in United States 1979-87)
Untitled
1990-95
Self-adhesive holographic film and self-adhesive colour plastic on plastic
122.7 x 122.7 cm
Collection of Bernard Fitzgerald, Sydney
© Reproduced with the permission of the David McDiarmid estate

 

David McDiarmid. 'Discard after use' 1990

 

David McDiarmid (Australian 1952-1995, worked in United States 1979-87)
Discard after use
1990
from the Kiss of light series 1990-92
Collage of self-adhesive holographic film on enamel paint on plywood
61.2 x 61.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift from the Estate of David McDiarmid, 1998
© Reproduced with the permission of the David McDiarmid estate

 

David McDiarmid. 'I want a future that lives up to my past'  From the 'Rainbow aphorisms' series 1994, printed 2014

 

David McDiarmid (Australian 1952-1995, worked in United States 1979-87)
I want a future that lives up to my past
From the Rainbow aphorisms series 1994, printed 2014
computer generated colour inkjet prints
149.1 x 110.0 cm
Collection of the McDiarmid Estate, Sydney
© Reproduced with the permission of the David McDiarmid estate

 

David McDiarmid. 'Q' From the 'Rainbow aphorisms' series 1994, printed 2014

 

David McDiarmid (Australian 1952-1995, worked in United States 1979-87)
Q
From the Rainbow aphorisms series 1994, printed 2014
Computer generated colour inkjet prints
149.1 x 110.0 cm
Collection of the McDiarmid Estate, Sydney
© Reproduced with the permission of the David McDiarmid estate

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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10
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘Blow-Up: Antonioni’s Film Classic and Photography’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 30th April – 17th August 2014

 

The act of looking and the gaze through the eye of a photographer’s camera are the central motifs of Blow-Up.

“Don McCullin created the iconographic photographs that in the film are blown up by Thomas to discover something about the alleged crime. However, the blow-ups only offer ambivalent proof as they become more and more blurred and abstract by the continuous enlarging. Even photography that supposedly represents reality like no other form of media cannot help in shedding any light on the mysterious events in the park. Pictorial reality – thus Antonioni’s conclusion – is only ever constructed by the medium itself.” (Press release)

Then, look at Don Mcullin’s photograph British Butcher, East London (c. 1965, below). The Union Jack hat, the knife being sharpened and the contrast of the image. Savage. Not home grown but “Home killed”. Pictorial reality constructed by the medium but not just by the medium – but also by the aesthetic choices and the imagination of the photographer.

Marcus

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

 

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH/Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

Arthur Evans. 'David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

Anonymous. 'Promotional image for "Blow-Up"' 1966

 

Anonymous
Promotional image for “Blow-Up”
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

 

“The cult film Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni (1966) occupies a central position in the history of film as well as that of art and photography. No other film has shown and sounded out the diverse areas of photography in such a differentiated way. Shot in London, this film, which tells the story of a fashion photographer who happens to photograph a murder in a park, has become a classic. Its relevance and the unabated fascination it evokes are partially due to the remarkable range of themes it deals with. While Antonioni’s description of the social and artistic environment of his protagonist in 1960’s London can be understood as a visual document of the Swinging Sixties, the eponymous photographic blow-ups meticulously examined by the photographer to find something out about an alleged crime prompted a theoretical discourse on the representation and ambiguity of pictures from the first showing of the film. Both themes, the historical outline as well as the media reflexions, concern the main focus of the film: photography.

For the first time the exhibition in the Albertina presents in several chapters the diverse and differentiated connections between film and photography, thus allowing a trenchant profile of the photographic trends of the 1960s.

Photography in Blow-Up

The photographic range of Blow-Up is highly diversified and ranges from fashion photography and social reportage to abstract photography. Film stills are shown next to works that can actually be seen in Blow-Up, as well as pictures that illuminate the cultural and artistic frame of the film production, London in the Swinging Sixties.

The meaning of photography for the film Blow-Up is most apparent when Antonioni uses it to characterise his main character Thomas. Played by David Hemmings, the protagonist is not only a fashion photographer, but is also working on an illustrated book with photographs of social reportage. In order to depict both the main figure and its two areas of work in an authentic way, Antonioni is guided by real photographers of the time; before starting to shoot the film he meticulously researched the work as well as environment of the British fashion (photography) scene.

In the course of his preparations Antonioni sent out questionnaires to fashion photographers and visited them in their studios. Thus the main character is modelled after various photographers like David Bailey, John Cowan and Don McCullin; some of them Antonioni asked to cooperate on his film. He also integrated their works, for example Don McCullin’s reportage photographs that the protagonist browses through in the film, or fashion photographs by John Cowan that in the film can be seen in the protagonist’s studio.

In addition Don McCullin created the iconographic photographs that in the film are blown up by Thomas to discover something about the alleged crime. However, the blow-ups only offer ambivalent proof as they become more and more blurred and abstract by the continuous enlarging. Even photography that supposedly represents reality like no other form of media cannot help in shedding any light on the mysterious events in the park. Pictorial reality – thus Antonioni’s conclusion – is only ever constructed by the medium itself.

Antonioni used the photographs seen in the film for media-theoretical reflections and thus set stills and moving pictures in a differentiated context. This complex connection between film and photography is made very clear by the film stills that were created for Blow-Up. These still photographs are based on an elaborate process whereby the photographer has certain scenes re-enacted for the photo camera thus transforming the film from moving images into something static. The manifold references of Blow-Up are once more condensed into photographs in the film stills, as the pictures reflect the real context of fashion photography in 1960’s London through the depiction of the photographer, of well-known fashion models and the use of clothes to match.

Artistic references

The photographic references in Blow-Up are also set in relation to other art forms. This contextualisation is essential for Antonioni’s understanding of photography. Antonioni was, unlike most other film directors, committed to the applied arts which he showed already in 1964 with his film Deserto Rosso, its abstract compositions based on Mark Rothko’s paintings. In Blow-Up an artistic reference of this nature becomes apparent in the character of the protagonist’s neighbour, an abstract painter named Bill, who is modelled on British artist Ian Stephenson. Also the oil paintings in the film were created by Ian Stephenson. They show abstract motifs that in the film are compared with the stylistically related ‘blow-ups’.

The Swinging Sixties

Michelangelo Antonioni filmed Blow-Up at the height of the Swinging Sixties, the social and artistic trends of which are rendered in the film. The agitation of youth culture so characteristic of this time í and not least of all initiated by the Beatles í is shown as well as its trendsetting figures. Thus a concert by the British band The Yardbirds, with Jimmy Page, the subsequent founder of Led Zeppelin, served as a filming location. The scene of the infamous Pot-Party in the film was shot in the apartment of the art and antique dealer Christopher Gibbs, who shaped the fashion look of the Swinging Sixties.

British art of the 1960s was also essential for Antonioni as it anticipated many of those abstract tendencies that set the tone for Blow-Up. There was, for instance, the pop art artist Richard Hamilton who created blow-ups from ordinary postcards, thus reducing motifs to dots. Or Nigel Henderson, a member of the Independent Group, who had already produced photos in the 1950s, in which he pointed out their material qualities by creasing them and using special procedures for the negatives.

As much as Antonioni’s work is rooted in the 1960s, it is nevertheless a timeless classic that is still relevant for today’s art. This becomes apparent in the exhibition by means of selectively chosen contemporary works that refer to Blow-Up. Particularly the filmic outline on the representation of images and their ambiguity serves as the artistic basis for the creations of various contemporary photographers. Blow-Up has lost none of its relevance for art since its creation in 1966.”

Press release from the Albertina website

 

Don McCullin. 'Thomas' blow-ups from the Park' 1966

 

Don McCullin
Thomas’ blow-ups from the Park
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Don McCullin. 'Thomas' blow-ups from the Park' 1966

 

Don McCullin
Thomas’ blow-ups from the Park
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Patrick Hunt. 'David Bailey on the set of G.G. Passion' 1966

 

Patrick Hunt
David Bailey on the set of G.G. Passion
1966
Courtesy Philippe Garner

 

Arthur Evans. 'Veruschka von Lehndorff with David Hemmings in "Blow Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Arthur Evans
Veruschka von Lehndorff with David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Film still
Private collection Vienna
Courtesy: New Visions Film Distribution GmbH

 

David Bailey. 'Brian Epstein (Box of Pin-Ups)' 1965

 

David Bailey
Brian Epstein (Box of Pin-Ups)
1965
V & A Images / Victoria and Albert Museum
© David Bailey

 

Shezad Dawood. 'Make it big (Blow-Up)' 2002/3

 

Shezad Dawood
Make it big (Blow-Up)
2002/3
Film still
Courtesy of the artist and Paradise Row, London

 

Richard Hamilton. 'Swinging London III' 1972

 

Richard Hamilton
Swinging London III
1972
Kunstmuseum Winterthur
© Swiss Institute for Art Research, Zurich, Jean-Pierre Kuhn purchase in 1997

 

 

Exhibition texts

Shot in London in 1966, Michelangelo Antonioni’s masterpiece Blow-Up confronts its audience with the manifold genres of photography and their different social references with a precision like no other feature film. The director involved some of the most interesting photographers of the day in the production of the film. The photojournalist Don McCullin was on set as were the fashion photographers John Cowan and David Montgomery as well as the paparazzo Tazio Secchiaroli. They served as models for Antonioni’s protagonist, took photographs for Blow-Up, and, not least, made their work available to the filmmaker.

Set against the social and artistic backdrop of London’s Swinging Sixties, Blow-Up tells us about a fashion photographer by the name of Thomas (David Hemmings) who secretly photographs two lovers in a park. He later enlarges these pictures and believes that he has coincidentally documented a murder. The blow-ups reveal a man lurking in the trees with a gun and, as Thomas supposes, a corpse. Fashion shootings and Thomas’s work on a book with reportage photographs featuring homeless people in London provide two further strands of reference in the film.

Presenting these contexts in five thematic sections, the exhibition in the Albertina offers a pointed cross-section of tendencies in the photography of the 1960s. The show not only explores the photo-historical circumstances under which Blow-Up was made but also presents èrealê works of art Antonioni integrated into his film, as well as photographs he commissioned for the story. The visual translation of the film into stills constitutes another important field thematized in the exhibition. A selection of more recent works of art highlights the timelessness of Antonioni’s film.

Making film stills

Making film stills involves a complex production process in the course of which scenes of a film are specially reenacted in front of the still photographer’s camera. The difficulties the photographer is faced with result from the difference between film and photography as media. He has to transform the contents of a medium that renders movements and sequences of events in time into a photograph that freezes them in a single static moment.

Arthur Evans’s stills for Blow-Up go far beyond the genre’s traditional function of promoting a film. Evans created series of pictures which allow us to reconstruct certain sequences of movement and depict scenes not shown in the film. Hence his stills for Blow-Up are meta-pictures that shed light on the film from another perspective.

Voyeurism

The act of looking and the gaze through the eye of a photographer’s camera are the central motifs of Blow-Up, which becomes particularly evident in the famous scene in the park. This part of the film depicts the dynamics resulting from a camera focusing on persons and capturing them in a picture. Antonioni presents his protagonist as a paparazzo and voyeur secretly photographing people in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). Hidden behind shrubs, trees, and a fence, he watches a pair of lovers. The camera serves as an instrument for peeping through the keyhole, as it were. The dialogic dimension between photographer and model is revealed when the woman (Vanessa Redgrave) spots the photographer. She defends herself against Thomas’s invasive gaze, bites his hand, and runs away. The aesthetic of Thomas’s photographs shot in the park corresponds to the situation of their taking. The pictures are imbued with the instantaneousness and spontaneity deriving from the photographerés wish to wrest a single picture from a dynamic context in a fraction of a second.

It is no coincidence that the photographer Tazio Secchiaroli was present on set in the very hours this scene was shot. Secchiaroli was an Italian paparazzo who had been after the suspects in a still unresolved murder case, the Montesi scandal, with his camera. Made against the background of this political scandal, Federico Fellini’s film La dolce vita (1960) features pushy photo reporters modelled after Secchiaroli.

Blow-Ups

The blow-ups of Thomas’s photographs shot in the park are the most famous pictures featured in Antonioni’s film. The filmmaker entrusted the renowned photojournalist Don McCullin with taking them. Following Antonioni’s instructions, McCullin had to position himself in the same places as Thomas in the film to reproduce his perspectives. He also used the same Nikon F camera the protagonist works with in Blow-Up. In order to ensure that the process of taking the pictures we see in the film corresponds with the photographer’s results, McCullin advised the actor David Hemmings on how to proceed. The actor learned how to handle the 35-mm camera correctly and was instructed about the body language connected with using it.

Fashion photography

The metropolis of London was the center of a new kind of fashion photography in the 1960s – a renown inseparably bound up with three names to this day: David Bailey, Terence Donovan, and Brian Duffy, also known as Black Trinity. Relying on 35-mm cameras, which had hitherto mainly been used for reportage photographs and ensured a supposedly spontaneous and dynamic pictorial language, these three photographers staged their models in unusual places outside their studios.

In preparing his film, Antonioni had meticulously researched the photographer’s living and working conditions by means of a several-page questionnaire in which he even inquired into their love relationships and eating habits. It was David Bailey who served as a model for the protagonist of Blow-Up. For his dynamic body language in the fashion shootings, for instance, Thomas took the cue from him. The style of clothes Thomas wears is indebted to that of the British fashion photographer John Cowan. Cowan made his studio available to Antonioni for the studio shots and acted as the filmmaker’s adviser. The photographs seen on the studio wall in Blow-Up are fashion photographs by Cowan which Antonioni chose for the film.

David Montgomery

David Montgomery is a US-American fashion photographer living in London. Before shooting his film, Antonioni visited him in his studio to watch him working with Veruschka, Jill Kennington, and Peggy Moffitt – the models he would subsequently cast for Blow-Up. David Montgomery has a cameo appearance in the beginning of the film: we see him taking pictures of the model Donyale Luna on Hoxton Market in London’s East End. When this scene was shot, he actually made the fashion photographs featuring Luna which he pretends to take in the film. Since Montgomery was no actor by his own account, he had to really take pictures in order to be able to play the scene in a convincing manner.

Arthur Evan’s fashion photographs

Arthur Evans, the still photographer, depicted the models appearing in Blow-Up in groups and in individual portraits. These pictures taken on set are very unusual for a still photographer, because they do not show scenes of the film, but are independently staged fashion photographs. The models’ costumes were designed by Jocelyn Rickards, the hats were made by James Wedge. Evans translated the linear patterns characteristic of both designers into graphic compositions in his photos.

Social reportage

Michelangelo Antonioni characterizes his film’s protagonist also as a social reportage photographer who, for a book project on London he is working on, secretly takes pictures in a homeless shelter. A scene of the film has Thomas showing his publisher a dummy of the volume. The portraits in it were made by the photojournalist Don McCullin; their originals are presented in the exhibition for the very first time.

The pictures were taken in London’s East End in the early 1960s, when the area was notorious for its residents’ poverty, miserable housing conditions, and racial unrest. The photographer provides a cross-section of its inhabitants whom he mainly characterizes through their occupation. The two-fold orientation of the film’s protagonist as fashion and reportage photographer is based on fact, as illustrated by both David Bailey and David Montgomery. The stylistic boundaries between the two genres blur in their works. The strategy of picturing models in urban surroundings with a 35-mm camera, for example, is clearly rooted in reportage photography.

Swinging London: Art and Life

Michelangelo Antonioni filmed Blow-Up in the heyday of London’s Swinging Sixties whose social and artistic trends are depicted in the film. He captured the youth culture and its agitation so characteristic of these years – which was not least triggered by the Beatles – as well as the protagonists of the scene. One location he chose was a concert of the Yardbirds, a British band counting Jimmy Page, who would found Led Zeppelin, among its players. The famous pot-party in Blow-Up was shot in the art and antique dealer Christopher Gibbs’ flat, who determined the fashion look of the Swinging Sixties to a remarkable degree.

The British art of the 1960s was also very important to Antonioni, as it already anticipated many of the abstract tendencies informing Blow-Up. The Pop artist Richard Hamilton, for example, used to enlarge everyday picture postcards, reducing their motifs to an abstract dot matrix. Nigel Henderson, a member of the Independent Group, had already emphasized the material qualities of his photos in the 1950s by folding his prints and employing negative techniques. Antonioni integrated works by British artists: for example a picture by Peter Sedgley, a representative of Op art, and oil paintings by Ian Stephenson into his film.

Ian Stephenson

Antonioni’s understanding of photography was informed by painting í an influence that becomes manifest in the character of the protagonist’s neighbor, in Blow-Up a painter named Bill. Antonioni compares the neighbor’s abstract paintings with the photographer’s blow-ups. When Thomas and his neighbor talk about the paintings, Bill maintains that he does not see much in them while painting them and only finds meaning in them later on. This form of reception tallies with Thomas’s attempt to determine the meaning of his similarly abstract enlargements.

The character of the painter is based on the British artist Ian Stephenson. Antonioni visited the artist in his studio before he started shooting Blow-Up. He watched the painter at work and selected the paintings he wanted to use in the film.

Blow-Up

The photographs central to Antonioniés film are the blow-ups of the pictures which the protagonist has taken in the park and which he examines meticulously. The enlargements reveal a man with a pistol lurking in the trees and a mass in the grass, which Thomas interprets as a lifeless body. To make the presumed corpse more visible Thomas enlarges the photograph again and again until it shows nothing but its grain and materiality, despite the photographs inherent relation to reality.

Antonioni uses the blow-ups to question the representation of reality by media and their specific modes of perception. He interlinks these considerations with the film. The final scene of Blow-Up shows Thomas coming upon a group of mimes playing an imaginary game of tennis. When the (invisible) ball lands behind the fence, Thomas joins in the mimes’ game, picks up the ball from the lawn and throws it back to the players. A camera pan traces the trajectory of the invisible ball. In evoking the ball without showing it, Antonioni confronts us with the most radical abstraction: the motif is not rendered as an abstract or blurry form like in the enlargements, but is altogether absent. The media-theoretical implications of Blow-Up are still the subject of conceptual photographs today. Like Antonioni, the Italian Ugo Mulas and the American Allan McCollum, for example, question photography’s relation to reality in their blow-ups.

Le montagne incantate

The nucleus for the blow-ups in the film is to be found in a series of artworks titled Le montagne incantate (The Enchanted Mountains), which Antonioni started working on in the mid-1950s. The filmmaker photographically enlarged his small-format abstract watercolors, making the material qualities of the paper and the application of the paint visible. Consequentially, Antonioni recommended the use of a magnifying glass – as used by the protagonist in Blow-Up – as the ideal instrument for viewing these pictures.

Text from the Albertina website

 

Brian Duffy. 'Jane Birkin' 1960s

 

Brian Duffy
Jane Birkin
1960s
© Brian Duffy Archive

 

Eric Swayne. 'Grace and Telma, Italian Vogue, 1966' 1966

 

Eric Swayne
Grace and Telma, Italian Vogue, 1966
1966
Courtesy Tom Swayne
© Eric Swayne

 

Terence Donovan. 'The Secrets of an Agent' 1961

 

Terence Donovan
The Secrets of an Agent
1961
© Terence Donovan Archive

 

Ian Stephenson. 'Still Life Abstraction D1' 1957

 

Ian Stephenson
Still Life Abstraction D1
1957
© Kate Stephenson, widow of Ian Stephenson

 

Jill Kennington. "Blow-Up" 1966

 

Jill Kennington
“Blow-Up”
1966
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

Don McCullin. 'Down-and-out begging for help, Aldgate, 1963' 1963

 

Don McCullin
Down-and-out begging for help, Aldgate, 1963
1963
© Don McCullin, courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London

 

Don McCullin. 'British Butcher, East London' c. 1965

 

Don McCullin
British Butcher, East London
c. 1965
© Don McCullin Courtesy Hamiltons Gallery, London

 

Terry O'Neill. 'David Bailey photographing Moyra Swan' 1965

 

Terry O’Neill
David Bailey photographing Moyra Swan
1965
© Terry O’Neill – Courtesy Philippe Garner

 

Tazio Secchiaroli. 'David Hemmings and Veruschka von Lehndorff in "Blow-Up" (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)' 1966

 

Tazio Secchiaroli
David Hemmings and Veruschka von Lehndorff in “Blow-Up” (directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)
1966
Filmstill
Source: BFI stills
© New Visions Film Distribution GmbH / Turner Entertainment Co. – A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.

 

David Montgomery. 'Donyale Luna on the set of "Blow-Up"' 1966

 

David Montgomery
Donyale Luna on the set of “Blow-Up”
1966
© David Montgomery

 

 

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

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

Albertina website

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23
Jul
14

Catalogue essay: ‘Being (t)here: Gay liberation photography in Australia 1971-73′ from the exhibition ‘Out of the closets, onto the streets’

Exhibition dates: Tuesday 22nd July – Saturday 26th July, 2014

Artists represented: Philip Potter, John Storey, John Englart, Barbara Creed, Ponch Hawkes, Rennie Ellis
Curated by Dr Marcus Bunyan and Nicholas Henderson

 

This is my catalogue essay that accompanies the exhibition Out of the closets, into the streets: gay liberation photography 1971-73 at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne. It’s a bit of a read (3,000 words) but stick with it. I hope you like the insights into the background of the images and the people in the exhibition.

Marcus

 

Many thankx to all the artists for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Download the Being (t)here catalogue essay (2.2Mb pdf)

 

 

Being (t)here: Gay liberation photography in Australia 1971-73

.
“For the colour and the soundtrack to be part of the politics, even a central part of the politics… meant something new by way of embodiment. Much of the political action was about being there, about putting one’s body on the line. A demonstration, sit-in or blockade is centrally about occupying space. A nonviolent movement tried to occupy space with bodies, not bullets.

It was a key feature of the new left that this embodied politics couldn’t stop in the streets: that is, the public arena as conventionally understood. ‘Being there’ politically also applied to households, classrooms, sexual relations, workplaces and the natural environment.”1

 

I came out as a gay man in 1975, six years after Stonewall and only a few short years after the photographs in this exhibition were taken. The first open acknowledgement of my nascent sexuality was to walk into a newsagent in Notting Hill Gate, London, head down, red as a beetroot and pick up a copy of Gay Times. I literally flung the money at the person behind the counter and ran out. I was so embarrassed. I was seventeen.

From the gay rag I found the name of the local convenor of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) and went to meet him at his home. John was the very first openly gay man that I had ever met. We became lifelong friends. He used to hold coffee evenings a couple of times a week in his flat so that the local gay men had somewhere safe and secure to meet – to chat and laugh, to talk about love and life. Once a month there was a pub that we all went to in the country for a bit of a dance night, but that was it unless you went up to London to a nightclub.

None of us were very active politically, although we kept an eye on the papers and we all understood the discrimination and persecution we faced. But by the very act of being openly gay, as most of us were, we were making a political statement. I was openly gay at college in London and stopped “passing” as something I was not (a straight man) by coming out to my family and friends. I placed my being – there, there and there, in different contexts, so that my family, friends and the community could not ignore my sexuality. I never lived in fear but there was a great deal of self-loathing going on behind the scenes. In those days you were always thought of as “abnormal” and defective if you were a poofter. And there was the guilt of that association. As James Nichols observes, “To be gay or lesbian meant belonging to a genealogy of suffering, to have a dramatic, if not a tragic, destiny. Despite the many battles and certain victories that ensued, the homosexual remained a victim in the collective consciousness; a hidden man.”2  William Leonard continues the theme: “If concealment is a psychic wounding that divides each gay man against himself, it is also a collective division that precludes the forms of public association and political affiliation on which gay liberation depends. As gay men confront their own internalised feelings of self-recrimination, if not disgust, they begin to rattle the closet door and seek out, in public, others of their own kind.”3 And rattle the closet door I did. I flaunted my hi-vis identity for all to see. If the liberation movement meant putting your body on the line – not so much by consciously protesting on the streets but by being visible in whatever setting as a gay man – then I certainly did that.

 

Photography documented this Gay Liberation thing, the emergence in public and private of gay people. It not only documented this visibility but also represented it in very aesthetic and artistic ways that up until now have not really been recognised as such. This is where the photographs in this exhibition make their presence known. As gay people found their voice in the early 1970s artists, often at the very beginning of their careers, were there to capture meetings in lounge rooms, consciousness raising groups and street protests. The photographer as artist was not just a witness to these events but actively participated in these actions, which they envisioned in a subjective way. Unlike earlier images of protest marches where there is an observational distance between the photographer/event which allowed for the depiction of environment and numbers (for example in the 8 hour day marches, see figures 1-4) – from the mid-1960s onwards there is a seismic shift in how photographs represent social change and observed history. Now the photographer marches with the inmates and becomes an intimate participant in the proceedings (see figures 5-6).

In this revolutionary era, the artist evidences an empathy with the events being photographed, an up close and personal point of view. Whatever meeting or protest they were there to record was important to them, be it anti-Vietnam war, anti-Apartheid, pro abortion, nuclear disarmament, Gay Liberation, Women’s Liberation, Aboriginal rights, anti-fascist marches and student protests from around the world. And it didn’t matter whether the photographers were gay, straight or whatever. People appropriated public and private space as a form of collective activism, using social movement cultures to re-make the world. The ways of imagining life and transformation, of imaging life and transformation were enabled by the photographer actively participating in these events. The photographer’s “second sight” did not consist in “seeing” but in being there.

As Professor Barbara Creed states of her interest in artistically documenting these actions, “I was very keen on the slogan – ‘The personal is political’. I was in favour of political action of all kinds – direct action, demonstrations, marches, meetings, consciousness raising groups, media publicity, television appearances, coming out at work, talks to schools etc. I was also very interested in the possibility of using artistic practices (film, photography, poetry, fiction, art) to build solidarity among gay people and to help change public opinion.”4

 

Photographer unknown. 'The original eight hour day banner' 1856

 

Figure 1
Photographer unknown
The original eight hour day banner
1856

 

John F. Shale. 'Mounted police assembled in the square during the General Strike, Brisbane' 1912

 

Figure 2
John F. Shale
Mounted police assembled in the square during the General Strike, Brisbane
1912

 

 

While “the early demonstrations illustrated in this exhibition did often include sympathetic “straights” – a term that seems to have disappeared from the language – for whom gay liberation was part of a wider set of cultural issues,”5 for gay men pictured in the photographs these meetings and marches could be seen as a form of “coming out”, or a place to find solidarity, friendship or sex.6 Gay Pride Week in 1973, for example, was seen as a chance to target, “all the institutions of our oppression: the police courts, job discrimination, the bigoted churchmen and politicians, the media, the psychiatrists, the aversion therapists, the military, the schools, the universities, the work-places … It will also seek to change the mind of the prejudiced, the fearful, the conditioned, the sexually repressed, all those who in oppressing us, oppress themselves.”7 It was also intended to say to gay and straight alike, “gay is good, gay is proud, gay is aggressively fighting for liberation. It will say to gays: come out and stand up. Only you can win your own liberation. Come out of the ghettos, the bars and beats, from your closets in suburbia and in your own minds and join the struggle for your own liberation.”8

For photographers it was a chance to picture a changing world. As Sydney photographer Roger Scott has observed, “I knew I could make a point with my camera. It was exciting. The old conservative world was ending and a new Australia was beginning.”9 With the birth of a new Australia came the end of the White Australia policy when the Whitlam Government passed laws to ensure that race would be totally disregarded as a component for immigration to Australia in 1973; with it came the presence of gay people on the streets shouting ‘come out, come out, wherever you are’ – but certainly not in the newspapers or on television for there was, essentially, the suppression of any reference to, or reportage of ‘homosexuals’ in the mainstream press in Australia.10 If they were pictured, gay people still usually turned away from the camera or had their faces blacked out for fear of discrimination and abuse. As artist John Storey notes, “Conservatism flooded the media, government and all the rest. Homophobia was everywhere but was not a term used in public.”11

As for what prompted artists to document organizations and events, Professor Creed remarks, “I loved to film life around me. I had access to good equipment. I thought it was important to have a visual record of the emergence of Gay Liberation. I believed that films and photos would help to create a sense of community for everyone involved in Gay Liberation. Many members of Gay Lib had been ‘closeted’ all of their lives and so it was a new experience for them to join what is best described as an alternative family. In those days, the Gay Lib group was relatively small – perhaps 30-40 members, so we all knew each other. We held regular meetings, joined CR groups, took part in demonstrations, went away for weekend group events, held dances etc. I also wanted to capture the way we looked, couples together, friends, what we wore, our fashions and styles. Some of the guys had a fantastic sense of style – much more than many of the women who were in revolt against ‘feminine’ fashion. I hoped my films and photos would give support to the gay community and to our emerging sense of forming a new identity.”12

By their very embodiment, the art and politics of these photographs awakens what Roland Barthes calls the “intractable reality” of the image 13 – that prick of consciousness (the punctum), that madness that documents activism and freedom from persecution as both aesthetic and ethical, performative and political. Here, the idea of “being there” – being fully present, in mind and body; being there at the marches; being in the images; being in front of the image looking at it; coupled with the physical presence of the photograph, manifests itself most strongly. Even today, the photographs shock the viewer with their intractable reality. You can just feel the passion of these people, the police presence, the fear, and the authenticity of the photographers’ voice – raw, in your face, people really standing up to be counted.

 

Photographer unknown. 'Eight Hour Day parade in Brisbane' 1912

 

Figure 3
Photographer unknown
Eight Hour Day parade in Brisbane
1912

 

Photographer unknown. 'Women evening students' float on Park Street in the 1940s' Photo, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

 

Figure 4
Photographer unknown
Women evening students’ float on Park Street in the 1940s
Photo, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

 

 

There is also another side to these photographs – the documentation of the more private moments (meetings, consciousness raising groups, friends in the car etc) and the portrayal of gays one on one, close up and personal with the camera in mugshots used in a grid for the cover of CAMP Ink magazine in 1972. Only today can we truly appreciate the intimacy and beauty of these photographs: the photographs of two young gay men in the back of a VW Kombi van that exists only as a 35mm contact print, now scanned and rescued from oblivion; or the presence of gays posing for the camera against a neutral backdrop, every pore of their skin able to be seen (a precursor to the large colour portraits of Thomas Ruff). As Professor Creed states of her desire to capture these intimate moments, “In the 70s film, media and television rarely if ever depicted us at all – let alone our public or private lives. I have always been drawn to the aesthetic power of film and photography to represent the inner world and inner lives of people. The visual image is a great leveller – it reveals the commonality of living things, the need for affection, companionship, community. Contrary to popular myths of the time, gays and lesbians also have a need for intimacy, as does everyone else. When I made my documentary, Homosexuality A Film For Discussion, I included a segment of intimate moments between couples before the commencement of the documentary street interviews, to link the two (private and public together) and to show that many of the negative comments from the general public about loneliness did not match the actual lives of gay people.”14

So where did the photographs that were taken by these artists end up? Often they were collectively passed from hand to hand and used in newsletters, pamphlets and magazines such as CAMP Ink. As Jill Matthews, who compiled the album of Adelaide photographs observes, “The groups and events were very collective enterprises. In those days anyone who had a camera took photos. If people took photos of you, you asked for copies or they gave you prints. There were many prints made and various people had copies. At the time the use of the photos was personal and collective. The newsletters were collective enterprises with everyone chipping in, using whatever was to hand. There was no editor, although some efforts were made to achieve a sense of continuity. Making the newsletters were always fun group events, with a lot of different things you could do, they were basically parties really.”15

Eventually the photographs settled in personal archives and were largely forgotten or were donated to institutions such as the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives. And then they all but disappeared from view.

 

A second (but different) “coming out”

With this exhibition these eclectic photographs re-emerge in a kind of second “coming out.” Having been put away for so many years they appear in the clear light of day, in the clear light of new thinking about their artistic merit and how they act as memory aids to feelings and relationships, events and politics.

While analogue photographic images carry Roland Barthes imprint ‘this has been’ – in other words, a photograph is a depiction of something that has already happened, that is already dead – images do not have fixed or settled meanings. As Scott McQuire insightfully observes, meaning in images “is always transactive: it is the result of complex and dynamic processes of interpretation, contestation and translation. Evidence and testimony is always to be actively produced in the complex present… the photograph’s combination of unprecedented visual detail, which seems to anchor the image in a particular time and place, [is] coupled to the endless capacity for images to travel into new times and places.”16 He goes on to say that photographic history is littered with images that have their meaning altered by entry into a new setting. The images in this exhibition are a case in point for I am examining them as artworks as much as they can be seen as documentary evidence of things that have been.

We should not be afraid of this new interpretation for, as McQuire notes, “Too often when we talk about ‘context’ in relation to a photograph, it is as if there is a finite set of connections that might be fully reproduced, if only we had the time or resources. In other words, the polysemy of the image is given a cursory and limited acknowledgement, in the hope that it can be thereby tamed. Rather than this partial, rather defensive acknowledgement of the fragility of meaning, I am arguing that we need to begin with acceptance of the irreducible openness of technological images. This quality is integrally related to the capacity of any image to circulate and appear in new situations.”17 In other words there is no definitive context for any image and we should not be afraid to approach new interpretations of the work or the coexistence of many possible meanings within that work. This process can be seen as analogous in a contextual sense to the construction of what the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) called the ‘composite’ in the physical sense, which he defined as, “construction/model where things different in kind are reconciled through our experience over time. Differences are reconciled not unified. The composite embraces ideas of complexity and multiplicity, allowing different conventions, materials and contents to coexist in an artwork. It therefore permits complexities and relationships of readings to coexist. The viewer becomes aware of new and shifting layers of content revealed over the time of viewing, and of our role in constructing, interpreting and experiencing content(s). This is not just theoretical, it is the way we experience and negotiate the world everyday, as complexity in the continuum of time and space.”18 The viewer thus creates a composite view of these images in the here and now.

The images importance, then, lies in the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer. Their residence in the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA) archive, which undoubtedly preserves them, marks this institutional passage, this transition of marginalised histories from private to public, “which does not always mean from the secret to the non-secret.” Under the privileged topology of ALGA they are classified and ordered and made available for study and research, but we must also acknowledge that archives give shape to and regulate cultural memory. They influence our perception of the past and present. As Jacques Derrida writes in Archive Fever: “”There is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory.” He indicates that the stakes are high over the memorialisation and excavation of sites and people’s histories.”19 This does not mean that ALGA does not promote an active engagement with the works it holds in safe keeping, far from it. They encourage the use of the archive by artists and the recontextualisation and renarrativisation of the images in this exhibition, from documentary objects to visual art works and back again, could not have occurred without their forthright help. But as Mathias Danbolt notes in his excellent article Not Not Now: Archival Engagements in Queer Feminist Art, archives will always be sites of contestation: “The conversations on archives in queer and feminist contexts tend to center on ways to break with the strictures and structures of archival logics, in order to give room for alternative forms of historical (and herstorical) transmissions. But even though archival logics tend to be a continual object of critique in feminist and queer work, the desire for archives is still present… If the process of archivization is fundamentally about conferring historical status upon material, how to avoid that the status as archival disconnect the queer feminist “past” from the “present” – the “then” from the “now”?”20 Danbolt goes on to suggest that this process is a balancing act, “between the desire for having a history, and the anxiety for being historicized, in the sense of being cut off – metaphorically, practically, systemically – from the present.”21

For me, then, this exhibition is as much about freeing these images from the guardianship of the archive, if ever so briefly, to let them live again in the real world, to let them speak for themselves, as those first gay protesters did all those years ago. To free them of the shackles of being seen as “historical” documentary photographs, the official history of gay liberation in Australia and for them to be seen works of art in their own right. It is about the representation of queer identity through the evidence of photography – from that place, in that time, now breathing in a different era, these people fighting for their liberty. It is about these images and the people in them being (t)here.

In contemporary society, where we are flooded with a maelstrom of images, I believe it is important to contemplate these images for more than just a few seconds in order to understand their history and importance not just for the past, but also for the present and the future. Today, we compose our stories and our histories out of fragments and alterations of spaces. We gather together our sources (in archives, for example) and try and make sense of the past in the present for the future. This process of understanding is about an acknowledgement of the past in the present for the future. Again I say, it is about being (t)here.

In an era of ubiquitous media images, the photographs in this exhibition deserve our attention and contemplation for they are survivors – images that perceptively visualise the initial stages of Gay Liberation in Australia, images that are still alive in the present. Their contemporary re-emergence may lead the community to finally have some iconographic images of the early stages of gay resistance and visibility – intimate representations of protests, meetings and events that ultimately changed the lives of many GLBTI people. They may also have some damn good art upon which to feast their eyes.

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan
July 2014

Word count: 3,423

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Poofters!' 1973, printed 2014

 

Figure 5
Ponch Hawkes
Poofters!
1973, printed 2014
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© Ponch Hawkes

 

John Englart. 'Gay Pride Week poster, Gay Pride march outside the Town Hall Hotel, Sydney Town Hall' Sydney, 1973

 

Figure 6
John Englart
Gay Pride Week poster, Gay Pride march outside the Town Hall Hotel, Sydney Town Hall
Sydney, 1973
Digital C type print on Kodak Endura Matte
© John Englart

 

 

Endnotes

1. Connell, Raewyn. “Ours is in colour: the new left of the 1960s,” in Carolyn D’Cruz and Mark Pendleton (eds.,). After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation. Perth: UWA Publishing, 2013, p. 43.

2. Nichols, James. “Sébastien Lifshitz Releasing ‘The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride’,” on The Huffington Post website 05/01/2014 [Online] cited 02/05/2014.

3. Leonard, William. “Altman on Halperin: politics versus aesthetics in the constitution of the male homosexual,” in Carolyn D’Cruz and Mark Pendleton (eds.,). After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation. Perth: UWA Publishing, 2013, p. 197.

4. Email text in response to the question ‘What were your politics during your involvement with Gay Liberation/events (Gay Pride Week etc)’ to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 01/06/2014.

5. Altman, Dennis. “Out of the closets, into the streets.” Catalogue essay. Melbourne, 2014, p. 2.

6. Ibid.,

7. Anon. “Gay Pride Week,” in Melbourne Gay Liberation Newsletter, 1973 quoted in Ritale, Jo and Willett, Graham. “Rennie Ellis at Gay Pride Week, September 1973,” in The La Trobe Journal No. 87, May 2011, pp. 87-88 [Online] Cited 11/07/2014.

8. Ibid., p. 88.

9. Scott, Roger quoted in Scott, Roger; McFarlane, Robert and Hock, Peter. Roger Scott: from the street. Neutral Bay, N.S.W.: Chapter & Verse, 2001, p. 13.

10. Email text from co-curator Nicholas Henderson 12/03/2014.

11. Email text from John Storey to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 17/05/2014.

12. Email text in response to the question ‘What prompted you to document the organisations/events?’ to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 01/06/2014.

13. Barthes, Roland. Camera lucida: Reflections on photography. Hill and Wang, 1st American edition, 1981.

14. Email text in response to the question ‘One of the aspects of your photographs that I am quite intrigued by is the documentation of the more private moments (meetings, consciousness raising groups, friends in the car etc), what brought you to photograph these subjects?’ to co-curator Nicholas Henderson 01/06/2014.

15. Jill Matthews notes from telephone conversation to Nicholas Henderson, Tuesday 22 April 2014.

16. McQuire, Scott. “Photography’s afterlife: Documentary images and the operational archive,” in Journal of Material Culture 18(3) 2013, p. 227.

17. Ibid.,

18. Thomas, David. “Composite Realities Amid Time and Space: Recent Art and Photograph,” on the Centre for Contemporary Photography website [Online] Cited 12/07/2014.

19. Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, 4, note 1 quoted in Eckersall, Peter. “The Site is a Stage/The Stage is a Site,” on the Archaeology and Narration blog, Saturday, April 9, 2011 [Online] Cited 05/07/2014.

20. Danbolt, Mathias. “Not Not Now: Archival Engagements in Queer Feminist Art,” in Imhoff, Aliocha and Quiros, Kantuta (eds.,). Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent. Bétonsalon No. 14, 2013, p. 4. ISSN: 2114-155X.

21. Ibid., p. 5.

 

 

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20
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Emmet Gowin’ at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Exhibition dates: 14th May – 27th July 2014

 

Emmet Gowin is a superlative photographic artist. His images possess a unique sensuality that no other artist, save Frederick Sommer, dare approach.

His own family was his early significant subject matter, one to which only he had ready access. “I was wondering about in the world looking for an interesting place to be, when I realized that where I was was already interesting.”1 I feel that the photographs of his family are his strongest work for they image an intimate story, and Gowin is nothing if not a magnificent storyteller. Look at the beauty of images such as Nancy, Danville (Virginia) (1969, below) or Ruth, Danville (Virginia) (1968, below) and understand what awareness it takes to first of all visualise, the capture on the negative, then print these almost mystical moments of time.

As Gowin observed in his senior thesis, which was predicated upon the necessary co-ingredients of art and spirituality, “Art is the presence of something mysterious that transports you to a place where life takes on a clearness that it ordinarily lacks, a transparency, a vividness, a completeness.”2 He complemented this understanding of art and spirituality with an interest in science. He was in harmony with the physicists and the scientists, finding them to be the most poetic people of the age.3 Inspired by Sommer, Gowin perfected his printing technique through a respect for the medium, respect for the materials and conviction as to what the materials were capable of doing.4

“Sommer freely shared with Gowin his knowledge of photographic equipment, materials, chemicals and printing techniques and Gowin often repeats Sommer’s admonition to him: “Don’t let anyone talk you out of physical splendour.” Over the years Gowin developed methods of printing born from patient experimentation and a love of craft. His background in painting and drawing taught him that there are many solution to making a finished work of art… which he often builds to achieve the most satisfying integration of elements: “The mystery of a beautiful photograph really is revealed when nothing is obscured. We recognize that nothing has been withheld from us, so that we must complete its meaning. We are returned, it seems directly, to the sense and smell of its origin… A complete print is simply a fixed set of relationships, which accommodates its parts as well as our feelings. Clusters of stars in the sky are formed by us into constellations. Perhaps I feel that this constellation has enough stars, and doesn’t need any more. This grouping is complete. It feels right. Feeling, alone, tells us when a print is complete.””5

His later more universal work, such as the landscapes and aerial photographs, are no less emphatic than the earlier personal work but they are a second string to the main bow. The initial impetus of this work can be seen in the book Emmet Gowin Photographs as a development from still life photographs such as Geography Pages, 1974 (p. 62). This second theme took Gowin longer to develop but his photographs are no less powerful for it. His photographs of Petra possess the most amazing serenity of any taken at this famous site; his photographs of Mount St Helens after the volcanic eruption and the aerial photographs of nuclear sites and aeration ponds are among the strongest aerial photographs that I have ever seen. Gowin’s experimentation with the development of the negative, using different times and developers; his experimentation with the development of the print, sometimes using multiple developers and monotones or strong/subtle split toning (as can be seen in the photographs below) is outstanding. His poetic ability rouses the senses and is munificent but for me these photographs do not possess the “personality” or significance of his earlier family photographs. But only just, and we are talking fractions here!

“These photographs of the tracings of human beings reveal mankind not as a nurturer but as a blind and godlike power. Even his latest aerial agricultural landscapes made on route to nuclear sites have a magnificent indifference to human scale. For Gowin, confrontation of man’s part in the creation of ecological problems would seem to require the most transcendental point of view, and as his subjects have become more difficult and frightening, he has created his lushest and most seductive prints.”6

Gowin is an artist centered in a space of sensibility. An understanding of the interrelationships between people and the earth is evidenced through aware and clearly seen images. Gowin digs down into the essence of the earth in order to understand our habituation of it. How we fail to change the course we are on even as we recognise what it is that we are doing to the world. When the stimulus is constantly repeated there is a reduction of psychological or behavioral response and this is what Gowin pokes a big stick at. As he observes,

“We are products of nature. We are nature’s consciousness and awareness, the custodians of this planet… We begin as the intimate person that clings to our mother’s breast, and our conception of the world is that interrelationship. Out safety depends on that mother. And now I’m beginning to see that there’s a mother larger than the human mother and it’s the earth; if we don’t take care of that we will have lost everything.”7

I was luck enough to meet Emmet Gowin when he visited Australia in 1995. He had an exhibition in the small gallery in Building 2 in Bowens Lane at RMIT University, presented a public lecture and held a workshop with about 20 students. I remember I was bowled over by his intensity and star power and I admit, I asked a stupid question and fawned over him like a little lost puppy dog. The impetuousness of youth with stars in their eyes certainly got the better of me. Now when I look at the work again I am still in awe of the works sincerity, spirituality, sensuality and respect for subject matter. No matter what he is photographing.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

.
Only two of the images are from the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson – the rest I sourced from the internet. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“For me, pictures provide a means of holding, intensely, a moment of communication between one human and another.”

 

“There is a profound silence that whines in the ear, a breathless quiet, as if the light or something unheard was breathing. I hold my breath to make certain it’s not me. It must be the earth itself breathing.

.
Emmet Gowin

 

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Nancy, Danville (Virginia)' 1969

 

Emmet Gowin
Nancy, Danville (Virginia)
1969
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, cortesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith and Ruth, Danville (Virginia)' 1966

 

Emmet Gowin
Edith and Ruth, Danville (Virginia)
1966
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, cortesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Barry, Dwayne and Turkeys, Danville, Virginia' 1970

 

Emmet Gowin
Barry, Dwayne and Turkeys, Danville, Virginia 
1970
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, cortesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

Emmet Gowin, the catalog accompanying a retrospective now touring in Spain, is a great introduction to the artist’s works and a great keepsake for a fan. The writings by Keith Davis, Carlos Gollonet and Gowin himself identify the photographer’s humanist and spiritual roots and detail his journey from 1960’s-era people pictures focused on his wife, Edith and family in Danville, VA, to aerial photographs of ravaged landscapes, like the nuclear test grounds in Nevada, and his most recent project  archiving tropical, nocturnal-moths.

While his disparate bodies of work may look like geologic shifts in subject matter, Gowin talks in the book about the spiritual quest he’s on, and his realization that humankind inhabits the land, and that the land is a vital part of who we are. To my eye, what holds all the works together is Gowin’s never-ceasing focus on non-conventional beauty. His way of photographing both people and the wasted landscapes plays up the dark sublime. These are not traditional pretty pictures, but they are exquisitely beautiful. All Gowin photos smolder with emotion and feel like they were snapped with a breath held, bated with desire.

Roberta Fallon. “Emmett Gowin – From family of man to mariposas nocturnas at Swarthmore’s List Gallery,” on The Artblog website, March 22, 2012 [Online] Cited 05/07/2014

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith, Noël, Danville (Virginia)' 1971

 

Emmet Gowin
Edith, Noël, Danville (Virginia)
1971
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith, Danville (Virginia)' 1971

 

Emmet Gowin
Edith, Danville (Virginia)
1971
Gelatin silver print
7 3/4 x 9 7/8″ (19.7 x 25.1 cm)
Gift of Judith Joy Ross
© Emmet Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith, Danville (Virginia)' 1970

 

Emmet Gowin
Edith, Danville (Virginia)
1970
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith, Newtown (Pennsylvania)' 1974

 

 

Emmet Gowin
Edith, Newtown (Pennsylvania)
1974
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, cortesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Ruth, Danville (Virginia)' 1968

 

Emmet Gowin
Ruth, Danville (Virginia)
1968
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, cortesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith, Chincoteague Island (Virginia)' 1967

 

Emmet Gowin
Edith, Chincoteague Island (Virginia)
1967
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

From May 14th to July 27th 2014, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson will hold an exhibition of the American photographer Emmet Gowin. This important retrospective is showing 130 prints of one of the most original and influential photographer of these last forty years. This exhibition shows on two floors his entire career: his most famous series from the end of the sixties, the moths’ flights and the aerial photographs. The exhibition organized by Fundación MAPFRE in collaboration with Fondation HCB is accompanied by a catalogue published by Xavier Barral edition.

Born in Danville (Virginia) in 1941, Emmet Gowin grows up in Chincoteague Island, in a religious family. His father, a Methodist minister gives him a righteous discipline and a strict education, while his mother, musician, was a gentle, nurturing presence. During his spare time, Emmet encounters the surrounding landscape and begins drawing.

He completes his high school education and enrolls in a local business school in 1951 and works at the same time at the design department of Sears, the multinational department store chain. In 1961, Gowin enters in the Commercial Art Department at Richmond Professional Institute, where he studies drawing, painting, graphic design, and history of Art. After a few months, he realizes that photography is the best mean of expression and gives him the possibility to seize the Fate and the Unexpected.

Gowin’s early photographic influences came in the form of books and catalogues such as Images à la Sauvette by Henri Cartier-Bresson, History of Photography by Beaumont Newhall or Walker Evans’s American Photographs. Emmet Gowin acquires his first Leica 35mm in 1962 and after two years spent observing the Masters of photography, he finally feels ready to affirm his own photographic style. In 1963, he goes for the first time in New York and meets Robert Franck who encouraged him.

The first Gowin’s portfolios realized in 1965, is technically simple in approach. While the subjects vary considerably, all are drawn from everyday life: kids playing outdoors, Edith’s family, adults in the streets or squares, cars and early pictures of Edith. They get married in 1964. Edith Morris and Emmet Gowin are born in the same city but they grew up in totally different families. Edith’s one, was more exuberant and emotionally close than Emmet’s. As we can discover in the first floor of the exhibition, Edith and her family are the heart of the photograph’s creative universe. As mentioned by Carlos Gollonet, curator of the exhibition, Gowin’s work, seen cumulatively, is a portrait of the artist.

In 1965, they move to Providence, and Emmet begins his studies with Harry Callahan at Rhode Island School of Design. He begins to consistently use a 4 x 5 inch view camera from this time on. This bigger negative produced prints with beautiful transparent details and correspondingly finer and smoother tonal scale.

Just before his first son’s birth, Elijah, in 1967, Emmet and Edith moved to Ohio, where he begins teaching at the Dayton Art Institute. This marks the start of a teaching career that spans more than four decades. He concentrates his work on Edith and let us going through his private life and proposes a very personal artistic vision of this work: I do not feel that I can make picture impersonally, but that I am affected by and involved with the situations which lead to, or beyond, the making of the pictures. In these years, he met Ralph Eugene Meatyard and Frederik Sommer, who would become his close friend and mentor.

At the end of the 1960’s, Gowin begins making circular images of Edith, her family, and their own household, both indoors and out. The Gowin’s second son, Isaac, born in 1974, was the subject – both before and after birth – of many of these circular 8×10 inch photographs, which give the impression of looking through a keyhole. At the beginning of the 1970’s, the exhibitions at the Light Gallery and MoMA mark a significant step toward his American success. In 1973, he’s appointed Lecturer at Princeton University. He is later appointed Full Professor, a position he will hold until his retirement in 2009. He inspired a new generation of photographers such as Fazal Sheikh, David Maisel or Andrew Moore.

From 1973, Gowin goes back to sources, nature and landscape and introduces the idea of Working Landscapes in which the contributions of many generations, overtime, shape the use and care of the land. He travels in Europe, Ireland and Italy, where he discovered the ancient Etruscan city of Matera. His first monograph, Emmet Gowin: photographs, is published in 1976. In 1982, the Queen Noor of Jordan, one of Gowin’s students at Princeton, invites him to photograph the archeological site of Petra. Some of these photos are exhibited on the second floor of the foundation. Later, he continues making views of nature and traveled overseas, reverting to a traditional rectangular format. His interest in gardens and the historical balance between nature and human culture stimulates a dedication to a larger landscape, recorded first from the ground and then from the air. He photographs the incredible destruction of the Mount St. Helens volcano, Washington, and spent years recording the inhabited – and often scarred – face of the American West. Gowin is not an environmental activist. Nonetheless, once he comes to know and experience these landscapes his acute moral and intellectual sense is also conveyed in his images. He wants to show the conflict that exists in our relationship with nature. “It is not a call for an action … It’s a call for reflection, meditation and consideration to be on a more intimate basis with the world.”

Over the past few years, Gowin has constantly photographed nocturnal moths. His scientific interest has led him to catalog thousands of species working alongside with biologists in tropical jungles. By chance, he traveled with a cutout silhouette of Edith in his wallet or luggage and produced a series of photographs in which Edith is once again the principal subject, in this case through her silhouette. They recall the instrument known as the physionotrace, a forerunner of the earliest photographs which was used to male silhouette reproducing the images of loved ones. Those images, printed on handmade paper with the silver image gold toned confirm that Emmet Gowin is one of the finest photographers of any period.”

Press release from the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson website

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Old Handford City Site and the Columbia River, Handford Nuclear Reservation, near Richland (Washington)' 1986

 

Emmet Gowin
Old Handford City Site and the Columbia River, Handford Nuclear Reservation, near Richland (Washington)
1986
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

The aerial photos, taken while flying over bomb test sites and waste water cachement basins and other scenes of industrial/military destruction are almost abstract to the eye. They are also very beautiful. Getting nose to nose with these works and reading the title card, however, allows the slowly-dawning realization that you are looking at a full blown horror. This suite of works dates from 1980 when Gowin took to the air to view the aftermath of the Mt. St. Helens volcanic eruption in Washington state and was taken with the way things not visible from “human” space below revealed themselves from above. In 1986 he started exploring man-made industrial inroads into the land from the air, flying over Hanford Reservation, for one, where nuclear reactors and chemical separation plants made scars on the land like nothing nature had done. These are truly devastating pictures, and what makes them more so is the thought that this is the tip of the iceberg and that many other sites on earth bear the scars of man-made intrusion.

Roberta Fallon. “Emmett Gowin – From family of man to mariposas nocturnas at Swarthmore’s List Gallery,” on The Artblog website, March 22, 2012 [Online] Cited 05/07/2014

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Aeration Pond, Toxic Water Treatment Facility, Pine Bluff, AK (Arkansas)' 1989

 

Emmet Gowin
Aeration Pond, Toxic Water Treatment Facility, Pine Bluff, AK (Arkansas)
1989
Toned gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Golf Course under Construction (Arizona)' 1993

 

Emmet Gowin
Golf Course under Construction (Arizona)
1993
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Aerial view: Mt. St. Helens rim, crater and lava dome' 1982

 

Emmet Gowin
Aerial view: Mt. St. Helens rim, crater and lava dome
1982
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

Every Time less than the pulsation of the artery

Is equal in its period & value to Six Thousand Years.

.
For in this Period the Poet’s Work is Done, and all the

                 Great

Events of Time start forth & are conceiv’d in such a

                Period

Within an Moment, a Pulsation of the Artery . . . . 

.
For every Space larger than a red Globule of Man’s

              blood

Is visionary, and is created by the Hammer of Los :

And every Space smaller than a red Globule of Man’s blood

            opens

Into Eternity of which this vegetable Earth is but a

           shadow.

.
William Blake. From “Milton”

 

Emmet Gowin. 'The Khazneh from the Sîq, Petra (Jordan)' 1985

 

Emmet Gowin
The Khazneh from the Sîq, Petra (Jordan)
1985
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith, Newtown (Pennsylvania)' 1994

 

Emmet Gowin
Edith, Newtown (Pennsylvania)
1994
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith, Danville (Virginia)' 1963

 

Emmet Gowin
Edith, Danville (Virginia)
1963
Gelatin silver print
© Emmet Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith and Moth Flight' 2002

 

Emmet Gowin
Edith and Moth Flight
2002
Digital ink jet print 19 x 19 cm (7 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Charina Endowment Fund
© Emmet and Edith Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

1. Gowin, Emmet quoted in Chahroudi, Martha. “Introduction,” in Emmet Gowin Photographs. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1990, p. 10.
2. Ibid., p. 9.
3. Ibid., p. 11.
4. Ibid., p. 11.
5. Gowin quoted in Kelly, Jain (ed.,). Darkroom 2. New York, 1978, p. 43 quoted in Chahroudi, Martha. “Introduction,” in Emmet Gowin Photographs. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1990, p. 11.
6. Chahroudi, Op. cit., p. 15.
7. Ibid., p. 15.

 

 

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
2, impasse Lebouis, 75014 Paris

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 1pm – 6.30 pm
Saturday 11am – 6.45 pm
Late night Wednesdays until 8.30 pm
Closed on Mondays and between the exhibitions

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘The Songs of Eternity’ 1994

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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