Archive for the 'Les Kossatz' Category


Exhibition: ‘See the Light – Photography, Perception, Cognition: The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection’ at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Exhibition dates: 27th October 2013 – 23rd March 2014


It is a real joy to bring these beautiful images to you!

Frederick H. Evans A Sea Of Steps – Wells Cathedral (England, 1903, below) is one of my favourite photographs of all time, up there in my top 20 or so. But you wouldn’t knock back any of these for your collection, especially Imogen Cunningham’s Magnolia Blossom (1925, below) and Edward Steichen’s Three Pears & An Apple (1921, below).


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



William Henry Fox Talbot (England, 1800-1877) 'Articles of China' c. 1844


William Henry Fox Talbot (England, 1800-1877)
Articles of China
c. 1844
5 3/8 x 7 1/8 in. (13.65 x 18.1 cm)
The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin


Linnaeus Tripe (England, 1822-1902) 'The Elliot Marbles, Central Museum, Madras' India, 1858


Linnaeus Tripe (England, 1822-1902)
The Elliot Marbles, Central Museum, Madras
India, 1858
Albumen photograph
10 1/2 × 13 in. (26.67 × 33.02 cm)
The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin


Carl Christian Heinrich Kühn (Germany, active Austria, 1866-1944) 'Still Life' c. 1905


Carl Christian Heinrich Kühn (Germany, active Austria, 1866-1944)
Still Life
c. 1905
Bromoil print
8 1/4 × 11 1/2 in. (20.96 × 29.21 cm)
The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin
© Estate of Heinrich Kühn


Imogen Cunningham (United States, 1883-1976) 'Magnolia Blossom' 1925


Imogen Cunningham (United States, 1883-1976)
Magnolia Blossom
Gelatin silver print
The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin
© 1925, 2013 Imogen Cunningham Trust


Charles Harbutt (United States, New Jersey, Camden, born 1935) 'Triptych' 1978, printed 1978


Charles Harbutt (United States, New Jersey, Camden, born 1935)
1978, printed 1978
Gelatin silver prints
8 x 12
The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin
© Charles Harbutt. All rights reserved, Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery



“The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents See the Light – Photography, Perception, Cognition: The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, an exhibition celebrating an extraordinary collection and exploring parallels between photography and the science of vision. Since the invention of photography in the late 1830s, the medium has evolved in relation to theories about vision, perception, and cognition. The exhibition takes a historical perspective, identifying correlations between photography and the science of vision during four chronological periods. See the Light is comprised of 220 works by more than 150 artists, including Ansel Adams, Julia Margaret Cameron, Imogen Cunningham, William Henry Fox Talbot, Edward Steichen, Edward Weston, Minor White, and many more.

The exhibition draws entirely from the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, a key collection within LACMA’s Wallis Annenberg Photography Department. Acquired in 2008, the collection represents the diversity of photographic processes from the medium’s invention in 1839 to the 21st century. See the Light is accompanied by a free mobile-phone multimedia tour featured on with commentary by the Vernons’ daughter, Carol Vernon; curator Britt Salvesen; artist James Welling; expert in computational vision Pietro Perona; and others. A 208-page catalogue, published by LACMA and DelMonico Books/Prestel, includes an essay by Britt Salvesen with contributions from Todd Cronan, Antonio Damasio, Alan Gilchrist, Pietro Perona, Barbara Maria Stafford, and James Welling. A new web page features excerpts from LACMA’s Vernon Oral History Project, an ongoing series of interviews with prominent artists, curators, dealers, and scholars who worked closely with the Vernons.

“Photography is often approached from either the artistic or the technological point of view, but these two aspects of the medium have been intertwined since its invention,” said Britt Salvesen, Department Head and Curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department. “As a scientific instrument, the camera operates as an infallible eye, augmenting physiological vision, and as an artist’s tool, it channels the imagination, recording creative vision. The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection offers unparalleled scope to the spirit of both science and art.”

The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection

Through a groundbreaking gift from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation, and with the support of Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, LACMA acquired the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection in 2008. Comprising of more than 3,600 prints by almost 700 artists, the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection at LACMA constitutes one of the finest collections of photography spanning the 19th and 20th centuries. LACMA’s acquisition of this collection makes it possible for the museum to represent photography’s breadth in the context of its encyclopedic collections.

Marjorie and Leonard Vernon were avid collectors in the Los Angeles and Southern California communities. The Vernons built their collection beginning around 1975, cultivating a group of works with global significance, with a special emphasis on West Coast photography of the early and mid-20th century. The collection grew over the years to include works by international photographers, with the earliest photographs dating from the 1840s and the latest to 2001.

Exhibition organization

See the Light is organized thematically and traces the trajectory of advanced research on cognition and perception in relation to the art of photography. Four approaches within photography are identified: descriptive naturalism, subjective naturalism, experimental modernism, and romantic modernism.

Descriptive naturalism: Early advocates of photography (from the 1840s through around 1880) were eager to recruit the authority of science without sacrificing the romance of art. The notion that the camera could make a pure transcription of nature, undistorted by human error, took hold at precisely the moment with research in physiological optics revealed the complexities of the human visual system. The depiction of far-off landscapes was one of photography’s key functions in its descriptive naturalist phase, as in Carleton Watkins’s commanding views of the American West, which recorded the natural splendor of the landscape and its settlement.

Subjective naturalism: In the late 19th century, experimental psychology, a newly defined scientific discipline, addressed the progression of sensation into interpretation. At the same time, champions of artistic photography introduced the possibilities of expression, ambiguous form, and abstraction into a medium previously valued for its descriptive functions. Heinrich Kühn’s mastery of painterly techniques, for example, led to the creation of photographs on par with paintings or charcoal drawings. Ultimately Kühn’s photographs depict dreams or memories as much as physical reality.

Experimental Modernism: After World War I, photography became a key tool for avant-garde artists determined to deploy technology in a positive rather than destructive manner, thus restoring balance within the individual psyche and within society at large. The abstract works of György Kepes, influenced by Gestalt psychology, represent a European version of this tendency, which he and other emigrés brought to the United States. A later heir to this tradition is Barbara Kasten, who uses photography to explore key interests including transparency, color, light, and structure.

Romantic Modernism: Inspired by nature, romantic modernism isolated moments of direct personal contact with the world, and explored the specific capabilities of photography. Despite an apparent divergence of art and science following World War II, photography was a site of connection. Ansel Adams believed in the artist’s unique vision, while also advocating technical precision to realize it. Concurrently, scientists were focusing on contrast perception, the neurological mechanisms by which we distinguish objects and make sense of spatial arrangements. Scientists and photographers alike had to understand the visual system and its responses to black and white.”

Press release from the LACMA website


Edward Steichen (Luxembourg, active United States, 1879-1973) 'Three Pears & An Apple' 1921, printed 1921


Edward Steichen (Luxembourg, active United States, 1879-1973)
Three Pears & An Apple
1921, printed 1921
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 × 7 1/2 in. (24.45 × 19.05 cm)
The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation and promised gift of Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin
© The Estate of Edward Steichen


William Henry Fox Talbot (England, 1800-1877) 'Lace' 1841


William Henry Fox Talbot (England, 1800-1877)
7 1/2 × 9 1/4 in. (19.05 × 23.5 cm)
The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation and promised gift of Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin


Andrew Young (England, active 1870-1879) 'Plane at Aberdour, in Old Avenue' Scotland, late 1870s


Andrew Young (England, active 1870-1879)
Plane at Aberdour, in Old Avenue
Scotland, late 1870s
Woodbury type
9 1/8 × 7 3/8 in. (23.18 × 18.73 cm)
The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin


Frederick H. Evans (England, 1853-1943) 'A Sea Of Steps - Wells Cathedral' England, 1903


Frederick H. Evans (England, 1853-1943)
A Sea Of Steps – Wells Cathedral
England, 1903
Platinum print
9 x 7 1/4 in. (22.86 x 18.44 cm)
The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation and Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin
© Frederick H. Evans, courtesy Janet B. Stenner


Jaroslav Rössler (Bohemia, Havlíčkův Brod, 1902-1990) 'Still Life with Small Bowl' Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), 1923


Jaroslav Rössler (Bohemia, Havlíčkův Brod, 1902-1990)
Still Life with Small Bowl
Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), 1923
Gelatin silver print
8 7/8 × 9 3/8 in. (22.54 × 23.81 cm)
The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation and promised gift of Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin


György Kepes (Hungary, active United States, 1906-2001) 'Balance' 1942, printed 1942


György Kepes (Hungary, active United States, 1906-2001)
1942, printed 1942
Gelatin Silver Print
The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of The Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin
© The György Kepes Estate



Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
T: 323 857-6000

Opening Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: noon – 8 pm
Friday: noon – 9 pm
Saturday, Sunday: 11am – 8 pm
Closed Wednesday

LACMA website


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Review: ‘The Art of Existence’ exhibition by Les Kossatz at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Heide Museum of Modern Art has brought together nearly 100 pieces of work by the Australian artist Les Kossatz in an eclectic survey show, appropriately titled ‘The Art of Existence’. Featuring sculpture, painting and mixed media from the 1960s to the present the exhibition is appropriately titled because Kossatz’s work addresses certain archetypal themes that affect human existence: “His life-long fascination with the natural world and desire to understand both its human and animal inhabitants; exploration of the systems of knowledge and codes of behavior that structure individual and communal life; and his critical and playful reflections on contemporary behaviour and the mysteries of existence.”1


Les Kossatz. "Digger's glory box" 1965


Les Kossatz.
‘Digger’s glory box’
silk, felt, canvas, cardboard, wood, brass, ink, fibre-tipped pen and synthetic polymer paint 
106.0 x 76.0 x 7.0 cm 


Strong symbolic paintings are the focus of the work in the 1960s, paintings that address the shocking brutality of war and its aftermath, when soldiers return home. To the observation that these are of the ‘pop-style’ school of painting suggested by the Heide website I feel these works are also influenced by the collage of Cubism, the boxes of Joseph Cornell and the dismembered bodies of Francis Bacon. They engage with the symbolism of war and remembrance: memory, myth, and the banality of heroism and sacrifice.

The key work in this series is the painting ‘Diggers throne’ (1966). This is a powerful disturbing image, effervescent and unnerving at the same time. It features a disembodied arm on the hand of a throne, surrounded by a wonderful kaleidoscopic assemblage of pictorial planes, artefacts and memories – an English flag, the flag of St George, a crown, medals and the words RSL. The arm reminds me of the Francis Bacon painting ‘Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)’ as it rests, roughly drawn in pencil on the arm of the throne, drawing the eye back up into nothingness.


Francis Bacon. "Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)"


Francis Bacon.
‘Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)’


The ‘Diggers throne’ painting also features these prophetic words:

“throne slow to rot
and twisted the memory
becomes sacred.
Bloody was the truth
And this a chair.”


All other work in this period seems to flow through this painting – the other large paintings, the small canvases featuring individual medals and the less successful hanging banners. But it is to this work we return again and again as a viewer, trying to decipher and reconcile our inner conflicts about the painting.


Les Kossatz. "Ram in sling" 1973


Les Kossatz.
‘Ram in sling’
cast and fabricated stainless steel and sheepskin
29.3 x 126.5 x 66.0 cm  


As we move into the 1970s the work changes focus and direction. There emerges a concern with the desecration of the Australian landscape investigated in a series of large paintings and sculptures. In ‘Packaged landscape 1’ (1976) a steel suitcase with leather straps, slightly ajar, fulminates with artificial gum leaves trying to escape the strictures of the trap. In ‘Caged landscape’ (1972) nature is again trapped behind steel wire, weighed in the balance on a set of miniature scales. The paintings feature trees that are surrounded by concrete and the rabbit becomes a powerful symbol for Kossatz – a suffering beast, strung up on fences, a plague in a pitted landscape of chopped down trees, erosion and empty holes.

Into this vernacular emerges the key symbol of the artist’s oeuvre – the sheep. In 1972 Kossatz began a series of sculptures of sheep, “initially inspired by the experience of nursing an injured ram.” For Kossatz “the sheep represent the hardship of pioneer existence, the grazing industries prosperity, environmental concerns and the sheep act as narrative devices, potent metaphors for human behaviour.”2

The first sheep presented ‘in show’ is ‘Ram in Sling’ (1973). In this sculpture a metal bar is suspended in mid-air and from this bar heavy wire mesh drops to support the fleecy stomach and neck of the ram almost seeming to strangle it in the process, it’s metal feet just touching the ground. Again the scales of justice seem to weigh nature in the balance.

The themes life and death, order and chaos are further developed in the work ‘Hard slide’ (1980) where a sheep emerges mid-air from a trapdoor, two more tumble down a wooden slide end over end and another disappears into the ground through a wooden trapdoor opening. Sacrifice seems to be a consistent theme with both the earlier paintings and the metallised sheep:


“The completed life cycle, down the trapdoor, down the chute, after sacrifice by shearing.”

Daniel Thomas 1994


Les Kossatz. "Hard slide" 1980


Les Kossatz 
‘Hard slide’
sheepskins, aluminium, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga sp.), leather, steel
372.0 x 100.0 x 304.0 cm (installation)


Further sculptures of sheep, both small maquettes and large sculptures follow in the next room of the exhibition. This is the artist is full flow, featuring the inventive taking of 2D things into the round, investigating the key themes of his work: the contrast between nature and artifice, or humanity.

The small maquettes of sheep feature races, gantries, sluices, pens, trapdoors and paddocks. Sheep tumble in a cataclysmic maelstrom, falling with flailing legs into the darkness of the holding pen below. These are my favourite works – small, intimate, detailed, dark bronzes of serious intensity – the sheep becoming a theatre of the absurd, suspended, weighed and balancing in the performance of ritualised acts, a cacophony of flesh at once both intricate and unsettling. Their skins lay flayed and lifeless disappearing into the ‘unearth’ of the slated wooden floor of the shearing shed. The sheep “can be viewed metaphorically as a commentary of the existential situation of the individual and collective behaviour.”3 As Kossatz himself has noted, “It is hard to bring a piece of landscape inside and give it a living animated form. The sheep somehow gives me this quality of landscape.”

But we must also remember that this strictly a white man’s view of the Australian landscape. Nowhere does this work comment on the disenfranchisement of the native people’s of this land – the destruction of native habitats that the sheep brought about, the starvation that they caused to Aboriginal people just as they bought riches to the pastoralists and the country that mined the land with this amorphous mass of flesh.


Les Kossatz. "Guggenheim spiral" 1983


Les Kossatz.
‘Guggenheim spiral’


Recent work in the exhibition returns to the earlier social themes of memory, war, remembrance, religion, shrines, atomic clouds and temples but it is the work of the late 1970s – 1980s that is the most cogent. As Kossatz ponders the nature of existence on this planet he does not see a definitive answer but emphasizes the journey we take, not the arrival. Here is something that we should all ponder, giving time to the nature of our personal journey in this life, on this earth.

Here also is an exhibition worthy our time and attention as part of that journey. Go visit!




Exhibition dates: 22nd November – 8th March 2009

Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road
Bulleen Victoria 3105 Australia
T +61 3 9850 1500
F +61 3 9852 0154



1.  From the Heide website at
 2. From wall notes to the exhbition
3. From wall notes to the exhbition 

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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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