Archive for the 'Man Ray' Category

26
Jun
14

Photographs and text: George Platt Lynes and the male nude

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

 

Man Ray. 'George Platt Lynes' 1927

 

Man Ray
George Platt Lynes
1927

 

 

The greatest photographer of the male nude the world has ever seen – George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955).

Lynes worked as a fashion photographer in his own studio in New York (which he opened in 1932) before moving to Hollywood in 1946 where he took the post of Chief Photographer for the Vogue studios. Although an artistic success the sojourn was a financial failure and he returned to New York in 1948. Although continuing his commercial work he became disinterested in it, concentrating his energies on photographing the male nude. He began a friendship with Dr Alfred Kinsey of the Kinsey Institute in Bloomington, Indiana and helped with his sex research. Between 1949 and 1955, Lynes sold and donated much of his erotic nudes to Kinsey.1 By May 1955 he had been diagnosed terminally ill with lung cancer. He closed his studio. He destroyed much of his print and negative archives particularly his male nudes. However, it is now known that he had transferred many of these works to the Kinsey Institute. After a final trip to Europe, Lynes returned to New York City where he died.2

Since the early 1930s Lynes had photographed male nudes and distributed the images privately to his circle of friends. He was reluctant to show them in public for fear of the harm that they could do to his reputation and business with the fashion magazines, for he was a gay man “passing” in a homophobic society. Generally his earlier male nude photographs concentrate on the idealised youthful body or ephebe. As Lynes became more despondent with his career as a fashion photographer his private photographs of male nudes tend to take on a darker and sharper edge. After a period of residence in Hollywood he returned to New York nearly penniless. His style of photographing the male nude underwent a revision. While the photographs of his European colleagues still relied on the sun drenched bodies of young adolescent males evoking memories of classical beauty and the mythology of Ancient Greece the later nudes of Platt Lynes feature a mixture of youthful ephebes and heavier set bodies which appear to be more sexually knowing. The compositional style of dramatically lit photographs of muscular torsos of older, rougher men shot in close up were possibly influenced by a number of things – his time in Hollywood with its images of handsome, swash-buckling movie stars with broad chests and magnificent physiques; the images of bodybuilders by physique photographers that George Platt Lynes visited; the fact that his lover George Tichenor had been killed during WWII; and the knowledge that he was penniless and had cancer. There is, I believe, a certain sadness but much inner strength in his later photographs of the male nude that harnesses the inherent sexual power embedded within their subject matter.

This monumentality of body and form was matched by a new openness in the representation of sexuality. There are intimate photographs of men in what seem to be post-coital revere, in unmade beds, genitalia showing or face down showing their butts off (see Untitled [Charles 'Tex' Smutney, Charles 'Buddy' Stanley, and Bradbury Ball] c. 1942, below). Some of the faces in these later photographs remain hidden, as though disclosure of identity would be detrimental for fear of persecution or prosecution. However, this photograph is quite restrained compared to the most striking series of GPL’s photographs which involves an exploration the male anal area (a photograph from the 1951 series can be found in the book titled George Platt Lynes: Photographs from The Kinsey Institute). This explicit series features other photographs of the same model - in particular one that depicts the male with his buttocks in the air pulling his arse cheeks apart. After Lynes found out he had cancer he started to send his photographs to the German homoerotic magazine Der Kries under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf, and in the last years of his life he experimented with paper negatives, which made his images of the male body even more grainy and mysterious.

Further, when undertaking research into GPL’s photographs at The Kinsey Institute as part of my PhD I noted that most of the photographs had annotations in code on the back of them giving details of age, sexual proclivities of models and what they are prepared to do and where they were found. This information gives a vital social context to GPL’s nude photographs of men and positions them within the moral and ethical framework of the era in which they were made. Most of the photographs list the names of the models used but we are unable to print them due to an agreement between GPL and Dr. Kinsey as to their secrecy.

I believe that Lynes understood, intimately, the different physical body types that gay men find desirable and used them in his photographs. He visited Lon of New York (a photographer of beefcake men) in his studio and purchased photographs of bodybuilders for himself, as did the German photographer George Hoyningen-Huene. It is likely that these images of bodybuilders influenced his later compositional style of images of men; it is also possible that he detected the emergence of this iconic male body type as a potent sexual symbol, one that that was becoming more visible and sexually available to gay men.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

1. Brown, Elspeth. “Queer Desire and Cold War Homophobia,” on the In The Darkroom blog May 2013 [Online] Cited 24/06/2014.
2. “He clearly was concerned that this work, which he considered his greatest achievement as a photographer, should not be dispersed or destroyed…We have to remember the time period we’re talking about – America during the post-war Red Scare…”

Quotation from George Platt Lynes, The Male Nudes. Rizzoli International Pub, 2011 cited on “George Platt Lynes” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 24/06/2014.

 

Many thankx to Associate Professor Elspeth H. Brown for allowing me to publish her text “Queer Desire and Cold War Homophobia”. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“The depth and commitment he had in photographing the male nude, from the start of his career to the end, was astonishing. There was absolutely no commercial impulse involved – he couldn’t exhibit it, he couldn’t publish it.”

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Allen Ellenzweig

 

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled (male nude with tattoo)' 1950-1955

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Untitled (male nude with tattoo)
1950-1955
Silver gelatin photograph
24.5 x 19.5 cm

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled' Nd [c. 1951]

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Untitled
Nd [c. 1951]
Silver gelatin photograph

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Jack Fontan' c. 1950

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Jack Fontan
c. 1950
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Samuel M. Steward,. "George Platt Lynes," in 'The Advocate', No. 332, December 10, 1981, p.22

Samuel M. Steward,. "George Platt Lynes," in 'The Advocate', No. 332, December 10, 1981, p.23

Samuel M. Steward,. "George Platt Lynes," in 'The Advocate', No. 332, December 10, 1981, p.24

 

Samuel M. Steward. “George Platt Lynes,” in The Advocate, No. 332, December 10, 1981, pp. 22-24

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled [Charles 'Tex' Smutney, Charles 'Buddy' Stanley, and Bradbury Ball]' c. 1942

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Untitled [Charles 'Tex' Smutney, Charles 'Buddy' Stanley, and Bradbury Ball]
c. 1942
Silver gelatin photograph

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According to David Leddick the models are Charles ‘Tex’ Smutney, Charles ‘Buddy’ Stanley, and Bradbury Ball. The image comes from a series of 30 photographs of these three boys undressing and lying on a bed together. Leddick, David. Naked Men: Pioneering Male Nudes 1935-1955. New York: Universe Publishing, 1997, p. 21.

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Ted Starkowski (standing, arms folded)' c. 1950

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Ted Starkowski (standing, arms folded)
c. 1950
Silver gelatin photograph

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Ted Starkowski (standing, arms behind back)' c. 1950

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Ted Starkowski (standing, arms behind back)
c. 1950
Silver gelatin photograph
22.9 x 19.1 cm

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled' 1952

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Untitled
1952
Silver gelatin photograph

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled (male nude study)' Nd

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Untitled (male nude study)
Nd
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

Queer Desire and Cold War Homophobia

Associate Professor Elspeth H. Brown

This photograph [above] archives queer, illicit desire in Cold War America. It was made by George Platt Lynes, and is part of a set of male nudes that the photographer made in the decades leading to his death, from lung cancer, in 1955. Because exhibiting these photographs was a impossibility during Lynes’s lifetime due to Cold War homophobia, he circulated them privately among his queer kinship networks.

Lynes was part of a closely connected circle of elite gay men who dominated American arts and letters in the interwar and early post-war years. For 16 years, Lynes lived with the writer Glenway Wescott and museum curator Monroe Wheeler, who were a couple for over fifty years; they had a variety of other sexual partners throughout, including Lynes, who shared a bedroom with Wheeler during their years together. All three of them, as well as friends and colleagues Lincoln Kirstein, Paul Cadmus, and other leading figures, participated in sex parties in the 1940s and 1950s, as documented in their personal papers. However, in the context of 1950s-era red scares, which particularly focused on homosexuals, the more open sexual subcultures of the 1930s and 1940s were driven even further underground.

In April of 1950, Glenway Wescott wrote George Platt Lynes that while the erotic explicitness of George’s nudes didn’t personally concern him, he was worried for Monroe Wheeler, since Wheeler held a public position as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. “I really don’t mind scabrousness, etc., on my account, as you must know,” he wrote. “Only that our poor M [Monroe] must conclude his career with good effect and honor, I am anxious not to involve him in what is now called (in the nation’s capital) ‘guilty by association’ (have you been reading the columns and columns in the newspapers upon this and correlative points?).”

Although McCarthyism is often understood as the effort to purge suspected communists from the State Department and other branches of the federal government, the Red Scare equally targeted homosexuals, who were forced out of public service and into the closet. Wescott may well have been referring to the front page of the New York Times on March 1, 1950, where Secretary of State Dean Acheson testified about the Alger Hiss trial and the loyalty program at the State Department. Although the article purportedly concerned communism, it shows that the red scare mainly affected homosexuals, as Wescott clearly understood. Senator Bridges asked John E. Peurifoy, Deputy Under-Secretary of State in charge of the security program, how many members of the State Department had resigned since the investigations began in 1947. “Ninety-one persons in the shady category,” Mr. Peurifoy replied, “most of these were homosexuals.” This was not necessarily newsworthy in and of itself, so far as the New York Times was concerned in 1950, and the remainder of the article detailed the testimony relating to other aspects of the hearings.

Lynes continued to make and circulate his portraits, despite this climate of homophobia. He was very concerned that the work find an audience, and published it in several issues of the German homosexual journal Der Kreis in the 1950s. He also became an important informant for Alfred Kinsey’s research, as did Glenway Wescott and other members of their circle. Between 1949 and 1955, Lynes sold and donated much of his erotic nudes to Kinsey, where they are now part of the Kinsey Institute collections in Bloomington, Indiana.

© Elspeth H. Brown 2013
Associate Professor of History
University of Toronto

Reproduced with permission of the author.

Elspeth H. Brown website

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled' 1951

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Untitled
1951
Silver gelatin photograph

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled (Charles Romans in the artist's apartment)' 1953

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Untitled (Charles Romans in the artist’s apartment)
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
19.5 x 24.5 cm

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Don Cerulli' 1952

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Don Cerulli
1952
Silver gelatin photograph

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Male nude study' 1951

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Male nude study
1951
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled' 1951

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Untitled
1951
Silver gelatin photograph
22.9 x 19.1 cm

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled' 1936

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Untitled
1936
Silver gelatin photograph

 

George Platt Lynes. 'George Tooker' 1945

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
George Tooker
1945
Silver gelatin photograph

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Tex Smutney' 1943

 

George Platt Lynes (American, April 15, 1907 – December 6, 1955)
Tex Smutney
1943
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

Chronology by Jack Woody

1907-1924 Born April 15, 1907, East Orange, New Jersey. Raised in comfortable circumstances and privately educated. Schoolmate Lincoln Kirstein described the young Lynes as “precocious,” crediting him with a subsequent introduction to George Balanchine.

1925 Makes first trip to Europe. Meets lifetime companions Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler. Befriends Gertrude Stein, Pavel Tchelitchew and Jean Cocteau during his stay. Returns to New York City, works at Brentano’s Bookstore for a short time.

1926 Publishes the ‘As Stable Pamphlets’ in his parents’ house, Englewood, New Jersey. Includes Gertrude Stein’s DESCRIPTIONS OF LITERATURE and Ernest Hemingway’s first published play TODAY IS FRIDAY with cover designs by Pavel Tchelitchew and Jean Codeau. Enters Yale University in Autumn, leaves in December.

1927 Opens Park Place Book Shop in Englewood. The gift of a view camera encourages Lynes to make a career of photography.

1928-1930 During 1928 Lynes exhibits his celebrity portraits at Park Place Book Shop to launch a portrait business in the shop. Continues traveling to Europe, teaching himself by trial-and-error a technical understanding of the medium.

1931 Introduced to Julien Levy. Together they experiment with photographing surrealistic still-lifes. Levy arranges to include Lynes in Surrealism exhibition at Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. Visits and photographs Gertrude Stein at Bilignin.

1932 First important exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in tandem with Walker Evans. The death of his father forces Lynes to take up photography as a means of economic support.

1933 Opens first New York City studio on East 50th Street. Continued public showings of his work and interest in his celebrity portraits attracts a large clientele of New York socialites and their families.

1934 Begins publishing his fashion and portrait work in such magazines as Town and Country, Harpers’ Bazaar and Vogue magazines.

1935 Invited by Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine to document the repertoire and principal dancers in their fledgling American Ballet (now New York City Ballet), a collaboration that will continue until Lynes’ death in 1955.

1936 Surrealistic composition ‘The Sleepwalker’ included in New York Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, ‘Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism.’ Lynes undertakes an extensive project to photographically interpret mythological situations.

1937-1940 Continues involvement with mythology series. Successful commercial career now headquartered in a large studio at 604 Madison Avenue. Commercial fashion accounts include Hattie Carnegie, Henri Bendel, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.

1941-1945 Photographs airfield activities for First Air Force’s publicity and documentation. Begins to lose interest in commercial work, a process accelerated by the death of George Tichenor in 1942. Disillusioned with New York and his private life Lynes closes his studio and leaves for Los Angeles to head Vogue Magazine’s Hollywood studio.

1946-1947 Lynes begins to photograph in his rented Hollywood Hills home, experimenting with effects achieved with minimal amounts of available light. Photographs Christopher Isherwood, Igor Stravinsky, Thomas Mann and Aldous Huxley.

1948-1950 Friends sponsor the financially troubled Lynes’ return to New York where he is uninterested in and unable to repeat his earlier commercial successes. Economics force Lynes to experiment with cheaper photographic tools. He is particularly interested in the paper negative. Meets sex researcher Alfred Kinsey; impressed with Lynes’ work, Kinsey arranges to purchase hundreds of photographs for his Bloomington, Indiana institute.

1951-1954 Publishes his male nudes in homoerotic magazine ‘Der Kries’ using the pseudonyms Roberto Rolf and Robert Orville. Declares bankruptcy. Lives in a succession of apartments and studios as illness becomes apparent.

1955 In May diagnosed terminally ill with cancer. Last portrait sitting is June 16 with Monroe Wheeler. Closes studio and undergoes radium and drug therapy. Lynes begins to destroy large portions of his negative and print archives. In the Autumn he leaves for Europe, returning to New York in November to be hospitalized. At night Lynes leaves the hospital to attend the theatre and ballet. He dies on December sixth, forty-eight years old.

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Mel Fillini' 1950

 

George Platt Lynes
Mel Fillini
1950
Silver gelatin photograph

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Robert McVoy' c. 1941

 

George Platt Lynes
Robert McVoy
c. 1941
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

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21
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 18th April 2012 – 29th April 2013

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Another fascinating exhibition and a bumper posting to boot (pardon the pun!)

A panoply of famous photographers along with a few I had never heard of before (such as Georges Hugnet) are represented in this posting. As the press blurb states, through “key photographic projects, experimental films, and photobooks, ‘The Shaping of New Visions’ offers a critical reassessment of photography’s role in the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements, and in the development of contemporary artistic practices.”

The large exhibition seems to have a finger in every pie, wandering from the birth of the 20th-century modern metropolis, through “New Vision” photography in the 1920s, experimental film, Surrealism, Constructivism and New Objectivity, Dada, Rayographs, photographic avant-gardism, photocollages, photomontages, street photography of the  1960s, colour slide projection performance, through New Topographics, self-published books, and conceptual photography, featuring works that reevaluate the material and contextual definitions of photography. “The final gallery showcases major installations by a younger generation of artists whose works address photography’s role in the construction of contemporary history.”

Without actually going to New York to see the exhibition (I wish!!) – from a distance it does seem a lot of ground to cover within 5 galleries even if there are 250 works. You could say this is a “meta” exhibition, drawing together themes and experiments from different areas of photography with rather a long bow. Have a look at the The Shaping of New Visions exhibition checklist to see the full listing of what’s on show and you be the judge. There are some rare and beautiful images that’s for sure. From the photographs in this posting I would have to say the distorted “eyes” have it…

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

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László Moholy-Nagy
Ein Lichtspiel: schwarz weiss grau (A Lightplay: Black White Gray) (excerpt)
1930

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This short film made by László Moholy-Nagy is based on the shadow patterns created by his Light-Space Modulator, an early kinetic sculpture consisting of a variety of curved objects in a carefully choreographed cycle of movements. Created in 1930, the film was originally planned as the sixth and final part of a much longer work depicting the new space-time.

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Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler
Manhatta
1921
Film
Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

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In 1920 Paul Strand and artist Charles Sheeler collaborated on Manhatta, a short silent film that presents a day in the life of lower Manhattan. Inspired by Walt Whitman’s book Leaves of Grass, the film includes multiple segments that express the character of New York. The sequences display a similar approach to the still photography of both artists. Attracted by the cityscape and its visual design, Strand and Sheeler favored extreme camera angles to capture New York’s dynamic qualities. Although influenced by Romanticism in its view of the urban environment, Manhatta is considered the first American avant-garde film.

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Dziga Vertov
Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera)
1929
Film
1 hr 6 mins 49 secs

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Excerpt from a camera operators diary
ATTENTION VIEWERS:
This film is an experiment in cinematic communication of real events
Without the help of Intertitles
Without the help of a story
Without the help of theatre
This experimental work aims at creating a truly international language of cinema based on its absolute separation from the language of theatre and literature

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Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

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Eleanor Antin
100 Boots
1971 – 1973
Photographed by Philip Steinmetz
Halftone reproductions on 51 cards
4 ½ x 7 in. each
Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
© Eleanor Antin

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Josef Albers. 'Marli Heimann, Alle während 1 Stunde (Marli Heimann, All During an Hour)' 1931

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Josef Albers
Marli Heimann, Alle während 1 Stunde (Marli Heimann, All During an Hour)
1931
Twelve gelatin silver prints
Overall 11 11/16 x 16 7/16″ (29.7 x 41.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Josef Albers Foundation, Inc.
© 2012 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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August Sander. 'Das rechte Auge meiner Tochter Sigrid (The Right Eye of My Daughter Sigrid)' 1928

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August Sander
Das rechte Auge meiner Tochter Sigrid (The Right Eye of My Daughter Sigrid)
1928
Gelatin silver print
7 1/16 x 9″ (17.9 x 22.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Dziga Vertov. 'Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera)' (still) 1929

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Dziga Vertov
Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera) (still)
1929
35mm film
65 min ( black and white, silent)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Department of Film

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Man Ray. 'Rayograph' 1922

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Man Ray
Rayograph
1922
Gelatin silver print (photogram)
9 3/8 x 11 3/4″ (23.9 x 29.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Thrall Soby
© 2012 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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William Klein (American, born 1928) 'Gun, Gun, Gun, New York'  1955

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William Klein (American, born 1928)
Gun, Gun, Gun, New York 
1955
Gelatin silver print
10 1/4 x 13 5/8″ (26 x 34.6 cm)
Gift of Arthur and Marilyn Penn

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Georges Hugnet (French, 1906-1974) 'Untitled [Surrealist beach collage]' c. 1935

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Georges Hugnet (French, 1906-1974)
Untitled [Surrealist beach collage]
c. 1935
Collage of photogravure, lithograph, chromolithograph and gelatin silver prints on gelatin silver print
11 7/8 x 9 7/16″ (30.2 x 24 cm)
Gift of Timothy Baum in memory of Harry H. Lunn, Jr.

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Martha-Rosler-Red-Stripe-Kitchen-from-the-series-House-Beautiful-Bringing-the-War-Home-1967-1972

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Martha Rosler
Red Stripe Kitchen
1967-1972
From the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful 
Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2011
23 3/4 x 18 1/8″ (60.3 x 46 cm)
Purchase and The Modern Women’s Fund

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“The Museum of Modern Art draws from its collection to present the exhibition The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook on view from April 18, 2012, to April 29, 2013. Filling the third-floor Edward Steichen Photography Galleries, this installation presents more than 250 works by approximately 90 artists, with a focus on new acquisitions and groundbreaking projects by Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Germaine Krull, Dziga Vertov, Gerhard Rühm, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, Daido Moriyama, Robert Heinecken, Edward Ruscha, Martha Rosler, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Paul Graham, and The Atlas Group/Walid Raad. The exhibition is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Punctuated by key photographic projects, experimental films, and photobooks, The Shaping of New Visions offers a critical reassessment of photography’s role in the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements, and in the development of contemporary artistic practices. The shaping of what came to be known as “new vision” photography in the 1920s bore the obvious influence of “lens-based” and “time-based” works. The first gallery begins with photographs capturing the birth of the 20th-century modern metropolis by Berenice Abbott, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz, presented next to the avant-garde film Manhatta (1921), a collaboration between Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler.

The 1920s were a period of landmark constructions and scientific discoveries all related to light – from Thomas Edison’s development of incandescent light to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and light speed. Man Ray began experimenting with photograms (pictures made by exposing objects placed on photosensitive paper to light) – which he renamed “rayographs” after himself – in which light was both the subject and medium of his work. This exhibition presents Man Ray’s most exquisite rayographs, alongside his first short experimental film, Le Retour à la raison (Return to Reason, 1923), in which he extended the technique to moving images.

In 1925, two years after he joined the faculty of the Bauhaus school in Weimar Germany, László Moholy-Nagy published his influential book Malerei, Fotografie, Film (Painting, Photography, Film) – part of a series that he coedited with Bauhaus director Walter Gropius – in which he asserted that photography and cinema are heralding a “culture of light” that has overtaken the most innovative aspects of painting. Moholy-Nagy extolled photography and, by extension, film as the quintessential medium of the future. Moholy-Nagy’s interest in the movement of objects and light through space led him to construct Light-Space Modulator, the subject of his only abstract film, Ein Lichtspiel: schwarz weiss grau (A Lightplay: Black White Gray, 1930), which is presented in the exhibition next to his own photographs and those of Florence Henri.

The rise of photographic avant-gardism from the 1920s to the 1940s is traced in the second gallery primarily through the work of European artists. A section on Constructivism and New Objectivity features works by Paul Citroën, Raoul Hausmann, Florence Henri, Germaine Krull, El Lissitzky, Albert Renger-Patzsch, and August Sander. A special focus on Aleksandr Rodchenko underscores his engagement with the illustrated press through collaborations with Vladimir Mayakovsky and Sergei Tretyakov on the covers and layouts of Novyi LEF, the Soviet avant-garde journal of the “Left Front of the Arts,” which popularized the idea of “factography,” or the manufacture of innovative aesthetic facts through photomechanical processes. Alongside Rodchenko, film director Dziga Vertov redefined the medium of still and motion-picture photography with the concept of kino-glaz (cine-eye), according to which the perfectible lens of the camera led to the creation of a novel perception of the world. The exhibition features the final clip of Vertov’s 1929 experimental film Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera), in which the eye is superimposed on the camera lens to form an indivisible apparatus fit to view, process, and convey reality, all at once. This gallery also features a selection of Dada and Surrealist works, including rarely seen photographs, photocollages, and photomontages by Hans Bellmer, Claude Cahun, George Hugnet, André Kertész, Jan Lukas, and Grete Stern, alongside such avant-garde publications as Documents and Littérature.

The third gallery features artists exploring the social world of the postwar period. On view for the first time is a group of erotic and political typo-collages by Gerhard Rühm, a founder of the Wiener Gruppe (1959-60), an informal group of Vienna-based writers and artists who engaged in radical visual dialogues between pictures and texts. The rebels of street photography – Robert Frank, William Klein, Daido Moriyama, and Garry Winogrand – are represented with a selection of works that refute the then prevailing rules of photography, offering instead elliptical, off-kilter styles that are as personal and controversial as are their unsparing views of postwar society. A highlight of this section is the pioneering slide show Projects: Helen Levitt in Color (1971-74). Capturing the lively beat, humor, and drama of New York’s street theater, Levitt’s slide projection is shown for the first time at MoMA since its original presentation at the Museum in 1974.

Photography’s tradition in the postwar period continues in the fourth gallery, which is divided into two sections. One section features “new topographic” works by Robert Adams, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Stephen Shore, and Joel Sternfeld, along with a selection of Edward Ruscha’s self-published books, in which the use of photography as mapmaking signals a conceptual thrust. This section introduces notable works from the 1970s by artists who embraced photography not just as a way of describing experience, but as a conceptual tool. Examples include Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots (1971-73), Mel Bochner’s Misunderstandings (A theory of photography) (1970), VALIE EXPORT’s Einkreisung (Encirclement) (1976), On Kawara’s I Got Up… (1977), and Gordon Matta-Clark’s Splitting (1974), all works that reevaluate the material and contextual definitions of photography. The other section features two major and highly experimental recent acquisitions: Martha Rosler’s political magnum opus Bringing the War Home (1967-72), developed in the context of her anti-war and feminist activism, for which the artist spliced together images of domestic bliss clipped from the pages of House Beautiful with grim pictures of the war in Vietnam taken from Life magazine; and Sigmar Polke’s early 1970s experiments with multiple exposures, reversed tonal values, and under-and-over exposures, which underscore the artist’s idea that “a negative is never finished.” The unmistakably cinematic turn that photography takes in the 1980s and early 1990s is represented with a selection of innovative works ranging from Robert Heinecken’s Recto/Verso (1988) to Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s breakthrough Hustler series (1990-92).

The final gallery showcases major installations by a younger generation of artists whose works address photography’s role in the construction of contemporary history. Tapping into forms of archival reconstitution, The Atlas Group/Walid Raad is represented with My Neck Is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines (1996-2004), an installation of 100 pictures of car-bomb blasts in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) that provokes questions about the factual nature of existing records, the traces of war, and the symptoms of trauma. A selection from Harrell Fletcher’s The American War (2005) brings together bootlegged photojournalistic pictures of the U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia, throwing into sharp focus photography’s role as a documentary and propagandistic medium in the shaping of historical memory. Jules Spinatsch’s Panorama: World Economic Forum, Davos (2003), made of thousands of still images and three surveillance video works, chronicles the preparations for the 2003 World Economic Forum, when the entire Davos valley was temporarily transformed into a high security zone. A selection of Paul Graham’s photographs from his major photobook project a shimmer of possibility (2007), consisting of filmic haikus about everyday life in today’s America, concludes the exhibition.”

Press release from the MOMA website
Online slideshow of images

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On Kawara. 'I Got Up At...' 1974-75

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On Kawara
I Got Up At…
1974-75
(Ninety postcards with printed rubber stamps)
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The semi autobiographical I Got Up At… by On Kawara is a series of postcards sent to John Baldessari. Each card was sent from his location that morning detailing the time he got up. The time marked on each card varies drastically from day to day, the time stamped on each card is the time he left his bed as opposed to actually waking up. Kawara’s work often acts to document his existence in time, giving a material form to which is formally immaterial. The series has been repeated frequently sending the cards to a variety of friends and colleagues.

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Marilyn; 28 Years Old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30' 1990-92

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Marilyn; 28 Years Old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30
1990-92
Chromogenic color print
24 x 35 15/16″ (61 x 91.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. E.T. Harmax Foundation Fund
© 2012 Philip-Lorca diCorcia, courtesy David Zwirner, New York

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Helen Levitt. 'Projects: Helen Levitt in Color' (detail) 1971-74

Helen Levitt. 'Projects: Helen Levitt in Color' (detail) 1971-74

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Helen Levitt
Projects: Helen Levitt in Color (detail)
1971-74
40 color slides shown in continuous projection
Originally presented at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 26-October 20, 1974

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Atlas Group, Walid Raad. 'My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines' (detail) 1996-2004

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Atlas Group, Walid Raad
My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines (detail)
1996-2004
100 pigmented inkjet prints
9 7/16 x 13 3/8″ (24 x 34 cm) each
Fund for the Twenty-First Century

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Daido Moriyama. 'Entertainer on Stage, Shimizu' 1967

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Daido Moriyama
Entertainer on Stage, Shimizu
1967
Gelatin silver print
18 7/8 x 28″ (48.0 x 71.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2012 Daido Moriyama

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VALIE EXPORT. 'Einkreisung (Encirclement)' 1976

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VALIE EXPORT
Einkreisung (Encirclement)
1976
From the series Körperkonfigurationen (Body Configurations)
Gelatin silver print with red ink
14 x 23 7/16″ (35.5 x 59.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Carl Jacobs Fund
© 2012 VALIE EXPORT / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VBK, Austria

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Grete Stern. No. 1 from the series Sueños (Dreams) 1949

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Grete Stern
No. 1 from the series Sueños (Dreams)
1949
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 9″ (26.6 x 22.9 cm)
Latin American and Caribbean Fund through gift of Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis in honor of Adriana Cisneros de Griffin
© 2012 Horacio Coppola

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Sigmar Polke. 'Untitled (Mariette Althaus)' c. 1975

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Sigmar Polke
Untitled (Mariette Althaus)
c. 1975
Gelatin silver print (red toned)
9 1/4 x 11 13/16″ (23.5 x 30 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Edgar Wachenheim III and Ronald S. Lauder
© 2012 Estate of Sigmar Polke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany

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Martha Rosler. 'Hands Up / Makeup' 1967-1972

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Martha Rosler
Hands Up / Makeup
1967-1972
From the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful
Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2011
23 3/4 x 13 15/16″ (60.4 x 35.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and The Modern Women’s Fund
© 2012 Martha Rosler

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Robert Heinecken. 'Recto/Verso #2' 1988

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Robert Heinecken
Recto/Verso #2
1988
Silver dye bleach print
8 5/8 x 7 7/8″ (21.9 x 20 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Clark Winter Fund
© 2012 The Robert Heinecken Trust

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Berenice Abbott. 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman' Negative c. 1930/Distortion c. 1950

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Berenice Abbott
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman
Negative c. 1930/Distortion c. 1950
Gelatin silver print, 12 3/4 x 10 1/8″ (32.6 x 25.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Frances Keech Fund in honor of Monroe Wheeler
© 2012 Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

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Raoul Hausmann. 'Untitled' February 1931

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Raoul Hausmann
Untitled
February 1931
Gelatin silver print
5 3/8 x 4 7/16″ (13.6 x 11.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
© 2012 Raoul Hausmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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Claude Cahun. 'Untitled' c. 1928

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Claude Cahun
Untitled
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
4 9/16 x 3 1/2″ (10 x 7.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and anonymous promised gift
© 2012 Estate of Claude Cahun

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Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Sovetskoe foto (Soviet Photo)' No. 10 October 1927

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Aleksandr Rodchenko
Sovetskoe foto (Soviet Photo) No. 10
October 1927
Letterpress
10 3/8 x 7 1/4″ (26.3 x 18.4 cm)
Publisher: Ogonek, Moscow
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Judith Rothschild Foundation

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

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

MOMA website

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24
Mar
13

Review: ‘Shrouds’ by Mike Reid at the Colour Factory Gallery, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 8th March – 30th March 2013

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“Any discovery changing the nature, or the destination of an object or phenomenon constitutes a Surrealist achievement. Already the automats are multiplying and dreaming… realism prunes trees, Surrealism prunes life.”

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J-A. Boiffard, Paul Ellard and Roger Vitrac, in La Revolution Surréaliste, December 1924, p 2, quoted in Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray: the rigour of imagination,Thames & Hudson, London, 1977, p 161.

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This is a strong exhibition of documentary photography  by Mike Reid at the Colour Factory Gallery. Interesting idea; well seen formal photographs; good use of colour (brown, blue, silver, red and green shrouds); nice sized prints appropriate to the subject matter; and an excellent self published book to accompany the exhibition. This is just what it is – a solid exhibition of documentary photography.

Unfortunately the artist cannot leave it there. In his almost unintelligible artist statement (below), he tries to lever the concept of resurrection onto the work, meandering from Horus and Osiris through The Shroud of Turin, to Jewish Tachrichim (burial shrouds) and onto the commerce of Billabong and the politics of the burqa linking, very tenuously, the covering of Islamic women with the idea of these cars being “old bombs.”

Here I take issue with Reid’s conceptualisation of the word “shroud” vis a vis his photographs of covered cars. One of the definitions of shroud is “A cloth used to wrap a body for burial” but the more pertinent use of the word in relation to this work is “To shut off from sight; something that conceals, protects, or screens” from the Middle English schrud, garment. These are not abandoned, lifeless vehicles awaiting resurrection but loved vehicles that have been protected from the elements by their owners, wrapped and cocooned jewels that are in a state of hibernation. If they were unwanted they would have been abandoned by their owners to the elements, not protected beneath a concealing garment in a state of metamorphosis. The shrouding of the car acts like a Surrealist canvas, hinting at the structure underneath (the Cadillac, the Volkswagen, the Morris Minor) but allowing the viewer to discover the changing nature of the object.

All that was needed to accompany the exhibition and the book was something like the quotation at the top of the posting. Leave the rest up to the strength of the work and the viewer. They have the intelligence and imagination to work out what is going on without all the proselytising that only reveals the artist’s ultimate disconnection from the source. In other words, less is more. Nothing more, nothing less.

Dr Marcus Bunyan from the Art Blart blog

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

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Mike Reid. 'Santa Monica, Los Angeles, USA' Nd

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Mike Reid
Santa Monica, Los Angeles, USA
Nd

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Mike Reid. 'Toorak, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Toorak, Victoria
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Mike Reid. 'South Fremantle, Western Australia' Nd

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Mike Reid
South Fremantle, Western Australia
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Mike Reid. 'Richmond, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Richmond, Victoria
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Shrouds, by Mike Reed is a collection of photographs of covered cars. His love of gleaning was inherited from his ‘rag and bone’ father who amassed a metal detritus found on the bicycle route home from the factory where he worked. This assortment was stockpiled in his father’s rusted sheds, which appeared like an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ to a youthful Mike.

“The car was draped with a plastic sheet in the back blocks of Surfers Paradise whilst seeking to photograph decay in the landscape….You start with one and then see another then… over time, the medley plays into a collection… patterns precipitate or idiosyncrasies evolve from within…This is the joy of “seeing”.”

“Within my category of covered cars I began to view these still loved but lifeless vehicles, as if a resurrection was about to take place… for the heavenly roads of restoration or hell.”

Mike equates the car covers to the burial garments adorning the dead in preparation for resurrection. Mike cites the ‘wrapping’ of objects found in the work of artists’ Christo, Jean Claude, Man Ray and Magritte as inspiration. This incredible accumulation of images spans over two decades and 6 countries. A small selection has been chosen for this exhibition and a larger range appears in his book to be launched at the opening of Shrouds.

Press release from the Colour Factory Gallery website

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Mike Reid. 'Richmond, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Richmond, Victoria
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Mike Reid. 'Macleod, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Macleod, Victoria
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Shrouds

“The resurrection of the dead is a fundamental and central doctrine of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Many religious critics have alleged that even Christ’s resurrection was borrowed from the accounts of Osiris, God of the underworld, and the best-known deity in all of ancient Egyptian history. As a life-death-rebirth deity, Horus, the Sun God, and Osiris became a reflection of the annual cycle of crop harvesting as well as reflecting people’s desires for a successful afterlife. The Masons, Illuminati, Priory De Sion, clandestine government groups, and others believed that on December 22, 2012, Osiris would be resurrected. Nothing happened on that world shattering day but Spam and candle sales most certainly went through the roof. Thus in preparation to meet thy maker, a shroud, burial sheet or winding-cloth, usually cotton or linen but with no pockets, is wrapped around a body after it has been ceremonially washed and readied for burial.

Certainly the most controversial and famous burial garment is the Shroud of Turin. It is now stored in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Northern Italy after the crusaders stole it and bought it first to France around 1204.

Many believe this 4.3 by 1.1m linen cloth of a rare herringbone weave covered the beaten and crucified body of Jesus of Nazareth when He was laid in a tomb prior to His resurrection. Is it really the cloth that wrapped His bloodstained body, or is it simply a medieval hoax? This has lead to intense scrutiny by forensic experts, scientists, chemists, immunologists, pathologists, believers, historians, and writers regarding the where, when, and how the bloodstain image on the shroud was created. C-14 Carbon dating carried out in 1988, dated the cloth between 1260 and 1390.

In Jewish religious traditions the Tachrichim (burial shrouds) are traditional simple white burial garments, containing no pockets, usually made from 100% pure linen.A shroud or sometimes a prayer shawl for a man, in which Jews are dressed by the Chevra Kadisha for burial after undergoing a taharah (purification ceremony). Burying the departed in a garment is considered a testimony of faith in the resurrection of the body (commentary of Shach). This is a fundamental principle of faith, one of the thirteen principles, which the Rambam enumerates as being essential to Jewish belief. More to the point today we have an insurrection, while not yet violent against the wearing of another kind of covering… the niqab or the burqa. European governments are escalating the introduction of laws on the basis that the face covering, along with ski masks and bikies helmets, encourages female subjugation, lack of communication, non-safety, isolation, female abuse, oppression of freedom and non-conformity to the western culture. In fact the Koran only dictates to modesty in dress. May I say it that Billabong could improve sales with the launch of a ‘Tri-Kini’ on the beaches next summer.

Meanwhile… “The 2012 ban in France is officially the second country in Europe, after Belgium, to introduce a full ban on a garment which immigration minister Eric Besson has called a “walking coffin.””1 Indeed Australian Liberal Cory Bernadi said, “The burqa is no longer simply the symbol of female repression and Islamic culture, it is now emerging as a disguise of bandits and n’er do wells.”2 More so now the government and police authorities in the Netherlands, a usually very tolerant nation, have become anxious regarding security worries that a terrorist could use one for concealment. Well my shrouded cars could be the same, as most do conceal “old bombs.”

The inspiration for my rag tag assortment evolved from the artistes Christo and Jeanne-Claude who have wrapped, covered whole buildings, bridges and landscapes. Other favourites of mine, Man Ray and Rene Magritte have objects and humans covered as well, specifically Magrittes’ Las Amants 1 & II (The Lovers)3 1928. A plastic explanation is that “love is blind” and that the mantles are symbolic to the idea that a devoted lover would identify his soul mate in any form, immortal love. Another interpretation of Magrittes’ shrouds is that the paintings symbolize his mothers’ death. Magritte, when only 14, discovered her lifeless body which was naked apart from her nightdress that had swathed up around her face.

I started recording these morphological images over 20 years ago. The first was draped with a plastic sheet in a paddock in the back blocks of Surfers Paradise while meandering aimlessly, seeking decay in the landscape.

With my wandering and collecting shots I realized I have inherited the trait from my father. In his latter years my father became a rag and bone man in order to supplement the low family income. A bicycle route from his employment at Laminex factory to home lay through the local hard rubbish dump. Copper wire, lead, iron, even an aerial practice bomb, military helmets, a stockless revolver and rifle, rusted tools… festooned from his bike and festooned from his gladstone bag. Two rusting sheds contained somewhat the ever-growing metal waste for selling or keeping… an Aladdins’ cave to a young boy, everyday re-discovering lifes’ discards care of the Dendy Street tip.

Within my category of covered cars I began to view these still loved but lifeless vehicles, as if a resurrection was about to take place… for the heavenly roads of restoration or hell… (a scrap yard)”

Mike Reed, 2013

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1 The Telegraph, April 11 , 2011, Peter Allen In Paris
2 Cory Bernadi, SMH, May 6, 2011
3 “Las Amants” 1 is in the NGA collection, Canberra, NGA

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Mike Reid. 'Brunswick East, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Brunswick East, Victoria
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Mike Reid. 'Fairfield, Victoria' Nd

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Mike Reid
Fairfield, Victoria
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Man Ray. 'L'Enigme d'Isidore Ducasse' 1920, remade 1972

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Man Ray
L’Enigme d’Isidore Ducasse
1920, remade 1972
Sewing machine, wool and string
355 x 605 x 335 mm

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Mike Reid. 'Athens, Greece' Nd

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Mike Reid
Athens, Greece
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Colour Factory Gallery
409 – 429 Gore Street
Fitzroy, Victoria 3056
T: +61 3 9419 8756

Mike Reed Photography website

Colour Factory Gallery website

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03
Apr
12

Exhibition: ‘Eugène Atget: “Documents pour artistes”‘ at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 6th February – 9th April 2012

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“These are simply documents I make.”

Eugène Atget

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“One might think of Atget’s work at Sceaux as… a summation and as the consummate achievement of his work as a photographer – a coherent, uncompromising statement of what he had learned of his craft, and of how he had amplified and elaborated the sensibility with which he had begun. Or perhaps one might see the work at Sceaux as a portrait of Atget himself, not excluding petty flaws, but showing most clearly the boldness and certainty – what his old friend Calmettes called the intransigence – of his taste, his method, his vision.

John Szarkowski

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The first of two postings about the work of Eugène Atget, this exhibition at MOMA the first in twenty-five years to focus on his “Documents for artists.” Atget was my first hero in photography and the greatest influence on my early black and white photography before I departed and found my own voice as an artist. Through his photographs, his vision he remains a life-long friend. He taught me so much about where to place the camera and how to see the world. He made me aware. For that I am eternally grateful.

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

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Eugène Atget
Coin, Boulevard de la Chapelle et rue Fleury 76,18e
June 1921
Matte albumen silver print
6 13/16 x 9″ (17.3 x 22.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Cour, 7 rue de Valence
June 1922
Matte albumen silver print
7 x 8 15/16″ (17.8 x 22.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Cour, 41 rue Broca
1912
Albumen silver print
6 5/8 x 8 1/4″ (16.9 x 21 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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“The sign above the entrance to Eugène Atget’s studio in Paris read Documents pour artistes (Documents for artists), declaring his modest ambition to create photographs for others to use as source material in their work. Atget (French, 1857–1927) made more than 8,500 pictures of Paris and its environs in a career that spanned over thirty years, from the late nineteenth century until his death. To facilitate access to this vast body of work for himself and his clients, he organized his photographs into discrete series, a model that guides the organization of this exhibition. The works are presented here in six groups, demonstrating Atget’s sustained attention to certain motifs or locations and his consistently inventive and elegant methods of rendering the complexity of the three-dimensional world on a flat, rectangular plate.

In 1925 the American artist Man Ray purchased forty-two photographs from Atget, who lived down the street from him in Montparnasse. Man Ray believed he detected a kindred Surrealist sensibility in the work, to which suggestion Atget replied, “These are simply documents I make.” This humility belies the extraordinary pictorial sophistication and beauty that is characteristic of much of Atget’s oeuvre and his role as touchstone and inspiration for subsequent generations of photographers, from Walker Evans to Lee Friedlander. This exhibition bears witness to his success, no matter the unassuming description he gave of his life’s work.

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A Note on the Prints

Atget made photographs with a view camera resting on a tripod. An example of his 24-by-18-centimeter glass plate negatives is on display here. Each print was made by exposing light-sensitive paper to the sun in direct contact with one of these negatives, which Atget numbered sequentially within each series. He frequently scratched the number into the emulsion on the negative, and thus it appears in reverse at the bottom of most prints. He also inscribed the number, along with the work’s title, in pencil on the verso of each print. These titles appear (with English translations where necessary) on the individual wall labels, preserving Atget’s occasionally idiosyncratic titling practices. The Abbott-Levy Collection at The Museum of Modern Art, to which the prints in this exhibition belong (except where noted), is composed of close to 5,000 distinct photographs and 1,200 glass plate negatives that were in Atget’s studio at the time of his death. The Museum purchased this collection in 1968 from photographer Berenice Abbott and art dealer Julien Levy, thanks to the unflagging efforts of John Szarkowski, then director of the Department of Photography, and in part to the generosity of Shirley C. Burden.

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Fifth arrondissement 

For more than thirty years, Atget photographed in and around Paris. Curiously, given the depth of this investigation, he never photographed the Eiffel Tower, generally avoided the grand boulevards, and eschewed picture postcard views. Instead Atget focused on the fabric of the city: facades of individual buildings (both notable and anonymous), meandering streetscapes, details of stonework and ironwork, churches, shops, and the occasional monument. Even a selective cross section of the photographs he made in the fifth arrondissement over the course of his career suggests that his approach, while far from systematic, might yet be termed comprehensive.

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Courtyards

Atget clearly relished the metaphorical and physical aspects of the courtyard – a space that hovers between public and private, interior and exterior – and he photographed scores of them, both rural and urban. The motif was chosen as the backdrop for what was likely Atget’s first photograph of an automobile (Cour, 7 rue de Valence), and it was versatile enough to transform itself depending on where Atget placed his camera (see the two views of the courtyard at 27 quai d’Anjou). The dark areas that appear in the upper corners of some prints are the result of vignetting: a technique in which the light coming through the camera’s lens does not fully cover the glass plate negative, allowing Atget to create an arched pictorial space that echoed the physical one before his camera.”

Wall text from the exhibition

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Eugène Atget
Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève
June 1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 11/16 x 8 3/4″ (17 x 22.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Maison où Mourut Voltaire en 1778, 1 rue de Beaune
1909
Albumen silver print
8 9/16 x 7″ (21.8 x 17.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Balcon, 17 rue du Petit-Pont
1913
Albumen silver print
8 5/8 x 6 15/16″ (21.9 x 17.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget: “Documents pour artistes presents six fresh and highly focused cross sections of the career of master photographer Eugène Atget (French, 1857 – 1927), drawn exclusively from The Museum of Modern Art’s unparalleled holdings of his work. The exhibition, on view at MoMA from February 6 through April 9, 2012, gets its name from the sign outside Atget’s studio door, which declared his modest ambition to create documents for other artists to use as source material in their own work. Whether exploring Paris’s fifth arrondissement across several decades, or the decayed grandeur of parks at Sceaux in a remarkable creative outburst at the twilight of his career, Atget’s lens captured the essence of his chosen subject with increasing complexity and sensitivity. Also featured are Atget’s photographs made in the Luxembourg gardens; his urban and rural courtyards; his pictures of select Parisian types; and his photographs of mannequins, store windows, and street fairs, which deeply appealed to Surrealist artists living in Paris after the First World War. The exhibition is organized by Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Atget made more than 8,500 pictures of Paris and its environs in a career that spanned over 30 years, from the late-19th century until his death. To facilitate access to this vast body of work for himself and his clients, he organized his photographs into discrete series, a model that guides the organization of this exhibition. More than 100 photographs are presented in six groups, demonstrating Atget’s sustained attention to certain motifs or locations and his consistently inventive and elegant methods of rendering the complexity of the three-dimensional world on a flat, rectangular plate.

With seemingly inexhaustible curiosity, Atget photographed the streets of Paris. Eschewing picture-postcard views, and, remarkably, never once photographing the Eiffel Tower, he instead focused on the fabric of the city, taking pictures along the Seine, in every arrondissement, and in the “zone” outside the fortified wall that encompassed Paris at the time. His photographs of the fifth arrondissement are typical of this approach, and include facades of individual buildings (both notable and anonymous), meandering streetscapes, details of stonework and ironwork, churches, and the occasional monument.

Between March and June 1925, Atget made 66 photographs in the abandoned Parc de Sceaux, on the outskirts of Paris, almost half of which are on view in this exhibition. His approach was confident and personal, even quixotic, and his notations of the time of day for certain exposures read almost like diary entries. These photographs have long been recognized as among Atget’s finest, and this is the first opportunity for audiences outside of France to appreciate the full diversity and richness of this accomplishment.

Atget photographed the Jardin de Luxembourg more than any other Parisian park, likely reflecting his preference for its character and its proximity to his home and studio on rue Campagne-Première in Montparnasse. His early photographs there tend to capture human activity – children with their governesses or men conversing in the shade – but this gave way to a more focused exploration of the garden’s botanical and sculptural components following the First World War, and culminated in studies that delicately balance masses of light and shadow, as is typical of Atget’s late work.

Atget firmly resisted public association with the Surrealists, yet his work – in particular his photographs of shop windows, mannequins, and the street fairs around Paris – captured the eye of artists with decidedly avant-garde inclinations, such as Man Ray and Tristan Tzara. Man Ray lived down the street from Atget, and the young American photographer Berenice Abbott, while working as Man Ray’s studio assistant, made Atget’s acquaintance in the mid-1920s – a relationship that ultimately brought the contents of Atget’s studio at the time of his death to MoMA, almost 40 years later.

Atget clearly relished the metaphorical and physical aspects of the courtyard – a space that hovers between public and private, interior and exterior – and he photographed scores of them, both rural and urban. This exhibition marks the first time these pictures have been grouped together, allowing the public to appreciate previously unexplored aspects of the Abbott-Levy Collection, which includes prints of nearly 5,000 different images.

Only a tiny fraction of the negatives Atget exposed during his lifetime are photographs of people, yet they have attracted attention disproportionate to their number. With few exceptions, this segment of his creative output can be divided into three types: street merchants (petits métiers); ragpickers (chiffonniers) or Romanies (romanichels, or Gypsies), who lived in impermanent structures just outside the fortified wall surrounding Paris; and prostitutes. As with each section of this exhibition, Atget’s career is represented by the finest prints drawn from critically distinct and essential aspects of his practice, allowing a fresh appreciation of photography’s first modern master.”

Press release from the MOMA website

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Eugène Atget
Luxembourg
1923-25
Matte albumen silver print
6 7/8 x 9″ (17.5 x 22.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Luxembourg
1923-25
Matte albumen silver print
7 x 8 13/16″ (17.8 x 22.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Luxembourg
1902-03
Albumen silver print
6 5/8 x 8 3/8″ (16.8 x 21.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Jardin de Luxembourg 

Atget photographed the Jardin de Luxembourg more than any other Parisian park, likely reflecting his preference for its character as well as its proximity to his home and studio on rue Campagne-Première in Montparnasse (about a ten-minute walk away). His photographs of the gardens made around 1900 tend to capture human activity (children with their governesses, men conversing in the shade), but this gave way to a more focused exploration of the garden’s botanical and sculptural components following the First World War and culminated in studies that delicately balance masses of light and shadow, typical of Atget’s late work.

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Parc de Sceaux 

Between March and June 1925, Atget made sixty-six photographs in the abandoned Parc de Sceaux, on the outskirts of Paris. His approach was confident and personal, even quixotic, and his notations of the time of day for certain exposures read almost like diary entries. John Szarkowski wrote of this body of work: “One might think of Atget’s work at Sceaux as… a summation and as the consummate achievement of his work as a photographer – a coherent, uncompromising statement of what he had learned of his craft, and of how he had amplified and elaborated the sensibility with which he had begun. Or perhaps one might see the work at Sceaux as a portrait of Atget himself, not excluding petty flaws, but showing most clearly the boldness and certainty – what his old friend Calmettes called the intransigence – of his taste, his method, his vision. Atget made his last photograph at Sceaux after its restoration had begun. He perceived that the effort to tidy the grounds in anticipation of their conversion to a public park would fundamentally alter the untended, decayed grandeur that had been his muse.”

Wall text from the exhibition

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Eugène Atget
Parc de Sceaux
June 1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
7 x 8 7/8″ (17.8 x 22.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Parc de Sceaux, mars, 8 h. matin
1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
7 1/16 x 8 13/16″ (17.9 x 22.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Parc de Sceaux, 7 h. matin
March 1925
Matte albumen silver print
6 15/16 x 9 1/16″ (17.6 x 23 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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People of Paris 

Only a tiny fraction of the negatives Atget exposed during his lifetime feature the human figure as a central element. With few exceptions, this segment of his creative output can be divided into three types: street merchants (petits métiers); zoniers—ragpickers (chiffonniers) and Romanies (romanichels, or Gypsies)—who lived in impermanent structures in the zone just outside the fortified wall surrounding Paris; and prostitutes. The painter André Dignimont commissioned Atget to pursue this third subject in the spring of 1921, but the decidedly untawdry resulting images of brothels and prostitutes are only obliquely suggestive of the nature of their trade, so it is not difficult to imagine why the commission was concluded after only about a dozen negatives.

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Surrogates and the Surreal 

Atget’s photograph Pendant l’éclipse (During the eclipse) was featured on the cover of the seventh issue of the Parisian Surrealists’ publication La Révolution surréaliste, with the caption Les Dernières Conversions (The last converts), in June 1926. The picture was uncredited, as were the two additional photographs reproduced inside. Although Atget firmly resisted the association, his work – in particular his photographs of shop windows, mannequins, and the street fairs around Paris – had captured the attention of artists with decidedly avant-garde inclinations, such as Man Ray and Tristan Tzara. Man Ray lived on the same street as Atget, and the young American photographer Berenice Abbott (working as Man Ray’s studio assistant) learned of the French photographer and made his acquaintance in the mid-1920s – a relationship that ultimately brought the contents of Atget’s studio at the time of his death (in 1927) to The Museum of Modern Art almost forty years later.

Wall text from the exhibition

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Eugène Atget
Fête du Trône
1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 7/16 x 8 7/16″ (16.4 x 21.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Fête de Vaugirard
1926
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 13/16 x 8 3/4″ (17.3 x 22.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Avenue des Gobelins
1925
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
8 1/4 x 6 1/2″ (21 x 16.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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Eugène Atget
Romanichels, groupe
1912
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
8 3/8 x 6 11/16″ (21.2 x 17 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abbott-Levy Collection. Partial gift of Shirley C. Burden

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

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday, 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Friday, 10:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Closed Tuesday

MOMA website

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17
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Still Life’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 14th September 2010 – 23rd January 2011

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Many thankx to The J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on some of the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Armand-Pierre Séguier (French, 1803 – 1876)
‘Still Life with Plaster Casts’
1839 – 1842
Daguerreotype 8 x 6 in.
Accession No. 2002.41
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Baron Adolf De Meyer (American, 1868 – 1949)
‘Glass and Shadows’
1905
Photogravure
Image: 8 3/4 x 6 9/16 in.
Accession No. 84.XP.463.22
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Charles Aubry (French, 1811 – 1877)
[An Arrangement of Tobacco Leaves and Grass]
about 1864
Albumen silver print
Image: 47 x 37.3 cm (18 1/2 x 14 11/16 in.)
Accession No. 84.XP.394
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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The J. Paul Getty Museum presents In Focus: Still Life, a survey of some of the innovative ways photographers have explored and refreshed this traditional genre, on view at the Getty Center in the Center for Photographs from September 14, 2010 – January 23, 2011.

“Still life photography has served as both a conventional and an experimental form during periods of significant aesthetic and technological change,” said Paul Martineau, assistant curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curator of the exhibition. “One of our goals for the exhibition was to show how still life photographs can be both traditional and surprising.”

With its roots in antiquity, the term “still life” is derived from the Dutch word stilleven, coined during the 17th century, when painted examples enjoyed immense popularity throughout Europe. The impetus for a new term came as artists created compositions of increasing complexity, bringing together a greater variety of objects to communicate allegorical meanings. Still life featured prominently in the early experiments of the pioneers of the photographic medium and, more than 170 years later, it continues to be a significant motif for contemporary photographers.

Drawn exclusively from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition includes photographs by Charles Aubry, Henry Bailey, Hans Bellmer, Jo Ann Callis, Sharon Core, Baron Adolf De Meyer, Walker Evans, Roger Fenton, Frederick H. Hollyer, Heinrich Kühn, Sigmar Polke, Man Ray, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Paul Outerbridge, Louis-Rémy Robert, Baron Armand-Pierre Séguier, Paul Strand, Josef Sudek, and Thomas R. Williams.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically and includes a broad range of photographic processes, from daguerreotypes and albumen silver prints made in the 19th century to gelatin silver prints, and cibachrome prints made in the 20th century, to digital prints from the 21st century.

Newly acquired works will be on display for the first time: Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser (1985) by American Irving Penn, Lorikeet with Green Cloth (2006) by Australian Marian Drew, and Blow Up: Untitled 15 (2007) by Israeli Ori Gersht (Gersht loosely based his Blow Up series on traditional floral still life paintings. His arrangements of flowers are frozen and then detonated. The explosion is captured using synchronized digital cameras, with the fragmentary detritus caught in remarkable detail. 

This diptych (pair) belies the notion of still life as something motionless as it explores the relationships among painting and photography, art and science, and creation and destruction.)

For Bowl with Sugar Cubes, photographer André Kertész created a still life out of a simple bowl, spoon, and sugar cubes, demonstrating the photographer’s interest in the compositional possibilities of layering basic geometric forms on top of one another – three rectangles in a circle (sugar cubes and bowl) and a circle in a square (bowl and the cropped printing paper). A visual sophistication is achieved through his adroit use of simple objects and dramatic lighting.

Other selections from In Focus: Still Life include Edward Weston’s Bananas and Orange, which depicts a symmetrical fan of bananas punctuated by one oddly shaped orange, and Frederick Sommer’s The Anatomy of a Chicken, which uses the discarded parts of a chicken to create a visual commentary. Influenced by Surrealism, Sommer embraced unexpected juxtapositions and literary allusions to express his intellectual and philosophical ideas. In Anatomy of a Chicken, a severed head, three sunken eyes, and eviscerated organs glisten on a white board. Evoking biblical imagery, medieval grotesques, and heraldic emblems, Sommer calls on the viewer to consider the endless cycle of birth and death, the cruel reality of the food chain, and man’s role in this violence.

In Focus: Still Life will be the seventh installation of the ongoing In Focus series of exhibitions, thematic presentations of photographs from the Getty’s permanent collection. Previous exhibitions focused on The Nude, The Landscape, The Portrait, Making a Scene (staged photographs), The Worker, and most recently, Tasteful Pictures.”

Press release from The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890 – 1976)
‘Dead Leaf’
1942
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 1/2 x 7 13/16 in.
Accession No. 84.XM.1000.55
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
[Black Bottle]
negative about 1919; print 1923 – 1939
Gelatin silver, on Cykora paper print
Image (trimmed to mount): 32.7 x 24.8 cm (12 7/8 x 9 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 34.4 x 27.1 cm (13 9/16 x 10 11/16 in.)
Mount (irregular): 35.1 x 27.8 cm (13 13/16 x 10 15/16 in.)
Accession No. 86.XM.686.5.1
Copyright: © Aperture Foundation
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Irving Penn
‘Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser, New York, 1985′
dye-bleach print
Image: 22¾ x 18 1/8in. (57.8 x 46cm.)
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Frederick Sommer (American, born Italy, 1905 – 1999)
‘The Anatomy of a Chicken’
1939
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.1 x 19.1 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
Accession No. 94.XM.37.96
© Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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“Still life derives from the Dutch word stilleven, coined in the 17th century when paintings of objects enjoyed immense popularity throughout Europe. The impetus for this term came as artists created compositions of greater complexity, bringing together a wider variety of objects to communicate allegorical meanings.

Still life has come to serve, like landscape or portraiture, as a category within art. Although it typically refers to depictions of inanimate things, because it incorporates a vast array of influences from different cultures and periods in history, it has always resisted precise definition.

This exhibition presents some of the innovative ways photographers have explored and refreshed this traditional genre. During the 19th century, still life photographs tended to resemble still life paintings, with similar subjects and arrangements. Beginning in the 20th century, still life photographs have mirrored the subjects and styles that have more broadly concerned photographers in their time.

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A New Medium

Still life featured prominently in the experiments of photography inventors Jacques-Louis-Mandé Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot. They did this in part, for practical reasons: the exceptionally long exposure times of their processes precluded the use of living models.

In the late 1830s, Baron Armand-Pierre Séguier, a close associate of Daguerre, created this elegant daguerreotype that features small-scale copies of famous sculptures in the Louvre and Uffizi museum collections.

In the mid-1800s, Charles Aubry was an accomplished practitioner of still-life photography who came to the medium by way of his professional interest in applied arts and industrial design. After working as a pattern designer for carpets, fabrics, and wallpapers, he formed a company to manufacture plaster casts and make photographs of plants and flowers.

Aubrey’s detailed prints of natural forms – like this close-up of plants on a lace-covered background – were intended to replace lithographs traditionally used by students of industrial design.

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Photography as Art

By the first decade of the 20th century, art photographers like Baron Adolf de Meyer employed soft-focus lenses and painterly darkroom techniques to make photographs that resembled drawings and prints. The vogue at the time was to produce images that reflected a handcrafted approach, while asserting photography as an art medium in its own right.

Here, De Meyer photographed an arrangement of objects through a scrim. The pattern of thin, woven fabric softens the backlit objects and helps replicate the subtle tonal effects prized in etchings and aquatints.

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Modernism

Several decades into the twentieth-century, the American artist Man Ray emerged as a pioneer of two European art movements, Dada and Surrealism, in which the element of surprise figured prominently. This image seems both unusual for Man Ray in its apparent straight-forward approach, but also typical in its somewhat dark emotional tone.

By selecting a dead leaf with a claw-like appearance and photographing it against a wood-grain board, Man Ray updated the concept of memento mori (“remember that you must die”), a motif popular in centuries-old still-life paintings.

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New Directions

In that same vein, the best contemporary still-life photographs recall past styles of art while containing a paradox relevant to today. Contemporary photographer Sharon Core became known for re-creations of painter Wayne Thiebaud’s pop-art dessert tableaux. Her series of still-life compositions, inspired by the 18th-century American painter Raphaelle Peale, followed.

For this series, entitled “Early American,” Core studied the compositional structure of his paintings, replicated the mood of the lighting, and when she couldn’t find the right vegetables and flowers, grew her own from heirloom seeds.

The stilled lives of objects have served so well as both experimental and conventional forms in the past, that still life may well be the anchor that allows photographers to explore new and yet unimagined depths.”

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Ori Gersht (Israeli, 1967 – )
‘Blow Up: Untitled 15′
2007
Digital chromogenic prints
Accession No. 2009.46
© Ori Gersht
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Edward Weston (American, 1886 – 1958)
‘Bananas and Orange’
April 1927
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.9 x 23.7 cm (7 7/16 x 9 5/16 in.)
Accession No. 84.XM.860.4
© 1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894 – 1985)
[Bowl with Sugar Cubes]
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.7 x 16.4 cm (6 9/16 x 6 1/2 in.)
Accession No. 84.XM.193.46
© Estate of André Kertész
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Sharon Core (American)
‘Early American – Still Life with Steak’
2008
Chromogenic print
Image: 17 3/16 x 23 7/16 in.
Accession No. 2009.78
© Sharon Core
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Marian Drew (Australian, born 1960)
‘Lorikeet with Green Cloth’
2006
Digital pigment print
Image: 71.8 x 89.5 cm (28 1/4 x 35 1/4 in.)
Sheet: 73 x 90.2 cm (28 3/4 x 35 1/2 in.)
Accession No. 2009.44
Copyright: © Marian Drew
Object Credit: Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 – 5.30pm
Saturday 10 – 9pm
Sunday 10 – 9pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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28
Nov
10

Exhibition: ‘László Moholy-Nagy – Art of Light’ at Martin Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 4th November 2010 – 16th January 2011

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My apologies for the paucity of reviews of local exhibitions on the blog recently. It’s not that I haven’t been going to exhibitions far from it, just that nothing has really struck me as worthy of an in depth review!

Recently I went to the new Monash University Gallery of Art (MUMA) and the opening exhibition of the gallery, CHANGE (until 18th December). This is a hotchpotch of an exhibition that showcases the “breadth and depth of the Monash University Collection, reflecting on the changing forms, circumstances and developments in contemporary art practice from the 1960s to the present day – from late modernism to our contemporary situation … the exhibition signals the potential for institutional change that MUMA’s new situation represents.” Avowing an appeal to the senses the exhibition has some interesting works, notably a large canvas by Howard Arkley, ‘Family home – suburban exterior 1993′, Daniel von Sturmer’s installation ‘The Field Equation’ (2006), Mike Parr’s bloody, mesmeric performance ‘Close the Concentration Camps’ (2002) that you just can’t take your eyes off and part of Tracey Moffatt’s haunting series ‘Up In The Sky’ (1998), the “part” declamation leaving one unable to decipher the narrative of the work without seeing the whole series on the Roslyn Oxley9 website. This is symptomatic of the whole exhibition – somehow it doesn’t come together, one of the problems of large, unthematically organised group exhibitions.

The spaces of the new gallery are interesting to wander through but seem a little pokey and confined. A series of smallish intersecting rooms to the left hand side of the gallery leads one around to a big gallery to the right hand side (the best space), before another small front room. Down the spine runs a narrow enclosed area with exposed trusses and ducts that is unimaginative in design and redundant as an exhibiting space. Overall the gallery feels claustrophobic being an almost hermetically sealed environment enclosed by several sliding glass doors at entry points (and yes, I do know that a gallery has to have regulated temperature, light and humidity). This is at odds with the idea of exhibiting fresh, exciting art that breathes life.

I also ventured to Anna Pappas Gallery to see the exhibition of photographic work ‘Endless Days’ by Vin Ryan (until 23rd December). Nice idea but a disappointment. Featuring grided, colour-coded photographs of the physical artefacts used to plate 20 meals eaten by the Ryan family the information within the prints is almost indecipherable, the selection of plates, cups and objects so small as to become mere colour decoration. I struggled to see what the objects actually were; even in the 5 individual prints of a meal the definition of the objects was weak, the printing not up to standard. The moral of the story is this: if you are going to use the photographic medium for artwork make sure that a/ you know how to construct an image visually using the medium and b/ that you get someone who knows what they are doing to print the photographs for you if you can’t print them well yourself.

On to better things. In this posting there are some outstanding photographs: the imaginative camera angles of Moholy-Nagy (heavily influenced by Constructivism and Suprematism) where truly ground-breaking at the time. The iconic ‘From the radio tower, Berlin’ (1928) is simply breathtaking in the photographs ability to flatten the pictorial landscape into abstract shape and form. Many thankx to Martin Gropius-Bau, Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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László Moholy-Nagy
Am 7 (26)
1926
Oil on canvas
75,8 x 96 cm
Ernst und Kurt Schwitters Stiftung/ Sprengel Museum, Hannover
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Eton. Eleves watching cricket from the pavilion on Agar’s Plough
ca. 1930
Gelatine silver print
15,7 x 20,7 cm / 16,3 x 21,3 cm
Achat 1994. Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne / Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Photogram
ca. 1938
Original photogram from Chicago
204 x 252 cm
Swiss Foundation of Photography, Winterthur
Donation in memoriam S. and Giedion Welcker
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Untitled
1940′s
Fujicolor crystal archive print
27,9 x 35,6 cm / 52,1 x 63,5 cm
Courtesy László Moholy-Nagy Estate and Andrea Rosen Gallery Inc., New York
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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“For Moholy-Nagy was always a theoretician and practitioner in equal measure, always wanting to be a holistic artist. He approached his work – painting, photography, commercial and industrial design, film, sculpture, scenography – from a wide variety of aspects and practised it as a radical, extreme experiment, by refusing to place his hugely differing works in any sort of aesthetic hierarchy. He also attached enormous importance to education, which is why, at the request of Walter Gropius, he worked in this field for the Bauhaus in Weimar (1923–1925) and Dessau (1925–1928). In Chicago, where he settled in 1937, he again assumed teaching duties and founded the “New Bauhaus”, which sought to realise the programmes of the German Bauhaus in the United States. Shortly afterwards he founded the Institute of Design in Chicago, where he was to remain active until his death in 1946. The institute was later incorporated in the Illinois Institute of Technology, which offers study courses to this day.

From Weimar to Chicago Moholy-Nagy retained his faith in his pedagogical ideal, which for him meant not only teaching, but the moral education of human beings. He believed in education as a means of developing all the abilities lying dormant in the students and as a means of paving the way to a “new, total human being.”

All of Moholy-Nagy’s theoretical contributions arose out of his artistic and pedagogical work. In his numerous writings he gradually presented his ideas, thus developing a complete artistic and pedagogical aesthetic. In his 1925 landmark essay “Painting, Photography, Film” he developed an aesthetic theory of light – light as a matrix of art and art as light. He applied his aesthetic theory of light not only to painting, photography and film, but also to theatrical and commercial design.

From that point on light became the foundation of Moholy-Nagy’s practical and theoretical work. For him art of whatever kind only acquired meaning when it reflected light. Painting was also reinterpreted on the basis of this criterion. Moholy-Nagy described his development as a painter as a shift away from “painting from transparency” to a painting that was free of any representational constraints and created the possibility of painting “not with colours, but with light.” This theory reached its full potential in photography and film. Etymologically, the word “photography” means “writing with light.” The artistic essence of film consists in the portrayal of “inter-related movements as revealed by light projections.” Although he was not in charge of the photography classes in the Bauhaus, it was there that he wrote Painting, Photography, Film, drawing upon his photographic experience. He invented the “photogram,” a purely light-based form of graphic representation, thus demonstrating an ability to create photographic images without a camera at the same time as the “Rayogram” was invented by Man Ray in Paris. He saw photography as a completely autonomous medium whose potential was still to be discovered. He criticized “pictoriality,” propagating an innovative, creative and productive photography. He regarded seriality as one of the main features of the practice of photography and opposed the “aura” of the one-off work in contrast to the infinite multifariousness of the photographic cliché, thus anticipating one of Walter Benjamin’s theses.

The distinction between production and reproduction is a basic theme of his art. A prominent aspect of every work is its ability to integrate the unknown. Works that only repeat or reproduce familiar relationships, are described as “reproductive,” while those that create or produce new relationships are “productive.” For Moholy-Nagy the ability of a work of art to create something new (a basic feature of Modernism) is a key criterion. He postulated for painting, photography and film a moral and aesthetic imperative – the New. Art had to confront new times and an industrial civilization. In the systematic implementation of this thesis 1926 turned out to be the year in which his pictorial output was greater than his works in other fields, but 1927 witnessed a positive flood of photographic, scenographic, kinetic and film productions. Painting was something he never abandoned. He decided to drop the representational painting inherited from the past and to devote himself to non-representational or “pure” painting instead. The emergence of photography gave painting the perfect opportunity to free itself from all figurative or representative imperatives. Artists did not have to decide in favour of one medium or another, but should use all media to capture and master an optical creation.”

Text from the Martin Gropius-Bau website

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László Moholy-Nagy
Oskar Schlemmer in Ascona
1926
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokio
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Pneumatik
1924
Collection E. Zyablov, Moskau
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Flower
ca. 1925-27
Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne / Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
From the radio tower, Berlin
1928
Gelatine silver print
28 x 21,3 cm
Private collection
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Lago Maggiore, Ascona, Switzerland
ca. 1930
Gelatine silver print
20,8 x 28,4 cm
Collection Spaarnestad Photo/Nationaal Archief
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy / Paul Hartland
Carnival: Composition with two masks
ca. 1934
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
Phone +49 (0)30 254 86-0

Opening Hours:
Wednesday to Monday 10 – 20 hrs
Tuesday closed

Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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24
Oct
10

Exhibition: ‘The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today’ at The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 1st August – 1st November 2010

 

A huge posting of wonderful photographs – especially for my friend Fred who always takes photos of his sculptures!

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

 

 

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Rubber Dummies, Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, Hollywood
1939
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 x 9 5/8″ (19.3 x 24.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Edward Steichen
© 1981 Collection Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

David Goldblatt (South African, born 1930)
Monument to Karel Landman, Voortrekker Leader, De Kol, Eastern Cape
April 10, 1993
Gelatin silver print
10 15/16 x 13 11/16″ (27.9 x 34.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© 2010 David Goldblatt. Courtesy David Goldblatt and the Goodman Gallery

 

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Saint-Cloud
1923
Albumen silver print
6 7/8 x 8 3/8″ (17.5 x 21.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Anonymous gift

 

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
Midnight – Rodin’s Balzac
1908
Pigment print
12 1/8 x 14 5/8″ (30.8 x 37.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
Permission of Joanna T. Steichen

 

 

Bruce Nauman (American, born 1941)
Waxing Hot from the portfolio Eleven Color Photographs
1966–67/1970/2007
Inkjet print (originally chromogenic color print)
19 15/16 x 19 15/16″ (50.6 x 50.6 cm)
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Gerald S. Elliott Collection
© 2010 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Proesch. British, born Italy 1943. George Passmore. British, born 1942)
Great Expectations
1972
Dye transfer print
11 9/16 x 11 1/2″ (29.4 x 29.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Art & Project/Depot VBVR
© 2010 Gilbert & George

 

 

Hans Bellmer (German, 1902-1975)
The Doll
1935-37
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 9 5/16″ (24.1 x 23.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Samuel J. Wagstaff, Jr. Fund
© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

“The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today presents a critical examination of the intersections between photography and sculpture, exploring how one medium informs the analysis and creative redefinition of the other. On view at The Museum of Modern Art from August 1 through November 1, 2010, the exhibition brings together over 300 photographs, magazines, and journals, by more than 100 artists, from the dawn of modernism to the present, to look at the ways in which photography at once informs and challenges the meaning of what sculpture is. The Original Copy is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art. Following the exhibition’s presentation at MoMA, it will travel to Kunsthaus Zürich, where it will be on view from February 25 through May 15, 2011.

When photography was introduced in 1839, aesthetic experience was firmly rooted in Romanticist tenets of originality. In a radical way, photography brought into focus the critical role that the copy plays in art and in its perception. While the reproducibility of the photograph challenged the aura attributed to the original, it also reflected a very personal form of study and offered a model of dissemination that would transform the entire nature of art.

“In his 1947 book Le Musée Imaginaire, the novelist and politician André Malraux famously advocated for a pancultural ‘museum without walls,’ postulating that art history, and the history of sculpture in particular, had become ‘the history of that which can be photographed,’” said Ms. Marcoci.

Sculpture was among the first subjects to be treated in photography. There were many reasons for this, including the desire to document, collect, publicize, and circulate objects that were not always portable. Through crop, focus, angle of view, degree of close-up, and lighting, as well as through ex post facto techniques of dark room manipulation, collage, montage, and assemblage, photographers have not only interpreted sculpture but have created stunning reinventions of it.

Conceived around ten conceptual modules, the exhibition examines the rich historical legacy of photography and the aesthetic shifts that have taken place in the medium over the last 170 years through a superb selection of pictures by key modern, avant-garde, and contemporary artists. Some, like Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, and David Goldblatt, are best known as photographers; others, such as Auguste Rodin, Constantin Brancusi, and David Smith, are best known as sculptors; and others, from Hannah Höch and Sophie Taeuber-Arp to such contemporaries as Bruce Nauman, Fischli/Weiss, Rachel Harrison, and Cyprien Gaillard, are too various to categorize but exemplify how fruitfully and unpredictably photography and sculpture have combined.

The Original Copy begins with Sculpture in the Age of Photography, a section comprising early photographs of sculptures in French cathedrals by Charles Nègre and in the British Museum by Roger Fenton and Stephen Thompson; a selection of André Kertész’s photographs from the 1920s showing art amid common objects in the studios of artist friends; and pictures by Barbara Kruger and Louise Lawler that foreground issues of representation to underscore photography’s engagement in the analysis of virtually every aspect of art. Eugène Atget: The Marvelous in the Everyday presents an impressive selection of Atget’s photographs, dating from the early 1900s to the mid 1920s, of classical statues, reliefs, fountains, and other decorative fragments in Paris, Versailles, Saint-Cloud, and Sceaux, which together amount to a visual compendium of the heritage of French civilization at the time.

 

Auguste Rodin: The Sculptor and the Photographic Enterprise includes some of the most memorable pictures of Rodin’s sculptures by various photographers, including Edward Steichen’s Rodin – The Thinker (1902), a work made by combining two negatives: one depicting Rodin in silhouetted profile, contemplating The Thinker (1880–82), his alter ego; and one of the artist’s luminous Monument to Victor Hugo (1901). Constantin Brancusi: The Studio as Groupe Mobile focuses on Brancusi’s uniquely nontraditional techniques in photographing his studio, which was articulated around hybrid, transitory configurations known as groupe mobiles (mobile groups), each comprising several pieces of sculpture, bases, and pedestals grouped in proximity. In search of transparency, kineticism, and infinity, Brancusi used photography to dematerialize the static, monolithic materiality of traditional sculpture. His so-called photos radieuses (radiant photos) are characterized by flashes of light that explode the sculptural gestalt.

 

Marcel Duchamp: The Readymade as Reproduction examines Box in a Valise (1935–41), a catalogue of his oeuvre featuring 69 reproductions, including minute replicas of several readymades and one original work that Duchamp “copyrighted” in the name of his female alter ego, Rrose Sélavy. Using collotype printing and pochoir – in which color is applied by hand with the use of stencils – Duchamp produced “authorized ‘original’ copies” of his work, blurring the boundaries between unique object, readymade, and multiple. Cultural and Political Icons includes selections focusing on some of the most significant photographic essays of the twentieth century – Walker Evans’s American Photographs (1938), Robert Franks’s The Americans (1958), Lee Friedlander’s The American Monument (1976), and David Goldblatt’s The Structure of Things Then (1998) – many of which have never before been shown in a thematic context as they are here.

 

The Studio without Walls: Sculpture in the Expanded Field explores the radical changes that occurred in the definition of sculpture when a number of artists who did not consider themselves photographers in the traditional sense, such as Robert Smithson, Robert Barry, and Gordon Matta-Clark, began using the camera to document remote sites as sculpture rather than the traditional three-dimensional object. Daguerre’s Soup: What Is Sculpture? includes photographs of found objects or assemblages created specifically for the camera by artists, such as Brassaï’s Involuntary Sculptures (c. 1930s), Alina Szapocznikow’s Photosculptures (1970–71), and Marcel Broodthaers’s Daguerre’s Soup (1974), the last work being a tongue-in-cheek picture which hints at the various fluid and chemical processes used by Louis Daguerre to invent photography in the nineteenth century, bringing into play experimental ideas about the realm of everyday objects.

 

The Pygmalion Complex: Animate and Inanimate Figures looks at Dada and Surrealist pictures and photo-collages by artists, including Man Ray, Herbert Bayer, Hans Bellmer, Hannah Höch, and Johannes Theodor Baargeld, who focused their lenses on mannequins, dummies, and automata to reveal the tension between living figure and sculpture. The Performing Body as Sculptural Object explores the key role of photography in the intersection of performance and sculpture. Bruce Nauman, Charles Ray, and Dennis Oppenheim, placing a premium on their training as sculptors, articulated the body as a sculptural prop to be picked up, bent, or deployed instead of traditional materials. Eleanor Antin, Ana Mendieta, VALIE EXPORT, and Hannah Wilke engaged with the “rhetoric of the pose,” using the camera as an agency that itself generates actions through its presence.”

Press release from the Museum of Modern Art website

 

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890-1976)
Noire et blanche (Black and white)
1926
Gelatin silver print
6 3/4 x 8 7/8″ (17.1 x 22.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Thrall Soby
2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Stamped Tin Relic
1929 (printed c. 1970)
Gelatin silver print
4 11/16 x 6 5/8″ (11.9 x 16.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Lily Auchincloss Fund
© 2010 Estate of Walker Evans

 

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934)
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
1969
Gelatin silver print
8 1/16 x 12 1/8″ (20.5 x 30.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2010 Lee Friedlander

 

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, born 1941)
Das Denkmal, East Berlin (The monument, East Berlin)
1986
Gelatin silver print
19 11/16 x 23 5/8″ (50 x 60 cm)
Sibylle Bergemann/Ostkreuz Agentur der Fotografen, Berlin
© 2010 Sibylle Bergemann/Ostkreuz Agentur der Fotografen, Berlin

 

 

Marcel Duchamp (American, born France, 1887-1968)
Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890-1976)
Élevage de poussière (Dust breeding)
1920
Gelatin silver contact print
2 13/16 x 4 5/16″ (7.1 x 11 cm)
The Bluff Collection, LP
© 2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Guy Tillim (South African, born 1962)
Bust of Agostinho Neto, Quibala, Angola
2008
Pigmented inkjet print
17 3/16 x 25 3/4″ (43.6 x 65.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of the Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art
© 2010 Guy Tillim. Courtesy Michael Stevenson Gallery

 

 

Selected wall text from the exhibition

“The advent of photography in 1839, when aesthetic experience was firmly rooted in Romanticist tenets of originality, brought into focus the critical role that the copy plays in the perception of art. The medium’s reproducibility challenged the aura attributed to the original, but it also reflected a new way of looking and offered a model for dissemination that would transform the entire nature of art. The aesthetic singularity of the photograph, the archival value of a document bearing the trace of history, and the combinatory capacity of the image, open to be edited into sequences in which it mixes with others – all these contribute to the status of photography as both an art form and a medium of communication.

Sculpture was among the first subjects to be treated in photography. In his 1947 book Le Musée imaginaire, the novelist and politician André Malraux famously advocated for a pancultural “museum without walls,” postulating that art history, and the history of sculpture in particular, had become “the history of that which can be photographed.” There were many reasons for this, including the immobility of sculpture, which suited the long exposure times needed with the early photographic processes, and the desire to document, collect, publicize and circulate objects that were not always portable. Through crop, focus, angle of view, degree of close-up, and lighting, as well as through ex post facto techniques of dark room manipulation, collage, montage, and assemblage, photographers not only interpret sculpture but create stunning reinventions of it.

The Original Copy presents a critical examination of the intersections between photography and sculpture, exploring how the one medium has been implicated in the analysis and creative redefinition of the other. Bringing together 300 pictures, magazines and journals by more than 100 artists from the dawn of modernism to the present, this exhibition looks at the ways in which photography at once informs and challenges our understanding of what sculpture is within specific historic contexts.

 

Sculpture in the Age of Photography

If we consider photography a child of the industrial era – a medium that came of age alongside the steam engine and the railroad – it is not surprising that one of its critical functions was to bring physically inaccessible worlds closer by means of reproduction. Among its early practitioners, Charles Nègre photographed sculpture in the cathedrals of Chartres, Amiens, and, in Paris, Notre Dame, circling them at different levels to capture perspectives of rarely seen sculptural details, while in London Roger Fenton and Stephen Thompson documented the ancient statuary in the British Museum, making visible the new power of collecting institutions.

With the advent of the handheld portable camera in the early 1920s, photographers had the flexibility to capture contingent sculptural arrangements taken from elliptical viewpoints. André Kertész, for instance, recorded unexpected juxtapositions between art and common objects in the studios of artist friends, including Fernand Léger and Ossip Zadkine. His ability to forge heterogeneous materials and objects into visual unity inspired the novelist Pierre Mac Orlan to confer on him the title of “photographer-poet.”

Focusing on details in this way, photographers have interpreted not only sculpture itself, as an autonomous object, but also the context of its display. The results often show that the meaning of art is not fixed within the work but open to the beholder’s reception of it at any given moment. Taking a place in the tradition of institutional critique, Barbara Kruger’s and Louise Lawler’s pictures foreground issues of representation to underscore photography’s engagement in the analysis of virtually every aspect of art.

 

Eugène Atget
The Marvelous in the Everyday

During the first quarter of the twentieth century, Atget took hundreds of photographs of sculptures – classical statues, reliefs, fountains, door knockers, and other finely wrought decorative fragments – in Paris and its outlying parks and gardens, especially at Versailles, Saint-Cloud, and Sceaux. These images amount to a visual compendium of the heritage of French civilization at that time.

At Versailles, most intensely between 1901 and 1906 and again between 1921 and 1926, Atget photographed the gardens that André Le Nôtre, the landscape architect of King Louis XIV, had designed in the second half of the seventeenth century. In a series of pictures of allegorical statues punctuating the garden’s vistas, Atget focused on the scenic organization of the sculptures, treating them as characters in a historical play. The pantomimic effect of the statues’ postures clearly appealed to Atget, who in 1880, before turning to photography, had taken acting classes at the Conservatory of the Théâtre national de France. Depicting the white marble statues from low viewpoints, in full length, and against the dark, unified tones of hedges and trees, Atget brought them into dramatic relief, highlighting the theatrical possibilities of sculpture.

Among the pictures taken at Saint-Cloud is a series centered on a melancholy pool surrounded by statues whose tiny silhouettes can be seen from a distance. Atget’s interest in the variable play between nature and art through minute changes in the camera’s angle, or as functions of the effects of light and time of day, is underscored in his notations of the exact month and sometimes even the hour when the pictures were taken.

 

Auguste Rodin
The Sculptor and the Photographic Enterprise

Rodin never took pictures of his sculptures but reserved the creative act for himself, actively directing the enterprise of photographing his work. He controlled staging, lighting and background, and he was probably the first sculptor to enlist the camera to record the changing stages through which his work passed from conception to realization. The photographers working with Rodin were diverse and their images of his work varied greatly, partly through each individual’s artistic sensibility and partly through changes in the photographic medium. The radical viewing angles that Eugène Druet, for instance, adopted in his pictures of hands, in around 1898, inspired the poet Rainer Maria Rilke to write: “There are among the works of Rodin hands, single small hands which without belonging to a body, are alive. Hands that rise, irritated and in wrath; hands whose five bristling fingers seem to bark like the five jaws of a dog of Hell.”

Among the most memorable pictures of Rodin’s sculptures is Edward Steichen’s Rodin – The Thinker (1902), a work made by combining two negatives: Rodin in dark silhouetted profile contemplating The Thinker (1880–82), his alter ego, is set against the luminous Monument to Victor Hugo (1901), a source of poetic creativity. Steichen also photographed Rodin’s Balzac, installed outdoors in the sculptor’s garden at Meudon, spending a whole night taking varying exposures from fifteen minutes to an hour to secure a number of dramatic negatives. The three major pictures of the sculpture against the nocturnal landscape taken at 11 p.m., midnight, and 4 a.m. form a temporal series.

 

Constantin Brancusi
The Studio as Groupe Mobile

“Why write?” Brancusi once queried. “Why not just show the photographs?” The sculptor included many great photographers among his friends – Edward Steichen was one of his early champions in the United States; Alfred Stieglitz organized in 1914 his first solo exhibition in New York; Man Ray helped him buy photographic equipment; Berenice Abbott studied sculpture under him; and he was on close terms with Brassaï, André Kertész, and László Moholy-Nagy. Yet he declined to have his work photographed by others, preferring instead to take, develop, and print his own pictures.

Pushing photography against its grain, Brancusi developed an aesthetic antithetical to the usual photographic standards. His so-called photos radieuses (radiant photos) are characterized by flashes of light that explode the sculptural gestalt. In search of transparency, kineticism, and infinity, Brancusi used photography and polishing techniques to dematerialize the static, monolithic materiality of traditional sculpture, visualizing what Moholy-Nagy called “the new culture of light.”

Brancusi’s pictures of his studio underscore his scenographic approach. The artist articulated the studio around hybrid, transitory configurations known as groupes mobiles (mobile groups), each comprising several pieces of sculpture, bases, and pedestals grouped in proximity. Assembling and reassembling his sculptures for the camera, Brancusi used photography as a diary of his sculptural permutations. If, as it is often said, Brancusi “invented” modern sculpture, his use of photography belongs to a reevaluation of sculpture’s modernity.

 

Cultural and Political Icons

How do we remember the past? What role do photographs play in mediating history and memory? In an era resonating with the consequences of two world wars, the construction and then dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the Vietnam War, and the after effects of the colonialist legacy in South Africa, commemoration has provided a rich subject for photographic investigation.

Some of the most significant photographic essays of the twentieth century – Walker Evans’s American Photographs (1938), Robert Frank’s The Americans (1958), Lee Friedlander’s The American Monument (1976), and David Goldblatt’s The Structure of Things Then (1998) – articulate to different degrees the particular value of photography as a means of defining the cultural and political role of monuments.

Evans’s emblematic image of a crushed Ionic column made of cheap sheet metal; Frank’s picture of a statue of St. Francis preaching, cross and Bible in hands, to the bleak vista of a gas station; Friedlander’s photograph of World War I hero Father Duffy, engulfed in the cacophony of Times Square’s billboards and neon, which threaten to jeopardize the sculpture’s patriotic message; and Goldblatt’s pictures of monuments to some of the most potent symbols of Afrikaner triumphalism – all take a critical look at the world that public statues inhabit.

 

The Studio without Walls Sculpture in the Expanded Field

In the late 1960s a radical aesthetic change altered both the definition of the sculptural object and the ways in which that object was experienced. A number of artists who did not consider themselves photographers in the traditional sense began using the camera to rework the idea of what sculpture is, dispensing with the immobile object in favor of an altered site: the built environment, the remote landscape, or the studio or museum space in which the artist intervened.

This engagement with site and architecture – undoubtedly a function of early critiques of art’s institutional status – meant that sculpture no longer had to be a permanent three-dimensional object; it could, for instance, be a configuration of debris on the studio floor, a dematerialized vapor released into the landscape, a dissected home reconfigured as gravity-defying walk-through sculpture, or a wrapped-up building. Bruce Nauman, Robert Barry, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Christo respectively, as well as Michael Heizer, Richard Long, Dennis Oppenheim, and Robert Smithson made extensive use of photography, collecting and taking hundreds of pictures as raw material for other pieces, such as collages and photomontages.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, artists such as Zhang Dali, Cyprien Gaillard, and Rachel Whiteread have continued this dialogue through photographs contemplating examples of architecture and sculpture in states of dilapidation and entropy, remnants of a society in demise.

 

Daguerre’s Soup
What Is Sculpture?

In 1932, Brassaï challenged the established notions of what is or is not sculpture when he photographed a series of found objects – tiny castoff scraps of paper that had been unconsciously rolled, folded, or twisted by restless hands, strangely shaped bits of bread, smudged pieces of soap, and accidental blobs of toothpaste, which he titled Involuntary Sculptures. In the 1960s and ’70s artists engaging with various forms of reproduction, replication, and repetition used the camera to explore the limits of sculpture. The word “sculpture” itself was somewhat modified, no longer signifying something specific but rather indicating a polymorphous objecthood. For instance, in 1971 Alina Szapocznikow produced Photosculptures, pictures of a new kind of sculptural object made of stretched, formless and distended pieces of chewing gum.

At the same time, Marcel Broodthaers concocted absurdist taxonomies in photographic works. In Daguerre’s Soup (1975), Broothaers hinted at the various fluids and chemical processes used by Louis Daguerre to invent photography in the nineteenth century by bringing into play experimental ideas about language and the realm of everyday objects. A decade later, the duo Fischli/Weiss combined photography with wacky, ingeniously choreographed assemblages of objects. Their tongue-in-cheek pictures of assemblages shot on the verge of collapse convey a sense of animated suspension and deadpan comedy.

In 2007, Rachel Harrison drew on Broodthaers’s illogical systems of classification and parodic collections of objects to produce Voyage of the Beagle, a series of pictures that collectively raise the question “What is sculpture?” Ranging from images of prehistoric standing stones to mass-produced Pop mannequins, and from topiaries to sculptures made by modernist masters, Harrison’s work constitutes an oblique quest for the origins and contemporary manifestations of sculpture.

 

The Pygmalion Complex
Animate and Inanimate Figures

The subject of the animated statue spans the history of avant-garde photography. Artists interested in Surrealist tactics used the camera to tap the uncanniness of puppets, wax dummies, mannequins, and automata, producing pictures that both transcribe and alter appearances. Laura Gilpin explored this perturbing mix of stillness and living, alluring lifelikeness in her mysterious portrait George William Eggers (1926), in which Eggers, the director of the Denver Art Museum, keeps company with a fifteenth-century bust whose polychrome charm is enhanced by the glow of the candle he holds next to her face. So does Edward Weston, in his whimsical Rubber Dummies, Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, Hollywood (1939), showing two elastic dolls caught in a pas de deux on a movie-studio storage lot; and Clarence John Laughlin, in his eerie photomontage The Eye That Never Sleeps (1946), in which the negative of an image taken in a New Orleans funeral parlor has been overlaid with an image of a mannequin – one of whose legs, however, is that of a flesh-and-blood model.

The tension between animate object and inanimate female form lies at the crux of many of Man Ray’s photographs, including Black and White, (1926), which provocatively couples the head of the legendary model, artist, and cabaret singer Alice Prin, a.k.a. Kiki of Montparnasse, with an African ceremonial mask. Hans Bellmer’s photographs of dismembered dolls, and the critical photomontages of Herbert Bayer, Hannah Höch, and Johannes Theodor Baargeld, probe the relationship between living figure and sculpture by invoking the unstable subjectivity and breakdown of anatomic boundaries in the aftermath of the Great War.

 

The Performing Body as Sculptural Object

In 1969, Gilbert & George covered their heads and hands in metallic powders to sing Flanagan and Allen’s vaudeville number “Underneath the Arches” in live performance. Declaring themselves living sculptures, they claimed the status of an artwork, a role they used photography to express. Charles Ray and Dennis Oppenheim, placing a premium on their training as sculptors, articulated the body as a prop that could be picked up, bent, or deployed instead of more traditional materials as a system of weight, mass, and balance.

In the radicalized climate of the 1970s, artists such as Eleanor Antin, Ana Mendieta, VALIE EXPORT, and Hannah Wilke engaged with the “rhetoric of the pose,” underscoring the key role of photography in the intersection of performance, sculpture and portraiture.

Other artists as diverse as Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Otto Muehl, Bas Jan Ader, and Bruce Nauman, experimented with the plasticity of the body as sculptural material. Several of Nauman’s pictures from his portfolio Eleven Color Photographs (1966–1967/1970) spoof the classic tradition of sculpture. Yet the signature image of the group – Self-Portrait as a Fountain, in which a stripped-to-the-waist Nauman spews water from his mouth like a medieval gargoyle – is a deadpan salute to Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917). In this spirit, Erwin Wurm’s series of One Minute Sculptures (1997–98) evoke gestural articulations in which the artist’s body is turned into a sculptural form. Wurm, like the other artists presented in this exhibition, focuses attention on what one can do with and through photography, using the camera not to document actions that precede the impulse to record them but as an agency that itself generates actions through its own presence.”

 

 

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985)
The Eye That Never Sleeps
1946
Gelatin silver print
12 3/8 x 8 3/4″ (31.4 x 22.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© Clarence John Laughlin

 

 

Fischli/Weiss (Peter Fischli. Swiss, born 1952. David Weiss. Swiss, born 1946)
Outlaws
1984
Chromogenic color print
15 ¾ x 11 13/16″ (40 x 30 cm)
Courtesy the artists and Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
© Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

 

 

Claes Oldenburg (American, born Sweden 1929)
Claes Oldenburg: Projects for Monuments
1967
Offset lithograph
34 11/16 x 22 1/2″ (88.0 x 57.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Barbara Pine
© 2010 Claes Oldenburg

 

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890-1976)
L’Homme (Man)
1918
Gelatin silver print
19 x 14 1/2″ (48.3 x 36.8 cm)
Private collection, New York
© 2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Herbert Bayer (American, born Austria. 1900-1985)
Humanly impossible
1932
Gelatin silver print
15 3/8 x 11 9/16″ (39 x 29.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Purchase
© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

Constantin Brancusi (French, born Romania, 1876-1957)
L’Oiseau (Golden Bird)
c. 1919
Gelatin silver print
9 x 6 11/16″ (22.8 x 17 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Purchase
© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Gillian Wearing (British, born 1963)
Self-Portrait at 17 Years Old
2003
Chromogenic color print
41 x 32″ (104.1 x 81.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art
© 2010 Gillian Wearing. Courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Maureen Paley, London

 

 

Johannes Theodor Baargeld (Alfred Emanuel Ferdinand Gruenwald) (German, 1892-1927)
Typische Vertikalklitterung als Darstellung des Dada Baargeld (Typical vertical mess as depiction of the Dada Baargeld)
1920
Photomontage
14 5/8 x 12 3/16″ (37.1 x 31 cm)
Kunsthaus Zürich, Grafische Sammlung

 

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Father Duffy, Times Square
April 14, 1937
Gelatin silver print
9 5/16 x 7 5/8″ (23.7 x 19.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Ronald A. Kurtz
© 2010 Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics, Ltd., New York

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
11, West Fifty-Third Street, New York

Opening hours:
Sunday, Tuesday – Thursday 10.30 – 5.30pm
Friday 10.30 – 8pm
Saturday 10.30 – 5.30pm
Closed Tuesday

MOMA 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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