Archive for the 'New York' Category

04
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘American Cool’ at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Exhibition dates: 7th February – 7th September 2014

 

Bruce Davidson. 'Untitled' from the 'Brooklyn Gang' series 1959

 

Bruce Davidson
Untitled from the Brooklyn Gang series
1959

 

Danny Lyon. 'Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville, 1966' 1966

 

Danny Lyon
Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville, 1966
1966
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Each cool figure was considered with the following historical rubric in mind and possesses at least three elements of this singular American self-concept:

  1. an original artistic vision carried off with a signature style
  2. cultural rebellion or transgression for a given generation
  3. iconic power, or instant visual recognition
  4. a recognized cultural legacy

Every individual here created an original persona without precedent in American culture. These photographs capture the complex relationship between the real-life person, the image embraced by fans and the media, and the person’s artistic work.

What does it mean when a generation claims a certain figure as cool? What qualities does this person embody at that historical moment? American Cool explores these questions through photography, history, and popular culture. In this exhibition, cool is rendered visible, as shot by some of the finest art photographers of the past century.

 

 

When less – less famous, less obvious – is more

I don’t know about you, but the photographs chosen to represent American “cool” in this exhibition – 39 of which are shown in the posting out of a total of 108, but the rest are mainly of the same ilk – seem to me to be a singularly strange bunch of images to choose for such a concept. Personally, I find very few of them are “cool”, that is a mixture of a social charge of rebellious self-expression, charisma, edge and mystery with a certain self-made sense of style.

The only images that I find definitely “cool” among this bunch are, firstly Bob Dylan, closely followed by Jackson Pollock (notice the skull lurking behind him) and Susan Sontag. There is no proposition of cool in these three photographs, the people in them just are. The rest of the photographs, and there really are some atrociously plain and boring portraits among this lot (including a poor portrait of James Dean), really don’t speak to me of cool, don’t speak to me of anything much at all. How you could ever think that the portrait of Willie Nelson, 1989 (printed 2009, below) is cool is beyond me… and what is it with the reprints of the photographs, not originals but modern prints made years later? Perhaps the National Portrait Gallery needed to look beyond their own collection for a more rounded representation of American cool.

The two photographs I have included above are my top picks of American cool, and neither are in the exhibition. These iconic American images don’t feature famous people, they are not “posed” for the camera, and yet there is that ineffable something that makes the people in them absolutely, totally cool. THIS IS AMERICAN COOL: their own style, their own rebelliousness and mystery without possibly realising it = a naturalness that comes from doing their own thing, making their own way. Perhaps that is the point that this exhibition misses: you don’t have to be famous to be “cool”. A portrait is not just a mug shot. And an original persona does not have to come with fame attached.

This exhibition just doesn’t cut the mustard. The whole shebang needed a bloody good rethink, from the concept (does a generation have to “claim” someone is cool? is it necessary or desirable to portray American Cool through media images? do they have to be famous or instantly recognisable people to be “cool”) to the choice of images which could better illustrate the theme. Surely the qualities that person embodies changes from moment to moment, from photographer to photographer, from context to context (just look at the portraits of a haggard James Dean). To attempt to illustrate three elements in a single photograph – good luck with that one!

Marcus

PS I have added the videos to add a bit of spice to the proceedings… in them you can, occasionally, feel the charisma of the person.

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

 

Bob Willoughby. 'Billie Holiday' 1951 (printed 1991)

 

Bob Willoughby
Billie Holiday
1951 (printed 1991)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.2 x 35.3 cm. (19 15/16 x 13 15/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Rare live footage of one of the first anti rascism songs ever.

 

Roger Marshutz. 'Elvis Presley' 1956

 

Roger Marshutz
Elvis Presley
1956
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 40.6 x 50.8cm (16 x20″)
© Estee Stanley

 

 

Herman Leonard. 'Frank Sinatra' c. 1956

 

Herman Leonard
Frank Sinatra
c. 1956
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.5 x 24.1cm (6 1/2 x 9 1/2″)
Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University

 

 

Marcia Resnick. 'David Byrne' 1981

 

Marcia Resnick
David Byrne
1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 21.8 x 32.5 cm (8 9/16 x 12 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Julian Wasser. 'Joan Didion' 1970

 

Julian Wasser
Joan Didion
1970
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.3 x 34 cm (9 9/16 x 13 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Joan Didion (born December 5, 1934) is an American author best known for her novels and her literary journalism. Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation.

 

Roy Schatt. 'James Dean' 1954

 

Roy Schatt
James Dean
1954
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.7 x 42.2cm (13 11/16 x 16 5/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

William Claxton. 'Steve McQueen' 1962

 

William Claxton
Steve McQueen
1962
Gelatin silver print
Image: 40 x 58.7cm (15 3/4 x 23 1/8″)
Fahey Klein Gallery

 

Martin Schoeller. 'Tony Hawk' 1999 (printed 2010)

 

Martin Schoeller
Tony Hawk
1999 (printed 2010)
Archival pigment print
Image: 58.5 x 58.6 cm (23 1/16 x 23 1/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

What do we mean when we say someone is cool? Cool carries a social charge of rebellious self-expression, charisma, edge and mystery.

Cool is an original American sensibility and remains a global obsession. In the early 1940s, legendary jazz saxophonist Lester Young brought this central African American concept into the modern vernacular. Cool became a password in bohemian life connoting a balanced state of mind, a dynamic mode of performance, and a certain stylish stoicism. A cool person has a situation under control, and with a signature style. Cool has been embodied in jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and Billie Holiday, in actors such as Robert Mitchum, Faye Dunaway, and Johnny Depp, and in singers such as Elvis Presley, Patti Smith, and Jay-Z. American Cool is a photography and cultural studies exhibition featuring portraits of such iconic figures, each of whom has contributed an original artistic vision to American culture symbolic of a particular historical moment. They emerged from a variety of fields: art, music, film, sports, comedy, literature, and political activism. American Cool is the zeitgeist taking embodied form.

American Cool is captured by a roll call of fine-art photographers from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Annie Leibovitz, from Richard Avedon to Herman Leonard to Diane Arbus. This exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with essays by Joel Dinerstein, the James H. Clark Endowed Chair in American Civilization and Director of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University, and Frank H. Goodyear III, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and former curator of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery.

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Jack Nicholson in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"' 1975

 

Unidentified Artist
Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
1975
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.3 x 25.1cm (6 13/16 x 9 7/8″)
The Kobal Collection

 

John Cohen. 'Jack Kerouac' 1959

 

John Cohen
Jack Kerouac
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.9 x 24.1cm (6 1/4 x 9 1/2″)
Sheet: 20.2 x 25.4cm (7 15/16 x 10″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Leo Fuchs. 'Paul Newman' 1959 (printed 2013)

 

Leo Fuchs
Paul Newman
1959 (printed 2013)
Modern archival print
Sheet: 27.9 x 35.6cm (11 x 14″)
© Alexandre Fuchs

 

William Paul Gottlieb. 'Thelonious Monk at Minton's Playhouse, New York City' 1947

 

William Paul Gottlieb
Thelonious Monk at Minton’s Playhouse, New York City
1947
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 25.4 x 20.3cm (10 x 8″)
Estate of William Gottlieb

 

 

Thelonious Monk Quartet – Round Midnight
Thelonious Monk(p) Charlie Rouse(ts) Larry Gales(b) Ben Riley(ds)
Recorded in Norway 1966 dvd “LIVE in ’66”

 

Peter Hujar. 'Susan Sontag' 1975

 

Peter Hujar
Susan Sontag
1975
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.1 x 37.6cm (14 5/8 x 14 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Michael O'Brien. 'Willie Nelson' 1989 (printed 2009)

 

Michael O’Brien
Willie Nelson
1989 (printed 2009)
Chromogenic print
Image: 38.1 x 38.1cm (15 x 15″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Introduction

What do we mean when we say someone is cool? To be cool means to exude the aura of something new and uncontainable. Cool is the opposite of innocence or virtue. Someone cool has a charismatic edge and a dark side. Cool is an earned form of individuality. Each generation has certain individuals who bring innovation and style to a field of endeavor while projecting a certain charismatic self-possession. They are the figures selected for this exhibition: the successful rebels of American culture.

The legendary jazz saxophonist Lester Young created the modern usage of “cool” in the 1940s. At first it meant being relaxed in one’s environment against oppressive social forces, but within a generation it became a password for stylish self-control. This exhibition does not reflect our opinion of who’s cool. Each cool figure was considered with the following historical rubric in mind and possesses at least three elements of this singular American self-concept:

  1. an original artistic vision carried off with a signature style
  2. cultural rebellion or transgression for a given generation
  3. iconic power, or instant visual recognition
  4. a recognized cultural legacy

Every individual here created an original persona without precedent in American culture. These photographs capture the complex relationship between the real-life person, the image embraced by fans and the media, and the person’s artistic work.

What does it mean when a generation claims a certain figure as cool? What qualities does this person embody at that historical moment? American Cool explores these questions through photography, history, and popular culture. In this exhibition, cool is rendered visible, as shot by some of the finest art photographers of the past century.

 

The Roots of Cool: Before 1940

The stage was set for the emergence of cool as a cultural phenomenon in the early 1940s by a series of sweeping transformations in the first decades of the twentieth century. The figures in this first section were not called cool in their day but were leading exemplars of new energies that were changing the social contours of American life. A fresh rebelliousness was revealed in the new film capital of Hollywood, in modernist literature and art, in emerging youth entertainments, and in a new music called jazz. The advent of technologies such as radio, film, and the automobile and the increasing diversity in America’s booming cities accelerated the pace of change. Though Prohibition in the 1920s sought to regulate American morality by ending the consumption of alcohol, this period saw the expression of a new independence among young people and others historically on the margins of public life. In particular, both African Americans and women sought and began to attain freedoms long denied. Cool has long denoted a person’s sense of calm and composure. Charismatic individuals such as those featured here contributed greatly to the changing mores in American society before World War II. Cool would ultimately serve as the term that would describe this new rebel.

The Birth of Cool: 1940-59

Being cool was a response to the rapid changes of modernity: it was about maintaining a state of equipoise within swirling, dynamic social forces. The legendary jazz saxophonist Lester Young disseminated the word and concept of cool into jazz culture in the early 1940s, and it quickly crossed over as a rebel masculine sensibility. When Young said, “I’m cool,” he meant, first, that he was relaxed in the environment and, second, that he was keeping it together under social and economic pressure as well as the absurdity of life in a racist society. This mask of cool emerged as a form of American stoicism and was manifested in jazz, film noir, Beat literature, and abstract expressionism. In jazz, a generation of younger musicians rejected big-band swing entertainment to create bebop, a fast, angular, virtuosic style that moved jazz out of dance halls and into nightclubs. In Hollywood, film noir represented postwar anxiety inthrough crime dramas shot through with working-class existentialism and the fear of women’s sexual and economic power. Among Beat writers and abstract painters, cool referred to a combination of wildness and intensity in men unconcerned with social conformity. Starting from jazz, cool was a rebel sensibility suggesting that an individual’s importance could be registered only through self-expression and the creation of a signature style. By 1960 cool was the protean password of a surging underground aesthetic.

 

Cool and the Counterculture: 1960-79

In the 1960s and 1970s, to be cool was to be antiauthoritarian and open to new ideas from young cultural leaders in rock and roll, journalism, film, and African American culture. Cool was a badge of opposition to “the System,” by turns a reference to the police, the government, the military-industrial complex, or traditional morality. Using drugs such as marijuana or even LSD was an indicator of risk taking and expanding one’s consciousness; not experimenting with drugs suggested a fear of opening one’s mind or perspective, of being “uptight” or “square.” The same was true of sexual exploration, social protest, and ethnic politics. The aesthetic of stylized understatement still held power, yet cool itself morphed under the era’s social upheavals. The counterculture valued being authentic and emotionally naked: being cool meant a person was “out-front” with others and comfortable in his or her own skin. For African Americans, what had once been suppressed under the mask of cool transformed into defiant civic engagement in music, sports, and politics. “Cool” meant to communicate a set of emotions without losing control, and rock and roll was the art form (and forum) best suited for this shift, especially for women. Patti Smith, Bonnie Raitt, Deborah Harry, and Chrissie Hynde all carved out new iconic stances, styles, and voices for independent women who were sexy on their own terms. Cool became the supreme compliment for creative public figures who broke new cultural ground and maintained their personal integrity over time.

 

The Legacies of Cool: 1980-Present

In 1980s America, the selling of rebellion as style became ingrained in cool. From highbrow fashion to mass-culture video games, product designers, advertisers, and consumers embraced the cool aesthetic. For many during this era, selling out was no longer a curse, as youth culture increasingly embraced the pursuit of wealth. And though some might proclaim that cool was dead, the concept stayed alive and grew in many quarters. From hip-hop to Seattle grunge, from skateboarding to the Internet, from street graffiti to MTV, cool became central to many of these new cultural forms. While its popularization tended to whiten this phenomenon, African American culture remained central to its growth. By the 1980s cool also had an easily recognizable history, and many figures from its past – like heroes from a bygone era – continued to resonate widely. Indeed, new icons of cool often built careers that owed much to these earlier exemplars. Throughout the twentieth century, cool was America’s chief cultural export. With the rapid growth of global communication and markets, it plays an even larger role both in the world’s understanding of America and in Americans’ own sense of national identity. The figures in this final section are representative of the legacies of cool as a distinct form of American expression.

Press release from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website

 

Martin Munkacsi. 'Fred Astaire' 1936

 

Martin Munkacsi
Fred Astaire
1936
Gelatin silver print
Image (Image, Accurate): 24.1 x 19cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Philippe Halsman. 'Audrey Hepburn' 1955

 

Philippe Halsman
Audrey Hepburn
1955
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 34.9 x 27cm (13 3/4 x 10 5/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Dmitri Kasterine. 'Jean-Michel Basquait' 1986

 

Dmitri Kasterine
Jean-Michel Basquait
1986
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38.3 x 37.7cm (15 1/16 x 14 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Cass Bird. 'Benicio Del Toro' 2008 (printed 2012)

 

Cass Bird
Benicio Del Toro
2008 (printed 2012)
Inkjet print
Image: 45.3 x 35.3 cm (17 13/16 x 13 7/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Carl Van Vechten. 'Bessie Smith' 1936

 

Carl Van Vechten
Bessie Smith
1936
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 25.2 x 18.6 cm (9 15/16 x 7 5/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

This is not only a landmark because it contains Bessie Smith’s only known film appearance but also for being one of the very first talkies ever made. This is the complete film co-starring Jimmy Mordecai as her gigolo boyfriend.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Deborah Harry' 1978

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Deborah Harry
1978
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.9 x 34.9cm (13 3/4 x 13 3/4″)
Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

 

Philippe Halsman. 'Humphrey Bogart' 1944

 

Philippe Halsman
Humphrey Bogart
1944
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11.3 x 8.6cm (4 7/16 x 3 3/8″)
Mat: 45.7 x 35.6cm (18 x 14″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Samuel Hollyer. 'Leaves of Grass, 1st Edition' Copy after: Gabriel Harrison 1855

 

Samuel Hollyer
Leaves of Grass, 1st Edition
Copy after: Gabriel Harrison
1855
Book (closed): 28.9 x 20.6 x 1cm (11 3/8 x 8 1/8 x 3/8″)
Private Collection

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Frederick Douglas' 1856

 

Unidentified Artist
Frederick Douglas
1856
Quarter-plate ambrotype
Image: 10.6 x 8.6cm (4 3/16 x 3 3/8″)
Case (open): 11.9 x 19.1 x 1.3cm (4 11/16 x 7 1/2 x 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Linda McCartney. 'Jimi Hendrix' 1967 (printed later)

 

Linda McCartney
Jimi Hendrix
1967 (printed later)
Platinum print
Image: 51.3 x 35.3 cm (20 3/16 x 13 7/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

An incredible live performance of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) by Jimmy and his band in Stockholm, 1969.

 

William Paul Gottlieb. 'Duke Ellington' c. 1946 (printed 1991)

 

William Paul Gottlieb
Duke Ellington
c. 1946 (printed 1991)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.1 x 26.7 cm (13 7/16 x 10 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Fantastic performance footage of one of Jazz’s greatest stars – Duke Ellington. With performances of song of his most famous songs including “Mood Indigo”, “Caravan” & “Sophisticated Lady”

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big-band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions. A major figure in the history of jazz, Ellington’s music stretched into various other genres. His career spanned more than 50 years and included leading his orchestra, composing an inexhaustible songbook, scoring for movies, composing stage musicals, and world tours. Several of his instrumental works were adapted into songs that became standards. Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and extraordinary charisma, he is generally considered to have elevated the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other traditional genres of music. His reputation increased after his death and the Pulitzer Prize Board bestowed on him a special posthumous honor in 1999. Ellington called his music “American Music” rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as “beyond category.”

 

Mark Seliger. 'Kurt Cobain' 1993 (printed 2013)

 

Mark Seliger
Kurt Cobain
1993 (printed 2013)
Platinum Palladium print
Image: 46.7 × 35.5 cm (18 3/8 × 14″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Philippe Halsman. 'Marlon Brando' 1950 (printed later)

 

Philippe Halsman
Marlon Brando
1950 (printed later)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.4 x 26.8cm (13 9/16 x 10 9/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Charles H. Stewart. 'Muddy Waters' c. 1960

 

Charles H. Stewart
Muddy Waters
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.4 x 18.4cm (10 x 7 1/4″)
Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University

 

 

Alfred Eisenstaedt. 'Lauren Bacall' 1949 (printed 2013)

 

Alfred Eisenstaedt
Lauren Bacall
1949 (printed 2013)
Pigmented ink jet print
Image: 40.3 x 27.9cm (15 7/8 x 11″)

 

Kate Simon. 'Madonna' 1983 (printed 2013)

 

Kate Simon
Madonna
1983 (printed 2013)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 33.7 × 22.9cm (13 1/4 × 9″)
© Kate Simon

 

 

Aram Avakian. 'Miles Davis' 1955 (printed 2012)

 

Aram Avakian
Miles Davis
1955 (printed 2012)
Modern print made from original negative
Image: 34.6 × 24.1cm (13 5/8 × 9 1/2″)

 

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Bix Beiderbecke' c. 1920

 

Unidentified Artist
Bix Beiderbecke
c. 1920
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.1 x 11.4cm (7 1/2 x 4 1/2″)
Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University

 

 

Leon Bismark “Bix” Beiderbecke (March 10, 1903 – August 6, 1931) was an American jazz cornetist, jazz pianist, and composer.

With Louis Armstrong and Muggsy Spanier, Beiderbecke was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s. His turns on “Singin’ the Blues” and “I’m Coming, Virginia” (both 1927), in particular, demonstrated an unusual purity of tone and a gift for improvisation. With these two recordings, especially, he helped to invent the jazz ballad style and hinted at what, in the 1950s, would become cool jazz. “In a Mist” (1927), one of a handful of his piano compositions and one of only two he recorded, mixed classical (Impressionist) influences with jazz syncopation.

 

Gerard-Malanga-lou-reed-WEB

 

Gerard Malanga
Lou Reed
1966
Gelatin silver print
Image: 48.3 x 36.2cm (19 x 14 1/4″)
© Martin Irvine

 

 

Arnold A. Newman. 'Jackson Pollock' 1949

 

Arnold A. Newman
Jackson Pollock
1949
Gelatin silver print
Image: 46 x 36.7cm (18 1/8 x 14 7/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Lynn Goldsmith. 'Patti Smith' 1976 (printed 2012)

 

Lynn Goldsmith
Patti Smith
1976 (printed 2012)
Digital inkjet print
Image: 46.9 x 30 cm (18 7/16 x 11 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Philippe Halsman. 'Clint Eastwood' 1971

 

Philippe Halsman
Clint Eastwood
1971
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.3 x 27.3cm (13 1/2 x 10 3/4″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Richard Avedon. 'Bob Dylan, Singer, New York City, February 10, 1965' 1965

 

Richard Avedon
Bob Dylan, Singer, New York City, February 10, 1965
1965
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.4 × 20.3cm (10 × 8″)
© Richard Avedon Foundation

 

 

Eli Reed. 'Tupac Shakur' 1992 (printed 2013)

 

Eli Reed
Tupac Shakur
1992 (printed 2013)
Digitally exposed chromogenic print
Image: 34.6 x 27.3 cm (13 5/8 x 10 3/4″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

William Paul Gottlieb. 'Gene Krupa at 400 Restaurant, New York City' June 1946

 

William Paul Gottlieb
Gene Krupa at 400 Restaurant, New York City
June 1946
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 35.6 x 27.9cm (14 x 11″)
Estate of William Gottlieb

 

Eugene Bertram “Gene” Krupa (January 15, 1909 – October 16, 1973) was an American jazz and big band drummer, actor and composer, known for his highly energetic and flamboyant style. In the 1930s, Krupa became the first endorser of Slingerland drums. At Krupa’s urging, Slingerland developed tom-toms with tuneable top and bottom heads, which immediately became important elements of virtually every drummer’s setup. Krupa developed and popularized many of the cymbal techniques that became standards. His collaboration with Armand Zildjian of the Avedis Zildjian Company developed the modern hi-hat cymbals and standardized the names and uses of the ride cymbal, the crash cymbal, the splash cymbal, the pang cymbal and the swish cymbal. One of his bass drums, a Slingerland inscribed with Benny Goodman’s and Krupa’s initials, is preserved at the Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. In 1978, Krupa became the first drummer inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame.

 

 

 

 

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
8th and F Sts NW
Washington, DC 20001

Opening hours:
11.30 am – 7.00 pm daily

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website

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02
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Robert Heinecken: Object Matter’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 15th March – 7th September 2014

 

A bumper posting on probably the most important photo-media artist who has ever lived. This is how to successfully make conceptual photo-art.

A revolutionary artist, this para-photographer’s photo puzzles are just amazing!

Marcus

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

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

 

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Figure Horizon #1' 1971

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Figure Horizon #1
1971
Ten canvas panels with photographic emulsion
Each 11 13/16 x 11 13/16″ (30 x 30 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Le Voyeur / Robbe-Grillet #2' 1972

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Le Voyeur / Robbe-Grillet #2
1972
Three canvas panels with bleached photographic emulsion and pastel chalk
14 x 40″ (35.6 x 101.6 cm)
George Eastman House, Rochester, New York. Museum Purchase with National Endowment for the Arts support

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Child Guidance Toys' 1965

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Child Guidance Toys
1965
Black-and-white film transparency
5 x 18 1/16″ (12.7 x 45.8 cm)
The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Boardroom, Inc.

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Lessons in Posing Subjects / Matching Facial Expressions' 1981

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Lessons in Posing Subjects / Matching Facial Expressions
1981
Fifteen internal dye diffusion transfer prints (SX-70 Polaroid) and lithographic text on Rives BFK paper
15 x 20″ (38.1 x 50.8 cm)
Collection UCLA Grunwald Center for Graphic Art, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Gift of Dean Valentine and Amy Adelson

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Kodak Safety Film / Taos Church' 1972

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Kodak Safety Film / Taos Church
1972
Black-and-white film transparency
40 x 56″ (101.6 x 142.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'As Long As Your Up' 1965

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
As Long As Your Up
1965
Black-and-white film transparency
15 1/2 x 19 5/8″ (39.4 x 49.8 cm)
The Robert Heinecken Trust, Chicago. Courtesy Petzel Gallery, New York

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Periodical #5' 1971

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Periodical #5
1971
Offset lithography on found magazine
12 1/4 x 9″ (31.1 x 22.9 cm)
Collection Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons, New York

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Six Figures/Mixed' 1968

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Six Figures/Mixed
1968
Layered Plexiglas and black-and-white film transparencies
5.75 x 9.75 x 1.5″ (14.61 x 24.77 x 3.81 cm)
Collection Darryl Curran, Los Angeles

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Figure / Foliage #2' 1969

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Figure / Foliage #2
1969
Layered Plexiglas and black-and-white film transparencies
5 x 5 x 1 1/4″ (12.7 x 12.7 x 3.2 cm)
Collection Anton D. Segerstrom, Corona del Mar, California

 

Kaleidoscopic-Hexagon-#2-WEB

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Kaleidoscopic Hexagon #2
1965
Six gelatin silver prints on wood
Diameter: 14″ (35.6 cm)
Black Dog Collection. Promised gift to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) '24 Figure Blocks' 1966

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
24 Figure Blocks
1966
Twelve gelatin silver prints on wood blocks, and twelve additional wood blocks
14 1/16 x 14 1/16 x 13/16″ (35.7 x 35.7 x 2.1 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Gift of Jeanne and Richard S. Press

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Multiple Solution Puzzle' 1965

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Multiple Solution Puzzle
1965
Sixteen gelatin silver prints on wood
11 1/4 x 11 1/4 x 1″ (28.6 x 28.6 x 2.5 cm)
Collection Maja Hoffmann/LUMA Foundation

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art presents Robert Heinecken: Object Matter, the first retrospective of the work of Robert Heinecken since his death in 2006 and the first exhibition on the East Coast to cover four decades of the artist’s unique practice, from the early 1960s through the late 1990s, on view from March 15 to September 7, 2014. Describing himself as a “para-photographer,” because his work stood “beside” or “beyond” traditional ideas associated with photography, Heinecken worked across multiple mediums, including photography, sculpture, printmaking, and collage. Culling images from newspapers, magazines, pornography, and television, he recontextualized them through collage and assemblage, photograms, darkroom experimentation, and rephotography. His works explore themes of commercialism, Americana, kitsch, sex, the body, and gender. In doing so, the works in this exhibition expose his obsession with popular culture and its effects on society, and with the relationship between the original and the copy. Robert Heinecken: Object Matter is organized by Eva Respini, Curator, with Drew Sawyer, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition will travel to the Hammer Museum, and will be on view there from October 5, 2014 through January 17, 2015.

Heinecken dedicated his life to making art and teaching, establishing the photography program at UCLA in 1964, where he taught until 1991. He began making photographs in the early 1960s. The antithesis of the fine-print tradition exemplified by West Coast photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, who photographed landscapes and objects in sharp focus and with objective clarity, Heinecken’s early work is marked by high contrast, blur, and under- or overexposure, as seen in Shadow Figure (1962) and Strip of Light (1964). In the mid-1960s he began combining and sequencing disparate pictures, as in Visual Poem/About the Sexual Education of a Young Girl (1965), which comprises seven black-and-white photographs of dolls with a portrait of his then-five-year-old daughter Karol at the center.

The female nude is a recurring motif, featured in Refractive Hexagon (1965), one of several “photopuzzles” composed of photographs of female body parts mounted onto 24 individual “puzzle” pieces. Other three-dimensional sculptures – geometric volumes ranging in height from five to 22 inches – consist of photographs mounted onto individual blocks, which rotate independently around a central axis. In Fractured Figure Sections (1967), as in Refractive Hexagon, the female figure is never resolved as a single image – the body is always truncated, never contiguous. In contrast, a complete female figure can be reconstituted in his largest photo-object, Transitional Figure Sculpture (1965), a towering 26-layer octagon composed from photographs of a nude that have been altered using various printing techniques. At the time, viewer engagement was key to creating random configurations and relationships in the work; any number of possibilities may exist, only to be altered with the next manipulation. Today, due to the fragility of the works, these objects are displayed in Plexiglas-covered vitrines. However, the number of sculptures and puzzles gathered here offer the viewer a sense of this diversity.

Heinecken’s groundbreaking suite Are You Rea (1964-68) is a series of 25 photograms made directly from magazine pages. Representative of a culture that was increasingly commercialized, technologically mediated, and suspicious of established truths, Are You Rea cemented Heinecken’s interest in the multiplicity of meanings inherent in existing images and situations. Culled from more than 2000 magazine pages, the work includes pictures from publications such as Life, Time, and Woman’s Day, contact-printed so that both sides are superimposed in a single image. Heinecken’s choice of pages and imagery are calculated to reveal specific relationships and meanings – ads for Coppertone juxtaposed with ads for spaghetti dinners and an article about John F. Kennedy superimposed on an ad for Wessex carpets – the portfolio’s narrative moves from relatively commonplace and alluring images of women to representations of violence and the male body.

Heinecken began altering magazines in 1969 with a series of 120 periodicals titled MANSMAG: Homage to Werkman and Cavalcade. He used the erotic men’s magazine Cavalcade as source material, making plates of every page, and randomly printing them on pages that were then reassembled into a magazine, now scrambled. In the same year, he disassembled numerous Time magazines, imprinting pornographic images taken from Cavalcade on every page, and reassembled them with the original Time covers. He circulated these reconstituted magazines by leaving them in waiting rooms or slipping them onto newsstands, allowing the work to come full circle – the source material returning to its point of origin after modification. He reprised this technique in 1989 with an altered issue of Time titled 150 Years of Photojournalism, a greatest hits of historical events seen through the lens of photography.

 

Installation views of 'Robert Heinecken: Object Matter' at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Installation views of 'Robert Heinecken: Object Matter' at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Installation views of 'Robert Heinecken: Object Matter' at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Installation views of 'Robert Heinecken: Object Matter' at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

 

Installation views of Robert Heinecken: Object Matter at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Photos by Jonathan Muzikar
© The Museum of Modern Art

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Breast / Bomb #5' 1967

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Breast / Bomb #5
1967
Gelatin silver prints, cut and reassembled
38 1/2 x 38 1/4″ (97.8 x 97.2 cm)
Denver Art Museum. Funds From 1992 Alliance For Contemporary Art Auction

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Then People Forget You' 1965

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Then People Forget You
1965
Gelatin silver print
10 3/8 x 12 15/16″ (26.3 x 32.8 cm)
The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Boardroom, Inc.

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Cliche Vary / Autoeroticism' 1974

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Cliche Vary / Autoeroticism
1974
Eleven canvas panels with photographic emulsion and pastel chalk
39 1/2 x 39 1/2 in. (100.3 x 100.3 cm)
Collection Susan and Peter MacGill, New York

 

Robert Heinecken. 'Surrealism on TV' 1986

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Surrealism on TV
1986
216 35 mm color slides, slide-show time variable
The Robert Heinecken Trust, Chicago; courtesy Cherry and Martin Gallery, Los Angeles
© 2013 The Robert Heinecken Trust.

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Shiva Manifesting as a Single Mother' 1989

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Shiva Manifesting as a Single Mother
1989
Magazine paper, paint and varnish
Collection Philip F. Denny, Chicago
© 2014 The Robert Heinecken Trust

 

 

Transparent film is also used in many of Heinecken’s works to explore different kinds of juxtapositions. In Kodak Safety Film/Christmas Mistake (1971), pornographic images are superimposed on a Christmas snapshot of Heinecken’s children with the suggestion in the title that somehow two rolls of film were mixed up at the photo lab. Kodak Safety Film/Taos Church (1972) takes photography itself as a subject, picturing an adobe church in New Mexico that was famously photographed by Ansel Adams and Paul Strand, and painted by Georgia O’Keeffe and John Marin. Presented as a negative, Heinecken’s version transforms an icon of modernism into a murky structure flanked by a pickup truck, telephone wires, and other modern-day debris.

Heinecken’s hybrid photographic paintings, created by applying photographic emulsion on canvas, are well represented in the exhibition. In Figure Horizon #1(1971), Heinecken reprised the cut-and-reassemble techniques from his puzzles and photo-sculptures, sequencing images of sections of the nude female body, to create impossible undulating landscapes. Cliché Vary, a pun on the 19th-century cliché verre process, is comprised of three large-scale modular works, all from 1974: Autoeroticism, Fetishism, and Lesbianism. The works are comprised of separately stretched canvas panels with considerable hand-applied color on the photographic image, invoking clichés associated with autoeroticism, fetishism, and lesbianism. Reminiscent of his cut-and-reassembled pieces, each panel features disjointed views of bodies and fetish objects that never make a whole, and increase in complexity, culminating with Lesbianism, which is made with seven or eight different negatives.

In the mid-1970s, Heinecken experimented with new materials introduced by Polaroid – specifically the SX-70 camera (which required no darkroom or technical know-how) – to produce the series He/She (1975-1980) and, later, Lessons in Posing Subjects (1981-82). Heinecken experimented with different types of instant prints, including the impressive two-panel S.S. Copyright Project: “On Photography” (1978), made the year after the publication of Susan Sontag’s collection of essays On Photography (1977). The S.S. Copyright Project consists of a magnified and doubled picture of Sontag, derived from the book’s dustcover portrait (taken by Jill Krementz). The work equates legibility with physical proximity – from afar, the portraits appear to be grainy enlargements from a negative (or, to contemporary eyes, pixilated low-resolution images), but at close range, it is apparent that the panels are composed of hundreds of small photographic scraps stapled together. The portrait on the left is composed of photographs of Sontag’’ text; the right features random images taken around Heinecken’s studio by his assistant.

Heinecken’s first large-scale sculptural installation, TV/Time Environment (1970), is the earliest in a series of works that address the increasingly dominant presence of television in American culture. In the installation, a positive film transparency of a female nude is placed in front of a functioning television set in an environment that evokes a living room, complete with recliner chair, plastic plant, and rug. Continuing his work with television, Heinecken created videograms – direct captures from the television that were produced by pressing Cibachrome paper onto the screen to expose the sensitized paper. Inaugural Excerpt Videograms (1981) features a composite from the live television broadcast of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration speech and the surrounding celebrations. The work, originally in 27 parts, now in 24, includes randomly chosen excerpts of the oration and news reports of it. Surrealism on TV (1986) explores the idea of transparency and layering using found media images to produce new readings. It features a slide show comprised of more than 200 images loaded into three slide projectors and projected in random order. The images generally fit into broad categories, which include newscasters, animals, TV evangelists, aerobics, and explosions.

Text from the MoMA press release

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Figure Cube' 1965

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Figure Cube
1965
Gelatin silver prints on Masonite
5 7/8 x 5 7/8″ (15 x 15 cm)
The Robert Heinecken Trust. Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Figure in Six Sections' 1965

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Figure in Six Sections
1965
Gelatin silver prints on wood blocks
8 1/2 x 3 x 3″ (21.6 x 7.6 x 7.6 cm)
Collection Kathe Heinecken. Courtesy The Robert Heinecken Trust, Chicago

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Fractured Figure Sections' 1967

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Fractured Figure Sections
1967
Gelatin silver prints on wood blocks
8 1/4 x 3 x 3″ (21 x 7.6 x 7.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Photography Council Fund and Committee on Photography Fund

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'The S.S. Copyright Project: "On Photography"' (Part 1 of 2) 1978

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
The S.S. Copyright Project: “On Photography” (Part 1 of 2)
1978
Collage of black and white instant prints attached to composite board with staples
b 47 13/16 x 47 13/16″ (121.5 x 121.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased as the partial gift of Celeste Bartos

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Recto/Verso #2' 1988

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
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

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Figure Parts / Hair' 1967

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Figure Parts / Hair
1967
Black-and-whtie film transparencies over magazine-page collage
16 x 12″ (40.6 x 30.5 cm)
Collection Karol Heinecken Mora, Los Angeles

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'V.N. Pin Up' 1968

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
V.N. Pin Up
1968
Black-and-white film transparency over magazine-page collage
12 1/2 • 10″ (31.8 • 25.4 cm)
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Gift of Daryl Gerber Stokols

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Typographic Nude' 1965

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Typographic Nude
1965
Gelatin silver print
14 1/2 x 7″ (36.8 x 17.8 cm)
Collection Geofrey and and Laura Wyatt, Santa Barbara, California

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Are You Rea #1' 1968

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Are You Rea #1
1968
Twenty-five gelatin silver prints
Various dimensions
Collection Jeffrey Leifer, San Francisco

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'Are You Rea #25' 1968

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
Are You Rea #25
1968
Twenty-five gelatin silver prints
Various dimensions
Collection Jeffrey Leifer, San Francisco

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931–2006) 'Cybill Shepherd / Phone Sex' 1992

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931–2006)
Cybill Shepherd / Phone Sex
1992
Silver dye bleach print on foamcore
63 x 17″ (160 x 43.2 cm)
The Robert Heinecken Trust, Courtesy of Petzel Gallery, New York

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006) 'MANSMAG: Homage to Werkman and Cavalcade' 1969

 

Robert Heinecken (American, 1931-2006)
MANSMAG: Homage to Werkman and Cavalcade
1969
Offset lithography on bound paper
8 3/4 x 6 5/8″ (22.2 x 16.8 cm)
The Robert Heinecken Trust, Chicago

 

 

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19
Aug
14

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

Exhibition dates: 9th May – 31st August 2014

 

Here’s winking at you, sweetie…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

David McDiarmid Installation photograph of early works

David McDiarmid Installation photograph of early works

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

David McDiarmid. 'Secret Love' 1976

 

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

 

David McDiarmid. 'Secret Love' 1978

 

 

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

 

David McDiarmid. 'Secret Love' 1978 (detail)

 

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

 

David McDiarmid Various artworks from 1978

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Interview with co-curator Simon Maidment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SM: Always a pleasure.

 

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

Simon Maidment is Curator of Contemporary Art at the NGV.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

dm-o-WEB

 

 

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

 

dm-p-WEB

 

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

 

So I walked into the

theatre and lit a cigarette

I looked around. Then I

saw Tony. He lives in

Brooklyn and has a nice

beard and greasy hair.

He didn’t acknowledge

me, but I expected that.

I’d already made it with

him several times before

and each time, he pretended

was the first. He had

even told me his name

once, and that he lived

with a lover. We always

have great sex, but he doesn’t

want me to do anything

but stand there. He has

an incredible mouth…

 

David McDiarmid. 'Disco kwilt' c. 1980

 

David McDiarmid
Disco kwilt
c. 1980
Artbank collection

 

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

 

 

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

 

David McDiarmid. 'Mighty real' (detail) 1991

 

 

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

 

dm-r-WEB

 

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

 

David McDiarmid. 'Body language' 1990

 

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

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

 

dm-v-WEB

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

David McDiarmid. 'Standard bold condensed' 1994

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Peter Tully (1947-1992)

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 David McDiarmid. 'Pictograms' 1995

 

David McDiarmid
Pictograms
1995
Vinyl and reflective plastic on aluminium

 

 

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

David McDiarmid, 1993

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

William Yang. 'Artist David McDiarmid' May 1995

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

David McDiarmid. 'Untitled' 1990-95

 

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

 

David McDiarmid. 'Discard after use' 1990

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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31
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Knud Lonberg-Holm: The Invisible Architect’ at Ubu Gallery, New York Part 2

Exhibition dates: 6th May – 30th September 2014

 

The second part of this posting about the work of architect Knud Lonberg-Holm. “Backside-views of buildings and fire escapes, rather than historicist ornamental facades, are presented in their “unselfconscious beauty” in opposition to traditional, pictorialist architectural photography.” You only have to look at the photographs of the city by Alfred Stieglitz or Berenice Abbott taken at around the same time to notice the difference – less romantic, more “modern” in their geometry and form.

If it weren’t for the shock of seeing 1920s cars at the bottom of some of the images (for example, Detroit, Rear Façade of a Hotel, 1924 below) you could almost believe that they had been made 40 years later, around the time of Bernd and Hilla Becher. These photographs are monumental, industrious but are tinged with humanity – the billboards, cars, people and advertising signs that hover at the bottom or in the deep shadows of the image. Then look at the tonality and atmosphere of the images, including the vibration of light in the two Dazzlescapes (New York, Madison Square and New York, Times Square, both 1923 below).

I don’t think I have ever seen a better collection of images of city architecture.

Marcus

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

 

 

“I’ve always been annoyed by rummaging through the past; the future interests me much more.”

.
Knud Lonberg-Holm

 

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition' West elevation 1922

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition
West elevation
1922
Vintage photograph mounted on board
9 1/8 x 3 5/8 inches (23.2 x 9.2 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition' West view axonometric 1922

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition
West view axonometric
1922
Vintage photograph mounted on board
8 7/8 x 4 5/8 inches (22.5 x 11.7 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Equity Trust Building - Oblique View' 1923

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Equity Trust Building – Oblique View
1923
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 41
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 3/8 x 3 1/4 inches (11.1 x 8.3 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Woolworth Building - Oblique View' 1923

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Woolworth Building – Oblique View
1923
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 40
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches (10.8 x 8.3 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition' Side elevation with Tribune sign visible 1922

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition
Side elevation with Tribune sign visible
1922
Vintage photograph mounted on board
9 1/8 x 4 7/8 inches (23.2 x 12.4 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition' Preliminary side elevation 1922

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Design for the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition
Preliminary side elevation
1922
Photograph mounted on board
9 x 4 5/8 inches (22.9 x 11.7 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

“Throughout the 1920s, he traveled to other American cities like Chicago and New York City, where, with a 35-millimeter handheld Leica, he took worm’s-eye views and extreme close-ups of skyscrapers, the back sides of buildings, fire escapes, billboards, and dazzling “lightscapes,” ignoring – for the most part – the facades of the buildings. Some of these images would appear, uncredited, in Erich Mendelsohn’s 1926 publication Amerika: Bilderbuch eines Architekten, the first book on the “International Style” in American architecture. (Only in an expanded, later edition from 1928 is Lonberg-Holm credited for 17 of the images.)

Soon the photographs cropped up in design and architecture journals in Holland, Germany, and Russia. “They received acclaim for being progressive and dynamic presentations of technology, commerce, and urbanization,” says Adam Boxer, founder and owner of Ubu Gallery. “To expose Lonberg-Holm’s role as photographer means one can situate him in his deserved role – a pioneer of New Photography.” As a correspondent for the avant-garde, having his images and writings appear in radical European Modernist reviews – such as the Functionalist-Constructivist Swiss bulletin ABC Beitrage zum Bauen (Contributions on Building) and the Dutch i10 – were of crucial importance, since they circulated amongst members of the European vanguard. By the 1930s, however, Lonberg-Holm had given up architecture for marketing research, and his photographs, never signed or dated, no longer circulated. …

Lonberg-Holm also questioned how architecture was practiced and he pioneered the idea of the life cycle of a building. Decades before William McDonough discovered cradle-to-cradle thinking, Lonberg-Holm had been trying to put across the concept that all buildings, like all organisms, are subject to a life cycle, as predictable and as inevitable as the cycles in nature. “The building cycle involves research, design, construction, use, and elimination – and repeat,” wrote an editor in the January 1960 issue of Architectural Forum. “One of Lonberg-Holm’s chief contentions is that design that anticipates the cycle as a whole makes each succeeding step more rational and easier… Lonberg-Holm’s principle, ‘Anticipate remodeling in the initial design,’ carries a corollary, which might be put this way, in keeping with the very important principle of design articulation: ‘Design each “system” in the building – the structural system, the heating or the air-conditioning system, the wiring, the plumbing, etc. – to be self-contained for easy assembly, with interconnections to other systems held to a minimum and made easy to alter.'”

Extract from Paul Makovsky. “The Invisible Architect of Invisible Architecture,” on the Metropolis website [Online] Cited 18/07/2014

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit
1924
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 67
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches (10.8 x 8.3 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit, Rear Areaway' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit, Rear Areaway
1924
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 91
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches (11.4 x 8.9 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

During the 1920s, Lonberg-Holm traveled to American cities like Detroit, Chicago, and New York. With his 35-millimeter Leica camera, he took extreme close-ups of skyscrapers (such as this rear view Detroit Hotel, above), the back sides of buildings, fire escapes, billboards, and dazzling nighttime views.

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit
1924
variant cropping reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 21
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 3/8 x 3 3/8 inches (11.1 x 8.6 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit, Rear Façade of a Hotel' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit, Rear Façade of a Hotel
1924
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 89
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 3 3/8 inches (11.4 x 8.6 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Chicago, Skyscraper of the Second Period' c. prior to 1926

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Chicago, Skyscraper of the Second Period
c. prior to 1926
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 77 (right)
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 3/8 x 3 3/8 inches (11.1 x 8.6 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

KLH_18_HR-WEB

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Chicago, 2 Skyscrapers
c. prior to 1926
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 75
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches (11.4 x 8.9 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm: The Invisible Architect

Lonberg-Holm was the first architect in my knowledge to talk about the ultimately invisible architecture. In 1929, when I first met him, he said the greatest architect in history would be the one who finally developed the capability to give humanity completely effective environmental control without any visible structure and machinery. Thus we have in our day an unsung Leonardo of the building industry, whose scientific foresight and design competence are largely responsible for the present world-around state of advancement of the building arts.

.
Buckminster Fuller, 1968

 

The historical documents in this collection represent a hitherto unexplored aspect of the influence of European modernist architects – specifically, those who emigrated to the United States early and voluntarily, before the rise of fascism necessitated the wholesale evacuation of the European avant-garde. The seemingly disparate archive of photographs, drawings, diagrams and correspondence can be grouped around a unifying theme: the realization of the avant-garde ambition of integration and control of architectural production through industrialization; and around a central figure: the architect Knud Lonberg-Holm. The documents bear witness to a complex history that is not easily tracked elsewhere. This is due, in part, to the fact that they bridge two continents, and in part because they unveil processes of reform, such as the scientific conversion of the institutions of architectural practice and the transformation of the project, that were aimed at the most mundane level of building, not at exceptional structures. Moreover, the documents show this professional and anonymous destiny together in line with inversely artistic and revolutionary origins. Thus, the archive documents a phenomenon of cultural disappearance, bringing missing substance to the link between the Americanism of the European avant-garde and the history of modern architecture in the United States.

A native of Denmark, which he leaves in 1923 for the United States, Knud Lonberg-Holm (1895-1972) is the emblematic figure of this disappearance. Initially considered a “pioneer of modern architecture” by the anthropologists of the 1920s, and even held representative of “the space-time conception” by Henry Russell Hitchcock, his true contributions will be ever more unacknowledged as they become more fundamental. First of the modernist émigrés in the United States, he becomes the obliged correspondent for the European avant-garde, in particular for the De Stijl group and also the Berlin Constructivists, with whom he was closest. He was a contributor to both ABC and i10, a member of ASNOVA, a collaborator of Buckminster Fuller, and also the American delegate to CIAM with Richard Neutra. His experiments with photography in the early 1920s (diffused widely by J.J.P. Oud, Moholy-Nagy, Erich Mendelsohn, and others) were received with critical success in Europe and the USSR. This is due as much to the revolutionary use of extreme viewpoints from below and above, as to the renewal of the iconographic sources of modernism: the substitution of the imagery of the grain elevators and the “balancing of the masses,” for an aesthetic of structure and tension gleaned from the metallic skeletons of unfinished skyscrapers. In Lonberg-Holm, this aesthetic schism is accompanied by a renouncement of the project – a sort of Duchampian abandonment of the traditional identity of the architect, which intervenes at the moment he arrives in his work at a controlled resolution of the opposing influences of rationalism and neo-plasticism, for example in the McBride Residence project of 1926.

Lonberg-Holm’s institutional itinerary begins at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1924-1925, where he introduces a basic design course similar to that of the Soviet Vkhutemas. Moving to New York in 1929, he enters the organization of the F.W. Dodge publishing corporation, initially at the journal The Architectural Record, where he devises both content and format, and then as the head of the research department of Sweet’s Catalog Service, the indispensable architect’s handbook of building products. The reorganization of Sweet’s Catalog, perhaps Lonberg-Holm’s most tangible contribution to modern architectural production in America, gives substance to his doctrinaire activity of the 1930s, concerned with urban obsolescence, cycles of production, and information theory. In collaboration with Czech designer Ladislav Sutnar, Sweet’s Catalog becomes a complete oeuvre of industrial and plastic organization. Its critical and enduring importance in the process of architectural production makes it an implemented avant-garde project, at an appreciable scale, and testament to Lonberg-Holm’s heretofore-unacknowledged influence on the development of a truly modern American architecture.

Marc Dessauce, 2003

 

Marc Dessauce (1962-2004) was an architectural historian who lived and worked in NYC and Paris. His research, exhibitions, and writings focused on the foundations of both American and European avant-garde architecture in the twentieth century. Marc assembled this arhive between 1986 and 1995 when he was a PhD candidate at Columbia University in the department of Art History. His book The Inflatable Moment: Pneumatics and Protest in ’68, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 1999.

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'New York, Madison Square' 1923

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
New York, Madison Square
1923
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 31
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches (10.5 x 8.3 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'New York, Times Square' 1923

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
New York, Times Square
1923
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 6
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/4 x 3 3/8 inches (10.8 x 8.6 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Amerika: Bilderbuch eines Architekten

Seventeen of Lonberg-Holm’s photographs appeared uncredited in Erich Mendelsohn’s 1926 book, a very influential volume on modern American architecture. Only in a later, expanded edition was Lonberg-Holm given credit. El Lissitzky was so impressed with Amerika that he said the volume “thrills us like a dramatic film. Before our eyes move pictures that are absolutely unique. In order to understand some of the photographs you must lift the book over your head and rotate it.”

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Sweet's Display Exposition des Techniques Américianes de l’Habitation et de l'Ubranisme (Information 1, 2, 3)' Paris, Grand Palais, June 14-July 21, 1946

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Sweet’s Display
Exposition des Techniques Américianes de l’Habitation et de l’Ubranisme
(Information 1, 2, 3)
Paris, Grand Palais, June 14-July 21, 1946
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/8 x 7 1/4 inches (18.1 x 18.4 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Sweet's Display Exposition des Techniques Américianes de l'Habitation et de l'Ubranisme (Biblioteque SS)' Paris, Grand Palais, June 14-July 21, 1946

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Sweet’s Display
Exposition des Techniques Américianes de l’Habitation et de l’Ubranisme
(Biblioteque SS)
Paris, Grand Palais, June 14-July 21, 1946
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/8 x 7 1/8 inches (18.1 x 18.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

A diagram from Development Index

 

A diagram from Development Index illustrating the interrelations of cultural and social factors, which Lonberg-Holm and Larson considered necessary to the practice of design. The index was a screening system intended to manage incoming and outgoing streams of data.

Larson and Knud Lonberg-Holm later collaborated on the idea of a “Development Index” – a systems-thinking approach and research tool that studied the interaction of human activity, environmental relations, and communications with the idea to improve the built environment. It was an attempt to manage information flow and, in a pre-Internet sort of way, provide relevant data through a centralized system, using what was then state-of-the-art media such as microfilm, microfiche, and electronics.

 

Wendingen "Skyscraper as a solution of the Housing Problem" No. 3, 1923

 

Wendingen
“Skyscraper as a solution of the Housing Problem”
No. 3, 1923
Paperbound volume
12 7/8 x 13 inches (32.7 x 33 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

'Shelter' Cover design by Knud Lonberg-Holm April 1938

 

Shelter
Cover design by Knud Lonberg-Holm
April 1938
Magazine cover
11 x 9 inches (27.9 x 22.9 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

'Shelter now' Cover design by Knud Lonberg-Holm Vol. 2, No. 4, May 1932

 

Shelter now
Cover design by Knud Lonberg-Holm
Vol. 2, No. 4, May 1932
Magazine cover
12 x 9 inches (30.5 x 22.9 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

The cover of a catalog for 'Multi-Measure Metal Enclosures'

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm with Latislav Sutnar
Multi-Measure (MM) Metal Enclosures
c. 1942-1944
Cover of catalog
11 x 8 1/2 inches (27.9 x 21.6 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

The cover of a catalog for Multi-Measure Metal Enclosures, Inc., designed with Ladislav Sutnar between 1942 and 1944. Lonberg-Holm collaborated with architect C. Theodore Larson at F.W. Dodge Corporation’s Sweet’s Catalog division to develop a systematic approach to organizing the information needed by the building industry. When graphic designer Ladislav Sutnar later joined him, they radically altered the way business information was streamlined, designed, and packaged, becoming pioneers of “information design” along the way.

 

i10 "America, Reflections" (by Knud Lonberg-Holm) No. 15, October 20, 1928

 

i10
“America, Reflections” (by Knud Lonberg-Holm)
No. 15, October 20, 1928
Paperbound volume
11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches (29.8 x 21 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Lonberg-Holm’s 1928 essay on America for i10 – focused on the country’s obsession with time and efficiency – shows that the fields of communications, the car industry, elevators, railways, and the movie industry were more important to him. He wrote: “Time-study is a profession. And a highly paid profession. What the [Saint] Peters church was for the European Renaissance, Henry Ford’s assembly line is for America of today. The most perfect expression for a civilization whose god is efficiency. Detroit is the Mecca of this civilization. And the pilgrims come from all over the world to meditate before this always-moving line.”

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of "Modern Architecture" at Fifth Avenue' c. 1923-1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of “Modern Architecture” at Fifth Avenue
c. 1923-1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches (11.4 x 7 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Automobile Plant Detroit' 1931

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Automobile Plant
Detroit, 1931
Vintage gelatin silver print
5 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches (13.3 x 10.8 cm)
Titled on verso
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of Longberg-Holm' c. 1923-1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of Longberg-Holm
c. 1923-1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches (11.4 x 7 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. '48th Street/St. Nicholas Church scaffolding' c. 1923-1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
48th Street/St. Nicholas Church scaffolding
c. 1923-1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches (11.4 x 7 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of Antenna' c. 1923-1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of Antenna
c. 1923-1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches (11.4 x 8.9 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Note from Iwao Yamawaki to Knud Lonberg-Holm Dessau, July 9, 1931

 

Note from Iwao Yamawaki to Knud Lonberg-Holm
Dessau, July 9, 1931
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm Iwao Yamawaki (attributed) 'Knud & his wife Ethel outside of Bauhaus' 1931

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Iwao Yamawaki (attributed)

Knud & his wife Ethel outside of Bauhaus
1931
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 3/8 x 3 3/8 inches (11.1 x 8.6 cm)
Dated & inscribed on verso
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

This photo, attributed to the Japanese Bauhaus-trained photographer Iwao Yamawaki, shows Lonberg-Holm and his wife, Ethel (who later became an art director for J. Walter Thompson advertising agency), at the Bauhaus in 1931. A friend of Bauhaus instructors László Moholy-Nagy, Josef Albers, Hannes Meyer, Walter Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe, Lonberg-Holm taught the first foundational course based on the Bauhaus model at the University of Michigan in 1924.

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm (1895-1972)

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm (1895-1972), an overlooked but highly influential Modernist architect, photographer, and pioneer of information design
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

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26
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Knud Lonberg-Holm: The Invisible Architect’ at Ubu Gallery, New York Part 1

Exhibition dates: 6th May – 30th September 2014

 

I am so excited by this monster two-part posting about the work of architect Knud Lonberg-Holm. Not only are his drawings and models incredible but his photographs of industry and skyscrapers, taken mainly between 1924-26, are a revelation. The textures and inky blackness of his Dazzlescapes and the New Photography images of skyscrapers (both in Part 2) mark these images as the greatest collection of photographs of skyscrapers that I have ever seen. More comment tomorrow but for now just look at the dark Gotham-esque photograph The New – The Coming, Detroit, Streetcars (1924, below). The streetcar reminds me of the armoured trains so popular during the inter-war years and during World War II. And what a title: The New – The Coming…

Marcus

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

 

 

“Lonberg-Holm was the first architect in my knowledge ever to talk about the ultimately invisible architecture. In 1929, when I first met him, he said the greatest architect in history would be the one who finally developed the capability to give humanity completely effective environmental control without any visible structure and machinery.”

.
Buckminster Fuller

 

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'The New - The Coming, Detroit, Streetcars' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
The New – The Coming, Detroit, Streetcars
1924
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 73
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches (8.3 x 10.8 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'View from the roof' Detroit, 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
View from the roof
Detroit, 1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
2 3/4 x 4 1/2 inches (7 x 11.4 cm) approx.
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit
1924
reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 71 (top)
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 3/8 x 4 3/8 inches (8.6 x 11.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit, A New Street' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit, A New Street
1924
reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 71 (bottom)
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 3/8 x 4 3/8 inches (8.6 x 11.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

“Ubu Gallery is pleased to present Knud Lonberg-Holm: The Invisible Architect, a debut exhibition devoted to this overlooked, yet highly influential, 20th Century modernist. Never-before-seen photographs, architectural drawings, letters, graphic design, and ephemera from Lonberg-Holm’s remarkably diverse career will be on view through August 1, 2014. The exhibition, which consists of selections from the extensive archive assembled by architectural historian Marc Dessauce, will solidify the importance of this emblematic figure in early 20th Century cultural and architectural history. Metropolis Magazine, the national publication of architecture and design, will publish an article on Knud Lonberg-Holm to coincide with this groundbreaking exhibition.

Born in Denmark, Knud Lonberg-Holm (January 15, 1895 – January 2, 1972), was an architect, photographer, author, designer, researcher, and teacher. Lonberg-Holm’s early work in Denmark and Germany initially associated him with the Berlin Constructivist and Dutch De Stijl groups. An émigré to America in 1923, Lonberg-Holm was a fundamental correspondent with prominent European architects and their modernist counterparts in the U.S. The exhibition will feature a selection of letters to Lonberg-Holm from a pantheon of the European avant-garde including László Moholy-Nagy, Walter Gropius, Theo Van Doesburg, Buckminster Fuller, Hannes Meyer, J.J.P. Oud, El Lissitzky, and Richard Neutra.

From 1924–1925, Lonberg-Holm was a colleague of Eliel Saarinen at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he taught a course in basic design modeled on the famed Bauhaus Vorkurs, the first-ever introduced in U.S. design schools. An agent of inter-continental communication, his reports on the state of American architecture appeared abroad. Lonberg-Holm’s 1928 article, Amerika: Reflections, featured buildings on the University of Michigan campus and appeared in the Dutch avant-garde publication i10, which employed Moholy-Nagy as its photo editor. The article not only contributed to international discourse on the building industry, but also touched on the “time-space convention,” a subject Lonberg-Holm would explore throughout his career. This publication, among others, will be on display.

Lonberg-Holm’s interest in American industry is best viewed in his collection of photographs taken between 1924-1926. These works document his pioneering views of industry and technology in burgeoning, jazz-age New York, Detroit, and Chicago; they would appear later, un-credited, in Erich Mendelsohn’s seminal 1926 publication Amerika, the first book on the ‘International Style’ in American architecture. Thirteen vintage photographs reproduced in Amerika will be on exhibit, as well as additional early photographs depicting technological advancements, such as cable cars and radio antennae, American culture in mass crowds and billboards, and the commercial architecture of skyscrapers and factories. Backside-views of buildings and fire escapes, rather than historicist ornamental facades, are presented in their “unselfconscious beauty” in opposition to traditional, pictorialist architectural photography. The content of the works coupled with progressive view points, like worm’s eye perspectives and extreme close-ups, align them squarely within the then emerging ‘New Photography.’ El Lissitzky wrote that the dynamic photos “grip us like a dramatic film.”1 Mendelsohn’s publication, featuring Lonberg-Holm’s dynamic photography, received immediate acclaim, domestically and abroad.

While still in Germany, Lonberg-Holm created a submission for the Chicago Tribune Tower competition of 1922. Although never officially submitted, the project was published widely in magazines and newspapers, alongside other prominent architects’ designs. From his office in the historically designed Donner Schloss in Altona, Germany, Lonberg-Holm envisioned a modern construction for Chicago that incorporated references to American mass culture, specifically the automobile. The West elevations on view show the Chicago Tribune sign, which includes circular signage reminiscent of headlights. The Side elevation exhibited clearly demonstrates how the printing plant function of the ground floors of the building, rendered in black, are visually distinct from the offices of the higher floors, rendered in white with black accents for visual continuity throughout the building. Lonberg- Holm’s proposed construction, whose outward visual design distinguished its internal functions, was reproduced in L’Architecture vivante, La Cite, Le Courbusier’s Almanach d’architecture in France and Walter Gropius’ Internationale Architektur in Munich; the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung displayed his building next to that of Mies van der Rohe and a full spread devoted to the skyscraper, featuring Lonberg-Holm’s Chicago design adjacent to plans by Walter Gropius, Saarinen and van der Rohe, appeared in H. Th. Wijdeveld’s November/December 1923 issue of the innovative publication Wendingen.

The drawings Lonberg-Holm created during this first decade as an émigré are striking for their early use of European modernist, particularly Neo-plastic, influences. He was close with the DeStijl movement in Holland, and corresponded with both Theo van Doesburg and J.J.P. Oud, with whom he would continue to work within CIAM, the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Modern. Early renderings done by Lonberg-Holm in the U.S. demonstrate an affinity for DeStijl principles. His plans for the 1926 MacBride residence in Ann Arbor are dynamic and asymmetrical, with intersecting planes in simple primary colors. Surely the first American allusion to Gerrit Rietvel’s iconic 1924 Schröder House in Utrecht, Holland, the MacBride residence is one of the first ‘International Style’ modernist houses designed in the Western hemisphere.

Lonberg-Holm’s importance to and knowledge of European architectural trends resulted in an invitation by Jane Heap to participate in the 1927 landmark New York exhibition, Machine Age, which was heralded as “the first international exposition of architecture held in America.” This exhibition, held at the New York Scientific American Building, May 16-28, stressed the new mechanical world and its key player, the Engineer. Lonberg-Holm’s 1925 Detroit project, Radio Broadcasting Station, was featured. The New York’s review of the exhibition explicitly referenced Lonberg-Holm’s project, noting its “delicacy and exquisite technique of execution.”

Lonberg-Holm worked with the F.W. Dodge corporation for 30 years, first in the division responsible for The Architectural Record (1930-1932), and then as head of the research department of Sweet’s Catalog Service (1932-1960.) At The Architectural Record, Lonberg-Holm acted as research editor and wrote technical news, a precursor to his lifelong interest in data-driven analytics. During his New York based employment, Lonberg-Holm’s involvement with international architectural trends did not diminish. In addition to prolonged correspondence with the various directors of the Bauhaus, including Hannes Meyer, he and his wife Ethel would visit the Bauhaus at Dessau in 1931. In 1946, Lonberg-Holm was also ultimately a candidate to replace Moholy-Nagy as director of the Institute of Design in Chicago.

At the same time, Lonberg-Holm was involved in domestic architecture and building theory. Richard Neutra would reach out to Lonberg-Holm in 1928 for illustrations and photographs to include in his account of the modern architecture movement in the US; he would approach him again in 1932 to lecture on the West Coast. Lonberg-Holm and Neutra were the “American” representatives to CIAM. It was Lonberg-Holm who nominated Buckminster Fuller and Theodore Larson for membership into CIAM in 1932.

What little scholarship exists about Knud Lonberg-Holm briefly examines his nearly twenty-year relationship with the Czech pioneering graphic designer Ladislav Sutnar, with whom Lonberg-Holm worked at Sweet’s Catalog Service. From 1942 through 1960 at the research department of Sweet’s, the bible for all the building trades, Lonberg-Holm and Sutnar revolutionized the catalog by standardizing information techniques. They presented systemized communication through a simple, modern, and intelligible visual language that influenced all areas of architectural and graphic design. Together, Lonberg-Holm and Sutnar co-authored Catalog Design (1944), Designing Information (1947), and Catalog Design Progress (1950).

The vital roles and communication between city planning, architecture, and civil productivity where important to Lonberg-Holm and would be explored throughout his career. In A. Lawerence Kocher’s letter to Lonberg-Holm, the article “Architecture-or organized space” is referenced. This 1929 essay, published in Detroit, addressed the “building problem” in the US – the “an-organic structure of its cities” – and proposed “a new conception of city-planning based on a clearer understanding of the organic functions of a community.” Lonberg-Holm would be an important participant in the city planning survey of Detroit, one of CIAM’s analytical initiatives in 1932-1933. Field Patterns and Fields of Activity, a visual diagram further illustrating the interconnectivity of intelligence, welfare, production, and control in a community, graphically illustrates these early principles.

Collaboration was critical to Lonberg-Holm, who would work with Theodore Larson to improve information indexing and the production cycle. Field Patterns, as well as the visuals for Planning for Productivity (1940), were components of Lonberg-Holm’s collaboration with Theodore Larson. Lonberg-Holm sought to apply some of the theories set forth in Development Index. This collaborative project with Larson was published by the University of Michigan in 1953 and focused on the relationship between community, industry, and education, analytical theories that were proposed by Lonberg-Holm during the formation of the University’s Laboratory of Architectural Research. Lonberg-Holm’s 1949 visual diagram of the relationship between the university, the building industry, and the community, is on view, as well as the Sutnar-designed steps of Planning for Productivity. Lonberg-Holm had returned to the University as a guest lecturer and professor in the late 1940s and early 1950s. At the suggestion of Lonberg-Holm, Theordore Larson was among the new faculty hired at the University in 1948, along with Walter Sanders and William Muschenheim, whom Lonberg-Holm had worked with in the Detroit survey.

In 1949, Lonberg-Holm was issued a Dymaxion License and became a trustee to the Fuller Institute/Research Foundation; among the trustees are his contemporaries George Nelson and Charles Eames. Initially meeting Buckminster Fuller in c. 1929, he and Fuller would correspond throughout Lonberg-Holm’s life. Lonberg-Holm was a member of the Structural Studies Associates (SSA), a short-lived group of architects in the 1930s surrounding Fuller and his briefly published architectural magazine Shelter. A number of Shelter issues are on view, many of which have contributions by Lonberg-Holm; the cover of the May 1932 issue was designed by Lonberg-Holm. Planning for Productivity and Development Index were later data-driven projects that furthered the SSA’s and Fuller’s principles – that the evolution of science and technology would influence social progress and could be beneficial to the community only through research, analysis and macroapplication.

Arriving to the US a decade before his European contemporaries, Lonberg-Holm occupied a unique position as a cultural bridge, communicating between the US and Europe in a period when the state of art and architecture was radically changing. He exposed his students and colleagues to European protagonists of avant-garde architecture theory while enthusiastically exploring American industry and building. Exclusively through collaboration, Lonberg-Holm worked to modernize both architecture and design. Integral to Lonberg-Holm’s principles was that technology alone could not suffice as the sole perpetuator of architecture – advancements in building and new designs needed to promote human culture in an ever-evolving manner where new information was continuously integrated into design theory. Throughout his career, Lonberg-Holm embodied the antithesis of the stereotype architect, egocentric and insulated from the community in which his designs were to exist. From his beginnings at The Architectural Record to his final project, Plan for Europe 2000: Role of the Mass Media in Information and Communication, Lonberg-Holm held to the belief that a collective approach, with applied research, could form a generative knowledge base that could be cultivated for altruistic means.”

Text from the Ubu Gallery website

1. Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present, London, Seeker & Warburg, 1982, p. 1.

 

'Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm' New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)

 

Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm
New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)
Vintage gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 10 inches (17.5 x 25.4 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

'Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm' New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)

 

Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm
New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 7/8 x 9 1/2 inches (20 x 24.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Le Corbusier at CIAM Conference' c. 1954-1964

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Le Corbusier at CIAM Conference
c. 1954-1964
Vintage gelatin silver print
5 5/8 x 8 3/8 inches (14.3 x 21.3 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Buckminster Fuller, Lonberg-Holm and other' Bayside, New York Nd

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Buckminster Fuller, Lonberg-Holm and other
Bayside, New York
Nd
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 x 4 1/4 inches (7.6 x 10.8 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of the Dymaxion Car' Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of the Dymaxion Car
Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 9 3/4 inches (19.4 x 24.8 cm)
Stamped on verso
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

In July of 1933, the Dymaxion car was introduced in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where it caused a great stir. Lonberg-Holm can be seen holding the car door open while the artist Diego Rivera (who was in attendance with his wife and artist Frida Kahlo) looks on, coat on his arm.
Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo' Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933
Vintage gelatin silver print
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Radio Broadcasting Station' Photograph of Model Detroit, 1925

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Radio Broadcasting Station
Photograph of Model
Detroit, 1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 7/8 x 6 7/8 inches (12.4 x 17.5 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Radio Broadcasting Station' Photograph of Model Detroit, 1925

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Radio Broadcasting Station

Photograph of Model
Detroit, 1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
5 3/8 x 7 1/2 inches (13.7 x 19.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of Chicago's new skyline North of Randolph Street All new since 1926 except Wrigley and Tribune buildings' May 1929

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of Chicago’s new skyline
North of Randolph Street
All new since 1926 except Wrigley and Tribune buildings
May 1929
Vintage gelatin silver print
2 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches (5.7 x 11.4 cm)
Titled on verso
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

Ubu Gallery
416 East 59th Street
New York 10022
Tel: 212 753 4444

Opening hour:
Monday – Friday 11 am – 6 pm

Ubu Gallery website

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18
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Posing Beauty in African American Culture’ at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia

Exhibition dates: 26th April – 27th July 2014

 

An exhibition that questions the ways in which our contemporary understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body and invites a deeper reading of beauty, its impact on mass culture and individuals and how the display of beauty affects the ways in which we see and interpret the world and ourselves. According to author and historian Barbara Summers: “Beauty is power. And the struggle to have the entire range of Black beauty recognized and respected is a serious one.”

If beauty is only skin deep, and colour deep, why the need to differentiate? Surely it doesn’t matter what colour your skin, beauty just is. You know it when you see it, regardless of colour. Not everything is about power; not everything is a site of contestation… to me, recognising true beauty is an acknowledgement of the light that shines from within, not something that is imposed from without. When you see true beauty, you know it instinctively. Intuitively. Enough of this posing – are you image or essence?

Marcus

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

 

“That there are so few images of African-American women circulating in popular culture or in fine art is disturbing; the pathology behind it is dangerous … We got a sistah in the White House, and yet mediated culture excludes us, denies us, erases us. But in the face of refusal, I insist on making work that includes us as part of the greater whole,” said Carrie Mae Weems in a 2009 interview conducted by Dawoud Bey for BOMB Magazine.

 

 

Bruce Davidson. 'Body Builder on Venice Beach, California' 1964

 

Bruce Davidson
Body Builder on Venice Beach, California
1964
Gelatin silver print
8 1/4 x 12 1/4 in.
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Leonard Freed. 'Harlem Fashion Show, Harlem' 1963

 

Leonard Freed
Harlem Fashion Show, Harlem
1963
Gelatin silver print
17 x 21 ¼ inches
Magnum Photos

 

Theodore Fonville Winans (American, 1911-1992) 'Dixie Belles, Central Louisiana' 1938

 

Theodore Fonville Winans (American, 1911-1992)
Dixie Belles, Central Louisiana
1938
Courtesy of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and Bob Winans

 

Dave Heath. 'Washington Square, New York City' 1960

 

Dave Heath
Washington Square, New York City
1960
Silver gelatin print

 

Malick Sidibé. 'Regardez-moi!' 1962

 

Malick Sidibé
Regardez-moi!
1962
Gelatin silver print
50 x 60 cm – 19,5 x 23,5 inches
© Malick Sidibé

 

Anthony Barboza. 'Pat Evans' c. 1970s

 

Anthony Barboza
Pat Evans
c. 1970s
Digital print
24½ x 24 inches
Courtesy of the photographer

 

 

“Exploring contemporary understandings of beauty, Posing Beauty in African American Culture frames the notion of aesthetics, race, class, and gender within art, popular culture, and political contexts. The exhibition – and its companion, Identity Shifts – will be on view April 26 – July 27, 2014.

Posing Beauty in African American Culture examines the contested ways in which African and African American beauty has been represented in historical and contemporary contexts through a diverse range of media including photography, film, video, fashion, advertising, and other forms of popular culture such as music and the Internet. The exhibition explores contemporary understandings of beauty by framing the notion of aesthetics, race, class, and gender within art, popular culture, and political contexts. The exhibition is organized by the Department of Photography & Imaging at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, traveled by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, and curated by Dr. Deborah Willis. The touring exhibition is made possible in part by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation. Additional support has been provided by grants from the Tisch School of the Arts Office of the Dean’s Faculty Development Fund, Visual Arts Initiative Award from the NYU Coordinating Council for Visual Arts, and NYU’s Advanced Media Studio. Drawn from public and private collections, Posing Beauty features approximately 85 works by artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Eve Arnold, Gary Winogrand, Sheila Pree Bright, Leonard Freed, Renee Cox, Anthony Barboza, Bruce Davidson, Mickalene Thomas, and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.

Posing Beauty is divided into three thematic sections. The first theme, Constructing a Pose, considers the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer. The second theme, Body and Image, questions the ways in which our contemporary understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body. The last section, Modeling Beauty and Beauty Contests, invites a deeper reading of beauty, its impact on mass culture and individuals and how the display of beauty affects the ways in which we see and interpret the world and ourselves.

According to author and historian Barbara Summers: “Beauty is power. And the struggle to have the entire range of Black beauty recognized and respected is a serious one.””

Press release from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts website

 

Renee Cox. 'Baby Back', from the series 'American Family' 2001

 

Renee Cox
Baby Back,
from the series American Family
2001
Archival digital print
30 x 40 in.
Courtesy of the artist

 

Lauren Kelley. 'Pickin'' 2007

 

Lauren Kelley
Pickin’
2007
Color-coupler print
23 x 23⅛ inches
Courtesy of the photographer

 

Anthony Barboza. ''Marvelous' Marvin Hagler, boxer' 1981

 

Anthony Barboza
‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler, boxer
1981
Gelatin silver print

 

Jeffrey Henson Scales. 'Denzel Washington, Los Angeles' 1990s

 

Jeffrey Henson Scales
Denzel Washington, Los Angeles
1990s

 

Ken Ramsay. 'Susan Taylor, as Model' c. 1970s

 

Ken Ramsay
Susan Taylor, as Model
c. 1970s
Gelatin silver print
26.5 x 20 inches
Courtesy of the photographer

 

John W. Mosley. 'Atlantic City, Four Women' c. 1960s

 

John W. Mosley
Atlantic City, Four Women
c. 1960s
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16 inches
Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University

 

Edward Curtis. 'A Desert Queen' 1898 (printed 2009)

 

Edward Curtis
A Desert Queen
1898 (printed 2009)
Modern digital print
20 x 16 inches,
Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries

 

Huey-P-Newton-WEB

 

Stephen Shames
Huey P Newton holds a Bob Dylan album at home after he was released from jail
c. 1967
Photograph
© Stephen Shames

 

Huey Percy Newton (February 17, 1942 – August 22, 1989) was an African-American political and urban activist who, along with Bobby Seale, co-founded the Black Panther Party in 1966. Newton had a long series of confrontations with law enforcement, including several convictions, while he participated in political activism. He continued to pursue an education, eventually earning a Ph.D. in Social Science. Newton spent time in prison for manslaughter and was involved in a shooting that killed a police officer, for which he was later acquitted. In 1989 he was shot and killed in Oakland, California by Tyrone “Double R” Robinson, a member of the Black Guerrilla Family. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Charles "Teenie" Harris. 'Mary Louise Harris on Mulford Street, Homewood, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania' c. 1930-1939

 

Charles “Teenie” Harris
Mary Louise Harris on Mulford Street, Homewood, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
c. 1930-1939
Gelatin silver print
20 x 16 cm
© 2004 Carnegie Museum of Art, Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive

 

Jeffrey Henson Scales. 'Young Man in Plaid, New York City' 1992

 

Jeffrey Henson Scales
Young Man in Plaid, New York City
1992
Digital print
44.5 x 44 inches
Courtesy of the photographer

 

 

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
200 N. Boulevard
Richmond, Virginia USA

Opening hours:
Sat – Wed: 10 am – 5 pm
Thu + Fri: 10 am – 9 pm

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts website

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08
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Robert Mapplethorpe’ at the Grand Palais, Paris

Exhibition dates: 26th March – 13th July 2014

Grand Palais
Galerie sud-est, entrée avenue Winston Churchill

 

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

 

 

“I have boundless admiration for the naked body. I worship it.”

“I was a Catholic boy, I went to church every Sunday. A church has a certain magic and mystery for a child. It still shows in how I arrange things. It’s always little altars.”

“I am looking for perfection in form. I do that with portraits. I do it with cocks. I do it with flowers.”

.
Robert Mapplethorpe

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Grand Palais, Paris 2014

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Grand Palais, Paris 2014

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Grand Palais, Paris 2014

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Grand Palais, Paris 2014

 

Installation views of the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe at the Grand Palais, Paris 2014
© Didier Plowy pour la Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais, Paris 2014

 

 

“The exhibition will present over 250 works making it one of the largest retrospective shows for this artist ever held in a museum. It will cover Mapplethorpe’s entire career as a photographer, from the Polaroids of the early 1970s to the portraits from the late 1980s, touching on his sculptural nudes and still lifes, and sadomasochism.

The focus on his two muses Patti Smith and Lisa Lyon explores the theme of women and femininity and reveals a less known aspect of the photographer’s work. The challenge of this exhibition is to show that Mapplethorpe is a great classical artist, who addressed issues in art using photography as he might have used sculpture. It also puts Mapplethorpe’s art into the context of the New York art scene in the 1970-1980s.

In his interview with Janet Kardon in 1987, Mapplethorpe explained that photography in the 1970s was the perfect medium for a fast-paced time. He did not really choose photography; in a way it was photography that chose him. Later in the same interview, he said “If I had been born one hundred or two hundred years ago, I might have been a sculptor, but photography is a very quick way to see, to make a sculpture. Lisa Lyon reminded me of Michelangelo’s subjects, because he did muscular women.”

Mapplethorpe positioned himself from the outset as an Artist, with a capital A. Unlike Helmut Newton, who as a teenager already wanted to be a fashion photographer, and imposed his vision of the world and photography, making it an art in its own right, Robert Mapplethorpe is a sculptor at heart, a plastic artist driven by the question of the body and its sexuality and obsessed by the search for perfect form.

Like Man Ray, Mapplethorpe wanted to be “a creator of images” rather than a photographer, “a poet” rather than a documentarist. In the catalogue for the Milan exhibition which compared the two artists, Bruno Cora recalls the parallels in their lives and works: “Before becoming masterly photographers, Man Ray and Mapplethorpe had both been painters and sculptors, creators of objects; they both lived in Brooklyn in New York; they both made portraits of the intellectuals of their time; and they were both incisive explorers of the nude form, its sculptural qualities and the energy emanating from it.”

Mapplethorpe was an artist before being a photographer. His images come from a pictorial culture in which we find Titian (The Flaying of Marsyas / Dominick and Elliot), David, Dali, and even the great artists of the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo, Piero della Francesca, Bernini …

As in Huysmans’s novel, the exhibition is a countdown for this other dandy from the end of another world, Robert Mapplethorpe. It starts with his self-portrait with a skull-headed cane, the image of a young man already old, the tragedy of a life cut down in full flight by AIDS. But his almost royal final posture, as if beyond death, still (just) alive but already in the posterity of his oeuvre, seems to beckon us with a gesture of his pastoral cane to follow him into the world that he constructed in twenty years of photography. The exhibition continues with statuary, a dominant theme in Mapplethorpe’s last years, photos of statues of the gods in his personal pantheon: Eros, of course, and Hermes … The artist always said he used photography to make sculptures, and he ended his oeuvre with photographs of sculptures. His nudes were already photographic sculptures.

Works are not created just anywhere. To be fully appreciated, Mapplethorpe’s art must be put into the socio-cultural context of arty New York in the 1970s and 80s, and the underground gay culture there at that time. Two permeable and equally radical worlds. To take the measure of the libertarian explosion of the time, we need to watch Flesh, Warhol’s film with Joe Dalessandro, which narrates 24 hours in the life of a young New York male prostitute. To understand the violence and passion of gay sexuality for young New Yorkers fighting for freedom in a repressive period, we must read Edmund White’s The Beautiful Room is Empty, the story of a young gay in the years of riots and demonstrations and extreme emancipation; and Andrew Holleran’s Dancer from the Dance (1978), to plunge into the sexual experiments of Fire Island in the 1970s.

Mapplethorpe is hailed as one of the world’s greatest photographers and the exhibition aims to give a broad view of his work.”

Press release from the Grand Palais website

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Milton Moore' 1981

 

Robert Mapplethorpe 
Milton Moore
1981
50.8 x 40.6 cm / 50.8 x 40.6 cm
Silver gelatin prints
New York, Fondation Robert Mapplethorpe
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Milton Moore' (detail) 1981

 

 

Robert Mapplethorpe 
Milton Moore (detail)
1981
50.8 x 40.6 cm
Silver gelatin print
New York, Fondation Robert Mapplethorpe
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission

 

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Ken Moody' 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Ken Moody
1983
50.8 x 40.6 cm
Silver gelatin print
New York, Fondation Robert Mapplethorpe
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

 

 

Introductory text

“Robert Mapplethorpe was an artist with an obsessive quest for aesthetic perfection.

A sculptor at heart, and in his imagination, he wanted “people to see [his] works first as art and second as photography.”1 An admirer of Michelangelo, Mapplethorpe championed the classical ideal – revised and reworked for the libertarian New York of the 1970s – and explored sophisticated printing techniques to create unique works and mixed compositions, which he framed in unusual ways.

Like the novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans, this exhibition has been organised “À rebours” [against the nap] and examines the work of another dandy, living at the end of another world. It opens with Mapplethorpe’s self-portrait with the skull-head cane: the image of a young man, already old, tragically cut down in the prime of life by AIDS, it also reveals how the master of the realm of shadows – photography – gave free rein to his imagination. Like a modern day Orpheus, beyond death, he seems alive – although only just – yet already in the afterlife of his work, beckoning us with his satanic cane to follow him into the underworld of his life, in search of his desire.

“Photography and sexuality have a lot in common,” explains Mapplethorpe. “Both are question marks, and that’s precisely what excites me most in life.”2 Exploring the photography of the body, he pushed it to the limits of pornography, perhaps like no other artist before him. The desire we see in these images – often the photographer’s own desire – also reflects life in New York, as lived by some, in the 1970s and 80s, at the height of the sexual liberation movement. “I’m trying to record the moment I’m living in and where I’m living, which happens to be in New York. I am trying to pick up on the madness and give it some order.”3

This retrospective of Mapplethorpe’s work – the first in France since he passed away – features some two hundred and fifty images exploring a range of themes. They cover every aspect of Mapplethorpe’s art – bronze bodies and flesh sculptures, geometric and choreographic, still lives and anatomical details, bodies as flowers and flowers as bodies, court portraiture, night photography, and eroticism, soft and hard – interspersed with self-portraiture in all its forms. The works from the photographer’s early career, which close the exhibition, reveal how the path taken by his art was already mapped out in his first Polaroids. The sign of a great artist.”

1 Inge Biondi, “The Yin and the Yang of Robert Mapplethorpe,” in The Print Collector’s Newsletter, New York, January 1979, p. 11
2 Mark Thompson, “Mapplethorpe,” in The Advocate, Atlanta, 24 July 1980
3 Sarah Kent, “Mapplethorpe,” in Time Out, London, 3-9 November 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Thomas' 1987

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Thomas
1987
61 x 50.8 cm
Silver gelatin print
New York, Fondation Robert Mapplethorpe
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Calla Lily' 1986

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Calla Lily
1986
92.7 x 92.7 cm
Silver gelatin print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'The Sluggard' (Le Paresseux) 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
The Sluggard (Le Paresseux)
1988
61 x 50.8 cm
Silver gelatin print
New York, Fondation Robert Mapplethorpe
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Self-portrait (Autoportrait)' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Self-portrait (Autoportrait)
1988
61 x 50.8 cm
Platinum print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

 

 

Grand Palais, Galeries Nationales
3, Avenue du Général Eisenhower
75008 Paris

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday 10 am – 10 pm
Monday and Sunday 10 am – 8 pm
Closed every Tuesday

Grand Palais website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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