Archive for the 'painting' Category

23
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Marc Chagall – A Retrospective 1908-1985′ at the Palazzo Reale, Milan

Exhibition dates: 17th September 2014 – 1st February 2015

 

A bumper posting on this glorious artist – another who, too late, realised the threat of Nazi Germany and only survived deportation and death by the skin of his teeth. It would have been a sad loss, for he possesses an unbridled passion for life. Social conscience, mythology, iconography, place, identity, race, religion, beauty, war and tragedy. And the exemplary use of colour in his metaphysical, fantastical scenes. But above all…. MAGIC!

Marcus

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

 

 

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.”

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Marc Chagall

 

“Chagall a pioneer of modern art and one of its greatest figurative painters… [who] invented a visual language that recorded the thrill and terror of the twentieth century…

On his canvases we read the triumph of modernism, the breakthrough in art to an expression of inner life that … is one of the last century’s signal legacies. At the same time Chagall was personally swept up in the horrors of European history between 1914 and 1945: world wars, revolution, ethnic persecution, the murder and exile of millions. In an age when many major artists fled reality for abstraction, he distilled his experiences of suffering and tragedy into images at once immediate, simple, and symbolic to which everyone could respond.”

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Wullschlager, Jackie. Chagall: A Biography. Knopf, 2008. p. 4

 

 

Marc Chagall. 'Figura davanti alla volta blu' 1911

 

Marc Chagall
Figura davanti alla volta blu
1911
Gouache on paper

 

Marc Chagall. 'Daphnis and Cloe' 1911

 

Marc Chagall
Daphnis and Cloe
1911
Watercolour
16.5 x 21 cm
Private collection

 

Marc Chagall. 'Il compleanno' 1915

 

Marc Chagall
Il compleanno (Birthday)
1915
Oil on cardboard
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest, 1949
© 2014. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Firenze © Chagall ® by SIAE 2014

 

Marc Chagall. 'The Blue House' 1917

 

Marc Chagall
The Blue House
1917
Oil on canvas
66 x 96.8 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Liège, France

 

Marc Chagall. 'Matrimonio' (Wedding) 1918

 

Marc Chagall
Matrimonio (Wedding)
1918
Oil on canvas
100 x 119 cm
Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

 

Marc Chagall. 'Model of great scene for "Mazeltov" Scholem Aleichem' 1919

 

Marc Chagall
Modello di grande scena per “Mazeltov” di Scholem Aleichem (Model of great scene for “Mazeltov” Scholem Aleichem)
1919
Oil and black pencil on paper pasted on cardboard
Private Collection

 

Marc Chagall. 'Composition with circles and goat (Jewish Theatre Art)' 1920

 

Marc Chagall
Composizione con cerchi e capra (Teatro d’arte ebraica) (Composition with circles and goat (Jewish Theatre Art))
1920
Oil on cardboard laid on wood agglomerate
Private Collection

 

Marc Chagall. 'Angelo cadente' (The Falling Angel) 1923

 

Marc Chagall
Angelo cadente (The Falling Angel)
1923
Oil on canvas
148 x 189 cm
Private collection

 

Marc Chagall. 'Bella con un libro e un vaso di fiori (o Bella a Mourillon)' 1926

 

Marc Chagall
Bella con un libro e un vaso di fiori (o Bella a Mourillon) (Beauty with a book and a vase of flowers (or Bella in Mourillon))
1926
Oil on canvas
Credits: Collezione Privata
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014

 

Marc Chagall. 'Nude above Vitebsk' 1933

 

Marc Chagall
Nude above Vitebsk
1933
Oil on canvas
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014

 

Marc Chagall. 'Cow with Parasol' 1946

 

Marc Chagall
La mucca con l’ombrello (Cow with Parasol)
1946
Oil on canvas
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Richard S. Zeisler, 2007
© Chagall ®, by SIAE 2014

 

Marc Chagall. 'The Red Circus' 1956-1960

 

Marc Chagall
The Red Circus
1956-1960
Oil on canvas

 

Marc Chagall. 'Big Sun' 1958

 

Marc Chagall
Big Sun
1958
Oil on canvas

 

Marc Chagall. 'War' 1964

 

Marc Chagall
War (Guerra)
1964
Oil on canvas
163 x 231 cm
Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland

 

Marc Chagall. 'The Players' (i giocatori) 1968

 

Marc Chagall
The Players (i giocatori)
1968
Oil no canvas
150 x 160 cm
Private collection

 

Marc Chagall. 'The Grand Parade' 1979

 

Marc Chagall
The Grand Parade
1979
Oil on canvas
119 x 132 cm
Private collection

 

 

“Will the hurried men of today be able to penetrate her work, her world?” is the question asked by Marc Chagall in 1947 in the postface to the memoirs of his wife Bella, who left him “in the shadows” following her sudden death three years earlier. However, this question could also be asked about his own work, the work of an artist who speaks such a universal language that he is loved by everyone alike, both young and old, men and women, scholars and men on the street. Chagall is an artist who is known and recognized by everyone and, out of all the 20th-century artists, was one of the few to remain faithful to himself despite living through a century of wars, catastrophes, political and technological upheavels.

The exhibition narrative has arisen from a question and a need: on the one hand, the attempt to understand the strength that an enabled an artist who experimented with the styles of all the avant-garde movements, to remain so consistent to himself, always curious about the world around him, developing a style that can be recognized immediately by people of any age and any social status; on the other, the need to study Chagall’s work in order to identify the secret behind the poetry of this fragile man who was yet able to keep faith with his traditions and with his humanity, despite living in a world shaken to the core by indescribable and until then unimaginable catastrophes.

The exhibition opened on 17 September at the Palazzo Reale in Milan and is the biggest retrospective ever devoted to Marc Chagall in the last 50 years in Italy, with over two hundred and twenty works – mainly paintings from 1908 onwards, when Chagall painted his first work Le Petit Salon, right up to his final, monumental works of the 1980s – which guide visitors through the artistic career of Marc Chagall. Works from the collections of his heirs, some of which have not been exhibited to the public before, feature alongside masterpieces from the world’s most important museums, including the MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the National Gallery in Washington, the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg, the Centre Pompidou, and over fifty public and private collections that have so generously collaborated. The exhibition theme therefore focuses on a new interpretation of the language of Chagall, whose poetic vein developed throughout the 20th century out of a blend of the best western European traditions: from his original Jewish culture to the Russian culture and his encounter with French avant-garde painting.

“The exhibition features a comprehensive chronological narrative, which is divided into sections, starting with his earliest works painted in Russia; his first visit to France and his subsequent return to Russia where he stayed until 1921; the second period of his exile, opened by the autobiography written by Chagall when he left Russia forever, living firstly in France and then, in the 1940s running away from Nazism, in America where he endured the tragedy of the death of his beloved wife Bella; his return to France and his decision to settle permanently on the Cote d’Azur, where Chagall rediscovered his most relaxed poetic language, calmed by the colours and atmosphere of the south.

The exhibition provides visitors with an understanding of how, despite living in perennial exile, Chagall never lost hold of the thread that kept the child he used to be in his heart; how, over the years and throughout the terrible events that marred his existence, he succeeded in preserving his sense of amazement, joy and wonder inspired by nature and humanity, as well as his strong faith that led him to believe in the possibility of a better world and seek to build it in all possible ways. Visitors will also discover his highly original poetic language, born out of the assimilation of the three cultures to which he belonged: Jewish culture (the visual tradition of its ornate manuscripts inspired the expressive, non-perspectival and sometimes mystic elements of his work); Russian culture (evident both in the folk images of the luboks and the religious images of the icons); western culture (in which he assimilates the great artists of tradition, from Rembrandt to the avant-garde artists whom he frequented so assiduously). They will also observe his sense of wonder at nature and the amazement inspired by living creatures that places him closer to mediaeval sources than 20th-century ones.

Flowers and animals are a constant presence in his paintings, enabling him on the one hand to overcome the Jewish interdiction of human depiction, while on the other becoming metaphors for a possible world in which all living beings can live in peace as in Russian mediaeval culture. In the words of Giovanni Arpino: “The soul of Chagall is a bleating soul, as mild as it is invincible because it escapes the horrors, the snares, the outrages … His paradise is an earthly Otherworld that encompasses the simulacra of life, a physical place that becomes metaphysical precisely because we have all killed it during daily life.” His art constitutes a sort of metissage [mix] between cultures and traditions. The fundamental key to his modernity lies in his desire to transform contamination into a value, a work of art into a language able to ask questions that have as yet been left unanswered by mankind.

After Milan the exhibition will travel to the prestigious Musees royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique/Koninklike Musea voor Schone Kunsten van Belgie, Bruxelles.”

Press release from the Palazzo Reale website

 

Marc Chagall. 'La nascita' (The birth) 1911

 

Marc Chagall
La nascita (The birth)
1911
Oil on canvas original pasted on wood (plywood)
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014

 

Marc Chagall. 'The Soldier Drinks' 1911

 

Marc Chagall
The Soldier Drinks (Soldato che beve)
1911
Oil on canvas
109.8 x 94.7 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

 

Marc Chagall. 'Bride with Fan' 1911

 

Marc Chagall
Bride with fan (Sposa con ventaglio)
1911
Oil on canvas
Private Collection

 

Marc Chagall. 'I and the village' 1911

 

Marc Chagall
I and the Village
1911
Oil on canvas
192.1 x 151.4 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

Marc Chagall. 'Nude with comb' 1911-1912

 

Marc Chagall
Nude with comb (Nuda con pettine)
1911-1912
Black ink and gouache on paper

 

Marc Chagall. 'The Fiddler' 1912

 

Marc Chagall
The Fiddler
1912
Oil on canvas
188 x 158 cm
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

 

Marc Chagall. 'Soldiers' 1912

 

Marc Chagall
Soldiers
1912
Private collection
38.1 x 32.4 cm

 

Marc Chagall. 'The Old Jew' (il vecchio ebreo) 1912

 

Marc Chagall
The Old Jew (il vecchio ebreo)
1912
Oil on canvas

 

Marc Chagall. 'Self-portrait in profile' 1914

 

Marc Chagall
Self-portrait in profile
1914
Oil on cardboard
34 x 27.9 cm
Private collection

 

Marc Chagall. 'Blue Lovers' 1914

 

Marc Chagall
Blue Lovers
1914
Tempera on paper pasted on cardboard
49 x 44 cm
Private collection

 

Marc Chagall in his studio of Saint-Paul de Vence

 

Marc Chagall in his studio of Saint-Paul de Vence
Nd

 

Marc Chagall. 'Red Jew' 1915

 

Marc Chagall
Red Jew
1915
Oil on cardboard
Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Marc Chagall. 'The Poet Reclining' 1915

 

Marc Chagall
The Poet Reclining (Il poeta giacente)
1915
Oil on board
Support: 772 x 775 mm Frame: 953 x 960 x 91 mm
© Tate, London 2014 © Chagall ® by SIAE 2014

 

Marc Chagall. 'La passeggiata' (The walk) 1917-1918

 

Marc Chagall
La passeggiata (The walk)
1917-1918
Oil on canvas
Russian State  Museum, St. Petersburg
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014

 

Marc Chagall. 'Al Cavalletto (tavola 18 di "Ma Vie")' 1922

 

Marc Chagall
Al Cavalletto (tavola 18 di “Ma Vie”)
1922
Etching and drypoint on Japanese paper
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014

 

Marc Chagall. 'Autoritratto (tavola 17 di "Ma Vie")' 1922

 

Marc Chagall
Autoritratto (tavola 17 di “Ma Vie”) (Self-portrait)
1922
Etching and drypoint on Japanese paper
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014

 

Marc Chagall. 'Study for The green violinist' 1917

 

Marc Chagall
Study for The green violinist (studio violinista verde)
1917

 

Marc Chagall. 'Two pigeons' 1925

 

Marc Chagall
Two pigeons
1925
Gouache, ink and blue ink on colored paper
Private collection

 

Marc Chagall. 'L'aquila e lo scarabeo' 1926

 

Marc Chagall
L’aquila e lo scarabeo
1926
Gouache on paper pasted on wooden panel
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014

 

Marc Chagall. 'The Madonna of the Village' 1938-1942

 

Marc Chagall
The Madonna of the Village
1938-1942
Oil on canvas
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014

 

Marc Chagall. 'Mondo rosso e nero o Sole rosso' (Red and black world) 1951

 

Marc Chagall
Mondo rosso e nero o Sole rosso (Red and black world)
1951
Gouache, watercolor, pastel on paper pasted on canvas
Private collection

 

Marc Chagall. 'Il trionfo della musica - Maquette per il murale Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Art Center, New York' 1966

 

Marc Chagall
Il trionfo della musica – Maquette per il murale Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Art Center, New York (The triumph of music – Maquette for the mural Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Art Center, New York)
1966
Tempera, gouache and collage on paper
Private collection

 

Marc Chagall. 'Lovers over Saint-Paul' 1968

 

Marc Chagall
Lovers over Saint-Paul
1968
Oil, tempera and sawdust on canvas
145 x 130 cm
Private collection
© Chagall ® by SIAE 2014

 

 

Palazzo Reale
Piazza del Duomo 12
Milan, Italy

Opening times:
Monday 2.30 pm – 7.30 pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday 9.30 am – 7.30 pm
Thursday and Saturday 9.30 am – 10.30 pm

Marc Chagall exhibition website

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16
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Goya: Order and Disorder’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 12th October 2014 – 19th January 2015

Curators: Stephanie Loeb Stepanek, Curator of Prints and Drawings; Frederick Ilchman, Chair, Art of Europe; and Mrs. Russell W. Baker Curator of Paintings

 

 

This one is for me, this man of darkness.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version of the art.

 

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'The Parasol' 1777

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
The Parasol
1777
Oil on canvas, tapestry cartoon
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, España
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
The Family of the Infante Don Luis
1784
Oil on canvas
630 x 838 cm
Fondazione Magnani Rocca, Parma, Italy

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Attack on a Military Camp' about 1808–10

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 
Attack on a Military Camp
c. 1808-10
Oil on canvas
Colección Marqués de la Romana
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'One Can't Look (No se puede mirar), Disasters of War 26' c. 1811–12

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
One Can’t Look (No se puede mirar), Disasters of War 26
c. 1811-12
Etching, direct etching, and drypoint (working proof)
1951 Purchase Fund
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'A heroic feat! With dead men! (Grande hazaña! Con muertos!)' c.1810-1813

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
A heroic feat! With dead men! (Grande hazaña! Con muertos!), Disasters of War 39
c.1810-1813
Etching, direct etching, and drypoint

 

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Unfortunate events in the front seats of the ring of Madrid, and the death of the Mayor of Torrejón (Desgracias acaecidas en el tendido de la plaza de Madrid, y muerte del alcalde de Torrejón)
1815 – 1816
From the 35 etchings making up the Tauromaquia (“Art of Bullfighting”) series
Etching with burnished aquatint, drypoint andburin on paper

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'The Agility and Audacity of Juanito Apiñani in the Ring at Madrid' (Ligereza y atrevimiento de Juanito Apiñani en la de Madrid) (Tauromaquia 20) 1815-16

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
The Agility and Audacity of Juanito Apiñani in the Ring at Madrid (Ligereza y atrevimiento de Juanito Apiñani en la de Madrid) (Tauromaquia 20)
1815-16
Etching with burnished aquatint, drypoint andburin on paper
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Feminine Absurdity (Disparate femenino) Disparates 1' 1815-17

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Feminine Absurdity (Disparate femenino) Disparates 1
1815-17
Fundación Lázaro Galdiano

 

 

“This fall, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), presents Goya: Order and Disorder, a landmark exhibition dedicated to Spanish master Francisco Goya (1746-1828). The largest retrospective of the artist to take place in America in 25 years features 170 paintings, prints and drawings – offering the rare opportunity to examine Goya’s powers of observation and invention across the full range of his work. The MFA welcomes many loans from Europe and the US, including 21 works from the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, along with loans from the Musée du Louvre, the Galleria degli Uffizi, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art (Washington) and private collections. Goya: Order and Disorder includes some 60 works from the MFA’s collection of Goya’s works on paper, one of the most important in the world. Many of these prints and drawings have not been on view in Boston in 25 years. Employed as a court painter by four successive rulers of Spain, Goya managed to explore an extraordinarily wide range of subjects, genres and formats. From the striking portrait Duchess of Alba (1797) from the Hispanic Society of America, to the tour de force of Goya’s Seated Giant (by 1818) in the MFA’s collection, to his drawings of lunacy, the works on view demonstrate the artist’s fluency across media. On view in the Museum’s Ann and Graham Gund Gallery from October 12, 2014 – January 19, 2015, the MFA is the only venue for the exhibition, which is accompanied by a publication revealing fresh insights on the artist.

“This exhibition offers a once-in-a-generation look at one of the greatest, most imaginative artists of all time,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “Goya: Order and Disorder reflects the Museum’s close collaboration with the Prado, and builds on our proud tradition of Goya scholarship.”

As 18th-century culture gave way to the modern world, little escaped Goya’s penetrating gaze. Working with equal prowess in painting, drawing and printmaking, he was the portraitist of choice for the royal family as well as aristocrats, statesmen and intellectuals – counting many as acquaintances or friends. Living in a time of revolution and radical social and political transformations, Goya witnessed drastic shifts between “order” and “disorder,” from relative prosperity to wartime chaos, famine, crime and retribution. Among the works he created – some 1,800 oil paintings, frescoes, miniatures, etchings, lithographs and drawings – many are not easy to look at, or even to understand. With a keen sensitivity to human nature, Goya could portray the childhood innocence of Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga (about 1788, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) – his most famous portrait of a child – or the deviance of the Witches’ Sabbath (1797-98, Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid).

The full arc of Goya’s creativity is on display in the exhibition, from the elegant full-length portraits of Spanish aristocrats that first brought the artist fame, to caustic drawings of beggars and grotesque witches, to his series of satirical etchings targeting ignorance and superstition, known as the Caprichos. Rather than a chronological arrangement, exhibition curators Stephanie Loeb Stepanek, Curator of Prints and Drawings, and Frederick Ilchman, Chair, Art of Europe and Mrs. Russell W. Baker Curator of Paintings, grouped the works in Goya: Order and Disorder, and its accompanying publication, into eight categories highlighting the significant themes that captured Goya’s attention and imagination. From tranquil to precarious, Goya’s art made the diversity of life, and the conflicting emotions of the human mind, comprehensible to the viewer – and to himself.

“We decided to juxtapose similar subjects or compositions in different media in order to allow visitors to examine how Goya’s choice of technique informed and transformed his ideas, since the characteristics of each medium – and the intended audience – influenced the final appearance of the work,” said Stepanek.

Noted for his satirical eye, Goya reserved his closest scrutiny for himself. The first section of the exhibition, Goya Looks at Himself, is a sweeping group of self-portraits. In the MFA’s etching, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razon produce monstruos), Caprichos 43 (1797-99), Goya offers himself as a universal artist sleeping at a desk, while the creatures of his dreams swirl about his head. This print is grouped with two loans from Madrid, The Artist Dreaming (about 1797), a drawing from the Prado that preceded the famous print, and Self-Portrait while Painting (about 1795), from the Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Together, these works reflect Goya’s tendency to insert his persona into allegories and fantasies. At the entrance of this section is an imposing group portrait of The Family of the Infante Don Luis (1784, Fondazione Magnani Rocca, Parma, Italy) – the brother of King Charles III – which features 14 figures, including Goya, who depicts himself working on a sizeable canvas on an easel.

“Just as Goya’s imagery is determined by whether he painted, drew or made a print, he also reconsidered certain favored subjects, reviving them from his memory and returning to them again and again during his long career,” said Ilchman. “Examining his compositional preoccupations across decades – often in the same room of the exhibition – reveals the continuity of Goya’s imagination.”

Through his art, Goya sought to describe, catalogue and satirize the breadth of human experience – embracing both its pleasures and discomforts. The artist tackled the nurturing of children, the pride and infirmity of old age, the risks of romantic love, and all types of women – from young beauties to old women. In the section dedicated to Goya’s depictions of the stages of life, Life Studies, the exhibition explores how the artist transformed observations of human frailty, creating allegories of vanity and the passage of time. A wizened woman, who is unsuccessfully attempting to adopt youthful styles in Until Death (Hasta la muerte), Caprichos 55 (1797-99, The Boston Athenaeum), is revived in one of Goya’s most haunting monumental paintings – Time (Old Women) (about 1810-12, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille). The aged woman is now decayed and diseased, but still clings to her outdated fashions, and is soon to be swept away by the broom of Time. Goya’s tapestry designs frequently depict young people, with relationships between men and women marked by affection, disaffection and tension. The Parasol (1777, Museo Nacional del Prado) presents a young woman who poses under a parasol with her docile lapdog – she seems to ignore her male companion in favor of engaging viewers who would look up at this tapestry, which was meant to hang over a door.

In the Play and Prey section, Goya’s creative process is revealed through representations of a popular game in which young women toss a well-dressed mannequin in a blanket. In Straw Mannequin, this carnivalesque reversal of class and gender roles is seen in a tapestry (1792-93, Patrimonio Nacional, Spain), as well as two preparatory paintings (1791, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and Museo Nacional del Prado). A late print, Feminine Absurdity (Disparate femenino) Disparates 1 (1815-17, Fundación Lázaro Galdiano), imparts new meaning to the previously simple image of young women at play, as the women now strain to lift several figures, including a peasant and donkey. This more sinister vein is reflected in many of the subjects the artist returned to later in life, following the devastation of the Peninsular War and its political reversals. “Play and Prey” also explores Goya’s famous images of men engaging in hunting (his own favorite pastime) and the bullfight. In these works, including examples from the series of prints, the Tauromaquia and the Bulls of Bordeaux, Goya celebrates both activities while also subtly portraying their darker sides.

The precarious relationship between order and discord, balance and imbalance, is fundamental to Goya’s work, and the subject of the section In the Balance. The theme appears vividly in images of the punishing forces of nature, figures losing their balance and others fighting. This topic is particularly noteworthy given the tumultuous social and political change during Goya’s lifetime, as well as the artist’s own struggles with illness, dizzy spells and deafness. The MFA’s print, The Agility and Audacity of Juanito Apiñani in the Ring at Madrid (Ligereza y atrevimiento de Juanito Apiñani en la de Madrid (Tauromaquia 20) (1815-16) depicts a precarious matador, who is poised midair as he vaults over a charging bull, anchored only by his upright pole.

Goya earned widespread fame through grand portraits executed in the 1780s and 1790s, and the exhibition displays some of these masterpieces alongside more intimate likenesses of his artistic and family circle. Focusing on the painter’s approach to portraiture – from relations with sitters to his handling of paint – Portraits explores the discipline that remained central to his reputation as Spain’s leading painter and helped sustain him financially throughout his career. Paintings of the Duke of Alba (1795, Museo Nacional del Prado) and Duchess of Alba (1797, Hispanic Society of America), shown together for the first time since the early 19th century, are superb examples of his aristocratic portraits and illustrate two of his most important patrons. In the Duchess of Alba, the darkly clothed sitter points a finger to the ground, where the words “Solo Goya” are written in the sand. The assertion that only Goya was worthy of this commission and that only he could have pulled off such a dramatic likeness, changes the painting’s focus from the aristocrat to the artist.

Other Worlds, Other States features two facets of Goya’s spiritual explorations – Christian religious belief and its opposite, superstition. While Goya frequently focused on clerical abuses, religious commissions helped pay the bills throughout his life, and there is no evidence that he lacked personal piety. One of Goya’s greatest legacies is his ability to represent mental and psychological conditions. His depictions of illusions and inner reality are also on view in this section, and include visions, nightmares and the deluded mind of the insane. An imaginative rendering of a particular Spanish nightmare – a witch riding a bull through the air – is depicted in the drawing Pesadilla (Nightmare) (1816-1820).

Many of Goya’s deranged characters highlight the fragile boundary between lunacy and sanity. A luminous painting on copper from the Meadows Museum in Dallas, Yard with Madmen of 1794 – which shows distressed and helpless lunatics – anticipates a sequence of black crayon drawings made three decades later. In these later works, the individuals, whom Goya labeled as “locos,” are in even more desperate condition, restrained in straitjackets or trapped behind bars. Also in this gallery, a “learning space” offers additional educational materials and a timeline that provides context and insight into the mind of the Spanish Master.

A keen awareness of the weight of historical events pervades Goya’s work. Although he belongs in the ranks of great history painters who narrated courageous acts, he is not preoccupied with generals, patriots and battles. Instead, he focuses attention on the anonymous victims of the horrors of war or the Spanish Inquisition, and rarely fails to raise moral questions in these works. In Capturing History, works that blend the epic and mundane include a painting of an imagined scene, Attack on a Military Camp (about 1808-10, Colección Marqués de la Romana), in which a woman holds a screaming infant as she runs from assailants who have already wounded several people. In One Can’t Look (No se puede mirar), Disasters of War 26 (1810-14), the viewer is only a step or two away from the victims and the advancing bayonets of the print’s aggressors. The work is part of the wrenching print series, Disasters of War, which depict the artist’s thoughts on violence during the Peninsular War that ripped Spain apart from 1808 to 1814.

The final section of the exhibition, Solo Goya, summarizes the characteristics that establish the artist’s greatness – exploring themes such as Goya’s imagery of swarms of human figures as well as his periodic reflection on the concept of redemption. The same artist who took on the abuses of war could also evoke the most sympathetic and poignant moments of human experience, such as the Last Communion of Saint Joseph of Calasanz (1819, Collection of the Padres Escolapios). The altarpiece depicts Joseph of Calasanz, from Goya’s home region of Aragón, who founded the order of the Padres Escolapios (Piarists) to educate poor children. Goya may have attended one of the order’s schools, known as the Escuelas Pías, and might have felt a personal connection to the protagonist of the painting – his final major religious work – which comes to the US for the first time in this exhibition.

One of Goya’s most resonant themes addresses the problem with power, embodied by a central character: the giant. Conditioned by the events of his day, particularly the sudden rise and fall of military and institutional fortunes, Goya explores how power is not necessarily inherent, but comes with a cost. Goya’s Seated Giant (by 1818), from the MFA’s renowned collection of Goya prints and drawings, is among the most enigmatic and compelling of the artist’s graphic works, depicting a looming figure immobilized by the burden of power. While no single work can epitomize an artist’s achievement, this figure embodies the grandest of Goya’s great themes.

The MFA’s Goya collection owes a great debt to former MFA Curator of Prints and Drawings, and esteemed Goya scholar, Eleanor A. Sayre, who worked on the exhibitions The Changing Image: Prints by Francisco Goya (1974) and Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment (1989) at the MFA. Many of the works on view in Goya: Order and Disorder were acquired by the Museum during her tenure, including the Seated Giant; Woman Reading to Two Children (about 1819); Resignation (La resignacion) (1816-1820); Merry Absurdity (Disparate alegre) (1816-1819); and the oil sketch on canvas of the Annunciation (1785). The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razon produce monstruos), Caprichos 43 (1797-99) and the drawing of Two Men Fighting (1812-20) were part of Sayre’s bequest to the MFA after she passed away in 2001.”

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

 

Francisco Goya 'Duke of Alba' 1795

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Duke of Alba
1795
Oil on canvas
195 x 126 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Álvarez de Toledo y Silva, Thirteenth Duchess of Alba' 1797

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Álvarez de Toledo y Silva, Thirteenth Duchess of Alba
1797
Oil on canvas
On loan from The Hispanic Society of America, New York, NY
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Self-Portrait While Painting' c. 1795

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Self-Portrait While Painting
c. 1795
Oil on canvas
Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“The most inquiring self-portraits often display a cool detachment almost to the point of impersonality. These are the real backstage revelations, where the painter’s high seriousness and insight are as palpable as the flaws exposed by these virtues.

Goya in his studio is dressed like a matador or majo, a wideboy, a mistake as he himself owns: his jacket is too tight and the trousers are straining around his bulging thighs. At nearly fifty he is too old and too stout for such clothes, as he very well knows, for in letters to his boyhood friend, Martin Zapater, Goya periodically laments his snub nose, and increasing girth. Yet he chose to paint himself in the least flattering position – side on – and the worst possible light, silhouetted against a whiteness so shattering that every contour is emphasized. He might as well have stood there naked.

It is high noon in the studio. The light is so bright that nothing is visible beyond the window as reflected in the mirror, and you need to squint to see this man of darkness. The brim of his hat is ringed with candleholders; according to his son Javier, Goya preferred to paint in the clear morning light but give ‘the final touches at night in artificial light’. He may not have been the only painter to get a close glow by turning his hat into a lampstand but he is the only artist to paint himself wearing one of the candle-hats and thus revealing a trick of the trade. Presumably it is acting as an eye-shade at this moment, though he could have taken it off in the final painting for the sake of vanity, this cumbersome pot that’s too tall for his head. But size is a running gag here. Look at the tiny brush he is using to prod away at a painting so big it makes the artist look even smaller beneath his outsize headgear (matador and bull), a painting that is too large to correspond to this one for the self-portrait is surprisingly small – not quite two feet tall.

So small and yet strong enough to carry the full force of the scene, the stark light and the stark disenchantment of a man who turns upon himself very suddenly out of a spell of protracted thought. Just as in his portraits of the Spanish royal family – like the corner barker and his wife, as the French writer Théophile Gautier once described them – Goya doesn’t lay a gloss upon the facts. He is a fat man, quite probably a small fat man, tousled, unshaven, unsuitably dressed and able to see the truth quite clearly. That is what his look declares: I see how I look, I know what I am doing and who I am in this world.

Goya is probably stone-deaf by the time he painted himself in his studio at number 1 calle del Desengano, Madrid, the final cruelty of a long and mysterious illness. And the world is shut out of this picture, the window a white-out, the artist all alone in the little kingdom of his studio. The solo studio – as opposed to the buzzing workshop or atelier – was still quite a recent luxury in Goya’s day, only just becoming a place of withdrawal. It plays its part in the history of self-portraiture not just as a room of one’s own, or a refuge from society; but as the cell that throws you back on yourself and your misfortunes.”

Laura Cummings. A Face to the World: On Self-Portraits. London: Harper Press, 2009, pp. 110-111.

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga' c. 1788

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga
c. 1788
Oil on canvas
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.41)
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga' c. 1788 (detail)

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga (detail)
c. 1788
Oil on canvas
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.41)
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Witches' Sabbath' 1797–98

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Witches’ Sabbath
1797-98
Oil on canvas
Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid, España
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Last Communion of Saint Joseph of Calasanz' 1819

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Last Communion of Saint Joseph of Calasanz
1819
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Padres Escolapios, Madrid, España
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta' 1820

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta
1820
Oil on canvas
Lent by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Seated Giant' by 1818

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Seated Giant
by 1818
Burnished aquatint (first state)
Katherine E. Bullard Fund in memory of Francis Bullard
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Pesadilla (Nightmare)
1816-1820

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746–1828) 'Raging Lunatic (Loco furioso), Bordeaux Album I, G, 3[4?]' 1824–28

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Raging Lunatic (Loco furioso), Bordeaux Album I, G, 3[4?]
1824-28
Black crayon on laid paper
Collection Andrea Woodner
Photographer: Jim Strong. Courtesy of The Frick Collection.
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Two Men Fighting', Album F, 73 1812-20

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Two Men Fighting, Album F, 73
1812-20
Brush and brown ink, with scraping
Bequest of Eleanor A. Sayre
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Old Man on a Swing', Bordeaux Album II, H, 58 1824-28

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Old Man on a Swing, Bordeaux Album II, H, 58
1824-28
Black crayon on laid paper
On loan from The Hispanic Society of America, New York, NY
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters' (El sueño de la razon produce monstruos), Caprichos 43 1797-99

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razon produce monstruos), Caprichos 43
1797-99
Etching and burnished aquatint (first edition)
Bequest of Eleanor A. Sayre
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Until Death' (Hasta la muerte), Caprichos 55 1797-99

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Until Death (Hasta la muerte), Caprichos 55
1797-99
Burnished aquatint etching with drypoint
The Boston Athenaeum

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Time (Old Women)' c. 1810-12

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Time (Old Women)
c. 1810-12
Oil on canvas
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) 'Straw Mannequin' 1791

 

Francisco Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828)
Straw Mannequin
1791
Oil on canvas

 

 

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14
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 4th October 2014 – 18th January 2015

Contemporary Galleries and The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, second floor

 

For you Fred!

Marcus

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

 

“Begun in 1984, the sink series appeared during the darkest period of the AIDS epidemic. Gober, who is gay, responded to the tragedy with poetic indirection: the sinks’ cold air of clinical hygiene. The Times critic John Russell nailed the artistic effect: “Minimal forms with maximum content.” The fact that the content must be intuited by the viewer, who is free to regard the sinks as just cleverly manufactured found objects, typifies Gober’s circumspection. His works are enigmatic but not coy, morally driven but not aggrieved. They radiate a quality that is as rare in life as it is in art: character. …

The heart is an excitable physical organ that registers sensations of fight or flight and of love or aversion: the first and last unimpeachable witness to what can’t help but matter, for good and for ill, in every life.”

.
Peter Schjeldahl. “Found Meanings: A Robert Gober Retrospective”1

 

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
 'X Playpen' 1987

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
X Playpen
1987
Wood and enamel paint
27 x 37 x 37” (68.6 x 94 x 94 cm)
Batsheva and Ronald Ostrow
Image Credit: D. James Dee, courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
 'The Ascending Sink' 1985

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
The Ascending Sink
1985
Plaster, wood, steel, wire lath, and semi-gloss enamel paint
Two components, each: 30 x 33 x 27” (76.2 x 83.8 x 68.6 cm); floor to top: 92” (233.7 cm)
Installed in the artist’s studio on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, Manhattan
Collection of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner, New York
Promised gift to the Whitney Museum of American Art
Image Credit: John Kramer, courtesy the artist
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954) '
Untitled Closet' 1989

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled Closet
1989
Wood, plaster, enamel paint
84 x 52 x 28″ (213.4 x 132.1 x 71.1 cm)
Private collection
Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober. 'Untitled' 1991

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled
1991
Wood, beeswax, human hair, fabric, paint, shoes
9 x 16 1/2 x 45″ (22.9 x 41.9 x 114.3 cm)
Collection the artist
Image Credit: Andrew Moore, courtesy the artist
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
 'Untitled' 1994-1995

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled
1994-1995
Wood, beeswax, brick, plaster, plastic, leather, iron, charcoal, cotton socks, electric light and motor
47 3/8 × 47 × 34″ (120.3 × 119.4 × 86.4 cm)
Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, on permanent loan to the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel
Image Credit: D. James Dee, courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

 

“Chronicling a 40-year career, Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor is the first large-scale survey of Robert Gober’s (American, b. 1954) work to take place in the United States. The exhibition is on view from October 4, 2014 to January 18, 2015, and features approximately 130 works across several mediums, including individual sculptures, immersive sculptural environments, and a distinctive selection of drawings and prints. Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor is organized by Ann Temkin, The Marie- Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator, and Paulina Pobocha, Assistant Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, MoMA, working in close collaboration with the artist.

Early on, Gober’s sculptures declared themselves an indispensable part of the landscape of late-twentieth century art; since then they have continued to evolve while remaining tightly bound to the principles outlined by the artist almost four decades ago. Gober places narrative at the center of his endeavor, embedding themes of sexuality, religion, and politics into work drawn from everyday life. Spare in its use of images and motifs while protean in its capacity to generate meaning, Gober’s work is an art of contradictions: intimate yet assertive, straightforward yet enigmatic. Taking imagery familiar to anyone – doors, sinks, legs – Gober dislocates, alters, and estranges what we think we know. Although a first glance might suggest otherwise, all of Gober’s objects are entirely handmade, by the artist and by collaborators with the necessary expertise.

The earliest works in the exhibition date from the mid-to-late 1970s when Gober was largely working in two dimensions. A painting of the house he grew up in Connecticut hangs at the entrance to the galleries. The first room of the exhibition offers an introduction to Gober’s career, as told through five works: a sculpture of a paint can, a man’s leg, and a closet, as well as a drawing and a small print.

Between 1983 and 1986, Gober created more than 50 sculptures of sinks and scores of related drawings. Based on real sinks, including one in the artist’s childhood home, Gober built them from wood, plaster, and wire lath, and finished them with multiple coats of paint to mimic the appearance of enamel. But, crucially, they lack faucets and plumbing. The sinks’ appearance coincided with the early years of the AIDS epidemic, and their uselessness spoke to the impossibility of cleansing oneself. The sculptures on view in the second gallery of the exhibition were featured in Gober’s first show of sinks, held at the Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, in 1985.

Gober’s early and straightforward sink sculptures gave way in 1985 to a group of distorted sinks whose bodies are variably stretched, bent, multiplied, and divided. The evolution of form registers in the works’ titles: self-evident descriptions become increasingly expressive (e.g. The Sink Inside of Me). By the mid-1980s, the artist’s preoccupation with domestic objects expanded to include sculptures of furniture such as beds and playpens, as well as an armchair, on view in the third gallery. Between 1986 and 1987, Gober created Two-Partially Buried Sinks, among the last sink sculptures of the decade. This work is positioned outside the walls of the Museum on a scaffold, and can be viewed through the gallery’s window.

In 1989 at the Paula Cooper Gallery, Gober exhibited his first room-sized installations. Each is framed by wallpapers: a pattern pairing a sleeping white man and a lynched black man in one, and line drawings of male and female genitalia in the other, both of which are on view in the following galleries. These backdrops powerfully inflect the sculptures contained within: a freestanding bridal gown and handpainted plaster cat litter bags in the first room and a bag of donuts with cast-pewter drains inset into the walls in the second. With characteristic concision, Gober sets off a complex swirl of questions about the unease surrounding issues to everyday life in America.

Gober made Slides of a Changing Painting between 1982 and 1983. During this year, he painted on a small Masonite board and photographed the imagery as it changed over time. Eventually, he had accumulated more than 1,000 slides, which he edited down and organized into a slide projection that he showed in 1984. After the exhibition, Gober put the slides away. When he revisited the project around 1990, he realized that he had unknowingly employed many of the same images in his subsequent sculptures. Slides of a Changing Painting has continued to be generative; it provides a nearly complete index of Gober’s visual themes and vocabulary. The work is on view in a gallery centrally located within the exhibition.

The human figure was absent from Gober’s sculptural repertoire until 1989, when he made his first sculpture of a man’s leg, a breakthrough that ushered in many related works. Single legs wearing trousers and shoes and truncated at mid-shin were followed by pairs of legs that Gober left whole to the waist. He showed these surreal sculptures in a 1991 exhibition in Paris, recreated in the following gallery. Three pairs of legs, augmented by candles, drains, and a musical score, are positioned around the perimeter of a room wallpapered with a kaleidoscopic landscape of a beech forest in autumn. In the center of the gallery sits a human-sized cigar composed of tobacco sheafs purchased from a Pennsylvania supplier. To learn how to preserve this organic material as it aged, Gober consulted an expert at the American Museum of Natural History. Seeking out specialists’ advice on complicated projects is a hallmark of the artist’s craft based practice.

The works on view in the following gallery were made by artists Anni Albers, Robert Beck, Cady Noland, and Joan Semmel; photographs by Nancy Shaver hang in the adjoining space. Gober brought these objects together for the first time in an exhibition he organized at the Matthew Marks Gallery, New York in 1999. Gober has been curating exhibitions since the mid-1980s, most recently focusing on monographic presentations of the works by American artists Charles Burchfield and Forrest Bess. The contemporary artists included in this gallery share with Gober daring approaches to the representation of sexuality, violence, and American culture.

 

Installation view of Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, The Museum of Modern Art, October 4, 2014–January 18, 2015

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
X Pipe Playpen
2013-14
Wood and bronze
26 1/8 x 55 x 55″ (66.4 x 139.7 x 139.7 cm)
Collection the artist

 

Installation view of Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, The Museum of Modern Art, October 4, 2014–January 18, 2015

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled
1989-1996
Silk satin, muslin, linen, tulle, welded steel, hand-printed silkscreen on paper, cast hydrostone plaster, vinyl acrylic paint, ink, and graphite
Dimensions variable, approximately 800 square feet installed
The Art Institute of Chicago, restricted gift of Stefan T. Edlis and H. Gael Neeson Foundation; through prior gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Joel Starrels and Fowler McCormick
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Installation view of Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, The Museum of Modern Art, October 4, 2014–January 18, 2015

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Bag of Donuts
1989
paper, dough and rhoplex (12 donuts)
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Installation view of Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, The Museum of Modern Art, October 4, 2014–January 18, 2015

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Cigar
1991
Wood, paint, paper, tobacco
15 3/4 x 15 3/4 x 70 7/8″ (40 x 40 x 180 cm)
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Purchased with funds provided by the Collectors Committee in honor of Marcia Simon Weisman
© 2014 Robert Gober

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Forest
1991
Hand-printed silkscreen on paper
180″ x 124″ (457.2 x 315 cm)
Courtesy the artist
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Installation view of Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, The Museum of Modern Art, October 4, 2014–January 18, 2015

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled
1992
Paper, twine, metal, light bulbs, cast plaster with casein and silkscreen ink, stainless steel, painted cast bronze and water, plywood, forged iron, plaster, latex paint and lights, photolithography on archival (Mohawk Superfine) paper, twine, hand-painted forest mural
511 3/4 × 363 3/16 × 177 3/16″ (1300 × 922.5 × 450.1 cm)
Glenstone
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Installation view of Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, The Museum of Modern Art, October 4, 2014–January 18, 2015

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled (detail)
2003-05
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Installation view of Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, The Museum of Modern Art, October 4, 2014–January 18, 2015

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled Door and Door Frame
1987-88
Wood, enamel paint
Door: 84 x 34 x 1 1/2″ (213.4 x 86.4 x 3.8 cm); doorframe: 90 x 43 x 5 1/2″ (228.6 x 109.2 x 14 cm)
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Gift of the John and Mary Pappajohn Art Foundation, 2004
© 2014 Robert Gober

Installation views of Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, The Museum of Modern Art, October 4, 2014-January 18, 2015
All works by Robert Gober © 2014 Robert Gober © 2014 The Museum of Modern Art
Photos: Jonathan Muzikar

 

The immersive installation Gober conceived for a 1992 exhibition at the Dia Center for the Arts, New York is on view nearby. All three rooms of that original presentation are reconstructed: an antechamber, a central gallery, and a dark cul-de-sac. The main space features a hand-painted mural, executed in a paint-by-number method by scenic painters, depicting a forest inspired by the landscape of Long Island’s North Fork. Barred prison windows, through which a blue sky is visible, interrupt the verdant panorama. Placed throughout the gallery are hand-painted plaster sculptures of boxes of rat bait and bundles of newspapers – actually photolithographic facsimiles of newspapers featuring real and invented content. After a six-year absence from Gober’s work, sinks reappeared in the installation at Dia, water now running freely from their faucets.

Following the introduction of mens’ legs into his sculptural vocabulary, Gober cast the leg of a young boy and used that mold as the basis for several subsequent works, including a fireplace where legs take the place of firewood, a vision invoking childhood nightmares and uncensored fairy tales. Also on view is a sculpture of a suitcase that occupies space below ground as well as above. Its lid opens to reveal a sewer grate and a brick shaft that leads to a subterranean tidal pool complete with seaweed, mussel shells, and starfish. Visible through the depths of the water, amid the marine life, are the legs of a man and baby, one holding the other in a manner suggestive of baptism. While primarily a sculptor, Gober has worked across a range of media throughout his career including drawing and printmaking. Drawings sit the closest to his work in three dimensions; most of his sculptures and installations are preceded by preparatory drawings. A selection of Gober’s works on paper is also on view in this gallery.

The final installation included in the exhibition was made in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, and results from Gober’s desire to create a space of refuge and reflection. The overall structure evokes the interior of a church: a central aisle separating rows of pews leads to an altar-like area flanked by two chapels. From the nipples of a headless Christ, regenerative “living water” flows into a large hole jackhammered into the floor. In the pastel drawings hanging on the side walls, the power of human embrace confronts the harrowing news contained within the photolithographed pages of the September 12, 2001, issue of The New York Times. In this installation, the overt references to Catholicism explore the vitality of such symbolism in the wake of contemporary tragedy.

Over the past decade, Gober’s sculptures have become increasingly complex, both technically and iconographically. The artist sometimes uses casts of existing sculptures and combines them to create hybrid objects, as in the conjunction of a chest, a stool, and a twisted network of children’s legs. Elsewhere, Gober pushes recognizable imagery into unpredictable terrain: a sink’s backsplash morphs into gnarled planks of wood interwoven with casts of fragmented arms. New motifs, such as a surrealistically melting rifle, also have entered the artist’s visual universe. The strangeness of these new sculptures is presaged by Prayers Are Answered (1980-81), an early work loosely based on a Catholic church on 7th Street and Avenue B in the East Village. Rather than the traditional religious scenes to be found in paintings lining the walls, Gober has furnished the church with murals depicting the harshness of daily life in the city.

The exhibition’s final gallery presents works made as early as 1979 and as recently as this past spring. Images of domestic objects and architecture and themes of childhood and the body reverberates across the decades. The dollhouse placed on the floor is one of several that Gober designed and built during his first years in New York City, as one way of earning a living. The sculpture and installations that would follow may be considered life-size realizations of the imaginative potential contained within these small structures.

Published in conjunction with the exhibition and prepared in close collaboration with the artist, Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor traces the development of his work, highlighting themes and motifs to which he has returned throughout the decades. The book features an essay by Hilton Als – a text both wide-ranging and personal – and an in-depth narrative of Gober’s life. The rich selection of images illustrates every phase of the artist’s career, and includes previously unpublished photographs from his own archive. Hardcover. 6.5”w x 9.75”h; 272 pages; 169 illustrations. ISBN: 978-0-87070-946-3. $45.

Ann Temkin

The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture
The Museum of Modern Art

Ms. Temkin assumed the role of Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture in 2008, after joining The Museum of Modern Art in 2003 as Curator. During her tenure, Ms. Temkin has worked extensively with her colleagues on reimagining the Painting and Sculpture collection galleries at the Museum. Along with Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not A Metaphor, her exhibitions at MoMA include Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New (2013); Abstract Expressionist New York (2010); Gabriel Orozco (2009); and Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today (2008). Prior to MoMA, Ms. Temkin was the curator of modern and contemporary art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 1990 to 2003, where she organized such exhibitions as Barnett Newman (2002), Constantin Brancusi (1995), and Thinking is Form: The Drawings of Joseph Beuys (1994).

Paulina Pobocha

Assistant Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture
The Museum of Modern Art

Ms. Pobocha is an assistant curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art. She joined the Museum in 2008 and has worked on the exhibitions Gabriel Orozco (2009) and Abstract Expressionist New York (2010). In 2013 she co-organized Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store. She has also worked extensively with the Museum’s collection. Prior to MoMA, Ms. Pobocha was a Joan Tisch Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she lectured on a broad range of subjects in contemporary and modern art. In 2011, she was appointed Critic at the Yale University School of Art.”

Press release from the MoMA website

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954) '
Untitled' 1992


 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled
1992
Paper, twine, metal, light bulbs, cast plaster with casein and silkscreen ink, stainless steel, painted cast bronze and water, plywood, forged iron, plaster, latex paint and lights, photolithography on archival (Mohawk Superfine) paper, twine, hand-painted forest mural
511 3/4 × 363 3/16 × 177 3/16″ (1300 × 922.5 × 450.1 cm)
Glenstone
Image Credit: Russell Kaye, courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
 'Untitled Leg' 1989-1990

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled Leg
1989-1990
Beeswax, cotton, wood, leather, human hair
11 3/8 x 7 3/4 x 20” (28.9 x 19.7 x 50.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Dannheisser Foundation
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954) '
Untitled' 2008


 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled
2008
Cast gypsum polymer
14 ½ x 10 ¾ x 6” (36.8 x 27.3 x 15.2 cm)
Edition of 4, with 1 AP
Collection the artist
Image Credit: Fredrik Nilsen, courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober. 'Untitled' 2005-06

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled
2005-2006
Aluminum-leaf, oil and enamel paint on cast lead crystal
4 3/4″ high × 4 1/4″ diameter (12.1 × 10.8 cm)
Collection the artist
Image Credit: Bill Orcutt, courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954) '
Slip Covered Armchair' 1986-87

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Slip Covered Armchair
1986-87
Plaster, wood, linen, and fabric paint
31 ½ x 30 ½ x 29” (80 x 77.5 x 73.7 cm)
Collection the artist
Image Credit: D. James Dee, courtesy the artist
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
 'Untitled' 1980-81

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled
1980-81
Oil on wood panel
8 x 5 ¾” (20.3 x 14.6 cm)
Collection the artist
Image Credit: Ron Amstutz, courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954) '
Untitled' 1991


 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled
1991
Wood, beeswax, leather, fabric, and human hair
13 1/4 x 16 1/2 x 46 1/8″ (33.6 x 41.9 x 117.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Werner and Elaine Dannheisser
Background: Forest, 1991
Hand-painted silkscreen on paper
Image Credit: K. Ignatiadis, courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober. 'Untitled' 2003-05

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled
2003-05
Courtesy MoMA and Matthew Marks Gallery
Image Credit: Russel Kaye
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
 'Leg with Anchor' 2008

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Leg with Anchor
2008
Forged iron and steel, beeswax, cotton, leather, and human hair
28 × 18 × 20″ (71.1 × 45.7 × 50.8 cm)
Glenstone
Image Credit: Bill Orcutt, courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
 'Untitled' 1984

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled
1984
Plaster, wood, wire lath, aluminum, watercolor, semi-gloss enamel paint
28 x 33 x 22 1/2″ (71.1 x 83.8 x 57.2 cm)
Rubell Family Collection
Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
 'Two Partially Buried Sinks' 1986-87

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Two Partially Buried Sinks
1986-87
Cast iron and enamel paint
Right: 39 x 25 ½ x 2 ½” (99.1 x 64.8 x 6.4 cm); left: 39 x 24 ½ x 2 3/4 “ (99.1 x 62.2 x 7 cm)
Private collection
Image Credit: Andrew Moore, courtesy the artist
© 2014 Robert Gober

 

 

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

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

MOMA website

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07
Dec
14

Exhibition/text: ‘Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st October 2014 – 18th January 2015

Artists: Andrew Blythe, Kellie Greaves, Julian Martin, Jack Napthine, Lisa Reid, Martin Thompson and Terry Williams

Curator: Joanna Bosse

 

This is a gorgeous exhibition at The Ian Potter Museum of Art. Walking through the show you can’t help but have a smile on your face, because the work is so inventive, so fresh, with no pretension to be anything other than, well, art.

There are big preconceptions about ‘Outsider art’, originally art that was made by institutionalised mentally ill people, but now more generally understood as art that is made by anyone outside the mainstream of art production – “artworks made by folk artists and those who are self-taught, disabled, or on the edges of society” who are disenfranchised in some way or other, either by their own choice or through circumstance or context.

Outsider art promotes contemporary art while still ‘tagging’ the artists as “Outsider” – just as you ‘tag’ a blog posting so that a search engine can find a specific item if it is searched for online. It is a classification I have never liked (in fact I abhor it!) for it defines what you are without ever understanding who you are and who you can become – as an artist and as a human being. One of the good things about this exhibition is that it challenges the presumptions of this label (unfortunately, while still using it).

As Joanna Bosse notes in her catalogue essay, “Most attempts to define the category of Outsider art include caveats about the elasticity of borders and the impact of evolving societal and cultural attitudes… The oppositional dialectic of inside/outside is increasingly acknowledged as redundant  and, in a world marked by cultural pluralism, many question the validity of the category.”1 Bosse goes on to suggest that, with its origins in the term art brut (the raw and unmediated nature of art made by the mentally ill), Outsider art reinforces the link between creativity, marginality and mental illness, proffering “the notion of a pure form of creativity that expresses an artist’s psychological state [which] is a prevailing view that traverses the divergent range of creative practice that falls under the label.”2

The ambiguities of art are always threatened by a label, never more so than in the case of Outsider art. For example, how many readers who visited the Melbourne Now exhibition at NGV International and saw the magnificent ceramic cameras by Alan Constable would know that the aritst is intellectually disabled, deaf and nearly blind. Alan holds photographs of cameras three inches away from his eyes and scans the images, then constructs his cameras by feel with his hands, fires them and glazes them. The casual viewer would know nothing of this backstory and just accepts the work on merit. Good art is good art no matter where it comes from. It is only when you enquire about the history of the artist – whether mainstream or outsider – that their condition of becoming (an artist) might affect how you contextualise a work or body of work.

Bosse makes comment about the rationale for the exhibition: ‘The decision to focus on artists’ engagement with the exterior, everyday world was to counter one of the common assumptions about artists in this category – that they are are disconnected from society and that their work is solely expressionistic, in that it relates almost exclusively to the self and the expression of the artist’s emotional inner life.”3 Bosse agrees with the position that to simply eliminate the designation would be a different kind of marginalisation – “one where the unique world view and specific challenges the individual faces would become lost in a misguided attempt at egalitarianism.”4

As chair of a panel session at the international conference Contemporary Outsider Art: The Global Context, 23-26th October at The University of Melbourne, curator Lynne Cooke also sees the classification “Outsider” as valuable, for “Outsider art is the condition that contemporary art wants to be” – that is imaginative, free, intuitive, visceral and living on the edge. She sees contemporary art as having run up the white flag leaving Outsider art – however you define that (not the white, middle class male establishment, and belonging to the right galleries) – to be the vanguard, the new avant-garde.5 The exhibition catalogue concludes with her observation that, while current curatorial strategies breakdown the distinctions between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ – making significant headway concerning stigmatisation – these might have the effect of loosing what she describes as the “‘unique and crucial agency’ that this art has to challenge the ‘monocultural frame’.”6 These artists positions as ‘circuit breakers’, holding counter culture positions, may be threatened as their work is made ready for market, especially if they have little knowledge of it themselves.

And there’s the rub, right there. On the one hand Outsider art wants to be taken seriously, the people promoting it (seldom the artists) want it to be shown in mainstream galleries like the National Gallery of Victoria, and so it should be. Good art is good art not matter what. But they also want to have their cake and eat it too; they want to stand both inside and outside the frame of reference.7 In other words, they promote Outsider art within a mainstream context while still claiming “marginal” status, leveraging funding, philanthropy, international conferences and standing in the community as evidence of their good work. And they do it very successfully. Where would we be without fantastic organisations such as Arts Project Australia and Arts Access Victoria to help people with a disability make art? Can you imagine the Melbourne Art Fair without one of the best stands of the entire proceedings, the Arts Project Australia stand? While I support them 100% I am playing devil’s advocate here, for I believe it’s time that the label “Outsider art” was permanently retired. Surely, if we live in a postmodern, post-human society where there is no centre and no periphery, then ‘other’ can occupy both the centre and the margins at one and the same time WITHOUT BEING NAMED AS SUCH!

[Of course, naming “Outsider art” is also a way of controlling it, to have agency and power over it – the power to delineate, classify and ring fence such art, power to promote such artists as the organisations own and bring that work to market.]

Getting rid of the term Outsider art is not a misguided attempt at egalitarianism as Joanna Bosse proposes, for there will always be a narrative to the work, a narrative to the artist. The viewer just has to read and enquire to find out. Personally, what I find most inspiring when looking at this art is that you are made aware of your interaction with the artist. The work is so immediate and fresh and you can feel the flowering of creativity within these souls jumping off the page.

For any artist, for any work, what we must do is talk about the specific in relation to each individual artist, in relation to the world, in relation to reality and resist the temptation to apply any label, resist the fetishisation of the object (and artist) through that label, absolutely. This is the way forward for any art. May the nomenclature “outsider” and its discrimination be gone forever.

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. Bosse, Joanna. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art.” Catalogue essay. The Ian Potter Museum of Modern Art.
2. Ibid.,
3. Ibid.,
4. Ibid.,
5. Cooke, Lynne. Senior Curator, Special Projects in Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. My notes from the panel session “Outsider Art in the Centre: Museums and Contemporary Art,” at Contemporary Outsider Art: The Global Context, 23-26th October at The University of Melbourne.
6. Cooke, Lynne. Orthodoxies undermined’, Great and mighty things: Outsider art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz collection. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2013, p. 213 quote in Bosse, Joanna, op. cit.,
7. An example of this can be seen in the launch of the new magazine artsider - “Arts Access Victoria in Partnership with Writers Victoria invites you to the Launch of artsider, a magazine devoted to outsider art and writing.” What a clumsy title that seeks to have a foot in both camps. Email received from Arts Access Victoria 19/11/2014.

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

 

 

Martin Thompson. 'Untitled' 2014

 

Martin Thompson
Untitled
2014
Ink on paper
52.5 x 105 cm
Courtesy the artist and Brett McDowell Gallery, Dunedin

 

Andrew Blythe. 'Untitled' 2012

 

Andrew Blythe
Untitled
2012
Synthetic polymer paint on paper
88 x 116 cm
Courtesy the artist and Tim Melville Gallery, Auckland

 

Terry William. 'Stereo' 2011

 

Terry Williams
Stereo
2011
Vinyl fabric, cotton, stuffing and fibre-tipped pen
21 x 43 x 14 cm
Private collection, Melbourne. Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

Terry Williams. 'Telephone' 2011

 

Terry Williams
Telephone
2011
Fabric, cotton, stuffing and fibre-tipped pen
18 x 13 x 20 cm
Private collection, Melbourne. Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

 

“An exhibition of Australian and New Zealand ‘Outsider’ artists which challenges a key existing interpretation of the genre will be presented at the Potter Museum of Art at The University of Melbourne, from 1 October 2014 to 15 January 2015. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art, features the work of artists Andrew Blythe, Kellie Greaves, Julian Martin, Jack Napthine, Lisa Reid, Martin Thompson and Terry Williams.

The term ‘Outsider art’ was coined by British art historian Roger Cardinal in 1972 expanding on the 1940s French concept of art brut – predominantly artworks made by the institutionalised mentally ill – to include artworks made by folk artists and those who are self-taught, disabled, or on the edges of society. The work of Outsider artists is often interpreted as expressing a unique inner vision unsullied by social or cultural influences. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art counters this view by presenting contemporary Outsider artists whose works reveal their proactive engagement with the everyday world through artworks that focus on day-to-day experiences.

Curator Joanna Bosse says the exhibition questions a key interpretive bias of Outsider art that is a legacy of its origins in art brut.

“The association with an interior psychological reality that is unsullied by social or cultural influences remains deeply embedded within the interpretations of Outsider art today, and can lead audiences to misinterpret the agency and intention of the artist. Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art questions this key interpretive bias, and presents the work of Australian and New Zealander outsider artists that demonstrate a clear and proactive engagement with the world. The work of artists Andrew Blythe, Kellie Greaves, Julian Martin, Jack Napthine, Lisa Reid, Martin Thompson and Terry Williams reveals their blatant interest in the here and now,” Ms Bosse said.

Terry Williams’ soft fabric sculptures of everyday items such as fridges, cameras and clocks convey his keen observation of the world and urgent impulse to replicate what is meaningful through familiarity or fascination. Kellie Greaves’ paintings are based on book cover illustrations with the addition of her own compositional elements and complementary tonal colour combinations. The traditional discipline of life-drawing provides Lisa Reid with a structure to pursue her interest in recording the human figure. Her pen and ink drawings are carefully observed yet intuitive renderings.

Jack Napthine produces drawn recollections of his past and present daily life in the form of visual diaries. Light fittings from remembered environments feature prominently as do doors with multiple and varied locks. Napthine’s work has a bold economy of means; he uses thick texta pen to depict simplified designs accompanied by text detail that often records the names of friends and family.

The work of Martin Thompson and Andrew Blythe also displays a similarly indexical approach. Both artists produce detailed repetitive patterns that are borne out of a desire for order and control. Thompson uses large-scale grid paper to create meticulous and intricate geometric designs whereas Blythe uses select motifs – the word ‘no’ and the symbol ‘x’ – to fill the pictorial plane with dense yet orderly markings that result in graphic and rhythmic patterns.

“In the last decade in particular there has been much debate about the term ‘outsider art': who does it define? What are the prerequisite conditions for its production? What is it outside of, and who decides? This exhibition doesn’t seek to resolve these ambiguities or establish boundaries, but looks beyond definitions to challenge a key assumption underlying contemporary interpretations of outsider art,” Ms Bosse said.

Everyday imagining: new perspectives on Outsider art is held in conjunction with the international conference Contemporary Outsider art: the global context, presented Art Projects Australia and The University of Melbourne and held 23-26 October at The University of Melbourne. The conference proposes an inter-disciplinary exploration of the field, drawing on the experience and knowledge of Australian and international artists, collectors, curators and scholars. More information at www.outsiderartmelbourne2014.com.”

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art

 

Julian Martin. 'Untitled' 2011

 

Julian Martin
Untitled
2011
Pastel on paper
38 x 28 cm
Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

Kelly Greaves. 'My little Japan' 2010

 

Kelly Greaves
My little Japan
2010
Synthetic polymer paint on paper
59.4 x 42 cm
Courtesy the artist and Art Unlimited, Geelong

 

Jack Napthine. 'Untitled' 2013

 

Jack Napthine
Untitled
2013
Fibre-tipped pen on paper
59.4 x 42 cm
Courtesy the artist and Art Unlimited, Geelong

 

Jack Napthine. 'Untitled' 2013

 

Jack Napthine
Untitled
2013
Fibre-tipped pen on paper
42 x 59.4 cm
Courtesy the artist and Art Unlimited, Geelong

 

Lisa Reid. 'Queen of hearts' 2010

 

Lisa Reid
Queen of hearts
2010
Pencil on paper
35 x 25 cm
Courtesy the artist and Arts Project Australia, Melbourne

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
Swanston Street between Faraday and Elgin streets in Parkville
The University of Melbourne
Victoria 3010 Australia

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm
Monday closed

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

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30
Nov
14

Review: ‘PHOTOGRAPHY MEETS FEMINISM: Australian women photographers 1970s-80s’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th October – 7th December 2014

Artists: Micky Allan, Pat Brassington, Virginia Coventry, Sandy Edwards, Anne Ferran, Sue Ford, Christine Godden, Helen Grace, Janina Green, Fiona Hall, Ponch Hawkes, Carol Jerrems, Merryle Johnson, Ruth Maddison, Julie Rrap, Robyn Stacey.

Curator: Shaune Lakin

 

 

With the National Gallery of Victoria’s photography exhibition program sliding into oblivion – the apparent demise of its only dedicated photography exhibition space on the 3rd floor of NGV International; the lack of exhibitions showcasing ANY Australian artists from any era; and the exhibition of perfunctory overseas exhibitions of mediocre quality (such as the high gloss, centimetre deep Alex Prager exhibition on show at the moment at NGV International) – it is encouraging that Monash Gallery of Art consistently puts on some of the best photography exhibitions in this city. This cracker of an exhibition, the last show curated by Shaune Lakin before his move to the National Gallery of Australia (and his passionate curatorial concept), is no exception. It is one of the best photography exhibitions I have seen all year in Melbourne.

Most of the welcome, usual suspects are here… but seeing them all together is a feast for the eyes and the intellect. While most are social documentary based photographers what I like about this exhibition is that there is little pretension here. The artists use photography as both a means and an end, to tell their story – of mothers, of workers, of dancers, of lovers – and to depict a revolution in social consciousness. What we must remember is the period in which this early work appeared. In the 1970s in Australia there were no formal photography programs at university and photography programs in techs and colleges were only just beginning: Photography Studies College (1973) in South Melbourne, Prahran College of Advanced Education (Paul Cox, John Cato, 1974) and Preston Tech (c. 1973, later Phillip Institute) were all set up in the early 1970s. The National Gallery of Victoria photography department was only set up in 1969 (the third ever in the world) with Jenny Boddington, Assistant Curator of Photography, was appointed in 1972 (later to become the first full time photography curator). There were three commercial photography galleries showing Australian and international work in Melbourne: Brummels (Rennie Ellis), Church Street Photographic Centre (Joyce Evans) and The Photographers Gallery (Paul Cox, John Williams, William Heimerman and Ian Lobb). While some of the artists attended these schools and others were self taught, few had their own darkroom. It was not uncommon for people to develop their negatives and print in bathrooms, toilets, backyard sheds and alike – and the advise was to switch on the shower before printing to clear the dust out of the air, advise in workshops that people did no bat an eyelid at.

What these women did, as Julie Millowick (another photographer who should have been in this exhibition, along with Elizabeth Gertsakis and Ingeborg Tyssen for example) observes of the teaching of John Cato, was “bring to the work knowledge that extended far beyond picking up a camera or going into a darkroom. He [Cato] believed that you must bring to every image you create a wide depth of insight across social, cultural and historical concerns. John was passionate in his belief that an understanding of humanity and society was crucial to our growth as individuals, and ultimately our success as photographers.”1 And so it is with these artists. Never has there been a time in Australian photography when so much social change has been documented by so few for such great advantage. In all its earthiness and connection, the work of these artists is ground breaking. It speaks from the heart for the abused, for the disenfranchised and downtrodden. The work is not only for women by women, as Ponch Hawkes states, but also points the way towards a more enlightened society by opening the eyes of the viewer to multiple points of view, multiple perspectives.

There are few “iconic” images among the exhibition and, as Robert Nelson notes in his review in The Age, little pretension to greatness. One of the surprising elements of the exhibition is how the four photographs by Carol Jerrems (including the famous Vale Street, 1975), seem to loose a lot of their power in this company. They are out muscled in terms of their presence by some of the more essential and earthy series – such as Women at work by Helen Grace and Our mums and us by Ponch Hawkes – and out done in terms of their sensuality by the work of Christine Godden. These were my two favourite bodies of work: Our mums and us and Christine Godden’s sequence of 44 images and the series Family.

Hawkes’ objective series of mother/daughter relationships are deceptively simple in their formal structure (mother and daughter positioned in family homes usually looking directly at the camera), until you start to analyse them. Their unpretentious nature is made up of the interaction that Hawkes elicites from the pairing and the objet trouvé that are worn (the cowgirl boots in Ponch and Ida, 1976) or surround them (the carpet, the table, the plant and the painting in Mimi and Dany, 1976). This relationship adds to the power of the assemblage, juxtaposition of energy and form being a guiding principle in the construction of the image. While the environment might be ‘natural’ it is very much constructed, both physically and psychologically, by the artist.

The work of Christine Godden was a revelation to me. These small, intense images have a powerful magnetism and I kept returning to look at them again and again. There is sensitivity to subject matter, but more importantly a sensuality in the print that is quite overwhelming. Couple this with the feeling of light, space, form and texture and these sometimes fragmentary photographs are a knockout. Just look at the sensitivity of the hands in Untitled, c. 1976. To see that, to capture it, to reveal it to the world – I was almost in tears looking at this photograph. The humanity of that gesture is something that I will treasure.

The only criticism of the exhibition is the lack of a book that addresses one of the most challenging times in Australian photographic history. This important work deserves a fully researched, scholarly publication that includes ALL the players in the story, not just those represented here. It’s about time. As a good friend of mine recently said, “Circles must expand as history moves away from a generation and cohort and, hopefully, the future will ask its own questions” … and I would add, without putting the blinkers on and creating more ideology.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. Julie Millowick and Christopher Atkins. “Dr John Cato – Educator,” in Paul Cox and Bryan Gracey (eds.,). John Cato Retrospective. Melbourne: Wilkinson Publishing, 2013.

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

 

 

“As feminism took off among intellectuals of both sexes, art history would sometimes be interrogated to account for the reasons why there were relatively few great female artists.

While art historians would create reasonable apologies and impute the deficit to centuries of disadvantage to women, it was left to women artists to construct a view of art that redefined the stakes.

They sought a vision that didn’t see art as line-honours in transcendent inventions but a conversation that furthered the sympathy and consciousness of the community”

.
Robert Nelson The Age Wednesday November 5, 2014

 

 

Pat Brassington. 'Untitled' 1984 (1)

 

Pat Brassington
Untitled
1984 (1)
From the series 1 + 1 = 3
Gelatin silver print
18 x 28 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Courtesy of the artist, ARC ONE Gallery (Melbourne), Stills Gallery (Sydney) and Bett Gallery (Hobart)

 

Pat Brassington‘s photographs have often made use of the artist’s home and family life as subject matter. The photographs included in this exhibition were taken during the early 1980s and, with their tight cropping and diagonal obliques, suggest that family life is an anxious and ambivalent place. Erotically charged body parts – whether partner’s or offspring – are left to hang, like fetish objects drifting through a dream. Brassington is consciously mining the clichés of psychoanalysis, with her focus on shoes, panties and an ominous father figure, but she reworks this symbolism with a comical lightness that is closer to a teen horror film than the analyst’s couch.

 

Helen Grace. 'Women at work, Newcastle' 1976

 

Helen Grace
Women at work, Newcastle
1976
From the series Series 1
Gelatin silver prints
17.5 x 11.6 cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Helen Grace. 'Women at work, Newcastle' 1976

 

Helen Grace
Women at work, Newcastle
1976
From the series Series 2
Gelatin silver prints
11.6 x 17.5 cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Helen Grace. 'Women at work, Newcastle' (detail) 1976

 

Helen Grace
Women at work, Newcastle (detail)
1976
From the series Series 2
Gelatin silver prints
11.6 x 17.5 cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Helen Grace was a member of the Sydney-based feminist collective Blatant Image (which also included Sandy Edwards), which formed around the Tin Sheds at Sydney University. The collective was interested in examining and reconfiguring the representation of women in popular culture, and also in developing alternative venues for socially conscious art and film. The photographs displayed here point to the two interconnected preoccupations of Grace’s work at this time: the social and cultural construction of motherhood and femininity (and the way that each of these categories are produced by and through consumerism and popular culture), and the documentation of women’s labour. An active member of Sydney’s labour movement, Grace photographed women working in a range of workplaces (including factories and hospitals) for both the historical record and as promotional aids for activist organisations.

Grace’s Women seem to adapt to repetitive-type tasks was widely shown in Sydney and Melbourne, including the exhibition The lovely motherhood show (1981). This work of seven panoramas depicting a string of nappies on a washing line at once points towards the inexorable tediousness of motherhood, and at the same timeattempts to demystify the romantic myths of motherhood found in contemporary advertising and popular culture. Grace’s photographs were also widely used in posters produced by trade union and women’s groups. During the 1970s and 1980s screen printing was a cheap and effective way to incorporate photographic imagery into posters. Community groups also embraced screen printing because its aesthetic stood in opposition to commercial advertising, and the process lent itself to a do-it-yourself work ethic.

 

Merryle Johnson. 'Outside the big top' 1979-80

 

Merryle Johnson
Outside the big top
1979-80
From the series Circus
Hand coloured gelatin silver prints
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated by Merryle Johnson, 2014

 

Merryle Johnson‘s photographic feminism sits alongside her contemporaries Micky Allan and Ruth Maddison. In the first instance, it is expressed in the autobiographical nature of her images, which often refer to her family history. And like Allan and Maddison, Johnson also used hand-colouring to reinvigorate documentary photography and to bring a decidedly female perspective to the medium. Johnson’s contribution to feminist photography in Australia is also reflected in her use of photographic sequences – multiple images printed on the same sheet. In these works, the single, perfectly realised photographic image of Modernist photography was replaced with a series of images that draw attention to the fragmentary, contingent and inconclusive nature of photography. The serialisation of photographs also engages a more embodied, spatialised and assertive experience than single pictures alone.

 

Christine Godden. 'Joanie and baby Jade, Larkspur' 1973

 

Christine Godden
Joanie and baby Jade, Larkspur
1973
From the series Family
Gelatin silver print
8.4 x 13.8 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Joanie pregnant' 1972

 

Christine Godden
Joanie pregnant
1972
From the series Family
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 22.6 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' c. 1976

 

Christine Godden
Untitled
c. 1976
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 22.8 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' c. 1976

 

Christine Godden
Untitled
c. 1976
Gelatin silver print
15.2 x 22.7 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden. 'Untitled' c. 1976

 

Christine Godden
Untitled
c. 1976
Gelatin silver print
15.2 x 22.8 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Christine Godden’s Untitled c. 1976 is part of a sequence of 44 images that represented fragments and textures that combine tenderness and formal rigour in a way that evokes a sense of poetry. The series Family c. 1973 details the domestic environment and experience of young families in the American West.

As well as presenting subjects that engaged a ‘feminine’ subject, Godden’s photographs critically interrogate many of the claims for a distinctly ‘feminine sensibility’ being made by and for women artists at this time. The ‘Untitled’ prints on display here were originally exhibited in 1976 at George Paton Gallery, Melbourne and the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney. These pictures were originally shown as part of a tightly organised sequence of 44 photographs intended to show ‘how women see [and] how women think’. The tightly cropped glimpses of bodies and textures combine tenderness and formal rigour in a way that evokes a sense of visual poetry.

Christine Godden’s Family series comprises a large number of images detailing the domestic environment and experience of young families living in the American west. Godden was at this time a student at the San Francisco Art Institute and was very active in feminist networks, including the Advocates for Women organisation, for whom she photographed events and actions. Godden’s Family series documents her experience of the counter-cultural families of America’s west coast, who provided and celebrated a new model of family life and women’s work.

 

Installation view of 'Photography Meets Feminism' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Photography Meets Feminism at the Monash Gallery of Art with, at right, Anne Ferran’s Scenes on the death of nature, scene I and II (1980-86)

 

Anne Ferran. 'Scenes on the death of nature, scene I' 1980-86

 

Anne Ferran
Scenes on the death of nature, scene I
1980-86
Gelatin silver print
122.0 x 162.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Courtesy the artist and Sutton Gallery (Melbourne)

 

Anne Ferran‘s series Scenes on the death of nature presents five tableau-like scenes showing the artist’s daughter and her friends in classical dress. When they were first exhibited, commentators noted the enigmatic quality of the images, and how they resisted clear meaning, narrative and any attribute of personal style. To many, they represented a significant shift away from documentary photography. This might well be the ‘death’ to which the titles refer. For the critic Adrian Martin, the pictures appeared to evoke myth, while also being ambivalent about a photograph’s capacity to point to or allude to anything outside of itself; in this way, they can be seen to exemplify a certain post-modern approach to photography.

All the same, it is possible to see these important pictures as signposts for another kind of death. The photographs allude to some of the ways that the subject of girl/woman has been produced through visual culture, whether the monumental friezes of classical or Victorian architecture, or Pre-Raphaelite tableaux. In this way, they evoke the idea of ‘femininity’ as a source of meaning. Rather than rejoicing in, resisting or critiquing ‘femininity’ as earlier feminist photographers might have done, Ferran’s pictures remain steadfastly, even ‘passively’ ambivalent. As the artist wrote at the time, the works reveal ‘very little of a personal vision or private sensibility’. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of four Carol Jerrems photographs with 'Vale Street' (1975) at left

 

Installation view of four Carol Jerrems photographs with Vale Street (1975) at left and Lynn
(1976) at right

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Vale Street' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems
Vale Street
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1976
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Lynn' 1976

 

Carol Jerrems
Lynn
1976
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

 

Carol Jerrems was one of a number of Australian women whose work during the 1970s challenged the dominant ideas of what a photographer was and how they worked. She adopted a collaborative approach to making photographs, which often featured friends and associates, and sought a photographic practice that would bring about social change. For Jerrems, as for many of her contemporaries, the photograph was an agent of social change, a means of both bringing people together and creating active and engaged social relationships. As she stated:
.

I really like people … I try to reveal something about people, because they are so separate, so isolated; maybe it’s a way of bringing people together … I care about [people], I’d like to help them if I could, through my photographs…

.
The iconic Vale Street shows Jerrems’s friend Catriona Brown standing in front of Mark Lean and Jon Bourke, teenage boys from Heidelberg Technical School where Jerrems was teaching at the time. The photograph was taken at a house in Vale Street, St Kilda. Although it is unclear if Jerrems conceived of this image as a feminist gesture, the subject’s assertive, bare-chested pose and Venus symbol led to this photograph being interpreted as a statement of feminist power.

 

Installation view of 'Photography Meets Feminism' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation view of 'Photography Meets Feminism' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation views of Photography Meets Feminism at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation view of Ponch Hawkes series 'Our mums and us' at the exhibition 'Photography Meets Feminism'

 

Installation view of Ponch Hawkes series Our mums and us at the exhibition Photography Meets Feminism. Her photographs were made by women, of women, for women.

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Ponch and Ida' 1976

 

Ponch Hawkes
Ponch and Ida
1976
From the series Our mums and us
Gelatin silver print
17.7 x 12.7 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ian Bracegirdle 2012
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Lorna and Mary' 1976

 

Ponch Hawkes
Lorna and Mary
1976
From the series Our mums and us
Gelatin silver print
17.7 x 12.7 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ian Bracegirdle 2012
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Mimi and Dany' 1976

 

Ponch Hawkes
Mimi and Dany
1976
From the series Our mums and us
Gelatin silver print
17.7 x 12.7 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Ian Bracegirdle 2012
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes‘s best-known series Our mums and us documents a selection of the photographer’s contemporaries standing with their mothers. The photographs were taken at each subject’s family home and record generational shifts in personal style and domestic decor. Originally shown at Brummels Gallery of Photography in 1976, which was Hawkes’s first solo exhibition, Our mums and us has become one of the most celebrated examples of feminist photography in Australia.

The use of pronouns in the title suggests the series was made by women, of women and for women; it is a defiant and celebratory feminist gesture, which foregrounds women as at once independent and connected to each other. Reflecting on the series, Hawkes explains that ‘feminism helped me to understand that my mother was actually a woman too, and not just a mother, and Our mums and us came out of that realisation.’

 

installation-i

installation-j

installation-k

installation-l

installation-h

 

Ephemera and books from Ponch Hawkes personal collection, including the cover of the seminal book A Book About Australian Women by Carol Jerrems and Virginia Fraser (Melbourne, 1974)

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Vehicle Builders Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison
Vehicle Builders Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne
1979
From the series Let’s dance
Gelatin silver print
27.0 x 18.0 cm
Collection of the artist
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Women’s dance, St Kilda Town Hall, Melbourne' 1985

 

Ruth Maddison
Women’s dance, St Kilda Town Hall, Melbourne
1985
Gelatin silver print
36.5 x 24.5 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ruth Maddison photographed the social spaces that had been important to activist communities but which were in the process of passing away. These were mainly commissioned projects for labour and social movements, otherwise these histories would have been lost.

Dancing and entertainment were features of Ruth Maddison’s work throughout the 1980s. These photographs reflected Maddison’s own social life, which often revolved around Melbourne’s pubs and nightclubs. But there was also a classical documentary function to her photographs of trade union dances and the annual women’s dance at St Kilda Town Hall. These pictures reflected social spaces that had been important to activist communities, but which by the mid-1980s were in the process of passing away; as women’s groups began to fragment, and as the membership of labour organisations changed. The photographs shown here of the Vehicle Builders’ Union Ball at Collingwood Town Hall were part of a commission. Like many photographers in this exhibition (including Helen Grace, Sandy Edwards and Ponch Hawkes), political affiliation and professional practice often came together in commissioned projects for labour and social movements.

 

Virginia Coventry. 'Miss World televised' 1974

 

Virginia Coventry
Miss World televised
1974
Gelatin silver print
15.5 x 13.5 cm (each)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Miss World televised is typical of Virginia Coventry‘s photographic work from this period, which tended to revolve around tightly organised sequences of pictures of the same subject (swimming pools in a Queensland town; the spaces between houses) or an event (a car moving through a carwash; a receding flood).

At the time, Coventry shared a house with Micky Allan. One night, while watching Allan’s black-and-white television, she saw footage of the 1974 Miss World pageant on the news. Immediately taken by the way the poor reception distorted the bodies of the contestants, Coventry began to photograph the footage. Once she developed the film, she realised the visual ‘disruption’ caused by the incongruity of the telecast process and the camera’s shutter speed obscured the figures and the beauty of the contestants, without necessarily deriding or critiquing the women themselves. As Coventry has written of the pictures: “I remember discussions with other women at the time about the way that the distortions offered a protection to the integrity of the actual person in the photo-images. Because of the radical slippage between reportage and reception, the individual is no longer the subject. The title operates to focus attention on Miss World telecast as a quiteabstract construction – as do the black-and-white, grainy, prints.”

 

 

PHOTOGRAPHY MEETS FEMINISM: Australian women photographers 1970s-80s looks at the vital relationship of photography and feminism in Australia during the 1970s and ’80s.

Given the vitality of both feminist politics and art photography during the 1970s, it is not surprising that they entered into a lively exchange that extended into the 1980s. On the one hand, feminists used the highly informative and accessible medium of photography to raise awareness of critical social issues.

On the other hand, photographic artists embraced feminist themes as a way of making their practice less esoteric and more engaged with contemporary life. This productive intersection of feminism and photography fostered a range of technical innovations and critical frameworks that made a significant contribution to the direction of visual culture in Australia.

PHOTOGRAPHY MEETS FEMINISM: Australian women photographers 1970s-80s will feature vintage prints of important photographs, many of which have not been seen for decades.

MGA Interim Director, Stephen Zagala states, “We are proud to present this exhibition, which provides an as-yet untold account of Australian photography and draws heavily on MGA’s nationally significant collection of Australian photography.””

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art

 

“This exhibition explores the encounter between photography and feminist politics during the 1970s and into the 1980s.

Both photography and feminism thrived during this period. Feminist politics of the 1970s expanded on its earlier fight for equal rights by illuminating discrimination against women in various contexts. This included addressing domestic violence, inequality in the workplace, sexism in the media, and the economics of parenting. Alongside this expanded critique of patriarchy, feminist politics also celebrated ‘sisterhood’ by drawing attention to the undervalued achievements of women and by taking pride in distinctly female perspectives on the world.

Photographic practice also expanded its parameters during the 1970s. Together with other art forms such as painting and sculpture, photography became more experimental and irreverent. Most photographic artists rejected the tradition of highbrow fine art photography and invested the medium with personal sentiment and everyday content. The camera also became a useful tool for a generation of artists more interested in social engagement than aesthetic finesse.

Given the vitality of both feminist politics and art photography during the 1970s, it is not surprising that they entered into a lively exchange that extended into the 1980s. On the one hand, feminists used the highly informative and accessible medium of photography to raise awareness of critical social issues. On the other hand, photographic artists embraced feminist themes as a way of making their practice less esoteric and more engaged with contemporary life. This productive intersection of feminism and photography fostered a range of technical innovations and critical frameworks that made a significant contribution to the direction of visual culture in Australia.”

Text from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Sue Ford. 'Untitled' 1969-71

 

Sue Ford
Untitled
1969-71
From the series The Tide Recedes
Selenium toned gelatin silver print

 

Sue Ford. 'Untitled' 1969-71

 

Sue Ford
Untitled
1969-71
From the series The Tide Recedes
Selenium toned gelatin silver print

 

Sue Ford‘s series The Tide Recedes 1969-71 was made for her first solo exhibition at the Hawthorn City Art Gallery in 1971. People were becoming more removed from nature but Ford felt that woman share a particular biological and cultural affinity with nature. The contrasty black and white photographs of bodies melding with rocks in montage prints that are as rough as guts work magnificently.

These prints were made as preparation for Sue Ford’s ambitious series The tide recedes, shown as part of Ford’s first solo exhibition at the Hawthorn City Art Gallery in 1971. Throughout this body of work, images of naked women and of men and women embracing merge with a marine landscape. The series expresses Ford’s concern that people were becoming too removed from nature, and allude to the idea that women share
a particular biological and cultural affinity with nature. It also draws on a technique that was central to feminist photographic practice – montage, where two disparate fragments are brought together to produce new and often unexpected meanings. While this reflects Ford’s work as a film maker, where montage is often used in storytelling, this strategy also embeds her pictures in the field of activist art. With montage, it is the viewer who ultimately makes sense of a work, as they find and see connections between disparate fragments.

While the prints presented in the 1971 exhibition were ambitious in scale and resolution, Ford preferred prints that were – in her terms – ‘rough as guts’. Prints such as those shown here represented an explicit rejection of the maleness of both the camera as a technological instrument and the arcane knowledge of the darkroom.

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982

 

Robyn Stacey
Queensland out west
1982
Hand-coloured gelatin silver prints
9.2 x 15.2 (each)
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982 (detail)

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982 (detail)

Robyn Stacey. 'Queensland out west' 1982 (detail)

 

Robyn Stacey
Queensland out west (details)
1982
Hand-coloured gelatin silver prints
9.2 x 15.2 (each)
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Untitled (Geoff in Bondi)' 1981

 

Robyn Stacey
Untitled (Geoff in Bondi)
1981
From the series Modified myths 1938-88
Hand-coloured gelatin silver print
39.0 x 38.3 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Untitled (Picnic)' 1981

 

Robyn Stacey
Untitled (Picnic)
1981
From the series Modified myths 1938-88
Hand-coloured gelatin silver print
39.0 x 38.3 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey established a reputation for her hand- coloured prints in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Introduced to the process by Micky Allan, Stacey’s early hand-coloured prints examined the life and culture of Australia, especially her native Queensland. Stacey hand-coloured her photographs so as to invest them with personal attributes: “At the time I was interested in hand colouring [because it was] a technique associated with women’s work and craft. This approach seemed a good way to visually re-enforce the personal and intimate quality of the prints.”

Among Stacey’s most important contributions to the feminist tradition of hand colouring photographs are her pictures of Queensland architecture, taken during a road trip to western Queensland made with her mother. These images refer to an heroic subject in Australian culture – the stoicism of the outback and the people who populate it. But Stacey revises these myths, by presenting the images as intimate and personal.

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Ice' 1989

 

Robyn Stacey
Ice
1989
from the series Redline 7000
Silver dye bleach print
104.0 x 175.3 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2012
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Jet' 1989

 

Robyn Stacey
Jet
1989
from the series Redline 7000
Silver dye bleach print
164.0 x 103.0 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program 2012
Courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery (Sydney)

 

In the late 80s, Stacey began to hand colour her transparencies rather than the print, thereby incorporating an aspect of reproducibility to the images. In this way the work shifted from the unique print, with its references to nostalgia and the careful rendering of places and times, to something resembling the glossy images found in 1980s’ mass media, especially Hollywood cinema.

 

Julie Rrap. 'Persona and shadow: Madonna' 1984

 

Julie Rrap
Persona and shadow: Madonna
1984
Silver dye bleach print
203.0 x 126.5 cm
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 1997
Courtesy of the artist and Arc One Gallery (Melbourne) and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery (Sydney)

This photograph is from the series of nine works titled Persona and shadow. Julie Rrap produced this series after visiting a major survey of contemporary art in Berlin (Zeitgeist, 1982) which only included one woman among the 45 artists participating in the exhibition. Rrap responded to this curatorial sexism with a series of self-portraits in which she mimics stereotypical images of women painted by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Each pose refers to a female stereotype employed by Munch: the innocent girl, the mother, the whore, the Madonna, the sister, and so on.

Appropriating the work of other artists is one of the strategies that characterises the work of so-called ‘postmodern’ artists active during the 1980s. The practice of borrowing, quoting and mimicking famous artworks was employed as a way of questioning notions of authenticity. Feminist artists tended to use appropriation to specifically question the authenticity of male representations of females. In more straightforward terms, Rrap reclaims Munch’s clichéd images of women and makes them her own. Rrap ultimately becomes an imposter, stealing her way into these masterpieces of art history, but the remarkable thing about these works is the way that the artist foregrounds the process of reappropriation itself. The procedure of restaging, collage, overpainting, and rephotographing becomes part of the final image, testifying to a d0-it-herself politic. (Wall text)

 

Micky Allan. 'Old age' 1978

 

Micky Allan
Old age
1978
From the series Old age
Gelatin silver photograph, hand coloured with watercolour and pencil
18.2 x 12.0 cm
© Micky Allan

 

Micky Allan. 'Old age' 1978

 

Micky Allan
Old age
1978
From the series Old age
Gelatin silver photograph, hand coloured with watercolour and pencil
18.2 x 12.0 cm
© Micky Allan

 

Micky Allan. 'Old age' 1978

 

Micky Allan
Old age
1978
From the series Old age
Gelatin silver photograph, hand coloured with watercolour and pencil
18.2 x 12.0 cm
© Micky Allan

 

Micky Allan’s two series Babies and Old age were shown in Melbourne and Sydney around 1976-77; their reception revealed much about the anxieties that informed photographic criticism and practice at the time, with critics dismissing the works as ‘slight’ and ‘feminine photographs par excellence’. Across a series of exhibitions between 1976 and 1980, Allan challenged many of the established conventions of fine art photography, in both technique and subject. Allan overpainted the black-and-white print with watercolour, gouache and pencil to the extent of both acknowledging the under recognised history of women’s photographic work – historically, women were employed by studios to hand-paint or tone photographic prints – and transgressing the smooth surface of photographic prints that was prized by traditional art photographers.

For Allan, overpainting rejected the technical sameness of modern photography and introduced an emotional warmth. Allan’s hand-colouring also interrupted the myth of photographic transparency – the notion of the photograph as a ‘disinterested’ window onto the world. Overpainted, the photograph became subjective, contingent and fallible. The lightness of many of Allan’s interventions enhances this sense of fallibility. (Wall text)

 

With a body of work ranging across painting, photography and performance, investigations of subjectivity have been central to Micky Allan’s practice. Allan has consistently drawn on feminist strategies which emphasise the personal and autobiographical. In the early 1970s she became involved with the experimental performance and collective activities based at The Pram Factory in Melbourne, working there as both a set designer and a photographer, documenting early feminist work. Of this time Allan has said that she saw “photography as a form of social encounter … that in comparison with painting it [was] much more integrated to what was going on.”1

Allan has acknowledged social documentary as the basis of her photographic work. For a short period she recorded political figures and the surrounding social changes in which she was both a participant and an observer. Old age, the second of three series whose focus is lifecycles (the other two being Babies 1976 and The prime of life 1979-80), comprises 40 hand-coloured individual portraits. Allan introduced the technique of hand-colouring in her work in 1976, a technique taken up by many women photographers at that time to counter the then dominant modes of masculine production. While there is stylistic variation across the series, each portrait, close-up in viewpoint, is meticulously rendered in pastel colours. The images do not capture a simple moment but rather work together to poignantly symbolise a rich regard for age. Of this Allan has said: “Altogether they are an attempt to familiarise and personalise “age”, in a society which tends to ignore or stereotype the old.”2

1. ‘On paper – survey 12′, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 21 Jun ‘ 20 Jul 1980, as quoted in 1987, Micky Allan: perspective 1975-1987, Monash University Gallery, Clayton p. 4
2. Ibid p. 19

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

 

Exhibiting artist’s biographies

Micky Allan (b. Australia 1944) studied Fine Art at the University of Melbourne, and painting at the National Gallery School in the 1960s. Allan began taking photographs in 1974 after joining the loosely formed feminist collective at Melbourne’s experimental arts and theatre space the Pram Factory. During this time Allan was part of a vibrant community of feminist artists that included Virginia Coventry, who taught her how to take and print photographs. Allan returned to painting as her primary medium in the early 1980s.

Pat Brassington (b. Australia 1942) is a Hobart-based artist who studied printmaking and photography at the Tasmanian School of Art, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in 1985. Brassington draws on a personal archive of visual material to compose her images. This archive includes both photographic and non-photographic material, which has either been found or produced by Brassington. Her work takes inspiration from surrealist photography, with its recurring interest in fetish objects and uncanny domestic scenes. Brassington typically employs digital collage to manufacture disjointed compositions, and she exhibits her work in elliptical series that suggest dream-like narratives.

Virginia Coventry (b. Australia 1942) studied painting at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology during theearly 1960s, before undertaking postgraduate studies at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. While painting and drawing have been constant features of Coventry’s practice, she started taking photographs during the mid-1960s and developed a significant reputation for her photo-based work during the 1970s. Her photographic work typically engages with socio-political issues and often incorporates textual elements that give it a discursive form.

Sandy Edwards (b. New Zealand 1948 arr. Australia 1961) has been an important figure in Australian photography as both a maker and advocate since the 1970s. Edwards’s practice has paid particular attention to women and their relationship with the media of photography and film. Most of her work is documentary in nature but her photographic prints are often presented in sequences that elaborate conceptual points. Edwards has also been a prolific curator of exhibitions promoting the work of contemporary photographers, especially in Sydney.

Anne Ferran (b. Australia 1949) is a Sydney-based photographer and academic. She studied humanities and teaching before training in photography at Sydney College of the Arts. She began exhibiting her work in the mid-1980s and has become one of Australia’s most critically acclaimed photographers. Ferran’s practice is largely concerned with using photography to reclaim forgotten pasts, with a specific interest in the histories of women and children in colonial Australia. In pursuing this interest, Ferran often develops her projects through archival research and fieldwork.

Sue Ford (Australia 1943-2009) studied photography at RMIT and was the first Australian photographer to be given a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1974. Over the course of her artistic career Ford worked with still photography and moving images, beginning with traditional analogue film and then embracing the possibilities offered by photomedia and digital technologies. In this respect, Ford is a key figure in the history of avant-garde photographic experimentation. Ford’s artworks are also remarkable for their critical engagement with contemporary social issues, while also expressing deeply personal perspectives on the world.

Christine Godden (b. Australia 1947) has played a significant role in Australian photography as a maker, curator and advocate. After studying in Melbourne, Godden completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1975 and a Master of Fine Arts at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York in 1980. On her return to Australia, she became director of the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney, and was consequently a prominent spokesperson for Australian photography during the 1980s. Her own photography is couched in a highly personal and poetic form of documentary practice.

Helen Grace (b. Australia 1949) is a self-taught artist who began making work as an active member of feminist and labour organisations in Sydney during the mid-1970s. Often straight-forwardly documentary in style, Grace’s approach to photography is closely aligned with political consciousness raising. Her work for the labour and women’s movements was widely circulated around the time of its production, both in the pages of publications and in posters produced by trade unions and women’s groups. Grace’s writing on photography and film, history and politics have also made a significant contribution to the critical discussion that surrounds feminist practice in Australia.

Janina Green (b. Germany 1944 arr. Australia 1949) studied Fine Arts at Melbourne University and Victoria College before training as a printmaker at RMIT. In the 1980s she taught herself photography and subsequently specialised in this medium. Green held her first solo exhibition of photography in 1986 and has exhibited regularly since then, participating in over 30 group exhibitions and producing over 20 solo shows. Green’s photographs are distinguished by their sophisticated and often sensuous surfaces, which testify to her early training in printmaking. In her role as a teacher in the photography department at the Victorian College of the Arts, Green has also played a significant role as a mentor for younger photographers.

Fiona Hall (b. Australia 1953) initially trained as a painter, and has ultimately become a celebrated sculptor, but photography was her primary medium in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Hall developed an interest in photography at art school and worked as an assistant to the well-known landscape photographer Fay Godwin while she lived in London between 1977-78. Hall subsequently studied photography at the Visual Studies Workshop in New York during 1982. Hall’s photographic practice demonstrates a fascination with decoration and style, which is informed by a critical interest in the premise of a ‘feminine’ sensibility.

Ponch Hawkes (b. Australia 1946) took up photography in 1972 while working as a journalist for the counter-cultural magazines Digger and Rolling Stone. Her early photography was informed by her role as a commentator on alternative social issues, and she has often used her images to engage with contemporary critical debates. During the 1970s Hawkes was part of a loosely formed feminist collective based at Melbourne’s experimental arts and theatre space the Pram Factory. Since that time she has continued to work closely with community groups around Australia and remains a key figure in contemporary photographic practice.

Carol Jerrems (Australia 1949-80) was born in Melbourne and studied photography at Prahran Technical College under Paul Cox and Athol Shmith between 1967 and 1970. Although she practised as an artist for only a decade, Jerrems has acquired a celebrated place in the annals of Australian photography. Her reputation is based on her compassionate, formally striking pictures, her intimate connection with the people involved in social movements of the day, and her role in the promotion of ‘art photography’ in this country.

Merryle Johnson (b. Australia 1949) graduated from Bendigo College of Advanced Education in 1969 with a major in painting. She took up photography in 1970 and it subsequently became central to her professional life, both as an arts educator and an exhibiting artist. Johnson’s approach to photography is informed by her broader training as an artist. This is particularly evident in her use of hand-colouring and sequencing. While the subject matter of her images is largely drawn from everyday life, she employs artistic devices to bring a sense of drama and fantasy to documentary photography.

Ruth Maddison (b. Australia 1945) is a self-taught photographer and artist. Maddison began working as a professional photographer in 1976, and she has been regularly exhibiting her work since 1979. Photography has been her primary medium, but in later years her artistic practice has expanded to include moving-image, textiles and sculpture. An interest in personal biography and the celebration of everyday existence informs her artistic practice. She is most well-known for her hand-coloured photographs of domestic life. In 1996 Maddison relocated from Melbourne to Eden, on the south coast of NSW.

Julie Rrap (b. Australia 1950) studied humanities at the University of Queensland (1969-71) before establishing her career as an exhibiting artist in Sydney during the 1980s. Rrap’s involvement with performance art and avant-garde politics during the 1970s laid the foundations for her later work in photography, painting, sculpture and video, which is largely concerned with the representation and experience of women’s bodies. The photographic objectification of female bodies is a persistent theme in Rrap’s work, but her highly expressive self-portraits invest the medium with a subjective intensity that affronts the clinical quality of voyeurism.

Robyn Stacey (b. Australia 1952) is a Sydney-based photographer who has been exhibiting since the mid-1980s. During the 1980s Stacey produced staged or ‘directorial’ photographs that drew on the visual language of cinema and television. Through the 1990s Stacey engaged in further training and study, and experimented extensively with new media including digital photography and lenticular prints. In 2000 Stacey began working with natural history collections in Australia and overseas, using photography to bring the contents of these archives to life. Throughout her career, Stacey has been interested in photography as an expressive medium that can be used to reiterate, remix and reanimate visual information.

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
T: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri: 10am – 5pm
Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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23
Nov
14

Review: ‘Polixeni Papapetrou: Lost Psyche’ at Stills Gallery, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 29th October – 29th November 2014

 

 

“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”

.
Paul Klee. Creative Credo [Schöpferische Konfession] 1920

 

When “facing” adversity, it is a measure of a person’s character how they hold themselves, what face they show to the world, and how their art represents them in that world. So it is with Polixeni Papapetrou. The courage of this artist, her consistency of vision and insightful commentary on life even while life itself is in the balance, are inspiring to all those that know her.

Papapetrou has always created her own language, integrating the temporal dissemination of the historical “case” into a two-dimensional space of simultaneity and tabulation (the various archetypes and ancient characters), into an outline against a ground of Cartesian coordinates.1 In her construction, in her observation and under her act of surveillance, Papapetrou moves towards a well-made description of the states of the body in the tables and classification of the psychological landscape. Her tableaux (the French tableau signifies painting and scene (as in tableau vivant), but also table (as in a table used to organize data)) are a classification and tabulation that is an exact “portrait” of “the” illness, the lost psyche of the title. Her images lay out, in a very visible way, the double makeover: of the outer and inner landscape.

These narratives are above all self-portraits. The idea that image, archetype and artist might somehow be one and the same is a potent idea in Papapetrou’s work. What is “rendered” visible in her art is her own spirit, for these visionary works are nothing less than concise, intimate, focused self-portraits. They speak through the mask of the commedia dell’ arte of a face half turned to the world, half immersed in imaginary worlds. The double skin (as though human soul, the psyche, is erupting from within, forcing a face-off) and triple skin (evidenced in the lack of depth of field of the landscape tableaux) propose an opening up, a revealing of self in which the anatomy (anatemnein: to tear, to open a body, to dissect) of the living is revealed. The images become an autopsy on the living and the dead: “a series of images, that would crystallize and memorize for everyone the whole time of an inquiry and, beyond that, the time of a history.”2

Papapetrou’s images become the “true retina” of seeing, close to a scientific description of a character placed on a two dimensional background (notice how the stylised clouds in The Antiquarian, 2014 match the fur hat trim). In the sense of evidence, the artist’s archetypes proffer a Type that is balanced on the edge of longing, poetry, desire and death, one that the objectivity of photography seeks to fix and stabilise. These images serve the fantasy of a memory: of a masked archetype in a made over landscape captured “exact and sincere” by the apparatus of the camera. A faithful memory of a tableau in which Type is condensed into a unique image: the visage fixed to the regime of representation,3 the universal become singular. This Type is named through the incorporated Text, the Legend: I am Day Dreamer, Immigrant, Merchant, Poet, Storyteller.

But even as these photographs seek to fix the Type, “even as the object of knowledge is photographically detained for observation, fixed to objectivity,”4 the paradox is that this kind of knowledge slips away from itself, because photography is always an uncertain technique, unstable and chaotic, as ever the psyche. In the cutting-up of bodies, cutting-up on stage, a staging aimed at knowledge – the facticity of the masked, obscured, erupting face; the corporeal surface of the body, landscape, photograph – the image makes visible something of the movements of the soul. In these heterotopic images, sites that relate to more stable sites, “but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror or reflect,”5 Papapetrou’s psyche, “creates the chain of tradition which passes a happening on from generation to generation.”6 In her commedia dell’ arte, an improvised comedy of craft, of artisans (a worker in a skilled trade), the artist fashions the raw material of experience in a unique way.7 We, the audience, intuitively recognise the type of person being represented in the story, through their half masks, their clothing and context and through the skilful dissemination of collective memory and experience.

Through her storytelling Papapetrou moves towards a social and spiritual transformation, one that unhinges the lost psyche. Her landscape narratives are a narrative of a recognisable, challenging, unstable non-linear art, an art practice that embraces “the speculative mystery of ancient roles…  They’re all souls with divided emotions, torn between dream and reality, who like us, converge on the collective stage that is the world.” They are archetype as self-portrait: portraits of a searching, erupting, questioning soul, brave and courageous in a time of peril. And the work is for the children (of the world), for without art and family, extinction.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. Adapted from Didi-Huberman, Georges. Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere (trans. Alisa Hartz). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003, p. 24-25. I am indebted to the ideas of Georges Didi-Huberman for his analysis of the ‘facies’ and the experiments of Jean-Martin Charcot on hysteria at the Hôpital Salpêtrière in Paris in the 1880s.
2.
Ibid., p. 48
3. Ibid., p. 49
4. Ibid., p. 59
5. Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces,” in Diacritics Spring 1986, p. 24 quoted in Fisher, Jean. “Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 226-227
6. Fisher, Ibid., p. 227-228
7. “One can go on and ask oneself whether the relationship of the storyteller to his material, human life, is not in itself a craftsman’s relationship, whether it is not his very task to fashion the raw material of experience, his own and that of others, in a solid, useful, and unique way.”
Benjamin
, Walter. Illuminations (trans. by Harry Zohn; edited by Hannah Arendt). New York: Schocken Books, 1968 (2007), p. 108

 

Many thankx to Polixeni Papapetrou and Stills Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images copyright of the artist.

 

 

“For her, history indicates a view of culture that is more congruent with mortality, with the biological swell of great things arising and perishing, brilliant and melancholy, august and yet brittle. Without judgement, she reorients history as phenomenology: it contains a bracing dimension of loss which is congruent with that fatal sentiment lodged in our unconscious, that our very being – our psyche – is ultimately lost…

Lost Psyche is always about lost cultural innocence, where culture gets too smart and ends by messing with an earlier equilibrium. Papapetrou identifies these moments not to promote gloom but to recognize all the parallels that make for redemption. Parts of the psyche are undoubtedly lost; but Papapetrou proposes and proves that they can still be poetically contacted.”

.
Robert Nelson 2014

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Day Dreamer' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Day Dreamer
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Immigrant' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Immigrant
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Merchant' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Merchant
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Orientalist' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Orientalist
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Poet' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Poet
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Storyteller' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Storyteller
2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

 

“In Lost Psyche, Polixeni Papapetrou portrays emblematic figures that have come to the end of their tradition, their rationale, their place in the world. These intriguing and charismatic characters – the poet, the tourist, the immigrant, among others – bring to life antique Victorian paper masks. Yet, despite being cast beyond our immediate reality, their costumes harking back to earlier times, their settings to fantastical places, these archetypal figures live on in the cultural imagination.

Internationally celebrated for an oeuvre that has consistently tested the boundaries of performance and photography, reality and fantasy, childhood and adulthood, Lost Psyche marks a significant return for Papapetrou. Having extensively explored the Australian landscape as a stage for her photographic fictions, and working in response to the natural and historical dramas of our country, this series takes us back into her studio and the expansive scope of imaginary worlds.

Expressive, luscious and knowingly naïve, the painted backdrops bring to mind the simple seduction of children’s storybooks. At the same time, they reference the painting heavyweights and photographic forerunners that are celebrated within art history. Papapetrou’s image The Duchess, for instance, echoes Goya’s commanding oil painting of the Duchess of Alba (1797). Yet, in this newly imagined version, the ‘role’ of Duchess is playfully acted not endured, and like the melodrama of theatre, the dark sky and downcast actor are softened to become illustrative and symbolic – a scene in a universal story. So too, The Orientalist evokes Felix Beato’s 19th Century photographic forays in Japan, recalling his hand-colouring techniques and depictions of social ‘types’.

Consciously foregrounding this ever-present potential for art to present stereotyped representations, Papapetrou reminds us how these social roles and ‘masks’ play out within our souls and psyche’s just as they do on the cultural stage. As a metaphor for the loss of childhood, a time in which we openly switch between characters, identities and roles, this work evokes the persistence of that imagination, as it lives on within the adult world.

In Lost Psyche, the speculative mystery of ancient roles enjoys a fantastical and touching afterlife. In the contemporary world we may also entertain the inner poet, the storyteller, the clown, the connoisseur, the courtesan, the day dreamer or the dispossessed. They’re all souls with divided emotions, torn between dream and reality, who like us, converge on the collective stage that is the world.

Polixeni Papapetrou is an internationally acclaimed artist. Her works feature in significant curated exhibitions, including recently the 13th Dong Gang International Photo Festival, Korea, the TarraWarra Biennale, VIC, Remain in Light, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria. She exhibits worldwide, including in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Athens and Berlin. Recent solo exhibitions include Under My Skin, Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, 2014, Between Worlds in Fotogràfica Bogotá, 2013, and A Performative Paradox, Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2013. Her work is held in numerous institutional collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Monash Gallery of Art, Artbank, Fotomuseo, Colombia, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Florida, USA.”

Press release from Stills Gallery

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Antiquarian' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Antiquarian
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Duchess' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Duchess
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Summer Clown' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Summer Clown
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Troubadour' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
The Troubadour
2014
Pigment print
150 x 100 cm

 

 

Stills Gallery
36 Gosbell Street
Paddington NSW 2021
Australia
T: 61 2 9331 7775

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

Stills Gallery website

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15
Nov
14

Exhibition: ‘Transformational Imagemaking: Handmade Photography Since 1960′ at CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NY

Exhibition dates: 19th September – 13rd December 2014

Artists: Thomas Barrow, Wayne Belger, Stephen Berkman, Matthew Brandt, Dan Burkholder, Darryl Curran, Binh Danh, Rick Dingus, Dan Estabrook, Robert Fichter, Robert Flynt, Judith Golden, Betty Hahn, Robert Heinecken, Robert Hirsch, Catherine Jansen, Harold Jones, Tantana Kellner, Les Krims, William Larson, Dinh Q. Lê, David Lebe, Martha Madigan, Curtis Mann, Stephen Marc, Scott McCarney, Chris McCaw, John Metoyer, Duane Michals, Vik Muniz, Joyce Neimanas, Bea Nettles, Ted Orland, Douglas Prince, Holly Roberts, Clarissa Sligh, Keith Smith, Jerry Spagnoli, Mike & Doug Starn, Brian Taylor, Maggie Taylor, Jerry Uelsmann, Todd Walker, Joel-Peter Witkin, John Wood.

Curator: Robert Hirsch

 

 

“The resurgence of handmade photography in the 1960s had several sources and influences. It looked back to the “anti-tradition” of nineteenth-century romanticism, which accentuated the importance of making a highly personal response to experience and a critical response to society. It drew on contemporary popular culture. Many of the artists engaged in this movement were baby-boomers brought up on television and film, media that often portrayed photography as hip and sexy – eg. the film Blow-Up (1966) – and which drove home the significance of constructed photographic images. In addition, the widespread atmosphere of rebellion against social norms propelled the move toward handwork. The rejection of artistic standards in photography was consistent with the much broader exploration of sexual mores and gender roles that took place in the sixties. It was also consistent with the exploration of consciousness. The latter was encouraged by such counter-culture figures as Ken Kesey who, with his band of Merry Pranksters, boarded a Day-Glo bus called “Further” and took an LSD-fueled trip across the country that echoed Dr. Timothy Leary’s decree “to tune in, turn on, and drop out.” On a broader level, the society-at-large was exposed to psychedelic exploration through Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which youthful audiences saw as a mysterious consciousness-expanding trip into humanity’s future. Finally, handmade photography was supported by the general growth of photographic education in the university. The ubiquity and importance of the medium in the culture at large, as well as pressure from those who championed photography from within art institutions gave credence in the post-war decades to the idea that people could study photography seriously. As new photography programs mushroomed in the universities, they produced graduates who took teaching positions in even newer programs. Many of these young teachers, who had grown up to the adage of “do your own thing,” were responsive to unconventional ways of seeing and working, and they encouraged these attitudes in their students, many of whom turned to handmade photography.

Despite the attractions of handmade photography there were in the sixties, and still are to some degree, emphatic objections to the open engagement of the hand in photographic art. One common objection is that such art constitutes a dishonest method to cover up aesthetic and technical inadequacies. Another comes from those who believe strongly in the Western tradition of positivism. These people tend to reject handmade photography on the grounds that it is unnecessarily ambiguous or irrational in its meanings. Nevertheless, more artists than ever are currently using the flexible, experiential methods of handwork. In addition to opening up an avenue to inner experience, artists find handwork attractive because it promotes inventiveness, allows for the free play of intuition beyond the control of the intellect, extends the time of interaction with an image (on the part of both the maker and the viewer), and allows for the inclusion of a wide range of materials and processes within the boundaries of photography…

[Curator] Peter C. Bunnell’s innovative exhibitions [MoMA: Photography as Printmaking (1968) and Photography Into Sculpture (1970)] demonstrated that in essence photography is nothing more than light sensitive material on a surface. The exhibitions also recognized that the way a photograph is perceived and interpreted is established by artistic and societal preconceptions about how a photographic subject is supposed to look and what is accepted as truthful. The work in the Bunnell exhibitions was indicative of a larger zeitgeist of the late 1960s that involved leaving the safety net of custom, exploring how to be more aware of and physically connected to the world, and critically examining expectations with regard to lifestyles…

In spite of post-modernism’s assault on the myth of authorship and its sardonic outlook regarding the human spirit, artists who produce handmade photography continue to believe that individuals can make a difference, that originality matters, and that we learn and understand by doing. They think that a flexible image is a human image, an imperfect and physically crafted one that possesses its own idiosyncratic sense of essence, time, and wonder. Their work can be aesthetically difficult, as it may not provide the audience-friendly narratives and well-mannered compositions some people expect. But sometimes this is necessary to get us to set aside the ordained answers to the question: “What is a photograph?” and allow us to recognize photography’s remarkable diversity in form, structure, representational content, and meaning. This acknowledgment grants artists the freedom and respect to explore the full photographic terrain, to engage the medium’s broad power of inquiry, and to present the wide-ranging complexity of our experiences, beliefs, and feelings for others to see and contemplate.

Extract from Flexible Images: Handmade American Photography, 1969 – 2002 by Robert Hirsch (2003) on the Light Research website [Online] Cited 14/11/2014. First published in The Society for Photographic Education’s exposure, Volume 36: 1, 2003, cover and pages 23 – 42. © Robert Hirsch 2003

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

 

 

Vik Muniz. 'Picture of Dust' 2000

 

Vik Muniz
Picture of Dust (Barry Le Va, Continuous and Related Activities; Discontinued by the Act of Dropping, 1967, Installed at the Whitney Museum in New Sculpture 1965-75: Between Geometry and Gesture, February 20-June 3, 1990)
2000
From the series The Things Themselves: Picture of Dust
Framed, overall: 51 x 130 1/2 inches
Two silver dye bleach prints (Ilfochrome)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York;/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

Thomas Barrow. 'Dart, Albuquerque' 1974

 

Thomas Barrow
Dart, Albuquerque
1974
Fuji Crystal Archive Print

 

Thomas Barrow. 'f/t/s Cancellations (Brown) - Field Star' 1975

 

Thomas Barrow
f/t/s Cancellations (Brown) – Field Star
1975
Gift from the Collection of Joel Deal and Betsy Ruppa
© Thomas Barrow. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

Barrow scratched through his landscape negatives, calling attention to the materiality of the medium itself and the fact that regardless of how much information is given, reality remains an accumulation of belief, knowledge, and one’s own experience.

 

 

Les Krims. 'The Static Electric Effect of Minnie Mouse on Mickey Mouse Balloons' 1968

 

Les Krims
The Static Electric Effect of Minnie Mouse on Mickey Mouse Balloons
1968
Kodalith Print

 

“Kodak Kodalith paper was a thin, matt, orthochromatic graphic arts paper that was not intended for pictorial purposes. However, when it was used for pictorial expression its responsiveness to time and temperature controls during development enabled one to produce a wide range of grainy, high-contrast, and sepia tonal effects. Its unusual handling characteristics also meant that photographers had to pull the print at precisely the “right” moment from the developer and quickly get it into the stop bath, making each print unique.”

 

Din Q Le. 'Ezekial’s Whisper' 2014

 

Din Q Le
Ezekial’s Whisper
2014
C-print, linen tape

 

Ted Orland. 'Meteor!' 1998

 

Ted Orland
Meteor!
1998
Hand colored gelatin silver print

 

Brian Taylor. 'Our Thoughts Wander' 2005

 

Brian Taylor
Our Thoughts Wander
2005
From the series Open Books
Hand bound book

 

Open Books

I create photographically illustrated books springing from my fascination with the book format and a love of texture in art. My imagery is inspired by the surreal and poetic moments of living in our fast-paced, modern world. I’m fascinated by how daily life in the 21st Century presents us with incredible experiences in such regularity that we no longer differentiate between what is natural and what is colored with implausibility, humor, and irony.

These hard cover books are hand bound with marbleized paper and displayed fully opened to a photographically illustrated two-page folio spread. Each book is framed in a wooden shadowbox and presented as a wall piece. I like the idea of making art that contains some imagery which can be sensed but not seen. The underlying pages contain my photographs, snapshots, and work prints that “gave their lives” for the imagery visible in the open spread. These images lie beneath the open pages like history.1

 

David Lebe. 'Angelo On The Roof' 1979

 

David Lebe
Angelo On The Roof
1979

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, born 1934) 'Small Woods where I met Myself (Final Version)' 1967

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, born 1934)
Small Woods where I met Myself (Final Version)
1967
Gelatin silver print
25.4 x 32.3 cm (10 x 12 11/16 in.)
© 1967 Jerry Uelsmann

 

Robert Heincken. 'Are You Rea #15' 1968

 

Robert Heincken
Are You Rea #15
1968
Offset lithography

 

David Levinthal and Garry Trudeau. 'Untitled', from the series 'Hitler Moves East' 1977

 

David Levinthal and Garry Trudeau
Untitled, from the series Hitler Moves East
1977
8 x 10 inches
Gelatin silver (Kodalith) print
Courtesy Paul Morris Gallery, New York City

 

My favorite story comes from the early days of Levinthal’s career, when he was a college student working on Hitler Moves Eastwith Garry Trudeau. They worked with childlike enthusiasm, purchasing smoke bombs from a local theater supply shop and growing grass inside David’s apartment to achieve maximum realism. This culminated in a huge explosion of smoke, and the photograph above. Forever making jokes, Levinthal had this to say about the situation: “I’m not even sure we had 911 those days, so that was probably helpful.” He sometimes describes incidents in which things went wrong, but thankfully this wasn’t one of those situations. Instead he successfully produced this photo and began a transition from the early works, which show toys rearranged on his linoleum floor, to photographs that are sophisticated and deceptively real looking.3

 

Joel-Peter Witkin. 'Poussin in Hell' 1999

 

Joel-Peter Witkin
Poussin in Hell
1999
Toned gelatin silver print

 

Douglas Prince. 'Untitled' 1969

 

Douglas Prince
Untitled
1969
Film and Plexiglas
5 x 5 x 2.5 inches

 

Mike and Doug Starn. 'Double Rembrandt with Steps' 1987-88

 

Mike and Doug Starn
Double Rembrandt with Steps
1987-88
Toned gelatin silver print, toned ortho film, wood, Plexiglas, and glue.
108 x 108 inches
Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

 

 

“CEPA Gallery is pleased to announce Transformational Imagemaking: Handmade Photography Since 1960, a companion exhibition to Robert Hirsch’s recently published book of the same title (Focal Press). This extraordinary exhibition features work by some of the most innovative photographers and imagemakers of the mid- 20th century through today; artists who redefined the notion of photography as a medium and left an indelible mark on contemporary photographic practices.

This extensive survey will include more than 140 works by over 40 artists spanning nearly 50 years of artistic practice unified by a curatorial arc rooted in notions that deviate from the purview of traditional photographic practice. Citing Robert Heinecken’s practice as the genesis of conceptual handmade photography, this exhibition charts an intricate universe of artists whose practice dispenses with the self-prescribed limitations of conventional photography in order to mine the boundless potential of the photographic medium as a conceptual conveyance.

Transformational Imagemaking is the culmination of Hirsch’s lifelong exploration into handmade photography and the artists whose practices were formed on the principle of unearthing new possibilities. Hirsch sites the catalyst for the project as an article he published in exposure in 2003 entitled “Flexible Images: Handmade American Photography, 1969 – 2002″. It has since expanded into a comprehensive publication that includes personal conversations with each artist conducted over a six-month period during 2013. CEPA will now elaborate further by mounting an exhibition that features a selection of each artist’s work.

In addition to Transformational Imagemaking, CEPA will also show the complete folio of Robert Heinecken’s seminal series Are You Rea (1966). Considered to be the grandfather of post-modern photographic practices and a major figure of 20th century art, Heinecken was a key figure in promoting new sentiments about photography as an art form, influencing artists such Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, and others. Heinecken’s rebellious spirit challenged conventions about the ways photographs represent the tangible world: “We constantly tend to misuse or misunderstand the term reality in relation to photographs. The photograph itself is the only thing that is real.”

Are You Rea (1966), created by contact printing magazine tear-outs onto photographic paper, are ghostly compositions that layer sexually suggestive images of women with fractured text. This provocative body of work, sexually charged and evocatively ambiguous, reflects an awareness of desire as a commercial commodity that begs us to question the very root of our own desires.”

Press release from CEPA Gallery

 

Keith Smith. 'Untitled' 1972

 

Keith Smith
Untitled
1972

 

Binh Danh. 'The Botany of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum #2' 2008

 

Binh Danh
The Botany of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum #2
2008
From the Immortality: The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War series
Chlorophyll print and resin

 

The chlorophyll process is an organic alternative photography process akin to the anthotype process. However, instead of printing on the crushed extract of fruit or plant matter, the prints are bleached by sunlight directly onto the surface of leaves using a positive. The resulting images are stunningly delicate and beautiful, ranging from haunting silhouettes to crisp definition. Despite the simplicity of the finished product, the process itself can be tedious with plenty of trial and error.

Drawing on the anthotype process, Danh refined a method for securing a positive directly to a live leaf and allowing sunlight to bleach the image onto its surface naturally. He has also addressed a fundamental challenge with natural photography processes; that of fixing the image to prevent further bleaching and deterioration over time. To save his work, Dah casts his finished pieces in a layer of resin allowing them to be enjoyed for years to come.2

 

Dinh Q. Lê  Vietnamese, born 1968 'Untitled' 1998

 

Dinh Q. Lê  (Vietnamese, born 1968)
Untitled, from the series Cambodia: Splendor and Darkness
1998
C-print and linen tape

 

Dan Estabrook. 'Fever' 2004

 

Dan Estabrook
Fever
2004
Salt print with ink and watercolor

 

Robert Fichter. 'Roast Beast 3' 1968

 

Robert Fichter
Roast Beast 3
1968
Verifax transfer with rundowns, stamping, and crayon

 

Robert Heineken. 'Are You Rea #1' 1966

 

Robert Heineken
Are You Rea #1
1966
Offset lithography

 

Chris McCaw. 'Sunburned GSP #676 (San Francisco Bay)' 2013

 

Chris McCaw
Sunburned GSP #676 (San Francisco Bay)
2013
Gelatin Silver paper negative

 

Curtis Mann. 'Photographer, Scratch' 2009

 

Curtis Mann
Photographer, Scratch
2009
Bleached c-print with synthetic polymer varnish

 

Vik Muniz. 'Atlas (Carlao)' 2008

 

Vik Muniz
Atlas (Carlao)
2008
Digital C-print

 

 

CEPA Gallery
617 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
T: (716) 856-2717

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday: 9.00 am – 5.00 pm
Saturday: 12.00 pm – 4.00 pm

CEPA Gallery website

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

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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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