Archive for the 'quotation' 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.”

.
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.”

.
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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20
Jan
15

Images from ‘The Americans’ by Robert Frank

January 2015

 

I have scoured the internet for other images from The Americans by Robert Frank, in addition to the photographs in the recent posting Robert Frank in America Part 1 and Part 2 at the Cantor Arts Center. This new posting includes some seldom seen images from the book that are very hard to find online (especially the image Car accident, US 66 between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona which echoes Walker Evans image A Child’s Grave, Hale County, Alabama, 1936, Farm Security Administration).

It is great to be able to gather all of these images together in one meta-resource, instead of spending hours looking for the work. The posting also makes visible the magnificent breadth of vision of the artist, and what a great eye he had for the unfolding scene.

Influenced by Abstract Expressionist painting and the graphic tonality of dark and light, Frank presents a dystopian vision of America where death, loneliness, discrimination and alienation are never far from the surface, both in the rich and poor. You only have to compare the two images Cafeteria, San Francisco and Charity Ball, New York City to eyeball the difference between the haves and the have nots.

There is not a bad image amongst them, testament to Frank’s rigorous selection process for the book, in which he already had a strong idea of the images he wanted to use and the sequencing and layout of the book when he went to the publisher. I particularly like the irony of the atomic bomb at the bottom of the image Hoover dam, Nevada (1955).

Marcus

 

“I sometimes feel that I would like to see you more in closer to people. It seems to me that you are ready now to begin probing beyond environment into the soul of man. I believe you made a fine decision in taking yourself and family away from the tenseness of the business of photography there. You must let every moment of the freedom you are having contribute to your growing and growing. Just as the microscope and the telescope seek a still closer look at the universe, we as photographer must seek to penetrate deeper and closer into our brothers. Please excuse if this sounds like preaching. It is dictated by an interest and affection for you and yours.”

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Letter dated April 2, 1952 from Edward Steichen to Robert Frank

 

 

Robert Frank and Edward Steichen

 

Robert Frank and Edward Steichen

 

Robert Frank. 'Bar, New York City' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Bar, New York City
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Bar, Las Vegas' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Bar, Las Vegas
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Candy Store, New York City' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Candy Store, New York City
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Coffee Shop, Railway Station' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Coffee Shop, Railway Station
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Funeral, St. Helena, South Carolina' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Funeral, St. Helena, South Carolina
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Los Angeles' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Los Angeles
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Men's room, railway station, Memphis' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Men’s room, railway station, Memphis
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Ranch Market, Hollywood' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Ranch Market, Hollywood
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Assembly line, Detroit' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Assembly line, Detroit
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Beaufort, South Carolina' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Beaufort, South Carolina
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Belle Isle, Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Belle Isle, Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

“Robert Frank was trying to capture facets of American culture within his collection The Americans. Included within American culture is the institution of family, as well as more subtle features like the influence of race. These features of American culture seem to be the focus of the photograph Belle Isle, Detroit. This photo includes the contrast of the black child versus the white child. The white child is near the center of the foreground in the photograph, is wrapped in blankets, and is being held by a woman that we can presume to be it’s mother. This contrasts with the black child, who is in the background, standing on it’s own feet, and is wearing much less clothing. It is unclear who is responsible for the black child, as nobody in the photograph seems concerned with this child. Everybody’s gaze is focused on something else. The contrast of the two children represents the effect of race in 1950’s America. White children grew up under a sheltered upbringing , unaware of the privilege that they held by being white (Shaw and Lee, 75). This privilege is represented in the photograph by the white child being held and wrapped in blankets. Black children held no such privilege, and were cast into a world of racialized injustice from birth. Black people were oppressed systematically by lawmakers, and in cooperation by white people who flaunted their privilege whether they were conscious of this or not. This oppression is represented by the lack of attention and care the black child is receiving, in addition to it’s lack of clothing. Oppression was something that stood out to Frank when he came to the United States. Referencing oppression of blacks in an interview conducted in 2000, Frank said that an initial thought when coming into this country was “there is a lot here that I do not like and that I would never accept.” (Frank et al., 110)

It is important to consider the historical point at which this photograph was taken. This photo was taken in 1955, which was near the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement for African-Americans. This could have been something that Frank considered while taking photographs. In the middle of this photo is a pregnant woman who appears to be of mixed ethnicity. Her expression is perplexed as if she is in deep thought, with her arms crossed. This begs the question, what is she thinking about? She could be contemplating the fate of her unborn child. Her pregnancy makes her a symbol of things to come. With the Civil Rights Movement in progress, it is unclear what kind of world her child will be born into and grow up in. As a mixed child, the child probably won’t have white skin, and it raises the question how big an effect race will have on this child’s life. In a world of changing times, the uncertainty of the future is something that looms in the back of our heads. The pregnant woman stands as a symbol of the future, and her perplexed expression is representative of the uncertainty associated with the future. Frank wanted to capture what was a historical period filled with uncertainty and hope with the fate of the Civil Rights Movement hanging in the balance.”

Extract from Chris Watson. “Oppression versus Privilege in Belle Isle, Detroit,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. Butte, Montana' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Butte, Montana
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Car accident, US 66 between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Car accident, US 66 between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“I developed a tremendous contempt for LIFE, which helped me. You have to be enraged. I also wanted to follow my own intuition and do it my own way, and to make concessions – not make a LIFE story. That was another thing I hated. Those goddamned stories with a beginning and an end. If I hate all those stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end then obviously I will make an effort to produce something that will stand up to those stories but not be like them”

.
Robert Frank

 

Robert Frank. 'Chattanooga, Tennessee' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Chattanooga, Tennessee
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'City Fathers - Hoboken, New Jersey' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
City Fathers – Hoboken, New Jersey
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

“There are two different ways of viewing the photo that may offer differing messages, though they combine to form one broad theme. Viewing the photo as a whole shows five men, separated from the viewer by a lively decoration, looking upon some event nearby. Their mostly large bodies and tall hats, separated by the sky in the background, creates an image like that of great towers side by side. We view them from below as a common person in comparison to their superior position and stature. Capturing the size of this group with the other men in hats behind the main characters relates that this is not a picture of only the men in the foreground, but instead of their class as a whole. This creates the essence of numerical strength and the authority that these men supposedly carry with them in their high positions, though some closer inspection offers a slightly different view. Studying the features of these men allows us to become more familiar with them as people, which one might quickly overlook amidst their uniformity.

The two rightmost men offer the most evidence as characters in this scene, both displaying facial expressions of greatly varying emotions. The man furthest to the right has his lips puckered and his eyes closed, perhaps kissing the air towards some unseen figure. He is not focused on the event as the others are. He could be seen as leaning from his position above to play with someone below him, despite everyone else’s attention being elsewhere. This man represents the sort of pomp and carelessness of those who are above the struggles of the lower classes. The second man, however, is practically opposite to the first. His eyes are squinted, focusing on the event. His face is grim and he stands up straight. This man stands out amongst these elite, not wearing any ribbon, a tall hat, or even a suit. This lack of formal attire ironically serves to highlight his importance. He might be of a position higher than simply upper-class business owners or politicians, possibly a mayor. Regardless, his colder features are easily applied to the group as a whole, as are the “superior” and somewhat unaware features of the first man. Adding together these elements with those taken from the entire section gives us a picture of the rich and powerful as a sizable mob of men, some of which are as large and powerful as they are cold, and others which look down at the masses below with playful, unengaged eyes.”

Extract from Bryan Squires. “Men of Great Stature and Power,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. 'City Hall, Reno, Nevada' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
City Hall, Reno, Nevada
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank’s photograph, number 81 from The Americans collection entitled City Hall – Reno, Nevada, features a young couple in the center of the frame. They take up about a fourth of the frame, however their central location helps show their close proximity to one another. Their proximity, as well as the young man’s arms wrapped around the young woman, creates an intimate feel to the photograph. The intimate feel, as well as the title of the photograph, suggests that an elopement took place. It also looks as if the photographer is above the couple and looking down on them. This makes it seem as if the couple was unaware that the photo was being taken. The couple seems to be looking down at maybe another photographer or a friend or family member who has come to support their marriage at City Hall. Their formal attire shows the importance of this occasion to the young man and woman and their smiling faces show the perceived happiness of the occasion as well. Frank used a 35mm Leica camera, which was loose, fast and cinematic, and was able to create a photo that was a “dark, shadowed, seemingly casual, grainy glimpse” that showed criticism towards the American society (Glenn). In this photo in particular, the contrast between black and white could symbolize both the happiness and anger that marriage brings…

Approximately 50% of marriages ended in divorce in the 1950s (“Nevada Divorces.”). The young couple’s City Hall marriage could show the impulsivity of young people in the United States, and their rebellion against traditional church weddings. Traditionally, young men would ask the father of the bride for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Then, the parents and extended family would all attend a big church wedding to show their support for couple and the couple’s future. The photograph shows no evidence of any family members or friends present and it is not located in a church. This could be an example of the start of the rebellious stage of young people in the United States. Young adults began to stray from the norm of the traditional, conservative lifestyle of the previous generations.  Ironically though, while this photo shows a young couple getting married in Nevada, Reno was known as the “divorce colony” in the 1950s (“Gambling Legal, Divorce Quicker Now.”). After only 6 weeks of residence by one member of the couple, a citizen could get a divorce if they summoned their spouse to Reno (“Nevada Divorces.”). This meant that divorces were quicker and easier then they had ever been before. Hundreds of divorces took place daily and the population of Nevada grew immensely during this time period.  Also, gambling was legalized during this time period as well (“Gambling Legal, Divorce Quicker Now.”). The aftermath of divorce can be seen in other photographs from Frank’s collection such as Casino – Elko, Nevada. The women who were forced to move to Nevada in order to get a divorce were often times seen casinos after their divorce where they were gambling and drinking. This shows the shift from the idea of motherhood and the American Dream, to a rebellious and nontraditional lifestyle. The young couple in this photograph ironically chose to get married in the City Hall in Reno, Nevada. City Hall is one of the same places where thousands of people would go get divorces throughout the year.  While the couple may seem content and hopeful about their future, Robert Frank chooses this ironic situation to show that the look of hope and feeling of bliss you experience when you first get married is fleeting. The look of hope only lasts for so long.”

Extract from Caroline M. “The Simplicity of Marriage,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. 'Bar, Detroit' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Bar, Detroit
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Convention hall, Chicago' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Convention hall, Chicago
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Department store, Lincoln, Nebraska' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Department store, Lincoln, Nebraska
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Detroit' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Detroit
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'En route from New York to Washington, Club Car' 1954

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
En route from New York to Washington, Club Car
1954
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Luncheonette, Butte, Montana' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Luncheonette, Butte, Montana
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Motorama, Los Angeles' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Motorama, Los Angeles
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Picnic ground, Glendale, California' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Picnic ground, Glendale, California
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Public park - Ann Arbor, Michigan' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Public park – Ann Arbor, Michigan
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Public park, Cleveland, Ohio' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Public park, Cleveland, Ohio
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Restaurant, US 1 leaving Columbia, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Restaurant, US 1 leaving Columbia, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Santa Fe, New Mexico' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Santa Fe, New Mexico
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'St. Petersburg, Florida' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
St. Petersburg, Florida
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Store Window, Washington DC' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Store Window, Washington DC
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Television studio, Burbank, California' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Television studio, Burbank, California
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'US 30 between Ogallala and North Platte, Nebraska' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
US 30 between Ogallala and North Platte, Nebraska
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Yale Commencement - New Haven Green, New Haven, Connecticut' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Yale Commencement – New Haven Green, New Haven, Connecticut
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Yom Kippur - East River, New York City' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Yom Kippur – East River, New York City
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

“Glancing at the photograph Yom Kippur, East River, New York City, one might not pay it much attention. However at a longer glance the picture becomes intriguing. The thing that draws interest is why would anyone take a picture of the back of people’s heads? All that can be seen in the photo is the river, a little boy wearing a Yakama, and a man in a grey suit wearing a hat. There are about four other men, wearing black, out of focus to the left, all with their backs turned as well. That’s it. There is really nothing else to the picture. It almost seems like an amateur photograph. However with a little background knowledge, it is clear that Robert Frank knew exactly what he was doing when he took this photo, and created an image that would spark the realizations of oppression and discrimination…

Jewish immigration was not something that was unfamiliar to Americans, however the immigration that occurred after the Second Great War was different. “Once the United States entered World War II, the State Department practiced stricter immigration policies out of fear that refugees could be blackmailed into working as agents for Germany” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). For these reasons and several others, the American public opinion was very confused about Jewish Immigrants, even after America opened its doors for them to enter the country after the war. This led to Jewish people feeling excluded, and extremely misunderstood expanding throughout the rest of the century. By looking at the photo that captured, the viewer can sense the feeling of discrimination and vulnerability from the subjects of the photo. The photo reflects this because they all have their back turned towards the camera, most of them are looking down, and they all just seem very alone. The angle of the photograph is inferring that the Jewish people were not particularly welcomed or understood in American society.

This photo displays a very powerful message of discrimination towards a group of people who were just trying to get by during this time period. This photo perfectly correlates with the rest of Robert Frank’s The Americans as it hold the same themes of corruption in American society as the rest of the photos do. Robert Frank’s Jewish background gave him the knowledge he needed, while the sufferings and oppression his people went through gave him a view that was able to let Frank see the perfect opportunity to capture this beautiful moment.”

Extract from “Post WWII Jewish Immigrants: Discrimination in America,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. 'Indianapolis' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Indianapolis
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Rodeo, Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Rodeo, Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Covered car, Long Beach, California' 1955-1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Covered car, Long Beach, California
1955-1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'St Francis, gas station and City Hall, Los Angeles' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
St Francis, gas station and City Hall, Los Angeles
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank (2005)

 

Robert Frank. 'Drugstore, Detroit' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Drugstore, Detroit
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank’s collection, The Americans, was an exploration of the “underlying racism, isolation, and conformity” throughout the culture of the 1950s (Tannenbaum). While traveling the country, Frank photographed an average drug store lunch counter in the Detroit, Michigan, which intrinsically displays these major themes that he had wanted to portray to Americans. In Drug store – Detroit, Frank shows the public a more realistic view of society during this time period. He displays the issues of segregation and discrimination in a way that could no longer be avoided by society. This issue of segregation created isolation among Americans by splitting them into groups of racial differences and difference in beliefs about discrimination. These disputes also played a huge role in the conformist society highly associated with the 1950s by creating clear-cut social rules for a segregated society. Frank presented these ideas about racism, segregation, and isolation to Americans in a way they had never seen before. The documenting of these issues in Drug store – Detroit helped spark that changes that were reflected in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s…>

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court in the case of Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas unanimously ruled the “separate but equal” unconstitutional, producing the most significant legal development in American civil rights since 1896 (Schwartz). This decision alone created a stronger resistance against desegregation among the public than ever before (Schwartz). Other events, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Martin Luther King Jr. and the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Civil Rights Act of 1957 piled onto the tension of this decision (Vox). Violence eventually broke out between the black and white communities, and a crisis was emerging that Americans could no longer ignore (Schwartz). Drug store – Detroit clearly represents the tension among the people during this time period. The all white men at the counter are definably separated from the black women working and serving them. The men at the counter and the women working are not interacting, also creating a divided between them, and mirroring the reality of the 1950s. The men sitting at the counter are conforming to this segregated society, and none of them look like they are willing to break the unspoken social rules. Almost all of the men at the counter have intense, distant looks on their faces. They are disconnected with the world around them, disconnected with each other. None of them are speaking. They have fell into the isolationist culture created from their segregated society. Many of the men looked distressed and irritated, almost like the tensions growing within their once seemingly flawless culture have taken a toll on them. The racial tensions of the 1950s were growing, becoming a greater part of society against the desire of Americans. It was one of the largest domestic issues they were faced with after World War II, crushing the world they had worked so hard to maintain (Day 120).”

Extract from “The Influence on the Civil Rights Movement,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. 'U.S. 285, New Mexico' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
U.S. 285, New Mexico
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Political Rally, Chicago' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Political Rally, Chicago
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Assembly Plant, Ford, Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Assembly Plant, Ford, Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Ford River Rouge Plant' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Ford River Rouge Plant
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Crosses on Scene of Highway Accident - U.S. 91, Idaho' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Crosses on Scene of Highway Accident – U.S. 91, Idaho
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Hoover dam, Nevada' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Hoover dam, Nevada
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Newburgh, NY' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Newburgh, NY
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Los Angeles' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Los Angeles
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Movie premiere, Hollywood' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Movie premiere, Hollywood
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Rodeo, New York City' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Rodeo, New York City
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

“When thinking of the romanticized American Cowboy, one often pictures the gallon hat wearing lone ranger whose primary objective is to kill the baddies and live a life of solidarity with his trusty steed. In Robert Frank’s collection The Americans, Rodeo, New York City is representative of the idea of the aggrandized American cowboy. His face hidden allows viewers to place themselves in his shoes and become the irresistible John Wayne character that lives a life of commendable seclusion while working with the elusive Native American who barely speaks (but serves as a trusty sidekick) to bust outlaws. Unlike the Bonanza cowboy, however, Robert Frank captures the image of an actual cowboy – a lanky man wearing a gaudy hat and belt buckle, a plaid shirt tucked into well worn jeans tucked into signature cowboy boots. Instead of gazing at the horizon on the open range, he is seen lounging in the city. The legendary American cowboy is clearly indicative of American nationalism, but importantly represented the idea of the individual – rules or authority did not restrain the cowboy – he could simply ride his horse away from all responsibility. The cowboy was not only an image that was emulated by the public, but also beheld by some as what was wrong with society…

For some, the image of the cowboy was not a heroic fictive character. People like Sherman Alexie, a well-known Native American writer who grew up watching as his people were turned into brutish, barely human entities on television, provide different perspectives on the what it mean to be an “American cowboy.” For people of color watching Western shows, which were extremely popular in the 1950s, the cowboy character was the only “good guy.” … Turning Native Americans into negatively portrayed characters only further perpetuated the racialized persecution present during the 1950s – all people of color were stripped of basic humanity and turned into social deviants.

This photo, taken in the 1950s, was captured during a time in which America was front and center of the “world stage… the country had emerged victorious from World War II, saving the world for democracy” (Rodeo, New York City). The idea of independence is inherent to American nationalism – there is a sense of national pride that the government doesn’t have full control over everyday life. Instead, the nation could place more focus on the greater task at hand: becoming “heroes” saving other countries in “distress” and punishing bureaucratic deviants – embodying the cowboy image of “true justice.” Not only is the cowboy indicative of nationalism, but also America’s growing individualistic society. The longing for individual autonomy is so great that the romanticized cowboy, who is one with nature; far from government created social constraints and industrialization, was created.”

Extract from “A History of the American Cowboy,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Georgetown, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Georgetown, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Rooming house, Bunker Hill, Los Angeles' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Rooming house, Bunker Hill, Los Angeles
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Savannah, Georgia' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Savannah, Georgia
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Navy Recruiting Station, Post Office - Butte, Montana' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Navy Recruiting Station, Post Office – Butte, Montana
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, New York City' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Metropolitan Life Insurance Building, New York City
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Chicago' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Chicago
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Chinese cemetery, San Francisco' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Chinese cemetery, San Francisco
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Factory, Detroit' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Factory, Detroit
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Hotel lobby, Miami Beach' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Hotel lobby, Miami Beach
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Jehovah's Witness, Los Angeles' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Jehovah’s Witness, Los Angeles
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Cafeteria, San Francisco' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Cafeteria, San Francisco
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Charity Ball, New York City' 1955–56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Charity Ball, New York City
1955–56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'Casino, Elko, Nevada' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Casino, Elko, Nevada
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

“”American sexuality”, as Alfred Kinsey refers to it, was widely more ambitious and active during the 1950’s than most American citizens believed (Brown and Fee). In this photograph, the woman is overtly portrayed as a sexual icon through the use of a heavy and penetrating light from above. Frank included the illumination from this light methodically in order to show the importance of the sexual image that the woman represents. This sexual image is enforced further through the non-illumination of the surrounding men, who are used by Frank as a means of expressing the woman’s control over her environment. In the years before Frank’s photographs, American society would have strictly seen the woman in this image as inferior and lewd due to her sexual promiscuity. However, additions to American sex culture such as Playboy magazine and the sensationalizing of Cosmopolitan allowed for a more open creation and interpretation of sexuality in America (Beekmen, Cami).

Frank’s photograph pulls heavily on the connection between gambling and sex, a connection that has become engrained in American society and culture. Gambling, an almost sexual act in and of itself, is expressed as an action for the sexually diverse and active through this photograph. Frank’s attempt at “simplifying American sex culture” and keeping it from “confounding with other American ideals” shows through the nature of this photograph (Tucker, Anne). Gambling and sex were intertwined ideals in the 1950’s to the extent where they were often found in conjunction with each other. Frank was able to present both ideals in one photograph and allow them to enforce the prevalence of the other without confounding and obscuring the true meaning of each.”

Extract from “Through the Lens of Robert Frank: Sex Culture in a Post-War America,” in Robert Frank’s The Americans exhibition catalogue. Ackland Museum, Spring 2014

 

Robert Frank. 'US 90 on route to Del Rio, Texas' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
US 90 on route to Del Rio, Texas
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Courthouse square, Elizabethville, North Carolina' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Courthouse square, Elizabethville, North Carolina
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Bank - Houston, Texas' 1955-56

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Bank – Houston, Texas
1955-56
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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10
Jan
15

Text/Exhibition: ‘Wynn Bullock: Revelations’ at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Exhibition dates: 14th June 2014 – 18th January 2015

 

Being and Becoming in the work of Wynn Bullock

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It’s strange how some artists become famous while others wane in relative obscurity. For 50 years after his death, J. S. Bach’s reputation as a composer declined, his work regarded as old-fashioned compared to the new style of the day. Just look at him now.

Wynn Bullock, contemporary of Edward Weston, Minor White, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Imogen Cunningham, Frederick Sommer and Ansel Adams, is not yet as well known as any of them. He should be. As the press release states, “Despite early acclaim, the true breadth and depth of Bullock’s career has remained largely in the shadows.” This first retrospective of his work in 40 years will hopefully start to change that perception. In my estimation he is up there in the pantheon of photographic stars. There are photographers… and there are master photographers. Bullock is one of the latter, in my top ten classical black and white analogue photographers of all time.

Bullock began pursuing “straight” photography after meeting Edward Weston in 1948. Work from the early 1950s has an essential, humanist flavour as can be seen in photographs such as Child in Forest (1951) and Let There Be Light (1951), both images appearing in Edward Steichen’s seminal exhibition The Family of Man at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955, printed at large scale. By the mid-50s Bullock was really hitting his straps and the work starts to become less didactic and more open to multiple interpretations and possibilities.

As Bullock says, the mysteries lie all around us waiting only to be perceived. But it’s more than that… it’s more than “what if”. Bullock claims the existence of these things while at the same time acknowledging that they are not generally accessible within the Western canon. That he expresses their existence is his gift to the world.

Take, for example, that most complex of images, Point Lobos Tide Pool (1957). Once seen, never forgotten. I remember seeing this image in my first year studying photography at university and it being seared into my brain. How could you get such an image! It encompasses every feeling and emotion about our place in the cosmos that I could ever think of. And then you hear the story (one that I recently confirmed with his daughter Barbara), which I recount here and which appeared in the book Darkroom edited by Eleanor Lewis, published in 1976 by Lustrum Press, and dedicated to Bullock’s memory.

Bullock was only able to make ONE exposure.

“The first photograph I want to discuss is the POINT LOBOS TIDE POOL. This is a contact print from an 8 x 10 negative. The picture was taken at sunset and the light was dim. The sun was striking only the edges of the rocks in the upper-left-hand corner. The tide pool itself was especially dull, and the light was disappearing so fast I had to make a quick exposure. The negative is very soft because in my hurry to capture the picture, I forgot to underexpose the film so that I could expand the contrast by overdeveloping. The tide pool, a critical part of the image, is especially soft.

“For the final print, I used Brovira No. 5 paper, Amidol developer, and developed it for three minutes to keep the dull parts from going flat. As soon as you use high contrast papers, everything gets more critical. A second or two variation in exposure in high contrast areas can mean the difference between seeing what I want to see, and not seeing anything but black or white paper.

“I could think of the negative-making process as one in which I would make a technically perfect negative. But the technically perfect negative doesn’t always give me what I want… By not always reaching for the easily printed negative, I get luminosity I wouldn’t otherwise have.

In the tide pool print, it’s always been a touchy problem to get the brilliance in the pool itself, where the negative is soft. Unless carefully controlled, that part goes muddy. The rest of the photograph is secondary, but requires some burning and dodging to get tonal balance.

“These are problems I’ve been living with. In doing so, I’ve developed printing skills. It’s a way of life with me. In printing, I don’t want to distort the reality of the image, but I don’t want to distort the reality of my feelings for it either. The two go hand in hand. I have no qualms about altering the image by burning and dodging. I’m not a purist in that way. I am a purist in that I don’t want the manipulation to show. As soon as it does, the magic is destroyed.”

As his daughter Barbara notes, “Point Lobos Tide Pool, 1957 is another serendipitous image that took place on the [Point Lobos State] Reserve. The day this photograph was made, Dad was hauling his heavy field camera along the South Shore Trail when he happened upon a tide pool with a galaxy in its midst. He set up his equipment as quickly as he could and made his first exposure. Normally, he liked to bracket his exposures, but before he could make a second one, a gust of wind swept across the pool and the complex pattern of microscopic organisms vanished.

Fortunately, one exposure was good enough. Whenever he told the story, Dad would laugh and say, “I was just damn lucky that day!” What he often left unexpressed was the lasting impression of the experience that exemplified for him the continual being-and-becoming nature of the universe as well as the kinship of its microcosmic and macrocosmic dimensions. The image remained a personal favorite for the rest of his life.” (Barbara Bullock-Wilson. “Point Lobos Tide Pool, 1957″ Commentary © 2013/2015 Barbara Bullock-Wilson. All rights reserved.)

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It is as if the universe stood still for the length of time that it took Bullock to expose his plate, as though the universe was giving him permission for his previsualisation … … … before it moved on, in a gust of wind. But that is not the end of it, no! Because of the thin negative Bullock had to print on grade 5 paper, the most contrasty paper that you can get. And because the area of the tide pool was especially thin, the exposure time is absolutely critical for this print, to get the luminosity in the pool that the artist required. In the whole scheme of things there is a tiny window of opportunity with the exposure of this negative to get a glorious print. This is far from a straight print, and what makes the story even more remarkable is that Bullock had to delve into his scientific knowledge, had to experiment with his feelings (his exposure time), with the magic of the analogue print, to make this apparition appear!

The whole story is quite thrilling really. As my mentor observes, “Point Lobos is several km of coast if you measured into every bay – but there aren’t that many spots where you can photograph the actual tide zone – probably 7 or 8 inlets – some smaller than a basketball court. The spot that Minor White talks about as Weston cove is about basketball court size from memory. You can walk around above it a few metres in the air and see it all. Only someone with a specific aim would scramble down to be amongst what could already be clearly seen. There are just as many spots where you can’t get down like Weston’s sparkle on the sea shot. Weston cove feels amazing; full of ghosts. Bullock would have been very familiar with what would be likely to come around again and what would not.”

Close your eyes and just imagine dragging an 8 x 10 camera down there and finding that image.

.
Readers, you know that I am a passionate person, that I am passionate about photography. As I relatively young man what these great artists seemed to me to be doing were noble artistic things; I still feel that. You cannot talk about photography like other mediums that define themselves – not in a modernist sense of materials – Rothko can only be talked about by referring to Rothko, Beethoven, Mozart, etc… Much as Bullock says that light “permits the same freedom of expression as paint for the painter, words for the writer, numbers for the mathematician, or sound for the composer,” photography is of a different order. You are comparing a system of making using the hand with a system using a photo-mechanical eye. Making great images is of necessity much more difficult within this process (as can be see in the millions of meaningless images that flood the world today).

I believe that inherent to any photograph is the ability to transcend the medium – whether that is in vernacular photography (by chance) or through astute observation and meditation (MW and WB). Whether the person then recognises these images as such is another matter, but it only happens on limited occasions. But when you get something, the magic just works. In his Point Lobos Tide Pool (1957), Navigation without Numbers (1957), Under Monterey Wharf (1969) and Erosion (1959), Bullock is like a mystical time traveller – of both the body and the landscape. You only have to look at the timbre of the prints and the layering of tones. These images can’t be judged on any terms other than the terms the image itself lays down. They are beyond serious: and it shows how difficult photography really is - and how rare the good photograph is – that most photographers don’t really have a count that gets into double figures for a decade’s work. It doesn’t add up to much of a crop for a lifetimes work but does Bullock care… hell no!

As he says, “You really have to give of yourself to make good pictures… The fact that good pictures are rare, however, has never slowed me down. Just going out and looking at things and using a camera is therapeutic. I deeply love the whole process.”

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A deep love of the whole process, a deep love of being and becoming.

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The ability of the photographer is that they can massage the medium – through imagination, surrealism, reality, space/time etc… that ENACTS a difference that painters, musicians can only dream of – through a manipulation of reality, through a form of hyper-reality. In Bullock’s case it is the recognition of the mysteries that lie all around us in which the images take on a symbiotic relationship with an observation of the human mind THROUGH photography.

Openly talking in a clear language from a lifetime of meditation.

A clear language where words don’t quite equal the meanings normally attached to them.

From another dimension.

 

“In streams of light I clearly saw
The dust you seldom see,
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.”

(from “Love Itself” lyrics by Leonard Cohen)

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

“Mysteries lie all around us, even in the most familiar of things, waiting only to be perceived.”

.
“Light to me is perhaps the most profound truth in the universe… [It] permits the same freedom of expression as paint for the painter, words for the writer, numbers for the mathematician, or sound for the composer.”

.
“You really have to give of yourself to make good pictures. Well, that giving takes a lot out of you, and you simply can’t operate at that intense level all the time. Neither can you predetermine what happens outside you.

The fact that good pictures are rare, however, has never slowed me down. Just going out and looking at things and using a camera is therapeutic. I deeply love the whole process.”

.
Wynn Bullock

 

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Point Lobos Tide Pool' 1957

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Point Lobos Tide Pool
1957
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 x 9 ½ in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Point Lobos Tide Pool appears simultaneously to resemble both a galaxy and a bacterial growth across a petri dish, when in fact it is neither so large nor so small a subject, but rather a pool arrayed with microorganisms along the Carmel coast, transformed into a picture of astounding beauty.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975) 'Erosion' 1959

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Erosion
1959
Gelatin silver print
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Bullock found this scene along a California roadway and was drawn to the insight it provides into what goes on in spaces that normally lie beyond our perception. The eroded embankment reveals the slow evolution of the world across centuries, with organic and inorganic elements coexisting together at different stages of growth and decay. Stripped of its skin and flayed by the corrosive power of water, the hill in Bullock’s picture reveals a powerfully foreign world as real and as beautiful as anything on the surface of the earth. Bullock’s efforts were decidedly pointed toward making the ordinary profound and in revealing a complexity beyond the surface of things.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Under Monterey Wharf' 1969

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Under Monterey Wharf
1969
Gelatin silver print
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975) 'Navigation without Numbers' 1957

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Navigation without Numbers
1957
Gelatin silver print
6 13/16 x 8 15/16 in.,
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Del Monte Forest' 1969

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Del Monte Forest
1969
Gelatin silver print
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Nude by Sandy's Window' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Nude by Sandy’s Window
1956
Gelatin silver print
Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

In this picture, a brightly lit window occupies the bulk of Bullock’s composition, hovering over a woman who appears to be asleep; light shines in through the glass with a blinding intensity that obscures a clear view of the exterior while alluding to the existence of a world of indefinite proportions beyond.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Lynne, Point Lobos' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Lynne, Point Lobos
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 7/16 in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

 

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

.
Albert Einstein, quoted by Wynn Bullock

 

“In June 2014, the High Museum of Art will become the first major museum in nearly 40 years to mount a retrospective of work by Wynn Bullock (1902-1975) with the exhibition Wynn Bullock: Revelations, organized by the High in collaboration with the Center for Creative Photography.

One of the most significant photographers of the mid-20th century, Bullock worked in the American modernist tradition alongside Edward Weston, Harry Callahan and Ansel Adams. More than 100 black-and-white and color works by Bullock will come together for the exhibition, which will coincide with a major gift to the High from the Bullock Estate of a large collection of vintage photographs, making the Museum one of the most significant repositories of Bullock’s work in the U.S.

The High is home to the most robust photography program in the American Southeast with particularly distinct holdings in the classic modernist tradition. Wynn Bullock: Revelations offers an unprecedentedly holistic look at Bullock’s innovative career, beginning with his early light abstractions and moving through his landscapes, figure studies, color work, negative images and late abstractions. The exhibition will be on view June 14, 2014 through Jan. 18, 2015.

A close friend of influential West Coast artists Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, and a contemporary of Minor White, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Imogen Cunningham and Frederick Sommer, Bullock created a body of work marked by a distinct interest in experimentation, abstraction and philosophical exploration. His images Let There Be Light and Child in Forest (both of which will be included in the High’s exhibition) became icons in the history of photography following their prominent inclusion in Edward Steichen’s landmark 1955 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, The Family of Man.

Bullock’s photography received early recognition in 1941, when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art staged his first solo exhibition. His mature work appeared in one-man shows at the Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris; the Royal Photographic Society, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Art Institute of Chicago; among other prestigious venues. His archive was a foundational collection for the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Ariz., which is recognized as one of the most important photographic resources in the world.

Despite early acclaim, the true breadth and depth of Bullock’s career has remained largely in the shadows. Wynn Bullock: Revelations offers the most comprehensive assessment of the photographer’s extraordinary career in nearly 40 years. This retrospective traces Bullock’s evolution from his early experimental work of the 1940s, through the mysterious black-and-white imagery of the 1950s and color light abstractions of the 1960s, to his late metaphysical photographs of the 1970s.

“Bullock’s arresting work was integral to codifying what we now think of as quintessential mid-century style, which in turn paved the way for every stage of photography that has followed,” said Brett Abbott, curator of photography and head of collections at the High. “Presenting this exhibition and acquiring this generous body of work from Bullock’s estate will allow us to play a role in bringing him back into the popular consciousness. Our photography department has expanded greatly over the last few years, in terms of the work we own and the exhibitions we mount, giving us the ability to position this pivotal body of work as part of the nearly two-century-long story of the development of photography.”

Wynn Bullock: Revelations will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue to be produced by the High in collaboration with the University of Texas Press. The book presents 110 images, including some from the Bullock Estate that have never been published before. An essay by Abbott explores the nuances of Bullock’s approach to photography and its fascinating relationship to the history of science and philosophy. The volume also includes an illustrated chronology, bibliography, selected collections, exhibitions history, plate list and notes.

 

About Wynn Bullock

Wynn Bullock was born on April 18, 1902, in Chicago, Ill. After graduating from high school, Bullock worked as a professional singer in New York City and across Europe. In 1938 he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a law degree but soon dropped out of school to become a photography student at Art Center School, where he became deeply involved in exploring alternative processes such as solarization and bas relief and began building a career in commercial photography. Bullock went on to serve in the military and then to build a successful private photography business, where he developed a way to control the line effect of solarization, a discovery for which he was awarded patents. Bullock began pursuing “straight” photography after meeting Edward Weston in 1948. Throughout the 1950s he explored the natural world from his own unique perspective in photography and came into the public spotlight through exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. In the 1960s he created an innovative body of abstract color images. He later returned to experimental black and white, on which he continued to focus until his death in 1975. Bullock’s work is part of the collections of more than 90 major institutions throughout the world.”

Press release from the High Museum of Art website

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Color Light Abstraction 1076' 1963

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Color Light Abstraction 1076
1963
Inkjet print
14 x 21 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Color Light Abstraction 1075' 1963

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Color Light Abstraction 1075
1963
Inkjet print
14 x 21 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Entrance Mural with glimpses of Galleries 1 and 3

Gallery 1

Gallery 2

Gallery 3

 

Wynn Bullock: Revelations installation at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta
Entrance mural with glimpses of Galleries 1 and 3 (top), Galleries 1, 2 and 3 (bottom)

 

 

“Love Itself”

The light came through the window,
Straight from the sun above,
And so inside my little room
There plunged the rays of Love.

In streams of light I clearly saw
The dust you seldom see,
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

Then I came back from where I’d been.
My room, it looked the same –
But there was nothing left between
The Nameless and the Name.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love itself,
Love Itself was gone.
Love Itself was gone.

 

Lyrics by Leonard Cohen

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Child in Forest' 1951

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Child in Forest
1951
Gelatin silver print
7 7/16 x 9 3/8 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase, 1978.62
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Stark Tree' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Stark Tree
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 9 1/16 in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Let There Be Light' 1954

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Let There Be Light
1954
Gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 9 7/16 in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Old Typewriter' 1951

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Old Typewriter
1951
Gelatin silver print
7 1/16 × 9 7/16 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Gift of Lucinda W. Bunnen for the Bunnen Collection, 2012.594
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'The Shore' 1966

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
The Shore
1966
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 13 5/8 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Sea Palms' 1968

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Sea Palms
1968
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 ¼ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Driftwood' 1951

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Driftwood
1951
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 ½ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Point Lobos Tide Pools' 1972

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Point Lobos Tide Pools
1972
Gelatin silver print
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975), 'Early Solarization' 1940

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Early Solarization
1940
Gelatin silver print
6 1/4 x 8 in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Edna' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Edna
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 7 ½ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Portrait of Edna, Cannery Row' 1955

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Portrait of Edna, Cannery Row
1955
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 ½ in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Barbara through Window' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Barbara through Window
1956
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 ½ in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Nude Torso in Forest' 1958

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Nude Torso in Forest
1958
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 6 1/4in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock. 'Child on Forest Road' 1958

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Child on Forest Road
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Fallen Tree Trunk' 1972

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Fallen Tree Trunk
1972
Gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 7 ½ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Tree Trunk' 1971

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Tree Trunk
1971
Gelatin silver print
Promised Gift of Lynne Harrington-Bullock
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

To create this image, Bullock reversed the positive and negative values of his rendering of a tree trunk, and then turned the composition upside down. In so doing, he disrupts a habitual reading of the natural world, creates an experience of disorientation, and allows the forms pictured to engage the eye in freshly invigorating ways.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Photogram' 1970

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Photogram
1970
Gelatin silver print
9 1/8 x 7 3/8 in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Rock' 1973

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Rock
1973
Gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 6 ¾ in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

 

High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree Street,
N.E. Atlanta, GA 30309

Opening hours:
Monday Closed
Tuesday 10 am to 5 pm
Wednesday  10 am to 5 pm
Thursday 10 am to 5 pm
Friday  10 am to 9 pm† (Half-Price after 4 pm!)
Saturday 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday 12 noon to 5 pm

High Museum of Art website

Wynn Bullock Photography website
Wynn Bullock Photography web page dedicated to the exhibition

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02
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Nicholas Nixon: Forty Years of The Brown Sisters’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 22nd November 2014 – 4th January 2015

Organized by Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator, Department of Photography

 

This is the most successful, long running group portrait series in the history of photography. I have always liked the images because of their stunning clarity, delicate tonality and wonderful arrangement of the figures. Much as they shield their privacy, as a viewer I feel like I have grown up with these women, the sisters I never had. Some images are more successful than others, but as a body of work that focuses on the “face” we present to the world, they are without peer.

Just imagine being these women (and being the photographer), taking on this project and not knowing where it would lead, still not knowing where it will lead. There is a fascinating period in the photographs between 1986 and 1990, as we see the flush of youth waning, transitioning towards the beginning of middle age. As they grow older and closer I feel that I know their characters. I look for that inflection and nuance of presentation that make them more than just faces, more than just photographic representation. The lines on their faces are the handwriting of their travails and I love them all for that.

In each photograph they are as beautiful as the next, not in a Western sense, but in the sense of archetypal beauty, the Platonic form of all beauty – the beauty of women separated from the individuality of the object and considered by itself. In each of these images you can contemplate that form through the faces of these women – they are transcendent and pure. It is as if they live beyond space and time, that the photographs capture this sense of the sublime. Usually the sublime is regarded as beyond time… but not here. A simply magnificent series.

Marcus

 

PS. Let’s hope that there are more images from the series that we can eventually see and that there are some platinum prints being produced. The images deserve such a printing.

.
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.

 

“Throughout this series, we watch these women age, undergoing life’s most humbling experience. While many of us can, when pressed, name things we are grateful to Time for bestowing upon us, the lines bracketing our mouths and the loosening of our skin are not among them. So while a part of the spirit sinks at the slow appearance of these women’s jowls, another part is lifted: They are not undone by it. We detect more sorrow, perhaps, in the eyes, more weight in the once-fresh brows. But the more we study the images, the more we see that aging does not define these women. Even as the images tell us, in no uncertain terms, that this is what it looks like to grow old, this is the irrefutable truth, we also learn: This is what endurance looks like. …

These subjects are not after attention, a rare quality in this age when everyone is not only a photographer but often his own favorite subject. In this, Nixon has pulled off a paradox: The creation of photographs in which privacy is also the subject. The sisters’ privacy has remained of utmost concern to the artist, and it shows in the work. Year after year, up to the last stunning shot with its triumphant shadowy mood, their faces and stances say, Yes, we will give you our image, but nothing else.”

.
Susan Minot. “Forty Portraits in Forty Years: Photographs by Nicholas Nixon,” on the New York Times website, October 2014

 

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, New Canaan, Connecticut' 1975

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, New Canaan, Connecticut
1975
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Harwich Port, Massachusetts' 1978

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Harwich Port, Massachusetts
1978
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, East Greenwich, R.I.' 1980

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, East Greenwich, R.I.
1980
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Allston, Mass' 1983.

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Allston, Mass.
1983
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Cambridge, Mass.' 1986

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Cambridge, Mass.
1986
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Wellesley, Massachusetts.' 1988

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Wellesley, Massachusetts
1988
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Woodstock, Vt.' 1990

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Woodstock, Vt.
1990
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Grantham, N.H.' 1994

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Grantham, N.H.
1994
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

 

“In August 1974, Nicholas Nixon made a photograph of his wife, Bebe, and her three sisters. He wasn’t pleased with the result and discarded the negative. In July 1975 he made one that seemed promising enough to keep. At the time, the Brown sisters were 15 (Mimi), 21 (Laurie), 23 (Heather), and 25 (Bebe). The following June, Laurie Brown graduated from college, and Nick made another picture of the four sisters. It was after this second successful picture that the group agreed to gather annually for a portrait, and settled on the series’ two constants: the sisters would always appear in the same order – from left to right, Heather, Mimi, Bebe, and Laurie – and they would jointly agree on a single image to represent a given year. Also significant, and unchanging, is the fact that each portrait is made with an 8 x 10″ view camera on a tripod and is captured on a black-and-white film negative.

The Museum has exhibited and collected the Brown Sisters from the beginning; since 2006, acquiring the series both as lusciously tactile contact prints and as striking 20 x 24″ enlargements (a new scale for Nixon). This installation – featuring all 40 images – marks the first time the Museum has displayed these larger prints.

In his first published statement about photography, written the year he made the first of the Brown Sisters portraits, Nixon remarked, “The world is infinitely more interesting than any of my opinions about it.” If he was modest about his opinions, though, his photographs clearly show how the camera can capture that infinitely interesting world. And to the attentive viewer, these silent records, with their countless shades of visual and emotional gray, can promote a new appreciation of an intangible part of it: the world of time and age, of commitment and love.”

Text from the MoMA website

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Marblehead, Mass.' 1995

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Marblehead, Mass.
1995
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Brookline, Massachusetts' 1999

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Brookline, Massachusetts
1999
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Eastham, Mass.' 2000

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Eastham, Mass.
2000
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Cataumet, Mass.' 2004

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Cataumet, Mass.
2004
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Dallas' 2008

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Dallas
2008
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Truro, Mass.' 2010

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Truro, Mass.
2010
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Truro, Mass.' 2011

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Truro, Mass.
2011
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Boston' 2012

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Boston
2012
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Wellfleet, Massachusetts' 2014

 

Nicholas Nixon
The Brown Sisters, Wellfleet, Massachusetts
2014
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. John Parkinson III Fund
© 2014 Nicholas Nixon

 

 

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

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01
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Robert Frank in America’ at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University Part 2

Exhibition dates: 10th September 2014 – 5th January 2015

Curator: Peter Galassi

 

The lunatic sublime of America

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

 

“This desire of Frank’s to hold the shape of his feelings in what he made is an ambition found in all Romantic art, one that his style brilliantly encompasses and describes. There is a wonderful illusion of speed trapped in his photographs, a sense of rapidity usually created not by the movement of Frank’s subjects, but by the gesture that he made as he framed his pictures. To photographers who have followed Frank, this autographic gesture incorporates a mystery, one that is distorted, and certainly not explained, by saying that he “shot on the run” or “from the hip.” For the beauty of this gesture is that, caught by such speed, his subjects remain clear, fully recognized, as if the photographer had only glanced at what he wanted to show, but was able to seize it at the moment it unhesitantly revealed itself.”

.
Tod Papageorge. “Walker Evans And Robert Frank: An Essay On Influence.”

 

 

Robert Frank. 'New York' City 1951

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
New York City
1951
Gelatin silver print Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

Robert Frank. 'Miami' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
Miami
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' 1950-1951

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
New York City
1950-1951
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Hollywood' 1958

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
Hollywood
1958
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

 

“Frank’s photos highlight everything from prosperity to poverty, multitudes to desolation, new life to finality of death, and happiness to sorrow which all occur during our lifetimes making his photos easy for the viewers to understand and relate…

Furthermore, Frank was able to emphasize some of the issues of his era, especially segregation, patriotism, and generational gaps. For example, the New Orleans photo on the cover shows a trolley car obviously segregated with white riders in the front and black riders in the back. However, Frank also shows blacks and whites working side by side in an assembly line photo taken in Detroit as well as a black nurse holding a white baby in Charleston, South Carolina with undertones of hope for equality further highlighted by the photo taken in Detroit bar of Presidents Lincoln and Washington bookending an American flag…

American patriotism seems to be a universal theme throughout Frank’s photos as well. Many of the photos in the book contain an American flag which shows the high level of patriotism felt by Americans in the era after defeating Germany and Japan in the Second World War and at the beginning of the Cold War with the rising Soviet Union as a communist superpower. Flags are hung on an apartment building during a parade in Hoboken, on the wall in a Navy Recruiting Station in Butte, Montana, hanging outdoors during a Fourth of July celebration in Jay, New York, on the wall in the Detroit bar, hanging from the building in a political rally in Chicago, and there are star lights in the background of a club car headed to Washington DC.

The most important theme within Frank’s photos is that of “Americans.” Frank photographed people from different cultures, including blacks, Hispanics, Jews, and whites; celebrating different religious and civil ceremonies from funerals to weddings. He included biker groups, prostitutes, celebrities, high-class socialites, rural farmlands, cowboys, soldiers, teenagers, politicians, families, senior citizens, children, gamblers, and travelers among others within the photos. This variety of people from different backgrounds living and socializing in different settings is truly American in that it is a blend of all different types of people living together as one nation.”

Cindy Coffey 2013

 

Robert Frank. 'Funeral - St. Helena, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
Funeral – St. Helena, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Collection of Bob and Randi Fisher, San Francisco

 

Robert Frank. 'Movie Premier - Hollywood' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
Movie Premier – Hollywood
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' 1951

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
New York City
1951
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
New York City
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Political Rally - Chicago' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
Political Rally – Chicago
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

Bill Brandt. 'Parlourmaid at the Window in Kensington' 1935

 

Bill Brandt
Parlourmaid at the Window, Kensington
1935 (printed later)
Silver gelatin print

 

 

“The first critics of The Americans condemned its content; recent critics have attacked it by attempting to describe Frank’s photographic style. Possibly reacting to the variations in cropping that appear in the later editions of the book, or, more probably, looking for the “snapshot aesthetic” under any available stone, they have assumed this style to be haphazard and contemptuously casual. One writer, for example, has said that Frank “produced pictures that look as if a kid had taken them while eating a Popsicle and then had them developed and printed at the corner drugstore.”

The things in Frank’s pictures which have bothered these critics – occasional blur, obvious grain, the use of available light, the cutting off of objects by the frame – are all, however, characteristic of picture journalism, and, arguably, of the entire history of hand-camera photography: Erich Salomon’s work, for example, done for the most part in the twenties, could be discussed in similar terms. The form of Frank’s work, then, is not radical in the true sense of the word: it does not strike to the root of the tradition it serves. The stylistic exaggerations which occur in his pictures serve only to retain that sense of resident wildness we recognize in great lyric poetry – they are present to call attention not to themselves, but to the emotional world of Frank’s subjects, and to his response to those subjects. When, in the statement he wrote shortly before The Americans was published, Frank said: “It is important to see what is invisible to others. Perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph,” he was expressing his belief that both his perceptions (it is significant that he does not mention an intervening camera in these sentences) and the photographs which result from them are essentially unmediated and true.

This desire of Frank’s to hold the shape of his feelings in what he made is an ambition found in all Romantic art, one that his style brilliantly encompasses and describes. There is a wonderful illusion of speed trapped in his photographs, a sense of rapidity usually created not by the movement of Frank’s subjects, but by the gesture that he made as he framed his pictures. To photographers who have followed Frank, this autographic gesture incorporates a mystery, one that is distorted, and certainly not explained, by saying that he “shot on the run” or “from the hip.” For the beauty of this gesture is that, caught by such speed, his subjects remain clear, fully recognized, as if the photographer had only glanced at what he wanted to show, but was able to seize it at the moment it unhesitantly revealed itself.

Despite the grace of this notational style (or perhaps because of it), Frank seems to have felt that movement within the frames of his photographs would only disturb their sense, and, with a few exceptions, ignored the use of dramatic gesture and motion in The Americans (a fact which again suggests his feeling about Cartier-Bresson’s work). In two of his pictures of convention delegates, and in one of a woman in a gambling casino, he shows emphatic hand gestures. In another photograph, he looks down onto a man striding forward under a neon arrow, and, in yet another, describes two girls skipping away from his camera. Otherwise, his subjects move, if at all, toward, and, in a single memorable case, by him – studies in physiognomy, rather than disclosures of a gathering beauty.

The characteristic gestures in his pictures are the slight, telling motions of the head and upper body: a glance, a stare , a hand brought to the face, an arched neck, pursed lips. They suggest that Frank, like Evans, believed significance in a photograph might be consonant with the repose of the things it described. His pictures, of course, are not acts of contemplation – they virtually catalogue the guises of anxiety – but they are stilled, and their meanings found not in broad rhythms of gesture and form, but in the constellations traced by the figures or objects they show, and the short, charged distances between them.

One of the unacknowledged achievements of The Americans is the series of group portraits – odd assemblages of heads, usually seen in profile, that gather in quick, serried cadences and push at the cutting edges of their frames. In the soft muted light that illuminates them, these heads are drawn with the sculptural brevity of those found on worn coins. But, even in this diminishment, as they cluster and fill the shallow space of Frank’s pictures, they assume the unfurling, cursive shapes of great Romantic art.

As this book shows, these photographs beautifully elaborate Evans’ hand-camera pictures, pictures which are not as judgmental as Frank’s, but also not as formally complex and moving. Although Frank’s most literal recastings of American Photographs occur when he is remembering Evans’ viewcamera pictures – for example, a gas station, a parked car, a statue = these extravagant translations of the older photographer’s bluntest work eloquently reveal one aspect of Frank’s extraordinary gifts as a photographer.”

Tod Papageorge. “Walker Evans And Robert Frank: An Essay On Influence.”

Download the complete essay (100kb pdf)

 

Robert Frank. 'Bar - Gallup, New Mexico' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
Bar – Gallup, New Mexico
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Target Collection of American Photography, gift of Target Stores

 

Robert Frank. 'Salt Lake City, Utah' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
Salt Lake City, Utah
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'San Francisco' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
San Francisco
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Collection of Bob and Randi Fisher, San Francisco

 

 

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
T: 650-723-4177

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11 am – 5 pm
Thursday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University website

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31
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Robert Frank in America’ at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University Part 1

Exhibition dates: 10th September 2014 – 5th January 2015

Curator: Peter Galassi

 

The lunatic sublime of America

This is the first part of a bumper two-part posting.

Robert Frank (born November 9, 1924) is one of the most important photographic artists of the twentieth century. He was born in Switzerland but he emigrated to American in 1947. He soon gained a job as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. He honed his craft as a photographer in England where he took formal, classical images of British life during a trip to Europe and South America in 1947.

He became friends with Edward Steichen and Walker Evans, and it was Evans who supported him in his Guggenheim Fellowship application in 1955 which enabled him “to travel across the United States and photograph all strata of its society. Cities he visited included Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan; Savannah, Georgia; Miami Beach and St. Petersburg, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana;Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Reno, Nevada; Salt Lake City, Utah; Butte, Montana; and Chicago, Illinois. He took his family along with him for part of his series of road trips over the next two years, during which time he took 28,000 shots. 83 of these were selected by him for publication in The Americans.”1

In The Americans, Frank documents, “the tensions between the optimism of the 1950s and the realities of class and racial differences. The irony that Frank found in the gloss of American culture and wealth over this tension gave his photographs a clear contrast to those of most contemporary American photojournalists, as did his use of unusual focus, low lighting and cropping that deviated from accepted photographic techniques.2

Originally published as Les Américains in 1958 by Robert Delpire in Paris, and finally in 1959 in the United States by Grove Press, reaction in America was initially hostile. They American critics did not like Frank’s shoot from the hip style of photography, nor the mirror that was being held up to their society, especially by a Jewish foreigner. Over time The Americans came to be seen as a seminal work of American photography and social history. Like many artists, Frank only took photographs for a relatively short period of time, before moving on to become a filmmaker.

One cannot forget the era in which Frank took these photographs – that of McCarthyism and “the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from 1950 to 1956 and characterized by heightened political repression against communists, as well as a campaign spreading fear of their influence on American institutions and of espionage by Soviet agents.”3 Americans were suspicious of foreigners, especially ones with cameras, and this was still the era of racial segregation pre the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

With regard to the structure of the photographs, their origin is based in classicism. This was Frank’s training. It was his skill as an artist, his intuitive and prescient vision of America – how he saw America like no one else before him had – that enabled him to ramp up the intensity, shoot from weird angles, low lighting, cropping, depth of field, unusual focus – and focus on the iconography of America as never seen before: jukeboxes, American flags, cars, highways, death, racial segregation – that was so revolutionary. But he could not have done that without his formal training. You only have to look at the comparison between the photographs of Robert Frank and Walker Evans. Formal and elegant in Evans Church Organ and Pews (1936) and Downtown street, New Orleans (December 1935) with lines vertical and clean… and then Frank, with hardly a straight line or neat angle to be seen. But the one does inform the other, otherwise Frank’s photographs would just become snapshots, vernacular photographs with very little meaning. Which they are not.

This is one of the most powerful, lyrical, humanist photo essays of a country that has ever been taken. Critic Sean O’Hagan, writing in The Guardian in 2014, said The Americans “changed the nature of photography, what it could say and how it could say it. [ . . . ] it remains perhaps the most influential photography book of the 20th century.”4 As an artist, Frank became the great connector for he is the critical link in the chain that stretches from Lewis Hine through Walker Evans… and on to Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz.

As an artist you marvel at his intuition and inspiration, to look at the world as no one else had done before, to push the boundaries of medium and message. To photograph people, alone and in groups; politics; religion; race; automobiles and the road; and the media and thrust them into the white, bright, happy world of 1950s consumerist America saying: this is what this country is really like, this is my “impression” of you in all your fleeting madness, “America as an often bleak and lonely place.” You only have to look at the “eye” in U.S. 91, leaving Blackfoot, Idaho (1956, below) or look at the photograph of the grave by the side of the road to know that you are in Blue Velvet territory (David Lynch, director 1986, the title is taken from The Clovers’ 1955 song of the same name). I am not sure yet how one world pierces the other but believe me they surely do.

Marcus

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

 

 

“It was the vision that emanated from the book that lead not only me, but my whole generation of photographers out into the American landscape, in a sense, the lunatic sublime of America.”

.
Joel Meyerowitz

 

“Like a boxer trains for a fight, a photographer by walking the streets, and watching and taking pictures, and coming home and going out the next day, the same thing again, taking pictures. It doesn’t matter how many he takes, or if he takes any at all, it gets you prepared to know what you should take pictures of, or what is the right thing to do and when.”

.
Robert Frank

 

 

Robert Frank. 'U.S. 91, leaving Blackfoot, Idaho' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
U.S. 91, leaving Blackfoot, Idaho
1956
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan
1955
Gelatin silver print

 

Walker Evans. 'Main St., Ossining, New York' 1932

 

Walker Evans
Main St., Ossining, New York
1932
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Drive-In Movie - Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Drive-In Movie – Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Trolley - New Orleans' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Trolley – New Orleans
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Bequest of Morgan Garwood

 

Robert Frank. 'Barber shop through screen door - McClellanville, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Barber shop through screen door – McClellanville, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Collection of Bob and Randi Fisher, San Francisco

 

 

“In 1955 and 1956, Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank (b. 1924) traveled throughout the United States on a Guggenheim Fellowship, photographing ordinary people in their everyday lives. His book The Americans – 83 photographs, mostly from those travels, published in 1959 – repudiated the bland good cheer of the magazines with an image of the country that was starkly at odds with the official optimism of postwar prosperity. The book became a landmark of photographic history; but Frank soon turned to filmmaking, and the rest of his early photographic career was largely forgotten. An important group of unknown or unfamiliar photographs in the Cantor Arts Center’s collection provides the core of the exhibition Robert Frank in America, which sheds new light on the making of The Americans and presents, for the first time, Frank’s American photographs from the 1950s as a coherent body of work.

“We are delighted that the Cantor’s collection has provided the basis for a fresh look at one of the great achievements of 20-century photography,” said Connie Wolf, John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center. “We are also deeply grateful to Robert Frank, who has generously contributed to the project.”

The exhibition Robert Frank in America, on view September 10, 2014 through January 5, 2015, features 130 photographs drawn primarily from the Cantor’s collection as well as from other public and private collections and from Frank himself. Peter Galassi, former chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is the exhibition’s guest curator and author of the accompanying publication.

 

The Exhibition’s Development from the Cantor’s Collection

In the summer of 2012, Wolf invited Galassi to offer his thoughts on one of the museum’s hidden treasures: more than 150 photographs by Robert Frank given to the Cantor in the mid-1980s by Stanford alumnus Bowen H. McCoy and his colleague Raymond B. Gary. This remarkable collection spans the full range of Frank’s photographic career before he turned to filmmaking in the early 1960s. It is especially rich in Frank’s American work of the 1950s, including scores of photographs that are unknown or unfamiliar even to scholars. Wolf and Galassi saw an opportunity to share this work with Stanford students, faculty, scholars at large and the general public.

Research began at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where more than two decades ago the artist established the archive of his photographic career prior to 1970. Studying more than 1,000 contact sheets enabled Galassi to determine the locations and dates of dozens of previously unidentified photographs in the Cantor collection. He then selected works for the exhibition so as to identify Frank’s major themes and artistic strategies. The compelling sequence of The Americans poetically weaves diverse images into a seamless whole, but Robert Frank in America groups related pictures to explore the pictorial strategies that Frank developed as he worked, and also to highlight important subjects – people, alone and in groups; politics; religion; race; automobiles and the road; and the media.

Frank repeatedly photographed isolated figures so that they seemed trapped by pictorial forces, for example. This powerful metaphor for Frank’s vision of lonely individuals imprisoned by social circumstances is announced in the first picture, The Americans, where the flag obliterates a spectator’s face (Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955). In Robert Frank in America, that photograph is juxtaposed with another that uses the identical pictorial scheme but a different subject; the interior of a bar (New York City, 1955).

“Although The Americans is famous – partly because it is famous – Robert Frank’s American work of the 1950s has never been considered as a whole,” said Galassi. “The full range of the work shows just how Frank turned the vocabulary of magazine photojournalism on its head and used it to speak in a personal, poetic voice.”

Inviting Galassi to organize the exhibition was part of the museum’s renewed commitment to collecting, studying and presenting photography, Wolf says. The Cantor has been adding to its already strong holdings, presenting innovative exhibitions of work by distinguished artists and providing a valuable opportunity for Stanford students and faculty to work directly with photographs. Leland Stanford’s commission more than a century ago for Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering work on animal locomotion serves as a foundation for the museum’s extensive collection today.

 

Exhibition catalogue

The major catalogue accompanying this exhibition is published by the Cantor Arts Center in association with international publisher Steidl, with whom Frank has worked closely on most of his books. All 130 photographs in the exhibition are reproduced as full-page tritone plates. Galassi’s extensive essay traces the evolution of Frank’s work from his arrival in the United States in 1947 until he abandoned his first photographic career in the early 1960s. The text provides a thorough outline of the photographic context in which Frank at first sought success as a magazine photojournalist as well as a detailed analysis of the methods and strategies that lie behind The Americans. The essay features 24 illustrations, including an unprecedented map of Frank’s 1955-56 Guggenheim travels, which locates the sites of nearly all of the photographs in The Americans and in Robert Frank in America. The 200-page book, with a foreword by Connie Wolf, is designed by Katy Homans, New York.

 

Robert Frank

Robert Frank was born in 1924 in Zürich, Switzerland. The conclusion of World War II ended his vulnerability (his father was a German-born Jew) and enabled him to escape what he regarded as a narrow, antiquated culture. Soon after reaching New York in March 1947, he was hired by Harper’s Bazaar, but his distaste for photographing fashion led him to quit after six months. Over the next five or six years, in Europe and the United States, Frank aimed to establish himself as a freelance photojournalist, with limited success. A Guggenheim Fellowship, awarded in March 1955 and renewed a year later, freed him to pursue his work independently, and he soon began to travel in hopes of making a book. Les Américains was published by Robert Delpire in Paris in 1958 and, as The Americans, by Grove Press in New York in 1959. The latter included an introduction by Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road.

Film and video have formed a central aspect of Frank’s work since 1959, when he collaborated with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Alfred Leslie on Pull My Daisy. In 1972, however, he resumed making photographs, often using Polaroid positive-negative materials and incorporating text and multiple images. That same year he published the first of several editions of The Lines of My Hand, a book that surveyed his career in all mediums and initiated reconsiderations of his early photographic career. The first full-scale retrospective of his photographs was organized at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1986. In 1990, a major gift by Frank established the Robert Frank Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, which has since presented two major exhibitions, each accompanied by an important book: Robert Frank: Moving Out (1994) and Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans” (2009).”

Press release from the Cantor Arts Center

 

Robert Frank. 'Beaufort, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Beaufort, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Butte, Montana' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Butte, Montana
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Acquired through the generosity of Marti Meyerson Hooper

 

Robert Frank. 'Café - Beaufort, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Café – Beaufort, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco

 

Walker Evans. 'Church Organ and Pews' 1936

 

Walker Evans
Church Organ and Pews
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Canal Street - New Orleans' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Canal Street – New Orleans
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

Robert Frank. 'Central casting - Hollywood' 1958

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Central casting – Hollywood
1958
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Charleston, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Charleston, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco

 

 

Guggenheim proposal summary

“To photograph freely throughout the United States, using the miniature camera exclusively. The making of a broad, voluminous picture record of things American, past and present. This project is essentially the visual study of a civilization and will include caption notes; but it is only partly documentary in nature: one of its aims is more artistic than the word documentary implies.”

 

The full statement

“I am applying for a Fellowship with a very simple intention: I wish to continue, develop and widen the kind of work I already do, and have been doing for some ten years, and apply it to the American nation in general. I am submitting work that will be seen to be documentation - most broadly speaking. Work of this kind is, I believe, to be found carrying its own visual impact without much work explanation. The project I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it proceeds, and is essentially elastic. The material is there: the practice will be in the photographer’s hand, the vision in his mind. One says this with some embarrassment but one cannot do less than claim vision if one is to ask for consideration.

“The photographing of America” is a large order - read at all literally, the phrase would be an absurdity. What I have in mind, then, is observation and record of what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States that signifies the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere. Incidentally, it is fair to assume that when an observant American travels abroad his eye will see freshly; and that the reverse may be true when a European eye looks at the United States. I speak of the things that are there, anywhere and everywhere - easily found, not easily selected and interpreted. A small catalog comes to the mind’s eye: a town at night, a parking lot, a supermarket, a highway, the man who owns three cars and the man who owns none, the farmer and his children, a new house and a warped clapboard house, the dictation of taste, the dream of grandeur, advertising, neon lights, the faces of the leaders and the faces of the followers, gas tanks and postoffices and backyards.

The uses of my project would be sociological, historical and aesthetic. My total production will be voluminous, as is usually the case when the photographer works with miniature film. I intend to classify and annotate my work on the spot, as I proceed. Ultimately the file I shall make should be deposited in a collection such as the one in the Library of Congress. A more immediate use I have in mind is both book and magazine publication.”

 

Robert Frank. 'Covered car - Long Beach, California' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Covered car – Long Beach, California
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, John Spencer Fund

 

Robert Frank. 'Elevator - Miami Beach' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Elevator – Miami Beach
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Collection of Bob and Randi Fisher, San Francisco

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'En route from New York to Washington, Club Car' 1954

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
En route from New York to Washington, Club Car
1954
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Florida' 1958

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Florida
1958
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Ford River Rouge Plant' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Ford River Rouge Plant
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, The artist, courtesy Pace MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Robert Frank. 'Iowa' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Iowa
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

 

“I am grateful to the Guggenheim Foundation for their confidence and the provisions they made for me to work freely in my medium over a protracted period. When I applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship, I wrote: “To produce an authentic contemporary document, the visual impact should be such as will nullify explanation.”

With these photographs, I have attempted to show a cross-section of the American population. My effort was to express it simply and without confusion. The view is personal and, therefore, various facets of American life and society have been ignored. The photographs were taken during 1955 and 1956; for the most part in large cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and in many other places during my Journey across the country. My book, containing these photographs, will be published in Paris by Robert Delpire, 1958.

I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others – perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph.

My photographs are not planned or composed in advance and I do not anticipate that the on-looker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind – something has been accomplished.

It is a different state of affairs for me to be working on assignment for a magazine. It suggests to me the feeling of a hack writer or a commercial illustrator. Since I sense that my ideas, my mind and my eye are not creating the picture but that the editors’ minds and eyes will finally determine which of my pictures will be reproduced to suit the magazines’ purposes.

I have a genuine distrust and “mefiance” toward all group activities. Mass production of uninspired photojournalism and photography without thought becomes anonymous merchandise. The air becomes infected with the “smell” of photography. If the photographer wants to be an artist, his thoughts cannot be developed overnight at the corner drugstore.

I am not a pessimist, but looking at a contemporary picture magazine makes it difficult for me to speak about the advancement of photography, since photography today is accepted without question, and is also presumed to be understood by all – even children. I feel that only the integrity of the individual photographer can raise its level.

The work of two contemporary photographers, Bill Brandt of England and the American, Walker Evans, have influenced me. When I first looked at Walker Evans’ photographs, I thought of something Malraux wrote: “To transform destiny into awareness.” One is embarrassed to want so much for oneself. But, how else are you going to justify your failure and your effort?”

Robert Frank, U.S. Camera Annual, p. 115, 1958

 

Robert Frank. 'Lusk, Wyoming' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Lusk, Wyoming
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Main Street - Savannah, Georgia' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Main Street – Savannah, Georgia
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Walker Evans. 'Downtown street, New Orleans' December 1935

 

Walker Evans
Downtown street, New Orleans
December 1935
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' 1949

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
New York City
1949
Gelatin silver print
Lent by Peter Steil

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' 1949

 

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
New York City
1949
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Collection of Bob and Randi Fisher, San Francisco

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' early 1950s

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
New York City
early 1950s
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

Robert Frank. 'Parade - Hoboken, New Jersey' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, John and Lisa Pritzker

 

Robert Frank. 'Reno, Nevada' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Reno, Nevada
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Purchase

 

 

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
T: 650-723-4177

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11 am – 5 pm
Thursday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University website

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30
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Horst: Photographer of Style’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Exhibition dates: 6th September 2014 – 4th January 2015

Curator: Susanna Brown, Curator of Photographs at the V&A

 

 

Steichen, Penn, Avedon, Newman – and then there is Horst, master of them all. Style, elegance, lighting, framing, colour but above all panache – the guts and talent to push it just that little bit further.

Marcus

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

 

 

“Fashion is an expression of the times. Elegance is something else again.”

.
Horst, 1984

 

 

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

 

Installation images of Horst – Photographer of Style at the V&A
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

“This autumn, the V&A will present the definitive retrospective exhibition of the work of master photographer Horst P. Horst (1906-1999) – one of the leading photographers of the 20th century. In his illustrious 60-year career, German-born Horst worked predominantly in Paris and New York and creatively traversed the worlds of photography, art, fashion, design, theatre and high society.

Horst: Photographer of Style will display 250 photographs, alongside haute couture garments, magazines, film footage and ephemera. The exhibition explores Horst’s collaborations and friendships with leading couturiers such as Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in Paris; stars including Marlene Dietrich and Noël Coward; and artists and designers such as Salvador Dalí and Jean-Michel Frank. Highlights of the exhibition include photographs recently donated to the V&A by Gert Elfering, art collector and owner of the Horst Estate, previously unpublished vintage prints, and more than 90 Vogue covers by Horst.

The exhibition will also reveal lesser-known aspects of Horst’s work: nude studies, travel photographs from the Middle East and patterns created from natural forms. The creative process behind some of his most famous photographs, such as the Mainbocher Corset, will be revealed through the inclusion of original contact sheets, sketches and cameras. The many sources that influenced Horst – from ancient Classical art to Bauhaus ideals of modern design and Surrealism in 1930s Paris – will be explored.

Martin Roth, Director of the V&A said: “Horst was one of the greatest photographers of fashion and society and produced some of the most famous and evocative images of the 20th century. This exhibition will shine a light on all aspects of his long and distinguished career. Horst’s legacy and influence, which has been seen in work by artists, designers and performers including Herb Ritts, Robert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber and Madonna, continues today.” 

Horst’s career straddled the opulence of pre-war Parisian haute couture and the rise of ready-to-wear in post-war New York and his style developed from lavish studio set-ups to a more austere approach in the latter half of the 20th century. The exhibition will begin in the 1930s with Horst’s move to Paris and his early experiments in the Vogue studio. Among his first models and muses were Lisa Fonssagrives, Helen Bennett and Lyla Zelensky. Vintage black and white photographs from the archive of Paris Vogue will be displayed alongside garments in shades of black, white, silver and gold by Parisian couturiers such as Chanel, Lanvin, Molyneux and Vionnet.

The exhibition will then focus on Horst’s Surreal-inspired studies and collaborations with Salvador Dalí and Elsa Schiaparelli. Fashion photographs will be shown with trompe l’oeil portraits and haunting still lifes. Horst excelled at portraiture and in the 1930s he captured some of Hollywood’s brightest stars: Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh, Noël Coward, Ginger Rogers, Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, to name a few.

Horst travelled widely throughout the 1940s and 1950s to Israel, Iran, Syria, Italy and Morocco. An escape from the world of fashion and city environs, his little-known travel photographs reveal a fascination for ancient cultures, landscapes and architecture. On display will be works taken in Iran such as the Persepolis Bull, Horst’s powerful image of a vast sculpture head amidst the ruins of a once magnificent palace, and images documenting the annual migration of the nomadic Qashqai clan.

Detailed studies of natural forms such as flowers, minerals, shells and butterfly wings from the project Patterns From Nature, will be shown alongside a series of kaleidoscopic collages made by arranging photographs in simple repeat; his intention was that these dynamic patterns could be used as designs for textiles, wallpaper, carpets, plastics and glass.

Horst was admired for his dramatic lighting and became one of the first photographers to perfect the new colour techniques of the 1930s. A short film of him at work in the Vogue studios during the 1940s will be shown with an introduction to his peers including Lee Miller, Cecil Beaton and Irving Penn. The advent of colour enabled a fresh approach and Horst went on to create more than 90 Vogue covers and countless pages in vivid colour. A selection of 25 large colour photographs, newly printed from the original transparencies from the Condé Nast Archive, will demonstrate Horst’s exceptional skill as a colourist. These prints feature Horst’s favourite models from the 1940s and 50s, such as Carmen Dell’Orefice, Muriel Maxwell and Dorian Leigh, and will be shown together with preparatory sketches, which have never previously been exhibited.

In the early 1950s, Horst created a series of male nudes for an exhibition in Paris for which the models were carefully posed and dramatically lit to accentuate their musculature. The series evokes the classical sculpture that Horst so admired throughout his career. During the 1960s and 1970s, Horst photographed some of the world’s most beautiful and luxurious homes for House and Garden and Vogue under the editorship of his friend Diana Vreeland. A three-sided projection and interactive screens will present these colourful studies. Among the most memorable are the Art Deco apartment of Karl Lagerfeld, the three lavish dwellings of Yves Saint Laurent and the Roman palazzo of artist Cy Twombly.

In the latter years of Horst’s life, his early aesthetic experienced a renaissance. The period also witnessed a flurry of new books, exhibitions, and television documentaries celebrating his work. Horst produced new, lavish prints in platinum-palladium for museums and the collector’s market, selecting emblematic works from every decade of his career, which will be showcased as the finale to the exhibition.”

Press release from the V&A

 

Behind the scenes at American Vogue, 1946 from Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Showing clips from the publication house’s cutting room floor, as well as editors at work, this never-before-seen footage shot from late 1946 to early 1947 gives a fascinating insight into the history of fashion publishing. This film is comprised of outtakes from the documentary Fashion Means Business. Dorian Leigh models the latest American designs in the Condé Nast studio for Horst and his assistant Vassilov, overseen by Vogue editors Muriel Maxwell and Priscilla Peck. The photographs are selected with editor Jessica Daves and art director Alexander Liberman, and the page layout finalised with Marcel Guillaume and Liberman.

With permission from HBO Archives/The March of Time. Provided by Condé Nast Archive

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Chanel, Vogue France' 1935

 

Horst P. Horst
Chanel, Vogue France
1935
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

A fore-runner of the timeless look of Chanel, here in brown and white check rayon with collar, cuffs and lapels in white piquè that matches the buttoned top.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Hat and coat-dress by Bergdorf Goodman, modelled by Estrella Boissevain' 1938

 

Horst P. Horst
Hat and coat-dress by Bergdorf Goodman, modelled by Estrella Boissevain
1938
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Corset by Detolle for Mainbocher' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Corset by Detolle for Mainbocher
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P.Horst. 'Lisa with Turban, New York' 1940

 

Horst P.Horst
Lisa with Turban, New York
1940
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Gertrude Stein at Balmain Fashion Show' 1946

 

Horst P. Horst
Gertrude Stein at Balmain Fashion Show
1946
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Birthday Gloves, New York' 1947

 

Horst P. Horst
Birthday Gloves, New York
1947
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lillian Marcuson in Dior's belted two-piece suit in black rustic wool, called 'Milieu du Siècle'' 1949

 

Horst P. Horst
Lillian Marcuson in Dior’s belted two-piece suit in black rustic wool, called ‘Milieu du Siècle’
1949
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Nina de Voe' 1951

 

Horst P. Horst
Nina de Voe
1951
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lillian Marcuson, New York' 1950

 

Horst P. Horst
Lillian Marcuson, New York
1950
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Outfit by Tina Leser' Vogue, April 1950

 

Horst P. Horst
Outfit by Tina Leser
Vogue, April 1950
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P.Horst. 'Bombay Bathing Fashion' 1950

 

Horst P.Horst
Bombay Bathing Fashion
1950
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

Model (unidentified) and Dorian Leigh (r) in bathing suit and sleeveless shirt cover-up by Carolyn Schnurer 1951 Vogue

 

Haute Couture

When Horst joined Vogue in 1931, Paris was still the world’s undisputed centre of high fashion. Photography had begun to eclipse graphic illustration in fashion magazines and the publisher Condé Montrose Nast devoted large sums to improving the quality of image reproduction. He insisted that Vogue photographers work with a large format camera, which produced richly detailed negatives measuring ten by eight inches.

The creation of a Horst photograph was a collaborative process, involving the talents of the photographer and model, the art director, fashion editor, studio assistants and set technicians. The modelling profession was still in its infancy in the 1930s and many of those who posed under the hot studio lights were stylish friends of the magazine’s staff, often actresses or aristocrats.

By the mid 1930s, Horst had superseded his mentor George Hoyningen-Huene as Paris Vogue‘s primary photographer. His images frequently appeared in the French, British and American editions of the magazine. Many of the photographs on display in the exhibition are vintage prints from the company’s archive.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Dress by Hattie Carnegie' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Dress by Hattie Carnegie
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Dress by Hattie Carnegie' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Dress by Hattie Carnegie
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Summer Fashions, American Vogue cover' 1941

 

Horst P. Horst
Summer Fashions, American Vogue cover
1941
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Dinner suit and headdress by Schiaparelli' 1947

 

Horst P. Horst
Dinner suit and headdress by Schiaparelli
1947
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Millicent Rogers in a Charles James gown and a gold necklace of her own design' Vogue, February 1, 1949

 

Horst P. Horst
Millicent Rogers in a Charles James gown and a gold necklace of her own design
Vogue,
February 1, 1949
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst in Colour from Victoria and Albert Museum

 

This film reveals the process of creating new colour prints for the exhibition Horst: Photographer of Style. Horst was quick to master new colour processes, introduced in the late 1930s, and he created hundreds of vibrant fashion photographs for Vogue.

The V&A team worked closely with specialists at the Condé Nast Archive and expert printer Ken Allen to select and print from Horst’s early transparencies, which date from the 1930s to the 1950s. The film includes insights into Horst’s dynamic approach from model Carmen Dell’Orefice and Vogue’s International Editor at Large, Hamish Bowles.​

 

Fashion in Colour

The 1930s ushered in huge technical advancements in colour photography. Horst adapted quickly to a new visual vocabulary, creating some of Vogue’s most dazzling colour images. In 1935 he photographed the Russian Princess Nadejda Sherbatow in a red velveteen jacket for the first of his many Vogue cover pictures.

The occupation of Paris transformed the world of fashion. The majority of French ateliers closed and many couturiers and buyers left the country. Remaining businesses struggled with extreme shortages of cloth and other supplies. The scarcity of French fashions in America, however, enabled American designers to come into their own.

Horst’s colour photographs are rarely exhibited because few vintage prints exist. Colour capture took place on a transparency which could be reproduced on the magazine page without the need to create a photographic print. The size of the new prints displayed in this room of the exhibition echoes the large scale of a group of Horst images printed in 1938 at the Condé Nast press.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Marlene Dietrich, New York' 1942

 

Horst P. Horst
Marlene Dietrich, New York
1942
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Gloria Vanderbilt age 17 wearing a dress by Howard Greer, New York' 1941

 

Horst P. Horst
Gloria Vanderbilt age 17 wearing a dress by Howard Greer, New York
1941
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

At 17, in Beverly Hills wearing a tabletop dress by Howard Greer. Tabletop dresses looked good from the waist up when stars were photographed sitting in restaurants and nightclub

 

Stage and Screen

Horst’s portraits spanned a wide cross-section of subjects, from artists and writers to presidents and royalty. In the 1930s, he became aware of a new focus for his work. As he later noted in his book Salute to the Thirties (1971), glamorous Hollywood movie stars were imperceptibly assuming the place left vacant by Europe’s vanishing royal families. With the approach of the Second World War, the escapism offered by theatre and cinema gained in popularity. Horst began to photograph these new, classless celebrities, both in costume and as themselves.

The first well-known star Horst photographed was the English performer Gertrude Lawrence, then appearing in Ronald Jeans’ play Can the Leopard…? at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Horst’s first portrait of a Hollywood actress, Bette Davis, appeared in Vogue‘s sister magazine Vanity Fair in 1932.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Round the Clock, New York' 1987

 

Horst P. Horst
Round the Clock, New York
1987
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Platinum

The 1980s witnessed a flurry of new books, exhibitions and television documentaries about Horst. He produced new prints for museums and the collector’s market, selecting emblematic works from every decade of his career to be reprinted in platinum-palladium, sometimes with new titles. This was a complex and expensive technique, employing metals more expensive than gold. Failing eyesight finally forced him to stop working in 1992.

Horst’s platinum-palladium prints are treasured for their nuanced tones, surface quality and permanence. His style had experienced a renaissance in 1978 when Francine Crescent, French Vogue‘s editor in chief, had invited him to photograph the Paris collections. Horst’s work for her echoed his atmospheric, spot-lit studies of the 1930s. His use of the platinum process for creating new and reproducing early works ensured his mastery of light, mood and composition would be enjoyed by a new audience.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Male Nude #3' 1952, printed 1980s

 

 

Horst P. Horst
Male Nude #3
1952, printed 1980s
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Still Life' Nd

 

Horst P. Horst
Still Life
Nd
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Male Nude' 1952

 

Horst P. Horst
Male Nude
1952
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Male Nudes

In the early 1950s Horst produced a set of distinctive photographs unlike much of his previous output. These male figure studies were exhibited for the first time in Paris in 1953 and reprinted using the platinum-palladium process in the 1980s. The studies exemplify Horst’s sense of form. All emphasis is on the idealised human body, expressive light and shadow. Monumental and anonymous nudes resemble classical sculptures. As Mehemed Agha (1929-78), art director of American Vogue, commented:

“Horst takes the inert clay of human flesh and models it into the decorative shapes of his own devising. Every gesture of his models is planned, every line controlled and coordinated to the whole of the picture. Some gestures look natural and careless, because carefully rehearsed; the others, like Voltaire’s god, were invented by the artist because they did not exist.”

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Salvador Dali's costumes for Leonid Massine's ballet 'Bacchanale'' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Salvador Dali’s costumes for Leonid Massine’s ballet Bacchanale
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lisa Fonssagrives hands, New York' 1941

 

Horst P. Horst
Lisa Fonssagrives hands, New York
1941
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Odalisque I' 1943

 

Horst P. Horst
Odalisque I
1943
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P.Horst. 'Bunny Hartley' Vogue, 1938

 

Horst P.Horst
Bunny Hartley
Vogue,
1938
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lisa Fonssagrives "I Love You"' 1937

 

Horst P. Horst
Lisa Fonssagrives “I Love You”
1937
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Surrealism

The Surrealist art movement explored unique ways of interpreting the world, turning to dreams and the unconscious for inspiration. During the 1930s Surrealism escaped its radical avant-garde roots and transformed design, fashion, advertising, theatre and film. Horst’s photographs of this period feature mysterious, whimsical and surreal elements combined with his classical aesthetic. He created trompe l’oeil still lifes, photographed the surreal-infused dress designs of his friend Elsa Schiaparelli and collaborated with the artist Salvador Dalí. He shared with the Surrealists a fascination with the representation of the female body, often fragmenting and eroticising the human form in his images.

His most celebrated photograph of the era is Mainbocher Corset (1939). Decades after the photograph was made, Main Bocher himself expressed his admiration for Horst’s virtuosity, writing,

“Your photographs are sheer genius and delight my soul … each one is perfect by itself.”

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Patterns from Nature Photographic Collage' 1945

 

Horst P. Horst
Patterns from Nature Photographic Collage
1945
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Patterns from Nature

Horst’s second book, Patterns from Nature (1946), and the photographs from which it originated, are a surprising diversion from the high glamour of his fashion and celebrity photographs. These close-up, black and white images of plants, shells and minerals were taken in New York’s Botanical Gardens, in the forests of New England, in Mexico, and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

This personal project was partly inspired by photographs of plants by Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932). Horst was struck by “their revelation of the similarity of vegetable forms to art forms like wrought iron and Gothic architecture.” Horst’s interest was also linked to the technical purity of ‘photographic seeing’, a philosophy associated with the New Objectivity movement of the 1920s and ’30s. Practitioners took natural forms out of their contexts and examined them with such close attention that they became unfamiliar and revelatory.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'View of ruins at the palace of Persepolis, Persia' 1949

 

Horst P. Horst
View of ruins at the palace of Persepolis, Persia
1949
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Travel

In the summer of 1949, Horst journeyed to the Middle East with his partner Valentine Lawford, then political counsellor at the British Embassy in Tehran. They travelled by road from Beirut to Persepolis, where Horst was able to photograph parts of the ancient Persian city that had only recently been uncovered. Afterwards, Horst visited the newly established State of Israel on a photographic assignment for Vogue.

The trip left a strong impression on Horst and he returned in the spring of 1950. He spent a week with Lawford at the relatively remote south-eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, before documenting the annual migration of the Qashqa’i clan. Horst and Lawford were invited by Malik Mansur Khan Qashqa’i to spend ten days with his tribe as they travelled by camel and horse, in search of vegetation for their flocks.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Yves Saint Laurent poses in the apartment's grand salon for a November 1971 'Vogue' photo spread' 1971

 

Horst P. Horst
Yves Saint Laurent poses in the apartment’s grand salon for a November 1971 ‘Vogue’ photo spread
1971
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Living in Style

In 1947 Horst acquired five acres of land in Oyster Bay Cove, Long Island, part of the estate once owned by the designer Louis Comfort Tiffany. On the land he described as ‘everything I had ever dreamed of’, Horst built a unique house and landscaped garden. British diplomat Valentine Lawford visited for the first time in 1947, with Noël Coward, Christopher Isherwood, and Greta Garbo. It was the beginning of a relationship with Horst that would last until Lawford’s death in 1991.

They welcomed many friends and visitors to Long Island, including the dynamic editor Diana Vreeland. She left Harper’s Bazaar for Vogue in 1962 and soon put the couple to work on Vogue‘s ‘Fashions in Living’ pages. The homes and tastes of everyone from Jackie Onassis to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Andy Warhol and Karl Lagerfeld featured in their articles. Horst’s creative chemistry with Vreeland brought him a new lease of life.

 

Roy Stevens. 'Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives' 15 May 1941

 

Roy Stevens
Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives
15 May 1941
© Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

 

In the Studio

During the 1940s Horst worked primarily in the Condé Nast studio on the 19th floor of the Graybar Building, an Art Deco skyscraper on Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue. The busy studio was well equipped with a variety of lights and props and Horst worked closely with talented art director Alexander Liberman. Like Horst, he had found refuge in the artistic circles of Paris and New York, and enjoyed a long career with Condé Nast.

By 1946 dressing the American woman had become one of the country’s largest industries, grossing over six billion dollars a year. The staff of Vogue expanded accordingly. In 1951 Horst found a studio of his own, the former penthouse apartment of artist Pavel Tchelitchew, with high ceilings and a spectacular view over the river. Horst developed a new approach to photography in response to the abundance of daylight and for a time his famous atmospheric shadows disappeared.

 

 

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

Opening hours:
The V&A is open daily from 10.00 to 17.45 and until 22.00 on Fridays

Victoria and Albert Museum website, Horst web page

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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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