Posts Tagged ‘american artist

09
Dec
15

Exhibition: ‘Multitude, Solitude: The Photographs of Dave Heath’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 19th September – 20th December 2015

 

 

Following on from the magnificent Francesca Woodman, here we have an artist from a previous period who investigates aspects of alienation, despair, loss and hope. These are of the era:

Post-McCarthyism but still caught in that cataclysm / Henri Cartier-Bresson / Irving Penn / Ansel Adams / Saturday Evening Post / Allen Ginsberg / Beat Generation / emerging counterculture of the 1960s.

It is an Americana (the despairing history, geography and culture of the United States) with an elusive meaning and a aesthetic that seems to be tight … but one that can’t stand to be scratched.

While some of the images are memorable (such as Vengeful Sister, Chicago, 1956) there is not much living, lying underneath. Nothing that reveals itself to me over time, that makes me return to the image again and again, for insight and, possibly, refreshment. A little hope and much sadness.

Marcus

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

 

 

“City streets were Heath’s first studio: Philadelphia; Chicago; New York, where he came to prominence; and later Toronto. Isolation is a prevailing theme: Subjects gaze cryptically into the camera, their expressions unreadable. Often they stare beyond the frame, lost in thought. Crowds of individuals populate a single location, but don’t interact; disconnected, in their own worlds.

The dispossessed and alienated are Heath’s subjects, and he wrote his autobiography with their images: children with ragged clothes and dirty faces, stone-faced or crying, hardly ever smiling. A sweet-faced girl with tangled hair and huge light eyes stares out from the cover of Heath’s masterwork A Dialogue with Solitude, as if to say, “Here I am,” and nothing more…

Heath, who had to find his way alone, photographed passengers looking out of car windows and riding in elevated trains, going who knows where? Many photos are of just one person, and even the group shots set one occupant apart. Faces are expressionless, but their eyes are full of sorrow, uncertainty, loneliness, fear. We recognize that look: the one we all have when our public mask falls away and our faces betray the thoughts that wake us in the middle of the night.”

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Pamela J.  Forsythe. “Alone together” on the Broad Street Review website October 18, 2015

 

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Kansas City, Missouri, March 1967'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Kansas City, Missouri, March 1967
1967 (negative); 1968 (print)
Gelatin silver print
7 1/8 x 10 1/2 inches (18.1 x 26.7 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Berkeley, California, 1964'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Berkeley, California, 1964
1964
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 x 6 13/16 inches (11.7 x 17.3 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Erin Freed, New York City, 1963'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Erin Freed, New York City, 1963
1963
Gelatin silver print
7 5/16 x 8 3/4 inches (18.6 x 22.2 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Carl Dean Kipper, Korea, 1953-54'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Carl Dean Kipper, Korea, 1953-54
1953-54
Gelatin silver print
6 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches (17.1 x 24.8 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Philadelphia, 1952'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Philadelphia, 1952
1952
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

“Experience Dave Heath’s bittersweet vision of modern life in his powerful photographs of loss and hope.

From a crowd gathered in Central Park to solitary figures lost in thought, Dave Heath’s images conjure feelings of alienation and a desire for human connection. Multitude, Solitude highlights the photographer’s black-and-white pictures of the 1950s and 1960s, an intense period of self-discovery and innovation for the artist. During these pivotal years, Heath developed groundbreaking approaches to narrative and image sequence, producing exquisite individual prints, handmade book maquettes, his poetic masterwork, A Dialogue with Solitude, and multimedia slide presentations. His sensitive explorations of loss, pain, love, and hope reveal Heath to be one of the most original photographers of those decades.

This exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of Heath’s deeply personal early work. Abandoned by both his parents by the age of four, Heath lived in Philadelphia foster homes and in an orphanage until the age of sixteen. The turmoil of his childhood profoundly shaped Heath and his artistic vision. Just before his sixteenth birthday, he encountered a poignant photo-essay about foster care in Life magazine, and became intrigued by photography’s potential to transcend simple reportage. Almost entirely self-taught, Heath channeled his feelings of abandonment into a body of work that underscores the importance and difficulties of human contact and interaction. Multitude, Solitude reaffirms Heath’s status as a key figure in twentieth-century photography and highlights his deeply empathetic sensibility.

About the artist

Born in Philadelphia in 1931, Dave Heath became interested in photography as a teenager. In the following years he trained himself in the craft, taking courses in commercial art, working in a photo-processing lab, and studying paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. While stationed in Korea with the US Army, he photographed his fellow soldiers, creating images that are at once candid and subdued. In 1957 Heath moved to New York City and established himself as a major artistic talent.Heath taught at the Dayton Art Institute, Ohio, and Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, before moving in 1970 to Toronto, where he headed the photography program at Ryerson University for many years. His work is in the collections of leading museums, including The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

Heath’s major monograph, A Dialogue with Solitude, was published in 1965 and reprinted in 2000. His work has been included in important historical studies and surveys, such as Robert M. Doty’s Photography in America (1974); John Szarkowski’s Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960 (1978); James Borcoman’s Magicians of Light: Photographs from the Collection of the National Gallery of Canada (1993); and Keith F. Davis’s An American Century: From Dry-Plate to Digital (1999).”

Text from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Drowning Scene, Central Park, New York City, 1957'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Drowning Scene, Central Park, New York City, 1957
1957
Gelatin silver print
6 3/8 x 9 9/16 inches (16.2 x 24.3 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Drowning Scene, Central Park, New York City, 1957' (detail)

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Drowning Scene, Central Park, New York City, 1957 (detail)
1957
Gelatin silver print
6 3/8 x 9 9/16 inches (16.2 x 24.3 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Vengeful Sister, Chicago, 1956'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Vengeful Sister, Chicago, 1956
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 3/16 x 8 15/16 inches (18.3 x 22.7 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) '7 Arts Coffee Gallery, New York City, 1959'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
7 Arts Coffee Gallery, New York City, 1959
1959
Gelatin silver print
7 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'New York City, 1958-59'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
New York City, 1958-59
1958-59
Gelatin silver print
7 x 8 5/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) '5th Avenue at 43rd Street, New York City, 1958'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
5th Avenue at 43rd Street, New York City, 1958
1958
Gelatin silver print
6 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Santa Barbara, California, 1964'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Santa Barbara, California, 1964
1964
Gelatin silver print
5 x 7 9/16 inches (12.7 x 19.2 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Rochester, New York, 1958'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Rochester, New York, 1958
1958
Gelatin silver print
6 9/16 x 9 13/16 inches (16.7 x 24.9 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Washington Square, New York City, 1959-1960'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Washington Square, New York City, 1959-1960
1959-1960
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

Forever the outsider

Heath left Philadelphia to serve in the Korean War, where he photographed fellow soldiers and his impressions of war. Soon after his return, he departed for Chicago, where he worked as a photographer’s assistant. He began to assemble handmade books, grouping photos into themed essays and putting text to the images, establishing the template he would use in A Dialogue with Solitude.

Relocating to New York in 1957, Heath studied with photojournalist W. Eugene Smith, refining his photo essay technique and adopting Smith’s practice of making fine art prints of his work. He took photos with available light, in the street and at favorite haunts like Washington Square Park and Seven Arts Coffee Gallery, mounting the Dialogue exhibition in 1963. In that same year, he won his first Guggenheim.

Accepting life on its own terms

When Dialogue went to print in 1965, Heath employed the same editorial control he had with earlier creations, selecting, sizing, and laying out every photo, dictating typeface and size, and selecting text from famous authors, such as William Butler Yeats, Hermann Hesse, and T.S. Eliot. Only in the preface did he use his own words:

“Pressed from all sides by the rapid pace of technological progress and increased authoritarian control, many people are caught up in an anguish of alienation. Adrift and without sense of purpose, they are compelled to engage in a dialogue with the inmost depths of their being in a search for renewal.” He concludes, “What I have endeavored to convey in my work is not a sense of futility… but an acceptance… that the pleasures and joys of life are fleeting and rare.”

The final sections convey a few of those pleasurable moments: In two photos entitled Chicago (1956), a small boy stands, head thrown back in exultation, and two boys mug for the camera. In Fifth Avenue, New York City (1960), a father snuggles his baby to his face, looking over the child’s head protectively, and in Barbara Freed and Her Son Sean, New York City (1959), a toddler heads toward a pair of outstretched female hands. Heath selected the final excerpt from Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi”:

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death?

.
Pamela J.  Forsythe. “Alone together” on the Broad Street Review website October 18, 2015

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Greenwich Village, New York City, 1957'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Greenwich Village, New York City, 1957
1957
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 9 9/16 inches (32.1 x 24.3 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'New York City, 1962'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
New York City, 1962
1962
Gelatin silver print, 10 13/16 x 7 7/16 inches (27.5 x 18.9 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Chicago, 1956'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Chicago, 1956
1956
Gelatin silver print, 12 9/16 x 8 9/16 inches (31.9 x 21.7 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Chicago, 1956'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Chicago, 1956
1956
Gelatin silver print
9 3/4 x 6 5/8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Chicago, 1956'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Chicago, 1956
1956
Gelatin silver print, 10 x 8 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Washington Square, New York City, 1960'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Washington Square, New York City, 1960
1960
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 8 5/8 inches (32.1 x 21.9 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Washington Square, New York City, 1958'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Washington Square, New York City, 1958
1958
Gelatin silver print
12 5/8 x 8 3/8 inches (32.1 x 21.3 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931) 'Howard Crawford, c. 1953-54'

 

Dave Heath (Canadian, born United States, 1931)
Howard Crawford, c. 1953-54
c. 1953-54
Gelatin silver print
13 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches
The Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri: Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

 

 

Philadelphia Museum of Art
26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm

Philadelphia Museum of Art website

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08
Oct
15

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Animalia’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 26th May – 18th October 2015

 

Some of the photographs in this postings are sad, others are just gruesome.

One animal’s in/humanity to many others.

Marcus

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

 

 

Taryn Simon. 'White Tiger (Kenny)' 2007

 

Taryn Simon
White Tiger (Kenny), Selective Inbreeding Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Foundation Eureka Springs, Arkansas
2007
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Taryn Simon

 

In the United States, all living white tigers are the result of selective inbreeding to artificially create the genetic conditions that lead to white fur, ice-blue eyes and a pink nose. Kenny was born to a breeder in Bentonville, Arkansas on February 3, 1999. As a result of inbreeding, Kenny is mentally retarded and has significant physical limitations. Due to his deep-set nose, he has difficulty breathing and closing his jaw, his teeth are severely malformed and he limps from abnormal bone structure in his forearms. The three other tigers in Kenny’s litter are not considered to be quality white tigers as they are yellow-coated, crosseyed, and knock-kneed.

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.) c. 1865

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.) c. 1865 (detail)

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The South African Cheetah (Felis Jubata.) (detail)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Zebra, Burchell's, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.)' c. 1865

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Zebra, Burchell’s, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.3 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Zebra, Burchell's, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.)' c. 1865 (detail)

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Zebra, Burchell’s, or Dauw. (Asinus Burchellii.) (detail)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.3 x 17.2 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.)' c. 1865

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.1 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) 'The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.)' c. 1865 (detail)

 

Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916)
The Tiger. (Felis Tigris.) (detail)
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
8.2 x 17.1 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Daniel Naudé (South African, born 1984) 'Africanis 17. Danielskuil, Northern Cape, 25 February 2010' 2010

 

Daniel Naudé (South African, born 1984)
Africanis 17. Danielskuil, Northern Cape, 25 February 2010
2010
Chromogenic print
60 x 60 cm (23 5/8 x 23 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Daniel Naudé

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886) '[Dead stag in a sling]' c. 1850s - 1860s

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886)
[Dead stag in a sling]
c. 1850s – 1860s
Albumen silver print
27.9 x 33.2 cm (11 x 13 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886) '[Dead stag in a sling]' (detail) c. 1850s - 1860s

 

Capt. Horatio Ross (British, 1801-1886)
[Dead stag in a sling] (detail)
c. 1850s – 1860s
Albumen silver print
27.9 x 33.2 cm (11 x 13 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

“Animals have never been camera shy – almost since the introduction of the medium in 1839, they have appeared in photographs. While early photographs typically depicted animals that were tame, captive, or dead, modern and contemporary artists have delved into the interdependent relationship between man and beast.

Drawn entirely from the J. Paul Getty Museum’s photographs collection, In Focus: Animalia, on view May 26-October 18, 2015 at the Getty Center, illustrates some of the complex relationships between people and animals. From an intimate studio portrait with dog and owner to the calculated cruelty of inbreeding practices, these photographs offer nuanced views of the animal kingdom.

“It is easy to understand why artists choose animals for their subject matter – their lives are profoundly intertwined with our own, often eliciting powerful emotions,” says Timothy Potts, Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Whether seen as beloved pets, kept in zoos, or threatened by human activity, animals continue to fascinate and act as catalysts for artistic creativity. This exhibition highlights the many different ways in which animals as subject matter have served as an endearing theme for photographers throughout history right up to the present day.”

Photographs of pets, working animals, taxidermied game, and exotic beasts in newly opened zoos circulated widely during the second half of the 19th century. Early daguerreotypes required a subject to remain still for several minutes to ensure that the image would not blur, so photographing moving animals posed a problem. In Study of a White Foal (about 1845) the Swiss nobleman and amateur daguerreotypist Jean-Gabriel Eynard (1775-1863), focused the lens of his camera on a foal at rest, a moment when its movements were limited, in order to make a successful picture.

By the early 1850s most major cities in Europe and America could boast studios specializing in daguerreotype photography. Customers sat for portraits in order to preserve their own images, and also commissioned photographs of their family members and loved ones, including pets. In Dog Sitting on a Table (about 1854; artist unknown) an eager dog is photographed sitting on a tasseled pedestal. The slight blurring of the head, indicating movement during exposure, betrays the barely contained energy of this otherwise well-trained animal.

The mid-19th century saw increasing demand for stereoscopic photographs – two nearly identical prints made with a double lens camera that created a three-dimensional image when viewed in a stereoscope viewer. Frank Haes (British, 1832-1916) made a reputation for himself by photographing animals at the London Zoo, much to the delight of those fascinated by hippos, lions, zebras, and other exotic beasts. Eadweard J. Muybridge’s (American, born England, 1830-1904) pioneering work in motion studies are best remembered for his depictions of animals. Devising a system for successively tripping the shutters of up to 24 cameras, Muybridge created the illusion of movement in a galloping horse.

Artists have also relied on animals to convey symbolism and to represent fantastical worlds. A photograph by Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) of a harnessed and castrated horse serves as a critical metaphor for American identity in the early 1920s, which Stieglitz viewed as materialist and culturally bankrupt. An elaborately staged photograph by Sandy Skoglund (American, born 1946) presents a dreamlike atmosphere filled with handmade, larger-than-life sculptures of goldfish that create a scene at once playful and disturbing. Recently-acquired works by Daniel Naudé (South African, born 1984) depict portraits of wild dogs the photographer found on the arid plains of South Africa. Made from a low vantage point, individual dogs are cast against broad views of the landscape, and the photographs harken back to the equestrian portrait tradition popular during the 17th century. Taryn Simon’s photograph of a caged white tiger (American, born 1975) demonstrates the oftentimes debilitating results of the inbreeding practices utilized to obtain highly desired traits such as a white coat. This work illuminates the mistakes and failures of human intervention into a territory governed by natural selection.

In Focus: Animalia is on view May 26-October 18, 2015 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition will be accompanied by the publication of Animals in Photographs (Getty Publications) by Arpad Kovacs.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Sandy Skoglund. 'Revenge of the Goldfish' 1981

 

Sandy Skoglund
Revenge of the Goldfish
1981
Color photograph
27 1/2″ x 35″
Individually hand-made ceramic goldfish by the artist, with live models in painted set
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 1981 Sandy Skoglund

 

Like many of her other works, such as Radioactive Cats and Fox Games, the piece is a set composed of props and human models, which Skoglund poses and then photographs. In the piece, a child sits on the edge of a bed while an adult sleeps next to him. The set of the scene is a monochromatic blue, with contrasting bright orange goldfish floating through the room. The goldfish in the piece were sculpted by Skoglund out of terracotta and bring an element of fantasy to an otherwise normal scene. According to Skoglund, “If the fish are eliminated the image shows nothing unusual; just a room with two people in bed.” The piece was first on display at the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1981. Since then, the piece has been in several collections at various museums, including Smith College Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Akron Art Museum, and Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Smith College Museum of Art also owns the original installation. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, born England, 1830-1904) 'Running (Galloping)' 1878 - 1881

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, born England, 1830-1904)
Running (Galloping)
1878 – 1881
Iron salt process
18.9 x 22.6 cm (7 7/16 x 8 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Unknown maker, American. 'Portrait of a Girl with her Deer' c. 1854

 

Unknown maker, American
Portrait of a Girl with her Deer
c. 1854
Daguerreotype 1/4 plate
Image: 6.9 x 9 cm (2 11/16 x 3 9/16 in.)
Plate: 8.1 x 10.7 cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
Mat: 8.2 x 10.6 cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Unknown maker, American. 'Portrait of a Girl with her Deer' c. 1854 (detail)

 

Unknown maker, American
Portrait of a Girl with her Deer (detail)
c. 1854
Daguerreotype 1/4 plate
Image: 6.9 x 9 cm (2 11/16 x 3 9/16 in.)
Plate: 8.1 x 10.7 cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
Mat: 8.2 x 10.6 cm (3 3/16 x 4 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

William Eggleston (American, born 1939) 'Memphis' Negative 1971; print 1974

 

William Eggleston (American, born 1939)
Memphis
Negative 1971; print 1974
Dye imbibition print
32.9 x 47.9 cm (12 15/16 x 18 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

Keith Carter (American, born 1948) 'Goodbye to a Horse' 1993

 

Keith Carter (American, born 1948)
Goodbye to a Horse
1993
Gelatin silver print
39 x 39.2 cm (15 3/8 x 15 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Keith Carter

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) '[Wooden Mouse and Duck]' 1929

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985)
[Wooden Mouse and Duck]
1929
Gelatin silver print
20.9 x 16.7 cm (8 1/4 x 6 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of André Kertész

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Spiritual America'
 1923

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Spiritual America

1923
Gelatin silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Unknown maker, American. '[Dog sitting on a table]' c. 1854

 

Unknown maker, American
[Dog sitting on a table]
c. 1854
Hand-colored daguerreotype 1/6 plate
Image: 6.8 x 5.7 cm (2 11/16 x 2 1/4 in.)
Mat: 8.3 x 7 cm (3 1/4 x 2 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Hiro (American, born China, born 1930) 'David Webb, Jeweled Toad, New York, 1963' 1963

 

Hiro (American, born China, born 1930)
David Webb, Jeweled Toad, New York, 1963
1963
Dye imbibition print
50.2 x 39.1 cm (19 3/4 x 15 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Hiro

 

Soon Tae (Tai) Hong (South Korean, born 1934) 'Chong Ju' 1970

 

 

Soon Tae (Tai) Hong (South Korean, born 1934)
Chong Ju
1970
Gelatin silver print
24.8 x 20 cm (9 3/4 x 7 7/8 in.)
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Hong Soon Tae (Tai)

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943) 'In the Box/Out of the Box [right]' 1971

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943)
In the Box/Out of the Box [right]
1971
Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 27.7 cm (13 15/16 x 10 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943) 'In the Box/Out of the Box [left]' 1971

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943)
In the Box/Out of the Box [left]
1971
Gelatin silver print
35.5 x 27.7 cm (14 x 10 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© William Wegman

 

 

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25
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust’ at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Exhibition dates: 4th July – 27th September 2015

The Sackler Wing of Galleries

 

 

Now, Voyager

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“The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
Now, voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.”

Walt Whitman (1819-1892). “Untold Want,” from Leaves of Grass. 1900

 

Joseph Cornell is my favourite artist who has ever lived on this Earth. I do not make this observation lightly, but after much consideration, thought and reflection.

I have always loved his work, from the very first time I saw it in a book. To then see a recreation of one of his 1950s exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2001 was one of those seminal moments where you are lifted out of yourself, where your life becomes forever changed. For me that transcendent experience is up there with being alone with the Rembrandt portraits in the Louvre for 10 precious minutes. Both were among the most exquisite, poignant and beautiful spiritual experiences I have had in my life.

I am not an expert on Cornell, although I have read many books on his work and on his spirituality. He saw himself as an “armchair voyager”, a bit like a latter day Baudelaire, a man who has romantic notions of travel but never actually goes anywhere, who has romantic notions of love but never finds it, except in his imagination. Cornell never left his native New York. Cornell expressed his self through a passion for the artefacts he collected, through his assemblage of those artefacts into magical boxes that addressed unrequited love and faith – for Hollywood and movie stars, ballerinas, hotels, birds, the Renaissance, princes and princesses, the stars, games and chance. He was an avid collector, rummaging through the junk shops of New York and storing his collectibles for his art, something to which I have an affinity, being an avid op shopper (or thrift shopper) myself.

Here I can see an association with the words of Walt Whitman in his lines “Untold Want” from Leaves of Grass, those lines forming the title for the book upon which the film Now Voyager (1942) with Better Davis was based. “The untold want” of Whitman’s lines are whatever you yearn for and cannot get in the social context (“life”) and place (“land”) where you are born. Whitman says, stop “studying the charts,” and “now obey, thy cherish’d, secret wish,” – in other words he’s saying that your heart’s desire is the best indicator of where your destiny lies, but it is possible to miss out on it by not going for it. Fast forward to Now Voyager where frumpy Bette Davis has an affair with a married man, becomes independent, defies her tyrannical mother who promptly dies, and ends up circuitously looking after her lover’s daughter. They decide to have a platonic relationship “sustaining a romantic, unconsummated relationship and creating a ‘family’ by becoming the surrogate, adoptive care-giver for his daughter.”

There is a specific desire here. Davis and Whitman are freed to love without restriction in a romantic way, and after the end of Now Voyager, perhaps Cornell is channelling Bette Davis. He loved in his mind, he created boxes in his imagination (and then physically), he astral travelled through the stars, he created games of chance (such as penny arcades and slot machines) and shooting galleries (that exposed his inner mind) letting the air rush out into the world. He created surreality itself but he was never surreal, for his work is always based on the collision of realities. His boxes are tiny cosmos, like the Tardis from Dr Who, the interior (under a microscope, within four walls) larger than the exterior … yet, magically, they inhabit the whole world, they inhabit our mind. He used the alchemical reaction of elements, the elementary, to affect travel, love, life and change. And he did it in four dimensions for his boxes affect us as much today as he did when he created them. Perhaps that is why I like his work so much… he used seemingly mundane materials, multi/media objects, imagination and love to let’s our spirits soar into the universe. No other artist has ever affected me so much. No one ever will.

Undeniably, Cornell’s poetic theatres are joyous creations that free our soul from the everyday.

Perhaps it is through love, or in death, or the afterlife, that the Voyager can seek that untold want.

 

My Mind to me a Kingdom Is

Sir Edward Dyer (1543 – 1607)

1 My mind to me a kingdom is;
2 Such perfect joy therein I find
3 That it excels all other bliss
4 Which God or nature hath assign’d.
5 Though much I want that most would have,
6 Yet still my mind forbids to crave.

7 No princely port, nor wealthy store,
8 No force to win a victory,
9 No wily wit to salve a sore,
10 No shape to win a loving eye;
11 To none of these I yield as thrall, –
12 For why? my mind despise them all.

13 I see that plenty surfeit oft,
14 And hasty climbers soonest fall;
15 I see that such as are aloft
16 Mishap doth threaten most of all.
17 These get with toil and keep with fear;
18 Such cares my mind can never bear.

19 I press to bear no haughty sway,
20 I wish no more than may suffice,
21 I do no more than well I may,
22 Look, what I want my mind supplies.
23 Lo ! thus I triumph like a king,
24 My mind content with anything.

25 I laugh not at another’s loss,
26 Nor grudge not at another’s gain;
27 No worldly waves my mind can toss;
28 I brook that is another’s bane.
29 I fear no foe, nor fawn on friend,
30 I loathe not life, nor dread mine end.

31 My wealth is health and perfect ease,
32 And conscience clear my chief defence;
33 I never seek by bribes to please,
34 Nor by desert to give offence.
35 Thus do I live, thus will I die,–
36 Would all did so as well as I!

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to the Royal Academy of Arts for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the art work. The excellent, educational text was written by Asha McLoughlin, Learning Department © Royal Academy of Arts.

 

 

 

 

“Cornell was a voyager, travelling through space and time to dimensions of the imagination and the spirit. He infused this sense of adventure and an infinite beyond into modestly scaled works whose fragments of reality give way to worlds to be explored.”

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Robert Lehrman, Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay Eterniday, 2003

 

“White is just what I mean. Not monstrously, but in wonderful variations. All I want to perform is white magic.”

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Joseph Cornell quoted in Tracking the Marvellous: A Life in the New York Art World, John Bernard Myers, 1984

 

 

Unidentified photographer. 'The Cornell family' c. 1915

 

Unidentified photographer
The Cornell family
c. 1915
Joseph Cornell (far right) with his parents (Joseph I. Cornell, Sr. and Helen Storms Cornell) and siblings (l to r: Elizabeth, Helen, and Robert)
Joseph Cornell papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

 

Hans Namuth. 'Joseph Cornell' 1969

 

Hans Namuth
Joseph Cornell
1969
Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© 1991 Hans Namuth Estate

 

 

Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), born on Christmas Eve in Nyack, New York, remains one of the most enigmatic yet influential American artists of the twentieth century. Almost entirely self-taught as an artist, Cornell lived quietly for most of his life with his mother and younger brother, crafting in the confines of his basement or on the kitchen table the ‘shadow boxes’ for which he is best known.

He rarely travelled, and almost never left New York, yet his work, based on collage and assemblage, resonates with references to foreign places and distant times. In the course of his life he befriended ballerinas, film stars, poets and generations of world-famous artists. He showed in a succession of New York galleries, participated in landmark group shows at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and was honoured before he died with major surveys at the Pasadena Museum of Californian Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

A popular romanticised image of Cornell pervades as an ascetic outsider – a shy, eccentric man yearning for intimacy, unable to converse with the women who enthralled him but with a vibrant interior life of daydreams and an imagination capable of crossing oceans, centuries and the celestial realm. Yet this mythologised version of the man belies his active interest in the art movements of his time, and the innovative nature of his creations which have paved the way for today’s appropriation and installation artists, contemporary collage and archive based practices.

This exhibition at the Royal Academy brings together 80 of Cornell’s most remarkable shadow boxes, assemblages, collages and films, including many works held in private collections and a number never seen before outside of the USA. The first major UK exhibition solely devoted to Cornell in almost 35 years, it presents a rare chance to experience a concentrated survey of his oeuvre, and to journey inside the mind of an artist who described himself as ‘an armchair voyager’. The ‘wanderlust’ referenced in the exhibition title – the desire to explore and travel the world – is central to Cornell’s art, as was his penchant for collecting and his astonishingly wide-ranging interests. His creations transport the viewer into private universes, populated with objects and ephemera imbued with personal associations.

 

Cornell's basement studio, 3708 Utopia Parkway, Flushing, New York, 1964

 

Cornell’s basement studio, 3708 Utopia Parkway, Flushing, New York, 1964
Collection Duff Murphy and Janice Miyahira. © Terry Schutté.

 

 

From a basement in New York, Joseph Cornell channelled his limitless imagination into some of the most original art of the 20th century. Step into his beguiling world at this landmark exhibition. Cornell hardly ventured beyond New York State, yet the notion of travel was central to his art. His imaginary voyages began as he searched Manhattan’s antique bookshops and dime stores, collecting a vast archive of paper ephemera and small objects to make his signature glass-fronted ‘shadow boxes’. These miniature masterpieces transform everyday objects into spellbinding treasures. Together they reveal his fascination with subjects from astronomy and cinema to literature and ornithology and especially his love of European culture, from the Romantic ballet to Renaissance Italy.

Wanderlust brings together 80 of Cornell’s most remarkable boxes, assemblages, collages and films, some never before seen outside the USA. Entirely self-taught, the independence of Cornell’s creative voice won the admiration of artists from Marcel Duchamp and the Surrealists, to Robert Motherwell and the Abstract Expressionists, with echoes of his work felt in Pop and Minimalist art. Wanderlust is a long overdue celebration of an incomparable artist, a man the New York Times called “a poet of light; an architect of memory-fractured rooms and a connoisseur of stars, celestial and otherwise.”

 

“What kind of man is this, who, from old brown cardboard photographs collected in second-hand bookstores, has reconstructed the nineteenth century “grand tour” of Europe for his mind’s eye more vividly than those who took it, who was not born then and has never been abroad, who knows Vesuvius’s look on a certain morning of AD 79, and of the cast-iron balconies of that hotel in Lucerne?”

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Robert Motherwell on Joseph Cornell, Joseph Cornell’s Theatre of the Mind, 1993

 

“He uses selected, sought-for, desired objects. He must have been clipping all the time, poring through magazines, collecting things and haunting junk shops and flea markets, looking for the images that corresponded to his imagination.”

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Susan Sontag, Joseph Cornell: Worlds in a Box, directed by Mark Stokes, 1991

 

 

Lee Miller. 'Joseph Cornell, New York' 1933

 

Lee Miller
Joseph Cornell, New York
1933
Vintage photograph. ‘Joseph Cornell, New York Studio, New York, USA 1933’ by Lee Miller (96-2)
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2015. All rights reserved.

 

 

Early Life

Joseph Cornell was the eldest of four children – he had two sisters, Elizabeth and Helen, and a brother, Robert, who suffered from cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair for most of his life. When Cornell was thirteen, his father died of leukaemia and Robert became Joseph’s responsibility (partly to assuage their overbearing mother). Robert however was a cheerful child and took pleasure in drawing and collecting model trains. Cornell considered Robert to be a pure soul, and willingly took on his brother’s care. A salesman and textile designer, Cornell’s father had left considerable debts for his family to manage and for several years Cornell’s mother was forced to take odd jobs to support the family, and move them into a succession of smaller rented houses. In 1917, with the help of his father’s former employer, Joseph was able to enrol at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts: a highly regarded private school. There he discovered an interest in American and European literature, poetry, history and French. Yet, away from his close knit family and after the relatively recent death of his father, Cornell struggled and was a mediocre student. He developed the first in a lifelong series of nervous crises and stomach problems, and left the Academy in 1921 without graduating.

Upon his return home, Cornell assumed the role of ‘man of the house’ and became a sample salesman in his father’s trade for a wholesale textile business, the William Whitman Company on lower Madison Avenue. Cornell found the job mundane and himself unsuited to its demands. In his twenties, a time when the stress of supporting his family was exacerbating his stomach ailments, he converted to Christian Science. This religion teaches that reality is purely spiritual and the material world an illusion, so disease and other afflictions associated with the physical body are thought to be manifestations of a troubled mind that ought to be treated with prayer, not medicine. Joseph remained an active member until his death and recruited his brother Robert and sister Elizabeth into the fold.

In 1929, Mrs Cornell moved the family to an unassuming house at 3708 Utopia Parkway in Flushing, Queens, New York. Here, Cornell would live with his mother and brother until he died. His main escape from the tedium of domestic life and the awkward social interactions thrust upon him at work was to walk the city streets in his lunch hour, browsing the second-hand bookshops on Fourth Avenue, the flea markets and dime stores, collecting keepsakes and scavenging for relics and once-precious fragments of other people’s lives. Cornell loved to explore Manhattan and the ‘teeming life of the metropolis’, which seemed to him the epitome of glamour. These wanderings led to Cornell amassing a vast personal archive of treasured finds – books, prints, postcards and three-dimensional ephemera such as clay pipes and watch springs – often tinged with the romance of foreign places and the nostalgia of times past, which would in due course form the material elements of the very personal poetry that is his art.

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Untitled (Schooner)' 1931

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled (Schooner)
1931

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Untitled [Sagittarius, Scorpio, and Lupus Constellations]' c.1934

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled [Sagittarius, Scorpio, and Lupus Constellations]
c. 1934
Collage with ink on paper
14 x 18.6 cm
Drs. Steven and Sara Newman. Photo Collection of Drs. Steven and Sara Newman, Chicago, Illinois, USA
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Untitled (M'lle Faretti)' 1933

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled (M’lle Faretti)
1933
Box construction
27.9 x 20.3 x 5.1 cm
Private Collection
Photo: Michael Tropea, Chicago
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

 

Play and Experiment

Although he did not complete his formal education, Cornell was extremely well read and kept abreast of Manhattan’s literary, musical and artistic events. Not only did he regularly attend the theatre and the ballet, but he also became an avid cinema-goer, thriving on the excitement of the city. Indeed, Cornell often waited at the stage door of theatres and opera houses for a glimpse of the female performers he idolised. He also spent time in art galleries, and in 1931 at the Julien Levy Gallery he came across collages by Max Ernst (1891-1976), a pioneer of Surrealism, who combined high art and popular imagery in his work.

Although Cornell was never officially part of the Surrealist movement and came to dismiss Surrealist associations with his own practice, it had a major influence on him, most notably inspiring his embrace of unexpected juxtapositions in his assemblages and his experimental films, like Rose Hobart (1936). Rejecting Surrealism’s more violent and erotic aspects – the shock effect of jarring images – Cornell preferred instead what he described as the ‘white magic’ side of Surrealism, and the poetic connections between everyday objects.

By 1931 Cornell had shifted from simply collecting objects to creating them. He began to make collages and assemblages first in a style resembling Max Ernst’s, then in his own manner. The basis of collage – piecing together and assembling – would be central to Cornell’s works throughout his life, be they two- or three-dimensional. At this early stage he took images from the dense dossiers of engravings and clippings that he had accumulated by this time, fashioning compositions from seemingly unrelated cutout images to create whimsical pairings, which often revealed his dual interests in science and the world of children. Both these themes would recur and overlap throughout his career…

After viewing a number of Cornell’s small surreal collages, such as Untitled (Schooner), 1931, Julien Levy invited him to show in his exhibition, Surréalisme, which opened in January 1932. Later, Levy offered Cornell a solo show, the first of several that were held at his gallery. Entitled Objects by Joseph Cornell: Minutiae, Glass Bells, Shadow Boxes, Coups d’Oeil, Jouets Surréalistes, it included a series of collages and small three-dimensional objects such as bell jars and pillboxes. All the works were made at his kitchen table at night as his mother and brother slept.

Uneasy about his work being associated with Surrealism, Cornell later wrote to Alfred H. Barr, founding director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and organiser of the 1936 exhibition, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, in which Cornell’s work was to feature: “In the event that you are saying a word or two about my work in the catalogue, I would appreciate your saying that I do not share in the subconscious and dream theories of the Surrealists. While fervently admiring much of their work I have never been an official Surrealist, and I believe that Surrealism has healthier possibilities than have been developed.” Regardless of Cornell’s own attempt to distance himself from the movement, Surrealism provided him, at least, with a context in which he could make his collages and objets, and understand them as deserving of a mature and discerning audience.

Around this time, Cornell encountered the collages and box constructions of Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), composed of urban detritus, and the ‘readymades’ of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), which are ordinary, unaltered manufactured objects designated by the artist to be works of art. In Duchamp, Cornell discovered an unlikely friend; the two regularly corresponded throughout their lifetime. When Duchamp visited New York in the 1940s, he enlisted Cornell to help him with a new project, a miniature ‘museum’ of his work, known as the Boîte-en-valise or ‘box in a suitcase’. Cornell already had his own ‘valise’ experiment, Untitled (The Crystal Cage: Portrait of Berenice).

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Object (Soap Bubble Set)' 1936

 

Joseph Cornell
Object (Soap Bubble Set)
1936
Box construction

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Object (Soap Bubble Set)' 1941

 

Joseph Cornell
Object (Soap Bubble Set)
1941
Box construction
46.4 x 31.4 x 9.5 cm
The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, Courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015
Photo: Quicksilver Photographers, LLC. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Object (Soap Bubble Set)' 1941 (detail)

 

Joseph Cornell
Object (Soap Bubble Set) (detail)
1941
Box construction
46.4 x 31.4 x 9.5 cm
The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, Courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015
Photo: Quicksilver Photographers, LLC. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Pharmacy' 1943

 

Joseph Cornell
Pharmacy
1943
Box construction
38.7 x 30.5 x 7.9 cm
Collection Paul Schärer
Photo Dominique Uldry, Bern
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/ DACS, London 2015

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Pharmacy' 1943 (detail)

 

Joseph Cornell
Pharmacy (detail)
1943
Box construction
38.7 x 30.5 x 7.9 cm
Collection Paul Schärer
Photo Dominique Uldry, Bern
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/ DACS, London 2015

 

 

Collecting and Classification

In the 1930s, Cornell began to make the ‘shadow boxes’ for which he is best known – glass-fronted box constructions containing intimately-scaled arrangements of found objects and paper ephemera, assembled in a sort of three-dimensional collage. The 1936 exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at MoMA, New York, showed one of his first shadow boxes, Untitled (Soap Bubble Set) (above). This was the first in a long series of the same name and recalls the children’s pastime of blowing bubbles, as well as the eighteenth-century European painting association of bubbles as memento mori, a reminder of the transience of life. Precisely what led Cornell to the idea of the box remains unclear. In a Life magazine article from 1967 he said that it came to him during one of his walks through Manhattan, as he passed a collection of compasses in the window of an antique shop:

“I thought, everything can be used in a lifetime, can’t it, and went on walking. I’d scarcely gone two blocks when I came on another shop window full of boxes, all different kinds […] Halfway home on the train that night, I thought of the compasses and boxes, it occurred to me to put the two together.”

Before Cornell developed his own carpentry skills, his early shadow boxes were housed in prefabricated, semi-antique wooden boxes, popular during the Victorian era for displaying small paintings, ship models, ladies’ handiwork and mementoes. In the nineteenth century, a similar tradition existed in China, where hardwood boxes with sliding glass covers and papered or silk-lined interiors were used to display fine ceramics, especially figurines made for export. Cornell’s approach also recalls European traditions that began to appear in his research dossiers during the 1930s: small seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch and Flemish kunstschranke or kunstkammer – cabinets that housed separate elements assembled to represent the world in miniature. In the mid 1930s, Cornell’s neighbour Carl Backman taught him some basic carpentry skills, which allowed him to construct his own boxes. The boxes are often hard to date accurately, as Cornell would tinker with and refine his constructions over several years, returning to them gradually. However, except for his early boxes which tend to be singular, we can see patterns emerging in his practice as he worked on larger ‘families’ of works that share discernible visual motifs, often unfolding over a decade or more. These series include: ‘Hotels’, ‘Pharmacies’, ‘Aviaries’, ‘Dovecotes’, ‘Observatories’ and ‘Night Skies’.

The ‘Pharmacy’ assemblages, with their compartmentalised structures and associations with collection and classification – a nod to the ordered world of museum display – are a good illustration of one of Cornell’s ‘families’. Here, in this early example of a series that stretched over a decade with at least six similar works, we see a small specimen case containing four ordered rows of five glass jars. Its title appears to refer to medicine and healing, yet as a practising Christian Scientist, Cornell was forbidden to take medicine. Instead, in this miniature apothecary, he has created tonics for the soul and the imagination, with each fragile jar containing an object or substance that has poetic connotations – shells and sand for travel, feathers, delicate butterfly wings, tiny snippets of parchment. The interior is lined with mirrors, creating echoing reflections of the jars that line the shelves. Though its contents may seem trivial, each jar is imbued with significance, its humble items elevated and made precious through the language of their display. Looking into this box, we see a world of associations, nostalgia and elusive meaning.

By the time Cornell created Pharmacy, he had stopped working, and was pursuing his art full time. From this point on, Cornell regularly exhibited and sold his artwork. He also did freelance design work and picture research for magazines such as Vogue and House & Garden. He set up a workshop and storage area in the basement of the house on Utopia Parkway. Working in his new studio, which he sometimes referred to as his ‘laboratory’, Cornell was able to conceive works with more complex craftsmanship than he had been able to do when working at the kitchen table. While most days were spent at home, he would still escape into New York in search of inspiration and to visit friends. A keen diarist, he would sit in Manhattan coffee shops, indulging his notorious sweet tooth with sugary snacks while furiously scribbling notes on scraps of paper that would later be typed up into more formal diary entries.

As well as being an avid people-watcher, Cornell enjoyed ornithology and expressed his love of birds in the ‘Aviary’ and ‘Habitat’ series, which speak of their exoticism and beauty. Birds often symbolise freedom, their flight paths linking the heavens and the earth. In myths and religion, small birds in particular have been used to represent the souls of children freed from their earthly bonds.

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Palace' 1943

 

Joseph Cornell
Palace
1943
Box construction
Glass-paned, stained wood box with photomechanical reproduction, mirror, spray-painted twigs, wood and shaved bark
26.7 x 50.5 x 13 cm
The Menil Collection, Houston
Photo: The Menil Collection, Houston. Photography: Hickey-Robertson
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Untitled (Tilly Losch)' c. 1935-38

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled (Tilly Losch)
c. 1935-38
Box Construction
25.4 x 23.5 x 5.4 cm
Collection of Robert Lehrman, courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
Photo: The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman. Photography: Quicksilver Photographers, LLC
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

 

“Creative filing
Creative arranging
As poetics
As technique
As joyous creation”

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Joseph Cornell, diary entry, 9 March 1959

 

“On the way to ART OF THIS CENTURY from Julien’s, carrying De Medici girl Slot Machine and bird with cracked glass saw Marlene Dietrich in polo coat and black beanie cap on back of hair waiting at curb of Jay Thorpe’s for a taxi. First time I’d seen her off screen and brought an unexpectedly elated feeling. Working in cellar that night on Soap Bubble Set the green glass locket portrait of her on the floor evoked very special feelings.”

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Joseph Cornell, diary entry, spring 1944

 

“Original inspiration of the bird store, windows, simplicity of magic, pet shop.”

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Joseph Cornell, c. 1943, Joseph Cornell Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

 

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Untitled Object (Mona Lisa)' c. 1940-42

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled Object (Mona Lisa)
c. 1940-42
Box construction
3.5 x 7.6 cm
The Collection of Marguerite and Robert Hoffman
Photo: Brad Flowers
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Untitled (Owl Habitat)' c. mid- to late 1940s

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled (Owl Habitat)
c. mid- to late 1940s
Collection Jasper Johns Photo Collection Jasper Johns
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

“Some of his boxes are less cryptic, and more naturalistic, such as Untitled (Owl Habitat), from the 1940s. The snowy owl trapped behind a pane of glass is not a fancy piece of taxidermy fit for a natural history diorama, but a mere paper illustration pasted onto plywood. The midnight-blue forest the owl inhabits is contrived from painted bark and lichen. Cornell, of course, was himself a famous night owl. In some ways the owl box can seem as close as he ever came to self-portraiture, with its majestic creature alone in the woods, eyes wide, watching.”

Deborah Solomon, May 2015

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Habitat Group for a Shooting Gallery' 1943

 

Joseph Cornell
Habitat Group for a Shooting Gallery
1943
Mixed media
39.4 x 28.3 x 10.8 cm
Purchased with funds from the Coffin Fine Arts Trust; Nathan Emory Coffin Collection of the Des Moines Art Center, 1975.27
Photo: Collection of the Des Moines Art Center
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

 

While visually distinct from the ‘Pharmacy’ series, Habitat Group for a Shooting Gallery (above) continues the theme of arrangement and classification in Cornell’s work, with the cut-out illustrations of macaws, a parrot and a cockatoo mounted like museum specimens or dioramas against a bright white background. However, this dynamic construction has an uncharacteristic aura of violence, and contrasts with other pieces where the box is seen as a safe environment in which objects could be placed, secure and cherished. In this case, the glass that protects the sanctuary of the box has been cracked, its contents exposed to external elements. The central ‘bullet hole’ directly in front of the cockatoo’s crown acts as a focal point for the assemblage, guiding our eye in and then out to the four corners of the box. Bold splashes of colour convey a sense of theatricality and drama (Cornell referred to some of his boxes as ‘poetic theatres’), and the game counters placed over each bird evoke the targets of shooting galleries in penny arcades. Scattered feathers at the bottom of the construction, the shot glass and splotches of paint all suggest a violent event. In a rare moment of political commentary in Cornell’s work, this habitat serves as a metaphor for the horrors of the Second World War, with the birds embodying the innocence of victims caught up in the destruction of war.

 

Observation and Exploration

One of the great paradoxes in Cornell’s life was the gulf between the multitudinous references in his work to distant times and foreign places, and the fact that he himself never physically left the USA. He was a devotee of nineteenth century European culture and a collector of Baedeker Guides (to travel, published in the 1830s), timetables and travel literature, yet he never went abroad – not because he didn’t have the means to do so but because, as one commentator noted, he ‘preferred the ticket to the trip’, which makes his evocation of a traveller’s sense of wanderlust even more remarkable. Cornell let dreams of voyages, particularly to Europe, remain imagined and thus unrealised, preserving his reveries in the same fashion as his glass-fronted boxes. Recurring often in his work are poignant emblems of transience and travel – birds, celestial maps, exotic-sounding hotels and luggage tags – but they remain frozen in their boxed confinement. Thus, fittingly, the central paradox in Cornell’s life found expression in the very medium for which he is now best known.

“Original inspiration of the bird store, windows, simplicity of magic, pet shop.”

Joseph Cornell, c. 1943, Joseph Cornell Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

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Cornell also dreamed of celestial navigation and was fascinated by the night sky and planets. In Soap Bubble Set (1948, below), Cornell arranged fragments collected during his Manhattan wanderings against the backdrop of an antique lunar map, the roundness of the moon alluding to the titular spherical soap bubble. In his shadow boxes, soap bubbles came to symbolise the relationship between science and childhood imagination, knowledge and wonder, as well as serving as an allegory of vanitas and the ephemerality of life. White Dutch clay pipes, the signature motif of the ‘Soap Bubble’ series, are positioned symmetrically in side compartments, laid out like scientific instruments in a lab, gleaming against the dark velvet interior of the case. These pipes, used as toys for blowing bubbles, suggest the element air, while at a lower level a fragment of driftwood (probably scavenged by Cornell while beach combing on Long Island) grounds us in the natural world and hints at the weathering effects of wind and water over time. A cordial glass stands alone, delicate and vulnerable, empty in this construction but in others from this series cradling a marble, perhaps as a metaphor for forces securing the planets in place. At the top of the construction, the artist has hung a row of seven cylinders, the number possibly invoking the Copernican model of the solar system (in which seven planets orbit the Sun). The overall impression is of a poetic understanding of science, the infinity of space made bearable by the inclusion of objects whose culturally recognisable associations position us, along with Cornell, on Earth.

Ironically, Cornell’s first recorded response to the cosmos was fear. According to his sister Elizabeth, after having returned from school for the Christmas holidays, he woke her one night, ‘shaking like a leaf’, and stood at the window while confessing his anxiety about the concept of infinity. His concern translated to intrigue later in life and his shadow boxes abound with references to astronomy and space exploration. Cornell kept up to date with the latest scientific discoveries and was a keen stargazer, regularly observing the night sky from his backyard, or his kitchen window, sometimes referred to as his ‘observatory’.

In 1949, Cornell joined the Egan Gallery in New York, run by Charles Egan. Around this time we can see a fresh approach emerging in his work, as he branched away from the more theatrical Victorian constructs of his early career, which can appear comparatively dense. This may have been a reaction to Abstract Expressionism, a new movement developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) and Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) who used abstraction and gesture to convey expressive content. The Egan Gallery’s roster of artists included notable Abstract Expressionists such as Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) and Franz Kline (1910-1962).

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Soap Bubble Set' 1948

 

Joseph Cornell
Soap Bubble Set
1948
Box construction
36.8 x 52.1 x 9.8 cm
Mr. and Mrs. John Stravinsky
Photo © 2014 Christie’s Images Limited
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Andromeda: Grand Hôtel de l'Observatoire' 1954

 

Joseph Cornell
Andromeda: Grand Hôtel de l’Observatoire
1954
Box construction
46.5 x 33 x 9.8 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Partial gift, C. and B. Foundation, by exchange, 1980
Photo © SRGF, New York. Photography: David Heald
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/ DACS, London 2015

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Andromeda: Grand Hôtel de l'Observatoire' 1954 (detail)

 

Joseph Cornell
Andromeda: Grand Hôtel de l’Observatoire (detail)
1954
Box construction
46.5 x 33 x 9.8 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Partial gift, C. and B. Foundation, by exchange, 1980
Photo © SRGF, New York. Photography: David Heald
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/ DACS, London 2015

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Untitled (Medici Princess)' c. 1948

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled (Medici Princess)
c. 1948
Box construction
44.8 x 28.3 x 11.1 cm
Private collection, New York
Photo courtesy private collection, New York
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/ DACS, London 2015

 

 

Cornell continued to explore themes of astronomy and celestial navigation in the ‘Observatory’, ‘Night Skies’, and ‘Hotel’ series (the latter also playing with the notion of a hotel as a microcosm of the wider world and, for Cornell, the universe). This work, Andromeda: Grand Hôtel de l’Observatoire (1954, above), combines many of the motifs prevalent in these series, yet is noticeably pared back. The deep, contemplative blue of the composition suggests a starry night sky, and the cracked, aged, white frame evokes the faded grandeur of forgotten European hotels, built for wealthy travellers between the 1880s and 1920s but now fallen into disrepair. Cornell scrapbooked the names of the hotels in this series from adverts in turn-of-the-century guidebooks to European cities.

Despite the smallness of the box, Cornell has created a sense of space within by foregrounding a delicate silver chain and white dowel against the rich starry expanse beyond. The female figure we see in the background is Andromeda, a character in Greek mythology who was chained to a rock as a sacrificial offering to a sea monster because her mother, Cassiopeia, had angered the sea god Poseidon and the Nereids by boasting of her and her daughter’s beauty. Andromeda was rescued from her plight by the hero Perseus, who then married her. Upon her death, she was placed in the skies as a constellation alongside her husband and her mother. Like her rescuer, Cornell has liberated Andromeda from the chains that bound her to the Earth. She is not attached to the silver chain, which both recalls the myth and suggests a ladder to the heavens. With the lightest touch, Cornell has skilfully created both the physical presence of a beautiful woman, and her heavenly equivalent as a constellation in the night sky.

As well as seeking inspiration across galaxies and the limitless expanses of space, Cornell would also delve into myth and history, both factual and personal, to seek out the characters who reside in his shadow boxes. In one of his most famous series, the ‘Medici Slot Machines’, Cornell superimposed memories of his own happy childhood (before his father’s death) onto reproductions of portraits of Medici princes and princesses by the Renaissance artists Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625), Bronzino (1503-1572) and Pinturicchio (1454-1513). By mixing his personal history (Cornell recalled with fondness the outings to penny arcades and shooting galleries of his youth) with these Florentine children, and further juxtaposing Old Master paintings with symbols of popular amusement, he created a mysterious world that contrasts high and low culture with haunting beauty.

This elegiac composition centres around Bronzino’s posthumous portrait of Bia de’ Medici. Bia, the illegitimate but beloved daughter of Cosimo I de’ Medici, died from a fever aged 6, and Bronzino used her death mask as a model. Around her neck, she wears a medallion with her father’s profile on it. Cornell has effectively enshrined Bia in this box, simultaneously surrounded by the trappings of childhood (marbles, jacks, toy blocks), and, notably, the metal spirals of watch springs in the upper corners, which act as a metaphor for time cycles and life repeating itself. A bright red ball in front of the young girl attracts the viewer, as do the sightlines, mimicking the cross-hair targets of amusement park shooting galleries, which converge over one eye. Bia is flanked by columns, decorated with Baedeker maps of Italy, and further side compartments stacked with repeated images, like the spliced frames of a film, recalling Eadweard Muybridge’s (1830-1904) early sequences of animal and human movement, as well as foreshadowing Pop artist Andy Warhol’s (1928-1987) multiple silkscreen homages to celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. There is a concealed drawer at the base of the box, containing a bundle of letters tied with thread, and a paper fan, perhaps a nod to the attributes of the courtly life of a princess. Cornell’s creations often included kinetic elements like marbles or toy balls, although they are seldom activated now, as the assemblages are too delicate. In this box, the unfixed objects placed around Bia accentuate her stillness and steady gaze. Perhaps because of the blue staining of the glass, we become more aware of the wall that separates us from this young girl, frozen in a world that we can look in upon, but not enter. She looks out at us directly, but is she imprisoned or merely on display?

“Peering into glasspanelled boxes to inspect their contents is not unlike looking through a telescope in order to bring the distant closer. Windows, doors, compartments, drawers, cross-hair targets – all of these elements grant access or focus as we navigate the world Cornell has framed.”

Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay Eterniday, 2003

 

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Untitled (Celestial Navigation)' 1956-58

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled (Celestial Navigation)
1956-58
Box construction
30.8 x 43.2 x 9.2 cm
The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
Photo The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
Photography: Quicksilver Photographers, LLC
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

That he visited the opera and the ballet in New York is not surprising, as his miniature dioramas also recall stage sets with a scenic and narrative quality. As Mary Ann Caws writes in Joseph Cornell’s Theatre of the Mind, “Cornell’s shadow boxes invite us to peek, to peep, and finally to yield to our imagination… We meet in the confines of this tiny frame, this microcosm of complicity.” The boxes are filled with potential energy, as if just about to move, and are spaces in which multiple scales co-exist: time and history, the natural world and the cosmos. They are places of curious juxtaposition: take Untitled (Celestial Navigation) (1956-58, above), in which the universe is depicted through everyday objects.

 

Joseph Cornell. 'L'Égypte de Mlle Cléo de Mérode cours élémentaire d'histoire naturelle' 1940

 

Joseph Cornell
L’Égypte de Mlle Cléo de Mérode cours élémentaire d’histoire naturelle
1940
Box construction
11.9 x 27.1 x 18.4 cm (closed)
The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
Photo The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
Photography: Quicksilver Photographers, LLC
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

 

Longing and Reverie

For Cornell, a relationship with a woman (other than his mother) seemed unattainable. He never married, and for him the female figure took on an elevated accumulation of hope and desire of almost mythic proportions. Throughout his life he developed obsessions with opera singers, waitresses, film stars, shop girls and most vividly, ballerinas (alive or dead). In the 1930s he discovered the international revival of the Romantic ballet, and spent the next 30 years exploring his fascination with the ‘queens of the dance’. His favourites included Romanticera prima ballerinas Marie Taglioni (1804-1884) and Fanny Cerrito (1817-1909), and their modern counterparts Tamara Toumanova (1919-1996) and Allegra Kent (b. 1937). He also became good friends with Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957), the Russian Surrealist painter and set and costume designer who, as a well-known figure on the international dance scene, introduced Cornell to dancers and other balletomanes.

This box (Naples, 1942, below) is a tender homage to Fanny Cerrito, a nineteenth-century ballerina who captivated Cornell (he first came across her likeness in a bookstore on Fourth Avenue, on a souvenir lithograph from 1842). Cerrito was best known for her 1843 performance in Ondine, a ballet based on a fairy tale about a knight who falls in love with an ethereal water sprite. For her first entrance on stage, Cerrito posed in a giant cockleshell, rising up on a platform through the stage. In this assemblage, Cornell celebrates her birthplace of Naples, illustrating its famously narrow streets festooned with lines of laundry. The luggage label and the handle of the box, which recall a suitcase, give a sense of travel and distance, but the seashells propped up in the corners of the box and the faded sea-green paint that borders the scene speak to Cerrito’s most famous role.

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Naples' 1942

 

Joseph Cornell
Naples
1942
Box construction
28.6 x 17.1 x 12.1 cm
The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, Courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015
Photo: Quicksilver Photographers, LLC

 

 

Another example of Cornell’s devotional works is this stunningly austere piece entitled Toward the Blue Peninsula: for Emily Dickinson (1953, below). The purity of this box and the inclusion of a grid-like structure recall the signature style of Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), a Minimalist artist who radically simplified the elements of painting to reflect the underlying spiritual order of the visible world that he believed in. Cornell admired Mondrian’s work and mentioned him in his 1946 diary: ‘Mondrian feeling strong. Feeling of progress and satisfaction.’

As the title suggests, this shadow box was created for the nineteenth-century American poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), with whom Cornell felt a deep affinity. Like Cornell, Dickinson lived with her family, never travelled far from home or married, and translated her intense longing into her art. A withdrawn and enigmatic woman, she rarely left the upstairs bedroom in her home in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she wrote her poems. Dickinson’s bedroom inspired the setting for this simple, white-washed box that resembles an abandoned aviary. At first, almost everything about this box suggests containment – the white mesh cage, the dowel perch and bird feeder – but we find no resident here. In fact, the mesh has been cut open and to the left we see a rectangle of clear, refreshing blue suggesting a window open to the sky – the infinite beyond into which our bird has flown. Emily Dickinson sometimes referred to herself as a ‘little wren’ and often, like Cornell, included birds in her work. Here, Cornell ensures that she has been set free, present only in spirit, with two small scraps of printed paper at the bottom of the case the only physical reminder of her presence. The empty box is silent, a vacuum left after the action has occurred. The title of this work comes from a poem by Dickinson that begins: ‘It might be lonelier / Without the Loneliness / I’m so accustomed to my Fate.’ It ends:

It might be easier
To fail – with Land in Sight –
Than gain – My Blue Peninsula –
To perish – of Delight –

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Here, Dickinson is asking whether longing is better than having, a question that clearly spoke to Cornell and his own deep-seated yearning. Better that dream remain imagined but unrealised, the poet advises, lest it disappoint. It seems these are words that Cornell heeded his entire life.

In the early 1960s, Cornell did finally break with tradition and became attached to a young woman, a New York waitress named Joyce Hunter. This was Cornell’s first real-life romance and he was dazzled by her, making her several gifts of his boxes and collages. Joyce eventually stole artworks from his home (though he refused to prosecute her), and was later murdered by an acquaintance in an unrelated incident in December 1964. Her death devastated Cornell, and marks the beginning of his decline into isolation; his brother Robert died in 1965, his mother a year later. In the winter of 1965 he began a series of collages dedicated to Robert’s memory…

Now alone in his family home, Cornell still received visitors (an invitation to Utopia Parkway had become something of an art-world trophy) but conditions in the house declined as his involvement in Christian Science and the metaphysical world increased. He would write letters to the ghosts of his former life – Robert, his mother, Joyce Hunter. Cornell became more and more interested in sharing his work with a younger audience and one of his last exhibitions in 1972 was expressly for children: A Joseph Cornell Exhibition for Children at the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, where cake and soda pops were served instead of the traditional champagne and canapés. He often said children were his most enthusiastic and receptive audience, and lent boxes to children in his neighbourhood for their enjoyment. Cornell continued to work until the end of his life, although he stopped making new boxes sometime in the 1960s, after which he focused on ‘refurbishing’ earlier boxes by breaking them down and reconstituting them. His main focus was a renewed interest in creating collages, which he saw as freer and more spontaneous than box construction. He also concentrated on making films and re-editing earlier cinematic work. Following prostate surgery in June 1972, he spent several months recuperating with family in Westhampton before returning to Utopia Parkway in November. Cornell died of heart failure alone at home, just a few days after his sixty-ninth birthday.

 

Joseph Cornell. 'Toward the Blue Peninsula - for Emily Dickinson' c. 1953

 

Joseph Cornell
Toward the Blue Peninsula – for Emily Dickinson
c. 1953
Box construction
36.8 x 26 x 14 cm
The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
Photo The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
Photography: Quicksilver Photographers, LLC
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015.

 

 Joseph Cornell. 'Untitled (Pinturicchio Boy)' 1942-52

 

Joseph Cornell
Untitled (Pinturicchio Boy)
1942-52
Box construction
35.4 x 28.4 x 9.8 cm
Photo: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art.com, courtesy Glenstone
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

Joseph Cornell. 'A Parrot for Juan Gris' 1953-54

 

Joseph Cornell
A Parrot for Juan Gris
1953-54
Box construction
45.1 x 31 x 11.7 cm
The Collection of Robert Lehrman, courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
Photo The Robert Lehrman Art Trust, courtesy of Aimee and Robert Lehrman
Photography: Quicksilver Photographers, LLC
© The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/VAGA, NY/DACS, London 2015

 

 

Conclusion

What can we make of the life of Joseph Cornell? From his shadow boxes we get the impression of a man who preferred fantasy to reality, finding inspiration and affinity with long-dead characters from history, from Renaissance princesses to Romantic ballerinas. But Cornell was also conscious of and responded to the changing landscape of twentieth-century art – Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Minimalism – and had a tremendous influence on other artists during his lifetime. He had an appetite for subjects that were as far ranging as his imagination, and was able to express, with the deftest of touches, huge concepts within intimate, self-contained spaces. Cornell’s cloistered worlds seem to encompass the entire universe in microcosm – its infinity, wonder, mystery and power all contained within a small box. Their appeal can only be accentuated by the fact that their creator conjured these worlds purely from imagination rather than experience. His last reported words to his sister Elizabeth on the day he died were, “You know, I was thinking, I wish I hadn’t been so reserved.” While this restraint may have caused him regret in his daily life, we see little trace of it in his art, which seems instead to be a magical, generous invitation to the viewer as a gateway to reverie, and to dream.

Written by Asha McLoughlin
Learning Department
© Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust offers an overview of the American artist’s inventive oeuvre, surveying around 80 of his remarkable box constructions, assemblages, collages and films. The last major solo exhibition of Cornell in Europe took place nearly 35 years ago, originating at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1980, and travelling to the Whitechapel Gallery in the UK. With very few works on permanent display in European museums, the exhibition is an opportunity to see rarely lent masterpieces from public and private collections in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Cornell (1903-1972) never left America and hardly ventured beyond New York City, yet through his art he set out to travel through history, the continents of the globe and even the spiritual realm. His works are manifestations of a powerful ‘wanderlust’ of the mind and soul.

Collecting was central to Cornell’s creativity; he amassed a vast and eclectic personal archive of paper ephemera and found objects, eventually numbering tens of thousands of items. This material revealed his wide-ranging interests from opera, ballet, cinema and theatre to history, ornithology, poetry and astronomy. Europe held a special place in Cornell’s imagination, and many of the works selected for this exhibition highlight his love of its historic cultures, from the Belle Époque to the Italian Renaissance. Inspired by these interests, he incorporated his collected materials inside glass-fronted wooden box constructions creating miniature worlds known as his ‘shadow boxes’, as well as producing collages and film.

Cornell was entirely self-taught and has often been characterised as an outsider to the New York art scene. In reality, he was highly engaged with the art movements and artists of the time, exhibiting regularly alongside the Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists, whilst carefully maintaining his independence from any one group. He counted many vanguard artists among his friends including Marcel Duchamp, Robert Motherwell, and Dorothea Tanning.

The exhibition is arranged thematically in four sections that reflect the artistic processes expressed in Cornell’s diaries and notes; Play and Experiment, Collecting and Classification, Observation and Exploration and Longing and Reverie. The selection brings together key works from his major series: Museums, Aviaries, Soap Bubble Sets, Palaces, Medici Slot Machines, Hotels and Dovecotes.”

Press release from the Royal Academy of Arts website

 

“Impressions intriguingly diverse – that, in order to hold fast, one might assemble, assort, and arrange into a cabinet – the contraption kind of the amusement resorts with endless ingenuity of effect, worked by coin and plunger, or brightly coloured pin-balls – travelling inclined runways – starting in motion compartment after compartment with a symphony of mechanical magic of sight and sound borrowed from the motion picture art – into childhood – into fantasy – through the streets of New York – through tropical skies – etc. – into the receiving trays the balls come to rest releasing prizes.”

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Joseph Cornell

 

 

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03
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

ustExhibition dates: 17th January 2015 – 13th September 2015

Robert and Jane Burke Gallery (Gallery 335)

 

 

It’s been a really tough time writing the Art Blart recently, as my beloved Apple Pro tower that has served me so well over the years has died and gone to god. I have been making do with a small laptop, but tomorrow I pick up my new 27 inch iMac with Retina screen, to pair with my Eizo Flexscan monitor. I can’t wait!

I have so much admiration for the work of this man. The light, the sensitivity to the social documentary narrative just emanates from these images. You don’t need to say much, it’s all there in front of you. Just look at the proud profile of that old woman, Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas (1950, below), and you are instantly transported back to the slave fields and southern plantations of the 19th century. No words are necessary. The bony hands, gaunt cheeks and determined stare speak of a life hard lived.

Marcus

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

 

 

Gordon Parks. 'Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, St. Louis, Missouri
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, Illinois' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, Illinois
1950
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“Gordon Parks (1912-2006), one of the most celebrated African-American photographers of all time, is the subject of a new exhibition of groundbreaking photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott (January 17 – September 13, 2015) traces Parks’ return to his hometown of Fort Scott, Kansas and then to other Midwestern cities, to track down and photograph each of his childhood classmates. On view in the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing, the exhibition’s 42 photographs were from a series originally meant to accompany a Life magazine photo essay – but for reasons unknown, the story was never published. The images depict the realities of life under segregation in 1950 – presenting a rarely seen view of everyday lives of African-American citizens in the years before the Civil Rights movement began in earnest. One of the most personal and captivating of all Parks’ projects, the images, now owned by The Gordon Parks Foundation, represent a rare and little-known group within Parks’ oeuvre. This exhibition, on view in the Robert and Jane Burke Gallery, is accompanied by a publication by Karen Haas, the MFA’s Lane Curator of Photographs, in collaboration with The Gordon Parks Foundation, which includes an introduction by Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. The book includes previously unpublished photographs as well as archival materials such as contact sheets and a portion of the 1927 yearbook from the segregated school Parks attended as a child.

“These personal and often touching photos offer a glimpse into the life of Gordon Parks and the prejudice that confronted African Americans in the 1940s and 1950s,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “We’re grateful to The Gordon Parks Foundation for giving us the opportunity to display these moving works.”
Fort Scott, Kansas was an emotional touchstone for Gordon Parks and a place that he was drawn to over and over again as an adult, even though it held haunting memories of racism and discrimination. Parks was born in Fort Scott in 1912 to a poor tenant farmer family and left home as a teenager after his mother died and he found himself – the youngest of 15 children – suddenly having to make his own way in the world. By 1948, Parks was the first African-American photographer hired full time by Life magazine. One of the rare African-American photojournalists in the field, Parks was frequently given magazine assignments involving social issues that his fellow white photographers were not asked to cover. For an assignment on the impact of school segregation, Parks returned to Fort Scott to revisit early memories of his birthplace – many involving racial discrimination – and to reconnect with childhood friends, all of whom went to the same all-black elementary school that Parks had attended.  He was able to track down all but two members of the Plaza School Class of 1927, although only one was still living in Fort Scott at the time. As he met with fellow classmates, his story quickly shifted its focus to the Great Migration north by African Americans. Over the course of several days Parks visited with his childhood friends – by this time residing in Kansas City; Saint Louis; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; and Chicago – joining them in their parlors and on their front porches while they recounted their life stories to him. Organized around each of these cities and families, the exhibition features previously unpublished photographs as well as a seven-page draft of Parks’ text for the article.

“With the Back to Fort Scott story, Parks showed – really for the first time – a willingness to mine his own childhood for memories both happy and painful, something he would continue to do in a series of memoirs over the course of his long career” said Haas. “The experience also seems to have inspired him to write The Learning Tree in 1963, his best-selling novel about growing up poor and black in Kansas, that he transformed a few years later into a groundbreaking Hollywood movie – the first by an African American writer-director.”

Parks began his research in Fort Scott, where he found classmate Luella Russell. In addition to photographing Luella with her husband and 16-year-old daughter, Parks took photos of his own family and life around town – finding friends and acquaintances at the local theater, railway station and pool hall. Parks also visited the local baseball field at Othick Park, where he recorded a group of white spectators seated at one end of the bleachers watching a game, while two African-American girls in summer dresses stand at the other end, in an area loosely designated for the town’s black residents. Parks’ image of the girls at the ballpark, where black and white baseball teams sometimes competed against each other, subtly refers to the separation of the races that marked much of everyday life in Fort Scott.

Fort Scott had not changed dramatically since Parks’ youth. Parks attended the all-black Plaza School through the ninth grade  in 1927, and as he wrote in his draft for Life magazine: “Twenty-four years before I had walked proudly to the center of the stage and received a diploma. There were twelve of us (six girls and six boys) that night. Our emotions were intermingled with sadness and gaiety. None of us understood why the first years of our education were separated from those of the whites, nor did we bother to ask. The situation existed when we were born. We waded in normal at the tender age of six and swam out maladjusted… nine years later.”

After Fort Scott, Parks discovered three of his classmates in Kansas City and St. Louis – cities that were easily reached by rail and were often the first stops made by African Americans leaving smaller towns. Many left towns like Fort Scott in the hope of finding jobs and better futures for their children in these larger, more industrial cities. When Parks tracked down his classmates, he recorded their jobs and wages – the sort of detail that Life typically included in such pieces, allowing its readers to measure their own lives against a story’s subjects. In Kansas City, classmate Peter Thomason was working as a postal transportation clerk (a position, Parks noted, with a minimum salary of $3,700 a year), while in St. Louis, Parks recorded that classmate Norman Earl Collins was doing quite well, making $1.22 an hour at Union Electric of Missouri. Parks’ sympathetic images of Earl and his daughter, Doris Jean, may have been a conscious effort on Parks’ part to offset contemporary stereotypes of black families as less stable and strong than their white counterparts.

By 1950, Chicago was the de facto capital of African-American life in the US, with more black inhabitants than any other city in America – including three of Parks’ classmates. Parks discovered them residing only a mile or two apart from one another on the city’s South Side. Untitled, Chicago, Illinois (1950), depicts Parks’ classmate Fred Wells and his wife Mary in front of their apartment building in the Washington Park neighborhood. A number of the photographs in the exhibition repeat the simple compositional device seen here – featuring a classmate and his or her family, framed by the front door of their home. These images highlighted the families’ similarities to, rather than differences from Life‘s readers, who would have found such strong representations of black families at once surprising and reassuring.

In Detroit, Parks traced classmate Pauline Terry to the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood. In Fort Scott, Pauline had married Bert Collins, who had run a restaurant during much of the 1930s. By 1950, they were settled in Detroit and had five children. Unlike Parks’ other classmates who had migrated north in search of opportunity, Pauline (yearbook ambition: “To be young forever; to be a Mrs.”) now had a large family and no longer worked outside the home. In the course of her conversation with Parks, she emphasized the importance of religion in their lives. Parks’ powerful portrait of the couple walking to Sunday services at the Macedonia Baptist Church, Husband and Wife, Sunday Morning, Detroit, Michigan (1950) reinforces the seriousness of their faith.  The cigar-smoking Bert wears a sharp suit and straw boater and carries a well-worn Bible.

Once completed, Parks’ Fort Scott photo essay never appeared in Life. The reason for that remains a mystery, although the US entry into the Korean War that summer had a major impact on the content of its pages for some time. The magazine’s editors did try to resuscitate the story early in April of 1951 only to have it passed over by the news of President Truman’s firing of General Douglas MacArthur. In the end, all that survives, as far as written documentation of the Fort Scott assignment, are Parks’ project notes from his individual visits with his classmates in May and June of 1950; several telegrams sent by Life staffers regarding his friends’ whereabouts before his arrival; fact-checking when the piece was again slated to run in April 1951; and an annotated seven-page draft. Because the photos were never published, and most have never before been on view, the exhibition presents a unique opportunity to explore a body of work that is almost completely unknown to the public.

“The Gordon Parks Foundation is pleased to collaborate with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on this exhibition and publication highlighting a series of very personal, early works by the artist” said Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., the Foundation’s executive director. “Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott allows us a focused look at a single Life magazine story and reveals a fascinating tale of Gordon Parks’ segregated beginnings in rural Kansas and the migration stories of his classmates, many of whom, like him, left in search of better lives for themselves and their families.””

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Chicago, Illinois' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Chicago, Illinois
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Columbus, Ohio' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Columbus, Ohio
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“The lives of the classmates – six girls and five boys who graduated from the segregated Plaza School in 1927, in what was then a town of 10,000 people – present a miniature snapshot of African-American aspiration and struggle in the years before Brown v. Board of Education or the civil rights movement.

Parks found Emma Jane Wells in Kansas City, Mo., where she sold clothes door-to-door to supplement her husband’s salary at a paper-bag factory. Peter Thomason lived a few blocks away, working for the post office, one of the best jobs available to black men at the time. But others from the class led much more precarious lives. Parks tracked down Mazel Morgan on the South Side of Chicago, in a transient hotel with her husband, who Parks said robbed him at gunpoint after a photo session. Morgan’s middle-school yearbook description had been ebullient (“Tee hee, tee ho, tee hi, ha hum/Jolly, good-natured, full of fun”), but in 1950 she told Parks, “I’ve felt dead so long that I don’t figure suicide is worthwhile anymore.”

The most promising of the classmates, Donald Beatty, lived in an integrated neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, where he had a highly desirable job as a supervisor at a state agency and where Parks’s pictures show him – very much in the vernacular of Life magazine’s Eisenhower-era domestic scenes – happy and secure with his wife and toddler son and a brand-new Buick. But notes made by a Life fact-checker just a year later, when the magazine planned once again to run Parks’s article, recorded a tragedy, blithely and with no explanation: “Aside from the death of their son, nothing much has happened to them.”

Lorraine Madway, curator of Wichita State University’s special collections, said of the Fort Scott story: “There are those moments in an archive when you know you’ve found the gold, and this is one of them. It’s a wonderful example of micro-history. It’s not only that there is so much material written at a specific time in people’s lives, but then there are Parks’s reflections on it later.” …

Besides fact-checking notes, Parks’s own notes and a typewritten draft for what might have been his introduction to the photo spread, there is almost no other documentation surrounding the project, for which Parks shot about 30 rolls of 35-millimeter and medium-format film. And so the question of why it was not published might never be answered. In an essay for the show’s catalog, Ms. Haas speculates that it might have been doomed by its very newsworthiness, as national challenges to school segregation began gathering speed and Life waited – in the end too long – for just the right moment…

Parks carried his own psychic wounds from those years, which profoundly shaped his writing and approach to photography. But his feelings were always bittersweet. Though he lived for many years in New York City, he chose to be buried in his hometown, whose African-American population has declined even more markedly than its overall population. In a 1968 poem about his childhood, he wrote that he would miss “this Kansas land that I was leaving,” one of “wide prairies filled with green and cornstalk,” of the “winding sound of crickets rubbing dampness from wings” and “silver September rain.”

Then he added: “Yes, all this I would miss – /along with the fear, hatred and violence/We blacks had suffered upon this beautiful land.””

Extract from Randy Kennedy. “‘A Long Hungry Look’: Forgotten Gordon Parks Photos Document Segregation,” on The New York Times website, December 24, 2014 [Online] Cited 29/08/2015.
Gordon Parks. 'Railway Station Entrance, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Railway Station Entrance, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Shoes, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Shoes, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled (Outside the Liberty Theater)' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled (Outside the Liberty Theater)
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Untitled, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Uncle James Parks, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Uncle James Parks, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Gordon Parks. 'Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas' 1950

 

Gordon Parks
Mrs. Jefferson, Fort Scott, Kansas
1950
Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

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Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
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27
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘Light, Paper, Process: Revolutionizing Photography’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 14th April – 6th September 2015

 

These days, photography can be anything your imagination, concept and process desires…

Whether that makes for interesting / lasting (ie. memorable) / good, (post)photographic outcomes is up to you to decide.

Marcus

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

 

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitsky) (American, 1890-1976) 'Untitled (Smoke)' 1928

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitsky) (American, 1890-1976)
Untitled (Smoke)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.6 x 19.8 cm (9 11/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAG

 

Chargesheimer (Karl Heinz Hargesheimer) (German, 1924-1971) 'Picturesque' 1949

 

Chargesheimer (Karl Heinz Hargesheimer) (German, 1924-1971)
Picturesque
1949
Gelatin silver print
Image: 49.5 x 39.6 cm (19 1/2 x 15 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Museum Ludwig, Cologne

 

Henry Holmes Smith (American, 1909-1986) 'Man and Woman' 1976

 

Henry Holmes Smith (American, 1909-1986)
Man and Woman
1976
Dye imbibition print
Image: 33.2 x 26.2 cm (13 1/16 x 10 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Smith Family Trust
© J. Paul Getty Trust

 

Edmund Teske (American, 1911-1996) 'Leaves on Glass, Topanga Canyon, California' 1952; print 1960s

 

Edmund Teske (American, 1911-1996)
Leaves on Glass, Topanga Canyon, California
1952; print 1960s
Gelatin silver duotone solarized print
Image: 35.4 x 27.9 cm (13 15/16 x 11 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Edmund Teske Archives/Laurence Bump and Nils Vidstrand, 2001

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Gevaert Gevarto 47, exact expiration date unknown, about 1960s, processed 2013 (#37)' 2013

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Gevaert Gevarto 47, exact expiration date unknown, about 1960s, processed 2013 (#37)
2013
Four gelatin silver print
Each image: 10.8 x 8.3 cm (4 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Alison Rossiter

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Sunburned GSP #202 (San Francisco Bay)' 2008

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Sunburned GSP #202 (San Francisco Bay)
2008
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.5 x 47.6 cm (14 3/4 x 18 3/4 in.)
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum Purchase
© Chris McCaw

 

Pierre Cordier (Belgian, born 1933) 'Chemigram II' 1976

 

Pierre Cordier (Belgian, born 1933)
Chemigram II
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.8 x 17.9 cm (9 3/8 x 7 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels

 

 

“From its very beginnings in the 19th century, photography has been shaped by the desire of the artist to continually explore and expand its possibilities through experimentation. Taking that spirit of invention and discovery as a point of departure, some artists today have chosen to distill photography to its most essential components of light-sensitivity and the chemical processing of photographic papers, challenging viewers to see the medium anew. Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography, on view at the Getty Center April 14-September 6, 2015, features the work of seven contemporary artists – Alison Rossiter, Marco Breuer, James Welling, Lisa Oppenheim, Chris McCaw, John Chiara, and Matthew Brandt – all of whom have created inventive photographs that reveal aspects of their making (or unmaking).

The artists in the exhibition utilize an extensive array of practices – often achieved through trial and error, accident, or chance – that shift the understanding of photography from a medium that accurately records the world to one that revels in its materiality. Whether they use handmade cameras or none at all, work with expired papers or toxic chemicals, the images remain latent until processed, fixed, or otherwise coaxed from the paper.

“Each of the artists in this exhibition engages in some way with the process by which the photographic medium captures and transmutes light into a two-dimensional image on paper,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “But rather than seeing this process as something to be ‘perfected,’ or even neutralized, they exploit its ability to be manipulated and deconstructed, thus collapsing process and product into a single creative activity. I am particularly pleased that the Getty Museum Photographs Council has provided funds to acquire works by Matthew Brandt, Marco Breuer, John Chiara, and Allison Rossiter for our permanent collection that are included in the exhibition.”

The exhibition begins with an overview of 20th-century practices that were experimental in nature, featuring works by Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Nathan Lerner, Edmund Teske, and others. The renewed interest of artists of this period in techniques such as camera-less photograms, chemigrams, and solarization serves as inspiration for today’s artists. Each of the subsequent galleries in the Getty Museum’s Center for Photographs will be dedicated to the work of one of the seven featured contemporary artists, and follows a progression from abstract, camera-less works to representative images made with custom-built cameras.

“This exhibition is an excellent opportunity to feature the work of living artists alongside earlier photographs from our permanent collection,” says Virginia Heckert, department head of the Getty Museum’s Department of Photographs and curator of the exhibition. “By focusing on work of a more experimental nature, visitors will be reminded that the exploration of materiality and process has been an important aspect of photography since its inception and continues to motivate and inspire artists working with the medium today.”

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) takes a minimalist approach to the materials she uses to create her photographic works. She does not use a camera, film, or light, but instead only uses unprocessed sheets of expired gelatin silver paper and photographic chemicals in the darkroom. Through the simple acts of immersing or dipping a sheet of paper in developer or pouring and pooling developer onto the paper’s surface, she achieves a rich array or results. Some suggest faint impressions of primitive mark-making, others resemble landscapes, and still others call to mind abstract painting of the mid-20th-century.

Working since the early 1990s without a camera or film, Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) subjects light-sensitive paper to various acts that abrade, burn, or scrape away the emulsion layer. Completely nonrepresentational, his “photographs” look like no others; they elicit the hues and textures of rare metals, mineral deposits, or oil spills, and display marks ranging from fine incisions and abrasions to scar-like burns and gashes. His deliberate misuse of black-and-white and photographic papers is the starting point for a negotiation between the paper as recording material, the hand, and the tools employed.

James Welling (American, born 1951) spent the first ten years of his career exploring painting, sculpture, performance art, video art, conceptual art, and installation before he committed to thinking of himself as a photographer. For the past four decades, he has explored photography, from documentary to experimental, with and without a camera, using black-and-white, color, and Polaroid films and papers, as well as digital files and printing. Since 1995 he has worked increasingly with color, filters, and camera-less photography. Three bodies of recent work presented in the exhibition include variations on the photogram, chemigram, and printing-out process.

Influenced by her background in structural/materialist filmmaking, Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975) is interested in exploring the ways in which a photograph can record both its subject and the process by which it was made. In three bodies of work dating from 2010 to present, she enlists the very entities depicted in the negatives – the sun, the moon, and smoke/fire – in the act of exposing them. Although they sound scientific, the titles of two of these bodies of work, Heliograms and Lunagrams, are made up, combining the name of the camera-less photogram technique and the source of light by which the enlarged negatives have been contact-printed.

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) establishes an immediate, visceral relationship between his subject, the sun, and his process, which involves loading photographic paper directly into the camera. The photographs in his Sunburn series record the sun’s movement, which literally sears its path into the paper in the form of dots, lines, or arcs, depending on its position, the weather conditions, and the length of the exposure(s). McCaw uses customized cameras outfitted with vintage military lenses pointed directly at the sun to function like a magnifying glass that burns through the emulsion layer and paper base, leaving behind singe marks and solarized passages.

John Chiara’s (American, born 1971) large-scale color prints convey a hands-on – rather than pristine, mechanized – aesthetic. For the past decade his subjects have been both uninhabited landscapes and the built environment. He works with large custom-built cameras that he loads with color photographic paper that he then processes himself by pouring chemicals into a six-foot-long section of PVC sewer pipe, sealing the tube, and then rolling it back and forth on the floor. Irregular streaks and drips characterize his prints, as do areas of overexposure and underexposure, flare from light leaks, and unevenly saturated colors.

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) has created diverse bodies of work, some of which are realized with photographic means and others that are more tangentially related to photographic images, techniques, or ideas. He may begin with a photograph that he has made with a 4 x 5-inch view camera, a digital camera, or his iPhone, one that he has sourced from archives in public libraries, or one that he has clicked and dragged from Ebay. His fascination with early photographic processes has led him to experiment with salted paper prints, gum bichromate prints, and heliographs, examples of which will be on view. Brandt’s interest in both photographic/visual and the physical/material forms of representation has led him to bring the two together, incorporating physical elements from his subjects into his photographic representations of them.

Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography, is on view April 14-September 6, 2015 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Virginia Heckert, department head of the Museum’s Department of Photographs. A related publication of the same title will be produced by Getty Publications.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Haloid Platina, exact expiration date unknown, about 1915, processed 2010' 2010

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Haloid Platina, exact expiration date unknown, about 1915, processed 2010
2010
Gelatin silver print
Image (each): 21.6 x 16.5 cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Alison Rossiter

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Fuji gaslight, exact expiration date unknown, about 1920s, processed 2010' 2010

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Fuji gaslight, exact expiration date unknown, about 1920s, processed 2010
2010
Gelatin silver print
Image: 30.5 x 25.4 cm (12 x 10 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Alison Rossiter

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Kilbourn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, about 1940s, processed 2013' 2013

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Kilbourn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, about 1940s, processed 2013
2013
Gelatin silver print
Image: 12.7 x 17.8 cm (5 x 7 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Alison Rossiter

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) 'Untitled (Heat/Gun)' 2001

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966)
Untitled (Heat/Gun)
2001
Gelatin silver paper, burned
Image: 27.9 x 21.6 cm (11 x 8 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Marco Breuer

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) 'Untitled (C-62)' 2002

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966)
Untitled (C-62)
2002
Chromogenic paper, exposed and abraded
Image: 35.6 x 27.9 cm (14 x 11 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Marco Breuer

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) 'Spin (C-824)' 2008

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966)
Spin (C-824)
2008
Chromogenic paper, embossed and scratched
Image: 34.6 x 27 cm (13 5/8 x 10 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Marco Breuer

 

James Welling (American, born 1951) 'Water' 2009

 

James Welling (American, born 1951)
Water
2009
Chromogenic print
Image: 60.3 x 50.2 cm (23 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
© James Welling

 

James Welling (American, born 1951) 'Water' 2009

 

James Welling (American, born 1951)
Water
2009
Chromogenic print
Image: 58.7 x 49.5 cm (23 1/8 x 19 1/2 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
© James Welling

 

James Welling (American, born 1951) 'Chemical' 2013

 

James Welling (American, born 1951)
Chemical
2013
Chemigram on chromogenic paper
Image: 35.6 x 27.9 cm (14 x 11 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London
© James Welling

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975) 'Heliograms July 8, 1876 / October 16, 2011' 2011

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975)
Heliograms July 8, 1876 / October 16, 2011
2011
Gelatin silver print exposed with sunlight, toned
Image: 30 x 27.9 cm (11 13/16 x 11 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Lisa Oppenheim

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975) 'A Handley Page Halifax of No. 4 Group flies over the suburbs of Caen, France, during a major daylight raid to assist the Normandy land battle. 467 aircraft took part in the attack, which was originally intended to have bombed German strongpoints north of' 2012

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975)
A Handley Page Halifax of No. 4 Group flies over the suburbs of Caen, France, during a major daylight raid to assist the Normandy land battle. 467 aircraft took part in the attack, which was originally intended to have bombed German strongpoints north of
2012
Gelatin silver print
Framed (approx.): 71.1 x 86.4 cm (28 x 34 in.)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fund for the Twenty-First Century
Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY
© Lisa Oppenheim

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Sunburned GSP #609 (San Francisco Bay)' 2012

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Sunburned GSP #609 (San Francisco Bay)
2012
Gelatin silver paper negatives
Each image: 76.1 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Sunburned GSP #555 (San Francisco Bay)' 2012

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Sunburned GSP #555 (San Francisco Bay)
2012
Gelatin silver paper negative
Image: 20.3 x 25.4 cm (8 x 10 in.)
Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery San Francisco
© Chris McCaw

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Poly-optic #10' 2012

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Poly-optic #10
2012
Gelatin silver paper negative
Image: 20.3 x 25.4 cm (8 x 10 in.)
Collection of Leslie, Judith and Gabrielle Schreyer, Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery
© Chris McCaw

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Longview at Panorama' 2007

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Longview at Panorama
2007
Dye destruction photograph on Ilfochrome paper
Image: 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)
Rose Gallery and Von Lintel Gallery
© John Chiara

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Grandview at Elysian' 2012

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Grandview at Elysian
2012
Dye destruction photographs on Ilfochrome paper
Each image: 85.1 x 71.1 cm (33 1/2 x 28 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Trish and Jan de Bont
© John Chiara

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Starr King: 30th: Coral' 2013

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Starr King: 30th: Coral
2013
Dye destruction photograph on Ilfochrome paper
Image: 83.8 x 71.1 cm (33 x 28 in.)
Kerstin Morehead
© John Chiara

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Sierra at Edison' 2012

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Sierra at Edison
2012
Chromogenic photograph on Kodak Professional Endura Metallic paper
Image: 127 x 182.9 cm (50 x 72 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© John Chiara

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) '00036082-3 "Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971"' 2013

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982)
00036082-3 “Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971”
2013
Gum bichromate print with dust from AT&T parking structure level 2
Image: 110.5 x 143.5 cm (43 1/2 x 56 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the artist and M+B
© Matthew Brandt, Source image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) 'Rainbow Lake, WY A4' Negative 2012; print 2013

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982)
Rainbow Lake, WY A4
Negative 2012; print 2013
Chromogenic print, soaked in Rainbow Lake water
Image: 76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Matthew Brandt

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) 'Rainbow Lake, WY A20' Negative 2012; print 2013

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982)
Rainbow Lake, WY A20
Negative 2012; print 2013
Chromogenic print, soaked in Rainbow Lake water
Image: 76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Matthew Brandt

 

 

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

Opening hours:
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Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 9 pm
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19
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘Robert Mapplethorpe’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Exhibition dates: 13th March – 13th September 2015

Curators: The exhibition is curated by Jérôme Neutres from Paris with Director Pirkko Siitari and Chief Curator Marja Sakari from Kiasma.

 

 

These images are good to see… but not really what I want to see.

I want to see some of the early work, and some of the S/M photographs. You never get to see these online. It’s almost as though the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation is too scared to authorise the online publication of these works, for fear of – heaven forbid – letting people understand all the facets of Mapplethorpe’s work.

Its the origin story and the picturing of his sexual proclivities that are some of his most powerful work… and we never get to see them. Eros (denied).

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

 

 

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Ken Moody and Robert Sherman' 1984

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman
1984
Gelatin silver print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Self-Portrait' 1980

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Self-Portrait
1980
Gelatin silver print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Leather Crotch' 1980

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Leather Crotch
1980
Gelatin silver print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

 

“The American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) lived a life of passion in the New York underground and rock scenes in the 1970s and ‘80s. That passion also made its way into his art.

Consisting of more than 250 works, the retrospective exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma offers a broad overview of the key periods of Mapplethorpe’s career. In their aspiration for perfection, Mapplethorpe’s pictures blend beauty and eroticism with pain, pleasure and death. Mapplethorpe also photographed his celebrity friends such as Patti Smith, Andy Warhol and Richard Gere. Although solidly anchored in their time, his photographs are also universal and topical even today.

Arriving from Paris to Helsinki, the high-profile exhibition is a unique opportunity to learn about the art and life of one of the most important photographic artists of our time. The exhibition is curated by Jérôme Neutres from Paris with Director Pirkko Siitari and Chief Curator Marja Sakari from Kiasma.

This exhibition is organized by The Finnish National Gallery – Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais, with the collaboration of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation New York.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Self-Portrait' 1975

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Self-Portrait
1975
Gelatin silver print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Patti Smith' 1979

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Patti Smith
1979
Gelatin silver print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Poppy' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Poppy
1988
Unique dye transfer
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

 

Exhibition themes

BODY SCULPTURE

“If I had been born one hundred or two hundred years ago, I might have been a sculptor, but photography is a very quick way to see, to make sculpture.” – Robert Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe became interested in photographing sculpture during his first trip to Paris in the early 1970s. He also began taking pictures of people in poses that imitated classical sculptures. Lisa Lyon, the first World Women’s Bodybuilding Champion, was the subject in many of the pictures.
.

BODY AND GEOMETRY

Mapplethorpe prized order and purity of form in his art. He was also particular about the frames of his pictures, which he often designed himself. He had great respect for the long history of art. Some of his nude studies echo Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man which shows an idealised human body inside a circle and a square.
.

STILL LIFES AND BODY DETAILS

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

Mapplethorpe’s still lifes and pictures of body parts play with stormy associations. They are distinctly corporeal and vitalistic, whether the subject is an exposed penis or an aubergine on a table. Mapplethorpe said he looked at all objects in precisely the same way. According to Patti Smith, “Robert infused objects, whether for art or life, with his creative impulse, his sacred sexual power. He transformed a ring of keys, a kitchen knife, or a simple wooden frame into art.”
.

CHAPEL & COLOUR BRACKET

“I was a Catholic boy, I went to church every Sunday. A church has a certain magic and mystery for a child.” – Robert Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe came from a Roman Catholic family, but his interest in the church was primarily aesthetic. He said he wanted his pictures to be viewed like altars. The figure of a crucified Christ appears in some of his works, as does the human skull, a traditional reminder of death. Instead of suffering, however, the images convey a sense of sinful pleasure. Mapplethorpe worked with colour film starting in the late 1970s, but did not routinely exhibit his colour photos until the end of the 1980s.
.

MAPPLETHORPE AND WOMEN

“Lisa Lyon reminded me of Michelangelo’s subjects, because he did muscular women.” – Robert Mapplethorpe

Poet and musician Patti Smith was Mapplethorpe’s first and last model and muse. Mapplethorpe photographed covers for Smith’s albums and books of poems. Another important model was the body builder Lisa Lyon, who is the subject of Mapplethorpe’s book Lady: Lisa Lyon. Both women could be described as androgynous. Locating himself in the same intermediate space between femininity and masculinity, Mapplethorpe photographed himself in drag.
.

PORTRAITS

New York and the Chelsea Hotel in particular were places where the American cultural intelligentsia used to gather in the 1970s. There Mapplethorpe met writers, musicians and artists such as William Burroughs, Iggy Pop and David Hockney, and enjoyed the attention lavished on him. He became the court photographer of certain cultural circles, his camera capturing friends, celebrities and famous figures in the art world.
.

EROS

“I don’t think anyone understands sexuality. It’s about an unknown, which is why it’s so exciting.” – Robert Mapplethorpe

Sadomasochism, S&M, was both sex and magic for Mapplethorpe. Like the French writer Jean Genet, he too wanted to elevate things into art that were not yet considered art. Mapplethorpe’s depiction of fetishes in his photographs was deliberately formal. He documented spontaneous acts only very infrequently. The sex he captured in his pictures was neither malicious nor repugnant. S&M is about desire and pleasure, and above all about trust.
.

POLAROIDS

“I’m trying to record the moment I’m living in and where I’m living, which happens to be in New York. These pictures could not have been done at any other time.” – Robert Mapplethorpe

Mapplethorpe got his first Polaroid camera in 1970 and fell in love with its simplicity: there were few adjustments to make and you could see the results instantly. Because the film was expensive, Mapplethorpe felt that every picture had to be perfect. Precision and economy became a habit that endured throughout his career. In 1975, he switched over to the more versatile Hasselblad 500.
.

STILL MOVING

“We were like two children playing together, like the brother and sister in Cocteau’s ‘Enfants Terribles’.” – Patti Smith

Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith began their creative careers together. Frequently they would not plan their projects in advance. The experimental short Still Moving had no script, and Smith improvised her movements and lines. The camera operator was Lisa Rinzler. “He wordlessly guided me. I was an oar in the water and his the steady hand,” Smith has said.
.

ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE – PORTRAITS

New York was home to America’s cultural intelligentsia in the 1970s. Mapplethorpe was the court photographer of the cultural elite. His portraits feature his friends, celebrities and influential figures on the art scene.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

Installation view of the exhibition 'Robert Mapplethorpe' at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki

 

Installation views of the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki
Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

 

 

Who’s who?

  • Princesse Diane de Beauvau
    French aristocrat, model and fashion muse
  • Bruno Bischofberger
    Swiss gallerist and art dealer known for bringing American Pop Art to Europe, long-term associate of Andy Warhol
  • Louise Bourgeois
    French-born sculptor known for her gigantic spider sculptures
  • Miep Brons
    Dutch porn dealer
  • William Burroughs
    Writer and primary figure of the Beat Generation
  • Alistair Butler
    New York dancer
  • Patrice Calmettes
    French photographer
  • Truman Capote
    American author and journalist whose best known titles include Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood
  • Leo Castelli
    American-Italian gallerist, influential promoter of contemporary art in New York
  • Katherine Cebrian
    San Francisco socialite
  • Francesco Clemente
    Italian-born contemporary artist
  • Ed and Melody
    Mapplethorpe’s brother Edward and his girlfriend at the time, Melody, a friend of Mapplethorpe’s
  • Richard Gere
    American actor, idolized at the time of this portrait following his performance in American Gigolo
  • Philip Glass and Robert Wilson
    Glass is a contemporary composer, Wilson a director and playwright. At the time of this portrait, they had worked together on their opera Einstein on the Beach
  • Keith Haring
    American Pop and graffiti artist
  • Deborah Harry
    Singer and actress, best known as lead singer of Blondie
  • David Hockney and Henry Geldzahler
    Hockney is a British artist and Pop Art pioneer. Belgian-born Geldzahler was a curator, critic and art historian
  • Grace Jones
    Jamaican-born singer, producer, actress and model
  • Amanda Lear
    French singer, performer, painter and author, friend of celebrities such as David Bowie, Salvador Dalí and Brian Jones
  • Annie Leibovitz
    American photographer whose work featured on the cover Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair
  • Roy Lichtenstein
    American painter, sculptor and leading Pop artist
  • Lisa and Robert
    Mapplethorpe and his long-term muse, bodybuilder Lisa Lyon
  • John McKendry
    Curator of prints and photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and personal friend who first introduced Mapplethorpe to the MET’s fine art photography collection
  • Louise Nevelson
    American sculptor
  • Yoko Ono
    Japanese-born artist and musician
  • Philippe
    French socialite
  • Iggy Pop
    Singer, songwriter and actor known for his energetic stage presence as lead singer of The Stooges
  • Robert Rauschenberg
    American artist who inspired later generations of artists including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, regarded as a major figure in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art
  • Isabella Rossellini
    Italian-born actress, model, filmmaker, author, and philanthropist
  • Giorgio di Sant’Angelo
    Italian-born fashion designer
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
    Budding actor and award-winning bodybuilder at the time of this portrait, he later achieved world renown as a Hollywood star and Governor of California
  • Cindy Sherman
    American contemporary artist, known for photographs analyzing women’s roles and place in society
  • Holly Solomon
    A self-anointed ‘Pop princess’, Solomon was a prominent collector and subsequent dealer of contemporary art. She was famously immortalized by other artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein
  • Susan Sontag
    American writer and essayist
  • Tom of Finland
    Finnish artist and illustrator. His drawings had a major influence on gay culture from the 1970s onwards. Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol were among his admirers
  • Sam Wagstaff
    Curator, collector, Mapplethorpe’s lifetime companion and artistic mentor
  • Andy Warhol
    Pop Art pioneer and filmmaker, greatly admired by Mapplethorpe
  • Edmund White
    American author, known for his work on gay themes

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Ajitto' 1981

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Ajitto
1981
Gelatin silver print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Lisa Lyon' 1982

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Lisa Lyon
1982
Gelatin silver print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Self-Portrait' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Self-Portrait
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

 

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Mannerheiminaukio 2, FIN-00100
Helsinki, Finland
Tel:+358 (0)294 500 501

Opening hours:
Tue 10-17
Wed-Fri 10-20.30
Sat 10-18
Sun 10-17
Mon closed

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma website

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29
Jul
15

Exhibition: ‘Carnival: Photographs by Roger Vail’ at Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, California

Exhibition dates: 11th July – 22nd August, 2015

 

 

For the length of each ride

I just love these photographs. They are thrilling, like the rides themselves.

The photographer Roger Vail comments,

“There was no initial inspiration, just an experiment. I had already been making photographs at night with a 4×5 (later 8×10) camera which involved time exposures. I went to a carnival to shoot the facades. While there I decided to see what would happen it I made a time exposure of the ferris wheel in question. First sight of the negative was thrilling so I decided to make more. Most of the fun was in not knowing what the end result would look like. I made these into large silver prints throughout the seventies. In the nineties I learned to make platinum-palladium prints and after printing one of the older negatives decided to do them again specifically for that medium. Finally in 2001, at the suggestion of my wife Carol, I did them for a third time shooting 8×10 transparencies.”

All the light is ambient light, with the exposures usually around 3 minutes (hence the ghostly shadows of people moving in the foregrounds of some of the photographs). Vail observes, “Carnival grounds are often flooded with fairly bright light, so balancing the exposures is not that difficult. I found out early on that virtually all carnival rides last around 3 minutes. So I would adjust the F stop accordingly to get the maximum rotation and therefore pattern.”

.
I am in awe of this extended investigation. What a passion for what is coming on 45 years working on one idea.

Just as Hiroshi Sugimoto’s time lapse movie screens (where the exact length of a movie was captured by the open lens of the camera, the substance of time and space evidenced by a seemingly empty screen) were wonderfully poetic and transformational – the gesture of compressing the narrative, reality and action of a movie into a single frame of light – so Vail’s photographs focus on the process of transition, the process of transition in the flow of time and space. Whereas Sugimoto captures the exact length of a movie, Vail’s photographs, ‘for the length of each ride’, could be a metaphor for the length of a life, for these rides contain the body of human beings, their embodiment, even though we can’t see them.

All the signs are there. The concentric circles with no beginning and no end. The YoYo circus of circuits or Wave Swinger with atomic cloud remind me of Fritz Lang’s seminal film Metropolis (1927). And then the colour work – Inverter with its Möbius strip non-orientable boundary, giving life a half-twist, SpinOut‘s nuclear intensity, and Evolutions DNA-like strands. And all of this done through serendipity, a fortunate happenstance, with the artist not knowing exactly what each negative will bring, but ultimately thrilling when (exposure) time – overseer of all things – is right. No wonder Vail was excited when he saw his first negative.

A total surprise, these photographs proffer a liminal space, one beyond our usual realm of understanding. Our cycle of life. The process of transition in the flow of space and time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

 

“I started making urban night photographs at the end of graduate school in 1969. I used a 4×5 and later an 8×10 view camera which required time exposures of 30 seconds or more. At a carnival in 1971 I decided to set up in front of a ferris wheel, clueless about what the result would look like. I was greatly excited by what I saw when I looked at the first negative and print – a total surprise. The later color images are exposed for the length of each ride cycle.”

.
Roger Vail

 

.
In 1970, Vail began photographing carnivals and their thrill rides with his 8 x 10 inch view camera. His pictures were made in the evening hours with long exposure times, resulting in images that track the momentum of the ride with a sense wonderment that is both tangible and otherworldly.  Carnival will feature Vail’s extraordinary, large-scale photographs of carnival rides in full motion; tracing the kaleidoscopic light play seen only through an extended moment that photography permits.  In addition to the large-scale color and black and white images, his smaller, more intimate platinum/palladium prints will be featured in the atrium gallery.

Vail’s carnival rides are described and transformed through the act of photography. He allows the viewer to experience the flux of the ride in a single scene, rendering both the atmosphere of the night and the energy of his subject, against the recognizable background of the state fair.

Roger Vail earned his BFA and MFA degrees from the Art Institute of Chicago. His photographs are in the collection of numerous institutions, including: Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, NY, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Princeton University Art Museum.

 

 

Roger Vail. 'SkyDiver 2' 1996

 

Roger Vail
SkyDiver 2
1996
Platinum/palladium print

 

Roger Vail. 'Spinning Carnival Ride' 1971

 

Roger Vail
Spinning Carnival Ride
1971
Gelatin silver print

 

Roger Vail. 'Untitled' 1996

 

Roger Vail
Untitled
1996
Platinum/palladium print

 

Roger Vail. 'YoYo' 1996

 

Roger Vail
YoYo
1996
Gelatin silver print
18 x 23.5 inches

 

Roger Vail. 'YoYo #2' 1996

 

Roger Vail
YoYo #2
1996
Platinum/palladium print

 

Roger Vail. 'Wave Swinger' 1996

 

Roger Vail
Wave Swinger
1996
Gelatin silver print

 

Roger Vail. 'Kamikaze #3' 1996

 

Roger Vail
Kamikaze #3
1996
Platinum/palladium print
10 x 8 inches

 

 

“Joseph Bellows Gallery is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition, Carnival: Photographs by Roger Vail. This solo shows will open on July 11th, with a reception for the artist from 6-8 p.m., and will continue through the 22nd of August. The exhibition will feature Vail’s extraordinary large-scale photographs of carnival rides in full motion; tracing the kaleidoscopic light play seen only through the extended moment that photography permits. In addition to the large-scale color and black and white images, his smaller, more intimate platinum/palladium prints will be featured in the atrium gallery.

In 1970, Vail began photographing carnivals and their thrill rides with his 8 x 10 inch view camera. His pictures were made in the evening hours with long exposure times, resulting in extended moments which track the momentum of the ride with a sense wonderment that is both tangible and otherworldly.

One such image graced the cover of Life magazine, introducing a picture essay with an accompanying text by Garrison Keilor titled, A Magical Spin on a Summer Night (2006). Vail’s carnival rides are described and transformed through the act of photography. He allows the viewer to experience the flux of the ride in a single scene, rendering both the atmosphere of the night and the energy of his subject, against the recognizable background of the state fair.”

Press release from the Joseph Bellows Gallery

 

Roger Vail. 'Evolution 3' 2001

 

Roger Vail
Evolution 3
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

Roger Vail. 'Giant Wheel' 2001

 

Roger Vail
Giant Wheel
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

Roger Vail. 'Inverter' 2001

 

Roger Vail
Inverter
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium
30 x 37.5 inches

 

Roger Vail. 'Kamakazi' 2002

 

Roger Vail
Kamakazi
2002
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

Roger Vail. 'SpinOut' 2001

 

Roger Vail
SpinOut
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

Roger Vail. 'Wave Swinger' 2001

 

Roger Vail
Wave Swinger
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

Roger Vail. 'Evolution' 2001

 

Roger Vail
Evolution
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

 

Joseph Bellows Gallery
7661 Girrard Avenue
La Jolla, California
T: 858 456 5620

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 5pm, and Saturday by appointment 

Joseph Bellows Gallery website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘England’ 1993

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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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