Posts Tagged ‘Citizen in Downtown Havana

20
Mar
12

Exhibition: ‘Made in America 1900-1950. Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada’, Ottawa, Ontario

Exhibition dates: 9th December 2011 – 1st April 2012

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Stunning photographs in this posting: Steichen’s
 Nocturne – Orangery Staircase, Versailles (1908) is just sublime; Sheeler’s Side of a White Barn (1917) is early Modernist perfection, rivalling Paul Strand’s The White Fence, Port Kent (1916); Barbara Morgan’s photograph of dancer Martha Graham (1940) portraying, radiantly, her divine dissatisfaction; and the most beautiful portrait by Imogen Cunningham of Frida Kahlo (1931). Every time I see this portrait I nearly burst into tears – the light falling from the right and from the left onto the boards behind her, the texture of her cloak, the languorous nature of her hands, her absolute poise and beauty – looking straight into the camera, looking straight into your soul. What a beautiful women, such strength and vulnerability. A stunning photograph of an amazing women. The photograph just takes your breath away…

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

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Edward Steichen

Nocturne – Orangery Staircase, Versailles
1908
Purchased 1976
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

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Arthur Leipzig

Opening Night at the Opera, New York
1945
Gelatin silver print
27 x 34.1 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© Arthur Leipzig/Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

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Charles Sheeler
Side of a White Barn
1917
Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 9 5/8 in.

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“Lines and texture define this view of the side of a white barn. In the photographic rendering, the white barn is a soft gray, punctuated by knots in the wood and shadows cast by the uneven boards. In the lower right corner of the image, a small window, a fence, and a chicken standing atop a pile of hay add visual weight yet surrender to the repetitive, vertical domination of the structure. Like every other line, the horizontal line dividing the areas of wood and plaster is drawn without a straight edge.”
 Text from the Getty Museum website

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Alfred Steiglitz
The Steerage
1907

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Walker Evans
Corner of State and Randolph Streets, Chicago
c.1946 – 1947
Gelatin silver print
27.7 x 32.3 cm; image: 26.1 x 25 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Gift of Benjamin Greenberg, Ottawa, 1981
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Barbara Morgan

Martha Graham, Letter to the World, “Kick”
1940, printed c. 1945
Gelatin silver print
38.6 x 48.2 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

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“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.  You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.  Keep the channel open… No artist is pleased…  There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” 

Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille

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“In the first five decades of the 20th century photography came into its own – both as an art form and as a tool to document social and political change. American photographers were exploring both the poetic and transformative expressiveness of the medium, as well as recording the growth and change of the country in its various phases of industrial development. On view until April 1, 2012, Made in America 1900-1950: Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada looks at both approaches, and the divisions between the two, as they are necessarily porous and somewhat arbitrary.

“The Gallery’s collection is so rich in 20th century American photographs that it needs an exhibition in two parts and a catalogue in two volumes. This first presentation focuses on the period between 1900 and 1950,” noted NGC director Marc Mayer. “This comprehensive collection has been amassed in large part through the generosity of brilliant collectors.”

“Each of [the decades] is characterized by tremendous growth, change, and creative thought about the medium and its reception in the United States,” noted curator Ann Thomas in the catalogue, American Photographs 1900-1950.

It was a period of great technical and technological change: such as the introduction of the personal 35mm camera in the early 1920s, following the German model developed by Leica, and Ansel Adams’ and Fred Archer’s creation of the zone system to determine optimal film exposure and development.

Composed of over 130 photographs, two issues of Camera Work, one issue of Manuscripts, and several period cameras, the exhibition Made in America celebrates the exceptional contribution that American photographers made to the history of art in the 20th century. Made been 1900-1950, these photographs represent an extraordinarily fertile period in the evolution of photography. They include stunning works by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Clarence White, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Lisette Model, Weegee, and members of New York’s Photo League.

Made in America is the fourth in a series of exhibitions and catalogues presenting the Gallery’s outstanding collection of international photographs. It follows Modernist Photographs (2007), 19th Century French Photographs (2010), and 19th Century British Photographs (2011).

Made in America 1900-1950: Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada explores a dynamic period in the history of photography when the medium was emerging as both an art form and a tool for documenting social change. Presenting 134 works from the National Gallery’s extraordinary collection of American photographs, this exhibition chronicles the evolution of the medium, beginning with Pictorialism and moving through modernism, straight photography and documentary work. On the walls are some truly magnificent, iconic works by the most influential photographers, among them Alfred Stieglitz’s The Steerage, Edward Steichen’s Nocturne – Orangerie Staircase, Versailles, Ansel Adams’ Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico and Barbara Morgan’s Martha Graham, Letter to the World (Kick).

At the turn of the 20th century, American photographers were fully engaged in the Pictorialist aesthetic, creating pastoral landscapes, foggy street scenes and idealized portraits of women and children. With their soft focus and gentle lighting, the images convey a romantic moodiness. Pictorialist photographers often manipulated their negatives and prints to achieve painterly effects. Gertrude Käsebier’s Serbonne, for instance, is reminiscent of an Impressionist painting.

Around the mid-teens, artists such as Stieglitz, Paul Strand and Walker Evans came to reject the notion of photography imitating painting, and instead sought to take advantage of the medium’s inherent, unique characteristics, especially its ability to achieve sharp definition, even lighting and smooth surfaces. The result was ground-breaking modernist work such as Stieglitz’s Equivalent series, Alvin Langdon Coburn’s Vortograph and Charles Sheeler’s Side of White Barn.

Out on the west coast in the early 1930s, Group f.64 was committed to the ideal of pure, un-manipulated, or “straight” photography. Edward Weston’s nudes and juniper trees, and Imogen Cunningham’s portrait of Frida Kahlo demonstrate the hallmarks of f.64: crisp detail, sharp focus, and often a sensual minimalism.

The first decades of the 20th century also provided rich subject matter for documentary photographers, as social and economic changes dramatically transformed daily life. Lewis Hine’s photographs of immigrants and child labourers tell fascinating stories, as do images of the Depression by Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. The Photo League sent its members out into New York’s streets to capture ordinary people on film. Helen Levitt, Jerome Liebling and Sol Libsohn chronicled small dramas unfolding on sidewalks.

Visitors familiar with Ansel Adams’ grand, sublime landscapes might be surprised by his more contemplative series of foaming Pacific waves, titled Surf Sequence. Sharing the gallery space is Minor White’s poetic series Song Without Words, made along the same coast. Both demonstrate an almost cinematic approach to photograph-making and plunge the viewer into seaside reverie.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Canada website

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Alvin Coburn
Vortograph
1917
Courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

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Gertrude Kasebier (American, 1852 – 1934)
Serbonne
1902, printed 1903
from Camera Work, January 1903
Gum bichromate, halftone
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

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Imogen Cunningham
Frida Kahlo
1931
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

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Ralph Steiner

Model T
1929, printed later
Gelatin silver print
25 x 20 cm; image: 24.2 x 19.7 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

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Walker Evans

Citizen in Downtown Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
25.1 x 20.1 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Gift of Phyllis Lambert, Montreal, 1982
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Drive
P.O. Box 427, Station A
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada 
K1N 9N4

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am - 5 pm
Thursday 10 am – 8 pm

1 October – 30 April
Monday closed
Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 5pm
Thursday 10 am – 8 pm

National Gallery of Canada website

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25
Sep
11

Exhibition: ‘A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 17th May – 2nd October 2011

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

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Mule, Wagon and Two Men, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13.8 x 21 cm (5 7/16 x 8 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans
American, 1903 – 1975
Spectacle, Capital Steps, Possibly Independence Day
May 20, 1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.7 x 25.3 cm (7 3/4 x 9 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Old Havana Housefronts
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.6 x 22.7 cm (6 15/16 x 8 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Balcony Spectators
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.8 x 25.2 cm (7 13/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Exhibition Marks First Showing of Getty’s Walker Evan’s Cuban Photographs; Also on view are Cuban Revolutionary Photographs and Contemporary Work by Virginia Beahan, Alex Harris, and Alexey Titarenko

Cuba’s attempt to forge an independent state with an ambitious set of social goals, all the while moored to powerful political and economic interests, has been a source of fascination for nations, intellectuals, and artists alike. On display at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, May 17 – October 2, 2011, A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now, looks at three critical periods in the island nation’s history as witnessed by photographers before, during, and after the country’s 1959 Revolution.

A Revolutionary Project juxtaposes Walker Evans’s 1933 images from the end of the Gerardo Machado dictatorship with views by contemporary foreign photographers Virginia Beahan (American, b. 1946), Alex Harris (American, b. 1949), and Alexey Titarenko (Russian, b. 1962), who have explored Cuba since the withdrawal of Soviet support in the 1990s. A third section bridging these two eras presents pictures by Cuban photographers who participated in the country’s 1959 Revolution, including Alberto Korda, Perfecto Romero, and Osvaldo Salas.

“The Museum’s collection of Walker Evans prints is the largest in the U.S., but until now, we have not shown his photographs of Cuba,” explains Judith Keller, senior curator of photographs. “This exhibition allows us the opportunity to showcase this body of work, alongside newer work in the collection.”

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1933: Evans in Havana

Walker Evans (1903 – 1975) is one of the photographers most responsible for the way we now imagine American life in the 1930s. His distinctive photographic style, which he declared “transcendent documentary,” was nurtured in New York in the late 1920s and fully formed by his experience in Cuba in 1933. In the spring of that year, Walker Evans was asked by publisher J. B. Lippincott to produce a body of work about Cuba to accompany a book by the radical journalist Carleton Beals (1893 – 1979). This book, The Crime of Cuba, would be a scathing indictment of the then-current regime of Cuban President Gerardo Machado. Leaving the country less than two months before Machado was forced out of office, Evans was able to capture Cuba at the start of the revolutionary movement but almost 30 years before the 1959 Revolution.

During Evans’s time in Cuba, he made substantial strides in his photographic practice. There he worked with different format cameras, large and small, one more deliberate and descriptive, the other more spontaneous and agile. He created both close-up and wide, inclusive compositions that he could then combine in intense sequences to best communicate his response to the poverty, the ferment, and the beauty of his environment. While in Havana, Evans met the American writer, Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961), whose acclaimed avantgarde work he knew and admired. Hemingway’s terse narrative style, which he was then applying to his own Harry Morgan stories set in Havana and Key West, no doubt influenced Evans’s approach to the subject of Cuba’s current political and economic struggles. Evans’s photographs also reflect the inspiration of French photographer Eugène Atget’s Parisian pictures that Evans critiqued for an arts journal in 1931. The series that comprised Atget’s thorough study of “Old Paris” seem to have provided additional motivation for Evans’s selection of Havana subjects: the signage of urban storefronts, the abundant street offerings of fresh produce, the decorative balconies of old houses, the many studies of archaic horsedrawn wagons and carriages, and the portraits of women, some of whom appear to be prostitutes.

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1958 – 1966: Revolution

Machado’s fall from rule in 1933 resulted in a long power struggle that culminated in the country’s 1959 socialist revolution to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista, anchoring Cuba to the Soviet bloc for the next thirty years and defining a relationship with the United States that still exists today. Fidel Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and their new government harnessed photography as a means of keeping the project of the Revolution at the forefront of Cuba’s collective consciousness. As both genuine records of popular insurrection and propagandistic documents used for political purposes, pictures of the Revolution and its aftermath have shaped how both Cubans and Americans understand the significance of that revolutionary moment. Photographs in the second section of the exhibition are drawn from the work of nine Cuban photographers who participated in recording the political context and triumphs of the emerging state in the years surrounding 1959.

Included in the exhibition is an iconic image of the revolutionary hero Che Guevara by Alberto Korda titled Guerrillero Heroico (March 5, 1960). One of the world’s most reproduced images, it has been adopted for political causes, appearing on countless numbers of t-shirts, banners, and street art around the globe. The print on view in the exhibition is among the earliest versions of the photograph known to exist. Made as a press print, it was used as a source to reproduce the image in media outlets a year after Korda photographed Guevara at a rally in Havana.

Also on display in the exhibition is the well-known revolutionary photograph Patria o Muerte, Cuba (Negative, January 1959; print, 1984) by Osvaldo Salas, one of Cuba’s most important photographers. Salas effectively captures and conveys the populist fervor in Cuba shortly after the movement’s triumph with an image of a patriotic sign framed by a celebratory crowd.

The photographs included in this section of the exhibition are culled from the extensive holdings of Cuban photography assembled by the Austrian collector, Christian Skrein, including a number of recent acquisitions by the Museum.

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Since 1991: The Special Period

After Soviet troops began to withdraw from Cuba in September of 1991, the troubled Cuban economy suffered severe internal shortages, and Fidel Castro declared what is known as the “Special Period” (período especial), marked by food rationing, energy conservation, and a decline of public services. In the nearly twenty years since the Soviet withdrawal, Cubans have managed to survive through perseverance, the forging of new political relationships, and the easing of socialist systems. This period of transition, which continues today with the recent transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl, has attracted the attention of photographers from around the world who are interested in exploring the relationship between Cuba’s revolutionary past and its uncertain future. The final section of the exhibition looks specifically at the work of three contemporary photographers with diverse approaches to documenting the island in recent decades: Virginia Beahan, Alex Harris, and Alexey Titarenko.

Virginia Beahan’s work concentrates on the landscape’s relationship to history and culture. In 2001, she began a multiyear project on Cuba, photographing its topography in search of remnants of the island’s diverse past. The work resulted in a publication in 2009 called Cuba: Singing with Bright Tears. Beahan’s Cuba is a land of contradictions, full of disappointments and hope, decay and rejuvenating beauty, simultaneously anchored to the past while looking beyond the present. Born and raised in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), Russia, Alexey Titarenko became fascinated with Cuba in 2003, when he made his first trip to Havana. Titarenko’s goal was to represent the soul of the Cuban capital. In the artist’s photographs, the city is shown with little overt reference to its politics. Instead, Titarenko describes the conditions of life in the communist country, depicting people persevering amid varying states of ruin. Venturing out of the tourist zones of Havana into the network of dilapidated avenues beyond the old city walls, his images depict a gray metropolis whose inhabitants congregate on the streets to collect food rations, fix long-outmoded cars, and play baseball.

A former student of Walker Evans, Alex Harris made several trips to Cuba following the collapse of the eastern bloc and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, developing a powerful body of color work that addresses the country’s cultural fabric during a period of difficult economic circumstances. His photographs focus on portraits of women whose lives are affected by the tourist-fueled sex trade, landscapes made through the windshields of refurbished 1950s American cars, and monuments to the Cuban national hero José Martí. His study was published in the form of a book, The Idea of Cuba, in 2007. Through these distinct vantage points, Harris probed the country’s propensity for ingenuity as it underwent great transition.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Citizen in Downtown Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.2 x 11.7 cm (8 3/4 x 4 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Woman on the Street, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.6 x 14.6 cm (9 11/16 x 5 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Woman in a Courtyard
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.3 x 16.2 cm (9 15/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Coal Stevedore, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.2 x 15.2 cm (7 15/16 x 6 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Negro Child, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.5 x 14.8 cm (7 11/16 x 5 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum

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Walker Evans 
American, 1903 – 1975
Stevedore
1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.1 x 15.1 cm (7 15/16 x 5 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum

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

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

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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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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