Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Wall

05
Mar
13

Review: ‘Jeff Wall Photographs’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGVA, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th November 2012 - 17th March 2013

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“My work is a reconstruction and reconstruction is a philosophical activity. If I can create a drama that has philosophical meaning, that’s fine, or sometimes, it is not from meaning but a reconstruction of a feeling. It is best to capture in a photograph a feeling, an emotion, a look, a memory, a perception or a relationship.”

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Jeff Wall

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Stressed at the seams

The excruciating “conversation” between Jeff Wall and Thomas Demand in The Great Hall at the National Gallery of Victoria on November 28th 2012 seemed to run on interminably, yielding a couple of tiny gems but also a lot of leaden debate. I had higher hopes of the solo exhibition by Jeff Wall at NGV Australia. In some ways I was not disappointed, in other ways Wall’s calculating fields of existence certainly didn’t move my soul with any great conviction.

Initially, I was impressed perhaps even a little overwhelmed by the spacious hang, the placement of the mainly large, light box illuminated photographs and non light box photographs dotted amongst the galleries emphasising the inter-relationship between the images. The work in the exhibition includes large set-piece constructions, outdoor photographs of found environments, small, intimate conceptual works full of angles and colour and more recent ink jet print work. These “installations that happen to have photos in them” (Wall’s description) reflect the gigantism prevalent in much contemporary photography. In these large mise-en-scène you cannot fail to be impressed by the control the artist displays in the formal nature of their construction, the still-life tableaux representing the artist’s intention in a rather cold and remote way. As can be seen from the structural analysis of Polishing (1988) by Dr James McArdle and J.S.B. below, Wall is very clever in how he structures his shape-shifting photographs, how he seduces the eye into believing that everything is plausible within the formalist pictorial plane. But as McArdle observes,

“[His] formalism remains empty of connection to the subject, Wall denying any narrative representation… His distancing of the subject, his leaning on typecast (such as in the chicken plucking image) can be summed up in his method: staging, directing, controlling that sucks the real life out of the imagery and re-inflates it with bombast.”1

From his early, prissy double self-portrait to his laughing at, not with, the menial labourers in Dressing poultry (2007, below), the set-piece work does seem full of bombast (possessing a pompous and grandiloquent language; an obsolete material used for padding), but perhaps bombast is related to that standard postmodern language, irony. It certainly is a language where Wall denies any inherent narrative, where there is a “dis-identification of the figures in the pictures which becomes part of the aesthetic of the picture.”2 Wall says he is just depicting the figures, that they just become an effect of depiction (or representation, in other words). In this way Wall conditions our awareness of [this particular] space due only in part to their scale (McArdle). This grandiloquence, coupled with the luminance of the light box which creates the luminescence of the image, dazzles the eye but on closer inspection is a perhaps a psychological hall of mirrors. The shattering of this constructed illusion can be seen in the “seaminess” of the photographs. The media image of A view from an apartment (2004-05, below) gives it away: all trace of the join that is present in most of Wall’s large transparencies has been removed, when compared to my detail photograph of the image in the actual exhibition. The join gives lie, line, to the truth that here are photographs that we can believe in. The illusion becomes stressed at the seams but again, perhaps this join is just a trope that Wall has developed to compliment his visual language. Certainly, there is no reason why such large transparencies could not be printed in one piece and at a million dollars a pop he could surely talk to the manufacturer.

Scholars have noted that the phrase ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ has become a standard metaphor for anything that smacks of pretentiousness, pomposity, social hypocrisy, or hollow ostentatiousness and this is the case here. These photographs are like the Emperor’s new clothes, so caught up are we in the brilliance of their display we fail to notice that there is not much going on in terms of the actual “life” of the image (other than subsuming the life of up to 70 digital images to make one still, cold image). Wall’s photographs as performance, his theatre of disruption where the artist seeks to upset the veneer of the ordinary to blur the boundaries between what is probable or improbable, are undone by their existential isolation. I felt little empathy for any of the people in Wall’s tableaux vivants or for their imagined, non-narrative realities as Wall would have it. Perhaps I wasn’t meant to or, to be kinder, perhaps this is the strategy.

There was one exception: Untangling (1994, below) which is a cracker of an image. All the psychological and existential meaning comes pouring out here: an underground cave (Jung’s cave archetype, symbol of the unconscious), the male sitters profound mood of introspection, the skein of tangled rope which may represent the source of the Gordian Knot, used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (disentangling an “impossible” knot) – although I prefer the analogy of the Ouroboros, the snake devouring its own tail which often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, which emphasises the relationship between a person’s mind and their experience of reality, how the psyche shapes the environment in which they act, and the untangling of consciousness.

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While his work was cutting edge in the late 1980s – 1990s, containing something in the work that brought him to notice, today it evidences a cultural and visual aesthetic that already seems completely outdated (the Pet Shop Boys on a bad hair day). Through staring at a constructed atemporal reality – like a man dreaming, caught in a no-time – Wall has created a form of look but don’t touch voyeurism, a slightly bombastic narcissism based on the photographers’ own power. But perhaps this is the point. Perhaps the qualities that I have criticized in the artist’s work are the very qualities the he is pursuing. Wall might want a don’t touch voyeurism for example – possibly deny it even exists or give it another name – so that the work interrogates some aspect of alienation without ever naming it. This can be seen in his construction of the photograph Polishing where he represents a mundane act in a cheap hotel room, raising the performance up to the altar of high art while hiding its anomalous philosophical and physical distortions.

I think Wall is a clever person wanting to be contradictory and clever.

To some people the qualities evidenced in Wall’s photographs can be seen to be quite admirable: today we shouldn’t (always) have to seek resolution or meaning. But when Wall says in the quote at the top of this posting that his work is a “reconstruction of a feeling” then I wonder where this feeling has gone, or whether it existed in the first place, for reconstruction is a very strange word to use with regard to feelings.

While the artist can control the uniqueness of a particular image seen from the point of view of production, intention and encounter3 what he cannot control is the interpretation of his images by the viewer. With this in mind (very apt) this is what I don’t get from these images: they lack for me is the quality of being lyrical, an artist’s expression of emotion in an imaginative and beautiful way. The stress seams present in his photographs, be they physical (the actual print) or psychological (photographs like Doorpusher or A view from an apartment) don’t allow me emotional access to the work. Aiming for an investigation into the existential nature of being and the philosophical reconstruction of a feeling, Wall ends up stressed at the seams (even un/seamed, un/scene, un/seen) and leaves me spatially and emotionally unmoved.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria 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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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A view from an apartment' 2004-05

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A view from an apartment
2004-05
Transparency in light box 1/2
167.0 x 244.0 cm
Tate, London Purchased with assistance from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery and Tate Members, 2006
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A view from an apartment' 2004-05 (detail)

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A view from an apartment (detail)
2004-05
Photograph: Marcus Bunyan

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Polishing' 1998

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Polishing
1998
Transparency in light box, 1/2
162.0 x 207.0 cm State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia Purchased with assistance from the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 1999
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall 'Polishing' skewing

Image Dr James McArdle

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Jeff Wall 'Polishing' skewing

Image J.S.B.

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Structural analysis of Jeff Wall’s Polishing (1998)

“There is a perceptual discomfort in viewing this image on the wall that is not apparent in the desk-top experience of it. I’m referring to a weird skewing of the perspective of the room. Wall has tilted the monorail of his 8×10 camera down toward the corner of the room, making the left hand wall of the bathroom lean uncomfortably, more than does the patched join of the wall panels to the right. He has then shifted the lens left, thus positioning the one vertical (right behind the figure) to the right of centre. The bathroom door, draped with a towel, looks as if it is hanging off its hinges, at variance with the top of the entrance door which remains horizontal. Conventionally, an architectural photographer would square everything and Wall does that in Doorpusher which though shot from an extremely oblique angle employs a radical drop-front to correct the verticals.”

Dr James McArdle

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“”Firstly, the floor is not straight in the image. You can see how in my edit, I have rotated the image a little to make the floor straight: (you can see how much by the break in the picture rail see red arrow). JW being tricky and skilled. Now the amount of lean in wall could almost be achieved just by a camera pointing down. No weird camera movements – this is almost familiar. But the door leans more than the wall! Next, note the degree of convergence in blue lines compared to green lines. Therefore the blue angle is emphasized – somehow. Note different hang of towel in magenta compared to blue – therefore edited ~ somehow!

The grid is good because as an initial observation it shows how much distortion we are viewing. But it makes it difficult to see that the floor is not level. When the floor is straightened the lean on the left wall is not as much as it seemed. Wait! Things do splay out when the camera is pointed down – so maybe there is no Photoshop in this at all? But there is – the angles have been emphasised a bit (I believe digitally) and there are puns in the angle of the towel (sloping at a different angle) and the buttons on the couch (not sloping out at all).

Lets play with this a bit more. So just tilt the camera to slope the floor and emphasise the lean by using the tilt to straighten the verticals on one side - and now make this a bit stronger in Photoshop. And by judicious use of the furniture placement the slope of the floor can be partly hidden. I can imagine Jeff Wall saying to a crowd that there is no Photoshop in this – it’s just camera placement (including a tilt in the whole camera) and without duplicating the scene I can’t be sure – but I think he has stressed in Photoshop some things that are already there. Digital enhancement.

Finally we can say that the formal qualities of this image are a play upon what has been initially offered by the camera. Initially: The walls are sloping! So is it just optics, or camera angle or Photoshop? It’s all three but not as much Photoshop as initially thought. The floor is not straight, the camera angle has been changed and there has been some digital emphasis.”

J.S.B. (author of The Well Tempered View Camera)

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Many thankx to Dr James McArdle for the initial gridded image from the posting “Perspective blow up,” on his Camera/Eye blog (January 21st, 2013) where he argues that the skewing is all done with tilting and shifting of an 8 x 10 image view camera to the analysis by J.S.B in which he argues that the skewing is partially done through the architecture (the set), the camera and some Photoshop tweeking.

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Double Self-Portrait' 1979

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Double Self-Portrait
1979
Transparency in light box AP
172.0 x 229.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Untangling' 1994, printed 2006

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Untangling
1994, printed 2006
Transparency in light box, AP
189.0 x 223.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased NGV Foundation and with the assistance of NGV Contemporary, 2006
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Dressing poultry' 2007

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Dressing poultry
2007
Transparency in light box, 1/2
201.5 x 252.0 cm
Cranford Collection, London
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Adrian Walker, artist, drawing from a specimen in a laboratory in the Dept. of Anatomy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver' 1992

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Adrian Walker, artist, drawing from a specimen in a laboratory in the Dept. of Anatomy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver
1992
Transparency in light box, AP
119.0 x 164.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai)' 1993

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai)
1993
Transparency in light box, unique state
229.0 x 377.0 cm
Tate, London Purchased with the assistance from the Patrons of New Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation and from the National Art Collections Fund, 1995
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'After 'Invisible Man' by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue' 1999-2000

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
After ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue
1999-2000
Transparency in light box, AP
174.0 x 250.5 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Knife throw' 2008

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Knife throw
2008
Colour photograph, AP
184.0 x 256.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'The Destroyed Room' 1978

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
The Destroyed Room
1978
Transparency in light box, AP
159.0 x 234.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Clipped branches, East Cordova St., Vancouver' 1999

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Clipped branches, East Cordova St., Vancouver
1999
Transparency in light box, AP
72.0 x 89.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Diagonal Composition' 1993

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Diagonal Composition
1993
Transparency in light box, AP
40.0 x 46.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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1. McArdle, James. Email to the author 22-01-2013

2. Wall, Jeff and Crombie, Isobel. “Jeff Wall Photographs: Knife Throw,” video on ArtDaily.org [Online] Cited 03-03-2013

3. Howarth, Sophie. “Introduction,” in Singular Images: essays on Remarkable Photographs. New York: Aperture, 2006, p.7.

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

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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30
Nov
12

Exhibition: ‘Jeff Wall Photographs’ at The Ian Potter Centre: National Gallery of Victoria Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th November 2012 - 17th March 2013

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Installation shots of the new Jeff Wall exhibition at NGV Australia. Review to follow in due course.

Many thankx to Jemma Altmeier and all the media team at NGV for all their wonderful help and congratulations to the curators, Susan van Wyk and Dr Isobel Crombie, for their restrained yet contemporary installations and for getting the exhibitions to Melbourne. They look magnificent. Well done!

Many thankx to the NGV for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © Marcus Bunyan © National Gallery of Victoria. May not be reproduced without permission.

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Installation view of 'Jeff Wall Photographs' at NGV Australia showing, at right, 'The Destroyed Room' 1978

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Installation view of Jeff Wall Photographs at NGV Australia showing, at right, The Destroyed Room 1978

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'The Destroyed Room' (detail) 1978

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Jeff Wall
Canadian 1946-
The Destroyed Room (detail)
1978
Transparency in light box, AP
159.0 x 234.0 cm
Collection of the artist © Jeff Wall

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Installation view of 'Jeff Wall Photographs' at NGV Australia showing, at left, 'The Destroyed Room' 1978, and at right, 'Double Self-Portrait' 1979

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Installation view of Jeff Wall Photographs at NGV Australia showing, at left, The Destroyed Room 1978, and at right, Double Self-Portrait 1979

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Installation view of 'Jeff Wall Photographs' at NGV Australia showing, at right, 'Double Self-Portrait' 1979

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Installation view of Jeff Wall Photographs at NGV Australia showing, at right, Double Self-Portrait 1979

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Installation view of 'Jeff Wall Photographs' at NGV Australia showing, at left, 'Doorpusher' 1984, and at right, 'Polishing' 1998

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Installation view of Jeff Wall Photographs at NGV Australia showing, at left, Doorpusher 1984, and at right, Polishing 1998

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Polishing' (detail) 1998

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Jeff Wall
Canadian 1946-
Polishing (detail)
1998
Transparency in light box, 1/2
162.0 x 207.0 cm
State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia Purchased with assistance from the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 1999
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall. 'Doorpusher' (detail) 1984

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Jeff Wall 
Doorpusher
(detail)
1984
Transparency in lightbox
2490 x 1220 mm
© Jeff Wall

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Installation view of 'Jeff Wall Photographs' at NGV Australia showing, at centre, 'Doorpusher' 1984, and at right, 'Polishing' 1998

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Installation view of Jeff Wall Photographs at NGV Australia showing, at centre, Doorpusher 1984, and at right, Polishing 1998

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Installation view of 'Jeff Wall Photographs' at NGV Australia showing, at left, 'Diagonal Composition' 1993, and at right, 'Doorpusher' 1984

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Installation view of Jeff Wall Photographs at NGV Australia showing, at left, Diagonal Composition 1993, and at right, Doorpusher 1984

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Diagonal Composition' 1993

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Jeff Wall
Canadian 1946-
Diagonal Composition
1993
Transparency in light box, AP
40.0 x 46.0 cm
Collection of the artist © Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall. 'Pipe Opening' (detail) 2002

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Jeff Wall
Pipe Opening (detail)
2002
Transparency in light box, AP
40.0 x 46.0 cm
Collection of the artist © Jeff Wall

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Installation view of 'Jeff Wall Photographs' at NGV Australia showing, at right, 'A view from an apartment' 2004-05

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Installation view of Jeff Wall Photographs at NGV Australia showing, at right, A view from an apartment 2004-05

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Installation view of 'Jeff Wall Photographs' at NGV Australia showing 'After 'Invisible Man' by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue' 1999-2000

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Installation view of Jeff Wall Photographs at NGV Australia showing After ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue 1999-2000

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'After 'Invisible Man' by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue' 1999-2000 (detail)

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Jeff Wall
Canadian 1946-
After ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue (detail)
1999-2000
Transparency in light box, AP
174.0 x 250.5 cm
Collection of the artist © Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A view from an apartment' 2004-05

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Jeff Wall
Canadian 1946-
A view from an apartment (detail)
2004-05
Transparency in light box, 1/2
167.0 x 244.0 cm Tate, London Purchased with assistance from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery and Tate Members, 2006
© Jeff Wall

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Installation view of 'Jeff Wall Photographs' at NGV Australia showing 'A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai)' 1993

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Installation view of Jeff Wall Photographs at NGV Australia showing A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai) 1993

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

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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25
Nov
12

Exhibition: ‘open spaces | secret places: composite works from the collection’ at Museum Der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition dates: 20th October 2012 – 3rd March 2013

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

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Janet Cardiff / George Bures Miller
Road Trip
2004
Dia-und Audioinstallation
Fotos: Anton Bures, Ton: Janet Cardiff und George Bures Miller
15 Minuten / Loop
© Janet Cardiff/George Bures Miller / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artists, Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin

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Anthony McCall
Line Describing a Cone
1973
16-mm-Film, s/w, ohne Ton; Installation
30 Minuten
© Anthony McCall / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery, Paris/London
Foto: Hank Graber, © Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

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“In the exhibition open spaces | secret places, the MUSEUM DER MODERNE SALZBURG is showing artistic positions from 1970 until today from the SAMMLUNG VERBUND. The phenomenons of the perception of spaces and places will be visualised. The first part of the exhibition is dedicated to the medium of photography. Jeff Wall stages mysterious fragments of urban environments in peripheral area. Joachim Koester, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Tom Burr, Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler and David Wojnarowicz explore the fragility of the present in the light of historical changes of space and time. Louise Lawler draws our attention to places where works of art are stored and presented. Janet Cardiff/George Bures Miller stage a journey through memories as an audiovisual space of experience…

The increasing spatialization of art goes hand in hand with our life style, which has changed considerably in social and cultural terms as a result of new spatial conditions (virtual space, increased mobility). It is this fluctuating presence which seems to make us more acutely aware of our location. In the past we asked other people on the telephone “How are you?”, today we ask “Where are you?”

All text from the Museum Der Moderne Salzburg website (including below)

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Jeff Wall
The Crooked Path
1991
Grossbilddia in Leuchtkasten
Jeff Wall / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy Jeff Wall Studio, Vancouver and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris

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Jeff Wall

Boys Cutting Through a Hedge, 2003
The Crooked Path, 1991
Forest, 2001

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For more than thirty years now, Jeff Wall has been best known for his large-format light boxes in which the colors of his giant transparencies are brilliantly illuminated. In the first few decades of his career, he was celebrated as a peintre de la vie moderne [the painter of modern life] - to use Charles Baudelaire’s term – on account of his ability to combine traditional composition with themes of modern life. For the past decade, however, he has produced a number of large format black-and-white photographs that clearly belong in the context of his affinity for traditional documentary photography or straight photography. The group of three photographs in the SAMMLUNG VERBUND shows peripheral, unimportant places, underscoring Wall’s interest in the “unofficial use of places” (Jeff Wall). In Forest two people are claiming a makeshift private territory in a forest. The Crooked Path and Boys Cutting Through a Hedge, meanwhile, show places in which people have to find their way on the other side of conventional topography.

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Joachim Koester
The Kant Walks
2003-2004
Aus der 7-teiligen Serie
C-Print
47.5 x 60.3 cm
© Joachim Koester / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Jan Mot, Brussels

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Joachim Koester

The Kant Walks, 2003-2004
histories, 2003-2005

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Historically and philosophically charged places form the prime themes in the photographical work of Danish artist Joachim Koester. The series The Kant Walks follows the great philosopher’s daily and precisely scheduled walks through his hometown Kaliningrad (formerly known as Königsberg), which Kant allegedly never left throughout his life. Drifting through Kaliningrad’s “psychogeography” (Joachim Koester), the artist rediscovers Kant’s walks. His photographs evoke impressions, both from the past and the present, as they visualize overgrown roads, disintegrating concrete buildings, and presumably abandoned and forgotten places.

Likewise, Koester creates a link to the past in histories. Juxtaposing historic, not less than 30 year old photographs - taken by Gordon Matta-Clark or Bernd and Hilla Becher to name just a few – with recently taken shots from the very same location evokes not one, but two “histories”: that of conceptual photography, and that of the places and events depicted.

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Bernd und Hilla Becher
Gasbehälter
1965-2001

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Bernd and Hilla Becher

Entwürfe für Typologien, aufgenommen in den 1960er-Jahren, zusammengestellt 1970-1971
Gasbehälter, 1965-2001

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Within 20th century art only a few artists have been able to combine their enduring artistic concept with an outstanding history of reception of their own work. The German photographer couple Bernd and Hilla Becher has been working strictly with documentary photography since the 1950s, and thus influences publications, exhibitions and art collections worldwide up to this day and even beyond the death of Bernd Becher in 2007, providing crucial impulses for the theory and history of art.

Ever since they started working together, Bernd and Hilla Becher were creating an inventory of industrial architecture, both in Europe and in the United States. Their black-and-white photographs depict furnaces, water towers, winding towers, factory buildings, cement and lime plants, entire mining sites as well as timbered houses. A sense of objectivity is innate to their approach to documentary photography. Bernd and Hilla Becher avoided any dramatic setting and confidently relied on the formal aesthetics of analog photography. Through strictly standardizing the photographic process, the couple created the possibility to categorize their entire work in typologies, adding a whole new and important conceptual level to their oevre.

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Tom Burr
Split
2005
Lackiertes Sperrholz, Zedernschindeln, Asphaltschindeln
285 x 248 x 157 cm
© Tom Burr / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Galerie NEU, Berlin

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Tom Burr

Split, 2005
Unearthing the Public Restroom, 1994

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Tom Burr addresses a long-obsolete phenomenon. In 2005, he presented a white wooden house cut in two halves, entitled Split, outside on a lawn. Burr’s house is a response to the multiple-seat outhouse from the premodern era. Despite (or perhaps because of) the cramped conditions, he sees in it the symbol of “a lost type of intimacy”, repressed by our western societies from their collective consciousness “in favor of cool, smooth, and clean porcelain surfaces.” Considering Burr’s penchant for referencing selected avant-garde works, what comes to mind in relation to this work is Marcel Duchamp’s urinal Fountaine of 1917 and certainly Matta-Clark’s bisected Splitting house, also shown in the exhibition, as well as Minimal Art. Burr stages Split with aesthetic minimalism - cool, austere, and sober. At the same time, however, he unfolds a strange associative field of uncomfortable conditions: of closeness and intimacy, shame, smell, at times even disgust. The earth toilet was common from ancient times up until the 19th century. Installing a version of it in public space today is intended to have the function of an “alien”, a foreign element. Burr’s earlier photo series Unearthing the Public Restroom of 1994 traces experiences of public access, hygiene, privacy, sexuality, criminality, and surveillance that cluster around, and in fact produce, the history of the public restroom. Crime and sexuality, particularly homosexuality, caused many of these spaces to be shut down. What interests the artist is precisely this state of non-use, of abandonment, and the ghost-like presence.

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Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler
Filmstills, Odeon
2000
Aus der 4-teiligen Serie
C-Print
140 x 259 cm
© Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler Studio, Austin, Texas

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Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler

Filmstills, 2000
Arsenal, 2000

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The photo work Filmstills, created in 2000, marks a crucial step in the oeuvre of Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler. Up to this work, the two Irish-Swiss artists were mainly known for their large-size photo series, such as Falling Down, Holes, or Gregor’s Room which were choreographed down to the smallest detail. Filmstills was the first work done outside the studio and on the spot. Filmstills show movie theaters in Berlin, which have been getting on in years. The Rio was closed some time ago and let go to ruin, whereas the Odeon still tries to maintain its hold against the flood of standardized movieplexes. Both shots are based on the same formal principle. A very narrow detail shows the respective main entrance with the cinema’s name written in big letters. The digital processing of the photographs as well as their sizes make the viewers perceive the cinemas as film stills or clips from a movie. In contrast to filmic illusion, here reality is fictionalized. The series Arsenal delivers melancholic interior views of the deserted premises of an abandoned independent cinema in Berlin, wherein only a female usher is still present.

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David Wojnarowicz
Arthur Rimbaud in New York
1978-1979 / 2004
Aus der 44-teiligen Serie
Gelatinesilberabzug
32.8 x 24.5 cm
© Estate of David Wojnarowicz / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy Estate of P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York and Cabinet Gallery, London

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David Wojnarowicz
Arthur Rimbaud in New York
1978-1979 / 2004
Aus der 44-teiligen Serie
Gelatinesilberabzug
32.8 x 24.5 cm
© Estate of David Wojnarowicz / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy Estate of P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York and Cabinet Gallery, London

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David Wojnarowicz

Arthur Rimbaud in New York, 1978-1979 / 2004

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In the summer of 1979, David Wojnarowicz a twentyfour- year old self-taught artist, borrowed a broken camera to produce a series of black-and-white photographs entitled Arthur Rimbaud in New York.

The Rimbaud series proposes hypothetical scenarios involving the French Symbolist outlaw poet as if he existed a century later, showing Brian Butterick, the friend and temporary lover of the artist, with a mask of Rimbaud. Arthur Rimbaud in New York tracks provocative “locations and movements.” Meatpacking district, subway, piers and Coney Island (off-season) further characterize a generally invisible marginalization reinforced by abiding unsightliness, tawdriness, and rustication. Desolate Hudson river pier warehouses or anonymous Times Square’s red-light district allude to cavalcades of outsiders whether artists, thieves, queers, young runaways, sex workers, injection drug users, the poor, or homeless. The Rimbaud series would forge links between the artist’s engagement in his own social marginality to that of peers and prior heroes, each one demonstrating the transformative potential of creative response to existential crisis.

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Louise Lawler
Not Yet Titled
2004-2005

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Louise Lawler
CS #204
1990
Cibachrom auf Polyester kaschiert
99.1 x 135.9 cm
© Louise Lawler / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

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Louise Lawler

Not Yet Titled, 2004-2005
Abbau, 2002
Not Yet Titled, 2004-2005
CS # 204, 1990
It Could Be Black and White, 1994-1996
Wall Pillow, 2010/2012

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Louise Lawler’s gaze is fixed not on a single, isolated work of art, but rather on the institutional environment in which that particular work is viewed; this, astonishingly, turns out to lend works a completely different meaning. It is the private, semi-public or public context of the gallery or the museum which constantly reshapes, redefines, and refigures a work of art. In principle, Lawler takes pictures of existing situations, in the sense that she does not rearrange the works or make any changes to their position relative to each other. She quite often adopts an off-stage stance to this end, enabling her to view an exhibition from an angle which would normally be closed to visitors.

Wall Pillow, for instance, reveals the verso of a painting, while Abbau shows the absence of art – the two nails and a spotlight shining on a bare wall are all that remains after the work itself has been removed. For what she has done is to sever the magic thread that connects the work per se to the aura it acquires through its hanging. What is evident from Not Yet Titled and CS #204, is that the artist is clearly attracted first and foremost by those works of art which she herself values highly, such as by Gordon Matta-Clark’s façades and Cindy Sherman’s self portraits. Lawler’s photographs focus on the other side of the coin of institutional art presentation. Yet for all her apparent deconstruction, one still has the feeling that she wants to “rescue” these works and in doing so restore their original dignity.

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Ulla von Brandenburg
Around
2005
16-mm-Film transferiert auf Digibeta PAL, s/w, ohne Ton
2:30 Minuten / Loop
© Ulla von Brandenburg / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Produzentengalerie, Hamburg

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Ulla von Brandenburg

Around, 2005

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The striking presence of female figures in Ulla von Brandenburg’s work suggests an interest in the conflicted role of nineteenth-century women and the continued complexity of the performance of gender roles and attitudes in contemporary society. Our uncertainty about the position of these women, who are frequently presented in a liminal state, and their potential vulnerability, align perfectly with von Brandenburg’s interest in shifting roles and meaning: Though commanding of attention, von Brandenburg’s female figures are often on the verge of hysteria or loss of control – a state of powerlessness that nevertheless enforces their centrality in the action taking place. The artist’s work Around, 2005 best embodies this state of deferral or ambiguity: von Brandenburg filmed a tightly packed group of figures standing in the middle of a street with their backs to the camera. As the camera travels around the group the figures shift their position so that no frontal aspect is ever revealed. A view of their faces is never revealed in this conspirative meeting. Around we go waiting for the glimpse that will reveal, well, what exactly? We are left standing in front of the projection watching this group of performers, each of us struggling to find the “right” position.

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Eleanor Antin
100 Boots
1971-1973
100 Boots in a Field, Route 101, California.
February 9, 1971, 3:30 p.m.
Aus der 51-teiligen Serie, S/W-Postkarte
11.4 x 17.7 cm
© Eleanor Antin / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

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Eleanor Antin
100 Boots
1971-1973
Aus der 51-teiligen Serie, S/W-Postkarte
Eleanor Antin / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

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Eleonor Antin

100 Boots, 1971–1973

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For her 51-piece installment 100 Boots Eleonor Antin positioned one hundred ordinary black rubber boots on various locations all over Southern California and consequently in New York City. She took photos, printed them on postcards and assembled a mailing list of about a thousand names – mainly artists, writers, critics, galleries, universities and museums – who received the various postcards over a period of two and a half years between 1971 and 1973. The first card, 100 Boots Facing the Sea, was mailed on the Ides of March, 1971, unannounced and without further comment. A few weeks later it was followed by 100 Boots on the Way to Church and three weeks therafter by the next one.

In a total of 51 photographs, Eleanor Antin documented the travels of the 100 Boots, her so called “hero” – from a beach close to San Diego to a church, to a bank, to the supermarket, trespassing, under the bridge, to a saloon and on their travels eastward. Finally, on May 15th, 1973 100 Boots arrived at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. By this time, 100 Boots had long become an epic visual narrative and a picaresque work of conceptual art.

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Ceal Floyer
On Air
2009
Metallbox, Plexiglas, Licht, Kabel
12.6 x 25.6 x 6.2 cm
© Ceal Floyer / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien
Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin

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Ceal Floyer

On Air, 2009
Me/You (Love Me Tender), 2009

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The works of Ceal Floyer are minimalist and restrained. Some visitors will walk past them without even taking note of them. What the artist addresses everyday situations and activities. It is this apparent insignificance that Ceal Floyer refuses to accept, and so the conceptual strategy she pursues is interrogating our modes of perception. For her piece Me/You (Love Me Tender) from 2009, the artist installs two loudspeakers facing each other, from which the words “me” and “you” can be heard. Between them, the silence becomes palpable. The title can be read as the key to the work since it makes clear that what is heard is an excerpt from Elvis Presley’s song “Love Me Tender.” Ceal Floyer condenses love to its very essence here, namely, to the notions of “me” and “you.”

On Air (2009) is a work in which title and material are one and the same. The words “on” and “air” do not usher in the work, they are the work itself. Ceal Floyer uses the red neon letters used by radio and TV stations to signal that a live broadcast is going on and mounts them above the museum’s or gallery’s exit door. As soon as the viewer connects with the recording studio it becomes clear that this is about a shifting of our perception: We see five letters and realize that the real content of this work is what can be heard. All the sounds, voices and talks from outside the museum are put “on air” here, and the museum, the place where we have learnt to contemplate works of art in silence, pauses to listen to everyday life outside the walls of the institution.

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Gordon Matta-Clark
Splitting (b)
1974

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Gordon Matta-Clark

Conical Intersect, 1975
Splitting: Exterior, 1974
Office Baroque, 1977/2005
Untitled (Cut Drawing), 1975
Circus No. 14 (from Circus Book), 1978
Artpark, 1974

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In spring 1973 Gordon Matta-Clark presented his gallerists Holly and Horace Solomon with an unusual idea. He wanted to saw a house into two halves, and asked them if they knew of anything that might be available. As it happened, Horace Solomon had just the thing. He had bought a house in a speculative real estate deal, and it was soon to be demolished. Matta-Clark was given permission to do what he wanted with it, although it was clear that the work would not last.

Matta-Clark completely cleared the house and, taking a chain-saw and a plumb line, made two parallel incisions into the house. He then cut diagonally through one half of the foundations of house. Next, one half (weighing fifteen tons) of the house started to slope downwards until a split appeared that measured sixty centimeters at the top of the roof. Lastly, Matta-Clark sawed off the four top corners of the house. These were later exhibited as a sculpture entitled Four Corners. The whole project took about four months in total and was demolished shortly after completion. A film, a series of photographs, photomontages, and an artist’s book – all autonomous works of art in their own right – documented the process.

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Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg
Mönchsberg 32
5020 Salzburg
T: +43.662.84 22 20-403

Opening hours:
Tuesday - Sunday: 10.00 am - 6.00 pm
Wednesday: 10.00 am - 8.00 pm
Monday: closed

Museum der Moderne website

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18
Sep
12

Exhibition: ‘Lost Places. Sites of Photography’ at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 8th June – 23rd September 2012

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“Fredric Jameson wrote that in the postmodern world, the subject is not alienated but fragmented. He explained that the notion of alienation presumes a centralized, unitary self who could become lost to himself or herself. But if, as a postmodernist sees it, the self is decentred and multiple, the concept of alienation breaks down. All that is left is an anxiety of identity. The personal computer culture began with small machines that captured a post-1960s utopian vision of transparent understanding. Today, the personal computer culture’s most compelling objects give people a way to think concretely about an identity crisis. In simulation, identity can be fluid and multiple, a signifier no longer points to a thing that is signified, and understanding is less likely to proceed through analysis than by navigation through virtual space.”

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Sherry Turkle 1

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As we navigate these (virtual) worlds a signifier no longer points to a thing that is signified. In other words there is a split between referent and (un)known reality = a severance of meaning and its object.

“The image has nothing to do with signification, meaning, as implied by the existence of the world, the effort of truth, the law and the brightness of the day. Not only is the image of an object not the meaning of that object and of no help in comprehending it, but it tends to withdraw it from its meaning by maintaining it in the immobility of a resemblance that it has nothing to resemble.”2

Such is the case in these photographs. In their isolation each becomes the simulacra, the restaged models that are Thomas Demand’s photographs. That they do not allow any true reference to reality means that they become the image of memory in the present space. As the press release notes, “What happens to real places if a space loses its usual significance and can be experienced on a virtual plane?”

Kenneth Gergen observes,

“The current texts of the self are built upon those of preceding eras, and they in turn upon more distant forms of discourse. In the end we have no way of “getting down to the self as it is.” And thus we edge toward the more unsettling question: On what grounds can we assume that beneath the layers of accumulated understandings there is, in fact, an obdurate “self” to be located? The object of understanding has been absorbed into the world of representations.”3

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So we return to the split between referent and reality, a severance of meaning and its object in representation itself. These photographs, our Self and our world are becoming artifacts of hyperreality, of unallocated (un/all/located) space in which a unitary self/world has always been “lost.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the Hamburger Kunsthalle 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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Tobias Zielony (*1973)
Dirt Field
2008
(aus der Serie Trona – Armpit of America)
C-Print
56 x 84 cm
Sammlung Halke / Courtesy KOW, Berlin
© Tobias Zielony

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Beate Gütschow (*1970)
S#11
2005
Light Jet Print
180 x 232 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle
© Beate Gütschow / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Alexandra Ranner (*1967)
Schlafzimmer II (Bedroom II)
2008
Installation, Holz, Teppich, Styrodur, 
Licht, Farbe
H: 240 cm, B: 500 cm, L: 960 cm
© Alexandra Ranner, Galerie Mathias 
Güntner, Hamburg / VG Bild-Kunst, 2012

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Sarah Schönfeld (*1979)
Wende-Gelände 01
2006
C-Print
122 x 150 cm
Privatsammlung / Courtesy Galerie 
Feldbuschwiesner, Berlin
© Sarah Schönfeld

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Guy Tillim (*1962)
Apartment Building, Avenue Bagamoyo, Beira, Mozambique
2008
(aus der Serie Avenue Patrice Lumumba)
Pigmentdruck auf Papier, kaschiert auf Aluminium
91.5 x 131.5 cm
Guy Tillim / Courtesy Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin und Stevenson, Cape Town
© Guy Tillim

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Jeff Wall (*1946)
Insomnia
1994
Cibachrome in Leuchtkasten (Plexiglas, 
Aluminium, Leuchtröhren)
174 x 214 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle
© Jeff Wall

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“In recent years, photography has reached a new peak in artistic media. Starting with the Düsseldorf School, with artists such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff or Candida Höfer, a young generation of artists developed that adopted different approaches by which to present the subject-matter of “space” and “place” in an era of historic change and social crises. With the exhibition Lost Places, the Hamburger Kunsthalle art museum dedicates itself to these new approaches, which document a wide range of different places and living spaces and their increasing isolation through the media of photography, film and installation works.

Joel Sternfeld’s documentary photographs depict places that were crime scenes. Thomas Demand restages real crime scenes, initially as models in order to then photograph them. In turn, in her large-scale photographs, Beate Gütschow constructs cityscapes and landscapes that are reminiscent of well-known places, but that do not allow any true reference. Sarah Schönfeld illustrates “the image of memory in the present space” in her photographs. She visits old places from her GDR childhood and captures these in their present state, whereby both points in time collide. In his fictional video installation Nostalgia, Omer Fast recounts the story of illegal immigrants from three different perspectives.

In his book The collective memory, French philosopher Maurice Halbwachs pointed out the significance of “spatial images” for the memory of social communities. Today the reliable spatial contextualisation of objects and memories (also due to digital photography) is under threat, hence this pretence begins to crumble. What happens to real places if a space loses its usual significance and can be experienced on a virtual plane?

The exhibition comprises about 20 different approaches of contemporary photography and video art with many loans from museums and private collections. The exhibition features the following artists: Thomas Demand (*1964), Omer Fast (*1972), Beate Gütschow (*1970), Andreas Gursky (*1955), Candida Höfer (*1944), Sabine Hornig (*1964), Jan Köchermann (1967), Barbara Probst (*1964), Alexandra Ranner (*1967), Ben Rivers (*1972), Thomas Ruff (*1958), Gregor Schneider (*1969), Sarah Schönfeld (*1979), Joel Sternfeld (*1944), Thomas Struth (*1954), Guy Tillim (*1962), Jörn Vanhöfen (*1961), Jeff Wall (*1946) and Tobias Zielony (*1973).”

Press release from the Hamburger Kunsthalle website

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Thomas Struth (*1954)
Times Square, New York
2000
C-Print
140,2 x 176,2 cm
Courtesy Thomas Struth, Berlin
© Thomas Struth

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Jörn Vanhöfen (*1961)
Asok #797
2010
C-Print auf Aluminium
122 x 147 cm
© Jörn Vanhöfen, courtesy: Kuckei + Kuckei, 
Berlin

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Thomas Demand (*1964)
Haltestelle
2009
C-Print / Diasec
240 x 330 cm
Thomas Demand, Berlin
© Thomas Demand / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Thomas Demand (*1964)
Parlament
2009
C-Print / Diasec
180 x 223 cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie 2010 
erworben durch die Stiftung des Vereins der 
Freunde der Nationalgalerie für zeitgenössische Kunst
© Thomas Demand / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Tobias Zielony (*1973)
Vela Azzurra
2010
(aus der Serie Vele)
C-Print
150 x 120 cm
Tobias Zielony / Courtesy und KOW, Berlin und Lia Rumma, Neapel
© Tobias Zielony

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Andreas Gursky (*1955)
Sáo Paulo Sé
2002
C-Print, Plexiglas
286 x 206 cm
Dauerleihgabe der Stiftung für die 
Hamburger Kunstsammlungen
© SHK/Hamburger Kunsthalle/bpk/ 
VG Bild-Kunst, 2012

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Andreas Gursky (*1955)
Ohne Titel XIII (Mexico)
2002
Photographie
276 x 206 cm
Dauerleihgabe der Stiftung für die 
Hamburger Kunstsammlungen
© SHK/Hamburger Kunsthalle/bpk/ VG 
Bild-Kunst, 2012

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1. Turkle, Sherry. Life on The Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995, p.49.

2. Blanchot, Maurice. The Gaze of Orpheus. New York: Barrytown, 1981, p.85.

3. Gergen, Kenneth. The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Harper Collins, 1991, pp.121-122.

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Hamburger Kunsthalle
Glockengießerwall 20095
Hamburg
T: +49 (0) 40 – 428 131 200

Opening Hours:
Tuesdays to Sundays 10 am – 6 pm
Thursdays 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

Hamburger Kunsthalle website

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02
Aug
12

Exhibition: ‘Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 27th June – 23rd September 2012

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“To understand the production of art at the end of tradition, which in our lifetime means art at the end of modernism, requires, as the postmodern debate has shown, a careful consideration of the idea of history and the notion of ending. Rather than just thinking ending as the arrival of the finality of a fixed chronological moment, it can also be thought as a slow and indecisive process of internal decomposition that leaves in place numerous deposits of us, in us and with us – all with a considerable and complex afterlife. In this context all figuration is prefigured. This is to say that the design element of the production of a work of art, the compositional, now exists prior to the management of form of, and on, the picture plane. Techniques of assemblage, like montage and collage – which not only juxtaposed different aesthetics but also different historical moments, were the precursors of what is now the general condition of production.”

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“Art Byting the Dust” Tony Fry 1990

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They said that photography would be the death of painting. It never happened. Recently they thought that digital photography would be the death of analogue photography. It hasn’t happened for there are people who care enough about analogue photography to keep it going, no matter what. As the quotation astutely observes, the digital age has changed the conditions of production updating the techniques of montage and collage for the 21st century. Now through assemblage the composition may be prefigured but that does not mean that there are not echoes, traces and deposits of other technologies, other processes that are not evidenced in contemporary photography.

As photography influenced painting when it first appeared and vice versa (photography went through a period known as Pictorialism where where it imitated Impressionist painting), this exhibition highlights the influence of painting on later photography. Whatever process it takes photography has always been about painting with light – through a pinhole, through a microscope, through a camera lens; using light directly onto photographic paper, using the light of the scanner or the computer screen. As Paul Virilio observes, no longer is there a horizon line but the horizon square of the computer screen, still a picture plane that evidences the history of art and life. Vestiges of time and technology are somehow always present not matter what medium an artist chooses. They always have a complex afterlife and afterimage.

PS. I really don’t think it is a decomposition, more like a re/composition or reanimation.
PPS. Notice how Otto Steinert’s Luminogramm (1952, below), is eerily similar to some of Pierre Soulages paintings.

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Many thankx to the Städel Musuem 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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Installation views of the exhibition Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

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Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
Ein-Fuß-Gänger
1950
Gelatin silver print
28,5 x 39 cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

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Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)
Photogram
ca.1923-25
Unique photogram, toned printing-out paper
12,6 x 17,6 cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
10-80-C-17 (NYC)
1980
From the series: In + Out of City Limits: New York / Boston
Gelatin silver print on fibre-based paper
58 x 73 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung at the Städel Museum
© Estate of Robert Rauschenberg / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Thomas Ruff (*1958)
Substrat 10
2002
C-type print
186 x 238 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Hiroshi Sugimoto (*1948)
Sam Eric, Pennsylvania
1978
Gelatin silver print
42.5 x 54.5 cm
Private collection, Frankfurt
© Hiroshi Sugimoto / Courtesy The Pace Gallery

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Wolfgang Tillmans (*1968)
paper drop (window)
2006
C-type print in artists frame, 145 x 200 cm
Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
© Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Köln / Berlin
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2008 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert

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Otto Steinert (1915–1978)
Luminogramm
1952
Gelatin silver print, printed ca. 1952
41,5 x 60 cm
Courtesy Galerie Kicken Berlin
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

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“From 27 June to 23 September 2012, the Städel Museum will show the exhibition “Painting in Photography. Strategies of Appropriation.” The comprehensive presentation will highlight the influence of painting on the imagery produced by contemporary photographic art. Based on the museum’s own collection and including important loans from the DZ Bank Kunstsammlung as well as international private collections and galleries, the exhibition at the Städel will center on about 60 examples, among them major works by László Moholy-Nagy, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Wolfgang Tillmans, Thomas Ruff, Jeff Wall, and Amelie von Wulffen. Whereas the influence of the medium of photography on the “classic genres of art” has already been the subject of analysis in numerous exhibitions and publications, less attention has been paid to the impact of painting on contemporary photography to date. The show at the Städel explores the reflection of painting in the photographic image by pursuing various artistic strategies of appropriation which have one thing in common: they reject the general expectation held about photography that it will document reality in an authentic way.

The key significance of photography within contemporary art and its incorporation into the collection of the Städel Museum offer an occasion to fathom the relationship between painting and photography in an exhibition. While painting dealt with the use of photography in the mass media in the 1960s, today’s photographic art shows itself seriously concerned with the conditions of painting. Again and again, photography reflects, thematizes, or represents the traditional pictorial medium, maintaining an ambivalent relationship between appropriation and detachment.

Numerous works presented in the Städel’s exhibition return to the painterly abstractions of the prewar and postwar avant-gardes, translate them into the medium of photography, and thus avoid a reproduction of reality. Early examples for the adaption of techniques of painting in photography are László Moholy-Nagy’s (1895-1946) photograms dating from the 1920s. For his photographs shot without a camera, the Hungarian artist and Bauhaus teacher arranged objects on a sensitized paper; these objects left concrete marks as supposedly abstract forms under the influence of direct sunlight. In Otto Steinert’s (1915-1978) nonrepresentational light drawings or “luminigrams,” the photographer’s movement inscribed itself directly into the sensitized film. The pictures correlate with the gestural painting of Jackson Pollock’s Abstract Expressionism. A product of random operations during the exposure and development of the photographic paper, Wolfgang Tillmans’ (*1968) work “Freischwimmer 54″ (2004) is equally far from representing the external world. It is the pictures’ fictitious depth, transparency, and dynamics that lend Thomas Ruff’s photographic series “Substrat” its extraordinary painterly quality recalling color field paintings or Informel works. For his series “Seascapes” the Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto (*1948) seems to have “emptied” the motif through a long exposure time: the sublime pictures of the surface of the sea and the sky – which either blur or are set off against each other – seem to transcend time and space.

In addition to the photographs mentioned, the exhibition “Painting in Photography” includes works by artists who directly draw on the history of painting in their choice of motifs. The mise-en-scène piece “Picture for Women” (1979) by the Canadian photo artist Jeff Wall (born in 1946), which relates to Édouard Manet’s famous painting “Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère” from 1882, may be cited as an example for this approach. The camera positioned in the center of the picture reveals the mirrored scene and turns into the eye of the beholder. The fictitious landscape pictures by Beate Gütschow (born in 1970), which consist of digitally assembled fragments, recall ideal Arcadian sceneries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The photographs taken by Italian Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992) in the studio of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) “copy” Morandi’s still lifes by representing the real objects in the painter’s studio instead of his paintings.

Another appropriative strategy sees the artist actually becoming active as a painter, transforming either the object he has photographed or its photographic representation. Oliver Boberg’s, Richard Hamilton’s, Georges Rousse’s and Amelie von Wulffen’s works rank in this category. For her series “Stadtcollagen” (1998-1999) Amelie von Wulffen (born in 1966) assembled drawing, photography, and painting to arrive at the montage of a new reality. The artist’s recollections merge with imaginary spaces offering the viewer’s fantasy an opportunity for his or her own associations.

The exhibition also encompasses positions of photography for which painting is the object represented in the picture. The most prominent examples in this section come from Sherrie Levine (born in 1947) and Louise Lawler (born in 1947), both representatives of US Appropriation Art. From the late 1970s on, Levine and Lawler have photographically appropriated originals from art history. Levine uses reproductions of paintings from a catalogue published in the 1920s: she photographs them and makes lithographs of her pictures. Lawler photographs works of art in private rooms, museums, and galleries and thus rather elucidates the works’ artworld context than the works as such.”

Press release from the Städel Museum website

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Sherrie Levine (*1947)
After Edgar Degas (detail)
1987
5 lithographs on hand-made paper
69 x 56 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung im Städel Museum, Frankfurt
© Sherrie Levine / Courtesy Jablonka Galerie, Köln

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Louise Lawler (*1947)
It Could Be Elvis
1994
Cibachrome, varnished with shellac
74.5 x 91 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung at the Städel Museum
© Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

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Oliver Boberg (*1965)
Unterführung [Underpass]
1997
C-type print, 75 x 84 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© Oliver Boberg / Courtesy L.A. Galerie – Lothar Albrecht, Frankfurt

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Richard Hamilton (1922–2011)
Eight-Self-Portraits (detail)
1994
Thermal dye sublimation prints
40 x 35 cm
DZ BANK Kunstsammlung
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

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Wolfgang Tillmans (*1968)
Freischwimmer 54
2004
C-type in artists frame
237 x 181 x 6 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Köln / Berlin
Acquired in 2008 with funds from the Städelkomitee 21. Jahrhundert
Property of Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

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1. Fry, Tony. “Art Byting the Dust,” in Hayward, Phillip. Culture, Technology and Creativity in the Late Twentieth Century. London: John Libbey and Company, 1990, pp.169-170.

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Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Friday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Wednesday and Thursday 10 am - 9 pm

Städel Museum website

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27
Dec
11

Exhibition: ‘After the Gold Rush: Contemporary Photographs from the Collection’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 22nd March, 2011 – 2nd January, 2012

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Many thankx to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 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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Hans Haacke (German, born 1936)
Thank You, Paine Webber
1979
Gelatin silver print and chromogenic print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2010
© Hans Haacke

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Since the early 1970s Haacke has taken on the intertwined political and corporate forces that use cultural patronage as a smokescreen to advance interests that are often antithetical to the vitality of free speech and expression in democracies. Haacke made this work just as the strategy of appropriation – lifting an image out of its original context and re-presenting it in critical fashion - began to make waves in the New York art world of the late 1970s. Like all effective appropriation, it exposes a prior instance of borrowing – in this case, how the investment firm Paine Webber used a documentary photograph to give its annual report the veneer of social concern. The artist then pointedly contrasted it with an image from the same annual report of a beaming trio of executives in a painting-lined gallery. As a counterpoint to the protestor’s signboard, Haacke dropped in text from a different Paine Webber ad campaign to show on whose backs the “risk management” is taking place – a biting indictment, the relevance of which has only increased since the recent economic downturn.
Wall text

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Jeff Wall (Canadian, born 1946)
The Storyteller
1986
Silver dye bleach transparency in light box
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Charlene and David Howe, Henry Nias Foundation Inc., Jennifer and Robert Yaffa, Harriet Ames Charitable Trust, and Gary and Sarah Wolkowitz Gifts, 2006
Image courtesy of the artist © Jeff Wall

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Wall’s staged tableaux straddle the worlds of the museum and the street. His subjects are scenes of urban and suburban disarray that he witnessed firsthand – the kinds of things anyone might see while wandering around a city and its outskirts. Working like a movie director, he restages the scene using nonprofessionals as actors and presents his photographs as color transparencies in light boxes such as those of large-scale public advertisements found at airports and bus stops. The scale and ambition of his pictures – scenes of everyday life shot through with larger intimations of political struggle – equally evoke the Salon paintings of nineteenth century French painters such as Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, which were themselves brazen combinations of canonical and contemporary subjects.

The Storyteller is set in a barren, leftover slice of land next to a highway overpass in Vancouver, where the artist lives. Various groupings of modern urban castaways – perhaps descendants of the Native Americans who occupied the land before the arrival of Europeans – are dispersed around the hillside, a mini-catalogue of art-historical reference. Like the upside-down, half-submerged figure of Icarus in the background of Brueghel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, the woman speaking and gesticulating to the two men listening at the lower left becomes the key to unifying the fractured and alienating environment from which Wall’s picture is constructed.
Wall text

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Laurie Simmons (American, born 1949)
Walking Gun
1991
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1998
© Laurie Simmons

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The early 1990s marked the last moment when a wide swath of women artists responded to the sexism they saw as pervasive in the culture – from the rape trial of William Kennedy Smith to the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Clarence Thomas. A pioneer of set-up photography, Simmons dramatically expanded the scale of her constructed tableaux for a series of spotlighted puppet-like objects perched atop doll legs: revolvers, houses, cameras, and cakes. This armed and dangerous example refers to the old-movie cliché where a man carrying a gun is shown in shadow profile. Here, Simmons offers instead the death-dealing seductress – also familiar from film noir - in monumental miniature, a doll capable of turning on its master at a moment’s notice.
Wall text

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia (American, born 1953)
Todd M. Brooks, 22 Years Old, from Denver, Colorado, $40
1991
Chromogenic print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1991
Image courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York
© Philip-Lorca diCorcia

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“The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present After the Gold Rush: Contemporary Photographs from the Collection from March 22, 2011, through January 2, 2012, in the Joyce and Robert Menschel Hall for Modern Photography. Drawn entirely from the Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition features 25 photographs dating from 1979 to the present by 15 contemporary artists.

The exhibition’s title, After the Gold Rush, is taken from a classic 1970 song by Neil Young, whose verses contrast a romanticized past with a present of squandered plenty and an uncertain future. Inspired by the recent political and economic upheavals in America and abroad, this selection juxtaposes new photographs that take the long view of the world’s current condition with prescient works from the 1980s and 1990s that remain startlingly relevant today.

This is the first occasion for the Museum to present recently acquired works by: Gretchen Bender, James Casebere, Moyra Davey, Katy Grannan, Hans Haacke, An-My Lê, Curtis Mann, Trevor Paglen, and Wolfgang Tillmans. Also featured are photographs by: Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Robert Gober, Adrian Piper, Laurie Simmons, Jeff Wall, and Christopher Williams.

After the Gold Rush begins with Hans Haacke’s Thank You, Paine Webber (1979) – the first work by this legendary provocateur of Conceptual art to enter the Metropolitan’s collection. Haacke’s biting photo-diptych is so pertinent to the recent economic downturn that it seems as if it could have been made yesterday. In this work, the artist appropriated images from the investment firm’s annual report to convey his viewpoint that big business provides a veneer of social concern to mask the brutal effects of the “risk management” they offer their clients.

Other works in After the Gold Rush use varying degrees of artifice and photographic realism to reflect on marginalized and repressed voices. Measuring over 14 feet long and presented as a backlit transparency in a light box, The Storyteller (1986) is Jeff Wall’s signature image and is typical of his method. Working from memory, the artist uses nonprofessional actors and real locations to meticulously restage a scene of urban blight that he witnessed in his native Vancouver. Wall plays this photographic verisimilitude against compositions and figural poses indebted to French painters such as Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, and Georges Seurat. A comparison of Wall’s Storyteller with Courbet’s Young Ladies of the Village (1852), on view in the Museum’s galleries for Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century European Paintings and Sculpture, reveals parallels: in both, a keenly observed moment of telling social interaction taking place on a sloping landscape. Each artist has combined a daringly modern subject with references to earlier art.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia is another key figure in the development of staged photography. In the early 1990s, the artist created a series of works in response to the political attacks on gays and federal funding of the arts in the U.S. DiCorcia hired male hustlers to pose for their portraits out on the streets – and paid them with grant money he received from the National Endowment for the Arts. At the same moment, a wide swath of women artists addressed issues of sexism and racism: examples of this politically pointed art are represented by Laurie Simmons’ Walking Gun (1991) – a spotlighted puppet of doll legs and a revolver that seems capable of turning on its master at a moment’s notice – and Adrian Pipers 1992 work Decide Who You Are #24 (A Moving Target), which includes a childhood image of Anita Hill as part of a blistering meditation in word and image on racial politics. Such works are missives from a time not so long ago when artists regularly commented on present-day politics and culture through their art. (Because of light sensitivity, this work by Adrian Piper will be on view through Sunday, September 26.)

Although the recently made photographs in After the Gold Rush seem at first glance to be less overtly political than their predecessors, they nevertheless address vital issues about contemporary society. James Casebere’s epic vision of America, Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #1, (2009), is based on a tabletop model that the artist spent 18 months building. The photograph shows a suburban subdivision of the kind recently ravaged by the foreclosure crisis, and its sunny sense of “Morning in America” comments ironically on the country’s future prospects. An-My Lê’s similarly sweeping five-part photographic piece Suez Canal Transit, USS Dwight Eisenhower, Egypt (2009) will also be featured. Lê is interested in the way in which U.S. armed forces come into contact with the rest of the world. This major new work – which seems at first to be a straightforward panorama of military might overseas – subtly undercuts the viewer’s expectations to question the current position of the U.S. on the global stage.

Trevor Paglen is a young artist whose works plot the “black world” of covert military operations, from telephoto images of predator drones taken from miles away, to software that follows planes used for the extraordinary rendition of suspected terrorists. Paglen’s 2008 photograph KEYHOLE IMPROVED CRYSTAL from Glacier Point (Optical Reconnaissance Satellite; USA 186) shows the ghostly white streak of an American reconnaissance satellite bisecting star trails above Yosemite’s Half Dome, a rock formation photographed in the 1860s by artists including Carleton Watkins. To make these and other photographs, Paglen collaborated with amateur astronomers who were originally trained by the U.S. government to look out for Soviet satellites during the Cold War, but turned their attention to American surveillance in recent years.

The final piece in After the Gold Rush is a suite of five recently acquired photographs from 2007-2009 by the celebrated photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. The grouping shifts focus from macro to micro: from expansive aerial views of Shanghai and Dubai to close ups that suggest the smallest increments of sustenance and regeneration. Taken together, they evoke the interconnectedness of all things and a grounding of the political in the personal as a way for an engaged yet expressive art.”

Press release from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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Adrian Piper (American, born 1948)
Decide Who You Are #24: A Moving Target
1992
Photo-mechanical processes on three panels
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Peter Norton Family Foundation, 1994
© Adrian Piper

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Piper is an artist and a philosophy professor who works in a variety of media, including performance, video, sound pieces, photography, drawing, and writing. She often explores issues of autobiography, racism, and stereotyping. For her 1992 series Decide Who You Are, the artist used a triptych format in which a different appropriated photograph is flanked by an image of the “three wise monkeys” maxim advocating “See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil” at left, and at right a photograph of a young girl who, though not identified, is Anita Hill – who had recently been thrust into the spotlight for accusing then-nominee for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harrassment. The verse in the left panel changes in each individual work in the series, while that on the right is unchanging – what the artist once described as “a comprehensive, textbook compendium of commonly invoked litanies of denial and intimidation, from the bland to the vaguely menacing” and “a must for novices and aspiring leaders in business, politics, and culture.”
Wall text

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Christopher Williams (American, born 1956)
3 White (DG’s Mr. Postman) Fourth Race, Phoenix Greyhound Park, Phoenix, Arizona, August 22, 1994
1994
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Charina Foundation Inc. and Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gifts, 2003
© Christopher Williams

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Robert Gober (American, born 1954)
Untitled (Detail from “1978 – 2000″)
2000
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2002
© Robert Gober

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James Casebere (American, born 1953)
Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #1
2009
Chromogenic print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2011
© James Casebere

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Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Oriental Pearl
2009
Inkjet print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2010
Image courtesy the artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
© Wolfgang Tillmans

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
T: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.*
Friday and Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.*
Sunday: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.*
Closed Monday (except Met Holiday Mondays**), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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02
Feb
11

Exhibition: ‘Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 2nd July 2010 – 3rd February 2011

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My apologies for the lack of local reviews over the next five weeks. I shall be overseas. Hopefully, international postings will continue as normal as long as I can get internet connection with my laptop. Marcus

Many thankx to The Metropolitan 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.

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Richard Long (British, born 1945)
County Cork, Ireland
1967
Gelatin silver print
76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2010 (2010.12)
© Richard Long

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Long was a key figure in recasting sculpture in two directions: inward toward the gestures of bodies in space and outward toward the creation of ephemeral works made directly in the landscape. A student of the sculptor Anthony Caro at Saint Martins College of Art, Long was well versed in the reductive quality of geometric abstraction but sought to make the form of his works even more elegantly simple and wedded to life. He would go for solitary walks in the English countryside, and at a particular place he would create elemental forms such as a line, an x shape, or a circle by walking over the ground to leave a temporary imprint. A photograph such as County Cork, Ireland – in which the shape seems to hover in the image like a flying saucer – is thus an imprint of an imprint; the form of the work is derived from the holistic relationship between the concept (idea), the action of the body (figure), and the site of his gesture (ground). It is also informed by an astute understanding of the profound links between British culture and the landscape, from prehistoric hill figures through nineteenth-century theories of the Picturesque. (Wall text from the exhibition)

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VALIE EXPORT (Austrian, born 1940)
Encirclement
1976
Gelatin silver print
40.8 x 61 cm (16 1/16 x 24 in.)
Promised Gift of Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner
© VALIE EXPORT, Courtesy Charim Gallery Vienna

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In her series Body Configurations, the artist had herself or female colleagues photographed in local streets, stairwells, and alleyways, contorting their bodies to mimic the harsh geometries of the city. Influenced not only by the Actionists but also by the human sculpture of Robert Morris, Export complicates the coolly inhuman systems of Minimalism by reintroducing the human body into abstraction, an intimate yet public gesture that effortlessly transmutes the personal into the political. (Wall text from the exhibition)

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Doug Aitken (American, born 1968)
Passenger
1997
Chromogenic print
100.5 x 122 cm (39 9/16 x 48 1/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2004 (2004.223)
© Doug Aitken

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Aitken is best known for multiscreen video installations exploring the ways in which perception and consciousness are transformed by our global, technology-driven existence. Passenger belongs to a group of still photographs made in 1997 showing planes in flight, most of which focus on the faint traceries of takeoffs and landings over desolate airport landscapes. In its emphasis on luminosity and atmosphere, this example reveals Aitken’s debt to older California artists such as James Turrell and Robert Irwin. It is also unabashedly sensual: Aitken’s high production values – reminiscent of Technicolor cinematography and glossy advertising – refer directly to the media images that unavoidably condition our responses to the world.

There is something of the sublime in Aitken’s photograph, however, in that it describes the limits of the visible while flooding the eye with color. Starting from an experience familiar to all air travelers of “two ships passing” in the ether, the artist proposes a more complex statement about the way we perceive reality – namely, that the one thing that we cannot see is ourselves seeing and thus that our understanding of the world is always partial and incomplete. (Wall text from the exhibition)

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“Themes of dislocation and displacement in contemporary photography will be explored in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s forthcoming exhibition in the Joyce and Robert Menschel Hall for Modern Photography. Drawn almost entirely from the Museum’s collection, Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography on view July 2, 2010 through February 13, 2011, will feature 22 artists whose photographic works convey a sense of a rootless or unfixed existence.

In the 1960s and 1970s, photography was often embraced by artists who had abandoned conventional art media and who were more interested in creating a work of art that took place over a period of time, in a serial progression, or in a fleeting gesture. The individual painting or sculpture was deemed insufficient to represent the fragmented experience that characterizes the modern world; thus artists showed how a work of art could take the form of a walk (Richard Long), a 20-foot-long book (Ed Ruscha), or a series of postcards outlining the precise time that the artist got up each day (On Kawara). Since the 1980s, however, the more conventional practice of creating a carefully executed, singular photograph has regained prominence in contemporary art. Works by Rineke Dijkstra, Thomas Struth, and Weng Fen embody a belief in photography’s traditional powers of description, while reflecting feelings of dislocation in our newly global society.

The exhibition also will include works by: Vito Acconci, Doug Aitken, Darren Almond, Lothar Baumgarten, Matthew Buckingham, VALIE EXPORT, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Svetlana Kopystiansky, Bruce Nauman, Dennis Oppenheim, Allen Ruppersberg, Fazal Sheikh, Erin Shirreff, Robert Smithson, Anne Turyn, and Jeff Wall.

The first half of the exhibition shows how artists in 1960s and 1970s, working in the context of Minimal and Conceptual art, were drawn to photography for its differences from traditional art media: it was low-tech, easily reproducible, and not considered a valuable art object. Photography was also enlisted to document ephemeral works of art. Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci, for instance, created performances that focused on the actions and movements of their bodies in space, and captured these works in photographs and videos.

Other artists, such as Robert Smithson, chose to work directly in the landscape – often in distant or inaccessible locations – and their “Earthworks” could generally be seen only through photographs. Smithson is best known for his landmark Spiral Jetty (1970) in the Great Salt Lake, Utah. For an early experiment in his Mirror Displacements series of photographs, Smithson placed small mirrors into snow drifts on the roof of his apartment building. Through dizzying shifts in scale, the artist’s 1969 study transforms a corner of his Manhattan roof into an Alpine landscape.

A student of Anthony Caro, British artist Richard Long was well versed in the reductive quality of geometric abstraction, but sought to make his works even more simple and wedded to life. He would go for solitary walks in the countryside, and at a particular place he would create elemental forms such as a line, X, or circle by walking over the ground to leave a temporary imprint. Long’s photograph County Cork, Ireland (1967) – in which a circle seems to hover over the grass like a flying saucer – is thus an imprint of an imprint, creating a holistic relationship between the concept, the action of the body, and the site of his gesture.

For her series Body Configurations, the Austrian artist VALIE EXPORT had herself and female colleagues photographed in local streets, as they contorted their bodies to mimic the harsh geometries of the city. Encirclement (1976) shows a woman lying in the street, her body elongated and arched to follow the bright red curve the sidewalk. The photograph reintroduces the human body into abstraction in an intimate yet public gesture.

Beginning in the 1980s, there was a renewed interest in photography’s historical genres and recommitment to technical skill and visual fidelity, as seen in Rineke Dijkstra’s portraits. Geopolitical displacement and cultural migration are referenced in one of Dijkstra’s most important bodies of work to date: her photographs of a Bosnian refugee girl, Almerisa. Between Here and There will feature four portraits of Almerisa that Dijkstra made between 1994 and 2000, beginning at an asylum seekers’ center in the Netherlands. Eight photographs from this series of 11 works were acquired recently by the Museum.

In both photographs and films, Doug Aitken explores the ways in which perception is transformed by our global, technology-driven existence. Aitken’s photograph Passenger (1997), taken from the window of an airplane in flight, shows another plane flying in parallel in the remote distance, illuminated by the sun setting on a slanted horizon. Aitken references sensations of being adrift in mid-air and of “two ships passing” – paths that do not quite connect, despite their proximity to each other.

Chinese artist Weng Fen explores a young generation poised at a transitional moment between China’s traditional rural society and a quickly burgeoning urbanism. Bird’s Eye View: Haikou V (2002) shows a woman – perhaps an outsider or a new arrival to the city – perched on an old wall, looking toward the new skyscrapers on the horizon, but not fully occupying the space of the past or the future. This work is part of a group of recent gifts and promised gifts of contemporary Chinese photographs to the Museum.

The exhibition comes full circle with a recently acquired video by Erin Shirreff. Roden Crater (2009) takes as its subject artist James Turrell’s legendarily inaccessible and still unfinished celestial observatory carved out of a 400,000-year-old extinct volcano. Shirreff’s mesmerizing fixed-camera view of the distant “Earthwork” shows an improbable succession of slow-moving climactic and light effects on the crater, creating a haunting meditation on the never-ending quest for resolution in life and in art.

Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography is organized by Douglas Eklund, Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs.”

Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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Jeff Wall (Canadian, born 1946)
Rainfilled Suitcase
2001
Transparency in light box
Collection of Jennifer Saul and Stephen Rich, New York
© Jeff Wall

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Wall’s tableaux straddle the worlds of the museum and the street. For the last three decades, the artist has created elaborately staged and meticulously rendered scenes of urban and suburban conflict and disorder that he witnessed firsthand, which were then shown as color transparencies in light boxes reminiscent of backlit advertising images seen in airports and bus stops. About 2000, Wall also began to make smaller, more elliptical photographs – isolating the kinds of details that previously would have been seen in the background of his larger, more programmatic pictures. This grimy half of an abandoned suitcase filled with old clothes and rain seems paradoxically to be both as obsessively arranged as a still life and as randomly disordered as the average flotsam and jetsam on any down-and-out street corner. (Wall text from the exhibition)

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Matthew Buckingham (American, born 1963)
Canal St. Canal No. 3
2002
Chromogenic prints
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and
Robert Menschel, 2010
© Matthew Buckingham

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This is the maquette for a postcard that the artist created for the group show “Nostalgia.” The postcard was sold in the shops along Canal Street accompanied by the following text beneath the image:

ABOVE: a section of Canal Street as it might look today if a 1791 proposal to build a “Venetian-style” canal connecting the Hudson and East Rivers across Lower Manhattan had been realized. The canal and an accompanying commercial harbor were meant to replace both a small stream which ran along present-day Canal Street, and the so-called Fresh Water or Collect Pond, a befouled 70-acre swamp that one New York newspaper of the day called a “shocking hole.” Instead, real-estate interests prevailed, and the stream was widened only enough to drain the pool so it could be filled in and developed. Many basements of new buildings on the landfill soon flooded, so the stream was further enlarged to increase drainage – making it, in effect, an open sewer. After much complaint about odor, and despite efforts to beautify the waterway with a tree-lined promenade, it was covered over in 1819. Flaws in this re-design kept Canal Street smelling foul for years. It is rumored that the natural spring which once fed the Fresh Water Pond still flows deep below Canal Street today.* (Wall text from the exhibition)

*Luc Sante defines nostalgia as a state of inarticulate contempt for the present combined with a fear of the future.

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Weng Fen (Chinese, born 1961)
Bird’s Eye View: Haikou V
2002
Chromogenic print
50 x 62.7 cm (19 11/16 x 24 11/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Ellie Warsh, 2009 (2009.539.4)
© Weng Fen

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Weng Fen belongs to a generation of Chinese photographers whose principal subject is a China in the throes of physical, social, economic, and political change. His Bird’s Eye View series focuses on the elevated urbanism of cities such as Haikou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Many of these photographs feature schoolgirls with their backs to the camera, perched on a wall or precipice, staring at the landscape – adolescent figures on the threshold of personal transition looking out onto a landscape and a culture at a similarly transformational moment. (Wall text from the exhibition)

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Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, born 1959)
Almerisa, Asylum Seekers’ Center, Leiden, The Netherlands, March 14, 1994
1994
Chromogenic print
120 x 100 cm (47 1/4 x 39 3/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Ellen Kern, 2008 (2008.661.1)
© Rineke Dijkstra

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Dijkstra is best known for her portraits of teenage beachgoers in Poland, Croatia, the Ukraine, Belgium, England, and America, which convey the poignant intensity of adolescence with startling eloquence. In all her work, she is particularly drawn to subjects in a state of transition – blood-spattered matadors just minutes after bullfights, women cradling their newborns moments after delivery – and renders them with respect, attentiveness, and compassion.

Between 1994 and 2008 Dijkstra made eleven photographs of a Bosnian refugee girl named Almerisa, from her initial processing at an asylum seekers’ center in the Netherlands to her fully Westernized adulthood and motherhood. Here, the imprint of geopolitical displacement is rendered without cant and that of childhood is captured without nostalgia. Like all great portraitists, Dijkstra extracts an elemental, almost mythic quality from the irreducible individuality of her subject – of the eternal radiating from the everyday. This selection is from a recent gift to the Metropolitan of eight of the eleven portraits of Almerisa.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
Information: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Tuesday–Thursday: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.*
Friday and Saturday: 9:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.*
Sunday: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.*
Closed Monday (except Met Holiday Mondays**), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

The Metropolitan Museum of Art 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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