Posts Tagged ‘László Moholy-Nagy

26
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Knud Lonberg-Holm: The Invisible Architect’ at Ubu Gallery, New York Part 1

Exhibition dates: 6th May – 30th September 2014

 

I am so excited by this monster two-part posting about the work of architect Knud Lonberg-Holm. Not only are his drawings and models incredible but his photographs of industry and skyscrapers, taken mainly between 1924-26, are a revelation. The textures and inky blackness of his Dazzlescapes and the New Photography images of skyscrapers (both in Part 2) mark these images as the greatest collection of photographs of skyscrapers that I have ever seen. More comment tomorrow but for now just look at the dark Gotham-esque photograph The New – The Coming, Detroit, Streetcars (1924, below). The streetcar reminds me of the armoured trains so popular during the inter-war years and during World War II. And what a title: The New – The Coming…

Marcus

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

 

 

“Lonberg-Holm was the first architect in my knowledge ever to talk about the ultimately invisible architecture. In 1929, when I first met him, he said the greatest architect in history would be the one who finally developed the capability to give humanity completely effective environmental control without any visible structure and machinery.”

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Buckminster Fuller

 

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'The New - The Coming, Detroit, Streetcars' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
The New – The Coming, Detroit, Streetcars
1924
Reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 73
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches (8.3 x 10.8 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'View from the roof' Detroit, 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
View from the roof
Detroit, 1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
2 3/4 x 4 1/2 inches (7 x 11.4 cm) approx.
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit
1924
reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 71 (top)
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 3/8 x 4 3/8 inches (8.6 x 11.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Detroit, A New Street' 1924

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Detroit, A New Street
1924
reproduced in Erich Mendelsohn’s Amerika, p. 71 (bottom)
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 3/8 x 4 3/8 inches (8.6 x 11.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

“Ubu Gallery is pleased to present Knud Lonberg-Holm: The Invisible Architect, a debut exhibition devoted to this overlooked, yet highly influential, 20th Century modernist. Never-before-seen photographs, architectural drawings, letters, graphic design, and ephemera from Lonberg-Holm’s remarkably diverse career will be on view through August 1, 2014. The exhibition, which consists of selections from the extensive archive assembled by architectural historian Marc Dessauce, will solidify the importance of this emblematic figure in early 20th Century cultural and architectural history. Metropolis Magazine, the national publication of architecture and design, will publish an article on Knud Lonberg-Holm to coincide with this groundbreaking exhibition.

Born in Denmark, Knud Lonberg-Holm (January 15, 1895 – January 2, 1972), was an architect, photographer, author, designer, researcher, and teacher. Lonberg-Holm’s early work in Denmark and Germany initially associated him with the Berlin Constructivist and Dutch De Stijl groups. An émigré to America in 1923, Lonberg-Holm was a fundamental correspondent with prominent European architects and their modernist counterparts in the U.S. The exhibition will feature a selection of letters to Lonberg-Holm from a pantheon of the European avant-garde including László Moholy-Nagy, Walter Gropius, Theo Van Doesburg, Buckminster Fuller, Hannes Meyer, J.J.P. Oud, El Lissitzky, and Richard Neutra.

From 1924–1925, Lonberg-Holm was a colleague of Eliel Saarinen at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he taught a course in basic design modeled on the famed Bauhaus Vorkurs, the first-ever introduced in U.S. design schools. An agent of inter-continental communication, his reports on the state of American architecture appeared abroad. Lonberg-Holm’s 1928 article, Amerika: Reflections, featured buildings on the University of Michigan campus and appeared in the Dutch avant-garde publication i10, which employed Moholy-Nagy as its photo editor. The article not only contributed to international discourse on the building industry, but also touched on the “time-space convention,” a subject Lonberg-Holm would explore throughout his career. This publication, among others, will be on display.

Lonberg-Holm’s interest in American industry is best viewed in his collection of photographs taken between 1924-1926. These works document his pioneering views of industry and technology in burgeoning, jazz-age New York, Detroit, and Chicago; they would appear later, un-credited, in Erich Mendelsohn’s seminal 1926 publication Amerika, the first book on the ‘International Style’ in American architecture. Thirteen vintage photographs reproduced in Amerika will be on exhibit, as well as additional early photographs depicting technological advancements, such as cable cars and radio antennae, American culture in mass crowds and billboards, and the commercial architecture of skyscrapers and factories. Backside-views of buildings and fire escapes, rather than historicist ornamental facades, are presented in their “unselfconscious beauty” in opposition to traditional, pictorialist architectural photography. The content of the works coupled with progressive view points, like worm’s eye perspectives and extreme close-ups, align them squarely within the then emerging ‘New Photography.’ El Lissitzky wrote that the dynamic photos “grip us like a dramatic film.”1 Mendelsohn’s publication, featuring Lonberg-Holm’s dynamic photography, received immediate acclaim, domestically and abroad.

While still in Germany, Lonberg-Holm created a submission for the Chicago Tribune Tower competition of 1922. Although never officially submitted, the project was published widely in magazines and newspapers, alongside other prominent architects’ designs. From his office in the historically designed Donner Schloss in Altona, Germany, Lonberg-Holm envisioned a modern construction for Chicago that incorporated references to American mass culture, specifically the automobile. The West elevations on view show the Chicago Tribune sign, which includes circular signage reminiscent of headlights. The Side elevation exhibited clearly demonstrates how the printing plant function of the ground floors of the building, rendered in black, are visually distinct from the offices of the higher floors, rendered in white with black accents for visual continuity throughout the building. Lonberg- Holm’s proposed construction, whose outward visual design distinguished its internal functions, was reproduced in L’Architecture vivante, La Cite, Le Courbusier’s Almanach d’architecture in France and Walter Gropius’ Internationale Architektur in Munich; the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung displayed his building next to that of Mies van der Rohe and a full spread devoted to the skyscraper, featuring Lonberg-Holm’s Chicago design adjacent to plans by Walter Gropius, Saarinen and van der Rohe, appeared in H. Th. Wijdeveld’s November/December 1923 issue of the innovative publication Wendingen.

The drawings Lonberg-Holm created during this first decade as an émigré are striking for their early use of European modernist, particularly Neo-plastic, influences. He was close with the DeStijl movement in Holland, and corresponded with both Theo van Doesburg and J.J.P. Oud, with whom he would continue to work within CIAM, the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Modern. Early renderings done by Lonberg-Holm in the U.S. demonstrate an affinity for DeStijl principles. His plans for the 1926 MacBride residence in Ann Arbor are dynamic and asymmetrical, with intersecting planes in simple primary colors. Surely the first American allusion to Gerrit Rietvel’s iconic 1924 Schröder House in Utrecht, Holland, the MacBride residence is one of the first ‘International Style’ modernist houses designed in the Western hemisphere.

Lonberg-Holm’s importance to and knowledge of European architectural trends resulted in an invitation by Jane Heap to participate in the 1927 landmark New York exhibition, Machine Age, which was heralded as “the first international exposition of architecture held in America.” This exhibition, held at the New York Scientific American Building, May 16-28, stressed the new mechanical world and its key player, the Engineer. Lonberg-Holm’s 1925 Detroit project, Radio Broadcasting Station, was featured. The New York’s review of the exhibition explicitly referenced Lonberg-Holm’s project, noting its “delicacy and exquisite technique of execution.”

Lonberg-Holm worked with the F.W. Dodge corporation for 30 years, first in the division responsible for The Architectural Record (1930-1932), and then as head of the research department of Sweet’s Catalog Service (1932-1960.) At The Architectural Record, Lonberg-Holm acted as research editor and wrote technical news, a precursor to his lifelong interest in data-driven analytics. During his New York based employment, Lonberg-Holm’s involvement with international architectural trends did not diminish. In addition to prolonged correspondence with the various directors of the Bauhaus, including Hannes Meyer, he and his wife Ethel would visit the Bauhaus at Dessau in 1931. In 1946, Lonberg-Holm was also ultimately a candidate to replace Moholy-Nagy as director of the Institute of Design in Chicago.

At the same time, Lonberg-Holm was involved in domestic architecture and building theory. Richard Neutra would reach out to Lonberg-Holm in 1928 for illustrations and photographs to include in his account of the modern architecture movement in the US; he would approach him again in 1932 to lecture on the West Coast. Lonberg-Holm and Neutra were the “American” representatives to CIAM. It was Lonberg-Holm who nominated Buckminster Fuller and Theodore Larson for membership into CIAM in 1932.

What little scholarship exists about Knud Lonberg-Holm briefly examines his nearly twenty-year relationship with the Czech pioneering graphic designer Ladislav Sutnar, with whom Lonberg-Holm worked at Sweet’s Catalog Service. From 1942 through 1960 at the research department of Sweet’s, the bible for all the building trades, Lonberg-Holm and Sutnar revolutionized the catalog by standardizing information techniques. They presented systemized communication through a simple, modern, and intelligible visual language that influenced all areas of architectural and graphic design. Together, Lonberg-Holm and Sutnar co-authored Catalog Design (1944), Designing Information (1947), and Catalog Design Progress (1950).

The vital roles and communication between city planning, architecture, and civil productivity where important to Lonberg-Holm and would be explored throughout his career. In A. Lawerence Kocher’s letter to Lonberg-Holm, the article “Architecture-or organized space” is referenced. This 1929 essay, published in Detroit, addressed the “building problem” in the US – the “an-organic structure of its cities” – and proposed “a new conception of city-planning based on a clearer understanding of the organic functions of a community.” Lonberg-Holm would be an important participant in the city planning survey of Detroit, one of CIAM’s analytical initiatives in 1932-1933. Field Patterns and Fields of Activity, a visual diagram further illustrating the interconnectivity of intelligence, welfare, production, and control in a community, graphically illustrates these early principles.

Collaboration was critical to Lonberg-Holm, who would work with Theodore Larson to improve information indexing and the production cycle. Field Patterns, as well as the visuals for Planning for Productivity (1940), were components of Lonberg-Holm’s collaboration with Theodore Larson. Lonberg-Holm sought to apply some of the theories set forth in Development Index. This collaborative project with Larson was published by the University of Michigan in 1953 and focused on the relationship between community, industry, and education, analytical theories that were proposed by Lonberg-Holm during the formation of the University’s Laboratory of Architectural Research. Lonberg-Holm’s 1949 visual diagram of the relationship between the university, the building industry, and the community, is on view, as well as the Sutnar-designed steps of Planning for Productivity. Lonberg-Holm had returned to the University as a guest lecturer and professor in the late 1940s and early 1950s. At the suggestion of Lonberg-Holm, Theordore Larson was among the new faculty hired at the University in 1948, along with Walter Sanders and William Muschenheim, whom Lonberg-Holm had worked with in the Detroit survey.

In 1949, Lonberg-Holm was issued a Dymaxion License and became a trustee to the Fuller Institute/Research Foundation; among the trustees are his contemporaries George Nelson and Charles Eames. Initially meeting Buckminster Fuller in c. 1929, he and Fuller would correspond throughout Lonberg-Holm’s life. Lonberg-Holm was a member of the Structural Studies Associates (SSA), a short-lived group of architects in the 1930s surrounding Fuller and his briefly published architectural magazine Shelter. A number of Shelter issues are on view, many of which have contributions by Lonberg-Holm; the cover of the May 1932 issue was designed by Lonberg-Holm. Planning for Productivity and Development Index were later data-driven projects that furthered the SSA’s and Fuller’s principles – that the evolution of science and technology would influence social progress and could be beneficial to the community only through research, analysis and macroapplication.

Arriving to the US a decade before his European contemporaries, Lonberg-Holm occupied a unique position as a cultural bridge, communicating between the US and Europe in a period when the state of art and architecture was radically changing. He exposed his students and colleagues to European protagonists of avant-garde architecture theory while enthusiastically exploring American industry and building. Exclusively through collaboration, Lonberg-Holm worked to modernize both architecture and design. Integral to Lonberg-Holm’s principles was that technology alone could not suffice as the sole perpetuator of architecture – advancements in building and new designs needed to promote human culture in an ever-evolving manner where new information was continuously integrated into design theory. Throughout his career, Lonberg-Holm embodied the antithesis of the stereotype architect, egocentric and insulated from the community in which his designs were to exist. From his beginnings at The Architectural Record to his final project, Plan for Europe 2000: Role of the Mass Media in Information and Communication, Lonberg-Holm held to the belief that a collective approach, with applied research, could form a generative knowledge base that could be cultivated for altruistic means.”

Text from the Ubu Gallery website

1. Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present, London, Seeker & Warburg, 1982, p. 1.

 

'Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm' New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)

 

Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm
New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)
Vintage gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 10 inches (17.5 x 25.4 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

'Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm' New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)

 

Portrait of Knud Lonberg-Holm
New York, 1950s (prior to 1960)
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 7/8 x 9 1/2 inches (20 x 24.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Le Corbusier at CIAM Conference' c. 1954-1964

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Le Corbusier at CIAM Conference
c. 1954-1964
Vintage gelatin silver print
5 5/8 x 8 3/8 inches (14.3 x 21.3 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Buckminster Fuller, Lonberg-Holm and other' Bayside, New York Nd

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Buckminster Fuller, Lonberg-Holm and other
Bayside, New York
Nd
Vintage gelatin silver print
3 x 4 1/4 inches (7.6 x 10.8 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of the Dymaxion Car' Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of the Dymaxion Car
Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 9 3/4 inches (19.4 x 24.8 cm)
Stamped on verso
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

In July of 1933, the Dymaxion car was introduced in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where it caused a great stir. Lonberg-Holm can be seen holding the car door open while the artist Diego Rivera (who was in attendance with his wife and artist Frida Kahlo) looks on, coat on his arm.
Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo' Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
Bridgeport, Connecticut, July 21, 1933
Vintage gelatin silver print
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Radio Broadcasting Station' Photograph of Model Detroit, 1925

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Radio Broadcasting Station
Photograph of Model
Detroit, 1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
4 7/8 x 6 7/8 inches (12.4 x 17.5 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Radio Broadcasting Station' Photograph of Model Detroit, 1925

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Radio Broadcasting Station

Photograph of Model
Detroit, 1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
5 3/8 x 7 1/2 inches (13.7 x 19.1 cm)
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm. 'Photograph of Chicago's new skyline North of Randolph Street All new since 1926 except Wrigley and Tribune buildings' May 1929

 

Knud Lonberg-Holm
Photograph of Chicago’s new skyline
North of Randolph Street
All new since 1926 except Wrigley and Tribune buildings
May 1929
Vintage gelatin silver print
2 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches (5.7 x 11.4 cm)
Titled on verso
The Knud Lonberg-Holm Archive from the Marc Dessauce Collection; Courtesy Ubu Gallery, New York

 

 

Ubu Gallery
416 East 59th Street
New York 10022
Tel: 212 753 4444

Opening hour:
Monday – Friday 11 am - 6 pm

Ubu Gallery website

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21
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 18th April 2012 – 29th April 2013

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Another fascinating exhibition and a bumper posting to boot (pardon the pun!)

A panoply of famous photographers along with a few I had never heard of before (such as Georges Hugnet) are represented in this posting. As the press blurb states, through “key photographic projects, experimental films, and photobooks, ‘The Shaping of New Visions’ offers a critical reassessment of photography’s role in the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements, and in the development of contemporary artistic practices.”

The large exhibition seems to have a finger in every pie, wandering from the birth of the 20th-century modern metropolis, through “New Vision” photography in the 1920s, experimental film, Surrealism, Constructivism and New Objectivity, Dada, Rayographs, photographic avant-gardism, photocollages, photomontages, street photography of the  1960s, colour slide projection performance, through New Topographics, self-published books, and conceptual photography, featuring works that reevaluate the material and contextual definitions of photography. “The final gallery showcases major installations by a younger generation of artists whose works address photography’s role in the construction of contemporary history.”

Without actually going to New York to see the exhibition (I wish!!) – from a distance it does seem a lot of ground to cover within 5 galleries even if there are 250 works. You could say this is a “meta” exhibition, drawing together themes and experiments from different areas of photography with rather a long bow. Have a look at the The Shaping of New Visions exhibition checklist to see the full listing of what’s on show and you be the judge. There are some rare and beautiful images that’s for sure. From the photographs in this posting I would have to say the distorted “eyes” have it…

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

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László Moholy-Nagy
Ein Lichtspiel: schwarz weiss grau (A Lightplay: Black White Gray) (excerpt)
1930

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This short film made by László Moholy-Nagy is based on the shadow patterns created by his Light-Space Modulator, an early kinetic sculpture consisting of a variety of curved objects in a carefully choreographed cycle of movements. Created in 1930, the film was originally planned as the sixth and final part of a much longer work depicting the new space-time.

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Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler
Manhatta
1921
Film
Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

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In 1920 Paul Strand and artist Charles Sheeler collaborated on Manhatta, a short silent film that presents a day in the life of lower Manhattan. Inspired by Walt Whitman’s book Leaves of Grass, the film includes multiple segments that express the character of New York. The sequences display a similar approach to the still photography of both artists. Attracted by the cityscape and its visual design, Strand and Sheeler favored extreme camera angles to capture New York’s dynamic qualities. Although influenced by Romanticism in its view of the urban environment, Manhatta is considered the first American avant-garde film.

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Dziga Vertov
Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera)
1929
Film
1 hr 6 mins 49 secs

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Excerpt from a camera operators diary
ATTENTION VIEWERS:
This film is an experiment in cinematic communication of real events
Without the help of Intertitles
Without the help of a story
Without the help of theatre
This experimental work aims at creating a truly international language of cinema based on its absolute separation from the language of theatre and literature

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Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

Eleanor Antin. '100 Boots' 1971 - 1973

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Eleanor Antin
100 Boots
1971 – 1973
Photographed by Philip Steinmetz
Halftone reproductions on 51 cards
4 ½ x 7 in. each
Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
© Eleanor Antin

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Josef Albers. 'Marli Heimann, Alle während 1 Stunde (Marli Heimann, All During an Hour)' 1931

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Josef Albers
Marli Heimann, Alle während 1 Stunde (Marli Heimann, All During an Hour)
1931
Twelve gelatin silver prints
Overall 11 11/16 x 16 7/16″ (29.7 x 41.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Josef Albers Foundation, Inc.
© 2012 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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August Sander. 'Das rechte Auge meiner Tochter Sigrid (The Right Eye of My Daughter Sigrid)' 1928

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August Sander
Das rechte Auge meiner Tochter Sigrid (The Right Eye of My Daughter Sigrid)
1928
Gelatin silver print
7 1/16 x 9″ (17.9 x 22.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Dziga Vertov. 'Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera)' (still) 1929

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Dziga Vertov
Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera) (still)
1929
35mm film
65 min ( black and white, silent)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Department of Film

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Man Ray. 'Rayograph' 1922

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Man Ray
Rayograph
1922
Gelatin silver print (photogram)
9 3/8 x 11 3/4″ (23.9 x 29.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Thrall Soby
© 2012 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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William Klein (American, born 1928) 'Gun, Gun, Gun, New York'  1955

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William Klein (American, born 1928)
Gun, Gun, Gun, New York 
1955
Gelatin silver print
10 1/4 x 13 5/8″ (26 x 34.6 cm)
Gift of Arthur and Marilyn Penn

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Georges Hugnet (French, 1906-1974) 'Untitled [Surrealist beach collage]' c. 1935

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Georges Hugnet (French, 1906-1974)
Untitled [Surrealist beach collage]
c. 1935
Collage of photogravure, lithograph, chromolithograph and gelatin silver prints on gelatin silver print
11 7/8 x 9 7/16″ (30.2 x 24 cm)
Gift of Timothy Baum in memory of Harry H. Lunn, Jr.

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Martha-Rosler-Red-Stripe-Kitchen-from-the-series-House-Beautiful-Bringing-the-War-Home-1967-1972

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Martha Rosler
Red Stripe Kitchen
1967-1972
From the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful 
Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2011
23 3/4 x 18 1/8″ (60.3 x 46 cm)
Purchase and The Modern Women’s Fund

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“The Museum of Modern Art draws from its collection to present the exhibition The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook on view from April 18, 2012, to April 29, 2013. Filling the third-floor Edward Steichen Photography Galleries, this installation presents more than 250 works by approximately 90 artists, with a focus on new acquisitions and groundbreaking projects by Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Germaine Krull, Dziga Vertov, Gerhard Rühm, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, Daido Moriyama, Robert Heinecken, Edward Ruscha, Martha Rosler, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Paul Graham, and The Atlas Group/Walid Raad. The exhibition is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Punctuated by key photographic projects, experimental films, and photobooks, The Shaping of New Visions offers a critical reassessment of photography’s role in the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements, and in the development of contemporary artistic practices. The shaping of what came to be known as “new vision” photography in the 1920s bore the obvious influence of “lens-based” and “time-based” works. The first gallery begins with photographs capturing the birth of the 20th-century modern metropolis by Berenice Abbott, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz, presented next to the avant-garde film Manhatta (1921), a collaboration between Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler.

The 1920s were a period of landmark constructions and scientific discoveries all related to light – from Thomas Edison’s development of incandescent light to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and light speed. Man Ray began experimenting with photograms (pictures made by exposing objects placed on photosensitive paper to light) – which he renamed “rayographs” after himself – in which light was both the subject and medium of his work. This exhibition presents Man Ray’s most exquisite rayographs, alongside his first short experimental film, Le Retour à la raison (Return to Reason, 1923), in which he extended the technique to moving images.

In 1925, two years after he joined the faculty of the Bauhaus school in Weimar Germany, László Moholy-Nagy published his influential book Malerei, Fotografie, Film (Painting, Photography, Film) – part of a series that he coedited with Bauhaus director Walter Gropius – in which he asserted that photography and cinema are heralding a “culture of light” that has overtaken the most innovative aspects of painting. Moholy-Nagy extolled photography and, by extension, film as the quintessential medium of the future. Moholy-Nagy’s interest in the movement of objects and light through space led him to construct Light-Space Modulator, the subject of his only abstract film, Ein Lichtspiel: schwarz weiss grau (A Lightplay: Black White Gray, 1930), which is presented in the exhibition next to his own photographs and those of Florence Henri.

The rise of photographic avant-gardism from the 1920s to the 1940s is traced in the second gallery primarily through the work of European artists. A section on Constructivism and New Objectivity features works by Paul Citroën, Raoul Hausmann, Florence Henri, Germaine Krull, El Lissitzky, Albert Renger-Patzsch, and August Sander. A special focus on Aleksandr Rodchenko underscores his engagement with the illustrated press through collaborations with Vladimir Mayakovsky and Sergei Tretyakov on the covers and layouts of Novyi LEF, the Soviet avant-garde journal of the “Left Front of the Arts,” which popularized the idea of “factography,” or the manufacture of innovative aesthetic facts through photomechanical processes. Alongside Rodchenko, film director Dziga Vertov redefined the medium of still and motion-picture photography with the concept of kino-glaz (cine-eye), according to which the perfectible lens of the camera led to the creation of a novel perception of the world. The exhibition features the final clip of Vertov’s 1929 experimental film Chelovek s kinoapparatom (Man with a Movie Camera), in which the eye is superimposed on the camera lens to form an indivisible apparatus fit to view, process, and convey reality, all at once. This gallery also features a selection of Dada and Surrealist works, including rarely seen photographs, photocollages, and photomontages by Hans Bellmer, Claude Cahun, George Hugnet, André Kertész, Jan Lukas, and Grete Stern, alongside such avant-garde publications as Documents and Littérature.

The third gallery features artists exploring the social world of the postwar period. On view for the first time is a group of erotic and political typo-collages by Gerhard Rühm, a founder of the Wiener Gruppe (1959-60), an informal group of Vienna-based writers and artists who engaged in radical visual dialogues between pictures and texts. The rebels of street photography – Robert Frank, William Klein, Daido Moriyama, and Garry Winogrand – are represented with a selection of works that refute the then prevailing rules of photography, offering instead elliptical, off-kilter styles that are as personal and controversial as are their unsparing views of postwar society. A highlight of this section is the pioneering slide show Projects: Helen Levitt in Color (1971-74). Capturing the lively beat, humor, and drama of New York’s street theater, Levitt’s slide projection is shown for the first time at MoMA since its original presentation at the Museum in 1974.

Photography’s tradition in the postwar period continues in the fourth gallery, which is divided into two sections. One section features “new topographic” works by Robert Adams, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Stephen Shore, and Joel Sternfeld, along with a selection of Edward Ruscha’s self-published books, in which the use of photography as mapmaking signals a conceptual thrust. This section introduces notable works from the 1970s by artists who embraced photography not just as a way of describing experience, but as a conceptual tool. Examples include Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots (1971-73), Mel Bochner’s Misunderstandings (A theory of photography) (1970), VALIE EXPORT’s Einkreisung (Encirclement) (1976), On Kawara’s I Got Up… (1977), and Gordon Matta-Clark’s Splitting (1974), all works that reevaluate the material and contextual definitions of photography. The other section features two major and highly experimental recent acquisitions: Martha Rosler’s political magnum opus Bringing the War Home (1967-72), developed in the context of her anti-war and feminist activism, for which the artist spliced together images of domestic bliss clipped from the pages of House Beautiful with grim pictures of the war in Vietnam taken from Life magazine; and Sigmar Polke’s early 1970s experiments with multiple exposures, reversed tonal values, and under-and-over exposures, which underscore the artist’s idea that “a negative is never finished.” The unmistakably cinematic turn that photography takes in the 1980s and early 1990s is represented with a selection of innovative works ranging from Robert Heinecken’s Recto/Verso (1988) to Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s breakthrough Hustler series (1990-92).

The final gallery showcases major installations by a younger generation of artists whose works address photography’s role in the construction of contemporary history. Tapping into forms of archival reconstitution, The Atlas Group/Walid Raad is represented with My Neck Is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines (1996-2004), an installation of 100 pictures of car-bomb blasts in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) that provokes questions about the factual nature of existing records, the traces of war, and the symptoms of trauma. A selection from Harrell Fletcher’s The American War (2005) brings together bootlegged photojournalistic pictures of the U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia, throwing into sharp focus photography’s role as a documentary and propagandistic medium in the shaping of historical memory. Jules Spinatsch’s Panorama: World Economic Forum, Davos (2003), made of thousands of still images and three surveillance video works, chronicles the preparations for the 2003 World Economic Forum, when the entire Davos valley was temporarily transformed into a high security zone. A selection of Paul Graham’s photographs from his major photobook project a shimmer of possibility (2007), consisting of filmic haikus about everyday life in today’s America, concludes the exhibition.”

Press release from the MOMA website
Online slideshow of images

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On Kawara. 'I Got Up At...' 1974-75

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On Kawara
I Got Up At…
1974-75
(Ninety postcards with printed rubber stamps)
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The semi autobiographical I Got Up At… by On Kawara is a series of postcards sent to John Baldessari. Each card was sent from his location that morning detailing the time he got up. The time marked on each card varies drastically from day to day, the time stamped on each card is the time he left his bed as opposed to actually waking up. Kawara’s work often acts to document his existence in time, giving a material form to which is formally immaterial. The series has been repeated frequently sending the cards to a variety of friends and colleagues.

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Marilyn; 28 Years Old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30' 1990-92

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Marilyn; 28 Years Old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30
1990-92
Chromogenic color print
24 x 35 15/16″ (61 x 91.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. E.T. Harmax Foundation Fund
© 2012 Philip-Lorca diCorcia, courtesy David Zwirner, New York

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Helen Levitt. 'Projects: Helen Levitt in Color' (detail) 1971-74

Helen Levitt. 'Projects: Helen Levitt in Color' (detail) 1971-74

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Helen Levitt
Projects: Helen Levitt in Color (detail)
1971-74
40 color slides shown in continuous projection
Originally presented at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 26-October 20, 1974

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Atlas Group, Walid Raad. 'My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines' (detail) 1996-2004

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Atlas Group, Walid Raad
My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair: Engines (detail)
1996-2004
100 pigmented inkjet prints
9 7/16 x 13 3/8″ (24 x 34 cm) each
Fund for the Twenty-First Century

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Daido Moriyama. 'Entertainer on Stage, Shimizu' 1967

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Daido Moriyama
Entertainer on Stage, Shimizu
1967
Gelatin silver print
18 7/8 x 28″ (48.0 x 71.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2012 Daido Moriyama

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VALIE EXPORT. 'Einkreisung (Encirclement)' 1976

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VALIE EXPORT
Einkreisung (Encirclement)
1976
From the series Körperkonfigurationen (Body Configurations)
Gelatin silver print with red ink
14 x 23 7/16″ (35.5 x 59.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Carl Jacobs Fund
© 2012 VALIE EXPORT / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VBK, Austria

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Grete Stern. No. 1 from the series Sueños (Dreams) 1949

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Grete Stern
No. 1 from the series Sueños (Dreams)
1949
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 9″ (26.6 x 22.9 cm)
Latin American and Caribbean Fund through gift of Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis in honor of Adriana Cisneros de Griffin
© 2012 Horacio Coppola

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Sigmar Polke. 'Untitled (Mariette Althaus)' c. 1975

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Sigmar Polke
Untitled (Mariette Althaus)
c. 1975
Gelatin silver print (red toned)
9 1/4 x 11 13/16″ (23.5 x 30 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Edgar Wachenheim III and Ronald S. Lauder
© 2012 Estate of Sigmar Polke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany

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Martha Rosler. 'Hands Up / Makeup' 1967-1972

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Martha Rosler
Hands Up / Makeup
1967-1972
From the series Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful
Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2011
23 3/4 x 13 15/16″ (60.4 x 35.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and The Modern Women’s Fund
© 2012 Martha Rosler

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Robert Heinecken. 'Recto/Verso #2' 1988

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Robert Heinecken
Recto/Verso #2
1988
Silver dye bleach print
8 5/8 x 7 7/8″ (21.9 x 20 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Clark Winter Fund
© 2012 The Robert Heinecken Trust

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Berenice Abbott. 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman' Negative c. 1930/Distortion c. 1950

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Berenice Abbott
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman
Negative c. 1930/Distortion c. 1950
Gelatin silver print, 12 3/4 x 10 1/8″ (32.6 x 25.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Frances Keech Fund in honor of Monroe Wheeler
© 2012 Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

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Raoul Hausmann. 'Untitled' February 1931

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Raoul Hausmann
Untitled
February 1931
Gelatin silver print
5 3/8 x 4 7/16″ (13.6 x 11.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
© 2012 Raoul Hausmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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Claude Cahun. 'Untitled' c. 1928

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Claude Cahun
Untitled
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
4 9/16 x 3 1/2″ (10 x 7.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase and anonymous promised gift
© 2012 Estate of Claude Cahun

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Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Sovetskoe foto (Soviet Photo)' No. 10 October 1927

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Aleksandr Rodchenko
Sovetskoe foto (Soviet Photo) No. 10
October 1927
Letterpress
10 3/8 x 7 1/4″ (26.3 x 18.4 cm)
Publisher: Ogonek, Moscow
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Judith Rothschild Foundation

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

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

MOMA website

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17
Feb
13

Exhibition: ‘The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker and the Institute of Design’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 25th September, 2012 – 24th February, 2013

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It is a pleasure to able to post more of the tough, no nonsense photographs of Ray. K. Metzker. Atlantic City (1966, below) is an absolute beauty – from the shards of light raining down at exaggerated speed on the right hand wall, to the colour of the body, the colouration of the sole of the uplifted foot matching that of the bathers, the out flung arm, the single ray of light hitting the top of the head, to the march into endless darkness at left of image. Imagine actually seeing that image and then capturing it on film…

My personal favourite in the posting are the two photographs by Aaron Siskind. His monumental series, Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation, are photographs of divers leaping through the air captured from below to emphasise the abstract quality of their twisting shapes by isolating them against the sky:

“Highly formal, yet concerned with their subject as well as the idea they communicate, ‘The Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation’ photographs depict the dark shapes of divers suspended mid-leap against a blank white sky. Shot with a hand-held twin-lens reflex camera at the edge of Lake Michigan in Chicago, the balance and conflict suggested by the series’ title is evident in the divers’ sublime contortions.” (Anon. “Aaron Siskind,” on the Museum of Contemporary Photography website 17/02/2013)

Such a simple idea, so well executed, the photographs become a single frame of Muybridge’s motion studies where the audience can imagine the rest of the sequence without seeing. Balance and conflict are in equilibrium and the pleasure and terror of jumping from the top board at the local swimming pool is caught in stasis, crystallised in a sublime field of existence under the gaze of the viewer.

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

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
New Mexico
negative 1972; print 1987
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 27.9 cm (7 x 11 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2011.21.37
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
Valencia
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 14.3 x 22.9 cm (5 5/8 x 9 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family
Foundation, 2009.71.20
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
City Whispers: Los Angeles
negative 1981; print 2006
Gelatin silver print
Image: 26.8 x 41.4 cm (10 9/16 x 16 5/16 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2009.6.25
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
City Whispers, Philadelphia
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.5 x 24 cm (9 5/8 x 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
Atlantic City
negative, 1966; print, 2003
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.3 x 20.3 cm (8 x 8 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family
Foundation, 2011.21.48
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
Couplets: Atlantic City
negative 1969; print 1984
Gelatin silver print
22.9 x 15.6 cm (9 x 6 1/8 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family
Foundation, 2009.6.41
© Ray K. Metzker

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Ray K. Metzker American, born 1931
Double Frame: Philadelphia
negative 1965; print 1972
Gelatin silver print
21.6 x 9.8 cm (8 1/2 x 3 7/8 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of the Hall Family
Foundation, 2011.21.58
© Ray K. Metzker

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“Metzker’s work is part of a revered tradition that emerged from the experimental approach of Chicago’s Institute of Design (ID), where he received his graduate degree in 1959. Inspired by instructors Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, Metzker fashioned an entirely personal synthesis of formal elegance, technical precision, and optical innovation. His composite works hold an important status in the history of creative photography: at the time of their making, they were unprecedented in ambition and perceptual complexity.

Metzker’s devotion to photographic seeing as a process of discovery is also deeply humanistic in its illumination of isolation and vulnerability. This exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of Metzker’s five-decade career, while also providing examples of work by instructors and fellow students at the Institute of Design in Chicago, where Metzker studied from 1956 to 1959. Learn more about Metzker’s diverse forays into photography as well as the ID and its profound influence.

Ray K. Metzker (American, born 1931) is one of the most dedicated and influential American photographers of the last half century. His photographs strike a distinctive balance between formal brilliance, optical innovation, and a deep human regard for the objective world. The Photographs of Ray K. Metzker and the Institute of Design, on view at the Getty Center September 25, 2012 – February 24, 2013, offers a comprehensive overview of Metzker’s five-decade career, while also providing examples of work by instructors and fellow students at the Institute of Design in Chicago, where Metzker studied from 1956 to 1959.

Organized in collaboration with Keith F. Davis, senior curator of photography at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, the exhibition is curated by Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs, and Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of photographs, at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition features nearly 200 photographs, including approximately 80 from the holdings of The Nelson-Atkins Museum.

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Ray K. Metzker

Dynamically composed, Metzker’s luminous black-and-white photographs feature subjects ranging from urban cityscapes to nature, all demonstrating the inventive potential of the photographic process. While a student at the ID, Metzker was mentored by renowned photographers Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. His curiosity led to experiments with high contrast, selective focus, and multiple images.

Metzker’s thesis project for the ID, a study of Chicago’s business district, or Loop, displayed many of these techniques. One image, a multiple exposure of commuters ascending a sun-bathed staircase, prefigures the novel Composites that he began to make in 1964. Whether documenting everyday life in an urban environment or exploring the natural landscapes, Metzker’s photographs often incorporate elements of abstraction. A longtime resident of Philadelphia, Metzker taught at the Philadelphia College of Art for many years. His frequent focus on Philadelphia and other cityscapes has yielded iconic images of automobiles, commuters, streets, sidewalks, and architectural facades.

“Metzker’s love of the photographic process has produced a rich body of work that suggests a vulnerability underlying the human condition,” explains Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. “With highlights and shadows pushed to extremes and multiple frames combined in innovative ways, his photographs create a graceful choreography of human interaction against urban settings.”

Metzker titles and groups his images based on their location or technique. The exhibition features Metzker’s most significant bodies of work, including Chicago (1956-59), Europe (1960-61), Early Philadelphia (1961-64), Double Frames and Couplets (1964-69), Composites (1964-84), Sand Creatures (1968-77), Pictus Interruptus (1971-80), City Whispers (1980-83), Landscapes (1985-96), and Late Philadelphia (1996-2009).

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From the New Bauhaus to the Institute of Design

Revered for an energetic atmosphere of experimentation, the ID opened in the fall of 1937 under the name of the New Bauhaus. With the avant-garde artist and educator László Moholy-Nagy at the helm, the school was modeled after the German Bauhaus (1919-1933), which integrated principles of craft and technology into the study of art, architecture, and design. Photography quickly became an integral component of the curriculum.

Moholy-Nagy’s death in 1946 marked a pivotal moment in the school’s history. That year also saw the introduction of a new four-year photography program and the arrival of Harry Callahan, who was instrumental in hiring Aaron Siskind in 1951. The two became a formidable teaching duo and together created a graduate program that encouraged prolonged investigation of a single idea.

Callahan and Siskind served as Ray Metzker’s mentors during his graduate studies at the ID from 1956-59. Other key photography instructors at the ID included György Kepes, Nathan Lerner, Henry Holmes Smith, Arthur Siegel, Edmund Teske, Art Sinsabaugh, and Frederick Sommer. A selection from Metzker’s thesis project, along with those of fellow students Kenneth Josephson, Joseph Sterling, Joseph Jachna, and Charles Swedlund, was included in a 1961 issue of Aperture magazine devoted to the IDs graduate program in photography. Now a part of the Illinois Institute of Technology, the ID continues to educate students with the same innovative teaching philosophy that was a hallmark of the original Bauhaus.

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Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind

In 1946, the year of Moholy-Nagy’s death, the ID introduced a new four-year photography program and welcomed instructor Harry Callahan. Callahan was instrumental in hiring Aaron Siskind in 1951, and together they became a formidable teaching duo. Their work will be featured in two galleries within the exhibition, with a focus on photographs they created while at the ID.

Harry Callahan’s work benefitted greatly from the attitude of experimentation that was a hallmark of the ID, and his time at the school marked a particularly productive period in his own career. Architectural details, views of nature and intimate photographs of his wife, Eleanor and daughter, Barbara became subjects that defined his career. A central tenet of his teaching was to return to previously explored subjects, an approach that he himself practiced, as did Metzker.

Influenced by the Abstract Expressionist painters he befriended in the 1940s, Aaron Siskind’s work features abstracted textures and patterns excerpted from the real world. Often calligraphic in form, the urban facades, graffiti, stains, and debris he photographed capitalize on the flatness of the picture plane. In Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation, his studies of male divers against a blank sky experiments with the figure-ground relationship.

“Callahan and Siskind had vastly different visual styles and interests in subject matter” said Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. “However, both emphasized the expressive possibilities of the medium rather than the mechanics of producing a photograph. It was this shared interest in constantly challenging their students that came to define their influential presence at the ID.”

Also featured in the exhibition is work by a number of founding ID photography instructors and those who taught in the years Metzker attended the school, including György Kepes, Nathan Lerner, Henry Holmes Smith, Arthur Siegel, Edmund Teske, Art Sinsabaugh, and Frederick Sommer. Another gallery is dedicated to the work of ID students Kenneth Josephson, Joseph Sterling, Joseph Jachna, and Charles Swedlund, all of whom, together with Metzker, were featured in a 1961 issue of Aperture magazine that extolled the virtues of the ID’s photography program.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Joseph Sterling American, 1936-2010
Untitled
1961
Gelatin silver print
19.1 x 19.1 cm (7 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark
Cards, Inc., 2005.27.4395
Courtesy Stephen Daiter Gallery
© Deborah Sterling

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Arthur Siegel American, 1913-1978
State Street
1949
Dye transfer print
21.9 x 26.4 cm (8 5/8 x 10 3/8 in.)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Gift of Hallmark
Cards, Inc., 2005.27.2201
© Estate of Arthur Siegel

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Harry Callahan American, 1912-1999
Eleanor, Chicago
1952
Gelatin silver print
Image: 10.2 x 12.7 cm (4 x 5 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of Harry Callahan

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Aaron Siskind American, 1903-1991
Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 25
1957
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.9 x 26.4 cm (11 x 10 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Aaron Siskind Foundation

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Aaron Siskind American, 1903-1991
Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation 94
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image : 27.9 x 26.1 cm (11 x 10 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Aaron Siskind Foundation

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Charles Swedlund American, born 1935
Buffalo, NY
about 1970
Gelatin silver print
18.7 x 15.9 cm (7 3/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by an anonymous donor in memory of James N. Wood
© Charles Swedlund

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Aaron Siskind American, 1903-1991
Jerome, Arizona 21
1949
Gelatin silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, 84.XM.1012.122
© Aaron Siskind Foundation

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

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

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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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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04
Mar
12

Exhibition: ‘Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928-1939′ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 25th October 2011 – 11th March 2012

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Another photographer whose work was largely unknown to me. His work can be seen to reference Pictorialism, Eugene Atget, Constructivism and Modernism, the latter in the last three photographs of the Bauhaus buildings at night which are just beautiful! The capture of form, light (emanating from windows) and atmosphere is very pleasing.
P.S. Don’t be confused when looking at the photographs in the posting. Note the difference in the work of Lynonel and his two sons Andreas and Theodore (nicknamed Lux).

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

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871–1956
Untitled [Street Scene, Double Exposure, Halle]
1929-1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 23.7 cm (7 x 9 5/16 in.)
Gift of T. Lux Feininger, Houghton Library, Harvard University
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lucia Moholy
British, born Czechoslovakia, 1894–1989
Untitled [Southern View of Newly Completed Bauhaus, Dessau]
1926
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 5.7 x 8.1 cm (2 1/4 x 3 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871–1956
Untitled [Train Station, Dessau]
1928-1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.7 x 23.7 cm (6 15/16 x 9 5/16 in.)
Gift of T. Lux Feininger, Houghton Library, Harvard University
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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T. Lux Feininger 
American, born Germany 1910-2011
Metalltanz
1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 10.8 x 14.4 cm (4 1/4 x 5 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of T. Lux Feininger

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“Widely recognized as a painter, printmaker, and draftsman who taught at the Bauhaus, Lyonel Feininger (American, 1871-1956) turned to photography later in his career as a tool for visual exploration. Drawn mostly from the collections at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928-1939 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, October 25, 2011 – March 11, 2012, presents for the first time Feininger’s unknown body of photographic work. The exhibition is accompanied by a selection of photographs by other Bauhaus masters and students from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection. The Getty is the first U.S. venue to present the exhibition, which will have been on view at the Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin from February 26 – May 15, 2011 and the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich from June 2 – July 17, 2011. Following the Getty installation, the exhibition will be shown at the Harvard Art Museums from March 30 – June 2, 2012. At the Getty, the exhibition will run concurrently with Narrative Interventions in Photography.

“We are delighted to be the first U.S. venue to present this important exhibition organized by the Harvard Art Museums/ Busch-Reisinger Museum,” says Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the Getty’s installation. “The presentation at the Getty provides a unique opportunity to consider Lyonel Feininger’s achievement in photography, juxtaposed with experimental works in photography at the Bauhaus from our collection.”

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Lyonel Feininger Photographs

When Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) took up the camera in 1928, the American painter was among the most prominent artists in Germany and had been on the faculty of the Bauhaus school of art, architecture, and design since it was established by Walter Gropius in 1919. For the next decade, he used the camera to explore transparency, reflection, night imagery, and the effects of light and shadow. Despite his early skepticism about this “mechanical” medium, Feininger was inspired by the enthusiasm of his sons Andreas and Theodore (nicknamed Lux), who had installed a darkroom in the basement of their house, as well as by the innovative work of fellow Bauhaus master, László Moholy-Nagy.

Although Lyonel Feininger would eventually explore many of the experimental techniques promoted by Moholy-Nagy and practiced by others at the school, he remained isolated and out of step with the rest of the Bauhaus. Working alone and often at night, he created expressive, introspective, otherworldly images that have little in common with the playful student photography more typically associated with the school. Using a Voigtländer Bergheil camera (on display in the exhibition), frequently with a tripod, he photographed the neighborhood around the Bauhaus campus and masters’ houses, and the Dessau railway station, occasionally reversing the tonalities to create negative images.

Lyonel Feininger: Photographs, 1928-1939 also includes the artist’s photographs from his travels in 1929-31 to Halle, Paris, and Brittany, where he investigated architectural form and urban decay in photographs and works in other media. In Halle, while working on a painting commission for the city, Feininger recorded architectural sites in works such as Halle Market with the Church of St. Mary and the Red Tower (1929-30), and experimented with multiple exposures in photographs such as Untitled (Street Scene, Double Exposure, Halle) (1929-30), a hallucinatory image that merges two views of pedestrians and moving vehicles.

Since 1892 Feininger had spent parts of the summer on the Baltic coast, where the sea and dunes, along with the harbors, rustic farmhouses, and medieval towns, became some of his most powerful sources of inspiration. During the summers Feininger also took time off from painting, focusing instead on producing sketches outdoors or making charcoal drawings and watercolors on the veranda of the house he rented. Included in the exhibition are photographs Feininger created in Deep an der Rega (in present-day Poland) between 1929 and 1935 which record the unique character of the locale, the people, and the artistic and leisure activities he pursued.

In the months after the Nazis closed the Bauhaus, and prior to Feininger’s departure from Dessau in March 1933, he made a series of unsettling photographs featuring mannequins in shop windows such as Drunk with Beauty (1932). Feininger’s images emphasize not only the eerily lifelike and strangely seductive quality of the mannequins, but also the disorienting, dreamlike effect created by reflections on the glass.

In 1937 Feininger permanently settled in New York City after a nearly 50-year absence, and photography served as an important means of reacquainting himself with the city in which he had lived until the age of sixteen. The off-kilter bird’s eye view he made from his eleventh-floor apartment of the Second Avenue elevated train tracks, Untitled (Second Avenue El from Window of 235 East 22nd Street, New York) (1939), is a dizzying photograph of an American subject in the style of European avant-garde photography, and mirrors the artist’s own precarious and disorienting position between two worlds, and between past and present.

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The Bauhaus

Walter Gropius, director of the Bauhaus from 1919 to 1928, changed the face of art education with his philosophy of integrating art, craft, and technology with everyday life at the Bauhaus. When Gropius’s newly designed building in Dessau was completed in December 1926, its innovative structure did more than house the various components of the school; it became an integral aspect of life at the Bauhaus and a stage for its myriad activities, from studies and leisurely pursuits to theatrical performances. From the beginning, the camera recorded the architecture as the most convincing statement of Gropius’ philosophy as well as the fervor with which the students embraced it. The photographs in this complementary section of the exhibition also examine the various ways photography played a role at the Bauhaus, even before it became part of the curriculum.

In addition to the collaborative environment encouraged in workshops, students found opportunities to bond during their leisure time, whether in a band that played improvisational music or on excursions to nearby beaches, parks, and country fairs. One of the most active recorders of life at the Bauhaus was Lyonel Feininger’s youngest son, T. Lux, who was also a member of the jazz band.

Masters and students alike at the Bauhaus took up the camera as a tool with which to record not only the architecture and daily life of the Bauhaus, but also one another. Although photography was not part of the original curriculum, it found active advocates in the figures of László Moholy-Nagy and his wife Lucia Moholy. With his innovative approach and her technical expertise, the Moholy-Nagys provided inspiration for others to use the camera as a means of both documentation and creative expression. The resulting photographs, which included techniques such as camera-less photographs (photograms), multiple exposures, photomontage and collages (“photo-plastics”), and the combination of text and image (“typo-photo”), contributed to Neues Sehen, or the “new vision,” that characterized photography in Germany between the two world wars.

It was not until 1929 that photography was added to the Bauhaus curriculum by Hannes Meyer, the new director following Gropius’s departure. A part of the advertising department, the newly established workshop was led by Walter Peterhans, who included technical exercises as well as assignments in the genres of portraiture, still life, advertisement, and photojournalism in the three-year course of study.”

Press release from the J.Paul Getty website

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871-1956
Untitled [Night View of Trees and Street Lamp, Burgkühnauer Allee, Dessau]
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.7 x 23.7 cm (6 15/16 x 9 5/16 in.)
Gift of T. Lux Feininger, Houghton Library, Harvard University
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Andreas Feininger
Stockholm (Shell sign at night)
1935
Gelatin silver print
17.4 x 24.2 cm
© Estate of Gertrud E. Feininger. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Estate of Gertrud E. Feininger

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871-1956
Drunk with Beauty
1932
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.9 x 23.9 cm (7 1/16 x 9 7/16 in.)
Gift of T. Lux Feininger, Houghton Library, Harvard University
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871-1956
Bauhaus
March 22, 1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 23.9 cm (7 x 9 7/16 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lyonel Feininger
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871-1956
Bauhaus
March 26, 1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.9 x 14.3 cm (7 1/16 x 5 5/8 in.)
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lyonel Feininger 
American, 1871-1956
“Moholy’s Studio Window” around 10 p.m.
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 12.8 cm (7 x 5 1/16 in.)
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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Lyonel Feininger
American, 1871–1956
On the Lookout, Deep an der Rega
1932
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.7 x 12.7 cm (6 15/16 x 5 in.)
Gift of T. Lux Feininger, Houghton Library, Harvard University
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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

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

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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01
Mar
12

Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter: New York Reflections’ at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 24th October 2011 – 4th March 2012

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“I must admit that I am not a member of the ugly school. I have a great regard for certain notions of beauty even though to some it is an old fashioned idea. Some photographers think that by taking pictures of human misery, they are addressing a serious problem. I do not think that misery is more profound than happiness.”

Saul Leiter

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“Leiter’s sensibility… placed him outside the visceral confrontations with urban anxiety associated with photographers such as Robert Frank or William Klein. Instead, for him the camera provided an alternate way of seeing, of framing events and interpreting reality. He sought out moments of quiet humanity in the Manhattan maelstrom, forging a unique urban pastoral from the most unlikely of circumstances.”

Martin Harrison. Saul Leiter Early Color

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The first of two postings on the underrated, underexposed American photographer Saul Leiter. These photographs are a delightful surprise! Some, like Through Boards (1957, below) are as illuminating as any Rothko going around. His art is not of the documentary gaze but of a brief glimpse, glanz, refulgence of desire  ∞  snatched from the nonlinearity of time  ∞  cleft in(to) its fabric. What wonderfully composed reflections they are. I absolutely adore them.

The media release states, “… but where his color photography is concerned, he cannot be compared with any other photographer. In the 1940s and 1950s, Leiter was virtually the only non-commercial photographer working in color.” Galleries must beware such bombastic claims: other photographers working in colour in the 1940s-50s include Paul OuterbridgeLászló Moholy-NagyNickolas MurayJack Smith, Eliot Porter and William Eggleston to name but a few (also see the posting on the exhibition Beyond COLOR: Color in American Photography, 1950-1970).

The second posting will be from a major retrospective of his work at The House of Photography at Deichtorhallen.
Perhaps this photographer is finally getting the accolades he so rightly deserves.

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

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Saul Leiter
Taxi
1957
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Through Boards
1957
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Harlem
1960
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Haircut
1956
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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“From 24 October 2011 to 4 March 2012 the JHM is presenting a retrospective exhibition of the work of the American photographer and painter Saul Leiter (born in 1923). Following a long period of obscurity, Leiter’s work has recently been rediscovered in the United States and Europe. This is the first exhibition of his work in the Netherlands.

Saul Leiter is celebrated particularly for his painterly color photographs of the street life in New York, which he produced between 1948 and 1960. Amid the hectic life of the city he captured tranquil moments of everyday beauty. He was able to transform mundane objects – a red umbrella in a snowstorm, a foot resting on a bench in the metro, or a human figure seen through the condensation on a pane of glass – into what has been described as ‘urban visual poetry’. His photographs are frequently layered, near-abstract compositions of reflections and shadows, which recall paintings by abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, with whom Leiter felt a strong affinity.

Saul Leiter is seen as belonging to the New York School of Photographers, a group of innovative artists, most of them Jewish, who achieved fame in New York in the period 1936-1963, primarily with their images of the street and their documentary photography. His black-and-white work displays a lyricism, dreaminess and surrealism that might prompt comparison with photographers such as Ted Croner, Leon Levinstein and Louis Faurer, but where his color photography is concerned, he cannot be compared with any other photographer. In the 1940s and 1950s, Leiter was virtually the only non-commercial photographer working in color.

Born in Pittsburgh, Leiter was destined to become a rabbi like his father. But his growing interest in art led him to abandon his religious studies. Instead, he went to New York and dedicated himself to painting. His friendship there with the abstract expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart, who was experimenting with photography, and the work of the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, inspired Leiter to take up photography. His friendship with the photographer W. Eugene Smith was another inspiring influence.

The exhibition Saul Leiter: New York Reflections was prepared by the JHM in collaboration with the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York. Besides over 60 color and 40 black-and-white examples of his street photography, a small selection of fashion photographs, paintings, and painted photographs will be shown. Visitors will also be able to watch a recent documentary about Leiter by the British film maker Tomas Leach. This autumn, the publisher Steidl will be publishing the third edition of Early Color, the first book of Leiter’s photographs, compiled in 2006 by Martin Harrison of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.”

Press release from the Jewish Historical Museum website

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Saul Leiter
Foot on El
1954
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Paris
1959
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Reflection
1958
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Taxi
1956
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Saul Leiter
Walk with Soames
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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Jewish Historical Museum
Nieuwe Amstelstraat
1
1011 PL Amsterdam
T: +31 (0)20 5 310 310

Opening hours:
daily from 11.00 – 17.00

Jewish Historical Museum website

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14
Dec
11

Review: ‘The mad square: Modernity in German Art 1910 – 37′ at The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th November 2011 – 4th March 2012

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This is one of the best exhibitions this year in Melbourne bar none. Edgy and eclectic the work resonates with the viewer in these days of uncertainty: THIS should have been the Winter Masterpieces exhibition!

The title of the exhibition, The mad square (Der tolle Platz) is taken from Felix Nussbaum’s 1931 painting of the same name where “the ‘mad square’ is both a physical place – the city, represented in so many works in the exhibition, and a reference to the state of turbulence and tension that characterises the period.” The exhibition showcases how artists responded to modern life in Germany in the interwar years, years that were full of murder and mayhem, putsch, revolution, rampant inflation, starvation, the Great Depression and the rise of National Socialism. Portrayed is the dystopian, dark side of modernity (where people are the victims of a morally bankrupt society) as opposed to the utopian avant-garde (the prosperous, the wealthy), where new alliances emerge between art and politics, technology and the mass media. Featuring furniture, decorative arts, painting, sculpture, collage and photography in the sections World War 1 and the Revolution, Dada, Bauhaus, Constructivism and the Machine Aesthetic, Metropolis, New Objectivity and Power and Degenerate Art, it is the collages and photographs that are the strongest elements of the exhibition, particularly the photographs. What a joy they are to see.

There is a small 2″ x 3″ contact print portrait of Hanna Höch by Richard Kauffmann, Penetrate yourself or: I embrace myself (1922) that is an absolute knockout. Höch is portrayed as the ‘new women’ with short bobbed hair and loose modern dress, her self-image emphasised through a double exposure that fragments her face and multiplies her hands, set against a contextless background. The ‘new women’ fragmented and broken apart (still unsure of herself?). The photograph is so small and intense it takes your breath away. Similarly, there is the small, intimate photograph No title (Man on Stage) (c.1927) by Irene Bayer (see below) that captures performance as ‘total art’, a combination of visual arts, dance, music, architecture and costume design. In contrast is a large 16 x 20″ photograph of the Bauhaus balconies (1926) by László Moholy-Nagy (see below) where the whites are so creamy, the perspective so magnificent.

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Irene Bayer
No title (Man on stage)
c.1927
gelatin silver photograph
printed image 10.6 h x 7.6 w cm
Purchased 1983
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

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No title (Metalltanz) (c.1928-29) by T. Lux Feinenger, a photographer that I do not know well, is an exceptional photograph and print. Again small, this time dark and intense, the image features man as dancer performing gymnastics in front of reflective, metal sculptures. The metal becomes an active participant in the Metalltanz or ‘Dance in metal’ because of its reflective qualities. The print, from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is luminous. In fact all the prints from the Getty in this exhibition are of the most outstanding quality, a highlight of the exhibition for me. Another print from the Getty that features metal and performance is Untitled (Spiral Costume, from the Triadic Ballet) by T Grill c.1926 – 27 (see below) where the spiral costume becomes an extension of the body, highlighting its form. Also highlighting form, objectivity and detachment is a wonderful 3 x 5″ photograph of the New Bauhaus Building, Dessau (1926) by Lucia Moholy from the Getty collection, the first I have ever seen in the flesh by this artist. Outstanding.

Following, we have 4 photograms by Lucia’s husband, László Moholy-Nagy which display formalist experimentation “inspired by machine aesthetic, exploring a utopian belief that Constructivism and abstract art could play a role in the process of social reform.” Complimenting these photograms is a row of six, yes six! Moholy-Nagy including Dolls (Puppen) 1926-7 (Getty), The law of the series 1925 (Getty), Lucia at the breakfast table 1926 (Getty), Spring, Berlin 1928 (George Eastman House), Berlin Radio Tower 1928 (Art Institute of Chicago) and Light space modulator 1930 (Getty). All six photographs explore the fascinating relationship between avant-garde art and photography, between they eye and perspective, all the while declaiming what Moholy-Nagy called the “new vision”; angles, shadows and geometric patterns that defy traditional perspective “removing the space from associations with the real world creating a surreal, disjointed image.” This topographic mapping flattens perspective in the case of the Berlin radio tower allowing the viewer to see the world in a new way.

Finally two groups of photographs that are simply magnificent.

First 8 photographs in a row that focus on the order and progressive nature of the modern world, the inherent beauty of technology captured in formalist studies of geometric forms. The prints range from soft pictorialist renditions to sharp clarity. The quality of the prints is amazing. Artists include the wonderful E. O. Hoppé, Albert Renger-Patzsch (an outstandingly beautiful photograph, Harbour with cranes 1927 that is my favourite photograph in the exhibition, see below), Two Towers 1937-38 by Werner Mantz and some early Wolfgang Sievers before he left Germany for Australia in 1938 (Blast furnace in the Ruhr, Germany 1933, see below). These early Sievers are particularly interesting, especially when we think of his later works produced in Australia. Lucky were many artists who survived in Germany or fled from Nazi persecution at the last moment, including John Heartfield who relocated to Czechoslovakia in 1933 and then fled to London in 1938 and August Sander whose life and work were severely curtailed under the Nazi regime and whose son died in prison in 1944 near the end of his ten year sentence (Wikipedia).

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Albert Renger-Patzsch
Harbour with crane
c.1927
gelatin silver photograph
printed image 22.7 h x 16.8 w cm
Purchased 1983
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

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Wolfgang Sievers
Blast furnace in the Ruhr, Germany
1933
gelatin silver photograph
27.5 h x 23.0 w cm
Purchased 1988
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

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August Sander. Now there is a name to conjure with. The second magnificent group are 7 photographs that are taken from Sander’s seminal work People of the 20th Century. All the photographs have soft, muted tones of greys with no strong highlights and, usually, contextless backgrounds. The emphasis is on archetypes, views of people who exist on the margins of society – circus performers, bohemians, artists, the unemployed and blind people. In all the photographs there is a certain frontality (not necessarily physical) to the portraits, a self consciousness in the sitter, a wariness of the camera and of life. This self consciousness can be seen in the two photographs that are the strongest in the group - Secretary at West German radio in Cologne, 1931 and Match seller 1927 (see below).

There is magic here. Her face wears a somewhat quizzical air – questioning, unsure, vulnerable – despite the trappings of affluence and fashionability (the smoking of the cigarette, the bobbed hair). He is wary of the camera, his face and hands isolated by Sander while the rest of his body falls into shadow. His right hand is curled under, almost deformed, his shadow falling on the stone at right, the only true brightness in this beautiful image the four boxes of matches he clutches in his left hand: as Sander titles him ironically, The Businessman.

Working as I do these days with lots of found images from the 1940s – 60s that I digitally restore to life, I wonder what happened to these people during the dark days of World War 2. Did they survive the cataclysm, the drop into the abyss? I want to know, I want to reach out to these people to send them good energy. I hope that they did but their wariness in front of the camera, so intimately ‘taken’ by Sander, makes me feel the portent of things to come. How differently we see images armed with the hindsight of history!

In conclusion, this is a fantastic exhibition that will undoubtedly be in my top ten of the year for Melbourne in 2011.

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Many thankx to Michael Thorneycroft for his help and The National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the accredited photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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August Sander
Match seller
1927
from the portfolio People of the 20th century, IV Classes and Professions, 17 The Businessman

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Robert Wiene, Director
German 1873 – 1938
Still from from the Cabinet of Dr Caligari
1919
5 min excerpt, 35mm transferred to DVD, Black and White, silent, German subtitles
Courtesy Transit Film GmbH
Production still courtesy of the British Film Institute and Transit Film GmbH

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Felix H Man
German 1893 – 1985
Luna Park
1929
gelatin silver photograph
18.1 x 24cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1987
© Felix H Man Estate

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Hannah Höch
German 1889 – 1978
Love
1931
from the series Love
photomontage
21.8 x 21.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1983

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Hannah Höch made some of the most interesting Dada collages and photomontages, including Love, an image of two strange composite female. Höch’s technique of pasting images together from magazine clippings and advertisements was a response to the modern era of mass media, and a way of criticising the bourgeois taste for ‘high art’. In many of her works, Höch explores the identity and changing roles of women in modern society.

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“The Mad Square takes its name from Felix Nussbaum’s 1931 painting which depicts Berlin’s famous Pariser Platz as a mad and fantastic place. The ‘mad square’ is both a physical place – the city, represented in so many works in the exhibition, and a reference to the state of turbulence and tension that characterises the period. The ‘square’ can also be a modernist construct that saw artists moving away from figurative representations towards increasingly abstract forms.

The exhibition features works by Max Beckman, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad, Kurt Schwitters and August Sander. This group represents Germany’s leading generation of interwar artists. Major works by lesser known artists including Karl Hubbuch, Rudolf Schlichter and Hannah Höch are also presented in the exhibition in addition to works by international artists who contributed to German modernism.

The Mad Square brings together a diverse and extensive range of art, created during one of the most important and turbulent periods in European history, offering new insights into the understanding of key German avant‐garde movements including – Expressionism, Dada, Bauhaus, Constructivism, and New Objectivity were linked by radical experimentation and innovation, made possible by an unprecedented freedom of expression.

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World War 1 and the Revolution

The outbreak of war in 1914 was met with enthusiasm by many German artists and intellectuals who volunteered for service optimistically hoping that it would bring cultural renewal and rapid victory for Germany. The works in this section are by the generation of artists who experienced war first hand. Depictions of fear, anxiety and violence show the devastating effects of war – the disturbing subjects provide insight into tough economic conditions and social dysfunction experienced by many during the tumultuous early years of the Weimar Republic following the abdication of the Kaiser.
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Dada

The philosophical and political despair experienced by poets and artists during World War 1 fuelled the Dada movement, a protest against the bourgeois conception of art. Violent, infantile and chaotic, Dada took its name from the French word for a child’s hobbyhorse or possibly from the sound of a baby’s babble. Its activities included poetry readings and avant‐garde performances, as well as creating new forms of abstract art that subverted all existing conditions in western art. Though short‐lived, in Germany the Dada movement has profoundly influenced subsequent developments in avant-garde art and culture. The impact of the Dada movement was felt throughout Europe – and most powerfully in Germany from 1917 – 21.
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Bauhaus

The Bauhaus (1919‐33) is widely considered as the most important school of art and design of the 20th century, very quickly establishing a reputation as the leading and most progressive centre of the international avant‐garde. German architect Walter Gropius founded the school to do away with traditional distinctions between the fine arts and craft, and to forge an entirely new kind of creative designer skilled in both the conceptual aesthetics of art and the technical skills of handicrafts. The Bauhaus was considered to be both politically and artistically radical from its inception and was closed down by the National Socialists in 1933.
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Constructivism and the Machine Aesthetic

Having emerged in Russia after World War I, Constructivism developed in Germany as a set of ideas and practices that experimented with abstract or non-representational forms and in opposition to Expressionism and Dada. Constructivists developed works and theories that fused art and with technology. They shared a utopian belief in social reform, and saw abstract art as playing a central role in this process.
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Metropolis

By the 1920s Berlin has become the cultural and entertainment capital of the world and mass culture played an important role in distracting a society traumatised by World War 1, the sophisticated metropolis provided a rich source of imagery for artists, it also come to represent unprecedented sexual and personal freedom. In photography modernity was emphasised by unusual views of the metropolis or through the representation of city types. The diverse group of works in this section portray the uninhibited sense of freedom and innovation experienced by artists throughout Germany during the 1920s.
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New Objectivity

By the mid 1920s, a new style emerged that came to be known as Neue Sachlichkeit or New Objectivity. After experiencing the atrocities of World War 1 and the harsh conditions of life in postwar Germany, many artists felt the need to return to the traditional modes of representation with portraiture becoming a major vehicle of this expression, with its emphasis on the realistic representation of the human figure.
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Power and Degenerate Art

After the seizure of power by the National Socialists in 1933 modern artists were forbidden from working and exhibiting in Germany, with their works confiscated from leading museums and then destroyed or sold on the international art market. Many avant‐garde artists were either forced to leave Germany or retreat into a state of ‘inner immigration’.

The Degenerate art exhibition, held in Munich in 1937, represented the culmination of the National Socialists’ assault on modernism. Hundreds of works were selected for the show which aimed to illustrate the mental deficiency and moral decay that had supposedly infiltrated modern German art. The haphazard and derogatory design of the exhibition sought to ridicule and further discredit modern art. Over two million people visited the exhibition while in contrast far fewer attended the Great German art exhibition which sought to promote what the Nazis considered as ‘healthy’ art.

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T Grill
Untitled (Spiral Costume, from the Triadic Ballet)
c.1926 – 27
gelatin silver print
22.5 x 16.2cm
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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August Sander
German 1876 – 1964
Secretary at West German radio in Cologne
1931, printed by August Sander in the 1950s
from the portfolio People of the 20th century, III The woman, 17 The woman in intellectual and practical occupation
gelatin silver photograph
29.0 x 22.0cm
Die Photographische Sammlung /SK Stiftung Kultur, August Sander Archiv, Cologne (DGPH1016)
© Die Photographische Sammlung /SK  Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

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Timeline

1910

  • Berlin’s population doubles to two million people

1911

  • Expressionists move from Dresden to Berlin

1912

  • Social Democratic Party (SPD) the largest party in the Reichstag

1913

  • Expressionists attain great success with their city scenes

1914

  • World War I begins
  • George Grosz, Oskar Schlemmer, Otto Dix, Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Beckmann and Franz Marc enlist in the army

1915

  • Grosz declared unfit for service, Beckmann suffers a breakdown and Schlemmer wounded

1916

  • Marc dies in combat
  • Dada begins at Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich

1917

  • Lenin and Trotsky form the Soviet Republic after the Tzar is overthrown

1918

  • Richard Huelsenbeck writes a Dada manifesto in Berlin
  • Kurt Schwitters creates Merz assemblages in Hanover
  • Revolutionary uprisings in Berlin and Munich
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates and flees to Holland
  • Social Democratic Party proclaims the Weimar Republic
  • World War I ends

1919

  • Freikorps assassinates the Spartacist leaders, Karl Leibknecht and Rosa Luxemburg
  • Bauhaus established in Weimer by Walter Gropius
  • Cologne Dada group formed
  • Treaty of Versailles signed

1920

  • Berlin is the world’s third largest city after New York and London
  • Inflation begins in Germany
  • National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) founded
  • Kapp Putsch fails after right‐wing forces try to gain control over government
  • First International Dada fair opens in Berlin

1921

  • Hitler made chairman of the NSDAP

1922

  • Schlemmer’s Triadic ballet premiers in Stuttgart
  • Hyperinflation continues

1923

  • Hitler sentenced to five years imprisonment for leading the Beer Hall Putsch
  • Inflation decreases and a period of financial stability begins

1924

  • Hitler writes Mein Kampf while in prison
  • Reduction of reparations under the Dawes Plan

1925

  • New Objectivity exhibition opens at the Mannheim Kunsthalle
  • The Bauhaus relocates to Dessau

1926

  • Germany joins the League of Nations

1927

  • Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis released
  • Unemployment crisis worsens
  • Nazis hold their first Nuremburg party rally

1928

  • Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The threepenny opera premieres in Berlin
  • Hannes Meyer becomes the second director of the Bauhaus

1929

  • Street confrontations between the Nazis and communists in Berlin
  • Young Plan accepted, drastically reducing reparations
  • Stock market crashes on Wall Street, New York
  • Thomas Mann awarded the Nobel Prize for literature

1930

  • Resignation of Chancellor Hermann Müller’s cabinet ending parliamentary rule
  • Minority government formed by Heinrich Brüning, leader of the Centre Party
  • Nazis win 18% of the vote and gain 95 seats in the National elections
  • Ludwig Miles van der Rohe becomes the third director of the Bauhaus
  • John Heartfield creates photomontages for the Arbeiter‐Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ)

1931

  • Unemployment reaches five million and a state of emergency is declared in Germany

1932

  • Nazis increase their representation in the Reichstag to 230 seats but are unable to form a majority coalition
  • Miles van der Rohe moves the Bauhaus to Berlin
  • Grosz relocates to New York in as an exile

1933

  • Hindenberg names Hitler as Chancellor
  • Hitler creates a dictatorship under the Nazi regime
  • The first Degenerate art exhibition denouncing modern art is held in Dresden
  • Miles van der Rohe announces the closure of the Bauhaus
  • Nazis organise book burnings in Berlin
  • Many artists including Gropius, Kandinski and Klee flee Germany
  • Beckmann, Dix and Schlemmer lose their teaching positions

1934

  • Fifteen concentration camps exist in Germany

1935

  • The swastika becomes the flag of the Reich

1936

  • Spanish civil war begins
  • Germany violates the Treaty of Versailles
  • Olympic Games held in Garmisch‐Partenkirchen and Berlin
  • Thomas Mann deprived of his citizenship and emigrates to the United States

1937

  • German bombing raids over Guernica in Spain in support of Franco
  • The Nazi’s Degenerate art exhibition opens in Munich and attracts two million visitors
  • Beckmann, Kirchner and Schwitters leave Germany
  • Purging of ‘degenerate art’ from German museums continues 1

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László Moholy-Nagy
Bauhaus Balconies
1926
Silver gelatin photograph

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John Heartfield
German 1891 – 1968
Adolf, the superman: swallows gold and spouts rubbish
1932
from the Workers Illustrated Paper, vol 11, no 29, 17 July 1932, p 675
photolithograph
38.0 x 27.0 cm
John Heartfield Archiv, Akademie der Künste zu Berlin
Photo: Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Kunstsammlung, Heartfield 2261/ Roman März
© The Heartfield Community of Heirs /VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

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John Heartfield’s photomontages expose hidden agendas in German politics and economics of the 1920s and 30s. This image was published six months before the National Socialist Party came to power, and shows Hitler with a spine made of coins and his stomach filled with gold.  The caption says that he ‘swallows gold’, alluding to generous funding by right-wing industrialists, and ‘spouts rubbish’.

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Max Beckmann
German 1884 – 1950
The trapeze
1923
oil on canvas
196.5 x 84.0 cm
Toledo Museum of Art
Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey
Photo: Photography Incorporated, Toledo

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1. Timeline credit: Chronology compiled by Jacqueline Strecker and Victoria Tokarowski from the following sources:

Catherine Heroy ‘Chronology’ in Sabine Rewald, Glitter and Doom: German portraits from the 1920s, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, exh cat, 2006, pp. 39‐46.

Anton Kaes, Martin Jay and Edward Dimendberg, eds, ‘Political chronology’, The Weimar Republic sourcebook, Berkely 1994, pp. 765‐71.

Jonathan Petropoulos and Dagmar Lott‐Reschke ‘Chronology’ in Stephanie Barron, ‘Degenerate Art’: the fate of the avant‐garde in Nazi Germany, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, exh cat, 1991, pp. 391‐401.

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NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
10am – 5pm. Closed Tuesdays.

National Gallery of Victoria website

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15
Sep
11

Exhibition: ‘László Moholy-Nagy. The Art of Light’ at the Ludwig Museum, Budapest

Exhibition dates:  9th June – 25th September, 2011

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Different press photographs from this exhibition, one that I last posted when it was at Martin Gropius-Bau, Berlin. Many thankx to the Ludwig Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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László Moholy-Nagy
Chairs at Margate
1935
Gelatin silver print diptych
36.9 x 29.5 cm (each)
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VEGAP 2011

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László Moholy-Nagy
Untitled
1940-44
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
Image: 22.8 x 34.2 cm. Paper: 27.9 x 35.5 cm
Courtesy of László Moholy-Nagy Estate and Andrea Rosen Gallery Inc., New York
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VEGAP 2011

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László Moholy-Nagy
Untitled
1939
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
Image: 22.8 x 34.2 cm. Paper: 27.9 x 35.5 cm
Courtesy of László Moholy-Nagy Estate and Andrea Rosen Gallery Inc., New York
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VEGAP 2011

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László Moholy-Nagy
Composition A XI
1923
Oil on canvas
Image: 115.6 x 131.1 cm. Frame: 118.8 x 133.7 cm
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VEGAP 2011

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László Moholy-Nagy
K VII
1922
Oil on canvas
115.3 x 135.9 cm
Tate, London
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VEGAP 2011

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“László Moholy-Nagy is a world-famous figure of twentieth-century avant-garde art. His visual art and theoretical works, photographs, films, educational activities and photograms – taken without a camera and now synonymous with his name – were of such significance that it is no exaggeration to say that since Moholy-Nagy, we see things differently; since Moholy-Nagy, our thinking about art has been transformed. His innovations over the decades have become so natural, his influence so pervasive, that we now almost have to rediscover him once again. In the series of Hungarian photographers who accomplished world fame – Robert Capa, Martin Munkácsi, György Kepes – the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art now presents the work of László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), focussing primarily his photography. This is a long-overdue show: Hungary has not held such an exhibition of Moholy-Nagy’s work since 1975, not even on the centenary of his birth in 1995.

Moholy-Nagy began his creative career in the first half of the twentieth century in Lajos Kassák’s activist circle where, at twenty years old, he was one of Hungary’s youngest avant-garde artists. In 1919 he left for Vienna then Berlin, where he came under the influence of Dadaism and Constructivism, which he later developed further independently. On the invitation of director Walter Gropius in 1923, he became a teacher at the Weimar Bauhaus, then the most progressive art school. There, alongside the Metal Workshop, he also led the definitive course in new arts education, the Foundation. The Bauhaus was more than a school: it was a way of life that unified life, art and science. As well as exploring painting, leading the Metal Workshop, writing and editing books and applying new typographies at the experimental, innovative Bauhaus school, Moholy-Nagy also turned towards photography and film as forms offering new possibilities in art. Photography, and in particular film represented new technologies that questioned the traditional principles of art, among them the uniqueness of the artefacts and the personal signature of the artist.

The central organising principle in Moholy-Nagy’s diverse activities was light: light defined his paintings, sculptures, photoplastics, photograms, photographs, typography and theatre sets. He did not regard photography as a tool for the perfect imaging of reality, rather, it was his conviction that the camera offered new discoveries and possibilities for modern people to finally liberate themselves from the obligation to depict, to copy reality. The years at the Bauhaus proved to be an experience that defined his entire life. After Berlin, Weimar and Dessau, he settled in Chicago in 1937, where he founded the ‘New Bauhaus’ and remained until the end of his life, working as an experimental, innovative artist and theorist. He regarded art as an activity that embraced the whole of life which was non-hierarchical, accessible and cultivatable by everyone, and he was a firm believer in the educational role of art.

The Ludwig Museum’s exhibition presents his diverse life achievement from 1922, with Moholy-Nagy’s photography, films, and works ‘made with light’ in central focus. His first writings on light as a medium were published in 1923, in the Broom magazine, New York. One of the most exciting parts of the exhibition is the compilation of all Moholy-Nagy’s films, shown together here for the first time and according to the artist’s original conception. Such an ambitious and large-scale exhibition of Moholy-Nagy’s oeuvre could only have been realised with international collaboration. This exhibition brings together over 200 pieces and documents from over twenty museums around the world (Tate, Whitney, Tokyo Metropolitan, etc.) as well as private collections. It is based on the curatorial concept of the director of Madrid’s la Fábrica, Oliva Maria Rubio, and is the result of joint work between the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin and the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. The exhibition has previously shown in Madrid, Berlin and The Hague, and will open to audiences in Budapest until the end of September.

Moholy-Nagy’s rich oeuvre also allows us to make slightly different emphases according to location. In Berlin, the legendary 1929 Film und Foto (FiFo) exhibition and his pedagogical works were emphasized, while in The Hague, the focus was on the time he spent in the Netherlands between 1933 and 1935. With the participation of two internationally-renowned Hungarian art historians, experts of Moholy-Nagy, Krisztina Passuth and Éva Bajkay, the Budapest exhibition is complemented by photographs and publications from Hungarian collections. Thanks to László Moholy-Nagy’s family, valuable documents that have not been seen in any of the earlier locations have been added to the exhibition.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum

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László Moholy-Nagy
Costume Design for Tales of Hoffmann
1929
Watercolour on paper
34.3 x 27 cm
Hattula Moholy-Nagy, Ann Arbor, Michigan
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VEGAP 2011

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László Moholy-Nagy
Jealousy
1924-27
Photoplastic, gelatin silver print
30 x 24.6 cm
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection, London
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VEGAP 2011

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László Moholy-Nagy
La Canebière Street, Marseilles – View Through the Balcony Grille
1928
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 17.5 cm
George Eastman House Collection. Donated by Katharine Kuh
© Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VEGAP 2011

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Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art
Palace of Arts
Komor Marcell u. 1, Budapest, H-1095
T: +36 1 555 3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00 – 20.00
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum website

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13
Feb
11

Exhibition: ‘Acquisitions of Twentieth-Century Photography’ at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 7th December 2010 – 14th February 2011

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Many thankx to the Rijksmuseum 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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Lewis Hine
‘Don’t Smoke, Visits Saloons’
1910

Lewis Hine. May 1910. Wilmington, Delaware. “James Lequlla, newsboy, age 12. Selling newspapers 3 years. Average earnings 50 cents per week. Selling newspapers own choice. Earnings not needed at home. Don’t smoke. Visits saloons. Works 7 hours per day.”

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Gordon Parks
‘Bessie Fontenelle and Little Richard in bed, Harlem New York’
1968

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Helen Levitt
‘Squatting girl/spider girl, New York City’
1980

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“From 7 December, the Rijksmuseum will display a selection of 20th-century photographic works acquired in recent years with the support of Baker & McKenzie. The sponsorship from the renowned law firm has already allowed the museum to purchase more than thirty photographs, including works by László Moholy-Nagy, Bill Brandt, Robert Capa and Helen Levitt, as well as photography books by Man Ray and others. When it reopens in 2013, the Rijksmuseum will be the only museum in the Netherlands able to provide an overview of the history of photography in the Netherlands and abroad.

The most recent acquisition sponsored by Baker & McKenzie and the independent art fund Vereniging Rembrandt is a monumental photograph by Bauhaus photographer László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946). The photograph from 1929 is a key work that marks the transition into modernity. From atop a high bridge, the Pont Transbordeur in Marseille, Moholy-Nagy pointed his camera straight down, where an almost abstract pattern of metal beams contrasted with the sailing boat passing under the bridge. Metal, bridges, machines, aeroplanes and cars formed the icons of a new era for Moholy-Nagy’s generation of artists. They were faced with advancing technology, an enormous increase in scale and mechanisation, and a faster pace of life.

The other photographs to be displayed represent a range of movements in the history of photography. Two photographs by Emil Otto Hoppé (1878-1972) will be displayed. They are both studies of form focusing first and foremost on composition, just as in the Moholy-Nagy work. It was in around 1920 that Hoppé photographed the play of light on cobblestones in New York, and the building of a metal construction in Philadelphia.

The documentary aspects of photography will also be highlighted, with magnificent portraits of a black mother and her child in a report about Harlem in the late 1960s (by Gordon Parks), and a portrait of two men in the southern ‘Cotton States’ of America during the Great Depression of the 1930s (by Peter Sekaer). As early as 1909, Lewis Hine used photography as a weapon in the struggle against injustice. Commissioned by the National Child Labour Committee he documented the child labour industry, in this case a small boy standing on the street selling newspapers.

During the 1930s, Bill Brandt published a (now famous) book on life in London at the time, from which came the photograph ‘Sky lightens over the suburbs’, which is both a study of form and documentary in nature. It shows a forest of glistening roofs, depicted in a melancholy yet realistic manner.

In 1942, Piet Mondrian was photographed in his studio by Arnold Newman, a session from which the Rijksmuseum has acquired a range of photographs. There are few portraits of Mondrian in Dutch collections, making this series particularly special.

A work by Helen Levitt is one of the few colour photographs included in the exhibition. Until the 1980s, colour photography was simply ‘not done’ and Levitt was one of the first to experiment with the method. The photograph of a girl searching for something underneath a green car is a marvellous example of composition in colour.”

Press release from the Rijksmuseum website

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Arnold Newman
‘Piet Mondrian, New York’
1942

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Emil Otto Hoppé
‘Steel construction, Philadelphia’
1926

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László Moholy-Nagy
‘View from Pont Transbordeur, Marseille’
1929

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Bill Brandt
‘Sky lightens over the suburbs, London’
1934

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Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Jan Luijkenstraat 1, Amsterdam

Opening hours:
Every day from 9:00 to 18:00

Rijksmuseum website

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28
Nov
10

Exhibition: ‘László Moholy-Nagy – Art of Light’ at Martin Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 4th November 2010 – 16th January 2011

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My apologies for the paucity of reviews of local exhibitions on the blog recently. It’s not that I haven’t been going to exhibitions far from it, just that nothing has really struck me as worthy of an in depth review!

Recently I went to the new Monash University Gallery of Art (MUMA) and the opening exhibition of the gallery, CHANGE (until 18th December). This is a hotchpotch of an exhibition that showcases the “breadth and depth of the Monash University Collection, reflecting on the changing forms, circumstances and developments in contemporary art practice from the 1960s to the present day – from late modernism to our contemporary situation … the exhibition signals the potential for institutional change that MUMA’s new situation represents.” Avowing an appeal to the senses the exhibition has some interesting works, notably a large canvas by Howard Arkley, ‘Family home – suburban exterior 1993′, Daniel von Sturmer’s installation ‘The Field Equation’ (2006), Mike Parr’s bloody, mesmeric performance ‘Close the Concentration Camps’ (2002) that you just can’t take your eyes off and part of Tracey Moffatt’s haunting series ‘Up In The Sky’ (1998), the “part” declamation leaving one unable to decipher the narrative of the work without seeing the whole series on the Roslyn Oxley9 website. This is symptomatic of the whole exhibition – somehow it doesn’t come together, one of the problems of large, unthematically organised group exhibitions.

The spaces of the new gallery are interesting to wander through but seem a little pokey and confined. A series of smallish intersecting rooms to the left hand side of the gallery leads one around to a big gallery to the right hand side (the best space), before another small front room. Down the spine runs a narrow enclosed area with exposed trusses and ducts that is unimaginative in design and redundant as an exhibiting space. Overall the gallery feels claustrophobic being an almost hermetically sealed environment enclosed by several sliding glass doors at entry points (and yes, I do know that a gallery has to have regulated temperature, light and humidity). This is at odds with the idea of exhibiting fresh, exciting art that breathes life.

I also ventured to Anna Pappas Gallery to see the exhibition of photographic work ‘Endless Days’ by Vin Ryan (until 23rd December). Nice idea but a disappointment. Featuring grided, colour-coded photographs of the physical artefacts used to plate 20 meals eaten by the Ryan family the information within the prints is almost indecipherable, the selection of plates, cups and objects so small as to become mere colour decoration. I struggled to see what the objects actually were; even in the 5 individual prints of a meal the definition of the objects was weak, the printing not up to standard. The moral of the story is this: if you are going to use the photographic medium for artwork make sure that a/ you know how to construct an image visually using the medium and b/ that you get someone who knows what they are doing to print the photographs for you if you can’t print them well yourself.

On to better things. In this posting there are some outstanding photographs: the imaginative camera angles of Moholy-Nagy (heavily influenced by Constructivism and Suprematism) where truly ground-breaking at the time. The iconic ‘From the radio tower, Berlin’ (1928) is simply breathtaking in the photographs ability to flatten the pictorial landscape into abstract shape and form. Many thankx to Martin Gropius-Bau, Berlin 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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László Moholy-Nagy
Am 7 (26)
1926
Oil on canvas
75,8 x 96 cm
Ernst und Kurt Schwitters Stiftung/ Sprengel Museum, Hannover
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Eton. Eleves watching cricket from the pavilion on Agar’s Plough
ca. 1930
Gelatine silver print
15,7 x 20,7 cm / 16,3 x 21,3 cm
Achat 1994. Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne / Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Photogram
ca. 1938
Original photogram from Chicago
204 x 252 cm
Swiss Foundation of Photography, Winterthur
Donation in memoriam S. and Giedion Welcker
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Untitled
1940′s
Fujicolor crystal archive print
27,9 x 35,6 cm / 52,1 x 63,5 cm
Courtesy László Moholy-Nagy Estate and Andrea Rosen Gallery Inc., New York
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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“For Moholy-Nagy was always a theoretician and practitioner in equal measure, always wanting to be a holistic artist. He approached his work – painting, photography, commercial and industrial design, film, sculpture, scenography – from a wide variety of aspects and practised it as a radical, extreme experiment, by refusing to place his hugely differing works in any sort of aesthetic hierarchy. He also attached enormous importance to education, which is why, at the request of Walter Gropius, he worked in this field for the Bauhaus in Weimar (1923–1925) and Dessau (1925–1928). In Chicago, where he settled in 1937, he again assumed teaching duties and founded the “New Bauhaus”, which sought to realise the programmes of the German Bauhaus in the United States. Shortly afterwards he founded the Institute of Design in Chicago, where he was to remain active until his death in 1946. The institute was later incorporated in the Illinois Institute of Technology, which offers study courses to this day.

From Weimar to Chicago Moholy-Nagy retained his faith in his pedagogical ideal, which for him meant not only teaching, but the moral education of human beings. He believed in education as a means of developing all the abilities lying dormant in the students and as a means of paving the way to a “new, total human being.”

All of Moholy-Nagy’s theoretical contributions arose out of his artistic and pedagogical work. In his numerous writings he gradually presented his ideas, thus developing a complete artistic and pedagogical aesthetic. In his 1925 landmark essay “Painting, Photography, Film” he developed an aesthetic theory of light – light as a matrix of art and art as light. He applied his aesthetic theory of light not only to painting, photography and film, but also to theatrical and commercial design.

From that point on light became the foundation of Moholy-Nagy’s practical and theoretical work. For him art of whatever kind only acquired meaning when it reflected light. Painting was also reinterpreted on the basis of this criterion. Moholy-Nagy described his development as a painter as a shift away from “painting from transparency” to a painting that was free of any representational constraints and created the possibility of painting “not with colours, but with light.” This theory reached its full potential in photography and film. Etymologically, the word “photography” means “writing with light.” The artistic essence of film consists in the portrayal of “inter-related movements as revealed by light projections.” Although he was not in charge of the photography classes in the Bauhaus, it was there that he wrote Painting, Photography, Film, drawing upon his photographic experience. He invented the “photogram,” a purely light-based form of graphic representation, thus demonstrating an ability to create photographic images without a camera at the same time as the “Rayogram” was invented by Man Ray in Paris. He saw photography as a completely autonomous medium whose potential was still to be discovered. He criticized “pictoriality,” propagating an innovative, creative and productive photography. He regarded seriality as one of the main features of the practice of photography and opposed the “aura” of the one-off work in contrast to the infinite multifariousness of the photographic cliché, thus anticipating one of Walter Benjamin’s theses.

The distinction between production and reproduction is a basic theme of his art. A prominent aspect of every work is its ability to integrate the unknown. Works that only repeat or reproduce familiar relationships, are described as “reproductive,” while those that create or produce new relationships are “productive.” For Moholy-Nagy the ability of a work of art to create something new (a basic feature of Modernism) is a key criterion. He postulated for painting, photography and film a moral and aesthetic imperative – the New. Art had to confront new times and an industrial civilization. In the systematic implementation of this thesis 1926 turned out to be the year in which his pictorial output was greater than his works in other fields, but 1927 witnessed a positive flood of photographic, scenographic, kinetic and film productions. Painting was something he never abandoned. He decided to drop the representational painting inherited from the past and to devote himself to non-representational or “pure” painting instead. The emergence of photography gave painting the perfect opportunity to free itself from all figurative or representative imperatives. Artists did not have to decide in favour of one medium or another, but should use all media to capture and master an optical creation.”

Text from the Martin Gropius-Bau website

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László Moholy-Nagy
Oskar Schlemmer in Ascona
1926
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokio
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Pneumatik
1924
Collection E. Zyablov, Moskau
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Flower
ca. 1925-27
Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne / Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
From the radio tower, Berlin
1928
Gelatine silver print
28 x 21,3 cm
Private collection
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy
Lago Maggiore, Ascona, Switzerland
ca. 1930
Gelatine silver print
20,8 x 28,4 cm
Collection Spaarnestad Photo/Nationaal Archief
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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László Moholy-Nagy / Paul Hartland
Carnival: Composition with two masks
ca. 1934
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
Phone +49 (0)30 254 86-0

Opening Hours:
Wednesday to Monday 10 – 20 hrs
Tuesday closed

Martin-Gropius-Bau 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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