Archive for July, 2009

30
Jul
09

Review: ‘Jonh Brack’ retrospective at The National Gallery of Victoria, NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 24th April – 9th August 2009

 

John Brack. 'The chase' 1959

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
The chase
1959
Oil on composition board
100.2 x 121.8 cm
Grishin, o94
Private collection, Melbourne
© Helen Brack

 

 

“One either has a subject, or one has not.”

John Brack

 

This is a solid retrospective of the work of the Australian artist John Brack (1920-1999) presented by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. John Brack is, quintessentially, an Australian and more specifically a Melbourne artist. Melbournians have a love hate relationship with his work – loving the earlier paintings that view the working classes of 1950s Melbourne through a nostalgic, humorous, sardonic lens (when originally the popularity of the work in the 1950s/60s was, as Robert Nelson has observed, mistakenly identified with ridicule of the subject matter)1 while finding the later work of massed pencils, postcards, deities and wooden people mystifying, cold and elusive.

Brack saw his paintings of suburbia as honest portrayals of the new milieux. His sparse, graphic style evidenced the emotionally distanced relationships between space and people in the new cityscapes and best suited his cerebral approach to the subject matter. Men become mannequins with skeletal faces that hover menacingly behind the barmaid in The bar (1954, above), an amorphous mass of brown-suited humanity. Two women are portrayed in all their high-collared stiffness in the painting ‘Two typists’ (1955, above), their stylised faces, black hat and hair surmounted by hanging, disembodied legs at the top of the painting. These two women then reappear at bottom right in one of Brack’s most famous paintings, Collins St, 5p.m. (1955, above) subsumed into the two lines of people wearily trudging home from a day’s work at the office.

Brack’s early paintings are full of stylised metaphor – for example the clinical emptiness of space, the implied threat of hanging ‘instruments’ in ‘The block’ (1954, above) or the decapitated bird-like alienation of the fish head in The fish shop (1955, above) – offer comment on the nature of suburban life: ordered, dead, soulless surfaces, facades behind which life seethes. Brack recognises the slightly macabre beauty of these industrial spaces, their form and purpose, where no one had recognised them before. There are oversized teeth (The veil, 1952), large hands, the fleshy pink of faces (The barbers shop, 1952) and the tribal mask of a face in Man in pub (1953) where man becomes fragment. Above all there is a simplicity and eloquence in line and form grounded in a limited palette of ochres, yellows, greys, blacks, whites and browns. These are the colours of the early cave painters and it’s poignant that Brack uses them so effectively to anchor his subject matter both in history, memory and the present of contemporary life, a life we still recognise intimately over fifty years later.

Here is the ‘Human Condition’ writ large (with capitals!), the humility of professions such as butchers, seamstresses, typists and barmaids (with their limited control of the environment) portraying the body of the worker, as in Satre’s ‘Nothingness’,2 living the tedium of suburban life whilst wanting to flee the anguish of this existence into the desirable light of the future toward which man projects himself. This a theme that Brack develops in the later paintings with their stilted, cerebral investigation of existentialism. These paintings offer a more general contribution to a view of the human condition – love and hate, we, us, them, pros and cons – a view originally grounded in the suburbs of Melbourne but elevated to the ethereal, paintings that seem to lack material substance but offer a hyper-refined conceptual aesthetic.

 

Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones But Pencils Will Never Hurt Me

As early as Knives and forks (1958) and The playground (1959) we can observe the beginnings of the spaces of his later pencil paintings with their uniting of form, line and plane (think the planes of Cezanne). The later work is literally much colder, the palette now blues instead of the warmer ochres and yellows and this change is very obvious when you walk around the exhibition. There is an emotional distance here – from human contact and the warmth of company. Ronald Miller observed in 1970 that Brack’s work is about the rituals of life, about states of uneasy poise and vulnerability, about realities behind facades but in the later work the paintings become the facades: gone are the ambiguities and vulnerabilities to be replaced by an altogether different ‘order’ of existence.

We see in paintings such as Souvenirs (1976), We, Us, Them (1983), The pros and cons (1985) and Watching the flowers (1990-91 – see all below) how the canvas has become a stage set replete with turned up edges, spaces of ritual performance containing generalised metaphors for the nature of human existence, metaphors with universal themes. In his investigation of the universal Brack looses sight of the personal. His towers made of playing cards, his thrusting planes, the military precision of his opposing armies of goose-steeping pencils lack empathy for the thing that he was searching to be attuned with: the nature of existence, the human condition.

As Sartre observed,

“To apprehend myself as seen is, in fact, to apprehend myself as seen in the world and from the standpoint of the world. The look does not carve me out in the universe; it comes to search for me at the heart of my situation and grasps me only in irresolvable relations with instruments. If I am seen as seated, I must be seen as “seated-on-a-chair,” … But suddenly the alienation of myself, which is the act of being-looked-at, involves the alienation of the world which I organise. I am seated on this chair with the result that I do not see it at all, that it is impossible for me to see it …”3

.
This is the point that John Brack reached: through his desire to paint universal themes he was unable to visualise and apprehend himself as seen in the world from the standpoint of the world. It feels (yes feeling!) that he was alienated from the very thing he sought to portray – how the personal and the universal are one and the same.

 

Brack’s ‘failure’ as an artist (if indeed it can be called that) is not, as Robert Nelson has suggested, “because he didn’t talk enough or wisely enough to negotiate his way out of a misunderstanding” (that his work was sardonic). On the contrary I believe his ‘success’ as an artist is that he painted exactly what he wanted to paint in the time and place that he wanted to paint it. His later work might strike some as cold and impenetrable but if one looks clearly, with a steady eye, there still beats a heart under that chill exterior, a heart grounded in the life of suburban Melbourne. In the end Brack returns to the beginning, still exploring, still searching.

.
As T.S. Eliot wrote in one of The Four Quartets,4

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

  1. Nelson, Robert. The Age newspaper. Melbourne, Friday 24th April, 2009
  2. “We learn that Nothingness is revealed to us most fully in anguish and that man generally tries to flee this anguish, this Nothingness which he is, by means of “bad faith.” The study of “bad faith” reveals to us that whereas Being-in-itself simply is, man is the being “who is what he is not and who is not what he is.” In other words man continually makes himself. Instead of being, he “has to be”; his present being has meaning only in the light of the future toward which he projects himself. Thus he is not what at any instant we might want to say he is, and he is that towards which he projects himself but which he is not yet.”
    Barnes, Hazel. Introduction to Jean-Paul Satre’s Being and Nothingness. London: Methuen, 1966, pp. xvii-xix
  3. Satre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness. (trans. Hazel Barnes). London: Methuen, 1966, p. 263
  4. Eliot, T.S. “Little Gidding” from The Four Quartets (1942)

 

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999) 'The barber’s shop' 1952

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
The barber’s shop
1952
Oil on canvas
63.7 × 76.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1953
© Helen Brack

 

John Brack. 'Two Typists' 1955

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Two typists
1955
Oil on canvas
51.0 × 61.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Joseph Brown Collection. Presented through the NGV Foundation by Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE, Honorary Life Benefactor, 2004
© Helen Brack

 

John Brack. 'Collins St, 5p.m.' 1955

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Collins St, 5 p.m.
1955
Oil on canvas
114.8 × 162.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1956
© National Gallery of Victoria

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999) 'The bar' 1954

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
The bar
1954
Oil on canvas
97.0 × 130.3 cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of Peter Clemenger AM and Joan Clemenger, Elena Keown Bequest, Spotlight Foundation, NGV Foundation, Ross Adler AC and Fiona Adler, Bruce Parncutt and Robin Campbell, Marc Besen AO and Eva Besen AO, the Bowness Family, Lindsay Fox AO and Paula Fox, Dorothy Gibson, Rino Grollo and Diana Ruzzene Grollo, Ian Hicks AM, the NGV Women’s Association and donors to the John Brack Appeal, 2009
© Helen Brack

 

John Brack. 'The conference' 1956

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
The conference
1956
Oil on canvas

 

John Brack. 'The block' 1954

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
The block
1954
Oil on canvas
59.0 × 71.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Dr Joseph Brown, AO, OBE, Honorary Life Benefactor, 1999
© Helen Brack

 

John Brack. 'The fish shop' 1955

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
The fish shop
1955
Oil on canvas

 

John Brack. 'The new house' 1953

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
The new house
1953
Oil on canvas on board
127.0 x 55.8 cm
Private collection, Brisbane
© Helen Brack

 

John Brack. 'Self-portrait' 1955

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Self-portrait
1955
Oil on canvas
81.4 × 48.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the National Gallery Women’s Association, 2000
© Helen Brack

 

John Brack. 'The unmade road' 1954

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
The unmade road
1954
Oil on canvas

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999) 'Subdivision' 1954

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Subdivision
1954
Oil on canvas

 

John Brack. 'Nude in an armchair' 1957

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Nude in an armchair
1957
Oil on canvas
127.6 × 107.4 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1957
© National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

“What I paint most is what interests me most, that is, people; the Human Condition, in particular the effect on appearance of environment and behaviour… A large part of the motive is the desire to understand, and if possible, to illuminate …”

John Reed, New Painting 1952-62, Longmans, Melbourne, 1963, p. 19.

 

Opening 24 April, the National Gallery of Victoria will present a major retrospective of the work of John Brack, the first in more than twenty years. This exhibition will survey John Brack’s complete career, incorporating over 150 works from all of his major series. John Brack will bring together a significant body of the artist’s paintings and works on paper, including pictures that have developed ‘icon status’ and others that have rarely, if ever, been seen publicly since they were first exhibited.

Kirsty Grant, Senior Curator Australian Art, NGV said that more than any other artist of his generation, John Brack was a painter of modern Australian life.

“John Brack painted images which explored the social rituals and realities of everyday life. Long considered the quintessential Melbourne artist, Brack’s images of urban and suburban Melbourne painted during the 1950s drew attention for their novelty of subject and instantly recognisable references. His work is much broader however and in this exhibition we will see the continuity throughout his career of his fundamental interest in people, human nature and the human condition,” said Ms Grant.

Frances Lindsay, NGV Deputy Director said John Brack was widely considered one of Australia’s greatest twentieth century artists.

“The NGV has enjoyed a long association with John Brack: he worked as an assistant frame maker at the gallery in 1949, became head of the National Gallery School in 1962, and the NGV was also the first public institution to purchase one of his works. Brack’s iconic works are certainly the highlight for many visitors to the Gallery. We are thrilled to be continuing this special relationship by presenting this important and timely retrospective.”

The exhibition will be displayed chronologically, beginning with some rare early student works. Each phase of Brack’s practice will be explored, from his well-known urban scenes of the 1950s to the highly symbolic paintings from the 1970s. Many of Brack’s most familiar paintings are included in the exhibition such as Collins St, 5p.m, The bar and The Old Time.

Brack produced compelling pictures which captured the essential characteristics of his subjects involved in everyday activities and, in some of his most engaging series, he depicted the characters of the racecourse, children at school and professional ballroom dancers. Throughout his career Brack also painted the nude, still life subjects and portraits, both of family and friends – including artists Fred Williams and John Perceval – as well as commissioned subjects, such as Barry Humphries as his alter-ego Edna Everage. During the 1970s Brack replaced the human figure with an assortment of everyday implements including cutlery, pens and pencils which he used as metaphors for the complexities of human behaviour and relationships.

Press release from the NGV website [Online] Cited 26/07/2009 no longer available online

 

John Brack. 'Inside and outside (The shop window)' 1972

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Inside and outside (The shop window)
1972
Oil on canvas

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999) 'Latin American Grand Final' 1969

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Latin American Grand Final
1969
Oil on canvas
167.5 x 205.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1981
© Helen Brack

 

John Brack. 'Portrait of Fred Williams' 1979–80

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Portrait of Fred Williams
1979-80
Oil on canvas

 

John Brack. 'The pros and cons' 1985

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
The pros and cons
1985
Oil on canvas

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)' The Battle' 19181-83

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
The Battle
19181-83
Oil on canvas

 

John Brack. 'We, Us, Them' 1983

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
We, Us, Them
1983
Oil on canvas
183.4 × 122.4 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Mr Philip Russell, Fellow, 1983
© Helen Brack

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999) 'Kings and Queens' 1988

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Kings and Queens
1988
Oil on canvas

 

John Brack. 'Souvenirs' 1976

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Souvenirs
1976

 

John Brack. 'Watching the flowers' 1990–91

 

John Brack (Australian, 1920-1999)
Watching the flowers
1990-91
Oil on canvas

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Everyday 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

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26
Jul
09

Exhibition: ‘Beuys is Here; Sculpture Object Action Revolution’ at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, England

Exhibition dates: 4th July – 27th September 2009

 

All photographs are of work in the exhibition. Many thankx to the De La Warr Pavilion for allowing me to publish the photographs and art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) 'Untitled (Sun State)' 1974

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Untitled (Sun State)
1974
Chalk and felt-tip pen on blackboard with wood frame
47 1/2 x 71 1/8″ (120.7 x 180.7 cm)

 

Joseph Beuys. 'I like America and America likes me' action 1974

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
I like America and America likes me action
1974

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) Überwindet endlich die Parteiendiktatur - Poster, N070815SE_118_098 - Overcome Party Dictatorship Now 1971

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Überwindet endlich die Parteiendiktatur – Poster, N070815SE_118_098 – Overcome Party Dictatorship Now
1971
Print on paper
278 x 395 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-86) is widely recognised as one of the most influential and extraordinary artists of the twentieth century.
 Artist, educator, political and social activist, Beuys’s philosophy  proposed the healing power and social function of art, in which everyone can participate and benefit. The works in this exhibition provide an opportunity to experience this expanded concept of art as he understood it. Collectively, the exhibition presents the ‘constellation of ideas’ central to Beuys’s practice, revealing his ideas on zoology, ecology, homeopathy, economics, politics, social activism, teaching and learning. Beuys incorporated into his work various materials such as felt, fat and metal, selected because of their inherent properties such as insulation, conduction and protection which all have associations with Beuys’s ideas.

The exhibition is largely selected from the ARTIST ROOMS collection and brings together well-known sculptures, drawings, vitrines and a remarkable selection of posters recalling live actions and events. Works include Fat Chair (1964-85) and, in Gallery 2, a single major work Scala Napoletana (1985) is shown for the first time in the UK. In addition nearly twenty notable multiples are included within the exhibition selected from National Galleries of Scotland. The multiple was a form of communication for Beuys – a means by which he could share and distribute his ideas beyond the confines of the artworld.

Text from the De La Warr Pavilion website [Online] Cited 23/07/2009 no longer available online

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Fettstuhl (Fat Chair)' 1964-85

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Fettstuhl (Fat Chair)
1964-85
Wood, glass, metal, fabric, paint, fat and thermometer
1830 x 1550 x 640 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Entwurf für ein Filzenvironment [Model for a Felt Environment]' 1964

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Entwurf für ein Filzenvironment (Model for a Felt Environment)
1964
Wood, glass, felt, oil paint and lead
1840 x 1680 x 840 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

The neat rolls of grey felt on painted wood inside this vitrine are intended as a model for an ‘environment’. Felt insulates and absorbs, representing protection but also a sense of constriction, like being suffocated. The same type of felt rolls are seen in the ‘environment’ Plight (1958/1985), now in the Pompidou Centre, in which the walls and ceiling are covered with felt to create a stifling atmosphere. Beuys used felt in an infamous ‘action’ performed the same year this model was made. The Chief saw the artist being wrapped in a felt blanket, fighting claustrophobia to lie practically still, as if in a coffin, for a nine-hour period.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Fettecke (Prozess) [Fat Corner (Process)]' 1968

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Fettecke (Prozess) (Fat Corner (Process))
1968
Wood, glass, 2 cardboard boxes and fat
1835 x 1680 x 840 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Looking inside the two boxes in this vitrine, we can see that in one, the fat has been neatly shaped into the corner to make a wedge. In the other, the shape of the fat has a disturbing biological look to it, like inner organs which have been unceremoniously dumped in a heap. Beuys used triangles of fat in both his sculptures and ‘actions’. From around 1963, he would use wedges of fat or felt to mark the boundaries of a space when performing an ‘action’.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Langhaus (Vitrine)' 1953-1962

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Langhaus (Vitrine)
1953-1962
Wood, glass, felt, oil paint and paper
1830 x 1545 x 640 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Langhaus can be variously translated as ‘nave’ such as one finds in a church, or ‘longhouse’, such as the dwelling house for one or several families found in early north European regions or, still today, in tribal communities in the Amazon region or the South Seas. The block of wood has a small piece of felt attached to the top, suggesting, according to Beuys’s usual iconography, the idea of protection, a connotation strengthened by the length of felt also lying in the vitrine. The walking stick lying alongside the felt is a traditional Beuysian symbol for leadership and protection, much as a shepherd looks after his flock.

 

 

Beuys is recognised as one of the most influential artists of the late twentieth century. Adopting the roles of political and social activist and educator, his philosophy proposed the healing power and social function of art for all.

From the 1950s onwards, many of his works are made from a distinctive group of materials, in particular felt, fat and copper. These were chosen for their insulating, conductive, protective, transmitting and transforming properties. Animals of all kinds appear in his work, but he was particularly drawn to stags, bees and hares. A childhood interest in the natural sciences remained with him throughout his life, fuelling a desire to explore themes and experiment with the properties of materials.

Beuys produced a vast body of work that includes performance, drawing, print-making, sculpture and installation. His complex, interlocking themes cover science, myth, history, medicine and energy. Beuys’ own image and life story is inextricably linked to his work through his persona of the Shaman, shepherd or stag-leader.

This group of works covers forty years of Beuys’s career. Included are nature-based drawings of the 1950s, images and scores recording 1960s ‘actions’ and later installations, in addition to sculptures and vitrines. The collection brings together drawings with sculpture from the 1960s like the iconic Fat Chair, and images relating to Actions and installations like Coyote and Show Your Wound. It culminates with the sculpture Scala Napoletana which was made only a few months before the artist’s death, and relates to the theme of communication with the beyond.”

Text from the National Galleries of Scotland website [Online] Cited 23/07/2009 no longer available online

 

Joseph Beuys with 'Rose for Direct Democracy' 1973

 

Joseph Beuys with Rose for Direct Democracy
1973

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Pregnant Woman with Swan' 1959

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Schwangere und Schwan (Pregnant Woman with Swan)
1959
Oil paint and watercolour on paper
276 x 214 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

The tiny swan in this painting looks as if it is swimming serenely inside the woman, replacing the foetus inside her pregnant body. The drawing combines male and female elements, with the phallic nature of the swan’s neck. Beuys had been fascinated with swans since childhood. A sculpture of a large golden swan sat on top of the tower of Schwanenburg castle (Swan Castle) in his home town of Cleves, and was visible from his bedroom window while he was growing up. With his interest in language, the artist would also have delighted in the similarity between the German words for pregnant woman (Schwangere) and swan (Schwan).

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Felt Suit' 1970

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Felt Suit
1970
Felt and wood
1660 x 660 x 260 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Beuys began producing works in multiples in the 1960s, partly as a way to combat the elitism of the art world. This is probably his most famous multiple. It has its origins in the performance Action the Dead Mouse/Isolation Unit of 1970, where Beuys wore a felt suit with lengthened arms and legs, like the one seen here. He described the suit as an extension of the sculptures he made with felt, where the material’s insulating properties were integral to the meaning of the work. Beuys intended this concept of warmth to extend beyond the material to encompass what he described as ‘spiritual warmth or the beginning of an evolution’.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Stark beleuchteter Hirschstuhl (Brightly-Lit Stag Chair)' 1957-1971

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Stark beleuchteter Hirschstuhl (Brightly-Lit Stag Chair)
1957-1971
2 works on paper, oil paint, graphite and masking tape
1390 x 963 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Although Beuys began this collage in 1957, it was not finished until 1971. The chair is similar to the subject of the artist’s 1972 sculpture Backrest for a fine-limbed person (Hare-type) of the 20th Century A.D. This is a cast iron impression of a child’s plaster corset, made as a multiple. However, the striding feet of the chair in this collage give it a human aspect, making it seem almost confident and self-possessed. The curved back of the chair is echoed in the lightbulb shape at the top of the image. The stag, in Beuys’s bestiary, guided the soul in its journey to the afterlife.

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) 'Passage der Zukunftplanetoiden' (Hearts of the Revolutionaries: Passage of the Planets of the Future) 1955

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Passage der Zukunftplanetoiden (Hearts of the Revolutionaries: Passage of the Planets of the Future)
1955
Watercolour on card
295 x 490 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

The choice of red for this painting would seem like an obvious one, reflecting both the heart and the virtues of honour and courage of the revolutionary in the title of the piece. Red also represents socialism, a belief of Beuys which became central to his later work. However, the colour red is used sparingly and symbolically in the artist’s work, and here it makes a bold statement on life, vitality and the future. The inclusion of the round shape to represent a planet brings an astronomical element into the work.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Scala Napoletana' 1985

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Scala Napoletana
1985
Overall dimensions variable:11000 x 10000 x 6000mm (room size at Bexhill)
Ladder: 4510 x 250 x 80mm, Lead spheres: 500mm diameter each
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Much of the work Beuys made in his last few years includes objects or themes which suggest death. This sculpture was originally inspired by a ladder the artist found while recovering from illness on the island of Capri in Autumn 1985, which he hung with two stones. When he visited Amalfi at Christmas in the same year, he purchased a ladder (Scala Libera) from a landlord which he used to make this sculpture. Held in suspension, it appears as if the pair of lead weights are preventing this heavy wooden ladder from soaring into the air. This is one of the last sculptures Beuys made. He died in January 1986.

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) 'Sled' 1969

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Sled
1969

 

 

The materials used in the making of this work relate to Beuys’s experience of being rescued by nomadic Tartars when his plane was shot down during the Second World War. Fat was rubbed into his body and he was wrapped in felt to keep him warm. The sled looks as if it has been prepared for an expedition or in response to an emergency, with a survival kit strapped to it. The flashlight represents the sense of orientation, the felt is protective, and the fat is for food.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Ohne Titel (Untitled)' 1970

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Ohne Titel (Untitled)
1970
Gelatin silver print on canvas
2330 x 2275 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Wearing his unmistakeable felt trilby hat, with his fishing vest poking through a luxuriant fur-lined jacket, this large image (over two metres square) shows Beuys at his most iconic. The clothes he wears here were part of his artist’s ‘uniform’, chosen for comfort and practicality (the multi-pocketed vest was particularly useful) but also as a way to create his image. Fittingly, he is depicted with one of his most distinctive sculptures. In the foreground is The Pack (1969), a group of twenty-four sledges. Each one has its own survival kit including fat for sustenance, felt for warmth and a torch for navigation, making the artist’s signature materials part of this image too.

Text under images from the National Galleries of Scotland website [Online] Cited 23/07/2009 no longer available online

 

 

De La Warr Pavilion
Bexhill-on-Sea,
East Sussex, TN40 1DP

Opening hours:
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24
Jul
09

Exhibition: ‘Focus on Color: The Photography of Jeannette Klute’ at the Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Conneticut

Exhibition dates: 21st June – 27th September 2009

 

Many thankx to the Bruce Museum and Mike Horyczun (Director of Public Relations) for allowing me to publish the wonderful photographs below.

Marcus

 

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009) 'Cardinal Flower' Nd (early-mid 1950s)

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Cardinal Flower
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
20 1/4 x 16 1/4 in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of George Stephanopoulos

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009) 'Misty Willow' Nd (early-mid 1950s)

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Misty Willow
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
20 1/4 x 16 1/4 in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of George Stephanopoulos

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009) 'Miterwort' Nd (early-mid 1950s)

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Miterwort
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
14 1/8 x 11 1/4 in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of George and Alexandra Stephanopoulos

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009) 'Beech Fern' Nd (early-mid 1950s)

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Beech Fern
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
20 1/4 x 16 1/4 in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of George Stephanopoulos

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009) 'Jewel Weed' Nd (early-mid 1950s)

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Jewel Weed
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
20 1/4 x 16 1/4 in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of George Stephanopoulos

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009) 'Christmas Fern' Nd (early-mid 1950s)

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Christmas Fern
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
12 ½ x 9 ½ in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of George Thomsen

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009) 'Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)' Nd (early-mid 1950s)

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
20 ¼ x 16 ¼ in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of George and Alexandra Stephanopoulos

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009) 'Green Grasses - blue' Nd (early-mid 1950s)

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Green Grasses – blue
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
20 ¼ x 16 ¼ in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of Richard and Elena Pollack

 

 

The exhibition features 24 colour photographs by Jeannette Klute (1918-2009) drawn from more than fifty of her prints held in the Bruce Museum’s permanent collection. Ranging from landscapes to intimate “woodland portraits” of orchids, ferns, and trees, Jeannette Klute’s photographs of New England are vibrant compositions produced through the labour intensive dye transfer process.

Trained at the Rochester Institute of Technology through the Works Progress Administration during the Depression, Jeanette Klute worked extensively on perfecting the dye transfer process, a laborious photographic technique that allowed for rich colours in exceptionally permanent prints. Klute tested and refined this process at the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, NY, beginning her career as photographic illustrator to physicist Ralph M. Evans and ascending to research photographer in charge of the Visual Research Studio of the Color Control Division.

Klute’s photography merged environmental consciousness with cutting edge technology. Using only natural light and leaving a minimal impact on the environment, she spent many years investigating colour and demonstrating the capabilities of dye transfer by photographing nature. Her work resulted in some of the finest examples of colour printing and all of its capabilities.

“My purpose has been to somehow express the feeling one experiences being out of doors,” Ms. Klute wrote for her Woodland Portraits exhibition. “I am concerned with the delight to the senses as much as with the intellectual. The woods are mystical and enchanting to me as well as spiritual.”

Jeanette Klute’s work was featured in Edward Steichen’s 1950 exhibition All Color Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, and her large one-woman shows were circulated internationally by the Smithsonian Institution and Kodak International. She was also invited to submit work for the San Francisco Museum of Art’s landmark exhibition Women of Photography: An Historical Survey in 1975.

Text from the Bruce Museum website [Online] Cited 

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009) 'Maple Tree - red leaves' Nd (early-mid 1950s)

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Maple Tree – red leaves
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
20 ¼ x 16 ¼ in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of LeGrand Belnap

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009) 'Frosted Tree' Nd (early-mid 1950s)

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Frosted Tree
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
20 ¼ x 16 ¼ in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of Richard and Elena Pollack

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009) 'Yellow Lady's Slipper' Nd (early-mid 1950s)

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Yellow Lady’s Slipper
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
20 ¼ x 16 ¼ in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of LeGrand Belnap

 

 

“The first month they were sending people out for job interviews, but not me,” she recalled in a speech at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1984. “I asked how come? The head of the department said, ‘Oh, there are no jobs for women in photography.’ My world fell apart.”

Ms. Klute took it upon herself to go out for interviews, and every week on her day off, she walked to the offices of Eastman Kodak Co. to ask for a job. For a long time, she never made it past the personnel office. Then, one day, in the pouring rain, decked in her finest navy blue suit, she stalked to the offices and was sent straight to the sixth floor for an interview.

“The man took a look at me with the rain dripping off my hat and said, ‘If you want a job that bad, you’ve got it,'” she recalled. “There was a celebration in the neighbourhood that night.” …

“She was really like my college education,” said Barbara Erbland, who assisted Ms. Klute in the lab at Kodak for many years. “She taught me everything – about light, colour, about people … how to live well.” … “Her lab consisted of all women,” she said. “I think it was by intention. She believed women had brains. We worked very well together.” …

Lugging a 4-by-5 Graflex single-lens reflex camera wherever they went, Erbland ventured into swamps and tide pools… “She taught me you don’t make do, you make things happen,” said Erbland. “You’re not a victim.”

Back in Rochester, the two sought out swamps and woodland for Ms. Klute to take her photographs – or, as she put it, to “make pictures.”

PHOTO GALLERY: In memory of Jeannette Klute, a ‘Renaissance woman’, by Philip Anselmo, August 2009

 

Jeannette Klute. 'Grape Leaves' nd

 

Jeannette Klute (American, 1918-2009)
Grape Leaves
Nd (early-mid 1950s)
Dye transfer photograph
20 ¼ x 16 ¼ in.
Bruce Museum collection
Gift of George Stephanopoulos

 

 

Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT 06830

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 5 pm
Last admission 4:30pm
Closed Monday and major holidays

Bruce Museum website

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20
Jul
09

Review: ‘Tacita Dean’ at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th June – 2nd August 2009

 

Photographs from the exhibition are in the chronological order that they appear.

 

Tacita Dean. 'Grobsteingrab (floating)' 2009

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Grobsteingrab (floating)
2009

 

 

“The subjects are connected to the medium I use. It’s all about light and time and phenomena to some extent, like a rainbow or a gust of wind or even an eclipse or a green ray, things like that. And this is the language of light. It’s not the language of binary pixels.”

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Tacita Dean1

 

“The value of her [Dean’s] work, writes Winterson, is one of the virtues of art itself: it is an intervention into the rush of everyday life, holding up time and space for contemplation.”

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Jeanette Winterson2

 

 

This is a dense, ‘thick’ exhibition by Tacita Dean at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne that rewards repeat viewing. The theatricality of each work and the theatricality of the journey through ACCA’s dimmed galleries (an excellent installation of the work!) makes for an engrossing exhibition as Dean explores the minutiae of memory and the significance of insignificant events: a contemplation on the space, time and materiality of the everyday.

The exhibition starts with 3 very large floating rocks (Grobsteingrab (floating), Hunengrab (floating) and Riesenbelt (floating) all 2009) printed on multiple pieces of photographic paper, the surrounds of the rocks painted out with matt black blackboard paint (see image at top of this posting). The rocks look like mountain massif and are printed at different levels to each other; they move up and down, earthed in the sense that the viewer feels their heavy weight but also buoyant in their surface shininess, seeming to float into the void. The textuality of the rocks is incredible, the suspension of the rocks fragmented by the fact that they are printed on multiple pieces of photographic paper, the edges of the paper curling up to dislocate the unity of form.

Opposite is the large multi-panelled T + I (Tristan + Isolde), a tour de force of Romantic landscape meets mythological journey (see image second from top). Sunshine searing through cloud lights the 25 Turner-esque black and white gravure panels that feature an inlet, fjord and ravine. Semi-legible words dot the landscape, reflecting on the legendary story: ‘undergrowth’, ‘dispute’, ‘brightening up’, ‘BLIND FOLLY’ and ‘the union involved in a manifestation(?)’ for example. Each panel is beautifully rendered and a joy to behold – my friend and I stood transfixed, examining each panel in minute detail, trying to work out the significance and relation between the writing and image. As with most of the work in the exhibition the piece engages the viewer in a dialogue between reality, story and memory, between light, space, time and phenomena.

After the small rear projected film Totality (2000) that shows the extraordinary event of a total eclipse of the sun by the moon for a period of two minutes and six seconds the viewer takes a short darkened passage to experience the major installation in the exhibition Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films) 2007 (see images below).

The first thing you see is one image projected onto a small suspended screen, the rest of the installation blocked by a short gallery wall to the right. The dancer Merce Cunningham sits in studious calm and observes us. This in itself is magical but as we round the corner other screens of different sizes and heights come into view, all portraying Cunningham’s dance studio and him sitting in it from different angles, heights and distances (including close-ups of Cunningham himself). In the six screen projection the performances of Cunningham are sometimes in synch, sometimes not. The director Trevor Carlson, holding a stop watch, times the 3 movements of Cage’s musical piece 4’33” and directs Cunningham to change position at the end of every movement; his hands move, he crosses his legs and the performance continues.

The work is projected into the sculptural space using old 16mm film projectors and their sound mixes with the studied silence of the Cage work and white noise. The mirrors in the studio make spaces of infinite recess, showing us the director with the stop watch, the windows, the floor, the markings of the dancers hands on the mirrors surface adding another echo of past presences. As a viewer their seems to be an ‘openness’ around as you are pulled into a spatial and sound vortex, a phenomena that transcends normal spatio-temporal dimensionality. As people pass through the installation their shadows fall on the screens and become part of the work adding to the multi-layered feeling of the work. This is sensational stuff – you feel that you transcend reality itself as you observe and become immersed within this amazing work – almost as though space and time had split apart at the seams and you are left hanging, suspended in mid-air.

The next two films are my favourite pieces in the exhibition. Darmstädter Werkblock (2007) shows us the significance of insignificant markings – edges and intersections, textures, blends and bleeds, the minutiae of existence in the markings on the fabric of an internal wall (see photograph below). Here is light, wood panelling, texture and again the sound of the whirring of the film projector. Usually I am not a fan of this kind of work having seen enough ‘Dead Pan’ photography and photography of empty yet supposedly important spaces in my life, but here Dean’s film makes the experience come alive and actually mean something. Her work transcends the subject matter – and matter is at the point where these interstitial spaces have been marked by the abstract signs of human existence that constantly surround us.

In Michael Hamburger (2007) Dean reaches the empito-me of these personal narratives that inhabit everyday life. Film of an orchard with wind rustling through the trees, clouds drifting across the sky, rotting apples on the branches, fallen fruit on the ground and a clearing with a man looking up at the trees is accompanied by the industrial sounds of clicks and pops like that of an old radio (see photograph above). The swirling sound of the wind surrounds you in the darkened gallery space much as the panoramic screen of the projection seems to enfold you. The scene swaps to an interior of a house and shows the man, has face mainly in shadow, the film focusing on the different type of apples in front of him or on the aged wrinkles of his hands holding the apples. He talks intelligently and knowingly about the different types of apples and their rarity and qualities. This is Michael Hamburger (now dead which adds poignancy to the film) – poet, critic, memoirist and academic notable for his translations of the work of W. G. Sebald, one of Tacita Dean’s main influences (and also an author that I love dearly).

One can see echoes of Sebald’s work in that of Tacita Dean – the personal narratives accompanied by mythical and historical stories and pictures. The tactility of Hamburger’s voice and hands, his caressing of the apples with the summary justice of the tossing away of rotten apples to stop them ruining the rest of the crop is arresting and holds you transfixed. Old varieties and old hands mixed with the old technology of film make for a nostalgic combination. As John Matthews of ArtKritique has so insightfully observed in his review of this work Dean implicitly understands how objects can be elegies for fleeting lives.

After this work one should have a break – go to the front of the gallery and have a coffee and relax because this is an exhausting show!

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The rest of the exhibition tends to tail off slightly, with less engaging but still interesting works.

In Die Regimentstochter (2005) (the name of a Donizetti opera) Dean uses a pile of 36 found and mutilated old opera and theatre programs from the 1930s and 1940s such as Staats Theatre, Berlin, Der Tanz and Deutsche Openhaus. These programs have had portions of their front covers roughly but clinically cut to reveal the inner pages beneath (see image below) and Dean uses them to comment on the politicisation of culture in Berlin’s mid-20th century history. The top of a powdered wigged head or the face of Beethoven has been revealed when the title of the work has been neatly removed along with something else:

“Each programme gives a tantalising glimpse of a title or a face through a small window cut into the embossed cover; we recognise Beethoven, Rossini, the face of a singer perhaps. When and by whom this incision in the cover was made, very neatly one might add, even more why these disfigured programmes were kept remains a mystery. A swift search in an archive would easily show what has been removed; most likely an embossed swastika, for these performances all happened during the Third Reich. Why they were removed is left to our imaginations; perhaps an avid theatre-goer livid at the co-option of culture by the regime, perhaps someone afraid they might be misinterpreted as fascist memorabilia, while wishing to retain the memories these performances triggered.”3

High up on a wall opposite these programs is the film Palast (2004) in which Dean reflects Berlin’s divided history in the jaded façade of the once iconic Palast, the government building of the former German Democratic Republic.4 Shards of light hit glass and reflections are fractured in their gridded panes (see images below). A bird is seen flying, viewed through the window and we see the stains on that window but in this film things feel a bit forced. Unlike the earlier Darmstädter Werkblock there is little magic here.

Again the minutiae of existence is examined in the final two films Noir et Blanc (2006), made on the last 5 rolls of Dean’s black and white double-sided 16mm film stock and Kodak (2006), both made at the Kodak factory in Chalon-sur-Saône before it closed it’s film production facilities (see images below). With the demise of the medium that she feels closest to Dean sought permission to film at the factory itself and both films examine that medium by turning it on itself.

“Dean became acutely aware of the threat to her chosen medium when she was unable to obtain standard 16mm black-and-white film for her camera. Upon discovering that the Kodak factory in Chalon-sur-Saône, France, was closing its film production facility, Dean obtained permission to document the manufacture of film at the factory, where cameras have never before been invited. The resulting rear-screen projection ‘Noir et Blanc’, filmed on the final five rolls Dean acquired, turns the medium on itself. The 44-minute-long work ‘Kodak’ constitutes a contemplative elegy for the approaching demise of a medium specific to Dean’s own practice. Kodak’s narrative follows the making of celluloid as it runs through several miles of machinery and explores the abandoned corners of the factory. On the day of filming, the factory also ran a test through the system with brown paper, providing a rare opportunity to see the facilities fully illuminated, without the darkness needed to prevent exposure, and underscoring the luster of the celluloid as the dull brown strips contrast with the luminous, transparent polyester.”5

As writer Tony Lloyd has commented, “The film “Kodak” documenting the manufacturing of film was as solemn and reverent as a Catholic mass and equally as dull and inexplicable.”6 I wouldn’t go that far but by the end of the exhibition the nostalgia for old technologies, the brown paper programs and the film strip as relic were starting to wear a bit thin, like the sprockets of an old film camera failing to take up the film.

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At her best Tacita Dean is a fantastic artist whose work examines the measure of things, the vibrations of spirit in the FLUX of experience. Her work has a trance-like quality that is heavy with nostalgia and memory and reflects the machine-ations of contemporary life. In her languorous (thankyou Tony Lloyd for that word, so appropriate I had to use it!) and dense work Dean teases out the significance of insignificant actions/events and imparts meaning and life to them. This is no small achievement.

As an exhibition this is an intense and moving experience. Go, take your time and enjoy!

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

  • Dean, Tacita quoted in Bunbury, Stephen.“Still Lives,” in The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Publishing, A2 section, Saturday June 6th, 2009, p. 20
  • Winterson, Jeanette, quoted in Bunbury, Stephen.“Still Lives,” in The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Publishing, A2 section, Saturday June 6th, 2009, p. 20
  • Anonymous. Product synopsis from Tacita Dean Die Regimentstochter [Paperback] on the Amazon website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009
  • Anonymous. Description of Tacita Dean: ‘Palast’ on the Tate St. Ives website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009 no longer available online
  • Anonymous. “The Hugo Boss Prize: Tacita Dean”, on the Guggenheim Museum website [Online] Cited 19/07/2009 no longer available online
  • Lloyd, Tony. “Opnion: Tacita Dean at ACCA,” on ArtInfo.com.au [Online] Cited 19/07/2009 no longer available online

 

 

Tacita Deam. 'T & I (Tristan & Isolde)' 2006

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
T & I (Tristan & Isolde)
2006
Photogravure on twenty-five sheets
Sheet (each): 26 3/4 x 33 7/8″ (68 x 86 cm)
Installation: 134 x 170″ (340.4 x 431.8 cm)
Niels Borch Jensen Gallery and Edition, Berlin and Copenhagen

 

 

Through drawings and films, Dean makes work that is frequently characterised by a poetic sensibility and fragmented narratives exploring past and present, fact and fiction. In this monumental printed work, she addresses themes of collective memory and lost history by combining the romantic legend of ill-fated medieval lovers Tristan and Isolde (whose initials give this piece its title) with the real-life tragedy of British sailor Donald Crowhurst. Dean often uses the sea and other maritime themes in her work, including the tale of Crowhurst, which has appeared in several of her projects.

In 1968 Crowhurst sailed from England for a solo, round-the-world yacht race and never returned. In T & I Dean connects the tale of this lost sailor to the story of Tristan and Isolde – whose tragic love story also hinges on sea voyages – through her majestic depiction of a barren, rocky coastline looking seaward. This work, based on a found postcard, includes the white, cryptic notes that Dean often scribbles on her prints and drawings. Here the musings include “start” and “stage 4,” clear theatrical directions, as well as fragments of a poem by “WSG” about an artist killed in an accident. The twenty-five-sheet composition suggests a cinematic narrative sequence, while reading it as a unified image has a breathtaking, visionary impact. The rich velvety texture of the photogravure medium contributes a nineteenth-century patina that is ideally suited to the intensity and foreboding melancholy of the subject.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 269

 

Tacita Dean. 'Banewl' 1999

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Totality
16mm colour film
2000

 

old 16mm projector

 

16mm film projector used by Tacita Dean to project Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’

 

Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

Tacita Dean. ‘Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films)’ 2007

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Merce Cunningham Performs ‘Stillness’ (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films) (stills)
2007

 

Tacita Dean. 'Darmstädter Werkblock' 2007 (still)

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Darmstädter Werkblock (stills)
16mm colour film, optical sound
18 minutes, continuous loop
2007

 

 

Take one of her best pieces, Darmstädter Werkblock 2007, which looks for most of its long eighteen minutes like an exploration of an empty room, which it is. The camera pans the space, exploring the frayed fringes of its empty, textile-clad, burnt brown walls. It settles on holes, tears, seams and faded spots marking where placards used to hang. We are formally intrigued, but also curious why we should care so much about this particular empty room in what we can vaguely sense is a museum. Perhaps we are even a little bored. Only later – not in the film itself, but in the accompanying materials – are we told that these rooms usually house the “Block Beuys”, a section of the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt arranged by Beuys himself over the decade and a half between its opening and the artist’s death. The Block is mired in controversy now that the walls, which are actually left over from when the rooms showed medieval artefacts, but which evoke and mirror Beuys’s own work, are slated for renovation.

Text from Philip Tinari. “Meditations on time,” in Tate Etc. issue 23: Autumn 2011 on the Tate website 1 September 2011 [Online] Cited 18/03/2019

 

Stills taken from the 16mm film Darmstädter Werkblock (2007) filmed in the seven rooms that make up Block Beuys, Joseph Beuys’s installation in Darmstadt’s Hessisches Landesmuseum. In September 2007, the museum announced that they intended to renovate the rooms, and to remove the brown jute wall coverings and gray carpet that had become such a feature of the installation. The decision caused much upset in Germany and beyond. Unable to document the rooms for copyright reasons, Dean requested that instead she might document the walls and carpet and the details of the space that surround Beuys’s work without making any visual reference to the work itself. The resulting film concentrated on the patches and the stains and the labor of those who have been maintaining the space over the last four decades – the parallel entropy of the museum space with the ageing of the work itself.

Text from Google Books

 

Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007

Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007

Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007

Tacita Dean. 'Michael Hamburger' 2007

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Michael Hamburger (stills)
16mm colour anamorphic, optical sound
28 minutes
2007

 

 

Continuing her recent collection of film portraits, Tacita Dean’s Michael Hamburger is a moving portrayal of the poet and translator, a resident of Middleton in Suffolk and great friend of W.G. Sebald. It represented Dean’s first commission in Britain since 1999.

For its 28 minutes, the film quietly observes the poet in his study and among the apple trees in his garden. Sunlight dissolves the frames of the windows, the most insubstantial of thresholds between this home, only one-room-deep, and what lies outdoors; a rainbow marks its watery geometry in the sky; and the apples age upon the ground, shrunken, and yet somehow becoming more intensely themselves.

Although Hamburger is said to have despaired of reviews of his poetry which declared that he is ‘better known as a translator’, we might detect a similar deprecation of his self, by himself, in the film which shares his name. Unwilling, perhaps unable, to talk of his past and his migrations, most especially fleeing Nazism in 1933, he talks poignantly, instead, of his apple trees, of where they have come from, and of their careful cross-breeding. Purity is dismissed, and one senses with an awkward pathos that the poet is translating himself.

Text from the FVU website [Online] Cited 18/03/2019

 

Tacita Dean’s portrait of the poet and translator Michael Hamburger was filmed, at his home in rural Suffolk, in the last year of his life. Set against muted autumn colours, and with Hamburger performing an evocative, anecdotal inventory of the harvest from his apple orchard, the piece is a bittersweet reminder of time’s passing that deftly captures, and quietly honours, an exemplary 20th century literary figure.

 

Tacita Dean. 'Die Regimentstochter' 2005

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Die Regimentstochter (The Daughter of the Regiment)
2005

 

 

Die Regimentstochter is the latest in a series of projects made from material turned up in flea markets, in this case, a series of 36 antique opera programs from the 30s and 40s found in the flea markets of Berlin. Like the found photographs in Dean’s 2001 FLOH, these souvenirs remain unexplained by text. They retain the silence of the lost object, and they share a riddle: each program gives a tantalising glimpse of a title or a face through a small window cut into the embossed cover. Readers will recognise Beethoven, Rossini, or perhaps a singer. A swift search in an archive would easily confirm what has been removed, but it seems likely that the missing piece is a swastika. These performances all happened during the Third Reich. When and by whom the incision was made, and why these programs were both worth disfiguring and worth keeping, remains a mystery.

Text from the Amazon website

 

“Things no longer visible thus enhance our view of the past, and gaps, paradoxically, become memorials that engage the beholder’s imagination more actively than a didactic demonstration could. Merely by showing what remains, Tacita Dean not only calls up in our mind’s eye a specific historical situation and its abysses, but also erects an anti-monument to the forms customarily taken by the culture of memory.”

Andreas Kaernbach

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965) 'Die Regimentstochter' 2005

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Die Regimentstochter (The Daughter of the Regiment)
2005

 

 

They look lined up like a modern art object. The 36 opera program books are not considered as works of art. Nevertheless, the British and Berlin-based artist Tacita Dean turned them into a work of art.

“An incidental finding inspired Tacita Dean to her artwork,” tells the House of History. “At a Berlin flea market she discovered in the year 2000 36 opera program booklets from the years 1934 to 1942. Conspicuous were the title pages: from each of the booklets was a part cut out, including from the program of the eponymous opera “The Regimental Daughter” by Gaetano Donizetti (world premiere 1840). “Said part of the title pages of those notebooks was reserved for the swastika symbol. This was cut off by the previous owners. Why, that can only be speculated, continues the house of history. “Was it shame, the fear of being punishable or even a “private” act of resistance before the end of National Socialism? The program books in any case seem to have been of great cultural value to the former owner. ”

“Whatever the motives that made the owner or the owner of the program booklets of the Berlin opera from 1934 to 1942 come to shears in order to remove the Nazi swastikas from the cover pages of the booklets: The voices speak of the desire to conclude with a time that one does not want to be reminded of – a basic motive of German post-war history that stood in the way of an honest confrontation with the era of National Socialism for a long time, “said the Minister of Culture.

With her work, Tacita asks Dean questions about dealing with the Nazi past. Which motive behind it and who had heard the booklets remains open until today. Tacita Dean has created a work of art from these finds, which poses subtle questions about the examination of the Nazi past – but in a way that goes beyond purely historical reflection and awakens additional associations. What does that object, created by the artist from Canterbury, say about the relationship between art and politics? “Can the opera narratives be separated from the political environment in which they were performed and played?” asks the President of the Foundation for the History of the Federal Republic of Germany, Prof. Dr Hans Walter Hütter.

Monika Grütters continues: “The fact that the dark part of our identity does not disappear through concealment and suppression, and that it becomes visible again even where it was attempted to be eradicated, impressively shows Tacita Dean’s work Regimentstochter. That is why I very much welcome the fact that this unique work of art has a place in the collection which, in view of its significance in contemporary history, necessarily belongs to it – a place in the House of History which, unlike any other museum in Germany, presents German history from 1945 in all its facets illustrated and also devoted to the effects of National Socialism on the political and cultural life in post-war Germany.”

Text by Von Daniel Thalheim, “NS-Vergangenheit als Kunst – 36 Programmhefte aus der Nazi-Zeit im Haus der Geschichte,” on the ARTEFAKTE: Das Journal für Baukultur und Kunst website 2nd September 2015 [Online] Cited 17/03/2019 translated from the German by Google Translate.

 

Tacita Dean. 'Palast' 2004

Tacita Dean. 'Palast' 2004

Tacita Dean. 'Palast' 2004

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Three stills from the film Palast
2004

 

 

“A major survey of work by the internationally acclaimed British artist Tacita Dean will open at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) on June 6th, 2009.

In a great coup for Melbourne, fourteen recent projects by this celebrated contemporary artist will come together in what is the largest survey of Dean’s work to ever be shown outside of Europe.

Tacita Dean is one of Britain’s most accomplished and celebrated contemporary artists. She won the New York Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss award in 2007, was a Turner Prize nominee in 1998, and has had numerous solo exhibitions in Europe – at the Schaulager in Basel, DIA Beacon in New York, the de Pont Museum in the Netherlands, the Tate Britain, UK, the Musee d’art Moderne in Paris, France and the Villa Oppenheim in Berlin, to mention just a few.

Dean was also recently given the highly prestigious title of Royal Academician, awarded sparingly to alumni’s of the revered London art school who have achieved greatness in their work.

Tacita Dean was born in Canterbury in 1965, and moved to Berlin in 2000 after being awarded a DAAD residency. Early works focused on the sea – most famously she explored the tragic maritime misadventures of amateur English sailor Donald Crowhurst. Since moving to Berlin she has devoted her attention to the architecture and cultural history of Germany, a recurring theme also being the salvaging, saving and collecting of things lost. Many of her works rest on the icons of modernism, heroic failures and forgotten utopian ideals.

Dean is best known for her work with 16mm film, although she also works with photography, print and drawing. The qualities of filmmaking itself play a central role in her works – which hauntingly capture the passing of time, space and the mysteries of the natural world.

Her work occupies a place between fact and fiction. As British author Jeanette Winterson says, “Her genius, with her slow, steady, held frames, is to allow the viewer to dream; to enter without hurry, without expectation, and to accept, as we do in a dream, a different experience of time, and a different relationship to everyday objects.”

Included in this exhibition is Dean’s revered film installation, Merce Cunningham Performs STILLNESS (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33” with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007, which was recently presented at the DIA Beacon in New York, and the 2007 work Michael Hamburger. Two new wall-based works especially created for this exclusive ACCA exhibition will also feature.

Dean is also known for creating ‘asides’ – totally absorbing texts on the subjects explored in her work. She will contribute texts on all the projects included in the exhibition for a catalogue which will be published to coincide with this unique ACCA survey.

The exhibition has been curated by ACCA’s Artistic Director, Juliana Engberg and follows an early 2002 exhibition of Dean’s work curated by Engberg for the Melbourne International Arts Festival.

“Tacita’s works continue to enthral and inspire me. Not only has she rescued relics from history and restored them with a visual dignity and affection in her wonderful film projects, but increasingly she rescues the traditional art forms of drawing, print making, painting, photography and film from a digital abyss,” says Juliana Engberg. “Her works have a truth and quiddity about them, but also a playful artifice and technical tactic to bring out the tactile and material in all she deals with. Tacita is a sublime story-teller, a narrator of odysseys and attempts. She is a true artist sojourner.

In this selection of works made since 2004 we grasp the breadth of her practice and her pursuit of the time-honoured landscape, portrait and abstract genres,” she says.”

Text from the press release from the ACCA website [Online] Cited 17/07/2009 no longer available online

 

Tacita Dean. 'Noir et Blanc [Still]' 2006

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Noir et Blanc [Still]
16mm black-and-white Kodak film
2006

 

Tacita Dean. 'Kodak' 2006

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Kodak (still)
16mm colour and b/w film optical sound
44 minutes loop system
2006

 

Tacita Dean. 'Kodak' 2006

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Kodak (still)
16mm colour and b/w film optical sound
44 minutes loop system
2006

 

 

As Dean said in a Guardian article back in February: “Digital is not better than analogue, but different. What we are asking for is coexistence: that analogue film might be allowed to remain an option for those who want it, and for the ascendency of one not to have to mean the extinguishing of the other.”

In the same text, she wrote of the difference between film and digital as “not only emulsion versus pixels, or light versus electronics, but something deeper – something to do with poetry.” This poetry is exactly what she explored in one of her landmark films, Kodak (2006), a 45-minute examination of the production process of celluloid itself at a French factory fated for early closure because of a lack of demand. A film about the making of film, it hinged on the sort of super-aestheticised conceit that has become her staple. This is a tactic which allows her to turn even time itself into a structural device, as she did in 2008 with a film called Amadeus, which depicts a 50-minute crossing of the English Channel in a small fishing boat of the same name.

Text from Philip Tinari. “Meditations on time,” in Tate Etc. issue 23: Autumn 2011 on the Tate website 1 September 2011 [Online] Cited 18/03/2019

 

Tacita Dean. 'Kodak' 2006

 

Tacita Dean (English, b. 1965)
Kodak (still)
16mm colour and b/w film optical sound
44 minutes loop system
2006

 

 

Australia Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
111 Sturt Street, Southbank
Victoria 3006, Australia
Phone: 03 9697 9999

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday 10am – 5pm
Weekends & Public Holidays 11am – 5pm
Monday by appointment
Open all public holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday

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18
Jul
09

Exhibition: ‘Robert Capa’ at Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 3rd July – 11th October 2009

 

Thankyou to the Ludwig Museum press office for allowing me to use these photographs to illustrate the post. Another exhibition about Robert Capa, This is War! Robert Capa at Work is on show at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya from 7th July – 27th September, 2009

Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Marcus

 

 

Robert Capa. 'Barcelona or its vicinity, August 1936. Loyalist militiamen.' 1936

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Barcelona or its vicinity, August 1936. Loyalist militiamen
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

 

One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Robert Capa was born in Budapest, on October 22, 1913, as Endre Ernő Friedmann. He started to work as a photographer in the 1930s, first as a correspondent of Dephot, a Berlin-based agency. In 1933 he moved to Paris, where he befriended André Kertész, Henri Cartier-Bresson and David Seymour (Chim), and met with the great love of his life, Gerda Taro, also a photographer. He changed his name to Robert Capa in 1935, and his pictures of the 1936-1937 Spanish civil war were already published under this nom de plume. He immigrated to the US in 1939. Between 1941 and 1945, he worked on the European scenes of the war for Life magazine. He was one of the founders of the Magnum Photos agency. He died in May 1954, when he stepped on a landmine in Vietnam.

In 2008, a government grant enabled the Hungarian National Museum to buy 985 of Robert Capa’s photos from the collection of the International Center of Photography, New York. 48 of these are original prints by Robert Capa, and 937 form the so-called Robert Capa Master Selection III. Founded in 1974, the International Center of Photography holds about seventy thousand negatives made by the Hungarian born Robert Capa, considered the greatest war photographer of all time. In 1995, Cornell Capa (Robert’s brother, who died last year) and Richard Whelan (Robert Capa’s friend and biographer) selected 937 of these negatives to represent the oeuvre. Of these, three identical, limited-edition series were made, each excellent 40×50 cm print marked with Robert Capa’s dry seal. No further prints will be made. One of the series stayed in New York, the second was bought by the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, Japan, and the third by the Hungarian National Museum. Not only does the series offer a comprehensive overview of the oeuvre, it also enables exhibition-goers to have a visual experience of important events in the history of the 20th century through high-quality material. The 937 pictures were made on four continents, in 23 countries. 461 were made before the Second World War, of which images of the Spanish civil war are the most important. 276 of these photos he made on the fronts of the World War – the poignant pictures of the D-Day landing in Normandy were later to inspire film director Steven Spielberg. 154 photos from after the world war illustrate more struggle and suffering during the establishment of the state of Israel and the Indochina War. 46 images bear testimony to the talent of Capa the portrait photographer, with pictures of Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, John Steinbeck, Pablo Picasso and others. ICP made a gift of large prints of 20 negatives considered especially important in the series, and five portraits of Robert Capa. In all, the national collection was enriched with 1010 photographs.

Robert Capa was a war photographer, with all the important traits of an excellent correspondent: he owned the right amount of persistence, aggressiveness to get to the scenes, resourcefulness and communication skills to match the capacities of a great artist: a high degree of sensitivity, the talent to recognise and choose subjects, and composition skills. Bravely, though not fearlessly, he was there in all of the large wars of the middle of the 20th century, and he struggled with the eternal dilemma of journalists and photographers, whether he is a hyena when his participation stops at recording the events, and does not extend to helping those who flee or are wounded. His vocation, to which his dedication was always complete, was thus a source of moral conflict for him, while also compelled him to show what he considered really important. To show things in a way no one else could because no one else was close enough. “If your pictures are not good enough, you weren’t close enough,” he said. He was close when the militiaman died, he was there in the bloodbath of the landing in Normandy, and he was of course close enough to the Indochina War when he stepped on that fatal mine. He lived an intensive, passionate life, taking risks, even gambling; a life that promised childlessness, social solitude, homelessness and a preordained mode of death. This was probably the only way to live through and show all that surrounded him.

A selection from the new acquisition, about 30 pictures, will be on view in the Hungarian National Museum, between March 6 and 15, 2009. The first large exhibition of this exceptional material opens in Ludwig Museum on July 2, and can be seen until October 11. A travelling selection is also planned, to be shown in ten Hungarian cities.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum website [Online] Cited 16/03/2019

 

Robert Capa. 'Near Zhengzhou, June-July 1938' 1938

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Near Zhengzhou, June-July 1938
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Near Zhengzhou, June-July 1938. As the Japanese advanced on Zhengzhou – the crossroads of the two major railway lines of northern and eastern China, and the gateway to the Hankow region – Chiang Kai-shek ordered the dikes of the Yellow River blown up. The flood, which halted the Japanese only temporarily, inundated eleven cities and four thousand villages, destroyed the crops of four provinces, and rendered two million people homeless. In this photograph Chinese soldiers are being ferried across the river.

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Near Barcelona, October 1938' 1938

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Near Barcelona, October 1938
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Near Barcelona, October 1938. Farewell ceremony for the International Brigades. As an overture of friendship toward Hitler (who naturally wanted General Franco’s fascists to win the civil war), Stalin forced the Spanish Loyalist government to disband this Communist-supported force. This move was a terrible blow both to the Loyalist cause and to the men of the International Brigades.

 

Robert Capa. 'September 5, 1936. The death of a Loyalist militiaman' 1936

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
September 5, 1936. The death of a Loyalist militiaman
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The precocious Budapest teenager who would eventually become known to the world as Robert Capa did not aspire to be a photographer. He wanted to be a writer – a reporter and a novelist.”

.
Richard Whelan

 

 

Capa’s evolution into a press photographer and war reporter (all the while entertaining the idea of filmmaking) was fundamentally determined by history, as well as by factors like the accelerated technical developments in photography, the changes in the printed picture press in the 1920s as a result of the influence of motion pictures, as well as the increasingly refined techniques and strategies of photographers.

Capa distinguished himself among the ranks of war reporters who thought – with the visual appearance of magazine pages already in mind – in series of images that rolled like film footage, and who had the courage and the ability to “get in close” and show aspects of war and fighting on the front lines in a form that had hitherto been impossible, partly due to technological limitations and partly because of the restrictions of censorship.

Capa worked for a number of US and European agencies; his photo reports appeared in the columns of such publications as Vu, Regards, Ce Soir, Life, Picture Post, Collier’s and Illustrated. At the same time, in addition to his work as a photo correspondent, being one of the founders of the Magnum photo agency (1947), educating and supporting young photographers were of primary importance to him.

Following his death in 1954, his brother Cornell Capa, in addition to his own work as press photographer, strove to preserve and introduce to the world the oeuvre of his brother and his colleagues. As a first step, he expanded the International Fund for Concerned Photography, which he had co-founded with others in 1956. Then, in 1974, he established the International Center of Photography (ICP) – one of the world’s most prominent institutions of photography, simultaneously a museum, a school and an archive – with himself as director.

Between 1990 and 1992, Cornell Capa and Richard Whelan looked through Capa’s more than seventy thousand photos and chose 937 of them, the most outstanding photos of his oeuvre from 1932 to 1954, to represent the cornerstones of his life’s work and his career as a press photographer.

In 1995, from the 937 negatives that had been selected, three identical, excellent quality series were produced using traditional photographic technique. These consisted of 40×50 cm enlargements and marked with Robert Capa’s embossed seal. It was determined that no additional series could be made after this time. Of the three series, one remained in New York, the second one found a home in the Fuji Art Museum of Tokyo, and the third set was purchased by the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and added to the Historical Photo Collection of the Hungarian National Museum.

Besides the 937 photographs that constitute what is known as the “Definitive Collection”, the Hungarian National Museum also acquired 48 original Robert Capa vintage copies dating back to the same time. The backbone of the exhibition consists of selected groups of photographs. The more than 200 images lead viewers through the key stages of Robert Capa’s career as war correspondent through highlighted themes of his oeuvre, in chronological order.

The exhibition starts off with Budapest – presenting family photos, portraits and other documents – and moves on to the first serious commission in Berlin (the series on the speech given by the exiled Lev Trotsky in 1932, in Copenhagen) and the difficulties of the Paris years. Then we arrive to the most definitive stage in the oeuvre, the three-year period (1936-1939) spent photographing the Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War, during which Endre Friedmann / André Friedmann became Robert Capa, one of the most famous war press photographers in the world. Next we see the seats of world war operations: photos capturing the North African, Southern Italian and Sicilian fronts as well as the Normandy Landing on June 6, 1944. The “D-Day” series, which also served as inspiration to film director Steven Spielberg, is followed by images documenting the denigration of the French women who collaborated with the Germans and the liberation of Paris. The sequence of wartime photographs ends with images of the Ardennes Offensive and the advances of the Allied Forces. Capa’s post-world war work is represented by his reports on the establishment of the State of Israel and the associated conflicts, the immigrants and the refugees, as well as the material from his journey to the Soviet Union with John Steinbeck in 1947 and the photos of his 1948-1949 trip around Eastern Europe, which also include some Budapest shots. The chronological sequence ends with Capa’s photographs of Indochina and the photos taken on May 25, 1954, immediately preceding his death.

A separate section is devoted to the photographic documents of his social life, which became inextricably intertwined with his work as press photographer. His portraits which were taken in parallel with his war reports capture people that were important to him – colleagues, friends and lovers – as well as many prominent figures of the era, including Pablo Picasso, Ingrid Bergman, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art Cited 10/07/2009

 

Robert Capa. 'Near Troina, Sicily, August 4-5, 1943. Reconnaissance mission.' 1943

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Near Troina, Sicily, August 4-5, 1943. Reconnaissance mission
1943
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Capa. 'American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944' 1944

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944
1944
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Capa. 'Omaha Beach, near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy coast, June 6, 1944. The first wave of American troops landing on D-Day' 1944

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Omaha Beach, near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy coast, June 6, 1944. The first wave of American troops landing on D-Day
1944
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Capa. 'Chartres, August 18, 1944' 1944

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Chartres, August 18, 1944
1944
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Capa. 'Chartres, August 18, 1944' 1944 (detail)

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Chartres, August 18, 1944 (detail)
1944
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Chartres, August 18, 1944. Just after the Allies had liberated the town, a Frenchwoman who had had a baby by a German soldier was punished by having her head shaved. Here she is seen being marched home. Her mother (barely visible over the right shoulder of the man at right carrying cloth sack) was similarly punished.

 

 

Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art

Palace of Arts, 
Komor Marcell u. 1, Budapest, H-1095
Phone: +36 1 555 3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 10 am – 6 pm
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Art website

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16
Jul
09

Review: Guo Jian paintings at Arc One Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th June – 25th July 2009

 

Guo Jian. 'No.c' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.c
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

 

This exhibition of eight new paintings and one older work by Chinese artist Guo Jian presented at Arc One Gallery in Melbourne is, with the exception of one outstanding painting, a disappointment. The new work addresses, variously, themes of consumerism, stardom, sex appeal, the military and Chinese culture. Using old photographs as reference and inserting the body and face of the artist into the canvases, Jian examines the paradoxes that exist between Western/American and Chinese culture to limited effect.

Using a restricted colour palette in each painting Jian’s ‘mise en scène’ places American soldiers and babes wearing bikinis of distorted American flags with the artist as lone Chinese soldier – his face pulled into focus while the other figures almost become cut-outs with the overlay of a “blur filter” softening their features. In another set piece Untitled 3 (2009) a seductive woman with flaming red hair and half open jacket holds a bottle of Chloe perfume in her hand while behind Chinese female military dancers brandish swords and red flags. In No.g (2009) two soldiers with guns propped behind them read contrasting books – one the ‘Little Red Book’ and the other ‘A Big Naughty Girly Magazine’. Marilyn and Madonna feature heavily, pastiches in a built environment – all pink and fleshy with a silver heart (perhaps it should have been a Purple Heart).

The iconography in these staged ‘tableaux vivants’ is a one shot idea repeated in all eight paintings. The themes seem hackneyed, their language a bricolage of ironic archetypes that don’t have anything new to say about the subject matter but repeat things we know already: vis a vis that Chinese society is struggling to cope with the burden of becoming a consumer culture. On reflection, the new paintings have not impinged on my consciousness – always a sign whether the work really has made a connection. However, the single work from 2003 is a different beast.

The Training from the series The Day Before I Went Away (2003) is a hypnotic, mesmerising and powerful work, lurid even, with it’s hyper-real colours and maniacal faces, eyes rolling in the back of heads, barring of teeth, the hand over the mouth, the upraised hand, the glistening white of the blade – oh the lust for blood!

This painting is so evocative it shames the new work by comparison – you think about this work, you remember it!

Here is the passion and insightfulness of the artist. Danger and terror grab you and shake you and force you to think about the human condition. This is what I want art to do in whatever way it can – subtly, quietly, psychologically, forcefully. Great art challenges us to look, feel and think. Unfortunately the new work, while clever on a superficial level, fails to deliver.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog.

.
Many thankx to the Arc One Gallery for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting.

 

Guo Jian. 'No.d' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.d
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

 

“This series is about looking at the persuasion or morale boosting efforts for soldiers from another perspective. I considered how starlets and celebrities are deployed in the West – often not dissimilarly to the way Chinese Entertainment Soldiers are used to influence and motivate in my part of the world.” ~ Guo Jian

 

Guo Jian. 'No.f' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.f
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

Guo Jian. 'No.g' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
No.g
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

Guo Jian. 'Untitled 3' 2009

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
Untitled 3
2009
Acrylic on canvas
152 x 213 cm

 

 

Born in China in 1963, Jian was raised in a controlled political environment. He served over three years in the Peoples Liberation Army and bore witness to the horrific Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, where he assisted carrying the wounded to the hospital.

Jian’s personal atlas of history continues to feed his visual commentary. His voice is both satirical and erotic, challenging and confronting. He plays with irony and foreplay to exploit and raise potent questions surrounding propaganda and manipulation.

“As I have grown older, I have realised that all of the education I have received is rarely practical in real life. Reality and education are conflicting. The way in which you inherently view the world is influenced by education which is the perspectives of others. Our surrounding environment defines our perception of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘enemy’ and ‘friend’, ‘them’ and ‘us’. But, if you dare to open your eyes and liberate your mind, you will find that the world is not exactly the way you have been told. Put your feet into someone else’s shoes to think about the world and your own life differently. For me, if the surroundings change, are combined, are old or new, it doesn’t matter. My life is defined relative to my self-experience and the things I have heard or seen. From this perspective, I have discovered the freedom to reopen my eyes to a new world and to new possibilities.”

Guo Jian

Text from the press release on the Arc One Gallery website [Online] Cited 10/07/2009

 

Guo Jian. 'The Training' from the series 'Te Day Before I Went Away' 2003

 

Guo Jian (Chinese Australian, b. 1962)
The Training from the series The Day Before I Went Away
2003

 

 

Arc One Gallery
45 Flindes Lane
Melbourne, Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 11 – 5pm

Arc One Gallery website

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14
Jul
09

Exhibition: ‘Gay Icons’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 2nd July – 18th October 2009

 

“How I wish this selection had been available to me when I was young and trying to make sense of my reactions to the world. How inspirational to have had portraits of the great and the good staring out at me telling me that I was not by any measure on my own.”

‘… it is her [K.D. Lang’s] androgynous good looks and tendency to strut on the stage which warms many lesbian hearts.’

Sandi Toksvig

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

 

 

Jill Furmanovsky. 'K.D. Lang, Le Meridien Hotel, London' 1992

 

Jill Furmanovsky (British, b. 1953)
K.D. Lang, Le Meridien Hotel, London
1992
Gelatin silver print
© Jill Furmanovsky

 

 

The first portrait exhibition to celebrate the contribution of gay people and gay icons to history and culture. 60 photographs selected by Waheed Alli, Alan Hollinghurst, Elton John, Jackie Kay, Billie Jean King, Ian McKellen, Chris Smith, Ben Summerskill, Sandi Toksvig and Sarah Waters.

An important photography exhibition, Gay Icons, at the National Portrait Gallery (2 July-18 October 2009) will celebrate the contribution of gay people – and the significance of the gay icon – to history and culture. Ten selectors have worked with the Gallery to make their own personal choices of six individuals, their ‘icons’. Not only does this exhibition include many well-known icons, who may or may not be gay themselves, it also reveals some surprises and will encourage a wide audience to think about familiar faces in new ways.

The Gay Icons shown in the exhibition will include those people, living or dead, whatever their sexual orientation or interests, who the ten individual selectors regard as inspirational, or as a personal icon. Gay Icons brings together portraits of those people who are regarded as especially significant to each of the selectors, alongside those of the selectors themselves, all prominent gay figures in contemporary culture and society.

Coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, this exhibition focuses on portraits of both historical and modern figures. The choices provide a fascinating range of inspiring figures – some very famous, some heroic, others relatively unknown. Each icon is presented with information about their personal, and sometimes public, significance, some of it relating to the sitter but much of it linked to the selectors who have been prepared to share their experiences and feelings in their own exhibition texts.

Themes running through the exhibition include inspiration and how the ‘icons’ have inspired each selector in an extremely personal sense to realise their full potential, human rights, stemming from the specific consideration of sexuality, and how this might lead us to consider parallels between the struggles of different minority groups, re-discovery, or rescuing the reputations of figures who might otherwise have been forgotten or, worse, actively disregarded and surprise at some of the perhaps unexpected choices.

The project was developed from an initial proposal made by Bernard Horrocks, Copyright Officer, at the Gallery. The concept quickly evolved to include invitations to ten gay people – each distinguished in different fields – to act as selectors. They were chosen in consultation with their Chair, Sandi Toksvig.

Each selector could freely choose six ‘icons’, although the Gallery decided to limit the choices to photographic portraits, and therefore to subjects who had lived, more or less, within the last 150 years. This also seemed appropriate because within this same period homosexuality was gradually accepted and made legitimate in Britain.

The selectors are Lord Waheed Alli, Alan Hollinghurst, Sir Elton John, Jackie Kay, Billie Jean King, Sir Ian McKellen, Lord Chris Smith, Ben Summerskill, Sandi Toksvig and Sarah Waters.

Sitters include artists Francis Bacon and David Hockney, civil rights campaigner Harvey Milk, writers Quentin Crisp, Joe Orton, Dame Daphne Du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith and Walt Whitman, composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, musicians k.d. lang, Will Young and Village People, entertainers Ellen DeGeneres, Kenneth Williams and Lily Savage, and Nelson Mandela and Diana, Princess of Wales. Their fascinating stories will be illustrated by sixty photographic portraits including works by Andy Warhol, Linda McCartney, Snowdon, Polly Borland, Fergus Greer, Terry O’Neill and Cecil Beaton.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: “‘Gay Icons’ is an exhibition in which inspiring stories – both private and public – are shared. These are stories of brave lives and significant achievements, told through iconic photographic images chosen by selectors who are themselves icons.”

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 10/07/2009 no longer available online

 

Gisèle Freund (French, born Germany 1908-2000) 'Virginia Woolf' 1939

 

Gisèle Freund (French, born Germany 1908-2000)
Virginia Woolf
1939
© Gisèle Freund

 

 

Gisèle Freund (born Gisela Freund; December 19, 1908 in Schöneberg District, Berlin – March 31, 2000 in Paris) was a German-born French photographer and photojournalist, famous for her documentary photography and portraits of writers and artists. Her best-known book, Photographie et société (1974), is about the uses and abuses of the photographic medium in the age of technological reproduction. In 1977, she became President of the French Association of Photographers, and in 1981, she took the official portrait of French President François Mitterrand.

She was made Officier des Arts et Lettres in 1982 and Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, the highest decoration in France, in 1983. In 1991, she became the first photographer to be honored with a retrospective at the Musée National d’art Moderne in Paris (Centre Georges Pompidou).

Freund’s major contributions to photography include using the Leica Camera (with its 36 frames) for documentary reportage and her early experimentation with Kodachrome and 35 mm Agfacolor, which allowed her to develop a “uniquely candid portraiture style” that distinguishes her in 20th century photography.

She is buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris, France near her home and studio at 12 rue Lalande.

See her full entry on the Wikipedia website

 

Harper & Brothers. 'Patricia Highsmith' 1942 

 

Harper & Brothers
Patricia Highsmith
1942
Gelatin silver print
© Patricia Highsmith Collection, Swiss National Library / Swiss Literary Archives, Bern

 

 

‘…is a significant writer by any standard, but she deserves honouring as a lesbian and gay icon on the strength of one novel alone, ‘The Price of Salt’, a wonderfully complex and upbeat representation of lesbian love’ ~ Sarah Waters

Patricia Highsmith (January 19, 1921 – February 4, 1995) was an American novelist and short story writer best known for her psychological thrillers, including her series of five novels featuring the character Tom Ripley. She wrote 22 novels and numerous short stories throughout her career spanning nearly five decades, and her work has led to more than two dozen film adaptations. Her writing derived influence from existentialist literature, and questioned notions of identity and popular morality. She was dubbed “the poet of apprehension” by novelist Graham Greene.

Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, has been adapted for stage and screen numerous times, notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951. Her 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley has been adapted numerous times for film, theatre, and radio. Writing under the pseudonym “Claire Morgan,” Highsmith published the first lesbian novel with a happy ending, The Price of Salt, in 1952, republished 38 years later as Carol under her own name and later adapted into a 2015 film.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Paul Morrissey. 'Joe Dallesandro' 1968

 

Paul Morrissey (American, b. 1938)
Joe Dallesandro
1968
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Morrissey, 1968

 

 

Joseph Angelo D’Allesandro III (born December 31, 1948), better known as Joe Dallesandro, is an American actor and Warhol superstar. Having also crossed over into mainstream roles like mobster Lucky Luciano in The Cotton Club, Dallesandro is generally considered to be the most famous male sex symbol of American underground films of the 20th century, as well as a sex symbol of gay subculture.

Dallesandro starred in the 1968 film produced by Andy Warhol, Flesh, as a teenage street hustler. Rolling Stone magazine in 1970 declared his second starring vehicle, Trash, the “Best Film of the Year”, making him a star of the youth culture, sexual revolution and subcultural New York City art collective of the 1970s. Dallesandro also starred in 1972’s Heat, another Warhol film that was conceived as a parody of Sunset Boulevard. …

 

Underground film career

Dallesandro met Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey in 1967 while they were shooting Four Stars, and they cast him in the film on the spot. Warhol would later comment “In my movies, everyone’s in love with Joe Dallesandro.”

Dallesandro played a hustler in his third Warhol film, Flesh (1968), where he had several nude scenes. Flesh became a crossover hit with mainstream audiences, and Dallesandro became the most popular of the Warhol stars. New York Times film critic Vincent Canby wrote of him: “His physique is so magnificently shaped that men as well as women become disconnected at the sight of him”

As Dallesandro’s underground fame began to cross over into the popular culture, he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in April 1971. He was also photographed by some of the top celebrity photographers of the time: Francesco Scavullo, Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon.

Dallesandro appeared in Lonesome Cowboys (1968), Trash (1970), Heat (1972), Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, and Andy Warhol’s Dracula (both 1974), also directed by Morrissey. These last two films were shot in Europe. After filming was complete, he chose not to return to the U.S. He appeared in Serge Gainsbourg‘s Je t’aime moi non plus (France, 1976), which starred Gainsbourg’s wife, British actress Jane Birkin.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Lewis Morley (Australian, born Hong Kong 1925-2013) 'Joe Orton' 1965

 

Lewis Morley (Australian, born Hong Kong 1925-2013)
Joe Orton
1965
Bromide print
20 in. x 16 1/8 in. (508 mm x 410 mm)
Given by the photographer, Lewis Morley, 1992
© Lewis Morley Archive/National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Fergus Greer (born England, lives Los Angeles) 'Quentin Crisp' 1989

 

Fergus Greer (born England, lives Los Angeles)
Quentin Crisp
1989
Bromide fibre print
10 1/2 in. x 10 3/8 in. (267 mm x 264 mm)
Given by Fergus Greer, 2006
© National Portrait Gallery, London
© Fergus Greer

 

 

Gay Icons explores gay social and cultural history through the unique personal insights of ten high profile gay figures, who have selected their historical and modern icons.

The chosen icons, who may or may not be gay themselves, have all been important to each selector, having influenced their gay sensibilities or contributed to making them who they are today. They include artists Francis Bacon and David Hockney; writers Daphne du Maurier and Quentin Crisp; composers Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Benjamin Britten; musicians k.d. lang, the Village People and Will Young; entertainers Ellen DeGeneres, Lily Savage and Kenneth Williams; sports stars Martina Navratilova and Ian Roberts and political activists Harvey Milk and Angela Mason.

Their fascinating and inspirational stories will be illustrated by over sixty photographic portraits including works by Andy Warhol, Snowdon and Cecil Beaton together with specially commissioned portraits of the selectors by Mary McCartney. McCartney. All are set in a striking exhibition design conceived by renowned theatre designer, Robert Jones …

This exhibition brings together ten selectors, chaired by Sandi Toksvig, each of whom is a prominent gay figure in contemporary culture and society. Each selector was asked to name six people, who may or may not be gay, whom they personally regard as inspirational, or an icon for them.

Their choices provide a fascinating range of figures – some heroic, some very famous, others less well known. In the exhibition the selectors write about their choices and share their own convictions, experiences and feelings. The display also features specially commissioned portraits of the selectors by Mary McCartney.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Ian Berry (British) 'Nelson Mandela' 1994

 

Ian Berry (British)
Nelson Mandela
1994
Gelatin silver print
© Ian Berry/Magnum Photos

 

 

‘He has touched my heart, just as he has influenced the hearts and minds of people all over the world.’ ~ Billie Jean King

Ian Berry was born in Lancashire, England. He made his reputation in South Africa, where he worked for the Daily Mail and later for Drum magazine. He was the only photographer to document the massacre at Sharpeville in 1960, and his photographs were used in the trial to prove the victims’ innocence.

Henri Cartier-Bresson invited Ian Berry to join Magnum in 1962 when he was based in Paris. He moved to London in 1964 to become the first contract photographer for the Observer Magazine. Since then assignments have taken him around the world: he has documented Russia’s invasion of Czechoslovakia; conflicts in Israel, Ireland, Vietnam and the Congo; famine in Ethiopia; apartheid in South Africa. The major body of work produced in South Africa is represented in two of his books: Black and Whites: L’Afrique du Sud (with a foreword by the then French president François Mitterrand), and Living Apart (1996). During the last year, projects have included child slavery in Ghana and the Spanish fishing industry.

Important editorial assignments have included work for National GeographicFortuneSternGeo, national Sunday magazines, EsquireParis-Match and LIFE. Ian Berry has also reported on the political and social transformations in China and the former USSR.

Text from the Magnum website [Online] Cited 16/03/2019

 

Unknown photographer. 'Bessie Smith' c. 1920s

 

Unknown photographer
Bessie Smith
c. 1920s
Gelatin silver print
Frank Driggs Collection/Getty Images
© 1925 Getty Images

 

 

‘A feisty woman who always stood up for herself… She was bisexual and practically an alcoholic – the perfect icon’ ~ Jackie Kay

Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937) was an American blues singer. Nicknamed the Empress of the Blues, she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and was a major influence on fellow blues singers, as well as jazz vocalists.

Read her full entry on the Wikipedia website

 

Howard Coster (British, 1885-1959) 'Sylvia Townsend Warner' 1934

 

Howard Coster (British, 1885-1959)
Sylvia Townsend Warner
1934
Half-plate film negative
Transferred from Central Office of Information, 1974
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Sylvia Townsend Warner (6 December 1893 – 1 May 1978) was an English novelist and poet. She also made a contribution to musicology as a young woman.

 

Bertram Park. 'Ronald Firbank' (detail) 1917

 

Bertram Park (British, 1883-1972)
Ronald Firbank (detail)
1917

 

‘He [Ronald Firbank] is celebrated as a master of high camp, but he was also a radical technician and radical homosexualiser of the novel.’ ~ Alan Hollinghurst

 

Bertram Park (British, 1883-1972) 'Ronald Firbank' 1917

 

Bertram Park (British, 1883-1972)
Ronald Firbank
1917

 

 

Bertram Charles Percival Park, OBE, (1883-1972) was a portrait photographer whose work included British and European royalty. Engravings of his photographs were widely used on British and British Commonwealth postage stamps, currency, and other official documents in the 1930s. His theatrical portraits were the source for two paintings by Walter Sickert. With his wife Yvonne Gregory, he also produced a number of photographic books of the female nude. He was an expert in the cultivation of the rose and the editor of The Rose Annual. Text from the Wikipedia website

Arthur Annesley Ronald Firbank (17 January 1886 – 21 May 1926) was an innovative English novelist. His eight short novels, partly inspired by the London aesthetes of the 1890s, especially Oscar Wilde, consist largely of dialogue, with references to religion, social-climbing, and sexuality.

 

Unknown Photographer. 'Winifred Atwell' (detail) c. 1950s. Courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Unknown photographer
Winifred Atwell (detail)
c. 1950s
Courtesy of Getty Images

 

 

‘Winifred Atwell’s piano performances were simply captivating. She showed me what was possible and was a total inspiration.’ ~ Elton John

Una Winifred Atwell (27 February or 27 April 1910 or 1914 – 28 February 1983) was a Trinidadian pianist who enjoyed great popularity in Britain and Australia from the 1950s with a series of boogie-woogie and ragtime hits, selling over 20 million records. She was the first black person to have a number-one hit in the UK Singles Chart and is still the only female instrumentalist to do so.

Read the full entry about this amazing women on the Wikipedia website

 

Elliott and Fry. 'Alan Turing' 1951 © National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Elliott and Fry
Alan Turing (detail)
29 March 1951
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Elliott & Fry was a Victorian photography studio founded in 1863 by Joseph John Elliott (14 October 1835 – 30 March 1903) and Clarence Edmund Fry (1840 – 12 April 1897). For a century the firm’s core business was taking and publishing photographs of the Victorian public and social, artistic, scientific and political luminaries. In the 1880s the company operated three studios and four large storage facilities for negatives, with a printing works at Barnet.

The firm’s first address was 55 & 56 Baker Street in London, premises they occupied until 1919. The studio employed a number of photographers, including Francis Henry Hart and Alfred James Philpott in the Edwardian era, Herbert Lambert and Walter Benington in the 1920s and 1930s and subsequently William Flowers. During World War II the studio was bombed and most of the early negatives were lost, the National Portrait Gallery holding all the surviving negatives. With the firm’s centenary in 1963 it was taken over by Bassano & Vandyk.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Elliott and Fry. 'Alan Turing' 29 March 1951

 

Elliott and Fry
Alan Turing
29 March 1951
Vintage bromide print on photographer’s mount
6 3/8 x 4 5/8 in. (162 mm x 117 mm)
Given by the sitter’s mother, Ethel Sara Turing (née Stoney), 1956
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

‘Turing was one of the most brilliant men of the first half of the twentieth century, but the refusal of post-war society to accept his sexuality drove him to commit suicide… We can and should honour him now.’ ~ Chris Smith

 

 

National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place
London WC2H 0HE

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 6pm
Open until 9pm
 on Friday

National Portrait Gallery website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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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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