Archive for September, 2009

27
Sep
09

Exhibition: ‘Snow Machine’ by Florian Maier-Aichen at Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street, London

Exhibition dates: 3rd September – 3rd October 2009

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Florian Maier-Aichen. 'Der Watzmann' 2009

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Florian Maier-Aichen
‘Der Watzmann’
2009

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Florian Maier-Aichen. 'Untitled' 2008

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Florian Maier-Aichen
‘Untitled’
2008

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'Snow Machine' by Florian Maier-Aichen installation view at Britannia Street, Gagosian Gallery

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'Snow Machine' by Florian Maier-Aichen installation view at Britannia Street, Gagosian Gallery 2

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‘Snow Machine’ by Florian Maier-Aichen installation view at Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Street, London

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“Florian Maier-Aichen’s images reinterpret landscape photography for the 21st century. Often shot at obscure angles or from aerial views, his estranged vantage points are both alien and familiar; a sensation enhanced by his subtle manipulation of the images. Conceiving the representation of sites with a sense of dislocation, Maier-Aichen’s work addresses issues of globalisation and virtual perception. In Untitled, Maier-Aichen’s coastline is far from postcard perfect: a virgin beach lined with superhighway and luxury homes expanding into the misty distance. Tinting the surrounding forest in an unnatural shade of red, he casts an apocalyptic glow over the seascape, framing wilderness and human intervention as a scene of science fiction portent.”

Text from the Saatchi Gallery website

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Florian Maier-Aichen. 'Untitled' 2009

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Florian Maier-Aichen
‘Untitled’
2009

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“I have always been interested in the making of things. Most products and materials conceal their process of manufacture. It’s the same with photography, which turned from a discipline that was subject to the mastery of the few (alchemists) into a readily available industrial mass product, too transparent and too technical.”

Florian Maier-Aichen

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Gagosian Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of recent photographs by Florian Maier-Aichen. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition in London.

A photographer schooled on both sides of the Atlantic, Maier-Aichen’s work reflects on the dual influences of the history of photography and the history of painting, whether drawing on such dichotomies as German Romantic painting and the pioneers of German “objective” photography, or applying his post-factum experience of American frontier art – from the Hudson River School and Abstract Expressionism to Land Art and West Coast conceptualism – to his own topographical depictions of landscape subjects. He focuses on the camera’s consummate power to establish typologies of thought, perception, and feeling, producing images that, in mining the past, come to embody a matrix of issues salient to recent photographic practice.

Approaching the photographic field like a painter approaches a canvas, Maier-Aichen does for the contemporary image-world what pictorial photographers attempted in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, using the strategies and motifs of Romantic and Luminist painting. Unnaturally high-keyed or delicately tinted images of soaring mountain ranges, moody seas, and the industrial architecture of bridges, waterways, and dams carving through the natural landscape are all emanations of a rich and diverse imagination where a keen and critical grasp of art history coexists with more pronounced literary and cinematic conceits.

In a creative process that is as intensive as it is subtle and opaque, Maier-Aichen combines an exhaustive range of staged effects and traditional photographic techniques – albumen, silver-gelatin, and c-printing – with drawing and current computer-imaging processes. Weaving together often disparate elements from distinct sources, he applies myriad creative adjustments to each in order to produce seamless photographs that do not betray their intricate and layered compositions. Multiple negatives, digital manipulation, and elaborate studio techniques are employed to produce seemingly straightforward photographic landscape subjects while other images that engage the most conventional photographic techniques may themselves be subjects of pure fabrication.”

Text from the Gagosian Gallery website

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Florian Maier-Aichen. 'Untitled' 2009

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Florian Maier-Aichen
‘Untitled’
2009

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Florian Maier-Aichen. 'Untitled' 2009

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Florian Maier-Aichen
‘Untitled’
2009

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Florian Maier-Aichen. 'Untitled (St. Francis Dam)' 2009

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Florian Maier-Aichen
‘Untitled (St. Francis Dam)’
2009

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Gagosian Gallery
6-24 Britannia Street
London WC1X 9JD
T. 44.207.841.9960 F. 44.207.841.9961

Opening Hours: Tue-Sat 10-6

Gagosian Gallery website

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23
Sep
09

Review: ‘Scenes’ by David Noonan at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 15th August – 27th September 2009

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Installation view of 'Scenes' by David Noonan at ACCA

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Installation view of ‘Scenes’ by David Noonan at ACCA

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Thoughts

Limited colour palette of ochres, whites, browns and blacks.

Rough texture of floor covered in Jute under the feet.

Layered, collaged print media figures roughly printed on canvas – elements of abstraction, elements of figuration.

The ‘paintings’ are magnificent; stripped and striped collages. Faces missing, dark eyes. There is something almost Rembrandt-esque about the constructed images, their layering, like Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ (1642) – but then the performance element kicks in  – the makeup, the lipstick, the tragic/comedic faces.

Mannequin, doll-like cut-out figures, flat but with some volume inhabiting the tableaux vivant.

Twelve standing figures in different attitudes – a feeling of dancing figures frozen on stage, very Japanese Noh theater. Spatially the grouping and use of space within the gallery is excellent – like frozen mime.

The figures move in waves, rising and falling both in the standing figures and within the images on the wall.

Looking into the gallery is like looking through a picture window onto a stage set (see above image).

The fracturing of identity, the distortion of the binaries of light and dark, absence/presence in spatio-temporal environments.

The performance as ritual challenging a regularized and constrained repetition of norms (Judith Butler).

Excellent, thought provoking exhibition.

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noonan-a

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Installation view of ‘Scenes’ by David Noonan at ACCA

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“Noonan often works with found photographic imagery taken from performance manuals, textile patterns and archive photographs to make densely layered montages. These works at once suggest specific moments in time and invoke disorientating a-temporal spaces in which myriad possible narratives emerge. The large-scale canvases framing this exhibition depict scenes of role-playing, gesturing characters, and masked figures set within stage-like spaces. Printed on coarsely woven jute, collaged fabric elements applied to the surface of the canvases further signal the cutting and splicing of images.

Noonan’s new suite of figurative sculptures, comprise life size wooden silhouettes faced with printed images of characters performing choreographed movements. While the figurative image suggests a body in space, the works’ two dimensional cut-out supports insist on an overriding flatness which lends them an architectural quality – as stand-ins for actual performers and as a means by which to physically navigate the exhibition space.”

Press release from the Chisenhale Gallery website

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“For the Helen Macpherson Smith Commission, he will bring the characters depicted in his signature collage works off the wall and onto an imagined ‘stage’. Several life-size, wooden cut-out figures will inhabit the ACCA exhibition gallery, frozen in choreographed movements.

Noonan’s dancing figures will be framed by several large-scale canvas works, printed photographic and film imagery gleaned from performance manuals, textile patterns and interior books. Printed on coarse woven jute, he cuts, slices and montages images together constructing compositions that hover between two and three dimensionality, positive and negative space, past and present, stasis and action.

“‘Scenes’ recalls the experimental workshops and youth-focused exuberance of a more optimistic era, coinciding with the artists own childhood in the 1970s” says curator Charlotte Day. “With these new works, Noonan re-introduces the idea of ritual, of creating a temporal space beyond reason that is filled with both danger and hope.”

David Noonan is the fifth recipient of the Helen Macpherson Smith Commission, one of the most significant and generous commissions in Australia. The partnership between ACCA and the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust offers Victorian artists the opportunity to create an ambitious new work of art, accompanied by an exhibition in ACCA’s exhibition hall.

Press release from the ACCA website

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Image from 'Scenes' by David Noonan at ACCA

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Australia Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

111 Sturt Street
Southbank 
Victoria 3006
Australia
03 9697 9999

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10am – 5pm
Weekends & Public Holidays 11am – 6pm
Open all public holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday

ACCA website

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23
Sep
09

Review: ‘Ivy’ photographs by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd September – 26th September 2009

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #1' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #1’
2009

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Installation view of 'Ivy' by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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Installation view of 'Ivy' by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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Installation views of ‘Ivy’ by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

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This is another outstanding body of photographic work on display in Melbourne. Featuring 10 large and 2 small sepia toned, vignetted pigment prints Burton’s work creates dark enchanted worlds of faceless female figures placed in the built environment that balance (meta)physical light and shade creating ambiguous narratives of innocence tinged with a darker edge.

The eponymous photograph ‘Ivy #1’ (above) is the seminal image of the series: a dark brooding house, hunched down positioned low in the photographic space, covered in ivy with black windows and dark eves has an ominous almost impenetrable presence and sets the tone for the rest of the work.

There are wonderful references to the history of photography if one cares to look (not simply generic references to Victorian daguerreotypes, postcards and family photographs). ‘Ivy #2’ (below) is a powerful photograph where the female figure is blindfolded, unable to see the encroaching tumescence of vegetation that surrounds and is about to engulf her. The placement of the hands is exquisite – unsure, reaching out, doubting her surroundings – with the 3-bladed fan hovering behind ready to devour the unwary. This photograph has resonances of the magical photographs of the garden by the Czech photographer Josef Sudek.

‘Ivy #3’ (below) has echoes of the work of the American photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard and his placement of masked people within built environments. In Burton’s photograph the broken umbrella becomes like insect wings, the faceless whiteness of the three-legged and three-armed creature cocooned among the overhanging predatory ivy, the luminescent sky offering the possibility of redemption. Other photographs such as ‘Ivy #6’ (below) and ‘Ivy #7’ with their wonderful colours, depth of field, heavy shadows and elegiac romantic feel have references to Eugene Atget and his photographs of the parks of Versailles (see photograph below).

Still further references to the history of photography can be found in the photographs ‘Ivy #9’ and ‘Ivy #10’ (below). In ‘Ivy #9’ the intersection of the two female bodies through double exposure forms a slippage in (photographic) reality and the disappearance of original identity in the layering of the photographs and into the empty non-reflection of the mirror. This non-reflection is confirmed in ‘Ivy #10’ where the faceless nude woman holds a mirror with no reflection. These photographs remind me of the photographs of New Orleans prostitutes in the early years of the 20th century by the photographer Bellocq with their masked faces and the ornamentation of the wallpaper behind the figures (see below).

I feel that in these photographs with their facelessness and the non-reflection of the mirror investigate notions of ‘Theoria’ – a Greek emphasis on the vision or contemplation of God where theoria is the lifting up of the individual out of time and space and created being and through contemplative prayer into the presence of God.1 In fact the whole series of photographs can be understood through this conceptualisation – not just remembrances of past time, not a blind contemplation on existence but a lifting up out of time and space into the an’other’ dark but enlightening presence.

The greatest wonder of this series is that the photographs magically reveal themselves again and again over time. Despite (or because of) the references to other artists, the beauty of Burton’s work is that she has made it her own. The photographs have her signature, her voice as an artist and it is an informed voice; this just makes the resonances, the vibrations of energy within the work all the more potent and absorbing. I loved them.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #2' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #2’
2009

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #3' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #3’
2009

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“Jane Burton’s exhibition, Ivy comprises a series of photographs captured in black and white. The final prints are rendered with a sepia, peach-champagne tone, with many displaying a mottled hand-coloured effect in faded pastels of pink and green. These works hope to suggest an era past, perhaps Victorian. The imagery is evocative of old picture postcards from Europe and old photographs from the pages of family albums.

Central to the series is an image of a house covered with ivy. Depicted as dark and malevolent, the house is ‘haunted’ by the traces and stains of family history, habitation, and the buried secrets of all that occurred within.

Anonymous female figures are seen in garden settings where the foliage is rampant and encroaching and the shadows deep. There is an air of enchantment perceived with unspecified darker edge. The figures are innocent and playful. The viewer is asked to question if the and girls aware of the camera capturing their activity? Are the poses staged or caught spontaneously. In another photograph, a dilapidated male statue stands broken and armless, the texture of stone worn, and bruised with dark lichen and moss.

In the interior photographs, several nudes are depicted in the style of 19th century French daguerreotype photographs. These vignetted images display women against wall-papered backdrops with theatrical props reminiscent of earlier works by Burton such as the series ‘The other side’ (2003). Posed suggestively for the camera and the viewer’s gaze, the subjects themselves are faceless, their own gaze and features hidden behind dark hair. The surface and texture of these particular works suggests the patina of decay and the damage and wear of time.”

Text from the Karen Woodbury Gallery website

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Bellocq 1912

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Bellocq
1912

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #10' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #10’
2009

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Eugene Atget. 'Versailles, France' 1923

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Eugene Atget
‘Versailles, France’
1923

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Jane Burton. 'Ivy #6' 2009

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Jane Burton
‘Ivy #6’
2009

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1. Theoria entry from Wikipedia

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Jane Burton Survey Exhibition
“Eye of the Beholder”
24th September – 18th October 2009
Glen Eira City Gallery, Caulfield, Vic

Jane Burton website

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Karen Woodbury Gallery
4, Albert Street, Richmond, Vic 3121
Opening hours: Wed – Sat 11-5pm

Karen Woodbury Gallery website

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21
Sep
09

Exhibition: ‘Ansel Adams: A Life’s Work’ at Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego

Exhibition dates: 23rd May  – 4th October 2009

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Some well known Ansel Adams images below with some less well known images from the Manzanar Relocation Center photographic series of 1943. Many thankx to the Museum of Photographic Arts for allowing me to publish the three photographs, ‘Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, California’ (1944), ‘Mount McKinley, Alaska’ (1948) and ‘Aspens, Northern New Mexico’ (1958).

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Ansel Adams. 'Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park' 1927

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Ansel Adams
‘Monolith, The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park’
from the portfolio ‘Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras’
1927

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Ansel Adams. 'Marion Lake, Southern Sierra, from the portfolio Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras' 1927

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Ansel Adams
‘Marion Lake, Southern Sierra’
from the portfolio ‘Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras’
1927

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Ansel Adams. 'Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico' 1941

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Ansel Adams
‘Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico’
1941

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Ansel Adams. 'Birds on wire, evening, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams
‘Birds on wire, evening, Manzanar Relocation Center’
1943

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“The Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA) in Balboa Park is pleased to present ‘Ansel Adams: A Life’s Work’. The exhibition includes over 80 photographs by the 20th Century master, and celebrates Adams as an artist and conservationist. A Life’s Work will be on view May 23, 2009 through October 4, 2009, and features an overview of Adam’s work from his early years in the Sierra Nevadas and Yosemite Valley to his work in the Japanese Internment Camp at Manzanar, as well as his well-known masterpieces.

‘Ansel Adams: Life’s Work’ will be running concurrently with Jo Whaley: Theater of Insects on view from May 16 through September 27, 2009, as well as Picturing the Process: Exploring the Art and Science of Photography on view through July 25, 2009.

The exhibition begins with survey of Adams’ early years with the Sierra Club (1920s-1930s), where his photographs and essays were first published in the Club’s Bulletin. 1927 marked a pivotal point for Adams, where he participated in the Sierra Club’s annual High Trip, which took him to the high country of the Sierra. It was during this trip that he exposed the negative of the iconic image Monolith, the Face of Half Dome. Adams describes this photograph as “my first conscious visualization; in my mind’s eye, I saw the final image.”

It was during this first High Trip that Adams met San Francisco-based arts patron, Albert Bender. Bender took immediate interest in Adam’s photographs, and published Adams’ first portfolio, ‘The Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras’ (1927). The publication included an edition of 100 portfolios of 18 prints each, 75 were printed.

The exhibition features 15 of the rare Parmelian vintage prints, as well as eight photographs from the 1929 Sierra Club Portfolio.

The exhibition continues with a wide range of representative works from the 1930’s and 1940’s, including commercial work that the artist did for the YPCCO (Yosemite Park and Curry Company). From 1931 to 1937, Adams was hired by YPCCO, a group of businesses in Yosemite Valley, to photograph various winter sports for an advertising campaign. This opportunity provided a much needed source of income for the artist during the Great Depression. The exhibition also includes other various commercial assignments throughout his career, which Adams clearly separated from his fine art photography, but notes as a vital aspect of his career. In his Autobiography he wrote: “I have little use for students or artists who scorn commercial photography as a form of prostitution … Let them pay the bills! … I struggled with a great variety of assignments through the years. Some I enjoyed, some I detested, but learned from them all.”

A Life’s Work also includes the powerful and poignant images from the Manzanar Internment Camp. In late 1943 through 1944, Adams visited the camps in central California, where over 10,000 Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II. Adams’ intention for this self-assigned project was “to interpret the camp and its people, their daily life and their relationship to their community and their environment,” wrote Adams in his Autobiography. “As my work progressed, however, I began to grasp the problems of the remarkable readjustment these people had to make… With admirable strength of spirit, the Nisei rose above despondency and make a life for themselves… This was the mood and character I determined to apply to the project.”

A Life’s Work will feature many of his iconic masterworks, including ‘Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico’, as well as his works in color, which he experimented with beginning in the late 1940s.”

Press release from the Museum of Photographic Arts website

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Ansel Adams. 'View south from Manzanar to Alabama Hills, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams
‘View south from Manzanar to Alabama Hills, Manzanar Relocation Center’
1943

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Ansel Adams. 'View SW over Manzanar, dust storm, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

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Ansel Adams
‘View SW over Manzanar, dust storm, Manzanar Relocation Center’
1943

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Ansel Adams. 'Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, CA.,' 1944

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Ansel Adams
‘Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, California’
1944
gelatin silver print, courtesy of the Museum of Photographic Arts.
Copyright © 2009 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

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Ansel Adams, Mount McKinley, Alaska, 1948

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Ansel Adams
‘Mount McKinley, Alaska’
1948
gelatin silver print, courtesy of the Museum of Photographic Arts
Copyright © 2009 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

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Ansel Adams, Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958

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Ansel Adams
‘Aspens, Northern New Mexico’
1958
gelatin silver print, courtesy of the Museum of Photographic Arts
Copyright © 2009 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

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Museum of Photographic Arts
1649 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101
619-238-7559 (Phone)
619-238-8777 (Fax)

Gallery Hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

MOPA website

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19
Sep
09

Review: ‘Climbing the Walls and Other Actions’ by Clare Rae at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 7th August – 27th September 2009

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All images by Clare Rae from the series ‘Climbing the Walls and Other Actions’ 2009. Many thankx to Clare for allowing me to publish them.

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Clare Rae. 'Untitled' from the series 'Climbing the Walls and Other Actions' 2009

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Clare Rae. 'Untitled' from the series 'Climbing the Walls and Other Actions' 2009

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“To withdraw into one’s corner is undoubtedly a meager expression. But despite its meagerness, it has numerous images, some, perhaps, of great antiquity, images that are psychologically primitive. At times, the simpler the image, the vaster the dreams.”

Gaston Bachelard.1

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Usually I am not a great fan of ‘faceless’ photography as I call it but this series of work, ‘Climbing the Walls and Other Actions’ (2009) by the artist Clare Rae is even better than the series by Tracey Moffatt in the previous review.

Exploring activities of the female body in closed domestic spaces these psychologically intense photographs push the physical boundaries of play through the navigation of space. As a child has little awareness about the inherent dangers of a seemingly benign environment so Rae’s self-portraits turn the lens on her conceptualisation of the inner child at play and the activating of the body in and through space. As the artist herself says, “the way children negotiate their surroundings and respond with an unharnessed spatial awareness, which I find really interesting when applied to the adult body.”2

Continuing the themes from the last review, that of spaces of intimacy and reverberation, these photographs offer us fragmentary dialectics that subvert the unity of the archetype, the unity of the body in space. Here the (in)action of the photographic freeze balances the tenuous positions of the body: a re-balancing of both interior and exterior space.

As Noel Arnaud writes, “Je suis l’espace ou je suis” (I am the space where I am).

Further, Bachelard notes “… by changing space, by leaving the space of one’s usual sensibilities, one enters into communication with a space that is psychically innovating.”3

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In these photographs action is opposed with stillness, danger opposed with suspension; the boundaries of space, both of the body and the environment, the interior and the exterior, memory and dream, are changed.
Space seems to open up and grow with these actions to become poetic space – and the simplicity of the images aids and abets the vastness of our dreams. This change of concrete space does not change our place, but our nature. Here the mapping of self in space, our existence, our exist-stance (to have being in a specified place whether material or spiritual), is challenged in the most beautiful way by these walls and actions, by these creatures, ambiguities, photographs.

Henri Lefebvre insightfully observes, “… each living body is space and has space: it produces itself in space and it also produces that space.”4

I am the (sublime) space where I am, that surrounds me with countless presences.

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Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Clare Rae. 'Untitled' from the series 'Climbing the Walls and Other Actions' 2009

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Clare Rae. 'Untitled' from the series 'Climbing the Walls and Other Actions' 2009

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“‘Climbing the Walls and Other Actions’ is primarily concerned with visually representing my experience of femininity, whilst also exploring aspects of representation that relate to feminism. The project considers the relationship between the body and space by including formal elements within each frame such as windows and corners. Through a sequence of precarious poses I explore my relationship with femininity, an approach born of frustration. I use the body to promote ideas of discomfort and awkwardness, resisting the passivity inherent in traditional representations of femininity. The images attempt to de-stabilise the figure, drawing tension from the potential dangers the body faces in these positions. Whilst the actions taking place are not in themselves particularly dangerous, the work demonstrates a gentle testing of physical boundaries and limitations via a child-like exploration of the physical environment.”

Text from the Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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clare_rae1

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Clare Rae. 'Untitled' from the series 'Climbing the Walls and Other Actions' 2009

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1. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, p.137.

2. Email from the artist 7th September, 2009

3. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, p.206.

4. Lefebvre, Herni. The Production of Space. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974, p.170.

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Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Tel: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours: Wednesday–Saturday, 11am–6pm
Sunday, 1pm–5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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17
Sep
09

Review: ‘First Jobs’ by Tracey Moffatt at Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 7th August – 27th September 2009

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Fruit Market' 1975

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Fruit Market’
1975

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Housekeeper' 1975

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Housekeeper’
1975

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Store Clerk' 1975

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Store Clerk’
1975

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There are some wonderful bodies of photographic work on show around Melbourne at the moment and this is one of them.

Featuring twelve archival pigment on rice paper with gel medium prints, Tracey Moffatt’s series ‘First Jobs’ (2008) is a knockout. Images of the artist are inserted into found photographs which are then ‘hand coloured’ (like old postcards) in Photoshop. Moffatt’s series conceptualises the early jobs that she had to do to survive – investigating the banality of the jobs, the value of friendships that were formed coupled with an implicit understanding of the dictum ‘work is life’.

Moffatt’s images hark back to the White Australia policy of the 1950s and the home and living books of that period. With their hyper-real colours, strange coloured skies, green washing machines and purple tarmac Moffatt amps up the voltage of these images and subverts their idealisation. Here is the re-presentation of the physical and spatial isolation of the figure (store clerk/housekeeper) or the sublimation of the usually female figure into the amorphous mass of the whole (meat packing/pineapple cannery) in quintessentially Australian environments. Here also is comment on the nature of a patriarchal society – the smiling receptionist sitting under the portrait of her male boss, awaiting his command.

The spaces of these photographs seem to (literally) consume the artist and her remembrance of these jobs. Despite her smiling face in each of the images we implicitly understand the banality of the jobs for we have done them oursleves. We know these spaces intimately: the spaces inhabit us as much as we inhabit them. As the viewer we experience the being of these images, their reveberation, where the two kinds of space – the space of intimacy and the world space – blend.1

The only sour note of the series comes not in the work itself but in the accompanying artist statement (see below). In this churlish expose of the ‘woe is me, I’m a full time artist and isn’t it so difficult to be a full time artist’ variety, Moffatt complains about the miserable voices in her head and about having to get up off the couch because she is the only person able to make the work and the money. Oh to be so lucky to actually make a living as a full time artist and have the time and space to be creative 7 days a week! Would I have her situation anytime soon? Ha, um, yes.”

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Corner Store' 1977

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Corner Store’
1977

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tracey Moffat. First Jobs, Receptionist 1977

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Receptionist’
1977

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Meat Packing' 1978

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Meat Packing’
1978

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“Over the years my friends and I joke about our dreadful past jobs. Jobs we worked as teenagers and young students. Awful jobs that we would rather forget about such as cleaning out the local cinema after a screening of The Exorcist in 1974.

When I was a kid I always had jobs and I always made my own money whether it was receiving a dollar for pulling up the weeds in the yard or baby sitting for neighbours or working at the local green grocers. The thing about making a bit of your own cash was that you could buy your own clothes and not have to wear the clothes that your mother picked out.

In 1978 at seventeen I worked in factories peeling pineapples. I also packed meat and shelled prawns. Such back breaking labour was exhausting but the money was good.  After one year I saved enough money to travel to Europe and backpacked around for nine months. Then in 1980 I went to art school in Brisbane but continued part-time work as a waitress to pay for art materials.

After art school I was desperate for money to pay the rent and I worked many jobs. Some were: scrubbing floors in a women’s refuge, washing dishes in a canteen and parking cars in a car park beneath a restaurant called Dirty Dicks (I had no driver’s licence, but the patrons were always drunk and didn’t care.)

I am resentful and appalled at the work I had to do to survive. I hold a grudge towards rich kids who never had to slave like I did. Secretly though I’m proud of myself. When I think of those early years I realize that I was learning to be tough and work whether I liked it or not. I put my head down and was forced to be productive. I was learning how to get on with other people and learning to handle a boss. These days I do nothing but make art and have exhibitions. Being an artist feels like being on a permanent but jittery holiday in comparison to those early working days. Now I sleep in until 9.30am and press the ‘ignore’ button on my phone if I don’t feel like talking to anyone. But, as Bette Davis put it, it is ‘The Lonely Life’. You have come up with the ideas and make them happen. No-one else is going to do it for you.

But I remember the good things about the factory floor. Walking into work everyday and saying hi to people you knew, there was a camaraderie. The work was mindless but it didn’t mean that your mind couldn’t go places. Then there was knock-off time. The bell would ring and you would be out the door with a wad of cash in your hand and not a care in the world.

In being a full-time artist there never is any knock-off time. There’s always a nagging, miserable voice of ideas in your head and you MUST get up off the sofa and produce work. The bell never rings and you never know where your next buck is coming from. Your mind is constantly wound up. You’re never really physically tired not like when you had a real honest job. But would I go back to working in a factory just to get good a night’s sleep? Ha, um, no.”

Tracey Moffatt, 
New York 2008

Press release from Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Pineapple Cannery' 1978

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Pineapple Cannery’
1978

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Parking Cars' 1981

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Parking Cars’
1981

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Tracey Moffat. 'First Jobs, Canteen' 1984

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Tracey Moffat
‘First Jobs, Canteen’
1984

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1. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, p.203.

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Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Tel: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours: Wednesday–Saturday, 11am–6pm
Sunday, 1pm–5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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14
Sep
09

Exhibition: ‘Don McCullin – In England’ at the National Media Museum, Bradford

Exhibition dates: 8th May – 27th September 2009

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Go to the National Media Museum website to view interesting comments about some of these photographs and download the 70 minute podcast of Don McCullin in conversation with curator Colin Harding.

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Don McCullin. 'Early morning, West Hartlepool, County Durham, U.K.,' 1963

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Don McCullin
‘Early morning, West Hartlepool, County Durham, U.K.,’
1963

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Don McCullin. 'Ladies' Day, Royal Ascot' 2006

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Don McCullin
‘Ladies’ Day, Royal Ascot’
2006

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Don McCullin. 'Kids on Bradford estate' c.1970s

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Don McCullin
‘Kids on Bradford estate’
c.1970s

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Don McCullin. 'Bradford, early 1970s' c.1970s

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Don McCullin
‘Bradford, early 1970s’
c.1970s

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“A passionate and personal view of Britain by one of our greatest living photographers is being showcased in a major free-to-enter exhibition at the National Media Museum from 8 May – 27 September 2009.

‘Don McCullin – In England’ reflects on Britain from the 1950s to the present day. For half a decade McCullin, in addition to travelling the world photographing war ravaged countries to great acclaim, has been recording England and highlighting issues surrounding wealth, race, class and social justice.

The National Media Museum is hosting the first ever exhibition dedicated exclusively to this aspect of his work. Curator Colin Harding said: “Although Don is probably best known for his war photography, he is not purely a war photographer and does not class himself as such. However, many of the 70 black and white images displayed in this new show are clearly influenced by his experiences abroad. Don’s vision of England is not a pretty one. He photographed what he saw and what he saw was often harsh – poverty, unemployment, discrimination, but he always photographs with passion and empathy.”

Many of the images have a political or social context and are taken extensively from two books – ‘Homecoming’ (1979) and ‘In England’ (2007); coincidentally published in the same years Margaret Thatcher came to power and Tony Blair left power respectively. Some of the images will be publicly displayed for the first time.

‘Don McCullin – In England’ gives audiences the chance to see his first ever published photograph – of ‘The Guv’nors’, a 1950s gang from his neighbourhood around Finsbury Park, London. The picture appeared in The Observer newspaper after a policeman was murdered by one of the gang members.

Several exhibited photographs were taken during McCullin’s trips to Bradford (the National Media Museum’s home city) and around his own home city, London, as well as Liverpool and the North East. Other aspects of English life are featured – a series of landscapes, including a study of Hadrian’s Wall taken earlier this year, a 1968 shoot with The Beatles, and trips to the seaside and Royal Ascot.

To complement the exhibition a new area will be produced on the Museum’s website offering exclusive video interviews, images, further information, and links to other relevant websites.”

Text form the National Media Museum website

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Don McCullin. 'The Guv'nors, Finsbury Park, London' 1958

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Don McCullin
‘The Guv’nors, Finsbury Park, London’
1958

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Don McCullin. 'Mayfair, London' 1965

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Don McCullin
‘Mayfair, London’
1965

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Don McCullin. 'Snowy, Cambridge, early 1970s' c.1970s

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Don McCullin
‘Snowy, Cambridge, early 1970s’
c.1970s

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Don McCullin. 'Windsor Baths, Bradford, early 1970s' c.1970s

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Don McCullin
‘Windsor Baths, Bradford, early 1970s’
c.1970s

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Don McCullin. 'Mother and son, Bradford' 1978

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Don McCullin
‘Mother and son, Bradford’
1978

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Don McCullin. 'Towards an Iron Age hill fort, Somerset' 1991

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Don McCullin
‘Towards an Iron Age hill fort, Somerset’
1991

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National Media Museum
Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 1NQ

Opening hours: Tues – Sun
10am – 6pm

National Media Museum website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 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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