Archive for February, 2010


Exhibition: ‘Hawaii’ by Daido Moriyama at Luhring Augustine, New York

Exhibition dates: February 13th –  March 13th 2010


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938) 'Nikko Toshogu' 1977


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Nikko Toshogu
Gelatin silver print


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938) 'Quilt' 1977


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Gelatin silver print


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938) 'Hokkaido' 1978


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Gelatin silver print


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938) 'Tono' 1974


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Gelatin silver print



Luhring Augustine is pleased to present its first exhibition featuring the work of Daido Moriyama, one of Japan’s leading figures in photography. Witness to the spectacular changes that transformed postwar Japan, his photographs express a fascination with the cultural contradictions of age-old traditions that persist within modern society. Providing a harsh, crude vision of city life and the chaos of everyday existence, strange worlds, and unusual characters, his work occupies the space between the objective and the subjective, the illusory and the real.

Moriyama takes pictures with a small hand-held camera that enables him to shoot freely while walking or running or through the windows of moving cars. Taken from vertiginous angles or overwhelmed by closeups, his blurred images are charged with a palpable and frenetic energy that reveal a unique proximity to his subject matter. Snapshots of stray dogs, posters, mannequins in shop windows, and shadows cast into alleys present the beauty and sometimes-terrifying reality of a marginalised landscape. His anonymous and detached approach enables him to capture the “visible present” made up of accidental and uncanny discoveries as he experiences them.

Moriyama emerged as a photographer in the 1960’s at the tail end of the VIVO collective, a revolutionary and highly influential group of Japanese artists who reexamined the conventions of photography during the tumultuous postwar period. William Klein’s loose, Beat style images of New York City in the 1960s also served as a major turning point for Moriyama, who found inspiration in Klein’s free-form photographic style. Taken by these innovative approaches at home and abroad, Moriyama ultimately went on to forge his own radical style.

Hawaii, Moriyama’s most recent body of work, was produced over a period of three years and presents his distinct perspective on the daily lives of the people living on the islands of Hawaii and Oahu. Returning to the island five times before feeling prepared to shoot these surroundings, Moriyama’s overall approach is purposeful and considered despite his loose and informal style. The series was recently exhibited at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and published in a volume by the institution.

Daido Moriyama was born in Osaka in 1938. He has had museum shows around the world including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. His work is part of many major public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Los Angeles County Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Getty in Los Angeles.

Press release from the Luhring Augustine website [Online] Cited 24/02/2010 no longer available online


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938) 'Hawaii' 2007


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Gelatin silver print


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938) 'Hawaii' 2007-2010


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Gelatin silver print


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938) 'Hawaii' 2007-2010


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Gelatin silver print


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938) 'Hawaii' 2007


Daido Moriyama (Japanese, b. 1938)
Gelatin silver print



Luhring Augustine Gallery
531 West 24th Street, New York
Phone: 1-212-206-9100

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 10 – 6pm

Luhring Augustine Gallery website


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Review: ‘Ricky Swallow: The Bricoleur’ at The Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 16th October 2009 – 28th February 2010


Ricky Swallow (born Australia 1974, lived in England 2003-06, United States 2006- ) 'Salad days' c. 2005


Ricky Swallow (born Australia 1974, lived in England 2003-06, United States 2006- )
Salad days
c. 2005
Jelutong (Dyera costulata), maple (Acer sp.)
102.0 x 102.0 x 23.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds from the Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2005
© Ricky Swallow
Photo: Andy Keate courtesy Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney



“Curiosity is a vice that has been stigmatized in turn by Christianity, by philosophy and even by a certain conception of science. Curiosity, futility. I like the word however. To me it suggests something all together different: it evokes concern; it evokes the care one takes for what exists or could exist; an acute sense of the real which, however, never becomes fixed; a readiness to find our surroundings strange and singular; a certain restlessness in ridding ourselves of our familiarities and looking at things otherwise; a passion for seizing what is happening now and what is passing away; a lack of respect for traditional hierarchies of the important and the essential.”

Michel Foucault 1


“Swallow is at his best when he’s exploring ways to communicate through the innate qualities of materials … This is always going to be more affecting than glib post-modernism, but he just can’t help himself sometimes. So my deep dislike for portentous and ironic titles bristled up immediately here. ‘Salad Days’ and ‘Killing Time’ are only two of the jokey puns, the problem is that art that simply supports two meanings isn’t very smart or complex. There’s no room for subtext. Irony is not the complex and neutral form that ambiguity is. It doesn’t invite engagement or interpretation. Art ought to aspire to infinite meanings, or maybe even only one. Irony doesn’t make for good art, when irony is the defense mechanism against meaning, masking an anxiety about sincerity.”

John Matthews 2



Let’s cut through the hyperbole. This is not the best exhibition since sliced bread (“the NGV highlight of 1609, 2009 and possibly 2109 too” says Penny Modra in The Age) and while it contains a few strong individual pieces this is not even a particularly good exhibition by Ricky Swallow at NGV Australia.

Featuring bronzes, watercolours and sculptures made from 2004-2009 that are sparingly laid out in the gallery space this exhibition comes as close to the National Gallery of Victoria holding a commercial show as you will find. Using forms such as human skeletons, skulls, balloons encrusted with barnacles, dead animals and pseudo death masks that address issues of materials and memory, time and space, discontinuity and death, Swallow’s sculptures are finely made. The craftsmanship is superb, the attention to detail magnificent and there is a feeling of almost obsessional perfectionism to the pieces. This much is given – the time and care taken over the construction, the hand of the maker, the presentation of specimen as momento mori is undeniable.

After seeing the exhibition three times the standout pieces for me are a life size dead sparrow cast in bronze (with the ironic title Flying on the ground is wrong 2006) – belly up, prostrate, feet curled under – that is delicate and poignant; Caravan (2008), barnacle encrusted bronze balloons that play with the ephemerality of life and form – a sculpture that is generous of energy and spirit, quiet yet powerful; Bowman’s record (2008), found objects of paper archery targets cast in bronze, the readymade solidified, the marks on paper made ambiguous hieroglyph of non-decaying matter, paper/bronze pierced by truth = I shot this, I was here (sometime); and Fig.1 (2008), a baby’s skull encased in a paper bag made of carved wood – the delicacy of surfaces, folds, the wooden paper collapsing into the skull itself creating the wonderful haunting presence of this piece. In these sculptures the work transcends the material state to engage the viewer in a conversation with the eternal beyond.

Swallow seeks to evidence the creation of meaning through the humblest of objects where the object’s fundamental beauty relies on the passing of time for its very existence. In the above work he succeeds. In other work throughout the exhibition he fails.

There seems to be a spare, international aesthetic at work (much like the aesthetic of the Ron Mueck exhibition at NGV International on St. Kilda Road). The art is so kewl that you can’t touch it, a dude-ish ‘Californication’ having descended on Swallow’s work that puts an emotional distance between viewer and object. No chthonic nature here, no dirt under the fingernails, no blood on the hands – instead an Apollonian kewlness, all surface and show, that invites reflection on life as discontinuous condition through perfect forms that seem twee and kitsch.

In Tusk (2007) two bronze skeletal arms hold hands in an undying bond but the sculpture simply fails to engage (the theme was brilliantly addressed by Louise Bourgeois in the first and only Melbourne Arts Biennale in 1999 with her carving in granite of two clasped hands); in History of Holding (2007) the icon of the Woodstock festival designed in 1969 is carved into a log of wood placed horizontally on the floor while  a hand holding a peeled lemon (symbolising the passing of time in the still life genre) is carved from another log of wood placed vertically. One appreciates the craftmanship of the carving but the sentiments are too saccharin, the surfaces too shallow – the allegorical layering that Swallow seeks stymied by the objects iconic form. A friend of mine insightfully observed about the exhibition: “Enough of the blond wood thing – it’s so Space Furniture!”

As John Matthews opines in the above quotation from his review of the exhibition there seems to be a lack of sincerity and authenticity of feeling in much of Swallow’s work. Irony as evidenced in the two major pieces titled Salad Days (2005) and Killing Time (2003-04) leaves little room for the layering of meaning: “Irony is not the complex and neutral form that ambiguity is. It doesn’t invite engagement or interpretation.” Well said.

Killing Time in particular adds nothing to the vernacular of Vanitas paintings of the 17th century, adds nothing to the mother tongue of contemporary concerns about the rape of the seas, fails to update the allegories of the futility of pleasure and the inevitability of death – in fact the allegories in Swallow’s sculpture, the way he tries to twist our conception of the real, seem to have lost the power to remind us of our doom. The dead wooden fish just stare back at us with doleful, hollow eyes. The stilted iconography has no layering; it does not destroy hierarchies but builds them up.

In his early work Swallow was full of curiosity, challenging the norms of culture and creation. I always remember his wonderful series of dioramas at the Melbourne Biennale that featured old record players and animated scenes (see the photograph of Rooftop shoot out with chimpanzee (1999) below). Wow they were hot, they were fun, they made you think and challenge how you viewed the world! As Foucault notes in his excellent quotation at the top of the posting, curiosity promotes “an acute sense of the real which, however, never becomes fixed; a readiness to find our surroundings strange and singular; a certain restlessness in ridding ourselves of our familiarities and looking at things otherwise; a passion for seizing what is happening now and what is passing away; a lack of respect for traditional hierarchies of the important and the essential.”

While Swallow’s ‘diverse gestures of memorialisation’ still address the fundamental concerns of Foucault’s quotation his work seems to have become fixed in an Apollonian desire for perfection. He has forgotten how his early work challenged traditional hierarchies of existence; now, even as he twists and turns around a central axis, the conceptualisation of life, memory and death, his familiarity has become facsimile (a bricoleur is a master of nothing, a tinkerer fiddling at the edges). His lack of respect has become sublimated (“to divert the expression of (an instinctual desire or impulse) from its unacceptable form to one that is considered more socially or culturally acceptable”), his tongue in cheek has become firmly fixed, his sculptures just hanging around not looking at things otherwise.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog


  1. Foucault, Michel. “The Masked Philosopher” in Politics, philosophy, culture: interviews and other writings, 1977-1984. London: Routledge, 1988, p. 328
  2. Matthews, John. “On Ricky Swallow @ NGV” on ArtKritique [Online] Cited 02/02/2010


Ricky Swallow. 'Rooftop shoot out with chimpanzee' 1999


Ricky Swallow (born Australia 1974, lived in England 2003-06, United States 2006- )
Rooftop shoot out with chimpanzee
from the series Even the odd orbit
Cardboard, wood, plastic model figures and portable record player
53.0 h x 33.0 w x 30.0 d cm
Collection of the National Gallery of Australia
Gift of Peter Fay 2001


Ricky Swallow. 'The Man from Encinitas' 2009


Ricky Swallow (born Australia 1974, lived in England 2003-06, United States 2006- )
The Man from Encinitas
Plaster, onyx, steel


Ricky Swallow (born Australia 1974, lived in England 2003-06, United States 2006- ) 'Killing Time' 2003-04


Ricky Swallow (born Australia 1974, lived in England 2003-06, United States 2006- )
Killing Time
Laminated Jelutong, maple
108.0 x 184.0 x 118.0 cm (irreg.)
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Rudy Komon Memorial Fund and the Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2004
© Ricky Swallow. Courtesy Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney



Killing time, 2003-04, and Salad days, 2005, depict animals that Swallow and his family either found or caught when he was young and best highlight how the artist reclaims the still life genre to explore personal narrative. Killing time, which depicts a bounty of fish and crustaceans spread across a table modelled after the Swallow family kitchen table of the artist’s youth, is rife with autobiographical association. It not only references an object from Swallow’s past, but also the profession of his father, a fisherman, and the fact that Swallow was raised by the sea. Salad days is another autobiographical work depicting a range of animals such as birds, a rabbit, mice and a fox skull. Like many boys growing up in rural environments, Swallow recalls shooting magpies, encountering nesting birds in his garage or discovering dead lizards or trapping live ones in an attempt to keep them as pets.

Text from the National Gallery of Victoria


Ricky Swallow (born Australia 1974, lived in England 2003-06, United States 2006- ) 'Killing Time' (detail) 2003-04


Ricky Swallow (born Australia 1974, lived in England 2003-06, United States 2006- )
Killing Time (detail)
Laminated Jelutong, maple
108.0 x 184.0 x 118.0 cm (irreg.)
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Rudy Komon Memorial Fund and the Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2004
© Ricky Swallow. Courtesy Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney


Ricky Swallow. 'A sad but very discreet recollection of beloved things and beloved beings' (detail) 2005


Ricky Swallow (born Australia 1974, lived in England 2003-06, United States 2006- )
A sad but very discreet recollection of beloved things and beloved beings (detail)
(1-10) 35.0 x 28.0 cm (each)
Private collection
© Ricky Swallow
Photo: courtesy Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London


Ricky Swallow (born Australia 1974, lived in England 2003-06, United States 2006- ) 'Bowman’s record' (detail) 2008


Ricky Swallow (born Australia 1974, lived in England 2003-06, United States 2006- )
Bowman’s record (detail)
46.0 x 33.0 x 2.5 cm
Collection of the artist, Los Angeles
© Ricky Swallow
Photo: Robert Wedemeyer courtesy Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London



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

Opening hours:
Open daily 10am-5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website


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Exhibition: ‘In the Darkroom: Photographic Processes before the Digital Age’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Exhibition dates: 25th October, 2009 – 14th March 2010


Many thankx to Kate Afanasyeva and the National Gallery of Art for allowing me to reproduce the photographs from the exhibition below. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



A comment from a viewer of this post, Mark Starr, asking for help in regards to Collodion negatives is below. Perhaps someone can help?

“I have acquired an old charred and beaten wooden ammo box I think it dates back to the 1850’s as it is filled with literally 100+ glass negatives, possibly made by the “dry collodion” method. Can anyone PLEASE let me know who to contact for info on how to go about any method I could use to possibly verify the original Photographer, or to produce prints from these EXTREMELY delicate plates using today’s technics. As soon as I have ascertained some semblance of authenticity the entire collection will be made available to all persons sharing interest in these flawless remnants of over a century ago.
Any assistance in steering me in the next direction will be GREATLY appreciated.”

With Sincere Thanks,
Mr. Mark Starr



Anna Atkins (British, 1799-1871) 'Ferns, Specimen of Cyanotype' 1840s


Anna Atkins (British, 1799-1871)
Ferns, Specimen of Cyanotype
National Gallery of Art, Washington R.K. Mellon Family Foundation Fund


Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes. 'The Letter' c. 1850


Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes
The Letter
c. 1850
National Gallery of Art, Washington Patrons’ Permanent Fund


Clarence White (American, 1871-1925) 'Mrs. White - In the Studio' 1907


Clarence White (American, 1871-1925)
Mrs. White – In the Studio
platinum print
National Gallery of Art, Washington Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel and R.K. Mellon Family Foundation Fund


Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979) 'Ghost Rock, Colorado Springs' 1919


Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979)
Ghost Rock, Colorado Springs
platinum print
National Gallery of Art, Washington Marvin Breckinridge Patterson Fund
© 1979 Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas


Sid Grossman (American, 1913-1955) 'San Gennaro Festival, New York City' 1948


Sid Grossman (American, 1913-1955)
San Gennaro Festival, New York City
gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Art, Washington Anonymous Gift


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Untitled (Positive)' c. 1922-1924


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Untitled (Positive)
c. 1922-1924
gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of The Circle of the National Gallery of Art


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Untitled' c. 1922-1924


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
c. 1922-1924
gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Art, Washington New Century Fund



The extraordinary range and complexity of the photographic process is explored, from the origins of the medium in the 1840s up to the advent of digital photography at the end of the 20th century, in a comprehensive exhibition and its accompanying guidebook at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. On view in the West Building, from October 25, 2009 through March 14, 2010, In the Darkroom: Photographic Processes Before the Digital Age chronicles the major technological developments in the 170-year history of photography and presents the virtuosity of the medium’s practitioners. Drawn from the Gallery’s permanent collection are some 90 photographs – ranging from William Henry Fox Talbot’s images of the 1840s to Andy Warhol’s Polaroid prints of the 1980s.

“In the Darkroom and the accompanying guidebook provide a valuable overview of the medium as well as an introduction to the most commonly used photographic processes from its earliest days,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art.


In the Darkroom

Organised chronologically, the exhibition opens with Lace (1839-1844), a photogenic drawing by William Henry Fox Talbot. Made without the aid of a camera, the image was produced by placing a swath of lace onto a sheet of sensitised paper and then exposing it to light to yield a tonally reversed image.

Talbot’s greatest achievement – the invention of the first negative-positive photographic process – is also celebrated in this section with paper negatives by Charles Nègre and Baron Louis-Adolphe Humbert de Molard as well as salted paper prints made from paper negatives by Nègre, partners David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, and others.

The daguerreotype, the first publicly introduced photographic process and the most popular form of photography during the medium’s first decade, is represented by a selection of British and American works, including an exquisite large-plate work by the American photographers Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes (see photograph above). By the mid-1850s, the daguerreotype’s popularity was eclipsed by two new processes, the ambrotype and the tintype. These portable photographs on glass or metal were relatively inexpensive to produce and were especially popular for portraiture.

The year 1851 marked a turning point in photographic history with the introduction of the collodion negative on glass and the albumen print process. Most often paired together, this negative-print combination yielded lustrous prints with a subtle gradation of tones from dark to light and became the most common form of photography in the 19th century, seen here in works by Julia Margaret Cameron, Roger Fenton, and Gustave Le Gray.

Near the turn of the 20th century, a number of new, complex print processes emerged, such as platinum and palladium, gum dichromate, and bromoil. Often requiring significant manipulation by the hand of the artist, these processes were favoured by photographers such as Gertrude Käsebier, Alfred Stieglitz, and Edward Weston.

One of the most significant developments of the late 19th century was the introduction of gelatin into photographic processes, which led to the invention of the film negative and the gelatin silver print. These became the standard for 20th-century black-and-white photography. A chronological selection of gelatin silver prints, including a contact print made by André Kertész in 1912; a grainy, blurred image of Little Italy’s San Gennaro festival at night by Sid Grossman from 1948 (see photograph above); and a coolly precise industrial landscape by Frank Gohlke from 1975, reveals how the introduction of the film negative and changes in the gelatin silver print process profoundly shaped the direction of modern photography. This section also explores the development of ink-based, photomechanical processes such as photogravure, Woodburytype, and halftone that enabled the large-scale, high-quality reproduction of photographs in books and magazines.

The final section of the exhibition explores the rise of colour photography in the 20th century. Although the introduction of chromogenic colour processes made colour photography commercially viable by the 1930s, it was not widely employed by artists until the 1970s. The exhibition celebrates the pioneers of colour photography, including Harry Callahan and William Eggleston, who made exceptional work using the complicated dye transfer process. The exhibition also explores the range of processes developed by the Polaroid Corporation that provided instant gratification to the user, from Andy Warhol’s small SX-70 prints to the large-scale Polaroid prints represented by the work of contemporary photographer David Levinthal.

Press release from the National Gallery of Art website [Online] Cited 15/02/2010 no longer available online


Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869) 'The Cloisters, Tintern Abbey' 1854


Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
The Cloisters, Tintern Abbey
salted paper print from a collodion negative
National Gallery of Art, Washington Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel


Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884) 'Cavalry Maneuvers behind barrier, Camp de Châlons' 1857


Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Cavalry Maneuvers behind barrier, Camp de Châlons
albumen silver print from glass negative


Platt D. Babbitt (American, 1822-1879) 'Niagara Falls' c. 1860


Platt D. Babbitt (American, 1822-1879)
Niagara Falls
c. 1860
National Gallery of Art, Washington Vital Projects Fund


William Eggleston. 'Untitled (Car in Parking Lot)' 1973


William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Untitled (Car in Parking Lot)
Dye imbibition print
National Gallery of Art, Washington Anonymous Gift


Harry Callahan. 'Providence' 1977


Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Dye transfer print


Robert Adams (American, b. 1937) 'Summer Nights #2 (Longmont, Colorado)' 1979


Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Summer Nights #2 (Longmont, Colorado)
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Art, Washington Gift of Mary and David Robinson



The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

The National Gallery of Art, located on the National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW.

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm and Sunday from 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

National Gallery of Art website


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Exhibition: ‘Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act’ at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Exhibition dates: October 15th 2009 – April 11th 2010


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




Alexander Calder. 'Form against Yellow (Yellow Panel)' 1936


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Form against Yellow (Yellow Panel)



Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Little Spider
c. 1940


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) 'Bougainvillier' 1947


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Sheet metal, wire, lead and paint
78 x 86 inches
Collection of John and Mary Shirley
© Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS)
Photo: Calder Foundation, New York/Art Resource NY



Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
c. 1948
Silver, silver wire



Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Louisa Calder’s 53rd Birthday Gift
Gold and steel wire


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) 'The Y' 1960


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
The Y


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) 'Teodelapio [maquette II]' 1962


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Teodelapio [maquette II]



Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act on view at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) downtown October 15, 2009, to April 11, 2010, traces the master American sculptor’s work from the late 1920s to the 1970s. Organised by the Seattle Art Museum and curated by Michael Darling, SAM’s Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, the survey features his signature mobiles, stabiles, works on paper and jewellery. Drawn primarily from the Seattle area collection of Jon and Mary Shirley, the exhibition will showcase the wide range of Calder’s interests, abilities, materials and phases during his long and productive career. Accompanying the exhibition will be 44 photographs and a film by Calder’s contemporary Herbert Matter that show his working process in many different studios over the years.

“This will be a singular occasion to appreciate the work of one of the 20th century’s titans of modern art,” said Darling. “The Shirleys’ collection allows us to examine Calder’s variations on themes and scale in a depth that few museums have the opportunity to present.”

The title of the exhibition refers to the artist’s feats of artistry and engineering, as well as his ability to work in many different arenas, from pure abstraction to playful naturalism. Calder was one of the leaders in defining what mattered in 20th-century art, balancing delicacy and the handmade with industrial materials and processes.

Calder’s work is a crucial bridge between abstract painting and sculpture that was taking root in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century and the abstract language being embraced in the US after World War II. The mobiles, in particular, were a giant leap forward in the expansion of artistic possibilities, both for artists and audiences, as their moveable parts ensured that a work was never “finished.” They defy stasis and are constantly, emphatically alive. He also pushed the boundaries of pure colour and bold form to the forefront of aesthetic consideration.


Small-Scale Works in Wire and Metal

Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act features groupings of small standing mobiles that demonstrate how Calder played with variations on certain themes, such as red tripod bases with arcing cantilevers on top. When looking at works such as Black, White, Yellow and Brass on Red (1959) and Polychrome Dots and Brass on Red (1964, see image below), one can imagine them at a gigantic scale, but they are also satisfying at a diminutive size, where the hand-pounding and forming of metal is direct and evident. Some of these spirals and branching forms find direct complements in Calder’s jewellery creations, as well, revealing how fluid his approach was between the two genres. The exhibition includes examples of earrings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, even a key ring designed and created by the artist. In addition, Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act features several of the artist’s delicate wire sculptures. Often compared to drawings that exist in three-dimensional space, these small-scale works demonstrate Calder’s acuity at balancing his keen artistic sense with playfulness and elegant craftsmanship.


Mobiles and Stabiles

Alexander Calder is perhaps most famous for having invented the fine art mobile. His mobiles and stabiles (or non-moving sculptures) are among his most recognised works, and a number of important pieces in these genres – from smaller maquettes to some of Calder’s largest, monumental works – will be on view in the exhibition. At about eight-feet across, Untitled, a mobile from about 1948, includes organic, leaf-like “paddles” or “leaves” that move gracefully on the breeze, alongside a dangling, abstract carved wood element and a bright yellow circle. The balance of organic and geometric forms makes one think of plants, astronomy or even microbiology, all at once.

Some of the recognised masterpieces in the show include the “standing mobile” (a piece that has moving parts but rests on the ground) Bougainvillier (1947, see image above), and the large-scale, 23-foot mobile Red Curly Tail (1970) from much later in the artist’s career. Eagle (1971) currently in SAM’s collection and on view at the Olympic Sculpture Park is a good example of the later, monumental variants of Calder’s stabiles. Eagle will be part of the exhibition Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act through a live-feed video from the sculpture park and on view in the downtown Seattle galleries.


Photographs and Film by Herbert Matter

Alexander Calder’s working process comes to life in the exhibition through photographs by Herbert Matter that document the artist in his studio. On loan from the Calder Foundation, the photographs span more than ten years in the 1930s and 40s and many different studios and working spaces, revealing the creative chaos of Calder’s working environment, the almost surreal abstraction of having all of that metal and curving wire around and the workmanlike, quasi-industrial feel to the artist’s processes and surroundings. The photographs also document some of his past exhibitions and give museum visitors a sense of how Calder himself liked to display his works. A full-colour film produced by Matter in 1951, with music by John Cage and narration by Burgess Meredith, also gives great insight into Calder’s Roxbury, Connecticut, studio.

Text from the Seattle Art Museum website [Online] Cited 06/02/2010 no longer available online



Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
The Spider



Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Blue Feather
c. 1948



Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Big Red



Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Polychrome Dots and Brass on Red


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) 'Eagle' 1971


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Photo: Ronincmc



Seattle Art Museum Downtown
1300 First Avenue
, Seattle, WA 98101-2003
TTY 206.654.3137

Opening hours:
Friday – Monday 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
Tuesday closed

Seattle Art Museum website


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Exhibition: ‘Calder’ at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome

Exhibition dates: 23rd October 2009 – 14th February 2010


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





Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) 'Cascading Flowers' 1949


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Cascading Flowers



The City of Rome is to devote its first ever major exhibition to Alexander Calder. The exhibition is being organised by the Azienda Speciale Palaexpo to celebrate the famous US artist born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, in 1898 and who died in New York in 1976. His Mobiles are some of the modern era’s most celebrated icons. Exuberance, happiness, vigour and a strong and lively sense of humour are features James J. Sweeney already attributed to Calder in the catalogue of a retrospective held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1943. This was the exhibition that raised Calder to the level of one of the leading artists of the day. After majoring in engineering, being awarded a diploma at the Art Students’ League in New York and immersing himself fully in the Parisian Avant-Garde movement in the twenties, Calder went on in the following decade to produce his first Mobiles, as Marcel Duchamp was to christen them. In these sculptures, which were to become enormously popular, the artist harmonically fused shape, colour and movement into an essential whole, which he himself saw as a “universe” where “each element can move, shift and oscillate back and forth in a changing relationship with each of the other elements.”

The exhibition at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni – over 100 works from major public and private collections and the Calder Foundation itself – is set out in the form of a chronological journey designed to explore the artist’s entire creative cycle starting in the twenties. A large selection of his most important works will be on display, including some of the sculptures that were shown at the 1943 exhibition at the MoMa. The exhibition will also be taking a look at some of the lesser known aspects of his work, with groups of works that are rarely on display to the general public. The exhibition opens with his wire sculptures of acrobats, animals and portraits, most of which were created in Paris in the twenties. They include his first attempts to portray movement in a playful and wryly ironic mood.

A lesser known series of small bronze figures produced in 1930 showing contortionists and acrobats will allow the visitor to see how the artist resorted to different techniques to experiment in expressing the notion of movement. An important selection of works also illustrates the way in which Calder wholeheartedly embraced the Abstract movement after paying a visit to Mondrian’s studio in Paris. The visitor will also be able to track Calder’s surrealist vein and his interest in biomorphic shapes through a series of masterpieces produced in the mid-thirties including: Gibraltar, Tightrope, Yellow Panel and Orange Panel, all completed in 1936 (see images above).

The exhibition will be built around the Mobiles that the artist produced throughout his career, working industrial metal plates using a craftsman’s technique. Throughout the exhibition, visitors will be able to admire a selection of the most representative pieces from different periods: Arc of Petals, 1941 (see image below); Cascading Flowers, 1949 (see image above); Le 31 Janvier, 1950; and The Y, 1960 (see image below). The exhibition will also be hosting a significant selection of Stabiles, free-standing sculptures that were given their name by Hans Arp. The Stabiles on display will range from those produced in the mid-thirties, such as Black Beast and Hollow Egg (dated 1939), right up to the more recent Cactus, dated 1959, and La Grande Vitesse created in 1969 (see image below). The exhibition will also be exploring the chronological development of Calder’s painting, a branch of his art in which the artist resorted principally to the agile and dynamic method of gouache on paper. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue published by Motta, with contributions from Alexander S. C. Rower and Giovanni Carandente as well as a broad anthology of texts by the artist himself and other authors, many of whose works will be appearing in Italian translation for the first time.

Press release from the Palazzo delle Esposizioni website [Online] Cited 01/09/2010 no longer available online



Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Helen Wills



Helen Newington Wills (October 6, 1905 – January 1, 1998), also known as Helen Wills Moody and Helen Wills Roark, was an American tennis player. She became famous around the world for holding the top position in women’s tennis for a total of nine years: 1927-33, 1935 and 1938. She won 31 Grand Slam tournament titles (singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles) during her career, including 19 singles titles.

Wills was the first American woman athlete to become a global celebrity, making friends with royalty and film stars despite her preference for staying out of the limelight. She was admired for her graceful physique and for her fluid motion. She was part of a new tennis fashion, playing in knee-length pleated skirts rather than the longer ones of her predecessors. Unusually, she practiced against men to hone her craft, and she played a relentless game, wearing down her female opponents with power and accuracy. In 1933 she beat the 8th-ranked US male player in an exhibition match.

Her record of eight wins at Wimbledon was not surpassed until 1990 when Martina Navratilova won nine. She was said to be “arguably the most dominant tennis player of the 20th century”, and has been called by some (including Jack Kramer, Harry Hopman, Mercer Beasley, Don Budge, and AP News) the greatest female player in history.

Text from the Wikipedia website



Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Mobile (Arc of Petals)



Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
The Y


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) 'La Grande Vitesse' 1969


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
La Grande Vitesse



Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome
Via Nazionale, 194, and Via Milano, 9

Opening hours:
Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10.00am – 8.00pm
Friday and Saturday from 10.00am – 10.30pm
Monday closed

Palazzo delle Esposizioni website


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Review: Jenny Holzer at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th December 2009 – 28th February 2010



Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Various dates
With poetry by Wislawa Szymborska



“I draw from everything – from the National Security Archives collection to old material from the FBI’s website to postings by the ACLU. I concentrate on the content. It tends to be very rough material about what’s happened to soldiers in the field, about the good and bad choices they’ve been forced to make, and what has happened to detainees and civilians. I also go to material that’s almost completely gone, either whited out or blacked out, because that represents the issue. You don’t have to spill words when the page is completely black.”

Jenny Holzer



This is a patchy but ultimately redemptive exhibition by Jenny Holzer at the Australia Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne. The main exhibition space at ACCA is filled with one installation created specifically for the space titled For ACCA (2009) that in essence is the same as the installation for The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MOCA)(see photographs above).

The work is projected by a Cameleon Teleprojecteur into the large space and features poems by Wislawa Szymborska with titles such as “The End and the Beginning”, “The Joy of Writing”, “Children of Our Age” and “The Terrorist, He’s Watching” scrolling a la Star Wars opening credits from the bottom upwards into the darkened space. The words that flow into the mis en scene are distorted at the edges like a fish eye lens distorts reality. EVERYTHING IS IN CAPITAL LETTERS TO EMPHASISE THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORDS, JUST IN CASE WE MISSED THE POINT. It feels like you have been metaphorically hit over the head with the artist’s concern and frankly, I soon lost interest in the mobilisation of meaning:


“I don’t require changes
from the surf,
now diligent, now sluggish,
obeying not me.”

“The Bomb in the bar
will explode at thirteen twenty
Now it’s just thirteen sixteen
There’s still time
for some to go in,
and some to come out.”

“There’s one thing
I won’t agree to:
My own return.
The privilege of presence –
I give it up.”

“I survived you by enough,
and only by enough,
to contemplate from afar – “

“After Every War
Someone has to tidy up.
Things won’t pick
themselves up, after all.”


More interesting are the 4 bean bags placed on the floor that are covered in matt grey heat sensitive fabric. As you sit in the bags your indentation heats up the fabric. Upon standing the mark of your body, your body temperature, forms silver Yves Klein-like paintings of glowing phosphorescence. Looking back into the projector from your recumbent position you get an eerie view of the words coming towards you on the floor and going away on the ceiling, your body illuminated in words. What spoils the installation for me is the didactic nature of the protestations, their proselytising soon wearing thin on a body more attuned to the pithy, insightful phrases of Barbara Kruger.

The electronic sculpture Torso (see image below) “emphatically addresses the private body enmeshed and lost in information and government operations.” (catalogue text). Featuring 10 doubled LED projectors programmed with case files of American soldiers accused of war crimes in the Middle East, abuse questions of detainees, ‘For Official Use Only’ texts and personal messages of love the sculpture is at first seen from a distance, framed by two rectangular doorways of the previous galleries. The mainly blue background and pink lettered light emanating from the sculpture is beautiful and quite magical and as one enters the empty space of the gallery the light focuses the eyes on the moving words, their repetition, their flashing, their running at different speeds and colours, all with the same message  – words that seem to appear out of the wall and disappear back into it. The effect soon wears thin however; when you delve into the guts of the torso fascination begins to wane and you are left with repetition for repetition’s sake and with ‘pretty’ words that are just that: patterns of perniciousness displayed for our pleasure.

The reason that you must visit this exhibition is the last body of work. Working with declassified documents that relate to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Holzer’s Redaction paintings address the elemental force that is man’s (in)humanity to man (in the study of literature, redaction is a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined (redacted) and subjected to minor alteration to make them into a single work).1 Silkscreen printed as oil on canvas these paintings are some of the most poignant, moving, terrifying, enraging pieces of art that I have seen in a long time. I was moved to tears. They are tough works and they deserve to be.

Autopsy reports, a “Wish List” for alternative interrogation techniques (Wish List/Gloves Off 2007), a handwritten letter from an Iraq student detailing his experience of torture (By the Name of God 2006) and palm prints –  (some totally illegible as the censor eradicates human identity, erases with a double violence – to the person themselves, to the validation that they existed) – document a government’s malfeasance.

What a word malfeasance!
Etymology: mal- + obsolete feasance doing, execution ….

In these paintings the artist pulls back and lets the work speak for itself – and it is all the more powerful because of this. Using the physical process of the hand in the making of these images implicates every one of us in the complicities of the faceless bureaucrats and military personnel that hide behind blacked out names. The most moving of the hand prints are the partial prints taken after death where some ‘body’ has pressed down the deceased detainees hand to make an impression, mapping an identity already deleted (Faint Hand 2007 – unfortunately I don’t have any images of these paintings to show you). One is even presented as it was taken, upside down (Right Hand Down 2007). These are indescribable images, they tear you up inside.

I left the exhibition feeling shell-shocked after experiencing intimacy with an evil that leaves few traces. In the consciences of the perpetrators? In the hearts of the living! Oh, how I wish to see the day when the human race will truly evolve beyond. We live in hope and the work of Jenny Holzer reminds us to be vigilant, to speak out, to have courage in the face of the unconscionable.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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



“Date of birth; 1947
Date/time of Death: 26 Nov 2003
Circumstances of Death: This Iraq  _____  died in U.S. custody”


“We are American soldiers, heirs to a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there.”


Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950) 'Torso' 2007


Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
LED projectors



Holzer became well-known in the 1980s for her text-based works and public art. Her first series, Truisms (1977-79), contains concise, aphoristic statements that reveal and question truths, beliefs, and ideologies. While Truisms first appeared on posters placed in the urban environment, Holzer’s texts later took a number of forms including light projections on high-profile public buildings, LED (light emitting diode) signs, stickers placed on surfaces such as parking metres and telephone booths, and public furniture such as marble and granite benches. While Holzer still at times relies on the thirteen texts she wrote from 1977-2001, her recent practice has turned to incorporating the writings of others, including works by internationally celebrated poets and declassified government documents. Like her own texts, the borrowed writings and documents address personal and public calamities in a range of voices and tones that approximates the complexity of daily life.

Though Holzer has used words and ideas in public spaces for the past thirty years, she has also created large-scale projects for prominent institutions such as the Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), and the Centre Pompidou (Paris).

For ACCA’s main exhibition hall, Holzer will project poetry in the form of light onto the floors, ceilings, and walls, making the language something felt as well as read. In addition, she will display works from a series that began in 2005 where she translates declassified government documents into paintings. The documents are left exactly as they were found when rendered through silkscreen onto oil-painted grounds. The marks of a censor are seen in the text blocked out by a black scribble or box. These works come, as Holzer has said, from her “frantic worrying about the war and attendant changes in American society.” The projections and paintings will be supplemented by an LED installation titled Torso. In this work, Holzer stacks ten semi-circular signs that display in red, blue, white, and purple light the statements, investigation reports, and emails from case files of soldiers accused of various crimes in the Middle East. Providing these voices, part damning, contradictory, sympathetic, anecdotal, and evidentiary, Holzer layers accounts of abuse and blame.

“Jenny Holzer’s words ask us to consider our thoughts and actions in the world. This essentially humanist and philosophical project encourages us to seek self enlightenment through examining our prejudices, false beliefs, fall back positions, and habits, to reach a new level of tolerance, understanding and self awareness”

Juliana Engberg, ACCA’s Artistic Director

Text from the ACCA website [Online] Cited 01/06/2010 no longer available online



Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Left Hand (Palm Rolled)
Oil on linen
80 x 62 in. (203.2 x 157.5 cm)
Text: U.S. government document



“What truly adds substance to the style are the Redaction Paintings. These blown-up pieces of censored materials, silk-screened on to stretched canvas, afford an unnerving glimpse at how we fight wars. Authored by countless bureaucratic functionaries, they feel both predictable and eye-opening.

All of the embedded journalists in the world couldn’t produce as clear a picture as the government did in documenting its own malfeasance. Many of these documents feature the blurred type of countless reproductions, a sign that time is burying these paperwork tragedies until they become illegible and unactionable.

Holzer didn’t have to doctor these documents for heightened effect; the black bars that enshroud the names of victims and their tormentors speak for themselves. One autopsy report describes the fatal suffocation of a prisoner of war forced to maintain a stress position. In some cases nearly whole documents are ominously blacked out, like a national Rorschach test.”2



Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Oil on linen



Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Right Hand (Palm Rolled)
Oil on linen
80 x 62 in. (203.2 x 157.5 cm)
Text: U.S. government document



Jenny Holzer (American, b. 1950)
Wish List/Gloves Off
Oil on linen



“WISH LIST” document:

A captain in the US Army human intelligence division requested a “wish list” from subordinate interrogation teams for, “innovative interrogation techniques that will prove more successful than current methods.” One person interpreted this request to mean, “the captain wanted suggestions legal, illegal and somewhere in between.” The WISH LIST document is a summary of alternative interrogation techniques that the 4th Infantry Division, ICE, devised, including phone book strikes, low voltage electrocution and muscle fatigue inducement.

The document can be found on the American Civil Liberties Union website. The “WISH LIST” is on p. 59.”3



  1. Definition of redaction on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 6 February 2010
  2. Arizona, Daniel. “Jenny Holzer and the Influence of Anxiety,” on More Intelligent website [Online] Cited January 2010 no longer available online
  3. Anon. “Jenny Holzer Projections.” on the MASS MOCA website [Online] Cited 17 January 2010 no longer available online



Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)
111 Sturt Street
Victoria 3006

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

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art website


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Exhibition: ‘Picturing New York: Photographs from The Museum of Modern Art’ at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

Exhibition dates: 25th November 2009 – 7th February 2010


Many thankx to Monica Cullinane and the Irish Museum of Modern Art for allowing me the reproduce photographs from the exhibition. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.




Times Wide World Photos. 'Mr. and Mrs. Joe Louis Out for a Stroll' September 25, 1935


Times Wide World Photos (American, active 1919-1941)
Mr. and Mrs. Joe Louis Out for a Stroll
September 25, 1935
Gelatin silver print
8 ¾ x 6 5/8″ (22.2 x 16.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The New York Times Collection


Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled Film Still #21' 1978


Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #21
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 1/2″ (19.1 x 24.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel



Each of Sherman’s sixty-nine Untitled Film Stills (1977-80), presents a female heroine from a movie we feel we must have seen. Here, she is the pert young career girl in a trim new suit on her first day in the big city. Among the others are the luscious librarian (#13), the chic starlet at her seaside hideaway (#7), the ingenue setting out on life’s journey (#48), and the tough but vulnerable film noir idol (#54). To make the pictures, Sherman herself played all of the roles or, more precisely, played all of the actresses playing all of the roles. In other words, the series is a fiction about a fiction, a deft encapsulation of the image of femininity that, through the movies, took hold of the collective imagination in postwar America – the period of Sherman’s youth, and the crucible of our contemporary culture.

In fact, only a handful of the Untitled Film Stills are modelled directly on particular roles in actual movies, let alone on individual stills of the sort that the studios distribute to publicise their films. All the others are inventive allusions to generic types, and so our sure sense of recognition is all the more telling. It tells us that, knowingly or not, we have absorbed the movie culture that Sherman invites us to examine as a powerful force in our lives.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 295.


Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009) 'New York' 1982


Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
Gelatin silver print
9 9/16 x 6 7/16″ (24.3 x 16.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Gift of Marvin Hoshino in memory of Ben Maddow
© 2009 The Estate of Helen Levitt, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco


Louis Stettner (American, born 1922) 'Manhattan from the Promenade, Brooklyn, New York' 1954


Louis Stettner (American, born 1922)
Manhattan from the Promenade, Brooklyn, New York
Gelatin silver print
12 1/4 x 18 1/4″ (31.1 x 46.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer in memory of his brother, David Stettner
© 2009 Louis Stettner, courtesy Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York


Diane Arbus. 'Woman with Veil on Fifth Avenue, N.Y.C' 1968


Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Woman with Veil on Fifth Avenue, N.Y.C.
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Modern Art, New York



An exhibition of 145 masterworks from the photographic collection of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York , celebrating the architecture and life of that unique city from the 1880s to the present day, opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday, November 25, 2009. “Picturing New York” draws on one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary photography in the world to celebrate the long tradition of photographing New York, a tradition that continues to frame and influence our perception of the city to this day. Presenting the work of some 40 photographers including such influential figures as Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, Lisette Model, Alfred Stieglitz and Cindy Sherman, the exhibition features both the city and its inhabitants, from its vast, overwhelming architecture to the extraordinary diversity of its people.

The exhibition reflects photographers’ ongoing fascination with New York, a city whose vitality, energy, dynamism and sheer beauty have also inspired innumerable artists, writers, filmmakers and composers. New York’s unique architecture is explored, from elegant skyscrapers to small shop fronts; likewise the life of its citizens, from anonymous pedestrians to celebrities and politicians. The city’s characteristic optimism is caught time and again in these images, even in those taken in difficult times. Together, they present a fascinating history of the city over more than a century, from Jacob Riis’s 1888 view of bandits on the Lower East Side to Michael Wesely’s images taken during the recent expansion at MoMA.

The photographs reveal New York as a city of contrasts and extremes through images of towering buildings and tenements, party-goers and street-dwellers, hurried groups and solitary individuals. “Picturing New York” suggests the symbiosis between the city’s progression from past to present and the evolution of photography as a medium and as an art form. Additionally, these photographs of New York contribute significantly to the notion that the photograph, as a work of art, is capable of constructing a sense of place and a sense of self.

“I am thrilled that ‘Picturing New York’ will be presented in Dublin – a city whose vitality, grit, and vibrant artistic community resonates with that of New York ,” said Sarah Meister, Curator in MoMA’s Department of Photography, who organised the exhibition. “In addition, the layout and scale of the galleries at IMMA will allow this story – of New York and photography becoming modern together throughout the twentieth century – to unfold as if chapter by chapter.”

Press release from the Irish Museum of Modern Art website [Online] Cited 26/01/2010 no longer available online


Jacob Riis (Danish-American, 1849-1914) 'Bandit's Roost at 59½ Mulberry Street' 1888


Jacob Riis (Danish-American, 1849-1914)
Bandit’s Roost at 59½ Mulberry Street
Gelatin silver print, printed 1958
19 3/16 x 15 1/2″ (48.7 x 39.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of the Museum of the City of New York



Late 19th-century New York City was a magnet for the world’s immigrants, and the vast majority of them found not streets paved with gold but nearly subhuman squalor. While polite society turned a blind eye, brave reporters like the Danish-born Jacob Riis documented this shame of the Gilded Age. Riis did this by venturing into the city’s most ominous neighbourhoods with his blinding magnesium flash powder lights, capturing the casual crime, grinding poverty and frightful overcrowding. Most famous of these was Riis’ image of a Lower East Side street gang, which conveys the danger that lurked around every bend. Such work became the basis of his revelatory book How the Other Half Lives, which forced Americans to confront what they had long ignored and galvanised reformers like the young New York politician Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote to the photographer, “I have read your book, and I have come to help.” Riis’ work was instrumental in bringing about New York State’s landmark Tenement House Act of 1901, which improved conditions for the poor.

Anonymous. “Bandit’s Roost, 59½ Mulberry Street,” on the Time 100 Photos website [Online] Cited 09/06/2019


Paul Strand. 'Wall Street, New York' 1915


Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Wall Street
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Modern Art, New York



Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Welders on the Empire State Building
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
10 5/8 x 13 5/8″ (27 x 34.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund



Dan Weiner (American, 1919-1959)
New Year’s Eve, Times Square
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 13 3/16″ (23.5 x 33.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Sandra Weiner
© 2009 Estate of Dan Weiner


Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' from the 'Brooklyn Gang' series 1959


Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled from the Brooklyn Band series
Gelatin silver print
6 3/4 x 10″ (17.1 x 25.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© 2019 Magnum Photos, Inc. and Bruce Davidson


Arthur Fellig (Weegee) 'Coney Island' 1940


Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria, 1899-1968)
Coney Island
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
10 5/16 x 13 11/16″ (26.2 x 34.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Anonymous gift


Unknown photographer. 'Brooklyn Bridge' c. 1914


Unknown photographer (American)
Brooklyn Bridge
c. 1914
Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 9 9/16″ (19.4 x 24.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The New York Times Collection


Ted Croner. 'Central Park South' 1947-48


Ted Croner (American, 1922-2005)
Central Park South
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Modern Art, New York


Bernice Abbott. 'Night View, New York City' 1932


Bernice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Night View, New York City
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Modern Art, New York



Irish Museum of Modern Art/Áras Nua-Ealaíne na hÉireann
Royal Hospital
Military Road
Dublin 8
Phone: +353-1-612 9900

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 10.00am – 5.30pm
except Wednesday: 10.30am – 5.30pm
Sundays and Bank Holidays: 12pm – 5.30pm

Irish Museum of Modern Art website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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