Archive for January, 2011

29
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘Forced Labour. The Germans, the Forced Labourers and the War’ at the Jewish Museum, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 28th September 2010 – 30th January 2011

 

G. Gronfeld. 'Arrival at the transit camp' 1942

 

G. Gronfeld
Arrival at the transit camp
1942

 

Female forced labourers from the Soviet Union on their arrival at the Berlin-Wilhelmshagen Transit Camp, December 1942.
Source: Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin

 

 

This is an emotional and sobering posting. The photograph of the Liberated forced laborer with tuberculosis by an unknown photographer (1945, below) is as heartbreaking as the photograph of a mother and child, Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath, Minamata (1972) by Eugene Smith. The look on the man’s face when I first saw it made me burst into tears… it is difficult to talk about it now without being overcome. An unknown man photographed by an unknown photographer.

There is something paradoxical about the solidity of the doctor’s steel helmet, his uniform and the fact he is a doctor contrasted with the strength, size and gentleness of his hand as it rests near the elbow of this emaciated man, this human … yet the intimacy and tenderness of this gesture, as the man stares straight into the camera lens – is so touching that to look at this picture, is almost unbearable. Man’s (in)humanity to man.

 

Some pertinent facts

The Germans abducted about 12 million people from almost twenty European countries; about two thirds of whom came from Eastern Europe. Many workers died as a result of their living conditions, mistreatment or were civilian casualties of the war. They received little or no compensation during or after the war … At the peak of the war, one of every five workers in the economy of the Third Reich was a forced labourer. According to Fried, in January 1944 the Third Reich was relying on 10 million forced labourers. Of these, 6.5 million were civilians within German borders, 2.2 million were prisoners of war, and 1.3 million were located at forced labor camps outside Germany’s borders. Homze reported that civilian forced labourers from other countries working within the German borders rose steeply from 300,000 in 1939 to more than 5 million in 1944.

Examples:

Russian Foreign Civilian Forced Labourers in Nazi Germany (total number approximately): 2,000,000

Russian Number of Known and Estimated Survivors Reported by Reconciliation Foundations: 334,500

(Source: Beyer, John C. and Schneider, Stephen A. “Forced Labour under Third Reich – Part 1” (pdf). Nathan Associates Inc.. 1999.)

 

Russian “volunteer” POW workers

“Between 22 June 1941 and the end of the war, roughly 5.7 million members of the Red Army fell into German hands. In January 1945, 930,000 were still in German camps. A million at most had been released, most of whom were so-called “volunteer” (Hilfswillige) for (often compulsory) auxiliary service in the Wehrmacht. Another 500,000, as estimated by the Army High Command, had either fled or been liberated. The remaining 3,300,000 (57.5 percent of the total) had perished.”

(Source: Streit, Christian. Keine Kameraden: Die Wehrmacht und die Sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen, 1941-1945, Bonn: Dietz (3. Aufl., 1. Aufl. 1978))

The remaining 3,300,000 had perished. A sobering figure indeed (if you can even imagine such a number of human beings).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Unknown. 'Liberated forced laborer with tuberculosis' 1945

 

Unknown
Liberated forced laborer with tuberculosis
1945

 

A doctor of the U.S. Army examines a former forced labourer from Russia who was ill with tuberculosis. The Americans had discovered the sick forced labourers in a barrack yard in Dortmund. Dortmund, 30 April 1945.
Source: National Archives, Washington

 

G. Gronfeld. 'Registration at the transit camp' 1942

 

G. Gronfeld
Registration at the transit camp
1942

 

Berlin-Wilhelmshagen Transit Camp, December 1942. Labour office staff registered the forced labourers and handed out employment certificates.
Source: Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin

 

Unknown. 'Humiliation of Bernhard Kuhnt in Chemnitz' Nd

 

Unknown
Humiliation of Bernhard Kuhnt in Chemnitz
Nd

 

The inscription, “Always dignified! The naval fleet’s mutineer Bernh. Kuhnt arrives at his new workplace (washing off the dirt),” refers to the myth that mutinous social democratic and communist sailors were responsible for the defeat of the German empire in the First World War.
Source: Bundesarchiv, Koblenz

 

Unknown. 'Selection in a Prisoner of War Camp: Recruitment for Mining' 1942

 

Unknown
Selection in a Prisoner of War Camp: Recruitment for Mining
1942

 

In the summer of 1942, Soviet prisoners of war were selected from the prisoner of war camp Zeithain to perform forced labor in Belgian mines.
Source: Gedenkstätte Ehrenhain Zeithain

 

Selection in a Prisoner of War Camp

In the summer of 1942, Karl Schmitt – head of the Wehrmacht mining division in Liège, Belgium – went to Berlin on vacation with his wife. On the way, he visited the Zeithain prisoner of war camp in Saxony. The Soviet POWs were ordered to present themselves for inspection with the aim of deploying them to Belgian mines under German control. They were accordingly checked for physical fitness. Karl Schmitt decided who was to be transported to Belgium and who was not.

Soviet prisoners of war were frequently put to work in mines. The Reich Security Main Office had ruled that they could be employed only in work gangs kept separate from German workers. The authorities considered the mines particularly suitable in that respect.
Source: Gedenkstätte Ehrenhain Zeithain.

 

 

Over 20 million men, women, and children were taken to Germany and the occupied territories from all over Europe as “foreign workers,” prisoners of war, and concentration camp inmates to perform forced labor. By 1942, forced laborers were part of daily life in Nazi Germany. The deported workers from all over Europe and Eastern Europe in particular were exploited in armament factories, on building sites and farms, as craftsmen, in public institutions and private households. Be it as a soldier of the occupying army in Poland or as a farmer in Thuringia, all Germans encountered forced laborers and many profited from them. Forced labor was no secret but a largely public crime.

The exhibition Forced Labor. The Germans, the Forced Laborers, and the War on view at the Jewish Museum in Berlin provides the first comprehensive presentation of the history of forced labor and its ramifications after 1945. The exhibition was curated by the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation and initiated and sponsored by the “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” Foundation. Federal President Christian Wulff has assumed patronage for the exhibition. The exhibition’s first venue on its international tour is the Jewish Museum Berlin, other venues are planned in European capitals and in North America.

Forced labor was without precedent in European history. No other Nazi crime involved so many people – as victims, perpetrators, or onlookers. The exhibition provides the first comprehensive presentation of the history of this ubiquitous Nazi crime and its ramifications after 1945. It shows how forced labor was part of the Nazi regime’s racist social order from the outset: The propagated “Volksgemeinschaft” (people’s community) and forced labor for the excluded belonged together. The German “Herrenmenschen” (superior race) ruthlessly exploited those they considered “Untermenschen” (subhumans). The ordinariness and the broad societal participation of forced labor reflect the racist core of Nazism.

The exhibition pays special attention to the relationships between Germans and forced laborers. Every German had to decide whether to treat forced laborers with a residual trace of humanity or with the supposedly required racist frostiness and implacability of a member of an allegedly superior race. How Germans made use of the scope this framework reveals something not only about the individuals but also about the allure and shaping power of Nazi ideology and practice. Through this perspective, the exhibition goes beyond a presentation of forced labor in the narrow sense to illustrate the extent to which Nazi values had infiltrated German society. Forced labor cannot be passed off as a mere crime of the regime but should rather be considered a crime of society.

Over 60 representative case histories form the core of the exhibition. As is true of the majority of documents on show, they resulted from meticulous investigations in Europe, the USA, and Israel. Moreover the exhibition team viewed hundreds of interviews with former forced laborers that have been carried out in recent years. In terms of content, these case histories range from the degrading work of the politically persecuted in Chemnitz through the murderous slave labor performed by Jews in occupied Poland to daily life as a forced laborer on a farm in Lower Austria.

Among the surprises of the extensive international archival research was discovering unexpectedly broad photographic coverage of significant events. The photos relating to the case histories represent the second pillar of the exhibition. Whole series of photos were traced back to their creator and the scene and people depicted. This presentation, based on well-founded sources, allows quasi dramatic insight into aspects of forced labor. Cinematically arranged photo or photo-detail enlargements form the introduction to the continued inquiry into the history of forced labor.

The exhibition is divided into four sections. The first covers the years from 1933 to 1939 and unveils in particular how the racist ideology of Nazi forced labor struck roots. What was propagated up to the beginning of WWII, partly laid down in laws and widely implemented by society in practice, formed the basis for the subsequent radicalisation of forced labor in occupied Europe culminating in extermination through labor. This escalation and radicalisation is the focus of the second section of the exhibition. The third part covers forced labor as a mass phenomenon in the Third Reich from 1941/42, ending with the massacre of forced laborers at the end of the war. The fourth section explores the period from the time of liberation in 1945 to society’s analysis and recognition of forced labor as a crime today. Former forced laborers have the last word.

Press release from The Jewish Museum website.
Forced Labor exhibition website

 

Unknown. 'Daimler facility in Minsk' 1942

 

Unknown
Daimler facility in Minsk
1942

 

Female forced laborers of the Daimler facility in Minsk, September 1942.
Source: Mercedes-Benz Classic, Archive, Stuttgart

 

Minsk: German firms in occupied Eastern Europe

In Minsk, a town which had suffered major destruction, Daimler-Benz ran a large repair facility for motorised Wehrmacht vehicles. Together, Daimler and Organisation Todt set up more than thirty repair sheds on the grounds of a ruined military base. With a workforce of five thousand, the facility was soon one of the largest enterprises in occupied Eastern Europe. The management exploited prisoners of war and members of the local population, among them Jews. Laborers were also deported from White Russian villages to the Minsk works as part of the effort to crush the partisan movement.

In the occupied areas of Eastern Europe, many German companies took advantage of the opportunity to take over local firms or establish branch operations. The unlimited availability of laborers was an important factor in their business strategies.

 

Unknown. 'Foreign workers at BMW in Allach' 1943

 

Unknown
Foreign workers at BMW in Allach
c. 1943

 

All the foreigners in aircraft engine production had to be visibly identifiable as such. The Soviet prisoners of war had the “SU” symbol on their jackets. Concentration camp inmates could be recognised by their striped uniforms. These photographs were most likely propaganda photos. Munich-Allach, c. 1943.
Source: BMW Group Archiv.

 

Munich-Allach: Working for BMW

Toward the end of the war ninety percent of the workforce at the largest aircraft engine factory in the German Reich – BMW’s plant in Munich-Allach – consisted of foreign civilian workers, POWs and concentration camp inmates. The number of workers had risen from 1,000 in 1939 to more than 17,000 in 1944.

Forced laborers worked not only in the assembly halls, but also on the factory’s expansion. Due to BMW’s importance to the armament industry, the authorities gave it priority over other companies in the assignment of workers. Nevertheless, its personnel demand was never completely met.

Some of the Western European workers lived in private quarters. For all others, barrack camps were set up all around the factory grounds until 1944, ultimately accommodating 14,000 people. That figure included several thousand concentration camp inmates which the company management had applied for already in 1942.

 

Unknown. 'KZ-prisoners on the industrial union color building site, Auschwitz' c. 1943

 

Unknown
KZ-prisoners on the industrial union color building site, Auschwitz
c. 1943
Source: © Bundesarchiv, Koblenz

 

Unknown. 'Liberated Jewish women' 1945

 

Unknown
Liberated Jewish women
1945

 

These young Jewish women were released from a forced labor camp at Kauritz (Saxony) by U.S. Army troops in early April, 1945. They are part of a large group removed from homes in France, Holland, Belgium and other occupied areas in Europe.
Source: National Archives, Washington

 

Unknown. 'Wladyslaw Kolopoleski' Nd

 

Unknown
Wladyslaw Kolopoleski
Nd

 

“In addition to the hard work, which exceeded my strength, I was beaten on the slightest provocation, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness. Once, for example, I suffered a severe head injury after I was beaten by Max Ewert, an SA officer. I not only lost consciousness, but I had to have head surgery,” wrote Władysław Kołopoleski, a young Pole born in Łódź in 1932. He was deployed in April 1940 on the estate of mayor Max Ewert in Gervin, now Górawino, in Pomerania.
Source: Foundation “Polish-German Reconciliation,” Warsaw

 

 

Jewish Museum Berlin
Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 259 93 300

Opening hours:
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The Jewish Museum website

Forced Labor exhibition website

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26
Jan
11

Review: ‘Unnerved: The New Zealand Project’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 26th November 2010  – 27th February 2011

A Queensland Art Gallery Touring Exhibition

 

Ava Seymour. 'Sate Highway 1' 1997

 

Ava Seymour (New Zealand b. 1967)
State Highway I
1997
from Health, happiness and housing series
Colour photograph of a photomontage

 

Ava Seymour. 'Day Care Walkabouts' 1997

 

Ava Seymour (New Zealand b. 1967)
Day Care Walkabouts
1997
from Health, happiness and housing series
Photomontage on colour photograph

 

 

New Zealand art adrift in a myriad of stories and symbols – not a brave ‘new world’

This is an underwhelming group exhibition of over 100 works drawn from the Queensland Art Gallery collection, a show to wander around on a lazy weekend afternoon and not get too excited about. The large number of works in the exhibition make it impossible to review each work individually (although I critique some works below) but one does get an overall sense of the investigation by New Zealand artists into their history, place, culture and identity. While there are a few good works in the exhibition there are also some very mediocre works as well and, other than a few splashes of self-deprecating humour (such as the wonderful The Horn of Africa (2006) by Michael Parekowhai, below) it all seems importantly earnest: an exhibition for serious people (apologies to Oscar Wilde).

On the evidence of this exhibition the country of New Zealand must be a very unnerving place to live, mainly because their artists can’t seem to keep their hand off it  – cultural history that is.

Throughout this exhibition we have psychological unease, physical unease, a little humour, parody, poetry, symbology, allegory, mythology, colonialism, post-colonialism, nationalism, commercialisation, representation, anthropology, travel, landscape, topography, advertising, first contact, sacred spaces, indigenous politics, Māori culture, Pacific Islander culture, pakeha (non-indigenous) culture, tools, guns, rabbits, seals, pianos, traditional tattoos, tourist sites and museums, surfing, suburbia, personal journeys, family albums, androgyny, identity, public housing, ambiguous states, hyperreality, surreality, dislocation, disenfranchisement, alienation, bodies, portraits, subjects, past, present, future (and more!)

Ronnie van Hout exhibits three atmospheric, eerie, dark photographs of constructed model landscapes: of a Nazi doodlebug and the words ABDUCT and HYBRID. The wall text tries, unsuccessfully, to link the images to the obscure and haunted landscapes of New Zealand – a very long bow to draw indeed. Bill Cuthbert’s “nice” photographs offer generalised statements of light and place but really don’t take you anywhere and in fact could have been taken anywhere. The wall text offers that the photographs are a “self-conscious, critical response” to the dismantling of colonial ideas of empire and nation … this is art speak gobbledygook at its worst trying to justify basic photography.

Mark Adams panoramic photograph of one of the sites of first contact – an important historical moment of encounter between Māori and pakeha (non-Māori people of European descent) – are a beautiful photograph of a sound and mountains that has then been dissected, fragmented and individually framed and then mounted unevenly on the gallery wall – just to make sure we get the point about the ‘nature’ of the scenery and its cultural implications. Lonnie Hutchinson’s cut wall work Cinco “offers an interplay between paper and space and explores the ‘va’ or space between – a relation between the Samoan people and the landscape saturated with the dialogue of our ancestors … being adrift in a sea of memories caused by feelings related to cultural loss and uncertainty.” I know how they feel: adrift, underwhelmed by the art and overwhelmed by the text.

Other than the striking photograph of the Dandy (2007, below) Lisa Reihana’s series Digital Marae (2001 – ) also fails to inspire. The marae is a highly structure space where Māori families come together – an outdoor, cleared area, a communal or sacred place which serves religious and social purposes in Polynesian societies. Here can be found male sculptures called poupou featuring diverse forms of masculinity, Māori gods and goddesses. The elder Mahuika, while sometimes described as male, is deliberately depicted in her female state in this series. In Reihanna’s digital interpretation of the marae her gods and goddesses become slick, media-inspired glossy magazine type images printed large, mounted on aluminium and lit for maximum theatrical effect. The unstructured spaces behind the figures have no context, no placement and give lie to the inspiration for the series (a highly structured space) and, as such, they land with a commercial thud onto the cleared earth.

The lowest point in the exhibition must be reserved for the 80 photographs of the series ‘The homely’ (1997–2000) by Gavin Hipkins. Usually when reviewing I refrain from saying anything really bad about works of art but this is an exception. This series is awful. Robert Nelson in The Age describes it as “visually and conceptually incoherent.” Taken over 4 years and supposedly “examining notions of nationhood that are unstable and fractured” Hipkins describes it as “a post-colonial gothic novel.” !!

The series features flat, one-dimensional images of symbols: sculptures, closed doors, open doors, flags, people, repeating circles and vertical elements – where the aggregate of all the images is supposed to MEAN SOMETHING. These are the most simple, most basic of year 12 images formed into a sequence that is conceptually irrelevant in terms of its symbolism and iconography vis a vis the purported critical examination it seeks to undertake. This person really needs to look at the sequences of Minor White to see how a great artist puts photographs together – not just in terms of narrative but the meaning in the spaces between the images, their spiritual resonance or, if wanting to be more literal, study that seminal book ‘The Americans’ by Robert Frank to see how to really make a sequence. Ultimately, these are images I wished I had never seen.

On to better things. For me the absolute gem of this exhibition were the photomontages of Ava Seymour from her ‘Health, happiness and housing’ series (see photographs above). These are just fantastic! Featuring as a backdrop photographs of state houses built in the 1950s and 60s Seymour assembles her cast of characters – composite figures of found limbs, bodies and faces taken from old medical text books – and creates stark, psychological sites of engagement. The can be seen as family portraits, social documents of unseen alienation and dis-enfranchisement with communities and also a comment on the conduct of the welfare system and state housing, but in their ironic, self-deprecating humour they become so much more. Even though they use old photographs the artist recasts them ingenuously to become something new, a new space that the viewer can step into, unlike most of the work in this exhibition.

Most artists in this exhibition seem intent on a form of cultural excavation to make their work, digging and rooting around in cultural history and memory to find “meaning”, to make new forms from old that actually lead nowhere. They excavate symbols and signs and reform them hoping for what, exactly? All that appears is work that is stunted and fragmented, chopped up dislocations that offer nothing new in terms of a way forward for the culture from which these histories and memories emerge. There is no holistic, healing vision here, only a series of mined observations that fragment, distort and polarise, descending into the decorative, illustrative or the commercial. The same can be said of some Australian art (including the exhibition Stormy Weather: Contemporary Landscape Photography at NGV Federation Square that I will review next). As Robert Nelson succinctly observed in his review of this exhibition in The Age (Wednesday, December 29th, 2010), this exhibition “reveals a weakness that also exists in our scene: fertile tricks and noble intentions, but patchy skill or poetic imagination for connecting them.” Well said.

“”When the soul wants to experience something she throws out an image in front of her and then steps into it.” (Meister Eckhart) It is an evocation of the image as a threshold leading to new dimensions of meaning. Symbolic images are more than data; they are vital seeds, living carriers of possibility.”1

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New dimensions of meaning, vital seeds, living carriers of possibility. Everyone of us is a living, breathing embodiment of cultural history and memory. We know that intimately in our bones, as human beings. What artists need to do is observe this legacy but offer a way forward, not constantly excavating the past and hoping this is enough when creating work. These are not new spaces to step into! The cohabitation of indigenous and ethnically mixed non-indigenous cultures in both Australia and New Zealand requires this holistic forward looking vision. It is a redemptive vision that is not mired in the symbols and archetypes of the past but, as Australia writer David Malouf envisages it, ‘a dream history, a myth history, a history of experience in the imagination’.2 It is a vision of the future that all post-colonial countries can embrace, where a people can come to know their sense of place more fully.

Rather than an escapist return to the past perhaps a redemptive vision of New Zealand’s cultural future, a history of experience in the imagination, would be less insular and more open to the capacity to wonder.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Ronnberg, Ami (ed.,). “Preface,” in The Book of Symbols. Cologne: Taschen, 2010, p. 6
  2. Footnote 6. Daniel, Helen. “Interview with David Malouf,” in Australian Book Review (September , 1996), p. 13 quoted in Ennis, Helen. “The Presence of the Past,” in Photography and Australia. London: Reaktion Books, 2007, p. 141

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Many thankx to Jemma Altmeier for her help and to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Lisa Reihana Ngāpuhi: Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tu 'Hinepukohurangi' 2001

 

Lisa Reihana (Ngāpuhi: Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tu New Zealander, b. 1964)
Hinepukohurangi
2001
From Digital Marae 2001-
Cibachrome photograph mounted on aluminium
200.0 x 100.0 cm
Purchased 2002
© Lisa Reihana

 

Lisa Reihana Ngāpuhi: Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tu 'Dandy' 2007

 

Lisa Reihana (Ngāpuhi: Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tu New Zealander, b. 1964)
Dandy
2007
From Digital Marae 2001-
Colour digital print mounted on aluminium
200.0 x 120.0 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2008 with funds from the Estate of Vincent Stack through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
© Lisa Reihana

 

 

Yvonne Todd (New Zealander, b. 1973)
January
2005
From the Vagrants’ reception centre series
Light jet photograph
100.0 x 73.8 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2007. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant
©Yvonne Todd

 

Michael Parekowhai Ngāti Whakarongo 'Kapa Haka (Whero)' 2003

 

Michael Parekowhai (Ngāti Whakarongo New Zealander, b. 1968)
Kapa Haka (Whero)
2003
Automotive paint on fibreglass
188.0 x 60.0 x 50.0 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2009 with funds from Tim Fairfax AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation
© Michael Parekowhai

 

 

The National Gallery of Victoria today opened a major exhibition celebrating the extraordinary work of 26 contemporary New Zealand artists in Unnerved: The New Zealand Project.

Unnerved explores a particularly rich, dark vein found in contemporary New Zealand art. The psychological or physical unease underlying many works in the exhibition is addressed with humour, parody and poetic subtlety by artists across generations and mediums. Bringing together more than 100 works ranging from intimate works on paper to large scale installations by both established and emerging artists, Unnerved engages with New Zealand’s changing social, political and cultural landscape as the country navigates its indigenous settler and migrant histories. These works explore a changing sense of place, the continued importance of contemporary Maori art, biculturalism, a complex colonial past, the creative reworking of memory, and the often interconnected mediums of performance, photography and video. If the vision is unsettling, it is also compelling and Unnerved: The New Zealand Project offers us new ways of seeing one of our closest neighbours.

This fascinating exhibition explores a rich and dark vein found in contemporary art in New Zealand, drawing on the disquieting aspects of New Zealand’s history and culture reflected through more than 100 works of art.

Jane Devery, Coordinating Curator, NGV said: “The works presented in Unnerved reveal a darkness and distinctive edginess that characterises this particular trend in New Zealand contemporary art. The psychological or physical unease underlying many works in the exhibitions is addressed with humour, parody and poetic subtlety.

The exhibition reflects the strength and vitality of contemporary art in New Zealand with works created by both established and emerging artists, across a range of mediums including painting, photography, sculpture, installation, drawing, film and video.

Unnerved engages with New Zealand’s changing social, political and cultural landscape, exploring a shifting sense of place, complex colonial past, the relationships between contemporary Māori, Pacific Islander and pakeha (non-indigenous) culture, and the interplay between performance, video and photography,” said Ms Devery.

A highlight of the exhibition is a group of sculptural works by Michael Parekowhai including his giant inflatable rabbit, Cosmo McMurtry, which will greet visitors to the exhibition, and a spectacular life-size seal balancing a grand piano on its nose titled The Horn of Africa. Also on display are a series of haunting photographs by Yvonne Todd, whose portrait photography often refers to B-grade films and pulp fiction novels.

Gerard Vaughan, Director, NGV said this exhibition demonstrates the NGV’s strong commitment to interesting and challenging contemporary art secured from around the world; he noted that the NGV has made a special commitment to exhibition the contemporary art of our region.

Unnerved will introduce visitors to the rich contemporary arts scene of one of our closest neighbours, fascinating audiences with works ranging from the life size installations by Parekowhai through to the spectacular 30 metre photographic essay by Gavin Hipkins. This truly is a must see show this summer!” said Dr Vaughan.

Unnerved will also offer a strong and engaging collection of contemporary sculpture, installations, drawings, paintings, photography, film and video art by artists including Lisa Reihana, John Pule, Gavin Hipkins, Anne Noble, Ronnie van Hout, Shane Cotton, Julian Hooper and many others.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria website

 

Michael Parekowhai Ngāti Whakarongo 'The Horn of Africa' 2006

 

Michael Parekowhai (Ngāti Whakarongo New Zealander, b. 1968)
The Horn of Africa
2006
Automotive paint, wood, fibreglass, steel, brass
395.0 x 200.0 x 260.0 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2008 with funds from the Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund in recognition of the contribution to the Gallery by Wayne Goss (Chair of Trustees 1999-2008)
© Michael Parekowhai

 

Michael Parekowhai. 'Cosmo McMurtry' 2006

 

Michael Parekowhai (Ngāti Whakarongo New Zealander, b. 1968)
Cosmo McMurtry
2006
Synthetic polymer paint on polyvinyl chloride, fibreglass, air compressor
734.3 x 506.4 x 739.1cm (variable)
Presented by the Melbourne Art Fair Foundation with the assistance of funds donated by NGV Contemporary, 2006
National Gallery of Victoria
© Michael Parekowhai

 

Gavin Hipkins. 'Christchurch (Mask)' 1998

 

Gavin Hipkins (New Zealander, b. 1968)
Christchurch (Mask)
1998
From The homely series 1997-2000
Type C photograph
60.0 x 40.0 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane Purchased 2008. The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund
© Gavin Hipkins

 

Fiona Pardington Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Kati Waewae 'Sweet Kiwi, from the collection 'Whanganui Museum'' 2008

 

Fiona Pardington (Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Kati Waewae New Zealander, b. 1961)
Sweet Kiwi, from the collection ‘Whanganui Museum’
2008
Gold-toned gelatin silver photograph
61.0 x 50.8 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2008 with funds from Gina Fairfax through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation
© Fiona Pardington

 

Max Gimblett. 'Balls' 1990-97

 

Max Gimblett (New Zealander/American, b. 1935)
Balls
1990-97
Brush and ink, synthetic polymer paint and pencil on handmade paper
59.8 x 79.3 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
The Max Gimblett Gift.
Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2000
© Max Gimblett

 

Anne Noble. 'Ruby's room no. 6' 1999

 

Anne Noble (New Zealander, b. 1954)
Ruby’s room no. 6
1999
Colour digital print
67.0 x 100.2 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2006
© Anne Noble

 

 

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22
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures’ at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Exhibition dates: 1st October 2010 – 23rd January 2011

 

Many thankx to the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All text comes from the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina website. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence with the work of Rineke Dijkstra at right

 

 

Portraits and Power explores portraiture and the representation of political, economical and social power in the contemporary world through the works of contemporary artists. Portraits of famous political figures, investigations into the lifestyle of the social elite, as well as inquiries into the power structures of international institutions.

The exhibition explores its theme from three main standpoints: it analyses power as an expression of the charisma of those individuals who have become icons or symbols of their age; it probes the power of institutions and social models that either represent themselves or are represented in a critical light; and it investigates the hidden mechanisms of powerful authorities.

Portraits and Power is a project of the CCC Strozzina, with the consultancy of Peter Funnell (National Portrait Gallery, London), Walter Guadagnini (“UniCredit & Art” project) and Roberta Valtorta (Museum of Contemporary Photography, Cinisello Balsamo) coordinated by Franziska Nori (CCCS, Firenze).

Text from the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina website [Online] Cited 02/02/2020

 

Tina Barney. 'The Ancestor' 2001

 

Tina Barney (American, b. 1945)
The Ancestor
2001
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

 

Tina Barney. 'The Brocade Walls' 2004

 

Tina Barney (American, b. 1945)
The Brocade Walls
2004
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

 

Tina Barney installation view

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Tina Barney

 

 

The characters Tina Barney portrays are the representatives of a social class that normally exercises careful control over the circulation of pictures of its members, whether in the form of family photographs or official portraits, which are often published on the pages of glossy magazines. She is one of the first photographers to have made artistic use of this kind of representation. Hers is not merely the gaze of an onlooker, but that of a trusted person, who has personal relationships with her subjects. What she is interested in is not so much the idea of displaying the wealth of these families, but that of analysing social and family dynamics – such as the ambivalent relationship between children and parents. Her work is conceived as a means to improve self-understanding.

The people portrayed all come from families educated in the awareness of their own social role: discipline, self-control and rigour are features to be observed in all the subjects photographed, and they share the same high level of composure. For the series entitled The Europeans, which was produced over a period of about eight years, the author was introduced by one circle of friends to another, and thus given the opportunity to portray Italian nobles, Austrian bankers and landowners, proud representatives of the wealthy Spanish bourgeoisie, and English gentlemen in their sophisticated dwellings. Neither the formal way of dressing nor the furnishings can be traced back to any particular fashion: Tina Barney seeks to produce timeless pictures that at first sight will appear closer to traditional painting than to contemporary photography. Tina Barney creates her portraits through a careful observation of people in their everyday lives; to capture transient moments she asks her subjects to repeat something in front of the camera in such a way as to fix them. Her work tool is a fixed, large-size camera; an extended time exposure and high resolution enable her to render the details of each setting in detail. The figures portrayed have a rigid and formal countenance, which makes them appear markedly detached from one another, even though it is often brothers and sisters or parents and children who are photographed together: “this is the best that we can do. This inability to show physical affection is in our heritage”.

Tina Barney’s photographs give a sense of the fleetingness of their relationships behind the mask of self-controlled bearing. The artist thus unveils the game of social roles and attitudes conducted by her subjects, a veritable Theater of Manners (to quote the title of one of her most famous series) which demands enough sensitivity on the viewers’ part for them to focus on those details in the pictures that render hidden and non-immediately obvious features visible.

Since the mid-1970s, Tina Barney has been focusing her work on the portrayal of the privileged exponents of New York and New England high society, seen either in their own homes or on certain special occasions. The style of the pictures ranges from that of tableaux vivant to that of genre paintings, drawing expressive force from the interaction between wealthy settings and the people who move about in them.

 

Tina Barney. 'The Granddaughter' 2004

 

Tina Barney (American, b. 1945)
The Granddaughter
2004
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Jim Dow

 

Jim Dow. 'Library Metropolitan Club, New York' 1999 / 2010

 

Jim Dow (American, b. 1942)
Library Metropolitan Club, New York
1999 / 2010
Chromogenic colour print
Courtesy the artist, Janet Borden, Inc., New York

 

Jim Dow. 'Dining Room, Morgan Library, New York' 1999 / 2010

 

Jim Dow (American, b. 1942)
Dining Room, Morgan Library, New York
1999 / 2010
Chromogenic colour print
Courtesy the artist, Janet Borden, Inc., New York

 

 

By taking shots that are as objective as possible and completely devoid of any human presence, Dow gives a concentrated and authentic view of the architecture, furnishings and frameworks of these backdrops of life. “My interest in photography centres on its capacity for exact description. I use photography to try to record the manifestations of human ingenuity and spirit still remaining in our country’s everyday landscape.” For one of his most recent series, Dow has been able to make his way into some of the most exclusive private circles of New York City. He selected circles that are still active and have a long and significant history behind, such as the renowned Metropolitan Club, which was founded in 1891 by John Pierpont Morgan, and once listed James Roosevelt and William K. Vanderbilt among its most illustrious members. Most of these circles require strict adherence to rules consolidated by tradition. Only those introduced to the club by one of its members can join it, a practice that contributes to keep it a kind of network; a specific commission will then consider whether the candidate is fit for acceptance. Though there are over twenty circles of this kind in New York, outsiders will rarely notice their presence. While they no longer exercise the kind of political influence they used to as seats of power and decision making bodies, these clubs are now undergoing a new renaissance. An increasing number of politicians and businessmen are choosing to meet in their secluded rooms, which public opinion often perceives as places of intrigue and the setting for secret appointments of various kinds. With his descriptive and comparative photographs, Dow is giving a face to these exclusive meeting places, inviting viewers to join him in admiring the timeless opulence of their rooms. Architecture is the “primary and most powerful form of mass-communication”; at the same time, it is a mirror for power and its strategies, for the consolidation of authority and its effects on those who exercise it. “Architecture is power. The powerful build precisely because they are powerful. Yet architecture is also an expression of the capability and resoluteness – as well as resolve – of the powerful. Politicians intentionally exploit architecture to seduce, impress, and intimidate.” (Deyan Sudjic, The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World, 2006).

American photographer Jim Dow approaches places as meeting points bearing visible traces of people’s mutual interactions. In different photographic series, the artist has portrayed American barbecue joints, pie and mash shops in London, tango halls in Buenos Aires, the workplaces of farmers, tinsmiths and iron-smiths, and baseball stadiums from one coast of the US to the other.

 

CLEGG & GUTTMANN (Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann) 'Grand Master' 1985

 

Clegg & Guttmann (Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann)
Grand Master
1985
Cibachrome
Courtesy Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne, Berlin, Antwerp

 

 

For Grand Master, part of a photographic series produced in the 1980s, Clegg & Guttmann asked an actor to display certain poses characteristic of power, presenting him as the representative of a non-specified institution. The background of the image consists in a fictional architectural scenario – one simply simulated by using photographed space – the artificial nature of which is revealed by certain incongruities in the lighting effects. What is central here, once more, is the reflection offered on the controlled and never spontaneous construction of an image of power.

The tension conveyed by Clegg & Guttmann’s works springs from the subtle gap characterising the artists’ relationship with tradition. Their classical and apparently affirmative representations of people with power should be interpreted, within the context of their career spanning several decades, as different ways of visualising an analytical and deconstructive practice engaging with the mechanisms of authority.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Clegg & Guttmann

 

 

The CCCS – Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, will be staging an exhibition entitled Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures, from 1 October 2010 to 23 January 2011, which will run concurrently with the retrospective devoted to Bronzino, the undisputed master of the Mannerist portrait, on Palazzo Strozzi’s piano nobile.

The exhibition, based on an original project by the CCCS in consultation with Peter Funnell (curator and director of research programmes at the National Portrait Gallery in London), Walter Guadagnini (chairman of the “UniCredit & Art” project’s scientific committee) and Roberta Valtorta (director of the Cinisello Balsamo Museum of Contemporary Photography) and coordinated by Franziska Nori (director of the CCCS), will show the work of international artists and collectives such as Tina Barney, Christoph Brech, Bureau d’études, Fabio Cifariello Ciardi, Clegg & Guttmann, Nick Danziger, Rineke Dijkstra, Jim Dow, Francesco Jodice, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton, Trevor Paglen, Martin Parr, Wang Qingsong, Daniela Rossell, Jules Spinatsch, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and The Yes Men – who have all proved capable of developing a critical analysis of the portrayal and depiction of political, economic and social power in the media.

The exhibition explores its theme from two main standpoints: it analyses power as an expression of the charisma of those individuals who have become icons or symbols of their age; and it probes the power of institutions and social models that either represent themselves or are represented in a critical light.

The role played by images has grown to such an extent that it has led to the predominant emergence of their value not only in terms of portrayal but also of the successful establishment of power. The works of art on display bear witness not only to the self-referential strategies of power, but also to the different approaches artists adopt in deconstructing or chipping away at the images that represent social, economic and political power in a way that can not only bolster a leadership but that can also undermine its authority.

The National Portrait Gallery in London will be contributing works by three famous international photographers that explore the image of political authority. The series devoted to Queen Elizabeth II by Annie Leibovitz evinces a celebrated contemporary artist’s dialogue with the great tradition of official portraiture, and the cycle entitled Blair at War by Nick Danziger gives an extraordinary vision of Tony Blair’s daily life in the days immediately preceding the outbreak of the war in Iraq. The portrait of Margaret Thatcher by Helmut Newton keeps alive the iconic role of one of the most influential politicians of recent decades despite the fact that her authority had waned.

Clegg & Guttmann show the photographs of three managing directors of the Deutsche Bank. These images, while based on the official portraiture genre, provide the opportunity for a conceptual reflection on the theme of the public presentation of individuals who are at the same time both subject and patron of the work. Christoph Brech portrays a modern patron of the arts in a video that dwells on a detail of the hull of his yacht, Sea Force One, a floating museum filmed from a distance in Venetian waters.

The role of the image not only as representation but also as a tool for the construction or exploration of power is analysed by artists such as Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose Portraits bring to life wax effigies of historical or contemporary political figures through the evocative power of photography, and Rineke Dijkstra whose series of images of a soldier with the French Foreign Legion prompts a reflection on what remains of the individual when he becomes the representative of a military authority. Francesco Jodice, in his video entitled Dubai Citytellers, analyses the development and the social impact of one of the new centres of global economic power.

In the photo triptych Past, Present and Future, Wang Qingsong portrays himself as a bystander, bearing witness to fighters in poses mimicking celebrative and monumental Socialist sculptures, reflecting upon the contradictory nature of the actual power of masses in contemporary China.

Tina Barney records the life and domestic environment of the beau monde, combining the spontaneous feel of a private snapshot with a sophisticated aesthetic approach strongly echoing the world of art and traditional photography. The provocative photo series Ricas y Famosas by Daniela Rossell portrays the taste and excesses of the new super wealthy social oligarchy in Mexico, while Martin Parr’s series entitled Luxury, which is devoted to fashion shows, horse-racing and art fairs in the world’s major capitals, probes the lifestyle of the upper class in a globalised Western world. The pictures of Jim Dow portray the luxurious rooms of the great private social clubs of New York City’s elite, fashionable places that are inaccessible to the general public.

A different critical approach to the theme of power is offered by the French collective Bureau d’études with its project involving mapping the links between political and economic power. The CIA’s secret missions and operations, on the other hand, provide the focus for the work of Trevor Paglen who reconstructs top secret movements and connections. Jules Spinatsch presents a new work taken from his Temporary Discomfort video-photographic series, denouncing the controversial transformation of a place such as the island of La Maddalena in Sardinia into the venue for the G8 summit that never took place. Also on view is the antagonistic activism of The Yes Men, a collective who will be presenting their spectacular media initiative that rocked the image and power of the multinational corporation responsible for the Bhopal environmental catastrophe in India.

Finally, the composer Fabio Cifariello Ciardi uses famous politicians’ public speeches as his raw material for the creation of electroacoustic music that will underline their rhetorical techniques of persuasion.

The exhibition catalogue, published in Italian and English, contains a series of essays by authors from different countries, backgrounds and disciplines, offering the visitor a chance to explore in greater depth the themes addressed by the exhibition.

Press release from the Strozzina website [Online] Cited 02/02/2020

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Olivier' Quartier Vienot, Marseille, France, July 21, 2000

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Olivier
Quartier Vienot, Marseille, France, July 21, 2000
On loan from The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Olivier' Quartier Monclar, Djibouti, July 13, 2003

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Olivier
Quartier Monclar, Djibouti, July 13, 2003
On loan from The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection

 

 

A crucial feature of Dijkstra’s photography is her desire to show the true personality of her subjects, as opposed to any simulated one. Up against the contemporary mystifying quality of the Internet and digital manipulation, her images illustrate in a very convincing way how photography is still capable of transcending the surface of subjects to grasp their deeper and constantly evolving identities. Her series feature, for instance, young bullfighters immediately after a bullfight, young mothers with babies born only a few minutes before, and portraits of boys and girls from various parts of the world at the beach. Her work method, whereby subjects are given very few directions and are usually portrayed frontally, leads to the creation of bare and detached pictures in which people display an inevitably fragile and vulnerable air. The Olivier Silva project, which the artist has developed over the course of more than three years, centres on the figure of a young man who in July 2000 voluntarily enrolled in the French Foreign Legion. Dijkstra portrays crucial moments of his intense training in France and Africa – from the day of his enrolment, in Aubagne, near Marseille, to the missions he was sent to fulfil in various parts of the world (Gabon, Ivory Coast and Gibuti) in 2003. The photographs clearly illustrate the metamorphoses the young man underwent over the course of the years: the innocent looking boy becomes an energetic and professional elite soldier enlisted in one of the world’s toughest and most controversial army corps. The centrepiece of the work is the artist’s interest in Olivier as an individual whose personality evolves in the course of his training, as is clearly revealed by his attitude and the look in his eyes, as well as by the very way in which his facial features change. The training imparted in military units of this kind is aimed at annulling the recruit’s personality in order to then recreate it according to new parameters: the youngster draws closer and closer to the prototype of the soldier as we progress from one photograph to the next. Just as all new recruits of the Foreign Legion are assigned a new name and identity, after three years Olivier no longer looks (even physically) like the same person as before. Like an accelerated film sequence, this series shows the dissolution of the original identity of a man subjected to the conditions dictated by an apparatus of power. Every soldier is at the service of the country he fights for and becomes one of its official public representations, embodying its military power. The same power he now wields is that which in a few years has conditioned him – or even produced him, one may say. Through her aesthetically minimalist photographs, Rineke Dijkstra illustrates the paradox of opposition between individual values and those of the community, between identity and conformity.

Rineke Dijkstra has carried out profound research in the field of photographic portraiture. Her subjects are adolescents who are still searching for themselves and who are incapable of acting in front of a camera, as well as adults caught in decisive moments in their personal development. By portraying these subjects, the artist explores the theme of identity and its representation.

 

Martin Parr. 'France. Paris. Haute Couture' 2007

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
France. Paris. Haute Couture
2007
from the series Luxury
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

 

Martin Parr. 'England. Epsom. The Derby' 2004

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
England. Epsom. The Derby
2004
from the series Luxury
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

 

Martin Parr. 'Russia. Moscow. Fashion Week' 2004

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
Russia. Moscow. Fashion Week
2004
From the series Luxury
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

 

 

Unlike most of his colleagues, Parr has little interest in the great themes of photographic reporting, such as the documenting of war and poverty. Working around the world, he finds his motifs in everyday life. At the beginning of his career, he focused in particular on the observation of people from lower middle class backgrounds engaged in different activities, in the context of themes such as consumption, communication and leisure. He has left it ambiguous as to whether these pictures of his are charged with critical overtones or intended to serve as a mere means of social documentation. Through this approach to his work, Parr has developed a highly distinctive and almost unmistakable style marked by dazzling colours obtained by the use of flash on top of natural light. Parr takes his camera near people and their social milieus, creating images that appear grotesque or exaggerated at first. Their motifs, which often coincide with moments of everyday life, are shot from unusual perspectives.

The feeling these pictures convey is that of being spontaneous photos, similar to snapshots. Only under closer scrutiny you understand they have been skilfully construed and arranged. While always highly charged and taking widespread social stereotypes as their starting point, Parr’s images are never banal. The perspective they convey stands out for the way in which it takes viewers by surprise and for the ironic detachment with which the photographer turns to his subjects.

According to Parr, his photographs never fail to elicit extreme emotions because they always show some truths: “We are so used to digesting pictures that are pure propaganda, that people are surprised when someone like me shows them images that are closely tied to reality. I, at least, don’t lie”. The photographer’s gaze takes the viewer into his confidence, leading him through the pictures to discover the absurdity of what we deem normal. Gathered in large series regularly published in volumes, these shots transcend the irony of individual images to concentrate on the analysis of a given social milieu.

The Luxury series portrays personages from the international jet set, photographed in different settings around the world – from the Miami Art Fair to horse races in Durban, from polo tournaments in Dubai to the Beijing Auto Show. With these images, Parr has intentionally moved away from his previous subjects to focus on the life of the upper classes: for, as he himself has noted, the main problem the world is facing is not poverty but wealth – excessive development and prosperity. These photographs offer the perspective of an external, noninvolved observer, whose gaze is drawn towards minor details that usually find no place in the common representations of these events.

The centrepieces of these photos are the superficial clichés that the people participating in the events adopt as tokens of their upper-class identity. The pictures fix moments in which this enactment reveals itself to be so fragile or so exaggerated that the people involved become extras in a comedy – one that the photographer’s eye has fallen upon, finding interest not in individuals as such, but in their belonging to a given social system with all its rules and values.

Martin Parr describes himself as a “chronicler of our times”. In his photographic series he records the behaviour of people of different social classes in different contexts, searching not so much for mutual differences as for what brings human beings together when they find themselves in certain roles.

 

Nick Danziger. 'Helicopter Flight from RAF Lyneham to Battersea, 3 April 2003'

 

Nick Danziger (British, b. 1958)
Helicopter Flight from RAF Lyneham to Battersea, 3 April 2003

Bromide print
Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London
© Nick Danziger

 

 

This opportunity had arisen thanks to The Saturday Times Magazine, which had launched a project to produce a special report on the occasion of Blair’s fiftieth birthday, one based not on official photographs but on a way of perceiving and depicting power from the point of view of everyday life – the interior of private and usually inaccessible places, removed from the conventional and more distinctly representational ones. These were the very days in which Blair was facing one of the most challenging decisions of his mandate: that concerning Great Britain’s intervention in the Second Gulf War on the side of the United States.

Danziger was able to document moments and scenes that could otherwise never have been made visible, capturing apparently insignificant moments that actually express all the underlying tensions and dynamics of those crucial days in 2003. On his first day of work, 14 March, Danziger was in Blair’s so called “den” – the Prime Minister’s private workroom in Downing Street. While engaged in a telephone call with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Blair is shown in a non-conventional and informal, rather than simply official, pose. A mirror here gives us a glimpse of Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister’s ever-present spin doctor, and the person responsible for his public image. This reflection becomes a sort of picture within the picture, a reminder of the assemblage of Danziger’s photographic documents, which are never created by chance or artlessly, but always follow from a conscious decision on the photographer’s part.

Danziger seems to be providing an almost intimate depiction of power, one that catches its subjects unawares. Yet it is worth recalling that the Blair government had developed a very careful and well-thought strategy for controlling its own public identity. New Labour’s promotion of an image of its Prime Minister as a young man from next door and of its own political class as one close to ordinary people has been a central feature of its political platform – a way of making a break after the long years of Conservatism under Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

The power of Danziger’s photographs lies in their ability to suggest the moments preceding and following the one portrayed, as illustrated for instance by the pictures of the Prime Minister’s transfer by plane, or the conversation held by a group of politicians outside Blair’s cabinet as they wait for the imminent war decisions to be made. In these pictures the outside world is always cut off; still, as critic John Berger has noted, the importance of photographs lies precisely in their ability to show things they do not directly portray.

Danziger himself bears witness to this when he writes that “in some of the pictures, from where the Prime Minister is sitting, he could hear people shouting ‘stop the war’ outside”. Power censors what might damage or shed doubt upon the reassuring appearance of a politician, and always seeks to portray itself in a manner useful for its own preservation.

The work of photojournalist Nick Danziger features videos and photographs in a documentary style, which often accompany the diaries he writes during his many trips around the world – from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Great Britain to Brazil, and so on. Between March and April 2003, Danziger and journalist Peter Stothard spent thirty days in close contact with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and his entourage.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

 

The Portraits series was first developed in 1999, starting from a portrait of King Henry VIII of England inspired by the work of Dutch painter Hans Holbein. Sugimoto’s self-professed aim was to become “the first sixteenth-century photographer.” The series then continued with different subjects, including famous contemporary figures who have entered the collective imagination, such as the Cuban lider máximo Fidel Castro and Pope John Paul II.

Sugimoto’s works are not portraits of the original subjects, but of wax sculptures reproducing them in the most hyper-realist way possible. The figures are illumined by a source of direct light and strongly stand out against a black background in an extremely theatrical way, imitating poses typical of the characters they represent, while removing them from all context and thus emphasising their nature as icons rather than human beings.
For these works Sugimoto has not made use of the 50 x 60 cm format that is typical of him. Yet, they stand in continuity with the artist’s unique reflection upon the nature of photography and its relation to history and time. Here he embarks upon a reflection on portraiture and the process whereby an image is translated using different media, emphasising the problematic “realistic effect” of photographic reproduction.

An attentive gaze will notice small disproportions in the various parts of the subjects’ bodies or strange lighting effects due to the way in which light reflects on wax as opposed to real skin. Still, these pictures invite us to look at them as we would other photographs. Thinking, that is, about the genuine subjects they portray, something that paradoxically makes them “more real” than the wax statues that constitute their actual subjects. Different levels of reproduction are at play here: from the original subject to an initial photograph that served as a model for the wax statue that Sugimoto then portrayed in his photographic work. Our gaze will strongly be drawn towards the extraordinary elegance and aesthetic refinement of these works, which reveal the uncommon technical abilities of Sugimoto, marked as they are by the endless range of white, grey and black shades typical of him. Despite all this, his works remain emotionally cold: they consist in conceptual reflections upon the very notion of portrait and its political and cultural value as an icon of the characters it represents, and explicitly forgo any realist view of the individuals they take as their subjects. The artist seems to be causing all sense of natural time to collapse – in such a way as to stress that of absolute time. He attains a balance between life and death that is characteristic of photography but also of portraiture, whereby what counts is not the reality or the life of a subject, but the latter’s value as an image in itself, beyond time and everyday life.

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs convey a conceptual attitude aimed at stripping images down to their bare essence, thus emphasising the primacy of the idea over the object portrayed. His famous marine landscapes and dioramas express a view of photography as a sort of time machine – a way of preserving or constructing memories and emotions.

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) Pope John Paul II 1999 (installation view)

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Pope John Paul II (installation view)
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Rosa e Gilberto Sandretto
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) 'Pope John Paul II' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Pope John Paul II
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Rosa e Gilberto Sandretto
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) 'Fidel Castro' 1999 (installation view)

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Fidel Castro (installation view)
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) 'Fidel Castro' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Fidel Castro
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina
Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza Strozzi, Firenze

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19
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘Bronzino. Artist and Poet at the Court of the Medici’ at the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2010 – 23rd January 2011

 

Bronzino. 'Holy Family with St Anne and St John' Nd

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli, Florence 1503 – Florence 1572)
Holy Family with St Anne and St John
Nd
Oil on panel
124.5 x 99.5 cm
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie, inv. n. 183

 

 

Despite the sensitivity of the religious paintings it is the portraits of strong yet somehow vulnerable women that move me most in this posting. The paintings are “often read as static, elegant, and stylish exemplars of unemotional haughtiness and assurance.” (Wikipedia)

I don’t agree. Of course they have the trappings of the rich and powerful, the knowledgeable books at hand, the elongated Mannerist hands, the lush colours and detail of their pleated robes falling from their shoulders like liquid opulence (imagine the shock of these colours in 1530!) but there is something in their open stare that seems to reach across time to tap me on the shoulder and say yes, I can still see into your soul as you can into mine. Incredibly moving this work of genius.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence for allowing me to publish the photographs of the paintings in the posting. Please click on photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Bronzino. 'Holy Family with St John (Panciatichi Madonna)' c. 1540

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli, Florence 1503 – Florence 1572)
Holy Family with St John (Panciatichi Madonna)
c. 1540
Oil on panel
116.5 x 89.5 cm
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, Inv. 1890 n. 8377

 

Bronzino. 'Holy Family with St John' c. 1555-1559

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino and Alessandro Allori (Bronzino (Monticelli, Florence 1503) Allori (Florence 1535) – Bronzino (Florence 1572) Allori (Florence 1607))
Holy Family with St John
c. 1555-1559
Tempera on panel
117 x 99 cm
Moscow, State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Inv.2699

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni' c. 1545

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli,Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni
c. 1545
Oil on panel
115 x 96 cm
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, Inv. 1890 n. 748

 

 

Agnolo di Cosimo, known as Bronzino (1503-1572), was one of the greatest artists in the history of Italian painting. Court artist to Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-1574), his work embodied the sophistication of the Mannerist style. Bronzino. Artist and Poet at the Court of the Medici, on view at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence from 24 September 2010 to 23 January 2011, will be the very first exhibition devoted to his painted work. Bronzino conveyed the elegance of the Medici court in his work with “naturalness” and, at the same time, austere beauty.

Florence is the perfect setting for a monographic exhibition on Bronzino. The son of a butcher, not only was he born and died here, the city houses some of his greatest masterpieces, particularly in the Uffizi but also in other museums and churches. This landmark exhibition, with loans from the world’s most important museums, presents presents 63 works attributed to Bronzino, and 10 to Bronzino and his workshop, along with others by his master Pontormo, with whom he had close ties throughout his life. Bronzino’s paintings, with their sculptural definition, will be shown alongside sculptures by such 16th century masters as Benvenuto Cellini, Tribolo, Baccio Bandinelli and Pierino da Vinci, who were his friends and with whom he exchanged sonnets. The exhibition concludes with a number of works by Alessandro Allori, his favourite pupil.

Most of these jewel-like masterpieces have never been shown together. Alongside the paintings from the Uffizi, the exhibition will include such works as The Adoration of the Shepherds and the Allegory of Venus, Cupid and Jealousy from the Szépmüvészeti Múzeum in Budapest, the Venus, Cupid and Satyr from the Galleria di Palazzo Colonna in Rome, the Portrait of a Young Man with a Book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Holy Family with St Anne and St John in the versions in the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, together with panel paintings from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and from the National Gallery of Art, in Washington.

The exhibition will show three hitherto ‘missing’ works by Bronzino, two of which, while recorded and mentioned by Giorgio Vasari, were thought to have been lost: the Crucified Christ which he painted for Bartolomeo Panciatichi, and the St Cosmas, the right-hand panel accompanying the Besançon altarpiece when it originally graced Eleonora da Toledo’s chapel in Palazzo Vecchio. Their rediscovery sheds new light on Bronzino’s work and on his ties with the heretical religious mood that permeated the Medici court before 1550. The third previously unknown picture is Christ Carrying the Cross ascribed to his later years.

The exhibition, which has taken over four years to prepare, is curated by Carlo Falciani and Antonio Natali, the foremost experts on Cinquecento painting who have also contributed to the scholarly catalogue. The exhibition, in conjunction with Drawings of Bronzino at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (20 January to 18 April 2010), will play a central role in fostering a new interpretation of this important artist. For those who enjoyed the New York show, this Florence exhibition is a must-see.

Press release from the Palazzo Strozzi website [Online[ Cited 17/01/2011 no longer available online

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of Guidubaldo II della Rovere' 1531-1532

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli,Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of Guidubaldo II della Rovere
1531-1532
Oil on panel
114 x 86 cm
Florence, Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Palatina, inv. 1912 n. 149

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of Laura Battiferri' c. 1555-60

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli,Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of Laura Battiferri
c. 1555-60
Oil on panel
83 x 60 cm
Florence, Palazzo Vecchio, Collezione Loeser

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of Lorenzo Lenzi' 1527

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli, Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of Lorenzo Lenzi
1527
Oil on panel
90 x 71 cm
Milan, Civiche Raccolte Artistiche – Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi' 1540

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli,Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatichi
1540
Oil on panel
101 x 82.8 cm
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi

 

Bronzino. 'Portrait of a Women (Matteo Sofferoni's Daughter?)' c. 1530-32

 

Agnolo di Cosimo named Bronzino (Monticelli, Florence 1503 – Florence 1572 )
Portrait of a Women (Matteo Sofferoni’s Daughter?)
c. 1530-1532
Oil on panel
76.6 x 66.2 x 1.3 cm
London, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, RCIN 405754

 

 

Palazzo Strozzi
Piazza Strozzi, 50123
Firenze (Florence), Italy
Phone: +39 055 2645155

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am – 8 pm, Thursday 10 am – 11 pm.
Last admission to the exhibition one hour before closing.

Palazzo Strozzi website

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17
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Still Life’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 14th September 2010 – 23rd January 2011

 

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

 

 

Armand-Pierre Séguier (French, 1803-1876) 'Still Life with Plaster Casts' 1839-1842

 

Armand-Pierre Séguier (French, 1803-1876)
Still Life with Plaster Casts
1839-1842
Daguerreotype 8 x 6 in.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Baron Séguier was part of a small circle of amateurs that surrounded Jacques-Louis-Mandé Daguerre. Daguerre invented the daguerreotype, the process announced to the world in 1839 that produces highly detailed positive images on silver-coated copper plates. Some of the first successful daguerreotypes depicted arrangements of small-scale plaster copies of sculpture. The exceptionally long exposure times precluded the use of living models, a problem that would not be resolved until about 1841.

 

 

Baron Adolf De Meyer (American, 1868-1949)
Glass and Shadows
1905
Photogravure
Image: 8 3/4 x 6 9/16 in.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

During the first decade of the 20th century, photographers such as De Meyer and Heinrich Kühn helped advance the idea that photography should emulate other forms of art. Here De Meyer photographed several glass objects through a scrim. The thin woven fabric softens the backlit objects, replicating the subtle tonal effects prized in etchings by artists from Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn to James McNeill Whistler.

 

Charles Aubry (French, 1811-1877) '[An Arrangement of Tobacco Leaves and Grass]' about 1864

 

Charles Aubry (French, 1811-1877)
[An Arrangement of Tobacco Leaves and Grass]
about 1864
Albumen silver print
Image: 47 x 37.3 cm (18 1/2 x 14 11/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

After working as a designer of patterns for carpets, fabrics, and wallpapers, Aubry formed a company to manufacture plaster casts and make photographs of plants and flowers. His detailed prints of natural forms were intended to replace the lithographs traditionally used by students of industrial design. This close-up of a delicate arrangement of leaves and grasses on a lace-covered background appears as if a slight movement of air could disturb it.

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum presents In Focus: Still Life, a survey of some of the innovative ways photographers have explored and refreshed this traditional genre, on view at the Getty Center in the Center for Photographs from September 14, 2010 – January 23, 2011.

“Still life photography has served as both a conventional and an experimental form during periods of significant aesthetic and technological change,” said Paul Martineau, assistant curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curator of the exhibition. “One of our goals for the exhibition was to show how still life photographs can be both traditional and surprising.”

With its roots in antiquity, the term “still life” is derived from the Dutch word stilleven, coined during the 17th century, when painted examples enjoyed immense popularity throughout Europe. The impetus for a new term came as artists created compositions of increasing complexity, bringing together a greater variety of objects to communicate allegorical meanings. Still life featured prominently in the early experiments of the pioneers of the photographic medium and, more than 170 years later, it continues to be a significant motif for contemporary photographers.

Drawn exclusively from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition includes photographs by Charles Aubry, Henry Bailey, Hans Bellmer, Jo Ann Callis, Sharon Core, Baron Adolf De Meyer, Walker Evans, Roger Fenton, Frederick H. Hollyer, Heinrich Kühn, Sigmar Polke, Man Ray, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Paul Outerbridge, Louis-Rémy Robert, Baron Armand-Pierre Séguier, Paul Strand, Josef Sudek, and Thomas R. Williams.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically and includes a broad range of photographic processes, from daguerreotypes and albumen silver prints made in the 19th century to gelatin silver prints, and cibachrome prints made in the 20th century, to digital prints from the 21st century.

Newly acquired works will be on display for the first time: Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser (1985) by American Irving Penn, Lorikeet with Green Cloth (2006) by Australian Marian Drew, and Blow Up: Untitled 15 (2007) by Israeli Ori Gersht (Gersht loosely based his Blow Up series on traditional floral still life paintings. His arrangements of flowers are frozen and then detonated. The explosion is captured using synchronised digital cameras, with the fragmentary detritus caught in remarkable detail. 

This diptych (pair) belies the notion of still life as something motionless as it explores the relationships among painting and photography, art and science, and creation and destruction.)

For Bowl with Sugar Cubes, photographer André Kertész created a still life out of a simple bowl, spoon, and sugar cubes, demonstrating the photographer’s interest in the compositional possibilities of layering basic geometric forms on top of one another – three rectangles in a circle (sugar cubes and bowl) and a circle in a square (bowl and the cropped printing paper). A visual sophistication is achieved through his adroit use of simple objects and dramatic lighting.

Other selections from In Focus: Still Life include Edward Weston’s Bananas and Orange, which depicts a symmetrical fan of bananas punctuated by one oddly shaped orange, and Frederick Sommer’s The Anatomy of a Chicken, which uses the discarded parts of a chicken to create a visual commentary. Influenced by Surrealism, Sommer embraced unexpected juxtapositions and literary allusions to express his intellectual and philosophical ideas. In Anatomy of a Chicken, a severed head, three sunken eyes, and eviscerated organs glisten on a white board. Evoking biblical imagery, medieval grotesques, and heraldic emblems, Sommer calls on the viewer to consider the endless cycle of birth and death, the cruel reality of the food chain, and man’s role in this violence.

In Focus: Still Life will be the seventh installation of the ongoing In Focus series of exhibitions, thematic presentations of photographs from the Getty’s permanent collection. Previous exhibitions focused on The Nude, The Landscape, The Portrait, Making a Scene (staged photographs), The Worker, and most recently, Tasteful Pictures.

Press release from The J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890-1976) 'Dead Leaf' 1942

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890-1976)
Dead Leaf
1942
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 1/2 x 7 13/16 in.
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Remarkable for its starkness, this photograph of a brittle castor bean leaf appeared with four others by Man Ray in the October 1943 issue of Minicam Photography. In his caption for the image, Man Ray wrote with uncharacteristic poignancy of the knowledge that “the dying leaf would be completely gone tomorrow.” It is tempting to interpret the melancholy sentiment of the work in terms of the artist’s growing discontent concerning his lack of recognition and financial success in Los Angeles and his fear that the work he left behind in France might be destroyed during the war.

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) '[Black Bottle]' negative about 1919; print 1923 - 1939

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
[Black Bottle]
Negative about 1919; print 1923-1939
Gelatin silver, on Cykora paper print
Image (trimmed to mount): 32.7 x 24.8 cm (12 7/8 x 9 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 34.4 x 27.1 cm (13 9/16 x 10 11/16 in.)
Mount (irregular): 35.1 x 27.8 cm (13 13/16 x 10 15/16 in.)
© Aperture Foundation
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

The photographer’s problem is to see clearly the limitations and at the same time the potential qualities of his medium, for it is precisely here that honesty no less than intensity of vision is the prerequisite of a living expression. This means a real respect for the thing in front of him expressed in terms of chiaroscuro…

So wrote Paul Strand two years before he made this negative of a black bottle sitting in a white sink. Through the manipulation of light and dark tones, Strand transformed this ordinary subject matter. The four overflow drain holes become graphic markings in the upper left, while the muted gray shadow cast by the bottle assumes an almost-human form against the porcelain. The diagonals of light that illuminate the scene appear like radiant beams.

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser, New York, 1985'

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser, New York, 1985
Dye-bleach print
Image: 22¾ x 18 1/8in. (57.8 x 46cm.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Fredrick Sommer. 'The Anatomy of a Chicken' 1939

 

Frederick Sommer (American, born Italy, 1905-1999)
The Anatomy of a Chicken
1939
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.1 x 19.1 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
© Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

“Still life derives from the Dutch word stilleven, coined in the 17th century when paintings of objects enjoyed immense popularity throughout Europe. The impetus for this term came as artists created compositions of greater complexity, bringing together a wider variety of objects to communicate allegorical meanings.

Still life has come to serve, like landscape or portraiture, as a category within art. Although it typically refers to depictions of inanimate things, because it incorporates a vast array of influences from different cultures and periods in history, it has always resisted precise definition.

This exhibition presents some of the innovative ways photographers have explored and refreshed this traditional genre. During the 19th century, still life photographs tended to resemble still life paintings, with similar subjects and arrangements. Beginning in the 20th century, still life photographs have mirrored the subjects and styles that have more broadly concerned photographers in their time.

 

A New Medium

Still life featured prominently in the experiments of photography inventors Jacques-Louis-Mandé Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot. They did this in part, for practical reasons: the exceptionally long exposure times of their processes precluded the use of living models.

In the late 1830s, Baron Armand-Pierre Séguier, a close associate of Daguerre, created this elegant daguerreotype that features small-scale copies of famous sculptures in the Louvre and Uffizi museum collections.

In the mid-1800s, Charles Aubry was an accomplished practitioner of still-life photography who came to the medium by way of his professional interest in applied arts and industrial design. After working as a pattern designer for carpets, fabrics, and wallpapers, he formed a company to manufacture plaster casts and make photographs of plants and flowers.

Aubrey’s detailed prints of natural forms – like this close-up of plants on a lace-covered background – were intended to replace lithographs traditionally used by students of industrial design.

 

Photography as Art

By the first decade of the 20th century, art photographers like Baron Adolf de Meyer employed soft-focus lenses and painterly darkroom techniques to make photographs that resembled drawings and prints. The vogue at the time was to produce images that reflected a handcrafted approach, while asserting photography as an art medium in its own right.

Here, De Meyer photographed an arrangement of objects through a scrim. The pattern of thin, woven fabric softens the backlit objects and helps replicate the subtle tonal effects prized in etchings and aquatints.

 

Modernism

Several decades into the twentieth-century, the American artist Man Ray emerged as a pioneer of two European art movements, Dada and Surrealism, in which the element of surprise figured prominently. This image seems both unusual for Man Ray in its apparent straight-forward approach, but also typical in its somewhat dark emotional tone.

By selecting a dead leaf with a claw-like appearance and photographing it against a wood-grain board, Man Ray updated the concept of memento mori (“remember that you must die”), a motif popular in centuries-old still-life paintings.

 

New Directions

In that same vein, the best contemporary still-life photographs recall past styles of art while containing a paradox relevant to today. Contemporary photographer Sharon Core became known for re-creations of painter Wayne Thiebaud’s pop-art dessert tableaux. Her series of still-life compositions, inspired by the 18th-century American painter Raphaelle Peale, followed.

For this series, entitled Early American, Core studied the compositional structure of his paintings, replicated the mood of the lighting, and when she couldn’t find the right vegetables and flowers, grew her own from heirloom seeds.

The stilled lives of objects have served so well as both experimental and conventional forms in the past, that still life may well be the anchor that allows photographers to explore new and yet unimagined depths.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 02/01/2020

 

Ori Gersht. 'Blow Up No. 15' from 'Time After Time' (2007)

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, 1967- )
Blow Up: Untitled 15
2007
Digital chromogenic prints
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Ori Gersht

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886 - 1958) 'Bananas and Orange' April 1927

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886 – 1958)
Bananas and Orange
April 1927
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.9 x 23.7 cm (7 7/16 x 9 5/16 in)
© 1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Simultaneous with his work on shells and nudes, Edward Weston began photographing bananas, gourds, and other still-life subjects. He was staying close to his studio in 1927, partly because he found his growing Los Angeles surroundings unappealing and partly to be available for portrait commissions. But he also realised during this time that art could be modern without depicting industrial themes. As he wrote in his daybook, “Are not shells, bodies, clouds as much of today as machines? Does it make any difference what subject matter is used to express a feeling toward life!.”

In 1928 Weston moved to San Francisco and opened a portrait studio with his son Brett (1911-1993), who had chosen to become a photographer himself. In December of that year the two packed up and moved to Carmel, a small town along the coast with a significant population of artists. It was there that Weston began focusing attention on peppers, which he typically ate after photographing them. Those who followed his output commonly saw sexual content in his still-life compositions, although he repeatedly denied having directly intended such allusions. He resented those who pigeonholed his work in this way, calling them “the sexually unemployed belching gaseous irrelevancies from an undigested Freudian ferment!” He wrote in his daybook that he photographed peppers because “of the endless variety in form manifestations, because of their extraordinary surface texture, because of the power, the force suggested in their amazing convolutions!” At the same time, however, Weston was aware that the simplified, heightened reality of his presentations, whether they be of nudes, vegetables, fruits, or his later dunes, could conjure up other associations. He was keenly interested in the idea that “all basic forms are so closely related as to be visually equivalent!”

Weston’s work during the late 1920s and early 1930s was well received. Arthur Millier, an avant-garde critic, reviewed it frequently in the Los Angeles Times, and it was exhibited in modern art galleries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Carmel.

Brett Abbott. Edward Weston, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005), 56. © 2005, J. Paul Getty Trust.

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) '[Bowl with Sugar Cubes]' 1928

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985)
[Bowl with Sugar Cubes]
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.7 x 16.4 cm (6 9/16 x 6 1/2 in)
Accession No. 84.XM.193.46
© Estate of André Kertész
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

While living in Paris as a young photographer during the 1920s, Kertész became intrigued by still life, a motif that he continually returned to throughout his long career. Bowl with Sugar Cubes demonstrates his interest in the compositional possibilities of layering basic geometric forms on top of one another – three rectangles in a circle (sugar cubes and a bowl) and a circle in a square (the bowl and the cropped printing paper). Visual sophistication is achieved through his adroit use of simple objects and dramatic lighting.

 

Sharon Core (American, b. 1965) 'Early American - Still Life with Steak' 2008

 

Sharon Core (American, b. 1965)
Early American – Still Life with Steak
2008
Chromogenic print
Image: 17 3/16 x 23 7/16 in
© Sharon Core
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Core studied the compositional structure and lighting of still life paintings by Raphaelle Peale for a series of photographs she titled Early American. When she found it difficult to find vegetables that looked like the examples in Peale’s paintings, she grew her own from heirloom seeds. Core’s methodical approach yields compositions that hover between past and present.

 

Marian Drew (Australian, born 1960) 'Lorikeet with Green Cloth' 2006

 

Marian Drew (Australian, born 1960)
Lorikeet with Green Cloth
2006
Digital pigment print
Image: 71.8 x 89.5 cm (28 1/4 x 35 1/4 in.)
Sheet: 73 x 90.2 cm (28 3/4 x 35 1/2 in.)
© Marian Drew
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Drew’s tabletop still life compositions feature fruits, vegetables, and dead animals and birds presented as game. While the unusual angles and lustrous colours bring to mind paintings by Paul Cézanne, the richness of the fabrics and dramatic lighting look back to 17th-century examples. Road kill gives Drew’s photographs a dynamic twist that calls into question mankind’s stewardship of the earth and its creatures.

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Open 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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15
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘Sally Mann: The Flesh and the Spirit’ at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA

Exhibition dates: 13th November 2010 – 23rd January 2011

 

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

 

 

Sally Mann. 'Jessie #34' 2004

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Jessie #34
2004
Gelatin Silver enlargement print from 8 x 10-in. collodion wet-plate negative, with Soluvar matte varnish mixed with diatomaceous earth

 

Sally Mann. 'Untitled (Still Life)' 2006

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Untitled (Still Life)
2006
Ambrotype (unique collodion wet-plate positive on black glass), with sandarac varnish (15 x 13 in.)

 

Sally Mann. 'Untitled' 1983

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Untitled
1983
Polaroid (8 x 10 in.)

 

Sally Mann. 'Untitled' 2000-1

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Untitled
2000-1
Gelatin silver enlargement prints from 8 x 10-in. (20.3 x 25.4-cm) collodion wet-plate negatives, with Soluvar matte varnish mixed with diatomaceous earth

 

Sally Mann. 'Untitled-#4, Antietam' 2001

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Untitled-#4, Antietam
2001
Gelatin silver enlargement print from 8 x 10-in. collodion wet-plate

 

 

One of the first major presentations in the United States of the bold work of contemporary photographer Sally Mann opened at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts website (VMFA) on November 13, 2010. Exclusive to Richmond, the exhibition will continue until January 23, 2011.

Focusing on the theme of the body, the exhibition will revolve around several entirely new series while also incorporating little-known early work. Mann is admired for her passionate use of photography to address issues of love and loss, expressed in images of her children and southern landscapes. Her recent work uses obsolete photographic methods and nearly abstract images to push the limits of her medium and to dig deeper into themes of mortality and vulnerability. The images include several powerful series of self-portraits – an entirely new subject in her work – and figure studies of her husband. Some of the works in the exhibition include nudity and other graphic material. Viewer and parental discretion is advised.

“Sally Mann is among the top tier of photographers today. Although she is widely exhibited, we are fortunate to be one of the first U.S. museums to produce a major exhibition of her work,” says John Ravenal, the exhibition curator and Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. “The fearlessness, power and deeply emotional themes of her art are both captivating and unforgettable. We are pleased to exhibit one of Virginia’s, and the nation’s, finest artists.”

Self-examination, ageing, death, and decay are some of the subjects of the exhibition, and these are balanced by themes of beauty, love, trust, and the hopefulness of youth. Among the works are portraits of Mann’s husband, who suffers from a degenerative muscle disease. These are juxtaposed with colourful images of her children, forming a poignant comparison between youthful evanescence and the expressive capacity of the mature adult body.

Other works offer additional perspectives on the themes of ageing and mortality. Made during a trip to the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center, Mann’s “Body Farm” images explore her fascination with the thin line between animate and inanimate, form and matter. Multi-part self-portraits represent Mann’s first extended exploration of her own face as a subject. Two self-portrait pieces consist of multiple unique photographs printed on black glass – a format known as ambrotypes – arranged in monumental grids of Mann’s likeness.

“The focus on the body in the exhibition will offer a profound meditation on human experience,” continues Ravenal. “The sheer beauty, formal sophistication, and expressive power of the work is likely to appeal to art world and general audiences alike.”

For her landscapes, Mann developed the method she continues to use today, involving an antique large-format view camera and the laborious process of collodion wet-plate. This method, invented in the 1850s, uses sticky ether-based collodion poured on glass, which must be exposed and developed in a matter of minutes before it dries. Unlike her nineteenth-century predecessors, who strove for perfection, Mann embraces accident. Her approach produces spots, streaks, and scars, along with piercing focus in some areas and evaporation of the image in others. These distortions – “honest” artefacts of the process – add a profoundly emotional quality to Mann’s images.

Mann’s recent work continues to use this technique, but returns to the body as a principle subject after a decade of landscapes. Though the body has been an essential focus in Mann’s work from the beginning, this is the first time an exhibition and publication have explored it as a coherent theme.

Born in 1951, Sally Mann has played a leading role in contemporary photography for the past 25 years. Her career began in the 1970s and fully matured in the Culture Wars of the early 1990s, when photographs of her children became embroiled in national debates about family values. In the mid-1990s, Mann turned her attention to large-scale landscapes, specifically the evocative terrain of the South, where she was born, raised and continues to live. Her landscape work raised questions about history, memory and nostalgia, and also embraced a romantic beauty that proved as troubling to some critics as the sensual images of her children had to others. By the early 2000s, she had returned to figurative subjects, adding images of her husband and herself to her work.

Text from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts website

 

Sally Mann. 'Untitled (Self Portraits)' 2006-7

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Untitled (Self Portraits)
2006-7
Ambrotypes (unique collodion wet-plate positives on black glass) with sandarac varnish

 

Sally Mann. 'Untitled (Self Portraits)' 2006-7 (detail)

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Untitled (Self Portraits) (detail)
2006-7
Ambrotypes (unique collodion wet-plate positives on black glass) with sandarac varnish

 

Sally Mann. 'Untitled (Self Portraits)' 2006-7 (detail)

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Untitled (Self Portraits) (detail)
2006-7
Ambrotypes (unique collodion wet-plate positives on black glass) with sandarac varnish

 

Sally Mann. 'Untitled (Self Portraits)' 2006-7 (detail)

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Untitled (Self Portraits) (detail)
2006-7
Ambrotypes (unique collodion wet-plate positives on black glass) with sandarac varnish

 

Sally Mann. 'Untitled' 2007-8

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Untitled
2007-8
Ambrotypes (unique collodion wet-plate positives on black glass), with sandarac varnish

 

Sally Mann. 'Ponder Heart' 2009

 

Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Ponder Heart
2009
Gelatin silver contact print from 15 x 13 1/2-in. collodion wet-plate negative

 

 

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
200 N. Boulevard
Richmond, Virginia USA
23220-4007

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am – 5 pm
Wed – Friday until 9 pm

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts website

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13
Jan
11

Exhibition: Pierre Soulages at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 2nd October 2010 – 17th January 2011

 

Pierre Soulages. 'Brou de noix sur papier' 1946

 

Pierre Soulages (French, b. 1919)
Brou de noix sur papier
1946
48 x 62,5 cm
Private collection
© Photo: DR, Archive Soulages / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2010

 

 

The light of beyond black! Nothing more really needs to be said …

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Pierre Soulages. 'Peinture 324 x 181 cm, 17 novembre 2008'

 

Pierre Soulages (French, b. 1919)
Peinture 324 x 181 cm, 17 novembre 2008
Acrylic on canvas
Private collection
© Photo: George Poncet, Archive Soulages / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2010

 

Pierre Soulages. 'Peinture; 243 x 181 cm; 26 juin 1999'

 

Pierre Soulages (French, b. 1919)
Peinture; 243 x 181 cm; 26 juin 1999
Oil on canvas
Private Collection
© VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2010

 

Pierre Soulages. 'Peinture; 260 x 202 cm; 19 juin 1963'

 

Pierre Soulages (French, b. 1919)
Peinture; 260 x 202 cm; 19 juin 1963
Oil on canvas
Collection Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Diffusion RMN
© VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2010

 

 

“Pierre Soulages is one of the world’s foremost abstract painters of recent decades. On the occasion of his 90th birthday he is being honoured by a retrospective in the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Starting on 2 October 2010 Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau will be showing this exhibition in an altered form.

Over 70 pictures of all his creative periods, from the works with walnut stain (1947 to 1949) to the radically black paintings of recent years measuring up three metres high, are being shown, many of them for the first time in Germany. They illustrate the dynamic artistic development of this most famous of contemporary French artists.

Born on 24 December 1919 in Rodez, a small town located to the north of and roughly equidistant from Toulouse und Montpellier, Pierre Soulages refused to train at the “Ecole nationale superieure des beaux arts” in Paris, being out of sympathy with what he saw as that institution’s retrograde approach to art. Instead he spent the year 1939 visiting exhibitions and familiarising himself with the works of Picasso and Cézanne. But that same year he left Paris and headed south to Montpellier to attend the “Ecole des beaux arts” there. At that time he made the acquaintance of Sonia Delaunay, who showed him catalogues containing what those in power at that time considered to be “degenerate art”. For Soulages this was the justification for working as an abstract artist. After the war he moved to Paris, where he successfully exhibited in the Salon of the Surindépendants. His acquaintanceship with Francis Picabia and Hans Hartung in 1947, and his familiarity with the American scene as represented by such artists as Marc Rothko, Robert Motherwell and Wilhelm de Kooning, show how rapidly he was gaining an international reputation. In 1948, three years after the end of the Second World War, he took part in the then pioneering exhibition “French Abstract Painting”, which was shown in Stuttgart, Hamburg and Düsseldorf. He was the youngest of a group of masters of abstract art, including such names as Kupka, Doméla and Herbin. His participation in Documenta I, II and III brought him recognition in artistic and critical circles.

His wayward style, and more specifically his almost exclusive reliance on the colour black, give him a unique place in the world of art, although the American Robert Motherwell produced similar results in some of his works. But only Soulages consistently dedicated his works to the colour black over a period of decades, before finally turning to light.

His “outrenoir”, a term coined by Soulages for the use of black in his work, swallows up light, especially in his works on paper, achieving a particular sense of depth. “Outrenoir”, which may be translated as “the other side of black”, or “beyond black”, does not exclude, but draws the observer into the picture, inducing him to make a close and precise examination of the work by holding his gaze.

Like many painters, Pierre Soulages is fascinated by the phenomenon of light. He seeks obsessively for ways of letting light operate in the colour black. Works in which black is accompanied by a second colour such as blue or red remain the exception.

His individual style, characterised by strong bold lines and occasional calligraphic elements, is an important organising principle in his works. “I found small brushes only for the exact work, as was necessary and important in the art of the 19th century and earlier – Picasso himself worked with fine brushes in his early works. But for me there was no question of that. I wanted to try something quite different, so I went into a paint shop in Paris and bought myself broad brushes and rollers of the kind used for house-painting.” By using this technique in combination with a dark walnut stain known as “de noix” he created his first masterpieces, one of which was bought by the Museum of Modern Art in New York as early as 1948.

His paintings are to be found in the collections of over 100 museums worldwide, such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Australian National Gallery, Canberra; the Hermitage, St. Petersburg; the Musée national d’Art moderne, Paris; the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia; the Museum of Modern Art, Toyama; the Tate Gallery, London; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Musée d’Art contemporain, Montréal, to name but a few.

Press release from the Martin-Gropius-Bau website [Online] Cited 11/01/2011 no longer available online

 

Pierre Soulages. 'Peinture; 324 x 362 cm; 1985'

 

Pierre Soulages (French, b. 1919)
Peinture; 324 x 362 cm; 1985
Polyptique C (4 elements 81 x 362 cm)
Oil on canvas
Collection Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Diffusion RMN
© VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2010

 

Pierre Soulages. 'Peinture 202 x 327 cm, 17 janvier 1970'

 

Pierre Soulages (French, b. 1919)
Peinture 202 x 327 cm, 17 janvier 1970
Private collection
© Photo: François Walch, Archive Soulages / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2010

 

Pierre Soulages. 'Peinture 220 x 366 cm, 14 mai 1968'

 

Pierre Soulages (French, b. 1919)
Peinture 220 x 366 cm, 14 mai 1968
Collection Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Diffusion RMN
© VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2010

 

Pierre Soulages. 'Peinture 222 x 314 cm, 24 février 2008'

 

Pierre Soulages (French, b. 1919)
Peinture 222 x 314 cm, 24 février 2008
Acrylic on canvas
Private collection
© Photo: Georges Poncet, Archive Soulages / VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2010

 

 

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

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

Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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10
Jan
11

Review: ‘Luminous Cities: Photographs of the Built Environment’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 22nd October 2010 – 13th March 2011

 

Eugene Atget. 'Coin de la rue Valette et Pantheon, 5e arrondissement, matinee de mars' 1925, printed 1978

 

Eugene Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Coin de la rue Valette et Pantheon, 5e arrondissement, matinee de mars
1925, printed 1978
Gelatin silver photograph
17.8 x 23.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1980

 

 

A delightful exhibition of photographs of the built environment at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. The exhibition contains some interesting photographs from the collection including the outstanding Coin de la rue Valette et Pantheon, 5e arrondissement, matinee de mars by Eugene Atget taken two years before his death (1925, printed 1978, see below) that simply takes your breath away.

Atget was my hero when I started to study photography in the late 1980s and he remains my favourite photographer. His use of light coupled with his understanding of how to organise space within the pictorial frame is exemplary (note the darkness of the right-hand wall as it supports the integrity of the rest of the image, as it leads your eye to that wonderful space between the buildings, the shaft of light falling on the ground, the blank wall topped by an arrow leading the eye upwards to the misty dome!). The ability to place his large format camera and tripod in just the right position, the perfect height and angle, to allow the subject to reveal itself it all it’s glory is magical: “Atget’s interest in the variable play between nature and art through minute changes in the camera’s angle, or as functions of the effects of light and time of day, is underscored in his notations of the exact month and sometimes even the hour when the pictures were taken.”1 Two other immense works in the exhibition are New York at Night by Berenice Abbott (1932, printed c. 1975) and the incredible multiple exposure The Maypole, Empire State Building, New York by Edward Steichen (1932).

The only disappointment to the exhibition is the lack of vintage prints, a fair portion of the exhibition including the three prints mentioned above being later prints made from the original negatives. I wonder what vintage prints of these images would look like?

The purchasing of non-vintage prints was the paradigm for the collection of international photographs early in the history of the Department of Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria and was seen as quite acceptable at the time. The paradigm was set by Athol Shmith in 1973 on his visit to Paris and London.

“Typically for the times, Shmith did not choose to acquire vintage prints, that is, photographs made shortly after the negative was taken. While vintage prints are most favoured by collectors today, in the 1970s vintage prints supervised by the artists were considered perfectly acceptable and are still regarded as a viable, if less impressive option now.”2

Some museums including the NGV preferred to acquire portfolios of modern reprints as a speedy way of establishing a group of key images. As noted in the catalogue essay to 2nd Sight: Australian Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria by Dr Isobel Crombie, Senior Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria, the reason for preferring the vintage over the modern print “is evident when confronted with modern and original prints: differences in paper, scale and printing styles make the original preferable.”3 The text also notes that this sensibility, the consciousness of these differences slowly evolved in the photographic world and, for most, the distinctions were not a matter of concern even though the quality of the original photograph was not always maintained.

This is stating the case too strongly. Appreciation of the qualities of vintage prints was already high in the period of the mid-1970s – early 1980s most notably at institutions such as The Museum of Modern Art, a collection visited by photography curators of the NGV. Size and scale of the vintage prints tend to be much smaller than later prints making them closer to the artists original intentions, while the paper the prints are made on, the contrast and colour of the prints also varies remarkably. Other mundane but vitally important questions may include these: who printed the non-vintage photograph, who authorised the printing and how many non-vintage copies of the original negative were made, none of which are answered when the prints are displayed.

I vividly remember seeing a retrospective of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work in Edinburgh at the Dean Gallery, National Gallery of Scotland in 2005, the largest retrospective of Cartier-Bresson’s work ever staged in Britain with over 200 photographs. Three large rooms were later 1970s reprints of some of his photographs, about 20″ x 24″ in size, on cold, blue photographic paper. One room, however, was full of his original prints from the 1920s and 30s. The contrast could not have been different: the vintage prints were very small, intense, subtle, printed on brown toned paper, everything that you would want those jewel-like images to be, the vision of the artist intensified; the larger prints diluted that vision until the images seemed to almost waste away despite their size.

Although never stated openly I believe that one of the reasons for the purchase of non-vintage prints was the matter of cost, the Department of Photography never being given the budget to buy the prints that it wanted to in the 1970s – early 1980s, the collection of photography not being a priority for the NGV at that time. In other words by buying non-vintage prints in the 1970s you got more “bang for your buck” even when the cost of vintage prints was relatively low. Unfortunately the price of vintage prints then skyrocketed in the 1980s putting them well outside the budget of the Department. While Dr Crombie acknowledges the preponderance of American works in the collection over European and Asian works she also notes that major 20th century photographers that you would expect to be in the collection are not and blames this lack “on the massive increases in prices for international photography that began in the 1980s and which largely excluded the NGV from the market at this critical time.”4

The policy of purchasing non-vintage prints has now ceased at the National Gallery of Victoria.

The purchasing of non-vintage prints and the paucity of purchasing vintage prints by master photographers during the formative decade of the collection of international photographs in the Department of Photography (1970-1980) is understandable in hindsight but today seems like a golden opportunity missed. While the collection contains many fine photographs due to the diligence of early photographic curators (notably Jennie Boddington), the minuscule nature of the budget of the department in those early years when vintage prints were relatively cheap and affordable (a Paul Caponigro print could be purchased for $200-300 for example) did not allow them to purchase the photographs that the collection desperately needed. With one vintage print by a master of photography now fetching many thousands of dollars the ability to fill gaps in the collection in the future is negligible (according to Dr Crombie) – so we must celebrate and enjoy the photographs that are in the collection such as those in Luminous Cities: Photographs of the Built Environment.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

2. Crombie, Isobel. “Creating a Collection: International Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria,” in Re_View: 170 years of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2009, p. 9
3. Crombie, Isobel. Second sight: Australian photography in the National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2002, p. 10
4. Op.cit. p. 10

.
Many thankx to Jemma Altmeier for her help and to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Stephen Thompson. 'Grande Canale, Venice' c. 1868

 

Stephen Thompson (active throughout Europe, 1850s-80s)
Grande Canale, Venice
c. 1868
Albumen silver photograph
21.2 x 29.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1988

 

England 'Houses of Parliament, London' 1860s

 

England (active in England 1860s)
Houses of Parliament, London
1860s
Albumen silver photograph
18.5 x 24.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission funds, 1988

 

 

On 22 October the National Gallery of Victoria will open Luminous Cities, a fascinating exhibition that examines the various ways photographers have viewed cities as historical sites, bustling modern hubs and architectural utopias since the nineteenth century.

The great cities of the world are vibrant creative centres in which the built environment is often as inspirational as the activities of its citizens, and, since the nineteenth century photographers have creatively explored the idea of the city.

This exhibition, drawn from the collection of the NGV, considers various ways in which photographers in the 19th and 20th centuries have viewed cities as historical sites, bustling modern metropolises and architectural utopias. These lyrical images describe the physical attributes of cities, offer insights into the creative imaginations of architects and photographers and embody the zeitgeist of their times.

Frances Lindsay, Deputy Director, NGV said: “Through the work of a range of photographers Luminous Cities will take viewers on a fascinating journey around the world, into the streets, buildings and former lives of great international cities.

“Drawn from the NGV collection, Luminous Cities includes works by renowned photographers Eugene Atget, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Berenice Abbott, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Bill Brandt, Lee Freidlander and Grant Mudford amongst many others.

The exhibition will also extend into our contemporary gallery space where an outstanding selection of works by celebrated contemporary artists such as Bill Henson, Andreas Gursky and Jon Cattapan will be on display,” said Ms Lindsay.

Through examples from the mid 19th century, Luminous Cities explores the relationship between photographer, architect and archaeologist with photos of Athens, Rome and Pompeii. This was also a time when great cities such as London and Paris underwent unprecedented renewal and expansion, photography served to document new constructions and also presented heroic, inspirational visions of new cities emerging from old.

Susan van Wyk, Curator, Photography, NGV said: “The works on display in Luminous Cities describe the physical attributes of cities, offer insights into the creative imaginations of architects and photographers, and embody the zeitgeist of their times.”

New York, one of the great 20th century cities, was a captivating subject for generations of photographers. Through the work of architects and the images photographers made of the city, New York became synonymous with its skyline. The images of renowned photographers including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand and Berenice Abbott show the pictorial possibilities of the modern city in photographs that embody the dynamism of the city that never sleeps.

The contemporary art works included in Luminous Cities explore the creative ways in which artists imagine and represent the cityscape. Vast glittering panoramas taken from bustling urban communities, sprawling architectural structures and fictitious landscapes all combine to reveal fascinating insights into both physical and psychological geographies.

Ms van Wyk said: “At the end of the 20th century a much cooler, more abstracted strain of photography emerged. Photographs in the exhibition from this period range from the formalism of the 1970s to more recent cinematic visions of the nocturnal city.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria website

 

Lee Freidlander. 'Stamford, Connecticut' 1973, printed c. 1977

 

Lee Freidlander (American, b. 1934)
Stamford, Connecticut
1973, printed c. 1977
Gelatin silver photograph
18.9 x 28.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1977
© Lee Friedlander

 

 

In the decades following the Second World War the idea of ‘the city’, notably in work of American, European and Australian photographers, came to symbolize the modern condition, the best and worst of contemporary life. This ambiguous stance on the city is exemplified in the work of American photographer Lee Friedlander whose photographs of seemingly ordinary urban scenes are at once amusing and slightly disturbing. In his 1973 photograph Stamford, Connecticut, the banal vernacular architecture of suburban shopping street forms the backdrop to a peculiar scene where shoppers are ‘stalked’ by a statue of first world war sniper. Despite its witty elements, this image has a somewhat despairing tone. The women walking along this rather bleak street are isolated and anonymous, ciphers for the worst aspects of contemporary city life.

 

Grant Mudford. 'New York' 1975

 

Grant Mudford (b. Australia 1944, lived United States 1977- )
New York
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
33.8 x 49.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1977
© Grant Mudford

 

 

A more neutral view of the contemporary city can be seen in the work of Australian photographer Grant Mudford. After moving to the US in 1970s, Mudford continued to photograph the built environment. Familiar with the work of Lee Friedlander, and citing Walker Evans as an influence, Mudford’s photographs continue a tradition of photographing the city as an empty backdrop devoid of the bustle of human activity. In his 1975 Untitled photograph of a truck depot in New York Mudford simplifies what could be a chaotic scene to the verge of abstraction.

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

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06
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘Robert Adams:
 The Place We Live, A Retrospective Selection of Photographs’ at the Vancouver Art Gallery

Exhibition dates: 25th September, 2010 – 16th January, 2011

 

Robert Adams. 'Colorado Springs, Colorado' 1968

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Colorado Springs, Colorado
1968
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

 

What a pleasure it is to post these photographs from the outstanding photographer Robert Adams. The photograph Longmont, Colorado (1979, below) has become truly iconic and will be recognised instantly by many art aficionados around the world: the glowing neon lights, the empty gondolas, towering, brooding skies and solitary, isolated human. The creature in the photograph Sitka spruce, Cape Blanco State Park, Curry County, Oregon (1999-2000, below) impinges my consciousness like a Lernaean Hydra, an ancient, nameless, multi-headed serpent-like water beast. The eloquently understated series Listening to the River (1985-1987, several photographs below) completes the picture, a tour de force of apposition: each image positioned at rest in respect to another: quiet, still, but visually complex.

There is a crispness and cleanness to Adams work that belie the complexity of his subject matter. Tension and balance within the pictorial frame is the key: formal yet fecund, these intellectually productive images challenge us to imagine, and to name, our relationship with the earth and every place that we live.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Vancouver Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images © the artist and Vancouver Art Gallery.

 

Robert Adams. 'Frame for a Tract House, Colorado Springs, Colorado' 1969

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Frame for a Tract House, Colorado Springs, Colorado
1969
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Longmont, Colorado' 1979

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Longmont, Colorado
1979
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Edge of San Timoteo Canyon, looking toward Los Angeles, Redlands, California' 1978

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Edge of San Timoteo Canyon, looking toward Los Angeles,
Redlands, California
1978
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Santa Ana Wash, Redlands, California' 1983, printed 1991

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Santa Ana Wash, Redlands, California
1983, printed 1991
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Quarried Mesa Top, Pueblo County, Colorado' 1978

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Quarried Mesa Top, Pueblo County, Colorado
1978
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Ranch Northeast of Keota, Colorado' 1969

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Ranch Northeast of Keota, Colorado
1969
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Southwest from the South Jetty, Clatsop County, Oregon' 1992

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Southwest from the South Jetty, Clatsop County, Oregon
1992
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

 

Over the past four decades photographer Robert Adams has come to be widely regarded as one of the most original and significant chroniclers of the western American landscape. The first large-scale exhibition of Adams’ work to be presented in Canada, The Place We Live traces his longstanding engagement with the degradation of the environment in the face of suburban development. The exhibition includes more than 300 photographs representing each of Adams’ major projects, from his austere photographs of the Colorado prairie that pay homage to earlier inhabitants, to his unflinching images of the land, workplaces, shopping centres and homes around Denver, as well as recent images of the remains of the great rainforest near his present home in the American Pacific Northwest.

Spare and dispassionate, yet rich with formal invention, Adams’ remarkable images resist simplification of subjects both ordinary and grand, balancing the complexities and contradictions found in modern life. Seen as a whole, the exhibition clearly reveals an approach to art-making that on the one hand seeks to bear witness to humanity’s tenuous relationship with the natural world and, on the other, to celebrate the unexpected sublimity that persists in the face of despoliation.

The reach of Adams’ work has been felt primarily through his publications, which include more than 30 monographs. Adams’ books are an integral component of the exhibition and provide the viewer with the opportunity to further consider the manner in which he has addressed the fear, curiosity and inspiration the American landscape has engendered throughout his career. The international tour of this exhibition is being launched at the Vancouver Art Gallery and is accompanied by a catalogue and a three-volume, hard cover book.

Text from the Vancouver Art Gallery website [Online] Cited

 

Robert Adams. 'In a New Subdivision, Colorado Springs, Colorado' 1969

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
In a New Subdivision, Colorado Springs, Colorado
1969
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Sitka spruce, Cape Blanco State Park, Curry County, Oregon' 1999-2000

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Sitka spruce, Cape Blanco State Park, Curry County,
Oregon
1999-2000
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery.
Purchased with a gift from
Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Kerstin, Next to an Old-Growth Stump, Coos County, Oregon' 1999-2003

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Kerstin, Next to an Old-Growth Stump, Coos County, Oregon
1999-2003
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Untitled' from the series 'Listening to the River' 1985-87

 

Robert Adams. 'Untitled' from the series 'Listening to the River' 1985-87

 

Robert Adams. 'Untitled' from the series 'Listening to the River' 1985-87

 

Robert Adams. 'Untitled' from the series 'Listening to the River' 1985-87

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Untitled
from the series Listening to the River
1985-87
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund, and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

 

Vancouver Art Gallery
750 Hornby Street, Vancouver
BC V6Z 2H7
Info Line: 604.662.4719

Gallery hours:
Daily 10 am to 5 pm
Tuesdays until 9 pm

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03
Jan
11

Exhibition: Anselm Kiefer at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

Exhibition dates: 8th October 2010 – 16th January 2011

 

Many thankx to the BALTIC 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. All images © Tate, London 2010.

 

 

Anselm Kiefer 'Margarette' 1981

 

Anselm Kiefer (German, b. 1945)
Margarette
1981
Oil and straw on canvas
280 cm x 380 cm

 

Anselm Kiefer. 'Parsifal III' 1973

 

Anselm Kiefer (German, b. 1945)
Parsifal III
1973
Oil and blood on paper on canvas
3007 x 4345 mm

 

Anselm Kiefer. 'Man under a Pyramid' 1996

 

Anselm Kiefer (German, b. 1945)
Man under a Pyramid
1996
Emulsion, acrylic, shellac and ash on burlap
2810 x 5020 x 50 mm
ARTIST ROOMS: Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

Anselm Kiefer. 'Palm Sunday' 2006

 

Anselm Kiefer (German, b. 1945)
Palm Sunday
2006
Mixed media installation
Overall display dimensions variable
ARTIST ROOMS: Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

Anselm Kiefer. 'Palette' 1981

 

Anselm Kiefer (German, b. 1945)
Palette
1981
Oil, shellac and emulsion on canvas
2917 x 4000 x 35 mm
ARTIST ROOMS: Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art proudly announces a major exhibition of the work of Anselm Kiefer, one of the foremost figures of European post-war painting. The exhibition includes a diverse body of work, offering a selection that spans four decades and ranges from early paintings to monumental installations. Presented over two floors of BALTIC’s galleries, the exhibition is Kiefer’s largest in the UK for many years and has been made possible by ARTIST ROOMS On Tour with the Art Fund.

Following the success of 2009, 21 museums and galleries across the UK in 2010 will be showing 25 ARTIST ROOMS exhibitions and displays from the collection created by the curator and collector, Anthony d’Offay, and acquired by the nation in February 2008. ARTIST ROOMS On Tour with the Art Fund has been devised to enable this collection held by Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland, to reach and inspire new audiences across the country, particularly young people.

Anselm Kiefer at BALTIC includes painting, sculpture and installation, some of which has been rarely seen before. The starting point for Kiefer’s work is his fascination with myth, history, theology, philosophy and literature. For many years his painting was a vehicle to come to terms with his country’s past, and subsequently became ever concerned with religious traditions and the symbolism of different cultures. Kiefer’s weighty subject matters are reflected in the monumental scale of many of his works, while his keen exploration and visceral layering of materials such as lead, ash, rope and human hair bring an emotional potency.

Among the paintings to be included in the exhibition are three works from the artist’s early Parsifal series (1973), drawn from Richard Wagner’s last opera and its 13th century source, a romance by Wolfram von Eschenbach based upon the legend of the Holy Grail. With Palette 1981, Kiefer revealed the problematic legacy inherited by artists in post-war Germany: the artist’s palette hangs from a single burning thread evoking shame, loss and the apparent impossibility of artistic creation. The expansive Man under a Pyramid 1996, which measures more than five meters long, continues the artist’s interest in meditation and the linking of body and mind.

Also included is Palmsonntag 2006 which comprises a vast sequence of 36 paintings arranged around a full-size palm tree. While avoiding explicit religious statement, the work draws upon the Christian narrative of Palm Sunday to explore death and resurrection, decay, re-creation and rejuvenation; human themes that are central to Kiefer’s practice and that will be identified throughout this presentation.

 

Anselm Kiefer biography

Anselm Kiefer was born 1945 in Donauschingen, Germany, at the close of World War II. He studied art formally under Joseph Beuys at the Düsseldorf Academy in the early 1970s where history and myth became central themes in his work.

In 1971 Kiefer produced his first large-scale landscape paintings and from 1973 he began to experiment with wooden interiors on a monumental scale. His preoccupation with recent German history is seen throughout his work and his use of recurring motifs, such as an artist’s palette symbolises his emotional journey relating to this period. Kiefer has made increasing use of materials such as sand, straw, wood, dirt and photographs, as well as sewn materials and lead model soldiers. By adding found materials to the painted surface Kiefer invented a compelling third space between painting and sculpture. Recent work has broadened his range yet further: in 2006 he showed a series of paintings based around the little-known work of the modernist Russian poet Velimir Chlebnikov (1885-1922).

Kiefer has had extensive exhibitions internationally including the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1987), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1991), The Metropolitan Museum, New York (1998), Royal Academy, London (2001), Fort Worth Museum of Art, Fort Worth (2005) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006).

Press release from the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art website

 

Anselm Kiefer. 'Urd Werdande Skuld (The Norns)' 1983

 

Anselm Kiefer (German, b. 1945)
Urd Werdande Skuld (The Norns)
1983
Oil, shellac, emulsion and fibre on canvas
4205 x 2805 x 60 mm
ARTIST ROOMS: Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

Anselm Kiefer. 'Parsifal I' 1973

 

Anselm Kiefer (German, b. 1945)
Parsifal I
1973
Oil on paper laid on canvas
3247 x 2198 mm

 

Anselm Kiefer. 'Parsifal II' 1973

 

Anselm Kiefer (German, b. 1945)
Parsifal II
1973
Oil and blood on paper laid on canvas
3247 x 2188 mm

 

 

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
Gateshead Quays, South Shore Road, Gateshead
NE8 3BA, UK
Phone: +44 (0) 191 478 1810

Opening hours:
Daily 10.00 – 18.00

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary 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.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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