Archive for April, 2011

28
Apr
11

Exhibition: ‘Nicholas Nixon: Family Album’ at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 28th July, 2010 – 1st May 2011

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947). 'Bebe, Cambridge' 1980

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
Bebe, Cambridge
1980
Gelatin silver contact print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Museum purchase with funds donated by the National Endowment for the Arts and Richard L. Menschel, Bela T. Kalman, Judge and Mrs. Matthew Brown, Mildred S. Lee, and Barbara M. Marshall
© Nicholas Nixon, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

In the history of photography Nixon’s ongoing series of family portraits The Brown Sisters (1975 – ) is the best in the world. Beautifully structured and composed the photographs are nuanced and sensitive to the people portrayed and the passage of time. The subjects project and recede within the image frame, exposing vulnerability, intimacy and strength. Simply breathtaking!

Marcus

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Many thankx to Amelia Kantrovitz for her help and to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947). 'Clementine and Bebe, Cambridge' 1985

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
Clementine and Bebe, Cambridge
1985
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Nicholas Nixon
© Nicholas Nixon, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947) 'Cambridge' 1986

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
Cambridge
1986
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the photographer
© Nicholas Nixon, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Themes such as the passage of time and the enduring nature of close family relationships are brought into focus in the exhibition Nicholas Nixon: Family Album at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). The show, on view from July 28, 2010, through May 1, 2011, in the MFA’s Herb Ritts Gallery, features more than 70 black and white portrait photographs by Nicholas Nixon, one of the most celebrated American photographers of this generation. Among them are pictures of Nixon’s wife, Beverly (Bebe) Brown Nixon, and their two children, Clementine and Sam. Nicholas Nixon also includes The Brown Sisters, the ongoing annual series of portraits of Bebe and her sisters taken each summer for the past 35 years. Nixon will take another photograph of the sisters this summer, which will be hung in the gallery during the course of the exhibition.

The promised gift to the MFA of The Brown Sisters series is the impetus for Nicholas Nixon. The group of photographs has been lent to the Museum for the exhibition from the collection of James Krebs, a Distinguished Benefactor of the MFA, and his late wife, Margie. Also included are works by Nixon purchased by the Museum, and a number that were given and lent to the MFA by the artist. Nicholas Nixon is presented with support from the Shelly and Michael Kassen Fund.

“Nicholas Nixon rose to prominence in the mid 1970s for his large-format black-and-white views of Boston and New York. Since then, he has turned almost exclusively to portraiture, and has produced many celebrated series of pictures – of the elderly, people with AIDS, and couples – but his portrayals of his family are particularly evocative and beloved. Nick has been a friend of the MFA for a long time and has generously given the Museum many of his photographs,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA.

Nicholas Nixon’s photographs of family are both personal in nature and have a universality with which observers can connect. These pictures, a number of which have never been publicly displayed, celebrate the bonds of close family relationships, especially as they grow over time. Included in the exhibition is the luminous image that Nixon took of his wife in the bathtub, Bebe, Cambridge (MFA, Boston, 1980). The beautiful glowing light on her face suggests her interior state, as well as the depth of their long relationship. There are also many photographs in the show that highlight the richness and warmth of daily life with children. In an image from 1985, a cropped view of Bebe pictures her gazing downward, as Clementine’s fist emerges from the bottom of the frame, evoking the power of a new life. A close-up of Clementine’s face made the following year, with her wide eyes gazing upward, captures the toddler’s impression of wonder. The latest photograph of Clementine in the exhibition dates to 2003 and depicts her as a young woman, embracing her mother. Images of Nixon’s son, Sam, are also included, showing him in different stages over the years and in portraits with his sister.

The most recognised images in the exhibition are those that Nixon has taken of the Brown sisters each summer since 1975. The four women – Heather, Mimi, Bebe, and Laurie – always appear in the same order in the portraits, from left to right. These compelling photographs reveal the evolving nature of the sisters’ relationship over time. The serial portraits begin with The Brown Sisters, 1975 (James and Margie Krebs Collection, 1975), which captures them as young women, ranging in age from 15 to 25. With each passing year, observers can note changes in appearance, stance, and demeanour. In several of the portraits, the presence of the photographer is suggested through the shadow of himself and his camera projected across the figures, which makes reference to his role in the family dynamic. The series unfolds in a grid display on the central wall of the Ritts Gallery.

“In his serial pictures of family, Nicholas Nixon explores a classic conundrum in photography: how to suggest the passage of time by means of an instrument that records the instantaneous image. His effort is related to that of several predecessors – Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Harry Callahan, to name the most important – who, like him, used their wives as subject matter, photographing them over a period of years. What Nixon has added to the discussion – beyond recording facets of appearance, personality, or emphasising formal concerns – is his emphasis on the meaning of family,” said Anne Havinga, the MFA’s Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs, who curated the show with Emily Voelker, the MFA’s Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Assistant Curator of Photographs.

Born in Detroit in 1947, Nixon graduated from the University of Michigan in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in English, and from the University of New Mexico in 1974 with a Masters of Fine Arts degree. Later that year, he moved to Boston, where he teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Nixon is known for his documentary photography, especially city views and portraits rooted in the snapshot tradition. He works primarily in black and white, creating gelatin silver prints with a 8 x 10-inch view camera as did many of the great photographers who influenced him, including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Walker Evans. Working in large format and making contact prints enables him to create images of crisp detail and subtle tone. In recent years, Nixon has also begun to experiment with colour, although the photographs in the exhibition are all black-and-white, for which he is best known. He is the recipient of three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and two Guggenheim Fellowships, and, in addition to the MFA, his work is included in numerous museum collections, among them, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website [Online] Cited 26/04/2011 no longer available online

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947). 'The Brown Sisters' 1976

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters
1976
Gelatin silver print
Promised gift of James and Margie Krebs
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947). 'The Brown Sisters' 1978

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters
1978
Gelatin silver print
Promised gift of James and Margie Krebs
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947). 'The Brown Sisters' 1980

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters
1980
Gelatin silver print
Promised gift of James and Margie Krebs
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947). 'The Brown Sisters' 1996

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters
1996
Gelatin silver print
Promised gift of James and Margie Krebs
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, born in 1947). 'The Brown Sisters' 1999

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters
1999
Gelatin silver print
Promised gift of James and Margie Krebs
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Avenue of the Arts
Boston, Massachusetts 02115-5523
617-267-9300

Opening hours:
Monday – Tuesday 10 am – 5.00 pm
Wednesday – Friday 10 am – 10.00 pm
Saturday – Sunday 10 am – 5.00 pm

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25
Apr
11

Exhibition: ‘Dorothea Lange’s Three Mormon Towns’ at Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Provo, Utah

Exhibition dates: 20th January – 30th April 2011

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Couple Seated on Porch, Gunlock, Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Couple Seated on Porch, Gunlock, Utah
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

 

 

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

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Dorothea Lange

 

 

For a glimmer of understanding into the mind of a master artist go the ‘Exploring Three Mormon Towns’ web page and click on the ‘Original Layout for Three Mormon Towns‘ link at right hand side. View Lange’s conceptual layout for her September 6th, 1954 LIFE magazine photo essay at full screen size. Note the size and placement of the photographs and text especially the use of negative space (as on page 4). Also note the size of the cloud photograph at left on page 5 when compared to the church steeple next to it and the size of that steeple in comparison to the rest of the images. Observe the ascending progression of page 6 with the complex but sympathetic narrative that it tells; the use of gridded photographs on page 7; the bookended lives and church attendance on page 8.

Lange observes the minutiae, the precise details that go to make up the lives of these three towns and puts them together in a wonderful symphony of beautifully calculated, seemingly happenstance associations. Masterful!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Brigham Young University Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs by Dorothea Lange © Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

 

Toquerville, Utah

Dorothea Lange. 'Doorway, Toquerville, Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Doorway, Toquerville, Utah
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Mulberry Tree, Neagle Home, Toquerville, Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Mulberry Tree, Neagle Home, Toquerville, Utah
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Riley Savage, Toquerville, Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Riley Savage, Toquerville, Utah
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Hands, Toquerville, Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Hands, Toquerville, Utah
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Eggs, Toquerville, Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Eggs, Toquerville, Utah
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Collection of John and Lolita Dixon

 

 

In August 1953, renowned American photographer Dorothea Lange travelled to southern Utah where she met up with her long-time friend Ansel Adams. The two photographers spent three weeks photographing the landscape and people of Toquerville, Gunlock and St. George with the intention of publishing the work in LIFE magazine.

Lange’s enthusiasm for her subject yielded hundreds of photographs from which she composed an extended essay of 135 photographs, including images by Ansel Adams. Thirty-five of those photographs with text by Daniel Dixon appeared under the title Three Mormon Towns in the September 6, 1954 issue of LIFE.

“Dorothea Lange’s Three Mormon Towns,” a new exhibition at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art, features 21 of Lange’s photographs from this series acquired by the museum. The exhibition also draws from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago, and the collection of John and Lolita Dixon.

The 62 vintage prints in the exhibition, accompanied by excerpts from Dixon’s original text, examine Lange’s lasting interest in the people of southern Utah and their relationship with the land, their heritage and the transformation of the West in post-war America.

“Subtle and poetic, the series of photographs that has come to be known as ‘Three Mormon Towns’ is a bridge between Lange’s famous Depression Era photographs and her detailed photo essays of the 1950s,” Diana Turnbow, Curator of Photography at Brigham Young University Museum of Art, said.

Utah attracted Lange’s interest when she and her first husband, Maynard Dixon, spent the summer of 1933 camping and working in Zion National Park. She originally intended to photograph southern Utah with the support of a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in 1941; however, a family crisis, followed by the onset of World War II prevented Lange from traveling to Utah. Yet, the desire to photograph the Mormon towns of southern Utah never faded. In 1953, Lange returned to the place that had captured her attention decades earlier.

“While Lange’s photographs depict communities bound together by hard work and religion in the formidable landscape of the Colorado Plateau, they also explore the changes that were beginning to affect not only Utah, but rural communities throughout the United States,” Turnbow said. “‘Three Mormon Towns’ was a study of contrasts – of old and new, of quiet villages and a growing city, of deep roots and transient highways. In this series, Lange memorialised the dignity and simplicity of agrarian life in light of post-war urbanisation.”

Published in the September 6, 1954 issue of LIFE magazine, the series of photographs that has come to be known as Three Mormon Towns bridges Dorothea Lange’s famous Depression era photographs with her detailed photo essays of the 1950s. Featuring sixty-two vintage photographs from the series, this exhibition considers Dorothea Lange’s lasting interest in the people of southern Utah and their relationship with the land, their heritage, and the transformation of the West in post-war America.

Known for her candid and sympathetic depiction of people, Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) is one of the most revered photographers of the twentieth century. For over four decades she explored the human psyche through portraiture and documentary photography. The probing portraits of her early career prepared Lange to photograph the people involved in the tumultuous events of the San Francisco labor strikes of 1934, the Great Depression, and the Japanese internment during World War II. Her 1935 photograph, The Migrant Mother, is one of the great icons of the American century.

In the 1950s, Lange began to create photographic essays for the popular picture and news magazine LIFE. She eventually completed five major essays for publication, with two of the essays, including Three Mormon Towns, printed in LIFE. In addition, Lange was a founding member of Aperture magazine and played a role in organising the influential Family of Man exhibition that premiered in New York in 1955.

In the later part of her life, Lange photographed and traveled extensively with her husband, Paul Taylor, in conjunction with his work in international development. Her photographs of South America, Africa, and Asia were deft and subtle, exploring a rich visual landscape populated with diverse objects and people.

In 1964, Lange was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sustained by determination, she worked steadily to complete a number of projects including a retrospective exhibition of her work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. She passed away on October 11, 1965, content with the life that she had been able to live.”

Text from the Brigham Young University Museum of Art website [Online] Cited 24/03/2011 no longer available online

 

Gunlock, Utah

Dorothea Lange. 'Sky and Clouds, Gunlock, Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Sky and Clouds, Gunlock, Utah
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Jake Jones’ Hands, Gunlock, Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Jake Jones’ Hands, Gunlock, Utah
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Horseplay, Gunlock, Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Horseplay, Gunlock, Utah
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Four Young Riders in Summer' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Four Young Riders in Summer
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago

 

St. George, Utah

Dorothea Lange. 'Anne Carter Johnson, St. George, Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Anne Carter Johnson, St. George, Utah
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Young Woman, St. George, Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Young Woman, St. George, Utah
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

 

 

Brigham Young University Museum of Art
North Campus Drive, Provo, UT 84602-1400

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday from 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday closed

Brigham Young University Museum of Art website

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20
Apr
11

Exhibition: ‘Abstract Expressionist New York: The Big Picture’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York

Exhibition dates: October 3rd 2010 – April 25th 2011

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970) 'Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea' 1944

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970)
Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea
1944
Oil on canvas
6′ 3 3/8″ x 7′ 3/4″ (191.4 x 215.2 cm)
Bequest of Mrs. Mark Rothko through The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc.
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea pictures two creatures dancing between sea and sky, surrounded by arabesques, spirals, and stripes. The forms “have no direct association with any particular visible experience, but in them one recognizes the principle and passion of organisms,” Rothko said. For him art was “an adventure into an unknown world”; like the Surrealists before him, Rothko looked inward, to his own unconscious mind, for inspiration and material for his work.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

 

What a privilege to post all of these works together.

Aaron Siskind has to be one of my favourite photographers of all time (and space). His Martha’s Vineyard (see photograph below), like most of his work, is superb: the abstraction and counterpose are magnificent. Team this with a couple of Rothko, a Motherwell, a de Kooning and a knockout of a Hartigan and you certainly have the start of ‘The Big Picture’. I wish I could have been there to see this exhibition – sigh!

Marcus

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

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011. Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956) 'The She-Wolf' 1943

 

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956)
The She-Wolf
1943
Oil, gouache, and plaster on canvas
41 7/8 x 67″ (106.4 x 170.2 cm)
Purchase
© 2010 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

In the early 1940s Pollock, like many of his peers, explored primeval or mythological themes in his work. The wolf in this painting may allude to the animal that suckled the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, in the myth of the city’s birth. But “She-Wolf came into existence because I had to paint it,” Pollock said in 1944. In an attitude typical of his generation, he added, “Any attempt on my part to say something about it, to attempt explanation of the inexplicable, could only destroy it.” The She-Wolf was featured in Pollock’s first solo exhibition, at Art of This Century gallery in New York in 1943. MoMA acquired the painting the following year, making it the first work by Pollock to enter a museum collection.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing at right, Jackson Pollock’s painting Number 1A, 1948. Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956) 'Number 1A, 1948' 1948

 

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956)
Number 1A, 1948
1948
Oil and enamel paint on canvas
68″ x 8′ 8″ (172.7 x 264.2 cm)
Purchase
© 2010 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

While the style of “drip” painting has become synonymous with the name Jackson Pollock, here the artist has autographed the work even more directly, with several handprints found at the composition’s upper right. Around this time Pollock stopped giving his paintings evocative titles and began instead to number them. His wife, artist Lee Krasner, later explained, “Numbers are neutral. They make people look at a painting for what it is – pure painting.” Collectors did not immediately appreciate Pollock’s radical new style, and when first exhibited, in 1949 (then titled Number 1, 1948), this painting remained unsold. Later that year the work was shown again in the artist’s second solo exhibition (Pollock added “A” to the title to avoid confusion with more recent work) and shortly thereafter was purchased by MoMA.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Bradley Walker Tomlin (American, 1899-1953) 'Number 20' 1949

 

Bradley Walker Tomlin (American, 1899-1953)
Number 20
1949
Oil on canvas
7′ 2″ x 6′ 8 1/4″ (218.5 x 203.9 cm)
Gift of Philip Johnson

 

 

Although some of the ribbons and bars that animate Number 20 are recognisable letters of the alphabet (E, X, or Z) these and their more abstract neighbours evoke calligraphy without constituting it. A critic described these symbols as “hieroglyphs that lack only the appropriate Rosetta Stone for their deciphering.” Tomlin distributed his nonobjective imagery evenly on the canvas, depriving the work of a traditional focal point and creating a staccato rhythm and allover design that invites the viewer’s glance to travel across its surface.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing at left, Barnett Newman’s painting Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950-51). Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Barnett Newman (American, 1905-1970) 'Vir Heroicus Sublimis' 1950-51

 

Barnett Newman (American, 1905-1970)
Vir Heroicus Sublimis
1950-51
Oil on canvas
7′ 11 3/8″ x 17′ 9 1/4″ (242.2 x 541.7 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller
© 2019 Barnett Newman Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

Vir Heroicus Sublimis, Newman’s largest painting at the time of its completion, is meant to overwhelm the senses. Viewers may be inclined to step back from it to see it all at once, but Newman instructed precisely the opposite. When the painting was first exhibited, in 1951 at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York, Newman tacked to the wall a notice that read, “There is a tendency to look at large pictures from a distance. The large pictures in this exhibition are intended to be seen from a short distance.” Newman believed deeply in the spiritual potential of abstract art. The Latin title of this painting means “Man, heroic and sublime.”

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Jack Tworkov (American, born Poland, 1900-1982). 'West 23rd' 1963

 

Jack Tworkov (American, born Poland, 1900-1982)
West 23rd
1963
Oil on canvas
60″ x 6′ 8″ (152.6 x 203.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© Estate of Jack Tworkov, courtesy Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York

 

Robert Motherwell (American, 1915-1991). 'Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 54' 1957-61

 

Robert Motherwell (American, 1915-1991)
Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 54
1957-61
Oil on canvas
70″ x 7′ 6 1/4″ (178 x 229 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously
© Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing at left, David Smith’s sculpture Australia (1951). Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

David Smith (American, 1906-1965). 'Australia' 1951

 

David Smith (American, 1906-1965)
Australia
1951
Painted steel
6′ 7 1/2″ x 8′ 11 7/8″ x 16 1/8″ (202 x 274 x 41 cm), on cinder block base, 17 1/2 x 16 3/4 x 15 1/4″ (44.5 x 42.5 x 38.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of William Rubin
© Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

 

At the time of its completion, Australia was Smith’s largest sculpture. By welding together thin rods and plates of steel he created a work that is simultaneously delicate and strong, a masterpiece of tension, balance, and form that he described as a “drawing in space.” Sculpture has traditionally been defined by volume and mass; Australia is, in contrast, built of lines. In what might be described as an allover sculpture, the linear activity is greatest at the perimeters, while the center is nearly empty. Because of its title, the work is sometimes read as an abstracted kangaroo, its lines capturing the spring of the animal’s leap.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing a wall of photographs by Aaron Siskind, including at second right, Martha’s Vineyard (1954-59). Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991). 'Martha's Vineyard' 1954-59

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Martha’s Vineyard
1954-59
Gelatin silver print
12 7/16 x 16 1/2″ (31.6 x 41.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© 2010 Estate of Aaron Siskind

 

Adolph Gottlieb (American, 1903-1974) 'Man Looking at Woman' 1949

 

Adolph Gottlieb (American, 1903-1974)
Man Looking at Woman
1949
Oil on canvas
42 x 54″ (106.6 x 137.1 cm)
Gift of the artist
© Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

 

In the 1940s Gottlieb began to emulate the art of early Native American and Middle Eastern cultures, explorations that eventually inspired his Pictograph paintings, including Man Looking at Woman. This work and others like it feature hieroglyphic-like script distributed across the canvas in a series of gridded compartments. Gottlieb avoided using decipherable signs. In 1955 he said of these works, “I frequently hear the question, ‘What do these images mean?’ That is simply the wrong question. Visual images do not have to conform to either verbal thinking or optical facts. A better question would be: ‘Do these images convey any emotional truth?'”

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Arshile Gorky (American, born Armenia, 1904-1948) 'Agony' 1947

 

Arshile Gorky (American, born Armenia, 1904-1948)
Agony
1947
Oil on canvas
40 x 50 1/2″ (101.6 x 128.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. A. Conger Goodyear Fund
© 2010 The Arshile Gorky Foundation / The Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

The evocative title of this work and the fiery intensity of the palette signal a departure from Gorky’s more lyrical abstractions of the preceding years. Agony, a blazing, impassioned scene, is often understood in relation to the traumatic events of the artist’s personal life, including a fire in his studio and cancer.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

 

Subtitled The Big Picture, this installation of 100 Abstract Expressionist paintings and a rich selection of some 60 sculptures, drawings, prints, and photographs, occupies the entire fourth floor of the Museum and chronicles the era of Abstract Expressionism. The movement drew together a host of artists with greatly varying stylistic approaches, but with a common commitment to the power of an abstract art that could express personal convictions and profound human values.

Organised in a loose chronology, intermittently interrupted by monographic galleries that allow for the in-depth study of an individual artist’s practice, the installation opens with a selection of paintings and drawings that attest to the acutely self-conscious sense of new beginnings present in the work of individuals such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, they and their peers – not yet a cohesive group – created imagery that evoked primitive man or ancient myth, and conjured an aquatic or geological pre-human world.

Upon entering the galleries, visitors are greeted by Jackson Pollock’s The She-Wolf (1943), which was featured in the artist’s first solo exhibition, in 1943, and was the first work by Pollock to enter a museum collection when MoMA acquired it the following year. Made before Pollock developed his signature “drip” style, the canvas shows that a free-form abstraction and an unfettered play of materials were already parts of his process. Also on view is Mark Rothko’s Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea (1944), a canvas picturing two creatures floating between sea and sky, surrounded by arabesques, spirals, and stripes that betrays the influence of Surrealism on Rothko’s early work.

A monographic gallery devoted to the work of Barnett Newman includes Onement, I (1952), which the artist later identified as his breakthrough painting. Modest in size, it consists of a monochromatic background divided in half by a vertical band, or “zip” as the artist later called it. Every successive painting by Newman, as seen in the seven works in this gallery, features this particular compositional motif, although their formal and emotional differences are apparent. The scale and proportions of the paintings, as well as their palette and brushwork, vary from work to work, as do the number of zips and their location in the field of colour. At the other end of the spectrum from this relatively small canvas is Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950-51), an 18-foot-wide, vibrant red expanse that was Newman’s largest painting at the time of its creation.

The distinctive materials, techniques, and approaches developed and practiced by the Abstract Expressionists can be seen in a number of other works from the late 1940s and early 1950s. For Painting (1948), Willem de Kooning used oil and enamel sign paint to create a densely packed painting in which the paint drips, bleeds, congeals, or dissolves into delicate streaks. Lee Krasner’s Untitled (1949) shows that she applied thick paint – sometimes directly from the tube – in rhythmic and repetitive strokes, giving equal attention to every inch of the canvas and creating an allover composition. Bradley Walker Tomlin, in Number 20 (1949), and Adolph Gottlieb, in Man Looking at Woman (1949), distributed imagery evoking the alphabet and hieroglyphics evenly across their canvases.

A large gallery focusing on the work of Jackson Pollock includes Full Fathom Five (1947), one of earliest “drip” paintings, and Number 1A, 1948 (1948), the first drip painting to enter MoMA’s collection (in 1950). For One: Number 31, 1950 (1950), a masterpiece of the drip technique and one of Pollock’s largest paintings (8′ 10″ x 17′ 5 5/8″ [269.5 x 530.8 cm]), the artist laid the canvas on the floor of his studio and poured, dribbled, and flicked enamel paint onto the surface, sometimes straight from the can, or with sticks and stiffened brushes. The density of interlacing liquid threads of paint is balanced and offset by puddles of muted colours and by allover spattering.

Eight paintings made by Mark Rothko over a 14-year period are presented in a single gallery. The earliest examples from 1948, such as No. 1 (Untitled), feature variously sized abstract forms caught mid-motion as they shift on the canvas. Beginning in 1950, Rothko’s “classic” style forms as the artist creates a composition from horizontal planes of thinly layered paint and highly modulated colour, simplifying the compositional structure of his paintings and arriving at his signature style. No. 10 (1950) is divided horizontally into three dominant planes of blue, yellow, and white that softly and subtly bleed into one another. Acquired by MoMA in 1952, it was the first Rothko to enter the Museum’s collection, and was considered so radical that a trustee of the Museum resigned in protest.

MoMA’s practice of making in-depth acquisitions of work by artists that its curators judged to be of greatest importance was complemented by acquisitions of smaller numbers of works by other artist who played roles too significant to be forgotten. The Big Picture includes paintings and sculptures by more than 20 artists.

There is a gallery devoted to a selection of photographs made by individuals who used a camera to explore kindred artistic concerns – often resulting in work with striking stylistic similarities. Aaron Siskind may be the photographer most closely associated with Abstract Expressionism, and numerous works of his on display suggest the depth of this connection. Also featured in this installation is work by Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, Minor White, and others, revealing the variety of ways in which the sensibility or structure of paintings from this period manifested itself photographically.

The exhibition includes some 30 items from the MoMA Archives, documenting the relation of the Museum to Abstract Expressionism. Materials represent the institution’s influential series of “Americans” exhibitions, organised by Dorothy C. Miller, which included several Abstract Expressionist artists in four of its iterations. In addition, documentation regarding the internationally circulating New American Painting show (also organised by Miller) is presented. This important exhibition travelled to eight European cities in 1958-59 and propelled the homegrown Abstract Expressionist movement onto the international art scene. A third section includes photographs of artists and their own statements and letters. Highlights include: exhibition catalogues, installation photographs, news clippings, and ephemera; photographs of artists in the studio with their artworks; a letter from Robert Motherwell to Miller describing the four themes of his art (automatic means, pure abstractions, political or a kind of “disasters” series, and intimate pictures), a letter from Ad Reinhardt to Miller recommending a different installation of his paintings, and a statement by Grace Hartigan identifying her subject as the “vulgar and vital in American life, and the possibilities of its transcendence into the beautiful.”

Text from the Museum of Modern Art press release

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing a wall of the photographs of Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019). Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019) 'Paris' 1952

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019)
Paris
1952
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019) 'Mississippi, St Louis' 1948

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019)
Mississippi, St Louis
1948
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019) 'New York' c. 1949

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019)
New York
c. 1949
Gelatin silver print

 

Ibram Lassaw (American, born Egypt. 1913-2003). 'Kwannon' 1952

 

Ibram Lassaw (American, born Egypt. 1913-2003)
Kwannon
1952
Welded bronze
6′ 1/2″ x 43″ x 29″ (184.2 x 109.2 x 73.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Katharine Cornell Fund
© 2010 Denise Lassaw/Ibram Lassaw studio

 

 

This sculpture represents Kwannon (also known as Kannon), the Buddhist goddess of mercy and an attendant of Buddha. Lassaw thickened steel wire with molten bronze, creating an openwork metal scaffolding of irregular lines and voids – what he called a “drawing in space.” Lassaw wrote of this abstract figure, “Although I never try to depict or narrate or communicate, I feel that something of Kwannon entered this piece of sculpture.”

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Willem de Kooning (American, born The Netherlands, 1904-1997). 'Woman, I' 1950-52

 

Willem de Kooning (American, born The Netherlands, 1904-1997)
Woman, I
1950-52
Oil on canvas
6′ 3 7/8″ x 58″ (192.7 x 147.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase.
© 2010 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

De Kooning famously said, “Flesh is the reason oil paint was invented,” and although he often worked in an abstract style he continually returned to the figure. Woman I took an unusually long time to complete. De Kooning made numerous preliminary studies then repainted the canvas repeatedly, eventually arriving at this hulking, wild-eyed figure of a woman. An amalgam of female archetypes, from a Paleolithic fertility goddess to a 1950s pinup girl, her threatening gaze and ferocious grin are heightened by de Kooning’s aggressive brushwork and intensely coloured palette.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Grace Hartigan (American, 1922-2008). 'Shinnecock Canal' 1957

 

Grace Hartigan (American, 1922-2008)
Shinnecock Canal
1957
Oil on canvas
7′ 6 1/2″ x 6′ 4″ (229.8 x 193 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Thrall Soby
© 2010 The Estate of Grace Hartigan

 

Louise Nevelson (American, born Ukraine. 1899 -1988). 'Sky Cathedral' 1958

 

Louise Nevelson (American, born Ukraine. 1899-1988)
Sky Cathedral
1958
Painted wood
11′ 3 1/2″ x 10’ 1/4″ x 18” (343.9 x 305.4 x 45.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Mildwoff
© 2010 Estate of Louise Nevelson/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

Sky Cathedral. 1958 | MODERN ART & IDEAS

 

Hans Hofmann (American, born Germany, 1880-1966). 'Memoria in Aeternum' 1962

 

Hans Hofmann (American, born Germany, 1880-1966)
Memoria in Aeternum
1962
Oil on canvas
7′ x 6′ 1/8″ (213.3 x 183.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist
© 2010 Renate, Hans & Maria Hofmann Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

In Memoria in Aeturnum (Eternal memory) Hofmann remembers five American painters who died in their prime: Arthur B. Carles, an early American Cubist, and four abstract painters whose work is on display in this exhibition – Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Bradley Walker Tomlin. Painted near the end of his life, Hofmann’s work is a tribute to the preceding decades of abstract art, incorporating a wide range of techniques that evoke the spirits of the departed: stains, drips, drawn-out brushstrokes, and smooth-edged geometric forms.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing at right, MarRothko’s painting No. 5 / No. 22 (1950). Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970). 'No. 5/No. 22' 1950

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970)
No. 5 / No. 22
1950
Oil on canvas
9′ 9″ x 8′ 11 1/8″ (297 x 272 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist.
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970). 'No. 3/No. 13' 1949

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970)
No. 3 / No. 13
1949
Oil on canvas
7′ 1 3/8″ x 65″ (216.5 x 164.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Bequest of Mrs. Mark Rothko through The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc.
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

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17
Apr
11

Review: Bill Henson at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th March – 21st April 2011

 

Bill Henson. 'Image No.9 from an Untitled sequence 1977' 1977

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Image No. 9 from an Untitled sequence 1977
1977
Gelatin silver print

 

 

This is an exquisite exhibition by one of Australia’s preeminent artists. Like Glenn Gould playing a Bach fugue, Bill Henson is grand master in the performance of narrative, structure, composition, light and atmosphere. The exhibition features thirteen large colour photographs printed on lustre paper (twelve horizontal and one vertical) – nine figurative of adolescent females, two of crowd scenes in front of Rembrandt paintings in The Hermitage, St. Petersburg (including the stunning photograph that features The return of the prodigal son c. 1662 in the background, see below) and two landscapes taken off the coast of Italy. What a journey this exhibition takes you on!

Throughout his career Henson has carefully and thoughtfully mined the history of art to create personal mythologies that have wider universal implications. His work is a spiral feeding back into itself. As it ascends so it expands. His inquiry has been consistent and persuasive – themes and techniques that were evident in the very first photographs still appear many years later. For example, the very early photograph Image No.9 from an Untitled sequence 1977 (above) features a Mannerist-influenced elongated body, a form that appears in the latest exhibition in several of the works. Other influences have been, in early work, the Baroque (Untitled 1983/84, below), Rembrandt’s use of chiaroscuro in the Paris Opera Project (Untitled 21/51, below), the Pre-Raphaelite (used in most of his figurative work, especially in the faces, see below). In the current exhibition the influence of Caravaggio on the form of the body and the relationship between a work and Leonardo da Vinci’s Head of Christ (c. 1494-5, below) is evident as is the implementation of a flattened perspective that is opposed to the principles of linear perspective, used in Dutch still life of the 17th century (see ‘The Art of Describing’1) that Henson employed in early photographs of crowds (Untitled 1980/82, below) – now reappearing in the two photographs taken in front of the Rembrandt paintings.

Henson’s vulnerable bodies have always been marked, bruised and subject to distress, emerging into the light in fragments – unsure in their relationship to life, spirit and mortality. His naked adolescent subjects occupy interstitial spaces: the gap between spaces full of structure, between childhood and adulthood – fluid spaces of adventure, exploration and problematic transience. Using this metaphor the photographs invite the viewer to examine their own social identity for this is never fixed and stable, is always in a state of flux; we, the viewer, have an intimate relationship to this period in our life not as some distant memory but with a sense of wonder and appreciation.

The new photographs, with their languorous, limpid figures have a certain malaise to them – the disintegrating body, the surface of the skin all blotchy hues of blue, pink and purple as if diseased – are translucent like a chrysalis …. the inner light seeming to magically emerge from under the skin. As John McDonald in his excellent article (an essential read!) in The Age comments,

“The bodies of teenagers are transformed into living sculptures, infused with a slivery-blue sheen, every bruise and blemish captured in unsettling detail. Henson does not provide us with fantasy objects; he makes us feel how lonely it can be within our own skins. These are disturbing images but not because they feature naked adolescents. They are disturbing because they have the beauty of old master paintings or antique statuary but depict beings of flesh and blood. They are disturbing because they touch parts of the psyche we might prefer to avoid, stripping away the social self, leaving us as defenceless as a snail without its shell.”2

As McDonald notes, these bodies are more melancholy than erotic although they do possess, powerfully, that ability to image “the primeval deity who embodies not only the force of love but also the creative urge of ever-flowing nature, the firstborn Light for the coming into being and ordering of all things in the cosmos.”3 In this sense they emerge from darkness into the (dying of the) Light and possess a foreboding sense of death as well as elegiac sensuality: the placement of a hand, the hair of a person enveloped in darkness languidly resting on an exposed stomach, easily missed if not being attentive to the image.

Henson’s photographs have been said by many to be haunting but his images are more haunted than haunting. There is an indescribable element to them (be it the pain of personal suffering, the longing for release, the yearning for lost youth or an understanding of the deprecations of age), a mesmeric quality that is not easily forgotten. The photographs form a kind of afterimage that burns into your consciousness long after the exposure to the original image has ceased. Haunted or haunting they are unforgettable.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. See Alpers, Svetlana. The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century. University Of Chicago Press, 1984
  2. McDonald, John. “Bill Henson,” in The Age newspaper. April 9th 2011 [Online] Cited 17/04/2011
  3. Anon. “Eros,” on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 17/04/2011

.
Many thankx to Jan Minchin and Tolarno Galleries for allowing me to publish the four photographs from the exhibition in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © the artist and Tolarno Galleries.

All photographs published other than the ones supplied by Tolarno Galleries are published under fair dealing for the purposes of criticism or review (Commonwealth of Australia Consolidated Acts: Copyright Act 1968 – Sect 41).

 

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled' 1980/82

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled
1980/82
Gelatin silver photograph
28 × 47 cm

 

David Bailly. 'Self-Portrait with Vanitas Symbols' c. 1651

 

David Bailly (Dutch, 1584-1657)
Self-Portrait with Vanitas Symbols
c. 1651
Oil on canvas

 

Bill-Henson. 'Untitled' 1983-84 Triptych

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled 1983/84
1983-84 Triptych
Type C colour photograph
Each 98.3 x 73.6 cm

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955) 'Untitled 21/51' 1990-91

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled 21/51
1990-91
Paris Opera Project
Type C photograph
127 × 127cm
Series of 50
Edition of 10 + 2 A/Ps

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled #125' 2000-03

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled #125
2000/2003
LMO SH163 N15A
Type C photograph
127 × 180cm
Edition of 5 + 2 A/Ps

 

Sir John Everett Millais (English, 1829-1896) 'Ophelia' 1851-52

 

Sir John Everett Millais (English, 1829-1896)
Ophelia
1851-52
Oil on canvas
Tate Britain

 

 

Tolarno Galleries is pleased to present Bill Henson’s most recent body of work.

Comprising 13 photographs depicting glowing interiors, stunning landscapes and softly lit figures, this exhibition shows, as David Malouf declared in 1988, that ‘Bill Henson is a maker of magic.’

Henson’s spellbinding new works push photography into the realm of painting. His masterly compositions, captured at twilight, remind us of Caravaggio. Hauntingly beautiful, they express a palpable tenderness through subtle gestures and exquisite modulations of colour. Such photographs tell us why Bill Henson is one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists.

Born in Melbourne, he had his first solo exhibition, at the age of 19, at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1975. Since then he has exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally. In 1995 he represented Australia at the Venice Biennale with his celebrated series of cut-screen photographs.

In 2003 his work appeared in Strangers: The First ICP Triennial of Photography and Video at the International Center of Photography, New York.

A major survey of his work was held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Victoria in 2005. This landmark exhibition attracted record visitor numbers for a contemporary art exhibition in Australia. The following year he exhibited a major body of work in Twilight: Photography in the magic Hour at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Press release from Tolarno Galleries

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled' 2010/11

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled
2010/11
NH SH346 N10B
Archival inkjet pigment print
127 x 180 cm
Edition of 5

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled' 2009/10

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled
2009/10
CL SH733 N35B
Archival inkjet pigment print
127 x 180 cm
Edition of 5

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled' 2009/10

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled
2009/10
CL SH767 N17B
Archival inkjet pigment print
127 x 180 cm
Edition of 5

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled' 2009/10

 

Bill Henson (Australian, b. 1955)
Untitled
2009/10
NH SH353 N33D
Archival inkjet pigment print
127 x 180 cm
Edition of 5

 

Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519) 'Study for the head of Christ for The Last Supper [Testa di Cristo]' c. 1494-5

 

Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519)
Study for the head of Christ for The Last Supper [Testa di Cristo]
c. 1494-5
Drawing on paper
40 x 32 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milano

 

 

Tolarno Galleries
Level 4, 104 Exhibition Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Australia
Phone: 61 3 9654 6000

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri 10 am – 5 pm
Sat 1 pm – 5 pm

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15
Apr
11

Exhibition: ‘Albert Tucker: Images of Modern Evil’ at Heide Museum of Modern Art

Exhibition dates: 19th March – 26th June 2011

 

Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999) 'Image of Modern Evil: Paris Night' 1948

 

Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999)
Image of Modern Evil: Paris Night
1948
Oil on canvas on composition board
38.5 x 46.5 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist 1985
© Barbara Tucker

 

 

Everything that I have felt about Tucker’s work Images of Modern Evil was eloquently spelt out by Robert Nelson in The Age newspaper on April 13th 2011 in a piece titled ‘Portrait of the artist as a hateful man’. Unfortunately, having searched The Age website, I cannot locate the online version of the writing. If anyone knows the link please email it to me!

Some of the best quotes from the piece are below:

 

“History is full of moralists who insulted people for their lack of virtue. A millennium, a century, a decade later, we read their invectives and cringe. The main cause of their distemper now seems little more than misanthropic jealousy, where the reasons for moral disapproval boil down to a hatred of other people having fun.”

“Women for Tucker are disembodied monsters. Their limbs are abbreviated so as to focus attention on their fleshy core. The implication of these aesthetic amputees is grim: through their moral destitution, the women have transformed themselves into pure carnality, promoting their organs to men as mere flesh and with nothing in the head but an imbecilic smile.”

“Critics at the time were disgusted, recognising that the images are hateful and rancorous. But because Australia was determined to have modernism, it felt for 50 years that it had to swallow Tucker’s bile and consider it exquisite – like poison in Baudelaire – and make up political justifications for an odious sentiment.”

“Strip Tucker of his metaphoric filibustering, and you’re left with less weight than the shrivelled skulls of his strumpets. If Tucker’s women are happy lasses seeking fun with men, then why is their alacrity demeaned and condemned as sinister and vile? And if they’re prostitutes, why pick on the most vulnerable in society and stigmatise them for functional signs of joy?”

“Though accepted as heroically avant-garde, Tucker’s genre is pictorial slander. Just as an unproven allegation is destined to reflect on the plaintiff, so the man who accuses women of rotten morals – when no substance backs it up – stands accused of depraved motives.”

 

And best of all…

 

“None of the wartime circumstances that writers adduce can explain Tucker’s misogyny. His ferocity comes from a declamatory soul, impatient to score points and assert superiority. The exhibition reveals talent for painting but none of the humility to apply it to people.”

.
Nelson
, Robert. “Portrait of the artist as a hateful man,” in The Age newspaper. Wednesday, April 13th 2011.

 

Talent for painting but none of the humility to apply it to people. Very well said Robert Nelson.

Thank you for having the courage to enunciate what I, for one, have felt for a long time.

Go and visit the exhibition if you must, but if critics at the time found the work disgusting, hateful and rancorous viewing them from an historical perspective should not make them less so. These are works that lack the capacity to empathise with vulnerabilities of the human spirit and do not deserve the energy of an attentive audience to be spent upon them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999) 'Image of Modern Evil: Demon Dreamer' 1943

 

Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999)
Image of Modern Evil: Demon Dreamer
1943
Oil on paper on cardboard
40.8 x 50.8 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist 1982
© Estate of Babara Tucker

 

 

In 1943 Albert Tucker began a new phase in his art. Recently discharged from the army and primed with a fresh vocabulary of imagery that drew upon his wartime experiences, he commenced a suite of paintings which is now seen as a turning point in the advancement of modernism within twentieth-century Australian culture. The Images of Modern Evil series, painted between 1943 and 1948, offers a probing and powerful insight into the schismatic socio-political climate of World War II and its aftermath. Though neither critically nor popularly successful at the time, the series proved formative in Tucker’s practice as a distillation of humanist, psychological and mythological ideas and as a vehicle for specific motifs and narratives that have endured within his art.

The series starts with pictures of predatory and lascivious behaviour in Melbourne’s streets at night that have a gritty, elemental edge. As it progresses there is a greater sense of story-telling, and by the series’ end the influence of the avant-garde art of Pablo Picasso – in both style and subject – is clearly in evidence. Picasso was, however, but one of a variety of literary and artistic sources that Tucker drew on to help shape the Images: others included the poetry of T.S. Eliot; the imaginative creativity of the surrealists; the roughened political sentiments and social commentary of the German expressionists; and, pervasively, Carl Jung’s psychological treatises on irrationality, myths and archetypes, and on the personal and collective unconscious.

Tucker kept the Images of Modern Evil together and in his possession for more than thirty years, before 28 of the 39 constituent works were acquired for the collection of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Accompanied by studies, related works on paper and archival material, this is the first time that all locatable works in the series have been displayed together.

Text from the Heide Museum website [Online] Cited 11/01/2020

 

Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999) 'Image of Modern Evil' 1945

 

Albert Tucker (Australian, 1914-1999)
Image of Modern Evil
1945
Coloured pastel on brown paper
23.9 × 20.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1978
© Estate of Babara Tucker

 

 

Heide Museum of Modern Art
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12
Apr
11

Review: ‘In Spates’ by Sam Shmith at Arc One Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 29th March – 23rd April 2011

 

Sam Shmith. 'Untitled (In Spates 2)' 2011

 

Sam Shmith (Australian, b. 1980 London)
Untitled (In Spates 2)
2011
125 x 75 cm
Pigment print on archival rag

 

 

The Digital Punctum

Spate, definition: A sudden flood, rush, or outpouring

This is a visually strong body of work by Sam Shmith that thematically hangs together beautifully in the Arc One Gallery space. The mystery, the sublime and the journey are well handled by the artist. As a spectral ‘body’ the photographs work together to create a new form of hallucination, one that haunts and perturbs the mind, like a disturbing psychological thriller a la David Lynchian ‘Twin Peaks’. The work, as a whole, becomes a meta-narrative and as Shmith develops as an artist, they seem to me like work that has journeyed to the point of departure. The viewer is (not really) flying, (not really) floating above the clouds observing the meta-narrative, creating a visual memory of things. Spectral luminescences, not-quite-right perspectives, the photograph as temporal hallucination.

Shmith’s photographs are constructed from “30-40 photographs per pictorial narrative” taken during the day and then digitally darkened: the clouds from Queensland, the cities from here, the cars from there. To be honest the clouds and cities could be from anywhere they are just part of the process. Shmith’s technique is interesting to know and then is quickly forgotten when looking at the photographs – like reading, it does not become the meaning (just a layer) of the work. The images, when constructed (however!) take me to other spaces and memories, opening up new vistas in my imagination.

.
Shmith’s series acts as a punctum, working to create an unitary impression on the mind that pricks my consciousness. The whole work becomes punctum. This is a very interesting and powerful proposition.

The punctum, as argued by Barthes in Camera Lucida, relies on the QUESTION OF INTENTIONALITY – the detail that pricks and wounds is an unconscious act on the part of the photographer – not one of intention. It cannot be perceived by the photographer or indeed anyone else in the present. In other words, when the photographer photographs the total object, he cannot not not photograph the part object, which is what the punctum is:

“Hence the detail which interests me is not, or a least not strictly, intentional, and probably must not be so; it occurs in the field of the photographer thing like a supplement that is at once inevitable and graceful; it does not necessarily attest to the photographer’s art; it says only that the photographer was there, or else, still more simply, that he could not not photograph the partial object at the same time as the total object … The photographer’s “second sight” does not consist in “seeing” but in being there. And above all, imitating Orpheus, he must not turn back to look at what he is leading – what he is giving to me!” (CL 47/CC 79-80)

As Michael Fried observes in his analysis of Camera Lucida, the punctum is “antitheatrical” in the sense that we see it for ourselves and are not shown it by the photographer: it is not consciously constructed by the photographer but unconsciously captured as part of the total object:

“As Fried has argued, the experience of the punctum lives or dies for Barthes according to the absence of presence of intentionality on the part of the photographer; if there is visible intention, there is no punctum. That the punctum can exist only in the absence of intention is consistent, Fried claims, with his distinction between “seeing” (understood positively as antitheatrical) and “being shown” (understood negatively as theatrical). The possibility of the punctum is cancelled if bound to the photographer’s intention – if we are shown what can only be seen. As Fried states: “The punctum, we might say, is seen by Barthes but not because it has been shown to him by the photographer, for whom it does not exist; as Barthes recognizes, ‘it occurs [only] in the photographic field of the photographed thing,’ which is to say that it is not a pure artefact of the photographic event.”1

.
This changes in digital photography, especially with photographs such as Shmith’s constructed from 30-40 photographs. Here the construction can only be intentional (or can it?), dissolving the relation between referent and photograph, the unseen nature of punctum and the ability to not not photograph the part object:

“Fried mentions the subject I have in mind when he says digital photographs undermine the condition of the punctum by making it impossible that “a partial object in the photograph that might otherwise prick or wound me may never have been part of a total object, which itself may be a digital construction” (Michael Fried, “Barthes’s Punctum,” Critical Inquiry 31, Spring 2005, p.563). In the sentence just preceding that, Fried notes that digitalization “threatens to dissolve the ‘adherence’ of the referent to the photograph,” thus ending the fundamental claim that “the photographer could not not photograph the partial object at the same time as the total object.”2

But the digital punctum still exists. Shmith’s work is evidence of this. It exists in the mind of the artist and viewer, external to rather than strictly “in” or “of” the image:

“Curiously, however, Barthes does claim in Camera Lucida that the punctum may also be of the mind, or at the level of remembrance, rather than strictly “in” or “of” the image: “…the punctum (is) revealed only after the fact, when the photograph is no longer in front of me and I think back on it. I may know better a photograph I remember than a photograph I am looking at, as if direct vision oriented its language wrongly, engaging it in an effort of description which will always miss its point of effect, the punctum” (Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), 53.) Indeed, the punctum is a most difficult thing to pin down, or, should one say, to prick. Fried recognizes the truly aporetic [characterised by an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction] nature of the punctum when he points to certain affinities between the literalist work of the Minimalists and the punctum, whereby the Minimalists understood the relationship between the literalist work and the beholder as ’emphatically not determined by the work itself’, suggesting that meaning in literalism was essentially indeterminate.”3

As James Elkins has observed, the punctum, or the image’s antitheatricality, is not necessarily threatened by digitalisation either through the detaching of the referent from the photograph or through the detaching of the part object from the full object within the image itself.

“The presence and efficaciousness of the part object are independent of digitalisation because the concept of the part object arises from a certain understanding of the internal structure of pictures and objects. Part objects can be found as readily in photographs of galaxies, which are assembled from layers of cleaned and enhanced digital images, as in the background of Wessing’s Nicaragua. Nor does the detachment of the photograph from its referent threaten the operation of the punctum because photographs with subjects that are wholly digitally constructed can be understood as having overlooked elements waiting to be discovered by each viewer.”4

.
My belief is that the digital photographer can evidence punctum in the construction of image through an anticipation of it’s affect – either consciously or unconsciously. Not through the ‘placement’ inside disparate texts but a holistic embedding through intertextuality. The punctum becomes the (non)intentional ground of discovery – the part part object if you like – the prick among many photographs now created as one,
in this case 30-40 turned into one pictorial narrative. The punctum does not have to be part of a total object and digitalisation does not undermine the punctum; it may even enhance it so that, in this case, the whole series becomes punctum.

Shmith’s series and individual photographs within the series work best when the artist lets go of his consciousness and lets the ‘thing itself’ emerge, like a Japanese haiku poem. While consciously constructed by the artist the haiku takes on a life and meaning of it’s own outside the confines of intentionality.

“The artist can proffer a ‘releasement toward things’ (Heidegger, Martin. Discourse on Thinking. New York: Harper & Row, 1966, pp. 55-6), a coexistence between a conscious and unconscious way of perceiving which sustains the mystery of the object confusing the distinction between real time and sensual time, between inside and outside, input and output becoming neither here nor there. The mystery of the image is not to be found in its emasculation (in the sense of it’s deprivation of vigour) but by being attentive to the dropping a way of awareness, of memory, imagination, and the fixed gaze of desire through the glimpsing of a coexistence between a conscious and unconscious way of perceiving, a ‘releasement towards things’ which enables the seeing of the ‘Thing Itself’.”5

While Shmith’s series works as a whole and there are some wonderful individual images occasionally the artist has become too conscious of the punctum, the marks he intentionally makes. There are too many planes in clouds, the marking of these planes loosing their aura of (in)significance. They should be discovered afresh, “overlooked elements waiting to be discovered by each viewer,” not intentionally placed and shown by the artist. The series needed other themes embedded within them to allow the viewer to discover, to journey – more! As I said in the opening paragraph the photographs seems to me like work that has journeyed to the point of departure.

And what an exciting departure it is, for what happens next is in his, and our, imagination.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Fried, Michael. “Barthes’s Punctum,” in Critical Inquiry 31, Spring 2005 quoted in Hughes, Gordon. “Camera Lucida, Circa 1980,” in Batchen, Geoffrey (ed.,). Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009
  2. Elkins, James. “What Do We Want Photography To Be?” in Batchen, Geoffrey (ed.,). Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009, pp. 176-177
  3. Haraldsson, Arni. “Fried’s Turn,” on Fillip website [Online] Cited 12-04-2011. fillip.ca/content/frieds-turn
  4. Elkins, Op. cit.
  5. Bunyan, Marcus. “Spaces That Matter: Awareness and Entropia in the Imaging of Place,” 2002, on the Marcus Bunyan: Image Maker website [Online] Cited 12-04-2011.
    www.marcusbunyan.com/papers_d.html

.
Many thankx to Angela Connor for her help and to Arc One Gallery for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Sam Shmith. 'Untitled (In Spates 14)' 2011

 

Sam Shmith (Australian, b. 1980 London)
Untitled (In Spates 14)
2011
50 x 30 cm
Pigment print on archival rag

 

 

Sam Shmith’s photographs resemble the opening scenes of a Hollywood blockbuster. By harnessing our collective imagination, each image is charged with mystery and intrigue, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions about the narrative embedded in each of the works.

Digitally layered from an image bank of over 60,000 self-shot images, Sam’s twenty-two new landscapes choreograph a series of temporal clues into single images that simultaneously obliterate all references to a particular locality. His works are a hybrid of images from his personal archives, composited so that each journey is no longer distinct, but melded to create their single, artificial realities.

Influenced by François Truffaut’s film Day for Night (1973), the works are shot during the day, and meticulously transformed into twilight scenes. Reworking and repeating particular motifs, these elaborately constructed works are broken up into four distinct groups – sky, mountains, cities and roads. The centre of the frame concentrates an immediate human intervention enveloped by mountainous panoramas, vaporous clouds or close foilage to create a murky tension between the encompassing landscape and specks of synthetic light. Intuitively composited from between 30 to 40 photographs per pictorial narrative, the works are shot from cars, aeroplanes and hot air balloons producing mood scenes that have athematic unity.

Through his methods Sam fashions an unconventional approach to landscape photography. Citing the melancholic landscapes of Bill Henson, the suburban malaise of Gregory Crewdson and drawing motivation from Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents, In Spates communicates the artist’s devotional dedication to the emotive importance of the genre. Though isolation appears as a common theme in his work, Sam’s observations should also be considered as an arbitrary moment viewed from afar, evoking a feeling of alienation and disengagement between the environment and ourselves.

Text from the Arc One Gallery press release

 

Sam Shmith. 'Untitled (In Spates 5)' 2011

 

Sam Shmith (Australian, b. 1980 London)
Untitled (In Spates 5)
2011
125 x 75 cm
Pigment print on archival rag

 

Sam Shmith. 'Untitled (In Spates 21)' 2011

 

Sam Shmith (Australian, b. 1980 London)
Untitled (In Spates 21)
2011
125 x 75 cm
Pigment print on archival rag

 

 

Arc One Gallery
45 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, 3000
Phone: (03) 9650 0589

Opening hours:
Tue – Sat 11am – 5pm

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10
Apr
11

Exhibition: ‘An Edwardian Summer: Sydney & beyond through the lens of Arthur Wigram Allen’ at the Museum of Sydney

Exhibition dates: 11th December 2010 – 25th April 2011

 

Many thankx to the Museum of Sydney for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images © Arthur Wigram Allan, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.

For more images please see the An Edwardian Summer website.

 

 

Arthur Wigram Allen. 'We left Medlow at 10.15 am & drove through Blackheath & Mt Victoria to Bathurst' Nd

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967)
We left Medlow at 10.15 am & drove through Blackheath & Mt Victoria to Bathurst
Nd
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur Wigram Allen. 'AWA & Boyce at lunch' Nd

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967)
AWA & Boyce at lunch
Nd
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur Wigram Allen. 'Kitty and Katha working at the drawn work' Nd

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967)
Kitty and Katha working at the drawn work
Nd
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur Wigram Allen. '11 November 1917 Mrs Frank Osborne and Miss Catterall wait in the back of one of Arthur Allens Detroit Electric broughams' 1917

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967)
11 November 1917 Mrs Frank Osborne and Miss Catterall wait in the back of one of Arthur Allens Detroit Electric broughams
1917
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

 

An Edwardian Summer, a new book and an exhibition opening 11th December 2010 at the Museum of Sydney showcases for the first time an extraordinary collection of photographs that capture Sydney at the turn of the century at one of the most rapidly changing times in Australia’s history.

A talented amateur photographer, lawyer and Sydney identity Arthur Wigram Allen was fascinated by the social and technological changes that occurred during his lifetime, 1862-1941. Allen created 51 albums now held by the State Library of NSW.

In 1885 after the sudden death of his father and uncle and at the age of just 23, Allen was thrust into the role of heading up the family law firm founded by his grandfather George Allen, known internationally today as Allens Arthur Robinson. While Allen’s photographs span 1890-1934, the book and exhibition concentrate on the Edwardian years, 1890s-1915, a brief often overlooked but important period in Australia’s history that heralded a new century of significant inventions and social changes, including powered flight, the rise of the motorcar and a new federated Australia.

Through Allen’s lens, we see the first mixed bathing on Sydney beaches, sporting events, pageants and processions, dramatic shipwrecks, the latest fashions as well as intimate family events such as motoring and harbour excursions and bush picnics. Meticulously captioned by Allen, his exquisitely personal and beautiful photographs capture a time of optimism and new ideas as Sydney emerged from the strict moral codes of the Victorian era.

Both the book and exhibition feature art works from the era by Australian artists including Arthur Streeton, Rupert Bunny, Grace Cossington Smith and Theodore Penleigh Boyd. The exhibition will also showcase items from the Historic Houses Trust collection and from the Powerhouse Museum, including examples of Edwardian fashion, children’s dress up costumes, jewellery and accessories and furniture.

Text from the Sydney Museum website [Online] Cited 08/04/2011 no longer available online

 

Sydney lawyer and identity Arthur Wigram Allen, a tirelessly enthusiastic photographer, was fascinated by the social and technological changes occurring during his lifetime. His talent for amateur photography produced extraordinary pictures that offer a fresh insight into the Edwardian years in Sydney.

The Edwardian era was sandwiched between the great achievements of the Victorian age and the global catastrophe of World War I. The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 heralded a new century of significant inventions and social changes, including powered flight, the rise of the motorcar and a new federated Australia.

An Edwardian Summer will present a selection of Arthur Allen’s beautiful images, depicting intimate moments with family and friends, motoring and harbour excursions, theatrical celebrities, bush picnics, the introduction of surf bathing on Sydney beaches, processions, pageants and mass celebrations, and new freedoms in fashion. Most have never before been published, and they form an unrivalled personal pictorial record of these rapidly changing times.

The exhibition will also include artworks by Rupert Bunny, Ethel Carrick Fox, Arthur Streeton and Grace Cossington Smith, examples of male and female fashion including evening and day wear, motoring ensembles and children’s dress-up costumes, jewellery and accessories, furniture and decorative embellishments characteristic of the Edwardian era.

Text from the Sydney Museum website [Online] Cited 11/01/2020

 

Arthur Wigram Allen

Sydney lawyer and identity Arthur Wigram Allen, a tirelessly enthusiastic photographer, was fascinated by the social and technological changes occurring during his lifetime. His talent for amateur photography produced extraordinary pictures that offer a fresh insight into the Edwardian years in Sydney.

Arthur Wigram Allen was born in 1862 into a large family of wealthy Sydney solicitors. One of 11 children and third in a line of six boys he attended Sydney Grammar School before moving to Melbourne in 1880 to study law at Trinity College at the University of Melbourne. In 1885 after the sudden death of his two elder brothers Arthur assumed control of the familíes Sydney firm and many business interests.

Allen married Ethel Lamb in 1891 and they went on to have four children: Ethel Joyce, born in 1893, Arthur Denis Wigram in 1894, Ellice Margaret in 1896 and Marcia Maria in 1905.

Fascinated by the new inventions of the era, he became interested in photography, purchasing the latest cameras. He soon proved to be a talented amateur photographer, capturing images of his family and friends, the city and its surrounds.

Arthur died in 1941, aged 79; his photographs, taken from the 1890s through to 1934, provide a detailed photographic record of a changing society and the emergence of the great city of Sydney.

A man of extraordinary vitality, Allen was fascinated by the times in which he lived, and tried to photograph everything he saw: family and friends; visiting ships and theatrical celebrities; bush picnics; the first mixed bathing on Sydney beaches; dramatic shipwrecks; processions, pageants and mass celebrations; coal miners; domestic life and fashion; house interiors; and sporting events. These photographs, contained in 51 albums, are now held by the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, and provide a view of the dramatic changes that took place in Edwardian Sydney.

Arthur Allen’s photographs span 1890 to 1934, but the Edwardian Summer exhibition and book concentrate on those depicting the Edwardian years, a brief, often-overlooked but important period in Australia’s history. The photographs, most of them never published before, form an unrivalled personal pictorial record of these rapidly changing times.

Text from the An Edwardian Summer website [Online] Cited 11/01/2020

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967) 'Cecil Healy in the dinghy, 'Port Hacking', October 16 1904' 1904

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967)
Cecil Healy in the dinghy, ‘Port Hacking’, October 16 1904
1904
PX*D 575 negative 858
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

 

Cecil Healy (1881-1918) found fame as the captain of Manly Surf Club and a champion swimmer; he won gold and silver medals in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.

Cecil Patrick Healy (28 November 1881 – 29 August 1918) was an Australian freestyle swimmer of the 1900s and 1910s, who won silver in the 100 m freestyle at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. He also won gold in the 4 × 200 m freestyle relay. He was killed in the First World War at the Somme during an attack on a German trench. Healy was the second swimmer behind Frederick Lane to represent Australia in Swimming and has been allocated the number “2” by Swimming Australia on a list of all Australians who have represented Australia at an Open International Level. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967) '[Roller skating on the verandah at Moombara]' Nd

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967)
[Roller skating on the verandah at Moombara]
Nd
PX*D575 negative 836
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

 

Roller skating on the verandah at Moombara, September 24, 1904. “Ethel and I and the children came down this afternoon for the Michaelmas holidays bringing Janet & Bob Rabete also. Immediately on arrival Joyce, Denis & Bob began to skate on the verandah and they used Janet & Margaret as horses to pull them along. Margaret also had some splendid rides on her tricycle”

Perhaps the greatest joy for the Allen children was the family’s waterfront holiday house, Moombara, where they played, swam, rode horses and roller skated around the verandah. Roller skating was a popular pastime of the era, with numerous rinks being built from the inner city to the beaches in the late 1880s. The Sydney Skating Club was formed in 1906 and skating displays were a common form of entertainment.

Text from An Edwardian Summer website

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967) 'This afternoon Marcia Lamb [centre] and I took Lord Orford and Lady Dorothy Walpole [right], also Nell Knox [left] for a drive to South Head, Bondi and Coogee' February 22, 1911

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967)
This afternoon Marcia Lamb [centre] and I took Lord Orford and Lady Dorothy Walpole [right], also Nell Knox [left] for a drive to South Head, Bondi and Coogee
February 22, 1911
PX*D594 negative 4188
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Brief stop on a drive to South Head, Bondi and Coogee, February 22, 1911. As Sydneysiders embraced the outdoors, they began picnicking at every opportunity, flocking to local beauty spots or favourite retreats such as Coogee Beach. Although the beach was thronged with bathers and spectators, Coogee’s headland provided a quieter spot for picnicking and, for Arthur Allen, taking photographs. Seen here is his camera equipment, including the box of his Guardia and Newman camera that took 5 x 4 inch (13 x 10 cm) photographic plates. The women are wearing elaborate motoring hats with scarves, which were also useful for securing their hats on a windy cliff to prevent their hair from blowing out of style.

Text from An Edwardian Summer website

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967) 'Walter resting after lunch' November 19, 1898

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967)
Walter resting after lunch
November 19, 1898
PX*D566 negative 3649
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

 

Renowned for its beauty, the Illawarra district was home to towering forests of turpentine and fig trees and tangled, dense stands of ferns and cabbage palms, tinted by the conspicuous red flowers of the Illawarra flame tree. Arthur Allen, his brother Walter and brother-in-law Rex travelled in a horsedrawn wagonette to Bulli, a small coal-mining town in the northern Illawarra, via the steep Bulli Pass road, which was built in 1867. The journey down the Bulli Pass afforded many spectacular views of the south coast.

Text from An Edwardian Summer website

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967) 'One of the new boilers just installed at the mine' November 22, 1907

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967)
One of the new boilers just installed at the mine
November 22, 1907
PX*D581 negative 2403
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

 

Arthur Allen. One of the new boilers just installed at the mine. November 22, 1907.

Mt Kembla was one of a series of towns established in the Illawarra region in the mid 19th century after coal mining began at nearby Mt Keira in 1848. The first coal export from the Illawarra left Wollongong harbour in 1849 destined for Sydney. Coal was mined at Mt Kembla from 1865, and in 1880 the Mount Kembla Coal and Oil Company was formed, building a loading wharf at Port Kembla in 1883 and installing a rail link from Mount Kembla to Port Kembla in 1886. By 1900, the Illawarra mines employed 2300 men. In 1902 a disastrous gas explosion, caused by the naked flames of the miners’ torches, killed 94 men.

Text from An Edwardian Summer website

 

Arthur Wigram Allen. 'Joyce preparing to dive 15 January 1905' 1905

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967)
Joyce preparing to dive 15 January 1905
1905
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

Arthur Wigram Allen. 'Another who is not quite so sure' Nd

 

Arthur Wigram Allen (Australian, 1894-1967)
Another who is not quite so sure
Nd
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

 

 

Museum of Sydney
cnr Bridge & Phillip Streets, Sydney

Opening hours:
Open daily 9.30 am – 5 pm

An Edwardian Summer website

Historic Houses Trust Museum of Sydney website

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08
Apr
11

Review: ‘Antony Gormley: MEMES’ at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th March – 23rd April 2011

 

Anthony Gormley. 'MEMES' 2011 installation view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne Photograph by Tim Griffith. Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEMES installation view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne
2011
Photograph by Tim Griffith
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

 

The size of the figures surprises the viewer on entering the gallery.

Then observe the figures engagement with the gallery space.

The tensioning points between figures, wall and floor are fantastic.

“Placed directly on the floor they become acupuncture points within the volume of the space, allowing the viewer to become conscious, through the disparity of scale, of his/her own mass and spatial displacement as s/he moves around and amongst the works.” (Antony Gormley text, see below)

The figures lean, are lopsided, collapse, pose, are reordered and reconfigured.

They teeter on the edge of cracks in the gallery floor (perhaps a metaphor for humans standing before the abyss).

They form yoga poses.

They are Transformers (some of them remind me of the Star Wars ‘AT-AT’ Storm Troop Carrier, the ones that look like deadly mechanical elephants).

The figures self-replicate 27 communal blocks in different assemblages.

There seems to be a (metaphyiscal?) connection between the figures, through gesture, across space.

“A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes, in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.” (Wikipedia)

They mutate, much as the human is mutating into the posthuman.

“The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.” (see below)

.
PS. We were down on our hands and knees looking at the figures (just like some of their configurations) and this gave a whole new perspective to the work.

 

“What happens in the case of mutation? Consider the example of the genetic code. Mutation normally occurs when some random event (for example, a burst of radiation or a coding error) disrupts an existing pattern and something else is put in its place instead. Although mutation disrupts pattern, it also presupposes a morphological standard against which it can be measured and understood as mutation. We have seen that in electronic textuality, the possibility for mutation within the text are enhanced and heightened by long coding chains. We can now understand mutation in more fundamental terms. Mutation is critical because it names the bifurcation point at which the interplay between pattern and randomness causes the system to evolve in a new direction. It reveals the productive potential of randomness that is also recognized within information theory when uncertainty is seen as both antagonistic and intrinsic to information.

We are now in a position to understand mutation as a decisive event in the psycholinguistics of information. Mutation is the catastrophe in the pattern/randomness dialectic analogous to castration in the presence / absence dialectic. It marks a rupture of pattern so extreme that the expectation of continuous replication can in longer be sustained. But as with castration, this only appears to be a disruption located at a specific moment. The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.”

.
Hayles
, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 30-33

 

Many thankx to the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney.

 

Antony Gormley. 'MEME CXXVII' 2011

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEME CXXVII
2011
Cast iron
37.3 x 9.3 x 7.8 cm
Photograph by Stephen White
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

 

A Meme is a cultural analogue to a gene. Forms that are transmitted in thought or behaviour from one body to another, responding to conditional environments, self-replicating and capable of mutation.

The miniature or the model allows the totality of a body to be seen at once. These small solid iron works use the formal language of architecture to replace anatomy and construct volumes to articulate a range of 32 body postures. The ambition is to make intelligible forms that form an abstract lexicon of body-posture but which nevertheless carry the invitation of empathy and the transmission of states of mind.

Displayed widely spaced within the architecture of Anna Schwartz Gallery in Melbourne, the works interface with the architecture of the gallery. Placed directly on the floor they become acupuncture points within the volume of the space, allowing the viewer to become conscious, through the disparity of scale, of his/her own mass and spatial displacement as s/he moves around and amongst the works.

This will be the first time that the Memes series, begun in 2007, will be shown together. The space of art as a reflexive test ground in which the direct experience of the viewer becomes the ground of meaning is a continual quest in this artist’s work and continues the exploration of scale seen in the expanded dimensions of FIRMAMENT at Anna Schwartz Gallery Sydney in February 2010, and the miniature scale of ASIAN FIELD, seen in the Sydney Biennale of 2008.

Antony Gormley

Text from the Anna Schwartz website

 

Antony Gormley. 'MEME CXLI' 2011

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEME CXLI
2011
Cast iron
4.5 x 9.5 x 36.4 cm
Photograph by Stephen White
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

Antony Gormley. 'MEME CXXIX' 2011

 

Antony Gormley (British, b. 1950)
MEME CXXIX
2011
Cast iron
10 x 7.7 x 29
Photograph by Stephen White
Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and Sydney

 

 

Anna Schwartz Gallery
185 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 12 – 5 pm
Saturday 1 – 5 pm

Anna Schwartz Gallery website

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07
Apr
11

Exhibition: ‘Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 10th November 2010 – 10th April 2011

 

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

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946). 'Georgia O'Keeffe - Neck' 1921

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe – Neck
1921
Palladium print
23.6 x 19.2 cm (9 5/16 x 7 9/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of Georgia O’Keeffe, through the generosity of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation and Jennifer and Joseph Duke, 1997

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Spiritual America' 1923

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Spiritual America
1923
Gelatin silver print
11.6 x 9.2 cm (4 9/16 x 3 5/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973) 'Alfred Stieglitz' 1907

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
Alfred Stieglitz
1907
Autochrome
23.9 x 18 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1955

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973) 'The Little Round Mirror' 1901, printed 1905

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
The Little Round Mirror
1901, printed 1905
Gum bichromate over platinum print
48.3 x 33.2 cm (19 x 13 1/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

Three giants of 20th-century American photography – Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand – are featured at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, through April 10, 2011, in the exhibition Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand. The diverse and groundbreaking work of these artists will be revealed through a presentation of 115 photographs, drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection. On view will be many of the Metropolitan’s greatest photographic treasures from the 1900s to 1920s, including Stieglitz’s famous portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe, Steichen’s large coloured photographs of the Flatiron building, and Strand’s pioneering abstractions.

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) was a photographer of supreme accomplishment and a forceful and influential advocate for photography and modern art through his gallery “291” and his sumptuous journal Camera Work. Stieglitz also laid the foundation for the Museum’s collection of photographs. In 1928, he donated 22 of his own works to the Metropolitan; these were the first photographs to enter the Museum’s collection as works of art. In later decades he gave the Museum more than 600 photographs by his contemporaries, including Edward Steichen and Paul Strand.

Among Stieglitz’s works to be featured in this exhibition are portraits, views of New York City from the beginning and end of his career, and the 1920s cloud studies he titled Equivalents, through which he sought to arouse in the viewer the emotional equivalent of his own state of mind at the time he made the photograph, and to show that the content of a photograph was different from its subject.

The exhibition will also include numerous photographs from Stieglitz’s extraordinary composite portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), part of a group of works selected for the Museum’s collection by O’Keeffe herself. Stieglitz made more than 330 images of O’Keeffe between 1917 and 1937 – of her face, torso, hands, or feet alone, clothed and nude, intimate and heroic, introspective and assertive. Through these photographs Stieglitz revealed O’Keeffe’s strengths and vulnerabilities, and almost single-handedly defined her public persona for generations to come.

Stieglitz’s protégé and gallery collaborator, Edward Steichen (1879-1973), was the most talented exemplar of the Photo-Secession, the loosely-knit group of artists founded by Stieglitz in 1902, seceding, in his words, “from the accepted idea of what constitutes a photograph,” but also from the camera clubs and other institutions dominated by a more retrograde establishment. In works such as The Pond – Moonrise (1904), made using a painstaking technique of multiple printing, Steichen rivalled the scale, colour, and individuality of painting.

Steichen’s three large variant prints of The Flatiron (1904) are prime examples of the conscious effort of Photo-Secession photographers to assert the artistic potential of their medium. Steichen achieved coloristic effects reminiscent of Whistler’s Nocturne paintings by brushing layers of pigment suspended in light-sensitive gum solution onto a platinum photograph. Although he used only one negative to create all three photographs, the variable colouring enabled him to create three significantly different images that convey the chromatic progression of twilight. The Metropolitan’s three prints, all donated by Stieglitz in 1933, are the only exhibition prints of Steichen’s iconic image.

In 1908 Steichen photographed the plaster of Rodin’s sculpture of Honoré de Balzac in the open air, by the light of the moon, making several exposures as long as an hour each. In Balzac, The Silhouette – 4 A.M., the moonlight has transformed the plaster into a monumental phantom rising above the brooding nocturnal landscape. Steichen recalled that when he presented his finished prints to Rodin, the elated sculptor exclaimed, “You will make the world understand my Balzac through your pictures.”

Among the unique early-20th-century works by Stieglitz and Steichen in the Museum’s collection are Autochromes, an early process of colour photography that became commercially available in 1907. Because of the delicate and light-sensitive nature of these glass transparencies, five original Autochromes by Stieglitz and Steichen will be displayed for one week only, January 25-30, 2011. During the other weeks of the exhibition, facsimiles of these Autochromes will be on view.

Stieglitz’s and Steichen’s younger contemporary, Paul Strand (1890-1976), pioneered a shift from the soft-focus aesthetic and painterly prints of the Photo-Secession to the straight approach and graphic power of an emerging modernism. Strand was introduced to Stieglitz as a high-schooler by his camera club advisor, Lewis Hine, the social reformer and photographer. He quickly became a regular visitor to “291,” where he was exposed to the latest trends in European art through groundbreaking exhibitions of works by Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, and Brancusi.

Strand incorporated the new language of geometric abstraction into his interest in photographing street life and machine culture. His photographs from 1915-1917 treated three principal themes: movement in the city, abstractions, and street portraits. Stieglitz, whose interest in photography had waned as he grew more interested in avant-garde art, saw in Strand’s work a new approach to photography. He showed Strand’s groundbreaking photographs at 291 and devoted the entire final double issue of Camera Work (1917) to this young photographer’s work, marking a pivotal moment in the course of photography.

In From the El (1915), Strand juxtaposed the ironwork and shadows of the elevated train with the tiny form of a lone pedestrian. In 1916, he experimented with radical camera angles and photographing at close range. Among the astonishingly modern photographs he made that summer is Abstraction, Twin Lakes, Connecticut, one of the first photographic abstractions to be made intentionally. When Stieglitz published a variant of this image in Camera Work, he praised Strand’s results as “the direct expression of today.”

In the same year, Strand made a series of candid street portraits with a hand-held camera fitted with a special lens that allowed him to point the camera in one direction while taking the photograph at a 90-degree angle. Blind, his seminal image of a street peddler, was published in Camera Work and immediately became an icon of the new American photography, which integrated the humanistic concerns of social documentation with the boldly simplified forms of Modernism. As is true for most of the large platinum prints by Strand in the exhibition, the Metropolitan’s Blind, a gift of Stieglitz, is the only exhibition print of this image from the period.

Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand is organised by Malcolm Daniel, Curator in Charge of the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of Photographs, assisted by Russell Lord, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow in the Department of Photographs.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973) 'The Flatiron' 1904

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
The Flatiron
1904
Gum bichromate over platinum print
47.8 x 38.4 cm (18 13/16 x 15 1/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976). 'Blind' 1916

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Blind
1916
Platinum print
34 x 25.7 cm (13 3/8 x 10 1/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Wild Iris, Maine' 1927-28

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Wild Iris, Maine
1927-28
Gelatin silver print
24.8 x 19.8 cm (9 3/4 x 7 13/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1955
Courtesy Aperture Foundation, Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946) 'Looking Northwest from the Shelton, New York' 1932

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Looking Northwest from the Shelton, New York
1932
Gelatin silver print
24.2 x 19.2 cm (9 1/2 x 7 9/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection
Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987

 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
Information: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Sunday – Thursday: 10.00 am – 5.30 pm
Friday and Saturday: 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Open Seven Days a Week

The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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03
Apr
11

Review: ‘NETWORKS (cells & silos)’ at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Caulfield

Exhibition dates: 1st February – 16th April 2011

 

Installation photograph of one of the galleries in the exhibition 'NETWORKS (cells & silos)' at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) with Nick Mangan's 'Colony' (2005) in the foreground

 

Installation photograph of one of the galleries in the exhibition NETWORKS (cells & silos) at the newly opened Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) with Nick Mangan’s Colony (2005) in the foreground

 

 

This is a vibrant and eclectic exhibition at MUMA, one of the best this year in Melbourne. The curator Geraldine Barlow has gathered together some impressive, engaging works that are set off to good effect in the new gallery spaces. I spent a long and happy time wandering around the exhibition and came away visually satiated and intellectually stimulated.

The exhibition “explores the connections between artistic representation of networks; patterns and structures found in nature; and the rapidly evolving field of network science, communications and human relations.” (text from MUMA)

Networks connect – they describe (abstract) connections between people and things. Networks map simple or complex systems and can be real or an abstract representation of those systems. Networks form a nexus, “a sort of concentrated nodal point among a series of chains of markers” that reveals the centralising structure of networks (such as Facebook and Google). Robert Nelson in his review of this exhibition in The Age notes, “Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter [in their catalogue essay] describe the way networks paradoxically disorganise you, creating a disempowering messy grid of protocols that colonise your headspace … It’s commonplace to celebrate networks because they stimulate excitement about belonging, about extending your reach and joining in. These hopes are as pervasive as the networks themselves. But in structural terms, networks are also insidiously colonising and hierarchical, built on the principle of the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming more dependent.”1

I believe that networks can also be altruistic and non-heirarchical, offering a horizontal consciousness rather than a vertical one: points of view and perspectives on the world that open up these (virtual) spaces to fluidity, mutation, transgression and subversion. Catherine Lumby observes that,

“The contradictory, constantly shifting nature of contemporary information and image flows tends to erode the moral authority of any social order, patriarchal or otherwise. It is this very collapse which has arguably fuelled social revolutions such as feminism and gay and lesbian rights, but which equally disrupts attempts by some to ground them in identity politics.”2

Critical to understanding the construction of these constantly shifting networks in contemporary society are the concepts of weaving and intertexuality. Intertextuality is the concept that texts do not live in isolation, “caught up as they are in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network… Its unity is variable and relative (Foucault, 1973)3. In other words the network is decentred and multiple allowing the possibility of transgressive texts or the construction of a work of art through the techniques of assemblage (Deleuze and Guattari) – a form of fluid, associative networking that is now the general condition of art production.4

Infection of the network (by viruses for example) disrupts the pattern/randomness binary and may lead to mutations, ‘differance’ in Derrida’s terminology, spaces that are both fluid and fixed at one and the same time; neither here nor there.

.
On to (some of) the work.

Masato Takasaka’s series of fibre-tipped pen and pencil on paper, Information Superhighway (2006-07), are wonderful, kaleidoscopic works – inventive and fun, full of rhizomic, multi-layered dimensionality. Nick Mangan’s mixed media sculpture Colony (2005, see photograph below) is a spiky, totemic, figurative creature made of axe, shovel and hammer handles and riddled with holes like driftwood that looks like a bizarre, Medieval torture instrument.

Bryan Spiers paintings Shadowmath and New descending (both 2010, see photograph below) are excellent, puzzle-like reinterpretations of delicate, Futuristic movements. As he describes them, “I think of my paintings as puzzles or visual toys. They are images to be manipulated by the viewer; reconfigured, recomposed, expanded upon. Trajectories of change are implied by repeated shapes and graded colour transitions. They describe a continuum to be followed to its logical conclusion outside of the picture plane. This leads to the dissolution of the image, proposing new images yet to be made.”

Heath Bunting’s 3 panel work from The Status project (all 2010) features interrelated data sets that reach a “level of absurdity in attempting to relate radically different but inter-related information.” This mind mapping schematic of connections (coloured connections with labels, markers and legends) based around Bristol, England has some unbelievable entries if you look really closely:

  • A1072 Able to provide natural person date of birth 2010
  • A1073 Able to access the Internet
  • A1003 A terrorist
  • A1047 Providing instruction or training in the use of imaginary firearms such as sticks
  • A1088 Providing training in leopard crawling

.
Aaron Koblin’s beautiful video Flight patterns (2010) offers a mapping of thousands of plane journeys across the USA over time (based on East Coast time) so that the explosion of their frequency becomes like a fireworks display. Andrew McQualter’s fantastic acrylic paint wall drawings Three propositions, one example (2010-11), painted directly onto the gallery wall show various people, isolated from each other and from the viewer, talking and listening to their iPhones. As Robert Nelson comments, “They’re isolated individuals, all on their own plane, presumably doing social networking or communicating. If you walked past them, they wouldn’t respond because, with heads bowed, they’re absorbed in another reality. Their hands and minds are busy with a reality elsewhere.”

Present but not present, (not) here and there at the same time. This is a critical debate in contemporary culture: do these type of networks lessen our ability to build friendships and connections in the real world or are they just another element in our rhizomic network of associations that help with our interconnectivity: utopian or dystopian or equal measure of both? Does it really matter?

From the UK Kit Wise’s large digital print on aluminium series (including KTM SEA MOW RUH 2010, see below) are effective, offering solarised, negative, brightly coloured collages of seemingly atomised cities (the titles refer to the cities airport abbreviation codes). Mass Ornament (2009) by American artist Natalie Bookchin is one of my favourite works in the exhibition. In a horizontal panel of wall mounted screens play videos of people dancing in their bedroom. Bookchin has gleaned these gems from uploaded personal videos on YouTube – there are handstands, contortions, tap dancing, all manner of performances (some then deleted by the performer) – then collated by the artist and set to a Broadway-type music number. Mesmeric and amazing!

Koji Ryui’s spatial constructions Extended network towards the happy end of the universe (2007-11, see photograph below) are made of bendy, plastic drinking straws of different colours, encased and moulded into cellular shapes (reminding me of the white of the Melbourne Recital Centre exterior). Trailing off these structures in different colours are airborne-like filaments similar to the plant Old Man’s Beard. “Ryui repeats and arranges these objects in space to create peculiar environments and accidental narratives. In his installations, relationships or spaces between objects are equally as important as the objects themselves.” Wonderful.

Last but not least my favourite work in the exhibition: heart of the air you can hear by Sandra Selig (2011, see photographs below). The photographs do not do the work justice. Made simply from spun polyester, nails and paint this Spirograph-like construction is beautiful in its resonance and colour, captivating in its complexity. Built into a corner of the gallery the work floats at eye level, twists and turns and changes intensity of colour when viewed from different angles. From the front it looks like a spaceship out of Star Wars woven by light!

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There are many other excellent works in the exhibition that I have not mentioned. Some of the work disrupts the continual reiteration of norms by weaving a lack of fixity into the network’s existence. Other work visually makes comment on and reinforces the structure of such networks. Whichever it is this is a truly engaging exhibition that no single body, let alone a networked one, should miss.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Nelson, Robert. “Networks, Cells and Silos” review in The Age newspaper. Melbourne: Fairfax Media, 23/02/2011 [Online] Cited 23/03/2011
  2. Lumby, Catharine. “Nothing Personal: Sex, Gender and Identity in The Media Age,” in Matthews, Jill (ed.,). Sex in Public: Australian Sexual Cultures. St. Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1997, pp. 14-15
  3. Foucault, Michel cited in Thumlert, Kurt. Intervisuality, Visual Culture, and Education. [Online] Cited 01/04/2011 no longer available online
  4. “To understand the production of art at the end of tradition, which in our lifetime means art at the end of modernism, requires, as the postmodern debate has shown, a careful consideration of the idea of history and the notion of ending. Rather than just thinking ending as the arrival of the finality of a fixed chronological moment, it can also be thought as a slow and indecisive process of internal decomposition that leaves in place numerous deposits of us, in us and with us – all with a considerable and complex afterlife. In this context all figuration is prefigured. This is to say that the design element of the production of a work of art, the compositional, now exists prior to the management of form of, and on, the picture plane. Techniques of assemblage, like montage and collage – which not only juxtaposed different aesthetics but also different historical moments, were the precursors of what is now the general condition of production.”Fry, Tony. “Art Byting the Dust,” in Hayward, Phillip. Culture, Technology and Creativity in the Late Twentieth Century. London: John Libbey and Company, 1990, pp. 169-170

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Many thankx to Monash University Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Kerrie Poliness. 'Blue Wall Drawing #1' 2007-11

 

Kerrie Poliness
Blue Wall Drawing #1
2007-11

 

Hilarie Mais. 'The waiting - anon' 1986

 

Hilarie Mais
The waiting – anon
1986

 

 

An interview with the curator: Geraldine Barlow

Where did your interest in networks come from?

I’ve long been fascinated by network maps of human relationships – the graphical representation of something seemingly so complex and multi-layered. The structure of the brain and how this relates to theories of mind is also an area of personal interest. Our society, bodies and relationships are all made up of different kinds of networks, and artists have long been interested in mapping out these structures. I realised some time ago that the visual representation of networks might make for an interesting exhibition, from this point on I collected and ‘tested’ different ideas of what the exhibition might include.

How is this explored in the exhibition?

Human relationships feature in some of the works in the exhibition, but not all. I hope the exhibition offers a wide variety of links between people’s familiar world and daily experiences on the one hand, and more abstract ideas on the other.

There are a number of works from the Monash University Collection included in the exhibition. Can you tell us about these and why you selected them?

The Monash University Collection is a great source of inspiration, it is a wonderful collection, but also, I think any artwork considered closely and over time opens up in surprising ways and offers unexpected insights, working with the works in the collection over a period of years allows me to think about them in a long and slow way.

Dorothy Braund’s work Christ with the disciples listening 1966 was given to the University in 1974. It is a very beautiful formal painting of a series of shaded circles and ellipses. At first glance it is simple and seems to represent a ring of figures, their heads and bodies gathered together. On closer examination it is not so clear where one figure ends and another begins, as a whole the clustered forms seem to operate more like a cell. Historically this cell of men and the ideas attributed to them has had a profound impact, in their day they might have been seen as a kind of terrorist cell.

Through the sensitive composition and balance of abstract form, the artist has created a complex representation of the relationships between people: the ways in which we are both connected to each other, and yet might also circulate ideas in a tight ‘Chinese whispers’ type circle. This work was painted in 1966, long before our current awareness of social and telecommunications networks, but it can still offer us insights in our contemporary world and the way we relate to each other.

How did the new gallery space affect the installation of the exhibition?

The exhibition was slowly forming in my mind, even as Kerstin Thompson’s wonderful gallery space was being designed and built. The gallery has offered a wonderful armature and character for the exhibition to work with, hopefully in the manner of a conversation. Kerstin was been very interested in understand and reflecting the essential structure of the building, not building over what was pre-existing. The exhibition like-wise has an interest in structural models, geometries and patterns – in finding a balance between the regular and the slightly warped. In the central corridor which runs down the spine of the gallery, Thompson has chosen to leave the mechanical services exposed, to allow the essential structure of the building to be a form of ornament. Many of the artists in the exhibition also have an interest in the relationship between structure and ornament.

 

Sandra Selig. 'heart of the air you can hear' 2011

 

Sandra Selig
heart of the air you can hear
2011

 

Sandra Selig. 'heart of the air you can hear' 2011 (detail)

 

Sandra Selig
heart of the air you can hear (detail)
2011

 

Koji Ryui. 'Extended network towards the happy end of the universe' 2007-11

 

Koji Ryui
Extended network towards the happy end of the universe
2007-11

 

 

The connections between artistic representations of networks and the rapidly evolving field of network science are the subject of the latest exhibition at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA).

Presenting the work of Australian and international artists, NETWORKS (cells & silos) reflects the organising principles and dynamics of our increasingly networked society, and related patterns found in organic, social and engineered forms.

MUMA’s Senior Curator, Geraldine Barlow conceived and developed the exhibition as a way of continuing the dialogue about the role and effect of different networks in society.

“Art and aesthetics are often treated as very separate enclaves from science, physics and mathematics,” Barlow says. “But art offers us a way to re- contextualise our associations and interactions with the networks around us and look at the effect they have on us. I hope the exhibition will prompt people to think about the networks in their lives and how they mould and shape us.”

A key inspiration for the exhibition was Annamaria Tallas’ documentary, How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer, which features the work of network scientist Albert-László Barabási.

“The documentary explores the thesis that all networks – both natural and man-made – conform to a similar mathematical formula, with the same patterns emerging over and again,” Barlow said.

The artworks featured in NETWORKS (cells & silos) explore networks as diverse as those found in urban planning and cities, biology, organisations, travel and of course social networks, as well as the dual qualities of hyper-connectedness and isolation that technology has heightened in modern life.

Extending the dialogue about the possibilities of networks is of great interest to MUMA Director, Max Delany, particularly in the university context.

“Within a university we have a vast array of specialist disciplines – science, technology, humanities – all having conversations about how the world is and where we want to be heading,” Delany says. “Often these conversations are held in isolation from each other, but considered together, and from the standpoint of artists, the possibilities of collaborative networks become very exciting.”

This collaboration can be seen in Kerrie Poliness’ work Blue Wall Drawing #1 (2007/2011). Students from Monash University have created the piece, following the formal and conceptual guidelines set out by the artist. Each version of Poliness’ work creates unique patterns and networks as the collaborative team choose how to implement the drawing rules which are structured to allow a different outcome in each space where they are applied.

The exhibition’s accompanying publication contains essays from curator Geraldine Barlow, network and social theorists Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter, and science documentary filmmaker Annamaria Tallas, all exploring the exhibition’s theme. Digital and hard copies are available on request.

Press release from the Monash University Museum of Art

 

Bryan Spier. 'Shadowmath' 2010 (and) 'New descending' 2010

 

Bryan Spier
Shadowmath and New descending
both 2010

 

Kit Wise. 'KTM SEA MOW RUH' 2010

 

Kit Wise
KTM SEA MOW RUH
2010
Digital photograph

 

 

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA)
Ground Floor, Building F.
Monash University Caulfield campus
900 Dandenong Road
Caulfield East, VIC 3145
Phone: +61 3 9905 4217

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 12 – 5 pm

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) 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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