Archive for June, 2011

29
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘Eikoh Hosoe – Theatre of Memory’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 12th May – 7th August 2011

 

Many thankx to Susanne Briggs for her help and for AGNSW for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Eikoh Hosoe. 'Kazuo Ohno' 1980

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Kazuo Ohno
1980
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“The camera is generally assumed to be unable to depict that which is not visible to the eye. And yet the photographer who wields it well can depict what lies unseen in his memory.”

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Eikoh Hosoe

 

 

This exhibition brings together four seminal series by Eikoh Hosoe, a leading figure in modern Japanese photography. Taken over five decades, The butterfly dream 1960-2005, Kamaitachi 1965-68 and Ukiyo-e projections 2002-03 are driven by Hosoe’s longstanding fascination for the revolutionary dance movement butoh and for its charismatic founders, Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno. Together these series epitomise his unique style, which combines photography with elements of theatre, dance, film and traditional Japanese art, and uses mythology, metaphor and symbolism. Using the latest digital technology, Hosoe prints his photographs on washi paper, mounting them in the traditional Japanese manner as scrolls and folding screens, thereby suggesting a new way of ‘reading’ his series as a continuous narrative. Hosoe’s interest in examining the beauty and strength of the human body is best seen in his acclaimed series of extremely abstract nudes, Embrace 1969-70. The models are butoh dancers associated with Hijikata.

For over fifty years, internationally acclaimed Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe has been producing cutting edge works demonstrating a unique mastery of the photographic medium. Early on in his career he abandoned the documentary style prevalent in the post-war years and produced photographs that breathed a sense of experimentation and freedom into photography. By calling on mythology, metaphor and symbolism he created images that broke the bounds of traditional photography. Hosoe developed a unique style situated at the crossroads of several different art forms, combining photography with elements of theatre, dance, film and traditional Japanese art.

From the early days of his career Hosoe’s destiny became linked to butoh, the revolutionary performance movement formed in post-war Japan. His close relationship to Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno, the two pivotal figures of butoh dance, forms the basis for his seminal series such as Kamaitachi, Embrace, The butterfly dream and Ukiyo-e projections, included in this exhibition.

This exhibition also highlights Hosoe’s extraordinary creativity and mastery of photographic printing techniques. Having experimented with both film-based and digital techniques to develop new methods of photographic expression, in recent years, he has started to use digital printing technologies on Japanese handmade paper (washi) and mounts his works in the form of traditional Japanese scrolls and screens. These ‘photo-scrolls’ provide a fascinating new reading of Hosoe’s work and underline his commitment to push the boundaries of photographic expression.

Hosoe gained recognition in the late 1950s when he began to develop his close-ups of the human body. Embrace, a series of black-and-white, abstract nude photographs, encapsulates Hosoe’s strive for originality in this photographic genre.

Through the novelist, Yukio Mishima, Hosoe was to meet Tatsumi Hijikata, one of the founders of Butoh dance. After seeing Hijikata’s performance, adapted from the novel Kinjiki (Forbidden Colours) by Mishima in a small Tokyo theatre, Hosoe was inspired and began photographing the Butoh dancer, a collaboration which continued for many years and culminated in the series Kamaitachi (1965-1968). This series, shot on various locations in the rural Tohoku region, integrated elements of dance, theatre and documentary into a cinematic work that aimed to recreate and dramatise Hosoe’s childhood memories.

Hosoe’s association with Butoh also led him to photograph the renowned Butoh performer, Kazuo Ohno. Released in 2006 in celebration of Ohno’s 100th birthday, the series The butterfly dream is a poignant visual documentary of Ohno’s artistic development over 46 years. While they retain the drama intrinsic to Butoh, Hosoe’s photographs of Ohno focus in on details of Ohno’s body, the curve of a wrist or a facial expression caught between agony and ecstasy.

Hosoe’s latest colour work, Ukiyo-e Projections, revisits his early work by linking it into ukiyo-e and Butoh dance. This series was born when he found out that the experimental Asbestos Dance Studio, founded by Hijikata and his wife, was to close in 2003 after forty years of activity. Upon hearing about the closure, Hosoe felt the need to pay a photographic tribute “to express gratitude for all that it had produced.” Ukiyo-e Projections was completed on stage at the Studio during a series of sessions in 2002 and 2003. For this series Hosoe created what he calls a “photographic theatre,” projecting a mixture of his own photographs with ukiyo-e prints on to the white-painted bodies of young Butoh dancers. The series explores many of the themes that recur in his work: sexuality, the human form and movement.

Eikoh Hosoe: Theatre of Memory highlights Hosoe’s mastery of photography through his four seminal series, Embrace, Kamaitachi, The Butterfly Dream and Ukiyo-e Projections, showing Hosoe’s sensibility for theatre, performance and the human body. It further demonstrates his creativity and mastery of photographic printing techniques. Throughout his career Hosoe, a master printer, has experimented with both film-based and digital techniques to develop new methods of photographic expression. In recent years, he has combined new printing technologies with Japanese washi paper to present his work on traditionally made silk screens and scrolls.

This is the first solo exhibition of Hosoe’s works in Australia. Hosoe, 77, is currently completing a new series of works on the sculpture of Auguste Rodin. The exhibition Eikoh Hosoe – Theatre of memory is realised in collaboration with Studio Equis, France.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website

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Eikoh Hosoe. 'Kazuo Ohno' 1994 from the series 'The butterfly dream' 1960-2005

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Kazuo Ohno
1994
from the series The butterfly dream 1960-2005
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis

 

Eikoh Hosoe. 'Kazuo Ohno' 1996

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Kazuo Ohno
1996
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis

 

 

The Butterfly Dream

The butterfly dream – a collection of photographs taken over a period of 46 years – represents Hosoe’s homage to the charismatic butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno. It was published as a book, which was released on 27 October 2006 in celebration of Ohno’s 100th birthday.

Originally an instructor in physical education and performer of modern dance, Ohno befriended Tatsumi Hijikata in the 1950s and became a pivotal fi gure in the development of the butoh performance movement. Ohno’s poetic dance style stems from his belief in the transcendental nature of human experience, that the human body has a memory of sensations and knows no limits of self-expression.

Following closely his friend’s extremely long and successful career – Ohno continued to perform late into his 90s – Hosoe has captured some of the most poignant and magical moments in the history of butoh. In honour of Ohno’s long-held conviction in the importance of achieving freedom of body and mind, Hosoe named his photographic exploration of Ohno’s unique art after the famous Daoist allegory in which the philosopher Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, but once awake, wondered if he was a man dreaming to be a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming to be Zhuangzi.

 

Kamaitachi

Eikoh Hosoe’s long association with the revolutionary performance movement butoh came about through his encounter in 1959 with one of its founders, Tatsumi Hijikata. Hosoe collaborated with Hijikata on several series including Kamaitachi, which is acknowledged as the finest illustration of Hosoe’s hybrid photographic style, combining performance and documentary with a dramatic, virile aesthetic that embodies the founding principles of Hijikata’s ankoku butoh or ‘dance of darkness’.

The dramatic and intense energy that Hijikata generated with his dance not only captured Hosoe’s imagination but also opened up new ways for the young photographer to approach themes such as sexuality, gender and the human body.

Driven by the desire to re-enact his childhood memories when he was evacuated from Tokyo during World War Two, Hosoe had Hijikata perform kamaitachi, the legendary weasel-like demon that haunted the rice paddies in the extremely sparse, rural landscape of the Tohoku region from where they both came. Fusing reality (Hijikata interacting with the landscape and village people) and performance, Hosoe’s ‘subjective documentary’ series opened new ground in Japanese post-war photography.

 

Eikoh Hosoe. 'Kamaitachi #8' 1965

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Kamaitachi #8
1965
Gelatin silver print
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis

 

 

Kamaitachi: Toward a Vacuum’s Nest

Shuzo Takiguchi

“When we are photographed, our bodies and souls become the victims of sacrifice in a ritual that strips our shadows away. The Eskimo, believed that their spirits resided in their shadows and that shamans had the power to steal them. Sir James George Frazer’s Golden Bough is not the only work to recount the dazzling drama of fate, or of life and death, that unfolds between man and his shadow.

Like life, death comes and goes – perhaps for a short time, perhaps longer. Narcissus’s story will continue to dominate our lives in ways that will become increasingly complicated over time; however, the camera (or, according to villagers in Sikkim, “the evil eye in a box”) seems to have reduced us, in one fell swoop, to the physics of light and shade. The objective lens seems opened to all of Nature, where all roads lead. The fact is, however, that it turns upside down once in the darkness and then is transformed into Nature.

To what extent were Katsu Kaishu,1 Baudelaire, and other luminaries of the early modern era who posed before the camera – tenuously sustained by their recognition of Nature amid a strange confusion of affectation and narcissism – aware of the evil lurking in the lens? Whatever the case, we will eventually see that, like the naked eye, the lens exists always “in its savage state.”2 We are seldom aware of the bizarre fact (or perhaps we just accept it as a self-evident truth) that both the thieves of shadows (photographers) and the thieves’ victims (subjects) are human beings.

I find it almost impossible to believe that the camera could truly capture, for example, the desire of a bird in flight at a certain moment or at any moment. All too often, the photographer unknowingly loses sight of reality, and the reality runs or rolls away, just outside the frame. Or, surprisingly, reality may be there in a corner of the image, invisible and therefore completely unnoticed. And so here I am reminded of Man Ray’s trenchant modern maxim: “Photography is not art.”

Before we even look at the Kamaitachi images, I want to stress the importance of distinguishing them from the generic concept referred to as staged photography. They are strictly, categorically, different from posed photographs of modern narcissists. If Hosoe had not met Tatsumi Hijikata, the phenomenal butoh master, he could not have created this extraordinary series. Hijikata is a man who – metaphorically speaking – can transmogrify in an instant into a phantasmagorical bird. This is not even theatrical photography, but rather a rare instance in which the camera obscura becomes a theater. And it is the paradoxical existence of the camera – which can photograph a vast void when we mean to capture a concrete object – that proves to be a stroke of luck for Hijikata, the master of movement.

Like the lens, Hijikata is a unique dancer, always aware that the “eye exists in its savage state.” 3 His “dance experience” is never a matter of leaping across a stage, pretending to be a swan: if a bird is what he has in mind, Hijikata becomes a raven. The raven plunges to the ground far below the stage. Then it runs, if it wants to run, or flies, if it wants to fly. For Hijikata, hasn’t the paradoxical vacuum dwelling in the camera become a divine machine at a certain moment? Then, voluntarily or involuntarily, we may reach the lights of purgatory, for which we have yearned, beyond the millennia of human history.

At the very least, I see here an inevitable force striving to preserve the relationship between photographer and subject. In all likelihood, no other work approaches the original meaning of the term “happening” (however simplified it may be in this case) as closely as this one. Tatsumi Hijikata uses his dance artistry to abruptly penetrate the center of the vacuum between time and space, and he descends to the ground closest to the place where we were born.

He has arrived at the vacuum’s nest, the home of kamaitachi, the “sickle-weasel.”

Today it would seem that the kamaitachi belong to legend and mythology. What are kamaitachi? Memories from my childhood flood back to me: my father was a country doctor, and several times I saw farmers, claiming to have been bitten by a kamaitachi, carried to the threshold of our house. Those were frightening moments, smelling of blood, like the first bolt of lightning streaking across a dark sky. I heard the farmers say they were attacked out of the blue, under a rice-drying rack or an ancient persimmon tree. But no one bore a grudge against that invisible weasel. In fact, a family of actual weasels made their home in the loft of the thatched shed behind our house. Every once in a while, I would see them dart across a field, always taking the shortest path and then disappearing. They lived among people but avoided them. The rumour was that the disreputable little creatures were so wary and agile that they never took the same path twice. I wonder whatever happened to them. One book defines kamaitachi as a laceration from the localized vacuum created by a dust devil. No one really knows the truth. The days of kamaitachi are long gone.

Was kamaitachi a spirit of the soil, a phantom that appeared only to farmers? If so, that invisible flying blade must have been incredibly sharp to leap through the sky and pierce flesh.

It is hard to say whether Tatsumi Hijikata is a spirit of the soil or the air; however, even before we can contemplate the question, he approaches the ground almost vertically and rushes like a gale into a farming village. This village is in a rice-growing district, where Japan’s most inconsistent and absurd social reality anomalously persists. Hijikata appears suddenly, like a hawk diving to the ground – or a kidnapper from heaven.

The god of the rice fields smiles on this scene. A faint trace of that smile is on the kagura theatrical dance mask, but it isn’t the embarrassed smile replayed endlessly on television. It is a smile that could exist among demons, a smile that was present even on a footpath between barren rice fields during a terrible famine, a startling but comical smile from the realm of the unconscious.

At a precise moment, our dancer and photographer approach a timeworn village – their footsteps only faintly audible – and they capture a brief moment in the empty village, where zinnias and other flowers bloom, coated with white soil dust. The entire village, mesmerized like a haunted house, enthrals them.

Is he a hawk that has just landed – or a leaping weasel? It is foolish to ask. It is our dancer who would be wounded. The villagers gaze at him innocently, as though he reminds them of a long-forgotten priest. They smile, without knowing why, at the arrival of the oblivious fool. Their smiles become the same smile of the footpath between rice fields. It is a smile that borders on terror.

A girl smiles like a shrine maiden whom the gods have endowed with evil and innocence in perfect balance. Were the girls born fairies? Sooner or later they will experience the orgasm of life and death. Then they will depart. Will they return to the earth or to the sky? No one knows which path they will take.

In any case, two contradictory, endless journeys await them.

Hairy vacuum! Bloody vacuum! Biting vacuum! You must continue to exist on this earth!

The desire for the heavens will inexorably lead to a desire for the bowels of the earth. Then the excrescence will head for the huge void, and vice versa. The cosmic metamorphosis that this phenomenon seeks will occur, extremely and tangibly. The vacuum theater, too, is part of the evolution.

To arrive at the source of the phantom of ecstasy, we must dig deeper and deeper, day by day.

And the witness is an instantaneous flash.”

by Shuzo Takiguchi
Translated by Connie Prener

 

  1. Officer credited with the modernisation of Japan’s navy (1823-1899)
  2. Allusion to Andre Breton’s Le Surréalisme et la peinture
  3. Ibid.,

 

Eikoh Hosoe. 'Embrace #52' 1970

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Embrace #52
1970
Gelatin silver print
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis

 

 

Embrace

First published as a book in 1971, Embrace represents a return to the study of the human body that Hosoe undertook in earlier series such as Man and woman (1959) or Ordeal by roses (1963). In this new body of work, however, he abandoned the strong contrast and dramatic, baroque visual aesthetic in favour of the purity of the human form. Showing abstract fragments of male and female nudes in intimate placement, the series is not merely about eroticism or the dialogue of rivalry between the opposite sexes but is also a celebration of the pure beauty of the human body.

By depersonalising the bodies of his models, Hosoe attempted to reach a universal expression of corporeality. The extreme abstraction of these images focuses the attention on the flesh, which, according to Hosoe’s belief, is the essence of human beings.

The author Yukio Mishima comments on this series: ‘The viscosity which is associated with sex – those earthly odours and temperatures of soft and indeterminately formed internal organs – has been painstakingly removed from these photographs. To me this is a series filled with a hard, athletic beauty. First and foremost, it is about form.’

 

Ukiyo-e Projections

When Hosoe heard the news that the Asbestos Dance Studio, founded by Tatsumi Hijikata and his wife Akiko Motofuji, was to close in April 2003 after 40 years of activity, he felt the need to pay tribute to the achievements of this experimental studio. With the help of Hijikata’s widow, he organised a series of performances in 2002 and 2003, in which the dancers were asked to coordinate their movements in accordance with images from his own work, as well as from 19th-century Japanese paintings and woodblock prints projected on their naked, white-painted bodies.

The result of this ‘photographic theatre’ was stunning: a mysterious four-dimensional space transcending ordinary space and time was created as the two-dimensional images were projected on the three-dimensional bodies. The idea to use shunga – the erotic woodblock prints by noted ukiyo-e artists such as Utamaro, Hokusai and others – stemmed from Hosoe’s conviction that Hijikata’s archaic, ecstatic dance style had its roots in this particular art genre of the Edo period (1603-1868).

Exploring many of the themes that recur in Hosoe’s work – sexuality, the human form, movement and the passage of time – this series epitomises his unique approach in synthesising photography with various forms of visual and performance arts.

 

Eikoh Hosoe. 'Ukiyo-e Projections #2-36' 2003

 

Eikoh Hosoe (Japanese, b. 1933)
Ukiyo-e Projections #2-36
2003
© Eikoh Hosoe/Courtesy Studio Equis

 

 

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

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26
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘Series of Portraits. A century of photographs’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 1st April – 17th July 2011

 

Many thankx to Michaela Hille for her help and to Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

 

Nan Goldin. 'All by Myself' 1993-1996 (detail)

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
All by Myself (detail)
1993-1996
Project installation with 89 color slides and programmed soundtrack, running time: 5 min. 33 sec
© Nan Goldin/Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Dauerleihgabe F. und W. Stiftung fur zeitgenossische Kunst in der Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Nan Goldin. 'All by Myself' 1993-1996 (detail)

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
All by Myself (detail)
1993-1996
Project installation with 89 colour slides and programmed soundtrack, running time: 5 min. 33 sec
© Nan Goldin/Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Dauerleihgabe F. und W. Stiftung fur zeitgenossische Kunst in der Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Kyungwoo Chun (Korean, b. 1969) 'Thirty-Minute Dialogue #1' 2000

 

Kyungwoo Chun (Korean, b. 1969)
Thirty-Minute Dialogue #1
2000
Gelatin silver print
40 x 50 cm
© Kyungwoo Chun

 

August Sander. 'Jungbauern, Westerwald, 1914' 1914

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Jungbauern, Westerwald, 1914
1914, printed 1962
Gelatin silver print
28.5 x 21.9 cm
© Photograph. Samml./SK Stiftung Kultur – A. Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Foto: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

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August Sander. 'Notar, Köln, 1924' 1924

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Notar, Köln, 1924
1924, printed 1962
Gelatin silver print
29.1 x 20.5 cm
© Photograph. Samml./SK Stiftung Kultur – A. Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Foto: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) [Farmer, Westerwald (Bauer, Westerwald)] 1910

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
[Farmer, Westerwald (Bauer, Westerwald)]
1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The first section of People of the Twentieth Century is dedicated to the farmer. It begins with a Stammappe, or portfolio of archetypes. Usually three-quarter-length portraits, the photographs depict old farming men, women, and couples seated in their homes or against a natural backdrop. Each is captioned to suggest the fundamental role played by the individual in a balanced society. Sander referred to this farmer as the “earthbound man.” Other archetypes include the “philosopher,” the “fighter or revolutionary,” and the “sage.” All had female counterparts, while couples were labeled as “propriety and harmony.”

Identifying this figure as the “earthbound man,” Sander forged an implicit reference to the soil as a source of livelihood. The farmer’s hands grasp the cane, which keeps him upright and connected to the earth.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 04/02/2020

 

Helmar Lerski

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Old Working Woman from Germany (left)
1928-31
Gelatin silver print

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Beggar from Saxony (right)
1928-31
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The portraits in Lerski’s Everyday Heads show unemployed workers whom the photographer met at a Berlin job centre where he hired them to sit for him. Old Working Woman from Germany 1928-31 is a close-up shot of a woman’s face, eyes down and mouth shut as though she is quietly contemplating something outside of the picture’s frame (left, above). It is impossible to tell whether this meditative look, a common feature of his portraits, was suggested by Lerski but it is evident that he was in control of nearly every aspect of his pictures. An experienced movie cameraman, he used artificial light reflected by mirrors and screens to give his models an aura and monumentality that people would be familiar with from expressionist feature films. Oblique angles, in line with modernist sensibilities, helped to reinforce the impression of grandeur. He also cropped the images and introduced extra screens so as to eliminate the space around his models heads, and any details from what remained of the background. This also served on occasions to compromise the integrity of the subject’s face though, in other cases, he preferred to blur the contours of the face using strong shadows, as can be seen in Beggar from Saxony 1928-31 (right, above). The results produced a general notion of everyday people rather than an endorsement of individuality as praised in traditional portraiture. Like Sander and Retzlaff, Lerski only gave the individuals’ professions in the captions, and was keen not to exemplify their class affiliation or social rank. The pictures provide no information about either, focusing instead on the face. In this way Lerski enhanced the common human dignity normally ignored in ‘everyday’ faces, and more especially in those humiliated by unemployment during the post-1929 economic crisis.

Wolfgang Brückle. “Face-Off in Weimar Culture: The Physiognomic Paradigm, Competing Portrait Anthologies, and August Sander’s Face of Our Time,” in Tate Papers No.19 Spring 2013 [Online] Cited 04/20/2020

 

Michael Schmidt. From the 81-part series 'Women' 1997-1999

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Aus der 81-teiligen serie Frauen
From the 81-part series Women
1997-1999
Gelatin silver print
44.1 x 29.9 cm
© Michael Schmidt
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

 

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Montemor, Portugal, May 1, 1994
1994
C-Print, 35,2 x 27,8 cm
© Rineke Dijkstra
Foto/Photo: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Haus der Photographie/Sammlung F. C. Gundlach, Hamburg

 

 

The exhibition comprises 400 exhibits and reflects on important artistic positions in photographic portraiture. During the eventful 20th century portrait photography continually redefines itself, between dissolution of the traditional concept of the subject in the masses and the pursuit of individuality and identity – culturally, socially and in terms of gender. Portraiture is one of the traditional genres in art and was one of the driving forces behind the invention of photography in the 19th century. The image of the human being is subject to constant change, which is also reflected in photography. In postmodern society mass media create ever-changing ideals according to various requirements in tune with a quick succession of trends. Art photography responds to the changes and reflects the development sometimes with spectacular results while it questions the medium of photography itself. The exhibition presents 35 carefully chosen international artists, who through history have opened up a dialogue among themselves; they are referencing each other’s work, and are received and interpreted in ever new contexts. On show are works by Diane Arbus, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Roni Horn, Jurgen Klauke, Annie Leibovitz, Helmar Lerski, Irving Penn, Judith Joy Ross, Thomas Ruff, August Sander, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol and others. An exhibition in cooperation with the Sammlung Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung on the occasion of the 5th Photography Triennial in Hamburg.

“The PORTRAIT-PHOTOGRAPH is a closed field of forces. Four image-repertoires intersect here, oppose and distort each other. In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.” (Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, London, 1984, p. 13). The photographic portrait does indeed combine contrary interests. The relationship between photographer and sitter is crucial. The third factor is the viewer, who is already being considered during the process of photographing. In the knowledge of the particular psychological situation resulting from the presence of a camera, Richard Avedon laconically stated: A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed.” The sitters’ reactions to the camera differ, depending on how experienced they are. Fact is: It is not possible to not communicate, as Paul Watzlawick’s research on communication shows. People demean themselves, even if they withdraw or turn away.

The confrontation climaxes in the principle of frontality, which remains valid today although it is constantly being tried and questioned. The project Serial Portraits invites the visitor on a journey through time starting from the beginnings with Hermann Biow’s (1804-1850) daguerreotypes, David Octavius Hill’s (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson’s (1821-1848) talbotypes up to the digital present with Michael Najjar’s (b. 1966) cyborgs, and wondering whether classical portraiture has come to its end.

The beginning includes a model case, where due to the long exposure necessary the models do not live out of the moment but into the moment, as Walter Benjamin said (Little History of Photography, 1931). Thirty-Minute Dialogue by Kyungwoo Chun (b. 1969) from 2000 is examining the synthesis of expression, which is necessitated by the models’ keeping still for so long. An exposure time of half an hour allows the work to penetrate the depths of the pictorial space.

The creativity of the 1920s and the New Vision inspires a “visual vocabulary” appropriate for modernity. Its different forms can be seen in the individual responses of photographers such as August Sander (1876-1964). Being a typical studio photographer, he works on a typology of “man of the 20th century”, beginning with the agricultural type, his Stammappe (engl.: Germinal Portfolio) being a memorial to the latter. Helmar Lerski (1871-1956) takes a different stance; having originally worked in film, he is photographing his Everyday Heads in extreme close-ups. Making use of effective lighting in his studio, he invites unknown sitters from the street and fashions characteristic heads.

Sander’s oeuvre represents a turning point for comparative vision as a genuine principle in series. Considering photography of the 1920s and questioning the photographer’s position as well as the medium itself, author-photography in the 1970s is developing a new idea of documentary. Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is testing the limits, when he presupposes that photography can merely reflect the surface of things. Bernhard Fuchs is adding a personal touch when he is seeking out the places of his own past. The great portrait photographer Irving Penn is cornering his celebrities in a corner of his studio and allows them to find their place, according to their inclinations and abilities to self-represent.

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) is holding a one-sided dialog, certainly not giving equal weight to the photographer’s interests and that of her models. While the frontality signals the conventionally due deference, the complex composition of her pictures is dominated by the superior gaze directed at the supposedly others, the freaks of bourgeois society. Until now Arbus is misinterpreted as a documentary photographer. It is being ignored that photography inevitably presents a specific view of reality and that the viewer’s position has been carefully constructed within the picture.

Only pictures that have been taken without the awareness of those represented document a found situation at the same time as they present a monologue. Heinrich Riebesehl (1938-2010) chose this method for his series Menschen im Fahrstuhl (engl.: People in an Elevator), which he completed in just one day. In a moment of pause people can reflect and are not forced to react to being observed. In his pictures the photographer respects their individuality without judging social differences.

Examples for comparability as principle in a series can be found early on. Hermann Biow’s (1804-1850) daguerreotypes as unique copies of the members of parliament in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt from 1848/1849 were later reproduced as lithographs and distributed in portfolios. These politicians were the direct successors to the galleries of ancestral portraits in stately homes, whereby the new medium was democratic. Rudolph Duhrkoop’s Hamburgische Männer und Frauen amAnfang des XX. Jahrhunderts (engl.: Men and Women of Hamburg in the Early XXth Century) represent the citizens in this tradition.

Since 1975 Nicholas Nixon (b. 1974) is extending the series The Brown Sisters every year. His study is observing changes, while Hans-Peter Feldmann (b. 1941) is representing a century through 101 average people in his sequence 100 Jahre (engl.: 100 Years). It is fascinating, how the uniqueness of each person even if they remain anonymous is transported in the photographic portrait. Judith Joy Ross’ (b. 1946) series Protesting the U. S. War in Iraq documents a seriousness in the sitters’ faces, the political dimension of which can only be fully grasped with the information on the context. As with every photograph the title or accompanying text is part of the message.

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg website

 

Michael Najjar (German, b. 1966) 'Stephan_2.0' from the 'nexus project part I' 1999

 

Michael Najjar (German, b. 1966)
Stephan_2.0 from the nexus project part I
1999
Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec
140 x 100 cm / 56 x 40 in, edition of 6

 

 

Nexus Project

The series “nexus project part I” investigates the implications of the future enhancement of the human brain with miniaturised computer chips, infiltrated in the neuronal structures of the human organism.

Such a development will give birth to a new form of life – the cyborg, a hybrid compound of human and machine. A new set of questions are raised concerning issues of difference and identification between biologically correct beings and technically or genetically enhanced humans.

This development brings with it a host of new concerns: What impact will neuro-implants have on human consciousness? How will society cope with this kind of being, and what implications will they have for our social and cultural interaction?

“nexus project part I” consists of eight photographic portraits. These have undergone a digital modification of the iris, which gives the portrait faces an intimidating, almost inhuman look whilst at the same time it exerts a strong direct fascination on the viewer.

The highly charged poles of tensions and cross-tensions between fascination and intimidation also shape the para-meters in which the future development of human being to hybrid organism will take place.

Text from the Michael Najjar website [Online] Cited 04/02/2020

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010) 'Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)' 1969

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010)
Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)
1969
Gelatin silver print

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010) 'Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)' 1969

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010)
Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)
1969
Gelatin silver print

 

Andy Warhol. 'Self-Portrait in Drag (Platinum Pageboy Wig)' 1981

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Self-Portrait in Drag (Platinum Pageboy Wig)
1981
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Andy Warhol. 'Self-Portrait in Drag (Long Reddish-Brown Wig and Plaid Tie)' 1981/82

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Self-Portrait in Drag (Long Reddish-Brown Wig and Plaid Tie)
1981/82
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Andy Warhol. 'Self-Portrait in Drag' 1981

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Self-Portrait in Drag
1981
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Roni Horn. 'Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)' 2005

 

Roni Horn (American, b. 1955)
Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)
2005
50 Fotografien (Version 1)
Color Print, je 38,1 x 31,8 cm
© Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

Roni Horn. 'Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)' 2005

 

Roni Horn (American, b. 1955)
Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)
2005
50 Fotografien (Version 1)
Color Print, je 38,1 x 31,8 cm
© Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946) 'Jane C. Keller, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania' from the series 'Protest the War' 2006

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946)
Jane C. Keller, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, from the series Protest the War
2006
Gelatin silver print

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946) 'Lynn Estomin, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania' from the series 'Protest the War' 2006

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946)
Lynn Estomin, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, from the series Protest the War
2006
Gelatin silver print

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, East Greenwich, R.I.' 1980

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters, East Greenwich, R.I.
1980
Gelatin silver print

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Boston' 2012

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters, Boston
2012
Gelatin silver print

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850) 'Heinrich Jakob Venedey' 1848

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850)
Heinrich Jakob Venedey
1848
Daguerreotype
20.8 x 15.4 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

 

 

Hermann Biow was an important German daguerreotypist in the early days of photography. Biow became known through his portrait photography during his lifetime. He portrayed politicians, celebrities and wealthy citizens, including Franz Liszt, Alexander von Humboldt and Friedrich Wilhelm IV. He is also known for his parliamentarian portraits of the first German National Assembly in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt in 1848/49. Today Biow is primarily seen as the founder of German documentary photography.

A daguerreotype of Heinrich Jakob Venedey from 1848 made by Hermann Biow in Frankfurt. Venedey (1805-1871) was a member of the German National Assembly in Frankfurt’s Paulskirche in 1848/49 as a deputy for Hessen-Homburg. The lawyer belonged to the factions Deutscher Hof and Westendhall of the National Assembly. (Text translated from the German Wikipedia)

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850) 'Heinrich Joseph Gerhard Compes' 1848

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850)
Heinrich Joseph Gerhard Compes
1848
Daguerreotype
20.4 x 14.8 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

 

 

A daguerreotype of Heinrich Joseph Gerhard Compes (that’s Gerhard Compes) from 1848 by Hermann Biow in Frankfurt. Compes was a member of the German National Assembly in Frankfurt’s Paulskirche in 1848/49 as a deputy for the 19th province of Rhineland (Siegburg). The Cologne lawyer belonged to the Württemberger Hof faction of the National Assembly. (Text translated from the German Wikipedia)

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Portrait (C. Bernhard)' 1985

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Portrait (C. Bernhard)
1985
Color Print, 24 x 18 cm
© Thomas Ruff/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Portrait (T. Ruff)' 1983

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Portrait (T. Ruff)
1983
Color Print, 24 x 18 cm
Thomas Ruff/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday until 9 pm

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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22
Jun
11

Review: ‘American Dreams: 20th century photography from George Eastman House’ at Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria

Exhibition dates: 16th April – 10th July 2011

 

Gertrude Käsebier. 'The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)
1903
Platinum print
Gift of Hermine Turner
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

 

This is a fabulous survey exhibition of the great artists of 20th century American photography, a rare chance in Australia to see such a large selection of vintage prints from some of the masters of photography. If you have a real interest in the history of photography you must see this exhibition, showing as it is just a short hour and a half drive (or train ride) from Melbourne at Bendigo Art Gallery.

I talked with the curator, Tansy Curtin, and asked her about the exhibition’s gestation. This is the first time an exhibition from the George Eastman House has come to Australia and the exhibition was 3-4 years in the making. Tansy went to George Eastman House in March last year to select the prints; this was achieved by going through solander box after solander box of vintage prints and seeing what was there, what was available and then making work sheets for the exhibition – what a glorious experience this would have been, undoing box after box to reveal these magical prints!

The themes for the exhibition were already in the history of photography and Tansy has chosen almost exclusively vintage prints that tell a narrative story, that make that story accessible to people who know little of the history of photography. With that information in mind the exhibition is divided into the following sections:

Photography becomes art; The photograph as social document; Photographing America’s monuments; Abstraction and experimentation; Photojournalism and war photography; Fashion and celebrity portraiture; Capturing the everyday; Photography in colour; Social and environmental conscience; and The contemporary narrative.

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There are some impressive, jewel-like contact prints in the exhibition. One must remember that, for most of the photographers working after 1940, exposure, developing and printing using Ansel Adams Zone System (where the tonal range of the negative and print can be divided into 11 different ‘zones’ from 0 for absolute black and to 10 for absolute white) was the height of technical sophistication and aesthetic choice, equal to the best gaming graphics from today’s age. It was a system that I used in my black and white film development and printing. Film development using a Pyrogallol staining developer (the infamous ‘pyro’, a developer I tried to master without success in a few trial batches of film) was also technically difficult but the ability of this developer to obtain a greater dynamic range of zones in the film itself was outstanding.

“The Zone System provides photographers with a systematic method of precisely defining the relationship between the way they visualise the photographic subject and the final results… An expressive image involves the arrangement and rendering of various scene elements according to photographer’s desire. Achieving the desired image involves image management (placement of the camera, choice of lens, and possibly the use of camera movements) and control of image values. The Zone System is concerned with control of image values, ensuring that light and dark values are rendered as desired. Anticipation of the final result before making the exposure is known as visualisation.”1

Previsualisation, the ability of the photographer to see ‘in the mind’s eye’ the outcome of the photograph (the final print) before even looking through the camera lens to take the photograph, was an important skill for most of these photographers. This skill has important implications for today’s photographers, should they choose to develop this aspect of looking: not as a mechanistic system but as a meditation on the possibilities of each part of the process, the outcome being an expressive print.

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A selection of the best photographs in the exhibition could include,

1. An original 1923 Alfred Steiglitz Equivalent contact print – small (approx. 9cm x 12cm, see below), intense, the opaque brown blacks really strong, the sun shining brightly through the velvety clouds. In the Equivalents series the photograph was purely abstract, standing as a metaphor for another state of being, in this case music. A wonderful melding of the technical and the aesthetic the Equivalents “are generally recognised as the first photographs intended to free the subject matter from literal interpretation, and, as such, are some of the first completely abstract photographic works of art.”2

2. Paul Strand Blind (1915, printed 1945) – printed so dark that you cannot see the creases in the coat of the blind woman with a Zone 3 dark skin tone.

3. Lewis Hine [Powerhouse mechanic] see below, vintage 1920 print full of subtle tones. Usually when viewing reproductions of this image it is either cropped or the emphasis is on the body of the mechanic; in this print his skin tones are translucent, silvery and the emphasis is on the man in unison with the machine. The light is from the top right of the print and falls not on him directly, but on the machinery at upper right = this is the emotional heart of this image!

4. Three tiny vintage Tina Modotti prints from c. 1929 – so small, such intense visions. I have never seen one original Modotti before so to see three was just sensational.

5. Walker Evans View of Morgantown, West Virginia vintage 1935 print – a cubist dissection of space and the image plane with two-point perspective of telegraph pole with lines.

6. An Edward S. Curtis photogravure Washo Baskets (1924, from the portfolio The North American Indian) – such a sumptuous composition and the tones…

7. Ansel Adams 8″ x 10″ contact print of Winter Storm (1944, printed 1959, see above) where the blackness of the mountain on the left hand side of the print was almost impenetrable and, because of the large format negative, the snow on the rock in mid-distance was like a sprinkling of icing sugar on a cake it was that sharp.

8. A most splendid print of the Chrysler Building (vintage 1930 print, approx. 48 x 34  cm) by Margaret Bourke-White – tonally rich browns, smoky, hazy city at top; almost like a platinum print rather than a silver gelatin photograph. The bottom left of the print was SO dark but you could still see into the shadows just to see the buildings.

9. An original Robert Capa 1944 photograph from the Omaha Beach D Day landings!

10. Frontline soldier with canteen, Saipan (1944, vintage print) by W Eugene Smith where the faces of the soldiers were almost Zone 2-3 and there was nothing in the print above zone 5 (mid-grey) – no physical and metaphoric light.

11. One of the absolute highlights: two vintage Edward Weston side by side, the form of one echoing the form of the other; Nude from the 50th Anniversary Portfolio 1902 – 1952 (1936, printed 1951), an 8″ x 10″ contact print side by side with an 8″ x 10″ contact print of Pepper No. 30 (vintage 1930 print). Nothing over zone 7 in the skin tones of the nude, no specular highlights; the sensuality in the pepper just stunning – one of my favourite prints of the day – look at the tones, look at the light!

12. Three vintage Aaron Siskind (one of my favourite photographers) including two early prints from 1938 – wow. Absolutely stunning.

13. Harry Callahan. That oh so famous image of Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago (vintage 1953 print) that reminds me of the work of Jeffrey Smart (or is it the other way around). The wonderful space around the figures, the beautiful composition, the cobblestones and the light – just ravishing.

14. The absolute highlight: Three vintage Diane Arbus prints in a row – including a 15″ square image from the last series of work Untitled (6) (vintage 1971 print, see above) – the year in which she committed suicide. This had to be the moment of the day for me. This has always been one of my favourite photographs ever and it did not disappoint; there was a darkness to the trees behind the three figures and much darker grass (zone 3-4) than I had ever imagined with a luminous central figure. The joyousness of the figures was incredible. The present on the ground at the right hand side was a revelation – usually lost in reproductions this stood out from the grass like you wouldn’t believe in the print. Being an emotional person I am not afraid to admit it, I burst into tears…

15. And finally another special… Two vintage Stephen Shore chromogenic colour prints from 1976 where the colours are still true and have not faded. This was incredible – seeing vintage prints from one of the early masters of colour photography; noticing that they are not full of contrast like a lot of today’s colour photographs – more like a subtle Panavision or Technicolor film from the early 1960s. Rich, subtle, beautiful hues. For a contemporary colour photographer the trip to Bendigo just to see these two prints would be worth the time and the car trip/rail ticket alone!

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Not everything is sweetness and light. The print by Dorothea Lange Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California is a contemporary print from 2003, the vintage print having just been out on loan; the contemporary section, ‘The contemporary narrative’, is very light on, due mainly to the nature of the holdings of George Eastman House; and there are some major photographers missing from the line up including Minor White, Fredrick Sommer, Paul Caponigro, Wynn Bullock and William Clift to name just a few.

Of more concern are the reproductions in the catalogue, the images for reproduction supplied by George Eastman House and the catalogue signed off by them. The reproduction of Margaret Bourke-White’s Chrysler Building (1930, see below) bears no relationship to the print in the exhibition and really is a denigration to the work of that wonderful photographer. Other reproductions are massively oversized, including the Alfred Stieglitz Equivalent, Lewis Hine’s Powerhouse mechanic (see below) and Tina Modotti’s Woman Carrying Child (c. 1929). In Walter Benjamin’s terms (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) the aura of the original has been lost and these reproductions further erode the authenticity of the original in their infinite reproducability. Conversely, it could be argued that the reproduction auraticizes the original:

“The original artwork has become a device to sell its multiply-reproduced derivatives; reproductability turned into a ploy to auraticize the original after the decay of aura…”3

In other words, after having seen so many reproductions when you actually see the original –  it is like a bolt of lightning, the aura that emanates from the original. This is so true of this exhibition but it still begs the question: why reproduce in the catalogue at a totally inappropriate size? Personally, I believe that the signification of the reproduction (in terms of size and intensity of visualisation) is so widely at variance with the original one must question the decision to reproduce at this size knowing that this variance is a misrepresentation of the artistic interpretation of the author.

In conclusion, this is a sublime exhibition well worthy of the time and energy to journey up to Bendigo to see it. A true lover of classical American black and white and colour photography would be a fool to miss it!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Anon. “Zone System,” on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 13/06/2011
  2. Anon. “Equivalents,” on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 13/06/2011
  3. Huyssen, Andreas. Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia. London: Routledge, 1995, pp. 23-24

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Many thankx to Tansy Curtin, Senior Curator, Programs and Access at Bendigo Art Gallery for her time and knowledge when I visited the gallery; and to Bendigo Art 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.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Equivalent' 1923

 

Actual size of print: 9.2 x 11.8 cm
Size of print in catalogue: 18.5 x 13.9 cm

These two photographs represent a proportionate relation between the two sizes as they appear in print and catalogue but because of monitor resolutions are not the actual size of the two prints.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Equivalent' 1923

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Equivalent
1923
Gelatin silver print
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film 

 

Lewis Hine [Powerhouse mechanic] 1920 catalogue size

 

Actual size of print: 16.9 x 11.8 cm
Size of print in catalogue: 23.2 x 15.8 cm

These two photographs represent a proportionate relation between the two sizes as they appear in print and catalogue but because of monitor resolutions are not the actual size of the two prints.

 

Lewis Hine. [Powerhouse mechanic] 1920 catalogue size

 

Lewis Hine
[Powerhouse mechanic]
1920
Gelatin silver print
Transfer from the Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee, ex-collection Corydon Hine
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

Margaret Bourke-White. 'Chrysler Building' New York City, 1930

 

As it approximately appears in the exhibition (above, from my notes, memory and comparing the print in the exhibition with the catalogue reproduction)

Below, as the reproduction appears in the catalogue (scanned)

 

Margaret Bourke-White. 'Chrysler Building' New York City, 1930

 

Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904-1971)
Chrysler Building
New York City
1930
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

An exhibition of treasures from arguably the world’s most important photographic museum, George Eastman House, has been developed by Bendigo Art Gallery. The exhibition American Dreams will bring, for the first time, eighty of some of the most iconic photographic images from the 20th Century to Australia.

The choice of works highlights the trailblazing role these American artists had on the world stage in developing and shaping the medium, and the impact these widely published images had on the greater community.

Curator Tansy Curtin, who worked closely with George Eastman House developing the exhibition commented, “Through these images we can recognise the extraordinary ability of these artists, and their pivotal role influencing the evolution of photography. Their far-reaching images helped shape American culture, and impacted on the fundamental role photography has in communications today. Even more than this we can see through these artists the burgeoning love of photography that engaged a nation.”

Through these images we can see not only the development of photography, but also as some of the most powerful social documentary photography of last century, we see extraordinary moments captured in the lives of a wide range of Americans. The works distil the dramatic transformation that affected people during the 20th century – the affluence, degradation, loss, hope and change – both personally and throughout society.

The role of photography in nation building is exemplified in Ansel Adams’ majestic portraits of Yosemite national park, Bourke-White’s Chrysler building and images of migrants and farm workers during the Depression. Tansy Curtin added, “We see the United States ‘growing up’ through photography. We see hopes raised and crushed and the inevitable striving for the American Dream.” Director of Bendigo Art Gallery Karen Quinlan said, “We are thrilled to have been given this unprecedented opportunity to work with this unrivalled photographic archive. The resulting exhibition American Dreams, represents one of the most important and comprehensive collections of American 20th Century photography to come to Australia.”

George Eastman House holds over 400,000 images from the invention of photography to the present day. George Eastman, one time owner of the home in which the archives are housed, founded Kodak and revolutionised and democratised photography around the world. Eastman is considered the grandfather of snapshot photography.

American Dreams is one of the first exhibitions from this important collection to have been curated by an outside institution. It will be the first time Australian audiences have been given the opportunity to engage with this vast archive.

Press release from the Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Alfred Steiglitz. [Georgia O'Keefe hand on back tire of Ford V8] 1933

 

Alfred Steiglitz (American, 1864-1946)
[Georgia O’Keefe hand on back tire of Ford V8]
1933
gelatin silver print
Part purchase and part gift from Georgia O’Keefe
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

Walker Evans. 'Torn Poster, Truro, Massachusetts' 1930

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Torn Poster, Truro, Massachusetts
1930
gelatin silver contact print
Purchased with funds from National Endowment for the Arts
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California' 1936, printed c. 2003

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California
1936, printed c. 2003
Photogravure print
Gift of Sean Corcoran
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Kern County California' 1938

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Kern County California
1938
Gelatin silver print
Exchange with Roy Stryker
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

Ansel Adams. 'Winter Storm' 1942

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Winter Storm
1942
Gelatin silver print

 

Diane Arbus. 'Untitled (6)' 1971

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Untitled (6)
1971
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Bendigo Art Gallery
42 View Street Bendigo
Victoria Australia 3550
Phone: 03 5434 6088

Opening hours:
Bendigo Art Gallery is open daily 10 am – 5 pm

Bendigo Art Gallery website

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19
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘HIJACKED 2: Australia/Germany’ at the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide

Exhibition dates: 13th May – 1st July 2011

 

Many thankx to the Anne & Gordon Samstag 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.

 

 

Olaf Unverzart. 'Untitled' (from the Series ‘Fallen Kann Ich Auch Alleine’) 1999

 

Olaf Unverzart (German, b. 1972)
Untitled (from the series Fallen Kann Ich Auch Alleine)
1999
Pigment print
56 x 38cm/125 x 85 cm
Courtesy of Oechsner Galerie

 

Narelle Autio. 'Untitled 8' (from the series ‘Not of This Earth’) 2001

 

Narelle Autio (Australian, b. 1969)
Untitled 8 (from the series Not of This Earth)
2001
Courtesy of the artist

 

Jörg Brüggemann. 'Nam Song River, Vang Vieng, Laos, December 2007' 2007

 

Jörg Brüggemann (German, b. 1979)
Nam Song River, Vang Vieng, Laos, December 2007
2007
C-type print
69 x 57 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Ostkreuz

 

Ingvar Kenne. 'Nick Cave' 2001

 

Ingvar Kenne (Australian, born Sweden 1965)
Nick Cave
2001
C-type print
100 x 100cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Hijacked 2: Australia/Germany builds on the very considerable success of the inaugural exhibition, Hijacked 1 – Australia and America, and its internationally celebrated and hugely successful book. This new exhibition effectively considers two socially disparate nations, Germany and Australia, through an expansive photographic anthology of fascinating works, juxtaposed to suggest connections.

Hijacked 2 has been curated by Mark McPherson and Ute Noll and showcases the diverse talents and perspectives of thirty contemporary German and Australian photographers. With a focus on the depiction of the young, the boundary-riding, and the fringe-dwelling, Hijacked 2 is evocative, confronting, dreamlike and rousing.

Featured artists from Australia are: Narelle Autio, James Brickwood, Michael Corridore, Andrew Cowen, Tamara Dean, Suzie Fox, Lee Grant, Derek Henderson, Rebecca Ann Hobbs, Ingvar Kenne, Bronek Kózka, Georgia Metaxas, Polixeni Papapetrou and Louis Porter.

From Germany the artists are: Johanna Ahlert, Natalie Bothur, Jörg Brüggemann, Thekla Ehling, Albrecht Fuchs, Jan von Holleben, Karsten Kronas, Anne Lass, Jens Liebchen, Myriam Lutz, Julian Röder, Josef Schulz, Oliver Sieber, Ivonne Thein, Olaf Unverzart and Sascha Weidner.

Hijacked 2: Australia/Germany is toured by the Australian Centre for Photography. A substantial 412-page publication accompanies the exhibition with texts by Uta Daur, Bec Dean, Alasdair Foster, Bill Kouwenhoven, Katja Melzer, Daniel Palmer and Katrina Schwarz.

Text from the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art website

 

Oliver Sieber. 'Reita, Köln' 2007

 

Oliver Sieber (German, b. 1966)
Reita, Köln, 2007
2007
Pigment print
34 x 27 cm
Courtesy Galerie Priska Pasquer, Germany

 

Ivon Thein. 'Untitled 07' (from the series ‘Thirty-Two Kilos) 2006

 

Ivon Thein (German, b. 1979)
Untitled 07 (from the series Thirty-Two Kilos)
2006
C-type print
55 x 80 cm
Courtesy of Galerie Voss

 

 

Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art
Hawke Building, City West campus
University of South Australia
55 North Terrace, Adelaide
Phone: (08) 8302 0870

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm

Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art website

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16
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘Vienna – Art & Design’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th June – 9th October 2011

 

Media preview for 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Media preview for Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

A subtle pleasure

The delicate paintings are smaller with a flatness of texture and a sombreness that I had not imagined; magnificent in their subtlety. The real stars of this wonderful exhibition, however, are the design pieces. Whether silver, wood, ceramic, glass or jewellery the designs are balanced by a glorious aesthetic. Never has a tea service looked so ravishing or decadent.

This is not a wham bang show like Dali or that other King of some fame showing elsewhere. This is for a discerning audience – one that can take time (between pots of tea) to study and go ooh and aah!

Marcus

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for inviting me and for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © Marcus Bunyan 2011 except the photographs of the full paintings which come from the NGV press CD ROM.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

I just couldn’t help myself!

 

Installation view of first room of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of first room of the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Wilhelm Gause. 'Vienna Municipal Ball' 1904

 

At right

Wilhelm Gause (Germany 1853-1916)
Vienna Municipal Ball
1904
Watercolour and oil on cardboard
62.0 x 88.0 cm
Wien Museum, Vienna
Commissioned by the City of Vienna, 1904

 

Wilhelm Gause. 'Vienna Municipal Ball' 1904

 

Wilhelm Gause (Germany 1853-1916)
Vienna Municipal Ball
1904
Watercolour and oil on cardboard
62.0 x 88.0 cm
Wien Museum, Vienna
Commissioned by the City of Vienna, 1904

 

Otto Wagner (designer) Austria 1841–1918 Alexander Albert (manufacturer) Austria active c. 1904 'Chair for Dr Karl Lueger' 1904

 

Otto Wagner (architect) (Austria 1841-1918)
Alexander Albert (manufacturer) Austria active c. 1904
Chair for Dr Karl Lueger
1904
Rosewood (Dalbergia sp.), mother-of-pearl, leather
98.5 x 63 x 59.5 cm
Wien Museum, Vienna
Estate of Karl Lueger, 1910

 

Otto Wagner (architect) (Austria 1841-1918) Reconstruction of facade for Die Zeit 1902 designed, 1985 made

 

Otto Wagner (architect) (Austria 1841-1918)
Reconstruction of facade for Die Zeit
1902 designed, 1985 made
Iron, aluminium, nickel-plated iron, glass
450.0 x 332.0 cm
Wien Museum, Vienna
Commissioned by the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien, 1985

 

Otto Wagner (architect) (Austria 1841-1918) Reconstruction of facade for Die Zeit 1902 designed, 1985 made

 

Otto Wagner (architect) (Austria 1841-1918)
Reconstruction of facade for Die Zeit (detail)
1902 designed, 1985 made
Iron, aluminium, nickel-plated iron, glass
450.0 x 332.0 cm
Wien Museum, Vienna
Commissioned by the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien, 1985

 

Otto Wagner objects including shelving, stool, chair and hot air blower (rear) in the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Otto Wagner objects including shelving, stool, chair and hot air blower (rear) in the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Gustave Klimt. 'The Park' 1909

 

Gustav Klimt (Austria 1862-1918)
The Park (detail)
1909
Oil on canvas

 

Gustave Klimt. The Park' 1909 (detail)

 

Gustav Klimt (Austria 1862-1918)
The Park (detail)
1909
Oil on canvas

 

Installation view part of the second room of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view part of the second room of the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Wilhelm Otto List. 'Young lady in black and white' 1904 (detail)

 

Wilhelm Otto List
Young lady in black and white (detail)
1904
Oil on canvas

 

Charles Robert Ashbee designer 'Standing cup and cover' 1901 and Josef Hoffmann. ''Sports Trophy' 1902

 

Charles Robert Ashbee (designer) (British, 1863-1942)
Standing cup and cover
1901
Silver, turqoise

Josef Hoffmann (designer) (Austria-Hungary 1870-1956)
Sports Trophy
1902
Silver, gilt, malachite

 

Josef Hoffmann (designer) (Austria-Hungary 1870-1956) WIENER WERKSTÄTTE Vienna (manufacturer) (Austria-Hungary 1903-32) 'Tea service' (c. 1909-1911)

 

Josef Hoffmann (designer) (Austria-Hungary 1870-1956)
Wiener Werkstätte, Vienna (manufacturer) Austria-Hungary 1903-32
Tea service
c. 1909-1911
Silver-gilt, wood
(1.A-E) 21.5 x 29.0 x 26.8 cm (overall) (kettle, stand and burner)
(2) 10.8 x 15.4 x 20.2 cm (teapot)
(3.A-B) 8.7 x 8.8 x 6.8 cm (overall) (sugar basin and lid)
(4) 4.8 x 8.5 x 15.6 cm (milk jug)
(5) 3.4 x 36.3 x 29.9 cm (tray)
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1985

 

Installation view of room three of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria showing part of Gustave Klimt's 'Beethoven Frieze: Central wall' 1901-02 (detail at top)

 

Installation view of room three of the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria showing part of Gustave Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze: Central wall 1901-02 (detail at top)

 

Max Klinger (German, 1857-1920) 'Beethoven' c. 1902

 

Max Klinger (German, 1857-1920)
Beethoven
c. 1902
Plaster

 

Installation view of room four of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of room four of the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria with at right, Gustav Klimt’s painting Emilie Flöge (1902)

 

Gustav Klimt (Austria 1862-1918) 'Emilie Flöge' 1902

 

Gustav Klimt (Austria 1862-1918)
Emilie Flöge
1902
Oil on canvas
178.0 x 80.0 cm
Wien Museum, Vienna

 

Gustav Klimt (Austria 1862-1918) 'Emilie Flöge' 1902 (detail)

 

Gustav Klimt (Austria 1862-1918)
Emilie Flöge (detail)
1902
Oil on canvas
178.0 x 80.0 cm
Wien Museum, Vienna

 

Installation view of room five of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of room five of the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Koloman Moser designer. 'Armchair' 1903 and Josef Hoffmann designer. 'Collapsible library steps' 1905

 

At right

Koloman Moser (designer) (Austrian, 1868-1918)
Armchair
1903
Painted beech

Second right

Josef Hoffmann (designer) (Austrian, 1870-1956)
Collapsible library steps
1905

 

Gustav Klimt (Austria 1862-1918) 'Fritza Riedler' 1906 (detail)

 

Gustav Klimt (Austria 1862-1918)
Fritza Riedler (detail)
1906
Oil on canvas

 

Gustav Klimt (Austria 1862-1918) 'Fritza Riedler' 1906

 

Gustav Klimt (Austria 1862-1918)
Fritza Riedler
1906
Oil on canvas
152.0 x 134.0 cm
Belvedere, Vienna

 

Installation view of room six of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

Installation view of room six of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation views of room six of the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Josef Hoffmann (Austrian, 1870-1956) 'Tea and coffee service' 1909

 

Josef Hoffmann (Austrian, 1870-1956)
Tea and coffee service
1909
Silver, ivory

 

Installation view of room seven of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of room seven of the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria with, against the wall,

Adolf Loos (designer) (Austria 1870-1933)
Sideboard, from the Langer apartment
1903
Mahogany (Swietenia sp.), mirror, brass

 

Installation view of room seven of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of room seven of the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Ferdinand Andri (Austrian, 1871-1956) 'The Gallia children' 1901

 

Ferdinand Andri (Austrian, 1871-1956)
The Gallia children
1901
Oil on canvas

with Josef Hoffmann furniture in the foreground

 

Gustave Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918) 'Portrait of Hermine Gallia' (detail) 1904

 

Gustave Klimt (Austrian, 1862-1918)
Portrait of Hermine Gallia (detail)
1904
Oil on canvas

 

Pieces of Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Mosser silver in the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Pieces of Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Mosser silver in the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria. Love the reflected light!

 

Installation view of room eight of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

Installation view of room eight of the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation views of room eight of the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Objects by Dagobert Peche (left, right and second right) and Josef Hoffmann in the exhibition 'Vienna - Art & Design' at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Objects by Dagobert Peche (left, right and second right) and Josef Hoffmann in the exhibition Vienna – Art & Design at the National Gallery of Victoria

 

Egon Schiele (Austria 1890-1918) 'Portrait of a boy (Portrait of Herbert Rainer aged approximately six)' 1910

 

Egon Schiele (Austria 1890-1918)
Portrait of a boy (Portrait of Herbert Rainer aged approximately six) (detail)
1910
Oil on canvas

 

Egon Schiele (Austria 1890-1918) 'Portrait of a boy (Portrait of Herbert Rainer aged approximately six)' 1910

 

Egon Schiele (Austria 1890-1918)
Portrait of a boy (Portrait of Herbert Rainer aged approximately six)
1910
Oil on canvas
101.0 x 101.5 cm
Belvedere, Vienna

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am – 5 pm

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15
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘Robyn Stacey: Tall Tales and True’ at Stills Gallery, Paddington, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 18th May – 25th June 2011

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Come unto me' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Come unto me
2011
84 x 120cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

 

Ozymandias

.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
.

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1818

 

 

Many thankx to Jessica Howard for her help and to Stills Gallery and Peter Timms for allowing me to publish the text and the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Help yourself' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Help yourself
2011
90 x 120cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

 

Working extensively with historic collections since 2000, Robyn Stacey’s early projects dealt with Australian flora and fauna, exploring the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney and the Macleay collection at the University of Sydney. Over the last three years she has worked closely the NSW Historic Houses Trust to produce a series of artworks and a book focusing on three of their properties, Elizabeth Bay House, Vaucluse House, and Rouse Hill estate as well as the Caroline Simpson Research Collection and Library. In these works Stacey reveals her fascination with the still life tradition but also speaks about the Australian notion of home and what it means to our national psyche.

Stacey’s transformation of these historic spaces and objects allows us not only to glance into earlier worlds but also to consider hierarchies of taste, culture and knowledge. By using the still life to re-work and re-view the Trust’s collection she aims to deconstruct the traditional museum display. The objects are returned to an approximate albeit fictional reality, creating a sense that the settings have been left only momentarily and that people are never far away.

In this latest exhibition Stacey looks at the traces of inhabitation. Chatelaine for example, features a sumptuous collection of objects including Wisteria spilling out of an ornate vase on top of a beautifully carved side table. The objects are from the collection of Vaucluse House having belonged to its inhabitant Sarah Wentworth. Her convict past prevented easy entry into high society at the time. In this accumulation of tasteful things we see evidence of Sarah Wentworth’s attempts to assert her social position within a society that spurned her. In other works, which draw from the collection at Rouse Hill estate we bear witness to the varying fortunes of the Rouse family.

As well as being a reflection upon the nature and minutiae of nineteenth century domesticity these still lives also reflect our colonial history; the desire for betterment and the need to re-create what has been left behind through the transport of taste and knowledge systems.

Text from the Stills Gallery website

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Presentation (Apple)' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Presentation (Apple)
2011
90 x 74cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Presentation (Pear)' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Presentation (Pear)
2011
90 x 74cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

 

Playing a double game

We all have a penchant for hidden essences. They spur our desires. Sometimes, of course, a thing is just a thing: a cup merely a convenient way of getting coffee to our mouths; a car no more than a machine to get around in. Often, however, (surprisingly often in fact) we choose to invest such apparently lifeless objects with little souls, or what the psychologist Paul Bloom calls ‘realities that are not present to the senses’. Almost everything, it seems, is capable of leading a double life.

And where better to seek out these double lives than in the historic house museum? Here the Regency candlesticks, the ormolu clocks, even the gardening tools and saucepans, come already imbued with a special significance, for here the domestic has been raised to the level of theatre.

The choices Robyn Stacey has made from the wealth of objects at Elizabeth Bay House, Vaucluse House and Rouse Hill Estate are by no means the obvious ones. They are not necessarily things of high status or great beauty. She is equally attracted to the rusted sickle, the well-thumbed book, the peeling painting and the old postcard: everyday things that bear the traces of long usage. Through judicious juxtaposition, dramatic lighting, and the addition of her own evocative flourishes, she dramatises these humble items, teasing out their souls and revealing their double lives.

What Robyn is doing is transforming inanimate objects into surrogate people. In the absence of their corporeal selves, those who made their lives in these houses are reborn through what they owned, loved, used and made. And, in the process, their stories are expanded into the realm of cultural history.

Chatelaine, for example, enlists flowers, a silk shawl, a richly decorated Staffordshire jar and the titular chatelaine itself (a sort of female version of the Swiss army knife) to reconstruct nineteenth-century ideals of femininity. Only when we discover that it is intended, in part, as a homage to Sarah Wentworth, the mistress of Vaucluse House, does its gentle irony morph into poignant masquerade. For, despite being married to one of early Sydney’s richest and most powerful men, Sarah’s impoverished and morally compromised background led to her rejection by polite society. So these outwardly vivacious mementos also serve as emblems of one woman’s tragedy and, by extension, the tragedy of many women’s lives at the time.

What could be more richly evocative than the cornucopia of flowers, fruits, grains and agricultural implements assembled for Rouse and the Cumberland Plain? What, indeed, could be more shamelessly calculated to provoke astonishment? This virtuosic picture is at once a homage to and a respectful parody of the European still-life tradition. Ostensibly it sets out, in almost forensic detail, what was once grown in the gardens and fields around Rouse Hill House, every leaf and petal historically accurate as to species and type. In that sense, it can be appreciated as an authentic record of nineteenth-century colonial gardening and agriculture. But of course it is much more than that.

We don’t have to be au fait with seventeenth-century Dutch iconography to be able to tease out the allusions in those overturned baskets, those pomegranates spilling their seeds, those provocative little asparagus spears, the decaying timber and the butterflies, nor to be touched by the pathos of that hand-made house-brick in the foreground, impressed with a heart. These symbolic clues qualify and complicate our initial response of unguarded optimism. Here and there, melancholy and loss begin to intrude. And the longer we look, the more enveloped we become by a stifling air of artificiality, as if everything has been stilled and embalmed. Initial delight slowly morphs into an eerie silence. It is in their delicate balance of abundance and ruin that all these photographs find their moral core. They are awe-inspiring, in the eighteenth-century meaning of the term.

This is true even of apparently simple works such as, for example, Presentation (Pear). While its reticence seems a world away from the fecundity of Rouse and the Cumberland Plain or Chatelaine, the underlying themes correspond. In fact, Presentation (Pear) is a composition of such elegant straightforwardness that we might suspect a trap. And indeed we might be right.

On a substantial marble pedestal sits, somewhat incongruously, a ripe pear with a fly on it. A butterfly has come to rest nearby. There are just these four individual components, each with its own tale to tell. Combined, however, into a Joseph-Cornell-like assemblage, they assume an almost mythical dimension. The massive plinth, its pomposity worthy of an Ozymandias, can be seen as representing the vanity of human ambition. The pear has long been a symbol of birth and fecundity, the fly represents decay, and the butterfly the brevity of life. Yet such pat interpretations will probably strike a modern sensibility as overdetermined or too reductive. These days we are not inclined to take this sort of thing too seriously, and the very transparency of the symbolism in Presentation (Pear) is perhaps a warning that we should not. There is a good deal of self-referentiality here. The symbols keep turning in on themselves.

What these photographs are, in fact, inviting us to do is to momentarily assume a double life, to surrender to the romantic perceptions of past generations without abandoning our modern scepticism, to experience a pre-scientific world through a post-scientific consciousness so as to understand not just the material world of past generations but also to enter into their way of thinking. As in the cinema (and these photographs are nothing if not cinematic) we are being invited to suspend our disbelief and imagine ourselves in another time, not for nostalgia’s sake, but for the opposite – to strip away sentiment and to see ourselves more clearly.

Thus, beneath their apparent sumptuousness, Robyn’s artfully contrived tableaux are playing a crafty double game of de-familiarisation.

Peter Timms

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Early Morning Rouse' 2010

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Early morning Rouse
2010
110 x 75.6cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Chatelaine' 2010

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Chatelaine
2010
110 x 82.5cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

Robyn Stacey. 'The Royal Guard' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
The Royal Guard
2011
90 x 76cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

Robyn Stacey. 'Venetian Beauty' 2011

 

Robyn Stacey (Australian, b. 1952)
Venetian Beauty
2011
120 x 107.7cm
Type C print
Edition of 5 + 2/3 AP

 

 

Stills Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

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12
Jun
11

Review: ‘Trace’ by Murray Fredericks at Arc One Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 24th May – 18th June 2011

 

Murray Fredericks. 'Salt 271' 2011

 

Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Salt 271
2011
150 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag

 

 

“Photographers tell me what I already know. The recognition of the beautiful, bizarre, or boring (the three photographic B’s) is not the problem. You would have to be a refrigerator not to be moved by the beauty of Yosemite. The problem is to deal with one’s total experience, emotionally as well as visually. Photographers should tell me what I don’t know.”

.
Duane Michals Real Dreams1

 

“While we cannot describe its appearance (the equivalent), we can define its function. When a photograph functions as an Equivalent we can say that at that moment, and for that person the photograph acts as a symbol or plays the role of a metaphor for something that is beyond the subject photographed.”

.
Minor White

 

 

Fredericks new infrared panoramic works show the strength of nature at it’s finest (9 out of 10 to nature especially when see through this type of filtration), excellent technical skills and good printing somehow any revelation of spirit in the sublime has been lost in these photographs. The photographer does not take me anywhere, there is no new space to step into, another view of the world that I want to spend time with. The relationship between the two series is also nebulous, the critical ice/fire space between the works adding little frisson to the exhibition.

I ask: Is it sufficient to use a digital scientific infrared back, if for no other reason that it is there? Is it sufficient to know that these climatic conditions take place in the same area each day, at the same time, place the camera down and just capture the scene? Is there really a decisive moment in these photographs, a poetic insight, or is this just what was, literally, hanging around so to speak?

The answer to all three questions I leave up to the reader.

Personally, I need photography to push the boundaries of elusiveness through an understanding in revelation, not just through an understanding of space and form, light and colour. I believe that conventional patterns of perception are there to be broken in ways that disrupt the technologies of the self – the self-regulating of our senses, the conventions of cultural capital – but too what do we open ourselves up to? As Minor White says: ‘The sound of one hand clapping’.

While the photographs have the weight of serious equipment and professional acumen behind them after the initial awe on viewing they fall to earth, like the rainstorms they portray, a little flat. As with my earlier review of Salt they seem to be more about the photographer than any revelation of the thing being photographed. Duane Michals observes that, “The best artists give themselves in their work” but this giving is ego-less, the dropping away of the bells and whistles to let an’other’ emerge: in this sense I do not feel the total experience, emotionally as well as visually. Paul Strand said that it took him 10 years to start to become an artist, to let go of ego in his work; paradoxically after this the work became more his own.

For me, these photographs never become a metaphor for something that is beyond the subject being photographed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Michals, Duane. Real Dreams 1976 [Online] Cited 08/06/2011, on longer available online.

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

 

Murray Fredericks. 'Salt 273' 2011

 

Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Salt 273
2011
150 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag

 

Murray Fredericks. 'Hector 10' 2011

 

Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Hector 10
2011
220 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag

 

Murray Fredericks. 'Hector 11' 2011

 

Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Hector 11
2011
204 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag

 

 

Salt began in 2003 and is a series of photographs of vast empty landscapes. Each image in the series is connected by the placement of the horizon running across the lower third of the frame. The horizon is the only referential form, breaking the void and providing the viewer with an element that paradoxically ‘defines’ the space. These new works add another dimension to Salt, with the water from last year’s rains now creating scenes diametrically opposed to the work occupying the adjacent walls as Hector.

Hector draws its title from an affectionately name atmospheric phenomenon that produces some of the world’s biggest thunderstorms. These new black and white works employ Murray’s methodical consistency of composition with distinctly different outcomes to the Zen-like vistas of Salt. In these works the expanse of the storm is consciously contained and forced into a barometric battle with the invisible air at its limits for the place of subject within the photograph…

By juxtaposing these series, each viewer is at once placed outside the containers which harbour these landscapes of remote territories – one calm and one facing the eye of the storm – and at the same time place in the centre of Murray’s minimal, ethereal representations of these places. In this way we can trace his exploration into these subjects – capturing the moment is our witness to a reverence to land and country.

Text from Arc One Gallery

 

Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775-1851) 'Valley of Aosta: Snowstorm, Avalanche, and Thunderstorm' 1836/37

 

Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775-1851)
Valley of Aosta: Snowstorm, Avalanche, and Thunderstorm
1836/37
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 48 in. (92.2 x 123 cm)
The Art Institute of Chicago: Frederick T. Haskell Collection

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tues – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

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09
Jun
11

Review: ‘Ice Structure’ by Kirsten Haydon at Gallery Funaki, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 24th May 2011 – 18th June 18 2011

 

Kirsten Haydon. 'ice objects', 2011

 

Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice objects
2011
Enamel, copper, reflector beads
Various dimensions

 

 

“Confronted by the immensity and power of desert and ice, one cannot simply stand to the side and evaluate as though one were standing before a landscape garden and other works of art. Conflicting emotions, including fear, are aroused and simultaneously absorbed or taken over by the overmastering presence of nature.”

.
Yi Fu Tuan. Desert and Ice: Ambivalent Aesthetics, 1993

 

 

There are many things to like about this exhibition: the fine craftsmanship, the forms, the observation and the beauty of some of the pieces. The symbolism is simple and effective – re-imaged relics of white, vitreous enamel objects from the huts of Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, the use of reflector beads to imitate snow and Meccano-like steel girders to symbolise human construction and encroachment on a pristine land.

Some of the ‘objects’ remind me of the beauty and simplicity of Etruscan vessels, seemingly delicate apports, being the transference of an article from one place and time to another; the use of reflector beads at the bottom of ice sample (2011, below) is also inspired. So too is the occlusion of the image in the brooch ice plane (2011, below) which adds further mystery to an already surreal landscape. One piece is absolutely stunning. The wonderful neckpiece ice movement (2011, see two photographs below) is ravishing in it’s articulation and form, its snow-covered twig-like coolness.

Unfortunately where the exhibition fails is in the use of banal images in several works such as ice depot, ice runway, ice industry (brooch, all 2011, not pictured) and ice industry (2011, neckpiece, below). The obvious point being made is that of man made construction in a pristine landscape but the simple symbology used so effectively in other pieces becomes a little awkward in these pieces. The images used are quite ugly and while this fits the symbolic use of them it doesn’t make for very interesting or illuminating art. There needed to be more layering for the message to be effective – which is why the occluded brooch works so well, human construction blinded, dissolved.

This is a pity because the rest of the exhibition is excellent. Enter this ice world and you will be delightfully surprised!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Katie Scott for her help and Gallery Funaki for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Kirsten Haydon. 'ice edge' and 'ice sheet flow' both 2011

 

Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice edge (left)
Object
2011, enamel, reflector beads, copper, silver
60 x 350 x 210 mm

ice sheet flow (right)
Object
2011
Enamel, reflector beads, copper, silver
70 x 130 x 195 mm

 

Kirsten Haydon. 'ice plane', brooch, 2011

 

Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice plane
Brooch
2011
Enamel, photo transfer, reflector beads, silver, copper, steel
80 x 80 x 10 mm

 

Kirsten Haydon. 'ice movement', neckpiece, 2011

 

Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice industry
neckpiece
2011
enamel, copper, photo transfer, paint, silver
280 x 160 x 10 mm

 

 

I make jewellery and objects that both connect to and explore human experience and place. Since Antarctica’s discovery explorers, expeditioners, artists and writers have attempted to record and visualise this isolated continent. In 2004 I was awarded a New Zealand Antarctic Arts Fellowship en joined those who communicate their experiences of Antarctica.

Antarctica is often regarded as a pristine yet harsh environment, home to extraordinary wildlife and the domain of scientists. Due to its remoteness projects that are supported by international Antarctic programmes are predominantly science-based and as a result artistic research in Antarctica is limited. The cultural theorist, Yi Fu Tuan describes the experience of the explorer as: “the longing to be taken out of oneself and ones habitual world into something vast, overpowering and indifferent.” His statement resonates with my experience of Antarctica where I found myself drawn to the minutiae of the ice crystal and the structures and forms that I could associate with in the extraordinary landscape. While in that place, so removed from the conventions of civilisation, I came to understand the immensity of nature and to see that it exists without the necessity for human presence …

Inside the historic huts of Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton I was captivated by the history, contained both in the interior spaces themselves and in the material artefacts left by the expeditioners … These seemingly mundane objects are transformed into a still life of significant artefacts of a previous time, preserving the memory and story of their parties of explorers.

My interpretations engage through the iconography of personal jewellery, domestic objects and the environment of Antarctica. In the course of making I continue to investigate and portray Antarctica through my own and others’ personal experiences. The objects I produce reference valued souvenir jewellery and objects now displayed in museums as historical artefacts, which were once personal mementos …

Excerpts from the catalogue text by Kirsten Haydon May 2011

 

Kirsten Haydon. 'ice movement' neckpiece 2011

 

Kirsten Haydon. 'ice movement' neckpiece 2011

 

Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice movement
Neckpiece
2011
Enamel, copper, reflector beads, silver

 

Kirsten Haydon. 'ice sample', object, 2011

 

Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice sample
Object
2011
Enamel, copper, reflector beads

 

 

Gallery Funaki
4 Crossley St.,
Melbourne 3000
Phone: 03 9662 9446

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday, 10.30 am – 5 pm
Saturday 12 – 4 pm

Gallery Funaki website

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07
Jun
11

Review: ‘Time Machine: Sue Ford’ at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Victoria

Exhibition dates: 7th April – 19th June 2011

 

Sue Ford (1943-2009) 'Self-portrait' 1968

 

Sue Ford (Australian, 1943-2009)
Self-portrait 1968
1968, printed 2011
From the series Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006)
Selenium toned gelatin silver
22.8 x 24 cm
Courtesy Sue Ford Archive

 

 

“Choosing to photograph oneself, one’s life and one’s time exemplified the now well-worn slogan ‘the person is political’. Ford’s self-examination across the decades is unflinching and exacting. As Janine Burke wrote in 1980, her ‘psychological history [is] etched in her face for everyone to see’. Burke concluded that Ford’s self-portraits are ‘as honest as one can ever be about oneself’.”

.
Helen Ennis. Faces are Maps: Sue Ford and Portraiture.1

 

“The search for the self is a journey into a mental labyrinth that takes random courses and ultimately ends at impasses. The memory fragments recovered along the way cannot provide us with a basis for interpreting the overall meaning of the journey. The meanings that we derive from our memories are only partial truths, and their value is ephemeral. For Foucault, the psyche is not an archive but only a mirror. To search the psyche for the truth about ourselves is a futile task because the psyche can only reflect the images we have conjured up to describe ourselves. Looking into the psyche, therefore, is like looking into the mirror image of a mirror. One sees oneself reflected in an image of infinite regress. Our gaze is led not toward the substance of our beginnings but rather into the meaninglessness of previously discarded images of the self.”

.
Patrick Hutton. Foucault, Freud, and the Technologies of the Self.2

 

 

This is a solid exhibition of the work of beloved Australian photographer Sue Ford, essential looking for anyone wanting to have an overview of Australian photography.

The beautifully hung exhibition flows like music, interweaving up and down, the photographs framed in thin, black wood frames. It features examples of Ford’s black and white fashion and street photography; a selection of work from the famous black and white Time series (being bought for their collection by the Art Gallery of New South Wales) – small, snapshot size double portraits, the first portraits taken during the 1960’s, the second around 1974, formalist portraits in which the sitter is closely cropped around head and shoulders with the photographer using the camera as objectively as possible, the double portrait used to display changes in identity over time; a selection of Photographs of Women – modern prints from the Sue Ford archive that are wonderfully composed photographs with deep blacks that portray strong, independent, vulnerable, joyous women (see last four photographs below); and the most interesting work in the exhibition, the posthumous new series Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006) that evidence, through a 47 part investigation using colour prints from Polaroids, silver gelatin prints printed by the artist, prints made from original negatives and prints from scanned images where there was no negative available, a self-portrait of the artist in the process of ageing (see the two photographs above and below this review).

One of my favourite photographs in the exhibition was Margaret with Emma, Redcliffs, Queensland, 1971. The black and white photograph features a grandmother with her granddaughter, close to each other, both wearing floral dresses of different pattern, both staring intently out of the image at what is possibly a television with a weatherboard backdrop. A dark form hovers at the upper left of the photograph adding a disturbing note to the image but it is the look on the grandmother’s face – a look of shock, enthralment, blankness with eyes wide, that is matched by the intensity on the granddaughter’s face as she stares intently – that transcends the distance between photograph and viewer, between grandmother and granddaughter across time and space. The process of looking and ageing captured by the ‘time machine’, the camera, in one single image. The viewer understands this photograph for we all experience the evidence of our bodies, our mortality. We relate intimately to how the photograph reanimates in the present this moment from the past, the momenti mori of the photograph, the little death becoming our future death.

This notion is particularly poignant in the series Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006), a work that Sue Ford was actively engaged with before her death. Smaller colour prints from negatives and Polaroids are here interspersed with black and white photographs up to about 8″ x 10″ in size: the series contains 12 chromogenic photographs, 7 silver gelatin photographs, 6 dye fusion photographs and 22 selenium-toned photographs (printed 2011). In dark, contrasty prints the artist has photographed herself looking down into the camera shooting into a mirror, looking directly into the mirror with camera, with the camera on a timer, with the camera in/visible, being shot by other people with the camera pointed directly at her, with the camera perpendicular to the artist shot by someone else, with Ford behind a movie camera, with multiple refractions in mirrors. Sometimes Ford even becomes the camera (as in the 1986 self-portrait below: I am the camera, the camera is me).

Ford becomes the “one who looks” knowingly at herself, sometimes the author of that observation, sometimes oblivious to it (until later when she has collected these images). As Burke and Ennis note, these photographs of self-examination across the decades are as honest as one can ever be about oneself. This a deeply political but also deeply psychoanalytical investigation: not to “take care of yourself” as a form of knowing as in Greco-Roman antiquity but “knowing yourself” as the fundamental principle of understanding yourself: a procedure of objectification and subjection in which the photograph ‘marks’ our status and the passage of time, that makes us who we are – photographs as vital techniques in the constitution of the self as subject.3

The mirror is frequently used in these photographs to portray the self. While it is true that these are strong, intimate, unflinching and exacting images, in the use of the mirror the im(pose)tures of life are singled / doubled / tripled – a reflection of the psyche that lead to discarded images of the self that are of little use in understanding the substance of our beginnings … or the overall interpretation of the journey. What they do offer is cumulative evidence of a deep, personal conviction into the inquiry: who am I?

Rembrandt famously painted, drew and etched himself hundreds of times in the process of ageing; Ford has likewise done the same. If, as Victor Burgin observes, “An identity implies not only a location but a duration, a history,”4 then the nature of photography (including Ford’s self-reflexive project), concerned as it is with space and time, becomes the mirror in a search for identity. Photography as a mirror on the world constantly repeats moments of illumination in a re/vision of eternal recurrence, a performance that is a hybrid site: both a homogenous (the same “I”) and heterogenous (a different “I”) site of self-representation, different every time we look. To that end I would like you to look at the self-portrait from 1976 (below). The artist is completely absent, her silhouette, her dark shadow swallowed whole by the blank photographic plate on the left hand side of the image as though Ford, the camera and an image of infinite regress have become one, eternally engulfed by space-time but open to re/view at any time.

Whether looking down, looking toward or looking inward these fantastic photographs show a strong, independent women with a vital mind, an élan vital, a critical self-organisation and an understanding of the morphogenesis of things that will engage us for years to come. Essential looking.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Burke, Janine. Self-portrait/self-image 1980-1981. Melbourne: Australian Directors’ Council, 1981. p. 4 quoted in Ennis, Helen. “Faces are Maps: Sue Ford and Portraiture,” in Lakin, Shaune (ed.,). Sue Ford: Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006). Melbourne: Monash Gallery of Art, 2011, np.
  2. Hutton, Patrick. “Foucault, Freud, and the Technologies of the Self,” in Martin, Luther and Gutman, Huck and Hutton, Patrick (eds.,). Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. London: Tavistock Publications, 1988, p. 139
  3. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish, quoted in Gutman, Huck. “Rousseau’s Confessions: A Technology of the Self,” in Martin, Luther and Gutman, Huck and Hutton, Patrick (eds.,). Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. London: Tavistock Publications, 1988, p. 99
  4. Burgin, Victor. In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995, p. 36

.
Many thankx to Mark Hislop for his help and the Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Sue Ford. 'Self-portrait 1986' 1986

 

Sue Ford (Australian, 1943-2009)
Self-portrait 1986
1986
From the series Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006)
Gelatin silver print, printed 2011
8.4 x 6.5 cm
Courtesy Sue Ford Archive

 

Sue Ford. 'Self-portrait 1976' 1976

 

Sue Ford (Australian, 1943-2009)
Self-portrait 1976
1976, printed 2011
From the series Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006)
Selenium toned gelatin silver print
24 x 18 cm
Courtesy Sue Ford Archive

 

Sue Ford (1943–2009) 'Self-portrait 1974' 1974

 

Sue Ford (Australian, 1943-2009)
Self-portrait 1974
1974, printed 2011
From the series Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006)
Selenium toned gelatin silver print
19.9 x 18 cm
Courtesy Sue Ford Archive

 

 

On 16 April 2011, the first major exhibition of the work of the late Sue Ford for two decades will open at Monash Gallery of Art.

Sue Ford (1943-2010) was one of Australia’s most important photographers and filmmakers. Ford studied photography at RMIT and in 1974 was the first Australian photographer to be given a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Ford passed away in 2009. Before her death, she was working with Monash Gallery of Art on an exhibition of her work which would feature her final major project Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006). This series of 47 photographs has never been shown before, and presents a compelling self-portrait of an artist. It underscores the central role the camera played in Ford’s life. Self-portrait with camera will be shown alongside a survey of Ford’s black-and-white photographs from the 1960s and 70s and examples of her most iconic work, Time series (1960s-1970s).

The exhibition describes a period when photography was charged with political and personal meaning. As photographic historian and contributor to the publication accompanying the exhibition Helen Ennis states: “Ford’s approach to art making has always been straightforward … She does not cultivate a mysterious artistic persona [since] … her art practice is purposeful; it is the outcome of her view of art as a political activity that is democratic, liberating and relevant to contemporary society.”

As MGA Director and curator of the exhibition Shaune Lakin states: “This exhibition provides a great opportunity for Australian audiences to reassess the work of this important photographer, whose work was always at once political, beautiful and elegiac. In an era when the photograph has become a highly disposable thing, it is important to acknowledge its role as an agent of change and memory.”

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Sue Ford (1943-2009) 'Lynne and Carol' 1962

 

Sue Ford (Australian, 1943-2009)
Lynne and Carol
1962, printed 2011
Selenium toned gelatin silver print
38.0 x 38.0 cm
Courtesy Sue Ford Archive

 

Sue Ford (1943-2009) 'Carol, Little Collins St studio' 1962

 

Sue Ford (Australian, 1943-2009)
Carol, Little Collins St studio
1962, printed 2011
Selenium toned gelatin silver print
37.9 x 38.1 cm
Courtesy Sue Ford Archive

 

Sue Ford (1943-2009) 'St Kilda' 1963

 

Sue Ford (Australian, 1943-2009)
St Kilda
1963, printed 2011
Selenium toned gelatin silver print
38.0 x 38.0 cm
Courtesy Sue Ford Archive

 

Sue Ford (1943-2009) 'Untitled [Bliss at Yellow House, King's Cross, Sydney]' c. 1972–3

 

Sue Ford (Australian, 1943-2009)
Untitled [Bliss at Yellow House, King’s Cross, Sydney]
c. 1972-3, printed 2011
Selenium toned gelatin silver print
47.9 x 34.2 cm
Courtesy Sue Ford Archive

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
phone: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tue – Fri 10 am – 5 pm
Sat – Sun 12 pm – 5 pm
Mon/public holidays closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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04
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Exhibition dates: 26th February – 7th June, 2011

 

Eadweard Muybridge. 'Ruins of a Church, Antigua, Guatemala' 1875

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Ruins of a Church, Antigua, Guatemala
1875
Albumen print
Collection Centre Canadien d’Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal

 

 

While rightly famous for his work on animal locomotion it is the first group of photographs in this posting that shine most brightly. It is often overlooked how magnificent a photographer Eadweard Muybridge was and what a brilliant eye he had. The top three photographs, especially the first one (above), are knockouts – radiant jewels in which the tensional points of the composition and the atmosphere of the scene are captured magnificently. I also love the use of human figures to give scale to the scene.

It is rare to find Eadweard Muybridge photographs other than his locomotion studies on the Internet (do a search under Google and see for yourself!), so it is a particular pleasure to post these photographs. It is something I have been wanted to do for quite a while now and finally it has come to pass; earlier iterations of this exhibition had few press images so I must heartily thank the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Eadweard Muybridge. 'The Ramparts, Funnel Rock, Hole in the Wall, Pyramid, Sugar Loaf, Oil House, and Landing Cove on Fisherman's Bay, South Farallon Island (4150)' 1871

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
The Ramparts, Funnel Rock, Hole in the Wall, Pyramid, Sugar Loaf, Oil House, and Landing Cove on Fisherman’s Bay, South Farallon Island (4150)
1871
Albumen print
U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office

 

Eadweard Muybridge. 'Ruins of the Church of San Domingo, Panama' 1875

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Ruins of the Church of San Domingo, Panama
1875
Albumen print
Image courtesy The Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Eadweard Muybridge. 'Bridge on the Porto Bello, Panama' 1875

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Bridge on the Porto Bello, Panama
1875
Albumen print
Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

 

Eadweard Muybridge. 'Tenaya Canyon. Valley of the Yosemite. From Union Point. No. 35,'1872

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Tenaya Canyon. Valley of the Yosemite. From Union Point. No. 35
1872
Albumen print
Collection National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

 

Eadweard Muybridge. 'First-Order Lighthouse at Punta de los Reyes, Seacoast of California, 296 Feet Above Sea (4136)' 1871

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
First-Order Lighthouse at Punta de los Reyes, Seacoast of California, 296 Feet Above Sea (4136)
1871
Albumen print
U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office

 

Eadweard Muybridge. Pi-Wi-Ack. Valley of the Yosemite. (Shower of Stars) “Vernal Fall.” 400 Feet Fall. No. 29, 1872

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Pi-Wi-Ack. Valley of the Yosemite. (Shower of Stars) “Vernal Fall.” 400 Feet Fall. No. 29
1872
Albumen print
Collection San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; gift of Jeffrey Fraenkel and Frish Brandt

 

 

From February 26 through June 7, 2011, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will showcase the first-ever retrospective examining all aspects of artist Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering photography. Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change brings together more than 300 objects created between 1857 and 1893, including Muybridge’s only surviving zoopraxiscope – an apparatus he designed in 1879 to project motion pictures. Originally organised by Philip Brookman, Corcoran Gallery of Art chief curator and head of research, the San Francisco presentation is organised by SFMOMA Associate Curator of Photography Corey Keller.

Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change includes numerous vintage photographs, albums, stereographs, lantern slides, glass negatives and positives, patent models, zoopraxiscope discs, proof prints, notes, books, and other ephemera. The works have been brought together from 38 different collections and include a number of Muybridge’s photographs of Yosemite Valley, including dramatic waterfalls and mountain views from 1867 and 1872; images of Alaska and the Pacific coast; an 1869 survey of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads in California, Nevada, and Utah; pictures from the Modoc War, pictures from Panama and Guatemala; and urban panoramas of San Francisco. The exhibition also includes examples from Muybridge’s experimental series of sequential stop-motion photographs such as Attitudes of Animals in Motion (1881) and his later masterpiece Animal Locomotion (1887).

The exhibition is organised in a series of thematic sections that present the chronology of Muybridge’s career, the evolution of his unique sensibility, the foundations of his experimental approach to photography, and his connections to other people and events that helped guide his work. The sections include: Introduction: The Art of Eadweard Muybridge (1857-1887); The Infinite Landscape: Yosemite Valley and the Western Frontier (1867-1869); From California to the End of the Earth: San Francisco, Alaska, the Railroads, and the Pacific Coast (1868-1872); The Geology of Time: Yosemite and the High Sierra (1872); Stopping Time: California at the Crossroads of Perception (1872-1878); War, Murder, and the Production of Coffee: the Modoc War and the Development of Central America (1873-1875); Urban Panorama (1877-1880); The Horse in Motion (1877-1881); Motion Pictures: the Zoopraxiscope (1879-1893); and Animal Locomotion (1883-1893).

 

Muybridge and San Francisco

Best known for his groundbreaking studies of animals and humans in motion, Muybridge (1830-1904) was also an innovative and successful landscape and survey photographer, documentary artist, inventor, and war correspondent. Born in Kingston upon Thames, England, in 1830, Muybridge immigrated to the United States around 1851. He worked as a bookseller in New York and San Francisco and returned to London in 1860 following a serious injury. Muybridge learned photography in Britain and by 1867 returned to the United States, where began his career as a photographer in San Francisco. He gained recognition through innovative landscape photographs, which showed the grandeur and expansiveness of the American West. Between 1867 and 1871, these were published under the pseudonym “Helios.”

Muybridge spent most of his career in San Francisco and Philadelphia during a time of rapid industrial and technological growth. In the 1870s he developed new ways to stop motion with his camera. Muybridge’s legendary sequential photographs of running horses helped change how people saw the world. His projected animations inspired the early development of cinema, and his revolutionary techniques produced timeless images that have profoundly influenced generations of photographers, filmmakers, and visual artists.

Press release from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) website [Online] Cited 02/06/2011 no longer available online

 

Eadweard Muybridge. Savings and Loan Society, Clay Street (340), 1869

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Savings and Loan Society, Clay Street (340)
1869
albumen stereograph
Collection of Leonard A. Calle

 

Eadweard Muybridge. Contemplation Rock, Glacier Point (1385), 1872

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Contemplation Rock, Glacier Point (1385)
1872
Albumen stereograph
Collection of California Historical Society

 

Eadweard Muybridge. Group of Indians (489), 1868

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Group of Indians (489)
1868
Albumen stereograph
Collection of Leonard A. Walle

 

Eadweard Muybridge. The Brandenburg Album of Bradley & Rolufson "Celebrities" and Muybridge Photographs, page 104, 1874

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
The Brandenburg Album of Bradley & Rolufson “Celebrities” and Muybridge Photographs, page 104
1874
Albumen prints
Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Museum Purchase Fund

 

Eadweard Muybridge. Cockatoo; flying. Plate 759

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Cockatoo; flying. Plate 759
1887
Collotype
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

 

Eadweard Muybridge. Boxing; open-hand. Plate 340, 1887

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Boxing; open-hand. Plate 340
1887
Collotype
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

 

Eadweard Muybridge. Horses. Running. Phryne L. Plate 40, 1879, from 'The Attitudes of Animals in Motion' 1881

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Horses. Running. Phryne L. Plate 40
1879
From The Attitudes of Animals in Motion, 1881
Albumen print
Image courtesy The Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon

 

Eadweard Muybridge. Studies of Foreshortenings. Horses. Running. Mahomet. Plates 143-144, 1879, from 'The Attitudes of Animals in Motion' 1881

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Studies of Foreshortenings. Horses. Running. Mahomet. Plates 143-144
1879
From The Attitudes of Animals in Motion, 1881
Albumen print
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA

 

Eadweard Muybridge, Leland Stanford, Jr. on his pony “Gypsy” - Phases of a Stride by a Pony While Cantering, 1879

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
Leland Stanford, Jr. on his pony “Gypsy” – Phases of a Stride by a Pony While Cantering
1879
Collodion positive on glass
Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Eadweard Muybridge, General view of experiment track, background and cameras, Plate F, from The Attitudes of Animals in Motion, 1881

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English-American, 1830-1904)
General view of experiment track, background and cameras, Plate F
1881
From The Attitudes of Animals in Motion, 1881
Albumen print
Courtesy Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

 

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
151 Third Street (between Mission + Howard)
San Francisco CA 94103

Opening hours:
Friday – Tuesday 10 am – 5 pm and Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
Wednesday Closed

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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

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