Archive for November, 2011

30
Nov
11

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: The Sky’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 26th July 26 – 4th December 2011

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

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John Divola (American, born 1949)
Untitled
Zuma Series
1977
Chromogenic print
24.8 x 30.4 cm (9 3/4 x 11 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Michael and Jane Wilson
© John Divola

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Col. Henry Stuart Wortley (British, 1832 – 1890)
The Day is Done, and the Darkness Falls from the Wings of Night.,
about 1862
Albumen silver print
29.5 x 35.2 cm (11 5/8 x 13 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Dorothea Lange
Full Moon, Southwestern Utah
1953
Gelatin silver print
15.6 x 15.3 cm (6 1/8 x 6 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the John Dixon Collection
© Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland

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“The J. Paul Getty Museum presents In Focus: The Sky, a thematically-installed exhibition of permanent collection photographs, on view at the Getty Center from July 26 – December 4, 2011.

“The sky has fascinated and challenged photographers since the invention of the medium,” said Anne Lyden, associate curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curator of the exhibition. “This exhibition showcases a wide range of approaches to capturing the many moods and effects of the sky – things we usually take for granted.”

The selection of 22 artworks provides visitors with an opportunity to explore the Getty Museum’s world-renowned photographs collection through the pictorial subject of the sky, with the works loosely organized under four different themes: urban skies, clouds, dark skies, and colorful skies.

The exhibition features photographs by artists such as: Ansel Adams, John Divola, André Kertész, Joel Meyerowitz, Alfred Stieglitz, and Carleton Watkins, among others. The Getty’s collection includes exemplary objects that demonstrate both technological and aesthetic innovations in photography. Among the different processes highlighted are daguerreotypes, albumen silver prints, palladium prints, platinum prints, and more contemporary inkjet prints.

One of the most well-known works in the exhibition is Ansel Adams’ Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, (negative made November 1, 1941; printed December 16, 1948). Traveling by car through New Mexico, Adams was inspired by light from the setting sun illuminating crosses in the graveyard at the side of the road. By carefully considering the composition, visualizing the printed image before creating the photograph, understanding the required exposure needed in response to the available light, and exerting a certain degree of control in the printing process so that detail and shadows were retained, Adams succeeded in capturing the fleeting moment when the sun was setting and the bright moon appeared in the darkening sky.

The summer sky of Cape Cod features in Meyerowitz’s photograph Fence, Truro, negative 1976; printed 1992. Having recently acquired a large view camera, Meyerowitz spent two summers recording the structures and light of the coastal area that ultimately resulted in the 1978 book, Cape Light. Noting the shifting shadows as they played across the picket fence, his use of color aptly describes the very subject of light itself.

Included in the exhibition is a selection from John Divola’s Zuma Beach series. In the fall of 1977, after discovering an abandoned lifeguard headquarters at Zuma Beach, California, Divola began visiting the site mornings and evenings to photograph. Bringing paints, using flash, and depending on the Pacific Ocean and the ever-changing sky for a dramatic backdrop, he created spontaneous scenes in this seaside theater.

Also on view is a small group of three photographs by Alfred Stieglitz. From 1922 to 1934, Stieglitz photographed clouds and created a series of abstract configurations which reflected the fluctuation of his subjective state. By simply titling each piece Equivalent, he invited an open reading of the images and their content.

In Focus: The Sky is the ninth installation of the ongoing In Focus series of exhibitions, thematic presentations of photographs from the Getty’s permanent collection.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894 – 1985)
The Lost Cloud, New York
negative 1937; print 1970s
Gelatin silver print
24.8 x 16.5 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of André Kertész

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Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864 – 1946)
Songs of the Sky
1924
Gelatin silver print
11.7 x 9.2 cm (4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© J. Paul Getty Trust

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Joel Meyerowitz (American, born 1938)
Fence, Truro
negative 1976; print 1992
Chromogenic print
59.7 x 47.3 cm (23 1/2 x 18 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Nancy and Bruce Berman
© Joel Meyerowitz, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY

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

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 – 5.30pm
Saturday 10 – 9pm
Sunday 10 – 9pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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27
Nov
11

Exhibition: ‘Postwar Propliners in Miniature: Models from the Collection of Anthony J. Lawler’ at SFO Museum (SFOM), San Francisco International Airport

Exhibition dates: June 2011 – December 2011

Location: Aviation Museum and Library 1 – Front Wall Cases

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One of my favourite postings in a long while. As an inveterate collector how I would love to have these in my collection. What beautiful aircraft; what graceful models; what simple, gorgeous photographs by photographer Chad Michael Anderson. The Lockheed Constellation /Starliner has to be one of the most delirious aircraft ever made!

Many thankx to John Hill, Assistant Director, Aviation for his help and to SFO Museum for allowing me to publish the text and the photographs. Attribution for the photographs is to the SFO Museum (actual photographer unknown). Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Lockheed Aircraft Co., Burbank, California
American Overseas Airlines Lockheed L-049 Constellation
c. 1946
Scale 1:44
metal, paint
Collection of Anthony J. Lawler

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Maarten Matthys Verkuyl (Dutch)
KLM (Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij) Royal Dutch Airlines Douglas DC-6
c. 1950
scale 1:48
metal, paint
Collection of Anthony J. Lawler

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Shawcraft Models, Uxbridge, England
BEA Airspeed AS.57 Ambassador
1950s
scale 1:48
wood, metal, paint
Collection of Anthony J. Lawler

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La Maquette d’Etude et d’Exposition à Aubervilliers, France
Air France Breguet 763 Provence
1950s
scale 1:50
wood, plastic, metal, paint
Collection of Anthony J. Lawler

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“Immediately following the end of World War II in 1945, airlines and passengers benefited from a surplus of inexpensive, advanced propeller-driven transport aircraft, or “propliners.” Over the next fifteen years, commercial aviation expanded rapidly as airlines persistently requested improved propliner designs to lower costs, attract new customers, and gain advantages over competitors. In meeting these demands the manufacturers of North America and Europe developed increasingly superior aircraft. These included the jet-powered turboprop airliners that flew successively faster, higher, and farther.

Making scale models of these airliners was an important part of the design, manufacturing, and marketing process during this period. Crafted by in-house model shops or independent model makers, they represented the new designs in miniature for convenient three-dimensional analysis. Accurately painted livery schemes on the models helped the airlines to imagine the new airliner operating within their fleet. Carriers also commissioned the making of models to promote their improved services in airline offices and travel agencies. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, they were usually made of sheet or cast metal and complemented with metal bases often formed into unique streamline shapes. By the late 1950s, models began to be produced from plastic, which was easier to mold into intricate shapes and reflected the proliferation of new synthetic resins.

These models represent the age of postwar propliners, which lasted until the 1960s when faster, more fuel-efficient and propeller-less turbojet airliners began to supersede them. They are from the collection of Anthony J. Lawler, an aviation industry professional and avid airplane model collector since first seeing the De Havilland Comet – the world’s first jetliner – fly over his boyhood home in Rhodesia. Mr. Lawler has spent decades assembling one of the finest collections of scale airliner display models, most of which were acquired while working as a senior sales representative for Airbus North America during the 1980s and 1990s. His collection spans a century of commercial aviation design innovation.”

Text from the SFO Museum website

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Raise-Up Models, Rotterdam, Netherlands
REAL (Redes Estaduais Aéreas Limitadas) Transportes Aéreos Lockheed 1049H Super Constellation
1950s
metal, paint
Collection of Anthony J. Lawler

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Peter V. Nelson, Reading, England
Trek Airways Lockheed 1649 Starliner
early 1960s
scale 1:62
metal, paint
Collection of Anthony J. Lawler

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Westway Models, London, England
BOAC Bristol Britannia 300
late 1950s
scale 1:72
metal, plastic, wood, paint
Collection of Anthony J. Lawler

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U.S.S.R.
Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-114 Rossiya
early 1960s
scale 1:100
metal, paint, plastic
Collection of Anthony J. Lawler

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SFO Museum 
San Francisco International Airport
P.O. Box 8097
San Francisco, CA 94128 USA
T: 650.821.6700

SFO Museum website

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24
Nov
11

Exhibition: ‘W. Eugene Smith – Photographs A retrospective’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 27th August – 27th November 2011

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This man is legend. He created some of the most memorable and moving photographs in the history of the medium. Once seen, for example his seminal photograph Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath (1971), they are never forgotten. Look at the photographs below, really look deeply at them. The compositions are flawless, peerless. Smith’s use of chiaroscuro makes his images sing and flow, like a Bach fugue. In spite of everything, “in spite of all the wars and all I had gone through that day, I wanted to sing a sonnet to life and to the courage to go on living it.”

Through that courage he left us a body of work that will live forever as masterpieces of the art of photography. Applause.

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

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W. Eugene Smith
Dance of the Flaming Coke
1955
Gelatin silver print
20.6 x 33 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Untitled
1955
Gelatin silver print
22.2 x 34 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Albert Schweitzer, Aspen, Colorado
1949
Gelatin silver print
24.7 x 33.2 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Steel Mill Worker, Pittsburgh
1955
Gelatin silver print
15.1 x 21.5 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Guardia Civil, Spain
1950
Gelatin silver print
25.1 x 32.1 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
The Wake
1950
Gelatin silver print
22.2 x 33.1 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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“W. Eugene Smith, who was born in 1918 in Wichita, Kansas, and died in 1978 in Tucson, Arizona, first made a name for himself as a politically and socially committed photojournalist in the USA in the 1940s. Many of his photographic reports appeared in Life, the leading picture magazine that had been launched in New York in 1936. Smith saw in photography more than just an illustration to a text and had often asked editors for a greater say in the composition of a photo-essay. His painstakingly researched and emotionally moving features set new standards of photojournalism in the 1940s and 1950s.

Smith had begun to take photographs as a fifteen-year-old, having been inspired by his mother, a keen amateur photographer. In 1936, following the suicide of his father as a result of the Great Crash, Smith initially enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. But he dreamed of becoming a photographer and moved to New York, where he attended the New York Institute of Photography. He embarked on his professional career in 1937 as a photo reporter for Newsweek.

A year later he began to work as a freelance for the Black Star Agency, and his pictures appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Collier’s, Time and Life. With Life he was to have a close association that went on for years.

When the USA found itself at war at the end of 1941 Smith initially took propaganda shots for the magazine Parade to support the American troops. Then, as a correspondent for Flying magazine, he took part in reconnaissance flights, taking photos from the air. In 1944 he was back on the staff of Life – this time as a war correspondent – documenting the battle of Saipan and the American landings on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In the course of the fighting the style of his photos changed. Instead of being gung ho they tended to focus on the terrible sufferings of the civilian population and were shot in a way that involved the viewer emotionally. On 22 May 1945 Smith himself was seriously injured, forcing him to submit to a series of operations that went on until 1947.

His new lease of life was symbolized by the first photograph he took after his wound. A Walk to Paradise Garden depicts his two youngest children walking towards a sun-bathed clearing. “While I followed my children into the undergrowth and the group of taller trees – how they were delighted at every little discovery! – and observed them, I suddenly realized that at this moment, in spite of everything, in spite of all the wars and all I had gone through that day, I wanted to sing a sonnet to life and to the courage to go on living it.” (1954)

After his recovery he went back to work for Life again. Documentary features showing the dedicated work of ordinary people were particularly popular with readers. In The Country Doctor (1948) he accompanied a young country doctor from the Denver area on his rounds for several weeks. His report Nurse Midwife (1951) on the black midwife Maud Callen was produced against a background of racial discrimination and the brazen activities of the Ku Klux Klan in the Deep South. In developing the prints Smith adjusted the lighting so as to enhance the emotional atmosphere – during a birth, for example – and so arouse sympathy for the selfless efforts of the midwife. His social commitment, however, did not always meet with approval, as in the case of the unpublished report (1950) on the re-election campaign of Clement Attlee, the candidate of the British Labour Party.

Life intended the report to strengthen indirectly the position of the Conservatives by presenting the results of Attlee’s nationalization policies in a critical light. Smith’s coverage, however, aroused sympathy for Attlee’s programme and the candidate himself. Smith had more success with his Spanish Village feature (1951). He wanted to convey an impression of living conditions under a fascist regime. After obtaining the necessary shooting permission, he spent two months studying the Spanish countryside before finally selecting a remote village in the Estremadura as his subject. Not a few of the photographs, with their chiaroscuro and clearly structured composition, are reminiscent of classical paintings and convey by means of this stylistic device a sense of the hardships but also the beauty of life there.

Smith’s feature on the work of Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné was to be his last for Life whose refusal to give him a say in the selection and layout of pictures had become unacceptable, and he left the periodical after the appearance of his photo essay Albert Schweitzer – Man of Mercy in November 1955.

A career alternative offered itself in the shape of membership of Magnum, the photographers’ agency founded in 1947. Stefan Lorant commissioned Smith to do an extensive feature on the city of Pittsburgh and its iron foundries, which occupied him for the next few years and nearly exhausted his financial and personal resources. Instead of the 100 prints agreed with Lorant, there arose 13,000 shots out of which he wanted to compose an essay which would be entirely in line with his convictions. In 1958 88 photographs were published in Popular Photography’s Annual Guide, although the essay never appeared in its entirety.

In 1957 Smith, who was known for his excessive devotion to his work, had left his family and moved to 821 Sixth Avenue in New York. The house was visited and used for rehearsals by many well-known jazz musicians, and Smith, who was a passionate music lover, photographed and documented this creative milieu over the next few years, while also keeping an audio record on 1,740 tapes, which were only discovered among his posthumous effects in 1998. At the same time he photographed street scenes from his window while also working on the construction of a psychiatric clinic in Haiti.

In 1961 a commission from the Cosmos PR Agency to photograph the company Hitachi Ltd. took Smith to Japan for a year. This was followed in 1963 by a book which contrasted modern Japan with its deeply rooted traditions. A decade later he again turned to the forced modernization of Japan and its grave consequences with a shocking series about the Minamata epidemic which had been triggered by the environmental pollution caused by the chemical concern Chisso, which had discharged mercurial waste into the sea near the town of Minamata. The Committee for the Defence of the Victims hired Smith to document the human and ecological dimensions of the catastrophe, and the photographer, who threw himself heart and soul into the project, moved with his second wife, Aileen Mioko Smith, to Minamata. In the course of his researches he was beaten up by company security guards and severely injured. The pictures he took, which appeared in Life and his book Minamata: A Warning to the World largely contributed to publicizing the scandal.

By the early 1970s Smith’s photographic work was attracting the attention of museums. His photo A Walk to Paradise Garden had already been selected by Edward Steichen as a symbolic climax to the exhibition The Family of Man (1955), but it was not until 1971 that the first retrospective Let Truth Be the Prejudice was held in the Jewish Museum in New York. In 1977 Smith, by this time seriously ill, moved to Tucson, Arizona, to take up a teaching post at the university there in what was to be the last year of his life.”

Text from the Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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W. Eugene Smith
Dr. Ernest Ceriani Following the Loss of a Mother and Child During Childbirth
1948
Gelatin silver print
28 x 20.2 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Untitled
1954
33.5 x 23.6 cm
Gelatin silver print
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
The Spinner
1950
Gelatin silver print
32.4 x 23 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Maude – Delivery
1951
32.7 x 25 cm
Gelatin silver print
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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W. Eugene Smith
Untitled
1954
Gelatin silver print
34.6 x 25.2 cm
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona: W. Eugene Smith Archive / Gift of the artist
© The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star, Inc., New York

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

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

Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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22
Nov
11

Exhibition: ‘Rückenfigur’ by David-Ashley Kerr at Dear Patti Smith ARI, Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 17th November – 27th November 2011

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Congratulations to David-Ashley Kerr on his first solo exhibition: the photographs and concept are very interesting.
Many thankx to David for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs to see a larger version of the image.

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David-Ashley Kerr
I hear the River

2009
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr
I hear the Sea
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr
I hear the Wind
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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“Although rückenfigur is popularly associated with the German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, its appearances in art very much pre-date his time. Early forms of it were attributed to Giotto but it became a more substantial style in the 15th century, creeping into the works of painters such as Jan van Eyck and later with Allaert van Everdingen and Jan Luiken

Often these uses were simply to direct the viewer to behold the landscape in the scene. Friedrich’s approach transfigured this into a different concept, sometimes referred to as “the halted traveller”, where the lonely wanderer has appeared to have been “stopped” by the view of the landscape. This implies to us as a viewer that there is perhaps more to the landscape than we see, but those thoughts may remain unknown to us… privately contained in the mind of the rückenfigur in the scene.

It appears to me that in looking at rückenfigur art, there are two distinct thematic conveyances. The first is the aforementioned “halted traveller” lost in the contemplation of the landscape. In gazing upon the landscape, the rückenfigur is quite separate from the scene being viewed. Although s/he is anonymous and without identity, there is still a distinct identity from that of the landscape.

The second appears, to me at least, to be quite the opposite. Another form of rückenfigur seems to be where the figure(s) are distantly placed deep within the landscape itself. You’ve still got “back figures” in contemplation, but the composition makes them part of the landscape rather than separate. While we still identify with them as a viewer, the identity of the figures are very much subsumed into the grandeur of the landscape, maybe even biblically so.”

Text by Christian Were, Melbourne

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David-Ashley Kerr
I hear Them
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr
Territory
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr is a Melbourne based visual artist working with large-format photography. This is his first Australian solo show, a selection of landscape studies completed since 2009 that began as a photographic investigation of the Rückenfigur, or back figure. This visual device is commonly associated with German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. It involves depicting a human figure that does not engage the viewer, introspectively contemplating the natural world or landscape before them.

David-Ashley Kerr’s photographic practice is a visual inquiry into the relationship between cultural identity and physical environment, site, or place. He currently investigates the use of a staged lone figure in contemporary landscape photography, attempting a symbolic representation of belonging to ‘place’ in a national context, in relation to both indigenous and non-indigenous Australian ownership and connection to land.

David-Ashley Kerr completed a Bachelor of Contemporary Art at Deakin University (2009) and a Master of Fine Art at RMIT University (2010). He is currently undertaking a PhD at Monash University on an Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship, his research inquiring into place theory through photography, investigating the visual relationship between Australian cultural identity and physical environment.

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David-Ashley Kerr
Ore
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr
Trash
2010
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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David-Ashley Kerr
Game
2009
Lightjet Photographic Print
80 x 140cm

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Dear Patti Smith
The Paterson Building
L2, 181 Smith St., Fitzroy
(enter from Smith St above TSL)
T: 9417 2293

Dear Patti Smith website

David-Ashley Kerr website

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18
Nov
11

Essay: ‘Now you see it, now you don’t: the history and conservation of The Keith Haring Mural, Johnston Street, Collingwood, Melbourne,’ by Dr Marcus Bunyan

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In response to the polemic article “Brushed aside: artistic landmark must return to 1980s glory” by Hannah Mathews in The Age newspaper on November 17th, 2011 I feel compelled to offer a more balanced appraisal of the problems regarding the conservation and preservation of the Keith Haring Mural painted on a wall of the former Collingwood Technical School in Collingwood, Melbourne.

I was not going to publish this essay but now the time is right!

As I note in the essay Haring’s attitude to repainting seems to be at best ambiguous. As several people advocate, I support building a wall perpendicular to the original and painting a facsimile on the new wall. As the original is one of few remaining outdoor murals in the artists hand, I believe it is important to conserve what we have left of the original and painting a simulacra would satisfy those that want a “fresh” copy.

This essay is based on my own question, namely an investigation into the deterioration of a public work of art; the stabilisation of an ephemeral work; the role of the conservator in preserving the work; and the broader cultural perspectives involved when treating the work: reflections on the community from which it originates and notions of ownership and authorship. It was completed as part of my Master of Art Curatorship being undertaken at The University of Melbourne.

Please remember that this essay was written last year in September 2010, before the report from Arts Victoria and was then recently updated. Many thankx to Dr Ted Gott and to Andrew Thorn for their knowledge and help during the research for this essay.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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PS. Apologies that there are no image credits in the essay. If anyone knows the photographers please let me know and I will post but I hope they do not mind me using the photographs (in the interests of art, research and conservation).

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Abstract

This essay will examine the history and conservation of The Keith Haring Mural painted on a wall of the former Collingwood Technical School in Collingwood, Melbourne. The essay will attempt to identify the issues involved with current attempts to conserve the mural, including issues of authorship, custodianship vs ownership, stabilisation of the mural and the debate between repainting and conserving. This essay is based on my own question, namely an investigation into the deterioration of a public work of art; the stabilisation of an ephemeral work; the role of the conservator in preserving the work; and the broader cultural perspectives involved when treating the work: reflections on the community from which it originates and notions of ownership and authorship.

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Keywords

Keith Haring, Collingwood Technical School, Collingwood, Melbourne, painting, mural, public art, urban art, graffiti, Ted Gott, Andrew Thorn, THREAD, gay art group, homosexuality, HIV/AIDS, New York, National Gallery of Victoria, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Arts Victoria.

Word count: 5,056

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Introduction

In the early 1980s, New York artist and social activist Keith Haring (4th May, 1958 – 16th February, 1990) was on the brink of fame. He appeared at the Whitney Biennial and Sao Paulo Biennale in 1983 and made friendships with Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.1 Haring was also gay; he died of HIV/AIDS at a young age. His folk art/graffiti style of bold figures and pagan inspired designs outlined in black and other colours investigated concepts of birth, life, death, power, money, technology and the relationship of human beings to the planet on which they live. Haring never feared confronting his viewer with difficult socio-political problems. Embedded in the street culture of the day, Haring was one of the first artists to be heavily influenced by disco dancing and rap music, his ghetto blaster blaring out as he painted his trademark murals. Today his work can be seen to represent the quintessential essence of the 1980s: through its use of colour; the vibrancy of the gyrating bodies; and the topicality of the issues the work addressed. His imagery “has become a widely recognized visual language of the 20th century”2 and his work represents a culture in which “notions of graffiti, advertising and design became increasingly blurred.”3

Early expressions of his creativity that are precursors to his mature style were the chalk drawings on black paper that Haring undertook in the subway stations of New York, using vacant advertising spaces. These drawings were made using quickness and stealth for fear of being caught and were ephemeral; either being destroyed when the next advert was pasted in place or, when his fame became greater, souvenired by acolytes.

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Keith Haring
Barking Dogs and Spaceships and Angels and Coyotes
both 1982

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“Riding the subway from his uptown apartment to the clubs, Haring noticed black paper hanging next to advertisements in the cars, awaiting the next ad. He used this opportunity to draw in chalk on the black paper with all sorts of childlike imagery: barking dogs, babies, unisex figures, spaceships, TV sets, etc. The outline style of imagery could be appreciated individually as cartoon cels or together to form a narrative. The subway drawings magnify Haring’s cartoons into a new Pop Art that at once was urban narrative, science fiction and hieroglyphics. These subway drawings initiated his first one man shows.”4

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As Ted Gott has commented, “… Haring was seen as revolutionary, around 1981, for the manner in which he mastered the freedom and fluidity of the graffiti artists’ calligraphic defacement of public property, and catapulted it over into a mainstream artistic form. By presenting the visual language of one social class in the medium [paint on canvas] and milieus [commercial art galleries] of another elite class, Haring broke the rules then prescribed by the art world…”5

Into this context of rising fame came John Buckley, inaugural Director of Melbourne’s new Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA, later called the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, or ACCA).6  Buckley met Haring in 1982 on a research visit to New York and invited him to Australia. After organizing various grants to fund the trip, Haring arrived for a three-week visit. He was in Australia from 18th February to 8th March 1984 and completed three major projects (The Water Wall mural at The National Gallery of Victoria, the mural painted in the forecourt of The Art Gallery of New South Wales and the mural painted on the side of the former Collingwood Technical School).7 During this period he also completed other smaller works (such as a piece for the Hardware Club in Melbourne and the Glamorgan preparatory school, part of Geelong Grammar School), as well as thirteen large exhibition-quality ink drawings and four acrylic paintings.8 The latter were eventually used in the exhibition Keith Haring at ACCA’s new premises in Melbourne between 10th October – 17th November, 1985,9 and then returned to the artist by John Buckley. Some confusion exists in this matter as Haring states in his biography that his Australian experience wasn’t that hot and that he felt ripped off because the paintings he left in Australia were never returned to him, that there had never been any exhibition of his work and that the work had never been paid for.10

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Keith Haring Water Wall Mural at The National Gallery of Victoria, later destroyed

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Since ACCA had not secured a physical home at the time of the arrival of Haring (later to be in the Botanical Gardens), Buckley arranged for Haring to paint a large mural on the inside of the water wall at The National Gallery of Victoria between 21st – 22nd February 1984. Haring then travelled to Sydney and painted the AGNSW mural between 28th February – 1st March 1984 before returning to Melbourne and painting the mural at The Collingwood Technical School in one day on Tuesday 6th March 1984.11 While the first two murals were intentionally impermanent (the Water Wall was supposed to last 3 months but was destroyed by vandalism just 2 weeks after its creation,12 Haring mistakenly believing that it was attacked as a protest against the mistaken belief that he had appropriated Aboriginal motifs in its composition13 and the AGNSW mural was painted over after one month to make way for the Biennale exhibition of 1984),14 the community based project in Collingwood would become Haring’s only large, permanent evidence of his visit to Australia:

“In his interview given at the Collingwood Technical School immediately upon completion of the project on 6 March 1984, Keith Haring said about the Collingwood mural: “I had fun. I mean, it’s the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been here. It’s more fun working here than it is inside a museum. [and] It’s the only permanent thing that I did while I was in Australia.”“15

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Keith Haring painting The Keith Haring Mural, Johnston Street, Collingwood, Melbourne, 1984

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The painting of The Keith Haring Mural, Johnston Street, Collingwood, Melbourne, 1984

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“The base tint of yellow was painted onto the wall with rollers by Collingwood Technical School staff on Monday 5 March 1984,”16 the day before Haring’s ‘performance’ when he painted the mural in just two main colours, red and green, in front of a large audience; the performance was photographed and videotaped giving us unique footage of the artist at work.17 The mural features a multi-layered frieze of dancing figures in the lower half of the mural and his fear of technology in the upper half, a “hybrid man/computer monster, his vision of a future de-humanising evolution, which was ridden by two human figures …”18

In all three murals the work was undertaken freehand with no use of preparatory drawings or grids using ladders and a cherry-picker to raise and lower the artist into position – all to the blare of his ghetto blaster. For Haring there was no turning back: “Whatever marks I make are immediately recorded and immediately on view. There are no “mistakes” because nothing can be erased.”19

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Significance of the Mural

According to the Statement of Significance on the Heritage Council of Victoria database, “The Mural has historical and social significance as the work of a major artist. Keith Haring is considered one of the most significant artists of his generation. As a role model for gay artists and Aids activism his influence was international.

The Keith Haring Mural is of social significance as a landmark piece of public art in Melbourne. Its prominent inner city location is indicative of the changing physical and social landscape of a former working class suburb.

The Mural is also of social significance for its influence on young artists for its inner city setting and use of popular culture themes and imagery.”20

Emily Sharpe states that the mural may also be the last surviving extant [outdoor] mural in the world painted entirely by his hand,21 although this information is contradicted by The Haring Foundation in a quotation later in the essay (see the section ‘To restore or conserve?’ below, Footnote 49).

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Keith Haring mural on the side of the former Collingwood Technical School in 2010 (painted 1984)

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Issues in Conservation

During the period 1994 – 1995 a recently formed gay art group in Melbourne called THREAD (of which I was a part, the acronym of which is now lost to my memory) became concerned about the deterioration of the Keith Haring mural on the side of the Collingwood Technical School in Johnston Street, Collingwood. The group tried to engage the city of Yarra (the inner Melbourne municipality where the mural is located) and other organizations (The National Trust) about the possibility of repainting the mural due to the importance of the mural and its painting by an internationally renowned gay artist. Basically, as conservator Andrew Thorn succinctly puts it, “to repaint the mural on the basis of identity giving ownership.”22

While the intentions of the group were entirely honourable in such a proposal, on reflection and with the passing of the years, being older and wiser, I realise the error of our ways. While acknowledging that the group probably did want to take ownership of the mural on the basis of sexual identity at the time I think the group was just motivated by a desire to get something to happen and we did at least succeed in starting a dialogue between those that had an interest in conserving the mural. One of the problems was that none of us had conservation experience and, as Tom Dixon noted in a phone call to him about the mural,23  the representation of the group was never consistent as it was always a different person that you were talking to.

The profile of the mural was also raised through newspaper articles: “A series of newspaper articles drew attention to the vexed issues around its historic significance and increasing deterioration; these articles formed an important research component of the subsequent classification report” (The book in which this article is quoted incorrectly states that students helped Haring paint the mural – see p.146).24 These concerns eventually led to the stabilisation of the mural by conservator Andrew Thorn in 1996 and its listing by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) (NTAV) in 1997. During the treatment of the mural in 1996 Thorn undertook various conservation treatments, namely cleaning of the paint surface (including removal of stains), paint consolidation (fine cracking and detachments within the red paint and reattachment of the yellow paint), reattachments of lower render due to rising damp, consolidation and protection of the paint film with a protective coating system and reintegration of small areas of loss. A proposal for future maintenance was envisaged that included regular inspections, maintenance and care,25 but unfortunately it would seem that this maintenance has not been undertaken. In a recent report (2007) on the condition of the mural Thorn notes that, “insipient deterioration can be avoided, but if regular maintenance is not continued, the painting will be lost.”26 Thorn also notes that the resin gloss layer applied in 1996 to prevent AO (anti-oxidant) and UV (ultraviolet) deterioration “shows clear signs of degradation,” and should have been reapplied at 5 yearly intervals to maintain effectiveness.27 The report also notes that the yellow ground has become paler since 1996, the eroded reds need consolidation, the rising moisture is having a greater effect on the surface than previously and the green brushstrokes are beginning to show signs of loss.28

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Keith Haring mural on the side of the former Collingwood Technical School in 2010 detail (painted 1984)

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Ownership or custodianship

I support the concept of custodianship (or shared ownership) of a work of art rather than ownership per se. I believe that many people have a stake in the cultural value of a work of art and that custodianship, being a caretaker of the work, engages with the idea that the work belongs to everyone and that everyone should have access to enjoy it. Of course being gay offers a close affinity to the work of Keith Haring but, as Andrew Thorn notes, “that does not impart greater ownership of common property or of visual arts and imagery. It does give some ownership but not the right to snatch ownership from others.”29

In a separate email he continues, “At the same time it is necessary in giving ownership to wrest it from those that have claims and this process requires substantial diplomacy. It moves ownership from exclusive to shared. Ownership and identity are good and necessary things and if a work or an artist provides inspiration and support that is not to be denigrated and must be respected … Claiming of ownership is not an aggressive act but part of belonging and identity … It is necessary to engage in a community spirit to ensure a highly significant work and its maker are treated with the respect they deserve.”30

While the earlier attempts by the THREAD group could be seen as an attempt to obtain cultural ownership I acknowledge that this position is untenable. It must be a difficult task – the diplomacy of negotiating with all vested interests. But as Thorn rightly notes this comes down to the modern democratic process, the freedom to elect decision makers – not make the decisions themselves but delegate the responsibility to elected others. We must possess the ability to respect anybody’s relationship and enjoyment of the mural as much as we should respect Thorn’s professional judgment as an internationally renowned conservator to ensure this work is protected in the best possible way so that future generations can enjoy the work.

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Keith Haring mural on the side of the former Collingwood Technical School in 2010 detail (painted 1984)

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The conservator and the cultural landscape

The conservation of artefacts is an integral part of the cultural landscape. The nature of the cultural landscape is a fluid environment: a palimpsest where the authorship of the original work of art is a textual site, where “change (and decay), alteration, editing, revision and restoration represent the true life of objects.”31

“The document is the textual site where the agents of textuality meet: author, copyist, editor, typesetter and reader.” In art and architecture there would be, besides artist and architect, builders, conservators, curators, preservationists, historians, viewers and users.”32 Embedded within the work are the memory and history of the object, within culture. Conservator Andrew Thorn observes, “It is a societal need to preserve the past and keep it for the future. Far more pragmatic issues dominate the profession [that of conservation] and unlike some contemporary art practice it does not need the props of modernist theory in any form to exist.”33

I beg to differ. Conservation exists only within culture. It is embedded within it and linked to the history and memory of the object. The nature of the cultural landscape and our heritage is a constitutive process: “an approach to heritage which understands it not as an object which is the static locus of some internal value, but as a process.”34 And that process invokes the social, cultural, economic and political contexts that include the act of interpretation and the concept of representation.

Laurajane Smith argues that, “heritage is heritage because it is subjected to the management and preservation/ conservation process, not because it simply ‘is’. The process does not just ‘find’ sites and places to manage and protect. It is itself a constitutive cultural process that identifies those things and places that can be given meaning and value as ‘heritage’, reflecting contemporary and cultural social values, debates and aspirations.”35 Gibson and Pendlebury unpack this statement further:

“In the first and most obvious sense, it follows from this position that there is nothing self-apparent or given about regimes of value and significance, rather these frameworks are specific to our particular social, cultural, economic and political contexts. Drawing on the anthropologist Marcel Mauss’s famous proscription on the cultural and historical specificity of contemporary personhood, objects, building and places are ‘formulated’ as heritage ‘only for us, amongst us’.”36

The value of an object cannot exist without reference to its historicity, its relationship to everything and everyone around us and conservation needs these frameworks of theory to have existence. As Foucault notes, “The space in which we live, which draws us out of ourselves, in which the erosion of our lives, our time and our history occurs, the space that claws and gnaws at us, is also, in itself, a heterogeneous space. In other words, we do not live in a kind of void, inside of which we could place individuals and things. We do not live inside a void that could be colored with diverse shades of light, we live inside a set of relations that delineates sites which are irreducible to one another and absolutely not superimposable on one another.”37

Complementary to Foucault’s notion of a set of relations that delineates sites and heterotopic spaces is how Janet Wolff positions these sites, these texts, within a sociology of cultural production:

“…the meaning which audiences ‘read’ in texts and other cultural products is partly constructed by those audiences. Cultural codes, including language itself, are complex and dense systems of meaning, permeated by innumerable sets of connotations and significations. This means that they can be read in different ways, with different emphases, and also in a more or less critical or detached frame of mind. In short, any reading of any cultural product is an act of interpretation … the way in which we ‘translate’ or interpret particular works is always determined by our own perspective and our own position in ideology. This means that the sociology of art cannot simply discuss ‘the meaning’ of a novel or painting, without reference to the question of who reads or sees it, and how. In this sense, a sociology of cultural production must be supplemented with, and integrated into, a sociology of cultural reception.”38

I understand that the conservator is not an editor (and here I am not abrogating the right of conservators to conserve, far from it). What I am proposing, however, is that an acknowledgment of the many voices that constitute the life and memory of an object, including the post-structuralist theory that analyses these histories and interpretations, be included in the negotiations with all parties and stakeholders. This perspective also acknowledges the changing contexts of interpretation of the Keith Haring Mural as it becomes ever more precious as one of the few outdoor murals left in the world painted in the author’s hand.

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Keith Haring mural on the side of the former Collingwood Technical School in 2010 (painted 1984)

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To restore or conserve?

“The painting can be preserved and not fade or deteriorate further if the recommendations of my 1996 and 2010 reports are adhered to. If you think this is not true you need to provide the evidence … it is assumed you respect my professional judgement in ensuring this work is protected in the best possible way so that all people can enjoy the masterpiece painted by Keith Haring as far into the future as possible. Over painting the mural ends the work of Keith Haring on that day.”39

The vexatious issue of restoring or conserving the Keith Haring mural has been an ongoing source of debate since the early attempts by the THREAD group to have the work “restored” (i.e. over painted) in the mid-1990s. Haring’s attitude to repainting seems to be at best ambiguous. The statement of significance of the mural when listed by The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) in 1997 notes that,

“Crucial to the fate of the mural and, given its exposure to the elements, is whether the artist himself would have accepted the deterioration of the mural or have condoned some form of restoration. Haring’s own feelings appear to have been ambivalent in the matter. In favour of restoring the mural i.e., repainting – is the fact that the simplistic three colour design devoid of subtle harmonies would not present serious problems in restoring it to its original condition. Opinion appears to be divided regarding the moral considerations in the matter and even the Estate of Keith Haring is unclear in this matter.”40

John Buckley “recalls a conversation with Haring who, with a characteristic lack of preciousness, said that the mural could, when needed, just be repainted by any good signwriter”41 but Andrew Thorn disputes this interpretation noting that “Keith talked about the continuity of his work. What Buckley stated contradicts the attitude presented by Haring throughout his biography. Another point to consider here is that Keith died within 6 years of completing the painting and I am certain beyond doubt that the condition of the painting even after 6 years would have been more or less pristine. There is no indication throughout the last two years of his life that Keith had any concern for his made works and that his declining health and the pain associated with that allowed him little time to consider anything other than his current work and failing health. If Buckley provides evidence of a friendship that Keith denies in his biography I for one would re-assess the intention of the artist.”42

This brings up the thorny issue of the ephemerality of street art. “Art academic Chris McAuliffe expressed his view regarding the impermanence of this work, arguing that ‘… as graffiti, it should be left to fade … If you subject it to conservation procedures then you transpose graffiti into a realm that it was opposed to. You make it art’.”43 Personally I believe that all street art, whether officially sanctioned (like the Keith Haring mural) or not, is art. Distinction can only be made between street art/graffiti (not necessarily officially sanctioned: think the early chalk drawings of Haring or the street art of Banksy) and vandalism or tagging. Perhaps ephemerality is inherently built into street art, that documentation is enough to substantiate the life of the work, but that does not mean we have to sit by and let work be defaced or fade away without attempts at conservation.

According to Donna Wheeler there is an “unbreachable divide” between the two camps of Haring devotees. “Those on the conservatorial side see the mural as a cultural artefact, one that contains the artist’s rare and authentic touch evidenced in each singular brushstroke; they advocate a commitment to preservation, or stabilisation, with the caveat that even with their best efforts, the mural will continue to fade and eventually cease to exist. The Haring Foundation, and many others, including several curators and Haring’s original Australian contact, John Buckley, are hoping to restore, or more accurately, repaint the work, claiming that this would most closely follow Haring’s wishes. Yes, the original paint and brushstrokes would be forever lost, but Haring’s intent, creative vision and integral design will live on, in all its jellybean vibrancy.”44

I disagree with the stance taken by those that wish to repaint the mural. The hand of the author would be lost and the mural would simply become a simulacra of the original, a sign value that is an illusion of reality, a repainting purporting to “look like” the original but actually nothing like it.45 Support for this stance are the photographs of the original Crack is Wack (1986) mural painted by Keith Haring and the over painted mural photographs shown by Andrew Thorn at the public forum into the future of the mural in April 2010.46 In this presentation Thorn, “illustrated the losses inherent with repainting and also showed that the most iconic Haring mural ‘Crack is Wack’, is not the painting that Haring is photographed in front of the day he completed it.”47

Thorn states, “I support making a new copy of the painting, I just believe it should not devalue the original. Repainting over the original destroys the original work by Keith Haring. What you have is a copy and an irretrievable original, that is to say you have destroyed the work of Keith Haring. This is against the law administered by Heritage Victoria and devalues the work monetarily. This may seem an odd point to raise but becomes more significant when one considers the copyright act in relation to artists and their rights. The law there clearly states that any action that devalues a work or diminishes the artist’s reputation is a violation of the copyright act. The Haring Foundation need to be aware of this international law and particularly in the context of the ‘Crack is Wack’ no longer being the work of Keith Haring and thereby diminishing his reputation by deception.”

In reply the Haring Foundation note that, “the ONLY Haring mural that was completely repainted was the Crack is Wack mural in NYC, due to it’s absolutely dreadful condition. It, too, is a landmark and highly valued by its community, and while no longer the original, it most definitely remains a Keith Haring mural. There are several outdoor murals that are untouched: Tuttomondo in Pisa (cleaned only); Necker Hospital in Paris; murals in Amsterdam and Phoenix, AZ. Numerous outdoor murals were only cleaned and lightly repaired and there are over a dozen indoor murals in public institutions that are untouched …

The Haring Foundation does not always recommend a complete repainting, that would be silly. But the awful condition of the Collingwood mural is similar to that of ‘Crack is Wack’ and therefore the Foundation does highly recommend that it be repainted. Further to ‘Crack is Wack’, when Keith originally painted it, he had no permission, and so was required by the city to paint it out, completely covering over his first version. Shortly thereafter, he was granted permission by the city, and the second version he painted was different from the first version. Keith’s first version is often reproduced in books and catalogs and this has led to the utterly incorrect assumption that the Haring Foundation actually destroyed his first version and replaced it with something completely different over it. Not true.”49

While it is correct that Haring returned on the following day and painted a second version, not a copy of the first, conservator Andrew Thorn states that, “Since his death in 1990, the west painting has been repainted with imagery not resembling either of the two original Haring works … and this has in turn been reapplied more or less faithfully in 2007. This last painting, the one currently visible, is the fourth in the series and bears no resemblance to either of the two original works … The current painting appears not to be the work of Keith Haring, but continues to be considered his signature outdoor work … Haring may have painted the third image, but there is no record of this … The third and seemingly anonymous rendition continues the overall message but with new iconography, and appears not to be the work of Keith Haring.”50

Thorn supports the painting of a facsimile, a replica of the original, as does artist and academic Dr Megan Evans: “I think the best option is to preserve it [the original] and then do a replica nearby which is done in honour of the Haring work. I think this would be more interesting conceptually also as to have a repainted work is like covering up the mark of the past and to make a facsimile is to recreate it in a contemporary context.”51 I agree with the concept of making a facsimile positioned close to the original. Perhaps this could be completed on a new wall that is perpendicular to the original wall that the mural is painted on. Of course the pertinent question would be the permissions needed to erect such a wall, the cost of its construction, the cost of painting the new mural and its upkeep.

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Keith Haring
Crack is Wack
as completed by Haring in 1986 (1st version, now overpainted)

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Current Crack is Wack
painted after 1990

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Now you see it, now you don’t

This brings me to my final point: now you see it, now you don’t. While I must take at face value the assertion by Andrew Thorn that the mural can be preserved and not fade or deteriorate further if the recommendations of his 1996 and 2010 reports are adhered to, and while I respect his professional judgment in that statement, unfortunately past experience (i.e. the lack of maintenance of the mural between 1996, the year of the last stabilisation, and now) tells me that the mural will continue to deteriorate and fade unless a specific and regular maintenance plan is financially funded and put in place. Donna Wheeler observes that the mural “is but a shadow of its former self”52 and I agree with this assertion. I was shocked to see the mural when visiting it recently compared to how I remember it in 1996 (ah, memory!). Though still an original Haring, it is pale and wane, almost an imitation of itself (and that is an irony in itself), and it made me sad to see the mural in this condition, as I remember how vibrant it was back in the early 1990s.

“According to ACCA curator Hannah Mathews, when the mural was last stabilised in 1996, it was estimated that a tiny sum of A$200 ($178) was needed annually to maintain the work. A combination of factors including pollution and time has left the mural in its current degraded state. Some estimate that it could cost around A$25,000 ($22,000) to stabilise, with an additional A$1,000 ($900) a year for maintenance. Although the issue of whether to repaint the mural is up for debate, all parties agree that the work needs stabilisation as soon as possible to prevent further surface lifting and cracking of the paint … Yarra mayor Jane Garrett said … “Following the forum [Yarra Talking Art forum: “The Keith Haring Mural: yesterday, today, tomorrow” on 29th April 2010 held in Collingwood], [the] Council [is setting up] a working group, which will seek to include representatives from Skills Victoria, Heritage Victoria, the arts community and other stakeholders, to discuss the mural’s future and come to a consensus on the most appropriate way to preserve it.”53

All parties need to agree and as quickly as possible. While Haring was quite happy to send his work out into the world for the enjoyment of all it would be a disservice to his memory and his status as an internationally renowned artist to have the only Haring mural in Australia deteriorate further. Time is of the essence. As Mark Holsworth on his Melbourne Art & Culture Critic blog insightfully opines, “Street art is not the property of the street artists – it belongs to everyone. Even if the artist intends for the art to be ephemeral there is no reason for their wishes to be carried out; the person giving the gift does not get to determine how the gift is used.”54

In the final analysis everyone needs to come to consensus about the future of the Keith Haring Mural for without proper conservation and maintenance it will truly be a case of now you see it, no you don’t.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Endnotes

1. Keith Haring on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 25/09/2010 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Haring

2. Ibid.,

3. Gott, Ted. “Fragile Memories: Keith Haring and the Water Window Mural at the National Gallery of Victoria,” in Art Bulletin of Victoria Vol. 43. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, p.8.

4. “Keith Haring New York,” on the Woodward Gallery website [Online] Cited 25/09/2010
www.woodwardgallery.net/exhibitions/ex-haring-newyork.html

5. Gott, Ted. Op cit., pp.7-8.

6. Gott, Ted. Op cit., p.8.

7. Gott, Ted. Keith Haring’s Collingwood Mural. Draft of a paper given at a Keith Haring Public Forum, Collingwood, 29th April 2010 by Ted Gott, Senior Curator, International Art, National Gallery of Victoria.

8. Gott, Ted and Sullivan, Lisa. “Keith Haring in Australia.” in Art and Australia, v.39, no.4, June-July-Aug 2002: (560)-567. ISSN: 0004-301X. [Online] Cited 09 August 2010.
search.informit.com.au.ezp.lib.unimelb.edu.au/fullText;dn=200205608;res=APAFT

9. Buckley, John. “Keith Haring” exhibition catalogue. Melbourne: Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), 1985.

10. Gott, Ted and Sullivan, Lisa. Op. cit., p.564. See also Footnote 15 and Gruen, John. Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1991, p.113.

11. Gott, Ted and Sullivan, Lisa. Op. cit.,

12. Gott, Ted and Sullivan, Lisa. Op. cit., p.562. See also Footnote 10 and Footnote 15. “Vandals,” Herald, Saturday 10th March 1984, p.1; “Vandals smash gallery pane,” The Age, Monday 12th March , 1984, p,19.

13. Gott, Ted and Sullivan, Lisa. Op. cit., Footnote 15 and Gruen, John. Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1991, p.113.

14. Gott, Ted and Sullivan, Lisa. Op. cit., p.564.

15. Gott, Ted. Keith Haring’s Collingwood Mural. Op cit.,

16. Gott, Ted. Keith Haring’s Collingwood Mural. Op cit.,

17. Gott, Ted. Keith Haring’s Collingwood Mural. Op cit.,

18. Gott, Ted and Sullivan, Lisa. Op. cit., p.566. See also Gott, Ted. Keith Haring’s Collingwood Mural. Op cit.,

“Uniquely, we have a surviving record of Keith Haring’s own interpretation of the Collingwood mural, revealed during an interview conducted with the artist shortly after the painting’s completion on Tuesday 6 March 1984. There Keith Haring noted how: “What’s going on in the bottom is about – I mean, all these people are doing different things, right? Some of them are like dancing, like rap dancing, or acrobatics.  Some of them are almost like they are fighting. But the way they are all together means that they can’t – I mean, if one of them comes out, the whole thing falls down. So they sort of depend on all of them to make it work. So it’s sort of like society or whatever, where the world only works when lots of individuals do their part, right?

The thing at the top is, I guess, the impending doom or impending possibility of technological … the confrontation between technology and the human element, which is still holding up the technology, and based on the technology. But it sort of takes a semi-circle in evolution, where people evolved up to a certain point, and now they’ve evolved so far that they’ve invented a computer or a machine to evolve further. And the computer is maybe evolving more than people were. So it’s about that sort of confrontation, I guess.”

19. Gott, Ted and Sullivan, Lisa. Op. cit., p.562. See also Footnote 8 and Haring, Keith. “Keith Haring,” in Flash Art, No. 116, March 1984, p.22.

20. Anon. “Keith Haring Mural: Statement of Significance,” on Heritage Council of Victoria database [Online] Cited 04/10/2010.
http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/#detail_places;12532

21. Sharpe, Emily. “Saving Keith Haring Down Under: Melbourne work is last surviving wall painting by the late artist’s own hand,” on The Art Newspaper website. Published online 08/06/2010. Cited 06/08/2010.
www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Saving-Keith-Haring-Down-Under/20920

22. Thorn, Andrew. Email to the author. 24/08/2010.

23. Dixon, Tom. Member of the Public Art Committee of the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) (NTAV). Telephone conversation with the author 26/08/2010. The Public Art Committee considers murals, mosaics, and sculptures; and such works can be found in parks and reserves, public streets, squares and buildings; and publicly accessible parts of privately owned buildings.

24. Masterson, Andrew “Off the wall art,” in The Age. Melbourne: Summer Age supplement. December 27th, 1994, p.4-5 quoted in Gibson, Lisanne and Pendlebury, John R. “Values not Shared: The Street Art of Melbourne’s City Laneways,” chapter in Valuing historic environments. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2009, p.146.

25. Thorn, Andrew. “Conservation Treatment Report.” The Keith Haring Mural Johnston Street, Collingwood. Final Report prepared for Northern Institute, 1997.

26. Thorn, Andrew. “Review of Condition and Treatment.” The Keith Haring Mural Johnston Street, Collingwood. Prepared for City of Yarra, 2007, p.1.

27. Ibid., p.2.

28. Ibid., p.3-5.

29. Thorn, Andrew. Email to the author. 23/08/2010.

30. Thorn, Andrew. Email to the author. 24/08/2010.

31. McCaughy, Patrick. Review of “Securing the Past: Conservation in Art, Architecture and Literature” by Paul Eggert in The Australian, December 02, 2009. [Online] Cited 12/06/2010.
www.theaustralian.com.au/news/arts/securing-the-past-conservation-in-art-architecture-and-literature/story-e6frg8nf-1225805907660

32. Ibid.,

33. Thorn, Andrew. Email to the author. 23/08/2010.

34. Gibson, Lisanne and Pendlebury, John R. Valuing historic environments. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2009, p.72.

35. Smith, Laurajane. Uses of Heritage. Oxford: Routledge, 2006, p.3 (italics in original) quoted in Gibson, Lisanne and Pendlebury, John R. Valuing historic environments. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2009, p.72.

36. Mauss, Marcel. “A category of the human mind: The notion of person; the notion of self,” in Carrithers, M, Collins, S and Lukes, S (eds.,). The Category of the Person: Anthropology, Philosophy, History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985, p.22, cited in Gibson, Lisanne and Pendlebury, John R. Valuing historic environments. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2009, p.72.

37. Foucault, Michel. Of Other Spaces (1967), “Heterotopias.” Diacritics 16 (Spring 1986), pp.22-27.

38. Wolff, Janet. The Social Production of Art. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993, p.97.

39. Thorn, Andrew. Email to the author. 23/08/2010.

40. National Trust of Australia (Victoria). Classification Report for ‘Keith Haring Mural’, Johnston Street, Collingwood, File numer 6675. Extract from Statement of Significance, 4th August 1997 quoted in Gibson, Lisanne and Pendlebury, John R. “Values not Shared: The Street Art of Melbourne’s City Laneways.” Valuing historic environments. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2009, p.146.

41. Wheeler, Donna. “When Keith Came To Town,” on Holiday Goddess, Female-Friendly Travel website. [Online] Cited 06/08/2010.
holidaygoddess.com/destinations/pacific/australia/keith-haring-mural-collingwood/

42. Thorn, Andrew. Email to the author. 23/08/2010.

43. McAuliffe, Chris quoted in Masterson, Andrew “Off the wall art,” in The Age. Melbourne: Summer Age supplement. December 27th, 1994, p.4-5 quoted in Gibson, Lisanne and Pendlebury, John R. Valuing historic environments. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2009, p.72.

44. Op. cit.,

45. See Tseëlon, E. The Masque of Femininity: The Representation of Women in Everyday Life. London: Sage, 1995, p.128.

46. Yarra Talking Arts forum. “The Keith Haring mural: yesterday, today, tomorrow.” Thursday 29th April, 2010.

47. Thorn, Andrew. Email to the author. 23/08/2010.

48. Ibid.,

49. Gruen, Julia. “Save the Keith Haring Mural” web page on Facebook [Online] Cited 21/11/2011
www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=117064188315110&ref=ts

50. Thorn, Andrew. “Another Red Haring,” keynote paper presented at the International Council of Museums Conservation Committee  (ICOMCC) triennial Conference, Lisbon, October 2011

51. Evans, Megan. Email to the author. 08/09/2010.

52. Wheeler, Donna Op cit.,

53. Sharpe, Emily Op cit.,

54. Holsworth, Mark. “Another Banksy Gone,” on Melbourne Art & Culture Critic blog. [Online] Cited 06/10/2010.
melbourneartcritic.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/another-banksy-gone/

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17
Nov
11

Exhibition: ‘Renaissance Faces. Masterpieces of Italian Portraiture’
 at the 
Bode Museum, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 25th August – 20th November 2011

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The Legend of the Surface, the Facies

Facies simultaneously signifies the singular air of a face, the particularity of its aspect, as well as the genre or species under which this aspect should be subsumed. The facies would thus be a face fixed to a synthetic combination of the universal and the singular: the visage fixed to the regime of representation, in a Helgian sense.

Why the face? – Because in the face the corporeal surface makes visible something of the movements of the soul, ideally.”

Georges Didi-Huberman 1

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Many thankx to the Bode Museum for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version.

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Filippo Lippi
Portrait of a Man and a Woman at a Casement
c 1440
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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Antonio del Pollaiuolo
Portrait of a Young Lady
c 1465
Berlin, National Museums in Berlin, Gemäldegalerie
© National Museums in Berlin, Jörg P. Anders

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Antonio del Pollaiuolo
Portrait of a Young Woman
c 1465/70 Milan, Museo Poldi Pezzoli
© Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan

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Sandro Botticelli
Profile Portrait of a Young Lady (Simonetta Vespucci?)
c 1476
Berlin, National Museums in Berlin, Gemäldegalerie
© National Museums in Berlin, Jörg P. Anders

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Leonardo da Vinci
Lady with an Ermine (portrait of Cecilia Gallerani)
1489/90
Kraków, owned by Princes Czartoryski Foundation, at the National Museum
© bpk / Scala

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“The Gemäldegalerie – National Museums in Berlin and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, have joined forces in organizing a major exhibition on the genesis of the Italian portrait. For Berlin, the Bode Museum presents itself as the ideal location to hold such an exhibition: on its opening in 1904, it was conceived by its founder, Wilhelm von Bode, as a ‘Renaissance Museum’ on the Museum Island. The Bode Museum will host the first stage of the exhibition, running from 25 August to 20 November 2011, before it subsequently goes on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, from 19 December 2011 to 18 March 2012.

More than 150 key works, including paintings, drawings, medals and busts, are about to go on display for the first time together. The more than 50 lenders include the Uffizi in Florence, the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London. Among the exhibition’s many highlights is Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Lady with an Ermine’ from the Czartoryski Collection, Cracow.

The exhibition highlights depictions of the appearance and personality of real people. Portraits of feminine beauty vie with portraits of generals, princes and humanists, offering us a fascinating insight into the age of the early Renaissance.

At the heart of the exhibition stands the Italian Renaissance portrait. The Italian art of portraiture evolved under the influence of antique models. However, it was equally shaped by the innovations of the great Netherlandish painters. The history of the art of portraiture, from Pisanello up to Verrocchio, Botticelli, Bellini and Leonardo, is retold in a selection of magnificent and sensational key works, including paintings, sculptures, medals and drawings. The exhibition focuses both on the art produced at the Italian courts, as well as the development of the portrait in Florence and Venice.

A unique architectural and lighting concept, especially designed for the exhibition, takes into account the individual qualities of each exhibit in its presentation. Of crucial importance here is the aesthetic experience, both of the quality of the artworks and of the materials used in creating them.

The artistic diversity evident in these early portraits, the various roles the images served and their historical contexts all resonate with suspense. The Gemäldegalerie – National Museums in Berlin and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York embarked on an intense collaboration to present this to the general public. Masterpieces from New York and the rich collections of the National Museums in Berlin, not just from the Gemäldegalerie itself but also from the Sculpture Collection, Kupferstichkabinett and Numismatic Collection, offer visitors an unprecedented insight into this epoch. Furthermore, for the first time the show in the Bode Museum also encompasses all media of Italian Renaissance portraiture – medals, drawings, sculptures and panel paintings.

Portraits – either in the form of a painting, photograph and less often a medal – have become commonplace today, but between the 5th and 15th century independent portraits of individual people were rare and the exclusive reserve of rulers and historic figures. Only in the 15th century did it again become customary for artists on both sides of the Alps to produce independent portraits of men and women. Today’s exhibition ‘Renaissance Faces’ pays homage to Italy’s contribution to this first great age of European portraiture and conveys a sense of the innovative ways in which artists responded to the challenge of creating individual portraits and how they explored questions of identity that arose as a result.

When selecting the exhibits, the organizers’ chief aim was to highlight the prevailing conventions and decisive innovations in a period spanning more than eight decades. Set against the backdrop of Italy’s geographical, political and cultural complexities in the 15th century, the exhibition is divided into three clearly outlined thematic sections. The first of these is Florence, as it was here that the independent portrait first appeared on a significant scale. The visitor’s gaze is then directed to the courts of Ferrara, Mantua, Bologna, Milan, Urbino, Naples and finally papal Rome. The circle is then completed in Venice, where a portrait tradition only established itself remarkably late in the century. In each section, works in all media are juxtaposed with each other to give visitors the chance to see for themselves how the various art forms mutually influenced each other with their own unique qualities.

In a society dominated by family descent and social hierarchies, conventions were binding. And it is precisely these conventions that are depicted in profile portraits from 15th-century Italy. Profile portraits were equally popular as reliefs or paintings. Compared with the far more naturalistic art produced north of the Alps, which people in 15th-century Italy were definitely familiar with, this form of portrait seems at first a little surprising, as the Italian artists present the sitters in a soft light and at a slight angle to the picture plane. The sitters are seen standing either at a window or behind a parapet and gaze at the viewer. Sometimes a hand is seen resting on the edge of the painted frame. When looking at these images, it is clear that Italian portraits are not primarily concerned with achieving an accurate likeness, at least not in the conventional sense. Italian portraits do not so much reveal personality, rather convey social conventions and cultural identity.

The profile portrait was frequently given such exceptional importance in Italy, because it largely drew from Roman coins and reliefs for inspiration. But the profile portrait has always been the most elementary form of capturing someone’s likeness. Informal, direct and frontal views have become so familiar to us in portraits today thanks to photography that we first have to be resensitized to the unique possibilities inherent in the profile portrait. For one, it makes it possible to objectify a person’s outer appearance and allows physiognomies to convey cultural meaning. The pleasing aspect of a high forehead, the refinement or contemptuousness expressed in a raised brow, the aristocratic curve of a nose and the severity or gentleness of a chin and jawline – all these are physiognomical characteristics that come to stand as emblems for beauty, rank and power.”

Press release from the Bode Museum website quoting the exhibition catalogue

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Pisanello (Antonio Pisano)
Portrait of Leonello d’Este
c 1444
Bergamo, Accademia Carrara
© Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

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Sandro Botticelli
Portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici
c 1478
Washington, National Gallery of Art
© Art Resource, New York

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Andrea Mantegna
Portrait of Cardinal Ludovico Trevisano
c 1459
Berlin, National Museums in Berlin, Gemäldegalerie
© National Museums in Berlin, Jörg P. Anders

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Antonello da Messina
Portrait of a Young Man
1478
Berlin, National Museums in Berlin, Gemäldegalerie
© National Museums in Berlin, Jörg P. Anders

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1. Didi-Huberman, Georges. Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere (trans. Alisa Hartz). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003, p.49.

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Bode Museum
Museum Island Berlin,
Am Kupfergraben 1, 10117 Berlin

Opening hours:
Mon 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Tue 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Wed 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Thu 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Fri 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sat 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sun 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Bode Museum website

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13
Nov
11

Review: ‘Selina Ou: New York’ at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 25th October – 19th November 2011

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A strong, nuanced body of work by Selina Au at Sophie Gannon Gallery in Richmond. In the flesh these large colour photographs have a wonderful, polyvocal presence. The solo portraits are stronger in terms of composition and intertextuality than the double portraits.

Derived from the Latin intertexto, meaning to intermingle while weaving, intertextuality is a term first introduced by French semiotician Julia Kristeva in the late sixties.1 Intertextuality “is always an iteration which is also a re-iteration, a re-writing which foregrounds the trace of the various texts it both knowingly and unknowingly places and dis-places.”2 Intertexuality is how a text is constituted. It fragments singular readings. The reader’s own previous readings, experiences and position within the cultural formation influences these re-inscriptions.

Reminding me of a contemporary redefinition of the work of Diane Arbus, Ou’s reconceptualisations of space “produce a plurality of meanings and signifying/interpretive gestures that escape the reduction of knowledge to fixed, monological re-presentations, or presences.”3 Through a process of materialisation, using the technique of assemblage, Ou weaves a lack of fixity into her photographs. She creates a kind of tapestry in the surfaces of her images, a play of pattern/randomness that redefines the significations of the body in the fold of inscription.

Take the first three portraits in this posting, for example. The photograph Tim, Hair Stylist, Lower East Side, New York weaves space, time and memory within the pictorial frame. The physical space between the portrait on the wall at rear, Tim and the clock at right is crucial to a reading of this photograph, as is the disjuncture between the appearance of the man in the framed photograph (in jacket and tie) and the casual attire of Tim. Just as important is the memorialisation of both men within the same space (where both presumably work/ed), the collapsing of past and present into a fluid space that is neither here nor there (the past of the man in the framed photograph, the moment of passing of Tim when the photograph was ‘taken’ and the present of the photograph being looked at). There is no fixed, monological representation here: the reading of this photograph hovers between past and present, between memory and reality and haunts the body of the subject, Tim.

Similarly, Raquel, Waitress and Fashion Designer, Nolita, New York and Jerome, Retail Assistant and Fashion Designer, Soho, New York offer radical re-iterations of space, this time with less temporal associations. In Raquel, two red chevrons at top left and right frame the face of the subject, playing off the colour-changing hair of the waitress/fashion designer, the title of the photograph an ironic comment on the intertextual nature of contemporary life: a waitress (low paid, menial labourer) and a fashion designer (famous, highly visible entrepreneur). The nonchalantly limp-wristed, ringed hand and over large glasses, coupled with the bedraggled threads of the black shorts – echoing the tousled nature of the subjects hair – also belies the statement “fashion designer.” The word Cervesas (beer) offers a dichotomy with the coloured bottles of flavoured water that surround the lower half of the subject while the reflection in the window behind Raquel provides a metaphorical vista into this distorted world view.

In Jerome, the same problem in a person’s relationship with self and others is evident: the context of Jerome as both a retail assistant (low paid, menial labourer) and a fashion designer (famous, highly visible entrepreneur). The narcissistic, self-importance of Jerome is beautifully portrayed by Ou as she balances the context of his body in space – his polka-dot shirt reflecting the dotted neon of the shops name, his logo emblazoned necklace doing the same, while the reflections in the shop window again hint at outside forces (the car and consumerism) and other worlds. The defiant, could not give a shit gaze of the subject into the camera lens hints at years of subjugation and unrequited ambition for this is not his shop, these are not his clothes despite the label “fashion designer.” He is just a retail assistant, the subject of his own con(text).

The strength of these photographs is that they blur the outlines of the fixed image dispersing an image of totality, “into an unbounded, illimitable tissue of connections and associations, paraphrases and fragments, texts and con-texts.”4 In this sense the solo portraits are much more successful than the rest of the work as Ou magically weaves the tapestry of life into her compositions, ready for the reader to bring their own experiences to these re-inscriptions. In a word these photographs are, literally, breath-taking.

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Many thankx to Sophie Gannon Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Selina Ou
Tim, Hair Stylist, Lower East Side, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

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Selina Ou
Raquel, Waitress and Fashion Designer, Nolita, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

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Selina Ou
Jerome, Retail Assistant and Fashion Designer, Soho, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

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Selina Ou
Darren, Model and Carlito, Artist, Soho, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

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Selina Ou
Carolyn and Jane, Lolitas, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

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Selina Ou
Issa and Lamine, Taxi Mechanics, Upper West Side, New York
2011
C-type print
100 x 100cm

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1. Keep, Christopher, McLaughlin, Tim and Parmar, Robin. “Interxtuality,” on The Electronic Labyrinth website [Online] Cited 13/11/2011. elab.eserver.org/hfl0278.html

2. Ibid.,

3. Thumlert, Kurt. Intervisuality, Visual Culture, and Education. [Online] Cited 10/08/2006.
www.forkbeds.com/visual-pedagogy.htm (no longer available)

4. Keep Op cit.,

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Sophie Gannon Gallery
2, Albert Street
Richmond, Melbourne

Opening hours:
Tues – Saturday 11 – 5pm

Sophie Gannon Gallery website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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