Archive for December, 2011

30
Dec
11

Exhibition: ‘Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven’ at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 19th October 2011 – 8th January 2012

 

Frederick Horsman Varley. 'Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay' 1921

 

Frederick Horsman Varley (Canadian, born United Kingdom 1881-1969)
Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay
1921
Oil on canvas
132.6 x 162.8 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© Varley Art Gallery, Town of Markham
Photo © NGC

 

 

What a wonderful posting to end 2011. I had no idea how magnificent Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven was. The paintings are sublime, full of light, colour and texture: they perfectly capture the atmosphere of outback Canada. As the curator observes, ‘These artists produced some of the most vibrant and beautiful landscapes of the twentieth century’. I couldn’t agree more. A joy to see, these impressions leave one spellbound. Finally, something delicious in landscape painting!

Marcus

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

 

Franklin Carmichael. 'Autumn Hillside' 1920

 

Franklin Carmichael (Canadian, 1890-1945)
Autumn Hillside
1920
Oil on canvas
76 x 91.4cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario,
Gift from the J.S. McLean Collection, Toronto
© Courtesy of the Estate of Franklin Carmichael

 

Frederick Horsman Varley. 'Peter Sandiford at Split Rock, Georgian Bay' 1922

 

Frederick Horsman Varley (Canadian, born United Kingdom 1881-1969)
Peter Sandiford at Split Rock, Georgian Bay
1922
Oil on wood panel
21 x 26.7cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario
© Varley Art Gallery, Town of Markham

 

Frederick Horsman Varley. 'Cloud, Red Mountain' 1927-8

 

Frederick Horsman Varley (Canadian, born United Kingdom 1881-1969)
Cloud, Red Mountain
1927-8
Oil on canvas
87 x 102.2 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario
© Varley Art Gallery, Town of Markham

 

Frederick Horsman Varley. 'West Coast Sunset, Vancouver' c. 1926

 

Frederick Horsman Varley (Canadian, born United Kingdom 1881-1969)
West Coast Sunset, Vancouver
c. 1926
Oil on wood
30.4 x 38.1 cm
The Thomson Collection
© Art Gallery of Ontario

 

Lawren Harris (Canadian, 1885-1970) 'Lake Superior, Sketch XLVII' c. 1923

 

Lawren Harris (Canadian, 1885-1970)
Lake Superior, Sketch XLVII
c. 1923
Oil on panel, 30 x 37.5 cm
Collection: A. K. Prakash
© Family of Lawren S. Harris

 

Lawren Harris. 'Isolation Peak' c. 1939

 

Lawren Harris (Canadian, 1885-1970)
Isolation Peak
c. 1939
Oil on panel
30 x 37.5 cm
Collection: A. K. Prakash
© Family of Lawren S. Harris

 

Lawren Harris. Untitled Mountain Landscape' c.1927-28

 

Lawren Harris (Canadian, 1885-1970)
Untitled Mountain Landscape
c.1927-28
Oil on canvas
122.3 x 152.7 cm
Thomson Collection, AGO
© Art Gallery of Ontario
© Family of Lawren S. Harris

 

Lawren Harris. 'Tamaracks and Blue Hill' c. 1919

 

Lawren Harris (Canadian, 1885-1970)
Tamaracks and Blue Hill
c. 1919
Oil on panel
26.7 x 34.7 cm
Art Gallery of Ontario
© Family of Lawren S. Harris

 

Lawren Harris. 'Trees and Pool' c. 1920

 

Lawren Harris (Canadian, 1885-1970)
Trees and Pool
c. 1920
Oil on panel
26.7 x 35.6 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario
© Family of Lawren S. Harris

 

 

Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Bicentenary year of momentous exhibition fi rsts is to continue in October with Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. The exhibition forms part of Dulwich Picture Gallery’s North American series showcasing the work of artists rarely seen in the UK.

Painting Canada will feature some of Canada’s most iconic landscape paintings. These bold and exciting works were first celebrated not in Canada, but in London, at the British Empire exhibitions at Wembley in 1924 and 1925. Since then, despite becoming greatly revered in Canada, the work of Thomson and the Group of Seven has been virtually unknown on the international stage. This major exhibition will reintroduce them to the British public, with an astonishing 122 paintings on display as well as Tom Thomson’s sketchbox.

Tom Thomson and J. E. H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, Frank Johnston and Franklin Carmichael met as employees of the design firm Grip Ltd. in Toronto. The other two members of the Group were A. Y. (Alexander Young) Jackson from Montreal and Lawren Harris, effectively the Group’s leader, and a man of considerable personal wealth. They often met at the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto to discuss their opinions and share their art.

The artists, sometimes known as the ‘Algonquin Park School’ at this stage, received indirect monetary support from Harris (heir to the Massey-Harris farm machinery fortune) and direct support from Dr. James MacCallum a wealthy Toronto ophthalmologist and collector. Harris and MacCallum collaborated to build a studio building that opened in 1914 to serve as a meeting and working place for the proposed new Canadian art movement.

The progress of this informal group of artists was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I and a further severe blow came in 1917 when Thomson died while canoeing in Algonquin Park. The circumstances of his death and subsequent burial have remained mysterious, the source to this day of myriad conspiracy theories.

Thomson’s seven artist friends reunited after the war. They continued to travel throughout Canada, sketching the landscape and developing techniques to represent such wild and diverse terrain in their art. In 1920 they finally came together as the Group of Seven and held their first exhibition under that name. Prior to this, the art establishment’s view of the Canadian landscape was that it was either unpaintable or too wild and uncouth to be worthy of being painted. Reviews for the 1920 exhibition were mixed, but as the decade progressed the Group came to be recognised as pioneers of a new, Canadian, school of art. Nowadays, the Group and Tom Thomson are iconic in their native country; every schoolchild is familiar with masterpieces such as Thomson’s The Jack Pine, arguably the most famous and beloved painting in Canada.

Dulwich Picture Gallery is proud to partner with the National Gallery of Canada on this exhibition, with generous support of loans also coming from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Art Gallery of Ontario and other lenders. These institutions are lending some of the most famous paintings in Canada. Additionally, a special revelation of the show is provided by the rich group of works to be found in private collections.

Painting Canada has been planned as a journey through Canada, framed by two grand rooms dedicated individually to Tom Thomson’s electrifying sketches and paintings of Algonquin Park and Lawren Harris’s other-worldly paintings of the Arctic and the Rocky Mountains. Between these two ‘poles’, a selection of the very best work of Thomson and the Group of Seven will be on display. A special feature of the show will be the juxtaposition, wherever possible, of the initial sketch with the finished canvas. One room will in fact be devoted entirely to a display of these vibrant sketches, which represent one of the most impressive contributions of Canada to twentieth-century art.

Ian Dejardin said: “These artists produced some of the most vibrant and beautiful landscapes of the twentieth century. The Canadians have kept this particular light under a bushel for far too long – I am proud, and frankly amazed, that this is to be the very first major exhibition of their work to be held in this country since the sensation of their first showing here in 1924. As for Tom Thomson – what he achieved in his tragically short career (just 4 or 5 years) is extraordinary. He is Canada’s very own Van Gogh – prepare to be dazzled.”

 

A. Y. Jackson. 'Totem Poles, Kitwanga' 1926

 

A. Y. Jackson (Canadian, 1882-1974)
Totem Poles, Kitwanga
1926
Oil on panel
21.25 x 26.25 cm
© Collection: A. K. Prakash

 

J. E. H. MacDonald. 'Falls, Montreal River' 1920

 

J. E. H. MacDonald (Canadian, born United Kingdom 1873-1932)
Falls, Montreal River
1920
Oil on canvas
121.9 x 153 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario

 

J.E.H. MacDonald. 'Autumn Leaves, Batchewana Woods, Algoma' c. 1919

 

J. E. H. MacDonald (Canadian, born United Kingdom 1873-1932)
Autumn Leaves, Batchewana Woods, Algoma
c. 1919
Oil on composite woodboard
21.6 x 26.7 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario

 

J. E. H. MacDonald. 'The Little Falls' 1918

 

J. E. H. MacDonald (Canadian, born United Kingdom 1873-1932)
The Little Falls
1918
Oil on composite woodboard
21.6 x 26.7 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario

 

J. E. H. MacDonald. 'Mount Oderay' 1930

 

J. E. H. MacDonald (Canadian, born United Kingdom 1873-1932)
Mount Oderay
1930
Oil on canvas
40 x 52.5 cm
© Collection: Ash K. Prakash

 

J. E. H. MacDonald. 'Mount Biddle' 1930

 

J. E. H. MacDonald (Canadian, born United Kingdom 1873-1932)
Mount Biddle
1930
Oil on composite woodboard
21.5 x 26.7 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario

 

 

Tom Thomson (1877-1917)

Tom Thomson was born near Claremont, Ontario on 5 August, 1877. A turning point in his life came in 1909 when he joined the staff of Grip Ltd., a prominent Toronto photo-engraving house. The firm’s head designer, artist-poet J.E.H. MacDonald, contributed much to Thomson’s artistic development, sharpening his sense of design. However, Thomson’s career as a fine artist lasted barely four or five years; it was cut short in July 1917, when his canoe was found floating on Canoe Lake, empty. His body surfaced days later, triggering decades of speculation as to his fate. More sensational than these stories, however, was the burst of creativity that had preceded his death. In his last two years, Thomson had developed an artistic language that seemed to capture the unique qualities of the Canadian landscape – painterly, vibrant in colour, in tune with the subtle change of the seasons. The Canadian wilderness had been previously considered too wild and untamed  to inspire ‘true’ art.

His fellow employees at Grip Ltd. included Arthur Lismer, F.H. Varley, Franklin Carmichael and Frank Johnston – all adventurous young painters who often organised weekend painting trips to the countryside around Toronto. After Tom’s death, a memorial exhibition was arranged and these men, together with Lawren Harris and A. Y. Jackson, would go on to form in 1920 the Group of Seven, probably the most famous artistic force in Canadian art history. Along with Thomson they created a landscape style that to this day infl uences the way Canadians visualise their own country and their best paintings have become national icons.

 

Lawren Harris (1885-1970)

Lawren Harris was born on 23 October 1885, in Brantford, Ontario. He attended St. Andrew’s College in Toronto before studying art in Berlin, Germany, from 1904 to 1908. He then returned to Toronto, where he began painting post-impressionist street scenes of its older and poorer areas. By 1919 Harris’s landscapes had become increasingly sombre and his brush stroke more expressive. His affection for Scandinavian landscape painting was one of the key factors in the formulation of the Group of Seven’s approach to the Ontario woods, which Harris himself painted with gusto and attention. His later style was grandly beautiful and austere, finding its most characteristic subject matter in the awesome landscapes of Lake Superior, the Rockies and the Canadian Arctic.

 

A. Y. Jackson (1882-1974)

Alexander Young Jackson, or “A. Y.” as he was fondly known, was born in Montreal on 3 October, 1882. Like other members of the Group of Seven he was trained as a commercial artist and for many years made his living by that means. He apprenticed to a Montreal lithographer at the age of 12, and though he later spent two and a half years in France studying painting, he was soon back in Canada paying his rent by designing cigar labels. In the following years after the formation of the Group of Seven he painted the Arctic, the West Coast, the Prairies, and Ontario’s north woods, as well as his beloved St. Lawrence, where his countless sketching expeditions earned him the nickname Père Raquette-Pappa Snowshoe.

 

Arthur Lismer (1885-1969)

Arthur Lismer celebrated the powerful beauty of the Canadian landscape in his own expressionist style. His paintings are characterized by vivid colour, deliberately coarse brushwork and a simplified form. Lismer was born in Sheffield, England. At the age of 26, he immigrated to Canada seeking work as a commercial illustrator. It was at Grip Ltd. in Toronto that he met a group of other talented young artists who were to become the Group of Seven. Together, they organized trips to explore and sketch the wilderness – capturing the spirit of Canada in their work, and setting Canadian art on a bold and original new course. Although Lismer painted throughout his life, he devoted the majority of his time to art education. A gifted teacher, Lismer pioneered the field of child art education across Canada and around the world.

 

Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969)

Varley was born in 1881 in Sheffield, England. He studied painting at Sheffield and Antwerp and went to work in London as a commercial illustrator. In 1912 he came to Canada, where he found himself working in the same commercial studio as Tom Thomson. With Thomson and the others he took to painting Northern Ontario landscapes, and also began to do considerable work as a portrait painter. In 1926 Varley moved to Vancouver to become Head of Drawing, Painting & Composition at the newly formed Vancouver School of Decorative & Applied Arts. In 1933 he founded his own school, the British Columbia College of Arts, but this venture led to his bankruptcy in 1935 and by then his marriage had also collapsed. The next years were difficult for Varley, most of them spent suffering from alcoholism in Montreal. In 1945, however, he returned to Toronto and slowly began to work again. He died in Toronto in 1969.

 

Franklin Carmichael (1890-1945)

Carmichael, the son of a carriage maker, was born in Orillia, Ontario on 4 May, 1890. He arrived in Toronto in 1911 with some training in commercial art, and soon found himself the associate of Tom Thomson and a number of other commercial artists who were teaching themselves to be serious painters. In 1913 he went to Antwerp to study painting but was soon back in Ontario to participate in the founding of the Group of Seven, of which he was the youngest member. In 1932 he was appointed Head of Graphic and Commercial Art at the Ontario College of Art. He died in Toronto in 1945.

 

Frank (Franz) Johnston (1888-1949)

Johnston was an original member but only showed in the Group’s first exhibition. Johnston’s style and technique – he very often  painted in tempera – differed from that of the other Group of Seven members. His work was extremely decorative, and sold well – a fact that led to his early departure from the Group, since he felt he could earn more disassociated from the initial critical outrage that greeted the first Group exhibitions.

 

J. E. H. MacDonald (1873-1932)

John Edward Hervey MacDonald challenged and vastly broadened the scope of Canadian Art. MacDonald believed that art should express the “mood and character and spirit of the country”, and he portrayed his vision in vast panoramas using dark, rich colours and a turbulent patterned style. MacDonald was born in Durham, England, and moved to Canada at the age of fourteen. He trained as an artist in Hamilton and Toronto, pursuing a career in commercial art. In 1895 he joined Grip Ltd. in Toronto where he met and encouraged other staff members, including Tom Thomson, Frank Carmichael, Arthur Lismer and Fred Varley, to paint with him on weekends – laying the groundwork for what would later become Canada’s famous Group of Seven. He was the oldest member of the Group. His early death led directly to the disbanding of the Group in 1933.

 

Tom Thomson. 'The Jack Pine' 1916-1917

 

Tom Thomson (Canadian, 1877-1917)
The Jack Pine
1916-1917
Oil on canvas
127.9 x 139.8 cm
©  National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Photo © NGC

 

Tom Thomson. 'Winter Thaw in the Woods' 1917

 

Tom Thomson (Canadian, 1877-1917)
Winter Thaw in the Woods
1917
Oil on composite woodpulp board
21.6 x 26.8 cm
Thomson Collection, AGO
© Art Gallery of Ontario

 

Tom Thomson. 'A Northern Lake' c. 1916

 

Tom Thomson (Canadian, 1877-1917)
A Northern Lake
c. 1916
Oil on composite wood-pulp board
21.6 x 26.7 cm
© Art Gallery of Ontario

 

Tom Thomson. 'Path behind Mowat Lodge' 1917

 

Tom Thomson (Canadian, 1877-1917)
Path behind Mowat Lodge
1917
Oil on wood
26.8 x 21.4 cm
Thomson Collection, AGO
© Art Gallery of Ontario

 

 

Dulwich Picture Gallery
Gallery Road, London
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Phone: 020 8693 5254

Opening hours:
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27
Dec
11

Exhibition: ‘After the Gold Rush: Contemporary Photographs from the Collection’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 22nd March, 2011 – 2nd January, 2012

 

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

 

 

Hans Haacke (German, born 1936). 'Thank You, Paine Webber' 1979

 

Hans Haacke (German, born 1936)
Thank You, Paine Webber
1979
Gelatin silver print and chromogenic print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2010
© Hans Haacke

 

 

Since the early 1970s Haacke has taken on the intertwined political and corporate forces that use cultural patronage as a smokescreen to advance interests that are often antithetical to the vitality of free speech and expression in democracies. Haacke made this work just as the strategy of appropriation – lifting an image out of its original context and re-presenting it in critical fashion – began to make waves in the New York art world of the late 1970s. Like all effective appropriation, it exposes a prior instance of borrowing – in this case, how the investment firm Paine Webber used a documentary photograph to give its annual report the veneer of social concern. The artist then pointedly contrasted it with an image from the same annual report of a beaming trio of executives in a painting-lined gallery. As a counterpoint to the protestor’s signboard, Haacke dropped in text from a different Paine Webber ad campaign to show on whose backs the “risk management” is taking place – a biting indictment, the relevance of which has only increased since the recent economic downturn.

Wall text

 

Jeff Wall (Canadian, born 1946). 'The Storyteller' 1986

 

Jeff Wall (Canadian, born 1946)
The Storyteller
1986
Silver dye bleach transparency in light box
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Charlene and David Howe, Henry Nias Foundation Inc., Jennifer and Robert Yaffa, Harriet Ames Charitable Trust, and Gary and Sarah Wolkowitz Gifts, 2006
Image courtesy of the artist © Jeff Wall

 

 

Wall’s staged tableaux straddle the worlds of the museum and the street. His subjects are scenes of urban and suburban disarray that he witnessed firsthand – the kinds of things anyone might see while wandering around a city and its outskirts. Working like a movie director, he restages the scene using nonprofessionals as actors and presents his photographs as colour transparencies in light boxes such as those of large-scale public advertisements found at airports and bus stops. The scale and ambition of his pictures – scenes of everyday life shot through with larger intimations of political struggle – equally evoke the Salon paintings of nineteenth century French painters such as Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, which were themselves brazen combinations of canonical and contemporary subjects.

The Storyteller is set in a barren, leftover slice of land next to a highway overpass in Vancouver, where the artist lives. Various groupings of modern urban castaways – perhaps descendants of the Native Americans who occupied the land before the arrival of Europeans – are dispersed around the hillside, a mini-catalogue of art-historical reference. Like the upside-down, half-submerged figure of Icarus in the background of Brueghel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, the woman speaking and gesticulating to the two men listening at the lower left becomes the key to unifying the fractured and alienating environment from which Wall’s picture is constructed.

Wall text

 

Laurie Simmons (American, born 1949). 'Walking Gun' 1991

 

Laurie Simmons (American, born 1949)
Walking Gun
1991
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1998
© Laurie Simmons

 

 

The early 1990s marked the last moment when a wide swath of women artists responded to the sexism they saw as pervasive in the culture – from the rape trial of William Kennedy Smith to the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Clarence Thomas. A pioneer of set-up photography, Simmons dramatically expanded the scale of her constructed tableaux for a series of spotlighted puppet-like objects perched atop doll legs: revolvers, houses, cameras, and cakes. This armed and dangerous example refers to the old-movie cliché where a man carrying a gun is shown in shadow profile. Here, Simmons offers instead the death-dealing seductress – also familiar from film noir – in monumental miniature, a doll capable of turning on its master at a moment’s notice.

Wall text

 

Philip-Lorca diCorcia (American, born 1953). 'Todd M. Brooks, 22 Years Old, from Denver, Colorado, $40' 1991

 

Philip-Lorca diCorcia (American, born 1953)
Todd M. Brooks, 22 Years Old, from Denver, Colorado, $40
1991
Chromogenic print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1991
Image courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York
© Philip-Lorca diCorcia

 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present After the Gold Rush: Contemporary Photographs from the Collection from March 22, 2011, through January 2, 2012, in the Joyce and Robert Menschel Hall for Modern Photography. Drawn entirely from the Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition features 25 photographs dating from 1979 to the present by 15 contemporary artists.

The exhibition’s title, After the Gold Rush, is taken from a classic 1970 song by Neil Young, whose verses contrast a romanticised past with a present of squandered plenty and an uncertain future. Inspired by the recent political and economic upheavals in America and abroad, this selection juxtaposes new photographs that take the long view of the world’s current condition with prescient works from the 1980s and 1990s that remain startlingly relevant today.

This is the first occasion for the Museum to present recently acquired works by: Gretchen Bender, James Casebere, Moyra Davey, Katy Grannan, Hans Haacke, An-My Lê, Curtis Mann, Trevor Paglen, and Wolfgang Tillmans. Also featured are photographs by: Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Robert Gober, Adrian Piper, Laurie Simmons, Jeff Wall, and Christopher Williams.

After the Gold Rush begins with Hans Haacke’s Thank You, Paine Webber (1979) – the first work by this legendary provocateur of Conceptual art to enter the Metropolitan’s collection. Haacke’s biting photo-diptych is so pertinent to the recent economic downturn that it seems as if it could have been made yesterday. In this work, the artist appropriated images from the investment firm’s annual report to convey his viewpoint that big business provides a veneer of social concern to mask the brutal effects of the “risk management” they offer their clients.

Other works in After the Gold Rush use varying degrees of artifice and photographic realism to reflect on marginalised and repressed voices. Measuring over 14 feet long and presented as a backlit transparency in a light box, The Storyteller (1986) is Jeff Wall’s signature image and is typical of his method. Working from memory, the artist uses nonprofessional actors and real locations to meticulously restage a scene of urban blight that he witnessed in his native Vancouver. Wall plays this photographic verisimilitude against compositions and figural poses indebted to French painters such as Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, and Georges Seurat. A comparison of Wall’s Storyteller with Courbet’s Young Ladies of the Village (1852), on view in the Museum’s galleries for Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century European Paintings and Sculpture, reveals parallels: in both, a keenly observed moment of telling social interaction taking place on a sloping landscape. Each artist has combined a daringly modern subject with references to earlier art.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia is another key figure in the development of staged photography. In the early 1990s, the artist created a series of works in response to the political attacks on gays and federal funding of the arts in the U.S. DiCorcia hired male hustlers to pose for their portraits out on the streets – and paid them with grant money he received from the National Endowment for the Arts. At the same moment, a wide swath of women artists addressed issues of sexism and racism: examples of this politically pointed art are represented by Laurie Simmons’ Walking Gun (1991) – a spotlighted puppet of doll legs and a revolver that seems capable of turning on its master at a moment’s notice – and Adrian Piper’s 1992 work Decide Who You Are #24 (A Moving Target), which includes a childhood image of Anita Hill as part of a blistering meditation in word and image on racial politics. Such works are missives from a time not so long ago when artists regularly commented on present-day politics and culture through their art. (Because of light sensitivity, this work by Adrian Piper will be on view through Sunday, September 26.)

Although the recently made photographs in After the Gold Rush seem at first glance to be less overtly political than their predecessors, they nevertheless address vital issues about contemporary society. James Casebere’s epic vision of America, Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #1, (2009), is based on a tabletop model that the artist spent 18 months building. The photograph shows a suburban subdivision of the kind recently ravaged by the foreclosure crisis, and its sunny sense of “Morning in America” comments ironically on the country’s future prospects. An-My Lê’s similarly sweeping five-part photographic piece Suez Canal Transit, USS Dwight Eisenhower, Egypt (2009) will also be featured. Lê is interested in the way in which U.S. armed forces come into contact with the rest of the world. This major new work – which seems at first to be a straightforward panorama of military might overseas – subtly undercuts the viewer’s expectations to question the current position of the U.S. on the global stage.

Trevor Paglen is a young artist whose works plot the “black world” of covert military operations, from telephoto images of predator drones taken from miles away, to software that follows planes used for the extraordinary rendition of suspected terrorists. Paglen’s 2008 photograph KEYHOLE IMPROVED CRYSTAL from Glacier Point (Optical Reconnaissance Satellite; USA 186) shows the ghostly white streak of an American reconnaissance satellite bisecting star trails above Yosemite’s Half Dome, a rock formation photographed in the 1860s by artists including Carleton Watkins. To make these and other photographs, Paglen collaborated with amateur astronomers who were originally trained by the U.S. government to look out for Soviet satellites during the Cold War, but turned their attention to American surveillance in recent years.

The final piece in After the Gold Rush is a suite of five recently acquired photographs from 2007-2009 by the celebrated photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. The grouping shifts focus from macro to micro: from expansive aerial views of Shanghai and Dubai to close ups that suggest the smallest increments of sustenance and regeneration. Taken together, they evoke the interconnectedness of all things and a grounding of the political in the personal as a way for an engaged yet expressive art.

Press release from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Adrian Piper (American, born 1948). 'Decide Who You Are #24: A Moving Target' 1992

 

Adrian Piper (American, born 1948)
Decide Who You Are #24: A Moving Target
1992
Photo-mechanical processes on three panels
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Peter Norton Family Foundation, 1994
© Adrian Piper

 

 

Piper is an artist and a philosophy professor who works in a variety of media, including performance, video, sound pieces, photography, drawing, and writing. She often explores issues of autobiography, racism, and stereotyping. For her 1992 series Decide Who You Are, the artist used a triptych format in which a different appropriated photograph is flanked by an image of the “three wise monkeys” maxim advocating “See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil” at left, and at right a photograph of a young girl who, though not identified, is Anita Hill – who had recently been thrust into the spotlight for accusing then-nominee for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. The verse in the left panel changes in each individual work in the series, while that on the right is unchanging – what the artist once described as “a comprehensive, textbook compendium of commonly invoked litanies of denial and intimidation, from the bland to the vaguely menacing” and “a must for novices and aspiring leaders in business, politics, and culture.”

Wall text

 

Christopher Williams (American, born 1956). '3 White (DG's Mr. Postman) Fourth Race, Phoenix Greyhound Park, Phoenix, Arizona, August 22, 1994' 1994

 

Christopher Williams (American, born 1956)
3 White (DG’s Mr. Postman) Fourth Race, Phoenix Greyhound Park, Phoenix, Arizona, August 22, 1994
1994
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Charina Foundation Inc. and Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gifts, 2003
© Christopher Williams

 

Robert Gober (American, born 1954). 'Untitled (Detail from "1978-2000")' 2000

 

Robert Gober (American, b. 1954)
Untitled (Detail from “1978-2000”)
2000
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2002
© Robert Gober

 

James Casebere (American, born 1953). 'Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #1' 2009

 

James Casebere (American, born 1953)
Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #1
2009
Chromogenic print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2011
© James Casebere

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968).' Oriental Pearl' 2009

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968)
Oriental Pearl
2009
Inkjet print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2010
Image courtesy the artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
© Wolfgang Tillmans

 

 

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24
Dec
11

Exhibition: ‘Robert Adams: The Place We Live, A Retrospective Selection of Photographs’ at the The Denver Art Museum (DAM)

Exhibition dates:  25th September 2011 – 1st January 2012

 

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

 

 

Robert Adams. 'Burning oil sludge, north of Denver, Colorado' 1973-1974

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Burning oil sludge, north of Denver, Colorado
1973-1974
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'North of Keota, Colorado' 1973

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
North of Keota, Colorado
1973 printed 1989
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Mobile home park, north edge of Denver, Colorado' 1973-1974

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Mobile home park, north edge of Denver, Colorado
1973-1974
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

 

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) is the first U.S. venue for Robert Adams: The Place We Live, A Retrospective Selection of Photographs. The exhibition features more than 200 black-and-white photos spanning Adams’s 45-year career, showcasing the artistic legacy of the American photographer and his longstanding engagement with the contemporary Western landscape. Adams lived and worked in Colorado for nearly 30 years. Many of his most acclaimed images were taken in the Rocky Mountain region and will strike a familiar chord with visitors. The exhibition, organised by the Yale University Art Gallery, will be on view September 25, 2011 – January 1, 2012 in the museum’s Gallagher Family Gallery.

“We’re excited to host the work of one of the foremost photographers of our time,” said Eric Paddock, the DAM’s curator of photography. “Robert Adams’s striking yet quiet photos provoke thought about current economic, political and environmental issues Westerners confront every day. We think visitors will see something very familiar in his work.”

Since becoming a photographer in the mid-1960s, Adams has been widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential chroniclers of the American West. Adams’s photographs and writing insist that the realities of everyday landscapes are as beautiful as idealised scenes from nature. They ask questions about the ways people change and interact with nature, and what it means to live simply and quietly in today’s world. This commitment earned Adams prominence in photography’s “New Topographics” movement of the late 20th century and lends authority to his ongoing work. His photographs of Colorado suburban growth and clear cut forests in the Pacific Northwest, for example, express shock at mainstream social and economic values.

“The Denver Art Museum is pleased to be the first U.S. venue for The Place We Live, showcasing our continued commitment to our photography program,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “Colorado has a rich photography history and we’re excited to have visitors engage with these artworks that provide a narrative to the American experience and take a fresh look at their surroundings.”

Featuring more than 200 gelatin silver prints, The Place We Live weaves together four decades of Adam’s work into a cohesive, epic narrative of American experience in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Each of the photographer’s major projects is represented, from early pictures of quiet buildings and monuments erected by prior settlers of his native Colorado to his most recent images of forests and migratory birds in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Biography

Born in Orange, N.J., in 1937, Robert Adams moved with his family from Madison, Wis., to Denver, Colo., at the age of 15. He earned a doctorate degree from the University of Southern California and, intent on pursuing an academic career, returned to Colorado in 1962 as an assistant professor of English at Colorado College. Disturbed by the rapid transformation of the Colorado Springs and Denver areas, Adams began photographing a landscape transformed by tract housing, highways, strip malls and gas stations. “The pictures record what we purchased, what we paid and what we could not buy,” Adams wrote. “They document a separation from ourselves, and in turn from the natural world that we professed to love.” Since 1997, he has lived and worked in Oregon.”

Press release from The Denver Art Museum

 

Robert Adams. 'Lakewood, Colorado' 1968-1971

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Lakewood, Colorado
1968-1971
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, Colorado' 1969

 

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

 

Robert Adams. 'Denver, Colorado' c. 1970

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Denver, Colorado
c. 1970
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Longmont, Colorado' 1973-1974, printed 2007

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
Longmont, Colorado
1973-1974, printed 2007
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

 

Robert Adams. 'Eden, Colorado' 1968

 

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

 

 

The Denver Art Museum
Civic Center Cultural Complex
located on 13th Avenue between Broadway and Bannock in downtown Denver

Opening hours:
Monday – Thursday 10am- 5pm
Friday 10 am – 8 pm
Saturday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

The Denver Art Museum website

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21
Dec
11

melbourne’s magnificent nine 2011

December 2011

 

Here’s my pick of the nine best exhibitions in Melbourne (with excursions to Bendigo and Hobart thrown in) that appeared on the Art Blart art and cultural archive in 2011. Enjoy!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

1/ Sidney Nolan: Drought Photographs at Australian Galleries, Melbourne, March 2011

 

Sidney Nolan. 'Untitled (calf carcass in tree)' 1952

 

Sidney Nolan (Australian, 1917-1992)
Untitled (calf carcass in tree)
1952
archival inkjet print
23.0 cm x 23.0 cm

 

 

This was a superb exhibition of 61 black and white photographs by Sidney Nolan. The photographs were shot using a medium format camera and are printed in square format from the original 1952 negatives.

The work itself was a joy to behold. The photographs hung together like a symphony, rising and falling, with shape emphasising aspects of form. The images flowed from one to another. The formal composition of the mummified carcasses was exemplary, the resurrected animals (a horse, for example, propped up on a fifth leg) and emaciated corpses like contemporary sculpture. The handling of the tenuous aspects of human existence in this uniquely Australian landscape was also a joy to behold. Through an intimate understanding of how to tension the space between objects within the frame Nolan’s seemingly simple but complex photographs of the landscape are previsualised by the artist in the mind’s eye before he even puts the camera to his face.

 

2/ Bill Henson at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, March – April 2011

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

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

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled' 2009/10

 

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

 

3/ Networks (cells & silos) at Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Caulfield, February – April 2011

This was a vibrant and eclectic exhibition at MUMA, one of the best this year in Melbourne. The curator Geraldine Barlow gathered together some impressive, engaging works that were set off to good effect in the new gallery spaces. I spent a long and happy time wandering around the exhibition and came away visually satiated and intellectually stimulated. The exhibition explored “the connections between artistic representation of networks; patterns and structures found in nature; and the rapidly evolving field of network science, communications and human relations.”

 

Installation photograph of one of the galleries in the exhibition 'NETWORKS (cells & silos)' at the newly opened Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA)

 

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

 

4/ Monika Tichacek, To all my relations at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond, May 2011

This was a stupendous exhibition by Monika Tichacek, at Karen Woodbury Gallery. One of the highlights of the year, this was a definite must see!

The work was glorious in it’s detail, a sensual and visual delight (make sure you click on the photographs to see the close up of the work!). The riotous, bacchanalian density of the work was balanced by a lyrical intimacy, the work exploring the life cycle and our relationship to the world in gouache, pencil & watercolour. Tichacek’s vibrant pink birds, small bugs, flowers and leaves have absolutely delicious colours. The layered and overlaid compositions show complete control by the artist: mottled, blotted, bark-like wings of butterflies meld into trees in a delicate metamorphosis; insects are blurred becoming one with the structure of flowers in a controlled effusion of life.

 

Monika Tichacek. 'To all my relations' 2011 (detail)

 

Monika Tichacek (Australian, born Switzerland 1975)
To all my relations (detail)
2011

 

5/ American Dreams: 20th century photography from George Eastman House at Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria, April – July 2011

 

Diane Arbus. 'Untitled (6)' 1971

 

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

 

 

This was 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 had a real interest in the history of photography then you hopefully saw this exhibition, showing as it is just a short hour and a half drive (or train ride) from Melbourne at Bendigo Art Gallery.

 

6/ Time Machine: Sue Ford at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Victoria, April – June 2011

 

Sue Ford. 'Self-portrait' 1976

 

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

 

 

This beautifully hung exhibition flowed like music, interweaving up and down, the photographs framed in thin, black wood frames. It featured 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); 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.

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.

 

7/ The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Hobart, August 2011

My analogy: you are standing in the half-dark, your chest open, squeezing the beating heart with blood coursing between your fingers while the other hand is up your backside playing with your prostrate gland. I think ringmeister David Walsh would approve. My best friends analogy: a cross between a car park, night club, sex sauna and art gallery.

Weeks later I am still thinking about the wonderful immersive, sensory experience that is MONA. Peter Timms in an insightful article in Meanjin calls it a post-Google Wunderkammer, or wonder chest. It can be seen as a mirabilia – a non-historic installation designed primarily to delight, surprise and in this case shock. The body, sex, death and mortality are hot topics in the cultural arena and Walsh’s collection covers all bases. The collection and its display are variously hedonistic, voyeuristic, narcissistic, fetishistic pieces of theatre subsumed within the body of the spectacular museum architecture …

Spectatorship and their attendant erotics has MONA as a form of fetishistic cinema. It is as if what Barthes calls “the eroticism of place” were a modern equivalent of the eighteenth century genius loci, the “genius of the place.” The place is spectacular, the private collection writ large as public institution, the symbolic power of the institution masked through its edifice. The art become autonomous, cut free from its cultural associations, transnational, globalised, experienced through kinaesthetic means; the viewer meandering through the galleries, the anti-museum, as an international flaneur. Go. Experience!

 

Corten Stairwell & Surrounding Artworks February 2011 Museum of Old and New Art – interior

 

Corten Stairwell & Surrounding Artworks
February 2011
Museum of Old and New Art – interior
Photo credit: MONA/Leigh Carmichael
Image Courtesy of MONA Museum of Old and New Art

 

8/ John Bodin: Rite of Passage at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond, August – September 2011

 

John Bodin. 'I Was Far Away From Home' 2009

 

John Bodin (Australian)
I Was Far Away From Home
2009
Type C print on metallic paper
80 x 110cm

 

 

The photographs become the surface of the body, stitched together with lines, markers pointing the way – they are encounters with the things that we see before us but also the things that we carry inside of us. It is the interchange between these two things, how one modulates and informs the other. It is this engagement that holds our attention: the dappled light, ambiguity, unevenness, the winding path that floats and bobs before our eyes looking back at us, as we observe and are observed by the body of these landscapes.

One of the fundamental qualities of the photographs is that they escape our attempts to rationalise them and make them part of our understanding of the world, to quantify our existence in terms of materiality. I have an intimate feeling with regard to these sites of engagement. They are both once familiar and unfamiliar to us; they possess a sense of nowhereness. A sense of groundlessness and groundedness. A collapsing of near and far, looking down, looking along, a collapsing of the constructed world.

Like the road in these photographs there is no self just an infinite time that has no beginning and no end. The time before my birth, the time after my death. We are just in the world, just being somewhere. Life is just a temporary structure on the road from order to disorder. “The road is life,” writes Jack Kerouac in On the Road.

 

9/ Juan Davila: The Moral Meaning of Wilderness at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Caulfield, August – October 2011

Simply put, this was one of the best exhibitions I saw in Melbourne this year.

I had a spiritual experience with this work for the paintings promote in the human a state of grace. The non-material, the unconceptualisable, things which are outside all possibility of time and space are made visible. This happens very rarely but when it does you remember, eternally, the time and space of occurrence. I hope you had the same experience.

 

Juan Davila. 'Wilderness' 2010

 

Juan Davila (Chilean b. 1946, emigrated Australia 1974)
Wilderness
2010
© Juan Davila, Courtesy Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art

 

10/ In camera and in public at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, September – October 2011

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki. 'Untitled' 1971

 

Kohei Yoshiyuki (Japanese, b. 1946)
Untitled
1971
From the series The Park
Gelatin Silver Print
© Kohei Yoshiyuki, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Curated by Naomi Cass as part of the Melbourne Festival, this was a brilliant exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne. The exhibition explored, “the fraught relationship between the camera and the subject: where the image is stolen, candid or where the unspoken contract between photographer and subject is broken in some way – sometimes to make art, sometimes to do something malevolent.” It examined the promiscuity of gazes in public / private space specifically looking at surveillance, voyeurism, desire, scopophilia, secret photography and self-reflexivity. It investigated the camera and its moral and physical relationship to the unsuspecting subject.

 

11/ The Mad Square: Modernity in German Art 1910 – 37 at The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, November 2011 – March 2012

This is one of the best exhibitions this year in Melbourne bar none. Edgy and eclectic the work resonates with the viewer in these days of uncertainty: THIS should have been the Winter Masterpieces exhibition!

The title of the exhibition, The mad square (Der tolle Platz) is taken from Felix Nussbaum’s 1931 painting of the same name where “the ‘mad square’ is both a physical place – the city, represented in so many works in the exhibition, and a reference to the state of turbulence and tension that characterises the period.”The exhibition showcases how artists responded to modern life in Germany in the interwar years, years that were full of murder and mayhem, putsch, revolution, rampant inflation, starvation, the Great Depression and the rise of National Socialism. Portrayed is the dystopian, dark side of modernity (where people are the victims of a morally bankrupt society) as opposed to the utopian avant-garde (the prosperous, the wealthy), where new alliances emerge between art and politics, technology and the mass media. Featuring furniture, decorative arts, painting, sculpture, collage and photography in the sections World War 1 and the Revolution, Dada, Bauhaus, Constructivism and the Machine Aesthetic, Metropolis, New Objectivity and Power and Degenerate Art, it is the collages and photographs that are the strongest elements of the exhibition, particularly the photographs. What a joy they are to see.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946) 'Harbour with crane' c. 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946)
Harbour with crane
c. 1927
Gelatin silver photograph
Printed image 22.7 h x 16.8 w cm
Purchased 1983
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

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17
Dec
11

text by Peter Roebuck

December 2011

 

 

“We are, indeed, shadows passing across the mouth of a cave.”

“If perspective insists that our daily lives are not important, then it is a fool”

 

 

What a great piece of writing by Peter Roebuck (below). Such insight into the human condition, so eloquently expounded.

Wise words about life. His wisdom will be greatly missed.

Marcus

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Woody's room' 1993-4

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Woody’s room
1993-4
Silver gelatin print

 

 

“NOTHING is sadder than the extinguishing of a young life. Besides the loss itself, and the pain that follows, the premature ending of a life serves as a shock, reminds of the fragility and foolishness of our existences. When Princess Di died, her country temporarily became a better place. When David Hookes departed, the sorrow reached beyond his immediate circle and into the masses.

Not that it lasts. Still we complain about traffic wardens and shampoo bottles that will not open, and the weather, and the neighbours and taxes and noise and the rest of it. An then a child dies, or a friend is suddenly removed, or a familiar face vanishes, whereupon regret comes over us for the life unled.

Do not suppose your author is any wiser in these regards than anyone else. Everything works in theory and then a drill starts in a nearby house, or a traffic jam is encountered, or a queue, whereupon reason flies out the window. Rage resumes till someone is lost, a depressed youngster or an acquaintance amid a screeching of brakes, whereupon calm returns, for then the truth must be faced. We are, indeed, shadows passing across the mouth of a cave.

It is absurd that we take ourselves and our lives seriously when it all hangs by a thread. Yet it is likewise foolish to waste gifts, for they carry with them a certain responsibility. Without intensity, much less can be achieved. A man cannot spend his entire life with a gaga grin upon his face. Blood, sweat and tears are part of the human expression, part of our growth, and there is no need to regret their place in our lives. Mozart and Tendulkar have provided myriad delights because they dared to pursue their talents.

Often it is the striving that provided satisfaction and then follows the laughter and the strength. If perspective insists that our daily lives are not important, then it is a fool. Nevertheless, much can be missed along the way and it can take an untimely passing to remind us that we are, in so many ways, behaving like fools.”

Edited extract of a piece penned by Peter Roebuck after the death of cricketer David Hookes in January 2004
Author and journalist Peter Roebuck fell to his death from a balcony in South Africa in November 2011

 

 

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17
Dec
11

season’s greetings and a happy new year from the art blart blog 2011

December 2011

 

 

 

As we enter the fourth year of the blog I would like to thank the galleries that have supplied photographs throughout the year; the curators, gallery directors and media people for their help; and to you, the readers, for supporting the blog.

Have a happy and safe festive season and a great New Year.

We look forward to posting and reviewing many more exhibitions in 2012!

Marcus

 

 

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14
Dec
11

Review: ‘The mad square: Modernity in German Art 1910 – 37’ at The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th November 2011 – 4th March 2012

 

Irene Bayer. 'No title (Man on stage)' c. 1927

 

Irene Bayer (American, 1898-1991)
No title (Man on stage)
c. 1927
Gelatin silver photograph
Printed image 10.6 h x 7.6 w cm
Purchased 1983
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

This is one of the best exhibitions this year in Melbourne bar none. Edgy and eclectic the work resonates with the viewer in these days of uncertainty: THIS should have been the Winter Masterpieces exhibition!

The title of the exhibition, The mad square (Der tolle Platz) is taken from Felix Nussbaum’s 1931 painting of the same name where “the ‘mad square’ is both a physical place – the city, represented in so many works in the exhibition, and a reference to the state of turbulence and tension that characterises the period.” The exhibition showcases how artists responded to modern life in Germany in the interwar years, years that were full of murder and mayhem, putsch, revolution, rampant inflation, starvation, the Great Depression and the rise of National Socialism. Portrayed is the dystopian, dark side of modernity (where people are the victims of a morally bankrupt society) as opposed to the utopian avant-garde (the prosperous, the wealthy), where new alliances emerge between art and politics, technology and the mass media. Featuring furniture, decorative arts, painting, sculpture, collage and photography in the sections World War 1 and the Revolution, Dada, Bauhaus, Constructivism and the Machine Aesthetic, Metropolis, New Objectivity and Power and Degenerate Art, it is the collages and photographs that are the strongest elements of the exhibition, particularly the photographs. What a joy they are to see.

There is a small 2″ x 3″ contact print portrait of Hanna Höch by Richard Kauffmann, Penetrate yourself or: I embrace myself (1922) that is an absolute knockout. Höch is portrayed as the ‘new women’ with short bobbed hair and loose modern dress, her self-image emphasised through a double exposure that fragments her face and multiplies her hands, set against a contextless background. The ‘new women’ fragmented and broken apart (still unsure of herself?). The photograph is so small and intense it takes your breath away. Similarly, there is the small, intimate photograph No title (Man on Stage) (c. 1927) by Irene Bayer (see above) that captures performance as ‘total art’, a combination of visual arts, dance, music, architecture and costume design. In contrast is a large 16 x 20″ photograph of the Bauhaus balconies (1926) by László Moholy-Nagy (see below) where the whites are so creamy, the perspective so magnificent.

No title (Metalltanz) (c. 1928-29) by T. Lux Feinenger, a photographer that I do not know well, is an exceptional photograph and print. Again small, this time dark and intense, the image features man as dancer performing gymnastics in front of reflective, metal sculptures. The metal becomes an active participant in the Metalltanz or ‘Dance in metal’ because of its reflective qualities. The print, from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is luminous. In fact all the prints from the Getty in this exhibition are of the most outstanding quality, a highlight of the exhibition for me. Another print from the Getty that features metal and performance is Untitled (Spiral Costume, from the Triadic Ballet) by T Grill c. 1926 – 27 (see below) where the spiral costume becomes an extension of the body, highlighting its form. Also highlighting form, objectivity and detachment is a wonderful 3 x 5″ photograph of the New Bauhaus Building, Dessau (1926) by Lucia Moholy from the Getty collection, the first I have ever seen in the flesh by this artist. Outstanding.

Following, we have 4 photograms by Lucia’s husband, László Moholy-Nagy which display formalist experimentation “inspired by machine aesthetic, exploring a utopian belief that Constructivism and abstract art could play a role in the process of social reform.” Complimenting these photograms is a row of six, yes six! Moholy-Nagy including Dolls (Puppen) 1926-7 (Getty), The law of the series 1925 (Getty), Lucia at the breakfast table 1926 (Getty), Spring, Berlin 1928 (George Eastman House), Berlin Radio Tower 1928 (Art Institute of Chicago) and Light space modulator 1930 (Getty). All six photographs explore the fascinating relationship between avant-garde art and photography, between they eye and perspective, all the while declaiming what Moholy-Nagy called the “new vision”; angles, shadows and geometric patterns that defy traditional perspective “removing the space from associations with the real world creating a surreal, disjointed image.” This topographic mapping flattens perspective in the case of the Berlin radio tower allowing the viewer to see the world in a new way.

Finally two groups of photographs that are simply magnificent.

First 8 photographs in a row that focus on the order and progressive nature of the modern world, the inherent beauty of technology captured in formalist studies of geometric forms. The prints range from soft pictorialist renditions to sharp clarity. The quality of the prints is amazing. Artists include the wonderful E. O. Hoppé, Albert Renger-Patzsch (an outstandingly beautiful photograph, Harbour with cranes 1927 that is my favourite photograph in the exhibition, see below), Two Towers 1937-38 by Werner Mantz and some early Wolfgang Sievers before he left Germany for Australia in 1938 (Blast furnace in the Ruhr, Germany 1933, see below). These early Sievers are particularly interesting, especially when we think of his later works produced in Australia. Lucky were many artists who survived in Germany or fled from Nazi persecution at the last moment, including John Heartfield who relocated to Czechoslovakia in 1933 and then fled to London in 1938 and August Sander whose life and work were severely curtailed under the Nazi regime and whose son died in prison in 1944 near the end of his ten year sentence (Wikipedia).

August Sander. Now there is a name to conjure with. The second magnificent group are 7 photographs that are taken from Sander’s seminal work People of the 20th Century. All the photographs have soft, muted tones of greys with no strong highlights and, usually, contextless backgrounds. The emphasis is on archetypes, views of people who exist on the margins of society – circus performers, bohemians, artists, the unemployed and blind people. In all the photographs there is a certain frontality (not necessarily physical) to the portraits, a self consciousness in the sitter, a wariness of the camera and of life. This self consciousness can be seen in the two photographs that are the strongest in the group – Secretary at West German radio in Cologne, 1931 and Match seller 1927 (see below).

There is magic here. Her face wears a somewhat quizzical air – questioning, unsure, vulnerable – despite the trappings of affluence and fashionability (the smoking of the cigarette, the bobbed hair). He is wary of the camera, his face and hands isolated by Sander while the rest of his body falls into shadow. His right hand is curled under, almost deformed, his shadow falling on the stone at right, the only true brightness in this beautiful image the four boxes of matches he clutches in his left hand: as Sander titles him ironically, The Businessman.

Working as I do these days with lots of found images from the 1940s – 60s that I digitally restore to life, I wonder what happened to these people during the dark days of World War 2. Did they survive the cataclysm, the drop into the abyss? I want to know, I want to reach out to these people to send them good energy. I hope that they did but their wariness in front of the camera, so intimately ‘taken’ by Sander, makes me feel the portent of things to come. How differently we see images armed with the hindsight of history!

In conclusion, this is a fantastic exhibition that will undoubtedly be in my top ten of the year for Melbourne in 2011.

.
Many thankx to Michael Thorneycroft for his help and The National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the accredited photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Berlin Radio Tower)' 1928/29

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946)
Berlin Radio Tower
1928
Gelatin silver print
36 × 25.5cm
Julien Levy Collection, Special Photography Acquisition Fund
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

Over the winter and spring of 1927–28, Bauhaus professor László Moholy-Nagy took a series of perhaps nine views looking down from the Berlin Radio Tower, one of the most exciting new constructions in the German capital. Moholy had already photographed the Eiffel Tower in Paris from below, looking up through the tower’s soaring girders. In Berlin, however, Moholy turned his camera around and pointed it straight down at the ground. This plunging perspective showed off the spectacular narrowness of the Radio Tower, finished in 1926, which rose vertiginously to a height of 450 feet from a base seven times smaller than that of its Parisian predecessor (which opened in 1889). Moholy attached exceptional importance to this, his boldest image: he hung it just above his name in a room devoted to his work at the Berlin showing of Film und Foto, a mammoth traveling exhibition that he had helped to prepare. Moholy also chose this view and one other to offer Julien Levy, the pioneering art dealer, when Levy visited him in Berlin in 1930. The following year the pictures went on view at the Levy Gallery in New York, in Moholy’s first solo exhibition of photographs.

Text from the Art Institute of Chicago website

 

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Light Prop)' 1930

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946)
Das Lichtrequisit (The light prop)
1930
Gelatin silver print
24 × 18.1 cm (9 7/16 × 7 1/8 in.)
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2014 Estate of László Moholy-Nagy / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

The Light-Space Modulator is the most spectacular and complete realization of László Moholy-Nagy’s artistic philosophy. Machine parts and mechanical structures began to appear in his paintings after his emigration from Hungary, and they are also seen in the illustrations he selected for the 1922 Buch neuer Künstler (Book of new artists), which includes pictures of motorcars and bridges as well as painting and sculpture. Many contemporary artists incorporated references to machines and technology in their work, and some, like the Russian Constructivist Vladimir Tatlin, even designed plans for fantastic structures, such as the ambitious Monument to the Third International, a proposed architectural spiral of glass and steel with moving tiers and audiovisual broadcasts. (See Tatlin’s Tower.)

In the Light-Space Modulator, Moholy-Nagy was able to create an actual working mechanism. Although he censured capitalism’s inhumane use of technology, he believed it could be harnessed to benefit mankind and that the artist had an important role in accomplishing this. Moholy had made preliminary sketches for kinetic sculptures as early as 1922 and referred to the idea for a light machine in his writings, but it was not until production was financed by an electric company in Berlin in 1930 that this device was built, with the assistance of an engineer and a metalsmith. It was featured at the Werkbund exhibition in Paris the same year, along with the short film Light Display Black-White-Gray, made by Moholy-Nagy to demonstrate and celebrate his new machine.

The Light-Space Modulator is a Moholy-Nagy painting come to life: mobile perforated disks, a rotating glass spiral, and a sliding ball create the effect of photograms in motion. With its gleaming glass and metal surfaces, this piece (now in the collection of the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University) is not only a machine for creating light displays but also a sculptural object of beauty, photographed admiringly by its creator.

Katherine Ware, László Moholy-Nagy, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), 80 © 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946) 'Harbour with crane' c. 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946)
Harbour with crane
c. 1927
Gelatin silver photograph
Printed image 22.7 h x 16.8 w cm
Purchased 1983
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Wolfgang Sievers. 'Blast furnace in the Ruhr, Germany' 1933

 

Wolfgang Sievers (Germany 1913 – Australia 2007)
Blast furnace in the Ruhr, Germany
1933
gelatin silver photograph
27.5 h x 23.0 w cm
Purchased 1988
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

The Ruhr region was at the centre of the German acceleration of industry in pre-war Germany, with rapid economic growth creating a heavy demand for coal and steel. In keeping with Modernist trends in photography, Sievers shot this blast furnace – the mechanism that transforms ore into metal – from an unusual, dynamic angle. It dominates the frame, appearing menacing and strange. Despite being imprisoned and beaten by the Gestapo, Sievers studied and taught at a progressive private art school until graduation in 1938. In that year he escaped Germany after being called up for military service, ending up in Australia.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

August Sander. 'Match seller' 1927

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Match seller
1927
from the portfolio People of the 20th century, IV Classes and Professions, 17 The Businessman

 

Robert Wiene, Director (German 1873-1938) Still from the 'Cabinet of Dr Caligari' 1919

 

Robert Wiene, Director (German 1873-1938)
Still from from the Cabinet of Dr Caligari
1919
5 min excerpt, 35mm transferred to DVD, Black and White, silent, German subtitles
Courtesy Transit Film GmbH
Production still courtesy of the British Film Institute and Transit Film GmbH

 

Felix H Man. 'Luna Park' 1929

 

Felix H Man (German 1893-1985)
Luna Park
1929
Gelatin silver photograph
18.1 x 24cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1987
© Felix H Man Estate

 

Hannah Höch. 'Love' 1931

 

Hannah Höch (German 1889-1978)
Love
1931
From the series Love
Photomontage
21.8 x 21.0 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased, 1983

 

 

Hannah Höch made some of the most interesting Dada collages and photomontages, including Love, an image of two strange composite female. Höch’s technique of pasting images together from magazine clippings and advertisements was a response to the modern era of mass media, and a way of criticising the bourgeois taste for ‘high art’. In many of her works, Höch explores the identity and changing roles of women in modern society.

 

 

The Mad Square takes its name from Felix Nussbaum’s 1931 painting which depicts Berlin’s famous Pariser Platz as a mad and fantastic place. The ‘mad square’ is both a physical place – the city, represented in so many works in the exhibition, and a reference to the state of turbulence and tension that characterises the period. The ‘square’ can also be a modernist construct that saw artists moving away from figurative representations towards increasingly abstract forms.

The exhibition features works by Max Beckman, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad, Kurt Schwitters and August Sander. This group represents Germany’s leading generation of interwar artists. Major works by lesser known artists including Karl Hubbuch, Rudolf Schlichter and Hannah Höch are also presented in the exhibition in addition to works by international artists who contributed to German modernism.

The Mad Square brings together a diverse and extensive range of art, created during one of the most important and turbulent periods in European history, offering new insights into the understanding of key German avant‐garde movements including – Expressionism, Dada, Bauhaus, Constructivism, and New Objectivity were linked by radical experimentation and innovation, made possible by an unprecedented freedom of expression.

 

World War 1 and the Revolution

The outbreak of war in 1914 was met with enthusiasm by many German artists and intellectuals who volunteered for service optimistically hoping that it would bring cultural renewal and rapid victory for Germany. The works in this section are by the generation of artists who experienced war first hand. Depictions of fear, anxiety and violence show the devastating effects of war – the disturbing subjects provide insight into tough economic conditions and social dysfunction experienced by many during the tumultuous early years of the Weimar Republic following the abdication of the Kaiser

 

Dada

The philosophical and political despair experienced by poets and artists during World War 1 fuelled the Dada movement, a protest against the bourgeois conception of art. Violent, infantile and chaotic, Dada took its name from the French word for a child’s hobbyhorse or possibly from the sound of a baby’s babble. Its activities included poetry readings and avant‐garde performances, as well as creating new forms of abstract art that subverted all existing conditions in western art. Though short‐lived, in Germany the Dada movement has profoundly influenced subsequent developments in avant-garde art and culture. The impact of the Dada movement was felt throughout Europe – and most powerfully in Germany from 1917-21.

 

Bauhaus

The Bauhaus (1919‐33) is widely considered as the most important school of art and design of the 20th century, very quickly establishing a reputation as the leading and most progressive centre of the international avant‐garde. German architect Walter Gropius founded the school to do away with traditional distinctions between the fine arts and craft, and to forge an entirely new kind of creative designer skilled in both the conceptual aesthetics of art and the technical skills of handicrafts. The Bauhaus was considered to be both politically and artistically radical from its inception and was closed down by the National Socialists in 1933

 

Constructivism and the Machine Aesthetic

Having emerged in Russia after World War I, Constructivism developed in Germany as a set of ideas and practices that experimented with abstract or non-representational forms and in opposition to Expressionism and Dada. Constructivists developed works and theories that fused art and with technology. They shared a utopian belief in social reform, and saw abstract art as playing a central role in this process.

 

Metropolis

By the 1920s Berlin has become the cultural and entertainment capital of the world and mass culture played an important role in distracting a society traumatised by World War 1, the sophisticated metropolis provided a rich source of imagery for artists, it also come to represent unprecedented sexual and personal freedom. In photography modernity was emphasised by unusual views of the metropolis or through the representation of city types. The diverse group of works in this section portray the uninhibited sense of freedom and innovation experienced by artists throughout Germany during the 1920s

 

New Objectivity

By the mid 1920s, a new style emerged that came to be known as Neue Sachlichkeit or New Objectivity. After experiencing the atrocities of World War 1 and the harsh conditions of life in postwar Germany, many artists felt the need to return to the traditional modes of representation with portraiture becoming a major vehicle of this expression, with its emphasis on the realistic representation of the human figure

 

Power and Degenerate Art

After the seizure of power by the National Socialists in 1933 modern artists were forbidden from working and exhibiting in Germany, with their works confiscated from leading museums and then destroyed or sold on the international art market. Many avant‐garde artists were either forced to leave Germany or retreat into a state of ‘inner immigration’.

The Degenerate art exhibition, held in Munich in 1937, represented the culmination of the National Socialists’ assault on modernism. Hundreds of works were selected for the show which aimed to illustrate the mental deficiency and moral decay that had supposedly infiltrated modern German art. The haphazard and derogatory design of the exhibition sought to ridicule and further discredit modern art. Over two million people visited the exhibition while in contrast far fewer attended the Great German art exhibition which sought to promote what the Nazis considered as ‘healthy’ art.

 

Karl Grill. 'Untitled [Spiral Costume, from the Triadic Ballet]' c. 1926-27

 

Karl Grill (German, active Donaueschingen, Germany 1920s)
Untitled (Spiral Costume, from the Triadic Ballet)
c. 1926 – 27
Gelatin silver print
22.5 x 16.2cm
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

In 1922, Oskar Schlemmer premiered his “Triadic Ballet” in Germany. He named the piece “Triadic” because it was literally composed of multiples of three: three acts, colours, dancers, and shapes. Concentrating on its form and movement, Schlemmer explored the body’s spatial relationship to its architectural surroundings. Although an abstract design, the spiral costume derived from the tutus of classical ballet.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles website

 

August Sander. 'Secretary at West German radio in Cologne' 1931, printed by August Sander in the 1950s

 

August Sander (German 1876-1964)
Secretary at West German radio in Cologne
1931, printed by August Sander in the 1950s
from the portfolio People of the 20th century, III The woman, 17 The woman in intellectual and practical occupation
Gelatin silver photograph
29.0 x 22.0cm
Die Photographische Sammlung /SK Stiftung Kultur, August Sander Archiv, Cologne (DGPH1016)
© Die Photographische Sammlung /SK  Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

 

Timeline

1910

  • Berlin’s population doubles to two million people

1911

  • Expressionists move from Dresden to Berlin

1912

  • Social Democratic Party (SPD) the largest party in the Reichstag

1913

  • Expressionists attain great success with their city scenes

1914

  • World War I begins
  • George Grosz, Oskar Schlemmer, Otto Dix, Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Beckmann and Franz Marc enlist in the army

1915

  • Grosz declared unfit for service, Beckmann suffers a breakdown and Schlemmer wounded

1916

  • Marc dies in combat
  • Dada begins at Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich

1917

  • Lenin and Trotsky form the Soviet Republic after the Tzar is overthrown

1918

  • Richard Huelsenbeck writes a Dada manifesto in Berlin
  • Kurt Schwitters creates Merz assemblages in Hanover
  • Revolutionary uprisings in Berlin and Munich
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates and flees to Holland
  • Social Democratic Party proclaims the Weimar Republic
  • World War I ends

1919

  • Freikorps assassinates the Spartacist leaders, Karl Leibknecht and Rosa Luxemburg
  • Bauhaus established in Weimer by Walter Gropius
  • Cologne Dada group formed
  • Treaty of Versailles signed

1920

  • Berlin is the world’s third largest city after New York and London
  • Inflation begins in Germany
  • National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) founded
  • Kapp Putsch fails after right‐wing forces try to gain control over government
  • First International Dada fair opens in Berlin

1921

  • Hitler made chairman of the NSDAP

1922

  • Schlemmer’s Triadic ballet premiers in Stuttgart
  • Hyperinflation continues

1923

  • Hitler sentenced to five years imprisonment for leading the Beer Hall Putsch
  • Inflation decreases and a period of financial stability begins

1924

  • Hitler writes Mein Kampf while in prison
  • Reduction of reparations under the Dawes Plan

1925

  • New Objectivity exhibition opens at the Mannheim Kunsthalle
  • The Bauhaus relocates to Dessau

1926

  • Germany joins the League of Nations

1927

  • Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis released
  • Unemployment crisis worsens
  • Nazis hold their first Nuremburg party rally

1928

  • Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The threepenny opera premieres in Berlin
  • Hannes Meyer becomes the second director of the Bauhaus

1929

  • Street confrontations between the Nazis and communists in Berlin
  • Young Plan accepted, drastically reducing reparations
  • Stock market crashes on Wall Street, New York
  • Thomas Mann awarded the Nobel Prize for literature

1930

  • Resignation of Chancellor Hermann Müller’s cabinet ending parliamentary rule
  • Minority government formed by Heinrich Brüning, leader of the Centre Party
  • Nazis win 18% of the vote and gain 95 seats in the National elections
  • Ludwig Miles van der Rohe becomes the third director of the Bauhaus
  • John Heartfield creates photomontages for the Arbeiter‐Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ)

1931

  • Unemployment reaches five million and a state of emergency is declared in Germany

1932

  • Nazis increase their representation in the Reichstag to 230 seats but are unable to form a majority coalition
  • Miles van der Rohe moves the Bauhaus to Berlin
  • Grosz relocates to New York in as an exile

1933

  • Hindenberg names Hitler as Chancellor
  • Hitler creates a dictatorship under the Nazi regime
  • The first Degenerate art exhibition denouncing modern art is held in Dresden
  • Miles van der Rohe announces the closure of the Bauhaus
  • Nazis organise book burnings in Berlin
  • Many artists including Gropius, Kandinski and Klee flee Germany
  • Beckmann, Dix and Schlemmer lose their teaching positions

1934

  • Fifteen concentration camps exist in Germany

1935

  • The swastika becomes the flag of the Reich

1936

  • Spanish civil war begins
  • Germany violates the Treaty of Versailles
  • Olympic Games held in Garmisch‐Partenkirchen and Berlin
  • Thomas Mann deprived of his citizenship and emigrates to the United States

1937

  • German bombing raids over Guernica in Spain in support of Franco
  • The Nazi’s Degenerate art exhibition opens in Munich and attracts two million visitors
  • Beckmann, Kirchner and Schwitters leave Germany
  • Purging of ‘degenerate art’ from German museums continues 1

 

1. Timeline credit: Chronology compiled by Jacqueline Strecker and Victoria Tokarowski from the following sources:

  • Catherine Heroy ‘Chronology’ in Sabine Rewald, Glitter and Doom: German portraits from the 1920s, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, exh cat, 2006, pp. 39‐46.
  • Anton Kaes, Martin Jay and Edward Dimendberg, eds, ‘Political chronology’, The Weimar Republic sourcebook, Berkely 1994, pp. 765‐71.
  • Jonathan Petropoulos and Dagmar Lott‐Reschke ‘Chronology’ in Stephanie Barron, ‘Degenerate Art’: the fate of the avant‐garde in Nazi Germany, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, exh cat, 1991, pp. 391‐401.

 

 

László Moholy-Nagy. ‘Bauhaus Balconies’ 1926

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946)
Bauhaus Balconies
1926
Silver gelatin photograph

 

John Heartfield. 'Adolf, the superman: swallows gold and spouts rubbish' from the 'Workers Illustrated Paper', vol 11, no 29, 17 July 1932, p. 675

 

John Heartfield (German 1891-1968)
Adolf, the superman: swallows gold and spouts rubbish
1932
From the Workers Illustrated Paper, vol 11, no 29, 17 July 1932, p. 675
Photolithograph
38.0 x 27.0 cm
John Heartfield Archiv, Akademie der Künste zu Berlin
Photo: Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Kunstsammlung, Heartfield 2261/ Roman März
© The Heartfield Community of Heirs /VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

 

John Heartfield’s photomontages expose hidden agendas in German politics and economics of the 1920s and 30s. This image was published six months before the National Socialist Party came to power, and shows Hitler with a spine made of coins and his stomach filled with gold. The caption says that he ‘swallows gold’, alluding to generous funding by right-wing industrialists, and ‘spouts rubbish’.

 

Max Beckmann. 'The trapeze' 1923

 

Max Beckmann (German 1884-1950)
The trapeze
1923
Oil on canvas
196.5 x 84.0 cm
Toledo Museum of Art
Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey
Photo: Photography Incorporated, Toledo

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

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10
Dec
11

Review: ‘Lionel Bawden: Pattern spill’ at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 23rd November – 17th December 2011

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Double Vision' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Double Vision
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 23.0 x 26.0 x 7.0 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

 

In the self contained world of commercial “art to go” galleries, this exhibition is the apotheosis of that form. The work is astonishingly beautiful, refined and self contained. Drawing on references to Islamic art, Brancusi (Endless Column), stalactites, wafting sea sponges and the changeable camouflage patterns of sea creatures, the sculptures are perfect in visualisation, creation, contemplation and containment.

Sitting on coloured perspex shelves the patterns spills of coloured Staedtler pencils explore “themes of flux, transformation and repetition as preconditions to our experience of the physical world.” The titles of the work hint at such an exploration: Double VisionTrance-muterSecretionLosing Containment, Pattern Spill.

How I wish, long, crave to own one and I am not alone: on the opening night nearly all the sculptures were already sold! Obviously people recognise the uniqueness and beauty of this work.

And yet …

.
Part of               me

longs
for    a
      broken
pencil,
a
snapped           t/wig,
something
                                           out of place
that puts
pattern to
shame.

 

For only in mutation is pattern given relevance (and this is what the irregularity of ‘spill’ is supposed to be about). The flow of the Pattern Spill sculptures are the only ones that get close to this mutation and that in a pretty, ordered way.

“What happens in the case of mutation? Consider the example of the genetic code. Mutation normally occurs when some random event (for example, a burst of radiation or a coding error) disrupts an existing pattern and something else is put in its place instead. Although mutation disrupts pattern, it also presupposes a morphological standard against which it can be measured and understood as mutation … Mutation is critical because it names the bifurcation point at which the interplay between pattern and randomness causes the system to evolve in a new direction…

The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.”1

.
Instead of pattern “something else is put in its place instead.” I don’t get that here. Yes, these are beautiful, contemplative sculptures but one wonders how they will go on revealing themselves over months and years. I yearn for the prick of their imperfection.

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

 

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

 

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Trance-muter' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Trance-muter
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 32.0 x 26.0 x 7.5 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Secretion' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Secretion
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 31.0 x 25.0 x 17.0 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 45.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Losing Containment' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Losing Containment
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form 1: 31.5 x 24.0 x 12.0 cm
Form 2: 33.5 x 33.0 x 26.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 120.0 x 30.0 cm

 

 

Lionel Bawden’s exhibition Pattern Spill will comprise of a range of small-scale objects created from vibrantly coloured pencils that are fused and sculpted together. By working with hexagonal coloured pencils as a sculptural material, Bawden is able to reconfigure and carve a range of amorphous shapes that convey movement and process. Bawden explores themes of flux, transformation and repetition as preconditions to our experience of the physical world.

This new body of work deals with ideas of control and collapse, surface and interior and organic patterns and energies through static three-dimensional objects. Bawden’s sculptures explore larger ideas beyond the work and relate to societal and natural systems, cycles and structures. Through his work, Bawden communicates macro ideas through micro detail. The works in Pattern spill become vessels for contemplation.

Alongside the sculptures there will also be a range of small meticulous drawings of vast hexagonal cells included in the exhibition. These drawings will act as companions to the sculptures, assisting to convey Bawden’s oblique explorations and meditations of the human condition.

Text from the Karen Woodbury Gallery website

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Pattern Spill' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Pattern Spill
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 30.0 x 23.5 x 33.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Patttern Spill III' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Patttern Spill III
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 31.0 x 23.0 x 34.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Secretion III' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Secretion III
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 35.0 x 26.5 x 15.0 cm
Shelf: 15.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

Lionel Bawden. 'Elevation' 2011

 

Lionel Bawden (Australian, b. 1974)
Elevation
2011
Coloured Staedtler pencils, epoxy, incralac on perspex shelf
Form: 42.5 x 15.0 x 7.0 cm
Shelf: 7.5 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm

 

 

Karen Woodbury Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

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07
Dec
11

‘Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound’ by Kaho Yu

December 2011

 

Kaho Yu. 'Untitled' from the series 'Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound' 2009 - 2011

 

Kaho Yu
Untitled
from the series Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound
2009-2011

 

 

I like these photographs. There is a stillness to them that is intoxicating. The wonderful quotation by Charles Babbage (the air as a form of perpetual palimpsest) coupled with Yu’s insight that he sought to capture – through long time exposure, those infinitesimal residual movements of voice and sound trapped in the diffused movements of all the particles in the atmosphere – compliment the work. These are intelligent, emotive, quiet photographs.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Kaho Yu for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © Kaho Yu and courtesy of the artist.

 

Kaho Yu. 'Untitled' from the series 'Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound' 2009 - 2011

 

Kaho Yu
Untitled
from the series Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound
2009 – 2011

 

Kaho Yu. 'Untitled' from the series 'Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound' 2009 - 2011

 

Kaho Yu
Untitled
from the series Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound
2009 – 2011

 

Kaho Yu. 'Untitled' from the series 'Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound' 2009 - 2011

 

Kaho Yu
Untitled
from the series Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound
2009 – 2011

 

 

“The air is one vast library, on whose pages are for ever written all that man has ever said or woman whispered. There, in their mutable but unerring characters, mixed with the earliest, as well as the latest sighs of mortality, stand for ever recorded, vows unredeemed, promises unfulfilled, perpetuating in the unified movements of each particle, the testimony of man’s changeful will.”

.
Charles Babbage, 1837

 

 

The photographs in this series were taken during a period when I was feeling existentially bored. Instead of distracting myself with activities and accumulating new sensations, I decided to “look” at boredom, to study, and perhaps to understand it. The most natural strategy was to observe the immediate environments where my daily activities take place – train stations, cubicles, copy machines room, etc. I carried a medium format camera on a tripod and spent the odd hours wandering alone through those familiar spaces.

My “study” did not lead me to any revelation or answer. Instead, I found myself spending a lot of time waiting in a long silence, between the opening and the closing of the camera shutter.

Charles Babbage, a scientist in 1837, postulated that every voice and sound, once imparted on the air particles, does not dissipate but remains in the diffused movements of all the particles in the atmosphere. Thus, there might one day come a person equipped with the right mathematical knowledge of these motions who will be able to capture the infinitesimal vibrations and to trace back to their ultimate source.

Taking a long exposure, letting the light slowly accumulate an image on the celluloid surface, to me, is not unlike a sound seeker searching in the air particles, for the tiny residual movements that have been conveyed through the history of mankind, from the beginning of time.”

Kaho Yu artist statement

 

Kaho Yu. 'Untitled' from the series 'Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound' 2009 - 2011

 

Kaho Yu
Untitled
from the series Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound
2009 – 2011

 

Kaho Yu. 'Untitled' from the series 'Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound' 2009 - 2011

 

Kaho Yu
Untitled
from the series Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound
2009 – 2011

 

Kaho Yu. 'Untitled' from the series 'Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound' 2009 - 2011

 

Kaho Yu
Untitled
from the series Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound
2009 – 2011

 

Kaho Yu. 'Untitled' from the series 'Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound' 2009 - 2011

 

Kaho Yu
Untitled
from the series Infinitesimal Residual Vibration of An Unknown Sound
2009 – 2011

 

 

Kaho Yu website

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07
Dec
11

Animation: ‘Into the Air’s Memory’ by Kaho Yu

December 2011

 

 

Kaho Yu
Into the Air’s Memory
2003

 

 

Into the Air’s Memory is a two channel animation originally made to be projected on two separate screens. The parallel narratives follow two protagonists – a sound seeker and a woman with an empty wheelchair – wandering in a desert in search of something, someone, and the infinitesimal residual vibration of an unknown sound.

 

 

Kaho Yu 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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