Archive for January, 2012

28
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Stanley Greene – Black Passport’ at Foam, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 16th December 2011 – 5th February 2012

 

Many thankx to FOAM for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs: Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

 

Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

 

Foam presents Black Passport, a project by and about the American conflict photographer Stanley Greene (New York, 1949). Black Passport shows photos of conflicts and disasters combined with photos of Greene’s  private life. The result is a revealing portrait of a photographer who is addicted to the adrenaline rush of being on the move, but at the same time realises the sacrifices he makes in his personal life. Stanley Greene has photographed in regions such as Chechnya, Iraq, Rwanda and Sudan and is one of the founders of the international photo agency NOOR.

Every day, newspapers and magazines are filled with photos of war, oppression and violence. The photographer that enables us to watch what is happening in the rest of the world from the safety of our own homes, however, usually remains invisible. This is not the case in Black Passport, the biography of war photographer Stanley Greene, which appeared in book form in 2009 and will be exhibited in Foam starting on 16 December. Photos of conflict and disaster regions such as Rwanda, Sudan, Chechnya and Iraq are alternated with photos from the private life of Stanley Greene: photos of Paris and many women. Slide shows will also be presented, interspersed with texts from the book. Greene’s voice resounds through the exhibition space – he is disconcertingly frank:  ‘I think you can only keep positive for eight years. If you stay at it longer than that, you turn. And not into a beautiful butterfly.’

Just as Stanley Greene, visitors to the exhibition are poised between the safety of Western life and the horrors of foreign wars. And it is precisely this juxtaposition that causes these photos to stir us more than the stream of bad-news images that inundate us daily. In addition, Black Passport is a fascinating story about what it is like to be a war photographer. Why does someone choose to be continually confronted with death and misery? Is it an escape from everyday reality and a craving for adventure?

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Short Biography

Stanley Greene has photographed in the former Soviet Union, Central America, Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in publications including Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, Stern and Paris Match. He has won various World Press Awards and in 2004 the W. Eugene Smith Award. Open Wound: Chechnya 1994-2003 was published in 2004 and his book Black Passport in 2009. Greene is one of the founders of the Amsterdam-based international photo agency NOOR.

Press release from the Foam website

 

Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

Stanley Greene (American, 1949-2017)
Iraq, 2004, Road side explosion, Northern Iraq
Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

 

“I think you can only keep positive for eight years. If you stay at it longer than that, you turn. And not into a beautiful butterfly.” ~ Stanley Greene

“I’m an observer, I’m not an objective observer though, but I’m an observer. I feel it’s very important for journalists to go to these hell holes and photograph or write or do radio or whatever because I still believe that the public wants to know.” ~ Stanley Greene

 

 

Stanley Greene (February 14, 1949 – May 19, 2017) was an American photojournalist.

Greene was born to middle class parents in Brooklyn. Both his parents were actors. His father, who was born in Harlem, was a union organiser, one of the first African Americans elected as an officer in the Screen Actors Guild,and belonged to the Harlem Renaissance movement. Greene’s father was blacklisted as a Communist in the 1950s and forced to take uncredited parts in movies. Greene’s parents gave him his first camera when he was eleven years old.

Greene began his art career as a painter, but started taking photos as a means of cataloging material for his paintings. In 1971, when Greene was a member of the anti-Vietnam War movement and the Black Panther Party, his friend photographer W. Eugene Smith offered him space in his studio and encouraged him to study photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York and the San Francisco Art Institute.

Greene held various jobs as a photographer, including taking pictures of rock bands and working at Newsday. In 1986, he shot fashion photographs in Paris. He called himself a “dilettante, sitting in cafes, taking pictures of girls and doing heroin”. After a friend died of AIDS, Greene kicked his drug habit and began to seriously pursue a photography career.

He began photojournalism in 1989, when his image (“Kisses to All, Berlin Wall”) of a tutu-clad girl with a champagne bottle became a symbol of the fall of the Berlin Wall. While working for the Paris-based photo agency Agence Vu in October 1993, Greene was trapped and almost killed in the White House in Moscow during a stand-off between President Boris Yeltsin and the parliament. He covered the war-torn countries Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Iraq, Somalia, Croatia, Kashmir, and Lebanon. He took pictures of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the US Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

After 1994, Greene was best known for his documentation of the conflict in Chechnya, between rebels and the Russian Armed Forces, which was compiled in his 2004 book, Open Wound. These photos drew attention to the “suffering that has marked the latest surge in Chechnya’s centuries-long struggle for independence from Russia”.

In 2008, Greene revealed that he had hepatitis C, which he believed he had contracted from a contaminated razor while working in Chad in 2007. After controlling the disease with medication, he traveled to Afghanistan and photographed a story about “the crisis of drug abuse and infectious disease”.

Stanley Greene co-founded NOOR Agency with Kadir van Lohuizen in 2007. They launched their agency with their colleagues on the 7th of September 2007 at Visa Pour L’Image. Greene died in Paris, at the age of 68. He had been undergoing treatment for liver cancer.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Black Passport is the biography of war photographer Stanley Greene, compiled out of hours of interviews by Teun van der Heijden. It shows Stanley’s war images alternated with private images.

Teun van der Heijden: “Black Passport started as any other photo book project. At the beginning Stanley did let me know that he was up for ‘something completely different’. While working on the project we had a lot of conversations in which I discovered that there were a lot of similarities between Stanley and me. What is it then that one person becomes a designer, living happily with the same woman for 25 years, being a father of two daughters and the other person becomes a war photographer. This question was the beginning of a series of interviews. Out of the interviews came Black Passport. Black Passport is nominated several times. Some people believe it is the most important photo book of 2010.

Text from the YouTube website

 

Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

All photographs: Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

 

Foam
Keizersgracht 609
1017 DS Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Phone: + 31 20 5516500

Opening hours:
Daily from 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday – Friday 10 am – 9 pm

Foam website

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25
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Diane Arbus’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 18th October 18 2011 – 5th February 2012

 

Diane Arbus, 'Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962' 1962

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962
1962
Gelatin silver print
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

 

 

“There are and have been and will be an infinite number of things on earth. Individuals all different, all wanting different things, all knowing different things, all loving different things, all looking different. Everything that has been on earth has been different from any other thing. That is what I love: the differentness, the uniqueness of all things and the importance of life… I see something that seems wonderful; I see the divineness in ordinary things.”

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Diane Arbus. Paper on Plato, senior English seminar, Fieldston School, November 28, 1939

 

“I want to photograph the considerable ceremonies of our present because we tend while living here and now to perceive only what is random and barren and formless about it. While we regret that the present is not like the past and despair of its ever becoming the future, its innumerable inscrutable habits lie in wait for their meaning. I want to gather them, like somebody’s grandmother putting up preserves, because they will have been so beautiful.

There are the Ceremonies of Celebration (the Pageants, the Festivals, the Feasts, the Conventions) and the Ceremonies of Competition (Contests, Games, Sports), the Ceremonies of Buying and Selling, of Gambling, of the Law and the Show; the Ceremonies of Fame in which the Winners Win and the Lucky are Chosen or Family Ceremonies or Gatherings (the Schools, the Clubs, the Meetings). Then they are Ceremonial Places (The Beauty Parlor, The Funeral Parlor or, simply The Parlor) and Ceremonial Costumes (what waitresses wear, or Wrestlers), Ceremonies of the Rich, like the Dog Show, and of the Middle Class, like the Bridge Game. Or, for example: the Dancing Lesson, the Graduation, the Testimonial Dinner, the Séance, the Gymnasium and the Picnic, and perhaps the Waiting Room, the Factory, the Masquerade, the Rehearsal, the Initiation, the Hotel Lobby and the Birthday Party. The etcetera.

I will write whatever is necessary for the further description and elucidation of these Rites and I will go wherever I can to find them.

These are our symptoms and our monuments. I want simply to save them, for what is ceremonious and curious and commonplace will be legendary.”

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Diane Arbus. “American Rites, Manners and Customs,” Plan for a Photographic Project, Guggenheim proposal

 

 

A fabulous posting, with memorable thoughts and photographs! These archetypal images have become deeply embedded in the collective conscience where conscience is pre-eminently the organ of sentiments and representations. The snap, snap, snap of the shutter evinces the flaws of human nature, reveals the presence of a quality or feeling to which we can all relate. As Arbus states, the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture. And more complicated. This is why these photographs always capture our attention because we become, we inhabit, we are the subject. They are the flaw in us all. They are legend.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Diane Arbus. 'Identical twins, Roselle, N.J. 1967' 1967

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Identical twins, Roselle, N.J. 1967
1967
Gelatin silver print
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

 

 

On Photographs

“They are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you.”

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Diane Arbus in response to request for a brief statement about photographs, March 15, 1971

 

 

Diane Arbus (New York, 1923-1971) revolutionised the art she practiced. Her bold subject matter and photographic approach produced a body of work that is often shocking in its purity, in its steadfast celebration of things as they are. Her gift for rendering strange those things we consider most familiar, and for uncovering the familiar within the exotic, enlarges our understanding of ourselves.

Arbus found most of her subjects in New York City, a place that she explored as both a known geography and as a foreign land, photographing people she discovered during the 1950s and 1960s. She was committed to photography as a medium that tangles with the facts. Her contemporary anthropology – portraits of couples, children, carnival performers, nudists, middle-class families, transvestites, zealots, eccentrics, and celebrities – stands as an allegory of the human experience, an exploration of the relationship between appearance and identity, illusion and belief, theatre and reality.

In this first major retrospective in France, Jeu de Paume presents a selection of two hundred photographs that affords an opportunity to explore the origins, scope, and aspirations of a wholly original force in photography. It includes all of the artist’s iconic photographs as well as many that have never been publicly exhibited. Even the earliest examples of her work demonstrate Arbus’s distinctive sensibility through the expression on a face, someone’s posture, the character of the light, and the personal implications of objects in a room or landscape. These elements, animated by the singular relationship between the photographer and her subject, conspire to implicate the viewer with the force of a personal encounter.

 

Biography

Diane Arbus was born in New York City on March 14, 1923, and attended the Ethical Culture and Fieldston Schools. At the age of eighteen she married Allan Arbus. Although she first started taking pictures in the early 1940s and studied photography with Alexey Brodovitch in 1954, it was not until 1955-57, while enrolled in courses taught by Lisette Model, that she began to seriously pursue the work for which she has come to be known.

Her first published photographs appeared in Esquire in 1960 under the title The Vertical Journey. From that point on she continued to work intermittently as a free-lance photographer for Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Show, The London Sunday Times, and a number of other magazines, doing portraits on assignment as well as photographic essays, for several of which she wrote accompanying articles.

During the 1950s, like most of her contemporaries, she had been using a 35mm camera, but in 1962 she began working with a 6×6 Rolleiflex. She once said, in accounting for the shift, that she had grown impatient with the grain and wanted to be able to decipher in her pictures the actual texture of things. The 6×6 format contributed to the refinement of a deceptively simple, formal, classical style that has since been recognised as one of the distinctive features of her work.

She received Guggenheim Fellowships in 1963 and 1966 for projects on “American Rites, Manners and Customs” and spent several summers during that period traveling across the United States, photographing contests, festivals, public and private gatherings, people in the costumes of their professions or avocations, the hotel lobbies, dressing rooms and living rooms she had described as part of “the considerable ceremonies of our present.” “These are our symptoms and our monuments,” she wrote in her original application. “I want simply to save them, for what is ceremonious and curious and commonplace will be legendary.”

The photographs she produced in those years attracted a great deal of attention when a selected group of them were exhibited, along with the work of two other photographers, in the 1967 “New Documents” show at the Museum of Modern Art. Nonetheless, although several institutions subsequently purchased examples of her work for their permanent collections, her photographs appeared in only two other major exhibitions during her lifetime, both of them group shows.

In the late 1960s she taught photography courses at Parsons School of Design, the Rhode Island School of Design and Cooper Union and in 1971 gave a master class at Westbeth, the artists cooperative in New York City where she then lived. During the same period she initiated the concept and did the basic research for the Museum of Modern Art’s 1973 exhibition on news photography, “From the Picture Press.”

She made a portfolio of ten photographs in 1970, printed, signed and annotated by her, which was to be the first of a series of limited editions of her work. She committed suicide on July 26, 1971 at the age of forty-eight. The following year the ten photographs in her portfolio became the first work of an American photographer to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale.

In the course of a career that may be said to have lasted little more than fifteen years, she produced a body of work whose style and content have secured her a place as one of the most significant and influential photographers of our time. The major retrospective mounted by the Museum of Modern Art in 1972 was attended by more than a quarter of a million people in New York before it began its tour of the United States and Canada. The Aperture monograph Diane Arbus, published in conjunction with the show has sold over 300,000 copies. Beginning in 2003, Diane Arbus Revelations, an international retrospective organised by The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art travelled to museums throughout the United States and Europe between 2003 and 2006. Major exhibitions devoted exclusively to her work have toured much of the world including, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Press release from the Jeu de Paume website

 

Diane Arbus. 'Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C. 1967' 1967

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C. 1967
1967
Gelatin silver print
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

 

Diane Arbus. 'Untitled (6) 1970-71'

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Untitled (6) 1970-71
1970-71
Gelatin silver print
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

 

 

On Freaks

“There’s a quality of legend about freaks. Like a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle. Most people go through life dreading they’ll go through a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats.”

“If you’ve ever talked to somebody with two heads you know they know something you don’t.”

 

The Gap between Attention and Affect

“You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw. It’s just extraordinary that we should have been given these peculiarities. And, not content with what we were given, we create a whole other set. Our whole guise is like giving a sign to the world to think of us in a certain way but there’s a point between what you want people to know about you and what you can’t help people knowing about you. And that has to do with what I’ve always called the gap between intention and effect. I mean if you scrutinise reality closely enough, if in some way you really, really get to it, it becomes fantastic.”

 

Other Thoughts

“The thing that’s important to know is that you never know. You’re always sort of feeling your way.”

“Nothing is ever the same as they said it was. It’s what I’ve never seen before that I recognise.”

“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”

“For me the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture. And more complicated. I do have a feeling for the print but I don’t have a holy feeling for it. I really think what it is, is what it’s about. I mean it has to be of something. And what it’s of it always more remarkable than what it is.”

“I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.”

 

 

Diane Arbus. 'A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C. 1966' 1966

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C. 1966
1966
Gelatin silver print
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

 

Diane Arbus. 'Teenage couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C. 1963' 1963

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Teenage couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C. 1963
1963
Gelatin silver print
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

 

Diane Arbus. 'Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, L.I. 1963' 1963

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown, L.I. 1963
1963
Gelatin silver print
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Phone: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11.00am – 9.00pm
Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00am – 7.00pm
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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22
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Vivian Maier: Photographs from the Maloof Collection’ at the Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Exhibition dates:  15th December 2011 – 26th January 2012

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled (portrait of a woman)' date unknown

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Untitled (portrait of a woman)
date unknown
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

 

Another photographer who is getting more recognition. Out of the work I have seen the portraits are the strongest. Some of them feel like precursors to the confronting portraits of women made by Diane Arbus while others offer a more reflective, contemplative examination of human presence.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Alicia Colen for her help and to the Howard Greenberg Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting.

 

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled' c. 1950's

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Untitled
c. 1950’s
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled' c. 1950's

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Untitled
c. 1950’s
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled' c. 1950's

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Untitled
c. 1950’s
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

 

Howard Greenberg Gallery is proud to present the recently discovered work of street photographer, Vivian Maier (1926-2009), from the Maloof Collection.

A nanny by trade, Vivian Maier’s street and travel photography was discovered by John Maloof in 2007 at a local auction house in Chicago. Always with a Rolleiflex around her neck, she managed to amass more than 2,000 rolls of films, 3,000 prints and more than 100,000 negative which were shared with virtually no one in her lifetime. Her black and white photographs-mostly from the 50s and 60s-are indelible images of the architecture and street life of Chicago and New York. She rarely took more than one frame of each image and concentrated on children, women, the elderly, and indigent. The breadth of Maier’s work also reveals a series of striking self-portraits as well as prints from her travels to Egypt, Bangkok, Italy, and the American Southwest, among dozens of other international cities.

“My fascination with her story has only grown, as has my involvement with her photographs. It is such an unusual story with no resolution. At first her images are extremely well seen, quality photographs of life on the street, in New York City and Chicago. But as one looks at the body of her work, she reveals her deeper interests. Then one tries to imagine who she was, what motivated her, her personality. It is not everyday that one becomes so involved and even obsessed with a particular photographer,” comments Howard Greenberg.

What little is known about Maier’s life is the result of John Maloof’s extensive research. He discovered her obituary on line in 2009 which was just the beginning of his investigative work. An American of French and Austro-Hungarian extraction, Maier split her time between Europe and the US, returning to NY in 1951. In 1956, she ultimately settled in Chicago where she worked as nanny for more than forty years. For a brief period in the 1970s she worked as a nanny to journalist, Phil Donahue’s children. Towards the end of her life, Maier was supported by the children she had cared for in the early 50s. Unbeknownst to them, one of Maier’s storage lockers (containing her massive group of negatives) was auctioned off due to delinquent payments.

After purchasing the first collection of Maier photographs in 2007, Maloof acquired more from another buyer at the same auction. He has since established the Maloof Collection to promote the work of Vivian Maier and to safeguard the archive for future generations. The archive consists of approximately 100,000 to 150,000 negatives; over 3,000 prints; hundreds of rolls of film; home movies; audio tape interviews, and other items representing roughly 90% of Maier’s work. Through Maloof’s efforts, Vivian Maier’s photographs have been exhibited internationally and have received significant critical attention. In November, Powerhouse Books will publish Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, edited by Maloof with a foreword by Geoff Dyer. John Maloof is also co-producing a documentary about Vivian Maier.

Press release from the Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled' c. 1950's

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Untitled
c. 1950’s
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Uptown West, New York, NY, January 26, 1955' 1955

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Uptown West, New York, NY, January 26, 1955
1955
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled, Chicago, May 16, 1957' 1957

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Untitled, Chicago, May 16, 1957
1957
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York City, Self-Portrait, September 10th, 1955' 1955

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
New York City, Self-Portrait, September 10th, 1955
1955
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

 

Howard Greenberg Gallery
The Fuller Building
41 East 57 Street
Suite 1406
New York, NY 10022
Phone: 212.334.0010

Gallery hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am – 6.00pm

Howard Greenberg Gallery website

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19
Jan
12

marcus bunyan black and white archive: self-portraits and nudes, 1991-92

January 2012

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Self-portrait in Punk Jacket' 1991-92

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Self-portrait in Punk Jacket
1991-92
Silver gelatin print

 

 

I am scanning my negatives made during the years 1991 – 1997 to preserve them in the form of an online archive as a process of active memory, so that the images are not lost forever. These photographs were images of my life and imagination at the time of their making, the ideas I was thinking about and the people and things that surrounded me.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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All images © Marcus Bunyan. Please click the photographs for a larger version of the image; remember these are just straight scans of the negatives !

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a vintage 8″ x 10″ silver gelatin print costs $700 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see my store web page.

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Marcus Sucking His Thumb' 1991-92

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Marcus Sucking His Thumb
1991-92
Silver gelatin print

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Marcus in his Punk Jacket, Punt Road, South Yarra' 1991-92

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Marcus in his Punk Jacket, Punt Road, South Yarra
1991-92
Silver gelatin print

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Marcus as The Fool (posing for the sculptor Fredrick White)' 1991-92

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Marcus as The Fool (posing for the sculptor Fredrick White)
1991-92
Silver gelatin print

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Nude, in the Flat, Rear of Derelict House, 455, Punt Road, South Yarra' 1992

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Nude, in the Flat, Rear of Derelict House, 455, Punt Road, South Yarra
1992
Silver gelatin print

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Nude on Floor (with Clifford Last)' 1992

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Nude on Floor (with Clifford Last)
1992
Silver gelatin print

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Nude on Couch, Punt Road, South Yarra' 1992

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Nude on Couch, Punt Road, South Yarra
1992
Silver gelatin print

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Nude on Couch, Punt Road, South Yarra' 1992

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Nude on Couch, Punt Road, South Yarra
1992
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive page

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16
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘The Three Graces’ at The Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition dates: 29th October 2011 – 22nd January 2012

 

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

 

 

Artist unknown c. 1930s

 

Artist unknown
c. 1930s
Gelatin silver print
8.9 x 14.7 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Artist unknown. 'Look Pleasant' c. 1910s

 

Artist unknown
Look Pleasant
c. 1910s
Gelatin silver print
8.9 x 8.6 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Artist unknown c. 1910s

 

Artist unknown
c. 1910s
Gelatin silver print
11.6 x 6.8 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

 

This exhibition explores the early years of vernacular photography through graceful snapshots of female trios. Displaying more than 500 “found” images the exhibition features photographs of celebrations, vacations, and gatherings of family and friends are taken and kept with the aim of preserving moments in life for future generations. What happens, however, when a snapshot becomes an image “type” – transferred into the hands of a collector and folded into a broader cultural history?

This subject is explored in the Art Institute of Chicago’s The Three Graces – on view October 29, 2011, through January 22, 2012, in the museum’s Photography Galleries 3 and 4. The exhibition, featuring a private collection of more than 500 anonymous images depicting female trios, spans nearly a century of female role-playing for the camera. These mostly American “found” photographs, spanning from the 1890s to the 1970s, collectively reveal a great deal about the evolving ritual of women’s self-presentation, a theme already idealised in Classical culture with depictions of “The Three Graces.”

New York collector Peter J. Cohen, who has spent decades scouring flea markets, shops, and galleries in search of rare amateur photographs, amassed this image collection and gave it its title. Cohen was struck by the frequency of images featuring female trios, and had the wit to identify in them a playful echo of the Greek muses Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia, who are said to personify beauty, charm, and grace in both nature and humanity. Cohen owns some 20,000 anonymous snapshots spanning from the late 19th century until the 1970s. He has organised his mountainous holdings according to many classifications, among them “Double Exposures,” “Up on The Roof,” and “Dangerous Women.”

For Art Institute exhibition coordinator Michal Raz-Russo, who also authored the accompanying book, the “three graces” theme serves as a frame through which to chart shifts and continuities in women’s self-understanding across nearly a century. The 1888 introduction of the Kodak #1 camera and the 1900 debut of the Kodak Brownie made photography immensely popular, with much of the marketing was directed at women. Modern life and leisure in the 1920s coincided with the arrival of smaller cameras, faster film speeds, and automatic exposures; women of the expanding middle class became practiced at self-portraiture while vacationing or camping on their own. Later, in the mid-20th century, a clear convergence can be seen between women’s self-portraits and ideals of womanhood promulgated in films and glossy magazines. Throughout this history, men are clearly at work too, convincing women to participate in erotic poses according to another set of visual models. While the varieties of picturing and self-picturing are complex, The Three Graces demonstrates that women worked to define themselves as social beings through photography.

Visitors to the exhibition can find information on individual snapshots – gleaned from inscriptions and the clues provided by clothing and setting – at a special computer kiosk located in the gallery.

Press release from The Art Institute of Chicago website

 

Artist unknown c. 1920s

 

Artist unknown
c. 1920s
Gelatin silver print
13.5 x 8.3 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Artist unknown c. 1930s

 

Artist unknown
c. 1930s
Gelatin silver print
14.5 x 8.7 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Artist unknown c. 1940s

 

Artist unknown
c. 1940s
Gelatin silver print
11.7 x 7 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Artist unknown c. 1940s

 

Artist unknown
c. 1940s
Gelatin silver print
12.2 x 7.6 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

 

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404
Phone: (312) 443-3600

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday 10.30am – 5.00pm
Thursday 10.30am – 8.00pm (Free Admission 5.00 – 8.00, member-only access to Matisse)
Friday 10.30am – 8.00pm
Saturday – Sunday 10.00am – 5.00pm
The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days.

The Art Institute of Chicago website

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13
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Summers Past: Golden Days in the Sun 1950-1970’ at The Victorian Archives Centre, North Melbourne

Exhibition dates:  15th November 2011 – 15th April 2012

 

Many thankx to The Victorian Archives Centre for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Anon. 'Sunbathing, Sydney Beach, NSW' c.1955 National Archives of Australia

 

Anon
Sunbathing, Sydney Beach, NSW
c. 1955
National Archives of Australia

 

Anon. 'Christmas party on Bondi Beach, Sydney' 1959 National Archives of Australia

 

Anon
Christmas party on Bondi Beach, Sydney
1959
National Archives of Australia

 

Anon. '1952 Miss Pacific finalists Mary Clifton, Pamela Jansen and Judy Worrad, stand in front of surfboards on Bondi Beach, Sydney' 1952 National Archives of Australia

 

Anon
1952 Miss Pacific finalists Mary Clifton, Pamela Jansen and Judy Worrad, stand in front of surfboards on Bondi Beach, Sydney
1952
National Archives of Australia

 

 

The Victorian Archives Centre plays host to regular displays of original records from our collection as well as touring exhibitions about Victorian stories. Over Summer, the Victorian Archives Centre will present Summers Past: Golden Days in the Sun 1950-1970, a fascinating photographic exhibition highlighting Australia’s fascination with the sun and sea.

Summers Past will explore our enduring love affair of all things summer, invoking memories of carefree sunny days at the beach in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. This is your last chance to view this exhibition before it returns to the National Archives of Australian in April 2012.

So slip on your cossie, slop on the sunscreen and head down to the Victorian Archives Centre this summer!
Summers Past: Golden Days in the Sun 1950-1970 will be on display until April 2012. Entry is free.

 

 

Anon. 'Sunbathers relax under a low umbrella at Bondi, NSW' 1956 National Archives of Australia

 

Anon
Sunbathers relax under a low umbrella at Bondi, NSW
1956
National Archives of Australia

 

Anon. 'Surfer and bikini girl on the sand' 1969 National Archives of Australia

 

Anon
Surfer and bikini girl on the sand
1969
National Archives of Australia

 

Anon. 'Snack bar, Surfers Paradise, QLD' 1971 National Archives of Australia

 

Anon
Snack bar, Surfers Paradise, QLD
1971
National Archives of Australia

 

Anon. 'Surf lifesaving, Bondi Beach' 1960 National Archives of Australia

 

Anon
Surf lifesaving, Bondi Beach
1960
National Archives of Australia

 

Anon. 'Surf board riders, Torquay, VIC' 1967 National Archives of Australia

 

Anon
Surf board riders, Torquay, VIC
1967
National Archives of Australia

 

 

The Victorian Archives Centre
99 Shiel Street
North Melbourne, Victoria 3051
Australia

The Victorian Archives Centre website

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11
Jan
12

Stencil art: I promise never to make art again

November 2011

 

 

Stencil art just off Chapel St in Windsor, Melbourne, January 2012.
Someone even filled it out – obviously a severe crisis of confidence!

 

 

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09
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Stylectrical. On Electro-Design That Makes History’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 26th August 2011 until 15th January 2012

 

Many thankx to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Apple. 'Macintosh Classic' 1990

 

Apple
Macintosh Classic
1990
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Photo: Roman Raacke

 

Apple. '20th Anniversary Macintosh' 1997

 

Apple
20th Anniversary Macintosh
1997
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Photo: Roman Raacke

 

Apple. 'eMate 300' 1997

 

Apple
eMate 300
1997
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Photo: Roman Raacke

 

Apple. 'iMac Bondi Blue' 1998

 

Apple
iMac Bondi Blue
1998
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Photo: Roman Raacke

 

 

The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg is showing the exhibition Stylectrical – On Electro-Design That Makes History from 26th August 2011 until 15th January 2012. The exhibition takes a look at the complex process of industrial product design in the context of cultural studies. Once again the Museum is taking up a highly topical and socially relevant subject. The focus is on the design of Jonathan Ive (*1967), Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple, and responsible for creating all of the devices of the California based company. His products are of incomparable popularity on account of their extremely consistent and recognisable design. A quarter of the approximately 400 exhibits are products by Apple, which are shown for the first time in a comprehensive overview.

The exhibition traces a retrospective of works as well as of the company’s internal development of design, and provides a comprehensive insight into research questions of design history by means of this popular design. Along with the products designed by Jonathan Ive, numerous exhibits from the collection of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg will be shown, among them works by Herbert Hirche, Hans Gugelot, Dieter Rams, Peter Raacke, Michele De Lucchi, Hadi Teherani and Tobias Grau. The economic and environmental significance of design will be examined in cooperation with the red dot institute and the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA).

To give a product its shape goes well beyond Luis Sullivan’s often-quoted phrase “form follows function”. Various demands such as material, form, aesthetics, function, handling and usage must be taken into account during the design process and combined. Stylectrical reveals the complex steps and procedures of product design on the basis of the collected works of Jonathan Ive, it thus grants an insight into important discourses on the subject and points to new perspectives on modern design.

The exhibition is the first to show all products that were created since Ive is in charge of design at Apple. Among the exhibits are rarely seen devices such as the eMate300, a laptop from 1997 designed to be used in schools, the iMac Blue Dalmatian, and the company’s first flat screen. New products such as the iPhone 4, the MacBook Air, and the iPad 2 will also be shown. The exhibition lets the visitor trace the company’s design process of the past 14 years. Moreover, by means of these innovative products, it opens a discussion on questions of design theory about form, about use of material and about the manufacturing process. One excursus is devoted to the history of the company’s product development since its founding, with the intention to highlight the working method and special position of the design team within the company. Exhibits of the designers Hartmut Esslinger and Robert Brunner will be shown in this context, and the so-called “Snow White Design Language” will be discussed.

After the return of company founder Steve Jobs in 1997, Apple was restructured and the young designer Jonathan Ive became Senior Vice President of Industrial Design. Before long, Ive and his team caused a stir with their innovative iMac, the iBook and the Power Macintosh G3, which were all milestones of a modernised electronics design in the late 1990’s. Ive’s team turned its back on the established, uniform gray beige as a colour for computers of the past decades, and developed a colourful design made of translucent plastics.

Stylectrical shows the formal links between Jonathan Ive’s design and the works of leading creators of electronics’ design history, and it thoroughly addresses the close relation to products of the German company Braun. In this context the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg will be showing some first-rate items from its own comprehensive collection of post-war industrial design. Early works of the designers Hans Gugelot, Herbert Hirche and Dieter Rams, but also works from recent decades by Michele De Lucchi and Tobias Grau will be on display. After the evolution of design in Germany had come to a near halt during the Second World War, there were various attempts in the 1950s to pick up again where the programmatic developments of the Weimar period had left off. The probably most significant initiative was called into life in 1953 by the founders of the Ulm School of Design. Otl Aicher, Inge Aicher-Scholl and Max Bill adopted for this school the approach of the Bauhaus, which had been closed by the National Socialists. When Max Bill left the institution in 1957, the so-called “Ulm-Model” took the place of the original concept of the school. It had three relevant criteria: a new and systematic methodology of design, the promotion of interdisciplinary teamwork, and a close cooperation with the industry. Important approaches evolved during this time, which are being pursued to this day. Amongst others, the Ulm school worked for electronics’ manufacturers. The cooperation with the Kronberg-based company Braun is especially relevant; the designers from Ulm developed important guidelines that influenced the design of Braun until the 1990s, when Dieter Rams was the chief designer.

The significance of Jonathan Ive’s and his team’s ideas for the history of American industrial design, as well as their influence on all industrial products, are another focus of the exhibition. By means of the outstanding example of Apple it is possible to show how consistent design can sustainably determine the image of a company and contribute significantly to its economic success, as well as influence 21st century society and culture.

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

Apple. 'iPod' 2001

 

Apple
iPod
2001
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Photo: Roman Raacke

 

Apple. 'Power Mac' 2003

 

Apple
Power Mac
2003
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Photo: Roman Raacke

 

Braun. 'Television set HF 1' 1958

 

Braun
Television set HF 1
1958
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Photo: Roman Raacke

 

Nintendo. 'Portable game console Gameboy' 1995

 

Nintendo
Portable game console Gameboy
1995
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Photo: Roman Raacke

 

Sony. 'Walkman TPS-L2' 1979

 

Sony
Walkman TPS-L2
1979
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Photo: Roman Raacke

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11am – 6pm
Wednesday and Thursday 11am – 9pm

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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06
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Gerhard Richter: Panorama’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 6th October 2011 – 8th January 2012

 

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

 

 

Gerhard Richter. 'Reader' 1994

 

Gerhard Richter (German, b. 1932)
Reader
1994
Courtesy San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© Gerhard Richter

 

Gerhard Richter. 'Mustang Squadron' 1964

 

Gerhard Richter (German, b. 1932)
Mustang Squadron
1964
Private Collection
© Gerhard Richter

 

Gerhard Richter. 'Abstract Painting' 1990

 

Gerhard Richter (German, b. 1932)
Abstract Painting
1990
Tate. Purchased 1992
© Gerhard Richter
Photo: Lucy Dawkins

 

Gerhard Richter. 'Forest (3)' and 'Forest (4)' 1990

 

Gerhard Richter (German, b. 1932)
Forest (3) and Forest (4)
1990
Private collection (left) and The Fisher Collection, San Francisco (right)
© Gerhard Richter
Photo: Lucy Dawkins

 

 

Gerhard Richter is widely regarded as one of the most important artists working today. Spanning nearly five decades, and coinciding with the artist’s eightieth birthday, Gerhard Richter: Panorama is a major retrospective that groups together significant moments of his remarkable career.

As evoked by the title Panorama this exhibition presents a broad look at the wide range of Richter’s practice, discovering contradictions and connections, continuities and breaks. Each room is devoted to a particular moment of his career showing how he explored a set of ideas. While the focus is on painting, the exhibition includes glass constructions, mirrors, drawings, and photographs, and explores how Richter uses these media to ask questions about painting.

The exhibition includes many of Richter’s most well-known works such as Ema (Nude descending a staircase) 1966, Candle 1982, Betty 1988 and Reader 1994. There are also important works that are rarely shown: the first Colour Chart from 1966, 4 Panes of Glass 1967, a triptych of Cloud paintings from 1970, and, for the first time outside Germany, Richter’s monumental twenty metre long painting Stroke (on Red) 1980, based on a photograph of a brush stroke. There are several groups of important abstract paintings including a room of brightly coloured works from the early 1980s, a room of monumental squeegee paintings from the 1990s, and the Cage series 2006.

Richter was one of the first German artists to reflect on the history of National Socialism, creating paintings of family members who had been members, as well as victims of, the Nazi party. In the late 1980s, looking back to the history of radical political activity in West Germany in the 1970s, he produced the fifteen-part work 18 October 1977 1988, a sequence of black and white paintings based on images of the Baader Meinhof group. At the same time as developing a complex body of abstract work, often using squeegees to drag paint across the surface of his canvases, Richter has continued to respond to significant moments in history. In 2005 he painted September, an image of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001, which is shown for the first time in the UK in this exhibition.

Richter is often celebrated for the diversity of his approaches to painting. His practice can seem to be structured by various oppositions, with paintings after photographs as well as abstract pictures; traditional still-lifes alongside highly charged subjects; monochrome grey works and multicoloured grids. Some paintings are planned out and ordered; others are the result of unpredictable accumulations of marks and erasures. Richter sometimes maintains these oppositions, but at other times he undoes them.  This exhibition shows how he often brings abstraction and figuration together, and explores related ideas in very different looking works. The exhibition reveals breaks and new beginnings in his career, but it also reveals questions that he has asked throughout his life.

 

Short Biography

Richter was born in Dresden in 1932 and after training in the East, moved to West Germany in 1961. He was part of a group of painters working in Düsseldorf, that included Sigmar Polke and Konrad Lueg, who turned to image-based painting during the emergence of American Pop art. Major solo exhibitions include the 36th Venice Biennale in 1972, his first large-scale retrospective at Städtische Kunsthalle und Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf in 1986 and Forty Years of Painting, a large-scale retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002. He installed Black Red Gold in the foyer of the Reichstag building in Berlin in 1999 and the window that he designed for Cologne Cathedral was completed in 2007. Richter lives and works in Cologne.”

Press release from the Tate Modern website

 

Gerhard Richter. 'Abstract Painting' 1990

 

Gerhard Richter (German, b. 1932)
Abstract Painting
1990
Private Collection
© Gerhard Richter

 

Gerhard Richter. 'Demo' 1997

 

Gerhard Richter (German, b. 1932)
Demo
1997
The Rachofsky Collection
© Gerhard Richter

 

Gerhard Richter. 'Cage 4' 2006

 

Gerhard Richter (German, b. 1932)
Cage 4
2006
Tate. Lent from a private collection 2007
© Gerhard Richter

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG

Opening hours:
Sunday – Thursday, 10.00 – 18.00
Friday – Saturday, 10.00 – 22.00

Tate Modern website

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03
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome’ at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 16th October 2011 – 8th January 2012

 

Simon Vouet. 'The Fortune Teller' c. 1620

 

Simon Vouet (French, 1590-1649)
The Fortune Teller
c. 1620
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

 

 

Observe if you will:

  1. The treatment of the background behind Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1594-96)
  2. The tension of the hands in this painting
  3. The pallor of the skin of Sick Bacchus (1593-94)
  4. The colour of the bunch of grapes in the same painting
  5. The critical distance between the two apricots and the bowed sash resting on the pediment in the same painting
  6. The youthful innocence of the dupe in The Cardsharps (c. 1595)
  7. The deep, foreboding shadows under the eyes of Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1604-5)
  8. The astonishingly beautiful skin tones in Gerrit van Honthorst’s Saint Sebastian (c. 1623) and how the blood from the leg wound at left runs in two directions: one direction when Saint Sebastian was standing up, one when he has slumped down. Inspired.

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

One of the most influential figures in the history of art, Caravaggio (1571-1610) overturned the artistic conventions of the day and created stunningly dramatic paintings, both sacred and secular. This ambitious exhibition explores the profound impact of his work on the wide range of painters of Italian, French, Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish origin who resided in Rome. Arranged by theme, it includes over 50 paintings, with Caravaggio’s compelling images juxtaposed with those he inspired. This is the second largest display of his paintings in North America and only the third Caravaggio exhibition to be held in the United States.

 

Music and Youth

Many of Caravaggio’s early paintings feature handsome youths, whether singly or in groups. He seems to have used the same favorite models repeatedly – and sometimes his own features, which a contemporary tells us he studied in a mirror. The origins of these novel paintings lay in the types of pictures – portraits, still lifes, and allegories – that were painted in a realistic style in the artist’s native Lombardy, in the north of Italy, although he blurred the boundaries between genres to suggest real-life scenes. Caravaggio’s paintings of musicians would have appealed to Roman collectors who were passionate patrons of music, and likely were created to decorate rooms used for performances. They have a dreamy, slightly melancholy air. If the songs are about love, as we can assume they are, they are surely about the painful side of love rather than its joys. Caravaggio’s early paintings of youths are usually scenes of sensual pleasure but with a built-in warning against indulgence, as when a youth has his finger bitten by a lizard lurking in some fruit. He brings us close to his figures, often having them make eye contact with us, and includes lovingly observed still-life details that enhance the naturalism and immediacy of the scene. Even when there is a visitation from the beyond, like the winged Cupid in The Musicians, he treats this in a matter-of-fact way, attentive always to breaking down the boundaries between the painted world and our own. Caravaggio’s musical paintings caught on throughout Europe in the work of his followers, who brought their own innovations to the genre.

 

Caravaggio. 'The Musicians' c. 1595

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Musicians
c. 1595
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 46 5/8 in (92.1 x 118.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Rogers Fund, 1952

 

 

In this scene, Caravaggio shows some young musicians preparing for a concert. We are brought very close to the figures, as if we share the same space. Caravaggio breaks down the boundaries between art and life, and our reality and the painted world become entwined. The instruments are modern, but the musicians wear antique-inspired dress. The lute player tunes his instrument, and the horn player (possibly a self-portrait) catches our gaze. Another youth studies the musical score; it is no longer legible, but doubtless featured love madrigals. The winged Cupid with a quiver of arrows who is handling some grapes makes explicit the bond between music and love. Wine, like music, makes the spirits light. This painting belonged to Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, who hosted concerts at his palace and invited musicians to live in his household, along with artists like Caravaggio.

 

Theodoor Rombouts. 'A Lute Player' c. 1620

 

Theodoor Rombouts (Flemish, 1597-1637)
A Lute Player
c. 1620
Oil on canvas
43 7/8 x 39 1/4 in (111.1 x 99.7 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art. John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

 

 

Caravaggio’s paintings of musicians inspired Rombouts’s depiction of a musician tuning his lute. His intense expression suggests that he is both listening to the sound and sizing up the viewer, his audience. The vividly described carpet and still-life objects on the table recall Caravaggio’s similar close-up presentations. However, the colourful treatment of the costume and the robust delineation of the objects place Rombouts’s work within traditions of Flemish and Dutch painting. The still life, like ephemeral music, serves to remind us of the pleasures of life, but also that pleasure is fleeting. The artist also alludes to the five senses: hearing (the lute), taste (the tankard), smell (the pipe), sight (the musical scores), and touch (the knife).

 

Caravaggio. 'Boy Bitten by a Lizard' 1594–96

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Boy Bitten by a Lizard
1594-96
Oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 20 1/2 in (65 x 52 cm)
Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte Roberto Longhi, Florence

 

 

One of Caravaggio’s biographers wrote that “he also painted a boy bitten by a lizard emerging from flowers and fruits; you could almost hear the boy scream, and it was done meticulously.” The picture has suggested various interpretations. As an allegory of touch, it provides the basis for a study of how emotion is expressed physically, and arguably Caravaggio alludes to all the five senses (flowers as smell and so on). With the still life of fruits and roses, common emblems of love, he invokes age-old adages – pain can follow pleasure, and love is a rose with thorns that prick. Poets from Petrarch onward played on the similarity of the Italian words for “love” and “bitter” – amore and amaro – to which Caravaggio adds ramarro (lizard), ingeniously enlarging the joke.

 

Caravaggio. 'Sick Bacchus' 1593–94

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Sick Bacchus
1593-94
Oil on canvas
Galleria Borghese, Rome

 

 

Cardsharps and Fortune Tellers

The young Caravaggio introduced another new kind of painting to the Roman art world with his scenes from the seamy side of life, its frauds and ruses. He painted these works on a large scale with half-length figures, and they were among his most widely imitated creations. His followers played countless variations on the same themes, trying various levels of subtlety and buffoonery in the humour and facial expressions. These highly animated compositions conjure up an underworld of wily cardsharps, soldiers of fortune, foolish dupes, sensuous and deceitful gypsy women, pickpockets, and thugs. They are based partly on everyday observations in the streets, partly on the stock characters and improvised comedies of the commedia dell’arte, partly on sheer fantasy. In such works, Caravaggio and his followers developed ingenious ways of involving us in the action. We read these amusingly moralising pictures through gestures and expressions – but to unravel the trickery takes time. Despite being frozen in a static image, the story seems to unfold before our eyes like one of the popular plays that were its inspiration. The artist extends the theme of deception by painting his subjects with such a high level of naturalism that the viewer is duped and astounded by his artistry.

 

Caravaggio. 'The Cardsharps' c. 1595

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Cardsharps
c. 1595
Oil on canvas
37 1/8 x 51 5/8 in (94.2 x 130.9 cm)
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

 

 

The players are engaged in a game of primero, a forerunner of poker. Engrossed in his cards, the dupe is unaware that the older cardsharp signals his accomplice, who reaches to pull a hidden card from his breeches. The fingertips of the cheat’s gloved hand are exposed to better feel marked cards. According to an early biographer, Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, a great patron of the arts, took the young Caravaggio into his household soon after purchasing this picture. It hung along with The Gypsy Fortune Teller in his palace. Together they would surely have reminded the cardinal and his guests of the story of the prodigal son, warning about the perils of greed and fraud. Caravaggio has treated this subject not as a caricature of vice but in a fresh way, in which the interaction of gesture and glance evokes the drama of deception and lost innocence in the most human of terms. He structures the picture to allow us to witness everything, implicating us in the trickery.

 

Saints

Caravaggio grounded his saints in everyday reality, indicating their spiritual states by means of natural phenomena, especially light. In his early painting of Saint Francis, he shows the saint’s ecstasy – his mystic identification with Christ – by directing a strong light upon his figure and the consoling angel. God’s grace is signalled by light in other images of the saints, such as the scene of Mary Magdalene’s conversion from her former life of sin. In paintings of Saints Matthew and Jerome in their studies, much emulated in Caravaggio’s circle, light is a metaphor of divine inspiration. Generally the saints seem to be emerging from darkness into light, which adds drama, symbolism, and also a sense of mass – as if they were sculpted, not merely painted. In a break from Roman and Florentine traditions, Caravaggio rejected the practice of refining his composition through drawings before he began to paint and instead worked directly from a live model in the studio, preserving that model’s particular appearance, never making the features or body conform to an ideal of beauty. The effect, central to Caravaggio’s art and that of many of his followers, was startling. At this time, many people believed that the painting of sacred personages such as saints called for a special, elevated style that set them apart from the mundane reality of the here and now. Caravaggio’s radical departure from this principle brought him much harsh criticism. He was accused of merely copying and so failing to capture a higher truth. But others recognised in his work a new kind of religious art that directly engaged the faithful and made old subjects new and alive.

 

Caravaggio. 'Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness' 1604

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness
1604-5
Oil on canvas
68 x 52 in (172.7 x 132.1 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Purchase William Rockhill Nelson Trust

 

 

Caravaggio’s practice of painting a live model in his studio brings this young, brooding saint to life – as if his image were inhabited by the model’s being. Ottavio Costa, a Roman banker, commissioned this painting for a chapel on a pilgrimage route in the countryside outside of Genoa, where his family had its origins. We can imagine what a powerful experience it would have been to encounter the image of the scarlet-robed saint there, dramatically emerging from the shadows into a strong light. When Caravaggio delivered the painting, Costa decided to keep it and placed a copy in the chapel. But even the copy proved inspiring. An early guide described how it “moves not only the members of the brotherhood but also visitors to penitence.”

 

Gerrit van Honthorst. 'Saint Sebastian' c. 1623

 

Gerrit van Honthorst (Dutch, 1592-1656)
Saint Sebastian
c. 1623
Oil on canvas
The National Gallery, London

 

 

The Sacred Narrative

Caravaggio was a masterful storyteller who could bring home the drama and significance of a biblical event with tremendous power. In his scenes from the Old and New Testaments, he created a new kind of painting – dramatic, even theatrical, yet grounded in the observation of ordinary reality – and it proved infectious among his contemporaries in Rome. His approach was to make the scene clear and simple, with the main actors in the drama seen close-up and caught in midaction at a decisive moment, embodying the whole meaning of the event. He played down the setting, sometimes to the point that it is a mere pool of darkness from which the figures emerge. It was the actions and states of mind of the characters in the story that counted, and Caravaggio presented these with sometimes shocking directness and intensity, breaking all the rules of decorum that restrained more conventional painters. He mastered the art of concealing art, re-creating a scene with such a flavour of reality that it comes across as an eyewitness account. It was his power to draw viewers into the emotion and importance of a scene that made his work an essential object of study, even for such an independent genius as the great Peter Paul Rubens.

 

Caravaggio. 'Martha and Mary Magdalene' c. 1598

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Martha and Mary Magdalene
c. 1598
Oil and tempera on canvas
38 1/2 x 52 1/4 in (97.8 x 132.7 cm)
Detroit Institute of Arts. Gift of the Kresge Foundation and Mrs. Edsel B. Ford

 

 

Martha’s expressive hands, intensely illuminated, underscore her attempt to convert her sister Mary Magdalene from a life of worldly pleasures to one of spirituality. Several details recall Mary’s life of indulgence: the elegant dress, the ivory comb, the alabaster cosmetic jar. The mirror, a powerful symbol of vanity, becomes here an instrument reflecting the divine light that is penetrating Mary’s soul. Martha’s words seem to have been convincing, and her open mouth signals her amazement as she witnesses Mary’s transformation. The orange blossom in Mary’s right hand and the ring on her left indicate her new status as the blessed bride of Christ.

 

Caravaggio. 'Sacrifice of Isaac' 1602–3

 

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Sacrifice of Isaac
1602-3
Oil on canvas
41 x 53 1/8 in (104 x 135 cm)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

 

 

Kimbell Art Museum
3333 Camp Bowie Boulevard,
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Kimbell Art Museum 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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