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Exhibition: ‘What’s in a face? aspects of portrait photography’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2011 – 5th February 2012

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Many thankx to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Glaister studio (Australia 1855-1870)
Untitled (portrait of a man and three girls)
1855-1870
ambrotype, colour dyes
6.5 x 9 cm sight; 9.3 x 11.9 cm case
Purchased 1989

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Destiny Deacon (Kuku / Erub, Australia 1957- )
Portrait: Janet Burchill & Jennifer McCamley, Artists
1998
colour bubble jet print from Polaroid photograph
57.9 x 71 cm
Purchased 1998
© Destiny Deacon. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

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Ilse Bing (United States of America, Germany 1899-1998)
Self portrait with Leica
1931 printed 1941
gelatin silver photograph
26.7 x 31.2 cm
Alistair McAlpine Photography Fund 2005
© Ilse Bing Estate. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Robert Rooney (Australia 1937- )
Portrait of Maria Kozic and Philip Brophy II
1981
Cibachrome photograph 20.1 x 30 cm image/sheet
Purchased 1996
© Robert Rooney

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Loretta Lux (Germany 1969-)
The waiting girl
2006
Ilfochrome photograph
38 × 53 cm
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2007
© Loretta Lux/Bild-Kunst. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

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“Spanning over a century, What’s in a face? aspects of portrait photography is an exhibition of 45 photographs from the Art Gallery of NSW collection. The exhibition focuses on crucial points in the history of photographic depictions of the human face ranging from studio portraiture in the late 19th century to contemporary practices today.

Works by Australian photographers, such as Paul Foelsche, Olive Cotton, Max Dupain, Carol Jerrems, Destiny Deacon, Patrina Hicks, Darren Sylvester and others, are placed in an international context, represented by Man Ray, Edward Weston, Iwao Yamawaki, Nan Goldin, Ben Cauchi and Loretta Lux, amongst others.

All portraits reveal something of the sitter, the photographer and also of us as viewers, but none reveal a whole and complete being. This is part of the enduring fascination with the photographic portrait which purports to be an exact likeness but operates more accurately as a metaphor for the self and how that self might exist in the world at a particular point in time.

Judy Annear, senior curator photographs, Art Gallery of NSW

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Using photography to depict the face and figure was initially a time-consuming and expensive business. However, the drive to document all things in the world, and rapid technological advances, meant that by the 1880s most people, willing or not and regardless of the photographer’s or their own desires, were documented in some way.

Spurious 19th century ideas to do with what a face could represent exploded in the early 20th century when identity came to be seen as a psychological rather than social phenomenon. Theatricality and performing for the camera, which had existed in photography since its inception, also became much more evident in this period.

In the post-WWII era representations of the face and the body quickly acquired a political and socially aware edge. More recently the face has tended to stand less as an expression of personal experience and more a statement that may signify a set of ideas, whether about the individual, the group or the society at large. Many of these highly constructed images acknowledge and play upon the problematics of the photographic portrait.”

Text from the AGNSW website

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Darren Sylvester (Australia 1974-)
They return to you in song
2001
Lambda print
100.0 x 100.0cm image/sheet
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2002
© Darren Sylvester

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Hans Hasenpflug (Australia, Germany 1907-1977)
Untitled (head of a woman)
1940-1941
gelatin silver photograph
28.8 x 24.3cm image
Gift of Mr Christopher Hamilton, the artist’s son 1984

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Edward Weston (USA 1886-1956)
Guadalupe de Rivera, Mexico
1924, printed later
gelatin silver photograph
20.7 × 17.8 cm
Gift of Patsy W. Asch 2000
© Centre for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

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Max Dupain (Australia 1911-1992)
Untitled (self portrait)
1930s
Gelatin silver photograph
19.3 x 14 cm
Art Gallery of NSW Collection

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

Opening hours:
Open every day 10am – 5pm
except Christmas Day and Good Friday

Art Gallery of New South Wales website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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