01
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964’ at the de Young Museum, San Francisco

Exhibition dates:  3rd March – 3rd June 2012

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These early figurative urbanscapes by Arthur Tress show the beginnings of his later Surrealist pictorial style (do a Google images search on Tress to see what I mean). From the Eggleston-esque tricycle in Untitled (Ocean Beach), the three spooky faces in Untitled (Coit Tower)* to the most prescient, the photograph Untitled (Legion of Honor Museum), there is a direct thematic link to the later, more famous 1970s work. What a beautiful and disturbing photograph Legion of Honor Museum is.

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

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*Notice the low vantage point of the camera at knee level (as the photographer crouched down) that imparts a monumental, robo-human feel to the sculptures.

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Arthur Tress
Untitled (Van Ness at Geary Boulevard)
1964
Printed 2010-11
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
© 2012 Arthur Tress

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Arthur Tress
Untitled (City Hall)
1964
Printed 2010-11
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
© 2012 Arthur Tress

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Arthur Tress
Untitled (Coit Tower)
1964
Printed 2010-11
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
© 2012 Arthur Tress

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Arthur Tress
Untitled (Ocean Beach)
1964
Printed 2010-11
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
© 2012 Arthur Tress

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Arthur Tress
Untitled (Fisherman’s Wharf)
1964
Printed 2010-11
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
© 2012 Arthur Tress

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“In the summer of 1964, San Francisco was ground zero for a historic culture clash as the site of both the 28th Republican National Convention (the “Goldwater Convention”) and the launch of the Beatles’ first North American tour. The young photographer Arthur Tress arrived at this opportune moment in the city’s history and found himself in the midst of large-scale civil rights demonstrations and chaotic political pageantry. With a unique sensibility perfectly attuned to this quirky metropolis, he set about to capture the odd spectacle of San Francisco.

Over 70 photographs included in Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964 range from public gatherings to impromptu street portraits, views of the peculiar contents of shop windows and commercial signs. This is the first museum exhibition of a virtually unknown body of Tress’s early work. Curator James Ganz explains, “This exhibition offers an evocative time capsule of the City by the Bay and makes a fascinating contribution to the region’s rich photographic legacy.” The exhibition runs March 3 to June 3, 2012 at the de Young Museum.

The subject matter of Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964 breaks down into three broad categories: public gatherings, including civil rights and political rallies; portrait studies of San Franciscans; and views of shop windows, commercial signs and architectural fragments. Often these categories overlap. In photographing events such as the Auto Row demonstrations, Tress was interested in recording passive bystanders, as well as active participants. His candid images of spectators lining the streets of San Francisco, whether isolated or in groups, capture the distinctive fashions, expressions and body language of the era. The frequent incursions of commercial logos and signage add to the contemporary flavor of the photographs, effectively fixing time and place. The exhibition captures the flavor of San Francisco without featuring its most familiar monuments. Tress’s approach to the city was idiosyncratic, generally avoiding popular tourist sites such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Chinatown, while favoring mundane locales like laundromats and coffee shops. Ganz observes, “Tress is a photographer of people rather than landmarks. Given the option of pointing his lens at an attraction like Coit Tower or at a tourist observing the monument, he will always favor the human element over the architectural setting.”

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Brief Biography

Born in 1940, Arthur Tress was raised in Brooklyn and started experimenting with photography in his teens. After graduating from Bard College in 1962, Tress traveled internationally for four years as an ethnographic and documentary photographer. It was during this international tour that he spent the summer of 1964 in San Francisco focusing his lens on city life. Tress developed his San Francisco negatives in a communal darkroom in the Castro District and mounted two small exhibitions in North Bay galleries that summer. He went on to pursue a long and accomplished career in photography that continues to this day.”

Press release from the de Young Museum website

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Arthur Tress
Untitled (Legion of Honor Museum)
1964
Printed 2010-11
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
© 2012 Arthur Tress

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Arthur Tress
Untitled (Powell Street)
1964
Printed 2010-11
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
© 2012 Arthur Tress

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Arthur Tress
Untitled (Union Square)
1964
Printed 2010-11
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
© 2012 Arthur Tress

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Arthur Tress
Untitled (City Hall)
1964
Printed 2010-11
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
© 2012 Arthur Tress

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Arthur Tress
Untitled (5th and Market)
1964
Printed 2010-11
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
© 2012 Arthur Tress

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Arthur Tress
Untitled
1964
Printed 2010-11
Selenium-toned silver gelatin print
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
© 2012 Arthur Tress

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The de Young Museum
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 9:30 am – 5:15 pm
Monday Closed

The de Young Museum 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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