06
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Detroit 1968: Photographs by Enrico Natali’ at Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, CA – Part 1

Exhibition dates: 2nd November – 21st December 2013

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It takes about five or six photographs. Then, in a light bulb moment, you realise what the artist is doing and how good these images really are.

They stink of humanity!

They are good because the humanity is not something that the photographer has been able to whip around to serve his photography. In fact, because of the millieu in which they were made, he might not have even been aware of it as an outstanding feature. But after looking at contemporary photography, Natali serves up something that is now missing in aces. As a full house in fact.

The strength of these photographs lies in their directness, intimacy and immediacy. The 35mm format adds to latter quality, as does the photographers ability to get his subjects to engage with the process of having their photograph taken. In different contexts, Natali seems to have a wonderful rapport with all sorts of people, whether it be office workers, people at home, students at school or men sitting under hair dryers. The look of the woman with sunglasses fourth in line in the photograph Women’s Convention, Detroit, 1968 (1968, below) is priceless.

Natali never defines his point of departure and just moves around it but in his case it doesn’t matter, for the “humanity” present in his work is obvious. Admittedly, there are elements that Natali borrows from people such as Robert Frank and Diane Arbus. And a photographer such as Lee Friedlander for example, by his intellect/aesthetic, tops the attribute of humanity under a layer of quality and a veneer of fame. But this work has a wonderful presence and substance, a respect for human beings and their worlds and real guts to the work. You can absolutely feel his love for the medium, the craft of photography, and the capturing of these self-contained moments.

Today – all too often (as in most of the photography in the Melbourne Now exhibition) – we have a top layer of aesthetic / intellect etc… but there is rarely anything under it. And that my friends, gives me the shits.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

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Enrico Natali. 'Spectators at a public demonstration, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Spectators at a public demonstration, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Incident at Bell Isle Park, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Incident at Bell Isle Park, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Businessmen at a squash match, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Businessmen at a squash match, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Woman at a gym, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Woman at a gym, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Husband and wife at home with their youngest child, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Husband and wife at home with their youngest child, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Office workers, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Office workers, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Woman in her kitchen with rollers in her hair, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Woman in her kitchen with rollers in her hair, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Students at school, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Students at school, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Waitress in an empty restaurant, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Waitress in an empty restaurant, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'High school basketball, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
High school basketball, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Formal cocktail party, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Formal cocktail party, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Programmer with computer, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Programmer with computer, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Women's gymnastics class, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Women’s gymnastics class, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Couple picnicking, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Couple picnicking, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Beauty salon client with a new haircut, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Beauty salon client with a new haircut, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Men under hairdryers, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Men under hairdryers, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Shoe repair shop owner, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Shoe repair shop owner, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Women waiting at a bus stop in the rain, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Women waiting at a bus stop in the rain, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Women's Convention, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Women’s Convention, Detroit, 1968
1968

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“As the fall of Detroit began, as her middle class American Dreamers began moving to greener pastures, and while the Motor City’s status as one of the shining stars of the industrial revolution began to fade, Detroit became a locus for the racial conflict and political upheaval that swept the country during the late 1960s. Throughout this pivotal moment, Enrico Natali was present, empathically documenting Detroit, her people and their environments, and their lives and conditions in his compelling photographs.

Forty-one years later, Natali’s photographs of Detroit still resonate with hope and emotion, and indeed, have taken on an added pathos. These pictures capture the relative calm before the storm: people attending art exhibitions, sporting events, a high school prom; families posing together for portraits; secretaries smoking their afternoon cigarettes; children, parents and grandparents, workers of every stripe – machinists, waitresses, beauticians – plying their trades with what might be described in retrospect as innocence. The spirits of these nameless faces, young and old, are the ghosts that haunt what is now – very literally – this bankrupt metropolis.

Enrico Natali was born in 1933, in Utica, New York. During the 1960s he lived and photographed in various American cities, including New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit. At the end of that decade he ceased work as a photographer and began a meditation practice that became his primary focus, as he built a home and raised his family in California’s Los Padres National Forest. In 1990 Natali and his wife Nadia founded the Blue Heron Center for Integral Studies, a Zen meditation center in Ojai, California. A handsome, timely and poignant publication, Detroit 1968, published by Foggy Notion Books, including an essay by Mark Binelli, author of the critically acclaimed Detroit City is the Place to Be (2012, Metropolitan Books), accompanies the exhibition.”

Press release from the Joseph Bellows Gallery website

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Enrico Natali. 'Young woman on a street, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Young woman on a street, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Warehouse foreman, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Warehouse foreman, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Community organizer, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Community organizer, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Opening night at the Detroit Opera, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Opening night at the Detroit Opera, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Hair stylist smoking, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Hair stylist smoking, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Boy in a backyard, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Boy in a backyard, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Young men at a debutante ball, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Young men at a debutante ball, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Ana Kuzick at home in high chair, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Ana Kuzick at home in high chair, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Businessman at a press party, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Businessman at a press party, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Margaret Carpenter at home, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Margaret Carpenter at home, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'William Day, president of Michigan Bell Telephone Company, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
William Day, president of Michigan Bell Telephone Company, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Bolt and nut sorters, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Bolt and nut sorters, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Executive secretary, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Executive secretary, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Go-Go dancer, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Go-Go dancer, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Warehouse worker, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Warehouse worker, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Trucking company executive, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Trucking company executive, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Sales meeting in an auditorium, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Sales meeting in an auditorium, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Enrico Natali. 'Elevator operator, Detroit, 1968' 1968

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Enrico Natali
Elevator operator, Detroit, 1968
1968

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Joseph Bellows Gallery
7661 Girard Avenue
La Jolla, CA 92037
Tel: (858) 456-5620

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday, 10am-5pm, and Saturday by appointment

Joseph Bellows Gallery 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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