Archive for July 3rd, 2014

03
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Ana Mendieta: Traces’ at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition dates: 29th March – 6th July 2014

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Facial Hair Transplant)' 1972

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Untitled (Facial Hair Transplant)
1972
Suite of seven colour photographs, estate prints 1997
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

 

If I had half of this artists courage, I might not even have a quarter of her talent.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

View the catalogue essays Ana Mendieta: Traces by Stephanie Rosenthal and Embers by Adrian Heathfield (2.66Mb pdf)

 

 

“Art is a material act of culture, but its greatest value is its spiritual role, and that influences society, because it’s the greatest contribution to the intellectual and moral development of humanity that can be made”

“My art is grounded on the belief in one universal energy which runs through everything; from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy.”

“To me, the work has existed on different levels. It existed on the level of being in nature and eventually being eroded away. But obviously when it’s shown to someone as a photograph, that’s what it is.”

.
Ana Mendieta

 

The few women working with the body at that time were in instant affinity with each other… The struggle for all of us was to keep the sensuousness of the body and to de-eroticize it in terms of cultural expectations. It was gratifying and exciting to discover her work. Those of us who had already been situating the body as central to our visual aesthetic could also anticipate the resistance that would be around her.

I see her death as part of some larger denial of the feminine. Like a huge metaphor saying, we don’t want this depth of feminine eroticism, nature, absorption, integration to happen. It’s too organic. It’s too sacral. In a way, her death also has a symbolic trajectory. More than Ana dies, when she dies.”

.
Carolee Schneeman quoted in Camhi, Leslie. “ART; Her Body, Herself,” on the New York Times website published June 20, 2004 [Online] Cited 20/06/2014

 

“You do feel the sadness that she’s not with us and you wonder where she would have gone with her work.”

.
Raquelin
 Mendieta

 

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations)' (detail) 1972

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations)
(detail)
1972
Suite of eight colour photographs (estate prints, 1997)
Each 50.8 x 406 cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Rape' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Rape
1973
Colour photograph (lifetime print)
20.4 x 25.4cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Rape Scene' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Rape Scene
1973
Colour photograph (lifetime print)
39.8 x 31 x 3.2cm (framed)
Tate: Presented by the American Patrons of Tate, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2010

 

 

Rape Scene (1973) was part of series of works devised in response to the rape and murder of a fellow student on the Iowa University campus, where Mendieta completed her BA, MA (painting) and an MFA (inter-media). She invited friends and fellow students to her apartment. The viewer entered through a slightly ajar door into a dark apartment into a room where the artist appeared under a single source of light revealing Mendieta stripped from the waist down. The artist stood slouched and bound over a table, nude from the waist down with her body smeared in blood. Around her was an assemblage of broken plates and blood on the floor. Her direct identification with a specific victim meant that she could not be seen as an anonymous object in a theatrical tableau.

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Self-Portrait with Blood)' (detail) 1973

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Untitled (Self-Portrait with Blood)
(detail)
1973
Suite of six colour photographs (estate prints 1997)
Each 50.8 x 40.6cm
Private collection, London; Courtesy Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Body Tracks)' 1974

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Untitled (Body Tracks)
1974
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection of Igor DaCosta
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints)' 1972

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints)
1972
Suite of six colour photographs, estate prints
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Untitled
1973
Lifetime colour photograph
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2011
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Blood and Feathers #2' 1974

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Blood and Feathers #2
1974
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Imagen de Yagul' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Imagen de Yagul
1973
Lifetime colour photograph
Glenstone
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

 

Ana Mendieta: Traces is the first comprehensive survey of this influential artist’s work to be presented in Great Britain or the German-speaking world. It persuasively demonstrates that her art, while very much rooted in the concerns of her day, maintains a powerful connection to our present moment. Born in Cuba in 1948, Mendieta was forced to immigrate to the United States as a child due to her father’s political situation, and much of her work is obliquely haunted by the exile’s sense of displacement, while also reflecting her position as a double minority in North America’s largely white, male art world of the 1970s and 1980s. From the beginning, motifs of transience, absence, violence, belonging, and an identity in flux animated her multidisciplinary art, which ranged nomadically across practices associated with body art, land art, performance, sculpture, photography and film. At its core lay her recurring use of her own body – its physical and photographic traces – and her interest in marginal outdoor sites and elemental materials.

Spanning her brief, yet remarkably productive, career, this exhibition explores the many distinct facets of her practice. It captures her powerfully visceral evocation of ritual and sacrifice, as well as cycles of life and decay, while also highlighting her pioneering role as a conceptual border-crosser. Including photographs, drawings, sculptures, Super-8 films and a substantial selection of photographic slides, most of which have not been exhibited until now, Ana Mendieta: Traces reveals an artist whose underlying concerns led her to bravely re-work and re-combine genres, to draw on different cultures, both archaic and contemporary, while challenging the limits of the art discourse of her time. Her work continues to profoundly challenge, disturb, influence and inspire.

The Museum der Moderne Salzburg will open an extensive retrospective of the work of Ana Mendieta, one of our era’s most important and influential artists. Mendieta was born to a politically active family in Havana, Cuba in 1948. In the wake of the Cuban revolution, when she was only twelve years old, her parents sent her together with her sister to the United States. In 1985, at just thirty-six years old, she died under tragic circumstance in New York. During her short yet prolific career, she developed a unique visual language that is mesmerising in its intimacy, and equally challenging. Her pioneering work has been acknowledged by large retrospectives in the United States and Europe, and is represented in the collections of major museums.

According to Sabine Breitwieser, director at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, who has arranged the exhibition, “a comprehensive exhibition in the German-speaking area, especially in Austria, and the German monograph on Ana Mendieta are long overdue. The artist’s distinctive work, in which she stages her body within the landscape, seems to be ideally exhibited at this site, where nature and the theatrical take on such a major role. Due to the fragility of the work, this could possibly be one of the last extensive Mendieta exhibitions.”

Among the central themes in Mendieta’s artistic work are exile and cultural displacement. In her search for identity and finding her place in the world, she attempted to create a dialogue between the landscape and the female body. Her work reveals numerous points of contingency with the emerging art movements of the 1960s and 1970s – Conceptual art, land art, and performance art. Nonetheless, it refuses any kind of categorisation and instead addresses missing links or gaps between different media and art forms. “Through my art I want to express the immediacy of life and the eternity of nature,” wrote Mendieta in 1981. Using her own body and elementary materials, such as blood, fire, earth, and water, she created transitory pieces that combine rituals with metaphors for life, death, rebirth, and spiritual transformation. Her disembodied “earth body” sculptures were private, meditative ceremonies in nature documented in the form of slides and films. From them, Mendieta developed the so-called Siluetas (silhouettes), which form the core of her work. In the 1980s, Mendieta’s body disappeared from her artworks and she started to generate indoor works for galleries. Her engagement with nature continued in her sculptures and drawings, which she created as lasting works.

The exhibition presents roughly 150 works, which are organised throughout twelve spaces; two of these spaces are reconstructions of the original exhibitions by the artist. The works shown are in a multitude of media ranging from photography, film, and sculpture through to drawing. A further section will present the artist’s archive. Slides and photographs, notebooks and postcards offer insight into Mendieta’s working methods. The concern of Stephanie Rosenthal, chief curator of the Hayward Gallery London, is “to show Ana Mendieta’s outstanding work in all of its facets, and to place her artistic process at the center.”

While the artistic media that Mendieta utilises in her works could not be any more diverse, the pictures that she produces are characterised by an unmistakable, overwhelming and mystical poetry. This exhibition makes clear that almost thirty years after the artist’s premature death, her work has lost none of its singularity and uniqueness.

Text from the Museum der Moderne Salzburg website

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Silueta Series)' 1978

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Untitled (Silueta Series)
1978
Gelatin silver print
20.3 x 25.4cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Alma, Silueta en Fuego' (Soul, Silhouette on Fire) (still) 1975

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Alma, Silueta en Fuego (
Soul, Silhouette on Fire) (still)
1975
Super-8 color, silent film transferred to DVD
3:07 minutes
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris, and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Anima, Silueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece)' (still) 1976

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Anima, Silueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece)
(still)
1976
(Soul, Silhouette of Fireworks)
Super-8 color, silent film transferred to DVD
2:22 minutes
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Cuilapán Niche)' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Untitled (Cuilapán Niche)
1973
Black-and-white photograph (lifetime print)
25.4 x 20.4 cm
Private collection, London; Courtesy Gallery Lelong, New York and Paris, and Alison Jacques Gallery London

 

 

Ana Mendieta died at just 36 years old, but the imprint of her life digs deeper than most. Mendieta’s work occupies the indeterminate space between land, body and performance art, refusing to be confined to any one genre while working to expand the horizons of them all. With the immediacy of a fresh wound and the weightlessness of a half-remembered song, Mendieta’s artwork remains as haunting and relevant today as ever.

Her haunting imagery explores the relationship between earth and spirit while tackling the eternally plaguing questions of love, death and rebirth. Like an ancient cave drawing, Mendieta’s art gets as close as possible to her subject matter allowing no excess, using primal and visceral means to navigate her themes. Decades after her death, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg will show a retrospective of the late feminist artist’s work, simply titled “Ana Mendieta: Traces.”

Mendieta, who was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948, moved to the U.S. at 12 years old to escape Castro’s regime. There she hopped between refugee camps and foster homes, planting inside her an obsession with ideas of loss, belonging and the impermanence of place. As an artist in the 1970s, Mendieta embarked upon her iconic series “Silhouettes,” in which she merged body and earthly material, making nature both canvas and medium. In her initial “Silhouette,” Mendieta lay shrouded in an ancient Zapotec grave, letting natural forms eat up her diminutive form.

Her “earth-body” sculptures, as they came to be known, feature blood, feathers, flowers and dirt smothered and stuck on Mendieta’s flesh in various combinations. In “Imagen de Yagul,” speckled feverishly in tiny white flowers, she appears as ethereal and disembodied as Ophelia, while in “Untitled Blood and Feathers” Mendieta looks simultaneously the helpless victim and the guilty culprit. “She always had a direction – that feeling that everything is connected,” Ana’s sister Raquelin said of her work.

An uncertain mythology runs throughout Mendieta’s oeuvre, a feeling at once primal, pagan and feminine. Admirers have cited the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria as an influence, as well as the ancient rituals of Mexico, where Mendieta made much of her work. Yet many of Mendieta’s pieces removed themselves from the spiritual realm to address present day events, for example “Rape Scene,” a 1973 performance based off the rape and murder of a close friend. For the piece Mendieta remained tied to a table for two hours, motionless, her naked body smeared with cow’s blood. In another work, Mendieta smushes her face and body against glass panes, like a child eager to peek into an off-limits locale, or a bug that’s crashed into a windshield. Against the glass, her scrambled facial features almost resemble a Cubist artwork.

Mendieta died tragically young in 1985, falling from her New York City apartment window onto a delicatessen below. She was living with her husband of eight months, minimalist sculptor Carl Andre at the time. Andre was convicted of murder following the horrific incident and later acquitted. Though the art world remains captivated by the mysterious nature of Mendieta’s passing, her sister emphasized the importance of removing Ana’s work from her life story. “I don’t want it to get in the way of the work,” she said. “Her death has really nothing to do with her work. Her work was about life and power and energy and not about death.”

Fellow feminist performance artist Carolee Schneeman disagrees, however, telling The New York Times in 2004: “I see her death as part of some larger denial of the feminine. Like a huge metaphor saying, we don’t want this depth of feminine eroticism, nature, absorption, integration to happen. It’s too organic. It’s too sacral. In a way, her death also has a symbolic trajectory.”

Since many of Mendieta’s artworks were bodily performances, the ephemera that remain are but traces of her original endeavours. For an artist whose career was built on imprints, ghosts and impressions, this seems aptly fitting. Visceral yet distant, bodily yet spiritual, Mendieta’s images speak a language very distant from the insular artistic themes that so often populate gallery and museum walls. Mendieta’s works present the female body turned out, at once vulnerable and all-powerful, frail and supernatural. As her retrospective makes obvious, her artistic traces are still oozing lifeblood.”

Priscilla Frank. “The Haunting Traces Of Ana Mendieta Go On View (NSFW),” on the Huffington Post website February 4, 2014 [Online] Cited 30/06/2014

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1976 "Silueta Series, Mexico"

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Untitled
1976
“Silueta Series, Mexico”
Color photograph (lifetime print)
39.8 x 31 x 3.2cm (framed)
Tate: Presented by the American Patrons of Tate, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2010

 

 

Mendieta formed a silueta on the beach at La Ventosa, Mexico, filling it with red tempera that was ultimately washed away by the ocean waves. The artist documented the obliteration of the figure by the tide in a sequence of 35 mm slides.

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Tree of Life' 1976

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Tree of Life
1976
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1978 "Silueta Series, Iowa"

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Untitled
1978
“Silueta Series, Iowa”
Color photograph (lifetime print)
25.4 x 20.3cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Itiba Cahubaba (Esculturas Rupestres)' [Old Mother Blood (Rupestrian Sculptures)] 1982

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Itiba Cahubaba (Esculturas Rupestres) [Old Mother Blood (Rupestrian Sculptures)]
1982
Black-and-white photograph, box mounted, exhibition copy
Collection Ignacio C. Mendieta
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1982

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
Untitled
1982
Graphite on leaf of a copey tree (Clusia major)
E. Righi Collection
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta with Untitled wood sculpture, 1984-85

 

Ana Mendieta with Untitled wood sculpture, 1984-85
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'El Laberinto de Venus' (Labyrinth of Venus) 1985

 

Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948-1985)
El Laberinto de Venus (Labyrinth of Venus)
1985
Acrylic on paper
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

 

Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg
Mönchsberg 32
5020 Salzburg
Phone: +43.662.84 22 20-403

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Wednesday: 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Monday: closed

Museum der Moderne website

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03
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘John Divola: As Far As I Could Get’ at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Exhibition dates: 6th October 2013 – 6th July 2014

 

John Divola. 'Cone, 87CN09' 1987

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Cone, 87CN09
1987
Black and White Polapan Print (Polaroid)
20 x 24 inches
© John Divola

 

 

FINALLY… two postings on consecutive days by conceptual artists who use photography to document their staging, performance, sculpture, body, earth-body, action art, found art, land art – WORK THAT I REALLY LIKE AND CAN REALLY CARE ABOUT.

I care about both artists work not so much because of the quality of the photography but because of their passion, insight, ideas and general human nous, their need to understand humans and the worlds we inhabit: that INTELLIGENCE necessary for understanding what is true or real, using their intuition to root out, to dig down into the human psyche.

In this posting Divola eloquently investigates the mysterious process of creation through imagination (only for the original “model” then to be destroyed); the notion of photographic authenticity and an interrogation of the human impulse to master the natural world; photography at its most deceptively naturalistic revealing hidden, dead animals; and the landscape altered by human presence and staged to serve as a theatre for creative activity through the “captured” act of running away.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of 'John Divola: As Far As I Could Get' at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Installation view of 'John Divola: As Far As I Could Get' at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Installation view of 'John Divola: As Far As I Could Get' at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

 

Installation views of John Divola: As Far As I Could Get at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
© John Divola
Photo
© 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

 

John Divola. 'Man in Vortex, 87CA2' 1987

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Man in Vortex, 87CA2
1987
Black and White Polapan Print (Polaroid)
20 x 24 inches
© John Divola

 

 

In Divola’s words, the Polaroids feature “The photograph as an object has an relationship to that which it represents, something like the relationship the snake skin has to the snake that sheds it. The relationship of something dead to something living.” The Polapan prints especially lend themselves to this associate with skin. Their plasticity and their alchemical marks bear witness to a mysterious process of creation; their subject matter conjured up, and then discarded. Divola’s “studio constructions,” as he called them, were temporary structures made solely for the purpose of photographic depiction, including funnels, human and animal figures, and expressively painted backdrops. Divola’s photographs are themselves echo chambers: they replicate and reverberate light from objects that have long since vanished.

Divola’s process has important photo-conceptual precedents: Richard Long’s photographic records of lines made by walking, Jan Dibbets’ play with optical illusion through the camera’s lens, or Robert Smithson’s Yucatan Mirror Displacements. Divola’s work, though, is equally in conversation with the work of Jasper Johns. Johns, known for his paintings of numbers, flags, maps, and targets, focused on flat subjects as a means to conjoining the surface of subject matter with a painting’s flat picture plane. Divola has transmuted the achievements and medium-specificity of high modern painting into images that explore photography’s mimetic qualities and its sheer surface. These are images are about a recognisable reality we cannot access, dim echoes of a familiar world, yet one that has vanished.

“JOHN DIVOLA – Echo Chamber” on the Gallery Luisotti website [Online] Cited 01/07/2014. No longer available online

 

John Divola. 'Rock and Water #1, 88RW1' 1988

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Rock and Water #1, 88RW1
1988
Black and White Polapan Print (Polaroid)
20 x 24 inches
© John Divola

 

John Divola. 'Cells, 87CA1' 1987-89

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Cells, 87CA1
1987-89
Internal Dye-diffusion print
20 x 24 inches
© John Divola

 

John Divola. 'Man on Hill, 89MHA1' 1987-89

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Man on Hill, 89MHA1
1987-89
Internal Dye-diffusion Print
20 x 24 inches
© John Divola

 

 John Divola. 'Moon, 88MOA1' 1988

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Moon, 88MOA1
1988
Internal Dye-diffusion print
20 x 24 inches
Courtesy of the artist
© John Divola

 

John Divola. 'Rabbit, 87RBA1' 1987

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Rabbit, 87RBA1
1987
Internal Dye-diffusion print
20 x 24 inches
Courtesy of the artist
© John Divola

 

John Divola. 'Artificial Nature' (detail, 1 of 36) 2002

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Artificial Nature (detail, 1 of 36)
2002
Gelatin Silver Print
8 x 10 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by the Ralph M. Parsons Fund and the Photographic Arts Council, 2013
© John Divola

 

 

Across the gallery is a series of found photographs, “Artificial Nature” (2002), made up of continuity stills (the photographs taken on film sets to make ensure uniformity from scene to scene) from mid-century films. The photographs show fabricated landscapes created in studio backlots. The images zero in on the notion of photographic truth – the idea that when you look at a photograph, what you’re seeing is an accurate representation of the world – by presenting a false natural landscape. Without outside knowledge, upon first glance, the photographs look like ordinary landscapes.

Maxwell Williams. “John Divola’s SoCal Moment,” on the Art in America website [Online] Cited 01/07/2014. No longer available online

 

“Artificial Nature” (2002) stands out, and as with many of Divola’s series, the bluntness of the title belies the delicacy and actual locus of interest. Composed of thirty-six “continuity stills”, these black and white prints have been repurposed from movie studio archives, framed and hung in a tight grid. Ranging in provenance from the 1930s to the 1960s, each picture documents a movie set dressed as a lush, natural landscape. A clapperboard sign planted in the foreground might identify the scene as “wooded hillside” or “the beach.” At once romantic and businesslike, the series opens a delicious gap between intention and effect. To view these pictures only through the lens of nature vs. artifice would be reductive and superficial at best. Treat them instead as a peek into the cabinetry of early pop mechanics, or evidence of a peculiar temporality where worlds should be fixed with a sign because they so routinely congeal and vanish.

Kristin Posehn. “John Divola: As Far As I Could Get,” on The Miami Rail website [Online] Cited 01/07/2014.

 

John Divola. 'Artificial Nature' (detail, 1 of 36) 2002

John Divola. 'Artificial Nature' (detail, 1 of 36) 2002

John Divola. 'Artificial Nature' (detail, 1 of 36) 2002

John Divola. 'Artificial Nature' (detail, 1 of 36) 2002

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Artificial Nature (detail, 4 of 36)
2002
Gelatin Silver Print
8 x 10 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by the Ralph M. Parsons Fund and the Photographic Arts Council, 2013
© John Divola

 

 

With a career compromising four decades, John Divola is as distinctive for his commitment to the photographic community as for his thought-provoking work, Divola’s influence within the field of photography is widely recognised by curators, critics, scholars and photographers throughout the country; yet, his work has remained largely uncelebrated. Many of his former students have achieved illustrious careers and far more recognition, even as Divola continues to mentor and inspire both undergraduate and graduate students in contemporary practice.

As Far As I Could Get is the first over-arching presentation of Divola’s work and is a collaborative project led by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA), shown simultaneously at SBMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the Pomona College Museum of Art (PCMA) in the fall of 2013. Though Divola’s photographic series are diverse in subject matter, this approach as one exhibition among three Southern California venues emphasises the consistent conceptual and performative threads that run through Divola’s entire body of work.

Divola was born in Los Angeles in 1949. After graduating with a BA from California State University, Northridge, he entered the MFA program at the University of California Los Angeles. There, under the tutelage of Robert Heineken, the artist began to develop his own unique photographic practice, one that merges photography, painting, and conceptual art. In addition to his own studio practice, he teaches contemporary art in the underserved California inland empire and writes on current photographic practice for a national audience.

John Divola’s photos of photographs range widely but the intellectual rigour from which they spring is unvarying. Whether testing the visual limits of photography by vandalising abandoned houses, interrogating the iconography of the divine through paint, flour, and film, or emphasising the distance between image and reality through the blurred figure of a running dog, Divola’s work is simultaneously fun and philosophical, visually appealing as well as intellectually stimulating.

LACMA On view: Four series of John Divola’s work in the Ahmanson Building, 2nd Floor

The series 20 x 24 Polaroids is Divola’s earliest work exhibited at LACMA, shot between 1987 and 1989. Hastily fabricated sculptures created out of impermanent materials attempt, on one level, to approximate actual physical objects in the world – branches, a rabbit, the moon, etc. At the same time, the roughly-hewn surfaces and ticky-tacky backdrops insist on the artificiality of what is depicted. These works express Divola’s ambivalence to the idea of photography as a descriptive medium with a one-to-one relationship to the real. Photography, in this case, is not employed in the service of documentary truth, but instead is held up as a crucial interlocutor in a creative exercise.

Artificial Nature (2002) offers a clear example of Divola’s interrogation of the human impulse to master the natural world. The work is a collection of 36 continuity stills from films made between the 1930s and the 1960s. These photographs, taken on film sets to establish consistency across multiple cuts (to ensure that the placement of objects remains constant from take to take), document fabricated landscapes contained within the artificial space of the film studio. Representing the diversity of natural topographies add weather patterns, the images also include accessories such as signage and clapperboards, highlighting the distance between ourselves and the natural world – a distance that is only accentuated by cinematic representation.

Seven Songbirds and a Rabbit (1995) is a series of details from the Keystone Mast collection of stereographic negatives housed at the California Museum of Photography, University of California Riverside. Stereoscopy, a three-dimensional imaging technology popular from the mid 19th to the early 20th century, exemplifies photography at its most deceptively naturalistic. When Divola began to examine the original glass-plate negatives in the Keystone collection, he found a wealth of detail, such as the birds and rabbit nestled amidst the foliage that gave the series its title.

The series As Far As I Could Get (1996-2010), five works of which are included in the LACMA exhibition, has Divola once again engaging with the natural environment, but this time in a more performative vein. Divola positioned his camera on a tripod, set the timer for ten seconds, and then ran straight into the established frame. At one level, this was a completely dispassionate endeavour. On another level, because the resulting pictures depict a man in a landscape, not in a controlled experimental setting, the viewer cannot suppress a frisson of physical and emotional tension. The works engage the viewer with the natural landscape – a landscape altered by human presence and staged to serve as a theatre for creative activity.”

Press release from the LACMA website

 

John Divola. 'Seven Songbirds and a Rabbit' 1995 (detail)

John Divola. 'Seven Songbirds and a Rabbit' 1995 (detail)

John Divola. 'Seven Songbirds and a Rabbit' 1995 (detail)

John Divola. 'Seven Songbirds and a Rabbit' 1995 (detail)

John Divola. 'Seven Songbirds and a Rabbit' 1995 (detail)

John Divola. 'Seven Songbirds and a Rabbit' 1995 (detail)

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Seven Songbirds and a Rabbit (details)
1995
Gelatin Silver Print on Linen
20 x 20 inches
© John Divola

 

John Divola. 'As Far As I Could Get (R02F09), 10 Seconds' 1996-97

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
As Far As I Could Get (R02F09), 10 Seconds
1996-97
Pigment Print
60 x 40 inches
© John Divola

 

John Divola. 'As Far As I Could Get (R02F06), 10 Seconds' 1996-97

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
As Far As I Could Get (R02F06), 10 Seconds
1996-97
Pigment Print
60 x 40 inches
© John Divola

 

 

“Divola is a photographer who works in distinct conceptual series that span and stretch the reaches of photography as art. For instance, at LACMA, the works include a series called “As Far As I Could Get” (1996-2010), where Divola sets a 10-second timer and sprints as far from the camera as he can. It’s performative, simple, amusing and alienating – a tiny body in full physical exertion, far off in the landscape.”

Maxwell Williams. “John Divola’s SoCal Moment,” on the Art in America website [Online] Cited 01/07/2014. No longer available online.

 

John Divola. 'As Far As I Could Get (R02F33), 10 Seconds' 1996-97

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
As Far As I Could Get (R02F33), 10 Seconds
1996-97
Pigment Print
60 x 40 inches
© John Divola

 

John Divola. 'As Far As I Could Get, 10 Seconds' 1996-97

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
As Far As I Could Get, 10 Seconds
1996-97
Pigment Print
60 x 40 inches
© John Divola

 

John Divola. 'As Far As I Could Get, 10 Seconds' 1996-97

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
As Far As I Could Get (R02F33), 10 Seconds
1996-97
Pigment Print
60 x 40 inches
© John Divola

 

John Divola. 'As Far As I Could Get, 10 Seconds' 1996-97

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
As Far As I Could Get (R02F33), 10 Seconds
1996-97
Pigment Print
60 x 40 inches
© John Divola

 

 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
Phone: 323 857 6000

Opening Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: noon – 8pm
Friday: noon – 9pm
Saturday, Sunday: 11am – 8pm
Closed Wednesday

LACMA 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.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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