Archive for the 'book' Category

06
Jan
17

Exhibition: ‘Soulèvements / Uprisings’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 18th October 2016 – 15th January 2017

Curator: Georges Didi-Huberman, philosopher and art historian

 

 

soulèvement m ‎(plural soulèvements)

  1. the act of raising, the act of lifting up
  2. revolt, uprising

 

I believe this to be one of the most complex, original and important exhibitions of 2016. Conceptually, intellectually, ethically and artistically, the exhibition “Soulèvements / Uprisings” seems to stand head and shoulders above most others I posted on during 2016.

Through the profound curatorship of philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman (a man whose writing I admire), Soulèvements e/merges as a “trans-disciplinary exhibition on the theme of human gestures that raise up the world or rise up against it: collective or individual gestures, actions or passions, works or thoughts” actioned through five themes: Elements (Unleashed); Gestures (Intense); Words (Exclaimed); Conflicts (Flared up); and Desires (Indestructibles), evidenced across mediums: paintings, drawings, prints, video installations, photographs, fiction films, documentary images, writers’ manuscripts, tracts, posters, etc., without hierarchies. Unlike the earlier posting, Intersections: Photographs and Videos from the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where I noted that the self-contained themes of that exhibition seemed purely illusory, here the themes are active and engaging, fluid in meaning and representation (the choice of laterally aligned art works to the themes – dust breeding, waves, sea concertos, banners and capes, red tape, montages, posters etc…), which emphasis resistance, the raising up, the uprising as a desirous and joyful act, one that is performative (hence the wonderful video elements in the exhibition) and transgressive.

As one of the most important mediums of the twentieth century in terms of documenting, promoting, obscuring and forgetting “uprisings” – gestures of resistance and joy of any kind – photography is capable of concealing, denying and sustaining the social context in which we are living … obscuring the ethics and morals of dubious political positions; reinforcing or obscuring the issues behind revolution, rebellion, and revolt; or, through collective amnesia and inertia, through the millions of forgettable images produced each day, overwhelming the authenticity of living that leads to “uprisings” in the first place. Photographs, as people do, cross borders: they are transnational and multidisciplinary. They are global thought patterns that can, in skilled hands, document and sustain alternative ways of seeing the world through a “rising up” of feeling – the “soul” of soulèvement – the act of raising up, the act of lifting ones eyes and one’s spirit from the dire circumstances of oblivion to the hope of a future redemption.

Through photographs, we witness Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune (1871, below), where “the exposure of these bodies is transformed by the photographic act. The latter confers on the rebels a particular aura, passing thus from figures of guilty to those of martyrs.” The political act, although a failure in reality in this case, is sustained through time and space by the performance of the documentary image. Their monstration [the act of demonstrating; proof] – the insurgents act of demonstrating; the photograph as an act of demonstrating their death for judicial purposes; and also a certain monstration (proof) that these mostly young, skinny men died for a belief in a better world – is an evidentiary act of transubstantiation. Is the camera looking down on these bodies in cheap coffins from above, or are the coffins propped up against a wall? How do we feel about these people we do not know, who existed in past time now made present, without being that person who tucked a wreath into the hands of the man at bottom right, someone’s brother, father or son.

In “uprisings” (as the hands raise the camera to the face), there is also an acknowledgment of a certain despair at the death of an innocent. In Manuel Álvarez Bravo’s Striking worker, assassinated (1934, below) the young, handsome youth has been killed with a blow to the head. He lies prostrate on the ground, arm outstretched, hand curled, his body and clothes spattered with his own blood his eyes, open, staring at the now invisible sky. A flow of dried blood has discharged from his mouth and nose, coating and matting his thick long hair and running away in rivulets, soaking into the parched d/earth. Bits of dust and earth are still stuck to his arm through the viscosity of his blood. Earlier, he had dressed for the day in a white singlet, put on his trousers and fastened them with an embossed belt, then put on a crisp, stripped shirt and neatly rolled up the sleeves to his elbows. He might have had breakfast before heading of to a meeting outside where he worked. This day he died, protesting his rights – striking worker, assassinated! Assassinated – executed, eliminated, liquidated (to which the congealing blood attests) … slaughtered. For his right to strike, to protest, the conditions of his being. Any human “being”.

And, mortally, I comment on that one photograph, that one evidence of human beings transcending their own lives (knowing they were going to die) for the greater good – the anonymous photograph taken by members of the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp that documents AS PROOF of the reality of the Final Solution: Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau (1944, below). The risks that these people took to capture this photograph speaks to the power of photography to transcend even the most barbaric of circumstances, to prove to the world what was happening in this place. As Georges Didi-Huberman affirms, “in the depths of this fundamental despair, the “solicitation to resist” has probably detached itself from the beings themselves, who have been promised to disappear, to fix themselves on signals to be emitted beyond the boundaries of the camp.” Among others, the image, this “eye of history”, is then invested with the only hope still possible: to make the hell of Auschwitz visible and therefore imaginable.”

In other words, the solicitation to resist is not singular or human, but collective and eternal, embodied and embedded in cultural thoughts and actions. Even though they knew they were going to die (almost none of the 2,000 prisoners placed in these Sonderkommando units survived to the camp’s liberation), because the have been “promised to disappear”, their spirit flowed beyond the boundaries of the camp into the ether of history, into the elemental upper air, the raising up of spirits: as an observation and representation of the difference between right and wrong. As the world enters a renewed period of right wing promulgation we must resist the rump of bigotry and oppression. Not just for ourselves but for all those that have passed before.

This is why this exhibition is so important. It speaks to the need for vigilance and protest against discrimination and dictatorship, against the persecution of the less fortunate in society. It also speaks to our desire as human beings that our actions and the actions of others be held to account. Intrinsically uprisings are all about desire, the desire to be stand up and be counted, to put your reputation (as Oscar Wilde did) or your life on the line for what you believe in. The courage of your convictions. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Addendum

Thank goodness for Google translate because otherwise I would have had no text to put under most of these images. This becomes problematic for weak images such as Dennis Adams’ Patriot (2002, below). Without text to support the image you would have absolutely no idea what this image is about… it’s just a plastic bag floating in the air against the azure sky.

The text states: “… considering the serenity that emanates from the photographs of this series, to imagine that they refer to a dramatic event: the attack of the World Trade Center. Located in Lower Manhattan, Dennis Adams’ studio is very close to the twin towers that were destroyed on September 11, 2001. However, rather than rushing to witness the catastrophe, Dennis Adams photographed for three months the roof of his building, the newspapers and the rubbish that fly away from the ruins.”

Who would have thunk it! From a plastic bag floating in the sky!

Such insight proffered months after the event by any plastic bag floating in the air. The image does not invite reverie and meditation because there is nothing to meditate on. It is an example of contemporary photography as graphic art THAT MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! If an image cannot stand on its own two feet, without the help of reams of text to support its substance, its contention, then no wonder there are millions of vacillating images in this world. Including contemporary art.

Outdamned spot! the stain of thy blood cannot be exacted from your feeble representation.

 

Word count: 1,451

Translations of soulèvement

noun
uprising soulèvement, révolte
rising soulèvement, hausse (rise), insurrection, montant, lever, élévation
insurrection insurrection, soulèvement, émeute (riot), rébellion
uplift soulèvement
upheaval bouleversement, soulèvement, agitation, perturbation, séisme, renversement

.
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.

 

 

 

 

Foreword

“For almost a decade, the Jeu de Paume’s exhibition program has been conceived with the conviction that twenty-first century museums and cultural institutions cannot be detached from the social and political challenges of the society of which they are part. To us, this approach is a matter of simple common sense.

The program it has shaped does not monitor market trends or seek complacent legitimacy within the field of contemporary art. Rather, we have chosen to work with artists whose poetic and political concerns are attuned to the need to critically explore the models of governance and practices of power that mold much of our perceptual and emotional experience, and thus, the social and political world we live in.

Because the Jeu de Paume is a center for images, we are aware of the urgent necessity – in line with our societal responsibilities – to revise the analysis of the historical conditions in which photography and the moving image developed in modernity and, subsequently, in postmodernity, with all its alternatives, provocations, and challenges.

Thankfully, the history of images and our ways of seeing and understanding the world through them is neither linear nor unidirectional. These are the sources of our fascination with images that don’t tell everything they show and with images affected by the vicissitudes of the human condition.

Photography, and images in general, represent not only reality, but things that the human eye cannot see; like us, photography is capable of concealing, denying and sustaining. It is only waiting for someone to listen to its joys and its sorrows.

The Jeu de Paume’s programming sites its oblique look at history and contemporaneity in this oscillation between the visible and the invisible in the life of images, creating a space for encounter and the clashing of ideas, emotions, and knowledge, accepting that the coexistence of conflict and antagonism are an essential part of community building.

For these reasons, and from this position, in the superb proposal by the philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman to form an exhibition from his research on the theme of “uprisings,” we found the ideal intellectual, artistic, and museological challenge.

While the notion of revolution, rebellion, and revolt isn’t alien in contemporary society’s vocabulary, the object of its action is replete with collective amnesia and inertia. That is why analyzing the representations of “uprisings” – from the etchings Goya, to contemporary installations, paintings photographs, documents, videos, and films – demonstrates an unequivocal relevance to the social context in which we are living in 2016. […]

Marta Gili, “Foreword,” in Uprisings, catalogue of the exhibition, p. 7-10.

 

 

 

Enrique Ramirez
Cruzar un muro [Franchir un mur] (Crossing a wall)
2013
Vidéo HD couleur, son, 5’15”
Courtesy de l’artiste et galerie Michel Rein, Paris/Brussels

 

A series of images of people in a waiting room is in an unusual place, perhaps in our imagination, or perhaps anywhere. The short by Enrique Ramirez addresses article number 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”.

 

Giles Caron. 'Anticatholic protests, Londonderry, Northern Ireland' August 1969

 

Gilles Caron
Manifestations anticatholiques à Londonderry
Anticatholic protests, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
August 1969
© Gilles Caron / Fondation Gilles Caron / Gamma Rapho

 

 

Known for his wartime photoreports, fascinated by liberating acts and the figure of the insurgent, photographer Gilles Caron carried throughout the 1960s an interest in the social conflicts that marked his time. At first he is led to cover is a peasant revolt which takes place in Redon in 1967. Anxious to produce an image which appears to him as a formal translation of the anger of these peasants, he seizes the gesture of a demonstrator sending a projectile in the direction of the forces of order. Photogenic, this suspended gesture gives the insurrections a choreographic dimension and testifies to the violence of the social demands that animate the demonstrators. The “figure of the pitcher” then reappears on the occasion of the events of May 1968 and then of the conflicts that took place in Northern Ireland in 1969. This archetype is part of the tradition of the representation of David against Goliath: the symbol of the power carried by the faith of one who is thought weak in the face of brute force. If there is no question of faith in the images of Caron, it is nonetheless an irrepressible form of desire that animates those bodies which revolt: no matter the imbalance of forces, the insurgents are carried by a feeling of invulnerability and of power in the face of the forces of order objectively much more armed. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

 

Introduction

by Georges Didi-Huberman, curator of the exhibition

What makes us rise up? It is forces: mental, physical, and social forces. Through these forces we transform immobility into movement, burden into energy, submission into revolt, renunciation into expansive joy. Uprisings occur as gestures: arms rise up, hearts beat more strongly, bodies unfold, mouths are unbound. Uprisings are never without thoughts, which often become sentences: we think, express ourselves, discuss, sing, scribble a message, create a poster, distribute a tract, or write a work of resistance.

It is also forms: forms through which all of this will be able to appear and become visible in the public space. Images, therefore; images to which this exhibition is devoted. Images of all times, from Goya to today, and of all kinds: paintings, drawings, sculptures, films, photographs, videos, installations, documents, etc. They interact in dialogue beyond the differences of their times. They are presented according to a narrative in which there will appear, in succession, unleashed elements, when the energy of the refusal makes an entire space rise up; intense gestures, when bodies can say “No!”; exclaimed words, when barricades are erected and when violence becomes inevitable; and indestructible desires, when the power of uprisings manages to survive beyond their repression or their disappearance.

In any case, whenever a wall is erected, there will always be “people arisen” to “jump the wall”, that is, to cross over borders. If only by imagining. As though inventing images contributed – a little here, powerfully there – to reinventing our political hopes.

 

Man Ray (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890-1976 Paris) 'Dust Breeding' 1920

 

Man Ray (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890-1976 Paris)
Dust Breeding (Duchamp’s Large Glass with Dust Motes)
1920
Gelatin silver print
23.9 x 30.4 cm (9 7/16 x 12 in.)
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

One of Duchamp’s close friends and a member of the New York Dada scene, the American photographer and painter Man Ray (1890-1976) was also one of Duchamp’s collaborators. His photograph Dust Breeding (Duchamp’s Large Glass with Dust Motes) from 1920 is a document of The Large Glass after it had collected a year’s worth of dust while Duchamp was in New York. The photograph was taken with a two-hour-long exposure that beautifully captures the complex texture and diversity of materials that lay atop the glass surface. Dust Breeding marks a pivotal phase in the development of Duchamp’s masterpiece. After the photograph was taken, Duchamp wiped The Large Glass almost entirely clean, leaving a section of the cones covered with dust, which he permanently affixed to the glass plate with a diluted cement. (Text from The Met website)

 

Hiroji Kubota. 'Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois' 1969

 

Hiroji Kubota
Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois
1969
Gelatin silver print
© Hiroji Kubota/Magnum Photos

 

 

Claude Cattelain
Vidéo Hebdo 46
2009-2010
Vidéo pal, 4/3, couleur, son, 6 min 30 s
Collection de l’artiste
© Claude Cattelain

 

 

Entitled Vidéo Hebdo 46, this work by Claude Cattelain is part of a series of short films made between January 2009 and March 2010, following a weekly rhythm. If many of the films in this corpus play with the conditions of video recording (shooting conditions, sensitivity of the sensor, editing …), the forty-sixth is more like the return of a performance. Executed with great economy of means, its performances follow a precise protocol whose action often resembles an absurd experience of which the body of the artist is the subject. Here, Claude Cattelain tries to raise a chair by interposing one by one the wooden battens – which look singularly like slices of books – under the feet of the said chair without ever going down or putting a foot on the ground. This progressive uprising of the foundation leads inexorably to its overthrow and thus to the fall of the artist. The uselessness of this exercise is commensurate with the concentration and attention with which it applies to try to get to the maximum of its possibilities. Each performance of Claude Cattelain is thus an experience of limits: those of his balance, his strength, his concentration and gravity. By voluntarily avoiding the logics of productivity and productivity, Claude Cattelain invites the viewer to observe a poetic action, a possible metaphor of existential or historical situations. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

 

The exhibition

“Soulèvements / Uprisings” is a trans-disciplinary exhibition on the theme of human gestures that raise up the world or rise up against it: collective or individual gestures, actions or passions, works or thoughts.

They are gestures which say no to a state of history that is considered too “heavy” and that therefore needs to be “lifted” or even sent packing. They are also gestures that say yes to something else: to a desired better world, an imagined or adumbrated world, a world that could be inhabited and conceived differently.

These figures of uprising and up-raising will range freely across mediums: paintings, drawings, prints, video installations, photographs, fiction films, documentary images, writers’ manuscripts, tracts, posters, etc., without hierarchies.

The exhibition sequence will follow a sensitive, intuitive path along which the gaze can focus on exemplary “cases” treated with a precision that prevents any kind of generalisation. We will be mindful not to conclude, not to dogmatically foreclose anything. The sequence will comprise five main parts:

  • ELEMENTS (UNLEASHED)
  • GESTURES (INTENSE)
  • WORDS (EXCLAIMED)
  • CONFLICTS (FLARED UP)
  • DESIRES (INDESTRUCTIBLES)

 

 

“All the uprisings failed, but taken together, they succeeded.”

“They rise, but they do not simply stand up – they rise up.”

.
Judith Butler, “Uprisings” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings

 

 

ELEMENTS (UNLEASHED)

The elements become unleashed, time falls out of joint. – And if the imagination made mountains rise up?

To rise up, as when we say “a storm is rising.” To reverse the weight that nailed us to the ground. So it is the laws of the atmosphere itself that will be contradicted. Surfaces – sheets, draperies, flags – fly in the wind. Lights that explode into fireworks. Dust that rises up from nooks and crannies. Time that falls out of joint. The world upside down. From Victor Hugo to Eisenstein and beyond, uprisings are often compared to hurricanes or to great, surging waves. Because then the elements (of history) become unleashed.

We rise up first of all by exercising our imagination, albeit through our “caprichos” (whims or fantasies) or “disparates” (follies) as Goya said. The imagination makes mountains rise up. And when we rise up from a real “disaster,” it means that we meet what oppresses us, and those who seek to make it impossible for us to move, with the resistance of forces that are desires and imaginations first of all, that is to say psychical forces of unleashing and of reopening possibilities.

Dennis Adams, Francis Alÿs, Léon Cogniet, Marcel Duchamp, Francisco de Goya, William Hogarth, Victor Hugo, Leandro Katz, Eustachy Kossakowski, Man Ray, Jasmina Metwaly, Henri Michaux, Tina Modotti, Robert Morris, Saburô Murakami, Hélio Oiticica, Roman Signer, Tsubasa Kato, Jean Veber, French anonymous.

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Los Caprichos' 1799

 

Francisco de Goya
Los Caprichos
1799
Eau-forte, aquatinte et burin, 2e édition de 1855.
Collection Sylvie et Georges Helft
Photo: Jean de Calan

 

 

Between 1797 and 1799, Francisco de Goya composed a collection of engravings, Los Caprichos [Les Caprices], in which he portrayed in a satirical way the behavior of his Spanish fellow citizens. “Y aun no se van!” (“And yet they do not go away!”) is the 59th engraving of a set of 80. Each time the title constitutes an ironic commentary on the image. This one refers to the group of people represented on the engraving, with the bodies emaciated, folded on themselves, praying, looking scared. One of them tries to prevent the tombstone from falling on them, but all seem helpless, destitute of strength, unable to resist this final ordeal. The use of chiaroscuro, which produces a dramatic effect, as well as the thick slice of the slab that forms the diagonal of the composition, accentuates the desperate character of the scene. Finally, the massive aspect and the weight of the stone, opposed to fragile and denuded bodies, complete their inexorable destiny. This engraving thus seems to illustrate the absolute dejection felt by individuals under certain circumstances. For Georges Didi-Huberman, degradation is one of the conditions conducive to the uprising. The imagination and the critical eye of the artist – a fervent supporter of the Enlightenment – can constitute a force of resistance and struggle for the oppressed. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Léon Cogniet. 'Les Drapeaux' 1830

 

Léon Cogniet
Les Drapeaux (The flags)
1830
Huile sur toile
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Orléans
Photo: François Lauginie

 

 

The Revolution of 1830 led to the overthrow of the government of King Charles X. After the publication of several ordinances, including a restriction on freedom of the press, this episode, which failed to restore the Republic, The tricolor flag, abandoned by the Restoration for the benefit of the white flag, symbol of royalty. This is evidenced by Leon Cogniet’s study of a painting that will never see the light of day.

These revolutionary days, also called the Three Glorious Days, are symbolically represented by three flags caught in the turmoil. The first, white, overhung by a menacing sky, is hoisted on a mast adorned with a fleur-de-lis. The second tears apart and reveals the blue sky as a promise of freedom. Finally, the third, torn and covered with blood, allows the reconstruction of the tricolor emblem created during the Revolution of 1789. Thus the blood poured during these days allows the people to reconnect with the revolutionary ideals. The unleashing of elements, a metaphor for the tempestuous popular revolt, accompanies the transformation of the banished flag of royalty to the national flag. This sketch is repeated and widely circulated at the time, accompanied by an anonymous poem: “To the darkness finally succeeds the clarity / And pale shreds of the flag of the slaves / And of the azure sky and the blood of our brave / The brilliant standard of our freedom is born. ” (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Victor Hugo. 'La vague ou Ma destinée (The wave or My destiny)' 1857

 

Victor Hugo
La vague ou Ma destinée (The wave or My destiny)
1857
Plume et lavis d’encre brune, gouache, papier vélin
Maison de Victor Hugo
© Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet

 

This drawing is the witness of Victor Hugo’s fascination with the sea. His pen marries the movements of the ocean, which then becomes the symbol of his exile: “It is the image of my current destiny stranded in abandonment and solitude,” he says. On the drawing he calls ‘My destiny’, it is not known whether the ship, alone in front of the monster of the sea, enveloped by its foam, is carried or precipitated by the immense wave. It is a figure of his destiny, but also of the human condition.

 

Man Ray. "Sculpture mouvante" ou "La France" ("Moving Sculpture" or "France") 1920

 

Man Ray
“Sculpture mouvante” ou “La France” (“Moving Sculpture” or “La France”)
1920
Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, dation en 1994
Negative gelatin-silver on glass plate
9 x 12 cm
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI
Image obtenue par inversion des valeurs du scan du négatif
© Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

 

An active member of the Dada group in New York with Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray joined the surrealists in Paris in 1921. He was interested in questioning the conventions of the world of art and considered photography as a means of expression. It explores all potentialities: experiments, diversions, portraits, advertising applications … The fixation of an element in movement constitutes one of the specificities of photography that fascinates the surrealists because the object thus grasped by the apparatus appears in an unexpected light: the linen which dries, inflated under the effect of the wind, becomes a moving sculpture as the title of the work suggests. This way the title can guide the reception of the passionate photography of Man Ray. This image is also published on the cover of the sixth issue of La Révolution Surréaliste in 1926, accompanied by the legend “La France”. This enigmatic title, rather than helping to understand photography, multiplies the possible interpretations and attests to Man Ray’s desire to subvert the use and meaning of the images. Thus this wind which “transforms” linen into sculpture, appears as a metaphor for the surrealist project, which makes the photographic medium the operator of a true conversion of the gaze. By this image of the “uprising”, Man Ray thus gives a visual form to the aesthetic and political revolution that the members of the Surrealist group called for. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Eustachy Kossakowski. 'Le "Panoramic Sea Happening - Sea Concerto, Osieki" de Tadeusz Kantor (extrait d'une série)' 1967

 

Eustachy Kossakowski
Le “Panoramic Sea Happening – Sea Concerto, Osieki” de Tadeusz Kantor (extrait d’une série)
The “Panoramic Sea Happening – Sea Concerto, Osieki” by Tadeusz Kantor (from a series)
1967
Inkjet pigment print
Owner of negatives and slides: Musée d’Art Moderne de Varsovie
© Collection Anka Ptaszkowska

 

 

In 1967 Tadeusz Kantor with a group of other Polish avant-garde artists delivered Panoramic Sea Happening. They were working in frames of artistic plain-air in Osieki (near Koszalin) organized there every year since 1963. This complex action was in a way a preface to Kantor’s theatre. But it was also parallel to actions of Western artists, which led to the birth of performance art. In this important moment Kantor formulated a category of impossible. It derived from the night dream but as this one was compromised Kantor wanted to use a new word: ‘impossible’. At the same time the very essence of the happening, as he was saying, was to make impossible real. How did he do it? By reenactment, repetition and documentation.

Dorota Sosnowska. From the abstract for “Impossible is Real: Tadeusz Kantor at the seashore” 2016

 

Hélio Oiticica and Leandro Katz. 'Parangolé - Encuentros de Pamplona' 1972

 

Hélio Oiticica and Leandro Katz
Parangolé – Encuentros de Pamplona (Parangolé – Encounters of Pamplona)
1972
Impression chromogène (sur papier et carton)
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
Photo: Archives Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
© Projeto Hélio Oiticica / © Leandro Katz

 

 

“At the time when he was producing his first Penetrables, Oticica started to design Parangolés, banners and capes printed in a great variety of colors and designs, and occasionally inscribed with mottoes, advertisement lines, or found phrases. Oiticica premiered his (anti)fashion statements in 1965 in what he called a Parangolé Coletivo, in which he distributed his creations among friends and members of the Mangueira samba school – he had joined in 1964 – who paraded wearing them while dancing to samba… He would continue making Parangolés and staging Parangolé events throughout the rest of his life, at times through friends who acted as intermediaries, as in the Pamplona encounters of 1972 in Spain when Argentinean artist Leandro Katz ran a Parangolé event on Oiticica’s behalf.”

Juan A. Suárez. “Jack Smith, Hélio Oiticica, Tropicalism,” in Criticism Vol. 56, No. 2, Jack Smith: Beyond the Rented World (Spring 2014) pp. 310-311.

 

Henri Michaux. 'Untitled' 1975

 

Henri Michaux
Untitled
1975
Acrylic on paper
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Jean-Louis Losi

 

Dennis Adams. 'Patriot' 2002

 

Dennis Adams
Patriot
2002
From the series Airborne
C-Print contrecollé sur aluminium.
Prêt du Centre national des Arts Plastiques, Paris, inv. FNAC 03.241.
© Dennis Adams / CNAP / Courtesy Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie

 

 

A plastic bag stands out on the azure sky and floats in the air. Difficult, considering the serenity that emanates from the photographs of this series, to imagine that they refer to a dramatic event: the attack of the World Trade Center. Located in Lower Manhattan, Dennis Adams’ studio is very close to the twin towers that were destroyed on September 11, 2001. However, rather than rushing to witness the catastrophe, Dennis Adams photographed for three months the roof of his building, the newspapers and the rubbish that fly away from the ruins. These images, although directly related to this highly publicized event have nothing of the “shock” images that then invade the press.

They carry neither sensationalism nor exaggerated patriotism, but rather invite reverie and meditation. By adopting this attitude to the antipodes of the media and political enthusiasm that follows September 11, Dennis Adams questions the relationship to temporality in the face of this type of event. He denounces the “greed of politicians and military men who have a definite opinion on moments of history”* and questions the imperative of hyperreactivity not conducive to the analysis and the constitution of a historical consciousness. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

*Dennis Adams quoted by Michel Guerrin, “In Madrid, photographers face history”, in Le Monde, June 15, 2004, p. 30.

 

Roman Signer. 'Rotes Band / Red Tape' 2005

 

Roman Signer
Rotes Band / Red Tape
2005
Vidéo couleur, son, 2’07’”.
Caméra: Aleksandra Signer
Courtesy de l’artiste et d’Art: Concept, Paris

 

Tsubasa Kato. 'Break it before it’s broken' 2015

Tsubasa Kato. 'Break it before it’s broken' 2015

 

Tsubasa Kato
Break it before it’s broken
2015
Video: color, sound, 4:49 min
© Tsubasa Kato / caméraman: Taro Aoishi

 

 

On March 11, 2011, a tsunami struck the Japanese coast and caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The disastrous environmental and social consequences are still impossible to evaluate and the inhabitants, partly neglected by the public authorities, have to face an unprecedented crisis. Many of them have been displaced and most of their income from fishing is reduced to nothing because of the contamination of the ocean. Tsubasa Kato then decides to get involved with them by accompanying them daily in this difficult period. In addition to this support, he decided on November 3rd (03/11) – the day of the celebration of culture in Japan (Bunka no Hi) and date whose numerical writing is the inverse of that of the tsunami (11/03) – to achieve a strongly symbolic performance.

Entitled Break it before it’s broken, the video of this action shows residents of the region invited to overthrow the structure of a house washed away by the tsunami and destroy it definitively. Becoming actors of destruction and no longer passive observers, participants can then transform the event undergone into action. This festival of culture, for Tsubasa Kato, is an opportunity to initiate a unifying artistic moment that testifies to the strength of collective movements and the mobilization necessary to reverse the course of events. He will then reiterate this performance in other parts of the world, which are often subject to delicate social situations. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Mari Kourkouta. 'Remontages' 2016

Mari Kourkouta. 'Remontages' 2016

 

Mari Kourkouta
Remontages
2016
16 mm sur vidéo (en boucle), noir et blanc, silencieux, 4’ 10.
© Maria Kourkouta. Production : Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

 

“Body, mind and soul are uplifted by the divine energy of desire”

.
Marie-José Mondzain, “To those who sail the sea…” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings

 

“To make the world rise up we need gestures, desires, and depths.”

.
Georges Didi-Huberman, “By the desires (Fragments on What Makes Us Rise Up)” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings

 

 

GESTURES (INTENSE)

From burden to uprising. – With hammer blows. – Arms rise up. – The pasión. – When bodies say no. – Mouths for exclaiming.

Rising up is a gesture. Before even attempting to carry out a voluntary and shared “action,” we rise up with a simple gesture that suddenly overturns the burden that submission had, until then, placed on us (be it through cowardice, cynicism, or despair). To rise up means to throw off the burden weighing down on our shoulders, keeping us from moving. It is to break a certain present – be it with hammer blows as Friedrich Nietzsche and Antonin Artaud sought to do – and to raise your arms towards the future that is opening up. It is a sign of hope and of resistance.

It is a gesture and it is an emotion. The Spanish Republicans – whose visual culture was shaped by Goya and Picasso, but also by all the photographers on the field who collected, the gestures of freed prisoners, of voluntary combatants, of children and of the famous La Pasionaria, Dolores Ibárruri – fully assumed this. In the gesture of rising up, each body protests with all of its limbs, each mouth opens and exclaims its no-refusal and its yes-desire.

Paulo Abreu, Art & Language, Antonin Artaud, Taysir Batniji, Joseph Beuys, Désiré-Magloire Bourneville, Gilles Caron, Claude Cattelain, Agustí Centelles, Chim, Pascal Convert, Gustave Courbet, Élie Faure, Michel Foucault, Leonard Freed, Gisèle Freund, Marcel Gautherot, Agnès Geoffray, Jochen Gerz, Jack Goldstein, Käthe Kollwitz, Alberto Korda, Germaine Krull, Hiroji Kubota, Annette Messager, Lisette Model, Tina Modotti, Friedric Nietzsche, Willy Römer, Willy Ronis, Graciela Sacco, Lorna Simpson, Wolf Vostell, anonymes catalans, français, italiens.

 

Gustave Courbet. 'Home en blouse debout sur une barricade (projet de frontispice pour Le Salut public)' 1848

 

Gustave Courbet
Home en blouse debout sur une barricade (projet de frontispice pour Le Salut public)
Man in a smock standing on a barricade (frontispiece for Le Salut public project)

1848
Fusain sur papier
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

Germaine Krull. 'The Dancer Jo Mihaly, danse "Révolution"' 1925

 

Germaine Krull
The Dancer Jo Mihaly, danse “Révolution”
1925
Gelatin silver print
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Estate Germaine Krull, Folkwang Museum, Essen

 

 

Pioneer and adventurous, Germaine Krull is one of those women photographers of the inter-war period who contributed largely to the emergence of a nervous and dynamic photographic approach, in step with a modern world in constant acceleration. In photographing Jo Mihaly, she portrays a dancer who shares this avant-garde sensibility. Indeed, a pupil of Mary Wigman, this singular figure of dance participates in the German expressionist movement and contributes to the development of a modern choreographic art: the unconstrained body emancipates itself from the conventions of classical dance, the gesture of the dancer is released and regains its vitality. The movement then becomes the result of the personal expression of the dancer whose photographer has the burden of seizing the fulgurance [dazzling speed]. Stretched arm, smoky eyes and feverish eyes, Jo Mihaly – who has always claimed her commitment to the Communist Party – realizes a gesture that resonates with her time but also with the youth of Germaine Krull, marked by its proximity to the Republic of the Soviets of Berlin in 1919. Thus, it is as much for these artists to participate in an aesthetic revolution in their respective artistic fields as to echo the social and political uprisings that have taken place throughout Europe since the the advent of the industrial era. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

 

Alberto Korda. 'Don Quixote of the streetlamp, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba' 1959

 

Alberto Korda
El Quijote de la Farola, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba
Don Quixote of the streetlamp, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba

1959
Vintage gelatin silver print on baryta paper
Leticia et Stanislas Poniatowski collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

Kitai Kazuo. 'Resistance' (book) 1965

 

Kitai Kazuo
Resistance (book)
1965
BAL
© Kitai Kazuo/ Collection privée

 

With a manifesto both aesthetic and philosophical, the Japanese publication Provoke proposed a radical break in only three issues, published in 1968 and 1969. Provoke (photographers Takuma Nakahira, Yutaka Takanashi and Daidō Moriyama, critic Kōji Taki and poet Takahiko Okada) proposes a new visual language – rough, grainy and blurred – that captures the complexity of the experience and the paradoxes of modernity suffered by all.

 

Wolf Vostell. 'Dutschke' 1968

 

Wolf Vostell
Dutschke
1968
Peinture polymère sur toile
Haus der Geschichte der Bundensrepublik Deutschland, Bonn
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975

Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975

Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975

 

Art and Language
Shouting Men (details)
1975
Screenprint and felt pen on paper
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona collection
Photo: Àngela Gallego
© Art and Language

 

Patrick Zachmann 'The army blocked by the crowd at the gates of the capital' 1989

 

Patrick Zachmann
L’armée bloquée par la foule aux portes de la capitale
The army blocked by the crowd at the gates of the capital
1989
Gelatin-silver bromide print on baryta paper
50.4 x 60.9 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
© Patrick Zachmann

 

From the early 1980s, Patrick Zachmann carried out an in-depth investigation into the Chinese diaspora. Present in China at the time of the events in Tiananmen Square, he photographed particularly symbolic episodes. This picture, taken on 20 May, is located just after the beginning of the hunger strikes, and before the massive repression known as the Tiananmen massacre. The nocturnal atmosphere and the gestures of the orator confer on this “moment before” a dramatic theatricality.

 

Annette Messager. '47 Piques (47 Pikes)' 1992

 

Annette Messager
47 Piques (47 Pikes)
1992
Soft toys, colored pencils on paper, various materials, and 47 metal pikes
270 x 570 x 70 cm
Annette Messager and Marin Karmitz collection/Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

Graciela Sacco. from the "Bocanada" (A breath of fresh air) series 1992-1993

 

Graciela Sacco
from the “Bocanada” (A breath of fresh air) series
1992-1993
Posters in the streets of Rosario, Argentina
© Graciela Sacco

 

 

This series of photographs of open mouths was immediately considered by Graciela Sacco as being intended to circulate in the public space on various supports (stamps, spoons, stickers, posters …). It is however in the form of a wild display that the artist has most often given to see this set. The first of these displays took place in 1993, during a strike, in public school canteens in the town of Rosario. It was then a question of questioning the impossibility of the municipal staff to make their claims heard and the consequences of this movement knowing that for the majority of the children, this meal was the only one of the day. Graciela Sacco then continues to post these posters in cities like Buenos Aires, São Paulo or New York, often during election campaigns or close to advertising images. Are they hungry mouths? Cries of claims? Of suffering? Or even breathing as the title suggests? Be that as it may, this repeated but inaudible message tends to become oppressive. By exposing them in public space, the artist seems to give visibility to those anonymous calls that we do not want or can not hear. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

 

WORDS (EXCLAIMED)

Poetic insurrections. – The message of the butterflies. – Newspapers. – Making a book of resistance. – The walls speak up.

Arms have been raised, mouths have exclaimed. Now, what are needed are words, sentences to say, sing, think, discuss, print, transmit. That is why poets place themselves “at the forefront” of the action itself, as Rimbaud said at the time of the Paris Commune. Upstream the Romantics, downstream the Dadaists, Surrealists, Lettrists, Situationists, etc., all undertook poetic insurrections.

“Poetic” does not mean “far from history,” quite the contrary. There is a poetry of tracts, from the protest leaflet written by Georg Büchner in 1834 to the digital resistance of today, through René Char in 1943 and the “cine-tracts,” from 1968. There is a poetry particular to the use of newspapers and social networks. There is a particular intelligence – attentive to the form – inherent in the books of resistance or of uprising. Until the walls themselves begin to speak and occupy the public space, the sensible space in its entirety.

Antonin Artaud, Ever Astudillo, Ismaïl Bahri, Artur Barrio, Georges Bataille, Charles Baudelaire, Joseph Beuys, Enrique Bostelmann, André Breton, Marcel Broodthaers, Cornelius Castoriadis, Champfleury, Dada, Armand Dayot, Guy Debord, Carl Einstein, Jean-Luc Fromanger, Federico García Lorca, Jean-Luc Godard, Groupe Dziga Vertov, Raymond Hains, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Bernard Heidsieck, Victor Hugo, Asger Jorn, Jérôme Lindon, Rosa Luxemburg, Man Ray, Germán Marín, Chris Marker, Cildo Meireles, Henri Michaux, Tina Modotti, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Pablo Picasso, Sigmar Polke, Jacques Rancière, Alain Resnais, Armando Salgado, Álvaro Sarmiento, Philippe Soupault, Félix Vallotton, Gil Joseph Wolman, German, Chilean, Cuban, Spanish, French, Italian, Mexican, Russian unknowns.

 

Raoul Hausman. 'Portrait of Herwarth Walden at Bonset' 1921

 

Raoul Hausman
Portrait of Herwarth Walden at Bonset
1921
Postcard sent by Raoul Hausmann to Theo van Doesburg
Archives Theo and Nelly van Doesburg
Photo: collection RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

 

Herwarth Walden (actual name Georg Lewin, 16 September 1879 in Berlin – 31 October 1941 in Saratov, Russia) was a German Expressionist artist and art expert in many disciplines. He is broadly acknowledged as one of the most important discoverers and promoters of German avant-garde art in the early twentieth century (Expressionism, Futurism, Dadaism, Magic Realism).

From 1901 to 1911 Walden was married to Else Lasker-Schüler, the leading female representative of German Expressionist poetry. She invented for him the pseudonym “Herwarth Walden”, inspired by Henry Thoreau’s novel Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854). In 1912 he married Swedish painter Nell Roslund. In 1919 he became a member of the Communist Party. In 1924 he was divorced from his second wife.

With the economic depression of the 1930s and the subsequent rise of National Socialism, his activities were compromised. In 1932 he married again and left Germany shortly later because of the threat of the Gestapo. He went to Moscow, where he worked as a teacher and publisher. His sympathies for the avant-garde soon aroused the suspicion of the Stalinist Soviet government, and he had to repeatedly defend against the equation of avant-garde and fascism. Walden died in October 1941 in a Soviet prison in Saratov. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

 

John Heartfield. 'Use photography as a weapon !' 1929

 

John Heartfield
Benütze Foto als Waffe ! 
Utilise la photo comme une arme !
Use photography as a weapon !

AIZ, année VIII, no 37, Berlin, 1929, p. 17
Revue
37.8 x 27.5 cm
Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Kunstsammlung, Inv.-Nr.: JH 2265
© The Heartfield Community of Heirs/ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

 

In the late 1910s, members of the Dada movement practiced the first collages using images from cheap publications. The iconoclastic dimension of these heterogeneous juxtapositions allows them to open up the critical potential of images. Then, in the 1920s in Berlin, the Dada movement became politicized and the idea that the affiliated artists of the Communist Party were to serve the proletarian cause was strengthened. Few artists felt as committed to this mission as John Heartfield (his real name was Helmut Herzfeld). From the end of the 1920s, he developed a practice of satirical photomontage for the press, and in particular of the Communist journal AIZ (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung) for which he worked until 1938. He then produced 237 photomontages denouncing Fascist ideology, the financing of the Nazi party by the industrialists and the extreme violence of the national socialist program. Invited to the Film und Foto exhibition in 1929 in Stuttgart, he had inscribed above the section devoted to him the slogan found in AIZ the same year: “Use photography as a weapon!”. Through the massive dissemination of his photomontages, he wants to mobilize public opinion and incite him to rise up against the rise of the fascisms that threaten Europe. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

Heartfield lived in Berlin until April 1933, when the National Socialists took power. On Good Friday, the SS broke into his apartment, and the 5’2″ Heartfield escaped by jumping from his balcony and hiding in a trash bin. He left Germany by walking over the Sudeten Mountains to Czechoslovakia. In Czechoslovakia, John Heartfield rose to number-five on the Gestapo’s most-wanted list.

 

Federico. 'García Lorca Mierda (Shit)' 1934

 

Federico García Lorca
Mierda (Shit)
1934
Calligram, Indian ink
Federico García Lorca foundation, Madrid
© Federico García Lorca foundation, Madrid / VEGAP

 

Réseau Buckmaster (Buckmaster Network) 'Tract clandestin (Clandestine Tract)' 1942

reseau-buckmaster-tract-clandestin-1942-b-web

 

Réseau Buckmaster (Buckmaster Network)
Tract clandestin (Clandestine Tract)
1942
Papier
17 x 25 cm
Collection particulière
Courtesy des éditions de L’échappée

 

 

This satirical tract was realized and distributed in 1942 by the network of the Resistance Buckmaster, during the German occupation in France. The flying leaf, given from hand to hand or slipped into a mailbox, the leaflet or the butterfly (smaller) is at the same time the expression of a refusal – that of yielding – and of an imperious desire to act and call for a start. Intended to mark the minds and to attract the adhesion, they can be formed of short and poetic texts, slogans or images. Open, it presents a caricature drawing of four pigs and, in the center, an inscription in capital letters which apostrophes the reader and invites him to look for the fifth … Indeed, if the recipient folds the sheet according to the dotted lines, he makes Hitler’s acrimonious face! Thus, like any clandestine message, the meaning of the leaflet is not given immediately. The system of folding conceals and intrigues before revealing, but also accentuates the critical and percussive nature of the subject. Opening and closing like two wings, this butterfly is an anonymous, ephemeral and fragile missive ready to fly in the air to carry its message of rising. Like a firefly gleaming in the night of war, “an indication of a desire that flies, goes where it wants, insists, persists, resists in spite of everything”*, in the words of Georges Didi-Huberman, this image constitutes a weapon at the same time frail and powerful. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

*Georges Didi-Huberman, “Through desires (fragments on what raises us)”, in Soulèvements, Paris, Jeu de Paume, 2016, p. 372.

 

Raymond Hains. 'OAS. Fusillez les plastiqueurs (OAS. Shoot the bombers)' 1961

 

Raymond Hains
OAS. Fusillez les plastiqueurs (OAS. Shoot the bombers)
1961
Torn poster on canvas backing
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Michel Marcuzzi

 

 

By the end of the 1940s, Raymond Hains paced the streets of Paris and sought out surprising agglomerates of torn posters that he picked up before painting them on canvas. The artist, flâneur, is the catalyst of a new form of urban poetry that gives rise to impromptu entanglements of words and images. This practice of hijacking posters largely echoed the world of art and French society after the Second World War. These torn posters formally evoke the canvases of “action painting” in vogue at the time, which Hains enjoys by calling himself “inaction painter”. The proliferation of these posters accompanies the rise of consumption but also the many political debates that agitate France. Thus futile advertisements co-exist promoting an eternally joyful world and political posters whose subjects are sometimes dramatic. In 1961, Raymond Hains realized an exhibition entitled “La déchirée France” [The Torn France] which presents itself as a sounding board of contemporary French history, marked by the decomposition of the Fourth Republic and what is not yet called the war of Algeria. The work OAS. Shoot the bombers testifies to the violence of the positions taken with regard to this organization favorable to the maintenance of French Algeria, but also to the reality of the attacks they commit. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Sigmar Polke. 'Against the two superpowers - for a red Switzerland' (1st version) 1976

 

Sigmar Polke
Gegen die zwei Supermächte – für eine rote Schweiz (1e version)
(Against the two superpowers – for a red Switzerland) (1st version)
1976
Spray paint and stencil on paper
Ludwig Forum für internationale Kunst, Aachen
© The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne /ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

Henri Michaux. 'Untitled' 1975

 

Henri Michaux
Untitled
1975
Indian ink, acrylic on paper
50 x 65 cm
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016 / Photo : Jean-Louis Losi

 

 

The poet Henri Michaux has endeavored to combine writing and drawing. Already in his invention of a new graphic alphabet in 1927, and then in his hallucinogenic experiments by absorption of mescaline from 1955, Henri Michaux sought to liberate, unbind language and drawing and thus to explore “the space within”. This ink on paper presents an entanglement of disorderly spots more or less energetic or impregnated. Just as his poems try to lift the tongue, this drawing seems to express what he calls “trembling in images”. Traces of liberating gestures, this expressive “new language”, noisy, made of floods of forms and collisions of signs, becomes the image of the disorderly world and the claimed insubordination of its author. In 1971, Michaux always seems to be looking for what he calls in the turbulent infinity “a confidence of a child, a confidence that goes ahead, hopes, raises you, confidence which, entering into the tumultuous universe … becomes a greater upheaval, a prodigiously great uprising, an extraordinary uprising, an uprising never known, a rising above itself, above all, a miraculous uprising which is at the same time an acquiescence, an unbounded, calming and exciting acquiescence, an overflow and a liberation.” Thus Michaux considered drawing as a movement, the very rise of thought and bodies. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

 

“Uprising transforms consciousness and in this movement it reconstitutes it. It gathers needs together and turns them into demands, it turns affects into desires and wills, it positions them in a tension towards liberty.”

.
Antonio Negri, “Uprisings” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings

 

 

CONFLICTS (FLARED UP)

To go on strike is not to do nothing. – Demonstrating, showing oneself. – Vandal joys. – Building barricades. – Dying from injustice.

And so everything flares up. Some see only pure chaos. Others witness the sudden appearance of the forms of a desire to be free. During strikes, ways of living together are invented. To say that we “demonstrate,” is to affirm – albeit to be surprised by it or even not to understand it—that something appeared that was decisive. But this demanded a conflict. Conflict: an important motif of modern historical painting (from Manet to Polke), and of the visual arts in general (photography, cinema, video, digital arts).

It happens sometimes that uprisings produce merely the image of broken images: vandalism, those kinds of celebrations in negative format. But on these ruins will be built the temporary architecture of uprisings: paradoxical, moving, makeshift things that are barricades. Then, the police suppress the demonstration, when those who rise up had only the potency of their desire (potency: not power). And this is why there are so many people in history who have died from having risen up.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Hugo Aveta, Ruth Berlau, Malcolm Browne, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Agustí Centelles, Chen Chieh-Jen, Armand Dayot, Honoré Daumier, Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, Robert Filliou, Jules Girardet, Arpad Hazafi, John Heartfield, Dmitri Kessel, Herbert Kirchhorff, Héctor López, Édouard Manet, Ernesto Molina, Jean-Luc Moulène, Voula Papaioannou, Sigmar Polke, Willy Römer, Pedro G. Romero, Jésus Ruiz Durand, Armando Salgado, Allan Sekula, Thibault, Félix Vallotton, Jean Veber, German, Catalan, French, Mexican, South African unknowns.

 

Thibault. 'The Barricade of the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt before the attack by the troops of General Lamoriciere' Sunday, June 25, 1848

 

Thibault
La Barricade de la rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt avant l’attaque par les troupes du général Lamoricière
The Barricade of the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt before the attack by the troops of General Lamoriciere
Sunday, June 25, 1848
Daguerréotype
11.7 x 15 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

 

 

This daguerreotype is part of a series of two exceptional views of the barricades taken during the popular insurrection of June 1848. Disseminated in the form of woodcuts in the newspaper L’Illustration at the beginning of the following July, these photographs were realized by an amateur named Thibault, from a point of view overlooking the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt, June 25 and 26, before and after the assault. The first photographs reproduced in the press, they show the value of proof given to the medium in the processing of information since the middle of the nineteenth century, well before the development of photomechanical reproduction techniques. The inaccuracies and ghostly traces caused by a long exposure time limit the accuracy lent to the medium. Also the engraver allowed himself to “rectify” the views for the newspaper, adding clouds here and there and specifying the posture or the detail of the silhouettes. The remarkable interest of these daguerreotypes, however, resides in their indeterminate aspect. In fact, they reveal the singular temporality of these events: both short (since each second counts during the confrontations) and at the same time extended (in the moments of preparation and waiting). The temporalities proper to events and photography are thus combined in order to offer the perennial image of an invisible uprising and therefore always in potentiality. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Édouard Manet. 'Guerre civile (Civil war)' 1871

 

Édouard Manet
Guerre civile (Civil war)
1871
Two-tone lithograph on thick paper
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri. 'Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune' 1871

 

André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri (attribué à)
Insurgés tués pendant la Semaine sanglante de la Commune
Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune
1871
Albumen photograph
21 x 27 cm
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris, Paris
© André A.E. Disdéri / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

 

This photograph was taken at the end of the tragic Bloody Week which concluded the Commune of Paris in May 1871. It shows the corpses of Communards shot by the Versailles troops, presented in their coffins at the public exhibition of their bodies. This image is imprinted with brutality: that of the authors of the massacre of these young men struggling for the independence of Paris, that of the monstration [The act of demonstrating; proof] and, that of photography, in its realization, its frontality and its precision. Why did one of the most famous portraitists of the Second Empire record the image of these inanimate bodies? We know today that photography has played an important role in anti-communard propaganda, the aim of which was to show the “exactions” of the insurgents (barricades, vandalism, assassinations …) and to present this event not as a revolution but as a civil war. It was also used for identification purposes, used for judicial proceedings and repression. The value of this image, however, is due to the fact that the exposure of these bodies is transformed by the photographic act. The latter confers on the rebels a particular aura, passing thus from figures of guilty to those of martyrs. Gathered for the occasion and set up facing us, they form, through photography, the image of an inseparable community. Even if the revolution has failed and power has failed, its power remains and continues to nourish the memory of political uprisings. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Allan Hughan. 'Installations de la colonie pénitentiaire (Installations of the penal colony)' May 1874

 

Allan Hughan
Installations de la colonie pénitentiaire (Installations of the penal colony)
May 1874
Tirage sur papier albuminé
14.7 x 19.6 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

 

The legend of the image, written in the thirties, states: “In the foreground the tribe of rebels of 1878”, while that handwritten on the original negative says “tribe of Atai revolted.” These elements drag the meaning of this image realized by the first photographer present in New Caledonia. The photographs he takes of kanaks, villages, but also of the prison and mining facilities in 1874, take on a new retrospective significance after the great Kanak revolt of 1878.

 

Félix Vallotton. 'La Charge (The Charge)' 1893

 

Félix Vallotton
La Charge (The Charge)
1893
Proof, woodcut on paper
Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Gift of Adèle et Georges Besson en 1963. On loan to Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie de Besançon
© Centre Pompidou / MNAM / Cliché Pierre Guenat, Besançon, Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie

 

 

Felix Vallotton made this engraving on wood in 1893 as part of his critical contributions to social violence for newspapers and magazines of his time. Composed with great economy of means, La Charge represents the brutal repression of a demonstration by the forces of the order. The diving point of view testifies to the influence of photography on his work and reinforces the voyeur character of the viewer as well as his feeling of helplessness. The formal repetition of the uniform of the “guardians of the peace” and the resemblance of their faces, all wedged between their mustache and their kepi, translates well the impression of mechanical unleashing of a blind violence. By contrasting black and white, Vallotton refers to the physical confrontation between civilians and policemen. The centrifugal force which animates the composition gives the impression that the wounded bodies shatter like an explosion. By distorting the characteristic perspective of the Nabi aesthetic, the victims’ bodies seem to be abandoned. Through the eyes of man in the foreground, the artist denounces the abuse of force but also takes the spectator to witness and invites him to rise up against this injustice. The artist, known for his anarchist positions, broke as much with the traditional principles of composition as with the established order. At the charge against the protesters, he responds by his own charge against the authorities. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Joseph Marie Ernest Prud'Homme. 'Submission of Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka' 1897

 

Joseph Marie Ernest Prud’Homme
Submission of Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka
1897
Print on aristotype paper
12 x 17 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

 

On July 29, 1897, Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka, two of the greatest leaders of the Menalamba insurrection, which began after the abdication of Queen Ranavalona III and the establishment of the protectorate in October 1895, publicly knelt before Governor General Joseph Gallieni to signify their submission. This ceremony is the theatrical acme of the policy of “pacification” carried out in Madagascar by Gallieni, since his arrival in September 1896.

 

Anonymous. 'The Habés send a parliamentarian to make their submission to Major Pognio' 17 March 1910

 

Anonymous
Les Habés envoient un parlementaire pour faire leur soumission au commandant Pognio
The Habés send a parliamentarian to make their submission to Major Pognio
17 March 1910
Print on baryta paper
10.9 x 16.7 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

 

The French colonial conquest of West Africa, begun in 1854, stops with the unification of its possessions within French West Africa in 1895. It was mainly carried out by the infantry which had to face populations hostile to colonization. The Habés (Dogons) of the Bandiagara region (present-day Mali) resisted the French soldiers from 1894 to 1910.

 

José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) 'Les Femmes des soldats (The Women Soldiers)' 1926

 

José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949)
Les Femmes des soldats (The Women Soldiers)
1926
Huile sur toile
México, INBA, Collection Museo de Arte Moderno
Photo © Francisco Kochen
© Adagp, Paris 2016

 

Tina Modotti (1896-1942) 'Guitare, cartouchière et faucille (Guitar, cartridge belt and sickle)' 1st June 1929

 

Tina Modotti (1896-1942)
Guitare, cartouchière et faucille (Guitar, cartridge belt and sickle)
1st June 1929
Illustration de l’annonce pour la chanteuse communiste Concha Lichel, publiée dans el machete, no 168, 1
Illustration of the announcement for the communist singer Concha Lichel, published in El Machete, no 168, 1
Gelatin silver print
México, INBA, Museo Nacional de Arte
Donation de la famille Maples Arce, 2015
© Francisco Kochen

 

 

The Mexican Revolution profoundly changed the structure of society: since men had gone to war or to search for work and livelihoods, women took on new tasks, first in armed struggle and then in rebuilding culture and education within society. Thus, the image of the soldiaderas, those women who followed the revolutionary troops, acquired a special significance and was symbolically compared to the “strong women” of the Bible. In the artistic field, women also played a decisive role, sometimes called “proto-feminism”: patrons of valuable artists or artists themselves, they participated in the quest for an aesthetic language capable of expressing their doubts and questioning. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

Concha Michel (1899-1990) was a singer-songwriter, political activist, playwright, and a researcher who published several projects on the culture of indigenous communities. She was one of the few women who performed in the corrido style. She created the Institute of Folklore in Michoacan and was one of the first collectors of folklore and preservers of the traditions of the Mexican people. She was a cultural icon having relationships with two presidents, and a broad range of Mexico’s most prominent artists including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Guadalupe Marín, Tina Modotti, Elena Poniatowska, Anita Brenner and others. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Ruth Berlau. 'Grévistes américains (American warriors)' 1941

 

Ruth Berlau
Grévistes américains (American warriors)
1941
Gelatin silver print
10 x 15 cm
Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Bertolt Brecht Archiv
© by R. Berlau/Hoffmann

 

 

Ruth Berlau, actress, director and photographer of Danish origin realizes this photograph shortly after his arrival in the United States. She fled Nazi Germany with the writer and playwright Bertolt Brecht and accompanied him during much of his exile. In line with her commitment to the Spanish war and her communist ideas, she photographed American social movements and showed the actors of the struggle and the victims of oppression. This series on strikes highlights the workforce of the workers, with the desire to get their faces out of anonymity. It is in keeping with the documentary use of photography undertaken by social programs such as the New Deal and in particular the path traced by Walker Evans, initiator of the “documentary style”. It chooses a frontal point of view, apt to reveal with precision and clarity the faces of the strikers. In doing so, it applies itself to restoring their dignity while producing the documents of a social history. The counter-drive gives the strikers a particular scope and strength, just as the framing, which ostensibly divides the group, suggests that they belong to a powerful and determined group. The photographic practice of Ruth Berlau seems to embody a democratic ideal, revealing both the unity and the singularity of each and a common political commitment, which is reflected here through the exchange of views. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)' 1934

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)
1934
Gelatin silver print
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
© Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris / Roger Viollet
© Estate Manuel Álvarez Bravo

 

Inconnu 'Contestation around the construction of Narita airport' 1969

Inconnu 'Contestation around the construction of Narita airport' 1969

 

Inconnu
Contestation autour de la construction de l’aéroport de Narita
Contestation around the construction of Narita airport

1969
Gelatin silver prints
© Collection Art Institute of Chicago

 

In parallel with the dazzling rise of a consumer society on the Western model, for ten years (from 1960 to 1970) Japan went through a major identity crisis that unfolded on multiple fronts: American military bases in Okinawa, construction of Narita airport, occupation of universities by students …

 

Chieh-Jen Chen. 'The Route' 2006

Chieh-Jen Chen. 'The Route' 2006

 

Chieh-Jen Chen
The Route
2006
35 mm film transferred onto DVD: color and black and white, silent, 16:45 min.
© Chieh-Jen Chen, courtesy galerie Lily Robert

 

 

“To rise up is to break a history that everyone believed to have been heard. It is to break the foreseeability of history, to refute the rule that presided, as we thought, over its development or its preservation.”

.
Georges Didi-Huberman, “By the desires (Fragments of What Makes Us Rise Up)” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings

 

 

DESIRES (INDESTRUCTIBLES)

The hope of one condemned to death. – Mothers rise up. – They are your own children. – They who go through walls.

But potency outlives power. Freud said that desire was indestructible. Even those who knew they were condemned – in the camps, in the prisons – seek every means to transmit a testimony or call out. As Joan Miró evoked in a series of works titled “The Hope of a Condemned Man,” in homage to the student anarchist Salvador Puig i Antich, executed by Franco’s regime in 1974.

An uprising can end with mothers’ tears over the bodies of their dead children. But these tears are merely a burden: they can still provide the potencies of uprising, like in the “resistance marches” of mothers and grandmothers in Buenos Aires. It is our own children who rise up: “Zero for Conduct!” was Antigone not almost a child herself? Whether in the Chiapas forests or on the Greece – Macedonia border, somewhere in China, in Egypt, in Gaza, or in the jungle of computerized networks considered as a vox populi, there will always be children to jump the wall.

Francisca Benitez, Ruth Berlau, Bruno Boudjelal, Agustí Centelles, Eduardo Gil, Mat Jacob, Ken Hamblin, Maria Kourkouta, Joan Miró, Pedro Motta, Voula Papaioannou, Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza, Enrique Ramirez, Argentinian, Greek, Mexican unknowns.

 

Denis Foyatier. 'Spartacus' 1830

 

Denis Foyatier
Spartacus
1830
Marble
Commande de Charles X, 1828
Département des Sculptures
© 2011 Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN – Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier

 

Victor Hugo. 'Le Pendu (The hanged man)' 1854

 

Victor Hugo
Le Pendu (The hanged man)
1854
Plume et lavis d’encre brune, encre noire, fusain, pierre noire, gouache sur papier
Paris, Maison de Victor Hugo
© Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet

 

While in exile in Jersey, Victor Hugo is deeply moved by the death sentence in Guernsey of John Charles Tapner, a condemnation against which he protests and asks for a pardon that he will not get. Hugo then makes four drawings depicting a gaunt hanged man at his gallows. The museum preserves two (Ecce and Ecce Lex). Hugo had hung them in his room in Marine Terrace in Jersey, and in his study under the roof of Hauteville House in Guernsey.

 

Voula Papaioannou 'Graffiti of prisoners on the walls of the German prison in Merlin Street, Athens' 1944

 

Voula Papaioannou
Graffitis de prisonniers sur les murs de la prison allemande de la rue Merlin à Athènes
Graffiti of prisoners on the walls of the German prison in Merlin Street, Athens
1944
Gelatin-silver print, modern print
24 x 30 cm
Benaki Museum Photographic Archive, Athènes

 

 

Voula Papaioannou is a major figure in Greek documentary photography. Born in 1898, she made numerous photographs of landscapes, monuments and archaeological sites in the 1930s. The Second World War led her to wonder about her practice and she was committed to covering the realities of the conflict. Her apparatus then becomes a tool to testify and publicize the misery and suffering of the Greek population during the German occupation. It reflects the difficulties of everyday life, the departure of the military in combat and the famines that strike civilians. During the liberation, she made a few shots of street fights as well as these images of the walls of the prison of Athens held until then by the Germans. It shows the graffiti (inscriptions and drawings) left by the detainees, most of them awaiting execution. Many say their names and send a message to their families (“I want my relatives to be proud of me”) or claim their political convictions (“Vive le KKE”, Greek Communist Party) for the sake of transmitting until the day before their deaths the reasons for their struggle and the conditions of their disappearance. These photographic recordings are similar to archaeological documents bearing the traces of the imprisonment of the Greek Resistance fighters and their hope that these messages will one day be read in a Greece freed from the Nazi occupation. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Anonymous. 'Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau' 1944

 

Anonyme (membre du Sonderkommando d’Auschwitz-Birkenau)
Femmes poussées vers la chambre à gaz du crématoire V de Birkenau
Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau
1944
Contact plate with two images
12 x 6 cm
Archival collection of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkrenau, Oświęcim
Photo: Archival collection of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkrenau, Oświęcim

 

 

This photograph was taken by a member of the Sonderkommando Auschwitz-Birkenau, a special unit of Jewish inmates commissioned by the SS to carry out the final solution. It belongs to a set of four photographs carried out clandestinely on a piece of film, using a photographic camera infiltrated in the camp and then concealed at the bottom of a bucket. Hidden near crematory furnace V, the author of these photographs was assisted by other members of the Sonderkommando. To do such an act was indeed extremely dangerous. The sloping framing and the blur reflect the perilous conditions in which the photographer was then placed. This picture, however, clearly shows a convoy of naked women pushed by the special unit to the gas chamber, located off-field. The film was then filtered from the camp into a tube of toothpaste to join the Polish Resistance, accompanied by an explanatory letter. These photographs therefore have an informative aim and constitute the only photographic documents on the gas chambers. As Georges Didi-Huberman affirms, “in the depths of this fundamental despair, the “solicitation to resist” has probably detached itself from the beings themselves, who have been promised to disappear, to fix themselves on signals to be emitted beyond the boundaries of the camp.*” Among others, the image, this “eye of history”, is then invested with the only hope still possible: to make the hell of Auschwitz visible and therefore imaginable.

*Georges Didi-Huberman, Images malgré tout, (Images despite everything), Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 2003, p. 14.

 

Sonderkommandos were work units made up of German Nazi death camp prisoners. They were composed of prisoners, usually Jews, who were forced, on threat of their own deaths, to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims during the Holocaust. The death-camp Sonderkommandos, who were always inmates, should not be confused with the SS-Sonderkommandos which were ad hoc units formed from various SS offices between 1938 and 1945. The term itself in German means “special unit”, and was part of the vague and euphemistic language which the Nazis used to refer to aspects of the Final Solution (cf. Einsatzkommando units of the Einsatzgruppen death squads).

About 120 SS personnel were assigned to the gas chambers and lived on site at the crematoria. Several SS personnel oversaw the killings at each gas chamber, while the bulk of the work was done by the mostly Jewish prisoners known as Sonderkommandos (special squads). Sonderkommando responsibilities included guiding victims to the gas chambers and removing, looting, and cremating the corpses.

The Sonderkommado were housed separately from other prisoners, in somewhat better conditions. Their quality of life was further improved by access to the goods taken from murdered prisoners, which Sonderkommandos were sometimes able to steal for themselves and to trade on Auschwitz’s black market. Hungarian doctor Miklós Nyiszli reported that the Sonderkommando numbered around 860 prisoners when the Hungarian Jews were being killed in 1944. Many Sonderkommandos committed suicide due to the horrors of their work; those who did not generally were shot by the SS in a matter of weeks, and new Sonderkommando units were then formed from incoming transports. Almost none of the 2,000 prisoners placed in these units survived to the camp’s liberation.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Ken Hamblin. 'Beaubien Street' 1971

 

Ken Hamblin
Beaubien Street
1971
Modern gelatin silver print
Fifth Estate photo
Joseph A. Labadie Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan

 

Joan Miró 'Prisoner's Hope, Preparatory Drawing for The Hope of the Dead Man I, II and III' 1973

 

Joan Miró
L’Espoir du prisonnier, dessin préparatoire pour L’Espoir du condamné à mort I, II et III
Prisoner’s Hope, Preparatory Drawing for The Hope of the Dead Man I, II and III
1973
Crayons de couleur et stylo sur papier (bloc-notes)
7.7 x 12.5 cm
Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelone
© Successió Miró / ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Fundació Miró, Barcelone

 

 

This sketch is part of a series of preparatory studies for a triptych entitled The Hope of the Condemned to Death, completed in March 1974. It is already possible to guess the overall design (three horizontal compositions of primary colors formed of sinuous lines) and the title seems to be clarified with the addition of these words: “the hope of the prisoner”. Sensitive to the death sentence of the anarchist and anti-fascist militant Salvador Puig i Antich, a member of the Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación, Joan Miró claims that he completed his triptych on the day of his execution on 2 March 1974. Thus the artwork – initially imagined in an abstract and metaphorical way – then encounters history. This triptych executed in very large format so as to address the greatest number, as Miró wished that the painting would be, thus constitutes a real monument to the memory of one of the last victims of Francoism. Judged “prophetic” by the artist, he presents a series of black lines that he interpreted as an image of the tourniquet used for execution. Struggling or playing as much with the void as with the spots of vivid colors, these dark lines on a light background also seem to be distended and open like a permitted hope. From his first studies, Joan Miró managed to preserve intact, by the energy of the gesture and the vivacity of the keys, the “indestructible desire” to hope and resist, which culminated the following year in the fall of the Franco regime.  (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Eduardo Gil. 'Niños desaparecidos. Secunda Marcha de la Resistancia (Murdered children. Second Resistance March)' December 9-10 1982

 

Eduardo Gil
Niños desaparecidos. Secunda Marcha de la Resistancia (Murdered children. Second Resistance March)
December 9-10 1982
Modern gelatin silver print
Eduardo Gil collection
© Eduardo Gil

 

 

Eduardo Gil was born in 1948 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After studying sociology, he became a photographer. Self-taught and sensitive to social struggles, his commitment was linked to the establishment of the military dictatorship following the coup d’état of 24 March 1976. Working for the press and as an independent author, he made a series of reports on the political situation and social life of his country. He photographed in particular the second March for the Resistance in Buenos Aires on 9 and 10 December 1982. Organized at the call of the Mothers of the Place de Mai in tribute to the missing children during the dictatorship, the First march of the Resistance in 1981 ‘Is then reproduced every year until 2006, involving the entire society, including after the end of the dictatorship. Faced with the march, Eduardo Gil records the determined faces of the women, mothers and grandmothers of the children of Argentina, demonstrating to obtain answers on the fate of the disappeared. The use of black and white flattened the composition and accentuated the juxtaposition of the women’s faces with the banners and placards. The photographs of the children brandished by the demonstrators thus seem to merge in the procession. All appear in this sense more united than ever, stretched out towards us, as towards politics. Eduardo Gil seems to prove here that by recording the image of the missing among the living, photography itself is a force of uprising. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Francisca Benítez. 'Garde l'Est' 2005

 

Francisca Benítez
Garde l’Est
2005
Still frame
Francisca Benitez collection
© Francisca Benítez

 

Gohar Dashti. From the series 'Today's Life and War' 2008

 

Gohar Dashti
From the series Today’s Life and War
2008
Institut des Cultures d’Islam

 

The photographs of the Iranian artist Gohar Dashti’s Today’s Life and War show the daily life of a young couple against a background of war. Surrounded by tanks, bunkers and armed soldiers, the spouses live in the middle of the fields of ruins and continue to go about their occupations. Between impassivity and disillusionment, their attitudes show perseverance and unwavering determination to simply continue living. With these surreal scenes, the artist is witnessing a generation caught between the memories of ten years of war against Iraq and the permanent threat of conflict.

 

Pedro Motta. 'Natureza das coisas #024, (The nature of things #024)' 2013

 

Pedro Motta
Natureza das coisas #024, (The nature of things #024)
From the “Natureza das coisas” series
2013
Mineral print on cotton paper
Private collection
Courtesy of the artist and gallery Bendana Pinel

 

Maria Kourkouta. 'Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)' 2016

Maria Kourkouta. 'Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)' 2016

 

Maria Kourkouta
Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)
2016
HD video loop: color, sound, 36:00 min.
© Maria Kourkouta. Production: Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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21
Jul
16

Exhibition: ‘Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 15th March – 31st July 2016

 

The Perfect Moment, The Perfect Medium and … Mapplethorpe, that seminal exhibition for Australia that I saw at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney in 1995.

The technical brilliance, ravishing platinum prints (even though he never printed them himself), formalism, beauty, sensuality and, dare I say it, morality – of his work … fair bowled me over. His was an eye with a innate sensibility – “a quick sense of the right and wrong, in all human actions. And other objects considered in every view of morality and taste.”

I have never forgotten that exhibition, yet until recently there was hardly a sentence online about Mapplethorpe at the MCA. Now, thankfully, there are a some installation photographs and a few lines of text. The exhibition and the lack of information about it was one of the driving forces behind the setting up of this website.

Museums spend inordinate amounts of money putting on these exhibitions and after they are finished and the art work packed up, the catalogue shelved in a bookcase, that’s it. I wanted this website to be a form of cultural memory, where I could record the exhibition objects, installation photos and my thoughts about them so that they could live online.

I had great fun sequencing these images from the Getty (part of a double exhibition with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) second posting to follow): self-portraits in chronological order; portraits of the body as flesh and stone spliced by sculptural grapes; Lily and Lisa Lyon’s leg; the cross-over between tulips and white curtain; the sinuousness of Poppy and fabric of Lisa Lyon’s gown; Hermes/Moody/Sherman; and the blindness of all three men – the perfect Ken Moody, the darker (in both psychological and bodily sense) Ajitto, and the roughest, Jim, Sausalito.

I doubt that Mapplethorpe would have ever have sequenced them thus, but I hope it gives insight and a different perspective into his work.

Marcus

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

 

 

“I don’t understand the way my pictures are. It’s all about the relationship I have with the subject that’s unique to me. Taking a picture and sexuality are parallels. They’re both unknowns. And that’s what excites me most.”

.
Robert Mapplethorpe

 

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Self-portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe with trip cable in hand' 1974

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Self-portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe with trip cable in hand
1974
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (each): 9.3 x 11.6 cm (3 11/16 x 4 9/16 in.)
Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Self-Portrait' 1975

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Self-Portrait
1975
Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 35.7 cm (13 15/16 x 14 1/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Self-Portrait' 1980

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Self-Portrait
1980
Gelatin silver print
35.6 x 35.6 cm (14 x 14 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Self-Portrait' 1985

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Self-Portrait
1985
Gelatin silver print
38.7 x 38.6 cm (15 1/4 x 15 3/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Self-Portrait' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Self-Portrait
1988
Platinum print
58.7 x 48.3 cm (23 1/8 x 19 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Sam Wagstaff' 1977

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Sam Wagstaff
1977
Gelatin silver print
35.2 x 35.3 cm (13 7/8 x 13 7/8 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Andy Warhol' 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Andy Warhol
1983
Gelatin silver print
39.1 x 38.5 cm (15 3/8 x 15 3/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Wrestler' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Wrestler
1988
Gelatin silver print
49 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Derrick Cross' 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Derrick Cross
1983
Gelatin silver print
48.5 x 38.2 cm (19 1/8 x 15 1/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Grapes' 1985

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Grapes
1985
Gelatin silver print
38.5 x 38 cm (15 3/16 x 14 15/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Lydia Cheng' 1987

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Lydia Cheng
1987
Gelatin silver print
59 x 49.1 cm (23 1/4 x 19 5/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Melody (Shoe)' 1987

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Melody (Shoe)
1987
Gelatin silver print
48.9 x 49.2 cm (19 1/4 x 19 3/8 in.)
Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

 

“Since his death in 1989, Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) has become recognized as one of the most significant artists of the late 20th century. He is best known for his perfectly composed photographs that explore gender, race, and sexuality, which became hallmarks of the period and exerted a powerful influence on his contemporaries. The J. Paul Getty Museum will present one half of Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium, a major retrospective exhibition of Mapplethorpe’s work, on view March 15-July 31, 2016 at the Getty Center. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will host the other half of the exhibition March 20-July 31, 2016. The two exhibitions are drawn from the landmark joint acquisition and gift of art and archival materials made in 2011 by the J. Paul Getty Trust and LACMA from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

“The historic acquisition of Mapplethorpe’s art and archival materials in 2011 has enabled our institutions’ curators and other scholars to study and assess Mapplethorpe’s achievement in greater depth than ever before,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The rich photographic holdings in the Getty Museum and LACMA, together with the artist’s archive housed at the Getty Research Institute, make Los Angeles an essential destination for anyone with a serious interest in the late 20th-century photography scene in New York. These exhibitions will provide the most comprehensive and intimate survey of Mapplethorpe’s work ever seen.”

The Getty’s exhibition features the full range of Mapplethorpe’s photographs from his portraits, self-portraits, and figure studies to his floral still lifes. It includes some of Mapplethorpe’s best-known images alongside work that has been seldom exhibited. Key themes include Mapplethorpe’s studio practice, the controversy provoked by the inclusion of his sexually explicit pictures in the 1988-90 retrospective exhibition The Perfect Moment, and the legacy he left behind after his death from AIDS-related complications in 1989.

The exhibition begins with a survey of some of Mapplethorpe’s most familiar portraits, including those of his long-time benefactor and lover Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr., poet-musician Patti Smith, and fashion designer Carolina Herrera, among others. It also includes a number of intimate self-portraits, images of artists, and a rarely exhibited series of portraits of the eleven dealers who dominated the downtown New York City art scene during the late 1970s.

Mapplethorpe searched for well-proportioned models and underscored their powerful physical presence through obsessive attention to detail, the precision of their statuesque poses, and sophisticated lighting. This interest becomes evident in examples of the sculptural bodies he enlisted as subjects through the years. In particular, Mapplethorpe was attracted to the color of black skin (he liked to refer to it as “bronze”), and the exhibition includes a number of photographs of African-American models such as Ajitto and Thomas, whom he frequently used to evoke classical themes. Mapplethorpe’s Ken and Lydia and Tyler (1985) suggests the ancient trope of the Three Graces through three models of different racial backgrounds, while select photographs of model Lydia Cheng were further idealized through the application of a shimmering bronze powder on her skin.

One of Mapplethorpe’s frequent subjects was Lisa Lyon, a bodybuilding champion who considered herself a performance artist or sculptor whose body was her medium. After meeting Lyon at a party in 1979, Mapplethorpe and his new model embarked on a six-year collaboration that resulted in 184 editioned portraits. A selection of these images in the exhibition shows her dressed, undressed, and in various guises, ranging from ingénue to dominatrix. In his art Mapplethorpe was a perfectionist who preferred to make photographs in the highly controlled environment of his New York City studio loft. His style was predominately directorial – during a shoot he used short verbal commands and gestures to communicate the poses he wanted his models to strike. Afterwards, he would spend hours reviewing his contact sheets and hired master printer Tom Baril to make finely crafted gelatin silver prints.

“Mapplethorpe was more sophisticated than most people realize,” says Paul Martineau, associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “He was an artist who understood the value of his own intuition and eye, who taught himself the history of photography, how to network, how to run a studio, and how to keep the public interested in him.”

The exhibition includes a selection of Mapplethorpe’s floral still lifes, which further demonstrate his skill in the studio. In these photographs he imbued orchids, calla lilies, poppies, and irises with an erotic charge through carefully orchestrated compositions and meticulous lighting. The Getty’s installation also features Mapplethorpe’s X Portfolio, which depicts the gay s&m community of which he was not just an observer, but a participant. It comprises 13 photographs of sex acts that Mapplethorpe staged for the camera with particular attention to the harmonious arrangement of forms. The careful selection, sizing, sequencing, and packaging of these prints in a luxurious portfolio case wrapped in black silk help to blur the line between fine art and pornography.

The exhibition directly addresses Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment, a retrospective exhibition that opened in 1988 at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia before beginning an eight-venue tour. After the exhibition caught the attention of conservative politicians, it was canceled at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., two weeks before its scheduled opening. When it was later shown at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, director Dennis Barrie was arrested and charged with pandering obscenity – a charge of which he was acquitted. The exhibition also traveled to the Washington Project for the Arts (WPA), where it had record-breaking attendance. The Getty exhibition documents the media uproar surrounding The Perfect Moment through items that include a 1989 cover of ArtForum International featuring a protest that took place outside the Corcoran, exhibition catalogues that include images that were considered “obscene,” by some and Mapplethorpe’s photograph of an American flag.

“When planning this exhibition, I wanted the focus to be on Mapplethorpe’s work and not on the sensationalism that accompanied The Perfect Moment. I’ve included it in a small way because that exhibition not only represents a highpoint in Mapplethorpe’s career, but the controversy it engendered puts his sex pictures in a historical context,” says Paul Martineau. “I’m afraid that the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they think of Mapplethorpe is that controversy. There is so much more to discover about Mapplethorpe and his work than that. He continues to have an enormous impact on the photographic scene.”

The exhibition also emphasizes the care that Mapplethorpe took to craft his legacy. After being diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, Mapplethorpe continued to work more ardently than ever. In 1988 he established the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to steward his own work into the future, provide support for photography at the institutional level, and help fund AIDS research. A 1988 self-portrait on view shows Mapplethorpe’s face revealing signs of illness, his hand gripping a skull-topped cane, a symbol of his impending death. The simple composition and brutal honesty combine to make this photograph one of his most visually and psychologically powerful images.

The two complementary presentations at the Getty and LACMA highlight different aspects of the artist’s complex personality. LACMA’s exhibition underscores the artist’s relationship to New York’s underground, as well as his experimentation with a variety of media. Following its Los Angeles debut, the exhibition will go on an international tour, traveling to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, Canada (8/29/16-1/22/17), the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia (10/28/17-2/4/18), and another international venue. The Getty and LACMA will be the exhibition’s sole U.S. venues, and the exhibitions will be combined and toured as one for the international locations. The LACMA exhibition is curated by Britt Salvesen, Department Head and Curator, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department and the Department of Prints and Drawings at LACMA.

Two books will be published in conjunction with the Mapplethorpe exhibition: Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs by Paul Martineau and Britt Salvesen with an essay by Eugenia Parry and an introduction by Weston Naef, and Robert Mapplethorpe: The Archive by Frances Terpak and Michelle Brunnick, with essays by Patti Smith and Jonathan Weinberg.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Orchid' 1987

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Orchid
1987
Gelatin silver print
49.1 x 49.2 cm (19 5/16 x 19 3/8 in.)
Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Calla Lily' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Calla Lily
1988
Gelatin silver print
49 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Lisa Lyon' 1981

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Lisa Lyon
1981
Gelatin silver print
45.1 x 35 cm (17 3/4 x 13 3/4 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Tulips' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Tulips
1988
Gelatin silver print
49.1 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Phillip Prioleau' 1982

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Phillip Prioleau
1982
Gelatin silver print
38.8 x 38.8 cm (15 1/4 x 15 1/4 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Tulips' 1978

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Tulips
1978
Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 35.4 cm (13 15/16 x 13 15/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Flower Arrangement' 1986

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Flower Arrangement
1986
Gelatin silver print
49 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Flower With Knife' 1985

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Flower With Knife
1985
Platinum print
49.2 x 49.5 cm (19 3/8 x 19 1/2 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Poppy' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Poppy
1988
Gelatin silver print
49.1 x 49.2 cm (19 5/16 x 19 3/8 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Lisa Lyon' 1982

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Lisa Lyon
1982
Gelatin silver print
38.4 x 38.4 cm (15 1/8 x 15 1/8 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Lisa Lyon' 1982

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Lisa Lyon
1982
Gelatin silver print
40 x 38.5 cm (15 3/4 x 15 3/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Calla Lily' 1986

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Calla Lily
1986
Gelatin silver print
48.6 x 48.6 cm (19 1/8 x 19 1/8 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

 

Text

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Thomas' 1987

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Thomas
1987
Gelatin silver print
48.8 x 48.8 cm (19 3/16 x 19 3/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Ken and Lydia and Tyler' 1985

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Ken and Lydia and Tyler
1985
Gelatin silver print
38.4 x 38.2 cm (15 1/8 x 15 1/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Ken Moody and Robert Sherman' 1984

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman
1984
Platinum print
49.4 x 50.2 cm (19 7/16 x 19 3/4 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Hermes' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Hermes
1988
Gelatin silver print
49 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Ken Moody' 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Ken Moody
1983
Gelatin silver print
38.5 x 38.7 cm (15 3/16 x 15 1/4 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Ajitto' 1981

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Ajitto
1981
Gelatin silver print
45.4 x 35.5 cm (17 7/8 x 14 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Jim, Sausalito' 1977

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Jim, Sausalito
1977
from The X Portfolio
Selenium toned gelatin silver print mounted on black board
19.5 x 19.5 cm (7 11/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Patrice, N.Y.C.' 1977

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Patrice, N.Y.C.
1977
from The X Portfolio
Selenium toned gelatin silver print mounted on black board
19.5 x 19.5 cm (7 11/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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27
May
16

Exhibition: ‘Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World’ at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 19th February – 30th May 2016

 

This looks to be a fascinating exhibition. I wish I could see it.

While Sight Reading cuts across conventional historical and geographic divisions, with the exhibition being organized into nine “conversations” among diverse sets of works, we must always remember that these “themes” are not exclusory to each other. Photographs do cross nominally defined boundaries and themes (as defined by history and curators) so that they can become truly subversive works of art.

Photographs can form spaces called heterotopia, “a form of concept in human geography elaborated by philosopher Michel Foucault, to describe places and spaces that function in non-hegemonic conditions. These are spaces of otherness, which are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and mental, such as the space of a phone call or the moment when you see yourself in the mirror… Foucault uses the term “heterotopia” (French: hétérotopie) to describe spaces that have more layers of meaning or relationships to other places than immediately meet the eye.”1

In photographs, there is always more than meets the eye. There is the association of the photograph to multiple places and spaces (the histories of that place and space); the imagination of the viewer and the memories they bring to any encounter with a photograph, which may change from time to time, from look to look, from viewing to viewing; and the transcendence of the photograph as it brings past time to present time as an intimation of future time. Past, present and future spacetime are conflated in the act of just looking, just being. Positioning this “‘annihilation of time and space’ as a particular moment in a dynamic cycle of rupture and recuperation enables a deliberate focus on the process of transition.”2 And that transition, Doreen Massey argues, ignores often-invisible contingencies that define spaces those relations that have an effect upon a space but are not visible within it.3

Photographs, then, form what Deleuze and Guattari call assemblages4, where the assemblage is “the processes by which various configurations of linked components function in an intersection with each other, a process that can be both productive and disruptive. Any such process invovles a territorialization; there is a double movement where something accumulates meanings (re-territorialization), but does so co-extensively with a de-territorialization where the same thing is disinvested of meanings. The organization of a territory is characterized by such a double movement … An assemblage is an extension of this process, and can be thought of as constituted by an intensification of these processes around a particular site through a multiplicity of intersections of such territorializations.”5 In other words, when looking at a photograph by William Henry Fox Talbot or Timothy H. O’Sullivan today, the meaning and interpretation of the photograph could be completely different to the reading of this photograph in the era it was taken. The photograph is a site of both de-territorialization and re-territorialization – it both gains and looses meaning at one and the same time, depending on who is looking at it, from what time and from what point of view.

Photographs propose that there are many heterotopias in the world, many transitions and intersections, many meanings lost and found, not only as spaces with several places of/for the affirmation of difference, but also as a means of escape from authoritarianism and repression. We must remember these ideas as we looking at the photographs in this exhibition.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to the Morgan Library & Museum for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Heterotopia (space) on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 27/05/2016.
  2. McQuire, Scott. The Media City. London: Sage Publications, 2008, p. 14.
  3. Massey, Doreen. Space, Place and Gender. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994, p. 5 in Wood, Aylish. “Fresh Kill: Information technologies as sites of resistance,” in Munt, Sally (ed.,). Technospaces: Inside the New Media. London: Continuum, 2001, pp. 163-164.
  4. Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolisand London: University of Minneapolis Press, 1987.
  5. Wood, Aylish. “Fresh Kill: Information technologies as sites of resistance,” in Munt, Sally (ed.,). Technospaces: Inside the New Media. London: Continuum, 2001, p.166

 

 

'Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World' exhibition sections

 

Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World exhibition sections

 

 

“As its name declares, photography is a means of writing with light. Photographs both show and tell, and they speak an extraordinary range of dialects.

Beginning February 19 the Morgan Library & Museum explores the history of the medium as a lucid, literate – but not always literal – tool of persuasion in a new exhibition, Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World. A collaboration with the George Eastman Museum of Film and Photography, the show features more than eighty works from the 1840s to the present and reveals the many ways the camera can transmit not only the outward appearance of its subject but also narratives, arguments, and ideas. The show is on view through May 30.

Over the past 175 years, photography has been adopted by, and adapted to, countless fields of endeavor, from art to zoology and from fashion to warfare. Sight Reading features a broad range of material – pioneering x-rays and aerial views, artifacts of early photojournalism, and recent examples of conceptual art – organized into groupings that accentuate the variety and suppleness of photography as a procedure. In 1936, artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) defined “the  illiterate of the future” as someone “ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen.” The JPEG and the “Send” button were decades away, but Moholy-Nagy was not the first observer to argue that photography belonged to the arts of commentary and persuasion. As the modes and motives of camera imagery have multiplied, viewers have continually learned new ways to read the information, and assess the argument, embodied in a photograph.

“Traditional narratives can be found throughout the Morgan’s collections, especially in its literary holdings,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Morgan. “Sight Reading encourages us to use a critical eye to read and discover the stories that unfold through the camera lens and photography, a distinctly modern, visual language. We are thrilled to collaborate with the Eastman Museum, and together unravel a rich narrative, which exemplifies photography’s deep involvement in the stories of modern art, science, and the printed page.”

 

The exhibition

Sight Reading cuts across conventional historical and geographic divisions. Featuring work by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), John Heartfield (1891-1968), Lewis Hine (1874-1940), Harold Edgerton (1903-1990), John Baldessari (b. 1931), Sophie Calle (b. 1953), and Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015), among many others, the exhibition is organized into nine “conversations” among diverse sets of works.

 

I. The Camera Takes Stock

Photography’s practical functions include recording inventory, capturing data imperceptible to the human eye, and documenting historical events. In the first photographically illustrated publication, The Pencil of Nature (1845), William Henry Fox Talbot used his image Articles of China to demonstrate that “the whole cabinet of a … collector … might be depicted on paper in little more time than it would take him to make a written inventory describing it in the usual way.” Should the photographed collection suffer damage or theft, Talbot speculated, “the mute testimony of the picture … would certainly be evidence of a novel kind” before the law.

A century later, Harold Edgerton, an electrical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, used the pulsing light of a stroboscope to record states of matter too fleeting for the naked eye. Gun Toss, an undated image of a spinning pistol, is not a multiple exposure: the camera shutter opened and closed just once. But during that fraction of a second, seven bright flashes of light committed to film a seven-episode history of the gun’s trajectory through space.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877) 'Articles of China' c. 1843, printed c. 1845

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877)
Articles of China
c. 1843, printed c. 1845
Salted paper print from calotype negative
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

In The Pencil of Nature (1845), the first photographically illustrated publication, Talbot used Articles of China to demonstrate that “the whole cabinet of a … collector … might be depicted on paper in little more time than it would take him to make a written inventory describing it in the usual way.” Should the collection suffer damage or theft, Talbot added, “the mute testimony of the picture … would certainly be evidence of a novel kind” before the law.

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882) 'Historic Spanish Record of the Conquest, South Side of Inscription Rock' 1873

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882)
Historic Spanish Record of the Conquest, South Side of Inscription Rock
1873
From the album Geographical Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

In 1873 O’Sullivan joined Lieutenant George Wheeler’s Geographic Survey in New Mexico and Arizona. At El Morro, a sandstone promontory covered with ancient petroglyphs and historic-era inscriptions, the photographer singled out this handsomely lettered sentence to record and measure. It states: By this place passed Ensign Don Joseph de Payba Basconzelos, in the year in which he held the Council of the Kingdom at his expense, on the 18th of February, in the year 1726. Nearby, the rock record now bears another inscription that reads T. H. O’Sullivan.

 

Harold Edgerton (American, 1903-1990) 'Gun Toss' 1936-50

 

Harold Edgerton (American, 1903-1990)
Gun Toss
1936-50
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

Edgerton, an electrical engineer, used the rapidly pulsing light of a stroboscope to record states of matter too fleeting to be perceived by the naked eye. This image of a spinning pistol is not a multiple exposure: the camera shutter opened and closed just once. But during that fraction of a second, seven bright flashes of light committed to film a seven-episode history of the gun’s trajectory through space.

 

John Pfahl (American, b. 1939) 'Wave Theory I–V, Puna Coast, Hawaii, March 1978' 1978

 

John Pfahl (American, b. 1939)
Wave Theory I-V, Puna Coast, Hawaii, March 1978
1978
From the series Altered Landscapes
Chromogenic development (Ektacolor) process prints, 1993
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

In this sequence, Pfahl twisted the conventions of photographic narrative into a perceptual puzzle. The numbered views appear to chronicle a single event: a wave breaking on the shore. Close inspection, however, reveals that the numeric caption in each scene is made of string laid on the rock in the foreground. The exposures, then, must have been made over a span of at least several minutes, not seconds – and in what order, one cannot say.

 

 

II. Crafting A Message

The camera is widely understood to be “truthful,” but what photographs “say” is a product of many procedures that follow the moment of exposure, including page layout, captioning, and cropping of the image. During World War I, military personnel learned to interpret the strange, abstract looking images of enemy territory made from airplanes. Their specialized training fundamentally altered the nature of wartime reconnaissance, even as the unusual perspective unique to aerial photography introduced a new dialect into the expanding corpus of modern visual language. An Example of an Annotated Photograph with Local Names of Trenches Inserted (1916), on view in the exhibition, shows that the tools of ground strategy soon included artificial bunkers and trenches, designed purely to fool eyes in the sky.

In László Moholy-Nagy’s photocollages of the late 1920s, figures cut out of the plates in massmarket magazines appear in new configurations to convey messages of the artist’s devising. Images such as Massenpsychose (Mass Psychosis) (1927) propose a new kind of visual literacy for the machine age. To contemporary eyes, Moholy’s collages seem to foreshadow cut-andpaste strategies that would later characterize the visual culture of cyberspace.

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, b. Hungary, 1895-1946) 'Massenpsychose' (Mass Psychosis) 1927

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, b. Hungary, 1895-1946)
Massenpsychose (Mass Psychosis)
1927
Collage, pencil, and ink
George Eastman Museum, Purchased with funds provided by Eastman Kodak Company

 

To make his photocollages of the late 1920s, Moholy-Nagy cut figures out of photographs and photomechanical reproductions and arranged them into new configurations that convey messages of his own devising. By extracting the images from their original context and placing them into relationships defined by drawn shapes and volumes, he suggested a new visual literacy for the modern world. In this world – one in which images course through mass culture at a psychotic pace – a two-dimensional anatomical drawing acquires sufficient volume to cast a man’s shadow and a circle of bathing beauties cues up for a pool sharp. To contemporary eyes, the language of Moholy-Nagy’s photo collages seems to foreshadow strategies common to the visual culture of cyberspace.

 

Unidentified maker. 'An Example of an Annotated Photograph with Local Names of Trenches Inserted' c. 1916

 

Unidentified maker
An Example of an Annotated Photograph with Local Names of Trenches Inserted
c. 1916
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum

 

During World War I, aerial photography progressed from a promising technological experiment to a crucial strategic operation. As advances in optics and engineering improved the capabilities of cameras and aircraft, military personnel learned to identify topographic features and man-made structures in the images recorded from above. Such training fundamentally altered the significance and practice of wartime reconnaissance. At the same time, the unusual perspective unique to aerial photography introduced a new dialect into the expanding corpus of modern visual language.

 

PhotoMetric Corporation, 1942-74 'PhotoMetric Tailoring' c. 1942-48

 

PhotoMetric Corporation, 1942-74
PhotoMetric Tailoring
c. 1942-48
Gelatin silver prints
George Eastman Museum

 

In an effort to streamline the field of custom tailoring, textile entrepreneur Henry Booth devised a method for obtaining measurements by photographing customers with a special camera and angled mirrors. The system was said to be foolproof, making it possible for any sales clerk to operate it. The resulting slides were sent to the manufacturer along with the customer’s order. A tailor translated the images into physical measurements using a geometric calculator, and the company mailed the finished garment to the customer.

 

 

III. Photographs in Sequence

Photography’s debut in the late 1830s happened to coincide with the birth of the modern comic strip. Ultimately the narrative photo sequence would lead to the innovations that gave rise to cinema, another form of storytelling altogether. Exact contemporaries of one another, Eadweard J. Muybridge in the United States and Étienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904) in France both employed cameras to dissect human movement. Muybridge used a bank of cameras positioned to record a subject as it moved, tripping wires attached to the shutters. The result was a sequence of “stop-action” photographs that isolated gestures not otherwise visible in real time. Beginning in 1882, Marey pursued motion studies with a markedly different approach. In the works for which he is best known, he exposed one photographic plate multiple times at fixed intervals, recording the arc of movement in a single image.

 

Étienne Jules Marey (French, 1830-1904) 'Chronophotographic study of man pole vaulting' c. 1890

 

Étienne Jules Marey (French, 1830-1904)
Chronophotographic study of man pole vaulting
c. 1890
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Exchange with Narodni Technical Museum

 

Exact contemporaries, Muybridge and Marey (the former in the United States, the latter in France) both employed cameras to dissect human movement. Muybridge used a bank of cameras positioned and timed to record a subject as it moved, tripping wires attached to the shutters. The result was a sequence of “stop-action” photographs that isolated gestures not otherwise visible in real time. Beginning in 1882, Marey took a markedly different approach. In the works for which he is best known – such as the image of the man pole-vaulting – he exposed a single photographic plate multiple times at fixed intervals, recording the arc of movement in a single image. In Marey’s chronophotograph of a man on a horse, the action reads from bottom to top. The convention of arranging sequential photographic images from left to right and top to bottom, on the model of written elements on a page, was not yet firmly established.

 

William N. Jennings (American, b. England, 1860-1946) 'Notebook pages with photographs of lightning' c. 1887

 

William N. Jennings (American, b. England, 1860-1946)
Notebook pages with photographs of lightning
c. 1887
Gelatin silver prints mounted onto bound notepad paper
George Eastman Museum, Gift of 3M Foundation; Ex-collection of Louis Walton Sipley

 

With his first successful photograph of a lightning bolt on 2 September 1882, Jennings dispelled the then widely held belief – especially among those in the graphic arts – that lightning traveled toward the earth in a regular zigzag pattern. Instead, his images revealed that lightning not only assumed an astonishing variety of forms but that it never took the shape that had come to define it in art.

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Industriebauten' 1968

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Industriebauten' 1968

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Industriebauten
1968
Gelatin silver prints in presentation box
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

The photographs in this portfolio were made only a few years into what would become the Bechers’ decades-long project of systematically documenting industrial architecture in Europe and the United States. The straightforward and rigidly consistent style of their work facilitates side-by-side comparison, revealing the singularity of structures that are typically understood to be generic.

 

 

IV. The Legible Object

Some photographs speak for themselves; others function as the amplifier for objects that can literally be read through the image. In her series Sorted Books, American artist Nina Katchadourian (b. 1968) composes statements by combining the titles of books drawn from the shelves of libraries and collections. Indian History for Young Folks, 2012, shows three books from the turn of the twentieth century that she found in the Delaware Art Museum’s M.G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings. The viewer’s eye silently provides punctuation: “Indian history for young folks: Our village; your national parks.” Though at first glance it appears merely to arrange words into legible order, Katchadourian’s oblique statement – half verbal, half visual – would be incomplete if divorced from the physical apparatus of the books themselves.

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870) Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848) 'The Artist and the Gravedigger (Denistoun Monument, Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh)' c. 1845

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870)
Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848)
The Artist and the Gravedigger (Denistoun Monument, Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh)
c. 1845
Salted paper print from calotype negative
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Alvin Langdon Coburn

 

Hill, his two nieces, and an unidentified man pose for the camera at the tomb of Robert Denistoun, a seventeenth-century Scottish ambassador. Contemplative poses helped the sitters hold still during the long exposure, even while turning them into sculptural extensions of the monument. Hill puts pen to paper, perhaps playing the part of a graveyard poet pondering mortality. Above him, the monument’s Latin inscription begins: “Behold, the world possesses nothing permanent!”

 

Robert Cumming (American, b. 1943) 'Submarine cross-section; feature film, "Gray Lady Down" - Stage #12, March 14, 1977' 1977

 

Robert Cumming (American, b. 1943)
Submarine cross-section; feature film, “Gray Lady Down” – Stage #12, March 14, 1977
1977
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Nash Editions

 

In the Studio Still Lifes he photographed on the backlots of Universal Studios, Cumming sought to portray the mechanisms behind cinema vision “in their real as opposed to their screen contexts.” Admiring yet subversive, his documents use strategies native to the still camera – distance, point of view, and clear-eyed testimony – to translate Hollywood’s familiar illusions into worksites where “marble is plywood, stone is rubber, . . . rooms seldom have ceilings, and when the sun shines indoors, it casts a dozen shadows.”

 

Nina Katchadourian (American, b. 1968) 'Indian History for Young Folks' 2012

 

Nina Katchadourian (American, b. 1968)
Indian History for Young Folks
2012
From Once Upon a Time in Delaware / In Quest of the Perfect Book
Chromogenic print
The Morgan Library Museum, Purchase, Photography Collectors Committee

 

In her ongoing series Sorted Books, Katchadourian composes statements by combining the titles of books from a given library – in this case, the M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings at the Delaware Art Museum. Though her compositions are driven by the need to arrange words in a legible order, Katchadourian’s oblique jokes, poems, and koans would be incomplete if divorced from the cultural information conveyed by the physical books themselves.

 

 

V. The Photograph Decodes Nature

As early as 1840, one year after photography’s invention was announced, scientists sought to deploy it in their analysis of the physical world. Combining the camera with the microscope, microphotographs recorded biological minutiae, leading to discoveries that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to obtain by observing subjects in real time. Similarly, the development of X-ray technology in 1895 allowed scientists to see and understand living anatomy to an unprecedented degree. Such innovations not only expanded the boundaries of the visible world but also introduced graphic concepts that would have a profound impact on visual culture. In other ways, too, nature has been transformed in human understanding through the interpretive filter of the lens, as seen in Sight Reading in the telescopic moon views of astronomers Maurice Loewy (1833-1907) and Pierre Henri Puiseux (1855-1928) and in the spellbinding aerial abstractions of William Garnett (1916-2006).

 

William Garnett (American, 1916-2006) 'Animal Tracks on Dry Lake' 1955

 

William Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Animal Tracks on Dry Lake
1955
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased on the Charina Endowment Fund

 

After making films for the U.S. Signal Corps during World War II, Garnett used GI-Bill funding to earn a pilot’s license. By the early 1950s, he had the field of artistic aerial landscape virtually to himself. This print, showing the ephemeral traces of wildlife movement on a dry lake bed, appeared in Diogenes with a Camera IV (1956), one in a series of exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art that highlighted the great variety of ways in which artists used photography to invent new forms of visual truth.

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942) '"Tea Pot" Rock' 1870

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942)
“Tea Pot” Rock
1870
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Jackson made this photograph as a member of the survey team formed by Ferdinand V. Hayden to explore and document the territory now known as Yellowstone National Park. Hayden’s primary goal was to gather information about the area’s geological history, and Jackson’s photographs record with precision and clarity the accumulated layers of sediment that allow this natural landmark to be fit into a geological chronology. The human figure standing at the left of the composition provides information about the size of the rock, demonstrating that photographers have long recognized the difficulty of making accurate inferences about scale based on photographic images.

 

Dr. Josef Maria Eder (Austrian, 1855-1944) Eduard Valenta (Austrian, 1857-1937) 'Zwei Goldfische und ein Seefisch (Christiceps argentatus)' 1896

 

Dr Josef Maria Eder (Austrian, 1855-1944)
Eduard Valenta (Austrian, 1857-1937)
Zwei Goldfische und ein Seefisch (Christiceps argentatus)
1896
From the book Versuche über Photographie mittelst der Röntgen’schen Strahlen
Photogravure
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Eastman Kodak Company; Ex-collection of Josef Maria Eder

 

As early as 1840 – a year after photography’s invention was announced – scientists sought to deploy it in their analysis of the physical world. Combining the camera with the microscope, microphotographs recorded biological minutiae, leading to discoveries that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to obtain by observing subjects in real time. Similarly, the development of x-ray technology in 1895 allowed doctors to study living anatomy to an unprecedented degree. Such innovations not only expanded the boundaries of the visible world but also introduced graphic concepts that would have a profound impact on visual culture.

 

Dr James Deane (American, 1801-1858) 'Ichnographs from the Sandstone of Connecticut River' 1861

 

Dr James Deane (American, 1801-1858)
Ichnographs from the Sandstone of Connecticut River
1861
Book illustrated with 22 salted paper prints and 37 lithographs
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Alden Scott Boyer

 

These photographs, which depict traces of fossils discovered in a sandstone quarry, illustrate a book written by Massachusetts surgeon James Deane, who was the author of texts on medicine as well as natural history. Published posthumously using his notes and photographs as a guide, the volume is an early demonstration of photography’s potential as a tool of scientific investigation.

 

 

VI. The Photograph Decodes Culture

The photograph not only changed but to a great extent invented the modern notion of celebrity. Modern-age celebrities live apart from the general public, but their faces are more familiar than those of the neighbors next door. Since the mid-nineteenth century, viewers have come to “know” the famous through accumulated photographic sightings, which come in formats and contexts that vary as much as real-life encounters do. In four images that would have communicated instantly to their intended viewers in 1966, Jean-Pierre Ducatez (b. 1970) portrayed the Beatles through closeups of their mouths alone. The graphic shorthand employed by Jonathan Lewis in his series The Pixles is of a more recent variety, but he, too, relies on the visual familiarity conferred by tremendous celebrity. Each print in the series reproduces the iconic art of a Beatles album cover at life size (12 x 12 inches) but extremely low resolution (12 x 12 pixels). Like celebrities themselves, perhaps, the images look more familiar to the eye at a distance than close-up.

 

Unidentified maker. 'U. S. Grant' c. 1862

 

Unidentified maker
U. S. Grant
c. 1862
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882) 'A Council of War at Massaponax Church, Va. 21st May, 1864. Gens. Grant and Meade, Asst. Sec. of War Dana, and Their Staff Officers' 1864

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882)
A Council of War at Massaponax Church, Va. 21st May, 1864. Gens. Grant and Meade, Asst. Sec. of War Dana, and Their Staff Officers
1864
From the series Photographic Incidents of the War
Albumen silver print stereograph
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Albert Morton Turner

 

Modern celebrities live apart from the general public, yet their faces are more familiar than those of the neighbors next door. Since the mid-nineteenth century, viewers have come to “know” the famous through accumulated photographic sightings, which come in formats and contexts that vary as much as real-life encounters do. First as a Union hero in the American Civil War and later as president, Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) lived in the public imagination through news images, popular stereographs, campaign buttons, and ultimately the (photo-based) face on the $50 bill. Grant was even a subject for Francois Willème’s patented process for generating a sculpted likeness out of photographs made in the round – an early forerunner to the technology of 3-D printing.

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970) 'Abbey Road' 2003

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970)
Abbey Road
2003
From The Pixles
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, By exchange with the artist

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970) 'Please Please Me' 2003

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970)
Please Please Me
2003
From The Pixles
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, By exchange with the artist

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970) 'Rubber Soul' 2003

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970)
Rubber Soul
2003
From The Pixles
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, By exchange with the artist

 

Synecdoche is a poetic device in which a part stands in for the whole. (In the phrase “three sails set forth,” sails mean ships.) In four images that would have communicated instantly to their intended viewers in 1966, Ducatez portrayed the Beatles solely through close-ups of their mouths. The graphic shorthand Lewis employs in his series The Pixles is of a more recent variety, though he, too, relies on the visual familiarity conferred by tremendous celebrity. Each print in the series reproduces a Beatles album cover at life size (12 x 12 inches) but extremely low resolution (12 x 12 pixels).

 

 

VII. Meaning is on the Surface

Photographs are not just windows onto the world but pieces of paper, which can themselves be inscribed or otherwise altered in ways that enrich or amend their meaning. The group portrait Joint Meeting of the Railway Surgeons Association, Claypool Hotel, Indianapolis (1920) is contact printed, meaning that the negative was the same size as the print. After the portrait sitting, the photographer appears to have presented the developed film to the sixty-four sitters for signing during the three days they were assembled for their convention. The result is a document that unites two conventional signifiers of character: facial features and the autograph.

 

Gravelle Studio, Indianapolis (American, active 1920) 'Joint Meeting of the Railway Surgeons Association, Claypool Hotel, Indianapolis' 1920

 

Gravelle Studio, Indianapolis (American, active 1920)
Joint Meeting of the Railway Surgeons Association, Claypool Hotel, Indianapolis
1920
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased as the gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Panoramic group portraits such as this are made using a banquet camera, which admits light through a narrow vertical slit while rotating on its tripod. This image was contact printed, meaning the negative was the same size as the print. The photographer appears to have presented the developed film to the sixty-four sitters for signing during the three days they were assembled. The result is a document that unites two conventional signifiers of character: facial features and the autograph.

 

Keith Smith (American, b. 1938) 'Book 151' 1989

 

Keith Smith (American, b. 1938)
Book 151
1989
Bound book of gelatin silver prints, thread, and leather
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

This unique object unites the arts of photography, quilting, and bookmaking. The composite image on each right-hand page appears to be made of prints cut apart and sewn together. In fact, Smith began by printing patchwork-inspired photomontages in the darkroom. He then stitched along many of the borders where abutting images meet, creating the illusion of a photographic crazy quilt.

 

 

VIII. Photography and the Page

News of the world took on a newly visual character in the 1880s, when the technology of the halftone screen made it practical, at last, to render photographs in ink on the printed page.

Among the earliest examples of photojournalism is Paul Nadar’s (1820-1910) “photographic interview” with Georges Ernest Boulanger, a once-powerful French politician. The article’s introduction explains that the photographs were printed alongside the text in order to provide evidence of the encounter and to illustrate Boulanger’s dynamic body language during the conversation.

 

Stephen Henry Horgan (American, 1854-1941) 'Shanty Town' April 1880

 

Stephen Henry Horgan (American, 1854-1941)
Shanty Town
April 1880
Photomechanical printing plate A Scene in Shantytown, New York, c. 1928
Lithograph
George Eastman Museum, Gift of 3M Foundation; Ex-collection of Louis Walton Sipley

 

Paul Nadar (French, 1856-1939) 'Interview with Georges Ernest Jean Marie Boulanger' 1889

 

Paul Nadar (French, 1856-1939)
Interview with Georges Ernest Jean Marie Boulanger
1889
Le Figaro, 23 November 1889
Photomechanical reproduction
George Eastman Museum, gift of Eastman Kodak Company; ex-collection Gabriel Cromer

 

Among the earliest examples of photojournalism is Nadar’s “photographic interview” with Georges Ernest Boulanger, a once-powerful French politician who had fallen out of public favor by the time this was published. The article’s introduction explains that the photographs were printed alongside the text in order to provide evidence of the encounter and to illustrate Boulanger’s body language during the conversation.

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874–1940) 'Italian Family Looking for Lost Baggage, Ellis Island' 1905

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Italian Family Looking for Lost Baggage, Ellis Island
1905
Ellis Island Group, 1905
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee

 

In an effort to counter American xenophobia in the early years of the twentieth century, Hine photographed immigrants as they arrived at Ellis Island, composing his images to stir sympathy and understanding among viewers. He understood the importance of disseminating his photographs and actively sought to publish them in newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets. The white outline in the photograph on the right instructs the designer and printer where to crop the image for a photomontage featuring figures from multiple portraits.

 

Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954) 'La Poupée' (Puppet) 1936

 

Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954)
La Poupée (Puppet)
1936
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

John Heartfield (German, 1891-1968) 'Hurrah, die Butter ist alle!' (Hooray, the Butter Is Finished!) 1935

 

John Heartfield (German, 1891-1968)
Hurrah, die Butter ist alle! (Hooray, the Butter Is Finished!)
1935
Rotogravure
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

This is one of 237 photomontages that Heartfield created between 1930 and 1938 for the antifascist magazine Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (Worker’s Pictorial Newspaper). It is a parody of the “Guns Before Butter” speech in which Hermann G.ring exhorted German citizens to sacrifice necessities in order to aid the nation’s rearmament. The text reads: “Iron ore has always made an empire strong; butter and lard have at most made a people fat.” Heartfield combined details from several photographs to conjure the image of a German family feasting on tools, machine parts, and a bicycle in a swastika-laden dining room, complete with a portrait of Hitler, a framed phrase from a popular Franco-Prussian war-era song, and a throw pillow bearing the likeness of recently deceased president Paul von Hindenburg.

 

Unidentified maker. 'Certificate of Marriage between Daniel W. Gibbs and Matilda B. Pierce' c. 1874

 

Unidentified maker
Certificate of Marriage between Daniel W. Gibbs and Matilda B. Pierce
c. 1874
Tintypes in prepared paper mount
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Graphic cousins to one other, these wedding certificates are equipped with precut windows for photographs of the bride, groom, and officiant. The portraits, in partnership with the printed and inscribed text on the forms, contribute both to the documentary specificity of the certificates and to their value as sentimental souvenirs.

 

 

IX. Empire of Signs

The plethora of signs, symbols, and visual noise endemic to cities has attracted photographers since the medium’s invention. Their records of advertisers’ strident demands for attention, shopkeepers’ alluring displays, and the often dizzying architectural density of metropolitan life chronicle sights that are subject to change without notice. The photographer’s perspective on contemporary social life – whether it is anectodal, as in John Thompson’s (1837-1921) Street Advertising from Street Life in London (1877), or haunting, as in Eugène Atget’s (1857-1927) Impasse des Bourdonnais (ca. 1908) – is embedded in each image.

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Street Advertising' 1877

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Street Advertising
1877
From Street Life in London, 1877
Woodburytype
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Alden Scott Boyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Street Advertising' 1877

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Impasse des Bourdonnais
c. 1908
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904-1971) 'At the Time of the Louisville Flood' 1937

 

Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904-1971)
At the Time of the Louisville Flood
1937
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum

 

The plethora of signs, symbols, and visual noise endemic to cities has attracted photographers since the medium’s invention. Their records of advertisers’ strident demands for attention, shopkeepers’ alluring displays, and the often dizzying architectural density of metropolitan life chronicle sights that are subject to change without notice. The photographer’s perspective on contemporary social life – whether it is ironic, as in Margaret Bourke-White’s image of a line of flood victims before a billboard advertising middle-class prosperity, or bemused, as in Ferenc Berko’s photograph of columns of oversized artificial teeth on the street – is embedded in each image.

 

Ferenc Berko (American, b. Hungary, 1916-2000) 'Rawalpindi, India' 1946

 

Ferenc Berko (American, b. Hungary, 1916-2000)
Rawalpindi, India
1946
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman House, Gift of Katharine Kuh

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'New York 6' 1951

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
New York 6
1951
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

Alex Webb (American, b. 1952) 'India' 1981

 

Alex Webb (American, b. 1952)
India
1981
Chromogenic development print
George Eastman Museum, Purchased with funds from Charina Foundation

 

 

The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street
New York, NY 10016-3405
Tel: (212) 685-0008

Opening hours:
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Friday: 10.30 am – 9 pm
Saturday: 10 am to 6 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm

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01
Oct
15

Exhibition: ‘From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 17th May – 4th October 2015

The Edward Steichen Photography Galleries, third floor

 

 

The work of Greta Stern is the better known of these two artists (Ringl + Pit studio and the surreal, psychoanalytic 1950s work), but I find it is the underrated photographs of Horacio Coppola that are the gems in this posting.

It is a bit rough that Richard B. Woodward, commenting on the exhibition on the Collector Daily website (below), observes that with no production after 1938 it “raises suspicions that he was not an artist who sustained himself at a top level.” I beg to differ. Many illuminati have short, explosive and powerful careers before giving the game away, or changing to a different medium or form.

He also observes that, “Coppola failed to channel the nocturnal otherworldliness of the city found in Brassäi and Brandt, only a few these photos have the haunted quality they achieved,” after the curators of the exhibition, in the catalogue, compare Coppola’s work to those two esteemed individuals. He cites a “sneaky street picture” from 1936 as evidence and instance of an image where Coppola captured a magical moment. I think both curators and critic are missing the point. Coppola is certainly NOT like Brassäi and Brandt in that his photographs at night are not ROMANTIC photographs of the nocturnal fabric of the city. Coppola’s images do NOT possess the kind of magic that Woodward is looking for (that of Brassai’s Paris at Night for example), that he believes should be there, simply because they are of a different order. But that does not make them any less valuable in terms of their insight and energy.

Coppola’s images, steeped in his training at the Bauhaus, are objective, modernist magic. By that I mean they possess a most uncanny use of form, of space and light. Day or night, he places his camera so carefully, in such a controlled and ego-less way, that the precision of his renditions is exquisite. For example, look at Calle Florida (1936, below). What seems an ordinary street, a photograph that anyone could have taken. But no! look again. That perfect rendition of shadow, darkness, movement and the spaces between the figures, The eye is led down the street to the vanishing point and then is released with all that pent up energy in to the V of the sky. Magnificent.

I wish I had more of his photographs to show you, especially his night shots. Coppola wasn’t a Walker Evans or a Paul Strand, certainly not a Kertész, Brassäi or Brandt because he simply was himself, with his own unique signature. He should NEVER be put down for that. I hope this wonderful artist starts to get the recognition he deserves.

Marcus

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

 

 

“The catalog contends that Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola created a stunning body of work, but the show argues, in many ways, for two discrete bodies of work. What might have been accomplished instead of trying to insert two lesser known figures into the canon is to highlight what’s really interesting about their lives and careers: that they – and particularly Stern – were migratory and interdisciplinary, harbingers of the kinds of artistic practice we see today in which commerce, parenthood and politics can no longer be elided, and so they become part of the work. The museum could have showcased their work along with that of their friends and compatriots, from Bauhaus to Buenos Aires, from the literary world to the poets, writers, activists and psychoanalysts with whom they interacted and not just as mute players in this narrative. Now that would have been an extraordinary show.”

.
Martha Schwendener. “‘From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola,’ a Bicontinental Couple” on the NY Times website, May 28 2015

 

“Coppola (1906-2012), on the other hand, has no paper trail of distinction. Outside of his native Argentina, where he was an early convert to Modernism in the late 1920s and later an evangelist for the style, his name draws a blank in most art circles. Parr and Badger cite his Buenos Aires, published in 1937, in volume 2 of their photobook history. But not until 2011 were Coppola’s photographs exhibited in New York, and then only in an imported group show titled Light of Modernity in Buenos Aires (1929-1954) at the Nailya Alexander Gallery. Since then, nothing until now…

The wall of photographs in the next room, done after 1935 when he returned to Argentina – and the basis of the book Buenos Aires – are meant to present Coppola at the height of his powers. Meister puts these views of the Argentine capital – teeming with urban crowds on the streets or at racetracks, shopping at department stores, walking through illuminated streets at night – on a par with Brassäi’s of Paris and Brandt’s of London.

This is a stretch. Perhaps because the prints are hung salon-style, many of them too low for their details to be read, or, more likely, because Coppola failed to channel the nocturnal otherworldliness of the city found in Brassäi and Brandt, only a few these photos have the haunted quality they achieved. If I knew Buenos Aires and had an interior map of these places in my head, I might change my mind. But a sneaky street picture from 1936 of three passersby looking into the front windows of a bridal shop, which are filled with staged, idealized portraits of marriage bliss, is one of the few instances where Coppola captured a magical moment. The absence of anything he did after 1938 raises suspicions that he was not an artist who sustained himself at a top level.”

.
Richard B. Woodward. “From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola @MoMA” on the Collector Daily website June 17, 2015

 

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Calle California. Vuelta de Rocha. La Boca' 1931

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Calle California. Vuelta de Rocha. La Boca
1931
Gelatin silver print, printed 1996
7 5/8 × 11 5/16″ (19.4 × 28.7 cm)
IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Buenos Aires' 1931

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Buenos Aires
1931
Gelatin silver print
3 1/8 x 4 9/16″ (8 x 11.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Vital Projects Fund, Robert B. Menschel

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Rivadivia between Salguero and Medrano' 1931

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Rivadivia between Salguero and Medrano
1931
Gelatin silver print, printed 1996
7 5/8 × 11 5/16″ (19.4 × 28.7 cm)
IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Still Life with Egg and Twine' 1932

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Still Life with Egg and Twine
1932
Gelatin silver print
8 1/8 x 10 1/8″ (20.7 x 25.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Acquired through the generosity of Peter Norton

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'London' 1934

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
London
1934
Gelatin silver print
6 x 7 5/8″ (15.2 x 19.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Latin American and Caribbean Fund

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'London' 1934

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
London
1934
Gelatin silver print
5 11/16 x 7 3/8″ (14.5 x 18.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Photography Fund

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Avenida Diaz Velez al 4800' 1936

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Avenida Diaz Velez al 4800
1936
Gelatin silver print, printed 1952
16 3/4 x 23 1/2″ (42.5 x 59.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Avenida Diaz Velez al 4800' 1936 (detail)

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Avenida Diaz Velez al 4800 (detail)
1936
Gelatin silver print, printed 1952
16 3/4 x 23 1/2″ (42.5 x 59.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Balneario Municipal' 1936

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Balneario Municipal
1936
Gelatin silver print
8 1/4 x 10 7/16″ (21 x 26.5 cm)
Estate of Horacio Coppola; courtesy Galería Jorge Mara – La Ruche, Buenos Aires

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Balneario Municipal' 1936 (detail)

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Balneario Municipal (detail)
1936
Gelatin silver print
8 1/4 x 10 7/16″ (21 x 26.5 cm)
Estate of Horacio Coppola; courtesy Galería Jorge Mara – La Ruche, Buenos Aires

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Calle Florida' 1936

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Calle Florida
1936
Gelatin silver print
5 11/16 × 7 5/16″ (14.5 × 18.5 cm)
Collection Léticia and Stanislas Poniatowski

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Calle Florida' 1936 (detail)

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Calle Florida (detail)
1936
Gelatin silver print
5 11/16 × 7 5/16″ (14.5 × 18.5 cm)
Collection Léticia and Stanislas Poniatowski

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Directorio and J.M. Moreno' 1936

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Directorio and J.M. Moreno
1936
Gelatin silver print
6 5/8 × 7 13/16″ (16.8 × 19.8 cm)
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Plaza San Martín from Kavanagh' 1936

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Plaza San Martín from Kavanagh
1936
Gelatin silver print
7 5/16 x 10 1/2″ (18.5 x 26.7 cm)
Private Collection

 

 

From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola is the first major exhibition of the German-born Grete Stern and the Argentinean Horacio Coppola, two leading figures of avant-garde photography who established themselves on both sides of the Atlantic. In Berlin in 1927, Stern began taking private classes with Walter Peterhans, who was soon to become head of photography at the Bauhaus. A year later, in Peterhans’s studio, she met Ellen (Rosenberg) Auerbach, with whom she opened a pioneering studio specializing in portraiture and advertising. Named after their childhood nicknames, the studio ringl + pit embraced both commercial and avant-garde loyalties, creating proto-feminist works.

In Buenos Aires during the same period, Coppola initiated his photographic experimentations, exploring his surroundings and contributing to the discourse on modernist practices across media in local cultural magazines. In 1929 he founded the Buenos Aires Film Club to introduce the most advanced foreign films to Argentine audiences. His early works show a burgeoning interest in new modes of photographic expression that led him to the Bauhaus in 1932, where he met Stern and they began their joint history.

Following the close of the Bauhaus and the rising threat of the Nazi powers in 1933, Stern and Coppola fled Germany. Stern arrived first in London, where her friends included activists affiliated with leftist circles and where she made her now iconic portraits of German exiles. After traveling through Europe, camera in hand, Coppola joined Stern in London, where he pursued a modernist idiom in his photographs of the fabric of the city, tinged alternately with social concern and surrealist strangeness.

In the summer of 1935, Stern and Coppola embarked for Buenos Aires where they mounted an exhibition in the offices of the avant-garde magazine Sur, announcing the arrival of modern photography in Argentina. The unique character of Buenos Aires was captured in Coppola’s photographic encounters from the city’s center to its outskirts and in Stern’s numerous portraits of the city’s intelligentsia. The exhibition ends in the early 1950s, with Stern’s forward-thinking Sueños (Dreams), a series of photomontages she contributed to the popular women’s magazine Idilio, portraying women’s dreams with urgency and surreal wit.

The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication edited by Roxana Marcoci and Sarah Meister with a selection of original texts by Stern and Coppola translated into English by Rachel Kaplan. The catalogue will consist of three essays on the artists written by the exhibition curators and scholar Jodi Roberts.”

Text from the MoMA website

 

Ringl + Pit (German) 'Ringlpitis' 1931

 

Ringl + Pit (German)
Ringlpitis
1931
Artist book with collage
7 7/8 x 7 7/8″ (20 x 20 cm)
Estate of Horacio Coppola, Buenos Aires

 

Ringl + Pit (German) 'Ringlpitis' 1931 (detail)

 

Ringl + Pit (German)
Ringlpitis (detail)
1931
Artist book with collage
7 7/8 x 7 7/8″ (20 x 20 cm)
Estate of Horacio Coppola, Buenos Aires

 

Ringl + Pit (German) 'Columbus' Egg' 1930

 

Ringl + Pit (German)
Columbus’ Egg
1930
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 7 7/8″ (23.5 x 20 cm)
Collection Helen Kornblum

 

Ringl + Pit (German) 'Hat and Gloves' 1930

 

Ringl + Pit (German)
Hat and Gloves
1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 14 7/8 x 9 3/4″ (37.8 x 24.8 cm)
Sheet: 15 11/16 x 10 1/2″ (39.8 x 26.7 cm)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Ringl + Pit (German) Ellen Auerbach Grete Stern. 'Soapsuds' 1930

 

Ringl + Pit (German)
Ellen Auerbach 
Grete Stern
Soapsuds
1930
Gelatin silver print
7 x 6 1/4″ (17.8 x 15.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Roxann Taylor

 

Ringl + Pit (German) 'Komol' 1931

 

Ringl + Pit (German)
Komol
1931
Gelatin silver print
14 1/8 x 9 5/8″ (35.9 x 24.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany. 1904–1999) 'Self-Portrait' 1943

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Self-Portrait
1943
Gelatin silver print, printed 1958
11 x 8 11/16″ (28 x 22 cm)
Estate of Horacio Coppola, Buenos Aires

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art has organized the first major exhibition to examine the individual accomplishments and parallel developments of two of the foremost practitioners of avant-garde photography, film, advertising, and graphic design in the first half of the 20th century: Grete Stern (German, 1904-1999) and Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012). From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola will be on view May 17 through October 4, 2015, and features more than 300 works gathered from museums and private collection across Europe and the Americas – many of which have never before been exhibited in the United States. These include more than 250 vintage photographs and photomontages, 40 works of original typographic design and award-winning advertising materials, 26 photobooks and periodicals, and four experimental 16mm films. From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, and Sarah Meister, Curator; with Drew Sawyer, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Curatorial Fellow, Department of Photography.

Stern and Coppola were united in their exploration of a modernist idiom, yet despite their relationship as husband and wife (from 1935 to 1943) they pursued this goal along remarkably original paths. Having started their artistic careers within the European avant-garde of the late 1920s and early 1930s, Stern and Coppola produced their major body of works in Argentina, where they thrived amid a vibrant milieu of Argentine and émigré artists and intellectuals. As harbingers of New Vision photography in a country caught up in the throes of forging its own modern identity, their distinctly experimental styles led to their recognition as founders of modern Latin American photography.

The earliest works in the exhibition date from the late 1920s to the early 1930s, when both artists began their initial forays into photography and graphic design. After beginning her studies in Berlin with Walter Peterhans, who became head of photography at the Bauhaus, in 1928 Stern met Ellen (Rosenberg) Auerbach and together they opened the pioneering studio ringl + pit, specializing in portraiture and advertising. Named after their childhood nicknames (Stern was ringl; Auerbach was pit), the studio embraced both commercial and avant-garde loyalties, creating proto-feminist works. The exhibition presents a large number of photographs, graphic design materials, and advertisements by the duo that explored alternative models of the feminine. Defying the conventional style of German advertising photography in this period, ringl + pit emerged as a dissident voice that stirred the interest of critics, artists, and consumers.

Coppola’s first photographs, made in Buenos Aires in the late 1920s, reveal an optical curiosity completely out of sync with prevailing trends in Argentina. Instead of using the camera to accurately render the details of the visible world, Coppola instead explored its potential to complicate traditional understandings of pictorial space. Like Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy, he was interested in the effects of light, prisms, and glass for their visual and metaphoric potential, and he photographed his native city from unexpected perspectives akin to Germaine Krull’s images of Paris from the same decade. These early works show the burgeoning interest in new modes of photographic expression that led him to the Bauhaus in 1932, where he met Stern.

Following the close of the Bauhaus and the rising threat of the Nazi powers in 1933, Stern and Coppola fled Germany. Stern arrived first in London, where her friends included activists affiliated with leftist circles, and the exhibition presents her now iconic portraits of German exiles, including those of playwright Bertolt Brecht, actress Helene Weigel, Marxist philosopher Karl Korsch, and psychoanalyst Paula Heimann. After traveling and photographing throughout Europe, Coppola joined Stern in London, where his modernist photographs depicting the fabric of the city alternate between social concern and surrealist strangeness.

The exhibition’s third gallery includes films that Coppola produced in Berlin, Paris, and London during these years. The first of these films, Der Traum (The Dream), bears the strongest relationship to Surrealist filmmaking, while his next two films, Un Muelle del Sena (A Quai on the Seine) (1934) and A Sunday on Hampstead Heath (1935), are increasingly ambitious, using the film camera alternately as a still camera and for its unique capacity to pan across a scene and to capture action in urban environments.

In 1935, Stern and Coppola married and embarked for Buenos Aires, where they mounted an exhibition in the offices of the avant-garde magazine Sur, announcing the arrival of modern photography in Argentina. Following the exhibition’s successful critical reception, their home became a hub for artists and intellectuals, both those native to Argentina and the exiles continuously arriving from a war-torn Europe. The fourth gallery in From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires presents Coppola’s photographic encounters from the city’s center to its outskirts and Stern’s numerous portraits of the city’s intelligentsia.

In 1936, Coppola received a career-defining commission to photograph Buenos Aires for a major publication celebrating the 400th anniversary of the city’s founding. Coppola used the opportunity to construct his own modern vision of the city, one that would incorporate the celebration of the local and his appreciation of the city’s structure inspired by the architect Le Corbusier. Concurrently, Coppola made his final film, The Birth of the Obelisk – an ode to Buenos Aires and its newly constructed monument. The film combines dynamic shots of the city with sequences of carefully constructed stills, demonstrating in six-and-a half minutes a vibrant, confident mix of influences, from Moholy-Nagy and Krull to the Concrete art movement in Argentina to films by Walter Ruttmann, Charles Sheeler, and Paul Strand.

Throughout the 1940s, Stern took incisive portraits of artists and writers, many of whom were aligned with the international antifascist cause and the emergence of an emancipatory feminist consciousness. These included playwright Amparo Alvajar; socialist realist painters Antonio Berni, Gertrudis Chale, and Lino Eneas Spilimbergo; poet Mony Hermelo; and graphic designer Clément Moreau. Among Stern’s numerous other subjects were poet-politician Pablo Neruda, abstract painter Manuel Ángeles Ortiz, and writer Jorge Luis Borges.

The exhibition concludes in the mid-1950s, at the end of Juan Domingo Perón’s era, with a large presentation of Stern’s Sueños (Dreams), a series of forward-thinking photomontages that she contributed on a weekly basis to the women’s magazine Idilio (Idyll) from 1948 to 1951. In Dream No. 1: Electrical Appliances for the Home, an elegantly dressed woman is converted into a table lamp that waits to be turned on by a male hand, using electricity as a sexual pun to expose feminine objectification. In Dream No. 24: Surprise, a female protagonist hides her face in shock as she confronts a larger-than-life baby doll advancing toward her. Debunking fantasies about women’s lives, Stern plumbed the depths of her own experience as a mother and artist to negotiate the terms between blissful domesticity and entrapment, privacy and exposure, cultural sexism and intellectual rebellion.

Press release from the MoMA website

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Untitled (Staircase at Calle Corrientes)' 1928

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Untitled (Staircase at Calle Corrientes)
1928
Gelatin silver print
13 3/4 x 11 3/4″ (34.9 x 29.9 cm)
Collection Alexis Fabry, Paris

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) '"¡Esto es Buenos Aires!" (Jorge Luis Borges) "This is Buenos Aires!" (Jorge Luis Borges)' 1931

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
“¡Esto es Buenos Aires!” (Jorge Luis Borges)
“This is Buenos Aires!” (Jorge Luis Borges)
1931
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 5 7/8″ (22 x 15 cm)
Estate of Horacio Coppola, Buenos Aires

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Avenida Corrientes towards the West' 1936

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012)
Avenida Corrientes towards the West
1936
Gelatin silver print
8 1/16 x 5 5/16″ (20.5 x 13.5 cm)
Estate of Horacio Coppola; courtesy Galería Jorge Mara – La Ruche, Buenos Aires

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Buenos Aires' 1936

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Buenos Aires
1936
Gelatin silver print
8 3/16 x 5 15/16″ (20.8 x 15.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Latin American and Caribbean Fund

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Calle Corrientes at the Corner of Reconquista' 1936

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Calle Corrientes at the Corner of Reconquista
1936
Gelatin silver print
11 × 7 11/16″ (28 × 19.5 cm)
IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906–2012) 'Calle Florida at 8 pm' 1936

 

Horacio Coppola (Argentine, 1906-2012)
Calle Florida at 8 pm
1936
Gelatin silver print
14 3/4 x 11 7/16″ (37.5 x 29 cm)
Eric Franck Fine Art, London

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany. 1904–1999) 'Brecht' 1934

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Brecht
1934
Gelatin silver print
10 1/4 x 6 11/16″ (26 x 17 cm)
Private Collection, Boston

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany. 1904–1999) 'Gyula Kosice' 1945

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Gyula Kosice
1945
Gelatin silver print
11 7/16 x 9 1/8″ (29.1 x 23.2 cm)
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany

 

Gyula Kosice, born Fernando Fallik (April 26, 1924) in Košice (Slovakia) is a naturalized Argentine sculptor, plastic artist, theoretician and poet, one of the most important figures in kinetic and luminal art and luminance vanguard. He used his natal city name as artist name. He was one of the precursors of abstract and non-figurative art in Latin America.

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany. 1904–1999) 'Jorge Luis Borges' 1951

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Jorge Luis Borges
1951
Gelatin silver print
10 13/16 x 8 1/4″ (27.5 x 21 cm)
Estate of Horacio Coppola, Buenos Aires

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999) 'Sueño No. 7: Who Will She Be?' 1949

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Sueño No. 7: Who Will She Be?
1949
Gelatin silver print
15 1/2 × 19 1/16″ (39.4 × 48.4 cm)
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999) 'Sueño No. 43: Untitled' 1949

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Sueño No. 43: Untitled
1949
Gelatin silver print
17 7/16 × 14 5/16″ (44.3 × 36.3 cm)
Collection Léticia and Stanislas Poniatowski

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany. 1904–1999) 'Sueño No. 1: Electrical Appliances for the Home' 1949

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Sueño No. 1: Electrical Appliances for the Home
1949
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 9″ (26.6 x 22.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Latin American and Caribbean Fund through gift of Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis in honor of Adriana Cisneros de Griffin

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany. 1904–1999) 'Sueño No. 28: Love without Illusion' 1951

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Sueño No. 28: Love without Illusion
1951
Gelatin silver print
19 11/16 × 15 3/4″ (50 × 40 cm)
IVAM, Institut Valencià d’ Art Modern

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999) 'Sueño No. 27: Doesn't Fade with Water' 1951

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Sueño No. 27: Doesn’t Fade with Water
1951
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
11 7/16 x 9 1/16″ (29 x 23 cm)
Collection Eduardo F. Costantini, Buenos Aires

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany. 1904–1999) 'Sueño No. 31: Made in England' 1950

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Sueño No. 31: Made in England
1950
Gelatin silver print
19 11/16 × 13 3/16″ (50 × 33.5 cm)
IVAM, Institut Valencià d’ Art Modern

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany. 1904–1999) 'D.L.H.' 1925

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
D.L.H.
1925
Photocollage
8 7/16 x 6 5/16″ (21.5 x 16 cm)
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany. 1904–1999) 'Photomontage for Madí, Ramos Mejía, Argentina' 1946-47

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Photomontage for Madí, Ramos Mejía, Argentina
1946-47
Gelatin silver print
23 9/16 x 19 7/16″ (59.8 x 49.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Latin American and Caribbean Fund and partial gift of Mauro Herlitzka

 

 

“She also photographed members of Madí (from the first two letters of the words “materialismo dialéctico”), who were committed to abstraction as an antidote to the propaganda disseminated by Juan Perón. One of Ms. Stern’s best-known works, on view here, is the “Photomontage for Madí, Ramos Mejia, Argentina” (1946-47), which she made for the second issue of their journal. For the images, she used the “M” from a neon sign advertising Movado watches and superimposed “Madí” over the obelisk designed by Alberto Prebisch to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Buenos Aires. The obelisk symbolized, for her milieu, abstract geometry.”

Martha Schwendener. “‘From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires: Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola,’ a Bicontinental Couple” on the NY Times website, May 28 2015

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
T: (212) 708-9400

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday, 10.30 am – 5.30 pm
Friday, 10.30 am – 8.00 pm
Closed Tuesday

MOMA website

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21
Aug
15

Art and Design Review (ADR)

August 2015

 

 

I have been invited to sit on the editorial board of the international peer-reviewed magazine Art and Design Review (ADR). And I have accepted!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Art and Design Review (ADR)

 

Art and Design Review (ADR) is an open access journal. The goal of this journal is to provide a platform for researchers and practitioners all over the world to promote, share, and discuss various new issues and developments in all areas of Art and Design.

All manuscripts must be prepared in English and are subject to a rigorous and fair peer-review process. Accepted papers will immediately appear online followed by printed hard copy. The journal publishes original papers including but not limited to the following fields:

BUILDING ARTS

  • Architectural history
  • Architecture
  • Furniture design
  • Historic preservation
  • Interior design
  • Urban design

COMMUNICATION ARTS

  • Advertising
  • Graphic design
  • Illustration
  • Illustration design
  • Sequential art

DESIGN

  • Design for sustainability
  • Design management
  • Fibers
  • Industrial design
  • Jewelry and objects
  • Service design

DIGITAL MEDIA

  • Animation
  • Interactive design and game development
  • Motion media design
  • Television producing
  • Visual effects

PERFORMING ARTS

  • Dramatic writing
  • Equestrian studies
  • Film and television
  • Performing arts
  • Production design
  • Sound design
  • Themed entertainment design

FASHION

  • Accessory design
  • Fashion
  • Fashion marketing and management
  • Luxury and fashion management

FINE ARTS

  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture

LIBERAL ARTS

  • Art history
  • Arts administration
  • Cinema studies
  • General education
  • Music education
  • Teaching (art or drama)
  • Writing

We are also interested in:

  1. Short reports – 2-5 page papers where an author can present an idea with theoretical background, but has not yet completed the research needed for a complete paper or an author presents preliminary data;
  2. Short communications – 2-5 page papers;
  3. Technical notes – 2-5 page papers;
  4. Letters to the Editor;
  5. Reviews (the number of pages is not restricted), Book reviews – Comments and critiques;
  6. Advertisement.

 

 

Art and Design Review (ADR) website

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28
Jun
15

Review: ‘Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne 

Exhibition dates: 31st March – 5th July 2015

Curator: Helen Carroll

 

 

Gorgeous catalogue with luscious plates, insightful text by Bill Henson (below) and evocative poetry by John Kinsella. Stars on the front cover and silver edged pages. No expense spared in production, with money literally thrown at the project, or so it would seem.

The curator, Helen Carroll, talks about ‘wonder’: “It is a capacity for wonder that makes us human”. Henson talking about ‘wonder’ and ‘love’ – about moments that change your life when looking at and breathing in great art. Then why does this exhibition feel so… well, needless? Despite some fascinating individual works of art, collectively there is little wonder on show here.

Perhaps it is because this exhibition looks to be a cut down version of the one first shown at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 2012, with many works missing from what are listed in the catalogue. Or perhaps it is the hang which at the Ian Potter Museum of Art consists of two rooms on the ground floor of the museum, one housing lighter works, the other dark works. Too dichotomous for my tastes. Nothing is ever so cut and dried.

Perhaps it’s the fact that the concept of the exhibition – light in its many guises – seems to have been tagged onto a groups of art works which are anything but about light. Or are about light in a roundabout, merry-go-round kind of way. The wall text states, “Rather than a chronological or stylistically ordered presentation, the exhibition follows a loosely intuitive flow of ideas and imagery, moving through night to day. The artists in this exhibition explore light from the perspective of the optical experience, the connection between the starts and the cycles of life on earth; and from diverse cultural, mythic and spiritual points of departure.” Apparently the works are more about the phenomena of light than about light itself.

While the art works are interesting in their own right they don’t really work together cohesively as a group to investigate the theme of the exhibition. Trying to burden a collection of art bought for investment purposes with a concept not “natural” to the work, or just a curator’s idea of what seems implicit in the work but is just a cerebral construction, simply does not work in this case. As I looked around the exhibition, I felt the works were more about the physicality of time and space (of history and place), about links in the existential chain, than they were about light. For me, this evinced Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the ‘chronotype’ – meaning ‘the connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed’ (in literature). Perhaps the intuitive flow of ideas and imagery and the multiple points of departure work against the very idea the exhibition seeks to investigate. This is so broadly thematic (the effects of light on the world) that it needed to be more focused in its conceptualisation.

It’s also a real worry when text panels in the exhibition quote Richard Goyder, Managing Director, Wesfarmers Limited, as saying that this is the first time that Wesfarmers has showcased the contemporary art of the collection, “and the works selected for Luminous World illustrate some of the ways in which the collection has grown in recent years. For instance, the inclusion of art from New Zealand, where Wesfarmers has a significant business presence, and the heightened emphasis on representing the great diversity of contemporary Indigenous art.”

The inclusion of New Zealand art because Wesfarmers has a significant business presence – not the quality or wonder of the art work – but a business presence. And only now are they collecting contemporary Indigenous art, after the collection has been in existence for more than three decades, 1977 being the first acquisition date. At least he is being refreshingly honest about why the art work has been added to the collection, but it does not give you confidence in the choice of the art work being displayed here. Goyder, Carroll and Kinsella also proselytize about the benefits of employee’s living with this art in their daily working lives and that may be the case. But for the casual visitor to the gallery this collection of art left me feeling cold and clammy – like a fish out of water.

As the add for Reflex copy paper says with more humour than any of this work can muster, I didn’t find “enwhitenment”, or wonder, within the gallery walls. Oh, the luminosity of it all.

Marcus

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

 

 

What is the Night?

‘What is the night?’ Macbeth enquires in the banquet scene, once the ghost of Banquo has departed and his wide has dismissed their mystified guests. Deprived of sleep, and half-psychotic, he urgently needs to know the time. But this is also, implicitly, a philosophical question that hints at the ontological meaning of the night…

Macbeth, Shakespeare’s most elaborate meditation on the night, is a sustained, if not obsessive, exploration of the nocturnal as a realm of alternative values – ones that contradict and threaten to undermine those of the diurnal regime that is ostensibly the domain of politics in the early modern period. In this violent, vengeful tragedy, the language and culture of the medieval night, incarnated above all in the witches, irrupts into the more enlightened languages and culture of a purportedly post-medieval epoch. An apocalyptic night, in Macbeth’s barbaric court, is one of the forces that shape realpolitik. In the Renaissance, a period in which daily life encroaches more and more on the night, especially in public settings, in the form of elaborately lit masques at court, Macbeth thus stages the limits of enlightenment.

At a time when more systematic, socially centralized modes of illumination are increasingly disrupting older patterns of rest, including biphasic sleep – so that, for the early modern ruling class at least, night starts to feel like an extension of the day, its observe rather than its inverse – Shakespeare dramatizes the tyrannical attraction, the absolutism, of darkness. Macbeth describes a process of nocturnalization whereby the night irresistibly colonizes the day, fatally infiltrating both the state and the protagonist’s consciousness. To use a word that has some currency in the seventeenth century, but has long since fallen out of use, Shakespeare’s drama is a study of ‘benightment’.”

Matthew Beaumont. “What is the Night?” in Matthew Beaumont. Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, Chaucer to Dickens. London and New York: Verso, 2015, pp. 86-87.

 

Luminous World brings together a selection of contemporary paintings, objects and photographs from the Wesfarmers Collection in a conversation about light. Through works of scale and conceptual invention that chart the range and depth of the collection, this exhibition presents significant contemporary paintings, photographs and objects by leading Australian and New Zealand artists acquired by Wesfarmers over three decades and shared together for the first time with the Australian public.

The Potter is the fifth venue for this touring exhibition which to date has travelled to Charles Darwin University Art Gallery, Darwin; National Library of Australia, Canberra; Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide; and The Academy Gallery, University of Tasmania.

 

 

Brook Andrew. 'Replicant series: Owl' 2005 

 

Brook Andrew
Replicant series: Owl
2005
Ilfochrome print
130 x 195 cm
© Brook Andrew, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

Brook Andrew (1970- ) is a Sydney born/Melbourne based interdisciplinary artist of Wiradjuri and Scottish heritage. Andrew’s conceptual based practice incorporates, sculpture, photography, installation, video and performance. The Replicant 2006 series reflects (literally) upon the act of looking, and consequent interchanges between nature and culture, subject and object, real and represented. These dualities fit broadly within the artist’s addressing of Australian identity, polemics and the politics of difference.

For the Replicant 2006 series Andrew borrowed taxidermied specimens from the education department at the Australian Museum, Sydney. These included native species of indigenous significance such as an owl, possum, flying fox and parrot. He shot each animal – artificially propped in their natural poses – and digitally manipulated each image so as to appear duplicated, a process that evolved out of the Kalar midday 2004 series.

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled' 2009-10 

 

Bill Henson
Untitled
2009-10
Archival inkjet pigment print
127 x 180 cm
© Bill Henson, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

” … And yet certain things – particular experiences that we have are excpetional. They stand apart from the rest of the general activity.

What causes this apprehension of significance – of something in face powerfully apprehended yet not always fully understood?

And why is it that all of us, at some time or other, with have this ‘epiphany’ – Christian or otherwise – in the presence of some work of art, in the experiencing of a performance piece or some unexpected encounter with the true magic of a particular piece of sculpture?

When it happens, I always think of it as being as if one’s life – and everything that it contains – had just been ever so slightly changed, forever. Nothing, if you will, is ever quite the same again.

What happens, I think, is simply that we fall in love – and it’s the apprehension of unexpected beauty that causes us to fall in love.

The sheer force of such beauty can affect us as if it were an act of nature – and of course it is, for despite the arrogance of some theoreticians, culture is never outside nature.

I think that it is this intense, if often quite subtle, love for the subject, and the resultant emotional and intellectual interdependence within that relationship – be it in musical form, something in the visual arts, theatre of dance – that is responsible for – and in fact makes possible at all – these great and fortunate encounters in the arts.

Stare back into time and all kinds of very ‘personal’ things return your gaze. This has always, to me, seemed to a large extent to be what art is about. Sure, it’s personal, but it’s also millennial.

The best art always heightens our sense of mortality. This is not morbidity that I am talking about – rather, we feel more alive in the presence of great art and this is because of a profound sense of continuity – our sense of being inside nature – is expanded.

If you like, art suggests the immortal in all of us.

When we listen to Michelangeli – or, say, Jörg Demus playing Kinderszenen – and we sense that simultaneously proximate and intimate yet utterly abstract presence (was that someone? Schumann perhaps?) and at the same time sense the unbridgeable gulf that exists between ourselves and that distant past – we know that we are in the presence of something magical.

In the end I think that it is love that fuels this activity – that animates the speculative capacity in all of us – and heightens this sense of wonder.

Excerpts from Bill Henson’s speech “Reflections,” in Luminous World catalogue. Perth: Wesfarmers Limited, 2012, pp. 23-24.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

David Stephenson. 'Star Drawing 1996/402' 1996

 

David Stephenson
Star Drawing 1996/402
1996
40 x 40″
Cibachrome Print
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1997
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

While the subject of my photographs has shifted from the landscape of the American Southwest and Tasmania, and the minimal horizons of the Southern ocean, and the icy wastes of Antarctica, to sacred architecture and the sky at both day and night, my art has remained essentially spiritual – for more than two decades I have been exploring a contemporary expression of the sublime – a transcendental experience of awe with the vast space and time of existence. (David Stephenson, 1998)

 

Bill Henson. 'Untitled 39/139' 1990-91

 

Bill Henson
Untitled 39/139
1990-91
Paris Opera Project
Type C photograph
127 × 127 cm
Series of 50
Edition of 10 + 2 A/Ps

 

Stieg Persson. 'Offret' 1998 

 

Stieg Persson
Offret
1998
Oil on canvas
183 x 167 cm
© Stieg Persson, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

“Works focusing on light and darkness, and how light creates and reveals our world, from one of Australia’s pre-eminent corporate art collections compiled by Wesfarmers over the past 30 years, will be exhibited at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at The University of Melbourne.

The exhibition, Luminous World: Contemporary art from the Wesfarmers Collection, presents a diverse selection of contemporary paintings, photography and works of sculpture. The works traverse a diversity of cultural, aesthetic and philosophical perspectives, with the curatorial premise of how contemporary artists explore the phenomenon of light in their work.

Some 50 artists from Australia and New Zealand are featured in the exhibition including: Susan Norrie, Rosemary Laing, Howard Taylor, Dale Frank, Paddy Bedford, Bill Henson, Fiona Pardington (NZ), Brian Blanchflower, Brook Andrew, Timothy Cook and Nyapanyapa Yunupingu. Included alongside the art is a major new body of poetry by John Kinsella, written in response to works in the exhibition. These are published for the first time under the imprint of Fremantle Press in the book Luminous World, with new writing by artist Bill Henson and composer Richard Mills.

Ian Potter Museum of Art Director, Ms Kelly Gellatly said, “Luminous World highlights the strengths ofthe Wesfarmers Collection, which has generously been shared, through the tour of the exhibition, with the wider community.

“In bringing together works across a range of media by Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, Luminous World successfully showcases both the depth and continuing resonance of contemporary Australian practice in a rich, open-ended and exploratory conversation about light.

“To know and experience light and its effects however, one must equally understand its other – darkness. Together, these concerns create an exhibition experience that is at once intellectual, emotional and experiential,” Ms Gellatly said.

The Wesfarmers Collection was started in 1977, and is housed in the Wesfarmers offices around Australia and shared with the community through a loan and exhibition program. A Wesfarmers and Art Gallery of Western Australia touring exhibition.”

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Luminous World: Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

 

 

“For more than three decades Wesfarmers has been collecting Australian art. From General Manager John Bennison’s first acquisition in 1977 of a pastoral scene by the Australian impressionist Elioth Gruner, Wesfarmers’ purpose was to accentuate the value of art in the workplace and encourage and understanding of the importance to society of supporting creative thinking and artistic vision. The company has always been committed to sharing its collection with the community through exhibitions and loans and by opening our workplaces for groups to view the art in our offices.

This is the first time Wesfarmers has showcased the contemporary art in the collection, and the works selected for Luminous World illustrate some of the ways in which the collection has grown in recent years. For instance, the inclusion of art from New Zealand, where Wesfarmers now has a significant business presence, and the heightened emphasis on representing the great diversity of contemporary indigenous art.

We thank the artists whose resonant and timeless works form part of Australia’s rich cultural heritage and hope that the Australian public will enjoy these works and marvel at the ingenuity and artistic vision they represent, as Wesfarmers does, surround by inspirational art in our daily lives.”

Richard Goyder
Managing Director, Wesfarmers Limited

 

The visual world is defined by light; everything we see is processed by the eye as patterns of brightness and colour. Monumental formations in the landscape as well as the most subtle nuances of atmosphere are made real to us by the action of light, transmitted in wavelengths as an infinitely varied register of colour that combine within the eye to shape our sense of space and form.

It is the action of light reflecting off, refracting through and being absorbed by the substance of the world that enables the eye to perceive contours, hues, and textures and mark the passing of time from day to night and season to season.

Luminous World presents a diverse selection of contemporary paintings, photography and works of sculpture, acquired by the Wesfarmers Collection over thirty years and considered through the lens of how contemporary artists variously utilise the phenomenon of light in their work.

Rather than a chronological or stylistically ordered presentation, it follows a loosely intuitive flow of ideas and imagery moving through night to day. The artists in this exhibition explore light from the perspective of the optical experience, the connection between the stars and the cycles of life on earth; and from diverse cultural, mythic and spiritual point of departure.

Published for the first time in the Luminous World catalogue are recent poems by John Kinsella, written in response to selected works in the exhibition, together with new writing by artist Bill Henson and composer Richard Mills that extend an artistic dialogue in which all can share.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne. 'Hung fire' 1995

 

Rosalie Gascoigne
Hung fire
1995
Retro-reflective road-sign on wood
209 x 176 cm
© Rosalie Gascoigne, licensed by Viscopy 2012 and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

Elizabeth Nyumi. 'Parwalla' 2010 

 

Elizabeth Nyumi
Parwalla
2010
Acrylic on canvas
120 x 180 cm
© Elizabeth Nyumi, licensed by Viscopy 2012 and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

About Parwalla

This painting depicts the country known as Parwalla, which is Nyumi’s father’s country. This country is far to the south of Balgo in the Great Sandy Desert, west of Kiwirrkurra, and is dominated by tali (sand hills). Parwalla is a large swampy area, which fills with water after the wet season rain and consequently produces an abundance of bush foods. The majority of Nyumi’s painting shows the different bush foods, including kantjilyi (bush raisin), pura (bush tomato) and minyili (seed). The whiteish colours, which dominate the painting, represent the spinifex that grows strong and seeds after the wet season rains. These seeds are white in colour, and grow so thickly they obscure the ground and other plants below.

Biography

When Nyumi was only a very young child her mother died at Kanari soakwater close to Jupiter Well. As a young girl, Nyumi lived with her family group in their country. As a teenager she walked along the Canning Stock Route into the old mission with her father and family group. There she was given clothes and taken to Billiluna Station to be trained as a domestic worker and to work for the wives of the station managers around the region.

Nyumi commenced painting in 1987 and emerged as a leading artist in the late 1990s. She is married to the artist Palmer Gordon and has four daughters, three of whom are still living and beginning to paint with strong encouragement from Nyumi. Her elder brothers Brandy Tjungurrayi and Patrick Olodoodi are both senior lawmen and recognised artists. Nyumi is a very strong culture woman and dancer and an enthusiastic teacher of culture to children, ensuring the traditional dances and songs are kept alive.

Nyumi’s paintings are mainly concerned with the abundant bush food in the country belonging to her family. Initially, she worked with a thick brush, covering the canvas with fluent lines in tones of yellow, green and red. She has now developed a strong personal style of thick impasto dotting, to build up fields of texture heavily laden with white, in which motifs of camp sites, coolamons, digging sticks and bush tucker stand out.

 

Gretchen Albrecht. 'Pink and orange sherbet sky' 1975  

 

Gretchen Albrecht
Pink and orange sherbet sky
1975
Acrylic on canvas
166 x 177 cm
© Gretchen Albrecht, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australia

 

Rosemary Laing. 'Brumby mound #5' from the series 'One dozen unnatural disasters in the landscape' 2003

 

Rosemary Laing
Brumby mound #5 from the series One dozen unnatural disasters in the landscape
2003
C Type photograph
110 x 222 cm
© Rosemary Laing, reproduced courtesy of the artist and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

Brumby mound #5 2003 is one of a series of photographs by Rosemary Laing that explores the way European culture has often been uncomfortably imposed on an ancient land. Laing chooses a desert-scape that many identify as quintessentially Australian as the setting for her interventions. The location is the Wirrimanu community lands around Balgo in north-east Western Australia. Onto these traditional lands Laing has incongruously placed items of mass-produced furniture painted to mimic the surroundings.

The words ‘brumby mound’ in her title are a reference to the introduced horses (or brumbies) that are feral and roam uncontrolled, much like the spread of furniture. The seductive beauty of these panoramic images shows the vast spectacle of the Australian bush and makes the disjunction of the natural and the unnatural all the more apparent. (Text from the NGV website)

 

Howard Taylor. 'Bushfire sun' 1996 

 

Howard Taylor
Bushfire sun
1996
Oil on canvas
122 x 152 cm
© Howard Taylor, courtesy of the artist’s estate and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

Michael Riley. 'Untitled' from the series 'Cloud [Feather]' 2000

 

Michael Riley
Untitled from the series Cloud [Feather]
2000
Inkjet print on banner paper
86 x 120 cm
© Michael Riley Foundation, licensed by Viscopy 2012 and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

“Feathers float – so do clouds – and dreams.

Feather – a Wiradjuri word for feather and wing are the same, Gawuurra. Probably Cowra, the name of a town to the south, comes from this. In contemporary Aboriginal practices of other groups, feather-appendage is extended in meaning to string tassel, sacred string marking a journey, connecting landscapes, people, family lineages, and, importantly, the embryo cord linking child and mother.

A wing of the eagle hawk, Malyan, a skin name, a scary dream-being overhead. Is it guardian angel or assassin? In the south-east, a feather left behind is often evidence of such a spiritual visit.

At the funeral of actor and activist Bob Maza in 2000, his son held his father’s Bible and recollected his words, ‘to dare to dream your dreams’. It’s interesting that Michael Riley chose to avoid the word ‘dream’ in naming his final photographic work cloud (2000), avoiding glib connections to ‘Dreamtime’. What rolls past our eyes and through our senses is the culmination of self-examination. In a series of poetic photographic texts made increasingly poignant through events in his personal life, these are dreams of childhood memories in Dubbo, New South Wales: dreams of floating, of release…

cloud appears as more personal and free. A floating feather; a sweeping wing; a vigilant angel; the cows from ‘the mission’ farm; a single Australian Plague Locust in flight, referring to the cyclical swarms of locusts; a comforting Bible; and a graceful emblematic returning boomerang. The boomerang is really the only overtly Aboriginal image in the series and the locust is one of the few native species left that is visible and cannot be swept aside. It persists…

Through the large, simply superimposed images of cloud, Michael was trying to minimalise things, to distil his ideas about physical reality and spirit. All are dichotomously connected to Dubbo and Riley and are also universal. They are not about a place but a state, the surrealistic cow with mud and manure on its hoofs floating by. In contrast to Empire’s scenes of a decayed, overworked and desolated landscape, there is no physical land in the cloud imagery.

Aboriginal creation stories begin with a sunrise and follow the journeys of an original being across a physical, seasonal and emotional landscape – seeing, experiencing, and naming this and that plant, animal, climatic occurrence and emotional feelings. Religious song cycles follow this progression. Michael’s set of large, single-subject memories can almost be thought of as a Wiradjuri song cycle of his land and his life.”

Extract from Djon Mundine. Wungguli – Shadow : Photographing the spirit and Michael Riley” on the Michael Riley: sights unseen National Gallery of Australia website.

 

Paddy Bedford. 'Merrmerrji–Queensland creek' 2005 

 

Paddy Bedford
Merrmerrji-Queensland creek
2005
Ochre and synthetic binder on composition board
80 x 100 cm
© Paddy Bedford, reproduced courtesy of the artist’s estate and Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art

 

 

“Paddy Bedford was a senior Gija lawman born at Bedford Downs Station in the East Kimberly region. Like many indigenous artists, he lived a long life as a stockman before he looked upon the Turkey Creek elders – Rover Thomas and Paddy Jiminji – to begin painting. Bedford’s first works were made with the inception of the Jirrawun Aboriginal Art Cooperative in 1997.

The distinctive minimalist style of his work is but a mask to the multifarious layers of meaning. Bedford’s paintings are inspired by the distinctive landscape and stories of his country in the East Kimberly region of Western Australia, as he depicts from an aerial perspective the traditional dreamings of the Cockatoo, Emu and Turkey; the massacres of local Aboriginal people during the colonial period; as well as episodes from his own life as a stockman and as a senior elder of his community.

Merrmerrji- Queensland Creek, 2005 is characteristically sparse in composition with bold forms, a rhythmic application of dotted fluid lines and a powerfully imposing colour palate, which is gained from a wet-on-wet mixture of white and ochre pigments suspended in a fast drying acrylic medium. The effect is a pearly radiant luminosity, an ambience of the sacred.” (Text from the Annette Larkin Fine Art website)

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
The University of Melbourne,
Swanston Street (between Elgin and Faraday Streets)
Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 3 8344 5148

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm

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08
Feb
15

Exhibition: ‘Bohemian Melbourne’ at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 12th December 2014 – 22th February 2015

 

Definition

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. (Wikipedia)

A Bohemian is a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.

 

This is a fantastic exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, one of the best I have seen so far in Melbourne this year. I have seen it three times and each time it has been a thoroughly rewarding experience.

  • Visually and intellectually stimulating, with a plethora of artefacts, texts and photographs
  • Excellent curatorship, with the exhibition logically structured in order to cohesively display the history, characters and stories, and strands of creativity and rebellious spirit that make up Melbourne’s cultural life
  • A great hang, with disparate elements and mediums all informing each other, pithy quotes, unique film footage, video, music
  • Not too big, just the right size to indulge your senses and brain power

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One downside was that the exhibition needed a book or exhibition catalogue to flesh out the themes. Hopefully this will eventuate down the track. Also, it would have been nice to see more of what I would call ‘vernacular bohemianism’ – not just the famous people in each era, but the people that lived the life out on the streets, that supported the subcultures that sprung up from the 1950s onwards, but in a small exhibition it is understandable that there was not enough space.

Another perspective is that, in ordering such a diverse group of people who don’t want to be classified, who lived on the edge of society – you remove their cultural and historical ability to be transgressive, to cross moral and social taboos. By naming them as “bohemian” you seek to classify and order their existence and bring them within a frame of reference that is about control, power and visibility. This disciplinary power, Michel Foucault maintains, relies on surveillance to transform the subjects and the exhibition taxonomy is just that… a form of surveillance of the subject as well as a form of ordering it. Under this phenomena of power, dissonance/dissidence is neutralised and human beings are made subjects: through ‘the systematic linking of the categories of power and knowledge to form a hybrid, power-knowledge.’ (Hirst, 1992, “Foucault and Architecture,” in AA Files, No. 26, Autumn, pp. 52-60)

As John Tagg notes in his book The Burden of Representation (and this is what this exhibition does, it ‘represents’ a particular construction of identity as seen from the viewpoint of the establishment, the institution), “when Foucault examines power he is not just examining a negative force operating through a series of prohibitions … We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms – as exclusion, censorship, concealment, eradication. In fact, power produces. It produces reality. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth.” (Tagg, John. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988, p. 87)

Ultimatley, that is what this exhibition does, it produces a reality that many of these bohemians would not have bought into, for they lived outside the fold. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth that, through their naming, seek to classify and negate the transgressive and subversive nature of many of these people and groups. These people lived in opposition to the tenants and morals of everyday society and that is why we still love them – for their creativity, their individuality, their thoughts and above all their panache, stepping outside the orthodoxies and regi/mentality of everyday life. Against the system, for life.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the State Library of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“The mania of young artists to
wish to live outside of their time,
with other ideas and other customs,
isolate them from the world,
render them strange and bizarre,
puts them outside the law, banished
from society. These are today’s
bohemians.”

.
Félix Pyat (French, 1810-1889)

 

 

Artist, rebel, hippie, hipster?

Revealing Melbourne’s enduring counter-cultures, Bohemian Melbourne celebrates a who’s who of creative free spirits through their art and the bohemian legacy that has shaped the character of this city. The exhibition shines a light on Melbourne’s cultural bohemians from 1860 to today, tracing individuals who have pushed against convention in their lives and art, from Marcus Clarke, Albert Tucker and Mirka Mora to Barry Humphries, Vali Myers and Nick Cave.

Venture into history’s backstreets and smoky salons to discover the stories of the daring poets, artists, visionaries, rebels and rock stars who changed Melbourne forever. (Text from the website)

 

Marcus Clarke: “A Punk in the Age of Steam”

Marcus Clarke, writer, journalist and later a librarian at the Melbourne Public Library, is generally celebrated as the father of Bohemian Melbourne – although he was more its wild child. After a privileged start in a wealthy English family, which allowed him to cultivate the life of a young dandy and to indulge his passion for the writings of Honoré de Balzac and others, a 16-year-old Clarke suddenly found himself in colonial Melbourne in 1863, thanks to a turn in the family fortune.

Determined to maintain a semblance of the life to which he had become accustomed, Clarke was soon to be found strolling the streets of Melbourne as a flâneur, an observer of the city spectacle. A short-lived post as a bank clerk was followed by a stint on the land as a jackaroo, but by the age of 21 he was back in Melbourne and working as a journalist for the Argus newspaper.

Clarke’s bohemian ways soon attracted other young journalists and writers, and they began to congregate at various Melbourne watering holes, in particular the Cafe de Paris establishing the Yorick Club, the early members of which included fellow writers Henry Rendall, George Gordon McCrae and Adam Lindsay Gordon. The Yorick had a human skull for a mascot and rules that parodied the gentleman’s clubs of establishment Melbourne. Its members gathered in rooms adjoining the office of Melbourne Punch to smoke clay pipes, drink from pewter mugs, recite poetry and generally engage in horseplay. Bohemian society had found a Melbourne home and a creative community was born. (Wall text from exhibition)

 

Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke
1866
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

Bohemian culture in marvellous Melbourne

Marvellous Melbourne, which arose out of the egalitarianism of the gold rushes, gave birth to a strong bohemian culture. Marcus Clarke, the London-born journalist, writer, librarian and professional bohemian, joined the Athenaeum Club and founded in 1868 the Yorrick Club, Australia’s first bohemian club, which became a magnet for men of letters.

He was a dressed-up dandy, a flâneur and a heavy drinker, but had a touch of genius with his novel, For the Term of His Natural Life (1874/75), one of the classics of Australian colonial literature. He was dead by the age of 35, with suicide rumoured but rejected by his actress wife, Marian Dunn, the mother of his six children. Clarke in his behaviour and creative achievement became a model for other Australian bohemians to follow.

Extract from Professor Sasha Grishin. “Celebrating Melbourne bohemians at the State Library of Victoria,” on The Conversation website, 16 January 2015 [Online] Cited 03/02/2015

 

Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' (detail) 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke (detail)
1866
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

“In 1863, when the young Marcus Clarke arrived in Melbourne, he could have slipped easily into what passed for mannered society in the booming gold-rush city. His uncle was a County Court judge, his cousin a politician, and Clarke himself was granted honorary membership of the elite Melbourne Club. But he chose to turn his back on the bunyip aristocracy. “I am a bohemian,” declared the man who would go on to write the first great Australian novel. “I live, I walk, I eat, drink and philosophise.”

All of which sounds perfectly normal – except, perhaps, for the philosophising – but in reality, Marcus Clarke’s life was far from average. He became a celebrated satirist of Marvellous Melbourne, by turns outraging and titillating 19th-century sensibilities in Australia’s modern metropolis. He befriended fellow intellectuals and bon vivants to form underground literary clubs that didn’t so much turn their backs on as raise an insulting finger to colonial mores. He was a poet and a playwright, a journalist and a novelist, a jackaroo, a wastrel and, above all, quite the tremendous wit.

Clarke’s most enduring gift is his writing, particularly the classic convict novel For The Term Of His Natural Life. But a new exhibition at the State Library of Victoria pays tribute to his other major legacy – that of Australia’s first bona fide bohemian.

“Clarke was an iconoclast, dangerous to know and a dandy about town,” explains historian Dr Tony Moore, author of Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians

“Most people think of him as a venerable old Victorian gentleman, but I characterise him as a punk in the age of steam.” [Marcus: I don’t know why a venerable old Victorian gentleman – he was dead at 35]

Moore, who is a Monash University academic and passionate chronicler of unconventional Australians, was an adviser to the exhibition and worked alongside curator Clare Williamson to create this retrospective of radicals. Melbourne’s roaming free spirits have been corralled together for the first time using material – some of it never previously displayed in public – drawn from State Library archives and borrowed from public and private collections. Viewed en masse, they comprise a rogues’ gallery of some of the country’s most indelible cultural icons…

His [Clarke’s] image adorns the exhibition posters, a larger-than-life bohemian in breeches and knee-high boots with a cabbage-tree hat perched jauntily above his broad, handsome face. Melbourne’s original radical would be thrilled to see that his notoriety lives on, more than a century after his death.”

Extract from Kendall Hill. “Bohemian Melbourne: Exhibition” on the Qantas Travel Insider website [Online] Cited 03/02/2015

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

installation-k-WEB

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Unknown photographer. 'Members of the Ishmael Club' c. 1900

 

Unknown photographer
Members of the Ishmael Club
c. 1900
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975) 'Fifteen of the Founders' 1944

 

Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975)
Fifteen of the Founders
1944
Oil on canvas and gauze mounted on panel
Collection of the Montsalvat Trust

 

 

Montsalvat is the result of Justus Jörgensen’s vision for a collective experience of art and life. Jörgensen had trained in architecture and then in painting with earlier bohemian Max Meldrum. His studio in Queen Street, the Mitre Tavern and the Latin and Chung Wah restaurants were sites for lively discussions in which Jörgensen put forward his philosophies of art, the revival of medieval craftsmanship and communal living. This vision began to take shape in 1934 when he and his wife, Lily, brought land at Eltham; with the assistance of friends and followers, he built Montsalvat, an artists’ colony of studios, workshops and the communal Great Hall.

While Justus Jörgensen rarely exhibited, his great love was painting. This multi-panelled work comprises portraits by Jörgensen of 15 significant figures from the early years of Montsalvat. They are, from top to bottom, left to right:

Ian Robertson – student of Jorgensen who also ran an antiques shop
Leo Brierley – businessman and backer of Mervyn Skipper’s Pandemonium journal
Helen (Nell) Lempriere – niece of Dame Nellie Melba, painter, sculptor, and an earl student of Jorgensen
Norman Porter – friend and student of Jorgensen and lecturer in philosophy
Mervyn Skipper – author, journalist and Melbourne editor of the Bulletin
Helen Skipper – Mervyn’s first daughter, Jorgensen’s partner for many years, and mother of Sebastian and Sigmund Jorgensen
Justus Jorgensen – founder and architect of Montsalvat, painter, assistant to artist Max Meldrum and teacher.
Sonia Skipper – second daughter of Mervyn Skipper, and painter and teacher
Arthur Munday – law student, sculptor and stonemason trained by Jorgensen
William (Bill) Cook – teacher, philosophy and president of the Victorian Rationalist Society
Norman Radcliffe – student and friend of Jorgensen, and philosopher
Ray Grant – student of Jorgensen and philosopher
Edward Goll – internationally renowned pianist and teacher at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
Arthur (George) Chalmers – pharmacist, student of Jorgensen, stonemason and carver, who also planted the first vineyard at Montsalvat

(Label texts)

 

Montsalvat is an artist colony in Eltham, Victoria, Australia, established by Justus Jörgensen in 1934. It is home to over a dozen buildings, houses and halls set amongst richly established gardens on 48,562 m2 (12 acres) of land. The colony of Montsalvat has a detailed history that reflects the life of Jörgensen and his friends and family; there is also a legend behind its name, while its buildings and gardens are steeped in the art and culture of Melbourne and its surroundings.

Visitors can pay a small fee to walk throughout the colony’s historical gardens, artists’ houses/workshops and explore the surrounding buildings. All of the buildings on the site were designed and built by residents with locally available materials, from various sources. The Great Hall offers an extensive network of spaces from extravagant halls and vast exhibition spaces, to small corridors and tiny balconies overlooking the gardens. (Wikipedia)

 

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) Ella Grainger (1889-1979) 'Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger' c. 1934

 

Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
Ella Grainger (1889-1979)
Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger
c. 1934
Cotton bath towels, plastic, leather and metal
Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

 

“In 1932 or 1933 my wife and I took up again this idea of clothing made of towelling and when in Australia in 1934 and 1935 we were amazed by the beauty of the bath towels on sale in Australia – some imported from England, Czechoslovakia and America, but most of them (and among them the most beautiful ones) manufactured in Australia. Here was a chance to show what could be done with the beauty born of machinery – a beauty as rich and subtle, in its own way, as anything made by hand or loom.”

Percy Grainger, c. 1955-56

 

Unknown photographer
Percy Grainger at White Plains, New York
1936
Exhibition graphic from silver gelatine photograph
Grainger Museum collection, The University of Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015, including at left Albert Tucker, Self-portrait with Joy Hester, 1939 (see below)

 

Albert Tucker. 'Self-portrait with Joy Hester' 1939

 

Albert Tucker
Self-portrait with Joy Hester
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

An Interview with Albert Tucker conducted by Justin Obrien in 1997.
Albert expands on his many insights,during the time he spent with John and Sunday Reed and other artists at Heide during the1940’s. An intimate insight into a unique man.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café
1954
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries

 

Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' (detail) 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café (detail)
1954
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries

 

 

These clips features home movie footage taken by Gertie Anschel (c.1953-1954) with audio commentary by film director Philippe Mora.

Part 1 of 3 features scenes of Melbourne, The Mirka Café and Joy Hester and Gray Smith’s property. Philippe reflects on his childhood and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene. 

 

 

Part 2 of 3 features the property of Roger de Stoop, artist friends and Arthur Boyd at work on his 1956 Melbourne Olympic statue. Philippe reflects on his childhood identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.

 

 

Part 3 of 3 features the Moras, the art gang at a balcony party and late American actor Melvyn Douglas. Philippe reflects on his childhood, parents and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.

 

 

Making Your Own Fun in the 50s

On the surface at least, Melbourne in the 1950s was a rather dour affair. For some non-conformists, such as Vali Myers and Barry Humphries, it was a place to escape rather than a place to be. For others, however, it was a site for creating underground cultures that were largely invisible to the mainstream.

This was no more so than in the case of gay and lesbian, or ‘camp’, culture, as it was known at the time. Homosexuality was illegal in Victoria until 1960, and in the 1950s it was sensationalised in the tabloid press as a subject for mockery if not horror. As a result, homosexual men and women developed alternative bohemian cultures and communities, with their own covert venues, house parties, secret languages and dress codes.

The gala costume arts balls that raised money for mainstream theatre and other arts charities were grand exceptions to the gnerally underground clubs and private parties. They offered rare moments in which camp culture could be expressed in public without fear for reprisal. Theatres and dance companies provided employment for many, and bars, such as the one nicknamed the Snake Pit at the Hotel Australia, and restaurants such as Val’s Coffee Lounge, provided opportunities for the camp community to meet and to mix with others who were outside the establishment.

 

Norman Ikin. 'Vali Myers' c. 1949

 

Norman Ikin
Vali Myers
c. 1949
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

Mark Strizic. 'Barry Humphries in Melbourne' 1969

 

Mark Strizic (1928-2012)
Barry Humphries in Melbourne
1969
Exhibition print from flexible-base negative
State Library of Victoria
Courtesy of the Estate of the artist

 

 

A never seen on broadcast TV programme with Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage made in 1975. Barry Humphries was promoting his film ‘Barry McKenzie holds his own’. Films clips were provided officially by EMI. The interviewer trying to hold things together is Mark Caldwell. The programme was made in black and white.

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with, in the distance, Henry Talbot Portraits of actor Frank Thring 1963, with Thring’s jewellery box and contents in the foreground.

 

It has been said of Frank Thring that he could make most stages or foyers seem small. His larger-than-life personality was almost matched by his frame, often decked out in imposing black and with flamboyant jewellery. Son of Frank Thring snr, founder of Efftee Films and 3XY Radio, Thring jnr earned fame as an actor in London’s West End and in Hollywood films such as Ben Hur, often playing sinister or decadent characters. In the 1950s, he would recite poems laden with innuendo and hold court at the ‘head table’ at Val’s Coffee Lounge. To be welcome at his table was a sign one was part of the ‘in’ crowd. (Label text)

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Arts Ball, Palais de Danse - John Anderson as Sun God' c. 1963-64

 

Unknown photographer
Arts Ball, Palais de Danse – John Anderson as Sun God
c. 1963-64
Gelatin silver photograph
Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

 

John Anderson was first-prize winner at a number of arts balls in the 1960s. His costume shown here reflects the creativity and effort that many put into their outfits. Costumes and headdresses were sometimes so large that Anderson and others regularly hired furniture vans to take them to the ball. One year the van that was transporting Anderson broke down and he completed the journey strapped upright on the back of a ute. His Sun  God costume wowed new audiences when he was invited to take part in a pageant on ice base on the theme of The Kind and I – with Anderson as the King – at the Southland shopping centre ice rink around 1970. (Label text)

But you will go to the ball, you will sweetie!

 

Richard Walsh (editor) 'The Review', Vol. 22, No. 22 Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co., March 1972

 

Richard Walsh (editor)
The Review, Vol. 22, No. 22
Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co.,
March 1972
State Library of Victoria

 

Before editing the irreverent Melbourne weekly The Review (Nation Review from July 1972, Richard Walsh edited counter-cultural Oz magazine with Richard Neville and Martin Sharp. Contributors to Nation Review included Max Harris, Bob Ellis, Phillip Adams, Michael Leunig and Germaine Greer. Greer had been part of the Drift in Melbourne, a loose association of artists, students and graduates. Enrolling in a Masters degree at Sydney University, in 1962 she becomes a leading light in the Sydney libertarian Push, an intellectual bohemia of larrikin anarchists. Gaining her PhD at Cambridge University, Greer then published her groundbreaking book The Female Eunuch. (Label text)

 

Ashley Mackevicius. 'Nick Cave' 1973

 

Ashley Mackevicius
Nick Cave
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2006

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Soapbox Circus - The Fabulous Spagoni Family' c. 1977

 

Ponch Hawkes
Soapbox Circus – The Fabulous Spagoni Family
c. 1977
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park' 1979

 

Ponch Hawkes
Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park
1979
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with artist Ponch Hawkes work at right

 

Rennie Ellis. 'Mirka Mora in her studio' 1978

 

Rennie Ellis
Mirka Mora in her studio
1978
Colour transparency
State Library Victoria
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

 

Vali Myers (1930-2003) 'Passions' 1981-82

 

Vali Myers (1930-2003)
Passions
1981-82
Pen, black ink, sepia, burnt sienna and watercolour
Vali Myers Art Gallery Trust

 

Vali Myers discovered a love of drawing at an early age. Over the years it became her primary mode of artistic expression in place of contemporary dance. She dedicated her life to her art and would spend up to two years creating each of her intricately drawn artworks. Passions contains many elements that symbolically represent aspects of Vali Myers’ art and life. These include a fox (referencing her pet Foxy), ravens (Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven being one of her favourite poems, a gypsy-like figure playing a violin and, at the centre of it all, a woman with flaming red hair. (Label text)

 

Liz Ham. 'Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building' 1997

 

Liz Ham
Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building
1997
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

Australian artist Vali Myers moved to Paris from Australia at age 19 where she lived on the streets, danced in cafes, met Satre, Cocteau, Genet and Django Reinhardt. She moved to New York, tattooed Patti Smith’s knee, befriended Salvador Dali and met Andy Warhol and Tennessee Williams.

Vali was a great influence on lots of famous people Tennesse Williams, Jean Cocteau, Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Jean Genet and Kate Bush.

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

 

Australian artist Howard Arkley interviewed by ABC television shortly before his untimely death in 1999.

 

Howard Arkley (1951-1999) 'The Ritual' 1986

 

Howard Arkley (1951-1999)
The Ritual
1986
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
State Library of Victoria

 

Howard Arkley is recognised as one of Australia’s most significant 20th-century artists. He is unique in embracing not only urban culture but also life in suburbia, a space generally shunned or scorned by bohemians, with exception of that other flaneur of suburbia, Barry Humphries. Like many bohemians before him, Arkley lived on the edge and experimented with mind-altering substances, and, like a good proportion of them, his life was tragically cut short as a result. Despite its large scale, comic-book style and pop colours, The Ritual is as much a cool and judgment-free study in composition and the human form as it is in the rituals or ‘habits’ associated with drug use. (Label text)

 

 

State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000
T: (03) 8664 7000

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State Library of Victoria 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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