Archive for the 'photojournalism' Category

04
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Susan Meiselas: Mediations’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 6th February – 20th May 2018

Curators: Carles Guerra and Pia Viewing

 

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Sandinistes aux portes du quartier général de la Garde nationale à Esteli : "L'homme au cocktail Molotov", Nicaragua' 16 juillet 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Sandinistes aux portes du quartier général de la Garde nationale à Esteli : “L’homme au cocktail Molotov”, Nicaragua
16 juillet 1979
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Esteli. 1979. Sandinistas at the walls of the Esteli National Guard headquarters

 

 

The second of a double header from Jeu de Paume, Paris.

Whatever you write or say doesn’t matter. It’s the images that matter, the work before you.

Meiselas’ work offers respect, that is the key word, respect for the individuality of the people she photographs. You can feel it in her images; it is what gives them their power. Unlike the previous posting on the work of Raoul Hausmann, where it was all about the photographer, here the work is authored but the photographs are all about the subject: their place in the world, their trials and tribulations.

Meiselas’ photographs are very strong – graphic work (in form and declaration) balanced with an existential, human touch. Meiselas questions the nature of the original photograph and photographic process in order to understand how the photograph and its ongoing testimonies change in specific times and places, by developing multilayered narratives which integrate the participation of her subjects into her works. As such they are as much meditations on the human condition as much as mediations between place, her role as witness, storytelling, and how the meaning of images changes according to the context of their diffusion, which is facilitated by technology.

On the compilation of her visual histories, I can’t put it better than the text below:

“Lauded documentary photographer Susan Meiselas has been working at the nexus of history, politics, ethnography, art, and storytelling throughout her prolific career, producing multi-layered photographic narratives about individuals and societies across the U.S. and the world. Sensitive to both the potential and limitations of images, the 1992 MacArthur Fellow approaches her projects aware of their inevitable impartiality and incompleteness, supplementing her own photographs with texts, interviews, archival images, and other forms of documentation. “My projects are authored but I’d like to think they are not authoritative,” she says.

“About Susan Meiselas” on the Artsy website

Marcus

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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.

 

A member of Magnum Photos since 1976, Susan Meiselas questions documentary practice. She became known through her work in conflict zones of Central America in the 1970s and 1980s in particular due to the strength of her colour photographs. Covering many subjects and countries, from war to human rights issues and from cultural identity to the sex industry, Meiselas uses photography, film, video and sometimes archive material, as she relentlessly explores and develops narratives integrating the participation of her subjects in her works. The exhibition highlights Susan Meiselas’ unique personal as well as geopolitical approach, showing how she moves through time and conflict and how she constantly questions the photographic process and her role as witness.

 

 

“It is important to me – in fact, it is central to my work – that I do what I can to respect the individuality of the people I photograph, all of whom exist in specific times and places.”

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“This photograph is for whom. And so, for a long time that’s been the question motivating almost everything that I do.”

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Susan Meiselas

 

 

Susan Meiselas: Mediations at Jeu de Paume on Vimeo

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Sharif and Son' 1971

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Sharif and Son
1971
Série 44 Irving Street, 1971
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Lena après le spectacle, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973
1973
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. Essex Junction, Vermont. 1973. Lena on the Bally Box

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Lena juchée sur sa caisse, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973' 1973

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Lena juchée sur sa caisse, Essex Junction, Vermont, 1973
1973
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

USA. Essex Junction, Vermont. 1973. Lena after the show

 

 

“Meiselas is known for her searing, visceral photographs of civil unrest and political revolution around the world, from Central America to Kurdistan. However, it is her “Carnival Strippers” that defines her career for many.”

“A History of Magnum Photos in Ten Photographers” on the Artsy website.
See what they mean on the Susan Meiselas: “Carnival Strippers” 1972 – 1975 web page.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Debbie et Renee, Rockland, Maine, 1972' 1972

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Debbie et Renee, Rockland, Maine, 1972
1972
Série Carnival Strippers, 1972-1975
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. Rockland, Maine. 1972. Debbie and Renee

 

 

Meiselas’s first major photographic essay focused on the lives of women performing striptease at New England country fairs, whom she photographed during three consecutive summers while teaching photography in New York City public school classrooms. Carnival Strippers was originally published in 1976 with a new edition of the book (which included a CD of the audio recordings) produced by Steidl/Whitney in 2003. In 1976, Meiselas was invited to join the photographic cooperative Magnum Photos. Beginning in 1976, she photographed a group of young girls living in her neighbourhood of Little Italy, New York. Entitled Prince Street Girls, they inspired an on-going relationship.

Meiselas is best known for her coverage of the insurrection in Nicaragua and her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America for over a decade. In 1978 Meiselas made her first trip to Nicaragua, and that year one of her iconic images was published on the cover of the New York Times Magazine. In 1981, she published Nicaragua: June 1978-July 1979, reprinted in 2008 (with a DVD of the film “Pictures from a Revolution”) and in 2016 (with a customize AR app, to trigger film clips from the photographs). Her image of Pablo Jesús Aráuz, the ‘Molotov Man’, made on July 16, 1979 just before the triumph of the Sandinistas, has become an icon of the revolution. The image is shown recontextualised in the installation The Life of an Image: ‘Molotov Man’, 1979–2009. Meiselas served as an editor for two collaborative projects, both of which support and highlight the work of regional photographers. The first, El Salvador: The Work of Thirty Photographers, Writers and Readers, 1983, also features her own images. The second project, Chile from Within, W. W. Norton, 1991, focuses on work by photographers living under the Pinochet regime. Meiselas has also co-directed four films: Living at Risk: The Story of a Nicaraguan Family, 1986 ; Voyages, on her work in Nicaragua produced in collaboration with director M. Karlin, Pictures from a Revolution, 1991, with R. P. Rogers and A. Guzzetti; and Reframing History, 2004.

In 1992, Meiselas produced Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, Random House, 1997; University of Chicago Press, 2008. The book was produced along with akaKURDISTAN, 1998, an online archive of collective memory, currently shown as a physical map with story books made by contributors from the Kurdish diaspora worldwide. Pandora’s Box, Trebruk/Magnum Editions, 2003, is an exploration of an underground New York S&M club that began in 1995. Both projects are shown as exhibition works.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Mississippi' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Mississippi
1974
Série Porch Portraits, 1974
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Caroline du Sud' 1974

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Caroline du Sud
1974
Série Porch Portraits, 1974
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Dee et Lisa, Mott Street, Little Italy, New York, 1976' 1976

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Dee et Lisa, Mott Street, Little Italy, New York, 1976
1976
Série Prince Street Girls, 1975-1990
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Roseann sur la route pour Manhatten Beach, New York, 1978' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Roseann sur la route pour Manhatten Beach, New York, 1978
1978
Série Prince Street Girls, 1975-1990
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

USA. New York CIty. 1978. Roseann on the way to Manhattan Beach

 

Alain Dejean Sygma. 'Portrait de Susan Meiselas, Monimbo, Nicaragua' Septembre 1978

 

Alain Dejean Sygma
Portrait de Susan Meiselas, Monimbo, Nicaragua
Septembre 1978
© Alain Dejean Sygma

 

 

The retrospective devoted to the American photographer Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) brings together a selection of works from the 1970s to the present day. A member of Magnum Photos since 1976, Susan Meiselas questions documentary practice. She became known through her work in conflict zones of Central America in the 1970s and 1980s in particular due to the strength of her colour photographs. Covering many subjects and countries, from war to human rights issues and from cultural identity to the sex industry, Meiselas uses photography, film, video and sometimes archive material, as she relentlessly explores and develops narratives integrating the participation of her subjects in her works. The exhibition highlights Susan Meiselas’s unique personal as well as geopolitical approach, showing how she moves through time and conflict and how she constantly questions the photographic process and her role as witness.

Her early works already illustrate her interest for documentary photography. Her very first project, 44 Irving Street (1971), was a series of black and white portraits. Here, she used her camera as a means of interacting with the other tenants of the boarding house where she lived during her time as a student. For Carnival Strippers (1972-1975), Meiselas followed strippers working in carnivals in New England over the course of three consecutive summers. The reportage is completed with audio recordings of the women, their clients and managers.

From this period originates also Prince Street Girls (1975-1992), which was shot in the district known as Little Italy, in New York, where Susan Meiselas still lives. She photographed a group of young girls over several years, capturing the changes that took place in their lives as they were growing up, constituting a chronicle of the evolving relationship between the young girls and the photographer.

Three important series represent the center of the exhibition: Nicaragua, El Salvador and Kurdistan. Made between the late 1970s and 2000, the works reveal the way in which the artist challenges and practises photography. During the course of her extensive travels in Latin America, over a number of decades, in times of war and peace, Meiselas returns to the sites where she took the original photographs, using the images to find the people she had met in order to pursue a record of their testimonies. With her project Mediations (1982), Susan Meiselas reveals how the meaning of images changes according to the context of their diffusion. Her novel approach is almost prophetic in a world where the diffusion of the image is facilitated by technology.

As from 1997, Meiselas addresses each conflict in a different way according to the context. Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History (1997) is an archive of the visual history of a people without a nation. Meiselas, who gathered those elements all around the world in collaboration with Kurdish people, constructed her work as an installation composed of a compilation of documents, photographs and videos.

In 1992, Meiselas, asked to contribute to an awareness campaign exposing domestic violence, began by photographing crime scenes, accompanying a team of police investigators, and then selected a number of documents with photographs from the archives of the San Francisco Police Department. This research led her to create Archives of Abuse, collages of police reports and photographs, exhibited in the city’s public spaces as posters on bus shelters.

For the retrospective at the Jeu de Paume, Susan Meiselas has created a new work, begun in 2015, based on her involvement with Multistory, a regional arts organisation based in the United Kingdom. This last series A Room of Their Own was made collaboratively in a refuge for women and focuses on domestic violence. The installation includes five narrative video works, featuring Meiselas’s photographs, first-hand testimonies, collages and drawings.

The exhibition of the Jeu de Paume is the most comprehensive retrospective of her work ever held in France. It retraces her trajectory since the 1970s as a visual artist who associates her subjects to her approach and questions the status of images in relation to the context in which they are perceived.

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Masque traditionnel utilisé lors de l'insurrection populaire, Masaya, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Masque traditionnel utilisé lors de l’insurrection populaire, Masaya, Nicaragua
[Traditional mask used during the popular uprising, Masaya, Nicaragua]

1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

 

 

In the late 1970s, without an assignment of any sort, Susan Meiselas went to Nicaragua to cover the popular insurrection following the assassination of the editor of the opposition newspaper La Prensa. She became one of the most celebrated photojournalists in the world for her colour photographs of the Sandinista Popular Revolution. Some of them became icons of the Nicaraguan revolution. She didn’t see the insurrection as a series of isolated news events as a photojournalist would, but rather a historical process that was unfolding every day. Her approach was specific to the context of the conflict and the terrain.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Fouille de toutes les personnes voyageant en voiture, en camion, en bus ou à pied, Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Fouille de toutes les personnes voyageant en voiture, en camion, en bus ou à pied, Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Cuidad Sandino. Searching everyone traveling by car, truck, bus or foot

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Retour chez soi, Masaya, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Retour chez soi, Masaya, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Masaya. September, 1978. Returning home

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Muchachos attendant la riposte de la Garde nationale, Matagalpa, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Muchachos attendant la riposte de la Garde nationale, Matagalpa, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

NICARAGUA. Matagalpa. Muchachos await the counterattack by the National Guard

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Soldats fouillant la passagers du bus sur l’autoroute Nord, El Salvador' 1980

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Soldats fouillant la passagers du bus sur l’autoroute Nord, El Salvador
1980
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

EL SALVADOR. 1980. Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Route pour Aguilares, El Salvador' 1983

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Route pour Aguilares, El Salvador
1983
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

EL SALVADOR. 1983. Road to Aguilares.

 

 

With Mediations, 1982, the project that lends its title to this retrospective exhibition, Meiselas revealed the effects that the circulation of images produces on their meaning. At a time when, thanks to new technologies, photography has become the object of an all-reaching exchange, Meiselas’s attitude becomes unprecedented, while her archival projects constitute a valuable precedent. Two of them, the ones devoted to Nicaragua and Kurdistan, are widely represented in this exhibition.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Veuve sur le charnier de Koreme, nord de l'Irak' 1992

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Veuve sur le charnier de Koreme, nord de l’Irak
1992
© Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

NORTHERN IRAQ. Kurdistan. June, 1992. Widow at mass grave found in Koreme

 

 

The retrospective emphasises the development of Susan Meiselas’ photographic practice from the 1970s onwards. In most of her early work, she addresses the subjects of her portrait-based images by including them in one way or another in the process of her work. In 44 Irving Street, (1972), she asks the persons portrayed to comment on their representation and in Carnival Strippers (1975), a sound recording of the context in which the photographs are taken gives further perspective on the strippers lives. In addition to this aspect, her interest in archival documentation and the compilation of visual histories can also be traced back to this period (Lando, 1975) and one can see this develop in her research work on Kurdistan. Her treatment of images reveals that, in her artistic practice, she considers the photographic frame as a moment in time complementary to other forms of framing and capturing reality, which may be seen and reviewed over time.

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore) 'Blocs de béton signalant la fosse commune de Koreme, nord de l'Irak' 1992

 

Susan Meiselas (b. 1948, Baltimore)
Blocs de béton signalant la fosse commune de Koreme, nord de l’Irak
[Concrete blocks signaling Koreme Mass grave, northern Iraq]

1992
© Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

 

 

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

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02
Feb
18

Exhibition: ‘Walker Evans’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Exhibition dates: 30th September 2017 – 4th February 2018

Curator: Clément Chéroux

 

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Self-Portrait' 1927

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Self-Portrait
1927
Gelatin silver print
Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

I have posted on this exhibition before, when it was at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, but this iteration at SFMOMA is the exclusive United States venue for the Walker Evans retrospective exhibition – and the new posting contains fresh media images not available previously.

I can never get enough of Walker Evans. This perspicacious artist had a ready understanding of the contexts and conditions of the subject matter he was photographing. His photographs seem easy, unpretentious, and allow his sometimes “generally unaware” subjects (subway riders, labor workers) to speak for themselves. Does it matter that he was an outsider, rearranging furniture in workers homes while they were out in the fields: not at all. Photography has always falsified truth since the beginning of the medium and, in any case, there is never a singular truth but many truths told from many perspectives, many different points of view. For example, who is to say that the story of America proposed by Robert Frank in The Americans, from the point of view of an outsider, is any less valuable than that of Helen Levitt’s view of the streets of New York? For different reasons, both are as valuable as each other.

Evans’ photographs for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documenting the effects of the Great Depression on American life are iconic because they are cracking good photographs, not because he was an insider or outsider. He was paid to document, to enquire, and that is what he did, by getting the best shot he could. It is fascinating to compare Floyd and Lucille Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama (1936, below) with Alabama Tenant Farmer Floyd Bourroughs (1936, below). In the first photograph the strong diagonal element of the composition is reinforced by the parallel placement of the three feet, the ‘Z’ shape of Lucille Burroughs leg then leading into her upright body, which is complemented by the two vertical door jams, Floyd’s head silhouetted by the darkness beyond. There is something pensive about the clasping of his hands, and something wistful and sad, an energy emanating from the eyes. If you look at the close up of his face, you can see that it is “soft” and out of focus, either because he moved and/or the low depth of field. Notice that the left door jam is also out of focus, that it is just the hands of both Floyd and Lucille and her face that are in focus. Does this low depth of field and lack of focus bother Evans? Not one bit, for he knows when he has captured something magical.

A few second later, he moves closer to Floyd Burroughs. You can almost hear him saying to Floyd, “Stop, don’t move a thing, I’m just going to move the camera closer.” And in the second photograph you notice the same wood grain to the right of Floyd as in the first photograph, but this time the head is tilted slightly more, the pensive look replaced by a steely gaze directed straight into the camera, the reflection of the photographer and the world beyond captured on the surface of the eye. Walker Evans is the master of recognising the extra/ordinary. “The street was an inexhaustible source of poetic finds,” describes Chéroux. In his creation of visual portfolios of everyday life, his “notions of realism, of the spectator’s role, and of the poetic resonance of ordinary subjects,” help Evans created a mythology of American life: a clear vision of the present as the past, walking into the future.

With the contemporary decline of small towns and blue collar communities across the globe Evans’ concerns, for the place of ordinary people and objects in the world, are all the more relevant today. As the text from the Metropolitan Museum observes, it is the individuals and social institutions that are the sites and relics that constitute the tangible expressions of American desires, despairs, and traditions. And not just of American people, of all people… for it is community that binds us together.

Marcus

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

 

 

Walker Evans is one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. His elegant, crystal-clear photographs and articulate publications have inspired several generations of artists, from Helen Levitt and Robert Frank to Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Bernd and Hilla Becher. The progenitor of the documentary tradition in American photography, Evans had the extraordinary ability to see the present as if it were already the past, and to translate that knowledge and historically inflected vision into an enduring art. His principal subject was the vernacular – the indigenous expressions of a people found in roadside stands, cheap cafés, advertisements, simple bedrooms, and small-town main streets. For fifty years, from the late 1920s to the early 1970s, Evans recorded the American scene with the nuance of a poet and the precision of a surgeon, creating an encyclopaedic visual catalogue of modern America in the making. …

Most of Evans’ early photographs reveal the influence of European modernism, specifically its formalism and emphasis on dynamic graphic structures. But he gradually moved away from this highly aestheticized style to develop his own evocative but more reticent notions of realism, of the spectator’s role, and of the poetic resonance of ordinary subjects. …

In September 1938, the Museum of Modern Art opened American Photographs, a retrospective of Evans’ first decade of photography. The museum simultaneously published American Photographs – still for many artists the benchmark against which all photographic monographs are judged. The book begins with a portrait of American society through its individuals – cotton farmers, Appalachian miners, war veterans – and social institutions – fast food, barber shops, car culture. It closes with a survey of factory towns, hand-painted signs, country churches, and simple houses – the sites and relics that constitute the tangible expressions of American desires, despairs, and traditions.

Between 1938 and 1941, Evans produced a remarkable series of portraits in the New York City subway. They remained unpublished for twenty-five years, until 1966, when Houghton Mifflin released Many Are Called, a book of eighty-nine photographs, with an introduction by James Agee written in 1940. With a 35mm Contax camera strapped to his chest, its lens peeking out between two buttons of his winter coat, Evans was able to photograph his fellow passengers surreptitiously, and at close range. Although the setting was public, he found that his subjects, unposed and lost in their own thoughts, displayed a constantly shifting medley of moods and expressions – by turns curious, bored, amused, despondent, dreamy, and dyspeptic. “The guard is down and the mask is off,” he remarked. “Even more than in lone bedrooms (where there are mirrors), people’s faces are in naked repose down in the subway.”

Extract from Department of Photographs. “Walker Evans (1903-1975),” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000- (October 2004)

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Truck and Sign' 1928-1930

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Truck and Sign
1928-30
Gelatin silver print
Private collection, San Francisco
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Floyd and Lucille Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Floyd and Lucille Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama
1936
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Floyd and Lucille Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama' 1936 (detail)

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Floyd and Lucille Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama (detail)
1936
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Alabama Tenant Farmer Floyd Bourroughs' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Alabama Tenant Farmer Floyd Bourroughs
1936
Gelatin silver print
22.9 x 18.4 cm
Collection particulière, San Francisco
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo: © Fernando Maquieira, Cromotex

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Allie Mae Burroughs, Wife of a Cotton Sharecropper, Hale Country, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Allie Mae Burroughs, Wife of a Cotton Sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama
1936
Gelatin silver print; private collection
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

“These are not photographs like those of Walker Evans who in James Agee’s account in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men took his pictures of the bare floors and iron bedsteads of the American mid-western sharecroppers while they were out tending their failing crops, and who even, as the evidence of his negatives proves, rearranged the furniture for a ‘better shot’. The best shot that Heilig could take was one that showed things as they were and as they should not be. …

To call these ‘socially-conscious documentary’ photographs is to acknowledge the class from which the photographer [Heilig] comes, not to see them as the result of a benign visit by a more privileged individual [Evans], however well-intentioned.”

Extract from James McCardle. “Weapon,” on the On This Day In Photography website [Online] Cited 29/01/2018

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Sidewalk and Shopfront, New Orleans' 1935

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Sidewalk and Shopfront, New Orleans
1935
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Willard Van Dyke
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Fish Market near Birmingham, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Roadside Stand Near Birmingham/Roadside Store Between Tuscaloosa and Greensboro, Alabama
1936
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Penny Picture Display, Savannah' 1936

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Penny Picture Display, Savannah
1936
Gelatin silver print
Pilara Foundation Collection
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Subway Portrait' January 1941

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Subway Portrait
1938-41
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans. 'Subway Passengers, New York' 1938

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Subway Portrait
1938-41
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans. 'Subway Passengers, New York' 1938

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Subway Portrait
1938-41
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903–1975 New Haven, Connecticut) '[Subway Passengers, New York City]' 1938

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Subway Portrait
1938-41
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Subway Portraits' 1938-1941

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Subway Portraits
1938-1941
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

Exhibition Displays Over 400 Photographs, Paintings, Graphic Ephemera and Objects from the Artist’s Personal Collection

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will be the exclusive United States venue for the retrospective exhibition Walker Evans, on view September 30, 2017, through February 4, 2018. As one of the preeminent photographers of the 20th century, Walker Evans’ 50-year body of work documents and distills the essence of life in America, leaving a legacy that continues to influence generations of contemporary photographers and artists. The exhibition will encompass all galleries in the museum’s Pritzker Center for Photography, the largest space dedicated to the exhibition, study and interpretation of photography at any art museum in the United States.

“Conceived as a complete retrospective of Evans’ work, this exhibition highlights the photographer’s fascination with American popular culture, or vernacular,” explains Clément Chéroux, senior curator of photography at SFMOMA. “Evans was intrigued by the vernacular as both a subject and a method. By elevating it to the rank of art, he created a unique body of work celebrating the beauty of everyday life.”

Using examples from Evans’ most notable photographs – including iconic images from his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documenting the effects of the Great Depression on American life; early visits to Cuba; street photography and portraits made on the New York City subway; layouts and portfolios from his more than 20-year collaboration with Fortune magazine and 1970s Polaroids – Walker Evans explores Evans’ passionate search for the fundamental characteristics of American vernacular culture: the familiar, quotidian street language and symbols through which a society tells its own story. Decidedly popular and more linked to the masses than the cultural elite, vernacular culture is perceived as the antithesis of fine art.

While many previous exhibitions of Evans’ work have drawn from single collections, Walker Evans will feature over 300 vintage prints from the 1920s to the 1970s on loan from the important collections at major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée du Quai Branly and SFMOMA’s own collection, as well as prints from private collections from around the world. More than 100 additional objects and documents, including examples of the artist’s paintings; items providing visual inspiration sourced from Evans’ personal collections of postcards, graphic arts, enamelled plates, cut images and signage; as well as his personal scrapbooks and ephemera will be on display. The exhibition is curated by the museum’s new senior curator of photography, Clément Chéroux, who joined SFMOMA in 2017 from the Musée National d’Art Moderne of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, organizer of the exhibition.

While most exhibitions devoted to Walker Evans are presented chronologically, Walker Evans‘ presentation is thematic. The show begins with an introductory gallery displaying Evans’ early modernist work whose style he quickly rejected in favour of focusing on the visual portfolio of everyday life. The exhibition then examines Evans’ captivation with the vernacular in two thematic contexts. The first half of the exhibition will focus on many of the subjects that preoccupied Evans throughout his career, including text-based images such as signage, shop windows, roadside stands, billboards and other examples of typography. Iconic images of the Great Depression, workers and stevedores, street photography made surreptitiously on New York City’s subways and avenues and classic documentary images of life in America complete this section. By presenting this work thematically, the exhibition links work separated by time and place and highlights Evans’ preoccupation with certain subjects and recurrent themes. The objects that moved him were ordinary, mass-produced and intended for everyday use. The same applied to the people he photographed – the ordinary human faces of office workers, labourers and people on the street.

“The street was an inexhaustible source of poetic finds,” describes Chéroux.

The second half of the exhibition explores Evans’ fascination with the methodology of vernacular photography, or styles of applied photography that are considered useful, domestic and popular. Examples include architecture, catalog and postcard photography as well as studio portraiture, and the exhibition juxtaposes this work with key source materials from the artist’s personal collections of 10,000 postcards, hand-painted signage and graphic ephemera (tickets, flyers, logos and brochures). Here Evans elevates vernacular photography to art, despite his disinclination to create fine art photographs. Rounding out this section are three of Evans’ paintings using vernacular architecture as inspiration. The exhibition concludes with Evans’ look at photography itself, with a gallery of photographs that unite Evans’ use of the vernacular as both a subject and a method.

 

About Walker Evans

Born in St. Louis, Walker Evans (1903-1975) was educated at East Coast boarding schools, Williams College, the Sorbonne and College de France before landing in New York in the late 1920s. Surrounded by an influential circle of artists, poets and writers, it was there that he gradually redirected his passion for writing into a career as a photographer, publishing his first photograph in the short-lived avant-garde magazine Alhambra. The first significant exhibition of his work was in 1938, when the Museum of Modern Art, New York presented Walker Evans: American Photographs, the first major solo exhibition at the museum devoted to a photographer.

In the 50 years that followed, Evans produced some of the most iconic images of his time, contributing immensely to the visibility of American culture in the 20th century and the documentary tradition in American photography. Evans’ best known photographs arose from his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), in which he documented the hardships and poverty of Depression-era America using a large-format, 8 x 10-inch camera. These photographs, along with his photojournalism projects from the 1940s and 1950s, his iconic visual cataloguing of the common American and his definition of the “documentary style,” have served as a monumental influence to generations of photographers and artists.

Press release from SFMOMA

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Resort Photographer at Work' 1941

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Resort Photographer at Work
1941, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Untitled [Street scene]' 1950s

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Untitled [Street scene]
1950s
Gouache on paper
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Street Debris, New York City' 1968

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Street Debris, New York City
1968
Gelatin silver print
Private collection, San Francisco
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) '"Labor Anonymous,” Fortune 34, no. 5, November 1946' 1946

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
“Labor Anonymous,” Fortune 34, no. 5, November 1946
1946
Offset lithography
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Collection of David Campany
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) '"The Pitch Direct. The Sidewalk Is the Last Stand of Unsophisticated Display," Fortune 58, no. 4, October 1958' 1958

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
“The Pitch Direct. The Sidewalk Is the Last Stand of Unsophisticated Display,” Fortune 58, no. 4, October 1958
1958
Offset lithography
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Collection of David Campany
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Collage with Thirty-Six Ticket Stubs' 1975

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Collage with Thirty-Six Ticket Stubs
1975
Cut and pasted photomechanical prints on paper
Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Walker Evans Archive
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Unidentified Sign Painter. 'Coca-Cola Thermometer' 1930-70

 

Unidentified Sign Painter
Coca-Cola Thermometer
1930-70
Enamel on ferrous metal
Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Walker Evans Archive
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975) 'Chain-Nose Pliers' 1955

 

Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Chain-Nose Pliers
1955
Gelatin silver print
The Bluff Collection
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

John T. Hill. 'Interior of Walker Evans's House, Fireplace with Painting of Car' 1975, printed 2017

 

John T. Hill
Interior of Walker Evans’s House, Fireplace with Painting of Car
1975, printed 2017
Inkjet print
Private collection
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Lenoir Book Co., 'Main Street, Showing Confederate Monument, Lenoir, North Carolina' 1900-40

 

Lenoir Book Co.,
Main Street, Showing Confederate Monument, Lenoir, North Carolina
1900-40
Offset lithography
Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Walker Evans Archive
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

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26
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Photography in Argentina, 1850-2010: Contradiction and Continuity’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 16th September 2017 – 28th January 2018

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks. 'Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas' / 'German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards' c. 1852

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks
Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas / German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards
c. 1852
Daguerreotype
Courtesy of Carlos G. Vertanessian

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks. 'Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas' / 'German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards' c. 1852 (detail)

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks
Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas / German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards (detail)
c. 1852
Daguerreotype
Courtesy of Carlos G. Vertanessian

 

 

I knew very little about Argentinian photography before researching for this posting.

Such a rich historical photographic archive – Indigenous, political, activist, performative – engaged in the dissection of national identity construction. Lots of German émigrés, lots of strong women photographers eg. Grete Stern, Annemarie Heinrich, Julio Pantoja and Graciela Sacco.

There is a deep probing in Argentinian photography. There is the irony of the not quite right and an investigation of the dark side, of danger, fear and violence, of loss, grief, rage and resignation. As one of the sections of the exhibition is titled, of Civilisation and Barbarism. A quotation in the posting observes, “One of the most effective means to exercise control of populations in contemporary capitalism is the production of fear.” Drop dead fear.

The bloodlines of the collective consciousness of the Argentinian people run very deep. The dead ones are still there…

Apologies for the lack of photographs in The Aesthetic Gesture section, there were just no good images available.

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.

 

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969) 'Malambistas I' / 'Malambo Dancers I' Negative 2014, print 2016

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969)
Malambistas I / Malambo Dancers I
Negative 2014, print 2016
Chromogenic print
60 x 50 cm
Courtesy of Gustavo Di Mario
© Gustavo Di Mario

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969) 'Carnaval' Negative 2005, printed 2015

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969)
Carnaval
Negative 2005, printed 2015
Chromogenic print
50 x 63.1 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Gustavo Di Mario

 

 

From its independence in 1810 until the economic crisis of 2001, Argentina was perceived as a modern country with a powerful economic system, a strong middle class, a large European-immigrant population, and an almost nonexistent indigenous culture. This perception differs greatly from the way that other Latin American countries have been viewed, and underlines the difference between Argentina’s colonial and postcolonial process and those of its neighbours. Comprising three hundred works by sixty artists, this exhibition examines crucial periods and aesthetic movements in which photography had a critical role, producing – and, at times, dismantling – national constructions, utopian visions, and avant-garde artistic trends.

This exhibition is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across Southern California. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.

Contradiction and Continuity examines the complexities of Argentina’s history over 160 years, stressing the creation of contradictory narratives and the role of photography in constructing them. The exhibition concentrates on photographs that are fabricated rather than found, such as narrative tableaux and performances staged for the camera. However, it also includes examples of what has been considered documentary photography but can be interpreted as imagery intended as political propaganda or expressions of personal ideology.

The exhibition comprises seven sections: Civilization and Barbarism; National Myths: The Indigenous People; National Myths: The Gaucho; National Myths: Evita and the Modern City; The Aesthetic Gesture; The Political Gesture; and Fissures. These themes were chosen to emphasise crucial historical moments and aesthetic movements in Argentina in which photography played a critical role.

 

Civilisation and Barbarism

In 1845 Domingo Sarmiento (1811-1888), a prominent Argentine intellectual, published the novel Facundo, subtitled Civilization and Barbarism. Sarmiento, who would later be elected president, presented his political ideas in terms of an opposition between civilization, represented by the capital city of Buenos Aires and European culture, and barbarism, represented by colonial customs, the gauchos, and the indigenous peoples. This section of the exhibition employs these antagonistic themes to introduce some of the complexities of Argentina’s history and culture. Nineteenth-century albums show the growth and advancement of the country through views of Buenos Aires and images that refer to progressive strategies initiated during this period, including railroad construction and the development of the educational system. In contrast, the work of several contemporary artists embodies the lifestyle and popular culture of the vast interior provinces of Argentina.

Like Sarmiento, Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810-1884), another influential intellectual, viewed immigration as a definitive measure for modernizing the country. In Bases, published in 1853, he addressed the necessity of implementing policies to encourage immigration. The studio photographs in this section depict the growing presence of immigrant communities. Immigration is a key component to understanding Argentine society that continues to inspire contemporary artists.

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868) 'Recuerdos de Beunos Ayres' / 'Memories of Beunos Aires' 1864

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868)
Recuerdos de Beunos Ayres / Memories of Beunos Aires
1864
Page opening: La pirámide / The Pyramid
Albumen print

 

Benito Panunzi (Italian, 1835-1896) 'Monument to General San Martín' c. 1860-1869

 

Benito Panunzi (Italian, 1835-1896)
Monument to General San Martín
c. 1860-1869
Albumen print

 

 

National Myths: The Gaucho

The National Myths section of the exhibition focuses on the construction of specific state symbols, including indigenous people, the gaucho, First Lady Eva Perón, and the city of Buenos Aires. Around 1880, coinciding with increasing waves of immigration and efforts at modernization, an avid debate on national identity arose among Argentine intellectuals and politicians.

By 1910, when the Centennial of Independence was celebrated, the gaucho emerged as an emblematic figure in the national iconography. The gaucho was already a common theme in Costumbrista (customs and character types) paintings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Criollismo (native culture), a movement of the late nineteenth century, stimulated a wider interest in gaucho-themed art, fiction, theatre, and photographs.

José Hernández’s epic narrative poem Martín Fierro (1872) and Eduardo Gutiérrez’s novel Juan Moreira (1879) were major influences. About 1890, amateur photographer Francisco Ayerza staged a series of romanticised photographs meant to illustrate a later edition of Fierro. Commercial studios accommodated women and children who wanted to be pictured as gauchos. More than a national symbol, the gaucho embodied the idealised masculinity of the virile Argentine man; the contemporary fashion photographs of Gustavo Di Mario present a queer interpretation of the gauchesque.

 

Francisco Ayerza Estudio para la edición de "Martín Fierro," gaucho con caballo / Study for an edition of Martín Fierro, Gaucho with Horse c. 1890, print about 1900 - 1905

 

Francisco Ayerza (1860-1901)
Estudio para la edición de “Martín Fierro,” gaucho con caballo / Study for an edition of Martín Fierro, Gaucho with Horse
c. 1890, print about 1900 – 1905
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of a private collection

 

 

One aspect of the immediate reality that seduced Francisco Ayerza and his friends for its picturesque appearance was the Pampa, whose geography began to be altered by machinism and immigration, as documented by some prints. From this interest in the Argentine countryside and its customs was born the idea of ​​photographically illustrating the Martín Fierro and, although they made many shots, it could not be finished, despite the efforts made by the authors in such an exhausting task, and although the selected field to photograph was the Estancia San Juan de Pereyra, very close to Buenos Aires. (Google Translate from the Spanish Wikipedia entry)

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969) 'Malambistas IV' / 'Malambo Dancers IV' Negative 2014, print 2016

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969)
Malambistas IV / Malambo Dancers IV
Negative 2014, print 2016
Chromogenic print
60 x 50 cm
Courtesy of Gustavo Di Mario
© Gustavo Di Mario

 

 

Malambo was born in the Pampas around the 1600. Malambo is a peculiar native dance that is executed by men only. Its music has no lyrics and it is based entirely on rythm. The malambo dancer is a master of tap dancing wearing gaucho’s boots. Among the most important malambo moves are: “la cepillada” (the foot sole brushes the ground), “el repique” (a strike to the floor using the back part of the boot) and the “floreos”. Malambo dancers’ feet barely touch the ground but all moves are energetic and complex. Together with tap dancing, malambo dancers use ” boleadoras” and other aids such as “lazos”. Like “Payadas” for gauchos (improve singing), malambo was *the* competition among gaucho dancers.

Read more about the Malambo dance

 

Nicola Constantino (Argentine, born 1964) 'Nicola alada, inspirado en Bacon inspirado en Rembrandt' / 'Winged Nicola, Inspired by Bacon Inspired by Rembrandt' 2010

 

Nicola Constantino (Argentine, born 1964)
Nicola alada, inspirado en Bacon inspirado en Rembrandt / Winged Nicola, Inspired by Bacon Inspired by Rembrandt
2010
Inkjet print
173 x 135 cm
Courtesy of Nicola Constantino
© Nicola Constantino

 

Marcos López (Argentine, born 1958) 'Reina del trigo. Gálvez, Provincia de Santa Fe' (Queen of Wheat, Gálvez, Santa Fe Province) 1997

 

Marcos López (Argentine, born 1958)
Reina del trigo. Gálvez, Provincia de Santa Fe (Queen of Wheat, Gálvez, Santa Fe Province)
1997, printed 2017
Hand-coloured inkjet print
50 × 70 cm (19 11/16 × 27 9/16 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Rolf Art, Buenos Aires
© Marcos López

 

Marcos López (Argentine, born 1958) 'Gaucho Gil. Buenos Aires' 2009, print 2017

 

Marcos López (Argentine, born 1958)
Gaucho Gil. Buenos Aires
2009, printed 2017
Hand-coloured inkjet print
144 × 100 cm
Courtesy of Rolf Art and Marcos López
© Marcos López

 

 

National Myths: The Indigenous People

While the gaucho became a national myth, “official” images rarely addressed the existence of indigenous peoples. The practice of recording their presence in photography, however, was well established by the late nineteenth century. It began in the portrait studios of Buenos Aires when native caciques (chiefs) visited the capital for peaceful negotiations, or when they were brought in as prisoners and made to pose in traditional garb. Later, photographers would travel by train or wagon to Native American settlements or plantations where indigenous people worked.

These staged compositions, as in the rest of Latin America, portrayed indigenous people as exotic and passive, objectifying them and emphasising their “otherness.” Sitters were always isolated from signs of the “civilized” or “Christian” world. The iconography found in these nineteenth- and early twentieth century photographs corresponds to a nostalgic image of a backward and subjugated group ignored by progress. Modernist and contemporary artists, such as Grete Stern and Guadalupe Miles, presented a different and more accurate view of these people. Both Stern and Miles immersed themselves in indigenous communities, portraying their subjects as individuals rather than stereotypes.

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868) 'Cacique Tehuelche Casimiro Biguá' / 'Tehuelche Chief, Casimiro Biguá' 1864

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868)
Cacique Tehuelche Casimiro Biguá / Tehuelche Chief, Casimiro Biguá
1864
Albumen print
14.1 x 9.7 cm
Courtesy of the Daniel Sale Collection
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

 

Born in Grenoble, France, Esteban Gonnet moved to Argentina from Newcastle, England, in 1857. Gonnet became a photographer after arriving in Buenos Aires in 1857. He was a surveyor, working with his cousin Hippolyte Gaillard, also a surveyor.

Gonnet’s work reflected the rural lifetime and customs, showing the life and customs of Aboriginal people and paisanos of that era, although Gonnet also took photographies in urban places. In most of his photography he tried to show the typical image of the creole, stereotyping Argentine customs, and using objects as symbols that would create iconic images of the era. His photos were then sold abroad (mostly in Europe), when photography of travels or distant places where gaining in popularity. Gonnet’s innovative style of work consisted of the use of negative system rather than daguerreotype (that was the most common technique by then). Furthermore, Gonnet usually chose to take pictures outdoors instead of working at a studio, which was also his hallmark. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentine, born Italy, 1829-1910) 'Cacique Pincén' (Chief Pincén) 1878

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentine, born Italy, 1829-1910)
Cacique Pincén (Chief Pincén)
1878
Printed by Samuel Rimathé, Swiss, born Italy, 1863-unknown
Albumen print
20.2 x 14 cm (7 15/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Collection of Diran Sirinian

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentine, born Italy, 1829-1910) 'Cacique Pincén' (Chief Pincén) negative 1878; print c. 1900

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentine, born Italy, 1829-1910)
Cacique Pincén (Chief Pincén)
negative 1878; print c. 1900
Unknown printer, active Argentina, c. 1900
Hand-coloured halftone postcard
13.7 x 8.7 cm
Courtesy of the Daniel Sale Collection
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

Sociedad Fotográfica Argentina de Aficionados (Argentine, active 1889-1926) 'India yagán u ona tejiendo una canasta' / 'Yagán or Ona Woman Weaving a Basket' c. 1890s

 

Sociedad Fotográfica Argentina de Aficionados (Argentine, active 1889-1926)
India yagán u ona tejiendo una canasta / Yagán or Ona Woman Weaving a Basket
c. 1890s
Printing-out paper
21 x 17 cm
Courtesy of the Daniel Sale Collection
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

Attribute to Carlos R. Gallardo (Argentine, 1855-1938) 'Esperando el ataque' / 'Waiting for the Attack' 1902

 

Attribute to Carlos R. Gallardo (Argentine, 1855-1938)
Esperando el ataque / Waiting for the Attack
1902
Gelatin silver print
15.5 x 22 cm
Courtesy of the Diran Sirinian
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999) 'Mujer pilagá con sus hijos. Los Lomitas, Formosa' / 'Pilagá Woman with her Kids. Las Lomitas, Formosa' 1964

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Mujer pilagá con sus hijos. Los Lomitas, Formosa / Pilagá Woman with her Kids. Las Lomitas, Formosa
1964
From the series Aborígenes del gran Chaco argentine / Indigenous People from the Argentine Gran Chaco
Gelatin silver print
30 x 38 cm
Courtesy of a private collection
© Estate of Grete Stern courtesy Galería Jorge Mara – La Ruche, Buenos Aires, 2016

 

 

Grete Stern (9 May 1904 – 24 December 1999) was a German-Argentinian photographer.[2] Like her husband Horacio Coppola, she helped modernise the visual arts in Argentina, and in fact presented the first exhibition of modern photographic art in Buenos Aires, in 1935. (Wikipedia)

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 innovative foreign films to Argentine audiences. His early works show the 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 amid 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, including those of Bertolt Brecht and Karl Korsch. 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 [the had married in the same year, divorcing in 1943], 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, from feminist playwright Amparo Alvajar to essayist Jorge Luis Borges to poet-politician Pablo Neruda.

Text from the MoMA website

 

Leonel Luna. 'El rapto de Guinnard' / 'The Kidnap of Guinnard' 2002; print, 2017

 

Leonel Luna (Argentine, born 1965)
El rapto de Guinnard / The Kidnap of Guinnard
2002; print, 2017
Inkjet print on vinyl
112 x 72 cm
Courtesy of a private collection
© Leonel Luna

 

 

National Myths: Evita and the Modern City

Photography contributed substantially to the construction of the myths of Buenos Aires as the “Modern City” and Evita as the symbol of Peronism. From the 1930s into the 1950s, the capital, like other advanced cosmopolitan metropolises, continued to expand. Some of the emblematic streets and monuments of the city, such as the Obelisk (1936), Avenida 9 de Julio (begun 1935), and Avenida Corrientes (1936), were built or renovated during this period. Buenos Aires became a model of progress for photographers like Horacio Coppola and Sameer Makarius, who produced series reinforcing this view.

Photography was among the propagandistic strategies deployed by the populist Perón administration (1946-55). Eva Duarte de Perón (1919-1952), known as Evita, had an important role during the first presidency of her husband, Juan Perón (1895-1974), and became the most enduring image of Peronist ideology. Numerous photographers contributed to building an image of Evita as both an elegant celebrity and a compassionate politician. While Juan Di Sandro, considered the father of photojournalism in Argentina, made her political life accessible through views of official events, Annemarie Heinrich helped create her “new” femininity in glamorous studio portraits. Jaime Davidovich’s installation Evita, Then and Now: A Video Scrapbook (1984) and Santiago Porter’s Evita (2008) offer contrasting – critical as well as multidimensional – views of this complex figure.

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentine, born Germany, 1912-2005) 'Eva Perón' Negative 1944, print 1995

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentine, born Germany, 1912-2005)
Eva Perón
Negative 1944, print 1995
Gelatin silver print
32.5 x 27 cm
Courtesy of Galería Vasari
© Archivo Heinrich Sanguinetti

 

 

Annemarie Heinrich (9 January 1912 – 22 September 2005) was a German-born naturalised Argentine photographer, who specialised in portraits and nudity. She is known for having photographed various celebrities of Argentine cinema, such as Tita Merello, Carmen Miranda, Zully Moreno and Mirtha Legrand; as well as other cultural personalities like Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda and Eva Perón.

Heinrich was born in Darmstadt and moved to Larroque, Entre Ríos Province, with her family in 1926, her father having been injured during the First World War. In 1930 she opened her first studio in Buenos Aires. Two years later she moved to a larger studio, and began photographing actors from the Teatro Colón. Her photos were also the cover of magazines such as El Hogar, Sintonía, Alta Sociedad, Radiolandia and Antena for forty years.

Heinrich’s work was shown in New York for the first time in 2016 at Nailya Alexander Gallery in the show “Annemarie Heinrich: Glamour and Modernity in Buenos Aires.” Heinrich is considered one of Argentina’s most important photographers. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Juan Di Sandro (Argentine, born Italy, 1898-1988) 'Avenida 9 de julio con obelisco. Vista panorámica' / 'Avenida 9 de Julio with Obelisk. Panoramic View' 1956

 

Juan Di Sandro (Argentine, born Italy, 1898-1988)
Avenida 9 de julio con obelisco. Vista panorámica / Avenida 9 de Julio with Obelisk. Panoramic View
1956
Gelatin silver print
29 x 42 cm
Courtesy of Galería Vasari
© Familia Di Sandro

 

Sameer Makarius. 'Obelisco' / 'Obelisk' 1957

 

Sameer Makarius
Obelisco / Obelisk
1957
gelatin silver print
Courtesy of Diran Sirinian. Photo: Javier Agustin Rojas
© Throckmorton Fine Arts

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentine, born Germany, 1912-2005) 'Veraneando en la ciudad' / 'Spending the Summer in the City' 1959

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentine, born Germany, 1912-2005)
Veraneando en la ciudad / Spending the Summer in the City
1959
Gelatin silver print
18 x 18 cm
Courtesy of the Guillermo Navone Collection
© Archivo Heinrich Sanguinetti

 

Santiago Porter (Argentine, born 1971) 'Evita' 2008

 

Santiago Porter (Argentine, born 1971)
Evita
2008
From the series Bruma II / Mist II
Inkjet print
154 x 123.5 cm
Courtesy of the Collection Malba, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
© Santiago Porter

 

 

The Political Gesture

The gesture of “pointing out” had its origin in conceptual Argentine photography of the 1960s and 1970s. The artistic act evolved into radical actions as the sociopolitical situation in Argentina deteriorated. This section of the exhibition investigates photographs of political gestures provoked by the last dictatorship of 1976-83, in relation to the earlier conceptual practice presented in the adjacent gallery, “The Aesthetic Gesture.”

The action of showing a photograph of a person who was kidnapped or “disappeared” during the dictatorship was employed by the activist group Madres de Plaza de Mayo. In their weekly marches, the Mothers always wore white head scarves and carried photographs of their children on homemade signs demanding they “Return Alive.” With the arrival of democracy and Nunca Más (Never Again), the official 1984 report of crimes against humanity, trials of the military leaders began. However, over the next fifteen years, many of those who were culpable operated with impunity due to such regulations as the Full Stop Law (1986), the Law of Due Obedience (1987), and the Pardons Act (1990). During this time, activist artist groups, such as Grupo Etcétera… and Escombros, emerged to remind the public of crimes and atrocities, pointing out those assassins who had hoped to remain anonymous.

 

Nicolás García Uriburu. 'Le Geste - Coloration Du Grand Canale - Venise 1968-1970' / 'The Gesture - Colouring the Grand Canal - Venice 1968-70' 1968-70

 

Nicolás García Uriburu
Le Geste – Coloration Du Grand Canale – Venise 1970 / The Gesture – Colouring the Grand Canal – Venice 1970
1968-70
Chromogenic print, stencil and ink
67 x 101 cm
Courtesy of Rubén and Agustina Esposito
© Nicolás García Uriburu

 

 

Born in Buenos Aires in 1937, García Uriburu began painting at an early age and, in 1954, secured his first exhibition at the local Müller Gallery. He enrolled at the University of Buenos Aires, where he received a degree in architecture, and relocated to Paris with his wife, Blanca Isabel Álvarez de Toledo, in 1965. He would later father a child named “Azul” with Blanca. His Three Graces, a sculpture in the pop art style, earned him a Grand Prize at the National Sculpture Salon in 1968. Venturing into conceptual art, he mounted an acrylic display at the Iris Clert Gallery, creating an artificial garden that set a new direction for García Uriburu’s work towards environmental activism.

He was invited to the prestigious Venice Biennale in June 1968, where García Uriburu dyed Venice’s Grand Canal using fluorescein, a pigment which turns a bright green when synthesized by microorganisms in the water. Between 1968 and 1970, he repeated the feat in New York’s East River, the Seine, in Paris, and at the mouth of Buenos Aires’ polluted southside Riachuelo.

A pioneer in what became known as land art, he created a montage in pastel colours over photographs of the scenes in 1970, allowing the unlimited photographic reproduction of the work for the sake of raising awareness of worsening water pollution, worldwide. In addition to environmental conservation he also produced works of art that showcased humanistic naturalism and an antagonism between society and nature, such as: Unión de Latinoamérica por los ríos [Latin America Union for Rivers], and No a las fronteras políticas [No to Political Borders].

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Eduardo Longoni. 'Madres de Plaza de Mayo durante su habitual ronda' / 'Mothers of Plaza de Mayo during Their Customary March' 1981

 

Eduardo Longoni
Madres de Plaza de Mayo durante su habitual ronda / Mothers of Plaza de Mayo during Their Customary March
1981
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of and © Eduardo Longoni

 

Eduardo Gil (Argentine, born 1948) 'Siluetas y canas. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires 21-22 de setiembre, 1983' / 'Silhouettes and Cops. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires, September 21-22, 1983' 1983

 

Eduardo Gil (Argentine, born 1948)
Siluetas y canas. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires 21-22 de setiembre, 1983 / Silhouettes and Cops. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires, September 21-22, 1983
1983
Gelatin silver print
17.5 x 24.5 cm
Courtesy of a private collection
© Eduardo Gil

 

Adriano Lestido (Argentine, born 1955) 'Madre e hija de Plaza de Mayo' / 'Mother and Daughter from Plaza de Mayo' 1982, printed 1984

 

Adriano Lestido (Argentine, born 1955)
Madre e hija de Plaza de Mayo / Mother and Daughter from Plaza de Mayo
1982, printed 1984
Gelatin silver image
16.5 x 21.2 cm
Courtesy of Rolf Art and Adriana Lestido
© Adriana Lestido

 

Grupo Escombros (Argentine, active since 1988) 'Mariposas' (Butterflies) 1988

 

Grupo Escombros (Argentine, active since 1988)
Mariposas (Butterflies)
1988
Pancartas (Signs) series
Chromogenic print (printed in monochrome) mounted on wood
40 × 60 cm (15 ¾ × 23 5/8 in.)
Courtesy of the artists and WALDEN, Buenos Aires
© Grupo Escombros / WALDEN

 

 

Grupo Escombros was born in 1988, in full hyperinflation, as a group of street art or public art as it is usually defined. In that Argentina where the economic value of things changed hour by hour, everything seemed to collapse, including democracy reconquered at the cost of 30,000 missing and collective wounds that may never close.

When analyzing this social, political and economic situation, the founding artists of the group asked themselves what would be left of the country. The answer was: “the rubble.” That day the group acquired its name. A name that today is more current than ever, because Argentina continues to collapse, relentlessly. Next to the name, and beyond the inevitable changes, there are characteristics that remained intact:

  • Most of the works were made outdoors, one street, a square, a cellar, an urban stream
  • They always express the sociopolitical reality that the country lives at that moment
  • It is expressed through all possible forms of communication: installations, manifestos, murals, objects, posters, poems, prints, talks, visual poems, graffiti, postcards, net art

Its members come from various disciplines: plastic, journalism, design, architecture. Their works are always collective, annulling the individualities that compose it. They do not belong to any political party or religious creed in particular. Despite constantly denouncing the conditions of absolute injustice in which the men, women and children of Argentina and Latin America live, it is a mistaken simplification to say that it is only a protest group.

Text from the Grupo Escombros website

 

Grupo Etcétera... (Argentine, active since 1997) 'MÁSCARAS DESINHIBIDORAS - Escraches a los militares Riverso y Peyón' / 'UNINHIBITING MASKS - Escraches to (Former) Military Officers Riverso and Peyón (2)' 1998

 

Grupo Etcétera (Argentine, active since 1997)
MÁSCARAS DESINHIBIDORAS – Escraches a los militares Riverso y Peyón / UNINHIBITING MASKS – Escraches to (Former) Military Officers Riverso and Peyón (2)
1998
Chromogenic print
15 c 21.5 cm
Courtesy of Archivo Etcétera
© Etcétera Archive

 

 

Etcétera is a multi-disciplinary collective created in Buenos Aires in 1997. It is made up of artists with a background in poetry, theater, visual arts and music. Its original purpose was to bring artistic expression closer to places of social conflict and shift these problems to cultural production spaces. These experiences take place at contemporary art venues such as museums, galleries and cultural centers, but also in the streets, at festivals, during protests and demonstrations, using different strategies including contextual and ephemeral public interventions. They consider themselves part of the “committed art” movement. In 2005, they created the Fundación del Movimiento Internacional Errorista (International Errorist Movement Foundation) with other artists and activists. This international organization seeks to consolidate error as a life philosophy. The co-founders of the collective, Loreto Garín Guzmán y Federico Zukerfeld, are responsible for coordinating all activities, archives and other initiatives since 2007.

 

Grupo Etcétera... (Argentine, active since 1997) 'ARGENTINA VS. ARGENTINA. Escrache to General Galtieri' 1998

 

Grupo Etcétera… (Argentine, active since 1997)
ARGENTINA VS. ARGENTINA. Escrache to General Galtieri
1998
Chromogenic print
15 c 21.5 cm
Courtesy of Archivo Etcétera
© Etcétera Archive

 

Escrache: Intimidatory action by citizens against persons in the political, administrative or military sphere, which consists in disseminating information about the abuses committed during their administration to their private homes or to any public place where they are identified.

 

Florencia Blanco (French, born 1971) 'María y Andrés Pedro. Lobería, Buenos Aires' 2008

 

Florencia Blanco (French, born 1971)
María y Andrés Pedro. Lobería, Buenos Aires
2008
From the series Donde están los muertos? / Where Are the Dead Ones?
Chromogenic print
70 x 70 cm
Courtesy of Florencia Blanco
© Florencia Blanco

 

Julio Pantoja. 'Laura Romero, 26 años, estudiante de artes de la serie Los hijos. Tucumán, veinte años despues' / 'Laura Romero, 26 Years Old, Art Student from the series The Sons and Daughters. Tucumán, Twenty Years Later' 1996

 

Julio Pantoja
Laura Romero, 26 años, estudiante de artes de la serie Los hijos. Tucumán, veinte años despues /
Laura Romero, 26 Years Old, Art Student from the series The Sons and Daughters. Tucumán, Twenty Years Later

1996
Gelatin silver print
20.7 x 20.7 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Julio Pantoja

 

Julio Pantoja. 'Natalia Ariñez, 23 años, esudiante de arquitectura' / 'Natalia Ariñez, 23 Years Old, Architecture Student' 1999

 

Julio Pantoja
Natalia Ariñez, 23 años, esudiante de arquitectura / Natalia Ariñez, 23 Years Old, Architecture Student
1999
From the series The Sons and Daughters. Tucumán, Twenty Years Later
Gelatin silver print
20.7 x 20.7 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Julio Pantoja

 

Graciela Sacco (Argentine, born 1956) 'Untitled (#2)' 1993

 

Graciela Sacco (Argentine, born 1956)
Untitled (#2)
1993
From the series Bocanada
Heliography on paper
72.1 x 50.1 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum purchase with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Graciela Sacco

 

 

Graciela Sacco (Argentina, Rosario, 1956 – November 5, 2017) was a visual artist and teacher from Argentina. She worked mainly with photography, video and installation.She received great recognition for the wide participation of his work in individual and collective exhibitions in his country, fairs and international biennials as those in Mexico, Venice and Shanghai , the most important worldwide… She was an artist committed to the problems of her country. …

Through light, shadows, space, time and movement, she captures the themes he addresses, builds, dialogues and discusses in his works; her first technical interest was photography as a visual language to portray time in a certain space, a certain context lived in a fixed image, navigating analogue and digital media, working with techniques such as Heliography , through which she transfers images to the surface of objects chosen for their compositions, which have been previously emulsified with photosensitive substances which allows their printing and thus provide wooden blocks, acrylic sheets, PVC, paintings, windows, suitcases, dishes, spoons, knives of new meanings and meanings that speak beyond their own meaning; how to use an empty spoon with the “reflection” of the mouth that will eat from it to talk about a society that goes hungry and needs, because as she herself has said: “we are individuals different from each other in their personal growth, but with shared or unresolved needs that unite us and relate “. For this reason Bocanada (1993 – 2014) and “Body to Body” (1996 – 2014) become an active work as long as the situation is repeated or is not solved (societies with hunger and ignored basic needs), will remain valid, in force and it can be traced and displayed as many times as necessary.

The first was a set of images reproduced and multiplied, a technique that took from the media and its means to advertise and promote ideas, events, news and products, but through art, taking advantage of the reproducibility of the same product, worth the redundancy, of modernity in the technification and technological evolution of the visual arts. It was born from the urban interventions that Sacco practiced in schools and public squares in Argentina, Brazil and European cities, in which she painted the streets with the image repeated hundreds of times of open mouths, which portray the hunger of the world, the poverty, the need, humility, problems that affect much of the world and that are of human and universal interest, anyone can understand or arouse.

Hence, the work can be reinterpreted anywhere in the world, alluding to the context in which it is presented. As in the second work mentioned in which is not hunger but protests and public demonstrations to claim rights and welfare of student and civil communities, then take advantage of public space as the space of free thought where they can be transformed, evidence and manifest the plurality of ideas and get the support or rejection of their listeners.

Google Translate from the Spanish Wikipedia entry

 

The Aesthetic Gesture

During the 1960s and 1970s, the art scene in Argentina fostered a radical break with traditional forms of art. The opening of new spaces dedicated to experimental art, most notably the Instituto Torcuato di Tella and CAyC (Centro de Arte y Comunicación), gave rise to conceptual art and the engagement of intellectual artists, who began to generate works in unconventional forms, including performances, actions, and installations.

Among these innovations was the “aesthetic gesture,” in which artists used actions and performances to “point out” or signal everyday life events, objects, and people, thus transforming them into works of art. Documented primarily with photographs, these pieces sought to invoke viewers as active participants in artistic actions, erasing the divisions between art and life. In his 1962 Vivo-Dito manifesto, for example, Alberto Greco advocated for “a living art”; and in his Signaling series of 1968, Edgardo Antonio Vigo “pointed out” common objects and events with the intention of producing aesthetic experiences. The difficult political climate of repression in the early 1970s, which culminated in the dictatorship period, provoked artists to undertake increasingly political productions.

 

Jaime Davidovich. 'Tape Project: Sidewalk 1' 1971

 

Jaime Davidovich
Tape Project: Sidewalk 1
1971
Gelatin silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Jaime Davidovich

 

 

Fissures

The democracy restored to Argentina in 1983 followed a neoliberal model, one that favoured free-market capitalism. The implementation of neoliberalism, during the presidency of Carlos Menem (1989-99), together with the catastrophic economic collapse of 2001, provoked the questioning of long-held national ideals. The works in this section utilise architecture to highlight aspects of national history in relation to current sociopolitical issues. Santiago Porter’s photographs reflect the prosperity of the past in contrast to the present fiscal situation. Similarly, Nuna Mangiante’s graphite-altered pictures revolve around the 2001 crisis and, specifically, the corralito (when citizens were not allowed to withdraw their money from banks).

The works in this section stress inequality and its consequences in contemporary Argentina. SUB, Photographic Cooperative’s series A puertas cerradas (Behind Closed Gates) documents the comfortable life of a wealthy family in a gated neighbourhood outside Buenos Aires, while Gian Paolo Minelli’s photographs focus on people living in Barrio Piedrabuena, an impoverished neighbourhood in the capital city. Ananké Asseff’s portraits of middle-class citizens with their guns attest to rising fear and paranoia in contemporary Argentine society.

 

Santiago Porter. 'Casa de Moneda de la serie Bruma' / 'The Mint' Negative, 2007; print, 2015

 

Santiago Porter
Casa de Moneda de la serie Bruma / The Mint
Negative, 2007; print, 2015
From the series Mist
inkjet print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Santiago Porter

 

Martín Weber. 'El jugador' / 'The Chess Player' 1999

 

Martín Weber
El jugador / The Chess Player
1999
From the series Ecos del interior / Echoes from the Interior
Silver dye bleach print
84 x 99 cm framed
Courtesy and © Martín Weber

 

 

In the mid-nineteenth century, Argentina opened up to several waves of immigration, mostly European, which arrived through the port of Buenos Aires. The country also experienced strong waves of emigration: the first was in the 40s and was followed by two of a more political nature. One during the political persecution at universities under the dictatorship of Juan Carlos Onganía and the second following the coup in 1976. None however compared with the emigration that took place as from December 2001, when unemployment reached 22%.

 

Martín Weber. 'Barras de colores' / 'Color Bars' 1996

 

Martín Weber
Barras de colores / Color Bars
1996
From the series Ecos del interior / Echoes from the Interior
Silver dye bleach print
84 x 99 cm framed
Courtesy and © Martín Weber

 

 

Black-and-white TV began to be broadcast during Peron’s regime. The inaugural transmission showed Evita’s speaking from Plaza de Mayo. Color TV arrived under the military dictatorship of 1978, in time to broadcast soccer’s World Cup.

 

Guadalupe Miles (Argentine, born 1971) 'Sin título' (Untitled) 2001

 

Guadalupe Miles (Argentine, born 1971)
Sin título (Untitled)
2001, printed 2017
Chaco series
Inkjet print
100 × 100 cm (39 3/8 × 39 3/8 in.)
Courtesy of the artist
© Guadalupe Miles

 

Guadalupe Miles. 'Untitled' 2001

 

Guadalupe Miles (Argentine, born 1971)
Sin título (Untitled)
2001, printed 2017
Chaco series
Inkjet print
100 × 100 cm (39 3/8 × 39 3/8 in.)
Courtesy of the artist
© Guadalupe Miles

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, born 1968) 'Untitled' 1996-2004

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, born 1968)
Untitled
1996-2004
From the series En el sexto día / On the Sixth Day
Chromogenic (FujiFlex) print
73.7 x 73.7 cm
Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York
© Alessandra Sanguinetti, Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York

 

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (1968, New York, New York) is an American photographer. Born in New York, Sanguinetti moved to Argentina at the age of two and lived there until 2003. Sanguinetti has stated that she began taking photographs to create a sense of permanence in her life after realising that “everything is transitory.” Currently, she lives in San Francisco, California.

Her most involved project is a documentary photography project about two cousins – Guillermina and Belinda – as they grow up outside of Buenos Aires. The project began in 1999 when Sanguinetti visited her grandmother, Juana, in Argentina. She intended to take pictures of the animals which occupied her grandmother’s rural farm. However, she saw potential in her cousins, whom she had previously disregarded. Sanguinetti recounts this, “I was shooting them without even thinking it was work. My first idea was to just do a single story trying to figure out what they imagined life to be, just so I could get into their world.” Titled The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning of their Dreams, the project follows them as they fantasise about becoming adults, early motherhood, and becoming young women while their relationship changes. In this particular collection of photographs, Alessandra makes commentaries about feminine conventions of beauty and behaviour, as well as gender roles and gender identity. She occasionally ridicules social expectations through her images, which are often satirical in nature.  These commentaries are best typified in Petals (2000) and The Couple (1999). Her images focus on the lives of young women and children. Sanguinetti told Vice reporter, Bruno Bayley, “Children are fascinating…As a society, we project so much of our hopes, frustrations, denials, and aspirations on children, and they are so transparent in how they reflect everything that is thrust upon them. How could I not photograph them?”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, born 1968) 'Untitled' 1996-2004

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, born 1968)
Untitled
1996-2004
From the series En el sexto día / On the Sixth Day
Chromogenic (FujiFlex) print
73.7 x 73.7 cm
Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York
© Alessandra Sanguinetti, Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York

 

Sebastián Friedman (Argentine, born 1973) 'Segurismos #7' c. 2010-11, printed 2016

 

Sebastián Friedman (Argentine, born 1973)
Segurismos #7
c. 2010-11, printed 2016
From the series Segurismos
Chromogenic print
59.7 x 80 cm
Courtesy of Sebastián Friedman
© Sebastián Friedman

 

SUB, Photographic Cooperative (Argentine, active since 2004) 'Titi (She Has the Same Name as Her Mother, Silvina) and Lili, One of the Maids, Share Moments of Relaxation. Titi Was Born in San Jorge Village and Her Relationship with Liliana Has developed since Birth' 2012, printed in 2017

 

SUB, Photographic Cooperative (Argentine, active since 2004)
Titi (She Has the Same Name as Her Mother, Silvina) and Lili, One of the Maids, Share Moments of Relaxation. Titi Was Born in San Jorge Village and Her Relationship with Liliana Has developed since Birth
2012, printed 2017
From the series A puertas cerradas (Behind Closed Gates)
Inkjet print
60 x 80 cm
Courtesy of SUB, Photographic Cooperative
© Sub. Coop Todos los derechos reservados

 

Ananké Asseff (Argentine, born 1971) 'Luis' c. 2005-07, printed 2015

 

Ananké Asseff (Argentine, born 1971)
Luis
c. 2005-07, printed 2015
From the series Potential
198.6 x 129.2 cm
Courtesy of Rolf Art and Ananké Asseff
© Ananké Asseff

 

 

One of the most effective means to exercise control of populations in contemporary capitalism is the production of fear.

To talk about one of my projects, in “Potential” I worked on the reaction of contemporary society when facing fear, and I got involved with Argentinian society more directly when I photographed the middle and upper classes with weapons in their houses. In this country, this is not something socially accepted, on the contrary. The embedded image of people carrying weapons is something associated with low-income earners and criminals. I put into question the prototype of the “suspect” that is generated by each society, but this issue, like all the other aspects that make up this project, goes beyond Argentinian society. It is something that involves us on a global level. At the time I made this work, people talked exhaustively about the lack of safety in Argentina and terrorism around the world. At the time I lived in Germany for a while (I got a scholarship from KHM) and the sense of insecurity was evident there as well, the weariness before someone unknown approaching or the presence of a stranger (a feeling that was much stronger if the other person looked like they were from the Middle East). Everything was exacerbated and worsened by the obsession of the mass media which propagated fear and terror in society. How awake we had to be (and still have to be) to avoid succumbing to these manipulations!

As Leonor Arfuch says, “certain registers of contemporary communication, certain topics and media obsessions allow the defining, and building, of tendentious trends and consensus, shared beliefs and feelings that invade our intimate and family structures, thus spreading easily into our personal history.”

Fear is a feeling that’s experienced individually but built within a society.

Ananké Asseff. Text from the Fototazo website

 

Ananké Asseff. 'Alberto de la serie (POTENCIAL)' / 'Alberto from the series (POTENTIAL)' c. 2005-2007; print, 2015

 

Ananké Asseff
Alberto de la serie (POTENCIAL) / Alberto from the series (POTENTIAL)
c. 2005-2007; printed 2015
Inkjet print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Ananké Asseff

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, born 1968) 'Milton' 2009, printed 2016

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, born 1968)
Milton
2009, printed 2016
From the series Zona Sur Barrio Piedrabuena
54 x 66 cm
Courtesy of Dot Fiftyone Gallery and the artist
© Gian Paolo Minelli

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, born 1968) 'Luciano con tatuaje' / 'Luciano with Tatoo' 2009, printed 2016

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, born 1968)
Luciano con tatuaje / Luciano with Tatoo
2009, printed 2016
From the series Zona Sur Barrio Piedrabuena
54 x 66 cm
Courtesy of Dot Fiftyone Gallery and the artist
© Gian Paolo Minelli

 

 

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10
Dec
17

Book review: ‘Walter Mittelholzer Revisited’ from the photo archive of Walter Mittelholzer. Scheidegger & Spiess publishers (2017)

December 2017

 

Scheidegger & Spiess (publisher) 'Walter Mittelholzer Revisited' from the photo archive of Walter Mittelholzer (front cover) 2017

 

Scheidegger & Spiess (publisher)
Walter Mittelholzer Revisited from the photo archive of Walter Mittelholzer (front cover)
Edited by Michael Gasser and Nicole Graf
1st edition, 2017
Pictorial Worlds: Photographs from the image Archive, ETH-Bibliothek Volume 6
Text English and German
Hardback
192 pages, 47 colour and 158 b/w illustrations
20 x 26 cm
ISBN 978-3-85881-543-9

 

 

Do you have a new book fetish? I know I do!

I just love the feel of a brand new, unopened book. The density and quality of the boards, the dynamics of the graphics on the cover… and then, opening the book for the first time, the thickness of the paper, the typography and layout, and the quality of the photographic printing. But above all, it is the smell of a new book that is so intoxicating. I like nothing better than to stick my nose into a new book and savor the smell.

Every new book is different. Each has their own unique aroma, which is caused by a number of chemical reactions used when they are manufactured. “The smell of new books can be attributed to three factors: the paper itself (it smells good because of the chemicals used to manufacture it), the ink used to print the book, and the adhesives used in the process of book-binding.” Which brings me to the book under review today, Walter Mittelholzer Revisited from the photo archive of Walter Mittelholzer, published by Scheidegger & Spiess (2017).

This just under A4 sized hardback book is handsomely produced by Scheidegger & Spiess, No. 6 in the Pictorial Worlds: Photographs from the image Archive, ETH-Bibliothek series. It feels good and solid in the hand. The 23cm thick book has a plain white cover with minimal text. Inset into an embossed area of the cover is a photographic print of Mittelholzer’s Flugplatz in Addis Abeba [Airfield in Addis Ababa] c. 1934. This is an elegant opening statement (see above).

Thick boards lead to plain, light grey endpapers, and on to the pages of the book themselves: excellent quality paper with a slightly textured surface with eminently readable typography. The Editors Foreword and Introduction (with bibliography), printed in both German and English, takes up the first 47 pages of the 192 page book. Images on these pages are rather small and are inset into the text with titles underneath; footnotes are at the bottom of each page.

As for the images themselves, the are well printed within the body of the book, mainly four horizontal images per page with vertical images one to a page. Colour saturation and reproduction is excellent with the images moving from cool, blue tones to warmer yellows and browns. Contrary to what the name suggests, black and white photography is never truly black and white and there are many variations of colour in black and white prints including split toning (a mixture of cool and warm tones together). The printing in this book perfectly captures the colour tonality of the original photographs. Large photographs are printed across the gutter of the book. In the main this works reasonably well, but on occasion (such as the photograph on p. 110 of an African sitting on the ground in camp), the gutter runs right through the subjects’ body, rending the image almost unreadable. In this instance, a fold out of the photograph with the fold repositioned to avoid the figure would have been a desirable outcome.

In terms of the work itself, one cannot underestimate the determination and courage that Mittelholzer possessed in undertaking dangerous journeys through various continents early in the 20th century to document the life of people and place. The reliability of the aircraft, and the hostility of some of the population were constant threats: you only have to look at the photograph Captain Wood and Wegmann still found a cozy spot in the cabin filled with gasoline and oil barrels (1930-31, below) to understand the inherent dangers of flying in those days, surrounded by gasoline and oil barrels. While it could be said that these photographs are just “tourist” photos and Mittelholzer a keen media entrepreneur, marketing “the pictures of his travels to Spitsbergen, Persia or Abyssinia on all channels: in books, films and in the press” – they rise above the purely commercial in their use of aerial photography to transcend and abstract the landscape into pattern and form. The “airplane eye,” a symbiosis of man and machine, was a way of collapsing space… “The verticals that had hitherto defined the artistic gaze had suddenly become obsolete. The tilting of viewer space and oblique perspectives from both above and below were elevated to a new program for both architecture and art.” (p. 35)

Less savoury is Mittelholzer’s patronising view of Africa and its peoples and cultures, even as he and his fellow travellers constantly searched for the most “natural”, the most “authentic” Africa (in their eyes). From a contemporary perspective, these photographs must always be looked at through the prism of colonialism, for this is a white, European male view of these continents and their people. Today, the colonial stereotypes implicit in the photographs are as strong as ever: black / white, male / female, empowered / disempowered seen through the male gaze. More troubling still, and something the Introduction does not shy away from, is Mittelholzer’s connections to the National Socialist party in Germany, the Nazis.

“His images also won approval of the Fascists. His contribution to the German anthology Flug und Wolken published after the Nazis seized power in fact comprised not just photographs but also one of the three prefaces, the other two being the work of Herman Göring, the “Third Reich’s” commander-in chief of the Luftwaffe, and Italo Balbo, Fascist Italy’s aviation minister. Göring for his part lavished praised on the “high artistic appeal” of a book showing the beauty of the “conquered world of the clouds.” (p. 35) You could also add, the conquered lands of the people – for Germany, Britain, Italy and France all had colonies in Africa. His flights in 1924 to Spitsbergen to assist Polar explorer Roald Amundsen and a year later to deliver a plane to Persia were both undertaken for the German aircraft manufacturer Junkers.

Reading between the lines, Mittelholzer seems to have been untroubled by his relationship with the Nazis, perhaps even sympathetic to their cause? His celebrity status allowed him access to elite circles, people such as Baron Louis von Rothschild, socialites, bankers and publishers to fund his expeditions. This state of affairs reminds me of that celebrated German photographer, Leni Riefenstahl – climbing on the back of ambition and closeness to power, whilst denying that she did anything wrong or knew of the despicable acts that were being perpetrated under the National Socialist regime. In the end it’s all about ambition and ego and what you are willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals. Bear that in mind when you are looking at these images.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Scheidegger & Spiess for the review copy of the book, and for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Pictures from Cape Town to Spitsbergen: How aviation pioneer and photographer Walter Mittelholzer became a media entrepreneur.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Castell in Aleppo' 1925

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Castell in Aleppo
1925
Persia flight 1924-1925
Silver gelatin photograph
12 x 17 cm

 

 

Entrance to the citadel of Aleppo, 1925. The citadel is one of the oldest fortresses in the world; its origins can be traced back to the 3rd millennium B.C. The ongoing Syrian Civil War has left it badly damaged.

The Citadel of Aleppo is a large medieval fortified palace in the centre of the old city of Aleppo, northern Syria. It is considered to be one of the oldest and largest castles in the world. Usage of the Citadel hill dates back at least to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. Subsequently occupied by many civilizations including the Greeks, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks, the majority of the construction as it stands today is thought to originate from the Ayyubid period. An extensive conservation work took place in the 2000s by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in collaboration with Aleppo Archeological Society. Dominating the city, the Citadel is part of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. The Citadel has received significant damage in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Buschehr aus 800 m Höhe' 1925

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Buschehr aus 800 m Höhe
1925
Persia flight 1924-1925
Silver gelatin photograph
12 x 17 cm

 

The peninsula with Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, 1925

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Flugplatz Isfahan mit A 20 am Boden' 1925

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Flugplatz Isfahan mit A 20 am Boden [Airfield Isfahan with A 20 on the ground]
1925
Persia flight 1924-1925
Silver gelatin photograph
12 x 17 cm

 

Isfahan, historically also rendered in English as IspahanSepahanEsfahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 kilometres (211 miles) south of Tehran.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Wilde Schlussszene des Opfertanzes [Wild final scene of the sacrificial dance]' 1926-1927

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Wilde Schlussszene des Opfertanzes [Wild final scene of the sacrificial dance]
1926-1927
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Die Expeditionsteilnehmer: René Gouzy, Arnold Heim, Walter Mittelholzer, Hans Hartmann' 1926-1927

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Die Expeditionsteilnehmer: René Gouzy, Arnold Heim, Walter Mittelholzer, Hans Hartmann
1926-1927
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Dornier Merkur, CH-171 "Switzerland" der Ad Astra Aero AG auf dem Zürichsee vor dem Afrikaflug' c. 1926

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Dornier Merkur, CH-171 “Switzerland” der Ad Astra Aero AG auf dem Zürichsee vor dem Afrikaflug
[Dornier Merkur, CH-171 “Switzerland” of Ad Astra Aero AG on Lake Zurich before the Africa flight]

c. 1926
Silver gelatin photograph
13 x 18 cm

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Westabsturz des Mokattamgebirge mit Niltal' 1929

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Westabsturz des Mokattamgebirge mit Niltal [Western Plateau of the Mokattam Mountains with Nile Valley]
1929
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

The plateau of Mokattam near Cairo, 1930. The balloonist Eduard Spelterini also photographed this landscape from the air during his 1904 expedition to Egypt.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Fremdenverkehr vor der Sphinx [Tourism in front of the Sphinx]' 1929

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Fremdenverkehr vor der Sphinx [Tourism in front of the Sphinx]
1929
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

The Pyramids of Giza with the Sphinx and tourists, 1930. The archaeological excavations there began with Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign of 1798.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Totentempel Ramses III., Theben' 1929

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Totentempel Ramses III., Theben [Mortuary temple of Ramses III, Thebes]
1929
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

 

Walter Mittelholzer (1894-1937) was a pioneering aviator and cofounder of Switzerland’s legendary airline Swissair. From his earliest flights, he was also an avid aerial photographer, and his spectacular views of the Swiss Alps have been popular ever since he began publishing them in the 1920s. Mittelholzer also participated in expeditions to more distant locations, supporting his activities by selling photographs and receiving donations from patrons. Today, the Mittelholzer archive is part of the vast image archive at ETH Bibliothek, the main library at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich).

The sixth volume in Scheidegger & Spiess’s Pictorial Worlds series, Walter Mittelholzer Revisited reproduces two hundred of the most striking and historically significant photographs from the archive. Together, the photographs document Mittelholzer’s extensive travels, including trips to what is today Iran, Ethiopia, and the Svalbard Islands of northern Norway, as well as his 1926-7 trip to Africa on the seaplane Switzerland, which made Mittelholzer a household name both in aviation and photography. Rounding out the book is an essay that revisits Mittelholzer’s activities from a contemporary perspective, with a focus on the issue of colonialism and his patronising view of Africa and its peoples and cultures. The book will appeal to anyone interested in the history of photography.

Walter Mittelholzer (1894-1937), aviation pioneer and one of the co-founders of Swissair, is best known as a great aerial photographer. In particular, his photographs of the Swiss Alps are still present today. Less well known are Mittelholzer’s flight expeditions abroad, with which he also proved to be a keen media entrepreneur. He marketed the pictures of his travels to Spitsbergen, Persia or Abyssinia on all channels: in books, films and in the press. The breakthrough came Mittelholzer with the Africa flight 1926/27 in the seaplane Switzerland from Zurich to Cape Town. Mittelholzer’s flights were financially supported by important industrialists and bankers of the time and had the declared intention of making aviation popular in Switzerland.

The new volume of the series Bilderwelten sheds light on 200 media images and an essay on Mittelholzer’s media presence, inquires into the African image of the aviation and photo pioneer and tells how Swissair stood out against a largely colonialistic backdrop.

Pictorial Worlds: Photographs from the Image archive, ETH-Bibliothek, Vol. 6

Edited by Michael Gasser and Nicole Graf
1st edition, 2017
Text English and German
Hardback
192 pages, 47 colour and 158 b/w illustrations
20 x 26 cm
ISBN 978-3-85881-543-9

Imagery. Photographs from the image archive of the ETH-Bibliothek. Volume 6

Text from the Scheidegger & Spiess website

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Krater des Kibo' 1930

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Krater des Kibo
Teil des Kilimanjaro-Massivs [Part of the Kilimanjaro massif]
1930
Silver gelatin photograph
13 x 18 cm

 

 

On his Kilimanjaro flight Mittelholzer flew over both Mount Kibo (this image) and Mount Kenya, one of Africa’s highest peaks, 1930.

Mount Kilimanjaro with its three volcanic cones, “Kibo”, “Mawenzi”, and “Shira”, is a dormant volcano in Tanzania. It is the highest mountain in Africa, and rises approximately 4,900 metres (16,100 ft) from its base to 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) above sea level. The first persons known to have reached the summit of the mountain were Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller in 1889. The mountain is part of the Kilimanjaro National Park and is a major climbing destination. The mountain has been the subject of many scientific studies because of its shrinking glaciers and disappearing ice fields. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Tanken in Mongalla' 1930

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Tanken in Mongalla [Refuelling in Mongalla]
1930
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

 

Refuelling stop at Mongalla, Sudan, 1930. Oil and gasoline were supplied to the various way stations by the Anglo-Dutch company Shell.

Mongalla or Mangalla is a community in Jubek State in South Sudan, on the east side of the Bahr al Jebel or White Nile river. It lies about 75 km by road northeast of Juba. The towns of Terekeka and Bor lie downstream, north of Mongalla.

During the colonial era, Mongalla was capital of Mongalla Province, which reached south to Uganda and east towards Ethiopia. On 7 December 1917 the last of the northern Sudanese troops were withdrawn from Mongalla, replaced by Equatorial troops. These southern and at least nominally Christian troops remained the only permanent garrison of the town and province until their mutiny in August 1955. Mongalla and the surrounding province was then absorbed into Equatoria Province in 1956. The town was taken and retaken more than once during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005). (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Massaifrauen mit Kupferringen als Schmuck' 1930

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Massaifrauen mit Kupferringen als Schmuck [Massai women with copper rings as jewellery]
1930
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

 

The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the best known local populations due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes, and their distinctive customs and dress. The Maasai speak the Maa language (ɔl Maa), a member of the Nilo-Saharan family that is related to Dinka and Nuer. They are also educated in the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania, Swahiliand English. The Maasai population has been reported as numbering 841,622 in Kenya in the 2009 census… (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'In der mit Benzin- und Ölfässern gefüllten Kabine haben Captain Wood and Wegmann doch noch ein gemütliches Plätzchen gefunden' 1930-31

 

Walter Mittelholzer
In der mit Benzin- und Ölfässern gefüllten Kabine haben Captain Wood and Wegmann doch noch ein gemütliches Plätzchen gefunden
[Captain Wood and Wegmann still found a cozy spot in the cabin filled with gasoline and oil barrels]
1930-1931
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

Mittelholzer always flew with a copilot so that he could take photographs while in the air. Here, he himself is at the controls. Seated in the cabin alongside the oil drums are the mechanic Werner Wegmann and the expedition organiser Georg Wood, 1930/31.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Marrakech aus 200 m Höhe' 1930-1931

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Marrakech aus 200 m Höhe
1930-1931
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

 

Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakesh comprises an old fortified city packed with vendors and their stalls (the medina), bordered by modern neighbourhoods, the most prominent of which is Gueliz. Today it is one of the busiest cities in Africa and serves as a major economic centre and tourist destination. Tourism is strongly advocated by the reigning Moroccan monarch, Mohammed VI, with the goal of doubling the number of tourists visiting Morocco to 20 million by 2020. Despite the economic recession, real estate and hotel development in Marrakesh has grown dramatically in the 21st century. Marrakesh is particularly popular with the French, and numerous French celebrities own property in the city. Marrakesh has the largest traditional market (souk) in Morocco, with some 18 souks selling wares ranging from traditional Berber carpets to modern consumer electronics. Crafts employ a significant percentage of the population, who primarily sell their products to tourists. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Kano' 1930-1931

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Kano
1930-1931
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

 

Kano is the state capital of Kano State in North West, Nigeria. It is situated in the Sahelian geographic region, south of the Sahara. Kano is the commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria and is the second largest city in Nigeria, after Lagos. The Kano metropolis initially covered 137 square kilometres (53 square miles), and comprised six local government areas (LGAs) … The total area of Metropolitan Kano is now 499 square kilometres (193 square miles), with a population of 2,828,861 as of the 2006 Nigerian census. The principal inhabitants of the city are the Hausa people. As in most parts of northern Nigeria, the Hausa language is widely spoken in Kano. The city is the capital of the Kano Emirate. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Typen aus dem Atlas: der rastlose Händler' 1930-31

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Typen aus dem Atlas: der rastlose Händler [Types from the Atlas: the restless dealer]
1930-1931
Silver gelatin photograph
9 x 12 cm

 

Berbers at a cattle market in the High Atlas, 1930/31

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Felsgrab Khazne al-Firaun, Petra' 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Felsgrab Khazne al-Firaun, Petra [Rock Tomb Khazne al-Firaun, Petra]
1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

Four-day visit to the ancient, rock-hewn city of Petra, 1934. Petra was rediscovered for the Europeans by the Basel adventurer Jean Louis Burckhardt in 1812. Mittelholzer often followed the routes taken by earlier explorers of Asia and Africa and saw his own “expeditions” as continuing their tradition.

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Kaiser Haile Selassie, Addis Abeba' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Kaiser Haile Selassie, Addis Abeba
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

 

Haile Selassie I (23 July 1892 – 27 August 1975), born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael, was Ethiopia’s regent from 1916 to 1930 and emperor from 1930 to 1974. He also served as Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity from 25 May 1963 to 17 July 1964 and 5 November 1966 to 11 September 1967. He was a member of the Solomonic Dynasty. …

Among the Rastafari movement, whose followers are estimated at between two and four million, Haile Selassie is revered as the returned messiah of the Bible, God incarnate. Beginning in Jamaica in the 1930s, the Rastafari movement perceives Haile Selassie as a messianic figure who will lead a future golden age of eternal peace, righteousness, and prosperity. Haile Selassie was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian throughout his life. He is a defining figure in Ethiopian history. Haile Selassie died on 27 August 1975 at the age of 83, following a coup d’état. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Itu-Mann vom Südosten Abessiniens [Itu man from southeastern Abyssinia]' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Itu-Mann vom Südosten Abessiniens [Itu man from southeastern Abyssinia]
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Dankali-Mädchen [Dankali girl]' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Dankali-Mädchen [Dankali girl]
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Flugplatz in Addis Abeba [Airfield in Addis Ababa]' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Flugplatz in Addis Abeba [Airfield in Addis Ababa]
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Übergabe von Schild und Degen an Walter Mittelholzer' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Übergabe von Schild und Degen an Walter Mittelholzer [Handover of shield and sword to Walter Mittelholzer]
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

Walter Mittelholzer. 'Sudanesischer Kolonialsoldat des englischen Imperiums' c. 1934

 

Walter Mittelholzer
Sudanesischer Kolonialsoldat des englischen Imperiums [Sudanese colonial soldier of the English Empire]
c. 1934
Silver gelatin photograph
6 x 6 cm

 

 

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22
Nov
17

Display: ‘Stan Firm inna Inglan’ at Tate Britain, London

November 2017

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Mike Eghan at the BBC Studios, London' 1967, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (born 1929)
Mike Eghan at the BBC Studios, London
1967, printed 2010
Gelatin silver on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

 

This was the best photography exhibition which wasn’t an exhibition – because it was a “display” – that I saw on my recent trip to Europe.

Why was it the best? Because this is what strong, insightful photography can do: it can capture life; it can document different cultures; and it can be a powerful agent for social change.

I remember London in the 1970s. I lived in Clapham (Claiff-ham Heights) and Stockwell (we called it St. Ockwell) near Brixton at the time. I remember the Brixton riot of 1981, as I was living in my little room down the road, as the cars burnt and the buildings were smashed. “Brixton in South London was an area with serious social and economic problems. The whole United Kingdom was affected by a recession by 1981, but the local African-Caribbean community was suffering particularly high unemployment, poor housing, and a higher than average crime rate.” (Wikipedia) People felt oppressed by recession, racism, the police, and by the establishment, for this was the era of Margaret Thatcher and her bullies. But as these photographs show, there was such a vibrant sense of community in these areas as they sought to ‘stand firm in England’ because it was their home.

It is our great privilege that we have the images of this very talented group of photographers who documented Black communities in London during this time: Raphael Albert, Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi, James Barnor, Colin Jones, Neil Kenlock, Dennis Morris, Syd Shelton and Al Vandenberg. And I find it heartening that all of these photographers were documenting their community at the same time. The African-Caribbean diaspora is part of the genetic makeup of the UK and multiculturalism, from where ever it emanates, should be valued in societies around the world. It enriches contemporary culture through an understanding and acceptance of difference.

Against racism; against fascism; against discrimination. For freedom from oppression and the right to be heard.

Marcus

PS. There were no media images so I took iPhone installation photographs of the display, so please excuse any reflection of the gallery in the images. I have cleaned and balanced them as much as possible.

.
All installation shots are © Dr Marcus Bunyan.

 

James Barnor

 

 

James Barnor (born 1929)
Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, London
1966, printed 2010
C-print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

 

“The picture of a young woman leaning against a shiny grey Jaguar was taken in Kilburn, north London, in 1966. The pastel minidress, heavy fringe and costume jewellery feel instantly familiar as belonging to the era, but while we’re used to seeing a pallid Twiggy or Penelope Tree striding about London in fashion shoots from the same time, we rarely see images in which the model is black.

The pictures shown here of young women with 1960s-style beehives and miniskirts were shot as fashion stories for Drum , an influential anti-apartheid magazine based in Johannesburg, and Africa’s first black lifestyle magazine. …

Erlin Ibreck, the model in the main photograph who was 19 at the time, remembers Barnor asking her to pose in Trafalgar Square while flocks of excited pigeons landed on her. ‘I was more nervous about the pigeons than people around us who were staring.’

Some of the models were professional, but Ibreck was someone Barnor spotted in a bus queue at Victoria station. Ibreck was living in Cheshire but visiting her sister, who lived in London. Barnor asked if she would like to be photographed for Drum magazine and eventually she agreed.

Encouraged by Barnor, Ibreck enrolled at the Lucie Clayton modelling school in Manchester, but finding work as a black model in the 1960s was not easy.

‘It was very tough as there were very few black models,’ she says. ‘I was selected by Lucie Clayton to model De Beers diamonds – a South African company, and this was during apartheid. When they discovered that I was black De Beers cancelled the booking and chose a white model.

‘That booking would have enhanced my career, so it was a very painful experience to have been rejected on the basis of my colour. This experience made me realise what I was up against.’ After two years Ibreck gave up modelling and moved to New York.”

Although Barnor says he wasn’t consciously attempting to chronicle ‘black culture’ in England, and was simply taking photographs of things that interested him and the readers of Drum , the effect was, none the less, an optimistic suggestion that these cosmopolitan young African women were part of the exciting new, multicultural society in London that people were talking about.

Barnor’s memories of the time seem to be largely positive, and he says he doesn’t remember experiencing any overt racism. ‘I moved in enlightened circles so I did not have to put up with most of what other black people had to go through, though I did notice when I sat on a bus many people didn’t want to sit next to me.’

Kate Salter. “Colour me beautiful: James Barnor’s photographs for Drum magazine,” on the Telegraph website 07 December 2010 [Online] Cited 08/10/2017

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Wedding Guests, London' 1960s, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (born 1929)
Wedding Guests, London
1960s, printed 2010
Gelatin silver on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Eva, London' 1960s, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (born 1929)
Eva, London
1960s, printed 2010
Gelatin silver on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

Stan Firm

 

 

 

This display brings together works from the 1960s and 1970s by eight photographers who documented Black communities in London: Raphael Albert, Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi, James Barnor, Colin Jones, Neil Kenlock, Dennis Morris, Syd Shelton and Al Vandenberg.

The photographs reveal the many and varied experiences of individuals who travelled from the Caribbean region and West Africa to live in London, from everyday family life to political engagement. They show people as they respond to, react against and move beyond the racial tension and exclusion that were part of life for Black communities in the British capital. The title of the display, ‘Stan Firm inna Inglan’, is taken from the poem It Dread inna Inglan by Linton Kwesi Johnson, who in the 1970s gave a voice and poetic form to the Afro-Caribbean diaspora and its resistance in the face of racism. The poem expresses in Jamaican patois (creole) the resolve of African, Asian and Caribbean immigrants to ‘stand firm in England’, asserting the determination of Black British communities to remain in Britain and declare it as their rightful home.

The work of most of the photographers has gained prominence in recent years through the research and curatorial work of Autograph ABP, which was established in London in 1988 to advocate the inclusion of historically marginalised photographic practices. All works in the display have been gifted to the Tate collection and form part of the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection, an important collection of photography which was assembled over more than 20 years.

This display has been curated by Elena Crippa, Allison Thompson and Susana Vargas Cervantes. Alison and Susana worked at Tate as part of the Brooks International Fellowship programme for three months in 2016, fully funded by the Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation and in partnership with the Delfina Foundation.

Text from the Tate Britain website

 

Dennis Morris

 

Dennis Morris. ''Mother's Pride', Hackney' 1976, printed 2012

 

Dennis Morris
‘Mother’s Pride’, Hackney
1976, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Dennis Morris. 'Young Gun, Hackney' 1969, printed 2012

 

Dennis Morris
Young Gun, Hackney
1969, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Bandele Ajetunmobi (1921-1994) 'Couple Kissing, Whitechapel, London' 1960s, printed 2012

 

Bandele Ajetunmobi (1921-1994)
Couple Kissing, Whitechapel, London
1960s, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

 

“Bandele Ajetunmobi – widely known as Tex – took photographs in the East End for almost half a century, starting in the late forties. He recorded a tender vision of interracial camaraderie, notably as manifest in a glamorous underground nightlife culture yet sometimes underscored with melancholy too – creating poignant portraits that witness an almost-forgotten era of recent history.

In 1947, at twenty-six years old, he stowed away on a boat from Nigeria – where he found himself an outcast on account of the disability he acquired from polio as a child – and in East London he discovered the freedom to pursue his life’s passion for photography, not for money or reputation but for the love of it.

He was one of Britain’s first black photographers and he lived here in Commercial St, Spitalfields, yet most of his work was destroyed when he died in 1994 and, if his niece had not rescued a couple of hundred negatives from a skip, we should have no evidence of his breathtaking talent. …

“He did all this photography yet he didn’t do it to make money, he did it for pleasure and for artistic purposes. He was doing it for art’s sake.He had lots of books of photography and he studied it. He was doing it because those things needed to be recorded. You fall in love with a medium and that’s what happened to him. He spent all his money on photography. He had expensive cameras, Hasselblads and Leicas. My mother said, ‘If you sold one, you could make a visit to Nigeria.’ But he never went back, he was probably a bit of an outcast because of his polio as a child and it suited him to be somewhere people didn’t judge him for that. …

He used to do buying and selling from a stall in Brick Lane. When he died, they found so much stuff in his flat, art equipment, pens, old records and fountain pens. He had a very good eye for things. Everybody knew him, he was always with his camera and they stopped him in the street and asked him to take their picture. He was able to take photographs in clubs, so he must have been a trusted and respected figure. Even if the subjects are poor, they are strutting their stuff for the camera. He gave them their pride and I like that.” (Victoria Loughran)

The Gentle Author . “Bandele “Tex” Ajetunmobi, Photographer,” on the Spitalfields Life website December 2, 2013 [Online] Cited 08/10/2017

 

Bandele Ajetunmobi (1921-1994) 'East End, London' c. 1975, printed 2012

 

Bandele Ajetunmobi (1921-1994)
East End, London
c. 1975, printed 2012
C-print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Al Vandenberg

 

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012) 'Untitled' c. 1975-80

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012)
Untitled
c. 1975-80
From the series On a Good Day
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012) 'Untitled' c. 1975-80

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012)
Untitled
c. 1975-80
From the series On a Good Day
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012) 'Untitled' c. 1975-80

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012)
Untitled
c. 1975-80
From the series On a Good Day
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

Colin Jones

 

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

 

Colin Jones (born 1936)
From the series The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London
1976, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Syd Shelton

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947) 'Southhall Carnival against the Nazis' 1979, printed 2012

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947)
Southhall Carnival against the Nazis
1979, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947) 'Jubilee Street, Stepney, London' 1977, printed 2012

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947)
Jubilee Street, Stepney, London
1977, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947) 'Bagga (Bevin Fagan), Hackney, East London' 1979, printed 2012

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947)
Bagga (Bevin Fagan), Hackney, East London
1979, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947) 'Skinheads, Petticoat Lane, East London' 1979, printed 2012

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947)
Skinheads, Petticoat Lane, East London
1979, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947) 'Anti racist Skinheads, Hackney, London' 1979, printed 2012

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947)
Anti racist Skinheads, Hackney, London
1979, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Neil Kenlock

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950) 'The Bailey Sisters in Clapham' c. 1970, printed 2010

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950)
The Bailey Sisters in Clapham
c. 1970, printed 2010
Gelatin silver print on paper
Presented by Tate Members 2013 and forming part of the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950) 'Demonstration outside Brixton Library' 1972, printed 2010

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950)
Demonstration outside Brixton Library
1972, printed 2010
Gelatin silver print on paper
Presented by Tate Members 2013 and forming part of the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950) ''Keep Britain White' graffiti, Balham' 1972, printed 2010

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950)
‘Keep Britain White’ graffiti, Balham
1972, printed 2010
Gelatin silver print on paper
Presented by Tate Members 2013 and forming part of the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection

 

Raphael Albert

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009) 'The Golden Chip, Hammersmith, London' c. 1970, printed 2012

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009)
The Golden Chip, Hammersmith, London
c. 1970, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009) 'Hammersmith, London' 1960s, printed 2012

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009)
Hammersmith, London
1960s, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009) 'The Harder They Come, Hammersmith Apollo' c. 1972, printed 2012

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009)
The Harder They Come, Hammersmith Apollo
c. 1972, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009) 'Holley posing at Blythe Road, London' c. 1974, printed 2012

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009)
Holley posing at Blythe Road, London
c. 1974, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

 

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08
Oct
17

Review: ‘Brave New World: Australia 1930s’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th July – 15th October 2017

 

Harold Cazneaux (New Zealand 1878 - Australia 1953, Australia from 1886) 'No title (Powerlines and chute)' c. 1935

 

Harold Cazneaux (New Zealand 1878 – Australia 1953, Australia from 1886)
No title (Powerlines and chute)
c. 1935
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the H. J. Heinz II Charitable and Family Trust, Governor, 1993

 

 

In 1934 BHP (Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited) commissioned leading pictorialist photographer Harold Cazneaux to record their mining and steel operations for a special publication to mark their fiftieth anniversary in 1935. Cazneaux’s dramatic industrial images blended a soft, atmospheric focus with a modernist sense of space, form and geometry. In 1935-36 Australia exported close to 300,000 tonnes of iron ore to Japan; however, after Japan’s invasion of China in 1937 fear of its expansionist aims in the Pacific increased and soon afterwards the federal government announced a ban on the export of all iron ore to Japan.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

 

Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGV Australia, Melbourne is a small but stylishly designed exhibition that presents well in the gallery spaces. The look and feel of the exhibition is superb, and it was a joy to see so many works in so many disparate medium brought together to represent a decade in the history of Australia: photography, sculpture, painting, drawing, ceramic art, magazine art, travel posters, Art Deco radios, film, couture, culture, Aboriginal art, and furniture making, to name but a few.

The strong exhibition addresses most of the concerns of the 1930s – The Great Depression, beach and body culture, style, fashion, identity, culture, prelude to WW2, dystopian and utopian cities etc., – but it all felt a little cramped and truncated. Such a challenging time period needed a more expansive investigation. What there is was excellent but one display case on slums or magazine art was not substantive enough. The same can be said for most of the exhibition.

There needed to a lot more about the impact of the Great Depression and people living in poverty, for you get the feeling from this exhibition that everyone was living the Modernist high-life, wearing fashionable frocks and smoking cigarettes sitting around beautifully designed furniture surrounded by geometric textiles. The reality is that this paradigm was the exception rather than the rule. Many people struggled to even feed themselves due to The Great Depression, and it was a time of extreme hardship for people in Australia. Life for many, many people in Australia during the 1930s was a life of disenfranchisement, assimilation, oppression, social struggle, poverty, hunger and a hand to mouth existence.

“After the crash unemployment in Australia more than doubled to twenty-one per cent in mid-1930, and reached its peak in mid-1932 when almost thirty-two per cent of Australians were out of work… The Great Depression’s impact on Australian society was devastating. Without work and a steady income many people lost their homes and were forced to live in makeshift dwellings with poor heating and sanitation.” (“The Great Depression,” on the Australian Government website)

New artists and designers may have been emerging, new skyscrapers being built and the new ‘Modern Woman’ may have made her appearance but the changes only affected white, middle and upper social classes. Migrants, particularly those from Italy and southern Europe, were resented because they worked for less wages than others; and only brief mention is made of the White Australia policy in the exhibition but not by name (see text under Indigenous art and culture below). This section was more interested in how white artists appropriated Aboriginal design during this period for their own ends.

With this in mind, it is instructive to read sections of the illustrated handbook (not in the exhibition) produced by the National Museum of Victoria (in part, the forerunner of the NGV) to accompany a special exhibition of objects illustrating Australian Aboriginal Art in 1929:
.

“The subject of aboriginal Art – in this case the Art of the Australian Aboriginal – has to be approached with the utmost caution, for, though it comes directly within the domain of anthropology, it is in an indirect way a very important question in psychology and pedagogies. We possess some knowledge of our own mentality through the kind of offices of psychology; but though we have some – many in certain classes – material relics of our primitive and prehistoric ancestor, the only evidence of evolution of thought and the development of his powers of abstract conception must be derived from his art…

Still it appears possible that the study of primitive man, as represented by our Australian black, will throw some new light on the subject, and even if not more important than the old world pictographs themselves, his art work will enable the efforts of the Aurignacian and Magdalenian artists [cultures of the Upper Paleolithic in western Europe] to be better comprehended, and their import understood. But, for that study to achieve even a modicum of success, it is essential that the inquiring psychologist divest his mind of all civilized conceptions and mentality and assume those of the prehistoric man – or of the infant of the present day.”1

.
This is the attitude towards Aboriginal art that pervaded major art institutions right across Australia well into the 1950s. That the white has to “divest his mind of all civilized conceptions and mentality and assume those of the prehistoric man” – in other words, he has to become a savage – in order to understand Aboriginal art. It says a lot that the Trustees of the National Museum of Victoria then decided to reprint the illustrated handbook in 1952 without amendment, reprinting the publication originally used for the Exhibition in 1929. Nothing had changed in 22 years!

 

Australian Aboriginal Art 1962

 

National Museum of Victoria
Australian Aboriginal Art (cover)
1952 (reprint of 1929 illustrated handbook)
Brown, Prior, Anderson Pty. Ltd., Melbourne (publishers)
Trustees of the National Museum of Victoria
39 pages

 

 

Other small things in the exhibition rankle. The preponderance of the work of photographer Max Dupain is so overwhelming that from this exhibition, it would seem that he was the only photographer of note working in Australia throughout the decade. While Dupain was the first Modernist photographer in Australia, and a superb artist, Modernist photography was very much on the outer during most of the 1930s… the main art form of photography being that of Pictorialism. None of this under appreciated style of photography makes an appearance in this exhibition because it does not fit the theme of “Brave New World”. This dismisses the work of such people as Cecil Bostock, Harold Cazneaux, Henri Mallard, John Eaton et al as not producing “brave”, or valuable, portraits of a country during this time frame. This is a perspective that needs to be corrected.

Highlights for me in this exhibition included an earthenware vase by Ethel Blundell; a painting by that most incredible of atmospheric painters, Clarice Beckett (how I long to own one of her paintings!); a wonderful portrait by the underrated Cybil Craig; two stunning Keast Burke photographs; two beautiful stained glass windows of a male and female lifesaver; the slum photographs of F. Oswald Barnett (more please!); and the graphic covers of mostly short-lived radical magazines.

These highlights are worth the price of admission alone. A must see before the exhibition closes.

Marcus

  1. A. S. Kenyon. “The Art of the Australian Aboriginal.” in Australian Aboriginal Art. Melbourne: Trustees of the National Museum of Victoria, (1929) reprinted 1952, p. 15.

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery 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 1930s was a turbulent time in Australia’s history. During this decade major world events, including the Depression and the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe, shaped our nation’s evolving sense of identity. In the arts, progressive ideas jostled with reactionary positions, and artists brought substantial creative efforts to bear in articulating the pressing concerns of the period. Brave New World: Australia 1930s encompasses the multitude of artistic styles, both advanced and conservative, which were practised during the 1930s. Included are commercial art, architecture, fashion, industrial design, film and dance to present a complete picture of this dynamic time.

The exhibition charts the themes of celebrating technological progress and its antithesis in the nostalgia for pastoralism; the emergence of the ‘New Woman’ and consumerism; nationalism and the body culture movement; the increasing interest in Indigenous art against a backdrop of the government policy of assimilation and mounting calls for Indigenous rights; the devastating effects of the Depression and the rise of radical politics; and the arrival of European refugees and the increasing anxiety at the impending threat of the Second World War. Brave New World: Australia 1930s presents a fresh perspective on the extraordinary 1930s, revealing some of the social and political concerns that were pertinent then and remain so today.

Text from the NGV website

 

Fred Ward (designer) (Australia 1900-90)

 

Fred Ward (designer) (Australia 1900-90)
E. M. Vary, Fitzroy, Melbourne (attributed to) (manufacturer) active 1920s-40s

Sideboard
c. 1932
Mountain ash (Eucalyptus sp.), painted wood, painted plywood, steel
(a-e) 84.0 x 119.7 x 48.7 cm (overall)
Proposed acquisition

Side table
c. 1932
Mountain ash (Eucalyptus sp.), jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata), steel
55.7 x 66.0 x 49.2 cm
Proposed acquisition

Tray table
c. 1932
Mountain ash (Eucalyptus sp.), blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon), steel
(a-b) 52.0 x 60.9 x 42.5 cm (overall)
Proposed acquisition

 

 

A new generation of artists and designers

While modern art was a source of debate and controversy throughout the 1930s, modernism in architecture, interior design, industrial design and advertising became highly fashionable. In Melbourne a small group of designers pioneered modern design in Australia. Furniture designer Fred Ward first designed and made furniture for his home in Eaglemont, where he had established a studio workshop. It was admired by friends and he was encouraged to produce furniture for sale. In 1932 Ward opened a shop in Collins Street, Melbourne. There he offered his furniture, as well as linens and Scandinavian glass. The fabrics for curtains and upholstery were printed by Australian designer Michael O’Connell with bold designs that shocked some but were favoured by a new generation looking to create modern interiors.

More than in most periods, in the 1930s art, design and architecture were closely integrated with the changing realities of contemporary life. It was a time when the last vestiges of the conservative art establishment were swept away by a new generation of artists and designers who were to drive Australian art in the second half of the twentieth century.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Max Dupain’s Illustration for Kelvinator advertisement at left and Ethel Blundell’s Vase centre on sidboard
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

 

Fred Ward was one of the first and most important designers of modern furniture in Australia. He began making furniture around 1930, and in 1932 opened a shop in Collins Street selling his furniture, as well as textiles by Michael O’Connell and other modern design pieces. In 1934 Ward went into partnership with Myer Emporium and established the Myer Design Unit, for which he designed a line of modular ‘unit’ furniture for commercial production. Ward’s simple, functional aesthetic and use of local timbers with a natural waxed finish was in contrast to the luxurious materials and decorative motifs of the contemporary Art Deco style.

The armchair, sideboard and occasional tables were designed by Fred Ward and purchased by Maie Casey in the early 1930s. The wife of R. G. Casey, federal treasurer in the Lyons Government, Maie was a prominent supporter of modern art and design. Moving to Canberra in 1932, she furnished her house at Duntroon in a modern style with furniture by Ward and textiles by Michael O’Connell. The design of Ward’s armchair closely resembles a 1920s armchair by German Bauhaus furniture designer Erich Dieckmann, who was known for his standardised wooden furniture based on geometric designs.

 

Michael O'Connell designer (England 1898-1976, Australia 1920-37) 'Textile' c. 1933

 

Michael O’Connell designer (England 1898-1976, Australia 1920-37)
Textile
c. 1933
Block printed linen
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, 1988

 

 

Michael O’Connell pioneered modernist textiles in Melbourne and was an influential advocate of modern design. Working with his wife Ella from his studio in Beaumaris, O’Connell used woodblocks and linocuts to hand print onto raw linens and silks, which were used for fashion garments and home furnishing. O’Connell’s boldly patterned and highly stylised designs were considered startlingly modern. Some of his early fabrics featured ‘jazz age’ scenes of nightclubs and dancing, while later motifs were based on Australian flora and fauna, or derived from Oceanic and Aboriginal art.

 

Sam Atyeo. 'Album of designs: tables' c. 1933 - c. 1936

 

Sam Atyeo
Album of designs: tables
c. 1933 – c. 1936
Album: watercolour, brush and coloured inks, coloured pencils, 14 designs tipped into an album of 16 grey pages, card covers, tape and stapled binding
30.0 x 19.2 cm (page) 30.0 x 20.8 x 0.8 cm (closed)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the artist, 1988

 

 

Sam Atyeo was a leading figure in Melbourne’s emerging modernist circles in the early 1930s, the partner of artist Moya Dyring and lover of Sunday Reed. He had studied at the National Gallery School, where he was a brilliant and rebellious student. Around 1932 Atyeo became friendly with Cynthia Reed, who managed Fred Ward’s furniture shop and interior design consultancy on Collins Street. After she opened Cynthia Reed Modern Furnishings in Little Collins Street, Atyeo designed furniture for Reed, that was strongly influenced by Ward’s designs.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Illustration for Kelvinator advertisement' 1936

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Illustration for Kelvinator advertisement
1936
Gelatin silver photograph
32.8 x 25.3 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2000

 

Ethel Blundell. 'Vase' 1936

 

Ethel Blundell
Vase
1936
Earthenware
17.6 x 16.8 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Mrs Margaret Howie, Governor, 1999
© Ethel Blundell

 

 

Utopian cities

Modernity reflected what was new and progressive in Australian urban life. The image of the city became an allegory for this in art, and efficiency and speed became watchwords for modernity. Many artists celebrated the city and technological advancements in works utilising a modern style of hard-edged forms, flat colours and dynamic compositions. The engineering marvel of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which opened in 1932, was an ongoing source of fascination for artists, as were images of building the city, industry and modern modes of transport.

The skyscraper was also a powerful symbol of modern prosperity, especially when the Great Depression cast doubt on the inevitability of progress; hence the advent of tall buildings in Australian cities was hailed with relief and optimism. In 1932, at the peak of the Depression, the tallest building in Melbourne was opened: the Manchester Unity Building at the corner of Swanston and Collins streets. With its ornamental tower and spire taking its overall height to 64 metres, the building was welcomed by The Age newspaper as ‘a new symbol of enterprise and confidence, undaunted by the “temporary eclipse” of the country’s economic fortune’.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Seventh city of the Empire – Melbourne, Victoria at left; and Evening dress at right
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Percy Trompf (Australia 1902-64) 'Seventh city of the Empire - Melbourne, Victoria' 1930s

 

Percy Trompf (Australia 1902-64)
Seventh city of the Empire – Melbourne, Victoria
1930s
Colour lithograph printed by J. E. Hackett, Melbourne
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mr Grant Lee, 2007

 

 

Percy Trompf’s poster celebrates Melbourne’s first skyscraper, the iconic Manchester Unity Building on the corner of Swanston and Collins streets. Designed by architect Marcus Barlow in the Art Deco ‘Gothic’ style, it was built at high speed between 1930 and 1932, and provided much needed employment during the Depression. At twelve storeys high and topped with a decorative tower it was Melbourne’s tallest building and contained the city’s first escalators. A powerful symbol of the city’s modernity, it was often featured in images of Melbourne.

 

Unknown, Australia 'Evening dress' c. 1935

 

Unknown, Australia
Evening dress
c. 1935
Silk
144.0 cm (centre back), 36.0 cm (waist, flat)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Miss Irene Mitchell, 1975

 

Ethel Spowers (Australia 1890-1947, England and France 1921-24) 'The works, Yallourn' 1933

 

Ethel Spowers (Australia 1890-1947, England and France 1921-24)
The works, Yallourn
1933
Colour linocut, ed. 3/50
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Joseph Brown Collection
Presented through the NGV Foundation by Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE, Honorary Life Benefactor, 2004

 

 

Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme were leading figures in modern art in Melbourne. In the 1920s they studied with modernist Claude Flight at the Grosvenor School in London, where they learnt to make colour linocuts that followed Flight’s principles of rhythmic design combined with flat colour. In April 1933 Spowers and Syme visited the Yallourn Power Station in Gippsland, which had been opened in 1928 and was the largest supplier of electricity to the state.

 

Vida Lahey (Australia 1882-1968) 'Sultry noon (Central Station Brisbane)' 1931

 

Vida Lahey (Australia 1882-1968)
Sultry noon (Central Station Brisbane)
1931
Oil on canvas on plywood
44.7 x 49.2 cm
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane Purchased 1983
© QAGOMA

 

Clarice Beckett (Australia 1887-1935) 'Taxi rank' c. 1931

 

Clarice Beckett (Australia 1887-1935)
Taxi rank
c. 1931
Oil on canvas on board
Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth

 

Installation view of Herbert Badham's 'George Street, Sydney' (1934) from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Herbert Badham’s George Street, Sydney (1934) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

After serving in the Royal Australian Navy during the First World War, Herbert Badham studied at the Sydney Art School and began exhibiting in 1927. In his paintings he was a keen observer of everyday urban life: streets with shoppers, city workers on their lunch break and drinkers in the pub were painted in a contemporary, hard-edged realist style.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Rush hour in King's Cross' 1938, printed c. 1986

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Rush hour in King’s Cross
1938, printed c. 1986
Gelatin silver photograph
41.2 x 40.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Mr A.C. Goode, Fellow, 1987

 

 

During the 1930s the city provided a rich source of imagery for artists working in modern styles, who celebrated the speed and efficiency of modern transport technology and expanding road and rail networks. Yet as car ownership increased during the 1930s, larger cities began to suffer congestion and the rush hour became part of urban life. Throughout the decade the pace and stress of modern life became a topic of public debate, with conservative commentators decrying this transformation of the Australian lifestyle.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Max Dupain’s Rush hour in King’s Cross at right
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Grace Cossington Smith’s The Bridge in-curve at right
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Grace Cossington Smith. 'The Bridge in-curve' 1930

 

Grace Cossington Smith (Australia 1892-1984, England and Germany 1912-14, England and Italy 1949-51)
The Bridge in-curve
1930
Tempera on cardboard
83.6 x 111.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by the National Gallery Society of Victoria, 1967
© Estate of Grace Cossington Smith

 

 

The slow rise of the Sydney Harbour Bridge above the city was recorded by numerous painters, printmakers and photographers, including Sydney modernist Grace Cossington Smith. Her iconic The Bridge-in-curve depicts the bridge just before its two arches were joined in August 1930, and conveys the sense of wonder, achievement and hope that was inspired by this engineering marvel. By painting the emerging, rather than the complete bridge, Cossington Smith also focuses our attention on the energy and ambition required to create it.

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34) 'Trains passing' 1940

 

Installation view of Frank Hinder’s Trains passing (1940) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34) 'Trains passing' 1940

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34)
Trains passing
1940
Oil on composition board
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1974

 

 

Frank Hinder was one of the first abstract artists in Australia. After living and studying in the United States, Hinder and his wife, the American sculptor Margel, returned to Sydney in 1934. There they became part of a small avant-garde group that included Grace Crowley, Rah Fizelle, Ralph Balson and the German sculptor and art historian Eleanore Lange, all of whom were interested in Cubist, Constructivist and Futurist art. Hinder later said that this work was inspired by seeing Lange, sitting next to him on a train, reflected in the windows of a passing train.

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34) 'Commuters' 1938

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34)
Commuters
1938
Tempera on paper on board
Private collection

 

Victorian Railways, Melbourne (publisher) Australia 1856-1976 'The Victorian Railways present The Spirit of Progress' 1937

 

Victorian Railways, Melbourne (publisher) Australia 1856-1976
The Victorian Railways present The Spirit of Progress
1937
Booklet: colour photolithographs and letterpress,
12 pages, cardboard cover
printed by Queen City Printers, Melbourne
20.8 x 26.8 cm (closed)
State Library Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Launched in November 1937, The Spirit of Progress express passenger train was a source of immense pride to Victorians. Built in Newport, Victoria, the train featured many innovations, including all-steel carriages and full air-conditioning. Designed in the Art Deco, streamlined style by architectural firm Stephenson & Turner, the passenger carriages were fitted out to a level of comfort not previously seen in Australia, and included a full dining carriage. The train ran between Melbourne and the New South Wales state border at Albury, the longest non-stop train journey in Australia at that time, at an average speed of 84 kilometres per hour.

 

Installation view of Ivor Francis' 'Speed!' from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Ivor Francis’ Speed! from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Ivor Francis (England 1906-Australia 1993, Australia from 1924) 'Speed!' 1931

 

Ivor Francis (England 1906-Australia 1993, Australia from 1924)
Speed!
1931
Colour process block print
Art Gallery of South Australia
Adelaide South Australian Government Grant 1986

 

Randille, Melbourne (maker) active 1930s 'Night gown' c. 1938

 

Randille, Melbourne (maker) active 1930s
Night gown
c. 1938
Silk (a) 166.0 cm (centre back) 38.9 cm (waist, flat) (dress) (b) 121.0 cm (centre back) 38.0 cm (waist, flat) (slip)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by Mrs A. G. Pringle, 1982

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Max Dupain’s Rush hour in King’s Cross left and Frank Hinder’s Jackhammer third from right and Margel Hinder’s Man with jackhammer second right
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Margel Hinder (United States 1906-Australia 1995, Australia from 1934) 'Man with jackhammer' 1939

 

Margel Hinder (United States 1906-Australia 1995, Australia from 1934)
Man with jackhammer
1939
Cedar
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of J. B. Were & Son, Governor, 2001

 

 

American-born Margel Hinder was one of Australia’s leading modernist sculptors. She had studied art in Boston, where she met and married Sydney artist Frank Hinder. In 1934 they moved to Australia and became an important part of Sydney’s small modern art scene. In Man with jackhammer Hinder has simplified and contained the figure within a square frame, the strong diagonal form of the jackhammer creating a sense of compressed energy and force. Man and machine have fused in this celebration of industry and progress.

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34) 'Jackhammer' 1936

 

Frank Hinder (Australia 1906-92, United States 1927-34)
Jackhammer
1936
Airbrush on black paper
52.0 x 38.0 cm
Private collection, Sydney
© Enid Hawkins

 

 

Modern Woman

In the 1930s the new ‘Modern Woman’ made her appearance as a more serious and emancipated version of the giddy 1920s ‘flapper’. A woman who worked, she often lived alone in one of the new city apartment buildings, visited nightclubs and showed less interest in traditional marriage and child rearing. A lean body type became fashionable and was enhanced by the lengthened hemlines and defined waists introduced by French couturier Jean Patou in 1929. This slender silhouette was supported by form-fitting foundation garments by manufacturers such as Berlei.

The Modern Woman became one of the most potent images of contemporary life, being celebrated in women’s magazines such as the ultra-stylish Home and the Australian Women’s Weekly, launched in 1933. While such magazines were congratulating her and promoting new consumer goods to the Modern Woman, at the same time she was criticised by conservative commentators. In 1937 photographer Max Dupain wrote: ‘There must be a great shattering of modern values if woman is to continue to perpetuate the race… In her shred of a dress and little helmet of a hat, her cropped hair, and stark bearing, the modern woman is a sort of a soldier… It is not her fault it is her doom’.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Peter Purves Smith’s Maisie left, Cybil Craig’s Peggy second left and Peter Purves Smith’s Lucile at  top right
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Cybil Craig’s Peggy second left and Lina Bryans The babe is wise at right
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Peter Purves Smith (Australia 1912-49, England 1935-36, England and France 1938-40) 'Maisie' 1938-39

 

Peter Purves Smith (Australia 1912-49, England 1935-36, England and France 1938-40)
Maisie
1938-39
Gouache
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Bequest of Lady Maisie Drysdale 2001

 

 

In 1937 the striking, auburn-haired Maisie Newbold was a student at the George Bell School in Melbourne, where she met fellow student Peter Purves Smith and his best friend Russell Drysdale. Maisie and Purves Smith were married in 1946, only three years before latter’s premature death from tuberculosis. Purves Smith painted this portrait at the start of their relationship. It depicts Maisie as a stylish woman wearing the latest fashion, the angularity of her features contrasted by the soft fur of her collar and feathers of her hat. Many years later Maisie married Drysdale.

 

Installation view of Sybil Craig's work 'Peggy' c. 1932

 

Installation view of Sybil Craig’s work Peggy c. 1932
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Sybil Craig (England 1901 - Australia 1909, Australia from 1902) 'Peggy' c. 1932

 

Sybil Craig (England 1901 – Australia 1909, Australia from 1902)
Peggy
c. 1932
Oil on canvas
40.4 x 30.4 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased, 1978
© The Estate of Sybil Craig

 

Lina Bryans (Germany (of Australian parents) 1909-Australia 2000, Australia from 1910) 'The babe is wise' 1940

 

Lina Bryans (Germany (of Australian parents) 1909-Australia 2000, Australia from 1910)
The babe is wise
1940
Oil on cardboard
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Miss Jean Campbell, 1962

 

 

Lina Bryans’s portrait of author Jean Campbell is titled after Campbell’s 1939 novel The Babe is Wise, a contemporary story set in Melbourne and in which the main protagonists are European migrants. A well-known figure in Melbourne’s literary circles, Campbell was noted for her ‘quick and slightly audacious wit’. Bryans had begun painting in 1937 with the support of William Frater. In the late 1930s she lived at Darebin Bridge House, which became an informal artists’ colony and meeting place for writers associated with the journal Meanjin.

 

Peter Purves Smith (Australia 1912-49, England 1935-36, England and France 1938-40) 'Lucile' 1937

 

Peter Purves Smith (Australia 1912-49, England 1935-36, England and France 1938-40)
Lucile
1937
Oil on board
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 2011 with funds raised through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Appeal

 

Nora Heysen (Australia 1911-2003, England and Italy 1934-37) 'Self-portrait' 1932

 

Nora Heysen (Australia 1911-2003, England and Italy 1934-37)
Self-portrait
1932
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Acquired with the assistance of the Masterpieces for the Nation Fund 2011

 

 

During the first decade of her life as a professional artist, Nora Heysen completed numerous self-portraits. In many of these she depicts herself in the act of drawing or painting, holding a palette and brush or with other accoutrements of the artist, and thereby asserting her professional identity. Yet these are also highly charged works in which Heysen scrutinises herself (and the viewer) with an unflinching and unsmiling gaze.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Arthur Challen’s Miss Moira Madden above chair
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Arthur Challen 'Miss Moira Madden' 1937

 

Arthur Challen
Miss Moira Madden
1937
oil on canvas
89.8 x 77.4 cm (framed)
State Library of Victoria
Gift of Mrs S. M. Challen, 1966
© The Estate of Arthur Challen

 

 

Body culture

The terrible physical losses and psychological traumas of the First World War changed Australian society and prompted anxious concerns about the direction of the nation. For some this meant an inward-looking isolationism, a desire that Australian culture should develop independently and untouched by the ‘degenerate’ influences of Europe.

The search for rejuvenation frequently involved explorations of the capabilities and vulnerabilities of the human body. In the hands of artists, corporeal forms came to symbolise nationhood, most often expressed through references to the art of Classical Greece and mythological subjects. The evolution of a new Australian ‘type’ was also proposed in the 1930s – a white Australian drawn from British stock, but with an athletic and streamlined shape honed by time spent swimming and surfing on local beaches.

This art often has a distinctive quality to it, which in the light of history can sometimes make for disquieting viewing. With the terrible knowledge of how the Nazi Party in Germany subsequently used eugenics in its systematic slaughter of those with so-called ‘bad blood’, the Australian enthusiasm for ‘body culture’ can now seem problematic. Images of muscular nationalism soon lost their cache in Australia following the Second World War, tainted by undesirable fascistic overtones.

 

Keast Burke (New Zealand 1896 - Australia 1974, Australia from 1904) 'Harvest' c. 1940

 

Keast Burke (New Zealand 1896 – Australia 1974, Australia from 1904)
Harvest
c. 1940
Gelatin silver photograph (25.6 x 30.5 cm)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gerstl Bequest, 2000

 

Keast Burke (New Zealand 1896 - Australia 1974, Australia from 1904) 'Husbandry 1' c. 1940

 

Keast Burke (New Zealand 1896 – Australia 1974, Australia from 1904)
Husbandry 1
c. 1940
Gelatin silver photograph
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Gift of Iris Burke 1989

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Discus thrower' 1937, printed (c. 1939)

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Discus thrower
1937, printed (c. 1939)
Gelatin silver photograph
38.5 x 37.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2003

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Souvenir of Cronulla' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Souvenir of Cronulla
1937
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of National Australia Bank Limited, Honorary Life Benefactor, 1992

 

 

In the 1930s Max Dupain responded to Henri Bergson’s book Creative Evolution (1907) in which he considered creativity and intuition as central to the renewed development of society, and the artist as prime possessor of these powers. Vitalism, as this philosophy was termed, was believed to be expressed through polarised sexual energies. In this work Dupain focuses on the sexually differentiated ‘energies’ of men and women, associating women with the forces of nature.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Daphne Mayo’s A young Australian in foreground
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Daphne Mayo (Australia 1895-1982, England 1919-23, France 1923-25) 'A young Australian' 1930, cast 1931

 

Daphne Mayo (Australia 1895-1982, England 1919-23, France 1923-25)
A young Australian
1930, cast 1931
Bronze, marble
(a-b) 51.0 x 35.2 x 18.1 cm (overall)
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Purchased 1930
© 1982 by The Surf Life Saving Foundation and the Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (Q.)

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Dorothy Thornhill’s Neo-classical nudes and Resting Diana at left; Tom Purvis’ Australia’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations (wall print) at centre rear; and Jean Broome-Norton’s Abundance on plinth at right
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Tom Purvis (England 1888-1959) 'Australia's 150th Anniversary Celebrations' c. 1938

 

Tom Purvis (England 1888-1959)
Australia’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations
c. 1938
Colour lithograph
Courtesy of Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney

 

Installation view of Dorothy Thornhill's 'Neo-classical nudes' from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Dorothy Thornhill’s Neo-classical nudes from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Dorothy Thornhill (England 1910 - Australia 1987, New Zealand 1920-29, Australia from 1929) 'Resting Diana' 1931

 

Dorothy Thornhill (England 1910 – Australia 1987, New Zealand 1920-29, Australia from 1929)
Resting Diana
1931
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1977

 

 

The invocation of the Classical body as a modern prototype was a powerful idea in the 1930s. The Graeco- Roman goddess Diana, the virgin patron goddess of the hunt, was popularly invoked as an ideal of female perfection, and represented with a slender and athletic physique. Dorothy Thornhill’s Diana is a remarkable visualisation of such a ‘modern Diana’, her angular body and defined musculature reflecting the masculinisation of female bodies at this time. She is a formidable presence, the quiver of arrows slung nonchalantly across her shoulders a trophy of her victory over the male gender.

 

Jean Broome-Norton (Australia 1911-2002) 'Abundance' 1934

 

Jean Broome-Norton (Australia 1911-2002)
Abundance
1934
Plaster, bronze patination
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of ICI Australia Limited, Fellow, 1994

 

 

“High-rise buildings, fast trains and engineering feats such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge jostled against the Great Depression, conservatism and a looming Second World War during the 1930s, one of the most turbulent decades in Australian history. The major exhibition at the NGV, Brave New World: Australia 1930s, will explore the way artists and designers engaged with these major issues providing a fresh look at a period characterised by both optimism and despair. The exhibition will present a broad-ranging collection of more than 200 works spanning photography, painting, printmaking, sculpture and decorative arts as well as design, architecture, fashion, graphics, film and dance.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, commented, “Brave New World explores an important period of Australian art history during which Abstraction, Surrealism and Expressionism first emerged, and women artists arose as trailblazers of the modern art movement. It will offer an immersive look at the full spectrum of visual and creative culture of the period, from Max Dupain’s iconic depictions of the Australian body and beach culture to a vast display of nearly 40 Art Deco radios, which were an indispensable item for the Australian home during the 1930s.”

Presented thematically, Brave New World will show how artists and designers responded to major social and political concerns of the 1930s. The Great Depression, which saw Australia’s unemployment rate rise to 32% by 1932, is seen through the eyes of photographer F. Oswald Barnett in his powerful images of poverty-stricken inner Melbourne suburbs such as Fitzroy, Collingwood and Carlton, and in the works of Danila Vassilieff, Yosl Bergner, Arthur Boyd and Albert Tucker who were among the first artists to depict Australia’s working class and destitute.

In contrast, many other artists at the time chose to focus upon the vibrant city streets, cafes and buildings of contemporary Australian cities, such as renowned modernist Grace Cossington Smith with her energetic canvasses of flat colours and abstracted forms. Other artists featured in Brave New World including Hilda Rix Nicholas and Elioth Gruner concentrated on more traditional scenes of the Australian bush, which was seen as a place of respite from the frenetic pace of modern city life.

The exhibition will explore artists’ responses to the growing calls for Indigenous rights during the 1930s, which was accompanied by a rising interest in Aboriginal art and particularly the work of Albert Namatjira, the first Indigenous artist of renown in Australia; and the rise of the ‘modern woman’, a female who favoured urban living, freedom and equality over marriage and child rearing.

The 1930s also saw the idea of the ‘Australian body’, a tanned, muscular archetype shaped by sand and surf, come to the fore of the Australian identity. Artists who engaged with this idea, including Max Dupain, Charles Meere and Olive Cotton, will be presented in Brave New World. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated, 212-page hardback publication, featuring essays by leading writers on each of the exhibition themes. A series of public programs will also be offered including a major symposium, an Art Deco walking tour of Melbourne and a dance performance, recreating Demon machine (1924) by the Bodenweiser company that toured Australia in the late 1930s as well as an original solo by the choreographer, Carol Brown (NZ).

Press release from the NGV

 

Nanette Kuehn (Germany 1911-Australia 1980, Australia from 1937) 'Borislav Runanine and Tamara Grigorieva in Jeux D'Enfants, original Ballets Russes, Australian tour' 1939-40

 

Nanette Kuehn (Germany 1911-Australia 1980, Australia from 1937)
Borislav Runanine and Tamara Grigorieva in Jeux D’Enfants, original Ballets Russes, Australian tour
1939-40
Gelatin silver photograph
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre, Melbourne
The Australian Ballet Collection. Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998

 

 

The expressive body: dance in Australia

If modern art encapsulated the ideals and conflicting forces of the early twentieth century, then modern dance embodied its restless vitality and the quest for a different kind of subjectivity and expression. To many, modern dance is the pivotal art form for a mid twentieth century concerned with plasticity, the expressive body and tensions between the individual and its collective formation.

The decade of the 1930s is framed by the 1928-29 tour of Anna Pavlova’s dance company and the three tours of the remnant Ballets Russes companies (1936-37, 1938-39,1939-40) that excited many aspiring modernist artists. These tours sowed the seeds for subsequent ballet narratives in Australia, because the eruption of war in 1939 meant that Ballets Russes dancers, including Helene Kirsova and Edouard Borovansky, stayed in the country and established ballet companies. While trained in Russian dance technique, these artists were also influenced by the aesthetics of change in European art and dance that included new bodily techniques, dynamic movement patterns and modern technologies. It was the individual dancers of modern dance, however, including Louise Lightfoot and Sonia Revid, who produced the expressive intensity of a more autonomous art of movement.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA featuring a wall print of Sonia Revid dancing on Brighton beach c. 1935 by an unknown Australian photographer
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Australia, Unknown photographer. 'Sonia Revid dancing on Brighton beach' c. 1935

 

Australia, Unknown photographer
Sonia Revid dancing on Brighton beach
c. 1935
Courtesy of State Library Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Sonia Revid was one of the leading proponents of modern interpretative dance in Melbourne. Born in Latvia, she studied with the great dancer Mary Wigman in Germany before coming to Australia in 1932. Revid is credited with introducing the ‘German Dance’ to Australian audiences, and in the mid 1930s established the Sonia Revid School of Art and Body Culture in Collins Street. She composed her own dances, one of the best known being Bushfire drama (1940), based on the 1939 Victoria Bushfires.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Ballet (Emmy Towsey and Evelyn Ippen, Bodenwieser Dancers performing Waterlilies)' 1937, printed (c. 1939)

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Ballet (Emmy Towsey and Evelyn Ippen, Bodenwieser Dancers performing Waterlilies)
1937, printed (c. 1939)
Gelatin silver photograph
44.5 x 33.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2003

 

Jack Cato (Australia 1889-1971, England 1909-14, South Africa 1914-20) 'Helene Kirsova and Igor Youskevitch in Les Presages, Monte Carlo Russian Ballet' 1936-37

 

Jack Cato (Australia 1889-1971, England 1909-14, South Africa 1914-20)
Helene Kirsova and Igor Youskevitch in Les Presages, Monte Carlo Russian Ballet
1936-37
Gelatin silver photograph
24.8 x 19.4 cm
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre, Melbourne
The Australian Ballet Collection
Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998

 

 

Choreographed by Léonide Massine in 1933, Les Presages (Destiny) was a popular and avant-garde work during the Ballets Russes tours to Australia in 1936-37. It was one of the first contemporary ballets to be choreographed to an existing musical score, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. Portrayed in this picture are two principal dancers from the Monte Carlo Ballets Russes: Hélène Kirsova, who remained in Australia and formed her own ballet company in Sydney in the early 1940s, and Igor Youskevitch, who became a leading American ballet dancer, appearing here in the role of the Hero.

 

Evelyn Ippen designer and maker active in Australia 1930s 'Dress for Slavonic Dances' 1939

 

Evelyn Ippen designer and maker active in Australia 1930s
Dress for Slavonic Dances
1939
Cotton, silk (velvet) (appliqué), elastic, metal (zip) for a production of the Bodenwieser Ballet, choreographed by Gertrud Bodenwieser
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre, Melbourne
Bodenwieser Collection. Gift of Barbara Cuckson, 2000

 

 

The Slavonic Dances were choreographed by Gertrud Bodenwieser to represent what she described as the ‘vigour and passionate feelings of the Slavonic people’, and toured with her first company in Australia in 1939. Loosely using folk-dance motifs, this ensemble work would have been a stylish crowd-pleaser in contrast to more serious dances. The appliqué and colourful flower motifs on this dress are similar to designs by Natalia Goncharova for the Ballets Russes, although the simplified appeal of its ‘red bodice, long, swirling skirt, and gathered white sleeves’ were probably designed by one of the company dancers, Evelyn Ippen.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Tamara Tchinarova in Presages' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Tamara Tchinarova in Presages
Published in Art in Australia, February 15, 1937
National Gallery of Victoria
Melbourne Shaw Research Library

 

 

Australia Tunes Into The World

These radios comprise a selection of Australian designed and manufactured tabletop models from the 1930s at a time when this new method of communication became an integral part of every home. They reflect the rapid spread of the streamlined style to Australia from the United States, England and Europe, where industrial designers applied machine-age styling to everyday household appliances. The use of new synthetic plastics (Bakelite) and mass production helped to make radios affordable for ordinary people, even in the depths of the Depression, and radio transmission brought the world into every Australian home. As cheap alternatives to the expensive wooden console in the lounge room, these small, portable radios allowed individual family members to listen to serials, quizzes and popular music in other rooms such as the kitchen, bedroom and verandah, as well as in the workplace.

Radios of the 1930s are now appreciated as quintessential examples of Art Deco styling, and one of the first expressions of art meeting industry. These colourful and elegant radio sets were one of the first pieces of modern styling in the Australian home. They were also a symbol of modern technology and a new future.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Australian Art Deco radios from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Airzone (1931) Ltd, Sydney (manufacturer) 'Mullard' 1938

 

Airzone (1931) Ltd, Sydney (manufacturer)
Mullard (white)
1938
Collection of Peter Sheridan and Jan Hatch

Airzone (1931) Ltd, Sydney (manufacturer)
Mullard (speckled green)
1938
Collection of Peter Sheridan and Jan Hatch

Airzone (1931) Ltd, Sydney (manufacturer)
Mullard (black)
1938
Collection of Peter Sheridan and Jan Hatch
Photo © Peter Sheridan

 

Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., Sydney (manufacturer) est. 1913 'AWA 'Egg crate' (various colours)' 1938

 

Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., Sydney (manufacturer) est. 1913
AWA ‘Egg crate’ (various colours)
1938
Bakelite
21.0 x 33.0 x 19.0 cm (each)
Collection of Peter Sheridan and Jan Hatch
Photo © Peter Sheridan

 

Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., Sydney (manufacturer) est. 1913 'AWA Radiolette 'Empire State' and cigarette box (green)' 1934

 

Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd., Sydney (manufacturer) est. 1913
AWA Radiolette ‘Empire State’ and cigarette box (green)
1934
Bakelite
(a) 28.0 x 27.0 x 15.0 cm (radio) (b) 8.0 x 8.0 x 4.5 cm (cigarette box)
Collection of Peter Sheridan and Jan Hatch
Photo © Peter Sheridan

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation views of Australian Art Deco radios from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

 

Sun and surf

The beach was a complex location in the Australian creative imagination. It was a democratic site in which the trappings of wealth and position were abandoned as people stripped down to their bathers. It was a place of hedonistic pleasures that offered sensuous engagement with sun and surf, and a primitive landscape where natural forces restored the bodies of those depleted by modern life. It was a playground for the tourist that was considered distinctively Australian. As war loomed again in the late 1930s, it was also a pseudo-militaristic zone in which the lifesaver was honed for ‘battle’ in the surf.

The lifesavers that helped protect the beach-going public were regularly praised as physical exemplars who could build the eugenic stock of the nation. As the Second World War approached, the connection of these trained lifesavers to military servicemen also became painfully apparent.

Male lifesavers were used by artists in promoting Australia to tourists: a poster commemorating the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 positioned the lifesaver as the quintessential representative of Australian manhood. Douglas Annand and Arthur Whitmore’s virile lifesaver proudly gestures towards the new bridge, his muscles as strong and protective as the steel girders that span the harbour.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'On the beach. Man, woman, boy' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
On the beach. Man, woman, boy
1938
Gelatin silver photograph
39.2 x 47.2 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1982

 

 

Showing a naked family on the beach, Max Dupain’s work is a perfect illustration of social concerns of the times. As Australia moved closer to engagement in another world war, fears about the poor physical fitness of the population were debated, with a ‘national fitness’ campaign instituted by the government in 1938. Dupain’s father, George, was one of the country’s first physical educationalists, opening the Dupain Institute of Physical Education and Medical Gymnastics in 1900 and writing extensively on the subject of health and fitness. Max Dupain attended the gym and was well versed in contemporary concerns about fitness.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of 'Male lifesaver, window' and 'Female lifesaver, window' (both c. 1935)

 

Installation view of Male lifesaver, window and Female lifesaver, window (both c. 1935) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Unknown, Melbourne. 'Male lifesaver, window' c. 1935

 

Unknown, Melbourne
Male lifesaver, window
c. 1935
Stained glass, lead
47.5 x 40.8 cm
Williamstown Swimming and Life Saving Club, Williamstown
Donated by C. J Dennis

 

 

‘On golden and milky sands, bodily excellence is displayed the year round, clearly defined by the sun in an atmosphere as viewless and benign as the air of Hellas as described by Euripides.’

J. S. Macdonald, 1931

 

Unknown, Melbourne. 'Female lifesaver, window' c. 1935

 

Unknown, Melbourne
Female lifesaver, window
c. 1935
Stained glass, lead
47.0 x 40.9 cm
Williamstown Swimming and Life Saving Club, Williamstown
Donated by Councillor R. T. Bell

 

 

Although much was made of the ‘gods of the golden sand’, as one poet glowingly described lifesavers, lifesaving clubs were not entirely male in membership. Women lifesavers also made their mark, albeit in more limited numbers and with much less recognition. At the Williamstown Lifesaving Club in Melbourne a woman lifesaver was included in this fine and very rare stained glass window that, along with its counterpart featuring a male lifesaver, graced the newly established clubhouse around 1935.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with the male and female lifesavers (centre); Max Dupain’s The carnival at Bondi (fourth from right); Sydney Bridge celebrations (second right); and Douglas Annand and Max Dupain’s Australia (right)
Photo: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Sunbaker
(1938), dated 1937, printed c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
38.0 x 43.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Visual Arts Board, 1976

 

 

Taken on a camping trip near Culburra, on the Shoalhaven River in New South Wales, in January 1938, Max Dupain’s original version of the Sunbaker was a much darker image that existed at the time only in an album gifted to his friend Chris Van Dyke. Dupain lost the original negative and printed this variant version in 1975 for an exhibition. It is an image that is now considered an icon in Australian photography, and has come to represent key values of the interest in ‘body culture’, celebrating health and fitness in the context of the beach.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'The carnival at Bondi' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
The carnival at Bondi
1938
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1982

 

 

‘The lifesaving teams … are splendid examples of the physique, resourcefulness and vitality of our youth and manhood. They are typical of the outdoor life which Australians lead and they are living testimonies to the value of surfing and the vigor and stamina of our race.’

DAILY EXAMINER, July 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Manly' 1938, printed c. 1986

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Manly
1938, printed c. 1986
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from funds donated by Hallmark Cards Australia Pty Ltd, 1987

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926) 'The seaside calls - go by train - take a Kodak' 1930s

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926)
The seaside calls – go by train – take a Kodak
1930s
Colour lithograph
Printed by F. W. Niven, Melbourne
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mr Grant Lee

 

 

Gert Sellheim was born to German parents in Estonia, at that time part of the Russian Empire. After studying architecture in Europe he travelled to Western Australia in 1926, before settling in Melbourne in 1931, where he began working as an industrial and commercial designer. Working for the Australian National Travel Association, Sellheim created a series of posters promoting beach holidays, which incorporated Art Deco motifs and typography. His most famous design is the flying kangaroo logo for Qantas, which he created in 1947.

 

Douglas Annand (Australia 1903-76) Arthur Whitmore (Australia 1910-65) 'Sydney Bridge celebrations' 1932

 

Douglas Annand (Australia 1903-76)
Arthur Whitmore (Australia 1910-65)
Sydney Bridge celebrations
1932
Colour lithograph
47.6 x 63.6 cm (image and sheet)
Australian National Maritime Museum Purchased, 1991
© Courtesy of the artist’s estate

 

Douglas Annand (Australia 1903-76) Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Australia' c. 1937

 

Douglas Annand (Australia 1903-76)
Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Australia
c. 1937
Colour and process lithograph
105.3 x 68.4 cm (image and sheet)
Australian National Maritime Museum Purchased, 1991
© Courtesy of the artist’s estate

 

Douglas Annand (attributed to) (Australia 1903-76) 'Follow the sun - Australia's 150th Anniversary celebrations' 1938

 

Douglas Annand (attributed to) (Australia 1903-76)
Follow the sun – Australia’s 150th Anniversary celebrations
1938
Colour lithograph and photolithograph
Courtesy of Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney

 

 

The 1930s were the heyday of the travel poster. Posters were commissioned by railway and tourism groups or shipping companies and airlines to promote Australian holiday destinations, both at home and overseas. The Australian National Travel Association was formed in 1929 to promote Australia to overseas markets. As part of its strategy it commissioned posters from leading graphic artists, such as Percy Trompf, James Northfield and Douglas Annand. From the late 1920s Australia began to actively promote itself to the world by using the beach, sun and surf as motifs.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with the work of John Rowell, Hilda Rix Nicholas, Gert Sellheim and Percy Trompf on the far wall, and Robert E. Coates Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World’s Fair (1939) on the projector screen at left
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

 

The Australian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair projected an image of Australia as a young and healthy nation, a place of industry, sport and tourism. Designed by John Oldham of Sydney architectural firm Stephenson & Turner, the modern design of the building was complemented by Douglas Annand’s interior displays featuring the latest graphic design, and audio-visual and photomontage techniques. These photographs of the Australian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair were taken by commercial photographer Robert E. Coates.

 

Installation view of Robert E. Coates' 'Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World's Fair' (1939)

Installation view of Robert E. Coates' 'Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World's Fair' (1939)

Installation view of Robert E. Coates' 'Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World's Fair' (1939)

Installation view of Robert E. Coates' 'Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World's Fair' (1939)

Installation view of Robert E. Coates' 'Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World's Fair' (1939)

 

Installation views of Robert E. Coates’ Photographs of Australian Pavilion at New York World’s Fair (1939) (digital images, looped)

 

 

Pastoral landscapes

Along with the beach, another national myth evolved around the Australian bush. Although most Australians lived in cities, in the years following the First World War the nation became increasingly informed by a mythology centred on the bush and the landscape. For those who considered the modern city a profoundly depleting force, the bush was a touchstone of traditional ‘values’. It was nostalgically conceived of as an idyllic natural realm whose soil, literally and metaphorically, sustained its people. Both the classical Pastoral ideal of a land in which only sheep and cattle roam, and the Georgic tradition, which celebrated the achievements of agriculture, became dominant themes in landscape art.

Pastoral landscapes were admired above all as representing the antithesis of ‘decadent’ modern life. As art critic and gallery director J. S. Macdonald wrote, such art would ‘point the way in which life should be lived in Australia, with the maximum of flocks and the minimum of factories’. With their emphasis on farming and pastoral industries, such works affirmed white landownership, with Indigenous people largely absent.

 

John Rowell (Australia 1894-1973) 'Blue hills' c. 1936

 

John Rowell (Australia 1894-1973)
Blue hills
c. 1936
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1936

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926) 'Spring in the Grampians' 1930s

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926)
Spring in the Grampians
1930s
Colour photolithograph
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased 2000

 

Hilda Rix Nicholas (Australia 1884-1961, Europe 1911-18) 'The fair musterer' c. 1935

 

Hilda Rix Nicholas (Australia 1884-1961, Europe 1911-18)
The fair musterer
c. 1935
Oil on canvas
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Purchased 1971

 

 

As a young artist Hilda Rix Nicholas had a successful career in France before returning to Australia after the First World War. In 1934, several years after the birth of her son, Rix Nicholas returned to painting and depicted her new life living on the family property Knockalong, on the Monaro Plains in New South Wales. Depicting the governess of her young son holding the reins of her horse, dog at her feet, and sheep in the distance, in The fair musterer Rix Nicholas claims for women an active role in the masculine world of pastoral Australia.

 

Hilda Rix Nicholas (Australia 1884-1961, Europe 1911-18) 'The shepherd of Knockalong' 1933

 

Hilda Rix Nicholas (Australia 1884-1961, Europe 1911-18)
The shepherd of Knockalong
1933
Oil on canvas
Collection of Peter Rix, Sydney
Courtesy of Deutscher & Hackett

 

 

Depicting the artist’s husband and young son, The shepherd of Knockalong is a reminder of the traditional importance of the wool industry to the nation’s economy. With his legs firmly connected to the ground and pictured as a large figure dominating the landscape setting, the farmer is the benign owner and ‘shepherd’ of the land spreading out behind him, the presence of his young son ensuring dynastic succession. At a time when Aboriginal people were confined to reservations and denied citizenship, Hilda Rix Nicholas’s painting can also be considered as an assertion of the British colonisers’ right to ownership of Australia.

 

Percy Trompf (Australia 1902-64) 'Western Australia' c. 1936

 

Percy Trompf (Australia 1902-64)
Western Australia
c. 1936
Colour lithograph
Courtesy of Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney

 

 

Indigenous art and culture

During the 1930s Aboriginal people were often pejoratively referred to as a ‘dying race’. The Australian Government continued to enforce a ‘divide and rule’ assimilationist policy. Determined by eugenics, this entailed removing Aboriginal people of mixed descent from their families and reserves, and absorbing them into the dominant society, with consequent loss of their own language and customary ritual practices. Increasingly during this period, Aboriginal people formed their own organisations and agitated for full citizenship rights.

This was also a decade that saw increasing awareness of, and interest in, Indigenous art. Albert Namatjira astonished Melbourne audiences at his first solo exhibition at the Athenaeum Gallery in 1938. Comprising forty-one watercolour paintings, all of his works sold within three days of the opening. The following year the Art Gallery of South Australia purchased one of Namatjira’s works. Indigenous art also inspired non-Indigenous artists, including Margaret Preston and Frances Derham who appropriated design elements in their works. The idea of ‘Aboriginalism’, in which settlers sought an Australian identity in the context of Britishness and the Empire, saw artists travelling to the outback to paint and sketch subjects they believed connected them to Indigenous history.

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894–1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08) Kangaroo and 'Aboriginal motifs' 1925-1940

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894–1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08)
Kangaroo and Aboriginal motifs
1925-1940
Linocut printed in brown ink on buff paper
4.6 x 7.3 cm (image) 12.6 x 10.3 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mr Richard Hodgson Derham, 1988
© Estate of Frances Derham

 

 

Best known as a progressive educator and advocate of children’s art, Frances Derham was also an active member of the Arts and Crafts Society of Victoria, and with potter Allan Lowe shared Margaret Preston’s interest in the appropriation of Indigenous art. From the mid 1920s Derham began to incorporate Aboriginal motifs into her linocuts and in 1929, synchronous with the exhibition Australian Aboriginal Art at the Museum of Victoria, Derham presented a lecture to the Arts and Crafts Society, entitled ‘The Interest of Aboriginal Art to the Modern Designer’.

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894-1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08) 'Kangaroo (at the zoo)' c. 1931

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894-1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08)
Kangaroo (at the zoo)
c. 1931
Linocut printed in brown ink on Chinese paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mr Richard Hodgson Derham, 1988

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894-1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08) 'The Aboriginal artist' 1931

 

Frances Derham (Australia 1894-1987, New Zealand and Ireland 1902-08)
The Aboriginal artist
1931
Colour linocut on Japanese paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mr Richard Hodgson Derham, 1988

 

 

Margaret Preston (Australia 1875-1963, Germany and France 1904-07, France, England and Ireland 1912-19) 'Shoalhaven Gorge, New South Wales' 1940-1941

 

Margaret Preston (Australia 1875-1963, Germany and France 1904-07, France, England and Ireland 1912-19)
Shoalhaven Gorge, New South Wales
1940-1941
Oil and gouache on canvas
53.7 x 45.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated from the Estate of Dr Donald Wright, 2008
© Margaret Preston/Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia

 

 

During the 1920s Margaret Preston considered Aboriginal art a source of good design in the decoration of household items. In the 1930s her study of Aboriginal culture intensified, as she developed a greater interest in its anthropological and cosmological elements. In 1940 Preston travelled to the Northern Territory to study Aboriginal art. On her return she developed a more explicit Aboriginal style in paintings featuring earthy tones, strong black outlines and patterns of dots and lines.

 

Unknown Walamangu active (1930s) 'Dhukurra dhaawu (Sacred clan story)' c. 1935

 

Unknown
Walamangu active (1930s)
Dhukurra dhaawu (Sacred clan story)
c. 1935
Earth pigments on Stringybark (Eucalyptus sp.), resin
128.3 x 63.9 cm
The Donald Thomson Collection
Donated by Mrs Dorita Thomson to the University of Melbourne and on loan to Museums Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, segregation was the main government policy regarding Aboriginal people. It was re-enforced by the 1909 Aborigines Protection Act, which gave the Aborigines Protection Board the power to control where Aboriginal people lived in New South Wales. In 1937 the Commonwealth Government adopted a policy of assimilation, whereby Aboriginal people of mixed descent were henceforth to be assimilated into white society, while others were confined to reserves. In 1931 Arnhem Land was declared an Aboriginal Reserve by the government and non-Indigenous entry into the region was restricted.

 

Tjam Yilkari Katani Liyagalawumirr active 1930s 'Wagilag dhaawu (Wagilag Sisters story)' 1937

 

Tjam Yilkari Katani
Liyagalawumirr active 1930s
Wagilag dhaawu (Wagilag Sisters story) (installation view)
1937
Earth pigments on Stringybark (Eucalyptus sp.)
The Donald Thomson Collection Donated by Mrs Dorita Thomson to the University of Melbourne and on loan to Museums Victoria, Melbourne
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

For Yolgnu people, painting on bark or objects is intimately connected with painting on the body, and the Yolgnu term barrawan means both ‘skin’ and ‘bark’. These paintings are transcriptions of the sacred designs that were painted onto men’s bodies and convey the power of the Yolgnu ancestors whose actions created their world. The Wagilag Sisters Dreaming story chronicles the creative acts of the sisters as they travelled across Arnhem Land. Such stories pass on important knowledge, cultural values and belief systems to later generations.

 

Arthur Murch (Australia 1902-89, Europe 1936-40) 'Walila, Pintupi tribe' 1934

 

Arthur Murch (Australia 1902-89, Europe 1936-40)
Walila, Pintupi tribe
1934
Pencil
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1934

 

 

In 1933, on the invitation of Professor H. Whitridge Davies, Sydney artist Arthur Murch accompanied a research team from Sydney University to Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission, south-west of Alice Springs. Murch remained there for six weeks painting the landscapes and making portraits of Indigenous people. These were exhibited in Sydney soon after his return.

 

Percy Leason (Australia 1888-United States 1959, United States from 1938) 'Thomas Foster' (installation view) 1934

 

Percy Leason (Australia 1888-United States 1959, United States from 1938)
Thomas Foster (installation view)
1934
Oil on canvas
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Isabelle Leason, 1969
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Thomas Foster was born at Coranderrk Station in 1882, the son of Edward Foster and Betsy Benfield. Foster’s was one of the last portraits painted by Leason as part of the unfortunately titled exhibition The Last of the Victorian Aborigines. These portraits were debuted on 11 September at the Athenaeum Gallery in Collins Street, Melbourne, to great public acclaim. Foster, like most of Leason’s subjects, appears shirtless, his arms folded behind his back, pushing forward his chest and clearly showing his scarification marks.

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926) 'Corroboree Australia' 1934

 

Gert Sellheim (Russia (of German parents) 1901-Australia 1970, Australia from 1926)
Corroboree Australia
1934
Colour lithograph printed by F. W. Niven, Melbourne
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of the Australian National Travel Association, 1934

 

 

Dystopian cities

Australia was hit hard by the Great Depression. The worst year was 1932, when unemployment reached nearly thirty-two per cent, and by the following year almost a third of all unemployed men had been without work for three years. With wages cut and unemployment rising, many families were left struggling to survive and this poverty was most evident in run-down, inner-city areas. Two émigrés, Danila Vassilieff and Yosl Bergner, were the first Australian artists to turn their attention to the plight of the urban poor and the disposed. Their powerful, expressive style was influential upon young artists, including Arthur Boyd and Albert Tucker.

Economic hardship fostered bitterness and political unrest, and membership of radical groups on both the left and right increased. Boundaries between political agendas and art production became porous in this decade, and many artists believed, like Bergner, ‘that by painting we would change the world’. The complex enmeshment of the creative and political became a defining feature of the decade, and art in Australia became increasingly political, with the political realm involving itself with art.

By the end of the decade the worsening political situation overseas and a sense that another world war was inevitable contributed to a growing sense of unease. Many artists expressed this anxiety and foreboding in their works.

 

Laurence Le Guay (Australia 1917-90) 'No title (War montage with globe)' c. 1939

 

Laurence Le Guay (Australia 1917-90)
No title (War montage with globe)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver photograph
30.4 x 24.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of Mrs Mem Kirby, Fellow, 2001

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Hot rhythm!' 1936

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Hot rhythm!
1936
Silver gelatin photograph
24.7 x 17.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
William Kimpton Bequest, 2016

 

 

In this work, Max Dupain has the shadow of a slide trombone seemingly bisect the naked body of a woman in a photograph that, in the context of his known views, is less an erotic celebration of modern jazz culture and nightlife than a comment on the disruptive nature of modernity.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Doom of youth' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Doom of youth
1937
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1982

 

 

In Doom of youth – a title taken from Wyndham Lewis’s 1932 polemical book of the same name – Max Dupain creates an allegorical photograph in which a naked male body represents his vision of modern Australia. Using symbols that suggest disempowerment, Dupain implies that the flywheel of mechanisation has doomed youth (the representatives of a nation’s future) to a bleak fate.

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Night with her train of stars and her gift of sleep' 1936-37

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Night with her train of stars and her gift of sleep
1936-37
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
William Kimpton Bequest, 2016

 

 

Referring to Edward Hughes’s 1912 Symbolist work of the same name, Max Dupain has replaced the painter’s dark-winged goddess of the night, who tries to calm the putti (or ‘stars’) that cling to her, with an updated modern version in which city lights replace starlight. The symbolism of the giant breast that towers over the electric lights of the urban landscape suggests an inversion of the natural for the man-made. The personification of night refers to the Greek goddess Nyx, a powerful force born of Chaos, and the mother of children including Sleep, Death and Pain. Given his often gloomy assessment of modernity, Dupain’s invocation of Nyx seems appropriate in the context.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation views of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Herbert Badham’s Paint and morning tea second left and Albert Tucker’s Self-portrait third from right
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Herbert Badham (Australia 1899-1961) 'Paint and morning tea' 1937

 

Herbert Badham (Australia 1899-1961)
Paint and morning tea
1937
Oil on cardboard
75.6 x 71.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1937
© The Estate of Herbert Badham

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Albert Tucker’s Self-portrait (1937) at left
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of Albert Tucker's 'Self-portrait' from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Albert Tucker’s Self-portrait (1937) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In the late 1930s Albert Tucker’s contact with émigré artists Yosl Bergner and Danila Vassilieff was to provide important encouragement for him to pursue his artistic vocation and to make art that was responsive to the issues of his time. In 1938 Tucker was a founding member of the Contemporary Art Society, and he became one of the most articulate voices in the often bitter debates between modernists and conservatives. In the 1940s, together with his partner Joy Hester, Tucker was a key member of the group of artists and writers that formed around John and Sunday Reed at Heide.

From 1936 until the early 1940s Albert Tucker chronicled himself with numerous painted and drawn self-portraits. In these works we witness a harrowing disintegration of his physical self, which mirrored the artist’s overwrought emotional state. He recalled: ‘It was a period when the whole world, and all the people I knew, seemed to be seething with ideas and energies and experiences; and my own mind was a seething mess … The highly emotional, overwrought expressionist paintings suited my state at the time’.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with work by Danila Vassilieff on the centre black wall including Street scene with graffiti (left), Truth, Woolloomooloo (second left) and Young girl (Shirley) the large painting at right; and F. Oswald Barnett’s photographs of Melbourne slums in the display cabinet
Photos: Courtesy NGV Photographic Services

 

Danila Vassilieff (Russia 1897-Australia 1958, Australia from 1923, Central and South America, Europe, England 1929-34) 'Street scene with graffiti' 1938

 

Installation view of Danila Vassilieff ‘s Street scene with graffiti (1938) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Danila Vassilieff (Russia 1897-Australia 1958, Australia from 1923, Central and South America, Europe, England 1929-34) 'Truth, Woolloomooloo' 1936

 

Danila Vassilieff (Russia 1897-Australia 1958, Australia from 1923, Central and South America, Europe, England 1929-34)
Truth, Woolloomooloo
1936
Oil on canvas
Private collection

 

 

It is notable that the first artists to depict the poverty of inner-city slums were two recently arrived émigrés, Danila Vassilieff and Yosl Bergner. Russian-born Vassilieff, who had fought with the white Russian army, first arrived in Australia in 1923 before leaving again in 1929. On his return in 1935 he painted a series of dark streetscapes, depicting the inner suburban areas of Woolloomooloo and Surry Hills in Sydney. Moving to Melbourne, Vassilieff’s expressionist style influenced many young artists, including Lina Bryans, Albert Tucker, Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan.

 

Danila Vassilieff (Russia 1897-Australia 1958, Australia from 1923, Central and South America, Europe, England 1929-34) 'Young girl (Shirley)' 1937

 

Danila Vassilieff (Russia 1897-Australia 1958, Australia from 1923, Central and South America, Europe, England 1929-34)
Young girl (Shirley)
1937
Oil on canvas on composition board
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
National Gallery Society of Victoria Century Fund, 1984

 

F. Oswald Barnett. 'Fitzroy. View from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'Fitzroy. Rear view of house'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'North Melbourne. Group of children in Erskine Place'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'West Melbourne. A Dudley Mansion'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'Carlton. Wash-house and bath-room 48 Palmerston Street'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'North Melbourne. No. 19 Byron Street'

F. Oswald Barnett. 'West Melbourne rubbish tip'

 

F. Oswald Barnett (Australia 1883–1972)

Fitzroy. View from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence
Fitzroy. Rear view of house
North Melbourne. Group of children in Erskine Place
West Melbourne. A Dudley Mansion
Carlton. Wash-house and bath-room, 48 Palmerston Street
North Melbourne. No. 19 Byron Street
West Melbourne rubbish tip

c. 1930-c. 1935
Gelatin silver photograph and typewriting on card
State Library Victoria, Melbourne
F. Oswald Barnett Collection
Gift of Department of Human Services, Victoria 2001

 

 

One of the most visible and lasting effects of the Great Depression was the housing crisis in the poor working class areas of Melbourne and Sydney. Many of the nineteenth-century houses had fallen into disrepair, overcrowding was endemic and a great number of families lived in squalid and unhealthy conditions. Throughout the decade ‘slum’ abolition movements in Melbourne and Sydney ran public campaigns to place public housing on the political agenda, leading to the creation of the first state Housing Commissions.

In Melbourne, Methodist layman F. Oswald Barnett led a campaign calling for slum demolition and the rehousing of residents in government-financed housing. He took hundreds of photographs that were used in public lectures and to illustrate the 1937 report of the Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board. This led to the creation of the Housing Commission of Victoria in 1938, with its first major project being the Garden City estate at Fishermans Bend. In Sydney a similar campaign led to the Housing Improvement Act of 1936 and the construction of the first fifty-six home units at Erskineville. (NGV)

The photographs in the F. Oswald Barnett Collection were taken by Barnett and other unidentified photographers in the 1930s. Many of them were used to illustrate a government report on slum housing and/or made into lantern slides for lectures in a public campaign.  F. Oswald Barnett was born in Brunswick, Victoria. A committed Methodist and housing reformer, he led a crusade against Melbourne’s inner city slums. In 1936 he was appointed to the Slum Abolition Board and from 1938-1948 he was the vice-chair of the Housing Commission. In this position he attempted to shape compassionate public housing policy. He later protested vigorously against proposed high-rise housing (Monash Biographical Dictionary of 20th century Australia).

 

 

Scenes from Melbourne during the depression (extract)
c. 1935
Black and white film transferred to media player
1 min. 51 sec. silent (looped)
Courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Canberra

 

 

While there is an abundance of newspaper and documentary photographs which document the 1930s shanty towns, slums, relief and charity works, there is very little moving image recordings available. Instead, the moving image medium at the time was primarily focused on providing entertainment that would allow the audience temporary relief from the Depression. This rare footage depicts slum areas of inner Melbourne, and provides great insight into the horrible living conditions that many Australian families experienced.

 

Ola Cohn (Australia 1892-1964, England 1926-30) 'The sundowner' 1932

 

Ola Cohn (Australia 1892-1964, England 1926-30)
The sundowner
1932
Painted plaster
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Jack and Zena Cohn, 2016

 

 

Ola Cohn studied sculpture with Henry Moore at the Royal College of Art in London in the 1920s. She returned to Melbourne in 1930, where the following year her solo exhibition established her as a leading proponent of modern sculpture. During the Depression the sight of ‘swagmen’ or ‘sundowners’ became commonplace as unemployed men travelled across the country in order to find work. In 1932 Cohn submitted this maquette of a sundowner to a competition for a full-scale sculpture to be erected in Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne: unsurprisingly it was not chosen as the winning entry.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Bernard Smith’s The advance of Lot and his Brethren at centre and Albert Tucker’s The futile city at right
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of Bernard Smith's 'The advance of Lot and his Brethren' from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Bernard Smith’s The advance of Lot and his Brethren from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bernard Smith (Australia 1916-2011, England and Europe 1948-51) 'The advance of Lot and his Brethren' 1940

 

Bernard Smith (Australia 1916-2011, England and Europe 1948-51)
The advance of Lot and his Brethren
1940
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of the artist, 2008

 

 

In the early 1930s, artists depicted the city as a modern utopia, a place of triumphant progress and aspiration later in the decades, a new radical iconography of the city as a place of moral decay and corruption appeared. Painted at the start of the Second World War, Lot and his brethren expresses Bernard Smith’s despair at the conflagration that the world had been plunged into. Based on the biblical story of Lot, who fled from God’s destruction of Sodom, Smith depicts Karl Marx as the saviour who leads his people from the burning city.

 

Albert Tucker (Australia 1914-99, Europe and United States 1947-60) 'The futile city' 1940

 

Albert Tucker (Australia 1914-99, Europe and United States 1947-60)
The futile city
1940
Oil on cardboard
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen, Melbourne
Purchased from John and Sunday Reed, 1980

 

 

At the start of the Second World War Surrealism was an important influence upon Albert Tucker, as were the writings of T. S. Eliot. The futile city was inspired by Eliot’s epic poem The Waste Land (1922): ‘I came on T. S. Eliot, and instantly I recognised a twin soul because here was horror, outrage, despair, futility, and all the images that went with them. He confirmed my own feelings and also became a source … because of the images that would involuntarily form while I was reading the poetry’.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Yosl Bergner’s Citizen (c. 1940) at left
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of Yosl Bergner's 'Citizen' from the exhibition 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Yosl Bergner’s Citizen (c. 1940) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Yosl Bergner was one of approximately 7000-8000 Jewish people, mainly from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, who arrived in Australia between 1933 and 1939 fleeing Nazi persecution. This number included many artists, musicians, architects, writers and intellectuals who were to contribute greatly to Australia’s cultural life. However, government policy remained opposed to large-scale intake of Jewish refugees, and some were met with anti-Semitic sentiments upon their arrival.

 

Yvonne Atkinson (Australia 1918-99) 'The tram stop' 1937

 

Installation view of Yvonne Atkinson The tram stop (1937) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92) 'Brave New World' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australia 1911-92)
Brave New World
1938
Gelatin silver photograph
29.0 x 20.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
William Kimpton Bequest, 2017

 

 

In 1935 Max Dupain referred to Aldous Huxley’s book Brave New World (1932) in his photograph of a woman trapped by technology. Dupain was attracted to this biting satire on the ethical dilemmas of social engineering because it appeared to endorse his own fervently held ideas of how modernity was affecting the individual and national body. At the time his choice to directly reference this book was surprisingly provocative: Brave New World had been banned by the Australian customs department, with existing copies rounded up and burned. Dupain returned again to the theme in 1938, producing this variant version.

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA with Max Dupain’s Brave New World (wall print) at centre rear with Sideboard and Chest of drawers at right
Photo: Eugene Hyland

 

Installation view of 'Brave New World: Australia 1930s' at NGVA

 

Installation view of Sideboard and Chest of drawers from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Eugene Hyland

Unknown, Australia
Sideboard
1920s-40s
Painted wood, wood, tin
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

Unknown, Australia
Chest of drawers
1920s-40s
Painted wood, wood, tin
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

Unknown, Australia. 'Sideboard' 1920s-40s

 

Unknown, Australia
Sideboard
1920s-40s
Painted wood, wood, tin
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

Unknown, Australia. 'Chest of drawers' 1920s-40s

 

Unknown, Australia
Chest of drawers
1920s-40s
Painted wood, wood, tin
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

 

Working-class people were the most affected by the high levels of unemployment during the Depression. By 1932 more than 60,000 men, women and children were dependent on the susso, a state-based sustenance payment that enabled families to buy only the bare minimum of food. Many families unable to pay their rent were evicted from their homes. For those suffering economic hardship, ‘making do’ became a way of life, and furniture would be constructed from found items such as kerosene tins and packing crates.

 

J. M. Harcourt (writer) John Long (publisher) 'Upsurge' 1934

 

J. M. Harcourt (writer)
John Long (publisher)
Upsurge
1934
London, March 1934
State Library Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Censorship of books was vigorously pursued by federal and state governments during the 1930s. Australia was one of only two countries in the world to ban Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World when it was first published in 1932. Australian author J. M. Harcourt’s novel Upsurge (1934) was the first book to be banned following a recommendation by the newly established Book Censorship Board in 1934. Portraying the lives of Western Australia’s working class during the Depression, it was described by one customs official as ‘thinly disguised propaganda on behalf of Communism and social revolution’.

 

Activism

During the 1930s a small number of artists became active in the militant working-class struggle through their involvement in social and cultural organisations affiliated with the Communist Party, such as the Friends of the Soviet Union, the Workers’ Art Club and the Workers’ Theatre Group, which were formed in Sydney, Melbourne and other metropolitan centres. A number of these artists were also involved with a variety of mostly short-lived radical magazines, helping with their production, as well as providing covers and illustrations. Linocuts were a preferred medium for these artists, as the materials were inexpensive and the images reproduced well.

 

Jack Maughan illustrator (Australia 1897-1980) 'Masses' 1932

 

Jack Maughan illustrator (Australia 1897-1980)
Masses
Cover illustration for Masses, vol. 1, no. 1, printed by Bright Printing Services, published by the Workers’ Art Club, Melbourne, November 1932
1932
Linocut printed in red and black ink
State Library Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation view of Herbert McClintock's cover illustration for 'Strife', vol. 1, no. 1

 

Installation view of Herbert McClintock’s cover illustration for Strife, vol. 1, no. 1 (1930) from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Edited by eighteen-year-old communist Judah Waten, with Herbert McClintock as art editor, Strife declared itself ‘an organ of the new culture, destructive and constructive’. The first issue was due for release in October 1930; however, a blasphemous poem by Brian Fitzpatrick published in the magazine prompted a police raid on the Strife office and the editor’s hasty destruction of (most) copies of the issue.

 

Installation view of cover illustration for 'Proletariat', vol. 2, no. 1 (1933) by an unknown illustrator

 

Installation view of cover illustration for Proletariat, vol. 2, no. 1 (1933) by an unknown illustrator from the exhibition Brave New World: Australia 1930s at NGVA
Photo: Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
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04
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘Images à la Sauvette’ at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Exhibition dates: 11th January – 23rd April 2017

 

No more, decisive moment

Following the relatively unknown photocollages of Josef Albers, a posting on one of the most famous artist books in the world, Images à la Sauvette (Images on the fly, Images on the run) – the American publishers Simon and Schuster choosing the punchier The Decisive Moment as the title of the American version.

While individual images are interesting, it is “the unique narrative form and the emphasis on the photographer’s text” in terms of the image layout and composition of the book that is so groundbreaking an aspect of the work. Cartier-Bresson sought not to capture one reality – the “decisive moment” – but a poetic reality based on the “impulsiveness of a desire, the personal anxiety in face of a moment to preserve.” It was his almost uncanny ability to pre-visualise the desire for a poetic moment (to visualise its emergence), and then translate that desire into images, that makes him such a great artist.

Agnès Sire observes in her text “De l’errance de l’oeil au moment qui s’impose, quelques pistes pour mieux voir,” (From the wandering of the eye to the right moment, a few ways to see better):

“In 1974, Cartier-Bresson would admit: “For me, the Leica is a sketchbook, a psychoanalyst’s couch, a machine gun, a big, hot kiss, an electromagnet, a memory, the mirror of memory.” There is no trace here of any supposed record of a reality, but rather, of memory (and thus the past), the psychoanalyst’s couch (to make the past re-emerge) and the mirror of memory (the image of the past). Clearly, this poetic accident does not lie within everyone’s reach but, through the camera, it presents itself to some, provided they are good at passing it on. And this is something which, according to Walker Evans, left no room for doubt in Cartier-Bresson’s case: “Cartier has always been a kind of spirit medium: poetry sometimes speaks through his camera.””

Thus the past, the image of the past and the transcendence of the past merge in the photography of Cartier-Bresson. In one image, and in the combination of images (much like the photocollages of Josef Albers), he lays out before us, “the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” Instructive to this aim are the page layouts of the book at the bottom of the posting. Pages are divided into three or fours spaces. In the first layout you look down, you are drawn into, you move horizontally across; human figures are isolated, silhouetted with shadow, in shadow, against form.

In the second layout the shapes and emotions form a complex relationship: movement across with thick vibration of energy behind the ecstatic child (top left); a child’s eye view of the world with a constellation of stars behind (top right); a picture frame on a fragmented world (Seville, 1933, bottom left); and the tethered beasts and stick-like children (bottom right). Now squint your eyes and move them from one quadrant to another.

This is complex and thoughtful image making, on both a human and poetic scale. If the photographic lens let Cartier-Bresson “look into the rubble of the unconscious and of chance,” then it took an informed and intelligent mind to understand what the lens was seeing, even before the images were made evident, and to then give those events proper expression.

Marcus

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

 

 

Magazines end up wrapping french fries, while books remain.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

André Breton taught me to let the photographic lens look into the rubble of the unconscious and of chance.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1995

 

“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”

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Extract from the text by Henri Cartier-Bresson, ‘The Decisive Moment’, Simon and Schuster, 1952

 

 

Cover by Henri Matisse of Henri Cartier-Bresson's 'Images à la Sauvette' (Verve, 1952)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952)
Cover by Henri Matisse
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'Images à la Sauvette' at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Installation views of the exhibition 'Images à la Sauvette' at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

 

Installation views of the exhibition Images à la Sauvette at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

 

 

From January 11 to April 23, 2017, the Foundation devotes an exhibition to Cartier-Bresson’s famous publication Images à la Sauvette. Initated by the French publisher Tériade, the project is finally achieved on October 1952 as a French-American co-edition, with the contribution of Matisse and the American publishers Simon and Schuster. The latter chose “The Decisive Moment” as the title of the American version, and unintentionally imposed the motto which would define Cartier-Bresson’s work. Since its publication in 1952, Images à la Sauvette has received an overwhelming success. It is considered as “a Bible for photographers” according to Robert Capa’s words. The innovative design of the publication struck the art world with its refined format, the heliogravure quality and the strength of the image sequences. The publication reveals the inherent duality of Cartier-Bresson’s work; between the photographer’s intimate interpretation and his documentary approach.

Images à la Sauvette is the fruit of joined efforts of a famous art publisher, Tériade, a talented photographer, a painter at the peak of his career, Matisse, and two American publishers, Simon and Schuster. From his beginnings, Cartier‑Bresson considers the book as the outcome of his work. In the thirties, he met the publisher of Verve, Tériade, who he would later likely acknowledge to be his mentor. They plan, at the time, to carry out a book project on large cities rough areas together with Eli Lotar, Bill Brandt and Brassaï, but this ambitious project will never see the light of day.

Twenty years later and after a trip of three years in Asia, the Images à la Sauvette project finally began to materialise. The French title has been thoroughly thought out with his brother-in-law and cinema historian Georges Sadoul and evokes the snatchers or street peddlers. Cartier‑Bresson attested that the meaning of this idiomatic expression, the street vendors ready to run at the first request for a license, is very akin to his way of capturing images. Tériade would then prompt the Cardinal de Retz quote, the epigraph to Henri Cartier‑Bresson’s introductory text: “There is nothing in this world which does not have its decisive moment”. The American publisher hesitated to use a translation of the original French title and opted for something punchier, The Decisive Moment.

Images à la Sauvette established itself as an extremely pioneering work by its wish to claim the images strength as the unique narrative form and the emphasis on the photographer’s text. It proposes a daring purity, allowing the 24 x 36 to spread out on its very large format pages. A model of its kind with the heliogravure printing by the best craftsmen of the era, the Draeger brothers, and the splendid Matisse cover has been called “a Bible for photographers” by Robert Capa. In Spring 1951, Cartier-Bresson explains, “While our prints are beautiful and perfectly composed (as they should be), they are not photographs for salons […] In the end, our final image is the printed one.” This affirmation definitely proclaims Images à la Sauvette as an artist’s book.

Yet paradoxically, the book confirms a turning point in the life of the photographer who has co-founded Magnum Photos a few years earlier, in 1947, and which has contributed to guarantee the photographers authorship. The choice to separated the image portfolio before and after 1947 certifies this shift to the documentary. The significant size of the Reportage chapter in his introduction, as well as the recurrence of the plural pronoun evoking the cooperative, demonstrate this important change. The book structure in two definite parts reveals the inherent duality in Cartier‑Bresson’s work. Images à la Sauvette brings to light the photographer’s vision, which we thought to be torn between a very intimate interpretation of the inner world and, since the creation of Magnum, a more observational approach of the external world. Cartier-Bresson was fully aware of this coexistence and advocated a balance: “there is a reciprocal reaction between both these worlds which in the long run form only one. It would be a most dangerous over-simplification to stress the importance of one at the cost of the other in that constant dialogue.”

The exhibition presents a selection of vintage prints as well as numerous archival documents to recount the history of this publication, until its facsimile reprint by Steidl Verlag, in 2014. This edition comes with an additional booklet containing an essay by Clément Chéroux.

Text from Fondation HCB

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Seville, Spain, 1933' from 'Images à la Sauvette' (Verve, 1952), p. 27-28

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Seville, Spain, 1933
From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 27-28
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Tehuantepec, Mexique, 1934'

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Tehuantepec, Mexique, 1934
MEXICO. State of Oaxaca. Tehuantepec. 1934

From Images à la Sauvette (Verve, 1952), p. 34
© Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos