Archive for the 'reality' Category

17
May
17

Exhibition: ‘Tom Goldner: Passage’ at The Fox Darkroom & Gallery, Kensington, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th May – 21st May, 2017

 

Tom Goldner. 'Valley' 2015-15

 

Tom Goldner
Valley
2015-16
Silver gelatin print

 

 

It is such a pleasure to be able to walk into a gallery – in this case, one located in the recently restored Young Husband Wool Store in Kensington: a building originally built in the late 1800s which is now home to a vibrant community of artists, musicians, designers and makers – to view strong, fibre-based analogue black and white photographs printed by the artist from medium format negatives. No worrying about crappy, digital ink-jet prints which don’t do the tableau justice. Just the pure pleasure of looking at the wondrous landscape.

Goldner is working in the formalist way of modernist photographers and in a long tradition of mountain photography – a combination of travel, mountaineering and fine-art photography. As the text from the recent exhibition at the Musée de l’Elysée Vertical No Limit: Mountain Photography observes: “… photography invented the mountain landscape by revealing it to the eyes of the world. Photography is heir to a certain idea of the mountains and of the sublime, closely linked to pictorial romanticism.” In Goldner’s work, this romanticism is subdued but still present: reflection in lake, mist over treetop, and the capture of human figures in the landscape to give scale to the great beyond, a feature of Victorian landscape photography, mountain or otherwise.

However, the photographs contain a certain innocence: not the romantic, isn’t the world grand BUT this is the world. Goldner celebrates photography by allowing the camera to do what it does best – capture reality. He takes things as they are. There is no waiting for a particularly dramatic sky, the artist just takes what he sees. In this sense his everyday skies undercut the dramatic romanticism of place by allowing the possibility that these images (or variations of them) could be taken day after day, year after year. This is the natural state of being of these places and he pushes no further.

This is where the title of the exhibition and words supporting it are confusing. There is nothing transitional, transnational, or transient about these images – no movement from one state to another as in a “passage” – and certainly no discernible difference from one year to the next. Goldner’s photographs show the everyday, just how it is. That is their glorious strength: their clarity of vision, their ability to celebrate the here and now, which can be witnessed every day in the passes and peaks around the Mont Blanc regions of France, Italy and Switzerland. And then I ask, is that innocence enough?

Marcus

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

 

The world around us is perpetually changing – ice melts, glaciers shift, weather changes and time passes. Nowhere stays the same, and neither do we.

Passage captures a transitional time in Tom Goldner’s photography practice. In 2015 and 2016, Tom made two physical expeditions around the Mont Blanc regions of France, Italy and Switzerland. Ever-conscious of the changing nature of the landscape – the fact that you could stand in the same spot one year later and find everything had changed – he shot fleeting moments on medium format film.

Back in Melbourne, Tom painstakingly developed and printed each photograph by hand in his darkroom. The experience reawakened his love of manual photography, and he saw parallels between the physical exertion of actually taking the pictures and the intense concentration needed in producing the series of atmospheric silver gelatin prints.

Artist’s statement

 

Tom Goldner. 'Passage' 2015-16

 

Tom Goldner
Passage
2015-16
Silver gelatin print

 

Tom Goldner. 'Lake' 2015-16

 

Tom Goldner
Lake
2015-16
Silver gelatin print

 

Tom Goldner. 'Pines' 2015-16

 

Tom Goldner
Pines
2015-16
Silver gelatin print

 

Tom Goldner. 'Rocks' 2015-16

 

Tom Goldner
Rocks
2015-16
Silver gelatin print

 

Tom Goldner. 'Window (a)' 2015-16

 

Tom Goldner
Window (a)
2015-16
Silver gelatin print

 

Tom Goldner. 'Window (b)' 2015-16

 

Tom Goldner
Window (b)
2015-16
Silver gelatin print

 

Tom Goldner. 'Hill' 2015-16

 

Tom Goldner
Hill
2015-16
Silver gelatin print

 

Tom Goldner. 'Col de la Seigne' 2015-16

 

Tom Goldner
Col de la Seigne
2015-16
Silver gelatin print

 

Tom Goldner. 'Aiguille du Midi' 2015-16

 

Tom Goldner
Aiguille du Midi
2015-16
Silver gelatin print

 

 

The Fox Darkroom & Gallery
8 Elizabeth St, Via Laneway,
Kensington VIC 3031

Opening hours:
Thursday – Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturday – Sunday 11am – 5pm

The Fox Darkroom & Gallery website

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12
May
17

Exhibition: ‘Political Acts: Pioneers of Performance Art in Southeast Asia’ at the Arts Centre Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 11th February – 21st May 2017

Curator: Dr Steven Tonkin

 

 

Just a quick comment on this exhibition as I’m not feeling very well with my ongoing hand issues.

This is one of the best exhibitions I have seen this year in Melbourne.

All of the works, whether video or photographic, are conceptually engaging, intellectually stimulating and visually powerful. I spent a couple of hours over two visits soaking in the narratives and mise-en-scène of every performance. I was totally immersed in the stories the artists were telling. As with all good art, the works engage the viewer and challenge our point of view in the most profound and complex ways.

While the works may be “political” “acts” the performances act on the viewer at a deeper existential level: what are we doing to the world, our only planet, and the people that live on it. What is the cost of rampant capitalism and consumerism in social, political and environmental terms. Every single work in this exhibition is grounded in these concerns. Unlike a lot of contemporary art which is all about surface and as deep as a peanut, this conceptual art is based on the fundamental building blocks of humanity – our connection to earth and to one another – often expressed through aesthetically beautiful images manifested in the physical body.

Favourites are the mesmerising 12-hour performance of Melati Suryodarmo I’m a Ghost in My Own House (2012) where the artist’s “methodical grinding of charcoal briquettes to dust can be seen as a metaphor for the crushing of the human spirit by the pressures of life”; the powerful dancing and mechanical digger in Khvay Samnang’s Where is my Land? (2014); and the beautiful face pictures in Moe Satt’s F ‘n’ F (Face and Fingers) (2009). I could watch the latter over and over again, so archetypal and elemental does the androgynous face of the artist become.

But really, every piece in this exhibition is worthy of contemplation. Not to be missed.

Marcus

 

Performance art is one of the driving forces in contemporary art across Southeast Asia. It is an art form that acknowledges the cultural traditions of performance within the region, while also providing avant-garde artists with a creative means to critically explore social, political and environmental issues.

The exhibition Political Acts will present a selection of artists’ films, photographs and installations by some of the innovative pioneers of performance art in Southeast Asia.

Artists represented are Dadang Christanto (Indonesia/Australia), Lee Wen (Singapore), Liew Teck Leong (Malaysia), Khvay Samnang (Cambodia), Moe Satt (Myanmar), Melati Suryodarmo (Indonesia) and Tran Luong (Vietnam).

 

 

 

Melati Suryodarmo (Born 1969, Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia)
I’m a Ghost in My Own House (extract)
2012
Single channel video installation
Duration: 30.30 mins

12-hour performance at Lawangwangi Foundation, Bandung, Indonesia, in 2012

 

 

Melati Suryodarmo‘s practice encompasses live art performances which are then presented through films, photography and installations. A film of her renowned 12-hour durational work of I’m a Ghost in My Own House (2012), is shown in this exhibition. In this work the artist’s methodical grinding of charcoal briquettes to dust can be seen as a metaphor for the crushing of the human spirit by the pressures of life.

The artist says that “talking about politics, society or psychology is meaningless unless it can be manifested in the physical body.” This is exemplified by Sweet Dreams Sweet, a group performance choreographed by Suryodarmo in Jakarta in 2013. It involved a group of 30 young female performers, all identically dressed to conceal their individuality. This work questions the impact of the political and cultural hegemony in Indonesian society.

 

Melati Suryodarmo. 'Sweet Dreams Sweet' 2013

 

Melati Suryodarmo
Sweet Dreams Sweet
2013
Courtesy the artist

 

Khvay Samnang. 'Rubber Man #3' 2014

 

Khvay Samnang (Born 1982, Cambodia)
Rubber Man #3
2014
Courtesy the artist and SA SA BASSAC, Phnom Penh

 

 

Since 2011 Khvay Samnang has used sand as a material for social and political commentary. In Where is my Land? (2014) he critiques the unstoppable momentum of urban development around Phnom Penh, which has resulted in the infilling of traditional lakes and the forced removal of local residents.

In his recent and widely celebrated Rubber Man series from 2014, Khvay poured pristine white rubber over his naked and partially obscured body. He draws attention to the devastating environmental impact of large-scale, foreign-owned rubber plantations on the once remote and previously pristine rainforests of northeast Cambodia.

 

 

Khvay Samnang (Born 1982, Cambodia)
Where is my Land? (extract)
2014
Single channel video installation
Duration: 13.30 mins

 

Lee Wen. 'Splash! #7' 2003

 

Lee Wen
Splash! #7
2003
Courtesy the artist and iPreciation, Singapore

 

 

A driving force in contemporary art across Southeast Asia, performance art will be the focus of a new free exhibition at Arts Centre Melbourne in Political Acts: Pioneers of Performance Art in Southeast Asia, presented as part of the inaugural Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts in Gallery 1 from 11 February 2017…

“In the last decade performance art and performative practices have taken centre stage within the global contemporary art world,” says Curator, Dr Steven Tonkin. “The seven artists in Political Acts are ground-breaking practitioners of performance art. As individuals, they offer personal viewpoints on their respective national and regional cultures. As a collective, they illustrate interesting commonalities in artistic strategies and approaches.”

“Most importantly, these provocative contemporary artists highlight the major political, social, economic and environmental issues confronted and critiqued through performance art in Southeast Asia today.”

Dadang Christanto is an internationally acclaimed artist. Born in central Java in 1957, Christanto moved to Australia in 1999. He exhibits and performs regularly in both Australia and Indonesia and has spent his artistic life commemorating the victims of political violence and crimes against humanity.

Singaporean performance artist Lee Wen explores social identity and is best known for his Yellow Man performances. Painting his own body with bright yellow poster paint, he expresses an exaggerated symbol of his ethnic identity. He received the prestigious Cultural Medallion for his contribution to visual art in Singapore.

Born in Kuala Lumpur in 1970, Liew Teck Leong studied Fine Art at the Malaysian Institute of Art in the early 1990s, initially becoming an expressionist painter. In the 2000s his practice changed direction to incorporate installation, photography and public art performances, when he became an active member of the artists’ collective Rumah Air Panas/RAP Art Society.

Born in 1982, Khvay Samnang studied painting and graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts, Phnom Penh, in 2006. He now works across performance, photography, video and installation. Khvay was one of the co-founders of the artists’ collective known as Stiev Selepak (or Art Rebels), and was involved in establishing the artist-run space Sa Sa Art Projects in Phnom Penh’s historic White Building. He is one of the leading Cambodian artists to have come to international attention over the last decade.

Born in Yangon in 1983, Moe Satt is one of the cohort of young artists who have begun to transform the contemporary art scene in Myanmar. Principally self taught, Moe Satt uses his body as the primary vehicle for his art, although his practice now also encompasses photography, film and installations. His artistic career mirrors the wider socio-political changes that have occurred in Myanmar over the last decade, from isolation under military rule to the current democratic reforms.

Born in 1969 in Surakarta (or Solo), Central Java, Indonesia, Melati Suryodarmo grew up in the creative environment provided by her father Suprapto, founder of Amerta – an exploratory free-form dance movement. Suryodarmo sees her art practice as opening the door to new perceptions, traversing traditional cultural and political boundaries ‘in an effort to find [one’s] identity’.

Born in Hanoi in 1960, Tran Luong trained as a painter at the Hanoi University of Fine Arts. He achieved recognition as a member of the ‘Gang of Five’, a group of artists whose works were a catalyst for contemporary art in Vietnam from the late 1980s. A widely respected multidisciplinary artist, curator and mentor for the next generation of contemporary Vietnamese artists, his collaborative approach to art-making involves local communities.

“The inaugural Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts is an artistic celebration of our relationship with contemporary Asia,” says Arts Centre Melbourne CEO, Claire Spencer. “Vital, fresh and always unpredictable, Asia TOPA offers a city-wide window onto the creative imaginations fuelling the many cultures of our region.”

“Cultural engagement is key to expressing who we are, where we have come from, and how we connect with each other across the Asia-Pacific region. The dazzling array of artists featured in Asia TOPA will provide new ways of understanding the deep connections that run between us all.”

Press release from the Arts Centre Melbourne

 

Dadang Christanto. 'Tooth Brushing' 1979-2015-2017

 

Dadang Christanto (Born 1957, central Java)
Tooth Brushing
1979-2015-2017
Courtesy the artist, Gallerysmith, and 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

 

 

Dadang Christanto (Born 1957, central Java)
Tooth Brushing (extract)
2017
Single channel video installation
Duration: 6.00 mins

Performance in Political Acts: Pioneers of Performance Art in Southeast Asia at the Arts Centre Melbourne on 10 February 2017

 

 

Moe Satt (Born 1983, Yangon, Myanmar)
F ‘n’ F (Face and Fingers) (extract)
2009
Single channel video
Duration: 12.00 mins

 

 

Moe Satt’s early performance piece, F ‘n’ F (Face and Fingers) from 2008-09, is simple in conception but complex in the multiple meanings that can be read into the choreographed combinations of hand and facial gestures. Among the artist’s favourites are a universal ‘Thumbs Up’ and the potent symbol of a ‘Gun’ pressed to his temples.

In his The Bicycle-Tyre-Rolling Event from Yangon the artist re-enacts a childhood game of racing discarded rubber bicycle tyres with friends. In this series of photographs the public places and monuments he rolls the tyre past present a performative narrative of his country’s history. For example, the beautiful vistas of Yangon’s two large man-made lakes belie their entwined histories of demonstrations and death.

 

Installation view of Moe Satt's 'The Bicycle-Tyre-Rolling Event from Yangon' (2013)

 

Installation view of Moe Satt’s The Bicycle-Tyre-Rolling Event from Yangon (2013)

 

 

Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi)
Steam Rice Man (extract)
2001
Single channel video
Duration: 5.00 mins

Performance at the Mao Khe Coal Mine, Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam in 2001

 

 

Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi)
Lap Lòe (extract)
2012
Three channel video and sound installation
Duration: 5.00 mins

 

 

Tran Luong‘s collaborative approach to art-making often involves working with local communities, such as rural coal miners in northern Vietnam in 2001. During that time he created his early performance art work Steam Rice Man.

Tran Luong weaves his personal experiences with concerns for the wider socio-political situation in Vietnam. One influential moment was seeing his son arrive home from school wearing a red scarf around his neck. It reminded the artist of the communist red scarf he had to wear as a boy.

In Lap Lòe (or ‘flicker’), the three channel video installation in this exhibition, a red scarf has become aesthetically abstracted for the screen – blowing like a flag in the wind, snapping hypnotically and painfully across the artist’s body, and falling gracefully through the area. The red scarf is a powerful symbol for personal and collective memory.

 

Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi) 'Coc Cach' 2013-16

 

Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi)
Coc Cach
2013-16
Courtesy the artist

 

Liew Teck Leong. 'Body+Dots+Politics (Yellow)' 2016

 

Liew Teck Leong (Born 1970, Kuala Lumpur)
Body+Dots+Politics (Yellow)
2016
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Arts Centre Melbourne
Gallery 1, Theatres Building
100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne VIC 3004

Arts Centre Melbourne website

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07
May
17

Exhibition: ‘The Unsettled Lens’ at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 18th February – 14th May 2017

 

Not a great selection of media images… I would have liked to have seen more photographs from what is an interesting premise for an exhibition: the idea of the uncanny as a sense of displacement, as a difficulty in reconciling the familiar with the unknown.

The three haunting – to haunt, to be persistently and disturbingly present in (the mind) – images by Wyn Bullock are my favourites in the posting.

Marcus

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

 

 

Since the early twentieth-century, photographers have crafted images that hinge on the idea of the uncanny, a psychological phenomenon existing, according to psychoanalysis, at the intersection between the reassuring and the threatening, the familiar and the new. The photographs in this exhibition build subtle tensions based on the idea of the uncanny as a sense of displacement, as a difficulty in reconciling the familiar with the unknown. By converting nature into unrecognisable abstract impressions of reality, by intruding on moments of intimacy, by weaving enigmatic narratives, and by challenging notions of time and memory, these images elicit unsettling sensations and challenge our intellectual mastery of the new. This exhibition showcases new acquisitions in photography and photographs from the permanent collection, stretching from the early twentieth-century to the year 2000.

 

 

Edward J. Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973) 'Moonrise, Mamaroneck, New York' 1904, printed 1981

 

Edward J. Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
Moonrise, Mamaroneck, New York
1904, printed 1981
Photogravure
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Museum purchase with funds provided by Ms. Frances Kerr

 

William A. Garnett. 'Sand Bars, Colorado River, Near Needles, California' 1954

 

William A. Garnett (1916-2006)
Sand Bars, Colorado River, Near Needles, California
1954
Silver gelatin print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art

 

Elliott Erwitt (American, born France 1928) 'Cracked Glass with Boy, Colorado' 1955, printed 1980

 

Elliott Erwitt (American, born France 1928)
Cracked Glass with Boy, Colorado
1955, printed 1980
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Gift of Raymond W. Merritt

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Navigation Without Numbers' 1957

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Navigation Without Numbers
1957
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas V. Duncan

 

 

In “Navigation Without Numbers,” photographer Wynn Bullock comments on life’s dualities and contradictions through imagery and textures: the soft, inviting bed and the rough, rugged walls; the bond of mother and child, and the exhaustion and isolation of motherhood; and the illuminated bodies set against the surrounding darkness. The book on the right shelf is a 1956 guide on how to pilot a ship without using mathematics. Its title, Navigation Without Numbers, recalls the hardship and confusion of navigating through the dark, disorienting waters of early motherhood.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Child in Forest' 1951

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Child in Forest
1951
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas V. Duncan

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975) 'Child on Forest Road' 1958, printed 1973

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Child on Forest Road
1958, printed 1973
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas V. Duncan

 

 

“Child on Forest Road,” which features the artist’s daughter, brings together a series of dualities or oppositions in a single image: ancient forest and young child, soft flesh and rough wood, darkness and light, safe haven and vulnerability, communion with nature and seclusion. In so doing, Bullock reflects on his own attempt to relate to nature and to the strange world implied by Einstein’s newly theorized structure of the universe.

 

Ruth Bernhard (American, born Germany, 1905-2006) 'In the Box - Horizontal' 1962

 

Ruth Bernhard (American, born Germany, 1905-2006)
In the Box – Horizontal
1962
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Museum purchase

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993) 'Untitled [dead bird and sand]' 1967

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993)
Untitled (dead bird and sand)
1967
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Gift of the Christian Keesee Collection

 

Edward J. Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973) 'Balzac, The Open Sky - 11 P.M.' 1908

 

Edward J. Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
Balzac, The Open Sky – 11 P.M.
1908
Photogravure
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Museum purchase with funds provided by Ms. Frances Kerr

 

 

Edward Steichen, who shared similar artistic ambitions with Symbolist sculptor, Auguste Rodin, presented Rodin’s Balzac as barely decipherable and as an ominous silhouette in the shadows. In Steichen’s photograph, Balzac is a pensive man contemplating human nature and tragedy, a “Christ walking in the desert,” as Rodin himself admiringly described it. Both Rodin and Steichen chose Balzac as their subject due to the French writer’s similar interest in psychological introspection.

 

Ralph Gibson (American, b. 1939) 'Untitled (Woman with statue)' 1974, printed 1981

 

Ralph Gibson (American, b. 1939)
Untitled (Woman with statue)
1974, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Gift of Carol and Ray Merritt

 

William A. Garnett (1916-2006) 'Two Trees on Hill with Shadow, Paso Robles, CA' 1974

 

William A. Garnett (1916-2006)
Two Trees on Hill with Shadow, Paso Robles, CA
1974
Silver gelatin print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art

 

Thomas Harding (American, 1911-2002) 'Barbed Wire and Tree' 1987

 

Thomas Harding (American, 1911-2002)
Barbed Wire and Tree
1987
Platinum print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Museum purchase with funds provided by Mr. Jack Coleman

 

Zeke Berman (American, b. 1951) 'Untitled (Web 2)' 1988

 

Zeke Berman (American, b. 1951)
Untitled (Web 2)
1988
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Museum purchase

 

 

In “Untitled,” New York sculptor and photographer Zeke Berman sets up a still life in the Dutch tradition – the artist presents a plane in foreshortened perspective, sumptuous fabric, and carefully balanced objects – only to dismantle it, and reduce it to a semi-abandoned stage. Spider webs act as memento mori (visual reminders of the finitude of life), while the objects, seemingly unrelated to each other and peculiarly positioned, function as deliberately enigmatic signs.

 

Stan Douglas (Canadian, b. 1960) 'Roof of the Ruskin Plant' 1992

 

Stan Douglas (Canadian, b. 1960)
Roof of the Ruskin Plant
1992
Chromogenic print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Gift of the Christian Keesee Collection

 

 

Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday: 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday: noon – 5 pm
Closed: Monday and Major Holidays

Oklahoma City Museum of Art website

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01
May
17

Exhibition: ‘The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 10th November 2016 – 7th May 2017

 

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

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see one of the world’s greatest private collections of photography, drawn from the classic modernist period of the 1920s-50s. An incredible group of Man Ray portraits are exhibited together for the first time, having been brought together by Sir Elton John over the past twenty-five years, including portraits of Matisse, Picasso, and Breton. With over 70 artists and nearly 150 rare vintage prints on show from seminal figures including Brassai, Imogen Cunningham, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Tina Modotti, and Aleksandr Rodchenko, this is a chance to take a peek inside Elton John’s home and delight in seeing such masterpieces of photography.”

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

Paul Strand. 'Wall Street, New York' 1915

 

Paul Strand
Wall Street, New York
1915
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

 

Tate Modern presents a major new exhibition, The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection, drawn from one of the world’s greatest private collections of photography. This unrivalled selection of classic modernist images from the 1920s to the 1950s features almost 200 works from more than 60 artists, including seminal figures such as Berenice Abbott, André Kertész, Man Ray, Alexandr Rodchenko and Edward Steichen among many others. The exhibition consists entirely of rare vintage prints, all created by the artists themselves, offering a unique opportunity to see remarkable works up close. The quality and depth of the collection allows the exhibition to tell the story of modernist photography in this way for the first time in the UK. It also marks the beginning of a long term relationship between Tate and The Sir Elton John Collection, as part of which Sir Elton and David Furnish have agreed to give important works to the nation.

The Radical Eye introduces a crucial moment in the history of photography – an exciting rupture often referred to as the ‘coming of age’ of the medium, when artists used photography as a tool through which they could redefine and transform visions of the modern world. Technological advancements gave artists the freedom to experiment and test the limits of the medium and present the world through a new, distinctly modern visual language. This exhibition reveals how the timeless genres of the portrait, nude and still life were reimagined through the camera during this period, also exploring photography’s unique ability to capture street life and architecture from a new perspective.

Featuring portraits of great cultural figures of the 20th century, including Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston by Tina Modotti, Jean Cocteau by Berenice Abbott and Igor Stravinsky by Edward Weston, the exhibition gives insight into the relationships and inner circles of the avant-garde. An incredible group of Man Ray portraits are exhibited together for the first time, having been brought together by Sir Elton John over the past twenty-five years, depicting key surrealist figures such as Andre Breton and Max Ernst alongside artists including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar. Ground-breaking experimentation both in the darkroom and on the surface of the print, such as Herbert Bayer’s photomontage and Maurice Tabard’s solarisation, examine how artists pushed the accepted conventions of portraiture.

As life underwent rapid changes in the 20th century, photography offered a new means to communicate and represent the world. Alexandr Rodchenko, László Moholy-Nagy and Margaret Bourke-White employed the ‘worm’s eye’ and ‘bird’s eye’ views to create new perspectives of the modern metropolis – techniques associated with constructivism and the Bauhaus. The move towards abstraction is also explored, from isolated architectural elements to camera-less photography such as Man Ray’s rayographs and Harry Callahan’s light abstractions.

A dedicated section of the exhibition looks at the new approaches that emerged in capturing the human form, highlighted in rare masterpieces such as André Kertész’s Underwater Swimmer, Hungary 1917, while Imogen Cunningham’s Magnolia Blossom, Tower of Jewels 1925 and Tina Modotti’s Bandelier, Corn and Sickle 1927 feature in a large presentation dedicated to the Still Life. The important role of documentary photography as a tool of mass communication is demonstrated in Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother 1936 and Walker Evans’ Floyde Burroughs, Hale County, Alabama 1936, from the Farm Security Administration project.

The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection is at Tate Modern from 10 November 2016 until 7 May 2017. It is curated by Shoair Mavlian with Simon Baker and Newell Harbin, Director of The Sir Elton John Photography Collection. The exhibition is accompanied by an exclusive audio tour of the exhibition featuring commentary from Sir Elton John, and a major new catalogue from Tate Publishing including an interview with Sir Elton John by Jane Jackson.

Press release from Tate Modern

 

Edward Weston. 'White Door, Hornitos, California' 1940

 

Edward Weston
White Door, Hornitos, California
1940
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

 

“We possess an extraordinary instrument for reproduction. But photography is much more than that. Today it is … bringing something entirely new into the world.”

.
László Moholy-Nagy, 1932

 

 

Artists in the modernist period explored what the camera could do that the human eye alone could not, and how this could be harnessed to present a new modern perspective on the world. Artist and theorist László Moholy-Nagy proclaimed that photography could radically change not just what, but how we see. He called this the ‘new vision’. Rather than emulating other art forms, photography began to embrace qualities unique to itself, from its ability to reproduce the world in sharp detail to its capacity to create new realities through the manipulation of light, chemicals and paper.

This re-evaluation of photography coincided with a period of upheaval. War, revolution and economic depression led to mass movements of people and great social change. The idea of the avant-garde took hold and dada and surrealism emerged, challenging both the art and social norms that had come before. At the same time, new art schools such as the Bauhaus in Germany and Vkhutemas in Russia fostered the role of the professional artist and challenged divisions between art and design.

The Radical Eye is arranged thematically and charts a changing emphasis from the subject of an image to the visual qualities of the photograph itself, irrespective of what it represents. The many vintage prints in this exhibition – made soon after the photographs were taken – give a rare insight into the artists’ processes and creative decisions, and foreground the photograph as a physical object. All works are shown in the frames in which they are displayed in the home of Sir Elton John and David Furnish.

Together, the works in this exhibition show how photography pushed the boundaries of the possible, changing the world through the ways in which it was seen and understood. ‘Knowledge of photography is just as important as that of the alphabet. The illiterates of the future will be ignorant of the use of camera and pen alike,’ wrote Moholy-Nagy in 1927, foreseeing the cultural dominance of the photographic image. This extraordinary period still impacts how we, the photo-literate future, read and create images today.

 

Max Dupain. 'Sunbaker' 1937

 

Max Dupain
Sunbaker
1937
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

 

“They collect themselves. Carefully, as if tying a cravat, they compose their features. Insolent, serious and conscious of their looks they turn around to face the world.”

.
From ‘Men before the Mirror’, published alongside portraits by Man Ray, 1934

 

 

Portraits

Modernist portraiture harnessed photography’s capacity to render an accurate likeness in clear, sharp focus and detail. But at the same time, artists and sitters pushed the conventions of portraiture with innovations in pose, composition and cropping.

Many of the portraits in this room are of artists, writers and musicians, giving a cross section of key cultural players of the time. Issues of control and collaboration arise particularly when the subject is an artist, raising the question of who is responsible for conveying the sitter’s persona. The modernist period also saw a boom of the illustrated press. Magazines reproduced photographic portraits of well-known figures which were instrumental in shaping their public images.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1922

 

Alfred Stieglitz
Georgia O’Keeffe
1922
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Man Ray. 'Nusch Éluard' 1928

 

Man Ray
Nusch Éluard
1928
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

 

Nusch Éluard (born Maria Benz; June 21, 1906 – November 28, 1946) was a French performer, model and surrealist artist…

Nusch arrived in France as a stage performer, variously described as a small-time actress, a traveling acrobat, and a “hypnotist’s stooge”. She met Paul Éluard in 1930 working as a model, married him in 1934, produced surrealist photomontage and other work, and is the subject of “Facile,” a collection of Éluard’s poetry published as a photogravure book, illustrated with Man Ray’s nude photographs of her.

She was also the subject of several cubist portraits and sketches by Pablo Picasso in the late 1930s, and is said to have had an affair with him. Nusch worked for the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. She died in 1946 in Paris, collapsing in the street due to a massive stroke.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23) 'Actress Gloria Swanson' 1924

 

Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23)
Actress Gloria Swanson
1924
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

 

Adolph de Meyer. 'For Elizabeth Arden (The Wax Head)' 1931

 

Adolph de Meyer
For Elizabeth Arden (The Wax Head)
1931
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Edward Weston. 'Igor Stravinsky' 1935

 

Edward Weston
Igor Stravinsky
1935
Silver gelatin print
© 1981 Center for Creative Photography

 

George Platt Lynes. 'A Forgotten Model' c. 1937

 

George Platt Lynes
A Forgotten Model
c. 1937
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Man Ray. 'Juliet and Margaret Nieman in Papier-Mâché Masks' c. 1945

 

Man Ray
Juliet and Margaret Nieman in Papier-Mâché Masks
c. 1945
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: © Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Irving Penn. 'Salvador Dali in New York' 1947

 

Irving Penn
Salvador Dali in New York
1947
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: The Irving Penn Foundation

 

 

“The enemy of photography is convention, the fixed rules ‘how to do’. The salvation of photography comes from the experiment.”

.
László Moholy-Nagy, c. 1940

 

 

Experiments

This was not a period of discovery but of rediscovery. Artists were rewriting the preceding century’s rules of photographic technique, harnessing ‘mistakes’ such as distortions and double exposures, or physically manipulating the printed image, cutting, marking and recombining photographs. These interventions could occur at any point in the process, from taking the image to the final print.

Used in portraiture, such experiments allowed for more psychologically charged representations. However, the transformative power of a particular technique often becomes much more important than the particular subject of the image. Above all, the rich creative possibilities of the photographic process come to the fore. While artists were seriously investigating the medium, the results are often surprising and playful.

 

Herbert Bayer. 'Self-Portrait' 1932

 

Herbert Bayer
Self-Portrait
1932
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© DACS 2016

 

Otto Umbehr. "Katz" - Cat 1927

 

Otto Umbehr
“Katz” – Cat
1927
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© Phyllis Umbehr/Galerie Kicken Berlin/DACS 2016

 

Josef Breitenbach. 'Patricia, New York' c. 1942

 

Josef Breitenbach
Patricia, New York
c. 1942
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Josef and Yaye Breitenbach Charitable Foundation, Courtesy Gitterman Gallery

 

 

“The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.”

.
Edward Weston, 1924

 

 

Bodies

Experimental approaches to shooting, cropping and framing could transform the human body into something unfamiliar. Photographers started to focus on individual parts of the body, their unconventional crops drawing attention to shape and form, accentuating curves and angles. Fragmented limbs and flesh were depersonalised and could be treated like a landscape or still life, dissolving distinctions between different genres. Thanks to faster shutter speeds and new celluloid roll film, photographers could also freeze the body in motion outside of the studio for the first time, capturing dancers and swimmers with a clarity impossible for the naked eye.

 

André Kertész. 'Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary, 30 June 1917' 1917

 

André Kertész
Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary, 30 June 1917
1917
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
© Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

 

Rudolph Koppitz. 'Movement Study' 1925

 

Rudolph Koppitz
Movement Study
1925
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: ADAGP, Paris and DACS London 2016

 

Man Ray. 'Noire et Blanche' 1926

 

Man Ray
Noire et Blanche
1926
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Man Ray (1890-1976) 'Glass Tears (Les Larmes)' 1932

 

Man Ray (1890-1976)
Glass Tears (Les Larmes)
1932
Gelatin silver print on paper
229 x 298 mm
Collection Elton John
© Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Edward Weston. 'Nude' 1936

 

Edward Weston
Nude
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

Man Ray. 'Dora Maar' 1936

 

Man Ray
Dora Maar
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

Nino Migliori. 'Il Tuffatore' (The Diver) 1951

 

Nino Migliori
‘Il Tuffatore’ (The Diver)
1951
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

 

“The documentary photographer is trying to speak to you in terms of everyone’s experience.”

.
Dorothea Lange, 1934

 

 

Documents

During the 1930s, photographers refined the formula for what we now know as social documentary. To compel the public to look at less palatable aspects of contemporary society they married creative manipulation with an appeal to viewers’ trust in the photograph as an objective visual record. This combination proved itself uniquely capable of eliciting empathy but is fraught with artistic and ethical complexity. These works highlight the vexed position of documentary photographs: historical evidence, instruments of propaganda and, latterly, works of art.

The development of new technology – particularly the portable camera and roll film – allowed photographers to capture spontaneous moments unfolding in the everyday world. Taking viewers into neighbourhoods where they might never set foot, street photography and documentary opened up new perspectives socially as much as visually.

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Migrant Mother' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
Migrant Mother
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Walker Evans. 'Floyde Burroughs, a cotton sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama' 1936

 

Walker Evans
Floyde Burroughs, a cotton sharecropper, Hale County, Alabama
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Dorothea Lange. 'A young girl living in a shack town near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma' 1936

 

Dorothea Lange
A young girl living in a shack town near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
1936
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Walker Evans. 'Christ or Chaos?' 1946

 

Walker Evans
Christ or Chaos?
1946
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Walker Evans Archives, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

“Contradictions of perspective. Contrasts of light. Contrasts of form. Points of view impossible to achieve in drawing and painting.”

.
Aleksandr Rodchenko, 1920s

 

 

Objects, Perspectives, Abstractions

The subjects and approaches of modernist photography vary widely, but are united by a fascination with the medium itself. Every image asks what photography is capable of and how it can be pushed further. This final room brings together three interlinked approaches. It shows the still life genre reimagined by photographers who used the technical capabilities of the camera to reveal the beauty of everyday things. Objects captured at unconventional angles or extreme close-up become strange, even unrecognisable.

A similar effect of defamiliarisation was accomplished by taking photographs from radically new perspectives, positioning a camera at the point of view of the ‘worm’s eye’ or ‘bird’s eye’. This created extreme foreshortening that transformed photographs from descriptive images of things into energetic compositions hovering between abstraction and representation.

Abstraction pushes against photography’s innate ability to record objectively. Radical techniques such as cameraless image-making simplified the medium to the point of capturing the play of light on photosensitive paper. By stripping it back to its most basic components, artists celebrated photography, not as a tool for reproduction, but as a creative medium capable of producing new imagery.

 

Alexander Rodchenko. 'Shukov Tower' 1920

 

Alexander Rodchenko
Shukov Tower
1920
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© A. Rodchenko & V. Stepanova Archive, DACS, RAO 2016

 

Edward Steichen. 'A Bee on a Sunflower' c. 1920

 

Edward Steichen
A Bee on a Sunflower
c. 1920
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Man Ray. "Rayograph" 1923

 

Man Ray
“Rayograph”
1923
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
Photograph: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

 

André Kertész. 'Mondrian's Glasses and Pipe' 1926

 

André Kertész
Mondrian’s Glasses and Pipe
1926
Gelatin silver print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection
© Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

 

Tina Modotti. 'Bandelier, Corn and Sickle' 1927

 

Tina Modotti
Bandelier, Corn and Sickle
1927
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Werner Mantz. 'Staircase Ursuliner Lyzeum Cologne 1928'

 

Werner Mantz
Staircase Ursuliner Lyzeum Cologne 1928
1928
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

Margaret Bourke-White. 'George Washington Bridge' 1933

 

Margaret Bourke-White
George Washington Bridge
1933
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

 

László Moholy-Nagy
View from the Berlin tower
1928
Silver gelatin print
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection

 

Margaret de Patta. 'Ice Cube Tray with Marbles and Rice' 1939

 

Margaret de Patta
Ice Cube Tray with Marbles and Rice
1939
The Sir Elton John Photographic Collection
© Estate of Margaret de Patta

 

 

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25
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘Peter Hujar: Speed of Life’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Exhibition dates: 27th January – 30th April 2017

Curator: Joel Smith, “Richard L. Menschel Curator” and Director of the Department of Photography at the Morgan Library & Museum

Peter Hujar: Speed of Life has been organised by Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona, and The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. The exhibition and its travelling schedule have been made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

 

 

A love letter to Peter Hujar

.
You jumped so high

the boy on a raft

saluting the sky

absorbed in his craft

 

Of rhythm and eros

you offer no excess

just intimacy, connection

a timeless … transience

 

The line of skyscrapers, the lines of a thinker

the gaze of a baby, the eyes of a dreamer

two cows look direct, as direct as can be

and chrysanthemums and roses lay death near thee

 

Contortions and compression

of time and space

the twist of a wrist, the surge of a river

a certain, poignant – tenderness

 

In love with photography

and the stories it tells

A troubled man

brought out of his shell

 

You left us too soon

you beautiful spirit

your portraits of life

loved, immortal – never finished

 

Marcus

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

See more Peter Hujar images on The Guardian website.

 

 

I want you to talk about me in a low voice. When people talk about me, I want them to do it by whispering.

.
Peter Hujar

 

He was charismatic and complicated and, it turned out, deeply insecure, with a damaging family history he kept mostly to himself… Peter was, in a way, at his most moving when taking photographs. He was so absorbed by it. Peter was in many ways a very tortured man, and I felt like when he was taking photographs, he wasn’t. I had other friends who were photographers, but not like Peter. Peter was so profoundly absorbed and engaged by it. He was never not a photographer.

.
Vince Aletti

 

 

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Installation view of 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

 

Installation views of Peter Hujar: Speed of Life at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

 

 

Fundación MAPFRE is delighted to be presenting Peter Hujar: Speed of Life, a retrospective exhibition on the American photographer Peter Hujar. Offering the most detailed account of the artist’s work to date, from the 1950s to his death in New York in 1987, it will be on display between January 27 and April 30, 2017 at the Fundación MAPFRE’s Casa Garriga i Nogués exhibition space (Calle Diputació, 250) in Barcelona.

Hujar was a portraitist in everything he did. Regardless of the subject of the work – a lover, an underground theatre actor, a goose, the surface of the Hudson River, or the placid features of his own face – what moved and motivated him was the spark of encounter and exchange between artist and other. Hujar’s serene, meditative, square-format photographs confer gravity on the object of his attention, granting it an eternal moment’s pause within the rush of passing time.

Little recognised during his own lifetime, Hujar published only one book of photographs, Portraits in Life and Death, but his output is today recognised as distinctive. His portraits combine disclosure and secrecy, ferocity and peace. Hujar’s career involved both a quest for recognition in the world of fashion photography – the photographers he admired most were Irving Penn and Richard Avedon – and a more solitary, almost completely uncompensated body of work in which he depicted the creative and intellectual New York that he knew and admired.

The present exhibition follows Peter Hujar’s method of presenting his work. Rather than show his photographs in isolation or in an linear or chronological arrangements, he preferred to present them in dynamic, surprising and sometimes disconcerting juxtapositions.

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE

 

Four keys

Peter Hujar’s work falls within the photographic tradition of portraiture: he was a portraitist in everything he did. Whatever the subject – a lover, an actor, a horse, the surface of the Hudson River, or the gentle features of his own face – what moved and motivated Hujar was the spark in the encounter and the exchange between the artist and his subject, establishing a direct relationship with whatever he portrayed thereby revealing its true nature.

One of the themes reflected in Hujar’s work is homosexuality. These were the years of the first Gay Liberation movements and the famous Stonewall riots. Hujar lived close to the Stonewall Inn, and his partner at the time, Jim Fouratt, came onto the scene the night of the police raid and founded the Gay Liberation Front. Hujar was not an activist, though he attended the group’s first meeting and contributed his well-known photograph which would become the image for the Gay Liberation Front Poster, 1970.

The route followed by the exhibition reflects the preferences of the artist, who systematically chose to present his photographs in vibrant, surprising and sometimes disturbing Most of the photographs are grouped into sets, some of which reflect the artist’s recurrent concerns, while others exemplify his interest in emphasizing diversity and the internal contradictions in his work.

A distinguishing feature of his art is the invisibility of technique in his photographs and yet simultaneously his preoccupation with and care over it. Hujar produced his own copies and was also considered a good printer.

Text from the Fundación MAPFRE website

 

Peter Hujar. 'La Marchesa Fioravanti' 1958

 

Peter Hujar
La Marchesa Fioravanti
1958
Gelatina de plata
The Peter Hujar Archive
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Horse in West Virginia Mountains' 1969

 

Peter Hujar
Horse in West Virginia Mountains
1969
Gelatina de plata
Colección de Richard y Ronay Menschel
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Stromboli' 1963

 

Peter Hujar
Stromboli
1963
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Palermo Catacombs (11)' 1963

 

Peter Hujar
Palermo Catacombs (11)
1963
Gelatina de plata
Colección de Allen Adler and Frances Beatty Adler
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'St. Patrick's, Easter Sunday' 1976

 

Peter Hujar
St. Patrick’s, Easter Sunday
1976
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Artist biography

Peter Hujar was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1934 and grew up in the countryside with his Polish immigrant grandparents. When he was eleven his mother, a waitress, brought him to live with her in Manhattan.

Interested in photography from childhood, after graduating from high school in 1953 Hujar worked as an assistant in the studios of magazine professionals and aspired to work in fashion like his idols Lisette Model, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon.

Between 1958 and 1963 Hujar lived mainly in Italy with two successive partners, artists Joseph Raffael and Paul Thek. After studying for a year at a filmmaking school in Rome he returned to Manhattan, where he moved in the circles of writer Susan Sontag and Andy Warhol’s Factory. From 1968 to 1972 he pursued a freelance career in fashion photography, publishing over a dozen features in Harper’s Bazaar and GQ before concluding that the hustle of magazine work “wasn’t right for me.”

In 1973 Hujar definitively renounced his professional aspirations for a life of creative poverty in New York’s East Village. Living in a loft above a theatre at Twelfth Street and Second Avenue, he took paying jobs only when necessary in order to focus on the work that truly motivated him. He photographed the artists he knew and respected, animals, the nude body, and New York as he knew it, a city then in serious economic decline. In his book Portraits in Life and Death (1976) he combined intimate studies of his rarefied downtown coterie (painters, performers, choreographers, and writers such as Sontag and William S. Burroughs) with portraits  of mummies in the Palermo Catacombs that he had made during a visit with Thek thirteen years earlier. His focus on mortality would intensify and find its purpose in the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic ravaged gay populations in New York and worldwide.

Briefly a lover and subsequently a mentor to the young artist David Wojnarowicz, in his last seven years Hujar continued chronicling a creative downtown subculture that was fast becoming unsustainable in the context of the increasing power of money. His most frequent subject in these years was his neighbour and friend Ethyl Eichelberger, a drag performer whom he called “the greatest actor in America.” With Wojnarowicz, Hujar made expeditions to the depressed areas around New York, photographing industrial ruins in Queens, neighbourhoods of Newark, New Jersey, that had been destroyed in the riots of the late 1960s, and the abandoned Hudson River piers of lower Manhattan, sites of sexual exploits by night and guerilla art installations by day. Hujar died in New York on Thanksgiving Day, 1987, around eleven months after being diagnosed with AIDS.

Throughout his life Hujar stubbornly aligned himself with what he called the “All-In people”: artists committed to a creative course all their own, unconcerned with mass-market acclaim. At the same time he both disdained and bitterly wished for public recognition such as that achieved by his famous contemporaries Diane Arbus – eleven years his senior and respected by him – and Robert Mapplethorpe, who was twelve years younger and whom he considered a facile operator. During the thirty years since Hujar’s death the highly localised downtown public that knew his work has all but completely passed into history, while a vastly expanded photography audience around the world has become familiar with specific facets of his work, such as his indelible 1973 image Candy Darling on her Deathbed, and his soulful portraits of animals. In Peter Hujar: Speed of Life what comes to light is a broader assessment of his unique oeuvre, which was diverse and enduring. Many of the subjects populating this retrospective are familiar, even iconic faces of their era, but what can be seen more clearly today is the vision of the artist who unites them, himself a great and singular talent of the post-war decades in American art.

 

Peter Hujar. 'Cindy Luba as Queen Victoria' 1973

 

Peter Hujar
Cindy Luba as Queen Victoria
1973
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'David Warrilow (1)' 1985

 

Peter Hujar
David Warrilow (1)
1985
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Flowers for the Dead, Mazatlán, Mexico (2)' 1977

 

Peter Hujar
Flowers for the Dead, Mazatlán, Mexico (2)
1977
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Pascal Imbert Scarred Abdomen' 1980

 

Peter Hujar
Pascal Imbert Scarred Abdomen
1980
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Grass, Port Jefferson, New York' 1984

 

Peter Hujar
Grass, Port Jefferson, New York
1984
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Paul Hudson (Leg)' 1979

 

Peter Hujar
Paul Hudson (Leg)
1979
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Robyn Brentano (1)' 1975

 

Peter Hujar
Robyn Brentano (1)
1975
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Structure of the exhibition

The exhibition includes 160 photographs that offer an exploration of the career of this American photographer, with works loaned from the collection of the Morgan Library & Museum and nine other collections. The result is the most detailed account of Peter Hujar’s work presented to date.

In its structure the exhibition takes account of Hujar’s preference for presenting his photographs in vivid, startling, and even puzzling juxtapositions. Although following a broadly chronological order, with formative work from the 1950s and 1960s concentrated in the first half and later photographs at the end, the visual and creative continuities that spanned the duration of Hujar’s artistic life are emphasised as the visitor follows the sequence of works.

Most of the photographs are presented in groups of three to eight images, some of which showcase enduring preoccupations of the artist while others exemplify his desire to stress the diversity and internal contradictions of his work.

Thus, for the final exhibition of his life, held at the Gracie Mansion Gallery in the East Village in January 1986, Hujar spent several days arranging seventy photographs into thirty-five tightly spaced vertical pairs, taking care not to let any single genre of image appear twice in a row. At the start of the present exhibition, a six-photograph grid pays homage to this method by presenting a checkerboard-format conversation between three images made in controlled indoor conditions and three exterior views. The subjects, in order, are: a man’s bare leg with the foot planted firmly on the studio floor; waves rolling in on an ocean beach; a portrait of an unidentified young man; the World Trade Center at sunset; Ethyl Eichelberger applying makeup before a performance; and a dark burned-out hallway in the ruins of the Canal Street pier.

 

The catalogue

The catalogue that accompanies the exhibition includes texts by its curator Joel Smith and by Philip Gefter and Steve Turtell, making it a reference work for a detailed knowledge of Peter Hujar’s work from the 1950s until his death in 1987.

 

Peter Hujar. 'Peggy Lee' 1974

 

Peter Hujar
Peggy Lee
1974
Gelatina de plata
The Peter Hujar Archive
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Hudson River' 1975

 

Peter Hujar
Hudson River
1975
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Mural at Piers' 1983

 

Peter Hujar
Mural at Piers
1983
Gelatina de plata
The Peter Hujar Archive
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid' 1981

 

Peter Hujar
Ethyl Eichelberger as Minnie the Maid
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Steel Ruins 13' 1976

 

Peter Hujar
Steel Ruins 13
1976
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Gary in Contortion (1)' 1979

 

Peter Hujar
Gary in Contortion (1)
1979
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Self-Portrait Jumping (1)' 1974

 

Peter Hujar
Self-Portrait Jumping (1)
1974
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Candy Darling on Her Deathbed' 1973

 

Peter Hujar
Candy Darling on Her Deathbed
1973
Gelatina de plata
Colección de Richard and Ronay Menschel
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Chloe Finch' 1981

 

Peter Hujar
Chloe Finch
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Butch and Buster' 1978

 

Peter Hujar
Butch and Buster
1978
Gelatina de Plata
Colección de John Erdman and Gary Schneider
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'David Wojnarowcz Reclining (2)' 1981

 

Peter Hujar
David Wojnarowcz Reclining (2)
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'John McClellan' 1981

 

Peter Hujar
John McClellan
1981
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Susan Sontag' 1975

 

Peter Hujar
Susan Sontag
1975
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'New York: Sixth Avenue (1)' 1976

 

Peter Hujar
New York: Sixth Avenue (1)
1976
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
Adquirida gracias a The Charina Endowment Fund
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Peter Hujar. 'Boy on Raft' 1978

 

Peter Hujar
Boy on Raft
1978
Gelatina de plata
The Morgan Library & Museum, The Peter Hujar Collection
© The Peter Hujar Archive, LLC. Cortesía Pace/MacGill Gallery, Nueva York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Peter Hujar: Speed of Life' at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona featuring the Peter Hujar image 'Boy on Raft' (1978)

 

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition Peter Hujar: Speed of Life at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona featuring the Peter Hujar image Boy on Raft (1978)

 

 

Fundación MAPFRE – Instituto de Cultura
Casa Garriga i Nogués exhibition space
Calle Diputació, 250
Barcelona

Fundación MAPFRE website

The Peter Hujar Archive

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21
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 29th October 2016 – 7th May 2017

 

Photography is … a language for asking questions about the world. The Shape of Things imbues this aphorism with a linear taxonomy in its written material (while the installation “occasionally diverges from a strict chronological progression”), no matter that each “moment” in the history of photography – historical, modern, contemporary – is never self contained or self sufficient, that each overlaps and informs one another, in a nexus of interweaving threads.

Charles Harry Jones’ Peapods (c. 1900) are as modern as Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Cooling Towers (1973); Margaret Watkins’ Design Angles (1919) are as directorial as Jan Groover’s Untitled (1983) or Charles Harry Jones’ Onions (c. 1900). And so it goes…

The ideation “the shape of things” is rather a bald fundamental statement in relation to how we imagine and encounter the marvellous. No matter the era, the country or the person who makes them; no matter the meanings readable in photographs or their specific use value in a particular context – the photograph is still the footprint of an idea and, as John Berger asks, a trace naturally left by something that has past? That flicker of imagination in the mind’s eye which has no time.

As Sartre says in Being and Nothingness, “Temporality is only a tool of vision.”

Marcus

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

 

 

The Shape of Things presents a compact and non-comprehensive history of photography, from its inception to the early twenty-first century, in one hundred images. The exhibition is drawn entirely from the 504 photographs that have entered The Museum of Modern Art’s collection with the support of Robert B. Menschel over the past forty years, including a notable selection of works from his personal collection that were given in 2016 and are being shown here for the first time.

“Photography is less and less a cognitive process, in the traditional sense of the term, or an affirmative one, offering answers, but rather a language for asking questions about the world,” wrote the Italian photographer and critic Luigi Ghirri in 1989. Echoing these words, the exhibition presents the history of the medium in three parts, emphasising the strengths of Menschel’s collection and mirroring his equal interest in historical, modern, and contemporary photography. Each section focuses on a moment in photography’s history and the conceptions of the medium that were dominant then: informational and documentary in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, more formal and subjective in the immediate postwar era, and questioning and self-referential from the 1970s onward. The installation occasionally diverges from a strict chronological progression, fuelled by the conviction that works from different periods, rather than being antagonistic, correspond with and enrich each other.

 

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

Installation view of 'The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel' at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 - May 7, 2017

 

Installation views of The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 2016 – May 7, 2017
© 2016 The Museum of Modern Art
Photo: John Wronn

 

 

The exhibition The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel presents a compact history of photography, from its inception to the early 21st century, in 100 images. On view from October 29, 2016, through May 7, 2017, the exhibition is drawn entirely from the 504 photographs that have entered The Museum of Modern Art’s collection over the past 40 years with the support of longtime Museum trustee Robert B. Menschel. It includes a notable selection of works from his personal collection that were given in 2016 and are being shown here for the first time. The Shape of Things is organised by Quentin Bajac, the Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, with Katerina Stathopoulou, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography, MoMA.

Borrowing its title from the eponymous work by Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953), the exhibition presents the history of the medium in three parts, emphasising the strengths of Menschel’s collection and mirroring his equal interest in historical, modern, and contemporary photography. Each section focuses on a moment in photography’s history and the conceptions of the medium that were dominant then: informational and documentary in the 19th and early 20th centuries, more formal and subjective in the immediate postwar era, and questioning and self-referential from the 1970s onward. The installation occasionally diverges from a strict chronological progression, fuelled by the conviction that works from different periods, rather than being antagonistic, correspond with and enrich each other.

 

Historical

From 1840 to 1900, in photography’s infancy as a medium, artists principally sought to depict truthful representations of their surrounding environments. This primal stage is distinguished by a debate on the artistic-versus-scientific nature of the invention. Photographers engaged with the aesthetic and technical qualities of the medium, experimenting with tone, texture, and printing processes. The exhibition begins with seminal photographs such as William Henry Talbot Fox’s (British, 1800-1877) 1843 picture Rue Basse des Remparts, Paris, taken from the windows of the Hôtel de Douvres. Also on view is the astronomer Jules Janssen’s (French, 1824-1907) masterpiece L’Atlas de photographies solaires (Atlas of solar photographs), published in 1903. Summing up a quarter-century of daily photography at Janssen’s observatory in Meudon, France, the volume on view contains 30 images of the photosphere, demonstrating photography’s instrumental role in advancing the study of science. Other artists included in this section are Louis-August and Auguste-Rosalie Bisson (Bisson brothers), Eugène Cuvelier, Roger Fenton, Hugh W. Diamond, Charles Marville, and Henri Le Secq.

 

Modern

As photographers grappled with war and its aftermath, they began to turn their focus away from documenting the world around them and toward capturing their own personal experiences in a more formal, subjective way. A selection of works from 1940 to 1960 explores this theme, including works by two artists whose images Menschel collected extensively: Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) and Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991). A selection from Callahan’s quintessential photographs of urban environments – from Chicago and New York to Aix-en Provence and Cuzco, Peru – double exposures of city views, and portraits of his wife Eleanor and daughter Barbara, underscore the breadth of his oeuvre. In the summer of 1951, while teaching alongside Callahan at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, Siskind began the series of pictures of the surfaces of walls for which he is best known. One of the early works in the series on view, North Carolina 30 (1951), shows the bare legs of a woman framed by the words “IN” and”AND” amid layers of peeling layers of posters. In their planarity and graphic quality, these pictures also have a kinship with paintings by the Abstract Expressionists, alongside whom Siskind began exhibiting in the late 1940s. Other artists in this section include Berenice Abbott, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, John Gossage, André Kertész, Clarence John Laughlin, and Dora Maar.

 

Contemporary

From the 1970s onward, photographers began working in what A. D. Coleman defined as “The Directorial Mode,” wherein the photographer consciously creates events for the sole purpose of making images. John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) took his own body, naked and with the head invisible, as the subject of his work – both carrying on and contradicting the tradition of the self-portrait centered on the face – as seen in Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above) (1984). Joan Fontcuberta’s (Spanish, b. 1955) series Herbarium appears at first glance to be a collection of botanical studies, depicting plants with new and distinctive contours and rigorously scientific names. However, as revealed by his fictional character Dr. Hortensio Verdeprado (“green pasture” in Spanish), the “plants” are actually carefully composed by the photographer using scrap picked up in industrial areas around Barcelona. Made of bits of paper and plastic, small animal bones, and other detritus, these forms are not only non-vegetal – there is almost nothing natural about them at all. Fontcuberta is interested in the way data assumes meaning through its presentation and in the acceptance of the photographic image as evidence of truth. Other artists in this section include Jan Groover, David Levinthal, An-My Lê, Michael Spano, JoAnn Verburg, and William Wegman.

Press release from the Museum of Modern Art

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869) 'Greek Hero' c. 1857

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Greek Hero
c. 1857
Salted-paper print from a wet-collodion glass negative
13 7/16 × 10 3/16″ (34.2 × 25.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Robert and Joyce Menschel Fund

 

Hugh W. Diamond (British, 1809-1886) 'Untitled' c. 1852-55

 

Hugh W. Diamond (British, 1809-1886)
Untitled
c. 1852-55
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
6 1/2 x 5 5/16″ (16.6 x 13.5 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877) 'Rue Basse des Remparts, Paris' May 1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877)
Rue Basse des Remparts, Paris
May 1843
Salted paper print
6 11/16 × 6 3/4″ (17 × 17.2 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879) 'Pont Neuf' 1870s

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879)
Pont Neuf
1870s
Albumen silver print
14 1/8 x 8 1/4″ (36 x 23.5 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879) 'Rue des Prêtres-Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois' c. 1866

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879)
Rue des Prêtres-Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois
c. 1866
Albumen silver print
11 13/16 × 10 1/2″ (30 × 26.6 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879) 'Rue du Cygne' c. 1865

 

Charles Marville (French, 1816-1879)
Rue du Cygne
c. 1865
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
11 3/4 x 10 9/16″ (29.9 x 26.9 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'The Terminal' 1893

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
The Terminal
1893
Photogravure mounted to board
10 × 13 3/16″ (25.4 × 33.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

Truthful representations, 1840-1930

“One advantage of the discovery of the Photographic Art will be, that it will enable us to introduce into our pictures a multitude of minute details which add to the truth and reality of the representation, but which no artist would take the trouble to copy faithfully from nature.

Contenting himself with a general effect, he would probably deem it beneath his genius to copy every accident of light and shade; nor could he do so indeed, without a disproportionate expenditure of time and trouble, which might be otherwise much better employed.

Nevertheless, it is well to have the means at our disposal of introducing these minutiae without any additional trouble, for they will sometimes be found to give an air of variety beyond expectation to the scene represented.”

William Henry Fox Talbot, The Pencil of Nature, 1844-46

 

“I was interested in a straightforward 19th-century way of photographing an object. To photograph things frontally creates the strongest presence and you can eliminate the possibilities of being too obviously subjective. If you photograph an octopus, you have to work out which approach will show the most typical character of the animal. But first you have to learn about the octopus. Does it have six legs or eight? You have to be able to understand the subject visually, through its visual appearance. You need clarity and not sentimentality.”

Hilla Becher, in “The Music of the Blast Furnaces: Bernhard and Hilla Becher in Conversation with James Lingwood,” Art Press, no. 209 (1996)

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Peapods' c. 1900

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Peapods
c. 1900
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
6 5/16 x 8 1/4″ (16 x 20.9 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Cooling Towers' 1973

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers
1973
Gelatin silver prints
Each 15 3/4 × 11 13/16″ (40 × 30 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel
© 2016 Estate Bernd and Hilla Becher

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'George Washington Bridge, Riverside Drive and West 179th Street, Manhattan' January 17, 1936

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
George Washington Bridge, Riverside Drive and West 179th Street, Manhattan
January 17, 1936
Gelatin silver print
9 9/16 x 7 5/8″ (24.3 x 19.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel
© 2016 Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Gunsmith, 6 Centre Market Place, Manhattan' February 4, 1937

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Gunsmith, 6 Centre Market Place, Manhattan
February 4, 1937
Gelatin silver print 9 5/8 x 7 9/16″ (24.4 x 19.1 cm)
Gift of the Robert and Joyce Menschel Foundation

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Hannover Mine 1/2/5, Bochum-Hordel, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1973

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Hannover Mine 1/2/5, Bochum-Hordel, Ruhr Region, Germany
1973
Gelatin silver print
18 7/16 x 22 11/16″ (46.9 x 57.6 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1999

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007), Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany
1999
Gelatin silver print
19 5/16 x 24″ (49.1 x 60.9 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Louis-Auguste Bisson (French, 1814-1876) 'Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (detail of facade)' c. 1853

 

Louis-Auguste Bisson (French, 1814-1876)
Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (detail of facade)
c. 1853
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
14 7/16 x 17 13/16″ (36.6 x 45.3 cm)
Acquired through the generosity of Robert B. Menschel

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985) 'Rails' c. 1927

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985)
Rails
c. 1927
Gelatin silver print
15 7/16 x 10 3/8″ (39.2 x 26.3 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985) 'Le Metal Inspirateur d'Art (Metal Inspiration of Art)' 1930

 

Germaine Krull (Dutch, born Germany. 1897-1985)
Le Metal Inspirateur d’Art (Metal Inspiration of Art)
1930
Gelatin silver print
6 5/8 x 8 7/16″ (16.8 x 21.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

Personal experiences, 1940-1960

“As photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs. Move on objects with your eye straight on, to the left, around on the right. Watch them grow large as you approach, group and regroup themselves as you shift your position. Relationships gradually emerge, and sometimes assert themselves with finality. And that’s your picture.

What I have just described is an emotional experience. It is utterly personal: no one else can ever see quite what you have seen, and the picture that emerges is unique, never made and never to be repeated. The picture – and this is fundamental – has the unity of an organism. Its elements were not put together, with whatever skill or taste or ingenuity. It came into being as an instant act of sight.”

Aaron Siskind, “The Drama of Objects,” Minicam Photography 8, no. 9 (1945)

 

“The business of making a photograph may be said in simple terms to consist of three elements: the objective world (whose permanent condition is change and disorder), the sheet of paper on which the picture will be realized, and the experience which brings them together. First, and emphatically, I accept the flat plane of the picture surface as the primary frame of reference of the picture. The experience itself may be described as one of total absorption in the object. But the object serves only a personal need and the requirements of the picture. Thus rocks are sculptured forms; a section of common decorated ironwork, springing rhythmic shapes; fragments of paper sticking to a wall, a conversation piece. And these forms, totems, masks, figures, shapes, images must finally take their place in the tonal field of the picture and strictly conform to their space environment. The object has entered the picture in a sense; it has been photographed directly. But it is often unrecognizable; for it has been removed from its usual context, disassociated from its customary neighbours and forced into new relationships.”

Aaron Siskind, “Credo,” Spectrum 6, no. 2 (1956)

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria. 1899-1968) 'The Gay Deceiver' c. 1939

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria. 1899-1968)
The Gay Deceiver
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
13 x 10 1/4″ (33 x 26 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Chicago' 1951

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
1951
Dye transfer print
10 5/16 x 15 11/16″ (26.2 x 39.9 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985) 'Spectre of Coca-Cola' 1962

 

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985)
Spectre of Coca-Cola
1962
Gelatin silver print, printed 1981
13 1/4 x 10 3/8″ (33.6 x 26.4 cm)
Robert B. Menschel Fund

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Siena' 1968

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Siena
1968
Gelatin silver print
9 × 8 7/8″ (22.9 × 22.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Chicago' c. 1952

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
c. 1952
Dye transfer print
8 3/4 × 13 7/16″ (22.3 × 34.1 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Chicago' c. 1949

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
c. 1949
Gelatin silver print
7 11/16 x 9 9/16″ (19.5 x 24.3 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago' 1953

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago
1953
Gelatin silver print
7 11/16 x 9 11/16″ (19.5 x 24.6 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) 'Providence' 1974

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Providence
1974
Gelatin silver print
6 9/16 × 6 7/16″ (16.6 × 16.3 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary. 1894-1985) 'New York' August 10, 1969

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary. 1894-1985)
New York
August 10, 1969
Gelatin silver print
13 11/16 x 9 3/4″ (34.7 x 24.7 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

Directorial modes, 1970s and beyond

“Here the photographer consciously and intentionally creates events for the express purpose of making images thereof. This may be achieved by intervening in ongoing ‘real’ events or by staging tableaux – in either case, by causing something to take place which would not have occurred had the photographer not made it happen.

Here the authenticity of the original event is not an issue, nor the photographer’s fidelity to it, and the viewer would be expected to raise those questions only ironically. Such images use photography’s overt veracity by evoking it for events and relationships generated by the photographer’s deliberate structuring of what takes place in front of the lens as well as of the resulting image. There is an inherent ambiguity at work in such images, for even though what they purport to describe as ‘slices of life’ would not have occurred except for the photographer’s instigation, nonetheless those events (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) did actually take place, as the photographs demonstrate.

… This mode I would define as the directorial.”

A. D. Coleman, “The Directorial Mode: Notes Towards a Definition,” Artforum 15, no. 1 (1976)

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Chicago 30' 1949

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Chicago 30
1949
Gelatin silver print
14 x 17 13/16″ (35.6 x 45.3 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'North Carolina 30' 1951

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
North Carolina 30
1951
Gelatin silver print
13 1/16 × 9 11/16″ (33.2 × 24.6 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934) 'Glenwood Springs, Colorado' 1981

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934)
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
1981
Gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 12 15/16″ (21.9 x 32.8 cm)
Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Jan Groover (American, 1943-2012) 'Untitled' 1983

 

Jan Groover (American, 1943-2012)
Untitled
1983
Gelatin silver print
10 3/16 x 13 1/2″ (25.9 x 34.3 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969) 'Design Angles' 1919

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969)
Design Angles
1919
Gelatin silver print
8 5/16 x 6 3/8″ (21.1 x 16.2 cm)
Acquired through the generosity of Robert B. Menschel

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Onions' c. 1900

 

Charles Harry Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Onions
c. 1900
Gelatin silver printing-out-paper print
5 7/8 x 8 1/4″ (15 x 21cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Jalapa 30 (Homage to Franz Kline)' 1973

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Jalapa 30 (Homage to Franz Kline)
1973
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 9 15/16″ (24.1 x 23.6 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Jalapa 38 (Homage to Franz Kline)' 1973

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Jalapa 38 (Homage to Franz Kline)
1973
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 8 15/16″ (24.1 x 22.8 cm)
Gift of Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Lima 89 (Homage to Franz Klein)' 1975

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Lima 89 (Homage to Franz Klein)
1975
Gelatin silver print
10 3/16 × 9 5/8″ (25.9 × 24.4 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

John Gossage (American, born 1946) 'Monumentenbricke' 1982

 

John Gossage (American, born 1946)
Monumentenbricke
1982
Gelatin silver print
12 3/16 x 9 11/16″ (30.9 x 24.6 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Val Telberg (American, born Russia. 1910-1995) 'Exhibition of the Witch' c. 1948

 

Val Telberg (American, born Russia. 1910-1995)
Exhibition of the Witch
c. 1948
Gelatin silver print
10 15/16 × 13 3/4″ (27.8 × 35 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel
© 2016 Estate of Val Telberg

 

Frederick Sommer (American, born Italy. 1905-1999) 'I Adore You' 1947

 

Frederick Sommer (American, born Italy. 1905-1999)
I Adore You
1947
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 × 9 1/2″ (19.2 × 24.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above)' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above)
1984
Gelatin silver print
19 13/16 × 15″ (50.4 × 38.1 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955) 'Giliandria Escoliforcia' 1983

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955)
Giliandria Escoliforcia
1983
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 x 8 1/2″ (26.8 x 21.5 cm)
Robert and Joyce Menschel Fund

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955) 'Mullerpolis Plunfis' 1983

 

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born 1955)
Mullerpolis Plunfis
1983
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 x 8 1/2″ (26.8 x 21.5 cm)
Robert and Joyce Menschel Fund

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960) '29 Palms: Mortar Impact' 2003-04

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960)
29 Palms: Mortar Impact
2003-04
Gelatin silver print
26 1/2 × 38 1/16″ (67.3 × 96.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Robert B. Menschel Fund
© 2016 An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960) '29 Palms: Infantry Platoon (Machine Gunners)' 2003-04

 

An-My Lê (American, born Vietnam 1960)
29 Palms: Infantry Platoon (Machine Gunners)
2003-04
Gelatin silver print
26 1/2 × 38 1/16″ (67.3 × 96.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Robert B. Menschel Fund
© 2016 An-My Lê

 

David Levinthal and Garry Trudeau. 'Hitler Moves East' 1977

 

David Levinthal (American, born 1949)
Untitled from the series Hitler Moves East
1975
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 x 13 7/16″ (26.8 x 34.1 cm)
The Fellows of Photography Fund and Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943) 'Contemplating the Bust of Man Ray from the portfolio Man Ray' 1976

 

William Wegman (American, born 1943)
Contemplating the Bust of Man Ray from the portfolio Man Ray
1976
Gelatin silver print
7 5/16 × 6 7/8″ (18.5 × 17.5 cm)
Promised gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

Michael Spano (American, born 1949) 'Photogram-Michael Spano' 1983

 

Michael Spano (American, born 1949)
Photogram-Michael Spano
1983
Gelatin silver print
57 7/8 x 23 15/16″ (145.2 x 60.8 cm) (irregular)
Robert B. Menschel Fund

 

Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953) 'The Shape of Things' 1993

 

Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953)
The Shape of Things
1993
Gelatin silver prints
a) 26 7/8 x 26 15/16″ (68.2 x 68.4 cm) b) 26 15/16 x 26 7/8″ (68.5 x 68.3 cm)
Gift of Robert B. Menschel

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Monday – Thursday, Saturday – Sunday 10.30 am – 5.30 pm
Friday, 10.30 am – 8.00 pm

MOMA website

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17
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘Tattooed New York’ at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Exhibition dates: 3rd February – 30th April 2017

Curator: Cristian Petru Panaite, Assistant Curator of Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society

 

 

The first of two postings on the history of tattooing and tattoo artists of New York (the second posting being on the exhibition The Original Gus Wagner: The Maritime Roots of Modern Tattoo appearing soon).

“The exhibition focuses special attention on women and tattoos, from the sideshow era through today. Photographs capture famous sideshow tattooed stars, including Nora Hildebrandt, “the first professional tattooed lady;” La Belle Irene, “the original tattooed lady;” and Lady Viola, “the most beautiful tattooed lady in the world.” A painting by tattoo artist Ace Harlyn depicting famed Bowery tattooer Charlie Wagner tattooing Mildred Hull – the “first and only tattooist woman on the Bowery” – shows some of the 300+ tattoos she created on herself. The exhibition also addresses tattooing as an art form that enabled women to challenge gender roles and turn tattoos into signs of empowerment.”

This posting includes extra information on the people featured and a wonderful song about Charlie Wagner’s tattoos – the Bowery neighbourhood, where his studio was located, being “a hotbed of tattoo culture in the 1920s-30s.”

Enjoy!

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the New-York Historical Society for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

John Simon (c. 1675-1751) after John Verelst (1648-1734) 'Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow, King of the Maquas' 1710

 

John Simon (c. 1675-1751) after John Verelst (1648-1734)
Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow, King of the Maquas
1710
Mezzotint
New-York Historical Society Library

 

 

A new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society will examine three centuries of tattooing in New York, including the city’s central role in the development of modern tattooing and the successive waves of trend and taboo surrounding the practice. Tattooed New York, on view February 3 – April 30, 2017, will feature more than 250 works dating from the early 1700s to today – exploring Native American body art, tattoo craft practiced by visiting sailors, sideshow culture, the 1961 ban that drove tattooing underground for three decades, and the post-ban artistic renaissance.

“We are proud to present Tattooed New York and offer our visitors an immersive look into the little-known history of modern tattooing,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “At the convergence of history and pop culture, the exhibition will track the evolution of this fascinating form of self-expression and the city’s influence on the phenomenon.”

Tattooed New York will explore early communities of body art aficionados – such as Native Americans, sailors and soldiers, society women, and “tattooed ladies” – as well as examine how identity is expressed through tattoos today. It will follow the evolution of tattoo technology, from pricking and poking techniques to machines; track the rise of New York City’s Bowery neighbourhood as a hotbed of tattoo culture in the 1920s-30s; share the creative and secretive ways that tattooing continued during the ban; and feature artwork by some of the finest New York tattoo artists working today. Tattooed New York is curated by Cristian Petru Panaite, Assistant Curator of Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society.

Text from the New-York Historical Society

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Installation view of the exhibition 'Tattooed New York' at the New-York Historical Society, New York

 

Installation views of the exhibition Tattooed New York at the New-York Historical Society, New York
Photos: Glenn Castellano, New-York Historical Society

 

 

Exhibition highlights

Among the earliest items in the exhibition are the New-York Historical Society’s Four Indian Kings mezzotints from 1710, featuring portraits of Mohawk and Mohican tribal kings who traveled to London seeking military aid against the French and their Ojibwe allies. The King of the Maquas (or Mohawk tribe) is depicted with black linear patterns covering his chest and lower face. Also on view is a 1706 pictograph by a Seneca trader that represents his distinctive serpent and bird tattoos as his personal signature, one of the earliest recorded in Western accounts. Tattooed New York also features a Native American tattooing kit used for medicinal purposes and a mid-18th century Ojibwe ball club with carvings suggestive of tattoo patterns that likely adorned the warrior’s body.

As soldiers and sailors traveled the world in the early 19th century, tattoos served as mementos of faraway lands, good luck charms, and protection against induction into the British Royal Navy. Passing through New York, seamen also earned extra money by showing off their tattoos in pop-up sideshows. An early Protection Certificate and a manual tattooing kit belonging to a sailor are featured in the exhibit, along with examples of patriotic and religious art that inspired tattoo designs.

The exhibition charts the evolution of advances in the art of tattooing, many of them pioneered in New York. Martin Hildebrandt, often credited as the first professional tattoo artist in New York City, set up a permanent tattoo business in Lower Manhattan as early as 1859. The trade was revolutionised by Samuel O’Reilly’s invention of the electric tattoo machine on the Bowery in 1891. O’Reilly’s machine was based on Thomas Edison’s Electric Autographic Pen, an example of which is on view. The invention instantly made tattooing cheaper, faster, and more widely available. New York tattooers also changed the way designs were drawn, marketed, and sold. Flash – the sample tattoo drawings that still adorn many studios today – was developed and popularised by Lew Alberts, whose drawings are displayed along with work by Bob Wicks, Ed Smith, and the legendary Moskowitz Brothers.

The exhibition focuses special attention on women and tattoos, from the sideshow era through today. Photographs capture famous sideshow tattooed stars, including Nora Hildebrandt, “the first professional tattooed lady;” La Belle Irene, “the original tattooed lady;” and Lady Viola, “the most beautiful tattooed lady in the world.” A painting by tattoo artist Ace Harlyn depicting famed Bowery tattooer Charlie Wagner tattooing Mildred Hull – the “first and only tattooist woman on the Bowery” – shows some of the 300+ tattoos she created on herself. The exhibition also addresses tattooing as an art form that enabled women to challenge gender roles and turn tattoos into signs of empowerment.

In 1961, New York City’s Health Department declared it was “unlawful for any person to tattoo a human being,” citing Hepatitis B as a concern. The ban sent tattoo artists underground and many continued working quietly from their homes, often taking clients at odd hours of the night. The exhibition features photographs from the apartment studios of Thom deVita and Mike Bakaty and tattoo designs from the era, including some made to be quickly concealed in case of random police raids. The work of fine artists who began to explore tattooing during the ban years will also be on display, including Ruth Marten, Mike Bakaty, and Spider Webb.

The tattoo ban was lifted in February 1997. Today, more than 270 tattoo studios are flourishing across the five boroughs. Footage of tattooing, filmed for the exhibition in several New York studios, demystifies the process. An audio tour invites visitors to listen to the voices of legendary tattoo artists who worked in New York City during the late 20th century. The international reach of New York’s influence on the art world today is demonstrated in works by tattoo artists from Denmark, Japan, Mexico, China, Brazil, the UK, and Italy.
The exhibition closes by depicting some of the ways in which New Yorkers today use tattoos for self-expression and empowerment. Tattoos covering mastectomy scars, for instance, represent a new beginning for breast cancer survivors. Commemorative tattoos worn by survivors of 9/11 are a permanent reminder to “never forget.”

Press release from the New-York Historical Society

 

Thomas Edison (1847-1931) 'Electric pen' 1876

 

Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
Electric pen
1876
Nickel-plated flywheel, cast iron, steel stylus, and electric motor
Collection of Brad Fink, Daredevil Tattoo NYC

 

Charles Eisenmann (1855-1927) 'Nora Hildebrandt' c. 1880

 

Charles Eisenmann (1855-1927)
Nora Hildebrandt
c. 1880
Albumen photograph
Collection of Adam Woodward

 

 

“Then I begin talking about Nora Hildebrandt, the first “official” tattooed woman. She had a short-lived career at Barnum & Bailey’s circus, where she’d show off her tattoos on stage. But a woman named Irene Woodward quickly replaced Nora because she was considered more attractive. This ties into the present – how many of the most famous tattoo artists are heavily sexualised – and it relates to how men fetishise the female body. In the 19th century, people who visited the freak shows could buy cabinet cards – photographs – of these women and bring them home as souvenirs. People would collect them. It was like their version of Instagram followers. Both practices relate to the female body being “circulated” and “owned.””

Anni Irish quoted in the article “The History of Tattooed Ladies from Freakshows to Reality TV,” on the Vice website

 

Unknown photographer. 'La Belle Irene' c. 1880s

 

Unknown photographer
La Belle Irene
c. 1880s

 

'La Belle Irene French postcard' 1890

 

La Belle Irene French postcard
1890

 

Unknown photographer. 'La Belle Irene' c. 1880s

 

Unknown photographer
La Belle Irene
c. 1880s

 

Samuel O'Reilly (1854-1909) 'Eagle and shield' c. 1875-1905

 

Samuel O’Reilly (1854-1909)
Eagle and shield
c. 1875-1905
Watercolour, ink, and pencil on paper
Collection of Lift Trucks Project

 

 

O’Reilly was a New York tattoo artist, who patented the first electric tattoo machine on December 8, 1891. He began tattooing in New York around the mid-1880s. O’Reilly’s machine was based on the rotary technology of Thomas Edison’s autographic printing pen. Although O’Reilly held the first patent for an electric tattoo machine, tattoo artists had been experimenting with and modifying a variety of different machines prior to the issuance of the patent. O’Reilly’s first pre-patent tattoo machine was a modified dental plugger, which he used to tattoo several dime museum attractions for exhibition between the years 1889 and 1891. From the late 1880s on, tattoo machines continually evolved into what we now consider a modern tattoo machine. O’Reilly first owned a shop at #5 Chatham Square on the New York Bowery. In 1904, he moved to #11 Chatham Square when the previous tenant, tattoo artist Elmer Getchell, left the city. Charles Wagner was allegedly apprenticed to O’Reilly and later assumed ownership of his #11 Chatham Square shop. On April 29, 1909, Samuel O’Reilly fell while painting his house and died. He is buried in the Cemetery of the Holy Cross, Section: St. Michaels, Range: 22, Grave: 209 Brooklyn, Kings, NY.

Text from the Wikipedia website

For more information on earl tattoo machines please see the Buzzworthy Tattoo History web page

 

The tattoo industry was “revolutionized overnight,” according to Steve Gilbert’s Tattoo History: A Source Book, which adds that, “O’Reilly was swamped with orders and made a small fortune within a few years.” His electric machine was capable of making many more punctures per minute, and its puncturing was more precise – resulting in more accurate tattoos and less bleeding for the recipient.

Not only was he an innovative craftsman, but Prof. O’Reilly also would become the leading tattoo artist of his era. Perhaps the ultimate confirmation of his talents was that even circus tattoo-freaks sought out his services so they could revivify their illustrated bodies. But as tattoos became more popular, these circus tattoo-freaks were losing business, as their ink-laden bodies were no longer that rare.

O’Reilly’s steadiest source of clientele was the U.S. Navy. In his view, an American sailor without a tattoo was “not seaworthy,” according to Albert Parry’s Tattoo: Secrets of a Strange Art. The inventor’s studio often was packed with young men looking to be “seaworthy.” A shrewd marketer, O’Reilly circulated a pamphlet about tattooed U.S. military members fighting in the Spanish-American War. Part of this pamphlet reads: “Brave fellows! Little fear had they of shot and shell amid the smoke of battle, and after the scrub down they gloried in their tattoos.”

Ray Cavanaugh. “O’Reilly’s Tattoo Machine: Fine Art for the Masses,” on the Irish America website

 

 

Lady Viola the most beautiful TATTOOED WOMAN in the world
c. 1920s

 

 

Lady Viola was born March 27, 1898 in Covington, Kentucky, and her real name Ethel Martin Vangi. She was tattooed in 1920 by Frank Graf and soon became known as “the most beautiful tattooed woman in the world.” Lady Viola worked in museums and participated in the Thomas Joyland Show until 73 years old.

Read more on the Tattoo History A-Z website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Lady Viola (Ethel Vangi)' c. 1920s

 

Unknown photographer
Lady Viola (Ethel Vangi)
c. 1920s

 

Ed Smith (active c. 1920-40) 'Self-portrait showing Rock of Ages back piece' c. 1920

 

Ed Smith (active c. 1920-40)
Self-portrait showing Rock of Ages back piece
c. 1920
Ink on paper
Collection of Adam Woodward

 

Unidentified Maker and Charlie Wagner (1873-1953) 'Statue from Charlie Wagner's tattoo shop at 11 Chatham Square' c. 1930

 

Unidentified Maker and Charlie Wagner (1873-1953)
Statue from Charlie Wagner’s tattoo shop at 11 Chatham Square
c. 1930
Polychromed papier-mâché and linen on wood turned base
Collection of Adam Woodward

 

Bob Wicks (1902-1990) 'Flash sheet #36' c. 1930

 

Bob Wicks (1902-1990)
Flash sheet #36
c. 1930
Pen and watercolour on art board
Collection of Ohio Tattoo Museum

 

Eli Jacobi (1898-1984) 'Tattoo Artist' c. 1935

 

Eli Jacobi (1898-1984)
Tattoo Artist
c. 1935
Lithograph
New-York Historical Society Library

 

Ace Harlyn (active c. 1930-40) 'Charlie Wagner tattooing Millie Hull' 1939

 

Ace Harlyn (active c. 1930-40)
Charlie Wagner tattooing Millie Hull
1939
Oil on canvas
Collection of Brad Fink, Daredevil Tattoo NYC

 

 

Mildred Hull, the mother of modern tattooing during the height of the city’s tattoo boom in the early 20th century, was a woman of many talents. Born in 1897, Hull dropped out of school when she was just 13 years old according to The Tattoo Archive, later on joining the circus [before becoming an exotic dancer] …

According to Untapped Cities, by 1939 Hull had left the circus and had begun to put ink to skin with a little help from her long time tattoo artist, Charlie Wagner. In the following years, Hull elevated her tiny studio, aptly named The Tattoo Emporium, to one of the most renowned tattoo shops anywhere along that infamous stretch of seedy land…

In 1936 Hull graced the cover of Family Circle – tattoos and all – in what became an unprecedented, monumental moment in history, one that until now has gone widely overlooked. It’s important to note that at the time, the magazine’s main mission was to provide women with home economic tips.

“Flash from the Past: Millie Hull,” from the Tattoodoo website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Millie Hull tattooing in her studio]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Millie Hull tattooing in her studio]
Nd

 

 

Capt. Don Leslie – Wagner’s Tattooed Lady

I first met her on the Bow’ry at a place called Chatham Square.
It was not her eyes that drew me near, her lips or pretty hair.
It was not her dress of velvet or her patent leather shoes,
But on her hide she wore with pride Charlie Wagner’s tattoos.

Chorus:

Well, red roses she wore on her breast; what a sight!
Oh the colour so vivid, so vivid and bright!
And the blues notes danced ’round about her pretty blouse.
Some say it was a waltz, like Johann Strauss.

I swear on my child and the gold in my teeth
That the memory of that tattooed queen still lingers sweet.
Oh, she came down to Charlie there at Chatham Square
To get tattooed by the master there.

Well, I left the Bowery in ’42,
Stopped my gamblin’ and runnin’ hooch,
But I always dreamed of that tattooed queen
And Charlie Wagner’s fascinating tattoo machines.

Chorus:

Well, red roses she wore on her breast; what a sight!
Oh the colour so vivid, so vivid and bright!
And the blues notes danced ’round about her pretty blouse.
Some say it was a waltz, like Johann Strauss.

I’ve seen beautiful designs like “Duel in the Sun,”
“Rock of Ages,” battleships and military guns.
Well, they all have their place, like a heart with “Mom,”
But Charlie Wagner’s tattooed lady’s still Number One.

They preachers all say, “There’s a land so fair.”
Some folks call it “heaven” or the “golden stair.”
Well, some call it “paradise,” and I really do not care,
For I’d rather be down in Chatham Square.
And, to the right of the throne, are a chosen few:
Picasso, Rembrandt and Michelangelo too.
Hey, let me name them all for you,
And don’t you forget Professor Wagner too.
Some painted on canvas and some on chapel walls.
Their art’s worth millions for fame and all.
But Charlie Wagner’s the king of this man’s dreams,
For he painted the beautiful tattooed queen.

Chorus:

Well, red roses she wore on her breast; what a sight!
Oh the colour so vivid, so vivid and bright!
And the blues notes danced ’round about her pretty blouse.
Some say it was a waltz, like Johann Strauss.

Charlie Wagner, you’re the greatest and there ain’t no doubt.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Charlie Wagner tattooing in his studio]' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Charlie Wagner tattooing in his studio]
Nd

 

Unknown photographer. '"Painless" Jack Tyron tattooed by Charlie Wagner and Lewis (Lew) Alberts' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
“Painless” Jack Tyron tattooed by Charlie Wagner and Lewis (Lew) Alberts
Nd

 

Irving Herzberg (1915-1992) 'Tattoo shop of "Coney Island Freddie" just prior to New York City's ban on tattooing' 1961

 

Irving Herzberg (1915-1992)
Tattoo shop of “Coney Island Freddie” just prior to New York City’s ban on tattooing
1961
Digital print
Brooklyn Public Library

 

 

“A Jewish tattoo artist, Fred Grossman (aka Coney Island Freddie) sued the city for illegitimately crushing his business. (Mike Bakaty, the founder of Fineline Tattoo and an East Village tattoo legend, who died last year, told a journalist that Grossman felt that the Health Department’s motive was to “clean up the city” before showing it off at the 1964 World’s Fair.) Grossman lost, then lost again on appeal. State appellate judge Aron Steuer (the son of Max Steuer, my husband’s cousin who defended the Triangle Factory owners – the New York Steuers were clearly charming people) ruled that the city had the right to decide what was healthy behaviour and what wasn’t. And furthermore, he noted, “the decoration, so-called, of the human body by tattoo designs is, in our culture, a barbaric survival, often associated with a morbid or abnormal personality.” (Another Jewish judge, Samuel Rabin, dissented, saying that “the testimony of the defendants’ medical experts indicates that the practice of tattooing can be safe, if properly conducted in accordance with appropriate principles of asepsis. That being so, I am of the opinion that the outright prohibition of the practice of tattooing is an unwarranted extension of the police power and therefore is invalid.” Medically correct, but societally unpopular.)”

Marjorie Ingall. “Jews and Tattoos: A New York Story,” on the Tablet website

 

Tony D'Annessa (b. 1935) 'Window shade with flash designs from Tony D'Annessa's tattoo shop on W. 48th Street' c. 1962

 

Tony D’Annessa (b. 1935)
Window shade with flash designs from Tony D’Annessa’s tattoo shop on W. 48th Street
c. 1962
Ink outline with markers coloring on vinyl
Collection of Tony D’Annessa and Dave Cummings, PSC Tattoo, Montreal

 

 

Tony D’Annessa just might be Canada’s oldest tattoo artist. Although he is now located in Montreal’s Pointe-Sainte-Charles neighbourhood, Tony started tattooing in New York City way back in the 1950s. This is a short multimedia piece shot at PSC Tattoo.

 

John Wyatt (b. 1942) 'Thom de Vita and client in his studio at 326 E 4th Street' 1976

 

John Wyatt (b. 1942)
Thom de Vita and client in his studio at 326 E 4th Street
1976
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist

 

Ruth Marten (b.1949) 'Marquesan Heads' 1977

 

Ruth Marten (b. 1949)
Marquesan Heads
1977
Enamel paint on masonite
Collection of the artist

 

Maury Englander (b. 1943) 'Tattooed family at the first New York City Tattoo Convention' 1998

 

Maury Englander (b. 1943)
Tattooed family at the first New York City Tattoo Convention
1998
Digital print
© Maury Englander, All Rights Reserved

 

 

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street)
New York, NY 10024

Tel: (212) 873-3400

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday, Saturday – 10am – 6pm
Friday – 10am – 8pm
Sunday – 11am – 5pm
Monday – CLOSED

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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