Archive for the 'surrealism' Category

18
Sep
16

Exhibition: ‘The Intimate World of Josef Sudek’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 7th June – 25th September 2016

 

A poetry of the everyday

Josef Sudek, a one-armed man lugging around a large format camera, is one of my top ten photographers of all time.

His photographs, sometimes surreal, always sensitive, have a profound sensibility that affect the soul. Melancholy and mysterious by turns, they investigate the inner life of objects which stand as metaphors for the inner life of the artist. A form of healing after his horrific injuries and the loss of his arm during the First World War, the photographs purportedly look outwards upon the world but are actually interior meditations on life, death and the nature of being. Light emerges from the darkness; understanding from tribulation; and Sudek, in Jungian terms, integrates his ego into his soul through the process of (photographic) individuation – whereby the personal and collective unconscious (his hurt and damage) are brought into consciousness (eg. by means of dreams, active imagination, or free association) to be assimilated into the whole personality. It is a completely natural process necessary for the integration of the psyche and, in Sudek’s life, was integral to his healing from the vicissitudes of war.

Using Pictorialism as the starting point for his exploration of the world, Sudek never abandons the creation of “atmosphere” in his photographs, even as the images become modernist, surrealist and offer a new way of seeing the world. Having myself photographed extensively at night, and from the interior of my flat, I can understand Sudek’s fascination with both locations: the quiet of night, the stillness, the clarity of vision and thought; the interior as exterior, the projection of interior thoughts onto an external surface reflected back into the camera lens. “Nature, architecture, streets and objects are magnified by his sensitivity and mastery of the effects of light, contrasting with the impenetrable cloak of darkness.” Except the cloak of darkness is not impenetrable, as light cannot exist without darkness.

Pace, his photographs are breath / taking. They are exhalations of the spirit.

Sudek’s ability to transcend the literal, his ability to transform the objectal quality of photography ranks him as one of the top photographers of all time. He synthesises  a poetry of objects, a poetry of the everyday, and projects the folds of his mind onto the visual field (through “tears” of condensation on the window, through labyrinths of paper and glass, such as in Labyrinth on my table, 1967, below). As a form of self-actualisation – the desire to become everything that one is capable of becoming – Sudek’s photographs interrogate that chthonic darkness that lurks in the heart of everyone of us, our dark night of the soul. In that process of discovery (who am I, what kind of human being am I, how can I heal myself), he finds redemption.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

If you would like to read more about the life and work of Josef Sudek, please read the excellent article by Ashley Booth Klein, “Josef Sudek and The Life of Objects,” Obelisk Vol. 2 Issue 1, Winter 2015 [Online] Cited 18/09/2016

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

 

 

“… [Sudek] referred to photography as meteorology to describe the significance of the atmosphere, and how a photographer must predict the right conditions for photographing and enlarging prints. His work became sharper with richer tones, and his compositions became more illusive. The foregrounds and backgrounds of his photographs, particularly in his “Window” series began to oscillate. These achievements were perhaps made more attainable by his focus on inanimate objects over which he had more control than living things. Most of his cityscapes became deserted, as he directed his camera at statues or replaced what would have been a living subject with such emulative sculptures.

In effect, Sudek’s substitution of the inanimate for the animate brought the objects he photographed to life in his mind. He called the enormous decaying trees in the woods of Bohemia “sleeping giants” and would take portraits of masks and statuary heads, transforming them into frozen, worn grotesqueries. His personification of objects is even more vivid in his studio photography, particularly after 1939, the oncoming of World War II and the Nazi occupation of Prague. As the city was oppressed by German troops, the artist retreated into his studio and insulated himself sentimentally with still lifes. To an interviewer, he explained, “I love the life of objects. When the children go to bed, the objects come to life. I like to tell stories about the life of inanimate objects.” He devoted endless hours to arranging and photographing the everyday – apples, eggs, bread, and shells – and special objects given to him by friends, such as feathers, spectacles, and watches, which he called “remembrances” of that person. A photograph from his series “Remembrances of Architect Rothmayer, Mr. Magician,” for example, portrays objects respectfully placed in a row on a desk, as if artifacts from an archeological site, from which the history of a life or character of a man could be divined.

“Everything around us, dead or alive, in the eyes of a crazy photographer mysteriously takes on many variations,” Sudek said, “so that a seemingly dead object comes to life through light or by its surroundings.” This statement is perhaps telling of Sudek’s relationship to death and life, as a result of the loss of his arm and the manner in which he suffered the loss. In the 1963 film, “Zit Svuj Zivot” (Living Your Life), a documentary portrait of Sudek by Evald Strom, we see a sensitive man describing his efforts to photograph the reality of the objects around him, not as if he were bringing the objects to life, but as if it was his purpose to represent the lives of objects as they truly are. Of the image of a vase of wildflowers, he says “This is a photograph of wildflowers, my attempt to photograph wildflowers,” and of an old lamp, “This is a celebrated lamp; it holds a lot of memories.””

Ashley Booth Klein, “Josef Sudek and The Life of Objects,” Obelisk Vol. 2 Issue 1, Winter 2015 [Online] Cited 18/09/2016

 

 

“I like to tell stories about the life of inanimate objects, to relate something mysterious: the seventh side of a dice,” mused Josef Sudek. “Everything around us, dead or alive, in the eyes of a crazy photographer mysteriously takes on many variations,” he explained, “so that a seemingly dead object comes to life through light or by its surroundings.”

 

 

 

 

“On display are works that are the result of Sudek’s photographic experiments carried out within the privacy of his own studio, images of the garden seen from his window, and photographs of adventures further afield. The artist enjoyed meandering through the streets of Prague and its surrounding suburbs, and made frequent excursions to the nearby countryside. Sudek’s enduring fascination with light, and its absence, is at the root of some of the most haunting photographs of the twentieth century. Nature, architecture, streets and objects are magnified by his sensitivity and mastery of the effects of light, contrasting with the impenetrable cloak of darkness.

As a photographer, Sudek was particularly concerned with the quality of the photographic print, an essential component in terms of the expressive potential of an image. His mastery of the pigment printing process enabled him to produce highly atmospheric and evocative images, thereby reaping all of the reflective and descriptive power of the gelatin silver print. The exhibition presents work from Sudek’s early career, but also features photographs from a pivotal period of experimentation and innovation, beginning in the 1940s. Focusing on the technical and formal aspects of the medium of photography, Sudek created pigment prints, halftone prints, puridlos (photographs between two windows) and veteše (photographs inserted into old frames), techniques which allowed him to transform the objectal quality of photography.

The loss of his right arm during the First World War and the difficulties he now encountered in transporting his view camera did not dampen his passion for photography. Sudek’s studio window became an object of abiding fascination – rather like the surface of a canvas – reflecting moments of exquisite tenderness and hope when a flowering branch brushed against its pane, or of poignant melancholy when he observed the world beyond his window transformed by the playful infinity of mist. His room with a view allowed him to capture, on film, his love of Prague. His photographs demonstrate both a precision and a depth of feeling, fitting odes to the rich history and architectural complexity of the Czech capital.

Like many artists of his generation marked by their experience of war, Sudek expresses a particularly acute awareness of the dark and tormented aspects of human existence – feelings that would inspire some of his most melancholy and most moving pictures. A photograph taken at night, through the glass pane of his window, shows a city plunged into darkness during the Occupation of the Second World War, and communicates a sentiment of unspeakable despair – a dramatic illustration of Sudek’s technical ability to transcend the literal.

The first part of the exhibition features images that herald the photographer’s later work, showing his early landscapes, portraits of fellow patients at Invalidovna, the Prague hospice for war invalids like Sudek, his hesitant foray into modernism, and his interior shots of St. Vitus Cathedral. Through images that recount the narrative of his life, the viewer gains access to Sudek’s inner world, and an insight into his immediate environment, the views and objects he loved, his studio and garden. His endless walks in Prague found expression in the views of the city and its surroundings, as well as in photographs of its more sordid “suburbs”, a subject explored by other Prague artists. The eastern and northern areas of Bohemia, the Beskid Mountains and the Mionší forest were other destinations close to the photographer’s heart. The exhibition “The Intimate World of Josef Sudek” provides a fascinating panorama of the work of this unique artist.”

Text from the Jeu de Paume website

 

Beginnings

Sudek’s first photographic prints – small and largely assembled in albums – were mainly views of the countryside taken along the Elbe River when he travelled from Prague to Kolín to visit his mother between 1916 and 1922.

Using processes such as gelatin silver and bromoil he showed a talent for printing his pictures in a style that favoured soft edges and broad swathes of tone. Here Sudek was not so much studying the effects of light as he was observing the conventions of Pictorialism, a photography movement that straddled the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, and was based on a strong Romantic ethos. Pictorialist photographers enhanced atmospheric effects with such processes as carbon and gum bichromate. Sudek began using the carbon process regularly and in a personally expressive manner in the late 1940s.

His Invalidovna and St. Vitus Cathedral series in Prague, begun in the first half of the 1920s, show him exploring interior spaces where light emphasizes both the profane and the sacred. The play of bands of sunlight and darkness is a central feature of the composition and, indeed, of the life of the photograph.

 

Josef Sudek. 'St. Vitus cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic' c. 1926

 

Josef Sudek
St. Vitus cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
c. 1926
Silver gelatin print

 

Josef Sudek. 'Dimanche après-midi à l’île Kolín' c. 1922–1926

 

Josef Sudek
Dimanche après-midi à l’île Kolín [Sunday afternoon at Kolín island]
c. 1922–1926
Gelatin silver print
28.4 × 28.7 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Achat, 2000
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Rue de Prague' 1924

 

Josef Sudek
Rue de Prague
1924
Gelatin silver print
8.3 × 8.2 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Portrait de mon ami Funke' 1924

 

Josef Sudek
Portrait de mon ami Funke [Portrait of my friend Funke]
1924
Gelatin silver print
28.5 × 22.6 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Achat, 1985
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

“”Josef Sudek: The World at My Window” is the first exhibition in France since 1988 to cover Sudek’s entire career and spotlight the different phases of his work. Coming in the wake of several exhibitions at the Jeu de Paume devoted to Eastern European photographers of the early twentieth century, among them André Kertész and Francois Kollar, this one comprises some 130 vintage prints by the Czech artist. Bringing to bear a vision at once subjective and timeless, Sudek captures the ongoing changes in Prague’s natural world and landscapes.

His early profession as a bookbinder came to an abrupt halt when he was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army in Bohemia and sent to the Italian front. After the First World War he came back to Prague wounded; the loss of his right arm meant abandoning bookbinding, and he turned to photography. After revisiting the battlefield in Italy once more he returned, in despair, to Prague: “I found the place,” he recounted, “but my arm wasn’t there. Since then I’ve never gone anywhere. I didn’t find what I was looking for.”

A study grant enabled him to train at the state-run school of graphic arts in Prague, where he mixed with practitioners of Pictorialism, a photographic movement aiming at achieving colour and texture effects similar to those of painting. He started concentrating on architectural details, always waiting until the light was absolutely perfect. Little by little he gave up the Pictorialist ambiences of his views of St Vitus’s cathedral, opting for a pure, straightforward approach which the American photographer Alfred Stieglitz summed up as “maximum detail for maximum simplification”.

During the Second World War Sudek began photographing the window giving onto his garden, the result being the celebrated Window of My Studio series. He then shifted his focus to the accumulated jumble of objects in the studio, producing a further series titled Labyrinths. Light was an inexhaustible theme in his work, orchestrating the seasons, making the invisible visible and transporting us into another world. As if to escape the leaden context of the War and then of Communism, Sudek took refuge in music, especially that of his compatriot Leoš Janáček. A true music lover, he gradually built up a substantial collection of recordings which he played to his friends during improvised concerts in his studio.

The second half of his career saw Sudek abandon photography’s traditional subjects as he explored the outskirts of Prague with his black view camera on his shoulder. Known as “the poet of Prague”, he became an emblematic figure in the Czech capital. Discreet and solitary, he gradually withdrew from the city’s art scene, leaving his studio only to prowl the streets at night with his imagination as his guide.

Sudek’s photographs rarely include people; his focus was more on empty urban and rural spaces. Fascinated by the streets of Prague, the city’s deserted parks and public gardens, and the wooded Bohemian landscapes his mastery of light rendered sublime, he preferred the un-enlarged contact print as a means of preserving all the detail and authenticity of the places he roamed through.  His work moved towards experiments with light. In photographs shot through with simplicity and sensitivity, Sudek foregrounds a kind of poetry of the everyday, using the interplay of light and shade to achieve a kind of fluctuation between interior and exterior.”

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

Josef Sudek. 'La Fenêtre de mon atelier' c. 1940–1948

 

Josef Sudek
La Fenêtre de mon atelier [The window of my studio]
c. 1940-1948
Gelatin silver print
17 × 11.2 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek, 'La Fenêtre de mon atelier' c. 1940–1954

 

Josef Sudek
La Fenêtre de mon atelier [The window of my studio]
c. 1940-1954
Gelatin silver print
22.9 × 16.8 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'La Fenêtre de mon atelier' c. 1940–1950

 

Josef Sudek
La Fenêtre de mon atelier [The window of my studio]
c. 1940-1950
Gelatin silver print
28.1 × 22.9 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

The world from my window

Sudek was not content with making single, unrelated images. He generally worked in projects or series, creating extended visual explorations of the phenomena and scenes he viewed – often from the closed window of his studio, which separated his private studio-home from the exterior world. In the serie From My Window it was the endlessly varying states of transformation of droplets of water that he watched streaming down his windowpane. His images invite us to contemplate, with great fascination, the physical cycles of water and the phenomenon of rivulets coursing down a surface – like human tears. Reminding us even of [Paul] Verlaine’s “There is weeping in my heart like the rain upon the city…” Sometimes the melancholy mood of these images is leavened by a rose in a vase on the windowsill or tendrils of leaves announcing the arrival of spring.

 

There is weeping in my heart
like the rain falling on the town.
What is this languor
that pervades my heart?

Oh the patter of the rain
on the ground and the roofs!
For a heart growing weary
oh the song of the rain!

There is weeping without cause
in this disheartened heart.
What! No betrayal?
There’s no reason for this grief.

Truly the worst pain
is not knowing why,
without love or hatred,
my heart feels so much pain.

Paul Verlaine. “Il pleure dans mon coeur”

 

Josef Sudek. 'Quatre saisons: l’été' c. 1940-1954

 

Josef Sudek
Quatre saisons: l’été [Four seasons: summer]
c. 1940-1954
From the series “La Fenêtre de mon atelier” [The window of my studio]
Gelatin silver print
22.6 × 17.1 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'La Dernière Rose' 1956

 

Josef Sudek
La Dernière Rose [The Last Rose]
1956
Gelatin silver print
28.2 x 23.2 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession Josef Sudek

 

 

Night walks

Sudek’s preoccupation with darkness dates to the Nazi Occupation of Prague from March 1939 until the end of the war. Experiencing his city plunged into nights of enforced darkness Sudek explored the absence of light in his pictures. We know that this was more than a technical exercise, for he wrote “Memories” and “Restless Night” on the verso of one nocturnal photograph dated 1943.

The curfews imposed on citizens at the time made it unlikely that Sudek ventured out into the city after dark during wartime. Neither agile nor inconspicuous with his large-format camera slung over his increasingly hunched back, Sudek would have risked his life had he done so. The small courtyard of his studio on Ujezd street was hidden from the road, however, and one or two lights in neighbouring apartments served as beacons. Well after sundown he would photograph the syncopated play of blurs of light against the wall of impenetrable blackness.

 

The spirit of place

Sudek visited and photographed places that held either personal or spiritual significance for him: the landscape along the Elbe River, Invalidovna, St. Vitus Cathedral, his studio, Prague’s complex streets and open squares, the majestic Prague Castle, the city’s surrounds, and Frenštát pod Radhoštĕm where he spent summers with friends. Hukvaldy, home of Leoš Janaček, the composer whose music he loved, was a particularly favoured haunt. This was true also of the ancient Mionší Forest where he navigated his way through dense brush and forests by way of shortcuts that he created and playfully named. The Beskid Mountains also served as spiritual retreat. Although he was an urbanite in many respects, Sudek’s love of nature and sense of despair for its desecration is strongly expressed in Sad Landscapes, his series of images made in the Most region where industrialization ravaged the countryside in the 1950s.

 

The life of objects

Sudek collected everything. Today he would be known as a hoarder. But his obsession served him well, for out of the chaos of his small studio and living spaces he carefully selected a variety of these objects to photograph. From delicate feathers to crumpled paper and tinfoil, multi-faceted drinking glasses, flowers, fruit, seashells, envelopes, flasks, frames, prisms, candelabras, string and shoe moulds, the subjects ranged from the mundane to the exotic. Once chosen, the set-up was lovingly composed – often in subtly changed configurations with other objects – and carefully lit before being memorialized in either pigment or gelatin silver prints.

 

Josef Sudek. 'Le Jardin Royal' c. 1940–1946

 

Josef Sudek
Le Jardin Royal [The Royal Garden]
c. 1940-1946
Procédé pigmentaire au papier charbon [Carbon pigment on paper]
16.1 × 11.7 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]' 1950

 

Josef Sudek
Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]
1950
Gelatin silver print
22.8 × 29 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Prague pendant la nuit' c. 1950-1959

 

Josef Sudek
Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]
c. 1950-1959
Gelatin silver print
12 × 16.7 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Prague pendant la nuit' c. 1950-1959

 

Josef Sudek
Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]
c. 1950-1959
Gelatin silver print
12.2 × 17.3 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Le Jardin de Rothmayer' 1954-1959

 

Josef Sudek
Le Jardin de Rothmayer [The Rothmayer Garden]
1954-1959
Gelatin silver print
16.9 × 22.9 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

“Entitled “The Intimate World of Josef Sudek”, this exhibition is the first of this scale to revisit the life and work of Josef Sudek (Kolín, 1896 – Prague, 1976) within its sociogeographical and historical context: Prague during the first half of the twentieth century, at a time when the Czech capital was a veritable hub of artistic activity. The exhibition features a selection of 130 works spanning the totality of Sudek’s career, from 1920 to 1976, and allows the public to examine the extent to which his photography was a reflection of his personal relationship to the surrounding world. On display are works that are the result of Sudek’s photographic experiments carried out within the privacy of his own studio, images of the garden seen from his window, and photographs of adventures further afield. The artist enjoyed meandering through the streets of Prague and its surrounding suburbs, and made frequent excursions to the nearby countryside. Sudek’s enduring fascination with light, and its absence, is at the root of some of the most haunting photographs of the twentieth century. Nature, architecture, streets and objects are magnified by his sensitivity and mastery of the effects of light, contrasting with the impenetrable cloak of darkness.

As a photographer, Sudek was particularly concerned with the quality of the photographic print, an essential component in terms of the expressive potential of an image. His mastery of the pigment printing process enabled him to produce highly atmospheric and evocative images, thereby reaping all of the reflective and descriptive power of the gelatin silver print.

The exhibition presents work from Sudek’s early career, but also features photographs from a pivotal period of experimentation and innovation, beginning in the 1940s. Focusing on the technical and formal aspects of the medium of photography, Sudek created pigment prints, halftone prints, puridlos (photographs between two windows) and veteše (photographs inserted into old frames), techniques which allowed him to transform the objectal quality of photography. The loss of his right arm during the First World War and the difficulties he now encountered in transporting his view camera did not dampen his passion for photography.

Sudek’s studio window became an object of abiding fascination – rather like the surface of a canvas – reflecting moments of exquisite tenderness and hope when a flowering branch brushed against its pane, or of poignant melancholy when he observed the world beyond his window transformed by the playful infinity of mist. His room with a view allowed him to capture, on film, his love of Prague. His photographs demonstrate both a precision and a depth of feeling, fitting odes to the rich history and architectural complexity of the Czech capital.

Like many artists of his generation marked by their experience of war, Sudek expresses a particularly acute awareness of the dark and tormented aspects of human existence—feelings that would inspire some of his most melancholy and most moving pictures. A photograph taken at night, through the glass pane of his window, shows a city plunged into darkness during the Occupation of the Second World War, and communicates a sentiment of unspeakable despair – a dramatic illustration of Sudek’s technical ability to transcend the literal.

Through images that recount the narrative of his life, the viewer gains access to Sudek’s inner world, and an insight into his immediate environment, the views and objects he loved, his studio and garden. His endless walks in Prague found expression in the views of the city and its surroundings, as well as in photographs of its more sordid “suburbs”, a subject explored by other Prague artists. The eastern and northern areas of Bohemia, the Beskid Mountains and the Mionší forest were other destinations close to the photographer’s heart.”

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

New ways of seeing

Although more influenced by prevailing photographic conventions in the beginning, Sudek came to show an openness to experimenting with new ways of composing and printing his images. In the late 1920s, Sudek photographed objects designed by modernist Ladislav Sutnar, thus creating angled views of furniture with reflective surfaces and ceramics of pure form.

Sudek’s most successful foray into modernism is his experimentation with grotesque (surreal) subjects such as mannequins, decaying sculptures and the accoutrements of the architect Otto Rothmayer’s garden. There is little doubt that in the fragmented figurative sculptures Sudek was recalling some of the human devastation that he witnessed on the battlefields of the First World War.

 

Josef Sudek. 'Statue' c. 1948-1964

 

Josef Sudek
Statue
c. 1948-1964
Gelatin silver print
9 × 14 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Dans le jardin' 1954-1959

 

Josef Sudek
Dans le jardin [In the garden]
1954-1959
Gelatin silver print
17 × 23.3 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Labyrinthe sur ma table' 1967

 

Josef Sudek
Labyrinthe sur ma table [Labyrinth on my table]
1967
Épreuve gélatino-argentique
39 × 22.9 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Labyrinthe de verre' c. 1968-1972

 

Josef Sudek
Labyrinthe de verre [Glass Maze]
vers 1968-1972
Gelatin silver print
39 × 22.9 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Sans titre (Nature morte sur le rebord de la fenêtre)' 1951

 

Josef Sudek
Sans titre (Nature morte sur le rebord de la fenêtre) [Untitled (Still life on the windowsill)]
1951
Montage par le photographe c. 1960.
Two silver gelatin prints, glass plate, lead
48.2 × 39.2 cm.
Musée des arts décoratifs, Prague.
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

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09
Sep
16

Exhibition: ‘Surreal Encounters: Collecting the Marvellous: Works from the Collections of Roland Penrose, Edward James, Gabrielle Keiller and Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch’ at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Exhibition dates: 4th June – 11th September 2016

Curator: Keith Hartley

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Self-portrait with gryphon and Miro (Head of a Catalan Peasant) tattoo' 1998

 

Marcus Bunyan
Self-portrait with gryphon and Miró (Head of a Catalan Peasant) tattoo, both by Alex Binnie, London
1998

 

I have the five elements in tattoos. In the Head of a Catalan Peasant by Miró featured in the posting, the red hat – in the form of a triangle – signifies ‘fire’ in Western occult mythology.

 

 

“Surrealism is not a movement. It is a latent state of mind perceivable through the powers of dream and nightmare.”

Salvador Dalí

.
“As beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.” 

Comte de Lautréamont

.
“A constant human error: to believe in an end to one’s fantasies. Our daydreams are the measure of our unreachable truth. The secret of all things lies in the emptiness of the formula that guard them.”

Floriano Martins

.
Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Francis Picabia (1879-1953) 'Fille née sans mère [Girl Born without a Mother]' c. 1916-17

 

Francis Picabia (1879-1953)
Fille née sans mère [Girl Born without a Mother]
c. 1916-17
Gouache and metallic paint on printed paper
50 x 65 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, purchased 1990

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Au seuil de la liberté (On the Threshold of Liberty)' 1930

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
Au seuil de la liberté (On the Threshold of Liberty)
1930
Oil on canvas
114 x 146 cm
Collection: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Formerly collection of E. James), purchased 1966

 

André Masson (1896-1987) 'Massacre' 1931

 

André Masson (1896-1987)
Massacre
1931
Oil on canvas
Collection: Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection

 

Max Ernst (1891–1976) 'La Joie de vivre [The Joy of Life]' 1936

 

Max Ernst (1891-1976)
La Joie de vivre [The Joy of Life]
1936
Oil on canvas
73.5 x 92.5 cm
Collection: National Galleries of Scotland
Purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund 1995

 

Max Ernst. 'The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism)' 1937

 

Max Ernst (1891-1976)
The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism)
L’ange du foyer (Le triomphe du surréalisme)
1937
Oil on canvas
114 cm x 146 cm

 

Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik [A Little Night Music]' 1943

 

Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012)
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik [A Little Night Music]
1943
Oil on canvas
40.7 x 61 cm
Collection: Tate (formerly collection of R. Penrose)
Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund and the American Fund for the Tate Gallery 1997

 

 

Apart from three weeks she spent at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art in 1930, Tanning was a self-taught artist. The surreal imagery of her paintings from the 1940s and her close friendships with artists and writers of the Surrealist Movement have led many to regard Tanning as a Surrealist painter, yet she developed her own individual style over the course of an artistic career that spanned six decades.

Tanning’s early works – paintings such as Birthday and Eine kleine Nachtmusik (1943, Tate Modern, London) – were precise figurative renderings of dream-like situations. Like other Surrealist painters, she was meticulous in her attention to details and in building up surfaces with carefully muted brushstrokes. Through the late 1940s, she continued to paint depictions of unreal scenes, some of which combined erotic subjects with enigmatic symbols and desolate space. During this period she formed enduring friendships with, among others, Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Cornell, and John Cage; designed sets and costumes for several of George Balanchine’s ballets, including The Night Shadow (1945) at the Metropolitan Opera House; and appeared in two of Hans Richter’s avant-garde films.

Over the next decade, Tanning’s painting evolved, becoming less explicit and more suggestive. Now working in Paris and Huismes, France, she began to move away from Surrealism and develop her own style. During the mid-1950s, her work radically changed and her images became increasingly fragmented and prismatic, exemplified in works such as Insomnias (1957, Moderna Museet, Stockholm). As she explains, “Around 1955 my canvases literally splintered… I broke the mirror, you might say.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) 'La Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Suitcase)' 1935–41

 

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
La Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Suitcase)
1935-41
Sculpture, leather-covered case containing miniature replicas and photographs of Duchamp’s works
10 x 38 x 40.5 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, presented anonymously 1989

 

Paul Delvaux (1897-1994) 'L'Appel de la Nuit (The Call of the Night)' 1938

 

Paul Delvaux (1897-1994)
L’Appel de la Nuit (The Call of the Night)
1938
Oil on canvas
110 x 145 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Purchased with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund 1995

 

 

Delvaux’s paintings of the late 1920s and early 1930s, which feature nudes in landscapes, are strongly influenced by such Flemish Expressionists as Constant Permeke and Gustave De Smet. A change of style around 1933 reflects the influence of the metaphysical art of Giorgio de Chirico, which he had first encountered in 1926 or 1927. In the early 1930s Delvaux found further inspiration in visits to the Brussels Fair, where the Spitzner Museum, a museum of medical curiosities, maintained a booth in which skeletons and a mechanical Venus figure were displayed in a window with red velvet curtains. This spectacle captivated Delvaux, supplying him with motifs that would appear throughout his subsequent work. In the mid-1930s he also began to adopt some of the motifs of his fellow Belgian René Magritte, as well as that painter’s deadpan style in rendering the most unexpected juxtapositions of otherwise ordinary objects.

Delvaux acknowledged his influences, saying of de Chirico, “with him I realized what was possible, the climate that had to be developed, the climate of silent streets with shadows of people who can’t be seen, I’ve never asked myself if it’s surrealist or not.” Although Delvaux associated for a period with the Belgian surrealist group, he did not consider himself “a Surrealist in the scholastic sense of the word.” As Marc Rombaut has written of the artist: “Delvaux … always maintained an intimate and privileged relationship to his childhood, which is the underlying motivation for his work and always manages to surface there. This ‘childhood,’ existing within him, led him to the poetic dimension in art.”

The paintings Delvaux became famous for usually feature numbers of nude women who stare as if hypnotized, gesturing mysteriously, sometimes reclining incongruously in a train station or wandering through classical buildings. Sometimes they are accompanied by skeletons, men in bowler hats, or puzzled scientists drawn from the stories of Jules Verne. Delvaux would repeat variations on these themes for the rest of his long life… (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Photograph album: International Surrealist Exhibition, London 1936, made 1936 - 1939 Images taken by Chancery. Images titled by Roland Penrose

Photograph album: International Surrealist Exhibition, London 1936, made 1936 - 1939 Images taken by Chancery. Images titled by Roland Penrose

 

Photograph album: International Surrealist Exhibition, London 1936
Made 1936 – 1939
Images taken by Chancery. Images titled by Roland Penrose
32.00 x 26.00 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Photo: Antonio Reeve

 

Salvador Dali (1904-1989) 'Mae West Lips Sofa' 1937-38

 

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Mae West Lips Sofa
1937-38
Wood, wool
92 x 215 x 66 cm
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam © Fundacion Gala – Salvador Dalí, Beeldrecht Amsterdam 2007.
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS, 2015

 

Salvador Dali (1904-1989) 'Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages [Couple with their Heads Full of Clouds]' 1936

 

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages [Couple with their Heads Full of Clouds]
1936
Oil on canvas
Left figure: 82.5 x 62.5 cm; right figure: 92.5 x 69.5 cm
Collection: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Formerly collection of E. James)
Purchased with the support of The Rembrandt Association (Vereniging Rembrandt) 1979
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS, 2015

 

Salvador Dali (1904-1989) 'Impressions d'Afrique (Impressions of Africa)' 1938

 

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Impressions d’Afrique (Impressions of Africa)
1938
Oil on canvas
91.5 x 117.5 cm
Collection: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Formerly collection of E. James)
Purchased with the support of The Rembrandt Association (Vereniging Rembrandt), Prins Bernhard Fonds, Erasmusstichting, Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht Rotterdam and Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen 1979
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS, 2015

 

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) 'The House Opposite' 1945

 

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)
The House Opposite
1945
Tempera on board
33 x 82 cm
West Dean College, part of the Edward James Foundation

 

“I painted for myself…I never believed anyone would exhibit or buy my work.”

Leonora Carrington was not interested in the writings of Sigmund Freud, as were other Surrealists in the movement. She instead focused on magical realism and alchemy and used autobiographical detail and symbolism as the subjects of her paintings. Carrington was interested in presenting female sexuality as she experienced it, rather than as that of male surrealists’ characterization of female sexuality. Carrington’s work of the 1940s is focused on the underlying theme of women’s role in the creative process. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

 

Masterpieces from four of the finest collections of Dada and Surrealist art ever assembled will be brought together in this summer’s major exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA). Surreal Encounters: Collecting the Marvellous will explore the passions and obsessions that led to the creation of four very different collections, which are bound together by a web of fascinating links and connections, and united by the extraordinary quality of the works they comprise.

Surrealism was one of the most radical movements of the twentieth century, which challenged conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, the world of dreams and the laws of chance. Emerging from the chaotic creativity of Dada (itself a powerful rejection of traditional values triggered by the horrors of the First World War) its influence on our wider culture remains potent almost a century after it first appeared in Paris in the 1920s. World-famous works by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, René Magritte, Leonora Carrington, Giorgio de Chirico, André Breton, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Yves Tanguy, Leonor Fini, Marcel Duchamp and Paul Delvaux will be among the 400 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, artist books and archival materials, to feature in Surreal Encounters. The exhibition has been jointly organised by the SNGMA, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam and the Hamburger Kunsthalle, where it will be shown following its only UK showing in Edinburgh.

Dalí’s The Great Paranoiac (1936), Lobster Telephone (1938) and Impressions of Africa (1938); de Chirico’s Two Sisters (1915); Ernst’s Pietà or Revolution by Night (1923) and Dark Forest and Bird (1927), and Magritte’s The Magician’s Accomplice (1926) and Not to be Reproduced (1937) will be among the highlights of this exceptional overview of Surrealist art. The exhibition will also tell the personal stories of the fascinating individuals who pursued these works with such dedication and discernment.

The first of these – the poet, publisher and patron of the arts, Edward James (1907-84) and the artist, biographer and exhibition organiser, Roland Penrose (1900-84) – acquired the majority of the works in their collections while the Surrealist movement was at its height in the interwar years, their choices informed by close associations and friendships with many of the artists. James was an important supporter of Salvador Dalí and René Magritte in particular, while Penrose was first introduced to Surrealism through a friendship with Max Ernst. The stories behind James’s commissioning of works such as Dalí’s famous Mae West Lips Sofa (1938) and Magritte’s The Red Model III (1937) and the role of Penrose in the production of Ernst’s seminal collage novel Une Semaine de Bonté (1934) will demonstrate how significant these relationships were for both the artists and the collectors. Other celebrated works on show that formed part of these two profoundly important collections include Tanning’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943); Magritte’s On the Threshold of Liberty (1937); Miró’s Head of a Catalan Peasant (1925); and The House Opposite (c. 1945) by Leonora Carrington

While the Penrose and James collections are now largely dispersed, the extraordinary collection of Dada and Surrealist art put together by Gabrielle Keiller (1908-95), was bequeathed in its entirety to the SNGMA on her death in 1995, the largest benefaction in the institution’s history. Keiller devoted herself to this area following a visit to the Venice home of the celebrated American art lover Peggy Guggenheim in 1960, which proved to be a pivotal moment in her life. She went on to acquire outstanding works such as Marcel Duchamp’s La Boîte-en-Valise (1935-41), Alberto Giacometti’s Disagreeable Object, to be Thrown Away (1931) and Girl Born without a Mother (c.1916-17) by Francis Picabia. Recognizing the fundamental significance of Surrealism’s literary aspect, Keiller also worked assiduously to create a magnificent library and archive, full of rare books, periodicals, manifestos and manuscripts, which makes the SNGMA one of the world’s foremost centres for the study of the movement.

The exhibition will be brought up to date by the inclusion of works from the collection of Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch, who have spent more than 40 years in their quest to build up an historically balanced collection of Surrealism, which they have recently presented to the city of Berlin, where they still live. The collection features many outstanding paintings by Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, André Masson, Leonor Fini, Ernst, Tanguy, Magritte and Miró; sculptures by Hans Arp and Hans Bellmer; and works by André Breton, the leader of the Surrealists. Highlights include Masson’s Massacre (1931), Ernst’s Head of ‘The Fireside Angel’ (c. 1937), Picasso’s Arabesques Woman (1931) and Arp’s sculpture Assis (Seated) (1937).

The exhibition’s curator in Edinburgh, Keith Hartley, who is Deputy Director of the SNGMA, has said, “Surrealist art has captured the public imagination like perhaps no other movement of modern art. The very word ‘surreal’ has become a by-word to describe anything that is wonderfully strange, akin to what André Breton, the chief theorist of Surrealism, called ‘the marvellous’. This exhibition offers an exceptional opportunity to enjoy art that is full of ‘the marvellous’. It brings together many important works which have rarely been seen in public, by a wide range of Surrealist artists, and creates some very exciting new juxtapositions.”

Press release from SNGMA

 

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) 'Tête [Head]' 1913

 

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Tête [Head]
1913
Drawing, papiers collés with black chalk on card
43.5 x 33 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Purchased with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund 1995
Photo: Antonia Reeve
© DACS / Estate of Pablo Picasso

 

Max Ernst. 'Pieta or Revolution by Night' 1923

 

Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Pieta or Revolution by Night
1923
Oil on canvas

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'The Magician's Accomplice' 1926

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
The Magician’s Accomplice
1926
Oil on canvas

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'L’Esprit comique (The Comic Spirit)' 1928

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
L’Esprit comique (The Comic Spirit)
1928
Oil on canvas
75 x 60 cm
Collection: Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection

 

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) 'Femme aux arabesques (Arabesque Woman)' 1931

 

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Femme aux arabesques (Arabesque Woman)
1931
Oil on canvas, 100 x 81 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection

 

Max Ernst (1891–1976) 'Jeune homme intrigué par le vol d’une mouche non-euclidienne [Young Man Intrigued by the Flight of a Non-Euclidean Fly]' 1942–7

 

Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Jeune homme intrigué par le vol d’une mouche non-euclidienne [Young Man Intrigued by the Flight of a Non-Euclidean Fly]
1942–7
Oil and paint on canvas
82 x 66 cm
Collection: Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection

 

Max Ernst (1891-1976) 'Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness]' 1934

Max Ernst (1891-1976) 'Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness]' 1934

 

Max Ernst (1891-1976)
Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness]
1934
Collage graphic novel

 

 

Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness] is a graphic novel and artist’s book by Max Ernst, first published in 1934. It comprises 182 images created by cutting up and re-organizing illustrations from Victorian encyclopedias and novels.

The 184 collages of Une semaine de bonté [A Week of Kindness] were created during the summer of 1933 while Max Ernst was staying at Vigoleno, in northern Italy. The artist took his inspiration from wood engravings, published in popular illustrated novels, natural science journals or 19th century sales catalogues. With infinite care, he cut out the images that interested him and assembled them with such precision as to bring his collage technique to a level of incomparable perfection. Without seeing the original illustrations, it is difficult to work out where Max Ernst intervened. In the end, each collage forms a series of interlinked images to produce extraordinary creatures which evolve in fascinating scenarios and create visionary worlds defying comprehension and any sense of reality.

After La Femme 100 têtes [The Woman with one Hundred Heads] (1929) and Rêve d’une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel [A Little Girl dreams of taking the Veil] (1930), Une semaine de bonté was Max Ernst’s third collage-novel. Ernst had originally intended to publish it in seven volumes associating each book with a day of the week. Moreover, the title referred to the seven days in Genesis. Yet it was also an allusion to the mutual aid association ‘La semaine de la bonté’ [The Week of Kindness], founded in 1927 to promote social welfare. Paris was flooded with posters from the organisation seeking support from everyone. Like the elements making up the collages, the title was also “borrowed” by Max Ernst.

The first four publication deliveries did not, however, achieve the success that had been anticipated. The three remaining ‘days’ were therefore put together into a fifth and final book. The books came out between April and December 1934, each having been bound in a different colour: purple, green, red, blue and yellow. In the final version, two works were taken out. The edition therefore consists of only 182 collages. (Text from the Musée D’Orsay website)

 

Yves Tanguy (1900-1955) 'Sans titre, ou Composition surréaliste (Untitled, or Surrealist Composition)' 1927

 

Yves Tanguy (1900-1955)
Sans titre, ou Composition surréaliste (Untitled, or Surrealist Composition)
1927
Oil on canvas
54.5 x 38 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection

 

 

Tanguy’s paintings have a unique, immediately recognizable style of nonrepresentational surrealism. They show vast, abstract landscapes, mostly in a tightly limited palette of colors, only occasionally showing flashes of contrasting color accents. Typically, these alien landscapes are populated with various abstract shapes, sometimes angular and sharp as shards of glass, sometimes with an intriguingly organic look to them, like giant amoebae suddenly turned to stone. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) 'Voltage' 1942

 

Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012)
Voltage
1942
Oil on canvas
29 x 30.9 cm
Collection: Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection

 

Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) 'Objet désagréable, à jeter [Disagreeable Object, to be Thrown away]' 1931

 

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Objet désagréable, à jeter [Disagreeable Object, to be Thrown away]
1931
Wood
19.6 x 31 x 29 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, purchased 1990
© Bridgeman Art Library

 

Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1996) 'Assis (Seated)' 1937

 

Jean (Hans) Arp (1886-1996)
Assis (Seated)
1937
Limestone
29.5 x 44.5 x 16 cm
Collection: Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection

 

Joan Miro (1893-1983) 'Peinture (Painting)' 1925

 

Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Peinture (Painting)
1925
Oil on canvas
130 x 97 cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection

 

Joan Miró. 'Peinture' 1927

 

Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Peinture [Painting]
1927
Oil on canvas
33 x 24.1 cm
Collection: National Galleries of Scotland
Bequeathed by Gabrielle Keiller 1995

 

Joan Miró. 'Tête de Paysan Catalan [Head of a Catalan Peasant]' 1925

 

Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Tête de Paysan Catalan [Head of a Catalan Peasant]
1925
Oil on canvas
92.4 x 73 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Purchased jointly with Tate, with the assistance of the Art Fund 1999

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'Le Modèle rouge III (The Red Model III)' 1937

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
Le Modèle rouge III (The Red Model III)
1937
Oil on canvas
206 x 158 x 5 cm
Collection: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Formerly collection of E. James)
Purchased with the support of The Rembrandt Association (Vereniging Rembrandt), Prins Bernhard Fonds, Erasmusstichting, Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht Rotterdam Museum Boymans-van Beuningen Foundation 1979

 

René Magritte (1898-1967) 'La reproduction interdite (Not to be Reproduced)' 1937

 

René Magritte (1898-1967)
La reproduction interdite (Not to be Reproduced)
1937
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
© Beeldrecht Amsterdam 2007
Photographer: Studio Tromp, Rotterdam
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2015

 

 

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
75 Belford Road
Edinburgh EH4 3DR
Tel: 0131 624 6200

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 6pm

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02
Sep
16

Exhibition: ‘A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou’ at the Haus der Kunst, Munich

Exhibition dates: 25th March – 4th September 2016

Curator: Christine Macel

Artists include: Pawel Althamer/ Maja Bajević / Yto Barrada / Jean-Michel Basquiat / Taysir Batniji / Christian Boltanski / Erik Boulatov / Mohammed Bourouissa / Frédéric Bruly Bouabré / Sophie Calle and Greg Shephard / Mircea Cantor / Chen Zhen / Hassan Darsi / Destroy All Monsters / Atul Dodiya / Marlene Dumas / Ayşe Erkmen / Fang Lijun / Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica / Samuel Fosso / Michel François / Coco Fusco und Paula Heredia / Regina José Galindo / Kendell Geers / Liam Gillick / Fernanda Gomes / Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster / Felix Gonzalez-Torres / Renée Green / Subodh Gupta / Andreas Gursky / Hans Haacke / Petrit Halilaj / Edi Hila / Gregor Hildebrandt / Thomas Hirschhorn / Nicholas Hlobo / Carsten Höller / Pierre Huyghe / Fabrice Hyber / Isaac Julien / Oleg Kulik / Glenn Ligon / Robert Longo / Sarah Lucas / Gonçalo Mabunda / David Maljković / Chris Marker / Ahmed Mater / Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy / Annette Messager / Rabih Mroué / Zanele Muholi / Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba / Roman Ondák / Gabriel Orozco / Damián Ortega / Philippe Parreno / Nira Pereg / Dan Perjovschi / Wilfredo Prieto / Tobias Putrih / Walid Raad / Sara Rahbar / Tobias Rehberger / Nick Relph und Oliver Payne / Pipilotti Rist / Chéri Samba / Anne-Marie Schneider / Santiago Sierra / Mladen Stilinović / Georges Tony Stoll / Wolfgang Tillmans / Rirkrit Tiravanija / Danh Vo / Marie Voignier / Akram Zaatari / Zhang Huan

 

 

Take your pick: some interesting, some not. My favourite: Annette Messager Mes voeux (1989, below) … such a strong, creative and inspiring artist.

I’m not writing so much as I have bad RSI in my left wrist at the moment.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Haus der Kunst for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

In 2016, two prominent exhibition projects explore the pressing question of which factors remain relevant to the writing of art history. While “Postwar – Art between the Pacific and Atlantic, 1945-1965” concentrates on the time immediately after World War II, “A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou” provides an overview of contemporary art since the 1980s with 160 works by more than 100 artists.

The year 1989 marked a break with the past and the start of a new era. The fall of the Berlin Wall toppled divisions in the world of European art, while the events of Tiananmen Square focused attention on a new China. The ongoing globalization allows for an unprecedented mobility. The static understanding of identity, once based on origin and nationality, has since given way to a more transnational and variable narrative. Contemporary artistic proposals, which arise from the new “decolonized subjectivity”, are also based on a new understanding of site-specificity. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s the protagonists of Land Art still understood landscapes primarily as post-industrial ruins. In contemporary artistic practice, however, space is defined above all socially and politically – by traumatic historical events, home country, exile, diaspora and hybrid identities, such as African-American, Latino, Turkish-German, African-Brazilian, and so forth. The new presentation of the Centre Pompidou contemporary collections at Haus der Kunst focuses particularly on this altered geography, notably the former Eastern Europe, China, Lebanon, and various Middle Eastern countries, India, Africa, and Latin America. This is the first time such a large-scale view of the Centre Pompidou collection has been presented outside France.

 

 

Thomas Hirschhorn. 'Outgrowth' 2005

 

Thomas Hirschhorn
Outgrowth
2005
Installation
374 x 644 x 46 cm
Dimensions minimales de la cimaise: 400 x 670 cm
Bois, plastique, coupure de presse, ruban adhésif, métal, papier bulle
Achat en 2006, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

Lijun Fang. 'Sans titre' 2003

 

Lijun Fang
Sans titre
2003
400 x 854 cm
Chaque panneau: 400 x 120 cm
Xylographie sur papier
Achat en 2004, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle

 

Marlene Dumas. 'The Missionary (Le Missionnaire)' 2002 - 2004

 

Marlene Dumas
The Missionary (Le Missionnaire)
2002 – 2004
60 x 230 cm
Huile sur toile
Don de la Clarence Westbury Foundation, 2005
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Marlene Dumas

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat. 'Slave Auction (Vente aux enchères d’esclaves)' 1982

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Slave Auction (Vente aux enchères d’esclaves)
1982
183 x 305.5 cm
Peinture acrylique, pastel gras et collages
Collage de papiers froissés, pastel gras et peinture acrylique sur toile
Don de la Société des Amis du Musée national d’art moderne, 1993.
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © The estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

Fabrice Hyber. 'Peinture homéopathique n° 10 (Guerre désirée)' 1983 - 1996

 

Fabrice Hyber
Peinture homéopathique n° 10 (Guerre désirée)
1983 – 1996
225 x 450 cm
Chaque panneau: 225 x 225 cm
Techniques mixtes sur toile
Mine graphite, fusain, crayon de couleur, résine, gouache, encre de Chine, acrylique, pastel, aquarelle, feutre, ruban adhésif, sur papiers, photocopie, photographies et papier de soie collés sur toile
Achat en 1996, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Jacques Faujour/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Adagp, Paris

 

Hans Haacke. 'MetroMobiltan' 1985

 

Hans Haacke
MetroMobiltan
1985
Installation
355.6 x 609.6 x 152.4 cm
Fibre de verre, photographie, isorel, tissu polyester, aluminium, peinture acrylique
Fronton en fibre de verre, 1 plaque en fibre de verre avec texte en anglais, 1 photographie noir et blanc en 5 parties contrecollées sur isorel, 3 bannières en tissu synthétique polyester montées chacune sur 2 tubes en aluminium: à gauche et à droite 2 bannières bleues avec texte en anglais (lettres en tissu polyester blanc découpées et cousues), au centre 1 bannière marron avec agrandissement photographique en tissu découpé et cousu et texte en anglais), estrade en 8 éléments de fibre de verre peinte à l’acrylique
Achat en 1988, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

Chéri Samba. 'Marche de soutien à la campagne sur le SIDA' 1988

 

Chéri Samba
Marche de soutien à la campagne sur le SIDA
1988
134.5 x 200 cm
Huile et paillettes sur toile préparée
Achat en 1990
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Chéri Samba, photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

 

Haus der Kunst is pleased to present A History: Contemporary Art from Centre Pompidou, an exhibition originally curated by Christine Macel at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. With approximately 160 works by more than 100 artists from across the world, “A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou” provides an incisive overview of artistic positions since the 1980s in painting, sculpture, installation, video, photography, and performance.

The Centre Pompidou’s collection of contemporary art has rarely been presented so comprehensively outside France. The selected works on view date from the 1980s to the present raising two significant questions: What factors are relevant for ensuring that art history is written in a specific way, and what does an ever changing understanding of the term ‘contemporary’ mean for public museums and their collections? Still, the concentration on Euro- American domains, which many museums formerly pursued in the acquisition of works for their collections, can hardly be sustained today and is no longer the aspiration of most museums. Globalization, with its expanded narratives, has recently become too determining for the position of contemporary art to ignore. Curator Christine Macel defines her intention accordingly: to present ‘one’ among many possible histories of contemporary art.

With the progression of globalization – understood here as the consolidation of economic, technological and financial systems, but also the questioning of linear history, and hegemonic cultural narratives – our perception of identity has changed. Since the first globally-oriented biennial in Havana in 1986, exhibition organizers and larger museums in Europe and North America have strived to display art created beyond the Western artistic circuit. The static understanding of identity as something based in origins and a “home base” has largely given way to a transnational and variable one.

The turning point for Centre Pompidou was its 1989 exhibition “Les Magiciens de la Terre”, in which curator Jean-Hubert Martin aimed to confront the problematic phenomenon of “one hundred percent of exhibitions that ignore eighty percent of the world.” Half the participating artists came from non-Western countries, while the other half came from the West. In addition, all exhibiting artists were – without exception – still active, making the presentation truly contemporary. Since then, the Centre Pompidou, like many large museums, has had to confront the reality of the expanded circuits of contemporary art. Over the years the museum gradually changed its acquisition practices and has increasingly opened its focus toward Eastern Europe, China, Lebanon, the Middle East, India, Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Mexico and Brazil.

Meanwhile, our understanding of the term “origins” has continued to evolve. Consequently, the definition of “site-specific” has also changed. In the 1960s and 70s, artists of the Land Art movement still essentially regarded landscapes as post-industrial ruins. By contrast, Okwui Enwezor, director of Haus der Kunst believes that, in today’s artistic practice, space is defined by impermanence, by the mutability of politically and socially grounded positions, by aesthetic pluralism, and by cultural differences. Furthermore, colonial and postcolonial experiences shaped by traumatic historical events, home, exile, diaspora produced hybrid identities – such as African-American, Euro- American, Latino, Turkish-German, French-Arabic, African- Brazilian, etc. Consequently new forms of cosmopolitanism and provincialism jostle next to one another. It is no coincidence that the exhibition practice of today can already look back on a number of shows that focused on borders and issues of migration.

Against this backdrop of dynamism and permanent transition the exhibition is divided into seven chapters:

The Artist as Historian

An interest in the historical document and a more general obsession with the past, have led to the nostalgic excavation and re-enactments of existing works of art. Artists from the Arab speaking world are increasingly present in the art world; having borne witness to the Gulf War in 1991, these artists have developed new practices around the examination of history.

The Artist as Archivist

A passion for the archive initially led to a demand for completeness and later to an acceptance of the fragmentary, resulting on the one hand in concurrence of taxonomic efforts and endless accumulation, and, on the other, in an insight into the accelerated loss of memory. On a higher level, both coincide: Archives are especially useful in helping to identify and address wounds in the collective memory.

Sonic Boom

Trying to capture the sensation of listening to music in an image has a long tradition. Yet, even for artists who take their works to the edge of physical dissolution, listening often moves to the fore. Further, changes in the music industry and music production have reinforced the permeability of art and composition.

The Artist as Producer: The “Traffic” Generation

The concept of artwork is transformed through its dematerialization. An awareness of temporality, volatility, and process shifts to the foreground. Artists develop new forms of collaboration and collective creation, and make aesthetic use of clips, sampling, and film narrative (which is also regarded as an exhibition platform). As a result, copyright as an object of reflection has come into focus.

The Artist as Documentarist: As Close as Possible to the Real

The proliferation of the Internet in the context of a market economy and consumer society has led to a greater interest in the real, in the status quo of the observer and the reporter and generally in an engagement with all areas of human life. The artist takes on the role of a witness who accepts the subjectivity of his observations.

Artist and Object

Between 1980 and 1990, artists turned to an exploration of the everyday and the object; the 1990’s can be considered as the ultimate epoch of the aesthetic of the mundane. The now-famous video, “The Way Things Go” by Fischli and Weiss (1986-87) sings this song of songs to the everyday. No less iconic is Gabriel Orozco’s modified Citroën (La DS, 1993). The confrontation with consumer society is manifested in photography in detailed and richly colored compositions like Gursky’s 99 Cent (1999), and in sculpture with the integration of found objects. The common denominator is the attention artists pay to excessive consumption – as an opportunity or as a fact.

The Artist and the Body

Video and photography seem to be particularly fitting mediums for artists whose works include a performative element. The theme of the human body – wounded or damaged by oppression – returns as a theme with a vengeance. Many works with erotic and sexual overtones emerge. New technical possibilities, either through plastic surgery or image manipulation, bring the grotesque into the fold.

Press release from Haus der Kunst

 

 

Fischli and Weiss
The Way Things Go
1986-87

 

Erik Boulatov. 'Printemps dans une maison de repos des travailleurs' 1988

 

Erik Boulatov
Printemps dans une maison de repos des travailleurs
1988
169.2 x 239 x 4 cm
Huile sur toile
Achat en 1989
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016,
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Michel François. 'Affiche Cactus' 1997

 

Michel François
Affiche Cactus
1997
120 x 178 cm
Impression sur papier
Don de l’artiste en 2003
Collection Centre Pompidou
Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016
photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Pawel Althamer. 'Tecza' (Rainbow) 2004

 

Pawel Althamer
Tecza (Rainbow)
2004
120 x 185 x 57 cm
Métal, coton, feutre, caoutchouc, liège, plastique
Achat en 2006
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Pawel Althamer
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Service de la documentation photographique du MNAM/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Samuel Fosso. 'La Femme américaine libérée des années 70' 1997

 

Samuel Fosso
La Femme américaine libérée des années 70
1997
127 x 101 cm
Epreuve chromogène
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Samuel Fosso, courtesy J.M. Patras, Paris
Achat en 2004, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle

 

Atul Dodiya. 'Charu' 2004

 

Atul Dodiya
Charu
2004
183 x 122 cm
Peinture émaillée et vernis synthétique sur contreplaqué
Don de la Société des Amis du Musée national d’art moderne, 2013
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Atul Dodiya

 

Huan Zhang. 'Family Tree' 2000

 

Huan Zhang
Family Tree
2000
396 x 318 cm
Chaque épreuve 132 x 106 cm, 9 épreuves chromogènes, Montage des neuf épreuves
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle,
Achat en 2004
© droits réservés, photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Huan Zhang. 'Family Tree' 2000 (detail)

Huan Zhang. 'Family Tree' 2000 (detail)

 

Huan Zhang
Family Tree (details)
2000
396 x 318 cm
Chaque épreuve 132 x 106 cm, 9 épreuves chromogènes, Montage des neuf épreuves
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle,
Achat en 2004
© droits réservés, photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Andreas Gursky. 'Madonna I' 2001

 

Andreas Gursky
Madonna I
2001
282 x 213 x 6.5 cm
Epreuve chromogène
Achat en 2003, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Courtesy : Monika Sprüth Galerie, Cologne / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

Ahmed Mater. 'From the Real to the Symbolic City' 2012

 

Ahmed Mater
From the Real to the Symbolic City
2012
292 x 245 cm
Epreuve numérique
Don de Athr Gallery, avec le soutien de Sara Binladin et Zahid Zahid, Sara Alireza et Faisal Tamer, Abdullah Al-Turki, 2013
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © droits réservés

 

Annette Messager. 'Mes voeux' 1989

 

Annette Messager
Mes voeux
1989
320 cm, diamètre: 160 cm
1 épreuve 24 x 17cm, 50 épreuves 20 x 14cm, 57 épreuves 15 x 11cm, 49 épreuves 13 x 9cm, 106 épreuves 8 x 6cm
Dimensions globales: 320 x 160 cm, 263 épreuves gélatino-argentiques encadrées sous verre maintenu par un papier adhésif noir et suspendues au mur par de longues ficelles
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Achat en 1990
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, photo Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Annette Messager. 'Mes voeux' 1989 (detail)

 

Annette Messager
Mes voeux (detail)
1989
320 cm, diamètre: 160 cm
1 épreuve 24 x 17cm, 50 épreuves 20 x 14cm, 57 épreuves 15 x 11cm, 49 épreuves 13 x 9cm, 106 épreuves 8 x 6cm
Dimensions globales: 320 x 160 cm, 263 épreuves gélatino-argentiques encadrées sous verre maintenu par un papier adhésif noir et suspendues au mur par de longues ficelles
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Achat en 1990
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, photo Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Ayse Erkmen. 'Netz' 2006

 

Ayse Erkmen
Netz
2006
Installation
220 x 60 x 20 cm
Etiquettes de vêtement en coton, clous Achat en 2012
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Ayse Erkmen,
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Suzanne & Lutz, white dress, army skirt' 1993

 

Wolfgang Tillmans
Suzanne & Lutz, white dress, army skirt
1993
99 x 66 x 2 cm
Epreuve chromogène
Donation de la Caisse des Dépôts en 2006
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Wolfgang Tillmans
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Gabriel Orozco. 'La D.S.' 1992

Gabriel Orozco. 'La D.S.' 1992

 

Gabriel Orozco
La D.S.
1992
Centre national des arts plastiques, FNAC 94003
© Gabriel Orozco/CNAP, courtesy photo Galerie Crousel-Robelin-Bama

 

Gonçalo Mabunda. 'O trono de um mundo sem revoltas (Le trône d’un monde sans révolte)' 2011

 

Gonçalo Mabunda
O trono de um mundo sem revoltas (Le trône d’un monde sans révolte) (The throne of the world without revolt)
2011
79 x 88 x 49 cm
Fer, armes de la guerre civile au Mozambique recyclées
Don de la Société des Amis du Musée national d’art moderne, 2012. Projet pour l’art contemporain 2011, avec le soutien de Nathalie Quentin-Mauroy
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Gonçalo Mabunda

 

Chen Zhen. 'Paris Round Table' 1995

 

Chen Zhen
Paris Round Table
1995
180 cm, diamètre: 550 cm
Bois, métal
Achat en 2002
Dépôt du Centre national des arts plastiques, 2002
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, Présentation dans “Extra Large”, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, juillet 2012
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Yto Barrada. 'Sans titre' 1998 – 2004

 

Yto Barrada
Sans titre
1998 – 2004
73 x 73 cm
Epreuve chromogène
Donation de la Caisse des Dépôts en 2006
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Yto Barrada
photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP

 

 

Haus der Kunst
Prinzregentenstraße 1
80538 Munich
Germany
Tel: +49 89 21127 113

Opening hours:
Monday - Sunday 10 am - 8 pm
Thursday 10 am - 10 pm

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10
Aug
16

Exhibition: ‘Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph’ at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth, New Zealand Part 2

Exhibition dates: 29th April – 14 August 2016

Curator: Geoffrey Batchen

 

 

Part 2 of a posting on this wonderful exhibition – Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph – at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth, New Zealand.

While there is no doubt as to the quality and breadth of the work on display, nor how it has been curated or installed in these beautiful contemporary spaces, I question elements of the conceptual rationale that ground the exhibition. While curator Geoffrey Batchen correctly notes that “artists are coming back to the most basic and elemental chemistry of photography, hands on, making unique images where there is a direct relationship between the thing being imaged and then image itself” as a response to the dematerialisation of the image that occurs in a digital environment and the proliferation of reproductions of digital images his assertion in a Radio New Zealand interview that the cameraless photograph has a direct relationship to the world, unmediated – through the unique touch of the object on the photographic paper – is an observation that seems a little disingenuous.

Batchen observes in the quotation below, “it’s as if nature represents itself, completely unmediated and directly. In some ways … [this] is far more realist, far more true to the original object than any camera picture could be.” Note how he qualifies his assertion and position by the statement “in some ways”. The reality of the situation is that every photograph is mediated to one degree or another, whether through the use of the camera, the choice of developer, photographic paper, size, perspective and so forth. The physicality of the actual print and the context of capture and display are also mediated, in each instance and on every occasion. Every photograph is mediated through the choices of the photographer, even more so in the production of cameraless photographs (what to choose to photograph, where to position the object, what to draw with the light) because the artist has the ultimate control on what is being pictured (unlike the reality of the world). To say that cameraless photographs have a more direct and unmediated relationship to the world than analogue and digital photographs could not be further from the truth – it is just that the taxonomic system of ordering “reality” is of a different order.

Batchen further states in the Radio new Zealand interview that “in these photographs the object is still there, that’s the strange thing about cameraless photographs. There is a sense of presentness to this kind of photograph. … Cameraless photographs seem to exist in a kind of eternal present, and in that sense they complicate our understanding both of photography but also to the world that is being represented here.”

This is a contentious observation that argues for some special state of being that exists within the cameraless photograph which I believe does not exist. I argue that EVERY photograph possesses the POSSIBILITY of a sense of presentness of the object being photographed (whether it be landscape, portrait, street, abstract, etc…). It just depends whether the photographer is attuned to what is present before their eyes, whether they are attuned to the mediation of the camera and whether the print reveals what has been captured in the negative. Minor White’s “revelation of spirit”. A “hands on” process does not guarantee a more meaningful form of photographic authenticity,  or cameraless photographs possess some inherent authentic reality (the appeal to the aura of the object, Benjamin), any more than analogue or digitally reproduced photographs do. They are all representations of a mediated reality in one form or another. Some photographs will simply not capture that “presence” no matter how hard you try, be they cameraless or not. Further, every photograph exists in an eternal present, bringing past time to present and, in the process of existence, transcending time. In this regard, to claim special status for cameraless photographs is a particularly incongruous and elliptical argument, an argument which posits an obfuscation of the theoretical history of photography.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

PS. I particularly love Len Lye’s work for its visual dexterity and robustness.

.
Many thankx to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images are photographed by Bryan James.

 

 

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“You assume that the image caught by the camera is “the” image, but of course a camera is ultimately a device – about from the Renaissance on – in which perspective is organised within a box using a lens, based on a principle that light travels in straight lines. So what you get when you use a camera is a mediated image, an image constructed according to certain conventions developed during the Renaissance and beyond in which the world is developed … according to the rules of perspective, and we’ve learnt to accept those rules as, as reality itself. But … when you put an object directly onto a piece of paper without any mediation [of a machine], it’s as if nature represents itself, completely unmediated and directly. In some ways … [this] is far more realist, far more true to the original object than any camera picture could be.”

.
Geoffrey Batchen

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at left, Christian Marclay and at right, Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of Christian Marclay’s Large Cassette Grid No. 6, 2009 (left) and Allover (Rush, Barbra Streisand, Tina Turner, and Others), 2008 (right)

 

Christian Marclay (US) 'Large Cassette Grid No. 6' 2009

 

Christian Marclay (US)
Large Cassette Grid No. 6
2009
Cyanotype photograph

 

Christian Marclay (US) 'Allover (Rush, Barbra Streisand, Tina Turner, and Others)' 2008

 

Christian Marclay (US)
Allover (Rush, Barbra Streisand, Tina Turner, and Others)
2008
Cyanotype photograph

 

Using hundreds of cassette tapes bought in thrift stores, Christian Marclay has scattered the entangled strands of the tapes across large sheets of specially prepared blueprint paper, deliberately adopting the “action painter” techniques of Jackson Pollock and similar artists. He then exposed them, sometimes multiple times, under a high-powered ultraviolet lamp. In other cases, the cassettes themselves were stacked in translucent grids to make a minimalist composition.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at left, Christian Marclay and at right, Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Walead Beshty (Switzerland/US) 'Two Sided Picture (RY), January 11, 2007, Valencia, California, Fujicolor Crystal Archive, 2007'

 

Walead Beshty (Switzerland/US)
Two Sided Picture (RY), January 11, 2007, Valencia, California, Fujicolor Crystal Archive, 2007
Chromogenic photograph

 

In the series from which this work comes American photographic artist Walead Beshty cut and folded sheets of photographic paper into three-dimensional forms and then exposed each side to a specific colour of light, facilitating the production of multi-faceted prints with the potential to exhibit every possible colour combination. The trace of this process remains visible, with the original folds transformed into a network of contours on the surface of the print.

 

Installation view of Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan/US) 'Lightning Fields 168' 2009

 

Installation view of
Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan/US)
Lightning Fields 168
2009

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan/US) 'Lightning Fields 168' 2009

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan/US)
Lightning Fields 168
2009
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs of static electricity were inspired by his unsuccessful efforts to banish such discharges from the surface of his negatives during the printing process. Sugimoto decided instead to try and harness such discharges for the purposes of image making. Utilizing a Van der Graaf generator, he directed as many as 40,000 volts onto metal plates on which rested unexposed film. He soon changed tactics when he discovered that immersing the film in saline water during the discharge gave much better results.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at left, Andreas Müller-Pohle Digital Scores (after Nicéphore Niépce) 1995, and to the right in the second and third images, Susan Purdy

 

In 1995 the German artist Andreas Müller-Pohle took the digital code generated by a scan of the supposed “first photograph,” Nicéphore Niépce’s 1827 heliograph View from the window at Le Gras, and spread it across eight panels as a messy swarm of numbers and computer notations. Each of Müller-Pohle’s separations represents an eighth of a full byte of memory, a computer’s divided remembrance of the first photograph. The Scores are therefore less about Niépce’s photograph than about their own means of production (as the title suggests, they bear the same abstracted relation to an image as sheet music has to sound). We see here, not a photograph, but the new numerical rhetoric of digital imaging.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of Ian Burn (Australia/US) Xerox book # 1, 1968 from the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

In the 1960s a number of artists sought to distil artwork from the new imaging technologies becoming commonly available. Ian Burn, an Australian artist then living in New York, made a series of Xerox Books in 1968 in which he churned out 100 copies of a blank sheet of white paper on a Xerox 660 photocopying machine, copying each copy in turn until the final sheet was filled with the speckled visual noise left by the machine’s own imperfect operations.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with in foreground display case, Herbert Dobbie’s illustrated cyanotype books New Zealand Ferns (148 Varieties) 1880, 1882, 1892 and background, the cyanotypes of Anna Atkins

 

Herbert Dobbie, a railway station master and amateur botanist who emigrated to New Zealand from England in 1875, made cyanotype contact prints of specimens of all 148 known species of fern in his new country in 1880 and sold them in album form. Dobbie was responding to a fashion for collecting and displaying ferns among his local audience, a fashion driven in part by a nostalgia for a pre-modern style of life and in part by a developing nationalism. The end result is a group of images that hover somewhere between science and art, between popular aesthetic enjoyment and commercial profit.

 

Anna Atkins (UK) 'Untitled' (from the disassembled album 'Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns') c. 1854

 

Anna Atkins (UK)
Untitled (from the disassembled album Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns)
c. 1854
Cyanotype photographs

 

The English photographer Anna Atkins issued albums of cyanotype prints of seaweed and algae from 1843, and these are often regarded as the earliest photographic books.

In the 1850s, Atkins collaborated with her friend Anne Dixon to produce at least three presentation albums of cyanotype contact prints, including Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns (1853) and Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns (1854). These albums included examples from places like Jamaica, New Zealand and Australia – a reminder that, for an English observer, all these places were but an extension of home, a part of the British Empire. These cyanotypes look as if they were made yesterday, offering a trace from the past that nevertheless always remains contemporary.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) 'Lace' c. 1845

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (UK, 1800-1877)
Floral patterned lace
c. 1845
Salted paper print
23.0 x 18.8 cm (irregular)

 

During the 1850s, William Henry Fox Talbot focused his energies on the invention of a way of producing photographic engravings on metal plates, so that permanent ink on paper imprints could be taken from them. In April 1858, having found a way to introduce an aquatint ground to the process, he filed a patent for a system which he called photoglyphic engraving.

Talbot described his invention in terms of an ability to make accurate photographic impressions without a camera: “The objects most easily and successfully engraved are those which can be placed in contact with the metallic plate, – such as the leaf of fern, the light feathery flowers of a grass, a piece of lace, etc. In such cases the engraving is precisely like the object; so that it would almost seem to any one, before the process was explained to him, as if the shadow of the object had itself corroded the metal, – so true is the engraving to the object.”

This photograph was made using the calotype process, patented in 1841 by its inventor, the English gentleman William Henry Fox Talbot. The increased exposure speeds allowed by the process made it easier to print positive photographs from a negative image, so that multiple versions of that image could be produced. In this case, a positive photograph has been made from a contact print of a piece of lace.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery featuring Len Lye’s cameraless photographic portraits

 

Len Lye (NZ) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1947

 

Len Lye (NZ)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1947
Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation Collection
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre

 

Len Lye (NZ) 'Le Corbusier' 1947

 

Len Lye (NZ)
Le Corbusier
1947
Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation Collection and Archive
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre

 

Lye’s subjects included notable artists such as Joan Miró, Hans Richter, and Georgia O’Keeffe (who brought some deer antlers to the shoot), the architect Le Corbusier, the jazz musician Baby Dodds, the scientist Nina Bull, and the writer W. H. Auden. But they also included a baby and a young woman who remain unnamed; Lye’s new partner, Ann Hindle; and Albert Bishop, a plumber who had come by to do some repairs. (Referencing the history of “silhouette” art)

 

Len Lye (NZ) 'Marks and Spencer in a Japanese Garden (Pond People)' 1930

 

Len Lye (NZ)
Marks and Spencer in a Japanese Garden (Pond People)
1930
Courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation Collection and Archive
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre

 

Len Lye’s earliest cameraless photographs were made around 1930 as he settled into the London art scene and before he emerged as a leading figure in experimental cinema. His practice was eclectic during this period. He exhibited paintings, batiks, photographs and sculpture as part of the Seven and Five Society, Britain’s leading avant-garde group. During a visit to Mallorca with his friends Robert Graves and Laura Riding, Lye made a number of photograms with plasticine and cellophane shapes arranged over the photographic paper. Two of these, Self-Planting at Night (Night Tree) and Watershed, were exhibited in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery featuring James Cant’s Six Signed Artist’s Prints 1948

 

James Cant (Australia) 'The struggle for life' 1948

 

James Cant (Australia)
The struggle for life
1948
Cliché verre print (cyanotype blueprint from one hand-drawn glass plate)
35 x 29.6 cm sheet

 

A number of Australian artists, some working in Melbourne and some in London, issued prints in the 1940s and early 50s using architectural blueprint (or cyanotype) paper, perhaps because, during the deprivations that attended the aftermath of World War Two, it was a cheap and available material for this purpose. James Cant, an artist interested in both Surrealism and Australian Aboriginal art, brought the two together in his designs for a portfolio of Six Signed Artist’s Prints that he issued in a print run of 150 in 1948. Each image was painted on a sheet of glass and then this glass was contact printed onto the blueprint paper to create a photograph.

In August 1834, while resident in Geneva, William Henry Fox Talbot had a friend make some drawings on sheets of varnished glass exposed to smoke, using an engraver’s needle to scratch through this darkened surface. The procedure came to be known as cliché verre.

 

Kilian Breier. 'Kilian Breier: Fotografik 1953-1990' 1991 (cover)

 

Kilian Breier
Kilian Breier: Fotografik 1953-1990 (cover)
1991

 

The German artist Kilian Breier began making abstract photographs in the 1950s, some by folding his photographic paper and others by allowing rivulets of developer to flow across and stain it. A 1991 exhibition catalogue, Kilian Breier: Fotografik 1953-1990, gave the artist an opportunity to make a provocative gesture in line with his dedication to the self-generated image; he included in it a loose unfixed piece of signed photographic paper that continues to develop every time it is exposed to light. It therefore inhabits the book that protects it like a ghost, unable to be seen but nonetheless always present.

 

Max Dupain (Australia) 'Untitled rayograph [with water]' 1936

 

Max Dupain (Australia)
Untitled rayograph [with water]
1936
Gelatin silver photograph

 

The Australian modernist photographer Max Dupain was a great admirer of the work of Man Ray. In 1935 Dupain reviewed a book of the American’s photographs for The Home magazine in Sydney, declaring that “He is alone. A pioneer of the 20th century who has crystallised a new experience in light and chemistry.” With this book as his inspiration, Dupain himself made a number of experimental cameraless photographs in the later 1930s.

 

Běla Kolářová (Czechoslovakia) 'Pecky broskve' (z 'cyklu' Stopy) 'Peach Stones' (From 'Traces' series) 1961

 

Běla Kolářová (Czechoslovakia)
Pecky broskve (z cyklu Stopy)
Peach Stones
(From Traces series)
1961
Gelatin silver photograph from an artificial negative

 

Taking up photography in 1956 during the Cold War, the Czech artist Běla Kolářová wrote about the need to photograph things normally beneath the notice of photography, the negligible detritus of everyday life. Her initial experiments along these lines involved the making of prints from what she called “artificial negatives.” Collecting all sorts of discarded items (onion peels, peach pits), she either placed her scraps directly on celluloid or embedded them in a layer of paraffin, projecting the resulting image onto bromide paper using an enlarger. Kolářová also began to produce photographic images by placing her light-sensitive paper on a record turntable, rotating it at varying speeds, and allowing the light to produce a series of overlapping and wavy concentric circles.

 

Installation view of György Kepes

 

Installation view of
György Kepes (Hungary/Germany/US)
Black, great and white light composition, 1949
Black and white calligraphy, 1951
Fluid patterns, 1938
(Calligraphic light), 1948
Optical transformation, 1938
Hieroglyphic body, 1942
(Magnetic pattern), 1938
Gelatin silver photographs (printed c. 1977)

 

The Hungarian-born artist György Kepes moved to the United States in the late 1930s, where he published a series of interdisciplinary books concerned with the “language of vision.” Informed by his study of psychological theory, Kepes particularly favoured the cameraless photograph as offering a kind of universal language, stressing the need for images that combined “transparency and interpenetration… the order of our time is to knead together the scientific and technical knowledge required, into an integrated whole on the biological and social plane.” Even when they appear to be abstractions, Kepes’s own photograms were intended as an expression of the interdependence of natural and manmade structures and as an advocacy for the interrelationship of art, science, and technology.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the work of Herbert Matter (left), Chargesheimer (centre), and Roger Catherineau (right)

 

Herbert Matter (Switzerland/France/US) 'Untitled' c. 1939-43

 

Herbert Matter (Switzerland/France/US)
Untitled
c. 1939-43
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Born in Switzerland, Herbert Matter studied with Fernand Léger in Paris before working there and in Switzerland as a graphic designer, incorporating photographic images into his many posters. In 1935 he moved to the United States, involving himself in the design and art world he found there, with a special interest in the work of abstract painters. He produced a number of experimental photographs in this period, deliberately designed to break with what he called “the chains of documentation.” These included a calligraphic image made in 1944 by tracing brush strokes on a wet emulsion plate charged by an electrical current and a series of sinuous, painterly photographs, perhaps made by pouring chemicals on sheets of glass already marked with a resist and then printing from them.

 

 

Chargesheimer (Germany) 'Scenarium' 1961

 

Chargesheimer (Germany)
Scenarium
1961
Gelatin silver chemigram

 

In 1961, the German artist Karl-Heinz Hargesheimer, who went by the single name of Chargesheimer, published a limited-edition book titled Lichtgrafik [Light Graphic]. He described the ten unique prints gathered in it as photochemische Malereien or “photo-chemical paintings,” inducing their strange combinations of gestural calligraphic marks and organic-looking surface using only developer and fixer on gelatin silver photographic paper.

 

Roger Catherineau (France) 'Photogramme' 1957

 

Roger Catherineau (France)
Photogramme
1957
Gelatin silver photograph

 

Starting in the 1950s, French artist Roger Catherineau drew on his interest in sculpture and dance to produce sinuous, layered photograms that look more like graphics than paintings. Their ambiguous depths were made even more elusive by the addition of coloured inks to their surfaces.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at left, Marco Breuer and at right, Lynn Cazabon

 

Installation view of Danica Chappell (Australia) 'Slippery Image #1' 2014-15 'Slippery Image #2' 2014-15 and 'Traversing Edges & Corners (Orange #9)' 2014 'Traversing Edges & Corners (Orange #10)' 2014 tintype

 

Installation view of
Danica Chappell (Australia)
Slippery Image #1, 2014-15
Slippery Image #2, 2014-15
Daguerreotype

Danica Chappell (Australia)
Traversing Edges & Corners (Orange #9), 2014
Traversing Edges & Corners (Orange #10), 2014
Tintype

 

The work of Australian artist Danica Chappell brings together the formal experiments of early modernist avant-garde groups, such as the Russian Constructivists and the German Bauhaus, with some of photography’s earliest techniques, resulting in geometrically patterned daguerreotypes and tintypes. These patterns of light and shadow animate the surface of Chappell’s metallic photographs, while also recording her work in the darkroom, her negotiation of radiation, object, body and time.

 

Installation view of Lynn Cazabon (US) 'Diluvian' 2010-13

 

Installation view of
Lynn Cazabon (US)
Diluvian
2010-13
40 unique silver gelatin solar photographs

 

Diluvian, by American artist Lynn Cazabon, comprises a grid of unique contact prints, with their imagery and the means of its production both being directly generated by the work’s subject matter. Embedded in a simulated waste dump, covered with discarded cell phones and computer parts as well as organic material, expired sheets of gelatin silver paper were sprayed with baking soda, vinegar and water, sandwiched under a heavy sheet of glass, and left in direct sunlight for up to six hours, four prints at a time. The chemical reactions that ensued left visual traces – initially vividly coloured and then gradually fading when fixed – of our society’s flood of toxic consumer items, produced by the decomposing after-effects of those very items.

 

Installation view of works by Marco Breuer

 

Installation view of
Marco Breuer (Germany/US)
Untitled (C-1378), 2013
Untitled (C-1598), 2014
Chromogenic paper, embossed/burned/scraped

Marco Breuer (Germany/US)
Untitled (C-1526), 2014
Chromogenic paper, burned/scraped

Marco Breuer (Germany/US)
Untitled (C-1338), 2013
Chromogenic paper, burned

 

By folding, scoring, burning, scouring, abrading, and/or striking his pieces of photographic paper, German-born, US-based artist Marco Breuer coaxes a wide range of colours, markings and textures from his chosen material. Both touched and tactile, Breuer’s photographs have become surrogate bodies, demonstrating the same fragility and relationship to violence as any other organism. And like any other body, they also bear the marks of time, not of a single instant from the past, like most photographs, but rather of a duration of actions that have left accumulated scars.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery with at centre, the work of Anne Noble

 

Anne Noble (New Zealand) 'Bruissement: Bee Wing Photograms #10' 2015

 

Anne Noble (New Zealand)
BruissementBee Wing Photograms #10
2015
Pigment print on Canson baryta paper
320 x 110 cm
Courtesy of the artist, Wellington

 

In recent times, the New Zealand artist Anne Noble has made a number of works that address the calamitous collapse of the global honeybee population. In these two cameraless photographs, cascading vertically down the wall like Chinese scroll paintings, we get to see the imprint of thousands of detached bee wings, their determined hum stilled by disease, human interference and a toxic ecology. The haunting beauty of these delicate traceries and strange shadows is also a warning. A beekeeper herself, Noble looks at bees as a living system under stress but also as a model for our own society; as she says, “what is happening to the bees we are likely doing to ourselves.”

 

Installation view of works by Alison Rossiter

Installation view of works by Alison Rossiter

 

Installation views of
Alison Rossiter
(US)
Agfa Cykora, expired January 1942, processed 2013
Eastman Kodak Velox, expired March 1919a, processed 2014
Eastman Kodak Medalist E2, expired September 1956, processed 2010
Eastman Kodak Velox, expired March 1919b, processed 2014
Eastman Kodak PMC No.11, expired September 1937, processed 2013
Defender Argo, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1910, processed 2013
Velox T4, expiry date October 1, 1940, processed 2008
Unique gelatin silver photographs

 

Since 2007, American photographic artist Alison Rossiter has been buying old expired packets of unexposed film at auction or on the internet, some of them dating from as early as 1900. She then develops these sheets in her darkroom with no further exposure to light, never quite sure what the resulting object-image will look like. The one inscribed Velox T4, expiry date October 1, 1940, for example, was developed in 2008, and displays a Mark Rothko-like grid of pale impressions on a dark ground. These are the chemical traces left behind by the wrapping paper that once protected it from light. We’re looking, then, at an exposure – to chemicals as well as to leaked light – of approximately seventy years.

 

Installation view works by Matt Higgins

 

Installation view of
Matt Higgins (Australia)
Untitled 134-5, 2014
Untitled 254-5, 2014
Untitled 287-5, 2014
Untitled 292-5, 2014
Unique chemigram on gelatin silver photographic paper

 

Australian artist Matt Higgins makes what are called ‘chemigrams,’ created by the interplay of various manual and chemical processes on a single sheet of photographic paper or film. Higgins also uses resists to help create his patterned surfaces, from soft organic substances such as apple syrup to industrial compounds such as epoxy enamel. He thereby returns photography to its historical roots: the desire to coax images from a chemical reaction to light.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph' at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

 

 

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre
Queen St, New Plymouth, New Zealand
Phone: +64 6 759 6060
Email: info@govettbrewster.com

Opening hours:
Wednesday, Friday – Monday
10am – 6pm
Thursday 10am – 9pm

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre website

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25
Jun
16

Exhibition: ‘Brett Weston: Significant Details’ at Pasadena Museum of California Art

Exhibition dates: 17th April – 11th September 2016

Curator: Erin Aitali, PMCA Director of Exhibitions and Registrar

 

 

If your subject is essentially unrecognizable – a defining characteristic of many of Weston’s photographs – devoid of sentimentality, featuring an explosion of geometry as a form of Western expressionism, able to extract the microcosm from the macrocosm through an absence of human presence and apparent narrative – then your previsualisation must be spot on otherwise you loose clear focus as to just what it is you are trying to communicate. It’s all very well being obsessed with capturing the intricacies and rhythms of form, light and shadow, visual poetry in photography, but if that obsession has no ‘feeling’ outcome then you are doomed to failure.

Imagine (if you can) that master of documentary realism Eugène Atget placing his camera in just the wrong position for one of his photographs. The tripod just a little too low, the position a metre to the left of where it should have been. The resulting image would not feel like an Atget, the angles would not feel right, the mixture of objective and subjective would not be present, the magic of his photographs – recognisably his photographs – would be missing. What Atget does so convincingly is to combine the aesthetic with the documentary or representational. As G.H. Saxon Mills observes in his essay ‘Modern photography’ ‘”modern” photography means photography whose aim is partly or wholly aesthetic, as opposed to photography which is merely documentary or representational.’ Atget proves that both were possible within the same frame.

This is not the case with the photographs by Brett Weston in this posting. Although I have commented elsewhere on this website that, “Brett Weston’s pictures are ageing well – the decorative aesthetic seems to have more currency today than previously when the values of his father were predominant,” and admired the reductive minimalism of his photographs … this is not the case with these ‘significant details’. In this instance they are just representation, poor relations to the photographs of Minor White and Aaron Siskind. I think that the best of his work is very fine – a sort of celebration of all that had gone before with a layer of super-fineness added. However he made many images that were a bit like a preacher rather than an artist. In some of his portfolios the choice of images is just plain weird, catering to the market rather than takng the chance to make a powerful statement. And photography aficionados remain unconvinced by his work, shying away from collecting it. Perhaps they know, or feel a lack of something, some spirit or other, or a seeming unevenness in the quality of his artistic production.

Perhaps it is his printing, which is a bit “Kodak meets EW” in the darkroom (even as his father entrusted him with printing some of his negatives). Weston achieved his good results because he was a careful craftsman, not an experimenter. Someone, I forget who, said that you never looked at his work when desperate for sustenance – and I think a lot of “connoisseurs” think that – and in a Brett Weston you can too often argue yourself out of the celebration. There is a certain dourness that is hard to overcome. I challenge you, now, to say one meaningful good thing about any of the images presented here. They take you nowhere. They are either too tightly cropped (that lack of true previsualisation / placing the camera in the wrong position / lack of context) or rely on pattern and representation, and only that, to do the heavy lifting.

My feeling about his work is that he saw and felt many great things that he used in his work – but at the final hurdle, his implementation was always handled a little directly, or not a well as might have been… or is sometimes absent. Perhaps it’s just his viewpoint which seems to be too limited in a psychological sense. If Atget had photographed the city without those magnificent tripod positions and understanding of space, then they would have been dead. That’s how BW’s work sometimes feels. Instead of the space feeling larger than the camera can contain, on occasions his photographs feel enclosed and stilted.

Weston said, “There are a million choices for shot. At its simplest, photography is very complex. So I try to keep it simple and focus on things I can master.”

Sometimes, keeping things simple does not result in preternatural outcomes.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

“My father was driven and so am I. You’re ruthless. You brush off your friends and women. He was much kinder than me. I don’t verbalize well and I don’t socialize much. Too time consuming. And I’m not a good salesman of my work. I love people, but they can be a drain. Some are stimulating; some are leeches. So I seek people on my own terms. Most artists are loners. I guess they have to be.”

.
Brett Weston

 

“Weston isn’t really a nature photographer… He was obsessed with capturing the intricacies and rhythms of form, light and shadow. Weston is as fascinated by close-ups of the exfoliating bark of a bristlecone pine or the spikes of a Joshua Tree as he is with the visual poetry of peeling paint on the side-panel of a rusted out truck.”

.
Jeffrey St. Clair

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brett Weston: Significant Details' at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brett Weston: Significant Details' at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brett Weston: Significant Details' at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Brett Weston: Significant Details at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Photos: © 2016 Don Milici

 

 

“Although Brett Weston (1911-1993) is best known for his striking scenic photographs, the majority of his work ranges from middle-distance scenes to close-up abstractions. These concentrated images share the high-contrast and graphic qualities of Weston’s panoramas while emphasizing his affinity for “significant details” and the unprecedented attention to form, texture, shadow, and light that he explored throughout his nearly-seventy-year career.

Weston took up photography at the age of fourteen. Although he received basic technical instruction from his father, renowned photographer Edward Weston, Brett’s early efforts owed much to his intuition and innate eye. His elemental talent coupled with an unflagging commitment to his photographic vision – often at the expense of personal relationships and fiscal well-being – carried him from early critical acclaim, through difficult periods, to eventual financial success within his own lifetime.

By the age of twenty-five, Weston’s photographs were included in significant exhibitions both nationally and internationally, but despite early recognitition he served as a WPA photographer during the Great Depression and as a Signal Corps photographer during World War II. By neccessity, he also worked intermittently in the first half of his career as an industrial and portrait photographer. However, when he achieved prosperity beginning in the 1970s, he devoted himself exclusively to the photography and intercontinental expeditions that fulfilled him. His initial interest in abstracted details continually revealed itself, especially once he began using a new, smaller camera after health problems in the late 1960s forced him to abandon the bulky equipment he had used for over thirty years.

Early and continuing critical success notwithstanding, following Brett’s death, the comparison to his famed father left the younger Weston on the wrong side of a narrowing modern canon of photography. Reaffirming Weston’s legacy and his exceptional contributions to modernist photography, these uncharted, close-up images – more than half of which are on view for the first time – demonstrate the major themes present in Weston’s work: a focus on natural and urban landscapes and the objects therein, the absence of human presence and apparent narrative, and an extraordinary ability to extract the microcosm from the macrocosm.”

Introduction text from the exhibition

 

Brett Weston. 'Untitled (Worm Wood, California)' c. 1937 (printed c. 1970)

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Worm Wood, California
c. 1937 (printed c. 1970)
Silver gelatin print
10 1/2 x 13 3/4 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

Although Weston’s wife Cicely provided the couple with a steady income, she became pregnant with the pair’s first (and only) child in 1937, providing Weston impetus to generate additional means of support. Hoping to replicate the financial success of Ansel Adams’s portfolio of limited edition original photographs, Weston produced one of his own. His first portfolio San Francisco (1937) consisted of twelve 8 x 10 original prints. Unlike the photograph Staircase, San Francisco (1928) included in this exhibition, the portfolio photos were panoramic vistas. However, without the robust support of a collector like Albert Bender, who both promoted and purchased enough of Adams’s portfolios to assure commercial success, Weston didn’t profit from his portfolio. He lacked not only the promotional skills and collector base but also refused gallery sales owing to his deep distrust and outrage at their commissions.

 

Brett Weston. 'Wood' 1972

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Wood
1972
Silver gelatin print
7 1/2 x 8 5/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

“One of the most celebrated and prolific photographers of the twentieth century, Brett Weston (1911-1993) is best known for his striking scenic images, yet the bulk of his work ranges from middle-distance scenes to closeup abstractions. The Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) is proud to present Brett Weston: Significant Details, the first museum exhibition to focus on Weston’s close-up photography. The works – over half of which are on view for the first time – share the high-contrast and graphic qualities of Weston’s panoramic photographs while emphasizing the “significant details,” the tendency toward abstraction and extremes in tonality that Weston explored through his nearly 60-year career. The exhibition further contextualizes Weston within the pivotal Group f/64 and highlights how intuition and a dedication to photography in its purest form guided his practice.

Although the teaching of his father, famed modernist photographer Edward Weston, was invaluable and his influence undeniable, Weston’s practice was largely shaped by instinct and informal training. He took up photography at the age of 14 when, on an extended trip to Mexico with his father, he started photographing the crew of the SS Oaxaca with the elder Weston’s Graflex camera. This trip also coincided with the end of his formal education; he was enrolled at an English-speaking school, but dropped out within two weeks. While in Mexico, Weston became part of the modernist mileu, socializing with and viewing the work of some of the greatest artists of the time, including David Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, and José Clemente Orozco.

Weston’s professional entry into the world of photography occurred during a shift from the East Coast Pictorialists and their accentuation of romantic effects to the West Coast photographic movement, which coalesced with Group f/64 and their sharp images that captured daily life. Like the members of Group f/64, which included Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, Brett Weston focused primarily on two types of images: close-ups and the scenic view. However, Weston’s approach was distinct, tending toward highly graphic images, with intense areas of dark and highlights, rather than midgray tones used by many, including his father.

By the age of 25, Weston’s work had been included in the landmark international photography exhibition Film und Foto and in a solo exhibition at the M. H. de Young Museum in San Francisco. Though he received critical acclaim and  his reputation grew, Weston remained dedicated to art for art’s sake and to creating pure, elemental photographs. He was a simple man and used the same equipment for most of his career. However, when health problems forced him to switch to a smaller camera – the Rollei – in 1968, he further experimented with close-up photographs, and his work became even more intent on exploring specific details and abstract qualities. In Torn Leaf, Hawaii (1978, below), for example, the brittle, curling leaf appears monumental on a black ground. It exists as a singular object, not fully contained within the composition, and the size is indeterminable without context.

The uncharted, close-up images that are the focus of Significant Details demonstrate the major themes present in Weston’s work: a play on scale, the absence of the human presence, and a refrain from imposed order. This exhibition features approximately 40 works taken over a period of 55 years, ranging from 1929 to 1984, and brings to the forefront the unprecedented attention to form, texture, shadow, and light that was the distinctive characteristic of Weston’s oeuvre.”

Press release from the Pasadena Museum of California Art

 

Brett Weston. 'Wall, Europe' 1971

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Wall, Europe
1971
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

In 1971 Brett returned to Europe for the third time. While there, he captured both abstract images, like this one, and panoramas. Notably, this trip resulted in the photograph of Holland Canal, which Weston grew to hate, despite its commercial success or perhaps because of it, “I’m so sick of the thing but people love it. I could retire on sales of this print alone. I’d hate to tell you how many of these I’ve printed.” Although this scenic print wasn’t the legacy Weston desired for himself, it led to an overall increased attention from collectors interested in his work, including his abstractions.

 

Brett Weston. 'Untitled (Cracked Mud, High Sierra, California)' 1960

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Cracked Mud, High Sierra, California
1960
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Direct evidence of human presence was rare in Weston’s photos. But here, two playful sets of handprints on the mud provide scale, which would otherwise be indeterminable in the image.

 

Brett Weston. 'Electrical Towers, Metal' c. 1975

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Electrical Towers, Metal
c. 1975
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

Brett Weston: Significant Details

Brett Weston, born in 1911 in Tropico, CA (now Glendale), took up photography at the age of fourteen while on an extended trip to Mexico with his father, famed photographer Edward Weston. In Mexico for just over a year, his time there was pivotal in many ways, not only marking the start of his photography career, but also the end of his formal education. His father allowed him to drop out of the international school after two short weeks and provided the younger Weston with basic instructions in photography. Still, Brett relied heavily on his innate sensibilities toward form and tonality, evident in Tin Roof, Mexico, an early photograph from 1926 featuring a cropped view of a jagged roofline with dramatic dark shadows splitting the image. Weston also benefited from a social education of sorts. Through connections of his father’s mistress, photographer Tina Modotti, Weston became a part of the Mexican modernist milieu, socializing with and viewing the work of some of the greatest artists of the time, including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

During his nearly-seventy-year career, Weston’s talent and unique vision developed into two related types of works, panoramic landscapes and abstracted close-ups. The image most associated with Weston was and probably still is Holland Canal from 1971. The photograph of a tree-lined canal with still water reflecting a flawless image of the surrounding landscape is sensual and magnificently balanced. However, the photographer bemoaned his connection to this particular work and its extreme popularity saying, “I’m so sick of the thing, but people love it.” Although this print and other panoramic images, such as Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska (1973), came to typify his work in the public’s mind, the bulk of Weston’s photographs range from middle-distance scenes to close-ups, which became increasingly abstract beginning in the 1950s. Brett Weston: Significant Details focuses on the close-up works that epitomize his unique and unwavering vision. These images share the high-contrast and graphic qualities of Weston’s well-known scenic photographs while emphasizing what the photography historian Beaumont Newhall characterized as his affinity for “significant details.” Weston applied this penchant for details to natural and urban environments alike. Another early image, Stairway, Grandview Park, San Francisco from 1928, offers a fragmented view of a San Francisco stairwell. Without context, the unpopulated image’s narrative possibilities are limited; instead, the emphasis is on the orderly, graphic form of the staircase.

From the beginning of his career, Weston’s work was celebrated by institutions and peers. The year following Stairway, Weston’s work was included in the landmark 1929 German photography exhibition Film und Foto, and the early 1930s saw his association with Group f/64, a distinctly West Coast movement of “straight” photographers (as opposed to the East Coast Pictorialist tradition, which was waning at this time) that comprised Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, and others. Brett’s work appeared in their 1932 inaugural exhibition at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. The following year, both San Francisco Stairway and Tin Roofs (presumably the same works discussed in this essay) were included with forty-three other photographs in a solo exhibition at the de Young.

Although Weston saw early success with his work included in major exhibitions, this did not translate into a steady income. Like most artists during the Great Depression, the Federal Art Project – a branch of the Works Progress Administration – employed Weston, first as a sculptor and then later as a photographer. He quit the FAP in December of 1936 after about two and half years because he had no passion for the documentary nature of the work and it impinged upon time for his personal projects, something that he could not bear for long. Throughout the thirties and forties, he worked intermittently – and discontentedly – as a portrait and industrial photographer to stave off poverty and support his daughter who was born in 1938. In complete contrast to the realistic, documentary style of his FAP and commissioned works, an untitled photograph from 1937 is an extreme close-up of paint that is almost organic in appearance, with leaf-like veins in the upper portion of the image. The subject is essentially unrecognizable, which is a defining characteristic of many of Weston’s photographs.

The slim Depression years segued into the tumultuousness of World War II, during which Weston served in the US Army before a much-requested transfer to the US Signal Corps stationed him to work as a photographer in New York. At the end of the war, when Brett returned to Carmel, CA, where the Weston family had made their long-time home, he found his father beginning to show marked symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which would increasingly debilitate the elder Weston in the last decade of his life. Before Edward’s death in 1958, he enlisted his sons Brett and Cole and a small group of trusted assistants to secure his lasting legacy by making thousands of prints under his supervision. In addition to printing work for his father, during this time, Brett also worked on his Guggenheim fellowship project and his second and third portfolios, White Sands (1949) and New York (1954).

Besides photographing the beaches of Carmel, one of which was dubbed “Weston Beach,” Brett also traveled up and down the California coast countless times over the decades. He repeatedly returned to capture the dunes of Oceano, and these images range from sweeping vistas to striking abstractions. An image from 1952, Dune, Oceano, although not technically a detail, falls into the latter category. The dunes appear wave-like and swirling, and a dark, somewhat-menacing shadow at the centre – similar to the roofline image taken in Mexico – provides graphic force. Jellyfish, California, another beach image, taken in 1967, is a close-up of one of the bulbous marine animals washed ashore. In contrast to the ethereal and weightless appearance jellyfish take underwater, it looks monumental and grotesquely beautiful. The curving form expands beyond the picture’s boundaries and in place of luminescence is a gradation of pure white reflections to jet-black striated patterns on the bell.

Although the tendency to work close-up had always been present in Weston’s work, it became much more pronounced and obvious after health issues necessitated a change in camera equipment. For over thirty years, Weston worked with a large format 8 x 10 camera and preferred contact prints (versus enlarging from smaller negatives). However, a heart attack  in 1967 and an ongoing battle with angina forced Weston to switch to a smaller camera because he could no longer manage the bulky equipment. In 1968, he began using the Rollei SL-66 almost exclusively. The camera used roll film that produced small, square negatives and allowed the artist to work close-up with ease. As a result, his work became even more intent on exploring specific elements and abstract qualities. Sand and Kelp from around 1970 is a lyrical example of this. Individual grains of sand are visible and marked by traces of implied movement, both in the dancing shadows of the kelp and the trailing patterns lightly indented into the surface.

While Weston had traveled steadily and as often as he could afford to in his younger years – expeditions that included Europe, Japan, the Pacific Northwest, Baja California, and Mexico – his later years were spent primarily in Hawaii. The tropical climate was beneficial for his health, and the varied terrain provided limitless visual appeal. In 1979, the photographer purchased land there on the slopes of a volcanic mountain. He became especially engrossed with the lava formations and the verdant and spectacular plant life, which he photographed until his death in 1993.

Weston achieved, within his lifetime, the recognition and financial comforts of a highly esteemed photographer. Even so, following his death, Brett’s reputation was eclipsed in favor of his father, due in part to the notion that there wasn’t room for two Westons in the canon of modernist photography. The 2008 exhibition Out of the Shadow (Oklahoma City Museum of Art and The Phillips Collection) and his biography A Restless Eye (2011) have begun to remedy this situation. Significant Details furthers that work by centering on the uncharted, closeup images that characterize Weston’s innate and distinctive eye. These photographs reveal the major themes present in his oeuvre: a focus on natural and urban landscapes and the objects therein, the absence of human presence and apparent narrative, and an extraordinary ability to extract the microcosm from the macrocosm.

Erin Aitali, Director of Exhibitions and Registrar

 

Brett Weston. 'Broken Glass, California' 1954

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Broken Glass, California
1954
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Brett Weston. 'Torn Leaf, Hawaii' 1978

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Torn Leaf, Hawaii
1978
Silver gelatin print
10 3/4 x 12 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Brett Weston. 'Jellyfish, California' 1967

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Jellyfish, California
1967
Silver gelatin print
7 5/8 x 9 5/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Brett Weston. 'Cracked Paint' 1937 (printed later)

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Cracked Paint
1937 (printed later)
Silver gelatin print
12 1/2 x 10 1/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

Like Broken Glass, California (1954, above), this image of cracked paint is an extreme close-up to the point that the subject is indistinguishable. Instead pure form becomes the focus. This intense focus also characterizes Weston’s approach to life; he prioritized his photography above all else, often at the expense of both financial stability and personal relationships (he was married four times and had countless lovers).

In 1937 Weston was living with his first wife, Cicely, in San Francisco who was employed as a violinist in the WPA symphony. Weston had recently quit the WPA because, as he explained in a letter to his father in December 1936, “It has been a good thing in many ways but after 2 1/2 years I feel that I have had enough experience of this kind. I feared it was beginning to tell on me as well as my work. I would rather divorce, starve, anything, than have this happen. The actual work I’ve been doing for the work program has been child’s play but the sacrifice of one’s priceless days… has become too much.”

 

Brett Weston. 'Snow' 1954

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Snow
1954
Silver gelatin print
9 1/2 x 7 5/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

Pasadena Museum of California Art
490 East Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91101
Tel: (626) 568-3665

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 12.00 – 5.00pm
Third Thursday of each month 12.00 – 8. 00pm
Closed Monday, Tuesday, July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

Pasadena Museum of California Art website

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22
Jun
16

Exhibition: ‘RealSurreal. Masterpieces of Avant-Garde Photography’ at Museum Bellerive, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 1st April 2016 – 24th July 2016

 

I loved putting the Florence Henri and the skull together. Too exhausted after a long day at work to say much else!

Marcus

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

 

 

“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak.”

.
André Breton

 

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch. 'Self portrait' 1926/27

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch
Self portrait
1926/27
Gelatin silver paper
16.9 x 22.8 cm
Foto: Christian P. Schmieder, München
© Albert Renger Patzsch Archiv / Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Köln / 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich

 

František Drtikol. 'Circular segment (arch)' 1928

 

František Drtikol
Kreissegment [Bogen] / Circular segment (arch)
1928
Pigment print
21.3 x 28.7 cm
Foto: Christian P. Schmieder, München
© František Drtikol – heirs, 2015

 

Brassaï. 'Occasional magic (Germinating potato)' 1931

 

Brassaï
Gelegenheitsmagie (Keimende Kartoffel) / Occasional magic (Germinating potato)
1931
Foto: © ESTATE BRASSAÏ – RMN

 

Grete Stern. 'The Eternal eye / Das Ewige Auge' c. 1950

 

Grete Stern
The Eternal eye / Das Ewige Auge
c. 1950
Photomontage
Gelatin silver paper
39.5 x 39.5 cm
Foto: Christian P. Schmieder, München
© Estate of Grete Stern Courtesy Galeria Jorge Mara – La Ruche, Buenos Aires, 2015

 

Hans Bellmer. 'The Doll / Die Puppe' 1935

 

Hans Bellmer
The Doll / Die Puppe
1935
Gelatin silver paper
17.4 x 17.9 cm
Foto: Christian P. Schmieder, München
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich

 

 

Avant-garde photographs seem like pictures from a dream world. From new kinds of compositions and perspectives to photomontage, technical experiments, and staged scenes, Real Surreal offers a chance to rediscover the range and multifacetedness of photography between the real and the surreal. The exhibition leads the visitor through the Neues Sehen (New Vision) movement in Germany, Surrealism in France, and the avant-garde in Prague. Thanks to rare original prints from renowned photographers between 1920 and 1950, this exhibition offers a chance to see these works in a new light. In addition to some 220 photographs, a selection of historical photography books and magazines as well as rare artists’ books allow visitors to immerse themselves in this new view of the world. Furthermore, examples of films attest to the fruitful exchanges between avant-garde photography and cinema during this time.

An exhibition in cooperation with the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg.

 

Florence Henri. 'Porträtkomposition (Erica Brausen)' 1931

 

Florence Henri
Porträtkomposition (Erica Brausen)
1931
Foto: © Galleria Martini and Ronchetti, Genova, Italy

 

Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Totenschädel / Skull' 1932/33

 

Erwin Blumenfeld
Totenschädel / Skull
1932/33
Foto: © The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

 

Man Ray. 'Electricity' 1931

 

Man Ray
Electricity
1931
Photoengraving
26 x 20.6 cm
Foto: Christian P. Schmieder, München
© Man Ray Trust / 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich

 

Man Ray. 'Rayograph (spiral)' 1923

 

Man Ray
Rayograph (spiral)
1923
Photogram
Gelatin silver paper
26.6 x 21.4 cm
Foto: Christian P. Schmieder, München
© Man Ray Trust / 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich

 

Josef Sudek. 'Gipskopf / Plaster head' c. 1947

 

Josef Sudek
Gipskopf / Plaster head
c. 1947
Foto: © Estate of Josef Sudek

 

Herbert Bayer. 'Einsamer Grossstädter / Lonely city slickers' 1932/1969

 

Herbert Bayer
Einsamer Grossstädter / Lonely city slickers
1932/1969
Photomontage
Gelatin silver paper
35.3 x 28 cm
Foto: Christian P. Schmieder, München
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich

 

Herbert Bayer. 'Self portrait' 1932

 

Herbert Bayer
Self portrait
1932
Photomontage
Gelatin silver paper
35.3 x 27.9 cm
Foto: Christian P. Schmieder, München
© 2015, ProLitteris, Zurich

 

Genia Rubin. 'Lisa Fonssagrives. Robe : Alix (Madame Grès)' 1937

 

Genia Rubin
Lisa Fonssagrives. Robe : Alix (Madame Grès)
1937
Gelatin silver paper
30.3 x 21.5 cm
Foto: Christian P. Schmieder / Sammlung Siegert, München
© Sheherazade Ter-Abramoff, Paris

 

Atelier Manassé. 'Mein Vogerl / My bird' c. 1928

 

Atelier Manassé
Mein Vogerl / My bird
c. 1928
Foto: © IMAGNO/Austrian Archives

 

 

Museum Bellerive
Höschgasse 3, CH-8008 Zürich
Phone: +41 43 446 44 69

Opening hours:
Tue – Sun 10am – 5pm
Thu 10am – 8pm

Museum Bellerive website

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13
May
16

Exhibition: ‘François Kollar. A Working Eye’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 9th February – 22nd May 2016

Curators: Matthieu Rivallin, collections officer, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Paris, and Pia Viewing, curator – researcher at the Jeu de Paume, Paris.

 

 

François Kollar is a magnificent photographer. He produced strong images that possess few histrionics, even less ego. They simply just are.

People quoted in this posting comment that in his photographs “human measure is omnipresent”; that you never loose the sense of scale; that there are “frequent contrasts between near and far, the intimate and the monumental”; that his photographs are “an anthropological investigation into the behaviour, gestures and postures of people at work”; that “Men and women and their functions and roles in the production process are recurrent elements.”

All these statements are true.

Further, his images are sensitive, beautiful, show no traces of any social movements, and little sign of emotion. As Dominique Vautrin observes, “François Kollar is a photographer who resembles his images: somewhat mysterious, beautiful, and discreet…” And as the text from Jeu de Paume states, “He revealed himself to be a temperate photographer, somewhere between the barebones modernism of Bauhaus and a humanist approach to photography.” Other photographers who could fit into this playlist could be Bill Brandt in England, Walker Evans in America and Wolfgang Sievers in Australia.

But what a splendid description – a “temperate photographer”. Showing moderation and self-restraint… there is far too little of that in contemporary photography. A humanist with an avant-garde edge, a photographer whose vision was clear and consistent throughout his oeuvre, who could turn his hand to anything: advertising, fashion, avant-garde, double exposures, solarisation, photomontage, documentary reportage, surrealism, constructivism, modernism.

Joseph Nechvatal comments that Kollar’s work is poignant. This is an incorrect word to describe the work, for the photographs never evoke a keen sense of sadness or regret. They are of a different order altogether. Let me explain.

There is a wonderful stoicism about the people who Kollar chooses to photograph, who inhabit his world of work. The endurance of work without the display of feelings and without complaint. Labour is not represented in any glorified way, not as a noble undertaking, and certainly not heroic (although the worker can be represented as intimate and monumental). The workers are represented as an adjunct to the machine but not in a cyborg fashion. In his photographs there is a distinctness about the worker which sets the human apart from the machine, even as he is “deeply embedded within their functions and roles in the production process.” I don’t believe that people understand this separation, preferring instead to comment on the embedding of the human within machine processes. But something was bothering me when I looked at these images and I have pondered long and hard over how to interpret them. There was something I could not put my finger on and it is this…

In the work of Lewis Hine, the workers are in the present looking to the future. In the work of François Kollar there is no justification for the work it is just work… being there in the present. No ego, no elevation of experience or emotion, and the photographs are just so. Just being in the world. The thing itself. Nothing more, nothing less. It seems simple when you say it like that, but the concept is very complex – to allow the photograph to materialise from consciousness, as a sort of previsualisation of experience – of being a poor, working class immigrant (which Kollar was) picturing his own.

That he achieved such photographs “with his 5 x 7 large-format camera and cumbersome lighting equipment” is a testament to the dedication to his craft, to his work, and to his roots – a connection to the working man and woman. These are honest and forthright photographs of what most humans do for most of their life: work at a job they may not like – to pay the bills, to put food on the table. The lighting is superb, the compositions eloquent, the characters in his images unforgettable (Kollar particularly likes portraits of men shot from below with their arms folded) but it is the balance between the subjective and objective which is so finely honed in his work. The dispationate nature of humans when at work is balanced by the aesthetics of the artist and the humanity of the individual.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

View an interesting video of the exhibition and the work of François Kollar on Vimeo. More photographs from La France travaille.

 

This retrospective features an ensemble of 130 vintage prints, some of which are previously unseen, as well as others from the photographer’s family’s bequest to the state. It puts Kollar’s work in the spotlight and shows how he managed to lift the veil on the working world in the 20th century. As visitors discover the documentary, artistic and historical qualities of the material on show, they will be able to observe how individuals found their place in society by the means of their occupation and realise the profound changes that took place in industry between the 1930s and the 1960s.

 

“Without falling into hammy Socialist Realism style, Kollar rendered French working class heroes in beautiful, discreet, lush black-and-white tones. These images of the working person endow them with qualities of excellence, nobility, and respect, and evoked in me mixed sensations of hard materialistic capability and human tenderness. These images of men and women, such as “Nettoyage des lampes. Société des mines de Lens, Lens (Pas-de-Calais)” (1931-34, below), show people deeply embedded within their functions and roles in the production process. In that sense, they contrast with Dorothea Lange’s famous and beautiful Migrant Mother series and the uninhabited, rigorously stark industrial scenes photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher…

Kollar’s distinctive aesthetic provides a strong, sweet spot amid the sour struggles for employment taking place today in economies shaped by histories of slavery, colonialism, union-busting, sexual exploitation, and corporate capitalism. His artistic style, one that colorlessly abstracts, unifies, and embeds the worker within his or her technological environment, broadens the social politics of employment beyond the heroic human. Rather, he depicts through his unifying, ashen tones the conjunction of laborer and machine. In these photographs, the human worker is bound up with non-human apparatuses in cyborg fashion, depicting a complex technological laborer who is no less real and worthy of our aesthetic delectation.”

.
Joseph Nechvatal. “A Photographer Who Captured Workers Without Romanticizing Them,” on the Hyperallergic website May 4, 2016 [Online] Cited 11/05/2016

 

 

François Kollar. Courtesy Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. Courtesy Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'Porteur de rails. Arles' 1933

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Porteur de rails. Arles
1933
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Nettoyage des lampes. Société des mines de Lens. Lens (Pas-de-Calais)' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Nettoyage des lampes. Société des mines de Lens. Lens (Pas-de-Calais)
Cleaning lamps. The mining company of Lens. Lens (Pas-de-Calais)
1931-1934
From the booklets La France travaille
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
18 x 24 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Construction des grands paquebots, Rivetage de tôles d‘un pont de navire, chantier et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët' 1931-1932

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Construction des grands paquebots, Rivetage de tôles d’un pont de navire, chantier et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët
Construction of large ships, riveting the sheets of a ships deck, site workshops of Saint Nazaire Penhoët
1931-1932
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
28.9 x 23.5 cm.
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Dans le port, à bord. Super Ile de France: cisaillage au chalumeau oxhydrique' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Dans le port, à bord. Super Ile de France: cisaillage au chalumeau oxhydrique. Société des chantiers et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët
In port, on board. Super Ile de France: cutting using the welding torch. Company building sites and workshops of Saint Nazaire Penhoët

1931
Vintage silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Dans le port, à bord. Champlain : grattage du pont' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Dans le port, à bord. Champlain: grattage du pont. Société des chantiers et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët
In port, on board. Champlain: scraping the bridge. Company building sites and workshops of Saint Nazaire Penhoët

1931
Vintage silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Dans le port, à bord. "Negre" soutier, Bordeaux (Gironde)' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Dans le port, à bord. “Negre” soutier, Bordeaux (Gironde)
In port, on board. “Negro” help, Bordeaux (Gironde)
1931
Vintage silver gelatin photograph

 

 

“François Kollar was born in Szenc, Hungary in 1904 (now the Slovakian town of Senec) and died in Créteil, France in 1979. He was first employed on the railways in his native country and then worked as a lathe operator at Renault’s Boulogne-Billancourt factory, before becoming a professional photographer at the age of 24 after gaining solid experience as a studio manager at the Parisian printer’s, Draeger. His in-depth knowledge of the world of work, in sectors as diverse as advertising, fashion, industry, handicrafts and agriculture, allowed him to portray tools, materials and gestures with exceptional professional expertise.

This retrospective features an ensemble of 130 vintage prints, some of which are previously unseen, as well as others from the photographer’s family’s bequest to the state. It puts Kollar’s work in the spotlight and shows how he managed to lift the veil on the working world in the 20th century. As visitors discover the documentary, artistic and historical qualities of the material on show, they will be able to observe how individuals found their place in society by the means of their occupation and realise the profound changes that took place in industry between the 1930s and the 1960s.

In 1930 Kollar got married and set up his own studio in Paris. His wife, who was his first model, worked faithfully by his side throughout his life. He worked for advertising agencies and famous luxury brands and excelled in showcasing the qualities of his models, forms and fabrics thanks to his feeling for light and texture. François Kollar worked with several fashion magazines, notably Harper’s Bazaar for which, over the course of more than fifteen years, he produced many photographic series, particularly images shot on location. Whether he was photographing the period’s fashion celebrities (Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Pierre Balmain) or models and adverts for the major fashion houses (Hermès, Molyneux, Oméga, Christofle and Worth et Coty perfumes…), he experimented with a wide variety of modern photographic techniques, freely creating original compositions using backlighting, double exposures, overprinting and solarisation…

In 1930, after exhibiting at “Das Lichtbild”, an international photography exhibition in Munich alongside Florence Henri, André Kertész, Germaine Krull and Ergy Landau, François Kollar received a major commission from a publishing company, Horizons de France entitled La France travail (1931-1934) that would establish his reputation as one of the period’s greatest industrial reporters. During the war he refused to collaborate with the powers that be during the German occupation and left the public eye, moving with his wife and three children to the Poitou-Charentes region and only returning to photography in 1945 on his return to Paris. In the 1950s and 1960s, Kollar covered numerous industrial subjects in France and abroad.”

Text from the Jeu de Paume website

 

François Kollar. 'La Tour Eiffel' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
La Tour Eiffel (The Eiffel Tower)
1930
Montage of a negative and interpositive, period photomontage
18 x 24 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Aux sources de l‘énergie. Enseignes lumineuses. Paris' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Aux sources de l’énergie. Enseignes lumineuses. Paris
The sources of energy. Neon signs. Paris
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
18 x 24 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Bouche du tunnel Sainte-Catherine, Sotteville-lés-Rouen' 1931-1932

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Bouche du tunnel Sainte-Catherine, Sotteville-lés-Rouen
St. Catherine tunnel mouth, Sotteville-lés-Rouen
1931-1932
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Étude publicitaire pour Magic Phono, portrait de Marie Bell en photomontage' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Étude publicitaire pour Magic Phono, portrait de Marie Bell en photomontage
Advertising study for Magic Photo, Marie Bell portrait photomontage

1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Publicité pour machine à écrire Hermès' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Publicité pour machine à écrire Hermès
Advertising for the Hermes typewriter
1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
30.1 x 23.7 cm.
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Escalier chez Chanel' 1937

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Escalier chez Chanel
Staircase at Chanel

1937
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Gabrielle Chanel' 1938

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Gabrielle Chanel
1938
Silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Le mannequin Muth, Balenciaga' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Le mannequin Muth, Balenciaga
The model Muth, Balenciaga
1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Haute couturière Elsa Schiaparelli in a window of her showroom at 21 Place Vendôme in Paris' 1938

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Haute couturière Elsa Schiaparelli in a window of her showroom at 21 Place Vendôme in Paris
1938
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume

 

 

“The design of the three large exhibition halls, which sometimes suffers from inadequate lighting, is completed by numerous documents (leaflets, magazines, personal albums) and an extensive slide show. The rooms are color-coded: white, blue-grey, and light beige, corresponding to the curators’ pedagogical intention. The beige in the last room is particularly interesting because it nearly blends in with the wooden frames, thereby intensifying the magical black-and-white tones in François Kollar’s work.

In addition to the documentary dimension of his work, the power of this photographer lies in his evocation of a “journey”: hence the exhibition walls are brimming with gems such as Les enseignes lumineuses (“Illuminated signs”, above), La bouche du tunnel (“The entrance of the tunnel”, above), or La fabrique à papier (“Paper factory”), advertisements for Hermès or Chanel (above), and many other photographs which, I have no doubt, will resonate with the visitor.

François Kollar is a photographer who resembles his images: somewhat mysterious, beautiful, and discreet, such as his small picture of a river outside the city of Abidjan. A Working Eye which conveys the nobility of men who, one day, had to travel far from home to earn their living.”

Dominique Vautrin. “Paris : Francois Kollar, A Working Eye,” on The Eye of Photography website February 18, 2016 [Online] Cited 12/05/2016.

 

François Kollar. 'Alsthom: assemblage des volants alternateurs de Kembs. Société Alsthom. Belfort (Territoire de Belfort)' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Alsthom: assemblage des volants alternateurs de Kembs. Société Alsthom. Belfort (Territoire de Belfort)
Alsthom: assembly of alternator flywheels at Kembs. Société Alsthom. Belfort
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Automobiles Renault. D'une main l'ouvrier fait tomber le sable. Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine)' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Automobiles Renault. D’une main l’ouvrier fait tomber le sable. Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine)
Renault automobiles. Using his hand the worker brings down the sand. Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine)
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1931-1934
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

 

LA FRANCE TRAVAILLE, 1931-1934

François Kollar was commissioned by the publishers Horizons de France for a major documentary investigation into the world of work. He took a large number of photos, a part of which were published in a work that has since become famous: La France travaille. This ensemble comprises the main part of the exhibition. The photographer criss-crossed the whole of France, observing the country through the prism of work. Kollar delivered more than 2,000 images covering agricultural and industrial activity in twenty regions of France, including Paris and its suburbs. Horizons de France published La France travaille between 1932 and 1934 in the form of fifteen separate booklets, which are presented in the exhibition in relation to a selection of around sixty prints. The images are organised by theme. Each theme corresponds to a type of raw material used in industry: coal, iron, products of the sea, glass, textiles etc. Slideshows are used to underline the extent of this archive and the variety of photos it contains, as well as analysing it from a contemporary point of view.

The fifteen booklets that comprise La France Travaille constitute “an anthropological investigation into the behaviour, gestures and postures of people at work” (Jean-François Chevrier, ‘La France travaille: les vertus de l’illustration’, Jeu de Paume, Editions de La Martinière). These fifteen volumes touch on the revolutions taking place across the country – factories, hydroelectric installations etc – as well as the place of the workers in these infrastructures. Apart from the recognition that he had earned in the world of fashion and luxury products, it was through his work to fulfil this commission, the most important in France in the 1930s, that Kollar distinguished himself as a photographer and an ‘industrial reporter’.

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'La trieuse reste coquette. Lens, Pas-de-Calais. Société des mines de Lens' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
La trieuse reste coquette. Lens, Pas-de-Calais. Société des mines de Lens
The sorter remains coquette. Lens, Pas-de-Calais. Mining company of Lens
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled [mine worker]' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [mine worker]
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Pêcheurs, femme de pêcheurs Sardinier Breton, Audiernes' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Pêcheurs. Femme de pêcheurs, Sardinier Breton. Audiernes
Fishermen. Woman fishing, sardine canner Breton. Audiernes

1931
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

 

From 1931 to 1934, just before the major protests led by the Popular Front, François Kollar (1904 – 1979) traveled across France meeting its working population. This wide-ranging survey of the working world, which featured 1400 illustrations, was published in 1934 in booklets entitled La France Travaille (France at Work). With his 5 x 7 large-format camera and cumbersome lighting equipment, this Slovak immigrant of humble origins convinced miners, winemakers, boatmen and railroad men to pose for him during their daily routines. The images from La France Travaille, negatives and positives, are preserved at the Bibliothèque Forney and distributed exclusively by the Agence Roger-Viollet. (Text from The Eye of Photography website)

 

François Kollar. 'Le bâtiment. Pose des ardoises. Paris. Entreprise Ch. Lavillauguet' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Le bâtiment. Pose des ardoises. Paris. Entreprise Ch. Lavillauguet
Building. Laying slate. Paris. Company Ch. Lavillaugouet

1931
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Vignerons. Porteurs de bénatons. Bourgogne, Morey-Saint-Denis (Côte- d'Or)' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Vignerons. Porteurs de bénatons. Bourgogne, Morey-Saint-Denis (Côte- d’Or)
Winemakers. Carriers of grapes. Burgundy Morey-Saint-Denis (Côte- d’Or)

1931
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

 

François Kollar’s body of work covers two major periods in photographic history and the history of the 20th century: the 1930s and the 1950s-1960s. This retrospective at the Jeu de Paume is part of a cycle of exhibitions devoted to the emblematic photographers of the period, such as Laure Albin Guillot, André Kertész, Claude Cahun and Germaine Krull. The exhibition gives pride of place to the photographer’s three children’s bequest of negatives, prints, magazines, press cuttings and advertising pamphlets that was accepted by the French state in 1987.

The exhibition is organised chronologically following the photographer’s life and career, starting with his experimentations in the 1930s (self-portraits and photomontages) with his wife and close collaborator, Fernande. Right from the start of his photographic work in the field of advertising and fashion, François Kollar asserted his talent with photo shoots for Oméga, Christofle, Hermès and Worth et Coty perfumes. For many years he worked with such magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, L’Illustration, VUVoilà, Le Figaro Illustré and Plaisir de France. Following his coverage of the transformation of the working world in the 1930s, during the 1950s and 60s industrial reports in French West Africa and in France set the tempo for the later years of his career.

Thanks to his experience as a manual worker in Renault, François Kollar’s photography demonstrates his awareness of the world of industry and industrial spaces. ‘Un ouvrier du regard’ bears witness to his high level of technical expertise, both in the studio and on location and his deep-seated interest for industrial trades. It highlights the wide variety of subjects photographed by François Kollar throughout his career, a variety that is mirrored in the techniques he used, as well as the evolutions in the working world as it transitioned from handicrafts and cottage industries to industrial production.

The central part of the exhibition is devoted to the high point of François Kollar’s career, La France travaille. This commission from the publishing company Horizons de France comprises some fifteen booklets produced between 1931 and 1934. The reports, indexed by sector – from agriculture to the steel industry, including the maritime industry and electricity production – were produced with the aim of showcasing France’s leading companies and the figure of the working man, contributing in this way to idealising the image of men and women at work. Taken as a whole, these reports constitute a unique chronicle in images of the world of work and French society from the beginning of the 1930s up until the 1960s. During this entire period, François Kollar endeavoured to photograph the mechanised world of serial production, standardisation and the rationalisation of production.

Through a play with light, transparency and chiaroscuro effects, as well as compositions that highlighted different textures, François Kollar managed to reveal a sensitive side to industrial landscapes. He revealed himself to be a temperate photographer, somewhere between the barebones modernism of Bauhaus and a humanist approach to photography. At the beginning of his career, François Kollar had immortalised dresses, jewellery and objets d’art for Harper‘s Bazaar in a manner that demonstrated his attention to the gesture and the ‘intelligence of the hand’. Kollar’s work is characterised by an approach that is simultaneously sensitive and distant: sensitive to shape and light in the situations in which objects and human bodies are portrayed; distant because of this lens between him and the general population. The camera’s lens distanced him from the ordinary men and women and their demands, which explains why his work shows no traces of any social movements, although they were frequent at the time (1929 and 1931-1936).

The retrospective provides the means to fully-apprehend the diversity of a photographer who was himself a ‘worker’ (ouvrier) at the service of his clients – whether advertising companies, clients from the world of fashion and the media, or industrialists – but who nevertheless managed to preserve a strong photographic identity and a unique view on his times. Throughout his body of work, François Kollar bears witness to the ideology of progress that drives the capitalist economy, whilst preserving his characteristic objectivity.

First part

The first part of the exhibition features Kollar’s experimental period including self-portraits taken in his Parisian studio, as well as his work for advertising firms and the fashion industry. This section is made up of photos that reflect the spirit of the modern world he lived in and bear witness to Kollar’s desire to develop an experimental and expressive style of photography through an almost playful approach to his models, objects, lighting and composition. Detailed documentary resources enable visitors to understand the context of his advertising work and the photos for the blossoming illustrated magazine sector, which were published in L’Illustration, Vu, Voilà, Art et Médecine and Plaisir de France, amongst others.

Second part

The central part of the exhibition, devoted to La France travaille (1931-1934), features vintage prints and slideshows, as well as archives and publications. This photographic commission constitutes a unique record of the world of work in the 1930s. Kollar photographed every sector of activity: industry, agriculture, aviation, handicrafts, as well as the automobile, maritime and railway industries. Men and women and their functions and roles in the production process are recurrent elements in François Kollar’s images. Published in the form of fifteen themed booklets, printed in photogravure by Editions Horizons de France, Kollar’s photographs were used to illustrate texts by popular authors from the period (Paul Valéry, Pierre Hamp, Lucien Favre…) dealing with the main professions in French industry.

Third part

The third part of the exhibition presents works by Kollar from the period following on from La France travaille, notably fashion photography and commissions for industrial reporting assignments. Thanks to his reputation as a talented advertising photographer, François Kollar was much in demand for portrait work and he notably photographed Coco Chanel, Elisa Schiaparelli and the Duchess of Windsor. Although his collaboration with Harper’s Bazaar came to an end in 1955, Kollar continued to enjoy a successful career in industrial photography. Amongst his numerous photographic series, the Jeu de Paume has chosen to show in particular the 1951 commission from the French State for a report on French West Africa (now Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal), as well as a series of photos showing the workshops of the Union Aéromaritime de Transport. In this way, the exhibition highlights the transformations in the world of work during the 20th century and the place occupied by men and women at a time when the world was in a state of upheaval because of global conflicts, as well as in the midst of rebuilding itself.

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1930

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1930

 

François Kollar. 'Ciel' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Ciel (Sky)
1931
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

François Kollar. 'Fleur d'ail' (Garlic flower) 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Fleur d’ail (Garlic flower)
1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.4 x 22.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled' Nd

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
Nd
Silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled' Nd

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
Nd
Silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

Portrait of François Kollar

 

Portrait of François Kollar

 

 

FRENCH WEST AFRICA (A.O. F.) COMMISSION ED BY THE FRENCH STATE, 1951

When France invested massively in the 1950s in the construction of infrastructures in French West Africa, Kollar went to document this milestone in the relationship between France and its colonies, notably today’s Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal. His photos were published in the magazines of French West Africa to portray France’s initiatives in a positive light. Continuing to play his part in the ‘manufacture’ of consensual, positive images, Kollar continued his career by taking photos of men and women at work in factories, building roads or on ships plying their trade… “What François Kollar wants to portray is a sort of gradual disengagement of the colonial power, (…) but also how behind the ‘modernity’ (which is the subject of his remit) lies a form of tradition, rather as if he wanted to show how the two aspects are in contradiction with each other” (Pascal Blanchard, ‘Francois Kollar. Afrique 50. Dans l’oeil de la propagande’, Jeu de Paume, Editions de La Martinière).

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

INDUSTRIAL REPORTS 1950-1960

Back in Paris in 1945, François Kollar re-established his contacts and started receiving commissions from French industry once more. His photos powerfully document the relationship between the human body, the machine and the working environment. “In Kollar’s images, the human measure is omnipresent; one almost never loses the sense of scale […] with frequent contrasts between near and far, the intimate and the monumental”. (Jean-François Chevrier, ‘La France travaille: les vertus de l’illustration’, Jeu de Paume, Editions de La Martinière). Indeed the design of new industrial buildings took the question of ergonomics into account, which went hand-in-hand with the evolutions in the roles and tasks of factory workers. Amongst others, François Kollar worked for the Union Aéromaritime de Transport, (an airline that mainly served Africa, and French West Africa in particular, later to become UTA); the potash mines of Alsace; Moulinex; Christofle; and Poliet-et-Chausson. Kollar, who learnt how to use colour photography techniques early on, used this new medium for some of these reports.

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'Chaussures Bata, Rufisque, Senegal' 1951

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Chaussures Bata, Rufisque, Senegal
Bata Shoes, Rufisque, Senegal
1951
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
22.6 x 24.8 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Poliet et Chausson, Gargenville' 1957-1958

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Poliet et Chausson, Gargenville
1957-1958
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.7 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled [Emplacement de traverses, usine Cima, Croix]' c. 1954

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [Emplacement de traverses, usine Cima, Croix] [Replacement of sleepers, Cima factory, Croix]
c. 1954
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.7 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Type de laiterie dans une ferme Normande' 1950

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Type de laiterie dans une ferme Normande
Type of dairy farm in Normandy
1950
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
15.5 x 11.5 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Fabrication de corps de chauffe de chauffe-eau, usine Brandt, France' 1950

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Fabrication de corps de chauffe de chauffe-eau, usine Brandt, France
Manufacturing water heater, heater factory Brandt, France
1950
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
13.6 x 8.9 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled [Fabrication des moulins à légumes, usine Moulinex, Alençon]' 1950

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [Fabrication des moulins à légumes, usine Moulinex, Alençon] [Production of vegetable mills, Moulinex factory, Alençon]
1950
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.6 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled [Emboutissage des couverts, Christofle, France]' 1957-1958

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [Emboutissage des couverts, Christofle, France] [Stamping cutlery, Christofle, France]
1957-1958
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
30 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

 

Other François Kollar photographs

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1931
Silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1936

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1936
Silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Construction' 1936

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Construction
1936
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

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

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

Jeu de Paume website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘England’ 1993

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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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