Archive for the 'video' Category

17
Jul
16

Exhibition: ‘Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 7th March – 31st July 2016

 

One wrong does not a life make

A very large posting on a fascinating subject, for an exhibition that examines “the numerous ways that photography has influenced that favorite human activity, speculating about crimes and the people who commit them.” As the press release notes, “Since the earliest days of the medium, photographs have been used for criminal investigation and evidence gathering, to record crime scenes, to identify suspects and abet their capture, and to report events to the public. This exhibition explores the multifaceted intersections between photography and crime…” And all this history displayed in just two gallery spaces!

Of course, what the press release fails to note is that it is often the very people in power (the police, judiciary, and even the photographer) who name and shame those whose likenesses are captured by the camera. In other words, the people in these photographs are already labelled – deviant, lifter, wife poisoner, forger, sneak thief; cracksman, pickpocket, burglar, highwayman; murderer, counterfeiter, abortionist – before their photograph is ever taken. They have already been dressed for the part. This verdict is further reinforced when images, such as those by Weggee, appear in newspapers and, using Walker Evans phrase, the “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury” confirm what has been fed to them. As noted in the text in the posting about the photographs of Samuel G. Szabó, “Would the serious young man in the overcoat and silk top hat appear roguish without the caption “John McNauth alias Keely alias little hucks / Pick Pocket” below his portrait?” I think not (which is what the viewer does when confronted with the veracity of the photograph and the text supplied by those in a position of power)… therefore I am.

What strikes me about the “mugshot” photographs of Samuel G. Szabó and Alphonse Bertillon is the ordinariness of the people he captured – tailor, printer, accountant, photographer, seamstress – and how they have forever been labelled “anarchists”. Nothing is known of the rest of their lives and a search on the internet reveals nothing about them, except those people indelibly printed onto the fabric of history: Ravachol, murderer and anarchist who was bent on improving the conditions of the poor (no name or age under his photograph); and Félix Fénéon – head and eyes directed away from the camera whereas most others stare straight into the camera (upon direction) – all haughty superiority, as though the process of being photographed as an “anarchist” was beneath the witty critique (no name or age under his photograph as well). Only by this is it recorded that they are morally suspicious and this is done at the behest of the authorities. Whatever else they did in their life counts as if for nothing.

What also strikes me about the “en situ” photographs of the habitats of the murdered victims and the places where they were found, is again the mundanity of the interiors and places of execution. In the photographs that document the Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 we note the ephemera of human existence – the photographs standing on three-tiered wooden shelves, the open box on the table, the body on the floor – photographed from both directions, once with the camera pointing towards the windows, the other from 180 degrees, with the camera pointing into the room. And then we notice the mantlepiece photographed from another direction, with the open box on the table. And the bound and gagged man on the floor is still on the floor out of frame. And then another place of murder, that of the ending of a life, marked out in Bertillon’s photograph “Place where the corpse was found” by two pieces of wood laying on the ground and two pieces of wood propped at 45 degrees against the wall. As though this is all that is left of the existence of Mademoiselle Mercier along a street (Rue de l’Yvette) that still exists in Paris to this day … a photograph of pieces of wood and an empty space. Pace HEAD by Weggee.

It’s all about the stories, or the lack of them, that these photographs tell/sell. Weggee’s photographs of a sixteen-year old child killer, Frank Pape, are brutal in their exposure of this adolescent man. The way the horizontal negative has been cropped over and over again, to gain best effect, best value for the tabloid dollar, gives an idea of the pejorative pronunciation of guilt upon this individual before trial. What happened to Frank Pape? I’ve been digging, trying to find out… but nothing. Did he live, was he executed? What led him to that point and what happened to the rest of his life? This is the great unknown after the click of the shutter, the key in the lock, the silence of history. Here I am not advocating for the celebrity of the criminal, as in Richard Avedon’s photographs of the murderer Dick Hickock, but an acknowledgement that one wrong does not a life make.

But then again, for the victim, in shootings like that of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy – the pain of the photograph and the look in his eyes says it all. Here he is a victim, twice over (the victim of the assassin and the camera), and is to remain a victim for eternity, as long as people look at this photograph. This is such a sad and painful photograph. I remember the day it happened. I was ten years old at the time, and it’s one of those events that you will always remember the rest of you life, where you were, who you were with – like the moon landings or 9/11. I was in a car outside a small shop and the news came on the radio. Robert F. Kennedy had been shot – first aural, then visual on the black and white tv that night, then textual in the newspapers and then visual again with this photograph. The pain of the loss of those heady days of hope lessen not. Today we live in a police state where surveillance and recognition are everything, where those in power seek to control and regulate ever more the freedom of the people, and the people are lost to anonymity and time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,046

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

 

 

“Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play,” an exhibit currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, proposes to examine the numerous ways that photography has influenced that favorite human activity, speculating about crimes and the people who commit them. This would be an ambitious undertaking for a ten-room show; this one is limited to only two. The result is something of a hodgepodge, hemmed in by a vague set of constraints. The bulk of the photos were taken in the United States between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, none after the seventies, and all are in black and white, as if to emphasize their historical remove from our own filtered times. But the aesthetic and ethical questions the exhibit raises – about the American attraction to criminal glamour, and our queasy, not always critical fascination with looking at violence – are the right ones to ask during the current vogue for “true crime,” that funny phrase we use for stories told in public about terrible things others suffer privately.

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Alexandra Schwartz. “The Long Collusion of Photography and Crime,” on The New Yorker website

 

 

“Since the earliest days of the medium, photographs have been used for criminal investigation and evidence gathering, to record crime scenes, to identify suspects and abet their capture, and to report events to the public. This exhibition explores the multifaceted intersections between photography and crime, from 19th-century “rogues’ galleries” to work by contemporary artists inspired by criminal transgression. The installation will feature some 70 works, drawn entirely from The Met collection, ranging from the 1850s to the present.

Among the highlights of the installation is Alexander Gardner’s documentation of the events following the assassination of President Lincoln, as well as rare forensic photographs by Alphonse Bertillon, the French criminologist who created the system of criminal identification that gave rise to the modern mug shot. Also on display is a vivid selection of vintage news photographs related to cases both obscure and notorious, such as a study of John Dillinger’s feet in a Chicago morgue in 1934; Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963; and Patty Hearst captured by bank surveillance cameras in 1974. In addition to exploring photography’s evidentiary uses, the exhibition will feature work by artists who have drawn inspiration from the criminal underworld, including Richard Avedon, Larry Clark, Walker Evans, John Gutmann, Andy Warhol, and Weegee.”

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

 

Unknown (American) '[John Dillinger's Feet, Chicago Morgue]' 1934

 

Unknown (American)
[John Dillinger’s Feet, Chicago Morgue]
1934
Gelatin silver print
4 11/16 x 7 13/16 in. (11.9 x 19.8 cm)
Purchase, The Marks Family Foundation Gift, 2001
© Bettmann / CORBIS

 

 

This press photo of John Dillinger, the celebrity gangster from Chicago shot down at age 31, morbidly embodies the twentieth-century’s obsession with fame and hunger for physical contact with media personae. As the Depression era’s most successful bank robber, Dillinger had become a folk hero for his brash, cocky manner and disregard for authority. This unflinching view of Dillinger laid out on a slab in the Chicago morgue not only bares the facts but ironically recalls Mantegna’s The Lamentation Over the Dead Christ (c. 1490).

 

 

Unknown (American) [Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department] 1936

 

Unknown (American)
[Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department]
1936
Gelatin silver prints
Image: 5 15/16 × 9 1/8 in. (15.1 × 23.1 cm) Sheet: 6 1/8 × 9 5/16 in. (15.6 × 23.6 cm)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2014

 

Unknown (American) [Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department] 1936

 

Unknown (American)
[Jeff Briggs, Robert Sims, Otis Hall, and Peter Pamphlet; Full-Length Mugshot from the Chicago Police Department]
1936
Gelatin silver prints
Image: 5 15/16 × 9 1/8 in. (15.1 × 23.1 cm) Sheet: 6 1/8 × 9 5/16 in. (15.6 × 23.6 cm)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2014

 

 

The Chicago Police Department likely made these discarded file photographs when arrested suspects entered the precinct for booking. Each is accompanied by a typewritten caption recording the subjects’ names, vital statistics, and, in some cases, the crimes for which they were arrested (carrying concealed weapons, assault and robbery at gunpoint). With their subjects lined up theatrically against a dark velvet curtain, the images vividly evoke an era and milieu familiar to fans of film noir and hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1930s and 1940s.

A similar defiant dignity is evident in two booking photographs taken by the Chicago Police Department, part of a series made between 1936 and 1946. In the first, four black men in suits line up in front of what seems to be a theatre curtain. In the second, they strike the same pose, now in longer coats and with hats, as if auditioning for different parts in the same play. One of the men smiles affably, a flash of personality in a process meant to cloak it. The others look out evenly, returning the camera’s gaze and reminding whoever is behind the shutter that they, too, have the power to see.

 

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

 

Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903 – 1975 New Haven, Connecticut)
[Subway Passengers, New York City]
1938
Gelatin silver print
12.2 x 15.0 cm (4 13/16 x 5 15/16 in.)
Gift of Arnold H. Crane, 1971
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” Evans called his unwitting subjects. In this example, a smirking, vaguely menacing young man is engrossed in his copy of the Daily News. PAL TELLS HOW GUNGIRL KILLS, reads the headline. An obese woman, obviously not an acquaintance, sits miserably beside him.

During the winter months between 1938 and 1941, Evans strapped a camera to his midsection, cloaked it with his overcoat, and snaked a cable release down his suit sleeve to photograph New York City subway passengers unawares. In his book of these unposed portraits, Many Are Called (1966), the artist referred to his quarry as “the ladies and gentlemen of the jury.” What he was after stylistically, though, was more in keeping with the criminal mug shot: frontal and without emotional inflection. In this photograph, the tabloid headline “PAL TELLS HOW GUNGIRL KILLED” across the newspaper nods to Evans’s interest in vernacular source material.

Inspired by the incisive realism of Honoré Daumier’s Third-Class Carriage, Walker Evans sought to avoid the vanity, sentimentality, and artifice of conventional studio portraiture. The subway series, he later said, was “my idea of what a portrait ought to be: anonymous and documentary and a straightforward picture of mankind.”

 

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) 'A Bunch of Cops' 1940s

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
A Bunch of Cops
1940s
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Bruce A. Kirstein, in memory of Marc S. Kirstein, 1978
© Weegee / International Center of Photography

 

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 - 2004 San Antonio, Texas) 'Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas' April 1960

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 – 2004 San Antonio, Texas)
Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas
April 1960
Gelatin silver print
Image: 50.8 x 50.8 cm (20 x 20 in.)
Frame: 59.7 x 59.7 cm (23 1/2 x 23 1/2 in.)
Gift of the artist, 2002
© Richard Avedon

 

 

In April 1960 Avedon traveled to Garden City, Kansas, to photograph the individuals connected with the savage murder of the four-member Clutter family in their remote farmhouse. He came at the request of his friend Truman Capote, who was there gathering material for his groundbreaking true-crime novel In Cold Blood (1966). Working with a handheld Rolleiflex camera, Avedon made this striking photograph of one of the killers, Richard “Dick” Hickcock, while he was in jail awaiting trial. The mug shot-like portrait captures Hickock’s sullen, lopsided face with mesmerizing clarity, as if searching for physiognomic clues to his criminal pathology.

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“One of the show’s most striking pictures is a Richard Avedon portrait of Dick Hickock, one of the two murderers immortalized in Truman Capote’s true-crime touchstone “In Cold Blood.” Hickock and Perry Smith, both ex-convicts out on parole, had set out to rob the home of Herbert Clutter, a farmer in Holcomb, Kansas; when they didn’t find the safe they’d been looking for, they killed Clutter, his wife, and his two children. Looking at Hickock’s mug shot, Capote writes, the wife of the case’s investigator is reminded “of a bobcat she’d once seen caught in a trap, and of how, though she’d wanted to release it, the cat’s eyes, radiant with pain and hatred, had drained her of pity and filled her with terror.” Here, Hickock gets the soft-focus celebrity treatment, the line between notoriety and fame as blurred as ever. Hickock, according to Capote, had always been self-conscious about his long, lopsided face. His nose juts out at a Picasso angle, and while his right eye meets Avedon’s lens straight on, his smaller left one seems to look inward. The result is a double portrait, part persona, part awkward, vulnerable self, both haunted by Capote’s own verbal portrait of Hickock’s victims, the Clutter family, at their funeral: “The head of each was completely encased in cotton, a swollen cocoon twice the size of an ordinary blown-up balloon, and the cotton, because it had been sprayed with a glossy substance, twinkled like Christmas-tree snow.”

Alexandra Schwartz. “The Long Collusion of Photography and Crime,” on The New Yorker website April 9 2016 [Online] Cited 15/07/2016

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 - 2004 San Antonio, Texas) 'Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas' April 1960

 

Richard Avedon (American, New York 1923 – 2004 San Antonio, Texas)
Dick Hickock, Murderer, Garden City, Kansas
April 1960
Gelatin silver print
Image: 50.8 x 50.8 cm (20 x 20 in.)
Frame: 59.7 x 59.7 cm (23 1/2 x 23 1/2 in.)
Gift of the artist, 2002
© Richard Avedon

 

 

“Richard Avedon is represented by his 1960 portrait of Dick Hickock, the Kansas murderer who was one of the subjects of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. In his typical style, Avedon presents a large-scale investigation of Hickock’s face: the black greased pompadour combed just so, the slightly fleshy nose, the disturbingly engaging eyes, all of it ever so slightly skewed by the impression of Hickock’s inscrutable lopsided grievance. (Hickock had suffered a brain injury in an automobile accident when he was nineteen.) As with Gardner’s 1865 portrait of Lewis Powell (who was also executed by hanging for his crime), you sense how seriously Hickock takes being photographed, his wish to give something of himself, to influence, if not control, the emanations of his image and how he is being portrayed.”

Michael Greenberg. “Caught in the Act,” on The New York Review of Books website, April 7, 2016 [Online] Cited 22/06/2016

 

Robert H. Jackson (American, born 1934) 'FATAL BULLET HITS OSWALD. Jack Ruby fires bullet point blank into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald at Dallas Police Station. Oswald grimaces in agony' November 24, 1963

 

Robert H. Jackson (American, born 1934)
FATAL BULLET HITS OSWALD. Jack Ruby fires bullet point blank into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald at Dallas Police Station. Oswald grimaces in agony
November 24, 1963
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.8 x 19.5 cm (6 5/8 x 7 11/16 in.) Sheet: 20.5 x 20.1 cm (8 1/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2011

 

 

Before today’s fast-paced twenty-four hour news cycle, an eager American public followed the development of criminal investigations through the gray tones of press photographs. News outlets used a wire service to send images via in-house or portable transmitters, converting black-and-white tones into electrical pulses that were instantaneously received and printed using the same technology. Mundane courtroom proceedings, such as arraignments and evidence display, became newsworthy through the immediacy of reportage. Every small detail was devoured by a public impatient for news about notorious bank robbers and murderers – some of whom, like John Dillinger, were elevated to the status of folk heroes. In other instances, such as the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, newspapers and television brought the drama and intensity of firsthand observation into people’s homes.

 

Boris Yaro/Los Angeles Times. 'The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy' 1968

 

Boris Yaro (American, born 1938)
LOS ANGELES. KENNEDY MOMENTS AFTER SHOOTING. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy Lies Gravely Wounded on the floor at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles shortly after midnight today, moments after he was shot during a celebration of his victory in yesterday’s California primary election
June 5, 1968
Gelatin silver print
17.2 x 21.1 cm (6 3/4 x 8 5/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2010

 

 

June 5, 1968: “Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy lies on the floor at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after he was shot in the head. He had just finished his victory speech upon winning the California primary. Times photographer Boris Yaro was standing 3 feet from Kennedy when the shooting began. “The gunman started firing at point-blank range. Sen. Kennedy didn’t have a chance,” Yaro recounted in a June 6, 1968, story for The Times. The Democratic senator, 42, was alive for more than 24 hours and was declared dead on the morning of June 6. The shooter was later identified as Sirhan B. Sirhan, who was found guilty of Kennedy’s assassination on April 17, 1969. His motives remain a mystery and controversy to this day.”

1964 Pulitzer Prize, Photography, Robert Jackson, Dallas Times Herald November 22, 1963

 

Andy Warhol (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1928 - 1987 New York) 'Electric Chair' 1971

 

Andy Warhol (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1928 – 1987 New York)
Electric Chair
1971
Printer: Silkprint Kettner, Zurich
Publisher: Bruno Bischofberger
Portfolio of ten screenprints
35 1/2 x 48 inches (90.2 x 121.9 cm)
Gift of Robert Meltzer, 1972

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Assassination of Monsieur V. Lecomte, 74 Rue des Martyrs, 1902 (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Murder of Madame Veuve Bol, Projection on a Vertical Plane (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

1st November 1902. Assassination of Mademoiselle Mercier, Rue de l’Yvette á Bouvry la Reine. Photograph of the corpse.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

Place where the corpse was found (and detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) '[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]' 1901-8

 

House of the victim (and detail)

 

Attributed to Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
[Album of Paris Crime Scenes]
1901-8
Gelatin silver prints
Overall: 24.3 x 31cm (9 9/16 x 12 3/16in.)
Page: 23 x 29 cm (9 1/16 x 11 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation Gift, 2001

 

 

Alphonse Bertillon, the chief of criminal identification for the Paris police department, developed the mug shot format and other photographic procedures used by police to register criminals. Although the images in this extraordinary album of forensic photographs were made by or under the direction of Bertillon, it was probably assembled by a private investigator or secretary who worked at the Paris prefecture. Photographs of the pale bodies of murder victims are assembled with views of the rooms where the murders took place, close-ups of objects that served as clues, and mug shots of criminals and suspects. Made as part of an archive rather than as art, these postmortem portraits, recorded in the deadpan style of a police report, nonetheless retain an unsettling potency.

 

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 - 61) 'Rogues, a Study of Characters' c. 1860

 

Samuel G. Szabó (Hungarian, active America c. 1854 – 61)
Rogues, a Study of Characters
c. 1860
Salted paper prints from glass negatives
From 8.8 x 6.6 cm (3 7/16 x 2 5/8 in.) to 11.5 x 8.8 cm (4 1/2 x 3 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Lifter, wife poisoner, forger, sneak thief; cracksman, pickpocket, burglar, highwayman; murderer, counterfeiter, abortionist – each found a place in this gallery of rogues. Photography was first put to service for the identification and apprehension of criminals in the late 1850s. In New York, for example, 450 photographs of known criminals could be viewed by the public in a real rogues’ gallery at police headquarters, the portraits arranged by category, such as “Leading pickpockets, who work one, two, or three together, and are mostly English.”

Little is known of Samuel G. Szabó, his methods or his intentions. He appears to have left his native Hungary in the early or mid-1850s by necessity, but the reason for his exile remains a mystery.

In the United States Szabó moved frequently. Between May 1857 and his return to Europe in July 1861 he traveled to New Orleans, Cincinnati, Chicago, Saint Louis, Philadelphia, and New York, settling for a brief period in Baltimore, where he was listed in the city directory as a daguerreotypist. His whereabouts when he made this album are unknown. One may speculate that Szabó made these portraits while working for, or with the cooperation of, the police, and some of the 218 prints in the album appear to be copy prints made from other photographic portraits.

But this is more than a collection of mug shots; it is a study of characters by a “photogr[aphic] artist,” as Szabó signed the title page of this album. Just as Mathew Brady believed that portraits of America’s great men and women held clues to the nobility of their character and could serve as moral and political exemplars to those who contemplated them, others attempted to discern in photographs such as Szabó’s physical characteristics of the criminal psyche. Yet, as in Hugh Diamond’s portraits of the insane (no. 30), the reading of individual portraits is not always self-evident. Would the serious young man in the overcoat and silk top hat appear roguish without the caption “John McNauth alias Keely alias little hucks / Pick Pocket” below his portrait?

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909 (detail)

 

Eyebrows, eyelids, globes, orbits, wrinkles

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909 (detail)

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l'étude du "portrait parlé" c. 1909 (detail)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Tableau synoptic des traits physionomiques: pour servir a l’étude du “portrait parlé” (and details)
c. 1909
Gelatin silver print
39.4 x 29.5 cm (15 1/2 x 11 5/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2009

 

 

Nineteenth-century police headquarters were host to disorganized “rogues’ galleries” swollen with photographic portraits of criminals, which turned even the simplest of searches into a Sisyphean labor. As a response, police clerk Alphonse Bertillon introduced a rigorous system of classification, or signalment, to help organize archives, a process that included not only quantitative anthropometric measurements of the head, body, and extremities but also qualitative descriptions of the face. Photography’s potential for exactitude made it a crucial tool for Bertillon’s system, and his portrait parlé – the basis for today’s mugshot – posited a powerful analogy between a photographic likeness and the ink fingerprint.

Akin to a cheat-sheet for police clerks, this composite photograph illustrates how the mugshot could yield a series of classifications, dividing the male criminal’s face into discrete units of information. Such points of identification include the precise differentiation between left ear and right, the angle of inclination of the chin, and the pattern of the folds on the brow. Although intended merely as a filing aide, this image of the human face in all its striations of repetition and difference renders surveillance as a terrifying manifestation of the modern sublime.

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“Bertillon’s other major legacy in the field of forensics was his invention of the mug shot. In the mid-nineteenth century, criminal photography focussed on identifying types of offenders; the exhibit’s earliest images are from an album of “rogues,” taken around 1860 in the United States by the photographer Samuel G. Szabó, who sought to distinguish the physiognomy of a counterfeiter from that of a “sneak thief,” a burglar, and a pickpocket. (Whatever revealing differences Szabó may have discerned, his subjects all look mad as hell to be stuck in his perp pictures.) Bertillon countered this hypothetical typology with empirical method, taking “anthropometric” measurements – determining the length of a convict’s middle finger, for example – as well as making elaborate verbal descriptions of a subject’s physical aspect, covering everything from his wrinkles to his eyelids, and two standardized photographs of his face, one from the front, one in profile.”

Alexandra Schwartz. “The Long Collusion of Photography and Crime,” on The New Yorker website April 9 2016 [Online] Cited 15/07/2016

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Véret. 0ctave-Jean. 19 ans, né à Paris XXe. Photographe. Anarchiste. 2/3/94.' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Véret. 0ctave-Jean. 19 ans, né à Paris XXe. Photographe. Anarchiste. 2/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Beaulieu. Henri, Félix, Camille. 23 ans, né le 30/11/70 à Paris Ve. Comptable. Anarchiste. 23/5/94.' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Beaulieu. Henri, Félix, Camille. 23 ans, né le 30/11/70 à Paris Ve. Comptable. Anarchiste. 23/5/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Soubrier. Annette (femme Chericotti). 28 ans, nŽe ˆ Paris Ille. Coutire. Anarchiste. 25/3/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Soubrier. Annette (femme Chericotti). 28 ans, nŽe ˆ Paris Ille. Coutire. Anarchiste. 25/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'SchulŽ. Armand. 21 ans, nŽ le 28/2/73 ˆ Choisy-le-Roi. Comptable. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
SchulŽ. Armand. 21 ans, nŽ le 28/2/73 ˆ Choisy-le-Roi. Comptable. Anarchiste. 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Roobin. Joseph. 40 ans, nŽ ˆ Bourgneuf (Loire-InfŽrieure). Terrassier. Anarchiste. 2/3/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Roobin. Joseph. 40 ans, nŽ ˆ Bourgneuf (Loire-InfŽrieure). Terrassier. Anarchiste. 2/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Robillard. Guillaume, Joseph. 24 ans, nŽ le 17/11/68 ˆVaucresson. Fondeur en cuivre. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Robillard. Guillaume, Joseph. 24 ans, nŽ le 17/11/68 ˆ Vaucresson. Fondeur en cuivre. Anarchiste. 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Ravachol. Franois Claudius Kœnigstein. 33 ans, nŽ ˆ St-Chamond (Loire). CondamnŽ le 27/4/92' 1892

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Ravachol. Franois Claudius Kœnigstein. 33 ans, nŽ ˆ St-Chamond (Loire). CondamnŽ le 27/4/92
1892
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Condemned 27/04/1892

 

 

“François Claudius Koenigstein, known as Ravachol (1859-1892), was a French anarchist. He was born on 14 October 1859, at Saint-Chamond, Loire and died guillotined on 11 July 1892, at Montbrison.

François Koenigstein was born in Saint-Chamond, Loire as the eldest child of a Dutch father (Jean Adam Koenigstein) and a French mother (Marie Ravachol). As an adult, he adopted his mother’s maiden name as his surname, following years of struggle after his father abandoned the family when François was only 8 years old. From that time on he had to support his mother, sister, and brother; he also looked after his nephew. He eventually found work as a dyer’s assistant, a job which he later lost. He was very poor throughout his life. For additional income he played accordion at society balls on Sundays at Saint-Étienne.

Ravachol became politically active. He joined the anarchists as well as groups organizing to improve working conditions. Labor unrest resulted in fierce reprisals by police. On 1 May 1891, at Fourmies, a workers demonstration took place for the eight-hour day; confrontations with the police followed. The Police opened fire on the crowd, resulting in nine deaths amongst the demonstrators. The same day, at Clichy, serious incidents erupted in a procession in which anarchists were taking part. Three men were arrested and taken to the commissariat of police. There they were interrogated (and brutalised with beatings, resulting in injuries). A trial (the Clichy Affair (fr)) ensued, in which two of the three anarchists were sentenced to prison terms (despite their abuse in jail.

In addition to these events, authorities kept up repression of the communards, which had continued from the time of the insurrection of the Paris Commune of 1871. Ravachol was aroused to take action in 1892 against members of the judiciary. He placed bombs in the living quarters of the Advocate General, Léon Bulot (executive of the Public Ministry), and Edmond Benoît, the councillor who had presided over the Assises Court during the Clichy Affair.

An informant told of his actions, and Ravachol was arrested on 30 March 1892 for his bombings at the Restaurant Véry. The day before the trial, anarchists bombed the restaurant where the informant worked. Ravachol was tried at the Assises Court of Seine on 26 April. He was convicted and condemned to prison for life. On 23 June, Ravachol was condemned to death in a second trial at the Assises Court of Loire for three murders. His participation in two of them is disputed (he confessed only to the murder of the hermit of Montbrison, claiming it was due to his own poverty). On 11 July 1892, Ravachol was publicly guillotined.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Cover page of "Le Petit Journal" illustrating the arrest of French anarchist and assassin Ravachol

 

Cover page of “Le Petit Journal” illustrating the arrest of French anarchist and assassin Ravachol (1859-1892)
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Rampin. Pierre. 3/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Rampin. Pierre. 3/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Peticolin. Henri. 23 ans, nŽ le 8/6/71 ˆGoersdorf (Bas-Rhin). Vernisseur. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Peticolin. Henri. 23 ans, nŽ le 8/6/71 ˆGoersdorf (Bas-Rhin). Vernisseur. Anarchiste. 2/7/94' 1894 (verso)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Peticolin. Henri. 23 ans, nŽ le 8/6/71 ˆ Goersdorf (Bas-Rhin). Vernisseur. Anarchiste. 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Varnisher. Anarchist.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Olguéni Gustave. 24 ans, né à Sala (Suède) le 24-5-69. Artiste-peintre. Anarchiste. 14-3-94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Olguéni Gustave. 24 ans, né à Sala (Suède) le 24-5-69. Artiste-peintre. Anarchiste. 14-3-94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Adnet. Clotilde. 19 ans, née en décembre 74 à Argentant (Orne). Brodeuse. Anarchiste. Fichée le 7/1/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Adnet. Clotilde. 19 ans, née en décembre 74 à Argentant (Orne). Brodeuse. Anarchiste. Fichée le 7/1/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Embroiderer. Anarchist.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Nic. Celestin. 20 ans, nŽ ˆ Conflans-St-Honorine (Seine & Oise). Emballeur. 26/2/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Nic. Celestin. 20 ans, nŽ ˆ Conflans-St-Honorine (Seine & Oise). Emballeur. 26/2/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Mocquet. Georges, Gustave. 17 ans, nŽ le 17/5/76 ˆ Paris IXe. Tapissier. Anarchiste. 6/1/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Mocquet. Georges, Gustave. 17 ans, nŽ le 17/5/76 ˆ Paris IXe. Tapissier. Anarchiste. 6/1/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Feneon. Felix. Clerk of the Galerie Berheim Jeune' 1894-85

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Feneon. Felix. Clerk of the Galerie Berheim Jeune
1894-85
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

Félix Fénéon (22 June 1861, Turin, Italy – 29 February 1944, Châtenay-Malabry) was a Parisian anarchist and art critic during the late 19th century. He coined the term “Neo-Impressionism” in 1886 to identify a group of artists led by Georges Seurat, and ardently promoted them.

Felix Fénéon was a prominent literary stylist, art critic, and anarchist born in Turin, Italy in 1861. He was later raised in Burgundy, presumably because his father was a travelling salesman. After placing first in the competitive exams for jobs, Fénéon moved to Paris to work for the War Office where he achieved the rank of chief clerk. During his time in the war office he edited many works, including those of Rimbaud and Lautréamont, as well as helped to advance the fledgling pointillist movement under Georges Seurat. He was also a regular at Mallarmé’s salons on Tuesday evenings as well as active in anarchist circles.

Fénéon, ironically, worked 13 years at the War Office while remaining heavily active in supporting anarchist circles and movements. In March 1892 French police talked about Fénéon as an ‘active Anarchist’, and they had him shadowed. In 1894 Fénéon was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy because of an anarchist bombing of the Foyot restaurant, a popular haunt of politicians. He was also suspected of connection with the assassination of the French President, Sadi Carnot, by an Italian anarchist. He and twenty-nine others were arrested under charges of conspiracy in what became known as the “Trial of Thirty”. Fénéon was acquitted with many of the original thirty. However, the trial was a high point in publicity for Fénéon, normally behind the scenes, as he championed his wit to the amusement of the jury. Of the courtroom scene, Julian Barnes writes, “When the presiding judge put it to him that he had been spotted talking to a known anarchist behind a gas lamp, he replied coolly: Can you tell me, Monsieur le Président, which side of a gas lamp is its behind?”

After the trial, Fénéon became even more elusive. In 1890, the Neo-Impressionist Paul Signac asked to produce a portrait of the lauded critic. Fénéon refused several times before agreeing, on the condition that Signac produced a full face effigy. Signac naturally refused, painting instead a famous profile of Fénéon with his characteristic goatee, a picture that largely became a symbol of the movement, spawning many variations. Fénéon, though displeased, hung the picture on his wall until Signac’s death 45 years later. Aside from Novels in Three Lines that first appeared as clippings in the Parisian Le Matins in 1906 and later as a collection, only because his mistress Camille Pateel had collected them in an album, Fénéon published only a 43-page monograph in Les Impressionists (1886). When asked to produce Les Nouvelles en Trois Lignes as a collection, Fénéon famously replied with an angry “I aspire only to silence”. As Luc Sante points out, Fénéon, one might say, is invisibly famous, having affected so much without being recognizable to many.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Dupuis. Augustin. 53 ans, nŽ le 24/6/41 ˆ Dourdan (Seine &Oise). Charron, forgeron. Anarchiste. 3/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Dupuis. Augustin. 53 ans, nŽ le 24/6/41 ˆ Dourdan (Seine &Oise). Charron, forgeron. Anarchiste. 3/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Wheelwright, blacksmith. Anarchist.

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'CharriŽ. Cyprien. 26 ans, nŽ le 7/10/67 ˆ Paris XVIlle. Imprimeur. Anarchiste 2/7/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
CharriŽ. Cyprien. 26 ans, nŽ le 7/10/67 ˆ Paris XVIlle. Imprimeur. Anarchiste 2/7/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 - 1914) 'Bellemans. Eugène (ou Michel). 23 ans, né à Gand (Belgique). Tailleur d'habits. Anarchiste. 9/3/94' 1894

 

Alphonse Bertillon (French, 1853 – 1914)
Bellemans. Eugène (ou Michel). 23 ans, né à Gand (Belgique). Tailleur d’habits. Anarchiste. 9/3/94
1894
Albumen silver print from glass negative
10.5 x 7 x 0.5 cm (4 1/8 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

Born into a distinguished family of scientists and statisticians, Bertillon began his career as a clerk in the Identification Bureau of the Paris Prefecture of Police in 1879. Tasked with maintaining reliable police records of offenders, he developed the first modern system of criminal identification. The system, which became known as Bertillonage, had three components: anthropometric measurement, precise verbal description of the prisoner’s physical characteristics, and standardized photographs of the face.

In the early 1890s Paris was subject to a wave of bombings and assassination attempts carried out by anarchist proponents of “propaganda of the deed.” One of Bertillon’s greatest successes came in March 1892, when his system of criminal identification led to the arrest of an anarchist bomber and career criminal who went by the name Ravachol. The publicity surrounding the case earned Bertillon the Legion of Honor and encouraged police departments around the world to adopt his anthropometric system.

 

Unknown (American) '[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]' 1865

 

Unknown (American)
[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]
Artist: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 – 1882 Washington, D.C.)
Photography Studio: Silsbee, Case & Company (American, active Boston)
Photography Studio: Unknown
April 20, 1865
Ink on paper with three albumen silver prints from glass negatives
Sheet: 60.5 x 31.3 cm (23 13/16 x 12 5/16 in.) Each photograph: 8.6 x 5.4 cm (3 3/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

 

On the night of April 14, 1865, just five days after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C. Within twenty-four hours, Secret Service director Colonel Lafayette Baker had already acquired photographs of Booth and two of his accomplices. Booth’s photograph was secured by a standard police search of the actor’s room at the National Hotel; a photograph of John Surratt, a suspect in the plot to kill Secretary of State William Seward, was obtained from his mother, Mary (soon to be indicted as a fellow conspirator), and David Herold’s photograph was found in a search of his mother’s carte-de-visite album. The three photographs were taken to Alexander Gardner’s studio for immediate reproduction. This bill was issued on April 20, the first such broadside in America illustrated with photographs tipped onto the sheet.

The descriptions of the alleged conspirators combined with their photographic portraits proved invaluable to the militia. Six days after the poster was released Booth and Herold were recognized by a division of the 16th New York Cavalry. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Edward Doherty, demanded their unconditional surrender when he cornered the two men in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold complied; Booth refused. Two Secret Service detectives accompanying the cavalry, then set fire to the barn. Booth was shot as he attempted to escape; he died three hours later. After a military trial Herold was hanged on July 7 at the Old Arsenal Prison in Washington, D.C.

Surratt escaped to England via Canada, eventually settling in Rome. Two years later a former schoolmate from Maryland recognized Surratt, then a member of the Papal Guard, and he was returned to Washington to stand trial. In September 1868 the charges against him were nol-prossed after the trial ended in a hung jury. Surratt retired to Maryland, worked as a clerk, and lived until 1916.

 

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 - 1882 Washington, D.C.) 'Lewis Powell [alias Lewis Payne]' April 27, 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 – 1882 Washington, D.C.)
Lewis Powell [alias Lewis Payne]
April 27, 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
22.4 × 17.4 cm (8 13/16 × 6 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

 

Alexander Gardner’s 1865 portrait of Lewis Powell, a conspirator with John Wilkes Booth. At roughly the same time that John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln, Lewis Paine attempted unsuccessfully to murder Secretary of State William Seward. The son of a Baptist minister from Alabama, Paine (alias Wood, alias Hall, alias Powell) was one of at least five conspirators who planned with Booth the simultaneous assassinations of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Seward. A tall, powerful man, Paine broke into the secretary’s house, struck his son Frederick with the butt of his jammed pistol, brutally stabbed the bedridden politician, and then escaped after stabbing Seward’s other son, Augustus.

Four days later, Paine was caught in a sophisticated police dragnet and arrested at the H Street boarding house of fellow conspirator Mary Surratt. Detained aboard two iron-clad monitors docked together on the Potomac, Paine and seven other presumed conspirators were photographed by Alexander Gardner on April 27. Gardner made full-length, profile, and full-face portraits of each of the men, presaging the pictorial formula later adopted by law-enforcement photographers. Of the ten known photographs of Paine, six show him against a canvas awning on the monitor’s deck, the others against the dented gun turret. In this portrait, Paine, towering more than a head above the deck officer, appears menacingly free of handcuffs. He was twenty years old.

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 - 1882 Washington, D.C.) 'Execution of the Conspirators' July 7, 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821 – 1882 Washington, D.C.)
Execution of the Conspirators
July 7, 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
16.8 x 24.2 cm (6 5/8 x 9 1/2 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

 

Alexander Gardner’s intimate involvement in the events following President Lincoln’s assassination would have challenged even the most experienced twentieth-century photojournalist. In just short of four months, Gardner documented in hundreds of portraits and views one of the most complex national news stories in American history. The U.S. Secret Service provided Gardner unlimited access to individuals and places unavailable to any other photographer. Free to retain all but one of his negatives-a portrait of Booth’s corpse-Gardner attempted to sell carte-de-visite and large-format prints of the whole picture story. America, still wounded from the four-year war, was less than interested.

The photographs of the execution of Mary Surratt, Lewis Paine, David Herold, and George Atzerodt on July 7, 1865, were, however, highly sought after by early collectors of Civil War ephemera beginning in the 1880s. This photograph shows the final preparations on the scaffolding in the yard of the Old Arsenal Prison. The day was extremely hot and a parasol shades Mary Surratt, seated at the far left of the stage. (She would become the first woman in America to be hanged.) Two soldiers stationed beneath the stage grasp the narrow beams that hold up the gallows trapdoors. The soldier on the left would later admit he had just vomited, from heat and tension. Only one noose is visible, slightly to the left of Surratt; the other three nooses moved during the exposure and are registered by the camera only as faint blurs. Members of the clergy crowd the stage and provide final counsel to the conspirators. A private audience of invited guests stands at the lower left. Minutes after Gardner’s exposure, the conspirators were tied and blindfolded and the order was given to knock out the support beams.

 

Unknown. 'Policeman Posing with Four "Collared" Thugs' c. 1875

 

Unknown
Policeman Posing with Four “Collared” Thugs
c. 1875
Tintype
Image: 4 5/8 × 3 9/16 in. (11.7 × 9 cm), visible Plate: 5 7/16 × 4 1/16 in. (13.8 × 10.3 cm), approx.
Gift of Stanley B. Burns, MD and The Burns Archive, in honor of Elizabeth A. Burns, 2016

 

This rare narrative tintype of a policeman posing with four criminals handcuffed to one another may be viewed as an occupational portrait of sorts. The officer’s police cap and gleaming badge indicate his profession, while his pose and central placement emphasize his authority.

 

Unknown. '[Five Members of the Wild Bunch]' c. 1892

 

Unknown
[Five Members of the Wild Bunch]
c. 1892
Tintype
Image: 8.4 x 6.2 cm (3 5/16 x 2 7/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005

 

 

The Wild Bunch was the largest and most notorious band of outlaws in the American West. Led by two gunmen better known by their aliases, Butch Cassidy (Robert LeRoy Parker) and Kid Curry (Harvey Logan), the Wild Bunch was an informal trust of thieves and rustlers that preyed upon stagecoaches, small banks, and especially railroads from the late 1880s to the first decade of the twentieth century.

This crudely constructed tintype portrait of five members of the gang dressed in bowler hats and city clothes shows, clockwise, from the top left, Kid Curry, Bill McCarty, Bill (Tod) Carver, Ben Kilpatrick, and Tom O’Day. Without their six shooters and cowboy hats the outlaws appear quite civilized and could easily be mistaken for the sheriffs and Pinkerton agents who pursued them in a “Wild West” already much tamed by the probable date of this photograph. Gone was the open range – instead, homesteads and farms dotted the landscape and barbed-wire fences frustrated the cattleman’s drive to market. Gone too was the anonymity associated with distance, as the camera and the telegraph conspired to identify criminals. Bank and train robbery were still lucrative, but the outlaw’s chances for escape gradually shifted in favor of the sheriff’s chances for arrest and conviction.

By 1903 the Wild Bunch had disbanded. A few members of the gang followed Butch Cassidy to South America, while the majority remained in the West, trying to avoid capture. McCarty was shot dead in 1893, in a street in Delta, Colorado, after a bank robbery; Carver died in prison; Kilpatrick was killed during a train robbery in 1912; Tom O’Day was captured by a Casper, Wyoming, sheriff in 1903; and Kid Curry died either by his own hand in Parachute, Colorado, in 1904, or, as legend has it, lived until he was killed by a wild mule in South America in 1909. The photograph comes from the collection of Camillus S. Fly, a pioneer photographer in Tombstone, Arizona, in the 1880s and sheriff of Cochise County in the 1890s.

 

Tom Howard (American, 1894 - 1961) '[Electrocution of Ruth Snyder, Sing Sing Prison, Ossining, New York]' 1928

 

Tom Howard (American, 1894 – 1961)
[Electrocution of Ruth Snyder, Sing Sing Prison, Ossining, New York]
1928
Gelatin silver print
24 x 19.3 cm (9 7/16 x 7 5/8 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2008
© The New York Daily News Archive / Getty Images

 

 

In spite of the universal ban on cameras in American death chambers, news editors have long recognized the public’s hunger for eyewitness images of high-profile executions. In January 1928 Tom Howard made tabloid history when he photographed, using a miniature camera strapped to his ankle, the electrocution of the convicted murderer Ruth Snyder at Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York. The sensational picture ran under banner headlines on the front page of the New York Daily News two days in a row.

.
“In 1925, Snyder, a housewife from Queens Village, Queens, New York City, began an affair with Henry Judd Gray, a married corset salesman. She then began to plan the murder of her husband, enlisting the help of her new lover, though he appeared to be very reluctant. Her distaste for her husband apparently began when he insisted on hanging a picture of his late fiancée, Jessie Guishard, on the wall of their first home, and named his boat after her. Guishard, whom Albert described to Ruth as “the finest woman I have ever met”, had been dead for 10 years.

Ruth Snyder first persuaded her husband to purchase insurance, with the assistance of an insurance agent (who was subsequently fired and sent to prison for forgery) “signed” a $48,000 life insurance policy that paid extra (“double indemnity”) if an unexpected act of violence killed the victim. According to Henry Judd Gray, Ruth had made at least seven attempts to kill her husband, all of which he survived. On March 20, 1927, the couple garrotted Albert Snyder and stuffed his nose full of chloroform-soaked rags, then staged his death as part of a burglary. Detectives at the scene noted that the burglar left little evidence of breaking into the house; moreover, that the behavior of Mrs. Snyder was inconsistent with her story of a terrorized wife witnessing her husband being killed.

Then the police found the property Ruth claimed had been stolen. It was still in the house, but hidden. A breakthrough came when a detective found a paper with the letters “J.G.” on it (it was a memento Albert Snyder had kept from former love Jessie Guishard), and asked Ruth about it. A flustered Ruth’s mind immediately turned to her lover, whose initials were also “J.G.,” and she asked the detective what Gray had to do with this. It was the first time Gray had been mentioned, and the police were instantly suspicious. Gray was found upstate, in Syracuse. He claimed he had been there all night, but eventually it turned out a friend of his had created an alibi, setting up Gray’s room at a hotel. Gray proved far more forthcoming than Ruth about his actions. He was caught and returned to Jamaica, Queens and charged along with Ruth Snyder. Dorothy Parker told Oscar Levant that Gray tried to escape the police by taking a taxi from Long Island to Manhattan, New York, which Levant noted was “quite a long trip.” According to Parker, in order “not to attract attention, he gave the driver a ten-cent tip.” …

Snyder became the first woman executed in Sing Sing since 1899. She went to the electric chair only moments before her former lover. Her execution (by “State Electrician” Robert G. Elliott) was caught on film, by a photograph of her as the electricity was running through her body, with the aid of a miniature plate camera custom-strapped to the ankle of Tom Howard, a Chicago Tribune photographer working in cooperation with the Tribune-owned New York Daily News. Howard’s camera was owned for a while by inventor Miller Reese Hutchison, then later became part of the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Unknown (French) Publisher: Le Petit Parisien (French, active 1876–1944) 'Marius Bourotte' 1929

 

Unknown (French)
Publisher: Le Petit Parisien (French, active 1876–1944)
Marius Bourotte
1929
Gelatin silver print with applied color
11.6 x 16.2 cm. (4 9/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1996

 

These photographs of thieves and assassins were heavily retouched with ink and gouache to facilitate their reproduction in illustrated newspapers and magazines. Although they were not conceived as typological studies, the cropping and retouching deliberately intensified their sinister aspect, producing caricatures of criminality that satisfied the sensationalism of the picture press.

 

Unknown (American) '[Automobile Murder Scene]' c. 1935

 

Unknown (American)
[Automobile Murder Scene]
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print
24.3 x 20.1 cm (9 9/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2008

 

 

This picture is a master class in the aesthetics of the crime photograph. As the writer Luc Sante has noted, photography stops time, while crime photography shows the stopped time of an individual life cut short. The anonymous cameraman (whose shadow can be seen in the image) may have worked for the police but was more likely a newspaper photographer. His editors must have considered this an absolute bull’s-eye combination of titillation, voyeurism, and fig-leaf moralizing that lets readers have their cake and eat it too. Most importantly, the stopped time of the crime photograph imparts a heightened significance to all the details within the frame, which could either be clues or random accident.

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) 'Human Head Cake Box Murder' c. 1940

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
Human Head Cake Box Murder
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
33.6 x 26.9 cm (13 1/4 x 10 9/16 in.)
Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987
© Weegee / International Center of Photography

 

 

It is hard to decide which of the several mysteries contained in this macabre photograph is the most bizarre: the murder to which the title alludes, the headless bodies standing flat-footedly around a bodyless head, the “scriptboy” who enters at upper left, how the police photographer can be both rooted to the spot and levitating above it, why he wears his hat as he works, or where Weegee is standing.

 

John Gutmann (American (born Germany), Breslau 1905 - 1998 San Francisco) "X Marks the Spot Where Ralph Will Die" 1938

 

John Gutmann (American (born Germany), Breslau 1905 – 1998 San Francisco)
“X Marks the Spot Where Ralph Will Die”
1938
Gelatin silver print
23.4 x 17.8 cm (9 3/16 x 7 in.)
Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987
© 1998 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

Trained as a painter, Gutmann fled Germany for America in 1933. In need of money, the artist began photographing across the country as a foreign correspondent for the tremendously popular picture magazines of his homeland, which had an insatiable appetite for all things American. What began as an assignment in exile – travelling from New York, Chicago, and Detroit to New Orleans and San Francisco – became a remarkable lifelong career in a new medium and country.

One of the earliest and most inventive practitioners of street photography, Gutmann was one of the great poets and chroniclers of a particularly American kind of city life – the endless supply of characters and spontaneous dramas set against a backdrop of skyscrapers, signs, and graffiti.

 

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) '[Outline of a Murder Victim]' 1942

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
[Outline of a Murder Victim]
1942
Gelatin silver print
33.9 x 27.4 cm. (13 3/6 x 10 13/16 in.)
Gift of Bruce A. Kirstein, in memory of Marc S. Kirstein, 1978
© Weegee / International Center of Photography

 

 

Working as a freelance press photographer in New York City during the mid-1930s and 1940s, Weegee achieved notoriety through sensational photographs of a crime-ridden metropolis. Although his nickname derived from an earlier job as a “squeegee boy” drying photographic prints in a professional darkroom, through brazen self-styling he designated himself a human Ouija board, who always seemed to know where the next big scoop would be. In fact, he lived across the street from police headquarters and used a department-issued radio. Here, Weegee distills the genre of the crime scene photograph into a minimalist trace: the camera’s flashbulb illuminates a hastily drawn chalk outline bearing the stark label “HEAD.”

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) 'Man Escorting Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York. November 10, 1944' 1944

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig)
Man Escorting Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York. November 10, 1944
1944
Gelatin silver print
9 1⁄2 × 7 9/16″ (24.1 × 19.2 cm)
International Center of Photography. Bequest of Wilma Wilcox
© 2014 Weegee/ International Center of Photography/Getty Images

PHOTOGRAPH NOT IN EXHIBITION.
Taken prior to the famous image by Weggee below.

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 - 1968 New York) 'Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide' 1944

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899 – 1968 New York)
Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide
1944
Gelatin silver print
33.6 x 26.4 cm (13 1/4 x 10 3/8 in.)
Anonymous Gift, 2005

 

 

“For Weegee… a photographic print was usually nothing more than a by-product. Weegee’s prints served as the matrices from which halftone and gravure printing plates were made (by others) for reproduction in magazines, books, and newspapers. Weegee intended these mass-produced multiples, and not the photographic prints themselves, to be the final forms of his imagery… He did not expect or intend his work to be experienced in the form of photographic prints.”

A. D. Coleman, “Weegee as Printmaker: An Anomaly in the Marketplace,” in Tarnished Silver: After the Photo Boom. New York: Midmarch, 1996, p. 28. (Emphasis added.) quoted in Jason E. Hill.

 

The subject of this photograph, a sixteen-year-old boy, confessed to tying up and strangling four-year-old William Drach in the Bronx on October 29, 1944, allegedly mimicking what he had seen in a movie. Here, Weegee adapts the traditional tropes of portraiture, in which the sitter’s hands and facial features are of the utmost importance, to present a caged criminal still armed with his weapons. Exploiting the cramped quarters of the police van, Weegee frames the boy’s placid face within the crisscross of the chain-linked fence. The boy’s hands – the presumed tools of his crime – are eerily dismembered from his body.

“On November 9, 1944, the American photographer Weegee made three exposures of Frank Pape, moments after the sixteen year old was arraigned on homicide charges for the accidental strangling death of a four-year-old neighbor and as he was escorted into a police wagon outside the Manhattan Police Headquarters, on Centre Market Place, en route to the 161st Street courthouse in the Bronx.1 Of these, the third expo- sure, which pictures the young Pape through the luminously articulated mesh of that police wagon’s grated rear window and is the basis for Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944 in the Thomas Walther Collection, now stands among the photographer’s best-known and most widely collected and reproduced works.”

For more on the creation and dissemination of this print, see Jason E. Hill, “In the Police Wagon, in the Press, and in The Museum of Modern Art (A Note on Weegee’s Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944)”.

The original negative was horizontal and was cropped in various proportions, photographs taken from the above article by Jason E. Hill:

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) 'Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York' 1944

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig)
Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York
1944
Photographic negative (digitally scanned and inverted)
4 x 5″ (10.2 x 12.7 cm)
International Center of Photography
© 2014 Weegee/International Center of Photography/Getty Images

PHOTOGRAPH NOT IN EXHIBITION

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) 'Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York' 1944 indicating cropping variants

 

This print, made by Sid Kaplan in 1983, shows the entire view of Weegee’s original negative for the third exposure he took of Frank Pape in November 1944. Colored frames indicate the cropping of prints, now in various collections, derived from the negative: Sid Kaplan’s portfolio of Weegee’s prints, International Center of Photography, New York (red); Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (blue); Sixteen-Year-Old Boy Who Strangled a Four-Year-Old Child to Death, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (dark green); Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (brown); Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (orange); Frank Pape, Arrested for Strangling Boy to Death, New York, International Center of Photography (yellow); the image as it was first published in PM (white); the image as it appeared in Weegee’s 1945 book, Naked City (light green).

 

William Klein. 'Gun 1, New York' 1955

 

William Klein (American, born New York, 1928)
Gun 1, New York
1954, printed 1986
Gelatin silver print
45.4 x 33.3 cm (17 7/8 x 13 1/8 in.)
Gift of the artist, in honor of his mother, Mrs. Helen Klein, 1987

 

 

Upon his return home in the late 1940s after eight years abroad in the army, Klein found his native New York City familiar but strange. Commissioned by Vogue to create a photographic book about the city, Klein recorded its vibrancy and grittiness, producing an uncompromising portrait that the magazine ultimately rejected. He subsequently took his photographs to Paris and published them under the title Life is Good & Good for You in New York. For this photograph, Klein asked two boys on Upper Broadway to pose. One pointed a gun at the camera, his face erupting with rage, mimicking the stereotypical poses of criminals in our image-saturated society.

 

United Press International (American) Person in Photograph: Patricia Hearst (American, born 1954) 'SAN FRANCISCO. Fugitive newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst and three other members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) were reported captured in the Mission District here 9/18, bringing to an end one of the most bizarre criminal cases in U.S. History. In this photo released by the FBI 4/15/74, a girl resembling Miss Hearst is shown with a weapon in hand during a robbery of the Hibernia Bank' 1974

 

United Press International (American)
Person in Photograph: Patricia Hearst (American, born 1954)
SAN FRANCISCO. Fugitive newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst and three other members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) were reported captured in the Mission District here 9/18, bringing to an end one of the most bizarre criminal cases in U.S. History. In this photo released by the FBI 4/15/74, a girl resembling Miss Hearst is shown with a weapon in hand during a robbery of the Hibernia Bank
1974
Gelatin silver print
22.4 x 17.5 cm (8 13/16 x 6 7/8 in.)
Gift of Alan L. Paris, 2011

 

 

The newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in a 1974 shot from a bank surveillance camera.

The kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) was one of the most sensational news stories of the twentieth century. As part of its mission to dismantle the U.S. government and its capitalist values, the SLA abducted Hearst, an act that catapulted the terrorist group onto an international stage. A few months later, the SLA released tapes of Hearst declaring that she had joined their crusade, and within weeks she was photographed participating in a San Francisco bank robbery. The bank’s surveillance camera captured the photographs, vividly demonstrating the power of the medium to render a dramatic image of an event, even without a person behind the lens.

 

Larry Clark (American, born 1943) 'Armed Robbers, Oklahoma City' 1975, printed 1981

 

Larry Clark (American, born 1943)
Armed Robbers, Oklahoma City
1975, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 20.2 cm. (12 x 7 15/16 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1994
© Larry Clark

 

 

A child of Eisenhower’s straitlaced and conformist 1950s America, Clark saw the camera as a way to “turn back the years” and photograph a younger crowd doing the kinds of things he either did or wanted to have done when he himself was a teenager – shooting drugs, shacking up with prostitutes, and committing all manner of crimes. Because of the nature of who and what he was photographing, almost all of Clark’s work from this period would become memorial in nature. This double portrait makes manifest the dangerous allure that is often attached to portrayals of criminality.

 

United Press International (American) '[Bank Robber Aiming at Security Camera, Cleveland, Ohio]' March 8, 1975

 

United Press International (American)
[Bank Robber Aiming at Security Camera, Cleveland, Ohio]
March 8, 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image: 6 7/8 × 4 13/16 in. (17.4 × 12.2 cm) Sheet: 7 1/2 × 5 7/8 in. (19.1 × 15 cm)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2015

 

This startling photograph captures a robber firing his pistol at a bank camera to prevent it from recording his identity. Although he and his accomplices absconded with $11,600 in the heist, the gunman was too slow for the ever-watchful eye of the security camera, which caught his face right before the shot rang out, enabling authorities to identify their suspect.

 

 

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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

.
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

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26
Apr
16

Exhibition: ‘Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind’ at SCA Galleries, Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 16th March – 7th May 2016

 

Taken as a whole, the artist Roger Ballen’s body of work is exceptionally strong. From his early documentary series Dorps (1986) and Platteland (1996) which featured alienated and poverty poverty stricken whites in South Africa struggling with their place in the world after Apartheid; through my favourite series Outland (2001), Shadow Chamber (2005) and Boarding House (2009) which portrayed down and out whites on the fringe of South African society in a surrealist, performative art; to the more recent Animal Abstraction (2011), I Fink U Freeky (2013) and Asylum of the Birds (2014) … through each of these series you can trace the development of this preternatural artist, whose work seems to exist almost beyond nature itself.

The move from documentary photographer to director/collaborator/actor/observer was critical to the development of Ballen’s art. As the text on the Outland web page on Roger Ballen’s website states, “Where previously his pictures, however troubling, fell firmly into the category of documentary photography, these pictures move into the realms of fiction. Ballen’s characters act out dark and discomfiting tableaux, providing images which are exciting and disturbing in equal measure. One is forced to wonder whether they are exploited victims, colluding directly in their own ridicule, or newly empowered and active participants within the drama of their representation.” From the videos included in this posting, it is obvious that the latter statement is the correct interpretation. Through this thematic development, the viewer may come to understand the nature of the artist’s collaboration with the people, places and things that he photographs. The empathy that these photographs and videos evidence, the interchangeable director/actor roles, and the connection that he has with his subject matter gives insight into the compassion of this man. He never judges anyone. He accepts them for who they are and works with them to create these challenging art works.

Apparently these photographs, “have a singular ability to cause disquiet to the viewer.” Personally, they have never caused me disquiet for I find them quite fascinating. They follow on from a long line of photographers who have observed the marginalised in society, from the circus freak show photographs, through Diane Arbus and Arthur Tress (who also has a book called Theater of the Mind) to Joel Peter-Witkin and Roger Ballen. Much like the earlier Robert Frank’s seminal book The Americans, which featured an outsider photographing a world from a different point of view, Ballen moved to South Africa from America in 1982 and has never fully lost that outsider status. As John McDonald observes, “He has been there long enough to be an insider, but retains the probing eye of an outsider, able to see a side of life that native-born can’t see, or don’t wish to see.” And that is the point: all of these artists, with their probing eyes, can perceive difference and accept it on its own terms. They portray the world through a horizontal consciousness (an equal “living field” if you like), not a heirarchical system of privilege, power and control, where some are better, more worthy than others.

But what nature is he investigating? Is it human nature and its ability to survive under the most dire circumstances? Is it the nature of the relationship of the body to its environment, or the human to animals, or the relationship between our souls and our subconscious? It’s all of these and more. Ballen probes these nexus, the strands that connect and link our lives together: our dreams, nightmares and desires. His photographs act as a form of binding together, bringing the periphery of society into the centre (of attention). He creates an extant reality in which we are asked to question: how do we feel towards these people and how do we feel about our own lives?

He achieves this creation through the use of what I call “heightened awareness” – both situationally and subconsciously. Ballen is fully aware and receptive towards the conditions of his environment and his dreams. Instead of a desire to possess the object of his longing and then to be possessed by that desire (desire to possess / possessed by desire) Ballen has learnt, as Krishnamurti did, not to make images out of every word, out of every vision and desire. Ballen understands that he must be attentive to the clarity of not making images – of desire, of prejudice, of flattery – because only then might you become aware of the world that surrounds us, just for what it is and nothing more. He accepts what he can create and what is given to him by being fully aware. Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action.1 His images become a blend of the space of intimacy and world-space as he strains toward, “communion with the universe, in a word, space, the invisible space that man can live in nevertheless, and which surrounds him with countless presences.”2

His photographs become an enveloping phenomenon in which the viewer is draped in their affect… this ‘wearing of images’ is both magical and all encompassing.

We are the people in his pictures. We are their dreams.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

  1. Concepts from KrishnamurtiBeginnings of Learning. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1978, pp. 130-131.
  2. Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. (trans Maria Jolas). Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p. xxxv.

 

 

“Archetypal levels of the deeper subconscious pervade my photographs… When I create my photographs I often travel deep into my own interior, a place where dreams and many of my images originate. I see my photographs as mirrors, reflectors, connectors into the mind… The light comes from the dark.”

 

“These pictures are a very complex way of seeing, a very complex way of viewing the world and you know perhaps this went back to the time I was in my mother’s stomach… I can’t really say what exactly is the primary cause of what I do.”

 

“So the thing is is my pictures, my better pictures or a lot of my pictures, embed themselves deeply in the subconscious, because the mind isn’t ready for those photographs, they don’t have any corresponding experience in some way or another, so the pictures tend to have more of an impact on the person’s deeper mind than something we would normally think of as disturbing because the pictures get into the mind. People aren’t used to having things get in there and stay in there and threaten their image of themselves in some way or another and so that’s why they call them disturbing, they’re not actually disturbing a better way of saying it is that if somebody has some kind of consciousness they’re actually enlightening.”

.
Roger Ballen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“His raw, black & white images are alluring, fascinating and disturbing. He is one of the most important and exciting photographers of the 21st century. The intriguing work of Roger Ballen is coming to Australia, to Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), this March in the artist’s first major Sydney exhibition. Staged to coincide with the 20th Biennale of Sydney, Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind is a provocative exhibition of 75 contemporary works created by the artist over the last two decades.

Professor Colin Rhodes, Dean of the University of Sydney’s contemporary art school and curator of the exhibition, said: “For a long time Roger Ballen’s photography has trodden a path where others are too timid to tread, toying with our innermost dreams, nightmares and desires. The raw, atmospheric exhibition spaces at Sydney College of the Arts [the site of the former Rozelle Psychiatric Hospital] are the ideal setting to articulate this core aspect of Ballen’s work.”

Born in New York in 1950, Ballen has lived in Johannesburg since the 1970s. His work as a geologist took him across the countryside and led him to explore, through the camera lens, the smaller South African towns. His early photographs of the hidden lives of people living on the fringes of society made considerable impact, receiving acclaim from American writer and filmmaker Susan Sontag among others.

Through the medium of black and white photography, Ballen has achieved a unique integration of drawing, painting and installation that have been compared to the masters of art brut. His peculiar and somewhat shocking imagery confronts the viewer and drags them into the work. Viewers are participants in the work – not merely observers – taking them on a journey into the recesses of their minds, as Ballen explores his own.

Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind consists of five sections that see people, birds, animal and inanimate subjects become the ‘cast’ in an exhibition that is hard-hitting, psychological theatre. The Sydney exhibition includes a new installation work created onsite at SCA by Ballen in response to the site’s mental health history, in the labyrinth of underground cells of the former Rozelle hospital.

The show includes Ballen’s award-winning music video ‘I Fink U Freeky’ (2012) by South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord, which has received over 76 million hits on YouTube and earned a cult following. In addition, the public will be able to access his equally remarkable video works Outland and Asylum of the Birds.

The worldwide impact of Ballen’s work was celebrated in major retrospective exhibition at Washington DC’s Smithsonian National Museum of African Art from 2013 to 2014. It was this exhibition that drove Rhodes’ interest to bring Ballen’s work to Australia.

“When I first saw Ballen’s work en masse, I was struck by the role of drawing in his photos and what seemed to me a relationship with Art Brut or Outsider Art. The artist’s interest in and knowledge of Outsider Art is a key part of understanding the growth of Ballen’s identity as an international artist,” said Professor Rhodes.

Roger Ballen will present a public talk in Sydney at SCA on 9 March, ahead of the official opening of his Sydney exhibition on Tuesday 15 March. Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind is showing at SCA Galleries from 16 March to 7 May 2016. A 96-page book will accompany the exhibition featuring Ballen’s photography and an essay by Professor Rhodes.”

Press release from SCA Galleries

 

Roger Ballen. 'Caged' 2011

 

Roger Ballen
Caged
2011
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Bewitched' 2012

 

Roger Ballen
Bewitched
2012
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Untitled' 2015

 

Roger Ballen
Untitled
2015
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Twirling Wires' 2001

 

Roger Ballen
Twirling Wires
2001
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Mirrored' 2012

 

Roger Ballen
Mirrored
2012
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

 

“Ballen has no qualms about creating dramatic scenarios in his search for “archetypal” symbols that speak to the viewer’s subconscious. He began as a documentary photographer but over the years his pictures have become filled with drawings, paintings and sculptural brac-a-brac, created by the artist himself, or by his subjects. In works such as Collision (2005) or Deathbed (2010), there are no figures, but the human presence is implied by a face drawn on a pillow or the broken head of a doll. The walls in both photos are covered in crude drawings and dirty marks – signs of previous occupation…

[Ballen] argues that these images are primarily psychological, not sociological. He wants to address that deep, dark part of the mind that Freud called “the Id”. As a concept it’s more poetic than biological – a shared repositary of instinctive drives that remains buried under the trappings of civilisation…

Despite the extreme nature of her work, Diane Arbus remained within the documentary tradition, whereas a figure such as Joel-Peter Witkin constructs his own theatrical tableaux in the studio. Ballen’s work is somewhere between these two poles. The subjects of his photographs are society’s misfits, but his approach is shamelessly theatrical. His figures are not posing passively, they are collaborating with someone who has won their trust, creating a form of ad hoc performance art in bare, filthy rooms…

It’s more interesting to ask what Ballen feels when he enters such environments. To take these photos he has immersed himself in a world of violence and madness. If he has built up a rapport with his subjects it is by treating them not as freaks, but as people with their own sense of dignity. He refuses to buy into conventional distinctions about what is normal and abnormal, presumably as a legacy of his early exposure to the counterculture and the anti-psychiatry movement.”

John McDonald. “Roger Ballen,” on the John McDonald website April 7, 2016 [Online] Cited 25/04/2016

 

Roger Ballen. 'Lunchtime' 2001

 

Roger Ballen
Lunchtime
2001
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Take off' 2012

 

Roger Ballen
Take off
2012
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Cat and Mouse' 2001

 

Roger Ballen
Cat and Mouse
2001
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'School Room' 2003

 

Roger Ballen
School Room
2003
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Portrait of sleeping girl' 2000

 

Roger Ballen
Portrait of sleeping girl
2000

 

Roger Ballen. 'Deathbed' 2010

 

Roger Ballen
Deathbed
2010

 

Roger Ballen. 'Three hands' 2006

 

Roger Ballen
Three hands
2006

 

Roger Ballen. 'Head inside shirt' 2001

 

Roger Ballen
Head inside shirt
2001

 

 

SCA Galleries
Sydney College of the Arts (University of Sydney)
Kirkbride Way, off Balmain Road, Lilyfield (enter opposite Cecily Street)
Tel: +61 2 9351 1008

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday, 11am – 5pm
Saturday, 11am – 4pm (during exhibitions)

SCA Galleries website

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29
Mar
16

Review: ‘Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan’ at the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum

Exhibition dates: 15th January – 15th April 2016

 

This is the most profound exhibition that I have seen so far this year. Simply put, the exhibition is magnificent … a must see for any human being with an ounce of understanding and compassion in their body.

While I am vehemently anti-war, and believe that we should have never have been in Afghanistan in the first place, these sensual and skeletal paintings represent the danger that these soldiers exposed themselves to in the line of duty. The sensuousness and vulnerability of their solitary, contorted poses – poses which they themselves chose to for Quilty to paint – reflect an actual event, such as taking cover to engage insurgents. That these naked poses then turn out to have a quiet eroticism embedded in them confirms the link between eroticism, death and sensuality as proposed by Georges Bataille. The three forms of eroticism (physical, emotional, religious) try to substitute continuity (life) for discontinuity (death). In these paintings the soldiers lay bare their inner self. They bring forth experiences that have been buried – their dissociation from the reality of what occurred, the experiences they have repressed, the post-traumatic stress – brought to the surface and examined in these paintings through the re-presentation of suppressed emotions, through a form of emotional eroticism, a primordial rising of eroticism, death and sensuality. An affirming act of life over death.

As an artist, Quilty intimately understands this process. I think a strong element of this exhbition is the feeling that there is something missing, that the range of concerns is lacking something. I suspect this is deliberate. Something is being withheld. And what is being withheld in the paintings is, I believe, narrative.

While there is an overarching text narrative – soldiers painted “after Afghanistan” – and individual paintings have titles such as Sergeant P, Troy Park, Trooper M and Trooper Daniel Westcott, these paintings could almost be of any human being who has been a soldier. Other than the specific triptych of Air Commodore John Oddie (and even then the portraits remind me of the ambiguity of Francis Bacon’s Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953), these paintings could be of any soldier. As Gerhard Ricther observes, “You can only express in words what words are capable of expressing, what language can communicate. Painting has nothing to do with that.” After Richter, you might say that “there is no plan”, there is only feeling in the work of Ben Quilty, embodied through his brush. Here, I see links to the work of that great British painter, Francis Bacon.

“Bacon was deeply suspicious of narrative. For him, narrative seems to be the natural enemy of vision; it blinds… Bacon seems to propose an opposition between narrative as a product that can be endlessly reproduced, as re-presentation – the ‘boredom’ is inspired by the deja vu of repetition – and narrative as process, as sensation. Conveying a story implies that a pre-existing story, fictional or not, is transferred to an addressee. Narrative is then reduced to a kind of transferable message. Opposed to this ‘conveying of story’, ‘telling a story’ focuses on the activity or process of narrative. This process is not repeatable; it cannot be iterative because it takes place, it happens, whenever ‘story’ happens… Bacon’s hostility toward narrative is directed against narrative as product, as re-presentation, not against narrative as process.
(Bacon) does not paint characters, but figures. Figures, unlike characters, do not imply a relationship between an object outside the painting and the figure in the painting that supposedly illustrates that object. The figure is, and refers only to itself.”1

The figure is, and refers only to itself, and it is up to the viewer to actively interpret this telling of the story each time they view one of Quilty’s paintings. There is no transferable message.

Further, much like Bacon’s triptychs, Quilty’s paintings depict isolated figures or figural events on the panels. The figures are isolated in their space and their is never any clear interaction between the figures. “Bacon explains the use of the triptych as follows: ‘It helps to avoid storytelling if the figures are painted on three different canvases’ … The figures never fully become characters, while the figural events are never explained by being embedded in a sequence of events. The figures interact neither with each other nor with their environment. Although Bacon’s paintings display many signs which traditionally signify narrativity, by the same token any attempt to postulate narratives based on the paintings is countered.”2

In these paintings, Quilty does not turn away from the evidence of the soldiers before him who express through their bodies that life is violent. He does not attempt to save the viewer from such unpleasantries. As Bacon comments, “The feelings of desperation and unhappiness are more useful to an artist than the feeling of contentment, because desperation and unhappiness stretch your whole sensibility.” Quilty stretches his sensibility as an artist and as a human being by getting down and dirty with his subject matter, both physically and emotionally. In fact, I would say Quilty becomes his subject, so close does the artist get to the object of his attention (after all, this is also Quilty’s experience of Afghanistan, as much as it is the soldiers who he is painting. The artist is always present in the work). The closer you get to one of his paintings, the more the detail vanishes and the more the paint becomes like blood and guts. The artist presses up against his subject which dissolves into abstraction. A bravura tour de force of painting that it so confident in its intent… [that there are] huge stretches of bare white canvas as flesh, with these striking gestures for throat and nipple executed without fear in one stroke of the brush. The black hole appearing out of the side of the soldiers head reminds me of Carl Jung’s ambivalent feelings toward his unconscious shadow; and at one end of the gallery you have a black hole (Trooper Luke Korman, Tarin Kot, 2012, below) and at the other a white hole (Trooper Luke Korman, 2012, below), such are the energies of yin yang that flow through the lighter of the gallery spaces.

Using what the photographer Imogen Cunningham termed the ‘paradox of expansion via reduction’ – closing in on subject (either physically and/or mentally), the intensity and focus attendant to a clear way of seeing – allows Quilty’s work to be flooded with sensuality and reductive power. The horror of the body, of how fragile we are (Damien Hirst) is expressed through the visceral paint. The viewer’s mind tells the story, creates the horror, the closer you get to the work. As I said earlier, there is no transferable message, no actual interpretation but universal triggers that impinge on the viewer’s mind. Quilty plays with the flow of time and space, memory and war by disassociating himself from traditional narrative. As the quotation below from Peter Handke’s novel Across eloquently expresses it, it is a sense of “being-empty” (Zen), an empty form that is also full at the same time. Every object in Quilty’s opus moves into place and we pass over, quietly, into a place we have never been before, through paintings that picture the unknowable. Something we have never seen or felt before. In painting, I don’t think there are many artists that could have achieved what Quilty has with this body of work.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,125

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

 

  1. Ernst Van Alphen. Francis Bacon and the Loss of Self, 1992 quoted in “Francis Bacon and ‘Narrative’, the Natural Enemy of Vision,” on the ASX website, June 27 2013 [Online] Cited 29/03/2016.
  2. Ibid.,

 

 

“With the light of that moment, silence fell. The warming emptiness that I need so badly spread. My forehead no longer needed a supporting hand. It wasn’t exactly a warmth, but a radiance; it welled up rather than spread; not an emptiness, but a being-empty; not so much my being-empty as an empty form. And the empty form meant: story. But it also meant that nothing happened. When the story began, my trail was lost. Blurred. This emptiness was no mystery; but what made it effective remained a mystery. It was as tyrannical as it was appeasing; and its peace meant: I must not speak. Under its implosion, everything (every object) moved into place. “Emptiness!” The word was equivalent to the invocation of the Muse at the beginning of an epic. It provoked not a shudder but lightness and joy, and presented itself as a law: As it is now, so shall it be. In terms of image, it was a shallow river crossing.”

.
Peter Handke. Across. Ralph Manheim (translator). Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000, p. 5.

 

“I do not want to avoid telling a story, but I want very, very much to do the thing that Valery said – to give the sensation without the boredom of its conveyance. And the moment the story enters, the boredom comes upon you.”

.
Francis Bacon

 

 

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Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery with, from left to right, Sergeant P, after Afghanistan (2012); Trooper Daniel Westcott, after Afghanistan (2012); and Troy Park, after Afghanistan (2012)

 

 

Sergeant P, a Special Operations Task Group soldier, is a survivor of a Black Hawk helicopter crash that claimed the lives of three Australians. Some of the soldiers depicted in the other portraits witnessed the crash and were first on the scene to provide assistance. The memory of this experience, and the friends who did not make it, will stay with these men for a long time.

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper Daniel Westcott, after Afghanistan' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper Daniel Westcott, after Afghanistan
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'Troy Park, after Afghanistan' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Troy Park, after Afghanistan
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery with, from left to right, Troy Park, after Afghanistan, no. 2 (2012); Trooper M, after Afghanistan (2012); and Trooper M, after Afghanistan, no. 2 (2012)

 

Ben Quilty. 'Troy Park, after Afghanistan, no. 2' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Troy Park, after Afghanistan, no. 2
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

Quilty asked the soldiers to suggest a post that encapsulated some of the emotions that surrounded their experience in Afghanistan. Often the pose is quite contorted, as it reflects an actual event, such as taking cover to engage insurgents.

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper M, after Afghanistan' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper M, after Afghanistan
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

“You can’t really stop out there. You have to keep doing your job and keep moving forward … There is no time, until you get home, to stop and think about it.”

Trooper M

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper M, after Afghanistan, no. 2' 2012 (detail)

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper M, after Afghanistan, no. 2 (detail)
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

“Sitting for Ben is therapeutic; it does get a lot of stuff off your chest. And actually seeing your portrait on canvas, I think for me it’s definitely a chapter that I can close and leave there.”

Trooper M

 

Ben Quilty. 'Bushmaster' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Bushmaster
2012
Aerosol and oil on linen
Donated by Ben Quilty through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program in 2013

 

 

Portraiture for Quilty can also take a vehicle as its subject. This destroyed Bushmaster reflects the soldiers’ identity and is a vestige of their physical experience. They risk their lives while carrying out their duties in these versatile military vehicles.

“I met a young man who’d been in the back of a Bushmaster that had blown up. The Bushmaster is the big armoured four-wheel-drive vehicle that’s saving a lot of Australian lives, but even so the explosion caused every single you man inside that vehicle to suffer from concussion and one of them was blown out of the gun turret and landed in front of the vehicle among possibly more hidden explosive devices.”

Ben Quilty

 

Ben Quilty. 'Captain S, after Afghanistan' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Captain S, after Afghanistan
2012
Oil on linen
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

 

“I think when Ben paints, he’s not looking for what’s on the outside … He’s more after what they’re feeling o what they’ve been through … He’s looking at the inner instead of just the outer.”

Captain S

 

Ben Quilty. 'Lance Corporal M, after Afghanistan' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Lance Corporal M, after Afghanistan
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'Lance Corporal M, after Afghanistan' 2012 (detail)

 

Ben Quilty
Lance Corporal M, after Afghanistan (detail)
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

The naked portraits have a sensuousness and vulnerability in their solitary, contorted poses. The rough surface signifies the uniform and body armour that have been stripped away in front of us, and them. We and they recognise what they have endured and achieved.

“I wanted [this soldier] to be naked, showing not only his physical strength but also the frailty of human skin and the darkness of the emotional weight of the war.”

Ben Quilty

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of drawings from the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery including, at bottom left, Captain M II, Tarin Kot (October 2011, below) and third from left top, Waiting, Tarin Kot (October 2011, below)

 

 

“This very wild place”

Sitting and talking with the Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, Quilty became intrigued by their experiences. He came to feel responsible for telling the stories of these young men and women.

“I started doing drawings of the soldiers, and hearing their stories about their experiences of being in this very wild place. I realised that I needed to just sit with them … making portraits of these guys in Tarin Kot or wherever I was … getting them to sit still and talk to me about their experience. Those little drawings are a reminder to me of the time that I spent with those people. I hoped that there’d be some remnant of that experience that I could then draw out … to put into the paintings when I returned to Australia.”

Ben Quilty

The trust that Quilty developed with these soldiers in Afghanistan was strong enough to continue at home in Quilty’s studio, where he invited some to sit for larger portraits.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

(top row, first three from left)

Ben Quilty
Private C, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured felt tip pen on paper
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

Ben Quilty
Trooper M, Special Forces, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured felt tip pen, pencil and ink wash on paper
Collection of the artist

Ben Quilty
Captain Kate Porter
27 October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured pencil and ink wash on paper
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

(bottom row, first three from left)

Ben Quilty
Sergeant M II, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Pencil and ink wash on paper
Collection of the artist

Ben Quilty
Chinook pilot, Kandahar Airfield
October 2011
Drawn at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar province, Afghanistan
Pencil and ink wash on paper
Collection of the artist

Ben Quilty
Brigadier General Noorullah, Afghan National Army, Tarin Kot
22 October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured felt tip pen on paper
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

 

While in Tarin Kot, Quilty attended a marching out parade of 400 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers who had completed training under the Australian Mentoring Task Fore. There he met a senior ANA commander, Brigadier General Noorullah. Just days later, three Australian soldiers were killed at a similar training parade being held at Forward Operating Base Sorkh Bed (aka Pacemaker). Quilty learnt of the incident the day after he left Afghanistan, giving him an even greater sense of the dangers that the soldiers he met face daily.

 

Ben Quilty. 'Captain Kate Porter' 27 October 2011

 

Ben Quilty
Captain Kate Porter
27 October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured pencil and ink wash on paper
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

 

Quilty wanted to meet a cross-section of people serving in Afghanistan – soldiers driving Bushmasters, Chinook pilots, Special Forces soldiers, and both men and women of all ranks – to try to understand who makes up the Australian Defence Force. He met Captain Kate Porter at Tarin Kot. There he spoke to her about her experiences as female in the very masculine community of the Special Operations Task Group, as well as her general experience as a soldier in Afghanistan.

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper M, Special Forces, Tarin Kot' October 2011

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper M, Special Forces, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured felt tip pen, pencil and ink wash on paper
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'Waiting, Tarin Kot' October 2011

 

Ben Quilty
Waiting, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Coloured felt tip pen on paper
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

Ben Quilty. 'Captain M II, Tarin Kot' October 2011

 

Ben Quilty
Captain M II, Tarin Kot
October 2011
Drawn at Tarin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan
Pencil and ink wash on paper
Collection of the artist

 

 

“Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan is an extraordinary Australian War Memorial Touring Exhibition by one of the nation’s most incisive artists, and is of great relevance to all Australians. The exhibition officially opens at Castlemaine Art Gallery on Friday 15 January 2016.

The exhibition itself was the result of the Archibald Prize-winning artist’s three-week tour across Afghanistan in October 2011. Engaged as an Official War Artist, his purpose was to record and interpret the experiences of Australians deployed as part of Operation Slipper in Kabul, Kandahar, and Tarin Kot in Afghanistan and at Al Minhad Airbase in the United Arab Emirates. In fulfilling his brief, Quilty spoke with many Australian servicemen and women, gaining an insight into their experiences whilst serving in the region, and ultimately leaving with an overwhelming need to tell their stories.

Quilty recently spoke on ANZAC Day 2015 and paid tribute not only to those who did not return from Afghanistan and their grieving families, but also to “the young men and women who live amongst us who have paid so dearly and will quietly wear the thick cloak of trauma for many years to come, after Afghanistan.”

The exhibition is a must see as Quilty is arguably one of Australia’s greatest living painters, and this exhibition, with its intense and emotional subject matter is particularly important to Castlemaine, a town with a history of young men and women serving their country far from home. The exhibition has been very well received across the country with over 70,000 visitors attending the works when on display most recently in Darwin. Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial believes Quilty should be considered one of Australia’s great official war artists.

“Ben Quilty’s works follows a truly great tradition at the Australian War Memorial of appointing artists to record and interpret the Australian experience of war.”

“Ben brought to this task all his brilliance, sensitivity and compassion. The works he produced will leave Australians a legacy which informs them not only about the impact of war on our country, but even more importantly, about the effects on the men and women he has depicted,” said Dr Nelson.

Dr Jan Savage, President of the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum Committee of Management said the exhibition, “was significant in understanding the impact of war on serving members of the Australian armed forces and I encourage visitors to attend this most important exhibition.”

Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan is on display at Castlemaine Art Gallery from 15 January until 15 April 2016.

An Australian War Memorial Touring Exhibition, proudly sponsored by Thales.”

Text from the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum website

 

Ben Quilty. 'Tarin Kot, Hilux' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Tarin Kot, Hilux
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'Kandahar' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Kandahar
2012
Oil on linen
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

Ben Quilty. 'Kandahar' 2012 (detail)

 

Ben Quilty
Kandahar (detail)
2012
Oil on linen
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

 

Kandahar Airfield is a multinational vase with approximately 35,000 people from the International Security Assistance Fore, aid organisations, and a pool of local civilian staff. Weapons are carried at all times by both military and civilian personnel, creating a tense atmosphere with a violent undercurrent. Quilty described Kandahar as being a cross between the worlds of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and Catch 22, a surreal, dusty, and violent place. “For the first week in Kandahar, I basically felt like I was dodging rockets. The first night we landed there, two or three rockets landed inside the compound.”

This painting was Quilty’s first visceral response on his return from Afghanistan and i sums up his emotions, particularly his personal experience of Kandahar and being a part of the maelstrom of war.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery with, at centre, Tarin Kot, Hilux (2012) and, at right, Kandahar (2012)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

 

Returning from war

“You can’t take the experiences out of your head.
You can’t take the damages out of your head.”

John Oddie

 

On his return to Australia, Ben Quilty contacted Air Commodore John Oddie (Ret’d), whom he had met during his Afghanistan deployment, to invite him to sit for a portrait in his studio. From February to October 2011, Oddie had been the Deputy Commander of Australian forces in the Middle east, a position of immense responsibility.

Quilty eventually produced three portraits over five months. These works reveal a man returning from war and its burden of responsibility, exhausted emotionally and mentally, and his progress towards a more positive view of life and of himself as a survivor.

 

Ben Quilty. 'Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 3' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 3
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 3' 2012 (detail)

 

Ben Quilty
Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 3 (detail)
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

“I don’t necessarily see beauty, I see insight in what Ben does. That’s reflected in the way he paints … I think his later portraits, done after he’s got to know us better, are different from the raw emotion of the first ones.”

John Oddie

 

Ben Quilty. 'Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 1' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 1
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

“With through a lack of insight or through an unwillingness … I wasn’t always admitting the truth to myself about my life. Ben really took that out and put it on a table in front of me like a three-course dinner and said, well, how about that? And you know, I sort of thought well, I’m not going to come to this restaurant again in a hurry!”

John Oddie

 

Ben Quilty. 'Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 2' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Air Commodore John Oddie, after Afghanistan, no. 2
2012
Oil on linen
Collection of the artist

 

 

“He’s got this one little gash of paint and it brings out this wry smile that I didn’t even know I had … When I stood back and had a look, I was just stunned at the honesty of the painting – until then I hadn’t really been fully honest with myself about what I was feeling.”

John Oddie

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Introductory text from the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Introductory titles and text for the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper Daniel Spain, Tarin Kot' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper Daniel Spain, Tarin Kot
2012
Oil on linen diptych
Collection of the artist

 

 

In some of the works, Quilty has used dramatic symbols to represent the emotional weight and the sense of emptiness he felt some soldiers brought home with them after Afghanistan. The black hole motif also reflects his own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty during his time there.

“I had such extreme feelings about the smell, sound, emotions of being in Afghanistan … I wanted to convey this.”

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper Luke Korman' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper Luke Korman
2012
Aerosol and oil on linen
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan' at the Castlemaine Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ben Quilty: After Afghanistan at the Castlemaine Art Gallery with, on the far wall, Trooper Luke Korman, Tarin Kot (2012, left) and SOTG, after Afghanistan (2011, right)

 

Ben Quilty. 'Trooper Luke Korman, Tarin Kot' 2012

 

Ben Quilty
Trooper Luke Korman, Tarin Kot
2012
Aerosol and oil on linen diptych
Collection of the artist

 

Ben Quilty. 'SOTG, after Afghanistan' 2011

 

Ben Quilty
SOTG, after Afghanistan
2011
Oil on linen diptych
Acquired under the official art scheme 2012

 

 

As part of his initial idea for the war artist commission, Quilty photographed soldiers of the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan in the same pose. He asked each of them to face the sun with their eyes closed, then open them and stare into the blinding light. At that instant Quilty would take the photograph. “To me, this symbolises what they’re facing, something immense, overwhelming.”

Back in Australia, Quilty attempted to work from these photographs, and created a handful of portraits. He was dissatisfied with the results. Determined to re-establish a personal connection with his subjects, he invited some of them to sit for portraits in his studio.

 

 

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24
Mar
16

Exhibition: ‘Cosa Mentale: Art and Telepathy in the 20th century’ at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, Paris

Exhibition dates: 28th October 2015 – 28th March 2016

 

Telepathic art in the 20th century. What a fascinating subject for a spiritual, phantasmagoric exhibition which explores artists’ fascination with the direct transmission of thought and emotion. A lot of phenomena – for example telepathy, X-rays, psychoanalysis – were named or discovered in the last half of the nineteenth century or are concepts and things that began to gain popularity in the collective consciousness at that time, such as the unconscious mind, the anima and animus, the study of signs, photographs of thought, photographs of hysteria (Charcot) and notes and photographs on unexplained paranormal experiences.

“The exhibition enables the spectator to understand how, throughout the 20th century, attempts to give material and visible form to thought processes coincide with the experiments of avant-garde artists. This fantasy of a direct projection of thought not only had a decisive impact on the birth of abstraction but also influenced surrealism and its obsession with the collective sharing of creation and, in the post war period, it gave rise to numerous visual and sound installations inspired by the revolution in information technology, leading to the declaration of “the dematerialisation of art” in conceptual practices.”

Love the work of Émile Cohl and Len Lye, both a revelation to me.

Marcus

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

 

 

Louis Darget. 'Fluidic Thought-Image Photography' 1896

 

Louis Darget
Fluidic Thought-Image Photography
1896

(L) Inscribed: “Photo… of thought. Head obtained by Mr. Henning, having a plate wrapped in black paper on his forehead while he played the piano. Opposite him on the piano was a portrait of Beethoven. Could this be that [same] portrait reflected by the brain onto the plate through the black paper. Comt. Darget”

(R) “Photograph of a Dream: The Eagle.” 25 June, 1896.
Inscribed: “Obtained by placing a photographic plate above the forehead of Mme Darget while she was asleep.”

 

Edvard Munch. 'Madonna' 1895

 

Edvard Munch
Madonna
1895
Paris, Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’Art moderne
© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Georges Meguerditchian

 

Odilon Redon. 'Portrait de Paul Gauguin' 1903-1906

 

Odilon Redon
Portrait of Paul Gauguin
1903-1906
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

 

 

Émile Cohl
Le retapeur de cervelles (The creators brain)
1910

 

Auguste Rodin. 'Le Penseur [The Thinker]' 1903

 

Auguste Rodin
Le Penseur [The Thinker]
1903
Plâtre patiné / patinated plaster
72 x 37 x 57,50 cm
© Photographe : Christian Baraja
© Musée Rodin, Paris

 

 

When conceived in 1880 in its original size (approx. 70 cm) as the crowning element of The Gates of Hell, seated on the tympanum, The Thinker was entitled The Poet. He represented Dante, author of the Divine Comedy which had inspired The Gates, leaning forward to observe the circles of Hell, while meditating on his work. The Thinker was therefore initially both a being with a tortured body, almost a damned soul, and a free-thinking man, determined to transcend his suffering through poetry. The pose of this figure owes much to Carpeaux’s Ugolino (1861) and to the seated portrait of Lorenzo de Medici carved by Michelangelo (1526-31).

While remaining in place on the monumental Gates of Hell, The Thinker was exhibited individually in 1888 and thus became an independent work. Enlarged in 1904, its colossal version proved even more popular: this image of a man lost in thought, but whose powerful body suggests a great capacity for action, has became one of the most celebrated sculptures ever known. Numerous casts exist worldwide, including the one now in the gardens of the Musée Rodin, a gift to the City of Paris installed outside the Panthéon in 1906, and another in the gardens of Rodin’s house in Meudon, on the tomb of the sculptor and his wife. (Text from the Rodin Museum website)

 

Stephen Haweis and Henry Coles. 'Le Penseur' c. 1903-1904

 

Stephen Haweis and Henry Coles
Le Penseur
c. 1903-1904
Epreuve au charbon / Charcoal
23 x 16,60 cm
© Musée Rodin, Paris

 

 

“Cosa Mentale  is a unique exhibition that offers a re-reading of the history or art from 1990 to modern day by exploring artists’ fascination with the direct transmission of thought and emotion. It invites the spectator to re-live one of the unexpected adventures of modernity: telepathic art in the 20th century. This exhibition traces a chronological path from symbolism to conceptual art with a collection of some one hundred works by major artists, ranging from Edvard Munch to Vassily Kandinsky, and from Joan Miró to Sigmar Polke. These artists provide innovative ways of communicating with spectators that take us beyond conventional linguistic codes.

The exhibition enables the spectator to understand how, throughout the 20th century, attempts to give material and visible form to thought processes coincide with the experiments of avant-garde artists. This fantasy of a direct projection of thought not only had a decisive impact on the birth of abstraction but also influenced surrealism and its obsession with the collective sharing of creation and, in the post war period, it gave rise to numerous visual and sound installations inspired by the revolution in information technology, leading to the declaration of “the dematerialisation of art” in conceptual practices.

The exhibition begins with the invention of the term “telepathy” in 1882, at a time when the study of psychology interacted with rapid developments in telecommunications. Endeavours ranged from the creation of “photographs of thought” in 1895 to the first “encephalograms” in 1924 (the year when the Surrealist Manifesto was published) and it was the actual activity of the brain which was to be shown in all its transparency, which encouraged artists to reject the conventions of representation by suppressing all restrictions of translation. Telepathy was far from remaining an obscure paranormal fantasy and consistently intrigued and enthralled artists throughout the 20th century. Always present in the world of science fiction, it resurfaced in psychedelic and conceptual art in the period from 1960 to 1970 before reappearing today in contemporary practices enraptured by technologies of “shared knowledge” and the rapid development of neuroscience.

Curator

Pascal Rousseau, professor of contemporary history of art at the University of Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne. Pascal Rousseau has also curated Robert Delaunay exhibitions: From impressionism to abstraction, 1906-1914, at the Centre Pompidou (1999) and To the origins of abstraction (1800-1914) at the Musée d’Orsay (2003).”

Press release from the Centre Pompidou-Metz

 

Joan Miró. 'La Sieste' July-September 1925

 

Joan Miró
La Sieste
July – September 1925
© Successió Miró/ ADAGP, Paris, 2015

 

Vassily Kandinsky. 'Bild mit rotem Fleck [Tableau à la tache rouge / Image with red spot]' 25 February 1914

 

Vassily Kandinsky
Bild mit rotem Fleck [Tableau à la tache rouge / Image with red spot]
25 February 1914
Paris, Centre Pompidou – Musée national d’art moderne
© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Adam Rzepka

 

Frantisek Kupka. 'Facture robuste' 1920

 

Frantisek Kupka
Facture robuste
1920
Strasbourg, Musée d’Art moderne et contemporain
© ADAGP, Paris, 2015
© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jacques Faujour

 

 

Len Lye (New Zealand/America, 1901-1980)
Tusalava
1929
Film
10 min. 5 sec.

 

 

As a student, Lye became convinced that motion could be part of the language of art, leading him to early (and now lost) experiments with kinetic sculpture, as well as a desire to make film. Lye was also one of the first Pākehā artists to appreciate the art of Māori, Australian Aboriginal, Pacific Island and African cultures, and this had great influence on his work. In the early 1920s Lye travelled widely in the South Pacific. He spent extended periods in Australia and Samoa, where he was expelled by the New Zealand colonial administration for living within an indigenous community.

Working his way as a coal trimmer aboard a steam ship, Lye moved to London in 1926. There he joined the Seven and Five Society, exhibited in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition and began to make experimental films. Following his first animated film Tusalava, Lye began to make films in association with the British General Post Office, for the GPO Film Unit. He reinvented the technique of drawing directly on film, producing his animation for the 1935 film A Colour Box, an advertisement for “cheaper parcel post”, without using a camera for anything except the title cards at the beginning of the film. It was the first direct film screened to a general audience. It was made by painting vibrant abstract patterns on the film itself, synchronizing them to a popular dance tune by Don Baretto and His Cuban Orchestra. A panel of animation experts convened in 2005 by the Annecy film festival put this film among the top ten most significant works in the history of animation (his later film Free Radicals was also in the top 50). (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Rudolf Steiner. 'Untitled (drawing on blackboard at a conference of 14 May 1924)' Dornach, 14 May 1924

 

Rudolf Steiner
Untitled (drawing on blackboard at a conference of 14 May 1924)
Dornach, 14 May 1924
Chalk on black paper
Rudolf Steiner Archive, Dornach
© Rudolf Steiner Archiv, Dornach
© ADAGP, Paris, 2015

 

 

A room of the exhibition features ten blackboards by Rudolf Steiner. They are the instructions of a new design language that the artist wants to develop. Steiner believes in the development of a supersensible consciousness, a big change for the future of humanity. He gives many lectures in which he details his research on the concept of transmission and its influence on the social. Whether true or not, artists such as Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky and others are interested in the complex graphics of Steiner and his research. Mondrian will even write: “Art is a way of development of mankind.” (Text from the Culture Box website translated from French)

 

Victor Brauner. 'Signe' 1942-45

 

Victor Brauner
Signe
1942-45
© ADAGP, Paris, 2015

 

 

Exhibition layout

Introduction

The exhibition starts with a version of the famous figure of Rodin’s Thinker, set off against a sequence of seven photographs from the start of the century, in which the pictorialist dimension seems to attempt to show lighting emissions produced by the cerebral concentration of the subject. This collection is presented opposite TV Rodin, a video installation created by the artist Nam June Paik who, in the 1970s, reinterpreted electromagnetic animation of closed-circuit thought, when interest in cybernetics was at its peak.

Auras

The direct visualisation of thought and emotional states and the impact of this on the beginnings of abstraction at the start of the 20th century.

The first room focuses on the passion during the century for “photography of thought.” As a direct response to the discovery of radiography by Röntgen, in 1895, numerous amateur researchers attempted to produce images of the brain on photosensitive plates. Since it was possible to see through opaque bodies, why not try to see through the skull, which was now transparent? A curiosity cabinet presents the photographic experiments of Hippolyte Baraduc and Louis Darget with “psychic ones” or “images of thought.” This selection of photographs interacts with two film animation extracts by Émile Cohl, showing, with some humour, the direct projection of thought onto the big screen with the arrival of the cinema.

In the second room, a collection of engravings from the theosophical works of Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, presented by the American artist Christian Sampson, reveals the close relationship between the representation of emotional states (thought-patterns) and early abstract painting. They inspired many pioneers of abstract painters, including Kupka and Kandinsky. A group of auras and halos is shown, associated with a colour code for different effects, captured by Kandinsky in order to paint authentic abstract (auto) portraits. In the same vein, paintings by Wilhelm Morgner, Janus de Winter and Jacob Bendien present “psychic portraits” which illustrate a psychological range of emotions by means of chromatic signs.

The third room presents a sequence of ten “blackboards” by Rudolph Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy (the “science of the mind” that was a major influence on some of the members of the avant-garde abstract movement), showing how he developed his theories of the “mental body” and “psychic force”. Next to this is a collection of watercolours by the Swedish painter Hilma af Klint, a pioneer of abstract art. Around this area a multimedia installation by the artist Tony Oursler has been specially created for this exhibition reinterpreting the historical imagination of these “mental projections”.

Magnetic fields

The spread of telepathy in the inter-war period and its influence on surrealism.

In 1924, André Breton published the Surrealist Manifesto (1924) just when the neurologist Hans Berger invented the first electroencephalogram as a result of experimental research into telepathy: this being a less than accidental coincidence, relating to automated transcriptions of the mind. The “exquisite corpses” or “communicated drawings” of the surrealists are linked to experiments that took place at that time into the telepathic transfer of images.

The first room presents a sequence of photographs of the surrealist group in poses in which heads and bodies communicate with each other to produce a collective work under the mysterious influence of “magnetic fields.” Tusalava (1929), a film by the Australian artist Len Lye, illustrates the cinematographic solution found to make mental activity visible, in the form of abstract ideograms taken from aboriginal language.

The second room shows a collection of photographs from the 1920s, some of which are presented by the artist Frédéric Vaesen, relating to the materialisation of psychic entities, the famous “ectoplasms” which give a more tangible reality to imponderable thought. Next to this is a series of works by Joan Miró, in which the painter depicts coloured auras, including a mental map of emotional states, a “photograph of his dreams”.

Mind expander

With the reconstruction of the post war period, divided between the cybernetic model and psychedelic liberation, telepathy remained more than ever a creative horizon for artists in search of perception extended to the electromagnetic manifestations of consciousness.

The New Age spirit of the 1960s witnessed the curious revival of “photographs of thought” (Ted Serios and Salas Portugal), which influenced experimental cinema and psychedelic video (Jordan Belson), a well as some photographic practices (Anna and Bernhard Blume, Dieter Appelt, Suzanne Hiller, John Baldessari and Sigmar Polke).

Under the influence of psychotropic drugs or immersed in highly intense audiovisual devices, electric thought in motion is captured with a penetrating eye. Experimental and radical architectural patterns embody “expanded consciousness”, as is seen in the Mind Expander project (1967) by the Austrian group Haus Rucker Co, which invites the spectator to venture into “superception.” Music has its role here, with the rise in “biomusic” at the end of the 1960s, led by Alvin Lucier, Pierre Henry and David Rosenboom, who produced authentic “brain symphonies,” by means of the sound transcription of the activity of electric waves emitted by the brain, directly captured by electrodes.

Telepathy

The establishment of telepathic art in the 1970s influenced by conceptual practices.

On the margins of pop art, avant-garde artists in the 1970s produced a critique of both form and the art market, by means of strategies that emphasised language and sociological discourse. This also involved a major project in the dematerialisation of art works in which telepathy could be an ideal model for a new non-standard form of communication.

The American artist Robert Morris produced his own Autoportrait in the form of an encephalogram (EEG Portrait) at the same time as his compatriot Robert Barry, a central figure in conceptual art, produced Telepathic Pieces (1969) and Vito Acconci explored extra sensory perception through the form of video (Remote Control, 1971). Against this backdrop, we see considerable new interest in a utopia of shared creation (Robert Filliou and Marina Abramovic) in the era of global communication and the “noosphere” prophetically declared by Teilhard de Chardin and Marshall McLuhan.

The exhibition ends with a vast installation by the artist Fabrice Hyber, a major figure of contemporary art in France, with experimental telepathic booths, paintings, drawings and “prototypes of operating objects” (POF). Hyber invites the spectator to participate, alone or in groups, in an experience which has several surprises, reminding us how, today, under the influence of information networks, neuroscience and the globalised internet, telepathy (ultra democratic and utopian yet also obscure) is more topical than ever and can be explored by artists with the same spirit of derision or anticipation.”

Press release from the Centre Pompidou-Metz

 

Haus-Rucker-Co. Laurids, Zamp and Pinter with 'Environment Transformern (Flyhead, Viewatomizer and Drizzler)' 1968, from the 'Mind Expander project'

 

Haus-Rucker-Co
Laurids, Zamp and Pinter with Environment Transformern (Flyhead, Viewatomizer and Drizzler)
1968
From the Mind Expander project
Photo: Gert Winkler

 

 

Taking their cue from the Situationist’s ideas of play as a means of engaging citizens, Haus-Rucker-Co created performances where viewers became participants and could influence their own environments, becoming more than just passive onlookers. These installations were usually made from pneumatic structures such as Oase No. 7 (1972), which was created for Documenta 5 in Kassel, Germany. An inflatable structure emerged from the façade of an existing building creating a space for relaxation and play, of which contemporary echoes can be found in the ‘urban reserves’ of Santiago Cirugeda. The different versions of the Mind Expander series (1967-69), consisted of various helmets that could alter the perceptions of those wearing them, for example the ‘Fly Head’ disoriented the sight and hearing of the wearer to create an entirely new apprehension of reality; it also produced one of their most memorable images.

Haus-Rucker-Co’s installations served as a critique of the confined spaces of bourgeois life creating temporary, disposable architecture, whilst their prosthetic devices were designed to enhance sensory experience and highlight the taken-for-granted nature of our senses, seen also in the contemporaneous work of the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark. Contemporary versions of such work can be found in the pneumatic structures favoured by Raumlabor and Exyzt. (Text from the Spatial Agency website)

 

Installation view of Haus-Rucker-Co, 'Mindexpander 1' 1967 in the exhibition 'Cosa mentale' at the Centre Pompidou-Metz

 

Installation view of Haus-Rucker-Co, Mindexpander 1 1967 in the exhibition Cosa mentale at the Centre Pompidou-Metz.
Photo Pompidou Centre. MNAM CCI-distrib. RMN / G. Meguerditchian.

 

 

In 1968, the Austrian collective Haus-Rucker-Co designed the Mind Expander as an immersive capsule propelling the audience into a new mode of perception of reality: the “Superception”. This, then, is a synthesis of avant-garde utopias, throughout the twentieth century, influenced by the imagination that gave rise to the development of telecommunications, seeking to develop a way of live transmission of emotion. Its aim was to invent a new, immediate, relationship between the artist and the viewer.

 

Haus-Rucker-Co. 'Mind Expander' 1967

 

Haus-Rucker-Co
Mind Expander
1967 Vienna
Epreuve gélatino-argentique
Photo: Michael Plitz. Haus-Rucker-Co.

 

David Rosenboom. 'Portable Gold and Philosophers' Stones in Paris 1' 1975

 

David Rosenboom
Portable Gold and Philosophers’ Stones in Paris 1
1975
© David Rosenboom 1975
All rights reserved.

 

 

Pianist-composer J.B. Floyd, a long-time collaborator with David Rosenboom is seen with electrodes attached to his head while performing a solo version of Rosenboom’s brainwave music composition Portable Gold and Philosophers’ Stones at Centre Culturel Americain in Paris on 7 January 1975. The equipment shown includes a brainwave monitoring device and an ARP 2600 Synthesizer. The performance occurred simultaneously with a lecture given by David Rosenboom in a presentation titled Biofeedback and the Arts. Artist Jacqueline Humbert, who also participated in the performance, is seated off to the right of the picture frame.

 

Nam June Paik. 'TV Rodin' 1976-1978 (detail)

 

Nam June Paik (American, b. 1932 – 29-01-2006)
TV Rodin (detail)
1976-1978
Plaster, video camera, tripod, monitor, pedestal
132 x 110 x 115 cm

 

 

Long considered the most important video artist since the advent of the form in the late 1960s, Nam June Paik’s TV Rodin is one of several related works that involve sculpture – in this case, a cast of Auguste Rodin’s Thinker, studying itself in a small video monitor via closed circuit television. As museum visitors walk around the work and look over the sculpture’s shoulder, their image also appears on the screen. Paik’s influential vision of television as a global cultural force found intelligent and witty form in his videotapes, video sculptures, and intercontinental satellite performances. (Text from the Carnegie Museum of Art website)

 

Nam June Paik. 'TV Rodin' 1976-1978

 

Nam June Paik (American, b. 1932 – 29-01-2006)
TV Rodin
1976-1978
Plaster, video camera, tripod, monitor, pedestal
132 x 110 x 115 cm
Photo: Primae / Claude Germain. The Estate of Nam June Paik

 

Marina Abramovic and Ulay. 'That Self - Point of Contact' 1980

 

Marina Abramovic and Ulay
That Self – Point of Contact
1980
Performance au De Appel Art Centre, Amsterdam
© Adagp, Paris 2015
Courtesy Marina Abramovic Archives

 

Sigmar Polke. 'Untitled (Blue)' 1992

 

Sigmar Polke
Untitled (Blue)
1992
Set of 10 Cibachromes trials
61 cm x 51
The estate of Sigmar Polke / ADAGP, Paris, 2015

 

Fabrice Hyber. 'screen+télépathy' 2013

 

Fabrice Hyber
screen+télépathy
2013
Watercolor, charcoal on paper
76 x 57 cm
Collection of the artist
© Photographie Marc Domage

 

Susan Hiller. 'Homage to Marcel Duchamp: Aura (Blue Boy)' 2011

 

Susan Hiller
Homage to Marcel Duchamp: Aura (Blue Boy)
2011
© Susan Hiller

 

 

Centre Pompidou-Metz
1, parvis des Droits-de-l’Homme
CS 90490
F-57020 Metz Cedex 1
Tel: +33 (0)3 87 15 39 39

Opening hours:
Monday 10 am – 6 pm
Tuesday closed
Wednesday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday 10 am – 6 pm
Friday 10 am – 7 pm
Saturday 10 am – 7 pm
Sunday 10 am – 7 pm

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19
Mar
16

Exhibition: ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Hobart

Exhibition dates: 28 November 2015 – 28 March 2016

 

Gentlemen of the gutter

While I admire the mythology of Gilbert and George, that ever so British pair of deviant artists, they have never been among my favourites.

They had a tough road. Imagine meeting in 1967, pre-Stonewall and the beginning of gay liberation, and then moving into the roughest part of London, the East End, to live together and make art, dressed as a pair of besuited businessmen. The prejudice and the abuse would have been intense, but they stuck together, they stuck to their path as artists, and they stuck to each other as human beings. It is fascinating to see the trajectory of their development, to follow the development of the grid, the introduction of one colour and then multiple colours.

I understand what they do, empathise with their endeavour (anti- nationalism, religion, bigotry, racism, homophobia etc etc…) but wonder whether they have not painted themselves and their art into a corner. They are so well known for their long running performance – their vaudeville act reminding me of a contemporary Hieronymus Bosch with text ripped from the headlines / images riffed from hell (portraits of cut up reflections assembled to make surreal creatures with gaping mouths), the gridded works, the colours, the content AS graphic gothic cathedral with stained glass windows – that they seem incapable or willing to push themselves and their art further. To shock us in an altogether different way? Now that would be a greater surprise, than just semen, spit and shit.

What I am saying is that they have got their schtick down pat. They worked hard for their anti-establishment schlock horror. The work has presence and they do know how to reach people with a picture but with each repetition, with each ritual performance the cracks grow ever larger. As John McDonald observes, “They are iconoclastic non-entities making art that attracts and repels.” What actually lies underneath all of this rhetoric. Two caring human beings, two compassionate souls? I think not, therefore I am.**

As can be seen in many of their works, the emperors literally have no clothes…

Marcus

** Perhaps it should have been “I care not, therefore I am” … because they don’t really give a dam what people think. This is part of the problem: their rather mean spirited view of the world.

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

 

 

 

Gilbert & George In Conversation With Olivier Varenne

 

 

“We are unhealthy, middle-aged, dirty-minded, depressed, cynical, empty, tired-brained, seedy, rotten, dreaming, badly-behaved, ill-mannered, arrogant, intellectual, self-pitying, honest, successful, hard-working, thoughtful, artistic, religious, fascistic, blood-thirsty, teasing, destructive, ambitious, colourful, damned, stubborn, perverted and good. We are artists.”

.
“Art has just become decoration for the very, very rich. We manage to keep our feet on the ground. We have never been part of an elitist art group. Our art is so confrontational that a lot of collectors would never touch it because they don’t want a naked shit picture in their living room… More and more it is difficult to speak as an artist. Nobody hears you because there are too many and there are too many different ways of making art today that there didn’t use to be when we started out in 1969.”

.
“We never go to the cinema, the theatre, or the ballet or opera. We stopped 40 years ago. We just didn’t want to become contaminated. We know what we’re interested in, we know how we can reach people with a picture. We have a feeling, what we put in that picture that will mean something to somebody.”

.
Gilbert & George

 

 

“Two people, but one artist: the legendary Gilbert & George’s first ever exhibition in Australasia, Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition, is now open at the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, Australia, until March 28, 2016.

Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition is a major retrospective, including pictures spanning five decades; dating from 1970 to most recent pictures of 2014. Curated by Gilbert & George with organising curators, Mona’s Co-Directors of Exhibitions and Collections, Olivier Varenne and Nicole Durling, the pictures are installed across the entirety of Mona’s touring galleries, 14 metres underground.

“Our pictures deal with the great universals: death, hope, life, fear, sex, money, race and religion. Seeing is believing. See for yourself: Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition. This is your very first – and last – chance to see one hundred of our pictures, at the wonderful Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania.” – Gilbert & George

Since first meeting at St Martin’s school of Art, London, in 1967, Gilbert & George have lived and worked together as one single and fiercely independent artist, dedicated solely to the creation of their art. They have no allegiance to any other trend, school, movement, doctrine, theory or style of art.

Gilbert & George already knew that they were seeking for a form of art that was to them entirely rooted in the real world – in the streets and clamour and traffic and buildings and hearts of strangers: an “Art for All.”

Today, their art continues to be multi-allusive, contemporary and contentious, as their subject is literally at their feet – along countless streets, the thoroughfares of the passage of millions of lives, and dense with the sedimentary tracings of social existence.”

Text from MONA

 

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Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart featuring, at left, BOMBERS (2006), and at right, FORWARD (2008)

 

Gilbert & George. 'FORWARD' 2008

 

Gilbert & George
FORWARD
2008
Mixed media
381 x 604 cm
Courtesy of the artists and White Cube

 

Gilbert & George. 'BOMBERS' 2006

 

Gilbert & George
BOMBERS
2006
From Bomb Pictures
Mixed media
336 x 493 cm
Courtesy of the artists and White Cube

 

Gilbert & George created an important group of six pictures for their major retrospective at Tate Modern. The six Bomb Pictures, the only pictures created by the artists in 2006, comprise a 14 metre triptych entitled Bomb and five other pictures: Bombs; Bomber; Bombers; Bombing; and Terror. The artists have described this group of pictures as their most chilling to date. The artists intend the pictures to be seen as modern townscapes reflecting the daily exposure in urban life to terror alerts. (Text by Barry Grayshon)

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, at left, TOPSY TURVY (1989) from The Cosmological Pictures

 

Gilbert & George. 'DEAD HEAD' 1989

 

Gilbert & George
DEAD HEAD
1989
From The Cosmological Pictures
Picture courtesy of the artists and Mona, Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania, Australia

 

With this body of work Gilbert & George stress the power of human thought to remake life and so create the future through a process of communication, discussion and questioning, stimulated by the pictures. The word ‘cosmology’ derives from the Greek words for ‘world’ and ‘discourse’. Since September 1991, The Cosmological Pictures have been touring many European cities. Gilbert and George’s aim – to speak to many people in all of these cities – is at the heart of their cosmology.  (Text by Barry Grayshon)

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, at left, NEXT DOOR (2013), in the middle HANDBALL (2008), and at right, SUICIDE STRAIGHT (2011) from The London Pictures.

 

Gilbert & George. 'KILLERS STRAIGHT' 2011

 

Gilbert & George
KILLERS STRAIGHT
2011
From The London Pictures

 

The London Pictures are made up of 292 of the 3,712 newspaper ‘bills’ the pair have doggedly pilfered from outside London newsagents over many years. The pictures present an epic survey of modern urban life in all its volatility, tragedy, absurdity and routine violence. They are Dickensian in scope and ultra-modern in sensibility. (Text by Barry Grayshon)

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, in the middle HANDBALL (2008), and at right, SUICIDE STRAIGHT (2011) from The London Pictures.

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, from left (large pictures), CITY DROP (1991), FLAT MAN (1991), EIGHT SHITS (1994) and ILL WORLD (1994), both from The Naked Shit Pictures

 

Gilbert & George. 'ILL WORLD' 1994

 

Gilbert & George
ILL WORLD
1994
Mixed media
253 x 426 cm
Courtesy of the artists

 

The frieze-like composition of The Naked Shit Pictures, with its striking contrasts of scale, was displayed high on the gallery walls. As the title indicates, works in the group depict the artists naked, or semi-dressed, often in conjunction with scaled-up images of faeces. These primary motifs are juxtaposed with urban/parkland scenes, giant anonymous suited bodies and the artists, or set against colour grounds. Marked contrasts in scale are a dominant feature in the series. (Text by Barry Grayshon)

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, at middle, IN THEIR ELEMENT (1998) from the series The Rudimentary Pictures (1998) followed by FIVE (1992)

 

Gilbert & George. 'IN THEIR ELEMENT' 1988

 

Gilbert & George
IN THEIR ELEMENT
1988
From the series The Rudimentary Pictures
Mixed media
254 x 528 cm
Courtesy of the artists

 

The Rudimentary Pictures, presents thirty-three new works, in which they explore such themes as alienation, sex, race, and human existence. Many of these striking pictures extend the distinctive range of images they have created exploring city life. In Gum City, City Sweat, Money City, Blood City, Piss City, Sex City and Crying City, backgrounds of London street plans are combined with map-like microscopic details of blood, sweat, tears, urine and semen, together with themselves. (Text by Barry Grayshon)

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, at middle, FLYING SHIT WHEEL OF DEATH (1998) and, at right, RAIN WHEEL OF LIFE (1998), both from The Rudimentary Pictures

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Gilbert & George
FLYING SHIT WHEEL OF DEATH
1998
from the series The Rudimentary Pictures

 

book-a

 

Gilbert & George hardcover catalogue
Photo Credit: Mona/Rémi Chauvin
Image Courtesy Mona, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

 

Gilbert & George. 'RED MORNING DEATH' 1977

 

Gilbert & George
RED MORNING DEATH
1977
Mixed media
241 x 201 cm
Private collection

 

Gilbert & George. 'BLACK JESUS' 1980

 

Gilbert & George
BLACK JESUS
1980
Mixed media
181 x 251 cm
Private collection

 

In the early 1980s, Gilbert & George began to add a range of bright colours to their photographic images. They dramatically expanded their palette although black & white still remained. The series of photo-pieces that emerge during this vibrant period display a heightened reality, moving away from the earlier naturalism. They also began photographing each other as gargoyles, producing large close-ups of their faces, lit from below, grimacing horribly. (Text by Barry Grayshon)

 

 

“… In a show as vast as the MONA survey, one sees the shit pictures as only a small chapter in their catalogue of would-be outrages. There are microscopic close-ups of their own sweat, blood, piss and sperm, presented as a form of decorative art. There are galleries of handsome young men, lined up like homoerotic altarpieces. There are works that excoriate religion – all forms of religion – and nationalism.

It would be an understatement to say these works sail close to the edge – they have plunged joyously over the precipice, beyond any conventions of good or bad taste. The “moral dimension” Gilbert & George seek is a systematic attempt to explode everything they see as false morality and hypocrisy. Homophobia is a constant target, as is racism and religious dogmatism. They are not the first to see organised religion as the root of all evil, but few artists or thinkers have been so consistently, so violently anti-religious.

The joke, of course, is that they look and act like conservative businessmen. Even their most confronting works are as bold and colourful as advertising billboards, or perhaps stained glass windows. They are iconoclastic non-entities making art that attracts and repels.

From behind a façade of consummate Englishness they set out to expose the grossness and depravity of the world around them. The Jack Freak Pictures (2008) use images of the Union Jack combined with grotesque morphings of their own figures that make them look like demons or mutants. The London Pictures (2011) use hundreds of daily newspaper banners, purloined from newsagents, to produce a chorus of sordidness and sensationalism.

We see two deadpan comedians enjoying the adolescent humour of exposing themselves to an audience, making wall-sized images of all those things not spoken of in ‘polite’ society. I could almost accept the idea of Gilbert & George as two overgrown children, intent on making mischief, but every so often they hit the mark with surprising force.”

.
John McDonald. “Gilbert & George,” on the John McDonald website December 4, 2015 [Online] Cited 11/03/2016.

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, at left, MONEY (2011) from The London Pictures and, at right, Raack (2005) from Ginkgo Pictures

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, at left, VALLANCE ROAD (2013); at centre left RIDLEY ROAD (2013) and at centre right HABDABS (2013) all from the series Scapegoating Pictures

 

There are 292 pieces in this series featuring whippets and hippy crack (laughing gas). The SCAPEGOATING PICTURES unflinchingly describe the volatile, tense, accelerated and mysterious reality of our increasingly technological, multi-faith and multi-cultural world. It is a world in which paranoia, fundamentalism, surveillance, religion, accusation and victimhood become moral shades of the city’s temper. (Text by Barry Grayshon)

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, at left, Citied Gents (2005) from Ginkgo Pictures; at left rear, COLOURED FRIENDS (1982); and at right rear SPEAKING YOUTH (1981)

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, at left, RAIN WHEEL OF LIFE (1998), and at right KINK (1998), both from The Rudimentary Pictures

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, at left, TONGUES (1992) followed by IN THEIR ELEMENT (1998) from the series The Rudimentary Pictures followed by FIVE (1992); to the right TOFF’S OUT! (2014) followed by THEY SHOT THEM! (2014), both from the series Utopian Pictures

 

Gilbert & George. 'THEY SHOT THEM!' 2014

 

Gilbert & George
THEY SHOT THEM!
2014
Mixed media
254 x 453 cm
Courtesy of ARNDT and Gilbert & George

 

The 26 UTOPIAN PICTURES convey, like an energy storm, the frenetic forces of an endlessly embattled state: between the voices of authority and civic order. These pictures depict a modern world in which authority and the resentment of authority, rules and rebellion, advertising and public information, dogma and warning, boasts and threats co-exist in seemingly endless proclamations. (Text by Barry Grayshon)

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, from left to right, SHIT ON SPIT (1997) from The New Testamental Pictures, BLOOD ROADS (1998), BLOOD CITY (1998) and PISS GARDEN (1998) from The Rudimentary Pictures

 

Gilbert & George. 'BLOOD CITY' 1988

 

Gilbert & George
BLOOD CITY
1988
Mixed media
151 x 127 cm
Courtesy of the artists

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with at left, KINK (1998), and at rear, COLD STREET (1991)

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with, from left to right, BLOODY LIFE No. 4 (1975), AKIMBO (2005) from Sonofagod Pictures, SHITTY WORLD (1994), DEAD HEAD (1989), and CHRISTS (1992) from The China Pictures

 

 

In the BLOODY LIFE pictures, from 1975, Gilbert & George strike poses with clenched fists and legs kicking. Even the introspective image of the artists in BLOODY LIFE NO.3 is embedded within a frame of alcohol and the boxing ring. The brutality of these pictures reflects their experience at the time. ‘We went through this big destructive period of the drunken scenery, exploring ourselves, exploring our dark side, going out, getting drunk, all those destructive elements’. (Text by Barry Grayshon)

The SONOFAGOD PICTURES consist of 20 paintings that possess a darkly graven strangeness, at once archaic and ultra-modern, in which their temper no less than their signage appears deeply contemporary, ritualistic and disturbed and have all of the dramatic visual impact which one might expect to find in neo-Gothic medievalism.

Christs shows a local youth imagining a butterfly Christ with Gilbert and George wings.

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition’ at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

 

Installation view of the exhibition Gilbert & George: The Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart with at left, FORWARD (2008) and in the middle right, SCAPEGOATING (2013)

 

Gilbert & George. 'ASTRO STAR' 2013

 

Gilbert & George
ASTRO STAR
2013
From Scapegoating Pictures
Picture courtesy of the artists and Mona, Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania, Australia

 

There are 292 pieces in this series featuring whippets and hippy crack (laughing gas). The SCAPEGOATING PICTURES unflinchingly describe the volatile, tense, accelerated and mysterious reality of our increasingly technological, multi-faith and multi-cultural world. It is a world in which paranoia, fundamentalism, surveillance, religion, accusation and victimhood become moral shades of the city’s temper. (Text by Barry Grayshon)

 

Gilbert & George. 'FIGHT BACK' 2014

 

Gilbert & George
FIGHT BACK
2014
From the series Utopian Pictures
Mixed media
254 x 377cm
Courtesy of ARNDT and Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. 'ONE WORLD' 1988

 

Gilbert & George
ONE WORLD
1988
Mixed media
226 x 254 cm
Courtesy of the artists

 

Gilbert & George 'ALL MY LIFE I GIVE YOU NOTHING AND STILL YOU ASK FOR MORE' 1970 (Gilbert)

 

Gilbert & George
ALL MY LIFE I GIVE YOU NOTHING AND STILL YOU ASK FOR MORE (Gilbert)
1970
Mixed media
Each 193 x 75 cm
Private collection

 

Gilbert & George 'ALL MY LIFE I GIVE YOU NOTHING AND STILL YOU ASK FOR MORE' 1970 (George)

 

Gilbert & George
ALL MY LIFE I GIVE YOU NOTHING AND STILL YOU ASK FOR MORE (George)
1970
Mixed media
Each 193 x 75 cm
Private collection

 

 

Museum of Old and New Art
655 Main Road Berriedale
Hobart Tasmania 7011, Australia

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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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