Posts Tagged ‘American abstract photography

27
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘Light, Paper, Process: Revolutionizing Photography’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 14th April – 6th September 2015

 

These days, photography can be anything your imagination, concept and process desires…

Whether that makes for interesting / lasting (ie. memorable) / good, (post)photographic outcomes is up to you to decide.

Marcus

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

 

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitsky) (American, 1890-1976) 'Untitled (Smoke)' 1928

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitsky) (American, 1890-1976)
Untitled (Smoke)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.6 x 19.8 cm (9 11/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAG

 

Chargesheimer (Karl Heinz Hargesheimer) (German, 1924-1971) 'Picturesque' 1949

 

Chargesheimer (Karl Heinz Hargesheimer) (German, 1924-1971)
Picturesque
1949
Gelatin silver print
Image: 49.5 x 39.6 cm (19 1/2 x 15 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Museum Ludwig, Cologne

 

Henry Holmes Smith (American, 1909-1986) 'Man and Woman' 1976

 

Henry Holmes Smith (American, 1909-1986)
Man and Woman
1976
Dye imbibition print
Image: 33.2 x 26.2 cm (13 1/16 x 10 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Smith Family Trust
© J. Paul Getty Trust

 

Edmund Teske (American, 1911-1996) 'Leaves on Glass, Topanga Canyon, California' 1952; print 1960s

 

Edmund Teske (American, 1911-1996)
Leaves on Glass, Topanga Canyon, California
1952; print 1960s
Gelatin silver duotone solarized print
Image: 35.4 x 27.9 cm (13 15/16 x 11 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Edmund Teske Archives/Laurence Bump and Nils Vidstrand, 2001

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Gevaert Gevarto 47, exact expiration date unknown, about 1960s, processed 2013 (#37)' 2013

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Gevaert Gevarto 47, exact expiration date unknown, about 1960s, processed 2013 (#37)
2013
Four gelatin silver print
Each image: 10.8 x 8.3 cm (4 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Alison Rossiter

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Sunburned GSP #202 (San Francisco Bay)' 2008

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Sunburned GSP #202 (San Francisco Bay)
2008
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.5 x 47.6 cm (14 3/4 x 18 3/4 in.)
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum Purchase
© Chris McCaw

 

Pierre Cordier (Belgian, born 1933) 'Chemigram II' 1976

 

Pierre Cordier (Belgian, born 1933)
Chemigram II
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.8 x 17.9 cm (9 3/8 x 7 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels

 

 

“From its very beginnings in the 19th century, photography has been shaped by the desire of the artist to continually explore and expand its possibilities through experimentation. Taking that spirit of invention and discovery as a point of departure, some artists today have chosen to distill photography to its most essential components of light-sensitivity and the chemical processing of photographic papers, challenging viewers to see the medium anew. Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography, on view at the Getty Center April 14-September 6, 2015, features the work of seven contemporary artists – Alison Rossiter, Marco Breuer, James Welling, Lisa Oppenheim, Chris McCaw, John Chiara, and Matthew Brandt – all of whom have created inventive photographs that reveal aspects of their making (or unmaking).

The artists in the exhibition utilize an extensive array of practices – often achieved through trial and error, accident, or chance – that shift the understanding of photography from a medium that accurately records the world to one that revels in its materiality. Whether they use handmade cameras or none at all, work with expired papers or toxic chemicals, the images remain latent until processed, fixed, or otherwise coaxed from the paper.

“Each of the artists in this exhibition engages in some way with the process by which the photographic medium captures and transmutes light into a two-dimensional image on paper,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “But rather than seeing this process as something to be ‘perfected,’ or even neutralized, they exploit its ability to be manipulated and deconstructed, thus collapsing process and product into a single creative activity. I am particularly pleased that the Getty Museum Photographs Council has provided funds to acquire works by Matthew Brandt, Marco Breuer, John Chiara, and Allison Rossiter for our permanent collection that are included in the exhibition.”

The exhibition begins with an overview of 20th-century practices that were experimental in nature, featuring works by Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Nathan Lerner, Edmund Teske, and others. The renewed interest of artists of this period in techniques such as camera-less photograms, chemigrams, and solarization serves as inspiration for today’s artists. Each of the subsequent galleries in the Getty Museum’s Center for Photographs will be dedicated to the work of one of the seven featured contemporary artists, and follows a progression from abstract, camera-less works to representative images made with custom-built cameras.

“This exhibition is an excellent opportunity to feature the work of living artists alongside earlier photographs from our permanent collection,” says Virginia Heckert, department head of the Getty Museum’s Department of Photographs and curator of the exhibition. “By focusing on work of a more experimental nature, visitors will be reminded that the exploration of materiality and process has been an important aspect of photography since its inception and continues to motivate and inspire artists working with the medium today.”

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) takes a minimalist approach to the materials she uses to create her photographic works. She does not use a camera, film, or light, but instead only uses unprocessed sheets of expired gelatin silver paper and photographic chemicals in the darkroom. Through the simple acts of immersing or dipping a sheet of paper in developer or pouring and pooling developer onto the paper’s surface, she achieves a rich array or results. Some suggest faint impressions of primitive mark-making, others resemble landscapes, and still others call to mind abstract painting of the mid-20th-century.

Working since the early 1990s without a camera or film, Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) subjects light-sensitive paper to various acts that abrade, burn, or scrape away the emulsion layer. Completely nonrepresentational, his “photographs” look like no others; they elicit the hues and textures of rare metals, mineral deposits, or oil spills, and display marks ranging from fine incisions and abrasions to scar-like burns and gashes. His deliberate misuse of black-and-white and photographic papers is the starting point for a negotiation between the paper as recording material, the hand, and the tools employed.

James Welling (American, born 1951) spent the first ten years of his career exploring painting, sculpture, performance art, video art, conceptual art, and installation before he committed to thinking of himself as a photographer. For the past four decades, he has explored photography, from documentary to experimental, with and without a camera, using black-and-white, color, and Polaroid films and papers, as well as digital files and printing. Since 1995 he has worked increasingly with color, filters, and camera-less photography. Three bodies of recent work presented in the exhibition include variations on the photogram, chemigram, and printing-out process.

Influenced by her background in structural/materialist filmmaking, Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975) is interested in exploring the ways in which a photograph can record both its subject and the process by which it was made. In three bodies of work dating from 2010 to present, she enlists the very entities depicted in the negatives – the sun, the moon, and smoke/fire – in the act of exposing them. Although they sound scientific, the titles of two of these bodies of work, Heliograms and Lunagrams, are made up, combining the name of the camera-less photogram technique and the source of light by which the enlarged negatives have been contact-printed.

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) establishes an immediate, visceral relationship between his subject, the sun, and his process, which involves loading photographic paper directly into the camera. The photographs in his Sunburn series record the sun’s movement, which literally sears its path into the paper in the form of dots, lines, or arcs, depending on its position, the weather conditions, and the length of the exposure(s). McCaw uses customized cameras outfitted with vintage military lenses pointed directly at the sun to function like a magnifying glass that burns through the emulsion layer and paper base, leaving behind singe marks and solarized passages.

John Chiara’s (American, born 1971) large-scale color prints convey a hands-on – rather than pristine, mechanized – aesthetic. For the past decade his subjects have been both uninhabited landscapes and the built environment. He works with large custom-built cameras that he loads with color photographic paper that he then processes himself by pouring chemicals into a six-foot-long section of PVC sewer pipe, sealing the tube, and then rolling it back and forth on the floor. Irregular streaks and drips characterize his prints, as do areas of overexposure and underexposure, flare from light leaks, and unevenly saturated colors.

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) has created diverse bodies of work, some of which are realized with photographic means and others that are more tangentially related to photographic images, techniques, or ideas. He may begin with a photograph that he has made with a 4 x 5-inch view camera, a digital camera, or his iPhone, one that he has sourced from archives in public libraries, or one that he has clicked and dragged from Ebay. His fascination with early photographic processes has led him to experiment with salted paper prints, gum bichromate prints, and heliographs, examples of which will be on view. Brandt’s interest in both photographic/visual and the physical/material forms of representation has led him to bring the two together, incorporating physical elements from his subjects into his photographic representations of them.

Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography, is on view April 14-September 6, 2015 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Virginia Heckert, department head of the Museum’s Department of Photographs. A related publication of the same title will be produced by Getty Publications.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Haloid Platina, exact expiration date unknown, about 1915, processed 2010' 2010

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Haloid Platina, exact expiration date unknown, about 1915, processed 2010
2010
Gelatin silver print
Image (each): 21.6 x 16.5 cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Alison Rossiter

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Fuji gaslight, exact expiration date unknown, about 1920s, processed 2010' 2010

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Fuji gaslight, exact expiration date unknown, about 1920s, processed 2010
2010
Gelatin silver print
Image: 30.5 x 25.4 cm (12 x 10 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Alison Rossiter

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Kilbourn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, about 1940s, processed 2013' 2013

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Kilbourn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, about 1940s, processed 2013
2013
Gelatin silver print
Image: 12.7 x 17.8 cm (5 x 7 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Alison Rossiter

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) 'Untitled (Heat/Gun)' 2001

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966)
Untitled (Heat/Gun)
2001
Gelatin silver paper, burned
Image: 27.9 x 21.6 cm (11 x 8 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Marco Breuer

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) 'Untitled (C-62)' 2002

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966)
Untitled (C-62)
2002
Chromogenic paper, exposed and abraded
Image: 35.6 x 27.9 cm (14 x 11 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Marco Breuer

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) 'Spin (C-824)' 2008

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966)
Spin (C-824)
2008
Chromogenic paper, embossed and scratched
Image: 34.6 x 27 cm (13 5/8 x 10 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Marco Breuer

 

James Welling (American, born 1951) 'Water' 2009

 

James Welling (American, born 1951)
Water
2009
Chromogenic print
Image: 60.3 x 50.2 cm (23 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
© James Welling

 

James Welling (American, born 1951) 'Water' 2009

 

James Welling (American, born 1951)
Water
2009
Chromogenic print
Image: 58.7 x 49.5 cm (23 1/8 x 19 1/2 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
© James Welling

 

James Welling (American, born 1951) 'Chemical' 2013

 

James Welling (American, born 1951)
Chemical
2013
Chemigram on chromogenic paper
Image: 35.6 x 27.9 cm (14 x 11 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London
© James Welling

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975) 'Heliograms July 8, 1876 / October 16, 2011' 2011

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975)
Heliograms July 8, 1876 / October 16, 2011
2011
Gelatin silver print exposed with sunlight, toned
Image: 30 x 27.9 cm (11 13/16 x 11 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Lisa Oppenheim

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975) 'A Handley Page Halifax of No. 4 Group flies over the suburbs of Caen, France, during a major daylight raid to assist the Normandy land battle. 467 aircraft took part in the attack, which was originally intended to have bombed German strongpoints north of' 2012

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975)
A Handley Page Halifax of No. 4 Group flies over the suburbs of Caen, France, during a major daylight raid to assist the Normandy land battle. 467 aircraft took part in the attack, which was originally intended to have bombed German strongpoints north of
2012
Gelatin silver print
Framed (approx.): 71.1 x 86.4 cm (28 x 34 in.)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fund for the Twenty-First Century
Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY
© Lisa Oppenheim

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Sunburned GSP #609 (San Francisco Bay)' 2012

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Sunburned GSP #609 (San Francisco Bay)
2012
Gelatin silver paper negatives
Each image: 76.1 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Sunburned GSP #555 (San Francisco Bay)' 2012

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Sunburned GSP #555 (San Francisco Bay)
2012
Gelatin silver paper negative
Image: 20.3 x 25.4 cm (8 x 10 in.)
Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery San Francisco
© Chris McCaw

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Poly-optic #10' 2012

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Poly-optic #10
2012
Gelatin silver paper negative
Image: 20.3 x 25.4 cm (8 x 10 in.)
Collection of Leslie, Judith and Gabrielle Schreyer, Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery
© Chris McCaw

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Longview at Panorama' 2007

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Longview at Panorama
2007
Dye destruction photograph on Ilfochrome paper
Image: 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)
Rose Gallery and Von Lintel Gallery
© John Chiara

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Grandview at Elysian' 2012

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Grandview at Elysian
2012
Dye destruction photographs on Ilfochrome paper
Each image: 85.1 x 71.1 cm (33 1/2 x 28 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Trish and Jan de Bont
© John Chiara

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Starr King: 30th: Coral' 2013

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Starr King: 30th: Coral
2013
Dye destruction photograph on Ilfochrome paper
Image: 83.8 x 71.1 cm (33 x 28 in.)
Kerstin Morehead
© John Chiara

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Sierra at Edison' 2012

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Sierra at Edison
2012
Chromogenic photograph on Kodak Professional Endura Metallic paper
Image: 127 x 182.9 cm (50 x 72 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© John Chiara

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) '00036082-3 "Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971"' 2013

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982)
00036082-3 “Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971”
2013
Gum bichromate print with dust from AT&T parking structure level 2
Image: 110.5 x 143.5 cm (43 1/2 x 56 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the artist and M+B
© Matthew Brandt, Source image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) 'Rainbow Lake, WY A4' Negative 2012; print 2013

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982)
Rainbow Lake, WY A4
Negative 2012; print 2013
Chromogenic print, soaked in Rainbow Lake water
Image: 76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Matthew Brandt

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) 'Rainbow Lake, WY A20' Negative 2012; print 2013

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982)
Rainbow Lake, WY A20
Negative 2012; print 2013
Chromogenic print, soaked in Rainbow Lake water
Image: 76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Matthew Brandt

 

 

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1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

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

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10
Jan
15

Text/Exhibition: ‘Wynn Bullock: Revelations’ at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Exhibition dates: 14th June 2014 – 18th January 2015

 

Being and Becoming in the work of Wynn Bullock

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It’s strange how some artists become famous while others wane in relative obscurity. For 50 years after his death, J. S. Bach’s reputation as a composer declined, his work regarded as old-fashioned compared to the new style of the day. Just look at him now.

Wynn Bullock, contemporary of Edward Weston, Minor White, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Imogen Cunningham, Frederick Sommer and Ansel Adams, is not yet as well known as any of them. He should be. As the press release states, “Despite early acclaim, the true breadth and depth of Bullock’s career has remained largely in the shadows.” This first retrospective of his work in 40 years will hopefully start to change that perception. In my estimation he is up there in the pantheon of photographic stars. There are photographers… and there are master photographers. Bullock is one of the latter, in my top ten classical black and white analogue photographers of all time.

Bullock began pursuing “straight” photography after meeting Edward Weston in 1948. Work from the early 1950s has an essential, humanist flavour as can be seen in photographs such as Child in Forest (1951) and Let There Be Light (1951), both images appearing in Edward Steichen’s seminal exhibition The Family of Man at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955, printed at large scale. By the mid-50s Bullock was really hitting his straps and the work starts to become less didactic and more open to multiple interpretations and possibilities.

As Bullock says, the mysteries lie all around us waiting only to be perceived. But it’s more than that… it’s more than “what if”. Bullock claims the existence of these things while at the same time acknowledging that they are not generally accessible within the Western canon. That he expresses their existence is his gift to the world.

Take, for example, that most complex of images, Point Lobos Tide Pool (1957). Once seen, never forgotten. I remember seeing this image in my first year studying photography at university and it being seared into my brain. How could you get such an image! It encompasses every feeling and emotion about our place in the cosmos that I could ever think of. And then you hear the story (one that I recently confirmed with his daughter Barbara), which I recount here and which appeared in the book Darkroom edited by Eleanor Lewis, published in 1976 by Lustrum Press, and dedicated to Bullock’s memory.

Bullock was only able to make ONE exposure.

“The first photograph I want to discuss is the POINT LOBOS TIDE POOL. This is a contact print from an 8 x 10 negative. The picture was taken at sunset and the light was dim. The sun was striking only the edges of the rocks in the upper-left-hand corner. The tide pool itself was especially dull, and the light was disappearing so fast I had to make a quick exposure. The negative is very soft because in my hurry to capture the picture, I forgot to underexpose the film so that I could expand the contrast by overdeveloping. The tide pool, a critical part of the image, is especially soft.

“For the final print, I used Brovira No. 5 paper, Amidol developer, and developed it for three minutes to keep the dull parts from going flat. As soon as you use high contrast papers, everything gets more critical. A second or two variation in exposure in high contrast areas can mean the difference between seeing what I want to see, and not seeing anything but black or white paper.

“I could think of the negative-making process as one in which I would make a technically perfect negative. But the technically perfect negative doesn’t always give me what I want… By not always reaching for the easily printed negative, I get luminosity I wouldn’t otherwise have.

In the tide pool print, it’s always been a touchy problem to get the brilliance in the pool itself, where the negative is soft. Unless carefully controlled, that part goes muddy. The rest of the photograph is secondary, but requires some burning and dodging to get tonal balance.

“These are problems I’ve been living with. In doing so, I’ve developed printing skills. It’s a way of life with me. In printing, I don’t want to distort the reality of the image, but I don’t want to distort the reality of my feelings for it either. The two go hand in hand. I have no qualms about altering the image by burning and dodging. I’m not a purist in that way. I am a purist in that I don’t want the manipulation to show. As soon as it does, the magic is destroyed.”

As his daughter Barbara notes, “Point Lobos Tide Pool, 1957 is another serendipitous image that took place on the [Point Lobos State] Reserve. The day this photograph was made, Dad was hauling his heavy field camera along the South Shore Trail when he happened upon a tide pool with a galaxy in its midst. He set up his equipment as quickly as he could and made his first exposure. Normally, he liked to bracket his exposures, but before he could make a second one, a gust of wind swept across the pool and the complex pattern of microscopic organisms vanished.

Fortunately, one exposure was good enough. Whenever he told the story, Dad would laugh and say, “I was just damn lucky that day!” What he often left unexpressed was the lasting impression of the experience that exemplified for him the continual being-and-becoming nature of the universe as well as the kinship of its microcosmic and macrocosmic dimensions. The image remained a personal favorite for the rest of his life.” (Barbara Bullock-Wilson. “Point Lobos Tide Pool, 1957” Commentary © 2013/2015 Barbara Bullock-Wilson. All rights reserved.)

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It is as if the universe stood still for the length of time that it took Bullock to expose his plate, as though the universe was giving him permission for his previsualisation … … … before it moved on, in a gust of wind. But that is not the end of it, no! Because of the thin negative Bullock had to print on grade 5 paper, the most contrasty paper that you can get. And because the area of the tide pool was especially thin, the exposure time is absolutely critical for this print, to get the luminosity in the pool that the artist required. In the whole scheme of things there is a tiny window of opportunity with the exposure of this negative to get a glorious print. This is far from a straight print, and what makes the story even more remarkable is that Bullock had to delve into his scientific knowledge, had to experiment with his feelings (his exposure time), with the magic of the analogue print, to make this apparition appear!

The whole story is quite thrilling really. As my mentor observes, “Point Lobos is several km of coast if you measured into every bay – but there aren’t that many spots where you can photograph the actual tide zone – probably 7 or 8 inlets – some smaller than a basketball court. The spot that Minor White talks about as Weston cove is about basketball court size from memory. You can walk around above it a few metres in the air and see it all. Only someone with a specific aim would scramble down to be amongst what could already be clearly seen. There are just as many spots where you can’t get down like Weston’s sparkle on the sea shot. Weston cove feels amazing; full of ghosts. Bullock would have been very familiar with what would be likely to come around again and what would not.”

Close your eyes and just imagine dragging an 8 x 10 camera down there and finding that image.

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Readers, you know that I am a passionate person, that I am passionate about photography. As I relatively young man what these great artists seemed to me to be doing were noble artistic things; I still feel that. You cannot talk about photography like other mediums that define themselves – not in a modernist sense of materials – Rothko can only be talked about by referring to Rothko, Beethoven, Mozart, etc… Much as Bullock says that light “permits the same freedom of expression as paint for the painter, words for the writer, numbers for the mathematician, or sound for the composer,” photography is of a different order. You are comparing a system of making using the hand with a system using a photo-mechanical eye. Making great images is of necessity much more difficult within this process (as can be see in the millions of meaningless images that flood the world today).

I believe that inherent to any photograph is the ability to transcend the medium – whether that is in vernacular photography (by chance) or through astute observation and meditation (MW and WB). Whether the person then recognises these images as such is another matter, but it only happens on limited occasions. But when you get something, the magic just works. In his Point Lobos Tide Pool (1957), Navigation without Numbers (1957), Under Monterey Wharf (1969) and Erosion (1959), Bullock is like a mystical time traveller – of both the body and the landscape. You only have to look at the timbre of the prints and the layering of tones. These images can’t be judged on any terms other than the terms the image itself lays down. They are beyond serious: and it shows how difficult photography really is – and how rare the good photograph is – that most photographers don’t really have a count that gets into double figures for a decade’s work. It doesn’t add up to much of a crop for a lifetimes work but does Bullock care… hell no!

As he says, “You really have to give of yourself to make good pictures… The fact that good pictures are rare, however, has never slowed me down. Just going out and looking at things and using a camera is therapeutic. I deeply love the whole process.”

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A deep love of the whole process, a deep love of being and becoming.

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The ability of the photographer is that they can massage the medium – through imagination, surrealism, reality, space/time etc… that ENACTS a difference that painters, musicians can only dream of – through a manipulation of reality, through a form of hyper-reality. In Bullock’s case it is the recognition of the mysteries that lie all around us in which the images take on a symbiotic relationship with an observation of the human mind THROUGH photography.

Openly talking in a clear language from a lifetime of meditation.

A clear language where words don’t quite equal the meanings normally attached to them.

From another dimension.

 

“In streams of light I clearly saw
The dust you seldom see,
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.”

(from “Love Itself” lyrics by Leonard Cohen)

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

“Mysteries lie all around us, even in the most familiar of things, waiting only to be perceived.”

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“Light to me is perhaps the most profound truth in the universe… [It] permits the same freedom of expression as paint for the painter, words for the writer, numbers for the mathematician, or sound for the composer.”

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“You really have to give of yourself to make good pictures. Well, that giving takes a lot out of you, and you simply can’t operate at that intense level all the time. Neither can you predetermine what happens outside you.

The fact that good pictures are rare, however, has never slowed me down. Just going out and looking at things and using a camera is therapeutic. I deeply love the whole process.”

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Wynn Bullock

 

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Point Lobos Tide Pool' 1957

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Point Lobos Tide Pool
1957
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 x 9 ½ in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Point Lobos Tide Pool appears simultaneously to resemble both a galaxy and a bacterial growth across a petri dish, when in fact it is neither so large nor so small a subject, but rather a pool arrayed with microorganisms along the Carmel coast, transformed into a picture of astounding beauty.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975) 'Erosion' 1959

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Erosion
1959
Gelatin silver print
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Bullock found this scene along a California roadway and was drawn to the insight it provides into what goes on in spaces that normally lie beyond our perception. The eroded embankment reveals the slow evolution of the world across centuries, with organic and inorganic elements coexisting together at different stages of growth and decay. Stripped of its skin and flayed by the corrosive power of water, the hill in Bullock’s picture reveals a powerfully foreign world as real and as beautiful as anything on the surface of the earth. Bullock’s efforts were decidedly pointed toward making the ordinary profound and in revealing a complexity beyond the surface of things.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Under Monterey Wharf' 1969

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Under Monterey Wharf
1969
Gelatin silver print
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975) 'Navigation without Numbers' 1957

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Navigation without Numbers
1957
Gelatin silver print
6 13/16 x 8 15/16 in.,
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Del Monte Forest' 1969

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Del Monte Forest
1969
Gelatin silver print
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Nude by Sandy's Window' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Nude by Sandy’s Window
1956
Gelatin silver print
Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

In this picture, a brightly lit window occupies the bulk of Bullock’s composition, hovering over a woman who appears to be asleep; light shines in through the glass with a blinding intensity that obscures a clear view of the exterior while alluding to the existence of a world of indefinite proportions beyond.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Lynne, Point Lobos' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Lynne, Point Lobos
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 7/16 in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

 

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

.
Albert Einstein, quoted by Wynn Bullock

 

“In June 2014, the High Museum of Art will become the first major museum in nearly 40 years to mount a retrospective of work by Wynn Bullock (1902-1975) with the exhibition Wynn Bullock: Revelations, organized by the High in collaboration with the Center for Creative Photography.

One of the most significant photographers of the mid-20th century, Bullock worked in the American modernist tradition alongside Edward Weston, Harry Callahan and Ansel Adams. More than 100 black-and-white and color works by Bullock will come together for the exhibition, which will coincide with a major gift to the High from the Bullock Estate of a large collection of vintage photographs, making the Museum one of the most significant repositories of Bullock’s work in the U.S.

The High is home to the most robust photography program in the American Southeast with particularly distinct holdings in the classic modernist tradition. Wynn Bullock: Revelations offers an unprecedentedly holistic look at Bullock’s innovative career, beginning with his early light abstractions and moving through his landscapes, figure studies, color work, negative images and late abstractions. The exhibition will be on view June 14, 2014 through Jan. 18, 2015.

A close friend of influential West Coast artists Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, and a contemporary of Minor White, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Imogen Cunningham and Frederick Sommer, Bullock created a body of work marked by a distinct interest in experimentation, abstraction and philosophical exploration. His images Let There Be Light and Child in Forest (both of which will be included in the High’s exhibition) became icons in the history of photography following their prominent inclusion in Edward Steichen’s landmark 1955 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, The Family of Man.

Bullock’s photography received early recognition in 1941, when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art staged his first solo exhibition. His mature work appeared in one-man shows at the Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris; the Royal Photographic Society, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Art Institute of Chicago; among other prestigious venues. His archive was a foundational collection for the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Ariz., which is recognized as one of the most important photographic resources in the world.

Despite early acclaim, the true breadth and depth of Bullock’s career has remained largely in the shadows. Wynn Bullock: Revelations offers the most comprehensive assessment of the photographer’s extraordinary career in nearly 40 years. This retrospective traces Bullock’s evolution from his early experimental work of the 1940s, through the mysterious black-and-white imagery of the 1950s and color light abstractions of the 1960s, to his late metaphysical photographs of the 1970s.

“Bullock’s arresting work was integral to codifying what we now think of as quintessential mid-century style, which in turn paved the way for every stage of photography that has followed,” said Brett Abbott, curator of photography and head of collections at the High. “Presenting this exhibition and acquiring this generous body of work from Bullock’s estate will allow us to play a role in bringing him back into the popular consciousness. Our photography department has expanded greatly over the last few years, in terms of the work we own and the exhibitions we mount, giving us the ability to position this pivotal body of work as part of the nearly two-century-long story of the development of photography.”

Wynn Bullock: Revelations will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue to be produced by the High in collaboration with the University of Texas Press. The book presents 110 images, including some from the Bullock Estate that have never been published before. An essay by Abbott explores the nuances of Bullock’s approach to photography and its fascinating relationship to the history of science and philosophy. The volume also includes an illustrated chronology, bibliography, selected collections, exhibitions history, plate list and notes.

 

About Wynn Bullock

Wynn Bullock was born on April 18, 1902, in Chicago, Ill. After graduating from high school, Bullock worked as a professional singer in New York City and across Europe. In 1938 he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a law degree but soon dropped out of school to become a photography student at Art Center School, where he became deeply involved in exploring alternative processes such as solarization and bas relief and began building a career in commercial photography. Bullock went on to serve in the military and then to build a successful private photography business, where he developed a way to control the line effect of solarization, a discovery for which he was awarded patents. Bullock began pursuing “straight” photography after meeting Edward Weston in 1948. Throughout the 1950s he explored the natural world from his own unique perspective in photography and came into the public spotlight through exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. In the 1960s he created an innovative body of abstract color images. He later returned to experimental black and white, on which he continued to focus until his death in 1975. Bullock’s work is part of the collections of more than 90 major institutions throughout the world.”

Press release from the High Museum of Art website

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Color Light Abstraction 1076' 1963

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Color Light Abstraction 1076
1963
Inkjet print
14 x 21 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Color Light Abstraction 1075' 1963

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Color Light Abstraction 1075
1963
Inkjet print
14 x 21 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Entrance Mural with glimpses of Galleries 1 and 3

Gallery 1

Gallery 2

Gallery 3

 

Wynn Bullock: Revelations installation at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta
Entrance mural with glimpses of Galleries 1 and 3 (top), Galleries 1, 2 and 3 (bottom)

 

 

“Love Itself”

The light came through the window,
Straight from the sun above,
And so inside my little room
There plunged the rays of Love.

In streams of light I clearly saw
The dust you seldom see,
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

Then I came back from where I’d been.
My room, it looked the same –
But there was nothing left between
The Nameless and the Name.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love itself,
Love Itself was gone.
Love Itself was gone.

 

Lyrics by Leonard Cohen

 

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

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Child in Forest
1951
Gelatin silver print
7 7/16 x 9 3/8 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase, 1978.62
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Stark Tree' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Stark Tree
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 9 1/16 in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Let There Be Light' 1954

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Let There Be Light
1954
Gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 9 7/16 in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Old Typewriter' 1951

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Old Typewriter
1951
Gelatin silver print
7 1/16 × 9 7/16 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Gift of Lucinda W. Bunnen for the Bunnen Collection, 2012.594
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'The Shore' 1966

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
The Shore
1966
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 13 5/8 in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Sea Palms' 1968

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Sea Palms
1968
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 ¼ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Driftwood' 1951

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Driftwood
1951
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 ½ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Point Lobos Tide Pools' 1972

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Point Lobos Tide Pools
1972
Gelatin silver print
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975), 'Early Solarization' 1940

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Early Solarization
1940
Gelatin silver print
6 1/4 x 8 in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Edna' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Edna
1956
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 7 ½ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Portrait of Edna, Cannery Row' 1955

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Portrait of Edna, Cannery Row
1955
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 ½ in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Barbara through Window' 1956

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Barbara through Window
1956
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 ½ in.
Collection Center for Creative Photography
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Nude Torso in Forest' 1958

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Nude Torso in Forest
1958
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 6 1/4in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock. 'Child on Forest Road' 1958

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Child on Forest Road
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Fallen Tree Trunk' 1972

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Fallen Tree Trunk
1972
Gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 7 ½ in.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, promised gift of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Tree Trunk' 1971

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Tree Trunk
1971
Gelatin silver print
Promised Gift of Lynne Harrington-Bullock
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

To create this image, Bullock reversed the positive and negative values of his rendering of a tree trunk, and then turned the composition upside down. In so doing, he disrupts a habitual reading of the natural world, creates an experience of disorientation, and allows the forms pictured to engage the eye in freshly invigorating ways.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Photogram' 1970

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Photogram
1970
Gelatin silver print
9 1/8 x 7 3/8 in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Rock' 1973

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Rock
1973
Gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 6 ¾ in.
Collection of Barbara and Gene Bullock-Wilson
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

 

High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree Street,
N.E. Atlanta, GA 30309

Opening hours:
Monday Closed
Tuesday 10 am to 5 pm
Wednesday  10 am to 5 pm
Thursday 10 am to 5 pm
Friday  10 am to 9 pm† (Half-Price after 4 pm!)
Saturday 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday 12 noon to 5 pm

High Museum of Art website

Wynn Bullock Photography website
Wynn Bullock Photography web page dedicated to the exhibition

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10
Jan
11

Review: ‘Luminous Cities: Photographs of the Built Environment’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 22nd October 2010 – 13th March 2011

 

Eugene Atget. 'Coin de la rue Valette et Pantheon, 5e arrondissement, matinee de mars' 1925, printed 1978

 

Eugene Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Coin de la rue Valette et Pantheon, 5e arrondissement, matinee de mars
1925, printed 1978
Gelatin silver photograph
17.8 x 23.7 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1980

 

 

A delightful exhibition of photographs of the built environment at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. The exhibition contains some interesting photographs from the collection including the outstanding Coin de la rue Valette et Pantheon, 5e arrondissement, matinee de mars by Eugene Atget taken two years before his death (1925, printed 1978, see below) that simply takes your breath away.

Atget was my hero when I started to study photography in the late 1980s and he remains my favourite photographer. His use of light coupled with his understanding of how to organise space within the pictorial frame is exemplary (note the darkness of the right-hand wall as it supports the integrity of the rest of the image, as it leads your eye to that wonderful space between the buildings, the shaft of light falling on the ground, the blank wall topped by an arrow leading the eye upwards to the misty dome!). The ability to place his large format camera and tripod in just the right position, the perfect height and angle, to allow the subject to reveal itself it all it’s glory is magical: “Atget’s interest in the variable play between nature and art through minute changes in the camera’s angle, or as functions of the effects of light and time of day, is underscored in his notations of the exact month and sometimes even the hour when the pictures were taken.”1 Two other immense works in the exhibition are New York at Night by Berenice Abbott (1932, printed c. 1975) and the incredible multiple exposure The Maypole, Empire State Building, New York by Edward Steichen (1932).

The only disappointment to the exhibition is the lack of vintage prints, a fair portion of the exhibition including the three prints mentioned above being later prints made from the original negatives. I wonder what vintage prints of these images would look like?

The purchasing of non-vintage prints was the paradigm for the collection of international photographs early in the history of the Department of Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria and was seen as quite acceptable at the time. The paradigm was set by Athol Shmith in 1973 on his visit to Paris and London.

“Typically for the times, Shmith did not choose to acquire vintage prints, that is, photographs made shortly after the negative was taken. While vintage prints are most favoured by collectors today, in the 1970s vintage prints supervised by the artists were considered perfectly acceptable and are still regarded as a viable, if less impressive option now.”2

Some museums including the NGV preferred to acquire portfolios of modern reprints as a speedy way of establishing a group of key images. As noted in the catalogue essay to 2nd Sight: Australian Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria by Dr Isobel Crombie, Senior Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria, the reason for preferring the vintage over the modern print “is evident when confronted with modern and original prints: differences in paper, scale and printing styles make the original preferable.”3 The text also notes that this sensibility, the consciousness of these differences slowly evolved in the photographic world and, for most, the distinctions were not a matter of concern even though the quality of the original photograph was not always maintained.

This is stating the case too strongly. Appreciation of the qualities of vintage prints was already high in the period of the mid-1970s – early 1980s most notably at institutions such as The Museum of Modern Art, a collection visited by photography curators of the NGV. Size and scale of the vintage prints tend to be much smaller than later prints making them closer to the artists original intentions, while the paper the prints are made on, the contrast and colour of the prints also varies remarkably. Other mundane but vitally important questions may include these: who printed the non-vintage photograph, who authorised the printing and how many non-vintage copies of the original negative were made, none of which are answered when the prints are displayed.

I vividly remember seeing a retrospective of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work in Edinburgh at the Dean Gallery, National Gallery of Scotland in 2005, the largest retrospective of Cartier-Bresson’s work ever staged in Britain with over 200 photographs. Three large rooms were later 1970s reprints of some of his photographs, about 20″ x 24″ in size, on cold, blue photographic paper. One room, however, was full of his original prints from the 1920s and 30s. The contrast could not have been different: the vintage prints were very small, intense, subtle, printed on brown toned paper, everything that you would want those jewel-like images to be, the vision of the artist intensified; the larger prints diluted that vision until the images seemed to almost waste away despite their size.

Although never stated openly I believe that one of the reasons for the purchase of non-vintage prints was the matter of cost, the Department of Photography never being given the budget to buy the prints that it wanted to in the 1970s – early 1980s, the collection of photography not being a priority for the NGV at that time. In other words by buying non-vintage prints in the 1970s you got more “bang for your buck” even when the cost of vintage prints was relatively low. Unfortunately the price of vintage prints then skyrocketed in the 1980s putting them well outside the budget of the Department. While Dr Crombie acknowledges the preponderance of American works in the collection over European and Asian works she also notes that major 20th century photographers that you would expect to be in the collection are not and blames this lack “on the massive increases in prices for international photography that began in the 1980s and which largely excluded the NGV from the market at this critical time.”4

The policy of purchasing non-vintage prints has now ceased at the National Gallery of Victoria.

The purchasing of non-vintage prints and the paucity of purchasing vintage prints by master photographers during the formative decade of the collection of international photographs in the Department of Photography (1970-1980) is understandable in hindsight but today seems like a golden opportunity missed. While the collection contains many fine photographs due to the diligence of early photographic curators (notably Jennie Boddington), the minuscule nature of the budget of the department in those early years when vintage prints were relatively cheap and affordable (a Paul Caponigro print could be purchased for $200-300 for example) did not allow them to purchase the photographs that the collection desperately needed. With one vintage print by a master of photography now fetching many thousands of dollars the ability to fill gaps in the collection in the future is negligible (according to Dr Crombie) – so we must celebrate and enjoy the photographs that are in the collection such as those in Luminous Cities: Photographs of the Built Environment.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

2. Crombie, Isobel. “Creating a Collection: International Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria,” in Re_View: 170 years of Photography. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2009, p. 9
3. Crombie, Isobel. Second sight: Australian photography in the National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2002, p. 10
4. Op.cit. p. 10

.
Many thankx to Jemma Altmeier for her help and to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Stephen Thompson. 'Grande Canale, Venice' c. 1868

 

Stephen Thompson (active throughout Europe, 1850s-80s)
Grande Canale, Venice
c. 1868
Albumen silver photograph
21.2 x 29.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1988

 

England 'Houses of Parliament, London' 1860s

 

England (active in England 1860s)
Houses of Parliament, London
1860s
Albumen silver photograph
18.5 x 24.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission funds, 1988

 

 

On 22 October the National Gallery of Victoria will open Luminous Cities, a fascinating exhibition that examines the various ways photographers have viewed cities as historical sites, bustling modern hubs and architectural utopias since the nineteenth century.

The great cities of the world are vibrant creative centres in which the built environment is often as inspirational as the activities of its citizens, and, since the nineteenth century photographers have creatively explored the idea of the city.

This exhibition, drawn from the collection of the NGV, considers various ways in which photographers in the 19th and 20th centuries have viewed cities as historical sites, bustling modern metropolises and architectural utopias. These lyrical images describe the physical attributes of cities, offer insights into the creative imaginations of architects and photographers and embody the zeitgeist of their times.

Frances Lindsay, Deputy Director, NGV said: “Through the work of a range of photographers Luminous Cities will take viewers on a fascinating journey around the world, into the streets, buildings and former lives of great international cities.

“Drawn from the NGV collection, Luminous Cities includes works by renowned photographers Eugene Atget, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Berenice Abbott, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Bill Brandt, Lee Freidlander and Grant Mudford amongst many others.

The exhibition will also extend into our contemporary gallery space where an outstanding selection of works by celebrated contemporary artists such as Bill Henson, Andreas Gursky and Jon Cattapan will be on display,” said Ms Lindsay.

Through examples from the mid 19th century, Luminous Cities explores the relationship between photographer, architect and archaeologist with photos of Athens, Rome and Pompeii. This was also a time when great cities such as London and Paris underwent unprecedented renewal and expansion, photography served to document new constructions and also presented heroic, inspirational visions of new cities emerging from old.

Susan van Wyk, Curator, Photography, NGV said: “The works on display in Luminous Cities describe the physical attributes of cities, offer insights into the creative imaginations of architects and photographers, and embody the zeitgeist of their times.”

New York, one of the great 20th century cities, was a captivating subject for generations of photographers. Through the work of architects and the images photographers made of the city, New York became synonymous with its skyline. The images of renowned photographers including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand and Berenice Abbott show the pictorial possibilities of the modern city in photographs that embody the dynamism of the city that never sleeps.

The contemporary art works included in Luminous Cities explore the creative ways in which artists imagine and represent the cityscape. Vast glittering panoramas taken from bustling urban communities, sprawling architectural structures and fictitious landscapes all combine to reveal fascinating insights into both physical and psychological geographies.

Ms van Wyk said: “At the end of the 20th century a much cooler, more abstracted strain of photography emerged. Photographs in the exhibition from this period range from the formalism of the 1970s to more recent cinematic visions of the nocturnal city.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria website

 

Lee Freidlander. 'Stamford, Connecticut' 1973, printed c. 1977

 

Lee Freidlander (American, b. 1934)
Stamford, Connecticut
1973, printed c. 1977
Gelatin silver photograph
18.9 x 28.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1977
© Lee Friedlander

 

 

In the decades following the Second World War the idea of ‘the city’, notably in work of American, European and Australian photographers, came to symbolize the modern condition, the best and worst of contemporary life. This ambiguous stance on the city is exemplified in the work of American photographer Lee Friedlander whose photographs of seemingly ordinary urban scenes are at once amusing and slightly disturbing. In his 1973 photograph Stamford, Connecticut, the banal vernacular architecture of suburban shopping street forms the backdrop to a peculiar scene where shoppers are ‘stalked’ by a statue of first world war sniper. Despite its witty elements, this image has a somewhat despairing tone. The women walking along this rather bleak street are isolated and anonymous, ciphers for the worst aspects of contemporary city life.

 

Grant Mudford. 'New York' 1975

 

Grant Mudford (b. Australia 1944, lived United States 1977- )
New York
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
33.8 x 49.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1977
© Grant Mudford

 

 

A more neutral view of the contemporary city can be seen in the work of Australian photographer Grant Mudford. After moving to the US in 1970s, Mudford continued to photograph the built environment. Familiar with the work of Lee Friedlander, and citing Walker Evans as an influence, Mudford’s photographs continue a tradition of photographing the city as an empty backdrop devoid of the bustle of human activity. In his 1975 Untitled photograph of a truck depot in New York Mudford simplifies what could be a chaotic scene to the verge of abstraction.

 

 

NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

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Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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