Posts Tagged ‘American contemporary photography

08
Sep
17

Exhibition: ‘Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 30th April – 30th July 2017

The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery, sixth floor

 

 

Louise Lawler. 'Pollyanna (adjusted to fit) distorted for the times' 2007/2008/2012

 

Louise Lawler
Pollyanna (adjusted to fit) distorted for the times
2007/2008/2012
As adjusted for the MoMA exhibition WHY PICTURES NOW, 2017
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Pollyanna (adjusted to fit)' 2007/2008/2012

 

Louise Lawler
Pollyanna (adjusted to fit)
2007/2008/2012
As adjusted for the MoMA exhibition WHY PICTURES NOW, 2017
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Produced in 1988, Purchased in 1989; Produced in 1989, Purchased in 1993 (adjusted to fit), distorted for the times' 1995/2010

 

Louise Lawler
Produced in 1988, Purchased in 1989; Produced in 1989, Purchased in 1993 (adjusted to fit), distorted for the times
1995/2010
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

(Note on reproducing Lawler’s Adjusted to Fit works: Each time these images are reproduced, they should be stretched to the space given to the reproduction. The original file (un-stretched) is the origin point for anything that is then adjusted by the photo editor.)

 

Louise Lawler. 'Produced in 1988, Purchased in 1989; Produced in 1989, Purchased in 1993 (adjusted to fit)' 1995/2010

 

Louise Lawler
Produced in 1988, Purchased in 1989; Produced in 1989, Purchased in 1993 (adjusted to fit), distorted for the times
1995/2010
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

 

I missed the closing date for this exhibition due to the ongoing problems with my hand. However, I believe it is valuable to post these images because Louise Lawler is an always provocative, thoughtful and interesting artist. She shines a light or, more possibly, pokes a big stick at patriarchal systems of value in art – turning perceived points of view, ways of seeing, and “the cultural circumstances that support art’s production, circulation, and presentation” on their head.

“… behind Ms. Lawler’s shape-shifting works lies a poetic intelligence, a political sharpness and an understanding of the artwork as a form of value, but also as a source and an object of love.” Well said.

Lawler possesses a unique understanding of the forms of culture embodied within images and also an intimate knowledge of the archetypal forms buried deep within their bones. Is the pattern immanent in the paper (the cosmos), or is the paper a blank slate to be written on by the creator?

Distorted, restaged, reframed and re-presented for the times…

Marcus

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

#art #moma #museumofmodernart #museum #modernart #nyc #education #artist #photography #womenartists #femaleartists #louiselawler #whypicturesnow

 

Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW is the first major survey in New York of the artist Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947), spanning the 40-year creative output of one of the most influential artists working in the fields of image production and institutional critique. The exhibition takes its title from one of Lawler’s most iconic works, Why Pictures Now (1982), a black-and-white photograph showing a matchbook propped up in an ashtray. Reminiscent of an advertising photograph or a film noir still, it asks the viewer to consider why the work takes the form of a picture, and why the artist is making pictures now. Lawler came of age as part of the Pictures Generation, a loosely knit, highly independent group of artists named for an influential exhibition, Pictures, organised in 1977 by art historian Douglas Crimp at Artists Space in New York. These artists used photography and appropriation-driven strategies to examine the functions and codes of representation. Lawler’s signature style was established in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when she began taking pictures of other artists’ works displayed in collectors’ homes, museums, storage spaces, and auction houses to question the value, meaning, and use of art.

WHY PICTURES NOW is organised by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, with Kelly Sidley, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography.

 

 

“Ms. Lawler and Roxana Marcoci, the exhibition’s curator, have devised something quite different: an open, airy survey with lots of room for roaming, some chairs for sitting and two conjoined, markedly different halves focusing on Ms. Lawler’s activities with pictures and then words. The first half is dominated by photographs in various shapes and guises, including mural-size images. The second, which seems almost empty at first, contains two large vitrines of ephemera that show off Ms. Lawler’s gifts for graphic design and for language, with displays of everything from matchbook covers and napkins to exhibition announcements and art books that she photo-edited. …

Ms. Lawler’s images have multiple lives, exposing the ceaseless flexibility of photographs. Constantly recycled, they go from framed and portable to paperweights to the wall-covering murals of her “adjusted to fit” series. In the show’s first half, four “adjusted” photos cover immense, staggered walls, looming like ocean liners sliding out of their docks. Their monumentality thrills but also chides the art world for its embrace of spectacle and the overblown. …

It is hard to know if these words [“Why Pictures Now”] proclaim the power, or the worthlessness, of pictures. Probably both. Either way, behind Ms. Lawler’s shape-shifting works lies a poetic intelligence, a political sharpness and an understanding of the artwork as a form of value, but also as a source and an object of love.”

.
Roberta Smith. “Louise Lawler’s Stealth Aesthetic (and Muted Aura),” on the New York Times website

 

 

 

Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW | MoMA LIVE

Join us for a conversation with MoMA director Glenn Lowry and curator Roxana Marcoci on the opening of the exhibition, Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW. The first New York museum survey of the work of American artist Louise Lawler, this exhibition is an exploration of her creative output, which has inspired fellow artists and cultural thinkers alike for the past four decades.

Among the most intriguing aspects of Lawler’s working process is her continuous re-presentation, reframing, or restaging in the present, a strategy through which she revisits her own images by transferring them to different formats – from photographs to paperweights, tracings, and works she calls “adjusted to fit” (images stretched or expanded to fit the location of their display). Lawler’s critical strategies of reformatting existing content not only suggest the idea that pictures can have more than one life, but underpin the intentional, relational character of her farsighted art.

 

 

Louise Lawler | HOW TO SEE the artist with MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci

Can the exact same image have a completely different meaning if its title or medium is changed? Explore the work of one of today’s most influential female artists, Louise Lawler, in the new exhibition Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW.

MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci gives us a tour of the exhibition that charts Lawler’s continuous re-presentation, reframing, or restaging of the present, a strategy through which Lawler revisits her own images by transferring them to different formats – from photographs to paperweights, tracings, and works she calls “adjusted to fit” (images stretched or expanded to fit the location of their display).

 

 

Louise Lawler’s Birdcalls at MoMA

You’re not hearing things. For the duration of the Louise Lawler exhibition, a stroll through our Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden places you squarely in the middle of Birdcalls, the artist’s defiant, humorous critique of the art world’s captivation with male artists. Find out what exhibition inspired Lawler’s sole sound piece with MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci.

 

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation views of Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW
© 2017 The Museum of Modern Art
Photo: Martin Seck

 

 

Lawler’s study of art in its commercial context will be complemented by the display of a work by a younger artist that highlights a different kind of economy. The sculpture New York State Unified Court System (top photo), by artist Cameron Rowland, included in the artist’s knockout exhibition at Artists Space this winter, takes the form of four oak benches used in courtrooms and built using prison labour. (Text from the Artnet website)

 

Louise Lawler. 'Why Pictures Now' 1981

 

Louise Lawler
Why Pictures Now
1981
Gelatin silver print
3 x 6” (7.6 x 15.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired with support from Nathalie and Jean-Daniel Cohen in honour of Roxana Marcoci
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Why Pictures Now (traced)' 1981/2013

 

Louise Lawler
Why Pictures Now (traced)
1981/2013
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. '(Roy Lichtenstein and Other Artists) Black' 1982

 

Louise Lawler
(Roy Lichtenstein and Other Artists) Black
1982
Silver dye bleach print
28 ½ x 37 ¼” (72.4 x 94.6 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. '(Andy Warhol and Other Artists) Tulip' 1982

 

Louise Lawler
(Andy Warhol and Other Artists) Tulip
1982
Silver dye bleach print
38 ½ x 60 ½” (97.8 x 153.7 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Monogram' 1984

 

Louise Lawler
Monogram
1984
Silver dye bleach print
39 1/2 × 28″ (100.3 × 71.1 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

 

“Swimming among the show’s images are words and wordplay that can have a few layers. One of Ms. Lawler’s better-known photographs shows Jasper Johns’s creamy “White Flag” (1955) hanging above a bed with an equally creamy monogrammed satin spread. The image is sensibly titled “Monogram,” all the more fittingly since “Monogram” is also the title of one of Robert Rauschenberg’s combines from the 1950s, when he and Mr. Johns were lovers.

Roberta Smith. “Louise Lawler’s Stealth Aesthetic (and Muted Aura),” on the New York Times website

 

Louise Lawler. 'Untitled, 1950-51' 1987

 

Louise Lawler
Untitled, 1950-51
1987
Silver dye bleach print
29 3/8 × 39 1/4″ (74.6 × 99.7 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Does Andy Warhol Make You Cry?' 1988

 

Louise Lawler
Does Andy Warhol Make You Cry?
1988
Silver dye bleach print with text on Plexiglass wall label
Image (shown): 27 ¼ x 39” (69.2 x 99.1 cm); Label: 4 3/8 x 6 3/8 in. (11.1 x 16.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Gabriella de Ferrari in honour of Karen Davidson
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

 

“Lawler’s suspicion of the image is nothing new. In WHY PICTURES NOW, her career survey currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art, the Pictures Generation artist is again and again engaged in taking the familiar – a famous work of art, different forms of banal ephemera – and making it abnormal through clever subversion. There is a timid jostling of her male peers, a slight nudge off the pedestal of reverence, which is evident in much of her work and makes it eminently appealing – even if some of its institutional critique is diminished under the museum’s glow of prestige. But what is often obscured in Lawler’s work is the way that it’s not only questioning the apparatus of making and displaying art, but also its reception – the formalised way that we, the spectators, are looking.”

.
Craig Hulbert on the Hyperallergic website

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art announces Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW, the first major survey in New York of the artist Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947). Spanning the 40-year creative output of one of the most influential artists working in the fields of image production and institutional critique, the exhibition will be on view from April 30 to July 30, 2017, in The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery, sixth floor, along with one sound work, Birdcalls (1972-81), which will be installed in The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The exhibition takes its title from one of Lawler’s most iconic works, Why Pictures Now (1982), a black-and-white photograph showing a matchbook propped up in an ashtray. Reminiscent of an advertising photograph or a film noir still, it asks the viewer to consider why the work takes the form of a picture, and why the artist is making pictures at this moment. Lawler came of age as part of the Pictures Generation, a loosely knit, highly independent group of artists named for an influential exhibition, Pictures, organised in 1977 by art historian Douglas Crimp at Artists Space in New York. These artists used photography and appropriation-driven strategies to examine the functions and codes of representation. Lawler’s signature style was established in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when she began taking pictures of other artists’ works displayed in collectors’ homes, museums, storage spaces, and auction houses to question the value, meaning, and use of art. WHY PICTURES NOW is organised by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, with Kelly Sidley, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography.

Lawler’s work offers a defiant, witty, and sustained feminist analysis of the strategies that inform art’s production and reception. In 1971, she was invited to assist several artists for independent curator Willoughby Sharp’s Pier 18, an exhibition that featured 27 male artists on an abandoned pier on the Hudson River. While walking home after leaving the pier one evening, Lawler began to mimic birdlike sounds in order to ward off any unwanted interactions, chanting “Willoughby! Willoughby!” This parody evolved into Birdcalls, a seven-minute audio piece in which Lawler squawks, chirps, and twitters the names of famous male artists, from Vito Acconci to Lawrence Weiner – an astute critique of the name recognition enjoyed by her male contemporaries. Birdcalls thematises Lawler’s strategy of resistance to the authoritative and the patronymic proper name. This work will be played throughout the course of the exhibition, in MoMA’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden.

An intriguing aspect of Lawler’s practice is her process of continuous re-presentation, reframing, or restaging in the present: she revisits her own work by transferring her images to different formats, from a photograph to a tracing, and to works that she calls “adjusted to fit.” The “tracings” are large-format black-and-white line versions of her photographs that eliminate colour and detail, functioning instead as “ghosts” of the originals. “Adjusted to fit” images are stretched or expanded to fit the location of their display, not only suggesting the idea that pictures can have more than one life, but also underpinning the intentional, relational character of Lawler’s farsighted art.

The exhibition consists of a sequence of mural-scale, “adjusted to fit” images set in dynamic relation to non-linear groupings of photographs – of collectors’ homes, auction houses, and museum installations – distinctive of Lawler’s conceptual exercises. Additionally, a deceptively empty gallery presents black-and-white tracings of Lawler’s photographs that have been printed on vinyl and mounted directly on the wall. A display of the artist’s ephemera from the 1970s to today highlights the feminist and performative undercurrents of her art. Lawler’s long history of artistic collaborations, with Sherrie Levine, Allan McCollum, Andrea Fraser, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Christopher d’Arcangelo, Peter Nadin, and Lawrence Weiner, among others, come full circle in the ephemera on display. Furthermore, on the platform outside the gallery space, two “adjusted to fit” images are shown together with Cameron Rowland’s work New York State Unified Court System. Comprised of four oak courtroom benches, it was included in Rowland’s exhibition 91020000, presented at Artists Space in 2016. Lawler and Rowland share an interest in examining the imbalances of exploitative economies, the use value and exchange value of art, the politics of space, and the interplay of power between human relations and larger institutional structures, including markets, museums, prisons, and governments. Additionally, Andrea Fraser will perform her work May I Help You? in the exhibition space. In foregrounding her work’s relationship to the economies of collaboration and exchange, Lawler shifts focus from the individual picture to the broader history of art. Her careful attention to artistic contexts, modes of presentation, and viewers’ receptions generates witty, affective situations that contribute to institutional transformation.

Press release from MoMA

 

Louise Lawler. 'Untitled (Salon Hodler)' 1992

 

Louise Lawler
Untitled (Salon Hodler)
1992
Paperweight (silver dye bleach print, crystal, felt) with text on wall
Paperweight: 2″ (5.1 cm) high, 3 1/2″ (8.9 cm) diam.
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Salon Hodler (traced)' 1992/1993/2013

 

Louise Lawler
Salon Hodler (traced)
1992/1993/2013
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Sentimental' 1999/2000

 

Louise Lawler
Sentimental
1999/2000
Silver dye bleach print
40 ¾ x 46 ¾” (103.5 x 118.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'WAR IS TERROR' 2001/2003

 

Louise Lawler
WAR IS TERROR
2001/2003
Silver dye bleach print
30 × 25 3/4″ (76.2 × 65.4 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Nude' 2002/2003

 

Louise Lawler
Nude
2002/2003
Silver dye bleach print
59 1/2 × 47 1/2″ (151.1 × 120.7 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'White Gloves' 2002/2004

 

Louise Lawler
White Gloves
2002/2004
Silver dye bleach print
29 × 27 1/2″ (73.7 × 69.9 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Life After 1945 (Faces)' 2006/2007

 

Louise Lawler
Life After 1945 (Faces)
2006/2007
Silver dye bleach print
40 x 33 ¼” (101.6 x 84.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Triangle (adjusted to fit)' 2008/2009/2011

 

Louise Lawler
Triangle (adjusted to fit)
2008/2009/2011
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'No Drones' 2010/2011

 

Louise Lawler
No Drones
2010/2011
Chromogenic colour print
29 ¼ x 19 ¾” (74.3 x 50.2 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Marie +270' 2010/2012

 

Louise Lawler
Marie +270
2010/2012
Chromogenic colour print
59 x 45 ½” (149.9 x 115.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Ricki Gail Conway
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Pollock and Tureen (traced)' 1984/2013

 

Louise Lawler
Pollock and Tureen (traced)
1984/2013
Dimensions variable
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Endowment
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

 

One of her most famous images, “Pollock and Tureen” (1984), shows a fragment of a painting by Jackson Pollock above an antique soup tureen. In the photograph, the colour relationships are clear, offering insight into the choices of the collectors who “arranged” (a favourite word of Lawler’s) the scene. The work is about class, capitalism, and domesticity, not to mention reality and fiction. But when all the site-specific context is removed [in the tracing] … all we’re left with is contemplating the original Lawler artwork’s role in art history and the market.

In Benjamin Buchloh’s essay for Lawler’s retrospective last year at the Museum Ludwig, one of his most cogent points is about the nature of melancholy in her original photographs. “[H]er images,” he writes, “leave equally little doubt that there is hardly a more melancholic space than that of a fulfilled and seemingly satisfied utopian aspiration, one that has, however, not quite lived up to the originary promises … ”

Hrag Vartanian on the Hypoallergic website

 

Louise Lawler. 'Hand on Her Back (traced)' 1997/1998/2013

 

Louise Lawler
Hand on Her Back (traced)
1997/1998/2013
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Evening Sale' 2010/2015

 

Louise Lawler
Evening Sale
2010/2015
Silver dye bleach print
50 x 36 5/8” (127 x 93 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Big (adjusted to fit)' 2002/2003/2016

 

Louise Lawler
Big (adjusted to fit)
2002/2003/2016
Dimensions variable
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of The Modern Women’s Fund and The Contemporary Arts Council
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Still Life (Candle) (adjusted to fit)' 2003/2016

 

Louise Lawler
Still Life (Candle) (adjusted to fit)
2003/2016
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber Inc. (adjusted to fit)' 1982/2016

 

Louise Lawler
Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber Inc. (adjusted to fit)
1982/2016
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

 

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17
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Color! American Photography Transformed’ at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2013 – 5th January, 2014

 

Alex Prager (b.1979) 'Crowd #1 (Stan Douglas)' 2010

 

Alex Prager (American, b. 1979)
Crowd #1 (Stan Douglas)
2010
Dye coupler print
© Alex Prager, courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery

 

 

A very big subject to cover in one exhibition.

Marcus

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

 

Jack Delano (1914-1997) 'Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains, Greene County, Georgia, 1941' 1941

 

Jack Delano (American, 1914-1997)
Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains, Greene County, Georgia, 1941
1941
Inkjet print, 2013
Courtesy the Library of Congress

 

Laura Gilpin (1891-1979) 'Still Life with Peaches' 1912

 

Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979)
Still Life with Peaches
1912
Lumière Autochrome
© 1979 Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Jan Groover (1943-2012) 'Untitled' 1978

 

Jan Groover (American, 1943-2012)
Untitled
1978
Dye coupler print
© 1978 Jan Groover
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled (Woman with two daughters)' c. 1850s

 

Unknown photographer 
Untitled (Woman with two daughters)
c. 1850s
Salted paper print with applied color
Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

Gregory Crewdson (b. 1962) 'Untitled (Dylan on the Floor)' from the 'Twilight Series' 1998-2002

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled (Dylan on the Floor) from the Twilight Series
1998-2002
Dye coupler print
© Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

 

On October 5, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art opens Color! American Photography Transformed, a compelling examination of how colour has changed the very nature of photography, transforming it into today’s dominant artistic medium. Color! includes more than 70 exceptional photographs by as many photographers and is on view through January 5, 2014.

“Colour is so integral to photography today that it is difficult to remember how new it is or realise how much it has changed the medium,” says John Rohrbach, senior curator of photographs.

The exhibition covers the full history of photography, from 1839, when Frenchman Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787-1851) introduced his daguerreotype process, to the present. From the start, disappointed that photographs could only be made in black and white, photographers and scientists alike sought with great energy to achieve colour. Color! begins with a rare direct-colour photograph made in 1851 by Levi L. Hill (1816-1865), but explains how Hill could neither capture a full range of colour nor replicate his achievement. It then shows finely rendered hand-coloured photographs to share how photographers initially compensated for the lack of colour.

When producing colour photographs became commercially feasible in 1907 in the form of the glass-plate Autochrome, leading artists like Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) were initially overjoyed, according to Rohrbach. Color! offers exquisite examples of their work even as it explains their ultimate rejection of the process because it was too difficult to display and especially because they felt it mirrored human sight too closely to be truly creative.

“Although many commercial photographers embraced colour photography over succeeding decades, artists continued to puzzle over the medium,” Rohrbach explains. Color! reveals that many artists from Richard Avedon (1923-2004) to Henry Holmes Smith (1909-1986) tried their hand at making colour photographs through the middle decades of the 20th century, and it shows the wide range of approaches they took to colour. It also shares the background debates among artists and photography critics over how to employ colour and even whether colour photographs could have the emotional force of their black-and-white counterparts.

Only in 1976, when curator John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art in New York heralded the young Memphis photographer William Eggleston’s (b. 1939) snapshot-like colour photographs as the solution to artful colour, did fine art colour photography gain full acceptance.

“Eggleston revealed how colour can simultaneously describe objects and stand apart from those objects as pure hue,” Rohrbach says. “In so doing, he successfully challenged the longstanding conception of photography as a medium that found its calling on close description.”

Color! illustrates through landmark works by Jan Groover (1943-2012), Joel Meyerowitz (b. 1938) and others the blossoming of artists’ use of colour photography that followed in the wake of Szarkowski’s celebration of Eggleston. It also reveals artists’ gradual absorption of the notion that colour could be used flexibly to critique cultural mores and to shape stories. In this new colour world, recording the look of things was important, but it was less important than conveying a message about life. In this important shift, led by artists as diverse as Andres Serrano (b. 1950) and Laurie Simmons (b. 1949), the exhibition explains, photography aligned itself far more closely with painting.

Color! shows how the rise of digital technologies furthered this transformation, as photographers such as Gregory Crewdson (b. 1962), Richard Misrach (b. 1949) and Alex Prager (b. 1979) have explicitly embraced the hues, scale, and even subjects of painting and cinema.

“Photography still gains its power and wide popularity today from its ability to closely reflect the world,” explains Rohrbach, “but Color! reveals how contemporary artists have been using reality not as an end unto itself, but as a jumping off point for exploring the emotional and cultural power of colour, even blurring of line between record and fiction to make their points. These practices, founded on colour, have transformed photography into the dominant art form of today even as they have opened new questions about the very nature of the medium.”

The exhibition will include an interactive photography timeline enabling visitors to contribute to the visual dialogue by sharing their own colour images. The photographs will be displayed along the timeline and on digital screens in the museum during the exhibition to illustrate how quantity, format and colour quality have evolved over time.

“By telling the full story of colour photography’s evolution, the exhibition innovatively uncovers the fundamental change that colour has brought to how photographers think about their medium,” says Andrew J. Walker, museum director. “The story is fascinating and the works are equally captivating. Photography fans and art enthusiasts in general will revel in the opportunity to see works by this country’s great photographers.

Press release from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

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Patrick Nagatani (b. 1945) and Andree Tracey (b.1948) 'Alamogordo Blues' 1986

 

Patrick Nagatani (American, b. 1945)
Andree Tracey (American, b. 1948)
Alamogordo Blues
1986
Dye diffusion print
© Patrick Nagatani and Andree Tracey
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona

 

Laurie Simmons (b. 1949) 'Woman/Red Couch/Newspaper' 1978

 

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949)
Woman/Red Couch/Newspaper
1978
Silver dye-bleach print
© Laurie Simmons
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Ralph M. Parsons Fund

 

Sandy Skoglund (b. 1946) 'Revenge of the Goldfish, 1980' 1980

 

Sandy Skoglund (American, b. 1946)
Revenge of the Goldfish, 1980
1980
Silver dye-bleach print
© 1981 Sandy Skoglund
St. Louis Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fielding Lewis Holmes

 

Mark Cohen (b. 1943) 'Boy in Yellow Shirt Smoking' 1977

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943)
Boy in Yellow Shirt Smoking
1977
Dye coupler print
© Mark Cohen
Courtesy the artist and ROSEGALLERY

 

John F. Collins (1888?-1988) 'Tire' 1938

 

John F. Collins (American, 1888?-1988)
Tire
1938
Silver dye-bleach print
Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Richard Misrach (b.1949) 'Paradise Valley (Arizona), 3.22.95, 7:05 P.M.' 1995

 

Richard Misrach (American, b.1949)
Paradise Valley (Arizona), 3.22.95, 7:05 P.M.
1995
Dye coupler print
© Richard Misrach, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles and Pace/MacGill Gallery, NY

 

Henry Holmes Smith (1909-1986) 'Tricolor Collage on Black' 1946

 

Henry Holmes Smith (American, 1909-1986)
Tricolor Collage on Black
1946
Dye imbibition print over gelatin silver print
© Smith Family Trust
Indiana University Art Museum, Henry Holmes Smith Archive

 

Mitch Epstein (b. 1952) 'Flag' 2000

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952)
Flag
2000
Dye coupler print
© Black River Productions
Private collection

 

Trevor Paglen (b. 1974) 'The Fence (Lake Kickapoo, Texas)' 2010

 

Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974)
The Fence (Lake Kickapoo, Texas)
2010
Dye coupler print, 2011
© Trevor Paglen
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Joaquin Trujillo (b. 1976) 'Jacky' 2003

 

Joaquin Trujillo (American, b. 1976)
Jacky
2003
From the series Los Niños
Inkjet print, 2011
© Joaquin Trujillo 2013
Amon Carter Museum of American art, purchase with funds provided by the Stieglitz Circle of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

James N. Doolittle (1889-1954) 'Ann Harding' c. 1932

 

James N. Doolittle (American, 1889-1954)
Ann Harding
c. 1932
Tricolor carbro print
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

 

 

Amon Carter Museum
3501 Camp Bowie Boulevard
Fort Worth, TX 76107-2695

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday:
 10am – 5pm
Thursday: 10am – 8pm
Sunday: 12am – 5pm
Closed Mondays and major holidays.

Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

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19
Sep
13

Exhibition: ‘Cindy Sherman – Untitled Horrors’ at the Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo

Exhibition dates: 4th May – 22nd September 2013

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #92' 1981

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #92
1981
Chromogenic colour print
61 x 121.9cm
The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo

 

 

Like a mouthful of cinders.

Marcus

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

 

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #167' 1985

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #167
1985
Chromogenic colour print
150 x 225cm
Astrup Fearnley Collection

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled Film Still #32' 1979

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #32
1979
Gelatin silver print
69.5 x 87.2cm
Astrup Fearnley Collection

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #150' 1985

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #150
1985
Chromogenic colour print
121 x 163.8cm
Collection of Cynthia and Abe Steinberger

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled Film Still #56' 1980

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #56
1980
Gelatin silver print
15.5 x 22.8cm
Moderna Museet
Donation from The American Friends of the Moderna Museet, Inc., 2010

 

 

Cindy Sherman (born 1954) is one of the leading and most influential artists of our time. She belongs to a generation of postmodern artists who redefined the photograph and its place in an ever more visually oriented culture. Taking female roles in photographic representations as her starting point, Sherman creates recognisable pictures that mirror the human condition in its many nuances. Sherman’s pictures became key works in a time of turbulence for the very concept of art, and continue to challenge concepts of representation, identity and portrait.

Cindy Sherman’s allegorical pictures reflect our own conception of the world and open up for new interpretations of familiar phenomena. She uses herself as a model and equally portrays film stars and pin-up girls, as well as abnormal monsters from fantasy worlds. Sherman’s assertive use of masks, wigs and prosthetics has a disturbing effect, which is further reinforced in pictures where the human presence is gradually reduced in favour of posed dolls or traces of waste and decay.

The exhibition Cindy Sherman – Untitled Horrors has been composed to emphasise the disturbing, grotesque and disquieting sides of Sherman’s pictures. These are aspects that are visible in her exploration of well-established photographic genres such as film stills, fashion photography or classic portraits, as well as in series with titles such as Fairy Tales, Disasters, Sex Pictures, Civil War and Horror & Surrealist. This exhibition seeks to highlight these key aspects in her artistry and to examine their relevance through a dedicated selection of works from the beginning of her career in the mid-1970s up to the present day.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a richly illustrated catalogue is being published in cooperation with art publishers Hatje Cantz Verlag. The idea behind the catalogue is to explore and examine the more disquieting sides of Sherman’s art by inviting contributions from authors who have touched on similar themes in their own works. Contributors are well-known artists, dramatists and authors including Lars Norén, Miranda July, Sibylle Berg, Sjón, Sara Stridsberg, Karl Ove Knausgård and Kathy Acker.

Press release from the Astrup Fearnley Museet website

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #402' 2000

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #402
2000
Chromogenic colour print
88 x 60cm
Astrup Fearnley Samlingen / Collection

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #132' 1984

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #132
1984
Chromogenic colour print
176.3 x 119.2cm
Kunsthaus Zürich

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #199-A' 1989

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #199-A
1989
Chromogenic colour print
63.3 x 45.7cm
Astrup Fearnley Collection

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #152' 1985

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #152
1985
Chromogenic colour print
184.2 x 125.4cm
Astrup Fearnley Samlingen/ Collection

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #470' 2008

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #470
2008
Chromogenic colour print
216.5 x 147.5cm
Acquired with founding from The American Friends of the Moderna Museet Inc.,

 

 

Astrup Fearnley Museet
Strandpromenaden 2, 0252 Oslo
Phone: +47 22 93 60 60

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 12-17
Thursday 12-19
Saturday, Sunday 11-17
Mondays closed

Astrup Fearnley Museet website

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25
Jul
13

Exhibition: ‘Herb Ritts: Beauty and Celebrity’ at Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City

Exhibition dates: 9th May – 28th July 2013

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Fred with Tires - Bodyshop Series, Hollywood' 1984

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Fred with Tires – Bodyshop Series, Hollywood
1984
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20 in. (60.9 x 50.8cm)
Gift of Herb Ritts. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

 

I admit that I went through a stage of disliking Herb Ritts photographs – no longer!
In contemplation, his formal aestheticism confirms a serene beauty – spare, refined, erotic.

Marcus

 

Fred with Tires became the archetypal photograph of the male body in the 1980s and made the world-wide reputation of its commercial photographer, Herb Ritts. Gay men flocked to buy it, myself included. I was drawn by the powerful, perfectly sculpted body, the butchness of his job, the dirty trousers, the boots and the body placed within a social context. At the time I realised that the image of this man was a constructed fantasy, ie. not the ‘real’ thing, and this feeling of having been deceived has grown ever since. His hair is teased up and beautifully styled, the grease is applied to his body just so, his body twisted to just the right degree to accentuate the muscles of the stomach and around the pelvis. You can just imagine the stylist standing off camera ready to readjust the hair if necessary, the assistants with their reflectors playing more light onto the body. This/he is the seduction of a marketable homoeroticsm, the selling of an image as sex, almost camp in its overt appeal to gay archetypal stereotypes.

Herb Ritts, whether in his commercial work or in his personal images such as those of the gay bodybuilders Bob Paris and Rod Jackson, has helped increase the acceptance of the openly homoerotic photograph in a wider sphere but this has been possible only with an increased acceptance of homosexual visibility within the general population. 
Openly gay bodies such as that of Australian rugby league star Ian Roberts or American diver Greg Luganis can become heroes and role models to young gay men coming out of the closet for the first time, visible evidence that gay men are everywhere in every walk of life. This is fantastic because young gay men do need gay role models to look up to but the bodies they possess only conform to the one type, that of the muscular mesomorph and this reinforces the ideal of a traditional masculinity. Yes, the guy in the shower next to you might be a poofter, might be queer for heavens sake, but my God what a body he’s got!”

Marcus Bunyan. “Historical Pressings,” from Pressing the Flesh: Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male (Phd thesis) 2001

.
Many thankx to Oklahoma City 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.

 

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Djimon with Octopus, Hollywood' 1989

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Djimon with Octopus, Hollywood
1989
Gelatin silver print
44.5 x 38.7cm (17 1/2 x 15 1/4 in.)
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Tony with shadow, Los Angeles' 1988

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Tony with shadow, Los Angeles
1988
Gelatin silver print
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Point Dume' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Point Dume
1987
Gelatin silver print
31.9 x 25.4cm (12 9/16 x 10 in.)
Gift of Herb Ritts. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb-Ritts-Versace-Dress,-Back-View,-El-Mirage,-1990-WEB

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage
1990
Gelatin silver print
137.2 x 109.2 cm (54 x 43 in.)
Gift of Herb Ritts. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

 

The American photographer Herb Ritts produced a body of work in the 1980s and 1990s that seems to embody the outdoor lifestyle and glamour of the southern California beautiful set. This photograph, taken at El Mirage Dry Lake in California, appeared on the cover of Italian designer Gianni Versace’s September 1990 catalogue and incorporates a formalism and contemporary sensuality characteristic of Ritts’s aesthetic. Ritts’s photograph appeals through its boldly contrasting lights and darks.

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Versace Veiled Dress, El Mirage' 1990

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Versace Veiled Dress, El Mirage
1990
55.8 x 44.6cm (21 15/16 x 17 9/16 in.)
Gift of Herb Ritts. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Now and Zen 1, El Mirage' 1999

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Now and Zen 1, El Mirage
1999
Gelatin silver print
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

 

Herb Ritts: Beauty and Celebrity will be on view at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art from May 9 through July 28, 2013. Organised by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston with the support of the Herb Ritts Foundation and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, this exhibition will feature over eighty large-scale black-and-white photographs by acclaimed photographer, Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002). Ranging in scale from intimate portraits to ten foot murals, the exhibition will highlight the diversity of the artist’s work. Known for his innovative approach to fashion, intimate portraiture of celebrities, and the classical treatment of the nude, Ritts emerged in the 1980s to become one of the most successful celebrity and fashion photographers of the late twentieth century and an important part of the history of American photography.

Herb Ritts grew up in Los Angeles and maintained his studio in Hollywood. A self-taught photographer, Ritts first began taking photographs in the late 1970s after studying economics at Bard College. The intimate publicity images that he made of Richard Gere were among his first serious portraits and helped to launch his career. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Ritts built his reputation as a leading celebrity portraitist and fashion photographer, contributing regularly to publications such as GQMademoiselleVogue, andVanity Fair. From 1988, he also made music videos and commercials for which he won numerous awards.

The photographs included in the exhibition represent some of Herb Ritts’s most iconic works which incorporate the natural light of the California sun while emphasising shapes, unusual juxtapositions, and the beauty of the human form. Ritts celebrates nature and the human body in evoking the tactile appeal of surface textures of grains of sand, veiled fabric, drying mud, and cascading water seen in Waterfall 4 (1988), Backflip (1987), and Woman in Sea (1988). Fashion photographs on view include such asVersace Veiled Dress, El Mirage (1990), Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood (1989), and Djimon with Octopus (1989). Examples of celebrity portraiture include Richard Gere, Jack Nicholson, Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Depp, Bruce Springsteen, Drew Barrymore, David Bowie, Matthew McConaughey, and Mick Jagger. Also included in the exhibition are poetic and eternal images in Ritts’s Africa series, taken in 1993 when he traveled to East Africa, and examples from the rare Corps et Ames (1999) series of photographs, portraying dancers in motion.

This exhibition – drawn from the photography collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Herb Ritts Foundation – present Herb Ritts’ style and the range of his career.

Press release from the Oklahoma City Museum of Art website

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Male Nude with Bubble, Los Angeles' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Male Nude with Bubble, Los Angeles
1987
Gelatin silver print
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Wrapped Torso, Los Angeles' 1989

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Wrapped Torso, Los Angeles
1989
Platinum print
46.4 x 38.4cm (18 1/4 x 15 1/8 in.)
Gift of Herb Ritts. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Backflip, Paradise Cove' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Backflip, Paradise Cove
1987
Gelatin silver print
90 x 70 in. (228.6 x 177.8cm)
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Corp et Âmes - 14, Los Angeles' 1999

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Corp et Âmes – 14, Los Angeles
1999
Gelatin silver print
14 x 11 in. (35.5 x 27.9cm)
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Chrissy Turlington, Versace 3, Milan' 1991

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Chrissy Turlington, Versace 3, Milan
1991
Gelatin silver print
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Madonna (True Blue Profile), Hollywood' 1986

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Madonna (True Blue Profile), Hollywood
1986
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20 in. (60.9 x 50.8cm)
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Matthew McConaughey, Palmdale' 1996

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Matthew McConaughey, Palmdale
1996
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20 in. (60.9 x 50.8cm)
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Loriki with Spear, Africa' 1993

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Loriki with Spear, Africa
1993
Gelatin silver print
45 x 41 in. (114.3 x 104.1cm)
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Tony Ward' 1986

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Tony Ward
1986
Gelatin silver print
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Waterfall IV, Hollywood' 1988

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Waterfall IV, Hollywood
1988
Platinum print
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.64cm)
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Woman in Sea, Hawaii' 1988

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Woman in Sea, Hawaii
1988
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20 in. (60.9 x 50.8cm)
Gift of Herb Ritts. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Bill T. Jones VI, Los Angeles' 1995

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Bill T. Jones VI, Los Angeles
1995
Gelatin silver print
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002) 'Man with Chain, Los Angeles' 1985

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Man with Chain, Los Angeles
1985
Gelatin silver print
47.8 x 38.4 cm (18 13/16 x 15 1/8 in.)
Gift of Herb Ritts. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Herb Ritts Foundation

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sunday: noon – 5pm
Closed: Mondays, Tuesdays and Major Holidays

Oklahoma City Museum of Art website

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17
Jun
13

Review: ‘Johsel Namkung: A Retrospective’ published by Cosgrove Editions, 2013

June 2013

Published by Cosgrove Editions, Johsel Namkung • A Retrospective is a collection of one hundred exquisite images selected from a remarkable career in photography spanning six decades.

 

 

 Johsel Namkung. 'Big Meadow, Washington Pass, Washington September, 2000' 2000

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Big Meadow, Washington Pass, Washington September, 2000
2000

 

 

“I like to give my viewers questions, not answers. Let them find beauty in the most mundane things, like roadside wildflowers and tumbled weeds.”

.
Johsel Namkung

 

“When we can find the abstract in nature we find the deepest art.”

.
Mark Tobey

 

“Photographs give us information; it seems that they give us information that is very packaged and they give us the information that we are already prepared to recognise obviously. It’s as if the words don’t have the weight they should have, so that one of the statements being made by any photograph is: “This really exists.” The photograph is a kind of job for the imagination to do something that we should have been able to do if we were not so disturbed by so many different kinds of information that are not really absorbed. Photographs have this authority of being testimony, but almost as if you have some direct contact with the thing, or as if the photograph is a piece of the thing; even though it’s an image, it really is the thing.”

.
Susan Sontag. Excerpt from a speech, Wellesley College photographic symposium, April 21, 1975

 

 

This is a superlative book by Cosgrove Editions that celebrates the sixty-year life in photography of the now 94-year-old Johsel Namkung. Rather than a retrospective I see this book as testimony to Johsel Namkung’s vision as an artist and the photographs, as Susan Sontag observes above, as testaments that allow the viewer to have some direct contact with the things that Johsel photographed, to see and feel with him the places that he visited and the things that he saw.

Some of the photographs in this book take your breath away. Taken with a large format camera Johsel’s compositions are heavily influenced by music and are almost fugue-like in their structure. They vibrate and sing like few other landscape photographs that I have ever seen. There is the absence of a horizon, so that his photographs seem to agree with the picture-plane rather than with the world at large.1 Rather, Johsel lets his images flow and in that flow he creates patterning that distinctly creates layers of landscape. The juxtaposing of lines on the landscape is reinforced in the sequencing of the book, where binary opposites are paired on facing pages: feminine / masculine, yang / ying, macro / micro. For example Rainy Pass, Washington July, 1989 is printed opposite Picture Lake, Mount Baker, Washington July 1979 (feminine / masculine); Steptoe Butte, Washington January, 1989 is printed opposite Oak Creek, Washington March, 1991 (yang / ying); and the vast Denali National Park, Alaska September, 1987 is printed opposite the almost Japanese-like delicacy of Arrigetch, Alaska September, 1980 (macro / micro). Although there are links to Abstract Expressionist painters such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Toby and photographers Ansel Adams, Minor White and Eliot Porter this work is wholly Johsel’s in its compositional structure – the position that the photographer puts himself in, both physically and mentally, to obtain these most beautiful of images.

Johsel has a love of small triangular shapes within the pictorial frame. They act like small punctum or pizzicato in musical terms and these given details are intended as such by the photographer. The little punctum in Johsel’s individual works become an accumulation of small punctum that resonate throughout the whole testimony of his work – through the placement of rocks and twigs, the use of triangles and layers whose presence Johsel so loves within the photograph. In this sense (that the photograph is written by the photographer), these are photographs of the mind as much as they are of the landscape. Working in the manner of Minor White (photographing in meditation, creating a pathway from the self to the object, from the object through the camera and back to the self, forming a circle), harmonising all elements (visual, physical, elemental, spiritual), Johsel exposes himself as much as the landscape he is photographing. This is his spirit in relation to the land, to the cosmos, even. Like Monet’s paintings of water lilies these photographs are a “small dreaming” of his spirit with a section of the land not necessarily, as in Aboriginal art, a dreaming and connection to the whole land.

As Minor White observes of the “recognition” of such dreaming when working with the view camera,

“First, there is a store of images, experience, ego problems, ideals, fears, which the man brings to his seeing at the start. Second, during the activity of seeing they are matched against the images in the visual world, like matching colours. This is done with some conscious effort and a great deal of unconscious participation. At the moment of matching or “recognition” there is a feeling of important at least, and sometimes a merciless impact. This in turn is secured by exposure – like a sudden gust of wind drops a ripe apple. So we can say “recognition” is the trigger of exposure. In view camera work the lapse between recognition and exposure may be relatively long. There is time for analysis and criticism of image and idea, and exposure sums up the entire experience.”2

.
Like the sudden gust of wind drops the ripe apple.

Oh the joy Johsel must have found when he recognised such invocations, by being aware of his surroundings and his relationship to the earth. I know from my own experience that when you find such a place and recognise it for what it is, it is then an entirely different matter to capture it on film for the camera imparts its own perspective. It is almost as if Johsel and the camera are one, and that the camera itself has disappeared into the landscape (I like the way that you can nearly see his camera but it is actually hidden in the photograph at the bottom of the posting). I get the feeling that Johsel is quite consciously working within an adopted aesthetic – sort of like a tea ceremony – and just making things purposefully and having faith that it is some sort “of way” of doing things. At no point is there any sense of difficulty here – it has all been removed. Yet there was so much physical effort: climbing, walking, waiting, patience, no trace of it. What a heroic act this is!

Johsel approaches a metaphysics of the Real, creating authentic visualisations of the world – an idealised, abstracted Real tending towards a (mental) s(t)imulation. In other words, he photographs the world not to reveal a specific place but a particular state of mind. Is the link to indexicality broken? No, but there is no ultimate truth or origin here, for his is an art of transformation (theatricality) through structure (modernism) which is the essence of aesthetic arts.

“This strategy rejects the search for an origin or ultimate Truth and instead interprets reality as composed, contingent and intersubjective; reality is, therefore, theatrical… Theatricality is made of this endless play and of these continuous displacements of the position of desire, in other words, of the position of the subject in process with an imaginary constructive space.”3

.
In Johsel’s photographs desire is displaced, ego is removed and his photographs become images of the mind as much as they are of the landscape. This is Johsel at play recognising, becoming these imaginary, constructive spaces. He is in the zone, he becomes the zone, even. Finally we can say: his photographs and his life are transformational; his imagination is the representation of possibility; his work is testimony to that representation.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

  • 1. Adapted from Robert Nelson commenting on the painting of Monet. “Impressionist’s ode to beauty trips into light fantastic,” The Age newspaper, Wednesday May 22nd 2013, p. 42
  • 2. White, Minor. “Exploratory Camera,” 1949 in Bunnell, Peter C. (ed.,). Aperture Magazine Anthology – The Minor White Years 1952-1976. Aperture, 2013, p. 64
  • 3. Féral, Josette. “Performance and Theatricality: The Subject Demystified,” in Modern Drama 25 (March) 1982, p. 177

 

Many thankx to Johsel Namkung, Dick Busher and Cosgrove Editions for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Dick Busher allowed me to pick the photographs that I wanted to illustrate this posting and for that I am most grateful. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

The book has recently taken top honours in two different award competitions among independent publishers for photography books: The Independent Book Publishers Association’s Benny Awards, and the Independent Publishers IPPY Awards.

PS. I think that photographer is very aware of: “Let the subject generate its own composition” (MW) – coming from Weston’s “Composition is the strongest way of seeing.”

 

 

 Johsel Namkung. 'Cougar Lake, Oregon June 1991' 1991

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Cougar Lake, Oregon June 1991
1991

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Rainy Pass, Washington July, 1989' 1989

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Rainy Pass, Washington July, 1989
1989

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Picture Lake, Mount Baker, Washington July 1979' 1979

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Picture Lake, Mount Baker, Washington July 1979
1979

 

 

In his photography Johsel brings attention and importance to elements of nature that most people pass by on their way to the grand vistas. One of my favourite locations in Washington is the Palouse as seen from Steptoe Butte; Johsel’s interpretations of the undulating wheat fields just greening with new growth are sensuous and impressionistic. One feels the slope of the earth, the texture of the tilled fields rather than seeing it. The sophisticated simplicity of his vision is highlighted in a simple composition of a dark pond surface, afloat with delicate grasses; the fine lines flowing this way and that give a sense of constant movement, yet it is a still photograph. In a twig reaching out of the snow, the subtle reflection on a pond in late afternoon light, delicate frozen ripples of ice clinging to river rock, the geometric chaos of tree branches covered in snow, the rich patina of weather-beaten stone, Johsel celebrates the minute in a grand way; it becomes the symbol for the greater whole. Textures, rhythm of line and movement become the foremost elements in his work. Some of Johsel’s images are quiet and abstract, singing a single note, while others are full-out symphonies in a celebration of the rhythms. In particular I find his Korean landscapes extraordinary. In winter the alpine hillsides bare their architecture; ridge after ridge, speckled with leafless birch and pyramidal conifers, they overlap in a crescendo of natural beauty.

Art Wolfe, Introduction to Johsel Namkung • A Retrospective

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Steptoe Butte, Washington January, 1989' 1989

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Steptoe Butte, Washington January, 1989
1989

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Oak Creek, Washington March, 1991' 1991

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Oak Creek, Washington March, 1991
1991

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Steptoe Butte, Washington October, 1977' 1977

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Steptoe Butte, Washington October, 1977
1977

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Steptoe Butte, Washington October, 1983' 1983

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Steptoe Butte, Washington October, 1983
1983

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Denali National Park, Alaska September, 1987' 1987

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Denali National Park, Alaska September, 1987
1987

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Arrigetch, Alaska September, 1980' 1980

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Arrigetch, Alaska September, 1980
1980

 

 

Photography as a medium is still relatively young. Introduced publicly in 1839, its definition has remained complicated in discourse and practice, oscillating between practical application – whether scientific illustration, family record, or aid to commerce – and aesthetic or expressive concerns. Debates that arose shortly after its invention, contesting whether photography could be an artistic medium, remained heated a century later and beyond, resolving only after Photoshop and other types of photographic manipulation became commonplace. Questions about the role of the photographer, the relative merits of colour versus black-and-white, truth to the original shot versus darkroom manipulation, investigations about canon, hierarchy, and genre have continued to multiply, as have the social organisations – art schools, technical assistance and supplies, professional and amateur societies, regular shows and publications – that foster photographic work. Becoming a photographer in the middle of the twentieth century, Johsel Namkung emerged at the intersection of all these social and conceptual shifts. Taking advantage of this opening, he made several unconventional choices: deciding to work in colour although it was black and white that signified art photography until the 1970s or later; working abstractly, but hewing to the dictates of straight photography: available light, no darkroom manipulation, print the full negative.

From the acquisition of his first camera, Namkung developed high standards for his photographic practice, recalling to interviewer Alan Lau, “I always had a confidence in myself… I had a sort of a vision toward my photographic future. I knew I was going to be something.”1 Trained first as a musician, from the beginning Namkung defined photography in abstract terms, approaching his motifs in terms of rhythms, tonal relationships, pattern, and texture. Individual works reveal specific affinities. The calligraphic grasses in Lizzard Lake, Stampede Pass, WA, August 1976 suggests Harry Callahan’s images of reeds, which are associated with Abstract Expressionist photography. The lichen-covered stone in Blue Mountain, Olympic National Park, WA, September 1976 resembles Jackson Pollock or the famed White Paintings of Namkung’s friend Mark Tobey. The screen of regular tree trunks in Sherman Pass, WA, August 1993, recalls the hatched lines representing driving rain in modern Japanese printmaking. Like limpid watercolor strokes, the rolling hills of the Palouse – distinct in each version of Steptoe Butte, of 1976, 1977, and 1983 – allude to Morris Louis’s colour field paintings.

Namkung’s preface here recounts how successive unusual jobs supplied him with professional training as a photographer. Seattle in the postwar boom years also provided a rich and supportive context for his art. Skilled artists from the ranks of first- and second-generation immigrants, from Japan, China, Korea, and the Philippines, gathered in the International District but worked and showed farther afield. Art photography had a popular following and many innovative practitioners; Pictorialism – promoted by annual exhibitions like those organised by the Seattle Camera Club – encouraged aesthetic and technical exploration with cameras. The so-called Northwest Mystics represented only one of several artistic communities exploring abstraction, some emphasising its expressive potential, others seeking formal invention. Creativity was equally celebrated beyond fine art. Rarefied technical challenges were tackled and mastered at The Boeing Company as well as the scientific laboratories of the University of Washington. The richness of this cultural ecology fostered the unique development of Namkung’s career. In return, his thoughtful production has nourished local and international audiences for over four decades.

Elizabeth Brown, Former Chief Curator, Henry Art Gallery, Introduction to Johsel Namkung • A Retrospective

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1 Alan Chong Lau interview of Johsel Namkung conducted in Seattle, Washington, on October 5, 1989, for the Archives of American Art Northwest Asian American Project.

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Shi Shi Beach Buoy, Olympic National Park, Washington August, 1981' 1981

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Shi Shi Beach Buoy, Olympic National Park, Washington August, 1981
1981

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Bissell, Washington December, 1981' 1981

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Bissell, Washington December, 1981
1981

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Alaska Lichens, Date Unknown' Nd

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Alaska Lichens, Date Unknown
Nd

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Blue Mountain, Olympic National Park, Washington September, 1976' 1976

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Blue Mountain, Olympic National Park, Washington September, 1976
1976

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Weston Beach, Point Lobos, California May, 1988' 1988

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Weston Beach, Point Lobos, California May, 1988
1988

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Frenchman Coulee, Washington May, 2002' 2002

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Frenchman Coulee, Washington May, 2002
2002

 

Johsel Namkung. 'Kalaloch Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington October, 1984' 1984

 

Johsel Namkung (Korean American, 1919-2013)
Kalaloch Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington October, 1984
1984

 

Joshel Namkung on Hurricane Ridge

 

Joshel Namkung on Hurricane Ridge, photographed by his friend Ken Levine

 

 

Johsel Namkung • A Retrospective website

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22
Mar
13

Exhibition: ‘Catherine Opie’ at Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 23rd February – 29th March 2013

 

Catherine Opie. 'Untitled #4' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Untitled #4
2012
Pigment print
40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.4cm)
Edition 1/5, +2 APs

 

 

In a nutshell: good presentation, good idea – just needs really good pictures. In fact the presentation is too good for the pictures, so in the end it feels a bit ridiculous.

There IS something here (the relationship between young and old, wisdom and penitence, love and abuse, tondo and ethereal landscape), but it seems a bit of a muddle. For me, too many easy decisions have been made – obvious opposites, too much reliance on “black”, sometimes caricature rather than real observation… but then again there is occasionally something inside that caricature.

This feeling of muddling through is not helped by an abysmal press release. Along with zen and ironic (both of which seem to have any meaning a writer wants today), we now have sublime joining the pack. Maybe if anything is out of focus (such as these forgettable landscapes) it is sublime. As I go through each sentence I get shivers from either how generic or incorrect or meaningless or (especially) SELF-SERVING they are (… and now the new photographs make a trajectory… and now Opie draws on documentary photography AND the history of photography… and seduction, and formalism, and painting, and high aesthetic, and abstraction, and conceptualisation, a(n)d nauseum… )

I have seen “the Unphotographable” … and it is not as good as one hoped!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

PS. When you walk across a room, you can remark about your chiaroscuro.

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Many thank to Regen Projects for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles © Catherine Opie

 

 

Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013 Photography by Brian Forrest

Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013 Photography by Brian Forrest

Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013 Photography by Brian Forrest

Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013 Photography by Brian Forrest

Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013 Photography by Brian Forrest

Installation view Regen Projects, Los Angeles February 23 - March 29, 2013 Photography by Brian Forrest

 

Installation views
Regen Projects, Los Angeles
February 23 – March 29, 2013
Photography by Brian Forrest

 

 

Catherine Opie. 'Jonathan' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Jonathan
2012
Pigment print
50 x 38.4 inches (127 x 97.5cm) Oval
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

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Catherine Opie. 'Idexa' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Idexa
2012
Pigment print
50 x 38.4 inches (127 x 97.5cm) Oval
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

 

 

Regen Projects is pleased to announce an exhibition of new portraits and landscapes by Catherine Opie. These photographs mark both a progression and a departure for the artist. Opie’s work has always investigated the figure in relation to the landscape, disregarding the polarities typically found within these approaches. This new body of work draws upon Opie’s beginnings in documentary photography, the traditions of painting, and the history of photography.

Opie’s new portraits evoke the sublime and the inner psychological space of both the viewer and subject. Utilising techniques of chiaroscuro, colour, and formal composition found in classical 17th century portraiture, Opie arranges her subjects in allegorical poses that suggest an emotional state. Evoking formal classicism, these beautifully elegant and technically masterful compositions immerse and seduce the eye. Opie’s subjects have always been part of her personal community, and the range of individuals in these new works illustrates how this community has shifted and expanded.

Catherine Opie’s work is deeply rooted in the history of photography. The new landscapes draw upon this trajectory – both contemporary and historical. In addition to utilising motifs that informed the California Pictorialists, these works reference the painterly tradition. Images of iconic landscapes float in abstraction and are reduced to elementary blurred light drawings. The viewer no longer relies on traditional markers of recognition of place, but instead on the visceral reaction to the sensate images Opie captures. These painterly, poetic, and lyrical visions resonate with oblivion, the sublime, and the unknown.

Catherine Opie’s complex and diverse body of work is political, personal, and high aesthetic – the formal, conceptual, and documentary are always at play. Her work consistently engages in formal issues and maintains a formal rigour and technical mastery that underscores an aestheticised oeuvre. Visual pleasure can always be found in her arresting and seductive images.

Opie very knowingly engages art-historical conventions of representation like this in order to seduce her viewers: “I have to be interested in art history since so much of my work is related to painting and photography history. It gives me the ability to use a very familiar language that people understand when looking at my work and seduce the viewer into considering work that they might not normally want to look at. It is very classical and formal in so many ways… In a way, it is elegant in the seduction I was talking about earlier, that this device really can draw the viewer in through the perfection of the image. It is like wearing armour for a battle in a way, the battle for people to look into themselves for the prejudices that keep them from having an open mind.”

(Jennifer Blessing. “Catherine Opie: American Photographer” in Catherine Opie: American Photographer, published by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2008, p. 14).

Press release from the Regen Projects website

 

Catherine Opie. 'Diana' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Diana
2012
Pigment print
33 x 25 inches (83.8 x 63.5cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

 

Catherine Opie. 'Mary' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Mary
2012
Pigment print
33 x 25 inches (83.8 x 63.5cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

 

Catherine Opie. 'Untitled #5' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Untitled #5
2012
Pigment print
40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.4cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

 

Catherine Opie. 'Oliver & Mrs. Nibbles' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Oliver & Mrs. Nibbles
2012
Pigment print
33 x 25 inches (83.8 x 63.5cm)
Edition 2/5, + 2 APs

 

Catherine Opie. 'Kate & Laura' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Kate & Laura
2012
Pigment print
77 x 58 inches (195.6 x 147.3cm)
Edition 2/5, 2 APs

 

Catherine Opie. 'Guinevere' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Guinevere
2012
Pigment print
33 x 25 inches (83.8 x 63.5cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

 

Catherine Opie. 'Untitled #2' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Untitled #2
2012
Pigment print
40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.4cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

 

Catherine Opie. 'Friends' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Friends
2012
Pigment print
24 x 18 inches (61 x 45.7cm)
Edition 1/5, + 2 APs

 

Catherine Opie. 'Untitled #1' 2012

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Untitled #1
2012
Pigment print
40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.4cm)
Edition 1/5, +2 APs

 

 

Regen Projects
6750 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90038, United States
Phone: +1 310-276-5424

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 10 – 6pm

Regen Project website

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20
Oct
12

Review: ‘Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th September – 11th November 2012

 

Installation photographs the series 'Beneath the Roses' (2003-2008) from the exhibition 'Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs the series 'Beneath the Roses' (2003-2008) from the exhibition 'Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs of the series Beneath the Roses (2003-2008) from the exhibition Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne (Photos: Dr Marcus Bunyan)

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'Untitled (Blue Period)' 2003-2005

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled (Blue Period)
2003-2005
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

 

 

 

Details of one of Gregory Crewdson’s works from the series Beneath the Roses (2003-2008) (Photos: Dr Marcus Bunyan)

 

 

“The American middle-class nightmare: nothing is clean, orderly, idyllic, or romantic. In his perfectly staged, hyperrealistic tableaux, photographer Gregory Crewdson reveals the claustrophobic limbo and abyss of spiritual repression that is the typical suburb. Here, hushed-up violence, alienation, isolation, and emptiness are nothing new or unfamiliar, but rather part of the everyday neighbourhood experience.”

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Gregory Crewdson, ‘In a Lonely Place’, Abrams Publishing, New York, 2011

 

“I have always been fascinated by the poetic condition of twilight. By its transformative quality. Its power of turning the ordinary into something magical and otherworldly. My wish is for the narrative in the pictures to work within that circumstance. It is that sense of in-between-ness that interests me.”

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Gregory Crewdson

 

 

Downfall of a dream: (n)framing the enigma in Gregory Crewdson’s

Beneath the Roses

After the excoriating, unreasonably subjective diatribe by Robert Nelson in The Age newspaper (“Unreal stills, unmoving images” Wednesday October 17 2012) I hope this piece of writing will offer greater insight into the work of this internationally renowned artist. With some reservations, I like Crewsdon’s work, I like it a lot – as do the crowds of people flocking to the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy to see the exhibition. Never have I seen so many people at the CCP looking at contemporary photography before and that can only be a good thing.

Let’s get the basics out of the way first. The early series Fireflies are small silver gelatin photographs that capture “the tiny insects’ transient moments of light as they illuminate the summer night.” These are minor works that fail to transcend the ephemeral nature of photography, fail to light the imagination of the viewer when looking at these scenes of dusky desire and discontinuous lives. The series of beautiful photographs titled Sanctuary (2010) evidence the “ruin of the legendary Cinecittà studios, which was founded by Mussolini in the 1930s and is associated with the great Italian film director Federico Fellini.” Wonderful photographs of doorways, temples, dilapidated stage sets with excellent use of soft miasmic light creating an atmosphere of de/generation (as though a half-remembered version of Rome had passed down through the generations) interfaced with contemporary Rome as backdrop. The digital prints show no strong specular highlights, no deep blacks but a series of transmutable grey and mid tones that add to the overall feeling of romantic ruin. It is a pity that these photographs are not printed as silver gelatin photographs, for they would have had much more depth of feeling than they presently possess. They just feel a little “thin” to me to sustain the weight of atmosphere required of them.

But it is the series Beneath the Roses (2003-2008) that has made Crewdson truly famous. Shot using a large format camera, Crewdson makes large-scale photographs of elaborate and meticulously staged tableaux, which have been described as “micro-epics” that probe the dark corners of the psyche. Working in the manner of a film director, he leads a production crew, which includes a director of photography, special effects and lighting teams, casting director and actors. He typically makes several exposures that he later digitally combines to produce the final image. Photographs in the series of “brief encounters” include external dioramas (shot in a down at heel Western Massachusetts town), where Crewdson shuts down streets and lights the whole scene; to interior dialogues where houses are built on sound stages and the artist can control every detail of the production. Influences on these works include, but are not limited to:

David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks), Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo), Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters), the paintings of Edward Hopper, Diane Arbus (the detritus of her photographic interiors), film noir, psychoanalysis, American suburbia, the American dream, the photographs of Walker Evans, Cindy Sherman and surrealism. Concepts that you could link to the work include loneliness, alienation, apathy, resignation, mystery, contemplation and confusion, identity, desire, memory and imagination.

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Now to the nuts and bolts of the matter.

Another major influence that I will add is that of the great Italian director Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita – The Sweet Life) who shot most of that film on the sets at Cinecittà studios in Rome. It is perhaps no coincidence that Crewdson, on his first overseas film shoot, shot the series Sanctuary at the very same location. Crewdson’s photographs in the series Beneath the Roses are an American form of  “The Sweet Life.” In 1961, the New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther praised Fellini’s “brilliantly graphic estimation of a whole swath of society in sad decay and, eventually, a withering commentary on the tragedy of the over-civilized… Fellini is nothing if not fertile, fierce and urbane in calculating the social scene around him and packing it onto the screen. He has an uncanny eye for finding the offbeat and grotesque incident, the gross and bizarre occurrence that exposes a glaring irony. He has, too, a splendid sense of balance and a deliciously sardonic wit that not only guided his cameras but also affected the writing of the script. In sum, it is an awesome picture, licentious in content but moral and vastly sophisticated in its attitude and what it says.”1 The same could equally be said of the Crewdson and his masterpieces in Beneath the Roses. Crewdson is in love with Fellini’s gesture – of the uplifting of the characters and their simultaneous descent into “sweet” hedonism, debauchery and decadence using the metaphor of downfall (downfall links each scene in La Dolce Vita, that of a “downward spiral that Marcello sets in motion when descending the first of several staircases (including ladders) that open and close each major episode.”)2 Crewdson’s “spectacular apocalypses of social enervation”3 mimic Fellini’s gestural flourishes becoming Crewdson’s theme of America’s downfall, America as a moral wasteland. Crewdson’s is “an aesthetic of disparity” that builds up a cumulative impression on the viewer that finds resolution in an “overpowering sense of the disparity between what life has been or could be, and what it actually is.”4

Crewdson’s cinematic encounters are vast and pin sharp when seen in the flesh. No reproduction on the web can do their physical presence justice; it is the details that delight in these productions. You have to get up close and personal with the work. His dystopic landscapes are not narratives as such, not stills taken from a movie (for that implies an ongoing story) but open-ended constructions that allow the viewer to imagine the story for themselves. They do not so much evoke a narrative as invite the viewer to create one for themselves – they are an “invitation” to a narrative, one that explores the anxiety of the (American) imagination, an invitation to empathise with the dramas at play within contemporary environments. For me, Crewdson’s extra ordinary photographs are a form of enigma (a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation), the picture as master puzzle (where all the pieces fit perfectly together in stillness) that contains a riddle or hidden meaning. Clues to this reading can be found in one of the photographs from the series (Blue Period, see detail image, above) where Crewdson deliberately leaves the door of a bedside cupboard open to reveal a “Perfect PICTURE PUZZLE” box inside. The viewer has to really look into the image and understand the significance of this artefact.

Another reading that I have formulated is of the transience of space and time within Crewdson’s series. In the disquieting, anonymous townscapes people look out from their porches (or the verandas are lit and empty), they abandon their cars or walk down desolate streets hardly ever looking directly out at the viewer. The photographs become sites of mystery and wonder hardly anchored (still precisely anchored?) in time and space. This disparity is emphasised in the interior dialogues. The viewer (exterior) looks at a framed doorway or window (exterior) looking into an scene (interior) where the walls are usually covered with floral wallpaper (interior / exterior) upon which hangs a framed image of a Monet-like landscape (exterior) (see detail image, above). Exterior, exterior, interior, interior / exterior, exterior. The trees of the landscape invade the home but are framed; exterior/framed, interior/mind. There is something mysterious going on here, some reflection of an inner state of mind.

In his visual mosaics Crewdson engages our relationship with time and space to challenge the trace of experience. His tableaux act as a kind of threshold or hinge of experience – between interior and exterior, viewer and photograph. His photographs are a form of monism in which two forces (interior / exterior) try to absorb each other but ultimately lead to a state of equilibrium. It is through this “play” that the context of the photographs and their relationship to each other and the viewer are “framed.” This device emphasises the aesthetic as much as information and encourages the viewer to think about the relationship between the body, the world of which it is part and the dream-reason of time.5 This intertextual (n)framing (n meaning unspecified number in mathematics) encourages the viewer to explore the inbetween spaces in the non-narrative / meta-narrative,”and by leaps (intuitive leaps, poetic leaps, leaps of faith)”6 encourage escapism in the imagination of the viewer. It is up to us as viewers to seek the multiple, disparate significances of what is concealed in each photograph as “felt knowledge” (Walter Benjamin), recalling to mind the sensory data placed before our eyes, something that can be experienced but cannot be explained by man: “the single moment of the present amidst the transience of life and searching for some kind of eternal truth.”7

Finally, in a more adverse reading of the photographs from the series Beneath the Roses, I must acknowledge the physically (not mentally) static nature of the images where every detail of the mise-en-scène is fully articulated and locked down: from the perfect trickle of blood running from the woman’s vagina in Blue Period, to the reflections in mirrors, the detritus of living scattered on the bedroom floor, the dirty telephone, packed suitcases and keys in locks to the desolate looks of the participants that never engage with the viewer. Despite allusions of despair, in their efficacy (their static and certain world order), there is no real chthonic madness here, no real messiness of the capture of death, murder and the wastage of human life (famine, AIDS, cancer or the blood running over the pavement in one of Weegee’s murder scenes for example). This is Fellini’s gross and bizarre LITE. Americurbana “is being addressed with the same reserve and elegance that ensures that the institution – artistic, political, what you will – is upheld and never threatened. It is pre-eminently legible, it elicits guilt but not so much as to cause offence.”8 I must also acknowledge the male-orientated viewpoint of the photographs, where men are seated, clothed, lazy or absent and all too often women are doing the washing or cooking, are naked and vulnerable. In their portrayal of (usually) half dressed or naked females the photographs evidence a particularly male view of the world, one that his little empathy or understanding of how a female actually lives in the world. For me this portrait of the feminine simply does not work. The male photographer maintains control (and power) by remaining resolutely (in)visible.

Overall this is a outstanding exhibition that thoroughly deserves that accolades it is receiving. Sitting in the gallery space for an hour and a half and soaking up the atmosphere of these magnificent works has been for me one of the art experiences of 2012. Make sure that you do not miss these mesmerising prophecies.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

  1. Crowther’s review first published in The New York Times, April 20, 1961. In Fava and Vigano, 105 quoted in Anon. “La Dolce Vita,” on Wikipedia Footnote 30 [Online] Cited 20/10/2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Dolce_Vita
  2. Anon. “La Dolce Vita,” on Wikipedia Footnote 30 [Online] Cited 20/10/2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Dolce_Vita
  3. Sultanik, Aaron. Film, a Modern Art. Cranbury, N.J: Cornwall Books, 1986, p. 408
  4. Richardson, Robert. “Waste Lands: The Breakdown of Order,” in Bondanella (ed.), Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism, p. 111 quoted in Anon. “La Dolce Vita,” on Wikipedia Footnote 30 [Online] Cited 20/10/2012. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Dolce_Vita
  5. Bacon, Julie Louise. “Liquid Archive: On Ambivalence,” in Liquid Archive. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2012, p. 119
  6. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara. “The Museum – A Refuge for Utopian Thought,” in Rüsen, Jörn; Fehr Michael, and Ramsbrock, Annelie (eds.). Die Unruhe der Kultur: Potentiale des Utopischen. Velbrück Wissenschaft, 2004. In German.
  7. Kataoka, Mami commenting on the work of Allan Kaprow. “Transient Encounters,” in Broadsheet: Criticism, Theory, Art Vol 41.3, September 2012, p. 174
  8. Geczy, Adam. “A dish served lukewarm,” in Broadsheet: Criticism, Theory, Art Vol 41.3, September 2012, p. 177

 

Many thankx to the artist, Gagosian Gallery and the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Special thankx to Director of the CCP Naomi Cass and Ms. James McKee from Gagosian Gallery for facilitating the availability of the media images. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

All photographs © Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Installation and detail photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'Untitled (Maple Street)' 2003-2005

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled (Maple Street)’ 2003-2005
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'Untitled (Shane)' 2006

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled (Shane)
2006
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'Untitled (Brief Encounter)' 2006

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled (Brief Encounter)
2006
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'Untitled (Railway Children)' 2003-05

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled (Railway Children)
2003-05
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

 

In a Lonely Place presents selections from three major series by Gregory Crewdson, Fireflies (1996), Beneath the Roses (2003-2008), Sanctuary (2010) and, presented for the first time, the video Field Notes (2009). The exhibition title comes from Nicholas Ray’s 1950s film noir of the same name, one of many films that inspired Crewdson. In a Lonely Place is evocative of an underlying mood-a quiet feeling of alienation and loneliness that links the three series selected by curators Estelle Af Malmborg, Jens Erdman Rasmussen and Felix Hoffmann. In a Lonely Place presents the first comprehensive exhibition of Crewdson’s work in Australia.

In Beneath the Roses, anonymous townscapes, forest clearings and broad, desolate streets are revealed as sites of mystery and wonder; similarly, ostensibly banal interiors become the staging grounds for strange human scenarios. Crewdson’s scenes are tangibly atmospheric: visually alluring and often deeply disquieting. Never anchored precisely in time or place, these and the other narratives of Beneath the Roses are located in the dystopic landscape of the anxious American imagination. Crewdson explores the American psyche and the dramas at play within quotidian environments.

In his most recent series, Sanctuary (2010), Crewdson has taken a new direction, shooting for the first time outside the US. During a trip to Rome, he visited the legendary Cinecittà studios, which was founded by Mussolini in the 1930s and is associated with the great Italian film director Federico Fellini. Crewdson discovered fragments of a past glory, with occasional unexpected views of the surrounding contemporary Roman suburbia. Cinecittà is a lonely place deserted by the film crews who once used the site to recreate settings of ancient Rome, medieval Italy and nineteenth-century New York.

In the intimate photographs of Fireflies, Crewdson portrays the mating ritual of fireflies at dusk, capturing the tiny insects’ transient moments of light as they illuminate the summer night. Unlike the theatrical scale of the Beneath the Roses and Sanctuary series, Fireflies is a quiet meditation on the nature of light and desire, as the images reflect not only upon the fleeting movements of the insects in their intricate mating ritual, but upon the notion of photography itself, in capturing a single ephemeral moment.

Gregory Crewdson received a BA from the State University of New York, Purchase, New York in 1985 and an MFA in Photography from Yale School of Art, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut in 1988. He has exhibited widely in the United States and Europe. He is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Photography at the Yale School of Art, Yale University. Gregory Crewdson is represented by Gagosian Gallery and White Cube Gallery.

Press release from the Gagosian Gallery website

 

Installation photographs the series 'Sanctuary' (2010) from the exhibition 'Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs the series 'Sanctuary' (2010) from the exhibition 'Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs the series Sanctuary (2010) from the exhibition Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne (Photos: Dr Marcus Bunyan)

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'Untitled (1)' 2009

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled (1)
2009
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'Untitled (17)' 2009

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled (17)
2009
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'Untitled (8)' 2009

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled (8)
2009
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'Untitled (2)' 2009

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled (2)
2009
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'Untitled' 1996

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled
1996
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Gagosian Gallery website

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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08
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Cindy Sherman’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 26th February – 11th June 2012

 

Cindy Sherman society portraits (2008) to left and centre at MoMA, New York

 

Cindy Sherman society portraits (2008) to left and centre at MoMA, New York

 

 

Ceaselessly inventive, the bodies (literally) of work of Cindy Sherman are a wonder to behold. From film stills to head shots, from history portrait to society portraits, Sherman constantly reinvents herself, her variations of identity exploring “the complexity of representation in a world saturated with images,” her iterations into the construction of femininity and masculinity constantly “provocative, disparaging, empathetic, and mysterious.”

Where to next? Her recent series of digitally altered landscapes and portraits (Cindy Sherman at Metro Pictures, New York, April – June 2012) seem less resolved than her earlier work, becoming almost a pastiche of themselves. Despite their massive size they seem to lack resolution, the great female impersonator of our time relying for effect on Self as feminine earth (m)Other, tricked up in dubious, quasi-ethnic regalia. Sherman is almost sacrosanct with regard to criticism but it’s about time someone said it: these images are pretty awful.

After so many simulacra, so many layerings and expositions of identity isn’t it about time Sherman got back to basics and ditched these grandiose notions of identity sublime. The sublimation (an unconscious defence mechanism by which consciously unacceptable instinctual drives are expressed in personally and socially acceptable channels) of her/Self, her actual body, the energy of her (non) presence is finally starting to wear thin. Will the real Cindy Sherman (if ever there is such a thing) please stand up and tell us: what do you really stand for, where as a human being, is your spirit really at?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Cindy Sherman history portraits (1988-90) installation photograph at MoMA, New York

 

Cindy Sherman history portraits (1988-90) installation photograph at MoMA, New York

 

Cindy Sherman headshots (2000-2002) installation photograph at MoMA, New York

 

Cindy Sherman headshots (2000-2002) installation photograph at MoMA, New York

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled Film Still #21' 1978

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #21 
1978
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 9 1/2″ (19.1 x 24.1cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled Film Still #6' 1977

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #6 
1977
Gelatin silver print
9 7/16 x 6 1/2″ (24 x 16.5cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder in memory of Eugene M. Schwartz

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled Film Still #56' 1980

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #56 
1980
Gelatin silver print
6 3/8 x 9 7/16″ (16.2 x 24cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder in memory of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd

 

 

Gallery 2

In fall 1977, Sherman began making pictures that would eventually become her groundbreaking Untitled Film Stills. Over three years, the series (presented here in its entirety) grew to comprise a total of seventy black-and-white photographs. Taken as a whole, the Untitled Film Stills – resembling publicity pictures made on movie sets – read like an encyclopaedic roster of stereotypical female roles inspired by 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, film noir, B movies, and European art-house films. But while the characters and scenarios may seem familiar, Sherman’s Stills are entirely fictitious; they represent clichés (career girl, bombshell, girl on the run, vamp, housewife, and so on) that are deeply embedded in the cultural imagination. While the pictures can be appreciated individually, much of their significance comes in the endless variation of identities from one photograph to the next. As a group they explore the complexity of representation in a world saturated with images, and refer to the cultural filter of images (moving and still) through which we see the world.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #137' 1984

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #137 
1984
Chromogenic colour print
70 1/2 x 47 3/4″ (179.1 x 121.3cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, 1985

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #458' 2007-08

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #458 
2007-08
Chromogenic colour print
6′ 5 3/8″ x 58 1/4″ (196.5 x 148cm)
Glenstone

 

 

Gallery 3

Fashion – a daily form of masquerade that communicates culture, gender, and class – has been a constant source of inspiration for Sherman and a leading ingredient in the creation of her work. Throughout her career the artist has completed a number of commissions for fashion designers and magazines, and this gallery gathers many of these works. Sherman’s fashion pictures challenge the industry’s conventions of beauty and grace. Her first such commission, made in 1983, parodies typical fashion photography. Rather than projecting glamour, sex, or wealth, the pictures feature characters that are far from desirable – whether goofy, hysterical, angry, or slightly mad. Later commissions resulted in more extreme images of characters with bloodshot eyes, bruises, and scars. These exaggerated figures reached ostentatious heights in a 2007-08 commission, in which fashion victims – including steely fashion editors, PR mavens, assistant buyers, and wannabe fashionistas – wear clothing designed by Balenciaga and ham it up for the camera. Sherman’s interest in the construction of femininity and the mass circulation of images informs much of her work; the projects that take fashion as their subject illustrate the artist’s fascination with fashion images but also her critique of what they represent.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #424' 2004

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #424 
2004
Chromogenic colour print
53 3/4 x 54 3/4″ (136.5 x 139.1cm)
Holzer Family Collection

 

 

Gallery 5

Sherman, who photographs alone in her studio, has used a variety of techniques to suggest different locations and imaginary (sometimes impossible) spaces, extending the narrative possibilities of her images. In her first foray into colour, in 1980, the artist photographed herself in front of rear-screen projections of various cityscapes and landscapes, evoking films from the 1950s and 1960s that used similar techniques to create the illusion of a change in location. In later series, such as the head shots (2000-2002), clowns (2003-04), and society portraits (2008), the artist used digital tools to create a variety of environments. The garish fluorescent colours in a clown picture contribute to the disturbing quality of the portrait, while a fairy tale forest provides a dreamy backdrop for a well-to-do lady.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art presents the exhibition Cindy Sherman, a retrospective tracing the groundbreaking artist’s career from the mid-1970s to the present, from February 26 to June 11, 2012. The exhibition brings together 171 key photographs from the artist’s significant series – including the complete Untitled Film Stills (1977-80), the critically acclaimed centerfolds (1981), and the celebrated history portraits (1988-90) – plus examples from all of her most important bodies of work, ranging from her fashion photography of the early 1980s to the breakthrough sex pictures of 1992 to her 2003-04 clowns and monumental society portraits from 2008. In addition, the exhibition features the American premiere of her 2010 photographic mural. An exhibition of films drawn from MoMA’s collection selected by Sherman will also be presented in the Museum’s theatres in April. Cindy Sherman is organised by Eva Respini, Associate Curator, with Lucy Gallun, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

Cindy Sherman is widely considered to be one of the most important and influential artists of our time and her work is the unchallenged cornerstone of post-modern photography. Masquerading as a myriad of characters in front of her own camera, Sherman creates invented personas and tableaus that examine the construction of identity, the nature of representation, and the artifice of photography. Her works speak to an increasingly image-saturated world, drawing on the unlimited supply of visual material provided by movies, television, magazines, the Internet, and art history.

Ms. Respini says, “To create her photographs, Sherman works unassisted in her studio and assumes multiple roles as photographer, model, art director, make-up artist, hairdresser, and stylist. Whether portraying a career girl or a blond bombshell, a fashion victim or a clown, a French aristocrat or a society lady of a certain age, for over 35 years this relentlessly adventurous artist has created an eloquent and provocative body of work that resonates deeply with our visual culture.”

The American premiere of Sherman’s recent photographic mural (2010) will be installed outside the galleries on the sixth floor. The mural represents the artist’s first foray into transforming space through site-specific fictive environments. In the mural Sherman transforms her face via digital means, exaggerating her features through Photoshop by elongating her nose, narrowing her eyes, or creating smaller lips. The characters, who sport an odd mix of costumes and are taken from daily life, are elevated to larger-than-life status and tower over the viewer. Set against a decorative toile backdrop, her characters seem like protagonists from their own carnivalesque worlds, where fantasy and reality merge. The emphasis on new work presents an opportunity for reassessment in light of the latest developments in Sherman’s oeuvre.

Entering the galleries, the exhibition strays from a chronological narrative typical of retrospectives, and groups photographs thematically to create new and surprising juxtapositions and to suggest common threads across several series. A gallery devoted to her work made for the fashion industry brings together commissions from 1983 to 2011. Sherman’s interest in the construction of femininity and mass circulation of images informs much of the work that takes fashion as its subject, illustrating not only a fascination with fashion images but also a critical stance against what they represent. A gallery exploring themes of the grotesque focuses on bodies of work from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, including disasters (1986-89) and sex pictures (1992). Sherman’s investigation of macabre narratives followed a trajectory of the physical disintegration of the body, and features prosthetic parts as a stand-in for the human body. A gallery devoted to Sherman’s exploration of myth, carnival, and fairy tales pairs works from her 2003 clowns with her 1985 fairy tales series. These theatrical pictures revel in their own artificiality, with menacing characters and fantastical narratives.

Galleries devoted to single bodies of work are interspersed among the thematic rooms. Sherman’s seminal series the Untitled Film Stills, comprising 70 black-and-white photographs made between 1977 and 1980, are presented in their entirety (the complete series is in MoMA’s collection). Made to look like publicity pictures taken on movie sets, the Untitled Film Stills read like an encyclopaedic roster of female roles inspired by 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, film noir, B movies, and European art-house films. While the characters and scenarios may seem familiar, Sherman’s Stills are entirely fictitious. Her characters represent deeply embedded clichés (career girl, bombshell, girl on the run, housewife, and so on) and rely on the persistence of recognisable manufactured stereotypes that loom large in the cultural imagination.

Other series presented in depth include Sherman’s 1981 series of 12-colour photographs known as the centerfolds. Originally commissioned by Artforum magazine, these send-ups of men’s erotic magazine centerfolds depict characters in a variety of emotional states, ranging from terrified to heartbroken to melancholic. With this series, Sherman plays into the male conditioning of looking at photographs of exposed women, but she turns this on its head by taking on the roles of both (assumed) male photographer and female pinup. The history portraits investigate the relationships between painter and model, and are featured in depth in the exhibition. These theatrical portraits borrow from a number of art historical periods, from Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical. This free-association sampling creates an illusion of familiarity, but not with any one specific era or style (just as the Untitled Film Stills evoke generic types, not particular films). The subjects (for the first time, many are men) include aristocrats, Madonna and child, clergymen, women of leisure, and milkmaids, who pose with props, elaborate costumes, and obvious prostheses.

Sherman has explored the experience of ageing in a youth- and status-obsessed society with several bodies of work made since 2000. For her headshots from 2000-2002 (sometimes called Hollywood / Hamptons), the artist conceived a cast of characters of would-be or has-been actors (in reality secretaries, housewives, or gardeners) posing for head shots to get an acting job. With this series, Sherman underscores the transformative qualities of makeup, hair, expression, and pose, and the recognition of certain stereotypes as powerful transmitters of cultural clichés. Her monumental 2008 society portraits feature women “of a certain age” from the top echelons of society who struggle with today’s impossible standards of beauty. The psychological weight of these pictures comes through in the unrelenting honesty of the description of ageing and the small details that belie the attempt to project a certain appearance. In the infinite possibilities of the mutability of identity, these pictures stand out for their ability to be at once provocative, disparaging, empathetic, and mysterious.

Press release from the MOMA website

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #193' 1989

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #193 
1989
Chromogenic colour print
48 7/8 x 41 15/16″ (124.1 x 106.5cm)
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #213' 1989

 

Cindy Sherman
Untitled #213 
1989
Chromogenic colour print
41 1/2 x 33″ (105.4 x 83.8cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #216' 1989

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #216 
1989
Chromogenic colour print
7′ 3 1/8″ x 56 1/8″ (221.3 x 142.5cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Werner and Elaine Dannheisser

 

 

Gallery 7

Sherman’s history portraits (1988-90) investigate modes of representation in art history and the relationship between painter and model. These classically composed portraits borrow from a number of art-historical periods – Renaissance, baroque, rococo, Neoclassical – and make allusions to paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, Fragonard, and Ingres (who, like all the Old Masters, were men). This free-association sampling creates a sense of familiarity, but not of any one specific era or style. The subjects (for the first time for Sherman, many are men) include aristocrats, Madonnas with child, clergymen, women of leisure, and milk-maids, who pose with props, costumes, and obvious prostheses. Theatrical and artificial – full of large noses, bulging bellies, squirting breasts, warts, and unibrows – the history portraits are poised between humorous parody and grotesque caricature.

A handful of Sherman’s portraits were inspired by actual paintings. Untitled #224 was made after Caravaggio’s Sick Bacchus (c. 1593), which is commonly believed to be a self-portrait of the artist as the Roman god of wine. In Sherman’s reinterpretation, the numerous layers of representation – a female artist impersonating a male artist impersonating a pagan divinity – create a sense of remove, pastiche, and criticality. Even where Sherman’s pictures offer a gleam of art-historical recognition, she has inserted her own interpretation of the canonised paintings, creating contemporary artefacts of a bygone era.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #359' 2000

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #359 
2000
Chromogenic color print
30 x 20″ (76.2 x 50.8cm)
Collection Metro Pictures, New York

 

 

Gallery 8

After almost a decade of staging still lifes with dolls and props, in her 2000-2002 head-shots series Sherman returned to a more intimate scale and to using herself as a model. The format recalls ID pictures, head shots, or vanity portraits made in garden-variety portrait studios by professional photographers. First exhibited in Beverly Hills, the series explores the cycle of desire and failed ambition that permeates Hollywood. Sherman conceived a cast of would-be or has-been female actors posing for head shots in order to get acting jobs; later, for an exhibition in New York, she added East Coast types. Whichever part of the country they’re from, we’ve seen these women before – on reality television, in soap operas, or at a PTA meeting. With these pictures, Sherman underscores the transformative qualities of makeup, hair, expression, and pose, and the power of stereotypes as transmitters of cultural clichés. She projects well-drawn personas: the enormous pouting lips of the woman in Untitled #360 suggest a yearning for youth, while the glittery makeup and purple iridescent dress worn by the character in Untitled #400 indicate an aspiration to reach a certain social status. In her role as both sitter and photographer, Sherman has disrupted the usual power dynamic between model and photographer and created new avenues through which to explore the very apparatus of portrait photography itself.

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #465' 2008

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #465 
2008
Chromogenic colour print
63 3/4 x 57 1/4″ (161.9 x 145.4cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee and the Photography Committee, 2009

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #466' 2008

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #466
2008
Chromogenic colour print

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #474' 2008

 

Cindy Sherman
Untitled #474 
2008
Chromogenic colour print
7′ 7″ x 60 1/4″ (231.1 x 153cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of an anonymous donor, Michael Lynne, Charles Heilbronn, and the Carol and David Appel Family Fund

 

 

Gallery 10

Set against opulent backdrops and presented in ornate frames, the characters in Sherman’s 2008 society portraits seem at once tragic and vulgar. The figures are not based on specific women, but the artist has made them look entirely familiar in their struggle with the impossible standards of beauty that prevail in a youth – and status – obsessed culture. At this large scale, it is easy to decipher the characters’ vulnerability behind the makeup, clothes, and jewellery. The psychological weight of these pictures comes through the unrelenting honesty of their description of ageing, the tell-tale signs of cosmetic alteration, and the small details that belie the characters’ attempts to project a polished and elegant appearance. Upon careful viewing, they reveal a dark reality lurking beneath the glossy surface of perfection. As with much of her work, in her society portraits Sherman has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to channel the zeitgeist. These well-heeled divas presaged the financial collapse of 2008, the end of an era of opulence – the size of the photographs alone seems a commentary on an age of excess. Among the numerous iterations of contemporary identity, these pictures stand out as at once provocative, disparaging, empathetic, and mysterious.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #475' 2008

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #475 
2008
Chromogenic colour print
7′ 2 3/8″ x 71 1/2″ (219.4 x 181.6cm)
The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica

 

 

Gallery 11

Because the majority of Sherman’s pictures feature the artist as model, they showcase a single character. In the 1970s Sherman experimented with cutouts of multiple figures, in her whimsical 1975 stop-motion animated short film Doll Clothes and her rarely seen 1976 collages, which were achieved through a labor-intensive process of cutting and pasting multiple photographs. When Sherman began working digitally in the early 2000s, she was able to more easily incorporate multiple figures in one frame, allowing for a variety of new narrative possibilities. Where the early works chart the movements and gestures of a single character through space, the multiple figures in recent works interact with one another to create tableaus.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

 

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

Opening hours:
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Open seven days a week

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10
May
12

Exhibition: ‘The Mind’s Eye: 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann’ at Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA

Exhibition dates: 11th February – 15th July 15 2012

 

Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934) 'Untitled (Pigeon Hill, Bloomington, Indiana)' 1958–59

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Untitled (Pigeon Hill, Bloomington, Indiana)
1958-59
Gelatin silver print
5 3/8 x 9 1/8 in (13.6 x 23.3 cm)
© Jerry Uelsmann

 

 

More wonderful photographs from this magnificent photographer as featured in this touring exhibition. It is invaluable to see other images from the artist’s oeuvre (especially early work from the 1950s to observe thematic development), not just the most famous of the surreal montages. Untitled (1966, below) is an absolute ripper that I have never seen before while Untitled (1959, bottom) is as disturbing in a fantastical way as any of Joel-Peter Witkins’ theatrical tableaux vivant.

See my other posting on this exhibition from the Harn Museum of Art, Florida.

Marcus

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

 

Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934) 'Room #1' 1963

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Room #1
1963
Gelatin silver print
9 1/8 x 13 3/4 in (23.3 x 34.8 cm)
© Jerry Uelsmann

 

Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934) 'Untitled' 1966

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Untitled
1966
Gelatin silver print
6 1/2 x 6 5/8 in (16.6 x 16.8 cm)
© Jerry Uelsmann

 

Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934) 'Untitled' 1962

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Untitled
1962
Gelatin silver print
8 1/2 in x 7 3/4 in (21.5 x 19.6 cm)
© Jerry Uelsmann

 

Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934) 'Bless Our Home and Eagle' 1962

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Bless Our Home and Eagle
1962
Gelatin silver print
13 3/8 x 10 1/2 in (33.8 x 26.5 cm)
© Jerry Uelsmann

 

 

Beautiful and surreal, funny and provocative, the photographs of Jerry Uelsmann are icons of American photo history. The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents the first retrospective of Uelsmann’s work in over 30 years. The Mind’s Eye: 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann features 90 works spanning the artist’s celebrated and wide-ranging career, with well-known works shown alongside never-before-seen recent images.

As a pioneer of contemporary photography and master of experimental darkroom technique, Uelsmann has continuously pushed the creative and technical boundaries of photography, revealing new visual possibilities and critical considerations for the medium. In the late 1950s, Uelsmann began experimenting with multiple enlargers and advanced masking, diffusing, burning and dodging techniques, to create imaginary images in the darkroom decades before the advent of Photoshop. Uelsmann’s ingenious work references Surrealists like Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, and Man Ray, as well as Modern photographers such as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. He has spent his career advocating for the acceptance of experimental photography as an art form.

“For more than half a century, Uelsmann has challenged conventional ideas about what photography can and should do,” said Phillip Prodger, exhibition curator and PEM’s curator of photography. “Uelsmann’s pictures provide a valuable touchstone for understanding new trends in photographic art. His ideas and example have become ever more relevant as photography embraces Photoshop and other computer technologies for altering and manipulating photographs.”

The Mind’s Eye presents works drawn from the artist’s personal archive of vintage materials and, in addition to photographic prints, includes a selection of three-dimensional photographic sculptures, films, artist’s books, albums and work prints to give viewers first-hand insight into Uelsmann’s creative process and expressive range. Through experimental techniques, Uelsmann has explored universal themes of relationships, family, home and politics by creating unexpected and surprising juxtapositions.

“My visual quest is driven by a desire to create a universe capable of supporting feelings and ideas,” said Jerry Uelsmann. “I am drawn to art that challenges one’s sense of reality.”

Born in Detroit in 1934, Uelsmann received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1957 and Master of Science and Master of Fine Arts degrees from Indiana University in 1960. He is recently retired from the faculty of the University of Florida, which he joined in 1960. Uelsmann received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1967 he had his first solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Press release from the PEM website

 

Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934) 'Untitled' 1977

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Untitled
1977
Gelatin silver print
13 1/8 x 10 5/8 in (33.5 x 27.1 cm)
© Jerry Uelsmann

 

Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934) 'Untitled' 1996

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Untitled
1996
Gelatin silver print
19 5/8 x 14 3/4 in (49.8 x 37.4 cm)
© Jerry Uelsmann

 

Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934) 'Untitled' 1976

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Untitled
1976
Gelatin silver print
19 1/2 x 14 1/2 in (49.5 x 36.9 cm)
© Jerry Uelsmann

 

Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934) 'Bloomington, Indiana' 1958

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Bloomington, Indiana
1958
Gelatin silver print
7 7/8 x 7 1/4 in (19.9 x 18.3 cm)
© Jerry Uelsmann

 

Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
13 1/2 x 5 5/8 in (34.2 x 14.3 cm)
© Jerry Uelsmann

 

 

Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square
161 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970-3783 USA
Phone: 978-745-9500, 866-745-1876

Opening hours:
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

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28
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Stanley Greene – Black Passport’ at Foam, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 16th December 2011 – 5th February 2012

 

Many thankx to FOAM for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs: Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

 

Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

 

Foam presents Black Passport, a project by and about the American conflict photographer Stanley Greene (New York, 1949). Black Passport shows photos of conflicts and disasters combined with photos of Greene’s  private life. The result is a revealing portrait of a photographer who is addicted to the adrenaline rush of being on the move, but at the same time realises the sacrifices he makes in his personal life. Stanley Greene has photographed in regions such as Chechnya, Iraq, Rwanda and Sudan and is one of the founders of the international photo agency NOOR.

Every day, newspapers and magazines are filled with photos of war, oppression and violence. The photographer that enables us to watch what is happening in the rest of the world from the safety of our own homes, however, usually remains invisible. This is not the case in Black Passport, the biography of war photographer Stanley Greene, which appeared in book form in 2009 and will be exhibited in Foam starting on 16 December. Photos of conflict and disaster regions such as Rwanda, Sudan, Chechnya and Iraq are alternated with photos from the private life of Stanley Greene: photos of Paris and many women. Slide shows will also be presented, interspersed with texts from the book. Greene’s voice resounds through the exhibition space – he is disconcertingly frank:  ‘I think you can only keep positive for eight years. If you stay at it longer than that, you turn. And not into a beautiful butterfly.’

Just as Stanley Greene, visitors to the exhibition are poised between the safety of Western life and the horrors of foreign wars. And it is precisely this juxtaposition that causes these photos to stir us more than the stream of bad-news images that inundate us daily. In addition, Black Passport is a fascinating story about what it is like to be a war photographer. Why does someone choose to be continually confronted with death and misery? Is it an escape from everyday reality and a craving for adventure?

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Short Biography

Stanley Greene has photographed in the former Soviet Union, Central America, Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in publications including Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, Stern and Paris Match. He has won various World Press Awards and in 2004 the W. Eugene Smith Award. Open Wound: Chechnya 1994-2003 was published in 2004 and his book Black Passport in 2009. Greene is one of the founders of the Amsterdam-based international photo agency NOOR.

Press release from the Foam website

 

Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

Stanley Greene (American, 1949-2017)
Iraq, 2004, Road side explosion, Northern Iraq
Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

 

“I think you can only keep positive for eight years. If you stay at it longer than that, you turn. And not into a beautiful butterfly.” ~ Stanley Greene

“I’m an observer, I’m not an objective observer though, but I’m an observer. I feel it’s very important for journalists to go to these hell holes and photograph or write or do radio or whatever because I still believe that the public wants to know.” ~ Stanley Greene

 

 

Stanley Greene (February 14, 1949 – May 19, 2017) was an American photojournalist.

Greene was born to middle class parents in Brooklyn. Both his parents were actors. His father, who was born in Harlem, was a union organiser, one of the first African Americans elected as an officer in the Screen Actors Guild,and belonged to the Harlem Renaissance movement. Greene’s father was blacklisted as a Communist in the 1950s and forced to take uncredited parts in movies. Greene’s parents gave him his first camera when he was eleven years old.

Greene began his art career as a painter, but started taking photos as a means of cataloging material for his paintings. In 1971, when Greene was a member of the anti-Vietnam War movement and the Black Panther Party, his friend photographer W. Eugene Smith offered him space in his studio and encouraged him to study photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York and the San Francisco Art Institute.

Greene held various jobs as a photographer, including taking pictures of rock bands and working at Newsday. In 1986, he shot fashion photographs in Paris. He called himself a “dilettante, sitting in cafes, taking pictures of girls and doing heroin”. After a friend died of AIDS, Greene kicked his drug habit and began to seriously pursue a photography career.

He began photojournalism in 1989, when his image (“Kisses to All, Berlin Wall”) of a tutu-clad girl with a champagne bottle became a symbol of the fall of the Berlin Wall. While working for the Paris-based photo agency Agence Vu in October 1993, Greene was trapped and almost killed in the White House in Moscow during a stand-off between President Boris Yeltsin and the parliament. He covered the war-torn countries Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Iraq, Somalia, Croatia, Kashmir, and Lebanon. He took pictures of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the US Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

After 1994, Greene was best known for his documentation of the conflict in Chechnya, between rebels and the Russian Armed Forces, which was compiled in his 2004 book, Open Wound. These photos drew attention to the “suffering that has marked the latest surge in Chechnya’s centuries-long struggle for independence from Russia”.

In 2008, Greene revealed that he had hepatitis C, which he believed he had contracted from a contaminated razor while working in Chad in 2007. After controlling the disease with medication, he traveled to Afghanistan and photographed a story about “the crisis of drug abuse and infectious disease”.

Stanley Greene co-founded NOOR Agency with Kadir van Lohuizen in 2007. They launched their agency with their colleagues on the 7th of September 2007 at Visa Pour L’Image. Greene died in Paris, at the age of 68. He had been undergoing treatment for liver cancer.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Black Passport is the biography of war photographer Stanley Greene, compiled out of hours of interviews by Teun van der Heijden. It shows Stanley’s war images alternated with private images.

Teun van der Heijden: “Black Passport started as any other photo book project. At the beginning Stanley did let me know that he was up for ‘something completely different’. While working on the project we had a lot of conversations in which I discovered that there were a lot of similarities between Stanley and me. What is it then that one person becomes a designer, living happily with the same woman for 25 years, being a father of two daughters and the other person becomes a war photographer. This question was the beginning of a series of interviews. Out of the interviews came Black Passport. Black Passport is nominated several times. Some people believe it is the most important photo book of 2010.

Text from the YouTube website

 

Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

All photographs: Black Passport © Stanley Greene / NOOR

 

 

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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: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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