Posts Tagged ‘American identity

17
Oct
20

Exhibition: ‘William Wegman: Being Human’ at Fotomuseum den Haag, the Netherlands

Exhibition dates: 5th September 2020 – 3rd January 2021

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Untitled (Three Legged Dog)' 1974

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Untitled (Three Legged Dog)
1974
Gelatin silver print
Collectie Kunstmuseum Den Haag
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Concept

Pathos

Portrait
Polaroid
Performance

History
Humour
Humanity

Master / artist

Human / being

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

People like us / People we like

I didn’t always dress up the dogs. My first dog Man Ray was spared anthropomorphic adornment. That was left for Fay Ray. Fay and I came to a mutual realisation that she had a desire to be observed. Anyway, I found myself looking at her for long periods of time. Then one day, after some looking, I made her tall. Before long I was blurring the pedestal with fabric and creating the illusion of the anthropomorphic vertical. With the birth of Fay’s puppies, my cast of characters grew. Fay’s puppies – Chundo, Battina and Crooky – grew up watching their famous mother, and when it came their turn they were not taken by surprise. They knew what to do.

 

Colour fields

I began by ignoring colour, using the colour Polaroid film as though it were black and white. I distrusted colour. Sensuous, romantic, elusive colour. Colour was … well … colourful. In fact, the first few days with the Polaroid camera I made only black-on-black pictures. Man Ray under a black cloth against a black background. Polaroid film is very beautiful within a limited range. Man Ray was too dark for this film but Fay was perfect. With Fay I began to explore colour and light.

 

Weimaraners

No other breed that I am aware of is as conducive to the illusion of transformation as Weimaraners. Weimaraners are called ‘grey ghosts’. Their fur gives off an almost iridescent glow. They inhabit their forms in a strange way, never appearing to solidify into themselves as, say, a lab, a collie or a bulldog does. When you photograph a collie, you get a collie.

 

Tales

One day my assistant Andrea stood behind Fay to adjust her dress and she gestured out to me with her hand. Her long human arm appeared as Fay’s. The illusion startled me. A miracle. Kind of creepy. Fay was part human. I thought of cartoons and mythology, superheroes and Egyptian gods. Next thing you know, Batty’s son Chip was playing the flute.

 

Sit! / Stay!

The dogs have an obvious pride in what they do. They can sense the feeling in the room when they are working. If it’s a great picture or a difficult picture, they can feel what happens because everyone stops and goes ‘Wow!’ Fay was particularly agile and for her I concocted a series of anatomically challenging poses. I came to understand her balance and points of physical tension. Fay liked the challenge of a difficult pose. I think she liked to impress me.

 

Vogue / Style

I have a very awkward relationship with fashion. I’m a little bit timid about it. This isn’t the attitude of the typical fashion photographer. Fortunately, my Weimaraners are the perfect fashion models. Their slinky elegant forms are covered in grey, and grey, as everyone knows, goes with anything.

 

Nudes / Physique

Up close, unadorned, standing, sitting or lying before the eye of the big camera, the dogs become landscapes, a forest of trees, a topography of hills and valleys, earth and boulders, in a shoreline of endless interconnectivity.

 

Cubists

Since 1972 I have had a habit of keeping a white box in the studio. If I can’t think of anything to do, the box is a good place to start. The original work I made with this box alluded to Sol LeWitt’s minimal sculptures of the 1960s, but this is now a fading memory. I use a box the way a philosopher uses a chair, as a physical object representing hypothetical questions: ‘How many ways can a dog fit on a box?’, ‘How many dogs can fit in a box?’, ‘Around a box?’ And on and on. On these square wheels, round questions keep rolling.

.
William Wegman

 

 

Fotomuseum – William Wegman from Kunstmuseum Den Haag on Vimeo.

 

 

Many artists have a muse. Movie directors perfect their craft working repeatedly with their favourite actors, while choreographers create some of their best works for a specific dancer. In some cases, the muse is a silent partner, the object of an artist’s intense and obsessive gaze; in others the work emerges from a partnership so close that it is unclear which is the artist and which is the muse. For the American artist William Wegman (b. 1943), his muses have been generations of the Weimaraner breed. The inspiration came in 1970 when his first dog, Man Ray – named after Wegman’s favourite artist – sat himself in front of the camera. Instead of sending his faithful companion to his bed, Wegman seized the moment, and the rest is history. Wegman was already a well-known artist, but it is his numerous, human-like portraits of his ever-expanding cast of Weimaraners that have brought him worldwide fame. In partnership with renowned guest curator William A. Ewing and the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Fotomuseum Den Haag presents a major survey of no fewer than four decades of Wegman’s wide-ranging collaboration with Man Ray, Fay Wray, Candy and their descendants.

Press release from the Fotomuseum den Haag

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Constructivism' 2014

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Constructivism
2014
Pigment print
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Dog Walker' 1990

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Dog Walker
1990
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Farm Boy' 1996

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Farm Boy
1996
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Tamino with magic flute' 1996

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Tamino with magic flute
1996
Colour Polaroid photograph
61.0 x 50.8cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

 

In Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter Pamina from captivity under the high priest Sarastro; instead, he learns the high ideals of Sarastro’s community and seeks to join it. Separately, then together, Tamino and Pamina undergo severe trials of initiation, which end in triumph, with the Queen and her cohorts vanquished. The earthy Papageno, who accompanies Tamino on his quest, fails the trials completely but is rewarded anyway with the hand of his ideal female companion, Papagena.

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'George' 1997

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
George
1997
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Wall' 1997

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Wall
1997
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Cut to Reveal' 1997

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Cut to Reveal
1997
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Feathered Footwear' 1999

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Feathered Footwear
1999
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Casual' 2002

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Casual
2002
Colour Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

 

William Wegman: Being Human

Many great artists have a muse. Sometimes this muse is a silent partner, the object of an artist’s obsessive gaze. At other times the relationship is a deeply collaborative act.
The history of photography has its own celebrated cases: Jacques-Henri Lartigue and Renée Perle, for example, or Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe. For William Wegman, whose muses have been all these things and more, inspiration arrived almost half a century ago, when a Weimaraner who had joined the family showed both aptitude and passion for performing before the camera. In honour of one of Wegman’s most admired modern artists, he was named Man Ray, the first in a line of highly spirited performers.

William Wegman is a renowned and versatile American artist who resists an easy classification as he moves adroitly between painting, drawing, photography, film, video, books and performances. Although his famed Weimaraners are not featured in all these media, they reside at the core of his art. In the late 1970s Wegman found, in the large-format Polaroid print, his ideal means of expression – the perfect print size, exquisite colour and an ‘instantaneity’ which allowed for spontaneity and beneficial ‘accidents’. When his Polaroid chapter finally came to an end, the artist shifted to working digitally, rediscovering in this new medium what was essential to him about the Polaroid process: the print size, expressive colour and the studio set-ups.

Wegman’s world may revolve around his dogs, but his choice of sets, costumes and props betray a fascination with art history – Cubism, colour field painting, Abstract Expressionism, Constructivism, Conceptualism and the like. The diverse fields of photography also intrigue the artist, and we find in his work landscapes, nudes, portraits, reportage and fashion.

And yet, is it all really about dogs? Being Human suggests otherwise: these performers are us and we are them: housewife, astronaut, lawyer, priest, farm worker, even a dog walker! Some pose proudly and with confidence, others express doubts or vulnerabilities. It’s all about being human.

William A. Ewing. Exhibition curator

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Upside Downward' 2006

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Upside Downward
2006
Color Polaroid
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'From the spirit world' 2006

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
From the spirit world
2006
Colour Polaroid photograph
61.0 x 50.8cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'On base' 2007

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
On base
2007
Colour Polaroid photograph
61.0 x 50.8cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Cursive Display' 2013

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Cursive Display
2013
Pigment Print
© William Wegman. Courtesy of the artist

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'Contact' 2014

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
Contact
2014
pigment print
111.7 x 86.4cm
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943) 'V' 2017

 

William Wegman (American, b. 1943)
V
2017
Colour polaroid photograph
Collection of the artist
© William Wegman

 

 

Fotomuseum Den Haag
Stadhouderslaan 43
2517 HV Den Haag

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11.00 – 17.00
The museum is closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Den Haag website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

01
Mar
15

Review: ‘Richard Avedon People’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th December 2014 – 15th March 2015

Curator: Dr Christopher Chapman

 

 

Richard Avedon. 'Andy Warhol, artist, Candy Darling and Jay Johnson, actors, New York, August 20, 1969' 1969

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Andy Warhol, artist, Candy Darling and Jay Johnson, actors, New York, August 20, 1969
1969
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

 

You can tell a lot about a person from their self-portrait. In the case of Richard Avedon’s self-portrait (1969, below), we see a man in high key, white shirt positioned off centre against a slightly off-white background, the face possessing an almost innocuous, vapid affectation as though the person being captured by the lens has no presence, no being at all. The same could be said of much of Avedon’s photography. You can also tell a lot about an artist by looking at their early work. In the exhibition there is a photograph of James Baldwin, writer, Harlem, New York 1945, celebrated writer and close friend of the artist, which evidences Avedon’s mature portrait style: the frontal positioning of Afro-American Baldwin against a white background will be repeated by Avedon from the start to the end of his career. This trope, this hook has become the artist’s defining signature.

Spread across two floors of the exhibition spaces at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, the exhibition hangs well. The tonal black and white photographs in their white frames, hung above and below the line against the white gallery walls, promote a sense of serenity and minimalism to the work when viewed from afar. Up close, the photographs are clinical, clean, pin sharp and decidedly cold in attitude. Overall the selection of work in the exhibition is weak and the show does not promote the artist to best advantage. There are the usual fashion and portrait photographs, supplemented by street photographs, photographs at the beach and of mental asylums, and distorted photographs. While it is good to see a more diverse range of work from the artist to fill in his back story none of these alternate visions really work. Avedon was definitely not a street photographer (see Helen Levitt for comparison); he couldn’t photograph the mentally ill (see Diane Arbus’ last body of work in the book Diane Arbus: Untitled, 1995) and his distorted faces fail miserably in comparison to Weegee’s (Athur Fellig) fabulous distortions. These are poor images by any stretch of the imagination.

That being said there are some arresting individual images. There is a magical photograph of Truman Capote, writer, 1955 which works because of the attitude of the sitter; an outdoors image of Bob Dylan, musician, Central Park, New York, February 20, 1965 (below) in which the musician has this glorious presence when you stand in front of the image – emanating an almost metaphysical aura – due to the light, low depth of field and stance of the proponent. Also top notch is a portrait of the dancer Rudolf Nureyev, Paris, France, July 25, 1961in which (for once), the slightly off-white background and the pallid colour of the dancer’s lithe body play off of each other, his placement allowing him to float in the contextless space of the image, his striking pose and the enormousness of his member drawing the eyes of the viewer. All combine to make a memorable, iconic image. Another stunning image is a portrait of the artist Pablo Picasso, artist, Beaulieu, France, April 16, 1958where the artist’s large, round face fills the picture plane, his craggy features lit by strong side lighting, illuminating the whites of his eyes and just a couple of his eyebrow hairs. Magnificent. And then there are just two images (see below) from the artist’s seminal book In the American West. More on those later. 

Other portraits and fashion photographs are less successful. A photograph of Twiggy, dress by Roberto Rojas, New York, April 1967 (below), high contrast, cropped close top and bottom, is a vapid portrait of the fashion/model. The image of Elizabeth Taylor, cock feathers by Anello of Emme, New York, July 1964 (below) is, as a good friend of mine said, a cruel photograph of the actress. I tend to agree, although another word, ‘bizarre’, also springs to mind. In some ways, his best known fashion photograph, Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, August 1955 (below) is a ripper of an image… until you observe the punctum, to which my eyes were drawn like a moth to a flame, the horrible shackles around the legs of the elephants.

Generally, the portraiture and fashion photographs are a disappointment. If, as Robert Nelson in The Age newspaper states, “Avedon’s portraiture is a search for authenticity in the age of the fake,”1 then Avedon fails on many levels. His deadpan portraits do not revive or refresh the life of the sitter. In my eyes their inflection, the subtle expression of the sitter, is not enough to sustain the line of inquiry. I asked the curator and a representative from the Avedon Foundation what they thought Avedon’s photographs were about and both immediately said, together, it was all about surfaces. “Bullshit” rejoined I, thinking of the portrait of Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York, May 6, 1957 (below), in which the photographer pressed the shutter again and again and again as the actress gallivanted around his studio being the vivacious Marilyn, only hours later, when the mask had dropped, to get the photograph that he and everyone else wanted, the vulnerable women. This, and only this image, was then selected to be printed for public consumption, the rest “archived, protected by the Avedon Foundation, never allowed off the negative or the contact sheet.”2 You don’t do that kind of thing, and take that much time, if you are only interested in surfaces.

On reflection perhaps both of us were right, because there is a paradox that lies at the heart of Avedon’s work. There is the surface vacuousness and plasticity of the celebrity/fashion portrait; then the desire of Avedon to be taken seriously as an artist, to transcend the fakeness of the world in which he lived and operated; and also his desire to always be in control of the process – evidenced by how people had to offer themselves up to the great man in order to have their portrait taken, with no control over the results. While Avedon sought to be in touch with the fragility of humanity – the man, woman and child inside – it was also something he was afraid of. Photography gave him control of the situation. In his constructed images, Avedon is both the creator and the observer and as an artist he is always in control. This control continues today, extending to the dictions of The Richard Avedon Foundation, which was set up by Avedon during his lifetime and under his tenants to solely promote his art after he passed away.

When you look into the eyes of the sitters in Avedon’s portraits, there always seems to be a dead, cold look in the eyes. Very rarely does he attempt to reveal the ambiguity of a face that resists artistic production (see Blake Stimson’s text below). And when he does it is only when he has pushed himself to do it (MM, BD). Was he afraid, was he scared that he might have been revealing too much of himself, that he would have “lost control”? If, as he said, there is finally nothing but the face – an autograph, the signature of the face – then getting their autograph was a way to escape his mundane family life through PERFORMANCE. Unfortunately, the performance that he usually evinces from the rich and famous, this “figuring” out of himself through others through control of that performance – is sometimes bland to the point of indifference. Hence my comment on his self-portrait that I mentioned at the start of this review. It would seem to me that Avedon could not face the complex truth, that he could bring himself, through his portraits, to be both inside and outside of a character at one and the same time… to be vulnerable, to be frightened, to loose control!

If he shines himself as a self-portrait onto others, in a quest or search for the human predicament, then his search is for his own frightened face. Only in the Western Project which formed the basis for his seminal book In the American West – only two of which are in the exhibition – does Avedon achieve a degree of insight, humanity and serenity that his other photographs lack and, perhaps, a degree of quietude within himself. Created after serious heart inflammations hindered Avedon’s health in 1974, he was commissioned in 1979 “by Mitchell A. Wilder (1913-1979), the director of the Amon Carter Museum to complete the “Western Project.” Wilder envisioned the project to portray Avedon’s take on the American West. It became a turning point in Avedon’s career when he focused on everyday working class subjects such as miners soiled in their work clothes, housewives, farmers and drifters on larger-than-life prints instead of a more traditional options with famous public figures… The project itself lasted five years concluding with an exhibition and a catalogue. It allowed Avedon and his crew to photograph 762 people and expose approximately 17,000 sheets of 8 x 10 Tri-X Pan film.”3

In his photographs of drifters, miners, beekeepers, oil rig workers, truckers, slaughterhouse workers, carneys and alike the figure is more frontally placed within the image space, pulled more towards the viewer. The images are about the body and the picture plane, about the minutiae of dress and existence and the presence and dignity of his subjects, more than any of his other work. In this work the control of the sitter works to the artist’s advantage (none of these people had ever had their portrait taken before and therefore had to be coached) and, for once, Avedon is not relying on the ego of celebrity of the transience of fashion but on the everyday attitudes of human beings. Through his portrayal of their ordinariness and individuality, he finally reveals his open, exposed self. The project was embedded with Avedon’s goal to discover new dimensions within himself… “from a Jewish photographer from out East who celebrated the lives of famous public figures to an ageing man at one of the last chapters of his life to discovering the inner-worlds, and untold stories of his Western rural subjects… The collection identified a story within his subjects of their innermost self, a connection Avedon admits would not have happened if his new sense of mortality through severe heart conditions and ageing hadn’t occurred.”4 Definitively, this is his best body of work. Finally he got there. 

Printed on Agfa’s luscious Portriga Rapid, a double-weight, fibre-based gelatin silver paper which has a warm (brown) colouration for the shadow areas and lovely soft cream highlights, the prints in the exhibition are over six-feet high. The presence of Sandra Bennett, twelve year old, Rocky Ford, Colorado, August 23, 1980 – freckles highlighted by the light, folds of skin under the armpit – and Boyd Fortin, thirteen-year-old, Sweetwater, Texas, March 10, 1979 – visceral innards of the rattlesnake and the look in his eyes – are simply stunning. Both are beautiful prints. In the American West has often been criticised for its voyeuristic themes, for exploiting its subjects and for evoking condescending emotions from the audience such as pity while studying the portraits, but these magnificent photographs are not about that: they are about the exchange of trust between the photographer and a human being, about the dignity of that portrayal, and about the revelation of a “true-self” as much as possible through a photograph – the face of the sitter mirroring the face of the photographer.

While it is fantastic to see these images in Victoria, the first time any Avedon photographs have been seen in this state (well done The Ian Potter Museum of Art!), the exhibition could have been so much more if it had only been more focused on a particular outcome, instead of a patchy, broad brush approach in which everything has been included. I would have been SO happy to see the whole exhibition devoted to Avendon’s most notable and influential work (think Thomas Ruff portraits) – In the American West. The exhibition climaxes (if you like) with three huge, mural-scale portraits of Merce Cunningham (1993, printed 2002), Doon Arbus, writer, New York, 2002 and Harold Bloom, literary critic, New York City, October 28, 2001 (printed 202), big-statement art that enlarges Avedon’s work to sit alongside other sizeable contemporary art works. Spanning floor to ceiling in the gallery space these overblown edifices, Avedon’s reaction to the ever expanding size of postmodern ‘gigantic’ photography, fall as flat as a tack. At this scale the images simply do not work. As Robert Nelson insightfully observes, “To turn Avedon’s portraiture into contemporary art is technically and commercially understandable, but from an artistic point of view, the conflation of familiarity to bombast seems to be faking it one time to many.”5

Finally we have to ask what do artists Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe and Richard Avedon have in common? Well, they were all based in New York; they are all white, middle class, and reasonably affluent; they were either gay, Jewish or Catholic or a mixture of each; they all liked mixing with celebrities and fashion gurus; and they all have foundations set up in their honour. Only in New York. It seems a strange state of affairs to set up a foundation as an artist, purely to promote, sustain, expand, and protect the legacy and control of your art after you are gone. This is the ultimate in control, about controlling the image of the artist from the afterlife.

Foundations such as the Keith Haring Foundation do good work, undertaking outreach and philanthropic programs, making “grants to not-for-profit groups that engage in charitable and educational activities. In accordance with Keith’s wishes, the Foundation concentrates its giving in two areas: The support of organisations which provide educational opportunities to underprivileged children and the support of organisations which engage in education, prevention and care with respect to AIDS and HIV infection.”6 I asked the representative of The Richard Avedon Foundation what charitable or philanthropic work they did. They offer an internship program. That’s it. For an artist so obsessed with image and surfaces, for an artist that eventually found his way to a deeper level of understanding, it’s about time The Richard Avedon Foundation offered more back to the community than just an internship. Promotion and narcissism are one thing, engagement and openness entirely another.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 2,335

 

Footnotes

  1. Robert Nelson. “Pin sharp portraits show us real life,” in The Age newspaper, Friday January 2, 2014, p. 22.
  2. Andrew Stephens. “Fame and falsehoods,” in Spectrum, The Age newspaper, Saturday November 29, 2014, p. 12.
  3. Anon. “Richard Avedon,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 01/03/2015
  4. Whitney, Helen. “Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light.” American Masters, Season 10, Episode 3, 1996 quoted in Anon. “Richard Avedon,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 01/03/2015.
  5. Robert Nelson op cit.,
  6. Anon. “About” on The Keith Haring Foundation website [Online] Cited 01/03/2015

.
Many thankx to The Ian Potter 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.

 

American photographer Richard Avedon (1923-2004) produced portrait photographs that defined the twentieth century. Richard Avedon People explores his iconic portrait making practice, which was distinctive for its honesty, candour and frankness.

One of the world’s great photographers, Avedon is best known for transforming fashion photography from the late 1940s onwards. The full breadth of Avedon’s renowned work is revealed in this stunning exhibition of 80 black and white photographs dating from 1949 to 2002. Avedon’s instantly recognisable iconic portraits of artists, celebrities, and countercultural leaders feature alongside his less familiar portraiture works that capture ordinary New Yorkers going about their daily lives, and the people of America’s West. With uncompromising rawness and tenderness, Avedon’s photographs capture the character of individuals extraordinary in their uniqueness and united in their shared experience of humanity.

Richard Avedon People pays close attention to the dynamic relationship between the photographer and his sitters and focuses on Avedon’s portraits across social strata, particularly his interest in counter-culture. At the core of his artistic work was a profound concern with the emotional and social freedom of the individual in society. The exhibition reveals Avedon’s sensitivity of observation, empathy of identification and clear vision that characterise these portraits.

Text from The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

 

“There is no truth in photography. There is no truth about anyone’s person.”

“There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is truth.”

“Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me. My concern is… the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own.”

.
Richard Avedon

 

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Richard Avedon People' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, February 2015

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Richard Avedon People' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, February 2015

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Richard Avedon People' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, February 2015

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Richard Avedon People' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, February 2015

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Richard Avedon People at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne, February 2015

 

 

“Photography has had its place in the pas de deux between humanism and anti-humanism, of course, and with two complementary qualities of its own. In the main, we have thought for a long time now, it is photography’s capacity for technological reproduction that defines its greater meaning, both by indexing the world and through its expanded and accelerated means of semiosis. This emphasis on the proliferation of signs and indices has been part of our posthumanism, and it has turned us away consistently from readings that emphasise photography’s second, humanist quality, its capacity to produce recognition through the power of judgment and thus realise the experience of solidarity or common cause.

In keeping with the framing for this collection of writings, we might call the first of these two qualities photography’s ‘either/and’ impulse and the second its ‘either/or’. Where the first impulse draws its structuring ideal from deferring the moment of judgment as it moves laterally from one iteration to the next, one photograph to the next, the second develops its philosophical ground by seeing more than meets the eye in any given photograph or image as the basis of judgment. For example, this is how Kierkegaard described the experience of a ‘shadowgraph’ (or ‘an inward picture which does not become perceptible until I see it through the external’) in his Either/Or:

Sometimes when you have scrutinised a face long and persistently, you seem to discover a second face hidden behind the one you see. This is generally an unmistakable sign that this soul harbours an emigrant who has withdrawn from the world in order to watch over secret treasure, and the path for the investigator is indicated by the fact that one face lies beneath the other, as it were, from which he understands that he must attempt to penetrate within if he wishes to discover anything. The face, which ordinarily is the mirror of the soul, here takes on, though it be but for an instant, an ambiguity that resists artistic production. An exceptional eye is needed to see it, and trained powers of observation to follow this infallible index of a secret grief. … The present is forgotten, the external is broken through, the past is resurrected, grief breathes easily. The sorrowing soul finds relief, and sorrow’s sympathetic knight errant rejoices that he has found the object of his search; for we seek not the present, but sorrow whose nature is to pass by. In the present it manifests itself only for a fleeting instant, like the glimpse one may have of a man turning a corner and vanishing from sight. (Either/Or, Volume 1, 171, 173)

.
Roland Barthes was trying to describe a similar experience with his account of the punctum just as Walter Benjamin did with his figure of the angel of history: ‘His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events [in the same way we experience photography’s ‘either/and’ iteration of images], he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet’. As Kierkegaard, Barthes, and Benjamin suggest, the old humanist experience of struggle with the singular experience of on-going failure to realise its hallowed ideals only ever arose in photography or anywhere else fleetingly, but it is all but invisible to us now.”

Søren Kierkegaard. Either/Or, volume I, 1843, 171, 173 quoted in Blake Stimson. “What was Humanism?” on the Either/And website [Online] Cited 01/03/2015

 

Richard Avedon. 'Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, New York, May 8, 1957' 1957

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, New York, May 8, 1957
1957
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Mae West, actor, with Mr. America, New York' 1954

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Mae West, actor, with Mr. America, New York
1954
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'New York Life #5, Lower West Side, New York City, September 9, 1949' 1949

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
New York Life #5, Lower West Side, New York City, September 9, 1949
1949
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

 

Richard Avedon People celebrates the work of American photographer Richard Avedon (1923 to 2004), renowned for his achievements in the art of black and white portraiture. Avedon’s masterful work in this medium will be revealed in an in-depth overview of 80 photographs from 1949 to 2002, to be displayed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne from 6 December 2014 to 15 March 2015.

Known for his exquisitely simple compositions, Avedon’s images express the essence of his subjects in charming and disarming ways. His work is also a catalogue of the who’s who of twentieth-century American culture. In the show, instantly recognisable and influential artists, celebrities, and countercultural leaders including Bob Dylan, Truman Capote, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Malcolm X, are presented alongside portraits of the unknown. Always accessible, they convey his profound concern with the emotional and social freedom of the individual.

Ian Potter Museum of Art Director, Kelly Gellatly said, “Richard Avedon was one of the world’s great photographers. He is known for transforming fashion photography from the late 1940s onwards, and his revealing portraits of celebrities, artists and political identities.

“People may be less familiar, however, with his portraiture works that capture ordinary New Yorkers going about their daily lives, and the people of America’s West,” Gellatly continued. “Richard Avedon People brings these lesser-known yet compelling portraits together with his always captivating iconic images. In doing so, the exhibition provides a rounded and truly inspiring insight into Avedon’s extraordinary practice.”

Avedon changed the face of fashion photography through his exploration of motion and emotion. From the outset, he was fascinated by photography’s capacity for suggesting the personality and evoking the life of his subjects. This is evidenced across the works in the exhibition, which span Avedon’s career from his influential fashion photography and minimalist portraiture of well-known identities, to his depictions of America’s working class.

Avedon’s practice entered the public imagination through his long association with seminal American publications. He commenced his career photographing for Harper’s Bazaar, followed by a 20-year partnership with Vogue. Later, he established strong collaborations with Egoiste and The New Yorker, becoming staff photographer for The New Yorker in 1992.

Richard Avedon People is the first solo exhibition of Avedon’s work to be displayed in Victoria following showings in Perth and Canberra. The exhibition was curated by the National Portrait Gallery’s Senior Curator, Dr Christopher Chapman, in partnership with the Richard Avedon Foundation over the course of two years. The Foundation was established by Avedon in his lifetime and encourages the study and appreciation of the artist’s photography through exhibitions, publications and outreach programs.

 

Dr Christopher Chapman

Dr Christopher Chapman is Senior Curator at the National Portrait Gallery where he has produced major exhibitions exploring diverse experiences of selfhood and identity. He joined the Gallery in 2008 and was promoted to Senior Curator in 2011. He works closely with the Gallery’s management team to drive collection and exhibition strategy. Working in the visual arts field since the late 1980s, Christopher has held curatorial roles at the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of South Australia. He has lectured in visual arts and culture for the Australian National University and his PhD thesis examined youth masculinity and themes of self-sacrifice in photography and film.

A National Portrait Gallery of Australia exhibition presented in partnership with the Richard Avedon Foundation, New York.

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art

 

Richard Avedon. 'Bob Dylan, musician, Central Park, New York, February 20, 1965' 1965

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Bob Dylan, musician, Central Park, New York, February 20, 1965
1965
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, August 1955' 1955

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, August 1955
1955
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York, May 6, 1957' 1957

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York, May 6, 1957
1957
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Civil rights demonstration, Atlanta, Georgia' c. 1963

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Civil rights demonstration, Atlanta, Georgia
c. 1963
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Self portrait, New York City, July 23, 1969' 1969

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Self portrait, New York City, July 23, 1969
1969
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Michelangelo Antonioni, film director, with his wife Enrica, Rome, 1993' 1993

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Michelangelo Antonioni, film director, with his wife Enrica, Rome, 1993
1993
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

 

“Insights into the crossover of genres and the convergence of modern media gave Avedon’s work its extra combustive push. He got fame as someone who projected accents of notoriety and even scandal within a decorous field. By not going too far in exceeding known limits, he attained the highest rank at Vogue. In American popular culture, this was where Avedon mattered, and mattered a lot. But it was not enough.

In fact, Avedon’s increasingly parodistic magazine work often left – or maybe fed – an impression that its author was living beneath his creative means. In the more permanent form of his books, of which there have been five so far, he has visualised another career that would rise above fashion. Here Avedon demonstrates a link between what he hopes is social insight and artistic depth, choosing as a vehicle the straight portrait. Supremacy as a fashion photographer did not grant him status in his enterprise – quite the contrary – but it did provide him access to notable sitters. Their presence before his camera confirmed the mutual attraction of the well-connected.”

Max Kozloff. “Richard Avedon’s “In the American West”,” on the ASX website, January 24, 2011 [Online] Cited 01/03/2015

 

Richard Avedon. 'Elizabeth Taylor, cock feathers by Anello of Emme, New York, July 1964' 1964

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Elizabeth Taylor, cock feathers by Anello of Emme, New York, July 1964
1964
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Twiggy, dress by Roberto Rojas, New York, April 1967' 1967

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Twiggy, dress by Roberto Rojas, New York, April 1967
1967
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Boyd Fortin, thirteen-year-old, Sweetwater, Texas, March 10, 1979' 1979

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Boyd Fortin, thirteen-year-old, Sweetwater, Texas, March 10, 1979
1979, printed 1984-85
From the project the Western Project and the book In the American West
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

Richard Avedon. 'Sandra Bennett, twelve year old, Rocky Ford, Colorado, August 23, 1980' 1980

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Sandra Bennett, twelve year old, Rocky Ford, Colorado, August 23, 1980
1980, printed 1984-85
From the project the Western Project and the book In the American West
© The Richard Avedon Foundation

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
The University of Melbourne,
Swanston Street (between Elgin & Faraday Streets)
Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: +61 3 8344 5148

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5pm

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

01
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Robert Frank in America’ at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University Part 2

Exhibition dates: 10th September 2014 – 5th January 2015

Curator: Peter Galassi

 

 

Robert Frank. 'New York' City 1951

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
New York City
1951
Gelatin silver print Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

 

The lunatic sublime of America

See Part 1 for comment on this exhibition.

Marcus

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

 

 

“This desire of Frank’s to hold the shape of his feelings in what he made is an ambition found in all Romantic art, one that his style brilliantly encompasses and describes. There is a wonderful illusion of speed trapped in his photographs, a sense of rapidity usually created not by the movement of Frank’s subjects, but by the gesture that he made as he framed his pictures. To photographers who have followed Frank, this autographic gesture incorporates a mystery, one that is distorted, and certainly not explained, by saying that he “shot on the run” or “from the hip.” For the beauty of this gesture is that, caught by such speed, his subjects remain clear, fully recognized, as if the photographer had only glanced at what he wanted to show, but was able to seize it at the moment it unhesitantly revealed itself.”

.
Tod Papageorge. “Walker Evans And Robert Frank: An Essay On Influence.”

 

 

Robert Frank. 'Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

Robert Frank. 'Miami' 1955

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
Miami
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' 1950-1951

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
New York City
1950-1951
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Hollywood' 1958

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
Hollywood
1958
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

 

“Frank’s photos highlight everything from prosperity to poverty, multitudes to desolation, new life to finality of death, and happiness to sorrow which all occur during our lifetimes making his photos easy for the viewers to understand and relate…

Furthermore, Frank was able to emphasise some of the issues of his era, especially segregation, patriotism, and generational gaps. For example, the New Orleans photo on the cover shows a trolley car obviously segregated with white riders in the front and black riders in the back. However, Frank also shows blacks and whites working side by side in an assembly line photo taken in Detroit as well as a black nurse holding a white baby in Charleston, South Carolina with undertones of hope for equality further highlighted by the photo taken in Detroit bar of Presidents Lincoln and Washington bookending an American flag…

American patriotism seems to be a universal theme throughout Frank’s photos as well. Many of the photos in the book contain an American flag which shows the high level of patriotism felt by Americans in the era after defeating Germany and Japan in the Second World War and at the beginning of the Cold War with the rising Soviet Union as a communist superpower. Flags are hung on an apartment building during a parade in Hoboken, on the wall in a Navy Recruiting Station in Butte, Montana, hanging outdoors during a Fourth of July celebration in Jay, New York, on the wall in the Detroit bar, hanging from the building in a political rally in Chicago, and there are star lights in the background of a club car headed to Washington DC.

The most important theme within Frank’s photos is that of “Americans.” Frank photographed people from different cultures, including blacks, Hispanics, Jews, and whites; celebrating different religious and civil ceremonies from funerals to weddings. He included biker groups, prostitutes, celebrities, high-class socialites, rural farmlands, cowboys, soldiers, teenagers, politicians, families, senior citizens, children, gamblers, and travellers among others within the photos. This variety of people from different backgrounds living and socialising in different settings is truly American in that it is a blend of all different types of people living together as one nation.”

Cindy Coffey. “The Americans: An Analysis of the Photography of Robert Frank,” on the History thru Hollywood blog Saturday, May 11, 2013 [Online] Cited 07/07/2021

 

Bill Brandt. 'Parlourmaid at the Window in Kensington' 1935

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-1983)
Parlourmaid at the Window, Kensington
1935 (printed later)
Silver gelatin print

 

 

“The first critics of The Americans condemned its content; recent critics have attacked it by attempting to describe Frank’s photographic style. Possibly reacting to the variations in cropping that appear in the later editions of the book, or, more probably, looking for the “snapshot aesthetic” under any available stone, they have assumed this style to be haphazard and contemptuously casual. One writer, for example, has said that Frank “produced pictures that look as if a kid had taken them while eating a Popsicle and then had them developed and printed at the corner drugstore.”

The things in Frank’s pictures which have bothered these critics – occasional blur, obvious grain, the use of available light, the cutting off of objects by the frame – are all, however, characteristic of picture journalism, and, arguably, of the entire history of hand-camera photography: Erich Salomon’s work, for example, done for the most part in the twenties, could be discussed in similar terms. The form of Frank’s work, then, is not radical in the true sense of the word: it does not strike to the root of the tradition it serves. The stylistic exaggerations which occur in his pictures serve only to retain that sense of resident wildness we recognise in great lyric poetry – they are present to call attention not to themselves, but to the emotional world of Frank’s subjects, and to his response to those subjects. When, in the statement he wrote shortly before The Americans was published, Frank said: “It is important to see what is invisible to others. Perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph,” he was expressing his belief that both his perceptions (it is significant that he does not mention an intervening camera in these sentences) and the photographs which result from them are essentially unmediated and true.

This desire of Frank’s to hold the shape of his feelings in what he made is an ambition found in all Romantic art, one that his style brilliantly encompasses and describes. There is a wonderful illusion of speed trapped in his photographs, a sense of rapidity usually created not by the movement of Frank’s subjects, but by the gesture that he made as he framed his pictures. To photographers who have followed Frank, this autographic gesture incorporates a mystery, one that is distorted, and certainly not explained, by saying that he “shot on the run” or “from the hip.” For the beauty of this gesture is that, caught by such speed, his subjects remain clear, fully recognised, as if the photographer had only glanced at what he wanted to show, but was able to seize it at the moment it unhesitantly revealed itself.

Despite the grace of this notational style (or perhaps because of it), Frank seems to have felt that movement within the frames of his photographs would only disturb their sense, and, with a few exceptions, ignored the use of dramatic gesture and motion in The Americans (a fact which again suggests his feeling about Cartier-Bresson’s work). In two of his pictures of convention delegates, and in one of a woman in a gambling casino, he shows emphatic hand gestures. In another photograph, he looks down onto a man striding forward under a neon arrow, and, in yet another, describes two girls skipping away from his camera. Otherwise, his subjects move, if at all, toward, and, in a single memorable case, by him – studies in physiognomy, rather than disclosures of a gathering beauty.

The characteristic gestures in his pictures are the slight, telling motions of the head and upper body: a glance, a stare, a hand brought to the face, an arched neck, pursed lips. They suggest that Frank, like Evans, believed significance in a photograph might be consonant with the repose of the things it described. His pictures, of course, are not acts of contemplation – they virtually catalogue the guises of anxiety – but they are stilled, and their meanings found not in broad rhythms of gesture and form, but in the constellations traced by the figures or objects they show, and the short, charged distances between them.

One of the unacknowledged achievements of The Americans is the series of group portraits – odd assemblages of heads, usually seen in profile, that gather in quick, serried cadences and push at the cutting edges of their frames. In the soft muted light that illuminates them, these heads are drawn with the sculptural brevity of those found on worn coins. But, even in this diminishment, as they cluster and fill the shallow space of Frank’s pictures, they assume the unfurling, cursive shapes of great Romantic art.

As this book shows, these photographs beautifully elaborate Evans’ hand-camera pictures, pictures which are not as judgmental as Frank’s, but also not as formally complex and moving. Although Frank’s most literal recastings of American Photographs occur when he is remembering Evans’ view camera pictures – for example, a gas station, a parked car, a statue – these extravagant translations of the older photographer’s bluntest work eloquently reveal one aspect of Frank’s extraordinary gifts as a photographer.”

Tod Papageorge. “Walker Evans And Robert Frank: An Essay On Influence.”

Download the complete essay (100kb pdf)

 

 

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
Phone: 650-723-4177

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

31
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Robert Frank in America’ at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University Part 1

Exhibition dates: 10th September 2014 – 5th January 2015

Curator: Peter Galassi

 

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'En route from New York to Washington, Club Car' 1954

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
En route from New York to Washington, Club Car
1954
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

 

The lunatic sublime of America

This is the first part of a bumper two-part posting.

Robert Frank (1924-2019) is one of the most important photographic artists of the twentieth century. He was born in Switzerland but he emigrated to American in 1947. He soon gained a job as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. He honed his craft as a photographer in England where he took formal, classical images of British life during a trip to Europe and South America in 1947.

He became friends with Edward Steichen and Walker Evans, and it was Evans who supported him in his Guggenheim Fellowship application in 1955 which enabled him “to travel across the United States and photograph all strata of its society. Cities he visited included Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan; Savannah, Georgia; Miami Beach and St. Petersburg, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana;Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Reno, Nevada; Salt Lake City, Utah; Butte, Montana; and Chicago, Illinois. He took his family along with him for part of his series of road trips over the next two years, during which time he took 28,000 shots. 83 of these were selected by him for publication in The Americans.”1

In The Americans, Frank documents, “the tensions between the optimism of the 1950s and the realities of class and racial differences. The irony that Frank found in the gloss of American culture and wealth over this tension gave his photographs a clear contrast to those of most contemporary American photojournalists, as did his use of unusual focus, low lighting and cropping that deviated from accepted photographic techniques.2

Originally published as Les Américains in 1958 by Robert Delpire in Paris, and finally in 1959 in the United States by Grove Press, reaction in America was initially hostile. They American critics did not like Frank’s shoot from the hip style of photography, nor the mirror that was being held up to their society, especially by a Jewish foreigner. Over time The Americans came to be seen as a seminal work of American photography and social history. Like many artists, Frank only took photographs for a relatively short period of time, before moving on to become a filmmaker.

One cannot forget the era in which Frank took these photographs – that of McCarthyism and “the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from 1950 to 1956 and characterised by heightened political repression against communists, as well as a campaign spreading fear of their influence on American institutions and of espionage by Soviet agents.”3 Americans were suspicious of foreigners, especially ones with cameras, and this was still the era of racial segregation pre the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

With regard to the structure of the photographs, their origin is based in classicism. This was Frank’s training. It was his skill as an artist, his intuitive and prescient vision of America – how he saw America like no one else before him had – that enabled him to ramp up the intensity, shoot from weird angles, low lighting, cropping, depth of field, unusual focus – and focus on the iconography of America as never seen before: jukeboxes, American flags, cars, highways, death, racial segregation – that was so revolutionary. But he could not have done that without his formal training. You only have to look at the comparison between the photographs of Robert Frank and Walker Evans. Formal and elegant in Evans Church Organ and Pews (1936) and Downtown street, New Orleans (December 1935) with lines vertical and clean… and then Frank, with hardly a straight line or neat angle to be seen. But the one does inform the other, otherwise Frank’s photographs would just become snapshots, vernacular photographs with very little meaning. Which they are not.

This is one of the most powerful, lyrical, humanist photo essays of a country that has ever been taken. Critic Sean O’Hagan, writing in The Guardian in 2014, said The Americans “changed the nature of photography, what it could say and how it could say it. [ … ] it remains perhaps the most influential photography book of the 20th century.”4 As an artist, Frank became the great connector for he is the critical link in the chain that stretches from Lewis Hine through Walker Evans… and on to Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz.

As an artist you marvel at his intuition and inspiration, to look at the world as no one else had done before, to push the boundaries of medium and message. To photograph people, alone and in groups; politics; religion; race; automobiles and the road; and the media and thrust them into the white, bright, happy world of 1950s consumerist America saying: this is what this country is really like, this is my “impression” of you in all your fleeting madness, “America as an often bleak and lonely place.” You only have to look at the “eye” in U.S. 91, leaving Blackfoot, Idaho (1956, below) or look at the photograph of the grave by the side of the road to know that you are in Blue Velvet territory (David Lynch, director 1986, the title is taken from The Clovers’ 1955 song of the same name).

I am not sure yet how one world pierces the other but believe me they surely do.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. “Robert Frank” on the Wikipedia website
  2. Ibid.,
  3. “McCarthyism,” on the Wikipedia website
  4. Sean O’Hagan. “Robert Frank at 90: the photographer who revealed America won’t look back,” on The Guardian website Sat 8 Nov 2014 [Online] Cited 06/07/2021

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

 

 

“It was the vision that emanated from the book that lead not only me, but my whole generation of photographers out into the American landscape, in a sense, the lunatic sublime of America.”

.
Joel Meyerowitz

 

“Like a boxer trains for a fight, a photographer by walking the streets, and watching and taking pictures, and coming home and going out the next day, the same thing again, taking pictures. It doesn’t matter how many he takes, or if he takes any at all, it gets you prepared to know what you should take pictures of, or what is the right thing to do and when.”

.
Robert Frank

 

 

Walker Evans. 'Main St., Ossining, New York' 1932

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Main St., Ossining, New York
1932
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

 

In 1955 and 1956, Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank (b. 1924) traveled throughout the United States on a Guggenheim Fellowship, photographing ordinary people in their everyday lives. His book The Americans – 83 photographs, mostly from those travels, published in 1959 – repudiated the bland good cheer of the magazines with an image of the country that was starkly at odds with the official optimism of postwar prosperity. The book became a landmark of photographic history; but Frank soon turned to filmmaking, and the rest of his early photographic career was largely forgotten. An important group of unknown or unfamiliar photographs in the Cantor Arts Center’s collection provides the core of the exhibition Robert Frank in America, which sheds new light on the making of The Americans and presents, for the first time, Frank’s American photographs from the 1950s as a coherent body of work.

“We are delighted that the Cantor’s collection has provided the basis for a fresh look at one of the great achievements of 20-century photography,” said Connie Wolf, John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center. “We are also deeply grateful to Robert Frank, who has generously contributed to the project.”

The exhibition Robert Frank in America, on view September 10, 2014 through January 5, 2015, features 130 photographs drawn primarily from the Cantor’s collection as well as from other public and private collections and from Frank himself. Peter Galassi, former chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is the exhibition’s guest curator and author of the accompanying publication.

 

The Exhibition’s Development from the Cantor’s Collection

In the summer of 2012, Wolf invited Galassi to offer his thoughts on one of the museum’s hidden treasures: more than 150 photographs by Robert Frank given to the Cantor in the mid-1980s by Stanford alumnus Bowen H. McCoy and his colleague Raymond B. Gary. This remarkable collection spans the full range of Frank’s photographic career before he turned to filmmaking in the early 1960s. It is especially rich in Frank’s American work of the 1950s, including scores of photographs that are unknown or unfamiliar even to scholars. Wolf and Galassi saw an opportunity to share this work with Stanford students, faculty, scholars at large and the general public.

Research began at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where more than two decades ago the artist established the archive of his photographic career prior to 1970. Studying more than 1,000 contact sheets enabled Galassi to determine the locations and dates of dozens of previously unidentified photographs in the Cantor collection. He then selected works for the exhibition so as to identify Frank’s major themes and artistic strategies. The compelling sequence of The Americans poetically weaves diverse images into a seamless whole, but Robert Frank in America groups related pictures to explore the pictorial strategies that Frank developed as he worked, and also to highlight important subjects – people, alone and in groups; politics; religion; race; automobiles and the road; and the media.

Frank repeatedly photographed isolated figures so that they seemed trapped by pictorial forces, for example. This powerful metaphor for Frank’s vision of lonely individuals imprisoned by social circumstances is announced in the first picture, The Americans, where the flag obliterates a spectator’s face (Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955). In Robert Frank in America, that photograph is juxtaposed with another that uses the identical pictorial scheme but a different subject; the interior of a bar (New York City, 1955).

“Although The Americans is famous – partly because it is famous – Robert Frank’s American work of the 1950s has never been considered as a whole,” said Galassi. “The full range of the work shows just how Frank turned the vocabulary of magazine photojournalism on its head and used it to speak in a personal, poetic voice.”

Inviting Galassi to organise the exhibition was part of the museum’s renewed commitment to collecting, studying and presenting photography, Wolf says. The Cantor has been adding to its already strong holdings, presenting innovative exhibitions of work by distinguished artists and providing a valuable opportunity for Stanford students and faculty to work directly with photographs. Leland Stanford’s commission more than a century ago for Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering work on animal locomotion serves as a foundation for the museum’s extensive collection today.

 

Exhibition catalogue

The major catalogue accompanying this exhibition is published by the Cantor Arts Center in association with international publisher Steidl, with whom Frank has worked closely on most of his books. All 130 photographs in the exhibition are reproduced as full-page tritone plates. Galassi’s extensive essay traces the evolution of Frank’s work from his arrival in the United States in 1947 until he abandoned his first photographic career in the early 1960s. The text provides a thorough outline of the photographic context in which Frank at first sought success as a magazine photojournalist as well as a detailed analysis of the methods and strategies that lie behind The Americans. The essay features 24 illustrations, including an unprecedented map of Frank’s 1955-56 Guggenheim travels, which locates the sites of nearly all of the photographs in The Americans and in Robert Frank in America. The 200-page book, with a foreword by Connie Wolf, is designed by Katy Homans, New York.

 

Robert Frank

Robert Frank was born in 1924 in Zürich, Switzerland. The conclusion of World War II ended his vulnerability (his father was a German-born Jew) and enabled him to escape what he regarded as a narrow, antiquated culture. Soon after reaching New York in March 1947, he was hired by Harper’s Bazaar, but his distaste for photographing fashion led him to quit after six months. Over the next five or six years, in Europe and the United States, Frank aimed to establish himself as a freelance photojournalist, with limited success. A Guggenheim Fellowship, awarded in March 1955 and renewed a year later, freed him to pursue his work independently, and he soon began to travel in hopes of making a book. Les Américains was published by Robert Delpire in Paris in 1958 and, as The Americans, by Grove Press in New York in 1959. The latter included an introduction by Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road.

Film and video have formed a central aspect of Frank’s work since 1959, when he collaborated with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Alfred Leslie on Pull My Daisy. In 1972, however, he resumed making photographs, often using Polaroid positive-negative materials and incorporating text and multiple images. That same year he published the first of several editions of The Lines of My Hand, a book that surveyed his career in all mediums and initiated reconsiderations of his early photographic career. The first full-scale retrospective of his photographs was organised at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1986. In 1990, a major gift by Frank established the Robert Frank Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, which has since presented two major exhibitions, each accompanied by an important book: Robert Frank: Moving Out (1994) and Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans” (2009).

Press release from the Cantor Arts Center

 

Robert Frank. 'Beaufort, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
Beaufort, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

 

Guggenheim proposal summary

“To photograph freely throughout the United States, using the miniature camera exclusively. The making of a broad, voluminous picture record of things American, past and present. This project is essentially the visual study of a civilization and will include caption notes; but it is only partly documentary in nature: one of its aims is more artistic than the word documentary implies.”

 

The full statement

“I am applying for a Fellowship with a very simple intention: I wish to continue, develop and widen the kind of work I already do, and have been doing for some ten years, and apply it to the American nation in general. I am submitting work that will be seen to be documentation - most broadly speaking. Work of this kind is, I believe, to be found carrying its own visual impact without much work explanation. The project I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it proceeds, and is essentially elastic. The material is there: the practice will be in the photographer’s hand, the vision in his mind. One says this with some embarrassment but one cannot do less than claim vision if one is to ask for consideration.

“The photographing of America” is a large order - read at all literally, the phrase would be an absurdity. What I have in mind, then, is observation and record of what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States that signifies the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere. Incidentally, it is fair to assume that when an observant American travels abroad his eye will see freshly; and that the reverse may be true when a European eye looks at the United States. I speak of the things that are there, anywhere and everywhere - easily found, not easily selected and interpreted. A small catalog comes to the mind’s eye: a town at night, a parking lot, a supermarket, a highway, the man who owns three cars and the man who owns none, the farmer and his children, a new house and a warped clapboard house, the dictation of taste, the dream of grandeur, advertising, neon lights, the faces of the leaders and the faces of the followers, gas tanks and post offices and backyards.

The uses of my project would be sociological, historical and aesthetic. My total production will be voluminous, as is usually the case when the photographer works with miniature film. I intend to classify and annotate my work on the spot, as I proceed. Ultimately the file I shall make should be deposited in a collection such as the one in the Library of Congress. A more immediate use I have in mind is both book and magazine publication.”

 

Robert Frank. 'Florida' 1958

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
Florida
1958
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

 

“I am grateful to the Guggenheim Foundation for their confidence and the provisions they made for me to work freely in my medium over a protracted period. When I applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship, I wrote: “To produce an authentic contemporary document, the visual impact should be such as will nullify explanation.”

With these photographs, I have attempted to show a cross-section of the American population. My effort was to express it simply and without confusion. The view is personal and, therefore, various facets of American life and society have been ignored. The photographs were taken during 1955 and 1956; for the most part in large cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and in many other places during my Journey across the country. My book, containing these photographs, will be published in Paris by Robert Delpire, 1958.

I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others – perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph.

My photographs are not planned or composed in advance and I do not anticipate that the on-looker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind – something has been accomplished.

It is a different state of affairs for me to be working on assignment for a magazine. It suggests to me the feeling of a hack writer or a commercial illustrator. Since I sense that my ideas, my mind and my eye are not creating the picture but that the editors’ minds and eyes will finally determine which of my pictures will be reproduced to suit the magazines’ purposes.

I have a genuine distrust and “mefiance” toward all group activities. Mass production of uninspired photojournalism and photography without thought becomes anonymous merchandise. The air becomes infected with the “smell” of photography. If the photographer wants to be an artist, his thoughts cannot be developed overnight at the corner drugstore.

I am not a pessimist, but looking at a contemporary picture magazine makes it difficult for me to speak about the advancement of photography, since photography today is accepted without question, and is also presumed to be understood by all – even children. I feel that only the integrity of the individual photographer can raise its level.

The work of two contemporary photographers, Bill Brandt of England and the American, Walker Evans, have influenced me. When I first looked at Walker Evans’ photographs, I thought of something Malraux wrote: “To transform destiny into awareness.” One is embarrassed to want so much for oneself. But, how else are you going to justify your failure and your effort?”

Robert Frank, U.S. Camera Annual, 1958, p. 115

 

Robert Frank. 'Lusk, Wyoming' 1956

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
Lusk, Wyoming
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Main Street - Savannah, Georgia' 1955

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
Main Street – Savannah, Georgia
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Walker Evans. 'Downtown street, New Orleans' December 1935

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Downtown street, New Orleans
December 1935
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' 1949

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
New York City
1949
Gelatin silver print
Lent by Peter Steil

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' early 1950s

 

Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland 1924-2019)
New York City
early 1950s
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

 

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
Phone: 650-723-4177

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

07
Nov
13

Exhibition: ‘Lee Friedlander – America by Car’ at Foam, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 13th September – 11th December 2013

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Bettina Katz, Cleveland, Ohio' 2009

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Bettina Katz, Cleveland, Ohio
2009
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

“I’m not trying to do something to you, I’m trying to do something with you.”

.
American pianist and composer Keith Jarrett at a concert in Melbourne, 1970s

 

 

LEE FRIEDLANDER IS ONE OF THE GREATEST PHOTOGRAPHERS THAT HAS EVER LIVED.

The vision of this man is incredible. His complex, classical photographs in such books as Letters from the People (1993), Flowers and Trees (1981), The American Monument (1976) and America by Car (2010) have redefined the (photographic) landscape. The artist is constantly reinventing himself, reinventing pictorial space – cutting, distorting, reflecting it back onto itself – to create layered images (after Eugène Atget and Walker Evans). These self-reflective spaces are as much about the artist and his nature as they are about the world in which he lives. They have become the basis of Friedlander’s visual language. Here is a love of the medium and of the world that is a reflection of Self.

I don’t see these cars (or photographs) as illusion factories. For me, this series of work is akin to a tri-view self-portrait. Instead of the artist painting the sitter (as in the triple portrait of Cardinal Richelieu, 1627 below), a vision, an energy of Self emanates outwards from behind the bulwark of the car steering wheel and dash. It is a Self and its relationship to the world split into multifaceted angles and views. He looks out the left window, the front window, the side window – and then he splits his views between side and front windows using the A pillar of the car as a dividing, framing tool. Sometimes he throws in the reflections of him / self with camera in the rear view mirror for good measure. There is wit, humour and irony in these photographs. There is cinematic panorama and moments of intimacy. There is greatness in these images.

Friedlander is not trying to do something to you, but something with you, for he is showing you something that you inherently know but may not be aware of. Like a Zen master, he asks you questions but also shows you the way. If you understand the path of life and the energy of the cosmos, you understand what a journey this is.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
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.

 

 

Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674) 'Triple portrait of Cardinal Richelieu' 1642

 

Philippe de Champaigne (French, 1602-1674)
Triple portrait of Cardinal Richelieu
c. 1640
Oil on canvas
58cm (22.8 in) x 72cm (28.3 in)
The National Gallery, London
This reproduction is in the public domain

 

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Houston, Texas' 2006

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Houston, Texas
2006
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Denali National Park, Alaska' 2007

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Denali National Park, Alaska
2007
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Nebraska' 1999

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Nebraska
1999
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

The automobile has come to symbolise the American dream and the associated urge for freedom. It is therefore no surprise that cars play a central role in the series America by Car and The New Cars 1964 by renowned American photographer Lee Friedlander (1934, US), now receiving their first showing in the Netherlands.

 

Road Trip

America by Car documents Friedlander’s countless wanderings around the United States over the past decade. In this he follows a trail laid down by numerous photographers, film makers and writers like Robert Frank, Stephen Shore and Jack Kerouac. Friedlander nevertheless succeeds in giving the theme of the American road trip his own very original twist, using the cars’ windscreens and dashboards to frame the familiar American landscape, as well as exploiting the reflections found in their wing and rear view mirrors. It is a simple starting point which results in complex and layered images that are typical for Friedlander’s visual language. He also has a sharp eye for the ironic detail. He makes free use of text on billboards and symbols on store signs to add further meaning to his work. His images are so layered that new information continues to surface with every glance, making America by Car a unique evocation of contemporary America.

 

Car portraits

The New Cars 1964 is a much older series. Friedlander had been commissioned by Harper’s Bazaar to photograph all the new models of automobile introduced in 1964. Rather than placing them centrally and showing them to best advantage, Friedlander decided to set the cars in the most banal of locations, in front of a furniture store or in a scrap yard for instance. Exploiting reflections, available light and unusual perspectives, his cars are almost completely absorbed into the street scene. Although they were rejected at the time by the magazine’s editorial board on the grounds that the images were not attractive enough, the pictures were put away in a drawer and since forgotten. Friedlander however recently rediscovered this series. The New Cars 1964 has since become a special historical and social document and has in its own right become part of Friedlander’s impressive oeuvre.

 

Fifty-year career

Lee Friedlander was born in the US in 1934. In a career extending across 5 decades Friedlander has maintained an obsessive focus on the portrayal of the American social landscape. His breakthrough in the eyes of the wider public came with the New Documents exhibition at the MoMA in 1967, where his work was presented alongside that of Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand. Friedlander accumulated numerous awards during his career, including the MacArthur Foundation Award and three Guggenheim Fellowships. He also published more than twenty books. His work has been shown at many venues around the world, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the MoMA in New York, San Francisco’s SFMOMA, the MAMM in Moscow and the National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen.”

Press release from the FOAM website

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Cleveland, Ohio' 2009

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Cleveland, Ohio
2009
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Montana' 2008

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Montana
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Montana' 2008

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Montana
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Mr. Friedlander took his black-and-white, square-format photographs entirely from the interior of standard rental cars – late-model Toyotas and Chevys, by the looks of them – on various road trips over the past 15 years. In these pictures our vast, diverse country is buffered by molded plastic dashboards and miniaturized in side-view mirrors…

Mr. Friedlander groups images by subject, not geography: monuments, churches, houses, factories, ice cream shops, plastic Santas, roadside memorials.

So “America by Car,”… is more of an exercise in typology, along the lines of Ed Ruscha’s “Twentysix Gasoline Stations.” But there’s nothing deadpan or straightforward about the way Mr. Friedlander composes his pictures. He knows that cars are essentially illusion factories – to wit: “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”

Some of the illusions on view here exploit the technology of the camera Mr. Friedlander has been using since the 1990s, the square-format Hasselblad Superwide (so named for its extra-wide-angle lens). The Superwide produces crisp and detail-packed images that are slightly exaggerated in perspective, giving the foreground – the car – a heightened immediacy…

Some of the photographs are dizzyingly complex, like one taken in Pennsylvania in 2007. The camera looks out through the passenger-side window, at a man whose feet appear to be perched on the door frame. He is standing in front of a trompe l’oeil mural of a train, which seems to be heading right at the car. In the side-view mirror you can see a woman approaching. It’s a bizarre pileup of early cinematic trickery (as in the Lumière Brothers), amateur photography and surveillance technology.

Mr. Friedlander’s love of such layering can be traced to Walker Evans and Eugène Atget. He also shares, in this series, Evans’s wry eye for signs of all kinds: the matter-of-fact “Bar” advertising a Montana watering hole, or the slightly more cryptic “ME RY RISTMAS” outside a service station in Texas [see image below]. He strikes semiotic gold at Mop’s Reaching the Hurting Ministry in Mississippi: “LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP ARE LIKE RENTAL CARS NO COMMITMENT.”

Cars distance people from one another, this series reminds us over and over. When Mr. Friedlander photographs people he knows – the photographer Richard Benson, or the legendary MoMA curator John Szarkowski (to whom the book is dedicated) – he remains in his seat, shooting through an open window. In just a few instances the subjects poke their heads inside, a gesture that seems transgressive in its intimacy…

Did he ever get out of the vehicle? Just once in this series, for a self-portrait. It’s the last picture, and it shows him leaning into the driver’s-side window, elbow propped on the door, left hand reaching for the steering wheel.

Maybe he was thinking of the last image in “The Americans” – a shot of Mr. Frank’s used Ford taken from the roadside, showing his wife and son huddled in the back seat. In Mr. Frank’s photograph the car is a protective cocoon. Mr. Friedlander seems to see it that way too, but from the inside out.

Excerpts of an excellent review of “America by Car” by Karen Rosenberg published on The New York Times website on September 2, 2010.

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Alaska' 2007

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Alaska
2007
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Montana' 2008

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Montana
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Lee Friedlander. 'California' 2008

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
California
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Texas' 2006

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Texas
2006
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Foam
Keizersgracht 609
1017 DS Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Phone: + 31 20 5516500

Opening hours:
Daily from 10am – 6pm
Thu-Fri 10am – 9pm

Foam website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

21
Dec
12

Exhibition: ‘Edward Weston. Leaves of Grass’ at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 21st April 2012 – 31st December 2012

 

Edward Weston. 'Grand Canyon, Arizona' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Grand Canyon, Arizona
1941
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.
.
It is not far, It is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know,
Perhaps it is every where on water and land.”

.
Walt Whitman. Part of Song of Myself from Leaves of Grass. 1855

 

 

Very little information about this exhibition on the website which is a pity because the photographs are exceptional, even if some do recall the style of other artists of the same era (Charles Sheeler, Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Clarence John Laughlin, and Walker Evans for example).

In 1941, “Weston was commissioned to take photographs for a pricey two-volume edition of “Leaves of Grass.” So over the course of nearly 10 months, Weston and his wife, Charis, drove more than 24,000 miles, through 24 states. Of the nearly 700 photographs he developed, he sent 74 to the publisher. Forty-nine appeared in the book.” (Mark Feney) “Over the course of the project Weston managed to produce some of the most compelling images of his later career that took his photography in a new and important direction. Like Whitman’s epic poems, they draw us into the history of this nation, the beauty of its landscape and the forthrightness of its ordinary citizens.” (Encore)

“Leaves of Grass has its genesis in an essay called The Poet by Ralph Waldo Emerson, published in 1845, which expressed the need for the United States to have its own new and unique poet to write about the new country’s virtues and vices. Whitman, reading the essay, consciously set out to answer Emerson’s call as he began work on the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Whitman, however, downplayed Emerson’s influence, stating, “I was simmering, simmering, simmering; Emerson brought me to a boil.”

The first edition was published in Brooklyn at the Fulton Street printing shop of two Scottish immigrants, James and Andrew Rome, whom Whitman had known since the 1840s, on July 4, 1855. Whitman paid for and did much of the typesetting for the first edition himself. Sales on the book were few but Whitman was not discouraged. The first edition was very small, collecting only twelve unnamed poems in 95 pages. Whitman once said he intended the book to be small enough to be carried in a pocket. “That would tend to induce people to take me along with them and read me in the open air: I am nearly always successful with the reader in the open air.” About 800 were printed, though only 200 were bound in its trademark green cloth cover.

The title Leaves of Grass was a pun. “Grass” was a term given by publishers to works of minor value and “leaves” is another name for the pages on which they were printed. Whitman sent a copy of the first edition of Leaves of Grass to Emerson, the man who had inspired its creation. In a letter to Whitman, Emerson said “I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed.” He went on, “I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy.”” (Amazon website)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Edward Weston. 'Boulder Dam' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Boulder Dam
1941
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Edward Weston. 'From 515 Madison Avenue, New York' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
From 515 Madison Avenue, New York
1941
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Edward Weston (United States, 1886-1958) 'Schooner, Kennebunkport, Maine' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Schooner, Kennebunkport, Maine
1941
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Edward Weston (United States, 1886-1958) 'Wedding Cake House, Kennebunkport, Maine' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Wedding Cake House, Kennebunkport, Maine
1941
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Edward Weston. 'Shenandoah Valley, Virginia' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Edward Weston. 'Mammy’s Cupboard, Natchez, Mississippi' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Mammy’s Cupboard, Natchez, Mississippi
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Edward Weston. 'Woodlawn Plantation House, Louisiana' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Woodlawn Plantation House, Louisiana
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

In 1941, the Limited Editions Club of New York invited photographer Edward Weston to illustrate its deluxe edition of Walt Whitman’s epic poem Leaves of Grass. The commission inspired Weston and his wife, Charis, to take a cross-country trip, throughout the South, the Mid-Atlantic states, New England, and back to California, in their trusty Ford, which they nicknamed “Walt.” Weston’s photographs from this project – mostly made with large, 8 x 10 camera – are exceptionally wide-ranging, with a particular focus on urban and man-altered landscapes. Although he never wanted his images to literally reflect Whitman’s text, Weston did relate to the poet’s plainspoken style and his emphasis on the broad spectrum of human experience. Weston wrote of the Whitman book: “I do believe… I can and will do the best work of my life. Of course I will never please everyone with my America – wouldn’t try to.

Text from the MFA Boston website

 

Edward Weston. 'Girod Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Girod Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana
1941
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Edward Weston. 'Meraux Plantation House, Louisiana' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Meraux Plantation House, Louisiana
1941
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Edward Weston. 'Belle Grove Plantation House, Louisiana' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Belle Grove Plantation House, Louisiana
1941
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Edward Weston. 'Bessie Jones. St. Simons Island, Georgia' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Bessie Jones. St. Simons Island, Georgia
1941
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Edward Weston. 'Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Fry, Burnet, Texas' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Fry, Burnet, Texas
1941
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Part of Walt Whitman 'Song of Myself' from 'Leaves of Grass' 1855

 

Walt Whitman (American, 1819-1892)
Part of Song of Myself
from Leaves of Grass
1855

 

Edward Weston. 'Charis Wilson' 1941

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Charis Wilson
1941
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

17
Dec
12

Exhibition: ‘The Serial Portrait: Photography and Identity in the Last One Hundred Years’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 30th September 2012 – 31st December 2012

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith, Danville, Virginia' 1971

 

Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941)
Edith, Danville, Virginia
1971
Gelatin silver print
20.2 x 25.2cm (7 15/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund
© Emmet and Edith Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

  • Alfred Stieglitz / Georgia O’Keeffe
  • Paul Strand / Rebecca Strand
  • Emmet Gowin / Edith Gowin
  • Harry Callahan / Eleanor and Barbara Callahan
  • Robert Mapplethorpe / Patti Smith
  • Nicholas Nixon / The Brown Sisters
  • Andy Warhol / Serial Photography / Photo Booth Portraits
  • Mario Testino / Kate Moss
  • Baron Adolf de Meyer / Baroness Olga de Meyer
  • Edward Weston / Charis Weston
  • Lee Friedlander / Maria Friedlander
  • Paul Caponigro / The woods of Connecticut
  • Bernd and Hilla Becher / grids
  • Gerhard Richter / Overpainted Photographs
  • Masahisa Fukase / wife and family
  • Seiichi Furuya / Christine Furuya-Gößler
  • Sally Mann / children and husband
  • William Wegman / dogs

.
Australia?
Nobody that I can think of except Sue Ford.

Notice how all the artists are men except two: Sally Mann and Hilla Becher.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith, Danville, Virginia' 1963

 

Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941)
Edith, Danville, Virginia
1963
Gelatin silver print, printed 1980s
19.7 x 12.7cm (7 3/4 x 5 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Charina Endowment Fund
© Emmet and Edith Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Emmet Gowin. 'Edith and Moth Flight' 2002

 

Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941)
Edith and Moth Flight
2002
Digital ink jet print
19 x 19cm (7 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Charina Endowment Fund
© Emmet and Edith Gowin, Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Francesca Woodman. 'House #3, Providence, Rhode Island' 1976

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
House #3, Providence, Rhode Island
1976
Gelatin silver print
16.1 x 16.3cm (6 5/16 x 6 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Heather and Tony Podesta Collection

 

Francesca Woodman. 'Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island' 1975-1978

 

Francesca Woodman (American, 1958-1981)
Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island
1975-1978
Gelatin silver print
10.5 x 10.5cm (4 1/8 x 4 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors
Committee and R. K. Mellon Family Foundation

 

Ann Hamilton. 'body object series #13, toothpick suit/chair' 1984

 

Ann Hamilton (American, b. 1956)
body object series #13, toothpick suit/chair
1984
Gelatin silver print, printed 1993
11 x 11cm (4 5/16 x 4 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington,Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection

 

Ann Hamilton. 'body object series #14, megaphone' 1986

 

Ann Hamilton (American, b. 1956)
body object series #14, megaphone
1986
Gelatin silver print, printed 1993
11 x 11 cm (4 5/16 x 4 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington,Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection

 

 

The National Gallery of Art explores how the practice of making multiple portraits of the same subjects produced some of the most revealing and provocative photographs of our time in The Serial Portrait: Photography and Identity in the Last One Hundred Years, on view in the West Building’s Ground Floor photography galleries from September 30 through December 31, 2012. Arranged both chronologically and thematically, the exhibition features 153 works by 20 artists who photographed the same subjects – friends, family, and themselves – numerous times over days, months, or years to create compelling portrait studies that investigate the many facets of personal and social identity.

“The Gallery’s photography collection essentially began with the donation of Alfred Stieglitz’s ‘key set,’ so it is fitting that this exhibition opens with portraits by Stieglitz, who understood that a person’s character was best captured through a series of photographs taken over time,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “Although the exhibition is drawn largely from the Gallery’s significant collection of photographs, we are grateful to the lenders who have allowed us to present more fully the serial form of portraiture that Stieglitz championed.”

Since the introduction of photography in 1839, portraiture has been one of the most widely practiced forms of the medium. Starting in the early 20th century, however, some photographers began to question whether one image alone could adequately capture the complexity of an individual. As Alfred Stieglitz, the era’s leading champion of American fine art photography, argued: “to demand the [single] portrait that will be a complete portrait of any person is as futile as to demand that a motion picture will be condensed into a single still.”

Along with Stieglitz, some of the 20th century’s most prominent photographers – Paul Strand, Harry Callahan, and Emmet Gowin – used the camera serially to transcend the limits of a single image. Each of these photographers made numerous studies of their lovers that sought to redefine the expressive possibilities of portraiture while probing the affective bonds of love and desire. By employing the camera’s capacity to record fluctuating states of being and mark the passage of time, other photographers such as Nicholas Nixon and Milton Rogovin have documented individuals – in families or communities – over four decades. Capturing subtle and dramatic shifts in appearance, demeanour, and situation, these series are poignant and elegiac memorials that remind us of our own mortality.

Other photographers have made serial self-portraits that explore the malleability of personal identity and the possibility of reinvention afforded by the camera. By photographing themselves as shadows, blurs, or partial reflections, Ilse Bing, Lee Friedlander, and Francesca Woodman have created inventive but elusive images that hint at the instability of self-representation. Conceptual artists of the 1970s and 1980s such as Vito Acconci, Blythe Bohnen, and Ann Hamilton have explicitly combined performance and self-portraiture to stage continual self-transformations. The exhibition concludes with work from the last 15 years by artists such as Nikki S. Lee and Gillian Wearing, who take the performance of self to its limits by adopting masquerades to delve into the ways identity is inferred from external appearance.

Press release from the National Gallery of Art website

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Haverstraw, New York' 1966

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Haverstraw, New York
1966
Gelatin silver print
21.7 x 32.7cm (8 9/16 x 12 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Trellis Fund
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Westport, Connecticut' 1968

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Westport, Connecticut
1968
Gelatin silver print
19.8 x 12.3cm (7 13/16 x 4 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Trellis Fund
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery

 

Ilse Bing. 'Self-Portrait with Leica' 1931

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998)
Self-Portrait with Leica
1931
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1988
26.7 x 29.7cm (10 1/2 x 11 11/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ilse Bing Wolff

 

Gillian Wearing. 'Me as Mapplethorpe' 2009

 

Gillian Wearing (English, b. 1963)
Me as Mapplethorpe
2009
Gelatin silver print (based upon Robert Mapplethorpe work: Self Portrait, 1988. © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation)
149.86 x 121.92cm (59 x 48 in.)
Private Collection
Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Maureen Paley, London, Regen Projects, Los Angeles

 

Paul Strand. 'Rebecca' 1922

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Rebecca
1922
Platinum print
24.4 x 19.4cm (9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Southwestern Bell Corporation Paul Strand Collection
© Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

Paul Strand. 'Rebecca, New Mexico' 1932

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Rebecca, New Mexico
1932
Platinum print
14.9 x 11.8cm (5 7/8 x 4 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Southwestern Bell Corporation Paul Strand Collection
© Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Georgia O'Keeffe' probably 1918

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
probably 1918
Platinum print
18.4 x 23.1cm (7 1/4 x 9 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Georgia O'Keeffe - Hands and Thimble' 1919

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe – Hands and Thimble
1919
Palladium print
24 x 19.4cm (9 7/16 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1930

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1930
Gelatin silver print
23.9 x 19.1cm (9 7/16 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters' 1975

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters
1975
Gelatin silver print
20.2 x 25.2cm (7 15/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund
© Nicholas Nixon, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters' 1978

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters
1978
Gelatin silver print
Promised gift of James and Margie Krebs
© Nicholas Nixon, courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

For more images from this series please see my posting Nicholas Nixon: Family Album

 

 

National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Daily 11.00am – 4.00pm

National Gallery of Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




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: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,741 other followers

If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email Marcus at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Recent Posts

Lastest tweets

July 2021
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Archives

Categories