Posts Tagged ‘Amon Carter Museum of American Art

08
Aug
21

Review: ‘An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain’ at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 8th August 2021

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Hanoi' 1995

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Hanoi
1995
From the series Viêt Nam (1994-98)
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

“In their essential nature men do not change. The great and noble, the Masters of Life, will be great and noble to the end of time, and to contemplate them and their deeds inspires us to endeavour to emulate them. Learn whom a man venerates, and you can come to judge his character. Like is assimilated unto like. The mind approaches that which it continually contemplates, and kindred inevitably follow.”

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Alvin Langdon

 

 

Disguising power as virtue or, the Inner Landscape of Beauty

One of the great assets of VR, especially in times of lockdown, is that you can view an exhibition from a distance. Such is the case with this strong exhibition by Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. It gives the viewer the ability to come to grips with an artists work displayed as a whole, to contemplate the myriad threads that run through the five bodies of work that are presented in the exhibition.

While there are no remarkable “hero” shots contained within the body of Lê’s work, collectively the photographs from each series build a serious interrogation into the contested terrains of colonialism, war, the military, racism and protest. As we know with life nothing is ever black and white, and through her classically inspired photographs Lê probes the interweaving of existence, desire, possession and control in the landscape, in the landscape of life. As assistant curator Kirsten Gaylord observes, “Her photographs consider questions that we are all thinking about now: What does it mean to be an American citizen? How does our country’s history shape our contemporary lives? What should be the role of the U.S. in the world?” These are complex issues which Lê addresses with intelligence and rigorous conceptualisation, fully aware of the paradoxes that exist within her inquiry.

My favourite series are the more personal and engaging, the more empathetic and feeling of the works – the first and the last, Viêt Nam (1994-98) and Silent General (2015-ongoing). In Viêt Nam, Lê returns to her homeland of Vietnam after almost 20 years with her large format camera. The resulting meditation on homeland evidenced in beautiful, perfectly formed photographs are moving and touching, poetic reveries on lost innocence, regained? In Silent General, Lê again again puts more of her self on the line, her photographs confronting the “issues of our time that are rooted in our history, from the fate of Confederate monuments to immigration debates around agricultural labourers.”

I am ambivalent about the other series in the exhibition, which while beautiful have a slightly chilly aura.

In the series Small Wars (1999-2002), Lê photographs Vietnam War reenactors in North Carolina and Virginia with the utmost sense of “authenticity” creating images that “explore the legacy and mythology of the Vietnam War for contemporary Americans.” In 29 Palms (2003-04) she photographs troops training in an American landscape similar to the one they would soon be deployed to in Iraq. In Events Ashore (2005-14) the artist photographs the crews of U.S. naval vessels around the world exploring the global reach of the American military, its diplomatic, humanitarian, military, and political activities.

In Small Wars and 29 Palms, Lê pictures a simulacra of war, simulations of a war already past (and lost), and a war yet to run its course, which would ultimately lead to the withdrawal of US forces. Her work blurs the boundaries between photojournalism and reality / fiction.

The photograph Ambush I (1999-2002, below) from Small Wars is eerily similar to Henri Huet’s photograph of Life magazine photographer Larry Burrows struggling through elephant grass in 1970 (below) with the difference that Burrows is helping to evacuate a wounded soldier, and that Huet, Burrows and two other photojournalists would be killed when their helicopter was shot down over Laos later in February 1971. Similarly, Lê’s photographs Mechanized Assault (2003-4) shows a pristine landscape foregrounded with immaculate tanks and personnel carriers in the American landscape… when in reality, American Marines photograph the burnt remains of Iraqi T-55 Main Battle Tanks amongst a non-descript landscape of shell holes and mundane buildings (16 April 2003, below). Further, while not a simulation, the very stillness and chillness of Events Ashore – the physical and metaphorical distance of the photographer from the subject, from the reason of the existence of the military – make the photographs in that series seem almost an apologia for the military.

In a quotation, Lê states that, “… I am not categorically against war. I was more interested in drawing people into my work, to think about the issues that envelop war – representations of war, landscape and terrain in war. When I’m working with the military, I still think of myself as a landscape photographer. My main goal is to try to photograph landscape in such a way that it suggests a universal history, a personal history, a history of culture.”

I understand what the photographer is attempting, but in one sense I remain unconvinced about the success of the mission.

Simply put, the raison d’etre for the military – despite all protestations to the contrary, despite all the good works they otherwise undertake – is “to engage in combat, should it be required to do so by the national defence policy, and to win. This represents an organisational goal of any military, and the primary focus for military thought through military history.” (Wikipedia) In terms of military doctrine,1 we note that in the history of the United States of America, the country has been at war 225 out of 243 years since 1776. America is a militarised society where the military prosecutes war on its own terms, disguising power as virtue. In terms of the prosecution of war, the country seems to be manifestly belligerent.

The outcome of any war is death. Sure, the soldiers might be there for economic or social reasons, they may experience fear and exhilaration, boredom and dreams, brotherhood and purpose, travel and education… but ultimately the military is a fighting and killing machine. “Young soldiers in combat inevitably confront killing. They take life away from others, and in so doing breach one of the most fundamental moral values of their society, often with long-term consequences.” Listening to an American veteran from the battle of Caens after the D-Day landings in 1944 recently in a documentary, he observed that all war is, is death – dead German soldiers, dead American soldiers, dead civilians. The reality (not a simulation or a reenactment) of Henri Huet’s photograph of dead soldiers, Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh (1965, below) is shocking and unimpeachable.

Soldiers kill. Human beings, civilian and military, die.

And then the military doesn’t want you to know about that. They cover it up. In World War 1, the British stopped posting lists of the missing and dead in the newspapers because there were so many of them. And in the Iraq war, the American military didn’t want photographs of American coffins in the back of a transport plane published because it would upset the families and the public. Even the metadata (hidden text data) written by the military contained in a public domain image of destroyed Iraqi tanks (see below) in 2003 states, “Operation IRAQI FREEDOM is the multinational coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and end the regime of Saddam Hussein.” Outright lies and deception … the invasion was illegal under international law as it violated the UN Charter, there were no weapons of mass destruction found, and no link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. The Iraq War caused at least one hundred thousand civilian deaths, as well as tens of thousands of military deaths.

Everyone is involved in the construction of the world. You can be informed or not. You have choices. Human beings have a choice to go into the military, or not. The problem is that human beings in power, in control (at the top of the military for example) inspire others to endeavour to emulate them. As Alvin Langdon observes, “Like is assimilated unto like. The mind approaches that which it continually contemplates, and kindred inevitably follow.”

Now, in another sense I believe that Lê achieves her aim, to suggest a universal history, a personal history, and a history of culture embodied in the landscape, suggestions that possibly sweep away landscapes of control.

As the Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue observed, “Even in landscapes of control you can be swept off your feet by sheer beauty.” Landscapes of control cannot stand before the power of beauty embodied in the landscape and in Lê’s photographs the memory of the landscape, its music, embeds itself in the photograph. Through the power of beauty, the Inner Landscape of Beauty (one that is metaphorical as much as physical, in the mind as much as it is externally verbalised), the photographs of An-My Lê subversively undermine the control of the military over the land: its occupation and colonisation of it, its wars to control it, and its very “uniform” presence in it. Look again at the photograph Mechanized Assault (2003-4, below) and now it is the distance of the photographer from the subject – the infinite sublime as I call it – that upends the punitive intentions of the military and overwhelms their puny vehicles. It’s an earth, spirit and mind thing.

In the viewers recognition of the beauty of this land(e)scape, we acknowledge our own virtue and assert our desire to be free. Free from restrictive control. Free from oppression. Free from war. The military, police “force” and government are and always will be, afraid of the infinite within us…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,540

 

Footnotes

  1. “Development of military doctrine is perhaps the more important of all capability development activities, because it determines how military forces are used in conflicts, the concepts and methods used by the command to employ appropriately military skilled, armed and equipped personnel in achievement of the tangible goals and objectives of the war, campaign, battle, engagement, and action.” (Wikipedia)

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

 

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP 'Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh' 18 September 1965

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP
Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh
18 September 1965

 

 

The paratroopers, of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, were hit by heavy fire from guerrillas that began as soon as the first elements of the unit landed. The dead and wounded were later evacuated to An Khe, where the 101st was based. The battle was one of the first of the war between major units of US forces and the Vietcong.

 

An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is the first comprehensive survey of the work of Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê. Featuring photographs from a selection of the artist’s five major bodies of work, the nationally touring exhibition considers the celebrated photographer’s nearly 25-year career exploring the edges of war and recording these landscapes of conflict in beautiful, classically composed photographs.

Born in Saigon in the midst of the Vietnam War, Lê was evacuated with her family by the U.S. military. She has spent decades considering the complexity of American history and conflict, from war reenactments to the removal of Confederate monuments. This timely exhibition explores politically-charged topics through Lê’s subtle, evocative images that avoid the sensationalism often seen in newspapers and movies. Sweeping views that emphasise the size and breadth of the theatre of war display the artist’s technical strengths in the classical landscape tradition, which she uses to compose beautiful images that draw the viewer into deeper consideration of complex themes of history and power.

 

 

” …as a photographer, I’m interested in looking at and representing the real world, and interpreting it in ways that allow me to learn from it and enlighten the issues I am trying to understand. I feel entirely comfortable using photographs with simple titles and explanatory texts. And I feel comfortable with the fact that some people may interpret a photograph differently from others. My photographs are visually complicated and carry complex messages because of the way I pack the information into the frame and structure the picture. People need to spend time with the work in order to piece together all the information. But of course the reading is subjective. I like that. I like that it could be contradictory, that it could be full of surprises, that it could be confusing. I see a fragile construct between the objective and subjective.

Ultimately, the picture is there to incite someone to think about the issues at stake, rather than say explicitly how I myself feel about the American military. Some of my work could be understood as being supportive of the military. You could look at some pictures and think: wow, those young Americans are so heroic! Or you could see in the same image a reflection of American imperialism: look at the American guy standing there, trying to teach the locals how to do it the American way! There are so many possible interpretations. Sometimes the US military comes in and does help people. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, the military was able to accomplish what no one else could. It was there with supplies in a matter of hours. But there’s a fine line between coming to help and invading, and it has to do with physical and economic presence and the ways in which Americans occupy the land. So the work is about those tensions.

I think it goes back to my own conflicted perceptions of the US military and what it did to Vietnam. At the end of the war, it was the Americans who could help us escape from the approach of communism. Everyone tried to scale the walls of the American Embassy, not the French Embassy. So it’s about all those conflicted things.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Andrew Maerkle. “Fires on the Plain,” on the ART-iT website 28/07/2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

“Living through the Vietnam War as a child and immigrating to the United States as a teenager, An-My Lê’s life has been indelibly marked by international conflict. For over two decades, her work as a photographer has engaged the unseen facets within the theater of war. With her large-format camera in tow, she has immersed herself in the Appalachian forest with Vietnam War reenactors, and traveled aboard U.S. aircraft carriers around the globe. Lê identifies as a landscape photographer, a perspective that grounds her subtle, impactful images of American interventionism within a larger history of violence.”

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Sara Christoph. “An-My Lê with Sara Christoph,” on the Brooklyn Rail website February 2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

 

 

Photographer An-My Lê: 2012 MacArthur Fellow | MacArthur Foundation | October 2012

Meet An-My Lê and learn about how she came to photography, her work with the U.S. military, and her 19th-century-style camera.

Photographer An-My Lê was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2012. The Fellowship is a $500,000, no-strings-attached grant for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more.

 

 

 

An-My Lê: Landscapes of war | July 2018

Find out more about An-My Lê’s series Small Wars (1992-2002), and Lê’s experiences photographing Vietnam war reenactors.

Photographer An-My Lê, who grew up in Saigon during the Vietnam War, describes her series Small Wars (1999-2002) and 29 Palms (2003-2004). She discusses how contemporary landscape photography can be used to present more than just scenery; it can illuminate culture, architecture, and social and political issues that citizens are concerned with today.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain' at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Mekong Delta' 1994

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Mekong Delta
1994
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Viêt Nam (1994-98)

In 1994, Lê returned to her home country for the first time since being evacuated as a teenager in 1975, arriving shortly after relations between the U.S. and Vietnam were normalised. She brought her camera with her, hoping to untangle the reality of her childhood memories from what she had seen over the years in movies and the news. She started the project in her mother’s birthplace, Hanoi, which she had never visited before, and returned to Vietnam three more times, spending about a month there on each trip. Using a large-format camera and shooting from an elevated perspective, Lê portrayed the landscape as a backdrop for human activity – particularly war and conflict – throughout history and into the present. Her series began with images of traditional, rural landscape she recalled from her childhood but eventually evolved into a photographic meditation on the fog of war and its tendency to scramble perceptions. Other images include scenes from urban and modern-day Vietnam unlike anything she had seen represented in the U.S. In this series Lê refined her working methods and began engaging with themes that remain cornerstones of her practice today.

Wall text

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Mekong Delta' 1994

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Mekong Delta
1994
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

This was the first photograph Lê made in Vietnam after almost twenty years away. It reflects her directorial style: Unlike a photojournalist, who strives to record events without intervening, Lê instructed the members of this farming family to stand still and look at the camera. The movement of their livestock and the surrounding foliage in the wind creates blur – perhaps a nod to the quickening pace of modern life in Vietnam.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Ho Chi Minh City' 1995

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Ho Chi Minh City
1995
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Thanh Hoa' 1998

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Thanh Hoa
1998
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe (British, 1822-1902)
Between Chittumputty and Teramboor: Elephant Rock, End View, January-February 1858
1858

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe (British, 1822-1902)

Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902) was a British pioneer of photography, best known for his photographs of India and Burma taken in the 1850s.

Linnaeus Tripe was born in Plymouth Dock (now Devonport), Devon, to Mary (1786-1842) and Cornelius (1785-1860). He was the ninth of twelve children. He joined the East India Company army in 1838, and in 1840, became a lieutenant based in the south of India. He returned to England in 1850, on a leave that was extended due to ill health until 1854. During this time he began to experiment with photography, and joined the Photographic Society of London in 1853. He returned to Bangalore, India, as a captain in June 1854. In December of that year he made his first photographs of India. In February of the following year he took part in the Madras Exhibition of Raw Products, Arts, and Manufactures of Southern India, displaying 68 photographs of previously unphotographed temples. The jury declared these photographs the “Best series of photographic views on paper.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hippolyte Arnoux (French, (active c. 1860 - c. 1890) and Emile Gsell (French, 1838-1879) 'Pagoda des Supplices, Hanoi' 1880

 

Hippolyte Arnoux (French, (active c. 1860 – c. 1890) and Emile Gsell (French, 1838-1879)
Pagoda des Supplices, Hanoi
1880
From “The trip from Egypt to Indochina” (Voyage de l’ Egypte à l’ Indochine)

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, But Thap' 1996

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, But Thap
1996
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“In graduate school, I was nudged to draw from my personal experience. This was in 1992, before Bill Clinton lifted the economic embargo against Vietnam, so it was not easy to travel there. Having escaped Vietnam in 1975 without our family albums, I pored through the photography catalogs in the libraries at Yale for references to Vietnam. I was shocked to find devastating images of war, and also patronising ethnographic photographs taken by European photographers during the colonial period, but nothing else. When I was finally able to travel there a few years later, I made a series of black-and-white photographs, mostly landscapes, that were intended to fill in the gaps that existed between the war documentation and the ethnographic archive.”

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An-My Lê, 2021. Conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen, The New York Review of Books

 

“For me, the landscape has always been the constant in my work. I work with scale as a way to give context to human endeavours, military endeavours, and the history of power. In the end, Vietnam has endured many battles and gone through so many changes. The Chinese invasion, the Japanese occupation, the colonialism of the French, the Indochina War, the Americans – the constancy was always the landscape. And people change, cultures change over time, but there is something about the land. Even as our world modernises, there is a certain consistency, a certain authenticity.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Sara Christoph. “An-My Lê with Sara Christoph,” on the Brooklyn Rail website February 2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

“When I first made the pictures in Vietnam, I was not ready to deal with the war. Being able to go back to Vietnam was a way to reconnect with a homeland, or with the idea of what a homeland is and with the idea of going home. When you live in exile, things like smells and memories and stories from childhood all take on such importance. So, this was an opportunity to reconnect with the real thing, and to be confronted with contemporary Vietnam. It’s not the way it was twenty years ago, or the way it’s described in folktales my grandmother and mother used to tell me, or even in stories from my mother’s own childhood in the North. So, I really looked for things that suggested a certain way of life – agrarian life – things that connect you to the land. Unfortunately, pictures don’t smell; but if I could do that, they would be about smells as well.”

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An-My Lê quoted in “Vietnam: An-My Lê,” on the Art21 website Nd [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Son Tay' 1998

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Son Tay
1998
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“People always say that it is so bizarre how these men reenact the Vietnam War, and go to so much trouble to do so! But then, you think about Steven Spielberg or even Kathryn Bigelow, and in a way, their work is a kind of reenactment pushed to the extreme. And no one has any issues with that! Just because it is a movie and there are millions of dollars involved, it is entertainment. And then you look to the military. All the training, practice drills, etc. They use the same language of reenactment. ‘Today, our scenario is…'”

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An-My Lê, 2015

Read the poem “A Brief History of Reënactment” by Vietnamese-American poet Hai-Dang Phan that was inspired by Lê’s series ‘Small Wars’.

 

“I feared for my safety on my first trip to Virginia, because I didn’t know the reenactors or their motivations. They called themselves ‘living historians.’ They grew up collecting badges and they knew everything about war histories, and this was a way for them to live out some of these fantasies. […]

It was so interesting to see the way who played what was economically replicated in real life. The kids who had more money would play the Americans because the American gear was more expensive, and they also tended to be less fit. They were always up on the hill sleeping on air mattresses and eating C-rations. And then us, the North Vietnamese Army or Viet Cong, we were down sleeping on the ground or in hammocks. We were always hiking up and ambushing them.”

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An-My Lê, 2019 conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen in the catalogue for “An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain.”

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Viet Cong Camp' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Viet Cong Camp
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Small Wars (1999-2002)

While researching the Vietnam War for her work, Lê discovered small groups of Vietnam War reenactors based in Virginia and North Carolina who were primarily civilians with little or no military experience. The organisers agreed to let her photograph if she also participated, and over the course of three summers she attended and photographed four or five reenactments, which became her series Small Wars. Even though Lê is from South Vietnam and had little firsthand knowledge of the North, she was often enlisted to play the role of North Vietnamese soldier or Viet Cong rebel. The other reenactors appreciated the “authenticity” she brought to the scenes, in part because it made their own experience feel more realistic. Lê’s participation became a way for her to understand personal histories and associations the reenactors brought with them to their performances, and it helped her better imagine what it might have been like for the North Vietnamese soldiers who fought in the war. Matching the reenactors’ commitment to authenticity, and underscoring her control of the scenes occurring in front of her camera, Lê consulted a military expert to restage certain moments and ensure that every detail, from the uniforms to the equipment, was as historically accurate as possible.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Stars and Stripes' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Stars and Stripes
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Sniper I' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Sniper I
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP ''Life' magazine photographer Larry Burrows (far left) struggles through elephant grass and the rotor wash of an American evacuation helicopter as he helps GIs carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher from the jungle to the chopper in Mimot, Cambodia' 4 May 1970

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP
‘Life’ magazine photographer Larry Burrows (far left) struggles through elephant grass and the rotor wash of an American evacuation helicopter as he helps GIs carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher from the jungle to the chopper in Mimot, Cambodia
4 May 1970

 

 

Life magazine photographer Larry Burrows (far left) struggles through elephant grass and the rotor wash of an American evacuation helicopter as he helps GIs carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher from the jungle to the chopper in Mimot, Cambodia on 4 May 1970. The evacuation came during the US incursion into Cambodia. Burrows was killed on 10 February 1971, along with the photographer who took this picture, Henri Huet, and two other photojournalists – Kent Potter of UPI and Keisaburo Shimamoto of Newsweek – when their helicopter was shot down over Laos.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Ambush I' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Ambush I
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Rescue' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Rescue
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

The Vietnam War reenactors Lê photographed were committed to creating “authentic” scenarios. This meant that every element, from their uniforms to their weapons and even their encampments, was meticulously researched and either purchased from approved sources or carefully fabricated. To further heighten the realism of their scenes, the reenactors gained access to Fort Story, a Joint Expeditionary Base in Virginia Beach that has been used as a training site for amphibious combat exercises since the end of World War II. A Vietnam-era jet that is grounded there became the site of a crash reenactment.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Colonel Greenwood' 2003-2004

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Colonel Greenwood
2003-2004
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College, Chicago, Gift of Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, NM
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

“I came to understand a lot about life in the military through conversations with the marines. At that point, I had never quite understood why someone would join the military. I thought people join because they want to fight, because they want to shoot guns, because they want to combat evil forces. But I realised that some join for economic reasons: just to get a job. Some want to travel. Some see it as a way to get out of difficult circumstances: Some were orphans who grew up in tough foster homes and felt the military gave them an opportunity to escape. So I gradually came to understand the human component, the redemptive aspect of this complicated equation.”

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An-My Lê in Andrew Maerkle. “Fires on the Plain,” on the ART-iT website 28/07/2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

 

From War Reenactors to the Removal of Confederate Monuments, An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain Spotlights Politically Charged Work that Resonates Today

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art (the Carter) will present the first comprehensive survey of the work of Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê (b. 1960), on view April 18 through August 8, 2021. Featuring photographs from a selection of the artist’s five major bodies of work, the nationally touring An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain draws connections across Lê’s career and provides unprecedented insight into her subtle, evocative images that draw on the classical landscape tradition to explore the complexity of American history and conflict.

Celebrated photographer Lê has spent nearly 25 years exploring the edges of war and recording these landscapes of conflict in beautiful, classically composed photographs. Born in Saigon in the midst of the Vietnam War, Lê vividly remembers the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in a war zone. She and her family were eventually evacuated by the U.S. military in 1975. It would take another 20 years for Lê to return to her homeland, this time with a large-format camera in tow.

“We are proud to bring An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain to our North Texas community,” said Andrew J. Walker, Executive Director. “Lê’s photographs bring history into conversation with the present, confronting head-on, complicated questions that remain relevant today. It feels especially important that we are spotlighting her work during our anniversary year, as it draws on the traditions reflected in our historical photography collection and underlines our 60-year commitment to exhibiting the best American photographers at the Carter.”

Lê follows in the tradition of nineteenth-century photographers like Timothy O’Sullivan and Mathew Brady, whose images of the Civil War brought the realities of combat to everyday Americans. Crafting sweeping views that emphasise the size and breadth of the theatre of war, Lê captures the complexity of conflict and the full scope of military life, avoiding the sensationalism often seen in newspapers and movies. On Contested Terrain highlights the artist’s technical strengths, used to compose beautiful images that draw the viewer into deeper consideration of complex themes of history and power.

The exhibition presents selections from five of Lê’s major series:

 

Viêt Nam (1994-98)

Almost 20 years after her family was evacuated, Lê returned to Vietnam with her large-format camera. The resulting series is a meditation on her homeland, addressing both her memories of it and the country’s reality decades later. It depicts the landscape as a backdrop for human history, a theme Lê would return to again and again.

 

Small Wars (1999-2002)

Back in the United States, Lê photographed Vietnam War reenactors in North Carolina and Virginia, often participating as a North Vietnamese soldier or Viet Cong rebel. Working with the reenactors, many of whom had not fought in the war, to achieve “authenticity” whenever possible, Lê made images that explore the legacy and mythology of the Vietnam War for contemporary Americans.

 

29 Palms (2003-04)

Unable to secure credentials to embed on the front lines of the Iraq War, Lê traveled to a California military base to photograph troops training in a landscape similar to the environment in which they would soon be deployed. In addition to the desert training exercises, Lê photographed the debriefings and downtime that filled the soldiers’ days.

 

Events Ashore (2005-14)

This series, the artist’s first foray into colour photography, was created over nine years that Lê spent photographing the crews of U.S. naval vessels around the world. An extensive exploration of the global reach of the American military, Events Ashore includes scenes of everyday life on an aircraft carrier alongside diplomatic, humanitarian, military, and political activities.

 

Silent General (2015-ongoing)

In her current series, Lê grapples with the legacy of America’s Civil War and responds to the complexities of the current socio-political moment. Her poetic photographs of polarised landscapes confront issues of our time that are rooted in our history, from the fate of Confederate monuments to immigration debates around agricultural labourers.

 

“An-My Lê has spent decades investigating conflicted terrains, both physical and metaphorical” stated Kristen Gaylord, Assistant Curator of Photographs. “Her photographs consider questions that we are all thinking about now: What does it mean to be an American citizen? How does our country’s history shape our contemporary lives? What should be the role of the U.S. in the world? These questions are especially salient for the City of Fort Worth, which includes a major defence contractor, the first Joint Reserve Base in the country, and residents and refugees from around the world, including Vietnam, Somalia, Guatemala, and Afghanistan. The generosity and incisiveness of Lê’s vision are a model for how we can navigate these complexities together.”

An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is organised by Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Major support for this exhibition is provided by Lannan Foundation and the William Talbott Hillman Foundation. Additional support is generously provided by the Virginia Kaufman Fund, the Henry John Simonds Foundation, the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Jennifer and Karl Salatka, and the Virginia S. Warner Foundation. Generous support for the exhibition catalogue has been provided by Marian Goodman Gallery. The exhibition debuted at Carnegie Museum of Art in March 2020 and is on view there through January 18, 2021. Following the presentation at the Carter, the exhibition will travel to the Milwaukee Art Museum in fall 2021. An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is included in the museum’s free admission. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring many images never-before-published.

 

About An-My Lê

An-My Lê was born in Saigon in 1960. She and her family fled Vietnam in 1975, living for a short period of time in Paris, France, before settling in the United States as a political refugee. Lê received her BAS (1981) and MS (1985) degrees in biology from Stanford University and an MFA from Yale University in 1993. While Lê is represented in many major museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Dallas Museum of Art – An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is the first survey of her work in an American museum. Currently, a professor of photography at Bard, Lê has received many awards, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellow (2012), the Tiffany Comfort Foundation Fellowship (2010), the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program Award (2007), and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1997). Her work has been exhibited at museums and galleries across the world, including the Baltimore Museum of Art; Dia Beacon, Beacon, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; MoMA PS1, New York; and more, and her photography was featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

Press release from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Night Operations VII' 2003-2004

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Night Operations VII
2003-2004
From the series 29 Palms (2003-2004)
Gelatin silver print, 2018
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago
© An-My Lê

 

 

“Twentynine Palms was the first extended period of time I spent in an unpopulated landscape. That was where I first started to think about this idea of the sublime. You see this extraordinary, open land, and you understand how insignificant we are. The most powerful experience I had happened during a night exercise in the middle of the desert. It was completely dark. We were at least a two-hour drive from the camp, and then the whole sky lit up. It was the most extraordinary fireworks I have ever seen – 20 minutes of jets dropping bombs, howitzers firing, and tracers in the air. […] You could feel the tremors in your heart. It was a rush of life power, but at the same time, it was devastating. The kind of destruction that this exercise entails is a destruction that is all our own doing.”

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An-My Lê, 2015

 

 

29 Palms (2003-04)

For her series 29 Palms, Lê turned to real soldiers acting out possible scenarios for a war that was still developing. Unable to secure credentials to embed on the front lines of the Iraq War (2003-2011), she instead sought access to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, also known as Twentynine Palms, outside Joshua Tree National Park in California – a base that was also used by Marines preparing for the Vietnam War decades earlier. Military command had determined that the arid, mountainous landscape was a good approximation to parts of Afghanistan and Iraq, where these soldiers would eventually de deployed. At Twentynine Palms, Lê focused her camera on field exercises, from special ops tactical training to sweeping views of tanks rolling across the desert. Some of the photographs are indistinguishable from images of actual war, while in others the artificiality of the scenario is obvious. She also captured moments that don’t appear in military promotional materials: troops whose attention is drifting during debriefings, huddled together to avoid the hot sun, and smoking and chatting during downtime.

At Twentynine Palms, entire buildings were given over to re-creations of Iraqi towns for security and stabilisation exercises, and cadets were conscripted to role play as Iraqi police. Three images in this gallery show the exercises as well as the facilities, which have been sprayed with anti-USA and pro-Saddam graffiti meant to impart a sense of realism. Simplistic phrases like “Good Saddam” and “Down USA” could never encapsulate an Iraqi’s complicated feelings about the war. Those sentiments, coupled with fake Arabic graffiti, leave a viewer wondering how well the military is preparing these troops who are about to be dropped into a completely foreign country on the other side of the globe.

 

 

 

An-My Lê: “29 Palms” | Art21 “Extended Play” | February 2011

“I just wanted to approach the idea of war in a more complicated and more challenging way” says artist An-My Lê, whose photographic series and film “29 Palms” (2003-04) explore the training exercises and desert landscape near Joshua Tree National Park as a staging ground for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An-My Lê’s photographs and films examine the impact, consequences, and representation of war, framing a tension between the natural landscape and its violent transformation into battlefields. Suspended between the formal traditions of documentary and staged photography, Lê’s work explores the disjunction between wars as historical events and the ubiquitous representation of war in contemporary entertainment, politics, and collective consciousness.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Security and Stabilization Operations, Iraqi Police' 2003-2004

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Security and Stabilization Operations, Iraqi Police
2003-2004
From the series 29 Palms (2003-2004)
Gelatin silver print, 2018
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago, Museum Purchase
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Security and Stabilization Operations, Graffiti' 2003-4

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Security and Stabilization Operations, Graffiti
2003-4
From the series 29 Palms (2003-2004)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

MSGT Howard J. Farrell, US Marine Corps. 'T-54s, T-55s, Type 59s or Type 69s at Diwaniyah, Iraq' 16 April 2003

 

MSGT Howard J. Farrell, US Marine Corps
T-54s, T-55s, Type 59s or Type 69s at Diwaniyah, Iraq
16 April 2003
Public domain

 

 

The destroyed remains of Iraqi T-55 Main Battle Tanks (MBT) litter an Iraqi military complex West of Diwaniyah, near Al Qadisiyah, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Visible on the picture are also two ARVs (the upper one is a Chinese-made Type 653 while the lower one is a Polish-made WZT-2). The tank in the bottom of the picture is a Type 69 as evidenced by the fender-mounted headlights.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Mechanized Assault' 2003-4

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Mechanized Assault
2003-4
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“The kind of work that I make is not the standard political work. It’s not agitprop. You would think, because I’ve seen so much devastation and lived through a war, that I should make something that’s outwardly antiwar. But I am not categorically against war. I was more interested in drawing people into my work, to think about the issues that envelop war – representations of war, landscape and terrain in war. When I’m working with the military, I still think of myself as a landscape photographer. My main goal is to try to photograph landscape in such a way that it suggests a universal history, a personal history, a history of culture.”

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An-My Lê quoted in “War and Aesthetics: An-My Lê,” on the Art21 website Nd [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

“I love the way things are drawn in black and white but it was evident to me Events Ashore needed to be in color. It was at first a technical issue. I found the [black-and-white] palette restrictive. I was frustrated not being able to distinguish colder from warmer gray. [Black and white] is about a removal of the information provided by color, which is interesting in itself. Only the essential is retained, and this forces the imagination to go into overdrive to compensate. As I was exploring this huge global enterprise that is the U.S. Navy, I wanted to describe my experience in details and overwhelm the viewer with information. Bringing color back was crucial.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Jon Feinstein. “An-My Lê: The Landscape of Conflict,” on the Daylight website 10th February 2017 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

Events Ashore (2005-2014)

Lê’s time at Twentynine Palms let to friendships with military personnel that facilitated her next series, titled Events Ashore. She was invited to join a Marine Expeditionary Unit on an aircraft carrier and over the next nine years spent weeks at a time visiting twenty different countries aboard U.S. naval vessels travelling the world, from Antartica to Greenland. Events Ashore was Lê’s first foray into colour photography, made in part because her standard black-and-white film could not capture the subtle differences in the tonalities of ships, sky and water that filled the views from aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, and nuclear-powered submarines.

In this series intimate scenes of life aboard an aircraft carrier are interspersed with coverage of less-known military outreach efforts, like tutoring individuals for an English proficiency exam, and landmark geopolitical moments including the first U.S. naval exchange with Vietnam since the Vietnam War (1955-75). Lê attempts to fathom the full scope fo the navy’s activities around the world. The result is an extensive exploration of the environmental, financial, human, and political costs of military intervention.

 

 

“I [am] interested in many aspects of the military endeavour, from humanitarian missions in Africa and Asia and strategic trainings and engagements in the North Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean to scientific missions in the Arctic and Antarctic. This work is as much about my perspective and personal history as a political refugee from Vietnam as it is about the vast geopolitical forces and conflicts that shape these landscapes. It is also about how the U.S. military is seen around the world, and how it represents our country. A polarising subject in popular imagination, the U.S. military has inspired fear, patriotism, debate, and suspicion. My goal has been to give a visual analog to that complex topic, to address issues of power and fragility. […] My intention is to stir up thought but not dictate a message. It is not a call to action so much as a call for perspective.”

.
An-My Lê, 2014 from the exhibition catalogue

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Earthquake Relief, Marine Corps Weapons Company Beach Landing Site, Haiti' 2010

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Earthquake Relief, Marine Corps Weapons Company Beach Landing Site, Haiti
2010
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Portrait Studio, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Portrait Studio, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'US Naval Hospital Ship Mercy, Vietnam' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
US Naval Hospital Ship Mercy, Vietnam
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Lê has said that her ultimate subject in Events Ashore was scale, and the ocean is one of the only environments vast enough to dwarf the massive ships of the U.S. Navy. USNS Mercy is the lead ship of a class of hospital ships that are the third largest ship class in the navy, although in this image it seems small. Hospital ships carry only defensive weapons, and it is a war crime to attack them. Last spring, Mercy was sent to Los Angeles to provide relief to local hospitals dealing with COVID-19 cases. A train engineer deliberately ran a train off the tracks in an attempt to crash into it, saying he was suspicious of Mercy and did not believe “the ship is what they say it’s for.”

Wall text

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Manning the rail, the U.S.S. Tortuga, Java Sea' 2010

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Manning the rail, the U.S.S. Tortuga, Java Sea
2010
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fresh Water Wash-Down of Super Structure, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fresh Water Wash-Down of Super Structure, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Damage Control Training, USS Nashville, Dakar, Senegal' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Damage Control Training, USS Nashville, Dakar, Senegal
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Ship Divers, USS New Hampshire, Arctic Seas' 2011

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Ship Divers, USS New Hampshire, Arctic Seas
2011
Inkjet print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

“[Walt] Whitman epitomises the acknowledgment that art offers the most inclusive and accurate method for addressing an experience. Whitman’s work resisted easy categorisation – it was neither journalism nor poetry. It allowed him to explore his curiosity about himself and the world in a way that always inspired complex responses. In a way, a photographer’s independence is what defines their identity as an artist. If your work doesn’t serve a story, document an event, or promote a product, then it must be art. But, in another sense, a photography artist is usually excited by the risk of their work not being considered art at all. When you decide to look at a polarising subject that plenty of non-artists are also working with – like a newsworthy event – then you are begging a question: ‘Are you doing anything better as an artist? Might you be doing something worse?'”

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An-My Lê quoted in Tom Seymour. “An-My Lê: Landscape is not a narrow category – it is a source of surprise,” on The Art Newspaper website 13th August 2020 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

Silent General (2015-ongoing)

Lê’s current project examines the contemporary state of affairs in the united States through the lens of history. It takes its title from Walt Whitman’s tribute to Ulysses S. Grant in Specimen Days (1882), an autobiographical account of Whitman’s time tending to wounded Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War (1861-65), another fractured moment in the countries history. Her arrangement of these photographs in groups, or what she calls “fragments,” is an homage to the literary structure of Specimen Days and a poetic way of sequencing the pictures.

Lê made her first photographs for the series in 2015, when the news was dominated by Donald Trump’s candidacy for president and public controversy over monuments commemorating the Confederacy. Since then, Lê has photographed politically polarised landscapes from Louisiana to New York, California to Texas, and down into Mexico. The images in Silent General address much-debated issues including citizenship, immigration, labour rights, land access, and racism, and often trace them back to their historical roots.

Wall text

 

 

 

Confederate Memorials in Texas

The photographs in this gallery address significant and contested issues facing our country, including the presence of Confederate monuments and markers throughout the United States.

Should these memorials remain, or should they be removed? While some believe that removing them erases history, others think that they were created to assert dominance over Black people.

There are over 150 Confederate memorials in Texas, most of which were created in two eras: first, the 1900 to the mid-1930s, as Jim Crow laws were passed and the Ku Klux Klan resurged; and second, the 1950s and 1960s, during the civil rights movement and coinciding with the centennial of the Civil War.

What, if anything, surprises you about Confederate monuments and markers in Texas?

Information on this map was gathered from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Texas Historical Commission, “The Texas Tribune,” and various private databases.

Wall text

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment I: General P. G. T. Beauregard Monument, New Orleans' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment I: General P. G. T. Beauregard Monument, New Orleans
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard was a well-known Confederate general who conveyed racist views about Black people before, during, and immediately after the Civil War. But he was adamantly against the federalist Reconstruction policies of the postwar period and became part of a group that advocated for Black suffrage and equal rights as a way of uniting Southern interests against them. A statue of him as a Confederate general was unveiled at the main entrance of New Orleans’ City Park in 1915. One hundred years later, it was one of four memorials related to the Confederacy that the New Orleans City Council voted to remove, although the removal took over a year and a half.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment VI: General Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard Monuments, Homeland Security Storage, New Orleans' 2017

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment VI: General Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard Monuments, Homeland Security Storage, New Orleans
2017
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“We should start with the paradoxical ideas about photography and truth, journalism, and the issue that a photograph is an evidence of something. In film for example, if you talk about documentary films, or feature films, or fictional films, there is never any issue with which is which, but somehow for photography when people see a photograph, they think it is showing the truth. But we know that all photographs are fictional. This creates a kind of dichotomy, but I think artists such as myself like to take advantage of this misunderstanding. I do straddle that, but my pictures are not photojournalism. They do not attest to anything except perhaps of my interest in the world, and what I bring in terms of my baggage and personal biography to it.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Cleo Roberts. “Complicated Truths: Interview with An-My Lê,” on the ArtAsiaPacific website Feb 24, 2020 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment VII: Film Set (Free State of Jones), Firing Lesson, Chicot State Park, Louisiana' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment VII: Film Set (Free State of Jones), Firing Lesson, Chicot State Park, Louisiana
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“Protest is a commitment to clarity, urgency, and spontaneity. The slogans and chants only work if they can be shared and invested with belief. I used to shy away from explicit language, political or otherwise, as a subject for my work because I feared I would neither document nor reveal anything that wasn’t already there or already stated. Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that the language of protest and resistance is not complete without a response… It invites and demands a response. So, with these photographs, I’ve tried to present protest and public address as intimate and integral gestures, within time and place, that hopefully push back at the more predictable images and commentaries we expect.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Fi Churchman. “‘We Will Dance Again’: Photographer An-My Lê on Reconnecting with New York in Lockdown,” on the ArtReview website 23 September 2020 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment VII: High School Students Protesting Gun Violence, Washington Square Park, New York' 2018

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment VII: High School Students Protesting Gun Violence, Washington Square Park, New York
2018
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'November 5, Sugar Cane Field, Houma, Louisiana' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
November 5, Sugar Cane Field, Houma, Louisiana
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'November 10, Workers, Venice, Louisiana' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
November 10, Workers, Venice, Louisiana
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

 

Monsen Photography Lecture: An-My Lê | March 2021

The annual Monsen Photography Lecture brings key makers and thinkers in photographic practice to the Henry Art Gallery. Named after Drs. Elaine & Joseph Monsen, the series is designed to further knowledge about and appreciation for the art of photography.

The Henry welcomed An-My Lê as the 2018 Monsen Photography Lecture speaker. Lê is renowned for creating images that raise questions about the representations and effects of war, and for leveraging photographic techniques to challenge understandings of what is fictional or historical. Her work “Small Wars (Ambush I)”, (1999-2002) was included in the Henry’s exhibition, “The Time. The Place: Contemporary Art from the Collection.”

 

 

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

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

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24
Apr
21

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

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 8th August 2021

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (1840-1882) 'Entrance to Black Cañon, Colorado River, from Above' 1871

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, 1840-1882)
Entrance to Black Cañon, Colorado River, from Above
1871
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

A quick posting as I am not feeling that well.

This exhibition drags up that perennial favourite, is photography art? by addressing it in the affirmative ‘Photography Is Art’.

While historically the statement has had to be fought for, even having to make that statement today in the title of exhibition implies – through its very existence – that there still exists an opposite, that photography is not art. Surely a more apposite title could have been found, especially as over half the media images are from a period when photography was collected by major galleries and museums around the world.

Highlights for me are the O’Sullivan, Stieglitz, Clarence H. White and the Gordon Parks.

Let the photographs speak for themselves (now there’s a good title: ‘Speaking for themselves’).
They need no justification.

Marcus

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

 

Has photography always been considered art? Though widely accepted today as a medium in its own right, art museums have not always embraced photography. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1970s and early 1980s that many museums began actively collecting and displaying photographs. Photography Is Art tells the story of American photographers’ efforts, from the late 19th century on, to explore and proclaim photography’s artfulness. Drawn from the Carter’s expansive and renowned photography collection, this exhibition reveals how artists shaped their medium’s artistic language.

Text from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) 'A Wet Day on the Boulevard, Paris' 1894

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
A Wet Day on the Boulevard, Paris
1894
Photogravure
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
Gift of Doris Bry

 

Clarence H. White (1871–1925) 'Nude' c. 1900

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Nude
c. 1900
Platinum print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art; Fort Worth, Texas
Bequest of the Artist

 

Carlotta Corpron (1901-1988) 'A Walk in Fair Park, Dallas' c. 1943

 

Carlotta Corpron (American, 1901-1988)
A Walk in Fair Park, Dallas
c. 1943
Gelatin silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Gift of the artist
© 1988 Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

 

Carlotta Corpron was born in Blue Earth, Minnesota, but spent fifteen years of her youth in India. She returned to the United States in 1920 to earn degrees in art education at Michigan State Normal College and Columbia University, and was first introduced to photography in 1933. Her interest grew out of her desire to create close-up images of natural forms for use in art and design courses, and her vision was influenced by László Moholy-Nagy, and further shaped by her friendship with Gyorgy Kepes, who included her in his book The Language of Vision (1944). Of particular note are Corpron’s early light drawings, made by tracking moving light at amusement parks – radiant images of wild edges and rhythmic lines – and her “space compositions,” which employed eggs and shells, although their real subject is the constructed space in which they exist. This space, achieved by the use of light-reflecting surfaces, often seems to reproduce the perceptual distortions of underwater realms. Corpron also made “fluid light designs” examining reflections on plastic materials; “light follows form” studies of sculpture; abstractions of light flowing through glass; and solarisations of flowers and portraits. She retired from teaching in 1968 but continued printing her earlier work. Corpron’s photographs were shown at the Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, and were included in the 1979 ICP exhibition Recollections: Ten Women in Photography.

Corpron’s experiments with light are among the most intriguing abstract photographic works from her day, sharing as they do the concerns of her predecessors Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, and Alvin Langdon Coburn. Her work is significant for its inventive and resolutely independent exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of light and space. Wrought from simple materials and the free play of imagination, Corpron’s light abstractions are increasingly admired.
Cynthia Fredette

Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 212 on the International Centre of Photography website [Online] Cited 18/04/2021.

 

Gordon Parks (1912-2006) 'Leonard "Red" Jackson (standing, right) supervises painting of bicycles belonging to members of his Harlem gang. In foreground is "Brother" Price, Red's cousin and assistant gang leader 1948' Oct. 8, 1948

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Leonard “Red” Jackson (standing, right) supervises painting of bicycles belonging to members of his Harlem gang. In foreground is “Brother” Price, Red’s cousin and assistant gang leader 1948
Oct. 8, 1948
Gelatin silver print; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Barbara Crane (American, b. 1928) 'NS-015-1969' 1969

 

Barbara Crane (American, b. 1928)
NS-015-1969
1969
Gelatin silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
Gift of Elizabeth, Jennifer, and Bruce Crane

 

Richard Avedon (1923-2004) 'Clyde Corley, Rancher, Belgrade, Montana, 8/26/79' 1979

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Clyde Corley, Rancher, Belgrade, Montana, 8/26/79
1979
Gelatin silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Ellen Carey (American, b. 1952) 'Self-portrait' 1984

 

Ellen Carey (American, b. 1952)
Self-portrait
1984
Dye diffusion transfer print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
© 1984 Ellen Carey

 

Justine Kurland (American, b. 1969) 'The Wall' 2000

 

Justine Kurland (American, b. 1969)
The Wall
2000
Inkjet print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
© Justine Kurland / Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York

 

Sharon Core (American, b. 1965) 'Peaches and Blackberries' 2008

 

Sharon Core (American, b. 1965)
Peaches and Blackberries
2008
Dye coupler print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Purchase with funds provided by Nenetta C. Tatum and Stephen L. Tatum

 

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

 

Alex Prager (American, b. 1979)
Crowd #1 (Stan Douglas)
2010
Dye coupler print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

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

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

Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

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04
Oct
20

Exhibition: ‘Acting Out: Cabinet Cards and the Making of Modern Photography’ at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 14th August – 1st November 2020

 

G. S. Smith, Salt Lake City, UT. '[Taking in the view]' c. 1880

 

G. S. Smith, Salt Lake City, UT
[Taking in the view]
c. 1880
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

While the premise for this exhibition is interesting – that cabinet cards acted as a “primer” for coaxing “Americans into thinking about portraiture as an informal act, forging the way for the snapshot and social media with its contemporary “selfie” culture – in reality, the notion is far fetched.

Of the many millions of cabinet cards produced during their period of proliferation (1880s-1910s), only a small percentage, perhaps as low as 3%, would ever fit the performative type illustrated in this posting. Most were of the “solemn records of likeness and stature type”, typically full-length, half-length or a head and shoulders portrait, usually of a single person, sometimes a couple or family. Even then, the performative type of cabinet card would have a limited distribution, either within the family or commercially.

The four sections of the exhibition – Caught in the Act (actors, orators and other public figures); The Trade (commercial advertising); Sharing Life: Family and Friends (family albums); and Acting Out (people at play; reality and truth) – are logical partitions of these certain types of cabinet card. But what interests me more are the psychological aspects of having ones photograph taken. Why is the person’s photograph being taken, at whose direction (the photographers, the sitters)… who is posing the individual, what do they intend to convey through the image, who decides what that message is and, of course, how does the viewer decipher the message. “The interpretation of a person’s acting out and an observer’s response varies considerably, with context and subject usually setting audience expectations.” (Wikipedia)

Here we must acknowledge that the acting out is not singular but plural, for it is as much an act on the part of the photographer as it is the sitter. How much the outcome is dependent on the “director” or the subject is an act of constant negotiation (and, of course, it is also an outcome of the ritual of production).

The curator John Rohrbach observes that, “In our current moment of ‘selfie’ culture and social media-centered interaction, understanding the history of self-presentation and portraiture is more prescient than ever…” but this statement, linking cabinet cards and selfies, is a very very long bow to draw. This is because cabinet cards are not “selfies” as we perceive them now – informal snapshots taken by the self – but posed and performed photographic studies that require inherent discipline, structure and form constructed by the photographer and the sitter to achieve their end.

I often wonder about the revelatory process of having one’s portrait taken in the early days of photography. I know from texts that I have read that some people found the process slow and irritating, the results unsatisfactory. On the other hand, imagine being made to stand still for several seconds when you are not used to being completely still. Could there possibly be a moment in time and space, of meditation and reconciliation with oneself, a revelation in the stillness of the seconds of exposure. A revelation more spiritual than performative? *Two girls (1864, below)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Acting

The art or practice of representing a character on a stage or before cameras.

Acting serves countless purposes including the following: It reminds us of times past and forgotten, or gives us a glimpse of a possible future. It portrays our raw, unadulterated, vulnerable, emotional, and at times, ugly, horrifying humanity. It provokes emotion, thought, discussion, awareness, or even imagination.

 

Acting Out

A child is “acting out” when they exhibit unrestrained and improper actions. The behaviour is usually caused by suppressed or denied feelings or emotions.

Acting out reduces stress. It’s often a child’s attempt to show otherwise hidden emotions. Acting out may include fighting, throwing fits, or stealing. In severe cases, acting out is associated with antisocial behaviour and other personality disorders in teenagers and younger children. …

Acting Out a) represents in action and b) translates into action, expressing (something, such as an impulse or a fantasy) directly in overt behaviour without modification, not complying with social norms.

In the psychology of defence mechanisms and self-control, acting out is the performance of an action considered bad or anti-social. In general usage, the action performed is destructive to self or to others. The term is used in this way in sexual addiction treatment, psychotherapy, criminology and parenting. In contrast, the opposite attitude or behaviour of bearing and managing the impulse to perform one’s impulse is called acting in.

The performed action may follow impulses of an addiction (e.g. drinking, drug taking or shoplifting)[citation needed]. It may also be a means designed (often unconsciously or semi-consciously) to garner attention (e.g. throwing a tantrum or behaving promiscuously). Acting out may inhibit the development of more constructive responses to the feelings in question. …

 

Interpretation

The interpretation of a person’s acting out and an observer’s response varies considerably, with context and subject usually setting audience expectations.

 

Alternatives

Acting out painful feelings may be contrasted with expressing them in ways more helpful to the sufferer, e.g. by talking out, expressive therapy, psychodrama or mindful awareness of the feelings. Developing the ability to express one’s conflicts safely and constructively is an important part of impulse control, personal development and self-care.

Anonymous. “Acting out,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 04/10/2020

 

G. S. Smith, Salt Lake City, UT. '[Taking in the view]' c. 1880 (detail)

 

G. S. Smith, Salt Lake City, UT
[Taking in the view] (detail)
c. 1880
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Howie, Detroit, MI 'George Moore and Fred Howe' 1890s

 

Howie, Detroit, MI
George Moore and Fred Howe
1890s
Collodion silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

 

Fred Howe, the Fatman and George Moore, the living skeleton; they are the most comical boxers in the world. Fred Howe’s father was a carpenter at Alleghany City, Penn., and Fred started to learn the same trade, but soon became too fat. At the age of eighteen he joined the Forepaugh Circus as a “tat boy,” and there met his present sparring partner.

George Moore was born in Helena, Montana, where his father had a little dry goods shop. Until he was twenty-one years of age George worked in his father’s shop. But his greatest desire was to see the world. When the fist big circus came to Helena, the manager offered him an engagement to exhibit himself as the “living skeleton,” and he closed with the offer at once. Fred Howe, they soon became great friends. The doctors advised both to take as much exercise as possible – the one to gain flesh, and the other to get rid of it. These smart Yankee lads then resolved to combine duty with pleasure, so they went in for boxing. For a long time they practised privately. One day, however, the manager was told of the fun by some of his “freaks,” who had been allowed to see a set-to” between the two gladiators. The manager then arranged a round or two, and the moment he saw Howe and Moore face each other, he offered them a long engagement at an increased salary, if only they would do their boxing before the public. Today these funny fellows are not only expert boxers, but also perfect comedians in their “art.” Their boxing is uproariously funny.

Moore is 6ft. 3in. in height, and weighs but 97lb., Howe is only 4ft. 2in. high, and weights exactly 422lb.

The Strand Magazine

 

Howie, Detroit, MI 'George Moore and Fred Howe' 1890s (detail)

 

Howie, Detroit, MI
George Moore and Fred Howe (detail)
1890s
Collodion silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

Alfred U. Palmquist and Peder T. Jurgens, St. Paul, MN. '[Skater]' 1880s

 

Alfred U. Palmquist (Swedish, 1850-1922) and Peder T. Jurgens, St. Paul, MN
[Skater]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

The Swede Alfred U. Palmquist (1850-1922) immigrated to America in 1872. In 1874, together with the Norwegian Peder T. Jurgens he opened the photo studio Palmquist & Jurgens in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Alfred Palmquist was born in Finland to Swedish parents on June 21, 1850. We know nothing about his childhood and upbringing except that he emigrated to Minnesota in the United States at the age of twenty-two. A year later, he and a colleague started a photo studio in Saint Paul, Minnesota, which was named Palmquist & Lake.

Ten years later, in 1883, Palmquist entered into a collaboration with Peder T. Jurgens. We only know about his partner Jurgens that he was Norwegian and had previously supported himself as an economist. Peder Jurgens worked in the company between the years 1882 to 1888. The new company was then of course named Palmquist & Jurgens and lived on until the beginning of the 20th century. During the 1870s and 1880s, most photographers worked in their studios… Palmquist & Jurgens was such a typical photography company that preferred people to come to their studio to be photographed. The company had specialised in photographing famous families in Saint Paul.

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT. '[Getting the cleaver]' 1880s

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT
[Getting the cleaver]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT. '[Getting the cleaver]' 1880s (detail)

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT
[Getting the cleaver] (detail)
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT. '[Getting the cleaver]' 1880s (detail)

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT
[Getting the cleaver] (detail)
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT. '[Getting the saw]' 1880s

 

M. C. Hosford, West Rutland, VT
[Getting the saw]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

Acting Out: Cabinet Cards and the Making of Modern Photography offers the first-ever in-depth examination of the photographic phenomenon of cabinet cards. Cabinet cards were America’s main format for photographic portraiture through the last three decades of the nineteenth century. Inexpensive and sold by the dozen, they transformed getting one’s portrait made from a formal event taken up once or twice in a lifetime into a commonplace practice shared with family and friends.

Building on the museum’s history as a leader in American photography, this exhibition reveals how photography studios and their sitters across the United States introduced immediacy to studio portraiture and transformed their sessions into avenues of fun and personal expression. Sections will trace the cabinet card’s development and evolution, from its beginnings in celebrity culture through the marketing and advertising innovations of practitioners to the diversity of what people brought to their sittings. Not only did Americans embrace photography as a commonplace fact of life during these years, they openly played with the medium’s believability. In short, cabinet cards made photography modern.

This August, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art will present Acting Out: Cabinet Cards and the Making of Modern Photography, an exhibition offering the first in-depth examination of the nineteenth-century photographic phenomenon of cabinet cards. Charting the proliferation of this under appreciated photographic format, Acting Out reveals that cabinet cards coaxed Americans into thinking about portraiture as an informal act, forging the way for the snapshot and social media with its contemporary “selfie” culture. Acting Out presents hundreds of photographs – many on view publicly for the first time – from collections nationwide, including examples from the Carter’s own extensive photography collection. On view August 18 through November 1, 2020, the exhibition is organised by the Carter and will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, cabinet cards gave birth to the golden age of photographic portraiture in America. Measuring 6 1/2 by 4 1/4 inches, roughly the size of the modern-day smartphone screen, they were three times larger than the period’s leading photographic format. This larger size revealed previously obscured details in the images captured, encouraging action-ready gestures and the introduction of an astonishing array of props. Where photographs had once functioned as solemn records of likeness and stature, cabinet cards offered a new outlet for entertainment and remembering life’s everyday moments.

Acting Out investigates how this new performative medium prompted sitters to become far more comfortable with having their portrait made. By the time Eastman Kodak introduced its new affordable Brownie camera in 1900, cabinet cards had primed Americans to photograph every aspect of their lives. Though produced over 100 years ago, cabinet cards have a familiarity and a levity that resonates with our experience of photography today.

Acting Out exemplifies the Carter’s commitment to organising exhibitions rooted in groundbreaking scholarship, a core tenet of our curatorial philosophy,” stated Andrew J. Walker, Executive Director. “This exhibition harnesses the resources of our vast photography collection and archive to show visitors the contemporary relevance of the medium’s pre-modern history.”

The exhibition is organised into four sections chronicling the birth and evolution of the cabinet card:

  • Caught in the Act: Actors, orators, and other public figures were among the first to embrace cabinet cards. This section examines how the creative innovations employed by New York photographer Napoleon Sarony and his cohorts built public enthusiasm for a new kind of photographic portraiture founded on a relaxed sense of immediacy that influenced studio photographers across America.
  • The Trade: This section looks at the entertaining and evocative ways that photographers worked to overcome low prices and fierce competition, and to stand out from their peers. Their creative solutions gave rise to the ubiquity of cabinet cards across America by the 1880s.
  • Sharing Life: Family and Friends: Over the last quarter of the nineteenth century, cabinet cards were often the favoured means for recording and celebrating family life. This evocative section reveals the ways in which cabinet cards established a model for family albums as channels for sharing and boasting of the joys and transits of life.
  • Acting Out: If portraiture was the ostensible subject of cabinet cards, play was just as important. This section examines Americans’ acceptance of the camera as a tool for shared amusement as they toyed with photography’s pretence of reality and truth.

“In our current moment of ‘selfie’ culture and social media-centered interaction, understanding the history of self-presentation and portraiture is more prescient than ever,” said John Rohrbach, Senior Curator of Photographs at the Carter. “This exhibition reveals how nineteenth-century Americans approached photography far more playfully than ever before, a transformation that forever shifted our relationship to the medium.”

Acting Out: Cabinet Cards and the Making of Modern Photography was organised by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. The exhibition is supported in part by the Alice L. Walton Foundation Temporary Exhibitions Endowment and accompanied by a 232-page catalogue co-published with the University of California Press, Berkeley. The book is the first dedicated to the history of the cabinet card and features colour plates of 100 cards at their actual size. Contributors include Dr. John Rohrbach, Senior Curator of Photographs at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art; Dr. Erin Pauwels, Assistant Professor of American Art at Temple University; Dr. Britt Salvesen, Department Head and Curator of the Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Fernanda Valverde, Conservator of Photographs at the Carter.

Press release from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

Unknown photographer. '[Chess against myself]' 1880s

 

Unknown photographer
[Chess against myself]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Unknown photographer. '[Chess against myself]' 1880s (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
[Chess against myself] (detail)
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Hatch and White, Burlington, WI. '[Man in woman's clothing]' c. 1891

 

Hatch and White, Burlington, WI
[Man in woman’s clothing]
c. 1891
Collodion silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Benjamin J. Falk, New York, NY. 'Helena Luy' 1880s

 

Benjamin J. Falk, New York, NY
Helena Luy
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

Benjamin J. Falk

When Napoleon Sarony died in 1896, Benjamin J. Falk ascended to the first place in the world of performing arts photography…

Falk’s contemporaries, who spoke primarily of the clarity, verisimilitude, and composure of his images, never recognised his greatest power as a portraitist. Falk was a man of extraordinary erotic engagement with his sitters, and the intensity of his attention becomes visible only when one sees the entirety of his work envisioning one of the several women – Belle Archer, Mrs. James Brown Potter, Cleo De Merode, Cissy Fitzgerald, Amy Busby, the Barrison Sisters – who capture his imagination. He was capable of refracting the sitter’s beauty in a tremendous array of scenes, costumes, and attitudes, doing so without making the images seem artificial.

When asked in 1893 what was most important in creating effective portraits, he replied matter of factly, “I name expression, posing and lighting in the order as they appear to be most important. The technique of the profession being absolutely under the control of the operator since the introduction of the dry plates, there is no excuse now for any but perfect photographic results. I have always made my price high enough, so that I did not have to consider the cost of material while doing my work.” The camera, in the proper hands, is, in many ways, a finer art tool to-day than the chisel or the brush, although, like them, it has its limitations.

 

Specialty

The first strong adherent of artificial light sources in the studio, Benjamin Falk created portraits that were among the most dramatically sculptural looking images of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Possessed of a playful visual wit, he often experimented with his images, using curious juxtapositions, unusual poses, and lighting highlights to convey distinctiveness of personality. Increasingly indifferent to painted backdrops, he did many portraits against blank walls or bleached out backcloths. He began the fashion for faces and figures suspended in a milky white ground that became ubiquitous shortly after 1900.

Anonymous. “Benjamin J. Falk,” on the Broadway Photographers website [Online] Cited 05/09/2020

 

Benjamin J. Falk, New York, NY. 'Helena Luy' 1880s (detail)

 

Benjamin J. Falk, New York, NY
Helena Luy (detail)
1880s
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Napoleon Sarony, New York, NY. '[Fanny Davenport]' c. 1870

 

Napoleon Sarony, New York, NY
[Fanny Davenport]
c. 1870
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

Napoleon Sarony

Napoleon Sarony (March 9, 1821 – November 9, 1896) was an American lithographer and photographer. He was a highly popular portrait photographer, best known for his portraits of the stars of late-19th-century American theatre. His son, Otto Sarony, continued the family business as a theatre and film star photographer.

Sarony was born in 1821 in Quebec, then in the British colony of Lower Canada, and moved to New York City around 1836. He worked as an illustrator for Currier and Ives before joining with James Major and starting his own lithography business, Sarony & Major, in 1843. In 1845, James Major was replaced in Sarony & Major by Henry B. Major, and the firm continued operating under that name until 1853. From 1853 to 1857, the firm was known as Sarony and Company, and from 1857 to 1867, as Sarony, Major & Knapp. Sarony left the firm in 1867 and established a photography studio at 37 Union Square, during a time when celebrity portraiture was a popular fad. Photographers would pay their famous subjects to sit for them, and then retain full rights to sell the pictures. Sarony reportedly paid the internationally famous stage actress Sarah Bernhardt $1,500 to pose for his camera, equivalent to $42,683 in 2019. In 1894, he published a portfolio of prints entitled “Sarony’s Living Pictures”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Napoleon Sarony, New York, NY. '[Fanny Davenport]' c. 1870 (detail)

 

Napoleon Sarony, New York, NY
[Fanny Davenport] (detail)
c. 1870
Albumen silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

Fanny Lily Gipsey Davenport

Fanny Lily Gipsey Davenport (April 10, 1850 – September 26, 1898) was an English-American stage actress. The eldest child of Edward Loomis Davenport and Fanny Elizabeth (Vining) Gill Davenport, Fanny Lily Gypsey Davenport was born on April 10, 1850 in London.

Most of her siblings were actors, including Harry Davenport. She was brought to the United States in 1854 and educated in the Boston public schools. At age 7, she appeared at Boston’s Howard Athenæum as Metamora’s child, but her real debut occurred in February 1862 when she portrayed King Charles in Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady at Niblo’s Garden.

In February 1862, she appeared in New York City at Niblo’s Garden at the age of 12 as the King of Spain in Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady. From 1869 to 1877, she performed in Augustin Daly’s company; and afterwards, with a company of her own, acted with especial success in Sardou’s Fédora (1883) her leading man being Robert B. Mantell, Cleopatra (1890), and similar plays. She took over emotional Sardou roles that had been originated in Europe by Sarah Bernhardt. Her last appearance was at the Grand Opera House in Chicago on March 25, 1898, shortly before her death.

Her first husband was Edwin B. Price, an actor. They married on July 30, 1879, and divorced on June 8, 1888. On May 18, 1889, she married her leading man, Melbourne MacDowell. Both marriages were childless. Davenport died September 26, 1898, from an enlarged heart, at her summer home in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown photographer. '[Two girls]' 1864

 

Unknown photographer
[Two girls]
1864
Albumen silver print (carte de visite)
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Unknown photographer. '[Two girls]' 1864 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
[Two girls] (detail)
1864
Albumen silver print (carte de visite)
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

A. M. Nikodem, Chicago, IL. '[Cat]' 1880s

 

A. M. Nikodem, Chicago, IL
[Cat]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

 

A.M. Nikodem

According to Origin, Growth, and Usefulness of the Chicago Board of Trade: Its Leading Members, and Representative Business Men in other Branches of Trade (1885): “Miss A.M. Nikodem, Photographic Artist. No. 701 West Madison Street. – One of the most popular and finely appointed photographic studios in Chicago is that conducted by Miss A.M. Nikodem, who succeeded Mr. M. T. Baldwin one year ago. This lady, who is regarded as one of the most skilful and accomplished photographic artists in the city, occupies an entire two-storied building completely equipped with all modern improvements and appliances and her elegantly furnished parlours are the resort of the élite of Chicago. Miss Nikodem is the only lady in the city who give personal attention to the taking of pictures, etc., and having had an extended practical and theoretical training she has attained a marked perfection in her art. In social circles Miss Nikodem occupies a prominent position both as a skilful artist and estimable lady, while in the business world she is held in high esteem as an enterprising and capable woman.”

Nikodem occupied the studio at this address from 1885-1891, and then moved to another location. 1895 is the last year in which she seems to be listed in Chicago city guides. Despite her prominence, photographs from her studio are exceptionally uncommon. Nikodem’s skill is fully on display in this portrait. The three or four other examples of her work we could find, all in library special collections, are all of women or girls, and they display a uniform artistic excellence and technical photographic skill.

 

W. A. White, Wilson, KS. 'My first baby friend Tompie and his pet' 1896

 

W. A. White, Wilson, KS
My first baby friend Tompie and his pet
1896
Collodion silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

W. A. White, Wilson, KS. 'My first baby friend Tompie and his pet' 1896 (detail)

 

W. A. White, Wilson, KS
My first baby friend Tompie and his pet (detail)
1896
Collodion silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

W. A. Wilcoxon, Bonaparte, IA. '[Baby]' 1890s

 

W. A. Wilcoxon, Bonaparte, IA
[Baby]
1890s
Collodion silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Unknown photographer. '[Painter]' 1890s

 

Unknown photographer
[Painter]
1890s
Albumen silver print
William L. Schaeffer Collection

 

Unknown photographer. '[Painter]' 1890s (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
[Painter] (detail)
1890s
Albumen silver print
William L. Schaeffer Collection

 

Charles L. Griffin, Scranton, PA. '[Toddler with dog]' c. 1892

 

Charles L. Griffin, Scranton, PA
[Toddler with dog]
c. 1892
Gelatin silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

F. J. Nelson, Anoka, MN. 'Domestic Bread' c. 1890s

 

F. J. Nelson, Anoka, MN
Domestic Bread
c. 1890s
Collodion silver print
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Gilbert G. Oyloe (American, 1851-1927) Ossian, IA. '[Woman]' 1880s

 

Gilbert G. Oyloe (American, 1851-1927) Ossian, IA
[Woman]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

Oyloe had a studio in Ossian during the 1880’s and 1890’s.

 

James F. Ryder, Cleveland, OH. 'Verso' 1880s

 

James F. Ryder, Cleveland, OH
Verso
1880s
Planographic print
Gift of Robert E. Jackson
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Charles Quartley, Baltimore, MD. '[Church woman]' 1880s

 

Charles Quartley, Baltimore, MD
[Church woman]
1880s
Albumen silver print
Robert E. Jackson

 

Caroline Bergman, Louisville, KY. 'Untitled [Bergman's Photograph Gallery]' c. 1890

 

Caroline Bergman, Louisville, KY
Untitled [Bergman’s Photograph Gallery]
c. 1890
Relief print
Gift of Robert E. Jackson
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

Louise and Caroline Bergman

Louis Bergman opened a Louisville photo studio in 1872 on W Market. After 1885, however, Caroline Bergman (his wife) is listed as the proprietor and photographer, and Louis is listed only as “manager”. This very successful studio was in operation until 1896.

Louis Bergman’s … studio was located at 56 & 58 Market Street, in Louisville, Kentucky. Perusal of Louisville business directories reveals that Bergman began business with a partner. Bergman & Flexner; the firm was listed in the 1868 and 1869 directories. He was reported to be the sole proprietor of a studio from 1872 until 1886. Bergman was listed at a number of different addresses over these years. Using these addresses, it appears that this particular photograph was taken between 1873 and 1881. From 1886 through 1894 the proprietor of the studio became Caroline Bergman. The Photographic Times and American Photographer (1883) reported that Bergman was Vice President of the Photographers Mutual Benefit Society of Louisville. Louis Bergman (c. 1838 -?) was born in Hanover, Germany to Prussian parents. His wife, Carrie (1845 -?) was born in Louisiana to German parents. The couple married  in about 1865. The Bergman’s had a daughter, Lillie, who was 12 years-old at the time of the 1880 census. The census listed Louis as a photographer and Carrie as a homemaker. It is interesting to note that when the couples daughter reached 18 years of age, Carrie became the studio’s proprietor / photographer.

Anonymous. “Man with a Great Beard in Louisville, Kentucky,” on The Cabinet Card Gallery website 03/01/2012 [Online] Cited 05/09/2020

 

R. O. Helsom, Menomonie, WI. 'Verso' 1880s

 

R. O. Helsom, Menomonie, WI
Verso
1880s
Relief print
Gift of Robert E. Jackson
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

'Cabinets' c. 1880s

 

Cabinets
c. 1880s
Celluloid-covered album
Robert E. Jackson Collection

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday:
 10am – 5pm
Thursday: 10am – 8pm
Sunday: 12am – 5pm
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30
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection’ at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 5th July – 13th September 2015

 

Elizabeth Conrad Hickox (Karuk) Somes Bar, California '"Fancy" lidded basket' c. 1917–26

 

Elizabeth Conrad Hickox (Karuk)
Somes Bar, California
“Fancy” lidded basket
c. 1917-26
Conifer root, maidenhair fern stems, porcupine quills, hazel shoots
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 445

 

 

Just one word: glorious.

And to think, these disparate cultures were nearly wiped out through genocide enacted upon them by the white race.

Marcus

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

 

 

Drawn from the celebrated American Indian art collection of Charles and Valerie Diker, Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection showcases approximately 120 masterworks, including fine examples of basketry, pottery, sculpture, ivories, kachina dolls, regalia, and pictographic arts from tribes across the North American continent. The exhibition provides rare access to many exquisite works from one of the most comprehensive and diverse collections of American Indian art in private hands.

Indigenous Beauty is organised by the American Federation of Arts. This exhibition was made possible by the generosity of an anonymous donor, the JFM Foundation, and Mrs. Donald Cox.

Text from the Amon Carter website

 

 

Louisa Keyser (also known as Datsolalee, Washoe) Carson City, Nevada 'Basket bowl' 1907

 

Louisa Keyser (also known as Datsolalee, Washoe)
Carson City, Nevada
Basket bowl
1907
Willow shoots, redbud shoots, bracken fern root
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 326

 

Nampeyo (Hopi-Tewa) Hano Village, Hopi, Arizona 'Water jar' c. 1900

 

Nampeyo (Hopi-Tewa)
Hano Village, Hopi, Arizona
Water jar
c. 1900
Clay, slip
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 824

 

Ancestral Pueblo, New Mexico. 'Water jar' c. 1150

 

Ancestral Pueblo
New Mexico
Water jar

c. 1150
Clay, slip
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 313

 

Old Bering Sea III culture. 'Harpoon counterweight (Winged object)' 5th-9th century

 

Old Bering Sea III culture
Bering Strait region, Alaska
Harpoon counterweight (Winged object)
5th-9th century
Walrus ivory
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 731

 

Niimiipu (Nez Perce). 'Man's shirt' c. 1850

 

Niimiipu (Nez Perce)
Oregon or Idaho
Man’s shirt
c. 1850
Hide, porcupine quills, horsehair, wool, glass beads, pigment
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 666

 

Julian Scott ledger Artist B (Ka’igwu [Kiowa]) Kiowa and Comanche Indian Reservation, Oklahoma. 'Twelve High-Ranking Kiowa Men' Nd

 

Julian Scott ledger Artist B (Ka’igwu [Kiowa])
Kiowa and Comanche Indian Reservation, Oklahoma
Twelve High-Ranking Kiowa Men
Nd
Pencil, colored pencil, and ink on paper
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 059 LD

 

 

This summer, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art presents the traveling exhibition Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection. Organised by the American Federation of Arts (AFA), the exhibition is drawn from the celebrated holdings of Charles and Valerie Diker and features approximately 120 masterworks representing tribes across the North American continent. The exhibition is on view at the Amon Carter from July 7 through September 13, 2015.

“This exhibition has been shaped by the Dikers’ passion for Native American art, and their collection is renowned as one of the largest and most comprehensive in private hands,” says AFA Director Pauline Willis. “We are delighted to bring these exquisite works to Fort Worth.”

Selections from the collection have been presented previously at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1998-2000) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (2003-2006), but Indigenous Beauty showcases recent acquisitions never before seen by the public. This is the first traveling exhibition curated from this remarkable collection.

“Charles and Valerie Diker are collectors and stewards of exceptional works of art from all corners of native North America, and audiences will be awed by the transformative spirit of creativity of the First Peoples whose ‘art schools’ were their families and communities,” says Barbara Brotherton, curator of Native American Art at the Seattle Art Museum. “This traveling exhibition and accompanying catalogue will invigorate new perspectives and rich discussion about the ways in which these objects affirm cultural values and express refined aesthetic sensibilities.”

Indigenous Beauty emphasises three interrelated themes – diversity, beauty and knowledge – that relate both to the works’ original contexts and to the ways in which they might be experienced by non-Native visitors in a contemporary museum setting. The exhibition is organised in 11 sections; while the objects within each section demonstrate common formal and functional qualities, the groupings are based primarily on geographic and cultural factors, allowing the viewer to perceive the impact of historical events as well as stylistic shifts over the course of decades or centuries. The range of work represented includes sculpture of the Northwest Coast; ancient ivories from the Bering Strait region; Yup’ik and Aleut masks from the Western Arctic; Kachina dolls of the Southwest pueblos; Southwest pottery; sculptural objects from the Eastern Woodlands; Eastern regalia; Plains regalia; pictographic arts of the Plains; and Western baskets.

Diversity is underlined as an essential aspect of indigenous American art, a corrective to the notion of a homogenous “American Indian” cultural and ethnic identity.

“Visitors to the exhibition are reminded that there is not just one North American Indian culture but hundreds of unique groups whose languages, mythologies and customs have evolved over the centuries,” says Andrew J. Walker, director of the Amon Carter. The comprehensive nature of the Dikers’ collection allows for this broad view of Native American art in all its complexity and historical specificity.”

A hallmark of the Diker Collection is the beauty and visual richness of the objects it comprises. The concept of formal beauty is the oldest and perhaps the strongest link between the material cultures of indigenous people and those of the Euro-American West. All known Native American languages include words that signify beauty or aesthetic quality, and many have more than one term to convey these concepts. For instance, in the language of Anishinaabe peoples which includes the Ottawa, Ojibwa or Algonquin, the word miikawaadiziwin refers to physical comeliness or handsomeness, while bishigendaagoziwin denotes beauty of a more spiritual and ethical nature. Such nuanced vocabularies influence the creation of objects within Native communities, each with its own criteria for technical excellence and aesthetic merit.

Cultural knowledge is inseparable from the practices of traditional art making in Native communities. From their elders, artists learn techniques for gathering and processing materials; production methods; a repertory of designs and patterns and the meanings they may contain; and often songs, prayers and rituals that are closely tied to art making. Over the last few decades, increased scholarship and closer collaborations between museums and Native communities have resulted in the recovery of knowledge about how objects were made, as well as their provenance and the ways they might have been used and understood in the contexts in which they originated.

Indigenous Beauty celebrates native North American artists whose visionary creativity and technical mastery have helped preserve cultural values across generations. The artists identified as members of many tribes and nations, each the product of complex and intertwined histories; and the captivating objects they created convey the extraordinary breadth and variety of Native American experience in North America. The exhibition shows both the deep historical roots of Native art and its dynamism, emphasising the living cultures and traditions of Native American groups through to the contemporary era.

Visitors to the Amon Carter can have a hands-on experience with many of the materials the artists used to create the objects in the exhibition. Tactile boards with several authentic materials (such as buffalo hide, abalone shells and seed beads) will be available for visitors to interact with while viewing the artworks.

Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection is organised by the American Federation of Arts. This exhibition was made possible by the generosity of an anonymous donor, the JFM Foundation and Mrs. Donald M. Cox. The guest curator, David Penney, is an internationally recognized scholar of American Indian art. A fully illustrated catalogue presenting new research on the objects in the exhibition will include an essay by Penney, and contributions offer insight into the visual and material diversity of the collection, providing a greater understanding of the social and cultural worlds from which these works came. The catalogue will retail for $55 in the Museum Store. After closing at the Amon Carter, the exhibition travels to the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University (October 8, 2015 – January 3, 2016) and Toledo Museum of Art (February 14 – May 11, 2016).

Press release from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

 

Muscogee (Creek) (?) 'Pipe bowl' c. 1780

 

Muscogee (Creek)(?)
Georgia or Alabama
Pipe bowl
c. 1780
Wood, brass (?), ferrous nails (?), tin
American Federation of Arts Diker no. 531

 

Anishinaabe, Ojibwa, Ontario. 'Shoulder bag (without strap)' c. 1820

 

Anishinaabe, Ojibwa
Ontario
Shoulder bag (without strap)
c. 1820
Hide, porcupine quills, tin cones, silk ribbon, dyed hair
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 586

 

Apsáalooke (Crow), Montana. 'Boy's shirt' c. 1870

 

Apsáalooke (Crow)
Montana
Boy’s shirt
c. 1870
Hide, glass beads, cotton fabric, wool cloth, sinew, cotton thread
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 665

 

Tsimshian, British Columbia. 'Maskette' 1780-1830

 

Tsimshian
British Columbia
Maskette
1780-1830
Wood, copper, opercula shell, pigment
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 681

 

Yup'ik, Hooper Bay, Alaska. 'Mask' 1916-18

 

Yup’ik
Hooper Bay, Alaska
Mask
1916-18
Wood, pigment, vegetal fiber
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 788

 

Ancestral Columbia River people, Washington State or Oregon. 'Figure (Pendant?)' 3rd–13th century

 

Ancestral Columbia River people
Washington State or Oregon
Figure (Pendant?)
3rd-13th century
Antler
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 529

 

Tlingit, Chilkat, Klukwan, Alaska. 'Tunic and leggings' late 19th century

 

Tlingit, Chilkat
Klukwan, Alaska
Tunic and leggings
late 19th century
Cedar bark, wool, metal cones
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 795

 

Zuni, New Mexico. 'Situlilu (Rattlesnake) Katsina' 1910–30

 

Zuni
New Mexico
Situlilu (Rattlesnake) Katsina
1910-30
Cottonwood, pine, gesso, pigment, dyed horsehair, cornhusk, cotton cord
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 835

 

Hopi, Arizona. 'Qötsa Nata’aska Katsina' 1910

 

Hopi
Arizona
Qötsa Nata’aska Katsina
1910
Cottonwood, cloth, hide, metal, pigment
Courtesy American Federation of Arts Diker no. 831

 

 

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

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

Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor 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.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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