Posts Tagged ‘beauty

22
Mar
17

Exhibition: ‘Edward Steichen: Twentieth-Century Photographer’ at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA

Exhibition dates: 7th October 2016 – 26th March 2017

 

Just for enjoyment.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Self-Portrait with Studio Camera' 1917; printed 1982

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Self-Portrait with Studio Camera
1917; printed 1982
Silver gelatin print
13 1/8 x 10 5/8 inches (image and paper)
Gift of Stephen L. Singer and Linda G. Singer

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Self-Portrait with Studio Camera' c. 1917

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Self-Portrait with Studio Camera
c. 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Self-Portrait with photographers paraphenalia' 1929

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Self-Portrait with photographers paraphenalia
1929
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of 'Edward Steichen: Twentieth-Century Photographer' at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

 

Installation view of Edward Steichen: Twentieth-Century Photographer at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Courtesy Photo/Clements Photography and Design, Boston
Creative Commons Wicked Local

 

 

DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is pleased to present the upcoming exhibition Edward Steichen: Twentieth-Century Photographer. Edward Steichen (1879-1973) is known for his role in expanding the breadth of twentieth-century photography through his memorable images and his work as a gallery director and museum curator. Steichen was a painter, horticulturalist, museum curator, graphic designer, publisher, and film director. He also served as a military photographer in both World Wars, and lived a life that embraced a century transformed by modernisation. On view in the James and Audrey Foster Galleries, the exhibition is drawn from deCordova’s permanent collection, and features important loans from private collectors and select institutions. The majority of photographs included in this show were made from Steichen’s original negatives and printed after his death in the 1980s by photographer George Tice. The exhibition also features a select number of vintage prints printed by Steichen in the 1910s and 1920s that reveal the lush interpretations he made with experimental printing techniques.

From his early Pictorialist images with their painterly quality, to his decades-long work as a commercial photographer for Condé Nast, Steichen explored the full range of the photographic medium. In his role as the Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, he often reproduced and integrated other photographers’ work into groundbreaking exhibitions that reflected his curatorial practice. The combined aspects of his career as a photographer and curator positioned Steichen to become a controversial yet prescient advocate for photography’s ability to record and amplify human observation, endeavour, and creativity.

The exhibition includes portraits of glamorous celebrities and socialites, still-life photographs of plants and flowers, dynamic cityscapes, and commercial advertisements. Also on view are Steichen’s portraits of fellow artists and writers that reveal his place among avant-garde cultural communities in New York and Europe. Edward Steichen also explores his work as the head of the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit in World War II, and traces his role at the Museum of Modern Art, NY where he curated over forty exhibitions. The aesthetic range of the images shows Steichen’s experimentation throughout his career with new techniques for lighting, composing, and printing photographs.

Edward Steichen continues deCordova’s longstanding commitment to the exhibition and collection of important photographic works. The exhibition opens to the public on October 7, 2016 and will be on view until March 26, 2017.

Press release from the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Auguste Rodin and the Monument to Victor Hugo' 1902

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Auguste Rodin and the Monument to Victor Hugo
1902
Gum bichromate print

 

 

When Edward Steichen arrived in Paris in 1900, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was regarded not only as the finest living sculptor but also perhaps as the greatest artist of his time. Steichen visited him in his studio in Meudon in 1901 and Rodin, upon seeing the young photographer’s work, agreed to sit for his portrait. Steichen spent a year studying the sculptor among his works, finally choosing to show Rodin in front of the newly carved white marble of the “Monument to Victor Hugo,” facing the bronze of “The Thinker.” In his autobiography, Steichen describes the studio as being so crowded with marble blocks and works in clay, plaster, and bronze that he could not fit them together with the sculptor into a single negative. He therefore made two exposures, one of Rodin and the “Monument to Victor Hugo,” and another of “The Thinker.” Steichen first printed each image separately and, having mastered the difficulties of combining the two negatives, joined them later into a single picture, printing the negative showing Rodin in reverse.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum website

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'J. Pierpont Morgan, Esq.' 1903

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
J. Pierpont Morgan, Esq.
1903
Gum bichromate over platinum print

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'The Flatiron' 1904

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
The Flatiron
1904
Gum bichromate over platinum print

 

 

While Steichen’s palette recalls Whistler’s Nocturne paintings and the foreground branch echoes those often found in the Japanese prints that were much in vogue in turn-of-the-century Paris, his subject is distinctly modern and American. The newly completed, twenty-two-story skyscraper soars so high above Madison Square in New York that it could not be contained within the photographer’s frame… Steichen’s three variant printings of The Flatiron, each in a different tonality, evoke successive moments of twilight and forcefully assert that photography can rival painting in scale, colour, individuality, and expressiveness.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum website

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Lotus, Mount Kisco, New York' 1915; printed 1982

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Lotus, Mount Kisco, New York
1915; printed 1982
Silver gelatin print
13 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches (image and paper)
Gift of Diane Singer in honour of the marriage of Diane Singer to Eric Pearlman

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) Alfred 'Stieglitz' 1915; printed 1982

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Alfred Stieglitz
1915; printed 1982
Silver gelatin print
9 5/8 x 7 3/4 inches (image and paper)
Gift of Stephen L. Singer and Linda G. Singer

 

 

The most recognisable of these images involve celebrity. Artists – Constantin Brancusi, Eugene O’Neill – and actors Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, Marlene Dietrich, the unforgettable Greta Garbo – all sat for Steichen, who strove for a discovery of the individual.

In black-and-white photography, composition, cast and shadow take prominence. Looming stage equipment behind a smiling Chaplin quietly recalls his movie roles. Garbo, clutching her “terrible hair,” wordlessly speaks volumes about her self- and public images. Carl Sandburg (Steichen’s brother-in-law) gazes poetically away from the camera. German author Gerhart Hauptmann stares directly into the camera under the starry firmament. The British dramaturge E. Gordon Craig poses foppishly in front of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.

Keith Powers. “DeCordova focuses on the varied career photographer Edward Steichen,” on The Metro West Daily News website

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Brancusi, Voulangis, France' c. 1922; printed 1987

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Brancusi, Voulangis, France
c. 1922; printed 1987
Silver gelatin print
13 x 10 1/2 inches (image and paper)
Gift of Stephen L. Singer and Linda G. Singer

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Carl Sandburg, Umpawaug, Connecticut' 1930

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Carl Sandburg, Umpawaug, Connecticut
1930
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Carl Sandburg (January 6, 1878 – July 22, 1967) was an American poet, writer, and editor who won three Pulitzer Prizes: two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln. During his lifetime, Sandburg was widely regarded as “a major figure in contemporary literature”, especially for volumes of his collected verse, including Chicago Poems (1916), Cornhuskers (1918), and Smoke and Steel (1920). He enjoyed “unrivalled appeal as a poet in his day, perhaps because the breadth of his experiences connected him with so many strands of American life”, and at his death in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson observed that “Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Greta Garbo' 1929

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Greta Garbo
1929
Silver gelatin print

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'E. Gordon Craig, Paris' 1920, printed in 1987

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
E. Gordon Craig, Paris
1920, printed in 1987
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Edward Henry Gordon Craig CH OBE (16 January 1872 – 29 July 1966), sometimes known as Gordon Craig, was an English modernist theatre practitioner; he worked as an actor, director and scenic designer, as well as developing an influential body of theoretical writings…

Craig’s idea of using neutral, mobile, non-representational screens as a staging device is probably his most famous scenographic concept. In 1910 Craig filed a patent which described in considerable technical detail a system of hinged and fixed flats that could be quickly arranged to cater for both internal and external scenes. He presented a set to William Butler Yeats for use at the Abbey Theatre in Ireland, who shared his symbolist aesthetic.

Craig’s second innovation was in stage lighting. Doing away with traditional footlights, Craig lit the stage from above, placing lights in the ceiling of the theatre. Colour and light also became central to Craig’s stage conceptualisations…

The third remarkable aspect of Craig’s experiments in theatrical form were his attempts to integrate design elements with his work with actors. His mise en scène sought to articulate the relationships in space between movement, sound, line, and colour. Craig promoted a theatre focused on the craft of the director – a theatre where action, words, colour and rhythm combine in dynamic dramatic form.

All of his life, Craig sought to capture “pure emotion” or “arrested development” in the plays on which he worked. Even during the years when he was not producing plays, Craig continued to make models, to conceive stage designs and to work on directorial plans that were never to reach performance. He believed that a director should approach a play with no preconceptions and he embraced this in his fading up from the minimum or blank canvas approach.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'The Blue Sky, Long Island, New York' 1923; printed 1987

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
The Blue Sky, Long Island, New York
1923; printed 1987
Silver gelatin print
9 1/2 x 7 1/4 inches (image and paper)
Gift of Stephen L. Singer and Linda G. Singer

 

 

DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
51 Sandy Pond Road in Lincoln, Massachusetts

Opening hours (Winter hours):
Wednesday – Friday, 10 am – 4 pm
Saturday – Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum website

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28
Jan
17

Review: ‘The sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver’ at TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Victoria

Exhibition dates: 19th November 2016 – 5th February 2017

Curator: Julie Ewington

 

 

Reading either side of the sign

Bronwyn Oliver and the invitation to imagine

 

John Berger once said, “The Renaissance artist imitated nature. The Mannerist and Classic artist reconstructed examples from nature in order to transcend nature. The Cubist realised that his awareness of nature was part of nature.”

And the postmodernist?

The postmodern artist regarded nature as a series of multiplicities that were impossibly complex to define, so were at once irrelevant but also beyond any new mythologizing. Nature was the green screen background used to mask (and transform) lives into any new series of narratives.

 

Thinking about the sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver in this magnificent retrospective of her work, I was struck by the classical beauty of form, attention to detail and delicacy of their construction. I noted their monochromatic palette and the self contained nature of all the works (with one word titles such as Wrap, Husk, Flare and Siren), as though they could not exist outside of themselves. And yet they do.

I thought long and hard about how Oliver’s biomorphic sculptures transcend time and space, how intractable metal becomes mutable object, metal into cosmos, nature. How they become a “form” (in energy terms) of transmitted, transmuted reality. And how you access that energy through their punctum, the shadows that they cast on the wall. And I had this feeling, of a lump in the throat, of a most visceral experience which made me have a tear in my eye for most of the time I was walking around the gallery.

For Oliver has created a new mythology through her imagination and in her nature through a series of multiplicities which is anything but irrelevant.

These objects from another time have an ancient feeling, slipping and slithering through the mud of evolution, nursing their young in enclosed spirals, or waiting for prey – open mouthed like pitcher plants – waiting for prey to drop into their interior. There is a darker side to these sculptures that is usually unacknowledged. Order and chaos, a formal, sculptural logic and poetic logic, always go hand in hand. In both dark light (ying yang), the complexity and simplicity of everything presented here vibrates and hums with energy. I imagine much like the artist herself.

When work is inspired like this, the sculptures seem to attain another temporal dimension. They take the viewer out of themselves and into another world. How does the artist make this happen?

Oliver makes this happen through reading either side of the sign. While there are obvious references to shell, heart, calligraphy, text, wrap, cloak, cell, flower, comet, spiral, sphere, ring and more in her work, she never didactically forces these signs on the viewer. She invites them to reimagine, to see the world and its land/marks in unfamiliar ways by shaping, twisting, and reinterpreting the sign. Individually and collectively, the nexus of the work (the series of connections linking two or more things) creates, “A presence, energy in my objects that a human being can respond to on the level of soul or spirit.”

This is the strength and beauty and energy of her work.

While the works look absolutely stunning in TarraWarra Museum of Art galleries, not everything is sunshine and light. Some of the shadows cast on the wall were unfocussed and lacked definition, inhibiting access to the appearance and disappearance of form and the multiplying physicality of the works. Stronger and more focused lighting was needed in these instances. Perhaps another curatorial opportunity was lost in not bringing together the numerous forms of sculpture such as Eddy 1993 and Swathe 1997 in one grouping within the gallery. On their own the forms became slightly repetitious; together, as Oliver notes of her circular works being in a series, “They each have the same format, but very different energies. Different lives.” I would have liked to have had the opportunity to compare and feel those different energies in a group, side by side. These are minor quibbles, however, as this is one of the most memorable exhibitions I have seen in years.

I cannot recommend this exhibition highly enough: not to be missed!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the TarraWarra Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image. All images unless stated underneath © Dr Marcus Bunyan and TarraWarra Museum of Art.

 

 

“I am trying to create life. Not in the sense of beings, or animals, or plants, or machines, but ‘life’ in the sense of a kind of force. A presence, energy in my objects that a human being can respond to on the level of soul or spirit.”

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Bronwyn Oliver, 1991

 

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Mantle' 1985

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Mantle
1985
Paper, fibreglass, dye
45.7 × 101.6 × 45.7 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Siren' 1986

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Siren
1986
Paper, fibreglass, dye
71 × 91.5 × 76.2 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Home of a Curling Bird' 1988

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Home of a Curling Bird
1988
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: Andrew Curtis

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Apostrophe' 1987

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Apostrophe
1987
Copper and lead
100 × 100 × 60cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: Andrew Curtis

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Curlicue' (detail) 1991

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Curlicue (detail)
1991
Copper wire
250 × 45 × 15cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Definition: A decorative curl or twist in calligraphy or in the design of an object.

 

Sonia Payes. 'Bronwyn Oliver' 2006

 

Sonia Payes
Bronwyn Oliver
2006
C-type photograph, edition of 10
127 x 127 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Ring II' 1994

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Ring II
1994
Copper
Private collection
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“I am quite please about the circular works being in a series. I have not worked through an idea like this before. I think they will look quite strong together. They each have the same format, but very different energies. Different lives.” ~ Bronwyn Oliver, 1994

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Wrap' 1997

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Wrap
1997
Copper
45 × 35 × 12cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Husk' 1994

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Husk
1994
Copper
Collection of Vivienne Sharpe
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Flare' 1997

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Flare
1997
Copper
50 × 50 × 14 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Iris' 1989

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Iris
1989
Copper
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Iris' 1989 (detail)

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Iris (detail)
1989
Copper
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Hatchery' 1991

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Hatchery
1991
Copper, lead and wood
50 × 70 × 60 cm
Artbank collection, purchased 1991
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Hatchery' 1991

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Hatchery
1991
Copper, lead and wood
50 × 70 × 60 cm
Artbank collection, purchased 1991
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Hatchery' (1991) with 'Heart' (1988) beyond

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Hatchery (1991) with Heart (1988) beyond
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

installation view, 'The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver', TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2016

 

Installation view (main gallery space), The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver, TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2016
L to R: Slip 1998, Anthozoa 2006, Unity 2001, Blossom 2004-05, Tress 1992
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: Andrew Curtis

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Slip' 1998

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Slip
1998
Copper
Private collection
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Clef' 1993

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Clef
1993
Copper
110 × 45 × 40 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“The ideas relate to the effect of the shadow as a drawing, and the appearance and disappearance of form.” ~ Bronwyn Oliver, 2006

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Clef' (detail) 1993

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Clef (detail)
1993
Copper
110 × 45 × 40 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Anthozoa' (detail) 2006

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Anthozoa (detail)
2006
Private collection
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) was one of the most significant Australian sculptors of recent decades. This first comprehensive survey of 50 key works, from the mid-1980s to the final solo exhibition in 2006, includes early works made in paper, major sculptures from public collections, and maquettes for many of her much-loved public sculptures.

Emerging in the early 1980s when many artists were turning to installation, video and other ephemeral art forms, Oliver resolutely pursued making complex and substantial works in a variety of materials, eventually exclusively in metal. Studying in the UK and working in Europe, Oliver came to artistic maturity at the time of an international resurgence of sculpture; having attained a Masters degree at Chelsea School of Art in 1982-83, she witnessed the nascent years of the ‘New British Sculpture’.

This exhibition reveals Bronwyn Oliver’s lyrical sensibility and inventiveness. She developed an original, distinctive and enduring vocabulary that expressed her fascination with the inner life and language of form, and she tenaciously followed the beguiling demands of her chosen materials.

‘My work is about structure and order. It is a pursuit of a kind of logic: a formal, sculptural logic and poetic logic. It is a conceptual and physical process of building and taking away at the same time. I set out to strip the ideas and associations down to (physically and metaphorically) just the bones, exposing the life still held inside.’1

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Oliver brought poetic brevity and decision to her sculpture. Many works suggest aspects of the natural world and its metaphorical potential, and a number of the public works are located in gardens. Yet works such as Home of a Curling Bird and Eddy evoke associations with shelter or natural movement or, as with Curlicue,conjure human mark-making with studied panache. Oliver’s work encompasses what appear to be archetypal forms, like shells, spirals, circles, and spheres; their delicate shapes trace shadows that become spectral drawings on the gallery wall, multiplying the physicality of the works.

Between 1986 and her death in 2006, Oliver presented 18 solo exhibitions and from 1983 participated in numerous group exhibitions in Australia and in Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Korea and China. At the same time, she undertook many commissions where she worked closely with clients and stakeholders, and for 19 years taught art to primary school students at Sydney’s Cranbrook School. Prodigiously hardworking, Oliver devised exquisite sculptures for the public domain, in locations as various as the Royal Botanic Gardens, Hilton Hotel and Quay Restaurant in inner-city Sydney, and at the University of New South Wales, as well as in Brisbane, Adelaide and Orange in regional NSW. Her work is held in most major Australian public collections, and in numerous collections in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Europe and the USA.

As writer Hannah Fink memorably observed in 2006, ‘Bronwyn Oliver had that rarest of all skills: she knew how to create beauty.’ This exhibition is a tribute to that power.

Text from the TarraWarra Museum of Art website

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1. Bronwyn Oliver quoted in Hannah Fink, ‘Strange things: on Bronwyn Oliver’, in Burnt Ground, (ed. Ivor Indyk), Heat 4. New series, Newcastle: Giramondo Publishing Co, 2002, pp. 177-187.

 

installation view, 'The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver', TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2016

 

Installation view (main gallery space), The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver, TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2016
L to R: Eddy 1993, Shield 1995, Wand 1991, Blossom 2004-05, Lily 1995
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: Andrew Curtis

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Eddy' (detail) 1993

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Eddy (detail)
1993
Copper
Art Gallery of South Australia
Gift of the Moët and Chandon Australian Art Foundation Fellow Collection 2000
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“‘…the act of fabrication’ [is essential] … A couple of pairs of pliers, a wire-cutter, hand-drill, rivet gun and a Stanley knife is my usual kit. That’s what I’ll be taking to France. I’m compulsive. I’ll start work within 24 hours.” ~ Bronwyn Oliver, 1994

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Swathe' 1997

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Swathe
1997
Copper
180 × 300 × 300 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Swathe' (detail) 1997

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Swathe (detail)
1997
Copper
180 × 300 × 300 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Swathe' (detail) 1997

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Swathe (detail)
1997
Copper
180 × 300 × 300 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Sonia Payes. 'Bronwyn Oliver' 2006

 

Sonia Payes
Bronwyn Oliver
2006
Courtesy of the artist

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Shield' 1995

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Shield
1995
Copper
McClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park collection
Purchased with funds from the Elisabeth Murdoch Sculpture Foundation, 1995
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“All in this series have a ‘ruched’ copper surface in common, and the idea of a swelling/breathing form beneath the surface. (Idea began with a (dreadful) sculpture seen in the Musée d’Orsay in 1990-91. Sculpture of a gladiator, in bronze, wearing ‘ruched’ leggings, with musculature taut beneath the surface of the cloth). Final work completed in Hautvillers studio.” ~ Bronwyn Oliver, 2006

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Lily' (detail) 1995

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Lily (detail)
1995
Copper
Newcastle Art Gallery collection
Gift of Ann Lewis AO 2011
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

installation view, 'The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver', TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2016

 

Installation view (farther gallery space), The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver, TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2016
L to R: Striation 2004, Grandiflora (Bud) 2005, Rose 2006, Grandiflora (Bloom) 2005
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: Andrew Curtis

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Rose' 2006

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Rose
2006
Copper
Collection © Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Rose' (detail) 2006

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Rose (detail)
2006
Copper
Collection © Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Umbra' 2003

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Umbra
2003
Copper
Private collection
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Umbra' (detail) 2003

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Umbra (detail)
2003
Copper
Private collection
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Umbra' (detail) 2003

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Umbra (detail)
2003
Copper
Private collection
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Lock' 2002

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Lock
2002
Copper
125 x 125 x 14 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Lock' (detail) 2002

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Lock (detail)
2002
Copper
125 x 125 x 14 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

bronwyn-oliver-sakura-2006-web

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Sakura
2006
Copper
48 × 48 × 20 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Ammonite' 2005

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Ammonite
2005
Copper
95 × 90 × 90 cm
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

“Oliver developed an original, distinctive and enduring vocabulary that expressed her fascination with the inner life and language of form and the strict but beguiling demands of her chosen materials.

Above all, she brought an almost poetic brevity and decision to her sculpture. Many works suggest aspects of the natural world and its metaphorical potential, and some of the most successful public works are located in gardens. Yet Oliver always tenaciously followed the logic of her material, making works such as Eyrie or Eddy that evoke associations with shelter or natural movement or, as with Curlicue, conjure human mark-making with deliberate panache.

TarraWarra Director, Victoria Lynn, described the exhibition as a testament to the short but poignant contribution made by Oliver to Australian sculpture – a vision that remains exceptional in the history of Australian contemporary art.

“Oliver’s unique and labour-intensive approach involved joining threads of copper wire to create what appear to be woven forms that allow light to pass through their surface and cast shadows on the walls and floors. Her works resonate with the force of archetypes, and their green and brown patinas suggest an enduring presence that remains as relevant now as when they were first created. Some appear to be rescued from an archaeological past, while others resemble the quintessential forms found in nature: spirals, spheres, rings and loops,” Ms Lynn said.

Oliver was renowned for sensitive and inventive sculptures placed in the public domain, and she worked closely with clients, stakeholders and architects in their installation. This exhibition will include maquettes of some of Oliver’s much-loved public works, accompanied by working documents and images. Exhibition curator Julie Ewington said the exhibition, located within the museum building in TarraWarra’s magnificent grounds, will be the perfect setting for appreciating Oliver’s work.

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)

Bronwyn Oliver was one of the outstanding Australian artists of her generation, and perhaps its leading sculptor. Originally working in cane and paper, by 1988 Oliver began working in metal, especially copper, and in the next two decades achieved a distinctive and enduring body of work. As writer Hannah Fink memorably observed in 2006, ‘Bronwyn Oliver had that rarest of all skills: she knew how to create beauty’.

Raised near Inverell in country New South Wales, in 1959, Bronwyn Oliver first studied sculpture in Sydney at Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education from 1977-80. She said of her arrival at the College sculpture department, ‘I knew straight away I was in the right place’. After gaining the NSW Travelling Art Scholarship, Oliver completed a Masters’ degree in London at the Chelsea School of Arts in 1982-3. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, in 1988 Oliver was artist-in-residence in the French coastal city of Brest, where she studied Celtic metalworking; in 1994 she won the prestigious Moët & Chandon Award, which allowed her to spend a year living and working in France.

Oliver emerged in the 1980s at the same time as an international resurgence of contemporary sculpture. In response to the Conceptual and Minimal art of the prior decade, artists returned to the fabrication of sculptural form. Having attained a Masters of Sculpture at Chelsea School of Art in 1982-83, Oliver was witness to the nascent years of this celebration of form in British art, where it was known as ‘New British Sculpture’.

Between 1986, with her first solo show at Sydney’s Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, and her death in 2006, Oliver presented 19 solo exhibitions, including a number at Christine Abrahams Gallery, Melbourne; in 2005-6, McClelland Gallery, at Langwarrin in Victoria, presented a selected survey of her work; and from 1983 onwards Oliver participated in numerous group exhibitions in Australia and internationally, including in Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Korea and China (her final solo exhibition was posthumous). At the same time, she undertook many commissions where she worked closely with clients and stakeholders, and for 19 years taught art to primary school students at Sydney’s Cranbrook School.

Prodigiously hardworking, Oliver was renowned for devising exquisite sculptures for the public domain, installed in locations as various as the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Hilton Hotel and Quay Restaurant in inner-city Sydney, and on the Kensington campus of the University of New South Wales. Other noted public works are in the Queen Street Mall, Brisbane, Hyatt Hotel, Adelaide and Orange Regional Gallery in regional NSW. Her work is also held in most major Australian public collections, and in numerous important public and private collections in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Europe and the USA.

The Estate of Bronwyn Oliver is represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.”

Press release from the TarraWarra Museum of Art

 

installation view, 'The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver', TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2016

 

Installation view (side gallery space), The Sculpture of Bronwyn Oliver, TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2016
Spiral IV 1993 and in case Women’s suffrage maquette 2002
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Spiral IV' (detail) 2003

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Spiral IV (detail)
2003
Copper
Private collection
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Spiral IV' (detail) 2003

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Spiral IV (detail)
2003
Copper
Private collection
© Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Women's Suffrage maquette' (detail) 2002

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Women’s Suffrage maquette (detail)
2002
Copper, nickel
Collection © Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006) 'Women's Suffrage maquette' (detail) 2002

 

Bronwyn Oliver (1959-2006)
Women’s Suffrage maquette (detail)
2002
Copper, nickel
Collection © Estate of Bronwyn Oliver. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © TarraWarra Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

TarraWarra Museum of Art
311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road,
Healesville, Victoria, Australia
Melway reference: 277 B2
Tel: +61 (0)3 5957 3100

Opening hours:
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 11am to 5pm
Open all public holidays except Christmas day

Summer Season – open 7 days
Open 7 days per week from Boxing Day to the Australia Day public holiday

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14
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Masculine / Masculine: The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the present day’ at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2013 – 2nd January 2014

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The von Gloeden is stunning and some of the paintings are glorious: the muscularity / blood red colour in Falguière by Lutteurs d’Alexandre (1875, below); the beauty of Ángel Zárraga’s Votive Offering (Saint Sebastian) (1912, below); the sheer nakedness and earthiness of the Freud; and the colour, form and (homo)eroticism of The Bath by Paul Cadmus (1951, below), with their pert buttocks and hands washing suggestively.

But there is nothing too outrageous here. Heaven forbid!

After all, this is the male nude as curatorial commodity.

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Many thankx to the Musée d’Orsay for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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“The high brow peep show is divided thematically into depictions of religion, mythology, athleticism, homosexuality, and shifting notions of manliness. Wandering the Musee’s grand halls you will see rippling Greco-Roman Apollonian gods, Egon Schiele’s finely rendered, debauched self portraits and David LaChapelle’s 90s macho-kitsch celebs. Edward Munch’s hazy, pastel bathers mingle with Lucian Freud’s grossly erotic fleshy animals and reverent depictions of Christ and Saint Sebastian, showing the many ways to interpret a body sans outerwear.”

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Priscilla Frank. “‘Masculine/Masculine’ Explores Male Nude Throughout Art History And We Couldn’t Be Happier (NSFW),” on the Huffpost Arts and Culture website, 26/09/2013

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Jean Delville (1867-1953) 'École de Platon' (School of Plato) 1898

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Jean Delville (1867-1953)
École de Platon (School of Plato)
1898
Oil on canvas
H. 260; W. 605 cm
© RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

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In the late 19th century, Belgium was one of the great centres of European symbolism. Jean Delville’s paintings and writings expressed the most esoteric side of the movement. In the mid-1880s, Delville’s discovery of the symbolist milieu in Paris and the friendships he made there led him to break with the naturalism inherited from his academic training. Thus his friendship with the Sâr Péladan and his regular attendance at the Salon of the Rose+Croix, testified to his belief in an intellectual art which focused on evocation more than description.

School of Plato, a decoration intended for the Sorbonne but never installed there, is a striking work in many respects. Its monumental size and its ambitious message – an interpretation of classical philosophy seen through the prism of the symbolist ideal – set it apart. The manifesto makes no secret of its references, from Raphael to Puvis de Chavannes, but envelops them in the strange charm of a deliberately unreal colour range. The ambiguity emanating from this fin de siècle Mannerism knowingly blurs the borderline between purity and sensuality.

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Jules Elie Delaunay. 'Ixion Thrown Into the Flames' 1876

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Jules Elie Delaunay
Ixion Thrown Into the Flames
1876
© RMN-Grand Palais / Gérard Blot

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Camille Félix Bellanger. 'Abel' 1874-75

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Camille Félix Bellanger
Abel
1874-75
© Musée d’Orsay

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Eadweard Muybridge. 'Animal Locomotion' 1887

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Eadweard Muybridge
Animal Locomotion
1887
© Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN / Alexis Brandt

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Kehinde Wiley. 'Death of Abel Study' 2008

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Kehinde Wiley
Death of Abel Study
2008
© Kehinde Wiley, Courtesy Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA & Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris

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Paul Cézanne. 'Baigneurs' (Bathers) 1890

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Paul Cézanne
Baigneurs (Bathers)
1890
© RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

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“While it has been quite natural for the female nude to be regularly exhibited, the male nude has not been accorded the same treatment. It is highly significant that until the show at the Leopold Museum in Vienna in the autumn of 2012, no exhibition had opted to take a fresh approach, over a long historical perspective, to the representation of the male nude. However, male nudity was for a long time, from the 17th to 19th centuries, the basis of traditional Academic art training and a key element in Western creative art. Therefore when presenting the exhibition Masculine / Masculine, the Musée d’Orsay, drawing on the wealth of its own collections (with several hitherto unknown sculptures) and on other French public collections, aims to take an interpretive, playful, sociological and philosophical approach to exploring all aspects and meanings of the male nude in art. Given that the 19th century took its inspiration from 18th century classical art, and that this influence still resonates today, the Musée d’Orsay is extending its traditional historical range in order to draw a continuous arc of creation through two centuries down to the present day. The exhibition will include the whole range of techniques: painting, sculpture, graphic arts and, of course, photography, which will have an equal place in the exhibition.

To convey the specifically masculine nature of the body, the exhibition, in preference to a dull chronological presentation, takes the visitor on a journey through a succession of thematic focuses, including the aesthetic canons inherited from Antiquity, their reinterpretation in the Neo-Classical, Symbolist and contemporary eras where the hero is increasingly glorified, the Realist fascination for truthful representation of the body, nudity as the body’s natural state, the suffering of the body and the expression of pain, and finally its eroticisation. The aim is to establish a genuine dialogue between different eras in order to reveal how certain artists have been prompted to reinterpret earlier works. In the mid 18th century, Winckelmann examined the legacy of the divine proporzioni of the body inherited from Antiquity, which, in spite of radical challenges, still apply today having mysteriously come down through the history of art as the accepted definition of beauty. From Jacques-Louis David to George Platt-Lynes, LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles, and including Gustave Moreau, a whole series of connections is revealed, based around issues of power, censorship, modesty, the boundaries of public expectation and changes in social mores.

Winckelmann’s glorification of Greek beauty reveals an implicit carnal desire, relating to men as well as women, which certainly comes down through two centuries from the “Barbus” group and from David’s studio, to David Hockney and the film director James Bidgood. This sensibility also permeates the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries as it questions its own identity, as we see in the extraordinary painting École de Platon [School of Plato], inexplicably purchased by the French state in 1912 from the Belgian artist Delville. Similarly, the exhibition will reveal other visual and intellectual relationships through the works of artists as renowned as Georges de La Tour, Pierre Puget, Abilgaard, Paul Flandrin, Bouguereau, Hodler, Schiele, Munch, Picasso, Bacon, Mapplethorpe, Freud and Mueck, while lining up some surprises like the Mexican Angel Zarraga’s Saint Sébastien (Saint Sebastian), De Chirico’s Les Bains mystérieux (Mysterious Baths) and the erotica of Americans Charles Demuth and Paul Cadmus.

This autumn therefore, the Musée d’Orsay will invite the visitor to an exhibition that challenges the continuity of a theme that has always interested artists, through unexpected yet productive confrontations between the various revivals of the nude man in art.”

Press release from the Musée d’Orsay website

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Jacques Louis David (1748-1825) 'Academy Drawing of a Man, said to be Patroclu' 1778

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Jacques Louis David (1748-1825)
Academy Drawing of a Man, said to be Patroclu
1778
Oil on canvas
H. 122; W. 170 cm
Cherbourg, musée Thomas-Henry
© Cherbourg, musée Thomas-Henry

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Masculine / Masculine

Why had there never been an exhibition dedicated to the male nude until Nackte Männer at the Leopold Museum in Vienna last year? In order to answer this question, the exhibition sets out to compare works of different eras and techniques, around great themes that have shaped the image of the male body for over two centuries.

We must distinguish above all between nudity and the nude: a body simply without clothes, that causes embarrassment with its lack of modesty, is different from the radiant vision of a body restructured and idealised by the artist. Although this distinction can be qualified, it highlights the positive, uninhibited approach to the nude in western art since the Classical Period.

Today, the nude essentially brings to mind a female body, the legacy of a 19th century that established it as an absolute and as the accepted object of male desire. Prior to this, however, the female body was regarded less favourably than its more structured, more muscular male counterpart. Since the Renaissance, the male nude had been accorded more importance: the man as a universal being became a synonym for Mankind, and his body was established as the ideal human form, as was already the case in Greco-Roman art. Examples of this interpretation abound in the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage: Adam existed before Eve, who was no more than his copy and the origin of sin. Most artists being male, they found an “ideal me” in the male nude, a magnified, narcissistic reflection of themselves. And yet, until the middle of the 20th century, the sexual organ was the source of a certain embarrassment, whether shrunken or well hidden beneath strategically placed drapery, thong or scabbard.

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Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais (1756-1813) 'Le Berger Pâris' (The Shepherd, Paris) 1787

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Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais (1756-1813)
Le Berger Pâris (The Shepherd, Paris)
1787
Oil on canvas
H. 177 ; L. 118 cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa
© Photo: MBAC

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The Classic Ideal

From the 17th century, training of the highest standard was organised for the most privileged artists. In sculpture and in history painting, the ultimate aim of this teaching was to master the representation of the male nude: this was central to the creative process, as the preparatory studies had to capture the articulation of the body as closely as possible, whether clothed or not, in the finished composition.

In France, pupils studied at the Académie Royale then at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, working from drawings, engravings, sculptures “in the round” and life models. Right up until the late 20th century, these models were exclusively male, for reasons of social morality, but also because the man was considered to have the archetypal human form. In order to be noble and worthy of artistic representation, and to appeal to all, this could not be the body of an ordinary man: the distinctive features of the model had to be tempered in order to elevate the subject.

Above all, the artists of Antiquity and of the Renaissance were considered to have established an ideal synthesis of the human body without being distracted by individual characteristics. For Winckelmann, the German 18th century aesthete, the ideal beauty of Greek statues could only be embodied by the male nude. But although it inspired numerous artists, the “noble simplicity and quiet grandeur” of Winckelmann’s gods was undermined by other interpretations of Classical art: the torment of Laocoon, a work from late Antiquity, can be seen in the work of the Danish painter Abildgaard, while David advocated a much more Roman masculinity. Even when challenged, reinterpreted and renewed by the 20th century avant-garde, the Classical male nude and its rich legacy remains an object of fascination right up to the inter-war years and up to the present day.

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George Hoyningen-Huene (1900-1968) 'Horst P. Horst, Photographie' 1932

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George Hoyningen-Huene (1900-1968)
Horst P. Horst, Photographie
1932
Tirage argentique
H. 19 ; L. 22,7 cm
Hambourg, FC Gundlach
© Droits réservés

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The Heroic Nude

The concept and the word “hero” itself come from ancient Greece: whether a demigod or simply a mortal transcending his human condition to become an exemplum virtutis, he embodies an ideal. The admiration for Classical art and culture explains the ubiquity of the hero in Academic painting, particularly in subjects given to candidates of the Prix de Rome: great history painting thrived on the exploits of supermen in the most perfect bodies.

This connection between anatomy and heroic virtue, conveying noble and universal values, goes back to the Neo-Platonic concept linking beauty and goodness. The hero’s nudity has been so self-evident that the “heroic nude” has become the subject of a recurrent debate about the representation of great men, past or present, no matter how incongruous the result may appear.

Heroism is not a state, rather a means by which the strength of character of an exceptional being man is revealed: although Hercules’ strength is inseparable from his exploits, it was David’s cunning that overcame the powerful Goliath. In both cases they are endowed with a warrior’s strength, which was particularly valued by a 19th century thirsting for virility and patriotic assertion: more than ever, this was the ideal to be attained. We had to wait for the 20th century crisis of masculinity before we could see the renewal of the status of the increasingly contemporary hero, and the diversification of his physical characteristics. However, whether a star or a designer like Yves Saint-Laurent, or even the young men on the streets of Harlem painted by the American Kehinde Wiley, the evocative power of nudity remains.

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Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953) 'Vive la France' 2006

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Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953)
Vive la France
2006
(models: Serge, Moussa and Robert)
Painted photograph, unique piece
H. 125; W. 101 cm
© Pierre et Gilles

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The Gods of the Stadium

The 20th century witnessed the start of a new way of looking at the human body where the focus was on medical aspects and hygiene, and this had a considerable impact on the concept of the artistic nude. Numerous physical education movements and gymnasia appeared. People were captivated by the figure of the “sportsman” and, as in the work of the painter Eugene Jansson, came to admire and covet the virile power of his body in action. This concept is realised in culturalism, the narcissistic admiration of a body that has become an object to be fashioned like an artwork in its own right. Modern man with his athletic morphology has become a new potential ideal: he embodies a beauty that invites comparison with Greco-Roman art.

Linked with the affirmation of national identity, the athlete has come to personify the brute force of the nation and an ability to defend the country in times of war. During the 1930s in the United States, the image of the athlete evolved in a distinctive way, highlighting the ordinary man as a mixture of physical strength and bravery. Totalitarian regimes, however, perverted the cult of the athlete in order to promote their own ideology: Germany linked it in a demiurgic way with the made-up concept of the “Aryan” race, while Mussolini’s government erected marble idols on the Stadio dei Marmi.

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Jean-Bernard Duseigneur (1808-1866) 'Orlando Furioso' 1867

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Jean-Bernard Duseigneur (1808-1866)
Orlando Furioso
1867
Cast in bronze
H. 130; W. 146; D. 90 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
© Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier

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It’s tough being a Hero

As he moves outside the established order, the mythological hero risks the anger of the gods and the jealousy of men. Although his passions, his moral shortcomings and occasionally his frailties stem from his human condition, he is happy to possess the perfect form of the gods: thus the artist and the spectator find expression of a perfect self. The great dramatic destinies thus give character to the compositions, and enable them to interpret a whole range of emotions from determination to despair, from hostility to eternal rest.

Although it is a platitude to say that feelings are expressed most accurately in the face – from the theorised and institutional drawings of Charles Le Brun to the “tête d’expression” competition at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts – one must not underestimate the key role of the body and the anatomy as vehicles for expressing emotion: certain formal choices even led to generally accepted conventions.

Mythology and the Homeric epic abound with stories of the ill-fated destinies and destructive passions of heroes, whose nudity is justified by its origins in ancient Greece: Joseph-Désiré Court displays the broken body of the ill-fated Hippolytus, a premonition of the transposition in the ancient world of Mort pour la patrie [Dying for The Fatherland] of Lecomte du Nouÿ.

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Nude Veritas

The Realist aesthetic, which came to the fore in western art during the 19th century, had a dramatic effect on the representation of male nudity. The human body, represented as nature intended, was no longer seen from the decorous distance that characterised the idealised image of the nude, a goal to be achieved through Academic drawing exercises. In this context, where revealing the body was an affront to modesty – in the male-dominated society of the 19th century, the unclothed male appeared even more obscene and shocking than the unclothed female – the male nude gradually became less common as female figures proliferated.

This reversal did not mean, however, that naked men disappeared altogether: scientific study of the male nude, aided by new techniques such as the decomposition of movement through a series of photographs taken in rapid succession – chronophotography – brought advances in the study of anatomy and transformed the teaching of art students. From then on, it was less a case, for the most avant-garde artists, of striving to reproduce a canon of beauty inherited from the past, than of representing a body that retained the harmony of the model’s true characteristics.

The evocative power of the nude inspired artists like the Austrian Schiele to produce nude self portraits that revealed the existential torments of the artist. Invested at times with a Christ-like dimension, these depictions, moving beyond realism into introspection, continued to be produced right up to the 21st century, especially in photography.

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William Bouguereau (1825-1905) 'Equality before Death' 1848

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William Bouguereau (1825-1905)
Equality before Death
1848
Oil on Canvas
H. 141; W. 269 cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

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Without compromise

The fascination for reality established in artistic circles in the mid 19th century prompted a thorough renewal of religious painting. Although resorting to the classical idealisation of the body seemed to be consistent with religious dogma, artists like Bonnat breathed fresh life into the genre by depicting the harsh truth of the physical condition of biblical figures.

This principle was already at work in Egalité devant la mort [Equality before Death], by Bouguereau, who, in his early work, in the final days of Romanticism, exploited the power of the image of an ordinary corpse. Rodin, far from enhancing the appearance of the novelist that he was invited to celebrate, sought to render Balzac’s corpulent physique with implacable accuracy, without diminishing his grandeur in any way.

The question is thus raised of art’s relationship to reality, a question Ron Mueck tackles in his work. And the strange effect brought about by a change of scale gives an intensity to the dead body of his father that echoes the dead figure in Bouguereau’s painting.

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Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) 'Fisherman with a Net' 1868

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Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870)
Fisherman with a Net
1868
Oil on canvas
H. 134; W. 83 cm
Zurich, Rau Foundation for the Third World
© Lylho / Leemage

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Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864) 'Nude Youth Sitting by the Sea, Study' 1836

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Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864)
Nude Youth Sitting by the Sea, Study
1836
Oil on canvas
H. 98; W. 124 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
© Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Angèle Dequier

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Gloeden,_Wilhem_von_(1856-1931)-Cain-WEB

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Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856-1931)
Cain, Taormine, Sicile
1911
© Westlicht, Musée de la Photographie, Vienna

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In Nature

Including the naked body in a landscape was not a new challenge for 19th century artists. In many aspects, this was recurrent in large-scale history painting, and a demanding artistic exercise by which a painter’s technical mastery was judged. It was about making the relationship between the naked body and its setting as accurate as possible in terms of proportion, depth and light. Although Bazille’s Pêcheur à l’épervier [Fisherman with a Net] is one of the most successful attempts – in a contemporary context – at depicting a naked man in an atmospheric light that the Impressionists later took for their own, he nevertheless observed the principles of academic construction.

Masculine nudity in nature took another meaning as society was transformed through technical advances and urbanisation. Man was now seeking a communion with nature, that could reconcile him with the excesses and the sense of dislocation created by the modern world, while still conforming to the theories of good health advocating physical exercise and fresh air.

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In pain

In allowing themselves to deviate from the classical norms, artists opened up new possibilities for a more expressive representation of a body in the throes of torment or pain. The decline of the Academic nude and of classical restraint explains this predilection for ordeals: Ixion’s for example, condemned by Zeus to be bound to an eternally spinning wheel of fire.

The writhing body can also express torment of a more psychological nature. The pain experienced by the male body naturally relates to the issues of power between men and women in contemporary society: the naked body can be demeaning and, in certain circumstances, likely to call into question virility and male domination. In this respect, Louise Bourgeois’ choice of a male figure for her Arch of Hysteria was not a random one.

The martyr can, nevertheless, inspire compositions other than the tortured body: the death of Abel, killed by his brother Cain in the Book of Genesis, seems, on the contrary, to have inspired the pose of a totally relaxed body at the point of death. This abandon, however, conveyed a certain ambivalence that artists were determined to exploit: the body, often magnified and in state of morbid ecstasy, was in fact there for the spectator to relish. In these cases, suffering was merely a device to justify fetishising the body once again. In contrast with this seductive treatment, photographers engaged in experiments to divide the body into individual parts, in an aesthetic or even playful approach.

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François-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837) 'The Dying Saint Sebastian' 1789

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François-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837)
The Dying Saint Sebastian
1789
Oil on canvas
H. 196; W. 147 cm
Montpellier, Musée Fabre de Montpellier Agglomération
© Musée Fabre de Montpellier Agglomération – cliché Frédéric Jaulmes

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Ángel_Zárraga-Votive_Offering_(Saint_Sebastian)-1912-WEB

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Ángel Zárraga
Votive Offering (Saint Sebastian)
1912
Oil on canvas
© Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico

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The Glorious body

Judeo-Christian culture has undeniably influenced the representation of the naked man since the beginning of modern art. However, the Catholic concept of the body has been at variance with nudity since Paleochristian times: the body is merely the corporeal envelope from which the soul is freed on death. Influenced by theologians advocating the union of the sensory and the spiritual, nudity gradually became accepted for important figures such as Christ and Saint Sebastian. Their martyred bodies, transcended by suffering endured through faith, paradoxically allowed the human soul to come close to God.

For the Catholic church, the vulnerability of Christ’s body, subjected to suffering and bearing the stigmata, is evidence of his humanity, while his divinity is revealed in his inspired expression and his idealised body, a legacy of the underlying classical models. The figure of Saint Sebastian is especially complex: this popular saint, the epitome of the martyr who survives his first ordeal, embodies the victory of life over death. This life force is no doubt related to his youthful beauty and his naked body, both of which made their appearance in the 17th century. This being the case, his representation gradually moves away from Catholic dogma, and acquires an unprecedented freedom and life of its own: his sensuality is more and more obvious, whereas his suffering is at times impossible to detect. In this quest for sensual pleasure, and until the 20th century, the only taboo was to reveal the penis.

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Paul Cadmus (1904-1999) 'The Bath' 1951

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Paul Cadmus (1904-1999)
The Bath
1951
Tempera on card
H. 36.4; W. 41.4 cm
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art
Anonymous gift
© Whitney Museum of American Art, NY – Art
© Jon F. Anderson, Estate of Paul Cadmus / ADAGP, Paris 2013

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Alexendre Alexandrovitch Deineka (Russian, 1899-1969) 'La douche. Après la bataille' (Shower, After the Battle) 1937-42

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Alexendre Alexandrovitch Deineka (Russian, 1899-1969)
La douche. Après la bataille (Shower, After the Battle)
1937-42
Oil on canvas

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“This male homoeroticism maintains close ties with the revolutionary project to destroy the family and traditional marriage and the construction of new types of social relations based on collective values ​​above all, with the idea that the bonds of friendship and camaraderie between men (homosociality, “male bonding”) are equally or more important than heterosexual bonding. It is mainly in the period from the Revolution to the 1930s the values ​​of friendship and camaraderie seem particularly highlighted the detriment of the bonds of love, very devalued as “petty-bourgeois”, but even more later, with the Stalinist project of “restoration” of the family, it can be assumed that the emotional and romantic in the heterosexual couple have never been a pervasive and rewarding cultural representation of magnitude of that which may be known in the West. [11] The researcher Lilya Kaganovsky, analyzing the Soviet visual culture (especially cult films of the 1930s and 1940s), speaks of “heterosexual panic” in response to the concept of “homosexual panic” coined by Eve K. Segdwick: according Kaganovsky, Soviet cultural works largely reflects the idea that the relations of friendship, especially homosocial, particularly between men, is a moral value than heterosexual relationships. [12] In such a cosmology, heterosexual relationships could be perceived from within oneself and risk jeopardizing the homosocial relationships of camaraderie and friendship, and the same social and national cohesion, thought to be based on collective values that conflicts with the value of exclusivity in the couple, “cozy comforts of home” [13].”

Mona. “Représenter le corps socialiste : l’exemple du peintre A. Deïneka (1899-1969),” on the Genre, politique et sexualités website, 16th April 2012 (translation by Google translate)

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Douche.-1932.-(Boris-Ignatovitch)-WEB

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Boris Ignatovitch
Douche (Shower)
1932
Silver gelatin photograph

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The Temptation of the male

An acknowledged desire for the male body, and the liberalisation of social conventions gave rise to some daring works from the mid 20th century onwards. In the United States, in spite of its puritan outlook since the Second World War, Paul Cadmus did not balk at depicting a pick up scene between men in a most unlikely Finistère. While the physical attraction of the body remained confined for a long time to the secrecy of private interiors, it was increasingly evident in public, in exclusively masculine social situations like communal showers or in the guise of a reconstructed Platonic Antiquity.

Eroticism is even presented quite crudely by Cocteau, whose influence on the young Warhol is undeniable. Beauty and seduction part company when the ideal transmitted by references to the past takes root in idiosyncratic practices and contemporary culture, as Hockney has expressed so accurately in his painting.

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Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824) 'The Sleep of Endymion' 1791

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Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824)
The Sleep of Endymion
1791
Oil on canvas
H. 90; W. 117.5 cm
Montargis, Musée Girodet
© Cliché J. Faujour/musée Girodet, Montargis

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Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953) 'Mercury' 2001

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Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953)
Mercury
2001
© Pierre et Gilles

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The Object of desire

For many years, the male body in art had been the subject of “objectification”. The unrestrained admiration for the perfection of the Greco-Roman nudes, a purely intellectual reconstruction of a body that had become the canon of beauty, meant that no interpretation of the nude was considered improper, even Winckelmann’s, with its powerful erotic charge.

Although Academic circles naturally encouraged the nude in great history paintings, certain subjects retained elements of sensuality and ambiguity. At the turn of the 19th century, discussion of the characteristics of the two sexes and their respective boundaries aroused interest in the bisexual amours of Jupiter and Apollo, while the formula of the young hero dying in the arms of his male lover was met with particular interest.

Girodet’s Endymion is depicted as an ephebe, his body caressed sensuously by the rays of the moon goddess, inspiring numerous homoerotic interpretations. With the Symbolists, as with Gustave Moreau, the difference between the sexes results in the downfall of a vulnerable man overcome by an inexorable and destructive force that is seen as feminine. However, at the other extreme, and in a less dramatic way, Hodler depicts the awakening of adolescent love between a self-obsessed young man and a girl who is captivated by his charm.

The sensuality and acknowledged eroticisation considered to be appropriate to the female body during the 19th century struck a serious blow against the traditional virility of the male nude: this blow was not fatal however, as the male nude was still very visible in the 20th century. Sexual liberation expressed, loud and clear, a feeling of voluptuousness and, often with few reservations, endowed the male body with a sexual charge. The model was usually identified, an assertive sign as a statement of the individuality: with Pierre and Gilles, where mythology and the contemporary portrait become one.

Text from the Musée d’Orsay website

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Antonin Mercié. 'David' 1872

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Antonin Mercié
David
1872
Bronze
© Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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David LaChapelle. 'Eminem - About to Blow' 1999

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David LaChapelle
Eminem – About to Blow
1999
Chromogenic Print

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Giorgio de Chirico (1883-1966) 'Les bains mystérieux' (Mysterious Baths) c. 1934-36

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Giorgio de Chirico (1883-1966)
Les bains mystérieux (Mysterious Baths)
c. 1934-36
Tempera on card
39 x 31 cm
© Musei Civici Fiorentini – Raccolta Alberto Della Ragione

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Egon Schiele. 'Self-Portrait, Kneeling' 1910

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Egon Schiele
Self-Portrait, Kneeling
1910
© Leopold Museum / Manfred Thumberger

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Henri-Camille-Danger.-Fléau!,-1901. Paris, musée d'Orsay-WEB

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Henri-Camille-Danger
Fléau! (Scourge!)
1901
© Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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Koloman Moser. 'Le Printemps' (Spring) c. 1900

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Koloman Moser
Le Printemps (Spring)
c. 1900

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Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) 'Grand Guerrier avec Jambe' 1893-1902

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Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929)
Grand Guerrier avec Jambe
1893-1902
Bronze

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George Platt Lynes. 'Le Somnambule (The Sleepwalker)' 1935

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George Platt Lynes
Le Somnambule (The Sleepwalker)
1935
© Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg

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Lutteurs d'Alexandre. 'Falguière' 1875

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Lutteurs d’Alexandre
Falguière
1875
© Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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Lucian Freud. 'Naked Man on Bed' 1989

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Lucian Freud
Naked Man on Bed
1989
Oil on canvas

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Lucian Freud. 'David and Eli' 2004

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Lucian Freud
David and Eli
2004
Oil on canvas

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Masculin / Masculin – La video on YouTube

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Musée d’Orsay
62, rue de Lille
75343 Paris Cedex 07
France

Opening hours:
9.30am – 6pm
9.30am – 9.45pm on Thursdays
Closed on Mondays

Musée d’Orsay website

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25
Jul
13

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

Exhibition dates: 9th May – 28th July 2013

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

Marcus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press release from the Oklahoma City Museum of Art website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 am. – 5 pm.
Thursday: 10 am. – 9 pm.
Sunday: noon – 5 pm.
Closed: Monday and Major Holidays

Oklahoma City Museum of Art website

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17
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Concrete – Photography and Architecture’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 2nd March – 20th May 2013

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When creating this blog, so much of my time is spent cleaning up clearly inadequate media images, an example of which can be seen below. I have become very adept at this process and my thoughts are this: would you want to be the artist whose work is displayed to the public in a remarkably decomposed manner, one not up to a standard of any artist who cares about their prints and reputation? I certainly would not. It is a wonder to me that museums and galleries spend thousands of dollars staging exhibitions and producing costly catalogues and yet cannot spend a tiny proportion of time, money and care on their media images to promote artist and said exhibition. I had to spend a lot of time on over half of these images to bring them up to presentable standard.

Having said that, there are some cracking photographs in this posting. The Sugimoto is sublime, Walker Evans so muscular, Lucien Hervé a masterpiece of light and texture, and Moriz Nähr a symphony of light and tone, to name but a few. I hope you enjoy all the effort it takes to bring these images to you.

Marcus

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

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Naehr-composite

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Moriz Nähr

Stiegenhaus im Haus Stonborough-Wittgenstein [Staircase in the house Stonborough-Wittgenstein] (composite)
1928

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Anonymous.
 'Hardstrasse with Hardbrücke in construction' 1972


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Anonymous
Hardstrasse with Hardbrücke in construction
1972
Gelatin-silver print
8,8 x 12,6 cm
Baugeschichtliches Archiv der Stadt Zürich

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Michael Wesely.
 'Canadian Embassy, Leipziger Platz, Berlin (5.2.2003 – 28.4.2005)' 
C-print

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Michael Wesely
Canadian Embassy, Leipziger Platz, Berlin (5.2.2003 – 28.4.2005)

C-print
125 x 175 cm
Galerie Fahnemann, Berlin
© Michael Wesely/Courtesy Galerie Fahnemann

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William Henry Fox Talbot
. 'The Bridge of Sighs, St. John’s College, 
Cambridge' 1845

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William Henry Fox Talbot
The Bridge of Sighs, St. John’s College, 
Cambridge
1845
Salt print from calotype negative
16.4 x 20.6 cm
Museum Folkwang Essen

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Charles-Marville-24-Rue-Bièvre-Paris-1865–1869-WEB

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Charles Marville
24, Rue Bièvre, Paris
1865-1869
Albumin print
27.4 x 36.6 cm
Collection Thomas Walther

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Lucien Hervé.
 'Le Corbusier: Façade of the Secretariat  Building, Chandigarh, 1961' 1961


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Lucien Hervé
Le Corbusier: Façade of the Secretariat Building, Chandigarh, 1961
1961
Gelatin-silver print
25.5 x 25.4 cm
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal
© Estate Lucien Hervé

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F.C. Gundlach.
 '"Op Art" bathing suit by Sinz, Vouliagmeni/Greece' 1966

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F.C. Gundlach
“Op Art” bathing suit by Sinz, Vouliagmeni/Greece
1966
Gelatin-silver print
50 x 50 cm
F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg
© F.C. Gundlach

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Laurence Bonvin.
 'Blikkiesdorp, Cape Town, South Africa' 2009

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Laurence Bonvin
Blikkiesdorp, Cape Town, South Africa
2009
Inkjet-print
40 x 50 cm
Courtesy the artist
© Laurence Bonvin

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“Architectures and cities are both volumes and images alike. We experience them directly, physically and sensually, as well as through pictures. Pictures speak a language of their own. They offer a discourse that is quite unlike the physical experience of architecture. They transform volume into surface; distil matter into forms and signs – rarely, if ever, leaving it as it is. That is probably why so many architects try to get involved in determining the image of their buildings. Concrete – Photography and Architecture seeks to approach the singular and complex relationship between architecture and photography in light-hearted, narrative and dialectical ways. The exhibition explores issues of history and ideology, as well as the specifics of form and material, in the photographic image.

The visual appeal of destroyed or dilapidated buildings is also addressed, as are their powerful demonstrations of power and exclusivity, fragility and beauty. To what extent does photography influence not only the way architecture is perceived, but also the way it is designed? How does an image bring architecture to life, and at what point does it become uncanny? How do settlements develop into cities? Or, in sociological terms: how do work and life interconnect differently in, say, Zurich and Winterthur, as opposed to, say, Calcutta? And how do skyscrapers and living spaces translate into the flat, two-dimensional world of photography?

Concrete – Photography and Architecture is not, however, chronologically arranged. Instead, it is based on compelling positions, counterpositions and thematic fields that connect various concrete, fundamental and historical aspects. Alongside everyday buildings and prestigious architecture, structured by horizontal and vertical axes, alongside homes and houses, utopian fantasies, design and reality, an important aspect of the exhibition is the compelling appeal of architectural decay due to the passage of time, through both natural and deliberate destruction. It is almost as though photography were providing a moral reminder even such magnificence and presence, whether hewn in stone or cast in concrete, has its weaknesses too.

Architecture has always been an important platform for the frequently heated discussion of ideas and views, zeitgeist and weltanschauung, everyday life and aesthetics. Architecture is the bold materialisation of private and public visions, functionality and avant-garde art alike. It is, as Slavoj Žižek puts it, ideology in stone. Photography and architecture both play an undisputed role in our everyday lives. They confront us on a daily basis, often without our even noticing, and they influence how we think, act and live in subliminal and lasting ways. Concrete – Photography and Architecture provides visual answers to the question of what it is that makes up the intimate yet complex relationship between architecture and photography, architect and photographer.

The exhibition presents more than 400 photographs and groups of works from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, including William Henry Fox Talbot, Domenico Bresolin and Charles Marville as well as Germaine Krull, Lucia Moholy and Julius Shulman, and spanning an arc to contemporary works by Georg Aerni, Iwan Baan, Luisa Lambri and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Projects such as the long-term observations of Schlieren photography or Wolfgang Scheppe’s Migropolis show how the art of photography is playing an increasingly important role as an instrument of research and knowledge. The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated book published by Scheidegger & Spiess, with some 300 colour and black-and-white pictures, essays by Jochen Becker, Johannes Binotto, Verena Huber Nievergelt, Michael Jakob, Nicoletta Leonardi, Lorenzo Rocha, Caspar Schärer, Aveek Sen and Urs Stahel as well as a conversation with Annette Gigon, Meret Ernst and Armin Linke.”

Press release from the Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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Guido Guidi. '#1176 01 29 1997 3:30PM Looking Southeast' From 'Carlo Scarpa's Tomba Brion' 
1997

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Guido Guidi
#1176 01 29 1997 3:30PM Looking Southeast
From Carlo Scarpa’s Tomba Brion
1997
C-print
19,5 x 24,6 cm
Courtesy the artist
© Guido Guidi

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Tobias Zielony.
 'Le Vele di Scampia' 2009

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Tobias Zielony
Le Vele di Scampia
2009
Blu Ray photoanimation
8.57 min
Courtesy Koch Oberhuber Wolff, Berlin
© Tobias Zielony/ KOW

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Hiroshi Sugimoto.
 'Seagram Building, New York City' 1997

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Hiroshi Sugimoto
Seagram Building, New York City
1997
Gelatin-silver print
58,4 x 47 cm
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal
© Hiroshi Sugimoto/Courtesy of Gallery Koyanagi Tokyo

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Aage Strüwing.
 'Arne Jacobsen: Rødovre Town Hall' 1955


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Aage Strüwing
Arne Jacobsen: Rødovre Town Hall
1955
Gelatin-silver print
23,7 x 17 cm
EPFL Archives de la construction moderne, Lausanne
© Estate Strüwing

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Moriz Nähr. '
Stiegenhaus im Haus Stonborough-Wittgenstein' 1928


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Moriz Nähr

Stiegenhaus im Haus Stonborough-Wittgenstein [Staircase in the house Stonborough-Wittgenstein]
1928
Silbergelatine-Abzug
13.8 x 8.9 cm
Albertina, Wien
© Estate Moriz Nähr

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Haus Wittgenstein, also known as the Stonborough House and the Wittgenstein House) is a house in the modernist style designed and built on the Kundmanngasse, Vienna, by the Austrian architect Paul Engelmannand the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

In November 1925, Wittgenstein’s sister Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein commissioned Engelmann to design and build a large townhouse. Margaret also invited her brother to help with the design in part to distract him from an incident that had happened while he had been a primary school teacher: he had hit a boy for getting an answer wrong and the boy had collapsed. The architect was Paul Engelmann, someone Wittgenstein had come to know while training to be an Artillery Officer in Olmutz. Engelmann designed a spare modernist house after the style of Adolf Loos: three rectangular blocks. Wittgenstein showed a great interest in the project and in Engelmann’s plans and poured himself into the project for over two years. He focused on the windows, doors, door knobs, and radiators, demanding that every detail be exactly as he specified, to the point where everyone involved in the project was exhausted. One of the architects, Jacques Groag, wrote in a letter: “I come home very depressed with a headache after a day of the worst quarrels, disputes, vexations, and this happens often. Mostly between me and Wittgenstein.” When the house was nearly finished he had a ceiling raised 30mm so the room had the exact proportions he wanted.

Waugh writes that Margaret eventually refused to pay for the changes Wittgenstein kept demanding, so he bought himself a lottery ticket in the hope of paying for things that way. It took him a year to design the door handles, and another to design the radiators. Each window was covered by a metal screen that weighed 150 kg, moved by a pulley Wittgenstein designed. Bernhard Leitner, author of The Architecture of Ludwig Wittgenstein, said of it that there is barely anything comparable in the history of interior design: “It is as ingenious as it is expensive. A metal curtain that could be lowered into the floor.”

The house was finished by December 1928, and the family gathered there that Christmas to celebrate its completion. Describing the work, Ludwig’s eldest sister, Hermine, wrote: “Even though I admired the house very much, I always knew that I neither wanted to, nor could, live in it myself. It seemed indeed to be much more a dwelling for the gods than for a small mortal like me”. Paul Wittgenstein, Ludwig’s brother, disliked it, and when Margaret’s nephew came to sell it, he reportedly did so on the grounds that she had never liked it either. Wittgenstein himself found the house too austere, saying it had good manners, but no primordial life or health. He nevertheless seemed committed to the idea of becoming an architect: the Vienna City Directory listed him as “Dr Ludwig Wittgenstein, occupation: architect” between 1933 and 1938. 

After World War II, the house became a barracks and stables for Russian soldiers. It was owned by Thomas Stonborough, son of Margaret until 1968 when it was sold to a developer for demolition. For two years after this the house was under threat of demolition. The Vienna Landmark Commission saved it – after a campaign by Bernhard Leitner – and made it a national monument in 1971, and since 1975 it has housed the cultural department of the Bulgarian Embassy.

(Text from Wikipedia)

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Lala Aufsberg.
 'Cathedral of Light' c. 1937


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Lala Aufsberg
Cathedral of Light
c. 1937
Gelatin-silver print
24 x 18 cm
Town Archive Nuremberg
© Photo Marburg

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Lala Aufsberg (actually, Ida Louise Aufsberg, born 26 February 1907 in Sonthofen, May 18, 1976 ibid) was a well-known art photographer. After attending primary school and six years of school for Higher daughters in Immenstadt she began training for the 1932 photo dealer in Oberstdorf. After completion of the training Lala Aufsberg moved to Nuremberg, where she worked in the photographers’ studios of Seitz and Rosemary. In 1931 she joined the photo club of friends of photography in Nuremberg.

From April 1938 Lala Aufsberg attended the State School of Applied Arts and Crafts in Weimar, Department Lichtbildnerei at Walter Hege. In July 1938, she passed the exam for the master photographer’s craft, and in the same year returned to Sonthofen and opened a photographic studio. In the years 1937 and 1938 she documented the Nazi Party rallies in Nuremberg (see above photograph). She received her first artistic job in the years 1941-1942, in which she photographed the murals in churches and monasteries in Carinthia and Styria. Owned by the University of Marburg “German documentation center for art history” – Bildarchiv Foto Marburg (listed in UNESCO Archives Portal) acquired 1976/1977 and 1996, the Lala-Aufsberg archive with about 46,000 art history, black and white negatives in sizes 6×6 and 9×12 and 103,000 photos.

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Walker Evans. 
'Chrysler Building under construction, New York' 1929


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Walker Evans

Chrysler Building under construction, New York
1929
Gelatin-silver print
16.8 x 8.3 cm
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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12
Apr
13

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: Ignudi, 1994

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*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY- IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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This series of photographs is a reconceptualisation of Michelangelo’s Ignudi from the Sistine Chapel. The Ignudi (singular: ignudo, from the Italian adjective nudo, meaning “naked”) are the 20 athletic, nude male figures that Michelangelo painted at the four corners of the five smaller scenes of Creation. Recontextualising the figures implicitly fetches elements from other texts, the meaning of the male body based on its meaning in other contexts and ages (beauty, desire, homoeroticism, nudity, power of the body/phallus), realising a continual unfolding of texts, discourses and conversations in a field of production.

These prints are incredibly rare. There are probably 3 vintage photographs on fibre-base paper of each image at 12″ x 16″ size.

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I am scanning my negatives made during the years 1991 – 1997 to preserve them in the form of an online archive as a process of active memory, so that the images are not lost forever. These photographs were images of my life and imagination at the time of their making, the ideas I was thinking about and the people and things that surrounded me.

All images © Marcus Bunyan but can be used freely anywhere with the proper acknowledgement. Please click the photographs for a larger version of the image; remember these are just straight scans of the negatives !

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
Untitled
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan. 'The Lovers (Major Arcana)' 1994 from the series 'Ignudi'

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Marcus Bunyan
The Lovers (Major Arcana)
1994
From the series Ignudi
Silver gelatin photograph

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive page

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27
Sep
12

Text: ‘The defining of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body’ Dr Marcus Bunyan / Exhibition: ‘Robert Mapplethorpe’ at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 25th May – 30th September 2012

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“Perfection means you don’t question anything about the photograph. There are certain pictures I’ve taken in which you really can’t move that leaf or that hand. It’s where it should be, and you can’t say it could have been there. There is nothing to question as in a great painting. I often have trouble with contemporary art because I find it’s not perfect. It doesn’t have to be anatomically correct to be perfect either. A Picasso portrait is perfect. It’s just not questionable. In the best of my pictures, there’s nothing to question – it’s just there.”

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Robert Mapplethorpe

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Written in 1996 (but never published until now), this is one of my earliest pieces of research and writing. While it is somewhat idealistic in many ways, hopefully this piece still has some relevance for the reader for there are important ideas contained within the text.

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The defining of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body

Photography has portrayed the Apollonian and Dionysian ideals of the body throughout its history, but has never fully explored the theoretical implications and consequences of this pairing. Our presentation of the body says precise things about the society in which we live, the degree of our integration within that society and the controls which society exerts over the innerman.1 My research concentrated on how images of the male body, as a representation of the Self/Other split, have been affected by these ideals.

We can clearly define the Apollonian (beauty, perfection, obsession, narcissism, voyeurism, idols, fascism, frigid, constraint, oppression, the defined, the personalised, an aggression of the eye linked to greed and desire) and Dionysian (ecstasy, eroticism, hysteria, energy, anarchy, promiscuity, death, emotion, bodily substances and the universal). In reality the boundaries between these ideals are more ambiguous.

For example, in the work of the American photographer Fred Holland Day we see allegorical myths portrayed by beautiful youths, many of which to modern eyes have a powerful homoerotic quality.

“In close proximity to eroticism associated with homosocial bonding and sexuality, these pictures were infused with desire and anxiety, repulsion and attraction … Day’s male nudes possess the aesthetic trappings of refined art and high culture … but also contain a frisson of impending sexual release and bodily pleasure, to say nothing of their sado-erotic inflection and paedophilic associations.”2

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According to some critics,3 societies acceptance of photographs of Apollonian or Orphic (Dionysian) youths [2 different critical views]4 in that era (the fin de siecle of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century), was based on what was seen as their chaste, idyllic nature. They represented ‘ephebes’ – males who were between boy and man – who posed no threat to the patriarchal status quo. To other critics5 these ‘ephebes’ present a challenge to the construction of heterosexual/ homosexual identity along gender lines, echoing Foucault’s thoughts on the imprisoning nature of categories of sexual identity.6

For Day, physical beauty was the testimony of a transcendent spirit.7 His portraits tried to uncover the true spirit of his subjects, revealing what was hidden behind the mask of e(x)ternal beauty. But what was being revealed? Was it the subject’s own spiritual integrity, his true self, or a false self as directed by the photographer whose instructions he was enacting? Was it F. Holland Day’s erotic fantasies the subject was acting out, or was it a perception of his own identity or a combination of both? These works show Day as both director and collaborator, his idols equally unattainable and available, resilient and vulnerable. In portraying this beauty, was Day embracing a seductive utopia in which this Apollonian beauty leads away from the very Dionysian spirit he was trying to engage with?

At around the same time a Prussian named Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden was also taking photographs of scantily clad local peasant youths, based on Arcadian themes. “In von Gloeden’s perception of the world human figures are not in themselves merely erotic, but become aesthetic objects … a setting in which beautiful things are the content of the image.”8

While this may be true, the focus of the images is always on what Von Gloeden desired, his full frontal nudes drawing our eyes to the locus of sexual desire, the penis. Von Gloeden’s “transformation of ordinary working class boys into the very image of antique legend,”9 the conjunction of the Apollonian and the Dionysian, blurs the distinctions between the two. Both Day and Von Gloeden were wealthy, educated, influential men who had a desire for working class boys. Did they help create an erotic tension across class lines and effect a particular Camp taste when society at that time (the first decade of the 20th century) was beginning to define areas of sexual categorisation that would label gay men perverts and degenerates? Even today, comparing contemporary critical analysis of Von Gloeden’s photographs can produce vastly differing conceptualisations as to the evidence of sexual overtones:

“The distinction between form and sexual attractiveness is tenuously maintained and the expression of the subjects’ face suggests a lofty remoteness rather than sexual availability or provocativeness.”10

“Von Gloeden’s pictures are fairly specific in depicting erotically based encounters between Mediterranean males. In many of them, the gazes shared between young men or the suggestive relationships of figure to figure hint at activities that might take place beyond the cameras range.”11

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For Day and Von Gloeden the need to possess something beautiful, something that was taboo, compensated both photographers for something they had lost – their youth. This transfers their death onto the object of their possession; the beautiful youths ‘captured’ in their photographs. Georges Bataille links eroticism to the inner life of man, the true self, and the eroticism of these photographs opens the way to a viewing of death and allows the photographer the power to look death in the face. According to Bataille, possession of something beautiful negates our need to die because we have objectified our need in someone else.12

What we know and understand about the world is partially built on images that are recorded, interpreted and imprinted in our brains as the result of the experiences we encounter throughout our lives. Our memory is forever fragmenting our remembered reality. It provides us with a point of view of the reality of the world in which we live and on which our identities are formed. When we look at a photograph we (sub)consciously bring all of our social encultration, our hates, our desires and our spirit to bear on the definition of that photograph at the time of viewing (an each viewing can be different!). Inherently embedded in any photograph then, are all these Dionysian stirrings – of desire, of eroticism, of death and of memory. Even if the photograph is entirely Apollonian in content the definition of that photograph can be open to any possibility, by any body.

One photographer who sought to access, and have connection to, fundamental truths was the American photographer Minor White. Studying Zen Buddhism, Gurdjieff and astrology, White believed in the photographs’ connection to the subject he was photographing and the subject’s connection back via the camera to the photographer forming a holistic circle.13 When, in meditation, this connection was open he would then expose the negative in the camera hopeful of a “revelation” of spirit in the subsequent photograph. White feared public exposure as a homosexual and struggled for years to resist the shame and disgust he felt over his sexual desires. Very few of his male portraits were exhibited during his lifetime, his Dionysian urgings difficult to reconcile with or assimilate into his images of peace and serenity, images that urged unity of self and spirit, of yin and yang. In the East yin/yang is both/and, being transformable and interpenetrating whilst in the West black/white is either/or not both, being exclusive and non-interactive. But who is to say what is ugly or what is beautiful? What is black or what is white?

In the work of the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, we can see the formalised classical aesthetic of beauty combined with content which many people are repelled by (pornography, sexuality, violence, power) creating work which is both Apollonian and Dionysian.14 Peoples’ disgust at the content of some of Mapplethorpe’s images is an Apollonian response, an aesthetic judgement, a backing away from a connection to ‘nature’, meaning ‘that which is born’. Mapplethorpe said, “I’ve done everything I show in my photographs,”15 revealing a connection to an inner self, regardless of whether he intended to shock. Those seeking suppression of Mapplethorpe’s photographs, mainly conservative elements of society, cite the denigration of moral values as the main reason for their attacks. However Mapplethorpe’s S&M photographs sought to re-present the identity of a small subculture of the gay community that exists within the general community and by naming this subculture he sought to document and validate its existence. The photograph can and does lie but here was the ‘truth’ of these Dionysian experiences, which conservative bigots could not deny – that they exist.

In the NEA/Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center controversy surrounding Mapplethorpe16 his work was defended on aesthetic grounds, not on the grounds of homoerotic content, of freedom of expression or artistic freedom. The classical Apollonian form of his images was emphasised. As one juror put it, “Going in, I would never have said the pictures have artistic value. Learning as we did about art, I and everyone else thought they did have some value. We are learning about something ugly and harsh in society.”17 Ugly and harsh. To some people in the world S&M scenes are perfectly natural and beautiful and can lead to the most transcendent experience that a human being can ever have in their life. Who is to decide for the individual his or her freedom to choose?

This Apollonian fear of the Dionysian ‘Other’, the emotional chaotic self, was found to involve fear of that which is potentially the ‘same as’ – two sides of the same coin. This fear of ‘the same’, or of the proximity of the same, or of the threat of the same, can lead to violence, homophobia, racism and bigotry. Mapping out sexual identities’ toleration of difference, which is ‘the same as’, recognises that there are many different ways of being, and many truths in the world.

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In conclusion I have determined that the definition of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body are at best ambiguous and open to redefinition and reinterpretation. The multiplicity of readings that can be attached to images of the male body, in different eras, by different people illustrates the very problematic theoretical area these images inhabit. As we seek to ‘name’, to categorise, to nullify the ‘Other’ as a Dionysian connection to earth and nature, it may cause an alienated ‘Self’ to revolt against Apollonian powers of control in order to break down the lived distance that divides people. This creates situations/ encounters/ experiences that are regarded as transgressive and a threat to the hegemonic fabric of society.

But do these experiences offer an alternative path for the evolution of the human race? Not the replacing of one patriarchal, capitalist system with another based on ecstatic spiritual consciousness but perhaps a more level playing field, one based on a horizontal consciousness (a balance between Apollonian and Dionysian), a ‘knowing’ and understanding, a respect for our self and others. My claim as an’Other’ is that these perceived transgressions, not just the binary either/or, may ultimately free human beings and allow them to experience life and grow. Where nothing is named, everything is possible.

Marcus Bunyan 1996

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

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Self Portrait
1975
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Derrick Cross
1983
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Thomas
1987
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Two Tulips
1984
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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“A renowned figure of contemporary photography, Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was in his element in a domain defined by conventions and revolt, classicism and non-conformist cultures, where each picture serves as a document of hard-fought identities, as well as inciting and recording social and artistic debates. The Ludwig Museum Budapest features nearly two hundred works by Robert Mapplethorpe, from his early Polaroid photos to pieces from his final years. Realised in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation New York, this large-scale exhibition is presented to a Hungarian audience for the first time.

Initially, Mapplethorpe had no intention of becoming a photographer. His early collages and altar-like installations incorporated found elements including photos from magazines. Seeking to give these works a more personal and perfect touch, he decided to shoot the photos himself. His major subjects were his immediate environment and personal desires: the alternative circles of the New York art scene, his identity as a homosexual, non-traditional forms of sexuality, and the communities organised around them. The New York of the seventies was a great melting pot of contiguous subcultures, sexual freedom, post-Pop and rock’n’roll. Mapplethorpe’s environment included Andy Warhol and his entourage from the Factory, the superstars of his films as well as the inhabitants of the legendary Chelsea Hotel, who inspired his art and became part of his audience.

His portraits of famous individuals and those longing for fame also positioned their photographer within their circle. He was a renowned artist seeking to establish relationships with people who stand out, one way or another, from the rest of society, without submitting himself to them. Posing for his camera were film stars, musicians, writers and visual artists, the celebrities and central figures of New York in the seventies and eighties, including pornographic film stars and body builders. He made engaging and elegant portraits attesting to his intense attention, humour, and ambition toward a sense of the monumental.

Mapplethorpe developed an increasingly committed and professional attitude to photography. His quest for the perfect image led him to classical compositions and subjects. While precision of forms and a quality of reserve were combined in his works, his intense attention to his models remained unchanged; he photographed torsos and floral still-lifes with the same cool professionalism. His nudes evoke classical Greek statues and Renaissance masterpieces, with their arrangement and sculptural approach to the body dating back to traditions that have existed for several hundred years. Such an incarnation of classical formalism, however, was juxtaposed with shocking new subjects and stark sexual fetishes, resulting in radical re-creations of the approach to tradition.

The perfect image called for the perfect body: his shots of black men, female body-builders and austere flowers seem to articulate his one and only vision, again and again. He almost always worked in the studio, most often in black and white, using increasingly defined tones. With unified backgrounds and balance of forms, his photos remove the subjects from their own realities to relocate them in the timeless, frozen space of the photograph. In terms of their statue-like beauty and rigorous composition of every detail, his pictures continue and renew the classical photographic tradition all at once. Such classical virtues, however, did not make these photos exempt from criticism: both his subject matter and their manner of presentation sparked controversy. Their sexual themes aroused unease, and criticism of the work failed to make a distinction between the statue-like beauty of body parts and torsos, the sexual stereotypes associated with black male bodies, and the objectification of the bodies.

Mapplethorpe’s works created a place for homosexual and S&M identities in the domain of high art, subverting conventions, transgressing unspoken social agreements and revealing prejudices, in line with the artist’s personal desires and self-definition. In the United States, during the eighties, in the first moments of horror in the face of AIDS, the condemnation of homosexuality and the undefined dread of the disease became entwined. Such developments stirred up the already intense controversies around Mapplethorpe’s photos, adding a new overtone to the voice of conservative protesters. (Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, and he died in the spring of 1989 due to complications related to the disease).

The cultural-political debates of the so-called Culture Wars in the late 1980s and 1990s in the United States, fuelled the decision of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to cancel its leg of the travelling exhibition “The Perfect Moment,” which included several thought-provoking photos that the conservative right-wing had denounced as obscene and arrogant assaults on public taste. A long and heated debate was to follow, including both hysterical and absurd commentaries, triggering police actions and a trial against a subsequent venue, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati as well as its director. Though the museum and its director were eventually cleared of all charges, the case continued to shape the cultural-political landscape in the US, which partly concluded in a revision of the public funding of artworks and is still referred to today as an outstanding example of the methodology of censorship.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman
1984
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Untitled
c. 1973
1987
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Lisa Lyon
1982
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Ajitto
1981
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Self Portrait
1988
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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1. Blain, Robert. The Decorated Body. London: Thames & Hudson, 1979, p.5, Introduction

2. Crump, James. F. Holland Day- Suffering the Ideal. Santa Fe: Twin Palms, 1995, p.11

3. Foster, Alasdair. Behold The Man – The Male Nude In Photography. Edinburgh: Stills, 1989, p.9

4. Jussim, Estelle. Slave To Beauty- The Eccentric Life And Controversial Career of F. Holland Day, Photographer, Publisher, Aesthete. Boston: Godine, 1981, pp.175-176; Ellenzweig, Allan. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University, 1992, p. 59

5. Ellenzweig, p.59

6. Weeks, Jeffrey. Against Nature:  Essays on history, sexuality and identity. London: Rivers Osram Press, 1991, p.164

7. Day, F. Holland. “Is Photography An Art?” p.8, quoted in Crump, James. F. Holland Day – Suffering The Ideal. Santa Fe: Twin Palms, 1995, p.20

8. Ellenzweig, p.39

9. Leslie, Charles. Wilhelm von Gloeden, Photographer. New York: Soho Photographic, 1997, p.86

10. Dutton, Kenneth R. The Perfectible Body. London: Cassell, 1995, p. 95

11. Ellenzweig, p.43

12. Bataille, Georges. Death And Sensuality. New York: Walker And Company, 1962, p. 24

13. Bateson, Gregory. Steps To An Ecology Of Mind – Collected Essays On Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution And Epistemology. St. Albans: Paladin, 1973

14. Danto, Arthur C. Mapplethorpe – Playing With The Edge. Essay. London: Jonathon Cape, 1992, p.331

15. Interview with Robert Mapplethorpe quoted in Cooper, Emmanuel. The Sexual Perspective. London: Routledge, 1986, p. 286

16. Ellenzweig, p. 205, Footnote 1

17. Cembalest, Robin. “The Obscenity Trial: How They Voted To Acquit,” in Art News December 1990 89 (10): 141 quoted in Ellenzweig, p.208

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Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
1095 Budapest  Komor Marcell Street 1
Hungary 06 1 555-3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00-20.00
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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