Posts Tagged ‘Carl Van Vechten

23
Apr
22

Exhibition: ‘Adolf Mas. The Eyes of Barcelona’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Exhibition dates: 18th February – 8th May, 2022

Curator: Carmen Perrotta

 

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'View of Portal de l'Àngel' 1902

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
View of Portal de l’Àngel
1902
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

At the moment I’m still recovering from my appendicitis operation… slowly, slowly.

While Adolf Mas is certainly not in the league of the great Eugène Atget in terms of his importance to the history of art photography1, nor are his photographs of Barcelona to the standard of the latter’s “records of a rare and subtle perception” – vis a vis Atget’s subtle placement of the camera and his visionary, almost hallucinatory, renditions of Old Paris – the documentary photographs by Mas of the old and new city have a certain, stimulating, viscerality to them (a quality of being related to the physical as opposed to the virtual or imaginary world or reality).

Unlike Atget’s photographs of a deserted Paris, it is wonderful to see Mas’ early photographs of Barcelona grounded in the people who lived in the city: playing games, watching entertainment, waiting for a train and, in groups (mainly children), watching the performance of the photographer with unabashed inquisitiveness. Mas’ city photographs are more reminiscent of the photographs of an earlier era (notably those of the Danish-American social documentary photographer Jacob Riis and those taken by the photographers of the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London directed by Alfred Marks) than those of Atget. They are direct and frontal but still possess a delightful “atmosphere”. Just look at the light in Carrer del Sant Crist de l’Argenteria des del carrer Argenteria (before 1911, below) and Pati de la casa núm. 25 del carrer dels Mercaders (before 1911, below) and tell me this man didn’t know his business.

Just as impressive are Mas’ staged mise-en-scène group portraits such as Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas (1912, below) and Lactation House (1903, below). The formal arrangement of figures is like a piece of music as it rises and falls: chairs to people to easels to screens or, the curve of the adult figures as they spiral in towards the baby on the weighing apparatus. The men have an almost idealistic, Rembrandt-esque feel to them, such as the figures in The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632) … surrounded by Baroque chairs, cupboards of instruments and the mechanics of medicine. And the light, the light!

If ever there were such a thing, I wonder whether Mas died at the right time (1936). Although I don’t know his political values any artist who produces an extraordinary record of the intellectual and artistic circles of his time would surely have been dismayed, had he lived, at the outcome of the Spanish Civil War, with the “long Spanish postwar recovery during the 1940s and 1950s creating a cultural wasteland within the destroyed, hungry and isolated Spain, exacerbated by repression, the ‘purification’ of the educational system and cultural institutions, the purges of books, and widespread censorship. Compared with the preceding period, called the Silver Age (la Edad de Plata), shows one of the clearest contrasts in the cultural history of Spain.”2

It’s such a pity, with 100,000 negatives to play with, that there aren’t other photographs available to publish online. I would have liked to have seen more of this artist’s work.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Atget’s documentary vision proved highly influential, first on the Surrealists, in the 1920s, who found his pictures of deserted streets and stairways, street life, and shop windows beguiling and richly suggestive (these were published in La Révolution surréaliste in 1926, with a fourth, of a crowd gathered to watch an eclipse, on the cover); and then on two generations of American photographers, from Walker Evans to Lee Friedlander … In 1931, four years after Atget’s death, the American photographer Ansel Adams wrote, “The Atget prints are direct and emotionally clean records of a rare and subtle perception, and represent perhaps the earliest expression of true photographic art.”
    Ansel Adams, in The Fortnightly (San Francisco) 1, no. 5 (Nov. 5, 1931), 25 quoted in Natalie Dupêcher. “Eugène Atget,” on the MoMA website 2017 [Online] Cited 23/04/2022.
  2. “Art and culture in Francoist Spain,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 23/04/2022

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

 

Born in Solsona (Lérida) on September 28, 1860, Adolf Mas moved to Barcelona shortly before 1890. He left his hometown and a job as a solicitor for an uncertain future in the big city and initially made a niche for himself in the textile industry. A few years later he frequented the local Els Quatre Gats, where he established relationships with intellectuals and artists of the time. After his training as a photographer, in 1901 he founded his first establishment selling photographic material, which would become, a few years later, the “Estudio de Fotografía A. Mas”, the predecessor of “Archivo Mas”.

Mas established himself as the photographer of reference for architects such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch, who hired him to photograph their buildings as an inventory. The author produced a wide range of reports, most notably images of the Sagrada Familia.

A pioneer of photojournalism in Catalonia at the beginning of the 20th century, his commissioned portraits for illustrated magazines are an extraordinary record of the intellectual circles of the time. From 1910 onwards, his production focused on recording artistic and monumental heritage, especially after being commissioned to compile an iconographic catalogue of Spain in 1915. His work therefore focused on the administration of a powerful archival structure for public consultation which, in 1936, the year of his death, contained approximately 100,000 negatives.

Text from the Fundación MAPFRE website

 

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'The "Xiquets de Valls"' June 29th 1907

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
The “Xiquets de Valls”
June 29th 1907
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Games. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes' 1906

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Games. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes
1906
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive) 'Neighbourhood of La Barceloneta' 1916

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive)
Neighbourhood of La Barceloneta
1916
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

In collaboration with the Mas Archive of the Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic, Fundacion MAPFRE presents Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona, a journey through the work of this Catalan photographer, recognised for his major contribution to the field of heritage photography, and a figure of paramount importance for understanding the social transformation of Barcelona during the early 20th century.

Born in Solsona (Lleida) on September 28, 1860, Adolf Mas moved to Barcelona prior to 1890. He left his hometown and his work as a solicitor for an uncertain future in the Condal city, initially making his way in the textile industry. A few years later, he became a regular at the Els Quatre Gats café where he established contacts with the intellectuals and artists of the day. In 1901, after training as a photographer, he founded his first business selling photographic materials, a business that years later would become the “Estudi de Fotografía A. Mas” (the A. Mas Studio of Photography), the predecessor of the “Mas Archive.”

Mas became the main photographer for architects such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch, who commissioned him to photograph his buildings, as if he were compiling an inventory. He also produced a repertoire of other images, of which those of the Sagrada Familia stand out.

A pioneer of photojournalism in Catalonia, he documented a wide range of cultural and current events, as well as the new infrastructures and healthcare initiatives that were flourishing in Barcelona in the early 20th century. His commissioned portraits produced for illustrated magazines are an extraordinary testimony of the intellectual circles of the time.

From 1910 his production was centred on compiling a registry of artistic and monumental heritage, and in 1915 he received a commission to produce an iconographic repertoire of Spain. From this time on his work would focus on the administration of an impressive archival resource which was intended for public consultation; by 1936, the year of his death, it consisted of approximately 100,000 negatives.

“The photographs by Adolf Mas portray Barcelona in the midst of a socio-cultural, artistic, political, and urban transformation. The graphic narrative constructed by the photographer allows us to explore a reality that was rapidly changing, and understanding his photographic legacy is fundamental for the correct interpretation of the dynamics linked to early 20th-century Barcelona.

Adolf Mas is mainly known for the creation and consolidation of the renowned Mas Archive and for being one of the first heritage photographers in Catalonia. However, he is also a more complex photographer. His beginnings as a photojournalist ran in parallel with something akin to artistic photography, which became apparent in his portraits. These were not traditional, and brought his work closer to the artistic circles of the time. Although Mas’s production cannot be included in the movement known as pictorialism, it undoubtedly goes beyond what was being done in other contemporary photographic studios, and it is an aspect of his work that this exhibition highlights.

Over the years, many national and international exhibitions covering a wide range of topics have included works by Adolf Mas and other photographers. However, Adolf Mas. The Eyes of Barcelona is a monographic project that aims to present him in the round, as a photographer and as manager of one of the most important photographic archives in Spain.”

Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona offers a broad overview of the work of this key figure in Catalan Noucentista photography through 200 photographs and a wide range of documentary material that are divided into four thematic sections and address the main aspects of his career.

The core of the show includes the author’s photographic production centring on the city of Barcelona. Adolf Mas captured the architectural, social and cultural changes in the city through images that combine aspects of documentary recording with the aesthetic concerns of contemporary European artistic movements. Barcelona was a city of contrasts, ranging from the slums on the periphery to the mansions of the Eixample district; and from the luxurious cafés frequented by the bourgeoisie to the shanty towns built by panhandlers in the Barceloneta area.

The exhibition ends with a section dedicated to the campaigns on heritage indexing undertaken by Adolf Mas and the articulation of what has been recognised as the most important photographic archive on Spanish heritage in Europe: the Mas Archive.

Works by artists such as Ramon Casas, Alexandre de Riquer, and Eusebi Arnau produced in the context of Adolf Mas’s photographic studio business will be on display along with the author’s photographs.

The exhibition is part of the program Fundación MAPFRE has established at KBr Barcelona Photo Center in collaboration with Catalan institutions dedicated to preserving Catalonia’s rich photographic heritage. On this occasion, the exhibition has been organised in collaboration with Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic. It has been supported by the Diputació de Barcelona. Arxiu General; the Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya in Barcelona; the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona; the Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona, Barcelona City Hall; the MAE-Theater Institute; and the private collection of the Pasans Bertolin Family, who have all generously loaned their works.

Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona brings together the extraordinary visual landscape and collective memory of early 20th-century Barcelona as seen through the eyes of Adolf Mas, one of the key figures in the history of modern photography in Spain.

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918) 'Adolf Mas touching up an image' c. 1909

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918)
Adolf Mas touching up an image
c. 1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Pau Audouard (1857-1918) was a photographer active in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain at the end of the 19th century.

Adouard was born in Havana, Cuba. He moved with his family to Barcelona in 1879, where he opened a studio. He became one of the most important photographers in Spain in the late 19th century, winning two gold medals for his work from the Real Sociedad Económica Aragonesa in 1886. Two years later, he was appointed official photographer of the 1888 Barcelona World’s Fair. Adouard was a member of the French Société française de photographie from 1879 to 1894. From 1905 to 1915, he lived and worked in the Casa Lleó Morera, built by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918) 'Adolf Mas touching up an image' c. 1909 (detail)

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918)
Adolf Mas touching up an image (detail)
c. 1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer d'Aragó Station' c. 1903

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer d’Aragó Station
c. 1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer d'Aragó Station' c. 1903 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer d’Aragó Station (detail)
c. 1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Interior of a Tower in the Sagrada Familia' 1905

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Interior of a Tower in the Sagrada Familia
1905
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Sagrada Familia' 1927

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Sagrada Familia
1927
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive) 'Barcelona at Night (Passeig de Gràcia)' 1917

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive)
Barcelona at Night (Passeig de Gràcia)
1917
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer de les Donzelles' (Street of the Maidens) c. 1908

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer de les Donzelles (Street of the Maidens)
c. 1908
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Sunset at the Llobregat River' c. 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Sunset at the Llobregat River
c. 1911
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

The exhibition Adolf Mas. Los ojos de Barcelona traces the work of this key figure in Catalan noucentista photography, through 200 photographs and diverse documentary material, divided into four thematic sections that deal with the central aspects of his career.

The central core of the exhibition features the photographs taken by the author in the context of Barcelona. Adolf Mas captures the architectural, social and cultural changes of the city in images that interweave a documentary record with the aesthetic lines of contemporary European artistic tendencies: a Barcelona of contrasts, stratified between the barraca shacks in the suburbs and the mansions of the Eixample, between the luxurious cafés in the centre for the pleasure of the bourgeoisie and the shantytowns built by beggars in Barceloneta.

The exhibition is part of the program that Fundación MAPFRE has initiated in Barcelona in collaboration with Catalan institutions that house a rich photographic heritage. On this occasion, the exhibition has been organised in collaboration with the Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic. We have also benefited from the generosity of the Diputació de Barcelona. Arxiu General; Biblioteca de Catalunya. Barcelona; the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona; the Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona. Barcelona City Hall; the MAE-Institut del Teatre; and the Familia Pasans Bertolin private collection, who have altruistically lent their works.

 

Four key features

 

Archivo Mas

Created by Adolf Mas in 1900 for the purpose of inventorying the iconographic catalog of Catalonia and, subsequently, the whole of Spain, this is the most important photographic archive in Europe on Spanish heritage. A monumental work developed over more than thirty years in which an avant-garde idea, conceived originally for commercial purposes, materialised without losing sight of the importance of documenting and disseminating a shared cultural heritage. After the Spanish Civil War, the Archivo Mas was acquired by Teresa Amatller in 1941, and is now part of the holdings of the Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic.

 

Els Quatre Gats

On June 12, 1897, Els Quatre Gats, designed by a young Josep Puig i Cadafalch, opened its doors on the first floor of the Casa Martí on Carrer Montsió in Barcelona. A famous café that was modelled after Le Chat Noir in Paris, as intended by its founders: Ramon Casas, Pere Romeu, Santiago Rusiñol and Miquel Utrillo. Over the six year period that it was active, the celebrated café was a landmark in Catalan modernism. A catalyst of ideas and trends in Barcelona’s artistic and intellectual scene, the place was frequented by figures such as Antoni Gaudí, Isidre Nonell and Pablo Picasso. Adolf Mas documented its interior from 1900 onwards and forged important links with the artists associated with the establishment, in particular with Ramon Casas, whose friendship would continue over the years.

 

Artistic competition on old Barcelona

In 1908, the construction of the future Via Laietana, foreseen by the great urban reform implemented by the “Pla Cerdà” plan, led to the demolition of a densely populated area in Barcelona’s old town. The city council, at the request of the Barcelona artists’ union, organised a competition to document the architectural heritage destined to be torn down. The initiative was very successful and 38 series of drawings and photographs were submitted. Adolf Mas was one of the most decorated artists. His images, reminiscent of Eugène Atget’s photographs of Old Paris, show the presence of people who humanise the architectural vistas, in a clear attempt to dignify the history of those buildings, as well as their inhabitants, in the face of their imminent disappearance.

 

Photographs of spectacle

Within the framework of his activity as a portraitist, Mas developed a range of works specifically linked to the show business sector. Examples of this activity include the reports made between 1914 and 1915 dedicated to two iconic figures of the time: the dancer Tórtola Valencia (1882-1955) and the soprano María Barrientos (1884-1946). The spectacular nature of the images in these series, in which technical execution and the charisma of the artists themselves are undoubtedly fundamental, is highlighted by a striking chromaticism that references an interest in the exotic.

Text from Fundación MAPFRE

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas. 'Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas' 1912

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas
Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas
1912
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Ramon Casas i Carbó (Catalan pronunciation: [rəˈmoŋ ˈkazəs]; 4 January 1866 – 29 February 1932) was a Catalan artist. Living through a turbulent time in the history of his native Barcelona, he was known as a portraitist, sketching and painting the intellectual, economic, and political elite of Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, and beyond. He was also known for his paintings of crowd scenes ranging from the audience at a bullfight to the assembly for an execution to rioters in the Barcelona streets (El garrot). Also a graphic designer, his posters and postcards helped to define the Catalan art movement known as modernisme.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas. 'Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas' 1912 (detail)

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas
Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas (detail)
1912
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Lactation House' 1903

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Lactation House
1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Lactation House' 1903 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Lactation House (detail)
1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta' 1913

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta
1913
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta' 1913 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta (detail)
1913
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Relining of "La Batalla de Tetuan" by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial' 1914

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Relining of “La Batalla de Tetuan” by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial
1914
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Marià Josep Maria Bernat Fortuny i Marsal (Catalan pronunciation: [məɾiˈa ʒuˈzɛb məˈɾi.ə βəɾˈnat fuɾˈtuɲ i məɾˈsal]; Spanish: Mariano José María Bernardo Fortuny y Marsal; June 11, 1838 – November 21, 1874), known more simply as Marià Fortuny or Mariano Fortuny, was the leading Spanish painter of his day, with an international reputation. His brief career encompassed works on a variety of subjects common in the art of the period, including the Romantic fascination with Orientalist themes, historicist genre painting, military painting of Spanish colonial expansion, as well as a prescient loosening of brush-stroke and colour. …

 

Legacy

Fortuny paintings are colorful, with a vivacious iridescent brushstroke that at times recalls the softness of Rococo painting but also anticipates impressionist brushwork. Richard Muther states:

his marvellously sensitive eye … discerned the stalls of Moorish carpet-sellers, with little figures swarming, and the rich display of woven stuffs of the East; the weary attitude of old Arabs sitting in the sun; the sombre, brooding faces of strange snake-charmers and magicians. This is no Parisian East… every one here speaks Arabic.

.
Fortuny often painted scenes where contemporary life had still not shaken off the epaulets and decorations of ancient traditions such as the “Burial of a matador” and couples signing marriage contracts (La Vicaria). Each has the dazzle of bric-a-brac ornament, but as in his painting of the Judgement of the Model, that painterly decorative air of Rococo and Romanticism was fading into academicism and left to confront the naked reality of the represented object. He inherited Goya’s eye for the paradox of ceremony and reality.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Marià Fortuny Marsal (Spanish, 1838–1874) 'La Batalla de Tetuan' Between 1862 and 1864

 

Marià Fortuny Marsal (Spanish, 1838–1874)
La Batalla de Tetuan
Between 1862 and 1864
Oil on canvas
300cm (118.1 in) x 972cm (10.6 yd)
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Relining of "La Batalla de Tetuan" by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial' 1914 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Relining of “La Batalla de Tetuan” by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial (detail)
1914
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive) 'Work Room and Library at the Mas Archive' 1927

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive)
Work Room and Library at the Mas Archive
1927
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona

When ADOLF MAS GINESTÀ (1860-1936) – solicitor by obligation and photographer by vocation – journeyed through the streets of Barcelona in around 1900, the city’s walls had already disappeared decades ago and its urban layout was being enriched by the effervescence of Modernism. The city was changing and the people of Barcelona were witnessing the establishment of new social infrastructures.

At that time, camera in hand, Mas captured in his photographs a profound and simultaneously dynamic vision of a city that had just shed its provincial reputation. His eyes became a vehicle through which to approach this new reality. The illustrated press found its way into people’s homes, and so did the photographer’s reportages. His photographs provided insight into a new urban, social, and institutional reality by portraying current and public events, as well as the city’s new infrastructures. The paths he traced between the broad arteries of the Eixample district and the narrow alleys of the city’s old quarter – sometimes awaiting their imminent demolition – configured a collective memory of early 20th century Barcelona.

But Mas’s photographic work went beyond urban reportage. The relationships he established with important architects and art historians of the time led to his specialisation in the subject of heritage. In 1907 his participation in the mission set up by the Institut d’Estudis Catalans with the objective of documenting Pyrenean artistic heritage signified a turning point for his career and for his business; indeed his business would go on to become the main photographic archive in Europe specialising in Spanish heritage.

Carmen Perrotta, curator of the exhibition

 

Adolf Mas Ginestà was one of the key figures in the field of Catalan photography in the early 20th century. Born into a wealthy family from Solsona (Lleida), he renounced a stable job as a solicitor in order to move to Barcelona, the city where he trained as a photographer. He must have arrived in the city before 1890, because that year he married Apolonia Castañeda de Ortega (1866-1954), a young seamstress from Itero de la Vega (Palencia) with whom he had two children: Pelai (1891-1954) and Màrius (1896-1902).

Although evidence exists of his activity as a photographer during the last decade of the 19th century, it was not until the early 20th century that his first reportages were published in the press. In 1901, as the director of Helius, he combined his role as manager of the business with that of a photojournalist. From 1905 Helius, a newly renamed commercial enterprise, would become known as Etablissements “MASS” (also Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas, Estudio de Fotografia A. Mas and Photographic Studio A. Mas). In the decade of 1910 further restructuring of the business would lead to the consolidation of the Mas Archive as we know it today. In 1924 the business moved its commercial headquarters located on Carrer del Rosselló to Carrer de la Freneria, leaving the recently renovated Eixample district behind and taking over a space in the old quarter that had once belonged to two important figures in Catalan art nouveau, Alexandre de Riquer and Miquel Utrillo.

Mas’s ties to the cultural and artistic circles of the time were reflected in his photographic repertoires – which ranged from artists’ studios to portraits of the musicians, poets and intellectuals of the time – and also in the graphic and advertising materials produced for the business from its early beginnings as Helius until its final years as the Mas Archive. Ramon Casas, a friend of the photographer and a great exponent of Catalan art nouveau, was one of the renowned artists Mas commissioned to produce emblematic logos for the business.

The famous café Els Quatre Gats (1897-1903), located on the ground floor of Casa Martí on Carrer del Montsió and designed by Josep Puig I Cadafalch, was an important catalyst in Mas’s relationship with the artistic trends linked to Barcelona. A drawing by Ricard Opisso from 1900 is proof that Adolf Mas was a regular visitor at the café, possibly since it first opened. His familiarity with the cultural circles linked to the establishment undoubtedly allowed him to come into contact with the great figures of the time, such as Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas. The reportages he produced in the company of the most important artists of his generation give a perspective on the interiors of the main studios operating at the time, from the studio of Lluís Masriera to that of Manuel Cano de Castro, and from the studio of Salvador Alarma to that of Félix Urgellés de Tovar.

The elite of early 20th century Catalan society – painters, architects, sculptors, musicians, dancers, singers, intellectuals, collectors and politicians, among others – posed in front of Mas’s camera at some point during their time in the limelight. These images were mostly unpublished portraits and allow an even more precise understanding of Mas’s position in contemporary artistic circles, while also revealing a previously unknown aspect – one that was far from the kind of documentary photography with which he is generally associated. Although he cannot be directly linked to pictorialism, his portraits were reminiscent of an aesthetic search and his use of formal devices such as blurring, contrasts in lighting, and the representation of introspective states of mind sets them apart from the structure of conventional portraiture; in this way they are similar to the artistic movement known as pictorialism which clearly influenced Mas. The interplay of light and shadow, and the use of extreme close-ups on the subjects’ faces, give the portraits a strength and intensity and in some cases a resemblance to phantasmagoric apparitions.

The first reportages by Adolf Mas were set in Barcelona, a city that from a social, cultural and urban planning perspective was undergoing a radical change. Assignments produced for illustrated magazines such as Los Deportes, Álbum Salón, Ilustració Catalana, Femina and Ilustración Artística, among others, led to the substantial growth of Mas’s photographic repository. His collaboration with the publishers Editorial López, at the time managed by Antoni López i Benturas, resulted in his reportages being circulated in the main journalistic outlets of the day. Mas began to make his way in photojournalism and was one of the first photojournalists of his generation in Catalonia.

Among his first repertoires are those of the main sporting events that took place in the early 20th century, such as the celebrations of the Spanish Gymnastics Federation (1900); the grand political events linked to the Liga Regionalista, among others; and a wide range of recreational events like the Fiesta de las Palomas, organised by the Real Sociedad Colombófila de Cataluña (1904), and the traditional Batalla de Flores (1907).

Mas also participated in the documentation of ambitious urban projects like the construction of Via Layetana, and took part in the Old Barcelona artistic competition (1908).

In 1909 his camera bore witness to the dramatic event of the Semana Trágica. In addition to his documentation of the destruction suffered by ecclesiastical heritage, there were other images related to a wide range of motifs such as his portrayal of the Compañía Barcelonesa de Electricidad, which he photographed after the building had been raided. Within the framework of his production, it is also important to note Mas’s documentation of the avant-garde infrastructures that were being implemented by a number of institutions at this time. These included social initiatives promoted by the Diputació de Barcelona and led to a turning point in welfare practices. Early 20th century Barcelona cannot be properly understood without the photographic repertoires of Adolf Mas: his wide-ranging body of work not only encompasses images of recreational, political, and religious events, but also documents Spain’s cultural heritage.

 

Perfumería Ideal and Bar Torino

Perfumería Ideal (established by Teodoro Sánchez Illá at number 642 Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes) and bar Torino (founded at number 18 Passeig de Gràcia by Faminio Mezzalama, the representative of Martini & Rossi vermouth in Barcelona) [see photograph below] were the finalists of the first annual competition for urban buildings and businesses awarded by Barcelona City Hall in 1902, in the new category for best decorated business opened that year. Both were included in the Anuario estadístico de la ciudad de Barcelona (1903), which highlighted Perfumería Ideal’s “ostentatious richness […] boasting its grandiose construction and splendid decorations” while Bar Torino’s “flattering simplicity and its fine and aristocratic elegance […] surpass anything seen before.” Ultimately, the latter – which was the work of Ricard Capmany, Antoni Gaudí, Pere Falqués, Josep Puig I Cadafalch, Eusebi Arnau, and Ricard Urgell, among others – became the winner of the competition.

 

Photography and Press

Photography became fully integrated into the Spanish press from the 1890s, when the great illustrated magazines – such as Blanco y Negro, which stands out for its track record – began to appear. At the turn of the century, the growing demand for photographic repertoires by newspapers, magazines, and large editorial projects, which illustrated their pages with photographs, consolidated the profession of the photojournalist. It was during the first three decades of the century that Spanish photojournalism achieved a high degree of professionalism, and photographic techniques advanced considerably. Text and photography began to be regarded as an informative unicum and Noucentista reporters were faced with readers who were eager to consume eloquent and immediate images capable of relaying information while remaining clear and understandable. The binary relationship between press and photography allowed public figures to enter readers’ homes enabling their deferred participation in the most contemporary current affairs.

 

The legacy of Adolf Mas goes beyond his work as a photographer. In order to fully understand his oeuvre one must look at the photographic repository and business model he established, which was unlike any other at that time. The innovative nature of this enterprise, on which Mas spent nearly twenty years, was based on a hybrid formula offering both the sale of photographic materials and the possibility of consulting the collections on-site, following the model of a public archive. Anyone interested in consulting the photographic materials at the archives could do so in dedicated rooms by means of “graphic cards”. These were presented in the form of postcards printed directly onto photographic paper which showed an image of the subject on the front and provided basic information on the location and characteristics of the subject on the back. The system was unique in Europe and Mas took advantage of the 1925 VI Congrès International de Photographie in Paris to reveal it to an international audience.

At this point Mas’s business had already moved toward a specialisation in heritage photography. Its participation in the expedition organised by the Institut d’Estudis Catalans with the object of documenting Pyrenean heritage would be another turning point. In 1915 Adolf Mas was commissioned to compile an iconographic repertoire of Spain for what would become the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition. The scope of the project led him to expand the number of staff photographers as his son Pelai, who had been officially working alongside his father since 1907, was no long able to cover all the business’s production requirements.

The success of the Mas Archive, which survives today as part of the repository at the Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic, must be understood as the result of the work of its founder Adolf Mas, his wife Apolonia, and their son Pelai. It is also important to highlight the work of archive staff, a team comprising apprentices, archivists, typists, photographers, officers and lab directors.

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Bar Torino' 1905

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Bar Torino
1905
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Bar Torino' 1905 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Bar Torino (detail)
1905
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Montserrat Blanc' c. 1909

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Montserrat Blanc
c. 1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Palau de la Música Catalana' 1908

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Palau de la Música Catalana
1908
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Photograph for an automobile catalog. Barral Brothers Workshop' 1909

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Photograph for an automobile catalog. Barral Brothers Workshop
1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'María Barrientos. Opera "Carmen"' 1915

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
María Barrientos. Opera “Carmen”
1915
© MAE-Institut del Teatre

 

 

María Alejandra Barrientos Llopis (4 March 1884 – 8 August 1946) was a Spanish opera singer, a light coloratura soprano.

Barrientos was born in Barcelona on 4 March 1884. She received a thorough musical education (piano and violin) at the Municipal Conservatory of Barcelona, before turning to vocal studies with Francisco Bonet. She made her debut at the Teatro Novedades in Barcelona, as Ines in L’Africaine, on March 10, 1898, aged only 15, quickly followed by the role of Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots.

She was immediately invited to all the major opera houses of Europe, singing in Italy, Germany, England, France, to great acclaim. It is however in South America, especially at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, that she enjoyed her greatest triumphs. Her career was temporarily interrupted in 1907 by her marriage and the birth of a son, the union did not prove a happy one and she returned to the stage in 1909.

Barrientos made her Metropolitan Opera debut on January 31, 1916, in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor with Giovanni Martinelli as Edgardo, Pasquale Amato as Enrico, and Gaetano Bavagnoli conducting. She remained committed to that house through 1920 where her other roles included Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Amina in La sonnambula, Elvira in I puritani, Gilda in Rigoletto, Rosina in The Barber of Seville, and the title roles in Lakmé and Mireille. She notably portrayed The Queen of Shemakha in Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel for the opera’s United States premiere on March 6, 1918. Her Met career came to an end on May 1, 1920 with a tour performance of L’elisir d’amore opposite Enrico Caruso.

Barrientos continued appearing on stage in standard coloratura roles until 1924. She then restricted herself to recitals, and became an admired interpreter of French and Spanish songs.

Barrientos was a singer with a voice of almost instrumental limpidity. She made a valuable set of recordings for Fonotipia Records and Columbia Records. She retired to the south-west of France, where she became an enthusiastic bridge player. She died at Ciboure on 8 August 1946.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Tórtola Valencia. The Dance "La Bayadère"' 1914

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Tórtola Valencia. The Dance “La Bayadère”
1914
© MAE-Institut del Teatre

 

 

Carmen Tórtola Valencia

Carmen Tórtola Valencia (June 18, 1882 – February 13, 1955) was a Spanish early modern dancer, choreographer, costume designer, and painter, who generally performed barefoot. Tórtola Valencia is said to have been the inspiration for Rubén Darío’s poem, La bailarina de los pies desnudos (“The Barefoot Dancer”).

 

Biography

Born in Seville to a Catalan father (Florenç Tórtola Ferrer, d. 1891) and Andalusian mother (Georgina Valencia Valenzuela, d. 1894), she was three years old when her family emigrated to London. In his book Tortola Valencia and Her Times (1982), Odelot Sobrac, one of her early biographers, said Tórtola Valencia developed a style that expressed emotion through movement and that she was inspired by Isadora Duncan. A member of Generación del 13, her costumes are part of the collection of Centre de Documentació i Museu de les Arts Escèniques. Her Spanish modernismo style enabled a career as a solo concert dance artist who performed classic, Oriental, and Spanish pieces. She made her debut at the Gaiety Theatre in London (1908), appearing at the Berlin Wintergarten theatre and the Folies Bergère of Paris in the same year. She performed in Nuremberg and London in 1909. One of the people she taught was the Anglo-Indian dancer Olive Craddock aka Roshanara. In 1911, she made her Spanish debut at the Romea Theatre of Madrid. She was at the Ateneo de Madrid in 1913.

 

The feminist

Tórtola Valencia was also a “pioneer Spanish feminist of the 20th century”. Being gay and having leftist ideas, Tórtola Valencia was jailed at the end of the Spanish Civil War. In 1928, she met Magret Angeles-Vila and they were inseparable thereafter. She danced for the last time in 1930 in Quito. She began painting in Barcelona where she died in 1955 and is buried at Poblenou Cemetery.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

La Bayadère

La Bayadère (“the temple dancer”) (ru. «Баядерка», Bayaderka) is a ballet, originally staged in four acts and seven tableaux by French choreographer Marius Petipa to the music of Ludwig Minkus. The ballet was staged especially for the benefit performance of the Russian Prima ballerina Ekaterina Vazem, who created the principal role of Nikiya. La Bayadère was first presented by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 4 February [O.S. 23 January] 1877. From the first performance the ballet was universally hailed by contemporary critics as one of the choreographer Petipa’s supreme masterpieces, particularly the scene from the ballet known as The Kingdom of the Shades, which became one of the most celebrated pieces in all of classical ballet. By the turn-of-the 20th century, The Kingdom of the Shades scene was regularly extracted from the full-length work as an independent showpiece, and it has remained so to the present day.

Nearly all modern versions of La Bayadère are derived from the Kirov Ballet’s production of 1941, which was a severely redacted edition staged by Vakhtang Chabukiani and Vladimir Ponomarev in Leningrad in 1941. Natalia Makarova’s 1980 production of La Bayadère for American Ballet Theatre was the first full-length production to find a permanent place in the repertories of western ballet troupes, having been staged by several theatres throughout the world. Makarova’s version is itself derived from Chabukiani and Ponomarev’s 1941 redaction for the Mariinsky Theatre.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964) '(Portrait of Adolfo Mas, Barcelona)' June 17, 1935

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964)
(Portrait of Adolfo Mas, Barcelona)
June 17, 1935
Gelatin silver print
Library of Congress

 

Jacob Riis (Danish-American, 1849-1914) 'Bandit's Roost at 59½ Mulberry Street' 1888

 

Jacob Riis (1849-1914)
Bandits’ Roost, 59 1/2 Mulberry Street
1888
Gelatin silver print, printed 1958
Museum of Modern Art
Public domain

 

 

Jacob August Riis (May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914) was a Danish-American social reformer, “muckraking” journalist and social documentary photographer. He contributed significantly to the cause of urban reform in America at the turn of the twentieth century. He is known for using his photographic and journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City; those impoverished New Yorkers were the subject of most of his prolific writings and photography. He endorsed the implementation of “model tenements” in New York with the help of humanitarian Lawrence Veiller. Additionally, as one of the most famous proponents of the newly practicable casual photography, he is considered one of the fathers of photography due to his very early adoption of flash in photography.

While living in New York, Riis experienced poverty and became a police reporter writing about the quality of life in the slums. He attempted to alleviate the bad living conditions of poor people by exposing their living conditions to the middle and upper classes.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alfred Bool (British, 1844-1926) and John Bool (British, 1850-1933) 'The entrance to the Oxford Arms' 1875

 

Alfred Bool (British, 1844-1926) and John Bool (British, 1850-1933)
The entrance to the Oxford Arms
1875
Carbon print
Yale Center for British Art

 

 

The first photograph released by the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London.

 

Alfred and John Bool were a pair of British brothers who photographed 19th century London. Alfred Henry Bool (1844-1926) and John James Bool (1850-1933) were both born in London. They opened a photo studio together in Pimlico in the 1860s, and John Bool worked there until 1918.

In 1875 the brothers were hired by Alfred Marks, the director of the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London, and would go on to photograph historic buildings including the Oxford Arms Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, the Smithfield area, Temple Bar, Gray’s Inn, St. Bartholomew’s and the Cloth Fair. The album prints were made by the brothers in the company of Henry Dixon.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

[Alfred] Marks was well-positioned for such nostalgia. He was an antiquarian scholar, and his father had been a coach builder, which may explain his particular attachment to the Oxford Arms. When he heard the building was to be demolished, Marks raised money from a few friends. He hired Alfred and John Bool, a father-son photography team best known for their landscapes, to take photos of the Arms. He then started looking for others who felt the same way he did, and might want to buy the work. “Should any readers … interested in London antiquities desire to join the subscription, I shall be happy to hear from them,” he announced in the London Times.

The Society launched “one of the first efforts” to use photography to document endangered buildings, says Foote. It was also special in that its photos were meant to be collected, like fine art. All were printed in carbon – an expensive process – to ensure they wouldn’t fade.

The first photograph set, released in 1875, consisted of six different views of the Oxford Arms, including the entrance, the yard, and the galleries. The second, which came a year later, focused on old houses and inns near Wynch Street and Drury Lane. In 1878, Marks doubled his production speed, going from six photos per year to 12. Three years later, he began writing up short texts about the buildings, printing them out, and issuing them to subscribers along with the photographs.

“The project became much bigger than he originally intended,” says Chitra Ramalingam, the Assistant Curator of Photography at the Yale Center for British Art, which exhibited SPROL’s photographs in 2016. Still, Marks ran the show, choosing which buildings to focus on, and particular details to highlight. (Despite its name, there’s no evidence the Society ever met up in real life, or had any true members besides Marks.) …

Marks gave such scrupulous instructions to the Bools – as well as to Henry and Thomas James Dixon, who he hired to replace them in 1879 – that each photograph was effectively “a collaboration between Marks and the photographer,” says Ramalingam. …

Marks disbanded his Society in 1886, 11 years after he’d started it. By this point, he had released 120 photographs, in 12 sets, and had enjoyed a certain amount of commercial success, selling over 100 subscriptions. “It is not suggested that the subject has been exhausted,” he wrote at the time, “but it is hoped that the work may be regarded as fairly complete within the lines at first marked out.”

Cara Giaimo. “The Victorian Photographic Society That Tried to Preserve ‘Old London’,” on the Atlas Obscura website June 13, 2018 [Online] Cited 23/04/2022

 

Further photographs

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer de l'Arc de Sant Francesc' (Street of the Arch of St. Francis) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer de l’Arc de Sant Francesc (Street of the Arch of St. Francis)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
10.5 x 8cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer Tarascó' (Tarascó Street) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer Tarascó (Tarascó Street)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
12 x 5.6cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Entrades als carrers Graciamat i Sant Crist de la Tapineria' Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Entrades als carrers Graciamat i Sant Crist de la Tapineria
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
11.5 x 8.1 cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer del Sant Crist de l'Argenteria des del carrer Argenteria' (Street of the Sant Crist de l'Argenteria from Argenteria street) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer del Sant Crist de l’Argenteria des del carrer Argenteria
(Street of the Sant Crist de l’Argenteria from Argenteria street)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
16.1 x 8.5cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Pati de la casa núm. 25 del carrer dels Mercaders' (Patio of the house no. 25 of the Street of the Merchants) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Pati de la casa núm. 25 del carrer dels Mercaders
(Patio of house no. 25 of the Street of the Merchants)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
9.9 x 8.6cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Interior del pati de la casa núm. 6 de la Riera de Sant Joan' (Interior of the patio of house no. 6 of the Riera of Saint Joan) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Interior del pati de la casa núm. 6 de la Riera de Sant Joan
(Interior of the patio of house no. 6 of the Riera of Saint Joan)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
11.7 x 8.3cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Plaça Nova (plaça de l'Àngel) i entrades als carrers de la Princesa i de la Bòria' (Nova Square (Square of the Angel) with the entrance to the Street of the Princess and the Boria) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Plaça Nova (plaça de l’Àngel) i entrades als carrers de la Princesa i de la Bòria
(Nova Square (Square of the Angel) with the entrance to the Street of the Princess and the Boria)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
11.7 x 8.3cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Sense títol (Plaça en obres)' (Untitled (Place under construction)) About 1908-1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Sense títol (Plaça en obres) (Untitled (Place under construction))
About 1908-1911
Gelatin silver print
17.3 x 12.2cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

The banner says “the bakery moves to the same street no. 27”

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Untitled (Street)' Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Untitled (Street)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
17.3 x 12.1cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Santa Maria del Mar' Nd

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Santa Maria del Mar
Nd
Albumen print
28 x 21cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

 

FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE – KBr Photography Center
Avenida Litoral, 30 – 08005 Barcelona
Phone: +34 93 272 31 80

Opening hours:
Mondays (except holidays): Closed.
Tuesday to Sundays (and holidays): 11am – 8pm

Fundación Mapfre website

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13
Oct
18

Exhibition: ‘Face to Face: Portraits of Artists’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 14th October 2018

 

Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006) 'Isamu Noguchi' c. 1941-1945

 

Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006)
Isamu Noguchi
c. 1941-1945
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 7/16 × 9 1/2 inches
Sheet: 7 15/16 × 10 inches, mount (primary): 9 × 11 inches
Mount (secondary): 16 15/16 × 13 7/8 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of R. Sturgis and Marion B. F. Ingersoll, 1945

 

 

Isamu Noguchi (野口 勇 Noguchi Isamu, November 17, 1904-December 30, 1988) was a Japanese American artist and landscape architect whose artistic career spanned six decades, from the 1920s onward. Known for his sculpture and public works, Noguchi also designed stage sets for various Martha Graham productions, and several mass-produced lamps and furniture pieces, some of which are still manufactured and sold.

In 1947, Noguchi began a collaboration with the Herman Miller company, when he joined with George Nelson, Paul László and Charles Eames to produce a catalog containing what is often considered to be the most influential body of modern furniture ever produced, including the iconic Noguchi table which remains in production today. His work lives on around the world and at the Noguchi Museum in New York City. …

Upon his return to New York, Noguchi took a new studio in Greenwich Village. Throughout the 1940s, Noguchi’s sculpture drew from the ongoing surrealist movement; these works include not only various mixed-media constructions and landscape reliefs, but lunars – self-illuminating reliefs – and a series of biomorphic sculptures made of interlocking slabs. The most famous of these assembled-slab works, Kouros, was first shown in a September 1946 exhibition, helping to cement his place in the New York art scene.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

No much to see here. A couple of interesting images but other than that the images are stylised and static, offering little insight into the “public personas of their creative subjects.” I have added biographical information to the posting to add some context to the photographs.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Philadelphia 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.

 

Billie Holiday with her pit bull. Jacob Lawrence in his Coast Guard uniform. Georgia O’Keeffe with her Model A Ford. See how photographers helped craft the public personas of their creative subjects in this stunning collection of rare photographs from the Museum’s collection. The exhibition features works by Dorothy Norman, Man Ray, Richard Avedon, Alice O’Malley, and many others who captured some of the most fascinating artists and performers of the past 150 years.

 

 

Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006) 'Jacob Lawrence' 1944

 

Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006)
Jacob Lawrence
1944
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 9 1/2 × 4 inches
Sheet: 16 9/16 × 13 11/16 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of R. Sturgis and Marion B. F. Ingersoll, 1945

 

 

Jacob Lawrence (September 7, 1917 – June 9, 2000) was an African-American painter known for his portrayal of African-American life. As well as a painter, storyteller, and interpreter, he was an educator. Lawrence referred to his style as “dynamic cubism”, though by his own account the primary influence was not so much French art as the shapes and colours of Harlem. He brought the African-American experience to life using blacks and browns juxtaposed with vivid colours. He also taught and spent 15 years as a professor at the University of Washington.

Lawrence is among the best-known 20th-century African-American painters. He was 25 years old when he gained national recognition with his 60-panel Migration Series, painted on cardboard. The series depicted the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North. A part of this series was featured in a 1941 issue of Fortune. The collection is now held by two museums: the odd-numbered paintings are on exhibit in the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and the even-numbered are on display at MoMA in New York. Lawrence’s works are in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Phillips Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and Reynolda House Museum of American Art. He is widely known for his modernist illustrations of everyday life as well as epic narratives of African American history and historical figures

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Arnold Newman (1918-2006) 'Milton Avery' 1944

 

Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006)
Milton Avery
1944
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 7 11/16 × 9 11/16 inches
Mount: 16 15/16 × 14 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of R. Sturgis and Marion B. F. Ingersoll, 1945

 

 

Milton Clark Avery (March 7, 1885 – January 3, 1965) was an American modern painter. Born in Altmar, New York, he moved to Connecticut in 1898 and later to New York City. According to painter Mark Rothko,

“What was Avery’s repertoire? His living room, Central Park, his wife Sally, his daughter March, the beaches and mountains where they summered; cows, fish heads, the flight of birds; his friends and whatever world strayed through his studio: a domestic, unheroic cast. But from these there have been fashioned great canvases, that far from the casual and transitory implications of the subjects, have always a gripping lyricism, and often achieve the permanence and monumentality of Egypt.”

Art critic Hilton Kramer said, “He was, without question, our greatest colourist… Among his European contemporaries, only Matisse – to whose art he owed much, of course – produced a greater achievement in this respect.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Arnold Abner Newman (3 March 1918 – June 6, 2006) was an American photographer, noted for his “environmental portraits” of artists and politicians. He was also known for his carefully composed abstract still life images. …

Newman found his vision in the empathy he felt for artists and their work. Although he photographed many personalities – Marlene Dietrich, John F. Kennedy, Harry S. Truman, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, Ronald Reagan, Mickey Mantle, and Audrey Hepburn – he maintained that even if the subject is not known, or is already forgotten, the photograph itself must still excite and interest the viewer.

Newman is often credited with being the first photographer to use so-called environmental portraiture, in which the photographer places the subject in a carefully controlled setting to capture the essence of the individual’s life and work. Newman normally captured his subjects in their most familiar surroundings with representative visual elements showing their professions and personalities. A musician for instance might be photographed in their recording studio or on stage, a Senator or other politician in their office or a representative building. Using a large-format camera and tripod, he worked to record every detail of a scene.

“I didn’t just want to make a photograph with some things in the background,” Newman told American Photo magazine in an interview. “The surroundings had to add to the composition and the understanding of the person. No matter who the subject was, it had to be an interesting photograph. Just to simply do a portrait of a famous person doesn’t mean a thing.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

This summer, the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents a unique selection of photographic portraits of artists, from the French painter Henri Matisse to American writer Eudora Welty and the great jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald as well as many other figures in the world of the visual, literary, performing arts. Ranging in date from the late nineteenth century to the present, the compelling images in Face to Face reveal the expressive ways in which artists have used photography not only to portray their subjects but also to promote or shape their own celebrity. Many of the photographs in this exhibition represent artists whose work can be seen in Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950, on view concurrently at the Museum. Among these are portraits of Berenice Abbott, George Biddle, Arthur B. Carles, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Alfred Stieglitz.

Of special note are several groups of pictures of artists, such as Marcel Duchamp, Thomas Eakins, Frida Kahlo, O’Keeffe and Stieglitz, who skilfully crafted their public personae through photography. Stieglitz and O’Keeffe realised the power of photographs to shape their public reputation, and over time were the subjects of many portraits. By contrast, most of the images of Kahlo in the Museum’s collection are from a single session with her art dealer and friend Julien Levy, who produced what appears to be a collaborative and intimate exploration of her artistic identity. Another photograph from this same session, recently discovered, shows Levy’s future wife, Muriel Streeter, wearing some of Kahlo’s clothes, adding another dimension to this intriguing series.

Consisting of over one hundred works, the exhibition is centred around two groups of portraits by Arnold Newman and Carl Van Vechten that are foundational to the Museum’s photography collection. Newman’s portraits were featured in the Museum’s inaugural photography exhibition in 1945, titled Artists Look Like This. Among the subjects depicted are such well-known figures as cartoonist Saul Steinberg and painter Piet Mondrian, as well as illustrator Peggy Bacon and painter Robert Gwathmey. The sitters captured by Van Vechten – a novelist and artistic patron who photographed those he knew well – include Ella Fitzgerald and Zora Neale Hurston, Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters. Writer James Baldwin, sculptor Richmond Barthé and painter Aaron Douglas are also highlights of this group.

Peter Barberie, The Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center, said: “We are delighted to share these portraits of some of the most creative people of the past century and to take this opportunity to explore an important aspect of our collection.”

Press release from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964) 'Zora Neale Hurston' April 3, 1935

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964)
Zora Neale Hurston
April 3, 1935
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 9 5/8 × 7 1/8 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of John Mark Lutz, 1965

 

 

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an influential author of African-American literature and anthropologist, who portrayed racial struggles in the early 20th century American South, and published research on Haitian voodoo. Of Hurston’s four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, her most popular is the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama, and moved to Eatonville, Florida, with her family in 1894. Eatonville would become the setting for many of her stories and is now the site of the Zora! Festival, held each year in Hurston’s honour. In her early career, Hurston conducted anthropological and ethnographic research while attending Barnard College. While in New York she became a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Her short satires, drawing from the African-American experience and racial division, were published in anthologies such as The New Negro and Fire!! After moving back to Florida, Hurston published her literary anthropology on African-American folklore in North Florida, Mules and Men (1935) and her first three novels: Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934); Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937); and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939). Also published during this time was Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (1938), documenting her research on rituals in Jamaica and Haiti.

Hurston’s works touched on the African-American experience and her struggles as an African-American woman. Her novels went relatively unrecognised by the literary world for decades, but interest revived after author Alice Walker published “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” in the March 1975 issue of Ms. Magazine. Hurston’s manuscript Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001), a collection of folktales gathered in the 1920s, was published posthumously after being discovered in the Smithsonian archives. Her nonfiction book Barracoon was published posthumously in 2018.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964) 'Ella Fitzgerald' January 19, 1940

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964)
Ella Fitzgerald
January 19, 1940
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 9 15/16 × 7 15/16 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of John Mark Lutz, 1965

 

 

Carl Van Vechten (June 17, 1880 – December 21, 1964) was an American writer and artistic photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein. He gained fame as a writer, and notoriety as well, for his novel Nigger Heaven. In his later years, he took up photography and took many portraits of notable people. Although he was married to women for most of his adult life, Van Vechten engaged in numerous homosexual affairs over his lifetime.

By the start of the 1930s and at age 50, Van Vechten was finished with writing and took up photography, using his apartment at 150 West 55th Street as a studio, where he photographed many notable persons.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe - After Return from New Mexico' 1929

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe – After Return from New Mexico
1929
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet/Mount: 3 1/16 × 4 11/16 inches
Mount (secondary): 13 1/2 × 10 11/16 inches
125th Anniversary Acquisition
The Alfred Stieglitz Collection, purchased with the gift (by exchange) of Dr. and Mrs. Paul Todd Makler, the Lynne and Harold Honickman Fund for Photography, the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, and the Lola Downin Peck Fund, with funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. John J. F. Sherrerd, Lynne and Harold Honickman, John J. Medveckis, and M. Todd Cooke, and gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 1997

 

Peter A. Juley & Son (American) 'Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo with Lucile and Arnold Blanch at Coyoacán' c. 1930

 

Peter A. Juley & Son (American)
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo with Lucile and Arnold Blanch at Coyoacán
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of Carl Zigrosser, 1975

 

 

Peter A. Juley & Son collection at The Smithsonian

The Juleys photographed the work of turn-of-the-century painters such as Childe Hassam, Thomas Eakins, and Albert Pinkham Ryder; ash can school artists such as Robert Henri and John Sloan; the avant-garde group associated with Alfred Stieglitz; regionalists of the 1930 and 1940s such as Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood; abstract expressionists such as Hans Hoffman and Robert Motherwell; and sculptors such as Daniel Chester French and William Zorach.

The Juley collection also holds some 4,700 photographic portraits of artists. These images capture some of the best-known artists of the twentieth century, including Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Frida Kahlo, Jacob Lawrence, Barnett Newman, Diego Rivera, and Grant Wood. Many of the portraits depict artists at work in their studios or at home with their families and offer glimpses into the artistic and social climate of the period.

Group photography by the Juley firm records the histories of the National Academy of Design and Art Students League and documents important summer art colonies at Provincetown, Massachusetts; Woodstock, New York; Old Lyme, Connecticut; and Ogunquit, Maine. In addition to the negatives produced by the Juley’s, the firm also acquired valuable negatives from other fine arts photographers, including Myra Albert, A. B. Bogart, George C. Cox, Walter Russell, A. E. Sproul, and De Witt Ward, to broaden its holdings.

Text from The Smithsonian Institution website

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'George Biddle Painting a Portrait of Man Ray' 1941

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
George Biddle Painting a Portrait of Man Ray
1941
Gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Gift of C. K. Williams, II, 2003
© Man Ray Trust / Arts Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

George Biddle (January 24, 1885 – November 6, 1973) was an American painter, muralist and lithographer, best known for his social realism and combat art. A childhood friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he played a major role in establishing the Federal Art Project (1935-1943), which employed artists under the Works Progress Administration. …

Some factors that contributed to Biddle’s artwork are the many art movements that he was involved in. Biddle was involved in “French Impressionism; the American Ashcan School; the School of Paris and Cubism during those early and exciting days when it first exploded on the world; Regionalism, the Mexican Mural Movement, and the New Deal Subsidy of Art”. He also was involved in the “post war currents of contemporary art”. Many of his works of art were contemporary. Another factor that contributed to Biddle’s artwork were his friendships with many great “painters, sculptors, and critics of the past generation and his life-long activity in behalf of fellow artists”. He borrowed many of the other artists’ styles and turned them into his own by using different techniques and images to get a different effect. Biddle believed that everyone’s life should be influenced by every “fact with which one comes in contact, until one ceases to grow or is, actually dead”. This is the reason why Biddle became such a successful American artist; he had his own style, and expressed real actual events.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Elsa Schiaparelli' 1948 (negative), c. 1948 (print)

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Elsa Schiaparelli
1948 (negative), c. 1948 (print)
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 10 1/8 × 8 1/8 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of the artist, 2005

 

 

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) was an Italian fashion designer. Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars. Starting with knitwear, Schiaparelli’s designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau. Her clients included the heiress Daisy Fellowes and actress Mae West. Schiaparelli did not adapt to the changes in fashion following World War II and her couture house closed in 1954.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Sonia Katchian (American, born Lebanon, 1947) 'Muhammed Ali' 1974

 

Sonia Katchian (American born Lebanon, b. 1947)
Muhammed Ali
1974
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11 7/8 x 8 inches
Sheet: 13 15/16 x 11 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: 125th Anniversary Acquisition. The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001

 

 

Sonia Katchian immigrated to the U.S. from Beirut, Lebanon, where she was born to Armenian parents. She is a Barnard College graduate. A New Yorker for 23 years, she was the first woman photographer hired by The N.Y. Post, was affiliated with Black Star photo agency, and was a founding member of the Soho Photo Gallery. She worked for W. Eugene Smith. In 1982 she established Photo Shuttle: Japan, moving her photo business to Tokyo, where she shuttled between NY and Tokyo for 12 years. She is currently based outside Chapel Hill, NC, where she produces fine-art portfolios, consults and shoots documentary and commercial projects – both still and video.

 

Dorothy Norman (American, 1905-1997) 'John Cage' 1970s

 

Dorothy Norman (American, 1905-1997)
John Cage
1970s
Gelatin silver print
2 15/16 × 2 3/4 inches (7.4 × 7cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
From the Collection of Dorothy Norman, 1984

 

 

Dorothy Norman (28 March 1905-12 April 1997) was an American photographer, writer, editor, arts patron and advocate for social change. …

Norman never worked as a professional photographer, instead capturing images of friends, loved ones and prominent figures in the arts and in politics. People she photographed include Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Thomas Mann (with his wife Katia, or Katy), John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Bernard Berenson, Albert Einstein, Theodore Dreiser, Elia Kazan, Lewis Mumford and Sherwood Anderson. She also photographed special sites, special trees, special harbours, special churches and buildings. She detailed the interior of An American Place, Stieglitz’s last gallery. She created an extended portrait study of Stieglitz (he returned the favour by creating a similar study of Norman).

Norman’s photographic work is noted for its clarity of vision, masterful mix of light and shading, and professional-quality printing techniques. Norman chose provocative aphorisms by contemporary and historical writers, male and female, and from various cultures, to accompany the thematic groups of photographs in sections of MoMA’s world-touring exhibition The Family of Man for its curator Edward Steichen, a long-term associate of Alfred Stieglitz.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer and music theorist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage’s romantic partner for most of their lives.

Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4’33”, which is performed in the absence of deliberate sound; musicians who present the work do nothing aside from being present for the duration specified by the title. The content of the composition is not “four minutes and 33 seconds of silence,” as is often assumed, but rather the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during performance. The work’s challenge to assumed definitions about musicianship and musical experience made it a popular and controversial topic both in musicology and the broader aesthetics of art and performance. Cage was also a pioneer of the prepared piano (a piano with its sound altered by objects placed between or on its strings or hammers), for which he wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces. The best known of these is Sonatas and Interludes (1946-1948).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Henry Horenstein (American, b. 1947) 'Mother Maybelle Carter, Lone Star Ranch, Reeds Ferry, NH' 1973

 

Henry Horenstein (American, b. 1947)
Mother Maybelle Carter, Lone Star Ranch, Reeds Ferry, NH
1973
Gelatin silver print
9 × 5 15/16 inches (22.9 × 15.1cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with funds contributed in memory of Judith Taylor, 2013

 

 

Henry Horenstein (born 1947, New Bedford, Massachusetts) is an American artist / photographer. He studied history at the University of Chicago and earned his BFA and MFA at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he is now professor of photography. He has worked as a professional photographer, teacher, and author since the early 1970s. A student of photographers / teachers Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Minor White, Horenstein is the author of over 30 books, including a series of instructional textbooks that have been used by hundreds of thousands of photography students over the past 40 years.

“Mother” Maybelle Carter (born Maybelle Addington; May 10, 1909 – October 23, 1978) was an American country musician. She is best known as a member of the historic Carter Family act in the 1920s and 1930s and also as a member of Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters.

Texts from the Wikipedia website

 

 

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17
Feb
17

Exhibition: ‘Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York’ at the Museum of the City of New York, New York City Part 2

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

An exhibition showcasing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer artistic life in New York City through the social networks of Leonard Bernstein, Mercedes de Acosta, Harmony Hammond,  Bill T. Jones, Lincoln Kirstein, Greer Lankton, George Platt Lynes,  Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Andy Warhol.

Curators: Donald Albrecht, MCNY curator of architecture and design, and Stephen Vider, MCNY Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow.

 

 

'The Young Physique' October/November 1964

 

The Young Physique
October/November 1964
Collection of Kelly McKaig

 

 

Part two of this monster posting on the exhibition Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York at the Museum of the City of New York.

Highlights include photographs by Carl Van Vechten; art work by and of Andy Warhol; a video of the “Panzy Craze” of the the 1920s and 1930s; a photograph of a very young and skinny Robert Mapplethorpe and some of his early art work; some wonderful subversiveness from Greer Lankton; two glorious photographs from one of my favourite artists, Peter Hujar; and a great selection of book covers and posters, including the ever so sensual, German Expressionist inspired Nocturnes for the King of Naples cover art by Mel Odom.

Marcus

.
Many thank to the Museum of the City of New York for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Themes

Printing

Foujita. "Helen Morgan Jr. And Jean Malin at the Smart Club Abbey," 'Vanity Fair' February 1931

 

Foujita (Japanese-French, 1886-1968)
“Helen Morgan Jr. And Jean Malin at the Smart Club Abbey”
Vanity Fair
February 1931
Private collection

 

 

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (藤田 嗣治 Fujita Tsuguharu, November 27, 1886 – January 29, 1968) was a Japanese-French painter and printmaker born in Tokyo, Japan, who applied Japanese ink techniques to Western style paintings. He has been called “the most important Japanese artist working in the West during the 20th century”. His Book of Cats, published in New York by Covici Friede, 1930, with 20 etched plate drawings by Foujita, is one of the top 500 (in price) rare books ever sold, and is ranked by rare book dealers as “the most popular and desirable book on cats ever published”.

 

André Tellier. 'Twilight Men' (Greenberg, New York) 1931

 

André Tellier
Twilight Men (Greenberg, New York)
1931
Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University

 

 

First published in 1931, this is an extremely uncommon early novel set in New York City of homosexuality and a young man whose gay tendencies infuriates his father, who attempts to set him upon the “path of normality” by hiring a mistress to seduce him.

“Like many early gay novels, the book does not have a happy ending: the main character becomes addicted to drugs, murders his father, and kills himself. This theme (the gay monster or the gay degenerate) occurs very frequently before the 1960’s. Originally, this was the only way that a book with any kind of gay themes could even be published; that is, it was only palatable – or even legal – to feature a gay protagonist if that person “gets what’s coming to him” in the end.

The February 1934 issue of Chanticleer, a gay literary “magazine,” includes reviews by Henry Gerber of several novels, including Twilight Men. He wrote: “TWILIGHT MEN, by Andre Tellier, deals with a young Frenchman, who comes to America, is introduced into homosexual society in New York, becomes a drug addict for no obvious reason, finally kills his father and commits suicide. It is again excellent anti-homosexual propaganda, although the plot is too silly to convince anyone who has known homosexual people at all.”

Little has been written about the author, Andre Tellier, himself. He wrote other books, including A Woman of Paris, The Magnificent Sin, Vagabond April, and Witchfire; but nothing else is really known about him.”

Anonymous text. “First Pages: Twilight Men by Andre Tellier,” on the Somewhere Books website December 28, 2012 [Online] Cited 22/11/2012.

 

Blair Niles. 'Strange Brother' (Horace Liveright, New York) 1931

 

Blair Niles
Strange Brother (Horace Liveright, New York)
1931
Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University

 

 

Strange Brother is a gay novel written by Blair Niles published in 1931. The story is about a platonic relationship between a heterosexual woman and a gay man and takes place in New York City in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Strange Brother provides an early and objective documentation of homosexual issues during the Harlem Renaissance.

Mark Thornton, the story’s protagonist, moves to New York City in hopes of feeling like less of an outsider. At a nightclub in Harlem he meets and befriends June Westbrook. One night they witness a man named Nelly being arrested. June encourages Mark to investigate. This leads Mark to attend Nelly’s trial, where he is found guilty and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on Welfare Island for his feminine affections and gestures. Next Mark researches the crimes against nature sections of the penal code. Shaken up by his findings and the events, Mark confesses his own homosexuality to June.

Mark and June’s friendship continues to grow, and June introduces Mark to a number of friends in her social circle. Various social interactions ensue including a dinner party for a departing professor, a trip to a nightspot featuring a singer called Glory who sings Creole Love Call and attending a drag ball. Despite reading Walt Whitman’s poetry collection Leaves of Grass, Edward Carpenter’s series of papers Love’s Coming of Age, and Countee Cullen’s poetry, Mark is afraid to come out. Subsequently, Mark is threatened with being outed at work. In response to this threat, Mark commits suicide by shooting himself.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Ann Bannon. 'I Am a Woman' (Gold Medal Books, New York) 1959

 

Ann Bannon (American, b. 1932)
I Am a Woman (Gold Medal Books, New York)
1959
Private collection

 

 

The classic 1950s novel from the Queen of Lesbian Pulp. “For contemporary readers the books offer a valuable record of gay and lesbian life in the 1950s. Most are set in Greenwich Village, and Ms. Bannon’s descriptions of bars, clubs and apartment parties vividly evoke a vanished community. Her characters also have historical value. Whereas most lesbians in pulp are stereotypes who get punished for their desires, Beebo and her friends are accessibly human. Their struggles with love and relationships are engrossing today, and half a century ago they were revolutionary.” ~ New York Times “Sex. Sleaze. Depravity. Oh, the twisted passions of the twilight world of lesbian pulp fiction.” ~ Chicago Free Press “Little did Bannon know that her stories would become legends, inspiring countless fledgling dykes to flock to the Village, dog-eared copies of her books in hand, to find their own Beebos and Lauras and others who shared the love they dared not name.” ~ San Francisco Bay Guardian “Ann Bannon is a pioneer of dyke drama.” ~ On Our Backs “When I was young, Bannon’s books let me imagine myself into her New York City neighbourhoods of short-haired, dark-eyed butch women and stubborn, tight-lipped secretaries with hearts ready to be broken. I would have dated Beebo, no question.” ~ Dorothy Allison “Bannon’s books grab you and don’t let go.”  ~ Village Voice

 

'Muscleboy' March/April 1965

 

Muscleboy
March/April 1965
Collection of Kelly McKaig

 

Design by Gran Fury for Art Against AIDS/On The Road and Creative Time, Inc. 'Kissing Doesn't Kill: Greed and Indifference Do' 1989

 

Design by Gran Fury for Art Against AIDS/On The Road and Creative Time, Inc.
Kissing Doesn’t Kill: Greed and Indifference Do
1989
Bus poster
Gran Fury, Courtesy The New York Public Library Manuscripts and Archives Division

 

Placemaking: Cruising

Anonymous photographer. 'New York City street photograph' 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
New York City street photograph
1960s
Collection of Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons, New York

 

Leonard Fink. 'Charley Inside Ramrod' c. 1976

 

Leonard Fink (American, 1930-1993)
Charley Inside Ramrod
c. 1976
Courtesy LGBT Community Center National History Archive

 

 

THE RAMROD, 394 West Street, (between Charles and West 10th Streets). Constructed in the 1850’s this building (actually two, that were attached) housed S. J. Seely & Co., a lime dealer, and C. August, (on the corner) a porter house, and private residence. In the late 70’s it was one of the most popular leather bars in New York. Attracting a large motorcycle clientele, West Street always had a plethora of bikes parked out front. The doorman, Rico, had a long black bushy beard, and an ever present black cowboy hat, also he wore on his hand a glove with sharp stainless steel blades attached to it, (sort of a precursor to Freddie Kruger). The bar, and Rico could be very intimidating, if you were new, or “Brown” as the uninitiated were called… referring to the brown leather they wore.

Anonymous text. “Greenwich Village: A Gay History,” on the Huzzbears website [Online] Cited 15/02/2021. No longer available online

 

In June 1993, the Estate of Leonard Fink donated a photographic collection to The Center in New York City through its executor, Steven E. Bing. The materials in the Fink Estate was willed to four AIDS related organisations who gave all of the rights to the photos to the Center Archive. Some of these were signed “Len Elliot,” which might have ben a pseudonym of Fink’s. The collection consists of over 25,000 negatives and images capturing Greenwich Village and much of the spirit of the late 60s and 70s. Some of the most well known images in the collection are Fink’s work at “The Piers” along the Hudson River. Fink documented over 25 years of gay life in New York City but his photography was never exhibited or published in his lifetime. He was self taught and used an old 35mm camera while working out of a homemade darkroom in his West 92nd Street apartment.

Jeffrey James Keyes. “PHOTOS: An Exclusive Peek Inside The Estate of Leonard Fink,” on the Gay Cities website May 27, 2014 [Online] Cited 22/11/2021

 

Leonard Fink was an amateur photographer who documented over 25 years of gay life in New York including parades, bars, and especially the west side piers. He worked in complete obscurity and was apparently very reclusive. His photographs were seen by only a few close friends and were never exhibited or published in his lifetime. He seems to have taught himself photography using an old 35mm camera and a homemade darkroom in his small apartment on West 92nd street. He lived frugally, spending much of his income on photographic supplies which he bought in bulk and stored in his darkroom and his bedroom. He stored the prints and negatives in a file cabinet. By the time of his death, the photos in the file cabinet covered a period from 1954 to 1992. His photographs of gay life begin with groups of gay men photographed in Greenwich Village in 1967. His photographs of Gay Pride parades begin with the first parade in 1970. His earlier photographs are of friends, trips to Europe, and scenes in New York. Leonard Fink was a colourful and ubiquitous character in the Village and at Pride parades, usually appearing on roller skates in short cut-offs, and a tight t-shirt with cameras always around his neck. He sometimes arrived on a bicycle or a motorcycle. He was born in 1930. His father and older brother were both physicians. He worked for many years as an attorney for the New York Transit Authority. He died of AIDS in 1993.

Anonymous text. “Leonard Fink Photographs,” on The Center website [Online] Cited 22/11/2021

 

Posing

James VanDerZee. 'Beau of the Ball' 1926

 

James VanDerZee (African-American, 1886-1983)
Beau of the Ball
1926
Gelatin silver print
Donna Mussenden VanDerZee

 

 

James Van Der Zee (June 29, 1886 – May 15, 1983) was an African-American photographer best known for his portraits of black New Yorkers. He was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Aside from the artistic merits of his work, Van Der Zee produced the most comprehensive documentation of the period. Among his most famous subjects during this time were Marcus Garvey, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Countee Cullen…

Van Der Zee worked predominantly in the studio and used a variety of props, including architectural elements, backdrops, and costumes, to achieve stylized tableaux vivant in keeping with late Victorian and Edwardian visual traditions. Sitters often copied celebrities of the 1920s and 1930s in their poses and expressions, and he retouched negatives and prints heavily to achieve an aura of glamour…

Works by Van Der Zee are artistic as well as technically proficient. His work was in high demand, in part due to his experimentation and skill in double exposures and in retouching negatives of children. One theme that recurs in his photographs was the emergent black middle class, which he captured using traditional techniques in often idealistic images. Negatives were retouched to show glamor and an aura of perfection. This affected the likeness of the person photographed, but he felt each photo should transcend the subject. His carefully posed family portraits reveal that the family unit was an important aspect of Van Der Zee’s life. “I tried to see that every picture was better-looking than the person.” “I had one woman come to me and say ‘Mr.Van Der Zee my friends tell thats a nice picture, But it doesn’t look like you.’ That was my style.” Said Van Der Zee.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Carl Van Vechten. 'Anna May Wong' 1932

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964)
Anna May Wong
1932
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Carl Van Vechten

 

 

Little known today, Carl Van Vechten was a prolific novelist, critic, photographer, and promoter of all things modern, most actively engaged in the city’s cultural life during the 1920s and ’30s. The City Museum is rich in Van Vechten materials; its collections include about 2,200 photographs taken by him and 3,000 Christmas cards sent to him and his wife, film and theatre actress Fania Marinoff. Taken together, they chronicle Van Vechten’s influential circles of friends and colleagues – a hybrid mash-up that defines the modern America at the heart of White’s new book. Images and correspondence in the City Museum’s collection range from Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes to writer Zelda Fitzgerald (wife of F. Scott), and playwright Eugene O’Neill.

Around 1920 Van Vechten gave up journalism for fiction and over the next decade wrote hotly debated novels about Jazz Age Manhattan. His 1923 book The Blind Bow-Boy, for example, is a classic of gay camp and a public expression of Van Vechten’s sexual orientation; while he and Marinoff were married from 1914 until Van Vechten’s death in 1964, he had numerous homosexual relationships… Van Vechten’s role in the Harlem Renaissance remains a controversial topic. To some he’s a valuable bridge between white and black New Yorkers, to others he’s an outsider who patronised and exploited his African-American subjects…

Carl Van Vechten abandoned writing altogether in the early 1930s and embraced photography, a field he would pursue until his death. All told, it is estimated that Van Vechten took some 15,000 photographs. Because his inherited wealth offered him financial independence, Van Vechten took pictures for his own pleasure, usually inviting local and visiting celebrities to a studio he set up in his own apartment. While Van Vechten was aware of the stylistic artifice of such contemporary commercial photographers as Edward Steichen and Cecil Beaton, he stood apart from them. He used a small-format camera, and his aesthetic, which included deep and dramatic shadows that sometimes obscured his subjects’ faces, resulted in picture-making that was far more immediate and spontaneous than that of his contemporaries. Using this technique, Van Vechten photographed musicians Billie Holiday and George Gershwin, Hollywood actors Laurence Olivier and Anna May Wong, and writers Sinclair Lewis and Clifford Odets, to name only a few. The sum of Van Vechten’s work, according to photography historian Keith F. Davis, “constitutes the single most integrated vision of American arts and letters produced in his era.”

Donald Albrecht. “Carl Van Vechten and Modern New York,” on the Museum of the City of New York website August 26, 2014 [Online] Cited 22/11/2021

 

Anna May Wong (January 3, 1905 – February 3, 1961) was an American actress. She is considered to be the first Chinese American movie star, and also the first Asian American actress to gain international recognition. Her long and varied career spanned silent film, sound film, television, stage and radio…

Wong’s image and career have left a legacy. Through her films, public appearances and prominent magazine features, she helped to humanise Asian Americans to white audiences during a period of overt racism and discrimination. Asian Americans, especially the Chinese, had been viewed as perpetually foreign in U.S. society but Wong’s films and public image established her as an Asian-American citizen at a time when laws discriminated against Asian immigration and citizenship. Wong’s hybrid image dispelled contemporary notions that the East and West were inherently different.

See an excellent short biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Carl Van Vechten. 'Hugh Laing' 1941

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964)
Hugh Laing
1941
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Carl Van Vechten

 

 

Hugh Laing (6 June 1911 – 10 May 1988) was one of the most significant dramatic ballet dancers of the 20th-century. He was the partner of choreographer Antony Tudor. Known for his good looks and the intensity of his stage presence, Laing was never considered a great technician, yet his powers of characterisation and his sense of theatrical timing were considered remarkable. His profile as a significant dancer of his era was almost certainly enhanced by Tudor’s choreographing to his undoubted strengths and Laing is generally regarded as one of the finest dramatic dancers of 20th-century ballet. He remained Tudor’s artistic collaborator and companion until the choreographer’s death in 1987.

 

Carl Van Vechten. 'Alvin Ailey' 1955

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964)
Alvin Ailey
1955
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Carl Van Vechten

 

 

Alvin Ailey (January 5, 1931 – December 1, 1989) was an African-American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. He is credited with popularising modern dance and revolutionising African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance. His company gained the nickname “Cultural Ambassador to the World” because of its extensive international touring. Ailey’s choreographic masterpiece Revelations is believed to be the best known and most often seen modern dance performance…

Ailey made use of any combination of dance techniques that best suited the theatrical moment. Valuing eclecticism, he created more a dance style than a technique. He said that what he wanted from a dancer was a long, unbroken leg line and deftly articulated legs and feet (“a ballet bottom”) combined with a dramatically expressive upper torso (“a modern top”). “What I like is the line and technical range that classical ballet gives to the body. But I still want to project to the audience the expressiveness that only modern dance offers, especially for the inner kinds of things.”

Ailey’s dancers came to his company with training from a variety of other schools, from ballet to modern and jazz and later hip-hop. He was unique in that he did not train his dancers in a specific technique before they performed his choreography. He approached his dancers more in the manner of a jazz conductor, requiring them to infuse his choreography with a personal style that best suited their individual talents. This openness to input from dancers heralded a paradigm shift that brought concert dance into harmony with other forms of African-American expression, including big band jazz.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Larry Rivers. 'O'Hara Nude With Boots' 1954

 

Larry Rivers (American, 1923-2002)
O’Hara Nude With Boots
1954
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Larry Rivers Foundation

 

 

“Among Rivers’ portraits of the mid-1950s, the most notable and controversial work for a discussion of the relationship among autobiography, sexuality, and art is O’Hara, which he painted during January 1954 as he re-entered an emotional relationship with the sitter. According to [poet Frank] O’Hara’s biographer, Brad Gooch, Rivers and O’Hara had a relatively short, turbulent romance that began in 1952m but during 1953 the two men became involved in other romantic relationships… Beginning in 1954, however, Rivers and O’Hara resumed their intimate relationship, which then lasted less than a year…

A nude of a contemporary figure on such a huge scale as O’Hara appeared unusual and even controversial in the 1950s New York art world. Rivers recalled that when the painting was first shown at the Whitney Annual in 1955, a guard often stood in front of it to ensure that the painting would not be defaced or damaged: “There was something about the male nude that seemed to be more of a problem than the female nude.” Some contemporary viewers where shocked by O’Hara, given its depiction of a naked male body with meticulous attention to the genitals.”

Dong-Yeon Koh. Larry Rivers and Frank O’Hara: Reframing Male Sexualities. Phd dissertation 2006, pp. 196-198.

 

Beauford Delaney. 'James Baldwin' c. 1957

 

Beauford Delaney (American, 1901-1979)
James Baldwin
c. 1957
Oil on canvasboard
Halley K. Harrisburg and Michael Rosenfeld, New York

 

 

Beauford Delaney (December 30, 1901 – March 26, 1979) was an American modernist painter. He is remembered for his work with the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as his later works in abstract expressionism following his move to Paris in the 1950s.

In his Introduction to the Exhibition of Beauford Delaney opening December 4, 1964 at the Gallery Lambert, James Baldwin wrote, “the darkness of Beauford’s beginnings, in Tennessee, many years ago, was a black-blue midnight indeed, opaque and full of sorrow. And I do not know, nor will any of us ever really know, what kind of strength it was that enabled him to make so dogged and splendid a journey.”

 

James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America, and their inevitable if unnameable tensions. Some Baldwin essays are book-length, for instance The Fire Next Time (1963), No Name in the Street (1972), and The Devil Finds Work (1976).

Baldwin’s novels and plays fictionalise fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration not only of black people, but also of gay and bisexual men, while depicting some internalised obstacles to such individuals’ quests for acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin’s second novel, Giovanni’s Room, written in 1956, well before the gay liberation movement.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Performing

 

 

The Pansy Craze on Stage and Screen

New York’s queer cultures gained remarkable visibility on the city’s stages in the 1920 and 1930s. Broadway producers and nightclub owners put on plays and acts exploring gay and lesbian themes. They launched a popular “Panzy Craze,” where minorities where accepted. This period lasted until the mid-1930s when morals and ethics changed because of right-wing pressure. The film code was then in full force to protect society’s “morals” and there was, once more, open hostility towards minorities that latest into the 1970s.

With permission of the Museum of the City of New York for Art Blart

The Museum of the City of New York
Film compiliation
Produced by Cramersound

 

Max Ewing. 'Gallery of Extraordinary Portraits' 1928

 

Max Ewing (American, 1903-1934)
Gallery of Extraordinary Portraits
1928
Courtesy Yale University, Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library

 

 

Max Ewing’s Gallery of Extraordinary Portraits encapsulates the exhibition’s wider exploration of queer communities in 20th-century New York. Ewing was a novelist, composer, pianist, and sculptor who created this gallery in the walk-in closet of his Manhattan studio apartment on West 31st Street. His semi-public closet exhibition paid homage to interracial, gay, and artistic communities with images of friends and celebrities plastered floor to ceiling, corner to corner.

 

Sterling Paige. 'Gladys Bentley at the Ubangi Club in Harlem' early 1930s

 

Sterling Paige
Gladys Bentley at the Ubangi Club in Harlem
early 1930s
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY

 

 

1960-1995

Portraits

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol. 'Studies for a Boy Book' exhibition announcement for Bodley Gallery c. 1956

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Studies for a Boy Book exhibition announcement for Bodley Gallery
c. 1956
Offset lithograph Susan Sheehan Gallery, New York

 

Andy Warhol. 'Gee, Merrie Shoes' 1956

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Gee, Merrie Shoes
1956
Hand colored offset lithograph
Susan Sheehan Gallery, New York

 

Andy Warhol. 'Cecil Beaton's Feet' 1961

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Cecil Beaton’s Feet
1961
Black ink on buff wove paper
Philadephia Museum of Art
The Henry P. Mcllhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. Mcllhenny, 1986

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Andy Warhol and Candy Darling, New York' 1969

 

Cecil Beaton (British, 1904-1980)
Andy Warhol and Candy Darling, New York
1969
Gelatin silver print
© The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

 

Candy Darling (November 24, 1944 – March 21, 1974) was an American transgender actress, best known as a Warhol Superstar. She starred in Andy Warhol’s films Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), and was a muse of the protopunk band The Velvet Underground.

 

 

Edie Sedgwick Screen Test

Andy Warhol’s silent screen test for his future “super star.”

 

Harmony Hammond

Liberation News Service #624 July 3, 1974

 

Liberation News Service #624, featuring Harmony Hammond, right, with daughter, Tanya, at the Christopher Street Liberation Day Gay Pride March, photograph by Cidne Hart for Liberation News Service, July 3, 1974
Private collection

 

Harmony Hammond. 'An Oval Braid' 1972

 

Harmony Hammond (American, b. 1944)
An Oval Braid
1972
Charcoal on paper
Courtesy the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York

 

Harmony Hammond. 'Fan Lady meets Cactus Lady' 1981

 

Harmony Hammond (American, b. 1944)
Fan Lady meets Cactus Lady
1981
Lithograph
Courtesy the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York

 

 

Robert Mapplethorpe

Judy Linn. 'Robert Gets Dressed at the Chelsea, #3' 1970

 

Judy Linn (American, b. 1947)
Robert Gets Dressed at the Chelsea, #3
1970
Modern digital print
Courtesy the Artist and Susanne Hilberry Gallery

 

'Gay Power', Volume 1, No 16, April 15, 1970

 

Gay Power, Volume 1, No 16, April 15, 1970
Alternative Press Collection, Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Light Gallery invitation' 1973

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Light Gallery invitation
1973
Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles California

 

Ultra Violet modeling Mapplethorpe-designed jewelry, c. 1975

 

Ultra Violet modeling Mapplethorpe-designed jewelry
c. 1975
Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to The J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

 

 

Isabelle Collin Dufresne (stage name Ultra Violet; 6 September 1935 – 14 June 2014) was a French-American artist, author, and both a colleague of Andy Warhol and one of the pop artist’s so-called superstars. Earlier in her career, she worked for and studied with surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. Dufresne lived and worked in New York City, and also had a studio in Nice, France…

In 1954, after a meeting with Salvador Dalí, she became his “muse”, pupil, studio assistant, and lover in both Port Lligat, Spain, and in New York City. Later, she would recall, “I realised that I was ‘surreal’, which I never knew until I met Dalí”. In the 1960s, Dufresne began to follow the progressive American Pop Art scene including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist.

In 1963, Dalí introduced Dufresne to Andy Warhol, and soon she moved into the orbit of his unorthodox studio, “The Factory”. In 1964 she selected the stage name “Ultra Violet” at Warhol’s suggestion, because it was her preferred fashion – her hair colour at the time was often violet or lilac. She became one of many “superstars” in Warhol’s Factory, and played multiple roles in over a dozen films between 1965 and 1974…

In the 1980s, she gradually drifted away from the Factory scene, taking a lower profile and working independently on her own art. In her autobiography, published the year after Warhol’s unexpected demise in 1987, she chronicled the activities of many Warhol superstars, including several untimely deaths during and after the Factory years…

In 1990 she opened a studio in Nice and wrote another book detailing her own ideas about art, L’Ultratique. She lived and worked as an artist in New York City, and also maintained a studio in Nice for the rest of her life.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Valerie Santagto. 'Robert Mapplethorpe, front, and Jay Johnson in Mapplethorpe designed jewelry' c. 1970-75

 

Valerie Santagto (American, b. 1947)
Robert Mapplethorpe, front, and Jay Johnson in Mapplethorpe designed jewellery
c. 1970-75
Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to The J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Jim, Sausalito' 1977

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)X Portfolio with Jim, Sausalito
1978
Black silk clamshell case with gelatin silver print photographs mounted on pure rag board
Designed by John Cheim
Courtesy Yoshi Gallery, New York and Cheim & Read, New York

 

 

Greer Lankton

Einsteins installation designed by Paul Monroe for Gay Gotham, 2016

 

Einsteins installation designed by Paul Monroe for Gay Gotham, 2016
Courtesy of Greer Lankton Archives Museum

Greer Lankton (American, 1958-1996)
Mini-Einsteins
1987
Cardboard, glass, paint, styrofoam board

Andy Warhol
1990
Fabric, wire, glass, human hair

Teri Toye
1988
Fabric, wire, glass, human hair

Siamese Twins
1988
Paper, wire, fabric

 

Greer Lankton (dolls and photo) 'Einsteins "Circus" window display by Greer Lankton and Paul Monroe' 1986

 

Greer Lankton (American, 1958-1996) (dolls and photo)
Einsteins “Circus” window display by Greer Lankton and Paul Monroe
1986
Courtesy Paul Monroe for Greer Lankton Archives Museum

 

 

Greer Lankton (1958 – November 18, 1996) was an American artist known for creating lifelike, sewn dolls that were often modelled on friends and celebrities and posed in elaborate theatrical settings. She was a key figure in the East Village art scene of the 1980s in New York.

Gender and sexuality are recurring themes in Lankton’s art. Her dolls are created in the likeness of those society calls “freaks”, and have often been compared to the surrealist works of Hans Bellmer, who made surreal dolls with interchangeable limbs. She created figures that were simultaneously distressing and glamorous, as if they were both victim and perpetrator of their existence.

In 1981 Lankton was featured in the seminal “New York/New Wave” exhibition at P.S.1 in Long Island City, and began to show her work in the East Village at Civilian Warfare. She gained an almost cult following among East Village residents from her highly theatrical window displays she designed for Einstein’s, the boutique that was run by her husband, Paul Monroe, at 96 East Seventh Street. Besides her more emotionally charged dolls, Lankton also created commissioned portrait dolls. These include a 1989 doll of Diana Vreeland that was commissioned for a window display at Barney’s as well as shrines to her icons, such as Candy Darling.

Critic Roberta Smith described her works in the New York Times as: “Beautifully sewn, with extravagant clothes, make-up and hairstyles, they were at once glamorous and grotesque and exuded intense, Expressionistic personalities that reminded some observers of Egon Schiele. They presaged many of the concerns of 90’s art, including the emphasis on the body, sexuality, fashion and, in their resemblance to puppets, performance.” 

Photographer Nan Goldin said of her work, “Greer was one of the pioneers who blurred the line between folk art and fine art.” She had spots in the prestigious Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale, both in 1995, where her busts of Candy Darling, circus fat ladies, and dismembered heads gained her notoriety…

Greer was friends with photographer Nan Goldin, and lived in her apartment in the early 80’s, often posing for her. She also played muse to photographers like David Wojnarowicz and Peter Hujar.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

“Writing about the wax dolls of German artist Lotte Pritzel (to whom Lankton’s own work bears a strong family resemblance), Rainer Maria Rilke noted: “With the doll we had to assert ourselves, because if we surrendered to it there was nobody there. It made no response, so we got into the habit of doing things for it, splitting our own slowly expanding nature into opposing parts and to some extent using the doll to establish distance between ourselves and the amorphous world pouring into us” [“Dolls: On the Wax Dolls of Lotte Pritzel,” tr. Idris Parry]. This relationship imbues the doll with its “soul,” Rilke writes, arguing that it is the extremity of this attachment that leads us to both desire and reject the doll. Unalterable strangeness: Lankton’s own work is plotted along the rejection-desire axis, granting the work a peculiar levity that hovers between fearsome and friendly…

Lankton’s art is both realistic and unrealistic, a difficult balance that is not unlike Candy Darling’s work as an actor, which often operated at the juncture between self-conscious play and unanticipated reality to evoke, again, unalterable strangeness. Following Douglas Crimp’s description of the superstar as someone whose “self … recognises otherness already there in itself [and] performs its own self-alienation” [Our Kind of Movie: The Films of Andy Warhol, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012], Lankton likewise performs the double work of representing bodies (hers and others) while asserting their alienation. Darling rehearsed and played herself in order to be someone else. It might be said that Lankton rehearsed and played others in order to be herself.”

Extract from “Unalterable Strangeness: Andrew Durbin and Paul Monroe on Greer Lankton,” on the Flash Art website, March – April 2015. No longer available online

 

Paul Monroe. 'Chanel No. 5 earrings' 1985

 

Paul Monroe
Chanel No. 5 earrings
1985
Glass (actual miniature Chanel products filled with No. 5), 14k gold wire and glass pearls

Candelabra ring
1986
Metal, chain, glass jewels and wax

Paul Monroe and Greer Lankton (American, 1958-1996)
Teri Toye necklace
1985
Clay, acrylic paint, gold metal chain and rhinestones

Einsteins promotional cards 1986-1992
Einsteins business card, 1985

 

Nan Goldin. 'Greer Lankton and Paul Monroe wedding' 1987

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
Greer Lankton and Paul Monroe wedding
1987
Greer Lankton Archives Museum

 

 

Bill T. Jones

Lois Greenfield. 'Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane' 1982

 

Lois Greenfield (American, b. 1949)
Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane
1982
Modern print Courtesy Lois Greenfield Studio

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Studio Portrait (Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane)' 1986

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Studio Portrait (Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane)
1986
Private Collection of Bill T. Jones

 

Tseng Kwong Chi. 'Bill T. Jones Body Painting with Keith Haring' 1983

 

Tseng Kwong Chi (American born Hong Kong, 1950-1990)
Bill T. Jones Body Painting with Keith Haring
1983
Silver gelatin selenium-toned print
© Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc., New York. Body Drawing on Bill T. Jones by Keith Haring
© 1983 Keith Haring Foundation

 

Huck Snyder. Small mask from 'Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin' 1990

 

Huck Snyder (American, b. 1993)
Small mask from Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin
1990
Painted cardboard and fabric
New York Live Arts

 

 

Huck Snyder was a visual artist and a designer of vivid stage settings for dancers and performance artists. He created sets and stage furniture that were surrealistic yet extremely simple and almost childlike at times. Imaginative and free in their execution and unmistakably his work, his sets often seemed inseparable from the vision of the performers with whom he worked. Huck had designed stage sets for the performance artist John Kelly beginning with sets for Diary of a Somnambulist in 1985…

Mr. Snyder also created sets for dances by Bill T. Jones and Bart Cook, and for theater pieces by Ishmael Houston-Jones. He conceived, directed and designed his own work “Circus,” a performance-art piece presented in 1987 at La Mama E.T.C. Mr. Snyder’s work has been displayed at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Dance Theater Workshop in New York. His paintings and installations have been exhibited at galleries throughout the United States and in solo and group shows in Europe and Japan.

Anonymous text. “Huck Snyder,” on the Visual AIDS website [Online] Cited 22/11/2021

 

 

Themes

Downtown

'Shazork! invitation, Danceteria' late 1980s

 

Downtown invitations
Shazork! invitation, Danceteria
Late 1980s
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Carrie Goteiner and Miriam Montaug Ashkenazy in memory of Haoui Montaug

 

Peter Hujar. 'Quentin Crisp' 1982

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Quentin Crisp
1982
Vintage gelatin silver print
© The Peter Hujar Archive; Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Quentin Crisp was born Denis Charles Pratt in Surrey, England, on December 25, 1908. A self-described flamboyant homosexual, Crisp changed his name in his early 20s as part of his process of reinvention. Teased mercilessly at school as a boy, Crisp left school in 1926. He studied journalism at King’s College London, but failed to graduate. He then moved on to take art classes at Regent Street Polytechnic. Crisp began visiting the cafés of Soho, London, and even worked as a prostitute for six months. Crisp was always true to himself and expressed himself by dying his long hair lavender, polishing his fingernails and toenails, and dressing in an often androgynous style. Despite the ridicule and violence often directed toward him, Crisp carried on. He tried to join the army with the outbreak of World War II, but was rejected by the medical board, who determined that he was suffering from sexual perversion. Instead, Crisp remained in London during the Blitz, entertaining American GIs, whose friendliness inculcated a love for Americans.

Crisp held a number of jobs, including engineer’s tracer, life model, and author. His most famous work, The Naked Civil Servant, detailed his life in a homophobic British society. When the book was adapted for television, Crisp began a new career as a performer and lecturer. He moved to Manhattan in 1981, when he was 72 years old; settling in a studio apartment in the Bowery. Upon meeting and spending time with Crisp, Sting was inspired to pen his hit song, “An Englishman in New York.”

Crisp continued to tour, write, and lecture; including instructions on how to live life with style and the importance of manners. Crisp landed a few roles on American television and the 1990s became his busiest decade as an actor. In 1992, Crisp took on the role of Elizabeth I in the film Orlando.

Quentin Crisp died in November 1999, just shy of his 91st birthday, while touring his one-man show.

Anonymous text. “Quentin Crisp,” on the Biography website [Online] Cited 15/02/2017. No longer available online

 

Peter Hujar. 'Susan Sontag' 1975, printed 2014

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Susan Sontag
1975, printed 2014
Pigmented ink print
© The Peter Hujar Archive; Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Peter Hujar (born 1934) died of AIDS in 1987, leaving behind a complex and profound body of photographs. Hujar was a leading figure in the group of artists, musicians, writers, and performers at the forefront of the cultural scene in downtown New York in the 1970s and early 80s, and he was enormously admired for his completely uncompromising attitude towards work and life. He was a consummate technician, and his portraits of people, animals, and landscapes, with their exquisite black-and-white tonalities, were extremely influential. Highly emotional yet stripped of excess, Hujar’s photographs are always beautiful, although rarely in a conventional way. His extraordinary first book, Portraits in Life and Death, with an introduction by Susan Sontag, was published in 1976, but his “difficult” personality and refusal to pander to the marketplace insured that it was his last publication during his lifetime.

Anonymous text on the Peter Hujar Archive website [Online] Cited 22/11/2021

 

Susan Sontag (January 16, 1933 – December 28, 2004) was an American writer, filmmaker, teacher, and political activist. She published her first major work, the essay “Notes on ‘Camp'”, in 1964. Her best-known works include On Photography, Against Interpretation, Styles of Radical Will, The Way We Live Now, Illness as Metaphor, Regarding the Pain of Others, The Volcano Lover, and In America.

Sontag was active in writing and speaking about, or travelling to, areas of conflict, including during the Vietnam War and the Siege of Sarajevo. She wrote extensively about photography, culture and media, AIDS and illness, human rights, and communism and leftist ideology. Although her essays and speeches sometimes drew controversy, she has been described as “one of the most influential critics of her generation.” …

It was through her essays that Sontag gained early fame and notoriety. Sontag wrote frequently about the intersection of high and low art and expanded the dichotomy concept of form and art in every medium. She elevated camp to the status of recognition with her widely read 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp’,” which accepted art as including common, absurd and burlesque themes.

In 1977, Sontag published the series of essays On Photography. These essays are an exploration of photographs as a collection of the world, mainly by travellers or tourists, and the way we experience it… She became a role-model for many feminists and aspiring female writers during the 1960s and 1970s.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Printing

Liza Cowan (designer) 'DYKE, A Quarterly' c. 1974

 

Liza Cowan (designer)
DYKE, A Quarterly
c. 1974
Flyer
Courtesy Liza Cowan and Penny House

 

'DYKE, A Quarterly Call for poster design flyer' 1976

 

DYKE, A Quarterly Call for poster design flyer
1976
Illustration by Liza Cowan Penny House

 

'Christopher Street' September 1977

 

Christopher Street
September 1977
Private collection

 

'Christopher Street' June 1978

 

Christopher Street
June 1978
Private collection

 

Edmund White. 'Nocturnes for the King of Naples' Paperback edition with cover art by Mel Odom, 1980

 

Edmund White (American, b. 1940)
Nocturnes for the King of Naples
Paperback edition with cover art by Mel Odom, 1980 (originally published 1978)
Private collection

 

'New York Magazine' June 20, 1994

 

New York Magazine
June 20, 1994
1994
Courtesy New York Magazine

 

 

Posing

Eva Weiss. 'From left, Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw, and Deb Margolin performing as Split Britches in 'Upwardly Mobile Home'' 1984

 

Eva Weiss
From left, Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw, and Deb Margolin performing as Split Britches in ‘Upwardly Mobile Home’
1984
Contemporary archival print
Courtesy Eva Weiss Photography

 

Alice O'Malley. 'Melanie Hope, Clit Club' c. 1992

 

Alice O’Malley (American, b. 1962)
Melanie Hope, Clit Club
c. 1992
Vintage gelatin silver print
Alice O’Malley Photography

 

Tseng Kwong Chi. 'New York, NY (Statue of Liberty)' 1979

 

Tseng Kwong Chi (American born Hong Kong, 1950-1990)
New York, NY (Statue of Liberty)
1979
Gelatin silver print
Muna Tseng Dance Projects Inc.

 

 

Tseng Kwong Chi, known as Joseph Tseng prior to his professional career (Chinese: 曾廣智; c. 1950 – March 10, 1990), was a Hong Kong-born American photographer who was active in the East Village art scene in the 1980s.

Tseng was part of an circle of artists in the 1980s New York art scene including Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and Cindy Sherman. Tseng’s most famous body of work is his self-portrait series, East Meets West, also called the “Expeditionary Series”. In the series, Tseng dressed in what he called his “Mao suit” and sunglasses (dubbed a “wickedly surrealistic persona” by the New York Times), and photographed himself situated, often emotionlessly, in front of iconic tourist sites. These included the Statue of Liberty, Cape Canaveral, Disney Land, Notre Dame de Paris, and the World Trade Center. Tseng also took tens of thousands of photographs of New York graffiti artist Keith Haring throughout the 1980s working on murals, installations and the subway. In 1984, his photographs were shown with Haring’s work at the opening of the Semaphore Gallery’s East Village location in a show titled “Art in Transit”. Tseng photographed the first Concorde landing at Kennedy International Airport, from the tarmac. According to his sister, Tseng drew artistic influence from Brassai and Cartier-Bresson.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Chantal Regnault. 'From left, Whitney Elite, Ira Ebony, Stewart and Chris LaBeija, Ian and Jamal Adonis, Ronald Revlon, House of Jourdan Ball, New Jersey' 1989

 

Chantal Regnault (French-Haitian)
From left, Whitney Elite, Ira Ebony, Stewart and Chris LaBeija, Ian and Jamal Adonis, Ronald Revlon, House of Jourdan Ball, New Jersey
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Chantal Regnault

 

 

Museum of the City of New York
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Opening hours:
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04
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘American Cool’ at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Exhibition dates: 7th February – 7th September 2014

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled from the Brooklyn Gang series
1959
Gelatin silver print

 

Danny Lyon. 'Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville, 1966' 1966

 

Danny Lyon (American, b. 1942)
Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville, 1966
1966
Silver gelatin print

 

 

This exhibition does not reflect our opinion of who’s cool. Each cool figure was considered with the following historical rubric in mind and possesses at least three elements of this singular American self-concept:

  1. an original artistic vision carried off with a signature style
  2. cultural rebellion or transgression for a given generation
  3. iconic power, or instant visual recognition
  4. a recognised cultural legacy

.
Every individual here created an original persona without precedent in American culture. These photographs capture the complex relationship between the real-life person, the image embraced by fans and the media, and the person’s artistic work.

What does it mean when a generation claims a certain figure as cool? What qualities does this person embody at that historical moment? American Cool explores these questions through photography, history, and popular culture. In this exhibition, cool is rendered visible, as shot by some of the finest art photographers of the past century.

.
Anonymous text from the ‘American Cool’ National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/06/2021

 

 

When less – less famous, less obvious – is more

I don’t know about you, but the photographs chosen to represent American “cool” in this exhibition – 39 of which are shown in the posting out of a total of 108, but the rest are mainly of the same ilk – seem to me to be a singularly strange bunch of images to choose for such a concept. Personally, I find very few of them are “cool”, that is a mixture of a social charge of rebellious self-expression, charisma, edge and mystery with a certain self-made sense of style.

The only images that I find definitely “cool” among this bunch are, firstly Bob Dylan, closely followed by Jackson Pollock (notice the skull lurking behind him) and Susan Sontag. There is no proposition of cool in these three photographs, the people in them just are. The rest of the photographs, and there really are some atrociously plain and boring portraits among this lot (including a poor portrait of James Dean), really don’t speak to me of cool, don’t speak to me of anything much at all. How you could ever think that the portrait of Willie Nelson, 1989 (printed 2009, below) is cool is beyond me… and what is it with the reprints of the photographs, not originals but modern prints made years later? Perhaps the National Portrait Gallery needed to look beyond their own collection for a more rounded representation of American cool.

The two photographs I have included above are my top picks of American cool, and neither are in the exhibition. These iconic American images don’t feature famous people, they are not “posed” for the camera, and yet there is that ineffable something that makes the people in them absolutely, totally cool. THIS IS AMERICAN COOL: their own style, their own rebelliousness and mystery without possibly realising it = a naturalness that comes from doing their own thing, making their own way. Perhaps that is the point that this exhibition misses: you don’t have to be famous to be “cool”. A portrait is not just a mug shot. And an original persona does not have to come with fame attached.

This exhibition just doesn’t cut the mustard. The whole shebang needed a bloody good rethink, from the concept (does a generation have to “claim” someone is cool? is it necessary or desirable to portray American Cool through media images? do they have to be famous or instantly recognisable people to be “cool”) to the choice of images which could better illustrate the theme. Surely the qualities that person embodies changes from moment to moment, from photographer to photographer, from context to context (just look at the portraits of a haggard James Dean). To attempt to illustrate three elements in a single photograph – good luck with that one!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

PS I have added the videos to add a bit of spice to the proceedings… in them you can, occasionally, feel the charisma of the person.

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

 

Bob Willoughby. 'Billie Holiday' 1951 (printed 1991)

 

Bob Willoughby (American, 1927-2009)
Billie Holiday
1951 (printed 1991)
Gelatin silver print
25.2 x 35.3cm (19 15/16 x 13 15/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Rare live footage of one of the first anti-racism songs.

 

Roger Marshutz. 'Elvis Presley' 1956

 

Roger Marshutz (American, 1929-2007)
Elvis Presley
1956
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 40.6 x 50.8cm (16 x20″)
© Estee Stanley

 

 

Herman Leonard. 'Frank Sinatra' c. 1956

 

Herman Leonard (American, 1923-2010)
Frank Sinatra
c. 1956
Gelatin silver print
16.5 x 24.1cm (6 1/2 x 9 1/2″)
Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University

 

Marcia Resnick. 'David Byrne' 1981

 

Marcia Resnick (American, b. 1950)
David Byrne
1981
Gelatin silver print
21.8 x 32.5cm (8 9/16 x 12 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Julian Wasser. 'Joan Didion' 1970

 

Julian Wasser (American, b. 1938)
Joan Didion
1970
Gelatin silver print
24.3 x 34cm (9 9/16 x 13 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Joan Didion (born December 5, 1934) is an American author best known for her novels and her literary journalism. Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation.

 

Roy Schatt. 'James Dean' 1954

 

Roy Schatt (American, 1909-2002)
James Dean
1954
Gelatin silver print
34.7 x 42.2cm (13 11/16 x 16 5/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

William Claxton. 'Steve McQueen' 1962

 

William Claxton (American, 1927-2008)
Steve McQueen
1962
Gelatin silver print
40 x 58.7cm (15 3/4 x 23 1/8″)
Fahey Klein Gallery

 

Martin Schoeller. 'Tony Hawk' 1999 (printed 2010)

 

Martin Schoeller (American, b. 1968)
Tony Hawk
1999 (printed 2010)
Archival pigment print
58.5 x 58.6cm (23 1/16 x 23 1/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

What do we mean when we say someone is cool? Cool carries a social charge of rebellious self-expression, charisma, edge and mystery.

Cool is an original American sensibility and remains a global obsession. In the early 1940s, legendary jazz saxophonist Lester Young brought this central African American concept into the modern vernacular. Cool became a password in bohemian life connoting a balanced state of mind, a dynamic mode of performance, and a certain stylish stoicism. A cool person has a situation under control, and with a signature style. Cool has been embodied in jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and Billie Holiday, in actors such as Robert Mitchum, Faye Dunaway, and Johnny Depp, and in singers such as Elvis Presley, Patti Smith, and Jay-Z. American Cool is a photography and cultural studies exhibition featuring portraits of such iconic figures, each of whom has contributed an original artistic vision to American culture symbolic of a particular historical moment. They emerged from a variety of fields: art, music, film, sports, comedy, literature, and political activism. American Cool is the zeitgeist taking embodied form.

American Cool is captured by a roll call of fine-art photographers from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Annie Leibovitz, from Richard Avedon to Herman Leonard to Diane Arbus. This exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with essays by Joel Dinerstein, the James H. Clark Endowed Chair in American Civilization and Director of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University, and Frank H. Goodyear III, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and former curator of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery.

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Jack Nicholson in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"' 1975

 

Unidentified Artist
Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
1975
Gelatin silver print
17.3 x 25.1cm (6 13/16 x 9 7/8″)
The Kobal Collection

 

John Cohen. 'Jack Kerouac' 1959

 

John Cohen (American, 1932-2019)
Jack Kerouac
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.9 x 24.1cm (6 1/4 x 9 1/2″)
Sheet: 20.2 x 25.4cm (7 15/16 x 10″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Leo Fuchs. 'Paul Newman' 1959 (printed 2013)

 

Leo Fuchs (American, 1911-1994)
Paul Newman
1959 (printed 2013)
Modern archival print
Sheet: 27.9 x 35.6cm (11 x 14″)
© Alexandre Fuchs

 

William Paul Gottlieb. 'Thelonious Monk at Minton's Playhouse, New York City' 1947

 

William Paul Gottlieb (American, 1917-2006)
Thelonious Monk at Minton’s Playhouse, New York City
1947
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 25.4 x 20.3cm (10 x 8″)
Estate of William Gottlieb

 

 

 

Thelonious Monk Quartet – Round Midnight
Thelonious Monk(p) Charlie Rouse(ts) Larry Gales(b) Ben Riley(ds)
Recorded in Norway 1966 dvd “LIVE in ’66”

 

Peter Hujar. 'Susan Sontag' 1975

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Susan Sontag
1975
Gelatin silver print
37.1 x 37.6cm (14 5/8 x 14 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Michael O'Brien. 'Willie Nelson' 1989 (printed 2009)

 

Michael O’Brien (American, b. 1950)
Willie Nelson
1989 (printed 2009)
Chromogenic print
38.1 x 38.1cm (15 x 15″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Introduction

What do we mean when we say someone is cool? To be cool means to exude the aura of something new and uncontainable. Cool is the opposite of innocence or virtue. Someone cool has a charismatic edge and a dark side. Cool is an earned form of individuality. Each generation has certain individuals who bring innovation and style to a field of endeavour while projecting a certain charismatic self-possession. They are the figures selected for this exhibition: the successful rebels of American culture.

The legendary jazz saxophonist Lester Young created the modern usage of “cool” in the 1940s. At first it meant being relaxed in one’s environment against oppressive social forces, but within a generation it became a password for stylish self-control. This exhibition does not reflect our opinion of who’s cool. Each cool figure was considered with the following historical rubric in mind and possesses at least three elements of this singular American self-concept:

  1. an original artistic vision carried off with a signature style
  2. cultural rebellion or transgression for a given generation
  3. iconic power, or instant visual recognition
  4. a recognised cultural legacy

Every individual here created an original persona without precedent in American culture. These photographs capture the complex relationship between the real-life person, the image embraced by fans and the media, and the person’s artistic work.

What does it mean when a generation claims a certain figure as cool? What qualities does this person embody at that historical moment? American Cool explores these questions through photography, history, and popular culture. In this exhibition, cool is rendered visible, as shot by some of the finest art photographers of the past century.

 

The Roots of Cool: Before 1940

The stage was set for the emergence of cool as a cultural phenomenon in the early 1940s by a series of sweeping transformations in the first decades of the twentieth century. The figures in this first section were not called cool in their day but were leading exemplars of new energies that were changing the social contours of American life. A fresh rebelliousness was revealed in the new film capital of Hollywood, in modernist literature and art, in emerging youth entertainments, and in a new music called jazz. The advent of technologies such as radio, film, and the automobile and the increasing diversity in America’s booming cities accelerated the pace of change. Though Prohibition in the 1920s sought to regulate American morality by ending the consumption of alcohol, this period saw the expression of a new independence among young people and others historically on the margins of public life. In particular, both African Americans and women sought and began to attain freedoms long denied. Cool has long denoted a person’s sense of calm and composure. Charismatic individuals such as those featured here contributed greatly to the changing mores in American society before World War II. Cool would ultimately serve as the term that would describe this new rebel.

The Birth of Cool: 1940-59

Being cool was a response to the rapid changes of modernity: it was about maintaining a state of equipoise within swirling, dynamic social forces. The legendary jazz saxophonist Lester Young disseminated the word and concept of cool into jazz culture in the early 1940s, and it quickly crossed over as a rebel masculine sensibility. When Young said, “I’m cool,” he meant, first, that he was relaxed in the environment and, second, that he was keeping it together under social and economic pressure as well as the absurdity of life in a racist society. This mask of cool emerged as a form of American stoicism and was manifested in jazz, film noir, Beat literature, and abstract expressionism. In jazz, a generation of younger musicians rejected big-band swing entertainment to create bebop, a fast, angular, virtuosic style that moved jazz out of dance halls and into nightclubs. In Hollywood, film noir represented postwar anxiety through crime dramas shot through with working-class existentialism and the fear of women’s sexual and economic power. Among Beat writers and abstract painters, cool referred to a combination of wildness and intensity in men unconcerned with social conformity. Starting from jazz, cool was a rebel sensibility suggesting that an individual’s importance could be registered only through self-expression and the creation of a signature style. By 1960 cool was the protean password of a surging underground aesthetic.

 

Cool and the Counterculture: 1960-79

In the 1960s and 1970s, to be cool was to be antiauthoritarian and open to new ideas from young cultural leaders in rock and roll, journalism, film, and African American culture. Cool was a badge of opposition to “the System,” by turns a reference to the police, the government, the military-industrial complex, or traditional morality. Using drugs such as marijuana or even LSD was an indicator of risk taking and expanding one’s consciousness; not experimenting with drugs suggested a fear of opening one’s mind or perspective, of being “uptight” or “square.” The same was true of sexual exploration, social protest, and ethnic politics. The aesthetic of stylised understatement still held power, yet cool itself morphed under the era’s social upheavals. The counterculture valued being authentic and emotionally naked: being cool meant a person was “out-front” with others and comfortable in his or her own skin. For African Americans, what had once been suppressed under the mask of cool transformed into defiant civic engagement in music, sports, and politics. “Cool” meant to communicate a set of emotions without losing control, and rock and roll was the art form (and forum) best suited for this shift, especially for women. Patti Smith, Bonnie Raitt, Deborah Harry, and Chrissie Hynde all carved out new iconic stances, styles, and voices for independent women who were sexy on their own terms. Cool became the supreme compliment for creative public figures who broke new cultural ground and maintained their personal integrity over time.

 

The Legacies of Cool: 1980-Present

In 1980s America, the selling of rebellion as style became ingrained in cool. From highbrow fashion to mass-culture video games, product designers, advertisers, and consumers embraced the cool aesthetic. For many during this era, selling out was no longer a curse, as youth culture increasingly embraced the pursuit of wealth. And though some might proclaim that cool was dead, the concept stayed alive and grew in many quarters. From hip-hop to Seattle grunge, from skateboarding to the Internet, from street graffiti to MTV, cool became central to many of these new cultural forms. While its popularisation tended to whiten this phenomenon, African American culture remained central to its growth. By the 1980s cool also had an easily recognisable history, and many figures from its past – like heroes from a bygone era – continued to resonate widely. Indeed, new icons of cool often built careers that owed much to these earlier exemplars. Throughout the twentieth century, cool was America’s chief cultural export. With the rapid growth of global communication and markets, it plays an even larger role both in the world’s understanding of America and in Americans’ own sense of national identity. The figures in this final section are representative of the legacies of cool as a distinct form of American expression.

Press release from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website

 

Martin Munkacsi. 'Fred Astaire' 1936

 

Martin Munkacsi (Hungarian, 1896-1963)
Fred Astaire
1936
Gelatin silver print
24.1 x 19cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Philippe Halsman. 'Audrey Hepburn' 1955

 

Philippe Halsman (American, 1906-1979)
Audrey Hepburn
1955
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 34.9 x 27cm (13 3/4 x 10 5/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Dmitri Kasterine. 'Jean-Michel Basquait' 1986

 

Dmitri Kasterine (British, b. 1932)
Jean-Michel Basquait
1986
Gelatin silver print
38.3 x 37.7cm (15 1/16 x 14 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Cass Bird. 'Benicio Del Toro' 2008 (printed 2012)

 

Cass Bird (American, b. 1974)
Benicio Del Toro
2008 (printed 2012)
Inkjet print
45.3 x 35.3cm (17 13/16 x 13 7/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Carl Van Vechten. 'Bessie Smith' 1936

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964)
Bessie Smith
1936
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 25.2 x 18.6cm (9 15/16 x 7 5/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

 

This is not only a landmark because it contains Bessie Smith’s only known film appearance but also for being one of the very first talkies ever made. This is the complete film co-starring Jimmy Mordecai as her gigolo boyfriend.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Deborah Harry' 1978

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Deborah Harry
1978
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.9 x 34.9cm (13 3/4 x 13 3/4″)
Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Philippe Halsman. 'Humphrey Bogart' 1944

 

Philippe Halsman (American, born Latvia 1906-1979)
Humphrey Bogart
1944
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11.3 x 8.6cm (4 7/16 x 3 3/8″)
Mat: 45.7 x 35.6cm (18 x 14″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Samuel Hollyer. 'Leaves of Grass, 1st Edition' Copy after: Gabriel Harrison 1855

 

Samuel Hollyer (British, 1826-1919)
Leaves of Grass, 1st Edition
Copy after: Gabriel Harrison
1855
Book (closed): 28.9 x 20.6 x 1cm (11 3/8 x 8 1/8 x 3/8″)
Private Collection

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Frederick Douglas' 1856

 

Unidentified Artist
Frederick Douglas
1856
Quarter-plate ambrotype
Image: 10.6 x 8.6cm (4 3/16 x 3 3/8″)
Case (open): 11.9 x 19.1 x 1.3cm (4 11/16 x 7 1/2 x 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Linda McCartney. 'Jimi Hendrix' 1967 (printed later)

 

Linda McCartney (American, 1941-1998)
Jimi Hendrix
1967 (printed later)
Platinum print
51.3 x 35.3 cm (20 3/16 x 13 7/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

 

An incredible live performance of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) by Jimmy and his band in Stockholm, 1969.

 

William Paul Gottlieb. 'Duke Ellington' c. 1946 (printed 1991)

 

William Paul Gottlieb (American, 1917-2006)
Duke Ellington
c. 1946 (printed 1991)
Gelatin silver print
34.1 x 26.7 cm (13 7/16 x 10 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

 

Fantastic performance footage of one of Jazz’s greatest stars – Duke Ellington.

Duke Ellington may have turned 70 in 1969, but he was never short of energy, creativity and innovations. At the time of this Nov. 2, 1969 concert in Copenhagen, Ellington had been leading his orchestra for 44 years, but he still never really looked back in time or sought to recreate the past. Even when he performed older favorites, they were rearranged and full of surprises, and Duke’s own piano playing was modern, percussive and unpredictable. Twelve soloists are heard from during this 83-minute set including such veterans as trumpeters Cootie Williams and Cat Anderson, trombonist Lawrence Brown, altoist Harry Carney and Paul Gonsalves on tenor. Along with exciting versions of “C Jam Blues,” “Rockin’ In Rhythm” and “Take The ‘A’ Train,” the highlights include a three-song Johnny Hodges medley, a haunting “La Plus Belle Africaine,” and a tenor battle among Gonsalves, Harold Ashby and Norris Turney on “Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue.” Filmed in colour and with close-ups that give listeners the experience of being onstage with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

 

Mark Seliger. 'Kurt Cobain' 1993 (printed 2013)

 

Mark Seliger (American, b. 1959)
Kurt Cobain
1993 (printed 2013)
Platinum Palladium print
46.7 × 35.5cm (18 3/8 × 14″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Philippe Halsman. 'Marlon Brando' 1950 (printed later)

 

Philippe Halsman (American, 1906-1979)
Marlon Brando
1950 (printed later)
Gelatin silver print
34.4 x 26.8cm (13 9/16 x 10 9/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Charles H. Stewart. 'Muddy Waters' c. 1960

 

Charles H. “Chuck” Stewart (American, 1927-2017)
Muddy Waters
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
25.4 x 18.4cm (10 x 7 1/4″)
Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University

 

 

Alfred Eisenstaedt. 'Lauren Bacall' 1949 (printed 2013)

 

Alfred Eisenstaedt (American, 1898-1995)
Lauren Bacall
1949 (printed 2013)
Pigmented ink jet print
40.3 x 27.9cm (15 7/8 x 11″)

 

Kate Simon. 'Madonna' 1983 (printed 2013)

 

Kate Simon (American, b. 1953)
Madonna
1983 (printed 2013)
Gelatin silver print
33.7 × 22.9cm (13 1/4 × 9″)
© Kate Simon

 

 

Aram Avakian. 'Miles Davis' 1955 (printed 2012)

 

Aram Avakian (American, 1926-1987)
Miles Davis
1955 (printed 2012)
Modern print made from original negative
34.6 × 24.1cm (13 5/8 × 9 1/2″)

 

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Bix Beiderbecke' c. 1920

 

Unidentified Artist
Bix Beiderbecke
c. 1920
Gelatin silver print
19.1 x 11.4cm (7 1/2 x 4 1/2″)
Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University

 

 

 

Leon Bismark “Bix” Beiderbecke (March 10, 1903 – August 6, 1931) was an American jazz cornetist, jazz pianist, and composer.

With Louis Armstrong and Muggsy Spanier, Beiderbecke was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s. His turns on “Singin’ the Blues” and “I’m Coming, Virginia” (both 1927), in particular, demonstrated an unusual purity of tone and a gift for improvisation. With these two recordings, especially, he helped to invent the jazz ballad style and hinted at what, in the 1950s, would become cool jazz. “In a Mist” (1927), one of a handful of his piano compositions and one of only two he recorded, mixed classical (Impressionist) influences with jazz syncopation.

Leon Bismark “Bix” Beiderbecke (March 10, 1903 – August 6, 1931) was an American jazz cornetist, jazz pianist, and composer. A native of Davenport, Iowa.

Bix Beiderbecke was one of the great jazz musicians of the 1920’s; he was also a child of the Jazz Age who drank himself to an early grave with illegal Prohibition liquor. His hard drinking and beautiful tone on the cornet made him a legend among musicians during his life. The legend of Bix grew even larger after he died. Bix never learned to read music very well, but he had an amazing ear even as a child. His parents disapproved of his playing music and sent him to a military school outside of Chicago in 1921. He was soon expelled for skipping class and became a full-time musician. In 1923 Beiderbecke joined the Wolverine Orchestra and recorded with them the following year. Bix was influenced a great deal by the Original Dixieland Jass Band, but soon surpassed their playing. In late 1924 Bix left the Wolverines to join Jean Goldkette’s Orchestra, but his inability to read music eventually resulted in him losing the job. In 1926 he spent some time with Frankie Trumbauer’s Orchestra where he recorded his solo piano masterpiece “In a Mist”. He also recorded some of his best work with Trumbauer and guitarist, Eddie Lang, under the name of Tram, Bix, and Eddie.

Bix was able to bone up on his sight-reading enough to re-join Jean Goldkette’s Orchestra briefly, before signing up as a soloist with Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra. Whiteman’s Orchestra was the most popular band of the 1920’s and Bix enjoyed the prestige and money of playing with such a successful outfit, but it didn’t stop his drinking. In 1929 Bix’s drinking began to catch up with him. He suffered from delirium tremens and he had a nervous breakdown while playing with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and was eventually sent back to his parents in Davenport, Iowa to recover. It should be noted that Paul Whiteman was very good to Bix during his struggles. He kept Bix on full pay long after his breakdown, and promised him that his chair was always open in the Whiteman Orchestra, but, Bix was never the same again, and never rejoined the band.

He returned to New York in 1930 and made a few more records with his friend Hoagy Carmichael and under the name of Bix Beiderbecke and his Orchestra. But mainly, he holed himself up in a rooming house in Queens, New York where he drank a lot and worked on his beautiful solo piano pieces “Candlelight”, “Flashes”, and “In The Dark” (played here by Ralph Sutton; Bix never recorded them). He died at age 28 in 1931 during an alcoholic seizure. The official cause of death was lobar pneumonia and edema of the brain.

 

Gerard-Malanga-lou-reed-WEB

 

Gerard Malanga (American, b. 1943)
Lou Reed
1966
Gelatin silver print
48.3 x 36.2cm (19 x 14 1/4″)
© Martin Irvine

 

 

Arnold A. Newman. 'Jackson Pollock' 1949

 

Arnold A. Newman (American, 1918-2006)
Jackson Pollock
1949
Gelatin silver print
46 x 36.7cm (18 1/8 x 14 7/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Lynn Goldsmith. 'Patti Smith' 1976 (printed 2012)

 

Lynn Goldsmith (American, b. 1948)
Patti Smith
1976 (printed 2012)
Digital inkjet print
Image: 46.9 x 30cm (18 7/16 x 11 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Philippe Halsman. 'Clint Eastwood' 1971

 

Philippe Halsman (American, 1906-1979)
Clint Eastwood
1971
Gelatin silver print
34.3 x 27.3cm (13 1/2 x 10 3/4″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Richard Avedon. 'Bob Dylan, Singer, New York City, February 10, 1965' 1965

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Bob Dylan, Singer, New York City, February 10, 1965
1965
Gelatin silver print
25.4 × 20.3cm (10 × 8″)
© Richard Avedon Foundation

 

 

Eli Reed. 'Tupac Shakur' 1992 (printed 2013)

 

Eli Reed (American, b. 1946)
Tupac Shakur
1992 (printed 2013)
Digitally exposed chromogenic print
34.6 x 27.3 cm (13 5/8 x 10 3/4″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

William Paul Gottlieb. 'Gene Krupa at 400 Restaurant, New York City' June 1946

 

William Paul Gottlieb (American, 1917-2006)
Gene Krupa at 400 Restaurant, New York City
June 1946
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 35.6 x 27.9cm (14 x 11″)
Estate of William Gottlieb

 

 

Eugene Bertram “Gene” Krupa (January 15, 1909 – October 16, 1973) was an American jazz and big band drummer, actor and composer, known for his highly energetic and flamboyant style. In the 1930s, Krupa became the first endorser of Slingerland drums. At Krupa’s urging, Slingerland developed tom-toms with tuneable top and bottom heads, which immediately became important elements of virtually every drummer’s setup. Krupa developed and popularized many of the cymbal techniques that became standards. His collaboration with Armand Zildjian of the Avedis Zildjian Company developed the modern hi-hat cymbals and standardised the names and uses of the ride cymbal, the crash cymbal, the splash cymbal, the pang cymbal and the swish cymbal. One of his bass drums, a Slingerland inscribed with Benny Goodman’s and Krupa’s initials, is preserved at the Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. In 1978, Krupa became the first drummer inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame.

 

 

 

 

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
8th and F Sts NW
Washington, DC 20001

Opening hours:
11.30am – 7.00pm daily

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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

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