Posts Tagged ‘Carnegie Museum of Art

30
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals’ at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

Exhibition dates: 1st November 2014 – 16th February 2015

 

Exposing your/self

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Viva Michals! Viva Michals!

Magician, poet, storyteller, philosopher and dreamer.

Not for him the overblown statement (huge prints the size of billboards) but small, dark, rough prints assembled in photo-sequences, often incorporating text, that examine the human condition in every aspect. This is emotional work and Michals has a unique style and voice as an artist. You always know that you are looking at a sequence by Michals, for his signature is that distinctive.

As he says, his work goes beyond description, beyond surfaces, to reveal the subject – not as it looks but as it feels. In his sequences he usually achieves this by posing a question that has no answer, a question that is like a Zen koan…. what is the sound of one hand clapping? The grandfather ascends smilingly to heaven with little wings on his back as the child waves goodbye (if youth knew, if age could); the man as human condition turns into a galaxy; and the spirit leaves the body as it was left before.

Various Michals sequences, such as The Spirit Leaves The Body (1968, below), have a circular construction. Another sequence, Things are Queer (1973, below) is also a circular spatio-temporal enigma where instead of moving forward, the camera and the viewer are pulled backwards in a space-time continuum… where Michals forces you to question what reality really is. These two sequences are my personal favourites, and I had to scour the internet to find images for them as you rarely see them online.

His most famous sequence, the one that you see most often, is Chance Meeting (1970, below) – again an open-ended, intimate but puzzling encounter with a reflection of the self. Michals sequences are full of ghosts, uncommon intimacies, nubile females and delicious males (Michals is gay and has just celebrated his 54th anniversary with his partner). Dealing “with topics such as death, desire, and the passage of time” his work peers inward to examine “his own thoughts and dreams, to blur the lines between photography and philosophy.”

All is not sunshine and light, and I feel that there is a nebulous, obsidian energy hovering not too far below the surface. The photographs have high contrast and the subjects are very closely framed, giving the sequences an almost claustrophobic quality, as though you are having the life, the energy gently yet forcibly manipulated around you. The photographs rarely breathe freely and you feel as though you are almost trapped within their spaces.

Then there is the text. Never used to excess in the sequences (the title does that job alone), the singular images are extended into a longer narrative by biting, poignant words – sentences that utter harsh truths and tell it how it really is. I can’t look at that image, and read that text, from A Letter from My Father (1960/1975, below) without thinking of my abusive father and wondering what happened to his love – whether he hadn’t hidden it, he just didn’t have any to start with. For any child in an adult who has been abused, this image cuts to the bone.

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Michals staged, narrative scenes take us on a journey into his reality, one which “has entered a realm beyond observation.” He poses difficult questions that force us to examine ideas beyond the world of phenomena, beyond the world of surfaces. He challenges our repressed inner lives and our idealised image of ourselves, disturbing the boundaries of personality, ego, and identity.1 He wrestles with Sartre’s noumenal world (the world of the subconscious, dreams), the “being-in-itself” or sometimes simply “the in-itself,” as Sartre calls it (what Kant called the noumenal world), where Sartre does not see man comfortably installed in the world.

“All of us, says Sartre, have a “pre-ontological comprehension” of being-in-itself, that is to say, an opaque, inarticulate, but very real sense of its presence and nature. The world is but a “varnish” on the surface of the being-in-itself; or, changing the metaphor, the world is but a “thin crust” of meaning which we impose upon being-in-itself. Ordinarily this thin crust of meaning conceals the in-itself and obscures our awareness of it, but the anguish of being is always there just below the surface of daily consciousness, and from time to time it breaks through to the surface, presenting being-in-itself without disguise.”2

This is what Michals attunes himself to, an examination of the in-itself, one that impacts on our internal poetic understandings of space and time. In his malleable daydreams Michals proffers a ‘releasement toward things’, the glimpsing of a coexistence between a conscious and unconscious way of perceiving which enables the seeing of the ‘Thing Itself’. As Heidegger observes, 

“We stand at once within the realm of that which hides itself from us, and hides itself just in approaching us. That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the mystery… Releasement towards things and openness to the mystery belong together. They grant us the possibility of dwelling in the world in a totally different way…”3

It is Michals great skill as an artist and a human being that enables us the possibility of accessing some aspect of the mystery of our existence.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

1. As discussed in Magee, Bryan. Confessions of a Philosopher. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1997, p. 405-406

2. Olsen, Robert. An Introduction to Existentialism. Dover Publications, New York, 1962, p. 39

3. Heidegger, Martin. Discourse on Thinking. New York: Harper & Row, 1966, pp. 55-56 quoted in Baracco, Mauro. “Completed Yet Unconcluded: The Poetic Resistance of Some Melbourne Architecture,” in van Schaik, Leon (ed.,). Architectural Design Vol. 72, No. 2 (‘Poetics in Architecture’). London: John Wiley and Sons, 2002, p. 74. Footnote 6.

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Many thankx to the Carnegie 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.

 

 

“Who gives a fuck about what he had for breakfast? These are stylistic ticks. The digital has changed the paradigms of photography. I had an opening in Boston and this woman had a little camera with her and kept exclaiming, ‘Everything is a photograph!’ That’s the problem. The bar has been lowered so much in photography now…”

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“Photographers tend not to photograph what they can’t see, which is the very reason one should try to attempt it. Otherwise we’re going to go on forever just photographing more faces and more rooms and more places. Photography has to transcend description. It has to go beyond description to bring insight into the subject, or reveal the subject, not as it looks, but how does it feel?”

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“I don’t trust reality. So all of the writing on and painting on the photographs is born out of the frustration to express what you do not see.”

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Duane Michals

 

 

Duane Michals. 'Cavafy Cheats Playing Strip Poker' 2004

 

Duane Michals
Cavafy Cheats Playing Strip Poker
2004
12 Gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
5″ x 7″ each

 

This series of photographs was inspired by the poem The Windows by Constantine Cavafy

In these dark rooms where I live out empty days,

I wander round and round trying to find the windows.

But the windows are not to be found –
or at least I can’t find them.
And perhaps
it is better that way.

Perhaps the light will prove another tyranny.

Who knows what new things it will expose?

 

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

 

Duane Michals
Chance Meeting
1970
Six gelatin silver prints
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

 

Duane Michals
Things are Queer
1973
Nine gelatin silver prints
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

 

Duane Michals
Grandpa Goes to Heaven
1989
Five gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC

 

 

“The best part of us is not what we see, it’s what we feel. We are what we feel. We are not what we look at… We’re not our eyeballs, we’re our mind. People believe their eyeballs and they’re totally wrong… That’s why I consider most photographs extremely boring – just like Muzak, inoffensive, charming, another waterfall, another sunset. This time, colors have been added to protect the innocent. It’s just boring. But that whole arena of one’s experience – grief, loneliness – how do you photograph lust? I mean, how do you deal with these things? This is what you are, not what you see. It’s all sitting up here. I could do all my work sitting in my room. I don’t have to go anywhere.”

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Duane Michals

 

 

“Opening November 1, 2014, at Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA), Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals is the definitive retrospective and the largest-ever presentation of this innovative artist’s work. Drawing from select loans and the museum’s holdings, which constitute the largest single collection of Michals’s output, and spanning six decades, the works in Storyteller include classic sequences from the early 1970s as well as rarely seen images from later in his career.

Born in 1932 and raised in a steelworker family in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Michals broke away from established traditions of documentary and fine art photography in the 1960s when he added handwritten messages and poems to prints, produced multi-image narrative sequences, and experimented with double- and triple-exposures. His work was poignant and unabashedly sentimental, flying in the face of the dominant photographic aesthetics of the time.

Storyteller unfolds in thematic groupings that range from portraiture to meditations on the mind’s interior world; from childhood and imagination to desire and death. Michals’s love of two very different cities, Pittsburgh and Paris, is evident in sections exploring the beauty, quirks, and particularities of these places. He has riffed on, critiqued, and crossed paths with countless artists, including René Magritte, Cindy Sherman, Joseph Cornell, Robert Frank, Andreas Gursky, Andy Warhol, and others, and a section of the exhibition brings to light the admiration and acerbic wit in Michals’s engagements with other creative minds.

“The exhibition is designed to acquaint the visitor with the many themes that Michals explored over more than half a century,” says curator of photography Linda Benedict-Jones. “Well known sequences such as Paradise Regained and Chance Meeting greet the viewer first, followed by engaging and sometimes surprising Children’s Stories. A section called The Mind’s Eye shows Michals’s absorption with photographing things that cannot actually be seen, such as A Man Going to Heaven or The Human Condition. We could not present Storyteller chronologically, because Michals revisits themes often. One theme, Painted Expression, shows how, in two distinct periods of his life – in the early 1980s and again in 2012 – Michals has picked up a brush to apply oil paint to both black-and-white photographic prints as well as most recently to 19th century tintypes, resulting in unique, one-of-a-kind photographic works. His creative energy is boundless and readily apparent when seen in a large retrospective display.”

“I’m a storyteller,” he often states as he begins a talk in public – equally interested in the moments before and after the “decisive moment” (a term coined by famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson). “When I began to do sequences, it wasn’t because I thought it was cool and the latest thing. I did it out of frustration with the still photograph.” He has observed that his practice aims to transcend mere appearances: “I’m not interested in what something looks like, I want to know what it feels like… My reality has entered a realm beyond observation.” This approach can be seen throughout his career, from early, carefully staged sequences, to hand-painted gelatin silver prints and tintypes, revealing the artist’s hand at work long after the image is captured.

According to curator of photography Linda Benedict-Jones, who organized Storyteller, “Duane Michals is a sensitive and provocative artist who has followed his own unique path. His way of staging narrative scenes, then recording them with a 35mm camera, represented a fresh approach to the medium. This, combined with an uncommon intimacy when dealing with topics such as death, desire, and the passage of time, set him apart as an image-maker.”

Storyteller also touches upon Michals’s extensive portfolio of commercial photography and portraiture, which spans several decades, and includes assignments for Neiman Marcus, Esquire, Vogue, and Gap, as well as commissioned portraits of such figures as Nancy Reagan, Sting, and Willem de Kooning.

CMOA, a fixture in Michals’s artistic upbringing, has acquired 139 of his works, ranging from his earliest images made in Russia in 1958 to hand-painted tintypes that he began creating in 2012. Michals, in turn, has always felt an attachment to Pittsburgh, a subject of many of his photographs, and of two books, the sequence The House I Once Called Home (2003) and poetry collection A Pittsburgh Poem (2013). Lending institutions to Storyteller include Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), Musée des Beaux Arts (Montreal), High Museum of Art (Atlanta), and Museum of Modern Art (New York). Even longtime admirers of the artist may be unfamiliar with several of his bodies of work, and an examination of this full range is long overdue: while Michals has been championed in several solo exhibitions throughout Europe in the past decade, this is his first major museum exhibition in North America since 1998.

Storyteller also touches upon Michals’s extensive portfolio of commercial photography and portraiture, which spans several decades, and includes assignments for Neiman Marcus, Esquire, Vogue, and Gap, as well as commissioned portraits of such figures as Nancy Reagan, Sting, and Willem de Kooning.

Presented alongside Storyteller will be the exhibition Duane Michals: Collector, which highlights works from Michals’s private art collection that are promised gifts to the museum. The eclectic array of objects, ranging from 1799 to 1999, and from Francisco de Goya to André Kertész to Mark Tansey, will be united by Michals’s unique take on the artists, the artworks, and their influence on his own practice. Organized by associate curator of fine arts Amanda Zehnder, Duane Michals: Collector will further contextualize his work from an unusually personal perspective.

Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals represents a refreshing, much-needed reexamination of a historically significant photographer. Michals’s pioneering photography infused the medium with a personal, critical approach that translates universally. In an art world that feels at times jaded and detached, his images retain the same moving, affecting impact that they commanded decades ago.”

Press release from the Carnegie Museum of Art

 

 

Internationally-renowned photographer Duane Michals discusses his eight-decade life and career as a self-described “expressionist.” His work is known for its innovative narrative sequencing and iconic use of text and image. During a period when photography looked out to the world around us, Michals redefined the medium by peering inward to his own thoughts and dreams to blur the lines between photography and philosophy.

 

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

 

Duane Michals
The Spirit Leaves The Body
1968
Seven gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

 

Duane Michals
The Young Girl’s Dream
1969
Five gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'A Letter from My Father' 1960/1975

 

Duane Michals
A Letter from My Father
1960/1975
Gelatin silver print with hand-applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Magritte with Hat' 1965

 

Duane Michals
Magritte with Hat
1965
Gelatin silver print with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Magritte with Hat' 1965 (detail)

 

Duane Michals
Magritte with Hat (detail)
1965
Gelatin silver print with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'This Photograph Is My Proof' 1967

 

Duane Michals
This Photograph Is My Proof
1967
Gelatin silver print with hand-applied text
The Henry L. Hillman Fund, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Young Soldiers Dream in the Garden of the Dead with Flowers Growing from Their Heads' 1995

 

Duane Michals
Young Soldiers Dream in the Garden of the Dead with Flowers Growing from Their Heads
1995
From the series Salute, Walt Whitman
Gelatin silver print
The Henry L. Hillman Fund
Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

 

Lewis Wickes Hine. 'Two 7-Year-Old Nashville Newsies, Profane and Smart, Selling Sunday' 1910

 

Lewis Wickes Hine
Two 7-Year-Old Nashville Newsies, Profane and Smart, Selling Sunday
1910
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Duane Michals
Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art

 

Duane Michals. 'The Human Condition' 1969

 

Duane Michals
The Human Condition
1969
Six gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Rigamarole' 2012

 

Duane Michals
Rigamarole
2012
Tintype with oil paint
The William T. Hillman Fund for Photography
Carnegie Museum of Art,Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

 

Carnegie Museum of Art
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Opening hours:
Monday: 10 am – 5 pm
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm
Friday: 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday: noon – 5 pm

Carnegie Museum of Art website

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28
Mar
12

Exhibition: ‘Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story’ at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Exhibition dates:  29th October 2011 – 7th April 2012

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What an astonishing photographer this man was. These photographs are a revelation. African American artist Charles “Teenie” Harris, captured “the essence of daily African-American life in the 20th century. For more than 40 years, Harris – as lead photographer of the influential Pittsburgh Courier newspaper – took almost 80,000 pictures of people from all walks: presidents, housewives, sports stars, babies, civil rights leaders and even cross-dressing drag queens.”

While Harris is most famous for depicting an innovative and thriving black urban community – daily life in Pittsburgh’s Hill District – it is the less figurative, more abstract urban landscape work that I am interested in here. Hence I have put four outstanding photographs that I picked out from the Archive at the top of the posting.

Earlier photographs of the city from the 1940s, such as Large two story home with attic, porch, double entryway, and yard, with young child on steps alone, next to smaller two story home with porches on both stories (c. 1940-45, below) have a touch of Walker Evans about them. Note how in this photograph the eve of the large two story home roof touches the top of the negative (allowing an exit for the eye at the top of the image), beautifully balanced on the left-hand side by the intrusion of the roof of another out of frame building and its shadow cast on the ground. The spatial separation between this roof and the porch of the smaller two story home is critical, as is the punctum of the child standing on the stoop. There are beautiful spaces in this photograph, as the eye plays across its surface, taking in form and detail, light and shade, eventually escaping down the right hand side of the building to the sky beyond.

It is only when we get to the 1950s that Harris really seems to hit his straps in these photographs of the urban landscape. Personally, I can’t remember any other photographs like them. By this time he has developed his own signature, his own voice. And what a voice it is!

In the three remaining photographs at the top of the posting there is a conciseness to his vision of the world, a spatial spareness, even sparseness that is very eloquent. In Construction site with bulldozer (c. 1954, below), possibly a photograph of the site of Belmar Gardens, Pittsburgh’s first black-owned housing cooperative, the landscape is shot from below up a slight incline, bookended with raised bank at left and car at right framing the image plane and holding it together. But it is the space around the central figures as they look off into the distance that is so magical – the blackened, textural ground playing off the cloudless sky with single tree at left. That space in the foreground, between the bottom of the image and the figures is tensioned so well with the distance between the figures and the top edge of the negative: Harris has an intimate understanding of what he wants to achieve in this image – spatially and narratively. The hope of the future.

The same can be said for Three story brick row houses with mansard roofs (c. 1958, below). Again, there is a spareness to his rendition of space and a complexity to his imaging of tone. It is almost like there is a dividing line between night and day, between the city in snow and the city in darkness, the ying yang of existence. Observe the light car is in darkness and the dark car in light; the dark trees, the light telegraph post; the space between the cars which no car could ever fit through; and the smallness of the child walking down the street. Incredible. Again, there is a openness to Harris’ rendition of space in Young men playing sandlot baseball with steel mill in background (c. 1955, below). Let your eyes soak in the open sky; the verticals of dark chimneys, left and light chimneys, right; the building at left perched atop the embankment; the composition of the figures across the middle of the image, reminiscent of a piece of music; the open space of the baseball sandlot at the bottom of the photograph with faint white line delineation and figure at right holding up the edge of the image. This is a master at work.

In this mature style, Harris has no need to fill space with an urban mass or congeries. These are spaces that matter, spaces of matter but these spaces are not empty, negative spaces, but active, fluid spaces, the space of possibilities. He understands what he wants to say so well, he is so confident of his previsualisation of the urban spaces of the city they become uniquely his own – open, engaging, optimistic. This is his voice, his gift, his legacy to the world – for me, not so much the portraits of Afro-American culture, but the spaces of the city as a metaphor for change within that culture. His reading of the landscape is his unique field of vision: in the stillness of these photographs time no longer passes, for the author and for the viewer. His images transcend place and, as such, like Atget before him, he deserves to be recognised as an artist who captured a changing world. Further research on this aspect of his art would seem appropriate.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Download the Book: Teenie Harris Photographer: Image, Memory, History (15.44Mb pdf) by Cheryl Finley, Laurence Glasco, and Joe Trotter with an introduction by Deborah Willis. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011.

I am most grateful to Tey Stiteler for allowing me to pick the photographs I wanted for this posting. This help was crucial as I wanted to talk about the less figurative work in the Teenie Harris Archive. Many thankx to the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Teenie Harris Archive for allowing me to publish the photographs and book pdf in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Teenie Harris
Construction site with bulldozer, two men, including one in front holding child, large tank with hose, and car on right, possibly in construction site of Belmar Gardens
c. 1954
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Three story brick row houses with mansard roofs, and small child on sidewalk of tree lined street with automobiles
c. 1958
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Young men playing sandlot baseball with steel mill in background
c. 1955
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Large two story home with attic, porch, double entryway, and yard, with young child on steps alone, next to smaller two story home with porches on both stories
c. 1940-1945
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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“Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story, the first major retrospective exhibition of the work and legacy of African American artist Charles “Teenie” Harris, will be on view at Carnegie Museum of Art from October 29, 2011, to April 7, 2012.

The groundbreaking exhibition will celebrate the artist/photographer whose work is considered one of the most complete portraits anywhere of 20th-century African American experience. Large-scale, themed photographic projections of nearly 1,000 of Teenie Harris’s greatest images accompanied by an original jazz soundtrack will generate an immersive experience in the exhibition’s opening gallery. Subsequent galleries will present a chronological display of these photographs at a conventional scale, and give visitor access to the more than 73,000 catalogued and digitized images in the museum’s Teenie Harris Archive. The exhibition will offer an examination of Harris’s working process and artistry, and audio commentary on the man and his work by the people who knew him. In addition, the photographs and many of these materials will be accessible on Carnegie Museum of Art’s website.

“Since 2001, our museum has been the repository of the Teenie Harris Archive. This exhibition marks the culmination of a long effort to preserve and document an extensive collection of historically and artistically important images,” says Lynn Zelevansky, The Henry J. Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art. “We are honored to present this retrospective of a photographer whose body of work gives so much to us.”

During his 40-year career as freelance and staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the nation’s most influential black newspapers, Teenie Harris (1908 – 1998) produced more than 80,000 images of Pittsburgh’s African American community. The photographs, taken from the 1930s to the 1970s, capture a period of momentous change for black Americans. His subjects ranged from the everyday lives of ordinary people to visits by powerful and glamorous national figures to Pittsburgh, the nation’s industrial center. From birthday celebrations to civil rights boycotts, the distinctive vision of Harris’s photographs folds into the larger narrative of American history, art, and culture.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris

Teenie Harris grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, a neighborhood once called “the crossroads of the world.” A serious photographer from the age of 18, he started his professional photographic career in 1937 when he opened a studio and began to take on freelance assignments. In 1941, Harris was appointed staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, the nation’s preeminent black newsweekly. His images were disseminated nationally through the Courier, and played a key role in how African Americans visualized themselves.

Like the Scurlock Studio in Washington, DC, James Van Der Zee in New York, and P. H. Polk in Alabama, Harris depicted an innovative and thriving black urban community, in spite of the segregationist policies and attitudes of mid-century America. His images captured daily life in the Hill – weddings, funerals, family portraits, parades, church events, street scenes, graduations – as well as of the great men and women who visited the neighborhood, including Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Robeson, John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lena Horne, and Muhammad Ali. Some of the country’s finest jazz musicians – Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Ahmad Jamal, Sarah Vaughan, and Duke Ellington – were photographed by Harris alongside bartenders, waitresses, and dancing crowds.

The longevity of Harris’s career offers an outlook on historic shifts that took place in the lives of African Americans everywhere. In the era of segregated baseball, for example, Harris photographed two legendary Negro League baseball teams, the Pittsburgh Crawfords (which Harris cofounded in the mid-1920s) and Homestead Grays. Later, when baseball’s color barrier was broken, he photographed African American major league baseball players like Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente along with their teammates. The pride and optimism evident in Harris’s photos of the Double V campaign from the World War II era (victory abroad, victory for racial equality at home), turned to growing moods of frustration and anger evident in images of militant protests in the late 1950s and 1960s. These photographs provide important insights to issues that are still pertinent today.

“Teenie Harris had great empathy with his subjects and a talent for storytelling,” says Lippincott. “His images transcend place. Powerful and personal, they connect today’s viewers with a proud past and a vibrant artistic and cultural heritage. We hope that through this retrospective and traveling exhibition, Harris will be established in the canons of art, history, and photography.”

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About the Exhibition

Nearly 1,000 of Harris’s most striking and iconic photographs will be digitally projected as life-sized images in the opening gallery. The images, organized into seven sections – “Crossroads,” “Gatherings,” “Urban Landscapes,” “Style,” “At Home,” “The Rise and Fall of the Crawford Grill,” and “Words and Signs” – will be synchronized with an original jazz score produced by MCG Jazz, one of the nation’s top organizations dedicated to the preservation, presentation, and promotion of jazz music. A second gallery will feature a chronological installation of small prints of the projected images that will include a referencing system for in-depth exploration of each photograph through a bank of computers and books also located in the gallery. In addition, the computers will provide access to the interactive website that has been created for the show.

At the entrance to the third gallery, a mini exhibition of 12 fine-art-quality 16 x 20″ prints selected by 12 experts will be accompanied by their personal analyses of the meaning, significance, and beauty of the chosen images. This gallery will also feature a large-scale map showing the places Harris lived, worked, and photographed and a multimedia presentation called “Artist at Work” that demonstrates Harris’s technical skill and artistic vision, and shows how newspapers and publishers cropped and edited his work in order to tell a particular story. “Artist at Work” marries audio recordings of the stories and memories of Teenie Harris, as told by his family, friends, colleagues, and models, with a montage of projected images relating to their tales.

In addition to an exhibition-specific website, the museum is collaborating with the University of Pittsburgh Press on an illustrated book offering new and unpublished scholarship about Harris, his work, and his times that will impact the fields of American and African American art, culture, and history.

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About the Teenie Harris Archive

In 2001, Carnegie Museum of Art acquired the Teenie Harris archive from the Harris family and began a multiyear project to preserve, catalogue, digitize, and make the images available on the museum’s website for public view. Few of Harris’s negatives were titled and dated; since the acquisition of the archive, the museum has invited the public to help in the identification of the people, places, and activities in the photographs through a series of museum-based displays of his work, outreach presentations, meetings with oral historians, and online response forms that accompany the continually growing display of images on the museum’s website.

The Teenie Harris Archive Project is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which designated the archive a “We the People” project in the spring of 2007. “We the People” is an initiative to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture. Initial support for the Teenie Harris Archive Project was provided by the Heinz Endowments.”

Press release from the Carnegie Museum of Art website

Teenie Harris Archive website

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Teenie Harris
Man lying with arms crossed and ferns on his lap, in cabin of truck
c. 1940-1945
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Wooden roller coaster, possibly at Rock Springs Park, Chester, West Virginia
c. 1941
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Deserted Alley
1946-1970
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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“Charles “Teenie” Harris had a photographic mission: going beyond the obvious or sensational to capture the essence of daily African-American life in the 20th century. For more than 40 years, Harris – as lead photographer of the influential Pittsburgh Courier newspaper – took almost 80,000 pictures of people from all walks: presidents, housewives, sports stars, babies, civil rights leaders and even cross-dressing drag queens. Now, a new exhibit and online catalog is showing the depth of Harris’ work, an archive showing a major artistic achievement that influenced people around the country.

“His shots of everyday people are amazing. People seem to kind of jump off the page,” said Stanley Nelson, an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and MacArthur genius grant winner who has made a number of acclaimed films on African-American artists, business people, and workers. “They don’t have the sense of somebody kind of looking in and spying on the community. For me his pictures are very unique,” Nelson said.

Harris was a gifted basketball player as a young man, and helped start a Negro League baseball team, too. His brother was Pittsburgh’s biggest bookie, and that gave him access to people throughout the city. But he found his mission at the Pittsburgh Courier, which was distributed all over the country via a network of Pullman train porters. Through the paper Harris had endless opportunities to chronicle daily life and to meet the rich, famous, and powerful. Harris photographed Richard Nixon, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and many musical greats, such as Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington. “That was the black national paper of record at the time,” said Laurence Glasco, a professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh.

Many people stopped by the Courier offices because of its clout with African-Americans, Glasco said. Yet Harris neither pandered to nor looked down on celebrities, he added. “He really didn’t have a cult of celebrity. He wouldn’t cross a street to shake a celebrity’s hand. He was interested in them, but he really saw them as just people. And that really comes out in his photographs,” Glasco said. A young Muhammad Ali, for example, is shown picking up his mother and holding her in his arms. “He had an equal opportunity lens,” recalled Teenie’s son, Charles Harris. “He just liked people.”

The partnership with the Courier was a perfect match, since its reporters and editors were also pushing for equal rights. And true to Pittsburgh traditions, Teenie Harris was a hard worker, on call virtually 24-hours a day. “No matter what time it was, they could call. A lot of times he didn’t sleep,” his son said.

Louise Lippincott, the Carnegie Museum of Art Curator, worked closely with Harris in the last years of his life. “He had a very strong personal desire to complete a positive view of African-Americans and counter the negative stereotypes in the white press. On the other hand, there’s nothing sugarcoated,” said Lippincott. Glasco adds that Harris took pictures of very poor people without exaggerating their situation. “You can look at them and say, ‘These are real people; they happen to be very poor.’ They’re more than those clothes they’re wearing. They were first and foremost a person.” One picture shows a little girl with a big smile sitting on the floor of a newsstand, reading a comic book with a small dog on her lap. A key piece of history that Harris and the Courier covered heavily was African-Americans who served in World War II and returned home demanding that they be accorded rights equal to white soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

“The drive for civil rights really began in World War II,” Lippincott said, far earlier than many imagine. Yet the photographs are more than just a rich trove of mid-century American history. They emerge as art because Harris became a master of composition and for decades took each picture with a large-format camera that had to be hand-loaded with a single piece of film for each shot. “I remember being just shocked and amazed at what an incredible photographer he was. He just had this incredible eye,” said Nelson, who noted that Harris earned the nickname “One Shot” for his ability to deliver an assignment with one photograph.

Many of the pictures show a successful – and happy – black middle class. One young woman is depicted posing on the hood of a 1950s car, with steel mills in the background, while another simply kneels while playing with two small dogs. And even before the civil rights movement, there are many pictures showing black and white children and adults together. Glasco notes that even some controversial pictures seem to defy current expectations of what the past was like. In one, a man in a car has a cross-dressing male companion on each side.

“They’re happy, they’re proud, they’re smiling. It’s a joyful thing,” Glasco said of the men openly dressing as women. At an annual parade in Pittsburgh’s Hill district, one car was often filled with cross-dressers who waved at crowds, he added. Glasco once saw a Harris picture of cross-dressers next to contemporary pictures with the same subject, and was struck by the anger and hostility of the people in the new pictures, and the openness of the people in the older ones.

The Carnegie Museum of Art purchased Harris’ entire collection in 2001, through the Heinz Family Fund. The exhibit at the museum includes almost 1000 photographs, slide shows, and a jazz soundtrack commissioned especially for the show, which is up until next April. It’s also scheduled to travel to Chicago, Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta in the future. People who can’t get to one of those museums can view almost 60,000 Harris images that have been scanned and put online along with audio interviews of people who knew him.”

By Kevin Begos, Associated Press, November 27, 2011 on Boston.com [Online] Cited 21/03/2012

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Teenie Harris
Woman wearing one-piece skirted bathing suit reclining on swimming pool diving board
c. 1940-1945
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Group portrait of two women and two men, woman on right wearing dark dress with wide brimmed hat, in interior with wainscoting and pictures on wall
c. 1940-1945
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Group portrait of eight male boxers, possibly Golden Gloves contenders, lined up in boxing ring
c. 1955
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Group portrait of women wearing church choir robes, posed outside in yard, with other houses, garage, and woman in background, seen from above
c. 1938-1945
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Anon
Charles “Teenie” Harris holding camera and standing in front of Flash Circulation office, 2132 Centre Avenue, Hill District
c. 1937
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Carnegie Museum of Art
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-4080
T: 412.622.3131

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday: noon – 5 p.m.

Carnegie Museum of Art website

Teenie Harris Archive website

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25
May
11

Exhibition: ‘You Are Here: Architecture and Experience’ at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

Exhibition dates: 5th March – 29th May 2011

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Inspired curating conjoins the monumental, classicist purity of Höfer with the picturesque, dystopian (dis)quietude of Gaillard in an exhibition that investigates our relationship to buildings and their environments and their relationship to us – the ‘i’ in our histor-i-city.

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

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Candida Höfer
German, b. 1944
Ballettzentrum Hamburg III
2000
Chromogenic print
Courtesy of Sonnabend Gallery

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Cyprien Gaillard
French, b. 1980
Belief in the Age of Disbelief (L’arbre incliné/étape VI)
2005
etching
36 x 47 cm
© Cyprien Gaillard
Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin, London

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Candida Höfer
German, b. 1944
Fundação Bienal de São Paulo XI
2005
Chromogenic print
81 3/8 x 71 7/8 in.
Courtesy of Sonnabend Gallery

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“Carnegie Museum of Art presents the powerful work of two contemporary artists – Candida Höfer and Cyprien Gaillard – who explore architectural environments and how they influence experiences and perceptions of the world.

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” With that simple but profound insight, Winston Churchill conveyed people’s complex relationship to architecture: The physical form of a building is controlled by its designer, but the impact a constructed environment has can be unpredictable, emotional, and even visceral. That dynamic is evident in the upcoming exhibition You Are Here: Architecture and Experience, which brings together the photographs of German artist Candida Höfer and a video and etchings by French artist Cyprien Gaillard. Both artists express the formative power of architecture in different but complementary ways, according to Tracy Myers, curator of architecture at the Heinz Architectural Center and organizer of the exhibition.

Candida Höfer’s lush color photographs of ornate historical and contemporary interior spaces are usually devoid of humans, yet they reveal details that draw the viewer into a consideration of what each place means. Höfer’s photographs usually focus on spaces of cultural and social activity. Printed very large (from about 4 x 4 feet to a massive 6 x 8 feet), the 17 photographs in You Are Here represent the range of Höfer’s work in terms of scale, point of view, building type, and geographical location.

By contrast, Cyprien Gaillard’s video Desniansky Raion and his meticulously detailed etchings probe the human legacy of Modernist high-rise housing blocks. Constructed after World War II throughout the United States, Europe, and the Eastern Bloc to provide decent housing, these buildings often became warehouses for the poor and incubators of crime and antisocial behaviors.

Named for an administrative district in Kiev, Desniansky Raion poignantly reflects on the gap between the utopian Modernist aspiration for universal housing and the banal reality that instead prevailed. It comprises three parts. In the first section, weekend fight clubs of 50 or 100 people face off against each other in a pugilistic ritual set against the backdrop of housing towers in St. Petersburg, Russia. The second part shows the implosion of a similar tower in Meaux, a small city near Paris; the demolition of the building was treated by the city government as a literal spectacle, with a light show and fireworks preceding the destruction. The final third is a very long panning aerial shot of seemingly endless ranks of virtually identical housing blocks in Kiev, Ukraine. The video is accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Koudlam, a young musician born in the Ivory Coast. Also featured are six etchings by Gaillard, collectively titled Belief in the Age of Disbelief, in which the Modernist housing tower is placed in classic picturesque landscapes.

“Gaillard’s video packs a powerful and direct emotional punch: each time I view it, I experience physically the anticipation that ebbs and flows through the course of the work,” said Myers. “By contrast, Höfer’s photographs embody a kind of quietude that encourages slow, sustained exploration of the meaning that builds through accumulation of detail. But both works are equally affecting and bring the viewer with compelling intensity into the realm of architectural experience. Höfer and Gaillard capture the constant oscillation between what we make of our buildings, and what they make of us.”

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Artists’ Biographies

Candida Höfer has been creating photographs for more than 30 years. Born in Eberswalde, Germany, in 1944, she studied with Berndt Becher and is identified with a group of German artists – Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky, Axel Hütte, and Thomas Struth – best known for their unsentimental photographs of architecture, landscapes, and urban developments. Höfer has made interiors her focus.

Cyprien Gaillard, born in Paris in 1980 and currently based in Berlin, explores contemporary landscapes and buildings in a variety of media, including video, painting, and etchings. Much of his work is concerned with the legacy and inheritance of buildings and landscapes that are left to us, and the ways in which we interact with them.”

Press release from the Carnegie Museum of Art website

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Cyprien Gaillard
French, b. 1980
Desniansky Raion
video still
2007
DVD, 30 min.
Edition of 5
© Cyprien Gaillard. Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin, London

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Candida Höfer
German, b. 1944
Pinacoteca Querini Stampalia Venezia I
2003
Chromogenic print
60 15/16 x 73 in.
Courtesy of Sonnabend Gallery

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Candida Höfer
German, b. 1944
Palacio Nacional de Mafra VII
2006
Chromogenic print
61 x 69 1/8 in.
Collection Zibby and Andrew Right, New York

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Cyprien Gaillard
French, b. 1980
Belief in the Age of Disbelief (Banja Luca)
2005
etching
36 x 47 cm
© Cyprien Gaillard
Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin, London

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Candida Höfer
German, b. 1944
Musee du Louvre Paris XX
2005
Chromogenic print
78 3/4 x 95 5/8 in
Courtesy of Sonnabend Gallery

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Carnegie Museum of Art
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-4080
T: 412.622.3131

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday: noon – 5 p.m.
Monday: Closed
Closed major holidays

Carnegie Museum of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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