Posts Tagged ‘Conceptual Art

05
Nov
22

Exhibition: ‘Bernd and Hilla Becher’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 15th July – 6th November 2022

Curators: Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator, Department of Photographs, assisted by Virginia McBride, Research Associate, Department of Photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

 

 

Bernd & Hiller Becher exhibition banner

 

Bernd & Hiller Becher exhibition banner

 

 

Ghosts in the machine

In a way that Plato would recognise with his perfect forms (abstract yet perfect, unchanging concepts or ideals that transcend time and space and live on a spiritual plane behind the representation of a physical reality), I feel as though Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) has existed outside of time – a model of directness that was always there – in a timeless way, before the actual concept emerged into consciousness in the 1920s German art tradition.

German photographers Bernd & Hiller Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015) were devoted to the ideals of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) and their work evolved from these older traditions of objective photography as practiced by artists such as August Sander (German, 1876-1964) and Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932) during the 1920s. The typologies that the Bechers collected – their beautiful, multiple, conceptual, objective, documentary fine art ‘record photographs’ – made them among the most important figures in postwar German photography.

Their teaching at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in the mid 1970s lead to the formation of the Dusseldorf School of Photography which refers to a group of photographers who studied under the artist duo who also shared (and then modified) their aesthetic – a commitment to controlled objectivity and a documentary orientation. These important next generation artists included people such as Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth. The Bechers influence on contemporary documentary fine art photography continues today.

“The Bechers specialized in the photography of anonymous industrial sites and structures, methodically employing the same neutral perspective in each image, as in Water Towers. The nine nineteenth-century metal water towers are displayed in a grid as a single work, the black-and-white images revealing the differences between objects that had an identical function, and so bestowing an aesthetic value on them.”1

Here a definition of typology may be useful. ‘Typology’ is the study and interpretation of types and symbols, a classification according to a general type, especially in archaeology, psychology, or the social sciences. In this sense, the Becher’s photographs of industrial archetypes displayed in grids are excavations of historical types, representations of both pattern (type, grid) and randomness (interpretation, aesthetics). What does this mean? According to Katherine Hayles, pattern (in this case grids of photographs of the same archetype) cannot exist without its opposite, randomness, enacted through mutation of the code.

“Although mutation disrupts pattern, it also presupposes a morphological standard against which it can be measured and understood as mutation. We have seen that in electronic textuality, the possibility for mutation within the text are enhanced and heightened by long coding chains. We can now understand mutation in more fundamental terms. Mutation is critical because it names the bifurcation point at which the interplay between pattern and randomness causes the system to evolve in a new direction…

Mutation is the catastrophe in the pattern/randomness dialectic… It marks a rupture of pattern so extreme that the expectation of continuous replication can no longer be sustained… The randomness to which mutation testifies is implicit in the very idea of pattern, for only against the background of nonpattern can pattern emerge. Randomness is the contrasting term that allows pattern to be understood as such.”2

The pattern of the Bechers photographs are the grids, the randomness evidenced as we move in to observe individual images within the grid, for every water tower is different and its own form… and then we pull back to compare one image with another, one mutation with another. As we move closer the individual image becomes whole in its own right, but contains within the pictorial frame evidence of the subjects mutation through decay, evidence of an industrial revolution and means of production that is now archaic and arcane. It is as though we are looking at a fractal in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, but which in fact describe partly random or chaotic phenomena, the seeds of their own mutation. And the possibility for mutation within the text is enhanced and heightened by long coding chains, such as large typologies of objects and large grids of images.

As much as the Bechers objective photographs seek a cool sameness, they undermine their own project by their photographs inherent subversiveness. It’s as though the beauty of their object of desire is being played off against a rage against the machine, a critique of what industrialisation is doing to the divine landscape of the earth.

Of course images are always seen in context which, together with their formal characteristics and conditions, limits the meanings available from them at any one moment. As Annette Kuhn observes, “Meanings do not reside in images, then: they are circulated between representation, spectator and social function.”3 We understand the Bechers images then, through a representation of reality which always and necessarily entails, “the use of the codes and conventions of the available cultural forms of presentation. Such forms restrict and shape what can be said by and / or about any aspect of reality in a given place in a given society at a given time, but if that seems like a limitation on saying, it is also what makes saying possible at all.”4 Richard Dyer continues,

“I accept that one apprehends reality only through representations of reality, through texts, discourse, images; there is no such thing as unmediated access to reality. But because one can see reality only through representation, it does not follow that one does not see reality at all. Partial – selective, incomplete, from a point of view – vision of something is not no vision of it whatsoever.”4

Despite the Bechers attempt to catalogue vast typologies, there is no order without disorder. Their vision, and our vision, is only ever selective, incomplete and from a point of view. Much as they desire an enchantment of the subject so that the object of desire falls under their spell in order to validate its presence, so there is no single determinate meaning to any presentation of their work, for people make sense of images in different ways, according to the cultural codes available to them. “What is re-presented in representation is not directly reality itself but other representations. The analysis of images always needs to see how any given instance is embedded in a network of other instances…”4

The ghosts in the machine of the Bechers networks, those random bits of code that lurk behind a not so perfect representation, group together to form unexpected protocols seen from different points of view. “Unanticipated, these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we might call the soul.” (Asimov)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Anonymous. “A Movement in a Moment: The Düsseldorf School,” on the Phaidon website [Online] Cited 01/11/2022
  2. Katherine Hayles. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, p. 33.
  3. Annette Kuhn. The Power of the Image: Essays on Representation and Sexuality. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985, p. 6.
  4. Richard Dyer. The Matter of Images: Essays on Representations. London: Routledge, 1993, pp. 2-3.

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Many thankx to the Metropolitan 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.

 

 

“I think it’s best to imagine that they cast a doubting eye on earlier aspirations to scientific and technical order. After all, the Bechers hit their stride as artists in the 1960s and early ’70s, at just the moment when any aspiring intellectual was reading Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” which pointed to how the sociology of science (who holds power in labs and who doesn’t) shapes what science tells us. The French philosopher Roland Barthes had killed off the all-powerful author and let the rest of us be the true makers of meaning, even if that left it unstable. European societies were in turmoil as they faced the terrors of the Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof gang, so brilliantly captured in the streaks and smears of Gerhard Richter, that other German giant of postwar art. The Bechers were working in that world of unsettled and unsettling ideas. By parroting the grammar of technical imagery, without actually achieving any technical goals, their photos seem to loosen technology’s moorings. By collecting water towers the way someone else might collect cookie jars, they cut industry down to size… To get the full meaning and impact of the Bechers’ Machine Age black-and-whites, they should really be viewed through the windows of their Information Age orange van.”

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Blake Gopnik. “Photography’s Delightful Obsessives,” on The New York Times website July 28, 2022 [Online] Cited 20/10/2022

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bernd & Hilla Becher' at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bernd & Hilla Becher at The Metropolitan Museum of Art showing at centre, Water Tower, Verviers, Belgium 1983, below
Photo: Anna-Marie Kellen/The Met

00 Basic Forms
01 Framework Houses
02 Early Work
03 Industrial Landscapes
04 Zeche Concordia
05 Art and Evolution
06 Typologies

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Tower, Verviers, Belgium' 1983

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Tower, Verviers, Belgium
1983
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23 7/8 × 19 13/16 in. (60.6 × 50.4cm)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1992

 

 

Both as artists and teachers, Bernhard and Hilla Becher are among the most important figures in postwar German photography. For the last thirty years, the artists have examined the dilapidated industrial architecture of Europe and North America, from water towers and blast furnaces to the surrounding workers’ houses. Photographing against a blank sky and without any pictorial tricks or effects, the artists treat these forgotten structures as the exotic specimens of a long-dead species.

 

 

The renowned German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015) changed the course of late twentieth-century photography. Working as a rare artist couple, they focused on a single subject: the disappearing industrial architecture of Western Europe and North America that fuelled the modern era. Their seemingly objective style recalled nineteenth- and early twentieth-century precedents but also resonated with the serial approach of contemporary Minimalism and Conceptual art. Equally significant, it challenged the perceived gap between documentary and fine-art photography.

Using a large-format view camera, the Bechers methodically recorded blast furnaces, winding towers, grain silos, cooling towers, and gas tanks with precision, elegance, and passion. Their rigorous, standardised practice allowed for comparative analyses of structures that they exhibited in grids of between four and thirty photographs. They described these formal arrangements as “typologies” and the buildings themselves as “anonymous sculpture.”

This posthumous retrospective celebrates the Bechers’ remarkable achievement and is the first ever organised with full access to the artists’ personal collection of working materials and their comprehensive archive.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) 'Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany' 1955-1956

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany
1955-1956
Graphite and watercolour on paper
16 5/16 × 16 5/16 in. (41.5 × 41.5cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

The earliest surviving independent works by Bernd Becher are several rare drawings and photocollages of the Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, made before the formation of his artistic partnership with Hilla Wobeser in 1959. These include the works presented on this wall and directly opposite. They reveal the artist’s lifelong interest in the accurate description of mining and manufacturing structures familiar to him from his childhood. Here, Bernd takes special care to focus on the mine’s wooden framework features and its idiosyncratic winding tower, which rises above the buildings like an enormous windblown flag.

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) 'Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany' 1957

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Eisernhardter Tiefbau Mine, Eisern, Germany
1957
Collage of five gelatin silver prints
Sheet: 15 3/4 × 11 3/4 in. (40 × 29.9cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) '[Assemblage of Pipes]' 1964 or later

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
[Assemblage of Pipes]
1964 or later
Gelatin silver prints with graphite
Sheet: 14 3/8 × 13 1/16 in. (36.5 × 33.2cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

This exceptional assemblage includes three razor-cut photographs of blast-furnace pipes braided together into a handsome knot. Part Giorgio de Chirico (one of the artist’s favourite painters), part pretzel, the metaphysical work shows Bernd Becher’s playful sense of humour and appreciation for the complexity and visual wonderment of industrial forms.

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) '[Mountain Elm Leaf]' 1965

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
[Mountain Elm Leaf]
1965
Gelatin silver print
9 5/16 × 6 15/16 in. (23.7 × 17.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

In these studies of tree leaves, Hilla Becher is operating in a long tradition of natural realism that connects her work to that of many earlier German artists, including the photographs of Karl Blossfeldt and the printed botanical and zoological studies of Ernst Haeckel (see display case). What was important to Blossfeldt, Haeckel, and the Bechers was not simple exactitude but a particular type of graphic description and presentation that could reveal the unique, often quirky, and at times humorous structure of any form.

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) '[Spruce Branch]' 1965

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
[Spruce Branch]
1965
Gelatin silver print
9 7/16 × 7 1/16 in. (24 × 17.9cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne.

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934–2015) '[Shell, for the German Industrial Exhibition, Khartoum, Sudan]' 1961

 

Hilla Becher (German, 1934–2015)
[Shell, for the German Industrial Exhibition, Khartoum, Sudan]
1961
Gelatin silver print
15 3/8 × 11 7/8 in. (39 × 30.1cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne.

 

 

Even after the establishment of the Bechers’ professional partnership in 1959, Hilla continued to accept commission work. She produced this study of the inner architecture of a seashell as a graphic for a display of industrial design at a German trade fair in Khartoum. This vintage photograph was copied and used by the pavilion designer as oversize enlargements. Hilla also documented the interior and exterior of the innovative prefabricated shed pavilion with its lively metal banding.

 

Ernst Haeckel (German, 1834-1919) "Echinidea. – Igelsterne" 'Kunstformen der Natur' (Leipzig and Vienna: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1904)

 

Ernst Haeckel (German, 1834-1919)
“Echinidea. – Igelsterne”
Kunstformen der Natur (Leipzig and Vienna: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1904)
1904
Lithograph
Sheet: 13 5/8 × 10 1/4 in. (34.6 × 26cm)
Joyce Frank Menschel Library, Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

For both research purposes and aesthetic pleasure, Hilla Becher assembled a collection of illustrated books dedicated to scientific classification. None on the theme of biological order was more important to the artists’ development than Ernst Haeckel’s 1904 Kunstformen der Natur. The plate from a disbound volume presented here shows a typological comparison of sea urchins and sand dollars.

 

 

From July 15 to November 6, 2022, the renowned American museum is showing a retrospective of the important artist couple in cooperation with Studio Bernd & Hilla Becher, Dusseldorf, and Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne.

Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007, 1934-2015) are among the most important artists of the second half of the 20th century. Since the 1960s, their works have provided decisive impetus for photography, art and also generally for dealing with our culture, economy, science and society. For more than 50 years, the artist couple has devoted themselves to the subject of the industrial landscape, the functional buildings and constructions of the mining industry in Western Europe and North America. They created countless black-and-white photographs, which they took with their large-format cameras, of winding towers, blast furnaces, water and cooling towers, coal bunkers, gas tanks, half-timbered houses, entire industrial plants and landscapes. The photographs show precise, at the same time analytical views and individual forms, which Bernd and Hilla Becher subjected to a comparative analysis. So-called typologies, unfolding photographic sets or also large-format typologically conceived individual photographs were the results of their collaboration, which they exhibited internationally and published in monographs. Works that received a special appreciation under the term “Anonymous Sculptures” and attained top-class awards.

The method used by the Bechers can be regarded as style-defining. It transformed the descriptive, objective view of photography of the 19th and early 20th century, which the artist couple highly valued, into a new era, integrating it into clearly sequenced series of images and thus at the same time pointing to perspectives of minimal and conceptual art, which further underscores the innovative power of their work.

Between 1976 and 1996 Bernd Becher taught at the Art Academy in Dusseldorf. Numerous well-known photographers and artists emerged from his photography class. As of the 1960s Bernd and Hilla Becher had their studio in Dusseldorf. Today the studio is being continued as the Bernd & Hilla Becher Studio by their son, estate administrator and artist Max Becher. From 1995 until their death, the artist couple worked together with Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur in Cologne, from which the Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive emerged. The majority of the exhibition is furnished from this collection, including numerous previously little-shown and unknown materials by Bernd and Hilla Becher. Overall, the retrospective, which will be on view in a second venue at the SFMoMA between December 17, 2022 and April 2, 2023, introduces all of the artist couple’s areas of work.

The exhibition was curated by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator, Department of Photographs, assisted by Virginia McBride, Research Associate, Department of Photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Bernd and Max Becher, Kintzel Coal Company, Big Lick Mountains, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania' 1978

 

Unknown photographer
Bernd and Max Becher, Kintzel Coal Company, Big Lick Mountains, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
1978
Chromogenic print
4 3/8 × 3 7/16 in. (11.1 × 8.8cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Unknown photographer. 'Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ensdorf Mine, Saarland, Germany' 1979

 

Unknown photographer
Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ensdorf Mine, Saarland, Germany
1979
Gelatin silver print
4 3/4 × 5 9/16 in. (12 × 14.1cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Their camera’s lens, facing Hilla, has been raised higher than the film plane that’s facing Bernd, a trick that lets them capture the tops of tall structures.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hilla Becher, Youngstown, Ohio, United States' 1981

 

Unknown photographer
Hilla Becher, Youngstown, Ohio, United States
1981
Instant diffusion transfer print (Polaroid)
2 7/8 × 3 3/4 in. (7.3 × 9.5cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bouwen voor de Industrie in de 19e en 20e eeuw, een fotografische dokumentatie door Bernd en Hilla Becher, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands 1968

 

Bouwen voor de Industrie in de 19e en 20e eeuw, een fotografische dokumentatie door Bernd en Hilla Becher, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
1968
Photomechanical reproduction
Sheet: 34 5/8 × 24 3/16 in. (88 × 61.5cm)
Frame: 36 15/16 × 26 7/16 in. (93.8 × 67.2cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher were notoriously exacting about how their photographs were constructed in the camera, printed in the darkroom, and sequenced and reproduced in their many publications. Interestingly, they were rather generous with how and where their photographs were used in other printed materials, such as promotional leaflets, invitations, and exhibition posters. The posters gathered in this exhibition display a variety of typographic treatments and arrangements.

 

Bernd och Hilla Becher, Form genom Funktion, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden 1970

 

Bernd och Hilla Becher, Form genom Funktion, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
1970
Photomechanical reproduction
Sheet: 39 5/16 × 27 1/2 in. (99.8 × 69.8cm)
Frame: 41 9/16 × 29 3/4 in. (105.6 × 75.6cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd und Hilla Becher, Typologien industrieller Bauten, Museum für Fotografie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany 2005

 

Bernd und Hilla Becher, Typologien industrieller Bauten, Museum für Fotografie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany
2005
Photomechanical reproduction
Sheet: 46 7/8 × 33 1/16 in. (119 × 84cm)
Frame: 49 1/16 × 35 5/16 in. (124.6 × 89.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Bernd & Hilla Becher, First Posthumous Retrospective of the Highly Influential Photographers to Open at The Met July 15

Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015) are widely considered the most influential German photographers of the postwar period. Working as a rare artist couple, they developed a rigorous practice focused on a single subject: the disappearing industrial architecture of Western Europe and North America that fueled the modern era. Opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on July 15, 2022, Bernd & Hilla Becher features some 200 works of art and is the artists’ first posthumous retrospective of their 50-year career. It is organised with full access to the Becher’s comprehensive archive and personal collection of working materials and is the first American retrospective since 1974 (when their mature style was still evolving).

The exhibition is made possible by Joyce Frank Menschel, the Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore Foundation, the Edward John & Patricia Rosenwald Foundation, and Linda Macklowe. It is organised by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in association with Studio Bernd & Hilla Becher and Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur.

“Bernd and Hilla Becher changed the course of late 20th-century photography, and their groundbreaking work continues to influence artists to this day,” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “It is a privilege to present this first posthumous retrospective and to celebrate their legacy and remarkable artistic achievement.”

 

Exhibition Overview

The Bechers seemingly objective aesthetic looked back to 19th- and early 20th-century precedents but also resonated with the serial, premeditated progressions of contemporary Minimalism and Conceptual art. Equally significant, their aesthetic challenged the perceived gap between documentary and fine-art photography. The artists used a large-format view camera – similar to those used by 19th-century photographers such as the Bisson Frères in France and Carleton Watkins in the American West – and spurned the handheld, 35 mm roll-film cameras of the type preferred by journalists and pre- and postwar artists such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. They worked exclusively with black-and-white photographic materials, intentionally avoiding the medium’s inevitable move to colour that took place during the 1960s and 1970s, and methodically recorded blast furnaces, winding towers, grain silos, cooling towers, and gas tanks with precision, elegance, and passion. Their standardised approach allowed for comparative analyses of structures that they exhibited in grids of between 4 and 30 photographs. They described these formal arrangements as “typologies” and the buildings themselves as “anonymous sculpture.”

The Bechers had a direct and profound influence on several generations of students at the renowned art academy Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where Bernd was appointed the first professor of photography in 1976. Among the members of the so-called Becher School or Düsseldorf School of Photography are some of the most recognised German artists of the past 40 years, such as Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, and Thomas Ruff.

Featured in the exhibition alongside the individual and grids of photographs for which the Bechers are best known are extraordinary works in photography and other media executed by them before and after the formation of their creative partnership in 1959. These rarely seen lithographs, collages, photographs, ink and pencil sketches, Polaroids, and personal snapshots offer a deep understanding of the artists’ working methods and intellectual processes.

Following its debut at The Met, the exhibition will travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), where it will be on view from December 17, 2022 through April 2, 2023. Bernd & Hilla Becher is curated by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs, with assistance from Virginia McBride, Research Assistant in the Department of Photographs, both at The Met. The Met developed the exhibition with Max Becher, the artists’ son, and with Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, director of the Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur in Cologne, where the artists’ vast photographic print archive is preserved.

The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly publication, the first posthumous monograph published on the Bechers. It features essays by Gabriele Conrath-Scholl; Dr. Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and an expert on the Bechers; and Lucy Sante, arts critic, essayist, artist, and visiting professor of writing and photography at Bard College. The publication also includes an extensive interview with Max Becher that, together with the essays, introduces and surveys the Bechers’ photographs and the significance of their achievement over a remarkably productive half-century career. The catalogues is made possible by the Mary C. and James W. Fosburgh Publications Fund.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Blast Furnaces (United States, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and Belgium)' 1968-1993

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Blast Furnaces (United States, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and Belgium)
1968-1993
Gelatin silver prints
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher

 

Such series may have been less about the glories of heavy industry than its approaching demise in the West.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Blast Furnace, Youngstown, Ohio, United States' 1983

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Blast Furnace, Youngstown, Ohio, United States
1983
Gelatin silver print
23 1/8 × 18 1/4 in. (58.8 × 46.4cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

The buildings Bernd and Hilla Becher chose to photograph were meant to be altered or demolished when superseded technologically. Given the planned obsolescence of their subjects, the artists’ timing played an important role in the success of their practice. In one of their last books, Industrial Landscapes (2002), they commented: “Once we were in northern France, where we found a wonderful headgear [the top of a blast furnace] – a veritable Eiffel Tower. When we arrived the weather was hazy and not ideal for our work so we decided to postpone taking the photos for a day. When we arrived the next day, it had already been torn down, the dust was in the air.”

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Gravel Plants' 1988-2001

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Gravel Plants
1988-2001
Gelatin silver prints

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Gravel Plant, Günzburg, Germany' 1989

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Gravel Plant, Günzburg, Germany
1989
Gelatin silver print
24 3/16 × 19 3/16 in. (61.4 × 48.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Bernd and Hilla Becher completed a thorough documentation of the many gravel plants in and near Günzburg, a small city on the Danube River in Bavaria. This oddly shaped yet functional building was used as a stone breaker to produce gravel, the still-lucrative industrial material required for making roads and high-quality concrete. The asymmetrical facade delights the eye, recalling the Bechers’ frequently stated agenda: “We were fascinated above all by the shape of technical architecture, and hardly by its history.”

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Cooling Tower, Zeche Mont Cenis, Herne, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1965

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Tower, Zeche Mont Cenis, Herne, Ruhr Region, Germany
1965
Gelatin silver print
23 5/8 x 18 1/4 in. (60.5 x 46.4cm)
Collection of James Kieth Brown and Eric Diefenbach

 

 

Influenced by the formal rigour and conceptual methods of pre-World War II artists, such as August Sander and Walker Evans, Bernd and Hilla Becher were considered equals and fellow travellers by Minimalist sculptors, such as Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt. They treated their subject matter – the disappearing industrial architecture of the West – as “anonymous sculpture.” Here, a fabulous tower used to cool water at the Mont Cenis colliery rises from the ground like a modernist top hat made for a wooden giant. In 1978, just thirteen years after the Bechers visited the busy complex, it closed permanently, ending more than one hundred years of coal extraction on the site.

The Bechers photographed against a blank sky and without any pictorial tricks or effects, using an old-fashioned tripod-mounted view camera of the kind used by Eugène Atget and Walker Evans. They treated their subjects as “anonymous sculpture” (the name of their first monograph) that could only be fully rendered through either multiple views from different perspectives or more often, through the typological accumulation and serial presentation of multiple specimens. Although they were artists not scientists, the Bechers used an almost Linnean system of classification – another important 19th century precedent which they made resolutely modern.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Cooling Tower, Caerphilly, South Wales, Great Britain' 1966

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Tower, Caerphilly, South Wales, Great Britain
1966
Gelatin silver print
Image: 14 5/8 × 11 3/4 in. (37.1 × 29.9cm)
Gift of the LeWitt Family, in memory of Bernd and Hilla Becher, 2018

 

 

As both artists and professors at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, the husband-and-wife team of Bernd and Hilla Becher have influenced an entire generation of German photographers with their typological approach to the medium, in which a single archetypal subject is described through an accumulation of diverse examples. For more than three decades, they have systematically examined the dilapidated industrial architecture of Europe and North America, from water towers and blast furnaces to the surrounding workers’ houses, all recorded against a blank sky and without expressive effects. As it developed in the 1960s, the Bechers’ project chimed with Conceptual Art in its emphasis on impersonal series as well as with older traditions of objective photography as practiced by such artists such as August Sander and Karl Blossfeldt.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Cooling Towers (Wood)' 1976

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers (Wood)
1976
Gelatin silver prints
16 × 12 in. (40.6 × 30.5cm), each
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Cooling Towers (Wood)' 1976 (detail)

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers (Wood) (detail)
1976
Gelatin silver prints
16 × 12 in. (40.6 × 30.5cm), each
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Cooling Towers (Wood) (detail)
1976
Gelatin silver prints
16 × 12 in. (40.6 × 30.5cm), each
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

The Bechers’ purpose has always been to make the clearest possible photographs of industrial structures. They are not interested in making euphemistic, socio-romantic pictures glorifying industry, nor doom-laden spectacles showing its costs and dangers. Equally, they have nothing in common with photographers who seek to make pleasing modernist abstractions, treating the structures as decorative shapes divorced from their function.

The Bechers’ goal is to create photographs that are concentrated on the structures themselves and not qualified by subjective interpretations. To them, these structures are the ‘architecture of engineers’ and their pictures should be seen as the photography of engineers – that is, record pictures. …

[Record photographers are the unsung heroes of the history of photography. They are the anonymous commercial photographers who were commissioned to record both great and everyday industrial and civic projects, from the construction of canals to the blooming of floral clocks.]

The Bechers are fascinated by the idiosyncratic appearance of each structure. The mass-produced, design-conscious assemblies devised by architects with an eye on appearance do not appeal as much as those with a mindfulness of function. What interests the Bechers are constructions made by engineers whose plans are pragmatic, where function dictates the form, rather than, as is increasingly the case, the other way round. In the words of Bernd: ‘There is a form of architecture that consists in essence of apparatus, that has nothing to do with design, and nothing to do with architecture either. They are engineering constructions with their own aesthetic.’

Their fascination is rooted in an understanding of the structures. The Bechers are the first to acknowledge the primarily functional role of the constructions, that their existence is justified solely by their industrial performance, and that once this has been superseded the structures will be modified or demolished. They liken the way a blast furnace develops over time, as furnaces and pipework are added, to the organic but apparently chaotic growth of a medieval city. This purpose-led rationale is what attracts them. They refer to some of the structures as ‘nomadic architecture’. Once they photographed a blast furnace that was being dismantled by Chinese workers in Luxembourg, who then had to reassemble it in China.

By placing photographs of similar subjects alongside each other, the individual differences emerge, making the fine details in each picture more noticeable, more distinct. Drawing on this, they began exhibiting the pictures as typologies; by the early 1960s they showed their work only in typological groups. Typically, a piece of work would comprise four small prints of, for example, water towers, adjacent to a larger print of one of the four. They would not supply prints of individual pictures; the typology was the work. Later, their typologies contained prints of equal size, measuring 30 cm by 40 cm. It could be three rows of five prints, a grid of nine or, in one case, 28 blast furnaces in three rows; a symphony of industrial structures.

The Bechers’ pictures do not have to be viewed in typologies in order to make sense, as they have validity as individual images. The typology has been developed for two reasons. First, by amassing such a detailed survey of industrial structures they are revealing sets and subsets, much like 19th-century zoologists did. With water towers, for example, there are round steel ones with conical tops, like hats, and semi-circular ones. Others are circular with sloping roofs, or without roofs, or on steel derricks, or brick towers, and so on. The more fine the differences, the better they are illustrated by the typology.

Second, the typology used by the Bechers emphasises the rewards of close scrutiny, and it is this that makes each and every one of their pictures fascinating. By presenting 15 water towers in a grid, the first effect is an imposing mass of industrial structures. You must stand back in order to take them all in as a group, but to look closer at an individual picture it is necessary to draw nearer.

Up close, only one tower is visible at a time. Isolated in pristine, black-and-white definition, this everyday object is revealed as an ‘anonymous sculpture’, an unostentatious but fabulous creation by mankind. To compare it with the others is to stand back again, and from here the impulse is to step up and examine another. Just as the beauty of the individual structure (for that is what they are) is there to see, so together as a typology they are a thrilling spectacle. …

There is a wisdom and honour in the Bechers’ work which frees them from imposing a conditional reading upon the viewer. The wisdom is the methodology they recognise in the ‘neutral’ depiction of record photography. The honour stems from a principle about not imposing their ideas on other people.

Hilla and Bernd both grew up under Adolf Hitler. They saw how he corrupted German art to promote his propaganda. This was particularly pertinent to photography, and it remained tainted after the war; witness the grim examples of Leni Riefensthal’s glorifying images of Nazis and the pseudo-scientific eugenic portrait studies that were published to defend anti-semitism and supremacism. This is why the legacy of August Sander (1876-1964), whose neutral approach to portraiture was damned by the Nazis, is so precious in Germany. It is also why the Bechers’ continuing example is extremely important. …

Because photography has, for so long, been used for commercial reasons, notably in advertising, people are accustomed to absorbing manipulative images, and have come to expect – or even rely on – a conditional presentation. Take away this interpretative control and the viewer is left free, which is unnerving if one is not used to it. This is why some regard the Bechers’ photographs as ‘cold’. There is no editorial, no soundtrack, no suggestions nor judgments. You are left to your own devices.

Of course, their motivations are not invisible, nor their presence unfelt. What does it mean when something ‘rings true’? How is it that one can sense the sincerity in another’s words? Perhaps this lies in the realm of intuition, not explanation. To analyse art is not necessarily to experience it. Sometimes, by focusing on a deliberation of it, one limits the engagement to a cerebral encounter. In the West particularly, we use explanations to try to control the unknown, to make uncertainties certain. Maybe there is a wisdom we have that is not learnt but is within us. Far better to look rather than puzzle, and to open one’s senses to what is there.

Here lies the wonder in the Bechers’ photographs. They are like rounding a hill and seeing a view spread out before you. In Cwmcynon Colliery, Mountain Ash, South Wales, 1966, a minehead stands above lines of terraced houses in the village. The giant pair of wheels on top of the single-tier steel headframe is an engineer’s structure. A device to do a job, not to win design awards. You could not dream up such structures, neither could you invent, say, your grandparents’ kitchen. These things arise from the conditions in which they are used.

They are the lines on the face of the world. The photographs are portraits of our history. And when the structures have been demolished and grassed over, as though they were never there, the pictures remain.

Michael Collins, “The long look,” Tate Research Publication, 2002 originally published in Tate Magazine issue 1 on the Tate website [Online] Cited 01/11/2022

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Winding Towers (Belgium and France)' 1967-1988

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Winding Towers (Belgium and France)
1967-1988
Gelatin silver prints
15 15/16 × 12 3/8 in. (40.5 × 31.5cm), each
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Winding Tower, Cwm Cynon Colliery, Mountain Ash, South Wales, Great Britain' 1966

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Winding Tower, Cwm Cynon Colliery, Mountain Ash, South Wales, Great Britain
1966
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 9/16 × 11 13/16 in. (39.6 × 30cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Winding Tower, Zeche Neu-Iserlohn, Bochum, Germany' 1963

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Winding Tower, Zeche Neu-Iserlohn, Bochum, Germany
1963
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 9/16 × 11 1/4 in. (39.5 × 28.5cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Towers (Germany, France, Belgium, United States, and Great Britain)' 1963-1980

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Towers (Germany, France, Belgium, United States, and Great Britain)
1963-1980
Gelatin silver prints
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher

 

Is there some quiet comedy in revealing all the ways industry has managed the single job of storing water?

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Towers (New York, United States)' 1978–1979

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Towers (New York, United States)
1978-1979
Gelatin silver prints
15 15/16 × 12 3/8 in. (40.5 × 31.5cm), each
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Water Towers (New York, United States)' 1978–1979 (detail)

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Water Towers (New York, United States)(detail)
1978-1979
Gelatin silver prints
15 15/16 × 12 3/8 in. (40.5 × 31.5cm), each
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

One wall is gridded up with photos of industrial cooling towers, portrayed in wildly detailed black-and-white.

Another gives us 30 different views of blast furnaces, at plants across Western Europe and the United States. You can just about make out each bolt in their twisting pipework.

An entire gallery surveys the vast Concordia coal plant in Oberhausen, Germany: Teeming photos present its gas-storage tanks, its “lean gas generator,” its “quenching tower,” its “coke pushers.”

These and something like another 450 images fill “Bernd & Hilla Becher,” a fascinating, frankly gorgeous show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met’s curator of photography, Jeff Rosenheim, has organized a thorough retrospective for the Bechers, a German couple who made some of the most influential art photos of the past half-century. Bernd (1931-2007) and Hilla (1934-2015) mentored generations of students at Düsseldorf’s great Kunstakademie, whose alumni include major photographic artists such as Andreas Gursky and Candida Höfer.

But for all the heft of the heavy industry on view in the Met show – it’s easy to imagine the stink and smoke and racket that pressed in on the Bechers as they worked – you come away with an overall impression of lightness, of delightful order, even sometimes of gentle comedy.

Wall after wall of gridded grays soothe the eye and calm the soul, like the orderly, light-filled abstractions of Agnes Martin or Sol LeWitt. The very fact of gathering 16 different water towers, from both sides of the Atlantic, onto a single museum wall helps to domesticate them, removing their industrial angst and original functions and turning them into something like curios, or collectibles. A catalog essay refers to the Bechers’ “rigorous documentation of thousands of industrial structures,” which is right – but it’s the rigour of a trainspotter, not an engineer. Despite their concrete grandeur, the assorted water towers come off as faintly ridiculous: Whether you’re collecting cookie jars or vintage wines – or shots of water towers – it’s as much about our human instinct to amass and organise as it is about the actual things you collect.

Consider the 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) that launched Andy Warhol’s pop career, which are a vital precedent for the Bechers’ ordered seriality. You can read the Soup Cans as a critical portrayal of American consumerism, but a catalog of canned soups also reads as a quiet joke, at least when it’s presented for the sake of art, not shopping. Ditto, I think, for the Bechers’ famous “typologies” of industrial buildings, presented without anything like an industrial goal.

Indeed, the one thing you don’t come away with from the Becher show is real knowledge of mechanical engineering, or coal processing, or steel making. In long-ago student days, I cut out and framed a wallful of images from the Bechers’ glorious book of blast-furnace photos. (Their art has always existed as much in their books as in exhibitions.) After living with my furnaces for a decade or so, I can’t say I could have passed a quiz from Smelting 101.

Early coverage referred to the Bechers as “photographer-archaeologists” and the Met’s catalog talks about how they revealed the “functional characteristics of industrial structures.” There are certainly parallels between the preternatural clarity and unmediated “objectivity” of their images and earlier, purely technical and scientific photos meant to teach about the constructions and processes of industry. The Bechers admired such pictures. But however systematic their own project might seem, its goal was art, which means it was always bound to let function and meaning float free.

I think it’s best to imagine that they cast a doubting eye on earlier aspirations to scientific and technical order. After all, the Bechers hit their stride as artists in the 1960s and early ’70s, at just the moment when any aspiring intellectual was reading Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” which pointed to how the sociology of science (who holds power in labs and who doesn’t) shapes what science tells us. French philosopher Roland Barthes had killed off the all-powerful author and let the rest of us be the true makers of meaning, even if that left it unstable. European societies were in turmoil as they faced the terrors of the Red Brigades and Baader-Meinhof gang, so brilliantly captured in the streaks and smears of Gerhard Richter, that other German giant of postwar art. The Bechers were working in that world of unsettled and unsettling ideas. By parroting the grammar of technical imagery, without actually achieving any technical goals, their photos seem to loosen technology’s moorings. By collecting water towers the way someone else might collect cookie jars, they cut industry down to size.

The Bechers weren’t the only artists working that seam. Their era’s conceptualists also played games with science and industry. When John Baldessari had himself photographed throwing three balls into the air so they’d form a straight line, he was simulating experimentation, not aiming for any real experimental result: The repeated throwing and its failure was the point, not the straight line that could never get formed, anyway. When the Bechers’ friend Robert Smithson poured oceans of glue down a hillside or bulldozed dirt onto a shed until its roof cracked, he was mimicking the moves of heroic construction, not aiming to build anything.

What made the Bechers different from their peers is that they did their mimicking from the inside: They used the language of advanced photographic technology to inhabit the technophilic world they portrayed. Their photos are almost as constructed as any “lean gas generator” they might depict. The just-the-facts-ma’am objectivity of their images is only achieved through serious photographic artifice.

Take the Bechers’ four-square photos of four-square workers’ houses. Several houses are photographed from so close that, standing right in front of them, you’d never take in their entire facades at one glance, as the Bechers do in their images. It takes a wide-angle lens to allow that trick, and only if it’s installed on the kind of technical view camera whose bellows lets lens and film slide in opposite directions. That’s how the Bechers manage to line up our eyes with the top step on a stoop (we see it edge-on) while also catching the home’s gables, high above.

The preternatural level of detail on view and its glorious range of grays and blacks require negatives the size of a man’s hand, a tripod as big as a sapling, lens filters and an advanced darkroom technique. And the couple were relying on such labour-intensive technology at just the moment when most of their photographic peers, and millions of average people, had moved on to cameras and film that let them shoot on the fly, in lab-processed colour. With the Bechers, the “decisive moment” of 35 mm photography gets replaced by a gray-on-gray stasis that feels as though it could last forever – as though it’s as immovable as the steel girders it depicts.

But, in fact, those steel girders were more time-bound than the Bechers’ photos let on. “Just as Medieval thinking manifested itself in Gothic cathedrals, our era reveals itself in technological equipment and buildings,” the Bechers once declared, yet the era they revealed wasn’t really the one they were working in. In many cases, their factories and plants and mines were about to close when the Bechers shot them – a few had already been abandoned – as Western economies made the switch to services and design and computing. The outdatedness of the Bechers’ technique matches up with their subjects. Both represent a last-gasp moment in the “industrial” revolution, which is why there’s something almost poignant about this show.

One of its most revealing moments involves a film, not a photo, and it’s not even by the power couple. The Bechers’ young son, Max, who has since become a noted artist in his own right, once captured his parents in moving colour as they set out to document silos in the American Midwest. Max filmed Bernd and Hilla unloading their heavy-duty equipment, still much as it was in Victorian times, from a classic Volkswagen camper of the 1960s. It was an absurdly underpowered machine, but who could resist its colourful paint job or its mod lines and stylings?

To get the full meaning and impact of the Bechers’ Machine Age black-and-whites, they should really be viewed through the windows of their Information Age orange van.

Blake Gopnik. “Photography’s Delightful Obsessives,” on The New York Times website July 28, 2022 [Online] Cited 30/07/2022

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Lime Kiln, Brielle, Netherlands' 1968

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Lime Kiln, Brielle, Netherlands
1968
Gelatin silver print
24 in. × 19 1/2 in. (61 × 49.5cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

Lime, an important building material since ancient times, is used in the production of mortar and cement. Here, the Bechers focused their attention on six towering brick chimneys that look as much like sprouting asparagus as utilitarian structures. The artists chose a similar view of lime kilns for the cover image of Anonyme Skulpturen (1970), their ambitious first publication. The book presents comparative sequences of different industrial forms, from kilns and gasometers to cooling towers, blast furnaces, and winding towers.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Gas Tank, Wesseling / Cologne, Germany' 1983

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Gas Tank, Wesseling / Cologne, Germany
1983
24 in. × 19 13/16 in. (60.9 × 50.3cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Framework House, Schloßblick 17, Kaan-Marienborn, Siegen, Germany' 1962

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Framework House, Schloßblick 17, Kaan-Marienborn, Siegen, Germany
1962
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 7/8 × 11 5/8 in. (40.3 × 29.6cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

 

Both as artists and teachers, Bernd and Hilla Becher are the most important figures in European photography since 1950. Influenced by the formal rigour and typological method of prewar artists such as August Sander and Walker Evans, they were considered equals and fellow travellers by Minimalist sculptors such as Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt and paved the way for the medium’s integration into the broader arena of contemporary art. As professors at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, their influence was paramount on the celebrated generation of photographers known as the “Düsseldorf School” such as Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, and Candida Höfer.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany' 1969

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany
1969
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 13/16 × 11 11/16 in. (40.2 × 29.7cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany' 1969

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
High Tension Pylon near Düsseldorf, Germany
1969
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 3/4 x 11 1/2 in. (40 x 29.2cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Jade Lau Gift, 2018

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Comparative Juxtaposition, Nine Objects, Each with a Different Function' 1961-1972

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Comparative Juxtaposition, Nine Objects, Each with a Different Function
1961-1972
Gelatin silver prints
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher

 

 

These photographs show that the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher were sometimes more interested in aesthetic form than in what industry actually does.

Bernd and Hilla Becher found artistic inspiration in the under appreciated beauty of the built environment, specifically, commonplace industrial and residential architecture. The Bechers’ use of typological ordering, as seen here in a grid of fifteen framework-house studies, can be traced to Hilla’s interest in the concepts of taxonomy and morphology, which are systems of biological classification based on shape and function. They called their assemblages “typologies” and used this effective graphic structure to compare similar and different forms, as would a researcher studying a collection of fossils or butterflies.

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Terre Rouge, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg' 1979

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Terre Rouge, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
1979
Gelatin silver print
17 5/8 × 23 1/2 in. (44.8 × 59.7cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Charleroi-Montignies, Belgium' 1971

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Charleroi-Montignies, Belgium
1971
Gelatin silver print
19 in. × 23 1/4 in. (48.2 × 59cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007) 'Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany' 1999

 

Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, active 1959-2007)
Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Duisburg-Bruckhausen, Ruhr Region, Germany
1999
19 3/8 × 23 7/8 in. (49.2 × 60.6cm)
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher, represented by Max Becher, courtesy Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – Bernd & Hilla Becher Archive, Cologne

 

 

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25
Oct
20

Exhibition: ‘Thomas Ruff’ at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf

Exhibition dates: 12th September 2020 – 7th February 2021

 

Thomas Ruff. 'press++01.38' 2015

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
press++01.38
2015
C-Print
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Thomas Ruff is the true Renaissance man of contemporary photography. No greater compliment can be given.

His career in photography, as evidenced through the numerous bodies of work seen in this posting, has been an inquiry into the conceptualisation, status, presence, presentation, and representation of photographs in different contexts and media, through different technologies. A meditation on, and mediation into, the origins and purposes of photography and the interventions human beings enact to affect their outcomes.

His work “explores the most diverse genres and historical varieties of photography…”. For example, in the series press he combines front and back of an image, disrupting the reading of the image with contemporary hieroglyphs. In Zeitungsfotos he investigates the power of press photos and their deconstruction through the dot structure of the image. In Tableaux chinois he examines the use of photographs in political propaganda and looks at the artistic stylisation of the image. In one of my favourite series, jpeg, Ruff focuses on the pixellation and deconstruction of the image in compressed JPEG format photographs where, at a distance, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. This reminds me of the technique I witnessed when visiting Monet’s huge canvases of waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris – how when you got up close to the canvases, there were huge daubs and mounds of paint accreted on the surface of the paintings which made no sense at close range. It was only when you stepped back that it all made sense.

In essence this is what grounds the work of Thomas Ruff: that he digs and unearths the hidden strands, the interweaving, that lies beneath the surface of photographies. He intervenes in the negative, the print, the newspaper photograph, the light, the camera and the physicality of the print. He turns these literally hidden connections into lateral images – side views of the familiar that touch the human and the machine from different points of view.

To think of all these ideas, concepts, and then to develop them and bring them together in holistic bodies of work that the viewer remembers – and there is the rub, for so much contemporary photography is unremarkable, mortal – lifts Ruff’s photographs beyond the realm of time and space. In their distortions, their sublime beauty, their critical thinking, they become i/mortal. They become the complexity that is us.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“To understand how a pictorial genre actually works, I have to produce a series; I want to uncover the secret behind image generation.”

.
Thomas Ruff

 

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is one of the internationally most important artists of his generation. Already as a student in the class of the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in the early 1980s, he chose a conceptual approach to photography, which continues to determine his handling of the most diverse pictorial genres and historical possibilities of photography to this day.

Thomas Ruff’s contribution to contemporary photography thus consists in a special way in the development of a form of photography created without a camera: He uses images that have already been taken and that have already been distributed and optimised for specific purposes in other, largely non-artistic contexts. Ruff’s image sources for these series range from photographic experiments of the nineteenth century to photographs taken by space probes. He examined the archive processes of large image agencies and the pictorial politics of the People’s Republic of China. But also pornographic and catastrophic images from the Internet form starting points for his own series of works created over the past twenty years that have increasingly been developed on the computer.

They originate from newspapers, magazines, books, archives, and collections or were simply accessible to everyone on the Internet. In each series, Ruff explores the technical conditions of photography in the confrontation with these different pictorial worlds. At the same time, he focuses on the afterlife of images in publications, archives, databases, and on the Internet.

 

Short Biography Thomas Ruff

Thomas Ruff was born in Zell am Harmersbach in 1958 and studied with Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art from 1977 to 1985. From 2000 to 2005, he was himself Professor of Photography there. He first received international attention in 1987 with his series of larger-than-life portraits of friends and acquaintances who, as in passport photographs, gazed apathetically into the camera. In 1995, he represented Germany at the 46th Venice Biennale, together with Katharina Fritsch and Martin Honert. His works are collected internationally and are represented in numerous institutional collections.

Press release from the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen

 

Camera-less Photography

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is one of the internationally most important artists of his generation. Already as a student of the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in the early 1980s, he chose a conceptual approach to photography. His work, which explores the most diverse genres and historical varieties of photography, represents one of the most versatile and surprising positions within contemporary art. The comprehensive exhibition at K20 focuses on series of pictures from two decades in which the artist hardly ever used a camera himself. Instead, he appropriated existing photographic material from a wide variety of sources for his often large-format pictures.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'Zeitungsfoto 014' 1990

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Zeitungsfoto 014
1990
C-Print
16.8 x 42.4cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

The Power of Press Photos

Where do we use photos? What happens when photos are printed? How do aesthetics and statements change?

The artist explores these questions in various series, in which he draws on image material from other photographers, processes this, and thematises contexts. For his series Zeitungsfotos, the artist collected and processed newspaper photos to test the familiarity with the motifs and their reliability as carriers of information. In the series press++, he reveals the work traces of newspaper staff in conflict with the photos that were taken especially for use in the newspaper. In his new series, Tableaux chinois, he examines the use of photographs in political propaganda and reveals the artistic stylisation of the photos with reference to the feasibility and time-related aesthetics of the printed products.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'Zeitungsfoto 060' 1990

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Zeitungsfoto 060
1990
C-Print
17.3 x 13.4cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Zeitungsfotos

The works in the series Zeitungsfotos (Newspaper Photos) were created between 1990 and 1991 as colour prints framed with passe-partouts. They are based on a collection of images which the artist cut out of German-language daily and weekly newspapers between 1981 and 1991. The selected motifs from politics, business, sports, culture, science, technology, history, or contemporary events reflect in their entirety the collective pictorial world of a particular generation. The artist had the selected images reproduced without the explanatory captions and printed in double column width. In this way, he questions the informational value of the photographs and directs our attention to the rasterisation of newspaper print.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'press++21.11' 2016

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
press++21.11
2016
C-Print, Edition 02/04
260 x 185cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

press++

Black-and-white press photographs from the 1930s to the 1980s, which were taken primarily from American newspaper and magazine archives, are the source material for the press++ series. Thomas Ruff has been working on this series since 2015, scanning the front and back sides of the archive images and combining the two sides so that the partially edited photograph of the front side is fused with all the texts, remarks, and traces of use on the back side. When printed in large format, the often disrespectful handling of this type of photography becomes visible.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'press++ 60.10' 2017

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
press++ 60.10
2017
C-Print
225 x 185cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Going Digital

How are pictures made today? How do photos printed on paper differ from photos viewed on the Internet? Where are photos stored?

The investigation into the various pictorial genres leads to the archives and image stores of the past and present. The Internet offers seemingly inexhaustible sources of images by providing fast access to digitised, originally analog image material from older times and digitally created photographic material. As a researching artist, Thomas Ruff also finds here material for his studies, image production, and reflection.

His large-format photos of the series nudes draw on motifs and forms of presentation of thumb nail galleries (compilations of small images as previews) with pornographic images as they can be found on the Internet. By making the coarse pixel structure of the Internet images of the turn of the millennium into a pictorial principle, he thematises the technical conditions of the photographic images in his works. With the series jpeg, he continued these investigations and connected his selection of media images with the question of a collective memory for images and contemporary history. In his latest series of Tableaux chinois, pixel structures create visual tension and irritation alongside the offset screens of the digitised printed products of Chinese propaganda of the Mao era – and suggest the question of the technical conditions of images at the time they were created.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'nudes pea10' 1999

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
nudes pea10
1999
C-Print, Edition 1/2AP
102 x 129cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

nudes

An Internet research into the genre of nudes drew Thomas Ruff’s attention to the field of pornography and the images that were freely available on the World Wide Web at the turn of the millennium. The motifs and the special formal features that characterised the state of the art at that time became the starting points for new works. The found pictures had a rough pixel structure, which had already aroused the artist’s interest before. Thomas Ruff processed the found pictures in such a way that their pixel structure was just barely visible in print. By using motion blur and soft focus, by varying the colours and removing details, he gave the “obscene” pictures a painterly appearance and directed the eye to the pictorial structure and composition. The artist selected his source images according to compositional aspects. The choice of motifs shows a broad spectrum of sexual fantasies and practices.

 

The Internet 20 years ago

Thomas Ruff began working on the series nudes in 1999. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the transmission rates of the World Wide Web were still relatively low. Although dial-up modems had been around since the 1970s, devices with a speed of 56 kBit/s did not come onto the market until 1998. Even dial-up via ISDN, which was available at much higher prices from 1989 onwards, only allowed 64 kBit/s. It was not until July 1999 that Deutsche Telekom switched on the first ADSL connections, enabling transmission rates of up to 768 kBit/s. Although two million households were already connected by the end of 2001, slow Internet remained the general rule, above all outside the metropolitan regions. Until well into the 2000s, website operators thus relied on the offering of highly compressed images.

As a result, photographic images found wide and rapid distribution, but always initially in a highly compressed, reduced form. Thomas Ruff was one of the first to deal artistically with the question of the status of photography in the age of the Internet, with the series nudes from 1999 onwards and the series jpeg from 2004 onwards.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'jpeg ny01' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
jpeg ny01
2004
C-Print, Edition 1/1AP
256 x 188 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. 'jpeg msh01' 2004

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
jpeg msh01
2004
C-Print
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

jpeg

Images distributed worldwide through the Internet, as well as scanned postcards and illustrations from photobooks, are the visual starting point of the jpeg series, on which Thomas Ruff has been working since 2004. In it, he focuses attention on a feature that determines all images compressed in JPEG format and becomes visible at high magnification. By intensifying the pixel structure and simultaneously enlarging the overall image, he creates a new image that resembles a geometric colour pattern when viewed closely but becomes a photographic image when viewed from a greater distance. Here, Ruff uses ideas from the painting of late Impressionism and combines these with the digital possibilities of the twenty-first century. By using the entire range of images published globally and simultaneously discussed in recent decades, he allows the series to become almost a visual lexicon of media imagery and a reflection of its characteristics determined by the medium.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. From series: 'jpeg'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: jpeg
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Propaganda Images

What are photos used for? Which reality do photos depict? How do photos affect reality?

In addition to the motifs and the formal as well as technical possibilities of photography, Thomas Ruff examines the possible uses of photos. With his adaptations of images from Chinese propaganda material, he makes the ideological appropriation and manipulative character of the images his theme.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. From series: 'tableaux chinois'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: tableaux chinois
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'tableau chinois_03' 2019

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
tableau chinois_03
2019
C-Print, Edition 01/04
240 x 185cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'tableau chinois_01' 2019

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
tableau chinois_01
2019
C-Print
240 x 185cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Tableaux chinois

For many years, Thomas Ruff has been preoccupied with the subject of propaganda imagery. For Tableaux chinois, the artist scanned images from books on Mao published in China, as well as from the magazine‚ La Chine, published and distributed worldwide by the Chinese Communist Party. He stored them in such a way that the offset raster screen was preserved. He then duplicated the images and converted the offset raster of the duplicates into a large pixel structure. As a result of a long editing process on the computer, a composition is created which brings together the characteristics of the various time-related media and exposes the propaganda image as manipulated.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. From series: 'tableaux chinois'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: tableaux chinois
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'r.phg.07_II' 2013

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
r.phg.07_II
2013
C-Print
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

On Par with the Pioneers

What is a negative? How have photographic techniques changed in the course of history? Does a digital image look different from an analog photo?

The transition from analog to digital photography took place in the 1990s, at a time when Thomas Ruff was already successful on an international level. In addition to the characteristics of digitally processed and circulated photos, he examined the special features of the production and processing of analog photography. The exhibited photo series reveal Ruff’s engagement with nearly 170 years of photographic history and technology.

The series Negative pays tribute to the function and particular aesthetics of the negative, which recorded the image information in the light-sensitive coating of a transparent plate and had to be exposed again on prepared paper. The works in the series Tripe focus on the specific possibilities of working with the variant of paper negatives. Ruff reconstructs and explores the effect of pseudo-solarisation – as the great image magicians and experimenters of the 1920s and 1930s explored and used this – with analog and digital means in the series flower.s.

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958) 'r.phg.08_II' 2015

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
r.phg.08_II
2015
C-Print
185 x 281cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen From series: 'photograms'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: photograms
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

 

Fotogramme

Fascinated by photograms of the 1920s, Thomas Ruff decided to explore the genre and develop a contemporary version of these camera-less photographs. Beyond the limitations of analog photograms, the artist has been developing his versions of photograms since 2012, using a virtual darkroom to simulate a direct exposure of objects on photosensitive paper.

With this, he was able to place objects (lenses, rods, spirals, paper strips, spheres, and other objects) generated with the help of a 3D program on or over a digital paper, correct their position, and in some cases expose them to coloured light. He could thus control the projection of the objects on the background in virtual space and print the image calculated by the computer in the size he wanted. In this way, he succeeded in capturing the concepts and aesthetics of the pioneers of “kameralosen Fotografie” in the 1910s and 1920s, generating images with light and transporting them into the twenty-first century using a technique appropriate to his own time.

Digital photograms with many different coloured light sources and transparent objects could not be produced with the equipment available to Thomas Ruff in 2014. The computing process required such high capacities that Ruff’s computers would have needed over a year for each image. In 2014, he was given the opportunity to have photograms calculated by a mainframe computer at the Supercomputing Centre of the Forschungszentrum Jülich. This required roughly eighteen terabytes of data for each image.

 

Thomas Ruff. Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

Thomas Ruff. 'neg◊lapresmidi_01' 2016

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
neg◊lapresmidi_01
2016
C-Print
23.4 x 31.4cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Negative

In 2014, Thomas Ruff began to work more intensively on the visual appearance of the source material of analog photography, the “negative”. In order to make its photographic reality and pictorial quality visible, he transformed historical photographs into “digital negatives” In the process, not only the light-dark distribution in the image changed; the brownish hue of the photographs printed on albumin paper also became a cool, artificial blue tone.

The aim of the processing was to highlight the photographic “negative”, which, in analog photography, was never the object of observation, but always a means to an end. In this series, it is treated as an “original” worth viewing, from which a photographic print is made, and which is in danger of disappearing completely due to digital photography.

The series covers the entire spectrum of historical black-and-white photography and is divided into different subgroups. On display are the series neg◊lapresmidi and neg◊marey.

 

L’Après-midi d’un faune

For more than ten years, Stephane Mallarmé worked on his poem‚ L’Après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun), which was published in 1876. This complex Symbolist poem tells of the encounter of a faun with a group of nymphs. In the end, the nymphs disappear. What remains is their shadow in the form of writing: the poem itself.

The work inspired the composer Claude Debussy to write his radical symphonic poem‚ Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un faune in 1894. Debussy did not want to illustrate the poem, but rather to evoke an enraptured mood that corresponds to the drowsiness of Mallarmé’s faun. At the same time, he referred structurally to the 110-line poem: Debussy’s‚ Prélude also has 110 bars.

1912 saw the premiere of‚ L’Après-midi d’un faune, the first scandalous choreography by the ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. The dancers moved to Debussy’s music almost continuously in profile and along particular planes. The movements were consciously intended to be reminiscent of the linear concept of Greek vase painting.

For the series neg◊lapresmidi, Thomas Ruff used photographs taken by Adolphe de Meyer during a performance of the ballet in 1912. In a sense, three turning points of the avant-garde culminate in Adolphe de Meyer’s photographs: the Symbolist poetry of Mallarmé, on which the ballet was based, the music of Debussy, and the choreography of Nijinski. Ruff’s inversions of Adolphe de Meyer’s photographs enrapture and alienate this moment and at the same time allow it to shine with particular intensity.

 

Capturing time

The series neg◊marey focuses on photographs taken by the physician Étienne-Jules Marey in the 1870s. At the time, he tried to take pictures of moving people and animals in order to better understand their movements. Almost simultaneously, the British-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge was working on similar experiments. While Muybridge devised elaborate constructions with which he captured individual moments of movement with several cameras connected in series, Marey developed a process in which movements from a single camera with interrupted exposure could be brought onto a single plate. By placing reflective dots on the test subject or animal, the movements could be captured precisely and in the same proportion as the interrupted exposure. This approach was reminiscent of the graphic method previously invented by Marey, which allowed the first continuous recordings of the pulse and the assignment of individual sections of the pulse curve to the respective heart activities.

 

Thomas Ruff. 'neg◊marey_02' 2016

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
neg◊marey_02
2016
C-Print
22.4 x 31.4cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen From series: 'flowers'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: flower.s
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

“Actually from time to time I try to take a photograph of a flower or several flowers but it just looks boring, it doesn’t work, so it seems that I cannot take photographs of flowers.”

~ Thomas Ruff

 

flower.s

Flower photograms by Lou Landauer (1897-1991), which Thomas Ruff had acquired, as well as the work on the photograms, gave him the idea of working with another photographic technique that has been used since the mid-nineteenth century: pseudo-solarisation (also called the Sabattier effect). This is a technique discovered by chance, in which the negative / positive is subjected to a diffuse second exposure during exposure in the darkroom, resulting in a partial reversal of light and shadow areas in the photographic image. For his series flower.s, which he has been working on since 2018, Ruff first photographs flowers or leaves with a digital camera, which he had arranged on a light table. During the subsequent processing on the computer, he applies the Sabattier effect.

 

Thomas Ruff. 'flower.s_10' 2019

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
flower.s_10
2019
C-Print
139 x 119cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. 'tripe_12 Seeringham. Munduppum inside gateway' 2018

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
tripe_12 Seeringham. Munduppum inside gateway
2018
C-Print, Edition 02/06
123.5 x 159.5cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Tripe

Paper negatives, which Captain Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902) had produced on behalf of the British government in Burma and Madras between 1856 and 1862 and that are now in the archives of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, were the starting point for the series Tripe.

Thomas Ruff was able to view the existing negatives and selected several of these for his own work. All of them showed clear signs of ageing or damage. Ruff had the negatives digitally reproduced and then converted them into a positive, inverting the brownish hue of the negative into cyan blue.

He duplicated these positives and altered the coloration of the duplicate to the brown tone of the negative. He superimposed the two positive images as digital layers and removed parts of the layer of the brownish image, so that the coloration of the bluish image partially shines through. In a second step, he enlarged the images so that the texture of the paper, as well as all edits, damages, and changes become visible.

 

Thomas Ruff. Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen From series: 'tripe'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: tripe
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. 'tripe_15 Madura. The Blackburn Testimonial' 2018

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
tripe_15 Madura. The Blackburn Testimonial
2018
C-Print
123.5 x 159.5 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. '3D_m.a.r.s 16' 2013

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
3D_m.a.r.s 16
2013
C-Print
255 x 185cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

A Different Dimension

How do scientists use photographs? Does the tradition of travel photography still exist? Who invents new pictorial landscapes?

Photographs are used in many different areas. In space research, satellite photos are a basis for scientific knowledge about places that were previously inaccessible to humans. In the processing by the artist Thomas Ruff, these photographs become images of never-seen worlds and studies of the imagination, feasibility, and credibility of images.

 

Thomas Ruff. Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen From series: 'ma.r.s'

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Installation view K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
From series: ma.r.s
Photo: Achim Kukulies
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

ma.r.s.

During his research on photographs from outer space, Thomas Ruff came across photographs of Mars. These were taken by a camera within a probe sent into outer space by NASA in August 2005 and has been sending detailed images of the surface of the planet Mars to Earth since March 2006. The images are intended to enable scientists to obtain more precise knowledge of the surface, atmosphere, and water distribution of Mars.

For his series, created between 2010 and 2014, the artist processed these very naturalistic yet strange images in several steps; among other things, he transformed the black-and-white transmitted images, which were photographed vertically top-down, into an oblique view and then coloured them so that the surface of the distant planet appears accessible and almost familiar. The works of the subgroup “3D-ma.r.s.” illustrated here are photographs of the surface of Mars which were produced using the so-called anaglyph process. When viewed with red-green glasses, a spatial, three-dimensional image is created in the brain.

The raw material for Thomas Ruff’s series ma.r.s. is derived from HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), a high-performance camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a probe that has been transmitting images from the surface of Mars to Earth since 2006.

 

Thomas Ruff. Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

Thomas Ruff. 'Retusche 01-09' 1995

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Retusche 01-09
1995
C-Print
14.7 x 10cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Retouching and Colour

How do photos become colourful? Why did photographers in the nineteenth century retouch their photos?

Since the early days of photography, monochrome and multicolour retouching has been used or images have been coloured. Thomas Ruff explores one possibility in his series Retusche (Retouching) as a form of embellishment and an approach to an ideal. His machines are heightened and isolated by colouring the motifs with typical colours of industrial production. For the work groups m.n.o.p. and w.g.l., the artist partially coloured photos of exhibition situations in order to highlight forms of presentation in museums and design intentions in exhibition practice.

 

Thomas Ruff. 'Retusche 03' 1995

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Retusche 03
1995
C-Print, handkoloriert mit pigmentfreier Retuschierfarbe, Edition 01/01
14.7 x 10cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Retusche (Retouching)

A colour photograph of Sophia Loren, which Thomas Ruff had seen at an exhibition in Venice in 1995, drew his attention to a practice of representation as old as photography itself: the colouring of photographs. Whereas in the photograph of Sophia Loren, a star was “embellished”, by the additional colour, Ruff decided in 1995 to apply this practice to ten portraits he had seen in the medical textbook‚ Das Gesicht des Herzkranken (The Face of the Cardiac Patient) by Jörgen Schmidt-Voigt from the 1950s. He applied “make up” to the faces with a brush and protein glaze paint, applying eye shadow, rouge, and lipstick.

 

Thomas Ruff. '0946' 2003

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
0946
2003
C-Print
150 x 195cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Maschinen (Machinery)

Around 2000, Thomas Ruff acquired roughly 2,000 photographs on glass negatives from the 1930s. These comprise the image archive of the former Rohde & Dörrenberg company from Düsseldorf-Oberkassel, which produced machines and machine parts. The photographs were originally taken for the production of the company catalog and reflect the company’s entire product range. To facilitate the manual cropping of the illustrated object at that time, the respective products were often photographed individually against a white background; the print was then retouched and further processed for final printing. Ruff emphasised this extremely elaborate preparation and image processing – the analog counterpart of digital processing by Photoshop – by colouring individual areas of the digitised images by means of deliberately set colours, similar to retouching, for the works in his series created between 2003 and 2005.

 

Catalog Illustrations

In the 1930s, the Rohde & Dörrenberg company from Düsseldorf Oberkassel published a catalog of its drills and milling machines. It also offered machines with which the customer could service the tools, such as sharpening apparatus, grinding machines, and the tip-tapering machine illustrated here. The images in the product catalog are hardly recognisable as photographs. The processing steps of cropping, retouching, and re-photographing resulted in an image that is more reminiscent of a technical drawing than a photograph of a machine in a workshop. Thomas Ruff’s series of pictures of machines thematise this elaborate path from photography to illustration in the product catalog and draws attention to the possibilities of staging and stylising objects in photography.

 

Thomas Ruff. Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

Thomas Ruff. 'm.n.o.p.01' 2013

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
m.n.o.p.01
2013
C-Print, Edition 01/06
47.3 x 60cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

m.n.o.p.
w.g.l.

Two series by Thomas Ruff are based on black-and-white photographs from famous museum presentations of the 1940s and 1950s in New York and London. Thomas Ruff partially coloured the installation photographs digitally with a colour scheme reminiscent of the 1950s and enlarged them. While the artworks were left untouched – out of respect for the artists and their works – he coloured the carpets, the walls covered with fabric, and the ceilings. Through this treatment, he underscored the exhibition aesthetic of the 1940s to the 1960s and, with the resulting abstract coloured surface compositions, emphasised the design work of the exhibition organisers.

All of this emphasises the contrast to today’s widespread notion of the exhibition space as a “white cube”. m.n.o.p. (2013) presents processed installation views of the presentation of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York (now the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum) with works by Wassily Kandinsky, Rudolf Bauer, and other artists from the collection, which took place in the first museum building on 24 East 54th Street in 1948. The motifs from w.g.l. (2017) were taken from the exhibition‚ Jackson Pollock 1912-1956, one of the most important exhibitions in terms of the mediation of contemporary art, which was presented at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1958.

 

Thomas Ruff. Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view) WG Bildkunst 2020

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf 2020 (installation view)
WG Bildkunst 2020
Photo: WDR / Thomas Köster

 

 

With the exhibition Thomas Ruff, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen presents a comprehensive overview of one of the most important representatives of the Düsseldorf School of Photography. The exhibition ranges from series from the 1990s, which document Ruff’s unique conceptual approach to photography, to a new series that is now being shown for the first time at K20: For Tableaux chinois, Ruff drew on Chinese propaganda photographs. Parallel to Thomas Ruff’s exhibition, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen is also presenting highlights from the collection at K20 under the title Technology Transformation. Photography and Video in the Kunstsammlung, which also deals with artistic photography and technical imaging processes in art.

“With his manipulations of photographs from many different sources, Thomas Ruff comments in an incredibly clever way on how we see images in a digitalised world. Through his virtuoso handling of digital image processing, he confronts us with a critical examination of the image material he uses and its historical, political, and epistemological significance. Some of his most important series are represented in our collection, and we are very proud to dedicate a large-scale exhibition at K20 to this prominent representative of the Düsseldorf School of Photography,” states Susanne Gaensheimer, Director of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is one of the internationally most important artists of his generation. Already as a student in the class of the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in the early 1980s, he chose a conceptual approach to photography which is evident in all the workgroups within his multifaceted oeuvre and determines his approach to the most diverse pictorial genres and historical possibilities of photography. In order not to tie his investigations in the field of photography to the individual image found by chance, but rather to examine these in terms of image types and genres, Thomas Ruff works in series: “A photograph,” Ruff explains, “is not only a photograph, but an assertion. In order to verify the correctness of this assertion, one photo is not enough; I have to verify it on several photos.” The exhibition at K20 focuses on series of pictures from two decades in which the artist hardly ever used a camera himself. Instead, he appropriated existing photographic material from a wide variety of sources for his often large-format pictures.

Thomas Ruff’s contribution to contemporary photography thus consists in a special way in the development of a form of photography created without a camera. He uses images that have already been taken and that have already been disseminated in other, largely non-artistic contexts and optimised for specific purposes. The modus operandi and the origin of the material first became the subject of Ruff’s own work in the series of newspaper photographs, which were produced as early as 1990. The exhibition focuses precisely on this central aspect of his work. The pictorial sources that Ruff has tapped for these series range from photographic experiments of the nineteenth century to photo taken by space probes. He has questioned the archive processes of large picture agencies and the pictorial politics of the People’s Republic of China. Documentations of museum exhibitions, as well as pornographic and catastrophic images from the Internet, are starting points for his own series of works, as are the product photographs of a Düsseldorf-based machine factory from the 1930s. They originate from newspapers, magazines, books, archives, and collections or were simply available to everyone on the Internet. In each series, Ruff explores the technical conditions of photography in the confrontation with these different pictorial worlds: the negative, digital image compression, and even rasterisation in offset printing. At the same time, he also takes a look at the afterlife of images in publications, archives, databases, and on the Internet.

For Tableaux chinois, the latest series, which is being shown for the first time at K20, Ruff drew on Chinese propaganda photographs: products of the Mao era driven to perfection, which he digitally processed. In his artistic treatment of this historical material, the analog and digital spheres overlap; and in this visible overlap, Ruff combines the image of today’s highly digitalised China with the Chinese understanding of the state in the 1960s and its manipulative pictorial politics.

From the ma.r.s. series created between 2010 and 2014, there are eight works on view that have never been shown before, for which Ruff used images of a NASA Mars probe. Viewed through 3D glasses, the rugged surface of the red planet folds into the space in front of and behind the surface of the large-format images. Moving through the exhibition space and comprehending how the illusion is broken and tilted, one is introduced to Ruff’s concern to understand photography as a construction of reality that first and foremost represents a surface – a surface that is, however, set in a historical framework of technology, processing, optimisation, transmission, and distribution.

His hitherto oldest image sources are the paper negatives of Captain Linnaeus Tripe. When Tripe began taking photographs in South India and Burma, today’s Myanmar, for the British East India Company in 1854, he provided the first images of a world that was, for the British public, both far away and unknown. Since then, the world has become a world that has always been photographed. It is this already photographed world that interests the artist Thomas Ruff and for which he has also been called a ‘historian of the photographic’ (Herta Wolf). The exhibition therefore not only provides an overview of Ruff’s work over the past decades, but also highlights nearly 170 years of photographic history. In each series, Ruff formulates highly complex perspectives on the photographic medium and the world that has always been photographed.

Further series in the exhibition are the two groups of works referring to press photography, Zeitungsfotos (1990/91) and press++ (since 2015), the series nudes (since 1999) and jpeg (since 2004), which refer to the distribution of photographs on the Internet, as well as Fotogramme (since 2012), Negatives (since 2014), Flower.s (since 2019), Maschinen (2003/04), m.n.o.p. (2013), and w.g.l. (2017) – and, with Retouching (1995), a rarely shown series of unique pieces.

Text from the press kit from the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen

 

Thomas Ruff. 'm.n.o.p.08' 2013

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
m.n.o.p.08
2013
C-Print
47.3 x 60cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

Thomas Ruff. 'w.g.l.01' 2017

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
w.g.l.01
2017
C-Print
42.6 x 60cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

 

 

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
K20, Grabbeplatz 5
40213 Düsseldorf

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm
Saturday, Sunday, public holiday 11am – 6pm
The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen is closed on December 24, 25 and 31

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen website

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09
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Balthasar Burkhard’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 10th February – 21st May 2018

 

Balthasar Burkhard

Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

As is so often the case with an artist, it is the early work that shines brightest in this posting.

The works from On the Alp possess an essential power; the daring capture of actions and performances by the international avant-garde of the day make you wish you had been there; and the installation photograph of ‘The Knie’, Kunsthalle Basel in 1983 (below) makes me want to see more of his 1980s installations, with their shift in scale and repetitive nature. There are no more examples online, but a couple of photographs can be seen in the first installation photograph below.

I can leave the underwhelming aerial, cloud and landscape work well alone. There are many people in the history of photography who have taken better photographs of such subject matter. His life-sized photographs of animals again do nothing for me. They possess a reductive minimalism riffing on the canvas backgrounds of Avedon blown up to enormous size (as in most contemporary photography, as if by making something large the photograph gains aura and importance) but they lead nowhere. Perhaps in their actual presence (the physicality of the print) I might be transported to another place, but in reproduction they are a one-dimensional non sequitur.

From the energy of the earlier work emerges “a beauty contest between animals in a photo-shoot”, scrupulous studio photos that demand to be taken seriously, but mean very little. Here, passion has lost out to rigorous and deathly control.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Together, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz will showcase the oeuvre of Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) in a major retrospective. Burkhard’s work spans half a century: from his early days as a trainee photographer with Kurt Blum to his seminal role in chronicling the art of his time, eventually becoming a photographic artist in his own right who brought photography into the realms of contemporary art in the form of the monumental tableau. More than 150 works and groups of works chart not only the progress of his own photographic career, but also the emergence of photography as an art form in the second half of the twentieth century. An exhibition in collaboration with Museum Folkwang, Essen, and Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano.

 

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) from 'On the Alp' 1963

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
from On the Alp
1963
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Urs Luthi, Balthasar Burkhard, Jean-Frederic Schnyder), Amsterdam' 1969

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
oT (Urs Luthi, Balthasar Burkhard, Jean-Frederic Schnyder), Amsterdam
1969
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Untitled (Jean-Christophe Ammann at Andy Warhol's Factory), New York' 1972

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Untitled (Jean-Christophe Ammann at Andy Warhol’s Factory), New York
1972
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Jean-Christophe Ammann. 'oT (Balthasar Burkhard), USA' 1972

 

Jean-Christophe Ammann (Swiss, 1939-2015)
oT (Balthasar Burkhard), USA
Venice, 1972
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

Together, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz have launched a major retrospective exhibition dedicated to the lifetime achievement of Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010). His oeuvre is almost unparalleled in the way it reflects not only the self-invention of a photographer but also the emancipation of photography as an artistic medium in its own right during the second half of the twentieth century.

The exhibition charts the many facets of Burkhard’s career, step by step, from his apprenticeship with Kurt Blum – in which he adhered closely to the traditional reportage and illustrative photography of the 1960s, and undertook his first independent photographic projects – to his role alongside legendary curator Harald Szeemann, and his documentation of Bern’s bohemian scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Balthasar Burkhard is the author of many iconic images of such groundbreaking exhibitions as When Attitudes Become Form at Kunsthalle Bern in 1969 and the 1972 documenta 5, capturing radical and frequently ephemeral works, actions and performances by the international avant-garde of the day.

Meanwhile, Burkhard endeavoured to make his mark both as a photographer and as an artist, developing his first large-scale photographic canvases in collaboration with his friend and colleague Markus Raetz, trying out his skills as an actor in the USA, and ultimately being invited to hold his own highly influential exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel and Musée Rath in Geneva in 1983 and 1984. These enabled him to liberate photography from its purely documentary role by creating monumental tableaux in which he developed the motif of the body into sculptural human landscapes and site-specific architectures.

Throughout the course of his career, Burkhard turned time and again to portraiture. Whereas his early photographs tended to show artists in action within their own setting, his later portraits adopted an increasingly formalised approach. During the 1990s, he transposed this stylistic reduction to a wide-ranging series of animal portraits reminiscent of the encyclopaedic style of nineteenth century photography.

Another milestone of Burkhard’s oeuvre can be found in his vast aerial photographs of major mega cities such as Tokyo and Mexico City. These images, shot from an aircraft, like his images of the earth’s deserts, were destined to become a personal passion. Balthasar Burkhard’s quest for a morphology, for a formula that could encapsulate both nature and culture, is particularly evident in his later work, which ranges from pictures of waves and clouds, Swiss mountains and rivers, to the delicate fragility of plants. His interest was always focused on the materiality of the image. Alongside the highly idosyncratic and somewhat darkly sombre tonality of his prints, Burkhard constantly sought to explore every aspect of photography’s aesthetic and technical potential.

Encompassing half a century of creativity, the joint exhibition by Fotomuseum and Fotostiftung not only shows individual works, but also reflects on Balthasar Burkhard’s own view of how his photographs should be presented, underpinned by a wealth of documents from the archives of the artist. The exhibition is divided in two parts and shown in parallel in the exhibition spaces of Fotomuseum and Fotostiftung.

Press release

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) / Markus Raetz. 'The Bed' 1969/70

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010) / Markus Raetz (Swiss, 1941-2020)
The Bed
1969-1970
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Michael Heizer, Berne Depression), Berne' 1969

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
oT (Michael Heizer, Berne Depression), Berne
1969
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Untitled (Richard Serra, Splash Piece), Berne' 1969

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Untitled (Richard Serra, Splash Piece), Berne
1969
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Harald Szeemann, the last day of documenta 5), Kassel' 1972

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
oT (Harald Szeemann, the last day of documenta 5), Kassel
1972
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

With this major retrospective, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz pay homage to the Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010). His oeuvre is almost unparalleled in the way it reflects not only the self-invention of a photographer, but also the emancipation of photography as an artistic medium in its own right during the second half of the twentieth century.

Together, the two institutions chart the many and varied facets of Burkhard’s career, step by step. Fotostiftung presents early works from the days of his apprenticeship with Kurt Blum and his first independent documentary photographs. The exhibition also traces Burkhard’s role as a photographer alongside the curator Harald Szeemann and capturing images of Bern’s bohemian scene in the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, Burkhard carved his niche as a photographer and artist, developing his first large-scale photographic canvases in collaboration with his friend Markus Raetz and eventually breaking away from the European art world in search of both himself and new inspiration in the USA.

The second part of the exhibition at Fotomuseum shows the work created by Burkhard after his return to Europe, and his exploration of the photographic tableau. It was during this phase that he largely succeeded in emancipating photography from its purely documentary function. Using monumental formats, he translated the motif of the human body into sculptural landscapes and site-specific architectures. He went on to apply his stylistic device of formal reduction to portraits and landscapes. This marked the beginning of a series of experiments in the handling of photographic techniques. From long-distance aerial photographs of mega-cities such as Mexico City and Tokyo to close-up studies of flowers and plants, Burkhard seemed to be constantly seeking a formula that would embrace both nature and culture, encapsulating a sensory and sensual grasp of visible reality.

Encompassing half a century of creativity, the exhibition not only shows individual works, but is also underpinned by applied projects, films and many documents from the archives of the artist. This wealth of material allows a reflection both on Balthasar Burkhard’s own view of how his photographs should be presented in the exhibition space as well as his constant weighing-up of other media.

 

Part I (Fotostiftung Schweiz)

Early photographs

Balthasar Burkhard was just eight years old when his father gave him a camera to take along on a school excursion. Burkhard himself describes this early experience with the camera as the starting point of his career. It was also his father who suggested an apprenticeship with Kurt Blum, one of Switzerland’s foremost photographers, ranking along-side Paul Senn, Jakob Tuggener and Gotthard Schuh. Blum taught the young Balz, as he was nicknamed, all the finer points of darkroom technique as well as the art of large-format photography. The earliest work from Burkhard’s apprentice years is a reportage of the school, in the form of a book, while his documentation of the Distelzwang Society’s historic guildhall in the old quarter of Bern was clearly a lesson in architectural photography. Yet, no sooner had he completed his apprenticeship than Burkhard was already embarking on his very own independent projects inspired by post-war humanist photography, such as Auf der Alp, a study of rural Alpine life, for which he was awarded the Swiss Federal Grant for Applied Arts in 1964.

 

Chronicler of Bohemian Life in Bern

Even during his apprenticeship, Burkhard moved in the Bernese art circles to which his teacher Kurt Blum also belonged. In 1962, he created a first portrait, in book form, of painter and writer Urs Dickerhof. Shortly after that, he became friends with his near-contemporary Markus Raetz, and started taking photographs for the charismatic curator Harald Szeemann, who was director of Kunsthalle Bern from 1961 to 1969. Burkhard immersed himself in the vibrantly dynamic Swiss art scene, documenting the often controversial exhibitions of conceptual art at the Kunsthalle, and capturing the lives of Bern’s bohemian set with his 35mm camera. These visual mementos would later be collated in a kind of photographic journal. Initial collaborative projects with artists included a 1966 artists’ book about the village of Curogna (Ticino) and a window display for the Loeb department store in Bern featuring photographic portraits of the Bernese artist Esther Altorfer, devised in collaboration with Markus Raetz and his later wife, fashion designer Monika Raetz-Müller.

 

Landscapes 1969

Inspired by his friend Raetz, Burkhard photographed bleak and rugged snow-covered landscapes in the Bernese Seeland region. Heaps of earth piled up along the wayside reminded him of Robert Smithson’s Earthworks, which had just emerged in contemporary art. As Burkhard would later explain, “I wanted to leave out everything relating to myself, so that I could truly relate to what remained. I distanced myself from my subject-matter. I succeeded in stepping back both from myself and from my work.”

A close-up of bare agricultural soil, vaguely reminiscent of a lunar landscape, forms the basis for an object with a neon tube created in 1969 for the legendary exhibition When Attitudes Become Form in collaboration with Harald Szeemann, Markus Raetz and Jean-Frédéric Schnyder. In 1969, Burkhard’s brown-toned landscapes were included in the 1969 exhibition photo actuelle suisse in Sion. They were subsequently published as his first independent portfolio by Allan Porter in the May issue of Camera magazine, which was dedicated to avant-garde European photography and its affinity with contemporary art.

 

The Amsterdam Canvases 1969-1970

When Markus Raetz took a studio in Amsterdam in 1969, he and Burkhard continued to work on joint projects. Photographs of everyday motifs were enlarged, practically life-sized, onto canvas, and caused a sensation in the spring 1970 exhibition Visualisierte Denkprozesse (Visualised thought processes) at Kunstmuseum Luzern, curated by Jean-Christophe Ammann, who wrote: “On huge canvases, they [Raetz and Burkhard] showed, among other things, a spartan studio space, a bedroom, a kitchen, a curtain. They relativised the purely object-like character by hanging the canvases on clips. The resulting folds enriched the images by adding a new dimension.” In other words, the folds in the canvas created a “quasi ironic and disillusioning barrier.” Burkhard’s large-format works foreshadowed the monumental photographic tableaux that would eventually herald the ultimate march of photography into the museum space some ten years later.

 

Documentarist of the International Art Scene

By the end of the 1960s, Harald Szeemann and his polarising, controversial exhibitions were drawing increasing attention far beyond the boundaries of Switzerland. In particular, his (in)famous 1969 show When Attitudes Become Form unleashed heated debates that ultimately led to Szeemann’s resignation as director of Kunsthalle Bern. Then, in 1970, he shocked the members and visitors of the Kunstverein in Cologne with an exhibition dedicated to Happening & Fluxus. Here, too, Burkhard was on hand with his camera. Jean-Christophe Ammann, with whom Burkhard undertook a research trip to the USA in 1972, photographing many artists’ studios, proved no less controversial a figure. Moreover, Burkhard also photographed artists, actions and installations at the 1972 documenta 5 in Kassel, which was headed by none other than Szeemann himself. Given the expanded concept of art that prevailed at the time, which strengthened the role of performance art and installation works alike, photography, too, gained a newfound core significance. Indeed, it was only through photography that many of these innovative works were preserved for posterity.

 

Chicago and the Self-Invention of the Artist

Following a relatively unproductive period in the wake of documenta 5, during which he worked, among other things, on an unfinished documentary project about the small Swiss town of Zofingen, Burkhard spent the years between 1975 and 1978 in Chicago, where he taught photography at the University of Illinois. It was while he was there that he once again reprised the series of photo canvases he had been working on in Amsterdam between 1969 and 1970. This led to new large-format works portraying everyday scenes such as the back seat of an automobile or the interior of a home with a TV, as well as three now lost photographs of roller skaters and a very androgynous back-view nude study of a young man. In 1977 the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago presented these canvases together with a selection of the Amsterdam works in what was Burkhard’s first solo exhibition. Critics were impressed by his “soft photographs”. The Chicago Tribune, for instance, enthused: “‘European’ grace is wedded to ‘American’ strength in a supreme artistic fiction that suggests the wide-screen format of film.”

 

Self-Portraits

In Chicago, Burkhard rekindled his friendship with performance and conceptual artist Thomas Kovachevic, whom he had first met at documenta 5 and who now introduced him to the local art scene. At the same time, Burkhard toyed with the notion of trying his chances as a film actor in Hollywood. With Kovachevich’s help, he produced a series of self-portraits, both Polaroids and slides, which he presented in a small snakeskin-covered box as his application portfolio. He approached Alfred Hitchcock and Joshua Shelley of Columbia Pictures, albeit unsuccessfully. His only film role was in Urs Egger’s 1978 Eiskalte Vögel (Icebound; screened in seminar room I). Burkhard later transformed some of his self-portraits into large-scale canvases, through which he asserted his newfound sense of identity as an artist, making himself the subject-matter of his own artistic work. One of these was also shown in the Photo Canvases exhibition at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery.

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'feet 2' 1980

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
feet 2
1980
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'The Knie', Kunsthalle Basel (installation view) 1983

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
‘The Knie’, Kunsthalle Basel 
(installation view)
1983
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Study of The Head' c. 1983

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Study of The Head
c. 1983
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Design for Body II' c. 1983

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Design for Body II
c. 1983
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

 

Part II (Fotomuseum Winterthur)

Body and Sculpture

The 1980s heralded the advent of a particularly productive period for Balthasar Burkhard in which he adopted a more sculptural approach to photography, treating his prints as an integral part of the exhibition architecture. Just as he himself had witnessed how the generation of artists before him had called the classic exhibition space into question, so too did his own latest works now begin to take control of that space. Burkhard became one of the foremost proponents of large-scale photographic tableaux, as evidenced by his groundbreaking exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel in 1983 and Museé Rath, Geneva, in 1984.

It was in the photo canvases he made in Chicago during the late 1970s that Burkhard first turned towards the motif of the body as a sculptural form with which he would continue to experiment over the coming years. Such an overtly sculptural approach to the body and to the nude as landscape soon began to demand a larger format than Burkhard had previously been using. An arm, almost four metres long, framed by heavy steel, or the multipart installation Das Knie (Knee), reflect the very core of his creative oeuvre in all its many facets: monumentality, fragmentation and the breaking of genre boundaries by transposing two-dimensional images into spatially commanding installations.

 

Portraits: Types and Individuals

The increasing formal reduction of Balthasar Burkhard’s images continued in the field of portraiture. He invited fellow artists such as Lawrence Weiner and Christian Boltanski to sit for him. With this series, it seemed that he had finally put behind him his days as a chronicler of the art scene, reliant on the techniques of applied photography.

Portraits of a rather different kind are his profiles of animals, in an equally reduced setting, against the backdrop of a tarpaulin. Redolent of Renaissance drawings or nineteenth century animal photography, his images of sheep, wolves and lions come across as representing ideal and typical examples of their species without anthropomorphising them, while at the same time wrenching them out of their natural environment. These images reached a broad audience through the popular 1997 children’s book “Click!”, said the Camera, which was republished in its second edition in 2017.

 

Architectural Photography

Given his increasing success in the art world, Burkhard could well afford to be selective about his choice of commissioned works. He had already been taking photographs for architects connected with the Bern-based firm Atelier 5 back in the 1960s, and was still accepting commissions in this field in the 1990s. Burkhard’s photographic essay on the Ricola building designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron indicates just how thoroughly his own distinctive artistic syntax permeates his commissioned and architectural photography, right through to the details of fragments and materials. These photographs were shown in the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 1991, having been explicitly designed for this particular exhibition space. As in his artistic oeuvre, Burkhard operates here with spatially commanding installations, skilfully dovetailing the architectural motif with the presentational form.

 

Aerial Photography

In the 1990s, before the art world had even begun to turn its attention to the subject of megacities, Burkhard was already taking a keen interest in the world’s major conurbations. Following in the footsteps of his father, who had been a Swiss airforce pilot, he took bird’s-eye-view photographs from a plane. His panoramic shots of cities such as London, Mexico City and Los Angeles were preceded by small-format studies of clouds: the so-called Nuages series. Having incorporated a study of rural Switzerland into his formative training in 1963 with the series Auf der Alp (On the Alp), he returned once more to focus on the landscape of his homeland in the early 2000s with an entire series of aerial photographs of the Bernina mountain range.

 

Landscape and Flora

In the last two decades of his life, Burkhard concentrated primarily on landscape and flora, turning to historical precedents both in his techniques and in his choice of motif. The desert formations of Namibia, in which all sense of proportion is lost amid the remote and untouched wilderness, set a counterpoint to the sprawling urban expanses of Mexico City and London. The diptych Welle (Wave), by contrast, pays homage to the work of French artist Gustave Courbet, with Burkhard making a pilgrimage to the tide swept shores where the father of Realism had painted in 1870.

In another series, Burkhard adapts the aesthetics of botanical plant studies, which were as widely used around the turn of the twentieth century as the complex photographic process of heliography, and transposes these to larger-than-life formats. Whereas Burkhard, as a young photographer, had captured the exuberant art scene of the 1960s and 1970s, snapshot-style, he later went on, as an artist-photographer, to explore the potential of the photographic tableau, diligently researching near-forgotten techniques and the sensual details of the visible world.

 

Artwork and Commissioned Work

The site-specific installations of his photographs and Burkhard’s own dedicated approach to museum spaces warrant an excursion into the archives of the artist, paying particular attention to four exemplary exhibitions.

One spectacular and iconic show was the Fotowerke (Photo works) exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel in 1983. Curated by artist Rémy Zaugg, the installations can be reconstructed thanks to the catalogue and copious documentation. Contact prints and studies, for instance, help to give an insight into the no longer extant thirteen metre work Körper I (Body I) as well as shedding light on the choice of motif for further body fragments.

A 1984 solo exhibition at the Le Consortium in Dijon, on the other hand, shows how Burkhard responded with his group of works Das Knie (Knee) to an entirely different installation context within the given space. Similarly, at the Musée Rath in Geneva that same year, Burkhard, together with his friend Niele Toroni, instigated a radical juxtaposition of photography and painting based on the pillars of the exhibition venue.

At Grand-Hornu in the Belgian town of Mons, by contrast, his life-sized photographs of animals were mounted at eye level. While Burkhard chose a large format for the exhibition venue, the images in his children’s book “Click!”, said the Camera tell of a beauty contest between animals in a photo-shoot. This apparent discrepancy between artwork and commissioned work never seemed to be relevant to Burkhard. The sheer volume of his studio photos, alone, indicates just how scrupulously precise he was about the way he wanted to be perceived as a serious photographer.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

 

Installation views of the exhibition Balthasar Burkhard at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February – May 2018

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Balthasar Burkhard in his studio' 1995

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Balthasar Burkhard in his studio
1995
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Camel' 1997

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Camel
1997
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Bull' 1996

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Bull
1996
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'The Reindeer' 1996

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
The Reindeer
1996
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Mexico City' 1999

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Mexico City
1999
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Mexico City' 1999

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Mexico City
1999
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Nuages ​​8' 1999

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Nuages ​​8
1999
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Ecosse' (Scotland) 2000

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Ecosse (Scotland)
2000
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Bernina' 2003

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Bernina
2003
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Silberen' 2004

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Silberen
2004
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Rio Negro' 2002

 

Balthasar Burkhard (Swiss, 1944-2010)
Rio Negro
2002
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

Fotostiftung Schweiz
Grüzenstrasse 45
CH-8400 Winterthur (Zürich)
Phone: +41 52 234 10 30

Opening hours:
Daily 11am – 6pm
Wednesday 11am – 8pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotostiftung Schweiz website

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

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

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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06
Apr
18

Exhibition: ‘Zbigniew Dłubak – Heir of the Avant-Garde’ at Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Exhibition dates: 17th January – 29th April 2018

Curator: The exhibition is curated by Karolina Ziebinska-Lewandowska, curator at the Centre Pompidou.

 

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) 'Untitled' c. 1946

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
Untitled
c. 1946
© Armelle Dłubak/Archeology of Photography Foundation, Warsaw

 

 

Photography, the object, conceptual art, reality and the empty sign.

An interesting artist who warrants further investigation. The text and images provide an introduction, but I really need further evidence before I can make informed comment.

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

 

 

“I’m not interested in stylistic effects, whether they’re derived from modern art or conceptualism. I use shapes, ideas, colours, words, photographs and actions as my materials in a way that best suits my art, to create an empty sign in the context of the reality I live in.”

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“The social role of art consists in introducing the factor of negation into the human consciousness, it challenges the rigidity of systems and conventions in the rendering of reality. Art itself is evolution, it’s the introduction of all new means of expression.”

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“Photography is in phase with the rhythm of life. It impatiently looks for new images. The more effigies it accumulates, the greater its appetite; it’s increasingly obsessive. Not only does it record but, subject to the imagination, it also creates new phenomena. It constantly takes us on new adventures, it shakes us up, and does not allow us to rest.”

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Zbigniew Dłubak

 

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) 'I recall the solitude of the straits' 1948

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
I recall the solitude of the straits
1948
Illustration for Pablo Neruda’s poem “Le coeur magellanique”
© Armelle Dłubak / Archeology of Photography Foundation, Warsaw

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) 'The streets are for the sun and not for people' 1948

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
The streets are for the sun and not for people
1948
© Armelle Dłubak / Archeology of Photography Foundation, Warsaw

 

 

In the post-war period, Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) was one of the driving forces behind the profound changes in the Polish artistic scene. A great experimenter of photographic forms, he was also a painter, art theoretician, teacher and editor of the Fotografia magazine for twenty years, introducing into this publication a robust photographic critique and interdisciplinary approach to the medium.

Although Dłubak was primarily known as a photographer, he initially aspired to become a painter, tirelessly searching for materials for drawing during the war. Very active in these two traditionally separate disciplines, he greatly influenced the decompartmentalisation of artistic forms. He also defended the right of photography to exist as a completely separate discipline. His first photographic experiments reveal a diversity of inspirations characteristic of pre-war practices, stemming from constructivist and surrealist traditions.

This exhibition proposes to highlight the similarities and complementary focuses on two decisive periods in the artist’s life: the year 1948, which marks the beginning of his career and places it within the avant-garde movement, and the 1970s, which symbolise his ambiguous position regarding conceptual art. The selection presents iconic works and hitherto unseen photographs.

Curated by Karolina Ziebinska-Lewandowska, a specialist in Dłubak’s work, the exhibition is accompanied by a book published by Éditions Xavier Barral under the direction of Karolina Ziebinska-Lewandowska. The exhibition is being organised in collaboration with the Fundacja Archaeologia Fotografii in Warsaw, with the support of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and the Polish Institute in Paris.

Text from the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) 'Untitled' c. 1950

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
Untitled
c. 1950
© Armelle Dłubak

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) Sketch for the series 'Ammonites' 1959-1961

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
Sketch for the series Ammonites
1959-1961
© Armelle Dłubak

 

 

The Zbigniew Dłubak – Héritier des avant-gardes exhibition is being held at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson between January 17 and April 29, 2018. In the post-war period, Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) was one of the driving forces behind the profound changes in the Polish artistic scene. A great experimenter of photographic forms, he was also a painter, art theoretician, teacher and editor of the Fotografia magazine for twenty years, introducing into this publication a robust photographic critique and interdisciplinary approach to the medium. He enjoyed a certain notoriety in Poland during his lifetime. Several monographic exhibitions were dedicated to him and some of his major works are part of Polish public collections.

Although Dłubak was primarily known as a photographer, he initially aspired to become a painter, tirelessly searching for materials for drawing during the war. Very active in these two traditionally separate disciplines, he greatly influenced the decompartmentalisation of artistic forms. He also defended the right of photography to exist as a completely separate discipline.

His first photographic experiments reveal a diversity of inspirations characteristic of pre-war practices, stemming from constructivist and surrealist traditions. Fascinated by linguistics, Dłubak then moves towards the mechanisms of a systematic approach and then onto the disappearance and fading of signs.

The work carried out by the Fundacja Archaeologia Fotografii where his archives have been deposited offers a new insight into his oeuvre and a new way of looking at it. Continuing in this vein of offering a different reading, this exhibition proposes to highlight the similarities and complementary aspects of photography and painting in his work. It focuses on two decisive periods in the artist’s life: the year 1948, which marks the beginning of his career and places it within the avant-garde movement, and the 1970s, which symbolise his ambiguous position regarding conceptual art. The selection presents iconic works and hitherto unseen photographs.

Press release from the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) From the series 'Existences' 1959-1966

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
From the series Existences
1959-1966
© Armelle Dłubak / Archeology of Photography Foundation, Warsaw

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) From the series 'Existences' 1959-1966

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
From the series Existences
1959-1966
© Armelle Dłubak / Archeology of Photography Foundation, Warsaw

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) Study for 'Iconosphere I' 1967

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
Study for Iconosphere I
1967
© Armelle Dłubak / Archeology of Photography Foundation, Warsaw

 

 

Extracts from the book

Éditions Xavier Barral

The first photographic images created by Dłubak, who taught himself to paint and draw in the early 1940s, were undoubtedly strictly utilitarian: they documented the activities of the clandestine army he joined and then, when he was deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp after his participation in the Warsaw uprising in 1944, they were dictated by the tasks the Nazis assigned to him in the camp’s photography studio (touchups and perhaps portraits or reproductions). The images he shows in Krakow1 were however preceded by a few more artistic attempts, created in 1947 and early 1948, which show the desire to understand from within two significant trends of what photographic modernism might have constituted in the eyes of a Polish novice. On the one hand, Dłubak creates images of trees using a low-angle shot or fragments of ground using a sharp high-angle shot, stemming from a sort of Pictorialism marked by a superficial link with the Germanic New Vision, in keeping with Jan Bułhak, then considered the father of Polish modern photography. On the other hand, he arranges compositions of insignificant little objects (like matches, springs, buttons, screws and so on) on tables, which he photographs like abstract not-to-scale landscapes, as practised by constructivists and notably Florence Henri (some of whose images he might have known, even though he never seems to have mentioned them). However, nothing in these two series really prepares for what can be seen in the photographs shown in 1948. […]

Dłubak’s key originality comes from the fact that he focuses less on producing the supernatural and more on finding it, by blurring the too-certain habits of ordinary vision but without the factual origin of his image obscuring its poetic efficacy. […]

So, for Dłubak, it’s not just about reconciling previously separate artistic traditions, but dismantling the traditional opposition between abstraction and figuration. The use of the extreme close-up (on the scale of macro photography) and technical manipulations (solarisation or pseudo-solarisation, presentation of the negative as a positive) must not be seen as a distancing from external reality but, on the contrary, as a way of penetrating its core; less like a hidden thing than a spiritual vision, and less like burying than a revelation of what is latent within, giving us a subtler understanding of it. As Dłubak writes in 1948 in an article on method called “Reflections on photography”: “Photographic realism is a different kind of realism and, fittingly, the faithfulness and attachment to the object, which has the nature of a raw material here, prohibits any artifice, because it is immediately unmasked. Such realism requires one to rely essentially on nature avoiding any narration.”2

Éric de Chassey
Extracts from “1948-1949: un réalisme de l’extrême proximité”

 

  1. At the “1st Exhibition of Modern Art” (I Wystawa Sztuki Nowoczesnej) opened on 19 December 1948. This exhibition included artists from across the country, often young (the vast majority were under thirty): painters, sculptors but also, and this was a huge novelty in Poland, photographers. Zbigniew Dłubak was even one of the key organisers of the event
  2. Zbigniew Dłubak, “Rozmyślania o fotografii II,” Świat fotografii, no 11, January-February 1949, reproduced in Lech Lechowicz and Jadwiga Janik (dir.), cat. exp. Dłubak, fotografie photographs, 1947-1950, Lodz, Muzeum Sztuki, 1995, p. 47

 

 

Two events occurred in 1970 which are traditionally considered by Polish historiography as key manifestations of conceptual art: the Wrocław Symposium ’70 and the Świdwin-Osieki ’70 (Osieki open air events). It would of course be illusory to bring the appearance of conceptual art in Poland down to this one year, since it was a much more complex process, as demonstrated by Piotr Piotrowski and Luiza Nader in particular. However, referring to these events helps explain the work and engagement of Zbigniew Dłubak during these years. Organised thanks to a close collaboration between local authorities and artistic circles, they brought together artists and art critics, representing various experimental trends in Polish art. The aim of the Wrocław Symposium was to attract an audience not accustomed to experimental art. The primary idea, justifying the participation of local organisations, was to bring contemporary art into the public space, particularly social housing areas, squares and undefined suburban sites. […]

Finally, for Dłubak, 1970 marks the beginning of a series to which he is to dedicate the next eight years: Systems – Gesticulations. This series which, at first glance perfectly conforms to the codes of conceptual art, in reality indicates Dłubak’s break from conceptualism. Although he saw theoretical activity as an integral part of his artistic practice, he was convinced of the need to preserve a role of mediation in the artistic object. So why did Zbigniew Dłubak, one of the ardent protagonists of the development of conceptualism in Poland, finally break away from the movement?

His writings suggest some answers to this question. In 1977, when the movement was still very much alive, he wrote: “In aspiring to total purification, conceptual art has created a list of ‘don’ts’ regarding methods of recording and transmission. […] But conceptualism immediately developed a morphology of its own means [of expression] and became frozen.”1 In an (undated) manuscript, he added: “The causes of the failure of conceptualism: an erroneous interpretation of art (false models of ancient art); an under-estimation of the fight against aestheticism in the first half of the 20th century; too much attention paid to ways of recording ideas; unjustified faith in the existence of the idea outside its recording; the belief in the advent of a new era of art through the choice of another material for realising ideas.”2 He too relied on this new morphology but tried nevertheless to preserve his autonomy. He didn’t believe in the annihilation of the artistic object, considering the work of art as the result of an encounter. The object started the social dialogue.

Karolina Ziebinska-Lewandowska
Extracts from “1970: l’art du concept (non) assimilé”

 

  1. Uwagi o sztuce i fotografii (Comments about art and photography), 1977, Fotografia, no 8, 1969
  2. Untitled text, reproduced in Teoria sztuki Zbigniewa Dłubaka (Theory of art of Zbigniew Dłubak), Magdalena Ziółkowska (dir.), Warsaw, Fundacja Archeologia Fotografii, 2013, p. 145

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) 'Untitled' c. 1970

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
Untitled
c. 1970
© Armelle Dłubak / Archeology of Photography Foundation, Warsaw

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) 'Tautologies' 1971

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
Tautologies
1971
© Armelle Dłubak / Archeology of Photography Foundation, Warsaw

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) 'Gesticulations' 1970-1978

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
Gesticulations
1970-1978
© Armelle Dłubak / Archeology of Photography Foundation, Warsaw

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (1921-2005) 'Desymbolisations' 1978

 

Zbigniew Dłubak (Polish, 1921-2005)
Desymbolisations
1978
© Armelle Dłubak / Archeology of Photography Foundation, Warsaw

 

 

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
79 rue des Archives
75003 Paris

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday
11am – 7pm
Closed on Mondays

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson website

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26
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Photography in Argentina, 1850-2010: Contradiction and Continuity’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 16th September 2017 – 28th January 2018

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks. 'Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas' / 'German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards' c. 1852

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks (American, 1823-1894)
Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas / German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards
c. 1852
Daguerreotype
Courtesy of Carlos G. Vertanessian

 

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks (American, 1823-1894)

Charles DeForest Fredricks (December 11, 1823 – May 25, 1894) was an American photographer.

Charles D. Fredricks was born in New York City on December 11, 1823. He learned the art of the daguerreotype from Jeremiah Gurney in New York, while he worked as a casemaker for Edward Anthony. In 1843, at the suggestion of his brother, Fredricks sailed for Angostura, today Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela. His business took him to Pará, Rio Grande do Sul, Montevideo, Buenos Aires. He enjoyed great success in South America, remaining there until some time in the early 1850s.

Following a brief period in Charleston, South Carolina, Fredricks moved to Paris in 1853. Here he became the first photographer to create life-sized portraits, which artists (like Jules-Émile Saintin) were hired to colour using pastel.

On his return to New York City, he rejoined Jeremiah Gurney, though it is not clear whether he was initially a partner or an employee. By 1854, he had developed an early process for enlarging photographs. His partnership with Gurney ended in 1855.

During the latter half of the decade he operated a studio in Havana. Here he received awards for his photographic oil colours and watercolours. During the 1860s he operated a studio on Broadway that was noted for its cartes de visites. In the early 1860s, Charles Fredricks personally photographed John Wilkes Booth (the assassin of President Lincoln) on several occasions at his studio.

He retired from photography in 1889 and died in Newark, New Jersey, five years later, on May 25, 1894.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks. 'Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas' / 'German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards' c. 1852 (detail)

 

Charles DeForest Fredricks (American, 1823-1894)
Inmigrantes alemanes en Buenos Aires jugando cartas / German Immigrants in Buenos Aires Playing Cards (detail)
c. 1852
Daguerreotype
Courtesy of Carlos G. Vertanessian

 

 

I knew very little about Argentinian photography before researching for this posting.

Such a rich historical photographic archive – Indigenous, political, activist, performative – engaged in the dissection of national identity construction. Lots of German émigrés, lots of strong women photographers e.g. Grete Stern, Annemarie Heinrich, Julio Pantoja and Graciela Sacco.

There is a deep probing in Argentinian photography. There is the irony of the not quite right and an investigation of the dark side, of danger, fear and violence, of loss, grief, rage and resignation. As one of the sections of the exhibition is titled, of Civilisation and Barbarism. A quotation in the posting observes, “One of the most effective means to exercise control of populations in contemporary capitalism is the production of fear.” Drop dead fear.

The bloodlines of the collective consciousness of the Argentinian people run very deep. The dead ones are still there…

Apologies for the lack of photographs in The Aesthetic Gesture section, there were just no good images available.

Marcus

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

 

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969) 'Malambistas I' / 'Malambo Dancers I' Negative 2014, print 2016

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentinian, b. 1969)
Malambistas I / Malambo Dancers I
Negative 2014, print 2016
Chromogenic print
60 x 50cm
Courtesy of Gustavo Di Mario
© Gustavo Di Mario

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969) 'Carnaval' Negative 2005, printed 2015

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentinian, b. 1969)
Carnaval
Negative 2005, printed 2015
Chromogenic print
50 x 63.1cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Gustavo Di Mario

 

 

From its independence in 1810 until the economic crisis of 2001, Argentina was perceived as a modern country with a powerful economic system, a strong middle class, a large European-immigrant population, and an almost nonexistent indigenous culture. This perception differs greatly from the way that other Latin American countries have been viewed, and underlines the difference between Argentina’s colonial and postcolonial process and those of its neighbours. Comprising three hundred works by sixty artists, this exhibition examines crucial periods and aesthetic movements in which photography had a critical role, producing – and, at times, dismantling – national constructions, utopian visions, and avant-garde artistic trends.

This exhibition is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across Southern California. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.

Contradiction and Continuity examines the complexities of Argentina’s history over 160 years, stressing the creation of contradictory narratives and the role of photography in constructing them. The exhibition concentrates on photographs that are fabricated rather than found, such as narrative tableaux and performances staged for the camera. However, it also includes examples of what has been considered documentary photography but can be interpreted as imagery intended as political propaganda or expressions of personal ideology.

The exhibition comprises seven sections: Civilization and Barbarism; National Myths: The Indigenous People; National Myths: The Gaucho; National Myths: Evita and the Modern City; The Aesthetic Gesture; The Political Gesture; and Fissures. These themes were chosen to emphasise crucial historical moments and aesthetic movements in Argentina in which photography played a critical role.

 

Civilisation and Barbarism

In 1845 Domingo Sarmiento (1811-1888), a prominent Argentine intellectual, published the novel Facundo, subtitled Civilization and Barbarism. Sarmiento, who would later be elected president, presented his political ideas in terms of an opposition between civilisation, represented by the capital city of Buenos Aires and European culture, and barbarism, represented by colonial customs, the gauchos, and the indigenous peoples. This section of the exhibition employs these antagonistic themes to introduce some of the complexities of Argentina’s history and culture. Nineteenth-century albums show the growth and advancement of the country through views of Buenos Aires and images that refer to progressive strategies initiated during this period, including railroad construction and the development of the educational system. In contrast, the work of several contemporary artists embodies the lifestyle and popular culture of the vast interior provinces of Argentina.

Like Sarmiento, Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810-1884), another influential intellectual, viewed immigration as a definitive measure for modernising the country. In Bases, published in 1853, he addressed the necessity of implementing policies to encourage immigration. The studio photographs in this section depict the growing presence of immigrant communities. Immigration is a key component to understanding Argentine society that continues to inspire contemporary artists.

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868) 'Recuerdos de Beunos Ayres' / 'Memories of Beunos Aires' 1864

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868)
Recuerdos de Beunos Ayres / Memories of Beunos Aires
1864
Page opening: La pirámide / The Pyramid
Albumen print

 

Benito Panunzi (Italian, 1835-1896) 'Monument to General San Martín' c. 1860-1869

 

Benito Panunzi (Italian, 1835-1896)
Monument to General San Martín
c. 1860-1869
Albumen print

 

 

National Myths: The Gaucho

The National Myths section of the exhibition focuses on the construction of specific state symbols, including indigenous people, the gaucho, First Lady Eva Perón, and the city of Buenos Aires. Around 1880, coinciding with increasing waves of immigration and efforts at modernisation, an avid debate on national identity arose among Argentine intellectuals and politicians.

By 1910, when the Centennial of Independence was celebrated, the gaucho emerged as an emblematic figure in the national iconography. The gaucho was already a common theme in Costumbrista (customs and character types) paintings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Criollismo (native culture), a movement of the late nineteenth century, stimulated a wider interest in gaucho-themed art, fiction, theatre, and photographs.

José Hernández’s epic narrative poem Martín Fierro (1872) and Eduardo Gutiérrez’s novel Juan Moreira (1879) were major influences. About 1890, amateur photographer Francisco Ayerza staged a series of romanticised photographs meant to illustrate a later edition of Fierro. Commercial studios accommodated women and children who wanted to be pictured as gauchos. More than a national symbol, the gaucho embodied the idealised masculinity of the virile Argentine man; the contemporary fashion photographs of Gustavo Di Mario present a queer interpretation of the gauchesque.

 

Francisco Ayerza Estudio para la edición de "Martín Fierro," gaucho con caballo / Study for an edition of Martín Fierro, Gaucho with Horse c. 1890, print about 1900 - 1905

 

Francisco Ayerza (Argentinian, 1860-1901)
Estudio para la edición de “Martín Fierro,” gaucho con caballo / Study for an edition of Martín Fierro, Gaucho with Horse
c. 1890, print about 1900-1905
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of a private collection

 

 

Francisco Ayerza (1860 – Buenos Aires, Argentina – 1901), was a photographic artist founding member of the Argentine Photographic Society. He formed an artistic movement in Latin America .

At the end of the 19th century, Doctor Francisco Ayerza cultivated the still new photographic art as an amateur. He was one of the organizers of the Argentine Amateur Photographic Society, the first entity of the genre created in that country.

It was at Francisco Ayerza’s house (1266 Piedad Street) where a group of gentlemen met “with the aim of forming a society of photography amateurs”, which ultimately constituted the Argentine Amateur Photographic Society (1889). The following participated in the first session: Leonardo Pereyra, who was elected president; Germán Kühr, Francisco Ayerza (secretary), José María Gutiérrez, Roberto Wernicke, Ricardo N. Murray, Fritz Büsch, Juan Quevedo, Isidro Calderón de la Barca Piñeyro, Daniel MacKinglay, Leonardo Pereyra Iraola, Fernando Steinius and Fernando Denis. …

An aspect of the immediate reality that seduced Francisco Ayerza and his friends for its picturesque appearance was the Pampa, whose geography began to be altered by machinism and immigration, as documented by some prints. From this interest in the Argentine countryside and its customs was born the idea of ​​photographically illustrating the Martín Fierro and, although they made many shots, it could not be finished, despite the efforts made by the authors in such an exhausting task, and although the selected field to photograph was the Estancia San Juan de Pereyra, very close to Buenos Aires.

Text translated from the Spanish Wikipedia website

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentine, born 1969) 'Malambistas IV' / 'Malambo Dancers IV' Negative 2014, print 2016

 

Gustavo Di Mario (Argentinian, b. 1969)
Malambistas IV / Malambo Dancers IV
Negative 2014, print 2016
Chromogenic print
60 x 50cm
Courtesy of Gustavo Di Mario
© Gustavo Di Mario

 

 

Malambo was born in the Pampas around the 1600. Malambo is a peculiar native dance that is executed by men only. Its music has no lyrics and it is based entirely on rhythm. The malambo dancer is a master of tap dancing wearing gaucho’s boots. Among the most important malambo moves are: “la cepillada” (the foot sole brushes the ground), “el repique” (a strike to the floor using the back part of the boot) and the “floreos”. Malambo dancers’ feet barely touch the ground but all moves are energetic and complex. Together with tap dancing, malambo dancers use “boleadoras” and other aids such as “lazos”. Like “Payadas” for gauchos (improve singing), malambo was *the* competition among gaucho dancers.

Read more about the Malambo dance

 

Nicola Constantino (Argentine, born 1964) 'Nicola alada, inspirado en Bacon inspirado en Rembrandt' / 'Winged Nicola, Inspired by Bacon Inspired by Rembrandt' 2010

 

Nicola Constantino (Argentinian, b. 1964)
Nicola alada, inspirado en Bacon inspirado en Rembrandt / Winged Nicola, Inspired by Bacon Inspired by Rembrandt
2010
Inkjet print
173 x 135cm
Courtesy of Nicola Constantino
© Nicola Constantino

 

Marcos López (Argentine, born 1958) 'Reina del trigo. Gálvez, Provincia de Santa Fe' (Queen of Wheat, Gálvez, Santa Fe Province) 1997

 

Marcos López (Argentinian, b. 1958)
Reina del trigo. Gálvez, Provincia de Santa Fe (Queen of Wheat, Gálvez, Santa Fe Province)
1997, printed 2017
Hand-coloured inkjet print
50 × 70cm (19 11/16 × 27 9/16 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Rolf Art, Buenos Aires
© Marcos López

 

Marcos López (Argentine, born 1958) 'Gaucho Gil. Buenos Aires' 2009, print 2017

 

Marcos López (Argentinian, b.1958)
Gaucho Gil. Buenos Aires
2009, printed 2017
Hand-coloured inkjet print
144 × 100cm
Courtesy of Rolf Art and Marcos López
© Marcos López

 

 

National Myths: The Indigenous People

While the gaucho became a national myth, “official” images rarely addressed the existence of indigenous peoples. The practice of recording their presence in photography, however, was well established by the late nineteenth century. It began in the portrait studios of Buenos Aires when native caciques (chiefs) visited the capital for peaceful negotiations, or when they were brought in as prisoners and made to pose in traditional garb. Later, photographers would travel by train or wagon to Native American settlements or plantations where indigenous people worked.

These staged compositions, as in the rest of Latin America, portrayed indigenous people as exotic and passive, objectifying them and emphasising their “otherness.” Sitters were always isolated from signs of the “civilised” or “Christian” world. The iconography found in these nineteenth- and early twentieth century photographs corresponds to a nostalgic image of a backward and subjugated group ignored by progress. Modernist and contemporary artists, such as Grete Stern and Guadalupe Miles, presented a different and more accurate view of these people. Both Stern and Miles immersed themselves in indigenous communities, portraying their subjects as individuals rather than stereotypes.

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868) 'Cacique Tehuelche Casimiro Biguá' / 'Tehuelche Chief, Casimiro Biguá' 1864

 

Esteban Gonnet (French, 1830-1868)
Cacique Tehuelche Casimiro Biguá / Tehuelche Chief, Casimiro Biguá
1864
Albumen print
14.1 x 9.7cm
Courtesy of the Daniel Sale Collection
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

 

Born in Grenoble, France, Esteban Gonnet moved to Argentina from Newcastle, England, in 1857. Gonnet became a photographer after arriving in Buenos Aires in 1857. He was a surveyor, working with his cousin Hippolyte Gaillard, also a surveyor.

Gonnet’s work reflected the rural lifetime and customs, showing the life and customs of Aboriginal people and paisanos of that era, although Gonnet also took photographies in urban places. In most of his photography he tried to show the typical image of the creole, stereotyping Argentine customs, and using objects as symbols that would create iconic images of the era. His photos were then sold abroad (mostly in Europe), when photography of travels or distant places where gaining in popularity. Gonnet’s innovative style of work consisted of the use of negative system rather than daguerreotype (that was the most common technique by then). Furthermore, Gonnet usually chose to take pictures outdoors instead of working at a studio, which was also his hallmark.

Text from Wikipedia website

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentine, born Italy, 1829-1910) 'Cacique Pincén' (Chief Pincén) 1878

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentinian born Italy, 1829-1910)
Cacique Pincén (Chief Pincén)
1878
Printed by Samuel Rimathé, Swiss, born Italy, 1863-unknown
Albumen print
20.2 x 14cm (7 15/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Collection of Diran Sirinian

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentine, born Italy, 1829-1910) 'Cacique Pincén' (Chief Pincén) negative 1878; print c. 1900

 

Antonio Pozzo (Argentinian born Italy, 1829-1910)
Cacique Pincén (Chief Pincén)
Negative 1878; print c. 1900
Unknown printer, active Argentina, c. 1900
Hand-coloured halftone postcard
13.7 x 8.7cm
Courtesy of the Daniel Sale Collection
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

Sociedad Fotográfica Argentina de Aficionados (Argentine, active 1889-1926) 'India yagán u ona tejiendo una canasta' / 'Yagán or Ona Woman Weaving a Basket' c. 1890s

 

Sociedad Fotográfica Argentina de Aficionados (Argentine, active 1889-1926)
India yagán u ona tejiendo una canasta / Yagán or Ona Woman Weaving a Basket
c. 1890s
Printing-out paper
21 x 17cm
Courtesy of the Daniel Sale Collection
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

Attribute to Carlos R. Gallardo (Argentine, 1855-1938) 'Esperando el ataque' / 'Waiting for the Attack' 1902

 

Attribute to Carlos R. Gallardo (Argentinian, 1855-1938)
Esperando el ataque / Waiting for the Attack
1902
Gelatin silver print
15.5 x 22cm
Courtesy of the Diran Sirinian
Photo: Javier Augustín Rojas

 

Grete Stern (Argentine, born Germany, 1904-1999) 'Mujer pilagá con sus hijos. Los Lomitas, Formosa' / 'Pilagá Woman with her Kids. Las Lomitas, Formosa' 1964

 

Grete Stern (Argentinian born Germany, 1904-1999)
Mujer pilagá con sus hijos. Los Lomitas, Formosa / Pilagá Woman with her Kids. Las Lomitas, Formosa
1964
From the series Aborígenes del gran Chaco argentine / Indigenous People from the Argentine Gran Chaco
Gelatin silver print
30 x 38cm
Courtesy of a private collection
© Estate of Grete Stern courtesy Galería Jorge Mara – La Ruche, Buenos Aires, 2016

 

 

Grete Stern (9 May 1904 – 24 December 1999) was a German-Argentinian photographer. Like her husband Horacio Coppola, she helped modernise the visual arts in Argentina, and in fact presented the first exhibition of modern photographic art in Buenos Aires, in 1935. (Wikipedia)

In Berlin in 1927, Stern began taking private classes with Walter Peterhans, who was soon to become head of photography at the Bauhaus. A year later, in Peterhans’s studio, she met Ellen (Rosenberg) Auerbach, with whom she opened a pioneering studio specialising in portraiture and advertising. Named after their childhood nicknames, the studio ringl + pit embraced both commercial and avant-garde loyalties, creating proto-feminist works. In Buenos Aires during the same period, Coppola initiated his photographic experimentations, exploring his surroundings and contributing to the discourse on modernist practices across media in local cultural magazines. In 1929 he founded the Buenos Aires Film Club to introduce the most innovative foreign films to Argentine audiences. His early works show the burgeoning interest in new modes of photographic expression that led him to the Bauhaus in 1932, where he met Stern and they began their joint history.

Following the close of the Bauhaus and amid the rising threat of the Nazi powers in 1933, Stern and Coppola fled Germany. Stern arrived first in London, where her friends included activists affiliated with leftist circles and where she made her now iconic portraits of German exiles, including those of Bertolt Brecht and Karl Korsch. After traveling through Europe, camera in hand, Coppola joined Stern in London, where he pursued a modernist idiom in his photographs of the fabric of the city, tinged alternately with social concern and surrealist strangeness.

In the summer of 1935, Stern and Coppola embarked for Buenos Aires [the had married in the same year, divorcing in 1943], where they mounted an exhibition in the offices of the avant-garde magazine Sur, announcing the arrival of modern photography in Argentina. The unique character of Buenos Aires was captured in Coppola’s photographic encounters from the city’s centre to its outskirts, and in Stern’s numerous portraits of the city’s intelligentsia, from feminist playwright Amparo Alvajar to essayist Jorge Luis Borges to poet-politician Pablo Neruda.

Text from the MoMA website

 

Leonel Luna. 'El rapto de Guinnard' / 'The Kidnap of Guinnard' 2002; print, 2017

 

Leonel Luna (Argentinian, b. 1965)
El rapto de Guinnard / The Kidnap of Guinnard
2002; print, 2017
Inkjet print on vinyl
112 x 72cm
Courtesy of a private collection
© Leonel Luna

 

 

National Myths: Evita and the Modern City

Photography contributed substantially to the construction of the myths of Buenos Aires as the “Modern City” and Evita as the symbol of Peronism. From the 1930s into the 1950s, the capital, like other advanced cosmopolitan metropolises, continued to expand. Some of the emblematic streets and monuments of the city, such as the Obelisk (1936), Avenida 9 de Julio (begun 1935), and Avenida Corrientes (1936), were built or renovated during this period. Buenos Aires became a model of progress for photographers like Horacio Coppola and Sameer Makarius, who produced series reinforcing this view.

Photography was among the propagandistic strategies deployed by the populist Perón administration (1946-1955). Eva Duarte de Perón (1919-1952), known as Evita, had an important role during the first presidency of her husband, Juan Perón (1895-1974), and became the most enduring image of Peronist ideology. Numerous photographers contributed to building an image of Evita as both an elegant celebrity and a compassionate politician. While Juan Di Sandro, considered the father of photojournalism in Argentina, made her political life accessible through views of official events, Annemarie Heinrich helped create her “new” femininity in glamorous studio portraits. Jaime Davidovich’s installation Evita, Then and Now: A Video Scrapbook (1984) and Santiago Porter’s Evita (2008) offer contrasting – critical as well as multidimensional – views of this complex figure.

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentine, born Germany, 1912-2005) 'Eva Perón' Negative 1944, print 1995

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentinian born Germany, 1912-2005)
Eva Perón
Negative 1944, print 1995
Gelatin silver print
32.5 x 27cm
Courtesy of Galería Vasari
© Archivo Heinrich Sanguinetti

 

 

Annemarie Heinrich (9 January 1912 – 22 September 2005) was a German-born naturalised Argentine photographer, who specialised in portraits and nudity. She is known for having photographed various celebrities of Argentine cinema, such as Tita Merello, Carmen Miranda, Zully Moreno and Mirtha Legrand; as well as other cultural personalities like Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda and Eva Perón.

Heinrich was born in Darmstadt and moved to Larroque, Entre Ríos Province, with her family in 1926, her father having been injured during the First World War. In 1930 she opened her first studio in Buenos Aires. Two years later she moved to a larger studio, and began photographing actors from the Teatro Colón. Her photos were also the cover of magazines such as El Hogar, Sintonía, Alta Sociedad, Radiolandia and Antena for forty years.

Heinrich’s work was shown in New York for the first time in 2016 at Nailya Alexander Gallery in the show “Annemarie Heinrich: Glamour and Modernity in Buenos Aires.” Heinrich is considered one of Argentina’s most important photographers.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentine, born Germany, 1912-2005) 'Veraneando en la ciudad' / 'Spending the Summer in the City' 1959

 

Annemarie Heinrich (Argentinian born Germany, 1912-2005)
Veraneando en la ciudad / Spending the Summer in the City
1959
Gelatin silver print
18 x 18cm
Courtesy of the Guillermo Navone Collection
© Archivo Heinrich Sanguinetti

 

Juan Di Sandro (Argentine, born Italy, 1898-1988) 'Avenida 9 de julio con obelisco. Vista panorámica' / 'Avenida 9 de Julio with Obelisk. Panoramic View' 1956

 

Juan Di Sandro (Argentinian born Italy, 1898-1988)
Avenida 9 de julio con obelisco. Vista panorámica / Avenida 9 de Julio with Obelisk. Panoramic View
1956
Gelatin silver print
29 x 42cm
Courtesy of Galería Vasari
© Familia Di Sandro

 

Sameer Makarius. 'Obelisco' / 'Obelisk' 1957

 

Sameer Makarius (Argentinian born Egypt, 1924-2009)
Obelisco / Obelisk
1957
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of Diran Sirinian
Photo: Javier Agustin Rojas
© Throckmorton Fine Arts

 

 

Sameer Makarius was without doubt one of the most prolific photographers in Buenos Aires during the 1950s and 60s. Almost every weekend, he ventured out taking along with him his two cameras, a Leica and an Olympus, to record his new home town. Makarius arrived in Buenos Aires in 1953 and the city must have made a real impact on him. Europe was scarred and slowly recuperating, but things were completely different here. A bustling, modern, elegant plus very confident capital was waiting to be explored. Taking photographs probably helped him to find his bearings and get to know the customs of the city’s inhabitants really well. But then, everybody’s past often determines both their present and their future. Makarius had studied art in Hungary and – being an artist – was inclined to a visual approach. He started out as a painter and abstraction, in all its various ramifications, was one of the main tendencies at the time, with Makarius following suit. Still, when he came to Argentina he was already principally interested in photography. At some stage, probably between the mid and late nineteen forties, a major shift had thus taken place and it is interesting to speculate why. Maybe, Makarius switched to photography because of practical reasons. Cameras were not only widely available at the time, but also coincided perfectly with his wandering life after the end of the war. Before moving to Argentina, he visited and lived in many countries, for example France and Switzerland. And, last but not least, because of his artistic background, he already knew how to deal with composition, light and shadow.

Marjan Groothuis. “Sameer Makarius,” on the Arte Aldia website Nd [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Santiago Porter (Argentine, born 1971) 'Evita' 2008

 

Santiago Porter (Argentinian, b. 1971)
Evita
2008
From the series Bruma II / Mist II
Inkjet print
154 x 123.5cm
Courtesy of the Collection Malba, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
© Santiago Porter

 

 

The Political Gesture

The gesture of “pointing out” had its origin in conceptual Argentine photography of the 1960s and 1970s. The artistic act evolved into radical actions as the sociopolitical situation in Argentina deteriorated. This section of the exhibition investigates photographs of political gestures provoked by the last dictatorship of 1976-83, in relation to the earlier conceptual practice presented in the adjacent gallery, “The Aesthetic Gesture.”

The action of showing a photograph of a person who was kidnapped or “disappeared” during the dictatorship was employed by the activist group Madres de Plaza de Mayo. In their weekly marches, the Mothers always wore white head scarves and carried photographs of their children on homemade signs demanding they “Return Alive.” With the arrival of democracy and Nunca Más (Never Again), the official 1984 report of crimes against humanity, trials of the military leaders began. However, over the next fifteen years, many of those who were culpable operated with impunity due to such regulations as the Full Stop Law (1986), the Law of Due Obedience (1987), and the Pardons Act (1990). During this time, activist artist groups, such as Grupo Etcétera… and Escombros, emerged to remind the public of crimes and atrocities, pointing out those assassins who had hoped to remain anonymous.

 

Nicolás García Uriburu. 'Le Geste - Coloration Du Grand Canale - Venise 1968-1970' / 'The Gesture - Colouring the Grand Canal - Venice 1968-70' 1968-70

 

Nicolás García Uriburu (Argentinian, 1937-2016)
Le Geste – Coloration Du Grand Canale – Venise 1970 / The Gesture – Colouring the Grand Canal – Venice 1970
1968-70
Chromogenic print, stencil and ink
67 x 101cm
Courtesy of Rubén and Agustina Esposito
© Nicolás García Uriburu

 

 

Born in Buenos Aires in 1937, García Uriburu began painting at an early age and, in 1954, secured his first exhibition at the local Müller Gallery. He enrolled at the University of Buenos Aires, where he received a degree in architecture, and relocated to Paris with his wife, Blanca Isabel Álvarez de Toledo, in 1965. He would later father a child named “Azul” with Blanca. His Three Graces, a sculpture in the pop art style, earned him a Grand Prize at the National Sculpture Salon in 1968. Venturing into conceptual art, he mounted an acrylic display at the Iris Clert Gallery, creating an artificial garden that set a new direction for García Uriburu’s work towards environmental activism.

He was invited to the prestigious Venice Biennale in June 1968, where García Uriburu dyed Venice’s Grand Canal using fluorescein, a pigment which turns a bright green when synthesised by microorganisms in the water. Between 1968 and 1970, he repeated the feat in New York’s East River, the Seine, in Paris, and at the mouth of Buenos Aires’ polluted southside Riachuelo.

A pioneer in what became known as land art, he created a montage in pastel colours over photographs of the scenes in 1970, allowing the unlimited photographic reproduction of the work for the sake of raising awareness of worsening water pollution, worldwide. In addition to environmental conservation he also produced works of art that showcased humanistic naturalism and an antagonism between society and nature, such as: Unión de Latinoamérica por los ríos (Latin America Union for Rivers), and No a las fronteras políticas (No to Political Borders).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Eduardo Longoni. 'Madres de Plaza de Mayo durante su habitual ronda' / 'Mothers of Plaza de Mayo during Their Customary March' 1981

 

Eduardo Longoni (Argentinian, b. 1959)
Madres de Plaza de Mayo durante su habitual ronda / Mothers of Plaza de Mayo during Their Customary March
1981
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of and © Eduardo Longoni

 

Eduardo Gil (Argentine, born 1948) 'Siluetas y canas. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires 21-22 de setiembre, 1983' / 'Silhouettes and Cops. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires, September 21-22, 1983' 1983

 

Eduardo Gil (Argentinian, b. 1948)
Siluetas y canas. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires 21-22 de setiembre, 1983 / Silhouettes and Cops. El Siluetazo. Buenos Aires, September 21-22, 1983
1983
Gelatin silver print
17.5 x 24.5cm
Courtesy of a private collection
© Eduardo Gil

 

Adriano Lestido (Argentine, born 1955) 'Madre e hija de Plaza de Mayo' / 'Mother and Daughter from Plaza de Mayo' 1982, printed 1984

 

Adriano Lestido (Argentinian, b. 1955)
Madre e hija de Plaza de Mayo / Mother and Daughter from Plaza de Mayo
1982, printed 1984
Gelatin silver image
16.5 x 21.2cm
Courtesy of Rolf Art and Adriana Lestido
© Adriana Lestido

 

Grupo Escombros (Argentine, active since 1988) 'Mariposas' (Butterflies) 1988

 

Grupo Escombros (Argentine, active since 1988)
Mariposas (Butterflies)
1988
Pancartas (Signs) series
Chromogenic print (printed in monochrome) mounted on wood
40 × 60cm (15 ¾ × 23 5/8 in.)
Courtesy of the artists and WALDEN, Buenos Aires
© Grupo Escombros / WALDEN

 

 

Grupo Escombros was born in 1988, in full hyperinflation, as a group of street art or public art as it is usually defined. In that Argentina where the economic value of things changed hour by hour, everything seemed to collapse, including democracy reconquered at the cost of 30,000 missing and collective wounds that may never close.

When analysing this social, political and economic situation, the founding artists of the group asked themselves what would be left of the country. The answer was: “the rubble.” That day the group acquired its name. A name that today is more current than ever, because Argentina continues to collapse, relentlessly. Next to the name, and beyond the inevitable changes, there are characteristics that remained intact:

  • Most of the works were made outdoors, one street, a square, a cellar, an urban stream
  • They always express the sociopolitical reality that the country lives at that moment
  • It is expressed through all possible forms of communication: installations, manifestos, murals, objects, posters, poems, prints, talks, visual poems, graffiti, postcards, net art

Its members come from various disciplines: plastic, journalism, design, architecture. Their works are always collective, annulling the individualities that compose it. They do not belong to any political party or religious creed in particular. Despite constantly denouncing the conditions of absolute injustice in which the men, women and children of Argentina and Latin America live, it is a mistaken simplification to say that it is only a protest group.

Anonymous text from the Grupo Escombros website Nd [Online] 24/01/2018. No longer available online

 

Grupo Etcétera... (Argentine, active since 1997) 'MÁSCARAS DESINHIBIDORAS - Escraches a los militares Riverso y Peyón' / 'UNINHIBITING MASKS - Escraches to (Former) Military Officers Riverso and Peyón (2)' 1998

 

Grupo Etcétera (Argentine, active since 1997)
MÁSCARAS DESINHIBIDORAS – Escraches a los militares Riverso y Peyón / UNINHIBITING MASKS – Escraches to (Former) Military Officers Riverso and Peyón (2)
1998
Chromogenic print
15 x 21.5cm
Courtesy of Archivo Etcétera
© Etcétera Archive

 

 

Etcétera is a multi-disciplinary collective created in Buenos Aires in 1997. It is made up of artists with a background in poetry, theater, visual arts and music. Its original purpose was to bring artistic expression closer to places of social conflict and shift these problems to cultural production spaces. These experiences take place at contemporary art venues such as museums, galleries and cultural centres, but also in the streets, at festivals, during protests and demonstrations, using different strategies including contextual and ephemeral public interventions. They consider themselves part of the “committed art” movement. In 2005, they created the Fundación del Movimiento Internacional Errorista (International Errorist Movement Foundation) with other artists and activists. This international organisation seeks to consolidate error as a life philosophy. The co-founders of the collective, Loreto Garín Guzmán y Federico Zukerfeld, are responsible for coordinating all activities, archives and other initiatives since 2007.

 

Grupo Etcétera... (Argentine, active since 1997) 'ARGENTINA VS. ARGENTINA. Escrache to General Galtieri' 1998

 

Grupo Etcétera (Argentine, active since 1997)
ARGENTINA VS. ARGENTINA. Escrache to General Galtieri
1998
Chromogenic print
15 x 21.5cm
Courtesy of Archivo Etcétera
© Etcétera Archive

 

 

Escrache: Intimidatory action by citizens against persons in the political, administrative or military sphere, which consists in disseminating information about the abuses committed during their administration to their private homes or to any public place where they are identified.

 

Florencia Blanco (French, born 1971) 'María y Andrés Pedro. Lobería, Buenos Aires' 2008

 

Florencia Blanco (French, b. 1971)
María y Andrés Pedro. Lobería, Buenos Aires
2008
From the series Donde están los muertos? / Where Are the Dead Ones?
Chromogenic print
70 x 70cm
Courtesy of Florencia Blanco
© Florencia Blanco

 

Julio Pantoja. 'Laura Romero, 26 años, estudiante de artes de la serie Los hijos. Tucumán, veinte años despues' / 'Laura Romero, 26 Years Old, Art Student from the series The Sons and Daughters. Tucumán, Twenty Years Later' 1996

 

Julio Pantoja (Argentinian, b. 1961)
Laura Romero, 26 años, estudiante de artes de la serie Los hijos. Tucumán, veinte años despues /
Laura Romero, 26 Years Old, Art Student from the series The Sons and Daughters. Tucumán, Twenty Years Later

1996
Gelatin silver print
20.7 x 20.7cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Julio Pantoja

 

Julio Pantoja. 'Natalia Ariñez, 23 años, esudiante de arquitectura' / 'Natalia Ariñez, 23 Years Old, Architecture Student' 1999

 

Julio Pantoja (Argentinian, b. 1961)
Natalia Ariñez, 23 años, esudiante de arquitectura / Natalia Ariñez, 23 Years Old, Architecture Student
1999
From the series The Sons and Daughters. Tucumán, Twenty Years Later
Gelatin silver print
20.7 x 20.7cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Julio Pantoja

 

Graciela Sacco (Argentine, born 1956) 'Untitled (#2)' 1993

 

Graciela Sacco (Argentinian, b. 1956)
Untitled (#2)
1993
From the series Bocanada
Heliography on paper
72.1 x 50.1cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum purchase with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Graciela Sacco

 

 

Graciela Sacco (Argentina, Rosario, 1956 – November 5, 2017) was a visual artist and teacher from Argentina. She worked mainly with photography, video and installation.She received great recognition for the wide participation of his work in individual and collective exhibitions in his country, fairs and international biennials as those in Mexico, Venice and Shanghai , the most important worldwide… She was an artist committed to the problems of her country. …

Through light, shadows, space, time and movement, she captures the themes he addresses, builds, dialogues and discusses in his works; her first technical interest was photography as a visual language to portray time in a certain space, a certain context lived in a fixed image, navigating analogue and digital media, working with techniques such as Heliography , through which she transfers images to the surface of objects chosen for their compositions, which have been previously emulsified with photosensitive substances which allows their printing and thus provide wooden blocks, acrylic sheets, PVC, paintings, windows, suitcases, dishes, spoons, knives of new meanings and meanings that speak beyond their own meaning; how to use an empty spoon with the “reflection” of the mouth that will eat from it to talk about a society that goes hungry and needs, because as she herself has said: “we are individuals different from each other in their personal growth, but with shared or unresolved needs that unite us and relate”. For this reason Bocanada (1993-2014) and “Body to Body” (1996-2014) become an active work as long as the situation is repeated or is not solved (societies with hunger and ignored basic needs), will remain valid, in force and it can be traced and displayed as many times as necessary.

The first was a set of images reproduced and multiplied, a technique that took from the media and its means to advertise and promote ideas, events, news and products, but through art, taking advantage of the reproducibility of the same product, worth the redundancy, of modernity in the technification and technological evolution of the visual arts. It was born from the urban interventions that Sacco practiced in schools and public squares in Argentina, Brazil and European cities, in which she painted the streets with the image repeated hundreds of times of open mouths, which portray the hunger of the world, the poverty, the need, humility, problems that affect much of the world and that are of human and universal interest, anyone can understand or arouse.

Hence, the work can be reinterpreted anywhere in the world, alluding to the context in which it is presented. As in the second work mentioned in which is not hunger but protests and public demonstrations to claim rights and welfare of student and civil communities, then take advantage of public space as the space of free thought where they can be transformed, evidence and manifest the plurality of ideas and get the support or rejection of their listeners.

Google Translate from the Spanish Wikipedia entry

 

The Aesthetic Gesture

During the 1960s and 1970s, the art scene in Argentina fostered a radical break with traditional forms of art. The opening of new spaces dedicated to experimental art, most notably the Instituto Torcuato di Tella and CAyC (Centro de Arte y Comunicación), gave rise to conceptual art and the engagement of intellectual artists, who began to generate works in unconventional forms, including performances, actions, and installations.

Among these innovations was the “aesthetic gesture,” in which artists used actions and performances to “point out” or signal everyday life events, objects, and people, thus transforming them into works of art. Documented primarily with photographs, these pieces sought to invoke viewers as active participants in artistic actions, erasing the divisions between art and life. In his 1962 Vivo-Dito manifesto, for example, Alberto Greco advocated for “a living art”; and in his Signaling series of 1968, Edgardo Antonio Vigo “pointed out” common objects and events with the intention of producing aesthetic experiences. The difficult political climate of repression in the early 1970s, which culminated in the dictatorship period, provoked artists to undertake increasingly political productions.

 

Jaime Davidovich. 'Tape Project: Sidewalk 1' 1971

 

Jaime Davidovich (Argentine-American, 1936-2016)
Tape Project: Sidewalk 1
1971
Gelatin silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Jaime Davidovich

 

 

Fissures

The democracy restored to Argentina in 1983 followed a neoliberal model, one that favoured free-market capitalism. The implementation of neoliberalism, during the presidency of Carlos Menem (1989-99), together with the catastrophic economic collapse of 2001, provoked the questioning of long-held national ideals. The works in this section utilise architecture to highlight aspects of national history in relation to current sociopolitical issues. Santiago Porter’s photographs reflect the prosperity of the past in contrast to the present fiscal situation. Similarly, Nuna Mangiante’s graphite-altered pictures revolve around the 2001 crisis and, specifically, the corralito (when citizens were not allowed to withdraw their money from banks).

The works in this section stress inequality and its consequences in contemporary Argentina. SUB, Photographic Cooperative’s series A puertas cerradas (Behind Closed Gates) documents the comfortable life of a wealthy family in a gated neighbourhood outside Buenos Aires, while Gian Paolo Minelli’s photographs focus on people living in Barrio Piedrabuena, an impoverished neighbourhood in the capital city. Ananké Asseff’s portraits of middle-class citizens with their guns attest to rising fear and paranoia in contemporary Argentine society.

 

Santiago Porter. 'Casa de Moneda de la serie Bruma' / 'The Mint' Negative, 2007; print, 2015

 

Santiago Porter (Argentinian, b. 1971)
Casa de Moneda de la serie Bruma / The Mint
Negative, 2007; print, 2015
From the series Mist
inkjet print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Santiago Porter

 

Martín Weber. 'El jugador' / 'The Chess Player' 1999

 

Martín Weber (Argentinian-Chilean, b. 1868)
El jugador / The Chess Player
1999
From the series Ecos del interior / Echoes from the Interior
Silver dye bleach print
84 x 99cm framed
Courtesy and © Martín Weber

 

 

In the mid-nineteenth century, Argentina opened up to several waves of immigration, mostly European, which arrived through the port of Buenos Aires. The country also experienced strong waves of emigration: the first was in the 40s and was followed by two of a more political nature. One during the political persecution at universities under the dictatorship of Juan Carlos Onganía and the second following the coup in 1976. None however compared with the emigration that took place as from December 2001, when unemployment reached 22%.

 

Martín Weber. 'Barras de colores' / 'Color Bars' 1996

 

Martín Weber (Argentinian-Chilean, b. 1868)
Barras de colores / Color Bars
1996
From the series Ecos del interior / Echoes from the Interior
Silver dye bleach print
84 x 99cm framed
Courtesy and © Martín Weber

 

 

Black-and-white TV began to be broadcast during Peron’s regime. The inaugural transmission showed Evita’s speaking from Plaza de Mayo. Color TV arrived under the military dictatorship of 1978, in time to broadcast soccer’s World Cup.

 

Guadalupe Miles (Argentine, born 1971) 'Sin título' (Untitled) 2001

 

Guadalupe Miles (Argentinian, b. 1971)
Sin título (Untitled)
2001, printed 2017
Chaco series
Inkjet print
100 × 100cm (39 3/8 × 39 3/8 in.)
Courtesy of the artist
© Guadalupe Miles

 

Guadalupe Miles. 'Untitled' 2001

 

Guadalupe Miles (Argentinian, b. 1971)
Sin título (Untitled)
2001, printed 2017
Chaco series
Inkjet print
100 × 100cm (39 3/8 × 39 3/8 in.)
Courtesy of the artist
© Guadalupe Miles

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, born 1968) 'Untitled' 1996-2004

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, b. 1968)
Untitled
1996-2004
From the series En el sexto día / On the Sixth Day
Chromogenic (FujiFlex) print
73.7 x 73.7cm
Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York
© Alessandra Sanguinetti, Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York

 

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (1968, New York, New York) is an American photographer. Born in New York, Sanguinetti moved to Argentina at the age of two and lived there until 2003. Sanguinetti has stated that she began taking photographs to create a sense of permanence in her life after realising that “everything is transitory.” Currently, she lives in San Francisco, California.

Her most involved project is a documentary photography project about two cousins – Guillermina and Belinda – as they grow up outside of Buenos Aires. The project began in 1999 when Sanguinetti visited her grandmother, Juana, in Argentina. She intended to take pictures of the animals which occupied her grandmother’s rural farm. However, she saw potential in her cousins, whom she had previously disregarded. Sanguinetti recounts this, “I was shooting them without even thinking it was work. My first idea was to just do a single story trying to figure out what they imagined life to be, just so I could get into their world.” Titled The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning of their Dreams, the project follows them as they fantasise about becoming adults, early motherhood, and becoming young women while their relationship changes. In this particular collection of photographs, Alessandra makes commentaries about feminine conventions of beauty and behaviour, as well as gender roles and gender identity. She occasionally ridicules social expectations through her images, which are often satirical in nature.  These commentaries are best typified in Petals (2000) and The Couple (1999). Her images focus on the lives of young women and children. Sanguinetti told Vice reporter, Bruno Bayley, “Children are fascinating… As a society, we project so much of our hopes, frustrations, denials, and aspirations on children, and they are so transparent in how they reflect everything that is thrust upon them. How could I not photograph them?”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, born 1968) 'Untitled' 1996-2004

 

Alessandra Sanguinetti (American, b. 1968)
Untitled
1996-2004
From the series En el sexto día / On the Sixth Day
Chromogenic (FujiFlex) print
73.7 x 73.7cm
Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York
© Alessandra Sanguinetti, Courtesy of Yossi milo Gallery, New York

 

Sebastián Friedman (Argentine, born 1973) 'Segurismos #7' c. 2010-11, printed 2016

 

Sebastián Friedman (Argentinian, b. 1973)
Segurismos #7
c. 2010-2011, printed 2016
From the series Segurismos
Chromogenic print
59.7 x 80cm
Courtesy of Sebastián Friedman
© Sebastián Friedman

 

SUB, Photographic Cooperative (Argentine, active since 2004) 'Titi (She Has the Same Name as Her Mother, Silvina) and Lili, One of the Maids, Share Moments of Relaxation. Titi Was Born in San Jorge Village and Her Relationship with Liliana Has developed since Birth' 2012, printed in 2017

 

SUB, Photographic Cooperative (Argentine, active since 2004)
Titi (She Has the Same Name as Her Mother, Silvina) and Lili, One of the Maids, Share Moments of Relaxation. Titi Was Born in San Jorge Village and Her Relationship with Liliana Has developed since Birth
2012, printed 2017
From the series A puertas cerradas (Behind Closed Gates)
Inkjet print
60 x 80cm
Courtesy of SUB, Photographic Cooperative
© Sub. Coop Todos los derechos reservados

 

Ananké Asseff (Argentine, born 1971) 'Luis' c. 2005-07, printed 2015

 

Ananké Asseff (Argentinian, b. 1971)
Luis
c. 2005-07, printed 2015
From the series Potential
198.6 x 129.2cm
Courtesy of Rolf Art and Ananké Asseff
© Ananké Asseff

 

 

One of the most effective means to exercise control of populations in contemporary capitalism is the production of fear.

To talk about one of my projects, in “Potential” I worked on the reaction of contemporary society when facing fear, and I got involved with Argentinian society more directly when I photographed the middle and upper classes with weapons in their houses. In this country, this is not something socially accepted, on the contrary. The embedded image of people carrying weapons is something associated with low-income earners and criminals. I put into question the prototype of the “suspect” that is generated by each society, but this issue, like all the other aspects that make up this project, goes beyond Argentinian society. It is something that involves us on a global level. At the time I made this work, people talked exhaustively about the lack of safety in Argentina and terrorism around the world. At the time I lived in Germany for a while (I got a scholarship from KHM) and the sense of insecurity was evident there as well, the weariness before someone unknown approaching or the presence of a stranger (a feeling that was much stronger if the other person looked like they were from the Middle East). Everything was exacerbated and worsened by the obsession of the mass media which propagated fear and terror in society. How awake we had to be (and still have to be) to avoid succumbing to these manipulations!

As Leonor Arfuch says, “certain registers of contemporary communication, certain topics and media obsessions allow the defining, and building, of tendentious trends and consensus, shared beliefs and feelings that invade our intimate and family structures, thus spreading easily into our personal history.”

Fear is a feeling that’s experienced individually but built within a society.

Anonymous text. “Argentina Notebook: Interview with Ananké Asseff,” on the Fototazo website 30/10/2015 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Ananké Asseff. 'Alberto de la serie (POTENCIAL)' / 'Alberto from the series (POTENTIAL)' c. 2005-2007; print, 2015

 

Ananké Asseff (Argentinian, b. 1971)
Alberto de la serie (POTENCIAL) / Alberto from the series (POTENTIAL)
c. 2005-2007; printed 2015
Inkjet print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Ananké Asseff

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, born 1968) 'Milton' 2009, printed 2016

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, b. 1968)
Milton
2009, printed 2016
From the series Zona Sur Barrio Piedrabuena
54 x 66cm
Courtesy of Dot Fiftyone Gallery and the artist
© Gian Paolo Minelli

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, born 1968) 'Luciano con tatuaje' / 'Luciano with Tatoo' 2009, printed 2016

 

Gian Paolo Minelli (Swiss, b. 1968)
Luciano con tatuaje / Luciano with Tatoo
2009, printed 2016
From the series Zona Sur Barrio Piedrabuena
54 x 66cm
Courtesy of Dot Fiftyone Gallery and the artist
© Gian Paolo Minelli

 

 

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Los Angeles, California 90049

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08
Dec
17

In conversation: Marcus Bunyan and Elizabeth Gertsakis discuss his new work, ‘The Shape of Dreams’ 2013-2017

December 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled from the series The Shape of Dreams 
2013-2017
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In conversation

EG: Just saw your most recent Art Blart and your work. It’s very beautiful. Congratulations. At first I didn’t know whose they were. Then I went through them one by one, and only after responding to them ‘unknown’ I saw it was your work. SO BEAUTIFUL, so potent and yet, within the ambivalence and questioning there was space for great stillness and contemplation. Powerful and so poetic. The one of the children, close up is dazzling, but so are the open fields, mountains, roadways and minute images of flight.

MB: Thank you so much Elizabeth. Yes, my work would you believe. I can now believe after 4 years hard work. A poem to the uncertainty of human dreams. It’s a conceptual series in the vein of my hero Minor White – contemplative, poetic as always with me, but with an edge under the poetry as you so correctly observe EG – you are caught in the dream in the end image, suspended in time and space, in your imagination. You are always so spot on with your observations.

EG: Your own tendency is also closely linked to language and ideas?

MB: This is very true. The basis for all my work is body, time, space, environment and their link to language and ideas… and how conceptual work can be spiritual as well.

EG: I’m with you on that one, and political as well.

MB: Indeed – all my work, including this series, is very anti-war.

EG: What is unseen, invisible in these images is definitely the dark quiet hole of hell that war is. Or at least those that invest in it.

MB: The key image in this regard is the one of the explosion.

EG: But the ones of the distant and misdirected aerial machines also…

MB: Indeed, and the second one, where all the men are looking away while the cloud expands in the background.

EG: Yes, the casual indifference and banality of it.

MB: You have it perfectly Elizabeth!

EG: But the children, oh those children, and the innocent implacability of the natural world.

MB: To find these images on Ebay and then spend four years of my life cleaning and saving them was an incredible experience. It was almost like I was breathing these images as I was saving them, looking into each one and being immersed in them. Thus, the art demands contemplation from the viewer in order to begin to understand its resonances.

.
Many thankx to Elizabeth Gertsakis for her wisdom, knowledge, friendship and advice throughout the year. These observations of my work mean a great deal to me.

SEE THE FULL SEQUENCE INCLUDING SIZE AND SPACING OF IMAGES (ENLARGE AND USE SCROLL BAR)

SEE THE FULL IMAGES

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ costs $1000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see my Store web page.

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled from the series The Shape of Dreams
2013-2017
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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06
Dec
17

Photographs: Marcus Bunyan. ‘The Shape of Dreams’ 2013-2017

December 2017

 

CLICK ON AND ENLARGE THE IMAGES BELOW TO SEE THE FULL SEQUENCE AND SPACING OF THE IMAGES

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017 (detail)

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017 (detail)

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017 (detail)

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
The Shape of Dreams 
(detail of sequence)
2013-2017
Digital photographs
42 images in the series
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The form of formlessness
The shape of dreams

 

 

The Shape of Dreams

A Christmas present to myself… my most complex and enigmatic sequence to date.

Shot in Japan, all of the images come from two 1950s photography albums, one of which has a large drawing of a USAF bomber on it’s cover. The images were almost lost they were so dirty, scratched and deteriorated. It has taken me four long years to scan, digitally clean and restore the images, heightening the colour already present in the original photographs.

Sometimes the work flowed, sometimes it was like pulling teeth. Many times I nearly gave up, asking myself why I was spending my life cleaning dirt and scratches from these images. The only answer is… that I wanted to use these images so that they told a different story.

Then to sequence the work in such a way that there is an enigmatic quality, a mystery in that narrative journey. Part auteur, part cinema – a poem to the uncertainty of human dreams.

Marcus

 

PLEASE GO TO MY WEBSITE TO SEE THE LARGER IMAGES

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ costs $1000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see my Store web page.

 

 

A selection of individual images from the sequence

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled from the series The Shape of Dreams
2013-2017
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Sequencing The Shape of Dreams 2013-2017

Sequencing The Shape of Dreams at a cafe table in Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria in July 2017 with my friend.

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Sequenceing 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017' 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Sequenceing 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017' 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Sequenceing 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017' 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Sequenceing ‘The Shape of Dreams’ 2013-2017
July 2017

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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13
Oct
17

Exhibition: ‘Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933’ at Tate Liverpool

Exhibition dates: 23rd June – 15th October 2017

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'The Painter Otto Dix and his Wife Martha' 1925-6, printed 1991

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
The Painter Otto Dix and his Wife Martha
1925-1926, printed 1991
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
205 x 241mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Hugo Erfurth with Dog' 1926

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Hugo Erfurth with Dog (Bildnis des Fotografen Hugo Erfurth mit Hund) 
1926
Tempera and oil paint on panel
800 x 1000mm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
© DACS 2017. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

 

Writing sociology: picturing an uncertain cultural landscape

There is something completely unexpected in the strange correlation and synergy between the work of these two artists.

While it is inadvisable to compare and contrast (why pick those particular images out of thousands!), I have paired several images from the exhibition together in this posting. Let’s look at the pairing above.

Technically, Sander’s photograph of The Painter Otto Dix and his Wife Martha (1925-6) evidences a slightly flattened perspective especially in the “face on” aspect of the androgynous woman – but the photograph also possesses a surreal air, the silhouette of the woman’s hair contrasting with the swept back slickness of the man and his jutting, three-quarter profile. The unusual space between them adds admirably to the overall frisson of the photograph, it’s non/objectivity and performativity. In Dix’s painting Hugo Erfurth with Dog (1926) a greater distortion of perspective is in evidence. The mythic dog is painted as if photographed using a telephoto lens, while the man’s face is all over the place… the jaw elongated as if by using a wide angle lens, the front of the face flattened in an earnest manner. This is what painting can do, and is allowed to do, that photography can never match. But it doesn’t have to. It does it in a different way.

Here we need to excavate – that’s a good word for this investigation – we need to excavate the ethos in the zeitgeist. We need to understand the attitudes and aspirations of the cultural era in which these artists lived in order to comprehend the defining spirit of the period, as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. These artists emerge out of the same society, they inhabit the spirit of the age – those interwar years of the avant-garde, speed, and change; of poverty, postwar realities and politics; of The Great Depression, disfiguration and disenfranchisement.

I look at the obscurity of faces in Dix’s Assault Troops Advance under Gas (1924) and then adjust to the pensiveness of hand, pose and gaze in Sander’s Working Students (1926) … and then mentally add in Avedon’s later portraiture. Interesting. I look at Sander’s National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture (c. 1938) and note the “exemplary mastery of illumination”, but just as distinctively the averted gaze, the line on head where the unnamed man (who is he? what was his name?) had just taken his cap off. Just below is Dix’s Self-Portrait with Easel (1926) with three-quarter profile, piercing stare, bent finger. Who is capturing reality here? No body.

In his own way, Sander plays with the reality of time and space just as much as Dix. In my mind, Sander’s “staged performativity and the artifice of construction [which] is paramount to the surreal effects created,” are no less un/real than the paintings of Dix. There are things that just don’t fit. The strangeness of the era, the creation of these non/objective environments, cause an alignment of the stars between both artists. This is inspired curating, to bring these two extra-ordinary talents together.

These artists walked the same streets, they breathed the same air. They excavated the spirit of the age. And in so doing, their art becomes impervious to time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

“We want to see things completely naked, clear, almost without art. I invented the New Objectivity.”

.
Otto Dix, 1965

 

German artist Otto Dix was a committed painter of portraits. At a time when photography had diminished portraiture’s importance and the genre was seen as a deeply unfashionable pursuit for so-called serious artists, he was making a living – and cementing his reputation – out of exactly that. He commented:

“Painting portraits is regarded by modernist artists as a lower artistic occupation; and yet it is one of the most exciting and difficult tasks for a painter.”

 

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin' 1927

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin (Liegende auf Leopardenfell) 
1927
Oil paint on panel
680 x 980mm
© DACS 2017. Collection of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. Gift of Samuel A. Berger

 

 

Dix was a key supporter of the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) movement, a name coined after an exhibition held in Mannheim, Germany in 1925. Described by art historian G.F. Hartlaub, as ‘new realism bearing a socialist flavour’, the movement sought to depict the social and political realities of the Weimar Republic.

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Bohemians [Willi Bongard, Gottfried Brockmann]' c. 1922-5, printed 1990

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Bohemians [Willi Bongard, Gottfried Brockmann]
c. 1922-1925, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
189 x 250mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

Tate Liverpool presents the faces of Germany between the two World Wars seen through the eyes of painter Otto Dix (1891-1969) and photographer August Sander (1876-1964). Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933 brings together two artists whose works document the glamour and misery of the Weimar Republic, a time of radical extremes and political and economic upheaval.

Portraying a Nation, which exhibits Dix and Sander as a pair for the first time, reflects a pivotal point in Germany’s history, as it introduced democratic rule in the aftermath of the First World War. The period was one of experimentation and innovation across the visual arts, during which both artists were concerned with representing the extremes of society, from the flourishing cabaret culture to intense poverty and civilian rebellions.

Featuring more than 300 paintings, drawings, prints and photographs, Portraying a Nation unites two complementary exhibitions. Otto Dix: The Evil Eye explores Dix’s harshly realistic depictions of German society and the brutality of war, while ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander presents photographs from Sander’s best known series People of the Twentieth Century, from the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international modern and contemporary art.

The exhibition focusses on the evolution of Dix’s work during his years in Düsseldorf, from 1922 to 1925, when he became one of the foremost New Objectivity painters, a movement exploring a new style of artistic representation following the First World War. Dix’s paintings are vitriolic reflections on German society, commenting on the country’s stark divisions. His work represents the people who made up these contradictions in society with highlights including Portrait of the Photographer Hugo Erfurth with Dog 1923, Self-Portrait with Easel 1926, as well as a large group of lesser known watercolours. Dix’s The War 1924 will also form a key element of the exhibition, a series of 50 etchings made as a reaction to and representation of the profound effect of his personal experiences of fighting in the First World War.

Sander’s photographs also observe a cross-section of society to present a collective portrait of a nation. Sander commenced his major photographic project People of the Twentieth Century in 1910, an ambitious task that occupied him until the 1950s. The project resulted in more than 600 images in which people were categorised into what he described as ‘types’, including artists, musicians, circus workers, farmers and, in the late 1930s, images of Nazi officers. More than 140 photographs from the ARTIST ROOMS collection will be displayed to create a large-scale timeline of Weimar Germany, placing individual subjects against a backdrop of the era’s tumultuous cultural and political history.

Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933 is made up of Otto Dix: The Evil Eye, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf and ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander, an exhibition of works from the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international modern and contemporary art.

The ARTIST ROOMS collection is jointly owned by National Galleries of Scotland and Tate on behalf of the public, and was established through The d’Offay donation in 2008 with the assistance of the Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund and the Scottish and British governments. It is shared with UK museums and galleries including Tate, National Galleries of Scotland and a network of Associate venues through ARTIST ROOMS On Tour, which is a partnership until 2019 with lead Associate Ferens Art Gallery, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Art Fund and the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.

Otto Dix: The Evil Eye is curated by Dr Susanne Meyer-Büser, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director and Lauren Barnes, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool. ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander is curated by Francesco Manacorda, and Lauren Barnes, Assistant Curator, with the cooperation of ARTIST ROOMS and the German Historical Institute.

Press release from Tate Liverpool

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor) '1924

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor)
1924
© DACS 2017
Image: Otto Dix Stiftung

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Working Students' 1926, printed 1990

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Working Students
1926, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

Seen together, Sander’s images form a pictorial mosaic of inter-war Germany. Rapid social change and newfound freedom were accompanied by financial insecurity and social and political unrest. By photographing the citizens of the Weimar Republic – from the artistic, bohemian elite to the Nazis and those they persecuted – Sander’s photographs tell of an uncertain cultural landscape. It is a world characterised by explosions of creativity, hyperinflation and political turmoil. The faces of those he photographed show traces of this collective historical experience. Alfred Döblin, author of the 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz said:

“Sander has succeeded in writing sociology not by writing, but by producing photographs – photographs of faces and not mere costumes.”

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Argentinian Venomous Scorpion' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Argentinian Venomous Scorpion (Argentinischer Gift-Skorpion) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
134 x 217mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

 

Dix served in the First World War from 1915, fighting on the Western front in the Battle of the Somme. Although an enthusiastic soldier – his service earned him the Iron Cross (Second Class) – Dix’s experiences affected him deeply. He marked the war’s 10th anniversary with a group of etchings entitled Der Krieg (The War), leaving few of the horrors of the front line to the imagination. Commenting later, he said:

“For years, [I] constantly had these dreams in which I was forced to crawl through destroyed buildings, through corridors through which I couldn’t pass. The rubble was always there in my dreams.”

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Butterfly' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Butterfly (Schmetterling) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
217 x 135mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Giant Snake' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Giant Snake (Riesenschlange) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
135 x 217mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Mask Fish' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Mask Fish (Maskenfisch) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
217 x 135mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Tibetan Turkey Vulture' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Tibetan Turkey Vulture (Tibetanischer Truthahngeier) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
135 x 217mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Vulture Skull' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Vulture Skull (Totenkopfgeier)
1922
Graphite on found paper
217 x 135mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture' c. 1938, printed 1990

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture
c. 1938, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
260 x 192mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Self-Portrait with Easel' 1926

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Self-Portrait with Easel (Selbstbildnis mit Staffelei)
1926
800 x 550mm
Leopold-Hoesch-Museum & Papiermuseum, Düren
© DACS 2017. Leopold-Hoesch-Museum & Papiermuseum Düren. Photo: Peter Hinschläger

 

 

From the early 1920s, he devoted himself to the study of old master painting techniques, using a layering effect, produced first with egg tempera and, later, finished with oils. This moved his contemporary George Grosz to jokingly call him ‘Otto Hans Baldung Dix’ (after the German old master Hans Baldung Grien). Later, Grosz would write:

“Dix did all the drawing in a thin tempera, then went over it with thin mastic glazes in various cold and warm tones. He was the only Old Master I ever watched using this technique.”

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Secretary at West German Radio in Cologne' 1931, printed 1992

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Secretary at West German Radio in Cologne
1931, printed 1992
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
260 x 149mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

Otto Dix. 'The Jeweller Karl Krall (Der Juwelier Karl Krall)' 1923

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Portrait of the Jeweller Karl Krall
1923
Kunst- und Museumsverein im Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal
Photo: Antje Zeis-Loi, Medienzentrum Wuppertal
© DACS 2017

 

 

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Dix was dismissed from his professorship teaching art at the Dresden Academy, where he had worked since 1927. The reason given was that, through his painting, he had committed a ‘violation of the moral sensibilities and subversion of the militant spirit of the German people’.

In the years following, some 260 of his works were confiscated by the Nazi Propaganda Ministry. Several of these works, including The Jeweller Karl Krall 1923 (which features in the Tate Liverpool exhibition Portraying a Nation), appeared in the Entartete Kunst (degenerate art) exhibition of 1937-8. The exhibition was staged by the Nazis to destroy the careers of those artists they considered mentally ill, inappropriate or unpatriotic.

 

August Sander. 'Victim of Persecution' 1938, printed 1990 by August Sander 1876-1964

 

August Sander (August, 1876-1964)
Victim of Persecution
c. 1938, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

In the mid-1920s, Sander began his highly ambitious project People of the 20th Century. In it, Sander aimed to document Germany by taking portraits of people from all segments of society. The project adapted and evolved continuously, falling into seven distinct groups: ‘The Farmer’, ‘The Skilled Tradesman’, ‘The Woman’, ‘Classes and Professions’, ‘The Artists’, ‘The City’ and ‘The Last People’. Sander once said ‘The portrait is your mirror. It’s you’. He believed that, through photography, he could reveal the characteristic traits of people. He used these images to tell each person’s story; their profession, politics, social situation and background.

Sander did not use the newly invented Leica camera. Instead he remained devoted to an old-fashioned large-format camera, glass negatives and long exposure times. This allowed him to capture minute details of individual faces. Sander prized the daguerreotype, a photographic process introduced in the previous century, of which he said: ‘it cannot be surpassed in the delicacy of the delineation, it is objectivity in the best sense of the word’. Allied to this, his portraits were anonymous. Shot against neutral backgrounds and titled more often than not by profession alone, he let the images – and the faces in them – speak for themselves.

The ambition and reach of People of the 20th Century (both in terms of the quality of his photography and in his representation of a cross-section of society) made him a monumental figure of twentieth century photography. The likes of American social realist photographers such as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange (whose works became iconic symbols of the depression), and later photographers such as Diane Arbus, each owe a debt to the trailblazing Sander. More recently, the work of conceptual artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher (known for their typologies of industrial buildings and structures) and Rineke Dijkstra, whose photography is infused with psychological depth and social awareness, resonates with the influence of August Sander’s career-long project.

Text from the Tate Liverpool website

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Turkish Mousetrap Salesman' 1924-30, printed 1990

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Turkish Mousetrap Salesman
1924-1930, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
260 x 191mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Photographer [August Sander]' 1925, printed 1990

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Photographer [August Sander]
1925, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

Tate Liverpool
Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront,
Liverpool L3 4BB

Opening hours:
Monday to Sunday 10.00 – 17.50

Tate Liverpool website

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08
Sep
17

Exhibition: ‘Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 30th April – 30th July 2017

The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery, sixth floor

 

 

Louise Lawler. 'Pollyanna (adjusted to fit) distorted for the times' 2007/2008/2012

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Pollyanna (adjusted to fit) distorted for the times
2007/2008/2012
As adjusted for the MoMA exhibition WHY PICTURES NOW, 2017
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Pollyanna (adjusted to fit)' 2007/2008/2012

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Pollyanna (adjusted to fit)
2007/2008/2012
As adjusted for the MoMA exhibition WHY PICTURES NOW, 2017
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Produced in 1988, Purchased in 1989; Produced in 1989, Purchased in 1993 (adjusted to fit), distorted for the times' 1995/2010

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Produced in 1988, Purchased in 1989; Produced in 1989, Purchased in 1993 (adjusted to fit), distorted for the times
1995/2010
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

 

(Note on reproducing Lawler’s Adjusted to Fit works: Each time these images are reproduced, they should be stretched to the space given to the reproduction. The original file (un-stretched) is the origin point for anything that is then adjusted by the photo editor.)

 

Louise Lawler. 'Produced in 1988, Purchased in 1989; Produced in 1989, Purchased in 1993 (adjusted to fit)' 1995/2010

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Produced in 1988, Purchased in 1989; Produced in 1989, Purchased in 1993 (adjusted to fit), distorted for the times
1995/2010
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

 

I missed the closing date for this exhibition due to the ongoing problems with my hand. However, I believe it is valuable to post these images because Louise Lawler is an always provocative, thoughtful and interesting artist. She shines a light or, more possibly, pokes a big stick at patriarchal systems of value in art – turning perceived points of view, ways of seeing, and “the cultural circumstances that support art’s production, circulation, and presentation” on their head.

“… behind Ms. Lawler’s shape-shifting works lies a poetic intelligence, a political sharpness and an understanding of the artwork as a form of value, but also as a source and an object of love.” Well said.

Lawler possesses a unique understanding of the forms of culture embodied within images and also an intimate knowledge of the archetypal forms buried deep within their bones. Is the pattern immanent in the paper (the cosmos), or is the paper a blank slate to be written on by the creator?

Distorted, restaged, reframed and re-presented for the times…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

#art #moma #museumofmodernart #museum #modernart #nyc #education #artist #photography #womenartists #femaleartists #louiselawler #whypicturesnow

 

Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW is the first major survey in New York of the artist Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947), spanning the 40-year creative output of one of the most influential artists working in the fields of image production and institutional critique. The exhibition takes its title from one of Lawler’s most iconic works, Why Pictures Now (1982), a black-and-white photograph showing a matchbook propped up in an ashtray. Reminiscent of an advertising photograph or a film noir still, it asks the viewer to consider why the work takes the form of a picture, and why the artist is making pictures now. Lawler came of age as part of the Pictures Generation, a loosely knit, highly independent group of artists named for an influential exhibition, Pictures, organised in 1977 by art historian Douglas Crimp at Artists Space in New York. These artists used photography and appropriation-driven strategies to examine the functions and codes of representation. Lawler’s signature style was established in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when she began taking pictures of other artists’ works displayed in collectors’ homes, museums, storage spaces, and auction houses to question the value, meaning, and use of art.

WHY PICTURES NOW is organised by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, with Kelly Sidley, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography.

 

 

“Ms. Lawler and Roxana Marcoci, the exhibition’s curator, have devised something quite different: an open, airy survey with lots of room for roaming, some chairs for sitting and two conjoined, markedly different halves focusing on Ms. Lawler’s activities with pictures and then words. The first half is dominated by photographs in various shapes and guises, including mural-size images. The second, which seems almost empty at first, contains two large vitrines of ephemera that show off Ms. Lawler’s gifts for graphic design and for language, with displays of everything from matchbook covers and napkins to exhibition announcements and art books that she photo-edited. …

Ms. Lawler’s images have multiple lives, exposing the ceaseless flexibility of photographs. Constantly recycled, they go from framed and portable to paperweights to the wall-covering murals of her “adjusted to fit” series. In the show’s first half, four “adjusted” photos cover immense, staggered walls, looming like ocean liners sliding out of their docks. Their monumentality thrills but also chides the art world for its embrace of spectacle and the overblown. …

It is hard to know if these words [“Why Pictures Now”] proclaim the power, or the worthlessness, of pictures. Probably both. Either way, behind Ms. Lawler’s shape-shifting works lies a poetic intelligence, a political sharpness and an understanding of the artwork as a form of value, but also as a source and an object of love.”

.
Roberta Smith. “Louise Lawler’s Stealth Aesthetic (and Muted Aura),” on the New York Times website May 11, 2017 [Online] Cited 29/12/2021

 

 

 

 

Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW | MoMA LIVE

Join us for a conversation with MoMA director Glenn Lowry and curator Roxana Marcoci on the opening of the exhibition, Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW. The first New York museum survey of the work of American artist Louise Lawler, this exhibition is an exploration of her creative output, which has inspired fellow artists and cultural thinkers alike for the past four decades.

Among the most intriguing aspects of Lawler’s working process is her continuous re-presentation, reframing, or restaging in the present, a strategy through which she revisits her own images by transferring them to different formats – from photographs to paperweights, tracings, and works she calls “adjusted to fit” (images stretched or expanded to fit the location of their display). Lawler’s critical strategies of reformatting existing content not only suggest the idea that pictures can have more than one life, but underpin the intentional, relational character of her farsighted art.

 

 

 

Louise Lawler | HOW TO SEE the artist with MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci

Can the exact same image have a completely different meaning if its title or medium is changed? Explore the work of one of today’s most influential female artists, Louise Lawler, in the new exhibition Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW.

MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci gives us a tour of the exhibition that charts Lawler’s continuous re-presentation, reframing, or restaging of the present, a strategy through which Lawler revisits her own images by transferring them to different formats – from photographs to paperweights, tracings, and works she calls “adjusted to fit” (images stretched or expanded to fit the location of their display).

 

 

 

Louise Lawler’s Birdcalls at MoMA

You’re not hearing things. For the duration of the Louise Lawler exhibition, a stroll through our Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden places you squarely in the middle of Birdcalls, the artist’s defiant, humorous critique of the art world’s captivation with male artists. Find out what exhibition inspired Lawler’s sole sound piece with MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci.

 

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW' at The Museum of Modern Art

 

Installation views of Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW
© 2017 The Museum of Modern Art
Photos: Martin Seck

 

 

Lawler’s study of art in its commercial context will be complemented by the display of a work by a younger artist that highlights a different kind of economy. The sculpture New York State Unified Court System (top photo), by artist Cameron Rowland, included in the artist’s knockout exhibition at Artists Space this winter, takes the form of four oak benches used in courtrooms and built using prison labour.

Brian Boucher. “MoMA Plans a Giant Louise Lawler Retrospective for 2017,” on the Artnet website June 23, 2016 [Online] Cited 29/12/2021

 

Louise Lawler. 'Why Pictures Now' 1981

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Why Pictures Now
1981
Gelatin silver print
3 x 6” (7.6 x 15.2cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired with support from Nathalie and Jean-Daniel Cohen in honour of Roxana Marcoci
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Why Pictures Now (traced)' 1981/2013

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Why Pictures Now (traced)
1981/2013
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. '(Roy Lichtenstein and Other Artists) Black' 1982

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
(Roy Lichtenstein and Other Artists) Black
1982
Silver dye bleach print
28 ½ x 37 ¼” (72.4 x 94.6cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. '(Andy Warhol and Other Artists) Tulip' 1982

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
(Andy Warhol and Other Artists) Tulip
1982
Silver dye bleach print
38 ½ x 60 ½” (97.8 x 153.7cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Monogram' 1984

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Monogram
1984
Silver dye bleach print
39 1/2 × 28″ (100.3 × 71.1cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

 

“Swimming among the show’s images are words and wordplay that can have a few layers. One of Ms. Lawler’s better-known photographs shows Jasper Johns’s creamy “White Flag” (1955) hanging above a bed with an equally creamy monogrammed satin spread. The image is sensibly titled “Monogram,” all the more fittingly since “Monogram” is also the title of one of Robert Rauschenberg’s combines from the 1950s, when he and Mr. Johns were lovers.

Roberta Smith. “Louise Lawler’s Stealth Aesthetic (and Muted Aura),” on the New York Times website May 11, 2017 [Online] Cited 29/12/2021

 

Louise Lawler. 'Untitled, 1950-51' 1987

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Untitled, 1950-51
1987
Silver dye bleach print
29 3/8 × 39 1/4″ (74.6 × 99.7cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Does Andy Warhol Make You Cry?' 1988

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Does Andy Warhol Make You Cry?
1988
Silver dye bleach print with text on Plexiglass wall label
Image (shown): 27 ¼ x 39” (69.2 x 99.1cm)
Label: 4 3/8 x 6 3/8 in. (11.1 x 16.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Gabriella de Ferrari in honour of Karen Davidson
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

 

“Lawler’s suspicion of the image is nothing new. In WHY PICTURES NOW, her career survey currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art, the Pictures Generation artist is again and again engaged in taking the familiar – a famous work of art, different forms of banal ephemera – and making it abnormal through clever subversion. There is a timid jostling of her male peers, a slight nudge off the pedestal of reverence, which is evident in much of her work and makes it eminently appealing – even if some of its institutional critique is diminished under the museum’s glow of prestige. But what is often obscured in Lawler’s work is the way that it’s not only questioning the apparatus of making and displaying art, but also its reception – the formalised way that we, the spectators, are looking.”

.
Craig Hubert. “Louise Lawler Screens a Movie with No Images,” on the Hyperallergic website May 5, 2017 [Online] Cited 29/12/2021

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art announces Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW, the first major survey in New York of the artist Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947). Spanning the 40-year creative output of one of the most influential artists working in the fields of image production and institutional critique, the exhibition will be on view from April 30 to July 30, 2017, in The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery, sixth floor, along with one sound work, Birdcalls (1972-81), which will be installed in The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The exhibition takes its title from one of Lawler’s most iconic works, Why Pictures Now (1982), a black-and-white photograph showing a matchbook propped up in an ashtray. Reminiscent of an advertising photograph or a film noir still, it asks the viewer to consider why the work takes the form of a picture, and why the artist is making pictures at this moment. Lawler came of age as part of the Pictures Generation, a loosely knit, highly independent group of artists named for an influential exhibition, Pictures, organised in 1977 by art historian Douglas Crimp at Artists Space in New York. These artists used photography and appropriation-driven strategies to examine the functions and codes of representation. Lawler’s signature style was established in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when she began taking pictures of other artists’ works displayed in collectors’ homes, museums, storage spaces, and auction houses to question the value, meaning, and use of art. WHY PICTURES NOW is organised by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, with Kelly Sidley, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography.

Lawler’s work offers a defiant, witty, and sustained feminist analysis of the strategies that inform art’s production and reception. In 1971, she was invited to assist several artists for independent curator Willoughby Sharp’s Pier 18, an exhibition that featured 27 male artists on an abandoned pier on the Hudson River. While walking home after leaving the pier one evening, Lawler began to mimic birdlike sounds in order to ward off any unwanted interactions, chanting “Willoughby! Willoughby!” This parody evolved into Birdcalls, a seven-minute audio piece in which Lawler squawks, chirps, and twitters the names of famous male artists, from Vito Acconci to Lawrence Weiner – an astute critique of the name recognition enjoyed by her male contemporaries. Birdcalls thematises Lawler’s strategy of resistance to the authoritative and the patronymic proper name. This work will be played throughout the course of the exhibition, in MoMA’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden.

An intriguing aspect of Lawler’s practice is her process of continuous re-presentation, reframing, or restaging in the present: she revisits her own work by transferring her images to different formats, from a photograph to a tracing, and to works that she calls “adjusted to fit.” The “tracings” are large-format black-and-white line versions of her photographs that eliminate colour and detail, functioning instead as “ghosts” of the originals. “Adjusted to fit” images are stretched or expanded to fit the location of their display, not only suggesting the idea that pictures can have more than one life, but also underpinning the intentional, relational character of Lawler’s farsighted art.

The exhibition consists of a sequence of mural-scale, “adjusted to fit” images set in dynamic relation to non-linear groupings of photographs – of collectors’ homes, auction houses, and museum installations – distinctive of Lawler’s conceptual exercises. Additionally, a deceptively empty gallery presents black-and-white tracings of Lawler’s photographs that have been printed on vinyl and mounted directly on the wall. A display of the artist’s ephemera from the 1970s to today highlights the feminist and performative undercurrents of her art. Lawler’s long history of artistic collaborations, with Sherrie Levine, Allan McCollum, Andrea Fraser, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Christopher d’Arcangelo, Peter Nadin, and Lawrence Weiner, among others, come full circle in the ephemera on display. Furthermore, on the platform outside the gallery space, two “adjusted to fit” images are shown together with Cameron Rowland’s work New York State Unified Court System. Comprised of four oak courtroom benches, it was included in Rowland’s exhibition 91020000, presented at Artists Space in 2016. Lawler and Rowland share an interest in examining the imbalances of exploitative economies, the use value and exchange value of art, the politics of space, and the interplay of power between human relations and larger institutional structures, including markets, museums, prisons, and governments. Additionally, Andrea Fraser will perform her work May I Help You? in the exhibition space. In foregrounding her work’s relationship to the economies of collaboration and exchange, Lawler shifts focus from the individual picture to the broader history of art. Her careful attention to artistic contexts, modes of presentation, and viewers’ receptions generates witty, affective situations that contribute to institutional transformation.

Press release from MoMA

 

Louise Lawler. 'Untitled (Salon Hodler)' 1992

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Untitled (Salon Hodler)
1992
Paperweight (silver dye bleach print, crystal, felt) with text on wall
Paperweight: 2″ (5.1cm) high, 3 1/2″ (8.9cm) diam.
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Salon Hodler (traced)' 1992/1993/2013

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Salon Hodler (traced)
1992/1993/2013
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Sentimental' 1999/2000

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Sentimental
1999/2000
Silver dye bleach print
40 3/4 x 46 3/4 inches (103.5 x 118.7cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'WAR IS TERROR' 2001/2003

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
WAR IS TERROR
2001/2003
Silver dye bleach print
30 × 25 3/4″ (76.2 × 65.4cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Nude' 2002/2003

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Nude
2002/2003
Silver dye bleach print
59 1/2 × 47 1/2 inches (151.1 × 120.7cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'White Gloves' 2002/2004

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
White Gloves
2002/2004
Silver dye bleach print
29 × 27 1/2 inches (73.7 × 69.9cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
© 2017 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Life After 1945 (Faces)' 2006/2007

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Life After 1945 (Faces)
2006/2007
Silver dye bleach print
40 x 33 1/4 inches (101.6 x 84.5cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Triangle (adjusted to fit)' 2008/2009/2011

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Triangle (adjusted to fit)
2008/2009/2011
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'No Drones' 2010/2011

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
No Drones
2010/2011
Chromogenic colour print
29 1/4 x 19 3/4 inches (74.3 x 50.2cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Marie +270' 2010/2012

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Marie +270
2010/2012
Chromogenic colour print
59 x 45 1/2 inches (149.9 x 115.6cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Ricki Gail Conway
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Pollock and Tureen (traced)' 1984/2013

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Pollock and Tureen (traced)
1984/2013
Dimensions variable
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Endowment
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

 

One of her most famous images, “Pollock and Tureen” (1984), shows a fragment of a painting by Jackson Pollock above an antique soup tureen. In the photograph, the colour relationships are clear, offering insight into the choices of the collectors who “arranged” (a favourite word of Lawler’s) the scene. The work is about class, capitalism, and domesticity, not to mention reality and fiction. But when all the site-specific context is removed [in the tracing] … all we’re left with is contemplating the original Lawler artwork’s role in art history and the market.

In Benjamin Buchloh’s essay for Lawler’s retrospective last year at the Museum Ludwig, one of his most cogent points is about the nature of melancholy in her original photographs. “[H]er images,” he writes, “leave equally little doubt that there is hardly a more melancholic space than that of a fulfilled and seemingly satisfied utopian aspiration, one that has, however, not quite lived up to the originary promises … ”

Hrag Vartanian. “The Values of Louise Lawler,” on the Hypoallergic website July 21, 2014 [Online] Cited 29/12/2021

 

Louise Lawler. 'Hand on Her Back (traced)' 1997/1998/2013

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Hand on Her Back (traced)
1997/1998/2013
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Evening Sale' 2010/2015

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Evening Sale
2010/2015
Silver dye bleach print
50 x 36 5/8 inches (127 x 93cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Big (adjusted to fit)' 2002/2003/2016

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Big (adjusted to fit)
2002/2003/2016
Dimensions variable
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of The Modern Women’s Fund and The Contemporary Arts Council
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Still Life (Candle) (adjusted to fit)' 2003/2016

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Still Life (Candle) (adjusted to fit)
2003/2016
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber Inc. (adjusted to fit)' 1982/2016

 

Louise Lawler (American, b. 1947)
Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber Inc. (adjusted to fit)
1982/2016
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

 

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28
Dec
16

Exhibition: ‘Intersections: Photographs and Videos from the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 29th May 2016 – 2nd January 2017

Curators: Sarah Greenough, senior curator, department of photographs, and Philip Brookman, consulting curator, department of photographs, both National Gallery of Art, are the exhibition curators.

 

 

Louis Stettner. 'Times Square, New York City' 1952-1954

 

Louis Stettner (American, 1922-2016)
Times Square, New York City
1952-1954
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 42.1 x 27.5cm (16 9/16 x 10 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

The last posting of a fruitful year for Art Blart. I wish all the readers of Art Blart a happy and safe New Year!

The exhibition is organised around five themes – movement, sequence, narrative, studio, and identity – found in the work of Muybridge and Stieglitz, themes then developed in the work of other artists. While there is some interesting work in the posting, the conceptual rationale and stand alone nature of the themes and the work within them is a curatorial ordering of ideas that, in reality, cannot be contained within any one boundary, the single point of view.

Movement can be contained in sequences; narrative can be unfolded in a sequence (as in the work of Duane Michals); narrative and identity have a complex association which can also be told through studio work (eg. Gregory Crewdson), etc… What does Roger Mayne’s Goalie, Street Football, Brindley Road (1956, below) not have to do with identity, the young lad with his dirty hands, playing in his socks, in a poverty stricken area of London; why has Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Oscar Wilde (1999, below) been included in the studio section when it has much more to do with the construction of identity through photography – “Triply removing his portrait from reality – from Oscar Wilde himself to a portrait photograph to a wax sculpture and back to a photograph” – which confounds our expectations of the nature of photography. Photography is nefariously unstable in its depiction of an always, constructed reality, through representation(s) which reject simple causality.

To isolate and embolden the centre is to disclaim and disavow the periphery, work which crosses boundaries, is multifaceted and multitudinous; work which forms a nexus for networks of association beyond borders, beyond de/lineation – the line from here to there. The self-contained themes within this exhibition are purely illusory.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

“We can no longer accept that the identity of a man can be adequately established by preserving and fixing what he looks like from a single viewpoint in one place.”

.
John Berger. “No More Portraits,” in New Society August 1967

 

 

“Intersections: Photographs and Videos from the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art explores the connections between the two newly joined photography collections. On view from May 29, 2016, through January 2, 2017, the exhibition is organised around themes found in the work of the two pioneers of each collection: Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) and Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946). Inspired by these two seminal artists, Intersections brings together more than 100 highlights of the recently merged collections by a range of artists from the 1840s to today.

Just as the nearly 700 photographs from Muybridge’s groundbreaking publication Animal Locomotion, acquired by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1887, became the foundation for the institution’s early interest in photography, the Key Set of more than 1,600 works by Stieglitz, donated by Georgia O’Keeffe and the Alfred Stieglitz Estate, launched the photography collection at the National Gallery of Art in 1949.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Art

 

Exhibition highlights

The exhibition is organised around five themes – movement, sequence, narrative, studio, and identity – found in the work of Muybridge and Stieglitz.

 

Movement

Works by Muybridge, who is best known for creating photographic technologies to stop and record motion, anchor the opening section devoted to movement. Photographs by Berenice Abbott and Harold Eugene Edgerton, which study how objects move through space, are included, as are works by Roger Mayne, Alexey Brodovitch, and other who employed the camera to isolate an instant from the flux of time.

 

Wall text

Intersections wall text

 

Eadweard Muybridge. 'Horses. Running. Phyrne L. No. 40, from The Attitudes of Animals in Motion' 1879

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904)
Horses. Running. Phyrne L. No. 40, from The Attitudes of Animals in Motion
1879
Albumen print
Image: 16 x 22.4cm (6 5/16 x 8 13/16 in.)
Sheet: 25.7 x 32.4cm (10 1/8 x 12 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon

 

 

In order to analyse the movement of racehorses, farm animals, and acrobats, Muybridge pioneered new and innovative ways to stop motion with photography. In 1878, he started making pictures at railroad magnate Leland Stanford’s horse farm in Palo Alto, California, where he developed an electronic shutter that enabled exposures as fast as one-thousandth of a second. In this print from Muybridge’s 1881 album The Attitudes of Animals in Motion, Stanford’s prized racehorse Phryne L is shown running in a sequential grid of pictures made by 24 different cameras with electromagnetic shutters tripped by wires as the animal ran across the track. These pictures are now considered a critical step in the development of cinema.

 

Eadweard Muybridge. 'Internegative for Horses. Trotting. Abe Edgington. No. 28, from The Attitudes of Animals in Motion' 1878

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904)
Internegative for Horses. Trotting. Abe Edgington. No. 28, from The Attitudes of Animals in Motion
1878
Collodion negative
Overall (glass plate): 15.3 x 25.4cm (6 x 10 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

This glass negative shows the sequence of Leland Stanford’s horse Abe Edgington trotting across a racetrack in Palo Alto, California – a revolutionary record of the changes in the horse’s gait in about one second. Muybridge composed the negative from photographs made by eight different cameras lined up to capture the horse’s movements. Used to print the whole sequence together onto albumen paper, this internegative served as an intermediary step in the production of Muybridge’s 1881 album The Attitudes of Animals in Motion.

 

Étienne Jules Marey. 'Chronophotograph of a Man on a Bicycle' c. 1885-1890

 

Étienne Jules Marey (French, 1830-1904)
Chronophotograph of a Man on a Bicycle
c. 1885-1890
Glass lantern slide
Image: 4 x 7.5cm (1 9/16 x 2 15/16 in.)
Plate: 8.8 x 10.2cm (3 7/16 x 4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and David Robinson

 

 

A scientist and physiologist, Marey became fascinated with movement in the 1870s. Unlike Muybridge, who had already made separate pictures of animals in motion, Marey developed in 1882 a means to record several phases of movement onto one photographic plate using a rotating shutter with slots cut into it. He called this process “chronophotography,” meaning photography of time. His photographs, which he published in books and showed in lantern slide presentations, influenced 20th-century cubist, futurist, and Dada artists who examined the interdependence of time and space.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot. 'The Boulevards of Paris' 1843

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
The Boulevards of Paris
1843
Salted paper print
Image: 16.6 × 17.1cm (6 9/16 × 6 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 19 × 23.2cm (7 1/2 × 9 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, New Century Fund

 

 

As soon as Talbot announced his invention of photography in 1839, he realised that its ability to freeze time enabled him to present the visual spectacle of the world in an entirely new way. By capturing something as mundane as a fleeting moment on a busy street, he could transform life into art, creating a picture that could be savoured long after the event had transpired.

 

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson. 'Colinton Manse and weir, with part of the old mill on the right' 1843-1847

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848)
Colinton Manse and weir, with part of the old mill on the right
1843-1847
Salted paper print
Image: 20.7 x 14.6cm (8 1/8 x 5 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Fund

 

 

In 1843, only four years after Talbot announced his negative / positive process of photography, painter David Octavius Hill teamed up with engineer Robert Adamson. Working in Scotland, they created important early portraits of the local populace and photographed Scottish architecture, rustic landscapes, and city scenes. Today a suburb southwest of Edinburgh, 19th-century Colinton was a mill town beside a river known as the Water of Leith. Because of the long exposure time required to make this photograph, the water rushing over a small dam appears as a glassy blur.

 

Thomas Annan. 'Old Vennel, Off High Street' 1868-1871

 

Thomas Annan (Scottish, 1829-1887)
Old Vennel, Off High Street
1868-1871
Carbon print
Image: 26.9 x 22.3cm (10 9/16 x 8 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 50.8 x 37.9cm (20 x 14 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

In 1868, Glasgow’s City Improvements Trust hired Annan to photograph the “old closes and streets of Glasgow” before the city’s tenements were demolished. Annan’s pictures constitute one of the first commissioned photographic records of living conditions in urban slums. The collodion process Annan used to make his large, glass negatives required a long exposure time. In the dim light of this narrow passage, it was impossible for the photographer to stop the motion of the restless children, who appear as ghostly blurs moving barefoot across the cobblestones.

 

Thomas Annan. 'Old Vennel, Off High Street' 1868-1871 (detail)

 

Thomas Annan (Scottish, 1829-1887)
Old Vennel, Off High Street (detail)
1868-1871
Carbon print
Image: 26.9 x 22.3cm (10 9/16 x 8 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 50.8 x 37.9cm (20 x 14 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Going to the Post, Morris Park' 1904

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Going to the Post, Morris Park
1904
Photogravure
Image: 30.8 x 26.4cm (12 1/8 x 10 3/8 in.)
Sheet: 38.5 x 30.3cm (15 3/16 x 11 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

 

In the 1880s and 1890s, improvements in photographic processes enabled manufacturers to produce small, handheld cameras that did not need to be mounted on tripods. Faster film and shutter speeds also allowed practitioners to capture rapidly moving objects. Stieglitz was one of the first fine art photographers to exploit the aesthetic potential of these new cameras and films. Around the turn of the century, he made many photographs of rapidly moving trains, horse-drawn carriages, and racetracks that capture the pace of the increasingly modern city.

 

Harold Eugene Edgerton. 'Wes Fesler Kicking a Football' 1934

 

Harold Eugene Edgerton (American, 1903-1990)
Wes Fesler Kicking a Football
1934
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11 1/2 x 9 5/8 in.
Sheet: 13 15/16 x 11 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase with the aid of funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C., a Federal Agency, and The Polaroid Corporation)

 

 

A professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Edgerton in the early 1930s invited the stroboscope, a tube filled with gas that produced high-intensity bursts of light at regular and very brief intervals. He used it to illuminate objects in motion so that they could be captured by a camera. At first he was hired by industrial clients to reveal flaws in their production of materials, but by the mid-1930s he began to photography everyday events… Edgerton captured phenomena moving too fast for the naked eye to see, and revealed the beauty of people and objects in motion.

 

Alexey Brodovitch. 'Untitled from "Ballet" series' 1938

 

Alexey Brodovitch (American born Russia, 1898-1971)
Untitled from “Ballet” series
1938
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 20.4 x 27.5cm (8 1/16 x 10 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Diana and Mallory Walker Fund

 

 

A graphic artist, Russian-born Brodovitch moved to the United States from Paris in 1930. Known for his innovative use of photographs, illustrations, and type on the printed page, he became art director for Harper’s Bazaar in 1934, and photographed the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo during their American tours from 1935 to 1939. Using a small-format, 35 mm camera, Brodovitch worked in the backstage shadows and glaring light of the theatre to produce a series of rough, grainy pictures that convey the drama and action of the performance. This photograph employs figures in motion, a narrow field of focus, and high-contrast effects to express the stylised movements of Léonide Massine’s 1938 choreography for Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

 

Harry Callahan. 'Detroit' 1943

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Detroit
c. 1943
Dye imbibition print, printed c. 1980
Overall (image): 18 x 26.7cm (7 1/16 x 10 1/2 in.)
Sheet: 27.31 x 36.83cm (10 3/4 x 14 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Callahan Family

 

Harry Callahan. 'Camera Movement on Neon Lights at Night' 1946

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Camera Movement on Neon Lights at Night
1946
Dye imbibition print, printed 1979
Image: 8 3/4 x 13 5/8 in.
Sheet: 10 3/8 x 13 15/16 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Richard W. and Susan R. Gessner)

 

Frank Horvat. 'Paris, Gare Saint-Lazare' 1959

 

Frank Horvat (Italian, 1928-2020)
Paris, Gare Saint-Lazare
1959
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 39.3 x 26.2cm (15 1/2 x 10 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

Gare Saint-Lazare is one of the principal railway stations in Paris. Because of its industrial appearance, steaming locomotives, and teeming crowds, it was a frequent subject for 19th-century French painters – including Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, and Gustave Caillebotte – who used it to express the vitality of modern life. 20th-century artists such as Horvat also depicted it to address the pace and anonymity that defined their time. Using a telephoto lens and long exposure, he captured the rushing movement of travellers scattered beneath giant destination signs.