Posts Tagged ‘Diane Arbus

03
Apr
16

Exhibition: ‘The world is beautiful: photographs from the collection’ at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Exhibition dates: 4th December 2015 – 10th April 2016

 

Despite a focus on the camera’s relationship to the beauty and pure form of the modern world – “the attraction and charm of the surface” – these photographs are more than just being skin deep. In their very straightforwardness the photographs propose a “rigorous sensitivity to form revealed patterns of beauty and order in the natural and man-made alike.” But more than the portrayal of something we would not see if it were not for the eye of the photographer, the lens of the camera, the speed of the film, the sensitivity of the paper, the design of the architect, the genetics of nature … is the mystery of life itself.

Modernist structures and mass-produced objects in plants and animals can never beat a good mystery. Just look at Man Ray’s Woman with closed eyes (c. 1928, below) or the look in the eyes of Robert Frank’s son, Pablo. You can never pin that down. While form may be beauty, mystery will always be beautiful.

Marcus

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Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

 

“German photographer Albert Renger-Patzsch was a pioneering figure in the New Objectivity movement, which sought to engage with the world as clearly and precisely as possible.

Rejecting the sentimentality and idealism of a previous generation, Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) emerged as a tendency in German art, architecture and literature in the 1920s. Applying this attitude to the field of photography, Renger-Patzsch espoused the camera’s ability to produce a faithful recording of the world. ‘There must be an increase in the joy one takes in an object, and the photographer should be fully conscious of the splendid fidelity of reproduction made possible by his technique’, he wrote.

This selection reflects the range of subjects that Renger-Patzsch returned to throughout his career. It includes his early wildlife and botanical studies, images of traditional craftsmen, formal studies of mechanical equipment, commercial still lifes, and landscape and architectural studies. His images of the Ruhr region, where he moved in 1928, document the industrialisation of the area in almost encyclopaedic detail. All of his work demonstrates his sustained interest in the camera’s relationship to the beauty and complexity of the modern world.

In 1928 Renger-Patzsch published The World is Beautiful, a collection of one hundred photographs whose rigorous sensitivity to form revealed patterns of beauty and order in the natural and man-made alike. Embodying a new, distinctly modern way of looking at the world, the book established Renger-Patzsch as one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century.”

Text by Emma Lewis on the Tate website

 

The world is beautiful is an exhibition of photographs taken over the last 100 years from the National Gallery of Australia’s magnificent photography collection, including work by Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Max Dupain, Bill Henson, Robert Mapplethorpe, Man Ray, Cindy Sherman and many more.

It draws its title from one of the twentieth-century’s great photographic moments, the publication of Albert Renger-Patzsch’s book The world is beautiful in 1928. Renger-Patzsch’s approach embodied his belief that ‘one should surely proceed from the essence of the object and attempt to represent it with photographic means alone’.

Inspired by this confidence in the medium, the exhibition looks at the way the camera interacts with things in the world. One of photography’s fundamental attributes is its capacity to adopt a range of relationships with its subject, based on the camera’s physical proximity to it. Indeed, one of the most basic decisions that a photographer makes is simply where he or she places the camera. The pictures in this exhibition literally take you on a photographic trip, from interior worlds and microscopic detail to the cosmic: from near to far away.

Together, these photographs capture some of the delight photographers take in turning their cameras on the world and re-imaging it, making it beautiful through the power of their vision and their capacity to help us see the world in new ways.”

Text from the National Gallery of Australia website

 

Near

Close up, the world can be surprising. There is an undeniable intensity and focus that comes with getting up close to people and objects. It is rude to stare, but photography has no such scruples.

Pioneers of the medium attempted to photograph organic forms through a microscope, making once-hidden worlds accessible. The pleasure photographers take in getting up close to their subject has followed the medium’s progress. This was especially the case during the twentieth century, when advances in photographic technology and profound shifts in our relationship to space brought about by events such as war often turned our attention away from the outside world.

For many photographers, the camera’s capacity to subject people and objects to close scrutiny has provided a way of paring back vision to its essence, to view the world unencumbered by emotion and sentiment. For others, getting up close is not just about physical proximity; it is also about psychological and emotional states that are otherwise difficult to represent. Experiences such as intimacy, love and emotional connection, as well as disquiet, anxiety and hostility, can all be suggested through the use of the close-up. Photographers have also used it literally to turn inwards, escaping into the imagination to create dreamworlds. The camera-eye really can see what the human eye cannot. (Text from the National Gallery of Australia website)

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch. 'Mantelpavian [Hamadryas Baboon]' c. 1925

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch
Mantelpavian [Hamadryas Baboon]
c. 1925
Gelatin silver photograph
23.8 x 16.8 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

“In photography one should surely proceed from the essence of the object and attempt to represent it with photographic terms alone.” Albert Renger-Patzsch

Renger-Patzsch’s primary interest was in the object as a document, removed from its usual context and unencumbered with sentiment. Die Welt ist schön [The world is beautiful], published in Munich in 1928, is one of the great photographic books in the history of photography and its influence across the world was profound. It is an astounding study of the world, celebrating beauty wherever the photographer found it – in modernist structures and mass-produced objects or in plants and animals. The connection and continuity of industry to the natural world is conveyed by emphasising underlying structural and formal similarities. The Gallery has a major holding of works by Renger-Patzsch, including a copy of Die Welt ist schön and 121 vintage prints, most of which were reproduced in the book.

Renger-Patzsch was always firmly committed to the principle of the photograph as a document or record of an object. While the title for his most famous contribution to photography came from his publisher, he wanted his now-iconic 1928 book Die Welt ist schön (The world is beautiful) to be titled simply Die Dinge (Things). In 1937 he wrote that the images in his book, ‘consciously portray the attraction and charm of the surface’. Indeed, the power of these pictures resides in their straightforwardness. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Edward Weston (USA 1886-1956) 'Guadalupe de Rivera, Mexico' 1924

 

Edward Weston (United States of America 1886 – 1958)
No title (Guadalupe, Mexico, 1924): from “Edward Weston fiftieth anniversary portfolio 1902-1952”.
1924
Gelatin silver photograph
20.7 h x 17.8 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1981

 

 

In 1923 Weston travelled from San Francisco to Mexico City with his son, Chandler and his model and lover, Tina Modotti. The photographs he made there represented a startling, revolutionary breakthrough. Everything got stripped down to its essence, with objects isolated against neutral backgrounds. For these heroic head shots, he moved out of the studio, photographing in direct sunlight, from below and with a hand-held camera. They are monumental but still full of life: Weston was excited by the idea of capturing momentary expressions, in people he found ‘intense and dramatic’. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Man Ray (United States of America 1890 - France 1976) 'No title (Woman with closed eyes)' c. 1928

 

Man Ray (United States of America 1890 – France 1976)
No title (Woman with closed eyes)
c. 1928
Gelatin silver photograph
Not signed, not dated. Stamp, verso, l.r., “Man Ray / 81 bis. Rue / Campagne Premiere / Paris / XIV”.
Image 8.9 h x 12.8 w cm sheet 8.9 h x 12.8 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1984

 

Robert Frank. 'Pablo' 1959

 

Robert Frank (Switzerland born 1924 – emigrated to United States 1947)
Pablo
1959
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 20.8 h x 31.0 w cm sheet 27.0 h x 35.4 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

 

Frank set out on a two-year road trip across the States in 1955. The images he made of race and class divisions, poverty, alienated youth and loneliness expose America’s dark soul. Others, such as this haunting image of his son, Pablo, were more personal. A selection appeared in The Americans, published in Paris in 1958 and in the States the following year. Many saw it as a bitter indictment of the American Dream, others saw an evocative, melancholic vision of humanity that is deeply moving. As Jack Kerouac commented in his introduction to the American edition, Frank ‘sucked a sad, sweet, poem out of America’. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Vale Street' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems (Australia 1949 – 1980)
Vale Street
1975
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 20.2 h x 30.3 w cm sheet 40.5 h x 50.4 w cm
Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

“I try to reveal something about people, because they are so separate, so isolated, maybe it’s a way of bringing people together I don’t want to exploit people. I care about them.”

Carol Jerrems, 1977

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Carol Jerrems became prominent in the 1970s as part of a new wave of young photographers. Influenced by the counter-culture values of the 1960s, they used art to comment on social issues and engender social change. Jerrems photographed associates, actors and musicians, always collaborating with her subjects, thereby declaring her presence as the photographer. Vale Street raises interesting questions about what is artifice and what is real in photography. She deliberately set up this image, employing her aspiring actress friend and two young men from her art classes at Heidelberg Technical School. Vale Street has achieved an iconic status in Australian photography; the depiction of a confident young woman taking on the world is an unforgettable one. It is an intimate group portrait that is at once bold and vulnerable. In 1975 it was thought to be an affirmation of free love and sexual licence. The image also appears to be about liberation from society’s norms and taboos – ‘we are all three bare-chested, we have tattoos and so what?’

The implication that this scene is perfectly natural is reinforced by locating the figures in a landscape. The young woman is strong and unafraid of the judgement of the viewer. The necklace around her neck is an ankh – a symbol of the new spiritualty of the Age of Aquarius and a re-affirmation of the ancient powers of women.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Nude lying on a love seat' c. 1936

 

Paul Outerbridge (United States of America 1896 – 1958; Paris 1925-28, Berlin and London 1928)
Nude lying on a love seat
c. 1936
Carbro colour photograph
30.2 h x 41.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

 

Like the Australian-born Anton Bruehl, Paul Outerbridge studied at the Clarence White School of Photography in New York. White was keen to see photography establish itself as a practical art that could be used in the service of the rapidly expanding picture magazine industry. Within a year of enrolling in the school, Outerbridge’s work was appearing in Vogue and Vanity Fair. During his lifetime, Outerbridge was known for his commercial work, particularly his elegant, stylish still-life compositions which show the influence of earlier studies in painting. He was also admired for the excellence of his pioneering colour work, which was achieved by means of a complicated tri-colour carbro process.

Much of Outerbridge’s fame now rests on work that he made following more private obsessions. His fetishistic nude photographs of women are influenced primarily by eighteenth-century French painters such as Ingres. Although the depiction of nudes was a genre pursued from the inception of photography, Outerbridge’s interest in breaking down taboos resulted in this material, if known at all, being passed over or vilified in his lifetime. Outerbridge sought to express what he described as an ‘inner craving for perfection and beauty’ through these often mysterious, languid and richly toned images. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014)

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #92' 1981

 

Cindy Sherman (United States of America born 1954)
Untitled #92
1981
Type C colour photograph
61.5 h x 123.4 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1983

 

 

This is one of 12 Centerfolds made by Sherman in 1981. The Centerfolds present Sherman posing in a range of situations, each suggesting heightened emotional states and violent narratives; these associations are augmented by the uncomfortably tight framing and the panoramic format used by Sherman across the series. Initially commissioned for the art magazine Artforum, the Centerfolds were never published because they were deemed, with their apparently voyeuristic points of view, to reaffirm misogynist views of women. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

William Eggleston (American, born 1939) 'Untitled (Greenwood, Mississippi)' 1980

 

William Eggleston (United States of America born 1939)
Greenwood, Mississippi
(1973) prtd 1979
Dye transfer colour photograph
Image 29.5 h x 45.4 w cm sheet 40.2 h x 50.8 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

 

With its intense red, Eggleston’s picture of the spare room in a friend’s home is one of the most iconic of all colour photographs. Often called The red room, this photograph was intended to be shocking: Eggleston described the effect of the colour as like ‘red blood that is wet on the wall’. But the radicalness of the picture is not just in its juicy (and impossible to reproduce) redness; it is also found in the strange view it provides of a domestic interior, one that Eggleston has described as a ‘fly’s eye view’. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Magnolia Blossom' 1925

 

Imogen Cunningham (United States of America 1883 – 1976)
Magnolia Blossom
1925
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 17.1 h x 34.6 w cm mount 38.2 h x 50.7 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1978

 

 

During the 1920s, raising three young sons, Cunningham began to focus on her immediate surroundings. This restricted environment encouraged Cunningham to develop a new way of working, as she began to place her camera closer to the subject: to zebras on a trip to the zoo, to snakes brought to her by her sons, and perhaps most famously to the magnolia blossoms and calla lilies she grew in her garden. Observing what she termed the ‘paradox of expansion via reduction’, the intensity and focus attendant to this way of seeing flooded her work with sensuality and reductive power. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Olive Cotton. 'Skeleton Leaf' 1964

 

Olive Cotton (Australia 1911 – 2003)
Skeleton leaf
1964
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 50.4 h x 40.8 w cm sheet 57.8 h x 47.6 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1987

 

 

This leaf skeleton – a leaf that has had its pulp removed with heat and soda – was probably photographed in front of a window in Cotton’s home near Cowra, NSW. Since the 1930s Cotton had been drawn to the close study of nature, and many of her best photographs feature close-ups of flowers, tufts of grass and foliage. This photograph is notable because it was taken in the studio, and reflects the austerity and simplicity that pervaded Cotton’s work in the decades after the Second World War. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Lee Friedlander (United States of America born 1934) 'Nashville, 1963' 1963

 

Lee Friedlander (United States of America born 1934)
Nashville, 1963
1963
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 28.2 h x 18.7 w cm sheet 35.3 h x 27.8 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1981

 

 

Middle distance

The further away we move from a subject, the more it and its story open up to us. While the close-up or compressed view tends to be very frontal (the camera presses up against the subject), the defining characteristic of much mid-century photography was its highly mobile relationship to space: its extraordinary capacity to survey and to organise the world.

The space between the camera and its subject can suggest impartiality and detachment. Documentary photographers and photojournalists, for example, open their cameras up to their subjects, as if to ‘let them speak’. But the depiction of the space between the camera and its subject, and the way that it is rendered through the camera’s depth of field, can also reflect decision making on the part of the photographer. By adjusting the camera’s settings, and thus choosing to render part of the subject in focus, the photographer can direct our focus and attention to certain parts of an image. In this way, photographers put forward an argument based on their world view. Photography can change the way we think about the world. (Text from the National Gallery of Australia website)

 

Ilse Bing. 'Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1931' 1931

 

Ilse Bing (Germany 1899 – United States of America 1998; France 1930-1941 United States from 1941)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1931
Gelatin silver photograph
Signed and dated recto, l.r., pen and ink “Ilse Bing/ 1931”
Image 22.3 h x 28.2 w cm sheet 22.3 h x 28.2 w cm mount 35.0 h x 41.8 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1989

 

 

Bing took up photography in 1928 and quickly developed a reputation as a photojournalist and photographer of modernist architecture. Inspired by an exhibition of modern photography and the work of Paris-based photographer Florence Henri, Bing moved to Paris 1930 and quickly became associated with the city’s photographic avant-garde. Bing worked exclusively with the fledgling Leica 35mm-format camera; her interest in the pictorial possibilities of the hand-held Leica can clearly be seen in this striking view of the Eiffel Tower. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Walker Evans (United States of America 1903 - 1975) 'Graveyard and steel mill, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania' 1935

 

Walker Evans (United States of America 1903 – 1975)
Graveyard and steel mill, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
1935
Gelatin silver photograph
19.1 h x 24.0 w cm sheet 20.2 h x 25.2 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

Gary Winogrand. 'World´s Fair', New York, 1964

 

Garry Winogrand (United States of America 1928 – Mexico 1984)
World’s Fair, New York
1964
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 21.8 h x 32.7 w cm mount 37.4 h x 50.1 w cm
Image rights: © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1978

 

 

Winogrand had a tremendous capacity to photograph people in public spaces completely unawares. This image records a group of visitors to the 1964 World’s Fair; it focuses on three young women – Ann Amy Shea, whispering into the ear of Janet Stanley, while their friend Karen Marcato Kiaer naps on Stanley’s bosom. The figures fill the space between the picture’s fore- and middle-grounds, to the extent of allowing the viewer to examine people’s expressions and interactions in close detail. This in turn allows us to encroach on the personal space of people we don’t know. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Diane Arbus, 'Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962'

 

Diane Arbus (New York, United States of America 1923 – 1971)
Child with toy hand grenade, in Central Park, New York City
1962
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 20.0 h x 17.2 w cm sheet 32.8 h x 27.6 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

 

During workshops with Lisette Model, Arbus was encouraged to develop a direct, uncompromising approach to her subjects. She did this using the square configuration of a medium-format camera which Arbus most usually printed full frame with no cropping. Model also convinced Arbus, who had been interested in myth and ritual, that the more specific her approach to her subjects, the more universal the message. In many ways this image of a boy caught hamming it up in Central Park, with his contorted body and grimacing face, captures and prefigures many of the anxieties of America during the sixties, a country caught in an unwinnable war in Vietnam and undergoing seismic social change. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (France 1908 - 2004) 'Rue Mouffetard, Paris' 1954 prtd c. 1980

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (France 1908 – 2004)
Rue Mouffetard, Paris
1954 prtd c. 1980
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 35.9 h x 24.2 w cm sheet 39.4 h x 29.6 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1982

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' 1972

 

Helen Levitt (United States of America 1913 – 2009)
New York
1972
Dye transfer colour photograph
Image 23.9 h x 36.2 w cm sheet 35.6 h x 42.9 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1984

 

 

“The streets of the poor quarters of the great cities are, above all, a theatre and a battleground.” Helen Levitt

Inspired by seeing work by Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1935, Levitt took to the streets. Children became her most enduring subject. Like Evans, Levitt was famously shy and self-effacing, seeking to shoot unobserved by fitting a prism finder on her Leica. Her approach eschews the sensational; instead she is interested in capturing small, idiosyncratic actions in the everyday. Her images were often shot through with a gentle, lyrical humour though a dark strangeness also surfaces at times. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c.1972

 

Helen Levitt (United States of America 1913 – 2009)
New York
1972
Dye transfer colour photograph
Image 23.4 h x 35.6 w cm sheet 35.4 h x 42.9 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1984

 

Ernst Haas (1921-1986). 'Route 66, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA' 1969

 

Ernst Haas (Austria 1921 – United States of America 1986; United States from 1951)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
1969
Dye transfer colour photograph
Image 44.9 h x 67.8 w cm sheet 52.3 h x 75.7 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2000

 

 

For Haas, colour photography represented the end of the grey and bitter war years and he started seriously working in the medium after moving to America in 1951. Work on his photoessay, Land of Enchantment and film stills assignments for The Misfits, The Bible and Little Big Man took Haas to the Southwest. The desert landscape of Albuquerque, located on Route 66, had been totally transformed by progress since the 1920s. Photographing the street after rain, Haas has signified that evolution by way of his distinctive ability to translate the world into shimmering energy. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Faraway

Photography has a long-standing interest in faraway places. In 1840, right in photography’s infancy, astronomical photography was launched when the first photograph of the moon was made. As photographic imaging technology has improved, so has the medium’s capacity to make faraway places accessible to us.

Photography can bring foreign places and people closer to home, or collect together images of places and structures that are located in different places. It can also attempt to give a picture to experiences that are otherwise difficult to grasp or represent, such as complex weather events or transcendental phenomena.

Against the odds, there are photographers who make images that are about what cannot be seen. Faraway is often used as a metaphor for thinking about the ineffable and the inexplicable. Science and spirit go hand-in-hand. ‘The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious’, Albert Einstein believed. Photographers can take us to new worlds. (Text from the National Gallery of Australia website)

 

Ansel Adams. 'Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico' 1941

 

Ansel Adams (San Francisco, California, United States of America 1902 – Carmel, California, United States of America 1984)
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico
1941
Ansel Adams Museum Set
Gelatin silver photograph
Image 38.6 h x 49.0 w cm mount 55.6 h x 71.0 w cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1980

 

 

Adams became the most famous landscape photographer in the world on the back of his images of America’s West. While mass tourism was invading these wilderness areas, Adams’s photographs show only untouched natural splendour. His landscapes are remarkable for their deep, clear space, distinguishable by an uncanny stillness and clarity. The story of Moonrise is legendary: driving through the Chama River Valley toward Española, Adams just managed by a few seconds to catch this fleeting moment before the dying sunlight stopped illuminating the crosses in the graveyard. Through hours of darkroom manipulation and wizardry, Adams created an image of almost mystical unworldliness. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Tracey Moffatt (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia born 1960) 'Up in the sky' 1997

 

Tracey Moffatt (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia born 1960)
Up in the sky [Up in the sky – a set of 25 photolithographs]
1997
No. 8 in a series of 25
Photolithograph
Image 61.0 h x 76.0 w cm sheet 72.0 h x 102.0 w cm
KODAK (Australasia) PTY LTD Fund 1997
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

Up in the sky is unusual in Moffatt’s oeuvre for being shot out of doors on location. Her photomedia practice is informed by an upbringing watching television, fascinated by film and pop culture. This series takes many of its visual cues from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Accattone of 1961 as well as the Mad Max series – the references, twisted and re-imagined, are like half-forgotten memories. She addresses race and violence, presenting a loose narrative set against the backdrop of an outback town. The sense of unease is palpable: Moffatt here is a masterful manipulator of mood. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

Laurence Aberhart (Aotearoa New Zealand born 1949) 'Taranaki, from Oeo Road, under moonlight, 27-28 September 1999' 1999

 

Laurence Aberhart (Aotearoa New Zealand born 1949)
Taranaki, from Oeo Road, under moonlight, 27-28 September 1999
1999
Gelatin silver photograph
19.4 h x 24.3 w cm
Gift of Peter Fay 2005
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

 

For four decades, Aberhart has photographed the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island, including its settled landscape and its most distinctive feature, the sacred TeMounga (Mount) Taranaki. Using an 8 x 10-inch view camera, Aberhart has over time built up an important archive documenting the social geography and landscape of the Taranaki. Aberhart describes the conical mountain as a ‘great physical and spiritual entity’ and sees his photographs of it as a counterbalance to the countless images of the mountain that circulate on tea towels and postcards. (Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

 

 

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02
Jan
16

Exhibitions: ‘Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008’ and ‘Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection’ at the Brooklyn Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 20th November 2015 – 13th March 2016

Curator of Coney Island exhibition: Dr Robin Jaffee Frank

 

 

The first posting of 2016, and it is a doozy – a multimedia extravaganza of sight and sound showcasing exhibitions that focus on that eclectic playground, Coney Island.

Featuring images supplied by the gallery – plus videos, other art work featured in the exhibitions and texts that I sourced myself – this posting documents “the luridness of the sideshow acts, the drunk sailors, the amorous couples and the scantily dressed bathers who were so much a part of the allure and menace of Coney Island.” I spent many hours scouring the internet, undertaking research and cleaning poor quality images to bring this selection to you.

The exhibition is divided into five sections, and I have attempted to keep the posting in this chronological order.

  • Down at Coney Isle, 1861-94
  • The World’s Greatest Playground, 1895-1929
  • The Nickel Empire, 1930-39
  • A Coney Island of the Mind, 1940-61
  • Requiem for a Dream, 1962-2008

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There are some interesting art works in both exhibitions. The correspondence between elephant/handler and mural is delightful in Edgar S. Thomson’s Coney Island (1897, below), while Joseph Stella’s Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras (1913-14, below) is a revelation to me, considering the date of production and the portrayal of contemporary life which is akin to our own. Walker Evans’ Couple at Coney Island, New York (1928, below) seems staged and confused in its pictorial construction, not one of his better photographs, while Edward J. Kelty’s photographs of sideshow revues including a “coloured revue” are interesting for their social context and formalism.

Paul Cadmus’ satirical view of American vacationers Coney Island (1934, below) is a riot of colour, movement and social commentary, including references to homosexuality and Hitler, while his friend Reginald Marsh’s effusive Coney Island paintings play with “reimagined bathers and sideshow audiences in poses derived from Michelangelo and Rubens” packed into compressed, collage like spaces. Particular favourites are photographs by Garry Winograd, Bruce Davidson, Diane Arbus and Robert Frank. Surprise of the posting are the black and white photographs of Morris Engel.

Marcus

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

 

 

“The mixed-media exhibit captures Coney Island’s campy, trippy aesthetic with a hodgepodge of photographs by the likes of Walker Evans, Weegee, Bruce Davidson, and Diane Arbus (since Coney Island was basically tailor-made for a Diane Arbus photo shoot). Also on view are pastoral seascapes from the 1800s; sideshow posters galore; a turn-of-the-century gambling wheel and carousel animals presented like sculpture; film stills from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream; and a modernist abstract composition by Frank Stella. With red and yellow stripes around a blue square, Stella distills the sand and sea and sun into a primary-colored flag for Brooklyn’s most famous destination.

In these pictures, Coney Island serves as a microcosm of American mass culture as a whole, and the chronology of 140 art objects here chart major societal shifts, from the dawn of the Great Depression to desegregation. “The modern American mass-culture industry was born at Coney Island, and the constant novelty of the resort made it a seductively liberating subject for artists,” Dr Robin Jaffee Frank, curator of the exhibit, which Wadsworth Athenaeum helped organize, said in a statement. “What these artists saw from 1861 to 2008 at Coney Island, and the varied ways in which they chose to portray it, mirrored the aspirations and disappointments of the era and the country. Taken together, these tableaux of wonder and menace, hope and despair, dreams and nightmares become metaphors for the collective soul of a nation.”

Carey Dunne. “Dreamland as Muse: A Look Back at 150 Years of Coney Island Art, Photography, and Film,” on the Brooklyn Magazine website 17/08/2015 [Online] Cited 02/01/2016

 

 

Samuel S. Carr (American, 1837–1908). 'Beach Scene' c. 1879

 

Samuel S. Carr (American, 1837-1908)
Beach Scene
c. 1879
Oil on canvas
12 x 20 in. (30.5 x 50.8 cm)
Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; Bequest of Annie Swan Coburn (Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn)

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company. 'The great Forepaugh & Sells Brothers shows combined' c. 1899

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company
The great Forepaugh & Sells Brothers shows combined. Terrific flights over ponderous elephants by a company of twenty five splendid artists in a great contest for valuable prizes, introducing high, long distance, layout, twisting, single and double somersault leapers, enlivened by mirth provoking comedy surprises.
Promotional poster for Forepaugh & Sells Brothers circus
c. 1899
Color lithograph poster

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company. 'The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth /The Great Coney Island Water Carnival /Remarkable Head-Foremost Dives from Enormous Heights into Shallow Depths of Water' 1898

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company
The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth /The Great Coney Island Water Carnival /Remarkable Head-Foremost Dives from Enormous Heights into Shallow Depths of Water
1898
Color lithograph poster
30 1/6 x 38 3/4 in. (76.6 x 98.4 cm)
Cincinnati Art Museum; Gift of the Strobridge Lithographing Company

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company. 'Beach and boardwalk scenes, Coney Island' c. 1898

 

Strobridge Lithographing Company
Beach and boardwalk scenes, Coney Island
c. 1898
Color lithograph foldout poster
approx. 21 feet long

 

George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887). 'Bathers, Steel Pier, Coney Island' c. 1880–85

 

George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887)
Bathers, Steel Pier, Coney Island
c. 1880-85, printed 1940s
Gelatin silver photograph
7 5/8 x 12 in. (19.4 x 30.5 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection
Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum

 

Edgar S. Thomson (American, active 1890s–1900s). 'Coney Island' 1897

 

Edgar S. Thomson (American, active 1890s-1900s)
Coney Island
1897
Gelatin dry glass plate negative
4 x 5 in. (10.2 x 12.7 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection
Photo: Althea Morin, Brooklyn Museum

 

Edgar S. Thomson (American, active 1890s–1900s). 'Coney Island' 1897 (detail)

 

Edgar S. Thomson (American, active 1890s-1900s)
Coney Island (detail)
1897
Gelatin dry glass plate negative
4 x 5 in. (10.2 x 12.7 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection
Photo: Althea Morin, Brooklyn Museum

 

William Merritt Chase (American, 1849–1916). 'Landscape, near Coney Island' c. 1886

 

William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916)
Landscape, near Coney Island
c. 1886
Oil on panel
8 1/8 x 12 5/8 in. (20.6 x 32 cm)
The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, New York; Gift of Mary H. Beeman to the Pruyn Family Collection

 

Joseph Stella. 'Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras' 1913-14

 

Joseph Stella
Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras
1913-14
Oil on canvas
77 by 84¾ inches
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

 

 

“In 1913, to celebrate Mardi Gras, Joseph Stella took a bus ride to Coney Island that changed his life. The Italian immigrant painter remembered that up until this point he had been “struggling … working along the lines of the old masters, seeking to portray a civilization long since dead.” He continued:

“Arriving at the Island I was instantly struck by the dazzling array of lights. It seemed as if they were in conflict. I was struck with the thought that here was what I had been unconsciously seeking for so many years… On the spot was born the idea for my first truly great picture.” (Joseph Stella, “I Knew Him When (1924),” in Barbara Haskell, ed., Joseph Stella, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, distributed by Harry N. Abrams, 1994, p. 206)

.
The result of Stella’s revelation, the enormous oil painting Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras (1913-14), was the inspiration for the traveling exhibition Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008

If the broken planes and neon coloring of Stella’s painting suggest the exhilaration of contemporary life, they also express dislocation and alienation. Stella himself spoke of the “dangerous pleasures” of Coney Island, implying that its unleashing of desires could provoke anxiety (Joseph Stella, “Autobiographical Notes (1946),” in Barbara Haskell, ed., Joseph Stella, p. 213). And yet for all of the dynamism of Stella’s aesthetic, his painting’s sweeping arabesques are checked by the rectangle of the picture plane, and its decorative unity distances the disruptive power of its discordant subjects. The contained anarchy of Stella’s painting is the perfect metaphor for Coney Island’s manipulation and control of the unruly masses, who, at the end of the day, go back to their homes and their ordered existence.

Looking closely at Battle of Lights we might be able to make out fragments of actual rides and even shapes that suggest people, but Stella’s abstraction obscures the luridness of the sideshow acts, the drunk sailors, the amorous couples and the scantily dressed bathers who were so much a part of the allure and menace of Coney Island.”

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

Irving Underhill (American, 1872–1960). 'Luna Park and Surf Avenue, Coney Island' 1912

 

Irving Underhill (American, 1872-1960)
Luna Park and Surf Avenue, Coney Island
1912
Gelatin dry glass plate negative
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection
Photo: Althea Morin, Brooklyn Museum

 

Irving Underhill (American, 1872–1960). 'Luna Park and Surf Avenue, Coney Island' 1912 (detail)

 

Irving Underhill (American, 1872-1960)
Luna Park and Surf Avenue, Coney Island (detail)
1912
Gelatin dry glass plate negative
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection
Photo: Althea Morin, Brooklyn Museum

 

 

Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle (director)
Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton (actors)
Coney Island
1917
25 mins – short, comedy

 

The 5th film starring the duo of Buster Keaton & Fatty Arbuckle, who also directed. Taking place at the Coney Island amusement park of New York City, it’s notable as the only film where Buster Keaton is seen laughing as this is before he developed his “Great Stoneface” persona.

 

Gambling Wheel, 1900–20

 

Gambling Wheel
1900-20
Wood, glass, metal
65 x 14 in. (165.1 x 35.6 cm)
Collection of The New-York Historical Society; Purchase

 

Charles Carmel. 'Carousel Horse with Raised Head, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York' c. 1914

 

Charles Carmel
Carousel Horse with Raised Head, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York
c. 1914
Paint on wood, jewels, glass eyes, horsehair tail
62 x 58 x 14 in. (157.5 x 147.3 x 36.6 cm)
Collection of American Folk Art Museum, New York; Gift of Laura Harding

 

 

Born in Russia in 1865, Charles Carmel and his young bride immigrated to the U.S. in 1883 and lived in Brooklyn for most of their lives. Charles was a perfectionist in his work and a disciplinarian with his family. Their home was located close to Prospect Park and its stable of riding horses, which served as a source of inspiration for Charles’ carousel horse carving work. It is generally accepted that Charles Carmel carved carousel horses from 1905 to 1920, and sold his work to all of the major carousel manufacturers of the time including Dolle, Borelli, Murphy, and Mangels.

In 1911 Charles invested most of his money in a newly constructed carousel that he intended to operate on Coney Island. The day before the park was to open, a fire totally destroyed the amusement park along with the uninsured carousel. This was a devastating financial blow to the Carmel family. Later his health deteriorated due to diabetes and arthritis until Charles closed his shop and carved a few hours a day at home, filling orders. Charles died in 1933 of cancer, but his legacy lives on with the exquisite carousel animals that he produced throughout his life.

Text from the Gesa Carousel of Dreams website

 

Anonymous artist. 'Looping the Loop, Coney Island' 1901-10

 

Anonymous artist
Looping the Loop, Coney Island
1901-10
Private Collection

 

Walker Evans. 'Couple at Coney Island, New York' 1928

 

Walker Evans
Couple at Coney Island, New York
1928
Gelatin silver print
8 x 5 13/16 inches
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Ford Motor Company Collection. Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987

 

Edward J. Kelty (1888-1967) 'X-ray of Ajax, the sword swallower' 1928

 

Edward J. Kelty (1888-1967)
X-ray of Ajax, “The Sword Swallower”
1928
20 x 20 inches
Collection of Ken Harck

 

Edward J. Kelty (American, 1888-–1967) 'Wonderland Circus Sideshow, Coney Island' 1929

 

Edward J. Kelty (American, 1888-–1967)
Wonderland Circus Sideshow, Coney Island
1929
Collection of Ken Harck
© Edward J. Kelty

 

Edward J. Kelty. 'Harlem Black Birds, Coney Island' 1930

 

Edward J. Kelty (American, 1888-–1967)
Harlem Black Birds, Coney Island
1930
12 x 20 in. (30.5 x 50.8 cm)
Collection of Ken Harck
© Edward J. Kelty

 

Edward J. Kelty. 'Harlem Black Birds, Coney Island' 1930 (detail)

 

Edward J. Kelty (American, 1888-–1967)
Harlem Black Birds, Coney Island (detail)
1930
12 x 20 in. (30.5 x 50.8 cm)
Collection of Ken Harck
© Edward J. Kelty

 

Milton Avery (American, 1885–1965). 'The Steeplechase, Coney Island' 1929

 

Milton Avery (American, 1885-1965)
The Steeplechase, Coney Island
1929
Oil on canvas, 32 x 40 in. (81.3 x 101.6 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Gift of Sally M. Avery, 1984
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, courtesy of Art Resource, New York
© 2013 Milton Avery Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Paul Cadmus. 'Coney Island' 1934

 

Paul Cadmus
Coney Island
1934
Oil on canvas
32 7/16 x 36 5/16 inches
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Gift of Peter Paanakker

 

 

Paul Cadmus’s “Coney Island” takes a satirical view of American vacationers. The fleshy members of the human pyramid seem carefree and frivolous in light of the ominous rise to power of the Nazi Party in Germany (Hitler’s face can be seen printed on the magazine resting on the sleeping man’s chest at the bottom of the painting).

 

“… Paul Cadmus, who shared Marsh’s use of old-master forms and techniques but not his heterosexuality, filled his beach painting with purposely ugly women and mostly beautiful men. The main action in Cadmus’s Coney Island (1934) is the human pyramid of men and women at its center. And yet the Adonis who lies on his stomach in the foreground has no interest in this heterosexual game. Instead, he looks off at another muscular youth farther down the beach. For Marsh, Cadmus and their fellow Coney Island artists, the chance to gaze unabashedly at the body of a stranger was one of the great pleasures of the milieu.

… traditional figuration, like that of Cadmus and Marsh, is so dominant that the exhibition arguably offers an alternate history of American art – one in which the modernist painting of Milton Avery or Frank Stella seems like a sideshow. Breaking out of the canon of modernism, “Coney Island” puts new focus on neglected realist painters like Harry Roseland, Robert Riggs, George Tooker and a particular favorite of mine, Henry Koerner.”

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

“Coney Island was the first painting Cadmus made after he ceased working for the federally sponsored Public Works of Art Project. It is typical of his paintings of the period in both theme and form. Cadmus viewed the prosaic activity of bathing on a beach in devastatingly satirical terms. Poking fun at the bathers’ carefree pleasures, Cadmus accumulated an odd assortment of bulging, burnt bodies. The bathers are oblivious to their ridiculous appearance and uncouth behaviour. Swarming the beach, their bodies are strangely intertwined, their faces smiling inanely. Everything is exaggerated, the color verging on the garish to intensify their grossness. In the 1930s Cadmus used oil paint almost as if it were a graphic medium, consequently Coney Island looks more like a tinted drawing than a painting. His small, exacting brushstrokes impart a flickering quality to the surface, which intensifies the impression that the figures are in constant motion. Cadmus actually began to sketch the scene on Martha’s Vineyard, before he visited Coney Island. He was attracted to the Brooklyn beach because it offered him the opportunity to delineate the human figure with as little clothing as possible. Moreover, he considered the beach scene to be a classical subject. His treatment, however, is rather baroque.

As was his friend Reginald Marsh, Cadmus was attracted to the elaborate compositions of old master paintings. Coney Island, with its seminude figures arranged in complex groupings, their bodies twisted and in constant motion, was for Cadmus the twentieth-century version of a baroque allegorical composition. Cadmus claimed that his intent was not to be sensational, but when the painting was exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s second biennial, it suffered the same hostile reception as did his earlier The Fleet’s In!. The Coney Island Showmen’s League, a local trade group, denounced the painting as offensive and inaccurate and threatened a libel suit if the painting was not removed from the exhibition. According to the artist’s incomplete records, it seems that the painting was rejected from several annual exhibitions to which it was submitted soon after it was shown at the Whitney biennial, probably because of the controversy it stirred. In 1935 Cadmus produced an etching from a photograph of the painting in the hope that it would reach a larger public. In the etching the image is reversed but otherwise differs only in a few minor details.”

Text from the LACMA website

 

Reginald Marsh. 'Pip and Flip' 1932

 

Reginald Marsh (American, 1898-1954)
Pip and Flip
1932
Tempera on paper mounted on canvas
48 1/4 x 48 1/4 in.
Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago
Daniel J. Terra Collection

 

 

“Such bodies were the great subjects of Reginald Marsh. Instead of Stella’s spirals of lights abstracted and seen from a distance, Marsh’s George C. Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park (1936) gives us a close-up view of the Human Roulette Wheel where young women are spun into all kinds of unladylike postures. For the Yale-educated Marsh, Coney Island was a chance to go “slumming,” to mingle with the lower classes on the beach and in the amusement parks. Hostile to modernism and abstract art, he reimagined bathers and sideshow audiences in poses derived from Michelangelo and Rubens. And yet, like Stella, Marsh overpacked his Coney Island paintings so that every inch is activated and in motion like a carnival ride. The highly compressed space of a Marsh painting like Pip and Flip (1932, above)with its collagelike play of rectangular billboards advertising human-oddity sideshows, would be unthinkable without the precedent of Cubism that he supposedly detested.”

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

Human Roulette Wheel at Steeplechase Park, Coney Island, early 1900s

 

Reginald Marsh (American, 1898–1954). 'Wooden Horses' 1936

 

Reginald Marsh (American, 1898-1954)
Wooden Horses
1936
Tempera on board, 24 x 40 in. (61 x 101.6 cm)
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut; The Dorothy Clark Archibald and Thomas L. Archibald Fund, The Krieble Family Fund for American Art, The American Paintings Purchase Fund, and The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund
Photo: © 2013 Estate of Reginald Marsh/Art Students League, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Reginald Marsh. 'George Tilyou's Steeplechase Park' 1936

 

Reginald Marsh (American, 1898-1954)
George Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park
1936
Oil and egg tempera on linen mounted on fiberboard
30 1/8 x 40 1/8 in. (76.5 x 101.8 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation

 

Steeplechase Mechanical Horse Ride at Steeplechase Park, Coney Island, early 1900s

 

 

 

“The spirit of Coney Island comes alive with Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 on view at the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition traces the evolution of the Coney Island phenomenon from tourist destination during the Civil War to the World’s Greatest Playground to a site of nostalgia. Covering a period of 150 years, the exhibition features 140 objects, including paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, posters, artifacts, carousel animals, ephemera, and film clips. Also on view is Forever Coney, 42 photographs from the Brooklyn Museum collection.

An extraordinary array of artists have viewed Coney Island as a microcosm of the American experience and used their works to investigate the area as both a place and an idea. Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland offers up early depictions of “the people’s beach” by Impressionists William Merritt Chase and John Henry Twachtman; modernist depictions of the amusement park by Joseph Stella; Depression-era scenes of cheap thrills by Reginald Marsh; photographs by Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, Weegee, and Bruce Davidson; and contemporary works by Daze and Swoon.

“The modern American mass-culture industry was born at Coney Island, and the constant novelty of the resort made it a seductively liberating subject for artists,” said Dr Robin Jaffee Frank, exhibition curator. “What these artists saw from 1861 to 2008 at Coney Island, and the varied ways in which they chose to portray it, mirrored the aspirations and disappointments of the era and the country. Taken together, these tableaux of wonder and menace, hope and despair, dreams and nightmares become metaphors for the collective soul of a nation.”

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 is organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut. The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Connie H. Choi, Assistant Curator, Arts of the Americas and Europe, Brooklyn Museum. A fully illustrated 304-page catalogue, co-published by Yale University Press and the Wadsworth Athenaeum, incorporates the first continuous visual analysis of great works of art about Coney Island by Dr Frank as well as essays by distinguished cultural historians.”

Forever Coney

As one of America’s first seaside resorts, Coney Island has attracted adventurous visitors and undergone multiple transformations, inspiring photographers since the mid-nineteenth century. Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection features forty-two images that celebrate the people and places that make up Coney Island. The earliest works, taken by photographers such as George Bradford Brainerd and Irving Underhill, document the resort from the post-Civil War period through the turn of the twentieth century. Later artists such as Harry Lapow and Stephen Salmieri have photographed the many personalities that have passed through the site.

The photographers included in this exhibition are George Bradford Brainerd, Lynn Hyman Butler, Anita Chernewski, Victor Friedman, Kim Iacono, Sidney Kerner, Harry Lapow, Nathan Lerner, Jack Lessinger, H.S. Lewis, John L. Murphy, Ben Ross, Stephen Salmieri, Edgar S. Thomson, Arthur Tress, Irving Underhill, Breading G. Way, Eugene Wemlinger, and Harvey R. Zipkin. Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection is organized by Connie H. Choi, Assistant Curator of American Art, Brooklyn Museum. It is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008.

Text from the Brooklyn Museum website

 

Morris Engel (American, 1918–2005). 'Coney Island Embrace, New York City' 1938

 

Morris Engel (American, 1918-2005)
Coney Island Embrace, New York City
1938
Gelatin silver print
10 9/16 x 11 1/2 inches
Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive, New York
© Morris Engel

 

Morris Engel (American, 1918-2005) 'Mother with Children' 1938

 

Morris Engel (American, 1918-2005)
Mother with Children
1938
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive, New York

 

Nieman Studios, Inc., Chicago. 'Shackles the Great' 1940

 

Nieman Studios, Inc., Chicago
Shackles the Great
1940
Sideshow banner
118 x 108 inches
Collection of Ken Harck

 

'Quito, Human Octopus' 1940

 

Quito, Human Octopus
1940
Sideshow banner
140 x 117 inches
Collection of Ken Harck

 

Anon. 'Steeplechase Funny Face' nd

 

Steeplechase Funny Face
Nd
Painted metal
23 inches
Collection of Ken Harck

 

Henry Koerner (America, born Austria, 1915–1991). 'The Barker’s Booth' 1948–49

 

Henry Koerner (America, born Austria, 1915-1991)
The Barker’s Booth
1948-49
Oil on Masonite
26 x 40 ½ in. (66 x 102.9 cm)
Collection of Alice A. Grossman

 

George Tooker. 'Coney Island' 1948

 

George Tooker
Coney Island
1948
Egg tempera on gesso panel
19 1/4 x 26 1/4 inches
Curtis Galleries, Minneapolis

 

George Tooker’s thought-provoking “Coney Island” places traditional beach goers in a Pietà tableau.

 

Arthur Fellig (Weegee) 'Coney Island' 1940

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig)
Coney Island Beach
1940
Gelatin silver print
8 1/8 x 10 inches
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987

 

 

Looking at Weegee’s photograph, it is easy to be carried away with longing for what seems like a simpler and happier time. Undoubtedly, the picture’s sense of naïve jubilation was part of its appeal for Red Grooms, who essentially copied the image in paint for Weegee 1940 (1998-99). And yet, like much at Coney Island, Weegee’s photograph is an illusion. Taken when Europe was already at war and the Depression had not yet ended, its merriment was only a momentary respite.

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

Unknown artist. 'Modern Venus of 1947' Coney Island, 1947

 

Unknown artist
Modern Venus of 1947
Coney Island, 1947
Gelatin silver photograph
10 3/4 x 13 7/8 in. (27.3 x 35.2 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection
Photo: Christine Gant, Brooklyn Museum

 

Unknown artist. 'Modern Venus of 1947, Coney Island, 1947' (detail)

 

Unknown artist
Modern Venus of 1947 (detail)
Coney Island, 1947
Gelatin silver photograph
10 3/4 x 13 7/8 in. (27.3 x 35.2 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Collection
Photo: Christine Gant, Brooklyn Museum

 

Homer Page (American, 1918–1985). 'Coney Island' July 30, 1949

 

Homer Page (American, 1918-1985)
Coney Island
July 30, 1949
Gelatin silver print
11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Gift of the Hall Family Foundation
© Homer Page
Photo: John Lamberton

 

Morris Engel. 'Little Fugitive', production still, 1953

 

Morris Engel (American, 1918-2005)
Under the Boardwalk, Coney Island [Production still from Little Fugitive]
1953
Gelatin silver print
8 x 10 inches
Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive, New York

 

 

Raymond Abrashkin (as “Ray Ashley”), Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin (directors)
Little Fugitive
1953

 

Joey, a young boy, runs away to Coney Island after he is tricked into believing he has killed his older brother. Joey collects glass bottles and turns them into money, which he uses to ride the rides.

Little Fugitive (1953), one of the most beautiful films featured in the exhibition, conveys the feeling of moving through the enormous crowds in Weegee’s photographThe creation of two master still photographers, Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, and writer Ray Ashley, the film tells the story of Joey, a seven-year-old boy who runs away to Coney Island. But if Joey initially exalts in the freedom of being lost in the crowd, he feels abandoned when the amusement park closes down. Robert Frank’s photograph from the same year of a man asleep on a deserted beach with the Parachute Tower at his back [see below] echoes the film’s invocation of the resort’s fleeting joys. When Coney Island empties out it reveals the superficiality and pathos of the fantasies it evokes. In 1894, even before the big amusement parks were built, Stephen Crane mused about how in winter the “mammoth” hotels became “gaunt and hollow, impassively and stolidly suffering from an enormous hunger for the public.” (Stephen Crane, “Coney Island’s Failing Days,” in A Coney Island Reader, p. 69).”

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

 

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

installation of view of the exhibition 'Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008' at the Brooklyn Museum

 

Installation of views of the exhibition Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 at the Brooklyn Museum, New York

 

Cyclops Head from Spook-A-Rama
c. 1955
Mixed media
60 x 47 x 42 inches
The Vourderis Family. Deno’s Wonder Wheel

 

Garry Winogrand. 'Coney Island, New York City, N.Y.,' 1952

 

Garry Winogrand
Coney Island, New York City, N.Y.,
1952
Silver bromide
8 1/2 x 13 inches
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn. Gift of Barbara and James L. Melcher

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Two Youths, Coney Island'From the series 'Brooklyn Gang, 1958' print c. 1965

 

Bruce Davidson
Untitled (Cathy and Cigarette Machine), from the series Brooklyn Gang 1959, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/8 x 12 5/8; sheet: 11 x 14 inches
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn. The Heinz Family Fund

 

Diane Arbus. ‘The House of Horrors’ 1961

 

Diane Arbus
The House of Horrors
1961
Gelatin silver print
14 1/2 x 14 inches
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

“As its carnival rides and sideshows became increasingly dated in the 1960s, Coney Island was unable to maintain even the phony thrills that Miller derided in the 1930s. In Diane Arbus’s The House of Horrors (1961)the fake skeleton and the cartoon ape mask aren’t as scary as the ride’s sorry state and the impression that something terrible has driven all the people away. (The 1970 low-budget slasher film Carnival of Blood, not included in the exhibition, brilliantly uses this seediness to create a sense of uncanny doom.) In Arnold Mesches’s painting Anomie 1991: Winged Victory (1991), the creaky rides mingle with images of war, turning dreamland into an apocalyptic nightmare.”

Text from Jonathan Weinberg “Coney Island Forever,” on the Art in America website, October 1st 2015 [Online] Cited 14/12/2015.

 

Diane Arbus. 'Couple Arguing, Coney Island, N.Y.,' 1960

 

Diane Arbus
Couple Arguing, Coney Island, N.Y.,
1960
Vintage gelatin silver print
8 1/2 x 6 5/8 inches [image]; 14 x 11 inches [sheet]
Collection Thomas H. Lee and Ann Tenenbaum

 

Robert Frank. ‘Coney Island' 4th of July, 1958

 

Robert Frank
Coney Island
July 4, 1958
15 5/8 x 11 9/16 inches
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Robert Frank Collection. Gift of the Richard Florsheim Art Fund and an Anonymous Donor

 

Frank Stella (American, born 1936). 'Coney Island' 1958

 

Frank Stella (American, born 1936)
Coney Island
1958
Oil on canvas
85 1/4 x 78 3/4 inches
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn. Gift of Larom B. Munson, B.A. 1951

 

Harry Lapow (American, 1909–1982). 'Untitled (Buried Alive)' c. 1960s or 1970s

 

Harry Lapow (American, 1909-1982)
Untitled (Buried Alive)
c. 1960s or 1970s
Gelatin silver photograph
12 1/8 x 9 1/16 in. (30.8 x 23 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the artist
© Estate of Harry Lapow
Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum

 

 

Harry Lapow began frequenting Coney Island to capture quirks of the beach and boardwalk after receiving a Ciroflex camera on his forty-third birthday. He was intrigued by the camera’s ability to isolate details and fleeting moments of everyday life. Here, a toddler’s crossed legs appear above the head of a buried woman whose eyes are covered by a floral towel. In cropping this beach sighting, Lapow crafts a surprising juxtaposition, forming an unlikely dynamic between the lively child and the masked adult.

 

Bruce Davidson. 'Untitled' July 4, 1962

 

Bruce Davidson
Untitled
July 4, 1962
Gelatin silver print
11 x 14 inches
Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Stephen Salmieri (American, born 1945). 'Coney Island' 1971

 

Stephen Salmieri (American, born 1945)
Coney Island
1971
Gelatin silver photograph
8 x 10 1/8 in. (20.3 x 25.7 cm)
Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Edward Klein
© Stephen Salmieri
Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum

 

Harvey Stein (American, born 1941). 'The Hug: Closed Eyes and Smile' 1982

 

Harvey Stein (American, born 1941)
The Hug: Closed Eyes and Smile
1982
Digital, inkjet archival print
13 x 19 in. (33 x 48.3 cm)
Collection of the artist
© Harvey Stein, 2011

 

Red Grooms (American, born 1937). 'Weegee 1940' 1998-99

 

Red Grooms (American, born 1937)
Weegee 1940
1998-99
Acrylic on paper
56 1/8 x 62 in. (142.6 x 157.5 cm)
Private Collection
Photo: Courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, New York
© 2013 Red Grooms/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Arnold Mesches (American, born 1923). 'Anomie 1991: Winged Victory' 1991

 

Arnold Mesches (American, born 1923)
Anomie 1991: Winged Victory
1991
Acrylic on canvas
92 x 135 in. (233.7 x 342.9 cm)
The San Diego Museum of Art; Museum purchase with partial funding from the Richard Florsheim Art Fund
© 2013 Arnold Mesches

 

Daze (American, born 1962). 'Coney Island Pier' 1995

 

Daze (American, born 1962)
Coney Island Pier
1995
Oil on canvas
60 x 80 in. (152.4 x 203.2 cm)
Collection of the artist

 

Daze (American, born 1962). 'Kiddlyand Spirits' 1995

 

Daze (American, born 1962)
Kiddyland Spirits
1995
Oil on canvas
42 x 71 inches
Collection of the artist

 

'Requiem for a Dream', production still, directed by Darren Aronofsky, 2000

 

Requiem for a Dream, production still, directed by Darren Aronofsky, 2000

 

Marie Roberts (American, born 1954). 'A Congress of Curious Peoples' 2005

 

Marie Roberts (American, born 1954)
A Congress of Curious Peoples
2005
Acrylic on unstretched canvas
84 x 120 in. (213.4 x 304.8 cm)
Collection of Liz and Marc Hartzman

 

Swoon. 'Coney, Early Evening' 2005

 

Swoon
Coney, Early Evening
2005
Linoleum print on Mylar
Variable; overall: 213 x 39 x 113 inches
Brooklyn Museum. Healy Purchase Fund B, Emily Winthrop Miles Fund, and Designated Purchase Fund

 

Swoon’s “Coney, Early Evening” suspends youthful figures intertwined throughout the iconic tracks of a Coney Island roller coaster.

 

Frederick Brosen (American, born 1954). 'Fortune Teller, Jones Walk, Coney Island' 2008

 

Frederick Brosen (American, born 1954)
Fortune Teller, Jones Walk, Coney Island
2008
Watercolor over graphite on paper
17 7/8 x 11 ¼ in. (45.4 x 28.6 cm)
Courtesy of Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York
© 2013 Frederick Brosen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo: Joshua Nefsky, courtesy of Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York

 

 

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238-6052
T: (718) 638-5000

Opening hours:
Wednesday and Friday, 11 am – 6 pm
Thursday11 am – 10 pm
Saturday and Sunday, 11 am – 6 pm
first Saturday of each month, 11 am – 11 pm
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

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21
Oct
14

Review: ‘Crossing Paths with Vivian Maier’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 3rd October – 26th October 2014

Artists: Cherine Fahd, Vivian Maier, Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano, Debra Phillips, Patrick Pound, Clare Rae, Simone Slee, David Wadelton And Kellie Wells and Vivian Maier.

Curators: Naomi Cass, Louise Neri and Karra Rees

 

Over rated and over here…

Apologies to the wonderful and hard working Director of the CCP Naomi Cass for what I am about to say, but this is one of the most disappointing photographic exhibitions in Melbourne this year.

Let’s start with the Australian work. There is nothing at all wrong with any of the Australian work. Some of it is very strong, such as the found images of Patrick Pound and the social documentary work of David Wadelton. The problem comes with the lack of connection to the photographs of Vivian Maier. For work that is supposed to be “crossing paths” conceptually with the images of Maier many of the connections are so esoteric as to be almost indistinguishable, so obtuse (as Tim Robbins would say in the Shawshank Redemption) as to be almost unintelligible to the uninitiated. Where the work is conceptualised around the performative context of identity and the occupation of space(s), such as in Claire Rae’s digital colour lightbox images of people jumping in the air stopped in suspended animation or the beautiful reinscription of the body in the almost dance like video work of Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano, then the juxtaposition simply does not work. The ties that bind one to another simply are not strong enough to sustain the inquiry of the viewer. More interesting would have been the investigation of the concept of an artist taking photographs in her own time, hidden, secretive, and then being discovered later after she had died – which brings up issues of visibility (the cameras and her gendered own), celebrity, posthumous recreation of identity, the fame of the artist after death, and how the self-portraits fit into this theme etc…

.
The photographs by Vivian Maier printed by ? are far more disappointing.

Touted as the NEXT BIG THING by curators who are always looking for the next big thing and people out to make a healthy buck or two, VM is a person who has been “posthumously invented” and her work, which was largely unprinted during her lifetime, has been brought to market in a commercial process. As Abigail Solomon-Godeau notes at the end of her excellent essay “Inventing Vivian Maier” on the Jeu de Paume website:

“Here one can see how the terms of an “aesthetic” discourse within the world of contemporary photography, turning on the individual author and her work, and the far less lofty realities of market and marketing, property relations, public relations, media relations and all the other apparatuses, illuminate one another, or even collide. “Her big project,” remarks Michael Williams, “was her life,” but perhaps the even larger project is her posthumous invention.”

.
With this invention in mind (and the product that you want to sell being paramount), you would have thought that the people who now control her archive would have got a damn good black and white printer to print the work. But no. Some of the prints are appalling, so flat that there is little if any true black in them at all. As for the content of the images, they look better in reproduction than they do in real life. Maier, as I have said elsewhere, is a competent photographer – but she will never be a great photographer. Periodically (and I use the word my female friend supplied) she is very good, but too often she lapses into cliche. There are lots of low depth of field photographs but the construction of the images is cold and stilted, there is little engagement it would seem but for the snap of the shutter as she wanders around city after city, keeping the resulting negatives securely hidden.

There is also little mystery in her photographs which is probably why they don’t rise to that next level: look at the photograph of the two men staring at a length of hose on the ground on a rainy street in NY. The hose just sits there, the men are caught mid-gesture… and that’s it. Lots of her photographs are like this. And there also seem to be some anger towards the world as well. If you compare the photograph of the two boys, Undated, Canada (below) with that of the twins by Diane Arbus, there seems to be a darkness and maelevolence to VM’s photograph that contrasts with the mystery and joy in that of Arbus – not so much in the subject matter but in the feeling that the photographer projects towards what she is photographing.

There is a coldness when you see the prints in the flesh (like the wind whistling off Lake Michigan onto the Chicago streets), an ice chill, a lack of humour, something that is a little creepy and screwy (if you will pardon the colloquialism) about the work. She wants us to know she is there in the photograph, even when she is not physically present, as in the image September 18, 1962 (below) where the viewer understands that the photographer is down on one knee to get the shot. There is also a healthy dose of narcissism in the photographs: the self-portraits with this serious woman peering back at us, one who’s eyes hardly ever smile (you can tell a lot from a person’s eyes!) are not psychological investigations like the self-portraits of Rembrandt as he ages throughout the years – portraits in which Rembrandt explores what it is to be him – they are something more obsessive which VM then hides under a bushel. The use of fragmentation and shadows in the two self-portraits that I have put together (New York City, September 10, 1955 and Self-Portrait; October 18, 1953, New York, NY, below) speak of a schism inside the person, one who exposes herself through photography and then possesses but disclaims the results.

People have been flocking to see the film with sold out sessions all over the city, and they were flocking into the CCP to see the exhibition last Saturday when we were there. People love the back story as it has been sold to them by “marketing, property relations, public relations, media relations and all the other apparatuses” and there has been a veritable feeding frenzy about this work: THE DISCOVERY OF KING TUT’S TOMB WITH 100,000 NEGATIVES AND ASSORTED ARTEFACTS!

.
Kudos to the CCP for getting these images to Australia and exhibiting them and its great to see so many people in the gallery but please, let’s understand the hype and then really look at the work. The ART in FACT is that these are not well printed images, and most of them are pretty prosaic in composition and feeling. There are maybe four really good images, but that is about it. As always, go and see for yourself and keep my words in mind.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

“I don’t believe in reincarnation but in a previous life I did!”

.
Frederick White

 

 

Vivian Maier. 'East 108th Street. September 28, 1959, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
East 108th Street. September 28, 1959, New York, NY
1959
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'August 1960. Chicago, IL' 1960

 

Vivian Maier
August 1960. Chicago, IL
1960
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Undated, Canada'

 

Vivian Maier
Undated, Canada
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Diane Arbus. 'Identical twins, Roselle, N.J. 1967' 1967

 

Diane Arbus
Identical twins, Roselle, N.J. 1967
1967
© The Estate of Diane Arbus

 

Vivian Maier. 'Self-Portrait, 1950ies'

 

Vivian Maier
Self-Portrait, 1950ies
c. 1950s
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Armenian woman fighting on East 86th Street, September, 1956, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
Armenian woman fighting on East 86th Street, September, 1956, New York, NY
1956
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'April 7, 1960. Florida'

 

Vivian Maier
April 7, 1960. Florida
1960
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'January 1956'

 

Vivian Maier
January 1956
1956
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'January, 1953, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
January, 1953, New York, NY
1953
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Self-Portrait, 1953'

 

Vivian Maier
Self-Portrait, 1953
1953
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Self-Portrait, 1953'

 

Vivian Maier
Self-Portrait, 1953
1953
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Undated, Canada'

 

Vivian Maier
Undated, Canada
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'July 1957. Chicago Suburb, IL'

 

Vivian Maier
July 1957. Chicago Suburb, I
1957
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'January 9, 1957, Florida'

 

Vivian Maier
January 9, 1957, Florida
1957
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Self-Portrait, New York, February 3, 1955'

 

Vivian Maier
Self-Portrait, New York, February 3, 1955
1955
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'March 1954, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
March 1954, New York, NY
1954
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'May 16, 1957. Chicago, IL'

 

Vivian Maier
May 16, 1957. Chicago, IL
1957
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'June 1963. Chicago, IL'

 

Vivian Maier
June 1963. Chicago, IL
1963
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

 

“During her lifetime, Vivian Maier (1926-2009) produced more than 100,000 photographic images, which remained largely undiscovered until after her death. CCP celebrates this reluctant artist’s timely relevance, juxtaposing her work with contemporary Australian photography, performance and video.

Maier’s prolific body of work recording both herself and the world around her – predominately with a distinctive medium format Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera – is a precursor to our age of compulsive photographic documentation via smart phones and digital media. The posthumous construction of her identity is almost as compelling as her images and her ability to determine and frame a gripping moment with poignancy and beauty. Time has been Maier’s collaborator, where nostalgia plays a significant role in the popularity of her archive.

In Crossing Paths with Vivian Maier, Maier’s photography – printed well after her death – is presented with contemporary Australian artists working in still, moving and found photography and who also document the street and themselves in an equally obsessive manner.

Against the gritty street life captured by her probing lens, Patrick Pound responds with second-hand images gleaned from junk shops and the Internet, while Debra Phillips and David Wadelton make an inventory of the city and its quirky features. Maier’s self-portraits reverberate with Australian women artists who turn the camera on themselves in performative ways, in the work of Cherine Fahd, Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano, Clare Rae, Simone Slee and Kellie Wells.”

Text from the CCP website

 

Vivian Maier. 'May 27, 1970. Chicago, IL'

 

Vivian Maier
May 27, 1970. Chicago, IL
1970
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'May 28, 1954, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
May 28, 1954, New York, NY
1954
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York City, September 10, 1955'

 

Vivian Maier
New York City, September 10, 1955
1955
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Self-Portrait; October 18, 1953, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
Self-Portrait; October 18, 1953, New York, NY
1953
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Undated, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
Undated, New York, NY
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Undated, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
Undated, New York, NY
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Undated, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
Undated, New York, NY
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Undated, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
Undated, New York, NY
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Undated, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
Undated, New York, NY
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York, NY' 1954

 

Vivian Maier
New York, NY
1954
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Self-Portrait, 1959'

 

Vivian Maier
Self-Portrait, 1959
1959
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Undated, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
Undated, New York, NY
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'October 31, 1954. New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
October 31, 1954. New York, NY
1954
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'July 27, 1954. New York, NY' 1954

 

Vivian Maier
July 27, 1954. New York, NY
1954
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'September 18, 1962'

 

Vivian Maier
September 18, 1962
1962
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'September 1956, New York, NY'

 

Vivian Maier
September 1956, New York, NY
1956
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled, Undated'

 

Vivian Maier
Untitled, Undated
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled, Undated'

 

Vivian Maier
Untitled, Undated
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled, Undated'

 

Vivian Maier
Untitled, Undated
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Undated, Vancouver, Canada'

 

Vivian Maier
Undated, Vancouver, Canada
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled, Undated'

 

Vivian Maier
Untitled, Undated
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled, Undated'

 

Vivian Maier
Untitled, Undated
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
T: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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30
May
14

Exhibition / text: ‘Vivian Maier (1926-2009). A Photographic Revelation’ at Château de Tours

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2013 – 1st June 2014

 

“Maier doesn’t have a partner to dance with. She sees something well enough, whereas Lee Friedlander expects something. If there is an idea out there in the ether she grabs onto it in a slightly derivative way. Maier states that these things happened with this subject matter but with Arbus, for example, she meets something extra/ordinary and alien – and goes beyond, beyond, beyond.”

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan May 2014

 

 

The next best thing

The photographs of Vivian Maier. Unknown in her lifetime (nanny as secretive photographer), her negatives discovered at an auction after her death – some developed, all scanned, in some cases cropped, the medium format images then printed. The latest “must have” for any self respecting photography collection, be it private or public. But are they really that good?

To be unequivocal about it, they are good – but, in most cases, they are not “great”. Maier is a very good photographer but she will never be a great photographer. This might come as a surprise to the legions of fans on Facebook (and the thousands of ‘Likes’ for each image), those who think that she is the best thing since sliced bread. But let’s look at the evidence – the work itself.

The photographs can seen on the Vivian Maier Official website and I have spent quite a lot of time looking at them. As with any artist, there are some strong images and some not so strong ones but few reach ‘master’ status. The lighting is good, the use of low depth of field, the location and the presence of the people she photographed are all there, as are the influences that you recite in your mind as to the people her photographs remind you of: Lewis Hine, Berenice Abbott, Lisette Model, Diane Arbus, Helen Levitt, Lee Friedlander et al. Somehow through all this she makes the photographs she takes her own for she has a “rare sense of photographic vision” as Edward Petrosky expressed it on my LinkedIn page, but ultimately they don’t really take you anywhere. It’s like she has an addiction to taking photographs (a la Gary Winogrand), but no way of advancing her art to the next level.

Vivien Maier’s photographs stand out because she hasn’t withheld enough within them. What do I mean by that? Let’s look at some examples to explain what I mean…

Included in the postings are two comparisons: Vivian Maier, June 19, 1961, Chicago IL, 1961 / Lee Friedlander, Stony Point, New York, 1966; and Vivian Maier, New York, Nd 1966 / Berenice Abbott, New York at Night, 1932. As with most of Maier’s photography, she relies on intuition when taking a photograph and a bloody good intuition it is too. This intuition usually stands her in good stead and she almost always gets the shot, but there is an underlying lack of structure to her images. Here I am talking as much about psychological structure as physical structure, for both go hand in hand.

If we compare the Maier with the Friedlander we can say that, if we look at the windows in the Friedlander, every one is a masterpiece! From the mother and son at left with the white-coated marchers, to the central window with the miniature house, dog and tree, to the dark-suited marchers at right. Everything feels compelling, intricate weavings of a narrative that the viewer has to try and make sense of. Each part of the Friedlander image is absolutely necessary for that picture… whereas there are so many things in the Vivien Maier that belong in other pictures ie. a good picture but a lot that doesn’t belong in that picture. Things that should have been held back, by making another image somewhere else. Her narrative is confusing and thus the eye is also confused.

A similar scenario can be observed when comparing the photographs of New York at night by Abbott and Maier. Abbott’s photograph is a tight, orchestrated and muscular rendition of the city which seethes with energy and form. Maier’s interpretation fades off into nothingness, the main arterials of the city leading the eye up to the horizon line and then [nothing]. It is a pleasant but wishy-washy photograph, with all the energy of the city draining away in the mind and in the eye.

One of Maier’s photographs that most resonates with me is September 1953, New York, NY (1953, below). This IS a masterpiece. There is a conciseness of vision here, reminiscent of Weston’s Nude of 1938 with its link to the anamorphic structure of his photographs of peppers. There is nothing auxiliary to the purpose of the photograph, yet there is that indefinable something that takes it out of itself. The dirt of the clothes, under the fingers, the ring on the hand, the shape that no human should be in and its descent onto the pavement, the despair of that descent captured in the angle of the camera looking down on the victim. The photograph has empathy, promotes understanding and empathy in the viewer. Most of us have been there. Other photographs that approach a higher perspective are Maier’s self-portraits, in which there is a conscious exploration of her reflection in/of the world: a slightly dour, serious figure reflected back from the world into the lens of the camera – a refracted identity, the phenomenon of self as light passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another, between living, the camera and memory.

But too often Maier’s photographs are just so… obvious. Did she wait long enough for the composition to reveal itself to her more, god what’s the word, more ambiguously. Maier doesn’t have a partner to dance with. She sees something well enough, whereas Lee Friedlander expects something. If there is an idea out there in the ether she grabs onto it in a slightly derivative way. Maier states that these things happened with this subject matter but with Arbus, for example, she meets something extra/ordinary and alien – and goes beyond, beyond, beyond.

What we can say is that Maier’s vision is very good, her intuition excellent, but there is, critically, not that indefinable something that takes her images from good to great. This is the key thing – everything is usually thrown at the image, she withholds nothing, and this invariably stops them taking that step to the next level. This is a mighty difficult step for any artist to take, let alone one taking photographs in the shadows. Personally I don’t believe that these images are a “photographic revelation” in the spirit of Minor White. What is a revelation is how eagerly they have been embraced around the world as great images without people really looking deeply at the work; how masterfully they have been promoted through films, books, websites and exhibitions; how Maier’s privacy has been expunged in the quest for dollars; and how we know very little about her vision for the negatives as there are no extant prints of the work.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled' 1954

 

Vivian Maier
Untitled
1954
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Edward Weston. 'Nude' 1936

 

Edward Weston
Nude
1936

 

Vivian Maier. 'September 1953, New York, NY' 1953

 

Vivian Maier
September 1953, New York, NY
1953
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'June 19, 1961, Chicago IL' 1961

 

Vivian Maier
June 19, 1961, Chicago IL
1961
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Stony Point, New York, 1966' 1966

 

Lee Friedlander
Stony Point, New York, 1966
1966
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York' Nd

 

Vivian Maier
New York
Nd
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898 - 1991) 'New York at Night' 1932

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898 – 1991)
New York at Night
1932
Gelatin silver print
12 7/8 x 10 9/16″ (32.7 x 26.9 cm)

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York, NY, 18 Octobre 1953' 1953

 

Vivian Maier
New York, NY, 18 Octobre 1953
1953
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian-Maier-New-York-NY-c-1953-WEB

 

Vivian Maier
New York, NY
c. 1953
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'St East nº108, New York , NY, September 28, 1959' 1959

 

Vivian Maier
St East nº108, New York , NY, September 28, 1959
1959
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York, NY' 1954

 

Vivian Maier
New York, NY
1954
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“Vivian Maier was the archetypal self-taught photographer with a keen sense of observation and an eye for composition. She was born in New York in 1926, but spent part of her childhood in France before returning to New York in 1951 when she started taking photos. In 1956, she moved to Chicago, where she lived until her death in 2009.

Her talent is comparable with that of the major figures of American street photography such as Lisette Model, Helen Levitt, Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand. The exhibition presented at the Château de Tours by the Jeu de Paume, in partnership with the Municipality of Tours and diChroma photography, is the largest ever exhibition in France devoted to Vivian Maier. It includes 120 black and white and colour gelatin silver prints from the original slides and negatives, as well as extracts from Super 8 films she made in the 60s and 70s. This project, which is sourced from John Maloof’s collection, with the valuable assistance of Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York, reveals a poetic vision that is imbued with humanity.

John Maloof discovered Vivian Maier’s astonishing photos completely by chance in 2007 at an auction in Chicago. At the time, this young collector was looking for historical documentation about a specific neighbourhood of the city and he bought a sizeable lot of prints, negatives and slides (of which a major part had not even been developed) as well as some Super 8 films by an unknown and enigmatic photographer, Vivian Maier. By all accounts, Vivian Maier was a discreet person and somewhat of a loner. She took more than 120,000 photos over a period of thirty years and only showed this consequential body of work to a mere handful of people during her lifetime.

Vivian Maier earned her living as a governess, but all her free time and every day off was spent walking through the streets of New York, then later Chicago, with a camera slung around her neck (first of all box or folding cameras, later a Leica) taking photos. The children she looked after describe her as a cultivated and open-minded woman, generous but not very warm. Her images on the other hand bear witness to her curiosity for everyday life and the attention she paid to those passers – by who caught her eye: facial features, bearing, outfits and fashion accessories for the well-to-do and the telltale signs of poverty for those who were less fortunate.

While some photos are obviously furtively taken snapshots, others bear witness to a real encounter between the photographer and her models, who are photographed face-on and from close up. Her photos of homeless people and people living on the fringe of society demonstrate the depth of her empathy as she painted a somewhat disturbing portrait of an America whose economic boom was leaving many by the wayside.

Vivian Maier remained totally unknown until her death in April 2009. She had been taken in by the Gensburgs, for whom she had worked for almost seventeen years, and many of her possessions as well as her entire photographic output had been placed in storage. It was seized and sold in 2007 to settle unpaid bills.

Her biography has now been reconstructed, at least in part, thanks to a wealth of research and interviews carried out by John Maloof and Jeffrey Goldstein after the death of Vivian Maier. Jeffrey Goldstein is another collector who purchased a large part of her work. According to official documents, Vivian Maier was of Austro-Hungarian and French origin and her various trips to Europe, in particular to France (in the Alpine valley of Champsaur where she spent part of her childhood) have been clearly identified and documented. However, the circumstances that led her to take an interest in photography and her life as an artist remain veiled in mystery.

Photography seemed to be much more than a passion: her photographic activity was the result of a deeply felt need, almost an obsession. Each time she changed employers and had to move house, all her boxes and boxes of films (that she hadn’t had developed for want of money), as well as her archives comprising books and press cuttings about various stories in the news, came along too.

Vivian Maier’s body of work highlights those seemingly insignificant details that she came across during her long walks through the city streets: odd gestures, strange figures and graphic arrangements of figures in space. She also produced a series of captivating self-portraits from her reflection in mirrors and shop windows.”

Press release from the Château de Tours

 

Vivian Maier. 'Self-portrait' Nd

 

Vivian Maier
Self-portrait
Nd
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Chicago' Nd

 

Vivian Maier
Chicago
Nd
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Florida, 9 January 1957' 1957

 

Vivian Maier
Florida, 9 January 1957
1957
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled' 1954

 

Vivian Maier
Untitled
1954
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Chicago, IL, January, 1956' 1956

 

Vivian Maier
Chicago, IL, January, 1956
1956
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Chicago, August 22, 1956' 1956

 

Vivian Maier
Chicago, August 22, 1956
1956
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

Château de Tours
25 Avenue André Malraux
37000 Tours

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 2 pm – 6 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 3 pm – 6 pm

Vivian Maier Official website

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15
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Philip-Lorca diCorcia: Photographs 1975–2012’ at the De Pont museum of contemporary art, Tilburg

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2013 – 19th January 2014

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This is (our) reality.

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Many thankx to the De Pont museum of contemporary art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Norfolk' 1979

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Norfolk
1979
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm)
Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Marilyn; 28 years old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30' 1990-92

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Marilyn; 28 years old; Las Vegas, Nevada; $30
1990-92
© Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Ike Cole, 38 years old, Los Angeles, California, $25' 1990-92

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Ike Cole, 38 years old, Los Angeles, California, $25
1990-92
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
30 x 40 inch (111.8 x 167.6 cm)
© Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York and Sprüth Magers, London/Berlin

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Eddie Anderson, 21 years old, Houston, Texas, $ 20' 1990-92

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Eddie Anderson, 21 years old, Houston, Texas, $ 20
1990-92
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm)
Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'New York' 1993

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
New York
1993
Ektacolor print
30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm)
Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Wellfleet' 1993

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Wellfleet
1993
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
41.3 x 51.8 cm
© Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Hong Kong' 1996

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Hong Kong
1996
Ektacolor print
25 x 37 1/2 inches (63.50 x 95.25 cm)
Courtesy the artist, and David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'New York City' 1996

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
New York City
1996
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
16 1/4 x 20 3/8 inches (41.3 x 51.8 cm)
© Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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“Starting October 5, 2013 De Pont museum of contemporary art is hosting the first European survey of the oeuvre of US photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Born in 1951, diCorcia is one of the most important and influential contemporary photographers. His images oscillate between everyday elements and arrangements that are staged down to the smallest detail. In his works, seemingly realistic images that are taken with an ostensibly documentary eye are undermined by their highly elaborate orchestration. This exhibition is organized in collaboration with Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt.

One of the primary issues that diCorcia addresses is the question of whether it is possible to depict reality, and this is what links his photographs, most of which he creates as series. For Hustlers (1990-1992), for example, he took pictures of male prostitutes in meticulously staged settings, while in what is probably his most famous series, Heads (2000-2001), he captured an instant in the everyday lives of unsuspecting passers­‐by. Alongside the series Streetwork (1993-1999), Lucky 13 (2004) and A Storybook Life (1975-1999), the exhibition at the Schirn, which was organized in close collaboration with the artist, will also present works from his new and ongoing East of Eden (2008-) project for the first time.

In addition, the work Thousand (2007) will also be on show in Tilburg. This installation consisting of 1,000 Polaroid’s, which are considered one complete work, offers a distinctive vantage point into the artist’s sensibility and visual preoccupations. Seen alongside Polaroid’s from some of diCorcia’s most recognized bodies of work and distinctive series  – Hustlers, Streetwork, Heads, Lucky Thirteen – are intimate scenes with friends, family members, and lovers; self portraits; double-exposures; test shots from commercial and fashion shoots; the ordinary places of everyday life, such as airport lounges, street corners, bedrooms; and still life portraits of common objects, including clocks and lamps.

For the Hustlers series (1990-1992), diCorcia shot photographs of male prostitutes along Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. The artist carefully staged the protagonists’ positions as well as the setting and the accompanying lighting. The titles of the respective photographs make reference to the name, age, and birthplace of the men as well as the amount of money diCorcia paid them for posing and which they typically receive for their sexual services. Staged in Tinseltown, the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, the hustlers become the touching performers of their own lost dreams.

The streets of New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, Mexico City, or Los Angeles are the setting for diCorcia’s Streetwork series. Produced between 1993 and 1999, passers-by walk into the artist’s photo trap on their way home, to work, to the gym, or to the grocery store, unsuspectingly passing through diCorcia’s arranged photoflash system. The photographer releases the shutter at a certain moment, “freezing” it in time. DiCorcia has time stand still in the hustle and bustle of big-city life and shifts individuals and groups of people into the center of events. In much the same way as in Hustlers, what counts here is not the documentary character of the work; instead, diCorcia poses the question: What is reality?

The artist heightens this focus on the individual in his subsequent series, Heads (2000-2001), for which he selected seventeen heads out of a total of some three thousand photographs. The viewer’s gaze is directed toward the face of the passer-by, who is moved into the center of the image by means of the lighting and the pictorial detail. The rest remains in shadowy darkness. The individuals – a young woman, a tourist, a man wearing a suit and tie – seem strangely isolated, almost lonely, their gazes otherworldly. DiCorcia turns the inside outward and for a brief moment elevates the individual above the crowd. The artist produces a profound intimacy.

With Streetwork and Heads, diCorcia treads a very individual path of street photography, which in America looks back at a long tradition established by artists such as Walker Evans, Robert Frank, or Diane Arbus. He reinvents the seemingly chance moment and transfers it into the present.

The painterly quality of diCorcia’s photographs, which is produced by means of dramatic lighting, becomes particularly evident in the series Lucky 13 (2004). The artist captures the athletic, naked bodies of pole dancers in the midst of a falling motion. The women achieve a sculptural plasticity by means of the strong lighting and the almost black background, and seem to have been chiselled in stone. Although the title of the series, an American colloquialism used to ward off a losing streak, makes reference to theseamy milieu of strip joints, the artist is not seeking to create a milieu study or celebrate voyeurism. Instead, the performers become metaphors for impermanence, luck, or the moment they begin to fall, suggesting the notion of “fallen angels.”

DiCorcia also includes a religious element in his most recent works, the series East of Eden, a work in progress that is being published for the first time in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition. Besides the biblical inspiration, which the title underscores, a literary connection can furthermore be made to the eponymous novel by John Steinbeck, which relates the story of Cain and Abel in the form of an American family saga set between the period of the Civil War and World War I. In his choice of motifs, diCorcia makes use of iconographic visual worlds: an apple tree in all its tantalizing glory, a blind married couple sitting at the dining table, a landscape photograph that leads us into endless expanses.

DiCorcia deals intensely with the motif of the figure in his oeuvre. His compact compositions are marked by a non-dialogue between people and their environment or between individual protagonists. The motifs captured in compositional variations in most of the series feature painterly qualities. Subtly arranged and falling back on a complex orchestration of the lighting, the visual worlds created by the American manifest social realities in an almost poetic way. The emotionally and narratively charged works are complex nexuses of iconographic allusions to and depictions of contemporary American society.”

Press release from the De Pont website

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Head #10' 2001

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Head #10
2001
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
48 x 60 inches (121.9 x 152.4 cm)
Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Head #11' 2001

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Head #11
2001
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
48 x 60 inches (121.9 x 152.4 cm)
Collection De Pont museum of contemporary art, Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Head #23' 2001

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Head #23
2001
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
48 x 60 inches (121.9 x 152.4 cm)
© Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Lola' 2004

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Lola
2004
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
64 1/2 x 44 1/2 inches (163.8 x 113 cm)
Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Juliet Ms. Muse' 2004

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Juliet Ms. Muse
2004
Fujicolor Crystal Archive print
64 1/2 x 44 1/2 inches (163.8 x 113 cm)
Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'The Hamptons' 2008

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
The Hamptons
2008
Inkjet print
40 x 60 inches (101.6 x 152.4 cm)
Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia. 'Sylmar, California' 2008

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Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Sylmar, California
2008
Inkjet print
56 x71 inches (142.2 x 180.3 cm)
Collection De Pont museum of contemporary art, Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

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De Pont museum of contemporary art
Wilhelminapark 1
5041 EA Tilburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Sunday 11 am – 5 pm

De Pont museum of contemporary art website

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28
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Garry Winogrand’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Exhibition dates: 9th March – 2nd June 2013

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“Every photograph is a battle of form versus content.”

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Garry Winogrand

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Playing God with his film

Form and content. Form and content

I don’t like the work of Garry Winogrand. Never have, never will. I think his work is overrated and and somewhat trite. That should stir up all the Winophiles who think that he is one of the best street photographers in the history of the medium!

At best his form is average – technical aspects adequate; composition is pretty basic including dull use of tension points within the picture frame; and framing very bland, tilted angles not withstanding. His content is nothing special either, mainly frontal shots of people walking towards him or voyeuristic shots while mingled in crowds, or a mixture of both. As he himself says, “I don’t have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph.” By letting the medium describe the world around him. And therein lies part of the problem.

Winogrand just looks – and you can’t fault someone for just looking. It’s just a not very interesting looking.

If I really look at Winogrand’s work I can see that he just states what he saw in shot after shot after shot, indiscriminately. Personally, I find there is a real cycnicism in his work. The photographs “describe” his own state of mind – as much as he denies that he (or his state of mind) has anything to do with the act of describing the world through photography. You see, it’s all about how the camera sees the world and not how he sees it. Hence, Winogrand hardly embraces his feelings towards the world and if he does, it is only in a half-hearted manner. For example, he goes a certain way towards the dark (as in the photographs Utah (Wyoming), 1964 and Los Angeles, 1964, both below) and then stops. The other part of the problem is this: what you can also fault is all the hyperbole that is laid over the top of his work by curators and museums – because on close examination the work really doesn’t justify it. It’s actually not that good.

Winogrand states and summarises but doesn’t solve. He just keeps adding to the list occasionally, under duress, ordering it (photographs of women in the book Women are Beautiful, 1975):

“During his Austin years he was preparing two books, ‘Public Relations’ and ‘Women are Beautiful’. Given his method of printing every image on the contact sheet for the selection process, and given his proclivity for the physical act of shooting, no wonder he wasn’t out on the street as much as he’d like. Yes he had to print, select and publish some prints to survive unless he wanted to teach the rest of his life. I don’t believe he wanted to do that. Had there been a way, I believe he would died a blissful death had he been on the streets clicking away and either letting the exposed film rot or letting someone else process and print them, and arrange the books and shows and collect the money. That’s how much he loved the physical act of shooting. 

He felt at home out there, looking for the next image to expose. He was also the boss out there, playing God with his film and deciding where to frame that next battle between form and content, then the next and the next.”1

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Playing God with his film…

In some ways Winogrand reminds me of both the king and the court jester. King because he could frame the battle between form and content ad infinitum and jester because he was the fool, standing in front of people, laughing, smiling, obsequious, running hither and yon to get every shot, any shot. See the video below to understand what I mean. Unlike the photographs in Robert Frank’s The Americans, his is not a poetic understanding of the world for the difference between Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand is that the former’s photographs are undeniably poetic while the latter’s are prosaic aphorisms about the world. In Winogrand’s “describing” the social landscape he photographed is reduced to lists of things: “the dislocation of urban life, the rise of the suburb with its growing alienation, the skepticism of youth, and the collusion of the press and the powerful,” rarely pursued by any obvious means and certainly not through poetic evocation.

I think that Winogrand struggled with the question – do I add to the list or do I order the list? Obviously he chose the former, for if there is no order in life there can be no order in the archive. Hence we are left with the “Unfinished” Late Work, an archive of 250,000 images that have remained virtually unknown. A boon for researchers and curators wishing to position Winogrand’s legacy “revealing for the first time the full sweep of his career… creating a vivid portrait of the artist.”

Even when the artist could not be bothered (so why should we bother).
Even when the images were never seen or acknowledged.
The artist streetwise in his omnipotent isolation.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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“Great photography is always on the edge of failure.”
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“I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs.”
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“I like to think of photographing as a two-way act of respect. Respect for the medium, by letting it do what it does best, describe. And respect for the subject, by describing as it is. A photograph must be responsible to both.”
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“I don’t have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph. I have no preconceptions.”

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Garry Winogrand

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“We quickly learned Winogrand’s technique – he walked slowly or stood in the middle of pedestrian traffic as people went by. He shot prolifically. I watched him walk a short block and shoot an entire roll without breaking stride. As he reloaded, I asked him if he felt bad about missing pictures when he reloaded. “No,” he replied, “there are no pictures when I reload.” He was constantly looking around, and often would see a situation on the other side of a busy intersection. Ignoring traffic, he would run across the street to get the picture.”

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Mason Resnick

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“Form and content are two keys which make a memorable street photograph. Consider “form” as the composition, framing, and technical aspects of a photograph. Consider “content” as what is actually happening in the photograph (whether it be an old couple holding hands, a boy holding two bottles of wine, or a man looking through a peep-hole)… Garry Winogrand shot with a 28mm lens for most of his life [using a Leica M4 35mm and Tri-X film pushed to 1200 ASA], which meant that for the majority of his shots he had to be quite close to his subjects (and in front of them). Therefore Winogrand wasn’t Henri Cartier-Bresson (trying to be invisible) but was actively a part of the action and immersed in the crowds. He would be very obviously taking photographs in the streets and would stick out like a sore thumb.”

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Eric Kim

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Garry Winogrand – The Man In The Crowd

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Garry Winogrand. 'Utah (Wyoming)' 1964

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Garry Winogrand
Utah (Wyoming)
1964
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'Fort Worth, Texas' 1974

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Garry Winogrand
Fort Worth, Texas
1974
Gelatin silver print
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Doris and Donald Fisher and Marion E. Greene
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'Fort Worth, Texas' 1975

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Garry Winogrand
Fort Worth, Texas
1975
Gelatin silver print
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Dr. Paul Getz
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'John F. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles' 1960

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Garry Winogrand
John F. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles
1960
Posthumous digital reproduction from original negative
Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles' 1960

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Garry Winogrand
Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles
1960
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' c. 1960

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Garry Winogrand
New York
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'Elliot Richardson Press Conference, Austin, Texas' 1973

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Garry Winogrand
Elliot Richardson Press Conference, Austin, Texas
1973
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Elliot Lee Richardson (July 20, 1920 – December 31, 1999) was an American lawyer and politician who was a member of the cabinet of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. As U.S. Attorney General, he was a prominent figure in the Watergate Scandal, and resigned rather than obey President Nixon’s order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. (Text from Wikipedia)

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Garry Winogrand. 'Centennial Ball, Metropolitan Museum, New York' 1969

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Garry Winogrand
Centennial Ball, Metropolitan Museum, New York
1969
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'Point Mugu Naval Air-Station, California' 1979

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Garry Winogrand
Point Mugu Naval Air-Station, California
1979
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Untitled-1970-gelatin-silver-print-WEB

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Garry Winogrand
Untitled
1970
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'Venice Beach, Los Angeles' 1979

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Garry Winogrand
Venice Beach, Los Angeles
1979
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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“The first retrospective in 25 years of work by artist Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) – the renowned photographer of New York City and of American life from the 1950s through the early 1980s – will debut at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) from March 9 through June 2, 2013. Jointly organized by SFMOMA and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Garry Winogrand brings together the artist’s most iconic images with newly printed photographs from his largely unexamined archive of late work, offering a rigorous overview of Winogrand’s complete working life and revealing for the first time the full sweep of his career. More than 300 photographs in the exhibition and more than 400 in the accompanying catalogue will create a vivid portrait of the artist – a chronicler of postwar America on a par with such figures as Norman Mailer and Robert Rauschenberg who unflinchingly captured America’s wrenching swings between optimism and upheaval in the decades following World War II.

While Winogrand is widely considered one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, his overall body of work and influence on the field remains incompletely explored. He was enormously prolific but largely postponed the editing and printing of his work. Dying suddenly at the age of 56, he left behind approximately 6,500 rolls of film (some 250,000 images) that he had never seen, as well as proof sheets from his earlier years that he had marked but never printed. Roughly half of the photographs in the exhibition have never been exhibited or published until now; over 100 have never before been printed.

“There exists in photography no other body of work of comparable size or quality that is so editorially unresolved,” says Rubinfien, who was among the youngest of Winogrand’s circle of friends in the 1970s. “This exhibition represents the first effort to comprehensively examine Winogrand’s unfinished work. It also aims to turn the presentation of his work away from topical editing and toward a freer organization that is faithful to his art’s essential spirit, thus enabling a new understanding of his oeuvre, even for those who think they know him.”

The exhibition is divided into three parts, each covering a broad variety of subjects found in Winogrand’s art. “Down from the Bronx” presents photographs taken for the most part in New York from his start in 1950 until 1971; “A Student of America” looks at work made in the same period during journeys outside New York; and “Boom and Bust” addresses Winogrand’s late period – from when he moved away from New York in 1971 until his death in 1984 – with photographs from Texas and Southern California, as well as Chicago, Washington, Miami, and other locations. This third section also includes a small number of photographs Winogrand made on trips back to Manhattan, which express a sense of desolation unprecedented in his earlier work.

Winogrand was known as great talker with a flamboyant, forceful personality, and what he said accompanying his slide shows and lectures was often imaginative and very funny. A number of videos edited for presentation in the exhibition will allow visitors to experience the living Winogrand as audiences have rarely been able to do for 30-odd years. A short selection from Winogrand’s experimental 8mm footage taken in the late 1960s will also be on view.

After premiering at SFMOMA in spring 2013 Garry Winogrand will travel to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (March 2 through June 8, 2014); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (June 27 through September 21, 2014); the Jeu de Paume, Paris (October 14, 2014 through January 25, 2015); and the Fundacion MAPFRE, Madrid (March 3 through May 10, 2015).

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An Epic Chronicler of Postwar America

Born in the Bronx, Winogrand did much of his best-known work in Manhattan during the 1960s, and in both the content of his photographs and his artistic style he became one of the principal voices of that eruptive decade – so much so that influential Museum of Modern Art curator John Szarkowski anointed him “the central photographer of his generation.”

Known primarily as a street photographer, Winogrand, who is often associated with famed contemporaries Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander, photographed with dazzling energy and incessant appetite, exposing some 20,000 rolls of film in his short lifetime. He photographed business moguls, everyday women on the street, famous actors and athletes, hippies, rodeos, politicians, soldiers, animals in zoos, car culture, airports, and antiwar demonstrators and the construction workers who beat them bloody in view of the unmoved police. Daily life in postwar America – rich with new possibility and yet equally anxious, threatening to spin out of control – seemed to unfold for him in a continuous stream.

Yet if Winogrand was one of New York City’s prime photographers, he was also an avid traveler who roamed widely around the United States, bringing exquisite work out of locations that included Los Angeles, San Francisco, Ohio, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Colorado, and the open country of the Southwest. “You could say that I am a student of photography,” he said, “and I am; but really I’m a student of America.” Winogrand’s expansive visual catalogue of the nation’s evolving social scene has led to comparisons to Walt Whitman, who also unspooled the world in endless lists of people, places, and things.

Winogrand’s pictures often bulge with twenty or thirty figures, and are fascinating both for their dramatic foregrounds and the sub-events at their edges. Even when crowded with people or at their most lighthearted – he was fond of visual puns and was drawn to the absurd – his pictures can convey a feeling of human isolation, hinting at something darker beneath the veneer of the American dream. Early on, some critics considered his pictures formally “shapeless” and “random,” but admirers and critics later found a unique poetry in his tilted horizons and his love of the haphazard.

“Winogrand was an artistic descendant of Walker Evans and Robert Frank, but differed sharply from them,” says Rubinfien. “He admired Frank’s ‘The Americans’, but felt the work missed the main story of its time, which in his mind was the emergence of suburban prosperity and isolation. The hope and buoyancy of middle-class life in postwar America is half of the emotional heart of Winogrand’s work. The other half is a sense of undoing. The tension between these qualities gives his work its distinct character.”

After serving in the military as a weather forecaster, Winogrand first began working as a photographer while studying painting on the G.I. Bill at Columbia University (1948–51). During that time, he also studied briefly with Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research. While pursuing his personal work, he began supplying commercial photographs to a number of general-interest magazines such as Life, Look, Sports Illustrated, Collier’s, and Pageant, which were then at the height of their power and reach. His career was further shaped by the decline of those magazines and the rise of a new culture of photography centered in the art world.

“Winogrand worked at a moment when the boundaries between journalistic and artistic photography were less certain than they had ever been, yet it was also a time when the most advanced photographers were consciously abandoning journalistic values,” says Greenough. “The social landscape he photographed – the dislocation of urban life, the rise of the suburb with its growing alienation, the skepticism of youth, and the collusion of the press and the powerful – was of concern to many Americans. Yet Winogrand rarely pursued an obvious means to explicate these ideas, preferring poetic evocation over intelligible journalism.”

Winogrand went on to exhibit widely at prominent museums and achieved renown in his lifetime. Yet despite this recognition, he is perhaps the most inadequately understood of all his contemporaries.

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“Unfinished” Late Work Thoroughly Investigated for the First Time

The act of taking pictures was far more fulfilling to Winogrand than making prints or editing for books and exhibitions – he often allowed others to perform these tasks for him. Near the end of his life, he spoke of reviewing and reediting all of his photographs, but never had a chance to oversee the shaping of his legacy, or even to review much of the output of his later years. Because of his working methods and his lack of interest in developing his film toward the end of his life, he left behind more than 2,500 rolls of exposed but undeveloped film, an additional 4,100 rolls that he had processed but never seen – an estimated total of 250,000 images that have remained virtually unknown.

Furthermore, Winogrand published just five modest books during his lifetime – The Animals (1969), Women Are Beautiful (1975), Garry Winogrand (1976), Public Relations (1977), and Stock Photographs (1980) – that represent only a fraction of his work and are mainly confined to narrow topical frames that don’t suggest the full scope of his importance.

“One reason that Winogrand is only now receiving the full retrospective treatment already devoted to peers of his era, including Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Robert Frank, is that any truly comprehensive consideration of his life’s work requires contending with the practical and ethical issues surrounding the vast archive he left behind,” says O’Toole. “In the absence of explicit instructions from him regarding how he wanted his work to be handled after he was gone, its posthumous treatment has been the subject of ongoing debate and raises provocative questions about the creative process and its relationship to issues specific to the medium.”

“Some argue that what was left behind should be left alone, and that no one should intrude upon the intentions of an artist,” adds Rubinfien. “But the quantity of Winogrand’s output, the incompleteness with which he reviewed it, and the suddenness of his death create a special case in which the true scope of an eminent photographer’s work cannot be known without the intervention of an editor.”

Now housed at the Center for Creative Photography of the University of Arizona, Tucson, Winogrand’s “unfinished” work was initially organized in the years just after his death by several colleagues and friends in preparation for the artist’s first major museum retrospective, held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA) in 1988. Exhibition curator John Szarkowski felt the quality of Winogrand’s work had significantly deteriorated in the last 15 years of his life, and included only a small group of pictures from the mysterious late work in MoMA exhibition.

Nearly 30 years have elapsed since the last attempt to grapple with the complete arc of Winogrand’s career. Benefiting from new curatorial research undertaken for this project, the current exhibition will provide a long-awaited reevaluation of his accomplishments. As one of the first museums to recognize photography as a legitimate art form, SFMOMA has collaborated with the National Gallery of Art – who, like SFMOMA, is known for its photography scholarship – in a multi-year endeavor to spearhead the presentation of this important exhibition and publication.”

Press release from the SFMOMA website

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' 1961

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Garry Winogrand
New York
1961
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' 1963

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Garry Winogrand
New York
1963
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'San Marcos, Texas' 1964

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Garry Winogrand
San Marcos, Texas
1964
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'Coney Island, New York' c. 1952

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Garry Winogrand
Coney Island, New York
c. 1952
Gelatin silver print
Collection The Museum of Modern Art, New York, purchase and gift of Barbara Schwartz in memory of Eugene M. Schwartz
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; digital image
© The Museum of Modern Art/ Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

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Garry Winogrand. 'Fort Worth, Texas' 1974-77

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Garry Winogrand
Fort Worth, Texas
1974-77
Gelatin silver print
Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York' 1968

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Garry Winogrand
John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York
1968
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' 1950

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Garry Winogrand
New York
1950
Gelatin silver print
Collection SFMOMA, fractional and promised gift of Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' c. 1962

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Garry Winogrand
New York
c. 1962
Gelatin silver print
Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'Venice Beach, Los Angeles' 1980-83

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Garry Winogrand
Venice Beach, Los Angeles
1980-83
Gelatin silver print
Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'Grand Central Station' 1968

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Garry Winogrand
Grand Central Station
1968
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'Los Angeles' 1964

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Garry Winogrand
Los Angeles
1964
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' 1968

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Garry Winogrand
New York
1968
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' c. 1969

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Garry Winogrand
New York
c. 1969
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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1. Garza, O. C. Class Time with Garry Winogrand. 2007, p.19 [Online] Cited 26/05/2013
www.ocgarzaphotography.com/documents/ClassTimewithGarryWinograndfinal2.pdf

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San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Opening hours:
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Open late Thursdays, until 8.45 pm

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29
Dec
12

Exhibitions: ‘Howard Greenberg, Collection’ and ‘Freaks, The Monstrous Parade: Photographs from Enrico Praloran Collection’ at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition dates: both 21st September 2012 – 6th January 2013

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This is a meta-post where I have brought together photographs from the second exhibition Freaks, The Monstrous Parade: Photographs from Enrico Praloran Collection and all the good quality images of Todd Browning’s cult film Freaks (1932) that were available online, since the museum only provided me with three media images (the first three) on a fascinating subject. By reflection, the photographs from Freaks have a strange correlation to the photographs that appear in the Howard Greenberg, Collection.

There is an interesting discussion by Amanda Ann Klein on her blog (see link below) about her students reaction to the film that she taught as part of her Trash Cinema class. She observes that, “Freaks preaches acceptance and… the belief that we are all “God’s children.” And yet, the film was intended to “out horror” Frankenstein through its fantastic display of disabled bodies…” but that her students did not see it as an exploitation film, in fact they approved of the revenge taken by the freaks on Cleopatra and Hercules at the end of the film, even though this seemed to replicate the very imagery Browning denounced earlier in the film. Klein insightfully notes that “it did prove to be an interesting example of how a film’s reception can change dramatically over time.”

The content of a work of art is never fixed by the author as the context and meaning of the work is never fixed by the viewer. As David Smail notes the truth changes according to, among other things, developments in our values and understandings. There can be many truths depending on our line-of-sight and point-of-view but a subjective non-final truth has to be actively struggled for:

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“Where objective knowing is passive, subjective knowing is active – rather than giving allegiance to a set of methodological rules which are designed to deliver up truth through some kind of automatic process
[in this case the image], the subjective knower takes a personal risk in entering into the meaning of the phenomena to be known … Those who have some time for the validity of subjective experience but intellectual qualms about any kind of ‘truth’ which is not ‘objective’, are apt to solve their problem by appealing to some kind of relativity. For example, it might be felt that we all have our own versions of the truth about which we must tolerantly agree to differ. While in some ways this kind of approach represents an advance on the brute domination of ‘objective truth’, it in fact undercuts and betrays the reality of the world given to our subjectivity. Subjective truth has to be actively struggled for: we need the courage to differ until we can agree. Though the truth is not just a matter of personal perspective, neither is it fixed and certain, objectively ‘out there’ and independent of human knowing. ‘The truth’ changes according to, among other things, developments and alterations in our values and understandings … the ‘non-finality’ of truth is not to be confused with a simple relativity of ‘truths’.”

Smail, David. Illusion and Reality: The Meaning of Anxiety. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1984, pp.152-153

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Many thankx to the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Dorothea Lange. 'Migratory Cotton Picker' Eloy, Arizona 1940

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Dorothea Lange
Migratory Cotton Picker
Eloy, Arizona, 1940
© Library of Congress
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Collection

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Ruth Orkin. 'American Girl in Italy' 1951

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Ruth Orkin
American Girl in Italy
1951
© Ruth Orkin
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Collection

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Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Madrid' 1933

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Henri Cartier-Bresson
Madrid
1933
© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos
Courtesy of Fondation HCB and Howard Greenberg Collection

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Walker Evans. 'Negro Church, South Carolina' 1936

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Walker Evans
Negro Church, South Carolina
1936
© Library of Congress
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Collection

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Dorothea Lange. 'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California' 1936

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Dorothea Lange
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California
1936
© Library of Congress
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Collection

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Leon Levinstein. 'Fifth Avenue' c. 1959

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Leon Levinstein
Fifth Avenue
c. 1959
© Howard Greenberg Gallery
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Collection

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“The Musée de l’Elysée presents different approaches to collecting photography by means of these original exhibitions.

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Howard Greenberg, Collection

Howard Greenberg has been a gallery owner for over thirty years and is considered today one of the pillars of the New York photography scene. While his position as a dealer is well established, little was known of his passion for collecting, presently revealed to the public for the first time. The primary reason to explain why it took so long to discover this collection is because building such a collection demands time. Only in time can the maturity of a collection be measured; the time necessary to smooth trends, confirm the rarity of a print, and in the end, validate the pertinence of a vision.
In an era of immediacy, when new collectors exhibit unachieved projects or create their own foundation, great original collections are rare. Howard Greenberg’s is certainly one of the few still to be discovered.

The quality of a collection does not rely on the sole accumulation of master pieces but can best be assessed through a dialectical movement: a collection is the collector’s oeuvre, a set of images operating a transformation in the perception not only of the photographs, but also of photography. This renewed perception is two-fold in the Greenberg collection; through the surprising combination of two approaches, the experimental practice of photography that questions the medium as such, bringing it to the limits of abstraction on one hand, and on the other, a documentary practice, carried out through its recording function of the real. This apparently irreconcilable duality takes on a particular signification in the Greenberg collection, an investigation of the possibilities offered by photography, a quest for photography itself, questioning what it is.

Howard Greenberg and his collection have largely contributed to the writing of a chapter of history. While contributing to the recogni­tion of long neglected figures of the New York post-war photogra­phy scene, filling a gap, as gallery owner, Howard Greenberg, the collector, ensured the preservation of a coherent body by building over that period a unique collection of major photographs.

This collection of over 500 photographs was patiently built over the last thirty years and stands out for the high quality of its prints. A set of some 120 works are exhibited for the first time at the Musée de l’Elysée, revealing different aspects of Howard Greenberg’s interests, from the modernist aesthetics of the 20s and 30s, with works by Edward Steichen, Edward Weston or the Czech School, to contemporary photographers such as Minor White,
Harry Callahan and Robert Frank. Humanist photography is particularly well represented, including among others, Lewis Hine and Henri Cartier-Bresson. An important section is dedicated to the Farm Security Administration’s photographers, such as Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange, witnesses to the Great Depression years of the 30s. Above all, the collection demonstrates the great influence of New York in the history of 20th century photography with the images of Berenice Abbott, Weegee, Leon Levinstein or Lee Friedlander conveying its architecture and urban lifestyle. Commending its work and prominent position, and wishing to make his private collection available to a large audience, Howard Greenberg selected the Musée de l’Elysée to host his collection.

The Musée de l’Elysée and the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson jointly produce this exhibition which, after Lausanne, will subsequently be presented in Paris.”

Press release from the Musée de l’Elysée website

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Freaks, The Monstrous Parade: Photographs from Enrico Praloran Collection 

American director Tod Browning (1880-1962) has a particular attraction for the uncanny. Freaks, his cult movie shot in 1932, is inspired by a short story written by Clarence Aaron “Tod” Robbins. Set in a circus, the performers are disabled actors. The movie caused a scandal when it was released and Freaks was soon censored, reedited, shortened, sometimes removed from theaters, and in cases banned in some countries. Not until the 60s, when it was presented at the Cannes Festival, was the movie acclaimed to the point of becoming a reference for artists such as Diane Arbus or David Lynch.

The Musée de l’Elysée presents a selection of some fifty vintage black and white silver prints, gathered by Enrico Praloran, a collector based in Zurich. This unique set is the opportunity for an encounter with the movie’s strange protagonists, Johny Eck, the Half Boy, Daisy and Violet Hilton, the Siamese sisters, Martha Morris, the “Armless Marvel”, or the Bearded Lady and the Human Skeleton. They all are artists for real, coming from the Barnum Circus.

The plot is transcribed in images through stills from the movie’s major scenes, completed by set or shooting photographs, taking us behind the scenes, including on the footsteps of Tod Browning himself.”

Press release from the Musée de l’Elysée website

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Tod Browning (director) 'Freaks' 1932 Still photograph Courtesy of Praloran Collection, Zurich

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Tod Browning (director)
Freaks (Cleopatra followed by the freaks)
1932
Still photograph
1932
Courtesy of Praloran Collection, Zurich

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Tod Browning (director) 'Freaks' 1932 Still photograph Courtesy of Praloran Collection, Zurich

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Tod Browning (director)
Freaks (Johnny Eck)
1932
Still photograph
Courtesy of Praloran Collection, Zurich

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Tod Browning (director) 'Freaks' 1932 Still photograph Courtesy of Praloran Collection, Zurich

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Tod Browning (director)
Freaks
1932
Still photograph
Courtesy of Praloran Collection, Zurich

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“Freaks centers on an enchanting preformer, Cleopatra, who entices a “midget,” named Hans, into falling in love with her. They were called midgets then, now they are referred to as little people. The “midget” is in fact enaged to another woman who is incedentally, also a “midget,” named Freida. Cleopatra was at first only trying to fool around with Hans and get money from him occasionally. She soon realized that Hans had inherited quite a large amount of money. She devises a plan to marry Hans and later poison him to inherit the money. Arguably, the most famous scene in Freaks is Hans and Cleo’s wedding reception. The “freaks” reluctantly decide to accept her despite her “normality” and chant the notoriously disturbing yet hilarious quote, “We accept you, one of us! Gooble Gobble!” Afterwards, Hans then becomes very ill by Cleo’s hand. He soon figures out her plan and the freaks become offended. They knew she could not be one of them. The film ends with a horrific and disturbing chase in the rain where the “freaks” follow her slowly and Cleo screams for her life. Her and her lover, the “muscle man,” are caught and not killed, but worse. They become freaks themselves. They are mutilated, castrated, and deformed until they are the subject of a freak show. They became one of the “freaks” they hated so much…

One of the most gut-wrenching things about this films is the fact that every “freak” in the film was a real person with the same deformity their characters had. This gives the story a profound sense of reality, making the betrayal of Hans by Cleo all the more tragic. The film was extremely controversial when released and hated by audiences. The scenes where Cleo and the muscle man were mutilated had to be cut from the film in order to be shown in theaters. That footage has since been lost. In a viewing of the film, a sudden jump takes place after the freaks catch Cleo. The audience feels cheated. We have waited so long to see Cleo get her punishment. Part of that dissatisfaction adds to the mystique of this bizzare trip. The film was forgotten about until the mid 1970s where it was rediscovered as a counterculture cult film. A counterculture film runs counter to the the norm of society. Freaks is a great example of fame by taboos and controversy. It explores themes of humanity that are still relatively unexplored today.”

Text from the Cult Films and Cultural Significance website

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“Freaks is a tale of love and vengeance in a traveling circus…

In her essay “Intolerable Ambiguity: Freaks as/at the Limit,” Elizabeth Grosz attempts to unpack our fascination with freak shows. She concludes that the individuals most frequently showcased in these spectacles, including Siamese twins, hermaphrodites, “pinheads” (microcephalics), midgets, and bearded ladies “imperil the very definitions we rely on to classify humans, identities and sexes – our most fundamental categories of self-definition and boundaries dividing self from otherness” (57). In other words, while we comfort ourselves by breaking down the world into neat binary oppositions, such as Male/Female, Self/Other, Human/Animal, Child/Adult, “freaks” blur the boundaries between these reassuring oppositions. She concludes, “The freak confirms the viewer as bounded, belonging to a ‘proper’ social category. The viewer’s horror lies in the recognition that this monstrous being is at the heart of his or her identity, for it is all that must be ejected or abjected from self-image to make the bounded, category-obeying self possible” (65). We need the freak to confirm our own static, bounded identities. And yet, I think there is a certain terror that we may not be as bounded as we think. If the hermaphrodite can transcend traditional gender categories, then perhaps our own genders are more fluid. For many that is a truly horrifying thought.

For example, in one of the film’s earliest scenes we witness the “pinheads” Schlitze, Elvira and Jenny Lee dancing and playing in the forest. From a distance they look like innocent, happy children. But as the camera approaches, it is clear that they are neither children, nor are they quite adults either. Thus it is the ambiguity here, rather than the disability itself, which is momentarily disturbing…

Grosz also mentions that “Any discussion of freaks brings back into focus a topic that has had a largely underground existence in contemporary cultural and intellectual life, partly because it is considered below the refined sensibilities of ‘good taste’ and ‘personal politeness’ in a civilized and politically correct milieu” (55).”

Amanda Ann Klein. “Teaching Todd Browning’s Freaks,” on the Judgemental Observer blog
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  • Grosz, Elizabeth. “Intolerable Ambiguity: Freaks as/at the Limit,” in Rosemarie Garland Thomson (ed.). Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New York: New York University Press, 1996, pp.55-68
  • Hawkins, Joan. ”’One of Us’: Tod Browning’s Freaks,” in Rosemarie Garland Thomson (ed.). Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New York: New York University Press, 1996, pp.265-276
  • Norden, Martin F. The Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1994

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Tod Browning (director) 'Freaks (Cleopatra and freaks)' 1932

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Tod Browning (director)
Freaks (Cleopatra and freaks)
1932
Still photograph

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Tod Browning (director) 'Publicity photo for Freaks, featuring much of the cast with director, Tod Browning' 1932

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Tod Browning (director)
Publicity photo for Freaks, featuring much of the cast with director, Tod Browning
1932
Still photograph

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Tod Browning (director) 'Freaks (with Siamese Twins Daisy and Violet Hilton)' 1932

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Tod Browning (director)
Freaks (with Siamese Twins Daisy and Violet Hilton)
1932
Still photograph

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Tod Browning (director) 'Freaks' 1932

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Tod Browning (director)
Freaks
1932
Still photograph

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Tod Browning (director) 'Freaks (shooting the wedding banquet)' 1932

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Tod Browning (director)
Freaks (shooting the wedding banquet)
1932
Still photograph

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Tod Browning (director) 'Freaks (with Cleopatra and Hans at the wedding banquet)' 1932

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Tod Browning (director)
Freaks (with Cleopatra and Hans at the wedding banquet)
1932
Still photograph

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Tod Browning (director) 'Freaks (Olga Baclanova as Cleopatra after her transformation into chicken woman)' 1932

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Tod Browning (director)
Freaks (Olga Baclanova as Cleopatra after her transformation into chicken woman)
1932
Still photograph

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Theatrical poster for Freaks 1932

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Theatrical poster for Freaks
1932

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The Musée de l’Elysée 
18, avenue de l’Elysée
CH – 1014 Lausanne
T: + 41 21 316 99 11

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Closed Monday, except for bank holidays

The Musée de l’Elysée website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘England’ 1993

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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