Posts Tagged ‘film noir

08
Sep
17

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

Exhibition dates: 30th April – 30th July 2017

The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery, sixth floor

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Marcus

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

.
Roberta Smith. “Louise Lawler’s Stealth Aesthetic (and Muted Aura),” on the New York Times website

 

 

 

Louise Lawler: WHY PICTURES NOW | MoMA LIVE

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

Louise Lawler’s Birdcalls at MoMA

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Louise Lawler. 'Why Pictures Now' 1981

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Louise Lawler. 'Monogram' 1984

 

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

 

 

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

Roberta Smith. “Louise Lawler’s Stealth Aesthetic (and Muted Aura),” on the New York Times website

 

Louise Lawler. 'Untitled, 1950-51' 1987

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

.
Craig Hulbert on the Hyperallergic website

 

 

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

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

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

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

Press release from MoMA

 

Louise Lawler. 'Untitled (Salon Hodler)' 1992

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Louise Lawler. 'Sentimental' 1999/2000

 

Louise Lawler
Sentimental
1999/2000
Silver dye bleach print
40 ¾ x 46 ¾” (103.5 x 118.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'WAR IS TERROR' 2001/2003

 

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

 

Louise Lawler. 'Nude' 2002/2003

 

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

 

Louise Lawler. 'White Gloves' 2002/2004

 

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

 

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

 

Louise Lawler
Life After 1945 (Faces)
2006/2007
Silver dye bleach print
40 x 33 ¼” (101.6 x 84.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

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

 

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

 

Louise Lawler. 'No Drones' 2010/2011

 

Louise Lawler
No Drones
2010/2011
Chromogenic colour print
29 ¼ x 19 ¾” (74.3 x 50.2 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Marie +270' 2010/2012

 

Louise Lawler
Marie +270
2010/2012
Chromogenic colour print
59 x 45 ½” (149.9 x 115.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Promised gift of Ricki Gail Conway
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

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

 

Louise Lawler
Pollock and Tureen (traced)
1984/2013
Dimensions variable
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Endowment
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

 

One of her most famous images, “Pollock and Tureen” (1984), shows a fragment of a painting by Jackson Pollock above an antique soup tureen. In the photograph, the colour relationships are clear, offering insight into the choices of the collectors who “arranged” (a favourite word of Lawler’s) the scene. The work is about class, capitalism, and domesticity, not to mention reality and fiction. But when all the site-specific context is removed [in the tracing] … all we’re left with is contemplating the original Lawler artwork’s role in art history and the market.

In Benjamin Buchloh’s essay for Lawler’s retrospective last year at the Museum Ludwig, one of his most cogent points is about the nature of melancholy in her original photographs. “[H]er images,” he writes, “leave equally little doubt that there is hardly a more melancholic space than that of a fulfilled and seemingly satisfied utopian aspiration, one that has, however, not quite lived up to the originary promises … ”

Hrag Vartanian on the Hypoallergic website

 

Louise Lawler. 'Hand on Her Back (traced)' 1997/1998/2013

 

Louise Lawler
Hand on Her Back (traced)
1997/1998/2013
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Evening Sale' 2010/2015

 

Louise Lawler
Evening Sale
2010/2015
Silver dye bleach print
50 x 36 5/8” (127 x 93 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Big (adjusted to fit)' 2002/2003/2016

 

Louise Lawler
Big (adjusted to fit)
2002/2003/2016
Dimensions variable
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of The Modern Women’s Fund and The Contemporary Arts Council
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Still Life (Candle) (adjusted to fit)' 2003/2016

 

Louise Lawler
Still Life (Candle) (adjusted to fit)
2003/2016
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

Louise Lawler. 'Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber Inc. (adjusted to fit)' 1982/2016

 

Louise Lawler
Arranged by Donald Marron, Susan Brundage, Cheryl Bishop at Paine Webber Inc. (adjusted to fit)
1982/2016
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures
© 2016 Louise Lawler

 

 

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21
Feb
17

Exhibition: ‘Film Stills: Photography between Advertising, Art and the Cinema’ at Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 4th November 2016 – 26th February 2017

 

I seem to have a bit of a thing for film and photography at the moment!

More delicious film fascination, this time for the still camera. German Expressionism, film noir, science-fiction, horror, murder and mayhem – photographers using all manner of artistic techniques to get their message across. Now often found in fine art auction houses.

I love the heading “Intermediality and Self-Reflexivity” … “intermediate images” that unite aspects of both media (film and photography) and self-reflexive images that take on a life of their own, developing “a filmic work further in an independent manner, thereby allowing it to be regarded from new perspectives. Such stills often contain self-reflexive commentary on the work’s specifically “filmic” aspects.”

Sensitive, sensual, snapshot; stars and auteurism; murder and mayhem; avant-garde, beauty and sex – it has it all. Great stuff.

Marcus

PS. Look at the amazing colours in Horst von Harbou’s stills for Metropolis (1927) which were produced as transparent foils and elaborately coloured by hand. Never heard of such a thing before, coloured transparent foils.

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

 

 

Anonymous. 'La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc' 1927

 

Anonymous
La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc
1927
Karl Theodor Dreyer (director)

 

 

Carl Theodor Dreyer (3 February 1889 – 20 March 1968), commonly known as Carl Th. Dreyer, was a Danish film director. He is regarded by many critics and filmmakers as one of the greatest directors in cinema. His best known films include The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Vampyr (1932), Day of Wrath (1943), Ordet (1955), and Gertrud (1964) …

As a young man, Dreyer worked as a journalist, but he eventually joined the film industry as a writer of title cards for silent films and subsequently of screenplays. He was initially hired by Nordisk Film in 1913.

His first attempts at film direction had limited success, and he left Denmark to work in the French film industry. While living in France he met Jean Cocteau, Jean Hugo and other members of the French artistic scene and in 1928 he made his first classic film, The Passion of Joan of Arc. Working from the transcripts of Joan’s trial, he created a masterpiece of emotion that drew equally on realism and expressionism.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

 

 

Who doesn’t know them: that picture from The Seven-Year Itch of a smiling Marilyn Monroe with her white dress blown upward by the air from a subway grate, or the photo of a conspiratorial James Stewart in Rear Window? Regardless of whether one has seen the actual movies, such images are familiar. It’s film stills like these that have burnt themselves into the collective memory and had a major impact on how their films are perceived.

Film stills embody visual traces of films as well as independent photographic images. Taken on set during production, they are based on an elaborate process in which film photographers re-stage film scenes for the still camera.

In the first-ever major exhibition devoted to this hybrid genre, the Albertina is showing 130 film stills taken between 1902 and 1975 in cooperation with the Austrian Film Museum. That was the period during which black-and-white film stills reached their highest level of technical and aesthetic quality, simultaneously covering a sweeping cross-section of various artistic movements from photographic and cinematic history such as Pictorialism and Expressionism. Employing pictures by Deborah Imogen Beer, Horst von Harbou, Pierluigi Praturlon, Karl Struss, and others, three aspects of this genre’s intermedial relationships are highlighted: the functions performed by film stills, the interfaces between photography and film with their breaks and couplings, and the additional artistic value of still photographs as such.

 

For the Media and the Press

The purpose of film stills is clearly defined: as material for the press and various types of advertising, they help to market films. And alongside their use in trailers, film journalism, and other marketing tools such as posters, film stills also represent a key ingredient of audience expectations pertaining to a film upon its release. Even so, it is the production of visually appealing images – rather than authentic reproduction of the film itself – that is important, here. In display windows and the media, still images visualise different aspects of a production ranging from key scenes to the actual filming work. This motivic variety corresponds to various film still categories: portrait photos of the actors and actresses taken by in-house studio photographers, as well as scene photos and making-of photos, are used in these contexts. And fed into numerous distribution processes, such photos also serve as models for posters, lobby cards, photo books, and press materials.

 

Intermediality and Self-Reflexivity

Film stills unite functional requirements with photographic and filmic intentions. And in fact, still photography is the only way in which to show visual traces of a production outside of the filmic event – the screening – itself. The challenges that photographers face in taking such shots lie in the difference between the media of moving (projected) film images and static (material) photography. In a complex and laborious process, they work on set to restage film scenes specifically for the still camera, thus transforming the film from a moving to a static medium.

The employment of various photographic strategies makes possible film stills’ “filmic” reception, with momentary photos that evoke a film’s dynamics being just as exemplary here as panoramic shots that require a longer look. Still photos thus repeat a film’s constituent elements, inscribing them onto a photographic medium in various ways and thus functioning as “intermediate images” that unite aspects of both media. They can be read not only as static views of a filmic reality, but also as independent types of photographic image. This quality is reinforced by the fact that stills frequently develop a filmic work further in an independent manner, thereby allowing it to be regarded from new perspectives. Such stills often contain self-reflexive commentary on the work’s specifically “filmic” aspects.

 

Film Stills at the Interface to Fine Art

Being situated between film and photography, many film stills also possess artistic qualities that are clearly photographic in nature. Here, composition plays a major role as it bears witness to a pictorial conception that differs from that of a filmic image. For while moving images are designed as horizontal arrangements, with the pictorial elements sequenced one after the other to effect their visual continuation, still photographers stage still photos according to the (static) central perspective governed by the camera’s vanishing point. This positions observers at that place which has been assigned them since the Renaissance – that is, looking straight down the picture’s central axis. Correspondingly, many stills exhibit reminiscences of the proscenium stage from traditional live theatre, favouring views that render scenes more immediate and thus more easily legible.

Photographers, in composing their images, often borrow iconographic and stylistic elements from various artistic movements: Expressionism, Art Nouveau, and Pictorialism are examples of these.

And in this way, still photographers depart from the original filmic work and realise their own pictorial ideas. Their photos thus refrain from “authentic” reproduction of a film’s various aspects, instead using these aspects to realise subjective artistic practices, thereby implying a reversal of the classic hierarchy between photography and film.

Press release from the Albertina

 

Paul Ronald. Edra Gale in 'Otto e mezzo' (Edra Gale in '8½') 1963

 

Paul Ronald
Edra Gale in Otto e mezzo (Edra Gale in)
1963
Director: Federico Fellini, 1963
Ekatchrome
© Archivio Storico del Cinema / AFE

 

 

(Italian title: Otto e mezzo) is a 1963 comedy-drama film directed by Federico Fellini. Co-scripted by Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, and Brunello Rondi, it stars Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian film director. Shot in black-and-white by cinematographer Gianni di Venanzo, the film features a soundtrack by Nino Rota with costume and set designs by Piero Gherardi.

 

Horst von Harbou. Georg John in 'M - A City searches for a Murderer' 1931

 

Horst von Harbou
Georg John in M – A City searches for a Murderer
1931
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum
© Horst von Harbou – Deutsche Kinemathek

 

 

M (German: M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder – “M – A city looks for a murderer”) is a 1931 German drama-thriller film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre. It was written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou and was the director’s first sound film. It concerns the manhunt for a serial killer of children, conducted by both the police and the criminal underworld. Now considered a classic, the film was deemed by Fritz Lang as his finest work.

Little Elsie Beckmann leaves school, bouncing a ball on her way home. She is approached by Hans Beckert, who is whistling “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg. He offers to buy her a balloon from a blind street-vendor [above] and walks and talks with her. Elsie’s place at the dinner table remains empty, her ball is shown rolling away across a patch of grass and her balloon is lost in the telephone lines overhead.

 

Unknown artist. 'Poster for "M"' 1931

 

Unknown artist
Poster for “M”
1931
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Collection of La Cinémathèque française

 

 

Wall texts

Advertising pictures

Aimed at inviting the public to buy a ticket, film stills were used as advertising photographs in cinema lobbies and as press material for the media. Directors and production companies depended on them for promoting their movies, because the film as a projected moving image is immaterial and does not exist beyond the screen. Stills comprise various types of pictures that show different aspects of a movie’s production: scenes, portraits of its actresses and actors, as well as production photographs capturing its shooting.

The production of stills was based on a division of labor. In major production companies like those of Hollywood, still photographers were assigned to the companies’ advertising or publicity departments. Sometimes involving the director, these departments selected the photographs intended for publication. The promotion photographs for the movie palaces’ lobbies were published in sets of twenty to forty pictures each, which visualised characteristic aspects of the film. A wider selection of stills was used for the press. Picture editors adapted the photographs according to their purposes. We find instructions for the material’s reproduction and cropping marks indicating new image areas; retouches deleted undesired elements and changed the motif in line with the planned layout.

 

Anonymous. Still from 'Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror' 1922

 

Anonymous
Still from Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror
1922
Director: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Gelatin silver print
© Deutsche Kinemathek

 

Anonymous. Still from 'The Night of the Hunter' 1954

 

Anonymous
Still from The Night of the Hunter
1954
Silver gelatin print

 

Anonymous. Robert Mitchum in 'The Night of the Hunter' 1955

 

Anonymous
Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter
1955
Director: Charles Laughton
Gelatin silver print
© The John Kobal Collection

 

 

The Night of the Hunter is a 1955 American film noir directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish. The screenplay by James Agee was based on the 1953 novel of the same name by Davis Grubb. The plot focuses on a corrupt reverend-turned-serial killer who attempts to charm an unsuspecting widow and steal $10,000 hidden by her executed husband.

The novel and film draw on the true story of Harry Powers, hanged in 1932 for the murder of two widows and three children in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The film’s lyrical and expressionistic style with its leaning on the silent era sets it apart from other Hollywood films of the 1940s and 1950s, and it has influenced later directors such as David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Terrence Malick, Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, and the Coen brothers.

In 1992, The Night of the Hunter was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The influential film magazine Cahiers du cinéma selected The Night of the Hunter in 2008 as the second-best film of all time, behind Citizen Kane.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

The Night of the Hunter film poster 1955

 

The Night of the Hunter film poster 1955

 

Anonymous. Still from the film 'Vertigo, Judy behind Madeleine' 1957/58

 

Anonymous
Still from the film Vertigo, Judy behind Madeleine
1957/58
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Silver gelatin print

 

Vertigo film poster 1957/58

 

Vertigo film poster 1957/58

 

Bud Fraker (attributed to) Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and John Gavin in 'Psycho' 1960

 

Bud Fraker (attributed to)
Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and John Gavin in Psycho
1960
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Gelatin silver print
© Berlin, Deutsche Kinemathek – Paramount Pictures

 

 

Star portraits

Regarded as the supreme discipline of still photography, the portraiture of stars was an integral part of the film industry’s elaborate promotion campaigns. Productions could be effectively marketed by using actresses and actors to project their image. With the emergence of the studio system, Hollywood perfected this business strategy from the 1920s on by employing specialised portrait photographers. These photographers worked in company-owned studios and – unlike set photographers who mostly remained anonymous – were known by name. Relying on sophisticated lighting and drastic retouching, they created the aesthetic of the glamour portrait. Don English perfectly translated the lighting as it had been exactly planned by Josef von Sternberg, the director, for his film in his portrait of Marlene Dietrich for Shanghai Express (1932). Generally, domestic production companies could not afford to run their own portrait studios and were thus unable to exercise any influence on photographic products from outside. This offered both the stars and the studios a certain degree of freedom when it came to the representation and interpretation of a certain look. The photograph taken of Hedy Kiesler (later Lamarr) in her role in Gustav Machatý’s Ecstasy (1933) by the renowned studio Manassé in Vienna is one of the rare portrait stills taken on the set at that time.

 

Karl Struss. Gloria Swanson in 'Male and Female' 1919

 

Karl Struss
Gloria Swanson in Male and Female
1919
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Gelatin silver print
© The John Kobal Foundation

 

 

Don English. Marlene Dietrich in 'Shanghai Express' 1932

 

Don English
Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express
1932
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Silver gelatin print

 

Raymond Cauchetier (French, born 1920) 'Jean Paul Belmondo & Jean Seberg, Paris, 1959' 1959

 

Raymond Cauchetier (French, born 1920)
Jean Paul Belmondo & Jean Seberg, Paris, 1959
1959
Still from the film Breathless
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Gelatin silver print

 

Breathless film poster 1960

 

Breathless film poster 1960

 

Anonymous. Still from the film 'Breathless' 1959

 

Anonymous
Still from the film Breathless
1959
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Gelatin silver print

 

Georges Pierre. Delphine Seyrig in 'Last Year in Marienbad' 1961

 

Georges Pierre
Delphine Seyrig in Last Year in Marienbad
1961
Director: Alain Resnais
Astor Pictures Corporation / Photofest
© Astor Pictures Corporation

 

 

Delphine Claire Beltiane Seyrig (10 April 1932 – 15 October 1990) was a Lebanese-born French stage and film actress, a film director and a feminist.

As a young woman, Seyrig studied acting at the Comédie de Saint-Étienne, training under Jean Dasté, and at Centre Dramatique de l’Est. She appeared briefly in small roles in the 1954 TV series Sherlock Holmes. In 1956, she returned to New York and studied at the Actors Studio. In 1958 she appeared in her first film, Pull My Daisy. In New York she met director Alain Resnais, who asked her to star in his film Last Year at Marienbad. Her performance brought her international recognition and she moved to Paris. Among her roles of this period is the older married woman in François Truffaut’s Baisers volés (1968).

During the 1960s and 1970s, Seyrig worked with directors including Truffaut, Luis Buñuel, Marguerite Duras, and Fred Zinnemann, as well as Resnais. She achieved recognition for both her stage and film work, and was named best actress at the Venice Film Festival for her role in Resnais’ Muriel ou Le temps d’un retour (1963). She played many diverse roles, and because she was fluent in French, English and German, she appeared in films in all three languages, including a number of Hollywood productions.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

L’Année dernière à Marienbad (released in the US as Last Year at Marienbad and in the UK as Last Year in Marienbad) is a 1961 French-Italian film directed by Alain Resnais from a screenplay by Alain Robbe-Grillet.

Last Year at Marienbad is famous for its enigmatic narrative structure, in which truth and fiction are difficult to distinguish, and the temporal and spatial relationship of the events is open to question, even if it never quite ventures into surrealism. The film’s dreamlike nature has both fascinated and baffled viewers; many have hailed the work as a masterpiece, while others consider it incomprehensible.

At a social gathering at a château or baroque hotel, a man approaches a woman. He claims they met the year before at Marienbad and is convinced that she is waiting there for him. The woman insists they have never met. A second man, who may be the woman’s husband, repeatedly asserts his dominance over the first man, including beating him several times at a mathematical game (a version of Nim). Through ambiguous flashbacks and disorienting shifts of time and location, the film explores the relationships among the characters. Conversations and events are repeated in several places in the château and grounds, and there are numerous tracking shots of the château’s corridors, with ambiguous voiceovers. The characters are unnamed in the film; in the published screenplay, the woman is referred to as “A”, the first man is “X”, and the man who may be her husband is “M”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

L'Année dernière à Marienbad Japanese film poster 1961

 

L’Année dernière à Marienbad Japanese film poster 1961

 

 

Artistic pictures

Until the 1950s still photographers used large-format plate cameras, which projected an inverted image onto the focusing screen at the back of the body. These cameras produced technically brilliant pictures, yet were complicated to handle because of their size and comparatively long exposure times. The staging of stills had to be meticulously planned and was fundamentally different from the shooting of a film. While the film camera is geared to the story in motion and its visual continuation in the pictures to follow, actresses and actors posed for the photographer in tableaux-vivants-like arrangements using additional light. The resultant static and apparently artificial compositions mirroring the performative staging process are typical of this kind of photographs. Still photographers drew inspiration from works of art for their mise-en-scène. The anonymous photographer in charge of the stills for Henrik Galeen’s The Student of Prague (1926) quotes the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich’s works in his theatrical presentation of an atmospheric landscape. Horst von Harbou, who frequently worked with the director Fritz Lang, drew on Carl Otto Czeschka’s Jugendstil [Art Noveau] illustrations from 1908 for his stills accompanying the first part of Die Nibelungen (1924). Harbou translated ornamental motifs into two-dimensional pictures, as Czeschka had done before him. Presenting their pictures in exhibitions and providing fine-art prints, still photographers positioned their works as artistically independent achievements.

 

Anonymous. Werner Krauss in 'The Student of Prague' 1926

 

Anonymous
Werner Krauss in The Student of Prague
1926
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum

 

Anonymous. Werner Krauss in 'The Student of Prague' 1926 (detail)

 

Anonymous
Werner Krauss in The Student of Prague (detail)
1926
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum

 

 

Intermediate pictures

The difficulty in capturing the scene of a movie in a still lies in the difference between the two media of (moving) film and (static) photograph. Still photographers employ intermedia strategies which facilitate a reading of the still in analogy to the experience of the film. Snapshots evoking the dynamics of the movie are as exemplary of this approach as are series of pictures rendering a sequence in the form of the movement’s individual phases captured at short intervals. Panorama pictures are also related to the film’s spatial and temporal dimensions, since a series of motifs resembling the chronological order of films successively “unwinds” in reading them. Informed by the interwar avant-garde, the photo montages for Walter Ruttmann’s experimental film Berlin – Symphony of a Great City (1927) show an extraordinary solution. They congenially transform the subjective modern filmic point of view by relating the motifs of the film to each other through illogical perspectives and proportions. Some of Horst von Harbou’s stills for Metropolis (1927) were produced as transparent foils and elaborately coloured by hand. Presented in backlight illumination, they established a self-reflexive reference to the cinema as films also reveal their ephemeral quality in their projection.

 

Anonymous. 'Berlin - Symphony of a Great City' 1927

 

Anonymous
Berlin – Symphony of a Great City
1927
Director: Walther Ruttmann
Gelatin silver print
© Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin

 

 

Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (German: Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt) is a 1927 German film directed by Walter Ruttmann, co-written by Carl Mayer and Karl Freund.

The film is an example of the city symphony film genre. A musical score for an orchestra to accompany the silent film was written by Edmund Meisel. As a “city symphony” film, it portrays the life of a city, mainly through visual impressions in a semi-documentary style, without the narrative content of more mainstream films, though the sequencing of events can imply a kind of loose theme or impression of the city’s daily life…

The film displays the filmmaker’s knowledge of Soviet montage theory. Some socialist political sympathies, or identification with the underclass can be inferred from a few of the edits in the film, though critics have suggested that either Ruttmann avoided a strong position, or else he pursued his aesthetic interests to the extent that they diminished the potential for political content. Ruttmann’s own description of the film suggests that his motives were predominantly aesthetic: “Since I began in the cinema, I had the idea of making something out of life, of creating a symphonic film out of the millions of energies that comprise the life of a big city.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis poster

 

Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis poster

 

Horst von Harbou. Brigitte Helm in 'Metropolis' 1927

 

Horst von Harbou
Brigitte Helm in Metropolis
1927
Director: Fritz Lang
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum
© Horst von Harbou – Deutsche Kinemathek

 

Horst von Harbou. 'Metropolis' 1927

 

Horst von Harbou
Metropolis
1927
Director: Fritz Lang
Coloured transparent nitrocellulose film
Austrian Theatre Museum
© Horst von Harbou – Deutsche Kinemathek

 

 

Meta-pictures

Some directors supported the production of stills that put characteristic aspects of their films into a new perspective. In his masterpiece Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman reflects the support material of film by showing the film strip crack and burn up during the projection. This self-referentiality of the medium was visualised by adding perforations to the photographs so that they resembled film frames. The perforations only served to quote the film as a medium; the motifs were actually mounted in black frames afterwards. Elaborate montages not to be seen in the film were also produced for Alfred Hitchcock’s movies. Rear Window (1954) confronts us with a photographer who watches a man whom he suspects of having committed a murder with binoculars and through a long-focus lens. By mounting pictures of the persons in the lens whom Stewart watches from his window in the film, the still photographer emphasised the issue of voyeurism as a central subject of the movie. The Austrian silent movie director Erich von Stroheim used film stills for visualising contents of his films that were regarded as problematic. Because of their length and supposedly questionable sexual passages Stroheim’s movies were regularly cut down by censorship authorities and production companies. This is why stills continuing the movie were planned in advance. The sexual allusions in a scene of Foolish Wives (1922) in which Stroheim embodies a Don Juan figure about to indecently assault a sleeping woman, for example, manifested themselves in a still in which we see him kissing the sleeping woman’s foot.

 

Anonymous. James Stewart in 'Rear Window' 1954

 

Anonymous
James Stewart in Rear Window
1954
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Gelatin silver print
© BFI National Archive: London

 

Anonymous. James Stewart in 'Rear Window' 1954 (detail)

 

Anonymous
James Stewart in Rear Window (detail)
1954
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Gelatin silver print
© BFI National Archive: London

 

Anonymous. Liv Ullman in 'Persona' (detail) 1966

 

Anonymous
Liv Ullman in Persona (detail)
1966
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Persona is a 1966 Swedish psychological drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann. Persona’s story revolves around a young nurse named Alma (Andersson) and her patient, a well-known stage actress named Elisabet Vogler (Ullmann), who has suddenly ceased to speak. The two move to a cottage, where Alma cares for and talks to Elisabet about intimate secrets, and becomes troubled distinguishing herself from her.

Bergman wrote the film with Ullmann and Andersson in mind for the lead parts, and some idea of exploring their identities, and shot the film in Stockholm and Fårö. Often categorised as a psychological horror, Persona deals with themes of duality, insanity, and personal identity…

Persona has lent itself to a variety of interpretations, with Professor Thomas Elsaesser remarking it “has been for film critics and scholars what climbing Everest is for mountaineers: the ultimate professional challenge. Besides Citizen Kane, it is probably the most written-about film in the canon.” Much of the focus has been on the resemblance of the characters, demonstrated in shots of overlapping faces, and the possibility that the two characters are one. If they are one person, there is a question if Alma is fantasising about the actress she admires, or if Elisabet is examining her psyche, or if the boy is trying to understand who his mother is. In a question of duality, Alma represents soul while Elisabet represents a stern goddess. Susan Sontag suggests that Persona is constructed as a series of variations on a theme of “doubling”. The subject of the film, Sontag proposes, is “violence of the spirit”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

'Persona' 1966 Swedish B1 Poster

 

Persona 1966 Swedish B1 Poster

 

Anonymous. Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman in 'Persona' (detail) 1966

 

Anonymous
Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman in Persona (detail)
1966
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Key pictures

Stills precede the presentation of a film, decisively informing the expectations held by the public at the time of its release. What is important for a movie’s later success (or failure) is presenting visually enticing pictures rather than conveying an authentic picture of the movie. The most famous example in this regard is Sam Shaw’s still showing a scene of Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch (1955). Shaw highlighted the moment in which Marilyn Monroe stands on a subway grating far more pointedly than Wilder in the film, which neither shows the actress’s whole figure nor the dress billowing so clearly above her waist. The production company did its best for the promotion of the scene in the media: launching an elaborate publicity campaign, it fixed a special date for reporters and journalists to capture the sequence themselves. Such key images become characteristic signatures of a film with their dissemination by the media, sometimes inscribing themselves more deeply into the collective memory than the actual film scenes because of their iconic recognition value.

 

Anonymous. Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt and Lil Dagover in 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' 1919

 

Anonymous
Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt and Lil Dagover in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
1919
Director: Robert Wiene
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum

 

Anonymous. Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt and Lil Dagover in 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' 1919 (detail)

 

Anonymous
Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt and Lil Dagover in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (detail)
1919
Director: Robert Wiene
Gelatin silver print
Austrian Theatre Museum

 

 

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (German: Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari) is a 1920 German silent horror film, directed by Robert Wiene and written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. Considered the quintessential work of German Expressionist cinema, it tells the story of an insane hypnotist (Werner Krauss) who uses a somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) to commit murders. The film features a dark and twisted visual style, with sharp-pointed forms, oblique and curving lines, structures and landscapes that lean and twist in unusual angles, and shadows and streaks of light painted directly onto the sets…

The film presents themes on brutal and irrational authority; Dr. Caligari represents the German war government, and Cesare is symbolic of the common man conditioned, like soldiers, to kill. In his influential book From Caligari to Hitler, Siegfried Kracauer says the film reflects a subconscious need in German society for a tyrant, and it is an example of Germany’s obedience to authority and unwillingness to rebel against deranged authority. He says the film is a premonition of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, and says the addition of the frame story turns an otherwise “revolutionary” film into a “conformist” one. Other themes of the film include the destabilised contrast between insanity and sanity, the subjective perception of reality, and the duality of human nature.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari poster (1919)

 

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari poster (1919)

 

Sam Shaw. Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in 'The Seven Year Itch' 1954

 

Sam Shaw
Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch
1954
Director: Billy Wilder
Gelatin silver print
© Sam Shaw Inc.- licensed by Shaw Family Archives, Private collection

 

Sam Shaw. Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in 'The Seven Year Itch' 1954 (detail)

 

Sam Shaw
Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch (detail)
1954
Director: Billy Wilder
Gelatin silver print
© Sam Shaw Inc.- licensed by Shaw Family Archives, Private collection

 

 

Auteur pictures

The European auteur cinema of the 1950s and 1960s produced films outside the rigid studio system that had been the rule until then. Formal means such as editing and montage were used in an experimental way, and handy cameras made the shooting process more spontaneous. The changes in the production of films went hand in hand with new conditions for still photographers. As the photographers did not belong to the staff of the companies’ promotion departments like their US colleagues, most of their names are known. Whereas Hollywood photographers relied on large-format plate cameras, small-format cameras were used in Europe during the shooting of the film or directly before or after it. This resulted in spontaneous snapshots alongside traditional tableau-like stills. In the wake of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment, the constitutive act lay in the choice of the right moment. Still photographers such as Raymond Cauchetier and Angelo Novi had already tested this approach as photojournalists in reportages and documentaries before they started working on the set.

 

Georges Pierre. Anna Karina in 'Pierrot le fou' 1965

 

Georges Pierre
Anna Karina in Pierrot le fou
1965
Director: Jean Luc Godard
Gelatin silver print
Private collection
© Georges Pierre

 

Poster for La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) 1959

 

Poster for La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) 1959

 

Pierluigi Praturlon. Anita Ekberg as Sylvia in 'La Dolce Vita' (The Sweet Life) 1959

 

Pierluigi Praturlon
Anita Ekberg as Sylvia in La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life)
1959
Director: Federico Fellini
Gelatin silver print
Private Collection

 

 

La Dolce Vita (Italian for “the sweet life” or “the good life”) is a 1960 Italian comedy-drama film directed and co-written by Federico Fellini. The film follows Marcello Rubini, a journalist writing for gossip magazines, over seven days and nights on his journey through the “sweet life” of Rome in a fruitless search for love and happiness. La Dolce Vita won the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Costumes, and remains one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time.

Based on the most common interpretation of the storyline, the film can be divided into a prologue, seven major episodes interrupted by an intermezzo, and an epilogue. If the evenings of each episode were joined with the morning of the respective preceding episode together as a day, they would form seven consecutive days, which may not necessarily be the case.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Hans Natge

Born in Berlin, Hans Natge began his career as a theatre photographer. In the 1920s, he turned to still photography. Taking pictures of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s Faust (1926), he came to test a new photographic approach which he called “snapshot photography,” which was to revolutionise the tradition of static and artificial film stills. Using small-format cameras and doing without additional light, Natge photographed during the shooting of the film right next to the cameraman, which permitted him to produce spontaneous and dynamic pictures. As this form of still photography still resulted in blurred pictures and sometimes captured the actors to their disadvantage at that time, Natge also took conventional stills in the case of Faust.

 

Hans Natge Still from the film 'Faust' 1926

 

Hans Natge
Still from the film Faust
1926
Director: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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18
Jan
17

Exhibition: ‘Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s’ at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee

Exhibition dates: 21st October 2016 – 22nd January 2017

 

The interwar years of the European avant-garde are some of the most creative years in the history of the human race.

Whether because of political and social instability – the aftershocks of the First World War, the hardships, the looming fight between Communism and Fascism, the Great Depression – or the felt compression and compaction of time and space taking place all over Europe (as artists fled Russia, as artists fled Germany for anywhere but Germany, as though time was literally running out…. as it indeed was), these years produced a frenzy of creativity in writing, film, design, architecture and all the arts.

The “avant-garde” produced new and experimental ideas and methods in art, music, and literature, the avant-garde literally being the “vanguard” of an army of change, producing for so very brief an instant, a bright flowering of camp, cabaret, and kitsch paralleled? intertwined with a highly charged emotionalism which, in German Expressionist film, “employed geometrically skewed set designs, dramatic lighting, off-kilter framing, strong shadows and distorted perspectives to express a sense of uneasiness and discomfort.”

Here we find the catalyst for subsequent film genres, most notably science fiction, horror and film noir. Here we find dark fantasies, desire, love and redemption. All to be swept away with the rushing rushing rushing tide of prejudice and persecution, of death and destruction that was to envelop the world during the Second World War.

The creative legacy of this period, however, is still powerful and unforgettable. I just have to look at the photographic stills of Metropolis to recognise what a visionary period it was, and how that film and others have stood the test of passing time (as the hands of the workers move the clock hands to their different positions in Metropolis). The feeling and aesthetic of the art remains as fresh as the day it was created.

Marcus

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

 

 

 

Unknown photographer(s). 'Set photograph from Fritz Lang's "The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)"' 1923

 

Unknown photographer(s)
Set photograph from Fritz Lang’s “The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)”
1923
Gelatin silver prints
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris
Photo courtesy Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Unknown photographer(s). 'Set photograph from Fritz Lang's "The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)"' 1923

 

Unknown photographer(s)
Set photograph from Fritz Lang’s “The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)”
1923
Gelatin silver prints
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris
Photo Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Unknown photographer(s). 'Set photograph from Fritz Lang's "The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)"' 1923

 

Unknown photographer(s)
Set photograph from Fritz Lang’s “The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)”
1923
Gelatin silver prints
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris
Photo Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

 

Fritz Lang

… In this first phase of his career, Lang alternated between films such as Der Müde Tod (“The Weary Death”) and popular thrillers such as Die Spinnen (“The Spiders”), combining popular genres with Expressionist techniques to create an unprecedented synthesis of popular entertainment with art cinema.

In 1920, he met his future wife, the writer and actress Thea von Harbou. She and Lang co-wrote all of his movies from 1921 through 1933, including Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (Dr. Mabuse the Gambler; 1922), which ran for over four hours in two parts in the original version and was the first in the Dr. Mabuse trilogy, the five-hour Die Nibelungen (1924), the famous 1927 film Metropolis, the science fiction film Woman in the Moon (1929), and the 1931 classic, M, his first “talking” picture.

Considered by many film scholars to be his masterpiece, M is a disturbing story of a child murderer (Peter Lorre in his first starring role) who is hunted down and brought to rough justice by Berlin’s criminal underworld. M remains a powerful work; it was remade in 1951 by Joseph Losey, but this version had little impact on audiences, and has become harder to see than the original film. During the climactic final scene in M, Lang allegedly threw Peter Lorre down a flight of stairs in order to give more authenticity to Lorre’s battered look. Lang, who was known for being hard to work with, epitomized the stereotype of the tyrannical German film director, a type embodied also by Erich von Stroheim and Otto Preminger. His wearing a monocle added to the stereotype.

In the films of his German period, Lang produced a coherent oeuvre that established the characteristics later attributed to film noir, with its recurring themes of psychological conflict, paranoia, fate and moral ambiguity. At the end of 1932, Lang started filming The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. Adolf Hitler came to power in January 1933, and by March 30, the new regime banned it as an incitement to public disorder. Testament is sometimes deemed an anti-Nazi film as Lang had put phrases used by the Nazis into the mouth of the title character.

Lang was worried about the advent of the Nazi regime, partly because of his Jewish heritage, whereas his wife and screenwriter Thea von Harbou had started to sympathize with the Nazis in the early 1930s and joined the NSDAP in 1940. They soon divorced. Lang’s fears would be realized following his departure from Austria, as under the Nuremberg Laws he would be identified as a Jew even though his mother was a converted Roman Catholic, and he was raised as such.

Shortly afterwards, Lang left Germany. According to Lang, propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels called Lang to his offices to inform him that The Testament of Dr Mabuse was being banned but that he was nevertheless so impressed by Lang’s abilities as a filmmaker (especially Metropolis), he was offering Lang a position as the head of German film studio UFA. Lang had stated that it was during this meeting that he had decided to leave for Paris – but that the banks had closed by the time the meeting was over. Lang has stated that he fled that very evening. …

In Hollywood, Lang signed first with MGM Studios. His first American film was the crime drama Fury, which starred Spencer Tracy as a man who is wrongly accused of a crime and nearly killed when a lynch mob sets fire to the jail where he is awaiting trial. Lang became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1939. He made twenty-three features in his 20-year American career, working in a variety of genres at every major studio in Hollywood, and occasionally producing his films as an independent. Lang’s American films were often compared unfavorably to his earlier works by contemporary critics, but the restrained Expressionism of these films is now seen as integral to the emergence and evolution of American genre cinema, film noir in particular. Lang’s film titled in 1945 as Scarlet Street is considered a central film in the genre.

One of his most famous films noir is the police drama The Big Heat (1953), noted for its uncompromising brutality, especially for a scene in which Lee Marvin throws scalding coffee on Gloria Grahame’s face. As Lang’s visual style simplified, in part due to the constraints of the Hollywood studio system, his worldview became increasingly pessimistic, culminating in the cold, geometric style of his last American films, While the City Sleeps (1956) and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Otto Hunte and Fritz Lang. 'Set design drawing for "The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)"' 1923

 

Otto Hunte and Fritz Lang
Set design drawing for “The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)”
1923
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris
Photo Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Otto Hunte and Fritz Lang. 'Set design drawing for "The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)"' 1923

 

Otto Hunte and Fritz Lang
Set design drawing for “The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)”
1923
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris
Photo Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Caspar David Friedrich. 'Two Men Contemplating the Moon' c. 1825-30

 

Caspar David Friedrich
Two Men Contemplating the Moon
c. 1825-30
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wrightsman Fund, 2000
Photo: courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Erich Kettelhut and Fritz Lang. 'Set design drawing for "The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)"' 1923

 

Erich Kettelhut and Fritz Lang
Set design drawing for “The Nibelungen: The Death of Siegfried (Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod)”
1923
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris
Photo courtesy Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

 

“In the wake of WWI, while Hollywood and the rest of Western cinema were focused mostly on adventure, romance and comedy, German filmmakers explored the anxiety and emotional turbulence that dominated life in Germany. They took their inspiration from Expressionist art and employed geometrically skewed sets, dramatic lighting, off-kilter framing, strong shadows and distorted perspectives.

The impact of this aesthetic has lasted nearly a century, inspiring directors from Alfred Hitchcock to Tim Burton. Its influence is reflected to this day in the dark, brooding styles of film noir, the unsettling themes of horror, and the fantastic imagery of sci-fi. From Blade Runner to The Godfather, from Star Wars to The Hunger Games – our modern blockbusters owe much to these German masters and the visions they created.

Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s explores masterworks of German Expressionist cinema, from the stylized fantasy of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to the chilling murder mystery M. Featured are production design drawings, photographs, posters, documents, equipment and film clips from more than 20 films. The exhibition ends with a contemporary 3-channel projection work – Kino Ektoplamsa, 2012 – by filmmaker Guy Maddin, which was inspired by German Expressionist cinema.”

Text from the Milwaukee Art Museum website

 

Designed by USC architecture professor Amy Murphy and architect Michael Maltzan, “Haunted Screens” has been grouped by theme: “Madness and Magic,” “Myths and Legends,” “Cities and Streets” and “Machines and Murderers.” The latter contains a subsection, “Stairs,” that includes drawings from films that feature stairs as both a visual and psychological theme. Two darkened tunnels will feature excerpts from the movies highlighted in the exhibit.

“The core of the show is the collection from La Cinémathèque française,” said Britt Salvesen, LACMA’s curator of both the department of prints and drawings and the department of photography.

The 140 drawings from the Cinémathèque were acquired by noted German film historian Lotte Eisner, who wrote the 1952 book “The Haunted Screen.”

 

Josef Fenneker (Germany, 1895-1956) 'Reissue of original poster for The Burning Soil (Der brennende acker)' c. 1922

 

Josef Fenneker (Germany, 1895-1956)
Reissue of original poster for The Burning Soil (Der brennende acker)
c. 1922
Director: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (Germany, 1888-1931)
Offset lithograph
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

 

Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau

Friedrich Wilhelm “F. W.” Murnau (born Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe; December 28, 1888 – March 11, 1931) was a German film director. Murnau was greatly influenced by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Shakespeare and Ibsen plays he had seen at the age of 12, and became a friend of director Max Reinhardt. During World War I he served as a company commander at the eastern front and was in the German air force, surviving several crashes without any severe injuries.

One of Murnau’s acclaimed works is the 1922 film Nosferatu, an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Although not a commercial success due to copyright issues with Stoker’s novel, the film is considered a masterpiece of Expressionist film. He later directed the 1924 film The Last Laugh, as well as a 1926 interpretation of Goethe’s Faust. He later emigrated to Hollywood in 1926, where he joined the Fox Studio and made three films: Sunrise (1927), 4 Devils (1928) and City Girl (1930). The first of these three is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.

In 1931 Murnau travelled to Bora Bora to make the film Tabu (1931) with documentary film pioneer Robert J. Flaherty, who left after artistic disputes with Murnau, who had to finish the movie on his own. A week prior to the opening of the film Tabu, Murnau died in a Santa Barbara hospital from injuries he had received in an automobile accident that occurred along the Pacific Coast Highway near Rincon Beach, southeast of Santa Barbara.

Of the 21 films Murnau directed, eight are considered to be completely lost. One reel of his feature Marizza, genannt die Schmuggler-Madonna survives. This leaves only 12 films surviving in their entirety.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hermann Warm and Henrik Galeen. 'Drawing for "Der Student von Prag" (The Student of Prague)' 1926

Hermann Warm and Henrik Galeen. 'Drawing for "Der Student von Prag" (The Student of Prague)' 1926

 

Hermann Warm and Henrik Galeen
Drawing for “Der Student von Prag” (The Student of Prague)
1926
Pastel
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris/LACMA

 

Andrei Andrejew (Russia, 1887-1966) 'Set design drawing for Crime and Punishment (Raskolnikow)' 1923

 

Andrei Andrejew (Russia, 1887-1966)
Set design drawing for Crime and Punishment (Raskolnikow)
1923
Director: Robert Wiene (Germany, 1873-1938)
Ink and ink wash
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

 

Raskolnikow is a 1923 German silent drama film directed by Robert Wiene. The film is based on the novel Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, whose protagonist is Rodion Raskolnikov. The film’s art direction is by André Andrejew. The film is characterised by Jason Buchanan of Allmovie as a German expressionist view of the story: a “nightmarish” avante-garde or experimental psychological drama.

Robert Wiene (German, 27 April 1873 – 17 July 1938) was a film director of the German silent cinema. He is particularly known for directing the German silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and a succession of other expressionist films. Wiene also directed a variety of other films of varying styles and genres. Following the Nazi rise to power in Germany, Wiene fled into exile.

Four months after the Nazis took power Wiene’s latest film, “Taifun,” was banned on May 3, 1933. A Hungarian film company had been inviting German directors to come to Budapest to make films in simultaneous German/Hungarian versions, and given his uncertain career prospects under the new German regime Wiene took up that offer in September to direct “One Night in Venice” (1934). Wiene went later to London, and finally to Paris where together with Jean Cocteau he tried to produce a sound remake of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. …

Wiene died in Paris ten days before the end of production of a spy film, Ultimatum, after having suffered from cancer. The film was finished by Wiene’s friend Robert Siodmak.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Otto Erdmann and Georg Wilhelm Pabst. 'Die Freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street)' 1923

 

Otto Erdmann and Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Die Freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street)
1923
Gouache and watercolor
Photo courtesy Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris/LACMA

 

Otto Erdmann and Georg Wilhelm Pabst. 'Die Freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street)' 1923

 

Otto Erdmann and Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Die Freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street)
1923
Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Gouache and watercolor
Photo courtesy Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris/LACMA

 

Boris Bilinsky (Russia, 1900-1948) 'Poster for The Joyless Street (Die freudlose Gasse)' c. 1925

 

Boris Bilinsky (Russia, 1900-1948)
Poster for The Joyless Street (Die freudlose Gasse)
c. 1925
Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (Austria, 1885-1967)
Lithograph
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Walter Röhrig and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. 'Faust' 1926

 

Walter Röhrig and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Faust
1926
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo courtesy Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Robert Herlth and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. 'Faust' 1926

 

Robert Herlth and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Faust
1926
Director: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris
Photo courtesy Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Robert Herlth and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. 'Faust' 1926

 

Robert Herlth and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Faust
1926
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris
Photo courtesy Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Robert Herlth and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. 'Faust' 1926

 

Robert Herlth and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Faust
1926
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris
Photo courtesy Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

'Drawing for "Faust"' 1926

 

Drawing for “Faust”
1926
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Unknown photographer. 'Set photograph from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari)' 1919

 

Unknown photographer
Set photograph from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari)
1919
Director: Robert Wiene (German, 1873-1938)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies

 

Hermann Warm. 'Robert Wiene's "Das Kabinett des Dr Caligari"' 1919

 

Hermann Warm
Robert Wiene’s “Das Kabinett des Dr Caligari”
1919
Watercolor and ink
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

'Set drawing for the"Das Kabinett des Dr Caligari" (The Cabinet of Dr Caligari)' 1920

 

Set drawing for the”Das Kabinett des Dr Caligari” (The Cabinet of Dr Caligari)
1920
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Ernst Stern. 'Paul Leni's "Das Wachfigurenkabinett (Le cabinet des figures de cire)"' (Wax Works) 1924

 

Ernst Stern
Paul Leni’s “Das Wachfigurenkabinett (Le cabinet des figures de cire)” (Wax Works)
1924
Director: Paul Leni
Watercolor and charcoal
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris/LACMA

 

Ernst Stern and Paul Leni. '"Das Wachfigurenkabinett (Le cabinet des figures de cire)"' (Wax Works) 1924

 

Ernst Stern and Paul Leni
“Das Wachfigurenkabinett (Le cabinet des figures de cire)” (Wax Works)
1924
Watercolor, gouache, and graphite
34.6 x 24.8 cm
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris/LACMA

 

Unknown photographer. 'Set photograph from "The Blue Angel" (Der blaue Engel)' 1930

 

Unknown photographer
Set photograph from “The Blue Angel” (Der blaue Engel)
1930
Director: Josef von Sternberg (Austria, 1894-1969)
Gelatin silver print
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Karl Struss. 'Set photograph from "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans" (Sonnenaufgang: Ein Lied zweier Menschen)' (detail) 1927, printed 2014

 

Karl Struss
Set photograph from “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” (Sonnenaufgang: Ein Lied zweier Menschen) (detail)
1927, printed 2014
Directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Courtesy of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library

 

Emil Hasler. 'Drawing for Fritz Lang's "Das Testament des Dr Mabuse"' 1932

 

Emil Hasler
Drawing for Fritz Lang’s “Das Testament des Dr Mabuse” (The Testament of Dr Mabuse)
1932
Pastel, graphite, and gouache
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris/LACMA

 

Paul Scheurich. 'Poster design for Fritz Lang's "Das Testament des Dr Mabuse"' 1932

 

Paul Scheurich
Poster design for Fritz Lang’s “Das Testament des Dr Mabuse” (The Testament of Dr Mabuse)
1932
Ink, gouache, and graphite
BiFi, Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

Emil Hasler. 'Drawing for Fritz Lang's "M," le Maudit' (Cursed) 1931

 

Emil Hasler
Drawing for Fritz Lang’s “M,” le Maudit (Cursed)
1931
Charcoal, gouache, and colored pencil
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris/LACMA

 

Unknown artist. 'Poster for "M"' 1931

 

Unknown artist
Poster for “M”
1931
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Collection of La Cinémathèque française

 

Unknown artist. 'Poster for "M"' 1933

 

Unknown artist
Poster for “M”
1933
Made for Paramount release in Los Angeles
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Courtesy of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library

 

 

“The Milwaukee Art Museum is excited for visitors to experience its newest exhibition, Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s on view from Oct. 21 through Jan. 22. Organized by La Cinémathèque française, Paris, the exhibition examines the groundbreaking period in film history that occurred in Germany during the Weimar era after World War I, through more than 150 objects, including set design drawings, photographs, posters, documents, equipment, cameras and film clips from more than 20 films.

The Expressionist movement introduced a highly charged emotionalism to the artistic disciplines of painting, photography, theater, literature and architecture, as well as film, in the early part of the 20th century. German filmmakers employed geometrically skewed set designs, dramatic lighting, off-kilter framing, strong shadows and distorted perspectives to express a sense of uneasiness and discomfort. These films reflected the mood of Germany during this time, when Germans were reeling from the death and destruction of WWI and were enduring hyperinflation and other hardships.

“We’re thrilled to present Haunted Screens at the Milwaukee Art Museum this fall, and to offer our visitors a glimpse into a unique and revolutionary time in film and art history,” said Margaret Andera, the Museum’s adjunct curator of contemporary art. “This exhibition represents a tremendous period of creativity, and allows visitors a fascinating look at the nuanced aesthetics of German Expressionist cinema through a wealth of diverse objects.”

The exhibition is grouped into five sections by theme: Nature, Interiors, The Street, Staircases and The Expressionist Body. From the dark fantasy of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to the chilling murder mystery M, the exhibition explores masterworks of German Expressionist cinema in aesthetic, psychological and technical terms. More than 140 drawings are complemented by some 40 photographs, eight projected film clip sequences, numerous film posters, three cameras, one projector, and a resin-coated, life-size reproduction of the Maria robot from Metropolis.

German Expressionist cinema was the first self-conscious art cinema, influencing filmmakers throughout the world at the time and continuing to inspire artists today. It served as a catalyst for subsequent film genres, most notably science fiction and horror. The conflicting attitudes about technology and the future that are the cornerstones of science fiction, and the monsters and villains that form the basis of horror, appear often in Expressionist films. The influence of Expressionist cinema undoubtedly extends to the work of contemporary filmmakers, including Tim Burton, Martin Scorsese and Guy Maddin, whose 3-channel projection work, Kino Ektoplamsa, appears at the end of the exhibition.

The Museum is taking a unique approach to the exhibition’s installation design, one that mirrors the mood of the time and the objects on display. Walls intersecting at unexpected angles and even breaking through the exhibition space into Windhover Hall give visitors an engaging experience.

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s permanent collection includes extensive holdings in the German Expressionist area, including a significant collection of paintings from the period, as well as one of the most important collections of German Expressionist prints in the nation, the Marcia and Granvil Specks Collection. This collection includes more than 450 prints by German masters. Visitors are encouraged to stroll through the collection galleries after seeing Haunted Screens.”

Press release from the Milwaukee Art Museum

 

 

 

Synopsis of Metropolis

Metropolis is ruled by the powerful industrialist Joh Fredersen. He looks out from his office in the Tower of Babel at a modern, highly technicised world. Together with the children of the workers, a young woman named Maria reaches the Eternal Gardens where the sons of the city’s elite amuse themselves and where she meets Freder, Joh Fredersen’s son. When the young man later goes on a search for the girl, he witnesses an explosion in a machine hall, where numerous workers lose their lives. He then realizes that the luxury of the upper class is based on the exploitation of the proletariat. In the Catacombs under the Workers’ City Freder finally finds Maria, who gives the workers hope with her prophecies for a better future. His father also knows about Maria’s influence on the proletariat and fears for his power. In the house of the inventor Rotwang, Joh Fredersen learns about his experiments to create a cyborg based on the likeness of Hel, their mutual love and Freder’s mother. Fredersen orders Rotwang to give Maria’s face to the robot in order to send it to the underground city to deceive and stir up its inhabitants.

After the robot Maria has succeeded, a catastrophe ensues. The riotous workers destroy the Heart Machine and as a result the Workers’ City, where only the children have remained, is terribly flooded. The real Maria brings the children to safety along with Freder. When they learn about the disaster, the rebelling masses stop. Their rage is now aimed at the robot Maria, who is captured and burned at the stake. At the same time Rotwang, driven by madness, pursues the genuine Maria across the Cathedral’s rooftop, where he ultimately falls to his death. Freder and Maria find each other again. The son devotes himself to his father, mediating between him and the workers. As a consequence, Maria’s prophecy of reconciliation between the ruler and those who are mastered (head and hands) triumphs – through the help of the mediating heart.

 

Horst von Harbou. 'Set photograph from "Metropolis"' 1927

 

Horst von Harbou (Germany, 1879-1953)
Set photograph from “Metropolis”
1927
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Gelatin silver print
Collection of La Cinémathèque française

 

Horst von Harbou. 'Set photograph from "Metropolis"' 1927

 

Horst von Harbou (Germany, 1879-1953)
Set photograph from “Metropolis”
1927
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Gelatin silver print
Collection of La Cinémathèque française

 

Horst von Harbou. 'Set photograph from "Metropolis"' 1927

 

Horst von Harbou (Germany, 1879-1953)
Set photograph from “Metropolis”
1927
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Gelatin silver print
Collection of La Cinémathèque française

 

Horst von Harbou. 'Set photograph from "Metropolis"' 1927

 

Horst von Harbou (Germany, 1879-1953)
Set photograph from “Metropolis”
1927
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Gelatin silver print
Collection of La Cinémathèque française

 

Horst von Harbou. 'Set photograph from "Metropolis"' 1927

Horst von Harbou. 'Set photograph from "Metropolis"' 1927

 

Horst von Harbou (Germany, 1879-1953)
Set photograph from “Metropolis”
1927
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Gelatin silver print
Collection of La Cinémathèque française

 

Horst von Harbou. 'Set photograph from "Metropolis"' 1927

 

Horst von Harbou (Germany, 1879-1953)
Set photograph from “Metropolis”
1927
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Gelatin silver print
Collection of La Cinémathèque française

 

Horst von Harbou. 'Set photograph from "Metropolis"' 1927

 

Horst von Harbou (Germany, 1879-1953)
Set photograph from “Metropolis”
1927
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Gelatin silver print
Collection of La Cinémathèque française

 

 

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) is a defining film of the silent era and science fiction genre. But the work of the film’s still photographer Horst von Harbou has remained obscure. Von Harbou, brother of Thea von Harbou, Lang’s then wife and co-screenwriter of Metropolis, photographed filmed scenes as well as off-camera action, and made an album of thirty-five photographs which he gave to the film’s young star Brigitte Helm. The book Metropolis is a careful reconstruction of this album, showing the photographs and some of their backsides which feature hand-written notes. Von Harbou’s photographs not only offer a rare insight into Lang’s film, but have been crucial in reconstructing missing scenes from it.

Horst von Harbou was born in 1879 in Hutta, Posen, and died in 1953 in Potsdam-Babelsberg. Very little is known about von Harbou, except for the films on which he worked as a still photographer: these include Mensch ohne Namen (1932), Starke Herzen im Sturm (1937) and Augen der Liebe (1951).

Text from the Steidl Books website

 

Horst von Harbou. 'Set photograph from "Metropolis"' 1927 (detail)

 

Horst von Harbou (Germany, 1879-1953)
Set photograph from “Metropolis” (detail)
1927
Director: Fritz Lang (Austria, 1890-1976)
Gelatin silver print
Collection of La Cinémathèque française

 

Otto Hunte. 'Set design drawing for "Metropolis"' 1923

 

Otto Hunte
Set design drawing for “Metropolis”
1923
Director: Fritz Lang
Collection of La Cinémathèque française, Paris

 

 

Otto Hunte (9 January 1881 – 28 December 1960) was a German production designer, art director and set decorator. Hunte is considered as one of the most important artists in the history of early German cinema, mainly for his set designs on the early silent movies of Fritz Lang. His early career was defined by a working relationship with fellow designers Karl Vollbrecht and Erich Kettelhut. Hunte’s architectural designs are found in many of the most important films of the period including Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, Die Nibelungen (1924), Metropolis (1927) and Der blaue Engel. Hunte subsequently worked as one of the leading set designers during the Nazi era. Post-Second World War he was employed by the East German studio DEFA.

 

 

Paramount
Trade advertisement
1927
Lithograph

 

 

Milwaukee Art Museum
700 N Art Museum Dr,
Milwaukee WI 53202

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30
Nov
16

Exhibition: ‘Louis Faurer’ at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Exhibition dates: 9th September – 18th December 2016

Curator: The exhibition has been curated and organized by Agnès Sire, director of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in association with the Estate of Louis Faurer in New York, Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York and Deborah Bell Photographs.

 

 

Life, love and loneliness in the big smoke.

Champions and accidents.

Home of the brave, land of the fractured and destitute.

Unemployed and Looking.

Both * eyes * removed
Wounded

I AM TOTALLY BLIND.

Marcus

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

 

 

“However, with shocking suddenness in 1976 I came to believe that American photography of the moment of mid-century belonged to Louis Faurer.”

.
Walter Hopps

 

“I have an intense desire to record life as I see it, as I feel it. As long as I’m amazed and astonished, as long as I feel that events, messages, expressions and movements are all shot through with the miraculous, I’ll feel filled with the certainty I need to keep going. When that day comes, my doubts will vanish.”

.
Louis Faurer

 

 

Louis Faurer. 'Accident, New York' 1952

 

Louis Faurer
Accident, New York
1952
© Louis Faurer Estate, Courtesy Deborah Bell

 

Louis Faurer. 'Champion, New York' 1950

 

Louis Faurer
Champion, New York
1950
© Louis Faurer Estate, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Louis Faurer. 'Orchard Street, New York' 1947

 

Louis Faurer
Orchard Street, New York
1947
© Louis Faurer Estate

 

Louis Faurer. 'New York' 1949

 

Louis Faurer
New York
1949
© Louis Faurer Estate, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Louis Faurer. 'Untitled, New York' 1949

 

Louis Faurer
Untitled, New York
1949
© Louis Faurer Estate

 

Louis Faurer. '"Win, Place, and Show", 3rd Avenue El at 53rd Street, New York, New York' c. 1946-1948

 

Louis Faurer
“Win, Place, and Show”, 3rd Avenue El at 53rd Street, New York, New York
c. 1946-1948
© Louis Faurer Estate

 

Louis Faurer. 'Market Street, Philadelphia' 1944

 

Louis Faurer
Market Street, Philadelphia
1944
© Louis Faurer Estate

 

Louis Faurer. 'Untitled, New York' c. 1948-1950

 

Louis Faurer
Untitled, New York
c. 1948-1950
© Louis Faurer Estate

 

Louis Faurer. '42nd Street, New York' c. 1949

 

Louis Faurer
42nd Street, New York
c. 1949
© Louis Faurer Estate

 

Louis Faurer. 'Staten Island Ferry, New York' 1946

 

Louis Faurer
Staten Island Ferry, New York
1946
© Louis Faurer Estate, Courtesy Deborah Bell

 

 

From September 9 to December 18, 2016, The Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson dedicates an exhibition to the American photographer, Louis Faurer. This show is the occasion to discover this artist who has not been the subject of an exhibition in France since 1992. A native of Philadelphia, Louis Faurer moved to New York after the War, as if irresistibly pulled into the life of Times Square, where he homed in, objectively and pitilessly, on loneliness in the crowd. Reporting held little interest for him, and journalism even less; he was drawn – as the captions to his photographs sometimes indicate – to the poetic side: the fragility of things and the unconscious revelation. He carried out much-admired commissions for leading magazines including Flair, Junior Bazaar, Glamour and Mademoiselle. This gave rise to an unfeigned self-contempt and a paradoxical inner division only humor could counter. These assignments earned a living and helped him pursue a more personal work in New York streets.

Profoundly honest, he refused the excessiveness (or obscenity) of violent scenes that might humiliate his subjects, and deliberately projected himself into the people he photographed; and if he often recognized himself in them, this was the whole point. Sometimes he encountered his double, or even appeared in shot as a reflection. Each of his images was “a challenge to silence and indifference” – theirs and his own.

After studying drawing and being noticed by the Disney Studios at the age of thirteen, Louis Faurer started his professional path by creating advertising posters and sketching caricatures in the seaside of Atlantic City. At the age of 21, he bought his first camera and won first prize for “Photo of the Week” in a contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger. Market Street would then be the scene of his first shots. In 1947, he left for New York, as Lilian Bassman, art director for Junior Bazaar, hired him as a photographer. He met Robert Frank who was to become a close friend and with who he would share a studio for a while.

In 1968, he abandoned New York, the scene of his most successful work, for personal and financial reasons. Faurer worked briefly in England, and then in Paris where he struggled doing fashion work, with occasional assignments from Elle and French Vogue. Shortly after Faurer returned to New York in 1974 at the age of 58, he found that photography was being embraced by the art world and was soon to become a commodity in the international art market. The art dealer, Harry Lunn brought his work to public attention through an exhibition at Marlborough Gallery in 1997 and resurrected his career, his contribution then began to be acknowledged. In 1984, a car in New York streets hit Faurer, his wounds prevented him to pursue his career as a photographer. He passed away in Manhattan on March 2, 2001.

Deeply concerned with what he saw, he shares his doubts with us as he chooses anonymous figures spotted amid the ordinariness of the sidewalk: figures pulled out of the ambient melancholy, the film noir, the pervasive distress that seem to have been his personal lot. A remarkably gifted printer, Faurer experimented with blur, overlaid negatives and the marked graininess resulting from his fondness for the nocturnal. His touchiness meant frequent problems with clients and people like the numerous photographers who tried to lend a helping hand; among the latter was William Eggleston, who had discerned the unique depth of Faurer’s work. The issue the elegant Japanese photography quarterly déjà vu devoted to him in 1994 speaks of a rediscovery and a style ahead of its time, and quotes Nan Goldin: “Some people believe again that photography can be honest”.

In 1948, Edward Steichen, Head of the Department of Photography of the MoMA, supported Faurer and included him in In and Out of Focus. Steichen wrote: “Louis Faurer, a new comer in the field of documentary reporting, is a lyricist with a camera, a seeker and finder of magic in some of the highways and byways of life.” Afterwards, Steichen presented Faurer photographs in a few other exhibitions and in particular The Family of Man, in 1955. During his lifetime, Faurer did not have the wherewithal to edit his photographs into a book.

Press release from Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

Louis Faurer. 'Market Street, Philadelphia' 1937

 

Louis Faurer
Market Street, Philadelphia
1937
© Louis Faurer Estate

 

Louis Faurer. 'Unemployed and Looking at Rockefeller Center, New York' 1947

 

Louis Faurer
Unemployed and Looking at Rockefeller Center, New York
1947
© Louis Faurer Estate

 

Louis Faurer. 'Eddie, New York' 1948

 

Louis Faurer
Eddie, New York
1948
© Louis Faurer Estate

 

Louis Faurer. 'Deaf Mute, New York' 1950

 

Louis Faurer
Deaf Mute, New York
1950
© Louis Faurer Estate

 

Louis Faurer. 'Union Square from Ohrbach’s Window, New York' c. 1948-1950

 

Louis Faurer
Union Square from Ohrbach’s Window, New York
c. 1948-1950
© Louis Faurer Estate, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

 

Narrative of my career

My earliest experience in art occurred at the Benjamin Rush Public school in Phila., Penna. Miss Duncan, who seemed to float on a rose petal scent, having requested that numbers be written on paper with lead pencil, was shocked when my sheet yielded a drawing of a locomotive. My next surprise, at the age of 13 arrived in the mail. I had submitted my drawings to Walt Disney and he proposed considering me for a position, although he couldn’t guarantee it, if I travelled to California. It seemed unreachable and so I didn’t go.

After graduating the South Phila. High School for Boys, I enrolled in a Commercial Lettering School. After months of hand trembling, I looked at my first sign, it read “FRESH FISH”. From 1934 to 1937 I sketched caricatures on the beach at Atlantic City, N.J. My interest in photography began in 1937. It was greatly intensified when I was awarded first prize in the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger for the photo of the week contest. Soon, the Farm Security Administration’s early books became my bible. I was especially taken by Walker Evans’ photography. The world of Harper’s Bazaar also fascinated me.

Later, in New York, I was to meet Robert Frank at the Bazaar Studio. Since I was a commuter, he invited me to stay at his loft together with nine cats. He had recently arrived from Switzerland and was alone. New York enchanted and amazed me. Everywhere a new discovery awaited me. Rejection slips from U.S. Camera were transformed into reproduced pages. My work was being accepted, often it seemed unreal. I showed my photographs to Walker Evans. A handsome brass tea kettle in his tiny room in the offices at FORTUNE projected his stability and eloquence. “You wouldn’t photograph fat women, would you?” he asked me. Later he warned me, “don’t become contaminated.” My need to continue photographing was solved by photography for commerce. I worked for periodicals which included Harper’s Bazaar.

1946 to 1951 were important years. I photographed almost daily and the hypnotic dusk light led me to Times Square. Several nights of photographing in that area and developing and printing in Robert Frank’s dark room became a way of life. He would say, “whatta town”, “whatta town”. I was represented in Edward Steichen’s IN AND OUT OF FOCUS exhibit. Then, work, work, and more work. “Boy,” he boomed, “go out and photograph and put the prints on my desk.” This command was synchronized with a pound of his fist on the glass top desk. I thought it miraculous, that the glass did not shatter.

I tasted and accepted the offerings of the 50s and 60s. LIFE, COWLES PUBLICATIONS, HEARST and CONDE NAST, enabled me to continue with my personal photography efforts. Often I would carry a 16mm motion picture camera as I would a Leica and photograph in the New York streets. The results were never shown commercially. The negative has been stored.

In 1968, I needed new places, new faces and change. I tried Europe. I returned in the mid-seventies and was overwhelmed by the change that had occurred here. I took to photographing the new New York with an enthusiasm almost equal to the beginning. After the Lunn purchase, the gallery world. I was brought again to the drawing I first experienced, and as an unexpected bonus, the photographer had become an artist! 1978 found me the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Grant and the Creative Public Service Grant for photography. The latter is known as (CAPS). My eyes search for people who are grateful for life, people who forgive and whose doubts have been removed, who understand the truth, whose enduring spirit is bathed by such piercing white light as to provide their present and future hope.*

Louis Faurer

.
* Reproduced, with editorial revisions, from the artist’s original text. Text published at the occasion of the exhibition Louis Faurer – Photographs from Philadelphia and New York 1937-1973 presented from March 10 to April 23, 1981 at the Art Gallery of University of Maryland. Extracts from the book Louis Faurer published by Steidl, September 2016

 

Louis Faurer. 'Somewhere in West Village, New York' 1948

 

Louis Faurer
Somewhere in West Village, New York
1948
© Louis Faurer estate

 

Louis Faurer. 'Untitled, Philadelphia' Date unknown

 

Louis Faurer
Untitled, Philadelphia
Date unknown
© Louis Faurer estate

 

'Louis Faurer' Steidl Verlag

 

Louis Faurer
Steidl Verlag

Foreword: Agnès Sire. Essay: Susan Kismaric. Original texts: Louis Faurer and Walter Hopps

208 pages
24 x 17.6 cm
100 illustrations
ISBN : 978-3-95829-241-3
September 2016

 

 

Extracts from the book

New York City has been the major center of the Faurer’s work, and that city’s life at mid-century, his great subject. The city is totally Faurer’s natural habitat. He can be at home, at one, with people on its streets, in its rooms. However serene or edgy his encounters, one senses Faurer (if at all) as being the same as the people in his photographs. And since these people are extremely varied, it is a transcendent vision that allows the photographer to be so many “others.” Faurer’s at-oneness with his subjects contrasts with both the mode of working and the results of Evans and Frank. They have proved to be great and wide-ranging explorers and fi nders of their images. Faurer made only one important trip: from Philadelphia (where he made his first, early brilliant photographs) to New York, where he stayed, and where in the course of things his vision consumed, whether ordinary or odd, the all of it.

Walter Hopps

 

Louis Faurer was a “photographer’s photographer”, one whose work was not known to a broad audience, or appreciated by the art world, but was loved by photographers. They saw in his pictures a purity of seeing, akin to what Faurer saw in the work of Walker Evans, the “poetic use of facts”. Faurer distinguished himself within this way of working through his instinct and his uncanny eye for people who radiate a rare and convincing sense of privacy, an inner life. They are people who would be true in any time and place,who are emblematic of human struggle.

For whatever reasons, Faurer did not have the wherewithal to edit his photographs into a book, the most visible and long-lasting expression of a photographer’s work. Yet his pictures are indelible. Their content presages a major shift in subject matter within the rubric of “documentary” American photography that was to come to fruition almost two decades later. In 1967 John Szarkowski identified this radical change when he wrote in his wall text for New Documents, an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, about the work of Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand: “…In the past decade, a new generation of photographers has directed the documentary approach toward more personal ends. Their aim has been not to reform life, but to know it”.

Susan Kismaric

 

Louis Faurer. 'Viva, New York' 1962

 

Louis Faurer
Viva, New York
1962
© Louis Faurer Estate, Courtesy Christophe Lunn

 

 

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
2, impasse Lebouis, 75014 Paris

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 1pm – 6.30 pm
Saturday 11am – 6.45 pm
Late night Wednesdays until 8.30 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson website

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14
Feb
16

Exhibition: ‘Cutting edge: 21st-century photography’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 26th November 2015 – 21st February 2016

Artists: Danica Chappell, Peta Clancy, Eliza Hutchison, Megan Jenkinson, Justine Khamara, Paul Knight, Derek Kreckler, Luke Parker, Emidio Puglielli, David Rosetzky, Jo Scicluna, Martin Smith, Vivian Cooper Smith, James Tylor and Joshua Yeldham.

 

 

This is a solid if slightly dour exhibition at the Monash Gallery of Art which examines the phenomena of the deconstruction of the physicality of the photograph. It “features the work of contemporary artists who disrupt the seamless uniformity of screen-based photography by cutting, pinning, folding and puncturing photographic prints. These are photographs that need to be engaged with in physical space, rather than contemplated on a screen; this is an exhibition about making rather than taking photographs.”

Therein lies the rub. If you start such an exercise (the physical deformation of the surface of the print), without caring about the quality of the base image, then you are automatically starting from a bad position. It’s like printing a black and white print from an underexposed negative. Further, much as many of these works are interesting conceptual exercises, most of them lead to emotional dead ends. A friend of mine has a good analogy: imagine standing on a bridge with a fast running stream flowing underneath, and dropping a pebble off the bridge. And then another, and another. Unless they cluster around each other to form an ongoing enquiry by a group of people – such as Australian women’s hand-coloured photography of the 1970s – INTO ONE IDEA (in the 1970s it was feminism and the urban environment), then they will be washed away. And this is the feeling I get from this exhibition: every idea possible is up for grabs (in an earnest kind of way), but nothing sticks memorably in the mind. That is the world in which we live today.

To my mind the best work in the exhibition is the simplest and most eloquent. Out of Joshua Yeldham’s trio of images, it is Owl of tranquillity (2015, below) which is the standout. The base image is beautiful and the careful incision work just adds to the magical resonance of the image. A truly knockout piece that would be a joy in any collection. The other two works suffer from the base image being taken on a mobile phone… the quality of the image is just not there to start with, and to then print and work the image at such great scale (see installation images below) means both images tend to loose cohesiveness. You can get away with it once, but not three times.

I also very much liked the concept and execution of the installation by Jo Scicluna (below). The photographs were well printed, the alterations intellectually and visually challenging, the framing and construction of the installation effective with the use of wood and shadow, and the whole had a wonderful resonance in the corner of the gallery. Plus you got a free poster of the work to take away with you!

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All text from the Monash Gallery of Art.

 

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Cutting edge: 21st-century photography' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Cutting edge: 21st-century photography' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Cutting edge: 21st-century photography' at the Monash Gallery of Art

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Cutting edge: 21st-century photography' at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Cutting edge: 21st-century photography at the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

“In the early years of the 21st century many cultural commentators were excited by the prospect of photography becoming a truly global art form. With cameras, computers and printers all communicating seamlessly through digital networks, and with the internet providing a worldwide platform for sharing photographs, it looked like the photographic medium might transcend the specificities of both place and materials.

While global digital networks have clearly impacted photography generally, the work of many art photographers has taken a different turn. Instead of embracing the seamless space of digital production, or the expanded horizon of online galleries, artists working with photography have found a range of ways to ground their practices in the material world.

Cutting edge: 21st-century photography features the work of contemporary artists who disrupt the seamless uniformity of screen-based photography by cutting, pinning, folding and puncturing photographic prints. These are photographs that need to be engaged with in physical space, rather than contemplated on a screen; this is an exhibition about making rather than taking photographs.”

Text from the Monash Gallery of Art

 

 

Installation photograph of Danica CHAPPELL. 'Light shadow (5 days + 5 hrs in 8 parts + test strips)' 2012–15 (detail)

 

Installation photograph of Danica Chappell. Light shadow (5 days + 5 hrs in 8 parts + test strips) 2012-15 (detail)

 

 

Danica Chappell‘s practice belongs to a long artistic tradition of visual abstraction, which rejects representation in favour of sensual and experimental processes. While this tradition is dominated by painters, Chappell employs the light-sensitive chemistry of traditional photography to generate her images. Even though Chappell’s practice can be described as ‘photographic’, she doesn’t use a camera to produce her work. This helps turn photography into something abstract, rather than representational, but it also allows Chappell to distance herself from the ‘instamatic moment’ and foreground an extended process of creative intuition with colour and form. The work being exhibited here, Light shadow (5 days + 5 hrs in 8 parts + test strips), was created in a colour darkroom over several hours. Approaching this as a type of unseeable performance, Chappell arranged and rearranged scraps of paper and other off-cuts on the light sensitive paper while exposing it to light for different periods of time. Chappell’s final installation of this work incorporates test strips, which have been placed at intervals over the print. The test strips, which were integral in the making of the work, interrupt the fl ow of the underlying print, adding an extra layer of abstraction and temporality.

 

Danica CHAPPELL. 'Light shadow (5 days + 5 hrs in 8 parts + test strips)' 2012–15 (detail)

Danica CHAPPELL. 'Light shadow (5 days + 5 hrs in 8 parts + test strips)' 2012–15 (detail)

Danica CHAPPELL. 'Light shadow (5 days + 5 hrs in 8 parts + test strips)' 2012–15 (detail)

Danica CHAPPELL. 'Light shadow (5 days + 5 hrs in 8 parts + test strips)' 2012–15 (detail)

 

Danica Chappell (born Australia 1972)
Light shadow (5 days + 5 hrs in 8 parts + test strips)
2012-15
Chromogenic prints
Collection of the artist

 

Installation view of David ROSETZKY. 'Aaron I' 2004 'Hamish' 2004

 

Installation view of David Rosetzky. Aaron I 2004 and Hamish 2004

 

David ROSETZKY. 'Hamish' 2004

 

David Rosetzky (born Australia 1970)
Hamish
2004
Chromogenic prints
Courtesy of the artist and Sutton Gallery (Melbourne)
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2005

 

 

David Rosetzky‘s practice encompasses a range of media, including video and photography, and typically explores themes of identity and interpersonal relationships. Throughout his career, Rosetzky has created photographic series and has periodically returned to work on photographic cut-out and collaged portraits. To produce these images, Rosetzky creates cool studio portraits of young models, referencing the style of photography found in advertising and fashion magazines. He then layers as many as three photographic portraits on top of each other before hand cutting sections to reveal parts of the underlying prints (above). Through these works Rosetzky represents his subjects as being multi-layered and highlights the idea that identity is fragile, changeable and often concealed. The crumpled paper, represented in his more recent portraits (below), suggests that surfaces are dynamic thresholds rather than superfi cial masks. Used in a photographic context, the crumpled paper can also be seen as a reference to photography’s power to transform and elaborate a person’s social identity.

 

David ROSETZKY. 'Pieces #1' 2015

 

David Rosetzky (born Australia 1970)
Pieces #1 (installation view)
2015
Chromogenic prints
Collection of Ten Cubed
Collection of the artist

 

David ROSETZKY. 'Pieces #2' 2015

 

David Rosetzky (born Australia 1970)
Pieces #2
2015
Chromogenic prints
Courtesy of the artist and Sutton Gallery (Melbourne)
Collection of Ten Cubed
Collection of the artist

 

Megan JENKINSON. 'meniscus' 2014 (detail)

 

Megan Jenkinson (born New Zealand 1958)
meniscus (installation photograph detail)
2014
From the series Transfigurations
Pigment ink-jet print
Collection of the artist

 

 

Megan Jenkinson began working with lenticular printing technologies in 2007. Lenticular printing combines multiple still images to give the impression of movement and three-dimensionality. The work on display here is from Jenkinson’s Transfigurations series, which employs a handmade form of lenticular photography to evoke the transience of the natural world. This large-scale image of water foliage is composed of two separate photographs that have been digitally spliced together and printed on a single sheet of paper. The artist has then hand-folded the photograph to create a concertinaed surface that can only be seen in its complete form when viewed from multiple angles. As a consequence, viewers need to physically interact with the photographic object, walking from side-to-side in order to experience the artwork. This form of photography disrupts traditional expectations of two-dimensional photography and introduces a tactile aspect to digital production.

 

Megan JENKINSON. 'meniscus' 2014 (detail)

Megan JENKINSON. 'meniscus' 2014 (detail)

 

Megan Jenkinson (born New Zealand 1958)
meniscus (installation photograph details)
2014
From the series Transfigurations
Pigment ink-jet print
Collection of the artist

 

Installation view of works by Justine KHAMARA

 

Installation view of works by Justine Khamara

Looping #3 2014
Distended #2 2013
Ghosting’s ghost #2 2010
Orbital spin trick #2 2013

 

 

In a world where photographs are often viewed on screens, Justine Khamara is interested in the physicality of the photographic surface and how this affects the meaning of an image. Her works begin as two-dimensional photographic portraits, which she then sculpts into three-dimensional forms that protrude from walls or stand alone in exhibition spaces. To create these works, Khamara cuts her photographic prints, either by hand or using a laser cutter. She then manipulates the intricately shredded surfaces by hand to give them a sculptural form. This involves an array of different techniques, such as adhering part of the photograph to a backing board and allowing the filleted paper to hang loosely from the top. In other instances she pulls and weaves the segmented photograph to create more purposeful geometric shapes. By working in this way, Khamara invests the photographic still with a sense of movement and playful elaboration, which effaces the mechanical nature of photographic reproduction.

 

Justine KHAMARA. 'Orbital spin trick #2' 2013

 

Justine Khamara (born Australia 1971)
Orbital spin trick #2
2013
UV print on plywood
50.0 x 50.0 x 50.0 cm
Reproduction courtesy of the artist and ARC ONE Gallery (Melbourne)
Collection of the artist

 

Justine KHAMARA. 'Orbital spin trick #2' 2013 (detail)

Justine KHAMARA. 'Orbital spin trick #2' 2013 (detail)

Justine KHAMARA. 'Orbital spin trick #2' 2013 (detail)

 

Justine Khamara (born Australia 1971)
Orbital spin trick #2 (installation view details)
2013
UV print on plywood
Collection of the artist

 

Justine KHAMARA. 'Looping #3' 2014 (detail)

Justine KHAMARA. 'Looping #3' 2014 (detail)

 

Justine Khamara (born Australia 1971)
Looping #3 (installation view details)
2014
Chromogenic prints
Collection of the artist

 

Luke PARKER. 'Screen memory' 2014

 

Luke Parker (born Australia 1975)
Screen memory
2014
From the series Screen memory
Mixed media
Collection of Mikala Dwyer and David Corben
Collection of the artist

 

 

Luke Parker works across a range of media, his practice is largely concerned with giving a sense of metaphysical weight to everyday events and chance encounters. The works on display here are made up of Parker’s own photographs combined with found images that he has collected over the past 20 years. To create these works, Parker categorised seemingly disparate images according to formal patterns and poetic associations. He then arranged the images onto a unifying background and used a needle and thread to stitch them into a type of artistic circuit board. Parker created this series as a way of making sense of his own image archive as well as the proliferation of images encountered in everyday life.

In a world where images are increasingly set adrift from specific economies of meaning, to circulate freely through digital networks, Parker’s works function as conceptual nets that encourage viewers to think about photographs rather than just watch them pass by.

 

Martin SMITH. 'After seeing every episode twice' 2006

Martin SMITH. 'After seeing every episode twice' 2006

 

Martin Smith (born Australia 1972)
After seeing every episode twice (installation views)
2006
Chromogenic print
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2008

 

 

Martin Smith‘s practice revolves around the integration of photography and text. Using photographs that have been recovered from family albums or personal archives, Smith incorporates texts into the visual fi eld of the image. The texts, which have no obvious relationship with the content of the photographs, recall personal memories or lyrics from popular songs. To incorporate the texts, Smith hand-cuts letters out of the photographic prints, often leaving the letters scattered beneath the image. The disconnect between the text and the image is a deliberate attempt to combine two discrete methods of storytelling – image and text – while also emphasising the way memories of an event are usually different from the original experience. By cutting letters out of the photograph, Smith complicates the viewer’s ability to believe in either the text or the image, and opens up a space that encourages new interpretations.

 

Martin SMITH. 'pleasure / storage' 2012

Martin SMITH. 'pleasure / storage' 2012

 

Martin Smith (born Australia 1972)
pleasure / storage (installation views)
2012
Pigment ink-jet prints
Collection of the artist

 

Installation view of Paul KNIGHT. 'Untitled (PK_10_05)' 2010 and 'Untitled (PK_10_02)' 2010

 

Installation view of Paul Knight. Untitled (PK_10_05) 2010 and Untitled (PK_10_02) 2010

 

 

Paul Knight‘s style of his photographs is influenced by his background in commercial photography; they are technically proficient and almost illustrative in their documentary clarity. These cool formal qualities, however, are unsettled by the subject matter, which is often about private desires and passions. Knight’s 2010-11 untitled series of folded photographs document couples embracing in bed. The series reflects Knight’s broader interest in photographing moments of candour and intimacy between lovers, which remains a preoccupation of his practice. In this series, however, Knight has folded the photographic prints to frustrate any expectation we might have about a photograph’s capacity to show or reveal its subject. Instead of offering a crude, voyeuristic perspective, the intimacy documented in these images is obscured and concealed in the folds of the print.

 

Paul KNIGHT. 'Untitled (PK_10_02)' 2010

 

Paul Knight (born Australia 1976)
Untitled (PK_10_02) (installation view)
2010
Chromogenic prints
Monash Gallery of Art, City of Monash Collection acquired 2010

 

Emidio PUGLIELLI. 'Colourful mountain disruption' 2009

 

Emidio Puglielli (born Australia 1964)
Colourful mountain disruption
2009
Chromogenic print, pins
Collection of the artist

 

 

Emidio Puglielli‘s work focuses on the relationship between the photograph as a material object and the photograph as an image. He is particularly interested in old photographs and their continued resonance in contemporary society. Puglielli fi nds and collects vernacular photography to use as the starting point for his works. He then highlights the materiality of the photographs by drawing attention to their surface and structure. To do this he employs strategies such as rubbing off the emulsion or piercing the surface with map pins. Puglielli is interested in the way such interventions alter the meaning of a photograph and offer new readings of images.

By damaging the smooth surface of the print, he is able to disrupt the illusion of the photographic image, but his interventions also embellish the photographs in sympathetic ways. This is particularly evident in Snow disruption, where the pins appear as snowflakes, and Shadow disruption where pins become eyeballs in the shadow of the unknown photographer. Puglielli’s works therefore seek to question the nature of photography and the way in which photographs are viewed and reinterpreted.

 

Installation view of Vivian Cooper SMITH. 'Timeless' 2013

 

Installation view of Vivian Cooper Smith. Timeless 2013

 

 

Vivian Cooper Smith‘s artistic practice revolves around photography. Timeless (2013) explores identity and conceptions of self while also reflecting on the nature of photography. To create this work, Smith photographed film noir classics directly from an old television screen. He then printed the images and hand-cut them to fit pieces of irregularly shaped plywood. Smith created this work during a period of personal turmoil and felt that the film noir genre of the post-war period resonated with his own desire to remake himself after a relationship breakdown. As is common to his practice, Smith has interfered with the photograph’s smooth, seamless surface, in this case by dissecting it and creating a three dimensional sculpture. By focussing on the materiality of the photograph, Smith aims to highlight its artificial or constructed nature.

 

Vivian Cooper SMITH. 'Timeless' 2013 (detail)

Vivian Cooper SMITH. 'Timeless' 2013 (detail)

 

Vivian Cooper Smith (born New Zealand 1974; arrived Australia 1987)
Timeless (installation view details)
2013
Chromogenic prints
Collection of the artist

 

Installation view of Derek KRECKLER. 'Holey 1' 2003

 

Installation view of Derek Kreckler.  Holey 1 2003

 

 

Derek Kreckler originally trained as a sculptor and established himself as a performance and sound artist during the 1990s, he has more recently concentrated on producing photographic and installation work. Kreckler’s Holey series consists of beach scenes and seascapes that have been punctured with circular apertures. The excised sections of the images have been transformed into spherical objects that sit in front of the two photographs, as if the photographs have spawned offspring from their holey orifices. This sculptural configuration challenges the notion that photography offers a straightforward document of time and place. Instead, the photograph has been turned into a type of puzzle that the viewer is encouraged to investigate and solve. To further deepen the viewing experience, Holey 1 is a diptych. The two photographs show the same location; the right side captured a short time after the left side. A number of the subjects in the photographs, beach goers on a summer’s day, are displaced by time. Some have remained static, some seem to have meandered between beach and sand, whilst others have disappeared from the scene altogether.

 

Derek KRECKLER. 'Holey 1' 2003 (detail)

Derek KRECKLER. 'Holey 1' 2003 (detail)

Derek KRECKLER. 'Holey 1' 2003 (detail)

Derek KRECKLER. 'Holey 1' 2003 (detail)

 

Derek Kreckler (born Australia 1952)
Holey 1 (installation view details)
2003
Chromogenic prints, spun aluminium spheres and cast vinyl
South Australian Government Grant 2004
Art Gallery of South Australia

 

Installation view of the work of Jo SCICLUNA

 

Installation view of the work of Jo Scicluna in the exhibition Cutting edge: 21st-century photography

 

 

Jo Scicluna works with a range of media, including photography, video, sculpture and installation, often combining these art forms to bring photography into the space of lived experience. Dissatisfied with the way photography, as a documentary device, is almost always tied to past events, Scicluna encourages viewers to engage with the presence of photographic objects. By cutting into the smooth surface of a photographic print, she disrupts the notion that a photograph is a window into the past. She also elaborates conceptual relationships between different photographic objects in her installations. In doing this, Scicluna activates the space between the photographic print, the sculptural form and the phenomenology of a gallery space. For Scicluna, the experience of being in-between things is related to her personal experience of migration and geographic rupture. Scicluna is not interested in using photography to create documents of specific times and places but uses the medium in a conceptual way to evoke sensations that are not as easy to represent in a literal sense.

 

Jo SCICLUNA. 'Where I have always been an island #4' 2014

 

Jo Scicluna (born Australia 1969)
Where I have always been an island #4 (installation view)
2014
Pigment ink-jet prints
Collection of the artist

 

Jo SCICLUNA 'When our horizons meet' 2013

 

Jo Scicluna (born Australia 1969)
When our horizons meet
2013
Pigment ink-jet prints
60.0 x 60.0 cm
Collection of the artist

 

Jo SCICLUNA. 'Where we begin (sunless)' 2014 (detail)

Jo SCICLUNA. 'Where we begin (sunless)' 2014 (detail)

 

Jo Scicluna (born Australia 1969)
Where we begin (sunless) (installation details)
2014
Pigment ink-jet print, acrylic, timber
Collection of the artist

 

Installation view of the work of Joshua YELDHAM

Installation view of the work of Joshua YELDHAM

 

Installation views of the work of Joshua Yeldham in the exhibition Cutting edge: 21st-century photography

 

 

Joshua Yeldham uses a range of media, his practice is focused on exploring the landscape and elaborating spiritual and symbolic narratives around his engagement with the natural world. He captures photographic images on a smart phone before blowing them up and printing them on cotton paper. He then uses tools to physically carve into the paper, disrupting the smooth surface of the photographic image and adding a personal, handmade effect. It is as if the artist is tattooing his own map or story into the skin of the image. The intricate carving creates a textured pattern of lightness over his otherwise dark and mysterious photographs. The technique allows Yeldham to explore history and mythology in the landscape and imbue his works with elements of both the real and the imagined. It also allows him to reference the passing of time as well as the weather and destruction that the natural environment endures on a daily basis.

 

Joshua YELDHAM. 'Owl of tranquillity' 2015

 

Joshua Yeldham (born Australia 1970)
Owl of tranquillity (detail)
2015
Pigment ink-jet print
Collection of the artist

 

Joshua YELDHAM. 'Resonance' 2015

Joshua YELDHAM. 'Resonance' 2015 (detail)

 

Joshua Yeldham (born Australia 1970)
Resonance (details)
2015
Mixed media
Collection of the artist

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
T: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
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Sat – Sun: 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays: closed

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04
Sep
14

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

Exhibition dates: 7th February – 7th September 2014

 

Bruce Davidson. 'Untitled' from the 'Brooklyn Gang' series 1959

 

Bruce Davidson
Untitled from the Brooklyn Gang series
1959

 

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

 

Danny Lyon
Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville, 1966
1966
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Each cool figure was considered with the following historical rubric in mind and possesses at least three elements of this singular American self-concept:

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

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

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

 

 

When less – less famous, less obvious – is more

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

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

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

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

Marcus

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Rare live footage of one of the first anti rascism songs ever.

 

Roger Marshutz. 'Elvis Presley' 1956

 

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

 

 

Herman Leonard. 'Frank Sinatra' c. 1956

 

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

 

 

Marcia Resnick. 'David Byrne' 1981

 

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

 

Julian Wasser. 'Joan Didion' 1970

 

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

 

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

 

Roy Schatt. 'James Dean' 1954

 

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

 

William Claxton. 'Steve McQueen' 1962

 

William Claxton
Steve McQueen
1962
Gelatin silver print
Image: 40 x 58.7cm (15 3/4 x 23 1/8″)
Fahey Klein Gallery

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

John Cohen. 'Jack Kerouac' 1959

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Peter Hujar. 'Susan Sontag' 1975

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Roots of Cool: Before 1940

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

The Birth of Cool: 1940-59

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

 

Cool and the Counterculture: 1960-79

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

 

The Legacies of Cool: 1980-Present

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

Press release from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website

 

Martin Munkacsi. 'Fred Astaire' 1936

 

Martin Munkacsi
Fred Astaire
1936
Gelatin silver print
Image (Image, Accurate): 24.1 x 19cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Philippe Halsman. 'Audrey Hepburn' 1955

 

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

 

Dmitri Kasterine. 'Jean-Michel Basquait' 1986

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Carl Van Vechten. 'Bessie Smith' 1936

 

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

 

 

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

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Deborah Harry' 1978

 

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

 

 

Philippe Halsman. 'Humphrey Bogart' 1944

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Frederick Douglas' 1856

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Fantastic performance footage of one of Jazz’s greatest stars – Duke Ellington. With performances of song of his most famous songs including “Mood Indigo”, “Caravan” & “Sophisticated Lady”

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big-band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions. A major figure in the history of jazz, Ellington’s music stretched into various other genres. His career spanned more than 50 years and included leading his orchestra, composing an inexhaustible songbook, scoring for movies, composing stage musicals, and world tours. Several of his instrumental works were adapted into songs that became standards. Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and extraordinary charisma, he is generally considered to have elevated the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other traditional genres of music. His reputation increased after his death and the Pulitzer Prize Board bestowed on him a special posthumous honor in 1999. Ellington called his music “American Music” rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as “beyond category.”

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Charles H. Stewart
Muddy Waters
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.4 x 18.4cm (10 x 7 1/4″)
Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University

 

 

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

 

Alfred Eisenstaedt
Lauren Bacall
1949 (printed 2013)
Pigmented ink jet print
Image: 40.3 x 27.9cm (15 7/8 x 11″)

 

Kate Simon. 'Madonna' 1983 (printed 2013)

 

Kate Simon
Madonna
1983 (printed 2013)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 33.7 × 22.9cm (13 1/4 × 9″)
© Kate Simon

 

 

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

 

Aram Avakian
Miles Davis
1955 (printed 2012)
Modern print made from original negative
Image: 34.6 × 24.1cm (13 5/8 × 9 1/2″)

 

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Bix Beiderbecke' c. 1920

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

Gerard-Malanga-lou-reed-WEB

 

Gerard Malanga
Lou Reed
1966
Gelatin silver print
Image: 48.3 x 36.2cm (19 x 14 1/4″)
© Martin Irvine

 

 

Arnold A. Newman. 'Jackson Pollock' 1949

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Philippe Halsman. 'Clint Eastwood' 1971

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

Opening hours:
11.30 am – 7.00 pm daily

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website

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25
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Lorna Simpson’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 28th May – 1st September 2013

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Fascinating practice!

Identity, memory, gender, representation, the body, the subject, felt, text, images, video, gesture, reenactment, concept and performance, all woven together seamlessly like a good wig made of human hair…

Marcus

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

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Lorna Simpson. 'Five Day Forecast [Prévisions à cinq jours]' 1988

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Lorna Simpson
Five Day Forecast [Prévisions à cinq jours]
1988
5 gelatin silver prints in a frame, 15 plates engraved plastic
24 ½ x 97 in (62.2 x 246.4 cm) overall
Lillian and Billy Mauer Collection
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'Stereo Styles [Styles stéréo]' 1988

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Lorna Simpson
Stereo Styles [Styles stéréo]
1988
10 dye-diffusion black-and-white Polaroid prints, 10 engraved plastic plaques
57 ¾ x 125 ¼ x 1 3/8 in (146.7 x 318.1 x 3.5 cm) overall
Collection of Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'Wigs II' 1994-2006

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Lorna Simpson
Wigs II
1994-2006
Serigraph on 71 felt panels (images and text)
98 x 265 in (248.9 x 673.1 cm) overall
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson surprised her audiences in 1994 when she began to print her photographs on felt, inspired by its materiality after seeing an exhibition of the sculpture of Joseph Beuys in Paris “where the piano and walls were covered for a beautiful installation.” Simpson questioned whether the medium might be appropriate in a far different way for her work given the perspective afforded her by the passage of time. With the felt pieces, Simpson turned away from photography’s traditional paper support, magnified the already larger-than-life-size of the images within her large photo-text pieces to extremely large-scale multi-part works, and, most critically, absented the figure, in particular, the black woman in a white shift facing away from the camera for which she had received critical acclaim.

Ever-present, nevertheless, were her thematic concerns. The first felts offered surrogates for the body in  a taxonomy of her own photographs of Wigs, with voicings “in and around gender,” and expanded upon the investigation of the role of coiffure in the construction of identity in Simpson’s photo-texts (such as Stereo Styles, Gallery 1). In the mid-1990s, such felts were succeeded by a series of photographs of interior and exterior scenes that were accompanied by long text passages printed on separate small felts. In these works the figure was replaced, as Okwui Enwezor wrote, “by the rumor of the body.”

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Lorna Simpson. 'Please remind me of who I am' (detail) 2009

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Lorna Simpson
Please remind me of who I am (detail)
2009
50 found photo booth portraits, 50 ink drawings on paper, 100 bronze elements
Overall installation dimensions variable
Collection of Isabelle and Charles Berkovic
© Lorna Simpson

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For each multi-part photo-booth piece, Simpson sets in bronze frames these small inexpensive shots as well as her drawings of selected details of the photographs. Self-styled and performed, these photographs were used for a variety of purposes by their now anonymous sitters, ranging from sober, formal ID photos to glamorous, often theatrically playful mementos. Encompassing photo booth shots of different sizes from the 1920s to the 1970s (a few in color), Simpson’s constellations of many images for each work offer a collective portrait of self-portraiture (Gather, 2009) and continue her ongoing explorations of identity and memory, explicitly phrased in the title of one of them: Please remind me of who I am (2009).

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Lorna Simpson. 'Waterbearer [Porteuse d'eau]' 1986

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Lorna Simpson
Waterbearer [Porteuse d’eau]
1986
Gelatin silver print, vinyl letters
59 x 80 x 2 ½ in (149.9 x 203.2 x 5.7 cm) overall
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris / Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Waterbearer shows a woman from the back, pouring water from an elegant silvery metallic pitcher in one hand and from an inexpensive plastic jug in the other, echoing art historical renderings of women at wells or in the domestic settings of Dutch still-life paintings. As if balancing the scales of justice, this figure also symbolically offers disjunctions of means and class. In the accompanying text, Simpson explicitly addresses memory and the agency of speakers: “She saw him disappear by the river, they asked her to tell what happened, only to discount her memory.”

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For her first European retrospective, the Jeu de Paume presents thirty years of Lorna Simpson’s work. For this Afro-American artist, born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1960, the synthesis between image and text is profound and intimate. If one were to consider Lorna Simpson as a writer, the textual element of her works could have an autonomous life as prose poems, very short stories or fragments of scripts. And yet, her texts are inseparable from her images; there is a dynamic between the two that is both fragile and energising, which links them unfailingly. Lorna Simpson became known in the 1980s and 90s for her photographs and films that shook up the conventions of gender, identity, culture and memory.

Throughout her work, the artist tackles the complicated representation of the black body, using different media, while her texts add a significance that always remains open to the spectator’s imagination. In her recent work, Lorna Simpson has integrated archive images, which she reinvents by positioning herself in them as subject. As the artist underlines: “The theme I turn to most often is memory. But beyond this subject, the underlying thread is my relationship to text and ideas about representation.” (Lorna Simpson)

This retrospective reveals the continuity in her conceptual and performative research. In her works linking photography and text, as well as in her video installations, she integrates – while continually shaking them up – the genres of fixed and moving images, using them to ask questions about identity, history, reality and fiction. She introduces complexity through her use of photography and film, in her exploitation of found objects, in the processes she develops to take on the challenges she sets herself and to spectators.

The exhibition gathers her large format photo-texts of the mid 1980s, which brought her to the attention of the critics (Gestures / Reenactments, Waterbearer, Stereo Styles), her work in screenprints on felt panels since the 1990s (Wigs, The Car, The Staircase, Day Time, Day Time (gold), Chandelier), a group of drawings (Gold Headed, 2013), and also her “Photo Booths,” ensembles of found photos and drawings (Gather, Please remind me of who I am…). The exhibition is also an opportunity to discover her video installations: multivalent narratives that question the way in which experience is created and perceived more or less falsely (Cloudscape, 2004, Momentum, 2010), among them, Playing Chess, a new video installation made especially for the occasion.

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About the exhibition

by Joan Simon

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In her critically acclaimed body of work spanning more than thirty years, Lorna Simpson questions identity and memory, gender and history, fact and fiction, playing eye and ear in tandem if not in synchrony to prompt consideration of how meaning is constructed. That she has often described herself as an observer and a listener informs an understanding of both her approach and her subjects. In her earliest black-and-white documentary street photographs (1978-80), Simpson isolated gestures that bespoke an intimacy between those framed in her viewfinder, recording what was less a decisive moment than one of coming into relation. Some of these photographs seem to capture crossed glances, pauses in an ongoing conversation. Others are glimpses of occasions, transitional events identifiable by a white confirmation or wedding dress, which convey a sense of palpable silence in exchanges between people just out of earshot.

When Simpson began to stage her own photographs in 1985 and to write accompanying texts, she came in closer. She allowed us to see a carefully framed black body, abstracted in gesture and in white clothing, yet also permitted us to read seemingly overheard comments that redirected and recomplicated the view. While her images captured gestures, her narratives imbued these images frozen in a never-changing present with memory, a past. The title of her first photo-text work, made in 1985, and of the exhibition of that year in which it was first exhibited was Gestures / Reenactments, and one can argue that all Simpson’s work is built on the juxtaposition of gestures and reenactments, creating meaning in the resonant gap between the two. It is a gap that invites the viewer / reader to enter, all the while requiring an active reckoning with some inalienable truths: seeing is not necessarily believing, and what we might see is altered not only by our individual experiences and assumptions but also, critically, by what we might hear.

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The exhibition

Whether for still or moving picture productions, Lorna Simpson (b. 1960) uses her camera as catalyst to question identity and gender, genres and history, race and class, fact and fiction, memory and meanings. Assumptions of photographic “truth” are challenged and qualified – indeed redirected – by the images she creates that are inseparable from the texts she writes to accompany them, by the soundings she chooses  for videos, or by her pairings of vintage photographs with newly made renderings. The Jeu de Paume presents lorna Simpson’s first large-scale exhibition in europe beginning with her earliest photo-text pieces of the 1980s through her newest video installation, Chess, 2013, which makes its debut in Paris.

Works in the exhibition show the artist drawing on traditional photo techniques such as gelatin silver prints in an intimate synthesis with speakerly texts (Gallery 1). They also show Simpson’s creation of new combines, among them serigraphs on felt with writings and images invoking film noir (Gallery 2), a video installation of three projections based on historic photographs and her own prior still photos (Gallery 3), constellations of recuperated photo-booth photos with her drawings isolating details from them as well as vintage photographs together with those re-staged by the artist (Gallery 4), and a video focusing on performance as well as time itself and its reversal (Gallery 5).

The exhibition’s parcours reveals turning points in Simpson’s oeuvre as well as thematic continuities. The earliest pieces in the show are Simpson’s performative proto-cinematic photo-texts, beginning with the 1985 Gestures/ Reeactments, a title literally evocative of the work’s visual/verbal aspect while also paradigmatically descriptive of what would be her conceptual practice for the next three decades. Simpson herself makes a rare appearance in her work in two related pieces in the show: the 2009 epic still photo work 1957-2009 (Gallery 4), for which the artist re-enacted scenes from vintage photos, and Chess, 2013, (Gallery 3), which features re-enactments of some of the same photos.

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Gallery 1 introduces the artist’s signature, indeed iconic early images of the 1980s – a black figure in white clothing, face turned away from the camera or cropped out of the frame – accompanied by precisely crafted, allusive texts that recomplicate what is seen by what is heard in these voicings. The intention to deny a view of a face, as Simpson says, “was related to the idea that the one thing that people gravitate to in photography is the face and reading the expression and what that says about the person pictured, an emotional state, who they are, what they look like, deciphering and measuring. Who is being pictured, what is actually the subject? Photographing from the back was a way to get viewers’ attention as well as to consciously withdraw what they might expect to see.”

The performative photo-text works in Gallery 1 are Gestures/Reenactments, 1985 (created as part of her thesis project for her MFA at the University of California, San Diego), Waterbearer and Twenty Questions (A Sampler) (the first works that Simpson made when she moved to New York in 1986), as well as Five Day Forecast, 1988, and Stereo Styles, 1988. Beginning with Waterbearer, all of these except Gestures/Reenactments (which features a black male) show a black female in a white shift played by artist Alva Rogers, who was often mistaken for Simpson herself.

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Gallery 2 marks important changes the artist made during the ’90s, most notably Simpson’s surprising shift to printing her photographs on felt and absenting the human figure. At first she used surrogates for the body, seen in the many and various wigs she photographed and which she accompanied with texts that continued to address ideas of identity and gender (Wigs, 1994-2006). She used photographs taken during her travels for the next series of felt works, which were interior and exterior scenes (The Car, 1995, The Rock, 1995, The Staircase, 1998) that in both imagery and texts invoked film noir. These works led almost inevitably to the start of Simpson’s film and video work in 1997. (Her earliest photo-texts will be recognized by the viewer as proto-cinematic with their multiple frames and conversational voices.)

This gallery also reveals how Simpson continues to use her felt medium and returns to her own archive of images   as well as found objects. Three related works, though no longer using text, nevertheless “comment” on each other:  a video of a performance (Momentum, 2010) inspired by an early 1970s performance at Lincoln Center generated felt works based on vintage photographs of this famous New York theater – Chandelier, 2011, Daytime, 2011, and Daytime (gold), 2011- as well as the Gold Headed (2013) drawings, based on the dancers costumed head to foot in gold. Drawings are perhaps the least known medium in Simpson’s practice, and while they reveal the fluid gestures of her hand, visitors will recognize in these gold heads turned from the viewer an echo of the position of the figures  in Gallery 1.

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Gallery 3 is devoted to Simpson’s newest video, Chess, 2013, which is based on historic photos as well as her own earlier photographic piece, 1957-2009 (Gallery 4), in which she restaged found vintage photographs. Chess and 1957-2009 mark the rare instances in which Simpson has herself appeared in her work.

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Gallery 4 presents reenactments that use quotidian photographic genres to explore constructions of identity   and that offer a collective portrait of photographic portraiture over time. All of the works in this gallery are based on found photographs Simpson purchased on eBay and each depicts anonymous subjects performing for the camera. 1957-2009 is based on photographs in a vintage album; Gather and Please remind me of who I am are constellations of bronze-framed found photo-booth images (from the 1920s to the 1970s) accompanied by Simpson’s similarly framed drawings of details from the photographs.

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Gallery 5 offers Simpson’s video installation Cloudscape, 2004, which focuses on performance itself and the soundings of a body, that of artist Terry Adkins whistling a hymn. Embodying memory (and the distortions of it) as she did in her earliest photo-works but playing also with the particularities of video, Simpson loops the video to play forward and backward. In this process a new melody is created even as the stationary figure appears same but different.

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Lorna Simpson. 'Chess [Échecs]' 2013

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Lorna Simpson
Chess [Échecs]
2013
HD video installation with three projections, black & white, sound
10:25 minutes (loop)
Score and performance by Jason Moran
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'Chess [Échecs]' 2013

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Lorna Simpson
Chess [Échecs]
2013
HD video installation with three projections, black & white, sound
10:25 minutes (loop)
Score and performance by Jason Moran
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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“Gestures” and “reenactments” could both be described as the underlying methods of Simpson’s practice for the decades to follow. Whether working with photographs she herself staged, found photographs, or archival film footage, her images captured gestures (as in her earliest documentary photographs of 1978-1980) while her series of multiple images, accompanied by texts, proposed simultaneous (if not synchronous) reenactments. This method also applied to works in which she replicated found images, whether turning images from her films into drawings, or using herself to re-play roles depicted by anonymous figures she had discovered in vintage photographs, either for staged still photographs (as in 1957-2009, 2009), or for moving pictures (as in the video Chess, 2013).

Chess, 2013, Simpson’s video installation made expressly for this exhibition, draws on images from 1957- 2009, her still photograph ensemble of 2009 (on view in Gallery 4). For both, in a departure from her earlier videos and prior staged photographs, Simpson herself performs. In 1957-2009, by reenacting scenes from found vintage prints with which they are shown, Simpson is “mirroring both the male and  the female character, in dress, pose, expression, and setting. When I would mention the idea of working with mirrors [for the Chess video] people would often mention the famous portraits of Picasso and  Picabia taken at a photo studio in New York by an anonymous photographer who placed the subject   at a table in front of two mirrored panels at seventy-degree angles. The result is a five-way portrait that includes views that are not symmetrical and that offer slightly different angles: a surrealist trope of trick photography.”

Though the artist first rejected the idea of working with the mirror device used in these historic portraits, which she had seen many times, she decided to take it on fully and reconstruct it in her studio for this new video project after  art historian and sociologist Sarah Thornton sent her “a beautiful image of an unknown man of African descent in a white straw hat, which had been in an exhibition at MoMA [catalogue page 61]. It was a five-way portrait probably taken by the same photographer who had taken the portraits of Picasso and Picabia. I could no longer resist or dis- miss this idea. I felt that it was demanding my attention.”

Shot in Simpson’s studio over the weekend of December 8, 2012, Chess is comprised of three video projections. For two of them Simpson again plays both female and male chess-players, and with the help of makeup and hair assistants, she now allows her characters to age. The third projection shows pianist Jason Moran performing his improvised score for this project, which was inspired by discussions between artist and composer about “mirroring in music,” especially “in the work of musician Cecil Taylor, who employs mirroring in his compositions.”

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Lorna Simpson. 'The Car' 1995

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Lorna Simpson
The Car
1995
Serigraph on 12 felt panels with felt text panel
102 x 104 in (259.1 x 264.2 cm)
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. 'The Car' (detail) 1995

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Lorna Simpson
The Car (detail)
1995
Serigraph on 12 felt panels with felt text panel
102 x 104 in (259.1 x 264.2 cm)
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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Lorna Simpson. '1957-2009' (detail) 2009

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Lorna Simpson
1957-2009 (detail)
2009
299 gelatin silver prints, framed
5 x 5 in. (12.7 x 12.7 cm) each (image size)
Rennie Collection, Vancouver
© Lorna Simpson

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While collecting photo booth images on eBay, Simpson found the first of the vintage photographs – a woman in a tight sweater-dress leaning on a car – that would generate 19572009 (2009). The artist subsequently bought the entire album and in 2009 restaged these photographs of an anonymous black woman and sometimes a man performing for their camera between June and August 1957 in Los Angeles, which they may have done in the hope of gaining movie work in Hollywood or as an independent project of self-invention. For 1957-2009, Simpson reenacted both female and male roles, and the 299 images are comprised of both the 1957 originals and Simpson’s 2009 remakes. Simpson again reenacted a selection of these vignettes for her video installation Chess, 2013.

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Lorna Simpson. 'Cloudscape [Paysage nuageux]' 2004

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Lorna Simpson
Cloudscape [Paysage nuageux]
2004
Video projection, black & white, sound
3:00 minutes (loop)
Centre national des arts plastiques, purchase in 2005
Photo courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson/Centre national des arts plastiques

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Lorna Simpson’s video installation Cloudscape (2004) isolates one man, Simpson’s friend, the artist and musician Terry Adkins, in a dark room, spotlighted as he whistles a hymn and is enveloped in fog. Focusing on the ephemerality of performance, the artist employs a technique afforded by her medium to play with time as well. Simpson runs the video forward and then also backward in a continuous loop, creating new visual and oral/aural permutations of gesture and reenactment. In the reversal of the time sequence, the image remains somewhat familiar while the tune turns into something else, a different melody.

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Lorna Simpson. 'Momentum' 2010

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Lorna Simpson
Momentum
2010
HD video, color, sound
6:56 minutes
Courtesy the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
© Lorna Simpson

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As Simpson explored new mediums, such as film and video starting in 1997 or found photographs in  the late 1990s, she continued to work in parallel with her felt serigraphs. In this gallery are three related sets of works that, unlike her earlier photo-text pieces, are all based on a personal memory: performing as a youngster, age 12, in gold costume, wig, and body paint in a ballet recital at New York’s Lincoln Center. Simpson re-staged such a performance for her video Momentum (2010).

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Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
T: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 12.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Friday: 12.00 – 19.00
Saturday and Sunday: 10.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

Lorna Simpson website

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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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