Posts Tagged ‘Film und Foto

09
Dec
18

Photographs: Germaine Krull ‘MÉTAL’ 1928

December 2018

 

Germaine Krull (photographer) Cover design by M. Tchimoukow. 'MÉTAL' cover 1928

 

Germaine Krull (photographer)
Cover design by M. Tchimoukow (Louis Bonin)
MÉTAL cover
1928
Librairie des Arts décoratifs
A. Calavas, Editeur

Portfolio comprising a title page, a preface by Florent Fels and sixty four (64) loose photogravures, each mentioning the photographer’s name, titled ‘MÉTAL’, plate number and publisher’s name. Original dust jacket.

folio 30 x 23.5 cm; 11 ¾ x 9 ¼ in.
plate 29.2 x 22,5 cm; 11 ½ x 8 ¾ in.
image 23.6 x 17.1 cm; 9 ¼ x 6 ½ in.

 

 

“Dans toute sa force” (In full force)

For my new body of work I have been researching the concept of The Oblique Function which was first developed in the 1960’s by Architecture Principe (Claude Parent and Paul Virilio). “The idea was to tilt the ground in order to revolutionise the old paradigm of the vertical wall. In fact, being inclined, the wall becomes experiencable and so are the cities imagined by the two French architects. The oblique is fundamentally interested in how a body physically experiences a space. The slope implies an effort to climb up and a speed to climb down; this way the body cannot abstract itself from the space and feel the degrees of inclination.”1

The key to the concept is: The oblique is fundamentally interested in how a body physically experiences a space.

Perhaps we can transfer this concept to the portfolio MÉTAL by Germaine Krull, one of the most important photobooks every produced … and ask how does Krull, her camera, and by extension the viewer, inhabit the spaces she creates.

In this portfolio Krull, through “extreme angles, producing dizzying compositions of overlapping and intersecting details”, one upside down image and two multiple exposures, “one showing two overlapped power generators and the other several layered bicycle parts printed at right angles to one another to create an effect of circular motion”2 – produces and directs (Krull was also an avant-garde filmmaker) the creation of a molecular structure – both grand and intimate, macro and micro at one and the same time. Probing further, we can link her filmic structure, this oblique mass of machines and images, to Eisenstein’s dynamic comprehension of a work of art, that is, “The logic of organic form vs. the logic of rational form [which] yields, in collision, the dialectic of the art-form.”3

This dialectic (the tension that exists between two conflicting or interacting forces, elements, or ideas; and, the process, in Hegelian and Marxist thought, in which two apparently opposed ideas, the thesis and antithesis, become combined in a unified whole, the synthesis) rests on Eisenstein’s definition of the organic form as “the passive principle of being”, defining its limit to be nature, and his definition of the rational form as “the active principle of production”, defining its limit to be industry, with art falling where nature and industry intersects.4 How these two forces interact “produces and determines Dynamism”, in which:

The spatial form of this dynamism is expression.
The phases of its tension: rhythm.5

.
These new concepts and viewpoints are the result of a constantly dynamic evolution from old perceptions to new perceptions which produce contradictions within the spectator’s mind. Eisenstein observes, “That which is not slightly distorted lacks sensible appeal; from which it follows that irregularity – that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty.”6 “And Baudelaire wrote in his journal: That which is not slightly distorted lacks sensible appeal; from which it follows that irregularity-that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment, are an essential part and characteristic of beauty. Upon closer examination of the particular beauty of irregularity as employed in painting, whether by Grünewald or by Renoir, it will be seen that it is a disproportion in the relation of a detail in one dimension to another detail in a different dimension. The spatial development of the relative size of one detail in correspondence with another, and the consequent collision between the proportions designed by the artist for that purpose, result in a characterization – a definition of the represented matter.”7

What could me appropriate for Krull’s multi-layered, distorted, scaled, twisted representations of the new temples of industry than this definition of represented matter – a symbiosis between nature and industry, acknowledging, through emotion, beauty in the nature of industry, and landscapes of plenty in a people-less world?

An anonymous author on the Cinema Confessions blog comments, “Any art form ought to be understood as a communicative medium in which the thing being communicated is not an idea, but an emotion. Language communicates intellect, whereas art communicates sensation. The two are certainly compatible, as in poetry, but also just as certainly inimitably unique. And as communication requires the process of a message being sent and received, we must acknowledge that distinct communication is impossible without the process of time. Thus, as words in a sentence are given meaning through context of contiguous words in the same sentence, and sentences are given sub-textual meaning through context of other sentences within a conversation, given shots within a scene will conform to an over-tonal meaning intrinsically contextualized by other shots within the same scene, and in a broader sense, other scenes throughout the film.”

They continue: “In the essay The Filmic Fourth Dimension, Eisenstein compares film to music thusly, “There, along with the vibration of a basic dominant tone, comes a whole series of similar vibrations … Their impacts against each other … envelop the basic tone in a whole host of secondary vibrations … We find the same thing in optics, as well. All sorts of aberrations, distortions, and other defects, which can be remedied by systems of lenses, can also be taken into account compositionally, providing a whole series of definite compositional effects.” To simplify, he is describing the methods by which musicians and filmmakers are capable of manipulating audience emotion.”8

Thus, through Krull’s definitive compositional effects, her tonal montages capture more than just linear time, construct more than the spectator’s eye directed along the lines of some immobile object … for her holistic movement of the piece is perceived in a wider sense: where the “montage is based on the characteristic emotional sound of the piece – of its dominant. The general tone of the piece… I do not mean to say that the emotional sound of the piece is to be measured “impressionistically.” The piece’s characteristics in this respect can be measured with as much exactitude as in the most elementary case of “by the ruler” measurement in metrical montage. But the units of measurement differ. And the amounts to be measured are different.”9

This is the key to the effective nature of Krull’s portfolio, the power of the emotional sound of the piece: her understanding of the compositional effects of tonal montage as a piece of theatre measured in a different unit – through rhythm, through the interruption of sequences, through the distortion of spaces – to create a single unit of sensory and emotional experience. As Eisenstein notes, “In the Kabuki … a single monistic sensation of theatrical “provocation” takes place. The Japanese regards each theatrical element, not as an incommensurable unit among the various categories of affect (on the various sense-organs), but as a single unit of theatre . . .. Directing himself to the various organs of sensation, he builds his summation [of individual “pieces”] to a grand total provocation of the human brain, without taking any notice which of these several paths he is following.”10

Pace Krull. Her holistic compositions are intertextual and multi-faceted at a time when “straight” photography and even avant-garde photography could not string an adequate sentence together, let alone a multi-dimensional visual, sensual and emotional narrative. This is why Krull’s portfolio is so revolutionary for its time. And just to reinforce this shock of the new, of surprise and astonishment, Krull gets the writer Florent Fels – a traditionalist who by this time (1928) did not like contemporary art – to write a romantic eulogy of an introduction to the new gods of the sky, an introduction which gives the reader a sense of the soaring romanticism which is ascribed to these machinic megaliths. Citing Dostoyevsky, Rousseau and Cocteau, Fels’ florid fornications are, just like Krull’s stunning images, a joy for the senses:

“The trains break the horizon with a deafening roar. They leave the ground and glide there on the ether into the inevitable advance of progress, dragging the living with wonder towards the astral stations.

The strong and soft movement of the hammer softens the ingots like lead elephants. And see the Eiffel Tower, now a bell tower of acoustic waves, its improper monstrosity has provided for surprise and confusion. Now lovers are treated there, three hundred metres above the ground, to a rendezvous with the birds. And the poets, from the old Douanier Rousseau to Jean Cocteau, claim that on beautiful spring evenings fairies ride tobogan on its wing.

This giant was missing a heavenly glow: One has been given to it. The luminous progress of industry is evident in every majestic metre of its height.

Aeroplane, elevator and wheel, with which some humans soar up to the kingdom of the birds, are suddenly transformed into elements of our nature.”11

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,438

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All of the photographs in this posting are published under “fair use” conditions for the purpose of educational research and academic comment. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. “# Great Speculations /// The Oblique Functon by Claude Parent and Pau Virilio” on The Funambulist website [Online] Cited 09/12/2018
  2. Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 09/12/2018
  3. Sergei Eisenstein. Film Form: Essay in Film Theory. Edited and translated by Jay Leyda. New York and London: A Harvest/HBJ Book, 1949, p. 46
  4. Ibid.,
  5. Ibid., p. 47
  6. Charles Baudelaire, Intimate Journals (13 May 1 856), translated by Christopher Isherwood. New York, Random House, 1930, quoted in Sergei Eisenstein. Film Form: Essay in Film Theory. Edited and translated by Jay Leyda. New York and London: A Harvest/HBJ Book, 1949, p. 51
  7. Anonymous. “Film as Language: The Method and Form of Sergei Eisenstein,” on the Cinema Confessions blog 05/05/2011 [Online] Cited 09/12/2018
  8. Eisenstein op. cit., p. 51
  9. Ibid., p. 75
  10. Ibid., p. 64
  11. Extract of the Preface from Florent Fels to the first edition of MÉTAL. Librairie des Arts décoratifs, A. Calavas, Editeur, 68, Rue la Fayette, Paris, 1928

 

 

I did not have a special intention or design when I took the Iron photographs. I wanted to show what I see, exactly as the eye sees it.
‘MÉTAL’ is a collection of photographs from the time. ‘MÉTAL’ initiated a new visual era and open the way or a new concept of photography.
‘MÉTAL’ was the starting point which allowed photography to become an artisanal trade and which made an artist of the photographer, because it was part of this new movement, of this new era which touched all art.

.
Germaine Krull. Extract from the Preface to the 1976 edition of ‘MÉTAL’

 

Roland Barthes was skeptical of Krull’s experimental photographs. In his famous 1980 meditation on photography, ‘Camera Lucida’, he wrote: “There are moments when I detest Photographs: what have I to do with Atget’s old tree trunks, with Pierre Boucher’s nudes, with Germaine Krull’s double exposures (to cite only the old names).”3 Barthes discounts what he calls photographic “contortions of technique: superimpressions, anamorphoses, deliberate exploitation of certain defects (blurring, deceptive perspectives, trick framing),” and comments that “great photographers (Germaine Krull, Kertész, William Klein) have played on these surprises, without convincing me, if I understand their subversive bearing.”4 But while such photographs are sometimes subversive, to be sure, they are often celebratory in tone. Krull and her colleagues carried out their “contortions of technique” to produce metaphors for the swirling, confusing, exhilarating urban life in their post-World War I decade.

.
Roland Barthes. Camera Lucida, p. 33 quoted in Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018

 

Krull’s most renowned photographs are not street scenes but abstracted views of the Eiffel Tower, and three of these images, accompanied by a short text by Florent Fels and laid out in overlapping fashion, appeared in a ‘Vu’ article titled “Dans toute sa force” (In full force) published in May 1928, just before the tower’s fortieth birthday (fig. 8).19 According to Krull’s memoirs, Vogel told her, “Go and photograph the Eiffel Tower, Germaine. Photograph it as you really see it, and make sure that you don’t bring me a postcard view.”20 As Krull wrote, she did not see much in the “dead old form” until she began climbing the staircases and experiencing the tower from various vantage points. Some of the resultant images  – vertiginous views of the wrought iron structure - appeared in the German magazine UHU and Philippe Lamour’s journal ‘Grand’route’ as well as in ‘Vu’, and others (eleven in all) grace the pages of ‘Métal’.21

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“Protest gegen ein unmögliches Bauwerk,” ‘UHU’ 4 (December 1927): 106-11; Eric Hurel, “La Confusion des arts,” ‘Grand’route’ 1, no. 3 (May 1930): 71-74; and Krull, ‘Métal’, cover and pls. 2, 11, 19, 26, 28, 33, 37, 50, 54, 57. Footnote 21 in Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018

 

 

Although a portfolio, rather than a book, MÉTAL is widely considered to be among the most important photographic publications of the 1920s. Not only was Krull able to create work that stood the test of time, but she managed it in a profession dominated by men. It is interesting that with MÉTAL, she embraces a clearly masculine theme.

Krull’s photographs, whether of bridges, cranes, or the Eiffel Tower, tend towards the unconventional. It seems as if her initial approach is quite conservative, but then she questions common rules of composition, avoiding the more obvious ways her subjects would have been photographed at the time. Krull consequently avoids implementing a strict visual language. Instead of striving for a “realistic” documentation of her subject in her photographs she chooses her angles instinctively, cropping the images tightly, or even reversing them. It is exactly this unexpected approach that makes MÉTAL stand out. …

The photographs were taken in Paris, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Marseille and Saint-Malo.

Curiously the cover image of the portfolio (also plate 37) is actually presented upside down. This decision was presumably taken by M. Tchimoukow (real name Louis Bonin), the designer of the portfolio’s cover. There appear to have been at least two versions of the portfolio. One with a black spine and band, and one with a brown spine and band. The brown cloth version (shown below) seems to be the rarer of the two. The portfolio consists of 64 plates with images printed on one side, and two folded sheets unbound resulting in 8 pages which include a two and a half page text by Florent Fels in French and a short explanatory text by Germaine Krull.

Text from the achtung.photography website

 

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
In the port of Amsterdam
1924
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Museum of Technology, Paris
1925
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Antwerp
1924
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

 

Preface from Florent Fels to the first edition of MÉTAL

The industrial activity of our times spreads a spectacle before our eyes, to which they have not yet become accustomed. Its newness captures and frightens us like that of a large natural phenomenon. In turn it expresses an attitude of mind, to which painters and poets are among those who devote themselves.

Europe’s cities appear to us as outdated and anachronistic. The provincial towns with their promenades, pleasant fountains and music pavilion suddenly become somewhat old fashioned, whilst the lyricism of our time succeeds in writing itself in concrete and steel cathedrals. Yet we are witness to the paradoxical fact, that the largest enterprises serve as forms of progress with exception of those who can contribute to an improvement in human dwellings. Except for a privileged few the accommodation of our contemporaries shows a similarity with that of our forebears at the time of Richelieu and Cromwell. The people of the cities succumb to the push of commercial practises. We demand houses with windows, which give a free view of the garden. Modern housing for modern people in which the sun and the fresh air find an unhindered inlet. Concrete and steel are their most important constituents: Ten years after the end of the war steel will at last serve a noble purpose, it will perhaps be rehabilitated.

Steel changes our landscape. Forests of masts replacing trees centuries old. Blast furnaces replacing hills.

From this new expression of the world some aspects have no been captured by beautiful photographs representative of a new romanticism.

Germaine Krull is the Marceline Desbores-Valmore of this lyricism and her photographs are sonnets of shining, piercing verse. Like an orchid is the driving force of Farcot and like frightening insects are the cogs.

Double exposure lends to the finest mechanisms a fantastic appearance and in considering a milling machine covered in muddy oil and detritus and from water dripping, one thinks of Dostoyevsky. In the halo that surrounds them the powerful, noiseless and quietly working dynamos seem to radiate luminous vibrations, and whose chimneys ring out whose fanfare tones to the heavens, these new godly concepts laid out before us. The bridges penetrate into the space. The trains break the horizon with a deafening roar. They leave the ground and glide there on the ether into the inevitable advance of progress, dragging the living with wonder towards the astral stations.

The strong and soft movement of the hammer softens the ingots like lead elephants. And see the Eiffel Tower, now a bell tower of acoustic waves, its improper monstrosity has provided for surprise and confusion. Now lovers are treated there, three hundred metres above the ground, to a rendezvous with the birds. And the poets, from the old Douanier Rousseau to Jean Cocteau, claim that on beautiful spring evenings fairies ride tobogan on its wing.

This giant was missing a heavenly glow: One has been given to it. The luminous progress of industry is evident in every majestic metre of its height.

Aeroplane, elevator and wheel, with which some humans soar up to the kingdom of the birds, are suddenly transformed into elements of our nature.

The Tower is and remains the highest symbol of the modern age. As he left New York and its vapour crowned palaces it was the Eiffel Tower, this beacon of the air, which Lindbergh envisaged, in order to reach Paris in the sentimental heart of the modern world.

Florent Fels.

 

The Eiffel Tower, the cranes and bridges of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Marseille and Saint-Malo provided me with the material for a number of plates which form this album. I am indebted to others for the extreme kindness with which I was welcomed, by the Director of the Conservatoire des Arts-et-Métiers to his museum, by the Director of the CPDE at the Saint-Quen Power Station, and by M. André Citroën in his factories.
The cover of the book is a composition by M. Tchimoukow.

Germaine Krull
Cover design by M. Tchimoukow

Librairie des Arts décoratifs,
A. Calavas, Editeur, 68, Rue la Fayette, Paris, 1928
Portfolio

23.5 x 29.9cm (Portfolio)
22.5 x 29cm (Plates)

64 plates and 2 leaves

 

Marceline Desbores-Valmore

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (20 June 1786 – 23 July 1859) was a French poet and novelist…

She published Élégies et Romances, her first poetic work, in 1819. Her melancholy, elegiacal poems are admired for their grace and profound emotion. In 1821 she published the narrative work Veillées des Antilles. It includes the novella Sarah, an important contribution to the genre of slave stories in France…

The publication of her innovative volume of elegies in 1819 marks her as one of the founders of French romantic poetry. Her poetry is also known for taking on dark and depressing themes, which reflects her troubled life. She is the only female writer included in the famous Les Poètes maudits anthology published by Paul Verlaine in 1884. A volume of her poetry was among the books in Friedrich Nietzsche’s library. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Railway lifting bridge, Rotterdam
1923-24
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Factory in Rotterdam
1923
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

 

Florent Fels

Ferdinand Florent Fels (1891-1977) was a French journalist, publisher and author prominent in discussing art in France. He often used the pseudonym Felsenberg. Fels launched the art magazine Action: Cahiers individualistes de philosophie et d’art in 1919. Here he expressed his individualist anarchist philosophy. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Fels as an art critic before 1925

I now feel the need to make a step back on Fels. Born in 1891, he was recruited as a soldier-interpreter in the First World War thanks to his knowledge of English, and here became an anti-militaristic minded person. His experience at the front was quite parallel to that of Georg Grosz, the only German artist in his anthology, whose sad pages on the role of artists and critics during World War I corresponded largely to the thoughts of the French author. The experience of war convinced the young Fels of the need to overcome the traditional aesthetic models, linked to symbolism, but also of the emptiness of contemporary art, which had propagated or somehow supported the war effort. It is no coincidence that his friend de Vlaminck – in the Propos dedicated to him – used disdainful words on the role of Cubism in the years leading up to the war. According to Fels, the only art that, after the slaughter at the front, could still be trusted was the Dada movement, born in Zurich in 1916 and spread rapidly in Europe (it is also what can be read in the pages of Grosz, an artist about whom Fels published – in addition to the pages in the anthology – several other articles in the French world [14]).

Returning from the war front, in 1919, the twenty-eighty year old Fels launched with Robert Mortier (painter and poet) and Marcel Sauvage (poet) the journal Action. Cahiers individualistes de philosophie et d’art (Action. Individualist Notebooks on Philosophy and Art), which would have a short life (the last issue was 1922). The editors were young ex-soldiers who invested the money they had got from the state at the time they left the army, to launch the new journal. The founders of Action attempted to both awake and open the French culture. In the field of literature, Action hosted a series of poets, writers and literary critics such as Andre Malraux, Max Jacob, Jean Cocteau and Antonin Artaud; in the area of art, the journal liaised with all contemporary avant-garde movements (dada, fauves, cubists), discussed and exalted the production of the greatest artists (Claude Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Henri Rousseau Le Douanier) and gave great emphasis to African art. Looking at the journal’s issues, all available on the Internet [15], it is also easy to find that Action also housed reproductions of paintings and prints by many of the painters who later on were included in Propos d’Artistes: Derain, Kisling, Léger, Lhote, Pascin, Utrillo, Vlaminck. There were also art criticism articles of Duret and poems by Vlaminck.

Within Dadaism, Action preached a ‘subjectivist’, or individualist, version of vanguard aesthetics. It did not propagate revolutions, but proclaimed the need for the absolute freedom of the artists. Fels’ points of reference were in fact the individualistic anarchist movements inspired by Rousseau and Proudhon; in March 1920, he held a conference on “Les Classiques de l’Esprit nouveau” and published the text in the journal L’un [16]: he rejected the traditional Dadaist attitude of total destruction of the past and identified the new classics (Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Van Gogh) that were due to be the basis of the new art. Fels took distance from the anti-social attitudes typical of Dadaism, and animated a controversy over the direction of new art movements: for him, everyone should make his personal revolution, without destroying any social foundations. At the root of Fels’s aesthetic theory there was “the enhancement of individual psychologies, the free but orderly expression of the heart, the sense of art, inspiration, and individuality” [17].

In 1922, Action‘s experience ended: money was over and the attempt to counter the revolutionary drift within Dadaism had failed. Starting with 1924, André Breton imposed surrealism, inspired by a much more corrosive aesthetic and social criticism. Fels condemned it.

 

Florent Fels between 1923 and 1925

Once the experience of Action was concluded in 1922, Fels joined in 1923 the editorial staff of Les Nouvelles Littéraires. There he dealt not only with contemporary art, but with reviews of exhibitions of all kinds (from Renaissance to Art of Polynesia). Often, his articles updated the public on the developments of decorative arts (in those years, he published his already mentioned essay on French tapestries and carpets).

I already mentioned that Fels stated in the postscript of the anthology: “I wanted to produce a document dated 1925” [18]. The idea was therefore to offer the reader almost an instant book. In fact, as we have already said, the book gave readers a real-time image of the art discussion in 1923-1924. 1925 was however a very important year for Fels. In addition to the anthology, he published a monograph on Claude Monet with Gallimard and became chief editor of the new art journal “L’Art Vivant“, founded by Jacques Guenne (1896-1945) and Maurice Martin du Gard (1896-1970), i.e. the two directors of “Les Nouvelles Littéraires“. The new publication was in fact presented as the artistic attachment (complément artistique) to the literary weekly. Art Vivant. It was published by the house Larousse since January 1925.

As previously mentioned, Fels’s aesthetic taste (think again that only a few years before he had been forced to finance his own publication with the liquidation of the time spent in war as a simple soldier) was becoming closer to those of the great French progressive publishing companies (Gallimard, Larousse). In other words, he was taking on more and more classic aesthetic orientations. The Art Vivant magazine (which will have long life: Fels was his chief editor until 1939, when the magazine closed its doors in the wake of the war) became therefore one of the favourite targets of the communist intellectual and surrealist leader Louis Aragon (1897-1982), who called Fels “Paysan de Paris“, the peasant of Paris. From Aragon’s perspective, the only veritable surrealist anthology of art literature with a Marxist orientation will be published twenty years later by Paul Éluard.

Extract from Review by Francesco Mazzaferro of Florent Fels, Propos d’Artistes [The Propositions of the Artists], 1925. Part One 22 May 2017 [Online] Cited 30/11/2018

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Electricity France, Paris
1925
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Negative collotype print

 

Detail of a centrifugal speed governor?

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Technical Museum, Paris
1926
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Motor industry Citreon, Paris
1926-27
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Technical Museum, Paris
1926
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Her book MÉTAL contains only two multiple exposures, one showing two overlapped power generators and the other several layered bicycle parts printed at right angles to one another to create an effect of circular motion.

 

 

Germaine Krull

Germaine Luise Krull (20 November 1897 – 31 July 1985) was a photographer, political activist, and hotel owner. Her nationality has been categorized as German, French, and Dutch, but she spent years in Brazil, Republic of the Congo, Thailand, and India. Described as “an especially outspoken example” of a group of early 20th-century female photographers who “could lead lives free from convention”, she is best known for photographically-illustrated books such as her 1928 portfolio MÉTAL.

Krull was born in Posen-Wilda, a district of Posen (then in Germany; now Poznań, Poland), of an affluent German family. In her early years, the family moved around Europe frequently; she did not receive a formal education, but instead received homeschooling from her father, an accomplished engineer and a free thinker (whom some characterised as a “ne’er-do-well”). Her father let her dress as a boy when she was young, which may have contributed to her ideas about women’s roles later in her life.[6] In addition, her father’s views on social justice “seem to have predisposed her to involvement with radical politics.”

Between 1915 and 1917 or 1918 she attended the Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie, a photography school in Munich, Germany, at which Frank Eugene’s teaching of pictorialism in 1907-1913 had been influential. She opened a studio in Munich in approximately 1918, took portraits of Kurt Eisner and others, and befriended prominent people such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Friedrich Pollock, and Max Horkheimer.

Krull was politically active between 1918 and 1921. In 1919 she switched from the Independent Socialist Party of Bavaria to the Communist Party of Germany, and was arrested and imprisoned for assisting a Bolshevik emissary’s attempted escape to Austria. She was expelled from Bavaria in 1920 for her Communist activities, and traveled to Russia with lover Samuel Levit. After Levit abandoned her in 1921, Krull was imprisoned as an “anti-Bolshevik” and expelled from Russia.

She lived in Berlin between 1922 and 1925 where she resumed her photographic career. She and Kurt Hübschmann (later to be known as Kurt Hutton) worked together in a Berlin studio between 1922 and 1924. Among other photographs Krull produced in Berlin were a series of nudes (recently disparaged by an unimpressed 21st-century critic as “almost like satires of lesbian pornography”).

Having met Dutch filmmaker and communist Joris Ivens in 1923, she moved to Amsterdam in 1925. After Krull returned to Paris in 1926, Ivens and Krull entered into a marriage of convenience between 1927 and 1943 so that Krull could hold a Dutch passport and could have a “veneer of married respectability without sacrificing her autonomy.”

In Paris between 1926 and 1928, Krull became friends with Sonia Delaunay, Robert Delaunay, Eli Lotar, André Malraux, Colette, Jean Cocteau, André Gide and others; her commercial work consisted of fashion photography, nudes, and portraits. During this period she published the portfolio MÉTAL (1928) which concerned “the essentially masculine subject of the industrial landscape.” Krull shot the portfolio’s 64 black-and-white photographs in Paris, Marseille, and Holland during approximately the same period as Ivens was creating his film De Brug (“The Bridge”) in Rotterdam, and the two artists may have influenced each other. The portfolio’s subjects range from bridges, buildings (e.g., the Eiffel Tower), and ships to bicycle wheels; it can be read as either a celebration of machines or a criticism of them. Many of the photographs were taken from dramatic angles, and overall the work has been compared to that of László Moholy-Nagy and Alexander Rodchenko. In 1999-2004 the portfolio was selected as one of the most important photobooks in history.

By 1928 Krull was considered one of the best photographers in Paris, along with André Kertész and Man Ray. Between 1928 and 1933, her photographic work consisted primarily of photojournalism, such as her photographs for Vu, a French magazine. Also in the early 1930s, she also made a pioneering study of employment black spots in Britain for Weekly Illustrated (most of her ground-breaking reportage work from this period remains immured in press archives and she has never received the credit which is her due for this work). Her book Études de Nu (“Studies of Nudes”) published in 1930 is still well-known today. Between 1930 and 1935 she contributed photographs for a number of travel and detective fiction books.

In 1935-1940, Krull lived in Monte Carlo where she had a photographic studio. Among her subjects during this period were buildings (such as casinos and palaces), automobiles, celebrities, and common people. She may have been a member of the Black Star photojournalism agency which had been founded in 1935, but “no trace of her work appears in the press with that label.”

In World War II, she became disenchanted with the Vichy France government, and sought to join the Free French Forces in Africa. Due to her Dutch passport and her need to obtain proper visas, her journey to Africa included over a year (1941-1942) in Brazil where she photographed the city of Ouro Preto. Between 1942 and 1944 she was in Brazzaville in French Equatorial Africa, after which she spent several months in Algiers and then returned to France.

After World War II, she traveled to Southeast Asia as a war correspondent, but by 1946 had become a co-owner of the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, a role that she undertook until 1966. She published three books with photographs during this period, and also collaborated with Malraux on a project concerning the sculpture and architecture of Southeast Asia.

After retiring from the hotel business in 1966, she briefly lived near Paris, then moved to Northern India and converted to the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. Her final major photographic project was the publication of a 1968 book Tibetans in India that included a portrait of the Dalai Lama. After a stroke, she moved to a nursing home in Wetzlar, Germany, where she died in 1985.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Railway lifting bridge, Rotterdam
1923-24
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) Image from the portfolio 'MÉTAL' 1928

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Eiffel Tower, Paris
1927
Image from the portfolio MÉTAL
1928
Collotype

 

Curiously the cover image of the portfolio (also plate 37) is actually presented upside down. This decision was presumably taken by M. Tchimoukow (real name Louis Bonin), the designer of the portfolio’s cover.

 

 

Germaine Krull

Germaine Krull was a pioneer in the fields of avant-garde photomontage, the photographic book, and photojournalism, and she embraced both commercial and artistic loyalties. Born in Wilda-Poznań, East Prussia, in 1897, Krull lived an extraordinary life lasting nine decades on four continents – she was the prototype of the edgy, sexually liberated Neue Frau (New Woman), considered an icon of modernity and a close cousin of the French garçonne and the American flapper. She had a peripatetic childhood before her family settled in Munich in 1912. She studied photography from 1916 to 1918 at Bayerische Staatslehranstalt für Lichtbildwesen (Instructional and Research Institute for Photography), and in 1919 opened her own portrait studio. Her early engagement with left-wing political activism led to her expulsion from Munich. Then, on a visit to Russia in 1921, she was incarcerated for her counterrevolutionary support of the Free French cause against Hitler. In 1926, she settled in Paris, where she became friends with artists Sonia and Robert Delaunay and intellectuals André Malraux, Jean Cocteau, Colette, and André Gide, who were also subjects of her photographic portraits.

Krull’s artistic breakthrough began in 1928, when she was hired by the nascent VU magazine,the first major French illustrated weekly. Along with photographers André Kertész and Éli Lotar, she developed a new form of reportage rooted in a freedom of expression and closeness to her subjects that resulted in intimate close-ups, all facilitated by her small-format Icarette, a portable, folding bed camera. During this period, she published the portfolio, Metal (MÉTAL)(1928), a collection of 64 pictures of modernist iron giants, including cranes, railways, power generators, the Rotterdam transporter bridge, and the Eiffel Tower, shot in muscular close-ups and from vertiginous angles. Krull participated in the influential Film und Foto, or Fifo, exhibition (1929-30), which was accompanied by two books, Franz Roh’s and Jan Tschichold’s Foto-Auge (Photo-Eye) and Werner Gräff’s Es kommt der neue Fotograf! (Here Comes the New Photographer!)Fifo marked the emergence of a new critical theory of photography that placed Krull at the forefront of Neues Sehen or Neue Optik (New Vision) photography, a new direction rooted in exploring fully the technical possibilities of the photographic medium through a profusion of unconventional lens-based and darkroom techniques. After the end of World War II, she traveled to Southeast Asia, and then moved to India, where, after a lifetime dedicated to recording some of the major upheavals of the twentieth century, she decided to live as a recluse among Tibetan monks.

Introduction by Roxana Marcoci, Senior Curator, Department of Photography, 2016 on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018

 

Métal and Filmic Montage

For Krull, metal was the most powerful metaphor for the modern world, and her book Métal includes many of the industrial forms she saw in Europe. It features both multiple exposures and straight images, and the entire volume is structured according to the principles of film montage. As noted earlier, Krull was a member of the Dutch avant-garde film collective Filmliga, which was cofounded by Joris Ivens, who in 1927 became her husband. Both of them published work in Arthur Lehning’s related avant-garde journal i10.

They saw screenings of Soviet avant-garde films by Vsevolod Pudovkin and Sergei Eisenstein, and Krull made a portrait of Eisenstein when he visited Paris in 1930. Eisenstein’s theories of montage were particularly important to the couple, and Krull’s Métal serves to demonstrate them. She actively adopted the Soviet filmmaker’s ideas of rupture and “visual counterpoint,” involving graphic, planar, volumetric, and spatial conflicts.26

The book is technically an album, with sixty-four numbered but unbound collotype reproductions that can ostensibly be rearranged at will. There are no captions and no identifying markers, and the images include both vertical and horizontal compositions. In a brief note beneath an introductory text by Florent Fels, Krull tells us that these photographs include a lifting bridge over the Meuse River in Rotterdam (also the subject of Ivens’s renowned avant-garde montage film, The Bridge [De Brug], from that same year); the cranes in the Amsterdam port; the Eiffel Tower; Marseille’s transporter bridge; and other industrial forms she found.27 But it would be difficult to decipher these subjects from the photographs themselves. Although there are eleven Eiffel Tower images in the book, for example, they are often so abstracted that the subject is unidentifiable, and none are on contiguous pages. …

Scholars have often read Métal as a purely formal experiment, but Krull used it as a commentary on contemporary life, producing the kind of montage that her friend Walter Benjamin championed, in which “the superimposed element disrupts the context in which it is inserted. … The discovery is accomplished by means of the interruption of sequences. Only interruption here has not the character of a stimulant but an energizing function.”29 The quality of interruption, according to Benjamin, differentiates truly revolutionary work from the mere aping of the modern world, an approach that he scornfully attributes to the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch.30 For Krull, interruption could occur in a multiple exposure, as in the aforementioned Métal image depicting overlapping views of bicycle parts. Or interruption can be found while turning a book’s pages, moving from a drive-belt detail to ominously large-scale cargo cranes, or from the Rotterdam Bridge over the Meuse to a detail of a centrifugal speed governor. Whether portraying a roller coaster, documenting the Eiffel Tower, or creating her book of industrial fragments, Krull engaged the decade’s cacophony and used provocative experimental techniques to capture its allure.

Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” p. 7 on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 25/11/2018.

Kim Sichel. “Contortions of Technique: Germaine Krull’s Experimental Photography,” in Mitra Abbaspour, Lee Ann Daffner, and Maria Morris Hambourg, eds. Object: Photo. Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909-1949. An Online Project of The Museum of Modern Art. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2014.

27. Sergei Eisenstein, “A Dialectic Approach to Film Form” (1929), in Jay Leyda, ed., Film Form: Essays in Film Theory (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1949), pp. 52-54
29. Walter Benjamin, “The Author as Producer” (1934), in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), pp. 234-35
30. Benjamin, “The Author as Producer,” p. 230

 

 

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06
Jan
17

Exhibition: ‘Soulèvements / Uprisings’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 18th October 2016 – 15th January 2017

Curator: Georges Didi-Huberman, philosopher and art historian

 

 

soulèvement m ‎(plural soulèvements)

  1. the act of raising, the act of lifting up
  2. revolt, uprising

 

I believe this to be one of the most complex, original and important exhibitions of 2016. Conceptually, intellectually, ethically and artistically, the exhibition “Soulèvements / Uprisings” seems to stand head and shoulders above most others I posted on during 2016.

Through the profound curatorship of philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman (a man whose writing I admire), Soulèvements e/merges as a “trans-disciplinary exhibition on the theme of human gestures that raise up the world or rise up against it: collective or individual gestures, actions or passions, works or thoughts” actioned through five themes: Elements (Unleashed); Gestures (Intense); Words (Exclaimed); Conflicts (Flared up); and Desires (Indestructibles), evidenced across mediums: paintings, drawings, prints, video installations, photographs, fiction films, documentary images, writers’ manuscripts, tracts, posters, etc., without hierarchies. Unlike the earlier posting, Intersections: Photographs and Videos from the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where I noted that the self-contained themes of that exhibition seemed purely illusory, here the themes are active and engaging, fluid in meaning and representation (the choice of laterally aligned art works to the themes – dust breeding, waves, sea concertos, banners and capes, red tape, montages, posters etc…), which emphasis resistance, the raising up, the uprising as a desirous and joyful act, one that is performative (hence the wonderful video elements in the exhibition) and transgressive.

As one of the most important mediums of the twentieth century in terms of documenting, promoting, obscuring and forgetting “uprisings” – gestures of resistance and joy of any kind – photography is capable of concealing, denying and sustaining the social context in which we are living … obscuring the ethics and morals of dubious political positions; reinforcing or obscuring the issues behind revolution, rebellion, and revolt; or, through collective amnesia and inertia, through the millions of forgettable images produced each day, overwhelming the authenticity of living that leads to “uprisings” in the first place. Photographs, as people do, cross borders: they are transnational and multidisciplinary. They are global thought patterns that can, in skilled hands, document and sustain alternative ways of seeing the world through a “rising up” of feeling – the “soul” of soulèvement – the act of raising up, the act of lifting ones eyes and one’s spirit from the dire circumstances of oblivion to the hope of a future redemption.

Through photographs, we witness Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune (1871, below), where “the exposure of these bodies is transformed by the photographic act. The latter confers on the rebels a particular aura, passing thus from figures of guilty to those of martyrs.” The political act, although a failure in reality in this case, is sustained through time and space by the performance of the documentary image. Their monstration [the act of demonstrating; proof] – the insurgents act of demonstrating; the photograph as an act of demonstrating their death for judicial purposes; and also a certain monstration (proof) that these mostly young, skinny men died for a belief in a better world – is an evidentiary act of transubstantiation. Is the camera looking down on these bodies in cheap coffins from above, or are the coffins propped up against a wall? How do we feel about these people we do not know, who existed in past time now made present, without being that person who tucked a wreath into the hands of the man at bottom right, someone’s brother, father or son.

In “uprisings” (as the hands raise the camera to the face), there is also an acknowledgment of a certain despair at the death of an innocent. In Manuel Álvarez Bravo’s Striking worker, assassinated (1934, below) the young, handsome youth has been killed with a blow to the head. He lies prostrate on the ground, arm outstretched, hand curled, his body and clothes spattered with his own blood his eyes, open, staring at the now invisible sky. A flow of dried blood has discharged from his mouth and nose, coating and matting his thick long hair and running away in rivulets, soaking into the parched d/earth. Bits of dust and earth are still stuck to his arm through the viscosity of his blood. Earlier, he had dressed for the day in a white singlet, put on his trousers and fastened them with an embossed belt, then put on a crisp, stripped shirt and neatly rolled up the sleeves to his elbows. He might have had breakfast before heading of to a meeting outside where he worked. This day he died, protesting his rights – striking worker, assassinated! Assassinated – executed, eliminated, liquidated (to which the congealing blood attests) … slaughtered. For his right to strike, to protest, the conditions of his being. Any human “being”.

And, mortally, I comment on that one photograph, that one evidence of human beings transcending their own lives (knowing they were going to die) for the greater good – the anonymous photograph taken by members of the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp that documents AS PROOF of the reality of the Final Solution: Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau (1944, below). The risks that these people took to capture this photograph speaks to the power of photography to transcend even the most barbaric of circumstances, to prove to the world what was happening in this place. As Georges Didi-Huberman affirms, “in the depths of this fundamental despair, the “solicitation to resist” has probably detached itself from the beings themselves, who have been promised to disappear, to fix themselves on signals to be emitted beyond the boundaries of the camp.” Among others, the image, this “eye of history”, is then invested with the only hope still possible: to make the hell of Auschwitz visible and therefore imaginable.”

In other words, the solicitation to resist is not singular or human, but collective and eternal, embodied and embedded in cultural thoughts and actions. Even though they knew they were going to die (almost none of the 2,000 prisoners placed in these Sonderkommando units survived to the camp’s liberation), because the have been “promised to disappear”, their spirit flowed beyond the boundaries of the camp into the ether of history, into the elemental upper air, the raising up of spirits: as an observation and representation of the difference between right and wrong. As the world enters a renewed period of right wing promulgation we must resist the rump of bigotry and oppression. Not just for ourselves but for all those that have passed before.

This is why this exhibition is so important. It speaks to the need for vigilance and protest against discrimination and dictatorship, against the persecution of the less fortunate in society. It also speaks to our desire as human beings that our actions and the actions of others be held to account. Intrinsically uprisings are all about desire, the desire to be stand up and be counted, to put your reputation (as Oscar Wilde did) or your life on the line for what you believe in. The courage of your convictions. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Addendum

Thank goodness for Google translate because otherwise I would have had no text to put under most of these images. This becomes problematic for weak images such as Dennis Adams’ Patriot (2002, below). Without text to support the image you would have absolutely no idea what this image is about… it’s just a plastic bag floating in the air against the azure sky.

The text states: “… considering the serenity that emanates from the photographs of this series, to imagine that they refer to a dramatic event: the attack of the World Trade Center. Located in Lower Manhattan, Dennis Adams’ studio is very close to the twin towers that were destroyed on September 11, 2001. However, rather than rushing to witness the catastrophe, Dennis Adams photographed for three months the roof of his building, the newspapers and the rubbish that fly away from the ruins.”

Who would have thunk it! From a plastic bag floating in the sky!

Such insight proffered months after the event by any plastic bag floating in the air. The image does not invite reverie and meditation because there is nothing to meditate on. It is an example of contemporary photography as graphic art THAT MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! If an image cannot stand on its own two feet, without the help of reams of text to support its substance, its contention, then no wonder there are millions of vacillating images in this world. Including contemporary art.

Outdamned spot! the stain of thy blood cannot be exacted from your feeble representation.

 

Word count: 1,451

Translations of soulèvement

noun
uprising soulèvement, révolte
rising soulèvement, hausse (rise), insurrection, montant, lever, élévation
insurrection insurrection, soulèvement, émeute (riot), rébellion
uplift soulèvement
upheaval bouleversement, soulèvement, agitation, perturbation, séisme, renversement

.
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.

 

 

 

 

Foreword

“For almost a decade, the Jeu de Paume’s exhibition program has been conceived with the conviction that twenty-first century museums and cultural institutions cannot be detached from the social and political challenges of the society of which they are part. To us, this approach is a matter of simple common sense.

The program it has shaped does not monitor market trends or seek complacent legitimacy within the field of contemporary art. Rather, we have chosen to work with artists whose poetic and political concerns are attuned to the need to critically explore the models of governance and practices of power that mold much of our perceptual and emotional experience, and thus, the social and political world we live in.

Because the Jeu de Paume is a center for images, we are aware of the urgent necessity – in line with our societal responsibilities – to revise the analysis of the historical conditions in which photography and the moving image developed in modernity and, subsequently, in postmodernity, with all its alternatives, provocations, and challenges.

Thankfully, the history of images and our ways of seeing and understanding the world through them is neither linear nor unidirectional. These are the sources of our fascination with images that don’t tell everything they show and with images affected by the vicissitudes of the human condition.

Photography, and images in general, represent not only reality, but things that the human eye cannot see; like us, photography is capable of concealing, denying and sustaining. It is only waiting for someone to listen to its joys and its sorrows.

The Jeu de Paume’s programming sites its oblique look at history and contemporaneity in this oscillation between the visible and the invisible in the life of images, creating a space for encounter and the clashing of ideas, emotions, and knowledge, accepting that the coexistence of conflict and antagonism are an essential part of community building.

For these reasons, and from this position, in the superb proposal by the philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman to form an exhibition from his research on the theme of “uprisings,” we found the ideal intellectual, artistic, and museological challenge.

While the notion of revolution, rebellion, and revolt isn’t alien in contemporary society’s vocabulary, the object of its action is replete with collective amnesia and inertia. That is why analyzing the representations of “uprisings” – from the etchings Goya, to contemporary installations, paintings photographs, documents, videos, and films – demonstrates an unequivocal relevance to the social context in which we are living in 2016. […]

Marta Gili, “Foreword,” in Uprisings, catalogue of the exhibition, p. 7-10.

 

 

 

Enrique Ramirez
Cruzar un muro [Franchir un mur] (Crossing a wall)
2013
Vidéo HD couleur, son, 5’15”
Courtesy de l’artiste et galerie Michel Rein, Paris/Brussels

 

A series of images of people in a waiting room is in an unusual place, perhaps in our imagination, or perhaps anywhere. The short by Enrique Ramirez addresses article number 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”.

 

Giles Caron. 'Anticatholic protests, Londonderry, Northern Ireland' August 1969

 

Gilles Caron
Manifestations anticatholiques à Londonderry
Anticatholic protests, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
August 1969
© Gilles Caron / Fondation Gilles Caron / Gamma Rapho

 

 

Known for his wartime photoreports, fascinated by liberating acts and the figure of the insurgent, photographer Gilles Caron carried throughout the 1960s an interest in the social conflicts that marked his time. At first he is led to cover is a peasant revolt which takes place in Redon in 1967. Anxious to produce an image which appears to him as a formal translation of the anger of these peasants, he seizes the gesture of a demonstrator sending a projectile in the direction of the forces of order. Photogenic, this suspended gesture gives the insurrections a choreographic dimension and testifies to the violence of the social demands that animate the demonstrators. The “figure of the pitcher” then reappears on the occasion of the events of May 1968 and then of the conflicts that took place in Northern Ireland in 1969. This archetype is part of the tradition of the representation of David against Goliath: the symbol of the power carried by the faith of one who is thought weak in the face of brute force. If there is no question of faith in the images of Caron, it is nonetheless an irrepressible form of desire that animates those bodies which revolt: no matter the imbalance of forces, the insurgents are carried by a feeling of invulnerability and of power in the face of the forces of order objectively much more armed. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

 

Introduction

by Georges Didi-Huberman, curator of the exhibition

What makes us rise up? It is forces: mental, physical, and social forces. Through these forces we transform immobility into movement, burden into energy, submission into revolt, renunciation into expansive joy. Uprisings occur as gestures: arms rise up, hearts beat more strongly, bodies unfold, mouths are unbound. Uprisings are never without thoughts, which often become sentences: we think, express ourselves, discuss, sing, scribble a message, create a poster, distribute a tract, or write a work of resistance.

It is also forms: forms through which all of this will be able to appear and become visible in the public space. Images, therefore; images to which this exhibition is devoted. Images of all times, from Goya to today, and of all kinds: paintings, drawings, sculptures, films, photographs, videos, installations, documents, etc. They interact in dialogue beyond the differences of their times. They are presented according to a narrative in which there will appear, in succession, unleashed elements, when the energy of the refusal makes an entire space rise up; intense gestures, when bodies can say “No!”; exclaimed words, when barricades are erected and when violence becomes inevitable; and indestructible desires, when the power of uprisings manages to survive beyond their repression or their disappearance.

In any case, whenever a wall is erected, there will always be “people arisen” to “jump the wall”, that is, to cross over borders. If only by imagining. As though inventing images contributed – a little here, powerfully there – to reinventing our political hopes.

 

Man Ray (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890-1976 Paris) 'Dust Breeding' 1920

 

Man Ray (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890-1976 Paris)
Dust Breeding (Duchamp’s Large Glass with Dust Motes)
1920
Gelatin silver print
23.9 x 30.4 cm (9 7/16 x 12 in.)
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

One of Duchamp’s close friends and a member of the New York Dada scene, the American photographer and painter Man Ray (1890-1976) was also one of Duchamp’s collaborators. His photograph Dust Breeding (Duchamp’s Large Glass with Dust Motes) from 1920 is a document of The Large Glass after it had collected a year’s worth of dust while Duchamp was in New York. The photograph was taken with a two-hour-long exposure that beautifully captures the complex texture and diversity of materials that lay atop the glass surface. Dust Breeding marks a pivotal phase in the development of Duchamp’s masterpiece. After the photograph was taken, Duchamp wiped The Large Glass almost entirely clean, leaving a section of the cones covered with dust, which he permanently affixed to the glass plate with a diluted cement. (Text from The Met website)

 

Hiroji Kubota. 'Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois' 1969

 

Hiroji Kubota
Black Panthers in Chicago, Illinois
1969
Gelatin silver print
© Hiroji Kubota/Magnum Photos

 

 

Claude Cattelain
Vidéo Hebdo 46
2009-2010
Vidéo pal, 4/3, couleur, son, 6 min 30 s
Collection de l’artiste
© Claude Cattelain

 

 

Entitled Vidéo Hebdo 46, this work by Claude Cattelain is part of a series of short films made between January 2009 and March 2010, following a weekly rhythm. If many of the films in this corpus play with the conditions of video recording (shooting conditions, sensitivity of the sensor, editing …), the forty-sixth is more like the return of a performance. Executed with great economy of means, its performances follow a precise protocol whose action often resembles an absurd experience of which the body of the artist is the subject. Here, Claude Cattelain tries to raise a chair by interposing one by one the wooden battens – which look singularly like slices of books – under the feet of the said chair without ever going down or putting a foot on the ground. This progressive uprising of the foundation leads inexorably to its overthrow and thus to the fall of the artist. The uselessness of this exercise is commensurate with the concentration and attention with which it applies to try to get to the maximum of its possibilities. Each performance of Claude Cattelain is thus an experience of limits: those of his balance, his strength, his concentration and gravity. By voluntarily avoiding the logics of productivity and productivity, Claude Cattelain invites the viewer to observe a poetic action, a possible metaphor of existential or historical situations. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

 

The exhibition

“Soulèvements / Uprisings” is a trans-disciplinary exhibition on the theme of human gestures that raise up the world or rise up against it: collective or individual gestures, actions or passions, works or thoughts.

They are gestures which say no to a state of history that is considered too “heavy” and that therefore needs to be “lifted” or even sent packing. They are also gestures that say yes to something else: to a desired better world, an imagined or adumbrated world, a world that could be inhabited and conceived differently.

These figures of uprising and up-raising will range freely across mediums: paintings, drawings, prints, video installations, photographs, fiction films, documentary images, writers’ manuscripts, tracts, posters, etc., without hierarchies.

The exhibition sequence will follow a sensitive, intuitive path along which the gaze can focus on exemplary “cases” treated with a precision that prevents any kind of generalisation. We will be mindful not to conclude, not to dogmatically foreclose anything. The sequence will comprise five main parts:

  • ELEMENTS (UNLEASHED)
  • GESTURES (INTENSE)
  • WORDS (EXCLAIMED)
  • CONFLICTS (FLARED UP)
  • DESIRES (INDESTRUCTIBLES)

 

 

“All the uprisings failed, but taken together, they succeeded.”

“They rise, but they do not simply stand up – they rise up.”

.
Judith Butler, “Uprisings” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings

 

 

ELEMENTS (UNLEASHED)

The elements become unleashed, time falls out of joint. – And if the imagination made mountains rise up?

To rise up, as when we say “a storm is rising.” To reverse the weight that nailed us to the ground. So it is the laws of the atmosphere itself that will be contradicted. Surfaces – sheets, draperies, flags – fly in the wind. Lights that explode into fireworks. Dust that rises up from nooks and crannies. Time that falls out of joint. The world upside down. From Victor Hugo to Eisenstein and beyond, uprisings are often compared to hurricanes or to great, surging waves. Because then the elements (of history) become unleashed.

We rise up first of all by exercising our imagination, albeit through our “caprichos” (whims or fantasies) or “disparates” (follies) as Goya said. The imagination makes mountains rise up. And when we rise up from a real “disaster,” it means that we meet what oppresses us, and those who seek to make it impossible for us to move, with the resistance of forces that are desires and imaginations first of all, that is to say psychical forces of unleashing and of reopening possibilities.

Dennis Adams, Francis Alÿs, Léon Cogniet, Marcel Duchamp, Francisco de Goya, William Hogarth, Victor Hugo, Leandro Katz, Eustachy Kossakowski, Man Ray, Jasmina Metwaly, Henri Michaux, Tina Modotti, Robert Morris, Saburô Murakami, Hélio Oiticica, Roman Signer, Tsubasa Kato, Jean Veber, French anonymous.

 

Francisco de Goya. 'Los Caprichos' 1799

 

Francisco de Goya
Los Caprichos
1799
Eau-forte, aquatinte et burin, 2e édition de 1855.
Collection Sylvie et Georges Helft
Photo: Jean de Calan

 

 

Between 1797 and 1799, Francisco de Goya composed a collection of engravings, Los Caprichos [Les Caprices], in which he portrayed in a satirical way the behavior of his Spanish fellow citizens. “Y aun no se van!” (“And yet they do not go away!”) is the 59th engraving of a set of 80. Each time the title constitutes an ironic commentary on the image. This one refers to the group of people represented on the engraving, with the bodies emaciated, folded on themselves, praying, looking scared. One of them tries to prevent the tombstone from falling on them, but all seem helpless, destitute of strength, unable to resist this final ordeal. The use of chiaroscuro, which produces a dramatic effect, as well as the thick slice of the slab that forms the diagonal of the composition, accentuates the desperate character of the scene. Finally, the massive aspect and the weight of the stone, opposed to fragile and denuded bodies, complete their inexorable destiny. This engraving thus seems to illustrate the absolute dejection felt by individuals under certain circumstances. For Georges Didi-Huberman, degradation is one of the conditions conducive to the uprising. The imagination and the critical eye of the artist – a fervent supporter of the Enlightenment – can constitute a force of resistance and struggle for the oppressed. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Léon Cogniet. 'Les Drapeaux' 1830

 

Léon Cogniet
Les Drapeaux (The flags)
1830
Huile sur toile
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Orléans
Photo: François Lauginie

 

 

The Revolution of 1830 led to the overthrow of the government of King Charles X. After the publication of several ordinances, including a restriction on freedom of the press, this episode, which failed to restore the Republic, The tricolor flag, abandoned by the Restoration for the benefit of the white flag, symbol of royalty. This is evidenced by Leon Cogniet’s study of a painting that will never see the light of day.

These revolutionary days, also called the Three Glorious Days, are symbolically represented by three flags caught in the turmoil. The first, white, overhung by a menacing sky, is hoisted on a mast adorned with a fleur-de-lis. The second tears apart and reveals the blue sky as a promise of freedom. Finally, the third, torn and covered with blood, allows the reconstruction of the tricolor emblem created during the Revolution of 1789. Thus the blood poured during these days allows the people to reconnect with the revolutionary ideals. The unleashing of elements, a metaphor for the tempestuous popular revolt, accompanies the transformation of the banished flag of royalty to the national flag. This sketch is repeated and widely circulated at the time, accompanied by an anonymous poem: “To the darkness finally succeeds the clarity / And pale shreds of the flag of the slaves / And of the azure sky and the blood of our brave / The brilliant standard of our freedom is born. ” (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Victor Hugo. 'La vague ou Ma destinée (The wave or My destiny)' 1857

 

Victor Hugo
La vague ou Ma destinée (The wave or My destiny)
1857
Plume et lavis d’encre brune, gouache, papier vélin
Maison de Victor Hugo
© Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet

 

This drawing is the witness of Victor Hugo’s fascination with the sea. His pen marries the movements of the ocean, which then becomes the symbol of his exile: “It is the image of my current destiny stranded in abandonment and solitude,” he says. On the drawing he calls ‘My destiny’, it is not known whether the ship, alone in front of the monster of the sea, enveloped by its foam, is carried or precipitated by the immense wave. It is a figure of his destiny, but also of the human condition.

 

Man Ray. "Sculpture mouvante" ou "La France" ("Moving Sculpture" or "France") 1920

 

Man Ray
“Sculpture mouvante” ou “La France” (“Moving Sculpture” or “La France”)
1920
Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, dation en 1994
Negative gelatin-silver on glass plate
9 x 12 cm
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI
Image obtenue par inversion des valeurs du scan du négatif
© Man Ray Trust / ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

 

An active member of the Dada group in New York with Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray joined the surrealists in Paris in 1921. He was interested in questioning the conventions of the world of art and considered photography as a means of expression. It explores all potentialities: experiments, diversions, portraits, advertising applications … The fixation of an element in movement constitutes one of the specificities of photography that fascinates the surrealists because the object thus grasped by the apparatus appears in an unexpected light: the linen which dries, inflated under the effect of the wind, becomes a moving sculpture as the title of the work suggests. This way the title can guide the reception of the passionate photography of Man Ray. This image is also published on the cover of the sixth issue of La Révolution Surréaliste in 1926, accompanied by the legend “La France”. This enigmatic title, rather than helping to understand photography, multiplies the possible interpretations and attests to Man Ray’s desire to subvert the use and meaning of the images. Thus this wind which “transforms” linen into sculpture, appears as a metaphor for the surrealist project, which makes the photographic medium the operator of a true conversion of the gaze. By this image of the “uprising”, Man Ray thus gives a visual form to the aesthetic and political revolution that the members of the Surrealist group called for. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Eustachy Kossakowski. 'Le "Panoramic Sea Happening - Sea Concerto, Osieki" de Tadeusz Kantor (extrait d'une série)' 1967

 

Eustachy Kossakowski
Le “Panoramic Sea Happening – Sea Concerto, Osieki” de Tadeusz Kantor (extrait d’une série)
The “Panoramic Sea Happening – Sea Concerto, Osieki” by Tadeusz Kantor (from a series)
1967
Inkjet pigment print
Owner of negatives and slides: Musée d’Art Moderne de Varsovie
© Collection Anka Ptaszkowska

 

 

In 1967 Tadeusz Kantor with a group of other Polish avant-garde artists delivered Panoramic Sea Happening. They were working in frames of artistic plain-air in Osieki (near Koszalin) organized there every year since 1963. This complex action was in a way a preface to Kantor’s theatre. But it was also parallel to actions of Western artists, which led to the birth of performance art. In this important moment Kantor formulated a category of impossible. It derived from the night dream but as this one was compromised Kantor wanted to use a new word: ‘impossible’. At the same time the very essence of the happening, as he was saying, was to make impossible real. How did he do it? By reenactment, repetition and documentation.

Dorota Sosnowska. From the abstract for “Impossible is Real: Tadeusz Kantor at the seashore” 2016

 

Hélio Oiticica and Leandro Katz. 'Parangolé - Encuentros de Pamplona' 1972

 

Hélio Oiticica and Leandro Katz
Parangolé – Encuentros de Pamplona (Parangolé – Encounters of Pamplona)
1972
Impression chromogène (sur papier et carton)
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
Photo: Archives Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
© Projeto Hélio Oiticica / © Leandro Katz

 

 

“At the time when he was producing his first Penetrables, Oticica started to design Parangolés, banners and capes printed in a great variety of colors and designs, and occasionally inscribed with mottoes, advertisement lines, or found phrases. Oiticica premiered his (anti)fashion statements in 1965 in what he called a Parangolé Coletivo, in which he distributed his creations among friends and members of the Mangueira samba school – he had joined in 1964 – who paraded wearing them while dancing to samba… He would continue making Parangolés and staging Parangolé events throughout the rest of his life, at times through friends who acted as intermediaries, as in the Pamplona encounters of 1972 in Spain when Argentinean artist Leandro Katz ran a Parangolé event on Oiticica’s behalf.”

Juan A. Suárez. “Jack Smith, Hélio Oiticica, Tropicalism,” in Criticism Vol. 56, No. 2, Jack Smith: Beyond the Rented World (Spring 2014) pp. 310-311.

 

Henri Michaux. 'Untitled' 1975

 

Henri Michaux
Untitled
1975
Acrylic on paper
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Jean-Louis Losi

 

Dennis Adams. 'Patriot' 2002

 

Dennis Adams
Patriot
2002
From the series Airborne
C-Print contrecollé sur aluminium.
Prêt du Centre national des Arts Plastiques, Paris, inv. FNAC 03.241.
© Dennis Adams / CNAP / Courtesy Galerie Gabrielle Maubrie

 

 

A plastic bag stands out on the azure sky and floats in the air. Difficult, considering the serenity that emanates from the photographs of this series, to imagine that they refer to a dramatic event: the attack of the World Trade Center. Located in Lower Manhattan, Dennis Adams’ studio is very close to the twin towers that were destroyed on September 11, 2001. However, rather than rushing to witness the catastrophe, Dennis Adams photographed for three months the roof of his building, the newspapers and the rubbish that fly away from the ruins. These images, although directly related to this highly publicized event have nothing of the “shock” images that then invade the press.

They carry neither sensationalism nor exaggerated patriotism, but rather invite reverie and meditation. By adopting this attitude to the antipodes of the media and political enthusiasm that follows September 11, Dennis Adams questions the relationship to temporality in the face of this type of event. He denounces the “greed of politicians and military men who have a definite opinion on moments of history”* and questions the imperative of hyperreactivity not conducive to the analysis and the constitution of a historical consciousness. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

*Dennis Adams quoted by Michel Guerrin, “In Madrid, photographers face history”, in Le Monde, June 15, 2004, p. 30.

 

Roman Signer. 'Rotes Band / Red Tape' 2005

 

Roman Signer
Rotes Band / Red Tape
2005
Vidéo couleur, son, 2’07’”.
Caméra: Aleksandra Signer
Courtesy de l’artiste et d’Art: Concept, Paris

 

Tsubasa Kato. 'Break it before it’s broken' 2015

Tsubasa Kato. 'Break it before it’s broken' 2015

 

Tsubasa Kato
Break it before it’s broken
2015
Video: color, sound, 4:49 min
© Tsubasa Kato / caméraman: Taro Aoishi

 

 

On March 11, 2011, a tsunami struck the Japanese coast and caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The disastrous environmental and social consequences are still impossible to evaluate and the inhabitants, partly neglected by the public authorities, have to face an unprecedented crisis. Many of them have been displaced and most of their income from fishing is reduced to nothing because of the contamination of the ocean. Tsubasa Kato then decides to get involved with them by accompanying them daily in this difficult period. In addition to this support, he decided on November 3rd (03/11) – the day of the celebration of culture in Japan (Bunka no Hi) and date whose numerical writing is the inverse of that of the tsunami (11/03) – to achieve a strongly symbolic performance.

Entitled Break it before it’s broken, the video of this action shows residents of the region invited to overthrow the structure of a house washed away by the tsunami and destroy it definitively. Becoming actors of destruction and no longer passive observers, participants can then transform the event undergone into action. This festival of culture, for Tsubasa Kato, is an opportunity to initiate a unifying artistic moment that testifies to the strength of collective movements and the mobilization necessary to reverse the course of events. He will then reiterate this performance in other parts of the world, which are often subject to delicate social situations. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Mari Kourkouta. 'Remontages' 2016

Mari Kourkouta. 'Remontages' 2016

 

Mari Kourkouta
Remontages
2016
16 mm sur vidéo (en boucle), noir et blanc, silencieux, 4’ 10.
© Maria Kourkouta. Production : Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

 

“Body, mind and soul are uplifted by the divine energy of desire”

.
Marie-José Mondzain, “To those who sail the sea…” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings

 

“To make the world rise up we need gestures, desires, and depths.”

.
Georges Didi-Huberman, “By the desires (Fragments on What Makes Us Rise Up)” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings

 

 

GESTURES (INTENSE)

From burden to uprising. – With hammer blows. – Arms rise up. – The pasión. – When bodies say no. – Mouths for exclaiming.

Rising up is a gesture. Before even attempting to carry out a voluntary and shared “action,” we rise up with a simple gesture that suddenly overturns the burden that submission had, until then, placed on us (be it through cowardice, cynicism, or despair). To rise up means to throw off the burden weighing down on our shoulders, keeping us from moving. It is to break a certain present – be it with hammer blows as Friedrich Nietzsche and Antonin Artaud sought to do – and to raise your arms towards the future that is opening up. It is a sign of hope and of resistance.

It is a gesture and it is an emotion. The Spanish Republicans – whose visual culture was shaped by Goya and Picasso, but also by all the photographers on the field who collected, the gestures of freed prisoners, of voluntary combatants, of children and of the famous La Pasionaria, Dolores Ibárruri – fully assumed this. In the gesture of rising up, each body protests with all of its limbs, each mouth opens and exclaims its no-refusal and its yes-desire.

Paulo Abreu, Art & Language, Antonin Artaud, Taysir Batniji, Joseph Beuys, Désiré-Magloire Bourneville, Gilles Caron, Claude Cattelain, Agustí Centelles, Chim, Pascal Convert, Gustave Courbet, Élie Faure, Michel Foucault, Leonard Freed, Gisèle Freund, Marcel Gautherot, Agnès Geoffray, Jochen Gerz, Jack Goldstein, Käthe Kollwitz, Alberto Korda, Germaine Krull, Hiroji Kubota, Annette Messager, Lisette Model, Tina Modotti, Friedric Nietzsche, Willy Römer, Willy Ronis, Graciela Sacco, Lorna Simpson, Wolf Vostell, anonymes catalans, français, italiens.

 

Gustave Courbet. 'Home en blouse debout sur une barricade (projet de frontispice pour Le Salut public)' 1848

 

Gustave Courbet
Home en blouse debout sur une barricade (projet de frontispice pour Le Salut public)
Man in a smock standing on a barricade (frontispiece for Le Salut public project)

1848
Fusain sur papier
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

Germaine Krull. 'The Dancer Jo Mihaly, danse "Révolution"' 1925

 

Germaine Krull
The Dancer Jo Mihaly, danse “Révolution”
1925
Gelatin silver print
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Estate Germaine Krull, Folkwang Museum, Essen

 

 

Pioneer and adventurous, Germaine Krull is one of those women photographers of the inter-war period who contributed largely to the emergence of a nervous and dynamic photographic approach, in step with a modern world in constant acceleration. In photographing Jo Mihaly, she portrays a dancer who shares this avant-garde sensibility. Indeed, a pupil of Mary Wigman, this singular figure of dance participates in the German expressionist movement and contributes to the development of a modern choreographic art: the unconstrained body emancipates itself from the conventions of classical dance, the gesture of the dancer is released and regains its vitality. The movement then becomes the result of the personal expression of the dancer whose photographer has the burden of seizing the fulgurance [dazzling speed]. Stretched arm, smoky eyes and feverish eyes, Jo Mihaly – who has always claimed her commitment to the Communist Party – realizes a gesture that resonates with her time but also with the youth of Germaine Krull, marked by its proximity to the Republic of the Soviets of Berlin in 1919. Thus, it is as much for these artists to participate in an aesthetic revolution in their respective artistic fields as to echo the social and political uprisings that have taken place throughout Europe since the the advent of the industrial era. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

 

Alberto Korda. 'Don Quixote of the streetlamp, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba' 1959

 

Alberto Korda
El Quijote de la Farola, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba
Don Quixote of the streetlamp, Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, Cuba

1959
Vintage gelatin silver print on baryta paper
Leticia et Stanislas Poniatowski collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

Kitai Kazuo. 'Resistance' (book) 1965

 

Kitai Kazuo
Resistance (book)
1965
BAL
© Kitai Kazuo/ Collection privée

 

With a manifesto both aesthetic and philosophical, the Japanese publication Provoke proposed a radical break in only three issues, published in 1968 and 1969. Provoke (photographers Takuma Nakahira, Yutaka Takanashi and Daidō Moriyama, critic Kōji Taki and poet Takahiko Okada) proposes a new visual language – rough, grainy and blurred – that captures the complexity of the experience and the paradoxes of modernity suffered by all.

 

Wolf Vostell. 'Dutschke' 1968

 

Wolf Vostell
Dutschke
1968
Peinture polymère sur toile
Haus der Geschichte der Bundensrepublik Deutschland, Bonn
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975

Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975

Art and Language. 'Shouting Men' (details) 1975

 

Art and Language
Shouting Men (details)
1975
Screenprint and felt pen on paper
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona collection
Photo: Àngela Gallego
© Art and Language

 

Patrick Zachmann 'The army blocked by the crowd at the gates of the capital' 1989

 

Patrick Zachmann
L’armée bloquée par la foule aux portes de la capitale
The army blocked by the crowd at the gates of the capital
1989
Gelatin-silver bromide print on baryta paper
50.4 x 60.9 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
© Patrick Zachmann

 

From the early 1980s, Patrick Zachmann carried out an in-depth investigation into the Chinese diaspora. Present in China at the time of the events in Tiananmen Square, he photographed particularly symbolic episodes. This picture, taken on 20 May, is located just after the beginning of the hunger strikes, and before the massive repression known as the Tiananmen massacre. The nocturnal atmosphere and the gestures of the orator confer on this “moment before” a dramatic theatricality.

 

Annette Messager. '47 Piques (47 Pikes)' 1992

 

Annette Messager
47 Piques (47 Pikes)
1992
Soft toys, colored pencils on paper, various materials, and 47 metal pikes
270 x 570 x 70 cm
Annette Messager and Marin Karmitz collection/Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

Graciela Sacco. from the "Bocanada" (A breath of fresh air) series 1992-1993

 

Graciela Sacco
from the “Bocanada” (A breath of fresh air) series
1992-1993
Posters in the streets of Rosario, Argentina
© Graciela Sacco

 

 

This series of photographs of open mouths was immediately considered by Graciela Sacco as being intended to circulate in the public space on various supports (stamps, spoons, stickers, posters …). It is however in the form of a wild display that the artist has most often given to see this set. The first of these displays took place in 1993, during a strike, in public school canteens in the town of Rosario. It was then a question of questioning the impossibility of the municipal staff to make their claims heard and the consequences of this movement knowing that for the majority of the children, this meal was the only one of the day. Graciela Sacco then continues to post these posters in cities like Buenos Aires, São Paulo or New York, often during election campaigns or close to advertising images. Are they hungry mouths? Cries of claims? Of suffering? Or even breathing as the title suggests? Be that as it may, this repeated but inaudible message tends to become oppressive. By exposing them in public space, the artist seems to give visibility to those anonymous calls that we do not want or can not hear. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

 

WORDS (EXCLAIMED)

Poetic insurrections. – The message of the butterflies. – Newspapers. – Making a book of resistance. – The walls speak up.

Arms have been raised, mouths have exclaimed. Now, what are needed are words, sentences to say, sing, think, discuss, print, transmit. That is why poets place themselves “at the forefront” of the action itself, as Rimbaud said at the time of the Paris Commune. Upstream the Romantics, downstream the Dadaists, Surrealists, Lettrists, Situationists, etc., all undertook poetic insurrections.

“Poetic” does not mean “far from history,” quite the contrary. There is a poetry of tracts, from the protest leaflet written by Georg Büchner in 1834 to the digital resistance of today, through René Char in 1943 and the “cine-tracts,” from 1968. There is a poetry particular to the use of newspapers and social networks. There is a particular intelligence – attentive to the form – inherent in the books of resistance or of uprising. Until the walls themselves begin to speak and occupy the public space, the sensible space in its entirety.

Antonin Artaud, Ever Astudillo, Ismaïl Bahri, Artur Barrio, Georges Bataille, Charles Baudelaire, Joseph Beuys, Enrique Bostelmann, André Breton, Marcel Broodthaers, Cornelius Castoriadis, Champfleury, Dada, Armand Dayot, Guy Debord, Carl Einstein, Jean-Luc Fromanger, Federico García Lorca, Jean-Luc Godard, Groupe Dziga Vertov, Raymond Hains, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Bernard Heidsieck, Victor Hugo, Asger Jorn, Jérôme Lindon, Rosa Luxemburg, Man Ray, Germán Marín, Chris Marker, Cildo Meireles, Henri Michaux, Tina Modotti, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Pablo Picasso, Sigmar Polke, Jacques Rancière, Alain Resnais, Armando Salgado, Álvaro Sarmiento, Philippe Soupault, Félix Vallotton, Gil Joseph Wolman, German, Chilean, Cuban, Spanish, French, Italian, Mexican, Russian unknowns.

 

Raoul Hausman. 'Portrait of Herwarth Walden at Bonset' 1921

 

Raoul Hausman
Portrait of Herwarth Walden at Bonset
1921
Postcard sent by Raoul Hausmann to Theo van Doesburg
Archives Theo and Nelly van Doesburg
Photo: collection RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

 

Herwarth Walden (actual name Georg Lewin, 16 September 1879 in Berlin – 31 October 1941 in Saratov, Russia) was a German Expressionist artist and art expert in many disciplines. He is broadly acknowledged as one of the most important discoverers and promoters of German avant-garde art in the early twentieth century (Expressionism, Futurism, Dadaism, Magic Realism).

From 1901 to 1911 Walden was married to Else Lasker-Schüler, the leading female representative of German Expressionist poetry. She invented for him the pseudonym “Herwarth Walden”, inspired by Henry Thoreau’s novel Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854). In 1912 he married Swedish painter Nell Roslund. In 1919 he became a member of the Communist Party. In 1924 he was divorced from his second wife.

With the economic depression of the 1930s and the subsequent rise of National Socialism, his activities were compromised. In 1932 he married again and left Germany shortly later because of the threat of the Gestapo. He went to Moscow, where he worked as a teacher and publisher. His sympathies for the avant-garde soon aroused the suspicion of the Stalinist Soviet government, and he had to repeatedly defend against the equation of avant-garde and fascism. Walden died in October 1941 in a Soviet prison in Saratov. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

 

John Heartfield. 'Use photography as a weapon !' 1929

 

John Heartfield
Benütze Foto als Waffe ! 
Utilise la photo comme une arme !
Use photography as a weapon !

AIZ, année VIII, no 37, Berlin, 1929, p. 17
Revue
37.8 x 27.5 cm
Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Kunstsammlung, Inv.-Nr.: JH 2265
© The Heartfield Community of Heirs/ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

 

In the late 1910s, members of the Dada movement practiced the first collages using images from cheap publications. The iconoclastic dimension of these heterogeneous juxtapositions allows them to open up the critical potential of images. Then, in the 1920s in Berlin, the Dada movement became politicized and the idea that the affiliated artists of the Communist Party were to serve the proletarian cause was strengthened. Few artists felt as committed to this mission as John Heartfield (his real name was Helmut Herzfeld). From the end of the 1920s, he developed a practice of satirical photomontage for the press, and in particular of the Communist journal AIZ (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung) for which he worked until 1938. He then produced 237 photomontages denouncing Fascist ideology, the financing of the Nazi party by the industrialists and the extreme violence of the national socialist program. Invited to the Film und Foto exhibition in 1929 in Stuttgart, he had inscribed above the section devoted to him the slogan found in AIZ the same year: “Use photography as a weapon!”. Through the massive dissemination of his photomontages, he wants to mobilize public opinion and incite him to rise up against the rise of the fascisms that threaten Europe. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

Heartfield lived in Berlin until April 1933, when the National Socialists took power. On Good Friday, the SS broke into his apartment, and the 5’2″ Heartfield escaped by jumping from his balcony and hiding in a trash bin. He left Germany by walking over the Sudeten Mountains to Czechoslovakia. In Czechoslovakia, John Heartfield rose to number-five on the Gestapo’s most-wanted list.

 

Federico. 'García Lorca Mierda (Shit)' 1934

 

Federico García Lorca
Mierda (Shit)
1934
Calligram, Indian ink
Federico García Lorca foundation, Madrid
© Federico García Lorca foundation, Madrid / VEGAP

 

Réseau Buckmaster (Buckmaster Network) 'Tract clandestin (Clandestine Tract)' 1942

reseau-buckmaster-tract-clandestin-1942-b-web

 

Réseau Buckmaster (Buckmaster Network)
Tract clandestin (Clandestine Tract)
1942
Papier
17 x 25 cm
Collection particulière
Courtesy des éditions de L’échappée

 

 

This satirical tract was realized and distributed in 1942 by the network of the Resistance Buckmaster, during the German occupation in France. The flying leaf, given from hand to hand or slipped into a mailbox, the leaflet or the butterfly (smaller) is at the same time the expression of a refusal – that of yielding – and of an imperious desire to act and call for a start. Intended to mark the minds and to attract the adhesion, they can be formed of short and poetic texts, slogans or images. Open, it presents a caricature drawing of four pigs and, in the center, an inscription in capital letters which apostrophes the reader and invites him to look for the fifth … Indeed, if the recipient folds the sheet according to the dotted lines, he makes Hitler’s acrimonious face! Thus, like any clandestine message, the meaning of the leaflet is not given immediately. The system of folding conceals and intrigues before revealing, but also accentuates the critical and percussive nature of the subject. Opening and closing like two wings, this butterfly is an anonymous, ephemeral and fragile missive ready to fly in the air to carry its message of rising. Like a firefly gleaming in the night of war, “an indication of a desire that flies, goes where it wants, insists, persists, resists in spite of everything”*, in the words of Georges Didi-Huberman, this image constitutes a weapon at the same time frail and powerful. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

*Georges Didi-Huberman, “Through desires (fragments on what raises us)”, in Soulèvements, Paris, Jeu de Paume, 2016, p. 372.

 

Raymond Hains. 'OAS. Fusillez les plastiqueurs (OAS. Shoot the bombers)' 1961

 

Raymond Hains
OAS. Fusillez les plastiqueurs (OAS. Shoot the bombers)
1961
Torn poster on canvas backing
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Michel Marcuzzi

 

 

By the end of the 1940s, Raymond Hains paced the streets of Paris and sought out surprising agglomerates of torn posters that he picked up before painting them on canvas. The artist, flâneur, is the catalyst of a new form of urban poetry that gives rise to impromptu entanglements of words and images. This practice of hijacking posters largely echoed the world of art and French society after the Second World War. These torn posters formally evoke the canvases of “action painting” in vogue at the time, which Hains enjoys by calling himself “inaction painter”. The proliferation of these posters accompanies the rise of consumption but also the many political debates that agitate France. Thus futile advertisements co-exist promoting an eternally joyful world and political posters whose subjects are sometimes dramatic. In 1961, Raymond Hains realized an exhibition entitled “La déchirée France” [The Torn France] which presents itself as a sounding board of contemporary French history, marked by the decomposition of the Fourth Republic and what is not yet called the war of Algeria. The work OAS. Shoot the bombers testifies to the violence of the positions taken with regard to this organization favorable to the maintenance of French Algeria, but also to the reality of the attacks they commit. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Sigmar Polke. 'Against the two superpowers - for a red Switzerland' (1st version) 1976

 

Sigmar Polke
Gegen die zwei Supermächte – für eine rote Schweiz (1e version)
(Against the two superpowers – for a red Switzerland) (1st version)
1976
Spray paint and stencil on paper
Ludwig Forum für internationale Kunst, Aachen
© The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne /ADAGP, Paris, 2016

 

Henri Michaux. 'Untitled' 1975

 

Henri Michaux
Untitled
1975
Indian ink, acrylic on paper
50 x 65 cm
Private collection
© ADAGP, Paris, 2016 / Photo : Jean-Louis Losi

 

 

The poet Henri Michaux has endeavored to combine writing and drawing. Already in his invention of a new graphic alphabet in 1927, and then in his hallucinogenic experiments by absorption of mescaline from 1955, Henri Michaux sought to liberate, unbind language and drawing and thus to explore “the space within”. This ink on paper presents an entanglement of disorderly spots more or less energetic or impregnated. Just as his poems try to lift the tongue, this drawing seems to express what he calls “trembling in images”. Traces of liberating gestures, this expressive “new language”, noisy, made of floods of forms and collisions of signs, becomes the image of the disorderly world and the claimed insubordination of its author. In 1971, Michaux always seems to be looking for what he calls in the turbulent infinity “a confidence of a child, a confidence that goes ahead, hopes, raises you, confidence which, entering into the tumultuous universe … becomes a greater upheaval, a prodigiously great uprising, an extraordinary uprising, an uprising never known, a rising above itself, above all, a miraculous uprising which is at the same time an acquiescence, an unbounded, calming and exciting acquiescence, an overflow and a liberation.” Thus Michaux considered drawing as a movement, the very rise of thought and bodies. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

 

“Uprising transforms consciousness and in this movement it reconstitutes it. It gathers needs together and turns them into demands, it turns affects into desires and wills, it positions them in a tension towards liberty.”

.
Antonio Negri, “Uprisings” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings

 

 

CONFLICTS (FLARED UP)

To go on strike is not to do nothing. – Demonstrating, showing oneself. – Vandal joys. – Building barricades. – Dying from injustice.

And so everything flares up. Some see only pure chaos. Others witness the sudden appearance of the forms of a desire to be free. During strikes, ways of living together are invented. To say that we “demonstrate,” is to affirm – albeit to be surprised by it or even not to understand it—that something appeared that was decisive. But this demanded a conflict. Conflict: an important motif of modern historical painting (from Manet to Polke), and of the visual arts in general (photography, cinema, video, digital arts).

It happens sometimes that uprisings produce merely the image of broken images: vandalism, those kinds of celebrations in negative format. But on these ruins will be built the temporary architecture of uprisings: paradoxical, moving, makeshift things that are barricades. Then, the police suppress the demonstration, when those who rise up had only the potency of their desire (potency: not power). And this is why there are so many people in history who have died from having risen up.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Hugo Aveta, Ruth Berlau, Malcolm Browne, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Agustí Centelles, Chen Chieh-Jen, Armand Dayot, Honoré Daumier, Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, Robert Filliou, Jules Girardet, Arpad Hazafi, John Heartfield, Dmitri Kessel, Herbert Kirchhorff, Héctor López, Édouard Manet, Ernesto Molina, Jean-Luc Moulène, Voula Papaioannou, Sigmar Polke, Willy Römer, Pedro G. Romero, Jésus Ruiz Durand, Armando Salgado, Allan Sekula, Thibault, Félix Vallotton, Jean Veber, German, Catalan, French, Mexican, South African unknowns.

 

Thibault. 'The Barricade of the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt before the attack by the troops of General Lamoriciere' Sunday, June 25, 1848

 

Thibault
La Barricade de la rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt avant l’attaque par les troupes du général Lamoricière
The Barricade of the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt before the attack by the troops of General Lamoriciere
Sunday, June 25, 1848
Daguerréotype
11.7 x 15 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

 

 

This daguerreotype is part of a series of two exceptional views of the barricades taken during the popular insurrection of June 1848. Disseminated in the form of woodcuts in the newspaper L’Illustration at the beginning of the following July, these photographs were realized by an amateur named Thibault, from a point of view overlooking the Rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt, June 25 and 26, before and after the assault. The first photographs reproduced in the press, they show the value of proof given to the medium in the processing of information since the middle of the nineteenth century, well before the development of photomechanical reproduction techniques. The inaccuracies and ghostly traces caused by a long exposure time limit the accuracy lent to the medium. Also the engraver allowed himself to “rectify” the views for the newspaper, adding clouds here and there and specifying the posture or the detail of the silhouettes. The remarkable interest of these daguerreotypes, however, resides in their indeterminate aspect. In fact, they reveal the singular temporality of these events: both short (since each second counts during the confrontations) and at the same time extended (in the moments of preparation and waiting). The temporalities proper to events and photography are thus combined in order to offer the perennial image of an invisible uprising and therefore always in potentiality. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Édouard Manet. 'Guerre civile (Civil war)' 1871

 

Édouard Manet
Guerre civile (Civil war)
1871
Two-tone lithograph on thick paper
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri. 'Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune' 1871

 

André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri (attribué à)
Insurgés tués pendant la Semaine sanglante de la Commune
Insurgents killed during bloody week of the Commune
1871
Albumen photograph
21 x 27 cm
Musée Carnavalet – Histoire de Paris, Paris
© André A.E. Disdéri / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

 

This photograph was taken at the end of the tragic Bloody Week which concluded the Commune of Paris in May 1871. It shows the corpses of Communards shot by the Versailles troops, presented in their coffins at the public exhibition of their bodies. This image is imprinted with brutality: that of the authors of the massacre of these young men struggling for the independence of Paris, that of the monstration [The act of demonstrating; proof] and, that of photography, in its realization, its frontality and its precision. Why did one of the most famous portraitists of the Second Empire record the image of these inanimate bodies? We know today that photography has played an important role in anti-communard propaganda, the aim of which was to show the “exactions” of the insurgents (barricades, vandalism, assassinations …) and to present this event not as a revolution but as a civil war. It was also used for identification purposes, used for judicial proceedings and repression. The value of this image, however, is due to the fact that the exposure of these bodies is transformed by the photographic act. The latter confers on the rebels a particular aura, passing thus from figures of guilty to those of martyrs. Gathered for the occasion and set up facing us, they form, through photography, the image of an inseparable community. Even if the revolution has failed and power has failed, its power remains and continues to nourish the memory of political uprisings. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Allan Hughan. 'Installations de la colonie pénitentiaire (Installations of the penal colony)' May 1874

 

Allan Hughan
Installations de la colonie pénitentiaire (Installations of the penal colony)
May 1874
Tirage sur papier albuminé
14.7 x 19.6 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

 

The legend of the image, written in the thirties, states: “In the foreground the tribe of rebels of 1878”, while that handwritten on the original negative says “tribe of Atai revolted.” These elements drag the meaning of this image realized by the first photographer present in New Caledonia. The photographs he takes of kanaks, villages, but also of the prison and mining facilities in 1874, take on a new retrospective significance after the great Kanak revolt of 1878.

 

Félix Vallotton. 'La Charge (The Charge)' 1893

 

Félix Vallotton
La Charge (The Charge)
1893
Proof, woodcut on paper
Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Gift of Adèle et Georges Besson en 1963. On loan to Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie de Besançon
© Centre Pompidou / MNAM / Cliché Pierre Guenat, Besançon, Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie

 

 

Felix Vallotton made this engraving on wood in 1893 as part of his critical contributions to social violence for newspapers and magazines of his time. Composed with great economy of means, La Charge represents the brutal repression of a demonstration by the forces of the order. The diving point of view testifies to the influence of photography on his work and reinforces the voyeur character of the viewer as well as his feeling of helplessness. The formal repetition of the uniform of the “guardians of the peace” and the resemblance of their faces, all wedged between their mustache and their kepi, translates well the impression of mechanical unleashing of a blind violence. By contrasting black and white, Vallotton refers to the physical confrontation between civilians and policemen. The centrifugal force which animates the composition gives the impression that the wounded bodies shatter like an explosion. By distorting the characteristic perspective of the Nabi aesthetic, the victims’ bodies seem to be abandoned. Through the eyes of man in the foreground, the artist denounces the abuse of force but also takes the spectator to witness and invites him to rise up against this injustice. The artist, known for his anarchist positions, broke as much with the traditional principles of composition as with the established order. At the charge against the protesters, he responds by his own charge against the authorities. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Joseph Marie Ernest Prud'Homme. 'Submission of Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka' 1897

 

Joseph Marie Ernest Prud’Homme
Submission of Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka
1897
Print on aristotype paper
12 x 17 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

 

On July 29, 1897, Rabezavana and Rainibetsimisaraka, two of the greatest leaders of the Menalamba insurrection, which began after the abdication of Queen Ranavalona III and the establishment of the protectorate in October 1895, publicly knelt before Governor General Joseph Gallieni to signify their submission. This ceremony is the theatrical acme of the policy of “pacification” carried out in Madagascar by Gallieni, since his arrival in September 1896.

 

Anonymous. 'The Habés send a parliamentarian to make their submission to Major Pognio' 17 March 1910

 

Anonymous
Les Habés envoient un parlementaire pour faire leur soumission au commandant Pognio
The Habés send a parliamentarian to make their submission to Major Pognio
17 March 1910
Print on baryta paper
10.9 x 16.7 cm
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

 

The French colonial conquest of West Africa, begun in 1854, stops with the unification of its possessions within French West Africa in 1895. It was mainly carried out by the infantry which had to face populations hostile to colonization. The Habés (Dogons) of the Bandiagara region (present-day Mali) resisted the French soldiers from 1894 to 1910.

 

José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) 'Les Femmes des soldats (The Women Soldiers)' 1926

 

José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949)
Les Femmes des soldats (The Women Soldiers)
1926
Huile sur toile
México, INBA, Collection Museo de Arte Moderno
Photo © Francisco Kochen
© Adagp, Paris 2016

 

Tina Modotti (1896-1942) 'Guitare, cartouchière et faucille (Guitar, cartridge belt and sickle)' 1st June 1929

 

Tina Modotti (1896-1942)
Guitare, cartouchière et faucille (Guitar, cartridge belt and sickle)
1st June 1929
Illustration de l’annonce pour la chanteuse communiste Concha Lichel, publiée dans el machete, no 168, 1
Illustration of the announcement for the communist singer Concha Lichel, published in El Machete, no 168, 1
Gelatin silver print
México, INBA, Museo Nacional de Arte
Donation de la famille Maples Arce, 2015
© Francisco Kochen

 

 

The Mexican Revolution profoundly changed the structure of society: since men had gone to war or to search for work and livelihoods, women took on new tasks, first in armed struggle and then in rebuilding culture and education within society. Thus, the image of the soldiaderas, those women who followed the revolutionary troops, acquired a special significance and was symbolically compared to the “strong women” of the Bible. In the artistic field, women also played a decisive role, sometimes called “proto-feminism”: patrons of valuable artists or artists themselves, they participated in the quest for an aesthetic language capable of expressing their doubts and questioning. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

Concha Michel (1899-1990) was a singer-songwriter, political activist, playwright, and a researcher who published several projects on the culture of indigenous communities. She was one of the few women who performed in the corrido style. She created the Institute of Folklore in Michoacan and was one of the first collectors of folklore and preservers of the traditions of the Mexican people. She was a cultural icon having relationships with two presidents, and a broad range of Mexico’s most prominent artists including Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Guadalupe Marín, Tina Modotti, Elena Poniatowska, Anita Brenner and others. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Ruth Berlau. 'Grévistes américains (American warriors)' 1941

 

Ruth Berlau
Grévistes américains (American warriors)
1941
Gelatin silver print
10 x 15 cm
Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Bertolt Brecht Archiv
© by R. Berlau/Hoffmann

 

 

Ruth Berlau, actress, director and photographer of Danish origin realizes this photograph shortly after his arrival in the United States. She fled Nazi Germany with the writer and playwright Bertolt Brecht and accompanied him during much of his exile. In line with her commitment to the Spanish war and her communist ideas, she photographed American social movements and showed the actors of the struggle and the victims of oppression. This series on strikes highlights the workforce of the workers, with the desire to get their faces out of anonymity. It is in keeping with the documentary use of photography undertaken by social programs such as the New Deal and in particular the path traced by Walker Evans, initiator of the “documentary style”. It chooses a frontal point of view, apt to reveal with precision and clarity the faces of the strikers. In doing so, it applies itself to restoring their dignity while producing the documents of a social history. The counter-drive gives the strikers a particular scope and strength, just as the framing, which ostensibly divides the group, suggests that they belong to a powerful and determined group. The photographic practice of Ruth Berlau seems to embody a democratic ideal, revealing both the unity and the singularity of each and a common political commitment, which is reflected here through the exchange of views. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)' 1934

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Ouvrier en grève, assassiné (Striking worker, assassinated)
1934
Gelatin silver print
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
© Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris / Roger Viollet
© Estate Manuel Álvarez Bravo

 

Inconnu 'Contestation around the construction of Narita airport' 1969

Inconnu 'Contestation around the construction of Narita airport' 1969

 

Inconnu
Contestation autour de la construction de l’aéroport de Narita
Contestation around the construction of Narita airport

1969
Gelatin silver prints
© Collection Art Institute of Chicago

 

In parallel with the dazzling rise of a consumer society on the Western model, for ten years (from 1960 to 1970) Japan went through a major identity crisis that unfolded on multiple fronts: American military bases in Okinawa, construction of Narita airport, occupation of universities by students …

 

Chieh-Jen Chen. 'The Route' 2006

Chieh-Jen Chen. 'The Route' 2006

 

Chieh-Jen Chen
The Route
2006
35 mm film transferred onto DVD: color and black and white, silent, 16:45 min.
© Chieh-Jen Chen, courtesy galerie Lily Robert

 

 

“To rise up is to break a history that everyone believed to have been heard. It is to break the foreseeability of history, to refute the rule that presided, as we thought, over its development or its preservation.”

.
Georges Didi-Huberman, “By the desires (Fragments of What Makes Us Rise Up)” catalogue of the exhibition Uprisings

 

 

DESIRES (INDESTRUCTIBLES)

The hope of one condemned to death. – Mothers rise up. – They are your own children. – They who go through walls.

But potency outlives power. Freud said that desire was indestructible. Even those who knew they were condemned – in the camps, in the prisons – seek every means to transmit a testimony or call out. As Joan Miró evoked in a series of works titled “The Hope of a Condemned Man,” in homage to the student anarchist Salvador Puig i Antich, executed by Franco’s regime in 1974.

An uprising can end with mothers’ tears over the bodies of their dead children. But these tears are merely a burden: they can still provide the potencies of uprising, like in the “resistance marches” of mothers and grandmothers in Buenos Aires. It is our own children who rise up: “Zero for Conduct!” was Antigone not almost a child herself? Whether in the Chiapas forests or on the Greece – Macedonia border, somewhere in China, in Egypt, in Gaza, or in the jungle of computerized networks considered as a vox populi, there will always be children to jump the wall.

Francisca Benitez, Ruth Berlau, Bruno Boudjelal, Agustí Centelles, Eduardo Gil, Mat Jacob, Ken Hamblin, Maria Kourkouta, Joan Miró, Pedro Motta, Voula Papaioannou, Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza, Enrique Ramirez, Argentinian, Greek, Mexican unknowns.

 

Denis Foyatier. 'Spartacus' 1830

 

Denis Foyatier
Spartacus
1830
Marble
Commande de Charles X, 1828
Département des Sculptures
© 2011 Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN – Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier

 

Victor Hugo. 'Le Pendu (The hanged man)' 1854

 

Victor Hugo
Le Pendu (The hanged man)
1854
Plume et lavis d’encre brune, encre noire, fusain, pierre noire, gouache sur papier
Paris, Maison de Victor Hugo
© Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet

 

While in exile in Jersey, Victor Hugo is deeply moved by the death sentence in Guernsey of John Charles Tapner, a condemnation against which he protests and asks for a pardon that he will not get. Hugo then makes four drawings depicting a gaunt hanged man at his gallows. The museum preserves two (Ecce and Ecce Lex). Hugo had hung them in his room in Marine Terrace in Jersey, and in his study under the roof of Hauteville House in Guernsey.

 

Voula Papaioannou 'Graffiti of prisoners on the walls of the German prison in Merlin Street, Athens' 1944

 

Voula Papaioannou
Graffitis de prisonniers sur les murs de la prison allemande de la rue Merlin à Athènes
Graffiti of prisoners on the walls of the German prison in Merlin Street, Athens
1944
Gelatin-silver print, modern print
24 x 30 cm
Benaki Museum Photographic Archive, Athènes

 

 

Voula Papaioannou is a major figure in Greek documentary photography. Born in 1898, she made numerous photographs of landscapes, monuments and archaeological sites in the 1930s. The Second World War led her to wonder about her practice and she was committed to covering the realities of the conflict. Her apparatus then becomes a tool to testify and publicize the misery and suffering of the Greek population during the German occupation. It reflects the difficulties of everyday life, the departure of the military in combat and the famines that strike civilians. During the liberation, she made a few shots of street fights as well as these images of the walls of the prison of Athens held until then by the Germans. It shows the graffiti (inscriptions and drawings) left by the detainees, most of them awaiting execution. Many say their names and send a message to their families (“I want my relatives to be proud of me”) or claim their political convictions (“Vive le KKE”, Greek Communist Party) for the sake of transmitting until the day before their deaths the reasons for their struggle and the conditions of their disappearance. These photographic recordings are similar to archaeological documents bearing the traces of the imprisonment of the Greek Resistance fighters and their hope that these messages will one day be read in a Greece freed from the Nazi occupation. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Anonymous. 'Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau' 1944

 

Anonyme (membre du Sonderkommando d’Auschwitz-Birkenau)
Femmes poussées vers la chambre à gaz du crématoire V de Birkenau
Women pushed towards the gas chamber of crematorium V of Birkenau
1944
Contact plate with two images
12 x 6 cm
Archival collection of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkrenau, Oświęcim
Photo: Archival collection of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkrenau, Oświęcim

 

 

This photograph was taken by a member of the Sonderkommando Auschwitz-Birkenau, a special unit of Jewish inmates commissioned by the SS to carry out the final solution. It belongs to a set of four photographs carried out clandestinely on a piece of film, using a photographic camera infiltrated in the camp and then concealed at the bottom of a bucket. Hidden near crematory furnace V, the author of these photographs was assisted by other members of the Sonderkommando. To do such an act was indeed extremely dangerous. The sloping framing and the blur reflect the perilous conditions in which the photographer was then placed. This picture, however, clearly shows a convoy of naked women pushed by the special unit to the gas chamber, located off-field. The film was then filtered from the camp into a tube of toothpaste to join the Polish Resistance, accompanied by an explanatory letter. These photographs therefore have an informative aim and constitute the only photographic documents on the gas chambers. As Georges Didi-Huberman affirms, “in the depths of this fundamental despair, the “solicitation to resist” has probably detached itself from the beings themselves, who have been promised to disappear, to fix themselves on signals to be emitted beyond the boundaries of the camp.*” Among others, the image, this “eye of history”, is then invested with the only hope still possible: to make the hell of Auschwitz visible and therefore imaginable.

*Georges Didi-Huberman, Images malgré tout, (Images despite everything), Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 2003, p. 14.

 

Sonderkommandos were work units made up of German Nazi death camp prisoners. They were composed of prisoners, usually Jews, who were forced, on threat of their own deaths, to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims during the Holocaust. The death-camp Sonderkommandos, who were always inmates, should not be confused with the SS-Sonderkommandos which were ad hoc units formed from various SS offices between 1938 and 1945. The term itself in German means “special unit”, and was part of the vague and euphemistic language which the Nazis used to refer to aspects of the Final Solution (cf. Einsatzkommando units of the Einsatzgruppen death squads).

About 120 SS personnel were assigned to the gas chambers and lived on site at the crematoria. Several SS personnel oversaw the killings at each gas chamber, while the bulk of the work was done by the mostly Jewish prisoners known as Sonderkommandos (special squads). Sonderkommando responsibilities included guiding victims to the gas chambers and removing, looting, and cremating the corpses.

The Sonderkommado were housed separately from other prisoners, in somewhat better conditions. Their quality of life was further improved by access to the goods taken from murdered prisoners, which Sonderkommandos were sometimes able to steal for themselves and to trade on Auschwitz’s black market. Hungarian doctor Miklós Nyiszli reported that the Sonderkommando numbered around 860 prisoners when the Hungarian Jews were being killed in 1944. Many Sonderkommandos committed suicide due to the horrors of their work; those who did not generally were shot by the SS in a matter of weeks, and new Sonderkommando units were then formed from incoming transports. Almost none of the 2,000 prisoners placed in these units survived to the camp’s liberation.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Ken Hamblin. 'Beaubien Street' 1971

 

Ken Hamblin
Beaubien Street
1971
Modern gelatin silver print
Fifth Estate photo
Joseph A. Labadie Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan

 

Joan Miró 'Prisoner's Hope, Preparatory Drawing for The Hope of the Dead Man I, II and III' 1973

 

Joan Miró
L’Espoir du prisonnier, dessin préparatoire pour L’Espoir du condamné à mort I, II et III
Prisoner’s Hope, Preparatory Drawing for The Hope of the Dead Man I, II and III
1973
Crayons de couleur et stylo sur papier (bloc-notes)
7.7 x 12.5 cm
Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelone
© Successió Miró / ADAGP, Paris, 2016
Photo: Fundació Miró, Barcelone

 

 

This sketch is part of a series of preparatory studies for a triptych entitled The Hope of the Condemned to Death, completed in March 1974. It is already possible to guess the overall design (three horizontal compositions of primary colors formed of sinuous lines) and the title seems to be clarified with the addition of these words: “the hope of the prisoner”. Sensitive to the death sentence of the anarchist and anti-fascist militant Salvador Puig i Antich, a member of the Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación, Joan Miró claims that he completed his triptych on the day of his execution on 2 March 1974. Thus the artwork – initially imagined in an abstract and metaphorical way – then encounters history. This triptych executed in very large format so as to address the greatest number, as Miró wished that the painting would be, thus constitutes a real monument to the memory of one of the last victims of Francoism. Judged “prophetic” by the artist, he presents a series of black lines that he interpreted as an image of the tourniquet used for execution. Struggling or playing as much with the void as with the spots of vivid colors, these dark lines on a light background also seem to be distended and open like a permitted hope. From his first studies, Joan Miró managed to preserve intact, by the energy of the gesture and the vivacity of the keys, the “indestructible desire” to hope and resist, which culminated the following year in the fall of the Franco regime.  (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Eduardo Gil. 'Niños desaparecidos. Secunda Marcha de la Resistancia (Murdered children. Second Resistance March)' December 9-10 1982

 

Eduardo Gil
Niños desaparecidos. Secunda Marcha de la Resistancia (Murdered children. Second Resistance March)
December 9-10 1982
Modern gelatin silver print
Eduardo Gil collection
© Eduardo Gil

 

 

Eduardo Gil was born in 1948 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After studying sociology, he became a photographer. Self-taught and sensitive to social struggles, his commitment was linked to the establishment of the military dictatorship following the coup d’état of 24 March 1976. Working for the press and as an independent author, he made a series of reports on the political situation and social life of his country. He photographed in particular the second March for the Resistance in Buenos Aires on 9 and 10 December 1982. Organized at the call of the Mothers of the Place de Mai in tribute to the missing children during the dictatorship, the First march of the Resistance in 1981 ‘Is then reproduced every year until 2006, involving the entire society, including after the end of the dictatorship. Faced with the march, Eduardo Gil records the determined faces of the women, mothers and grandmothers of the children of Argentina, demonstrating to obtain answers on the fate of the disappeared. The use of black and white flattened the composition and accentuated the juxtaposition of the women’s faces with the banners and placards. The photographs of the children brandished by the demonstrators thus seem to merge in the procession. All appear in this sense more united than ever, stretched out towards us, as towards politics. Eduardo Gil seems to prove here that by recording the image of the missing among the living, photography itself is a force of uprising. (Text from the Jeu de Paume website translated by Google translate)

 

Francisca Benítez. 'Garde l'Est' 2005

 

Francisca Benítez
Garde l’Est
2005
Still frame
Francisca Benitez collection
© Francisca Benítez

 

Gohar Dashti. From the series 'Today's Life and War' 2008

 

Gohar Dashti
From the series Today’s Life and War
2008
Institut des Cultures d’Islam

 

The photographs of the Iranian artist Gohar Dashti’s Today’s Life and War show the daily life of a young couple against a background of war. Surrounded by tanks, bunkers and armed soldiers, the spouses live in the middle of the fields of ruins and continue to go about their occupations. Between impassivity and disillusionment, their attitudes show perseverance and unwavering determination to simply continue living. With these surreal scenes, the artist is witnessing a generation caught between the memories of ten years of war against Iraq and the permanent threat of conflict.

 

Pedro Motta. 'Natureza das coisas #024, (The nature of things #024)' 2013

 

Pedro Motta
Natureza das coisas #024, (The nature of things #024)
From the “Natureza das coisas” series
2013
Mineral print on cotton paper
Private collection
Courtesy of the artist and gallery Bendana Pinel

 

Maria Kourkouta. 'Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)' 2016

Maria Kourkouta. 'Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)' 2016

 

Maria Kourkouta
Idomeni, 14 mars 2016. Frontière gréco-macédonienne, (Idomeni, March 14, 2016. Greek-Macedonian border)
2016
HD video loop: color, sound, 36:00 min.
© Maria Kourkouta. Production: Jeu de Paume, Paris

 

 

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métro Concorde
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25
Jun
16

Exhibition: ‘Brett Weston: Significant Details’ at Pasadena Museum of California Art

Exhibition dates: 17th April – 11th September 2016

Curator: Erin Aitali, PMCA Director of Exhibitions and Registrar

 

 

If your subject is essentially unrecognizable – a defining characteristic of many of Weston’s photographs – devoid of sentimentality, featuring an explosion of geometry as a form of Western expressionism, able to extract the microcosm from the macrocosm through an absence of human presence and apparent narrative – then your previsualisation must be spot on otherwise you loose clear focus as to just what it is you are trying to communicate. It’s all very well being obsessed with capturing the intricacies and rhythms of form, light and shadow, visual poetry in photography, but if that obsession has no ‘feeling’ outcome then you are doomed to failure.

Imagine (if you can) that master of documentary realism Eugène Atget placing his camera in just the wrong position for one of his photographs. The tripod just a little too low, the position a metre to the left of where it should have been. The resulting image would not feel like an Atget, the angles would not feel right, the mixture of objective and subjective would not be present, the magic of his photographs – recognisably his photographs – would be missing. What Atget does so convincingly is to combine the aesthetic with the documentary or representational. As G.H. Saxon Mills observes in his essay ‘Modern photography’ ‘”modern” photography means photography whose aim is partly or wholly aesthetic, as opposed to photography which is merely documentary or representational.’ Atget proves that both were possible within the same frame.

This is not the case with the photographs by Brett Weston in this posting. Although I have commented elsewhere on this website that, “Brett Weston’s pictures are ageing well – the decorative aesthetic seems to have more currency today than previously when the values of his father were predominant,” and admired the reductive minimalism of his photographs … this is not the case with these ‘significant details’. In this instance they are just representation, poor relations to the photographs of Minor White and Aaron Siskind. I think that the best of his work is very fine – a sort of celebration of all that had gone before with a layer of super-fineness added. However he made many images that were a bit like a preacher rather than an artist. In some of his portfolios the choice of images is just plain weird, catering to the market rather than takng the chance to make a powerful statement. And photography aficionados remain unconvinced by his work, shying away from collecting it. Perhaps they know, or feel a lack of something, some spirit or other, or a seeming unevenness in the quality of his artistic production.

Perhaps it is his printing, which is a bit “Kodak meets EW” in the darkroom (even as his father entrusted him with printing some of his negatives). Weston achieved his good results because he was a careful craftsman, not an experimenter. Someone, I forget who, said that you never looked at his work when desperate for sustenance – and I think a lot of “connoisseurs” think that – and in a Brett Weston you can too often argue yourself out of the celebration. There is a certain dourness that is hard to overcome. I challenge you, now, to say one meaningful good thing about any of the images presented here. They take you nowhere. They are either too tightly cropped (that lack of true previsualisation / placing the camera in the wrong position / lack of context) or rely on pattern and representation, and only that, to do the heavy lifting.

My feeling about his work is that he saw and felt many great things that he used in his work – but at the final hurdle, his implementation was always handled a little directly, or not a well as might have been… or is sometimes absent. Perhaps it’s just his viewpoint which seems to be too limited in a psychological sense. If Atget had photographed the city without those magnificent tripod positions and understanding of space, then they would have been dead. That’s how BW’s work sometimes feels. Instead of the space feeling larger than the camera can contain, on occasions his photographs feel enclosed and stilted.

Weston said, “There are a million choices for shot. At its simplest, photography is very complex. So I try to keep it simple and focus on things I can master.”

Sometimes, keeping things simple does not result in preternatural outcomes.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

“My father was driven and so am I. You’re ruthless. You brush off your friends and women. He was much kinder than me. I don’t verbalize well and I don’t socialize much. Too time consuming. And I’m not a good salesman of my work. I love people, but they can be a drain. Some are stimulating; some are leeches. So I seek people on my own terms. Most artists are loners. I guess they have to be.”

.
Brett Weston

 

“Weston isn’t really a nature photographer… He was obsessed with capturing the intricacies and rhythms of form, light and shadow. Weston is as fascinated by close-ups of the exfoliating bark of a bristlecone pine or the spikes of a Joshua Tree as he is with the visual poetry of peeling paint on the side-panel of a rusted out truck.”

.
Jeffrey St. Clair

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brett Weston: Significant Details' at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brett Weston: Significant Details' at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brett Weston: Significant Details' at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Brett Weston: Significant Details at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Photos: © 2016 Don Milici

 

 

“Although Brett Weston (1911-1993) is best known for his striking scenic photographs, the majority of his work ranges from middle-distance scenes to close-up abstractions. These concentrated images share the high-contrast and graphic qualities of Weston’s panoramas while emphasizing his affinity for “significant details” and the unprecedented attention to form, texture, shadow, and light that he explored throughout his nearly-seventy-year career.

Weston took up photography at the age of fourteen. Although he received basic technical instruction from his father, renowned photographer Edward Weston, Brett’s early efforts owed much to his intuition and innate eye. His elemental talent coupled with an unflagging commitment to his photographic vision – often at the expense of personal relationships and fiscal well-being – carried him from early critical acclaim, through difficult periods, to eventual financial success within his own lifetime.

By the age of twenty-five, Weston’s photographs were included in significant exhibitions both nationally and internationally, but despite early recognitition he served as a WPA photographer during the Great Depression and as a Signal Corps photographer during World War II. By neccessity, he also worked intermittently in the first half of his career as an industrial and portrait photographer. However, when he achieved prosperity beginning in the 1970s, he devoted himself exclusively to the photography and intercontinental expeditions that fulfilled him. His initial interest in abstracted details continually revealed itself, especially once he began using a new, smaller camera after health problems in the late 1960s forced him to abandon the bulky equipment he had used for over thirty years.

Early and continuing critical success notwithstanding, following Brett’s death, the comparison to his famed father left the younger Weston on the wrong side of a narrowing modern canon of photography. Reaffirming Weston’s legacy and his exceptional contributions to modernist photography, these uncharted, close-up images – more than half of which are on view for the first time – demonstrate the major themes present in Weston’s work: a focus on natural and urban landscapes and the objects therein, the absence of human presence and apparent narrative, and an extraordinary ability to extract the microcosm from the macrocosm.”

Introduction text from the exhibition

 

Brett Weston. 'Untitled (Worm Wood, California)' c. 1937 (printed c. 1970)

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Worm Wood, California
c. 1937 (printed c. 1970)
Silver gelatin print
10 1/2 x 13 3/4 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

Although Weston’s wife Cicely provided the couple with a steady income, she became pregnant with the pair’s first (and only) child in 1937, providing Weston impetus to generate additional means of support. Hoping to replicate the financial success of Ansel Adams’s portfolio of limited edition original photographs, Weston produced one of his own. His first portfolio San Francisco (1937) consisted of twelve 8 x 10 original prints. Unlike the photograph Staircase, San Francisco (1928) included in this exhibition, the portfolio photos were panoramic vistas. However, without the robust support of a collector like Albert Bender, who both promoted and purchased enough of Adams’s portfolios to assure commercial success, Weston didn’t profit from his portfolio. He lacked not only the promotional skills and collector base but also refused gallery sales owing to his deep distrust and outrage at their commissions.

 

Brett Weston. 'Wood' 1972

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Wood
1972
Silver gelatin print
7 1/2 x 8 5/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

“One of the most celebrated and prolific photographers of the twentieth century, Brett Weston (1911-1993) is best known for his striking scenic images, yet the bulk of his work ranges from middle-distance scenes to closeup abstractions. The Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) is proud to present Brett Weston: Significant Details, the first museum exhibition to focus on Weston’s close-up photography. The works – over half of which are on view for the first time – share the high-contrast and graphic qualities of Weston’s panoramic photographs while emphasizing the “significant details,” the tendency toward abstraction and extremes in tonality that Weston explored through his nearly 60-year career. The exhibition further contextualizes Weston within the pivotal Group f/64 and highlights how intuition and a dedication to photography in its purest form guided his practice.

Although the teaching of his father, famed modernist photographer Edward Weston, was invaluable and his influence undeniable, Weston’s practice was largely shaped by instinct and informal training. He took up photography at the age of 14 when, on an extended trip to Mexico with his father, he started photographing the crew of the SS Oaxaca with the elder Weston’s Graflex camera. This trip also coincided with the end of his formal education; he was enrolled at an English-speaking school, but dropped out within two weeks. While in Mexico, Weston became part of the modernist mileu, socializing with and viewing the work of some of the greatest artists of the time, including David Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, and José Clemente Orozco.

Weston’s professional entry into the world of photography occurred during a shift from the East Coast Pictorialists and their accentuation of romantic effects to the West Coast photographic movement, which coalesced with Group f/64 and their sharp images that captured daily life. Like the members of Group f/64, which included Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, Brett Weston focused primarily on two types of images: close-ups and the scenic view. However, Weston’s approach was distinct, tending toward highly graphic images, with intense areas of dark and highlights, rather than midgray tones used by many, including his father.

By the age of 25, Weston’s work had been included in the landmark international photography exhibition Film und Foto and in a solo exhibition at the M. H. de Young Museum in San Francisco. Though he received critical acclaim and  his reputation grew, Weston remained dedicated to art for art’s sake and to creating pure, elemental photographs. He was a simple man and used the same equipment for most of his career. However, when health problems forced him to switch to a smaller camera – the Rollei – in 1968, he further experimented with close-up photographs, and his work became even more intent on exploring specific details and abstract qualities. In Torn Leaf, Hawaii (1978, below), for example, the brittle, curling leaf appears monumental on a black ground. It exists as a singular object, not fully contained within the composition, and the size is indeterminable without context.

The uncharted, close-up images that are the focus of Significant Details demonstrate the major themes present in Weston’s work: a play on scale, the absence of the human presence, and a refrain from imposed order. This exhibition features approximately 40 works taken over a period of 55 years, ranging from 1929 to 1984, and brings to the forefront the unprecedented attention to form, texture, shadow, and light that was the distinctive characteristic of Weston’s oeuvre.”

Press release from the Pasadena Museum of California Art

 

Brett Weston. 'Wall, Europe' 1971

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Wall, Europe
1971
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

In 1971 Brett returned to Europe for the third time. While there, he captured both abstract images, like this one, and panoramas. Notably, this trip resulted in the photograph of Holland Canal, which Weston grew to hate, despite its commercial success or perhaps because of it, “I’m so sick of the thing but people love it. I could retire on sales of this print alone. I’d hate to tell you how many of these I’ve printed.” Although this scenic print wasn’t the legacy Weston desired for himself, it led to an overall increased attention from collectors interested in his work, including his abstractions.

 

Brett Weston. 'Untitled (Cracked Mud, High Sierra, California)' 1960

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Cracked Mud, High Sierra, California
1960
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Direct evidence of human presence was rare in Weston’s photos. But here, two playful sets of handprints on the mud provide scale, which would otherwise be indeterminable in the image.

 

Brett Weston. 'Electrical Towers, Metal' c. 1975

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Electrical Towers, Metal
c. 1975
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

Brett Weston: Significant Details

Brett Weston, born in 1911 in Tropico, CA (now Glendale), took up photography at the age of fourteen while on an extended trip to Mexico with his father, famed photographer Edward Weston. In Mexico for just over a year, his time there was pivotal in many ways, not only marking the start of his photography career, but also the end of his formal education. His father allowed him to drop out of the international school after two short weeks and provided the younger Weston with basic instructions in photography. Still, Brett relied heavily on his innate sensibilities toward form and tonality, evident in Tin Roof, Mexico, an early photograph from 1926 featuring a cropped view of a jagged roofline with dramatic dark shadows splitting the image. Weston also benefited from a social education of sorts. Through connections of his father’s mistress, photographer Tina Modotti, Weston became a part of the Mexican modernist milieu, socializing with and viewing the work of some of the greatest artists of the time, including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

During his nearly-seventy-year career, Weston’s talent and unique vision developed into two related types of works, panoramic landscapes and abstracted close-ups. The image most associated with Weston was and probably still is Holland Canal from 1971. The photograph of a tree-lined canal with still water reflecting a flawless image of the surrounding landscape is sensual and magnificently balanced. However, the photographer bemoaned his connection to this particular work and its extreme popularity saying, “I’m so sick of the thing, but people love it.” Although this print and other panoramic images, such as Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska (1973), came to typify his work in the public’s mind, the bulk of Weston’s photographs range from middle-distance scenes to close-ups, which became increasingly abstract beginning in the 1950s. Brett Weston: Significant Details focuses on the close-up works that epitomize his unique and unwavering vision. These images share the high-contrast and graphic qualities of Weston’s well-known scenic photographs while emphasizing what the photography historian Beaumont Newhall characterized as his affinity for “significant details.” Weston applied this penchant for details to natural and urban environments alike. Another early image, Stairway, Grandview Park, San Francisco from 1928, offers a fragmented view of a San Francisco stairwell. Without context, the unpopulated image’s narrative possibilities are limited; instead, the emphasis is on the orderly, graphic form of the staircase.

From the beginning of his career, Weston’s work was celebrated by institutions and peers. The year following Stairway, Weston’s work was included in the landmark 1929 German photography exhibition Film und Foto, and the early 1930s saw his association with Group f/64, a distinctly West Coast movement of “straight” photographers (as opposed to the East Coast Pictorialist tradition, which was waning at this time) that comprised Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, and others. Brett’s work appeared in their 1932 inaugural exhibition at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. The following year, both San Francisco Stairway and Tin Roofs (presumably the same works discussed in this essay) were included with forty-three other photographs in a solo exhibition at the de Young.

Although Weston saw early success with his work included in major exhibitions, this did not translate into a steady income. Like most artists during the Great Depression, the Federal Art Project – a branch of the Works Progress Administration – employed Weston, first as a sculptor and then later as a photographer. He quit the FAP in December of 1936 after about two and half years because he had no passion for the documentary nature of the work and it impinged upon time for his personal projects, something that he could not bear for long. Throughout the thirties and forties, he worked intermittently – and discontentedly – as a portrait and industrial photographer to stave off poverty and support his daughter who was born in 1938. In complete contrast to the realistic, documentary style of his FAP and commissioned works, an untitled photograph from 1937 is an extreme close-up of paint that is almost organic in appearance, with leaf-like veins in the upper portion of the image. The subject is essentially unrecognizable, which is a defining characteristic of many of Weston’s photographs.

The slim Depression years segued into the tumultuousness of World War II, during which Weston served in the US Army before a much-requested transfer to the US Signal Corps stationed him to work as a photographer in New York. At the end of the war, when Brett returned to Carmel, CA, where the Weston family had made their long-time home, he found his father beginning to show marked symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which would increasingly debilitate the elder Weston in the last decade of his life. Before Edward’s death in 1958, he enlisted his sons Brett and Cole and a small group of trusted assistants to secure his lasting legacy by making thousands of prints under his supervision. In addition to printing work for his father, during this time, Brett also worked on his Guggenheim fellowship project and his second and third portfolios, White Sands (1949) and New York (1954).

Besides photographing the beaches of Carmel, one of which was dubbed “Weston Beach,” Brett also traveled up and down the California coast countless times over the decades. He repeatedly returned to capture the dunes of Oceano, and these images range from sweeping vistas to striking abstractions. An image from 1952, Dune, Oceano, although not technically a detail, falls into the latter category. The dunes appear wave-like and swirling, and a dark, somewhat-menacing shadow at the centre – similar to the roofline image taken in Mexico – provides graphic force. Jellyfish, California, another beach image, taken in 1967, is a close-up of one of the bulbous marine animals washed ashore. In contrast to the ethereal and weightless appearance jellyfish take underwater, it looks monumental and grotesquely beautiful. The curving form expands beyond the picture’s boundaries and in place of luminescence is a gradation of pure white reflections to jet-black striated patterns on the bell.

Although the tendency to work close-up had always been present in Weston’s work, it became much more pronounced and obvious after health issues necessitated a change in camera equipment. For over thirty years, Weston worked with a large format 8 x 10 camera and preferred contact prints (versus enlarging from smaller negatives). However, a heart attack  in 1967 and an ongoing battle with angina forced Weston to switch to a smaller camera because he could no longer manage the bulky equipment. In 1968, he began using the Rollei SL-66 almost exclusively. The camera used roll film that produced small, square negatives and allowed the artist to work close-up with ease. As a result, his work became even more intent on exploring specific elements and abstract qualities. Sand and Kelp from around 1970 is a lyrical example of this. Individual grains of sand are visible and marked by traces of implied movement, both in the dancing shadows of the kelp and the trailing patterns lightly indented into the surface.

While Weston had traveled steadily and as often as he could afford to in his younger years – expeditions that included Europe, Japan, the Pacific Northwest, Baja California, and Mexico – his later years were spent primarily in Hawaii. The tropical climate was beneficial for his health, and the varied terrain provided limitless visual appeal. In 1979, the photographer purchased land there on the slopes of a volcanic mountain. He became especially engrossed with the lava formations and the verdant and spectacular plant life, which he photographed until his death in 1993.

Weston achieved, within his lifetime, the recognition and financial comforts of a highly esteemed photographer. Even so, following his death, Brett’s reputation was eclipsed in favor of his father, due in part to the notion that there wasn’t room for two Westons in the canon of modernist photography. The 2008 exhibition Out of the Shadow (Oklahoma City Museum of Art and The Phillips Collection) and his biography A Restless Eye (2011) have begun to remedy this situation. Significant Details furthers that work by centering on the uncharted, closeup images that characterize Weston’s innate and distinctive eye. These photographs reveal the major themes present in his oeuvre: a focus on natural and urban landscapes and the objects therein, the absence of human presence and apparent narrative, and an extraordinary ability to extract the microcosm from the macrocosm.

Erin Aitali, Director of Exhibitions and Registrar

 

Brett Weston. 'Broken Glass, California' 1954

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Broken Glass, California
1954
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Brett Weston. 'Torn Leaf, Hawaii' 1978

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Torn Leaf, Hawaii
1978
Silver gelatin print
10 3/4 x 12 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Brett Weston. 'Jellyfish, California' 1967

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Jellyfish, California
1967
Silver gelatin print
7 5/8 x 9 5/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Brett Weston. 'Cracked Paint' 1937 (printed later)

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Cracked Paint
1937 (printed later)
Silver gelatin print
12 1/2 x 10 1/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

Like Broken Glass, California (1954, above), this image of cracked paint is an extreme close-up to the point that the subject is indistinguishable. Instead pure form becomes the focus. This intense focus also characterizes Weston’s approach to life; he prioritized his photography above all else, often at the expense of both financial stability and personal relationships (he was married four times and had countless lovers).

In 1937 Weston was living with his first wife, Cicely, in San Francisco who was employed as a violinist in the WPA symphony. Weston had recently quit the WPA because, as he explained in a letter to his father in December 1936, “It has been a good thing in many ways but after 2 1/2 years I feel that I have had enough experience of this kind. I feared it was beginning to tell on me as well as my work. I would rather divorce, starve, anything, than have this happen. The actual work I’ve been doing for the work program has been child’s play but the sacrifice of one’s priceless days… has become too much.”

 

Brett Weston. 'Snow' 1954

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Snow
1954
Silver gelatin print
9 1/2 x 7 5/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

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14
Jan
16

Exhibition: ‘New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933’ at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Exhibition dates: 4th October 2015 – 18th January 2016

 

 

If I had to nominate one period of art that is my favourite, it would be European avant-garde art between 1919 – 1939. The sense of renewed creativity, inventiveness, and sustained enquiry into the nature of things by artists, this texture of reality, just fascinates me. A hyper-sensory, objective sobriety, yes, but more – an opposite, apposite expression of critical, cultural opprobrium that sticks its proboscis into mental and machinic spaces.

The relations between the physical and the psychic are evidenced during this period “as a general movement and multiplicity, rather than just a series of mechanisms.” What surrounds the metaphysical body, its environment, is enacted as a performance upon the body through a “continuous set of relations, multiplicities, speeds, connections. Bodies are only distinguished by certain singularities, which are clarifications of expression drawing together certain multiplicities, under the aegis of an event.” Bodies are (en)acted upon. Conversely, “Just as bodies can be seen as machinic, so too does the machinic depend upon bodies wrought out of vibration [of energy, of ideas] by clarity of expression of events.” They are folded and refolded into each other, in a series of multiplicities and intensities – of architecture and art, of sex and gender, of flagellation and flight – so that  there is a ‘synthesis of heterogeneties’, or hetero(gene)ties that evidence the DNA of our becoming, our diverse difference, our heterogeneic alterity. This folding, this vibration of energy, these clear zones of expression and performance produce this dazzling, de(gene)rate art.1

In this huge posting I have tried to sequence the machinic (the spelling auto correct keeps changing it to “mechanic” which is quite ironic) with the figurative, the painting of architecture with the architectural photograph; the photograph of the sewing machine with the painting of the Paper Machine; the distorted, etched face with the photographic war damaged face; the Modernist housing estate with the alienation of the Picture of Industry. You get the picture. One is folded into the other as performance, as vibration of energy, as (destructive, or creative) ritual of re/production. And there we have the gay lovers, the first transgender woman who dies after operations on her body, the climax – in an erotic sense – of the scar on the woman’s leg in Friedrich Seidenstücker’s Untitled (c. 1930, below) or the blood lines of the eyeball in Herbert Ploberger’s Self-Portrait with Ophthalmological Models (c. 1928-30, below). Or the cool objectiveness of Sander’s photographs – Coal Carrier, Painter’s Wife, The Architect – against the detached titles (The Jeweller, Portrait of a Lawyer, Portrait of an Architect, name of person secondary) but outrageous colours and distortions/elongations of the painted portraits. Fascinating archetypal, subjective/objective correlation.

This is a mad, dangerous, exciting world in which these artists lived, which they mapped and depicted in all its glorious intensity. Flowering one minute, dead the next.

Marcus

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

Further reading: New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933 (135kb pdf)

  1. Some of these ideas came from Murphie, Andrew. “Computers are not theatre: the machine in the ghost in Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s thought,” in Genosko, Gary (ed.,). Deleuze and Guattari: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers. London, Routledge, 2001, pp. 1311-1312

 

 

“German Expressionism is an art which above all, celebrated, inwardness.”

“There’s no contradiction between being a Fascist and being an artist… I’m sorry but there isn’t. It happens that not very many good artists have been Nazis.”

.
Robert Hughes

 

 

Georg Scholz Industrial Peasants (Industriebauern), 1920

 

Georg Scholz (1890-1945)
Industrial Peasants (Industriebauern)
1920
Lithograph on wove paper
15 1/2 × 19 in. (39.4 × 48.3 cm)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by the Robert Gore Rifkind Foundation, Beverly Hills, CA, and the Modern Art Deaccession Fund
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo
© Museum Associates/LACMA

 

Otto Dix Sex Murder (Lustmord), 1922

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Sex Murder (Lustmord)
1922
Etching
10 7/8 x 13 5/8 in. (27.5 x 34.6 cm)
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy Galerie Nierendorf, Berlin

 

Otto Dix 'Card Players' (Kartenspieler), 1920

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Card Players (Kartenspieler)
1920
Drypoint
19 7/8 × 13 1⁄16 in. (50.5 × 32.5 cm)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, purchased with funds provided by the Robert Gore Rifkind Foundation, Beverly Hills, CA, and Helgard Field-Lion and Irwin Field
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © 2015 Museum Associates/LACMA

 

Facial reconstruction WW1

 

Willie Vicarage, suffering facial wounds in the Battle of Jutland 1916 Naval Battle was one of the first men to receive facial reconstruction using plastic surgery. Doctor Harold Gillies created the “tubed pedicle” technique that used a flap of skin from the chest or forehead and swung it into place over the face. The flap remained attached but was stitched into a tube, keeping the original blood supply intact and dramatically reducing the infection rate.

 

 

This photograph is not in the exhibition, but I have included it to show an actual case study of facial reconstruction during WW1. While there were few books in Britain about the war, soldiers injuries and facial reconstruction, Otto Dix produced his seminal portfolio Der Krieg [War] (below).

“Otto Dix was born in 1891 in Untermhaus, Thuringia, the son of an ironworker. He initially trained in Gera and at the Dresden School of Arts and Crafts as a painter of wall decorations and later taught himself how to paint on canvas. He volunteered as a machine-gunner during World War I and in the autumn of 1915 he was sent to the Western Front. He was at the Somme during the major allied offensive of 1916.

After the war he studied at the academies of Dresden and Dusseldorf. Together with George Grosz, he was one of the leading exponents of the artistic movement Die Neue Sachlichkeit [New Objectivity], a form of social realist art which unsentimentally examined the decadence and underlying social inequality of post-war German society. With the rise of the National Socialists in 1933, Dix was dismissed from his teaching post at the Dresden Academy. He moved south to Lake Constance and was only allowed to continue practising as an artist after he agreed to relinquish overtly political subject matter in favour of landscape painting. Dix was conscripted into the army during World War II and in 1945 was captured and put into a prisoner of war camp. He returned to Dresden after the war where his paintings became more religiously reflective of his war-time experiences. He died in 1969.

Der Krieg [War] 1924 arose out of Dix’s own experiences of the horrors of war. As outlined above, he had volunteered for service in the army and fought as a machine-gunner on the Western Front. He was wounded a number of times, once almost fatally. War profoundly affected him as an individual and as an artist, and he took every opportunity, both during his active service and afterwards, to document his experiences. These experiences would become the subject matter of many of his later paintings and are central to the Der Krieg cycle.

Der Krieg itself, as a cycle of prints (51 in total), is consciously modelled on Goya’s [1746-1828] equally famous and equally devastating Los Desastres de la Guerra [The disasters of war]. Los Desastres detailed Goya’s own account of the horrors of the Napoleonic invasion and the Spanish War of Independence from 1808 to 1814. Goya’s cycle of 82 etchings, which he worked on for a decade after the Spanish War of Independence were not, however, published until 1863, long after his death.

Like Los Desastres, Der Krieg uses a variety of etching techniques and does so with an equally astonishing facility. Similarly, it exploits the cumulative possibilities of a long sequence of images and mirrors Goya’s unflinching, stark realism in terms of its fundamental presentation. GH Hamilton describes Dix’s cycle as ‘perhaps the most powerful as well as the most unpleasant anti-war statements in modern art… It was truly this quality of unmitigated truth, truth to the most commonplace and vulgar experiences, as well as the ugly realities of psychological experience, that gave his work a strength and consistency attained by no other contemporary artist, not even by [George] Grosz…’ It has become a commonplace to see this cycle as an admonition against the barbarity of war. And there is no doubt that as a human document it is a powerful cautionary work. At a psychological level, however, its truth goes deeper than this. Dix was both horrified and fascinated by the experience of war…

This nightmarish, hallucinatory quality pervades all of the Der Krieg images. Paradoxically, there is also a quality of sensuousness, an almost perverse delight in the rendering of horrific detail, which indicates that there was perhaps, in Dix’s case, an almost addictive quality to the hyper-sensory input of war. In terms of the general corpus of Dix’s work, Der Krieg occupies a central place amongst the large number of paintings and works-on-paper devoted to the theme of war. The work is astonishingly powerful and, as stated above, it remains one of the most powerful indictments of war ever conceived. It is universally regarded as one of the great masterpieces of twentieth century. Dix’s oeuvre as a whole, and Der Krieg in particular, was hugely influential on a number of other twentieth century artist such as Ben Shahn, Pablo Picasso and Robert Motherwell.”

Mark Henshaw. “The Art of War: Otto Dix’s Der Krieg [War] cycle 1924,” on the National Gallery of Australia website [Online] Cited 07/01/2016

 

Otto Dix Skin Graft (Transplantation) from the portfolio War (Der Krieg), 1924

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Skin Graft (Transplantation) from the portfolio War (Der Krieg)
1924
Etching with aquatint on copperplate paper
18 11/16 x 13 7/8 in. (47.5 x 35.2 cm)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

 

 

“The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933, the first comprehensive show in the United States to explore the themes that characterize the dominant artistic trends of the Weimar Republic. Organized in association with the Museo Correr in Venice, Italy, this exhibition features nearly 200 paintings, photographs, drawings, and prints by more than 50 artists, many of whom are little known in the United States. Key figures – Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad, August Sander, and Max Beckmann – whose heterogeneous careers are essential to understanding 20th century German modernism, are presented together with lesser known artists, including Herbert Ploberger, Hans Finsler, Georg Schrimpf, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Carl Grossberg, and Aenne Biermann, among others. Special attention is devoted to the juxtaposition of painting and photography, offering the rare opportunity to examine both the similarities and differences between the movement’s diverse media.

During the 14 years of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), artists in Germany grappled with the devastating aftermath of World War I: the social, cultural, and economic effects of rapid modernization and urbanization; staggering unemployment and despair; shifting gender identities; and developments in technology and industry. Situated between the end of World War I and the Nazi assumption of power, Germany’s first democracy thrived as a laboratory for widespread cultural achievement, witnessing the end of Expressionism, the exuberant anti-art activities of the Dadaists, the establishment of the Bauhaus design school, and the emergence of a new realism.

This new turn to realism, best recognized by a 1925 exhibition in Mannheim, Neue Sachlichkeit (of which New Objectivity is the English translation), has at times been called Post-Expressionism, neo-naturalism, Verism, and Magic Realism. The diverse group of artists associated with this new realism was not unified by manifesto, political tendency, or geography, they shared a skepticism regarding the direction Germany society was taking in the years following World War I and an awareness of the human isolation these changes brought about.

Germany’s financial, sociopolitical, and emotional defeat in WWI took a profound toll on the nation. In contrast to their Expressionist predecessors – who had enthusiastically embraced the war before confronting its harrowing realities on the battlefield – practitioners of the New Objectivity movement were disillusioned with the complex realities of the new Germany. Digressing from Expressionism’s penchant for bold, abstract subjectivity, the Weimar Republic’s burgeoning group of artists favored realism, precision, objective sobriety, and the appropriation of Old Master painting techniques, including a nostalgic return to portraiture and heightened attention to the appearance of surface…

 

Hans Finlser Eggs on a Plate (Eier auf Teller), 1929

 

Hans Finlser (1891-1972)
Eggs on a Plate (Eier auf Teller)
1929
Gelatin silver print
9 9/16 x 6 13/16 in. (24.3 x 17.3 cm)
Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle (Saale)
© 2015 Finsler Estate, Stiftung Moritzburg Halle (Saale), Kunstmuseum des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt

 

Hans Finsler Electric Bulb with Parts of the Socket (Elektrische Birne mit Teilen der Fassung), 1928

 

Hans Finsler (1891-1972)
Electric Bulb with Parts of the Socket (Elektrische Birne mit Teilen der Fassung)
1928
Vintage print
8 5/8 x 5 7/8 in. (21.9 x 14.9 cm)
Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle (Saale)
© 2015 Finsler Estate, Stiftung Moritzburg Halle (Saale), Kunstmuseum des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt

 

 

Born in Munich, Hans Finsler was a gifted teacher of photography in Switzerland from the 1920s to the 1950s, where he taught students the vocabulary of modernism and its strength of vision. Finsler was also well-known for his stylish and innovative commercial work reflecting the contemporary Neue Sachlichkeit (New Vision) aesthetic of describing machinery, architecture and manufactured products with clarity and respect. His private work, however, was more profound and philosophical. He experimented tirelessly with simple and elemental forms, developing theories of motion and stillness with highlights and shadows, often using eggs as his principal subject matter. Finsler’s photographs were exhibited in the important exhibition Film und Foto in Stuttgart in 1929.

 

Carl Grossberg The Yellow Boiler (Der Gelbe Kessel), 1933

 

Carl Grossberg (1894-1940)
The Yellow Boiler (Der Gelbe Kessel)
1933
Oil on wood
37 x 29 in. (94 x 73.7 cm)
Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal, Germany
Photo courtesy Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal, Germany

 

Carl Grossberg The Paper Machine (Die Papiermaschine), 1934

 

Carl Grossberg (1894-1940)
The Paper Machine (Die Papiermaschine)
1934
Oil on wood
35 7/16 x 45 11/16 in. (90 x 116 cm)
Private collection
Photo by Benjamin Hasenclever, Munich

 

Wanda von Debschitz-Kunowski Sewing Machine (Nähmaschine), c. 1930

 

Wanda von Debschitz-Kunowski (1870-1935)
Sewing Machine (Nähmaschine)
c. 1930
Photograph
7 7/16 x 5 5/16 in. (18.9 x 15.1 cm)
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
Photo: Galerie Berinson, Berlin

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch Flat Irons for Shoe Manufacture, Fagus Factory I (Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Fagus-Werk, Alfeld), 1926

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch
Flat Irons for Shoe Manufacture, Fagus Factory I (Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Fagus-Werk, Alfeld)
1926
Gelatin silver print
9 x 6 5/8 in. (22.9 x 16.8 cm)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2015 Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv/Ann u. Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

We still don’t sufficiently appreciate the opportunity to capture the magic of material things. The structure of wood, stone, and metal can be shown with a perfection beyond the means of painting… …To do justice to modern technology’s rigid linear structure…… only photography is capable of that.

So wrote Albert Renger-Patzsch in 1927 about the camera’s innate ability to depict the Industrial Age. Here he studied the materials of identically shaped, finished wooden handles and industrially produced steel heads, while also representing the flatirons as an army of tools standing at attention like bowling pins. Renger-Patzsch’s photograph celebrates the beauty of the commonplace object. (Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website)

 

Renger-Patzsch was born in Würzburg and began making photographs by age twelve. After military service in the First World War he studied chemistry at Dresden Technical College. In the early 1920s he worked as a press photographer for the Chicago Tribune before becoming a freelancer and, in 1925, publishing a book, The choir stalls of Cappenberg. He had his first museum exhibition in 1927. A second book followed in 1928, Die Welt ist schön (The World is Beautiful). This, his best-known book, is a collection of one hundred of his photographs in which natural forms, industrial subjects and mass-produced objects are presented with the clarity of scientific illustrations. The book’s title was chosen by his publisher; Renger-Patzsch’s preferred title for the collection was Die Dinge (“Things”).

In its sharply focused and matter-of-fact style his work exemplifies the esthetic of The New Objectivity that flourished in the arts in Germany during the Weimar Republic. Like Edward Weston in the United States, Renger-Patzsch believed that the value of photography was in its ability to reproduce the texture of reality, and to represent the essence of an object. He wrote: “The secret of a good photograph – which, like a work of art, can have esthetic qualities – is its realism … Let us therefore leave art to artists and endeavor to create, with the means peculiar to photography and without borrowing from art, photographs which will last because of their photographic qualities.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Wilhelm Lachnit Worker with Machine (Arbeiter mit Maschine), 1924–28

 

Wilhelm Lachnit (1899-1962)
Worker with Machine (Arbeiter mit Maschine)
1924-28
Oil on wood
19 11/16 x 20 1/2 in. (50 x 52 cm)
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie
© 2015 Estate of Wilhelm Lachnit
Photo: bpk, Berlin/Staatliche Museen/Jörg P. Anders/Art Resource, NY

 

 

Lachnit was born in the small town of Gittersee; his family moved to Dresden in 1906. He studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule Dresden under Richard Guhr, and later at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, where he was acquainted with and influenced by Otto Dix, Conrad Felixmüller, and Otto Griebel. He joined the Communist Party of Germany in 1924 and was active in producing various forms of Agitprop throughout the 1920s. He co-founded the “Neue Gruppe” with Hans Grundig, Otto Griebel, and Fritz Skade; successful exhibitions in Paris, Düsseldorf, Ansterdam, and Dresden followed.

After the Nazis seized power in 1933, Lachnit’s work was declared “degenerate” and confiscated by authorities. During this period he was not allowed to make art and worked as an exhibition designer. Much of his confiscated work was destroyed during the February 1945 firebombing of Dresden. His 1923 watercolours Man and Woman in the Window and “Girl at Table” were found in the 2012 Nazi loot discovery. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

Hans Mertens Still Life with Household Appliances (Stilleben mit Hausgeräten), 1928

 

Hans Mertens (1906-1944)
Still Life with Household Appliances (Stilleben mit Hausgeräten)
1928
Oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 27 9/16 in. (65 x 70 cm)
Sprengel Museum Hannover
Photo: bpk, Berlin/Sprengel Museum/Aline Gwose/Art Resource, NY

 

Herbert Ploberger Dressing Table (Toilettentisch), 1926

 

Herbert Ploberger (1902-1977)
Dressing Table (Toilettentisch)
1926
Oil on canvas
17 11/16 x 27 9/16 in. (45 x 70 cm)
Private collection
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/Bildrecht, Vienna
Photo by Benjamin Hasenclever, Munich

 

Arthur Köster St. Georgs-Garten Housing Settlement, Architect Otto Haesler (St. Georgs-Garten Siedlung, Architekt Otto Haesler), 1920s

 

Arthur Köster (1890-1960)
St. Georgs-Garten Housing Settlement, Architect Otto Haesler (St. Georgs-Garten Siedlung, Architekt Otto Haesler)
1920s
Vintage print
8 13/16 x 6 3/4 in. (22.4 x 17.2 cm)
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo: Galerie Berinson, Berlin

 

Karl Völker Picture of Industry (Industriebild), c. 1924

 

Karl Völker (1889-1962)
Picture of Industry (Industriebild)
c. 1924
Oil on canvas
36 5/8 x 36 5/8 in. (93 x 93 cm)
Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle (Saale)
© Klaus Völker
Photo: Klaus E. Göltz

 

Unknown photographer. 'Karl Völker' early 1930s

 

Unknown photographer
Karl Völker
early 1930s
Silver gelatin photograph

 

This photograph is not in the exhibition. It looks like the man at left in the painting above, possibly a self-portrait.

 

George Grosz Construction (Untitled) (Konstruktion [Ohne Titel]), 1920

 

George Grosz (1893-1959)
Construction (Untitled) (Konstruktion [Ohne Titel])
1920
Oil on canvas
31 7/8 x 24 in. (81 x 61 cm)
Stiftung Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
Art © 2015 Estate of George Grosz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Photo: Walter Klein

 

In Grosz’s Germany, everything and everybody is for sale. All human transactions, except for the class solidarity of the workers, are poisoned. The world is owned by four breeds of pig: the capitalist, the officer, the priest and the hooker, whose other form is the sociable wife. He was one of the hanging judges of art.  – Robert Hughes

 

 

 

This is a documentary from 1993 by David Grubin (written, produced, and directed) about the art exhibit under the Nazi regime of what they considered to be the most corrupting and corrosive examples of what they called ‘Entartete Kunst’ or ‘Degenerate Art.’ The exhibit, which opened in July of 1937, was meant to be laughed at and despised. I ran across it in a class on Modernism and Post-Modernism. The film is not generally available at the time of this writing (other than on VHS). Personally, I could think of no better backdrop for the ideas and pathos of expressionist art than Nazi Germany, shown by a great deal of actual footage (most provided by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art – they had an exhibit of their own based on the event that same year). The music is similarly striking, including Schoenberg, Hindemith, and Wagner.

“You know, one of the, most grotesque kind of, unintended results of this…. I remember seeing as a kid one of the newsreels of the liberation of the camps… I never forgot that shot of the bulldozer rolling the mass of starved corpses, the typhoid dead, the murdered, into this mass grave… and it always comes back to me strangely enough when I look at the distortion and elongation in German, in certain German expressionist pictures… as though the, uh, the aesthetic distortions of expressionism had been made real, absolute and concrete on the real suffering human body by the Nazis, you know as though this was some kind of climactic work of art which ended up mimicking what they had attempted to suppress.  This is a very superficial way of looking at it, I know, because it leaves out the actual content of the suffering, but for a, a gentile boy seeing that in Australia, forty-some years ago… uh, on a grainy movie – I compare the two images and I can’t help thinking of it.” – Robert Hughes, 50:52

 

Anton Räderscheidt Man with Bowler (Mann mit steifem Hut), 1922

 

Anton Räderscheidt (1892-1970)
Man with Bowler (Mann mit steifem Hut)
1922
Oil on canvas
19 11/16 × 15 3/4 in. (50 × 40 cm)
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn,
Photo © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

 

In 1934-1935 Räderscheidt lived in Berlin. He fled to France in 1936, and settled in Paris, where his work became more colorful, curvilinear and rhythmic. He was interned by the occupation authorities in 1940, but he escaped to Switzerland. In 1949 he returned to Cologne and resumed his work, producing many paintings of horses shortly before adopting an abstract style in 1957.

 

Werner Mantz Entrance to an Apartment Block in the Cologne–Kalkerfeld Housing Settlement (Eingang in einen Wohnblock in der Siedlung Köln–Kalkerfeld), 1928

 

Werner Mantz (1901-1983)
Entrance to an Apartment Block in the Cologne-Kalkerfeld Housing Settlement (Eingang in einen Wohnblock in der Siedlung Köln-Kalkerfeld)
1928
Gelatin silver print
15 3/16 × 8 3/4 in. (38.6 × 22.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, image source: Art Resource, NY

 

During the 1920s and ’30s Mantz photographed functionalist architecture such as houses, factories, bridge constructions and motorways. The pictures are extremely detailed, and with their bold cropping and angles they profit from architecture’s geometric and modern idiom. Mantz later moved to the Netherlands where he set up a portrait studio.

 

Franz Radziwill The Handtowel (Das Handtuch), 1933

 

Franz Radziwill (1895-1983)
The Handtowel (Das Handtuch)
1933
Oil on canvas on wood
20 7/8 x 17 11/16 in. (53 x 45 cm)
Radziwill Sammlung Claus Hüppe, courtesy Kunsthalle Emden
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo by Fotostudio Blatterspiel & Haftstein, Wardenburg

 

Radziwill spent most of his life in the North Sea resort Dangast at Varel on Jadebusen. During the period of National Socialism he had repeatedly been banned from exhibiting, three of his early works were shown in the exhibition “Entartete Kunst”. Despite the exhibition ban he was committed to Nazism and was a functionary of the Nazi Party. He addressed the tension between art and nature.

 

Aenne Biermann Ficus elastic: Rubber Plant (Ficus elastic: Gummibaum), c. 1927

 

Aenne Biermann (1898-1933)
Ficus elastic: Rubber Plant (Ficus elastic: Gummibaum)
c. 1927
Gelatin silver print
18 2/5 x 13 3/4 in. (46.7 x 35 cm)
Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne
Photo: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Fotoarchiv

 

Biermann’s photographs of minerals transformed her practice from the early personal views of her children to the close-up, direct studies of form that would define her photographs of plants and people that followed and make her a central figure in New Objectivity photography. Thus 1926 began a period of intense productivity for Biermann that lasted until her untimely death, from liver disease, at the age of thirty-five, in 1933.

 

George Scholz Cacti and Semaphore (Kakteen und Semaphore), 1923

 

George Scholz (1890-1945)
Cacti and Semaphore (Kakteen und Semaphore)
1923
Oil on hardboard
27 3/16 x 20 9/16 in. (69 x 52.3 cm)
LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo: LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur (Westfälisches Landesmuseum), Münster/Rudolf Wakonigg

 

Franz Radziwill The Harbor II (Der Hafen II), 1930

 

Franz Radziwill (1895-1983)
The Harbor II (Der Hafen II)
1930
Oil on canvas
29 15/16 x 39 3/16 in. (76 x 99.5 cm)
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo: bpk, Berlin/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie/Klaus Goeken/Art Resource, NY

 

Franz Radziwill The Street (Die StrasseI), 1928

 

Franz Radziwill (1895-1983)
The Street (Die StrasseI)
1928
Oil on canvas
31 11/16 x 33 7/8 in. (80.5 x 86 cm)
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

 

 

New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933 is organized into five thematic sections: Life in Democracy and the Aftermath of the War examines both the polar conditions dividing Germany’s rising bourgeoisie and those who suffered most from the war’s aftereffects, including maimed war veterans, the unemployed, prostitutes, and victims of political corruption and violence; The City and the Nature of Landscape addresses the growing disparity between an increasingly industrialized urbanity and nostalgic longing for the pastoral; Still Life and Commodities highlights a new form of the traditional still life in which quotidian objects – often indicative of mass production – are staged to create object-portraits; Man and Machine looks to artists’ attempts to reconcile the transformative yet dehumanizing effects of rapid industrialization; and lastly, New Identities: Type and Portraiture showcases a new trend in portraiture in which subjects are rendered as social typecasts rather than individual subjects.

Stephanie Barron, Exhibition Curator and Senior Curator of Modern Art at LACMA, said, “Close examinations of this period still yield new insights into a complicated chapter in modern German art. With very different backgrounds, these artists – some among the most well-known artists of the century, while others are virtually unknown outside Germany – eschewed emotion, gesture, and ecstasy, and sought instead to record and unmask the world around them with a close, impersonal, restrained gaze. Together, they created a collective portrait of a society in uneasy transition, in images that are as striking today as they were in their own time.”

“Contemporary art and popular culture alike are preoccupied with documenting ‘the real,’ and it is worth taking a fresh look at how artists in the 1920s dealt with the uses of realism in a time of postwar uncertainty,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “We hope that New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933 will shed new light on this important intersection of art, politics, and modernization that marks one of the most crucial periods of the 20th century.”

Press release from LACMA

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

 

Installation photograph, New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933, with photo mural showing the exterior of famous Berlin nightclub Eldorado, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October 4, 2015 – January 18, 2016, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

 

Installation photograph, New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933, showing photographs by Albert Renger-Patzsch (left), Aenne Biermann (centre top) and Hans Finsler (centre bottom), and Hans Finsler (right top) and Gerda Leo (bottom right), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October 4, 2015 – January 18, 2016, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

 

Installation photograph, New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933, showing photographs by August Sander.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933' at LACMA

 

Installation photograph, New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933, showing Aenne Biermann, Woman with Monocle (Dame mit Monokel), c. 1928 at left, with photographs by Friedrich Seidenstücker (right top) and Franz Roh (right bottom)

 

 

Exhibition themes

New Objectivity is divided into five sections that address the competing and, at times, conflicting approaches that the adherents to this new realism applied to the turbulent and ever-changing Weimar years.

The first section, Life in the Democracy and the Aftermath of the War, highlights the disparity between victims of the Weimar Republic and the growing bourgeoisie that benefited from the deprivation of that period. Artists such as Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz, August Sander, and Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, portrayed urban landscapes highlighting postwar outcasts and their environs: the unemployed, disfigured, victims of violence, and prostitutes are set amid backdrops of bordellos, street corners and other scenes fraught with menace. In contrast, the Weimar Republic’s burgeoning upper class was often depicted as corrupt and ruthless. Davringhausen’s The Profiteer (1920-21), for example, caricatures a common social type of the early Weimar era: the exploitative businessman making his fortune during the period of hyperinflation. Davringhausen places his profiteer on the top floor of a skyscraper in a long, narrow room filled with windows that appear to be left open, as if there may be the danger of falling out. The brick red walls add to the psychological intensity of the hyper-modern space, in which the well-dressed businessman sits at his desk, enjoying a glass of wine and a cigar as he stares out dispassionately, avoiding the viewer’s gaze.

In The City and the Nature of Landscape, artists respond to the tensions caused by the effects of industrialization, which bled from cities into rural areas. As factories and jobs proliferated, Germany experienced a mass migration of its population from the countryside to urban areas. The notion of the city became associated with the future while the rural was nostalgically regarded as the past, and those who experienced the transition of migration were subject to feelings of displacement. The complex relationship between the urban and rural reflected the disparate conditions of the Weimar Republic. In addition to artists such as Leonhard Schmidt, Gustav Wunderwald, Erich Wegner, Georg Scholz, and Anton Räderscheidt, this section features Arthur Köster, whose photographs of architect Otto Haesler’s Georgsgarten Siedlung represented architectural spaces using high-contrast lighting and experimental framing. In St. Georgs-Garten Siedlung, Architekt Otto Haesler, Köster’s human subjects, dwarfed by the buildings’ geometric rigor and frozen in the composition’s overriding sense of stillness, suggest an apprehension toward the new, modernized Germany; meanwhile, his images portraying the green spaces of Georgsgarten Siedlung distill nature through the lens of industry.

Still Life and Commodities proposes a new form of the still life, meticulously staged compositions that might be called object-portraits. Zeroing in on disparate, banal objects of everyday life, these images represent things as markers of modernity and mass production. This section sees a recurring motif of cacti and rubber plants – “exotic” plants that were common in households at the time – and includes work by Aenne Biermann, Georg Scholz, Albert Renger-Patzsch, and Finsler, among others.

Man and Machine, the penultimate section of New Objectivity, highlights artists’ attention to the Weimar Republic’s advancements in technology and industry. While some were skeptical about the lack of humanity found within networks of new machinery, others acknowledged the transformative power of technologies and sought new ways of conceiving man’s relationship to industry. Photography plays a key role in this section, not only commenting on its newly accepted position as an art form, but also serving as a key influence for painters such as Carl Grossberg, who executed paintings of factories with photographic precision as seen in Paper Machine (1934). Additionally, some artists, such as Renger-Patzch, attempted to bridge the psychological divide between the natural and the industrial by drawing structural parallels between machinery and botany.

The final section of New Objectivity is dedicated to New Identities: Type and Portraiture, which examines the way artists including Beckmann, Dix, Schad, and their peers turned to portraiture. While diverse in approach, the portraits featured numerous commonalities, including social typecasting, unsentimental renderings, and self-portraiture. Dominating these portraits are depictions of other artists, writers, and performers, the working class, and marginalized members of society as well as newly established types specific to the period, such as the war veteran and the “new woman.” One of the most iconic images to derive from this new trend informal realism is Max Beckmann’s Self-Portrait in Tuxedo (1927) in which he wears a smoking jacket and its class connotations like a costume and stares brazenly at the viewer. Another of the most important practitioners of this new portraiture is August Sander, who photographed his many subjects in somber, unexpressive poses, which he then arranged according to profession. The faces captured in his unfinished series – his subjects are only rarely identified by name – form an indelible archive of Weimar society.

Text from the LACMA press release

 

Die Insel (The Island), L–R: June 1928, July 1930, April 1931

 

Die Insel (The Island), L-R: June 1928, July 1930, April 1931
Schwules Museum, Berlin
Photo by Nana Bahlmann

 

Die Freundin (The Girlfriend), September 1932, and Liebende Frauen (Women in Love), 1929

 

Die Freundin (The Girlfriend), September 1932, and Liebende Frauen (Women in Love), 1929
Spinnboden Berlin
Photo by Nana Bahlmann

 

Lili Elbe. Ein Mensch wechseit sein Geschlecht (Man into Woman The First Sex Change), 1932, edited by Niels Hoyer

 

Niels Hoyer (editor)
Lili Elbe. Ein Mensch wechseit sein Geschlecht (Man into Woman The First Sex Change)

1932
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Photo by Nana Bahlmann

 

 

Lili Ilse Elvenes, better known as Lili Elbe (28 December 1882 – 13 September 1931), was a Danish transgender woman and one of the first identifiable recipients of sex reassignment surgery. Elbe was born Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener and was a successful artist under that name. She also presented as Lili, sometimes spelled Lily, and was publicly introduced as Einar’s sister. After transitioning, however, she made a legal name change to Lili Ilse Elvenes and stopped painting.

Elbe met Gerda Gottlieb at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, and they married in 1904, when Gottlieb was 19 and Wegener was 22. The two of them worked as illustrators, with Elbe specializing in landscape paintings, while Gottlieb illustrated books and fashion magazines. They both traveled through Italy and France, eventually settling in Paris in 1912, where Elbe could live openly as a woman, and Gottlieb a lesbian. Elbe received the Neuhausens prize in 1907 and exhibited at Kunstnernes Efterårsudstilling (the Artists Fall Exhibition), at the Vejle Art Museum, and in the Saloon and Salon d’Automme in Paris. She is represented at Vejle Art Museum in Denmark.

Elbe started dressing in women’s clothes one day filling in for Gottlieb’s absentee model; she was asked to wear stockings and heels so her legs could substitute for those of the model. Elbe felt surprisingly comfortable in the clothing. Over time, Gottlieb became famous for her paintings of beautiful women with haunting almond-shaped eyes dressed in chic fashions. In 1913, the unsuspecting public was shocked to discover that the model who had inspired Gottlieb’s depictions of petites femmes fatales was in fact Gottlieb’s spouse, “Elbe”.

In 1930, Elbe went to Germany for sex reassignment surgery, which was experimental at the time. A series of four operations was carried out over a period of two years. The first surgery, removal of the testicles, was made under the supervision of sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin. The rest of Elbe’s surgeries were carried out by Kurt Warnekros, a doctor at the Dresden Municipal Women’s Clinic. The second operation was to implant an ovary onto her abdominal musculature, the third to remove the penis and the scrotum, and the fourth to transplant a uterus and construct a vaginal canal. At the time of Elbe’s last surgery, her case was already a sensation in newspapers of Denmark and Germany. A Danish court invalidated the Wegeners’ marriage in October 1930, and Elbe managed to get her sex and name legally changed, including receiving a passport as Lili Ilse Elvenes…

In June 1931, Elbe had her fourth operation, which consisted of a uterus transplant and the construction of a vagina, both of which were new and experimental procedures at that time. She died three months after the surgery due to heart paralysis caused by the uterus transplant.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Der Eigene (The Unique), 1925

 

Der Eigene (The Unique)
1925
Schwules Museum, Berlin
Photo by Nana Bahlmann

 

Christian Schad Boys in Love (Liebende Knaben), 1929

 

Christian Schad (1894-1982)
Boys in Love (Liebende Knaben)
1929
Silverpoint
11 13/16 x 9 1/4 in. (30 x 23.5 cm)
Museen der Stadt Aschaffenburg, Christian Schad Stiftung Aschaffenburg, Leihgabe der Kurt-Gerd-Kunkel Stiftung Aschaffenburg, MSA Dep. KGKS 1/1986
© 2015 Christian-Schad-Stiftung Aschaffenburg/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Christian Schad Self-Portrait (Selbstbildnis mit Modell), 1927

 

Christian Schad (1894-1982)
Self-Portrait (Selbstbildnis mit Modell)
1927
Oil on wood
29 15/16 x 24 3/16 in. (76 x 61.5 cm)
Private collection, courtesy of Tate
© 2015 Christian Schad Stiftung Aschaffenburg/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo by Benjamin Hasenclever, Munich

 

 

Christian Schad (August 21, 1894 – February 25, 1982) was a German painter associated with Dada and the New Objectivity movement. Considered as a group, Schad’s portraits form an extraordinary record of life in Vienna and Berlin in the years following World War I.

Schad’s art was not condemned by the Nazis in the way that the work of Otto Dix, George Grosz, Max Beckmann, and many other artists of the New Objectivity movement was; this may have been because of his lack of commercial success. He became interested in Eastern philosophy around 1930, and his artistic production declined precipitously. After the crash of the New York stock market in 1929, Schad could no longer rely on his father’s financial support, and he largely stopped painting in the early 1930s. In 1937, unknown to him, the Museum of Modern Art showed three Schadographs, given by Tristan Tzara, in a show about Dada and Surrealism. The same year, Nazis included Schad in Great German Art, their antidote to the Degenerate Art show.

Schad lived in obscurity in Germany through the war and after it. After the destruction of his studio in 1943 Schad moved to Aschaffenburg. The city commissioned him to copy Matthias Grünewald’s Virgin and Child (Stuppach, parish church), a project on which he worked until 1947. Schad continued to paint in the 1950s in Magic Realist style and returned in the 1960s to experiments with photograms. Schad’s reputation did not begin to recover until the 1960s, when a couple of shows in Europe dovetailed with the rise of Photorealism. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Rudolf Schlichter Meeting of Fetishists and Maniacal Flagellants (Zusammenkunft von Fetischisten und manischen Flagellanten), c. 1921

 

Rudolf Schlichter (1890-1955)
Meeting of Fetishists and Maniacal Flagellants (Zusammenkunft von Fetischisten und manischen Flagellanten)
c. 1921
Watercolor on paper
17 5/16 x 10 3/4 in. (43.9 x 27.3 cm)
Private Collection
© Viola Roehr v. Alvensleben, Munich
Photo by Christian Wirth, Munich

 

Meeting of Fetishists and Maniacal Flagellants (1921) is a group fantasy of clothed males, half-naked women, old men masturbating and young women with knee-high boots flashing what Mick Jagger once called “far away eyes”.

 

Gert Wollheim Untitled (Couple) (Ohne Titel [Paar]), 1926

 

Gert Wollheim (1894-1974)
Untitled (Couple) (Ohne Titel [Paar])
1926
Oil on canvas
39 1/2 x 29 1/2 in. (100.3 x 74.9 cm)
The Jewish Museum, New York, gift of Charlotte Levite in memory of Julius Nassau, 1990-130
Photo: The Jewish Museum, New York/Art Resource, NY by John Parnell

 

Immediately after Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 his works were declared degenerate art and many were destroyed. He fled to France and became active in the Resistance. He was one of the co-founders of the artists’ federation, the Union des Artistes Allemandes Libres, an organization of exiled German artists founded in Paris in autumn 1937. In that same year, he became the companion of the dancer Tatjana Barbakoff. Meanwhile, in Munich, three of his pictures were displayed in the defamatory Nazi exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) in 1937.

From Paris, he fled to Saarbrücken and later to Switzerland. He was arrested in 1939 and held in a series of labor camps in France (Vierzon, Ruchard, Gurs and Septfonds) until his escape in 1942, after which he and his wife hid in the Pyrénées with the help of a peasant woman. At war’s end in 1945 he returned to France, and in 1947 moved to New York and became an American citizen. He died in New York in 1974. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

 

Homosexuality Is a German Invention

Nana Bahlmann, Assistant Curator, Contemporary Exhibitions

December 14, 2015

Homosexuality was invented in Germany? While this might at first sound like a rather preposterous proposition, the idea of an identity based on a fixed sexual orientation did indeed originate in Germany. The public discourse and political movement supporting this idea also started in Germany, in Berlin in particular, and not, as one might assume, in London or New York. As Robert Beachy describes in his recent groundbreaking book Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity (2014), even the term HOMOSEXUALITÄT itself was a German invention, first appearing in a German language pamphlet in 1869. Although the origins of the movement date back to the 19th century, it was during the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), with its new social and democratic freedoms, that gay life experienced its unprecedented heyday. Despite the fact that sexual acts between men (women were simply not addressed) were still criminalized by Paragraph 175 of the penal code, homosexual men and women were able to express their identity more visibly than ever before. By the mid-1920s, around fifty thousand gays and lesbians lived in Berlin. With its countless nightclubs and meeting points for homosexuals, bisexuals, or transvestites, the city became a true “Eldorado” for this growing and vibrant community.

Our exhibition, New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933 (on view until January 18, 2016), devotes a whole section to these new social identities of the Weimar Republic. Here you will find stunning paintings and photographs depicting the so-called New Woman, with her bob, monocle, cigarette, and overall masculine demeanor, next to striking renderings of even more androgynous types, whose gender identity is ambiguous and even inscrutable at times. Look at Gert Wollheim’s Couple (1926, above), for instance, who might have come straight out of the popular nightclub Eldorado. With its transvestite hostesses, the infamous establishment attracted an illustrious crowd from all over Europe and featured performances by the likes of Marlene Dietrich. A contemporary visitor described the clientele of the famous cabaret as follows: “… you had lesbians looking like beautiful women, lesbians dressed exactly like men and looking like men. You had men dressed like women so you couldn’t possibly recognize they were men (…) Then you would see couples dancing and wouldn’t know anymore what it was.”

Or look at Christian Schad’s extraordinary Boys in Love (1929, above). This exquisite silverpoint drawing is a rare rendering of male homosexuality. The tenderness of the embrace is astonishing and congruent with the delicate subject matter. The loving intimacy between men so sensitively represented here seems even more provocative than a more explicit depiction of homosexual acts.

To illustrate the vast and far-reaching discourse surrounding the new identities of the Weimar Republic and to introduce the main protagonists defining and steering the movement, we are presenting books, magazines, and other ephemeral objects alongside the artworks. The vitrines in the exhibition include publications by the influential physician and sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, a pioneer and principal advocate of homosexual and transgender rights. The so-called “Einstein of Sex” founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the first gay-rights organization and gathered more than five thousand signatures to overturn Paragraph 175. His prolific empirical research resulted in the publication of several anthologies examining gender and sexual identity and in the founding of the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin, a museum, clinic, meeting point, and research center. There, in 1930, the first sex reassignment surgery in history was performed on Lili Elbe (previously Einar Wegener). This process is chronicled in the book Man into Woman, also displayed in the exhibition and the basis for the film The Danish Girl directed by Tom Hooper, which is currently playing in theaters across America.

Shining a light on the various publications – over thirty at the time – for homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, and transvestites, a selection of the most important gay and lesbian magazines is also presented in these vitrines. They include Der Eigene (The Unique), the first gay journal in the world. Published from 1896 until 1932 by Adolf Brand, it featured texts about politics and homosexual rights, literature, art, and culture, as well as aesthetic nude photography. Der Eigene was followed by many other gay magazines like Friedrich Radzuweit’s Die Insel (The Island). Surprisingly, these publications were displayed publicly and sold at newsstands alongside other mainstream papers. They included advertisements and announcements for various kinds of nightspots and meeting points, catering to the respective preferences of their readers.

Throughout the 1920s, Radzuweit, who was also an important homosexual rights activist and author, established a publishing network for gay and lesbian magazines. In 1924 he issued Die Freundin (The Girlfriend: Journal for Ideal Friendship between Women), the first lesbian magazine, for instance, and later Das dritte Geschlecht (The Third Gender). After his death in 1932, his son Martin took over the business. Other lesbian magazines presented here are Liebende Frauen (Women in Love), and Frauenliebe (Women Love).

With Hitler’s assumption of power in 1933, the vibrant movement came to an abrupt and brutal end. The Nazis immediately raided Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Research and burned its archives. Wisely, Hirschfeld had not returned from a speaking tour and remained in exile until his death in 1935. Gay publications and organizations were banned and homosexuals were incarcerated, sent to concentration camps, or murdered; the Nazis eradicated the achievements and memories of this pioneering movement in Germany. We are happy to bring it back to life here in our exhibition at LACMA.

Nana Bahlmann. “Homosexuality Is a German Invention,” on the LACMA website, December 14, 2015 [Online] Cited 06/02/2016.

 

Georg Schrimpf Reclining Girls in the Countryside (Liegende Mädchen im Grünen), 1930

 

Georg Schrimpf (1889-1938)
Reclining Girls in the Countryside (Liegende Mädchen im Grünen)
1930
Oil on canvas
21 1/4 × 39 3/4 in. (54 × 101 cm)
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Photo © 2015 Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

 

Friedrich Seidenstücker Untitled, c. 1930

 

Friedrich Seidenstücker (1882-1966)
Untitled
c. 1930
Vintage print
6 15/16 x 5 1/16 in. (17.6 x 12.9 cm)
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
Photo: Galerie Berinson, Berlin

 

Friedrich Seidenstücker (1882-1966) is noted for his atmospheric photographs of everyday life in Berlin during the Weimar Republic. Thanks to his compassionate studies of animals, he has an almost legendary reputation among animal and zoo lovers, and his haunting pictures of Berlin in ruins are a precious source of material for historians. His images seem to be spontaneous, sympathetic examples of the kind of photography that excels at capturing the moment. They are free of any exaggeration or extravagance, and display a sense of humor rarely found in photography. His work is buoyed by a fundamental optimism, yet it does not ignore the harshness, poverty, and suffering that prevailed at that time.

 

Max Beckmann Paris Society (Gesellschaft Paris), 1931

 

Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Paris Society (Gesellschaft Paris)
1931
Oil on canvas
43 × 69 1/8 in (109.2 × 175.6 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn,
Photo © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York

 

 

“My pictures reproach God for his errors.”

“We have to lay our hearts bare, to the cries of people who have been lied to.”

Max Beckmann

 

Unlike several of his avant-garde contemporaries, Beckmann rejected non-representational painting; instead, he took up and advanced the tradition of figurative painting. He greatly admired not only Cézanne and Van Gogh, but also Blake, Rembrandt, and Rubens, as well as Northern European artists of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, such as Bosch, Bruegel, and Matthias Grünewald. His style and method of composition are partially rooted in the imagery of medieval stained glass.

Engaging with the genres of portraiture, landscape, still life, and history painting, his diverse body of work created a very personal but authentic version of modernism, one with a healthy deference to traditional forms. Beckmann reinvented the religious triptych and expanded this archetype of medieval painting into an allegory of contemporary humanity.

From his beginnings in the fin de siècle to the period after World War II, Beckmann reflected an era of radical changes in both art and history in his work. Many of Beckmann’s paintings express the agonies of Europe in the first half of the 20th century. Some of his imagery refers to the decadent glamor of the Weimar Republic’s cabaret culture, but from the 1930s on, his works often contain mythologized references to the brutalities of the Nazis. Beyond these immediate concerns, his subjects and symbols assume a larger meaning, voicing universal themes of terror, redemption, and the mysteries of eternity and fate. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Kurt Günter Portrait of a Boy (Knabenbildnis), 1928

 

Kurt Günther (1893-1955)
Portrait of a Boy (Knabenbildnis)
1928
Tempera on wood
18 7/8 x 14 9/16 in. (48 x 37 cm)
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo: bpk, Berlin/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie/Art Resource, NY

 

Herbert Ploberger Self-Portrait with Ophthalmological Models (Selbstbildnis mit ophthamologischen Lehrmodellen), c. 1928-30

 

Herbert Ploberger (1902-1977)
Self-Portrait with Ophthalmological Models (Selbstbildnis mit ophthamologischen Lehrmodellen)
c. 1928-30
Oil on canvas
19 11/16 x 15 3/4 in. (50 x 40 cm)
Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/Bildrecht, Vienna

 

August Sander Coal Carrier, Berlin (Berliner Kohlenträger), 1929

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Coal Carrier, Berlin (Berliner Kohlenträger)
1929
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 6 in. (24.1 x 15.2 cm)
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XM.126.52
© 2015 Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur-August Sander Archiv, Cologne/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

Sander’s Face of our Time was published in 1929. It contains a selection of 60 portraits from his series People of the 20th Century, and is introduced by an essay by Alfred Döblin titled “On Faces, Pictures, and their Truth.” Under the Nazi regime, his work and personal life were greatly constrained. His son Erich, who was a member of the left wing Socialist Workers’ Party (SAP), was arrested in 1934 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, where he died in 1944, shortly before the end of his sentence. Sander’s book Face of our Time was seized in 1936 and the photographic plates destroyed. Around 1942, during World War II, he left Cologne and moved to a rural area, allowing him to save most of his negatives. His studio was destroyed in a 1944 bombing raid. Thirty thousand of Sander’s roughly forty-thousand negatives survived the war, only to perish in an accidental fire in Cologne in 1946. Sander practically ceased to work as a photographer after World War II. He died in Cologne in 1964.

 

George Grosz Portrait of Dr. Felix J. Weil (Bildnis Dr. Felix J. Weil), 1926

 

George Grosz (1893-1959)
Portrait of Dr. Felix J. Weil (Bildnis Dr. Felix J. Weil)
1926
Oil on canvas
53 x 61 in. (134.6 x 154.9 cm)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Richard L. Feigen in memory of Gregor Piatigorsky Art
© 2015 Estate of George Grosz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Photo © 2015 Museum Associates/LACMA

 

August Sander Painter’s Wife (Helene Abelen) (Frau des Malers Abelen), 1926

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Painter’s Wife (Helene Abelen) (Frau des Malers Abelen)
1926
Gelatin silver print
9 x 6 7/16 in. (22.9 x 16.4 cm)
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur-August Sander Archiv, Cologne/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

August Sander The Architect (Hans Poelzig) (Der Architekt Hans Poelzig), 1928

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
The Architect (Hans Poelzig) (Der Architekt Hans Poelzig)
1928
Vintage print
11 7/16 x 7 11/16 in. (29.1 x 19.5 cm)
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© 2015 Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur—August Sander Archiv, Cologne/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo: Galerie Berinson, Berlin

 

Otto Dix The Jeweller Karl Krall (Der Juwelier Karl Krall), 1923

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
The Jeweller Karl Krall (Der Juwelier Karl Krall)
1923
Oil on canvas
35 5/8 x 23 13/16 in. (90.5 x 60.5 cm)
Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal, Germany
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal, Germany

 

Otto Dix Portait of the Lawyer Hugo Simons (Porträt des Rechtsanwalts Hugo Simons), 1925

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
Portait of the Lawyer Hugo Simons (Porträt des Rechtsanwalts Hugo Simons)
1925
Tempera and oil on plywood
39 1/2 x 27 11/16 in. (100.3 x 70.3 cm)
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, purchase, grant from the Government of Canada under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, gifts of the Succession J. A. DeSève, Mr. and Mrs. Charles and Andrea Bronfman, Mr. Nahum Gelber and Dr. Sheila Gelber, Mrs. Phyllis Lambert, the Volunteer Association and the Junior Associates of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Mrs. Louise L. Lamarre, Mr. Pierre Théberge, the Museum’s acquisition fund, and the Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn,
Photo: The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Brian Merrett

 

Wilhelm Schnarrenberger Portrait of an Architect (Porträt eines Architekten), 1923

 

Wilhelm Schnarrenberger (1892-1966)
Portrait of an Architect (Porträt eines Architekten)
1923
Oil on canvas
34 1/4 x 23 1/16 in. (87 x 58.5 cm)
Städtische Galerie Karlsruhe, on loan from private collection
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo by Ernst Reinhold, Munich

 

Aenne Biermann Woman with Monocle (Dame mit Monokel), c. 1928 Gelatin silver print; 7 1/4 x 5 1/5 in. (18.4 x 13 cm)

 

Aenne Biermann (1898-1933)
Woman with Monocle (Dame mit Monokel)
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
7 1/4 x 5 1/5 in. (18.4 x 13 cm)
Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne
Photo: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Fotoarchiv

 

Max Beckmann Self-Portrait in Tuxedo (Selbstbildnis im Smoking), 1927

 

Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Self-Portrait in Tuxedo (Selbstbildnis im Smoking)
1927
Oil on canvas
54 15/16 x 37 5/8 in. (139.5 x 95.5 cm)
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Association Fund
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College

 

Christian Schad Agosta, “The Pigeon Chested Man,” and Rasha, “The Black Dove,” (Agosta, der Flügelmensch, und Rasha, die schwarze Taube), 1929

 

Christian Schad (1894-1982)
Agosta, “The Pigeon Chested Man,” and Rasha, “The Black Dove,” (Agosta, der Flügelmensch, und Rasha, die schwarze Taube)
1929
Oil on canvas
47 1/4 x 31 1/2 in. (120 x 80 cm)
Private Collection, loan by courtesy of Tate Gallery London
© 2015 Christian Schad Stiftung Aschaffenburg/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Jeanne Mammen Chess Player (Schachspieler), c. 1929–30

 

Jeanne Mammen (1890-1976)
Chess Player (Schachspieler)
c. 1929-30
Oil on canvas
27 9/16 × 31 11/16 in. (70 × 80.5 cm)
Berlinische Galerie, Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen The Profiteer (Der Schieber), 1920–21

 

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (1894-1970)
The Profiteer (Der Schieber)
1920-21
Oil on canvas
47 1/4 x 47 1/4 in. (120 x 120 cm)
Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf
© Renata Davringhausen
Photo © Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast-ARTOTHEK

 

Perhaps the best-known work from Davringhausen’s New Objectivity period is Der Schieber (The Black-Marketeer), a Magic realist painting of 1920-21, which is in the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf im Ehrenhof. Painted in acidulous colors, it depicts a glowering businessman seated at a desk in a modern office suite that foreshortens dramatically behind him. Although Davringhausen rarely presented social criticism in his work, in Der Schieber “the artist created the classic pictorial symbol of the period of inflation that was commencing.”

 

Otto Dix To Beauty (An die Schönheit), 1922

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969)
To Beauty (An die Schönheit)
1922
Oil and collage on canvas
54 15/16 x 47 7/16 in. (139.5 x 120.5cm)
Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal, Germany
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal, Germany

 

George Grosz Eclipse of the Sun (Sonnenfinsternis), 1926

 

George Grosz (1893-1959)
Eclipse of the Sun (Sonnenfinsternis)
1926
Oil on canvas
81 5/8 × 71 7/8 in. (207.3 × 182.6 cm)
The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York, Museum, Purchase Art
© 2015 Estate of George Grosz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

Max Beckmann Dance in Baden-Baden (Tanz in Baden-Baden), 1923

 

Max Beckmann (1884-1950)
Dance in Baden-Baden (Tanz in Baden-Baden)
1923
Oil on canvas
42 1/2 x 26 in. (108 x 66 cm)
Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo: bpk, Berlin/Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen/Art Resource, NY

 

 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
T: 323 857 6000

Opening hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 11am – 5 pm
Friday: 11am – 8pm
Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 7pm
Closed Wednesday

LACMA website

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08
Mar
09

Exhibition: ‘Reading the modern photography book: changing perceptions’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 18th January – 26th April 2009

 

Looks a great exhibition for fans of photography books!

 

foto-auge (photo-eye), edited and with an introduction by Franz Roh, cover design by Jan Tschichold (Stuttgart: Akademischer Verlag, Dr. Fritz Wedekind & Co., 1929)

 

foto-auge (photo-eye)
edited and with an introduction by Franz Roh, cover design by Jan Tschichold
(Stuttgart: Akademischer Verlag, Dr. Fritz Wedekind & Co., 1929)

“Also produced in conjunction with ‘Film und Foto’, this book showcases a wide variety of photographic practices as a way of examining the social importance of the medium’s ability to construct visual knowledge.”

 

 

Held in conjunction with Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans,” this exhibition examines a variety of artistic and thematic approaches to the modern photography book, displaying examples that span the period from the late 1920s to the early 1970s. The photography book, more than simply a book containing photographs, is a publication composed by the careful sequencing and editing of photographic material. Often produced by a photographer, they present visual narratives through creative page design that frequently integrates photographs with text and graphic elements.

This focus exhibition organises 21 books from the Gallery’s library into four themes: “New Visions,” “Documented Realities,” “Postwar Scenes,” and “Conceptual Practices.” It highlights diverse projects from individual photographers such as László Moholy-Nagy, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Yasuhiro Ishimoto as well as collaborative projects from the Hungarian Work Circle (Munka Kör) and Andy Warhol’s Factory, revealing that the photography book is both a significant conveyer of contemporary experience and a witness to historical events.

The modern photography book, more than simply a book containing photographs, is a publication composed by the careful sequencing and editing of photographic material. Often produced by a photographer, these books present visual narratives through creative page design that frequently integrates photographs with text and graphic elements. Popular across the political spectrum, photography books have been published both as art objects and as documentary records. Through their organisation they foster a critical examination of the visual world, and as works of historical witness they have helped to construct cultural memories. Photography books have been a primary format for the arrangement and display of photographs, making them a vital but commonly overlooked component of the history of photography. Today they continue to provide an important forum for photographers to convey their work to a wide public audience.

Photographs have appeared in book format since their inception. For example, William Henry Fox Talbot’s commercially published The Pencil of Nature (1844) was one of the earliest explorations of photography’s narrative capabilities. Like all early photography books, Talbot’s photographs were printed separately from the letterpress text. It was not until the 1880s, with the development of the halftone plate and printing process, that mass-produced newspapers, magazines, and books regularly featured photographs. This invention, which allowed type and photographic images to be mechanically reproduced on the same press, dramatically changed the means by which the general public viewed and had access to photographs. By the 1920s the number of photographically illustrated publications had increased exponentially, and photographs regularly recounted events without explanatory text. As people began to see more and more photographs on a daily basis, they became far more visually literate. Set within this context, the modern mass-produced photography book challenged not only traditional narrative structures but also popular habits of reading and seeing.

Text from the National Gallery of Art website [Online] Cited 06/03/2009 (no longer available online)

 

Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Aruhi Arutokoro (Someday, Somewhere), preface by Tsutomu Watanabe, design by Ryuuichi Yamashiro (Tokyo: Geibi Shuppan, 1958)

 

Yasuhiro Ishimoto
Aruhi Arutokoro (Someday, Somewhere)
preface by Tsutomu Watanabe, design by Ryuuichi Yamashiro (Tokyo: Geibi Shuppan, 1958)

 

 

“This engaging publication juxtaposes photographs taken by Ishimoto in Chicago and Tokyo. Born in the United States, Ishimoto spent his childhood in Japan and later returned to the U.S. to attend school at the Institute of Design in Chicago. Finally settling in Tokyo, he influenced a new generation of postwar Japanese photographers interested in producing books.”

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'The Decisive Moment' (New York: Simon & Schuster, in collaboration with Éditions Verve, Paris, 1952)

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
The Decisive Moment
(New York: Simon & Schuster, in collaboration with Éditions Verve, Paris, 1952)

“An important presentation of Cartier-Bresson’s photographs from the 1930s and 1940s, this large-format book helped to popularise his work, in which a distinctive documentary approach transforms ordinary moments into remarkable photographic visions.”

 

 

National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 1000 am – 5.00 pm
Sunday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

National Gallery of Art website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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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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