Posts Tagged ‘Florida

09
Jun
13

Exhibition: ‘The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951’ at The Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 16th June 2013

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Conscience of the brave

Bradley Manning.
A slight, bespectacled, intelligent gay man.
A man who has the courage of his convictions.
He revealed truth at the heart of the world’s largest “democracy.”

There is something insidious about the American nation. Not its citizens, not its place, but its government. This government has perpetrated evil in the name of its people. Think of Iraq and Afghanistan, invasions in the name of freedom, the support of puppet governments, the assassinations, the military advisors on the ground, the profits made.

The torture. The deaths.

Bradley Manning revealed all of this because he has a mighty moral compass. He knows right from wrong. He was not afraid to expose the hypocrisy that for many years has beaten, unfettered, in the breast of a nation. The home of the brave and the free is sadly under attack from within. In the name of its people.

And why is this text relevant to this posting?
So often in the history of America, dissension is shut down because of some imagined menace, from within or without. Here another group of people (photographers documenting American social conditions) were persecuted for standing up for social causes, for the freedom to expose injustice where it lives. The paranoia of patriotism.

Marcus

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

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“When the persecution of an individual who has exposed an evil is pursued so ruthlessly and yet the evil itself is studiedly ignored, all of us know that there is something very wrong with the way that our society is conducting itself. And if we do not protest in the strongest terms about what is being done in our name, then we become complicit.”

Alan Moore

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“The US has shown remarkable energy in its pursuit of alleged whistleblowers. Has it investigated the deaths of those innocent civilians with the same vigour? With any vigour whatsoever? And which would you consider a crime? To conceal the deaths of innocent civilians, or to reveal them? I know what my answer would be.”

Les Barker

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“To suggest that lives were put in danger by the release of the WikiLeaks documents is the most cynical of statements. Lives were put in danger the night we invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, an act that had nothing to do with what the Bradley Mannings of this country signed up for: to defend our people from attack. It was a war based on a complete lie and lives were not only put in danger, hundreds of thousands of them were exterminated. For those who organised this massacre to point a finger at Bradley Manning is the ultimate example of Orwellian hypocrisy.” 

Michael Moore

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“Private Manning is the world’s pre-eminent prisoner of conscience, having remained true to the Nuremberg principle that every soldier has the right to ‘a moral choice.’ His suffering mocks the notion of the land of the free.” 

John Pilger

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Alexander Alland (1902-1989, born Sevastopol, Ukraine) 'Untitled (Brooklyn Bridge)' 1938

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Alexander Alland (1902-1989, born Sevastopol, Ukraine)
Untitled (Brooklyn Bridge)
1938
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York,
Purchase: William and Jane Schloss Family Foundation Fund

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Louis Stettner (born 1922, Brooklyn, New York) 'Coming  to America' c. 1951

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Louis Stettner (born 1922, Brooklyn, New York)
Coming  to America
c. 1951
Gelatin silver print The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund

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Erika Stone (born 1924, Frankfurt, Germany) 'Lower Eastside Facade' 1947

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Erika Stone (born 1924, Frankfurt, Germany)
Lower Eastside Facade
1947
Gelatin silver print
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, Photo League Collection
Museum purchase with funds provided by Elizabeth M. Ross, the Derby Fund,
John S. and Catherine Chapin Kobacker, and the Friends of the Photo League

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Stone’s adroit cropping of this image emphasizes the coy upward gaze of the woman in the advertisement,
away from the laundry line (emblem of poverty), and suggests the social mobility of the postwar era.

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Marvin E. Newman (born 1927, Manhattan, New York) 'Halloween, South Side' 1951

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Marvin E. Newman (born 1927, Manhattan, New York)
Halloween, South Side
1951
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund

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Marvin Newman

Born in New York; Newman attended Brooklyn College, where he studied sculpture with Burgoyne Diller and photography with Walter Rosenblum. Following Rosenblum’s suggestion, he joined the Photo League in 1948, taking classes with John Ebstel. The Photo League, founded in 1936, blazed a trail for serious photographers for 15 years, providing a forum for ideas, cheap darkroom space, and the vision of using the art of picture taking to change the world. Newman then attended the Institute of Design, Chicago (1949-52), where, after studying with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, he received one of the first MS degrees in photography (1952).

During this time, Newman won national contests, including one sponsored by American Photography (1950) and another by Time, Inc. (1951). His work appeared in the Always a Young Stranger exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and in a one-man show at Roy De Carava’s A Photographer’s Gallery (1956). Well-known as a photojournalist, Newman has been a major contributor to Sports Illustrated since its inception (1953), as well as to Life, Look, Newsweek, and Smithsonian magazines. In addition, he has been the national president of the American Society of Magazine Photographers, authored or coauthored eight books on photography, and received the Art Director’s Gold Medal for Editorial Photography.

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Ida Wyman (born 1926, Malden, Massachusetts) 'Spaghetti 25 Cents, New York' 1945

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Ida Wyman (born 1926, Malden, Massachusetts)
Spaghetti 25 Cents, New York
1945
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund

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This Italian restaurant was near the offices of Acme Newspictures, where Wyman became the company’s first
female photo printer in 1943. After the war she lost her job at the agency. The “Ladies Invited” sign on the
window is a reminder of a time when unescorted women were not always welcome in public dining establishments.

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Ida Wyman

When I began working in the 1940s, few women were doing magazine photography in a field that was almost exclusively male. As I progressed from box camera to Speed Graphic (my first professional camera), and then to a Rolleiflex, I stopped thinking about the mechanics of film speed, f-stops, shutter speed, and began focusing on subject matter that interested me. What interested me so much were ordinary people and their everyday activities. Early on, I had documented children’s games and unusual architectural details in my Bronx neighborhood. I decided to expand, to go elsewhere, taking the subway to Harlem, Chinatown, and lower Manhattan, exploring those neighborhoods and looking for photos.

I became a member of the Photo League in 1946. I considered myself a documentary photographer and the League’s philosophy of honest photography appealed to me. I also began to understand the power of photos to help improve the social order by showing the conditions under which many people lived and worked. Even after leaving the League the following year, I continued to emphasize visual and social realities in my straightforward photographs.

Beginning with my earliest photos seeing New York City with my feet, and in whatever part of the country I was in, I continued my own walkabout, learning the area, engaging my subject, listening, and respecting their dignity. This continued to be my approach when taking photos. My photographs depicted daily life in America’s modern metropolitan centers, including Chicago and Los Angeles as well as New York.

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Aaron Siskind (1903-1991, born Manhattan, New York) 'The Wishing Tree' 1937

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Aaron Siskind (1903-1991, born Manhattan, New York)
The Wishing Tree
1937, printed later
from Harlem Document, 1936-40
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Lillian Gordon Bequest

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Harlem’s legendary Wishing Tree, bringer of good fortune, was once a tall elm that stood outside a theater at
132nd Street and Seventh Avenue. When it was cut down in 1934 Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the celebrated tap
dancer, moved the stump to a nearby block and planted a new Tree of Hope beside it to assume wishgranting duties.
A piece of the original trunk is preserved in the Apollo Theater on 125th Street, where performers still touch
it for luck before going onstage.

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Sonia Handelman Meyer (born 1920, Lakewood, New Jersey) 'Hebrew Immigration Aid Society' c. 1946

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Sonia Handelman Meyer (born 1920, Lakewood, New Jersey)
Hebrew Immigration Aid Society
c. 1946
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Mimi and Barry J. Alperin in memory of Max Alperin

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The efforts of the New York­ based Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS) to rescue European Jews during
the war were severely hampered by US immigration laws. After the war it aided in the resettlement of some
150,000 displaced persons, including, presumably, these three, whom Handelman Meyer has chosen to
photograph in close­up. She conveys both their common suffering and their individuality, emphasizing
differences in body language and dress.

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Sonia Handelman Meyer

I first heard of the Photo League from Lou Stoumen in Puerto Rico in 1942. I was working for the U.S. Army Signal Corps and Lou was preparing to join Yank Magazine.  When I returned to New York City, I walked up the rickety stairs to League Headquarters and took a beginners class with Johnny Ebstel. I bought a used Rolleicord for a precious $100, and dared to go out on the city streets to photograph the life around me. Soon the guys began to come back from the war and the heady life of Photo League workshops, exhibits, lectures, photo hunts, and committee assignments intensified. I took eye-heart-soul opening workshops with Sid Grossman, worked as the paid (!) secretary for a year or so, and worked on the Lewis Hine Committee under Marynn Ausubel.

I photographed in Spanish Harlem, Greenwich Village, midtown Manhattan, at the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, at an anti-lynching rally in Madison Square Park, at a Jehovah’s Witness convention in Yankee Stadium, and on Coney Island. Mostly, I photographed children and reflections of my city – rough-edged, tender, and very beautiful in its diversity. Some of this work was shown in the major 1949 exhibition, This is the Photo League.

The heartbreaking end of the League coincided with a huge change in my personal life. I got married and my husband began to go to college and we were out of NY for a while. And then the biggest change: our own family arrived and the joys of our son, and later our daughter, absorbed my time. Prints and negatives were stashed away in boxes and I lost track of all the old friends at the League. After so many years of being in the shadows, you can imagine my pleasure, at 90+ years of age, to have my photographs out of their boxes and onto walls where they can be seen, thought about, and enjoyed – and perhaps again take their place in the history of the Photo League.

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Arthur Leipzig (born 1918, Brooklyn, New York) 'Chalk Games, Prospect Place, Brooklyn' 1950

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Arthur Leipzig (born 1918, Brooklyn, New York)
Chalk Games, Prospect Place, Brooklyn
1950
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Rictavia Schiff Bequest

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Arnold Eagle. 'Chatham Square Platform, New York City' c. 1939

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Arnold Eagle
Chatham Square Platform, New York City
c. 1939
Silver gelatin print

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Joe Schwartz (born 1913, Brooklyn, New York) 'Slums Must Go! May Day Parade, New York' c. 1936

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Joe Schwartz (born 1913, Brooklyn, New York)
Slums Must Go! May Day Parade, New York
c. 1936
Gelatin silver print
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, Photo League Collection
Museum Purchase with funds provided by Elizabeth M. Ross, the Derby Fund, John S. and Catherine Chapin
Kobacker, and the Friends of the Photo League

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Morris Huberland (1909-2003, born Warsaw, Poland) 'Union Square, New York' c. 1942

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Morris Huberland (1909-2003, born Warsaw, Poland)
Union Square, New York
c. 1942
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Mimi and Barry J. Alperin Fund

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“The Norton Museum of Art’s newest special exhibition, The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936 – 1951, is a formidable survey of the League’s history, and its artistic, cultural, social, and political significance. Opening March 14 and on view through June 16, 2013, this striking exhibition includes nearly 150 vintage photographs from Photo League collections at the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, and The Jewish Museum in New York City.

The exhibition is organized by Mason Klein, Curator of Fine Arts at The Jewish Museum and Catherine Evans, the William and Sarah Ross Soter Curator of Photography of the Columbus Museum of Art. It premiered in at The Jewish Museum in 2011 to rave reviews. The New York Times called The Radical Camera a “stirring show,” and the New York Photo Review hailed it as “nothing short of splendid.” The New Yorker named the exhibition one of the top 10 photography exhibitions of 2011. The Norton is the final venue on the exhibition’s tour.

The exhibition explores the fascinating blend of aesthetics and social activism at the heart of the Photo League. League members were known for capturing sharply revealing, compelling moments from everyday life. The League focused on New York City and its vibrant streets – a shoeshine boy, a brass band on a bustling corner, a crowded beach at Coney Island. Many of the images are beautiful, yet harbor strong social commentary on issues of class, race, and opportunity. The organization’s members included some of the most noted photographers of the mid-20th century – W. Eugene Smith, Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Lisette Model, Berenice Abbott and Aaron Siskind, to name a few.

In 1936, a group of young, idealistic photographers, most of them Jewish, first-generation Americans, formed an organization in Manhattan called the Photo League. Their solidarity centered on a belief in the expressive power of the documentary photograph, and on a progressive alliance in the 1930s of socialist ideas and art. (The Photo League also helped validate photography as a fine art, presenting student work and guest exhibitions by established photographers.) The Radical Camera presents the development of the documentary photograph during a tumultuous period that spanned the New Deal reforms of the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. Offering classes, mounting exhibitions, and fostering community, members of the Photo League focused on social reform and the power of the photograph to motivate change. At the height of their influence, their membership included the most important photographers of their day including Berenice Abbot, Aaron Siskind, Barbara Morgan, Sid Grossman, Weegee (Arthur Fellig), and Lisette Model. Featuring more than 175 works by these artists as well as many more Photo League members, The Radical Camera traces the organization’s interests, attitudes toward photography, and impact during its 15-year lifespan.

The innovative contributions of the Photo League during its 15-year existence (1936-1951) were significant. As it grew, the League mirrored monumental shifts in the world starting with the Depression, through World War II, and ending with the Red Scare. Born of the worker’s movement, the Photo League was an organization of young, idealistic, first-generation American photographers, most of them Jewish, who believed in documentary photography as an expressive medium and powerful tool for exposing social problems. It was also a school with teachers such as Sid Grossman, who encouraged students to take their cameras to the streets and discover the meaning of their work as well as their relationship to it. The League had a darkroom for printing, published an acclaimed newsletter called Photo Notes, offered exhibition space, and was a place to socialize.

The Photo League helped validate photography as a fine art, presenting student work and guest exhibitions by established photographers such as Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Edward Weston, among others. These affecting black and white photographs show life as it was lived mostly on the streets, sidewalks and subways of New York. Joy and playfulness as well as poverty and hardship are in evidence. In addition to their urban focus, “Leaguers” photographed rural America, and during World War II, took their cameras to Latin America and Europe. The exhibition also addresses the active participation of women who found rare access and recognition at the League. The Radical Camera presents the League within a critical, historical context. Developments in photojournalism were catalyzing a new information era in which photo essays were appearing for the first time in magazines such as Life and Look. As time went on, its social documentary roots evolved toward a more experimental approach, laying the foundation for the next generation of street photographers.

In 1947, the League came under the pall of McCarthyism and was blacklisted for its alleged involvement with the Communist Party. Ironically, the Photo League had just begun a national campaign to broaden its base as a “Center for American Photography.” Despite the support of Ansel Adams, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, Paul Strand, and many other national figures, this vision of a national photography center could not overcome the Red Scare. As paranoia and fear spread, the Photo League was forced to disband in 1951. The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951 has been organized by The Jewish Museum, New York, and the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio. Major support was provided by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Limited Brands Foundation.”

Press release from The Norton Museum of Art website

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Sy Kattelson (born 1923, Manhattan, New York) 'Untitled (Subway Car)' 1949

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Sy Kattelson (born 1923, Manhattan, New York)
Untitled (Subway Car)
1949
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: The Paul Strand Trust for the benefit of Virginia Stevens Gift

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Jerome Liebling (United States, 1924-2011) 'Butterfly Boy, New York' 1949

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Jerome Liebling (United States, 1924-2011)
Butterfly Boy, New York
1949
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York, Purchase: Mimi and Barry J. Alperin Fund
© Estate of Jerome Liebling

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Lee Sievan (1907-1990, born Manhattan, New York) 'Salvation Army Lassie in Front of a Woolworth Store' c. 1940

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Lee Sievan (1907-1990, born Manhattan, New York)
Salvation Army Lassie in Front of a Woolworth Store
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund

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This is a classic photograph. Look at the triangle that forms the central part of the image, from the girl at left looking with disdain at the matriarch singing then down to the look on the organ players face. Notice the girl at right covering her ears so she cannot hear the racket. Imagine the legs of the organ player going up and down, pumping air into the organ; and finally observe the shadow of a man’s face captured by reflection in the shop window as he walks past the scene. Magic.

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Rosalie Gwathmey (1908-2001, born Charlotte, North Carolina) 'Shout Freedom, Charlotte, North Carolina' c. 1948

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Rosalie Gwathmey (1908-2001, born Charlotte, North Carolina)
Shout Freedom, Charlotte, North Carolina
c. 1948
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Gay Block and Malka Drucker Fund of the Houston Jewish Community Foundation

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Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968, born Zloczów, Galicia, now Ukraine) 'Max Is Rushing in the Bagels to a Restaurant on Second Avenue for the Morning Trade' c. 1940

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Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968, born Zloczów, Galicia, now Ukraine)
Max Is Rushing in the Bagels to a Restaurant on Second Avenue for the Morning Trade
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Joan B. and Richard L. Barovick Family Foundation and Bunny and Jim Weinberg Gifts

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Bernard Cole (1911-1992, born London, England) 'Shoemaker’s Lunch' 1944

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Bernard Cole (1911-1992, born London, England)
Shoemaker’s Lunch
1944
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York,
Purchase: The Paul Strand Trust for the benefit of Virginia Stevens Gift

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Rebecca Lepkoff (American, born 1916) 'Broken Window on South Street, New York' 1948

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Rebecca Lepkoff (American, born 1916)
Broken Window on South Street, New York
1948
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Esther Leah Ritz Bequest

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Arthur Leipzig (born 1918, Brooklyn, New York) 'Ideal Laundry' 1946

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Arthur Leipzig (born 1918, Brooklyn, New York)
Ideal Laundry
1946
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Esther Leah Ritz Bequest

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Consuelo Kanaga (1894-1978, born Astoria, Oregon) 'Untitled (Tenements, New York)' c. 1937

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Consuelo Kanaga (1894-1978, born Astoria, Oregon)
Untitled (Tenements, New York)
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: The Paul Strand Trust for the benefit of Virginia Stevens Gift

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Leftist political activism was a strong element in Kanaga’s work, beginning with her photographs of a labor
strike in San Francisco in 1934. She provided photographs for progressive publications such as New Masses,
Labor Defender,
 and Sunday Worker. Underlying this formal study of tenement laundry lines (a common
motif in League imagery) is Kanaga’s empathy for the living conditions of the working class.

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Ruth Orkin (1921-1985, born Boston, Massachusetts) 'Boy Jumping into Hudson River' 1948

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Ruth Orkin (1921-1985, born Boston, Massachusetts)
Boy Jumping into Hudson River
1948
Gelatin silver print The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund

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Sol Prom (Solomon Fabricant) (1906-1989, born Brooklyn, New York) 'Untitled (Dancing School)' 1938

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Sol Prom (Solomon Fabricant) (1906-1989, born Brooklyn, New York)
Untitled (Dancing School)
1938
from Harlem Document, 1936-40
Gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York
Purchase: Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund

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Mary Bruce opened a dancing school in Harlem in 1937. For fifty years she taught ballet and tap, giving free lessons to those who could not afford them. Her illustrious pupils included Katherine Dunham, Nat King Cole, Ruby Dee, and Marlon Brando.

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The Norton Museum of Art
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West Palm Beach, FL 33401
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04
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Arnold Newman: Masterclass’ at the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Exhibition dates: 12th February – 12th May 2013

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

View the Arnold Newman: Masterclass video (50mins 30secs)

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Installation views of the exhibition 'Arnold Newman: Masterclass' at the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Installation views of the exhibition 'Arnold Newman: Masterclass' at the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

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Installation views of Arnold Newman: Masterclass at the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin
Photos by Pete Smith
Images courtesy of Harry Ransom Center

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Arnold Newman. 'Dr. Edwin H. Land with group of Polaroid Employees, Polaroid warehouse in Needham, Mass.,' 1977

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Arnold Newman
Dr. Edwin H. Land with group of Polaroid Employees, Polaroid warehouse in Needham, Mass.,
1977
Gelatin silver print
© 1977 Arnold Newman / Getty Images

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Arnold Newman. 'Truman Capote, writer, New York' 1977

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Arnold Newman
Truman Capote, writer, New York
1977
Gelatin silver print
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images

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“The thing is, with Penn or Avedon, they control totally the situation in the studio, and I’m always taking a chance, wherever I go.”

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“What’s the truth in a portrait? Who do you believe? Sometimes you cannot determine this in just one picture… The only way to determine whether you believe it or not is to look at my other pictures.”

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“Form, feeling … structure and detail … technique and sensibility: it must all come together.”

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Arnold Newman

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Arnold Newman: Masterclass, the first posthumous retrospective of Arnold Newman (1918-2006), explores the career of one of the finest portrait photographers of the 20th century. The Harry Ransom Center, which holds the Arnold Newman archive, hosts the exhibition’s first U.S. showing February 12 – May 12, 2013.

The show, curated by FEP’s William Ewing, highlights 200 framed vintage prints covering Newman’s career, selected from the Arnold and Augusta Newman Foundation and the collections of major American museums and private collectors. Twenty-eight photographs from the Ransom Center’s Newman archive are featured in the exhibition.

“This retrospective is a real occasion for a reappraisal,” said Todd Brandow, founding director of FEP. “Newman was a great teacher, and he loved sharing his knowledge. It was these ‘lessons’ that led us to the concept of ‘Masterclass,’ the idea that, even posthumously, Newman could go on teaching all of us – whether connoisseurs or neophytes – a great deal.”

A bold modernist with a superb sense of compositional geometry, Newman, called the father of ‘environmental portraiture,’ is known for a crisp, spare style that placed his subjects in the context of their work environments. The exhibition includes work prints, prints with crop marks, rough prints with printing instructions and variants that reveal Newman’s process and attention to detail. “For me the professional studio is a sterile world,” said Newman in a 1991 interview. “I need to get out: Be with people where they’re at home. I can’t photograph ‘the soul,’ but I can show and tell you something fundamental about them.”

“Newman was never comfortable with the environmental term, and the backgrounds of Newman’s portraits would never be secondary aspects of his compositions,” said Ewing. “He had a masterful command of both sitter and setting.”

His subjects included world leaders, authors, artists, musicians and scientists – Pablo Picasso in his studio; Igor Stravinsky sitting at the piano; Truman Capote lounging on his sofa; and Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank, in the attic where his family hid from the Nazis for more than two years.

The exhibition takes stock of the entire range of Newman’s photographic art, showing many fine prints for the first time. The exhibition also includes Newman’s lesser-known and rarely exhibited still lifes, architectural studies, cityscapes and earliest portraits. While at the Ransom Center, the exhibition will be supplemented with holdings from the Center’s Newman archive, which contains all of Newman’s negatives, slides and color transparencies, all of his original contact sheets and more than 2,000 prints, including examples of color and collage work. The collection also includes Newman’s original sittings books, correspondence and business files, early sketchbooks and photographic albums.”

Press release from the Harry Ransom Center website

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Arnold Newman. 'Violin shop : patterns on table, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania' 1941

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Arnold Newman
Violin shop : patterns on table, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1941
Gelatin silver print
© 1941 Arnold Newman / Getty Images

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Arnold Newman. 'Igor Stravinsky' 1945

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Arnold Newman
Igor Stravinsky
1945
Contact sheet of four negatives with Newman’s marks and cropping lines
Image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center

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Cropping was also a practice Newman valued highly. His edges were determined with minute precision. Trained as a painter, Newman never had doubts about the virtues of cropping. His famed Stravinsky portrait would not have a fraction of its power without the stringent crop. As for printing, Newman was equally meticulous. He trusted few assistants, and those he did trust found that he would not accept a final print unless it was flawless in execution. (Wall text)

“Oh, people set up these nonsensical rules and regulations. You can’t crop, you can’t dodge your print, etc, etc., … But the great photographers that these people admire all did that!” (Wall text)

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Arnold Newman. 'Twyla Tharp, dancer and filmmaker, New York' 1987

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Arnold Newman
Twyla Tharp, dancer and filmmaker, New York
1987
Gelatin silver print
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images

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Sensibilities

Many of Newman’s photographs show confident people, posing proudly before their accomplishments, directly engaging the viewer. But many betray a certain réticence – fragility, a hint of vulnerability, or doubt. Newman was aware that a successful artist’s career was not all roses – thorns were encountered along the path. He also regarded the act of portraiture was necessarily collaborative, or transactional; each side had their own kind of power – the sitter could resist the control of the photographer, the photographer could expose the sitter in an unflattering light. A successful portrait had to negotiate this psychological uncertainty. Sometimes Newman wanted to show supreme confidence as the mark of the man; at other times he wanted to show chinks in the armour.

“You show a certain kind of empathy with the subject – I don’t want to use the word ‘sympathy’, but you sort of let them know you’re on their side.” (Wall text)

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Arnold Newman. 'Larry Rivers, painter, South Hampton, New York' 1975

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Arnold Newman
Larry Rivers, painter, South Hampton, New York
1975
Gelatin silver print
© 1975 Arnold Newman / Getty Images

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“During the second half of the 20th Century, there was no portrait photographer as productive, creative and successful as Arnold Newman. For almost seven decades Newman applied himself to his art and craft, never for a moment losing his zest for experimentation. His work was published in the most influential magazines of the day, and he was much interviewed, much quoted, and much respected. Several major solo exhibitions paid homage to his achievements during his lifetime, and his work can be found in many of the world’s most prestigious photography collections. No historical overview of portraiture would be complete without one or two Newman masterpieces, nor could any general history of the medium safely leave out his superb Stravinsky, Mondrian or Graham.

Surprisingly, many of Newman’s superb portraits have never been shown or published. This, his first posthumous retrospective, features a wide variety of such photographs. Moreover, it includes cityscapes, documentary photographs and still lifes that have rarely if even been exhibited. Even people already familiar with Newman’s work will find scores of unexpected images, rivaling the work the ‘icons’ they admire. Newman was never happy with the label, often applied, of ‘father of environmental portraiture’. He argued that his portraits were much more than simple records showing artists posing in their studios; there was a symbolic aspect too, and an emotional/psychological element, both fundamental to his approach. He asked critics to ignore all labels, and judge his portraits simply as they would any photographs.

Newman was also a great teacher, and he loved to share his knowledge and skills with aspiring photographers. As with all great artists, the pictures he made seem effortless, natural, but in fact they were the result of careful prior planning. Newman applied the same rigour to selecting the best of his ‘takes’, cropping them precisely, and then printing them with supreme skill. Highly self-critical, he admitted: “I was always my own worst art director.”

With Masterclass, we have endeavored to give viewers some insights into Newman’s approach. Work prints, prints with crop marks, rough prints with printing instructions, and variants reveal Newman’s great attention to detail and careful consideration of every aspect of the photographic art.”

William A. Ewing
Curator

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Arnold Newman. 'Salvador Dalí, painter, New York' 1951

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Arnold Newman
Salvador Dalí, painter, New York
1951
Gelatin silver print
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images

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Signatures

One of Newman’s favorite strategies was to place the sitters in front of his or her own work. They seem to be saying: ‘Here is my work. This is what I do’. Architects pose beside buildings and models, a test pilot beside his jet, a photographer in front of his prints, a furniture designer in his chair, scientists in front of their equations… At first glance, the pictures appear natural, giving the impression that Newman had surprised his subjects at work, but in fact the set-ups were meticulous.

In the hands of a lesser talent,such a technique could have developed into a routine uniformity, but Newman’s curiosity and genuine interest in his subjectsʼ work guaranteed a freshness to his portraiture, year after year. To maintain freshness, Newman advised aspiring portrait photographers to do what he did: read up about the subject beforehand, know what he or she has achieved. You will then quickly spot which elements in the environment will be useful.

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Arnold Newman. 'Notes on Artist's' [sic] series c. 1942

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Arnold Newman
Notes on Artist’s [sic] series
c. 1942
Image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center

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Newman writes about his encounters with artists in New York City, describing his first meeting with Alfred Stieglitz.

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Arnold Newman. 'Alfred Stieglitz in his An American Place Gallery, 1944' 1944

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Arnold Newman
Alfred Stieglitz in his An American Place Gallery, 1944
1944
Contact print
Image courtesy of Harry Ransom Center

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Lumens

Newman preferred natural light, with ‘all its delightful, infinite varieties, indoors and out’. However, he felt that restricting oneself only to natural light had become a religion for many photographers, and artificial light was a taboo. Newman was pragmatic: if there wasn’t enough light to take the picture, he argued, it should be augmented; if it wasn’t the ‘right’ kind of light for the interpretation he desired, artificial lighting should be added. It was never a question of either/or. Newman often used spots and reflectors, but felt that strobes should be used only when absolutely necessary. Lighting effects in a Newman portrait are often subtle and sometimes dramatic. But they are always appropriate, and never excessive. (Wall text)

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Arnold Newman. 'Pablo Picasso, painter, sculptor and printmaker, Vallauris, France' 1954

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Arnold Newman
Pablo Picasso, painter, sculptor and printmaker, Vallauris, France
1954
Gelatin silver print
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images

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Choices

Newman might take 10, 20, 30 and in special cases even more than 50 individual photographs of a sitter, making minor adjustments each time. Sometimes the differences between the frames would be miniscule, though highly significant. We see this in two frames of Picasso: in Frame 54 (note that this one was used in several publications in error), we see that the artist seems distracted – his eyes are not focused, while his mouth is pinched, and his hand is placed awkwardly. In Frame 57, all these deficiencies have been corrected. (Wall text)

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Arnold Newman. 'Piet Mondrian, painter, New York' 1942

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Arnold Newman
Piet Mondrian, painter, New York
1942
Gelatin silver print
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images

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Habitats

Newman never liked to work in a studio, preferring to see where and how his subjects worked and lived. Dance studios, home libraries, classrooms, offices, living rooms, gardens, the street, and even, on occasion, a vast urban panorama were settings he employed. Particularly close to painters in spirit, he was stimulated by the raw materials, the paintings or sculptures in progress, and even the general clutter he found in their studios. He liked the challenge of having to make quick decisions based on what he saw around him, and argued that this spontaneous approach was much harder – and riskier – than working in his own studio, where everything was familiar and tested. By focusing on a sitter’s habitat, Newman felt that he was providing more than a striking likeness – he was revealing personality and character not through physiognomy (the principle of classic portraiture) but through the things artists gathered around them.

“For me the professional studio is a sterile world. I need to get out; be with people where they’re at home. I canʼt photograph ʻthe soulʼ but I can show tell you something fundamental about them.” (Wall text)

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Arnold Newman. 'Alexander Calder, sculptor, New York' 1943

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Arnold Newman
Alexander Calder, sculptor, New York
1943
Gelatin silver print
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images

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Arnold Newman. 'Palm Beach, Florida' 1986

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Arnold Newman
Palm Beach, Florida
1986
Gelatin silver print
© 1986 Arnold Newman / Getty Images

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Geometries

From his earliest days with the camera, Newman loved the geomtery of space – with or without people. He never tired of photographing architecture that appealed to him. The linear and the curvilinear; contrasting blocks of black and white; ovals, triangles rectangles, strong diagonals… it was never just a question of making a pleasing background – like a kind of geometrically-patterned wallpaper – but rather the creation of a harmonious, dynamic whole in which the sitter was an integral part. It was Newman’s consumate skill that prevented the sitter from being merely an adjunct to the design.

“Successful portraiture is like a three-legged stool. Kick out one leg and the whole thing collapses. In other words, visual ideas combined with technological control combined with personal interpretation equals photography. Each must hold it’s own.” (Wall text)

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The Harry Ransom Center
21st and Guadalupe Streets
Austin, Texas 78712
Phone: 512-471-8944

Exhibition Galleries Opening Hours:
10 am – 5 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
10 am – 7 pm Thursday
Noon – 5 pm Saturday and Sunday

Library Reading/Viewing Rooms Opening Hours:
9 am – 5 pm Monday-Friday
9 am – Noon Saturday

Harry Ransom Center website

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03
Oct
12

Exhibition: ‘Joel Sternfeld: Colour photographs since 1970’ at Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 27th June – 7th October 2012

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

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Joel Sternfeld
A Railroad Artifact, 30th Street, May 2000
2000
© Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and The Friends of the High Line, New York

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Joel Sternfeld
Ken Robson’s Christmas Tree, January 2001
2001
© Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and The Friends of the High Line, New York

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Joel Sternfeld
After A Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, California 1979
1979
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
Wet ‘n Wild Aquatic Theme Park, Orlando, Florida, September 1980
1980
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
The Space Shuttle Columbia Lands at Kelly Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, March 1979
1979
© Courtesy Buchmann Galerie Berlin, Luhring Augustine, New York and  the artist

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Joel Sternfeld
McLean, Virginia, December 1978
1978
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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“This exhibition offers the first survey of the US artist Joel Sternfeld’s work in Austria. The Albertina shows eleven series by the photographer dating from between the early 1970s and 2007. Influenced by William Eggleston, but also by the color theories of the Bauhaus, Joel Sternfeld, who was born in New York in 1944, began to experiment with color photography in the 1970s and soon developed his own style. He brought color to bear on a subject that had a long photographic tradition in the United States: the American social landscape. A critical observer, Sternfeld travelled across the USA for years, capturing the country and its inhabitants in all their peculiarities and contradictions. Most of his pictures explore political and social issues by representing their subjects’ relationship to nature or the landscape around them. Sternfeld’s photographs combine a documentary objective with an artist’s view. Their visual language has its predecessors in Walker Evans and Robert Frank, who were advocates of black-and-white photography, though. Seen against this background, Sternfeld’s photographs are to be understood not only as a chronicle of the last forty years’ American history, but also evidence a development process in the course of which color came to bring forth an entirely specific visual language.

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Nags Head

Next to William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld ranks among the most important representatives of New Color Photography, a quite heterogeneous group of photographers who have relied on color as a stylistic device for artistic photography since the 1970s. A perfectly natural means of expression today, color was frowned upon in artistic photography in those days. While color was used in popular photography, like in the fields of advertising and fashion, traditional artistic photographs were black-and-white. William Eggleston’s exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art New York in 1976, which was regarded as scandalous when it opened, proved to be a landmark event for the recognition of color photography. Dating from 1975, Joel Sternfeld’s series Nags Head clearly testifies to the role of color as a means of artistic expression. Precise color areas are as important for the pictures’ composition as the motifs the photographer encountered on the beach of the town Nags Head in North Carolina.

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First Pictures

Next to Nags Head, two series of color photographs from the 1970s, Happy Anniversary Sweetie Face! and Rush Hour, stand for Joel Sternfeld’s early work. Following in the tradition of street photography, these series explore various scenes of American everyday culture in a humorous vein, capturing them in a seemingly spontaneous and random visual language. Supposed exposure mistakes and blurs as well as angles fragmentizing the subjects suggest an intuitive and dynamic view of the world. The instantaneous character of the photographs manifests itself in the Rush Hour series in a particularly striking manner. Using a manual flash lighting up the faces of the passers-by for his compositions, Sternfeld emphasizes the fleeting moment a photograph snatches from the continuum of time.

Color proves to be key for the composition. Rich and full color areas not only rhythmize and structure the arrangement, but represent pictorial values in their own right, which are not integrated in a homogeneous whole. This kind of photography which connects everyday motifs with the autonomy of color has been influenced not least by William Eggleston, whom Sternfeld got to know in Harvard in 1976.

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American Prospects

Sternfeld shot the series American Prospects while travelling through the United States in a Volkswagen bus for some years. Dating from between 1978 and 1987, the pictures explore people’s relationship to the American landscape as formed and informed by them. The microcosm of often bizarre everyday events that becomes visible here does more than just illustrate man’s problematic use and transformation of the landscape: it also offers a possibility for drawing conclusions on contemporary political and social conditions in the United States.

In American Prospects, Sternfeld frequently renders critical contents by relying on the sovereign use of sublime, vivid color values and contrasts that seem to contradict the depicted serious circumstances. Color, format, and static composition are grounded in Sternfeld’s use of a large-format camera. While he photographed his early series with a small-format camera, which allowed flexible movements and, thus, a spontaneous visual language, the more complicated handling of a large-format camera slows down the picture-taking process. Sternfeld selected his motifs very carefully and precisely planned his pictures’ composition in advance. Both the composition and the general motif of people in a landscape were essentially inspired by solutions of traditional painting like Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s and Jacob van Ruisdael’s.

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Stranger Passing

Photographed within a period of fourteen years starting in 1987, Joel Sternfeld’s series Stranger Passing makes the human portrait its crucial issue. Depicted in situ, the subjects are characterized through their outward appearance, their clothes and poses, and the environs in which they present themselves. The pictures show a wide variety of social groups and milieus and center on different life styles. Maintaining a reserved and detached view throughout, Sternfeld keeps a visible distance from his motifs and does not express a judgment – an artistic strategy already pursued by August Sander in his famous photographic project Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (People of the 20th Century) in the 1920s. But whereas Sander subsumed his models under their professional functions, Sternfeld focuses on representing the portrayed people’s individuality. Their often bizarre (self-) representation visualizes comprehensive social contexts which, in total, offer a manifold and differentiated portrait of American society.

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On This Site

Between 1993 and 1996, Joel Sternfeld photographed crime scenes hidden behind apparently everyday places. By depicting such places of destiny, Sternfeld has retrieved suppressed, concealed, or deliberately buried events for the collective memory and thus dismantled patriotic self-presentations of the US. The pictures reveal a conceptual approach to documentary photography. The comparatively neutral and detached shots show “only” the crime scenes and do not offer any details on the sequence of events. The particulars of the crime are to be found in a text which is part of the work. Image and text provide different contents, which the viewer is asked to put together.

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Oxbow Archive

In Oxbow Archive (2005-2007), Sternfeld has made the scenery his sole subject by photographing an area near Northampton in Massachusetts through the changing seasons. The work explores the tradition of cultural norms and phenomena of US culture: the representation of landscapes in pictures has always been an essential dimension of American identity and cultural self-understanding. Wilderness and pristine nature are frequently depicted in stunning, idealized views – for which Ansel Adams and Edward Weston may be cited as examples. A famous painting by the American artist Thomas Cole from 1836 renders the region shown in Oxbow Archive as a heroic landscape in dramatic weather conditions seen from an elevated point of view. Sternfeld clearly rejects this visual language: he documents the uniqueness of the seasons’ changes beyond the sublime and picturesque of traditional landscape pictures from a low point of view and confronts the viewer with the clearly visible effects of man’s intervention in nature.

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When it changed

After Sternfeld’s early series had already been informed by a socio-critical attitude, the projection When it changed unmistakably shows the photographer to be a documentarist with great political engagement. When it changed comprises fifty-three portraits of participants in a United Nations conference on climate change in Montreal in 2005. A text with prognoses and statements on climate change by scientists from the last twenty years provides a comment on the persons’ often serious and pessimistic faces.

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Treading on Kings

For his project Treading on Kings Joel Sternfeld photographed the protests during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. During this meeting of the eight most powerful industrial nations in the world, which was accompanied by severe clashes between the demonstrators and the police, numerous protesters were wounded and one of the activists, Carlo Giuliani, was killed. Sternfeld’s thirty-three photographs portray the scenes of the confrontation as well as the protesters themselves. Accompanying texts offer statements by various participants of the demonstrations and explain the reasons for their engagement.

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Walking the High Line

Walking the High Line (2000-2001) examines landscape as an indicator of ecologic and social transformations from a new perspective. The High Line is an abandoned railroad track in Manhattan, New York, a little over two kilometers long, which the photographer describes as a motific contrast between apparently untouched nature and urban development. While Sternfeld’s earlier series visualize the colonization of nature by man, the relationship is reverted here. Nature has reconquered an urban space, the only sporadically visible rails hinting at the once busy traffic. In the case of Walking the High Line, the socio-political dimension characteristic of all of Sternfeld’s works has produced concrete results: the disused track was transformed into a public park in 2009 not least because of Sternfeld’s successful photographs.

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Sweet Earth

The series Sweet Earth from 2006 shows Joel Sternfeld pursuing his photographic investigation of the American social landscape. Informed by the atmosphere of the 1990s, of the period immediately following the collapse of the Communist states, the photographs confront us with models of alternative communities. Texts provide us with information on the social experiments and their political, ecological, or religious reasons. By visualizing historical and contemporary utopias, the artist offers a historical survey spanning from nineteenth-century communities to the counterculture of the 1960s and today’s new forms of living together. By confronting the viewer with heterogeneous life plans, Sternfeld not only fathoms the different values of present-day American society, but also questions the background and development of social norms and conventions.”

Press release from the Albertina website

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Joel Sternfeld
Washington D.C., August 1974
1974
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
Summer Interns Having Lunch, Wall Street, New York, August 1987
1987
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
New York City (#1)
1976
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
Young Man Gathering Shopping Carts, Huntington, New York, July 1993
1993
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
A Woman at Home in Malibu After Exercising, California, August 1988
1988
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
A Woman Out Shopping with Her Pet Rabbit, Santa Monica, California, August 1988
1988
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Albertina
Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna, Austria
T: +43 (0)1 534 83-0

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am to 6 pm
Wednesday 10 am to 9 pm

Albertina website

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24
Apr
12

Exhibition: ‘Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), Photographs’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 29th April 2012

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It is not her portraits or the road trip photographs, nor her scientific work for which Berenice Abbott will be remembered. Firstly, she will always be remembered as the person who photographed Eugene Atget in 1927 just before he died and who bought the remainder of his negatives (after the French government had bought over 2,000 in 1920 and another 2,000 had been sold after his death). She then tirelessly promoted Atget’s work helping him gain international recognition until her sale of the archive to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968. Secondly, she is remembered for her magnificent photographs of New York City and its urban environs, photographs that show the influence of Atget in their attention to detail and understanding of the placement of the camera, and imaging of old and new parts of the city (much as Atget had photographed old Paris before it was destroyed). However, these photographs are uniquely her own, with their modernist New Vision aesthetic, bold perspectives and use of deep chiaroscuro to enhance form within the photograph. Abbott’s best known project, Changing New York (1935-39) eventually consisted of 305 photographs that document the buildings of Manhattan, some of which are now destroyed. As the text on Wikipedia insightfully notes:

“Abbott’s project was primarily a sociological study imbedded within modernist aesthetic practices. She sought to create a broadly inclusive collection of photographs that together suggest a vital interaction between three aspects of urban life: the diverse people of the city; the places they live, work and play; and their daily activities. It was intended to empower people by making them realize that their environment was a consequence of their collective behavior (and vice versa). Moreover, she avoided the merely pretty in favor of what she described as “fantastic” contrasts between the old and the new, and chose her camera angles and lenses to create compositions that either stabilized a subject (if she approved of it), or destabilized it (if she scorned it).” 

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In the text below Gaëlle Morel observes, “Rather than the kind of nostalgic approach often brought to bear on a city’s landmarks and typical sites, this ensemble offers an exploration of the nature of modernity and focuses on the ways in which the past and future are temporarily linked together. Seeking to reinvent the forms and functions of photography in relation to the practice of documentary, Abbott sets out to capture the “disappearance of the moment” by juxtaposing motifs from a city subject to an unprecedented process of demolition and reconstruction.”

While Abbott’s photographs are definitely modernist in nature I believe that today they can also be seen as deeply nostalgic, emerging as they do in the period after the Great Depression when the economy was on the move again, a peaceful time before the oncoming armageddon of the Second World War, closely followed by the fear of nuclear annihilation and the threat of communist indoctrination. They are timeless portraits of a de/reconstructed city. The images seem to float in the air, breathe in the shadows. This is the disappearance of the moment into the enigma of past, present, future – where the photograph becomes eternal, where the best work of both Atget and Abbott resides.

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

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Berenice Abbott
New York Stock Exchange, New York City
1933
Gelatin silver print
24 x 19 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

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Berenice Abbott
Treasury Building, New York City
1933
Gelatin silver print
51 x 40.5 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

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Architecture

“The tempo of the city is not that of eternity, nor that of time, but that of the ephemeral. That is why recording it is so important, in both documentary and artistic terms.”

“All the photographs of New York took a long time to make, because the camera had to be carefully positioned. There is nothing fortuitous about these photographs.”

The exhibition features a substantial collection from Abbott’s best known project, Changing New York (1935-39). Commissioned by the Roosevelt administration as part of its response to the nationwide economic crisis, Abbott saw this piece of work as both a way of documenting the City and as a personal work of art. Eighty of the 305 photographs taken by Abbott are on show here, along with various documents providing insight into the background of this major photographic undertaking, including posters and views of the exhibition organized by the Museum of the City of New York in 1937, sketches and historical notes made by the team of journalists working with Abbott on the project, and proofs and dummies of the layout made by the photographer before she started work.

Abbott homes in on the contrasts between old and new elements in the City’s structure. Her images alternate between a New Vision aesthetic, characterised by an emphasis on details and bold perspectives, and a more documentary style that is frontal and neutral. Rather than the kind of nostalgic approach often brought to bear on a city’s landmarks and typical sites, this ensemble offers an exploration of the nature of modernity and focuses on the ways in which the past and future are temporarily linked together. Seeking to reinvent the forms and functions of photography in relation to the practice of documentary, Abbott sets out to capture the “disappearance of the moment” by juxtaposing motifs from a city subject to an unprecedented process of demolition and reconstruction.

In 1938, hoping to take advantage of the fifty million visitors expected at the New York World’s Fair of 1939, the publisher, E.P. Dutton, offered to bring out a selection of one hundred images from the project accompanied by a text by the renowned art critic Elizabeth McCausland, who also happened to be Abbott’s companion and staunch supporter. Going against the women’s original ideas for an art book, Dutton produced a more standard tourist guide, breaking the City down into a series of tours, from south to north and from the centre outwards. The text, too, was shorn of its poetic and pedagogical dimensions, leaving only informative entries about the buildings in the pictures.

In the exhibition, this set of architectural photographs is rounded out by a selection of pictures of vernacular architecture taken by Abbott during a journey in the southern states of the US in the 1930s and when she was travelling along Route 1 in the 1950s. Here, portraits of farmers and wooden houses alternate with pictures of streets and local events.

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Berenice Abbott
Triborough Bridge, East 125th Street Approach, New York City, June 29, 1937
1937
Gelatin silver print
24.5 x 19 cm
Museum of the City of New York. Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

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Berenice Abbott
Broadway to the Battery, New York City, May 4, 1938
1938 
Gelatin silver print
17.5 x 24 cm
Museum of the City of New York
Museum Purchase with funds from the Mrs. Elon Hooker Acquisition Fund
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

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Berenice Abbott
Flat Iron Building, Broadway and Fifth Avenue, New York City
1938
Gelatin silver print
101.5 x 76 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

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Berenice Abbott Petit Journal

With over 120 photographs, plus a selection of books and documents never shown before, this is the first exhibition in France to cover the many different facets of the American photographer Berenice Abbott (1898–1991), who is also famous for her international advocacy of Eugène Atget. She came to Paris in 1921 where she learnt her craft from Man Ray before opening her own studio and embarking on a successful career as a portraitist. Returning to New York City in 1929, she conceived what remains her best‑known project, Changing New York (1935-39). This was financed by the Works Progress Administration as part of its response to the economic crisis sweeping the country. The photographs she took in 1954 when travelling along the US East Coast on Route 1 (the exhibition presents a previously unseen selection of these images) reflect her ambition to represent the whole of what she called the “American scene.” Furthermore, in the 1950s, she also worked on a set of images for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) designed to illustrate the principles of mechanics and light for educational purposes.

A committed member of the avant‑garde from the early 1920s, and a staunch opponent of Pictorialism and the school of Alfred Stieglitz, Abbott spent the whole of her career exploring the limits and nature of documentary photography and photographic realism. This exhibition shows the rich array of her interests and conveys both the unity and diversity of her work.

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Portraits

Berenice Abbott moved to New York City in the early 1920s and went about becoming a sculptor. Mixing in the bohemian circles of Greenwich Village, she met writers and artists such as Djuna Barnes, Sadakichi Hartmann and Marcel Duchamp. She also posed for Man Ray. Economic hardship at home and the allure of what then seemed the cultural Eldorado of Europe impelled several of these artists to try their luck in Paris, and Abbott herself joined this group of American expatriates in 1921.

In 1923 she became the assistant of Man Ray, who had opened a portrait studio shortly after his arrival in France in 1921. While a fair portion of the studio’s clients were American tourists, Abbott found herself at the heart of the avant-garde scene – especially that of the Surrealists. Between 1923 and 1926 she thus learnt about darkroom techniques and portrait photography while at the same time picking up a broader intellectual and artistic education. She produced her portraits in Man Ray’s studio before opening her own in 1926. Success soon followed. Her clientele was a mixture of French cultural figures and American expatriates, of bourgeois, bohemians and literary types. Her portraits were on occasion manifestly influenced by Surrealism, and more generally show an interest in masquerade, play and disguise, but sometimes even in their use of overprinting and distortion.

The female models express a kind of sexual ambiguity, notably by their masculine haircut or clothes, deliberately exuding a sense of uncertainty with regard to their identity. In composing her portraits, Abbott developed a distinctive aesthetic, far removed from the usual commercial conventions. The absence of a set, with the background usually no more than a plain wall, helped to focus on the sitter and their posture, the position of their body and their facial expression. The use of a tripod and long-focus lenses placed at eye-height allowed her to avoid distorsions and thus heighten the physical presence of the models. In early 1929 Abbott left Paris for New York City. Back in America she continued with the same activities, opening a new portrait studio and taking part in exhibitions of modernist photography, while also promoting the work of Eugène Atget, having bought part of his estate in 1928.

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New York City

In the early 1930s, Abbott set about her project for a great documentary portrait of the City of New York, but had no luck when she approached institutions such as the Museum of the City of New York and the New York Historical Society for funding. She assembled her first efforts in an album (eight pages of which are exhibited here) in order to convey the scale of her ambitious undertaking, and in 1934 exhibited her photographs of the City at the Museum of the City of New York in the hope of attracting sponsors. In 1935, support was at last forthcoming from the Federal Art Project, a programme set up to aid artists by the Works Progress Administration as part of the New Deal; she now had the support of a team of researchers who produced an information pack with text and drawings to accompany each image. Entitled Changing New York, she conceived this commission as both a vast documentary record of the City and a personal work of art. Eighty of the 305 photographs constituting this project have been selected for the exhibition. These are accompanied by documents – a poster, exhibition views, sketches and historical notes, proofs, pages from the preparatory album and original editions – that help to convey the concerns and ambitions behind this major photographic undertaking.

Abbott focused on the contrasts and links between old and new in the City’s structure. Her images alternate between a New Vision aesthetic, characterised by an emphasis on details and bold perspectives, and a more documentary style that is frontal and neutral. Rather than the kind of nostalgic approach often brought to bear on a city’s landmarks and typical sites, this ensemble offers an exploration of the nature of modernity and focuses on the ways in which the past and future are temporarily linked together. Seeking to reinvent the forms and functions of photography in relation to the practice of documentary, Abbott sets out to capture the “vanishing instant” by juxtaposing motifs from a city subject to an unprecedented process of demolition and reconstruction.

The upshot of all this work was the publication of a book, Changing New York, in 1939. But there was considerable tension between the publisher, whose concerns were commercial, and the photographer, with her artistic ambitions. In 1938, hoping to take advantage of the fifty million visitors expected at the New York World’s Fair of 1939, the publishing house E.P. Dutton proposed to bring out a selection of one hundred images from the project accompanied by a text from the renowned art critic Elizabeth McCausland, who also happened to be Abbott’s companion and unfailing supporter. Straying far from the project originally envisaged by the two women, Dutton changed the presentation of the photographs and produced what was a standard tourist guide, breaking the City down into a series of tours, from south to north and from the centre outwards. The text, too, was shorn of its poetic and pedagogical dimensions, leaving only information about the buildings in the pictures.

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The “American scene”

This set of architectural images is completed by a selection of vernacular photographs. In the summer of 1935, Berenice Abbott went on a road trip down to the Southern US in order to create a portrait of a rural world in crisis. Choosing the kind of documentary style that would be the hallmark of the photographic survey launched by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) that same year, she focused on the modest wooden houses and the farmers. Driving around these states with Elizabeth McCausland, Abbott took some two hundred photographs which the two women saw as part of an ambitious photographic portrait of America in book form, although in the end this was never published. A similar fate befell Abbott’s piece on the small towns and villages along Route 1, which she travelled in 1954. Covering approximately 6,500  kilometres as she followed this road along the East Coast of the US, she took some 2,400 photographs, taking in stalls, shops, portraits of farmers, diners and bars and dance halls. Her photography alternated between the documentary aesthetic and Street Photography. With Route 1, Abbott continued to pursue her ambition of representing the whole of the “American scene.”

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Science

Abbott started photographing scientific phenomena in 1939. In 1944 she was recruited by the journal Science Illustrated, where she published some of her own pictures, as head of its photography department. Abbott took a committed, pedagogical approach, seeing her images as a vital bridge between modern science and the general public. In 1957, as a result of the anxiety about national science stirred by the Soviet launch of the Sputnik into outer space, at the height of the Cold War, the National Science Foundation set up a Physical Science Study Committee at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Its role was to develop new textbooks for the teaching of science in schools and to use innovative photographs to illustrate the principles of quantum mechanics. Abbott was hired by MIT to produce photographs for the popularisation and teaching of the sciences. Using abstract forms to visually express complex mechanical concepts and invisible mechanical laws, she used black grounds to reveal principles such as gravity and light waves. The exhibition features a score of Abbott’s scientific and experimental images, as well as some of the books for which they were used. Harking back to the experiments of the avant-gardes, and in particular the rayogram technique, she was able to produce visually attractive and surprising images that were also rich in discovery, thus combining documentary information with a sense of wonder.”

Text by Gaëlle Morel, curator of the exhibition, on the Jeu de Paume website

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Berenice Abbott
Blossom Restaurant, 103 Bowery, New York City, October 24, 1935
1935
Gelatin silver print
19 x 24.5 cm
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

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Berenice Abbott
Sunoco Station, Trenton, New Jersey
1954
Gelatin silver print
19 x 24.5 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

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Berenice Abbott
Gunsmith and Police Department Headquarters, 6 Centre Market Place and 240 Centre Street, New York City, February 4, 1937
1937 
Gelatin silver print
19 x 24.5 cm
Museum of the City of New York
Gift of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

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Berenice Abbott
Happy’s Refreshment Stand, Daytona Beach, Florida
1954
Gelatin silver print
29.5 x 28 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

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Berenice Abbott
Miner, Greenview, West Virginia
1935
Gelatin silver print
25 x 19 cm
Ronald Kurtz / Commerce Graphics
© Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics Ltd, Inc.

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 12:00 – 21:00
Wednesday – Friday: 12:00 – 19:00
Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 – 19:00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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09
Sep
11

Exhibition: ‘The Mind’s Eye, 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann’ at the Harn Museum of Art, Florida

Exhibition dates: 14th June – 11th September, 2011

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One of my favourite artists. Uelsmann’s unique vision and the skill required to execute that vision using multiple exposure of negatives in the darkroom (remember, this is all done with no Photoshop!) is outstanding. Observe the sensitivity to subject matter and the placement of disparate elements in the surrealist landscape. His photographs have real allegorical power and lodge in the viewer’s psyche. My particular favourites are the library and the house on the tree stump. Uelsmann achieves wonderful resolution to inner visions and then makes the dream-like tableaux accessible to the viewer. As one who started as a black and white photographer and who experimented with multiple exposures on one piece of silver gelatin paper in the darkroom, I can attest to how enormously difficult this process is.

The text on Wikipedia states:

“Uelsmann is a master printer producing composite photographs with multiple negatives and extensive darkroom work. He uses up to a dozen enlargers at a time to produce his final images … Uelsmann is a champion of the idea that the final image need not be tied to a single negative, but may be composed of many … he does not seek to create narratives, but rather allegorical surrealist imagery of the unfathomable … Today, with the advent of digital cameras and Photoshop, photographers are able to create a work somewhat resembling Uelsmann’s in less than a day, however, at the time Uelsmann was considered to have almost “magical skill” with his completely analog tools.”

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I thank him for having the creative energy to be a magician.

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

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Apocalypse II
1967
Gelatin silver print
10 3/4 x 13 5/8 in (27.2 x 34.5 cm)
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Magritte’s Touchstone (first version)
nd
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Mechanical Man #2
1959
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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“The first critical retrospective of American photographer Jerry Uelsmann’s work will open at the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida on June 14, 2011. Uelsmann, known for his iconic, surreal style and his innovative composite printing techniques, has spent more than 50 years challenging and advocating for the acceptance of photography as an experimental art form. The Mind’s Eye, 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann, organized by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts will feature 89 works from every phase of the artist’s wide-ranging career, including a selection of rare pieces that have never before been on public view. Additional works from the artist’s collection will be on view only during this leg of the exhibition, open through September 11, 2011.

“The Harn Museum of Art is delighted to welcome this important exhibition of photographic works by the University of Florida’s own Jerry Uelsmann, a graduate research professor in the art department from 1960 to 1998,” said Rebecca Nagy, director of the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. “Jerry has been, and continues to be a leader in the field and we are delighted to celebrate and look back on such a long, important, and innovative career.”

The exhibition will emphasize Uelsmann’s profound influence on the field of photography through his revolutionary mastery of composite photography. Through the presentation of images from different stages of his works, viewers will gain a new understanding of the artist’s creative process and the evolution of Uelsmann’s ideas throughout his career. The pieces on view will be drawn from the artist’s personal archive of vintage materials, and are the definitive prints of the images. A few examples of the artist’s photo sculptures, artist’s books and albums will give viewers first-hand insight into Uelsmann’s creative process.

“From the beginning of his career, Uelsmann has advocated for the acceptance of photography as an experimental art form,” said Phillip Prodger, curator of photography at the Peabody Essex Museum. “Uelsmann’s photography provides a valuable touchstone for understanding new trends in photographic art. His ideas and work have become even more relevant as photography embraces Photoshop and other computer technologies for altering and manipulating photographic pictures.”

Beginning in the late 1950s, Uelsmann succeeded in combining negatives in the darkroom to create synthetic compositions that conjure the illusion of photographic truth. Although these pictures are visually convincing, they depict scenes that often have no analogue in the real world. Evocative, unsettling, and often humorous, Uelsmann’s photographs are seldom easily resolved, inviting reflection without obvious resolution. His most famous technique, seamlessly fabricating photographs from unrelated negatives to create imaginary scenes, helped build his reputation as an experimental photographer, and cemented his standing as a leader of non-literal photography.

“My visual quest is driven by a desire to create a universe capable of supporting feelings and ideas,” said Jerry Uelsmann. “I am drawn to art that challenges one’s sense of reality.”

Press release from the Harn Museum of Art website

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Untitled
1976
Gelatin silver print
19 5/8 x 14 1/4 in (49.9 x 36.3 cm)
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Untitled
1964
Gelatin silver print
13 3/4 x 10 1/4 in (34.9 x 26.1cm)
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Untitled
1982
Gelatin silver print
13 1/4 x 10 3/8 in (33.8 x 26.4 cm)
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Jerry Uelsmann (born 1934)
Untitled
2003
Gelatin silver print
19 3/8 x 15 in (49.1 x 38 cm)
Collection of the artist
© Jerry Uelsmann

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Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art
SW 34th Street and Hull Road
Gainesville, Florida 32611-2700

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
The museum is closed on Mondays and state holidays.

Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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