Posts Tagged ‘Frederick Sommer The Anatomy of a Chicken

28
Jul
13

Exhibition: ‘A World of Bonds: Frederick Sommer’s Photography and Friendships’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 16th June – 4th August 2013

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Frederick Sommer is not as well known as others in the famous quintet (the others being Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Minor White and Paul Strand). He is the (slightly) forgotten master. But for those that know his work, Frederick Sommer is the photographer’s photographer.

There is a visual and intellectual alchemy transmitted through his work. It is as if he was a magician, producing images out of thin air: paper cuts, smoke on glass, collage, found objects, rites, passages, cleavages, heroes, occultism (Paracelsus was a Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist). From the few photographs I have seen in the flesh his prints, like his thinking, have a volume to them that few other photographers can match. Here I must cede to the knowledge of my friend and photographer Ian Lobb who visited Sommer at his home in Prescott, Arizona.

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“You will notice with FS prints that the only date given is the date of the negative. This is not unusual of course, but one of FS strengths is being interested in returning to a negative and print it with enthusiasm after looking at other versions for a very long time.

Another strength is a really simple strong way of working – according to Les Walkling, FS had a block of wood the same size as an 8×10 contact print. By placing the print on this base as he spotted, the print was always raised above his work environment and the chance of an accident was reduced. So simple  – so elegant.  I see this state of mind repeated – eg when he was out photographing with Siskind and he found a pile of X-rays and said that this was his work for the day.

Caponigro and Sommer are the ones that make their technical skill communicate in very unique ways. By chronology, Sommer is the first one who found that something beyond the f/64 Group vocabulary could be said. Whereas Edward Weston and Paul Strand are working at about 3/10 for their prints, Sommer is working at 9/10. He doesn’t always get there in every print but when he succeeds the results are beyond what any other classical photographer ever achieved in the physical presence of the photograph.

Venus, Jupiter and Mars was the first extended viewing of Sommer that arrived here (in Australia). It would have been at the Printed Image (bookshop) in 1981.”

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Venus, Jupiter and Mars' 1949

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Frederick Sommer
Venus, Jupiter and Mars
1949
Gelatin silver print
23.8 x 19.1 cm (9 3/8 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Frederick Sommer. 'Valise d'Adam' 1949

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Frederick Sommer
Valise d’Adam
1949
Gelatin silver print
23.9 x 18.9 cm (9 7/16 x 7 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Against a backdrop of rusting metal, Frederick Sommer arranged a grouping of found objects. A clipboard clamp represents a head and shoulders while dirty, cracking doll’s arms and legs provide more literal context, defining the object as a human body. Within that fragmented body, Sommer places a complete doll with its head pointed downward, as if ready to be born.  The photograph’s French title, Valise d’Adam, or as Sommer translated it, Adam’s Traveling Case, is a sly reference to the idea that man travels through woman into the world, and perhaps, woman even carries man through life.

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Frederick Sommer. 'Moon Culmination' 1951

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Frederick Sommer
Moon Culmination
1951
gelatin silver print
24.2 x 19.2 cm (9 1/2 x 7 9/16 in.)
Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Aaron Siskind. 'Manzanillo, Mexico' 1955

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Aaron Siskind
Manzanillo, Mexico
1955
Gelatin silver print
35.6 x 27.8 cm (14 x 10 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, René Huyghe Collection
Image courtesy of the Aaron Siskind Foundation

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Frederick Sommer. 'Untitled' 1947

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Frederick Sommer
Untitled
1947
Gelatin silver print
24.2 x 19.1 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Frederick Sommer. 'The Anatomy of a Chicken' 1939

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Frederick Sommer
The Anatomy of a Chicken
1939
Gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard
24.1 x 19 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Frederick Sommer. 'Cut Paper' 1980

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Frederick Sommer
Cut Paper
1980
gelatin silver print
24.2 x 18.7 cm (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Frederick Sommer. 'Paracelsus' 1957

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Frederick Sommer
Paracelsus
1957
Gelatin silver print
34.3 x 25.6 cm (13 1/2 x 10 1/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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“The National Gallery of Art explores the continuities in Frederick Sommer’s varied body of work and demonstrates the influence of his friendships with fellow artists in the exhibition A World of Bonds: Frederick Sommer’s Photography and Friendships, on view in the East Building from June 16 to August 4, 2013. Drawn from the Gallery’s significant holdings, which include a major 1995 gift from the artist himself, the exhibition showcases 27 works by Sommer, Edward Weston, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Aaron Siskind, and Charles Sheeler, including three pieces on loan from other museums and private collections.

“The Gallery is privileged to display this influential body of work, which illuminates Frederick Sommer’s interactions with his fellow artists,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “In addition to photographs drawn from our permanent collection, we are grateful to the lenders who have assisted us in revealing the continuities in Sommer’s broad range of work, as well as The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation for its generous support.”

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About the exhibition

The exhibition showcases the beauty and diversity of Sommer’s striking images and places them in the context of his formative friendships with such prominent contemporaries as Edward Weston, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Charles Sheeler, and Aaron Siskind.

As an artist, Frederick Sommer notoriously defies classification. Over the span of more than 60 years, he created paintings, drawings, and photographs, as well as collages, musical scores, poetry, and theoretical texts. Today, Sommer is best known for his photography, the medium in which he produced his most inventive visual experiments and which best suited the breadth of his visual interests. These ranged from disorienting desert landscapes to surrealistic arrangements of found objects, and to abstractions that brought together drawing and photography.

“All rare things should be lent away / and I have borrowed very freely,” Sommer wrote of his art. He also asserted that “the world is not a world of cleavages, it is a world of bonds.” This exhibition examines both claims, offering a glimpse into the ways in which Sommer shared ideas with his contemporaries while simultaneously creating a body of work uniquely his own.

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About the artist

Just as he defied the bounds of medium and genre, Sommer, who lived in the small town of Prescott, Arizona, also never fully belonged to any artistic group or movement. His work reflects both wide-ranging personal interests and a broad scope of artistic affinities with artists as divergent as the surrealists and the members of the f/64 group of West Coast photographers.

Sommer’s circle of close artist-friends and mentors helps explain his idiosyncratic sensibilities. This circle included the photographer Edward Weston, whose precise attention to the details of the natural world inspired Sommer’s turn to photography. Equally important to Sommer, however, was his friendship with Max Ernst, the surrealist whose automatic painting techniques and uncanny imagery encouraged Sommer to reconfigure familiar objects into strange new creations. Aaron Siskind was yet another close friend and peer with whom Sommer shared a fascination with the abstract textures of everyday materials. Other artists represented in the exhibition who influenced Sommer’s approach to photographing assemblages and his exploration of photographic abstraction include Man Ray and Charles Sheeler.”

Text from the National Gallery of Art website

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Frederick Sommer. 'Coyotes' 1945

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Frederick Sommer
Coyotes
1945
Gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard
19 x 24.2 cm (7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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John Cato. 'Man tracks #9R' from the 'Mantracks' series 1978 - 83

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John Cato
Man tracks #9R
from the Mantracks series 1978 – 83
Gelatin silver photograph
42.9 x 35.2 cm

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Frederick Sommer. 'Ondine' 1950

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Frederick Sommer
Ondine
1950
Gelatin silver print mounted on paperboard
19.2 x 24.3 cm (7 9/16 x 9 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Frederick Sommer. 'Taylor, Arizona' 1945

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Frederick Sommer
Taylor, Arizona
1945
Gelatin silver print
19.2 x 24.2 cm (7 9/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Frederick Sommer. 'Max Ernst' 1946

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Frederick Sommer
Max Ernst
1946
Gelatin silver print
19.05 x 24.13 cm (7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in.)
Collection of Susan and Peter MacGill
Frederick & Frances Sommer Foundation

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Frederick Sommer. 'Untitled' 1947

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Frederick Sommer
Untitled
1947
Gelatin silver print
19 x 24 cm (7 1/2 x 9 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Frederick Sommer. 'Coyotes' 1941

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Frederick Sommer
Coyotes
1941
Gelatin silver print
19.1 x 24.1 cm (7 1/2 x 9 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Les Walkling (Australia born 1953) 'Flypaper' 1980

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Les Walkling (Australia born 1953)
Flypaper
1980
Gelatin silver photograph
19.1 h x 24.3 w cm
Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982
© Les Walkling

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Frederick Sommer. 'Lacryma' 1992

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Frederick Sommer
Lacryma
1992
Collage of photomechanical reproductions of lithographic, relief and intaglio prints on
heavyweight wove paper
36 x 42.4 cm (14 3/16 x 16 11/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Frederick Sommer. 'Drawing' 1948

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Frederick Sommer
Drawing
1948
Tempera on black wove paper
30.4 x 46.9 cm (11 15/16 x 18 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Frederick Sommer. 'The Queen of Sheba' 1992

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Frederick Sommer
The Queen of Sheba
1992
Collage of photomechanical reproductions of relief and intaglio prints on heavyweight wove
paper
21.8 x 31.8 cm (8 9/16 x 12 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Frederick Sommer

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Fiona Hall. 'Envy, Seven Deadly Sins' 1985

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Fiona Hall
Envy, Seven Deadly Sins
1985
Polaroid photograph
61 × 50.8cm
© Fiona Hall

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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

Frederick Sommer website

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17
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Still Life’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 14th September 2010 – 23rd January 2011

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

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Armand-Pierre Séguier (French, 1803 – 1876)
‘Still Life with Plaster Casts’
1839 – 1842
Daguerreotype 8 x 6 in.
Accession No. 2002.41
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Baron Adolf De Meyer (American, 1868 – 1949)
‘Glass and Shadows’
1905
Photogravure
Image: 8 3/4 x 6 9/16 in.
Accession No. 84.XP.463.22
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Charles Aubry (French, 1811 – 1877)
[An Arrangement of Tobacco Leaves and Grass]
about 1864
Albumen silver print
Image: 47 x 37.3 cm (18 1/2 x 14 11/16 in.)
Accession No. 84.XP.394
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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The J. Paul Getty Museum presents In Focus: Still Life, a survey of some of the innovative ways photographers have explored and refreshed this traditional genre, on view at the Getty Center in the Center for Photographs from September 14, 2010 – January 23, 2011.

“Still life photography has served as both a conventional and an experimental form during periods of significant aesthetic and technological change,” said Paul Martineau, assistant curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curator of the exhibition. “One of our goals for the exhibition was to show how still life photographs can be both traditional and surprising.”

With its roots in antiquity, the term “still life” is derived from the Dutch word stilleven, coined during the 17th century, when painted examples enjoyed immense popularity throughout Europe. The impetus for a new term came as artists created compositions of increasing complexity, bringing together a greater variety of objects to communicate allegorical meanings. Still life featured prominently in the early experiments of the pioneers of the photographic medium and, more than 170 years later, it continues to be a significant motif for contemporary photographers.

Drawn exclusively from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition includes photographs by Charles Aubry, Henry Bailey, Hans Bellmer, Jo Ann Callis, Sharon Core, Baron Adolf De Meyer, Walker Evans, Roger Fenton, Frederick H. Hollyer, Heinrich Kühn, Sigmar Polke, Man Ray, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Paul Outerbridge, Louis-Rémy Robert, Baron Armand-Pierre Séguier, Paul Strand, Josef Sudek, and Thomas R. Williams.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically and includes a broad range of photographic processes, from daguerreotypes and albumen silver prints made in the 19th century to gelatin silver prints, and cibachrome prints made in the 20th century, to digital prints from the 21st century.

Newly acquired works will be on display for the first time: Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser (1985) by American Irving Penn, Lorikeet with Green Cloth (2006) by Australian Marian Drew, and Blow Up: Untitled 15 (2007) by Israeli Ori Gersht (Gersht loosely based his Blow Up series on traditional floral still life paintings. His arrangements of flowers are frozen and then detonated. The explosion is captured using synchronized digital cameras, with the fragmentary detritus caught in remarkable detail. 

This diptych (pair) belies the notion of still life as something motionless as it explores the relationships among painting and photography, art and science, and creation and destruction.)

For Bowl with Sugar Cubes, photographer André Kertész created a still life out of a simple bowl, spoon, and sugar cubes, demonstrating the photographer’s interest in the compositional possibilities of layering basic geometric forms on top of one another – three rectangles in a circle (sugar cubes and bowl) and a circle in a square (bowl and the cropped printing paper). A visual sophistication is achieved through his adroit use of simple objects and dramatic lighting.

Other selections from In Focus: Still Life include Edward Weston’s Bananas and Orange, which depicts a symmetrical fan of bananas punctuated by one oddly shaped orange, and Frederick Sommer’s The Anatomy of a Chicken, which uses the discarded parts of a chicken to create a visual commentary. Influenced by Surrealism, Sommer embraced unexpected juxtapositions and literary allusions to express his intellectual and philosophical ideas. In Anatomy of a Chicken, a severed head, three sunken eyes, and eviscerated organs glisten on a white board. Evoking biblical imagery, medieval grotesques, and heraldic emblems, Sommer calls on the viewer to consider the endless cycle of birth and death, the cruel reality of the food chain, and man’s role in this violence.

In Focus: Still Life will be the seventh installation of the ongoing In Focus series of exhibitions, thematic presentations of photographs from the Getty’s permanent collection. Previous exhibitions focused on The Nude, The Landscape, The Portrait, Making a Scene (staged photographs), The Worker, and most recently, Tasteful Pictures.”

Press release from The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890 – 1976)
‘Dead Leaf’
1942
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 1/2 x 7 13/16 in.
Accession No. 84.XM.1000.55
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
[Black Bottle]
negative about 1919; print 1923 – 1939
Gelatin silver, on Cykora paper print
Image (trimmed to mount): 32.7 x 24.8 cm (12 7/8 x 9 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 34.4 x 27.1 cm (13 9/16 x 10 11/16 in.)
Mount (irregular): 35.1 x 27.8 cm (13 13/16 x 10 15/16 in.)
Accession No. 86.XM.686.5.1
Copyright: © Aperture Foundation
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Irving Penn
‘Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser, New York, 1985’
dye-bleach print
Image: 22¾ x 18 1/8in. (57.8 x 46cm.)
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Frederick Sommer (American, born Italy, 1905 – 1999)
‘The Anatomy of a Chicken’
1939
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.1 x 19.1 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
Accession No. 94.XM.37.96
© Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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“Still life derives from the Dutch word stilleven, coined in the 17th century when paintings of objects enjoyed immense popularity throughout Europe. The impetus for this term came as artists created compositions of greater complexity, bringing together a wider variety of objects to communicate allegorical meanings.

Still life has come to serve, like landscape or portraiture, as a category within art. Although it typically refers to depictions of inanimate things, because it incorporates a vast array of influences from different cultures and periods in history, it has always resisted precise definition.

This exhibition presents some of the innovative ways photographers have explored and refreshed this traditional genre. During the 19th century, still life photographs tended to resemble still life paintings, with similar subjects and arrangements. Beginning in the 20th century, still life photographs have mirrored the subjects and styles that have more broadly concerned photographers in their time.

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A New Medium

Still life featured prominently in the experiments of photography inventors Jacques-Louis-Mandé Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot. They did this in part, for practical reasons: the exceptionally long exposure times of their processes precluded the use of living models.

In the late 1830s, Baron Armand-Pierre Séguier, a close associate of Daguerre, created this elegant daguerreotype that features small-scale copies of famous sculptures in the Louvre and Uffizi museum collections.

In the mid-1800s, Charles Aubry was an accomplished practitioner of still-life photography who came to the medium by way of his professional interest in applied arts and industrial design. After working as a pattern designer for carpets, fabrics, and wallpapers, he formed a company to manufacture plaster casts and make photographs of plants and flowers.

Aubrey’s detailed prints of natural forms – like this close-up of plants on a lace-covered background – were intended to replace lithographs traditionally used by students of industrial design.

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Photography as Art

By the first decade of the 20th century, art photographers like Baron Adolf de Meyer employed soft-focus lenses and painterly darkroom techniques to make photographs that resembled drawings and prints. The vogue at the time was to produce images that reflected a handcrafted approach, while asserting photography as an art medium in its own right.

Here, De Meyer photographed an arrangement of objects through a scrim. The pattern of thin, woven fabric softens the backlit objects and helps replicate the subtle tonal effects prized in etchings and aquatints.

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Modernism

Several decades into the twentieth-century, the American artist Man Ray emerged as a pioneer of two European art movements, Dada and Surrealism, in which the element of surprise figured prominently. This image seems both unusual for Man Ray in its apparent straight-forward approach, but also typical in its somewhat dark emotional tone.

By selecting a dead leaf with a claw-like appearance and photographing it against a wood-grain board, Man Ray updated the concept of memento mori (“remember that you must die”), a motif popular in centuries-old still-life paintings.

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New Directions

In that same vein, the best contemporary still-life photographs recall past styles of art while containing a paradox relevant to today. Contemporary photographer Sharon Core became known for re-creations of painter Wayne Thiebaud’s pop-art dessert tableaux. Her series of still-life compositions, inspired by the 18th-century American painter Raphaelle Peale, followed.

For this series, entitled “Early American,” Core studied the compositional structure of his paintings, replicated the mood of the lighting, and when she couldn’t find the right vegetables and flowers, grew her own from heirloom seeds.

The stilled lives of objects have served so well as both experimental and conventional forms in the past, that still life may well be the anchor that allows photographers to explore new and yet unimagined depths.”

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Ori Gersht (Israeli, 1967 – )
‘Blow Up: Untitled 15’
2007
Digital chromogenic prints
Accession No. 2009.46
© Ori Gersht
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Edward Weston (American, 1886 – 1958)
‘Bananas and Orange’
April 1927
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.9 x 23.7 cm (7 7/16 x 9 5/16 in.)
Accession No. 84.XM.860.4
© 1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894 – 1985)
[Bowl with Sugar Cubes]
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.7 x 16.4 cm (6 9/16 x 6 1/2 in.)
Accession No. 84.XM.193.46
© Estate of André Kertész
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Sharon Core (American)
‘Early American – Still Life with Steak’
2008
Chromogenic print
Image: 17 3/16 x 23 7/16 in.
Accession No. 2009.78
© Sharon Core
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Marian Drew (Australian, born 1960)
‘Lorikeet with Green Cloth’
2006
Digital pigment print
Image: 71.8 x 89.5 cm (28 1/4 x 35 1/4 in.)
Sheet: 73 x 90.2 cm (28 3/4 x 35 1/2 in.)
Accession No. 2009.44
Copyright: © Marian Drew
Object Credit: Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 – 5.30pm
Saturday 10 – 9pm
Sunday 10 – 9pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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