Posts Tagged ‘gallery website

12
Jul
09

Review: ‘Double Infinitives’ by Marco Fusinato at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th June – 25th July 2009

 

Marco Fusinato. 'Double Infinitive 3' 2009

 

Marco Fusinato (Australian, b. 1964)
Double Infinitive 3
2009

 

Marco Fusinato. 'Double infinitive I' 2009

 

Marco Fusinato (Australian, b. 1964)
Double infinitive 1
2009

 

 

Double Infinitives by Marco Fusinato at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne is an excellent exhibition of large UV ink on aluminium images sourced by Fusinato from the print media.

The images are made up of a dot pattern familiar to those who have examined photographs in the print media closely. Larger and smaller clusters of dots form the light and shade of the image. As you move closer to the works they dissolve into blocks of dots and become and optical illusion like Op Art from the 1960s. Fusinato contrasts this dot structure with the inclusion of flat panels of black ink to the left and right hand side of the images. The section lines that run through the images (for they are not one single image but made up of panels) also adds to the optical nature of the work as the lines cut the conflagrations, literally stitching the seams/scenes together.

Each image contains an individual holding a rock enclosed in the milieu and detritus of a riot; the figures are grounded in the earth and surrounded by fire but in their obscurity, in the veiling of their eyes, the figures seem present but absent at one and the same time. They become ghosts of the fire.

Fire consumes the bodies. The almost cut out presence of the figures, their hands clutching, throwing, saluting become mute. Here the experience of the sound, colour and movement of an actual riot is silenced in the flatness and smoothness of the images. The images possess the intensity of a newspaper reality ‘blown up’ to a huge scale by Fusinato (see the installation photograph below to get an idea of the effect). The punctum of the riot, that prick of consciousness that Barthes so liked, is translated into a silenced studium of the aluminium surface; an aural history (the sound)/oral history (the telling of the story) trapped in the structure of silence.

There is a double jeopardy – the dissolution of the image into dots and the disintegration of the body into fire. In one of the images the upraised arm and hand of one of the rioters holds a rock with what appears to be a figure on it, surrounded by fire. To me the arm turned into one of the burning Twin Towers with smoke and fire pouring from it (see the first photograph in the installation photograph below).

My only concern about the images were the black panels, perhaps too obvious a tool for the purpose the artist intended. Maybe the needed some small texture, like a moire pattern to reference the contours of a map and continue the topographical and optical theme. Perhaps they just needed to be smaller or occasionally placed as thin strips down the actual image itself but these are small quibbles. Overall this is an fantastic exhibition that I enjoyed immensely. The images are literally ripped from the matrix of time and space and become the dot dot dot of the addendum. What Fusinato does so excellently is to make us pause and stare, to recognise the flatness of these figures and the quietness of violence that surrounds us.

Music – Noise  – Silence
Flatness – Advertising – Earth – Fire
Rock – Space – Memory

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

Marco Fusinato. 'Double Infinitive 4' 2009

 

Marco Fusinato (Australian, b. 1964)
Double Infinitive 4
2009

 

 

A selection of images from the print media of the decisive moment in a riot in which a protagonist brandishes a rock against a backdrop of fire. Each image is from a different part of the world, from the early twenty-first century, and is blown up to history-painting scale using the latest commercial print technologies.

Text by Marco Fusinato on his website

 

Installation of Marco Fusinato 'Double Infinitives' exhibition at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

 

Installation of Marco Fusinato Double Infinitives exhibition at Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

DOUBLE INFINITIVES

“Unheard music is better than heard” (Greek proverb of late antiquity).

“That music be heard is not essential – what it sounds like may not be what it is” (Charles Ives, Essays Before a Sonata).

“The proposition of Jacques Attali’s Noise is different. He says that while noise is a deadly weapon, silence is death.”

David Rattray, “How I Became One of the Invisible,” Semiotext(e), 1992.

 

The explosive communal act of rioting is most commonly delivered to an audience suspended in the stillness and silence of a photographic image. Noise is not removed in this process, it is almost amplified: the sound and action that deliver this singularly captured moment into existence are infinite, as all things remain while they are imagined, before they are anchored down by express articulation.

Photographic representation can easily be accused of subverting the truth of events, not because what is seen in the image has not transpired, but because static images leave so much space around them for multiple narratives to be constructed. The still image is totally contingent on the consciousness that confronts it. By contrast, the near-totality of videos can give too much away …

Sourced by Fusinato from print media published in the last few years, these images of rioting all contain an individual clutching a rock, bathed in the refractory glow of a nearby fire. The image has become prototypical, so much so that it lacks the sensation of spontaneity requisite to produce a riot. (Apropos to this predictability, Fusinato would check global newspapers after every forum or conference of global financial authorities, often finding the image he was looking for).

Double Infinitives is a succinct allegory for the reluctance to compromise comfort overpowering radical impulses. Conversations suggest this is a conflict frequently experienced by artists. Deprived of a volatile political reality, we experience radicalism through images that act as small ruptures, reminders that the world we live in might be more severely charged than our individual experiences allow. Fusinato’s works flatten these images of volatility onto a smooth slate: they are similar and radiate with the vexed beauty of sameness. A riot is a mad and brutal spectacle, a theatre that is often documented as if it were a play. Hugely expanded in scale and rendered in the suffused gloss of advertising, the real possibility of violence that these works infer deepens the layers of the fiction rather than comprising an indicator of human concern. Those things with which we come into such gentle contact that their thorns barely prick …”

Liv Barrett
June 2009

Text from the Anna Schwartz Gallery website [Online] Cited 10/07/2009 no longer available online

 

Marco Fusinato. 'Double Iinfinitive 2' 2009

 

Marco Fusinato (Australian, b. 1964)
Double Iinfinitive 2
2009

 

Marco Fusinato. 'Double Iinfinitive 2' (detail) 2009

 

Marco Fusinato (Australian, b. 1964)
Double Iinfinitive 2 (detail)
2009

 

Marco Fusinato. 'Double Iinfinitive 5' 2009

 

Marco Fusinato (Australian, b. 1964)
Double Iinfinitive 5
2009

 

 

Anna Schwartz Gallery
185 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 12 – 5pm
Saturday 1 – 5pm

Anna Schwartz Gallery website

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23
Jun
09

Exhibition: ‘Fourteen Places to Eat: A Narrative Photographing Rural Culture in the Midwest’ by photographer Kay Westhues at the Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame, Indiana

Exhibition dates: 31st May – 19th July 2009

 

Kay Westheus. 'CSX railroad building, Walkerton' 2005

 

Kay Westhues
CSX railroad building, Walkerton
2005

 

 

I really like this work. An insightful eye, sensitive, tapped into the community that the artist is documenting. Attuned to its inflections and incongruities, the isolation and loneliness of a particular culture in time and place. There are further strong photographs from the series on the Kay Westhues website. It’s well worth your time looking through these excellent photographs. And observing the wonderful light!

There is an interview with Kay Westhues on the Daily Yonder website.

All photographs © Kay Westhues with permission and thanks, used under Creative Commons 2.5 License with proper attribution. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Kay Westheus. 'Man with patriotic cast, Original Famous Fish of Stroh' 2005

 

Kay Westhues
Man with patriotic cast, Original Famous Fish of Stroh
2005

 

Kay Westhues. 'Knox laundromat' 2005

 

Kay Westhues
Knox laundromat
2005

 

 

The Snite Museum of Art announces the opening of the exhibition: Fourteen Places to Eat: a Narrative: Photographing Rural Culture in the Midwest, opening on Sunday, May 31,2009.

Kay Westhues is a photographer who is interested in documenting the ways in which rural tradition and history are interpreted and transformed in the present day. Kay shares her intention for this series of work:

“For the past five years I have been working on a series of photographs depicting rural culture in Indiana and the Midwest. This project was inspired by my memories of growing up on a farm in Walkerton, Indiana, and observing first hand the shifting cultural identity that has occurred over time and through changing economic development. I moved back to Walkerton in order to help care for my ageing parents in 2001.

These photos mirror my personal history, but I am also capturing a people’s history grounded in a sense of place. My intention is to celebrate rural life, without idealising it.

The overall theme since the project’s inception is the effect of the demise of local economies that have historically sustained rural communities. Many of my images contain the remains of an earlier time, when locally owned stores and family farms were the norm. Today chain stores and agribusiness are prevalent in rural communities. These communities are struggling to thrive in the global economy, and my images reflect that reality.

Most recently I have focused on the complex relationship between farmers and domesticated animals. I make many of my images at Animal Swap Meets and sale barns, places where animals are bought and sold. Family farms are quickly being replaced by large-scale food production, and these events still draw smaller farmers and the local people who support them.”

Why fourteen places to eat?

“One of my biggest complaints after moving to Walkerton was that there were not enough places to eat out. Or, rather, practically no places to eat out. So I was happy when news arrived that a new restaurant was opening there. Imagine my surprise when I read a letter to the editor in the local paper against the new restaurant. The letter stated we already had enough places to eat in this town. The writer counted a total of fourteen places to eat, which included four restaurants, three gas stations, four bars, a truck stop, a convenience mart, and a bowling alley.”

Ms. Westhues studied photography at Rhode Island School of Design and Indiana University, Bloomington. She has a BS degree in Photography and Ethnocentrism from the Indiana University Individualised Major Program (1994), and an MS in Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University (1998). She currently lives in Elkhart, Indiana, and is completing a five-year project photographing rural culture in the Midwest. This series is a visual exploration of the ways rural identity is defined in contemporary society.

Press release from the Snite Museum of Art Cited 20/06/2009

 

Kay Westheus. 'Chicken bingo, Francesville Fall Festival' 2005

 

Kay Westhues
Chicken bingo, Francesville Fall Festival
2005

 

Kay Westheus. 'Patriotic hammers ($3.00)' 2005

 

Kay Westhues
Patriotic hammers ($3.00)
2005

 

Kay Westhues. 'Parked trailer, Ligonier' 2006

 

Kay Westhues
Parked trailer, Ligonier
2006

 

Kay Westheus. 'Lunch at the Crockpot, Walkerton (The Young and the Restless)' 2007

 

Kay Westhues
Lunch at the Crockpot, Walkerton (The Young and the Restless)
2007

 

Kay Wesheus. 'Momence Speed Wash, Momence IL' 2007

 

Kay Weshues
Momence Speed Wash, Momence IL
2007

 

Kay Westheus. 'Mary Ann Rubio, Family Cafe, Knox' 2007

 

Kay Westhues
Mary Ann Rubio, Family Cafe, Knox
2007

 

 

The Snite Museum of Art
at University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10.00am – 5pm
Saturday 12.00 – 5.00pm

The Snite Museum of Art website

Kay Westhues website

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17
Jun
09

Opening 1: Gareth Sansom at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th June – 4th July 2009

Opening 17th June 2009

 

A very busy opening at John Buckley Gallery in Richmond for the paintings of Gareth Sansom. Nice to meet the artist and catch up with artist Gavin Brown and manager of Abbotsford Convent Brenton Geyer. A big thank you to Daniel for allowing me to take the photographs!

 

Gareth Sansom opening at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

Gareth Sansom opening at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

 

Opening night crowd with the artist Gareth Sansom third from right

 

Opening night crowd in front of Gareth Sansom's painting 'Alchemy' 2008/09

 

Opening night crowd in front of Gareth Sansom’s painting Alchemy 2008/09

 

From left to right Brenton Geyer, the artist of the night Gareth Sansom, artist Gavin Brown and Jenny Rees

 

From left to right Brenton Geyer, the artist of the night Gareth Sansom, artist Gavin Brown and Jenny Rees

 

Gareth Sansom opening at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

Gareth Sansom opening at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

John Buckley Gallery

This gallery is now closed

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01
May
09

Review: ‘triestement (more-is u thrill-o)’ exhibition by Domenico De Clario at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 22nd April – 9th May 2009

 

 

Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
u (renoir’s garden)
2008/09
Oil on canvas

 

 

Based on the music of melancholy that inhabits the shadows of the paintings of Montmarte by the French artist Maurice Utrillo, Domenico de Clario’s exhibition of paintings at John Buckley Gallery in Melbourne is a major achievement. This is a superlative exhibition of focused, resonant work beautifully and serenely installed in the gallery space.

The exhibition features seven small and seven large oil and acrylic on canvas paintings that envelop the viewer in a velvety quietness, an intense stillness accompanied by ambient music composed by de Clario himself. All fourteen paintings are reinterpretations of works by Utrillo picked at random by de Clario that strip away surface matter to reveal the shadow substance that lays at the anxious heart of Utrillo’s meta/physical body of work (Utrillo was an alcoholic at fourteen and spent numerous periods in sanatoriums). When de Clario was fifteen he was fascinated by a small book on Utrillo and found that his paintings reminded him of his childhood, growing up in the town of Trieste. Recently he noticed that the word ‘triestement’ was used to mean, essentially, an investigation of sadness, of melancholy and started an investigation into the life and work of Utrillo. From this dialogue the paintings for the exhibition have emerged as de Clario found the ‘more is’ of Utrillo, the anima of his presence within the work.

The small abstract paintings (such as renoir’s garden, above) are dark and miasmic, vaporous emanations of atmosphere that contain traces of Utrillo’s lifelong battle with the black dog but it is the seven large paintings facing each other in the main gallery space that are at the heart of de Clario’s project. They are magnificent.

Painted in a limited colour palette of ochres, greys and blacks the works vibrate with energy. Cezanne-like spatial representations are abstracted and the paint bleeds across the canvas forming a maze of buildings. Walls and hedges loom darkly over roadways, emanations of heads and figures float in the picture plane and the highlight white of snow hovers like a spectral figure above buildings. These are elemental paintings where the shadow has become light and the light is shadow, meanderings of the soul in space. In the painting i (the house of hector berlioz – night) below, the single dark line of the house rises from the plain; the shadowy haze of recognition sits in the subconscious like the trace of our own mortality. My mind made an association with the modernist photograph by Paul Strand of the church at Taos with the looming bulk of the ramparts: it’s funny how things just click into place.

“The watergaw, the faint rainbow glimmering in chittering light, provides a sort of epiphany, and MacDiarmid connects the shimmer and weakness and possible revelation in the light behind the drizzle with the indecipherable look he received from his father on his deathbed … Each expression, each cadence, each rhyme is as surely and reliably in place as a stone on a hillside.” ~ Seamus Heaney1

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To paint these works de Clario was open and receptive to the idea of the letting go. In the wonderfully erudite catalogue essay he says he felt like he was standing under a waterfall experiencing the joyful bliss of substance, material, surface, shadow, blandness, light, plenitude and triestement while acknowledging that he could never capture them and that their value could only be fully understood once he abandoned any thought of possessing them. Like Seamus Heaney in the quotation above, de Clario experienced the glimmering in chittering light, the possible revelation in the light behind the drizzle (of the shadow) and he then paints the trace of Utrillo’s subconscious anima, the indecipherable look of his triestement. de Clario feels the fluid relationship between substance and appearance; he understands that Utrillo is embedded in the position of each building and stone, in the cadences and rhymes of the paintings of Montmarte. de Clario interprets this knowledge in a Zen like rendition of shadow substance in his paintings. Everything has it’s place without possession of here and there, dark and light.

For my part it was my soul responding to the canvases. I was absorbed into their fabric. As in the dark night of the soul my outer shell gave way to an inner spirituality stripped of the distance between viewer and painting. I felt communion with this man, Utrillo, with this art, de Clario, that brought a sense of revelation in the immersion, like a baptism in the waters of dark light. For art this is a fantastic achievement. Highly recommended.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Please click on the artwork for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Heaney, Seamus. The Redress of Poetry. London: Faber and Faber, 1995, pp. 107-108.

 

 

Domenico de Clario. 'l (le lapin agile - snow coming)' 2008/09

 

Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
l (le lapin agile – snow coming)
2008/09
Oil on canvas

 

Maurice Utrillo. 'Renoir's Garden' 1909-10

 

Maurice Utrillo (French, 1883-1955)
Renoir’s Garden
1909-10
Oil on canvas

 

Installation view of 'triestement (more-is u thrill-o)' by Domenico De Clario at John Buckley Gallery

Installation view of 'triestement (more-is u thrill-o)' by Domenico De Clario at John Buckley Gallery

 

Installation views of triestement (more-is u thrill-o) by Domenico De Clario at John Buckley Gallery

 

Maurice Utrillo. 'Paris Street' 1914

 

Maurice Utrillo (French, 1883-1955)
Paris Street
1914
Oil on canvas

 

Domenico de Clario. 'r (rue ravignan - le bateau lavoir)' 2008/09

 

Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
r (rue ravignan – le bateau lavoir)
2008/09
Oil on canvas

 

Domenico de Clario. 'l (le lapin agile and rue du mont cenis - snow receding)' 2008/09

 

Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
l (le lapin agile and rue du mont cenis – snow receding)
2008/09
Oil on canvas

 

Domenico de Clario. 'o (la grande maison blanche – snow clouds massing)' 2008/09

 

Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
o (la grande maison blanche – snow clouds massing)
2008/09
Oil on canvas

 

 

“Is there any limit, I thought, to the kinds of shadows that might be transmuted into light? And is this because the key component of the nature of shadow is its deep longing for a transmutation to light?

As a consequence of these thoughts I arrived at the question that animates the core of this current project; what, I asked myself, might the original shadow-substance Utrillo experienced and subsequently transmutes into the paintings we known, have looked like? What shadow images did Utrillo first see, or even imagine, before he transmuted them into colour? …

Utrillo must have believed that the outer world of coloured light belonged exclusively to others, for he never succeeded in releasing himself from the dark inner shadows that engulfed him. Though he struggled much to reach the light he accepted shadow as constituting his world and worked ceaselessly to offer us images that reflected this side’s plenitude.

Perhaps the luminous surfaces of his paintings functioned as the thin membrane that separates the outer world of cacophonously coloured light from the velvety grey inner world of the monotic anxiety he inhabited. Upon that thought the momentousness of his gift became apparent to me …

For the purposes of this present project I believe that the shadow substance laying beneath the architecture of Utrillo’s streetscapes existed within the artist long before his paintings came into being. This non-substance generated the appearance of matter on the paintings’ surfaces and more significantly it gradually came to contain the spirit of his Montmarte-body.

The process of removing matter results in an obvious absence of substance but paradoxically this leads me to feel that here, under all this discarded visible matter, an invisible substance that has always contained more than matter awaits to be revealed. This leads to the provisional conclusion that the primal trace of normally unseen shadow is far richer than any material constituting appearance, containing as it does infinitely more substance than appearance.

Astonishing paradox; infinite substance can only be discovered once all matter is removed.”

Text from the catalogue essay by Domenico de Clario [Online] Cited 26/04/2009 no longer available online

 

Maurice Utrillo. 'Berlioz House' 1910

 

Maurice Utrillo (French, 1883-1955)
Berlioz House
1910
Oil on canvas

 

Postcard of Hector Berlioz House nd

 

Anonymous
Postcard of Hector Berlioz House
Nd

 

Domenico de Clario. 'i (the house of hector berlioz - night)' 2008/09

 

Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
i (the house of hector berlioz – night)
2008/09
Oil on canvas

 

Paul Strand. Inverted colour burn of his photograph 'Church, Ranchos de Taos' New Mexico 1932

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Inverted colour burn of his photograph Church, Ranchos de Taos New Mexico 1932

 

 

John Buckley Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

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26
Apr
09

Exhibition: ‘Charting the Canyon: Photographs by Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe’ at Phoenix Art Museum

Exhibition dates: 21st March – 12th July, 2009

 

An interesting concept but I’m not entirely sure that the images are successful. Some work better than others. Perhaps it is not necessary for there to be an absolute registration across time and space, the continuation of a horizon line for example. The famous photographic collages by David Hockney are a case in point.

It doesn’t matter when the images were made, whether there is a second, or a century, between compositions. The camera and the artist are always selective, the camera always privileging one view over another view: all images are therefore constructions. Hockney pushes the boundaries of these constructions whereas I don’t think these images do to anywhere near the same extent.

There were some vaguely interesting videos on the Phoenix Art Museum website about the starting point, discovery, process and collaboration for the work which are no longer available. There is one video available on the Klett and Wolfe website.

Marcus

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

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe. 'Rock formations on the Road to Lee's Ferry, Arizona' 2008

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe.
Rock formations on the Road to Lee’s Ferry, Arizona
2008
Digital inkjet print
36″ h x 76″ w

Left inset: William Bell. Plateau North of the Colorado River near the Paris 1872 (courtesy National Archives)
Right inset: William Bell. Headlands North of the Colorado River 1872 (courtesy National Archives)

 

William H. Bell (1830 - January 28, 1910) 'Headlands North of the Colorado River' 1872

 

William H. Bell (1830 – January 28, 1910)
Headlands North of the Colorado River
1872
Still Picture Records Section, Special Media Archives Services Division
Courtesy National Archives

 

 

Arizona’s Grand Canyon – natural wonder, national park, tourist attraction, sacred land – is perhaps the world’s best “photo op.” The collaborative photographic team of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe have set out to explore this celebrated place of dramatic beauty, and Phoenix Art Museum is proud to be the first to show a comprehensive look at their powerful, thoughtful, and playful approach to the Grand Canyon.

Drawn from two seasons of fieldwork, Charting the Canyon will include about 30 photographs ranging from a modest 20 by 20-inch print to a panorama nearly 10 feet wide. Mark Klett, a Regents Professor at Arizona State University, and Byron Wolfe, a former student of Klett’s who is now a Lantis’ University Professor teaches at California State University at Chico, have been interested in rephotographing historic images since their collaboration began in 1997.

Now the pair combines their own colour photographs with imagery by 19th-century photographer J. K. Hillers and artist William Holmes and by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, who worked at the Canyon in the early 20th century. Klett and Wolfe respond to the historic images and the Canyon itself, yielding artworks that reconsider an icon, challenge how we perceive the land, and bring a new perspective to its portrayals.

Charting the Canyon offers visual delights: the humorous layering of a 19th-century drawing with contemporary photographic details, the extension of an Ansel Adams view into a serene panorama, and the illusion of three-dimensions with a stereopticon viewer built for the twenty-first century, among others to be discovered in this unique exhibition.”

Text from the Phoenix Art Museum website [Online] Cited 20/04/2009 no longer available online

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe. 'Sixty-six years after Edward Weston's "Storm, Arizona" From the Marble Canyon Trading Post' 2007

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe
Sixty-six years after Edward Weston’s “Storm, Arizona” From the Marble Canyon Trading Post
2007
Digital inkjet print
16″ h x 38.75″ w

 

Left: Edward Weston. Storm, Arizona 1941 (courtesy of the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson).

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe. 'Desert View: from the window of the Watchtower gift shop' 2008

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe
Desert View: from the window of the Watchtower gift shop
2008

 

 

The Grand Canyon – natural wonder, sacred ground, national park, international tourist attraction – is perhaps the world’s best “photo op.” Vivid colours, breathtaking vistas and jaw dropping canyon depths have lured photographers to Northern Arizona for years. A new exhibition, Charting the Canyon: Photographs by Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe on view at Phoenix Art Museum through July 12, 2009, explores this celebrated place of dramatic beauty with large-scale sweeping panoramas that marry 21st century colour photographs with historic drawings and images.

In 2007, Mark Klett, a Regents Professor at Arizona State University, and Byron Wolfe, a former student of Klett’s and now a Lantis’ University Professor at California State University at Chico, headed to the Grand Canyon to re-envision the many images made at the site over the last 150 years. During two summers of field work, they identified the exact locations portrayed in early photographs and drawings. From those geographic points they created new photographs that incorporate the original view. Digital versions of the historic images are inserted within the contemporary photograph, creating combined images that convey the big picture surrounding earlier artists’ depicted view.

Working collaboratively, Klett and Wolfe challenge one another to invent new ways to integrate the historic images they discover. Charting the Canyon reveals their combined invention, offering provocative ways to think about the land, its history and our role in seeing it.

“Many of the things we’re trying to do seemed impossible at first – like merging several views of a scene from different times into a continuous space, or extending one photo’s frame to include spaces from multiple vantage points,” commented Klett. “We’re intentionally using playfulness as a way to stretch ideas, a kind of free form exploration that puts a premium on creative solutions to complex space and time problems.”

“The pleasure the artists experienced in the creative process comes through in their work. Charting the Canyon is a joyful exploration allowing Museum visitors to discover the Grand Canyon in a new and thought-provoking way,” commented Rebecca Senf, Norton Family Assistant Curator of photography, Phoenix Art Museum. “Phoenix Art Museum is proud to be the first to show a comprehensive look at Klett and Wolfe’s powerful, thoughtful and playful images.”

Charting the Canyon includes 26 photographs ranging from a modest 20 by 20-inch print to a panorama 10 feet wide. Exhibition highlights include:
The humorous layering of a 19th-century drawing with contemporary photographic details.
The extension of an Ansel Adams view into a serene panorama.
The pairing of a black-and-white Edward Weston view with a colour image made 66 years later.
The illusion of three-dimensions with a stereopticon viewer built for the 21st century.

Text from Artdaily.org website

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe. 'Point Imperial on the Grand Canyon' 2008

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe
Point Imperial on the Grand Canyon, 50% Ansel Adams, 50% Red Wall Limestone
2008

Left: Ansel Adams. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona 1941

 

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) 'Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona' 1941

 

Ansel Adams (1902-1984)
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
1941
Gelatin silver print

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe. 'Panorama from Hopi Point on the Grand Canyon, made over two days extending the view of Ansel Adams' 2007 

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe
Panorama from Hopi Point on the Grand Canyon, made over two days extending the view of Ansel Adams
2007

Right: Ansel Adams. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona 1941 (Courtesy of the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ)

 

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) 'Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona' 1941

 

Ansel Adams (1902-1984)
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
1941
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ

 

 

“We’re intentionally using playfulness as a way to extend ideas, a kind of free-form exploration that puts a premium on creative solutions to complex space and time problems. Many of the things we’re trying to do seemed impossible at first – like merging several views of a scene from different times into a continuous space, or extending one photo’s frame to include spaces from multiple vantage points.”

Klett and Wolfes process of inserting historic views within contemporary photographs, or linking a number of different historic views, emphasises the possibilities of multiple interpretations of a single landscape. If we look at a photograph of the Grand Canyon, we bring to it our own cultural notions, myths, and memories, and read it based on our personal point of view. By bringing together images made throughout time, Klett and Wolfe remind us that any terrain is not only what we see and think about it in this present moment, but it is part of a long evolution of thought and use that includes the past and future, as well. The team’s photographs present time as overlapping layers, much like the stratigraphic rock of the Canyon. This unconventional presentation encourages viewers to see time as a flexible construction.”

Text by Rebecca Senf, Assistant Curator of photography, Phoenix Art Museum from the exhibition brochure [Online] Cited 20/04/2009 no longer available online

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe. 'Details from the view at Point Sublime on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, based on the panoramic drawing by William Holmes (1882)' 2007

 

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe
Details from the view at Point Sublime on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, based on the panoramic drawing by William Holmes (1882)
2007

Lithograph by William Henry Holmes, 1882. From Clarence Dutton, Atlas to Accompany the Monograph on the Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress).

 

David Hockney. 'Pearblossom Highway., 11 - 18th April 1986 #2' 1986

 

David Hockney
Pearblossom Highway., 11-18th April 1986 #2
1986

 

 

Phoenix Art Museum
McDowell Road & Central Avenue
1625 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Opening hours:
Closed Mondays and major holidays
Tuesday, 10am-9pm
Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm
First Friday Evenings, 6-10pm

Phoenix Museum of Art website

Byron Wolfe website

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08
Apr
09

Exhibition: ‘William Kentridge: Five Themes’ at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 31st May 2009

Curator: Curator of Media Arts Rudolf Frieling and Mark Rosenthal, adjunct curator of contemporary art at the Norton Museum of Art

 

 

One of my favourite artists in the world. His technique – the palimpsestic nature of his practice where the history, memories and spaces of previous drawings are overwritten again and again on a single piece of paper without their ever being lost (unlike traditional animation techniques) – is amazing. His use of drawing, animation and the camera to record narratives of connection always has personal and archetypal themes – love, loss, bigotry, big business, persecution, reconciliation and social conflict in the stories of his homeland South Africa. His perspective on the world, his knowledge of books and philosophy, his understanding that stories exist as faint, legible remains completes the perception that he is an artist drawn to the line of the world. His work is moving and compassionate as all great art should be.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting.

 

 

William Kentridge. Drawing for the film Stereoscope [Felix Crying]' 1998–99

 

William Kentridge
Drawing for the film Stereoscope [Felix Crying]
1998-99

 

 

“Combining the political with the poetic, William Kentridge’s work has made an indelible mark on the contemporary art scene. Dealing with subjects as sobering as apartheid and colonialism, Kentridge often imbues his art with dreamy, lyrical undertones or comedic bits of self-deprecation, making his powerful messages both alluring and ambivalent. Perhaps best known for his stop-motion films of charcoal drawings, the internationally renowned South African artist also works in etching, collage, sculpture, and the performing arts, opera in particular. This exhibition explores five primary themes that have engaged Kentridge over the last three decades through a comprehensive selection of his work from the 1980s to the present. Concentrating on his most recent production and including many pieces that have not been seen in the United States, the exhibition reveals as never before the full arc of his distinguished career.”

Text from the SFMOMA website [Online] Cited 01/04/2009 (no longer available online)

 

 

William Kentridge
“Invisible Mending” from 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès
2003
35-mm and 16-mm animation film

 

 

William Kentridge: Five Themes, a comprehensive survey of the contemporary South African artist’s work, will premiere at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) on March 14, 2009. Featuring more than 75 works in a range of media – including animated films, drawings, prints, theater models, sculptures, and books – the exhibition is co-organised by SFMOMA and the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida. The San Francisco presentation, overseen by SFMOMA Curator of Media Arts Rudolf Frieling, will be on view through May 31, 2009.

Curated by Mark Rosenthal, adjunct curator of contemporary art at the Norton Museum of Art, in close collaboration with the artist, the exhibition explores five primary themes that have engaged Kentridge over the past three decades. Although the exhibition highlights projects completed since 2000 (many of which have not been seen in the United States), it will also present, for the first time, Kentridge’s most recent work alongside his earlier projects from the 1980s and 1990s – revealing as never before the full arc of his distinguished career.

Following its debut at SFMOMA, the survey will travel to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Norton Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Plans for the European tour – which will tentatively include Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem – are being finalized. Accompanying the exhibition is a richly illustrated catalogue, complete with a DVD produced by the artist for this special occasion. The San Francisco presentation of William Kentridge: Five Themes is made possible by the generous support of the Koret Foundation and Doris and Donald Fisher.

William Kentridge is one of today’s most influential artists, and with this exhibition, SFMOMA continues its commitment to bringing such groundbreaking artists as Olafur Eliasson, Richard Tuttle, and Jeff Wall to local and international audiences,” says SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra, who co-curated the last major retrospective of the artist’s work in the United States in 2001. “Although Kentridge is primarily recognised for his animated films, he has devoted most of his time to making works on paper. The drawn line is completely inseparable from his work in other media, informing everything he creates. His transformation of drawing into animated film reflects his deep interest in how content evolves from process, how meaning accrues through making.”

Exhibition curator Rosenthal adds, “Even as Kentridge has established his reputation as a master draftsman, printmaker, and one of the preeminent artist–filmmakers of our time, he has also expanded the traditional notion of political art, evolving the genre from a conventional depiction of horrors to a more nuanced portrayal of the psychological effects of political events upon those who observe them, whether they be perpetrators, victims, or onlookers.”

Born in 1955 in Johannesburg, where he continues to live and work, Kentridge has earned international acclaim for his interdisciplinary practice, which often fuses drawing, film, and theater. Known for engaging with the social landscape and political background of his native South Africa, he has produced a searing body of work that explores themes of colonial oppression and social conflict, loss and reconciliation, and the ephemeral nature of both personal and cultural memory.

Kentridge first gained recognition in 1997, when his work was included in Documenta X in Kassel, Germany, and in the Johannesburg and Havana Biennials, which were followed by prominent solo exhibitions internationally. His art was widely introduced to American audiences in 2001 through a traveling retrospective – co-curated by Neal Benezra when he served as deputy director of the Art Institute of Chicago – which primarily included works made before 2000. William Kentridge: Five Themes brings viewers up to date on the artist’s work over the past decade, exploring how his subject matter has evolved from the specific context of South Africa to more universal stories. In recent years, Kentridge has dramatically expanded both the scope of his projects (such as recent full-scale opera productions) and their thematic concerns, which now include his own studio practice, colonialism in Namibia and Ethiopia, and the cultural history of post-revolutionary Russia. His newer work is based on an intensive exploration of themes connected to his own life experience, as well as the political and social issues that most concern him.

Although his hand-drawn animations are often described as films, Kentridge himself prefers to call them “drawings for projection.” He makes them using a distinctive technique in which he painstakingly creates, erases, and reworks charcoal drawings that are photographed and projected as moving image. Movement is generated within the image, by the artist’s hand; the camera serves merely to record its progression. As such, the animations explore a tension between material object and time-based performance, uniquely capturing the artist’s working process while telling poignant and politically urgent stories.

Concerning the artist’s innovative film installations of the past ten years, Rudolf Frieling adds: “Kentridge has been considered primarily as an artist who draws for projections. Yet his recent installation-based films explore an expanded cinema space and question the very foundation of what it means to produce and perceive a moving image.”

In light of SFMOMA’s history with Kentridge – in 2004 the museum acquired the artist’s landmark film Tide Table (2003) and a set of related drawings – and the rich holdings of his work in private Bay Area collections, the occasion to present the first major exhibition of his work in San Francisco has particular resonance and reflects the museum’s ongoing commitment to his art. In conjunction with the exhibition, SFMOMA will bring the artist’s multimedia opera The Return of Ulysses to San Francisco for performances at Project Artaud Theater from March 25 through 29, 2009. Kentridge will also present his lecture-format solo performance I am not me, the horse is not mine at SFMOMA on March 14, 2009.

 

The Five Themes

“Parcours d’Atelier: Artist in the Studio” 

The first section of the exhibition examines a crucial turning point in Kentridge’s work, one in which his own art practice became a subject. According to the artist, many of these projects are meant to reflect the “invisible work that must be done” before beginning a drawing, film, or sculpture. This theme is epitomised by the large-scale multiscreen projection 7 Fragments for Georges Méliès (2003), an homage to the early French film director, who, like Kentridge, often combined performance with drawing. The suite of seven films – each depicting Kentridge at work in his studio or interacting with his creations – has only been shown once before in the United States and will be accompanied by a rarely seen group of related drawings, forming an intimate portrayal of the artist’s process.

 

“Thick Time: Soho and Felix” 

A second section of the exhibition is dedicated to Kentridge’s best-known fictional characters, Soho Eckstein, a domineering industrialist and real estate developer whose troubled conscience reflects certain miens of contemporary South Africa, and his sensitive alter ego, Felix Teitlebaum, who pines for Soho’s wife and often functions as a surrogate for the artist himself. The centrepiece of this section, an ongoing work entitled 9 Drawings for Projection, comprises nine short animated films: Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City after Paris (1989), Monument (1990), Sobriety, Obesity & Growing Old (1991), Mine (1991), Felix in Exile (1994), History of the Main Complaint (1996), WEIGHING . . . and WANTING (1998), Stereoscope (1999), and Tide Table (2003). These projections, along with a key selection of related drawings, follow the lives of Soho and Felix as they struggle to navigate the political and social climate of Johannesburg during the final decade of apartheid. According to Kentridge, the Soho and Felix films were made without a script or storyboards and are largely about his own process of discovery.

 

“Occasional and Residual Hope: Ubu and the Procession” 

In 1975 Kentridge acted in Ubu Rex (an adaptation of Ubu Roi, Alfred Jarry’s satire about a corrupt and cowardly despot), and he subsequently devoted a large body of work to the play. He began with a series of eight etchings, collectively entitled Ubu Tells the Truth (1996), and in 1997 made an animated film of the same name, as well as a number of related drawings. These works also deal with the South African experience, specifically addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings set up by the nation’s government in 1995 to investigate human rights abuses during apartheid. Other highlights in this grouping include the film Shadow Procession (1999), in which Kentridge first utilises techniques of shadow theatre and jointed-paper figures; the multi-panel collage Portage (2000); a large charcoal-and-pastel-on-paper work entitled Arc Procession (Smoke, Ashes, Fable) (1990); and some of the artist’s rough-hewn bronze sculptures.

 

William Kentridge. 'Act IV Scene I from Ubu Tells the Truth' 1996-97

 

William Kentridge
Act IV Scene I from Ubu Tells the Truth
1996-97

 

 

“Sarastro and the Master’s Voice: The Magic Flute” 

A selection of Kentridge’s drawings, films, and theatre models inspired by his 2005 production of the Mozart opera The Magic Flute for La Monnaie, the leading opera house in Belgium, will be a highlight of the exhibition. The artist’s video projection Learning the Flute (2003), which started the Flute project, shifts between images of black charcoal drawings on white paper and white chalk drawings projected onto a blackboard, forming a meditation on darkness and light. Preparing the Flute (2005) was created as a large-scale maquette within which to test projections central to the production of the opera. Another theatre model, Black Box/Chambre Noire (2006), which has never been seen in the United States, addresses the opera’s themes, specifically through an examination of the colonial war of 1904 in German South-West Africa, and of the genocide of the Herero people. What Will Come (has already come) (2007), a consideration of colonialism in Ethiopia, presents an anamorphic film installation in which intentionally distorted images projected onto a tabletop right themselves only when reflected in a cylindrical mirror. This work was recently acquired, under the guidance of Rosenthal, by the Norton Museum of Art.

 

“Learning from the Absurd: The Nose” 

The fifth section comprises a multichannel projection made in preparation for Kentridge’s forthcoming staging of The Nose, a Metropolitan Opera production that will premiere in New York in March 2010. The Nose – a 1930 Dmitri Shostakovich opera based on Nikolai Gogol’s absurdist short story of 1836 – concerns a Russian official whose nose disappears from his face, only to turn up, in uniform, as a higher-ranking official moving in more respected circles. Kentridge’s related work, I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008), on view in the United States for the first time, is a room-size installation of projected films that use Gogol’s story as the basis for examining Russian modernism and the suppression of the Russian avant-garde in the 1920s and 1930s.

 

Related Performances 

Acknowledging the profound importance of theatrical work in Kentridge’s oeuvre, SFMOMA will bring the artist’s opera The Return of Ulysses to San Francisco in conjunction with the exhibition. First performed in Brussels in 1998, Kentridge’s acclaimed reinterpretation of Claudio Monteverdi’s classic 1640 opera (based on Homer’s epic poem) is transposed to a mid-20th-century Johannesburg setting. This limited-engagement performance features live actors and musicians, as well as 13 life-size, artisan-crafted wooden puppets and projections of Kentridge’s animated charcoal drawings. The Return of Ulysses will run at Project Artaud Theater from Tuesday, March 24, through Saturday, March 28 (preview March 24, opening March 25), and is a production of Pacific Operaworks, in Seattle, incorporating puppeteers from Kentridge’s longtime collaborator, the Handspring Puppet Company of Cape Town, in South Africa.

In a special opening-night event on March 14, Kentridge will present a lecture-format solo performance of I am not me, the horse is not mine, which premiered at the 16th Biennale of Sydney in June 2008 (and shares the same title of the related multichannel projection making its U.S. debut with the exhibition). This live performance focuses on the development process of Kentridge’s upcoming opera production, The Nose.

 

Definitive Publication with Companion DVD

To coincide with the exhibition, SFMOMA and the Norton Museum of Art, in association with Yale University Press, will publish a richly illustrated catalogue (hardcover, $50). In the catalogue’s principal essay, exhibition curator Mark Rosenthal presents a portrait of the artist, showing the interrelationship between aspects of Kentridge’s character and the protagonists that populate his work. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, chief curator at the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, examines the artist’s themes and iconography in closer detail, addressing Kentridge’s working methods as he moves freely between disciplines. Rudolf Frieling demonstrates that although Kentridge is not typically discussed as an installation artist, there are compelling reasons to consider him as such. Cornelia H. Butler, Judith B. Hecker, and Klaus Biesenbach, curators at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, explore the subject of performance in Kentridge’s work. Finally, a conversation between Kentridge and Michael Auping, chief curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, focuses on the artist’s drawing practice. In addition, the artist has written texts to introduce each of the book’s five plate sections.

For the first time, Kentridge will produce a DVD for distribution with the publication, making the catalogue unique among existing literature on the artist. Combining intimate studio footage of the artist at work with fragments from significant film projects, the DVD offers a fascinating look at how Kentridge’s ideas evolve from raw concept to finished work.

Press release from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

 

 

William Kentdridge
Johannesburg
1989

 

William Kentridge. 'Felix in Exile' 1994

 

William Kentdridge
Drawing for the projection Felix in Exile
1994

 

 

William Kentdridge
Felix in Exile
1994

 

More videos of William Kentridge’s work are available on You Tube

 

 

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06
Apr
09

Exhibition: ‘Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky’ at the Detroit Institute of Arts

Exhibition dates: 15th April – 12th July, 2009

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Grandfather and granddaughter, Lublin' 1937

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Grandfather and granddaughter, Lublin
1937
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

“During my journeys, I took over sixteen thousand photographs. All but two thousand were confiscated and, presumably, destroyed – although perhaps they will reappear someday. I hope my photographs enable the reader to envision a time and place that worthy of remembrance.”

.
Roman Vishniac

 

 

Hardly any photographs by Jeffrey Gusky online but he has provided some via email. I will post them asap. Thank you very much Jeff for contacting me. I knew little about the photographer Roman Vishniac but after more research I know much more now. What a photographer!

Just look at the image below to see a masterpiece of classical photography. Look at the space between the figures, the tension almost palpable, the look on the granddaughters face and the wringing of her hands a portent of the despair to come. A good archive of his photographs is on the International Center of Photography website.

Marcus

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

 

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Children playing on a street lined with swastika flags' mid-1930s

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Children playing on a street lined with swastika flags, probably outskirts of Berlin
mid-1930s
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Women walking with a baby carriage' 1935

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Women walking with a baby carriage, Brunnenstrasse, Berlin
1935
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Three women, Mukacevo' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Three women, Mukacevo
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Man purchasing herring, wrapped in newspaper, for a Sabbath meal, Mukacevo' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Man purchasing herring, wrapped in newspaper, for a Sabbath meal, Mukacevo
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Young Jewish boys suspicious of strangers, Mukachevo' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Young Jewish boys suspicious of strangers, Mukachevo
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

This previously unpublished photograph attests to Vishniac’s bold and innovative use of composition: the slim, vertical register of kindling wood, offset by a corner of Yiddish newspaper on a table and triangle of lace at the window, is balanced by the young boy’s sideways glance peering out from the corner of the frame, reflecting a modern sensibility not usually associated with Vishniac’s work in Eastern Europe.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Children playing outdoors and watching a game' c. 1935-37

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Children playing outdoors and watching a game, TOZ (Society for Safeguarding the Health of the Jewish Population) summer camp, Otwock, near Warsaw
c. 1935-37
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'These men are selling old clothes. The notice on the wall reads "Come Celebrate Chanukah," Kazimierz, Krakow' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
These men are selling old clothes. The notice on the wall reads “Come Celebrate Chanukah,” Kazimierz, Krakow
1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'A street of Kazimierz, Krakow' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
A street of Kazimierz, Krakow
1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Krakow' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Krakow
1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Krakow' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Krakow
1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'A street of Kazimierz, Cracow' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Street in Kazimierz, Krakow
1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Jewish street vendors, Warsaw, Poland' 1938

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Jewish street vendors, Warsaw, Poland
1938
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

“Examining each photographer separately, Vishniac and Gusky have very distinctive photographic styles. Due to the nature of his project and the ever-escalating semblance of anti-semitism, Vishniac’s photographs are less polished and more emotionally raw in an attempt to tell the stories of people’s individual lives. By contrast, Gusky finds inspiration in the physical places which made up the world of now entirely absent communities of Jews.

While each photographer had an individual style and statement to make, it is both the relationship with and stark difference between the two that provides the greatest emotional poignancy. The exhibition pairs many Vishniac and Gusky photographs, illuminating the individual lives lost, culture destroyed, and environments degraded by decades of neglect in Poland, as Gusky photographed the desecrated cemeteries, crumbling synagogues, and empty streets that served as the backdrop for Vishniac’s scenes of mid-century Jewish life.

There are also several points of convergence in the biographies of Vishniac and Gusky. Like Vishniac, Gusky is of Russian Jewish descent, and both men were compelled to their photographic projects in part by personal reasons springing from their Jewish heritage. The photographers also have professional ties to biological science which embody their work through illustration of the fragility of human life.”

Text from the Santa Barbara Museum website [Online] Cited 01/04/2009 (no longer available online)

 

Jeffrey Gusky. 'Broken stained glass window, Wielkie, Oczy' 2001

 

Jeffrey Gusky
Broken stained glass window, Wielkie, Oczy
2001
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“This exhibition, organised by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, includes around 90 black-and-white photographs taken by two photographers: Roman Vishniac, who photographed throughout Poland’s Jewish communities in the mid-1930s, and Jeffrey Gusky who photographed many of the same Polish sites during the 1990s.

In 1935, Russian-born photographer Roman Vishniac was commissioned by the American Joint Distribution Committee (a Paris-based relief agency) to photograph Jewish communities in the cities and villages of Poland as well as other areas of Eastern Europe. He took over 16,000 photographs (around 2,000 have survived) depicting the people, life, homes, schools, and trades of these communities. The photographs, in turn, were to be used to help raise money for humanitarian aid for individuals in areas that were becoming increasingly destitute.

In 1996, Jeffrey Gusky, an amateur photographer and doctor of Russian-Jewish descent set out on a personal journey in search of Jewish identity and culture in Eastern Europe. He made the first of four trips to Poland where he traveled to cities and villages where Jews had lived and worked for centuries. Gusky photographed what remained of Jewish culture in Poland focusing on the ruins of synagogues, cemeteries – many of which were desecrated, and the empty and still streets.”

Text from the Detroit Institute of Arts website [Online] Cited 01/04/2009 (no longer available online)

 

Roman Vishniac. 'A Boy with a toothache. Next year another child will inherit the tattered schoolbook. Slonim' ca 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
A Boy with a toothache. Next year another child will inherit the tattered schoolbook. Slonim
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Nat Gutman's Wife, Warsaw' 1938

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Nat Gutman’s Wife, Warsaw
1938
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

Poignant, haunting photographs of Poland’s Jewish communities taken in the 1930s by Roman Vishniac, and images of many of the same areas taken in the 1990s by Jeffrey Gusky are the subject of the moving exhibition Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky. The exhibition, at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) from April 19 to July 12, includes 90 black-and-white photographs and is free with museum admission.

Through their photographs, Vishniac (1897-1990) and Gusky (born 1953), two very different photographers from very different eras, bore witness to the Jewish experience in Poland during the 20th century, preserving memories and documenting life experiences for future generations. Although taken 60 years apart, their images share themes of memory, life, and loss and are evidence of people and places that once were, and what remains in their absence.

Vishniac and Gusky have very distinctive styles. Due to the nature of his project and the escalation of anti-Semitism in 1930s Poland, Vishniac made photographs in the documentary tradition. With great empathy, he recorded the places and lives of individuals exactly as he found them, in their homes and in the streets. Almost 60 years later, Gusky, by contrast, interpreted former Jewish sites throughout Poland with a sensitive eye on the past. His misty and haunting images are devoid of human presence, and show former sites from many Jewish communities that once thrived throughout Poland.

While each photographer had an individual style and statement to make, it is both the relationship with and stark difference between the two that provides the greatest emotional impact. Brought together for the first time, Vishniac’s and Gusky’s photographs illuminate the individual lives lost, culture destroyed, and environments degraded by decades of neglect in Poland, as Gusky photographed the desecrated cemeteries, crumbling synagogues, and empty streets that served as the backdrop for Vishniac’s scenes of vibrant, mid-century Jewish life.

Vishniac was born in Russia, and fled to Berlin with his family in 1920. He worked as a biologist and supplemented his income as a photographer. Eventually he became compelled to use photography to document people and communities throughout Europe. In the 1930s Vishniac was commissioned by the Joint Distribution Committee, a Paris-based relief agency, to photograph Jewish life in Poland, where he took over 16,000 photographs (only 2,000 survived the war) over a three-year period. He photographed vibrant communities filled with people in their homes and schools, at their trades and in their streets, markets and temples. His poignant works are evidence of communities filled with life despite the lack of food, medical care and livelihood that prevailed.

Gusky is a physician in rural Texas who began photographing as a way to explore Jewish identity. Although a Jew of Russian decent, he became interested in the history of Jews in Poland after hearing a radio interview with Ruth Ellen Gruber, an American journalist who documented the ruins of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. His photographs depict the vacant and somber sites of once-thriving Jewish communities throughout the country. With these images, Gusky reveals a powerful, dramatic message about a lost culture that was once part of Poland’s Jewish past. This initial photographic work has led him to further examine “the void of modern life,” and the threat of genocide that continues to haunt humankind of all ethnicities and cultures in the past and present. This exhibition is organised by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Press release from the Detroit Institute of Arts

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Boys and Books' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Boys and Books
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Children at Play, Bratislava' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Children at Play, Bratislava
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

The above photograph reminds me of the Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph below.

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Children in Seville' 1933

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Children in Seville
1933
Gelatin silver print

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Children waiting outside the registration office of a transit bureau' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Children waiting outside the registration office of a transit bureau, Schlachtensee Displaced Persons camp, Zehlendorf, Berlin
1947
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

Many of the children wear Jewish star pins and necklaces as they wait in the Schlachtensee transit bureau offices and courtyards in the American sector of occupied Berlin. By 1952, more than 136,000 Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) had immigrated to Israel, and over 80,000 to the United States, aided by the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), and other nongovernmental agencies that played an important role in lobbying for and providing economic, educational, and emigration assistance to DPs.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Holocaust survivors gathering outside a building where matzoh is being made' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Holocaust survivors gathering outside a building where matzoh is being made in preparation for the Passover holiday, Hénonville Displaced Persons camp, Picardy, France
1947
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

Housed in a 1722 château outside Paris, the Hénonville Displaced Persons camp was administered by the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor (ORT), and Agudath Israel (the umbrella organisation for Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews), from 1946 to 1952. Hénonville was a homogeneous religious community of Orthodox Jews that included a relocated Lithuanian yeshiva, a home for Jewish orphans, and an Orthodox kibbutz, and was directed by a charismatic leader, Rabbi Solomon Horowitz. Vishniac photographed daily life in the camp, including a series documenting the preparation of matzoh for the Passover holiday.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

 

Detroit Institute of Arts
5200 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48202
Phone: 313.833.7900

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday 9 am – 4 pm
Friday 9 am – 10 pm
Saturday – Sunday 10 am – 5 pm
Monday Closed

Detroit Institute of the Arts website

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03
Apr
09

Around the galleries: Derek O’Connor at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Peter Cole ‘Elements + Memories’ at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

April 2009

 

In a mad dash around town I managed to see the Derek O’Connor and Peter Cole exhibitions before they finished and also the Siri Hayes En Plein Air exhibition of photographs at Gallerysmith (see next post).

Marcus

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Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

Derek O’Connor paintings at Karen Woodbury Gallery

An intense show of small oil paintings that really draw you into their composition. They are paintings of tremendous energy and layering, the surface being in a constant state of flux. The paintings become metaphors for the bodies existence in space, corporeal landscapes full of sensation ‘neither rational nor cerebral’. They become a mediation and a meditation upon life itself – complex, convulsive, concentrated energy that focuses the viewers attention so that they cannot look away.

 

Derek O'Connor. 'Horizontal' 2008

 

Derek O’Connor
Horizontal
2008

 

Derek O'Connor. 'Horizontal' 2008

 

Derek O’Connor
Horizontal
2008

 

 

“Working with his tools of palette knives and brushes, he sets into motion a train of repetitions, of speeds and slowness1 applying and scrapping paint away in an attempt to move from a position of not knowing towards knowing. He brings … an intense physical and mental awareness to the rhythms of his own movements, his own body. At such moments time seems to expand – to become infinite.

In erasing from his project the world of appearances, Derek O’Connor embraces something else – the realm of ‘sensation’. Sensation is an open painterly expression which resists definition. The Modernist painter Paul Cezanne described sensation as a “logic of the senses” which is neither rational nor cerebral2 … For Derek, the subject of his painting appears to be the act of making itself. Here subject and object collapse (folding into itself) so that sensation is experienced through the materiality of paint, via the movements of the artists’ body to affect the bodies of others.”

Paul Uhlmann from the catalogue essay

 

  1. Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. A Thousand Plateaus. London: Continuum, 1987, pp. 292-300
  2. Deleuze, G. The Logic of Sensation. London: Continuum, 2003, p. 42

 

Derek O' Connor. 'Irregular' 2008

 

Derek O’Connor
Irregular
2008

 

Karen Woodbury Gallery

This gallery has closed.

 

 

Peter Cole ‘Elements + Memories’ at John Buckley Gallery 18th March – 9th April 2009

A decidedly underwhelming show by Peter Cole at John Buckley Gallery only redeemed by the amazing Elemental Landscape series of 64 small sculptural pieces displayed as a frieze (see below). The large free standing sculptural works fail to impress with their minimalist Ikea-esque cut out style – especially when viewed from the rear of the work. One would have thought that a sculptor, making several free standing pieces that are going to be walked around in a gallery space, would have designed the work to be viewed ‘in the round’. As it is all the perfection of the clinical front of the works is undone by brackets and screws holding the whole thing together when viewed from the flattened rump. This is pretty, surface work that lacks substance and insight, pretty shapes and cut outs and targets that allude to memory but are just stylised glossy magazine representations of it.

On the other hand the Elemental Landscape series of sculptures is just magical – playful, ever inventive, wonderfully contemporary, beautifully resolved in concept and manufacture, in their use and bending of geometric shapes, the sculptures really are fantastic when seen ‘in situ’ as a whole. Visit the exhibition just to see this work – buy some pieces and make your own elemental landscape!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Peter Cole. 'Elements + Memories' installation views at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

 

Peter Cole
Elements + Memories installation views at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne (first and second image)
Bar 4 – Shibuya 2009 (third image)
Garden – Yoyogi 2009 (fourth image)

 

 

“In Peter D Cole’s stunning and ambitious exhibition Elements + Memories he creates a playful interactive work titled Elemental Landscape. Utilising his highly stylised modernist and reductionist technique – influenced at an early age by studies of Miro and Calder – Cole presents 64 small sculptural pieces of varying colour and shape of which the audience is encouraged to create their own compositions. Cole also presents three large-scale sculptures drawing on memories of his times in Japan.

Cole’s distinct skill of distilling the landscape and architecture into separate elements and symbols is in itself evocative of traditional minimal Japanese aesthetic and he has created a series of works which draw upon Japanese interiors and streetscapes and the gardens of the Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom festival).”

Text from John Buckley Gallery website [Online] Cited 01/04/2009 (no longer available online)

 

Peter Cole. 'Elemental Landscape' 2009

Peter Cole. 'Elemental Landscape' 2009

Peter Cole. 'Elemental Landscape' 2009

Peter Cole. 'Elemental Landscape' 2009

 

Peter Cole
Elemental Landscape
2009

 

 

John Buckley Gallery

This gallery has closed.

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02
Apr
09

Opening 2: ‘Colour, Time’ by David Thomas at Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd April – 2nd May 2009

Opening: Thursday 2nd April 2009

 

Opening night crowd at 'Colour, Time' by David Thomas

 

Opening night crowd at Colour, Time by David Thomas with from right to left Farbenfreude Series: Movement of Colour, Heart (Large) 2008; Farbenfreude Series: Amid Dark and Light (Dark Painting) 2008; and Farbenfreude Series: A Gentle Pasing (Large) 2008 on back wall

 

 

“A photographed real space and an expanding undefinable painting space (the non-figurative form) confront each other. The result is a coexistence of various models of space, a coexistence and entanglement of inconsistent things.”

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Christoph Dahlhausen. David Thomas EIKON nr 53, Vienna, Austria, 2006

 

 

A slow burn painting, photography and composites show at Nellie Castan Gallery. Minimalist grid paintings combine with squares of colour taken out of photographs (again! as at the recent Richard Grigg show at Block Projects). This supposedly imparts profundity to insubstantial and mundane photographs that aim to comment on the existential nature of our being through the presence/absence of the missing spatio-temporal slice. This exhibition just didn’t hit the spot for me. Nice to catch up with Jason Smith Director of Heide Museum of Modern Art who was in attendance.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Opening night crowd at 'Colour, Time' by David Thomas

 

Opening night crowd at Colour, Time by David Thomas with the series Length of Time 2009 on table

 

David Thomas. 'Length of Time Series: Blue tape on red monochrome' 2009

 

David Thomas
Length of Time Series: Blue tape on red monochrome
2009

 

David Thomas. 'End of Summer: Homage a Tati (small splash) 2009

 

David Thomas
End of Summer: Homage a Tati (small splash)
Enamel on photograph
2009

 

David Thomas. 'Black Reflection Painting: For William Barak' 2009

 

Opening night crowd in front of David Thomas’ Black Reflection Painting: For William Barak 2009

 

 

Nellie Castan Gallery

This gallery closed in 2013.

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26
Mar
09

Exhibition: ‘Francis Bacon’ at the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 3rd February – 19th April 2009

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 'Triptych inspired by T.S. Eliot's 'Sweeney Agonistes'' 1967

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Triptych inspired by T.S. Eliot’s ‘Sweeney Agonistes’
1967
Oil on canvas
198 x 147.5 cm (each)
Washington, D.C. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Foundation, 1972

 

 

Looks like an amazing exhibition of Francis Bacon’s work, one of my favourite artists – I wish I could see it!

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Many thankx to the Museo Nacional del Prado for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The exhibition is constructed in different sections

  • Animal
  • Zone
  • Apprehension
  • Crucifixion
  • Crisis
  • Archive
  • Portrait
  • Memorial
  • Epic
  • Late

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Bacon’s work demonstrates marked similarities to that of many of the Spanish artists he admired. (Manuela Mena, co-curator of the exhibition at the Prado, has written an excellent essay on this topic that can be found in the exhibition’s catalog.) The retrospective at the Prado provides a rare opportunity to compare Bacon to some of the Spanish masters that influenced him.

Start by meandering through the vast Bacon exhibition. Spread between two floors of the new wing of the Prado, the exhibition has brought together Bacon’s most important works from nearly his entire artistic production. It begins with the work that put Bacon on the map, “Three Studies for Figures at the Foot of a Crucifixion” (1944), and follows his work through the interpretations of Velázquez, crucifixion triptychs, his unique portraits and the late works through the years shortly before his death.

Text from the Prado website

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 'Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion' c. 1944

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion
c. 1944
Oil on board
94 x 73.7 cm
London, Tate, presented by Eric Hall 1953

 

 

Animal

A philosophical attitude to human nature first emerges in Francis Bacon’s works of the 1940s. They reflect his belief that, without God, humans are subject to the same natural urges of violence, lust and fear as any other animal. He showed Figure in a Landscape and Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion in April 1945, and exhibited consistently thereafter. The bestial depiction of the human figure was combined with specific references to recent history and especially the devastating events of the Second World War. Bacon often drew his inspiration from reproductions, acquiring a large collection of books, catalogues and magazines. He repeatedly studied key images in order to probe beneath the surface appearance captured in photographs. Early concerns that would persist throughout his work include the male nude, which reveals the frailty of the human figure, and the scream or cry that expresses repressed and violent anxieties. These works are among the first in which he sought to balance psychological insights with the physical identity of flesh and paint.

 

Francis Bacon. 'Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X' 1953

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X
1953
Oil on canvas
153 x 118 cm
Des Moines, Nathan Emory Coffin Collection of the Des Moines Arts Center, purchased with funds from the Coffin Fine Arts Trust

 

 

Zone

In his paintings from the early 1950s, Bacon engaged in complex experiments with pictorial space. He started to depict specific details in the backgrounds of these works and created a nuanced interaction between subject and setting. Figures are boxed into cage-like structures, delineated ‘space-frames’ and hexagonal ground planes, confining them within a tense psychological zone. In 1952 he described this as “opening up areas of feeling rather than merely an illustration of an object”. Through his technique of ‘shuttering’ with vertical lines of paint that merge the foreground and background, Bacon held the figure and the setting together within the picture surface, with neither taking precedence in what he called “an attempt to lift the image outside of its natural environment”.

A theme that emerged in the 1950s was the extended series of variants of Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1650 (Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphilj), a work Bacon knew only from illustrations. He used this source to expose the insecurities of the powerful – represented most often in the scream of the caged figure. Through the open mouth Bacon exposed the tension between the interior space of the body and the spaces of its location, which is explored more explicitly in the vulnerability of the ape-like nudes.

 

Francis Bacon. 'Chimpanzee' 1955

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Chimpanzee
1955
Oil on canvas
152.5 x 117 cm
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie

 

 

Apprehension

Implicit throughout Bacon’s work of the mid 1950s is a sense of dread pervading the brutality of everyday life. Not only a result of Cold War anxiety, this seems to have reflected a sense of menace at a personal level emanating from Bacon’s chaotic affair with Peter Lacy (who was prone to drunken violence) and the wider pressures associated with the continuing illegality of homosexuality. The Man in Blue series captures this atmosphere, concentrating on a single anonymous male figure in a dark suit sitting at a table or bar counter on a deep blue-black ground. Within their simple painted frames, these awkwardly posed figures appear pathetically isolated.

Bacon’s interest in situations that combine banality with acute apprehension was also evident in other contemporary works. From figures of anxious authority, his popes took on malevolent attributes and physical distortions that were directly echoed in the paintings of animals, whose actions are also both sinister and undignified. Some of these images derived from Bacon’s close scrutiny of the sequential photographs of animals and humans taken by Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), which he called “a dictionary” of the body in motion.

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 'Three Studies for a Crucifixion' 1962

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Three Studies for a Crucifixion
1962
Oil on canvas
198.2 x 144.8 cm
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

 

 

Crucifixion

Bacon made paintings related to the Crucifixion at pivotal moments in his career, which is why these key works are gathered here. The paradox of an atheist choosing a subject laden with Christian significance was not lost on Bacon, but he claimed, “as a non-believer, it was just an act of man’s behaviour”. Here the instincts of brutality and fear combine with a deep fascination with the ritual of sacrifice. Bacon had already made a very individual crucifixion image in 1933 before returning to the subject with his break-through triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion in 1944. This is a key precursor to later themes and compositions, containing the bestial distortion of human figures within the triptych format. These monstrous creatures displace the traditional saints and Bacon later related them to the Eumenides – the vengeful furies in Greek mythology. In resuming the theme in the 1960s, especially in 1962 as the culmination of his first Tate exhibition, Bacon used references to Cimabue’s 1272-1274 Crucifixion to introduce a more explicitly violent vision. Speaking after completing the third triptych in 1965 he simply stated: “Well, of course, we are meat, we are potential carcasses”.

 

 

Francis Bacon. 'Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours (from Muybridge)' 1961

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours (from Muybridge)
1961
Oil on canvas
198 x 142 cm
The Hague, Collection Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

 

 

Crisis

Between 1956 and 1961, Bacon travelled widely. He spent time in places marginal to the art world, in Monaco, the South of France and Africa, and particularly with Peter Lacy in the ex-patriot community in Tangier. In this rather unsettled context, he explored new methods of production, shifting to thicker paint, violently applied and so strong in colour as to indicate an engagement with the light of North Africa. This was most extreme in his series based on a self-portrait of Van Gogh, The Painter on the Road to Tarascon (1888, destroyed), which became an emblem of the modern predicament. Despite initial acclaim, Bacon’s Van Gogh works were soon criticised for their “reckless energy” and came to be viewed as an aberration. They can now be recognised as pivotal to Bacon’s further development, however, and allow glimpses into his search for new ways of working. His innovations were perhaps in response to American Abstract Expressionism, of which he was publicly critical. Although he eventually returned to a more controlled approach to painting, the introduction of chance and the new vibrancy of colour at this moment would remain through out his career.

 

Archive

The posthumous investigation of Bacon’s studio confirmed the extent to which he used and manipulated photographic imagery. This practice was already known from montages recorded in 1950 by the critic Sam Hunter. Often united by a theme of violence, the material ranges between images of conflict, big game, athletes, film stills and works of art.

An important revelation that followed the artist’s death was the discovery of lists of potential subjects and preparatory drawings, which Bacon had denied making. Throughout his life, he asserted the spontaneous nature of his work, but these materials reveal that chance was underpinned by planning.

Photography offered Bacon a dictionary of poses. Though he most frequently referred to Eadweard Muybridge’s (1830-1904) survey of human and animal locomotion, images of which he combined with the figures of Michelangelo, he remained alert to photographs of the body in a variety of positions.

A further extension of Bacon’s preparatory practices can be seen in his commissioning of photographs of his circle of friends from the photographer John Deakin (1912-1972). The results – together with self-portraits, photo booth strips, and his own photographs – became important prompts in his shift from generic representations of the human body to portrayals of specific individuals.

 

A matrix of images

Bacon’s use of photographic sources has been known since 1950 when the critic Sam Hunter took three photographs of material he had selected from a table in Bacon’s studio in Cromwell Place, South Kensington. Hunter observed that the diverse imagery was linked by violence, and this fascination continued throughout Bacon’s life. Images of Nazis and the North African wars of the 1950s were prominent in his large collection of sources. Films stills and reproductions of works of art, including Bacon’s own, were also common. The dismantling of Bacon’s later studio, nearby at Reece Mews, after his death confirmed that the amassing of photographic material had remained an obsession. While some images were used to generate paintings, he also seems to have collected such an archive for its own sake.

 

The mediated image

From the 1960s, Bacon’s accumulation of chance images began to include a more deliberate strategy of using photographs of his close circle. They became key images for the development of the portraits that dominated his paintings at this time. Snap shots and photo booth strips were augmented by the unflinching photographs taken by his friend John Deakin. Bacon specifically commissioned some of these from Deakin as records of those close to him – notably his partner from 1962, George Dyer – and they served as sources for likenesses and for poses for the rest of his career.

 

The Physical Body

Bacon drew more from Eadweard Muybridge’s sequential photographs of human and animal locomotion than from any other source. These isolated the naked figure in a way he clearly found stimulating. He also, however, spoke of projecting on to them Michelangelo’s figures which for him had more “ampleness” and “grandeur of form”.

His fascination in photography’s freezing of the body in motion led him to collect sports photographs, particularly boxing, cricket and bullfighting. It was not just movement but the physicality of the body that Bacon scrutinised, using found images to provoke new ways of picturing its strength and vulnerability.

 

 

Francis Bacon. 'Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne Standing in a Street in Soho' 1967

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne Standing in a Street in Soho
1967
Oil on canvas
198 x 147.5 cm
Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie

 

 

Portrait

During the 1960s, the larger part of Bacon’s work shifted focus to portraits and paintings of his close friends. These works centre on two broad concerns: the portrayal of the human condition and the struggle to reinvent portraiture. Bacon drew upon the lessons of Van Gogh and Velázquez, but attempted to rework their projects for a post-photographic world. His approach was to distort appearance in order to reach a deeper truth about his subjects. To this end, Bacon’s models can be seen performing different roles. In the Lying Figures series, Henrietta Moraes is naked and exposed. This unprecedented raw sexuality reinforces Bacon’s understanding of the human body simply as meat. By contrast Isabel Rawsthorne, a fellow painter, always appears in control of how she is presented. With a mixture of contempt and affection, Bacon depicted George Dyer, his lover and most frequent model, as fragile and pathetic. This is especially evident in Dyer’s first appearance in Bacon’s work, in Three Figures in a Room, in which he represents the absurdities, indignities and pathos of human existence. Everyday objects occasionally feature in these works, hollow props for lonely individuals which reinforce the sense of isolation that Bacon associated with the human condition.

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 'Triptych - August 1972' 1972

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Triptych – August 1972
1972
Oil on canvas
198 x 147.5 cm
London, Tate

 

 

Memorial

This room is dedicated to George Dyer who was Bacon’s most important and constant companion and model from the autumn of 1963. He committed suicide on 24 October 1971, two days before the opening of Bacon’s major exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris. Influenced by loss and guilt, the painter made a number of pictures in memorial to Dyer. From this period onwards the large-scale triptych was his established means for major statements, having the advantage of simultaneously isolating and juxtaposing the participating figures, as well as guarding against narrative qualities that Bacon strove to avoid. But while evading narrative, Bacon drew more than ever from literary imagery; the first of the sequence, Triptych In Memory of George Dyer 1971, refers to a specific section of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922). In addition to his own memory, for Triptych – August 1972 Bacon relied on photographs, taken by John Deakin, of Dyer in various poses on a chair. He confined his dense and energetic application of paint to the figures in these works. The dark openings consciously evoke the abyss of mortality that would become a recurring concern in Bacon’s later works.

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 'Triptych' 1987

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Triptych
1987
Oil on canvas
198 x 147.5 cm
London, The Estate of Francis Bacon, courtesy Faggionato Fine Art

 

 

Epic

References to poetry and drama became a central element in Bacon’s work from the second half of the 1960s. Alongside images of friends and single figures (often self-portraits), he produced a series of grand works that identified with great literature. Imbued with the inevitability and constant presence of death, the poetry of T.S. Eliot was a particular source of inspiration. The sentiments of the poet’s character Sweeney could be said to echo the painter’s perspective on life:

Birth, and copulation, and death.

That’s all the facts when you come to

brass tacks:

Birth, and copulation, and death.

The works in this room refer to and derive from literature. Some make direct references in their titles, others depict, sometimes abstractly, a certain scene or atmosphere within the narratives themselves. Bacon repeatedly stated that none of his paintings were intended as narratives, so rather than illustrations, these works should perhaps be understood as evoking the experience of reading of Eliot’s poetry or Aeschylus’s tragedies: their violence, threat or erotic charge. Thus, of the triptych created after reading Aeschylus, Bacon explained “I tried to create images of the sensations that some of the episodes created inside me”.

 

Francis Bacon. 'Portrait of John Edwards' 1988

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Portrait of John Edwards
1988
Oil on canvas
198 x 147.5 cm
The Estate of Francis Bacon, courtesy of Faggionato Fine Arts, London, and Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York

 

 

Late

When Bacon turned seventy in 1979, more than a decade of work lay ahead of him. Neither his legendarily hedonistic lifestyle nor his work pattern seemed to age him, but he was continually facing up to mortality through the deaths of those around him. This unswerving confrontation, however mitigated by youthful companions such as John Edwards, became the great theme of his late style. Constantly stimulated by new source material – for example the photographs and the poetry of Federico García Lorca which triggered his bullfight paintings – he was able to adapt them to his abiding concerns with the vulnerability of flesh. Exploring new techniques he also extended his fascination with how appropriate oil paint is for rendering the human body’s sensuality and sensitivity. A certain despairing energy may also be felt in the forceful throwing of paint that dominates some of these final works: the controlled chance as a defiant gesture. Ultimately, and appropriately, Bacon’s last triptych of 1991 returns to the key image of sexual struggle that had frequently recurred in his work. He faced death with a defiant concentration on the exquisiteness of the lived moment.

 

 

Museo Nacional Del Prado
Paseo del Prado, s/n,
28014 Madrid, Spain

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 10am – 8pm
Sunday 10am – 7pm

Museo Nacional del Prado 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: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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