Posts Tagged ‘Ian Lobb

27
Oct
17

Vale William Heimerman (1950-2017)

October 2017

 

Jeff Busby. 'William Heimerman' c. 1975-80

 

Jeff Busby
William Heimerman
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

 

William Heimerman: the essence of 344

Imagine a gallery in a land far far way, that for a period of 10 years or so brought the very best of West Coast/East Coast North American and European, mainly male fine art photography to that land for the edification of artists, students and the viewing public.

Imagine a land that had never seen many fine art prints by such luminaries as Edouard Boubat, Harry Callahan, Paul Caponigro, Larry Clark, William Clift, William Eggleston, Franco Fontana, Oliver Gagliani, Ralph Gibson, Emmet Gowin, Eikoh Hosoe, Eliot Porter, Duane Michals, Lisette Model, August Sander, Aaron Siskind, and Brett Weston before. Imagine the impact that this gallery (together with Brummels and Church Street Photographic Centre) had on the development of photography as an art form in this land during the period 1975-85.

No, this is not the internationally famous art gallery 291 that was located in Midtown Manhattan at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York City, created and managed by Alfred Stieglitz; but rather the Photographers’ Gallery located at 344 Punt Road, South Yarra, run from 1975 onwards by that dynamic duo, William (Bill) Heimerman and Ian Lobb, until Bill took over the sole running of the gallery in 1980. Such is the importance of this gallery to the history and development of art photography in that far away land, Australia, that the number 344 should be enshrined in the legend that this gallery has become during this time period. As Ian Lobb has observed, “The initial philosophy was simply to let people see the physical difference between the production of prints overseas and locally. After a while this moved from the Fine Print to other concerns both aesthetic and conceptual.”

Personally, I cannot speak of the early years at the gallery, for I only arrived in Australia in 1986… but I have done enough research to know of the incredible impact that the exhibitions and workshops at the gallery had on the photographic community in Australia at the time. The gallery was run on a shoe-string budget and never made any money, but both Bill and Ian were so passionate about the endeavour, about what they were trying to achieve – that there was an absolute integrity to their mission, undertaken with so much knowledge and insight into photography, art, and life, that drew people to them and to the gallery. There was so much energy and fun, that was the critical thing fun, to be had at the gallery.

I will be forever grateful to William Heimerman. Bill was the first person to give me a solo exhibition at a commercial gallery in 1992, during the second year of my Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art Photography) at what was then Phillip Institute out at Bundoora. Incidentally, Ian Lobb was one my lecturers out at Bundoora. I was only just finding my way as an artist producing classical black and white fine art photographs, a wet behind the ears 34 year old at the beginning of his path, following his dream as an artist. Two other solo exhibitions followed in 1993 (black and white) and 1995 (colour, conceptual Master of Arts exhibition). I also co-curated with Bill, John Cato’s retrospective, ‘…and his forms were without number’ at The Photographers’ Gallery in 2002. What an enlightening experience that was. I vividly remember getting an absolutely terrible review of one of my first two exhibitions at the Gallery by a now well known academic in one of the only two big newspapers in Melbourne, the Herald Sun, and being absolutely distraught upon reading it. It was soul destroying. Bill sat me down and, in that laid-back Wisconsin accent, comforted me and told me it was ok, that I should not give up, but I should keep on doing what I was doing, and that everything would be ok. To follow my path no matter what. I’ll never forget Bill’s kindness in that moment of despair, his compassion and honest forthrightness with advice. It bring tears to my ears even now. 25 years later I am still an artist, and I am still in love with photography.

Bill was handsome, charming, urbane, erudite, witty, and above all, fun. I remember the openings we had at the gallery, the glasses of wine out the back in the garden with Bill and friends; the long talks in the back space of the gallery about art and photography. I have a photograph, a Polaroid of me in a satin yellow shirt with Bill in the background smiling, at one of the openings… but blow if I can find it at the moment. That was Bill, enjoying the sunshine, the art, the education, the friends and the fun.

While the gallery never really made any money during the early period – and while their was a feminist reaction during the 1970s “against the technocratic and patriarchal American West Coast ‘fine print’ tradition then being promoted by the Photographers’ Gallery” – one can never underestimate or demean the achievement of Bill (and Ian) in bringing to Australia the work of such notable artists. Geoff Strong, writing the catalogue essay “The Melbourne Movement: Fashion and Faction in the Seventies” for the exhibition The Thousand Mile Stare at the Victorian Centre for Photography in 1988, likened Bill and Ian to a “pair of blinkered bulldozers” in their promotion of the gallery’s programme, proposing that Carol Jerrems was of another stream, people who wanted to change the world in the great tradition of the European avant-garde movements of the 1920s.

But here we have photographs of Jerrems by Bill and Bill by Jerrems (how strange to see them both looking through the camera lens at each other); and we have wonderful photographs of Bill and Ian taken by Jerrems, with their 35mm and Rollei SL66 cameras sitting behind them at the Dog Rocks near Geelong. This is what it was about: exploration, passion, photography, friendship, and fun. The Photographers’ Gallery did change the photographic art world in Australia as people knew it through the charisma and hard work of two men. As Ian said at the recent gathering for Bill, ‘Ralph Gibson said to us, “what am I doing here with you guys in Melbourne, Australia – they want me in Berlin and Tokyo, yet I’m here with you!”‘

To Bill I say, thank you for the memories, for your advice, for your friendship and above all, for your unblinking passion and commitment to photography and art. An exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery was an honour. You can look back on those comments by Geoff Strong as a badge of courage, and with pride … because you had the foresight to go out there and get the job done. And for that vision Bill, you will forever be remembered in the annals of the history of photography in Australia. Respect.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © the artist

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Ayer's Dog Rock [Bill Heimerman looking through his Rolleiflex]' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems
Ayer’s Dog Rock [Bill Heimerman looking through his Rolleiflex]
1975
Silver gelatin print
(Digital clean by Marcus Bunyan)

 

William Heimerman. 'Untitled [Carol Jerrems looking through her camera, Dog Rocks near Geelong]' c. 1975-80

 

William Heimerman
Untitled [Carol Jerrems looking through her camera, Dog Rocks near Geelong]
c. 1975
Silver gelatin print

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the Dog Rocks near Geelong]' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems
Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the Dog Rocks near Geelong]
1975
Silver gelatin print
(Digital clean by Marcus Bunyan)

 

Carol Jerrems. 'Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the Dog Rocks near Geelong]' 1975

 

Carol Jerrems
Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the Dog Rocks near Geelong]
1975
Silver gelatin print
(Digital clean by Marcus Bunyan)

 

 

William Heimerman 1950-2017

William Heimerman, who has died aged 67, was the long-term director of the Photographers’ Gallery and Workshop in South Yarra where museum quality exhibitions were held from the mid 1970’s. The Photographers’ Gallery, was established in 1973 by Rod McNicol, Paul Cox, and John Williams, then sold to photographer Ian Lobb who convinced William to assist in running the gallery, from that point known as the Photographers’ Gallery & Workshop. They set out on a journey to exhibit Australian and international photographic work of the highest quality. After a few years of co-directorship, from 1977 until 2015 William was the sole director energetically seeking out the finest work from Australia, the USA, and Europe.

Many renowned photographers have had solo or group exhibitions at the Gallery over many years including Jennifer Aitken, Lynn Bender, Robert Besanko, Edouard Boubat, Warren Breninger, Wynn Bullock, Marcus Bunyan (3), Francis Busby (3), Jeff Busby, Harry Callahan, Paul Caponigro (2), Jack Cato, John Cato, Larry Clark, William Clift, Christine Cornish, John Divola, Rennie Ellis, William Eggleston, Franco Fontana, Oliver Gagliani, Ralph Gibson, Christine Godden, Michael Goldsmith, Emmet Gowin (2), Marion Hardman, Paul Hill, Paul Hopper, Eikoh Hosoe, Graham Howe, Carol Jerrems, Christopher Koller, Jean-Marc Le Péchoux, Peter Leiss (5+1, 2 person), Ian Lobb (2), Steven Lojewski, Rod McNicol, Duane Michaels, Lisette Model, Boone Morrison, Eliot Porter, August Sander, Aaron Siskind, Ingeborg Tyssen, Greg Wayn, Brett Weston, Konrad Winkler.

The gallery also offered workshops in all aspects of photography taught by Australian & international photographers including John Cato, William Clift, Ralph Gibson, Ian Lobb, Stephen Lojewski, and Les Walkling. At the invitation of The Photographers’ Gallery renowned photographer Harry Callahan visited Australia to present a public lecture. Tony Perry in 1980 wrote about the gallery, “Today the Photographers’ Gallery is run solely by Bill Heimerman… with an enviable record of exhibitions and workshops is seen as the premier gallery in Australia; a show there is a genuine honour.”

William Lee Heimerman was born 13th January 1950 in Appleton, Wisconsin, the son of the late Peter and Rose Heimerman. William grew up in Menasha, Wisconsin, attending St Patrick’s grade school then St Mary’s high school. During his high school years he enjoyed and excelled in all sporting activities, receiving a scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Following his undergraduate studies he secured a Master’s Degree (Cum Laude) from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. After graduating from University he taught English at Winneconne High School, Wisconsin, and coached both the football and the debate teams.

In 1974 William accepted a teaching position with the Victorian Education Department and taught English at Coburg Technical School. It was here that he met Ian Lobb and the late Carol Jerrems, both avid photographers, who initiated his interest in and appreciation of photography. William subsequently moved to Brighton Technical College where he and other staff established a photography programme.

A few years later William was teaching photography at Melbourne State College and the Council of Adult Education in Melbourne, inculcating students in the techniques of fine printing and the zone system. William was himself an accomplished photographer, producing work in abstract, portrait and landscape veins. His is art of great poetry that will be exhibited in a posthumous exhibition that is in preparation.

William passed away on October 1 at Hammond Care in Caulfield after a relatively short period of declining health. Siblings, Patricia, Jane, Jeff, Kevin, Ted, brother in law Tom, sisters in law Sarah, Diane, and Paula, many nieces and nephews, extended relatives and friends, survive him. His brother Robert preceded William in death. He will be greatly missed by lifelong friend Barbara Derrick, and the many artists and art collectors that he befriended.

Barbara, Louise and Jeff (William’s brother)

 

Peter Leiss. 'Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the rear of the Photographers' Gallery]' c. 1975-80

 

Peter Leiss
Untitled [Bill Heimerman and Ian Lobb at the rear of the Photographers’ Gallery]
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

Jeff Busby. 'Untitled [William Heimerman and friend outside the Photographers Gallery (344)]' c. 1978

 

Jeff Busby
Untitled [William Heimerman and friend outside the Photographers’ Gallery (344)]
c. 1978
Silver gelatin print

 

Louise Bradley. Untitled [William Heimerman adjusting Robert Besanko prints in the main space of the Photographers' Gallery] c. 1975-80

 

Louise Bradley
Untitled [William Heimerman adjusting Robert Besanko prints in the main space of the Photographers’ Gallery]
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print
(Digital clean by Marcus Bunyan)

 

Jeff Busby. 'Untitled [Bill Heimerman and friends at the Photographers' Gallery]' c. 1975-80

 

Jeff Busby
Untitled [Bill Heimerman and friends at the Photographers’ Gallery]
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

 

The Photographers’ Gallery: A very brief history

The Photographers Gallery & Workshop was founded by Paul Cox, Ingeborg Tyssen, John F. Williams and Rod McNicoll in 1973, and the Gallery was then taken over in late 1974 by Ian Lobb, his first exhibition as director being at the beginning of 1975; Bill Heimerman joined as joint director at the beginning of 1976.

Shows of American photography became relatively commonplace in Melbourne and it was the first time Australian photographers and the general public had access to such a concentration of international photography in a variety of styles. From 1975-1981 every second exhibition at The Photographers Gallery was an international exhibition. Some of the exhibitions during this period included work by August Sander (German – arranged by Bill Heimerman), Edouard Boubat (France), Emmet Gowin (USA – twice), Paul Caponigro (USA – twice), Ralph Gibson (UK – twice, once of his colour work), William Eggelston (USA), Eliot Porter (USA), Wynn Bullock (USA), William Clift (USA), Harry Callahan (USA), Aaron Siskind (USA – twice, once with a show hung at Ohnetitel) Jerry Uelsmann (USA), Brett Weston (USA). The artists often came out to Australia, presenting a series of lectures and workshops during their exhibitions.

Very few prints were ever purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria or the National Gallery of Australia during this period, for a variety of reasons (mainly personal, financial and institutional). As Ian Lobb observes,

“The initial philosophy was simply to let people see the physical difference between the production of prints overseas and locally. After a while this moved from the Fine Print to other concerns both aesthetic and conceptual. The gallery at best, just paid for itself. During international shows the attendance at the gallery was high. During Australian shows the attendance was low.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan from the research paper Beginnings: The International Photographic Collection at the National Gallery of Victoria, May 2015

 

Exhibitors at The Photographers’ Gallery (solo exhibitions)

Jennifer Aitken, Lynn Bender, Robert Besanko, Edouard Boubat, Warren Breninger, Wynn Bullock, Marcus Bunyan (3), Francis Busby (3), Jeff Busby, Harry Callahan, Paul Caponigro (2), Jack Cato, John Cato, Larry Clark, William Clift, Christine Cornish, John Divola, Rennie Ellis, William Eggleston, Franco Fontana, Oliver Gagliani, Ralph Gibson, Christine Godden, Michael Goldsmith, Emmet Gowin (2), Marion Hardman, Paul Hill, Paul Hopper, Eikoh Hosoe, Graham Howe, Carol Jerrems, Christopher Koller, Jean-Marc Le Péchoux, Peter Leiss (5+1, 2 person), Ian Lobb (2), Steven Lojewski, Rod McNicol, Duane Michaels, Lisette Model, Boone Morrison, Eliot Porter, August Sander, Aaron Siskind, Ingeborg Tyssen, Greg Wayn, Brett Weston, Konrad Winkler.

Workshops by

Harry Callahan, William Clift, John Cato, Ralph Gibson, Ian Lobb, Stephen Lojewski, Les Walkling.

 

William Heimerman. 'Carol Jerrems' c. 1975-80

 

William Heimerman
Carol Jerrems
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

Peter Leiss. 'William Heimerman' c. 1975-80

 

Peter Leiss
William Heimerman
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

Peter Leiss. 'Untitled [Bill Heimerman at the Photographers' Gallery]' c. 1975-80

 

Peter Leiss
Untitled [Bill Heimerman at the Photographers’ Gallery]
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

Peter Leiss. Untitled [Bill and Barbara]' c. 1975-80

 

Peter Leiss
Untitled [Bill and Barbara]
c. 1975-80
Silver gelatin print

 

 

The Photographers’ Gallery

The most significant time for contemporary Australian photography was the period from mid 1975 to 1977. Three singular events occurred which provided local artist/ photographers with more hope and encouragement than some thought they had any right to expect. In the latter half of 1975 Bill Heimerman and lan Lobb took over the Photographers’ Gallery in South Yarra. With a new and dynamic policy they challenged the status quo and, in time, changed the course of the previous five years.

While actively seeking new, local work they were determined the gallery would never compromise itself, and only photographs of the highest quality would be exhibited in the hope that Australian standards would be lifted to an international level. After an initial, brief flirtation with local photography it became evident that the homegrown product was noticeably shabby, and the gallery embarked on the risky program of bringing the best contemporary, international work to Australia.

By doing this it was hoped that a better understanding of print quality would follow, that internationally acclaimed work would break down the public resistance to photography as an artistic medium and that buyers, both public and private, would respond to a venue which allowed them to view overseas work before purchasing. The gallery was to become a locus and the means whereby Australians, working at home, could gain credibility overseas. By 1977, with a series of first class exhibitions behind them, Heimerman and Lobb organised the first workshop to be conducted here by an American photographer, Ralph Gibson. In previous years we had seen lecture tours by Szarkowski and Friedlander but these were poorly publicised and attended. The gallery has also sponsored visits by William Clift and Harry Callahan who have both inspired and encouraged those lucky enough to meet them. Today the Photographers’ Gallery is run solely by Bill Heimerman, lan Lobb having left to pursue his photography, and with an enviable record of exhibitions and workshops is seen as the premier gallery in Australia; a show there is a genuine honour.

~ Tony Perry 1980

Print Letter No.25 Jan/Feb. 1980 Vol. 5 N0. 1 pp. 8-9

 

Peter Leiss. 'Untitled [The note]' Melbourne, 2017

 

Peter Leiss
Untitled [The note]
Melbourne, 2017
Digital photograph

 

Peter Leiss. 'Untitled [At the gathering for William Heimerman: Jeff Busby, Conrad Winkler and Marcus Bunyan]' Melbourne, 2017

 

Peter Leiss
Untitled [At the gathering for William Heimerman: Jeff Busby, Conrad Winkler and Marcus Bunyan]
Melbourne, 2017
Digital photograph

 

Peter Leiss. 'Untitled [At the gathering for William Heimerman]' Melbourne, 2017

 

Peter Leiss
Untitled [At the gathering for William Heimerman]
Melbourne, 2017
Digital photograph

 

Left to right standing: Jeff Busby, Konrad Winkler, Francis Busby, Andrew Daly, Barbara Anne Smith, Robert Besanko, Marcus Bunyan, Philip Ingamells, Mae O’Laughlin, Sandy Sonderal, Angelo Kara Karavitis
Sitting: Louise Bradley, Barbara Derrick, Ian Lobb, Kalli Pulos, Ros Winkler, Diana Haig, Jon Conte
Dogs: Yoshi, Sophie

 

 

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28
Jul
13

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

Exhibition dates: 16th June – 4th August 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Venus, Jupiter and Mars' 1949

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Valise d'Adam' 1949

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

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Moon Culmination' 1951

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

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Aaron Siskind. 'Manzanillo, Mexico' 1955

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Untitled' 1947

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'The Anatomy of a Chicken' 1939

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Cut Paper' 1980

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Paracelsus' 1957

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

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

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

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About the exhibition

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

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

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

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About the artist

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

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

Text from the National Gallery of Art website

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Frederick Sommer. 'Coyotes' 1945

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

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

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Ondine' 1950

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Taylor, Arizona' 1945

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Max Ernst' 1946

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Untitled' 1947

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Coyotes' 1941

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

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Les Walkling (Australia born 1953) 'Flypaper' 1980

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Lacryma' 1992

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'Drawing' 1948

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

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Frederick Sommer. 'The Queen of Sheba' 1992

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

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Fiona Hall. 'Envy, Seven Deadly Sins' 1985

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

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

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

National Gallery of Art website

Frederick Sommer website

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22
Aug
12

Exhibition: ‘Portraits of Renown: Photography and the Cult of Celebrity’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 3rd April – 26th August 2012

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On the Nature of Photography

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“To get from the tangible to the intangible (which mature artists in any medium claim as part of their task) a paradox of some kind has frequently been helpful. For the photographer to free himself of the tyranny of the visual facts upon which he is utterly dependent, a paradox is the only possible tool. And the talisman paradox for unique photography is to work “the mirror with a memory” as if it were a mirage, and the camera is a metamorphosing machine, and the photograph as if it were a metaphor…. Once freed of the tyranny of surfaces and textures, substance and form [the photographer] can use the same to pursue poetic truth.”

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Newhall, Beaumont (ed.). The History of Photography. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1982, p.281.

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“Carol Jerrems and I taught at the same secondary school in the 1970’s. In a classroom that was unused at that time, I remember having my portrait taken by her. She held her Pentax to her eye. Carols’ portraits all seemed to have been made where the posing of her subjects was balanced by an incisive naturalness (for want of a better description). As a challenge to myself I tried to look “natural”, but kept in my consciousness that I was having my portrait taken. Minutes passed and neither she nor her camera moved at all.

Then the idea slipped from my mind for just a moment, and I was straightaway bought back by the sound of the shutter. What had changed in my face? – probably nothing, or 1 mm of muscle movement. Had she seen it through the shutter? Or something else – I don’t know.”

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Australian artist Ian Lobb on being photographed by the late Carol Jerrems.

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There is always something that you can’t quite put your finger on in an outstanding portrait, some ineffable other that takes the portrait into another space entirely. I still haven’t worked it out but my thoughts are this: forget about the pose of the person. It would seem to me to be both a self conscious awareness by the sitter of the camera and yet at the same time a knowing transcendence of the visibility of the camera itself. In great portrait photography it is almost as though the conversation between the photographer and the person being photographed elides the camera entirely. Minor White, in his three great mantras, the Three Canons, observes:

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Be still with yourself

Until the object of your attention
Affirms your presence
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Let the Subject generate its own Composition
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When the image mirrors the man
And the man mirrors the subject
Something might take over

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Freed from the tyranny of the visual facts something else emerges.

Celebrities know only too well how to “work” the camera but the most profound portraits, even of celebrities, are in those moments when the photographer sees something else in the person being photographed, some unrecognised other that emerges from the shadows – a look, a twist of the head, the poignancy of the mouth, the vibrancy of the dancer Josephine Baker, the sturdiness of the gaze of Walt Whitman with hands in pockets, the presence of the hands (no, not the gaze!) of Picasso. I remember taking a black and white portrait of my partner Paul holding a wooden finial like a baby among some trees, a most beautiful, revealing photograph. He couldn’t bear to look at it, for it stripped him naked before the lens and showed a side of himself that he had never seen before: vulnerable, youthful, beautiful.

Why do great portrait photographers make so many great portraits? Why can’t this skill be shared or taught? Why can’t Herb Ritts (for example) make a portrait that goes beyond a caricature? Why is it that what can be taught is so banal that it has no value?

In photography, maybe we edit out what is expected and then it seems that photography does something that goes beyond language; it goes beyond function that can be described as a part of speech, metonym or metaphor. When this something else takes over I think it is truly “unrecognised” in the best portraits – and it is fantastic and wonderful.

This is the ultimate understanding of perception and vision – when spirit takes over – the ability to see it in the mind, through the viewfinder and be able to reveal it in the physicality of the print. This, I believe, is the reality of photography itself in its absolute essential form – and here I am deliberately forgetting about post-photography, post-modernism, modernism, pictorialism, ism, ism – and getting down to why I really like photography: the BEYOND the visualisation of a world, the transcendence of time and space that leads, in great photographs, to a recognition of the discontinuous nature of life but in the end, to its ultimate persistence.

This is as close as I have got so far…

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Dr Marcus Bunyan
August 2012

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

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Marie Cosindas (American, born 1925)
Andy Warhol
1966
Dye color diffusion [Polaroid ®] print
11.4 x 8.9 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Marie Cosindas

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Marie Cosindas (American, born 1925)
Yves St Laurent
1968
Dye color diffusion [Polaroid ®] print
11.4 x 8.9 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Marie Cosindas

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Andy Warhol (American, 1928 – 1987)
Grace Jones
1984
Polaroid Polacolor print
9.5 x 7.3 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Portraits of Renown surveys some of the visual strategies used by photographers to picture famous individuals from the 1840s to the year 2000. “This exhibition offers a brief visual history of famous people in photographs, drawn entirely from the Museum’s rich holdings in this genre,” says Paul Martineau, curator of the exhibition and associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. “It also provides a broad historical context for the work in the concurrent exhibition ‘Herb Ritts: L.A. Style’, which includes a selection of Ritts’s best celebrity portraits.”

Photography’s remarkable propensity to shape identities has made it the leading vehicle for representing the famous. Soon after photography was invented in the 1830s, it was used to capture the likenesses and accomplishments of great men and women, gradually supplanting other forms of commemoration. In the twentieth century, the proliferation of photography and the transformative power of fame have helped to accelerate the desire for photographs of celebrities in magazines, newspapers, advertisements, and on the Internet. The exhibition is arranged chronologically to help make visible some of the overarching technical and stylistic developments in photography from the first decade of its invention to the end of the twentieth century.

A wide range of historical figures are portrayed in Portraits of Renown. A photograph by Alexander Gardner of President Lincoln documents his visit to the battlefield of Antietam during the Civil War. Captured by Nadar, a portrait of Alexander Dumas, best known for his novels The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, shows the author with an energetic expression, illustrating the lively personality that made his writing so popular. Baron Adolf De Meyer’s portrait of Josephine Baker, an American performer who became an international sensation at the Folies Bergère in Paris, showcases her comedic charm, a trait that proved central to her popularity as a performer. An iconic portrait of the silent screen actress, Gloria Swanson, created by Edward Steichen for Vanity Fair reveals both the intensity of its sitter and the skill of the artist. A picture of Pablo Picasso by his friend Man Ray portrays the master of Cubism with a penetrating gaze.

Yves St. Laurent, Andy Warhol, and Grace Jones are among the contemporary figures included in the exhibition. Fashion designer Yves St. Laurent was photographed by Marie Cosindas using instant color film by Polaroid. The photograph, made the year his first boutique in New York opened, graced the walls of the store for ten years. A Cosindas portrait of Andy Warhol shows the artist wearing dark sunglasses, which partially conceal his face. Warhol, who was fascinated by celebrity, delighted in posing public personalities like Grace Jones for his camera.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Man Ray (American, 1890 – 1976)
Pablo Picasso
1934
Gelatin silver print
25.2 x 20 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

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Baron Adolf De Meyer (American, born France, 1868 – 1946)
Portrait of Josephine Baker
1925
Collotype print
39.1 x 39.7 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Mathew B. Brady (American, about 1823 – 1896)
Walt Whitman
about 1870
Albumen silver print
14.6 x 10.3 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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

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

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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