Posts Tagged ‘Italian artist

24
Mar
19

Exhibition: ‘Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth’ at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

26th January – 31st March 2019

 

Bill Viola. 'Nantes Triptych' 1992

 

Bill Viola (American, born 1951)
Nantes Triptych (still)
1992
Video/sound installation
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

 

Bill Viola (American, born 1951)
Nantes Triptych (extract)
1992
Video/sound installation
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio

 

 

Far from heaven

On the surface (and there’s a key word), this exhibition pairs these two artists together as a form of immaculate concept(ion).

“Though working five centuries apart and in radically different media, these artists share a deep preoccupation with the nature of human experience and existence. Bill Viola / Michelangelo creates an artistic exchange between these two artists… It [the exhibition] proposes a dialogue between the two artists, considering Viola as an heir to a long tradition of spiritual and affective art, which makes use of emotion as a means of connecting viewers with its subject matter.” (Press release)

At the heart of both artists work is an exploration of the body as a vessel for the eternal soul, where the use of the body gives shape (through fundamental human experiences and emotions) to spirituality, and where both artists consider metaphysical questions about the nature of existence and reality.

One of the successes of the exhibition (when seen from afar) is the undoubted connection across time, space and culture between two human beings investigating what it is to be human: as Viola puts it, an understanding and awareness of “a deeper tradition, an undercurrent stretching across time and cultures… the ancient spiritual tradition that is concerned with self-knowledge.” In Viola’s work it is an essence of self reflection, the self reflection in water of the first humans, that recognition of self – that idea of self knowledge that is built into water – and his use of water (and other elements such as fire) as an immersive, nurturing, entombing, womb death environment in many of his video installations, that provides the impetus for his investigation.

But I have a nagging doubt about this pairing.

Viola’s work seems to be of a different order (of being) than that of Michelangelo. Even though Viola’s work connects the viewer to its subject matter through feeling and emotion, these feelings and emotions are viewed from the outside (Man Searching for Immortality / Woman Searching for Eternity). The camera objectifies this theatre of creation for our viewing pleasure. The video installations are performances which seem to be of a different kingdom to me (performance, theatre, spectacle) – whereas Michelangelo’s drawings seem to emanate from within. Not chemical, not organic, but something else which is so deeply embodied that they seem to come close to enlightenment.

How Viola fits into the great catalogue – we can only take in by what he tells us. And in time.

Because this spiritual investigation is mostly seen “through a glass darkly”, sometimes it has a, scent of being, not genuine – sometimes because we are all imperfect artists – but sometimes, through someone like Hilma af Klint, or Hokusai or, in this case, Michelangelo (“Michael angel”) it is much much more transparent… and closer to the surface. Am I making sense?

Sometimes they are about something I may somewhat understand in this lifetime (Viola) and sometimes they are about something that I don’t believe has been “released” to humanity fully. Perhaps a form of internal esoteric knowledge that may eventually be revealed to humanity. A mystery (derived from ‘mystic’ or ‘mysticism’ from the Greek μυω, meaning “to conceal”) which may reveal truths that surpass the powers of natural reason, a truth that transcends the created intellect.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

 

PS. The poem below has the terror of the sublime. A perfect picture of detachment and very nearly a complete picture of enlightenment. Is the human condition different from all other conditions? – that is the $64,000 question – if you say “no”, then this is a true poem. And of course, from the depths of the soul, who is having this conversation?

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Many thankx to the Royal Academy of Arts for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Is it far to go?

Is it far to go?
A step – no further.
Is it hard to go?
Ask the melting snow,
The eddying feather.

What can I take there?
Not a hank, not a hair.
What shall I leave behind?
Ask the hastening wind,
The fainting star.

Shall I be gone long?
For ever and a day.
To whom there belong?
Ask the stone to say,
Ask my song.

Who will say farewell?
The beating bell.
Will anyone miss me?
That I dare not tell –
Quick, Rose, and kiss me.

 

Cecil Day-Lewis

Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-1972) was appointed poet laureate by Queen Elizabeth II. He was an Irish poet and essayist, and a writer of mystery novels under the pen name of Nicholas Blake. He is the father of the actor Daniel Day-Lewis. The third stanza of this poem serves as the epitaph on his gravestone. “Rose” refers to Rosamond Lehmann, the British novelist who was his lover when he wrote this verse in the 1940’s.

 

 

This exhibition pairs Bill Viola’s powerful installations with rarely-seen drawings by Michelangelo. Journey through the cycle of life in our immersive and unparalleled show.

Michelangelo is best known for the Sistine Chapel and for his large sculptures. Yet his smaller, more intimate drawings take us closer to the spiritual and emotional power of his work. They were created for his private use, or as gifts of love, and would soon become known as “drawings the likes of which was never seen”.

In 2006, the pioneering video artist Bill Viola saw a collection of these works at Windsor Castle. He was moved by their ability to convey fundamental human experiences and emotions, and by Michelangelo’s use of the body to give shape to spirituality.

Viola’s large-scale video installations are likewise works of profound emotional impact. They combine sound and moving image to create absorbing works which slow us down and invite us to experience and reflect. These works are shown alongside Michelangelo drawings, which are on display in the UK for the first time in almost a decade.

This exhibition – created in close collaboration with Bill Viola Studio – is a unique opportunity to experience two artists, born centuries apart, in a new light.

Text from the RA website

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing:

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
The Resurrection
c. 1532
Black chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) CENTRE
The Risen Christ
c. 1532-3
Black chalk on paper
37.2 x 22.1 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
The Resurrection
c. 1532-33
Black chalk

Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'The Resurrection' c. 1532

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
The Resurrection
c. 1532
Black chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

 

 

In the early 1530s Michelangelo drew the Resurrection of Christ more than a dozen times, for unknown reasons. Here he presents the transition to the eternal as a triumphant release, Christ as an explosion of energy amid the sepulchral gloom of the terrestrial sphere. The soldiers are prisoners of their earthly existence, lost in a death-like sleep, or recoiling from Christ in confusion at a sight beyond their comprehension.

Wall text

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti. 'The Risen Christ' c. 1532-3

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) CENTRE
The Risen Christ
c. 1532-3
Black chalk on paper
37.2 x 22.1 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

 

In no other work by Michelangelo is the Resurrection expressed with such exuberance. Christ is long and virile, his muscular form modelled with tiny stokes of chalk, as highly finished as any of Michelangelo’s mythological drawings. It is perhaps paradoxical that a drawing of the triumph of the soul should so strongly emphasise Christ’s body, but his almost polished torso reflects the radiant light with a glory that transcends reality.

Wall text

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'The Resurrection' c. 1532

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
The Risen Christ
c. 1532-3
Black chalk on paper
37.2 x 22.1 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing:

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-64
Black chalk, white heightening and a touch of red chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-64
Black chalk with white heightening
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John' c. 1560-64

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) LEFT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-64
Black chalk, white heightening and a touch of red chalk
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

 

 

To the right, the hunched figure of St John is list in desolation, his arms tightly folded as if shivering, his mouth open in a pain both physical and mental. The patch of red chalk at Christ’s feet is probably deliberate, symbolic of the sacrificial blood that was shed on the Cross.

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) 'Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John' c. 1560-64

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564) RIGHT
Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and St John
c. 1560-64
Black chalk with white heightening
Lent by Her Majesty the Queen

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John, c. 1504-05 at centre. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti. 'The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John' c.1504-05

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564)
The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John (Taddei Tondo)
c. 1504-05
Marble relief
107 x 107 x 22 cm
Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bequeathed by Sir George Beaumont, 1830
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Limited

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London with Michelangelo’s The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John (Taddei Tondo) c. 1504-05 at left, and Bill Viola’s Nantes Triptych, 1992 at right. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, Nantes Triptych, 1992. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti. 'The Lamentation over the Dead Christ' c. 1540

 

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564)
The Lamentation over the Dead Christ
c. 1540
Black chalk
28.1 x 26.8 cm
The British Museum, London. Exchanged with Colnaghi, 1896, 1896,0710.1
© The Trustees of the British Museum

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

In January 2019, the Royal Academy of Arts brings together the work of the pioneering video artist, Honorary Royal Academician Bill Viola (b. 1951), with drawings by Michelangelo (1475-1564). Though working five centuries apart and in radically different media, these artists share a deep preoccupation with the nature of human experience and existence. Bill Viola / Michelangelo creates an artistic exchange between these two artists and is a unique opportunity to see major works from Viola’s long career and some of the greatest drawings by Michelangelo, together for the first time. It is the first exhibition at the Royal Academy largely devoted to video art and has been organised in partnership with Royal Collection Trust.

The exhibition comprises 12 major video installations by Viola, from 1977 to 2013, being shown alongside 15 works by Michelangelo. They include 14 highly finished drawings, considered to be the high point of Renaissance drawing, as well as the Royal Academy’s Taddei Tondo. It proposes a dialogue between the two artists, considering Viola as an heir to a long tradition of spiritual and affective art, which makes use of emotion as a means of connecting viewers with its subject matter. It also aims to recapture the spiritual and emotional core of Michelangelo, beyond the awesome grandeur of his works.

Viola first encountered the works of the Italian Renaissance in Florence in the 1970s where he spent some of his formative years. A residency at the J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, in 1998 renewed his interest in Renaissance art and in the shared affinities with his own practice. In 2006, Viola visited the Print Room at Windsor Castle to see Michelangelo’s exquisite drawings, which he had known in reproduction since his youth. The meeting proved a catalyst for the exhibition, which evolved as a conversation between Viola and Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings at Royal Collection Trust. Rather than setting up direct comparisons between the artists or suggesting that Michelangelo has been an instrumental influence on Viola’s work, the exhibition examines the affinities between them, bringing together specific works to explore resonances in their treatment of the fundamental questions: the nature of being, the transience of life, and the search for a greater meaning beyond mortality.

Viola stated, “Through my travels and experiences first in Florence, then primarily in non-Western cultures, and in combination with my readings in ancient philosophy and religion, I began to be aware of a deeper tradition, an undercurrent stretching across time and cultures… the ancient spiritual tradition that is concerned with self-knowledge.” Throughout his career, Viola has experimented with large-scale video installations; he is one of the first artists to have conceived video on an immersive architectural scale. He has increasingly utilised his medium’s fundamental elements – light, sound and time – to create visceral works that consider metaphysical questions about the nature of existence and reality. Unusually for video, they give shape to inner states of being rather than mirroring the world around us.

The exhibition presents Michelangelo’s works as more than examples of genius and virtuosity, revealing a personality that was frequently vulnerable. The drawings included were executed in the last 35 years of his life, some as gifts and expressions of love for close friends, others as private meditations on his own mortality. Religious imagery of the Virgin and Child, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection reflect on the presence of death and the eternal. In others, references to Classical mythology act as metaphors for the human condition. At their heart, as with Viola’s work, is an exploration of the body as a vessel for the eternal soul.

The exhibition is conceived as an immersive journey through the cycles of life, exploring the transience and tumult of existence and the possibility of rebirth. It begins and ends with a pairing of works that reflect on a central paradox: the presence of death in life. Michelangelo’s The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John the Baptist, c. 1504-05, known as the Taddei Tondo, depicts the Baptist holding a fluttering bird from which the infant Christ recoils, the scene heralding his eventual sacrifice on the Cross. It is being displayed alongside Viola’s The Messenger, 1996 (Bill Viola Studio), which uses the metaphor of water to depict the eternal cycle of birth, life and death. The theme is being further explored in drawings relating to the Virgin and Child, as well as the Lamentation, c. 1540 (British Museum, London), which is being shown facing Viola’s Nantes Triptych, 1992 (Bill Viola Studio), three screens that individually portray a woman giving birth, a figure floating in a mysterious half-light, and Viola’s own mother on her deathbed. Viola stated, “It is the awareness of our own mortality that defines the nature of human beings”.

The exhibition continues with a series of installations by Viola that reflect on the nature of human experience, as one set by moral and ethical choices, besieged by fears and ultimately experienced in solitude. At the centre of the exhibition is Michelangelo’s extraordinary Presentation Drawings of the 1530s (loaned by Her Majesty The Queen, Royal Collection, London), which he produced as gifts for Tommaso de’ Cavalieri, a young Roman nobleman for whom he developed a deep love. Demonstration pieces relating to the craft of drawing with chalk, they also explore complex myths and Neoplatonic concepts, and were created as expressions of devotion towards their recipient. They include the Tityus, 1532, which acts as an allegory for the opposed forms of love in Neoplatonic philosophy: the punishment of base lust devoid of spiritual love. Further drawings by Michelangelo explore similar allegorical struggles in life, from the labours of Hercules to the fall of Phaeton. These are being shown in opposition to the quiet stillness of Viola’s Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity, 2013 (Bill Viola Studio). Life-size images of an ageing man and woman are projected onto two black granite slabs, showing them slowly examining every inch of their naked bodies by torchlight, unable to hide from their earthly state.

The final galleries include a series of works that more directly consider mortality and the possibility of rebirth. Among them are Michelangelo’s most poignant drawings, two Crucifixions from the final years of his life. The exhibition concludes two of Viola’s most majestic works; the monumental projections, Fire Woman, 2005, (Bill Viola Studio), and Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Waterfall Under a Mountain), 2005 (Bill Viola Studio). They depict bodies falling and rising out of view, in different ways conjuring the body’s final journey and the passage of the spirit, in obscurity or in glory.

Press release from the RA Cited 23/02/2019

 

 

 

Bill Viola (American, born 1951)
Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall) (extract)
2005
Video/sound installation
Performer: John Hay
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

Bill Viola. 'Tristan's Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall)' 2005

 

Bill Viola (American, born 1951)
Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall) (still)
2005
Video/sound installation
Performer: John Hay
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall) 2005 (still). Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, Fire Woman and Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall), St Carthage’s Church, Parkville, Melbourne

 

Bill Viola. 'Fire Woman' 2005

 

Bill Viola (American, born 1951)
Fire Woman (still)
2005
Video/sound installation
Performer: Robin Bonaccorsi
Courtesy Bill Viola Studio
Photo: Kira Perov

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London showing Bill Viola’s Fire Woman 2005 (still). Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, The Veiling, 1995. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, Five Angels for the Millenium, 2001. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, “Departing Angel”, from Five Angels for the Millennium 2001 (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, The Dreamers, 2013. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

The Dreamers (2013) consists of seven individual screens, which depict underwater portraits of people who appear to be sleeping. Accompanied by the gentle sounds of water, the viewer is led to feel as if they themselves are submerged with these figures. In this spiritual, immersive subterranean environment, ultimate interpretation is left for the viewer to define, through the lens of their own experiences. (excerpt)

 

 

Bill Viola, The Dreamers (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity, 2013. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity, 2013 (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, The Sleep of Reason, 1988. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, Slowly Turning Narrative, 1992. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Bill Viola, The Messenger 1996 (excerpt)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Bill Viola, The Messenger, 1996. Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in partnership with Royal Collection Trust and with the collaboration of Bill Viola Studio. David Parry / © Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House, Piccadilly,
London, W1J 0BD

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Friday 10am – 10pm

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18
Jul
15

Exhibition: ‘Mario Giacomelli. Against Time’ at Fotomuseum WestLicht, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 9th August 2015

 

Mario Gaicomelli has a unique signature as an artist. His photographs could never be anyone else’s work.

The press release states, “His works, all of them conceived as series, combine elements of reportage with lyrical subjectivity and a symbolic aesthetic which seems almost calligraphic in its harsh contrasts between black and white… On the one hand, they express a personal feeling; on the other, they embody a clear, courageous and conceptually groundbreaking attitude.” It continues, “His singular style caused him to remain beyond photographic fashions. In the five decades of his work, he created a body of work that is unparalleled in its aesthetic and thematic consistency.”

To remain beyond photographic fashions. In other words, he didn’t fit in, he was an outsider, he was Other. He did not conform.

He crafted, and I use the word deliberately, a conceptual response to life and landscape, to memory and existence – his symbolic aesthetic – that also expresses an enormous respect for personal feeling, for the stuff of life. There is a consistency to his enquiry, both aesthetically and thematically, that marks him out from the pack.

The calligraphic nature of his work has links back to his training as a printer. The aerial photographs of the landscape from the series Presa di coscienza sulla natura / Awareness of Nature (below) possess the quality of an etching. Mix in an dash of surrealism, such as in the series Verrà la morte e avrà i Tuoi Occhi / Death will come and have your eyes (below)1 and the macabre, as in the series Slaughterhouse, and you have a potent mix of portrayal of the irreality of everyday life. Some photographs, such as an image below from the series Scanno Italy, Scanno even posses the 3D quality of stereoscopic cards.

Above all, there is a sense of the mysteries of life contained within the spaces of his work. Is the white cat flying in mid-air or is clinging to someone that we can’t see, who has been printed out by the photographer because of his previsualisation of the work. What is that shape hovering next to his mother? I think it looks like a moth, and the mother is a Japanese mother after Hiroshima with a withered hand. She almost looks like she is dressed in a kimono as well. We’re not supposed to know what that is – actually it’s Agfa paper, hardest possible grade, and skilled use of bleach by the artist – and that is the mystery. Its an interesting print because it is printed so that it could be any gender.

I do love artists who push the boundaries of the sensual and the symbolic. Praise be to traces of differences.

Marcus

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

 

1. See the case of Christine Papin and Léa Papin who were two French maids who murdered their employer’s wife and daughter in Le Mans, France, on 2 February 1933. They had both been beaten to the point of being unrecognisable, and one of the daughter’s eyes was on the floor nearby. Madame Lancelin’s eyes had been gouged out and were found in the folds of the scarf around her neck.

 

Italian Neorealism (Neorealismo)

Italian Neorealism came about as World War II ended and Benito Mussolini’s government fell, causing the Italian film industry to lose its center. Neorealism was a sign of cultural change and social progress inItaly. Its films presented contemporary stories and ideas, and were often shot in the streets because the Cinecittà film studios had been damaged significantly during the war.

The neorealist style was developed by a circle of film critics that revolved around the magazine Cinema, including Luchino Visconti, Gianni Puccini, Cesare Zavattini, Giuseppe De Santis and Pietro Ingrao. Largely prevented from writing about politics (the editor-in-chief of the magazine was Vittorio Mussolini, son of Benito Mussolini), the critics attacked the white telephone films that dominated the industry at the time. As a counter to the popular mainstream films some critics felt that Italian cinema should turn to the realist writers from the turn of the 20th century.

Both Antonioni and Visconti had worked closely with Jean Renoir. In addition, many of the filmmakers involved in neorealism developed their skills working on calligraphist films (though the short-lived movement was markedly different from neorealism). Elements of neorealism are also found in the films of Alessandro Blasetti and the documentary-style films of Francesco De Robertis. Two of the most significant precursors of neorealism are Toni (Renoir, 1935) and 1860 (Blasetti, 1934). In the Spring of 1945, Mussolini was executed and Italy was liberated from German occupation. This period, known as the “Italian Spring,” was a break from old ways and an entrance to a more realistic approach when making films. Italian cinema went from utilizing elaborate studio sets to shooting on location in the countryside and city streets in the realist style.

The first neorealist film is generally thought to be Ossessione by Luchino Visconti (1943). Neorealism became famous globally in 1946 with Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City, when it won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival as the first major film produced in Italy after the war…

The films are generally filmed with nonprofessional actors – although, in a number of cases, well known actors were cast in leading roles, playing strongly against their normal character types in front of a background populated by local people rather than extras brought in for the film. They are shot almost exclusively on location, mostly in run-down cities as well as rural areas due to its forming during the post-war era.

The topic involves the idea of what it is like to live among the poor and the lower working class. The focus is on a simple social order of survival in rural, everyday life. Performances are mostly constructed from scenes of people performing fairly mundane and quotidian activities, devoid of the self-consciousness that amateur acting usually entails. Neorealist films often feature children in major roles, though their characters are frequently more observational than participatory…

The period between 1943 and 1950 in the history of Italian cinema is dominated by the impact of neorealism, which is properly defined as a moment or a trend in Italian film, rather than an actual school or group of theoretically motivated and like-minded directors and scriptwriters. Its impact nevertheless has been enormous, not only on Italian film but also on French New Wave cinema, the Polish Film School and ultimately on films all over the world.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Awareness of Nature, Italy, Senigallia' 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Presa di coscienza sulla natura / Awareness of Nature
Italy, Senigallia
1980

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Awareness of Nature, Italy, Senigallia' c. 1987

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Presa di coscienza sulla natura / Awareness of Nature
Italy, Senigallia
c. 1987

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) From the series 'The Good Earth, Italy' c. 1965

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series The Good Earth, Italy
c. 1965

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Awareness of Nature, Italy, Senigallia' 1982-92

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Presa di coscienza sulla natura / Awareness of Nature
Italy, Senigallia
1982-1992

 

 

“The images by Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000), one of the most well-known Italian photographers of the post-war period, are distinctive and possessed of an almost painful intensity. Inspired by Neorealismo cinema, Giacomelli, a typesetter and printer by training who had been experimenting with painting and literature, turned to photography during the 1950s, developing a highly individual visual idiom characterised by graphic abstraction. His works, all of them conceived as series, combine elements of reportage with lyrical subjectivity and a symbolic aesthetic which seems almost calligraphic in its harsh contrasts between black and white.

Starting with the people and landscape of his native central Italy, Giacomelli’s pictures always deal with the fundamental questions of existence: life and death, faith and love, the relationship of man and his roots, the traces of time. One of his most well-known images shows a group of young priests in their cassocks dancing a round in the snow – a moment of innocence already inscribed with loss. Giacomelli’s images of the farm land around his native town of Senigallia, taken from an airplane, dissolve the fields into picturesque networks of lines, showing the landscape as a product of human toil and the passing of time. On the one hand, they express a personal feeling; on the other, they embody a clear, courageous and conceptually groundbreaking attitude.

The photographs on display are part of the Photography Collection OstLicht, curated by Rebekka Reuter and Fabian Knierim.”

Text from the Fotomuseum WestLicht website

 

Mario Giacomelli. 'From the series: Puglia Italy, Puglia' 1958

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Puglia Italy, Puglia
1958

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Scanno Italy, Scanno' 1959

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Scanno Italy, Scanno
1959

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Lourdes France, Lourdes' 1966

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Lourdes France, Lourdes
1966

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) From the series 'Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto / I have no Hands caress my face' Italy, Senigallia 1961-1963

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto / I have no Hands to caress my face
Italy, Senigallia
1961-1963

 

 

“Among his most famous designs include the photographs of the series Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il Volto (I have no hands that caress my face, after a poem by David Maria Turoldo), 1961-63. Giacomelli observed in a group of priest candidates at their boisterous games and silliness between the seriousness of the lessons. An image showing the young clergy, as they dance in their cassocks a dance in the snow – a moment of innocence, the loss already acknowledged. The soil is so that the seminarians seem to float as black silhouettes on nothing in the recording of a pure white surface without any drawing.

At the end of the 1950s Giacomelli photographed the street scenes of Puglia and Scanno. Both series show a largely untouched by modernity village community. The archaic rural life that still has a clearly vital undertone in Puglia (1958), turns into the black-clad figures of Scanno (1957/59), an image of gloomy Providence.

Over several years, from 1954 to 1983, Giacomelli returned to the nursing home where his mother had worked in the days of his childhood, to photograph there. As in all his series he took, even with Verrà la morte e avrà i Tuoi Occhi (Death will come and will have your eyes on a poem by Cesare Pavese), Giacomelli builds a relationship to the place and its people. The recordings are marked by a harsh realism of human decay, the white of the deductions seem to exhaust the fragile body which possesses an almost existential quality. Simultaneously Giacomelli’s identification with the residents and his silent anger at the suffering is obvious and so the ancients always remain hidden in his eyes.

Giacomelli’s shots from the plane of farmland of his birthplace Senigallia, finally resolve the fields in picturesque interwoven lines and show the landscape as a drawn from the people and time. On one hand, an expression of a personal feeling, these images embody at the same time a clear, bold and pioneering conceptual attitude. Giacomelli’s art is always a rebellion against the impositions of human existence. The bitter irony of the transience of life, he meets by means of photography. His singular style caused him to remain beyond photographic fashions. In the five decades of his work, he created a body of work that is unparalleled in its aesthetic and thematic consistency.”

 

Mario Giacomelli

Mario Giacomelli was born in 1925 in Senigallia. The small town on the Italian Adriatic coast in the province of Ancona remained until his death in 2000, the center of his life. Giacomelli grew up in poverty. His father he lost before he was nine years old, his mother worked as a laundress in a retirement home. At thirteen, he left school and began an apprenticeship as a printer. With a partner, he opened after the war in Senigallia his own printing business. Inspired by photography magazines and the neo-realist film, he discovered at the beginning of the 1950s photography for himself and bought his first camera. He successfully participated in a number of photo contests and regional exhibitions. He received an important impetus in this period by Giuseppe Cavalli, with whom he founded the Photo Group Misa in 1954. In the same year he began his work on Verrà la morte. In 1957 he undertook trips to Scanno and Lourdes, from which emerged the first images of the same series. International presentations of his photographs – the Subjective Photography 3 exhibition, 1959 organized by Otto Steinert in Brussels, at Photokina in Cologne, or the George Eastman House, Rochester (both 1963) – made Giacomelli known beyond Italy. An exhibition curated by John Szarkowski at MoMA in New York meant an international breakthrough for Giacomelli 1964.”

Translated from the German press release

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mario Giacomelli. Against Time' at Fotomuseum WestLicht© WestLicht / Sandro E. E. Zanzinger

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mario Giacomelli. Against Time' at Fotomuseum WestLicht© WestLicht / Sandro E. E. Zanzinger

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mario Giacomelli. Against Time' at Fotomuseum WestLicht© WestLicht / Sandro E. E. Zanzinger

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mario Giacomelli. Against Time' at Fotomuseum WestLicht© WestLicht / Sandro E. E. Zanzinger

 

Installation views of the exhibition Mario Giacomelli. Against Time at Fotomuseum WestLicht
© WestLicht / Sandro E. E. Zanzinger

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Slaughterhouse' Italy 1961

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Slaughterhouse
Italy 1961

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) From the series: 'Verrà la morte e avrà i Tuoi Occhi / Death will come and have your eyes' Italy 1954

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series: Verrà la morte e avrà i Tuoi Occhi / Death will come and have your eyes
Italy 1954

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) 'Mia Madre / Mother' Italy 1959

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
Mia Madre / Mother
Italy 1959

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) From the series: 'Verrà la morte e i Tuoi Occhi avrà / Death will come and your have eyes' Italy, 1955-1958

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series: Verrà la morte e i Tuoi Occhi avrà / Death will come and your have eyes
Italy, 1955-1958

 

 

WestLicht
Westbahnstraße 40
A-1070 Vienna

Opening hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri 2 – 7 pm
Thu 2 – 9 pm
Sat, Sun 11 am – 7 pm
Mon closed

WestLicht website

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14
Sep
13

Exhibition: ‘Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art’ at Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 22nd September 2013

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A slight switch in gears for the next two postings. Conceptual, sculptural, minimal, monochromatic, corporeal, haptically varied surfaces that are absolutely fascinating…

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Many thankx to the Städel Museum for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the art.

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1958

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Achrome
1958
Kaolin on canvas
50 x 69.5 cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1957-1963

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Achrome
1957-1963
Kaolin on canvas
80 x 100 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1958

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Achrome
1958
Kaolin on canvas
160 x 130 cm
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013
Courtesy FaMa Gallery, Verona

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Achrome' 1962

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Achrome
1962
Pebbles and kaolin on canvas
70 x 50 cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Alfabeto' (Alphabet) 1959

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Alfabeto (Alphabet)
1959
Printed paper and pencil on cardboard
70 x 50 cm
Neues Museum Weimar
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Ennio Vicario. 'Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri' 1958

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Ennio Vicario
Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri
1958

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Ennio Vicario. 'Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri' 1958

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Ennio Vicario
Manzoni in his studio in Via Fiori Oscuri
1958

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“Despite his short career, Piero Manzoni (1933‒1963), who died an early death at the age of twenty-nine, is regarded as one of the most momentous representatives of Italian art after 1945. Manzoni would have celebrated his eightieth birthday on July 13, 2013. The Städel will pay tribute to this key figure of the European post-war avant-garde with a comprehensive survey to mark the occasion exactly fifty years after the artist’s death. Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art will be the first Manzoni retrospective ever to be staged in the German-speaking world. The exhibition, on display from June 26 to September 22, 2013, will highlight the radical character of the artist’s multifaceted position: Manzoni not only submitted Duchamp’s concept of the ready-made to a far-reaching revision, but also thought central discourses of Modernism like monochromy through to the end and opened painting into the fields of the everyday world and commodity aesthetics. With works like Merda d’artista – (allegedly) 30 grams of artist’s shit in a strictly limited edition – or Socle du monde (Base of the World, 1961) – a pedestal elevating the world to an artwork – Manzoni created two icons within the more recent history of art. More than one hundred works from all phases of Manzoni’s productive career will offer complex insights into a still persuasive and influential oeuvre between Art Informel and the emergence of a new concept of art, Modernism and neo-avant-garde, art and the everyday world. Manzoni’s still unbroken influence on contemporary art production will be illustrated in the exhibition by works of the artists Erwin Wurm (*1954), Leni Hoffmann (*1962), and Bernard Bazile (*1952), which – offering an essayistic introduction to the show ‒explore central dimensions of Manzoni’s oeuvre regarding their relevance to the present.

“Though Piero Manzoni had a pivotal position in the cross-European ZERO network and, as a breathtaking innovator of the concept of art, strikes us hardly less avant­garde today, he is far less known than many of his ZERO colleagues in these parts. Fifty years after his sudden death, we want to change this situation with the first presentation of Manzoni’s work in a museum outside Italy for more than two decades,” says Max Hollein, Director of the Städel Museum.

“The exhibition is not only aimed at shedding light on the wide variety of Manzoni’s work produced within only a few years, but also at examining his enormous impact on the paradigm change in the art of the 1960s. Manzoni actually paved the way for today’s art, exercising an influence on Body Art and Performance Art, as well as on Conceptual Art and Land Art,” explains Dr. Martin Engler, Head of the Städel’s Contemporary Art Collection and curator of the show.

Piero Manzoni was born the son of Valeria Meroni and Egisto Manzoni, Count of Chiosca and Poggiolo, in Soncino, Lombardy, on July 13, 1933. He began to study law in 1951 and philosophy in 1955, when he also presented his first solo exhibition in Soncino. This was about the time he got to know artists of the CoBrA group, of the “Spatialist” movement around Lucio Fontana, and finally the “Arte Nucleare” group he joined in 1957. It was in Rotterdam where he presented his first solo show abroad in 1958. One year after, Manzoni founded the Azimut Gallery in Milan together with Enrico Castellani. The dato Gallery was the first to exhibit his work in Frankfurt in 1961. At the age of twenty-nine, Piero Manzoni died from a heart attack in his studio in Milan.

Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art opens on the ground floor of the Städel’s Exhibition Building with early works by the artist, which oscillate between informal grounds and strongly abstracted figurativeness. Mirroring the agent provocateur and avant-gardist’s mediating role within the international ZERO network, his early oeuvre is displayed next to selected works by such contemporaries as Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, or Yves Klein, as well as by ZERO artists like Günther Uecker or Heinz Mack. Thus, the presentation conveys an idea of both Manzoni’s intricate network of relationships and the interaction and exchange with his closely affiliated colleagues in Düsseldorf, Amsterdam, Frankfurt am Main, Paris, or Copenhagen right from the beginning.

In the adjoining, completely open exhibition space, forty-three works of Manzoni’s central Achromes series provide the basis of the presentation ‒or rather interlock the artist’s different strands of production: a band running along all four outside walls unfolds a seamless chronology of this epochal group of works, which spans the entire exhibition. Between 1957 and his death in 1963, Manzoni produced about six-hundred of these paintings without color, whose different forms of appearance made them a background of reference for his whole oeuvre. Thanks to the open exhibition architecture the Achromes enclose the artist’s performative, body-related workgroups presented in the center of the hall with the help of a freestanding architectural display.

Manzoni did without any direct artistic gesture when creating his “colorless” works. His “white” painting, defined by the absence of color ‒ white or “achrome” meaning in the color of the material for him ‒ takes a special position in the context of the international ZERO movement and its turn toward monochromy: Manzoni saw his Achromes as paintings in spite of their ultimate reduction on the one hand, yet extended them by everyday elements like rolls or Styrofoam by body and space on the other. Employing materials such as plaster of Paris, kaolin, or synthetic fibers, he relied on means with sculptural qualities which initiated a transition process from the picture into a third, corporeal dimension. The velvety, satiny, shining and haptically varied surfaces show the conceptual severity that characterizes the description of this aesthetic concept to be a lie.

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Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art

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Exhibition views of Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, 2013
Photo: Alex Kraus
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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After his reduction of color, Manzoni also radically reduced its counterpart, the line, to the core of its essence. Starting in 1959, Manzoni produced more than one hundred and thirty conceptual works he categorized as Linee (Lines). This group confronts us with the idea of the isolated line as a reduced artistic gesture: the uniform horizontal lines drawn on long strips of paper were rolled up in cardboard tubes and thus hidden from the eye. The works are presented in their tubes positioned upright like figurines. The highlight of this series is definitely the line Manzoni drew at a newpaper’s printers in Herning, Denmark, in 1960: it was more than seven kilometers long and stored in a zinc cylinder.

Manzoni’s endeavors as an artist centered on the issue of the body, an issue consistently derived from the corporeality of his Achromes and Linee. From the late 1950s on, he also dedicated himself to two further series: Corpi d’aria (Bodies of Air) and Fiato d’artista (Artist’s Breath) ‒ works vacillating between object and biology, between body and concept. The exhibited balloons, formerly filled with their owners’ or Manzoni’s breath, related to a body discourse that anticipated the 1970s and was also reflected in other works by the artist like in the performance Consumazione dell’arte (Consumption of Art, 1960), in which he marked hard-boiled eggs with his thumbprint and offered them to the audience to eat. The thumbprint is to be read as Manzoni’s most reduced physical trace which becomes a sign of his identity as individual, body, and artist.

The provocative impact of Manzoni’s probably best known group of works, Merda d’artista (Artist’s Shit, 1961), is still unbroken even five decades after the artist’s death: thirty grams of artist’s shit in strictly limited compact cans, which were allegedly sold on the art market for the price of gold. This series may be understood as a logical continuation of Manzoni’s earlier art consumption performances: the artist’s body becomes the biological medium for the production of art, and Duchamp’s ready-made finds itself grounded in human biology. The exhibition comprises eleven cans of this series combining high and low, the spiritual and the abstract with the concrete and the physical and thus radically extends the traditional concept of art.

The resulting discourse of the body finds its culmination in the artist’s Sculture viventi (Living Sculptures, 1961) displayed in the show. Declaring bodies to be art by means of a pedestal, these works by Manzoni appropriate man as a living work of art: whoever steps onto the pedestal is elevated to a living sculpture and object of art for the time being. Going beyond the concept of the ready-made, Manzoni made the body the material of his art. His approach involved the viewer and opened the door for the Actionist Art of the 1960s and 1970s. The work Socle du monde (Base of the World, 1961), which is also among the Städel’s exhibits, focuses on the whole world at once: a plinth presumably placed upside down elevates the world, including man, to a work of art in an all-embracing manner.

The presentation of three contemporary positions ‒ Erwin Wurm (*1954), Leni Hoffmann (*1962), and Bernard Bazile (*1952) ‒ provides an essayistic introduction to the show in the foyer of the Exhibition Building, a foreword exploring central dimensions of Manzoni’s oeuvre regarding their relevance to the present. The Austrian artist Erwin Wurm will present the visitor as a living sculpture in one of his One Minute Sculptures he conceived especially for the show at the Städel. Leni Hoffmann’s re-edition of the longest line from Manzoni’s series Linee follows up the present reception of the artist’s work by realizing a well-nigh endless line on the rotary press of a daily newspaper. The French artist Bernhard Bazile will show two of his works. In his film project Die Besitzer (The Owners) he interviews forty-nine collectors whose holdings comprise a sample of Manzoni’s Merda d’artista and, talking about the motives for their acquisition, reflect on the artist’s oeuvre far beyond the actual subject of the conversation. The show also comprises the Merda d’artista sample Bazile opened in 1989 and since then presents as his own work under the title Boîte ouverte de Piero Manzoni.

The exhibition Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art highlights the achievements of an artist who, in a radically innovative way, succeeded in condensing issues of late Modernism into a differentiated oeuvre that would prove to be a landmark for contemporary art. Today, Manzoni’s works mark a key position that has given birth to a conceptual discourse of the body and become the yardstick for a new, extended understanding of art which still clearly informs today’s debates.”

Press release from the Städel Museum website

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Paradoxus Smith' 1957

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Paradoxus Smith
1957
Oil on board
100 x 130 cm
The Sander Collection
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Milano et-mitologiaa' (Milan and mythology) 1956

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Milano et-mitologiaa (Milan and mythology)
1956
Oil on board
95 x 130 cm
Private Collection Milan
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Socle du monde' (Base of the world) 1961

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Socle du monde (Base of the world)
1961
Iron, bronze
82 x 100 x 100cm
HEART – Herning Museum of Contemporary Art
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Base magica - Scultura vivente' (Magic Base - Living sculpture) 1961

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Base magica – Scultura vivente (Magic Base – Living sculpture)
1961
Wood, metal, felt
79.5 x 79.5 x 60 cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Fiato d'artista' (Artist's breath) 1960

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Fiato d’artista (Artist’s breath)
1960
Rubber balloon, string, lead seal, brass, wood
18 x 18 cm
Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, in collaboration with Gagosian Gallery
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Merda d'artista N.° 038' (Artist's shit N.° 038) 1961

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Merda d’artista N.° 038 (Artist’s shit N.° 038)
1961
Artist’s shit, printed paper, tin can
Private collection
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963) 'Linea m 3,54' (Line 3.54 m) 1959

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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Linea m 3,54 (Line 3.54 m)
1959
23 x 6 cm
Ink on paper, cardboard container
Consolandi Collection
© Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milano, by VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

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Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Friday – Sunday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm.
Wednesday and Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm

Städel Museum website

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21
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: 11th October 2012 – 27th January 2013

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What a fascinating subject. Having completed multiple exposure work under the black and white enlarger I can attest to how difficult it was to get a print correctly exposed. I was using multiple negatives, moving the piece of photographic paper and printing in grids. Trying to get the alignment right was quite a task but the outcomes were very satisfying. Of course today these skills have mainly been lost to be replaced by other technological skills within the blancmange that is Photoshop. Somehow it’s not the same. My admiration for an artist like Jerry Uelsmann will always remain undimmed for the undiluted joy, beauty and skill of their analogue imagery.

I will post different photographs in this exhibition from the National Gallery of Art hang when I receive them!

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Many thankx to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 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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Unidentified American artist. 'Two-Headed Man' ca. 1855

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Unidentified American artist
Two-Headed Man
c. 1855
Daguerreotype
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

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George Washington Wilson. 'Aberdeen Portraits No. 1' 1857

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George Washington Wilson (Scottish, 1823-1893)
Aberdeen Portraits No. 1
1857
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2011

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Henry Peach Robinson. 'Fading Away' 1858

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Henry Peach Robinson (English, 1830-1901)
Fading Away
1858
Albumen silver print from glass negatives
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum, Bradford, United Kingdom

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Unidentified artist. 'Man Juggling His Own Head' ca. 1880

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Unidentified artist
Man Juggling His Own Head
ca. 1880
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Collection of Christophe Goeury

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Maurice Guibert. 'Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model' ca. 1900

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Maurice Guibert (French, 1856-1913)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model
c. 1900
Gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

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F. Holland Day. 'The Vision (Orpheus Scene)' 1907

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F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
The Vision (Orpheus Scene)
1907
Platinum print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum, Bradford, United Kingdom

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Unidentified American artist. 'Man on Rooftop with Eleven Men in Formation on His Shoulders' c. 1930

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Unidentified American artist
Man on Rooftop with Eleven Men in Formation on His Shoulders
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester

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Unidentified American artist. 'Dirigible Docked on Empire State Building, New York' 1930

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Unidentified American artist
Dirigible Docked on Empire State Building, New York
1930
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2011

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“While digital photography and image-editing software have brought about an increased awareness of the degree to which camera images can be manipulated, the practice of doctoring photographs has existed since the medium was invented. Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the first major exhibition devoted to the history of manipulated photography before the digital age. Featuring some 200 visually captivating photographs created between the 1840s and 1990s in the service of art, politics, news, entertainment, and commerce, the exhibition offers a provocative new perspective on the history of photography as it traces the medium’s complex and changing relationship to visual truth. 

The exhibition is made possible by Adobe Systems Incorporated. 

The photographs in the exhibition were altered using a variety of techniques, including multiple exposure (taking two or more pictures on a single negative), combination printing (producing a single print from elements of two or more 
negatives), photomontage, overpainting, and retouching on the negative or print. 

In every case, the meaning and content of the camera image was significantly transformed in the process of manipulation.

Faking It is divided into seven sections, each focusing on a different set of motivations for manipulating the camera image. “Picture Perfect” explores 19th-century photographers’ efforts to compensate for the new medium’s technical limitations – specifically, its inability to depict the world the way it looks to the naked eye. To augment photography’s monochrome palette, pigments were applied to portraits to make them more vivid and lifelike. Landscape photographers faced a different obstacle: the uneven sensitivity of early emulsions often resulted in blotchy, overexposed skies. To overcome this, many photographers, such as Gustave Le Gray and Carleton E. Watkins, created spectacular landscapes by printing two negatives on a single sheet of paper – one exposed for the land, the other for the sky. This section also explores the challenges involved in the creation of large group portraits, which were often cobbled together from dozens of photographs of individuals. 

For early art photographers, the ultimate creativity lay not in the act of taking a photograph but in the subsequent transformation of the camera image into a hand-crafted picture.

“Artifice in the Name of Art” begins in the 1850s with elaborate combination prints of narrative and allegorical subjects by Oscar Gustave Rejlander and Henry Peach Robinson. It continues with the revival of Pictorialism at the dawn of the twentieth century in the work of artist-photographers such as Edward Steichen, Anne W. Brigman, and F. Holland Day. 

“Politics and Persuasion” presents photographs that were manipulated for explicitly political or ideological ends. It begins with Ernest Eugene Appert’s faked photographs of the 1871 Paris Commune massacres, and continues with images used to foster patriotism, advance racial ideologies, and support or protest totalitarian regimes. Sequences of photographs published in Stalin-era Soviet Russia from which purged Party officials were erased demonstrate the chilling ease with which the historical record could be falsified. Also featured are composite portraits of criminals by Francis Galton and original paste-ups of John Heartfield’s anti-Nazi photomontages of the 1930s.

“Novelties and Amusements” brings together a broad variety of amateur and commercial photographs intended to astonish, amuse, and entertain. Here, we find popular images of figures holding their own severed heads or appearing doubled or tripled. Also included in this light-hearted section are ghostly images by the spirit photographer William Mumler, “tall-tale” postcards produced in Midwestern farming communities in the 1910s, trick photographs by amateurs, and Weegee’s experimental distortions of the 1940s. 

”Pictures in Print” reveals the ways in which newspapers, magazines, and advertisers have altered, improved, and sometimes fabricated images in their entirety to depict events that never occurred – such as the docking of a zeppelin on the tip of the Empire State Building. Highlights include Erwin Blumenfeld’s famous “Doe Eye” Vogue cover from 1950 and Richard Avedon’s multiple portrait of Audrey Hepburn from 1967.

“Mind’s Eye” features works from the 1920s through 1940s by such artists as Herbert Bayer, Maurice Tabard, Dora Maar, Clarence John Laughlin, and Grete Stern, who have used photography to evoke subjective states of mind, conjuring dreamlike scenarios and surreal imaginary worlds. 

The final section, “Protoshop,” presents photographs from the second half of the 20th century by Yves Klein, John Baldessari, Duane Michals, Jerry Uelsmann, and other artists who have adapted earlier techniques of image manipulation – such as spirit photography or news photo retouching – to create works that self-consciously and often humorously question photography’s presumed objectivity.”

Press release from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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Maurice Tabard. 'Room with Eye' 1930

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Maurice Tabard (French, 1897-1984)
Room with Eye
1930
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1962

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Wanda Wulz. 'Io + gatto (Cat + I)' 1932

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Wanda Wulz (Italian, 1903-1984)
Io + gatto (Cat + I)
1932
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987
Alinari / Art Resource © Wanda Wulz

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John Paul Pennebaker. 'Sealed Power Piston Rings' 1933

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John Paul Pennebaker (American, 1903-1953)
Sealed Power Piston Rings
1933
Gelatin silver print
1934 Art and Industry Exhibition Photograph Collection, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, Boston, Mass.
© John Paul Pennebaker

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George Platt Lynes. 'The Sleepwalker' 1935

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George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
The Sleepwalker
1935
Gelatin silver print with applied media
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987
© The Estate of George Platt Lynes

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Barbara Morgan. 'Hearst over the People' 1939

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Barbara Morgan (American, 1900-1992)
Hearst over the People
1939
Collage of gelatin silver prints with applied media
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.

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Grete Stern. 'Dream No. 1: Electrical Appliances for the Home' 1948

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Grete Stern (Argentinian, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Dream No. 1: Electrical Appliances for the Home
1948
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2012
Courtesy of Galería Jorge Mara – La Ruche, Buenos Aires

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Erwin Blumenfeld. '"Doe Eye" Vogue cover' 1950

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Erwin Blumenfeld
“Doe Eye” Vogue cover
1950

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Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962) Photographed by Harry Shunk (German, 1924-2006) and János (Jean) Kender (Hungarian, 1937-2009) 'Leap into the Void' 1960

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Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962)
Photographed by Harry Shunk (German, 1924-2006) and János (Jean) Kender (Hungarian, 1937-2009)
Leap into the Void
1960
Gelatin silver print
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1992
© Yves Klein / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Photograph Shunk-Kender © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation

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Weegee (Arthur Fellig). 'American, 1899-1968 Draft Johnson for President' c. 1968

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Weegee (Arthur Fellig) American, 1899-1968
Draft Johnson for President
c. 1968
Gelatin silver print
International Center of Photography, Bequest of Wilma Wilcox, 1993
Copyright Weegee/International Center of Photography/Getty Images.

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Weegee (Arthur Fellig) American, 1899-1968
Judy Garland
1960
Silver gelatin photograph
Copyright Weegee/International Center of Photography/Getty Images

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William Mortensen  (American, 1897–1965)
Obsession
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
18.4 x 14.5 cm
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1975

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Richard Avedon (American 1923-2004) 'Audrey Hepburn, New York, January 1967' 1967

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Richard Avedon (American 1923-2004)
Audrey Hepburn, New York, January 1967
1967
Collage of gelatin silver prints, with applied media, mylar overlay with applied media

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Jerry N. Uelsmann. 'Untitled' 1969

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Jerry N. Uelsmann (American, born 1934)
Untitled
1969
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2011
© Jerry N. Uelsmann

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Martha Rosler. 'Red Stripe Kitchen', from the series " House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home" 1967-72

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Martha Rosler (American, born 1943)
Red Stripe Kitchen
1967-72, printed early 1990s
from the series “House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home”
Chromogenic print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 2002
© Martha Rosler

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
T: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm*
Friday and Saturday: 9.30 am – 9.00 pm*
Sunday: 9.30 am – 5.30 pm*
Closed Monday (except Met Holiday Mondays**), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

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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

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07
Mar
12

Exhibition: ‘Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964 – 1977’ at the Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition dates: 13th December 2011 – 11th March 2012

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Many thankx to the Art Institute of Chicago 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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John Baldessari (American, born 1931)
The California Map Project Part I: California
1969, exhibition copy 2011
Twelve inkjet prints of images and a typewritten sheet
Each image, 20.3 x 25.4 cm (8 x 10 in.); sheet, 21.6 x 27.9 cm (8 1/2 x 11 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris
© John Baldessar

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Eleanor Antin (American, born 1935)
100 Boots
1971-73
Fifty-one photolithographic postcards
Each 11.1 x 17.8 cm (4 3/8 x 7 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Margaret Fisher Endowment, 2000.106.1-51
© Eleanore Antin. Courtesy Ronald Fedlman Fine Arts, New York, NY

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Eleanor Antin (American, born 1935)
100 Boots
1971-73
Fifty-one photolithographic postcards
Each 11.1 x 17.8 cm (4 3/8 x 7 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Margaret Fisher Endowment, 2000.106.1-51
© Eleanore Antin. Courtesy Ronald Fedlman Fine Arts, New York, NY

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John Baldessari (American, born 1931)
Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line (Best of Thirty-Six Attempts)
1973
Portfolio of fourteen photolithographs
Each 24.7 x 32.7 cm (9 11/16 x 12 7/8 in.)
Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago
© John Baldessari

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The 1960s and 1970s are recognized as the defining era of the Conceptual Art movement, a period in which centuries held assumptions about the nature of art itself were questioned and dissolved. Until now, the pivotal role that photography played in this movement has never been fully examined. The Art Institute of Chicago has organized the first major survey of influential artists of this period who used photography in ways that went far beyond its traditional definitions as a medium – and succeeded thereby in breaking down the boundaries of all mediums in contemporary art. Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964-1977  on view December 13, 2011 through March 11, 2012 – is the first exhibition to explore how artists of this era used photography as a hybrid image field that navigated among painting and sculpture, film, and book arts as well as between fine art and the mass media. More than 140 works by 57 artists will fill the Art Institute’s Regenstein Hall in this major exhibition that will be seen only in Chicago.

Bringing to the fore work from the Italian group Arte Povera as well as artists from Eastern Europe who are rarely shown in the United States, Light Years also includes many pieces that have not been on public display in decades by such major artists as Mel Bochner, Tony Conrad, Michael Heizer, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Emilio Prini. To open the exhibition, the Art Institute has arranged a special outdoor screening of Andy Warhol’s Empire, an eight-hour film of the Empire State Building. In a first for the United States, Warhol’s Empire will be projected from the Modern Wing’s third floor to be seen on the exterior of the Aon Center on Friday, December 9.

The acceptance of photography as fine art was an evolutionary process. Early 20th-century avantgarde movements such as Dada, Surrealism, and Constructivism articulated a new set of standards for art in which photography played a major role. By the 1930s, modernist photography found a small but influential niche in museum exhibitions and the art market, and vernacular forms such as photojournalism and amateur snapshots became a source of artistic inspiration. Engagement with mass media, exemplified in Pop Art, became prominent in the 1950s. Yet only with the advent of Conceptual Art did artists with training in painting, sculpture, and the graphic arts begin to make and exhibit their own photographs or photographic works as fine art.

Some Conceptual artists, such as Bruce Nauman, Ed Ruscha, and Valie Export took up photography seriously only for a few key months or years; others, like Eleanor Antin, John Baldessari, Jan Dibbets, and Annette Messager have worked in photography their entire careers. Photography showed the way forward from Minimal Art, Pop Art, and other movements in painting and sculpture. But it came with its own set of questions that these artists addressed with tremendous innovation. Questions of perspective, sequence, scale, and captioning which have a rich history in photography, were answered in entirely new ways and made into central concerns for art in general.

Photography in these artists’ hands was the antithesis of a separate and definable “medium.” It became instead “unfixed”: photobooks, photolithographs, photo canvases, photo grids, slide and film pieces, and even single prints all counted as valid creative forms. The variety of work showcased in Light Years is crucial to conveying the greatest contribution of the Conceptual era: to turn contemporary art into a field without a medium.

Light Years showcases a great number of works that have not been seen together – or at all – since the years around 1970. Victor Burgin’s Photopath, a lifesize print of a 60-foot stretch of flooring placed directly on top of the floor that it records, has not been shown in more than 20 years and never in the United States. Likewise being shown for the first time in the U.S. are pieces by Italian artists Gilberto Zorio, Emilio Prini, Giulio Paolini, and others associated with the classic postwar movement Arte Povera. Paolini’s early photocanvas Young Man Looking At Lorenzo Lotto (1967), an icon of European conceptualism, has only rarely been shown at all after entering a private collection in the early 1970s. Mel Bochner’s Surface Dis/Tension: Blowup (1969) has not been seen since its presentation at Marian Goodman Gallery in the now legendary 1970 exhibition Artists and Photographs, from which no visual documentation survives. Equally rare and important early works by Laurie Anderson, Marcel Broodthaers, Francesco Clemente, Tony Conrad, Gilbert & George, Dan Graham, Michael Heizer, and many others make the show a revelation for those interested in key figures of new art in the 1960s and ’70s. A special emphasis is placed on artists from Hungary, a center for photoconceptual activity that has long been overlooked in Western Europe and the United States.”

Press release from the Art Institute of Chicago

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Alighiero Boetti (Italian, 1940–1994)
AW:AB =L:MD (Andy Warhol: Alighiero Boetti = Leonardo: Marcel Duchamp)
1967
Silk screen print with graphite on paper
58.8 x 58.8 cm (23 5/16 x 23 5/16 in.)
Colombo Collection, Milan. © Artists Rights Society (ARS)

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Alighiero Boetti (Italian, 1940–1994)
Twins (Gemelli)
September 1968
Gelatin silver postcard
15.2 x 11.2 cm (6 x 4 3/8 in.)
Private Collection © Artists Rights Society (ARS)

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Bruce Nauman (American, born 1941)
Light Trap for Henry Moore No. 1
1967
Gelatin silver print
157.5 x 105.7 cm (62 x 41 5/8 in.)
Glenstone. © Artists Rights Society (ARS).

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Dennis Oppenheim (American, 1938-2011)
Stage 1 and 2. Reading Position for 2nd Degree Burn Long Island. N.Y. Material… Solar Energy.  Skin Exposure Time. 5 Hours June 1970
1970
Two chromogenic photographic prints, plastic labeling tape, mounted together on green board with graphite annotations
Overall: 81 x 66 cm (31 7/8 x 26 in.)
Top photo: 20.1 x 25.8 cm; bottom photo: 20.2 x 25.5 cm; Image/text area: 41.8 x 25.8 cm
Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection
© Dennis Oppenheim Estate

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The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404
T: (312) 443-3600

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, 10.30 – 5.00
Thursday, 10.30 – 8.00 (Free Admission 5.00 – 8.00, member-only access to Matisse)
Friday, 10.30 – 8.00
Saturday – Sunday, 10.00 – 5.00
The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days.

The Art Institute of Chicago website

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03
Jan
12

Exhibition: ‘Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome’ at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 16th October 2011 – 8th January 2012

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Observe if you will:

  1. The treatment of the background behind Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1594-96)
  2. The tension of the hands in this painting
  3. The pallor of the skin of Sick Bacchus (1593-94)
  4. The colour of the bunch of grapes in the same painting
  5. The critical distance between the two apricots and the bowed sash resting on the pediment in the same painting
  6. The youthful innocence of the dupe in The Cardsharps (c. 1595)
  7. The deep, foreboding shadows under the eyes of Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1604-5)
  8. The astonishingly beautiful skin tones in Gerrit van Honthorst’s Saint Sebastian (c. 1623) and how the blood from the leg wound at left runs in two directions: one direction when Saint Sebastian was standing up, one when he has slumped down. Inspired.

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

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One of the most influential figures in the history of art, Caravaggio (1571-1610) overturned the artistic conventions of the day and created stunningly dramatic paintings, both sacred and secular. This ambitious exhibition explores the profound impact of his work on the wide range of painters of Italian, French, Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish origin who resided in Rome. Arranged by theme, it includes over 50 paintings, with Caravaggio’s compelling images juxtaposed with those he inspired. This is the second largest display of his paintings in North America and only the third Caravaggio exhibition to be held in the United States.

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Music and Youth

Many of Caravaggio’s early paintings feature handsome youths, whether singly or in groups. He seems to have used the same favorite models repeatedly – and sometimes his own features, which a contemporary tells us he studied in a mirror. The origins of these novel paintings lay in the types of pictures – portraits, still lifes, and allegories – that were painted in a realistic style in the artist’s native Lombardy, in the north of Italy, although he blurred the boundaries between genres to suggest real-life scenes. Caravaggio’s paintings of musicians would have appealed to Roman collectors who were passionate patrons of music, and likely were created to decorate rooms used for performances. They have a dreamy, slightly melancholy air. If the songs are about love, as we can assume they are, they are surely about the painful side of love rather than its joys. Caravaggio’s early paintings of youths are usually scenes of sensual pleasure but with a built-in warning against indulgence, as when a youth has his finger bitten by a lizard lurking in some fruit. He brings us close to his figures, often having them make eye contact with us, and includes lovingly observed still-life details that enhance the naturalism and immediacy of the scene. Even when there is a visitation from the beyond, like the winged Cupid in The Musicians, he treats this in a matter-of-fact way, attentive always to breaking down the boundaries between the painted world and our own. Caravaggio’s musical paintings caught on throughout Europe in the work of his followers, who brought their own innovations to the genre.

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Musicians
c. 1595
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 46 5/8 in (92.1 x 118.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Rogers Fund, 1952

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In this scene, Caravaggio shows some young musicians preparing for a concert. We are brought very close to the figures, as if we share the same space. Caravaggio breaks down the boundaries between art and life, and our reality and the painted world become entwined. The instruments are modern, but the musicians wear antique-inspired dress. The lute player tunes his instrument, and the horn player (possibly a self-portrait) catches our gaze. Another youth studies the musical score; it is no longer legible, but doubtless featured love madrigals. The winged Cupid with a quiver of arrows who is handling some grapes makes explicit the bond between music and love. Wine, like music, makes the spirits light. This painting belonged to Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, who hosted concerts at his palace and invited musicians to live in his household, along with artists like Caravaggio.

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Theodoor Rombouts (Flemish, 1597-1637)
A Lute Player
c. 1620
Oil on canvas
43 7/8 x 39 1/4 in (111.1 x 99.7 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art. John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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Caravaggio’s paintings of musicians inspired Rombouts’s depiction of a musician tuning his lute. His intense expression suggests that he is both listening to the sound and sizing up the viewer, his audience. The vividly described carpet and still-life objects on the table recall Caravaggio’s similar close-up presentations. However, the colorful treatment of the costume and the robust delineation of the objects place Rombouts’s work within traditions of Flemish and Dutch painting. The still life, like ephemeral music, serves to remind us of the pleasures of life, but also that pleasure is fleeting. The artist also alludes to the five senses: hearing (the lute), taste (the tankard), smell (the pipe), sight (the musical scores), and touch (the knife).

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Boy Bitten by a Lizard
1594-96
Oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 20 1/2 in (65 x 52 cm)
Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte Roberto Longhi, Florence

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One of Caravaggio’s biographers wrote that “he also painted a boy bitten by a lizard emerging from flowers and fruits; you could almost hear the boy scream, and it was done meticulously.” The picture has suggested various interpretations. As an allegory of touch, it provides the basis for a study of how emotion is expressed physically, and arguably Caravaggio alludes to all the five senses (flowers as smell and so on). With the still life of fruits and roses, common emblems of love, he invokes age-old adages – pain can follow pleasure, and love is a rose with thorns that prick. Poets from Petrarch onward played on the similarity of the Italian words for “love” and “bitter” – amore and amaro – to which Caravaggio adds ramarro (lizard), ingeniously enlarging the joke.

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Sick Bacchus
1593-94
Oil on canvas
Galleria Borghese, Rome

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Cardsharps and Fortune Tellers

The young Caravaggio introduced another new kind of painting to the Roman art world with his scenes from the seamy side of life, its frauds and ruses. He painted these works on a large scale with half-length figures, and they were among his most widely imitated creations. His followers played countless variations on the same themes, trying various levels of subtlety and buffoonery in the humor and facial expressions. These highly animated compositions conjure up an underworld of wily cardsharps, soldiers of fortune, foolish dupes, sensuous and deceitful gypsy women, pickpockets, and thugs. They are based partly on everyday observations in the streets, partly on the stock characters and improvised comedies of the commedia dell’arte, partly on sheer fantasy. In such works, Caravaggio and his followers developed ingenious ways of involving us in the action. We read these amusingly moralizing pictures through gestures and expressions – but to unravel the trickery takes time. Despite being frozen in a static image, the story seems to unfold before our eyes like one of the popular plays that were its inspiration. The artist extends the theme of deception by painting his subjects with such a high level of naturalism that the viewer is duped and astounded by his artistry.

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
The Cardsharps
c. 1595
Oil on canvas
37 1/8 x 51 5/8 in (94.2 x 130.9 cm)
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

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The players are engaged in a game of primero, a forerunner of poker. Engrossed in his cards, the dupe is unaware that the older cardsharp signals his accomplice, who reaches to pull a hidden card from his breeches. The fingertips of the cheat’s gloved hand are exposed to better feel marked cards. According to an early biographer, Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, a great patron of the arts, took the young Caravaggio into his household soon after purchasing this picture. It hung along with The Gypsy Fortune Teller in his palace. Together they would surely have reminded the cardinal and his guests of the story of the prodigal son, warning about the perils of greed and fraud. Caravaggio has treated this subject not as a caricature of vice but in a fresh way, in which the interaction of gesture and glance evokes the drama of deception and lost innocence in the most human of terms. He structures the picture to allow us to witness everything, implicating us in the trickery.

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Simon Vouet (French, 1590-1649)
The Fortune Teller
c. 1620
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

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Saints

Caravaggio grounded his saints in everyday reality, indicating their spiritual states by means of natural phenomena, especially light. In his early painting of Saint Francis, he shows the saint’s ecstasy – his mystic identification with Christ – by directing a strong light upon his figure and the consoling angel. God’s grace is signaled by light in other images of the saints, such as the scene of Mary Magdalene’s conversion from her former life of sin. In paintings of Saints Matthew and Jerome in their studies, much emulated in Caravaggio’s circle, light is a metaphor of divine inspiration. Generally the saints seem to be emerging from darkness into light, which adds drama, symbolism, and also a sense of mass – as if they were sculpted, not merely painted. In a break from Roman and Florentine traditions, Caravaggio rejected the practice of refining his composition through drawings before he began to paint and instead worked directly from a live model in the studio, preserving that model’s particular appearance, never making the features or body conform to an ideal of beauty. The effect, central to Caravaggio’s art and that of many of his followers, was startling. At this time, many people believed that the painting of sacred personages such as saints called for a special, elevated style that set them apart from the mundane reality of the here and now. Caravaggio’s radical departure from this principle brought him much harsh criticism. He was accused of merely copying and so failing to capture a higher truth. But others recognized in his work a new kind of religious art that directly engaged the faithful and made old subjects new and alive.

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness
1604-5
Oil on canvas
68 x 52 in (172.7 x 132.1 cm)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Purchase William Rockhill Nelson Trust

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Caravaggio’s practice of painting a live model in his studio brings this young, brooding saint to life – as if his image were inhabited by the model’s being. Ottavio Costa, a Roman banker, commissioned this painting for a chapel on a pilgrimage route in the countryside outside of Genoa, where his family had its origins. We can imagine what a powerful experience it would have been to encounter the image of the scarlet-robed saint there, dramatically emerging from the shadows into a strong light. When Caravaggio delivered the painting, Costa decided to keep it and placed a copy in the chapel. But even the copy proved inspiring. An early guide described how it “moves not only the members of the brotherhood but also visitors to penitence.”

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Gerrit van Honthorst (Dutch, 1592-1656)
Saint Sebastian
c. 1623
Oil on canvas
The National Gallery, London

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The Sacred Narrative

Caravaggio was a masterful storyteller who could bring home the drama and significance of a biblical event with tremendous power. In his scenes from the Old and New Testaments, he created a new kind of painting – dramatic, even theatrical, yet grounded in the observation of ordinary reality – and it proved infectious among his contemporaries in Rome. His approach was to make the scene clear and simple, with the main actors in the drama seen close-up and caught in midaction at a decisive moment, embodying the whole meaning of the event. He played down the setting, sometimes to the point that it is a mere pool of darkness from which the figures emerge. It was the actions and states of mind of the characters in the story that counted, and Caravaggio presented these with sometimes shocking directness and intensity, breaking all the rules of decorum that restrained more conventional painters. He mastered the art of concealing art, re-creating a scene with such a flavor of reality that it comes across as an eyewitness account. It was his power to draw viewers into the emotion and importance of a scene that made his work an essential object of study, even for such an independent genius as the great Peter Paul Rubens.

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Martha and Mary Magdalene
c. 1598
Oil and tempera on canvas
38 1/2 x 52 1/4 in (97.8 x 132.7 cm)
Detroit Institute of Arts. Gift of the Kresge Foundation and Mrs. Edsel B. Ford

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Martha’s expressive hands, intensely illuminated, underscore her attempt to convert her sister Mary Magdalene from a life of worldly pleasures to one of spirituality. Several details recall Mary’s life of indulgence: the elegant dress, the ivory comb, the alabaster cosmetic jar. The mirror, a powerful symbol of vanity, becomes here an instrument reflecting the divine light that is penetrating Mary’s soul. Martha’s words seem to have been convincing, and her open mouth signals her amazement as she witnesses Mary’s transformation. The orange blossom in Mary’s right hand and the ring on her left indicate her new status as the blessed bride of Christ.

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610)
Sacrifice of Isaac
1602-3
Oil on canvas
41 x 53 1/8 in (104 x 135 cm)
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

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Kimbell Art Museum
3333 Camp Bowie Boulevard,
Fort Worth, TX 76107

Opening hours:
Tuesdays – Thursdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Fridays, noon – 8 p.m.
Sundays, noon – 5 p.m.
Closed Mondays, New Year’s Day, July 4, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day

Kimbell Art Museum website

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13
Dec
10

Exhibition: ‘Michelangelo: The Dawings of a Genius’ at Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 8th October 2010 – 9th January 2011

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Many thankx to the Albertina for allowing me to publish the fabulous drawings in the posting. The delineation of the body, the curvature and compression of muscles, the texture like that of rubbing the thumb and fingers together, the colour, the tension between form and space – all glorious! Please click on the drawings for a larger version of the image.

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Michelangelo Buonarroti
Standing Male Nude Seen From Behind
1501-04
© Albertina, Vienna

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Michelangelo Buonarroti
Pietà
around 1530-36
© Albertina, Vienna

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Michelangelo Buonarroti
The Risen Christ
ca. 1532
The Royal Collection
© 2009, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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Michelangelo Buonarroti
Study of a Seated Young Man and Two Studies of the Right Arm (Recto)
around 1511
© Albertina, Vienna

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“In a major exhibition scheduled for autumn and winter 2010, the Albertina will present around one hundred of the most beautiful drawings by Michelangelo. Precious works from the Graphic Arts Collection of the Albertina, as well as important loans from museums and private collections in Europe and the United States, will offer a hitherto unparalleled overview of the great Florentine’s entire oeuvre. 
The focus will be on the figural drawings by Michelangelo, who will be introduced here as the genius of a period of change, with his versatile talents as a draftsman, painter, architect, and sculptor. 
The show traces Michelangelo’s career from the artist’s juvenile works and designs for The Battle of Cascina to the world-famous frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, the ingenious drawings he presented to Tommaso de’ Cavalieri, and the Crucifixion scenes dating from the artist’s late period, when he was almost eighty years old. At the same time, new clues as to the dating of individual works will be provided. Projections of the monumental ceiling frescoes, the incorporation of plaster casts of Michelangelo’s sculptures, as well as paintings by other artists based on the master’s designs are meant to illustrate the dimensions and impact of his art. New paths of didactic presentation will be forged through a documentation of contemporary history and the artist’s environment.

Between 8 October 2010 and 9 January 2011, the Albertina presents the first major Michelangelo exhibition in more than twenty years. This display of 120 out of the artist’s most precious drawings offers a comprehensive insight into the work of this great genius. The sheets come from the Albertina’s own holdings, as well as from important European and American museums – the Uffizi and the Casa Buonarroti in Florence, the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Teylers Museum in Haarlem, the Royal Library in Windsor Castle (property of the British monarch) and the British Museum in London – and private collections.

It was three years ago that curator Dr Achim Gnann began his preparations for this exhibition. His goal is to review those datings of Michelangelo’s drawings that have sometimes been considered controversial and elaborate on the evolution of the artist’s style with utmost clarity.”

Text from the Albertina website

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Michelangelo Buonarroti
Male Nude Seen From the Back With a Flag Staff
ca. 1504
© Albertina, Vienna

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Michelangelo Buonarroti
Studies for the Libyan Sibyl (recto)
1511/12
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
© 2007. The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence

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Michelangelo Buonarroti
Madonna and Child
1520-25
© Casa Buonarroti, Florence

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Michelangelo Buonarroti
Half-Length Figure of Cleopatra (recto)
ca. 1533
© Casa Buonarroti, Florence

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Michelangelo Buonarroti
Study of a Male Nude, Separate Study of his Head (recto)
1534-1536
© Teylers Museum, Haarlem

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Albertina
Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna, Austria
T +43 (0)1 534 83-0
F +43 (0)1 534 83-430

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

Albertina 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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