Posts Tagged ‘Keith Haring

09
Apr
21

Review: ‘Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 26th February  –  18th April 2021

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne' 1985

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne
1985
Pigment print from scanned negative
39 x 58cm (image size)
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

 

“One can also pursue politics with art.
Everything that intervenes in the processes of life, and transforms them, is politics.”

.
Hans Richter

 

“I always wanted to document people’s lives – their work, their family, their relationships, their leisure – their pain and pleasure.

“To me, every individual’s life is more wondrous than any fantasy could ever be.”

.
Ruth Maddison

 

 

The Art of a Fellow Traveller

Since the 1970s Australia has been blessed with many talented women photographers… Sue Ford, Carol Jerrems, Joyce Evans, Ponch Hawkes, Micky Allan, Ruth Maddison, Rosemary Laing, Hoda Afshar, Anne Ferran, Katrin Koenning, Robyn Stacey, Janina Green, Bindi Cole, Tracey Moffatt, Polixeni Papapetrou, Pat Brassington, Claire Rae, Claudia Terstappen, Jacqui Stockdale, Siri Hayes, Petrina Hicks, Kim Lawler, Carolyn Lewens, Nicola Loder, Jill Orr, Kim Percy, Patricia Piccinini, Elizabeth Gertsakis, Jane Brown, to name just a few…

 ** Thinking. Australia. For such a small (in population) and isolated (geographically) country, rarely in the history of photography can there have been such an accumulated wealth of talent within the space of 60 years or so. I have suggested to a major public gallery in Melbourne a group exhibition of these artists but it went nowhere. Why? This is world class talent! **

.
Which brings me to the exhibition Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times which occupies all galleries at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne.

What a delight it is to see this artist in full flight in this exceptionally strong exhibition. As pictured in the flow of images, Maddison has carved her name as a social documentary and feminist photographer, her holistic body of work providing a “significant contribution to the documentation of Australian life and society from the 1970s to the present – from her earliest iconic hand-coloured works, the working life of women, Melbourne’s social and cultural life of the 1980s, and Maddison’s documentation of the people and industries of her adopted home of Eden.”

Through direct, frontal mainly black and white / hand coloured photographs, Maddison builds compelling stories in her work, stories which explore the cultures and sub-cultures of Australia: the political upheavals, alternative lifestyles and counter culture, the women’s movement, gay liberation, Vietnam, union, nuclear, anti-fascist and other protests; the fight for equality and equal pay, the fight against discrimination and other actions that fight for fairness, acceptance and respect for all, within Australian society. With compassion and understanding Maddison pictures youth and exuberance, old age and protest, life on the land and sea, and life leaving it for the cities. Her photographs serve a testificatory function – related to BOTH a person who has witnessed these events (the artist) AND an object used as evidence (the photograph).

Maddison’s testimony to such events creates a polyperspectivity – not so much in terms of what the camera sees in individual images, but in what it sees directed by the artist over an entire career, comprising more than 40 years. Of looking, of being present, of being ethical. In her work, “the shadows already become immortal while still alive.”1

This is the crux of the matter. Since the very day that Maddison picked up a camera being ethical when representing the world around her has been a gut reaction. “Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy. The term is derived from the Greek word ethos which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.” Her presentation of the world reflects her character and disposition. Her ethos is embedded in her being and psyche – the human soul, mind AND spirit. You can’t make this stuff up, you either have it or you don’t.

Maddison has this generosity of spirit in spades. The belief in balance, fairness, and equality for all. Yes, her photographs document people’s pleasure and pain, their lives, their existence but only through her own presence and vision. Her photographs are a reflection of her inner being, her spirit. What she believes the world can be, should be. It is this force of nature, her own being, that propels the investigation forwards. Never more so than now, in the midst of a pandemic, the world needs such ethical artists. To remind us for what we fight for.

For example, Netflix have recently announced a new “docu-soap” series “Byron Baes” (babes) to be filmed in the northern NSW beachside town of Byron Bay, which will reveal “hot Instagrammers, living their best lives, being their best selves,” with a cast of “celebrity-adjacent-adjacent influencers.” Who cares about these egotistical non-entities, when in the town drug use is rampant, housing is unaffordable and people cannot get a job! That is the real story, one which an artist such as Maddison would recognise and document with empathy and insight.

Maddison is a fellow traveller2 and I travel with her. She doesn’t follow “the running dog of capitalism” – or as people used to call them, “running dogs”3 – nipping at your heels, constantly harassing you, but these days not even that… just lackadaisical multinational corporations who don’t even care to hide their disdain for the working class, or their ecological disdain for the health of the world. All that matters is money and keeping the shareholders happy. She follows her own path and long may that continue. Looking and documenting is always both personal and political and this is Maddison’s story: “Everything that intervenes in the processes of life, and transforms them, is politics.” Blessings to her.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Joseph Roth, quoted, in translation, from Ulrich Raulff. “Umbrische Figuren,” in Floris M. Neusüss. Fotogramme – die lichtreichen Schatten. Kassel 1983, p. 16.
  2. A person who travels with another; a person who is not a member of a particular group or political party … but who sympathises with the group’s aims and policies.
  3. A servile follower, especially of a political system.

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Many thankx to the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the installation photographs at the bottom of the posting. All other iPhone photographs by Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gallery One

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'First roll of film' 1976

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From First roll of film (installation view)
1976
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing at left the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (born Australia 1945) 'No title (Woman collecting a Christmas present from the car)' 1977-78

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
No title (Woman collecting a Christmas present from the car)
1977-78
From the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland 1979

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Christmas holiday with Bob's family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland' 1977/78

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
From Christmas Holidays with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland
1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945) 'Christmas Holidays with Bob's family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australia, b. 1945)
From Christmas Holidays with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland
1979

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the series Christmas Holidays with Bob’s family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979) from the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Untitled #18' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Untitled #18
1979
From the series Christmas holidays with Bob’s family. Mermaid Beach, Queensland 1979
Pigment print from scan, edition 1/1
10.5 x 16.2cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing photographs of women workers and single mothers (various dates and series, see above)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing images from the series And so we joined the Union (1985)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Prison Officers, Pentridge' 1985

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Prison Officers, Pentridge
1985
Pigment print from scanned negative (Print by Les Walkling)
50 x 50cm (image size)
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) From the series 'Let's Dance' 1979

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) From the series 'Let's Dance' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
From the series Let’s Dance (installation views)
1979
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ruth Maddison photographed the social spaces that had been important to activist communities but which were in the process of passing away. These were mainly commissioned projects for labour and social movements, otherwise these histories would have been lost.

Dancing and entertainment were features of Ruth Maddison’s work throughout the 1980s. These photographs reflected Maddison’s own social life, which often revolved around Melbourne’s pubs and nightclubs. But there was also a classical documentary function to her photographs of trade union dances and the annual women’s dance at St Kilda Town Hall. These pictures reflected social spaces that had been important to activist communities, but which by the mid-1980s were in the process of passing away; as women’s groups began to fragment, and as the membership of labour organisations changed. The photograph shown here of the Vehicle Builders’ Union Ball at Collingwood Town Hall were part of a commission. Like many photographers in this exhibition (including Helen Grace, Sandy Edwards and Ponch Hawkes), political affiliation and professional practice often came together in commissioned projects for labour and social movements.

Text from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Ruth Maddison. 'Vehicle Builders' Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne' 1979

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Vehicle Builders’ Union Ball, Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne
1979
Gelatin silver print

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Single Mothers and their Children' 1994

 

Installation view of a work from Ruth Maddison’s series Single Mothers and their Children 1994
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Mmaskepe Sejoe and her daughter Nthabelong. Botswana - Melbourne' 1997 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Mmaskepe Sejoe and her daughter Nthabelong. Botswana – Melbourne (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Mary Marcoftsis. Macedonia - Melbourne' 1997 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Mary Marcoftsis. Macedonia – Melbourne (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Nada Jankovic. Serbia - Buli, NSW' 1997 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Nada Jankovic. Serbia – Buli, NSW (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Lia Tata Ruga, Devi Hamid, Anna Dartania and Ita Sulis. Indonesia – Sydney' (installation view) 1997

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Lia Tata Ruga, Devi Hamid, Anna Dartania and Ita Sulis. Indonesia – Sydney (installation view)
1997
From the series Australian Women
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE' 1984 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE (installation view)
1984, printed 2020
Pigment print from scanned negative
18.6 x 28cm
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE 1984' (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Trade workshop for girls, Preston TAFE (installation view)
1984, printed 2020
Pigment print from scanned negative
18.6 x 28cm
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Women's Dance, St Kilda Hall' 1985, printed 2014 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Women’s Dance, St Kilda Hall (installation view)
1985, printed 2014
Gelatin silver prints

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Ponch Hawkes, Helen and Alice Garner' 1978-2018

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Ponch Hawkes, Helen and Alice Garner
1978-2018
Pigment print from scanned negative
Image: 22.6 x 15cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Jane Clifton and Helen Garner' 1976-2013 (installation view)

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Jane Clifton and Helen Garner' 1976-2013 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Jane Clifton and Helen Garner (installation views)
1976-2013
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view in gallery one of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing at second top left, Keith Haring (1985-2014)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Keith Haring' 1985-2014

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Keith Haring
1985-2014
Pigment print from scanned negative, hand-coloured and digitally enhanced
40 x 40cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Monika Behrem, Rochelle Haley and their baby Indigo' 2017 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Monika Behrem, Rochelle Haley and their baby Indigo (installation view)
2017
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne' 1985 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Equal pay demo, Bourke Street Melbourne (installation view)
1985
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Gallery two

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery two of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Highway 23' 2009 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Highway 23 (installation view)
2009
Type C print from digital file
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views showing work from the series Crossing the Monaro (2009) in the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In Ruth Maddison’s regular trips across the Monaro she stopped frequently to take photographs. She is drawn to the expansiveness of this unencumbered landscape, the way it opens up and seems to encourage something similar in ourselves.

“I drive across the Monaro and look at the sweep of the land and think about what was there and what has gone – time and time again. Stopping at small cemeteries scattered across the Monaro, passing through the dying towns, collecting bird and animal bones scattered all along the way, watching grass seeds blowing across the road. I am conscious of layers of history held beneath the surface of the land. …

History is writ large on this route. Small towns attest to times of brief plenty: the promise of gold, the economy of fleece. They are established at distances determined in an era when horses paced the daily work. Where rail provided a short-lived reprise. They are now towns that compete for use to “Stop Revive Survive” or to which some retire…

This new body of work is a departure from the people-focused documentary / portrait based work that has informed my public practice for 30 years. This departure is the outcome of my social and professional isolation [in Eden], which I sought and have embraced. Yet I consider this work a documentary piece – I am documenting the passage of my life through a place and a time via photography and the problem solving processes it presents to me. I am documenting what it is that makes me want to go on and on with the work.”

Ruth Maddison artist statements 2008-09 quoted in Merryn Gates. “There is a time,” (catalogue essay) from the exhibition There is a time at the Huw Davies Gallery, September 2009 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view in gallery two of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Millsy (Jason Mills)' 2000-2002 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Millsy (Jason Mills) (installation view)
2000-2002
From the series Now a river went out of Eden
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Bounge (Gregory Curtis) and Apple (John McCrory)' 2000-2002 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Bounge (Gregory Curtis) and Apple (John McCrory) (installation view)
2000-2002
From the series Now a river went out of Eden
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Norm Joiner' 2000-2002 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Norm Joiner (installation view)
2000-2002
From the series Now a river went out of Eden
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Imlay Street, Eden 1.44 pm 31 December 2019' and 'Walking towards Aslings Beach 7.14 am 31 December 2019' 2019 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Imlay Street, Eden 1.44 pm 31 December 2019 (installation view)
Walking towards Aslings Beach 7.14 am 31 December 2019
2019
From the series When No Birds Sing 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Volunteers sorting. At the Fishermen's Co-op, Eden. 3.06 pm 18 January 2020' 2020 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Volunteers sorting. At the Fishermen’s Co-op, Eden. 3.06 pm 18 January 2020 (installation view)
2020
From the series When No Birds Sing 2020
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Julie Ristanovic, canteen supervisor. Chip mill' Nd (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Julie Ristanovic, canteen supervisor. Chip mill (installation view)
Nd
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Gallery three

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints

 

Fifty-one selected posters, from the Samuel Goldbloom Collection, Melbourne University Archives, pigment prints
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing on the television The Dustbins of History (1950s / 2020), edited from ASIO footage sourced from the National Archives of Australia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

The Dustbins of History (1950s), edited from Asio footage sourced from the National Archives of Australia.

 

Still from The Dustbins of History (1950s / 2020), edited from ASIO footage sourced from the National Archives of Australia

 

 

She [Maddison] also discovered reels of surveillance film documenting suspected members of the Communist party as they arrived at a secret meeting in one of Melbourne’s laneways in the 50s. This footage appears in the exhibition as The Dustbins of History, a short film that is comedic in its ambiguity and monotony. All that’s missing is the Keystone Cops.

Alison Stieven-Taylor. “The communist who raised me: photographer Ruth Maddison interrogates her father’s Asio file,” on the Guardian website Thurs 25 February 2021 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne showing works from the series My father’s footsteps (1942-2020)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'To everything there is a turn, turn, turn' 2020

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
To everything there is a turn, turn, turn
2020
From the series My father’s footsteps (1942-2020)
Diptych
Pigment print from ASIO files

 

 

After decades of being denigrated in the press and parliament, in 1990 Goldbloom was awarded an OAM for his service as an activist for peace. Later, a street was named after him in Canberra. Maddison has paired an ASIO image of her father at a peace rally in 1965 with the Goldbloom street sign, evidence she says of “history doing the wheel again”.

Alison Stieven-Taylor. “The communist who raised me: photographer Ruth Maddison interrogates her father’s Asio file,” on the Guardian website Thurs 25 February 2021 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Hiroshima Day, Melbourne' 1981/2020 (installation view)

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Hiroshima Day, Melbourne' 1981/2020 (installation view detail)

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Hiroshima Day, Melbourne' 1981/2020 (installation view detail)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Hiroshima Day, Melbourne (installation views)
1981/2020
Pigment print from scanned black and white negative. Hand coloured and digitally enhanced
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Herta and Jill Koppel

 

 

I just met the most wonderful lady at the Ruth Maddison exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne.

100 year old Herta Koppel (pictured with her daughter Jill) was as bright as a button. She escaped the Nazis from Vienna with her two sisters in 1939, a few weeks before the war, leaving behind her parents who did not make it.

In the gallery the family were reminiscing on the people they knew in Ruth’s photographs while ‘The Internationale’ played in the background. How fitting.

Marcus

Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Samuel Goldbloom. Four photographs by ASIO 1957/1965/1968/1970 archival pigments prints 2020 (installation view)

Samuel Goldbloom. Four photographs by ASIO 1957/1965/1968/1970 archival pigments prints 2020 (installation view)

 

Samuel Goldbloom. Four photographs by ASIO 1957/1965/1968/1970 archival pigments prints 2020 (installation view)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) Sam self-portrait, self-redacted Nd (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Sam self-portrait, self-redacted (installation view)
Nd
Pigment print from scanned negative
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) Sam self-portrait, self-redacted Nd (installation view detail)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Sam self-portrait, self-redacted (installation view detail)
Nd
Pigment print from scanned negative
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery three of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Maddison's parents' Nd (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Maddison’s parents (installation view)
Nd
Pigment print from scanned black and white negative
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Last night I had the strangest dream (#1)' 2020 (installation view)

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Last night I had the strangest dream (#1) (installation view)
2020
Pigment print, hand coloured and digitally enhanced
64 x 70cm
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

From an early age, Ruth Maddison knew her father, Sam Goldbloom, was being watched. “He used to tell us not to worry about the men sitting in the car in front of the house … we were aware the clicks on the phone meant ‘they’ were listening too,” the award-winning Melbourne-born photographer says.

“They” were the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. In the 1940s, Goldbloom’s anti-fascist ideals drew ASIO’s attention. He later joined the Communist party before becoming a major player in the World Peace Council. These associations made him a person of interest for more than 30 years. …

While the spy agency’s prolonged surveillance of her father was not news, Maddison says that when her mother, Rosa, died in 2008, she discovered a much more layered history. As she and her two sisters packed up the family home, Maddison was tasked with clearing out her father’s shed. He had died in 1999 but until then no one had gone through “Sam’s stuff”.

There she found packs of slides, video footage from Goldbloom’s numerous peace missions to communist regimes including the USSR, East Germany and Cuba, as well as home movies, correspondence and other paraphernalia related to his activist work. This discovery became the entry point to The Fellow Traveller, the centrepiece for the first major survey of Maddison’s work, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

She [Maddison] uses her camera to explore the influence of politics on everyday life, often focusing on the personal. In The Fellow Traveller she exposes the social and political climate of the postwar years through a very intimate and at times painful lens.

“For my father, politics was number one,” she says. “To see it all laid out in the ASIO files, you know, night after night after night Sam was at meetings, and then this year he’s overseas for one month, and then another year for two months, then three. While I was looking at all of that I realised family wasn’t number one for him.”

While Maddison was not witness to her father’s interactions with world leaders, she imagined him meeting men like Mao and Khrushchev. In a series, “Last night I had the strangest dream” Maddison has inserted Goldbloom into pictures with his political heroes [see Last night I had the strangest dream (#1) below].

“It’s not about reinterpreting history, I am playing with him and his life, and wondering if he ever daydreamed these images like I am now.” These hand-coloured photographs are also visual evidence of the fiction ASIO pursued.

Maddison describes her treatment of the archival materials as “part real, part desire and part imaginary”, which parallels the narrative in the ASIO files. In the endless reams of observational notes, innocuous photographs and informers’ statements lies the hope that Goldbloom was up to something.

After decades of being denigrated in the press and parliament, in 1990 Goldbloom was awarded an OAM for his service as an activist for peace. Later, a street was named after him in Canberra. Maddison has paired an ASIO image of her father at a peace rally in 1965 with the Goldbloom street sign, evidence she says of “history doing the wheel again”. [See the diptych To everything there is a turn, turn, turn 2020 above]

Alison Stieven-Taylor. “The communist who raised me: photographer Ruth Maddison interrogates her father’s Asio file,” on the Guardian website Thurs 25 February 2021 [Online] Cited 05/04/2021

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945) 'Last night I had the strangest dream (#1)' 2020

 

Ruth Maddison (Australian, b. 1945)
Last night I had the strangest dream (#1)
2020
Pigment print, hand coloured and digitally enhanced
64 x 70cm
Courtesy of the artist and the Centre for Contemporary Photography

 

 

 

Gallery four

 

Text from the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views in gallery four of the exhibition Ruth Maddison It was the best of times, it was the worst of times at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times is a significant survey exhibition focusing on Maddison’s social documentary practice from 1976 to the current day. Bringing together key historical works with a major new commission, this exhibition is a timely and focused look at one of Australia’s leading feminist photographers.

The exhibition features several key series, from Maddison’s earliest hand-coloured works Miss Universe (1979); her iconic Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1979); a selection of series focusing on women in the workforce (from 1979); The Beginning of Absence (1996) documenting her father’s mortality; photojournalistic works documenting political rallies and activism in Australia (1975-2015); to Maddison’s more recent projects documenting the people and industries of Eden, NSW (2002-2014).

These works are presented alongside Maddison’s documentation of the cultural milieu of Melbourne with a focus on the late 1970s and 1980s. Her portraits of Melbourne’s leading writers, artists, theatre makers and musicians include Helen Garner, Tracey Moffatt, Steven Cummings, Jenny Watson, Mickey Allen, Ponch Hawkes and the founders of Melbourne’s Circus Oz amongst others.

Maddison’s more recent projects documenting Eden’s people and industries illustrate the changing face of regional Australia and the societal pressures that have come to bear. The Eden teens captured in Maddison’s 2002 series have now splintered, with half leaving town for new opportunities and the other remaining. The two industries – fishing and timber – that have underpinned Eden’s economy for decades have been dramatically reduced. While the 2019 bushfires, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic have further economically ravaged a community trying to rebuild itself.

The newly commissioned work The Fellow Traveller (2020) is an immersive photographic installation exploring Maddison’s father’s radical political activities in Australia and overseas from the 1950s-1980s, which were under ASIO scrutiny. Combining archival material, footage and hand-coloured photographs among a sea of revealing and curious images, The Fellow Traveller presents the shifting nature of long held personal and historical truths at a time of increasing social and political urgency.

Delivered through the collaboration of Adam Harding CCP Director, Jack Willet CCP Curator, Ruth Maddison and independent Curator Olivia Poloni, with inceptive curatorial work from Linsey Gosper and Madé Spencer-Castle.

 

Biography

Ruth Maddison (b. Melbourne, 1945, lives and works in Eden) is one of Australia’s foremost senior feminist photographers. Best known for her hand-coloured series, Christmas Holidays with Bob’s Family, Mermaid Beach, Queensland (1977-78), for over 40 years Maddison has been exploring ideas surrounding relationships, working lives, and communities through portraiture and social documentary photography.

An entirely self-taught practitioner, Maddison shot her first roll of film in 1976 under the encouragement of longtime friend Ponch Hawkes, and has hardly put down a camera since. Maddison’s work is represented in major public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Library and the State Libraries of Victoria and New South Wales.

Text from the CCP website [Online] Cited 28/03/2021

 

Gallery one

Documentation photography J Forsyth

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Gallery two

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Gallery three

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Gallery four

 

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

’Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, installation view Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021. Documentation photography J Forsyth.

 

Ruth Maddison: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, installation views Centre for Contemporary Photography, 2021.
Documentation photography J Forsyth

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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24
Aug
18

Exhibition: ‘Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 – Today’ at the Vitra Design Museum, Basel, Germany

Exhibition dates: 17th March – 9th September 2018

 

Armin van Buuren at Festival Hall, Melbourne

Armin van Buuren at Festival Hall, Melbourne

Armin van Buuren at Festival Hall, Melbourne

 

Photographs of Armin van Buuren’s set at Festival Hall, Melbourne, 21 April 2018
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Last track, one of the hardest of Armin van Buuren’s set at Festival Hall, Melbourne, 21 April 2018
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

I have been to so many clubs in my life I have lost count!

I started going to clubs in 1975 when I came out as a gay man – a year before disco hit, with Sylvester’s You Make Me Feel Mighty Real, the first (gay) superstar of disco. What a star he was. I danced on revolving turntables with lights underneath, just like in the movie Saturday Night Fever, dressed in my army gear for uniform night at Scandals nightclub in Soho, London. Adams club, in Leicester Square, was also a favourite gay nightclub haunt.

I remember dancing to a 17 minute extended version of Donna Summer’s MacArthur Park several times a night at the Pan Club in Luton; and going to Bang on Tottenham Court Road on a Monday and Thursday night to hear the latest releases from the USA. Heaven nightclub (still going), the largest gay nightclub in Europe at the time, was a particular favourite. All around the world, Ibiza, America, Amsterdam, Berlin, etc… I have partied, and still do, in clubs. Night fever for a night owl, one who loves do dance, loves music and life.

After disco came High NRG where we used to dance for hours on the dance floor at Heaven on pure adrenaline, only coming off the dance floor to have a drink of water. New romantics, punk, and soul, techno and trance (my favourite) followed. I am a recovering trance addict. So many memories, so many people, good times and tunes – Black Box, Gloria Gaynor, Barry White, David Bowie, Grace Jones, the list goes on and on.

While this posting shows the design of some amazing clubs, and some photographs of the people who inhabited them, what it cannot capture is the atmosphere of a place. The most important thing in any club are… the people; the music; the lighting; and the DJs.

Without all four working together it doesn’t matter how good the design of a club, it will fail. You can have the most minimal lighting but the most electric atmosphere if the vibe is there: a congress of like-minded people who love dance music, who commune together on the dance floor and in the club, all having a good time. The DJ’s orchestrate this secular celebration of spirit. They can take you up, bring you around, twist you inside out. The modern temple of love, light and healing. Party hard, party on.

Marcus

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

 

 

 

Palladium, New York, 1985

 

Palladium, New York
1985
Architect: Arata Isozaki, mural by Keith Haring
© Timothy Hursley, Garvey|Simon Gallery New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

 

Installation view of the exhibition Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 – Today, at the Vitra Design Museum 2018
© Vitra Design Museum
Photo: Mark Niedermann

 

An evening at the Space Electronic, Florence, 1971

 

An evening at the Space Electronic
Florence, 1971
Interior Design: Gruppo 9999
Photo: Carlo Caldini
© Gruppo 9999

 

Discotheque Flash Back, Borgo San Dalmazzo c. 1972

 

Discotheque Flash Back
Borgo San Dalmazzo c. 1972
Interior Design: Studio65
© Paolo Mussat Sartor

 

Nightclub Les Bains Douches, Paris, 1990

 

Nightclub Les Bains Douches
Paris, 1990
Interior Design: Philippe Starck
© Foc Kan

 

DJ Larry Levan in Paradise Garage, New York, 1979

 

DJ Larry Levan in Paradise Garage
New York, 1979
© Bill Bernstein, David Hill Gallery, London

 

Guests in Conversation on a Sofa, Studio 54, New York, 1979

 

Guests in Conversation on a Sofa, Studio 54
New York, 1979
© Bill Bernstein, David Hill Gallery, London

 

Akoaki. 'Mobile DJ Booth, The Mothership' Detroit, 2014

 

Akoaki
Mobile DJ Booth, The Mothership
Detroit, 2014
© Akoaki

 

OMA/Rem Koolhaas. 'Isometric Plan Ministry of Sound II' London, 2015

 

OMA/Rem Koolhaas
Isometric Plan Ministry of Sound II
London, 2015
© OMA

 

'Newcastle Stage at Horst Arts & Music Festival' Belgium, 2017

 

Newcastle Stage at Horst Arts & Music Festival
Belgium, 2017
Architects: Assemble
© Jeroen Verrecht

 

Diane Alexander White. 'The backlash against disco peaked at the Disco Demolotion Night at Comiskey Park, Chicago, in the summer 1979'

 

Diane Alexander White
The backlash against disco peaked at the Disco Demolotion Night at Comiskey Park, Chicago, in the summer 1979
July 12, 1979
Silver gelatin print
© Diane Alexander White Photography

 

'Poster for the Nightclub The Electric Circus' New York, 1967

 

Poster for the Nightclub The Electric Circus
New York, 1967
Design: Chermayeff & Geismar
© Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar

 

'Poster for the Discotheque Flash Back' Borgo San Dalmazzo, 1972

 

Poster for the Discotheque Flash Back
Borgo San Dalmazzo, 1972
Design: Gianni Arnaudo / Studio65

 

Hasse Persson. 'Calvin Klein Party' 1978

 

Hasse Persson
Calvin Klein Party
1978
© Hasse Persson

 

Bill Bernstein. 'Dance floor at Xenon' New York, 1979

 

Bill Bernstein
Dance floor at Xenon
New York, 1979
© Bill Bernstein / David Hill Gallery, London

 

'Dance floor at Paradise Garage' New York, 1978

 

Dance floor at Paradise Garage
New York, 1978
© Bill Bernstein / David Hill Gallery, London

 

'Trojan, Nichola and Leigh Bowery at Taboo' 1985

 

Trojan, Nichola and Leigh Bowery at Taboo
1985
© Dave Swindells

 

Musa N. Nxumalo. 'Wake Up, Kick Ass and Repeat!' 2017

 

Musa N. Nxumalo
Wake Up, Kick Ass and Repeat!
Photograph from the series 16 Shots
2017
© Musa N. Nxumalo / Courtesy of SMAC Gallery, Johannesburg

 

Volker Hinz. 'Grace Jones at "Confinement" theme, Area' New York, 1984

 

Volker Hinz
Grace Jones at “Confinement” theme, Area
New York, 1984
© Volker Hinz

 

'Keith Haring in front of his contribution to Art theme' Nd

 

Keith Haring in front of his contribution to Art theme
Nd
© Volker Hinz

 

Walter Van Beirendonck. 'Fashion show of Wild & Lethal Trash (W.&L.T.) collection for Mustang Jeans' Fall / Winter 1995/9

 

Walter Van Beirendonck
Fashion show of Wild & Lethal Trash (W.&L.T.) collection for Mustang Jeans
Fall / Winter 1995/9
© Dan Lecca / Courtesy of Mustang Jeans

 

Chen Wei. 'In the Waves #1' 2013

 

Chen Wei
In the Waves #1
2013
© Chen Wei / Courtesy of LEO XU PROJECTS, Shanghai

 

Despacio Sound System, New Century Hall, Manchester International Festival July 2013

 

Despacio Sound System, New Century Hall, Manchester International Festival
July 2013
© Rod Lewis

 

Interior view of Haçienda, Manchester Nd

 

Interior view of Haçienda, Manchester
Nd
Courtesy of Ben Kelly

 

Bureau A. 'DJ booth inside The Club, Lisbon Architecture Triennale' 2016

 

Bureau A
DJ booth inside The Club, Lisbon Architecture Triennale
2016
© Mariana Lopes

 

Gruppo UFO. 'Bamba Issa, Night Shelter for the Beach Rescue Camels' 1969

 

Gruppo UFO
Bamba Issa, Night Shelter for the Beach Rescue Camels
Bamba Issa, 1969
© Photo: Carlo Bachi / Courtesy of Gruppo UFO

 

'Interior view of Tresor' Berlin 1996/97

 

Interior view of Tresor, Berlin
1996/97
© Gustav Volker Heuss

 

Martin Eberle. 'Tresor außen' Berlin, 1996

 

Martin Eberle
Tresor außen
Berlin, 1996
From the series Temporary Spaces
© Martin Eberle

 

Gianni Arnaudo. 'Aliko chair, designed for Flash Back' 1972

 

Gianni Arnaudo
Aliko chair, designed for Flash Back
Borgo San Dalmazzo, Italy, 1972
Gufram
© Andreas Sütterlin / Courtesy of Gianni Arnaudo

 

Roger Tallon. 'Swivel Chair Module 400 for the (unrealised) Nightclub Le Garage' Paris, 1965

 

Roger Tallon
Swivel Chair Module 400 for the (unrealised) Nightclub Le Garage
Paris, 1965
© Vitra Design Museum
Photo: Thomas Dix

 

Vincent Rosenblatt. 'Tecnobrega #093' Tupinambá, 2016

 

Vincent Rosenblatt
Tecnobrega #093
Tupinambá, 2016
From the series Tecnobrega – The Religion of Soundmachines
Metropoles Club, Belém do Pará, Brazil
Inkjet print on Baryta paper (2018)
100 x 66 cm
© Vincent Rosenblatt

 

 

The nightclub is one of the most important design spaces in contemporary culture. Since the 1960s, nightclubs have been epicentres of pop culture, distinct spaces of nocturnal leisure providing architects and designers all over the world with opportunities and inspiration. Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 – Today offers the first large-scale examination of the relationship between club culture and design, from past to present. The exhibition presents nightclubs as spaces that merge architecture and interior design with sound, light, fashion, graphics, and visual effects to create a modern Gesamtkunstwerk. Examples range from Italian clubs of the 1960s created by the protagonists of Radical Design to the legendary Studio 54 where Andy Warhol was a regular, from the Haçienda in Manchester designed by Ben Kelly to more recent concepts by the OMA architecture studio for the Ministry of Sound in London. The exhibits on display range from films and vintage photographs to posters, flyers, and fashion, but also include contemporary works by photographers and artists such as Mark Leckey, Chen Wei, and Musa N. Nxumalo. A spatial installation with music and light effects takes visitors on a fascinating journey through a world of glamour and subcultures – always in search of the night that never ends.

Night Fever opens with the 1960s, exploring the emergence of nightclubs as spaces for experimentation with interior design, new media, and alternative lifestyles. The Electric Circus (1967) in New York, for example, was designed as a countercultural venue by architect Charles Forberg while renowned graphic designers Chermayeff & Geismar created its distinctive logo and font. Its multidisciplinary approach influenced many clubs in Europe, including Space Electronic (1969) in Florence. Designed by the collective Gruppo 9999, this was one of several nightclubs associated with Italy’s Radical Design avant-garde. The same goes for Piper in Turin (1966), a club designed by Giorgio Ceretti, Pietro Derossi, and Riccardo Rosso as a multifunctional space with a modular interior suitable for concerts, happenings, and experimental theatre as well as dancing. Gruppo UFO’s Bamba Issa (1969), a beach club in Forte dei Marmi, was another highly histrionic venue, its themed interior completely overhauled for every summer of its three years of existence.

With the rise of disco in the 1970s, club culture gained a new momentum. Dance music developed into a genre of its own and the dance floor emerged as a stage for individual and collective performance, with fashion designers such as Halston and Stephen Burrows providing the perfect outfits to perform and shine. New York’s Studio 54, founded by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell in 1977 and designed by Scott Bromley and Ron Doud, soon became a celebrity favourite. Only two years later, the movie Saturday Night Fever marked the apex of Disco’s commercialisation, which in turn sparked a backlash with homophobic and racist overtones that peaked at the Disco Demolition Night staged at a baseball stadium in Chicago.

Around the same time, places in New York’s thriving nightlife like the Mudd Club (1978) and Area (1983) offered artists new spaces to merge the club scene and the arts and launched the careers of artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. In early 1980s London, meanwhile, clubs like Blitz and Taboo brought forth the New Romantic music and fashion movement, with wild child Vivienne Westwood a frequent guest at Michael and Gerlinde Costiff’s Kinky Gerlinky club night. But it was in Manchester that architect and designer Ben Kelly created the post-industrial cathedral of rave, The Haçienda (1982), from where Acid House conquered the UK. House and Techno were arguably the last great dance music movements to define a generation of clubs and ravers. They reached Berlin in the early 1990s just after the fall of the wall, when disused and derelict spaces became available for clubs like Tresor (1991); more than a decade later, the notorious Berghain (2004) was established in a former heating plant, demonstrating yet again how a vibrant club scene can flourish in the cracks of the urban fabric, on empty lots and in vacant buildings.

Developments have become ever more complex since the early 2000s. On the one hand, club culture is thriving and evolving as it is adopted by global brands and music festivals; on the other, many nightclubs have been pushed out of the city or survive merely as sad historical monuments and modern ruins of a hedonistic past. At the same time, a new generation of architects is addressing the nightclub typology. The architectural firm OMA, founded by Rem Koolhaas, has developed a proposal for a twenty-first-century Ministry of Sound II for London, while Detroit-based designers Akoaki have created a mobile DJ booth called The Mothership to promote their hometown’s rich club heritage.

Based on extensive research and featuring many exhibits never before displayed in a museum, Night Fever brings together a wide range of material, from furniture to graphic design, architectural models to art, film and photography to fashion. The exhibition takes visitors through a fascinating nocturnal world that provides a vital contrast to the rules and routines of our everyday life.

While the exhibition basically follows a chronological concept, a music and light installation created specially by exhibition designer Konstantin Grcic and lighting designer Matthias Singer offers visitors the opportunity to experience all the many facets of nightclub design, from visual effects to sounds and sensations. A display of record covers, ranging from Peter Saville’s designs for Factory Records to Grace Jones’s album cover Nightclubbing, underlines the significant relationship between music and design in club culture. The multidisciplinary exhibition reveals the nightclub as much more than a dance bar or a music venue; it is an immersive environment for intense experiences.

Represented artists, designers and architects (extract): François Dallegret, Gruppo 9999, Halston, Keith Haring, Arata Isozaki, Grace Jones, Ben Kelly, Bernard Khoury, Miu Miu, OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), Peter Saville, Studio65, Roger Tallon, Walter Van Beirendonck, Andy Warhol

Represented clubs (extract): The Electric Circus, New York, 1967 Space Electronic, Florenz, 1969 Il Grifoncino, Bolzano, 1969 Studio 54, New York, 1977 Paradise Garage, New York, 1977 Le Palace, Paris, 1978 The Saint, New York, 1980 The Haçienda, Manchester, 1982 Area, New York, 1983 Palladium, New York, 1985 Tresor, Berlin, 1991 B018, Beirut, 1998 Berghain, Berlin, 2004

Press release from the Vitra Design Museum

 

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Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today' at the Vitra Design Museum 2018

 

Installation views of the exhibition Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 – Today, at the Vitra Design Museum 2018
© Vitra Design Museum
Photos: Mark Niedermann

 

 

Vitra Design Museum
Charles-Eames-Strase 2 79576
Weil am Rhein/Basel Germany
Phone: +49.7621.702.3200

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am – 6 pm

Vitra Design Museum website

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22
Jul
18

Photographs: Marcus Bunyan. ‘Paris in film’ 2018 Part 2

July 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

 

Paris in film 2018

These photographs were taken on a trip to Paris in 2017 using my Mamiya twin-lens C220 medium format camera shot on Kodak Ektra 100 colour negative film.

It was strange taking these photographs over numerous, adventurous, energised days in Paris. Different from the yet to be sorted 4,000+ digital photographs I took, the act of taking these photographs allowed me to fully concentrate, to immerse myself in the environment, to loose myself in the process – with a commensurate dropping away of ego. I just was in the moment, “in the zone” as athletes would say.

They are only basic jpg scans of the negs, full frame, no cropping, and I have colour corrected as best I can, noting that all digital images look different from computer monitor to monitor – one of the perennial hazards of looking at work online. They have not been sequenced at the moment.

The photographs seem to hang well together as a body of work. I would love to get good scans and print some of them.

Through their clear visualisation, the photographs speak directly to the viewer.

Marcus

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68 images
© Marcus Bunyan

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

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ costs $1000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see my store web page.

 

 

“The great goal that we must all pursue is to kill off the great evil that eats away at us: egotism.”

.
“Sometimes I think I love nature just as much, if not more, for not being capable of translation into words… No words can describe some things. The more one says the less one sees. You see… nature is like love, it’s in the heart and you must not talk about it too much. You diminish what you try to describe. As for myself, I have no idea of my own nature when I act unselfconsciously. I only see what there is between the sky and myself. I have no part in it all. If I think of you, in my odd way I am you and I cease to exist.”

.
George Sand

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Parc de Sceaux' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Parc de Sceaux
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Fontainebleau' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Fontainebleau
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Fontainebleau' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Fontainebleau
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Animaux Nuisibles' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Animaux Nuisibles
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Animaux Nuisibles' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Animaux Nuisibles
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Animaux Nuisibles' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Animaux Nuisibles
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Rats Surmulots Captures aux Halles vers 1925' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Rats Surmulots Captures aux Halles vers 1925
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Dying light, KH in Saint-Eustache Church' from the series 'Paris in film' 2018

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Dying light, KH in Saint-Eustache Church
2018
From the series Paris in film
Digital photograph

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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17
Feb
17

Exhibition: ‘Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York’ at the Museum of the City of New York, New York City Part 2

Exhibition dates: 7th October 2016 – 26th February 2017

An exhibition showcasing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer artistic life in New York City through the social networks of Leonard Bernstein, Mercedes de Acosta, Harmony Hammond,  Bill T. Jones, Lincoln Kirstein, Greer Lankton, George Platt Lynes,  Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Andy Warhol.

Curators: Donald Albrecht, MCNY curator of architecture and design, and Stephen Vider, MCNY Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow.

 

 

Part two of this monster posting on the exhibition Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York at the Museum of the City of New York.

Highlights include photographs by Carl Van Vechten; art work by and of Andy Warhol; a video of the “Panzy Craze” of the the 1920s and 1930s; a photograph of a very young and skinny Robert Mapplethorpe and some of his early art work; some wonderful subversiveness from Greer Lankton; two glorious photographs from one of my favourite artists, Peter Hujar; and a great selection of book covers and posters, including the ever so sensual, German Expressionist inspired Nocturnes for the King of Naples cover art by Mel Odom.

Marcus

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Many thank to the Museum of the City of New York for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Themes

Printing

Foujita. "Helen Morgan Jr. And Jean Malin at the Smart Club Abbey," 'Vanity Fair' February 1931

 

Foujita
“Helen Morgan Jr. And Jean Malin at the Smart Club Abbey”
Vanity Fair
February 1931
Private collection

 

 

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (藤田 嗣治 Fujita Tsuguharu, November 27, 1886 – January 29, 1968) was a Japanese-French painter and printmaker born in Tokyo, Japan, who applied Japanese ink techniques to Western style paintings. He has been called “the most important Japanese artist working in the West during the 20th century”. His Book of Cats, published in New York by Covici Friede, 1930, with 20 etched plate drawings by Foujita, is one of the top 500 (in price) rare books ever sold, and is ranked by rare book dealers as “the most popular and desirable book on cats ever published”.

 

André Tellier. 'Twilight Men' (Greenberg, New York) 1931

 

André Tellier
Twilight Men (Greenberg, New York)
1931
Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University

 

 

First published in 1931, this is an extremely uncommon early novel set in New York City of homosexuality and a young man whose gay tendencies infuriates his father, who attempts to set him upon the “path of normality” by hiring a mistress to seduce him.

“Like many early gay novels, the book does not have a happy ending: the main character becomes addicted to drugs, murders his father, and kills himself. This theme (the gay monster or the gay degenerate) occurs very frequently before the 1960’s. Originally, this was the only way that a book with any kind of gay themes could even be published; that is, it was only palatable – or even legal – to feature a gay protagonist if that person “gets what’s coming to him” in the end.

The February 1934 issue of Chanticleer, a gay literary “magazine,” includes reviews by Henry Gerber of several novels, including Twilight Men. He wrote: “TWILIGHT MEN, by Andre Tellier, deals with a young Frenchman, who comes to America, is introduced into homosexual society in New York, becomes a drug addict for no obvious reason, finally kills his father and commits suicide. It is again excellent anti-homosexual propaganda, although the plot is too silly to convince anyone who has known homosexual people at all.”

Little has been written about the author, Andre Tellier, himself. He wrote other books, including A Woman of Paris, The Magnificent Sin, Vagabond April, and Witchfire; but nothing else is really known about him.” (Text from the Somewhere Books website)

 

Blair Niles. 'Strange Brother' (Horace Liveright, New York) 1931

 

Blair Niles
Strange Brother (Horace Liveright, New York)
1931
Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University

 

 

Strange Brother is a gay novel written by Blair Niles published in 1931. The story is about a platonic relationship between a heterosexual woman and a gay man and takes place in New York City in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Strange Brother provides an early and objective documentation of homosexual issues during the Harlem Renaissance.

Mark Thornton, the story’s protagonist, moves to New York City in hopes of feeling like less of an outsider. At a nightclub in Harlem he meets and befriends June Westbrook. One night they witness a man named Nelly being arrested. June encourages Mark to investigate. This leads Mark to attend Nelly’s trial, where he is found guilty and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment on Welfare Island for his feminine affections and gestures. Next Mark researches the crimes against nature sections of the penal code. Shaken up by his findings and the events, Mark confesses his own homosexuality to June.

Mark and June’s friendship continues to grow, and June introduces Mark to a number of friends in her social circle. Various social interactions ensue including a dinner party for a departing professor, a trip to a nightspot featuring a singer called Glory who sings Creole Love Call and attending a drag ball. Despite reading Walt Whitman’s poetry collection Leaves of Grass, Edward Carpenter’s series of papers Love’s Coming of Age, and Countee Cullen’s poetry, Mark is afraid to come out. Subsequently, Mark is threatened with being outed at work. In response to this threat, Mark commits suicide by shooting himself.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Ann Bannon. 'I Am a Woman' (Gold Medal Books, New York) 1959

 

Ann Bannon
I Am a Woman (Gold Medal Books, New York)
1959
Private collection

 

 

The classic 1950s novel from the Queen of Lesbian Pulp. “For contemporary readers the books offer a valuable record of gay and lesbian life in the 1950s. Most are set in Greenwich Village, and Ms. Bannon’s descriptions of bars, clubs and apartment parties vividly evoke a vanished community. Her characters also have historical value. Whereas most lesbians in pulp are stereotypes who get punished for their desires, Beebo and her friends are accessibly human. Their struggles with love and relationships are engrossing today, and half a century ago they were revolutionary.” ~ New York Times “Sex. Sleeze. Depravity. Oh, the twisted passions of the twilight world of lesbian pulp fiction.” ~ Chicago Free Press “Little did Bannon know that her stories would become legends, inspiring countless fledgling dykes to flock to the Village, dog-eared copies of her books in hand, to find their own Beebos and Lauras and others who shared the love they dared not name.” ~ San Francisco Bay Guardian “Ann Bannon is a pioneer of dyke drama.” ~ On Our Backs “When I was young, Bannon’s books let me imagine myself into her New York City neighborhoods of short-haired, dark-eyed butch women and stubborn, tight-lipped secretaries with hearts ready to be broken. I would have dated Beebo, no question.” ~ Dorothy Allison “Bannon’s books grab you and don’t let go.”  ~ Village Voice

 

'The Young Physique' October/November 1964

 

The Young Physique
October/November 1964
Collection of Kelly McKaig

 

 

'Muscleboy' March/April 1965

 

Muscleboy
March/April 1965
Collection of Kelly McKaig

 

Design by Gran Fury for Art Against AIDS/On The Road and Creative Time, Inc. 'Kissing Doesn't Kill: Greed and Indifference Do' 1989

 

Design by Gran Fury for Art Against AIDS/On The Road and Creative Time, Inc.
Kissing Doesn’t Kill: Greed and Indifference Do
1989
Bus poster
Gran Fury, Courtesy The New York Public Library Manuscripts and Archives Division

 

Placemaking: Cruising

Anonymous photographer. 'New York City street photograph' 1960s

 

Anonymous photographer
New York City street photograph
1960s
Collection of Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons, New York

 

Leonard Fink. 'Charley Inside Ramrod' c. 1976

 

Leonard Fink
Charley Inside Ramrod
c. 1976
Courtesy LGBT Community Center National History Archive

 

 

THE RAMROD, 394 West Street, (between Charles and West 10th Streets). Constructed in the 1850’s this building (actually two, that were attached) housed S. J. Seely & Co., a lime dealer, and C. August, (on the corner) a porter house, and private residence. In the late 70’s it was one of the most popular leather bars in New York. Attracting a large motorcycle clientele, West Street always had a plethora of bikes parked out front. The doorman, Rico, had a long black bushy beard, and an ever present black cowboy hat, also he wore on his hand a glove with sharp stainless steel blades attached to it, (sort of a precursor to Freddie Kruger). The bar, and Rico could be very intimidating, if you were new, or “Brown” as the uninitiated were called… referring to the brown leather they wore.

Greenwich Village: A Gay History

 

In June 1993, the Estate of Leonard Fink donated a photographic collection to The Center in New York City through its executor, Steven E. Bing. The materials in the Fink Estate was willed to four AIDS related organisations who gave all of the rights to the photos to the Center Archive. Some of these were signed “Len Elliot,” which might have ben a pseudonym of Fink’s. The collection consists of over 25,000 negatives and images capturing Greenwich Village and much of the spirit of the late 60s and 70s. Some of the most well known images in the collection are Fink’s work at “The Piers” along the Hudson River. Fink documented over 25 years of gay life in New York City but his photography was never exhibited or published in his lifetime. He was self taught and used an old 35mm camera while working out of a homemade darkroom in his West 92nd Street apartment.

Text from the Gay Cities website

 

Leonard Fink was an amateur photographer who documented over 25 years of gay life in New York including parades, bars, and especially the west side piers. He worked in complete obscurity and was apparently very reclusive. His photographs were seen by only a few close friends and were never exhibited or published in his lifetime. He seems to have taught himself photography using an old 35mm camera and a homemade darkroom in his small apartment on West 92nd street. He lived frugally, spending much of his income on photographic supplies which he bought in bulk and stored in his darkroom and his bedroom. He stored the prints and negatives in a file cabinet. By the time of his death, the photos in the file cabinet covered a period from 1954 to 1992. His photographs of gay life begin with groups of gay men photographed in Greenwich Village in 1967. His photographs of Gay Pride parades begin with the first parade in 1970. His earlier photographs are of friends, trips to Europe, and scenes in New York. Leonard Fink was a colourful and ubiquitous character in the Village and at Pride parades, usually appearing on roller skates in short cut-offs, and a tight t-shirt with cameras always around his neck. He sometimes arrived on a bicycle or a motorcycle. He was born in 1930. His father and older brother were both physicians. He worked for many years as an attorney for the New York Transit Authority. He died of AIDS in 1993.

Text from The Center website

 

Posing

 

James VanDerZee. 'Beau of the Ball' 1926

 

James VanDerZee
Beau of the Ball
1926
Gelatin silver print
Donna Mussenden VanDerZee

 

 

James Van Der Zee (June 29, 1886 – May 15, 1983) was an African-American photographer best known for his portraits of black New Yorkers. He was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Aside from the artistic merits of his work, Van Der Zee produced the most comprehensive documentation of the period. Among his most famous subjects during this time were Marcus Garvey, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Countee Cullen…

Van Der Zee worked predominantly in the studio and used a variety of props, including architectural elements, backdrops, and costumes, to achieve stylized tableaux vivant in keeping with late Victorian and Edwardian visual traditions. Sitters often copied celebrities of the 1920s and 1930s in their poses and expressions, and he retouched negatives and prints heavily to achieve an aura of glamour…

Works by Van Der Zee are artistic as well as technically proficient. His work was in high demand, in part due to his experimentation and skill in double exposures and in retouching negatives of children. One theme that recurs in his photographs was the emergent black middle class, which he captured using traditional techniques in often idealistic images. Negatives were retouched to show glamor and an aura of perfection. This affected the likeness of the person photographed, but he felt each photo should transcend the subject. His carefully posed family portraits reveal that the family unit was an important aspect of Van Der Zee’s life. “I tried to see that every picture was better-looking than the person.” “I had one woman come to me and say ‘Mr.Van Der Zee my friends tell thats a nice picture, But it doesn’t look like you.’ That was my style.” Said Van Der Zee.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Carl Van Vechten. 'Anna May Wong' 1932

 

Carl Van Vechten
Anna May Wong
1932
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Carl Van Vechten

 

 

Little known today, Carl Van Vechten was a prolific novelist, critic, photographer, and promoter of all things modern, most actively engaged in the city’s cultural life during the 1920s and ’30s. The City Museum is rich in Van Vechten materials; its collections include about 2,200 photographs taken by him and 3,000 Christmas cards sent to him and his wife, film and theater actress Fania Marinoff. Taken together, they chronicle Van Vechten’s influential circles of friends and colleagues – a hybrid mash-up that defines the modern America at the heart of White’s new book. Images and correspondence in the City Museum’s collection range from Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes to writer Zelda Fitzgerald (wife of F. Scott), and playwright Eugene O’Neill.

Around 1920 Van Vechten gave up journalism for fiction and over the next decade wrote hotly debated novels about Jazz Age Manhattan. His 1923 book The Blind Bow-Boy, for example, is a classic of gay camp and a public expression of Van Vechten’s sexual orientation; while he and Marinoff were married from 1914 until Van Vechten’s death in 1964, he had numerous homosexual relationships… Van Vechten’s role in the Harlem Renaissance remains a controversial topic. To some he’s a valuable bridge between white and black New Yorkers, to others he’s an outsider who patronised and exploited his African-American subjects…

Carl Van Vechten abandoned writing altogether in the early 1930s and embraced photography, a field he would pursue until his death. All told, it is estimated that Van Vechten took some 15,000 photographs. Because his inherited wealth offered him financial independence, Van Vechten took pictures for his own pleasure, usually inviting local and visiting celebrities to a studio he set up in his own apartment. While Van Vechten was aware of the stylistic artifice of such contemporary commercial photographers as Edward Steichen and Cecil Beaton, he stood apart from them. He used a small-format camera, and his aesthetic, which included deep and dramatic shadows that sometimes obscured his subjects’ faces, resulted in picture-making that was far more immediate and spontaneous than that of his contemporaries. Using this technique, Van Vechten photographed musicians Billie Holiday and George Gershwin, Hollywood actors Laurence Olivier and Anna May Wong, and writers Sinclair Lewis and Clifford Odets, to name only a few. The sum of Van Vechten’s work, according to photography historian Keith F. Davis, “constitutes the single most integrated vision of American arts and letters produced in his era.”

Donald Albrecht. “Carl Van Vechten and Modern New York,” on the Museum of the City of New York website

 

Anna May Wong (January 3, 1905 – February 3, 1961) was an American actress. She is considered to be the first Chinese American movie star, and also the first Asian American actress to gain international recognition. Her long and varied career spanned silent film, sound film, television, stage and radio…

Wong’s image and career have left a legacy. Through her films, public appearances and prominent magazine features, she helped to humanise Asian Americans to white audiences during a period of overt racism and discrimination. Asian Americans, especially the Chinese, had been viewed as perpetually foreign in U.S. society but Wong’s films and public image established her as an Asian-American citizen at a time when laws discriminated against Asian immigration and citizenship. Wong’s hybrid image dispelled contemporary notions that the East and West were inherently different.

See an excellent short biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Carl Van Vechten. 'Hugh Laing' 1941

 

Carl Van Vechten
Hugh Laing
1941
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Carl Van Vechten

 

 

Hugh Laing (6 June 1911 – 10 May 1988) was one of the most significant dramatic ballet dancers of the 20th-century. He was the partner of choreographer Antony Tudor. Known for his good looks and the intensity of his stage presence, Laing was never considered a great technician, yet his powers of characterisation and his sense of theatrical timing were considered remarkable. His profile as a significant dancer of his era was almost certainly enhanced by Tudor’s choreographing to his undoubted strengths and Laing is generally regarded as one of the finest dramatic dancers of 20th-century ballet. He remained Tudor’s artistic collaborator and companion until the choreographer’s death in 1987.

 

Carl Van Vechten. 'Alvin Ailey' 1955

 

Carl Van Vechten
Alvin Ailey
1955
Gelatin silver print
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Carl Van Vechten

 

 

Alvin Ailey (January 5, 1931 – December 1, 1989) was an African-American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. He is credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance. His company gained the nickname “Cultural Ambassador to the World” because of its extensive international touring. Ailey’s choreographic masterpiece Revelations is believed to be the best known and most often seen modern dance performance…

Ailey made use of any combination of dance techniques that best suited the theatrical moment. Valuing eclecticism, he created more a dance style than a technique. He said that what he wanted from a dancer was a long, unbroken leg line and deftly articulated legs and feet (“a ballet bottom”) combined with a dramatically expressive upper torso (“a modern top”). “What I like is the line and technical range that classical ballet gives to the body. But I still want to project to the audience the expressiveness that only modern dance offers, especially for the inner kinds of things.”

Ailey’s dancers came to his company with training from a variety of other schools, from ballet to modern and jazz and later hip-hop. He was unique in that he did not train his dancers in a specific technique before they performed his choreography. He approached his dancers more in the manner of a jazz conductor, requiring them to infuse his choreography with a personal style that best suited their individual talents. This openness to input from dancers heralded a paradigm shift that brought concert dance into harmony with other forms of African-American expression, including big band jazz.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Larry Rivers. 'O'Hara Nude With Boots' 1954

 

Larry Rivers
O’Hara Nude With Boots
1954
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Larry Rivers Foundation

 

 

“Among Rivers’ portraits of the mid-1950s, the most notable and controversial work for a discussion of the relationship among autobiography, sexuality, and art is O’Hara, which he painted during January 1954 as he re-entered an emotional relationship with the sitter. According to [poet Frank] O’Hara’s biographer, Brad Gooch, Rivers and O’Hara had a relatively short, turbulent romance that began in 1952m but during 1953 the two men became involved in other romantic relationships…. Beginning in 1954, however, Rivers and O’Hara resumed their intimate relationship, which then lasted less than a year…

A nude of a contemporary figure on such a huge scale as O’Hara appeared unusual and even controversial in the 1950s New York art world. Rivers recalled that when the painting was first shown at the Whitney Annual in 1955, a guard often stood in front of it to ensure that the painting would not be defaced or damaged: “There was something about the male nude that seemed to be more of a problem than the female nude.” Some contemporary viewers where shocked by O’Hara, given its depiction of a naked male body with meticulous attention to the genitals.”

Dong-Yeon Koh. Larry Rivers and Frank O’Hara: Reframing Male Sexualities Phd dissertation 2006, pp. 196-198.

 

Beauford Delaney. 'James Baldwin' c. 1957

 

Beauford Delaney
James Baldwin
c. 1957
Oil on canvasboard
Halley K. Harrisburg and Michael Rosenfeld, New York

 

 

Beauford Delaney (December 30, 1901 – March 26, 1979) was an American modernist painter. He is remembered for his work with the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as his later works in abstract expressionism following his move to Paris in the 1950s.

In his Introduction to the Exhibition of Beauford Delaney opening December 4, 1964 at the Gallery Lambert, James Baldwin wrote, “the darkness of Beauford’s beginnings, in Tennessee, many years ago, was a black-blue midnight indeed, opaque and full of sorrow. And I do not know, nor will any of us ever really know, what kind of strength it was that enabled him to make so dogged and splendid a journey.”

 

James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son (1955), explore palpable yet unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America, and their inevitable if unnameable tensions. Some Baldwin essays are book-length, for instance The Fire Next Time (1963), No Name in the Street (1972), and The Devil Finds Work (1976).

Baldwin’s novels and plays fictionalise fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration not only of black people, but also of gay and bisexual men, while depicting some internalised obstacles to such individuals’ quests for acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin’s second novel, Giovanni’s Room, written in 1956, well before the gay liberation movement.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Performing

 

 

New York’s queer cultures gained remarkable visibility on the city’s stages in the 1920 and 1930s. Broadway producers and nightclub owners put on plays and acts exploring gay and lesbian themes. They launched a popular “Panzy Craze,” where minorities where accepted. This period lasted until the mid-1930s when morals and ethics changed because of right-wing pressure. The film code was then in full force to protect society’s “morals” and there was, once more, open hostility towards minorities that latest into the 1970s.

With permission of the Museum of the City of New York for Art Blart

The Museum of the City of New York
Film compiliation
Produced by Cramersound

 

Max Ewing. 'Gallery of Extraordinary Portraits' 1928

 

Max Ewing
Gallery of Extraordinary Portraits
1928
Courtesy Yale University, Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library

 

 

Max Ewing’s Gallery of Extraordinary Portraits encapsulates the exhibition’s wider exploration of queer communities in 20th-century New York. Ewing was a novelist, composer, pianist, and sculptor who created this gallery in the walk-in closet of his Manhattan studio apartment on West 31st Street. His semi-public closet exhibition paid homage to interracial, gay, and artistic communities with images of friends and celebrities plastered floor to ceiling, corner to corner.

 

Sterling Paige. 'Gladys Bentley at the Ubangi Club in Harlem' early 1930s

 

Sterling Paige
Gladys Bentley at the Ubangi Club in Harlem
early 1930s
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY

 

 

1960-1995

Portraits

Andy Warhol

 

Andy Warhol. 'Studies for a Boy Book' exhibition announcement for Bodley Gallery c. 1956

 

Andy Warhol
Studies for a Boy Book exhibition announcement for Bodley Gallery
c. 1956
Offset lithograph Susan Sheehan Gallery, New York

 

Andy Warhol. 'Gee, Merrie Shoes' 1956

 

Andy Warhol
Gee, Merrie Shoes
1956
Hand colored offset lithograph
Susan Sheehan Gallery, New York

 

Andy Warhol. 'Cecil Beaton's Feet' 1961

 

Andy Warhol
Cecil Beaton’s Feet
1961
Black ink on buff wove paper
Philadephia Museum of Art
The Henry P. Mcllhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. Mcllhenny, 1986

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Andy Warhol and Candy Darling, New York' 1969

 

Cecil Beaton
Andy Warhol and Candy Darling, New York
1969
Gelatin silver print
© The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

 

Candy Darling (November 24, 1944 – March 21, 1974) was an American transgender actress, best known as a Warhol Superstar. She starred in Andy Warhol’s films Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), and was a muse of the protopunk band The Velvet Underground.

 

 

 

 

Harmony Hammond

 

Liberation News Service #624 July 3, 1974

 

Liberation News Service #624, featuring Harmony Hammond, right, with daughter, Tanya, at the Christopher Street Liberation Day Gay Pride March, photograph by Cidne Hart for Liberation News Service, July 3, 1974
Private collection

 

Harmony Hammond. 'An Oval Braid' 1972

 

Harmony Hammond
An Oval Braid
1972
Charcoal on paper
Courtesy the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York

 

Harmony Hammond. 'Fan Lady meets Cactus Lady' 1981

 

Harmony Hammond
Fan Lady meets Cactus Lady
1981
Lithograph
Courtesy the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York

 

 

Robert Mapplethorpe

 

Judy Linn. 'Robert Gets Dressed at the Chelsea, #3' 1970

 

Judy Linn
Robert Gets Dressed at the Chelsea, #3
1970
Modern digital print
Courtesy the Artist and Susanne Hilberry Gallery

 

'Gay Power', Volume 1, No 16, April 15, 1970

 

Gay Power, Volume 1, No 16, April 15, 1970
Alternative Press Collection, Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Light Gallery invitation' 1973

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Light Gallery invitation
1973
Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles California

 

Ultra Violet modeling Mapplethorpe-designed jewelry, c. 1975

 

Ultra Violet modeling Mapplethorpe-designed jewelry
c. 1975
Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to The J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

 

 

Isabelle Collin Dufresne (stage name Ultra Violet; 6 September 1935 – 14 June 2014) was a French-American artist, author, and both a colleague of Andy Warhol and one of the pop artist’s so-called superstars. Earlier in her career, she worked for and studied with surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. Dufresne lived and worked in New York City, and also had a studio in Nice, France…

In 1954, after a meeting with Salvador Dalí, she became his “muse”, pupil, studio assistant, and lover in both Port Lligat, Spain, and in New York City. Later, she would recall, “I realized that I was ‘surreal’, which I never knew until I met Dalí”. In the 1960s, Dufresne began to follow the progressive American Pop Art scene including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist.

In 1963, Dalí introduced Dufresne to Andy Warhol, and soon she moved into the orbit of his unorthodox studio, “The Factory”. In 1964 she selected the stage name “Ultra Violet” at Warhol’s suggestion, because it was her preferred fashion – her hair color at the time was often violet or lilac. She became one of many “superstars” in Warhol’s Factory, and played multiple roles in over a dozen films between 1965 and 1974…

In the 1980s, she gradually drifted away from the Factory scene, taking a lower profile and working independently on her own art. In her autobiography, published the year after Warhol’s unexpected demise in 1987, she chronicled the activities of many Warhol superstars, including several untimely deaths during and after the Factory years…

In 1990 she opened a studio in Nice and wrote another book detailing her own ideas about art, L’Ultratique. She lived and worked as an artist in New York City, and also maintained a studio in Nice for the rest of her life.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Valerie Santagto. 'Robert Mapplethorpe, front, and Jay Johnson in Mapplethorpe designed jewelry' c. 1970-75

 

Valerie Santagto
Robert Mapplethorpe, front, and Jay Johnson in Mapplethorpe designed jewelry
c. 1970-75
Gift of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to The J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Jim, Sausalito' 1977

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
X Portfolio with Jim, Sausalito
1978
Black silk clamshell case with gelatin silver print photographs mounted on pure rag board
Designed by John Cheim
Courtesy Yoshi Gallery, New York and Cheim & Read, New York

 

 

Greer Lankton

 

Einsteins installation designed by Paul Monroe for Gay Gotham, 2016

 

Einsteins installation designed by Paul Monroe for Gay Gotham, 2016
Courtesy of Greer Lankton Archives Museum

Greer Lankton
Mini-Einsteins
1987
Cardboard, glass, paint, styrofoam board

Andy Warhol
1990
Fabric, wire, glass, human hair

Teri Toye
1988
Fabric, wire, glass, human hair

Siamese Twins
1988
Paper, wire, fabric

 

Greer Lankton (dolls and photo) 'Einsteins "Circus" window display by Greer Lankton and Paul Monroe' 1986

 

Greer Lankton (dolls and photo)
Einsteins “Circus” window display by Greer Lankton and Paul Monroe
1986
Courtesy Paul Monroe for Greer Lankton Archives Museum

 

 

Greer Lankton (1958 – November 18, 1996) was an American artist known for creating lifelike, sewn dolls that were often modelled on friends and celebrities and posed in elaborate theatrical settings. She was a key figure in the East Village art scene of the 1980s in New York.

Gender and sexuality are recurring themes in Lankton’s art. Her dolls are created in the likeness of those society calls “freaks”, and have often been compared to the surrealist works of Hans Bellmer, who made surreal dolls with interchangeable limbs. She created figures that were simultaneously distressing and glamorous, as if they were both victim and perpetrator of their existence.

In 1981 Lankton was featured in the seminal “New York/New Wave” exhibition at P.S.1 in Long Island City, and began to show her work in the East Village at Civilian Warfare. She gained an almost cult following among East Village residents from her highly theatrical window displays she designed for Einstein’s, the boutique that was run by her husband, Paul Monroe, at 96 East Seventh Street. Besides her more emotionally charged dolls, Lankton also created commissioned portrait dolls. These include a 1989 doll of Diana Vreeland that was commissioned for a window display at Barney’s as well as shrines to her icons, such as Candy Darling.

Critic Roberta Smith described her works in the New York Times as: “Beautifully sewn, with extravagant clothes, make-up and hairstyles, they were at once glamorous and grotesque and exuded intense, Expressionistic personalities that reminded some observers of Egon Schiele. They presaged many of the concerns of 90’s art, including the emphasis on the body, sexuality, fashion and, in their resemblance to puppets, performance.” 

Photographer Nan Goldin said of her work, “Greer was one of the pioneers who blurred the line between folk art and fine art.” She had spots in the prestigious Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale, both in 1995, where her busts of Candy Darling, circus fat ladies, and dismembered heads gained her notoriety…

Greer was friends with photographer Nan Goldin, and lived in her apartment in the early 80’s, often posing for her. She also played muse to photographers like David Wojnarowicz and Peter Hujar.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

“Writing about the wax dolls of German artist Lotte Pritzel (to whom Lankton’s own work bears a strong family resemblance), Rainer Maria Rilke noted: “With the doll we had to assert ourselves, because if we surrendered to it there was nobody there. It made no response, so we got into the habit of doing things for it, splitting our own slowly expanding nature into opposing parts and to some extent using the doll to establish distance between ourselves and the amorphous world pouring into us” [“Dolls: On the Wax Dolls of Lotte Pritzel,” tr. Idris Parry]. This relationship imbues the doll with its “soul,” Rilke writes, arguing that it is the extremity of this attachment that leads us to both desire and reject the doll. Unalterable strangeness: Lankton’s own work is plotted along the rejection-desire axis, granting the work a peculiar levity that hovers between fearsome and friendly…

Lankton’s art is both realistic and unrealistic, a difficult balance that is not unlike Candy Darling’s work as an actor, which often operated at the juncture between self-conscious play and unanticipated reality to evoke, again, unalterable strangeness. Following Douglas Crimp’s description of the superstar as someone whose “self … recognizes otherness already there in itself [and] performs its own self-alienation” [Our Kind of Movie: The Films of Andy Warhol, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012], Lankton likewise performs the double work of representing bodies (hers and others) while asserting their alienation. Darling rehearsed and played herself in order to be someone else. It might be said that Lankton rehearsed and played others in order to be herself.”

Extract from “Unalterable Strangeness: Andrew Durbin and Paul Monroe on Greer Lankton,” on the Flash Art website, March – April 2015

 

Paul Monroe. 'Chanel No. 5 earrings' 1985

 

Paul Monroe
Chanel No. 5 earrings
1985
Glass (actual miniature Chanel products filled with No. 5), 14k gold wire and glass pearls

Candelabra ring
1986
Metal, chain, glass jewels and wax

Paul Monroe and Greer Lankton
Teri Toye necklace
1985
Clay, acrylic paint, gold metal chain and rhinestones

Einsteins promotional cards 1986-1992
Einsteins business card, 1985

 

Nan Goldin. 'Greer Lankton and Paul Monroe wedding' 1987

 

Nan Goldin
Greer Lankton and Paul Monroe wedding
1987
Greer Lankton Archives Museum

 

 

Bill T. Jones

 

Lois Greenfield. 'Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane' 1982

 

Lois Greenfield
Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane
1982
Modern print Courtesy Lois Greenfield Studio

 

Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Studio Portrait (Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane)' 1986

 

Robert Mapplethorpe
Studio Portrait (Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane)
1986
Private Collection of Bill T. Jones

 

Tseng Kwong Chi. 'Bill T. Jones Body Painting with Keith Haring' 1983

 

Tseng Kwong Chi
Bill T. Jones Body Painting with Keith Haring
1983
Silver gelatin selenium-toned print
© Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc., New York. Body Drawing on Bill T. Jones by Keith Haring
© 1983 Keith Haring Foundation

 

Huck Snyder. Small mask from 'Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin' 1990

 

Huck Snyder
Small mask from Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin
1990
Painted cardboard and fabric
New York Live Arts

 

 

Huck Snyder was a visual artist and a designer of vivid stage settings for dancers and performance artists. He created sets and stage furniture that were surrealistic yet extremely simple and almost childlike at times. Imaginative and free in their execution and unmistakably his work, his sets often seemed inseparable from the vision of the performers with whom he worked. Huck had designed stage sets for the performance artist John Kelly beginning with sets for Diary of a Somnambulist in 1985…

Mr. Snyder also created sets for dances by Bill T. Jones and Bart Cook, and for theater pieces by Ishmael Houston-Jones. He conceived, directed and designed his own work “Circus,” a performance-art piece presented in 1987 at La Mama E.T.C. Mr. Snyder’s work has been displayed at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Dance Theater Workshop in New York. His paintings and installations have been exhibited at galleries throughout the United States and in solo and group shows in Europe and Japan.

Text from the Visual AIDS website

 

 

Themes

Downtown

 

'Shazork! invitation, Danceteria' late 1980s

 

Downtown invitations
Shazork! invitation, Danceteria
Late 1980s
Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Carrie Goteiner and Miriam Montaug Ashkenazy in memory of Haoui Montaug

 

Peter Hujar. 'Quentin Crisp' 1982

 

Peter Hujar
Quentin Crisp
1982
Vintage gelatin silver print
© The Peter Hujar Archive; Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Quentin Crisp was born Denis Charles Pratt in Surrey, England, on December 25, 1908. A self-described flamboyant homosexual, Crisp changed his name in his early 20s as part of his process of reinvention. Teased mercilessly at school as a boy, Crisp left school in 1926. He studied journalism at King’s College London, but failed to graduate. He then moved on to take art classes at Regent Street Polytechnic. Crisp began visiting the cafés of Soho, London, and even worked as a prostitute for six months. Crisp was always true to himself and expressed himself by dying his long hair lavender, polishing his fingernails and toenails, and dressing in an often androgynous style. Despite the ridicule and violence often directed toward him, Crisp carried on. He tried to join the army with the outbreak of World War II, but was rejected by the medical board, who determined that he was suffering from sexual perversion. Instead, Crisp remained in London during the Blitz, entertaining American GIs, whose friendliness inculcated a love for Americans.

Crisp held a number of jobs, including engineer’s tracer, life model, and author. His most famous work, The Naked Civil Servant, detailed his life in a homophobic British society. When the book was adapted for television, Crisp began a new career as a performer and lecturer. He moved to Manhattan in 1981, when he was 72 years old; settling in a studio apartment in the Bowery. Upon meeting and spending time with Crisp, Sting was inspired to pen his hit song, “An Englishman in New York.”

Crisp continued to tour, write, and lecture; including instructions on how to live life with style and the importance of manners. Crisp landed a few roles on American television and the 1990s became his busiest decade as an actor. In 1992, Crisp took on the role of Elizabeth I in the film Orlando.

Quentin Crisp died in November 1999, just shy of his 91st birthday, while touring his one-man show.

Text from the Biography website

 

Peter Hujar. 'Susan Sontag' 1975, printed 2014

 

Peter Hujar
Susan Sontag
1975, printed 2014
Pigmented ink print
© The Peter Hujar Archive; Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

 

Peter Hujar (born 1934) died of AIDS in 1987, leaving behind a complex and profound body of photographs. Hujar was a leading figure in the group of artists, musicians, writers, and performers at the forefront of the cultural scene in downtown New York in the 1970s and early 80s, and he was enormously admired for his completely uncompromising attitude towards work and life. He was a consummate technician, and his portraits of people, animals, and landscapes, with their exquisite black-and-white tonalities, were extremely influential. Highly emotional yet stripped of excess, Hujar’s photographs are always beautiful, although rarely in a conventional way. His extraordinary first book, Portraits in Life and Death, with an introduction by Susan Sontag, was published in 1976, but his “difficult” personality and refusal to pander to the marketplace insured that it was his last publication during his lifetime.

Text from the Peter Hujar Archive website

 

Susan Sontag (January 16, 1933 – December 28, 2004) was an American writer, filmmaker, teacher, and political activist. She published her first major work, the essay “Notes on ‘Camp'”, in 1964. Her best-known works include On Photography, Against Interpretation, Styles of Radical Will, The Way We Live Now, Illness as Metaphor, Regarding the Pain of Others, The Volcano Lover, and In America.

Sontag was active in writing and speaking about, or travelling to, areas of conflict, including during the Vietnam War and the Siege of Sarajevo. She wrote extensively about photography, culture and media, AIDS and illness, human rights, and communism and leftist ideology. Although her essays and speeches sometimes drew controversy, she has been described as “one of the most influential critics of her generation.” …

It was through her essays that Sontag gained early fame and notoriety. Sontag wrote frequently about the intersection of high and low art and expanded the dichotomy concept of form and art in every medium. She elevated camp to the status of recognition with her widely read 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp’,” which accepted art as including common, absurd and burlesque themes.

In 1977, Sontag published the series of essays On Photography. These essays are an exploration of photographs as a collection of the world, mainly by travelers or tourists, and the way we experience it… She became a role-model for many feminists and aspiring female writers during the 1960s and 1970s.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Printing

 

Liza Cowan (designer) 'DYKE, A Quarterly' c. 1974

 

Liza Cowan (designer)
DYKE, A Quarterly
c. 1974
Flyer
Courtesy Liza Cowan and Penny House

 

'DYKE, A Quarterly Call for poster design flyer' 1976

 

DYKE, A Quarterly Call for poster design flyer
1976
Illustration by Liza Cowan Penny House

 

'Christopher Street' September 1977

 

Christopher Street
September 1977
Private collection

 

'Christopher Street' June 1978

 

Christopher Street
June 1978
Private collection

 

Edmund White. 'Nocturnes for the King of Naples' Paperback edition with cover art by Mel Odom, 1980

 

Edmund White
Nocturnes for the King of Naples
Paperback edition with cover art by Mel Odom, 1980 (originally published 1978)
Private collection

 

'New York Magazine' June 20, 1994

 

New York Magazine
June 20, 1994
1994
Courtesy New York Magazine

 

 

Posing

 

Eva Weiss. 'From left, Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw, and Deb Margolin performing as Split Britches in 'Upwardly Mobile Home'' 1984

 

Eva Weiss
From left, Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw, and Deb Margolin performing as Split Britches in ‘Upwardly Mobile Home’
1984
Contemporary archival print
Courtesy Eva Weiss Photography

 

Alice O'Malley. 'Melanie Hope, Clit Club' c. 1992

 

Alice O’Malley
Melanie Hope, Clit Club
c. 1992
Vintage gelatin silver print
Alice O’Malley Photography

 

Tseng Kwong Chi. 'New York, NY (Statue of Liberty)' 1979

 

Tseng Kwong Chi
New York, NY (Statue of Liberty)
1979
Gelatin silver print
Muna Tseng Dance Projects Inc.

 

 

Tseng Kwong Chi, known as Joseph Tseng prior to his professional career (Chinese: 曾廣智; c. 1950 – March 10, 1990), was a Hong Kong-born American photographer who was active in the East Village art scene in the 1980s.

Tseng was part of an circle of artists in the 1980s New York art scene including Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and Cindy Sherman. Tseng’s most famous body of work is his self-portrait series, East Meets West, also called the “Expeditionary Series”. In the series, Tseng dressed in what he called his “Mao suit” and sunglasses (dubbed a “wickedly surrealistic persona” by the New York Times), and photographed himself situated, often emotionlessly, in front of iconic tourist sites. These included the Statue of Liberty, Cape Canaveral, Disney Land, Notre Dame de Paris, and the World Trade Center. Tseng also took tens of thousands of photographs of New York graffiti artist Keith Haring throughout the 1980s working on murals, installations and the subway. In 1984, his photographs were shown with Haring’s work at the opening of the Semaphore Gallery’s East Village location in a show titled “Art in Transit”. Tseng photographed the first Concorde landing at Kennedy International Airport, from the tarmac. According to his sister, Tseng drew artistic influence from Brassai and Cartier-Bresson.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Chantal Regnault. 'From left, Whitney Elite, Ira Ebony, Stewart and Chris LaBeija, Ian and Jamal Adonis, Ronald Revlon, House of Jourdan Ball, New Jersey' 1989

 

Chantal Regnault
From left, Whitney Elite, Ira Ebony, Stewart and Chris LaBeija, Ian and Jamal Adonis, Ronald Revlon, House of Jourdan Ball, New Jersey
1989
Gelatin silver print
© Chantal Regnault

 

 

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20
Dec
15

Exhibition: ‘Art AIDS America’ at Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma

Exhibition dates: 3rd October 2015 – 10th January 2016

 

Did You Know?

 

 

This is the biggest exhibition on art relating to HIV/AIDS since the seminal exhibition Art in the Age of AIDS at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra in 1995, which I was a part of.

I was lucky to survive the initial wave of HIV/AIDS infections. The Centers for Disease Control issued its first statement about a cluster of 19 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer most common in elderly men from southern Italy) and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in young, gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in July 1981… and I had my first HIV test in London in 1983. In those days, as the wall text from the exhibition spells out above, you had to wait 16 days to get the result of a blood test. I vividly remember sitting outside a doctor’s office knowing that when I went in, if he said yes you have it, it was a death sentence. In those early days, there was no treatment. You were going to die. I only survived by luck. Many of my friends and lovers didn’t.

“Art reflects and reacts to social, cultural, and political climates, and in the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS has been a constant presence,” says exhibition co-curator Rock Hushka. “So many of us recall friends, family, and partners we have lost and the terror of the early years of the crisis, while younger people are just learning this story. We seek to create a deeper understanding of the legacy of HIV/AIDS in contemporary American art, and encourage our visitors to see their experiences in these works.”

This deep understanding can be supplemented by this posting. I spent many hours securing more images than were sent to me in the press pack, because I think it is really important to have as great a cross-section as possible of work online from this exhibition, as a record of this time and space in the ongoing HIV/AIDS story. At present, there is no website for the 1995 exhibition Art in the Age of AIDS but I am hoping to correct this in the near future, with installation images, art work, interviews and videos.

In terms of the art, I find the earlier narratives are much more powerful and focused than the contemporary work. One of the most moving of these, and one that I have never seen before, is Keith Haring’s Altar Piece (1990, cast 1996, below). Can you imagine being an artist, being Haring, working on the wax mould in hospital being treated for AIDS-related illness, thinking that this could possibly be the last art work that you would ever complete. That you would never see it produced. And then to make something that is so compassionate, so beautiful that it is almost beyond belief… my heart is full of admiration and, like the crowd in the triptych, I am washed with tears.

By comparison, some of the contemporary works seem to have become mere graphic symbolism (leaves, milk and flowers) rather than engaging activism. For example, Tino Rodriguez’s Eternal Lovers (2010, below) – while referencing his Mexican heritage through skull imagery from Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead – is not about loss with presence but loss without presence: a febrile graphic activity that is pure decoration. Other works such as Derek Jackson’s Perfect Kiss (2007, below) or LADZ’s Eden #31 (2012, below) enact only the most tenuous link to HIV/AIDS and only when it is spelled out in text. Again, while not denying the pain of the death of her mother, her persecution when growing up or the problems with living with HIV, Kia Labeija’s 24 (Mourning Sickness; Kia and Mommy; In my room) (2014, below) propositions us with a women photographed in deadpan photography style as glamorous mother with vivid pink lipstick or a Beyonce music star in sequin dress and 6 inch heels. Only in the last photograph is there any hint of vulnerability and, funnily enough, it is the only photograph that I care about and engage with.

In all of these works the key word is enact, for these works are performances of gender and sexuality conceptualised for the viewer, where living with HIV/AIDS is shown to us at a distance. Instead of ACTing up, unleashing the power of the oppressed, artists are now acting out in this (supposed) post-death HIV/AIDS climate. Look at me, I can be whoever I want to be (and still have HIV). Nothing wrong with that I hear you say, and you would be completely right… if only the art commenting on this post-death resurrection of the author, was memorable.

While 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection in the USA and an estimated 47, 352 people were diagnosed with the disease in 2013, people are still dying by the thousands in America (an estimated 13,712 people died in 2012 of an AIDS related disease – source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website). This is not pretty pink lipstick and sequin dresses, this is 13 thousand people a year still DYING from this disease.

Just think about that for a while.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Tacoma Art Museum, Mark I. Chester and Steven Miller for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987–1995), Let the Record Show… 1987/recreated 2015.

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995)
Let the Record Show…
1987/recreated 2015
Mixed media installation, dimensions variable
Courtesy of Gran Fury and the New Museum, New York
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

 

In 1987, the New Museum’s curator William Olander invited ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to create a work about AIDS. ACT UP, a diverse, nonpartisan, grassroots organisation, responded with Let the Record Show… providing information about the crisis.

At the time, the only visual presence of AIDS activism was the Silence=Death stickers. Let the Record Show… recreated here in full for the first time, included an LED reader board with statistics about the unfolding medical and political crisis, the neon pink triangle with “Silence=Death,” a photomural from the Nuremberg trials, and photographs of contemporary public figures with their statements about AIDS.

Using the 1986 graphics from the Silence=Death Project, ACT UP appropriated the pink triangle from the badges assigned to gay prisoners in Nazi Germany during World War II. The artists combined this historic symbol of powerlessness along with the photomural of the Nuremberg courtroom to make an explicit comparison between the severity of the AIDS crisis and government inaction and the Holocaust. The complicated installation asked whether simple silence in a crisis is as culpable as actively encouraging one. The anonymous collective Gran Fury formed as a committee of ACT UP, as a result of Olander’s invitation. Gran Fury continued to make provocative and important works about the AIDS crisis.

For the installation of Let the Record Show… at the New Museum, quotes were cast in concrete under the photograph of the irresponsible speaker:

 

“The logical outcome of testing is a quarantine of those infected.”

Jesse Helms, U.S. Senator

“It is patriotic to have the AIDS test and be negative.”

Cory Servass, Presidential AIDS Commission

“We used to hate faggots on an emotional basis. Now we have a good reason.”

Anonymous Surgeon

“AIDS is God’s judgment of a society that does not live by His rules.”

Jerry Falwell, Televangelist

“Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm to protect common needle users, and on the buttocks to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.”

William F. Buckley, Columnist

” …”

Ronald Reagan, President of the United States

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995) 'Let the Record Show…' (detail) 1987/recreated 2015

 

ACT UP NY/Gran Fury (active New York, New York, 1987-1995)
Let the Record Show… (detail)
1987/recreated 2015
Mixed media installation, dimensions variable
Courtesy of Gran Fury and the New Museum, New York
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

Carrie Yamaoka (Born Glen Cove, New York, 1957) 'Steal This Book #2' 1991

 

Carrie Yamaoka (American, born Glen Cove, New York, 1957)
Steal This Book #2
1991
Unique chemically altered gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Carrie Yamaoka takes inspiration from Abbie Hoffman’s iconic Steal This Book, a counterculture manual for social revolution. By photographing a page spread and then obliterating all of the words except “slaughter” and “history,” Yamaoka rejects any passive understanding of history. As an activist and artist, Yamaoka will use any means necessary to affect change. Steal This Book #2 may be considered as referring to Yamaoka’s experience as an AIDS activist and her desire to reshape our understanding of our relations with HIV.

 

Jerome Caja (Born Cleveland, Ohio, 1958; Died San Francisco, California, 1995) 'Bozo Fucks Death' 1988

 

Jerome Caja (American, 1958-1995)
Bozo Fucks Death
1988
Nail polish on plastic tray
Collection of Ed Frank and Sarah Ratchye

 

 

One of Jerome Caja’s alter egos was the clown Bozo. Here Caja aggressively turns the tables on death and seeks to gain some control and power over the inevitable, even if only a transgressive, psychological fantasy.

 

Niki de Saint Phalle (born 1930, died 2002) 'AIDS, you can't catch it holding hands' 1987

 

Niki de Saint Phalle (French-American, 1930-2002)
AIDS, you can’t catch it holding hands
1987
Book, 52 pages 8 × 10 inches
The Lapis Press, San Francisco
© 2015 Niki Charitable Art Foundation, All rights reserved / ARS, NY / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Working with collaborator Professor Silvio Barandun, Niki de Saint Phalle wrote and illustrated AIDS: You Can’t Catch It Holding Hands for young adults. Using her characteristically colourful and joyous style, de Saint Phalle offers unusually straightforward information about the transmission of HIV from unprotected sex and unclean needles in intravenous drug use. She also uses the same frank approach to assuring her readers that casual contact from flowers, doorknobs, and toilet seats does not transmit AIDS, notions that were not widely understood in the early years of the AIDS crisis.

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950) 'Untitled (In a Dream You Saw a Way To Survive and You Were Full of Joy)' 1983-85

 

Jenny Holzer (American, born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950)
Untitled (In a Dream You Saw a Way To Survive and You Were Full of Joy)
1983-85
Packaged latex condoms with printed text, each is 2 x 2 inches
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Anonymous gift, 2001

 

Jenny Holzer (Born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950) 'Untitled (Expiring for Love Is Beautiful but Stupid)' 1983-85

 

Jenny Holzer (American, born Gallipolis, Ohio, 1950)
Untitled (Expiring for Love Is Beautiful but Stupid)
1983-85
Packaged latex condoms with printed text, each is 2 x 2 inches
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Anonymous gift, 2001

 

 

Art AIDS America aims to abolish the silence about the pervasive presence of HIV/AIDS in American art and open meaningful and respectful dialogues about our experiences with the ongoing epidemic. For too long, we have considered art about AIDS as a tragic, closed chapter in the history of American art. This exhibition demonstrates the deep and continued impact of the AIDS crisis on American art from the early 1980s and continuing to today.

For more than thirty years, artists have actively responded with exquisite sensitivity to HIV/AIDS. They have adopted a broad spectrum of styles and messages from politically activist to quietly mournful art that nonetheless thrums with political content. Through poignant portraits, some artists brought much needed attention to personal suffering and loss from the AIDS crisis. Others employed abstraction and coded imagery to reveal the social and political factors that exacerbated the spread of HIV/AIDS. Artists also widely appropriated various art historical traditions to speak about the devastating impact of the epidemic. Art AIDS America offers an overview of how these various approaches redirected the course of American art from postmodern “art for art’s sake” formulas to art practice that highlights the personal experience and expertise of the artist.

Since the first reports of mysterious illnesses in the early 1980s, HIV and AIDS have touched nearly every American in some way, and operated as an undeniable (though often unacknowledged) force in shaping politics, medicine, and culture. Art AIDS America presents the full spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful. HIV and AIDS are not just past-tense problems. As we persist in the struggle with HIV/AIDS, these artworks remind us of humanity’s resilience, responsibility, and history. The legacy of the AIDS crisis and our new relationships with the virus continue to inform contemporary art and American culture.

Text from the Tacoma Art Museum website

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990) 'Apocalypse I' 1988

 

Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Apocalypse I
1988
From the series Apocalypse, 1988
Silkscreen, Edition of 90
Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation

 

 

In their first collaboration, Keith Haring illustrated William S. Burroughs’ dystopic poem Apocalypse by mixing references to advertising, art history, and Catholic theology. Haring included his “devil sperm,” the black, horned symbol he created to give shape to HIV and its reign of death and terror.

Burroughs introduced the chaos unfolding:

“The final Apocalypse is when every man sees what he sees, feels what he feels, and hears what he hears. The creatures of all your dreams and nightmares are right here, right now, solid as they ever were or ever will be, electric vitality of careening subways faster faster faster stations flash by in a blur.”

 

Keith Haring (Born Reading, Pennsylvania, 1958; Died New York, New York, 1990) 'Apocalypse III' 1988

 

Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Apocalypse III
1988
From the series Apocalypse, 1988
Silkscreen, Edition of 90
Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation

 

 

Grassroots Activism

Artists provided the early warnings of the AIDS crisis with their artworks deployed at the street level. Posters, stickers, T-shirts and other projects made it impossible to ignore messages about AIDS. These activist artists were informed by earlier precedents of feminist art and artists working on issues of identity politics. Communities coalesced around the calls to action.

The most prominent group to address the AIDS crisis was the anonymous artist collective Gran Fury in New York, a committee of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). The collective used techniques and ideas from advertising, marketing, and the art world to raise awareness and affect political change. Their bold graphic style and refined text continues to influence politically-themed art.

Gran Fury and other activists changed how Americans thought about AIDS. The political and social pressure instigated by their actions and artworks played important roles in changing the approval process for AIDS drugs and treatment protocols. Women’s health issues were brought to the forefront. As a result, American society positively changed their opinions about HIV/AIDS when they had correct information.

 

Memento Mori

The AIDS crisis compelled contemporary American artists to address death with urgency. Artists witnessed a plague sweep through their communities and wipe out their friends, colleagues, and lovers. They used art to express their rage and terror when AIDS had no effective treatment. Their artwork provided a vitally important way to mourn their losses and share their sorrow.

Artists looked back to European and American artistic traditions of memento mori, Latin for “Remember that you must die,” to share their experiences, feelings, and stories. They adapted symbols like skulls and flowers to depict the fragility and fleeting nature of life.

Artists in this section shifted the intent of memento mori away from concepts of death and the afterlife. They refocused on the preciousness and precariousness of life, without forgetting the political and social realities behind the massive wave of death. Nayland Blake’s clock marks the passing of so many individuals with a call to action. David Wojnarowicz rages against the senseless death of Peter Hujar. Bill Jacobson and Karen Finley give form to the fragility of memory. Latino folk traditions connect the living and the dead in the paintings of Tino Rodriguez and Thomas Woodruff.

 

Poetic Postmodernism

In the early 1980s, American art was dominated by a new, postmodern theory. It held that meaning belongs not to the artist who made the work but to their audiences who interpret the works. Called “the death of the author,” the theory was named after a 1967 essay by the French postmodernist thinker Roland Barthes.

As AIDS actually caused the death of thousands of authors and artists by the late 1980s, this metaphor became a terrifying reality. At the same time, a powerful Christian conservative movement aggressively politicised AIDS. Using homophobia and fear of the disease, these politicians passed Federal laws that made it illegal to “promote, encourage, or condone homosexual sexual activities or the intravenous use of illegal drugs” in an AIDS awareness and education bill.

The ramifications for artists and art exhibitions were equally prohibitive. Federal laws were passed that made it impossible for museums to receive government support if an exhibition included obscene content, which was understood to mean gay themes among others, including AIDS-specific art. In this climate, artists knew that overt political content would result in censorship. So they developed a new way to smuggle political meaning into art.

In his research for Art AIDS America, Jonathan David Katz named this new approach “poetic postmodernism.” Artists used the postmodern theory “death of the author” to camouflage their own personal, expressive meanings. Many of the works in this exhibition have the same title format, the word “untitled” followed by a more specific description in parentheses such as in “Untitled” (Water), Untitled (Hujar Dead), or Untitled (Corrupt HIV Activism). The first term, “untitled,” signals the prevailing postmodernist idea that all meanings come from the audience. But the phrase inside the parentheses reveals clues to the artist’s associations and intentions. Because recognition of AIDS content was a product of the viewer’s thought and not the artist’s explicit claim, such works could be shown in museums without fear of being censored under the new laws.

 

Andres Serrano (Born New York, New York, 1950) 'Milk/Blood' 1989, printed 2015

 

Andres Serrano (American, born New York, New York, 1950)
Milk/Blood
1989, printed 2015
Chromogenic colour print
Exhibition print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Milk/Blood recall the pure, flat colour of hard edged abstract painters such as Ellsworth Kelly. But the simple saturated color fields in Serrano’s photograph bear the evocative title Milk/Blood, the two main body fluids that transmit HIV. Serrano appropriates the formal language of modernism for political purposes, a means of potentially slipping AIDS consciousness into a museum context without fear of exclusion or censure. As with HIV infection itself, the photograph underscores how our key sense, vision, is unreliable in the face of AIDS.

 

Andres Serrano (born 1950) 'Blood and Semen III' 1990

 

Andres Serrano (American, born New York, New York, 1950)
Blood and Semen III
1990
Chromogenic colour print, edition 1 of 4
40 × 60 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

 

Like his Milk/Blood in this exhibition, Blood and Semen III also appears to be a rigorously formal composition, this time evoking the gestural appearance of an abstract expressionist painting. Again, the title references two body fluids that transmit HIV. As examples of poetic postmodernism, Serrano activates meaning in Blood and Semen III and Milk/Blood using formal arrangements and references to earlier artistic styles to inform his photographs with personal and potentially political content.

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957) 'Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)' 1998

 

Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)
Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)
1998
Ektacolor photograph, edition 1 of 3
32 × 38¾ inches
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

Shimon Attie (born 1957) 'Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.)' (detail) 1998

 

Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)
Untitled Memory (projection of Axel H.) (detail)
1998
Ektacolor photograph, edition 1 of 3
32 × 38¾ inches
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

 

After an extensive period working in Europe memorialising the Holocaust, Shimon Attie returned to San Francisco in 1996 and began his series Untitled Memory. Attie projected old photographs of his friends and lovers onto places with special meaning to him, including this room of a former apartment. His photographs of these projections became personal studies of loss and melancholy.

 

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) 'Untitled (Hujar Dead)' 1988-89

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Untitled (Hujar Dead)
1988-89
Black and white photograph, acrylic, text and collage on Massonite
Collect of Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol
Courtesy Second Ward Foundation

 

 

Wojnarowicz was briefly lovers with and then became a close friend of the famous photographer Peter Hujar, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1987. Untitled (Hujar Dead) incorporates still images from a film by Wojnarowicz of Hujar’s lifeless body on his hospital bed. Wojnarowicz then overprinted the text of one of his famous “rants.” In these politically-charged performances and texts, he laid blame for the AIDS crisis squarely on the conservative right-wing demagogues who politicised the disease and continually spewed homophobic rhetoric which only exacerbated the crisis.

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965) 'Eternal Lovers' 2010

 

Tino Rodriguez (Mexican-American, born Guadalajara, Mexico, 1965)
Eternal Lovers
2010
Oil on wood
Private collection

 

Tino Rodriguez (Born Ciudad ObregoÅLn, Sonora, Mexico, 1965) 'Eternal Lovers' 2010 (detail)

 

Tino Rodriguez (Mexican-American, born Guadalajara, Mexico, 1965)
Eternal Lovers (detail)
2010
Oil on wood
Private collection

 

 

Tino Rodriguez’s Eternal Lovers incorporates aspects of his Mexican heritage, and especially the tradition of skull imagery from Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. This family-oriented celebration of ancestors brings the living and dead into affectionate proximity. Rodriguez here exuberantly conflates familiar American oppositions such as death and life, growth and decay, and even good and evil. Inherently androgynous, the gender of the skulls remains unknown as does their cause of death. But as in the Dia de los Muertos celebration itself, Rodriguez’s image supplants horror with humour and loss with presence, offering the triumph of love and memory over death in the age of AIDS.

 

David Wojnarowicz (Born Red Bank, New Jersey, 1954; Died New York, New York, 1992) 'Untitled (Buffalo)' 1988-89

 

David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954-1992)
Untitled (Buffalo)
1988-89
Vintage gelatin silver print, signed on verso
Collection of Michael Sodomick

 

 

For Untitled (Buffalo), David Wojnarowicz simply photographed a diorama in a museum in Washington, DC. This image of buffalo being herded off a cliff served as a chilling metaphor of the politics of AIDS in the US in the late 1980s. Rather than an illustration of traditional Native American hunting techniques, Wojnarowicz eloquently expressed his rage, desperation, and helplessness through the great symbol of American identity. His shifting and layering of meaning onto this symbol is a classic example of poetic postmodernism.

One example of how artists hid their message is David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (Buffalo). It’s a diorama of a buffalo fall, a traditional method of harvesting large numbers of buffalo by chasing herds off cliffs. The buffalo are made from plastic. Wojnarowicz photographed the diorama and cropped it. “This is appropriation,” Hushka said. “He used it as this extraordinarily eloquent cry about the state of American politics at the time.” Katz added, “It’s telling that even an artist of Wojnarowicz’s activist fervour engaged in a metaphor that only cohered in the mind’s eye. You needed to be attentive to what it might be saying to read it. There’s nothing specifically AIDS about it.”

 

Spiritual Forces

Because of the overwhelming number of deaths, the unspeakable losses, and the constant presence of disease, it should not be surprising that artists also turned to issues of spirituality. Yet, the art history of AIDS often neglects this important aspect. Across the United States, faith communities tended to the spiritual needs of people with AIDS and provided critical services for them. These communities continue to support people living with HIV.

The AIDS crisis exposed deep division within many spiritual traditions. Artists such as Jerome Caja, Robert Gober, and Barbara Kruger expressed discomfort and displeasure in how some religious ideologies oppressed gays and lesbians and worsened the AIDS crisis. Others made inspiring works within long-established traditions like Keith Haring’s altar piece. In other artworks, artists created symbols for the dignity of people suffering from AIDS, ranging from Christian saints and Biblical texts to imagery inspired by Buddhism and healing traditions from India.

 

Keith Haring (born 1958, died 1990) 'Altar Piece' 1990 (cast 1996)

 

Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Altar Piece
1990 (cast 1996)
Bronze with white gold leaf patina, edition 2 of 9
60 × 81 x 2 inches
Denver Art Museum, Gift of Yoko Ono, 1996.204A-C.
© Keith Haring Foundation
Photo © Denver Art Museum

 

 

This altar piece by Keith Haring is the last work the artist completed. He worked on the wax mould while he was hospitalised for AIDS-related illnesses. The triptych format echoes traditional Roman Catholic altar pieces. The image of the crying mother holding an infant speaks to the inconsolable losses from AIDS. The mother’s tears fall on the crowds, seeking solace and mercy from the AIDS epidemic.

 

Barbara Kruger (Born Newark, New Jersey, 1945) 'Untitled (It's our pleasure to disgust you)' 1991

 

Barbara Kruger (American, born Newark, New Jersey, 1945)
Untitled (It’s our pleasure to disgust you)
1991
Photographic silkscreen on vinyl
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Gift of Eric and Nannette Brill

 

 

Despite provocative imagery and text, Barbara Kruger intends no specific meaning to her artworks. Rather, Kruger wants to demonstrate how the reader generates meaning each time the text is read. She activates ambiguity and political charge with the phrase “It’s our pleasure to disgust you.” Kruger underscores the gulf between and image and its possible meanings, an issue brought into high relief in the culture wars promoted by religious conservatives, during the period when this work was made.

The work may be interpreted as evidence that artists like Kruger were deliberately insensitive to cultural norms. Alternatively, it could be read as proof that artworks were deliberately manipulated for political purpose by others. Because AIDS was framed in political terms from its earliest moment, Kruger’s Untitled (It’s our pleasure to disgust you) reflects the complexity and deliberate uses of language about AIDS.

 

Robert Gober (Born Wallingford, Connecticut, 1954) 'Drains' 1990

 

Robert Gober (American, born Wallingford, Connecticut, 1954)
Drains
1990
Cast pewter Edition of 8, with 2 artist’s proofs, artist’s proof 1 of 2
Collection of the artist

 

 

Robert Gober’s Drains is meticulously handcrafted to resemble a mass-produced consumer good. Because we think about drains primarily as a tool to remove waste often associated with personal hygiene and cleaning, connections to HIV/AIDS are obvious. By placing the sculpture in an unexpected position on a gallery wall, Gober seeks to generate unanswerable, metaphorical questions about the functions of a drain and the unknown space behind it. The cruciform shape at the back of the drain recalls his childhood and his complicated relationship with Catholicism.

 

Izhar Patkin (Born Haifa, Israel, 1955) 'Unveiling of a Modern Chastity' 1981

 

Izhar Patkin (American born Israel, b. 1955)
Unveiling of a Modern Chastity
1981
Rubber paste, latex theatrical wounds, and
printing ink on a stretched linen canvas
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Izhar Patkin painted Unveiling of a Modern Chastity one year before there was any public announcement about a new disease striking formerly healthy young men. This is the earliest work in the exhibition, and, in retrospect, one of the earliest AIDS paintings ever. Troubled by the sight of a group of such young men with similar dark purple skin lesions waiting in his dermatologist’s office, he presciently titled the work to reflect what he felt might be a forthcoming change in sexual culture. The painting’s skin-like surface erupts in what looks like Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions.

Patkin’s heavily textured surface and use of artificial wounds was his effort to destroy minimalism and other traditions of pure abstraction. He wanted to expose the inability of modernist art to contain pressing social and contextual significance.

DID YOU KNOW? The Centers for Disease Control issued its first statement about a cluster of 19 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer most common in elderly men from southern Italy) and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in young, gay men in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in July 1981.

 

Albert J. Winn (born 1947, died 2014) 'Akedah' 1995

 

Albert J. Winn (American, 1947-2014)
Akedah
1995
Gelatin silver print
171/2 × 21 ¾ inches
Courtesy of Scott R. Portnoff
Photo courtesy of the Estate of Albert J. Winn

 

 

In the artist’s own words: “Every month, because of my illness, I need to undergo a blood test. During the process, a tourniquet is bound tightly about my upper arm. At times when I’ve been on a study protocol for an experimental medicine, I’ve had my blood drawn every day. Having my blood drawn has become a ritual in what sometimes seems is a new religious practice, an AIDS ritual.

“Over time, I’ve transformed this ritual in relation to my Judaism. I wonder if like Isaac, I am being sacrificed. This time to science. I pray that an angel will intercede and spare my life. When my arm is bound with a tourniquet and the veins bulge, I am reminded that I am bound to my illness. I look at the rubber strap and see tefillin. Sometimes the impression of the leather straps from the tefillin are still visible on my skin by the time the tourniquet is wrapped around my arm. The binding of the tefillin is a reminder of being bound to my heritage. The straps also make my veins bulge. Except for the needle stick the binding feels the same.”

 

 

Art AIDS America at the Tacoma Art Museum

Politics, sex, religion, loss, and beauty – all of the topics that you can’t talk about over dinner but can at a museum – are open for discussion in Art AIDS America, an exhibition that reveals for the first time how the AIDS crisis forever changed American art. Since the first reports of mysterious illnesses in the early 1980s, HIV and AIDS have touched nearly every American in some way, and operated as an undeniable (though often unacknowledged) force in shaping politics, medicine, and culture. Art AIDS America presents the full spectrum of artistic responses to AIDS, from the politically outspoken to the quietly mournful.

Art AIDS America is a story of resilience and beauty revealed through art, and the community that gathered to bring hope and change. While recognising and honouring loss and grief, it refutes the narrative that AIDS is only a tragic tangent in American art, exploring how artists’ responses to the crisis and its legacy continue to inform contemporary American art. These artworks offer a vibrant representation of community, caring, creativity and activism. And, Art AIDS America will serve as a vivid reminder that the crisis is not over; HIV infections are increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV.

A decade in the making, this exhibition is co-curated by TAM’s Chief Curator, Rock Hushka, and Jonathan D. Katz, PhD, Director, Visual Studies Doctoral Program, University at Buffalo.

“AIDS fundamentally changed American art, remaking its communicative strategies, its market, its emotional pitch and – not least – its political possibilities. But we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in the making of contemporary American culture, as we’ve repressed the role of AIDS in every other aspect of our lives. This exhibition underscores how powerfully a plague that is still with us has changed us,” says Katz. “Art AIDS America creates spaces for mourning and loss, yes, but also for anger and for joy, for political resistance and for humor, for horror, and for eroticism.”

The exhibition assembles 125 significant works in a wide range of media. The artists are diverse, including the internationally acclaimed such as Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Martin Wong, and those not yet as widely celebrated such as Luis Cruz Azaceta, Chloe Dzubilo, Derek Jackson, Kia Labeija, and Joey Terrill. The works date from 1981 to today, and some, like Catherine Opie’s photographs of the 1986 AIDS/ARC vigil in San Francisco, will be on public view for the first time.

“Art reflects and reacts to social, cultural, and political climates, and in the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS has been a constant presence,” says Hushka. “So many of us recall friends, family, and partners we have lost and the terror of the early years of the crisis, while younger people are just learning this story. We seek to create a deeper understanding of the legacy of HIV/AIDS in contemporary American art, and encourage our visitors to see their experiences in these works.”

Works in the exhibition will generally fall into two categories: art with a clear tie to AIDS, and art that requires the viewer to look beyond the surface to understand its connection to HIV/AIDS. Some artists addressed the AIDS crisis through activist works, community projects, graphics, and direct political statements. For example, the collective ACT UP NY/Gran Fury’s installation Let the Record Show… sears the words of public officials whose actions inflamed the crisis, including the silence of President Ronald Reagan, who would not speak publicly about AIDS until 1987. Other artists use camouflage, coding, misdirection, symbols, or other covert strategies to address the social, political, and physical impacts of HIV. An example is Robert Sherer’s beautifully rendered Sweet Williams, a basket of cut flowers, painted in HIV-negative and HIV-positive blood, about the untimely deaths of so many young men. The exhibition will be organised roughly by works created pre- and post-cocktail (in this case, ‘cocktail’ refers to the combination of drugs and therapies used to manage HIV and prevent the development of AIDS).

“Tacoma Art Museum is a safe space where people are able to address important and challenging issues. We are proud to present Art AIDS America. It is fitting that the exhibition debuts in Tacoma, the city that established the nation’s first government-sanctioned needle exchange program in a proactive approach toward controlling the spread of AIDS,” said Stephanie Stebich, TAM’s Executive Director. “TAM also has the scholarship to support this exhibition through our chief curator Rock Hushka and the exhibition’s co-curator Dr. Jonathan D. Katz, who also co-curated the award-winning Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, which we brought to TAM in 2012.”

The Art AIDS America catalogue is a significant component of the exhibition, with 15 contributors, nearly 300 pages, and more than 200 illustrations. It is published in association with the University of Washington Press of Seattle and London and designed by Marquand Books, Seattle. Art AIDS America is organised by TAM in partnership with the Bronx Museum of the Arts and will tour nationally. See it first at TAM, on view October 3, 2015 through January 10, 2016. The exhibition will then travel to Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, GA; and The Bronx Museum of the Arts, NY.

Press release from the Tacoma Art Museum website

 

Bill Jacobson (born 1955) 'Interim Portrait #373' 1992

 

Bill Jacobson (American, b. 1955)
Interim Portrait #373
1992
Chromogenic colour print
24 × 20 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

 

Alon Reininger (Born Tel Aviv, Israel, 1947) 'Ken Meeks, PWA' 1985

 

Alon Reininger (American born Tel Aviv, Israel, 1947)
Ken Meeks, PWA
1985
Archival pigment print
Courtesy of Contact Press Images, New York

 

Mark I. Chester (Born Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1950) 'Robert Chesley - ks portraits with harddick & superman spandex, #1–#6' 1989, printed 2015

 

Mark I. Chester (American, born Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1950)
Robert Chesley – ks portraits with harddick & superman spandex, #1-#6
from the series Diary of a Thought Criminal
1989, printed 2015
Pigment print
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Mark I. Chester gives us the first portrait of a sexually active person with AIDS. Robert Chesley (1943-1990) was a playwright, theatre critic for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and music composer. Perhaps his most celebrated play was Jerker, or The Helping Hand: A Pornographic Elegy with Redeeming Social Value and a Hymn to the Queer Men of San Francisco in Twenty Telephone Calls, Many of Them Dirty. At a time when many gay men had come to associate their own sexuality with death, the artist showed Chesley as a vibrant, active person with AIDS, intended as a rebuke to the routine AIDS portraits of mortally ill people. With this series, Chester rewrote the late-1980s codes for representing gay male sexuality from sexlessness and death towards a renewed embrace of life and its pleasure.

 

Steven Miller (Born Tucson, Arizona, 1968) 'Robert' from the series 'Milky' 2004

 

Steven Miller (American, born Tucson, Arizona, 1968)
Robert from the series Milky
2004
Inkjet print
Edition 2 of 10
Tacoma Art Museum, Museum purchase with funds from Curtis Man

 

 

For his series Milky, photographer Steven Miller asked his friends if he could photograph them as he poured milk over their heads. These portraits capture the different reactions to the sensation and convey a sense of discomfort from being drenched by fluids like milk. Miller likens these two aspects to a symbolic infection of HIV. For many gay artists of his generation, HIV looms as a constant presence, and body fluids remain deeply ingrained as transmitters of the virus.

 

 

Portraiture

Artists used portraits to directly convey the devastating effects of the crisis on individuals. Even if we do not know the subject, portraits remind us that someone we know was likely affected by AIDS. Because the science about the retrovirus was new and extremely complicated and frightening, such portraits humanised the disease so it could be understood through personal stories.

Early portraits brought attention to the physical symptoms of AIDS such as the deep purple lesions of the skin cancer Kaposi’s sarcoma and the devastating weakness caused by AIDS-related wasting syndrome. Artists soon refocused on portraits of defiant individuals living with HIV. Refusing to show people as victims of an incurable disease, these portraits depicted fighters and survivors.

From pure abstract representations to straightforward photographic likenesses, portraits continue to illuminate how individuals respond to and overcome even the most complex aspects of HIV/AIDS such as stigma, racism, sexism, and poverty.

 

The Legacy of the AIDS Crisis

HIV is no longer an immediate life-or-death issue facing American artists, but one that quietly and continually persists in intriguing ways. The legacy of the AIDS crisis can be traced either through the motifs and influences of earlier artists or by understanding the psychological trauma and challenges that result from living in a world with HIV.

Artworks made after antiretroviral medicines became available in the mid-1990s beg the questions: If HIV is undetectable in a body and all but invisible in society, why should visibility in art be any different? How do you identify HIV if an artist is unwilling to speak about it but doesn’t live a moment of his or her intimate life without being aware of its near-certain presence?

Artists such as John Arsenault, Kalup Linzy, Patte Loper, and Donald Moffett bring their personal histories as activists and care givers into their artwork. They also use their art to express the discomfort and complexities of living in a world with the constant presence of HIV.

Works of art should be read with empathy and compassion to understand the fullness and richness of the artist’s experience. We need to remind ourselves of the stresses, anxieties, fears, and realities caused by the burden of HIV. To honor these artists’ experiences, we must insist that HIV inform at least part of the meaning of their work. This will ensure an understanding of their art as part of an art history of deep social engagement and connection.

 

Julie Tolentino (Born San Francisco, California, 1964) 'THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey's Self-Obliteration #1' 2008

 

Julie Tolentino (American, born San Francisco, California, 1964)
THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey’s Self-Obliteration #1
2008
Chromogenic color print
Edition 1 of 5
Documentation courtesy of Leon Mostovoy
Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles

 

 

These three photographs capture moments in the archival performance of THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME: Tolentino Archives Ron Athey’s Self-Obliteration #1.

Section 1 (left): The work begins with Athey’s solo performance of Self-Obliteration #1 while Tolentino, from a nearby platform, aims to capture his performance movements and affect (a reading of tones, gestures, and movements) as an archival action.

This work involves a long blond wig pierced onto the scalp with hidden needles. The needles are removed, causing blood to stream and pool onto two panes of glass. Ultimately, these glass pieces are positioned to encase the individual body.

Section 2 (center and right): Tolentino and Athey “repeat” his performance, a true impossibility in the live form – displaying a disrupted mirroring of the other.

Like a low current running throughout the work, THE SKY REMAINS THE SAME‘s tension opens to the spectator’s subjectivity. A range of issues are activated: Athey’s openly HIV positive status; the actions performed on a differently-gendered person of colour; and the intimate act of bleeding. This becomes entangled with Tolentino’s practice, history of activism and advocacy, caregiving and artist-to-artist relations as a living archive.

 

Catherine Opie (Born Sandusky, Ohio, 1961) 'Ron Athey/The Sick Man (from Deliverance)' 2000

 

Catherine Opie (American, born Sandusky, Ohio, 1961)
Ron Athey/The Sick Man (from Deliverance)
2000
Polaroid
Private collection

 

 

This work by Catherine Opie, taken with the world’s largest polaroid camera, was made in collaboration with the performance artist Ron Athey. Athey achieved both fame and censure as an HIV positive performance artist whose work involved physical and psychic trials, along with, on occasion, blood.

Clearly a response to AIDS, the pose of Ron Athey/The Sick Man recalls the traditional iconography of the Pieta, in which the Virgin Mary supports the body of the dead Christ. Athey is held by his performance partner Darryl Carlton (a.k.a. Divinity Fudge), two heavily tattooed men in place of the holy family. The implications of self-sacrifice and transcendence through pain and suffering animate both the original scene and this more contemporary incarnation. Opie situated the figures in a beautiful, richly saturated black space. She offers a contemporary allegory of the excluded sufferer whose exile and death can be laid at the feet of those who consider themselves pious.

 

Eric Rhein (Born Cincinnati, Ohio, 1961) 'Life Altering Spencer from Leaves' 2013

 

Eric Rhein (American, born Cincinnati, Ohio, 1961)
Life Altering Spencer from Leaves
2013
Wire and paper
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
Purchased as the gift of Louis Wiley, Jr. (PA 1963) in Memory of Paul Monette (PA 1963) and his partner Roger Horwitz

 

 

Eric Rhein began The Leaf Project in 1996 to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS and chose to memorialise his friends who had died of AIDS-related causes. He selected the leaf motif to honour the individuality of each person, while also evoking the countless leaves shed by trees in autumn. Life Altering Spencer honours AIDS activist Spencer Cox (1968-2012), a member of ACT UP, Treatment Action Group, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Anti-Viral Advisory Committee. In this capacity, Cox and others became experts on drug trials and approval, successfully lobbying to hasten the approval time for new HIV medications. Cox and his group thus changed the course of medicine in America – the first non-physicians to do so – and, not coincidentally, these new treatments saved the life of artist Eric Rhein.

 

fierce pussy (formed New York, New York, 1991) 'For the Record' 2013

 

fierce pussy (formed New York, New York, 1991)
For the Record
2013
Two offset prints on newsprint, two panels, installed: 22⅝ x 70 inches
Courtesy of the artists
Photo courtesy of the artists

 

 

The collaborative group fierce pussy created this work for the organisation Visual AIDS in New York City. Playing off Gran Fury’s 1987 Let the Record Show… and evoking postmodern text based art, fierce pussy asks that we remember the thousands of people who died of HIV-related causes before antiretroviral drugs became available to control the virus. They insist that we continue the work to end HIV/AIDS despite these new drugs.

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950) Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota 'More Time Expected' 2002

 

Thomas Haukaas (American, b. 1950)
Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota
More Time Expected
2002
Handmade ink and pencil on antique ledger paper, 161/2 x 271/2 inches
Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom in honour of Rock Hushka, 2008.10
Photo by Richard Nicol
© TAM

 

Thomas Haukaas (born 1950) Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota 'More Time Expected' 2002 (detail)

 

Thomas Haukaas (American, b. 1950)
Tribal Affiliation: Sicangu Lakota
More Time Expected (detail)
2002
Handmade ink and pencil on antique ledger paper, 161/2 x 271/2 inches
Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Greg Kucera and Larry Yocom in honour of Rock Hushka, 2008.10
Photo by Richard Nicol
© TAM

 

 

The horse with no rider at the centre of the composition represents individuals on the reservation who have died of AIDS-related causes. Using the 19th-century tradition of ledger drawing, with a riderless horse as symbolic of a warrior who fell in battle, Haukaas weaves together the complicated issues of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and the Native American experience with the disease.

 

Robert Sherer (Born Jasper, Alabama, 1957) 'Sweet Williams' 2013

 

Robert Sherer (American, born Jasper, Alabama, 1957)
Sweet Williams
2013
HIV- and HIV+ blood on paper
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The title Sweet Williams comes from Robert Sherer’s childhood. His grandmother, an avid gardener, often asked him to help gather flowers from her garden and instructed, “Now, honey, cut down the most beautiful ones first.” Upon reflection, Sherer realised that AIDS was deeply correlated to beauty and sexual attraction. He remembers his many handsome friends and acquaintances who died too early – the Williams, the Billys, the Wills, the Willies – memorialising them in an image drawn in HIV negative and positive blood. Of all his colleague friends, two of whom were named William, only Sherer is still alive.

 

Joey Terrill (Born Los Angeles, California, 1955) 'Still-Life with Forget-Me-Nots and One Week's Dose of Truvada' 2012

 

Joey Terrill (American, born Los Angeles, California, 1955)
Still-Life with Forget-Me-Nots and One Week’s Dose of Truvada
2012
Mixed media on canvas
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Foundation purchase

 

 

Long-time Latino queer rights and AIDS activist Joey Terrill makes paintings that resemble the work of such well-known pop artists as Tom Wesselmann. Departing from Wesselmann’s 1960s pop still-life paintings, Terrill subverts the genre through his many queer references, not least the regular inclusion of the HIV medication Truvada. In these his appropriations of the American dream, Terrill shows himself to be a political activist – a role he has inhabited since the 1970s.

Terrill’s addition of the forget-me-nots at the centre of the composition pays homage to his artistic hero David Wojnarowicz. He also alludes to the daily routine of the antiviral medicine Truvada and pointedly questions why changes in the social and political realms have allowed this to be a normal part of so many people’s lives.

 

Derek Jackson (Born Boston, Massachusetts, 1972) 'Perfect Kiss' 2007

 

Derek Jackson (American, born Boston, Massachusetts, 1972)
Perfect Kiss
2007
Slideshow with found music and original still imagery
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Derek Jackson enacts a series of “hookups” in which his sexual activity should necessarily raise issues of HIV. Although not explicitly mentioned, HIV is evoked by the lyrics of his soundtrack. Jackson relies on New Order’s 1987 hit Perfect Kiss to equate unsafe sex with a suicide. The lyrics of the chorus plead with a suicidal friend, “I know, you know, you believe in a land of love.” Jackson’s hookups demonstrate how self-esteem, mutual respect, and communication are necessary to avoid becoming HIV positive.

 

LADZ (John Arsenault and Adrian Gilliland) John Arsenault, Born Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1971 Adrian Gilliland, Born Douglas, Arizona, 1980 'Eden #31' 2012

 

LADZ (John Arsenault and Adrian Gilliland)
John Arsenault, Born Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1971
Adrian Gilliland, Born Douglas, Arizona, 1980
Eden #31
2012
Chromogenic colour print
Courtesy of the artists

 

 

LADZ coined their name after a humorous autocorrect of “ladies” while texting on their smart phones. The artist group finds virtually abandoned industrial spaces where they enact elaborate scenarios reflecting the complexities of life in Los Angeles. The heightened sexual tension combined with the boxing gloves provides a glimpse into the daily navigation of sexual activity and HIV.

 

Kalup Linzy (Born Stuckey, Florida, 1977) 'Lollypop' 2006

 

Kalup Linzy (American, born Stuckey, Florida, 1977)
Lollypop
2006
Single-channel video
3 minutes, 24 seconds
Collection of Driek and Michael Zirinsky

 

 

Kalup Linzy and his friend, artist Shaun Leonardo, lip sync the 1933 Hunter & Jenkins tune. Laden with the sexual innuendo of the song’s lyrics, Linzy attempts to coax treats from Leonardo. The artist playfully raises issues of gender and performance.

Given the high rates of HIV infection of men of colour who have sex with men particularly in urban centres, a viewer should keep in mind that individuals like Linzy continually navigate HIV in all their sexual encounters. Unlike a generation ago, young men and women have come to have a different relationship with HIV and no longer fear the virus as a death sentence. Empathy toward their experiences is key to understanding how they cope and survive.

 

Deborah Kass (born 1952) 'Still Here' 2007

 

Deborah Kass (American, b. 1952)
Still Here
2007
Oil and acrylic on canvas
45 × 63 inches
Private collection
© 2015 Deborah Kass / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery

 

 

Deborah Kass painted Still Here as part of a group of paintings called Feel Good Paintings for Feel Bad Times, beginning in 2006. A response to the ongoing foreign wars and domestic political issues after the second election of George W. Bush, Kass underscored the gulf between the literal and metaphorical significance of the phrases she painted. Still Here comes from the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies in which a faded film star recalls how she persevered. The song opens “Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all, and, my dear, I’m still here.”

The sentiment of the song speaks to the resilience of the many people who lived through the AIDS crisis and those who continue the struggle against the virus and social injustice. Kass’s title may also recall Still/Here, a dance about perseverance, dying, and HIV by the HIV positive choreographer Bill T. Jones.

 

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

Kia Labeija (Born New York, New York, 1990) '24' 2014

 

Kia Labeija (American, born New York, New York, 1990)
24 (Mourning Sickness; Kia and Mommy; In my room)
2014
Inkjet prints
13 × 19 inches
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Artist and performer Kia Labeija was born HIV positive. She struggled with HIV throughout her childhood, including the side effects of the medications, the stigma associated with the disease, and the death of her mother. In her three photographs titled 24, she celebrates coming to terms with the disease and her new-found role as advocate and spokesperson for AIDS awareness. The title also commemorates her 24th birthday and her home on the 24th floor of a Manhattan apartment building.

 

 

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09
Feb
12

Text/Exhibition: “George Platt Lynes, Minor White and ‘The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors’ ” on the exhibition ‘HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture’ at the Brooklyn Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 18th November 2011 – 12th February 2012

 

Minor White. 'Tom Murphy (San Francisco)' 1948

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Tom Murphy (San Francisco)
1948
from The Temptation of St Anthony is Mirrors 1948
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in. (11.7 x 9.2 cm)
The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum Bequest of Minor White, MWA 48-136
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

 

“The possibility of using our bodies as a possible source of very numerous pleasures is something that is very important. For instance, if you look at the traditional construction of pleasure, you see that bodily pleasure, or pleasures of the flesh, are always drinking, eating and fucking. And that seems to be the limit of the understanding of our bodies, our pleasures ….

It is very interesting to note, for instance, that for centuries people generally, as well as doctors, psychiatrists, and even liberation movements, have always spoken about desire, and never about pleasure. “We have to liberate our desire,” they say. No! We have to create new pleasure. And then maybe desire will follow.” (My bold)

.
Michel Foucault 1

 

 

George Platt Lynes, Minor White and The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors

I had the great privilege of visiting The Minor White Archive at Princeton University while I was researching for my PhD. While there I studied the work cards and classic prints of the great photographer, paying particular attention to his photography of the male. What was a great surprise and delight to me were the presence of photographs of explicit sexual acts, men photographed with erections – images that have, to my knowledge, never been published. I don’t think that many people would even know that Minor White took such photographs. Although these images would have never been for public consumption it is still very unusual to find a classical photographer with such a public profile taking photographs of erect penises, especially in the 1940s!

Disturbed by having been in battle in the Second World War and seeing some of his best male friends killed, White’s early photographs of men (in their uniforms) depict the suffering and anguish that the mental and physical stress of war can cause. He was even more upset than most because he was battling his own inner sexual demons at the same time, his shame and disgust at being a homosexual and attracted to men, a difficulty compounded by his religious upbringing. In his photographs White both denied his attraction to men and expressed it. His photographs of the male body are suffused with both sexual mystery and a celebration of his sexuality despite his bouts of guilt. After the war he started to use the normal everyday bodies of his friends to form sequences of photographs, sometimes using the body as a metaphor for the landscape and vice versa. In the above photograph (Tom Murphy, left), based on a religious theme, we see a dismembered hairy body front on, the hands clutching and caressing the body, the lower hand hovering near the exposed genitalia, the upper hand cupping the breast. We see the agony and ecstasy of a homoerotic desire cloaked in a religious theme.

The image comes from the The Temptation of St Anthony is Mirrors (1948), four pages of which can be seen below. While at The Minor White Archive I looked at the only complete, undamaged book in existence. What an experience!

The book has a powerful and intense presence. It was beautifully sequenced as you would expect from Minor White and features photographs of Tom Murphy. There is a series of his hands over the back of a chair in different positions: hanging, curled, splayed, held slightly upwards, and these are paired with photographs of bare feet and turned up jeans, bare feet and rocks, and three other photographs of Tom Murphy. In an excellent paper Cruising and Transcendence in the Photographs of Minor White (Nd. Later published as an online-only feature accompanying Aperture magazine’s Spring 2015 issue, “Queer”), author Kevin Moore observes that the hand-bound volume with images paired on facing pages – “mirrors” to both one another and the artist – is a personal account as well as a meditation on the sins of the flesh.

“Temptation (which was never published or exhibited) begins with a sort of prologue, comprising a single full-length nude of Tom Murphy, White’s student and the model most commonly associated with his work. The pose is similar to those found in the beefcake pictures White was producing at this time: Murphy adopts a classical contrapposto stance and is entirely nude, his pale, wiry body positioned against a dark backdrop. A piece of driftwood at the model’s feet proposes a theme of innocence – man in his natural state. The sequence then moves to pairings of images describing man in his civilized state, featuring several loving close-ups of Murphy’s gesturing hands, a shot of his bare feet, and a single shoulder-length portrait, in which he wears a buttoned shirt and looks intently off to the side. Next, there is an interlude suggesting growing dissolution: an image of Murphy’s feet and a petrified stone is paired with a shot of Murphy in full dress slouched on a mass of rocks and staring vacantly off into the distance. The next pairing [images 9 and 10 below] accelerates the descent into temptation. Here, the pose in a second picture of Murphy’s feet suggests agitation, while a three-quarterlength portrait of Murphy, crouched in the bushes and looking back over his shoulder, is as emblematic an image of cruising as White ever produced. The photographs that follow descend further into lust and self-recrimination, conveyed through photographs in which Murphy’s naked body alternates between expressions of pain and pleasure. The sequence ends with a series of beatific nudes [images 27 and 28 below], which express redemption through nonsexual treatments of the body and in the body’s juxtaposition with natural forms – a return to nature.

White may have thought at first that the sequence format would help him transcend the limits of personal biography, that he could use the breadth and fluidity of the sequence to emphasize a universal narrative while exercising control over the potentially explosive and revealing content of individual images. This proved to be overly optimistic, at least in his earliest uses of the form. White’s colleagues, for example, immediately understood Temptation for what it really was: an agonized portrayal of White’s love for his male student.”

Moore goes on to conclude that White obsfucated his sexuality, displacing gay ‘cruising’ “by a universalized mystical searching – sexual longing setting in motion a heroic search” using photography as his medium, and that his photographs became a dreamscape, perhaps even a dream(e)scape: “in which meanings are obscured, not clarified; signs are effaced, not illuminated; beauty is closeted, not set out for all to see. White was attracted to the ambiguity of the dream because it offered cover and protection but also freedom to maneuver. The dream supported the irrational, maintained a sense of mystery, and beautified frustration.”

I have to disagree with Kevin Moore. Anyone who has seen The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors in the flesh (so to speak) can feel the absolute presence of these images, their reality, the connection between image and viewer. Maybe White was a Romantic but he was realistically romantic; his images are not dreamscapes, they offer multiple readings and contexts, insights into the human condition. Even though there was anguish and guilt present about his sexuality, channelled through his photography, anyone bold enough to take photographs of erections in 1940 has some ticker. It takes a clear eye and a courageous heart to do this, knowing what was at stake in this era of sexual repression. Beauty is not closeted here, unless I am looking at different images from Kevin Moore. In fact the magic of the photography of Minor White is his ability to modulate space, to modulate bodies so that they are beautiful, ambiguous and mystical whatever their context. Not everything in this world has to be in your face. Like a Glen Gould playing the Goldberg Variations revelation of beauty takes time, concentration and meditation.

Also, an overriding feeling when viewing the images was one of loneliness, sadness and anguish, for the bodies seemed to be observed and not partaken of, to be unavailable both physically and in a strange way, photographically. For a photographer who prided himself on revealing the spirit within, through photography, these are paradoxical photographs, visually accessible and mysteriously (un)revealing, photographs of a strange and wonderful ambivalence. Two great words: obsfucation, ambivalence. Clouded with mixed feelings and emotions, not necessarily anything to do with sexuality. Not everything has to be about sexuality. It is the difference between imbibing Freud or Jung – personally I prefer the more holistic, more inclusive, more spiritual Jung.

.
And so to the image of George Platt Lynes that I have paired with the nude of Tom Murphy (below).

Platt Lynes was another artist who struggled with is sexuality, but seemingly not to such an extent as Minor White did. GPL worked as a fashion photographer and had his own studio in New York where he photographed dancers, artists and celebrities among others. He undertook a series of mythological photographs on classical themes (which are amazing in composition and feature Surrealist motifs). Privately he photographed male nudes but was reluctant to show them in public for fear of the harm that they could do to his reputation and business with the fashion magazines. Generally his earlier male nude photographs concentrate on the idealised youthful body or ephebe.

As Lynes became more despondent with his career as a fashion photographer his private photographs of male nudes tended to take on a darker and sharper edge. After a period of residence in Hollywood he returned to New York nearly penniless. His style of photographing the male nude underwent a revision. While the photographs of his European colleagues still relied on the sun drenched bodies of young adolescent males evoking memories of classical beauty and the mythology of Ancient Greece the later nudes of Platt Lynes feature a mixture of youthful ephebes and heavier set bodies which appear to be more sexually knowing. The compositional style of dramatically lit photographs of muscular torsos of older men shot in close up (see photograph below for example) were possibly influenced by a number of things – his time in Hollywood with its images of handsome, swash-buckling movie stars with broad chests and magnificent physiques; the images of bodybuilders by physique photographers that George Platt Lynes visited; the fact that his lover George Tichenor had been killed during WWII; and the knowledge that he was penniless and had cancer. There is, I believe, a certain sadness but much inner strength in his later photographs of the male nude that harnesses the inherent sexual power embedded within their subject matter.

When undertaking research into GPL’s photographs at The Kinsey Institute as part of my PhD I noted that most of the photographs had annotations in code on the back of them giving details of age, sexual proclivities of models and what they are prepared to do and where they were found. This information gives a vital social context to GPL’s nude photographs of men and positions them within the moral and ethical framework of the era in which they were made. The strong image (below) is always quoted as an example of GPL’s more direct way of photographing the male nude in the last years of his life. The male is solid, imposing, lit from above, heavy set, powerful, massive. The eyes are almost totally in shadow. Later photos have more chiaroscuro than earlier work, more use of contrasting light (especially down lit or uplit figures) but are they more direct? Yes. The men look straight into camera.

This monumentality of body and form was matched by a new openness in the representation of sexuality. There are intimate photographs of men in what seem to be post-coital revere, in unmade beds, genitalia showing or face down showing their butts off. Some of the faces in these later photographs remain hidden, as though disclosure of identity would be detrimental for fear of persecution. The photograph above is very ‘in your face’ for the conservative time from which it emerges, remembering it was the era of witch hunts against communists and subversives (including homosexuals). Conversely, this photograph is quite restrained compared to the most striking series of GPL’s photographs that I saw at The Kinsey Institute which involves an exploration the male anal area (a photograph from the 1951 series can be found in the book titled ‘George Platt Lynes: Photographs from The Kinsey Institute’). This explicit series features other photographs of the same model – in particular one that depicts the male with his buttocks in the air pulling his arse cheeks apart. After Lynes found out he had cancer he started to send his photographs to the German homoerotic magazine Der Kries under the pseudonym Roberto Rolf, and in the last years of his life he experimented with paper negatives, which made his images of the male body even more grainy and mysterious.

I believe that Lynes understood, intimately, the different physical body types that gay men find desirable and used them in his photographs. He visited Lon of New York (a photographer of beefcake men) in his studio and purchased photographs of bodybuilders for himself, as did the German photographer George Hoyningen-Huene. It is likely that these images of bodybuilders did influence his later compositional style of images of men; it is also possible that he detected the emergence of this iconic male body type as a potent sexual symbol, one that that was becoming more visible and sexually available to gay men.

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The differences between the White and GPL nudes is instructive. White: introspective, haunted, religious with an unrequited sense of longing – hands clutching self, inward pointing; GPL: more closely cropped, more open, one hand firmly grasping but the other hand open, receptive, presented to the viewer above the available phallic organ. It reminds me for some unknown reason, some quirk of my brain association, of the shell of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1486) inverted. There is difference between the two artists – one struggling with his sexuality, being realistically romantic, the other physically doing something about it – posting his photographs to one of the first gay magazines in the world. But both were taking photographs of intimate sexual acts that could never have been published in their lifetimes – that are still are hidden from view today. When, oh when, will someone have the courage to publish this work?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

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

1. Gallagher, Bob and Wilson, Alexander. “Sex and the Politics of Identity: An Interview with Michel Foucault,” in Thompson, Mark. Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987, p.31.

 

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors' 1948

 

(top)
Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Images 9 and 10 in the bound sequence The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors
1948
9.3 x 11.8 cm; 11.2 x 9.1 cm

(bottom)
Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Images 27 and 28 in the bound sequence The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors
1948. 5.3 x 11.6 cm; 10.6 x 8.9 cm

 

 Minor White. 'Tom Murphy (San Francisco)' 1948  George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled' Nd

 

(left)
Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Tom Murphy (San Francisco)
1948
from The Temptation of St Anthony is Mirrors 1948
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in. (11.7 x 9.2 cm)

(right)
George Platt Lynes 
(American, 1907-1955)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Untitled (Frontal Male Nude)' Nd (early 1950s)

 

George Platt Lynes
Untitled (Fron