Posts Tagged ‘Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art

24
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Louise Lawler. Adjusted’ at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 11th October 2013 – 26th January 2014

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Complex and polyglot, conceptual and analytical, but simultaneously ironically light, elegiac, and unfathomable. Abstract, non-evaluative, impartial presentations and suggestive settings gazing toward the fringes of art. Strongly shaped by institutional critique, the works are casual (causal?) sociological commentaries reflecting on aesthetic, economic, and historical factors in art.

Apparently…

But do you like them?

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Marcus

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

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Lawler-this-drawing-is-for-sale-WEB

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Louise Lawler
Etude pour La Lecture, 1923, This Drawing is for Sale, Paris
1985
Gelatin silver print
39.5 x 59 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London

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Etude pour La Lecture, 1923, This Drawing is for Sale, Paris, 1985 is a gelatine silver print showing a corner in a Paris room. The image is a careful composition of vertical and horizontal lines made up by architectural features in the background and, in the foreground, a square-edged leather covered chair on the right and a group of framed artworks, stacked against the wall, on the left. A free-standing ashtray in the image centre firmly anchors the composition on its vertical-horizontal axis: its narrow metal tube stand creating a strong vertical line and the ashtray repeating the horizontal plane of the chair arm below it. One artwork is visible in its entirety: a drawing by Fernand Léger (1881-1955) showing two women, one standing and one reclining, both holding books. Propped on a much larger frame that is turned towards the wall, the image – Etude pour La Lecture, 1923 – reinforces the combination of horizontal and vertical elements in Lawler’s picture. Below it, a painting of an organic form, also by Léger (La Racine, 1934), is partially visible behind the arm of the chair. (Text from the Tate website)

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Louise Lawler (Holzer, Nadin and Other Artists) 'Baby Blue' 1981

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Louise Lawler
(Holzer, Nadin and Other Artists)
Baby Blue
1981
Cibachrome (museum box)
28 1/2 x 37 1/4 x 1 inches
72.40 x 94.60 x 2.50 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London

Top left: Edward Weston photographs of his son Neil Weston

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Louise Lawler. '16' 1985

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Louise Lawler
16
1985
Cibachrome (museum box)
27 x 39-5/8 inches
68.60 x 100.60 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London
Andy Warhol Artwork © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

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Louise Lawler. 'I-O (adjusted to fit)' 1993/98

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Louise Lawler
I-O (adjusted to fit)
1993/98
Cibachrome (museum box)
19 5/16 x 23 3/8 inches
49,10 x 59,40 cm (410.1)
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London
Andy Warhol Artwork © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

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Louise Lawler. 'Taking Place - Il m'aime, un peu, beaucoup, passionnément, à la folie, pas du tout' (He loves me, a little, a lot, passionately, madly, not at all) 2008/2009

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Louise Lawler
Taking Place – Il m’aime, un peu, beaucoup, passionnément, à la folie, pas du tout (He loves me, a little, a lot, passionately, madly, not at all)
2008/2009
Cibachrome face mounted to plexiglass on 2″ museum box
47 3/4 x 55 3/4 inches
121.30 x 141.60 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London

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Louise Lawler. 'Salon Hodler' 1992/1993

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Louise Lawler
Salon Hodler
1992/1993
Cibachrome
58 1/2 x 49 1/4 inches
148.60 x 125.10 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London

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Louise Lawler. 'Unsentimental' 1999/2000

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Louise Lawler
Unsentimental
1999/2000
Cibachrome
120.7 x 144.8 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London

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Louise Lawler. 'Pollock and Tureen (traced)' 1984/2013; Louise Lawler. 'Salon Hodler (traced)' 1992/1993/2013

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Louise Lawler
Pollock and Tureen (traced)
1984/2013
Bedruckte Folie / printed vinyl
Dimensions variable

Louise Lawler
Salon Hodler (traced)
1992/1993/2013
Bedruckte Folie / printed vinyl
Dimensions variable

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Louise Lawler. 'Hand On Her Back (traced)' 1997/1998

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Louise Lawler
Hand On Her Back (traced)
1997/1998/2013
Bedruckte Folie / printed vinyl
Dimensions variable

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“The Museum Ludwig is hosting the first comprehensive exhibition in Germany of the American Conceptual artist Louise Lawler (born 1947, lives and works in New York). The exhibition comprises around 80 works, which are positioned throughout the entire building, thus engendering surprising situations through their encounters with the Museum Ludwig’s permanent collection. In addition, a new series of ten “tracings” has been created for the show – outline drawings that are reminiscent of children’s coloring books and draw on earlier works by Lawler. Furthermore, the artist has agreed to create two new, large-format “stretches” for the Museum Ludwig. These are photos that she has printed out on self-adhesive vinyl film and whose proportions she tailors to the space in question – even if that means deforming the motifs. Lawler’s work has been featured in numerous international exhibitions, including Documenta 12, the Whitney Biennial 2008, and recently in a large overview at the Wexner Art Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Louise Lawler photographs works by other artists and captures them in their various contexts: in museums, in private collections, at auctions, or in storage. Her works illustrate just how much the meaning of art is influenced by how it is presented and by the attendant circumstances in the institutions where it is located. Her analytical and at times ironic approach is revealing, but by no means evaluative, such as when her view of an abstract work by Jackson Pollock correlates with the way she looks at a decorative soup tureen.

Louise Lawler, who embarked on her oeuvre in the late 1970s, belongs to the broader field of the “Pictures Generation,” which also includes Sherrie Levine, Jack Goldstein, Richard Prince, and Cindy Sherman. At the same time, her beginnings were also strongly shaped by the institutional critique of the early 1970s, and consequently her works were initially interpreted as sociological commentaries reflecting on aesthetic, economic, and historical factors in art. Yet beyond this, her photographs illustrate to this day that an impartial presentation of art simply does not exist; they reveal the ideological implications inherent in the suggestive settings given to artworks, which would otherwise scarcely be visible. Lawler directs her gaze toward the fringes of art, as it were, creating subtle commentaries of a poetic casualness via compositions that distinguish themselves by their formal approach as well as by their eccentricity.

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Louise Lawler. 'Pink and Yellow and Black II (Green Coca Cola Bottles) from On a Wall, On a Cow, In a Book, In the Mail' 1999

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Louise Lawler
Pink and Yellow and Black II (Green Coca Cola Bottles) from On a Wall, On a Cow, In a Book, In the Mail
1999
Cibachrome (museum box)
26 5/8 x 26 5/8 inches
67.60 x 67.60 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London
Andy Warhol Artwork © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

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Louise Lawler. 'Pink and Yellow and Black I (Red Disaster) from On a Wall, On a Cow, In a Book, In the Mail' 1999

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Louise Lawler
Pink and Yellow and Black I (Red Disaster) from On a Wall, On a Cow, In a Book, In the Mail
1999
Cibachrome (museum box)
38 3/4 x 32 1/2 inches
98,40 x 82,60 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London
Andy Warhol Artwork © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

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Foreword

To describe Louise Lawler’s artistic practice is not easy: it is complex and polyglot, conceptual and analytical, but simultaneously ironically light, elegiac, and unfathomable. Lawler eyes the incidental, undermining the economy of attention, dislocating hierarchies, and querying, with the air of critical nonchalance, the system of art and its institutions. When works of art, arranged based on their colors and forms like flowers, unashamedly reveal the tastes and values of their owners, or sculptures held in gloomy depots are deprived of the attention they deserve, then Lawler’s works are a means of redress – what is not visible is given visibility. Her camera registers not only the life of artworks (after they have left the artists’ studios) in museums, corporate collections, depots, or at auctions, it also penetrates the most intimate abodes of the collectors, intruding even into their bedrooms. Lawler’s practice here is ambivalent, hardly judgmental, but constantly interested in poetic ambiguities, fractured harmony, and suggestive relationships. Her work does not seek out the essence of art but looks for compulsions, rules, and their readability. Incidental contiguities, formal-aesthetic analogies, but also savage thought shape the work of Louise Lawler, which had its beginnings in the late 1970s in the context of appropriation art and followed in the footsteps of the practice of institutional critique, which has been all too often discursively co-opted. Almost forty years later a differentiated perspective on this subtle work opens up, a work that does not understand melancholy and postmodernist criticality as a contradiction and unfolds its potency precisely in subtle unsharpness.

We are delighted that with Adjusted Louise Lawler has put together such an extensive survey of her work for the very first time, a show that covers the early conceptual and performative relics, the so-called ephemera, as well as a wide-ranging selection of photographic works and the latest wall works. Although the greater part of her oeuvre is photographic, it becomes clear that Lawler is not a photographer. She uses the medium as a means to appropriate situations and, in resolute focusing, to let the things which would otherwise remain unarticulated speak for themselves. Her exhibition title, Adjusted, which is to be understood as referring to her large format wallpapers adjusted to fit the given circumstances, is the distant echo of a critical practice fully aware that adjusting is a dialectic process where there are neither winners nor losers, neither conquerors nor conquered.

Louise Lawler’s exhibition Adjusted opens simultaneously with the new presentation of the collection Not Yet Titled. New and Forever at Museum Ludwig, which emphasizes the provisional nature of art historical narratives and presentations, colliding with the claim to eternity raised by the institution of the museum. Lawler’s exhibition spans the entire building, intervenes in the contexts of the collection, and spreads itself out, then retreats, or functions plainly and simply as a casual commentary. The reflectivity of her work, its context-specific changeability, presents the provisional as a quality constitutive for art, which in the process makes it clear just how much circumstances determine the way of looking at things.”

Excerpt from the Foreword by Philipp Kaiser

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Louise Lawler. 'Life After 1945 (Hats)' 2006/2007

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Louise Lawler
Life After 1945 (Hats)
2006/2007
Cibachrome (mounted on museum box)
27 1/4 x 22 3/4 inches
69.20 x 57.80 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London
Andy Warhol Artwork © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

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Louise Lawler. 'Chandelier' 2001/2007

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Louise Lawler
Chandelier
2001/2007
Cibachrome (mounted on museum box)
19 1/4 x 15 1/2 inches
48,90 x 39,40 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin and London

(Lucio Fontana)

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Louise Lawler. 'Nude' 2002/2003

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Louise Lawler
Nude
2002/2003
Cibachrome (museum mounted)
59.5 x 47.5 inches
151.10 x 120.70 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London

(Gerhard Richter. Ema (Nude on a Staircase) 1966, 200 cm x 130 cm, Oil on canvas)

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Louise Lawler. 'Still Life (Napkins)' 2003

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Louise Lawler
Still Life (Napkins)
2003
Digital cibachrome on aluminum museum box
19-3/4 x 14-1/4 inches
50.20 x 36.20 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London

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Louise Lawler. 'WAR IS TERROR' 2001/2003 (Julia Margaret Cameron)

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Louise Lawler
WAR IS TERROR
2001/2003
Cibachrome (museum mounted)
30 x 25-3/4 inches
76,20 x 65,40 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London

(Julia Margaret Cameron)

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Louise Lawler. 'Monogram' 1984

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Louise Lawler
Monogram
1984
Cibachrome, type on wall (sometimes)
(image) 39 1/2 x 28 inches
100,30 x 71,10 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London

(Jasper Johns)

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Louise Lawler. 'Portrait' 1982

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Louise Lawler
Portrait
1982
Cibachrome
19 x 19 inches
48.30 x 48.30 cm
© Louise Lawler, Metro Pictures, New York, Sprüth Magers Berlin/London

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Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
1095 Budapest Komor Marcell Street 1
Hungary 06 1 555-3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00 – 20.00
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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04
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Pieter Hugo: This Must Be The Place – Selected Works 2003-2012’ at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 24th May – 11th August 2013

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I have not seen enough of the other series of Pieter Hugo to make an informed decision, but work from the The Hyena & Other Men (2005-2007) and Permanent Error (2009-2010) series, the most often reproduced, is certainly strong. Whether I am fully convinced by his singular frontality is another matter…

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

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Pieter Hugo. 'The Hyena Men of Abuja, Nigeria' 2005

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Pieter Hugo
The Hyena Men of Abuja, Nigeria
2005
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Aissah Salifu, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana' 2010

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Pieter Hugo
Aissah Salifu, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana
2010
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Escort Kama. Enugu, Nigeria' 2008

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Pieter Hugo
Escort Kama. Enugu, Nigeria
2008
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Chris Nkulo and Patience Umeh. Enugu, Nigeria' 2008

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Pieter Hugo
Chris Nkulo and Patience Umeh. Enugu, Nigeria
2008
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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“Pieter Hugo’s (b. Johannesburg, 1976) career is quite young, yet his photography is already so comprehensive that we can rightly speak of a consistent oeuvre. Since 2003 Hugo has photographed people and themes exclusively in sub-Saharan Africa. Daily life in post-colonial Africa, the complex conditions after the end of apartheid in his own land and the impact of global trade and commerce are themes that circulate throughout his intriguing series.

Pieter Hugo spends long periods of time photographing his extensive series in order to capture intimate and often bizarre moments. His use of a large-format camera requires patience and trust between photographer and subject, which is visible in straightforward expressions and candid interactions. There is a moment of calm and even timelessness in these works that allows the viewer to engage more fully with the subject matter.

The political diversity of a continent that is rapidly transforming – some note that Africa will be a global economic power of the future – is portrayed by Pieter Hugo with the clarity of familiar painting genres such as landscape, portraiture, group portraiture and still life. The subjects of his photography: the elderly, the poor, the blind, street artists, soap actors, close family and friends – form a social tableau that is at once personalized while also presenting a more universal image of Africa at the beginning of the twenty first century.

The initial motivation for the series The Hyena & Other Men (2005-2007) comes from a cell phone camera image Pieter Hugo discovered on the internet. The image concerns a group of performers who travel throughout Nigeria with tamed hyenas and other wild animals and collect money from their choreographed public performances. Hugo embarked on two separate trips to document this remarkable nomadic group up close. Hugo presents the complex relationship between animal and owner, capturing moments of calm and tenderness amidst situations full of drama and spectacle.

The Agbogbloshie market on the outskirts of Accra (Ghana) is the thematic of the Permanent Error series (2009-2010), which is mainly a dumping site for the technological waste of the western world. Here computers and other electronic equipment are collected and burned by inhabitants, often children, to extract precious raw materials. These machines formerly representing prosperity and progress are here transformed into only noxious and life threatening vapours. The charred ground, grey sky and scattered groups of foragers and cattle seem isolated from the world, but are in fact one of the last links in a chain of global commerce. Despite the harsh surroundings, the subjects stand tall, identified by full name and framed in the style of classical portraiture.

Nollywood (2008-2009) is the third largest film industry in the world, releasing between 500 and 1,000 movies each year. It produces movies on its own terms, telling stories that appeal to and reflect the lives of its public: it is a rare instance of self-representation on such a scale in Africa. The continent has a rich tradition of story-telling that has been expressed abundantly through oral and written fiction, but has never been conveyed through the popular media before. Stars are local actors; plots confront the public with familiar situations of romance, comedy, witchcraft, bribery, prostitution. The narrative is overdramatic, deprived of happy endings, tragic. The aesthetic is loud, violent, excessive; nothing is said, everything is shouted.

At a morgue in the township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town, Pieter Hugo turns his camera to individuals who have died of AIDS related illnesses. In The Bereaved (2005) as with many of his other series, Hugo gives first and last names of his subjects. Such a personal statement challenges the anonymity of AIDS statistics in South Africa. Ten years after the Rwandan Genocide, Pieter Hugo captures the unimaginable violence of these events through leftover fragments (Vestiges of a Genocide, 2004). The absence of human life is disturbingly present in the images. Bones are preserved with lime so as not to disintegrate. Heavy dust and dirt create an organic seal over the remains. While these substances often signify what is past and forgotten, the items in the photographs are preserved artificially and naturally for all to remember.

The series entitled Messina / Musina (2006) deals with the inhabitants of a small town on the border of Zimbabwe in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. The title reflects the correction of an earlier colonial misspelling of the town’s name (Messina), as well as the transition taking place at this geographical and social periphery.

In Pieter Hugo’s studio portraits of the elderly, the blind and people with albinism – Looking Aside, 2003-2006 – there is a direct and confrontational engagement between the viewer and the subjects. The viewer is made to feel uncomfortable and immobilized by the subject’s gaze. In There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends (2011) – a recent series of portraits realized in the same spirit and adopting a stripped back, close-up and confrontationally direct approach – Hugo explores similar territory [to his earlier series Looking Aside] but from practically the opposite angle. In this case, the subjects are simply the photographer and his friends, who represent an array of ethnicities but are not particularly atypical, abnormal or ‘unusual’ in a genetic sense. Instead they are rendered unusually, portrayed in a heightened monotone with their skin transformed into a range of exaggerated black spots and dark tones.

With Kin (2011), his most autobiographical series to date, Pieter Hugo reflects on his own family and deep ambivalence towards the notion of home. Personal moments such as the pregnancy of his wife, the birth of their child and an operation of his mother are interspersed with national icons: open landscapes, anthropological museums and references to historical places and figures in South Africa. The recent and historical, private and public, rich and poor, ugly and beautiful interact closely in this series and represent the social complexities of post-apartheid South Africa.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Pieter Hugo. 'Naasra Yeti, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana' 2009

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Pieter Hugo
Naasra Yeti, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana
2009
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'John Kwesi, Wild Honey Collector, Techiman District, Ghana' 2005

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Pieter Hugo
John Kwesi, Wild Honey Collector, Techiman District, Ghana
2005
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'The Honourable Justice Unity Dow' 2005

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Pieter Hugo
The Honourable Justice Unity Dow
2005
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Steven Mohapi, Johannesburg' 2003

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Pieter Hugo
Steven Mohapi, Johannesburg
2003
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Ashleigh McLean' 2011

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Pieter Hugo
Ashleigh McLean
2011
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
1095 Budapest Komor Marcell Street 1
Hungary 06 1 555-3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00-20.00
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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26
Jun
13

Exhibition: ‘The Naked Man’ at Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 23rd March – 30th June 2013

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

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*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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Tibor Gyenis. 'Hommage á Ana Mendieta' 1999

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Tibor Gyenis
Hommage á Ana Mendieta
1999
from the series Hommage á Ana Mendieta
Courtesy of the Artist

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Spencer Tunick. 'Düsseldorf 5 (Museum Kunst Palast)' 2006

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Spencer Tunick
Düsseldorf 5 (Museum Kunst Palast)
2006
Courtesy Stephane Janssen

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Károly Halász. 'Body-builder in Renaissance manner' 2000

Károly Halász. 'Body-builder in Renaissance manner' 2000

Károly Halász. 'Body-builder in Renaissance manner' 2000

Károly Halász. 'Body-builder in Renaissance manner' 2000

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Károly Halász
Body-builder in Renaissance manner
2000
Courtesy of the Artist

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'The Naked Man', exhibition views

'The Naked Man', exhibition views

'The Naked Man', exhibition views

'The Naked Man', exhibition views

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The Naked Man, exhibition views, Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest, 2013
© Photo: György Darabos

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“While the naked female body or nude is an accepted theme in art, the unclothed male body has appeared over the centuries, ever since classical antiquity, solely through depictions of the hero or martyr. Today however, the naked male body, provocatively revealed in contemporary art, is far from a heroic figure. The exhibition The Naked Man examines the ways in which the appearance of the naked male body has changed and been transformed over the last century. The changes in the male image from the end of the nineteenth century till today are traced through eight thematic areas.

The chronological starting point of the exhibition is the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, when not even the traditional values of masculinity were spared by the crisis of identity, as manifested in the work of such artists of fin de siècle Vienna such as Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. For modern artists, the stripped down, naked male body was a bearer of revelation, self-knowledge and renewal. From this starting point, the exhibition follows the naked man through 20th and 21st century history, presenting challenges to the hegemonic model of male identity through the work of close to 100 artists, from questioning traditional male role models to the search for alternatives, from facing up to weakness and fragility to exploring the desiring gaze, body worship and the erotic pose.

In the depiction of the undressed male body there are also clues as to the changing social role of men, the formation of male identity, which is inseparable from both changes occurring in society and the workings of power. Power defines the gaze, which for centuries has been in the possession of men, while women have been merely the objects of the gaze. This division of roles between men and women in society was held to mirror the eternal or ‘natural’ order. The exhibition reassigns the roles, since the object of the gaze is no longer women, but men. How far this signifies the loss, sacrifice or transfer of possession of the gaze can be considered in depth with the help of thematically organised artworks.

The stripped down male body is defined by particular points of crisis. In that sense, the very spirit of the life reform movement that appeared at the turn of the century was one in which the naked male body was seen as a harmonious part of nature and a symbol of the desire to renew society. The naked man appears completely differently in relation to homosexuality. The homoerotic gaze eroticised the male body and examined it as an object of desire. The influence of feminism can be felt in artistic approaches that involve putting on make-up, the hiding of the sexual organ, as well as its ‘relocation’ or symbolic loss, all ways in which male artists have called attention to the arbitrariness of the designation of gender boundaries. Indefinable sexual identity, which is adaptive to the role of the opposite sex, is a revolutionary affront to the conventional expectations of traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. Heroic, hard masculinity, the healthy, body radiating physical strength, is a particularly important symbol for dictatorships. The disciplined body that conforms to the rules symbolises dominance over bodies. It is opposite to the anti-hero, the defenceless, vulnerable male body, that of the man who deliberately suffers pain in the desire to get back his lost power.

The man who belongs to a sexual or racial minority, along with the chubby or aging male, is forced out of public space and confined to the private sphere, cut off from the connection of the male body to power. The body symbolises power, which can only truly be possessed if its nakedness is not completely revealed, if the sexual organ remains hidden. One of the last taboos of the cultural sphere of Christianity is the sight of the male sexual organ. After all this, what remains an interesting question is whether the female gaze can be an instrument of power. In addition, how do we view the nude studies that were once an indispensible part of academic artistic training, along with earlier and more recent attempts at depicting naked male models? How do we see the relation between artist and model in the self-portrait, in which the artist uses his own naked body as a terrain for the merciless exploration of the self?

The new masculinity does not view cultural roles as naturally given, but rather revolts against them, smashing taboos and unveiling fetishes. In the region of Central and Eastern Europe the body of the naked man is enriched with further layers of significance. In the art of former socialist countries, the naked male body was seen as an expression of enslavement to the patriarchal system, while gender roles are also worthy of examination in this context. After the collapse of the system, the changed geopolitical order, old and new desires and power relations were inscribed onto the body, shaping the new masculinity.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum website

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Herbert List. 'Young Arab with foxtail lilies, Hammamet, Tunisia' 1935

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Herbert List
Young Arab with foxtail lilies, Hammamet, Tunisia
1935
Münchner Stadtmuseum

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Jimmy Caruso. 'Arnold Schwarzenegger' 1978

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Jimmy Caruso
Arnold Schwarzenegger
1978
Münchner Stadtmuseum

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McDermott & McGough. 'Tattoo Man in Repose' 1891/1991

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McDermott & McGough
Tattoo Man in Repose
1891/1991
© McDermott & McGough
Courtesy Galerie Jerome de Noirmont

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Rudolf Koppitz. 'In the lap of Nature' Self portrait c. 1923

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Rudolf Koppitz
In the lap of Nature
Self portrait
c. 1923
Münchener Stadtmuseum / Sammlung Fotografie

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Richard Avedon. 'Rudolf Nureyev' 1961

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Richard Avedon
Rudolf Nureyev
1961
© The Richard Avedon Foundation
Courtesy Stephane Janssen

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Pierre et Gilles. 'Apolló' 2005

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Pierre et Gilles
Apolló
2005
Model: Jean-Christophe Blin
© Pierre et Gilles
Courtesy Galerie Jerome de Noirmont

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Pierre et Gilles. 'The Death of Adonis' 1999

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Pierre et Gilles
The Death of Adonis
1999
Private collection, Paris

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David LaChapelle. 'Celebrity Gleam' 2002

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David LaChapelle
Celebrity Gleam
2002
Courtesy of Galerie Thomas, Munich

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Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
1095 Budapest Komor Marcell Street 1
Hungary 06 1 555-3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00-20.00
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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27
Sep
12

Text: ‘The defining of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body’ Dr Marcus Bunyan / Exhibition: ‘Robert Mapplethorpe’ at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 25th May – 30th September 2012

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“Perfection means you don’t question anything about the photograph. There are certain pictures I’ve taken in which you really can’t move that leaf or that hand. It’s where it should be, and you can’t say it could have been there. There is nothing to question as in a great painting. I often have trouble with contemporary art because I find it’s not perfect. It doesn’t have to be anatomically correct to be perfect either. A Picasso portrait is perfect. It’s just not questionable. In the best of my pictures, there’s nothing to question – it’s just there.”

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Robert Mapplethorpe

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Written in 1996 (but never published until now), this is one of my earliest pieces of research and writing. While it is somewhat idealistic in many ways, hopefully this piece still has some relevance for the reader for there are important ideas contained within the text.

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The defining of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body

Photography has portrayed the Apollonian and Dionysian ideals of the body throughout its history, but has never fully explored the theoretical implications and consequences of this pairing. Our presentation of the body says precise things about the society in which we live, the degree of our integration within that society and the controls which society exerts over the innerman.1 My research concentrated on how images of the male body, as a representation of the Self/Other split, have been affected by these ideals.

We can clearly define the Apollonian (beauty, perfection, obsession, narcissism, voyeurism, idols, fascism, frigid, constraint, oppression, the defined, the personalised, an aggression of the eye linked to greed and desire) and Dionysian (ecstasy, eroticism, hysteria, energy, anarchy, promiscuity, death, emotion, bodily substances and the universal). In reality the boundaries between these ideals are more ambiguous.

For example, in the work of the American photographer Fred Holland Day we see allegorical myths portrayed by beautiful youths, many of which to modern eyes have a powerful homoerotic quality.

“In close proximity to eroticism associated with homosocial bonding and sexuality, these pictures were infused with desire and anxiety, repulsion and attraction … Day’s male nudes possess the aesthetic trappings of refined art and high culture … but also contain a frisson of impending sexual release and bodily pleasure, to say nothing of their sado-erotic inflection and paedophilic associations.”2

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According to some critics,3 societies acceptance of photographs of Apollonian or Orphic (Dionysian) youths [2 different critical views]4 in that era (the fin de siecle of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century), was based on what was seen as their chaste, idyllic nature. They represented ‘ephebes’ – males who were between boy and man – who posed no threat to the patriarchal status quo. To other critics5 these ‘ephebes’ present a challenge to the construction of heterosexual/ homosexual identity along gender lines, echoing Foucault’s thoughts on the imprisoning nature of categories of sexual identity.6

For Day, physical beauty was the testimony of a transcendent spirit.7 His portraits tried to uncover the true spirit of his subjects, revealing what was hidden behind the mask of e(x)ternal beauty. But what was being revealed? Was it the subject’s own spiritual integrity, his true self, or a false self as directed by the photographer whose instructions he was enacting? Was it F. Holland Day’s erotic fantasies the subject was acting out, or was it a perception of his own identity or a combination of both? These works show Day as both director and collaborator, his idols equally unattainable and available, resilient and vulnerable. In portraying this beauty, was Day embracing a seductive utopia in which this Apollonian beauty leads away from the very Dionysian spirit he was trying to engage with?

At around the same time a Prussian named Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden was also taking photographs of scantily clad local peasant youths, based on Arcadian themes. “In von Gloeden’s perception of the world human figures are not in themselves merely erotic, but become aesthetic objects … a setting in which beautiful things are the content of the image.”8

While this may be true, the focus of the images is always on what Von Gloeden desired, his full frontal nudes drawing our eyes to the locus of sexual desire, the penis. Von Gloeden’s “transformation of ordinary working class boys into the very image of antique legend,”9 the conjunction of the Apollonian and the Dionysian, blurs the distinctions between the two. Both Day and Von Gloeden were wealthy, educated, influential men who had a desire for working class boys. Did they help create an erotic tension across class lines and effect a particular Camp taste when society at that time (the first decade of the 20th century) was beginning to define areas of sexual categorisation that would label gay men perverts and degenerates? Even today, comparing contemporary critical analysis of Von Gloeden’s photographs can produce vastly differing conceptualisations as to the evidence of sexual overtones:

“The distinction between form and sexual attractiveness is tenuously maintained and the expression of the subjects’ face suggests a lofty remoteness rather than sexual availability or provocativeness.”10

“Von Gloeden’s pictures are fairly specific in depicting erotically based encounters between Mediterranean males. In many of them, the gazes shared between young men or the suggestive relationships of figure to figure hint at activities that might take place beyond the cameras range.”11

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For Day and Von Gloeden the need to possess something beautiful, something that was taboo, compensated both photographers for something they had lost – their youth. This transfers their death onto the object of their possession; the beautiful youths ‘captured’ in their photographs. Georges Bataille links eroticism to the inner life of man, the true self, and the eroticism of these photographs opens the way to a viewing of death and allows the photographer the power to look death in the face. According to Bataille, possession of something beautiful negates our need to die because we have objectified our need in someone else.12

What we know and understand about the world is partially built on images that are recorded, interpreted and imprinted in our brains as the result of the experiences we encounter throughout our lives. Our memory is forever fragmenting our remembered reality. It provides us with a point of view of the reality of the world in which we live and on which our identities are formed. When we look at a photograph we (sub)consciously bring all of our social encultration, our hates, our desires and our spirit to bear on the definition of that photograph at the time of viewing (an each viewing can be different!). Inherently embedded in any photograph then, are all these Dionysian stirrings – of desire, of eroticism, of death and of memory. Even if the photograph is entirely Apollonian in content the definition of that photograph can be open to any possibility, by any body.

One photographer who sought to access, and have connection to, fundamental truths was the American photographer Minor White. Studying Zen Buddhism, Gurdjieff and astrology, White believed in the photographs’ connection to the subject he was photographing and the subject’s connection back via the camera to the photographer forming a holistic circle.13 When, in meditation, this connection was open he would then expose the negative in the camera hopeful of a “revelation” of spirit in the subsequent photograph. White feared public exposure as a homosexual and struggled for years to resist the shame and disgust he felt over his sexual desires. Very few of his male portraits were exhibited during his lifetime, his Dionysian urgings difficult to reconcile with or assimilate into his images of peace and serenity, images that urged unity of self and spirit, of yin and yang. In the East yin/yang is both/and, being transformable and interpenetrating whilst in the West black/white is either/or not both, being exclusive and non-interactive. But who is to say what is ugly or what is beautiful? What is black or what is white?

In the work of the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, we can see the formalised classical aesthetic of beauty combined with content which many people are repelled by (pornography, sexuality, violence, power) creating work which is both Apollonian and Dionysian.14 Peoples’ disgust at the content of some of Mapplethorpe’s images is an Apollonian response, an aesthetic judgement, a backing away from a connection to ‘nature’, meaning ‘that which is born’. Mapplethorpe said, “I’ve done everything I show in my photographs,”15 revealing a connection to an inner self, regardless of whether he intended to shock. Those seeking suppression of Mapplethorpe’s photographs, mainly conservative elements of society, cite the denigration of moral values as the main reason for their attacks. However Mapplethorpe’s S&M photographs sought to re-present the identity of a small subculture of the gay community that exists within the general community and by naming this subculture he sought to document and validate its existence. The photograph can and does lie but here was the ‘truth’ of these Dionysian experiences, which conservative bigots could not deny – that they exist.

In the NEA/Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center controversy surrounding Mapplethorpe16 his work was defended on aesthetic grounds, not on the grounds of homoerotic content, of freedom of expression or artistic freedom. The classical Apollonian form of his images was emphasised. As one juror put it, “Going in, I would never have said the pictures have artistic value. Learning as we did about art, I and everyone else thought they did have some value. We are learning about something ugly and harsh in society.”17 Ugly and harsh. To some people in the world S&M scenes are perfectly natural and beautiful and can lead to the most transcendent experience that a human being can ever have in their life. Who is to decide for the individual his or her freedom to choose?

This Apollonian fear of the Dionysian ‘Other’, the emotional chaotic self, was found to involve fear of that which is potentially the ‘same as’ – two sides of the same coin. This fear of ‘the same’, or of the proximity of the same, or of the threat of the same, can lead to violence, homophobia, racism and bigotry. Mapping out sexual identities’ toleration of difference, which is ‘the same as’, recognises that there are many different ways of being, and many truths in the world.

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In conclusion I have determined that the definition of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body are at best ambiguous and open to redefinition and reinterpretation. The multiplicity of readings that can be attached to images of the male body, in different eras, by different people illustrates the very problematic theoretical area these images inhabit. As we seek to ‘name’, to categorise, to nullify the ‘Other’ as a Dionysian connection to earth and nature, it may cause an alienated ‘Self’ to revolt against Apollonian powers of control in order to break down the lived distance that divides people. This creates situations/ encounters/ experiences that are regarded as transgressive and a threat to the hegemonic fabric of society.

But do these experiences offer an alternative path for the evolution of the human race? Not the replacing of one patriarchal, capitalist system with another based on ecstatic spiritual consciousness but perhaps a more level playing field, one based on a horizontal consciousness (a balance between Apollonian and Dionysian), a ‘knowing’ and understanding, a respect for our self and others. My claim as an’Other’ is that these perceived transgressions, not just the binary either/or, may ultimately free human beings and allow them to experience life and grow. Where nothing is named, everything is possible.

Marcus Bunyan 1996

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

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Self Portrait
1975
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Derrick Cross
1983
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Thomas
1987
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Two Tulips
1984
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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“A renowned figure of contemporary photography, Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was in his element in a domain defined by conventions and revolt, classicism and non-conformist cultures, where each picture serves as a document of hard-fought identities, as well as inciting and recording social and artistic debates. The Ludwig Museum Budapest features nearly two hundred works by Robert Mapplethorpe, from his early Polaroid photos to pieces from his final years. Realised in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation New York, this large-scale exhibition is presented to a Hungarian audience for the first time.

Initially, Mapplethorpe had no intention of becoming a photographer. His early collages and altar-like installations incorporated found elements including photos from magazines. Seeking to give these works a more personal and perfect touch, he decided to shoot the photos himself. His major subjects were his immediate environment and personal desires: the alternative circles of the New York art scene, his identity as a homosexual, non-traditional forms of sexuality, and the communities organised around them. The New York of the seventies was a great melting pot of contiguous subcultures, sexual freedom, post-Pop and rock’n’roll. Mapplethorpe’s environment included Andy Warhol and his entourage from the Factory, the superstars of his films as well as the inhabitants of the legendary Chelsea Hotel, who inspired his art and became part of his audience.

His portraits of famous individuals and those longing for fame also positioned their photographer within their circle. He was a renowned artist seeking to establish relationships with people who stand out, one way or another, from the rest of society, without submitting himself to them. Posing for his camera were film stars, musicians, writers and visual artists, the celebrities and central figures of New York in the seventies and eighties, including pornographic film stars and body builders. He made engaging and elegant portraits attesting to his intense attention, humour, and ambition toward a sense of the monumental.

Mapplethorpe developed an increasingly committed and professional attitude to photography. His quest for the perfect image led him to classical compositions and subjects. While precision of forms and a quality of reserve were combined in his works, his intense attention to his models remained unchanged; he photographed torsos and floral still-lifes with the same cool professionalism. His nudes evoke classical Greek statues and Renaissance masterpieces, with their arrangement and sculptural approach to the body dating back to traditions that have existed for several hundred years. Such an incarnation of classical formalism, however, was juxtaposed with shocking new subjects and stark sexual fetishes, resulting in radical re-creations of the approach to tradition.

The perfect image called for the perfect body: his shots of black men, female body-builders and austere flowers seem to articulate his one and only vision, again and again. He almost always worked in the studio, most often in black and white, using increasingly defined tones. With unified backgrounds and balance of forms, his photos remove the subjects from their own realities to relocate them in the timeless, frozen space of the photograph. In terms of their statue-like beauty and rigorous composition of every detail, his pictures continue and renew the classical photographic tradition all at once. Such classical virtues, however, did not make these photos exempt from criticism: both his subject matter and their manner of presentation sparked controversy. Their sexual themes aroused unease, and criticism of the work failed to make a distinction between the statue-like beauty of body parts and torsos, the sexual stereotypes associated with black male bodies, and the objectification of the bodies.

Mapplethorpe’s works created a place for homosexual and S&M identities in the domain of high art, subverting conventions, transgressing unspoken social agreements and revealing prejudices, in line with the artist’s personal desires and self-definition. In the United States, during the eighties, in the first moments of horror in the face of AIDS, the condemnation of homosexuality and the undefined dread of the disease became entwined. Such developments stirred up the already intense controversies around Mapplethorpe’s photos, adding a new overtone to the voice of conservative protesters. (Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, and he died in the spring of 1989 due to complications related to the disease).

The cultural-political debates of the so-called Culture Wars in the late 1980s and 1990s in the United States, fuelled the decision of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to cancel its leg of the travelling exhibition “The Perfect Moment,” which included several thought-provoking photos that the conservative right-wing had denounced as obscene and arrogant assaults on public taste. A long and heated debate was to follow, including both hysterical and absurd commentaries, triggering police actions and a trial against a subsequent venue, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati as well as its director. Though the museum and its director were eventually cleared of all charges, the case continued to shape the cultural-political landscape in the US, which partly concluded in a revision of the public funding of artworks and is still referred to today as an outstanding example of the methodology of censorship.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman
1984
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Untitled
c. 1973
1987
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Lisa Lyon
1982
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Ajitto
1981
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Self Portrait
1988
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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1. Blain, Robert. The Decorated Body. London: Thames & Hudson, 1979, p.5, Introduction

2. Crump, James. F. Holland Day- Suffering the Ideal. Santa Fe: Twin Palms, 1995, p.11

3. Foster, Alasdair. Behold The Man – The Male Nude In Photography. Edinburgh: Stills, 1989, p.9

4. Jussim, Estelle. Slave To Beauty- The Eccentric Life And Controversial Career of F. Holland Day, Photographer, Publisher, Aesthete. Boston: Godine, 1981, pp.175-176; Ellenzweig, Allan. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University, 1992, p. 59

5. Ellenzweig, p.59

6. Weeks, Jeffrey. Against Nature:  Essays on history, sexuality and identity. London: Rivers Osram Press, 1991, p.164

7. Day, F. Holland. “Is Photography An Art?” p.8, quoted in Crump, James. F. Holland Day – Suffering The Ideal. Santa Fe: Twin Palms, 1995, p.20

8. Ellenzweig, p.39

9. Leslie, Charles. Wilhelm von Gloeden, Photographer. New York: Soho Photographic, 1997, p.86

10. Dutton, Kenneth R. The Perfectible Body. London: Cassell, 1995, p. 95

11. Ellenzweig, p.43

12. Bataille, Georges. Death And Sensuality. New York: Walker And Company, 1962, p. 24

13. Bateson, Gregory. Steps To An Ecology Of Mind – Collected Essays On Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution And Epistemology. St. Albans: Paladin, 1973

14. Danto, Arthur C. Mapplethorpe – Playing With The Edge. Essay. London: Jonathon Cape, 1992, p.331

15. Interview with Robert Mapplethorpe quoted in Cooper, Emmanuel. The Sexual Perspective. London: Routledge, 1986, p. 286

16. Ellenzweig, p. 205, Footnote 1

17. Cembalest, Robin. “The Obscenity Trial: How They Voted To Acquit,” in Art News December 1990 89 (10): 141 quoted in Ellenzweig, p.208

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Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
1095 Budapest  Komor Marcell Street 1
Hungary 06 1 555-3444

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Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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