Posts Tagged ‘perfection and beauty

18
Apr
09

Exhibition: ‘Paul Outerbridge: New Color Photographs from Mexico and California’ at the Downtown Central Library, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 28th March – 28th June, 2009

Curated by William Ewing and Phillip Prodger

 

Recently discovered colour images of California and Mexico taken during the 1940s and 1950s by the late visionary photographer Paul Outerbridge, who was considered “a master of colour photography,” will be exhibited at the Central Library’s First Floor Galleries, 630 W. Fifth St., downtown, from March 28 through June 28 2009.

 

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Women by Car, Laguna Beach, California' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Women by Car, Laguna Beach, California
c. 1950
Pigment dyed digital print
16″ x 20″

 

 

“Art is life seen through man’s inner craving for perfection and beauty – his escape from the sordid realities of life into a world of his imagining. Art accounts for at least a third of our civilization, and it is one of the artist’s principal duties to do more than merely record life or nature. To the artist is given the privilege of pointing the way and inspiring towards a better life.”

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Paul Outerbridge

 

 

If Outerbridge only photographed intermittently after 1943, then what photographs they are. Perhaps some of the most important colour photographs of their generation were made after he moved to California influencing the next generation of colour photographers (as noted below in the press release). What else can one say – his aesthetic sensibility is sensational, so far ahead of his time, so prescient of future colour spaces in photography. I know how “no regular income” feels as an artist, but he still had the courage and vision to make the work. I am in awe of the man: the visual complexity but eloquent simplicity of his photographs is simply amazing, simply… his own.

Marcus

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

 

“[Outerbridge] was a designer and illustrator in New York before turning to photography in the 1920s. In 1925, having established himself as an innovative advertising photographer and graphic designer, he moved to Paris and worked for the French edition of Vogue magazine. There he met Edward Steichen, with whom he developed a friendly rivalry. Around 1930, having returned to New York, Outerbridge began to experiment with color photography, in particular the carbro-color process. He focused primarily on female nudes – striking, full-color images that were ahead of their time. The growing popularity of the dye transfer process lead to cheaper color photographs and Outerbridge, who stuck fast to the carbro process as superior in its richness and permanence, saw his commercial work dry up, leaving him without a regular source of income. In 1943 Outerbridge moved to California, where he photographed only intermittently.”

Text from the Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 14/04/2009 (no longer available online)

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Balboa Beach, California' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Balboa Beach, California
c. 1950
Pigment dyed digital print
16″ x 20″

 

 

Paul Outerbridge
Reclining Nude
c. 1937
Pigment dyed digital print

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Motel Bar, Mazatlán, Mexico' c. 1948

 

Paul Outerbridge
Motel Bar, Mazatlán, Mexico
c. 1948
Dye transfer print
16″ x 20″

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Hotel Lobby, Mazatlán, Mexico' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Hotel Lobby, Mazatlán, Mexico
c. 1950
Pigment dyed digital print
16″ x 20″

 

 

As one of America’s earliest masters of color photography, Paul Outerbridge established his reputation by making virtuoso carbro-color prints of nudes and still-lives in the 1930s. As pictures, they are as brilliant and innovative today as when they earned their place as classics in the history of photography.

Outerbridge left New York in the 1940s, choosing to settle in California, and eventually taking up residency in the Mediterranean-style ocean side town of Laguna Beach. Little is known of Outerbridge’s last body of work in the 8 years preceding his death in 1958. But Outerbridge’s recently printed transparencies from the 1950s affirms that he fully understood the possibilities inherent in color photography despite it being the early days of its use in photographic art. Outerbridge went on to make a body of work that presaged the style and imagery of color photographers working a full quarter of a century later.

Employing a 35mm camera rather than the large-format equipment of the studio, Outerbridge captured vivid pictures while on the fly. His images were composed using the same precision of form and color that characterized his 1930s studio work, but, in this series, Outerbridge applied his earlier techniques to the energetic world of the street. This was a new landscape for Outerbridge, who, seeing in the new spectrum of color, depicted the people and places from his adopted Southern California, and, with great relish and sensitivity, from the Mexican towns just south of the border. In the tradition of such photographers as Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Anton Bruehl, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, all of whom made significant photographic forays into Mexico, Outerbridge ventured south from Laguna. In his 1949 black Cadillac, Outerbridge frequented the seaport towns along the Baja peninsula. One of his favorite stops was Mazatlan, on Mexico’s western coast, where he took particular pleasure in surveying the urban architecture, absorbing – and documenting – the city streets teeming with people, the brightly colored topography.

Among the scenes Outerbridge etched onto film: carnival carriages with passengers dressed and bound for a grand party; a group of fashionable men relaxing in an outdoor hotel lobby drinking Cokes and beer while a small orchestra plays on in the afternoon sun; and a lone girl in a lime-green dress and white sweater walking past a gas station whose painted-red details add vibrant flourishes to the scene. Outerbridge was keenly aware that the beauty of everyday objects was also tied to the larger meanings anchored in the social landscape, but he cared less for this fact than for the expression of pure color and form as seen through and by the lens.

These extraordinary pictures recall the 1970s photographs of William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, who strove to codify these same formal and subjective aesthetics into a bold definition of the new color vocabulary. Paul Outerbridge: New Color Photographs from California and Mexico will bring a heretofore undiscovered and unrecognized sequence of photographs that bridges the formal gap between the past and the present. Outerbridge’s visionary handling of color confirmed that he had instinctively known the potential of the color medium, and, luckily for us, he created an astounding body of photographs to prove it.

Text from the Curatorial Assistance website [Online] Cited 19/01/2019

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Gas Station, Mazatlán, Mexico' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Gas Station, Mazatlán, Mexico
c. 1950
Dye transfer print
16″ x 20″

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Self-portrait on Lounge, Oceanside Resort, California' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Self-portrait on Lounge, Oceanside Resort, California
c.1950
Pigment dyed digital print
16″ x 20″

 

 

“Outerbridge, who died in 1958, built his reputation in the early 1920s in New York and Paris making elegant black and white photo abstractions primarily of nudes and still lifes that rivaled those of his peers, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Edward Weston. In the 1930s, Outerbridge mastered the exquisite tri-carbro-color print process and went on to make some of the most important color photographs in art and advertising of that time.

Moving to California in 1943 and taking up residence in Laguna Beach, Outerbridge made his last important body of work throughout California and Mexico. Between 1948 and until his death in 1958 he codified a new language in color photographs that anticipated the work of William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld and others known for their “New Color” work in the 1970s.

“The curious position of prosperous American tourists amid the daily poverty experienced by some Mexicans is one of the recurring themes in the work, but with Outerbridge there is no political polemic,” says co-curator Phillip Prodger. “Outerbridge was thinking of his photographs as jig-saw puzzles made up of many different highly colored pieces, each placed with meticulous care.”

Among Outerbridge’s subjects are carnival carriages with passengers dressed and headed for a grand party; a group of fashionable men relaxing in an outdoor hotel lobby drinking Coke and beer while a small orchestra plays; a girl in a lime-green dress and white sweater walking past a gas station whose painted-red details add a vibrant flourish to the scene.”

Text from the Downtown Central Library press release [Online] Cited 14/04/2009 (no longer available online)

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Model with Satin Dress, Laguna Beach, California' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Model with Satin Dress, Laguna Beach, California
c. 1950
Tricolor carbon print
20″ x 16″

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Party, Laguna Beach' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Party, Laguna Beach
c. 1950
Tricolor carbon print
20″ x 16″

 

 

Los Angeles Central Library
630 W. 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90071
Phone: (213) 228-7000

Opening hours:
Monday 10-8
Tuesday 10-8
Wednesday 10-8
Thursday 10-8
Friday 9.30-5.30
Saturday 9.30-5.30
Sunday 1-5

Los Angeles Central Library 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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