Posts Tagged ‘political art

20
Jul
19

Exhibition: ‘Under the Mexican Sky: A Revolution in Modern Photography’ at the Palmer Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University

Exhibition dates: 1st June – 28th July 2019

 

Edward Weston. 'Dr. Federico Marín, Jean Charlot, and Tina Modotti' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Dr. Federico Marín, Jean Charlot, and Tina Modotti
1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ¼ inches

 

Shown with Modotti are Federico Marín, who was Diego Rivera’s brother-in-law and physician, and Jean Charlot, who is here seen making a sketch on Tina’s back.

 

 

If there is one period and two countries that I love more than anything else in the history of medium, it is the avant-garde photography of the interwar years in France and the photography of Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s.

American, French and Italian photographers were drawn like bees to a honey pot to the blossoming artistic scene in Mexico City and the country in general. They soaked up the unique Mexican culture, its atmosphere of work, religion, beauty, death, poverty, and sensuality – its churches, religious icons, sculptures, festivals, pottery, and people – the land, the mountains and the inhabitants all photographed in this dazzling light. They photographed in an “international modernism” style (the supposed revolution in modern photography named in the title), expatriate photographers in a hospitable but impoverished land. But this was not their land, for this was not their country.

While Strand “modified his 5×7 Graflex camera, adding a special prism extension that enabled him to clandestinely shoot a subject at a 90° angle from the front of his camera”, surreptitiously making portraits as he had done in his New York subway portraits; while Weston documents the murals of Mexican culture at a distance, the clay pots as an abstract composition, and the traditional art and craft Tehuana dress as idealised icon; while Modotti comes closer with her political statements and constructed still life; it is only the Mexican artist Manuel Álvarez Bravo that steals my heart.

His work exudes the spirit of the country through its sensitivity and connection to the earth from which he was born. The light and form in Bravo La Siesta de los Peregrinos; the light and form in Retrato de lo Eterno. I have studied his work quite thoroughly. He is the blessed one. Through his music, he captures the light and life of Mexico, the spirit of the eternal, “the sunlight [as] a discreet veil that turns the shadows into velvet.” His work is the art of the People.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Hands in the Water of the Mind

The water of the mind     has filled with forms.
Come, come closer now,    elusive as
an anemone or a jellyfish     a criminal, a saint;

dip your hand in and pull    from the tormented water
angles and profiles,         an incessant music,

the murmur of the sky,     the mouth of the earth,
the crown of the breeze,     the rings of fire,

the bodies of the lynxes,     the wings of the bat,
the glasses and the pillow,     the brightness of hunger.

David Huerta

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

 

In the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), expatriate photographers flocked to the blossoming artistic scene in Mexico City. Los Angelino Edward Weston reinvented his approach to the medium during three years there in the 1920s. In exploring the development of international modernism into the next decades, this exhibition features rare photographs by Italian Tina Modotti, New Yorkers Helen Levitt and Paul Strand, French master Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Mexico’s own Manuel Álvarez Bravo.

 

 

“For six months I worked at still photographs of Mexico, made about sixty platinum prints, completed and mounted them. Among other things I made a series of photographs in the churches, of the Christs and Madonnas, carved out of wood by the Indians. They are among the most extraordinary sculptures I have seen anywhere, and have apparently gone relatively unnoticed. These figures so alive with the intensity of the faith of those who made them. That is what interested me, the faith, even if it is not mine; a form of faith, to be sure, that is passing, that has to go. But the world needs a faith equally intense in something else, something more realistic, as I see it. Hence my impulse to photograph these things, and I think the photographs are pretty swell.”

.
Paul Strand

 

“At first the brilliance of technique is commented on. Laymen say: What reality! How three-dimensional. Photographers say: What texture! What a scale of values! What print quality! This is a first reaction and the least significant one. All this virtuosity is at the service of what Strand has to express, the felt idea behind the photograph.”

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Leo Hurwitz

 

“Popular Art is the art of the People. A popular painter is an artisan who, as in the Middle Ages, remains anonymous. His work needs no advertisement, as it is done for the people around him. The more pretentious artist craves to become famous, and it is characteristic of his work that it is bought for the name rather than for the work – a name that is built up by propaganda. Before the Conquest all art was of the people, and popular art has never ceased to exist in Mexico.”

.
Manuel Álvarez Bravo

 

 

Charles Betts Waite. 'The Iguana' 1901

 

Charles Betts Waite (American, 1861-1927)
The Iguana
1901
Vintage gelatin silver print
5 x 7 7/8 inches

 

 

In this playful study, the shadows dominate: the bowl of vittles atop the man’s shadow suggest a sombrero shielding a sleeping man’s face during an afternoon siesta.

[Waite] traveled to Mexico City and in May 1897 established a photography studio there, during the Porfirio Díaz government. He became part of Porfirian society, taking photographs of many in the ruler’s circle. He was among a group of expatriate photographers (such as Winfield Scott and fellow San Diegans Ralph Carmichael and Percy S. Cox) working in Mexico in the first decade of the 20th century. Waite traveled throughout Mexico, exploring archaeological sites and the countryside.

[Waite’s life] corresponds with that of adventurers, brave explorers with romantic spirits and materialistic outlooks, who toured the hitherto unknown world, discovering their riches and inventing paradises.” ~ Francisco Montellano, author of C. B. Waite, fotógrafo

His works were published in books, travel magazines, and on post cards, having contracted with the Sonora News Company. He also worked for several Mexican newspapers, and he documented United States scientific expeditions in Mexico. The images often included scenic Mexican images and the country’s native residents. Many of Waite’s photographs depict railroads, parks, archaeological sites, and business enterprises.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Tina Modotti. 'Experiment in Related Form' 1924

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Experiment in Related Form
1924
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 9 3/8 inches

 

 

This is one of only two known photomontages by Modotti, in which a single image of six wine glasses is enlarged and cropped and then superimposed onto itself.

 

Edward Weston. 'Ollas de Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Ollas de Oaxaca
1926
Vintage palladium print
8 x 10 inches

 

 

An olla is a clay pot or jar. Weston wrote that his first thought of Oaxaca “is always of the market, – and the market means first of all loza – crockery! I bought and bought – dishes, jars, jugettes, – of the dull black or grey-black ware, and of the deep green glaze ware… Very well do these people reproduce, make use of the essential quality of the material, – splendidly do they observe and utilise to advantage the very essence of a form. A race of born sculptors!”

 

Edward Weston. 'Detail of stone frieze, ruins of Mitla, Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Detail of stone frieze, ruins of Mitla, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

 

“I was fascinated by the stone mosaics at Mitla, for besides a variation on the Greek fret, there was a unique pattern – oblique lines of dynamic force – flashes of stone lightning, which remain my strongest memory.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I.

 

Edward Weston. 'Stone lions in relief, Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Stone lions in relief, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Two clay pitchers' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Two clay pitchers
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ¼ inches

 

 

These studies of pre-Columbian and folk-art statuary and pottery, done for Anita Brenner’s Idols Behind Altars project, taught Weston the art of the table-top still life. As such, they were the direct precursor to the iconic shells, peppers, and cabbages that occupied him immediately upon his return to Los Angeles in December 1926.

 

Edward Weston. 'Tarascan Pottery, Michoacán' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Tarascan Pottery, Michoacán
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 8 ¼ inches

 

 

The Tarascan people flourished from 1100 A.D. to 1530 A.D. After the Spanish Conquest, missionaries organised the Tarascan empire into a series of craft-oriented villages. Their artistic traditions survive today in the Lake Pátzcuaro region.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Jean Charlot' 1923

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Jean Charlot
1923
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 ½ inches

 

 

Anita Brenner and Tina Modotti remained friendly rivals in Mexico City’s close-knit artistic expatriate community throughout the 1920s. Their intertwined social life revolved around the French-Mexican painter Jean Charlot, who had been a principal assistant to Rivera. Charlot was Weston’s closest friend in Mexico as well as Brenner’s paramour and professional collaborator. In a diary entry in 1927, Brenner made a three-column table captioned “Actively Friends; Actively Enemies; and Actively Both.” Modotti’s name appears in the third column.

This sensitive Modotti portrait is inscribed by Charlot to Brenner, “You are bad tempered / I am worst tempered / Does that explain the sweet / Hours we passed together”

 

Tina Modotti. 'Elisa Kneeling' 1924

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Elisa Kneeling
1924
Vintage palladium print
8 7/8 x 6 5/8 inches

 

 

The power of Modotti’s portrait of her young chambermaid is due to the contrast between her beatific face and her coiled hands, which suggest a lifetime of hard manual labor.

 

Edward Weston. 'Anita ("Pear-Shaped Nude")' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Anita (“Pear-Shaped Nude”)
1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
8 5/8 x 7 3/8 inches

 

 

“I was shaving when A[nita] came, hardly expecting her on such a gloomy, drizzling day. I made excuses, having no desire, no ‘inspiration’ to work … but she took no hints, undressing while I reluctantly prepared my camera…. And then appeared to me the most exquisite lines, forms, volumes – and I accepted, – working easily, rapidly, surely…

Reviewing the new prints, I am seldom so happy as I am with the pear-like nude of A[nita]. I turn to it again and again. I could hug the print in sheer joy. It is one of my most perfect photographs.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I

 

Edward Weston. 'Excusado' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Excusado
1926
Gelatin silver print, 1930s
10 x 8 inches

 

 

“‘Form follows function.’ Who said this I don’t know, but the writer spoke well! I have been photographing our toilet, that glossy enamelled receptacle of extraordinary beauty. It might be suspicioned that I am in a cynical mood to approach such subject matter… My excitement was absolute aesthetic response to form… I was thrilled! – here was every sensuous curve of the ‘human form divine’ but minus imperfections.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I

Weston was particularly amused when his chambermaid placed a bouquet of flowers in the bowl, in a well-meaning effort to create a more fitting subject for her employer’s lens.

 

Edward Weston. 'Casa de Vecindad' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Casa de Vecindad
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 9 ½ inches

 

 

A casa de vecindad or “neighborhood house” was a community home or tenement. This one had once been “a fine old convent,” wrote Weston. “The light was made perfect by the collective noise of cats and dogs, children laughing and crying, women gabbling and vendors calling.”

 

Edward Weston. 'Arches, Oaxaca' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Arches, Oaxaca
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Guadalajara, Barranca de los Oblatos: Rocky Trail' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Guadalajara, Barranca de los Oblatos: Rocky Trail
1925
Vintage palladium print
10 x 8 inches

 

 

Mexico City in the 1920s-30s was the scene of one of the great artistic flowerings of the twentieth century. Like Paris in the aftermath of World War I, Mexico City after the decade-long Mexican Revolution served as a magnet for international artists and photographers. Foremost among the expatriate photographers was the Los Angelino, Edward Weston, who embedded himself in the artistic milieu surrounding the muralist painters Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros. Weston reinvented his approach to picture-making during his three years in Mexico, 1923-26. The soft-focus painterliness that had characterised his studio portraiture in the ‘teens melted away under the brilliant Mexican sun, to be replaced by crystalline landscapes as well as evocative still life that prefigured his later shells and peppers. Meanwhile his paramour and protégée, the Italian silent film star Tina Modotti, created photographs that would place her in the pantheon of great photographers of the era. This exhibition features rare vintage Mexican masterworks by both Weston and Modotti from the 1920s, as well as stellar photographs from the 1930s by the New Yorker Paul Strand, the Frenchman Henri Cartier-Bresson, and by Mexico’s own self-taught master of the camera, Manuel Álvarez Bravo.

Already in the first two decades of the 20th century, immigrant photographers had played an outsize role in Mexican photography. German-born Hugo Brehme published picturesque views of Mexican life and landscape in local and international tourist magazines, including National Geographic. Brehme’s fellow German émigré, Carl Wilhelm (Guillermo) Kahlo, meticulously photographed Mexico’s colonial architecture; his daughter Frida would marry Diego Rivera and become a legendary painter and personality. A third talented immigrant photographer was the Californian C.B. Waite, who moved to Mexico City in 1897 and opened a photo studio. At their best, as in The Iguana from 1901, seen here, Waite’s genre studies prefigure by a quarter century the exotic Surrealism that would characterise the work of Modotti, Álvarez Bravo, and Cartier-Bresson.

In 1923, C.B. Waite left Mexico and retired to Glendale, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Coincidentally, within a few months, Glendale’s leading photographer, Edward Weston, would make that same journey in the opposite direction. Weston sought to escape from the personal and professional distractions that he felt were deterring him from an aesthetic breakthrough. His love affair with Tina Modotti made him realise that he would never be a conventional husband. In August, 1923, Weston left the port of Los Angeles and sailed to Mexico on the S.S. Colima, accompanied by Modotti, who agreed to run his studio in exchange for photography lessons.

The Weston-Modotti home in Mexico City became a gathering place for writers, painters and photographers. This was the time of the Mexican Renaissance, a cultural movement that celebrated the country’s modern artists as well as its popular and indigenous arts. Under the presidency of Álvaro Obregón, the education minister José Vasconcelos sponsored an ambitious program of progressive public art, most notably the mural movement which was led by Diego Rivera, who was in all ways a larger-than-life character.

While Weston never second-guessed his decision to give up the steady income from studio portraiture, he and Tina faced constant money problems during their three years together in Mexico. Financial salvation came in the unlikely guise of a brash 19-year-old anthropology student, Anita Brenner. Born to a mercantile family with roots in both Texas and Mexico, Brenner befriended Weston and Modotti in Mexico City and hired them to furnish 400 photographs for her book, Idols Behind Altars. This was to be the first serious art-historical treatise on pre-Columbian art, Spanish Colonial architecture, and contemporary Mexican folk art. Weston and Modotti rose to the task with gusto, criss-crossing southern Mexico from Oaxaca to Guadalajara in search of prime examples of these genres.

Weston was first introduced to pulquerías, or working-class bars, by Diego Rivera, who was writing an article on pulquería mural painting for Mexican Folkways magazine. Weston was impressed by the vitality of these anonymous murals, writing:

“The aspiring young painters of Mexico should study the unaspiring paintings – popular themes – popular art – which adorn the humble pulquería… brave matadores at the kill – white veiled ladies, pensive beside moonlit waters – an exquisitely tender group of Indians … and all the pictured thoughts, nearest and dearest to the heart of the people.”

When Modotti left Mexico in 1930, she gifted her large-format view cameras to her close friend and protégé, Manuel Álvarez Bravo. With a seven-decade career, he is considered Mexico’s greatest photographer. “I was born in the city of Mexico, behind the Cathedral, in the place where the temples of the ancient Mexican gods must have been built, February fourth, 1902,” he wrote, invoking the magical realism that infuses his most iconic photographs. As a teenager he studied painting at the Academia San Carlos, the same art school that Rivera and Orozco had attended. “Interested since always in art, I committed the common error of believing that photography would be the easiest,” he confessed. In addition to Modotti, another important early mentor was the painter Rufino Tamayo, who counselled Álvarez Bravo against the “surface nationalism” of political art, such as that of Rivera, Orozco, or indeed Modotti herself: “Art is a way of expression that has to be understood by everybody, everywhere. It grows out of the earth, the texture of our lives and our experiences.” Tamayo’s words became Álvarez Bravo’s touchstones.

In 1934, Álvarez Bravo befriended the young painter-turned-photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who had come to Mexico to spend the year photographing in the brilliant natural light not often found in his native Paris. At a technical level their approach to photography diverged: Álvarez Bravo, like Weston and Modotti, favoured traditional large-format view cameras, while Cartier-Bresson, the progenitor of the “decisive moment,” was an early proponent of the hand-held 35mm Leica camera. Yet their common interest in capturing the “accidental theater of the street” outweighed these differences. “Cartier-Bresson and I did not photograph together but we walked the same streets and photographed many of the same things,” Álvarez Bravo recalled. They exhibited together in 1935 in a show entitled Documentary and Anti-Graphic Photographs, first at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and then at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. This seminal exhibit was the first time that “street photography” had been placed in a serious fine art setting. Reviewing that show, poet Langston Hughes wrote: “In a photograph by Cartier-Bresson, as in modern music, there is a clash of sunlight and shadow, while in Bravo, the sunlight is a discreet veil that turns the shadows into velvet.”

Text from the Palmer Museum of Art

 

Edward Weston. 'Los Changos Vaciladores (Playful Monkeys), pulquería mural' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Los Changos Vaciladores (Playful Monkeys), pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Charrito, pulquería mural' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Charrito, pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Two children with pulquería mural' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Two children with pulquería mural
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 3/8 x 6 ¾ inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Ceiling of the Church of Santiago, Tupátaro' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Ceiling of the Church of Santiago, Tupátaro
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ½ x 9 ½ inches

 

 

“Few had seen this church of Tupátaro, far from tourist tracks. The ceiling was entirely lacquered, even the beams – a notable achievement in colour, design and craftsmanship. That was a hard day of work. Exposures were prolonged to even fifteen minutes with additional flash light, the while I must remain quite still upon a rickety balcony for fear of jarring the camera, which was real torture with more fleas biting and crawling than I ever knew could jump from a few square feet of space.” ~ Edward Weston, The Daybooks, vol. I

 

Brett Weston. 'Tin roofs, Mexico' 1926

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993)
Tin roofs, Mexico
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 1/8 x 9 ½ inches

 

 

Edward Weston’s son Brett joined him in his final year in Mexico. Brett was himself a child prodigy photographer, as evidenced by this sensitively balanced and exquisitely printed abstract masterwork, taken when he was fourteen years old.

Theodore Brett Weston (December 16, 1911, Los Angeles – January 22, 1993, Hawaii) was an American photographer. Van Deren Coke described Brett Weston as the “child genius of American photography.” He was the second of the four sons of photographer Edward Weston and Flora Chandler.

Weston began taking photographs in 1925, while living in Mexico with Tina Modotti and his father. He began showing his photographs with Edward Weston in 1927, was featured at the international exhibition at Film und Foto in Germany at age 17, and mounted his first one-man museum retrospective at age 21 at the De Young Museum in San Francisco in January, 1932.

Weston’s earliest images from the 1920s reflect his intuitive sophisticated sense of abstraction. He often flattened the plane, engaging in layered space, an artistic style more commonly seen among the Abstract Expressionists and more modern painters like David Hockney than other photographers. He began photographing the dunes at Oceano, California, in the early 1930s. This eventually became a favourite location of his father Edward and later shared with Brett’s third wife Dody Weston Thompson. Brett preferred the high gloss papers and ensuing sharp clarity of the gelatin silver photographic materials of the f64 Group rather than the platinum matte photographic papers common in the 1920s and encouraged Edward Weston to explore the new silver papers in his own work. Brett Weston was credited by photography historian Beaumont Newhall as the first photographer to make negative space the subject of a photograph. Donald Ross, a photographer close to both Westons, said that Brett never came after anyone. He was a true photographic equal and colleague to his father and “one should not be considered without the other.”

“Brett and I are always seeing the same kinds of things to do – we have the same kind of vision. Brett didn’t like this; naturally enough, he felt that even when he had done the thing first, the public would not know and he would be blamed for imitating me.” Edward Weston – Daybooks – May 24, 1930.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward Weston. 'Rosa Covarrubias in Tehuana dress' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Rosa Covarrubias in Tehuana dress
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 3/8 x 7 ½ inches

 

 

Rosa and Miguel Covarrubias were early promoters of traditional Mexican art and craft; their extensive collection now resides at San Francisco’s Mexican Museum. This striking portrait of Rosa in traditional Zapotec dress was appropriated by Diego Rivera for his painting Tehuana Woman, 1929.

Born in Los Angeles, Rosa Rolanda was a dancer with the Marion Morgan dance troupe and the Ziegfeld Follies. She married the Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias, who was the leading caricaturist of the jazz age. While Rosa and Miguel were accompanying Edward and Tina on one of their trips for Anita Brenner, they taught Rosa the basics of photography. Later, Man Ray would teach her his technique of cameraless photograms. With such tutelage, it is no surprise that Rosa became a gifted photographer in her own right.

 

Edward Weston. 'Rosa Covarrubias' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Rosa Covarrubias
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 x 6 3/4 inches

 

Edward Weston. 'Palma Bendita' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Palma Bendita
1926
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 3/8 inches

 

 

The branches of the palma bendita, or “blessed palm,” were believed to have been strewn on the road before Christ during his entry into Jerusalem and are blessed on Palm Sunday, an important Mexican holiday.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Campesinos (Workers' Parade)' 1926

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Campesinos (Workers’ Parade)
1926
Vintage palladium print
8 3/8 x 7 ½ inches

 

 

Modotti’s iconic Campesinos has the same formal structure – circular forms filling the picture frame – as Weston’s Olla Pots of Oaxaca made the same year. But Modotti’s picture adds a political dimension that Weston would by nature recoil from. Modotti’s increasingly fervent politicisation contributed to the dissolution of her relationship with Weston, who was fundamentally apolitical. Weston returned to Los Angeles at the end of 1926; Modotti would remain in Mexico another four years.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Bandolier, Corn, Sickle' 1927

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Bandolier, Corn, Sickle
1927
Vintage gelatin silver print
8 ¾ x 7 ½ inches

 

 

This politically-charged still life, and its companion piece Bandolier, Corn and Guitar, were made the year Modotti formally joined Mexico’s Communist Party. At the time she was modelling for Diego Rivera, a fellow traveler. Modotti’s likeness appears in several of Rivera’s most famous Revolutionary murals; she would also be blamed for the break-up of his marriage to Lupe Marín.

 

Tina Modotti. 'Bandolier, Corn and Guitar' 1927

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Bandolier, Corn and Guitar
1927
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 ½ inches

 

Tina Modotti. 'Women of Tehuantepec' 1929

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Women of Tehuantepec
1929
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 x 7 ¼ inches

 

 

This is one of Modotti’s final masterworks. The following year she would be expelled from Mexico for sedition, due to her work on behalf of the Communist Party. She settled in Russia, giving up photography for relief work with International Red Aid. When the Spanish Civil War erupted in 1936, she joined the fray. She returned to Mexico under a pseudonym in 1939, and died of a heart attack three years later, at age 45, her life the stuff of legend.

 

Manuel Álvarez. 'La Siesta de los Peregrinos' (the siesta of the migrants) 1930s

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
La Siesta de los Peregrinos (the siesta of the migrants)
1930s
Vintage gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 9 3/8 inches

 

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (February 4, 1902 – October 19, 2002) was a Mexican artistic photographer and one of the most important figures in 20th century Latin American photography. He was born and raised in Mexico City. While he took art classes at the Academy of San Carlos, his photography is self-taught. His career spanned from the late 1920s to the 1990s with its artistic peak between the 1920s and 1950s. His hallmark as a photographer was to capture images of the ordinary but in ironic or Surrealistic ways. His early work was based on European influences, but he was soon influenced by the Mexican muralism movement and the general cultural and political push at the time to redefine Mexican identity. He rejected the picturesque, employing elements to avoid stereotyping. He had numerous exhibitions of his work, worked in the Mexican cinema and established Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana publishing house. He won numerous awards for his work, mostly after 1970. …

Álvarez Bravo’s photography career spanned from the late 1920s to the 1990s. It formed in the decades after the Mexican Revolution (1920s to 1950s) when there was significant creative output in the country, much of it sponsored by the government wanting to promote a new Mexican identity based on both modernity and the country’s indigenous past.

Although he was photographing in the late 1920s, he became a freelance photographer full-time in 1930, quitting his government job. That same year, Tina Modotti was deported from Mexico for political activities and she left Alvarez Bravo her camera and her job at Mexican Folkways magazine. For this publication, Alvarez Bravo began photographing the work of the Mexican muralists and other painters. During the rest of the 1930s, he established his career. He met photographer Paul Strand in 1933 on the set of the film “Redes”, and worked with him briefly. In 1938, he met French Surrealist artist André Breton, who promoted Alvaréz Bravo’s work in France, exhibiting it there. Later, Breton asked for a photograph for the cover of catalog for an exhibition in Mexico. Alvarez Bravo created “La buena fama durmiendo” (The good reputation sleeping), which Mexican censors rejected due to nudity. The photograph would be reproduced many times after that however.

Alvarez Bravo trained most of the next generation of photographers including Nacho López, Héctor García and Graciela Iturbide. From 1938 to 1939, he taught photography at the Escuela Central de Artes Plásticas, now the National School of Arts (UNAM). In the latter half of the 1960s he taught at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Retrato de lo Eterno' (Portrait of the Eternal) 1935

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Retrato de lo Eterno (Portrait of the Eternal)
1935
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ½ x 7 3/8 inches

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'The Spider of Love, Mexico City' 1934

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
The Spider of Love, Mexico City
1934
Gelatin silver print c. 1960
6 ½ x 9 ¾ inches

 

 

“I was very lucky. I had only to push the door open. It was so voluptuous, so sensual. I couldn’t see their faces. It was miraculous – physical love in all its fullness. Tonio grabbed a lamp, and I took several shots. There was nothing obscene about it. I could never have got them to pose – a matter of decency.” ~ Cartier-Bresson

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Calle Cuauhtemoctzin (two prostitutes), Mexico City' 1934

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Calle Cuauhtemoctzin (two prostitutes), Mexico City
1934
Gelatin silver print c. 1960
9 1/8 x 13 ¾ inches

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'Niña con Leña' (Girl with Firewood) 1930s

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Niña con Leña (Girl with Firewood)
1930s
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 x 9 5/8 inches

 

 

Helen Levitt’s photographs of Mexico City, taken in 1941, are a notable exception to her otherwise exclusive focus on New York City during her long career (1930s through 1970s). But the principal subject matter of Levitt’s work was the same in both metropolises: the lives of children in working-class neighbourhoods. In this evocative image, the children’s play is undeterred by their poverty, which is evidenced by their bare feet, the dirt road, and the dilapidated buildings. Levitt studied with the noted photographer Walker Evans; her work was also influenced by the other artists in the present exhibition: like Cartier-Bresson, she favoured the hand-held Leica camera; like Paul Strand, she used a secret sideways lens that enabled her to photograph surreptitiously.

Levitt printed her Mexican photographs only after returning to New York, where they added to her blossoming reputation. Her first one-woman show at the Museum of Modern Art included sixteen photographs from Mexico, including a variant of this image (below).

 

Helen Levitt. 'Mexico City' 1941

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
Mexico City
1941
Vintage gelatin silver print
7 ¼ x 9 5/8 inches

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Mexico' 1963

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Mexico
1963
Vintage gelatin silver print
9 ¾ x 6 ½ inches

 

 

Paul Strand

Paul Strand achieved early recognition as a protégé of Alfred Stieglitz, the New York photographer and gallerist. In 1917 Stieglitz devoted the final two issues of his Camera Work magazine to Strand’s high modernist photography, which was heavily influenced by avant garde artists such as Paul Cezanne and Pablo Picasso. Stieglitz praised Strand’s work as “brutally direct” and “devoid of all flim-flam.”

By 1932, when Strand drove his Model A Ford from Taos to Mexico, his style had evolved dramatically. Abstraction had given way to humanism, reflecting the influence of his high school photography teacher, the eminent social documentarian Lewis Hine. Strand was now concerned with how people lived, and especially with those aspects of life that “make a place what it is.” Mexico was a logical destination for Strand, whose political concern for the common man intersected with the proletarian goals of the Mexican Revolution.

Over the next several months Strand photographed people and places in rural small towns across southern Mexico, from Michoacán in the West to Oaxaca in the East, unconsciously retracing Edward Weston and Tina Modotti’s footsteps from the 1920s. Strand’s work in Mexico set the tone for the photographic journeys to out-of-the-way destinations in Europe and Africa that would occupy the rest of his long career.

For these Mexican portraits, Strand modified his 5×7 Graflex camera, adding a special prism extension that enabled him to clandestinely shoot a subject at a 90° angle from the front of his camera. The subjects of these portraits, absorbedly watching the Yankee photographer at work, were unaware that he was actually aiming his camera at them. Strand had pioneered this technique as a young photographer on the streets of New York.

Strand originally printed his Mexican photographs as platinum prints. The prints shown here are hand-pulled photogravures created for a 1940 portfolio Photographs of Mexico. In his introduction to the portfolio, Strand describes the prints as “a step forward in the art of reproduction processes,” attributing their quality to the production team’s combined two centuries of experience.

 

Paul Strand. 'Near Saltillo' 1932

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Near Saltillo
1932
Vintage photogravure
5 x 6 3/8 inches

 

 

“When you leave the Texas border for about 70 miles – flat desert, it could still be Texas. Then suddenly appear the mountains of the North around Monterrey and Saltillo – amazing mountains. They are a continuation of the American spur – our Rockies I suppose – but how different – utterly fantastic shapes, like mountains in fairy books. And I never saw the forms within each individual mountain – defined – come right at you as those in the North.” ~ Paul Strand to painter John Marin

 

Paul Strand. 'Gateway - Hidalgo' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Gateway – Hidalgo
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 1/8 x 8 inches

 

 

“What have come to be known as ‘Strand clouds’ – heavy, lowering shapes holding rain and threat of storm – appear in a great many of his photographs. A friend of Strand’s remembers him cursing under his breath whenever fluffy, cottony cloud formations, which he referred to as ‘Johnson & Johnson,’ took over the sky; they never appear in his prints.” ~ Calvin Tomkins

 

Paul Strand. 'Boy - Hidalgo' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Boy – Hidalgo
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 3/8 x 5 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Man with Hoe - Los Remedios' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Man with Hoe – Los Remedios
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 ¼ x 5 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Plaza - State of Puebla' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Plaza – State of Puebla
1933
Vintage photogravure
5 x 6 3/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Church, Cuapiaxtla' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Church, Cuapiaxtla
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 3/8 x 5 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Man - Tenancingo' 1933 

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Man – Tenancingo
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 ½ x 5 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Girl and Child - Toluca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Girl and Child – Toluca
1933
Vintage photogravure
6 ½ x 5 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Boy - Uruapan' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Boy – Uruapan
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 1/8 x 8 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo - Oaxaca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo – Oaxaca
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 x 8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo with Thorns - Huexotla' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo with Thorns – Huexotla
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 ¼ x 8 1/8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Cristo - Tlacochoaya - Oaxaca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Cristo – Tlacochoaya – Oaxaca
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 ¼ x 8 inches

 

Paul Strand. 'Virgin - San Felipe - Oaxaca' 1933

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Virgin – San Felipe – Oaxaca
1933
Vintage photogravure
10 ¼ x 8 1/8 inches

 

 

Palmer Museum of Art
The Pennsylvania State University
Curtin Road
University Park, PA 16802

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Saturday
10.00 am to 4.30 pm
Sunday
Noon to 4.00 pm
Closed Mondays and some holidays

Palmer Museum of Art website

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06
Dec
17

New work: ‘The Shape of Dreams’ 2013 – 2017 by Marcus Bunyan

December 2017

 

CLICK ON AND ENLARGE THE IMAGES BELOW TO SEE THE FULL SEQUENCE AND SPACING OF THE IMAGES

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017 (detail)

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017 (detail)

Marcus Bunyan. 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017 (detail)

 

Marcus Bunyan
The Shape of Dreams 
(detail of sequence)
2013 – 2017
Digital photographs
42 images in the series
© Marcus Bunyan

 

The form of formlessness
The shape of dreams

 

 

A Christmas present to myself… my most complex and enigmatic sequence to date.

Shot in Japan, all of the images come from two 1950s photography albums, one of which has a large drawing of a USAF bomber on it’s cover. The images were almost lost they were so dirty, scratched and deteriorated. It has taken me four long years to scan, digitally clean and restore the images, heightening the colour already present in the original photographs.

Sometimes the work flowed, sometimes it was like pulling teeth. Many times I nearly gave up, asking myself why I was spending my life cleaning dirt and scratches from these images. The only answer is… that I wanted to use these images so that they told a different story.

Then to sequence the work in such a way that there is an enigmatic quality, a mystery in that narrative journey. Part auteur, part cinema – a poem to the uncertainty of human dreams.

Marcus

PLEASE GO TO MY WEBSITE TO SEE THE THUMBNAILS AND LARGER IMAGES

 

A selection of individual images from the sequence

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan
Untitled from the series The Shape of Dreams
2013 – 2017
Silver gelatin print
© Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Sequencing The Shape of Dreams 2013 – 2017

Sequencing The Shape of Dreams at a cafe table in Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria in July 2017 with my friend.

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Sequenceing 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017' 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Sequenceing 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017' 2017

Marcus Bunyan. 'Sequenceing 'The Shape of Dreams' 2013 - 2017' 2017

 

Marcus Bunyan
Sequenceing ‘The Shape of Dreams’ 2013 – 2017
July 2017

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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12
May
17

Exhibition: ‘Political Acts: Pioneers of Performance Art in Southeast Asia’ at the Arts Centre Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 11th February – 21st May 2017

Curator: Dr Steven Tonkin

 

 

Just a quick comment on this exhibition as I’m not feeling very well with my ongoing hand issues.

This is one of the best exhibitions I have seen this year in Melbourne.

All of the works, whether video or photographic, are conceptually engaging, intellectually stimulating and visually powerful. I spent a couple of hours over two visits soaking in the narratives and mise-en-scène of every performance. I was totally immersed in the stories the artists were telling. As with all good art, the works engage the viewer and challenge our point of view in the most profound and complex ways.

While the works may be “political” “acts” the performances act on the viewer at a deeper existential level: what are we doing to the world, our only planet, and the people that live on it. What is the cost of rampant capitalism and consumerism in social, political and environmental terms. Every single work in this exhibition is grounded in these concerns. Unlike a lot of contemporary art which is all about surface and as deep as a peanut, this conceptual art is based on the fundamental building blocks of humanity – our connection to earth and to one another – often expressed through aesthetically beautiful images manifested in the physical body.

Favourites are the mesmerising 12-hour performance of Melati Suryodarmo I’m a Ghost in My Own House (2012) where the artist’s “methodical grinding of charcoal briquettes to dust can be seen as a metaphor for the crushing of the human spirit by the pressures of life”; the powerful dancing and mechanical digger in Khvay Samnang’s Where is my Land? (2014); and the beautiful face pictures in Moe Satt’s F ‘n’ F (Face and Fingers) (2009). I could watch the latter over and over again, so archetypal and elemental does the androgynous face of the artist become.

But really, every piece in this exhibition is worthy of contemplation. Not to be missed.

Marcus

 

Performance art is one of the driving forces in contemporary art across Southeast Asia. It is an art form that acknowledges the cultural traditions of performance within the region, while also providing avant-garde artists with a creative means to critically explore social, political and environmental issues.

The exhibition Political Acts will present a selection of artists’ films, photographs and installations by some of the innovative pioneers of performance art in Southeast Asia.

Artists represented are Dadang Christanto (Indonesia/Australia), Lee Wen (Singapore), Liew Teck Leong (Malaysia), Khvay Samnang (Cambodia), Moe Satt (Myanmar), Melati Suryodarmo (Indonesia) and Tran Luong (Vietnam).

 

 

 

Melati Suryodarmo (Born 1969, Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia)
I’m a Ghost in My Own House (extract)
2012
Single channel video installation
Duration: 30.30 mins

12-hour performance at Lawangwangi Foundation, Bandung, Indonesia, in 2012

 

 

Melati Suryodarmo‘s practice encompasses live art performances which are then presented through films, photography and installations. A film of her renowned 12-hour durational work of I’m a Ghost in My Own House (2012), is shown in this exhibition. In this work the artist’s methodical grinding of charcoal briquettes to dust can be seen as a metaphor for the crushing of the human spirit by the pressures of life.

The artist says that “talking about politics, society or psychology is meaningless unless it can be manifested in the physical body.” This is exemplified by Sweet Dreams Sweet, a group performance choreographed by Suryodarmo in Jakarta in 2013. It involved a group of 30 young female performers, all identically dressed to conceal their individuality. This work questions the impact of the political and cultural hegemony in Indonesian society.

 

Melati Suryodarmo. 'Sweet Dreams Sweet' 2013

 

Melati Suryodarmo
Sweet Dreams Sweet
2013
Courtesy the artist

 

Khvay Samnang. 'Rubber Man #3' 2014

 

Khvay Samnang (Born 1982, Cambodia)
Rubber Man #3
2014
Courtesy the artist and SA SA BASSAC, Phnom Penh

 

 

Since 2011 Khvay Samnang has used sand as a material for social and political commentary. In Where is my Land? (2014) he critiques the unstoppable momentum of urban development around Phnom Penh, which has resulted in the infilling of traditional lakes and the forced removal of local residents.

In his recent and widely celebrated Rubber Man series from 2014, Khvay poured pristine white rubber over his naked and partially obscured body. He draws attention to the devastating environmental impact of large-scale, foreign-owned rubber plantations on the once remote and previously pristine rainforests of northeast Cambodia.

 

 

Khvay Samnang (Born 1982, Cambodia)
Where is my Land? (extract)
2014
Single channel video installation
Duration: 13.30 mins

 

Lee Wen. 'Splash! #7' 2003

 

Lee Wen
Splash! #7
2003
Courtesy the artist and iPreciation, Singapore

 

 

A driving force in contemporary art across Southeast Asia, performance art will be the focus of a new free exhibition at Arts Centre Melbourne in Political Acts: Pioneers of Performance Art in Southeast Asia, presented as part of the inaugural Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts in Gallery 1 from 11 February 2017…

“In the last decade performance art and performative practices have taken centre stage within the global contemporary art world,” says Curator, Dr Steven Tonkin. “The seven artists in Political Acts are ground-breaking practitioners of performance art. As individuals, they offer personal viewpoints on their respective national and regional cultures. As a collective, they illustrate interesting commonalities in artistic strategies and approaches.”

“Most importantly, these provocative contemporary artists highlight the major political, social, economic and environmental issues confronted and critiqued through performance art in Southeast Asia today.”

Dadang Christanto is an internationally acclaimed artist. Born in central Java in 1957, Christanto moved to Australia in 1999. He exhibits and performs regularly in both Australia and Indonesia and has spent his artistic life commemorating the victims of political violence and crimes against humanity.

Singaporean performance artist Lee Wen explores social identity and is best known for his Yellow Man performances. Painting his own body with bright yellow poster paint, he expresses an exaggerated symbol of his ethnic identity. He received the prestigious Cultural Medallion for his contribution to visual art in Singapore.

Born in Kuala Lumpur in 1970, Liew Teck Leong studied Fine Art at the Malaysian Institute of Art in the early 1990s, initially becoming an expressionist painter. In the 2000s his practice changed direction to incorporate installation, photography and public art performances, when he became an active member of the artists’ collective Rumah Air Panas/RAP Art Society.

Born in 1982, Khvay Samnang studied painting and graduated from the Royal University of Fine Arts, Phnom Penh, in 2006. He now works across performance, photography, video and installation. Khvay was one of the co-founders of the artists’ collective known as Stiev Selepak (or Art Rebels), and was involved in establishing the artist-run space Sa Sa Art Projects in Phnom Penh’s historic White Building. He is one of the leading Cambodian artists to have come to international attention over the last decade.

Born in Yangon in 1983, Moe Satt is one of the cohort of young artists who have begun to transform the contemporary art scene in Myanmar. Principally self taught, Moe Satt uses his body as the primary vehicle for his art, although his practice now also encompasses photography, film and installations. His artistic career mirrors the wider socio-political changes that have occurred in Myanmar over the last decade, from isolation under military rule to the current democratic reforms.

Born in 1969 in Surakarta (or Solo), Central Java, Indonesia, Melati Suryodarmo grew up in the creative environment provided by her father Suprapto, founder of Amerta – an exploratory free-form dance movement. Suryodarmo sees her art practice as opening the door to new perceptions, traversing traditional cultural and political boundaries ‘in an effort to find [one’s] identity’.

Born in Hanoi in 1960, Tran Luong trained as a painter at the Hanoi University of Fine Arts. He achieved recognition as a member of the ‘Gang of Five’, a group of artists whose works were a catalyst for contemporary art in Vietnam from the late 1980s. A widely respected multidisciplinary artist, curator and mentor for the next generation of contemporary Vietnamese artists, his collaborative approach to art-making involves local communities.

“The inaugural Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts is an artistic celebration of our relationship with contemporary Asia,” says Arts Centre Melbourne CEO, Claire Spencer. “Vital, fresh and always unpredictable, Asia TOPA offers a city-wide window onto the creative imaginations fuelling the many cultures of our region.”

“Cultural engagement is key to expressing who we are, where we have come from, and how we connect with each other across the Asia-Pacific region. The dazzling array of artists featured in Asia TOPA will provide new ways of understanding the deep connections that run between us all.”

Press release from the Arts Centre Melbourne

 

Dadang Christanto. 'Tooth Brushing' 1979-2015-2017

 

Dadang Christanto (Born 1957, central Java)
Tooth Brushing
1979-2015-2017
Courtesy the artist, Gallerysmith, and 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

 

 

Dadang Christanto (Born 1957, central Java)
Tooth Brushing (extract)
2017
Single channel video installation
Duration: 6.00 mins

Performance in Political Acts: Pioneers of Performance Art in Southeast Asia at the Arts Centre Melbourne on 10 February 2017

 

 

Moe Satt (Born 1983, Yangon, Myanmar)
F ‘n’ F (Face and Fingers) (extract)
2009
Single channel video
Duration: 12.00 mins

 

 

Moe Satt’s early performance piece, F ‘n’ F (Face and Fingers) from 2008-09, is simple in conception but complex in the multiple meanings that can be read into the choreographed combinations of hand and facial gestures. Among the artist’s favourites are a universal ‘Thumbs Up’ and the potent symbol of a ‘Gun’ pressed to his temples.

In his The Bicycle-Tyre-Rolling Event from Yangon the artist re-enacts a childhood game of racing discarded rubber bicycle tyres with friends. In this series of photographs the public places and monuments he rolls the tyre past present a performative narrative of his country’s history. For example, the beautiful vistas of Yangon’s two large man-made lakes belie their entwined histories of demonstrations and death.

 

Installation view of Moe Satt's 'The Bicycle-Tyre-Rolling Event from Yangon' (2013)

 

Installation view of Moe Satt’s The Bicycle-Tyre-Rolling Event from Yangon (2013)

 

 

Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi)
Steam Rice Man (extract)
2001
Single channel video
Duration: 5.00 mins

Performance at the Mao Khe Coal Mine, Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam in 2001

 

 

Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi)
Lap Lòe (extract)
2012
Three channel video and sound installation
Duration: 5.00 mins

 

 

Tran Luong‘s collaborative approach to art-making often involves working with local communities, such as rural coal miners in northern Vietnam in 2001. During that time he created his early performance art work Steam Rice Man.

Tran Luong weaves his personal experiences with concerns for the wider socio-political situation in Vietnam. One influential moment was seeing his son arrive home from school wearing a red scarf around his neck. It reminded the artist of the communist red scarf he had to wear as a boy.

In Lap Lòe (or ‘flicker’), the three channel video installation in this exhibition, a red scarf has become aesthetically abstracted for the screen – blowing like a flag in the wind, snapping hypnotically and painfully across the artist’s body, and falling gracefully through the area. The red scarf is a powerful symbol for personal and collective memory.

 

Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi) 'Coc Cach' 2013-16

 

Tran Luong (Born 1960, Hanoi)
Coc Cach
2013-16
Courtesy the artist

 

Liew Teck Leong. 'Body+Dots+Politics (Yellow)' 2016

 

Liew Teck Leong (Born 1970, Kuala Lumpur)
Body+Dots+Politics (Yellow)
2016
Courtesy the artist

 

 

Arts Centre Melbourne
Gallery 1, Theatres Building
100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne VIC 3004

Arts Centre Melbourne website

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26
Jul
09

Exhibition: ‘Beuys is Here; Sculpture Object Action Revolution’ at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, England

Exhibition dates: 4th July – 27th September 2009

 

All photographs are of work in the exhibition. Many thankx to the De La Warr Pavilion for allowing me to publish the photographs and art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) 'Untitled (Sun State)' 1974

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Untitled (Sun State)
1974
Chalk and felt-tip pen on blackboard with wood frame
47 1/2 x 71 1/8″ (120.7 x 180.7 cm)

 

Joseph Beuys. 'I like America and America likes me' action 1974

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
I like America and America likes me action
1974

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) Überwindet endlich die Parteiendiktatur - Poster, N070815SE_118_098 - Overcome Party Dictatorship Now 1971

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Überwindet endlich die Parteiendiktatur – Poster, N070815SE_118_098 – Overcome Party Dictatorship Now
1971
Print on paper
278 x 395 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

German artist Joseph Beuys (1921-86) is widely recognised as one of the most influential and extraordinary artists of the twentieth century.
 Artist, educator, political and social activist, Beuys’s philosophy  proposed the healing power and social function of art, in which everyone can participate and benefit. The works in this exhibition provide an opportunity to experience this expanded concept of art as he understood it. Collectively, the exhibition presents the ‘constellation of ideas’ central to Beuys’s practice, revealing his ideas on zoology, ecology, homeopathy, economics, politics, social activism, teaching and learning. Beuys incorporated into his work various materials such as felt, fat and metal, selected because of their inherent properties such as insulation, conduction and protection which all have associations with Beuys’s ideas.

The exhibition is largely selected from the ARTIST ROOMS collection and brings together well-known sculptures, drawings, vitrines and a remarkable selection of posters recalling live actions and events. Works include Fat Chair (1964-85) and, in Gallery 2, a single major work Scala Napoletana (1985) is shown for the first time in the UK. In addition nearly twenty notable multiples are included within the exhibition selected from National Galleries of Scotland. The multiple was a form of communication for Beuys – a means by which he could share and distribute his ideas beyond the confines of the artworld.

Text from the De La Warr Pavilion website [Online] Cited 23/07/2009 no longer available online

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Fettstuhl (Fat Chair)' 1964-85

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Fettstuhl (Fat Chair)
1964-85
Wood, glass, metal, fabric, paint, fat and thermometer
1830 x 1550 x 640 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Entwurf für ein Filzenvironment [Model for a Felt Environment]' 1964

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Entwurf für ein Filzenvironment (Model for a Felt Environment)
1964
Wood, glass, felt, oil paint and lead
1840 x 1680 x 840 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

The neat rolls of grey felt on painted wood inside this vitrine are intended as a model for an ‘environment’. Felt insulates and absorbs, representing protection but also a sense of constriction, like being suffocated. The same type of felt rolls are seen in the ‘environment’ Plight (1958/1985), now in the Pompidou Centre, in which the walls and ceiling are covered with felt to create a stifling atmosphere. Beuys used felt in an infamous ‘action’ performed the same year this model was made. The Chief saw the artist being wrapped in a felt blanket, fighting claustrophobia to lie practically still, as if in a coffin, for a nine-hour period.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Fettecke (Prozess) [Fat Corner (Process)]' 1968

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Fettecke (Prozess) (Fat Corner (Process))
1968
Wood, glass, 2 cardboard boxes and fat
1835 x 1680 x 840 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Looking inside the two boxes in this vitrine, we can see that in one, the fat has been neatly shaped into the corner to make a wedge. In the other, the shape of the fat has a disturbing biological look to it, like inner organs which have been unceremoniously dumped in a heap. Beuys used triangles of fat in both his sculptures and ‘actions’. From around 1963, he would use wedges of fat or felt to mark the boundaries of a space when performing an ‘action’.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Langhaus (Vitrine)' 1953-1962

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Langhaus (Vitrine)
1953-1962
Wood, glass, felt, oil paint and paper
1830 x 1545 x 640 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Langhaus can be variously translated as ‘nave’ such as one finds in a church, or ‘longhouse’, such as the dwelling house for one or several families found in early north European regions or, still today, in tribal communities in the Amazon region or the South Seas. The block of wood has a small piece of felt attached to the top, suggesting, according to Beuys’s usual iconography, the idea of protection, a connotation strengthened by the length of felt also lying in the vitrine. The walking stick lying alongside the felt is a traditional Beuysian symbol for leadership and protection, much as a shepherd looks after his flock.

 

 

Beuys is recognised as one of the most influential artists of the late twentieth century. Adopting the roles of political and social activist and educator, his philosophy proposed the healing power and social function of art for all.

From the 1950s onwards, many of his works are made from a distinctive group of materials, in particular felt, fat and copper. These were chosen for their insulating, conductive, protective, transmitting and transforming properties. Animals of all kinds appear in his work, but he was particularly drawn to stags, bees and hares. A childhood interest in the natural sciences remained with him throughout his life, fuelling a desire to explore themes and experiment with the properties of materials.

Beuys produced a vast body of work that includes performance, drawing, print-making, sculpture and installation. His complex, interlocking themes cover science, myth, history, medicine and energy. Beuys’ own image and life story is inextricably linked to his work through his persona of the Shaman, shepherd or stag-leader.

This group of works covers forty years of Beuys’s career. Included are nature-based drawings of the 1950s, images and scores recording 1960s ‘actions’ and later installations, in addition to sculptures and vitrines. The collection brings together drawings with sculpture from the 1960s like the iconic Fat Chair, and images relating to Actions and installations like Coyote and Show Your Wound. It culminates with the sculpture Scala Napoletana which was made only a few months before the artist’s death, and relates to the theme of communication with the beyond.”

Text from the National Galleries of Scotland website [Online] Cited 23/07/2009 no longer available online

 

Joseph Beuys with 'Rose for Direct Democracy' 1973

 

Joseph Beuys with Rose for Direct Democracy
1973

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Pregnant Woman with Swan' 1959

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Schwangere und Schwan (Pregnant Woman with Swan)
1959
Oil paint and watercolour on paper
276 x 214 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

The tiny swan in this painting looks as if it is swimming serenely inside the woman, replacing the foetus inside her pregnant body. The drawing combines male and female elements, with the phallic nature of the swan’s neck. Beuys had been fascinated with swans since childhood. A sculpture of a large golden swan sat on top of the tower of Schwanenburg castle (Swan Castle) in his home town of Cleves, and was visible from his bedroom window while he was growing up. With his interest in language, the artist would also have delighted in the similarity between the German words for pregnant woman (Schwangere) and swan (Schwan).

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Felt Suit' 1970

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Felt Suit
1970
Felt and wood
1660 x 660 x 260 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Beuys began producing works in multiples in the 1960s, partly as a way to combat the elitism of the art world. This is probably his most famous multiple. It has its origins in the performance Action the Dead Mouse/Isolation Unit of 1970, where Beuys wore a felt suit with lengthened arms and legs, like the one seen here. He described the suit as an extension of the sculptures he made with felt, where the material’s insulating properties were integral to the meaning of the work. Beuys intended this concept of warmth to extend beyond the material to encompass what he described as ‘spiritual warmth or the beginning of an evolution’.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Stark beleuchteter Hirschstuhl (Brightly-Lit Stag Chair)' 1957-1971

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Stark beleuchteter Hirschstuhl (Brightly-Lit Stag Chair)
1957-1971
2 works on paper, oil paint, graphite and masking tape
1390 x 963 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Although Beuys began this collage in 1957, it was not finished until 1971. The chair is similar to the subject of the artist’s 1972 sculpture Backrest for a fine-limbed person (Hare-type) of the 20th Century A.D. This is a cast iron impression of a child’s plaster corset, made as a multiple. However, the striding feet of the chair in this collage give it a human aspect, making it seem almost confident and self-possessed. The curved back of the chair is echoed in the lightbulb shape at the top of the image. The stag, in Beuys’s bestiary, guided the soul in its journey to the afterlife.

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) 'Passage der Zukunftplanetoiden' (Hearts of the Revolutionaries: Passage of the Planets of the Future) 1955

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Passage der Zukunftplanetoiden (Hearts of the Revolutionaries: Passage of the Planets of the Future)
1955
Watercolour on card
295 x 490 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

The choice of red for this painting would seem like an obvious one, reflecting both the heart and the virtues of honour and courage of the revolutionary in the title of the piece. Red also represents socialism, a belief of Beuys which became central to his later work. However, the colour red is used sparingly and symbolically in the artist’s work, and here it makes a bold statement on life, vitality and the future. The inclusion of the round shape to represent a planet brings an astronomical element into the work.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Scala Napoletana' 1985

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Scala Napoletana
1985
Overall dimensions variable:11000 x 10000 x 6000mm (room size at Bexhill)
Ladder: 4510 x 250 x 80mm, Lead spheres: 500mm diameter each
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Much of the work Beuys made in his last few years includes objects or themes which suggest death. This sculpture was originally inspired by a ladder the artist found while recovering from illness on the island of Capri in Autumn 1985, which he hung with two stones. When he visited Amalfi at Christmas in the same year, he purchased a ladder (Scala Libera) from a landlord which he used to make this sculpture. Held in suspension, it appears as if the pair of lead weights are preventing this heavy wooden ladder from soaring into the air. This is one of the last sculptures Beuys made. He died in January 1986.

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986) 'Sled' 1969

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Sled
1969

 

 

The materials used in the making of this work relate to Beuys’s experience of being rescued by nomadic Tartars when his plane was shot down during the Second World War. Fat was rubbed into his body and he was wrapped in felt to keep him warm. The sled looks as if it has been prepared for an expedition or in response to an emergency, with a survival kit strapped to it. The flashlight represents the sense of orientation, the felt is protective, and the fat is for food.

 

Joseph Beuys. 'Ohne Titel (Untitled)' 1970

 

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986)
Ohne Titel (Untitled)
1970
Gelatin silver print on canvas
2330 x 2275 mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

 

 

Wearing his unmistakeable felt trilby hat, with his fishing vest poking through a luxuriant fur-lined jacket, this large image (over two metres square) shows Beuys at his most iconic. The clothes he wears here were part of his artist’s ‘uniform’, chosen for comfort and practicality (the multi-pocketed vest was particularly useful) but also as a way to create his image. Fittingly, he is depicted with one of his most distinctive sculptures. In the foreground is The Pack (1969), a group of twenty-four sledges. Each one has its own survival kit including fat for sustenance, felt for warmth and a torch for navigation, making the artist’s signature materials part of this image too.

Text under images from the National Galleries of Scotland website [Online] Cited 23/07/2009 no longer available online

 

 

De La Warr Pavilion
Bexhill-on-Sea,
East Sussex, TN40 1DP

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm, seven days a week

De La Warr Pavilion 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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