Posts Tagged ‘psychedelia


Exhibition: ‘Black Light: Secret traditions in art since the 1950s’ at Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona

La llum negra. Tradicions secretes en l’art des dels anys cinquanta

Exhibition dates: 16th May – 21st October 2018

Curator: Enrique Juncosa

Artists: Carlos Amorales / Kenneth Anger / Antony Balch / Jordan Belson / Wallace Berman / Forrest Bess / Joseph Beuys / William S. Burroughs / Marjorie Cameron / Francesco Clemente / Bruce Conner / Aleister Crowley / René Daumal / Gino de Dominicis / Louise Despont / Nicolás Echevarría / Robert Frank / João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva / Brion Gysin / Jonathan Hammer / Frieda Harris / Derek Jarman / Jess / Alejandro Jodorowsky / Joan Jonas / Carl Gustav Jung / Matías Krahn / Wolfgang Laib / LeonKa / Goshka Macuga / Agnes Martin / Chris Martin / Henri Michaux / Grant Morrison / Tania Mouraud / Barnett Newman / Joan Ponç / Genesis P-Orridge / Sun Ra / Harry Smith / Rudolf Steiner / Philip Taaffe / Antoni Tàpies / Fred Tomaselli / Suzanne Treister / Vaccaro – Brookner / Ulla von Brandenburg / Terry Winters / Zush




Leon Ka – La llum negra – Mural

The mural at the entrance of the exhibition Black Light created by the artist Leon Ka, represents some of the symbols of ocultism, magic, and the mysticism of spirituality.



I love these eclectic exhibitions on unusual topics. Having studied a little Georges Gurdjieff, Carl Jung, Robert Johnson, Joseph Campbell and Carlos Castaneda to name just a few, I immersed myself in their spiritual, psychedelic and counterculture world. I had scarification done on my arm in 1992 which was one of the most spiritual rights of passage I have ever experienced in my life (see photograph below).

To be different, to explore that difference in art, is to violate the taboo of control – of adherence to the norm – that emotion which controls how we think, feel, act and create. As Georges Bataille observes,

“”The taboo is there in order to be violated.” This proposition is not the wager it looks like at first but an accurate statement of an inevitable connection between conflicting emotions. When a negative emotion has the upper hand we must obey the taboo. When a positive emotion is in the ascendant we violate it. Such a violation will not deny or suppress the contrary emotion, but justify it and arouse it.”1

An “understanding of the text [writing, art, music, etc.] as ‘social space’,” say Barthes, “activates a broad intertextuality and a productive plurality of meanings and signifying/interpretive gestures that escape the reduction of knowledge to fixed, monological re-presentations, or presences.” What he is saying here is that there is no singular unity… for unity is variable and relative. Further, according to Kurt Thumlert (citing Lentricchia, 1998), “a transgressive textuality can also become a mode of agential resistance capable of fragmenting and releasing the subject, and thereby producing a zone of invisibility where knowledge/power is no longer able ‘find its target’.”2

In other words, transgression of the taboo allows the artist (in this case) to release himself from the logic of control and where power cannot get its hooks into him. In order to do this during the production of art, the artist must understand that representations are presentations which entail,

“the use of the codes and conventions of the available cultural forms of presentation. Such forms restrict and shape what can be said by and/or about any aspect of reality in a given place in a given society at a given time, but if that seems like a limitation on saying, it is also what makes saying possible at all. Cultural forms set the wider terms of limitation and possibility for the (re)presentation of particularities and we have to understand how the latter are caught in the former in order to understand why such-and-such gets (re)presented in the way it does. Without understanding the way images function in terms of, say, narrative, genre or spectacle, we don’t really understand why they turn out the way they do.”3

The exhibition Black Light investigates how artists subvert these codes and conventions of representation and violate their taboo through emotions (whether positive or negative) present in the creative process. This transgressive spirit allows far seeing artists to become the seers of their day, playing with the dis/order of time, space and cultural (re)presentation. As a form of alchemy, all art partakes of this investigation into the past, present and future of life, our discontinuous existence as creatures who live and die, and the world that surrounds us, both physically and spiritually.


Many thankx to the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


  1. Bataille, Georges. Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo. New York: Walker and Company, 1962, pp. 64-65.
  2. Thumlert, Kurt. Intervisuality, Visual Culture, and Education. [Online] Cited 10/08/2006 No longer available.
  3. Dyer, Richard. The Matter of Images: Essays on Representations. London: Routledge, 1993, pp. 2-3.



Marcus Bunyan. 'Marcus (after scarification)' 1992


Marcus Bunyan (b. 1958)
Marcus (after scarification)
Gelatin silver print
© Marcus Bunyan




Black Light. Discover the occult side of contemporary art

The occult, spirituality, psychedelia and esotericism come to the CCCB with the exhibition Black Light. An unusual look at the art of the past 50 years that has been strongly influenced by secret traditions.



Joan Jonas
Reanimation (extract)



Henri Michaux (24 May 1899-19 October 1984)



Henri Michaux (French, 24 May 1899-19 October 1984) was a highly idiosyncratic Belgian-born poet, writer, and painter who wrote in French. He later took French citizenship. Michaux is best known for his esoteric books written in a highly accessible style. His body of work includes poetry, travelogues, and art criticism. Michaux travelled widely, tried his hand at several careers, and experimented with psychedelic drugs, especially LSD and mescaline, which resulted in two of his most intriguing works, Miserable Miracle and The Major Ordeals of the Mind and the Countless Minor Ones.



Kenneth Anger
Lucifer Rising (Original track by Acqua Lazúli)



For more information about this film please see the Lucifer Rising Wikipedia entry

Kenneth Anger (born Kenneth Wilbur Anglemyer; February 3, 1927) is an American underground experimental filmmaker, actor and author. Working exclusively in short films, he has produced almost forty works since 1937, nine of which have been grouped together as the “Magick Lantern Cycle”. His films variously merge surrealism with homoeroticism and the occult, and have been described as containing “elements of erotica, documentary, psychodrama, and spectacle”. Anger himself has been described as “one of America’s first openly gay filmmakers, and certainly the first whose work addressed homosexuality in an undisguised, self-implicating manner”, and his “role in rendering gay culture visible within American cinema, commercial or otherwise, is impossible to overestimate”, with several being released prior to the legalisation of homosexuality in the United States. He has also focused upon occult themes in many of his films, being fascinated by the English gnostic mage and poet Aleister Crowley, and is an adherent of Thelema, the religion Crowley founded. (Text from the Wikipedia website)


Barnett Newman (1905-1970) 'Untitled' 1946


Barnett Newman (1905-1970)
Oil on canvas
76.5 x 61.1 cm
© IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Generalitat Valenciana


Antoni Tàpies. 'Book covers' 1987


Antoni Tàpies
Book covers
Paintings on old book covers
60 x 78.5 cm
Private collection, Barcelona
© Heirs of Antoni Tàpies / Vegap, Madrid


Leon Ka. 'Creatio: Lux, Crux' 2015


Leon Ka
Creatio: Lux, Crux
Door of the cultural association Magia Roja, Barcelona



Black light is about the influence that various secret traditions have had on contemporary art from the nineteen-fifties to the present day. It presents some 350 works by such artists as Antoni Tàpies, Agnes Martin, Henri Michaux, Joseph Beuys, Ulla von Brandenburg, William S. Burroughs, Joan Jonas, Jordan Belson, Goshka Macuga, Kenneth Anger, Rudolf Steiner, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Francesco Clemente and Zush.

Black light brings together, in more or less chronological order, paintings, drawings, audiovisuals, sculptures, photographs, installations, books, music, engravings and documents by artists largely from North America, where secret traditions have historically enjoyed greater acceptance. There are works by creators who are considered fundamental to the history of art, such as Antoni Tàpies, Barnett Newman and Agnes Martin, alongside less-known figures of the counterculture of the sixties and seventies. The show also presents young artists to reflect the renewed interest in these traditions.

The work of all of them goes to show the relevance and continuity of these habitually overlooked trends, in many cases regarding art as a possible means to a higher cognitive level, as an instrument of connection with a more profound reality, or as a form of knowledge in itself. These ideas are contrary, for example, to a purely formalistic understanding of abstraction. Specifically, the exhibition also explores the influence of esoteric ideas on areas of popular culture, such as comics, jazz, cinema and alternative rock.


Henri Michaux. 'Untitled' 1983


Henri Michaux
Oil on linen paper
24 x 33 cm
© Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co. Photography: Fabrice Gibert


Marjorie Cameron. 'West Angel' Nd


Marjorie Cameron (American, 1922-1995)
West Angel
Graphite, ink and gold paint on paper
60.3 x 93.3 cm
© Courtesy Nicole Klagsbrun and Cameron Parsons Foundation



Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel (April 23, 1922-June 24, 1995), who professionally used the mononym Cameron, was an American artist, poet, actress, and occultist. A follower of Thelema, the new religious movement established by the English occultist Aleister Crowley, she was married to rocket pioneer and fellow Thelemite Jack Parsons.

Read her entry on the Wikipedia website


Aleister Crowley. 'Snow-Peak beyond Foothills, Libra I8 September-October' 1934


Aleister Crowley
Snow-Peak beyond Foothills, Libra I8 September-October
Pen and wash on paper
45 x 50 cm
© Ordo Templi Orientis


Unknown photographer. 'Aleister Crowley as Magus, Liber ABA' 1912


Unknown photographer
Aleister Crowley as Magus, Liber ABA
Originally published in The Equinox volume 1, issue 10 (1913)


Wolfgang Laib. 'Passageway' 2013


Wolfgang Laib (Germany, b. 1950)
Brass ships, rice, wood and steel
6 3/4 x 99 x 12 inches
© Wolfgang Laib



Wolfgang Laib (born 25 March 1950 in Metzingen) is a German artist, predominantly known as a sculptor. He lives and works in a small village in southern Germany, maintaining studios in New York and South India.

His work has been exhibited worldwide in many of the most important galleries and museums. He represented Germany in the 1982 Venice Biennale and was included with his works in the Documenta 7 in 1982 and then in the Documenta 8 in 1987. In 2015 he received the Praemium Imperiale for sculpture in Tokyo, Japan.

He became worldknown for his “Milkstones”, a pure geometry of white marble made complete with milk, as well as his vibrant installations of pollen. In 2013 The Museum of Modern Art in New York City presented his largest pollen piece – 7 m x 8 m – in the central atrium of the museum.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Brion Gysin. 'Dreamachine' 1960-1976


Brion Gysin (British, 1916-1986)
Cylinder. Painted and cut hard paper, Altuglas, electric bulb and motor
120.5 cm x 29.5 cm
© Galerie de France. Paris, Centre Pompidou – Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle



Brion Gysin (19 January 1916-13 July 1986) was a painter, writer, sound poet, and performance artist born in Taplow, Buckinghamshire.

He is best known for his discovery of the cut-up technique, used by his friend, the novelist William S. Burroughs. With the engineer Ian Sommerville he invented the Dreamachine, a flicker device designed as an art object to be viewed with the eyes closed. It was in painting and drawing, however, that Gysin devoted his greatest efforts, creating calligraphic works inspired by the cursive Japanese “grass” script and Arabic script. Burroughs later stated that “Brion Gysin was the only man I ever respected.” …

The Dreamachine (or Dream Machine) is a stroboscopic flicker device that produces visual stimuli. Artist Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs’ “systems adviser” Ian Sommerville created the Dreamachine after reading William Grey Walter’ book, The Living Brain.

In its original form, a Dreamachine is made from a cylinder with slits cut in the sides. The cylinder is placed on a record turntable and rotated at 78 or 45 revolutions per minute. A light bulb is suspended in the centre of the cylinder and the rotation speed allows the light to come out from the holes at a constant frequency of between 8 and 13 pulses per second. This frequency range corresponds to alpha waves, electrical oscillations normally present in the human brain while relaxing. In 1996, the Los Angeles Times deemed the Dreamachine “the most interesting object” in Burroughs’ major visual retrospective Ports of Entry at LACMA. The Dreamachine is the subject of the National Film Board of Canada 2008 feature documentary film FLicKeR by Nik Sheehan.

A Dreamachine is “viewed” with the eyes closed: the pulsating light stimulates the optic nerve and thus alters the brain’s electrical oscillations. Users experience increasingly bright, complex patterns of colour behind their closed eyelids (a similar effect may be experienced when travelling as a passenger in a car or bus; close your eyes as the vehicle passes through flickering shadows cast by roadside trees, or under a close-set line of streetlights or tunnel striplights). The patterns become shapes and symbols, swirling around, until the user feels surrounded by colours. It is claimed that by using a Dreamachine one may enter a hypnagogic state. This experience may sometimes be quite intense, but to escape from it, one needs only to open one’s eyes. The Dreamachine may be dangerous for persons with photosensitive epilepsy or other nervous disorders. It is thought that one out of 10,000 adults will experience a seizure while viewing the device; about twice as many children will have a similar ill effect.

Text from the Wikipedia website



An approach without prejudice to art and esoteric beliefs

Esoteric traditions can be traced back to the very origins of civilisation, having served at different times to structure philosophical, linguistic, scientific or spiritual ideas. Despite their importance for the development of twentieth-century art, they tend to be ignored or disparaged these days due to the dominance of rationalistic thinking and the difficulty of talking about these subjects in clear, direct language.

In recent years, however, many artists have taken a renewed interest in subjects such as alchemy, secret societies, theosophy and anthroposophy, the esoteric strands in major religions, oriental philosophies, magic, psychedelia and drug-use, universal symbols and myths, the Fourth Way formulated by the Armenian mystic Georges Gurdjieff, etc., generating an interest in these fields that had not existed since the counterculture of the sixties and seventies.

According to the writer Enrique Juncosa, curator of this exhibition, this interest “may be due to the fact that we are, once again, living in a restless and unsatisfied world, worried about new colonial wars, fundamentalist terrorism, serious ecological crisis and nationalist populism, just as in the sixties and seventies people feared an imminent and devastating nuclear catastrophe. Furthermore, much of today’s mainstream art is actually rather boring due to its complete lack of mystery and negation of any kind of poetisation or interpretation of our experience of it.”

For the essayist Gary Lachman, author of the text “Occultism in Art. A Brief Introduction for the Uninitiated” in the exhibition catalogue, “in recent years, the art world seems to have become aware of the importance of occultism […]. Admitting the influence of Hermeticism on the Renaissance, or of theosophy on early abstract art, to mention just two examples, helps to re-situate occult forces as an undeniable part of human experience and rescue them from the marginal position to which they had been exiled for a few centuries.”


Terry Winters. 'Bubble Diagram' 2005


Terry Winters (American, b. 1949)
Bubble Diagram
Oil on linen
215.9 x 279.4 cm
© Mattew Marks Gallery



Terry Winters (born 1949, Brooklyn, NY) is an American painter, draughtsman, and printmaker whose nuanced approach to the process of painting has addressed evolving concepts of spatiality and expanded the concerns of abstract art. His attention to the process of painting and investigations into systems and spatial fields explores both non-narrative abstraction and the physicality of modernism. In Winters’ work, abstract processes give way to forms with real word agency that recall mathematical concepts and cybernetics, as well as natural and scientific worlds.


Fred Tomaselli. 'Untitled [Datura Leaves]' 1999


Fred Tomaselli (American, b. 1956)
Untitled [Datura Leaves]
Leaves, pills, acrylic and resin on wood panel
182.88 x 137.16 cm
© Collection Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman NY, Courtesy the FLAG Art Foundation



Fred Tomaselli (born in Santa Monica, California, in 1956) is an American artist. He is best known for his highly detailed paintings on wood panels, combining an array of unorthodox materials suspended in a thick layer of clear, epoxy resin.

Tomaselli’s paintings include medicinal herbs, prescription pills and hallucinogenic plants alongside images cut from books and magazines: flowers, birds, butterflies, arms, legs and noses, which are combined into dazzling patterns that spread over the surface of the painting like a beautiful virus or growth. He uses an explosion of colour and combines it with a basis in art history. His style usually involves collage, painting, and/or glazing. He seals the collages in resin after gluing them down and going over them with different varnishes.

“I want people to get lost in the work. I want to seduce people into it and I want people to escape inside the world of the work. In that way the work is pre-Modernist. I throw all of my obsessions and loves into the work, and I try not to be too embarrassed about any of it. I love nature, I love gardening, I love watching birds, and all of that gets into the work. I just try to be true to who I am and make the work I want to see. I don’t have a radical agenda.”

Tomaselli sees his paintings and their compendium of data as windows into a surreal, hallucinatory universe. “It is my ultimate aim”, he says, “to seduce and transport the viewer in to space of these pictures while simultaneously revealing the mechanics of that seduction.” Tomaselli has also incorporated allegorical figures into his work – in Untitled (Expulsion) (2000), for example, he borrows the Adam and Eve figures from Masaccio’s Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (1426-27), and in Field Guides (2003) he creates his own version of the grim reaper. His figures are described anatomically so that their organs and veins are exposed in the manner of a scientific drawing. He writes that his “inquiry into utopia/dystopia – framed by artifice but motivated by the desire for the real – has turned out to be the primary subject of my work”.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Philip Taaffe. 'Rose Triangle' 2008


Philip Taaffe (American, b. 1955)
Rose Triangle
Mixed media on canvas
178 x 178 cm
© Collection Raymond Foye, New York



About the exhibition

In the fifties, US filmmakers Harry Smith and Jordan Belson made animated films that were precursors of the psychedelia and counterculture of the following two decades. Also at this time, painters associated with abstract expressionism in the US (such as Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt and Agnes Martin) and European Informalists, such as the Catalans associated with Dau al Set (including Antoni Tàpies and Joan Ponç), became interested in the writings of Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, oriental philosophies, the great myths and primitive shamanic rites. The cult US filmmaker Kenneth Anger made films that are still considered radical, influenced by the ideas of the well-known English occultist Aleister Crowley, who was also influential in the world of rock. And Forrest Bess, a self-taught, isolated artist, an unusual figure in the American art of the last century, painted symbolic, visionary images of the universal collective subconscious.

In the sixties and seventies, the emergence of counterculture and the hippy movement was accompanied by an upsurge in interest in esoteric matters and alternative spirituality. US writer William S. Burroughs and French artist and writer Brion Gysin, both interested in occultism and mysticism, developed the cut-up method to write texts using collage, actions which, like the origin of art itself, they considered magic. The American musician Sun Ra, one of the jazz world’s most idiosyncratic figures (he claims he was born on Saturn), set up the secret society Thmei Research in Chicago, and was interested in the writings of Armenian philosopher and master mystic Georges Gurdjieff, and the Ukrainian Madame Blavatsky, creator of the esoteric current known as theosophy. Sun Ra’s compositions, with a big band that performed in strange colourful clothing, were highly radical, embracing improvisation and chaos. In Europe, the German artist Joseph Beuys was inspired by the writings and activities of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, as a model to explain his ideas. Beuys called for a return to spirituality and defended art as a vehicle for healing and social change. The French artist Tania Mouraud, interested in introspection and philosophy, with a strong analytical vein, creates installations that are spaces for meditation, and the Catalan artist Zush, in Ibiza, discovers psychedelia and draws fantastic beings connected by vibrant energies.

The eighties and nineties saw the consolidation of a large number of artists who saw artistic practice as something that can facilitate a higher cognitive level. Several American abstract painters, like Terry Winters, Philip Taaffe and Fred Tomaselli, became interested in spiritual themes. Winters, for example, who took scientific images as his inspiration, based a large series of paintings on knot theory, a mathematical concept that might be seen as an emblem of the hermetic. Taaffe, meanwhile, used ornamental forms from different cultures, combining them in complex configurations of an ecstatic nature, and Tomaselli produced compositions using all kinds of drugs in a reference to psychedelia. In Europe, the German sculptor Wolfgang Laib, interested in Zen Buddhism and Taoism, creates sculptures and installations with symbolic images, like stairs and boats, suggesting ascension, travel and inner transformation, while the Italian Gino de Dominicis, who claimed to believe in extra-terrestrials and was obsessed by Sumerian culture and mythology, creates invisible sculptures. The paintings by Italian Francesco Clemente, a representative of the Transavanguardia movement, feature images of an apparently hermetic nature, creating a singular narrative of spiritual symbolism. The Chilean-French artist Alejandro Jodorowsky explores esoteric ideas in his extraordinary films of great visual imagination and also creates highly celebrated comics. In the nineties, several alternative rock bands such as Psychic TV (led by the English musician, poet and artist Genesis P-Orridge) were also interested in occultism and magic.


The origin of the title “Black Light”

The title “Black light” refers to a concept of Sufism, the esoteric branch of Islam that teaches a path of connection with divinity leading via inner vision and mystic experience. Sufism, which regards reality as light in differing degrees of intensity, speaks of a whole system of inner visions of colours that mark the spiritual progress of initiates until they become “men and women of light”. The intention is to achieve a state of supra-consciousness that is announced symbolically by this black light.

Press release from the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona website


Chris Martin. 'If You Don't See It Ask For It' 2016


Chris Martin
If You Don’t See It Ask For It
Acrylic and glitter on canvas
195.6 x 152.4 x 4.4 cm
© Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA Photography: Brian Forrest


Genesis P-Orridge. 'Burns Forever Thee Light' 1986


Genesis P-Orridge (British, b. 1950)
Burns Forever Thee Light
Hair, Indian corn, wax, saliva, semen, blood, acrylic paint, flourescent tape, pages from Man Myth & Magic, Polaroids, c-prints, paint pen
20 x 25 inches
© Courtesy of the artist and INVISIBLE-EXPORTS



Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (born Neil Andrew Megson; 22 February 1950) is an English singer-songwriter, musician, poet, performance artist, and occultist. After rising to notability as the founder of the COUM Transmissions artistic collective and then fronting the industrial band Throbbing Gristle, P-Orridge was a founding member of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth occult group, and fronted the experimental band Psychic TV. P-Orridge identifies as third gender.[a]

Born in Manchester, P-Orridge developed an early interest in art, occultism, and the avant-garde while at Solihull School. After dropping out of studies at the University of Hull, he moved into a counter-cultural commune in London and adopted Genesis P-Orridge as a nom-de-guerre. On returning to Hull, P-Orridge founded COUM Transmissions with Cosey Fanni Tutti, and in 1973 he relocated to London. COUM’s confrontational performance work, dealing with such subjects as sex work, pornography, serial killers, and occultism, represented a concerted attempt to challenge societal norms and attracted the attention of the national press. COUM’s 1976 Prostitution show at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts was particularly vilified by tabloids, gaining them the moniker of the “wreckers of civilization.” P-Orridge’s band, Throbbing Gristle, grew out of COUM, and were active from 1975 to 1981 as pioneers in the industrial music genre. In 1981, P-Orridge co-founded Psychic TV, an experimental band that from 1988 onward came under the increasing influence of acid house.

In 1981, P-Orridge co-founded Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, an informal occult order influenced by chaos magic and experimental music. P-Orridge was often seen as the group’s leader, but rejected that position, and left the group in 1991. Amid the Satanic ritual abuse hysteria, a 1992 Channel 4 documentary accused P-Orridge of sexually abusing children, resulting in a police investigation. P-Orridge was subsequently cleared and Channel 4 retracted their allegation. P-Orridge left the United Kingdom as a result of the incident and settled in New York City. There, P-Orridge married Jacqueline Mary Breyer, later known as Lady Jaye, in 1995, and together they embarked on the Pandrogeny Project, an attempt to unite as a “pandrogyne”, or single entity, through the use of surgical body modification to physically resemble one another. P-Orridge continued with this project of body modification after Lady Jaye’s 2007 death. Although involved in reunions of both Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV in the 2000s, P-Orridge retired from music to focus on other artistic mediums in 2009. P-Orridge is credited on over 200 releases.

A controversial figure with an anti-establishment stance, P-Orridge has been heavily criticised by the British press and politicians. P-Orridge has been cited as an icon within the avant-garde art scene, accrued a cult following, and been given the moniker of the “Godperson of Industrial Music”.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Harry Smith. 'Untitled, October 19, 1951' 1951


Harry Smith
Untitled, October 19, 1951
Ink, watercolour, and tempera on paper
86.36 x 69.85 cm
Collection Raymond Foye, New York


Agnes Martin. 'Untitled, No. 7' 1997


Agnes Martin (1912-2004)
Untitled, No. 7
Acrylic and graphite on canvas
152.4 x 152.4 cm
Collection “la Caixa”. Art Contemporani
© Vegap



Agnes Bernice Martin (March 22, 1912-December 16, 2004), born in Canada, was an American abstract painter. Her work has been defined as an “essay in discretion on inward-ness and silence”. Although she is often considered or referred to as a minimalist, Martin considered herself an abstract expressionist. She was awarded a National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998. …

Martin praised Mark Rothko for having “reached zero so that nothing could stand in the way of truth”. Following his example Martin also pared down to the most reductive elements to encourage a perception of perfection and to emphasise transcendent reality. Her signature style was defined by an emphasis upon line, grids, and fields of extremely subtle colour. Particularly in her breakthrough years of the early 1960s, she created 6 × 6 foot square canvases that were covered in dense, minute and softly delineated graphite grids. In the 1966 exhibition Systemic Painting at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Martin’s grids were therefore celebrated as examples of Minimalist art and were hung among works by artists including Sol LeWitt, Robert Ryman, and Donald Judd. While minimalist in form, however, these paintings were quite different in spirit from those of her other minimalist counterparts, retaining small flaws and unmistakable traces of the artist’s hand; she shied away from intellectualism, favouring the personal and spiritual. Her paintings, statements, and influential writings often reflected an interest in Eastern philosophy, especially Taoist. Because of her work’s added spiritual dimension, which became more and more dominant after 1967, she preferred to be classified as an abstract expressionist.

Martin worked only in black, white, and brown before moving to New Mexico. The last painting before she abandoned her career, and left New York in 1967, Trumpet, marked a departure in that the single rectangle evolved into an overall grid of rectangles. In this painting the rectangles were drawn in pencil over uneven washes of gray translucent paint. In 1973, she returned to art making, and produced a portfolio of 30 serigraphs, On a Clear Day. During her time in Taos, she introduced light pastel washes to her grids, colours that shimmered in the changing light. Later, Martin reduced the scale of her signature 72 × 72 square paintings to 60 × 60 inches and shifted her work to use bands of ethereal colour. Another departure was a modification, if not a refinement, of the grid structure, which Martin has used since the late 1950s. In Untitled No. 4 (1994), for example, one viewed the gentle striations of pencil line and primary colour washes of diluted acrylic paint blended with gesso. The lines, which encompassed this painting, were not measured by a ruler, but rather intuitively marked by the artist. In the 1990s, symmetry would often give way to varying widths of horizontal bands.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Matías Krahn Uribe. 'Panamor' 2016


Matías Krahn Uribe (b. Santiago de Chile, 1972)
Canvas and cotton
225 x 225 cm
© Matías Krahn Uribe



Matías Krahn (b. Santiago de Chile, 1972) Catalan painter born in Chile who lives and works in Barcelona.

His colourful works are a reflection of the world that surrounds him, of a concrete circumstance and environment, but also of the most intimate and subjective. Interested in the balance between the exterior and the interior, it orders the space and the figures it contains. His work, influenced by surrealism, is the mirror of the psyche and the unconscious that expresses itself in infinite forms and tonalities.


Francesco Clemente. 'Tarot cards: the High Priestess' 2009-2011


Francesco Clemente (Italy, b. 1952)
Tarot cards: the High Priestess
Water colour, gouache, ink, colour pencil
48.2 x 25.4 cm
© Courtesy of the artist



Francesco Clemente (born 23 March 1952) is an Italian contemporary artist. He has lived at various times in Italy, in India, and in New York City. Some of his work is influenced by the traditional art and culture of India. He has worked in various artistic media including drawing, fresco, graphics, mosaic, oils and sculpture. He was among the principal figures in the Italian Transavanguardia movement of the 1980s, which was characterised by a rejection of Formalism and conceptual art and a return to figurative art and Symbolism.



Black Light – Secret traditions in art since the 1950s: occultism, magic, esotericism and mysticism

This exhibition analyses the influence that different secret traditions have had on art since the 1950s and today. These are traditions that can be traced back to the very origins of civilisation and that have served at various times to structure philosophical, linguistic, scientific and spiritual ideas.

Despite the importance that these ideas had for the development of 20th century art – being fundamental in the work of key figures of modernity such as Piet Mondrian, Vasili Kandinski, Arnold Schönberg, William Butler Yeats and Fernando Pessoa – it is a tradition that has often been ignored in our time because of the dominant influence of rationalist orthodox thoughts, which are often ignored in our times.

Today, however, many contemporary artists re-explore these themes and are interested in issues as diverse as alchemy, secret societies, theosophy and anthroposophy; the esoteric currents of the great religions; oriental philosophies and magic; psychedelia and the ingestion of drugs; universal symbols and myths; the so-called fourth way of the Armenian mystic Georges Gurdjieff, etc., and, in so doing, generate a renewed interest in these issues that did not exist since the years of counterculture in the 1970s. Authors such as Mircea Eliade, historian of religions and novelist; Carl Gustav Jung, psychologist; Henry Corbin, specialist in Sufism, the esoteric current of Islam; Gershom Scholem, specialist in Kabbalah, the esoteric current of Judaism; and Rudolf Steiner, the founding philosopher of anthroposophy, have now found numerous new readers.

The exhibition will present, more or less chronologically, paintings, drawings, films, sculptures, photographs, installations, books, music and documents by artists as varied as Harry Smith, Jordan Belson, Barnett Newman, Agnes Martin, Ad Reinhardt, Antoni Tàpies, Joan Ponç, Henri Michaux, René Daumal, Forrest Bess, Kenneth Anger, Alejandro Jodor. The work of all of them demonstrates the relevance and continuity of these usually ignored traditions, and in many cases understands art as a possible way to reach a higher cognitive level or as a form of knowledge in itself.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue with texts by specialists such as Cristina Ricupero, Gary Lachman, Erik Davies and Enrique Juncosa. The proposal will also investigate and reveal occult traditions and their current context in the cultural production of our country.

Text from the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona website


Irrationality from rationality

Vincenç Villatoro, director of the CCCB, has justified the presence of this exhibition in a centre that defends rational culture, alluding to the fact that much of the artistic production can not be understood without its connection to non-rationalistic traditions: mystical, esoteric, hermetic … and points out that although in the second half of the twentieth century the hegemonic thought was the scientist, there was a sensitive part of society that came to other traditions, especially to give meaning to its life. Villatoro warns the visitor that the exhibition La llum negra is not an encyclopedia on hidden traditions, but neither is it intended to be a defence, nor a refutation. But the exhibition points out that for many creators, art is a way to access a deeper reality, which is difficult to access in other ways. Thus, secret tradition and art are complemented.

Gustau Nerín


Forrest Bess. 'Homage to Ryder' 1951


Forrest Bess (1911-1977)
Homage to Ryder
Oil on canvas
20.8 × 30.5 cm
© Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection



Forrest Bess (October 5, 1911-November 10, 1977) was an American painter and eccentric visionary. He was discovered and promoted by the art dealer Betty Parsons. Throughout his career, Bess admired the work of Albert Pinkham Ryder and Arthur Dove, but the best of his paintings stand alone as truly original works of art. …

He worked as a commercial fisherman, but painted in his spare time. He experienced visions or dreams, which he set down in his paintings. It was during this time he began to exhibit his works, earning one-person shows at museums in San Antonio and Houston. During his most creative period, 1949 through 1967, Betty Parsons arranged six solo exhibitions at her New York City gallery.

Bess was never comfortable for very long around other people, although he hosted frequent visitors to his home and studio at Chinquapin: artists, reporters, and some patrons made the trip to the spit of land on which Bess’s shack stood. He did forge lasting relationships with a few friends and neighbors, and maintained years-long friendships and correspondence with Meyer Schapiro and with Betty Parsons. But ultimately Bess preferred solitude, and his prolific activities as an artist, highlighted by limited notoriety and success, alternated with longs spells of loneliness, depression, and an ever-increasing obsession with his own anatomical manifesto.

In the 1950s, he also began a lifelong correspondence with art professor and author Meyer Schapiro and sexologist John Money. In these and other letters (which were donated to the Smithsonian Archives of American Art), Bess makes it clear that his paintings were only part of a grander theory, based on alchemy, the philosophy of Carl Jung, and the rituals of Australian aborigines, which proposed that becoming a hermaphrodite was the key to immortality. He was never able to win any converts to his theories or validation from the many doctors and psychologists with whom he corresponded. In his own home town of Bay City, he was considered something of a small-town eccentric.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Rudolf Steiner. 'Untitled (Blackboard drawing from a lecture held by Rudolf Steiner on 20. 03. 1920)'


Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)
Untitled (Blackboard drawing from a lecture held by Rudolf Steiner on 20. 03. 1920)
Chalk on paper
87 x 124 cm
Rudolf Steiner Archiv, Dornach



Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner (27 (or 25) February 1861-30 March 1925) was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect and esotericist. Steiner gained initial recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic and published philosophical works including The Philosophy of Freedom. At the beginning of the twentieth century he founded an esoteric spiritual movement, anthroposophy, with roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy; other influences include Goethean science and Rosicrucianism.

In the first, more philosophically oriented phase of this movement, Steiner attempted to find a synthesis between science and spirituality. His philosophical work of these years, which he termed “spiritual science”, sought to apply the clarity of thinking characteristic of Western philosophy to spiritual questions, differentiating this approach from what he considered to be vaguer approaches to mysticism. In a second phase, beginning around 1907, he began working collaboratively in a variety of artistic media, including drama, the movement arts (developing a new artistic form, eurythmy) and architecture, culminating in the building of the Goetheanum, a cultural centre to house all the arts. In the third phase of his work, beginning after World War I, Steiner worked to establish various practical endeavours, including Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, and anthroposophical medicine.

Steiner advocated a form of ethical individualism, to which he later brought a more explicitly spiritual approach. He based his epistemology on Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s world view, in which “Thinking… is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear. Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.” A consistent thread that runs from his earliest philosophical phase through his later spiritual orientation is the goal of demonstrating that there are no essential limits to human knowledge.

Text from the Wikipedia website


The blackboard drawings are the instructions of a new design language that the artist wants to develop. Steiner believes in the development of a supersensible consciousness, a big change for the future of humanity. He gives many lectures in which he details his research on the concept of transmission and its influence on the social. Whether true or not, artists such as Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky and others are interested in the complex graphics of Steiner and his research. Mondrian will even write: “Art is a way of development of mankind.” (Text from the Culture Box website translated from French)


Adaptive image from the exhibition 'Black light'

Adaptive image from the exhibition 'Black light'


Adaptive images from the exhibition Black Light: Secret traditions in art since the 1950s at the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona



Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona
Montalegre, 5 – 08001 Barcelona
Phone: 93 306 41 00

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11.00 – 20.00

Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona website


Back to top


Exhibition: ‘Light Years: Photography and Space’ at the National Gallery of Victoria International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 8th May – 27th September 2009


A small but fun show at NGV International, Melbourne that is drawing in the crowds. A selection of beautiful, breathtaking images from NASA really takes you into space. I had a great time researching and finding some of the images from the exhibition on the NASA Image and Video Library website!


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



“Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available, we shall, in an emotional sense, acquire an additional dimension … and a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.”

Sir Fred Hoyle, 1948


“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of the imagination.”

John Dewey, 1859-1952, American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer



Neil Armstrong. 'Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar Module (LM)' 1969


NASA, Washington, D.C. (United States est. 1958, manufacturer)
Neil Armstrong (American 1930-2012, photographer)
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar Module (LM)

Note the reflection of the shadow of the astronaut, the photographer and the leg of the LM in the visor of Buzz Aldrin.



Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., Lunar Module LM pilot, walks near the module as a picture is taken of him. Discoloration is visible on his boots and suit from the lunar soil adhering to them. Reflection of the LM and Astronaut Niel A. Armstrong is visible in Aldrin’s helmet visor. Image taken at Tranquility Base during the Apollo 11 Mission. Original film magazine was labeled S. Film Type: Ektachrome EF SO168 color film on a 2.7-mil Estar polyester base taken with a 60mm lens. Sun angle is Medium. Tilt direction is Northeast NE.

Text from the NASA archives website


Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, stands on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module, Eagle, during the Apollo 11 moonwalk. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, mission commander, took this photograph with a 70mm lunar surface camera. While Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the lunar module to explore the Sea of Tranquility, astronaut Michael Collins, command module pilot, remained in lunar orbit with the Command and Service Module, Columbia. This is the actual photograph [above] as exposed on the moon by Armstrong. He held the camera slightly rotated so that the camera frame did not include the top of Aldrin’s portable life support system (“backpack”). A communications antenna mounted on top of the backpack is also cut off in this picture. When the image was released to the public, it was rotated clockwise to restore the astronaut to vertical for a more harmonious composition, and a black area was added above his head to recreate the missing black lunar “sky”. The edited version [below] is the one most commonly reproduced and known to the public, but the original version, above, is the authentic exposure. A full explanation with illustrations can be seen at the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal.

Text from the Wikipedia website. Image from the NASA website.


Neil Armstrong (American, 1930-2012 photographer) 'Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar Module (LM)' 1969


NASA, Washington, D.C. (United States est. 1958, manufacturer)
Neil Armstrong (American, 1930-2012 photographer)
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar Module (LM)
Colour transparency
50.8 × 40.6 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1980



In 1948, the British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle speculated that “Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available, we shall, in an emotional sense, acquire an additional dimension … and a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” Hoyle encapsulated the immense anticipation that was felt in the mid-twentieth century, when the idea of leaving Earth and viewing it from afar was on the verge of becoming reality.

When astronauts and spacecraft began exploring our solar system, it was the photographs from these voyages which visualised the reality of the epic feats of science, engineering and human imagination. These photographs transcended a strictly scientific purpose and depicted scenes of unexpected and sublime beauty.

This exhibition brings together works from the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Victoria that depict space travel, seen in archival images from NASA, space allegories, and altered perceptions of reality inspired by ideas of science and space. These photographs also show a fascination with light, as both the means and the subject of the image.

The exhibition focuses largely on the 1960s and 1970s – an exciting time for the artistic and scientific exploration of worlds beyond our own. These were ‘light years’, in which people looked up to the skies and beyond, in a real and an imagined sense, and through photography discovered additional dimensions.

Text from the NGV International website


Ronnie Van Hout (New Zealander, 1962-, worked in Australia 1998-) 'Visitation' 1992


Ronnie Van Hout (New Zealander, 1962-, worked in Australia 1998-)
from the Untitled series 1992
Gelatin silver photograph
31.8 × 47.3 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1996
© Ronnie van Hout



The work is from van Hout’s Untitled 1992 series. It comprises images made by photographing still life constructed from small scale models. The series is based upon B-grade 1950s and 1960s science fiction films. The photographs in the series show a single word, encapsulating an essential element of the story and constructed in 3-D text, placed within a barren / lunar model landscape.

Text from the National Gallery of Victoria website


In his Untitled series, 1992, Ronnie van Hout created models based on the mountains in New Zealand, shown as the sun was setting and they fell into silhouette, and placed a single word (‘rejoice’ or ‘visitation’) in the foreground. The influence of 1960s sci-fi aesthetics is clearly evident in the glowing lights, the desolate ground, and the potential for an otherworldly experience. As with much science fiction, van Hout’s photographs create ambiguous narratives that allude to alien visitation set in a mystical landscape.

Text from the NGV Education kit


Raymond De Berquelle. 'Where do you come from? Planet Earth (Self-portrait with radio telescope)' 1968


Raymond De Berquelle (Australian, 1933- )
Where do you come from? Planet Earth (Self-portrait with radio telescope)
Gelatin silver photograph
24.1 × 19.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2008
© Raymond de Berquelle


Raymond De Berquelle (Australian, 1933- ) 'Space man' 1963


Raymond De Berquelle (Australian, 1933- )
Space man
Gelatin silver photograph
49.8 × 41.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1971
© Raymond de Berquelle



The photographs of Raymond de Berquelle reflect excitement about the possibilities of astronomy and a fascination for science fiction. The radio telescope was a particularly significant emblem of the exploration of the universe. The primary tool of astronomy, it allowed astronomers to see beyond visible light into the expansive electromagnetic spectrum. De Berquelle frequently visited observatories and radio telescopes, including the one at Parkes, outside Canberra, that was one of a network of radio antennas around the world used to receive images from the Apollo 11 Moon landing in July 1969.

To create the fantastical photograph, Space man, Raymond de Berquelle combined different negatives to construct an image that expressed both his expectations of astronomy and his vision of a man in space. De Berquelle describes the process as beginning with an unexpected vision:

[one day] a radio telescope appeared on the horizon with a human being clinging to it as if caught in its net. It was a technician [working on] the huge instrument. In the darkroom later on the negative appeared stronger than the positive image … and an earthy radio telescope technician became a space man.

Raymond de Berquelle in correspondence with Maggie Finch, 12 November 2008, quoted in Maggie Finch, Light Years: Photography and space (exh. cat.), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2009, p. 18.

Text from the NGV Education kit


John Wilkins. 'Alien Icicle' c. 1970


John Wilkins (Australian, 1946- )
Alien Icicle
c. 1970
Gelatin silver photograph on composition board
57.6 × 46.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1971
© John Wilkins



The photograms of John Wilkins reveal methods of abstraction and distortion (the hallmarks of psychedelia) to produce lush, exploding, organic forms. Wilkins uses the photogram technique to record the object (in this case, liquid) directly onto film, which was later enlarged and printed. Wilkins’s photographs resemble cosmic worlds, and he has described how the chemical patterns were directly influenced by the psychedelic patterns meant to simulate LSD trips that were projected onto the walls of nightclubs in the 1960s and 1970s. They possess a mysterious quality that transcends a distinction between art and science.

Text from the NGV Education kit


Sir George F. Pollock (born France, English 1928-2016) 'Energy bubble' 1966


Sir George F. Pollock (born France, English 1928-2016)
Energy bubble
Cibachrome photograph
24.0 × 34.6 cm irreg. (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by the National Gallery Society of Victoria, 1972
© George F. Pollock



“Light is the energy that maintains life on earth, through the plants’ marvellous process of photosynthesis: no light, no plants; no plants, no animals, and no us. This is the secret of life, and I want to celebrate this life-giving energy in images of, about, and made by light, in other words in photographs.”

Sir George Pollock, 2009


Space exploration opened up new ways of seeing and imagining the world and created new perceptions of our place in the universe.

Parallel to the exploration of outer space taking place under the auspices of science, explorations of space in other realms were contributing to new and altered perceptions of the world, and inspiring new forms of art and artmaking.

During the second half of the twentieth century, many artists rejected the illusionistic representation of three-dimensional space and form which had dominated western art for centuries and opted for a flattened pictorial space. In contrast to the closed compositions traditionally found in western art, artists such as Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–56) worked with ‘open compositions’ which created the idea that the visual elements in an image extended beyond the confines of the picture space.

The mysterious world of ‘inner space’, including the subconscious, and the senses, was also important territory for exploration, especially within the ‘hippie’ subculture that emerged in the US in the mid-1960s. Psychedelic patterns, inspired by the hallucinations and mind-altering experiences produced by drugs such as LSD, and characterised by wild patterning and colours and dazzling light effects, had a significant effect on the art and popular culture of the period.

In 1962, English artist George Pollock commenced a conceptual photographic project comprising a series of abstract photographs that he called ‘vitrographs’. This term referred to the process of creating images by photographing pieces of glass that have been lit by a number of coloured lights. Pollock used pieces of cullet, the thick lumps of glass left in a kiln at the end of a melt.

By lighting the cullet from different angles and photographing the pieces at close range, Pollock was able to produce patterned, abstract images with an ethereal quality reminiscent of solar eruptions and the nebulae of outer space.

Pollock was influenced by scientific studies, particularly in the field of biology, as well as the literature of science fiction and the abstraction found in the art of surrealism and abstract expressionism. He was interested in using photography to reveal things that otherwise may have been overlooked.

Text from the NGV Education kit


Sir George F. Pollock (born France, English 1928-2016) 'Galactic event' 1966


Sir George F. Pollock (born France, English 1928-2016)
Galactic event
Cibachrome photograph
34.3 × 24.0 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by the National Gallery Society of Victoria, 1972
© George F. Pollock



A significant number of the works in Light Years: Photography and space have been acquired by the NGV from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). The United States government established NASA on 29 July 1958 as the agency responsible for the development of the nation’s new space program.

The 1950s and 1960s were a period of intense activity in space exploration, led by the US and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The US and the Soviet Union emerged as the two most powerful forces in the world after the Second World War. During the Cold War that followed, these two superpowers competed for political, military and scientific dominance, fuelling a ‘space race’. The space race effectively began when the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite to orbit Earth, Sputnik 1, on 4 October 1957, and reached a milestone when NASA succeeded in landing humans on the moon on 20 July 1969 (in Australia, 21 July 1969).

The Apollo missions, in particular the Apollo 11 mission of 1969 that saw Neil Armstrong become the first man to step foot on the moon, have assumed enormous importance in the popular imagination in relation to space travel.

However, since the late 1950s NASA has been involved in many different projects, involving numerous manned and unmanned missions. These projects have ranged from exploring Earth’s orbit and mapping the lunar surface to penetrating greater and greater distances into space and exploring other planets in our solar system, including Mars, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter. These missions played a critical role in extending our knowledge of the solar system.

While information and photographs of the Russian space program were closely guarded and rarely released to the public, NASA strategically managed the publication of images drawn from its vast photographic archive, and this had a very positive impact on the public reception of the space program.

Interestingly, it was not a priority in the early days of NASA to take photographs during missions. However, the importance of photography was soon recognised and, along with rigorous flight training, astronauts who piloted the various space missions were given extensive photographic training. Unmanned probes were equipped with remotely operated cameras, allowing those back on Earth to see details of these voyages. Increasingly sophisticated technology, including advanced imaging techniques such as X-ray, ultraviolet and infrared photography, has also been employed to capture different phenomena.

The photographs in this exhibition include images taken on manned and unmanned space voyages, from the Gemini space walks of 1965 to the Pioneer missions of 1979.

While these space photographs clearly serve a documentary purpose and are a tool of scientific research, they have a unique beauty and evoke something of the mystery and wonder of space.

The NGV acquired the NASA space photographs in two groups, the first in 1971 and the second in 1980. The acquisition submission of 1980, prepared by the former Curator of Photography, Jennie Boddington, noted:

Apart from the considerations of technology one cannot help but speculate on the philosophical and metaphysical questions which spring to mind when one sees so beautifully presented the form of nebulae which may be light years away from our small earth, or when we see spacemen performing strange exercises in a Skylab.

Text from the NGV Education kit


James McDivitt (American, 1929- , photographer) 'Astronaut Edward H. White, Gemini 4, June 1965' 1965


NASA, Washington, D.C. (United States est. 1958, manufacturer)
James McDivitt (American, 1929- , photographer)
Astronaut Edward H. White, Gemini 4, June 1965
Type C photograph laminated on aluminium
39.0 × 49.1 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by Photimport, 1971



This photograph by astronaut James McDivitt is taken from inside the spacecraft on the Gemini 4 mission as it orbited Earth. It shows astronaut Edward White in his spacesuit and golden visor, ‘floating’ high above the Pacific Ocean. White is attached to the spacecraft by a twisting eight-metre tether and holds a manoeuvring unit. Below him is the extraordinary vision of the vivid blue curvature of Earth and, beyond, the black abyss of deep space.

Text from the NGV Education kit


Apollo 12. 'View of two U.S. spacecraft on the surface of the moon, taken during the second Apollo 12 extravehicular activity (EVA-2)' 1969


NASA, Washington, D.C. (United States est. 1958, manufacturer)
Apollo 12 (photographer)
View of two U.S. spacecraft on the surface of the moon, taken during the second Apollo 12 extravehicular activity (EVA-2)
[Astronaut inspecting Surveyor 3, Unmanned craft resting on moon since April 1967]
Gelatin silver photograph
49.0 × 39.0 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by Photimport, 1971



This unusual photograph, taken during the second Apollo 12 extravehicular activity (EVA), shows two U.S. spacecraft on the surface of the moon. The Apollo 12 Lunar Module (LM) is in the background. The unmanned Surveyor 3 spacecraft is in the foreground. The Apollo 12 LM, with astronauts Charles Conrad Jr. and Alan L. Bean aboard, landed about 600 feet from Surveyor 3 in the Ocean of Storms. The television camera and several other pieces were taken from Surveyor 3 and brought back to Earth for scientific examination. Here, Conrad examines the Surveyor’s TV camera prior to detaching it. Astronaut Richard F. Gordon Jr. remained with the Apollo 12 Command and Service Modules (CSM) in lunar orbit while Conrad and Bean descended in the LM to explore the moon. Surveyor 3 soft-landed on the moon on April 19, 1967.

Text from the NASA Image and Video Library website


Charles Conrad. 'Astronaut Bean, Apollo XII, November 1969, on moon' 1969


NASA, Washington, D.C. (United States est. 1958, manufacturer)
Charles Conrad (American, photographer)
Astronaut Bean, Apollo XII, November 1969, on moon
Gelatin silver photograph
49.0 x 39.0 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by Photimport, 1971


Apollo 8 crew (photographer) 'The Earth showing Southern Hemisphere' 1969


NASA, Washington, D.C. (United States est. 1958, manufacturer)
Apollo 8 crew (photographer)
The Earth showing Southern Hemisphere
Type C photograph
48.9 × 38.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented by Photimport, 1971



Project Apollo (1968-72) sent astronauts greater distances from Earth in the quest to land humans on the Moon. The further they travelled also, crucially, allowed for more complete photographic views of Earth. In this photograph, Earth is shown as a delicate, blue, cloud-covered dot hanging in infinite space.

The spectacle of Earth suspended in a black void had a profound effect on humanity. Earth was no longer seen to be our complete ‘world’ but was recognised as a small planet spinning in the solar system. As awareness of the vulnerability and limits of the planet grew, photographs such as this one formed a strong catalyst for environmental movements.

Photographs from the Apollo missions were also used to promote the inaugural Earth Day on 22 April 1970.

Text from the NGV Education kit


NASA, Washington, D.C. (manufacturer) 'Photo collage of Jupiter and its four largest moons; from early March Voyager I photos' 1979


NASA, Washington, D.C. (United States est. 1958, manufacturer)
Voyager 1 (photographer)
Photo collage of Jupiter and its four largest moons; from early March Voyager I photos
Type C photograph
51.0 x 40.5 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1980


While Jupiter had been studied through telescopes for centuries, the Voyager robotic probes that were launched into space in 1977 revealed new information about the planet and its moon system. In March 1979, the Voyager 1 mission took images of the four largest moons of Jupiter. These images were made into a photographic collage, so that the moons are seen in their relative positions (although not to scale). NASA’s arrangement of images in this montage (and others) essentially created an aesthetic rendering of scientific reality.

Text from the NGV Education kit


Pioneer 11. 'Image of Saturn and it's Moon Titan' 1979


NASA, Washington, D.C. (United States est. 1958, manufacturer)
Pioneer 11
Image of Saturn and it’s moon Titan

Type C photograph
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1980



Light Years: Photography and Space will feature around 50 works drawn entirely from the NGV Collection. Focusing largely on the 1960s and ’70s, the exhibition will include photographs taken during early NASA missions. The exhibition celebrates the International Year of Astronomy and the 40th anniversary of the first Moon walk.

Maggie Finch, Assistant Curator, Photography, NGV said that cameras were used to give form to both the fantasies and realities of space travel, revealing extra dimensions and animating space.

“The 1960s and ’70s were an exciting time for the artistic and scientific exploration of worlds beyond our own. They were ‘light years’ in which people looked up to the skies and beyond, in a real and an imagined sense, and through photography discovered additional dimensions. The photographs in ‘Light Years’ represent a giant leap forward in the collective journey into space. They retain the extraordinary sense of awe and wonderment that encapsulates our first encounters with a larger universe,” said Ms Finch.

A highlight of the exhibition is a collection of more than 30 NASA photographs, on display for the first time in over twenty years. Among the NASA selection are many celebrated space photographs, including the iconic image of Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr standing on the lunar surface, taken in 1969 by Neil Armstrong, the first man to step foot on the Moon.

These remarkable photographs will be on display alongside works by Sir George Pollock, John Wilkins Raymond de Berquelle, Dacre Stubbs, Val Foreman, Susan Fereday, Olive Cotton and Ronnie van Hout – artists who have been inspired by, and have responded to, the mysteries of space and science.

Frances Lindsay, Deputy Director, NGV said: “The photography from the NASA missions of the 1960s and ’70s has a fascinating yet nostalgic quality, particularly when one considers the advances in both science and photographic technology since that time. These early photographs of space changed our awareness and offered a new understanding of the Earth, the universe and our shared existence within it. Coinciding with the International Year of Astronomy and the 40th anniversary of the first Moon walk, this exhibition will delight viewers, providing a glimpse into another dimension,” said Ms Lindsay.

Text from website


NASA, Washington, D.C. (manufacturer) 'Three Skylab 2 crewmen demonstrate effects of weightlessness' 1973


NASA, Washington, D.C. (United States est. 1958, manufacturer)
Skylab (photographer)
Three Skylab 2 crewmen demonstrate effects of weightlessness
Type C photograph
40.5 x 49.9 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1980


NASA, Washington, D.C. (manufacturer) 'Solar Flare recorded by NASA Skylab, December 1973' 1973


NASA, Washington, D.C. (United States est. 1958, manufacturer)
Skylab (photographer)
Solar Flare recorded by NASA Skylab, December 1973
Colour transparency
50.8 × 40.6 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1980



This photograph of the sun, taken on Dec. 19, 1973, during the third and final manned Skylab mission (Skylab 4), shows one of the most spectacular solar flares ever recorded, spanning more than 588,000 kilometers (365,000 miles) across the solar surface. The last picture, taken some 17 hours earlier, showed this feature as a large quiescent prominence on the eastern side of the sun. The flare gives the distinct impression of a twisted sheet of gas in the process of unwinding itself. Skylab photographs such quiescent features erupt from the sun. In this photograph the solar poles are distinguished by a relative absence of supergranulation network, and a much darker tone than the central portions of the disk. Several active regions are seen on the eastern side of the disk. The photograph was taken in the light of ionised helium by the extreme ultraviolet spectroheliograph instrument of the United States Naval Research Laboratory.

Text from the NASA Image and Video Library website



National Gallery of Victoria International
180, St. Kilda Road, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10 – 5pm every day

NGV International website

All NASA images are from the NASA Image and Video Library website


Back to top

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

Join 2,464 other followers

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Lastest tweets

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

March 2019
« Feb