Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Eugene Meatyard

21
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘Now You See It: Photography and Concealment’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 31st March – 1st September 2014

 

Many thankx to the Metropolitan 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.

 

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899-1968 New York) 'Charles Sodokoff and Arthur Webber Use Their Top Hats to Hide Their Faces' January 27, 1942, printed c. 1983

 

Weegee (American, born Ukraine (Austria), Złoczów (Zolochiv) 1899-1968 New York)
Charles Sodokoff and Arthur Webber Use Their Top Hats to Hide Their Faces
January 27, 1942, printed c. 1983
Gelatin silver print
31.8 x 41.4 cm. (12 1/2 x 16 5/16 in.)
Gift of Aaron and Jessica Rose, 1983
Rights and Reproduction: © Weegee / International Center of Photography

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard (American, 1925-1972) 'Occasion for Diriment' 1962

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard (American, 1925-1972)
Occasion for Diriment
1962
Gelatin silver print
18.0 x 18.7 cm (7 1/16 x 7 3/8 in.)
Rogers Fund, 1967
© The Estate of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard was a photographer and optician who spent the last two decades of his life in Lexington, Kentucky, producing an eccentric body of work at some remove from the photographic mainstream. He often posed his family and friends in enigmatic tableaux with props such as dolls and rubber masks, imbuing his images with a haunting Surrealist sensibility. The curious title of this photograph stems from Meatyard’s passion for odd names, puns, and peculiar words and phrases. Diriment is a made-up word, a Lewis Carroll-like compound of “dire” and “merriment” that suggests a mood of high-spirited fun and hilarity fraught with anxious undertones.

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born Aberdeen, Washington, 1934) 'Shadow, New York City' 1966, printed 1973

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born Aberdeen, Washington, 1934)
Shadow, New York City
1966, printed 1973
Gelatin silver print
16.0 x 24.1 cm. (6 5/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1990

 

Robert Frank (American, born Zurich, 1924) 'Covered Car - Long Beach, California' 1955

 

Robert Frank (American, born Zurich, 1924)
Covered Car – Long Beach, California
1955
Gelatin silver print
21.4 x 32.7 cm (8 7/16 x 12 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005

 

 

“Photography is a medium prized for its capacity to expose, lay bare, make visible. For many artists, the camera is, above all, a tool for revealing what would otherwise remain unnoticed. As Diane Arbus once said: “I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.” At the root of this artistic impulse is a keen fascination with that which is hidden, obscure, or hitherto unseen. This exhibition presents a selection of contemporary photographs and video from the permanent collection that variously explores the medium’s dynamic interplay between concealment and revelation.

Some of the artists featured here use the camera to reveal subjects or places ordinarily hidden, as in Vera Lutter’s majestic view of the interior of a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant or Miguel Rio Branco’s lush image of a tapestry’s seamy underside. Others address instances of geopolitical obfuscation: Fazal Sheikh’s aerial photographs of the Negev desert in southern Israel record the traces of Bedouin villages that have been transformed into forests or farmland, while Mishka Henner collects images of stylishly censored high-security sites on Google Earth. In Vault (2011), Thomas Demand takes his inspiration from current events, meticulously re-creating a storeroom in which thirty missing works of art were discovered during a recent police raid.

The tension between publicity and privacy – the simultaneous desire to be looked at and to evade the merciless gaze of the camera – animates the work of artists as diverse as Arbus, Lutz Bacher, Jack Pierson, and Taryn Simon. In her video, The Nightingale (2003), Grace Ndiritu explores the tradition of the veil and its complex poetics of exposure and effacement. Complementing the contemporary works on view is a selection of earlier photographs in which the primary subject is hidden or obscured – a brief anthology of playfulness, shame, and seduction.

 

Fazal Sheikh (American, born 1965) 'Desert Bloom' (various numbers) 2011

 

Fazal Sheikh (American, born 1965)
Desert Bloom (various numbers)
2011
Excerpt from the Erasure Trilogy
Inkjet print
Image: 40 × 60 cm (15 3/4 × 23 5/8 in.) Sheet: 52.1 × 72.1 cm (20 1/2 × 28 3/8 in.) Frame: 73.7 × 53.3 cm (29 × 21 in.)
Purchase, Jane P. Watkins Gift, 2013

 

In 2011 the French photographer Frederic Brenner invited eleven prominent photographers to spend six months in residence in Israel and the Occupied Territories, or West Bank, to explore the area’s complexity and to create bodies of work that might broaden and reframe the conversation about the region. Among those invited was Sheikh, an artist best known for his sensitive black-and-white portraits of people living in displaced and marginalized communities around the world. Sheikh’s project takes the form of a trilogy titled Erasure, of which Desert Bloom is the central part. The images were made during several months of flying above the Negev desert and are intended to articulate the rapid transformation of the region. On the one hand, they invoke the Israeli endeavor to “make the desert bloom,” and on the other, they reveal traces of the Negev’s history: the construction of towns for the Bedouin, the natural erosion of the land, the demolition of local dwellings, the remains of military installations, the afforestation campaigns of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and the transformation of nomadic desert regions into farmland.

 

demand-vault-WEB

 

Thomas Demand (German, born 1964)
Vault
2012
Chromogenic print
220 x 276.9 cm (86 5/8 x 109 in.)
Purchase, Louis V. Bell Fund; Alfred Stieglitz Society, The Fledgling Fund, through Diana Barrett and Robert Vila, Joseph M. and Barbara Cohen Foundation Inc. and Hideyuki Osawa Gifts, 2013
© Thomas Demand / Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Demand’s photographs of the paper constructions he builds in his studio are typically based on photographs related to politically charged real-world events. He begins with an existing image, usually culled from the news media, which he translates into a three-dimensional life-sized model made of colored paper and cardboard. The models are then carefully lit and photographed, after which they are destroyed. Three times removed from the scenes they depict, Demand’s works are masterpieces of pictorial ambiguity that occupy a mesmerizing middle ground between reality and artifice.

Vault is based on a police photograph of a storeroom at the Wildenstein Institute in Paris, where thirty paintings and sculptures that had been missing for decades were discovered during a police raid in 2011. The missing artworks belong to the heirs of a French Jewish family displaced during the Holocaust. In Demand’s picture, as in the photograph on which it is based, the framed paintings – which include works by Degas, Manet, and Morisot – are turned to face the walls and remain tantalizingly hidden from view.

 

Vera Lutter (German, born Kaiserslautern, 1960) 'Pepsi Cola Interior II: July 6-13, 2000' 2000

 

Vera Lutter (German, born Kaiserslautern, 1960)
Pepsi Cola Interior II: July 6-13, 2000
2000
Gelatin silver print
Overall installation: 90 3/4 in. × 14 ft. 3/4 in. (230.5 × 428.6 cm) Sheet (A): 90 in. × 55 3/4 in. (228.6 × 141.6 cm) Sheet (B): 90 in. × 55 3/4 in. (228.6 × 141.6 cm) Sheet (C): 90 in. × 55 3/4 in. (228.6 × 141.6 cm) Frame (each): 90 3/4 × 56 1/4 in. (230.5 × 142.9 cm)
Purchase, Joseph M. and Barbara Cohen Foundation Inc. Gift, 2001
© Vera Lutter

 

While the basis for Lutter’s technique – the camera obscura – is older than photography itself, her images and subject matter are wholly modern. This enormous negative print was made inside a room-sized pinhole camera that Lutter built in a derelict Pepsi-Cola bottling plant on the East River in Hunters Point, Queens. After pinning three huge sheets of photographic paper opposite the camera’s pinhole aperture, she worked inside the camera to monitor and manipulate the light during the weeklong exposure. The bottling plant itself closed in 1999 and was later demolished.

 

Mishka Henner (British, born 1976) 'Staphorst Ammunition Depot, Overijssel' 2011, printed 2014

 

Mishka Henner (British, born 1976)
Staphorst Ammunition Depot, Overijssel
2011, printed 2014
From the series Dutch Landscapes
Inkjet print
31 1/2 × 35 7/16 in. (80 × 90 cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2014
© Mishka Henner

 

In his “Dutch Landscapes” series, Henner selects and reproduces images of the Netherlands found on Google Earth. The multicolored shapes punctuating these landscapes were created not by the artist but at the behest of the Dutch government. When Google Earth was introduced in 2005, satellite imagery of the entire planet became freely accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. This sudden visibility created concerns among many governments, who required Google – or its image suppliers – to obscure the details of sites deemed vital to national security. While most nations employed standard techniques, such as blurring, pixilation, or digital cloning, the Dutch chose to conceal hundreds of sites – including royal palaces, army barracks, and fuel depots – with bold, multicolored polygons. “There is of course an absurdity to these censored images,” Henner has written, “since their overt, bold and graphic nature only draws attention to the very sites that are meant to be hidden. Yet this contradiction seems perfectly apt for the absurd fear of terror that has come to dominate the cultural landscape of the last decade.”

 

 

Now You See It: Photography and Concealment, an installation of 25 works at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, focuses on the dynamic interplay between concealment and revelation in contemporary photography and video art. The featured works, all from the Museum’s Department of Photographs, range from a late 19th-century photograph by Pierre-Louis Pierson to a recently acquired work by Thomas Demand.

The installation presents works by artists who use the camera to reveal subjects or places ordinarily hidden from view, as well as works that explore broader themes of secrecy and obscured or partial vision. A highlight of Now You See It is Thomas Demand’s photograph Vault (2012). The image is based on a police photograph of a storeroom at the Wildenstein Institute in Paris, where 30 paintings and sculptures that had been missing for decades were discovered during a police raid in 2011. In Demand’s picture, as in the photograph on which it is based, the framed art works are turned to face the walls, remaining tantalizingly hidden from view. Other highlights include Vera Lutter’s haunting view of the seldom seen interior of the Pepsi Cola bottling plant in Queens, New York, Pepsi Cola Interior II: July 6-13 (2000), and Fazal Sheikh’s Desert Bloom (2011), a series of aerial photographs of the Negev desert. In Grace Nditru’s acclaimed video The Nightingale (2003), the artist explores the tradition of the veil and its complex associations of exposure and effacement. Accompanied by a recording of the Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, Ndiritu evokes a rapid-fire series of cultural references as she performs a hypnotic, Scheherazade-like series of gestures and movements with a piece of fabric, swiftly transforming it from turban to blindfold, and do-rag to noose to niqab. The tension between publicity and privacy, inherent in the field of photography, is explored in works by artists as diverse as Diane Arbus, Lutz Bacher, Jack Pierson, and Taryn Simon. The 20th-century photographs on view present the theme of concealment in a literal way and include Weegee’s Charles Sodokoff and Arthur Webber Use Their Top Hats to Hide Their Faces (January 27, 1942) and Helen Levitt’s Kids in a Box, on the Street, New York City (c. 1942).

Now You See It: Photography and Concealment is organized by Mia Fineman, Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009) [Kids in a Box, on the Street, New York City] c. 1942

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
[Kids in a Box, on the Street, New York City]
c. 1942
Gelatin silver print
Image approx.: 9 × 6 in. (22.9 × 15.2 cm)
Promised Gift of Mrs. Robert O. Levitt
© Estate of Helen Levitt

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009) [Kids on the Street Playing Hide and Seek, New York City] c. 1942

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
[Kids on the Street Playing Hide and Seek, New York City]
c. 1942
Gelatin silver print
9 3/4 × 6 3/4 in. (24.8 × 17.1 cm)
Promised Gift of Mrs. Robert O. Levitt
© Estate of Helen Levitt

 

Attributed to Juliette Alexandre-Bisson (French, 1861-1956) [Birth of Ectoplasm During Séance with the Medium Eva C.] 1919-20

 

Attributed to Juliette Alexandre-Bisson (French, 1861-1956)
[Birth of Ectoplasm During Séance with the Medium Eva C.]
1919-20
Gelatin silver print
11.8 x 8.9 cm (4 5/8 x 3 1/2 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation Gift, 2001

 

Bill Wasilevich (American, active 1940s) 'Jimmy "One Eye" Collins After Arraignment' 1946

 

Bill Wasilevich (American, active 1940s)
Jimmy “One Eye” Collins After Arraignment
1946
Gelatin silver print
18.6 x 14.4 cm (7 5/16 x 5 11/16 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2008
© Steve Schapiro/Corbis

 

 

Grace Ndiritu (British, born 1976)
The Nightingale
2003
Video
Gift of the artist, 2009
© 2003 Grace Ndiritu, Courtesy Grace Ndiritu and LUX, London

 

Before a camera fixed on her face and neck and accompanied by a recording of the Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, Ndiritu performs a hypnotic, Scheherazade-like series of gestures and movements with a piece of fabric, swiftly transforming it from turban to blindfold, from do-rag to noose to niqab. Both jubilant and unsettling, the video evokes a rapid-fire series of cultural references, counterposing the enforced modesty of the Islamic world with Western fantasies of exoticism. Ndiritu, who studied textiles at the Winchester School of Art, acquired this simple red-and-white scarf while traveling in India and carried it with her as a talisman through years of global exploration.

 

Jack Pierson (American, born 1960) 'The Lonely Life' 1992

 

Jack Pierson (American, born 1960)
The Lonely Life
1992
Chromogenic print
Frame: 76.2 × 101.6 cm (30 × 40 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2000
© Jack Pierson

 

In 1994, Pierson was invited by the Whitney Museum of American Art to show his photographs alongside a group of works by Edward Hopper (1882-1967) that the artist selected from their vast holdings. Like Hopper, Pierson creates works that are inherently cinematic in their scope and effects; both are primarily concerned with mood, atmosphere, and exhibit a particularly urban kind of melancholy. His greatest asset, however, is an almost overwhelmingly lush palette, which he uses to depict objects of desire or scenes that are unabashedly sensual and emotional. An excellent example of the artist’s high-key chromaticism, The Lonely Life describes the unique brand of loneliness shared by the performer and the fan, both of whom (like Pierson) are doomed to experience existence solely through the intoxications of art.

 

Pierre-Louis Pierson (French, 1822-1913) 'Scherzo di Follia' 1861-67, printed c. 1930

 

Pierre-Louis Pierson (French, 1822-1913)
Scherzo di Follia
1861-67, printed c. 1930
Gelatin silver print from glass negative
39.8 x 29.8 cm (15 11/16 x 11 3/4 in.)
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005

 

Virginia Oldoini, Countess Verasis de Castiglione (1837-1899), created a sensation when she appeared on the social scene in Paris in 1855, having been sent by the Italian statesman Cavour to secretly win Napoleon III over to the cause of Italian unity by “any means she chose.” Within months, the statuesque beauty was the mistress of Napoleon III and a much-talked-about ornament of the lavish balls so prevalent during the period. After the fall of the Second Empire in 1870, she led an increasingly secluded existence, which gave rise to fantastic speculation about her affairs. As the years went by, her mental stability declined and she ventured out only at night, shrouded in veils.

The countess’s raging narcissism found in photography the perfect ally; Pierre-Louis Pierson produced over seven hundred different images of her. In a reversal of roles, the sitter would direct every aspect of the picture, from the angle of the shot to the lighting, using the photographer as a mere tool in her pursuit of self-promotion and self-expression.

 

 

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23
Sep
09

Review: ‘Ivy’ photographs by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd September – 26th September 2009

 

Jane Burton (Australian, b. 1966) 'Ivy #1' 2009

 

Jane Burton (Australian, b. 1966)
Ivy #1
2009
Pigment print
89 x 75 cm

 

 

This is another outstanding body of photographic work on display in Melbourne. Featuring 10 large and 2 small sepia toned, vignetted pigment prints Burton’s work creates dark enchanted worlds of faceless female figures placed in the built environment that balance (meta)physical light and shade creating ambiguous narratives of innocence tinged with a darker edge.

The eponymous photograph Ivy #1 (above) is the seminal image of the series: a dark brooding house, hunched down positioned low in the photographic space, covered in ivy with black windows and dark eves has an ominous almost impenetrable presence and sets the tone for the rest of the work.

There are wonderful references to the history of photography if one cares to look (not simply generic references to Victorian daguerreotypes, postcards and family photographs). Ivy #2 (below) is a powerful photograph where the female figure is blindfolded, unable to see the encroaching tumescence of vegetation that surrounds and is about to engulf her. The placement of the hands is exquisite – unsure, reaching out, doubting her surroundings – with the 3-bladed fan hovering behind ready to devour the unwary. This photograph has resonances of the magical photographs of the garden by the Czech photographer Josef Sudek.

Ivy #3 (below) has echoes of the work of the American photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard and his placement of masked people within built environments. In Burton’s photograph the broken umbrella becomes like insect wings, the faceless whiteness of the three-legged and three-armed creature cocooned among the overhanging predatory ivy, the luminescent sky offering the possibility of redemption. Other photographs such as Ivy #6 (below) and Ivy #7 with their wonderful colours, depth of field, heavy shadows and elegiac romantic feel have references to Eugene Atget and his photographs of the parks of Versailles (see photograph below).

Still further references to the history of photography can be found in the photographs Ivy #9 and Ivy #10 (below). In Ivy #9 the intersection of the two female bodies through double exposure forms a slippage in (photographic) reality and the disappearance of original identity in the layering of the photographs and into the empty non-reflection of the mirror. This non-reflection is confirmed in Ivy #10 where the faceless nude woman holds a mirror with no reflection. These photographs remind me of the photographs of New Orleans prostitutes in the early years of the 20th century by the photographer Bellocq with their masked faces and the ornamentation of the wallpaper behind the figures (see below).

I feel that in these photographs with their facelessness and the non-reflection of the mirror investigate notions of ‘Theoria’ – a Greek emphasis on the vision or contemplation of God where theoria is the lifting up of the individual out of time and space and created being and through contemplative prayer into the presence of God.1 In fact the whole series of photographs can be understood through this conceptualisation – not just remembrances of past time, not a blind contemplation on existence but a lifting up out of time and space into the an’other’ dark but enlightening presence.

The greatest wonder of this series is that the photographs magically reveal themselves again and again over time. Despite (or because of) the references to other artists, the beauty of Burton’s work is that she has made it her own. The photographs have her signature, her voice as an artist and it is an informed voice; this just makes the resonances, the vibrations of energy within the work all the more potent and absorbing. I loved them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

Installation view of 'Ivy' by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

Installation view of 'Ivy' by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Ivy by Jane Burton at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne

 

Jane Burton. 'Ivy #2' 2009

 

Jane Burton (Australian, b. 1966)
Ivy #2
2009
Pigment print
75 x 75 cm

 

Jane Burton. 'Ivy #3' 2009

 

Jane Burton (Australian, b. 1966)
Ivy #3
2009
Pigment print
75 x 75 cm

 

 

“Jane Burton’s exhibition, Ivy comprises a series of photographs captured in black and white. The final prints are rendered with a sepia, peach-champagne tone, with many displaying a mottled hand-coloured effect in faded pastels of pink and green. These works hope to suggest an era past, perhaps Victorian. The imagery is evocative of old picture postcards from Europe and old photographs from the pages of family albums.

Central to the series is an image of a house covered with ivy. Depicted as dark and malevolent, the house is ‘haunted’ by the traces and stains of family history, habitation, and the buried secrets of all that occurred within.

Anonymous female figures are seen in garden settings where the foliage is rampant and encroaching and the shadows deep. There is an air of enchantment perceived with unspecified darker edge. The figures are innocent and playful. The viewer is asked to question if the and girls aware of the camera capturing their activity? Are the poses staged or caught spontaneously. In another photograph, a dilapidated male statue stands broken and armless, the texture of stone worn, and bruised with dark lichen and moss.

In the interior photographs, several nudes are depicted in the style of 19th century French daguerreotype photographs. These vignetted images display women against wall-papered backdrops with theatrical props reminiscent of earlier works by Burton such as the series ‘The other side’ (2003). Posed suggestively for the camera and the viewer’s gaze, the subjects themselves are faceless, their own gaze and features hidden behind dark hair. The surface and texture of these particular works suggests the patina of decay and the damage and wear of time.”

Text from the Karen Woodbury Gallery website [Online] Cited 20/09/2009 no longer available online

 

Bellocq 1912

 

E. J. Bellocq (American, 1873-1949)
1912

 

Jane Burton. 'Ivy #10' 2009

 

Jane Burton (Australian, b. 1966)
Ivy #10
2009
Pigment print

 

Eugene Atget. 'Versailles, France' 1923

 

Eugene Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Versailles, France
1923

 

Jane Burton. 'Ivy #6' 2009

 

Jane Burton (Australian, b. 1966)
Ivy #6
2009
Pigment print
75 x 75 cm

 

 

Jane Burton website

Karen Woodbury Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

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06
Sep
09

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Making A Scene’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 30th June – 18th October 2009

 

What a fabulous selection of photographs to illustrate a fascinating “scene”. I love staged, theatrical, constructed, conceptual, collaged, surreal, imaginary, narrative photography.

Marcus

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

 

 

Hill & Adamson (Scottish, active 1843-1848) '[Lane and Peddie as Afghans]' 1843

 

Hill & Adamson (Scottish, active 1843-1848)
[Lane and Peddie as Afghans]
1843
Salted paper print from a paper negative
20.6 × 14.3 cm (8 1/8 × 5 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

The team of Hill and Adamson initially began making dramatic portrait photographs as studies for one of Hill’s composite paintings. They also produced costume studies, including this scene in which Arabic scholar Mr. Lane and Mr. (Peddie) Redding appear in foreign garb.

 

Unknown maker, French. 'Woman Reading to a Girl' c. 1845

 

Unknown maker, French
Woman Reading to a Girl
c. 1845
Daguerreotype
9.1 × 7.1 cm (3 9/16 × 2 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

Through a skilful manipulation, the light coming from above and behind the figures casts the faces of mother and child in a softly modulated half-shadow. Their close grouping and familiar, intimate gestures evoke tenderness. The reflected light on the woman’s pointing finger and on the glowing white pages of the open book forms a strong visual triangle, drawing the viewer’s eye and serving to integrate and balance the composition.

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Infant Photography Giving the Painter an Additional Brush' c. 1856

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Infant Photography Giving the Painter an Additional Brush
c. 1856
Albumen silver print
6 × 7.1 cm (2 3/8 × 2 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

Oscar Rejlander’s photograph could be read as a metaphor of his own career. The additional “brush” or image-making tool provided by photography to painters was evident from the beginnings of the medium. Many early practitioners arrived at photography from painting, as did Rejlander. Photographs were often thought of and used as sketching tools for painters. Although photographs never managed to signal the death of painting as initially predicted, they did frequently assume the function that drawing had traditionally held in relation to painting.

Compositionally, this is an unusual photograph. Rejlander employs a narrative device from painting: the use of figures, or parts of figures, as allegorical representations for ideas. A very young child represents the infant medium of photography. The Painter appears only as a hand extending into the frame at the upper left, although the traditional arts are also represented by the sculpture reproduction in the lower left corner. The Infant Photography, identified by the camera on which the child supports himself, faces away from the camera, his features totally obscured. The mirror behind the child gives a clear reflection of Rejlander at his camera, making this image.

 

Roger Fenton (English, 1819-1869) 'Contemplative Odalisque' 1858

 

Roger Fenton (English, 1819-1869)
Contemplative Odalisque
1858
Albumen silver print
35.9 × 43.8 cm (14 1/8 × 17 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Gift of Professors Joseph and Elaine Monsen

 

 

Three years after traveling in the Crimea, Roger Fenton made a series of Orientalist photographs in his London studio using props gathered during his travels and non-Eastern models. Orientalism refers to just such romanticised depictions of imagined scenes of Muslim culture in the Ottoman Empire and its territories in the Near East and North Africa.

Orientalist scenes were more often fiction than fact. Cultural biases and misunderstandings were laid down on paper or canvas and frequently became the only source of information on the subjects depicted. When a group of these Orientalist photographs was exhibited in 1858, one reviewer described them as “truly representing some phases in the life of this interesting people.”

But not everyone so easily accepted Fenton’s images at face value; a more astute critic called for “the necessity of having real national types as models.” The same model shown here also appears as “Nubian” and “Egyptian” in other photographs by Fenton. This photograph may have originally been exhibited with the title The Reverie. The odalisque, meaning a slave or concubine in a harem, poses upon her sofa. Barefoot, blouse open, her surroundings convey a sensual disarray that conforms to an Orientalising fantasy of the available woman.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) 'The Rosebud Garden of Girls' June 1868

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
The Rosebud Garden of Girls
June 1868
Album silver print
29.4 × 26.7 cm (11 9/16 × 10 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

As evolutionary science and increasing secularism transformed the way Victorians understood the world, Cameron remained a devout Christian. She photographed influential public figures of her day as well as the women of her household, casting them in allegories of literary and religious subjects. Like her artistic contemporaries, the Pre-Raphaelite painters, who modelled their work on medieval religious and mythological art, Cameron intended her photographs to evince a connection between the spiritual and the natural realms.

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
Venus Chiding Cupid and Removing His Wings
1872
Album silver print
32.4 × 27.3 cm (12 3/4 × 10 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Lewis Carroll (British, 1832-1898) 'Saint George and the Dragon' June 26, 1875

 

Lewis Carroll (British, 1832-1898)
Saint George and the Dragon
June 26, 1875
Albumen silver print
12.2 × 16.2 cm (4 13/16 × 6 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

Like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and his other books, Carroll’s photographs are fantasies starring the children of his friends. In this production, the Kitchin siblings enacted the romantic legend of Saint George, the patron saint of England, who slayed a child-eating dragon before it devoured a princess. George later married the rescued princess and converted her pagan town to Christianity. Using crude stagecraft to reference key plot points, Carroll condensed the entire legend into a single scene in which the princess appears as both damsel in distress and bride.

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931) 'Untitled [Two Male Youths Holding Palm Fronds]' c. 1885 - 1905

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931)
Untitled [Two Male Youths Holding Palm Fronds]
c. 1885 – 1905
Albumen silver print
23.3 × 17.5 cm (9 3/16 × 6 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931) 'L'Offerta' (The Offering) 1902

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931)
L’Offerta (The Offering)
1902
Albumen silver print
22.4 × 16.8 cm (8 13/16 × 6 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

Von Gloeden left Germany and settled in a coastal town in Sicily, where he took up photography. His subjects were young native boys, whom he often photographed nude in classical compositions. Rather than reenact specific historical or literary scenes, von Gloeden mused nostalgically on the ancient Greek and Roman ancestry of his attractive models.

 

Guido Rey (Italian, 1861-1935) '[The Letter]' 1908

 

Guido Rey (Italian, 1861-1935)
[The Letter]
1908
Platinum print
21.9 × 17 cm (8 5/8 × 6 11/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

A deliberate homage to an earlier artistic style that Guido Rey admired, the composition derives from a painting made by Dutch artist Jan Vermeer in the 1600s. In this posed scene, a young suitor bearing flowers approaches a woman seated at her writing desk, with her pen poised in mid-air as she turns to greet him. A leaded glass window opens into her room, providing a natural light source for the photograph’s illumination. The mounted corner clock, decorative jar on the desk, and painting on the wall were Rey’s everyday household items or objects borrowed from friends, carefully chosen for period accuracy. Likewise, a seamstress who lived in the attic of Rey’s home in Turin created the costumes to his specifications.

 

 

“Photography, although commonly associated with truthfulness, has been used to produce fiction since its introduction in 1839. The acceptance of staging, and the degree of its application, has varied greatly depending on the genre and the historical moment, but it has persisted as an artistic approach. The photographs in this exhibition, drawn exclusively from the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection, make no pretence about presenting the world as it exists; instead, they are the productions of directors and actors who rely on stagecraft and occasional darkroom trickery to tell stories.
 Spanning photography’s history and expressing a range of sentiments, the images in this exhibition are inspired by art history, literature, religion, and mainstream media.

Like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and his other books, Lewis Carroll’s photographs are fantasies starring his friends’ children. In the image below, children enact the mythological story of Saint George, the patron saint of England, slaying a child-eating dragon before it could devour a princess.

 

Life Imitating Art

Well-represented in this exhibition are tableaux vivants (living pictures), inspired by the popular Victorian parlour game in which costumed participants posed to resemble famous works of art or literary scenes.
The genre paintings of 17th-century Dutch masters Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch fascinated Guido Rey. Not self-conscious about being slavish to the past, he carefully studied the paintings and then arranged similar tableaux for his camera. His photographs captured equally serene domestic scenes and mimicked the minute architectural details of 17th-century interiors, such as the leaded-glass windowpanes and the checkerboard floor.

 

Playing Dress Up

The exhibition also includes costume studies of people posing as literary characters and self-portraits of artists pretending to be other people. 

American painter and photographer Man Ray and the French artist Marcel Duchamp met in New York in 1915, and they began a playful, iconoclastic collaboration that resulted in the photograph (above), among others. Influenced by Dadaism, a cultural movement that rejected reason and logic in favour of anarchy and the absurd, their work embraced games of chance, performance, and wordplay. Here an irreverent Duchamp appears in women’s clothing as his alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, a pun on the French pronunciation “Eros, c’est la vie” (Sex, that’s life).

 

Imaginary Subjects

A number of photographs in the exhibition explore the medium’s capacity to visualise subjects of the imagination by using darkroom trickery to manipulate prints.
 An optician and family man, Ralph Eugene Meatyard photographed his children, friends, and neighbours enacting dramas in suburban backyards and abandoned buildings near his Lexington, Kentucky, home. He often used experimental techniques, such as multiple exposures and blurred motion. Uncanny details imbue Meatyard’s otherwise ordinary vernacular scenes with the qualities of a dream or supernatural vision.

 

Theatricality as a Critical Strategy

In recent decades there has been renewed interest in theatricality among contemporary photographers whose highly artificial scenes critique mainstream media and representation.
 In her series Family Docudrama Eileen Cowin blurs the boundaries between truth and fiction, and private behaviour and public performance. Drawing equally from family snapshots and soap operas, Cowin presents staged domestic scenes in which she and members of her family, including her identical twin sister, perform as actors. In these ambiguous, open-ended narratives, dramatic moments are exaggerated, and the camera’s glare is ever present.”

Text from The Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 16/04/2019

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp)' 1923

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp)
1923
Gelatin silver print
22.1 × 17.6 cm (8 11/16 × 6 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

 

 

When Man Ray moved to Paris, he was greeted by his friend and artistic compatriot Marcel Duchamp, who introduced him to members of the Dada circle of writers and artists. The two men had collaborated in a number of creative endeavours in New York, including the creation of a female alter-ego for Duchamp named Rrose Sélavy (a pun on the French pronunciation Eros, c’est la vie “Sex, that’s life”). Man Ray photographed Duchamp several times as Rrose Sélavy.

 

Man Ray. 'Larmes' 1930

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Larmes (Tears)
1930-1932
Gelatin silver print
22.9 × 29.8 cm (9 × 11 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

 

 

Judging from his inclusion of this image in other photographic compositions, Man Ray must have considered Tears one of his most successful photographs. A cropped version of it with a single eye also appears as the first plate in a 1934 book of his photographs.

Like the emotive expression of a silent screen star in a film still, the woman’s plaintive upward glance and mascara-encrusted lashes seem intended to invoke wonder at the cause of her distress. The face belongs to a fashion model who cries tears of glistening, round glass beads; the effect is to aestheticise the sentiment her tears would normally express. Man Ray made this photograph in Paris around the time of his breakup with his lover Lee Miller, and the woman’s false tears may relate to that event in the artist’s life.

 

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997) 'Le Simulateur (The Pretender)' 1936

 

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997)
Le Simulateur (The Pretender)
1936
Gelatin silver print
26.6 × 21.7 cm (10 1/2 × 8 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Dora Maar Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

In this picture Dora Maar constructed her own reality by joining together several images and rephotographing them. The seamlessness of the photographic surface makes this construction believable and leaves the viewer wondering about the strange world the figure inhabits. On closer examination, the viewer may notice that the floor is an upside-down ceiling vault, that the bricked-in windows are drawn in by hand, and that the figure was added separately. Despite these discoveries, the picture resists logical interpretation.

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard (American, 1925-1972) 'Untitled (Michael and Christopher Meatyard)' 1966

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard (American, 1925-1972)
Untitled (Michael and Christopher Meatyard)
1966
Gelatin silver print
16.8 × 17.5 cm (6 5/8 × 6 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Gift of Christopher Meatyard and Jonathan Greene
© Estate of Ralph Eugene Meatyard

 

 

An optician and family man, Meatyard photographed his children, friends, and neighbours enacting dramas in the suburban backyards and abandoned buildings of Lexington, Kentucky. He often used experimental techniques, such as multiple exposures and blurred motion. Uncanny details imbue Meatyard’s otherwise ordinary vernacular scenes with the qualities of a dream or supernatural vision.

 

Lucas Samaras. 'Photo-Transformation' November 22, 1973

 

Lucas Samaras (American, born Greece, 1936)
Photo-Transformation
November 22, 1973
Polaroid SX-70 dye diffusion print
7.6 × 7.6 cm (3 × 3 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Lucas Samaras

 

 

In this self-portrait, Lucas Samaras reaches out as if trapped in the photograph. In sharp contrast to the indistinct background of his upper body, his crisply defined fingers curl forward, as if he is searching for a way to transcend a two-dimensional world of his own creation. An overriding sense of claustrophobia defines this image, underscored by the small scale of the Polaroid print. Samaras, a hermit-like person, made many Polaroid self-portraits like this in the 1970s as a means of observing himself. The images are open to a wide range of interpretation. Here, Samaras may have tried to convey the sense of isolation he experiences as a reclusive person.

 

Lucas Samaras. 'Photo-Transformation' September 9, 1976

 

Lucas Samaras (American, born Greece, 1936)
Photo-Transformation
September 9, 1976
Polaroid SX-70 dye diffusion print
7.6 × 7.6 cm (3 × 3 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Lucas Samaras

 

 

As if engaging in a tug-of-war with himself, Lucas Samaras confronts and struggles with his own reflection in this self-portrait. The leg-less reflection is incomplete, however, giving the impression of a deformed adversary. A monochromatic polka-dot background and a vibrant green and red border act as a stage for this dramatic struggle.

Samaras’s Photo-Transformations, which he made in the 1970s as a means to examine various facets of himself, could be understood as visual manifestations of internal conflict. They are complex psychological investigations that, according to at least one critic, illustrate one person’s efforts toward spiritual healing.

 

Lucas Samaras (American, born Greece, 1936) 'Photo-Transformation, 1976'

 

Lucas Samaras (American, born Greece, 1936)
Photo-Transformation, 1976
1976
Polaroid SX-70 dye diffusion print
7.6 × 7.6 cm (3 × 3 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Lucas Samaras

 

 

Submerged in narcissism, nothing remains… but “me and myself, I am my own audience, the other, contemplating my existence.”

Made in the 1970s as a means of studying himself, Lucas Samaras’s photographs illustrate the internal struggle that can occur between conflicting aspects of one personality. Bent over a captain’s chair, Samaras rests his head as if he is at the guillotine. Another blurry form hovers above, about to violently attack the submissive figure.

Samaras made his Photo-Transformations, a series of self-portraits, with SX-70 Polaroid film. Still wet, the film’s emulsions could be manipulated to alter the finished image. He used straight pins, rubber erasers, and other simple tools to “draw” into the developing surface. For this portrait, he created a diamond pattern over and around the dominant figure that underscores the frenzy of motion.

 

Joel Peter-Witkin (American, born 1939) 'Mother and Child (with Retractor, Screaming)' 1979

 

Joel Peter-Witkin (American, born 1939)
Mother and Child (with Retractor, Screaming)
1979
Gelatin silver print
36 × 36 cm (14 3/16 × 14 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Eileen Cowin (American, born 1947) 'Untitled' from the series 'Family Docudrama' 1980-1983

 

Eileen Cowin (American, born 1947)
Untitled from the series Family Docudrama
1980-1983
Chromogenic print
48.4 × 60.7 cm (19 1/16 × 23 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Eileen Cowin

 

 

In her series Family Docudrama Cowin blurs the boundaries between truth and fiction, and private behaviour and public performance. Drawing equally from family snapshots and soap operas, she presents staged domestic scenes in which she and members of her family, including her identical twin sister, perform as actors. In these ambiguous, open-ended narratives, dramatic moments are exaggerated and the camera’s glare is ever present.

 

 

The Getty Museum at the Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
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Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

The Getty Museum 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: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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