Posts Tagged ‘remembrance

29
May
21

Photographs: ‘The “Green Ticket” roundup – first roundup of Jews in France during World War II’, Memorial de la Shoah, Paris

May 2021

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs. The centre of the gymnasium is emptied. Only police officers circulate. The first stage of the roundup has already taken place: the summoned Jews have entered the mousetrap. We see for the first time the interior of Japy and the hundreds of Jewish men crowded together.

 

 

Death, duplicity and dishonour

Recently discovered at a Normandy flea market, these photographs by German photographer Harry Croner are taken from 5 contact sheets of 35mm negatives (probably taken on a Leica or similar). These documentary photographs are efficient, well seen, silent and in light of subsequent events… eloquent and emotional. They depict the first roundup of French Jews in Paris on May 14, 1941 at the Japy Gymnasium and a day later at the internment camps into which they were placed.

Lured to several places across the city in a pre-planned trap, Jews were “summoned to town halls across the city for what was billed as routine registration. Instead, the 3,747 men who showed up were arrested by the French authorities… As far as the Japy gymnasium is concerned, 1,061 Jews are summoned at 7.00 am; 800 respond to the summons. When they arrive, they are checked and detained inside the gymnasium. The person accompanying them is asked to go to their home and return with a suitcase containing their personal belongings.”

Today, we know that these images are probably the last photographs of these men alive that were ever taken. They were held in the internment camps for a year before being deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. A year later during the “during the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup of July 16 and 17, 1942, it is the families’ turn to be arrested and detained in these same camps before their deportation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp”

In collusion with and at the behest of their Nazi overlords, this was not the French government’s finest hour.

The roundup – overseen by the Germans, supervised by government officials (through the General Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, created by the Vichy State in March 1941 and run by fascist and anti-Semite Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, Commissioner-General for Jewish Affairs), enforced by the French police – was undertaken with alacrity, complicity and a ruthless efficiency.

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The ironic aspect of these photographs is that Harry Croner, the German Army photographer, was soon after kicked out of the German Army after it was discovered that his father was Jewish. “In 1940 Croner was drafted and came to the Western Front as a war correspondent, but was then dismissed as “unfit for military service” because of his Jewish father. Back in Berlin, he worked in his shop for a while. In 1944, Croner was sent to a labour camp and in March 1945 was taken prisoner by the Americans, from which he was not released until April 1946.” So Croner ended up in the very place, a concentration camp, which he depicted so efficiently a few years earlier.

The head of the museum’s photography department Lior Lalieu-Smadja has wondered whether this knowledge of his Jewish father made Croner capture these Jewish men in a more humane light than other propaganda photographs of the same event. In an emotional sense I would say “yes” to this question, but in a technical sense, I do not think so. I don’t think the knowledge of his heritage would have influenced the aesthetic and pictorial construction of the images. In the photographs we can observe a wonderful balance within the picture frame – the use of strong intersectional points, the use of diagonals (the angle of the buses in Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station), the use of near to far, the massing of bodies in crowd scenes, the use of flash, evidence of the decisive moment (Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station) as the gendarme and the man turn to look at the camera coupled with the attitude of the man’s leg as he kisses his partner goodbye, and the use of the punctum in the image… the couple sitting on the stairs at top right in Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941; the boy with his hands in his pockets in Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons; and the women staring out of the window of the Boutique à Louer at far right in Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station, reminiscent of the ghostly faces of men pictured by Eugène Atget staring out of the windows of Parisian bars and cafés.

But above all these are now, today, emotional photographs, ultimately a memorialisation of the soon to be dead, photographs of people that we know are soon to be dead. They are gut wrenching in their simplicity, heart wrenching in their emotional power – the anguish of the women, that last kiss, the stoicism and calm of the men – as we trace the journey of the condemned. We can literally follow the route of one unknown man (see the first three images below) to his known fate.

A final thought enters my head… would Croner have still been in the German Army for the rest of the war, part of the Nazi war machine, if it was not discovered that his father was Jewish? Would he have hidden that fact in order to survive while at the same time serving the fascists even as they killed his own kind? The paradox of this seemingly absurd and contradictory proposition, might have been undeniable.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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All photographs digitally cleaned and balanced by Dr Marcus Bunyan. Many thankx to the Memorial de la Shoah for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

5 contact sheets were recently discovered by the Shoah Memorial, retracing photo after photo of the fate of the Jews summoned by the “green ticket round-up”, the context of the raid, the German and French sponsors and especially the families excluded until now from the known propaganda photos of this roundup. While the press echoed it at the time, the official images were intended to be dehumanising and humiliating for these foreign Jews. The emotion and the dismay of these families, shown in these photos, are a rare illustration of the Shoah in France.

 

 

“Pure evil operates tidily, silently and seems so stylish.”

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Jane Silberman

 

“The French gendarmes had licence to slap, beat, kick, whip, or insult any prisoner who broke the [Drancy] camp rules, but since these rules were never published it meant that they could ill-treat whomever they wanted whenever they wanted – and, with one or two honourable exceptions, this is just what they did. In 1942, when there were female and male prisoners in the camp, the French commandant of the camp, Marcelin Vieux, was seen whipping a woman for being too slow to move away from the middle of the yard. Another inmate remembered Vieux punching inmates and beating them with his truncheon. He also vividly recalled his two violently anti-Semitic French subordinates, who never went on patrol without their truncheons at the ready. Dr. Falkenstein, another prisoner, saw one of these men hit a four-year-old girl so hard that he knocked her unconscious.”

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David Drake. ‘Paris at War: 1939-1944’. Harvard University Press, 2015, p. 209.

 

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

Never-before-seen photos going on display in Paris this week shine a light on a dark moment in France’s role in rounding up Jews to send to Nazi death camps during World War II. The “green ticket round-up” was first carried out in Paris on May 14 and 15, 1941, with more than 6,000 foreign-born Jews summoned to town halls across the city for what was billed as routine registration. Instead, the 3,747 men who showed up were arrested by the French authorities and shipped to camps south of Paris. Thousands more were rounded up in the following months.

They were held there for a year before being deported to the Auschwitz death camp.

By chance, a stash of 98 photos from the first green ticket round-up, taken by a German soldier on propaganda duty, were recently discovered by the Memorial de la Shoah, the Holocaust Museum of Paris.

Most were taken at the Japy sports hall in the city’s 11th arrondissement, where close to 1,000 were arrested, and where the photos are being put on display from Friday, exactly 80 years on. One shows SS officer Theodor Dannecker, who was in charge of implementing the “Final Solution” in France, alongside French police commissioner Francois Bard in the hall. Others show couples embracing outside, unaware that they would never see each other again.

“These photos are important because we see the opposite of Nazi propaganda that tried to depict these people as sub-human ‘parasites’,” said Lior Lalieu-Smadja, who heads the museum’s photography department. Was that a deliberate move by the photographer? “One has to wonder,” said Lalieu-Smadja, not least because the photographer was identified as Harry Croner, who was soon after kicked out of the German army after it was discovered that his father was Jewish.

The photos were bought years ago by an antiques dealer in Normandy who had found them at a flea market. He pulled them out of storage recently and contacted the museum, who informed him they were the only known pictures from the infamous round-up. Little else is known about the photos’ journey.

“The only thing we know for certain is that once they were taken, they were sent directly to Berlin. The photographer himself could not keep them, which makes this discovery even more incredible,” said Lalieu-Smadja.

Press release from the Memorial de la Shoah website

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941]
May 14, 1941

 

 

A German delegation with SS Theodor Dannecker, responsible for Jewish affairs in France, and French led by the prefect of police François Bard, comes to inspect the operation.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men. They are asked to come back with some things for 2 to 3 days. The reasons given are the same: “examination of the situation”.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons and are received by the police who guard the entrance to the gymnasium. Women with children arrive with suitcases and packages. The following scenes show them standing in line and waiting their turn to hand over the suitcases.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: families waiting to hand over the suitcases to their loved ones]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: families waiting to hand over the suitcases to their loved ones]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Green Ticket roundup: The Shoah Memorial discovers a previously unpublished photo-reportage

The Shoah Memorial announces the recent acquisition of five contact sheets, totalling 98 photographs. This as yet unreleased photo-reportage accurately details every step of the first mass arrest of Jews in Paris by the French police forces on the orders of the German authorities 80 years ago, on May 14, 1941.

 

The discovery in detail

The Shoah Memorial has purchased five contact sheets – documenting the location of the roundup known as the “Green Ticket” on May 14, 1941 – from two specialised collectors. The contact sheets acquired by the Memorial, numbered 182 to 187 (contact sheet 185 is missing), represent 98 photographs. The photographer’s five rolls of film provide a reality that differs greatly from the photos released by the collaborationist press alone. For the first time, the location of the arrests as well as the protagonists of the roundup are captured from multiple angles. Dehumanised until then by propaganda and even completely erased from reportages, the families of the detainees are shown during their emotional farewells, before the very eyes of onlookers and neighbours. The most important element of this discovery, which is indispensable to history and to the duty of remembrance, allows us to follow the trajectory of these rounded-up men, from their arrival at the Japy gymnasium – the site of the trap, in Paris – up to their internment in the camps of the Loiret.

 

What the photographs reveal

The 98 photographs printed on contact sheets give a chronological, step-by-step run-down of the roundup.

  1. The first images show the protagonists of the roundup engaged in a discussion inside the Japy gymnasium. The two German and French sponsors are perfectly recognisable:
    – Théodor Dannecker (1913-1945), who represents Eichmann in France and heads Section IV J of the Gestapo, in charge of Jewish affairs
    – Admiral François Bard (1889-1944), the recently appointed Prefect of the Paris Police
  2. The Japy photo series: the arrested men are confined to the upper floor bleachers. The first stage of the roundup has already taken place: the Jews who have been summoned have entered the trap. These as yet unreleased photos show the interior of Japy and the hundreds of Jewish men crowded together, as well as those accompanying them, often their wives
  3. The exterior of Japy: men are still arriving carrying their summons and are received by the police officers at the entrance to the gymnasium. They bid farewell to their families while a line of women and children is formed. They wait to hand over clothes to their loved ones
  4. The neighbourhood is closed off. Neighbours are at their windows. Families are pushed to the back of the street and wait to hear from their loved one. They have anguished faces. The police blocks the street, then evacuates it
  5. Men of all ages who have been arrested come out one by one, watched over by police officers and carrying their belongings, board buses parked just outside the gymnasium, rue Japy
  6. The arrival at the Paris-Austerlitz railway station through the rear entrance to the station
  7. At Pithiviers, a previously unpublished view of the black hangar – of which there were no images until now – during the internment of the Jews, which will subsequently serve as the registration centre for the Vel’ d’Hiv’ detainees and for deportations

 

The “Green Ticket” roundup: first roundup of Jews in France during World War II

The “Green Ticket” Roundup is the first mass arrest of Jews in Paris, and it takes place on Wednesday May 14, 1941. These unsuspecting men, mainly foreigners from Eastern Europe are summoned on Wednesday morning by the Police Prefecture with a “green ticket” for a “status review” and asked to be accompanied by a relative or friend.

The men, most of them family men who were army volunteers at the beginning of the war and therefore fought for France, expect a verification of their status. Fleeing antisemitism and persecutions in their countries of origin – Poland, USSR, Romania, Czechoslovakia – and believing that they will find refuge in the land of freedom, they are arrested chiefly because they are Jewish and foreigners.

Several assembly points are indicated on the “green tickets”: the Caserne Napoléon (in the 4th arrondissement), the Caserne des Minimes (in the 3rd arrondissement), 52 rue Edouard Pailleron (in the 19th arrondissement), 33 rue de la Grange-aux-belles (in the 10th arrondissement) and the Japy gymnasium (in the 11th arrondissement) as well as other centres in the arrondissement police stations and Paris suburbs.

As far as the Japy gymnasium is concerned, 1,061 Jews are summoned at 7.00 am; 800 respond to the summons. When they arrive, they are checked and detained inside the gymnasium. The person accompanying them is asked to go to their home and return with a suitcase containing their personal belongings.

After that, the 3,700 arrested Jews are taken to the Paris-Austerlitz railway station in special buses, under the supervision of French police officers, and interned in the Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande camps (in the Loiret). They spend more than a year there before being deported directly to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp by Convoy #4 on June 25, 1942, #5 on June 28, 1942 and #6 on July 17, 1942. During the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup of July 16 and 17, 1942, it is the families’ turn to be arrested and detained in these same camps before their deportation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp between July and September 1942.

 

Propoganda photographs

As of the Armistice on June 25, 1940, the press is muzzled in France by the German occupier, and press photography is placed under censorship control. The Propaganda Kompanie (PK), set up within the Wehrmacht, is made up of photographers, cameramen, radio and press reporters, who are equipped with high-performance photographic material. This unit, under the direct control of Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, is in charge of documenting the historic dimension of the military effort and producing propaganda reports for foreign countries, for the press and for domestic agencies.

 

The Shoah Memorial

The Shoah Memorial, Europe’s largest archives center dedicated to the history of the Shoah, is a place of remembrance, of education and of transmission on the history of the genocide of the Jews during World War II in Europe. Today it incorporates five sites: the Shoah Memorial in Paris and the Shoah Memorial in Drancy, the Lieu de mémoire du Chambon-sur-Lignon (Haute-Loire), the CERCIL Musée – Mémorial des Enfants du Vel d’Hiv (Loiret), and the Centre culturel Jules Isaac de Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-Dôme).

Opened to the public on January 27, 2005 in the historic Marais district, the Paris site provides multiple spaces and an awareness program catering to all audiences: a permanent exhibition on the Holocaust and the history of the Jews in France during World War II; a temporary exhibition space; an auditorium programming screenings and symposia; The Wall of Names on which the names of 76,000 Jewish men, women and children deported from France between 1942 and 1944 as part of the “Final Solution” are engraved; the documentation center (50 million archive materials and 1,500 sound archives, 350,000 photographs, 3,900 drawings and objects, 12,000 posters and postcards, 30,000 cinema documents, 14,500 movie titles including 2,500 testimonials, and 80,000 books) and its reading room; educational spaces where children’s workshops and activities for classrooms and teachers take place; a specialty bookstore.

Better understanding the history of the Holocaust is also aimed at preventing the return of hatred and all forms of intolerance today. The Memorial has also been working for more than a decade on education programs focusing on other genocides of the 20th century, such as the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, or the Armenian genocide.

Press release from the Shoah Memorial

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]
May 14, 1941

 

 

The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours and the unusual emotion that reigns around the Japy gymnasium.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)

West Berlin stage: Harry Croner’s photographs from four decades

For 40 years, press photographer Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) accompanied life in Halbstadt with his camera: the reconstruction and creation of new landmarks, large and small events, celebrities from culture and politics, especially what happened on the city’s stages. His acquaintance with many artists living and visiting Berlin made it possible for him to take impressive snapshots and portraits. Croner’s photographic work, which is being presented for the first time with this selection, is the chronicle of an era and at the same time an homage to a small island of world politics, which was above all one thing, the big stage for culture.

 

Late career as a photographer

Harry Croner was born on March 16, 1903 in Berlin. From 1920 to 1922 he completed a commercial apprenticeship, worked for various automobile companies as an advertising manager and finally as a travel representative for Bayerische Motorenwerke. When he set up his own photo business in Berlin-Wilmersdorf in 1933, he probably already had a career as a photographer in mind. In addition to selling cameras and accessories, he also took portraits. In 1940 Croner was drafted and came to the Western Front as a war correspondent, but was then dismissed as “unfit for military service” because of his Jewish father. Back in Berlin, he worked in his shop for a while. In 1944, Croner was sent to a labour camp and in March 1945 was taken prisoner by the Americans, from which he was not released until April 1946.

 

The estate

With the support of the Prussian Sea Trade Foundation, the extensive archive (around 100,000 black and white photographs and over 1.3 million negatives) was acquired in February 1989. A representative part of the estate was digitised in 2013, supported by the Digitalization Service of the State of Berlin. Around 8,000 photos are already accessible online.

Text from the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin website [Online] Cited 20/05/2021 translated from the German by Google Translate

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

 

After a few hours, the men left the scene under police custody and had to board requisitioned buses for transfer to the Austerlitz station.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

The 3,710 men arrested in Paris at the various summons were transferred to the Austerlitz station to be interned in the Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande camps. Four convoys of passenger wagons are formed, two convoys with 2140 men to the camp of Beaune-la-Rolande and two convoys with 1570 men to that of Pithiviers. These convoys arrive on the afternoon of May 14.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station. His presence in the photos in this roundup shows that he followed and supervised the entire roundup.

 

 

Theodor Dannecker (German, 1913-1945)

Theodor Dannecker (German, 27 March 1913 – 10 December 1945) was an SS-captain (Hauptsturmführer), and an associate of Adolf Eichmann. As a specialist on Nazi anti-Jewish policies (Judenberater), he was one of those who orchestrated the Final Solution in several countries during the World War II genocide of European Jews in what became known as the Holocaust … In December 1945, Dannecker was arrested by the United States Army, and, on 10 December, he committed suicide in Bad Tölz. …

From September 1940 until July 1942, Dannecker was leader of the Judenreferat at the SD office in Paris, where he ordered and oversaw round ups by French Police. More than 13,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp where most died in the Final Solution. …

Dannecker developed under Eichmann into one of the SS’s most ruthless and experienced experts on the “Jewish Question”, and his involvement in the genocide of European Jewry was one of primary responsibility. A passage from a 1942 report by Dannecker illustrates how the “Jewish Question” was handled in France:

“Subject: Points for the discussion with the French State Secretary for Police, Bousquet… The recent operation for arresting stateless Jews in Paris has yielded only about 8,000 adults and about 4,000 children. But trains for the deportation of 40,000 Jews, for the moment, have been put in readiness by the Reich Ministry of Transport. Since the deportation of the children is not possible for the time being, the number of Jews ready for removal is quite insufficient. A further Jewish operation must therefore be started immediately. For this purpose Jews of Belgian and Dutch nationality may be taken into consideration, in addition to the former German, Austrian, Czech, Polish and Russian Jews who have so far been considered as being stateless. It must be expected, however, that this category will not yield sufficient numbers, and thus the French have no choice but to include those Jews who were naturalised in France after 1927, or even after 1919.”1

Text from the Wikipedia website

  1. “Eichmann trial – The District Court Sessions”. Nizkor Project. 9 May 1961. Retrieved 23 December 2013

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps]
May 15, 1941

 

 

The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps. The men had to settle in cold and unsanitary barracks under construction. The straw that will serve as mattresses in the bedsteads is still outside the barracks.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]' May 15, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp] (detail)
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Green Ticket Roundup, the next day at the Pithiviers camp. The black hut can be seen where the Vel d'Hiv raids will be recorded in 1942]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Green Ticket Roundup, the next day at the Pithiviers camp. The black hut can be seen where the Vel d’Hiv raids will be recorded in 1942]
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the roundup of the Billet Vert, a French gendarme posted on a watchtower in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the roundup of the Billet Vert, a French gendarme posted on a watchtower in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp]
May 15, 1941

 

 

The gendarme to the left of the photo, posted in a watchtower, monitoring the Beaune-la-Rolande camp, is the emblematic photo from the film Nuit et Brouillard, censored when it was released in 1955.

 

 

Nuit Et Brouillard
Alain Resnais
1955

 

 

Memorial de la Shoah
17, rue Geoffroy l’Asnier
75004 Paris
Phone: + 33 (0)1 42 77 44 72

Opening hours:
Sunday – Friday 10am – 6pm

Memorial de la Shoah website

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15
Nov
13

Text: “The Book of Memory” extract from Paul Auster’s ‘The Invention of Solitude’ 1982

November 2013

 

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1641-1668) 'Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress (Titus)' c. 1655

 

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1641-1668)
Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress (Titus)
c. 1655
Oil on canvas

 

 

“The Book of Memory. Book Four.

Several blank pages. To be followed by profuse illustrations. Old family photographs, for each person his own family, going back as many generations as possible. To look at these with utmost care.

Afterwards, several sequences of reproductions, beginning with the portraits Rembrandt painted of his son, Titus. To include all of them: from the view of the little boy in 1650 (golden hair, red feathered cap) to the 1655 portrait of Titus ‘puzzling over his lessons’ (pensive, at his desk, compass dangling from his left hand, right thumb pressed against his chin) to Titus in 1658 (seventeen years old, the extraordinary red hat, and, as one commentator has written, ‘The artist has painted his son with the same sense of penetration usually reserved for his own features’) to the last surviving canvas of Titus, from the early 1660s: ‘the face seems that of a weak old man ravaged with disease. Of course, we look at it with hindsight – we know that Titus will predecease his father…’

To be followed by the 1602 portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh and his eight-year-old-son Wat (artist unknown) that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. To note: the uncanny similarity of their poses. Both father and son facing forward, left hands on hips, right feet pointing forward, and the somber determination on the boy’s face to imitate the self-confident, imperious stare of the father. To remember: that when Raleigh was released after a thirteen-year incarceration in the Tower of London (1618) and launched out on a doomed voyage to Guiana to clear his name, Wat was with him. To remember that Wat, leading a reckless military charge against the Spanish, lost his life in the jungle. Raleigh to his wife: ‘I have never known what sorrow meant until now.’ And so went he went back to England, and allowed the King to chop of his head.

To be followed by more photographs, perhaps several dozen: Mallarmé’s son, Anatole; Anne Frank (‘This is a photo that shows me as I should always like to look. Then I would surely have a chance to go to Hollywood. but now, unfortunately, I usually look different’); Mur; the children of Cambodia; the children of Atlanta. The dead children. The children who will vanish, the children who are dead. Himmler: ‘I have made the decision to annihilate every Jewish child from the face of the earth.’ Nothing but pictures. Because, at a certain point, the words lead one to conclude that it is no longer possible to speak. Because these pictures are the unspeakable.”

.
Paul Auster. “The Book of Memory,” from The Invention of Solitude. Faber and Faber, 1982, pp. 102-103.

Please click on the images for a larger version.

 

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958) 'Untitled (family)' 2005

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled (family)
2005
From the series Photos my mother sent me, 2005

 

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1641-1668) 'Portrait of Titus' 1655

 

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1641-1668)
Portrait of Titus
1655
Oil on canvas

 

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1641-1668) 'The Artists Son Titus' 1657

 

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1641-1668)
The Artists Son Titus
1657
Oil on canvas

 

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1641-1668) 'Portrait of Titus' 1663

 

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1641-1668)
Portrait of Titus
1663
Oil on canvas

 

Unknown artist. 'Sir Walter Ralegh and son' 1602

 

Unknown artist
Sir Walter Ralegh and son
1602
Oil on canvas
78 1/2 in. x 50 1/8 in. (1994 mm x 1273mm)
Given by Lennard family, 1954
National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Portrait of Anatole Mallarmé' c. 1874

 

Anonymous photographer
Portrait of Anatole Mallarmé
c. 1874
Photograph

 

Unknown photographer. 'Anne Frank' 10th October 1942

 

Unknown photographer
Anne Frank
10th October 1942
Hand written note from The Diary of a Young Girl

 

Photos of child victims on display at the Toul Sleng Genocide museum in Cambodia

 

Photos of child victims on display at the Toul Sleng Genocide museum in Cambodia

 

Unknown photographer. 'Executions of Kiev Jews by German army mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) near Ivangorod Ukraine' 1942

 

Unknown photographer
Executions of Kiev Jews by German army mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) near Ivangorod Ukraine. A woman protects a child with her body as Einsatzgruppen soldiers aim their rifles
1942

 

 

Executions of Kiev Jews by German army mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) near Ivangorod Ukraine. The photo was mailed from the Eastern Front to Germany and intercepted at a Warsaw post office by a member of the Polish resistance collecting documentation on Nazi war crimes. The original print was owned by Tadeusz Mazur and Jerzy Tomaszewski and now resides in Historical Archives in Warsaw. The original German inscription on the back of the photograph reads, “Ukraine 1942, Jewish Action [operation], Ivangorod.”

 

 

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17
Aug
13

Catalogue essay: ‘Intimations of Mor(t)ality: Sudarios (Shrouds) by Erika Diettes’ Dr Marcus Bunyan / Exhibition: ‘Sudarios (Shrouds)’ by Erika Diettes at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale

Exhibition dates: 17th August – 15th September 2013

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photograph of Sudarios (Shrouds) by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat
Photograph by Marcus Bunyan
© Marcus Bunyan, Erika Diettes and Ballarat International Foto Biennale

 

 

This exhibition is one of the core programs for this year’s Ballarat International Foto Biennale and I had the privilege of writing the catalogue essay for the Colombian artist Erika Diettes. I met the delightful Erika and her husband today at the opening of BiFB on their first trip to Australia and I must say the art hangs very well in the Mining Exchange building.

This was one of the most difficult but rewarding pieces that I have ever had to write. In reading, I hope you gather the full import of the text.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Text © Marcus Bunyan. All images © Marcus Bunyan, Erika Diettes and Ballarat International Foto Biennale.

 

Intimations of Mor(t)ality: Sudarios (Shrouds) by Erika Diettes

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

“There is now a vast repository of images that make it harder to maintain [a] kind of moral defectiveness. Let the atrocious images haunt us. Even if they are only tokens, and cannot possibly encompass most of the reality to which they refer, they still perform a vital function. The images say: This is what human beings are capable of doing – may volunteer to do, enthusiastically, self-righteously. Don’t forget.”

.
Susan Sontag Regarding the Pain of Others 2003 1

 

When I was asked to write the catalogue essay on Colombian artist Erika Diettes’ work Sudarios (Shrouds) by editor Esther Gyorki for the Ballarat International Foto Biennale the work gave me pause. What could I say about it that was relevant, insightful and spoke from the heart? I wrote back to Esther saying I needed to do some background research: “This is difficult subject matter and I want to make sure I can do it justice before I commit to writing about it.”2 In a synchronous way that often happens in the world, that is ultimately what this text is about – justice.

The basics are easily told. Artist and anthropologist Erika Diettes travelled to different cities in the department of Antioquia to interview women who had been present at the torture and murder of their loved ones.3 Diettes photographed the women, closely cropped in black and white, at a moment of great vulnerability – all but one with their eyes closed. The resultant twenty photographs were printed on seven feet tall silk panels and form the work Sudarios (shrouds are a burial cloak, a cloth that shrouds the body of the deceased). The artist always intended for these images to be printed on silk and had the installation in mind before she took the photographs: in other words previsualisation was strong. The work is usually displayed in sacred spaces such as churches and convents with a sound track of a barely audible, sighing female voice; here in Ballarat the work is hung in the former Mining Exchange building, a seat of colonial power and wealth which can be read as appropriate for the presentation of this work, for torture is always about the power of one person over another. The viewer can walk through these floating realities and be enfolded in the aggrieved women’s sorrow as if part of a ceremonial procession, perhaps a funeral cortege.

In her creation of an allegorical space for mourning, Diettes work acts as a funeral rite for both living and dead, acts of mourning placed in a context of splendour. The images evoke the representation of the death of Saint Sebastian, the faces recalling “the exquisite suffering of the Catholic saints and martyrs, but also of refugees and victims of contemporary traumas,”4 while the atrocities perpetrated on the body are hidden by the close cropping of the images. As Diettes observes, “You can’t help being a little pierced by their exhalations,”5 an indirect reference by Diettes to the arrows that pierce Saint Sebastian’s body. Diettes opens a space before the camera for the human ‘being’ in context, a terrain (of) or becoming, where the terrors are written on the countenance of the women, their mouths silently singing their song of mourning. Look at their mouths, each one contorted in agony, each one giving voice to the memory of terror.

These are confronting images about trauma and grief, documenting the ongoing effects of atrocity on the mind of the observer for they are portrayals of the effect of intim(id)ation, where intimations of mortality are evidenced by the removal of an identity, the beloved id, which reveals the intimate – expressed in the adoration/adornment of the women with jewellery which signifies the women’s dignity, comfort, and continuing engagement with the world as an extension of personal self/belief.

The signs of erasure of these murders are rearticulated through Diettes work. The bodies are held in suspended animation, in endless agony, through an act of re-terror-itorialisation. Through the evacuation of loved ones, their discontinuity and deterritorialisation, and the reterritorialisation / re-terroring of that space through memory – portrayed on the faces of the women – the images recast and represent issues of power, domination and abuse. Through suspended sorrow, suspended mourning, the disappearance of some bodies and the speaking of others, the images become a representation of a doubled absence, a doubled momenti mori – for the photographs picture the women (making them dead) as they themselves remember the violence perpetrated before them from behind closed eyes (as the dead have their eyes closed), remembering in their mind’s eye the death of the beloved. The image of the victim has become a ghost, a trace etched upon the face of the relative, a trace of that which “persists and gives testimony of a vanished state” in art, for if art is linked to memory and to what survives, it is from the perspective of its own corpse-oreality, its own ghostly and fragile materiality that these images emerge: the hanged man, the hung woman. Remaking but always recording the past through interaction with the present, the shrouds are a palimpsest in which “personal memories are always interwoven with historical consciousness”6 and are constantly being rewritten.

Of course the photographs elicit our empathy but more than that they make us feel their terrible vulnerability while drawing us into uncomfortable complicity as subsidiary witnesses to the event.7 Normally when looking at a photograph the viewer is a secondary witness but here the viewer becomes a tertiary witness – the actual event, the memory of that event etched on the face of the women captured by the camera and now observed by the viewer. There is an osmotic effect taking place as one as one image is super imposed on another. Even after an event is over, “there’s an after image or an echo that exists… a spirit or a residue, a trace.”8 These visions are like images of the Holocaust. As soon as we see them we are implicated in a narrative – and we are helpless in this process – which is an essential part of history.

Diettes work reframes the subject because there is no traditional frame of reference for the viewer, only a memory of that reference in the form of a ghost-like shroud. The normal definition of a shroud no longer pertains to these images for the cloth is no longer around a dead body but represents / holds a trace of what was once dead.

As spirit photographs in the Victorian era solidified a fractured, unknown reality, so these apparitions of the departed are brought forth and solidified, just for a moment, in the faces of the suffering women. The viewer of these images does not see the (dead) carrier of messages, but only their shadows carried by the grief of their loved ones, shrouded as they are in remembrances of the past. We feel that the women are not looking at us but that the aura of their invisible seeing is directed toward us from outside of its normative context – from behind their eyes. It is this imprint on the Shrouds; the imprint of their memories that travels great distances towards us, that enfolds us in sorrow and shadow.

“It is the special feeling of the ‘presence’ of a work produced not by its remaining where it is but by its moving across boundaries where it reaches us from a distance, looking at us even when it appears not to. It is where the work seems peculiarly meant for us even in its indifference to or difference from us.”9

If photographs really are “experience captured” then Diettes explores this arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood,10 probing the limitation of the medium, shaping the space within the available conditions. Her images become images of sentience that enable the viewer to live in the world with open eyes (while the victims eyes are closed) – to be made aware of the injustices of this world and not remain silent. Diettes work is not about remembering, it’s about an answerable “not forgetting” for hers… is to remind us of the responsibility to make art in response to mor(t)ality.

As human beings, we must fight for the right to be heard and use art as a visual language to textualise our experience and thereby make it available for interpretation and closure. Powerful, simple questions (and I believe) undeniable questions have to be asked; and in response to those questions (power: it will corrupt you, but if you don’t want it, it will be used against you), intelligence, justice and integrity must be used in the service of art. While human truth may be ephemeral qualities like justice are not; the struggle is to define justice and to live it. And for artists to display it.

You place innocence at the heart of human depravity – and hope it survives.

Dr Marcus Bunyan
Melbourne 2013

 

Endnotes

  1. Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. London: Hamish Hamilton, 2003, p. 102.
  2. Email to Esther Gyorki. Tue, March 26, 2013
  3. The capital of the department of Antioquia is Medellin. The city is a 35-minute flight from the Colombian capital Bogota and has one of the highest rates of violence concerning drugs in Colombia. Most of the crimes were committed between 2001 and 2008.
  4. Anon. “Berlinde De Bruyckere Into One-Another To P.P.P.” on the Hauser and Wirth website [Online] Cited May 5, 2013. No longer available online
  5. Diettes, Erika quoted in Tobón, Paola Cardona. “The exhalation of sorrow,” in  El Colombiano, November 4, 2012 [Online] Cited Cited May 5, 2013. No longer available online
  6. Garb, Tamar. “A Land of Signs,” in Journal of Contemporary African Art 26, Spring 2010, p. 11.
  7. Op. cit. “Berlinde De Bruyckere Into One-Another To P.P.P.”
  8. Rakes, Rachael and Goldsmith, Leo. “Pasolini’s Body: Cathy Lee Crane with Leo Goldsmith and Rachael Rakes,” on The Brooklyn Rail website. January 13, 2013 [Online] Cited May 5, 2013.
    www.brooklynrail.org/2013/02/film/pasolinis-body-cathy-lee-crane-with-leo-goldsmith-rachael-rakes
  9. Butler, Rex. “”Lines”, Leading Out of Sight?: Is Aboriginal Art Losing its Aura?” in Australian Art Collector No. 13, July-September 2000, p. 87.
  10. Campany, David. “Photography and Photographs,” on the Still Searching blog. April 14, 2013 [Online] Cited May 11, 2013.
    blog.fotomuseum.ch/2013/04/1-photography-and-photographs/#more-1282

 

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of 'Sudarios (Shrouds)' by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat. Photographs by Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation photographs of Sudarios (Shrouds) by Erika Diettes at the Mining Exchange, Ballarat
Photographs by Marcus Bunyan
© Marcus Bunyan, Erika Diettes and Ballarat International Foto Biennale

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Ballarat International Foto Biennale
12 Lydiard St North, Ballarat 3350

Ballarat International Foto Biennale website

Erika Diettes website

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24
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – Posting Part 4

Exhibition dates: 11th November 2012 – 3rd February 2013

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Under blue & gray – Gettysburg' July 1913

 

Anonymous photographer
Under blue & gray – Gettysburg
July 1913
Photo shows the Gettysburg Reunion (the Great Reunion) of July 1913, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

 

 

Part 4 of the biggest posting on one exhibition that I have ever undertaken on Art Blart!

As befits the gravity of the subject matter this posting is so humongous that I have had to split it into 4 separate postings. This is how to research and stage a contemporary photography exhibition that fully explores its theme. The curators reviewed more than one million photographs in 17 countries, locating pictures in archives, military libraries, museums, private collections, historical societies and news agencies; in the personal files of photographers and service personnel; and at two annual photojournalism festivals producing an exhibition that features 26 sections (an inspired and thoughtful selection) that includes nearly 500 objects that illuminate all aspects of WAR / PHOTOGRAPHY.

I have spent hours researching and finding photographs on the Internet to support the posting. It has been a great learning experience and my admiration for photographers of all types has increased. I have discovered the photographs and stories of new image makers that I did not know and some enlightenment along the way. I despise war, I detest the state and the military that propagate it and I surely hate the power, the money and the ethics of big business that support such a disciplinarian structure for their own ends. I hope you meditate on the images in this monster posting, an exhibition on a subject matter that should be consigned to the history books of human evolution.

**Please be aware that there are graphic photographs in all of these postings.** Part 1Part 2Part 3

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Memorials

25. Photographs in the “Memorials” section range from the tomb of an unknown World War I soldier in England, by Horace Nicholls; and a landscape of black German crosses throughout a World War II burial site, by Bertrand Carrière; to an anonymous photograph of a reunion scene in Gettysburg of the opposing sides in the Civil War; and Joel Sternfeld’s picture of a woman and her daughter at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, in 1986. (8 images)

 

Horace Nicholls. 'The Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, London, November 1920' 1920

 

Horace Nicholls (English, 1867-1941)
The Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, London, November 1920
1920
Silver gelatin print
© IWM (Q 31514)

 

 

In order to commemorate the many soldiers with no known grave, it was decided to bury an ‘Unknown Warrior’ with all due ceremony in Westminster Abbey on Armistice Day in 1920. The photograph shows the coffin resting on a cloth in the nave of Westminster Abbey before the ceremony at the Cenotaph and its final burial.

 

Bertrand Carrière. 'Untitled' 2005-2009

 

Bertrand Carrière (Canadian, b. 1957)
Untitled
2005-2009
From the series Lieux Mêmes [Same Places]

 

Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944) 'Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.,' May 1986

 

Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.,
May 1986
Chromogenic print, ed. #1/25 (printed October 1986)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Target Collection of American Photography, gift of the artist
© 1986 Joel Sternfeld

 

 

Remembrance

26. The last gallery in the exhibition is “Remembrance.” Most of these images were taken by artists seeking to come to terms with a conflict after fighting had ceased. Included are Richard Avedon’s picture of a Vietnamese napalm victim; a survivor of a machete attack in a Rwandan death camp, by James Nachtwey; a 1986 portrait of a hero who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, by Houston native Gay Block; and Suzanne Opton’s 2004 portrait of a soldier who survived the Iraq War and returned to the United States to work as a police officer, only to be murdered on duty by a fellow veteran. The final wall features photographs by Simon Norfolk of sunrises at the five D-Day beaches in 2004. The only reference to war is the title of the series: The Normandy Beaches: We Are Making a New World(33 images)

 

Richard Avedon. 'Napalm Victim #1, Saigon, South Vietnam, April 29, 1971' 1971

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Napalm Victim #1, Saigon, South Vietnam, April 29, 1971
1971
Silver gelatin print
© Richard Avedon

 

Gay Block (American, b.1942) 'Zofia Baniecka, Poland' 1986

 

Gay Block (American, b. 1942)
Zofia Baniecka, Poland
1986
From the series Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust, a record of non-Jewish citizens from European countries who risked their lives helping to hide Jews from the Nazis
Chromogenic print, printed 1994
Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Clinton T. Wilour in honour of Eve France

 

 

Zofia Baniecka (born 1917 in Warsaw – 1993) was a Polish member of the Resistance during World War II. In addition to relaying guns and other materials to resistance fighters, Baniecka and her mother rescued over 50 Jews in their home between 1941 and 1944.

 

James Nachtwey. 'A Hutu man who did not support the genocide had been imprisoned in the concentration camp, was starved and attacked with machetes. He managed to survive after he was freed and was placed in the care of the Red Cross, Rwanda, 1994' 1994

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1948)
A Hutu man who did not support the genocide had been imprisoned in the concentration camp, was starved and attacked with machetes. He managed to survive after he was freed and was placed in the care of the Red Cross, Rwanda, 1994
1994
Silver gelatin print
© James Nachtwey / TIME

 

Simon Norfolk (British, b. Nigeria, 1963) 'Sword Beach' 2004

 

Simon Norfolk (British, b. Nigeria, 1963)
Sword Beach
2004
From the series The Normandy Beaches: We Are Making a New World
Chromogenic print, ed. #1/10 (printed 2006)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Bari and David Fishel, Brooke and Dan Feather and Hayley Herzstein in honor of Max Herzstein and a partial gift of the artist and Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica
© Simon Norfolk / Gallery Luisotti

 

 

Other photographs from the exhibition

Matsumoto Eiichi (Japanese, 1915-2004) 'Shadow of a soldier remaining on the wooden wall of the Nagasaki military headquarters (Minami-Yamate machi, 4.5km from Ground Zero)' 1945

 

Matsumoto Eiichi (Japanese, 1915-2004)
Shadow of a soldier remaining on the wooden wall of the Nagasaki military headquarters (Minami-Yamate machi, 4.5km from Ground Zero)
1945
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
© Matsumoto Eiichi

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970) 'Young Catholic demonstrator on Londonderry Wall, Northern Ireland' 1969

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Young Catholic demonstrator on Londonderry Wall, Northern Ireland
1969
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of Foundation Gilles Caron and Contact Press Images
© Gilles Caron

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882) ‘The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania’. Albumen paper print

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter / Dead Confederate soldier in the devil’s den, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
July 1863
Albumen paper print copied from glass, wet collodion negative
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Ziv Koren (Israeli, b.1970) 'A sniper’s-eye view of Rafah, in the Southern Gaza strip, during an Israeli military sweep' 2006

 

Ziv Koren (Israeli, b. 1970)
A sniper’s-eye view of Rafah, in the Southern Gaza strip, during an Israeli military sweep
2006
Inkjet print, printed 2012
© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images

 

David Leeson American, b.1957 'Death of a Soldier, Iraq' March 24, 2003

 

David Leeson (American, b. 1957)
Death of a Soldier, Iraq
March 24, 2003
Inkjet print, printed 2012
Courtesy of the artist

 

August Sander German, 1876-1964 'Soldier' c. 1940

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Soldier
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print, printed by Gunther Sander, 1960s
The MFAH, gift of John S. and Nancy Nolan Parsley in honour of the 65th birthday of Anne Wilkes Tucker
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK StiftungKultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London 2012

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1001 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005

Opening hours:
Wednesday 11am – 5pm
Thursday 11am – 9pm
Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturday 11am – 6pm
Sunday 12.30pm – 6pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday, except Monday holidays
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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06
Apr
09

Exhibition: ‘Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky’ at the Detroit Institute of Arts

Exhibition dates: 15th April – 12th July, 2009

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Grandfather and granddaughter, Lublin' 1937

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Grandfather and granddaughter, Lublin
1937
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

“During my journeys, I took over sixteen thousand photographs. All but two thousand were confiscated and, presumably, destroyed – although perhaps they will reappear someday. I hope my photographs enable the reader to envision a time and place that worthy of remembrance.”

.
Roman Vishniac

 

 

Hardly any photographs by Jeffrey Gusky online but he has provided some via email. I will post them asap. Thank you very much Jeff for contacting me. I knew little about the photographer Roman Vishniac but after more research I know much more now. What a photographer!

Just look at the image below to see a masterpiece of classical photography. Look at the space between the figures, the tension almost palpable, the look on the granddaughters face and the wringing of her hands a portent of the despair to come. A good archive of his photographs is on the International Center of Photography website.

Marcus

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Many thankx to The Detroit Institute of Arts for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Children playing on a street lined with swastika flags' mid-1930s

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Children playing on a street lined with swastika flags, probably outskirts of Berlin
mid-1930s
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Women walking with a baby carriage' 1935

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Women walking with a baby carriage, Brunnenstrasse, Berlin
1935
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Three women, Mukacevo' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Three women, Mukacevo
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Man purchasing herring, wrapped in newspaper, for a Sabbath meal, Mukacevo' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Man purchasing herring, wrapped in newspaper, for a Sabbath meal, Mukacevo
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Young Jewish boys suspicious of strangers, Mukachevo' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Young Jewish boys suspicious of strangers, Mukachevo
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

This previously unpublished photograph attests to Vishniac’s bold and innovative use of composition: the slim, vertical register of kindling wood, offset by a corner of Yiddish newspaper on a table and triangle of lace at the window, is balanced by the young boy’s sideways glance peering out from the corner of the frame, reflecting a modern sensibility not usually associated with Vishniac’s work in Eastern Europe.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Children playing outdoors and watching a game' c. 1935-37

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Children playing outdoors and watching a game, TOZ (Society for Safeguarding the Health of the Jewish Population) summer camp, Otwock, near Warsaw
c. 1935-37
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'These men are selling old clothes. The notice on the wall reads "Come Celebrate Chanukah," Kazimierz, Krakow' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
These men are selling old clothes. The notice on the wall reads “Come Celebrate Chanukah,” Kazimierz, Krakow
1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'A street of Kazimierz, Krakow' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
A street of Kazimierz, Krakow
1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Krakow' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Krakow
1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Krakow' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Krakow
1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'A street of Kazimierz, Cracow' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Street in Kazimierz, Krakow
1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Jewish street vendors, Warsaw, Poland' 1938

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Jewish street vendors, Warsaw, Poland
1938
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

“Examining each photographer separately, Vishniac and Gusky have very distinctive photographic styles. Due to the nature of his project and the ever-escalating semblance of anti-semitism, Vishniac’s photographs are less polished and more emotionally raw in an attempt to tell the stories of people’s individual lives. By contrast, Gusky finds inspiration in the physical places which made up the world of now entirely absent communities of Jews.

While each photographer had an individual style and statement to make, it is both the relationship with and stark difference between the two that provides the greatest emotional poignancy. The exhibition pairs many Vishniac and Gusky photographs, illuminating the individual lives lost, culture destroyed, and environments degraded by decades of neglect in Poland, as Gusky photographed the desecrated cemeteries, crumbling synagogues, and empty streets that served as the backdrop for Vishniac’s scenes of mid-century Jewish life.

There are also several points of convergence in the biographies of Vishniac and Gusky. Like Vishniac, Gusky is of Russian Jewish descent, and both men were compelled to their photographic projects in part by personal reasons springing from their Jewish heritage. The photographers also have professional ties to biological science which embody their work through illustration of the fragility of human life.”

Text from the Santa Barbara Museum website [Online] Cited 01/04/2009 (no longer available online)

 

Jeffrey Gusky. 'Broken stained glass window, Wielkie, Oczy' 2001

 

Jeffrey Gusky
Broken stained glass window, Wielkie, Oczy
2001
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“This exhibition, organised by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, includes around 90 black-and-white photographs taken by two photographers: Roman Vishniac, who photographed throughout Poland’s Jewish communities in the mid-1930s, and Jeffrey Gusky who photographed many of the same Polish sites during the 1990s.

In 1935, Russian-born photographer Roman Vishniac was commissioned by the American Joint Distribution Committee (a Paris-based relief agency) to photograph Jewish communities in the cities and villages of Poland as well as other areas of Eastern Europe. He took over 16,000 photographs (around 2,000 have survived) depicting the people, life, homes, schools, and trades of these communities. The photographs, in turn, were to be used to help raise money for humanitarian aid for individuals in areas that were becoming increasingly destitute.

In 1996, Jeffrey Gusky, an amateur photographer and doctor of Russian-Jewish descent set out on a personal journey in search of Jewish identity and culture in Eastern Europe. He made the first of four trips to Poland where he traveled to cities and villages where Jews had lived and worked for centuries. Gusky photographed what remained of Jewish culture in Poland focusing on the ruins of synagogues, cemeteries – many of which were desecrated, and the empty and still streets.”

Text from the Detroit Institute of Arts website [Online] Cited 01/04/2009 (no longer available online)

 

Roman Vishniac. 'A Boy with a toothache. Next year another child will inherit the tattered schoolbook. Slonim' ca 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
A Boy with a toothache. Next year another child will inherit the tattered schoolbook. Slonim
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Nat Gutman's Wife, Warsaw' 1938

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Nat Gutman’s Wife, Warsaw
1938
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

Poignant, haunting photographs of Poland’s Jewish communities taken in the 1930s by Roman Vishniac, and images of many of the same areas taken in the 1990s by Jeffrey Gusky are the subject of the moving exhibition Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky. The exhibition, at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) from April 19 to July 12, includes 90 black-and-white photographs and is free with museum admission.

Through their photographs, Vishniac (1897-1990) and Gusky (born 1953), two very different photographers from very different eras, bore witness to the Jewish experience in Poland during the 20th century, preserving memories and documenting life experiences for future generations. Although taken 60 years apart, their images share themes of memory, life, and loss and are evidence of people and places that once were, and what remains in their absence.

Vishniac and Gusky have very distinctive styles. Due to the nature of his project and the escalation of anti-Semitism in 1930s Poland, Vishniac made photographs in the documentary tradition. With great empathy, he recorded the places and lives of individuals exactly as he found them, in their homes and in the streets. Almost 60 years later, Gusky, by contrast, interpreted former Jewish sites throughout Poland with a sensitive eye on the past. His misty and haunting images are devoid of human presence, and show former sites from many Jewish communities that once thrived throughout Poland.

While each photographer had an individual style and statement to make, it is both the relationship with and stark difference between the two that provides the greatest emotional impact. Brought together for the first time, Vishniac’s and Gusky’s photographs illuminate the individual lives lost, culture destroyed, and environments degraded by decades of neglect in Poland, as Gusky photographed the desecrated cemeteries, crumbling synagogues, and empty streets that served as the backdrop for Vishniac’s scenes of vibrant, mid-century Jewish life.

Vishniac was born in Russia, and fled to Berlin with his family in 1920. He worked as a biologist and supplemented his income as a photographer. Eventually he became compelled to use photography to document people and communities throughout Europe. In the 1930s Vishniac was commissioned by the Joint Distribution Committee, a Paris-based relief agency, to photograph Jewish life in Poland, where he took over 16,000 photographs (only 2,000 survived the war) over a three-year period. He photographed vibrant communities filled with people in their homes and schools, at their trades and in their streets, markets and temples. His poignant works are evidence of communities filled with life despite the lack of food, medical care and livelihood that prevailed.

Gusky is a physician in rural Texas who began photographing as a way to explore Jewish identity. Although a Jew of Russian decent, he became interested in the history of Jews in Poland after hearing a radio interview with Ruth Ellen Gruber, an American journalist who documented the ruins of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. His photographs depict the vacant and somber sites of once-thriving Jewish communities throughout the country. With these images, Gusky reveals a powerful, dramatic message about a lost culture that was once part of Poland’s Jewish past. This initial photographic work has led him to further examine “the void of modern life,” and the threat of genocide that continues to haunt humankind of all ethnicities and cultures in the past and present. This exhibition is organised by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Press release from the Detroit Institute of Arts

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Boys and Books' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Boys and Books
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Children at Play, Bratislava' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Children at Play, Bratislava
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

The above photograph reminds me of the Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph below.

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Children in Seville' 1933

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Children in Seville
1933
Gelatin silver print

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Children waiting outside the registration office of a transit bureau' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Children waiting outside the registration office of a transit bureau, Schlachtensee Displaced Persons camp, Zehlendorf, Berlin
1947
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

Many of the children wear Jewish star pins and necklaces as they wait in the Schlachtensee transit bureau offices and courtyards in the American sector of occupied Berlin. By 1952, more than 136,000 Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs) had immigrated to Israel, and over 80,000 to the United States, aided by the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), and other nongovernmental agencies that played an important role in lobbying for and providing economic, educational, and emigration assistance to DPs.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Holocaust survivors gathering outside a building where matzoh is being made' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Holocaust survivors gathering outside a building where matzoh is being made in preparation for the Passover holiday, Hénonville Displaced Persons camp, Picardy, France
1947
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

Housed in a 1722 château outside Paris, the Hénonville Displaced Persons camp was administered by the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor (ORT), and Agudath Israel (the umbrella organisation for Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews), from 1946 to 1952. Hénonville was a homogeneous religious community of Orthodox Jews that included a relocated Lithuanian yeshiva, a home for Jewish orphans, and an Orthodox kibbutz, and was directed by a charismatic leader, Rabbi Solomon Horowitz. Vishniac photographed daily life in the camp, including a series documenting the preparation of matzoh for the Passover holiday.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

 

Detroit Institute of Arts
5200 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48202
Phone: 313.833.7900

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Thursday 9 am – 4 pm
Friday 9 am – 10 pm
Saturday – Sunday 10 am – 5 pm
Monday Closed

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12
Dec
08

Review: ‘The Art of Existence’ exhibition by Les Kossatz at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 22nd November – 8th March 2009

 

Les Kossatz. 'Digger's glory box' 1965

 

Les Kossatz
Digger’s glory box
1965
Silk, felt, canvas, cardboard, wood, brass, ink, fibre-tipped pen and synthetic polymer paint
106.0 x 76.0 x 7.0 cm
Courtesy the artist
Photographer: Viki Petherbridge
© Les Kossatz

 

 

Heide Museum of Modern Art has brought together nearly 100 pieces of work by the Australian artist Les Kossatz in an eclectic survey show, appropriately titled The Art of Existence. Featuring sculpture, painting and mixed media from the 1960s to the present the exhibition is appropriately titled because Kossatz’s work addresses certain archetypal themes that affect human existence:

His life-long fascination with the natural world and desire to understand both its human and animal inhabitants; exploration of the systems of knowledge and codes of behaviour that structure individual and communal life; and his critical and playful reflections on contemporary behaviour and the mysteries of existence.”1

.
Strong symbolic paintings are the focus of the work in the 1960s, paintings that address the shocking brutality of war and its aftermath, when soldiers return home. To the observation that these are of the ‘pop-style’ school of painting suggested by the Heide website I feel these works are also influenced by the collage of Cubism, the boxes of Joseph Cornell and the dismembered bodies of Francis Bacon. They engage with the symbolism of war and remembrance: memory, myth, and the banality of heroism and sacrifice.

The key work in this series is the painting Diggers throne (1966). This is a powerful disturbing image, effervescent and unnerving at the same time. It features a disembodied arm on the hand of a throne, surrounded by a wonderful kaleidoscopic assemblage of pictorial planes, artefacts and memories – an English flag, the flag of St George, a crown, medals and the words RSL. The arm reminds me of the Francis Bacon painting Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953) as it rests, roughly drawn in pencil on the arm of the throne, drawing the eye back up into nothingness.

The Diggers throne painting also features these prophetic words:

“throne slow to rot
and twisted the memory
becomes sacred.
Bloody was the truth
And this a chair.”

.
All other work in this period seems to flow through this painting – the other large paintings, the small canvases featuring individual medals and the less successful hanging banners. But it is to this work we return again and again as a viewer, trying to decipher and reconcile our inner conflicts about the painting.

As we move into the 1970s the work changes focus and direction. There emerges a concern with the desecration of the Australian landscape investigated in a series of large paintings and sculptures. In Packaged landscape 1 (1976) a steel suitcase with leather straps, slightly ajar, fulminates with artificial gum leaves trying to escape the strictures of the trap. In Caged landscape (1972) nature is again trapped behind steel wire, weighed in the balance on a set of miniature scales. The paintings feature trees that are surrounded by concrete and the rabbit becomes a powerful symbol for Kossatz – a suffering beast, strung up on fences, a plague in a pitted landscape of chopped down trees, erosion and empty holes.

Into this vernacular emerges the key symbol of the artist’s oeuvre – the sheep. In 1972 Kossatz began a series of sculptures of sheep, “initially inspired by the experience of nursing an injured ram.” For Kossatz “the sheep represent the hardship of pioneer existence, the grazing industries prosperity, environmental concerns and the sheep act as narrative devices, potent metaphors for human behaviour.”2

The first sheep presented ‘in show’ is Ram in Sling (1973, below). In this sculpture a metal bar is suspended in mid-air and from this bar heavy wire mesh drops to support the fleecy stomach and neck of the ram almost seeming to strangle it in the process, it’s metal feet just touching the ground. Again the scales of justice seem to weigh nature in the balance.

The themes life and death, order and chaos are further developed in the work Hard slide (1980, below) where a sheep emerges mid-air from a trapdoor, two more tumble down a wooden slide end over end and another disappears into the ground through a wooden trapdoor opening. Sacrifice seems to be a consistent theme with both the earlier paintings and the metallised sheep:

“The completed life cycle, down the trapdoor, down the chute, after sacrifice by shearing.” ~ Daniel Thomas 1994

.
Further sculptures of sheep, both small maquettes and large sculptures follow in the next room of the exhibition. This is the artist is full flow, featuring the inventive taking of 2D things into the round, investigating the key themes of his work: the contrast between nature and artifice, or humanity.

The small maquettes of sheep feature races, gantries, sluices, pens, trapdoors and paddocks. Sheep tumble in a cataclysmic maelstrom, falling with flailing legs into the darkness of the holding pen below. These are my favourite works – small, intimate, detailed, dark bronzes of serious intensity – the sheep becoming a theatre of the absurd, suspended, weighed and balancing in the performance of ritualised acts, a cacophony of flesh at once both intricate and unsettling. Their skins lay flayed and lifeless disappearing into the ‘unearth’ of the slated wooden floor of the shearing shed. The sheep “can be viewed metaphorically as a commentary of the existential situation of the individual and collective behaviour.”3 As Kossatz himself has noted, “It is hard to bring a piece of landscape inside and give it a living animated form. The sheep somehow gives me this quality of landscape.”

But we must also remember that this strictly a white man’s view of the Australian landscape. Nowhere does this work comment on the disenfranchisement of the native people’s of this land – the destruction of native habitats that the sheep brought about, the starvation that they caused to Aboriginal people just as they bought riches to the pastoralists and the country that mined the land with this amorphous mass of flesh.

Recent work in the exhibition returns to the earlier social themes of memory, war, remembrance, religion, shrines, atomic clouds and temples but it is the work of the late 1970s – 1980s that is the most cogent. As Kossatz ponders the nature of existence on this planet he does not see a definitive answer but emphasises the journey we take, not the arrival. Here is something that we should all ponder, giving time to the nature of our personal journey in this life, on this earth.

Here also is an exhibition worthy our time and attention as part of that journey. Go visit!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,074

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

 

  1. From the Heide website
  2. From wall notes to the exhibition
  3. From wall notes to the exhibition

 

Postscript 2018

The late Les Kossatz (1943-2011) was a well known Melbourne-based artist and academic whose work is represented in many regional and state galleries and the National Gallery of Australia. He studied art at the Melbourne Teachers’ College and the RMIT, and went on to teach at the RMIT and Monash University. Kossatz’s first significant commission was for the stained glass windows at the Monash University Chapel in Melbourne. Later commissions included works for the Australian War Memorial, the High Court, the Ian Potter Foundation at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Darling Harbour Authority, Sydney. His sculpture, Ainslie’s Sheep, commissioned by Arts ACT in 2000, is a popular national capital landmark in the centre of Civic. A major retrospective of Kossatz’s work was held in 2009 at the Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne.

Text from the High Court of Australia website

Francis Bacon. 'Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X' 1953

 

Francis Bacon
Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X
1953

 

Les Kossatz. "Ram in sling" 1973

 

Les Kossatz
Ram in sling
1973
Cast and fabricated stainless steel and sheepskin
129.3 x 126.5 x 66.0 cm
Heide Museum of Modern Art Collection
Purchased from John and Sunday Reed 1980
© Les Kossatz

 

Les Kossatz. 'Trophy room' 1975

 

Les Kossatz
Trophy room
1975
Colour lithograph
74.0 x 76.0 cm (sheet)
Courtesy the artist
Photographer: Viki Petherbridge
© Les Kossatz

 

 

The art of existence is the first exhibition to review Les Kossatz’s contribution to Australian art in a career that spans the 1960s to today. Kossatz’s consistently experimental approach to media and techniques is revealed in works that display a lifelong fascination with humanity and the interaction of man and nature. His paintings, sculptures and works on paper stimulate a questioning and exploration of such concerns, which form the basis of this artist’s practice.

Les Kossatz’s early works of the 1960s draw on his training and ability to work across a diversity of media, including painting, drawing, printmaking and glass. Early paintings and etchings on the theme of the emptiness of memorials to the Australian ‘digger’ or soldiers were succeeded by images and objects offering impressions of the world around the artist – the rural domain and interior life of St Andrews in Victoria where Kossatz lived and worked. Such works demonstrated his determination to pursue a figurative practice at a time when abstract art had been imported to Australia and was considered the avant garde.

Remaining a staunchly independent artist, at the start of the 1970s Kossatz painted images of rabbits and sheep from St Andrews. In addition, the practice of working in three dimensions was to become more significant. Kossatz continued to develop familiar themes in the creation of installations and cast objects. Although he has produced drawings and prints across his career, working with sculpture has, since the early 1970s, been his primary mode of art-making. Large scale cast and assembled objects show Kossatz pursuing related themes of caged and packaged landscapes, shrines to the harvest and the still life.

The art of existence surveys Kossatz’s monumental life-sized sheep sculptures, which he began making in 1972 from casts of animal parts, and for which he is best known. These include Hard slide (1980), his prize-winning commission in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. Kossatz has won numerous commissions for outdoor sculptures that employ the sheep as literal and metaphorical beings. Kossatz’s work across three decades reveals a number of ongoing engagements, such as his observations of human behaviour and at times its similar manifestation in animals; the beliefs that sustain individuals and communities (such as religion, music and politics); and the forms of the landscape and our understanding of these relationships.

Introduction to the exhibition written by Zara Stanhope, Guest Curator, Heide Museum of Modern Art, 2008

 

Les Kossatz. "Hard slide" 1980

 

Les Kossatz
Hard slide
1980
Sheepskins, aluminium, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga sp.), leather, steel
372.0 x 100.0 x 304.0 cm (installation)

 

Les Kossatz. "Guggenheim spiral" 1983

 

Les Kossatz
Guggenheim spiral
1983

 

 

Heide Museum of Modern Art
7 Templestowe Road
Bulleen Victoria 3105 Australia
Phone: +61 3 9850 1500

Opening hours:
(Heide II and Heide III)
Tue – Fri 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Sat/Sun/Public Holidays 12.00 noon – 5.00 pm

Heide Museum of Modern Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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