Posts Tagged ‘Rineke Dijkstra

19
Jun
20

Exhibition: ‘Masculinities: Liberation through Photography’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 20th February – 17th May 2020? Coronavirus

Participating artists: Bas Jan Ader, Laurie Anderson, Kenneth Anger, Knut Åsdam, Richard Avedon, Aneta Bartos, Richard Billingham, Cassils, Sam Contis, John Coplans, Jeremy Deller, Rienke Dijkstra, George Dureau, Thomas Dworzak, Hans Eijkelboom, Fouad Elkoury, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Hal Fischer, Samuel Fosso, Anna Fox, Masahisa Fukase, Sunil Gupta, Peter Hujar, Liz Johnson Artur, Isaac Julien, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Karen Knorr, Deana Lawson, Hilary Lloyd, Robert Mapplethrope, Peter Marlow, Ana Mendieta, Anenette Messager, Duane Michals, Tracey Moffat, Andrew Moisey, Richard Mosse, Adi Nes, Catherine Opie, Elle Pérez, Herb Ritts, Kalen Na’il Roach, Collier Schorr, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Clarie Strand, Michael Subotzky, Larry Sultan, Hank Willis Thomas, Wolfgang Tillmans, Piotr Uklański, Andy Warhol, Karlheinz Weinberger, Marianne Wex, David Wojnarowicz, Akram Zaatari.

 

 

Sunil Gupta (Indian, b. 1953) 'Untitled #22' 1976

 

Sunil Gupta (Indian, b. 1953)
Untitled #22
1976
From the series Christopher Street
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery
© Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019

 

 

As a writer Berger recognised that experience – whether it be personal, historical or aesthetic – will never conform to theories and systems. To read him today is to accept his failures and detours as a unique willingness to take risks.

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John MacDonald. “John Berger,” in the Sydney Morning Herald, 6 June, 2020

 

 

D-Construction: deliberate masculinities in a discontinuous world

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Reviewers of this exhibition (see quotations below) have noted the preponderance of images of “traditional masculinity” – defined as “idealised, dominant (and) heterosexual” – and the paucity of images that show men as working, intelligent, sensitive human beings, “that men ever earned a living, cooked a meal or read a book… scarcely anything about the heart or intellect. Men are represented here almost entirely in terms of their bodies, sexuality or supposed type.” I need make no further comment. What I will say is that I believe the title of the exhibition to be a misnomer: a person cannot be “liberated” through photography, for photography is only a tool of a personal liberation. Liberation comes through an internal struggle of acceptance (thence liberation), one that is foremost FELT (for example, the double life one leads before you acknowledge that you are gay; or experiencing discrimination aimed at others and by proxy, yourself) and SEEN (the bashing of a mother as seen by a small child). Photographs picture the outcomes of this struggle for liberation, are a tool of that process not, I would argue, liberation itself.

What I can say is that I believe in masculinities, plural. Fluid, shifting, challenging, loving, working, intimate, spiritual masculinities that challenge normalcy and hegemonic masculinity, which is defined as “a practice that legitimises men’s dominant position in society and justifies the subordination of the common male population and women, and other marginalised ways of being a man.”

What I don’t believe in is masculinities, plural, that seek to fit into this [dis]continuous world (for we are born and then die) through the stability of their outward appearance, conforming to theories and systems – personal, historical or aesthetic – without reference to subversion, small intimacies, the toil of work, love and the passion of sexual bodies. In other words, masculinities that are not afraid to push the boundaries of being and becoming. To take risks, to experience, to feel.

While I was overjoyed at the “YES” vote on gay marriage that took place in December 2017 in Australia because I felt it was a victory for love, and equality… another part of me rejected as anathema the concept of a gay person buying into a historically patriarchal, heterosexual and monogamous institution such as marriage – too honour and obey. This is an untenable concept for a person who wants to be liberated. Coming out as I did in 1975, only 6 short years after the Stonewall Riots, the last thing I EVER wanted to be, was to be the same as a “straight” person. I was different. I fought for my difference and still believe in it.

Of course, in 2020 it’s another world. Today we all mix in together. But there is still something about “masculinities”, which in some varieties, have a sense of privilege and entitlement. Of power and control over others; of violence towards women, trans, other men and anyone who threatens their little ego, who leaves them, or jilts them. Their jealousy, their ego, bruised – they are so insecure, so insular, that they can only see their own world, their own minuscule problems (but massive in their eyes), and enforce their will on others.

My advice to “masculinities’, in fact any human being, is to go out, get yourself informed, experience, accept, and be the person that nobody thinks you can be. Be a human being. Examine your inner self, look at your dark side, your other side, your empathetic side, and try and understand the journey that you are on. Then, and only then, you might begin on that great path of personal enlightenment, that golden path on which there is no turning back.

Below I discuss some of these ideas with my good friend Nicholas Henderson, curator and archivist at the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

 

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography is a major group exhibition that explores how masculinity is experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed as expressed and documented through photography and film from the 1960s to the present day.

Through the medium of film and photography, this major exhibition considers how masculinity has been coded, performed, and socially constructed from the 1960s to the present day. Examining depictions of masculinity from behind the lens, the Barbican brings together the work of over 50 international artists, photographers and filmmakers including Laurie Anderson, Sunil Gupta, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Isaac Julien and Catherine Opie.

In the wake of #MeToo the image of masculinity has come into sharper focus, with ideas of toxic and fragile masculinity permeating today’s society. This exhibition charts the often complex and sometimes contradictory representations of masculinities, and how they have developed and evolved over time. Touching on themes including power, patriarchy, queer identity, female perceptions of men, hypermasculine stereotypes, tenderness and the family, the exhibition shows how central photography and film have been to the way masculinities are imagined and understood in contemporary culture.

 

 

In fact, while there are a few gender-fluid figures here, they’re vastly outnumbered by manifestations of “traditional masculinity” – defined as “idealised, dominant (and) heterosexual”. Lebanese militiamen (in Fouad Elkoury’s perky full-length portraits from 1980), US marines (in Wolfgang Tillmans’ epic montage Soldiers – The Nineties), Taliban fighters, SS generals, Israel Defence Force grunts, footballers, cowboys and bullfighters fairly spring out of the walls from every direction. And what’s evident from the outset isn’t so much their diversity, as a unifying demeanour: a threatening intentness that comes wherever men are asked to perform their masculinity, but also a childlike vulnerability.  …

Masculinity, the viewer is made to feel, criminalises men (Mikhael Subotzky’s images of South African gangsters on morgue slabs); isolates them (Larry Sultan’s poignant image of his elderly father practising his golf swing in his sitting room); renders them stupid (Richard Billingham’s excruciating, but now classic photo essay on his alcoholic father, ‘Ray’s a Laugh’). To be a man, it seems, is to be condemned to endlessly act out archetypal “masculine” behaviour, whether you’re an elderly drunk in a Birmingham high-rise or the elite American students taking part in the shouting competition staged by Irish photographer Richard Mosse.

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Mark Hudson. “Does the Barbican’s Masculinities exhibition have important things to say about men?” on the Independent website Friday 21 February 2020 [Online] Cited 03/03/2020

 

There is not much here about work – unless you count the wall of Hollywood actors playing Nazis. You would never think, from this show, that men ever earned a living, cooked a meal or read a book (though there is a sententious vitrine of ‘Men Only’ magazines). Beyond the exceptions given, there is scarcely anything about the heart or intellect. Men are represented here almost entirely in terms of their bodies, sexuality or supposed type.

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Laura Cumming. “Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography review – men as types,” on the Guardian website Sun 23 Feb 2020 [Online] Cited 03/03/2020

 

“The body can be taken as a reflection of the self because it can and should be treated as something to be worked upon … in order to produce it as a commodity. Overweight, slovenliness and even unfashionability, for example, are now moral disorders,” notes Don Slater

“The state of the body is seen as a reflection of the state of its owner, who is responsible for it and could refashion it. The body can be taken as a reflection of the self because it can and should be treated as something to be worked upon, and generally worked upon using commodities, for example intensively regulated, self-disciplined, scrutinized through diets, fitness regimes, fashion, self-help books and advice, in order to produce it as a commodity. Overweight, slovenliness, and even unfashionability, for example, are now moral disorders; even acute illnesses such as cancer reflect the inadequacy of the self and indeed of its consumption. One gets ill because one has consumed the wrong (unnatural) things and failed to consume the correct (‘natural’) ones: self, body, goods and environment constitute a system of moral choice.”

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Slater, Don. Consumer Culture and Modernity. London: Polity Press, 1997, p. 92.

 

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing John Coplans’ work Self-portrait, Frieze No 2, Four Panels 1994
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

John Coplans (British, emigrated America 1960, 1920-2003) 'Self-portrait, Frieze No 2, Four Panels' 1994

 

John Coplans (British, emigrated America 1960, 1920-2003)
Self-portrait, Frieze No 2, Four Panels
1994
Tate
Presented by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery 2001
Photograph: © John Coplans Trust

 

 

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography

 

Plan of the 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' exhibition spaces

 

Plan of the Masculinities: Liberation through Photography exhibition spaces

 

 

Introduction

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography explores the diverse ways masculinity has been experienced, performed, coded and socially constructed in photography and film from the 1960s to the present day.

Simone de Beauvoir’s famous declaration that ‘one is not born a woman, but rather becomes one’ provides a helpful springboard for considering what it means to be a male in today’s world, as well as the place of photography and film in shaping masculinity. What we have thought of as ‘masculine’ has changed considerably throughout history and within different cultures. The traditional social dominance of the male has determined a gender hierarchy which continues to underpin societies around the world.

In Europe and North America, the characteristics and power dynamics of the dominant masculine figure – historically defined by physical size and strength, assertiveness and aggression – though still pervasive today, began to be challenged and transformed in the 1960s. Amid a climate of sexual revolution, struggle for civil rights and raised class consciousness, the growth of the gay rights movement, the period’s counterculture and opposition to the Vietnam War, large sections of society argued for a loosening of the straitjacket of narrow gender definitions.

Set against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, when manhood is under increasing scrutiny and terms such as ‘toxic’ and ‘fragile’ masculinity fill endless column inches, an investigation of this expansive subject is particularly timely, especially given current global politics characterised by male world leaders shaping their image as ‘strong’ men.

Touching on queer identity, race, power and patriarchy, men as seen by women, stereotypes of dominant masculinity as well as the family, the exhibition presents masculinity in all its myriad forms, rife with contradictions and complexities. Embracing the idea of multiple ‘masculinities’ and rejecting the notion of a singular ‘ideal man’, the exhibition argues for an understanding of masculinity liberated from societal expectations and gender norms.

 

Room 1-4

Disrupting the Archetype

Over the last six decades, artists have consistently sought to destabilise the narrow definitions of gender that determine our social structures in order to encourage new ways of thinking about identity, gender and sexuality. ‘Disrupting the Archetype’ explores the representation of conventional and at times clichéd masculine subjects such as soldiers, cowboys, athletes, bullfighters, body builders and wrestlers. By reconfiguring the representation of traditional masculinity – loosely defined as an idealised, dominant heterosexual masculinity – the artists presented here challenge our ideas of these hypermasculine stereotypes.

Across different cultures and spaces, the military has been central to the construction of masculine identities – which has been explored through the work of Wolfgang Tillmans (below) and Adi Nes (below) among others, while Collier Schorr (below) and Sam Contis’s powerful works (below) address the dominant and enduring representation of the lone cowboy. Athleticism, often perceived as a proxy for strength which is associated with masculinity, is called into question by Catherine Opie’s and Rineke Dijkstra’s tender portraits (below). The male body, a cornerstone for artists such as John Coplans (above), Robert Mapplethorpe and Cassils (below), is meanwhile exposed as a fleshy canvas, constantly in flux.

Historically, the non-western male body has undergone a complex process of subjectification through the Western gaze – invariably presented as either warlike or sexually charged. Viewed against this context, the work of Fouad Elkoury and Akram Zaatari, as well as the found photographs of Taliban fighters that Thomas Dworzak discovered in Afghanistan (below), can be read as deconstructing the Orientalist gaze.

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing a detail from Wolfgang Tillmans’ epic montage Soldiers – The Nineties
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing a detail from trans masculine artist Cassils’ series Time Lapse, 2011
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing at left a detail from trans masculine artist Cassils’ series Time Lapse, 2011, and at right the work of Rineke Dijkstra
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Montemor, Portugal, May 1, 1994' 1994

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Montemor, Portugal, May 1, 1994
1994
Chromogenic print
90 x 72 cm
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959) 'Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal, May 8, 1994' 1994

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal, May 8, 1994
1994
Chromogenic print
90 x 72 cm
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation views of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing photographs from Adi Nes’ series Soldiers, 1999
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Adi Nes (Israeli, b. 1966) 'Untitled' 2000

 

Adi Nes (Israeli, b. 1966)
Untitled
2000
From the series Soldiers
Courtesy Adi Nes & Praz-Delavallade Paris, Los Angeles

 

Adi Nes (Israeli, b. 1966) 'Untitled' 1999

 

Adi Nes (Israeli, b. 1966)
Untitled
1999
From the series Soldiers
Courtesy Adi Nes & Praz-Delavallade Paris, Los Angeles

 

 

Adi Nes was born in Kiryat Gat. His parents are Jewish immigrants from Iran. He is openly gay. Nes is notable for series “Soldiers”, in which he mixes masculinity and homoerotic sexuality, depicting Israeli soldiers in a fragile way.

Nes creates cinematic images that reference war, sexuality, life, and death with the kind of stylised polish you might expect from a photographer whose images have appeared in the pages of Vogue Hommes. His partially autobiographical work is deliberate and staged in an attempt to raise questions about sexuality, masculinity and identity in Israeli culture. “The beginning point of my art is who I am,” he says. “Since I’m a man and I’m an Israeli, I deal with issues of identity with ‘Israeli-ness’ and masculinity, but my photographs are multi-layered.”

“The challenge of the photographer is to catch the viewer for more than one second in front of the picture,” says Nes, explaining his provocative images. “If you catch the viewer in front of the picture, it can touch the viewer.”

Anonymous text “Adi Nes on masculinity, sexuality and war,” from the Phaidon website 2012 [Online] Cited 07/03/2020

 

Thomas Dworzak (Germany, b. 1972) 'Taliban portraits' 2002

Thomas Dworzak (Germany, b. 1972) 'Taliban portraits' 2002

 

Thomas Dworzak (Germany, b. 1972)
Taliban portraits
2002
Kandahar, Afghanistan

 

 

While covering the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak came across a handful of photo studios in Kandahar which despite the Taliban’s ban on photography had been authorised to remain open, for the sole purpose of taking identity photos. Complicating the conventional image of the hypermasculine soldier, the colour portraits Dworzak found in the back rooms of these studios depict Taliban fighters variously posing in front of scenic backdrops, holding hands, using guns or flowers as props or enveloped in a halo of vibrant colours, their eyes heavily made up with black kohl. These stylised photographs directly contradict the public image of the soldier in this overwhelmingly male-dominated patriarchal society.

 

Sam Contis (American, b. 1982) 'Untitled (Neck)' 2015

 

Sam Contis (American, b. 1982)
Untitled (Neck)
2015
© Sam Contis

 

'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' catalogue cover

 

Masculinities: Liberation through Photography catalogue cover

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing photographs from Catherine Opie’s series High School Football, 2007-2009
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961) 'Stephen' 2009

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Stephen
2009
From the series High School Football, 2007-2009
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Thomas Dane Gallery, London
© Catherine Opie

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961) 'Rusty' 2008

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Rusty
2008
From the series High School Football, 2007-2009
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Thomas Dane Gallery, London
© Catherine Opie

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961) 'Football Landscape #17 (Waianae vs. Leilehua, Waianae, HI)' 2009

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Football Landscape #17 (Waianae vs. Leilehua, Waianae, HI)
2009
From the series High School Football, 2007-2009
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Thomas Dane Gallery, London
© Catherine Opie

 

 

Kenneth Anger (American, b. 1927)
Kustom Kar Kommandos
1965
3 mins 22 secs

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963) 'Americans #3' 2012

 

Collier Schorr (American, b. 1963)
Americans #3
2012
© Collier Schorr, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

 

 

Room 5-6

Male Order: Power, Patriarchy and Space

‘Male Order’ invites the viewer to reflect on the construction of male power, gender and class. The artists gathered here have all variously attempted to expose and subvert how certain types of masculine behaviour have created inequalities both between and within gender identities. Two ambitious, multi-part works, Richard Avedon’s The Family, 1976, and Karen Knorr’s Gentlemen, 1981-83, focus on typically besuited white men who occupy the corridors of power, while foregrounding the historic exclusion not only of women but also of other marginalised masculinities.

Male-only organisations, such as the military, private members’ clubs and college fraternities, have often served as an arena for the performance of ‘toxic’ masculinity, as chronicled in Andrew Moisey’s The American Fraternity: An Illustrated Ritual Manual, 2018. This startling book charts the misdemeanours of fraternity members alongside an indexical image bank of US Presidents, alongside leaders of government and industry who have belonged at one time or another to these fraternities. Richard Mosse’s film, Fraternity, 2007, takes a different tack by painting a portrait of male rage that is both playful and alarming.

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing photographs from Richard Avedon’s series The Family (1976)
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

 

Early  in 1976, with both the post-Watergate political atmosphere and the approaching bicentennial celebration in mind, Rolling Stone asked Richard Avedon to cover the presidential primaries and the campaign trail. Avedon counter-proposed a grander idea – he had always wanted to photograph the men and women he believed to have constituted political, media and corporate elite of the United States.

For the next several months, Avedon traversed the country from migrant grape fields of California to NFL headquarters in Park Avenue and returned with an amazing portfolio of soldiers, spooks, potentates, and ambassadors that was too late for the bicentennial but published in Rolling Stone’s Oct. 21, 1976, just in time for the November elections.

Sixty-nine black-and-white portraits … were in Avedon’s signature style – formal, intimate, bold, and minimalistic. Appearing in them are President Ford and his three immediate successors – Carter, Reagan, and Bush. Other familiars of the American polity such as Kennedys and Rockefellers are here, and as are giants who held up the nation’s Fourth Pillar during that challenging decade: A. M. Rosenthal of the New York Times who decided to publish the Pentagon Papers, and Katharine Graham who led Woodward and Bernstein at Washington Post.

Alex Selwyn-Holmes. “The Family, 1976; Richard Avedon” on the Iconphotos website May 18, 2012 [Online] Cited 03/03/2020

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation views of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing photographs from Karen Knorr’s series Gentlemen, 1981-83
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Karen Knorr (American, born Germany 1954) 'Newspapers are no longer ironed, Coins no longer boiled So far have Standards fallen' 1981-83

 

Karen Knorr (American, born Germany 1954)
Newspapers are no longer ironed, Coins no longer boiled So far have Standards fallen
1981-83
From the series Gentlemen
Tate: Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013
© Karen Knorr

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing Piotr Uklanski’s Untitled (The Nazis), 1998, a collage of actors dressed as Nazis, courtesy of Massimo De Carlo
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

 

Room 7-8

Too Close to Home: Family and Fatherhood

Since its invention photography has been a powerful vehicle for the construction and documentation of family narratives. In contrast to the conventions of the traditional family portrait, the artists gathered here deliberately set out to record the ‘messiness’ of life, reflecting on misogyny, violence, sexuality, mortality, intimacy and unfolding family dramas, presenting a more complex and not always comfortable vision of fatherhood and masculinity.

Loss and the ageing male figure are central to the work of both Masahisa Fukase and Larry Sultan (both below). Their respective projects marked a new departure in the way men photographed each other, serving as a commentary on how old age engenders a loss of masculinity. An examination of everyday life, Richard Billingham’s tender yet bleak portraits of his father, as chronicled in Ray’s a Laugh, cast a brutally honest eye on his alcoholic father Ray against a backdrop of social decline (below).

Anna Fox’s disturbing autobiographical work undermines expectations of the traditional family album while revealing the mechanics of paternalistic power. Meanwhile, the father-daughter relationship is brought into sharp focus in Aneta Bartos’s sexually charged series Family Portrait which unsettles traditional family boundaries (below).

 

Masahisa Fukase (Japan, 1934-2012) 'Masahisa and Sukezo' 1972

 

Masahisa Fukase (Japan, 1934-2012)
Masahisa and Sukezo
1972
From the series Family, 1971-90
© Masahisa Fukase Archives

 

Masahisa Fukase (Japan, 1934-2012) 'Upper row, from left to right: A, a model; Toshiteru, Sukezo, Masahisa. Middle row, from left to right: Akiko, Mitsue, Hisashi Daikoji. Bottom row, from left to right: Gaku, Kyoko, Kanako, and a memorial portrait of Miyako' 1985

 

Masahisa Fukase (Japan, 1934-2012)
Upper row, from left to right: A, a model; Toshiteru, Sukezo, Masahisa. Middle row, from left to right: Akiko, Mitsue, Hisashi Daikoji. Bottom row, from left to right: Gaku, Kyoko, Kanako, and a memorial portrait of Miyako
1985
From the series Family, 1971-90
© Masahisa Fukase Archives

 

Masahisa Fukase (Japan, 1934-2012) 'Masahisa and Sukezo' 1985

 

Masahisa Fukase (Japan, 1934-2012)
Masahisa and Sukezo
1985
From the series Family, 1971-90
© Masahisa Fukase Archives

 

‘A magnificent memorial to paternal love’.

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing the photographs of Larry Sultan from the series Pictures from Home
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Larry Sultan (American, 1946-2009) 'Dad on Bed' 1984

 

Larry Sultan (American, 1946-2009)
Dad on Bed
1984
From the series Pictures from Home
Chromogenic print
Courtesy the Estate of Larry Sultan, Yancey Richardson, Casemore Kirkeby, and Galerie Thomas Zander
© Estate of Larry Sultan

 

Larry Sultan (American, 1946-2009) 'Practicing Golf Swing' 1986

 

Larry Sultan (American, 1946-2009)
Practicing Golf Swing
1986
From the series Pictures from Home
Chromogenic print
Courtesy the Estate of Larry Sultan, Yancey Richardson, Casemore Kirkeby, and Galerie Thomas Zander
© Estate of Larry Sultan

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing Richard Billingham’s photographs from the series Ray’s a Laugh
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing the photographs of Aneta Bartos’s sexually charged series Family Portrait
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Aneta Bartos (Born Poland, lives New York) 'Mirror' 2015

 

Aneta Bartos (Born Poland, lives New York)
Mirror
2015
From the series Family Portrait
Archival inkjet print
30 x 30.65 inches

 

Aneta Bartos (Born Poland, lives New York) 'Apple' 2015

 

Aneta Bartos (Born Poland, lives New York)
Apple
2015
From the series Family Portrait
Archival inkjet print
30 x 30.65 inches

 

 

Since 2013 New York based artist Aneta Bartos has been traveling back to her hometown Tomaszów Mazowiecki, where she was raised by her father as a single parent from the age of eight until fourteen. Then 68 years old, and having spent a lifetime as a competitive body builder, Bartos’ father asked her to take a few shots documenting his physique before it degenerated and inevitably ran its course. The original request of her father inspired Bartos to transform his idea into a long-term project called Dad. A few summers later Dad developed into a new series of portraits, titled Family Portrait, exploring the complex dynamics between father and daughter.

Text from the Antwerp Art website [Online] Cited 01/03/2020

 

“The pastoral setting is a romanticised portal to Bartos’s past. Her father’s poses are often heroic; at times the pictures are playful and flirty, almost seductive. Seen together, they display the sadness of a man who knows he is ageing, with the subtext of his waning sexuality. They are bittersweet, images of time passing and memories being preserved.”

Elisabeth Biondi quoted on the Postmasters website 2017 [Online] Cited 01/03/2020

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation views of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing photographs from Peter Hujar’s series Orgasmic Man 1969 (see below)
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

 

Room 9-12

Queer Masculinity

In defiance of the prejudice and legal constraints against homosexuality in Europe, the United States and beyond over the last century, the works presented in ‘Queering Masculinity’ highlight how artists from the 1960s onwards have forged a new politically charged queer aesthetic.

In the 1970s, artists such as Peter Hujar (below), David Wojnarowicz, Sunil Gupta (below) and Hal Fischer (below) photographed gay lifestyles in New York and San Francisco in a bid to claim public visibility and therefore legitimacy at a time when homosexuality was still a criminal offence. Reflecting on their own queer experience and creating sensual bodies of work, artists such as Rotimi Fani-Kayode (below) and Isaac Julien (below) portrayed black gay desire while Catherine Opie’s seminal work Being and Having, 1991 (below), documented members of the dyke, butch and BDSM communities in San Francisco playing with the physical attributes associated with hypermasculinity in order to overturn traditional binary understandings of gender.

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation views of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing photographs by Karlheinz Weinberger
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Karlheinz Weinberger (Swiss, 1921-2006) 'Horseshoe buckle' 1962

 

Karlheinz Weinberger (Swiss, 1921-2006)
Horseshoe buckle
1962
Courtesy Galerie Esther Woerdehoff
© Karlheinz Weinberger

 

Karlheinz Weinberger (Swiss, 1921-2006) 'Sitting boy with elvis necklace in KHW studio, Zurich' 1961

 

Karlheinz Weinberger (Swiss, 1921-2006)
Sitting Boy with Elvis Necklace in KHW studio, Zurich
1961
Courtesy Galerie Esther Woerdehoff
© Karlheinz Weinberger

 

Peter Hujar. 'Orgasmic Man' 1969

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Orgasmic Man
1969
Gelatin silver print

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'Orgasmic Man (I)' 1969

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Orgasmic Man (I)
1969
Gelatin silver print

 

Peter Hujar. 'Orgasmic Man (II)' 1969

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
Orgasmic Man (II)
1969
Gelatin silver print

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987) 'David Brintzenhofe Applying Makeup (II)' 1982

 

Peter Hujar (American, 1934-1987)
David Brintzenhofe Applying Makeup (II)
1982
Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© 1987 The Peter Hujar Archive LLC

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing photographs from Sunil Gupta’s series Christopher Street 1976
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Sunil Gupta (Indian, b. 1953) 'Untitled #21' 1976

 

Sunil Gupta (Indian, b. 1953)
Untitled #21
1976
From the series Christopher Street
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery
© Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019

 

 

Gupta went on to study under Lisette Model at the New School and take his place among the most accomplished photographers, editors, and curators of his generation, exploring the way identities flower under various sexual, geographical, and historical conditions. But Christopher Street is where it all began. His subjects are engaged in an unprecedented moment in which it seemed possible to build a world of their own. He shows inner lives, barely concealed within the downturned face of a mustachioed man with his hands in his pockets, and outer ones as well, as other men cruise the lens right back, or laugh with each other, unbothered by the stranger with the camera. They were often just engaged in the everyday and extraordinary act of simply existing as gay. In each photograph, Gupta somehow projects a protective and versatile desire: to remember and be remembered at once.

Extract from Jesse Dorris. “Christopher Street Revisited,” on the Aperture website May 30th, 2019 [Online] Cited 29/02/2020

 

Sunil Gupta (Indian, b. 1953) 'Untitled #56' 1976

 

Sunil Gupta (Indian, b. 1953)
Untitled #56
1976
From the series Christopher Street
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery
© Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2019

 

 

The 1976 Christopher Street series marks the first set of photographs Gupta made as a practicing artist, using the camera as a tool for open expression. His decision to use black and white film was partly aesthetic, yet also practical, as he was developing the prints in his bathroom. Although he uses a documentarian style, Gupta was by no means an impartial observer behind the camera, he was a participant, enthralled by his subjects.

The series … captures a specific moment in history – a cross section of a thriving community in one of New York’s most dynamic areas – Manhattan’s Christopher Street. Dressed in the latest fashions, moving confidently and relaxing on street corners, their visible presence is a signifier of a specific period of public consciousness. Un-staged and spontaneous, most of the artist’s subjects are unaware of the camera and are simply going about their day. Now, with hindsight, Gupta is struck by the routineness of the images, stating:

‘There is a poignancy they never had at the time… A few years later, the AIDS crisis took hold. The public nature of gay life was forced back into the shadows. Thousands of men died. New York shut down its bathhouses, gay parties became private, and this whole world became hidden again.’

Fusing the public with the personal, the Christopher Street series reflects the openness of the gay liberation movement, as well as Gupta’s own “coming out” as an artist. More than a nostalgic time capsule, the photographs reveal a community that shaped Gupta as a person and cemented his lifelong dedication to portraying people who have been denied a space to be themselves.

Extract from Anonymous. “Sunil Gupta: Christopher Street,” on the Monovisions website 24 May 2019 [Online] Cited 29/02/2020

 

Hal Fischer (American, b. 1950) 'Handkerchiefs' 1977

 

Hal Fischer (American, b. 1950)
Handkerchiefs
1977
From the series Gay Semiotics
Gelatin silver print

 

Hal Fischer (American, b. 1950) 'Street Fashion Jock' 1977

 

Hal Fischer (American, b. 1950)
Street Fashion Jock
1977
From the series Gay Semiotics
Gelatin silver print

 

Rotimi Fani-Kayode (Nigerian, 1955-1989) 'Untitled' c. 1985

 

Rotimi Fani-Kayode (Nigerian, 1955-1989)
Untitled
c. 1985
Courtesy of Autograph, London
© Rotimi Fani-Kayode

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing at left, photographs from Isaac Julien’s series After Mazatlàn, 1999/2000
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Isaac Julien (British, b. 1960) From 'After Mazatlàn III - VI' 1999/2000

 

Isaac Julien (British, b. 1960)
From After Mazatlàn III – VI
1999/2000
Colour photogravures
33 x 43.2 cm; 13 x 17 in
Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
© Isaac Julien

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing Catherine Opie’s series Being and Having 1991
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961) 'Bo from "Being and Having"' 1991

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Bo from “Being and Having”
1991
Collection of Gregory R. Miller and Michael Wiener
© Catherine Opie, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Thomas Dane Gallery, London; and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

 

 

The exhibition brings together over 300 works by over 50 pioneering international artists, photographers and filmmakers such as Richard Avedon, Peter Hujar, Isaac Julien, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Robert Mapplethorpe, Annette Messager and Catherine Opie to show how photography and film have been central to the way masculinities are imagined and understood in contemporary culture. The show also highlights lesser-known and younger artists – some of whom have never exhibited in the UK – including Cassils, Sam Contis, George Dureau, Elle Pérez, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Hank Willis Thomas, Karlheinz Weinberger and Marianne Wex amongst many others. Masculinities: Liberation through Photography is part of the Barbican’s 2020 season, Inside Out, which explores the relationship between our inner lives and creativity.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said: ‘Masculinities: Liberation through Photography continues our commitment to presenting leading twentieth century figures in the field of photography while also supporting younger contemporary artists working in the medium today. In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the resurgence of feminist and men’s rights activism, traditional notions of masculinity has become a subject of fierce debate. This exhibition could not be more relevant and will certainly spark conversations surrounding our understanding of masculinity.’

With ideas around masculinity undergoing a global crisis and terms such as ‘toxic’ and ‘fragile’ masculinity filling endless column inches, the exhibition surveys the representation of masculinity in all its myriad forms, rife with contradiction and complexity. Presented across six sections by over 50 international artists to explore the expansive nature of the subject, the exhibition touches on themes of queer identity, the black body, power and patriarchy, female perceptions of men, heteronormative hypermasculine stereotypes, fatherhood and family. The works in the show present masculinity as an unfixed performative identity shaped by cultural and social forces.

Seeking to disrupt and destabilise the myths surrounding modern masculinity, highlights include the work of artists who have consistently challenged stereotypical representations of hegemonic masculinity, including Collier Schorr, Adi Nes, Akram Zaatari and Sam Contis, whose series Deep Springs, 2018 draws on the mythology of the American West and the rugged cowboy. Contis spent four years immersed in an all-male liberal arts college north of Death Valley meditating on the intimacy and violence that coexists in male-only spaces. Complicating the conventional image of the fighter, Thomas Dworzak‘s acclaimed series Taliban consists of portraits found in photographic studios in Kandahar following the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, these vibrant portraits depict Taliban fighters posing hand in hand in front of painted backdrops, using guns and flowers as props with kohl carefully applied to their eyes. Trans masculine artist Cassils‘ series Time Lapse, 2011, documents the radical transformation of their body through the use of steroids and a rigorous training programme reflecting on ideas of masculinity without men. Elsewhere, artists Jeremy Deller, Robert Mapplethorpe and Rineke Dijkstra dismantle preconceptions of subjects such as the wrestler, the bodybuilder and the athlete and offer an alternative view of these hyper-masculinised stereotypes.

The exhibition examines patriarchy and the unequal power relations between gender, class and race. Karen Knorr‘s series Gentlemen, 1981-83, comprised of 26 black and white photographs taken inside men-only private members’ clubs in central London and accompanied by texts drawn from snatched conversations, parliamentary records and contemporary news reports, invites viewers to reflect on notions of class, race and the exclusion of women from spaces of power during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership. Toxic masculinity is further explored in Andrew Moisey‘s 2018 photobook The American Fraternity: An Illustrated Ritual Manual which weaves together archival photographs of former US Presidents and Supreme Court Justices who all belonged to the fraternity system, alongside images depicting the initiation ceremonies and parties that characterise these male-only organisations.

With the rise of the Gay Liberation Movement through the 1960s followed by the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, the exhibition showcases artists such as Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowiz, who increasingly began to disrupt traditional representations of gender and sexuality. Hal Fischer‘s critical photo-text series Gay Semiotics, 1977, classified styles and types of gay men in San Francisco and Sunil Gupta’s street photographs captured the performance of gay public life as played out on New York’s Christopher Street, the site of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. Other artists exploring the performative aspects of queer identity include Catherine Opie‘s seminal series Being and Having, 1991, showing her close friends in the West Coast’s LGBTQ+ community sporting false moustaches, tattoos and other stereotypical masculine accessories. Elle Pérez‘s luminous and tender photographs explore the representation of gender non-conformity and vulnerability, whilst Paul Mpagi Sepuya‘s fragmented portraits explore the studio as a site of homoerotic desire.

During the 1970s women artists from the second wave feminist movement objectified male sexuality in a bid to subvert and expose the invasive and uncomfortable nature of the male gaze. In the exhibition, Laurie Anderson‘s seminal work Fully Automated Nikon (Object/Objection/Objectivity), 1973, documents the men who cat-called her as she walked through New York’s Lower East Side while Annette Messager‘s series The Approaches, 1972, covertly captures men’s trousered crotches with a long-lens camera. German artist Marianne Wex‘s encyclopaedic project Let’s Take Back Our Space: ‘Female’ and ‘Male’ Body Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures, 1977, presents a detailed analysis of male and female body language and Australian indigenous artist Tracey Moffatt‘s awkwardly humorous film Heaven, 1997, portrays male surfers changing in and out of their wet suits.

Further highlights include New York based artist Hank Willis Thomas, whose photographic practice examines the complexities of the black male experience; celebrated Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase‘s The Family, 1971-1989, chronicles the life and death of his family with a particular emphasis on his father; and Kenneth Anger‘s technicolour experimental underground film Kustom Kar Kommandos, 1965, explores the fetishist role of hot rod cars amongst young American men.

Press release from the Barbican Art Gallery

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing Hank Willis Thomas’ series Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America 1968-2008 2005-08 (below)
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

 

Room 13-14

Reclaiming the Black Body

Giving visual form to the complexity of the black male experience, this section foregrounds artists who over the last five decades have consciously subverted expectations of race, gender and the white gaze by reclaiming the power to fashion their own identities.

From Samuel Fosso’s playfully staged self-portraits, taken in his studio, in which he performs to the camera sporting flares and platforms boots or flirtatiously revealing his youthful male physique (below) to Kiluanji Kia Henda’s fictional scenarios in which he adopts the troubled personas of African men of power, the works presented here reflect on how black masculinity challenges the status quo (below).

The representation of black masculinity in the US is born out of a violent history of slavery and prejudice. Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America 1968-2008 by Hank Willis Thomas (below) draws attention to the ways in which corporate America has commodified the African American male experience while simultaneously perpetuating and reinforcing cultural stereotypes. Similarly, Deana Lawson’s powerful work Sons of Cush, 2016, highlights how the black male figure is often ‘idealised (in their physical beauty) and pathologised by the culture (as symbols of violence or fear)’.

 

Hank Willis Thomas (American, b. 1976) 'The Johnson Family' 1981/2006

 

Hank Willis Thomas (American, b. 1976)
The Johnson Family
1981/2006
From the series Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America 1968-2008
2005-08

 

 

Concerned with the literal and figural objectifications of the African American male body, in his complex series Unbranded Hank Willis Thomas redeploys magazine adverts featuring African Americans made between 1968 – a pivotal moment in the struggle for civil rights – and 2008, which witnessed the accession of Barack Obama to the US presidency. By digitally stripping the ads of all text, branding and logos, Thomas draws attention to the ways in which corporate America has commodified the African American experience while simultaneously perpetuating and reinforcing cultural stereotypes.

 

Hank Willis Thomas (American, b. 1976) 'It's the Real Thing!' 1978/2008

 

Hank Willis Thomas (American, b. 1976)
It’s the Real Thing!
1978/2008
From the series Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America 1968-2008
2005-08

 

Samuel Fosso (Cameroonian, b. 1962) 'Self-portrait' 1975-7

 

Samuel Fosso (Cameroonian, b. 1962)
Self-portrait
1975-7
From the series 70s lifestyle
Courtesy Jean Marc Patras, Paris
© Samuel Fosso

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing a photograph from Kiluanji Kia Henda’s series The Last Journey of the Dictator Mussunda Nzombo Before the Great Extinction Act I
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

Hilary Lloyd (British, b. 1964) 'Colin #2' 1999

 

Hilary Lloyd (British, b. 1964)
Colin #2
1999
Courtesy Galerie Neu, Berlin; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Greene Naftali, New York
© Hilary Lloyd

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing part of Marianne Wex’s encyclopaedic project Let’s Take Back Our Space: ‘Female’ and ‘Male’ Body Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures, 1977
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

 

Room 15-16

Women on Men: Reversing the Male Gaze

As the second-wave feminist movement gained momentum through the 1960s and ’70s, female activists sought to expose and critique entrenched ideas about masculinity and to articulate alternative perspectives on gender and representation. Against this background, or motivated by its legacy, the artists gathered here have made men their subject with the radical intention of subverting their power, calling into question the notion that men are active and women passive.

In the early 1970s pioneers of feminist art such as Laurie Anderson (below) and Annette Messager consciously objectified the male body in a bid to expose the uncomfortable nature of the dominant male gaze. In contrast, filmmakers such as Tracey Moffatt (below) and Hilary Lloyd (above) turn the tables on male representations of desire to foreground the power of the female gaze.

In his humorous series The Ideal Man, 1978 (below), Hans Eijkelboom invited ten women to fashion him into their image of the ‘ideal’ man. Through this act Eijkelboom reverses the male to female power dynamic and inverts the traditional gender hierarchy.

 

Laurie Anderson (American, b. 1947) 'Man with a Cigarette' 1973

 

Laurie Anderson (American, b. 1947)
Man with a Cigarette
1973
From the series Fully Automated Nikon (Object/Objection/Objectivity)

 

Laurie Anderson (American, b. 1947) 'Two men in a car' 1973

 

Laurie Anderson (American, b. 1947)
Two men in a car
1973
From the series Fully Automated Nikon (Object/Objection/Objectivity)

 

 

Anderson photographed men who called to her or whistled her on the street.  In her artist statement she writes about one experience,

“As I walked along Houston Street with my fully automated Nikon. I felt armed, ready. I passed a man who muttered ‘Wanna fuck?’ This was standard technique: the female passes and the male strikes at the last possible moment forcing the woman to backtrack if she should dare to object. I wheeled around, furious. ‘Did you say that?’ He looked around surprised, then defiant ‘Yeah, so what the fuck if I did?’ I raised my Nikon, took aim began to focus. His eyes darted back and forth, an undercover cop? CLICK.

As it turned out, most of the men I shot that day had the opposite reaction. When i confronted them, the acted innocent, then offended, like some nasty invisible ventriloquist had ticked them into saying dirty words against their will. By the time I took their pictures they were posing, like taking their picture was the least I could do.”

“I decided to shoot pictures of men who made comments to me on the street. I had always hated this invasion of my privacy and now I had the means of my revenge. As I walked along Houston Street with my fully automated Nikon, I felt armed, ready. I passed a man who muttered ‘Wanna fuck?’ This was standard technique: the female passes and the male strikes at the last possible moment forcing the woman to backtrack if she should dare to object. I wheeled around, furious. ‘Did you say that?’ He looked around surprised, then defiant. ‘Yeah, so what the fuck if I did?’ I raised my Nikon, took aim, began to focus. His eyes darted back and forth, an undercover cop? CLICK.”

Anderson takes the power from her male pursuers, allowing them nothing more than the momentary fear that their depravity has just been captured in a picture.

 

Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960) 'Heaven' (still) 1997

 

Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960)
Heaven (still)
1997
Video tape (28 minutes)
© Tracey Moffatt / DACS Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia

 

 

“A playful video that glories in the female gaze and objectification of men. It zeros in on the Australian national sport, surfing, and in particular on several dozen good-looking muscular men changing into or out of their swimming trunks. This ritual is usually conducted in parking lots or on sidewalks, always near cars and sometimes inside them; it usually but not always involves a beach towel wound carefully around the torso. Ms Moffatt begins by shooting her subject unseen from inside a house and gradually moves closer and closer, engaging some in conversations that are never heard. The soundtrack alternates between the ocean surf and the sounds of drumming and chanting, male rituals of another, more authentic Australian culture. By the tape’s end, the artist’s voyeurism has shifted to participation; the camera shows her free hand, the one not holding the camera, darting into view, trying to undo the towel of the last surfer.”

New York Times

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation view of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England showing part of Hans Eijkelboom’s series The Ideal Man, 1978

 

 

Glossary of Terms by CN Lester

Homosociality: Typically non-romantic and/or non-sexual same-sex relationships and social groupings – may sometimes include elements of homoeroticism, as they are frequently interdependent phenomena.

Normativity: The process by which some groups of people, forms of expression and types of behaviour are classified according to a perceived standard of what is ‘normal’, ‘natural’, desirable and permissible in society. Inevitably, this process designates people, expressions and behaviours that do not fit these norms as abnormal, unnatural, undesirable and impermissible.

Hegemonic Masculinity: ‘Hegemonic’ means ‘ruling’ or ‘commanding’ – hegemonic masculinity, therefore, indicates male dominance and the forms of masculinity occupying and perpetuating this dominant position. The term was coined in the 1980s by the scholar R. W. Connell, drawing on the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci’s notion of cultural hegemony.

Hierarchy: Across many cultures throughout history, and continuing into the present moment throughout large parts of the world, gender functions as a hierarchy: some gender categories and gender expressions are granted higher value and more power than others. Men are often higher up the gender hierarchy than women, but the gender hierarchy is affected by racism, disablism, ageism, transphobia and other factors; in the West, men in their thirties are likely to be considered higher up the gender hierarchy than men in their eighties, for example.

Gender roles: Specific cultural roles defined by the weight of gendered ideas, restrictions and traditions. Men and women are often expected, sometimes forced, to occupy oppositional gender roles: aggressor versus victim, protector versus nurturer and so on. Many gender roles are specific to intersections of race, class, sexuality, religion and disabled status – examples of these types of gender roles can be seen in the stereotypes of the Jezebel or the Dragon Lady.

Patriarchy: Literally ‘the rule of the father’, a patriarchy is a society or structure centred around male dominance and in which women (and those of other genders) are not treated as or considered equal.

Queer: A slur, a term of reclamation and a specific and radical site of community and activism in solidarity with many kinds of difference, and specifically opposed to heteronormativity and cisnormativity. Queer studies and queer theory are important emerging fields of study.

Gender identity: Identity refers to what, who, and how someone or something is, both in the way this is understood as selfhood by an individual, and also the self as it is shaped and positioned by the world. Gender identity can be a surprisingly difficult term to pin down and is perhaps best understood as the stated truth of a person’s gender (or lack of gender), which is in itself the sum of many different factors.

Fetishisation: To turn the subject into a fetish, sexually or otherwise. Fetishisation in terms of gender and desire frequently occurs in conjunction with objectification and power. Men and women of colour are frequently fetishised by white people, in society and in artistic practice, through different stereotypes and limitations. Trans and disabled people are also subject to fetishisation, particularly in bodily terms. Kobena Mercer’s critical essay on Robert Mapplethorpe, ‘Reading Radical Fetishism’,1 and David Henry Hwang’s play and afterword to M. Butterfly (1988) both explore the notion of fetishisation.

1. Kobena Mercer, ‘Reading Racial Fetishism: The Photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe’, in Emily Apter and William Pietz, eds, Fetishism as Cultural Discourse (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 307-29.

Critical race theory: A branch of scholarship emerging from the application of critical theory to the study of law in the 1980s, critical race theory (CRT) is now taken as an approach and theoretical foundation across both academic and popular discourse. CRT names, examines and challenges the social constructions and functions of race and racism. Rejecting the idea of race as a ‘natural’ category, CRT looks instead to the cultural, structural and legal creation and maintenance of difference and oppression. Scholars working in this field include Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Patricia Williams.

Me Too movement: ‘#MeToo is a movement that was founded in 2006 to support survivors of sexual violence, in particular black and brown girls, who were in the program that we were running. It has grown since then to include supporting grown people, women, and men, and other survivors, as well as helping people to understand what community action looks like in the fight to end sexual violence’ – Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement.

Male gaze: A term coined by film critic Laura Mulvey, the notion of the male gaze develops Jean-Paul Sartre’s concept of le regard (the gaze) to take into account the power differentials and gender stereotyping inherent in ways of looking within patriarchal, sexist culture. The male gaze refers to how the world – and women in particular – are looked at and presented from a cisgender, straight, frequently white male perspective. In visual art the male gaze can be understood in multiple ways, from the male creator of the work, to men within the work viewing women or the world around them, to the (assumed) male viewer of the work itself. Many women artists have countered the male gaze through deconstruction and through the creation and promotion of works that centre the ‘female gaze’.

 

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

Installation view of 'Masculinities: Liberation through Photography' at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England

 

Installation views of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography at Barbican Art Gallery on February 19, 2020 in London, England
Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Barbican Art Gallery

 

 

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26
Jun
11

Exhibition: ‘Series of Portraits. A century of photographs’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 1st April – 17th July 2011

 

Many thankx to Michaela Hille for her help and to Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

 

Nan Goldin. 'All by Myself' 1993-1996 (detail)

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
All by Myself (detail)
1993-1996
Project installation with 89 color slides and programmed soundtrack, running time: 5 min. 33 sec
© Nan Goldin/Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Dauerleihgabe F. und W. Stiftung fur zeitgenossische Kunst in der Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Nan Goldin. 'All by Myself' 1993-1996 (detail)

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
All by Myself (detail)
1993-1996
Project installation with 89 colour slides and programmed soundtrack, running time: 5 min. 33 sec
© Nan Goldin/Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Dauerleihgabe F. und W. Stiftung fur zeitgenossische Kunst in der Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Kyungwoo Chun (Korean, b. 1969) 'Thirty-Minute Dialogue #1' 2000

 

Kyungwoo Chun (Korean, b. 1969)
Thirty-Minute Dialogue #1
2000
Gelatin silver print
40 x 50 cm
© Kyungwoo Chun

 

August Sander. 'Jungbauern, Westerwald, 1914' 1914

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Jungbauern, Westerwald, 1914
1914, printed 1962
Gelatin silver print
28.5 x 21.9 cm
© Photograph. Samml./SK Stiftung Kultur – A. Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Foto: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

.

August Sander. 'Notar, Köln, 1924' 1924

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Notar, Köln, 1924
1924, printed 1962
Gelatin silver print
29.1 x 20.5 cm
© Photograph. Samml./SK Stiftung Kultur – A. Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Foto: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) [Farmer, Westerwald (Bauer, Westerwald)] 1910

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
[Farmer, Westerwald (Bauer, Westerwald)]
1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The first section of People of the Twentieth Century is dedicated to the farmer. It begins with a Stammappe, or portfolio of archetypes. Usually three-quarter-length portraits, the photographs depict old farming men, women, and couples seated in their homes or against a natural backdrop. Each is captioned to suggest the fundamental role played by the individual in a balanced society. Sander referred to this farmer as the “earthbound man.” Other archetypes include the “philosopher,” the “fighter or revolutionary,” and the “sage.” All had female counterparts, while couples were labeled as “propriety and harmony.”

Identifying this figure as the “earthbound man,” Sander forged an implicit reference to the soil as a source of livelihood. The farmer’s hands grasp the cane, which keeps him upright and connected to the earth.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 04/02/2020

 

Helmar Lerski

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Old Working Woman from Germany (left)
1928-31
Gelatin silver print

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956)
Beggar from Saxony (right)
1928-31
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The portraits in Lerski’s Everyday Heads show unemployed workers whom the photographer met at a Berlin job centre where he hired them to sit for him. Old Working Woman from Germany 1928-31 is a close-up shot of a woman’s face, eyes down and mouth shut as though she is quietly contemplating something outside of the picture’s frame (left, above). It is impossible to tell whether this meditative look, a common feature of his portraits, was suggested by Lerski but it is evident that he was in control of nearly every aspect of his pictures. An experienced movie cameraman, he used artificial light reflected by mirrors and screens to give his models an aura and monumentality that people would be familiar with from expressionist feature films. Oblique angles, in line with modernist sensibilities, helped to reinforce the impression of grandeur. He also cropped the images and introduced extra screens so as to eliminate the space around his models heads, and any details from what remained of the background. This also served on occasions to compromise the integrity of the subject’s face though, in other cases, he preferred to blur the contours of the face using strong shadows, as can be seen in Beggar from Saxony 1928-31 (right, above). The results produced a general notion of everyday people rather than an endorsement of individuality as praised in traditional portraiture. Like Sander and Retzlaff, Lerski only gave the individuals’ professions in the captions, and was keen not to exemplify their class affiliation or social rank. The pictures provide no information about either, focusing instead on the face. In this way Lerski enhanced the common human dignity normally ignored in ‘everyday’ faces, and more especially in those humiliated by unemployment during the post-1929 economic crisis.

Wolfgang Brückle. “Face-Off in Weimar Culture: The Physiognomic Paradigm, Competing Portrait Anthologies, and August Sander’s Face of Our Time,” in Tate Papers No.19 Spring 2013 [Online] Cited 04/20/2020

 

Michael Schmidt. From the 81-part series 'Women' 1997-1999

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Aus der 81-teiligen serie Frauen
From the 81-part series Women
1997-1999
Gelatin silver print
44.1 x 29.9 cm
© Michael Schmidt
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

 

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Montemor, Portugal, May 1, 1994
1994
C-Print, 35,2 x 27,8 cm
© Rineke Dijkstra
Foto/Photo: Jorg Arend/Harald Dubau/Maria Thrun, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Haus der Photographie/Sammlung F. C. Gundlach, Hamburg

 

 

The exhibition comprises 400 exhibits and reflects on important artistic positions in photographic portraiture. During the eventful 20th century portrait photography continually redefines itself, between dissolution of the traditional concept of the subject in the masses and the pursuit of individuality and identity – culturally, socially and in terms of gender. Portraiture is one of the traditional genres in art and was one of the driving forces behind the invention of photography in the 19th century. The image of the human being is subject to constant change, which is also reflected in photography. In postmodern society mass media create ever-changing ideals according to various requirements in tune with a quick succession of trends. Art photography responds to the changes and reflects the development sometimes with spectacular results while it questions the medium of photography itself. The exhibition presents 35 carefully chosen international artists, who through history have opened up a dialogue among themselves; they are referencing each other’s work, and are received and interpreted in ever new contexts. On show are works by Diane Arbus, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Roni Horn, Jurgen Klauke, Annie Leibovitz, Helmar Lerski, Irving Penn, Judith Joy Ross, Thomas Ruff, August Sander, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol and others. An exhibition in cooperation with the Sammlung Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung on the occasion of the 5th Photography Triennial in Hamburg.

“The PORTRAIT-PHOTOGRAPH is a closed field of forces. Four image-repertoires intersect here, oppose and distort each other. In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.” (Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, London, 1984, p. 13). The photographic portrait does indeed combine contrary interests. The relationship between photographer and sitter is crucial. The third factor is the viewer, who is already being considered during the process of photographing. In the knowledge of the particular psychological situation resulting from the presence of a camera, Richard Avedon laconically stated: A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed.” The sitters’ reactions to the camera differ, depending on how experienced they are. Fact is: It is not possible to not communicate, as Paul Watzlawick’s research on communication shows. People demean themselves, even if they withdraw or turn away.

The confrontation climaxes in the principle of frontality, which remains valid today although it is constantly being tried and questioned. The project Serial Portraits invites the visitor on a journey through time starting from the beginnings with Hermann Biow’s (1804-1850) daguerreotypes, David Octavius Hill’s (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson’s (1821-1848) talbotypes up to the digital present with Michael Najjar’s (b. 1966) cyborgs, and wondering whether classical portraiture has come to its end.

The beginning includes a model case, where due to the long exposure necessary the models do not live out of the moment but into the moment, as Walter Benjamin said (Little History of Photography, 1931). Thirty-Minute Dialogue by Kyungwoo Chun (b. 1969) from 2000 is examining the synthesis of expression, which is necessitated by the models’ keeping still for so long. An exposure time of half an hour allows the work to penetrate the depths of the pictorial space.

The creativity of the 1920s and the New Vision inspires a “visual vocabulary” appropriate for modernity. Its different forms can be seen in the individual responses of photographers such as August Sander (1876-1964). Being a typical studio photographer, he works on a typology of “man of the 20th century”, beginning with the agricultural type, his Stammappe (engl.: Germinal Portfolio) being a memorial to the latter. Helmar Lerski (1871-1956) takes a different stance; having originally worked in film, he is photographing his Everyday Heads in extreme close-ups. Making use of effective lighting in his studio, he invites unknown sitters from the street and fashions characteristic heads.

Sander’s oeuvre represents a turning point for comparative vision as a genuine principle in series. Considering photography of the 1920s and questioning the photographer’s position as well as the medium itself, author-photography in the 1970s is developing a new idea of documentary. Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) is testing the limits, when he presupposes that photography can merely reflect the surface of things. Bernhard Fuchs is adding a personal touch when he is seeking out the places of his own past. The great portrait photographer Irving Penn is cornering his celebrities in a corner of his studio and allows them to find their place, according to their inclinations and abilities to self-represent.

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) is holding a one-sided dialog, certainly not giving equal weight to the photographer’s interests and that of her models. While the frontality signals the conventionally due deference, the complex composition of her pictures is dominated by the superior gaze directed at the supposedly others, the freaks of bourgeois society. Until now Arbus is misinterpreted as a documentary photographer. It is being ignored that photography inevitably presents a specific view of reality and that the viewer’s position has been carefully constructed within the picture.

Only pictures that have been taken without the awareness of those represented document a found situation at the same time as they present a monologue. Heinrich Riebesehl (1938-2010) chose this method for his series Menschen im Fahrstuhl (engl.: People in an Elevator), which he completed in just one day. In a moment of pause people can reflect and are not forced to react to being observed. In his pictures the photographer respects their individuality without judging social differences.

Examples for comparability as principle in a series can be found early on. Hermann Biow’s (1804-1850) daguerreotypes as unique copies of the members of parliament in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt from 1848/1849 were later reproduced as lithographs and distributed in portfolios. These politicians were the direct successors to the galleries of ancestral portraits in stately homes, whereby the new medium was democratic. Rudolph Duhrkoop’s Hamburgische Männer und Frauen amAnfang des XX. Jahrhunderts (engl.: Men and Women of Hamburg in the Early XXth Century) represent the citizens in this tradition.

Since 1975 Nicholas Nixon (b. 1974) is extending the series The Brown Sisters every year. His study is observing changes, while Hans-Peter Feldmann (b. 1941) is representing a century through 101 average people in his sequence 100 Jahre (engl.: 100 Years). It is fascinating, how the uniqueness of each person even if they remain anonymous is transported in the photographic portrait. Judith Joy Ross’ (b. 1946) series Protesting the U. S. War in Iraq documents a seriousness in the sitters’ faces, the political dimension of which can only be fully grasped with the information on the context. As with every photograph the title or accompanying text is part of the message.

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg website

 

Michael Najjar (German, b. 1966) 'Stephan_2.0' from the 'nexus project part I' 1999

 

Michael Najjar (German, b. 1966)
Stephan_2.0 from the nexus project part I
1999
Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec
140 x 100 cm / 56 x 40 in, edition of 6

 

 

Nexus Project

The series “nexus project part I” investigates the implications of the future enhancement of the human brain with miniaturised computer chips, infiltrated in the neuronal structures of the human organism.

Such a development will give birth to a new form of life – the cyborg, a hybrid compound of human and machine. A new set of questions are raised concerning issues of difference and identification between biologically correct beings and technically or genetically enhanced humans.

This development brings with it a host of new concerns: What impact will neuro-implants have on human consciousness? How will society cope with this kind of being, and what implications will they have for our social and cultural interaction?

“nexus project part I” consists of eight photographic portraits. These have undergone a digital modification of the iris, which gives the portrait faces an intimidating, almost inhuman look whilst at the same time it exerts a strong direct fascination on the viewer.

The highly charged poles of tensions and cross-tensions between fascination and intimidation also shape the para-meters in which the future development of human being to hybrid organism will take place.

Text from the Michael Najjar website [Online] Cited 04/02/2020

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010) 'Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)' 1969

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010)
Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)
1969
Gelatin silver print

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010) 'Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)' 1969

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (German, 1938-2010)
Menschen im Fahrstuhl (People in the elevator)
1969
Gelatin silver print

 

Andy Warhol. 'Self-Portrait in Drag (Platinum Pageboy Wig)' 1981

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Self-Portrait in Drag (Platinum Pageboy Wig)
1981
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Andy Warhol. 'Self-Portrait in Drag (Long Reddish-Brown Wig and Plaid Tie)' 1981/82

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Self-Portrait in Drag (Long Reddish-Brown Wig and Plaid Tie)
1981/82
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Andy Warhol. 'Self-Portrait in Drag' 1981

 

Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Self-Portrait in Drag
1981
Foto: Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg
© 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hamburger Kunsthalle

 

Roni Horn. 'Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)' 2005

 

Roni Horn (American, b. 1955)
Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)
2005
50 Fotografien (Version 1)
Color Print, je 38,1 x 31,8 cm
© Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

Roni Horn. 'Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)' 2005

 

Roni Horn (American, b. 1955)
Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)
2005
50 Fotografien (Version 1)
Color Print, je 38,1 x 31,8 cm
© Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946) 'Jane C. Keller, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania' from the series 'Protest the War' 2006

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946)
Jane C. Keller, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, from the series Protest the War
2006
Gelatin silver print

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946) 'Lynn Estomin, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania' from the series 'Protest the War' 2006

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946)
Lynn Estomin, Protesting the U.S. War in Iraq, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, from the series Protest the War
2006
Gelatin silver print

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, East Greenwich, R.I.' 1980

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters, East Greenwich, R.I.
1980
Gelatin silver print

 

Nicholas Nixon. 'The Brown Sisters, Boston' 2012

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
The Brown Sisters, Boston
2012
Gelatin silver print

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850) 'Heinrich Jakob Venedey' 1848

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850)
Heinrich Jakob Venedey
1848
Daguerreotype
20.8 x 15.4 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

 

 

Hermann Biow was an important German daguerreotypist in the early days of photography. Biow became known through his portrait photography during his lifetime. He portrayed politicians, celebrities and wealthy citizens, including Franz Liszt, Alexander von Humboldt and Friedrich Wilhelm IV. He is also known for his parliamentarian portraits of the first German National Assembly in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt in 1848/49. Today Biow is primarily seen as the founder of German documentary photography.

A daguerreotype of Heinrich Jakob Venedey from 1848 made by Hermann Biow in Frankfurt. Venedey (1805-1871) was a member of the German National Assembly in Frankfurt’s Paulskirche in 1848/49 as a deputy for Hessen-Homburg. The lawyer belonged to the factions Deutscher Hof and Westendhall of the National Assembly. (Text translated from the German Wikipedia)

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850) 'Heinrich Joseph Gerhard Compes' 1848

 

Hermann Biow (German, 1804-1850)
Heinrich Joseph Gerhard Compes
1848
Daguerreotype
20.4 x 14.8 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

 

 

A daguerreotype of Heinrich Joseph Gerhard Compes (that’s Gerhard Compes) from 1848 by Hermann Biow in Frankfurt. Compes was a member of the German National Assembly in Frankfurt’s Paulskirche in 1848/49 as a deputy for the 19th province of Rhineland (Siegburg). The Cologne lawyer belonged to the Württemberger Hof faction of the National Assembly. (Text translated from the German Wikipedia)

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Portrait (C. Bernhard)' 1985

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Portrait (C. Bernhard)
1985
Color Print, 24 x 18 cm
© Thomas Ruff/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

 

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958) 'Portrait (T. Ruff)' 1983

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Portrait (T. Ruff)
1983
Color Print, 24 x 18 cm
Thomas Ruff/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Niedersachsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday until 9 pm

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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18
Mar
11

Exhibition: ‘Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 7th May, 2010 – 4th April 2011

 

Ooooh, how I wish I could have been in New York to see this exhibition!

Marcus

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

 

 

Cindy Sherman (American, born 1954) 'Untitled #92' 1981

 

Cindy Sherman (American, born 1954)
Untitled #92
1981
Chromogenic colour print
24 x 47 15/16″ (61 x 121.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Fellows of Photography Fund
© 2010 Cindy Sherman

 

Nan Goldin (American, born 1953) 'Nan One Month After Being Battered' 1984

 

Nan Goldin (American, born 1953)
Nan One Month After Being Battered
1984
Silver dye bleach print (printed 2008)
15 1/2 x 23 1/8″ (39.4 x 58.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© 2010 Nan Goldin

 

Ilse Bing (American, born Germany. 1899-1998) 'Self-Portrait in Mirrors' 1931


 

Ilse Bing (American, born Germany. 1899-1998)
Self-Portrait in Mirrors
1931
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 x 12″ (26.8 x 30.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Joseph G. Mayer Fund
© 2010 The Ilse Bing Estate / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art draws from its rich collection of photography to present the history of the medium from the dawn of the modern period to the present with the exhibition Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, from May 7 to August 30, 2010. Filling the entire third-floor Edward Steichen Photography Galleries with photographs made exclusively by women artists, this installation comprises more than 200 works by approximately 120 artists, including a selection of exceptional recent acquisitions and works on view for the first time by such artists as Anna Atkins, Claude Cahun, Rineke Dijkstra, VALIE EXPORT, Nan Goldin, Helen Levitt, and Judith Joy Ross. The exhibition also includes masterworks by such luminaries as Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Gertrude Käsebier, Dorothea Lange, Lisette Model, Tina Modotti, Cindy Sherman, and Carrie Mae Weems, as well as pictures, collages, video, and photography-based installations drawn from other curatorial departments by artists such as Hannah Höch, Barbara Kruger, Annette Messager, Yoko Ono, Lorna Simpson, Kiki Smith, and Hannah Wilke. The exhibition is organised by Roxana Marcoci, Curator; Sarah Meister, Curator; and Eva Respini, Associate Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art.

The Edward Steichen Photography Galleries comprise a circuit of six rooms devoted to a rotating selection of photographs from the Museum’s collection. The galleries featuring works from 1850 to the 1980s open on May 7, 2010, and remain on view through March 21, 2011. The most contemporary works in the exhibition are currently on view in The Robert and Joyce Menschel Gallery, and they remain on view through August 30, 2010.

For much of photography’s 170-year history, women have contributed to its development as both an art form and a means of communication, expanding its parameters by experimenting with every aspect of the medium. Self-portraits and representations of women by a variety of women practitioners are a recurring motif, as seen in works by artists ranging from Julia Margaret Cameron to Lucia Moholy, and from Germaine Krull to Katy Grannan. Significant groups of works by individual photographers are highlighted within this chronological survey, including in-depth presentations of the work of Frances Benjamin Johnston, Käsebier, Modotti, Lange, Levitt, Arbus, Goldin, and Ross.

Marking the entrance to The Edward Steichen Photography Galleries is a large-scale photographic wallpaper, Fluxus Wallpaper, realised by Yoko Ono and George Maciunas in the early 1970s. This work depicts the serial repetition of a set of buttocks, an image originating from a provocative Fluxus film made by Ono in 1966.

Pictures by Women opens with a gallery of nineteenth and early twentieth-century work, representing the variety of photography’s applications. The earliest photograph in the installation was made in the 1850s by British photographer Anna Atkins, who used the cyanotype process to record her many plant specimens. Presented side by side are in-depth groupings of work by American photographers Frances Benjamin Johnston and Gertrude Käsebier. In 1899 the Hampton Institute commissioned Johnston to take photographs at the school that were featured in an exhibition about contemporary African American life at the Paris Exposition of 1900. On view is a selection of pictures taken from a larger album of 156, which exemplify Johnston’s talent for balancing pictorial delicacy and classical composition with the demands of working on assignment. Käsebier – another woman who produced photographic works of art while operating a successful commercial studio – is best known for her portraits and symbolic, soft-focus pictures of the mother-and-child theme.

The rise of photographic modernism in the 1920s and 1930s is traced in the second gallery primarily with the work of European women artists. A wall of portraits of women showing the range of artistic expression and experimentation during this period includes Claude Cahun’s radical gender-bending self-portrait in drag (1921); Lucia Moholy’s striking portrait of fellow Bauhaus student Florence Henri (1927); and Hannah Höch’s Indian Dancer: From an Ethnographic Museum (1930), a collage evoking the modern woman. Included here is also a photocollage by the little known Japanese artist Toshiko Okanoue, titled In Love (1953). Cannibalising images from U.S. magazines such as Life and Vogue, this surreal collage represents a young Japanese woman’s perception of the Western way of life. A group of pictures taken in Mexico in the late 1920s by Italian photographer Tina Modotti possess an aesthetic clarity and beauty that reflect her increasing political involvement within her adopted country. Also included is Ilse Bing’s Self-Portrait in Mirrors (1931), a picture staging a complex mise-en-scène between two reflections – one in the mirror and the other in the camera’s eye – as well as similarly powerful works by Imogen Cunningham, Florence Henri, Germaine Krull, and Lee Miller, who experimented with mobile perspectives of the handheld camera and graphic compositions.

The third gallery features photographers who devoted themselves to the complex challenge of exploring the social world in the interwar and postwar periods. Largely comprising work by American women, this gallery includes comprehensive presentations of two of America’s leading photographers, Dorothea Lange and Helen Levitt. The breadth of Lange’s accomplishments is represented through a selection of approximately 20 photographs, all of women, including her iconic Depression-era picture Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (1936); the memorable One Nation, Indivisible, San Francisco (1942); and pictures capturing the bustle of postwar life in America, such as Mother and Child, San Francisco (1952). Opposite these works is a wall of colour photographs taken by Levitt in the 1970s on the streets of New York City. These lively, spontaneous pictures are full of humour and drama, and continue the rich tradition of the American documentary genre that Levitt helped establish in the 1940s with her black-and-white photographs. The rest of the gallery includes a variety of work made during the period, including Berenice Abbott’s documents of the changing architecture and character of New York City in the 1930s, and Barbara Morgan’s elegant 1940 photograph of dancer Martha Graham performing her dramatic piece “Letter to the World,” based on the love life of American poet Emily Dickinson.

Photography’s documentary tradition in the postwar period continues in the fourth gallery, most notably with a selection of Diane Arbus’s portraits of women, such as A Widow in Her Bedroom, New York City (1963); Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey (1966); and Girl in Her Circus Costume, Maryland (1967). This gallery also includes work by artists of the 1960s and 1970s who embraced photography not just as a way of describing experience, but as a conceptual tool for appropriating and manipulating existing photographs. Examples include Martha Rosler’s collage Cleaning the Drapes (1969-72), which juxtaposes images of domestic bliss taken from women’s magazines with news pictures of the war in Vietnam. The gallery also introduces several notable examples of acts performed for the camera, including Adrian Piper’s self-portrait series Food for the Spirit (1971), a meditation on transcendental being through an analysis of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason; and VALIE EXPORT’s provocative Action Pants: Genital Panic (1969). Presented as a set of posters, this work memorialised a performance in which the Austrian artist marched into an experimental art-film house in Munich wearing crotchless trousers, challenging mostly male viewers to “look at the real thing” instead of passively enjoying images of women on the screen.

The emergence of colour photography as a major force in the 1970s is seen in the fifth gallery, with large photographs, including Tina Barney’s Sunday New York Times (1982) and a picture from Cindy Sherman’s celebrated Centerfolds (1981) series. This gallery also includes the work of postmodern artists associated with The Pictures Generation, such as Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, and Laurie Simmons, who played with photography’s potential to comment on the increasingly image-saturated world of the late twentieth century. Representing the other end of the photographic spectrum is the diaristic aesthetic of Nan Goldin. A group of Goldin photographs dating from 1978 to 1985 capture the shared experience of an artistic downtown New York community – a generation ravaged by drug abuse and AIDS. These pictures of the artist’s friends, lovers, and Goldin herself explore the highs and the lows of amorous relationships. These are presented opposite work by Gay Block, Sally Mann, and Sheron Rupp, who use the probing vision of straightforward photography to explore the world around us.

Concluding the installation in The Robert and Joyce Menschel Gallery are major groups of works that suggest the diversity of artistic strategies and forms in contemporary photography. A group of Judith Joy Ross portraits of very different women – a graduation guest (1993), a soldier (1990), a congresswoman (1987), and a visitor to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1984) – invite us to reflect upon the relationship between social roles and the unique identities of the individuals who fulfil them. Presented on the same wall is Rineke Dijkstra’s ongoing series Almerisa, comprising 11 photographs made over a period of 14 years. Dijkstra first photographed Almerisa – a six-year-old Bosnian girl whose family had relocated from their war-torn native country to Amsterdam – as part of a project documenting children of refugees. Dijkstra continued to photograph her at one- or two-year intervals, chronicling not only her development from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood but also her cultural assimilation from Eastern to Western Europe. A selection from Carrie Mae Weems’s series From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (1995) superimpose sand-blasted text over found photographs to dissect photography’s historical role in imposing stereotypes upon African Americans. Rounding out this gallery is a wall dedicated to portraits of women, including work by Valérie Belin, Tanyth Berkeley, Katy Grannan, and Cindy Sherman, suggesting the plasticity of photography and, indeed, of female identity itself.

Press release from the MOMA website

 

Hannah Höch (German, 1889-1978) 'Indian Dancer: From an Ethnographic Museum' 1930

 

Hannah Höch (German, 1889-1978)
Indian Dancer: From an Ethnographic Museum (Indische Tänzerin: Aus einem ethnographischen Museum)
1930
Cut-and-pasted printed paper and metallic foil on paper
10 1/8 x 8 7/8″ (25.7 x 22.4 cm)
Frances Keech Fund
© 2019 Hannah Höch / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Germany

 

 

Through the cut-and-pasted elements of Indian Dancer, Höch assembled references to film, Central African sculpture, and the domestic sphere. Her collaged model is the actress Renée (Maria) Falconetti (also known simply as “Falconetti”), appearing in a publicity still for Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc. Half of Falconetti’s face is replaced with the ear, eye, and mouth of a wooden dance mask from Cameroon. Atop her head rests a crown of cutlery: cutout shapes of spoons and knives, set against glinting metallic foil.

This work belongs to a series of photomontages called From an Ethnographic Museum (1924-34), in which Höch juxtaposed images of women with reproductions of tribal art cut from magazines. The artist cited a visit to the ethnographic museum in Leiden, in the Netherlands, as an influence in the conception of this series; however, she used material from other cultures mostly as a point of departure for commentary on the status of women in contemporary German society. Invoking an androgynous fifteenth-century French martyr as embodied by a glamorous movie star, capping her with the finery of a domestic goddess, and aligning her with a cultural Other, this composite representation examines the complex facets of modern femininity.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

 

Toshiko Okanoue (Japan, b. 1928) 'In Love' 1953

 

Toshiko Okanoue (Japan, b. 1928)
In Love
1953
Cut-and-pasted printed papers on printed paper
14 x 9 5/8″ (35.6 x 24.4 cm)
Committee on Photography Fund and Committee on Drawings Funds
© 2019 Toshiko Okanoue

 

Martha Rosler (American, b. 1943) 'Cleaning the Drapes' from the series 'House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home' c. 1967-72

 

Martha Rosler (American, b. 1943)
Cleaning the Drapes from the series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home
c. 1967-72
Pigmented inkjet print (photomontage), printed 2011
17 5/16 x 23 3/4″ (44 x 60.3 cm)
Committee on Photography and The Modern Women’s Fund
© Martha Rosler

 

 

Rosler conceived Bringing the War Home during a time of increased intervention in Vietnam by the United States military. Splicing together pictures of Vietnamese citizens maimed in the war, published in Life magazine, with images of the homes of affluent Americans culled from the pages of House Beautiful, Rosler made literal the description of the conflict as the “living-room war,” so called in the USA because the news of ongoing carnage in Southeast Asia filtered into tranquil American homes through television reports. By urging viewers to reconsider the “here” and “there” of the world picture, these activist photomontages reveal the extent to which a collective experience of war is shaped by media images.

Gallery label from The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook, April 16, 2012 – April 29, 2013

 

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

 

Tina Modotti (Italian, 1896-1942)
Workers Parade
1926
Gelatin silver print
8 7/16 x 7 5/16″ (21.5 x 18.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'The Manger' 1899

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Manger
1899
Platinum print
12 13/16 x 9 5/8″ (32.5 x 24.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. Hermine M. Turner

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879) 'Untitled' c. 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879)
Untitled
c. 1867
Albumen silver print
13 3/16 x 11″ (33.5 x 27.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Shirley C. Burden

 

Lucia Moholy (British, 1894-1989) 'Untitled (Florence Henri)' 1927

 

Lucia Moholy (British, 1894-1989)
Untitled (Florence Henri)
1927
Gelatin silver print
14 5/8 x 11″ (37.1 x 28 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
© 2010 Lucia Moholy Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

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02
Feb
11

Exhibition: ‘Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 2nd July 2010 – 3rd February 2011

 

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.

 

Richard Long (British, b. 1945) 'County Cork, Ireland' 1967

 

Richard Long (British, born 1945)
County Cork, Ireland
1967
Gelatin silver print
76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2010
© Richard Long

 

 

Long was a key figure in recasting sculpture in two directions: inward toward the gestures of bodies in space and outward toward the creation of ephemeral works made directly in the landscape. A student of the sculptor Anthony Caro at Saint Martins College of Art, Long was well versed in the reductive quality of geometric abstraction but sought to make the form of his works even more elegantly simple and wedded to life. He would go for solitary walks in the English countryside, and at a particular place he would create elemental forms such as a line, an x shape, or a circle by walking over the ground to leave a temporary imprint. A photograph such as County Cork, Ireland – in which the shape seems to hover in the image like a flying saucer – is thus an imprint of an imprint; the form of the work is derived from the holistic relationship between the concept (idea), the action of the body (figure), and the site of his gesture (ground). It is also informed by an astute understanding of the profound links between British culture and the landscape, from prehistoric hill figures through nineteenth-century theories of the Picturesque. (Wall text from the exhibition)

 

VALIE EXPORT (Austrian, b. 1940) 'Encirclement' 1976

 

VALIE EXPORT (Austrian, b. 1940)
Encirclement
1976
Gelatin silver print
40.8 x 61 cm (16 1/16 x 24 in.)
Promised Gift of Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner
© VALIE EXPORT, Courtesy Charim Gallery Vienna

 

 

In her series Body Configurations, the artist had herself or female colleagues photographed in local streets, stairwells, and alleyways, contorting their bodies to mimic the harsh geometries of the city. Influenced not only by the Actionists but also by the human sculpture of Robert Morris, Export complicates the coolly inhuman systems of Minimalism by reintroducing the human body into abstraction, an intimate yet public gesture that effortlessly transmutes the personal into the political. (Wall text from the exhibition)

 

Doug Aitken (American, b.1968) 'Passenger' 1997

 

Doug Aitken (American, b. 1968)
Passenger
1997
Chromogenic print
100.5 x 122 cm (39 9/16 x 48 1/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2004
© Doug Aitken

 

 

Aitken is best known for multiscreen video installations exploring the ways in which perception and consciousness are transformed by our global, technology-driven existence. Passenger belongs to a group of still photographs made in 1997 showing planes in flight, most of which focus on the faint traceries of takeoffs and landings over desolate airport landscapes. In its emphasis on luminosity and atmosphere, this example reveals Aitken’s debt to older California artists such as James Turrell and Robert Irwin. It is also unabashedly sensual: Aitken’s high production values – reminiscent of Technicolor cinematography and glossy advertising – refer directly to the media images that unavoidably condition our responses to the world.

There is something of the sublime in Aitken’s photograph, however, in that it describes the limits of the visible while flooding the eye with colour. Starting from an experience familiar to all air travellers of “two ships passing” in the ether, the artist proposes a more complex statement about the way we perceive reality – namely, that the one thing that we cannot see is ourselves seeing and thus that our understanding of the world is always partial and incomplete. (Wall text from the exhibition)

 

 

Themes of dislocation and displacement in contemporary photography will be explored in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s forthcoming exhibition in the Joyce and Robert Menschel Hall for Modern Photography. Drawn almost entirely from the Museum’s collection, Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography on view July 2, 2010 through February 13, 2011, will feature 22 artists whose photographic works convey a sense of a rootless or unfixed existence.

In the 1960s and 1970s, photography was often embraced by artists who had abandoned conventional art media and who were more interested in creating a work of art that took place over a period of time, in a serial progression, or in a fleeting gesture. The individual painting or sculpture was deemed insufficient to represent the fragmented experience that characterises the modern world; thus artists showed how a work of art could take the form of a walk (Richard Long), a 20-foot-long book (Ed Ruscha), or a series of postcards outlining the precise time that the artist got up each day (On Kawara). Since the 1980s, however, the more conventional practice of creating a carefully executed, singular photograph has regained prominence in contemporary art. Works by Rineke Dijkstra, Thomas Struth, and Weng Fen embody a belief in photography’s traditional powers of description, while reflecting feelings of dislocation in our newly global society.

The exhibition also will include works by: Vito Acconci, Doug Aitken, Darren Almond, Lothar Baumgarten, Matthew Buckingham, VALIE EXPORT, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Svetlana Kopystiansky, Bruce Nauman, Dennis Oppenheim, Allen Ruppersberg, Fazal Sheikh, Erin Shirreff, Robert Smithson, Anne Turyn, and Jeff Wall.

The first half of the exhibition shows how artists in 1960s and 1970s, working in the context of Minimal and Conceptual art, were drawn to photography for its differences from traditional art media: it was low-tech, easily reproducible, and not considered a valuable art object. Photography was also enlisted to document ephemeral works of art. Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci, for instance, created performances that focused on the actions and movements of their bodies in space, and captured these works in photographs and videos.

Other artists, such as Robert Smithson, chose to work directly in the landscape – often in distant or inaccessible locations – and their “Earthworks” could generally be seen only through photographs. Smithson is best known for his landmark Spiral Jetty (1970) in the Great Salt Lake, Utah. For an early experiment in his Mirror Displacements series of photographs, Smithson placed small mirrors into snow drifts on the roof of his apartment building. Through dizzying shifts in scale, the artist’s 1969 study transforms a corner of his Manhattan roof into an Alpine landscape.

A student of Anthony Caro, British artist Richard Long was well versed in the reductive quality of geometric abstraction, but sought to make his works even more simple and wedded to life. He would go for solitary walks in the countryside, and at a particular place he would create elemental forms such as a line, X, or circle by walking over the ground to leave a temporary imprint. Long’s photograph County Cork, Ireland (1967) – in which a circle seems to hover over the grass like a flying saucer – is thus an imprint of an imprint, creating a holistic relationship between the concept, the action of the body, and the site of his gesture.

For her series Body Configurations, the Austrian artist VALIE EXPORT had herself and female colleagues photographed in local streets, as they contorted their bodies to mimic the harsh geometries of the city. Encirclement (1976) shows a woman lying in the street, her body elongated and arched to follow the bright red curve the sidewalk. The photograph reintroduces the human body into abstraction in an intimate yet public gesture.

Beginning in the 1980s, there was a renewed interest in photography’s historical genres and recommitment to technical skill and visual fidelity, as seen in Rineke Dijkstra’s portraits. Geopolitical displacement and cultural migration are referenced in one of Dijkstra’s most important bodies of work to date: her photographs of a Bosnian refugee girl, Almerisa. Between Here and There will feature four portraits of Almerisa that Dijkstra made between 1994 and 2000, beginning at an asylum seekers’ center in the Netherlands. Eight photographs from this series of 11 works were acquired recently by the Museum.

In both photographs and films, Doug Aitken explores the ways in which perception is transformed by our global, technology-driven existence. Aitken’s photograph Passenger (1997), taken from the window of an airplane in flight, shows another plane flying in parallel in the remote distance, illuminated by the sun setting on a slanted horizon. Aitken references sensations of being adrift in mid-air and of “two ships passing” – paths that do not quite connect, despite their proximity to each other.

Chinese artist Weng Fen explores a young generation poised at a transitional moment between China’s traditional rural society and a quickly burgeoning urbanism. Bird’s Eye View: Haikou V (2002) shows a woman – perhaps an outsider or a new arrival to the city – perched on an old wall, looking toward the new skyscrapers on the horizon, but not fully occupying the space of the past or the future. This work is part of a group of recent gifts and promised gifts of contemporary Chinese photographs to the Museum.

The exhibition comes full circle with a recently acquired video by Erin Shirreff. Roden Crater (2009) takes as its subject artist James Turrell’s legendarily inaccessible and still unfinished celestial observatory carved out of a 400,000-year-old extinct volcano. Shirreff’s mesmerising fixed-camera view of the distant “Earthwork” shows an improbable succession of slow-moving climactic and light effects on the crater, creating a haunting meditation on the never-ending quest for resolution in life and in art.

Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography is organised by Douglas Eklund, Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs.”

Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Jeff Wall (Canadian, b.1946) 'Rainfilled Suitcase' 2001

 

Jeff Wall (Canadian, b. 1946)
Rainfilled Suitcase
2001
Transparency in light box
Collection of Jennifer Saul and Stephen Rich, New York
© Jeff Wall

 

 

Wall’s tableaux straddle the worlds of the museum and the street. For the last three decades, the artist has created elaborately staged and meticulously rendered scenes of urban and suburban conflict and disorder that he witnessed firsthand, which were then shown as colour transparencies in light boxes reminiscent of backlit advertising images seen in airports and bus stops. About 2000, Wall also began to make smaller, more elliptical photographs – isolating the kinds of details that previously would have been seen in the background of his larger, more programmatic pictures. This grimy half of an abandoned suitcase filled with old clothes and rain seems paradoxically to be both as obsessively arranged as a still life and as randomly disordered as the average flotsam and jetsam on any down-and-out street corner. (Wall text from the exhibition)

 

Matthew Buckingham (American, born 1963) 'Canal St. Canal No. 3' 2002

 

Matthew Buckingham (American, b. 1963)
Canal St. Canal No. 3
2002
Chromogenic prints
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and
Robert Menschel, 2010
© Matthew Buckingham

 

 

This is the maquette for a postcard that the artist created for the group show “Nostalgia.” The postcard was sold in the shops along Canal Street accompanied by the following text beneath the image:

ABOVE: a section of Canal Street as it might look today if a 1791 proposal to build a “Venetian-style” canal connecting the Hudson and East Rivers across Lower Manhattan had been realised. The canal and an accompanying commercial harbour were meant to replace both a small stream which ran along present-day Canal Street, and the so-called Fresh Water or Collect Pond, a befouled 70-acre swamp that one New York newspaper of the day called a “shocking hole.” Instead, real-estate interests prevailed, and the stream was widened only enough to drain the pool so it could be filled in and developed. Many basements of new buildings on the landfill soon flooded, so the stream was further enlarged to increase drainage – making it, in effect, an open sewer. After much complaint about odour, and despite efforts to beautify the waterway with a tree-lined promenade, it was covered over in 1819. Flaws in this re-design kept Canal Street smelling foul for years. It is rumoured that the natural spring which once fed the Fresh Water Pond still flows deep below Canal Street today.* (Wall text from the exhibition)

*Luc Sante defines nostalgia as a state of inarticulate contempt for the present combined with a fear of the future.

 

Weng Fen (Chinese, born 1961) 'Bird's Eye View: Haikou V' 2002

 

Weng Fen (Chinese, b. 1961)
Bird’s Eye View: Haikou V
2002
Chromogenic print
50 x 62.7 cm (19 11/16 x 24 11/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Ellie Warsh, 2009
© Weng Fen

 

 

Weng Fen belongs to a generation of Chinese photographers whose principal subject is a China in the throes of physical, social, economic, and political change. His Bird’s Eye View series focuses on the elevated urbanism of cities such as Haikou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Many of these photographs feature schoolgirls with their backs to the camera, perched on a wall or precipice, staring at the landscape – adolescent figures on the threshold of personal transition looking out onto a landscape and a culture at a similarly transformational moment. (Wall text from the exhibition)

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, born 1959) 'Almerisa, Asylum Seekers' Center, Leiden, The Netherlands, March 14, 1994' 1994

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Almerisa, Asylum Seekers’ Center, Leiden, The Netherlands, March 14, 1994
1994
Chromogenic print
120 x 100 cm (47 1/4 x 39 3/8 in)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Ellen Kern, 2008
© Rineke Dijkstra

 

 

Dijkstra is best known for her portraits of teenage beachgoers in Poland, Croatia, the Ukraine, Belgium, England, and America, which convey the poignant intensity of adolescence with startling eloquence. In all her work, she is particularly drawn to subjects in a state of transition – blood-spattered matadors just minutes after bullfights, women cradling their newborns moments after delivery – and renders them with respect, attentiveness, and compassion.

Between 1994 and 2008 Dijkstra made eleven photographs of a Bosnian refugee girl named Almerisa, from her initial processing at an asylum seekers’ center in the Netherlands to her fully Westernised adulthood and motherhood. Here, the imprint of geopolitical displacement is rendered without cant and that of childhood is captured without nostalgia. Like all great portraitists, Dijkstra extracts an elemental, almost mythic quality from the irreducible individuality of her subject – of the eternal radiating from the everyday. This selection is from a recent gift to the Metropolitan of eight of the eleven portraits of Almerisa.

 

 

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22
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures’ at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Exhibition dates: 1st October 2010 – 23rd January 2011

 

Many thankx to the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All text comes from the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina website. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence with the work of Rineke Dijkstra at right

 

 

Portraits and Power explores portraiture and the representation of political, economical and social power in the contemporary world through the works of contemporary artists. Portraits of famous political figures, investigations into the lifestyle of the social elite, as well as inquiries into the power structures of international institutions.

The exhibition explores its theme from three main standpoints: it analyses power as an expression of the charisma of those individuals who have become icons or symbols of their age; it probes the power of institutions and social models that either represent themselves or are represented in a critical light; and it investigates the hidden mechanisms of powerful authorities.

Portraits and Power is a project of the CCC Strozzina, with the consultancy of Peter Funnell (National Portrait Gallery, London), Walter Guadagnini (“UniCredit & Art” project) and Roberta Valtorta (Museum of Contemporary Photography, Cinisello Balsamo) coordinated by Franziska Nori (CCCS, Firenze).

Text from the Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina website [Online] Cited 02/02/2020

 

Tina Barney. 'The Ancestor' 2001

 

Tina Barney (American, b. 1945)
The Ancestor
2001
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

 

Tina Barney. 'The Brocade Walls' 2004

 

Tina Barney (American, b. 1945)
The Brocade Walls
2004
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

 

Tina Barney installation view

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Tina Barney

 

 

The characters Tina Barney portrays are the representatives of a social class that normally exercises careful control over the circulation of pictures of its members, whether in the form of family photographs or official portraits, which are often published on the pages of glossy magazines. She is one of the first photographers to have made artistic use of this kind of representation. Hers is not merely the gaze of an onlooker, but that of a trusted person, who has personal relationships with her subjects. What she is interested in is not so much the idea of displaying the wealth of these families, but that of analysing social and family dynamics – such as the ambivalent relationship between children and parents. Her work is conceived as a means to improve self-understanding.

The people portrayed all come from families educated in the awareness of their own social role: discipline, self-control and rigour are features to be observed in all the subjects photographed, and they share the same high level of composure. For the series entitled The Europeans, which was produced over a period of about eight years, the author was introduced by one circle of friends to another, and thus given the opportunity to portray Italian nobles, Austrian bankers and landowners, proud representatives of the wealthy Spanish bourgeoisie, and English gentlemen in their sophisticated dwellings. Neither the formal way of dressing nor the furnishings can be traced back to any particular fashion: Tina Barney seeks to produce timeless pictures that at first sight will appear closer to traditional painting than to contemporary photography. Tina Barney creates her portraits through a careful observation of people in their everyday lives; to capture transient moments she asks her subjects to repeat something in front of the camera in such a way as to fix them. Her work tool is a fixed, large-size camera; an extended time exposure and high resolution enable her to render the details of each setting in detail. The figures portrayed have a rigid and formal countenance, which makes them appear markedly detached from one another, even though it is often brothers and sisters or parents and children who are photographed together: “this is the best that we can do. This inability to show physical affection is in our heritage”.

Tina Barney’s photographs give a sense of the fleetingness of their relationships behind the mask of self-controlled bearing. The artist thus unveils the game of social roles and attitudes conducted by her subjects, a veritable Theater of Manners (to quote the title of one of her most famous series) which demands enough sensitivity on the viewers’ part for them to focus on those details in the pictures that render hidden and non-immediately obvious features visible.

Since the mid-1970s, Tina Barney has been focusing her work on the portrayal of the privileged exponents of New York and New England high society, seen either in their own homes or on certain special occasions. The style of the pictures ranges from that of tableaux vivant to that of genre paintings, drawing expressive force from the interaction between wealthy settings and the people who move about in them.

 

Tina Barney. 'The Granddaughter' 2004

 

Tina Barney (American, b. 1945)
The Granddaughter
2004
C-print
Courtesy the artist and Janet Borden Inc., New York

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Jim Dow

 

Jim Dow. 'Library Metropolitan Club, New York' 1999 / 2010

 

Jim Dow (American, b. 1942)
Library Metropolitan Club, New York
1999 / 2010
Chromogenic colour print
Courtesy the artist, Janet Borden, Inc., New York

 

Jim Dow. 'Dining Room, Morgan Library, New York' 1999 / 2010

 

Jim Dow (American, b. 1942)
Dining Room, Morgan Library, New York
1999 / 2010
Chromogenic colour print
Courtesy the artist, Janet Borden, Inc., New York

 

 

By taking shots that are as objective as possible and completely devoid of any human presence, Dow gives a concentrated and authentic view of the architecture, furnishings and frameworks of these backdrops of life. “My interest in photography centres on its capacity for exact description. I use photography to try to record the manifestations of human ingenuity and spirit still remaining in our country’s everyday landscape.” For one of his most recent series, Dow has been able to make his way into some of the most exclusive private circles of New York City. He selected circles that are still active and have a long and significant history behind, such as the renowned Metropolitan Club, which was founded in 1891 by John Pierpont Morgan, and once listed James Roosevelt and William K. Vanderbilt among its most illustrious members. Most of these circles require strict adherence to rules consolidated by tradition. Only those introduced to the club by one of its members can join it, a practice that contributes to keep it a kind of network; a specific commission will then consider whether the candidate is fit for acceptance. Though there are over twenty circles of this kind in New York, outsiders will rarely notice their presence. While they no longer exercise the kind of political influence they used to as seats of power and decision making bodies, these clubs are now undergoing a new renaissance. An increasing number of politicians and businessmen are choosing to meet in their secluded rooms, which public opinion often perceives as places of intrigue and the setting for secret appointments of various kinds. With his descriptive and comparative photographs, Dow is giving a face to these exclusive meeting places, inviting viewers to join him in admiring the timeless opulence of their rooms. Architecture is the “primary and most powerful form of mass-communication”; at the same time, it is a mirror for power and its strategies, for the consolidation of authority and its effects on those who exercise it. “Architecture is power. The powerful build precisely because they are powerful. Yet architecture is also an expression of the capability and resoluteness – as well as resolve – of the powerful. Politicians intentionally exploit architecture to seduce, impress, and intimidate.” (Deyan Sudjic, The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World, 2006).

American photographer Jim Dow approaches places as meeting points bearing visible traces of people’s mutual interactions. In different photographic series, the artist has portrayed American barbecue joints, pie and mash shops in London, tango halls in Buenos Aires, the workplaces of farmers, tinsmiths and iron-smiths, and baseball stadiums from one coast of the US to the other.

 

CLEGG & GUTTMANN (Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann) 'Grand Master' 1985

 

Clegg & Guttmann (Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann)
Grand Master
1985
Cibachrome
Courtesy Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne, Berlin, Antwerp

 

 

For Grand Master, part of a photographic series produced in the 1980s, Clegg & Guttmann asked an actor to display certain poses characteristic of power, presenting him as the representative of a non-specified institution. The background of the image consists in a fictional architectural scenario – one simply simulated by using photographed space – the artificial nature of which is revealed by certain incongruities in the lighting effects. What is central here, once more, is the reflection offered on the controlled and never spontaneous construction of an image of power.

The tension conveyed by Clegg & Guttmann’s works springs from the subtle gap characterising the artists’ relationship with tradition. Their classical and apparently affirmative representations of people with power should be interpreted, within the context of their career spanning several decades, as different ways of visualising an analytical and deconstructive practice engaging with the mechanisms of authority.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Clegg & Guttmann

 

 

The CCCS – Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, will be staging an exhibition entitled Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures, from 1 October 2010 to 23 January 2011, which will run concurrently with the retrospective devoted to Bronzino, the undisputed master of the Mannerist portrait, on Palazzo Strozzi’s piano nobile.

The exhibition, based on an original project by the CCCS in consultation with Peter Funnell (curator and director of research programmes at the National Portrait Gallery in London), Walter Guadagnini (chairman of the “UniCredit & Art” project’s scientific committee) and Roberta Valtorta (director of the Cinisello Balsamo Museum of Contemporary Photography) and coordinated by Franziska Nori (director of the CCCS), will show the work of international artists and collectives such as Tina Barney, Christoph Brech, Bureau d’études, Fabio Cifariello Ciardi, Clegg & Guttmann, Nick Danziger, Rineke Dijkstra, Jim Dow, Francesco Jodice, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton, Trevor Paglen, Martin Parr, Wang Qingsong, Daniela Rossell, Jules Spinatsch, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and The Yes Men – who have all proved capable of developing a critical analysis of the portrayal and depiction of political, economic and social power in the media.

The exhibition explores its theme from two main standpoints: it analyses power as an expression of the charisma of those individuals who have become icons or symbols of their age; and it probes the power of institutions and social models that either represent themselves or are represented in a critical light.

The role played by images has grown to such an extent that it has led to the predominant emergence of their value not only in terms of portrayal but also of the successful establishment of power. The works of art on display bear witness not only to the self-referential strategies of power, but also to the different approaches artists adopt in deconstructing or chipping away at the images that represent social, economic and political power in a way that can not only bolster a leadership but that can also undermine its authority.

The National Portrait Gallery in London will be contributing works by three famous international photographers that explore the image of political authority. The series devoted to Queen Elizabeth II by Annie Leibovitz evinces a celebrated contemporary artist’s dialogue with the great tradition of official portraiture, and the cycle entitled Blair at War by Nick Danziger gives an extraordinary vision of Tony Blair’s daily life in the days immediately preceding the outbreak of the war in Iraq. The portrait of Margaret Thatcher by Helmut Newton keeps alive the iconic role of one of the most influential politicians of recent decades despite the fact that her authority had waned.

Clegg & Guttmann show the photographs of three managing directors of the Deutsche Bank. These images, while based on the official portraiture genre, provide the opportunity for a conceptual reflection on the theme of the public presentation of individuals who are at the same time both subject and patron of the work. Christoph Brech portrays a modern patron of the arts in a video that dwells on a detail of the hull of his yacht, Sea Force One, a floating museum filmed from a distance in Venetian waters.

The role of the image not only as representation but also as a tool for the construction or exploration of power is analysed by artists such as Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose Portraits bring to life wax effigies of historical or contemporary political figures through the evocative power of photography, and Rineke Dijkstra whose series of images of a soldier with the French Foreign Legion prompts a reflection on what remains of the individual when he becomes the representative of a military authority. Francesco Jodice, in his video entitled Dubai Citytellers, analyses the development and the social impact of one of the new centres of global economic power.

In the photo triptych Past, Present and Future, Wang Qingsong portrays himself as a bystander, bearing witness to fighters in poses mimicking celebrative and monumental Socialist sculptures, reflecting upon the contradictory nature of the actual power of masses in contemporary China.

Tina Barney records the life and domestic environment of the beau monde, combining the spontaneous feel of a private snapshot with a sophisticated aesthetic approach strongly echoing the world of art and traditional photography. The provocative photo series Ricas y Famosas by Daniela Rossell portrays the taste and excesses of the new super wealthy social oligarchy in Mexico, while Martin Parr’s series entitled Luxury, which is devoted to fashion shows, horse-racing and art fairs in the world’s major capitals, probes the lifestyle of the upper class in a globalised Western world. The pictures of Jim Dow portray the luxurious rooms of the great private social clubs of New York City’s elite, fashionable places that are inaccessible to the general public.

A different critical approach to the theme of power is offered by the French collective Bureau d’études with its project involving mapping the links between political and economic power. The CIA’s secret missions and operations, on the other hand, provide the focus for the work of Trevor Paglen who reconstructs top secret movements and connections. Jules Spinatsch presents a new work taken from his Temporary Discomfort video-photographic series, denouncing the controversial transformation of a place such as the island of La Maddalena in Sardinia into the venue for the G8 summit that never took place. Also on view is the antagonistic activism of The Yes Men, a collective who will be presenting their spectacular media initiative that rocked the image and power of the multinational corporation responsible for the Bhopal environmental catastrophe in India.

Finally, the composer Fabio Cifariello Ciardi uses famous politicians’ public speeches as his raw material for the creation of electroacoustic music that will underline their rhetorical techniques of persuasion.

The exhibition catalogue, published in Italian and English, contains a series of essays by authors from different countries, backgrounds and disciplines, offering the visitor a chance to explore in greater depth the themes addressed by the exhibition.

Press release from the Strozzina website [Online] Cited 02/02/2020

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Olivier' Quartier Vienot, Marseille, France, July 21, 2000

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Olivier
Quartier Vienot, Marseille, France, July 21, 2000
On loan from The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection

 

Rineke Dijkstra. 'Olivier' Quartier Monclar, Djibouti, July 13, 2003

 

Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, b. 1959)
Olivier
Quartier Monclar, Djibouti, July 13, 2003
On loan from The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Collection

 

 

A crucial feature of Dijkstra’s photography is her desire to show the true personality of her subjects, as opposed to any simulated one. Up against the contemporary mystifying quality of the Internet and digital manipulation, her images illustrate in a very convincing way how photography is still capable of transcending the surface of subjects to grasp their deeper and constantly evolving identities. Her series feature, for instance, young bullfighters immediately after a bullfight, young mothers with babies born only a few minutes before, and portraits of boys and girls from various parts of the world at the beach. Her work method, whereby subjects are given very few directions and are usually portrayed frontally, leads to the creation of bare and detached pictures in which people display an inevitably fragile and vulnerable air. The Olivier Silva project, which the artist has developed over the course of more than three years, centres on the figure of a young man who in July 2000 voluntarily enrolled in the French Foreign Legion. Dijkstra portrays crucial moments of his intense training in France and Africa – from the day of his enrolment, in Aubagne, near Marseille, to the missions he was sent to fulfil in various parts of the world (Gabon, Ivory Coast and Gibuti) in 2003. The photographs clearly illustrate the metamorphoses the young man underwent over the course of the years: the innocent looking boy becomes an energetic and professional elite soldier enlisted in one of the world’s toughest and most controversial army corps. The centrepiece of the work is the artist’s interest in Olivier as an individual whose personality evolves in the course of his training, as is clearly revealed by his attitude and the look in his eyes, as well as by the very way in which his facial features change. The training imparted in military units of this kind is aimed at annulling the recruit’s personality in order to then recreate it according to new parameters: the youngster draws closer and closer to the prototype of the soldier as we progress from one photograph to the next. Just as all new recruits of the Foreign Legion are assigned a new name and identity, after three years Olivier no longer looks (even physically) like the same person as before. Like an accelerated film sequence, this series shows the dissolution of the original identity of a man subjected to the conditions dictated by an apparatus of power. Every soldier is at the service of the country he fights for and becomes one of its official public representations, embodying its military power. The same power he now wields is that which in a few years has conditioned him – or even produced him, one may say. Through her aesthetically minimalist photographs, Rineke Dijkstra illustrates the paradox of opposition between individual values and those of the community, between identity and conformity.

Rineke Dijkstra has carried out profound research in the field of photographic portraiture. Her subjects are adolescents who are still searching for themselves and who are incapable of acting in front of a camera, as well as adults caught in decisive moments in their personal development. By portraying these subjects, the artist explores the theme of identity and its representation.

 

Martin Parr. 'France. Paris. Haute Couture' 2007

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
France. Paris. Haute Couture
2007
from the series Luxury
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

 

Martin Parr. 'England. Epsom. The Derby' 2004

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
England. Epsom. The Derby
2004
from the series Luxury
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

 

Martin Parr. 'Russia. Moscow. Fashion Week' 2004

 

Martin Parr (British, b. 1952)
Russia. Moscow. Fashion Week
2004
From the series Luxury
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

 

 

Unlike most of his colleagues, Parr has little interest in the great themes of photographic reporting, such as the documenting of war and poverty. Working around the world, he finds his motifs in everyday life. At the beginning of his career, he focused in particular on the observation of people from lower middle class backgrounds engaged in different activities, in the context of themes such as consumption, communication and leisure. He has left it ambiguous as to whether these pictures of his are charged with critical overtones or intended to serve as a mere means of social documentation. Through this approach to his work, Parr has developed a highly distinctive and almost unmistakable style marked by dazzling colours obtained by the use of flash on top of natural light. Parr takes his camera near people and their social milieus, creating images that appear grotesque or exaggerated at first. Their motifs, which often coincide with moments of everyday life, are shot from unusual perspectives.

The feeling these pictures convey is that of being spontaneous photos, similar to snapshots. Only under closer scrutiny you understand they have been skilfully construed and arranged. While always highly charged and taking widespread social stereotypes as their starting point, Parr’s images are never banal. The perspective they convey stands out for the way in which it takes viewers by surprise and for the ironic detachment with which the photographer turns to his subjects.

According to Parr, his photographs never fail to elicit extreme emotions because they always show some truths: “We are so used to digesting pictures that are pure propaganda, that people are surprised when someone like me shows them images that are closely tied to reality. I, at least, don’t lie”. The photographer’s gaze takes the viewer into his confidence, leading him through the pictures to discover the absurdity of what we deem normal. Gathered in large series regularly published in volumes, these shots transcend the irony of individual images to concentrate on the analysis of a given social milieu.

The Luxury series portrays personages from the international jet set, photographed in different settings around the world – from the Miami Art Fair to horse races in Durban, from polo tournaments in Dubai to the Beijing Auto Show. With these images, Parr has intentionally moved away from his previous subjects to focus on the life of the upper classes: for, as he himself has noted, the main problem the world is facing is not poverty but wealth – excessive development and prosperity. These photographs offer the perspective of an external, noninvolved observer, whose gaze is drawn towards minor details that usually find no place in the common representations of these events.

The centrepieces of these photos are the superficial clichés that the people participating in the events adopt as tokens of their upper-class identity. The pictures fix moments in which this enactment reveals itself to be so fragile or so exaggerated that the people involved become extras in a comedy – one that the photographer’s eye has fallen upon, finding interest not in individuals as such, but in their belonging to a given social system with all its rules and values.

Martin Parr describes himself as a “chronicler of our times”. In his photographic series he records the behaviour of people of different social classes in different contexts, searching not so much for mutual differences as for what brings human beings together when they find themselves in certain roles.

 

Nick Danziger. 'Helicopter Flight from RAF Lyneham to Battersea, 3 April 2003'

 

Nick Danziger (British, b. 1958)
Helicopter Flight from RAF Lyneham to Battersea, 3 April 2003

Bromide print
Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London
© Nick Danziger

 

 

This opportunity had arisen thanks to The Saturday Times Magazine, which had launched a project to produce a special report on the occasion of Blair’s fiftieth birthday, one based not on official photographs but on a way of perceiving and depicting power from the point of view of everyday life – the interior of private and usually inaccessible places, removed from the conventional and more distinctly representational ones. These were the very days in which Blair was facing one of the most challenging decisions of his mandate: that concerning Great Britain’s intervention in the Second Gulf War on the side of the United States.

Danziger was able to document moments and scenes that could otherwise never have been made visible, capturing apparently insignificant moments that actually express all the underlying tensions and dynamics of those crucial days in 2003. On his first day of work, 14 March, Danziger was in Blair’s so called “den” – the Prime Minister’s private workroom in Downing Street. While engaged in a telephone call with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Blair is shown in a non-conventional and informal, rather than simply official, pose. A mirror here gives us a glimpse of Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister’s ever-present spin doctor, and the person responsible for his public image. This reflection becomes a sort of picture within the picture, a reminder of the assemblage of Danziger’s photographic documents, which are never created by chance or artlessly, but always follow from a conscious decision on the photographer’s part.

Danziger seems to be providing an almost intimate depiction of power, one that catches its subjects unawares. Yet it is worth recalling that the Blair government had developed a very careful and well-thought strategy for controlling its own public identity. New Labour’s promotion of an image of its Prime Minister as a young man from next door and of its own political class as one close to ordinary people has been a central feature of its political platform – a way of making a break after the long years of Conservatism under Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

The power of Danziger’s photographs lies in their ability to suggest the moments preceding and following the one portrayed, as illustrated for instance by the pictures of the Prime Minister’s transfer by plane, or the conversation held by a group of politicians outside Blair’s cabinet as they wait for the imminent war decisions to be made. In these pictures the outside world is always cut off; still, as critic John Berger has noted, the importance of photographs lies precisely in their ability to show things they do not directly portray.

Danziger himself bears witness to this when he writes that “in some of the pictures, from where the Prime Minister is sitting, he could hear people shouting ‘stop the war’ outside”. Power censors what might damage or shed doubt upon the reassuring appearance of a politician, and always seeks to portray itself in a manner useful for its own preservation.

The work of photojournalist Nick Danziger features videos and photographs in a documentary style, which often accompany the diaries he writes during his many trips around the world – from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Great Britain to Brazil, and so on. Between March and April 2003, Danziger and journalist Peter Stothard spent thirty days in close contact with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and his entourage.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures' at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina - Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence

 

Installation view of the exhibition Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina – Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence showing the work of Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

 

The Portraits series was first developed in 1999, starting from a portrait of King Henry VIII of England inspired by the work of Dutch painter Hans Holbein. Sugimoto’s self-professed aim was to become “the first sixteenth-century photographer.” The series then continued with different subjects, including famous contemporary figures who have entered the collective imagination, such as the Cuban lider máximo Fidel Castro and Pope John Paul II.

Sugimoto’s works are not portraits of the original subjects, but of wax sculptures reproducing them in the most hyper-realist way possible. The figures are illumined by a source of direct light and strongly stand out against a black background in an extremely theatrical way, imitating poses typical of the characters they represent, while removing them from all context and thus emphasising their nature as icons rather than human beings.
For these works Sugimoto has not made use of the 50 x 60 cm format that is typical of him. Yet, they stand in continuity with the artist’s unique reflection upon the nature of photography and its relation to history and time. Here he embarks upon a reflection on portraiture and the process whereby an image is translated using different media, emphasising the problematic “realistic effect” of photographic reproduction.

An attentive gaze will notice small disproportions in the various parts of the subjects’ bodies or strange lighting effects due to the way in which light reflects on wax as opposed to real skin. Still, these pictures invite us to look at them as we would other photographs. Thinking, that is, about the genuine subjects they portray, something that paradoxically makes them “more real” than the wax statues that constitute their actual subjects. Different levels of reproduction are at play here: from the original subject to an initial photograph that served as a model for the wax statue that Sugimoto then portrayed in his photographic work. Our gaze will strongly be drawn towards the extraordinary elegance and aesthetic refinement of these works, which reveal the uncommon technical abilities of Sugimoto, marked as they are by the endless range of white, grey and black shades typical of him. Despite all this, his works remain emotionally cold: they consist in conceptual reflections upon the very notion of portrait and its political and cultural value as an icon of the characters it represents, and explicitly forgo any realist view of the individuals they take as their subjects. The artist seems to be causing all sense of natural time to collapse – in such a way as to stress that of absolute time. He attains a balance between life and death that is characteristic of photography but also of portraiture, whereby what counts is not the reality or the life of a subject, but the latter’s value as an image in itself, beyond time and everyday life.

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs convey a conceptual attitude aimed at stripping images down to their bare essence, thus emphasising the primacy of the idea over the object portrayed. His famous marine landscapes and dioramas express a view of photography as a sort of time machine – a way of preserving or constructing memories and emotions.

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) Pope John Paul II 1999 (installation view)

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Pope John Paul II (installation view)
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Rosa e Gilberto Sandretto
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) 'Pope John Paul II' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Pope John Paul II
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Rosa e Gilberto Sandretto
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) 'Fidel Castro' 1999 (installation view)

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Fidel Castro (installation view)
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948) 'Fidel Castro' 1999

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japan, b. 1948)
Fidel Castro
1999
Black and white photograph
Courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina
Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza Strozzi, Firenze

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Special free Thursday 6.00 – 11.00 pm
Monday closed (open on 1/11, 6/12, 27/12)

Strozinna 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: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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