Posts Tagged ‘Robert Frank The Americans

21
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Jakob Tuggener – Machine time’ at Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 21st October 2017 – 28th January 2018

Curator: Martin Gasser

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Fabrik' (book cover) 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Fabrik (Factory) (book cover)
1943
Rotapfel Verlag, Erlenbach-Zurich

 

 

Rare magician, strange alchemist, tells stories through visuals

I am indebted to James McArdle’s blog posting “Work” on his excellent On This Date In Photography website for alerting me to this exhibition, and for reminding me of the work of this outstanding artist, Jakob Tuggener.

The short version: Jakob Tuggener was a draftsman before he became an artist, studying poster design, typography, photography and film. “In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, Tuggerer’s book Fabrik (Factory) appeared. At first glance, the series of 72 photographs without a text contained therein seems to depict a kind of history of industrialisation – from the rural textile industry to mechanical engineering and high-voltage electrical engineering to modern power plant construction in the mountains. An in-depth reading, however, shows that Tuggener’s film-associative series of photographs simultaneously points to the destructive potential of unrestrained technological progress, as a result of which he sees the then raging World War, and for which the Swiss arms industry produced unlimited weapons. Tuggener was ahead of his time with the book conceived according to the laws of silent film.” (Press release)

Fabrik, subtitled Ein Bildepos der Technik (“Epic of the technological image” or “A picture of technology”) pictures the world of work and industry, and “is considered a milestone in the history of the photo book.” It uses expressive visuals (actions, appearances and behaviours; movements, gestures and details – Tuggener loves the detail) to tell a subjective story, that of the relationship between human and machine. While the book was well ahead of its time, and influenced the early work of that famous Swiss photographer Robert Frank, it did not emerge out of a vacuum and is perhaps not as revolutionary as some people think. Nothing ever appears out of thin air.

“German photographer Paul Wolff, often working in collaboration with Alfred Tritschler, produced a number of exceptional photo books through the 1920s and ’30s, at a time when Constructivism and the Bauhaus influenced many with visions “of an industrialized and socialized society” that placed Germany at “the forefront of European photography” (Martin Parr and Gerry Badger. The Photobook: A History Volume I, Phaidon Press, 2005, p. 86). Arbeit! (1937) is particularly noted for its architectural framing and lighting of massive machinery, its striking portraits of factory workers, and is frequently aligned with works such as Lewis Hine’s Men at Work (1932) and Albert Renger-Patzsch’s Eisen und Stahl (Iron and Steel) (1931).” (Anonymous on Bauman Rare Books website)

François Kollar’s project La France travail (Working France) (1931-1934), E. O. Hoppé’s Deutsche Arbeit (1930), Heinrich Hauser’s Schwarzes Revier (Black Area) (1930) and Germaine Krull’s Metal (1928) all address the profound social and economic tensions that preceded the Second World War, through an avant-garde photography in the style of “New Vision” and “New Objectivity” – that is, through objective photographs that question common rules of composition, avoiding the more obvious ways subjects would have been photographed at the time. Obscure angles and perspectives abound in these striking photobooks, making their clinical, objective fervour “the great persuaders” of the 1930s and 40s, Modernist and propaganda books of their time.

What made Tuggener so different was the uncompromising subjectiveness of his work, “photographing the two worlds, privilege and labour.” His direct, strong images of factories and high society use wonderful form, light, and shadow to convey their message, never loosing sight of the human dimension, for they shift “our angle from the boss’ POV [point of view] to those unable to get any respite or distance from the situation,” that of the workers. They are a piece of time and human history, which gets closer to the lived reality of the factory floor, than much of the work of his predecessors. Tuggener portrays the mundanity of the “operational sequence” (la chaîne opératoire) of the machine, where the human becomes the oil used to grease the cogs of the ever-demanding “mechanical monsters.” (See Evan Calder Williams’ “Rattling Devils” quotations below)

Tuggener then adds to this new way of seeing which recorded the multiplicity of his points of view – “a modern new style of photography showing not just how things looked, but how it felt to be there” – through the sequencing of the images, which can be seen in the wonderfully combined double pages of the Fabrik book layouts below. Take for example, the photograph that is on the dust jacket, a portrait of a middle-aged worker with a grave look on his face that says, “why the hell are you taking my photograph, why don’t you just f… off.” In the book, Tuggener pairs this image with a whistle letting off steam, a metaphor for the man’s state of being. Tuggener creates these most alien worlds from the inside out, worlds which are grounded in actual lived experience – the little screws lying in the palm of a blackened hand; Navy Cut cigarettes amongst steel artefacts; man being consumed by machine; man being dwarfed by machine; man as machine (the girl paired opposite the counting machine); the Frankenstein scenario of the laboratory (man as monster, machine as man); the intense, feverish eyes of the worker in Heater on electric furnace (the machine human as the devil); and the surrealism of a small doll among the serried ranks of mass destruction, facing the opposition, the opposing lined face of an older worker. This is the stuff of alchemy, the place where art challenges life.

“As Arnold Burgaurer cogently states in his introduction, Tuggener is a jack-of-all-trades: he exhibits, ‘the sharp eye of the hunter, the dreamy eye of the painter; he can be a realist, a formalist, romantic, theatrical, surreal.’ Tuggener’s moves effortlessly between large-format lucidity and grainy, blurred impressionism, in a book that is a decade ahead of its time.” Martin Parr and Gerry Badger. The Photobook: A History Volume I, Phaidon Press, 2005, p. 144.

James McCardle observes that, “the meaning of Fabrik is left to the viewer to discover between its pictures, its glimpses of an overwhelming industrial whole; it is essentially filmic on a cryptic film-noir level, a revelation to Frank.” Tuggener’s influence on the early work of Robert Frank can be seen in a sequence from the book Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 by Robert Frank that was republished by Steidl in 2009 (see below). “Like Tuggener, Frank tackles the task of seemingly incongruous subject matter and finds a harmony through edit and assembly. Again and again throughout this portfolio, Frank is not just trying to show his prowess in making images but in pairing them. They define conflicts in life.” Pace Tuggener. At Frank’s suggestion, Tuggener’s work appeared in both Edward Steichen’s Post-War European Photography and in The Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, The Family of Man, the latter an essentially humanist exhibition which took the form of a photo essay celebrating the universal aspects of the human experience.

McCardle goes onto suggest that Fabrik, as a photo book, was a model for Frank’s Les Américains: The Americans published fifteen years later in Paris by Delpire, 1958. On this point, we disagree. While his early work as seen in Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 may have been heavily influenced by Tuggener’s photo book, by the time Frank came to compose Les Américains (for that is what The Americans is, a composition) his point of view had changed, as had that of his camera. While The Americans has many formal elements that can be seen in the construction of the photographs, they also have an element of jazz that would have been inconceivable to Tuggener at that time. Grainy film, strange angles, lighting flare, street lights, night time photography, jukeboxes and American flags portray the American dream not so much from the vantage point of a knowing insider (as Tuggener was) but as a visitor from another planet. Not so much alienating world (man as machine) as alien world, picturing something that has never been recognised before. These are two different models of being. While both are photo books and both pair images together in sequences, Frank had moved on to another point of view, that of an “invalid” outsider, and his photo book has a completely different nature to that of Tuggener’s Fabrik.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,366

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Many thankx to Fotostiftung Schweiz for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

For Jakob Tuggener, whose works can be seen within the context of social documentary photography, the individual and the industrial boom of the 19th and 20th centuries were central themes. His often somber, black and white photographs seem to confront this new world with a sense of fear as well as admiration. Will technology help relieve us of physically hard labour or replace us altogether? Tuggener owes his renown to his photo book Fabrik (Factory) that was published in 1943. With an aesthetic approach that was unique for his time, Tuggener explores in his photographic essay the relationship between humans and the perceived threat as well as progress of technology. The labourers depicted are grave, their faces worn marked by deep folds, while a factory building in the background stands strong, enveloped in a vaporous cloud. This “Pictorial Epic of Technology,” as Tuggener himself described it, is today considered a milestone in the history of photography books.

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book Fabrik 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Steam whistle, Steckborn artificial silk factory' 1938

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Steam whistle, Steckborn artificial silk factory
1938
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Selection from the book 'Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946' by Robert Frank

 

Selection from the book Portfolio: 40 Photos 1941/1946 by Robert Frank (Steidl, 2009)

 

 

The ‘weightless’ and the ‘grounded’ are two opposing themes that Frank repeatedly uses to move us through this sequence. Three radio transistors in a product shot float into the sky while a music conductor, his band and a church steeple succumb to gravity on the facing page. Even in this image Frank shifts focus to the sky and beyond – the weightless. When he photographs rural life, the farmers heft whole pigs into the air and another carries a huge bale of freshly cut grain which seems featherlight but for the woman trailing behind with hands ready to assist.

Considering this work was made while fascism was on the move through Europe, external politics is felt through metaphor. A painted portrait of men in uniform among a display of pots and pans for sale faces a brightly polished cog from a machine – its teeth sharp and precise. In another pairing, demonstrators waving flags in the streets of Zurich face a street sign covered with snow and frost, a Swiss flag blows in the background. in yet another of a crowd of spectators face the illuminated march of a piece of machinery – its illusory shadow filling in the ranks. These pairings feel under the influence of Jakob Tuggener, whose work Frank certainly knew. Like Tuggener, Frank tackles the task of seemingly incongruous subject matter and finds a harmony through edit and assembly.

Again and again throughout this portfolio, Frank is not just trying to show his prowess in making images but in pairing them. They define conflicts in life. One boy struggles to climb a rope while a ski jumper is frozen in flight. Fisherman bask in sunlight while two pedestrians are caught in blinding snowfall.

Text from the SB4 Photography and Books website December 14, 2009

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Autoritratto, Zurigo [Self-portrait, Zurich]' 1927

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Autoritratto, Zurigo [Self-portrait, Zurich]
1927
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Budenzauber (Charm of the Attic Room) Jakob Tuggener with friends' 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Budenzauber (Charm of the Attic Room) Jakob Tuggener with friends
1935
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Plant entrance, Oerlikon Machine Factory' 1934

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Plant entrance, Oerlikon Machine Factory
1934
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Work in the boiler' 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Work in the boiler
1935
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Running girl in the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1934

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Running girl in the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1934
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Façade, Oerlikon Machine Factory' 1936

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Façade, Oerlikon Machine Factory
1936
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book Fabrik 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Nell'ufficio della fonderia, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon' [In the foundry office, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory] 1937

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Nell’ufficio della fonderia, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon [In the foundry office, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory]
1937
From Fabrik 1933-1953
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

“Above all, the contrast between the brilliantly lit ballroom and the dark factory hall influenced the perception of his artistic oeuvre,” [curator] Martin Gasser explains. “Tuggener also positioned himself between these two extremes when he stated: ‘Silk and machines, that’s Tuggener’. In reality, he loved both: the wasteful luxury and the dirty work, the enchanting women and the sweaty labourers. For him, they were both of equal value and he resisted being categorised as a social critic who pitted one world against the other. On the contrary, these contrasts belonged to his conception of life and he relished experiencing the extremes – and the shades of tones in between – to the most intense degree.”

 

“Jakob Tuggener’s ‘Fabrik’, published in Zurich in 1943, is a milestone in the history of the photography book. Its 72 images, in the expressionist aesthetic of a silent movie, impart a skeptical view of technological progress: at the time the Swiss military industry was producing weapons for World War II. Tuggener, who was born in 1904, had an uncompromisingly critical view of the military-industrial complex that did not suit his era. His images of rural life and high-society parties had been easy to sell, but ‘Fabrik’ found no publisher. And when the book did come out, it was not a commercial success. Copies were sold at a loss and some are believed to have been pulped. Now this seminal work, which has since become a sought-after classic, is being reissued with a contemporary afterword. In his lifetime, Tuggener’s work appeared – at Robert Frank’s suggestion – in Edward Steichen’s ‘Post-War European Photography’ and in The Museum of Modern Art’s seminal exhibition, ‘The Family of Man’, in whose catalogue it remains in print. Tuggener’s death in 1988 left an immense catalogue of his life’s work, much of which has yet to be shown: more than 60 maquettes, thousands of photographs, drawings, watercolours, oil paintings and silent films.”

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Book description on Amazon. The book has been republished by Steidl in January, 2012.

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Tornos Machine-tool Factory, Moutier' 1942

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Tornos Machine-tool Factory, Moutier
1942
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Navy Cut, Ateliers de construction mécanique Oerlikon (MFO)' [Navy Cut, Machine Shops Oerlikon (MFO)] 1940

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Navy Cut, Ateliers de construction mécanique Oerlikon (MFO) [Navy Cut, Machine Shops Oerlikon (MFO)]
1940
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Pressure pipe, Vernayaz' 1938

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Pressure pipe, Vernayaz
1938
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Grande Dixence power station' 1942

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Grande Dixence power station
1942
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Laboratorio di ricerca, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon' [Research laboratory, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory] 1941

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Laboratorio di ricerca, fabbrica di costruzioni meccaniche Oerlikon [Research laboratory, Oerlikon mechanical engineering factory]
1941
From Fabrik 1933-1953
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Heater on electric furnace' 1943 (detail)

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Heater on electric furnace (detail)
1943
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Heater on electric furnace' 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Heater on electric furnace
1943
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Worker, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Worker, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) '"Amore", Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
“Amore”, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Weaving mill, Glattfelden' 1940s

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Weaving mill, Glattfelden
1940s
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener Foundation

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1949

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon' 1949 (detail)

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Lathe, Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (detail)
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Montpellier magazine. 'Jacob Tuggener at the pavilion popular Montpellier manufactures an epic of industrial photographs of workers' portraits' 1943

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Jacob Tuggener at the popular pavillion Montpellier manufactures an epic of industrial photographs of workers’ portraits
Montpellier magazine
1943
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Forgeron dans une fabrique de wagons de Schlieren' [Blacksmith in a Schlieren wagon factory] 1949

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Forgeron dans une fabrique de wagons de Schlieren [Blacksmith in a Schlieren wagon factory]
1949
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Untitled (Arms of work)' c. 1947

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Untitled (Arms of work)
c. 1947
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) is one of the exceptional phenomena of Swiss photography. His personal and expressive recordings of glittering celebrations of better society are legendary, and his 1943 book Fabrik (Factory) is considered a milestone in the history of the photo book. At the centre of the exhibition “Machine time” are photographs and films from the world of work and industry. They not only reflect the technical development from the textile industry in the Zurich Oberland to power plant construction in the Alps, but also testify to Tuggener’s lifelong fascination with all sorts of machines: from looms to smelting furnaces and turbines to locomotives, steamers and racing cars. He loved her noise, her dynamic movements and her unruly power, and he artistically transposed them. At the same time, he observed the men and women who keep up the motor of progress with their work – not without hinting that one day machines might dominate people.

 

Machine time

Jakob Tuggener knew the world of factories like no other photographer of his time, having completed an apprenticeship as a draftsman at Maag Zahnräder AG in Zurich and then worked in their design department. Through the photographer Gustav Maag he was also introduced to the technique of photography. However, as a result of the economic crisis in the late 1920s, he was dismissed, after which he fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming an artist by studying at the Reimannschule in Berlin. For almost a year he dealt intensively with poster design, typography and film and let himself be carried away with his camera by the dynamics of the big city.

After returning to Switzerland in 1932, he began working as a freelancer for the Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO), especially for their house newspaper with the programmatic title Der Gleichrichter (The Rectifier). Although the company already employed its own photographer, he was entrusted with the task of developing a kind of photographic interior view of the company. This was intended to bridge the gap between workers and office workers on the one hand and management on the other. By the end of the 1930s, in addition to multi-part reports from the production halls, as well as portraits of “members of the MFO family”, one-sided, album-like series of unnoticed scenes from everyday factory life appeared. From 1937 Tuggener also created a series of 16mm short films – always black and white, silent, and representing the tension between fiction and documentation. This includes, for example, the drama about death and transience (Die Seemühle (The Sea mill), 1944), which was influenced by surrealism and staged by Tuggener with amateur actors in a vacant factory on the shores of Lake Zurich. or the cinematic exploration of the subject of man and machine (Die Maschinenzeit (The Machine Time), 1938-70). This ties in with the earlier book maquette of the same name and transforms it into a moving, immediately perceptible, but also fleeting vision of the Tuggenean machine age.

In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, Tuggerer’s book Fabrik (Factory) appeared. At first glance, the series of 72 photographs without a text contained therein seems to depict a kind of history of industrialisation – from the rural textile industry to mechanical engineering and high-voltage electrical engineering to modern power plant construction in the mountains. An in-depth reading, however, shows that Tuggener’s film-associative series of photographs simultaneously points to the destructive potential of unrestrained technological progress, as a result of which he sees the then raging World War, and for which the Swiss arms industry produced unlimited weapons. Tuggener was ahead of his time with the book conceived according to the laws of silent film.1 Neither his uncompromisingly subjective photography nor his critical attitude matched the threatening situation in which Switzerland was called to unity and strength under the slogan “Spiritual Defense”.

Although the book was not commercially successful, Tuggener’s Fabrik was a great artistic success and continued to explore the issues of work and industry. He produced two more book maquettes: Schwarzes Eisen (Black Iron) (1950) and Die Maschinenzeit (The Machine Time) (1952). They can be understood as a kind of continuation of the published book, which the journalist Arnold Burgauer described as a “glowing and sparkling factual and accountable report of the world of the machine, of its development, its possibilities and limitations.” In the mid-1950s, on the threshold of the computer age, Tuggener’s classic “machine time” came to an end. On the one hand, the mechanical processes that had so fascinated Tuggener evaded his eyes. On the other hand, he could not or did not want to make friends with the idea that one day even a human heart could be replaced by a machine.

 

Portrayer of opposites

As early as 1930 in Berlin, Tuggener had begun to take pictures of the then famous Reimannschule balls. He was fascinated by the tingling erotic atmosphere of these occasions, and he found photography in sparsely lit rooms a great challenge. Back in Zurich, he immediately plunged into local nightlife to surrender to the splendour and luxury of mask, artist and New Year’s balls. Again and again he let himself be abducted by elegant ladies with their silk dresses, their necklines, bare back or shoulders in a glittering fairytale world, whose mysterious facets he sought to fathom with his Leica. Although Tuggener’s ball recordings were only perceived by a small insider audience for a long time, many quickly saw him as a “masterful portrayer of our world of stark contrasts,” a world torn between a brightly lit ballroom and gloomy factory hall. Tuggener also positioned himself between these extremes when he stated, “Silk and machines, that’s Tuggener.” Because he loved both the lavish luxury and the dirty work, the jewelled women and the sweaty men. He felt that he was equal and resisted being classified as a social critic.

In whatever world he moved, Jakob Tuggener did it with the elegance of a grand seigneur [a man whose rank or position allows him to command others]. He was an eye man with a casual, loving look for the inconspicuous, the superficial incident; not just a sensitive picture-poet, but the “photographische Dichter römisch I,” as he used to call himself self-confidently. Critic Max Eichenberger wrote of the Fabrik photographs: “Tuggener is able to make factory photographs that reveal not only a painter, but also a poet, and a rare magician and strange alchemist – lead, albeit modestly turned into gold.”

The exhibition Jakob Tuggener – Maschinenzeit includes vintage and later prints from the early 1930s to the late 1950s, which for the most part come from the photographers estate. In an adjoining room the exhibition will also feature a selection of his 16mm short films from the years 1937-70, which revolve around the topic of “man and machine” in various ways. These films were newly digitised specifically for the exhibition (in collaboration with Lichtspiel / Cinematheque Bern).

Press release from Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

  1. The story in silent film is best told through visuals (such as actions, appearances and behaviours). Focus on movements and gestures, and borrow from dance and mime. Large, exaggerated motions translate well to silent films, but balance these also with subtlety (ie. a raised eyebrow, a quivering lip – especially when paired with a close-up shot). (Raindance website)

 

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layout from the book 'Fabrik' 1943

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) Page layouts from the book Fabrik 1943

 

 

Extracts from Shard Cinema by Evan Calder Williams London: Repeater Books, 2017

“All gestures are perhaps inhuman, because they enact that hinge with the world, forging a bridge and buffer that can’t be navigated by words or by actions that feel like purely one’s own. In Vilém Flusser’s definition, a gesture is “a movement of the body or of a tool connected to the body for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation” – that is, it can’t be explained on its own isolated terms.26 The factory will massively extend this tendency, because the “explanation” lies not in the literal circuit of production but in the social abstraction of value driving the entire process yet nowhere immediately visible. We might frame the difficulty of this imagining with the concept of “operational sequence” (la chaîne opératoire), posed by French archaeologist André Leroi-Gourhan, which designates a “succession of mental operations and technical gestures, in order to satisfy a need (immediate or not), according to a preexisting project.”25

26. Vilém Flusser, Gestures (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), p. 2.
27. Catherine Perlès, Les Industries Lithiques Taillées de Franchthi, Argolide: Presentation Generate et Industries Paleolithiques (Terre Haute: Indiana University Press, 1987), p. 23.

 

“Which is to say: we build factories. And in those factories, the process of the exteriorization of memory and muscle becomes almost total, as “the hand no longer intervenes except to feed or to stop” what Leroi-Gourhan, like Larcom, will call “mechanical monsters,” “machines without a nervous system of their own, constantly requiring the assistance of a human partner.”30 But along with engendering the panic of becoming caregiver to the inanimate, this also poses the problem of animation in an unprecedented way. Because if a “technical gesture is the producer of forms, deriving them from inert nature and preparing them for animation,” the factory constitutes us in a different network of the animated and animating.31 It’s a network that can be seen in those writings of factory workers, with their distinct sense of not just preparing those materials but becoming the pivot that eases, smooths, and guides the links of an operational sequence. In particular, a worker functions as the point of compression and transformation between tremendous motive force and products made whose regularity must be assured. The human becomes the regulator of this process, the assurance of an abstract standardization.

30 André Leroi-Gourhan, Gesture and Speech, trans. Anna Bostock Berger (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993), p. 246
31. Ibid., p. 313

 

“… what I’m sketching here in this passage through scattered materials of the century prior to filmed moving images is something simpler, a small corrective to insist that by the time cinema was becoming a medium that seemed to offer a novel form of mechanical time, motion, and vision, one that historians and theorists will fixate on as the unique province and promise of film, many of its viewers had themselves already been enacting and struggling against that form for decades, day in, day out. The point is to place the human operator back in the frame, to ask after those who tended the machine before it was available as a spectacle, and to listen to how they understood what they were tangled in the midst of. But this is neither a humanist gesture of assuring the centrality of the person in the mesh that holds them nor a historical rejoinder to the forgetting and active dismissal of many of these personal accounts. Rather, it’s an effort to show how only with the operator’s experience made central can we see the real historical destruction of such illusions of centrality and, in their place, the novel construction of the human as tender and mender of a flailing inhuman net, the pivot who forms the connective tissue that enacts the lethal animation around her. In short, to see how the real subsumption of labor to capital is not only a systemic or periodizing concept that marks the historical transformation of discrete activities in accordance with the abstractions of value. It also is the granular description of a lived and bitterly contested process by which those abstractions get corporally and mechanically made and unmade, one which we can understand differently if we shift our angle from the boss’ POV to those unable to get any respite or distance from the situation.”

Evan Calder Williams. “Rattling Devils,” on the Viewpoint Magazine website July 13, 2017 [Online] Cited 29/12/2017

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935' [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935] 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935 [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935]
1935
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935' [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935] 1935

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo ungherese, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1935 [Hungarian dance, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurich, 1935]
1935
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Hotel Belvédère, Davos, 1944' 1944

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Hotel Belvédère, Davos, 1944
1944
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Carlton hotel, St. Moritz' Nd

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Carlton hotel, St. Moritz
Nd
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Palace hotel, St. Moritz' 1948-49

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Palace Hotel, St. Moritz, San Silvestro
1948-49
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988) 'Ballo Acs, Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1948' 1948

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ballo Acs,Grand Hotel Dolder, Zurigo, 1948
1948
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

Jakob Tuggener. 'Ball Nights' 1934-1950

 

Jakob Tuggener (1904-1988)
Ball Nights
From the series Nuits de bal, 1934-1950
Silver gelatin print
© Jakob Tuggener-Stiftung

 

 

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11
Oct
16

Exhibition: ‘Dream States: Contemporary Photographs and Video’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 16th May – 30th October 2016

 

The best fun I had with this posting was putting together the first twelve images. They seem to act as ‘strange attractors’, a feeling recognised by the curators of the exhibition if you view the first installation photograph by Anders Jones, below.

Marcus

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Many thankx to photographer Anders Jones and the Duggal website for allowing me to publish the installation photographs in the posting. See their posting about the exhibition.

 

 

Artists have always turned to dreams as a source of inspiration, a retreat from reason, and a space for exploring imagination and desire. In the history of photography, dreams have been most closely associated with the Surrealists, who pushed the technical limits of the medium to transform the camera’s realist documents into fantastical compositions. Whereas their modernist explorations were often bound to psychoanalytic theories, more recently contemporary photographers have pursued the world of sleep and dreams through increasingly open-ended works that succeed through evocation rather than description.

This exhibition takes a cue from the artists it features by displaying a constellation of photographs that collectively evoke the experience of a waking dream. Here, a night sky composed of pills, a fragmented rainbow, a sleeping fairy-tale princess, and an alien underwater landscape illuminate hidden impulses and longings underlying contemporary life. Drawn entirely from The Met collection, Dream States features approximately 30 photographs and video works primarily from the 1970s to the present.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Anselm Kiefer. 'Brünnhilde Sleeps' 1980

 

Anselm Kiefer (German, born Donaueschingen, 1945)
Brünnhilde Sleeps
1980
Acrylic and gouache on photograph
23 x 32 7/8in. (58.4 x 83.5cm)
Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, 1995
© Anselm Kiefer

 

 

Near the end of Wagner’s second opera of the Ring Cycle, Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, having attempted to help the sibling lovers Siegmund and Sieglinde against their father’s wishes, is punished for her betrayal. Wotan puts her to sleep and surrounds her with a ring of fire (she will be awakened in turn by her nephew Siegfried, the incestuous son of Siegmund and Sieglinde, in the third opera of the cycle).

Kiefer portrays the dormant Brünnhilde as French actress Catherine Deneuve in François Truffaut’s film Mississippi Mermaid, using a photograph he snapped in a movie house in 1969. In the film, Deneuve plays a deceitful mail-order bride who comes to the island of Réunion to marry a plantation owner, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo. Aside from the parallels of love and betrayal in both the Ring Cycle and Truffaut’s film, Kiefer thought the choice of Deneuve for Brünnhilde both ironic and amusing: she was for him “the contrary of Brünnhilde. Very slim, very French, very cool, very sexy,” hinting that no man would go through fire to obtain Wagner’s corpulent, armored Valkyrie.

 

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002) 'La Buena Fama Durmiendo (The Good Reputation Sleeping)' 1939, printed c. 1970s

 

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
La Buena Fama Durmiendo (The Good Reputation Sleeping)
1939, printed c. 1970s
Gelatin silver print
Mat: 16 × 20 in. (40.6 × 50.8 cm)
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1973

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857-1927 Paris) 'Versailles' 1924-25

 

Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857-1927 Paris)
Versailles
1924-25
Salted paper print from glass negative
Image: 17.5 x 21.9 cm (6 7/8 x 8 5/8 in.)
Sheet: 18 × 21.9 cm (7 1/16 × 8 5/8 in.)
Mat: 16 × 20 in. (40.6 × 50.8 cm)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005

 

 

From 1898 until his death in 1927, Atget exhaustively documented the remains of Old Paris: the city’s streets, monuments, interiors, and environs. Among the last entries in this self-directed preservationist effort was a series of images of landscapes and sculpture in the parks of Saint-Cloud and Versailles. Here, the photographer records a statue of a sleeping Ariadne, the mythical Cretan princess abandoned by her lover Theseus on the island of Naxos. Atget’s simultaneously realistic and otherworldly photographs inspired the Surrealist artist Man Ray, who reproduced four of them in a 1926 issue of the journal La Révolution Surréaliste, thus presenting the elder photographer as a modernist forerunner.

 

Robert Frank (American, born Zurich, 1924) 'Fourth of July, Coney Island' 1958

 

Robert Frank (American, born Zurich, 1924)
Fourth of July, Coney Island
1958
Gelatin silver print
Image: 26 x 35.6 cm (10 1/4 x 14 in.)
Mat: 18 1/2 × 22 1/2 in. (47 × 57.2 cm)
Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2002
© 2005 Robert Frank

 

 

As he traveled around the country in 1955-56 making the photographs that would constitute his landmark book, The Americans, Frank’s impression of America changed radically. He found less of the freedom and tolerance imagined by postwar Europeans, and more alienation and racial prejudice simmering beneath the happy surface. His disillusionment is poignantly embodied in this image of a disheveled African-American man disengaged from the crowd and asleep in a fetal position amid the debris of an Independence Day celebration on Coney Island.

This was one of the last still photographs Frank made before he devoted his creative energy to filmmaking in the early 1960s. As such, it may be interpreted as an elegy to still photography; the lone figure functions as a surrogate for Frank himself, as he turned his back on Life – like photojournalism to concentrate on the more personal, dreamlike imagery of his films.

 

Shannon Bool (Canadian, born 1972) 'Vertigo' 2015

 

Shannon Bool (Canadian, born 1972)
Vertigo
2015
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 13/16 × 11 13/16 in. (19.8 × 30 cm)
Gift of Shannon Bool and Daniel Faria Gallery, 2015
© Shannon Bool

 

 

This photogram – made without a camera by placing a collage of transparencies on a photosensitive sheet of paper and exposing it to light – is part of a series portraying psychoanalysts and their patients. Here, a patient on a Freudian couch is seen from above; the figure, sheathed in patterns of Maori origin, appears to come apart at the seams under the analyst’s scrutiny.

 

Nan Goldin (American, born Washington, D.C., 1953) 'French Chris on the Convertible, NYC' 1979

 

Nan Goldin (American, born Washington, D.C., 1953)
French Chris on the Convertible, NYC
1979
Silver dye bleach print
50.8 x 61cm (20 x 24in.)
Mat: 25 × 32 in. (63.5 × 81.3 cm)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2001
© Nan Goldin Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

 

 

Following in the tradition of Robert Frank and Helen Levitt, Goldin is her generation’s greatest practitioner of the “snapshot aesthetic” in photography-the intimate, diaristic mode that yields images that, in the right hands, are both spontaneous and carefully seen, tossed off and irreducibly right. In this early work, the artist has captured her friend as a Chatterton of the Lower East Side, lying across the back of a blue convertible with shirt open, eyes closed, and an empty can of Schaeffer beer by his side instead of arsenic – a contemporary vision of glamorous surrender for our own time.

 

Arthur Tress (American, born 1940) 'Boy in Flood Dream, Ocean City, New Jersey' 1972

 

Arthur Tress (American, born 1940)
Boy in Flood Dream, Ocean City, New Jersey
1972
Gelatin silver print
Mat: 18 × 18 in. (45.7 × 45.7 cm)
Gift of the artist, 1973

 

 

In the late 1960s, Tress began audio-recording children recounting their dreams and nightmares. He then collaborated with the young people, who acted out their tales for the camera, and published the resulting surreal images in the 1972 book The Dream Collector. Many of the children shared common nightmare scenarios such as falling, drowning, and being trapped, chased by monsters, or humiliated in the classroom. Here, a young boy clings to the roof of a home that has washed ashore as if after a flood. The desolate landscape evokes the sort of non-place characteristic of dreams and conveys feelings of loneliness and abandonment.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dream States: Contemporary Photography and Video' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Photo by Anders Jones

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dream States: Contemporary Photography and Video at the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring at lower right, Nan Goldin’s French Chris on the Convertible, NYC (1979)
Photo by Anders Jones

 

Sophie Calle (French, born Paris, 1953) 'Gloria K., first sleeper. Anne B., second sleeper' 1979

 

Sophie Calle (French, born Paris, 1953)
Gloria K., first sleeper. Anne B., second sleeper
1979
Gelatin silver prints
12.6 x 18.4cm (4 15/16 x 7 1/4in.) Mat: 14 × 17 in. (35.6 × 43.2 cm)
Gift of the artist and Olivier Renaud-Clement, in memory of Gilles Dusein, 2000
© Sophie Calle

 

Sophie Calle (French, born Paris, 1953) 'Gloria K., first sleeper. Anne B., second sleeper' 1979

 

Sophie Calle (French, born Paris, 1953)
Gloria K., first sleeper. Anne B., second sleeper
1979
Gelatin silver prints
12.6 x 18.4cm (4 15/16 x 7 1/4in.) Mat: 14 × 17 in. (35.6 × 43.2 cm)
Gift of the artist and Olivier Renaud-Clement, in memory of Gilles Dusein, 2000
© Sophie Calle

 

 

While obviously indebted to the deadpan photo-text combinations of Conceptualism, Calle’s art is as purely French at its core as the novels of Marguerite Duras and the films of Alain Resnais – an intimate exploration of memory, desire, and obsessive longing. The artist’s primary method involves a perfectly calibrated interplay between narrative and image, both of which steadily approach their object of desire only to find another blind spot-that which can never be captured through language or representation.

This work is the first segment of Calle’s first work, The Sleepers (1979), in which the artist invited twenty-nine friends and acquaintances to sleep in her bed consecutively between April 1 and April 9, during which time she photographed them once an hour and kept notes recording each encounter. All the elements of Calle’s art-from the voyeuristic inversion of the private sphere (rituals of the bedroom) and the public (the book or gallery wall) to the use of serial, repetitive structures-are present here in embryonic form.

 

Paul Graham (British, born 1956) 'Senami, Christchurch, New Zealand' 2011

 

Paul Graham (British, born 1956)
Senami, Christchurch, New Zealand
2011
Chromogenic print
Image: 44 1/4 in. × 59 in. (112.4 × 149.9 cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel and Hideyuki Osawa Gift, 2015

 

 

Graham’s series, Does Yellow Run Forever?, juxtaposes three groups of photographs: rainbows arcing over the Irish countryside, the facades of pawn-and-jewelry shops in New York, and tender studies of his partner asleep. The thematic links between the images (the rainbow’s mythical pot of gold, the sparkling objects in the Harlem window display, and a sleeping dreamer) may seem obvious, even pat, but Graham’s photographs transmute those clichés into a constellation of deep feeling. These luminous vignettes evoke a sense of longing and pathos, the quest for something permanent amid the illusory and devalued.

 

Peter Hujar (American, Trenton, New Jersey 1934-1987 New York) 'Girl in My Hallway' 1976

 

Peter Hujar (American, Trenton, New Jersey 1934-1987 New York)
Girl in My Hallway
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37 x 37.1 cm (14 9/16 x 14 5/8 in.)
Mat: 25 × 25 in. (63.5 × 63.5 cm)
Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2006
© The Peter Hujar Archive, L.L.C.

 

Brassaï (French (born Romania), Brașov 1899-1984 Côte d'Azur) 'A Vagrant Sleeping in Marseille' 1935, printed 1940s

 

Brassaï (French (born Romania), Brașov 1899-1984 Côte d’Azur)
A Vagrant Sleeping in Marseille
1935, printed 1940s
Gelatin silver print
17.2 x 23.3cm (6 3/4 x 9 3/16in.)
Mat: 17 × 14 in. (43.2 × 35.6 cm)
Gift of the artist, 1980
Photograph by Brassaï. Copyright © Gilberte Brassaï

 

 

The inevitable suggestion that the homeless, hungry man sprawled on the sidewalk might be dreaming of a finely dressed and improbably large salad links Brassaï’s photograph to the work of the Surrealists. Although he frequently depicted thugs, vagrants, and prostitutes, he did so without judgment or political motive; his were pictures meant to delight or perplex the eye and mind-not to prompt a social crusade.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dream States: Contemporary Photography and Video' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Photo by Anders Jones

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dream States: Contemporary Photography and Video at the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring at left, Paul Graham’s Gold Town Jewellery, East Harlem, New York (2012) and at right, Paul Graham’s Senami, Christchurch, New Zealand (2011), both from the series Does Yellow Run Forever?
Photo by Anders Jones

 

 

“The psychological fluidity of the medium has been noted before by the Met. In 1993, to celebrate its purchase of the Gilman Collection, the curator Maria Morris Hambourg chose to call her exhibition The Waking Dream. The title came from Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” and suggested, in Hambourg’s words, “the haunting power of photographs to commingle past and present, to suspend the world and the artist’s experience of it in unique distillations.”

Conceptual latitude can benefit curators, giving them plenty of room to maneuver in making their selections, or it can be a detriment if a loose framework has so many sides that it won’t support an argument.

Dream States suffers from the latter, even though the leeway of the title allows splendid pictures in disparate styles to be displayed together. Organized by associate curator Mia Fineman and assistant curator Beth Saunders around a theme that isn’t notably pertinent or provocative, the show has no discernible reason for being. It isn’t stocked with recent purchases – fewer than ten of the works entered the collection in this decade – and it isn’t tightly edited. To quality for inclusion here a photograph need only depict someone lying down or with eyes closed. A “dream state” seems to be loosely defined. It can be as a starry or cloudless sky; a tree-less landscape; inverted or abstract imagery; or something blurry.”

Richard B. Woodward. “Dream States: Contemporary Photography and Video @Met,” on the Collector Daily website July 11, 2016 [Online] Cited 06/10/2016

 

Jack Goldstein (American, born Canada, 1945-2003) 'The Pull' 1976

 

Jack Goldstein (American, born Canada, 1945-2003)
The Pull
1976
Chromogenic prints
Frame: 76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.) each
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation Gift and Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2009
© The Estate of Jack Goldstein

 

 

Born in the postwar baby boom, Goldstein grew up surrounded by the products of the rapidly expanding media culture-movies, television, newspapers, magazines, and advertisements of all kinds. Young artists such as Goldstein went on to be educated in the rigorous and reductive principles of Minimal and Conceptual art during the 1970s but knew from personal experience that images shape our sense of the world and who we are, rather than vice versa; they made their art reflect that secondhand relationship to reality.

In this early work, Goldstein has lifted, or “appropriated,” images of a deep sea diver, a falling figure, and a spaceman from unknown printed sources-isolating them from their original contexts and setting them at a very small scale against monochromatic backgrounds (green for sea, blue for sky, and white for space), as if the viewer were seeing them from a great distance. Because the viewer is unlikely to have seen such figures firsthand, that distance is not merely spatial but also epistemological in nature-the images trigger memories based not on original encounters but on reproductions of experience. The Pull – Goldstein’s only photographic work in a career that spanned painting, performance, film, and sound recordings – was included in “Pictures,” a seminal 1977 exhibition at Artist’s Space in New York, which also introduced the public to other young artists making use of appropriation, such as Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, and Troy Brauntuch.

 

Sarah Anne Johnson (Canadian, born 1976) 'Glitter Bomb' 2012

 

Sarah Anne Johnson (Canadian, born 1976)
Glitter Bomb
2012
Chromogenic print with glitter and acrylic paint
Sheet: 29 7/8 in. × 53 in. (75.9 × 134.6 cm)
Purchase, Funds from Various Donors in memory of Randie Malinsky, 2016
© Sarah Anne Johnson

 

 

Johnson works primarily with photography but also employs a variety of other media – sculpted figurines, dioramas, paint, ink, and bursts of glitter – to amplify the emotional power of her images. Glitter Bomb belongs to a series exploring the bacchanalian culture of summer music festivals. At once ominous and ecstatic, the image evokes the blissed-out mind-set of young revelers taking part in a modern-day rite of passage.

 

Oliver Wasow (American, born 1960) 'Float' 1984-2008, printed 2009

 

Oliver Wasow (American, born 1960)
Float
1984-2008, printed 2009
Inkjet prints
Frame: 17.3 x 22.3 cm (6 13/16 x 8 3/4 in.)
Overall: 116.8 x 152.4 cm (46 x 60 in.)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2010
© Oliver Wasow

 

 

Wasow has a long-standing fascination with science fiction, apocalyptic fantasies, and documentation of unidentified flying objects. In his many pictures of mysterious floating disks and orbs, the artist courts doubt by running found images through a battery of processes, including drawing, photocopying, and superimposition, to create distortions. The resulting photographs play with the human propensity to invest form with meaning, offering just enough detail to spur the imagination.

 

Fred Tomaselli (American, born Santa Monica, California, 1956) 'Portrait of Laura' 2015

 

Fred Tomaselli (American, born Santa Monica, California, 1956)
Portrait of Laura
2015
Gelatin silver print with graphite
Image: 16 in. × 19 15/16 in. (40.6 × 50.6 cm)
Mat: 24 3/4 × 25 3/4 in. (62.9 × 65.4 cm)
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2016
© Fred Tomaselli

 

 

This “portrait” of the artist’s wife, Laura, belongs to an ongoing series he calls “chemical celestial portraits of inner and outer space.” Tomaselli creates likenesses based on each sitter’s astrological sign and the star map for his or her date of birth. Placing sugar and pills on photographic paper and exposing it to light, he produces a photogram of the corresponding constellation and names the stars after the various drugs the subject remembers consuming, from cold medicine to cocaine. The result is an unconventional map of identity that cleverly weds the mystical and the pharmacological.

 

Bea Nettles (American, born Gainesville, Florida, 1946) 'Mountain Dream Tarot: A Deck of 78 Photographic Cards' 1975

Bea Nettles (American, born Gainesville, Florida, 1946) 'Mountain Dream Tarot: A Deck of 78 Photographic Cards' 1975

Bea Nettles (American, born Gainesville, Florida, 1946) 'Mountain Dream Tarot: A Deck of 78 Photographic Cards' 1975

Bea Nettles (American, born Gainesville, Florida, 1946) 'Mountain Dream Tarot: A Deck of 78 Photographic Cards' 1975

 

Bea Nettles (American, born Gainesville, Florida, 1946)
Mountain Dream Tarot: A Deck of 78 Photographic Cards
1975
Photographically illustrated tarot cards
Purchase, Dorothy Levitt Beskind Gift, 1977

 

 

The idea to create a set of photographic tarot cards came to Nettles in a dream during the summer of 1970, while she was on an artist’s residency in the mountains of North Carolina. She subsequently reinterpreted the ancient symbolism of the traditional tarot deck, enlisting friends and family members as models for photographs that she augmented with hand-painted additions. In 2007 the image Nettles created for the Three of Swords card was used as the disc graphic for Bruce Springsteen’s album Magic.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Dream States: Contemporary Photography and Video' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Photo by Anders Jones

 

Installation view of the exhibition Dream States: Contemporary Photography and Video at the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring Bea Nettles’ Mountain Dream Tarot: A Deck of 78 Photographic Cards (1975)
Photo by Anders Jones

 

 

“Artists often turn to dreams as a source of inspiration, a retreat from reason, and a space for exploring imagination and desire. In the history of photography, dream imagery has been most closely associated with the Surrealists, who used experimental techniques to bridge the gap between the camera’s objectivity and the internal gaze of the mind’s eye. While those modernist explorations were often bound to psychoanalytic theories, other photographers have pursued the world of sleep and dreams through deliberately open-ended works that succeed through evocation rather than description. The exhibition Dream States: Contemporary Photographs and Video presents 30 photographs and one video drawn from The Met collection, all loosely tied to the subjective yet universal experience of dreaming. The exhibition is on view at the Museum from May 16 through October 30, 2016.

Many of the works take the surrender of sleep as their subject matter. In photographs by Robert Frank, Danny Lyon, and Nan Goldin, recumbent figures appear vulnerable to the wandering gaze of onlookers, yet their inner worlds remain out of reach. Images of bodies floating and falling conjure the tumultuous world of dreams, and landscapes are made strange through the camera’s selective vision. Highlights include photographs by Paul Graham from his recent series Does Yellow Run Forever (2014); images from Sophie Calle’s earliest body of work, The Sleepers (1979), in which she invited friends and acquaintances to sleep in her own bed while she watched; and Anselm Kiefer’s Brünnhilde Sleeps (1980), a hand-painted photograph featuring French actress Catherine Deneuve recast as a Wagnerian Valkyrie. Also featured are recently acquired works by Shannon Bool, Sarah Anne Johnson, Jim Shaw, and Fred Tomaselli.

Dream States: Contemporary Photographs and Video is organized by Mia Fineman, Associate Curator; and Beth Saunders, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Grete Stern (Argentinian, born Germany, 1904-1999) 'Sueño No. 1: "Articulos eléctricos para el hogar" (Dream No. 1: "Electrical Household items")' c. 1950

 

Grete Stern (Argentinian, born Germany, 1904-1999)
Sueño No. 1: “Articulos eléctricos para el hogar” (Dream No. 1: “Electrical Household items”)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print
Image: 26.6 x 22.9 cm (10 1/2 x 9 in.)
Frame: 63.5 x 76.2 cm (25 x 30 in.)
Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2012

 

 

In 1948 the Argentine women’s magazine Idilio introduced a weekly column called “Psychoanalysis Will Help You,” which invited readers to submit their dreams for analysis. Each week, one dream was illustrated with a photomontage by Stern, a Bauhaus-trained photographer and graphic designer who fled Berlin for Buenos Aires when the Nazis came to power. Over three years, Stern created 140 photomontages for the magazine, translating the unconscious fears and desires of its predominantly female readership into clever, compelling images. Here, a masculine hand swoops in to “turn on” a lamp whose base is a tiny, elegantly dressed woman. Rarely has female objectification been so erotically and electrically charged.

 

Adam Fuss (British, born 1961) 'From the series "My Ghost"' 1999

 

Adam Fuss (British, born 1961)
From the series “My Ghost”
1999
Gelatin silver print
184.9 x 123.3 cm (72 13/16 x 48 9/16 in.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2000
© Adam Fuss

 

 

With his large-scale photograms, Fuss has breathed new life into the cameraless technique that became the hallmark of modernist photographers such as Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy in the 1920s. He created this image by blowing thick clouds of smoke over a sheet of photographic paper and exposing it to a quick flash of light. Evoking the wizardry of a medieval alchemist, Fuss fixes a permanent image of evanescence.

 

 

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01
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Robert Frank in America’ at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University Part 2

Exhibition dates: 10th September 2014 – 5th January 2015

Curator: Peter Galassi

 

 

The lunatic sublime of America

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

 

“This desire of Frank’s to hold the shape of his feelings in what he made is an ambition found in all Romantic art, one that his style brilliantly encompasses and describes. There is a wonderful illusion of speed trapped in his photographs, a sense of rapidity usually created not by the movement of Frank’s subjects, but by the gesture that he made as he framed his pictures. To photographers who have followed Frank, this autographic gesture incorporates a mystery, one that is distorted, and certainly not explained, by saying that he “shot on the run” or “from the hip.” For the beauty of this gesture is that, caught by such speed, his subjects remain clear, fully recognized, as if the photographer had only glanced at what he wanted to show, but was able to seize it at the moment it unhesitantly revealed itself.”

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Tod Papageorge. “Walker Evans And Robert Frank: An Essay On Influence.”

 

 

Robert Frank. 'New York' City 1951

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
New York City
1951
Gelatin silver print Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

Robert Frank. 'Miami' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
Miami
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' 1950-1951

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
New York City
1950-1951
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Hollywood' 1958

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland, 1924)
Hollywood
1958
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

 

“Frank’s photos highlight everything from prosperity to poverty, multitudes to desolation, new life to finality of death, and happiness to sorrow which all occur during our lifetimes making his photos easy for the viewers to understand and relate…

Furthermore, Frank was able to emphasize some of the issues of his era, especially segregation, patriotism, and generational gaps. For example, the New Orleans photo on the cover shows a trolley car obviously segregated with white riders in the front and black riders in the back. However, Frank also shows blacks and whites working side by side in an assembly line photo taken in Detroit as well as a black nurse holding a white baby in Charleston, South Carolina with undertones of hope for equality further highlighted by the photo taken in Detroit bar of Presidents Lincoln and Washington bookending an American flag…

American patriotism seems to be a universal theme throughout Frank’s photos as well. Many of the photos in the book contain an American flag which shows the high level of patriotism felt by Americans in the era after defeating Germany and Japan in the Second World War and at the beginning of the Cold War with the rising Soviet Union as a communist superpower. Flags are hung on an apartment building during a parade in Hoboken, on the wall in a Navy Recruiting Station in Butte, Montana, hanging outdoors during a Fourth of July celebration in Jay, New York, on the wall in the Detroit bar, hanging from the building in a political rally in Chicago, and there are star lights in the background of a club car headed to Washington DC.

The most important theme within Frank’s photos is that of “Americans.” Frank photographed people from different cultures, including blacks, Hispanics, Jews, and whites; celebrating different religious and civil ceremonies from funerals to weddings. He included biker groups, prostitutes, celebrities, high-class socialites, rural farmlands, cowboys, soldiers, teenagers, politicians, families, senior citizens, children, gamblers, and travelers among others within the photos. This variety of people from different backgrounds living and socializing in different settings is truly American in that it is a blend of all different types of people living together as one nation.”

Cindy Coffey 2013

 

Bill Brandt. 'Parlourmaid at the Window in Kensington' 1935

 

Bill Brandt
Parlourmaid at the Window, Kensington
1935 (printed later)
Silver gelatin print

 

 

“The first critics of The Americans condemned its content; recent critics have attacked it by attempting to describe Frank’s photographic style. Possibly reacting to the variations in cropping that appear in the later editions of the book, or, more probably, looking for the “snapshot aesthetic” under any available stone, they have assumed this style to be haphazard and contemptuously casual. One writer, for example, has said that Frank “produced pictures that look as if a kid had taken them while eating a Popsicle and then had them developed and printed at the corner drugstore.”

The things in Frank’s pictures which have bothered these critics – occasional blur, obvious grain, the use of available light, the cutting off of objects by the frame – are all, however, characteristic of picture journalism, and, arguably, of the entire history of hand-camera photography: Erich Salomon’s work, for example, done for the most part in the twenties, could be discussed in similar terms. The form of Frank’s work, then, is not radical in the true sense of the word: it does not strike to the root of the tradition it serves. The stylistic exaggerations which occur in his pictures serve only to retain that sense of resident wildness we recognize in great lyric poetry – they are present to call attention not to themselves, but to the emotional world of Frank’s subjects, and to his response to those subjects. When, in the statement he wrote shortly before The Americans was published, Frank said: “It is important to see what is invisible to others. Perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph,” he was expressing his belief that both his perceptions (it is significant that he does not mention an intervening camera in these sentences) and the photographs which result from them are essentially unmediated and true.

This desire of Frank’s to hold the shape of his feelings in what he made is an ambition found in all Romantic art, one that his style brilliantly encompasses and describes. There is a wonderful illusion of speed trapped in his photographs, a sense of rapidity usually created not by the movement of Frank’s subjects, but by the gesture that he made as he framed his pictures. To photographers who have followed Frank, this autographic gesture incorporates a mystery, one that is distorted, and certainly not explained, by saying that he “shot on the run” or “from the hip.” For the beauty of this gesture is that, caught by such speed, his subjects remain clear, fully recognized, as if the photographer had only glanced at what he wanted to show, but was able to seize it at the moment it unhesitantly revealed itself.

Despite the grace of this notational style (or perhaps because of it), Frank seems to have felt that movement within the frames of his photographs would only disturb their sense, and, with a few exceptions, ignored the use of dramatic gesture and motion in The Americans (a fact which again suggests his feeling about Cartier-Bresson’s work). In two of his pictures of convention delegates, and in one of a woman in a gambling casino, he shows emphatic hand gestures. In another photograph, he looks down onto a man striding forward under a neon arrow, and, in yet another, describes two girls skipping away from his camera. Otherwise, his subjects move, if at all, toward, and, in a single memorable case, by him – studies in physiognomy, rather than disclosures of a gathering beauty.

The characteristic gestures in his pictures are the slight, telling motions of the head and upper body: a glance, a stare , a hand brought to the face, an arched neck, pursed lips. They suggest that Frank, like Evans, believed significance in a photograph might be consonant with the repose of the things it described. His pictures, of course, are not acts of contemplation – they virtually catalogue the guises of anxiety – but they are stilled, and their meanings found not in broad rhythms of gesture and form, but in the constellations traced by the figures or objects they show, and the short, charged distances between them.

One of the unacknowledged achievements of The Americans is the series of group portraits – odd assemblages of heads, usually seen in profile, that gather in quick, serried cadences and push at the cutting edges of their frames. In the soft muted light that illuminates them, these heads are drawn with the sculptural brevity of those found on worn coins. But, even in this diminishment, as they cluster and fill the shallow space of Frank’s pictures, they assume the unfurling, cursive shapes of great Romantic art.

As this book shows, these photographs beautifully elaborate Evans’ hand-camera pictures, pictures which are not as judgmental as Frank’s, but also not as formally complex and moving. Although Frank’s most literal recastings of American Photographs occur when he is remembering Evans’ viewcamera pictures – for example, a gas station, a parked car, a statue = these extravagant translations of the older photographer’s bluntest work eloquently reveal one aspect of Frank’s extraordinary gifts as a photographer.”

Tod Papageorge. “Walker Evans And Robert Frank: An Essay On Influence.”

Download the complete essay (100kb pdf)

 

 

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
T: 650-723-4177

Opening hours:
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Thursday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

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31
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Robert Frank in America’ at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University Part 1

Exhibition dates: 10th September 2014 – 5th January 2015

Curator: Peter Galassi

 

 

The lunatic sublime of America

This is the first part of a bumper two-part posting.

Robert Frank (born November 9, 1924) is one of the most important photographic artists of the twentieth century. He was born in Switzerland but he emigrated to American in 1947. He soon gained a job as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. He honed his craft as a photographer in England where he took formal, classical images of British life during a trip to Europe and South America in 1947.

He became friends with Edward Steichen and Walker Evans, and it was Evans who supported him in his Guggenheim Fellowship application in 1955 which enabled him “to travel across the United States and photograph all strata of its society. Cities he visited included Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan; Savannah, Georgia; Miami Beach and St. Petersburg, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana;Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Reno, Nevada; Salt Lake City, Utah; Butte, Montana; and Chicago, Illinois. He took his family along with him for part of his series of road trips over the next two years, during which time he took 28,000 shots. 83 of these were selected by him for publication in The Americans.”1

In The Americans, Frank documents, “the tensions between the optimism of the 1950s and the realities of class and racial differences. The irony that Frank found in the gloss of American culture and wealth over this tension gave his photographs a clear contrast to those of most contemporary American photojournalists, as did his use of unusual focus, low lighting and cropping that deviated from accepted photographic techniques.2

Originally published as Les Américains in 1958 by Robert Delpire in Paris, and finally in 1959 in the United States by Grove Press, reaction in America was initially hostile. They American critics did not like Frank’s shoot from the hip style of photography, nor the mirror that was being held up to their society, especially by a Jewish foreigner. Over time The Americans came to be seen as a seminal work of American photography and social history. Like many artists, Frank only took photographs for a relatively short period of time, before moving on to become a filmmaker.

One cannot forget the era in which Frank took these photographs – that of McCarthyism and “the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from 1950 to 1956 and characterized by heightened political repression against communists, as well as a campaign spreading fear of their influence on American institutions and of espionage by Soviet agents.”3 Americans were suspicious of foreigners, especially ones with cameras, and this was still the era of racial segregation pre the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

With regard to the structure of the photographs, their origin is based in classicism. This was Frank’s training. It was his skill as an artist, his intuitive and prescient vision of America – how he saw America like no one else before him had – that enabled him to ramp up the intensity, shoot from weird angles, low lighting, cropping, depth of field, unusual focus – and focus on the iconography of America as never seen before: jukeboxes, American flags, cars, highways, death, racial segregation – that was so revolutionary. But he could not have done that without his formal training. You only have to look at the comparison between the photographs of Robert Frank and Walker Evans. Formal and elegant in Evans Church Organ and Pews (1936) and Downtown street, New Orleans (December 1935) with lines vertical and clean… and then Frank, with hardly a straight line or neat angle to be seen. But the one does inform the other, otherwise Frank’s photographs would just become snapshots, vernacular photographs with very little meaning. Which they are not.

This is one of the most powerful, lyrical, humanist photo essays of a country that has ever been taken. Critic Sean O’Hagan, writing in The Guardian in 2014, said The Americans “changed the nature of photography, what it could say and how it could say it. [ . . . ] it remains perhaps the most influential photography book of the 20th century.”4 As an artist, Frank became the great connector for he is the critical link in the chain that stretches from Lewis Hine through Walker Evans… and on to Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz.

As an artist you marvel at his intuition and inspiration, to look at the world as no one else had done before, to push the boundaries of medium and message. To photograph people, alone and in groups; politics; religion; race; automobiles and the road; and the media and thrust them into the white, bright, happy world of 1950s consumerist America saying: this is what this country is really like, this is my “impression” of you in all your fleeting madness, “America as an often bleak and lonely place.” You only have to look at the “eye” in U.S. 91, leaving Blackfoot, Idaho (1956, below) or look at the photograph of the grave by the side of the road to know that you are in Blue Velvet territory (David Lynch, director 1986, the title is taken from The Clovers’ 1955 song of the same name). I am not sure yet how one world pierces the other but believe me they surely do.

Marcus

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

 

 

“It was the vision that emanated from the book that lead not only me, but my whole generation of photographers out into the American landscape, in a sense, the lunatic sublime of America.”

.
Joel Meyerowitz

 

“Like a boxer trains for a fight, a photographer by walking the streets, and watching and taking pictures, and coming home and going out the next day, the same thing again, taking pictures. It doesn’t matter how many he takes, or if he takes any at all, it gets you prepared to know what you should take pictures of, or what is the right thing to do and when.”

.
Robert Frank

 

 

Walker Evans. 'Main St., Ossining, New York' 1932

 

Walker Evans
Main St., Ossining, New York
1932
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

 

“In 1955 and 1956, Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank (b. 1924) traveled throughout the United States on a Guggenheim Fellowship, photographing ordinary people in their everyday lives. His book The Americans – 83 photographs, mostly from those travels, published in 1959 – repudiated the bland good cheer of the magazines with an image of the country that was starkly at odds with the official optimism of postwar prosperity. The book became a landmark of photographic history; but Frank soon turned to filmmaking, and the rest of his early photographic career was largely forgotten. An important group of unknown or unfamiliar photographs in the Cantor Arts Center’s collection provides the core of the exhibition Robert Frank in America, which sheds new light on the making of The Americans and presents, for the first time, Frank’s American photographs from the 1950s as a coherent body of work.

“We are delighted that the Cantor’s collection has provided the basis for a fresh look at one of the great achievements of 20-century photography,” said Connie Wolf, John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center. “We are also deeply grateful to Robert Frank, who has generously contributed to the project.”

The exhibition Robert Frank in America, on view September 10, 2014 through January 5, 2015, features 130 photographs drawn primarily from the Cantor’s collection as well as from other public and private collections and from Frank himself. Peter Galassi, former chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is the exhibition’s guest curator and author of the accompanying publication.

 

The Exhibition’s Development from the Cantor’s Collection

In the summer of 2012, Wolf invited Galassi to offer his thoughts on one of the museum’s hidden treasures: more than 150 photographs by Robert Frank given to the Cantor in the mid-1980s by Stanford alumnus Bowen H. McCoy and his colleague Raymond B. Gary. This remarkable collection spans the full range of Frank’s photographic career before he turned to filmmaking in the early 1960s. It is especially rich in Frank’s American work of the 1950s, including scores of photographs that are unknown or unfamiliar even to scholars. Wolf and Galassi saw an opportunity to share this work with Stanford students, faculty, scholars at large and the general public.

Research began at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where more than two decades ago the artist established the archive of his photographic career prior to 1970. Studying more than 1,000 contact sheets enabled Galassi to determine the locations and dates of dozens of previously unidentified photographs in the Cantor collection. He then selected works for the exhibition so as to identify Frank’s major themes and artistic strategies. The compelling sequence of The Americans poetically weaves diverse images into a seamless whole, but Robert Frank in America groups related pictures to explore the pictorial strategies that Frank developed as he worked, and also to highlight important subjects – people, alone and in groups; politics; religion; race; automobiles and the road; and the media.

Frank repeatedly photographed isolated figures so that they seemed trapped by pictorial forces, for example. This powerful metaphor for Frank’s vision of lonely individuals imprisoned by social circumstances is announced in the first picture, The Americans, where the flag obliterates a spectator’s face (Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955). In Robert Frank in America, that photograph is juxtaposed with another that uses the identical pictorial scheme but a different subject; the interior of a bar (New York City, 1955).

“Although The Americans is famous – partly because it is famous – Robert Frank’s American work of the 1950s has never been considered as a whole,” said Galassi. “The full range of the work shows just how Frank turned the vocabulary of magazine photojournalism on its head and used it to speak in a personal, poetic voice.”

Inviting Galassi to organize the exhibition was part of the museum’s renewed commitment to collecting, studying and presenting photography, Wolf says. The Cantor has been adding to its already strong holdings, presenting innovative exhibitions of work by distinguished artists and providing a valuable opportunity for Stanford students and faculty to work directly with photographs. Leland Stanford’s commission more than a century ago for Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering work on animal locomotion serves as a foundation for the museum’s extensive collection today.

 

Exhibition catalogue

The major catalogue accompanying this exhibition is published by the Cantor Arts Center in association with international publisher Steidl, with whom Frank has worked closely on most of his books. All 130 photographs in the exhibition are reproduced as full-page tritone plates. Galassi’s extensive essay traces the evolution of Frank’s work from his arrival in the United States in 1947 until he abandoned his first photographic career in the early 1960s. The text provides a thorough outline of the photographic context in which Frank at first sought success as a magazine photojournalist as well as a detailed analysis of the methods and strategies that lie behind The Americans. The essay features 24 illustrations, including an unprecedented map of Frank’s 1955-56 Guggenheim travels, which locates the sites of nearly all of the photographs in The Americans and in Robert Frank in America. The 200-page book, with a foreword by Connie Wolf, is designed by Katy Homans, New York.

 

Robert Frank

Robert Frank was born in 1924 in Zürich, Switzerland. The conclusion of World War II ended his vulnerability (his father was a German-born Jew) and enabled him to escape what he regarded as a narrow, antiquated culture. Soon after reaching New York in March 1947, he was hired by Harper’s Bazaar, but his distaste for photographing fashion led him to quit after six months. Over the next five or six years, in Europe and the United States, Frank aimed to establish himself as a freelance photojournalist, with limited success. A Guggenheim Fellowship, awarded in March 1955 and renewed a year later, freed him to pursue his work independently, and he soon began to travel in hopes of making a book. Les Américains was published by Robert Delpire in Paris in 1958 and, as The Americans, by Grove Press in New York in 1959. The latter included an introduction by Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road.

Film and video have formed a central aspect of Frank’s work since 1959, when he collaborated with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Alfred Leslie on Pull My Daisy. In 1972, however, he resumed making photographs, often using Polaroid positive-negative materials and incorporating text and multiple images. That same year he published the first of several editions of The Lines of My Hand, a book that surveyed his career in all mediums and initiated reconsiderations of his early photographic career. The first full-scale retrospective of his photographs was organized at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1986. In 1990, a major gift by Frank established the Robert Frank Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, which has since presented two major exhibitions, each accompanied by an important book: Robert Frank: Moving Out (1994) and Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans” (2009).”

Press release from the Cantor Arts Center

 

Robert Frank. 'Beaufort, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Beaufort, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

 

Guggenheim proposal summary

“To photograph freely throughout the United States, using the miniature camera exclusively. The making of a broad, voluminous picture record of things American, past and present. This project is essentially the visual study of a civilization and will include caption notes; but it is only partly documentary in nature: one of its aims is more artistic than the word documentary implies.”

 

The full statement

“I am applying for a Fellowship with a very simple intention: I wish to continue, develop and widen the kind of work I already do, and have been doing for some ten years, and apply it to the American nation in general. I am submitting work that will be seen to be documentation - most broadly speaking. Work of this kind is, I believe, to be found carrying its own visual impact without much work explanation. The project I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it proceeds, and is essentially elastic. The material is there: the practice will be in the photographer’s hand, the vision in his mind. One says this with some embarrassment but one cannot do less than claim vision if one is to ask for consideration.

“The photographing of America” is a large order - read at all literally, the phrase would be an absurdity. What I have in mind, then, is observation and record of what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States that signifies the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere. Incidentally, it is fair to assume that when an observant American travels abroad his eye will see freshly; and that the reverse may be true when a European eye looks at the United States. I speak of the things that are there, anywhere and everywhere - easily found, not easily selected and interpreted. A small catalog comes to the mind’s eye: a town at night, a parking lot, a supermarket, a highway, the man who owns three cars and the man who owns none, the farmer and his children, a new house and a warped clapboard house, the dictation of taste, the dream of grandeur, advertising, neon lights, the faces of the leaders and the faces of the followers, gas tanks and postoffices and backyards.

The uses of my project would be sociological, historical and aesthetic. My total production will be voluminous, as is usually the case when the photographer works with miniature film. I intend to classify and annotate my work on the spot, as I proceed. Ultimately the file I shall make should be deposited in a collection such as the one in the Library of Congress. A more immediate use I have in mind is both book and magazine publication.”

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'En route from New York to Washington, Club Car' 1954

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
En route from New York to Washington, Club Car
1954
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Florida' 1958

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Florida
1958
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

 

“I am grateful to the Guggenheim Foundation for their confidence and the provisions they made for me to work freely in my medium over a protracted period. When I applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship, I wrote: “To produce an authentic contemporary document, the visual impact should be such as will nullify explanation.”

With these photographs, I have attempted to show a cross-section of the American population. My effort was to express it simply and without confusion. The view is personal and, therefore, various facets of American life and society have been ignored. The photographs were taken during 1955 and 1956; for the most part in large cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and in many other places during my Journey across the country. My book, containing these photographs, will be published in Paris by Robert Delpire, 1958.

I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others – perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph.

My photographs are not planned or composed in advance and I do not anticipate that the on-looker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind – something has been accomplished.

It is a different state of affairs for me to be working on assignment for a magazine. It suggests to me the feeling of a hack writer or a commercial illustrator. Since I sense that my ideas, my mind and my eye are not creating the picture but that the editors’ minds and eyes will finally determine which of my pictures will be reproduced to suit the magazines’ purposes.

I have a genuine distrust and “mefiance” toward all group activities. Mass production of uninspired photojournalism and photography without thought becomes anonymous merchandise. The air becomes infected with the “smell” of photography. If the photographer wants to be an artist, his thoughts cannot be developed overnight at the corner drugstore.

I am not a pessimist, but looking at a contemporary picture magazine makes it difficult for me to speak about the advancement of photography, since photography today is accepted without question, and is also presumed to be understood by all – even children. I feel that only the integrity of the individual photographer can raise its level.

The work of two contemporary photographers, Bill Brandt of England and the American, Walker Evans, have influenced me. When I first looked at Walker Evans’ photographs, I thought of something Malraux wrote: “To transform destiny into awareness.” One is embarrassed to want so much for oneself. But, how else are you going to justify your failure and your effort?”

Robert Frank, U.S. Camera Annual, p. 115, 1958

 

Robert Frank. 'Lusk, Wyoming' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Lusk, Wyoming
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Main Street - Savannah, Georgia' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Main Street – Savannah, Georgia
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Walker Evans. 'Downtown street, New Orleans' December 1935

 

Walker Evans
Downtown street, New Orleans
December 1935
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' 1949

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
New York City
1949
Gelatin silver print
Lent by Peter Steil

 

 

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' early 1950s

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
New York City
early 1950s
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

 

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
T: 650-723-4177

Opening hours:
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Thursday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

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16
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘Roman Vishniac Rediscovered’ at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 4th April – 24th August 2014

 

ICP_Vishniac_pressimage_1-DETAIL

 

Roman Vishniac
Recalcitrance, Berlin (detail)
1926
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

It takes guts and moral fortitude to continue photographing the city that you live in even as the state that controls that city and country conspires against you. It takes talent to produce memorable images of urban poverty, to record for posterity communities that would soon vanish forever under the weight of a malignant form of madness, of genocide.

Vishniac was the only one not concerned with ego. He went out there and got the job done where no one else did. He produced thoroughly modern images of an ancient culture on the verge of destruction. He knew the danger and yet he still took the photos. Courage and fortitude, and in the end the luck to escape the Holocaust himself.

You can’t look at these images without a sense of regret and sadness – at the stupidity of humanity, of the egos of men, and the waste of millions of lives. One name says it all: Ernst Kaufmann. Standing on a pile of rocks, wearing wooden clogs, this man with the wavy hair looks down into the camera and he will ever be thus – young, handsome, alive in the moment that the photograph was taken.

Ernst Kaufmann was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1911. He was arrested in June 1941 and killed in August of that year in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Jewish Historical Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Lots more images can be found on the excellent Roman Vishniac Archive website.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]' late 1920s - early 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac
[Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin]
late 1920s – early 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered brings together four decades of work by an extraordinarily versatile and innovative photographer for the first time. Vishniac (1897-1990) created the most widely recognised and reproduced photographic record of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars. These celebrated photographs were taken on assignment for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the world’s largest Jewish relief organisation, from 1935-38, yet this exhibition follows the photographer’s long and accomplished career from the early 1920s through the 1950s. Roman Vishniac Rediscovered introduces a radically diverse body of work – much of it only recently discovered – and repositions Vishniac’s iconic photographs of Eastern European Jewry within a broader tradition of 1930s social documentary photography.

More than any other photographer, Roman Vishniac’s images have profoundly influenced contemporary notions of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Vishniac created the most widely recognized and reproduced photographic record of that world on the eve of its annihilation, yet only a small fraction of his work was published or printed during his lifetime. Known primarily for this poignant record, Vishniac was in fact a remarkably versatile and innovative photographer. His body of work spans more than five decades, ranging from early engagements with European modernism in the 1920s to highly inventive colour photomicroscopy in the 1950s and ’60s.

Born in 1897 to an affluent Russian-Jewish family, Vishniac was raised in Moscow, where he studied zoology and biology. He immigrated to Berlin in 1920 in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution. As an amateur photographer he took to the streets, offering witty and wry visual commentary on his adopted city while experimenting with new approaches to framing and composition. As Vishniac documented the Nazi rise to power, foreboding signs of oppression soon became a focal point of his work. In 1935, he was commissioned by the European headquarters of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) – the world’s largest Jewish relief organisation – to photograph impoverished Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. Vishniac’s four years of work on the project yielded the celebrated images that have largely defined his photographic legacy.

Arriving in New York on New Year’s Day 1941, Vishniac opened a portrait studio, working to make ends meet by documenting American Jewish communal and immigrant life, while establishing himself as a pioneer in the field of photomicroscopy. In 1947, he returned to Europe and documented Jewish Displaced Persons’ Camps, the efforts of Holocaust survivors to rebuild their lives, emigration and relief efforts, and the ruins of Berlin.

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered is a comprehensive reappraisal of Vishniac’s total photographic output, from his early years in Berlin through the postwar period in America. The exhibition is drawn from the Roman Vishniac archive at ICP and serves as an introduction to this vast assemblage comprising more than 30,000 objects, including recently discovered vintage prints, rare moving film footage, contact sheets, personal correspondence, and exhibition prints made from his recently digitized negatives.

 

Berlin Street Photography, 1920s-30s

Vishniac immigrated to Berlin in 1920, shortly after the formation of the Weimar Republic. He and his wife Luta settled in the Wilmersdorf district, home to a large community of affluent Russian-Jewish expatriates. Berlin in the 1920s was the epitome of a modern city: cosmopolitan, loud, vibrant, diverse, and full of recent immigrants. Already an accomplished amateur photographer, Vishniac joined several of the city’s ubiquitous camera clubs. Armed with his Rolleiflex and Leica, he took to the streets, creating astute, often humorous observations of his adopted city.

Vishniac’s interest in photography had begun during his childhood in Russia; many Russian Jews owned photography shops and studios, and Vishniac’s family encouraged his pursuits. In Berlin, his perspective as an outsider contributed to his inventive and dynamic images of life in the city, and marked his transformation from amateur hobbyist to accomplished street photographer. His best, most intimate photographs were often taken in his own neighbourhood, where he built a fully equipped photo-processing lab in his apartment.

Vishniac took full advantage of the city’s manifold resources, improving his technique and experimenting with modernist and avant-garde approaches to framing and composition – hallmarks of Weimar Berlin. This prodigious body of early work became increasingly influenced by European modernism as he captured the buzzing day-to-day life of the city: streetcar drivers, municipal workers and day laborers, marching students and children at play, bucolic park scenes and the intellectual café life of the bustling metropolis that was, in Vishniac’s words, “the world’s center of music, books, and science.”

 

Roman Vishniac. 'People behind bars, Berlin Zoo' Early 1930s (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
People behind bars, Berlin Zoo
Early 1930s (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

The oldest and most renowned zoo in Germany, the Zoologische Garten was a popular gathering place for Berlin’s middle- and upper-class Jewish community before World War II. Many affluent Jewish families, including the Vishniacs, were shareholders. Beginning in 1933, the zoo began to force out Jewish board members. In 1938, a sign reading “Juden unerwünscht” (Jews Unwanted) was displayed at the entrance to the zoo and in early 1939 Jews were denied entry entirely. In Vishniac’s photograph of the zoo’s famous polar bears, it appears that the visitors, and not the animals, are in a cage.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boys admiring a motorcycle, Brandenburg, outskirts of Berlin]' 1929 - early 1930s (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boys admiring a motorcycle, Brandenburg, outskirts of Berlin]
1929 – early 1930s (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Nazi Rise to Power in Germany, 1933-38

“I grew up in Berlin with a pervasive sense of danger and dread combined with a perceived obligation not to show fear. I was aware of personal danger and knew that whatever happened to me, my parents could offer no protection or help. That was everyday life.”

Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Vishniac’s development as a professional photographer coincided with the Nazi rise to power and the establishment of the Third Reich. Widespread antisemitism and the implementation of increasingly restrictive measures against Jews became daily realities. Vishniac documented the ominous changes he encountered, photographing campaign posters, swastika banners, phrenology shops, and marching Nazi soldiers. Following Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in 1933, the government relentlessly pursued those artists and intellectuals not in line with the Reich’s values. Berlin’s cosmopolitan vivacity was soon drained of its intellectual and cultural capital. Once-vibrant neighbourhoods became ruled by fear; anyone considered an opponent of the Nazi government could be sent to Dachau, a concentration camp established in 1933 outside Munich.

Many photographers suffered from the Nazi policies; the Schriftgesetz (Editorial Act) of November 1933 forced anyone working in publishing – photographers included – to provide proof of Aryan heritage. In 1934, the Deutsche Presse (German Press) published a list of authorised Aryan photographers whose work aligned with the Nazi party. Jews were forbidden to take photographs on the street. In spite of these restrictions, Vishniac tenaciously documented Berlin’s rapid acclimation to Nazi policy. To avoid suspicion, he often used his young daughter Mara as a prop, snapping seemingly innocuous pictures of her in front of advertising columns and shop windows festooned with Nazi propaganda.

These symbols of oppression formed the quotidian backdrop of Vishniac’s Germany, a fact to which the ubiquity of Nazi flags, banners, and posters in his later Berlin photographs testify. Capturing the spread of Nazi ideology on Berlin’s streets, Vishniac’s images embodied his own marginalisation – and endangerment – as both a photographer and a Jew.

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Recalcitrance, Berlin' 1926

 

Roman Vishniac
Recalcitrance, Berlin
1926
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Vishniac's daughter Mara posing in front of an election poster for Hindenburg and Hitler that reads "The Marshal and the Corporal: Fight with Us for Peace and Equal Rights," Wilmersdorf, Berlin]' 1933

 

Roman Vishniac
[Vishniac’s daughter Mara posing in front of an election poster for Hindenburg and Hitler that reads “The Marshal and the Corporal: Fight with Us for Peace and Equal Rights,” Wilmersdorf, Berlin]
1933
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Street scene with a swastika flag on a storefront (at left), Berlin]' c. 1935-36 (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
[Street scene with a swastika flag on a storefront (at left), Berlin]
c. 1935-36 (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Vishniac often positioned himself in doorways or building foyers in his Berlin street photography, documenting daily life as a removed observer. This image reveals multiple layers of time in one shot: the car positioned alongside the horse-drawn wagon, bicyclists speeding by as pedestrians young and old navigate the cobblestones and pavement, against the backdrop of a rapidly modernising metropolis. Only upon closer examination do our eyes move to a swastika flag blowing in the wind above the horses, a common site on most Berlin streets by 1935.

 

 

German-Jewish Relief and Community Organizations, Berlin, mid- to late 1930s

Prior to Hitler’s assumption of power in 1933, Jewish social service organisations in Germany primarily served Eastern European Jews, the majority of whom were less cosmopolitan, assimilated, and affluent than their German-born coreligionists. The Nazi regime recognised no such distinction, however, and their rise to power drastically affected almost every Jew living in Germany. As Germany’s Jewish population was gradually excluded from both social and economic life, many came to depend upon a Jewish social structure that was originally intended to look outward but quickly expanded to serve the growing needs of the community.

In 1933, German-Jewish groups unified into the Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden (Central Organization of German Jews), an umbrella organisation intended to ameliorate the effects of Nazi racial policy. Between 1933 and 1938, subsidiary and affiliate organisations created Jewish education and healthcare systems and instituted a welfare system for Jews facing impoverishment. Zionist and other youth organisations flourished under the exclusionary policies of the Nazis, helping would-be émigrés learn the agricultural and vocational skills needed to build new lives in Palestine and elsewhere. The Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Association) was established in response to restrictions placed on Jewish artists. Vishniac and his family were among its 70,000 members and regularly attended lectures and performances. Vishniac was also a member of T’munah, a Jewish photographic group founded in 1934 in response to the exclusionary policies of “Aryan” camera clubs.

As restrictions on photographers increased, Vishniac was commissioned to document the work of several Jewish community and social service organisations in Berlin. This fascinating body of work is largely unknown, but it helped establish his reputation in Jewish philanthropic circles, leading to major commissions from a wide range of Jewish relief and community organisations from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Drawer of freshly farmed eggs, Gut Winkel, a training farm for German-Jewish youth hoping to emigrate to Palestine, Spreenhagen in der Mark, Brandenburg, Germany]' c. 1938

 

Roman Vishniac
[Drawer of freshly farmed eggs, Gut Winkel, a training farm for German-Jewish youth hoping to emigrate to Palestine, Spreenhagen in der Mark, Brandenburg, Germany]
c. 1938
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Preparing food in a Jewish soup kitchen, Berlin]' mid- to late 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac
[Preparing food in a Jewish soup kitchen, Berlin]
mid- to late 1930s
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Jewish Life in Eastern Europe, c. 1935-38

In 1935, Roman Vishniac was hired by the European headquarters of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) to document impoverished Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. Photographic images offered limitless, affordable reproducibility, and could be used in slide lectures, brochures, appeals, and annual reports throughout America and Western Europe. Vishniac’s images played a crucial role in communicating the AJDC’s message, and they would ultimately become the last extensive photographic record by a single photographer of Jewish communities that had existed for centuries.

The majority of Vishniac’s published photographs of Eastern Europe depict privation. Many others illustrate the philanthropic activities of the AJDC such as children’s camps, free loan societies, soup kitchens, schools, and health organizations. And while Vishniac is often associated with images of rural villages and small towns, or shtetlach, most of his photographs record urban poverty in major cities like Warsaw, Krakow, and Lodz. His work for the AJDC echoes the contemporaneous projects of American photographers like Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Arthur Rothstein, and Walker Evans. In the same years that the Farm Security Administration sent photographers to the American South and West to document those affected by drought, depression, and migration, Vishniac was sent east by the AJDC. Today, his work stands alongside the best social-documentary photographers of his era. His unpublished work imparts a much more complex and nuanced perspective on Eastern European Jewish life, and reveals a much more versatile – and modern – artist.

That Vishniac was commissioned to document the most impoverished Jews is significant, as is the fact that he often chose the most traditional and observant Jews as subjects, to amplify the contrast between Ostjuden, or Eastern Jews, and the more assimilated Western Jews who would be viewing the images. It was only after the Holocaust, when the communities he had so poignantly depicted were annihilated, that his body of work came to symbolise the vanished world of Eastern Jewry.

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Villagers in the Carpathian Mountains' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
Villagers in the Carpathian Mountains
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Jewish schoolchildren, Mukacevo]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Inside the Jewish quarter, Bratislava]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Inside the Jewish quarter, Bratislava]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Eastern Europe]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Eastern Europe]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Eastern Europe]' (detail) c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Eastern Europe] (detail)
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[David Eckstein, seven years old, and classmates in cheder (Jewish elementary school), Brod]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac
[David Eckstein, seven years old, and classmates in cheder (Jewish elementary school), Brod]
c. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Sara, sitting in bed in a basement dwelling, with stenciled flowers above her head, Warsaw]' c. 1935-37

 

Roman Vishniac
[Sara, sitting in bed in a basement dwelling, with stenciled flowers above her head, Warsaw]
c. 1935-37
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Werkdorp Nieuwesluis Agrarian Training Camp, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands, 1939

As the plight of German Jews became increasingly dire throughout the 1930s and many Jewish families attempted to send their children to safety in neutral countries, many young German Jews, including Vishniac’s children Wolf and Mara, joined a large number of Zionist organisations. With the British government maintaining strict immigration quotas, hundreds of young German Jews planning to go to Palestine and waiting to obtain visas were sent to the Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, a Zionist agrarian youth training complex, or hachschara, in the Netherlands. Established in 1934 by the Foundation for Jewish Labor on land donated by the Dutch government, the Werkdorp taught young, urban Jews farming, animal husbandry, construction, and other unfamiliar skills they would need as pioneers in Palestine.

In 1939, Vishniac was sent by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) to document the Werkdorp’s activities. Vishniac photographed the capable young men and women as idealized, heroic Zionist pioneers, lifting heavy stones, constructing scaffolding, and tugging on rope. The images bear a striking resemblance to heavily circulated halutz (Zionist pioneer) photography made in Palestine in the 1930s, and demonstrate Vishniac’s versatility: here is an ambitious, accomplished series in a style that is radically different from his earlier work, and perfectly suited to his athletic, industrious subjects. Shot from a low vantage point, the Werkdorp images juxtapose clear skies and strong silhouettes to form vigorous, balanced compositions. Young, healthy bodies play off the clean, rhythmic geometry of the construction sites in a manner that is also reminiscent of the Russian Constructivist photographer Rodchenko, whose work would certainly have been familiar to Vishniac.

In March 1941, Nazi SS officers ordered the evacuation of the camp, and most of its inhabitants were sent to transit camps, including Westerbork. Out of 315 Werkdorp residents in May 1940, 175 were killed in concentration camps in the east.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Zionist youth building a school and foundry while learning construction techniques, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Ernst Kaufmann, center, and unidentified Zionist youth, wearing clogs while learning construction techniques in a quarry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Ernst Kaufmann, center, and unidentified Zionist youth, wearing clogs while learning construction techniques in a quarry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Vishniac’s Werkdorp images did not include any caption information on the few existing prints of the work, and were thus difficult to identify. A small, 2¼-inch-square contact print of three young men wearing wooden clogs provided a vital clue that facilitated the attribution of this larger body of Werkdorp material, with the assistance of curators at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. This is the only known example of a professional photographer documenting this Dutch Zionist agrarian training camp.

Ernst Kaufmann was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1911. He was arrested in June 1941 and killed in August of that year in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Willy Lefkowitz and Martin Grünpeter constructing a foundry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]' 1939 (printed 2012)

 

Roman Vishniac
[Willy Lefkowitz and Martin Grünpeter constructing a foundry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands]
1939 (printed 2012)
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Willy Lefkowitz, left, was forcibly removed from the Werkdorp when it was closed by the Nazis in 1941. Lefkowitz, along with the majority of the Werkdorp’s remaining inhabitants, was sent to the Westerbork Transit Camp in northeastern Netherlands, a site where Dutch Jews and Roma were assembled during World War II prior to their deportation to Nazi extermination camps in the east. Of the 107,000 people who passed through Westerbork – among them Anne Frank and her family – only 5,200 survived, including Lefkowitz, who immigrated to the United States. He is believed to have died in Brooklyn in 2001. Martin Grünpeter, right, a German Jew born in 1914, survived World War II and immigrated to Palestine.

 

 

Travel, Refuge, and Internment in France: Paris, Nice, and Marseille, c. 1939

From April to September 1939, Vishniac worked as a freelance photographer based in France while his family struggled to secure exit visas to the U.S. (his children had been sent to safety in Sweden). In the interwar years, France had welcomed Jews from across Europe. By 1939, as Jews fleeing Nazi rule brought the Jewish population in France to over 300,000, an increasingly conservative and nationalist government sought to limit immigration. Detention camps for Jews were established in southern France.

During this time, Vishniac was commissioned by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) and the Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor (ORT) to photograph and film an ORT vocational training school for Jewish refugees near Marseille. Vishniac’s parents had relocated to Nice in 1937, and while visiting them, he took playful, spontaneous photographs of Riviera beach life, a stark contrast to the intense and machine-focused ORT images that were to be his final photographic assignment for the AJDC until his return to Europe in 1947.

In late 1939, after entrusting a large selection of his negatives to his friend Walter Bierer in Paris, Vishniac was arrested and imprisoned at the Camp du Ruchard internment camp. Held for three months, he wrote desperate letters to family, friends, and the staff of the AJDC, describing the dismal conditions and pleading for assistance. Following his release, secured through the efforts of his wife, Vishniac waited in France while his family worked to obtain exit visas, with assistance from the AJDC. Vishniac reunited with Luta, Wolf, and Mara in Lisbon, and the family sailed for America on the S.S. Siboney in December 1940, arriving in America on New Year’s Day 1941.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Beachgoers in the afternoon, Nice, France]' c. 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Beachgoers in the afternoon, Nice, France]
c. 1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Students learning metalwork techniques, Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor (ORT), Marseille]' 1939

 

Roman Vishniac
[Students learning metalwork techniques, Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor (ORT), Marseille]
1939
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

YIVO Exhibitions in New York, January 1944 and January 1945

In 1944 and 1945, as World War II raged in Europe, Vishniac staged two large exhibitions at YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, presenting his commissioned work from Eastern Europe to an American audience.

Founded in 1925 as the Yiddish Scientific Institute in Wilno, Poland, YIVO was created to preserve, research, and promote Eastern European Jewish culture and history during a period of rapid modernisation and immigration. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the organisation was reestablished in New York in 1940 as the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, at 55 West 123rd Street, while a group of brave and dedicated archivists in Wilno worked to rescue precious material in defiance of Nazi orders.

Vishniac’s first exhibition at YIVO, Pictures of Jewish Life in Prewar Poland, opened in January 1944 and focused on urban Jewish life, with a large selection of images from Lublin, Warsaw, and Wilno. The second exhibition, Jewish Life in the Carpathians, opened in January 1945, and featured photographs of Jewish farming communities in the Carpathian Mountains, and yeshivas and religious life in Galicia.

The largely Yiddish-speaking audience in New York viewed images of their communities of origin just as those communities were being destroyed, a fate the viewers were virtually powerless to stop. As word of the destruction of Eastern European Jews spread across the Atlantic, Vishniac’s photographs – originally intended to call attention to the privation of living Eastern European Jews – began to be seen as “documents of a lost epoch,” as phrased in the exhibition text at YIVO. These exhibitions signalled the first major shift in the contextualisation of Vishniac’s work: from documentary assignments to bolster relief efforts in the late 1930s to images capturing a world on the brink of annihilation.

The YIVO exhibition boards, labeled in both English and Yiddish utilising an innovative, Bauhaus-inspired typography that originated in interwar Wilno, are now in the collection of ICP and are being displayed as a group for the first time since the original exhibitions.

Today, YIVO continues to advance the study of Eastern European Jewish cultural heritage, and houses an archive of more than 24 million artefacts.

 

“The Face of America at War”: New York, 1941-44

The recent discovery of Vishniac’s unsuccessful 1944 application for a Guggenheim Fellowship sheds new light on a group of more than 200 negatives from the early 1940s that had previously appeared to be unrelated. Printed and exhibited here for the first time, these images show the impact of war rationing on shoppers at the Washington Market, the war relief efforts of New York’s Chinese-American community, women’s entrance into the industrial workforce and the military, the carousing of off-duty soldiers in Central Park, and the impact of war on the lives of New Yorkers. Vishniac’s Guggenheim proposal described a “photographic series portraying the face of America at war,” and this diverse yet cohesive group of images was likely submitted as a sample portfolio with his application, the beginnings of a project never completed for want of funding. His extraordinary, extensive series on Chinatown, reminiscent of his photographs of urban Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, depicts a neighbourhood that is both separated from and integrated into the fabric of the larger city, reflective of Vishniac’s own efforts to navigate yet another new, adopted home as an outsider. The images capture the “objectivity” of “un-posed” journalistic photography, in the words of one recommender, and have a great deal in common with fellow Jewish émigré Robert Frank’s Guggenheim-funded project, The Americans, made a decade later.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Sisters Marion, Renate, and Karen Gumprecht, refugees assisted by the National Refugee Service (NRS) and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), shortly after their arrival in the United States, Central Park, New York]' 1941

 

Roman Vishniac
[Sisters Marion, Renate, and Karen Gumprecht, refugees assisted by the National Refugee Service (NRS) and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), shortly after their arrival in the United States, Central Park, New York]
1941
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Customers waiting in line at a butcher's counter during wartime rationing, Washington Market, New York]' 1941-44

 

Roman Vishniac
[Customers waiting in line at a butcher’s counter during wartime rationing, Washington Market, New York]
1941-44
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boys exercising in the gymnasium of the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn]' 1949

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boys exercising in the gymnasium of the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn]
1949
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Berlin in Ruins, 1947

In 1947, Vishniac returned to Europe as an American citizen, hired by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) and United Jewish Appeal (UJA) to document relief efforts in Jewish Displaced Persons’ Camps. While on assignment, Vishniac visited Berlin, where he created a bleak and poignant record of the destroyed city that had been his home for twenty years. Focusing on West Berlin, he took intimate photographs of his former Wilmersdorf neighbourhood, now reduced to ruins. The same locations that had thrummed with life in his street photography from the Weimar era are suffused with a haunting silence in his 1947 photographs. One photograph reveals the crumbling and mangled platform that had once been Vishniac’s living room. Other images capture the tentative steps of a city emerging from devastation: children walking hand-in-hand and playing amidst the ruins, flowers growing through the rubble, and hairdressers once more advertising their services. Together, these pictures, which have not been previously printed or exhibited, constitute a unique and highly personal contribution to the documentation of postwar life in Berlin.

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Boy standing on a mountain of rubble, Berlin]' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
[Boy standing on a mountain of rubble, Berlin]
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. 'The streets are free of brown batallions!, Berlin' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
The streets are free of brown batallions!, Berlin
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

Refugees and Displaced Persons’ Camps, Germany and France, 1947

In the aftermath of World War II, the Allied nations had initially expected the repatriation of displaced refugees to take six months. Most Jewish refugees, however, no longer had communities or family to which they could return, presenting a unique challenge. Following the 1945 Harrison Report, the Allies considered Jewish survivors a distinct group, to be housed in exclusively Jewish camps and aided in eventual emigration. By mid-1947, 250,000 Jews lived in Displaced Persons’ Camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Officially administered by the United Nations, the primary aid, support, and administration for the DP Camps came from Jewish charitable organisations, most notably the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC). In France, Jewish organisations ran DP Camps privately, housing nearly 40,000 refugees. Despite difficult conditions and profound trauma, Jewish life soon flourished in the camps, as families reunited and formed anew.

Commissioned by the AJDC and the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), Vishniac traveled to various DP Camps in 1947, documenting a broad range of relief programs, including food distribution centres, visa application lines, occupational training, and health services. Other images record children’s camps, religious and cultural events, and refugee reunions. Wired back to America, Vishniac’s images helped publicise the plight of homeless and stateless Jewish refugees, raising funds and increasing the pressure on Britain and the U.S. to open their doors to survivors.

Spurred by these cultural and educational programs and the emerging Zionist youth movement, survivors soon rallied against British restrictions on immigration to Palestine. Following the Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, and the American Displaced Persons Act of 1948, most Jews left DP Camps for Israel or the United States. By 1952, almost all DP Camps had closed.

Maya Benton, Curator at the International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Holocaust survivors and American relief worker, probably Schlachtensee Displaced Persons' Camp, Zehlendorf, Berlin]' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
[Holocaust survivors and American relief worker, probably Schlachtensee Displaced Persons’ Camp, Zehlendorf, Berlin]
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

Roman Vishniac. '[Holocaust survivors gathering outside a building where matzoh is being made in preparation for the Passover holiday, Hénonville Displaced Persons' Camp, Picardy, France]' 1947

 

Roman Vishniac
[Holocaust survivors gathering outside a building where matzoh is being made in preparation for the Passover holiday, Hénonville Displaced Persons’ Camp, Picardy, France]
1947
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

 

 

 

 

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07
Nov
13

Exhibition: ‘Lee Friedlander – America by Car’ at Foam, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 13th September – 11th December 2013

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“I’m not trying to do something to you, I’m trying to do something with you.”

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American pianist and composer Keith Jarrett at a concert in Melbourne, 1970s

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LEE FRIEDLANDER IS ONE OF THE GREATEST PHOTOGRAPHERS THAT HAS EVER LIVED.

The vision of this man is incredible. His complex, classical photographs in such books as Letters from the People (1993), Flowers and Trees (1981), The American Monument (1976) and America by Car (2010) have redefined the (photographic) landscape. The artist is constantly reinventing himself, reinventing pictorial space – cutting, distorting, reflecting it back onto itself – to create layered images (after Eugène Atget and Walker Evans). These self-reflective spaces are as much about the artist and his nature as they are about the world in which he lives. They have become the basis of Friedlander’s visual language. Here is a love of the medium and of the world that is a reflection of Self.

I don’t see these cars (or photographs) as illusion factories. For me, this series of work is akin to a tri-view self-portrait. Instead of the artist painting the sitter (as in the triple portrait of Cardinal Richelieu, 1627 below), a vision, an energy of Self emanates outwards from behind the bulwark of the car steering wheel and dash. It is a Self and its relationship to the world split into multifaceted angles and views. He looks out the left window, the front window, the side window – and then he splits his views between side and front windows using the A pillar of the car as a dividing, framing tool. Sometimes he throws in the reflections of him/self with camera in the rear view mirror for good measure. There is wit, humour and irony in these photographs. There is cinematic panorama and moments of intimacy. There is greatness in these images.

Friedlander is not trying to do something to you, but something with you, for he is showing you something that you inherently know but may not be aware of. Like a Zen master, he asks you questions but also shows you the way. If you understand the path of life and the energy of the cosmos, you understand what a journey this is.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

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Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674) 'Triple portrait of Cardinal Richelieu' 1642

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Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
Triple portrait of Cardinal Richelieu
c. 1640
Oil on canvas
58 cm (22.8 in) x 72 cm (28.3 in)
The National Gallery, London
This reproduction is in the public domain

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Lee Friedlander. 'Bettina Katz, Cleveland, Ohio' 2009

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Lee Friedlander
Bettina Katz, Cleveland, Ohio
2009
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Houston, Texas' 2006

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Lee Friedlander
Houston, Texas
2006
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Denali National Park, Alaska' 2007

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Lee Friedlander
Denali National Park, Alaska
2007
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Nebraska' 1999

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Lee Friedlander
Nebraska
1999
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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“The automobile has come to symbolise the American dream and the associated urge for freedom. It is therefore no surprise that cars play a central role in the series America by Car and The New Cars 1964 by renowned American photographer Lee Friedlander (1934, US), now receiving their first showing in the Netherlands.

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Road Trip

America by Car documents Friedlander’s countless wanderings around the United States over the past decade. In this he follows a trail laid down by numerous photographers, film makers and writers like Robert Frank, Stephen Shore and Jack Kerouac. Friedlander nevertheless succeeds in giving the theme of the American road trip his own very original twist, using the cars’ windscreens and dashboards to frame the familiar American landscape, as well as exploiting the reflections found in their wing and rear view mirrors. It is a simple starting point which results in complex and layered images that are typical for Friedlander’s visual language. He also has a sharp eye for the ironic detail. He makes free use of text on billboards and symbols on store signs to add further meaning to his work. His images are so layered that new information continues to surface with every glance, making America by Car a unique evocation of contemporary America.

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Car portraits

The New Cars 1964 is a much older series. Friedlander had been commissioned by Harper’s Bazaar to photograph all the new models of automobile introduced in 1964. Rather than placing them centrally and showing them to best advantage, Friedlander decided to set the cars in the most banal of locations, in front of a furniture store or in a scrap yard for instance. Exploiting reflections, available light and unusual perspectives, his cars are almost completely absorbed into the street scene. Although they were rejected at the time by the magazine’s editorial board on the grounds that the images were not attractive enough, the pictures were put away in a drawer and since forgotten. Friedlander however recently rediscovered this series. The New Cars 1964 has since become a special historical and social document and has in its own right become part of Friedlander’s impressive oeuvre.

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Fifty-year career

Lee Friedlander was born in the US in 1934. In a career extending across 5 decades Friedlander has maintained an obsessive focus on the portrayal of the American social landscape. His breakthrough in the eyes of the wider public came with the New Documents exhibition at the MoMA in 1967, where his work was presented alongside that of Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand. Friedlander accumulated numerous awards during his career, including the MacArthur Foundation Award and three Guggenheim Fellowships. He also published more than twenty books. His work has been shown at many venues around the world, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the MoMA in New York, San Francisco’s SFMOMA, the MAMM in Moscow and the National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen.”

Press release from the FOAM website

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Lee Friedlander. 'Cleveland, Ohio' 2009

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Lee Friedlander
Cleveland, Ohio
2009
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Montana' 2008

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Lee Friedlander
Montana
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Montana' 2008

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Lee Friedlander
Montana
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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“Mr. Friedlander took his black-and-white, square-format photographs entirely from the interior of standard rental cars – late-model Toyotas and Chevys, by the looks of them – on various road trips over the past 15 years. In these pictures our vast, diverse country is buffered by molded plastic dashboards and miniaturized in side-view mirrors…

Mr. Friedlander groups images by subject, not geography: monuments, churches, houses, factories, ice cream shops, plastic Santas, roadside memorials.

So “America by Car,”… is more of an exercise in typology, along the lines of Ed Ruscha’s “Twentysix Gasoline Stations.” But there’s nothing deadpan or straightforward about the way Mr. Friedlander composes his pictures. He knows that cars are essentially illusion factories – to wit: “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”

Some of the illusions on view here exploit the technology of the camera Mr. Friedlander has been using since the 1990s, the square-format Hasselblad Superwide (so named for its extra-wide-angle lens). The Superwide produces crisp and detail-packed images that are slightly exaggerated in perspective, giving the foreground – the car – a heightened immediacy…

Some of the photographs are dizzyingly complex, like one taken in Pennsylvania in 2007. The camera looks out through the passenger-side window, at a man whose feet appear to be perched on the door frame. He is standing in front of a trompe l’oeil mural of a train, which seems to be heading right at the car. In the side-view mirror you can see a woman approaching. It’s a bizarre pileup of early cinematic trickery (as in the Lumière Brothers), amateur photography and surveillance technology.

Mr. Friedlander’s love of such layering can be traced to Walker Evans and Eugène Atget. He also shares, in this series, Evans’s wry eye for signs of all kinds: the matter-of-fact “Bar” advertising a Montana watering hole, or the slightly more cryptic “ME RY RISTMAS” outside a service station in Texas [see image below]. He strikes semiotic gold at Mop’s Reaching the Hurting Ministry in Mississippi: “LIVE IN RELATIONSHIP ARE LIKE RENTAL CARS NO COMMITMENT.”

Cars distance people from one another, this series reminds us over and over. When Mr. Friedlander photographs people he knows – the photographer Richard Benson, or the legendary MoMA curator John Szarkowski (to whom the book is dedicated) – he remains in his seat, shooting through an open window. In just a few instances the subjects poke their heads inside, a gesture that seems transgressive in its intimacy…

Did he ever get out of the vehicle? Just once in this series, for a self-portrait. It’s the last picture, and it shows him leaning into the driver’s-side window, elbow propped on the door, left hand reaching for the steering wheel.

Maybe he was thinking of the last image in “The Americans” – a shot of Mr. Frank’s used Ford taken from the roadside, showing his wife and son huddled in the back seat. In Mr. Frank’s photograph the car is a protective cocoon. Mr. Friedlander seems to see it that way too, but from the inside out.”

Excerpts of an excellent review of “America by Car” by Karen Rosenberg published on The New York Times website on September 2, 2010.

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Lee Friedlander. 'Alaska' 2007

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Lee Friedlander
Alaska
2007
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Montana' 2008

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Lee Friedlander
Montana
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'California' 2008

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Lee Friedlander
California
2008
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Lee Friedlander. 'Texas' 2006

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Lee Friedlander
Texas
2006
From the series America by Car, 1995-2009
Gelatin silver print
15 × 15 in. (38.1 × 38.1 cm)
Collection of the artist; courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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24
Oct
10

Exhibition: ‘The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today’ at The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 1st August – 1st November 2010

 

A huge posting of wonderful photographs – especially for my friend Fred who always takes photos of his sculptures!

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

 

 

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Rubber Dummies, Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, Hollywood
1939
Gelatin silver print
7 9/16 x 9 5/8″ (19.3 x 24.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Edward Steichen
© 1981 Collection Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

David Goldblatt (South African, born 1930)
Monument to Karel Landman, Voortrekker Leader, De Kol, Eastern Cape
April 10, 1993
Gelatin silver print
10 15/16 x 13 11/16″ (27.9 x 34.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© 2010 David Goldblatt. Courtesy David Goldblatt and the Goodman Gallery

 

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Saint-Cloud
1923
Albumen silver print
6 7/8 x 8 3/8″ (17.5 x 21.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Anonymous gift

 

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
Midnight – Rodin’s Balzac
1908
Pigment print
12 1/8 x 14 5/8″ (30.8 x 37.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
Permission of Joanna T. Steichen

 

 

Bruce Nauman (American, born 1941)
Waxing Hot from the portfolio Eleven Color Photographs
1966–67/1970/2007
Inkjet print (originally chromogenic color print)
19 15/16 x 19 15/16″ (50.6 x 50.6 cm)
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Gerald S. Elliott Collection
© 2010 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Proesch. British, born Italy 1943. George Passmore. British, born 1942)
Great Expectations
1972
Dye transfer print
11 9/16 x 11 1/2″ (29.4 x 29.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Art & Project/Depot VBVR
© 2010 Gilbert & George

 

 

Hans Bellmer (German, 1902-1975)
The Doll
1935-37
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 9 5/16″ (24.1 x 23.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Samuel J. Wagstaff, Jr. Fund
© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

“The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today presents a critical examination of the intersections between photography and sculpture, exploring how one medium informs the analysis and creative redefinition of the other. On view at The Museum of Modern Art from August 1 through November 1, 2010, the exhibition brings together over 300 photographs, magazines, and journals, by more than 100 artists, from the dawn of modernism to the present, to look at the ways in which photography at once informs and challenges the meaning of what sculpture is. The Original Copy is organized by Roxana Marcoci, Curator, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art. Following the exhibition’s presentation at MoMA, it will travel to Kunsthaus Zürich, where it will be on view from February 25 through May 15, 2011.

When photography was introduced in 1839, aesthetic experience was firmly rooted in Romanticist tenets of originality. In a radical way, photography brought into focus the critical role that the copy plays in art and in its perception. While the reproducibility of the photograph challenged the aura attributed to the original, it also reflected a very personal form of study and offered a model of dissemination that would transform the entire nature of art.

“In his 1947 book Le Musée Imaginaire, the novelist and politician André Malraux famously advocated for a pancultural ‘museum without walls,’ postulating that art history, and the history of sculpture in particular, had become ‘the history of that which can be photographed,'” said Ms. Marcoci.

Sculpture was among the first subjects to be treated in photography. There were many reasons for this, including the desire to document, collect, publicize, and circulate objects that were not always portable. Through crop, focus, angle of view, degree of close-up, and lighting, as well as through ex post facto techniques of dark room manipulation, collage, montage, and assemblage, photographers have not only interpreted sculpture but have created stunning reinventions of it.

Conceived around ten conceptual modules, the exhibition examines the rich historical legacy of photography and the aesthetic shifts that have taken place in the medium over the last 170 years through a superb selection of pictures by key modern, avant-garde, and contemporary artists. Some, like Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, and David Goldblatt, are best known as photographers; others, such as Auguste Rodin, Constantin Brancusi, and David Smith, are best known as sculptors; and others, from Hannah Höch and Sophie Taeuber-Arp to such contemporaries as Bruce Nauman, Fischli/Weiss, Rachel Harrison, and Cyprien Gaillard, are too various to categorize but exemplify how fruitfully and unpredictably photography and sculpture have combined.

The Original Copy begins with Sculpture in the Age of Photography, a section comprising early photographs of sculptures in French cathedrals by Charles Nègre and in the British Museum by Roger Fenton and Stephen Thompson; a selection of André Kertész’s photographs from the 1920s showing art amid common objects in the studios of artist friends; and pictures by Barbara Kruger and Louise Lawler that foreground issues of representation to underscore photography’s engagement in the analysis of virtually every aspect of art. Eugène Atget: The Marvelous in the Everyday presents an impressive selection of Atget’s photographs, dating from the early 1900s to the mid 1920s, of classical statues, reliefs, fountains, and other decorative fragments in Paris, Versailles, Saint-Cloud, and Sceaux, which together amount to a visual compendium of the heritage of French civilization at the time.

 

Auguste Rodin: The Sculptor and the Photographic Enterprise includes some of the most memorable pictures of Rodin’s sculptures by various photographers, including Edward Steichen’s Rodin – The Thinker (1902), a work made by combining two negatives: one depicting Rodin in silhouetted profile, contemplating The Thinker (1880–82), his alter ego; and one of the artist’s luminous Monument to Victor Hugo (1901). Constantin Brancusi: The Studio as Groupe Mobile focuses on Brancusi’s uniquely nontraditional techniques in photographing his studio, which was articulated around hybrid, transitory configurations known as groupe mobiles (mobile groups), each comprising several pieces of sculpture, bases, and pedestals grouped in proximity. In search of transparency, kineticism, and infinity, Brancusi used photography to dematerialize the static, monolithic materiality of traditional sculpture. His so-called photos radieuses (radiant photos) are characterized by flashes of light that explode the sculptural gestalt.

 

Marcel Duchamp: The Readymade as Reproduction examines Box in a Valise (1935–41), a catalogue of his oeuvre featuring 69 reproductions, including minute replicas of several readymades and one original work that Duchamp “copyrighted” in the name of his female alter ego, Rrose Sélavy. Using collotype printing and pochoir – in which color is applied by hand with the use of stencils – Duchamp produced “authorized ‘original’ copies” of his work, blurring the boundaries between unique object, readymade, and multiple. Cultural and Political Icons includes selections focusing on some of the most significant photographic essays of the twentieth century – Walker Evans’s American Photographs (1938), Robert Franks’s The Americans (1958), Lee Friedlander’s The American Monument (1976), and David Goldblatt’s The Structure of Things Then (1998) – many of which have never before been shown in a thematic context as they are here.

 

The Studio without Walls: Sculpture in the Expanded Field explores the radical changes that occurred in the definition of sculpture when a number of artists who did not consider themselves photographers in the traditional sense, such as Robert Smithson, Robert Barry, and Gordon Matta-Clark, began using the camera to document remote sites as sculpture rather than the traditional three-dimensional object. Daguerre’s Soup: What Is Sculpture? includes photographs of found objects or assemblages created specifically for the camera by artists, such as Brassaï’s Involuntary Sculptures (c. 1930s), Alina Szapocznikow’s Photosculptures (1970–71), and Marcel Broodthaers’s Daguerre’s Soup (1974), the last work being a tongue-in-cheek picture which hints at the various fluid and chemical processes used by Louis Daguerre to invent photography in the nineteenth century, bringing into play experimental ideas about the realm of everyday objects.

 

The Pygmalion Complex: Animate and Inanimate Figures looks at Dada and Surrealist pictures and photo-collages by artists, including Man Ray, Herbert Bayer, Hans Bellmer, Hannah Höch, and Johannes Theodor Baargeld, who focused their lenses on mannequins, dummies, and automata to reveal the tension between living figure and sculpture. The Performing Body as Sculptural Object explores the key role of photography in the intersection of performance and sculpture. Bruce Nauman, Charles Ray, and Dennis Oppenheim, placing a premium on their training as sculptors, articulated the body as a sculptural prop to be picked up, bent, or deployed instead of traditional materials. Eleanor Antin, Ana Mendieta, VALIE EXPORT, and Hannah Wilke engaged with the “rhetoric of the pose,” using the camera as an agency that itself generates actions through its presence.”

Press release from the Museum of Modern Art website

 

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890-1976)
Noire et blanche (Black and white)
1926
Gelatin silver print
6 3/4 x 8 7/8″ (17.1 x 22.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Thrall Soby
2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Stamped Tin Relic
1929 (printed c. 1970)
Gelatin silver print
4 11/16 x 6 5/8″ (11.9 x 16.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Lily Auchincloss Fund
© 2010 Estate of Walker Evans

 

 

Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934)
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
1969
Gelatin silver print
8 1/16 x 12 1/8″ (20.5 x 30.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer
© 2010 Lee Friedlander

 

 

Sibylle Bergemann (German, born 1941)
Das Denkmal, East Berlin (The monument, East Berlin)
1986
Gelatin silver print
19 11/16 x 23 5/8″ (50 x 60 cm)
Sibylle Bergemann/Ostkreuz Agentur der Fotografen, Berlin
© 2010 Sibylle Bergemann/Ostkreuz Agentur der Fotografen, Berlin

 

 

Marcel Duchamp (American, born France, 1887-1968)
Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890-1976)
Élevage de poussière (Dust breeding)
1920
Gelatin silver contact print
2 13/16 x 4 5/16″ (7.1 x 11 cm)
The Bluff Collection, LP
© 2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Guy Tillim (South African, born 1962)
Bust of Agostinho Neto, Quibala, Angola
2008
Pigmented inkjet print
17 3/16 x 25 3/4″ (43.6 x 65.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of the Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art
© 2010 Guy Tillim. Courtesy Michael Stevenson Gallery

 

 

Selected wall text from the exhibition

“The advent of photography in 1839, when aesthetic experience was firmly rooted in Romanticist tenets of originality, brought into focus the critical role that the copy plays in the perception of art. The medium’s reproducibility challenged the aura attributed to the original, but it also reflected a new way of looking and offered a model for dissemination that would transform the entire nature of art. The aesthetic singularity of the photograph, the archival value of a document bearing the trace of history, and the combinatory capacity of the image, open to be edited into sequences in which it mixes with others – all these contribute to the status of photography as both an art form and a medium of communication.

Sculpture was among the first subjects to be treated in photography. In his 1947 book Le Musée imaginaire, the novelist and politician André Malraux famously advocated for a pancultural “museum without walls,” postulating that art history, and the history of sculpture in particular, had become “the history of that which can be photographed.” There were many reasons for this, including the immobility of sculpture, which suited the long exposure times needed with the early photographic processes, and the desire to document, collect, publicize and circulate objects that were not always portable. Through crop, focus, angle of view, degree of close-up, and lighting, as well as through ex post facto techniques of dark room manipulation, collage, montage, and assemblage, photographers not only interpret sculpture but create stunning reinventions of it.

The Original Copy presents a critical examination of the intersections between photography and sculpture, exploring how the one medium has been implicated in the analysis and creative redefinition of the other. Bringing together 300 pictures, magazines and journals by more than 100 artists from the dawn of modernism to the present, this exhibition looks at the ways in which photography at once informs and challenges our understanding of what sculpture is within specific historic contexts.

 

Sculpture in the Age of Photography

If we consider photography a child of the industrial era – a medium that came of age alongside the steam engine and the railroad – it is not surprising that one of its critical functions was to bring physically inaccessible worlds closer by means of reproduction. Among its early practitioners, Charles Nègre photographed sculpture in the cathedrals of Chartres, Amiens, and, in Paris, Notre Dame, circling them at different levels to capture perspectives of rarely seen sculptural details, while in London Roger Fenton and Stephen Thompson documented the ancient statuary in the British Museum, making visible the new power of collecting institutions.

With the advent of the handheld portable camera in the early 1920s, photographers had the flexibility to capture contingent sculptural arrangements taken from elliptical viewpoints. André Kertész, for instance, recorded unexpected juxtapositions between art and common objects in the studios of artist friends, including Fernand Léger and Ossip Zadkine. His ability to forge heterogeneous materials and objects into visual unity inspired the novelist Pierre Mac Orlan to confer on him the title of “photographer-poet.”

Focusing on details in this way, photographers have interpreted not only sculpture itself, as an autonomous object, but also the context of its display. The results often show that the meaning of art is not fixed within the work but open to the beholder’s reception of it at any given moment. Taking a place in the tradition of institutional critique, Barbara Kruger’s and Louise Lawler’s pictures foreground issues of representation to underscore photography’s engagement in the analysis of virtually every aspect of art.

 

Eugène Atget
The Marvelous in the Everyday

During the first quarter of the twentieth century, Atget took hundreds of photographs of sculptures – classical statues, reliefs, fountains, door knockers, and other finely wrought decorative fragments – in Paris and its outlying parks and gardens, especially at Versailles, Saint-Cloud, and Sceaux. These images amount to a visual compendium of the heritage of French civilization at that time.

At Versailles, most intensely between 1901 and 1906 and again between 1921 and 1926, Atget photographed the gardens that André Le Nôtre, the landscape architect of King Louis XIV, had designed in the second half of the seventeenth century. In a series of pictures of allegorical statues punctuating the garden’s vistas, Atget focused on the scenic organization of the sculptures, treating them as characters in a historical play. The pantomimic effect of the statues’ postures clearly appealed to Atget, who in 1880, before turning to photography, had taken acting classes at the Conservatory of the Théâtre national de France. Depicting the white marble statues from low viewpoints, in full length, and against the dark, unified tones of hedges and trees, Atget brought them into dramatic relief, highlighting the theatrical possibilities of sculpture.

Among the pictures taken at Saint-Cloud is a series centered on a melancholy pool surrounded by statues whose tiny silhouettes can be seen from a distance. Atget’s interest in the variable play between nature and art through minute changes in the camera’s angle, or as functions of the effects of light and time of day, is underscored in his notations of the exact month and sometimes even the hour when the pictures were taken.

 

Auguste Rodin
The Sculptor and the Photographic Enterprise

Rodin never took pictures of his sculptures but reserved the creative act for himself, actively directing the enterprise of photographing his work. He controlled staging, lighting and background, and he was probably the first sculptor to enlist the camera to record the changing stages through which his work passed from conception to realization. The photographers working with Rodin were diverse and their images of his work varied greatly, partly through each individual’s artistic sensibility and partly through changes in the photographic medium. The radical viewing angles that Eugène Druet, for instance, adopted in his pictures of hands, in around 1898, inspired the poet Rainer Maria Rilke to write: “There are among the works of Rodin hands, single small hands which without belonging to a body, are alive. Hands that rise, irritated and in wrath; hands whose five bristling fingers seem to bark like the five jaws of a dog of Hell.”

Among the most memorable pictures of Rodin’s sculptures is Edward Steichen’s Rodin – The Thinker (1902), a work made by combining two negatives: Rodin in dark silhouetted profile contemplating The Thinker (1880–82), his alter ego, is set against the luminous Monument to Victor Hugo (1901), a source of poetic creativity. Steichen also photographed Rodin’s Balzac, installed outdoors in the sculptor’s garden at Meudon, spending a whole night taking varying exposures from fifteen minutes to an hour to secure a number of dramatic negatives. The three major pictures of the sculpture against the nocturnal landscape taken at 11 p.m., midnight, and 4 a.m. form a temporal series.

 

Constantin Brancusi
The Studio as Groupe Mobile

“Why write?” Brancusi once queried. “Why not just show the photographs?” The sculptor included many great photographers among his friends – Edward Steichen was one of his early champions in the United States; Alfred Stieglitz organized in 1914 his first solo exhibition in New York; Man Ray helped him buy photographic equipment; Berenice Abbott studied sculpture under him; and he was on close terms with Brassaï, André Kertész, and László Moholy-Nagy. Yet he declined to have his work photographed by others, preferring instead to take, develop, and print his own pictures.

Pushing photography against its grain, Brancusi developed an aesthetic antithetical to the usual photographic standards. His so-called photos radieuses (radiant photos) are characterized by flashes of light that explode the sculptural gestalt. In search of transparency, kineticism, and infinity, Brancusi used photography and polishing techniques to dematerialize the static, monolithic materiality of traditional sculpture, visualizing what Moholy-Nagy called “the new culture of light.”

Brancusi’s pictures of his studio underscore his scenographic approach. The artist articulated the studio around hybrid, transitory configurations known as groupes mobiles (mobile groups), each comprising several pieces of sculpture, bases, and pedestals grouped in proximity. Assembling and reassembling his sculptures for the camera, Brancusi used photography as a diary of his sculptural permutations. If, as it is often said, Brancusi “invented” modern sculpture, his use of photography belongs to a reevaluation of sculpture’s modernity.

 

Cultural and Political Icons

How do we remember the past? What role do photographs play in mediating history and memory? In an era resonating with the consequences of two world wars, the construction and then dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the Vietnam War, and the after effects of the colonialist legacy in South Africa, commemoration has provided a rich subject for photographic investigation.

Some of the most significant photographic essays of the twentieth century – Walker Evans’s American Photographs (1938), Robert Frank’s The Americans (1958), Lee Friedlander’s The American Monument (1976), and David Goldblatt’s The Structure of Things Then (1998) – articulate to different degrees the particular value of photography as a means of defining the cultural and political role of monuments.

Evans’s emblematic image of a crushed Ionic column made of cheap sheet metal; Frank’s picture of a statue of St. Francis preaching, cross and Bible in hands, to the bleak vista of a gas station; Friedlander’s photograph of World War I hero Father Duffy, engulfed in the cacophony of Times Square’s billboards and neon, which threaten to jeopardize the sculpture’s patriotic message; and Goldblatt’s pictures of monuments to some of the most potent symbols of Afrikaner triumphalism – all take a critical look at the world that public statues inhabit.

 

The Studio without Walls Sculpture in the Expanded Field

In the late 1960s a radical aesthetic change altered both the definition of the sculptural object and the ways in which that object was experienced. A number of artists who did not consider themselves photographers in the traditional sense began using the camera to rework the idea of what sculpture is, dispensing with the immobile object in favor of an altered site: the built environment, the remote landscape, or the studio or museum space in which the artist intervened.

This engagement with site and architecture – undoubtedly a function of early critiques of art’s institutional status – meant that sculpture no longer had to be a permanent three-dimensional object; it could, for instance, be a configuration of debris on the studio floor, a dematerialized vapor released into the landscape, a dissected home reconfigured as gravity-defying walk-through sculpture, or a wrapped-up building. Bruce Nauman, Robert Barry, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Christo respectively, as well as Michael Heizer, Richard Long, Dennis Oppenheim, and Robert Smithson made extensive use of photography, collecting and taking hundreds of pictures as raw material for other pieces, such as collages and photomontages.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, artists such as Zhang Dali, Cyprien Gaillard, and Rachel Whiteread have continued this dialogue through photographs contemplating examples of architecture and sculpture in states of dilapidation and entropy, remnants of a society in demise.

 

Daguerre’s Soup
What Is Sculpture?

In 1932, Brassaï challenged the established notions of what is or is not sculpture when he photographed a series of found objects – tiny castoff scraps of paper that had been unconsciously rolled, folded, or twisted by restless hands, strangely shaped bits of bread, smudged pieces of soap, and accidental blobs of toothpaste, which he titled Involuntary Sculptures. In the 1960s and ’70s artists engaging with various forms of reproduction, replication, and repetition used the camera to explore the limits of sculpture. The word “sculpture” itself was somewhat modified, no longer signifying something specific but rather indicating a polymorphous objecthood. For instance, in 1971 Alina Szapocznikow produced Photosculptures, pictures of a new kind of sculptural object made of stretched, formless and distended pieces of chewing gum.

At the same time, Marcel Broodthaers concocted absurdist taxonomies in photographic works. In Daguerre’s Soup (1975), Broothaers hinted at the various fluids and chemical processes used by Louis Daguerre to invent photography in the nineteenth century by bringing into play experimental ideas about language and the realm of everyday objects. A decade later, the duo Fischli/Weiss combined photography with wacky, ingeniously choreographed assemblages of objects. Their tongue-in-cheek pictures of assemblages shot on the verge of collapse convey a sense of animated suspension and deadpan comedy.

In 2007, Rachel Harrison drew on Broodthaers’s illogical systems of classification and parodic collections of objects to produce Voyage of the Beagle, a series of pictures that collectively raise the question “What is sculpture?” Ranging from images of prehistoric standing stones to mass-produced Pop mannequins, and from topiaries to sculptures made by modernist masters, Harrison’s work constitutes an oblique quest for the origins and contemporary manifestations of sculpture.

 

The Pygmalion Complex
Animate and Inanimate Figures

The subject of the animated statue spans the history of avant-garde photography. Artists interested in Surrealist tactics used the camera to tap the uncanniness of puppets, wax dummies, mannequins, and automata, producing pictures that both transcribe and alter appearances. Laura Gilpin explored this perturbing mix of stillness and living, alluring lifelikeness in her mysterious portrait George William Eggers (1926), in which Eggers, the director of the Denver Art Museum, keeps company with a fifteenth-century bust whose polychrome charm is enhanced by the glow of the candle he holds next to her face. So does Edward Weston, in his whimsical Rubber Dummies, Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, Hollywood (1939), showing two elastic dolls caught in a pas de deux on a movie-studio storage lot; and Clarence John Laughlin, in his eerie photomontage The Eye That Never Sleeps (1946), in which the negative of an image taken in a New Orleans funeral parlor has been overlaid with an image of a mannequin – one of whose legs, however, is that of a flesh-and-blood model.

The tension between animate object and inanimate female form lies at the crux of many of Man Ray’s photographs, including Black and White, (1926), which provocatively couples the head of the legendary model, artist, and cabaret singer Alice Prin, a.k.a. Kiki of Montparnasse, with an African ceremonial mask. Hans Bellmer’s photographs of dismembered dolls, and the critical photomontages of Herbert Bayer, Hannah Höch, and Johannes Theodor Baargeld, probe the relationship between living figure and sculpture by invoking the unstable subjectivity and breakdown of anatomic boundaries in the aftermath of the Great War.

 

The Performing Body as Sculptural Object

In 1969, Gilbert & George covered their heads and hands in metallic powders to sing Flanagan and Allen’s vaudeville number “Underneath the Arches” in live performance. Declaring themselves living sculptures, they claimed the status of an artwork, a role they used photography to express. Charles Ray and Dennis Oppenheim, placing a premium on their training as sculptors, articulated the body as a prop that could be picked up, bent, or deployed instead of more traditional materials as a system of weight, mass, and balance.

In the radicalized climate of the 1970s, artists such as Eleanor Antin, Ana Mendieta, VALIE EXPORT, and Hannah Wilke engaged with the “rhetoric of the pose,” underscoring the key role of photography in the intersection of performance, sculpture and portraiture.

Other artists as diverse as Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Otto Muehl, Bas Jan Ader, and Bruce Nauman, experimented with the plasticity of the body as sculptural material. Several of Nauman’s pictures from his portfolio Eleven Color Photographs (1966–1967/1970) spoof the classic tradition of sculpture. Yet the signature image of the group – Self-Portrait as a Fountain, in which a stripped-to-the-waist Nauman spews water from his mouth like a medieval gargoyle – is a deadpan salute to Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917). In this spirit, Erwin Wurm’s series of One Minute Sculptures (1997–98) evoke gestural articulations in which the artist’s body is turned into a sculptural form. Wurm, like the other artists presented in this exhibition, focuses attention on what one can do with and through photography, using the camera not to document actions that precede the impulse to record them but as an agency that itself generates actions through its own presence.”

 

 

Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985)
The Eye That Never Sleeps
1946
Gelatin silver print
12 3/8 x 8 3/4″ (31.4 x 22.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© Clarence John Laughlin

 

 

Fischli/Weiss (Peter Fischli. Swiss, born 1952. David Weiss. Swiss, born 1946)
Outlaws
1984
Chromogenic color print
15 ¾ x 11 13/16″ (40 x 30 cm)
Courtesy the artists and Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
© Peter Fischli and David Weiss. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

 

 

Claes Oldenburg (American, born Sweden 1929)
Claes Oldenburg: Projects for Monuments
1967
Offset lithograph
34 11/16 x 22 1/2″ (88.0 x 57.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Barbara Pine
© 2010 Claes Oldenburg

 

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890-1976)
L’Homme (Man)
1918
Gelatin silver print
19 x 14 1/2″ (48.3 x 36.8 cm)
Private collection, New York
© 2010 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Herbert Bayer (American, born Austria. 1900-1985)
Humanly impossible
1932
Gelatin silver print
15 3/8 x 11 9/16″ (39 x 29.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Purchase
© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

 

 

Constantin Brancusi (French, born Romania, 1876-1957)
L’Oiseau (Golden Bird)
c. 1919
Gelatin silver print
9 x 6 11/16″ (22.8 x 17 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Purchase
© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Gillian Wearing (British, born 1963)
Self-Portrait at 17 Years Old
2003
Chromogenic color print
41 x 32″ (104.1 x 81.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Acquired through the generosity of The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art
© 2010 Gillian Wearing. Courtesy the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, and Maureen Paley, London

 

 

Johannes Theodor Baargeld (Alfred Emanuel Ferdinand Gruenwald) (German, 1892-1927)
Typische Vertikalklitterung als Darstellung des Dada Baargeld (Typical vertical mess as depiction of the Dada Baargeld)
1920
Photomontage
14 5/8 x 12 3/16″ (37.1 x 31 cm)
Kunsthaus Zürich, Grafische Sammlung

 

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Father Duffy, Times Square
April 14, 1937
Gelatin silver print
9 5/16 x 7 5/8″ (23.7 x 19.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Ronald A. Kurtz
© 2010 Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics, Ltd., New York

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
11, West Fifty-Third Street, New York

Opening hours:
Sunday, Tuesday – Thursday 10.30 – 5.30pm
Friday 10.30 – 8pm
Saturday 10.30 – 5.30pm
Closed Tuesday

MOMA website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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