Posts Tagged ‘social landscape

12
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Japan’s Modern Divide: The Photographs of Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 26th March – 25th August 2013

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According to the press release, “Hamaya focused inward toward rural life on the back coast of Japan, [while] Yamamoto found inspiration in the art of European Surrealists,” the two artists responding differently to upheaval in their country in two different ways.  While Yamamoto is more obviously influenced by the Surrealists, almost becoming the Japanese version of Man Ray, for me Hamaya’s photographs are equally if more subtly influenced by the cultural movement. Observe Woman Planting Rice, Toyama Prefecture (1955, below). I relate this image to the atomisation of bodies during the conflagration of Hiroshima, however subconsciously the artist is expressing this feeling. Similarly, the faceless humans in Rice Harvesting, Yamagata Prefecture (1955, below), blind musicians, disembodied man in a raincoat or poet thinking the void all have an essential quality, that of a disturbing psychological undertow which juxtaposes two more or less distant realities – reality and dream – to form images of great emotional and poetic power.

Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog on Google

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Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center 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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Japan’s Black Coast

“Knowledge of the back coast, along the Sea of Japan, is somewhat vague to those not living there, and in the minds of most people it is a country obscured by snow. In Japan, the back coast is where the old era still lingers on… The supporting industries of this back coast are primitive – agriculture, forestry, and fishing. The work involved is backbreaking physical labor. A narrow land, a heavy population, and climatic drawbacks invite a vicious circle of poverty. The basic Japanese foods are fish and rice. And they are obtained by these people only through hard labor.”

Hiroshi Hamaya, Ura Nihon (Japan’s Back Coast), 1957
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A Chronicle of Grief and Anger

In 1959 the proposed ten-year renewal of the United States-Japan Security Treaty of 1952 meant the continuation of the presence of U.S. troops and the persistence of U.S. political and cultural influence. When Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, with the aid of the police, forced the Japanese parliament to ratify the treaty in May 1960, the public upheaval was immense. Hamaya, a pacifist living outside Tokyo, entered the fray with his camera, chronicling the demonstrations. His pictures were published both individually and in the form of a quickly assembled paperback under the title Ikari to kanashimi no kiroku (A Chronicle of Grief and Anger).
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Portraiture

Japanese society had a pronounced respect for artists, authors, craftsmen, and scholars. As a freelance photographer, Hamaya was often enlisted to make portraits of them for publication. He compiled a selection of these portraits made since the 1940s for the 1983 book Japanese Scholars and Artists, which included the renowned poet, art historian, and calligrapher Yaichi Aizu. Hamaya also produced a series of genre studies that featured his wife, Asa Hamaya, who was a skilled master of the tea ceremony. After her death in 1985 Hamaya prepared a memorial to her in the form of a portfolio of prints, titled Calendar Days of Asa Hamaya, following the earlier ukiyo-e tradition of woodblock series such as bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women).
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Observing Nature

“I spent three years and four months on an extended walking tour to observe nature in Japan, from the drifting ice packs off the Shiretoko Peninsula to the coral reefs of Okinawa … Nature breathed, sometimes deeply and sometimes violently, with the climatic changes of the seasons, and with the changing face of daily weather, humidity, seasonal winds, and typhoons. In particular, the distribution of plants from the subarctic to the subtropical zones, and of lichen and mosses, was both complex and varied… I came to realize that natural features in Japan, like the nature of its people, were extremely diversified and complex. I intended to investigate this conclusion with my own eyes.”

Hiroshi Hamaya, My Fifty Years of Photography, 1982

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 - 1999) 'The Village up on a Cay, Aomori Prefecture' 1955

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 – 1999)
The Village up on a Cay, Aomori Prefecture
1955
Gelatin silver print
© Keisuke Katano
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 - 1999) 'The United States-Japan Security Treaty Protest, Tokyo, May 20, 1960' 1960

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 – 1999)
The United States-Japan Security Treaty Protest, Tokyo, May 20, 1960
1960
Gelatin silver print
© Keisuke Katano
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 - 1999) 'New Year's Ritual, Niigata Prefecture' 1940-1946

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 – 1999)
New Year’s Ritual, Niigata Prefecture
1940-1946
Gelatin silver print
30.6 x 20.2 cm
© Keisuke Katano
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 - 1999) 'Woman Planting Rice, Toyama Prefecture' 1955

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 – 1999)
Woman Planting Rice, Toyama Prefecture
1955
Gelatin silver print
42.1 x 28 cm
© Keisuke Katano
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 - 1999) 'Rice Harvesting, Yamagata Prefecture' 1955

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 – 1999)
Rice Harvesting, Yamagata Prefecture
1955
Gelatin silver print print
29.5 x 19.7 cm (11 5/8 x 7 3/4 in.)
© Keisuke Katano
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 - 1999) 'Blind Musicians, Niigata Prefecture' 1956

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 – 1999)
Blind Musicians, Niigata Prefecture
1956
Gelatin silver print print
30.1 x 20 cm (11 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.)
© Keisuke Katano
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 - 1999) 'Man in a Traditional Minobashi Raincoat, Niigata Prefecture' 1956

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 – 1999)
Man in a Traditional Minobashi Raincoat, Niigata Prefecture
1956
Gelatin silver print print
30.6 x 19.8 cm (12 1/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
© Keisuke Katano
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 - 1999) 'Yaichi Aizu, Poet, Calligrapher, and Japanese Art Critic' 1947

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Hiroshi Hamaya (Japanese, 1915 – 1999)
Yaichi Aizu, Poet, Calligrapher, and Japanese Art Critic
1947
Gelatin silver print print
24 x 16 cm (9 7/16 x 6 5/16 in.)
© Keisuke Katano
Estate of Hiroshi Hamaya, Oiso, Japan

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The Taishō era (1912-1926) was a brief but dynamic period in Japan’s history that ushered in a modern state with increased industrialization, shifting political parties, radical fashions, and liberal thinking in many areas. However, this era of heightened experimentation ended with the arrival of an international depression, the promotion of ultranationalism, and the country’s entry into what would become the Greater East Asia War.

Reflecting both sides of this dramatic transition, two disparate representations of modern Japan will be displayed together in Japan’s Modern Divide: The Photographs of Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto, on view March 26 – August 25, 2013, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. Curated by Judith Keller, senior curator of photographs, and Amanda Maddox, assistant curator of photographs, the exhibition includes photographs from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, the Toyko Metropolitan Museum of Photography, the estate of Hiroshi Hamaya, the Nagoya City Art Museum, and other public and private lenders.

Born during the Taishō era, photographers Hiroshi Hamaya (1915-1999) and Kansuke Yamamoto (1914-1987) responded to Japan’s rapidly-changing sociopolitical climate in very different ways. While Hamaya focused inward toward rural life on the back coast of Japan, Yamamoto found inspiration in the art of European Surrealists. As the ebb and flow of Japan’s political, economic, and social structures persisted across the 20th century, Hamaya and Yamamoto continued to pursue divergent paths, thus embodying both sides of modern Japanese life: the traditional and the Western, the rural and the urban, the oriental and the occidental.

“Much is known about the Surrealists living and working in Europe, as well as the celebrated documentary tradition of 20th-century photography, but the Japanese artists who embraced these movements remain relatively unknown in the West,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “This exhibition illuminates the extraordinary work of two artists who responded to upheaval in their country in two different, but equally powerful ways.”

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Hiroshi Hamaya

The son of a detective, Hamaya grew up in Tokyo’s Ueno neighborhood during the rise and decline of the Taishō era. After attending Kanto Junior College, he began his photographic career by taking aerial images for the Practical Aeronautical Institute. He later photographed downtown Tokyo from street level, and provided images of daily city life and local events to a number of magazines. In 1939, an assignment that took him to Ura Nihon, or the rural back coast of the Sea of Japan, changed his view of photography and society.

Known for its unforgiving winter snowstorms and the difficult lives of its impoverished inhabitants, Ura Nihon was a mystery to most of Japan and the world. Moved by the customs and lifestyles of a much older era, Hamaya shifted from journalism toward a more humanistic and ethnographic approach to photography, capturing the everyday life of the region’s residents. This included documenting laborers in fields and at sea, as fish and rice were the primary sources of nourishment throughout the year.

From 1940 to 1955 Hamaya pursued a long-term personal interest in the region of Echigo (now known as Niigata Prefecture). He recorded the people, traditions, and landscape of a district that was, at the time, Japan’s chief rice-producing region in spite of a four-month long snow season. Among his many subjects, Hamaya focused on the winter in Kuwatoridani, a small agricultural village that practiced elaborate, long-standing New Year’s Eve rituals. In New Year’s Ritual, Niigata Prefecture (1940-46), boys in the village are seated with their hands clasped and their eyes closed in prayer. The close-up of the boys’ faces in deep concentration emphasizes the respect for customs of the region.

In late 1959, the proposed ten-year renewal of the United States-Japan Security Treaty of 1952 raised doubts about Japan’s sovereignty and its future prosperity. When Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, with the aid of police, forced the Japanese parliament to ratify the treaty in May 1960, the political upheaval was immense. While Hamaya was a pacifist, he felt obligated to return to his journalistic roots and entered the fray with his camera. He chronicled the demonstrations day by day, sometimes hour by hour.

“These demonstrations profoundly affected Hamaya, causing him, in the 1960s, to turn from the social landscape to an investigation of nature,” explains Judith Keller. “His disillusionment with Japan’s political apparatus provoked a rejection of the human subject. Much of the work he created in his late career depicts the volcanoes, seas, mountains, forests, and other natural wonders of Japan and other small island nations.”

Hamaya’s career also included portraiture of noted artists and scholars. As a freelance photographer, he was often enlisted to make portraits of well-known men and women, and in 1983 published Japanese Scholars and Artists, a book that included prominent novelist Junichiro Tanizaki, woodcut artist Shiko Manakata, literary critic Kenichi Yoshida, and renowned poet, art historian, and calligrapher Yaichi Aizu. He also documented the daily life of his beloved wife, Asa, and upon her death in 1985 created a portfolio of these sensitive photographs, Calendar Days of Asa Hamaya.

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Kansuke Yamamoto

Kansuke Yamamoto (1914-1987) learned about photography from his father, an amateur pictorialist photographer and owner of the first photo supply store in the city of Nagoya. His interest in photography developed at a time when two movements based on experimentation and new modes of expression—Shinkō Shashin (New Photography) and Zen’ei Shashin (avant-garde photography) – were dominant. However, it was Surrealism – particularly Surrealist artists and writers such as René Magritte, Paul Éluard, Yves Tanguy, and Man Ray that appears to have made the most profound impact on his work.

Yamamoto was an influential figure in the avant-garde photography movement in Japan in the 1930s, helping to establish the group Nagoya Foto Avant-Garde by the end of that decade. In 1938 he created a journal, Yoru no Funsui (The Night’s Fountain), which promoted Surrealist poems, literature, ideas, and art in Japanese.

His first photographs date to the early 1930s and reveal an interest in myriad techniques and subjects, including abstract architectural studies, still life, and collage. From the outset, he created work suffused with mystery, provocation, and humor. He often utilized photography as a means to address controversial issues or express avant-garde ideas. For example, in Buddhist Temple’s Birdcage (1940), the telephone enclosed in the cage is possibly a metaphor for the control exercised by the Japanese government during the Showa Era (1926-1989), a theme that reappears in work produced throughout his career. The experience of being interrogated by the Tokkō (Thought Police) in 1939 for his journal, Yoru no Funsui, and its potentially subversive content made a profound impact on Yamamoto, but never deterred his avant-garde spirit.

Yamamoto remained part of the artistic vanguard in Japan during the 1940s and 1950s. He was a member of VOU, a club founded by poet Katue Kitasono that organized exhibitions and published a journal promoting visual “plastic” poetry, photography, literature, and other arts. In 1947 Yamamoto founded VIVI, a collective in Nagoya that allowed further dissemination and promotion of avant-garde ideologies. Yamamoto continued to produce innovative work during this period, experimenting with color photography, combination printing, photograms, and sculpture.

“At the end of his career in the 1970s, Yamamoto maintained his ardent nonconformist spirit, employing art as a means of criticism, dialogue, and rebellion,” explains Amanda Maddox. “He never failed to generate provocative imagery in an effort to represent his convictions concerning war, liberty, and avant-garde ideologies.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 - 1987) 'My Thin-aired Room' 1956

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 – 1987)
My Thin-aired Room
1956
Gelatin silver print print
34.9 x 42.9 cm (13 3/4 x 16 7/8 in.)
© Toshio Yamamoto
Private collection, entrusted to Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 - 1987) 'Rose and Shovel' 1956

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 – 1987)
Rose and Shovel
1956
Gelatin silver print print
31.9 x 34.9 cm (12 9/16 x 13 3/4 in.)
© Toshio Yamamoto
Private collection, entrusted to Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 - 1987) 'A Forgotten Person' 1958

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 – 1987)
A Forgotten Person
1958
Chromogenic print
46.2 x 33 cm (18 3/16 x 13 in.)
© Toshio Yamamoto
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 - 1987) 'Stapled Flesh' 1949

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 – 1987)
Stapled Flesh
1949
Gelatin silver print print
31.1 x 24.8 cm (12 1/4 x 9 3/4 in.)
© Toshio Yamamoto
From the Collection of Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 - 1987) 'Buddhist Temple's Bird Cage' 1940

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 – 1987)
Buddhist Temple’s Bird Cage
1940
Gelatin silver print
© Toshio Yamamoto
Private collection, entrusted to Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 - 1987) 'Butterfly' 1970

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 – 1987)
Butterfly
1970
Gelatin silver print print
16.4 x 11.4 cm (6 7/16 x 4 1/2 in.)
© Toshio Yamamoto
Private collection, entrusted to Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 - 1987) 'A Chronicle of Drifting' 1949

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Kansuke Yamamoto (Japanese, 1914 – 1987)
A Chronicle of Drifting
1949
Collage print
30 x 24.8 cm (11 13/16 x 9 3/4 in.)
© Toshio Yamamoto
Private collection, entrusted to Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography

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The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 9 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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04
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Pieter Hugo: This Must Be The Place – Selected Works 2003-2012’ at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 24th May – 11th August 2013

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I have not seen enough of the other series of Pieter Hugo to make an informed decision, but work from the The Hyena & Other Men (2005-2007) and Permanent Error (2009-2010) series, the most often reproduced, is certainly strong. Whether I am fully convinced by his singular frontality is another matter…

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Many thankx to the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art 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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Pieter Hugo. 'The Hyena Men of Abuja, Nigeria' 2005

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Pieter Hugo
The Hyena Men of Abuja, Nigeria
2005
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Aissah Salifu, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana' 2010

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Pieter Hugo
Aissah Salifu, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana
2010
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Escort Kama. Enugu, Nigeria' 2008

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Pieter Hugo
Escort Kama. Enugu, Nigeria
2008
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Chris Nkulo and Patience Umeh. Enugu, Nigeria' 2008

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Pieter Hugo
Chris Nkulo and Patience Umeh. Enugu, Nigeria
2008
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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“Pieter Hugo’s (b. Johannesburg, 1976) career is quite young, yet his photography is already so comprehensive that we can rightly speak of a consistent oeuvre. Since 2003 Hugo has photographed people and themes exclusively in sub-Saharan Africa. Daily life in post-colonial Africa, the complex conditions after the end of apartheid in his own land and the impact of global trade and commerce are themes that circulate throughout his intriguing series.

Pieter Hugo spends long periods of time photographing his extensive series in order to capture intimate and often bizarre moments. His use of a large-format camera requires patience and trust between photographer and subject, which is visible in straightforward expressions and candid interactions. There is a moment of calm and even timelessness in these works that allows the viewer to engage more fully with the subject matter.

The political diversity of a continent that is rapidly transforming – some note that Africa will be a global economic power of the future – is portrayed by Pieter Hugo with the clarity of familiar painting genres such as landscape, portraiture, group portraiture and still life. The subjects of his photography: the elderly, the poor, the blind, street artists, soap actors, close family and friends – form a social tableau that is at once personalized while also presenting a more universal image of Africa at the beginning of the twenty first century.

The initial motivation for the series The Hyena & Other Men (2005-2007) comes from a cell phone camera image Pieter Hugo discovered on the internet. The image concerns a group of performers who travel throughout Nigeria with tamed hyenas and other wild animals and collect money from their choreographed public performances. Hugo embarked on two separate trips to document this remarkable nomadic group up close. Hugo presents the complex relationship between animal and owner, capturing moments of calm and tenderness amidst situations full of drama and spectacle.

The Agbogbloshie market on the outskirts of Accra (Ghana) is the thematic of the Permanent Error series (2009-2010), which is mainly a dumping site for the technological waste of the western world. Here computers and other electronic equipment are collected and burned by inhabitants, often children, to extract precious raw materials. These machines formerly representing prosperity and progress are here transformed into only noxious and life threatening vapours. The charred ground, grey sky and scattered groups of foragers and cattle seem isolated from the world, but are in fact one of the last links in a chain of global commerce. Despite the harsh surroundings, the subjects stand tall, identified by full name and framed in the style of classical portraiture.

Nollywood (2008-2009) is the third largest film industry in the world, releasing between 500 and 1,000 movies each year. It produces movies on its own terms, telling stories that appeal to and reflect the lives of its public: it is a rare instance of self-representation on such a scale in Africa. The continent has a rich tradition of story-telling that has been expressed abundantly through oral and written fiction, but has never been conveyed through the popular media before. Stars are local actors; plots confront the public with familiar situations of romance, comedy, witchcraft, bribery, prostitution. The narrative is overdramatic, deprived of happy endings, tragic. The aesthetic is loud, violent, excessive; nothing is said, everything is shouted.

At a morgue in the township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town, Pieter Hugo turns his camera to individuals who have died of AIDS related illnesses. In The Bereaved (2005) as with many of his other series, Hugo gives first and last names of his subjects. Such a personal statement challenges the anonymity of AIDS statistics in South Africa. Ten years after the Rwandan Genocide, Pieter Hugo captures the unimaginable violence of these events through leftover fragments (Vestiges of a Genocide, 2004). The absence of human life is disturbingly present in the images. Bones are preserved with lime so as not to disintegrate. Heavy dust and dirt create an organic seal over the remains. While these substances often signify what is past and forgotten, the items in the photographs are preserved artificially and naturally for all to remember.

The series entitled Messina / Musina (2006) deals with the inhabitants of a small town on the border of Zimbabwe in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. The title reflects the correction of an earlier colonial misspelling of the town’s name (Messina), as well as the transition taking place at this geographical and social periphery.

In Pieter Hugo’s studio portraits of the elderly, the blind and people with albinism – Looking Aside, 2003-2006 – there is a direct and confrontational engagement between the viewer and the subjects. The viewer is made to feel uncomfortable and immobilized by the subject’s gaze. In There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends (2011) – a recent series of portraits realized in the same spirit and adopting a stripped back, close-up and confrontationally direct approach – Hugo explores similar territory [to his earlier series Looking Aside] but from practically the opposite angle. In this case, the subjects are simply the photographer and his friends, who represent an array of ethnicities but are not particularly atypical, abnormal or ‘unusual’ in a genetic sense. Instead they are rendered unusually, portrayed in a heightened monotone with their skin transformed into a range of exaggerated black spots and dark tones.

With Kin (2011), his most autobiographical series to date, Pieter Hugo reflects on his own family and deep ambivalence towards the notion of home. Personal moments such as the pregnancy of his wife, the birth of their child and an operation of his mother are interspersed with national icons: open landscapes, anthropological museums and references to historical places and figures in South Africa. The recent and historical, private and public, rich and poor, ugly and beautiful interact closely in this series and represent the social complexities of post-apartheid South Africa.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Pieter Hugo. 'Naasra Yeti, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana' 2009

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Pieter Hugo
Naasra Yeti, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana
2009
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'John Kwesi, Wild Honey Collector, Techiman District, Ghana' 2005

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Pieter Hugo
John Kwesi, Wild Honey Collector, Techiman District, Ghana
2005
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'The Honourable Justice Unity Dow' 2005

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Pieter Hugo
The Honourable Justice Unity Dow
2005
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Steven Mohapi, Johannesburg' 2003

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Pieter Hugo
Steven Mohapi, Johannesburg
2003
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Pieter Hugo. 'Ashleigh McLean' 2011

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Pieter Hugo
Ashleigh McLean
2011
© Pieter Hugo
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

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Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
1095 Budapest Komor Marcell Street 1
Hungary 06 1 555-3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00-20.00
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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28
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Garry Winogrand’ at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Exhibition dates: 9th March – 2nd June 2013

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“Every photograph is a battle of form versus content.”

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Garry Winogrand

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Playing God with his film

Form and content. Form and content

I don’t like the work of Garry Winogrand. Never have, never will. I think his work is overrated and and somewhat trite. That should stir up all the Winophiles who think that he is one of the best street photographers in the history of the medium!

At best his form is average – technical aspects adequate; composition is pretty basic including dull use of tension points within the picture frame; and framing very bland, tilted angles not withstanding. His content is nothing special either, mainly frontal shots of people walking towards him or voyeuristic shots while mingled in crowds, or a mixture of both. As he himself says, “I don’t have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph.” By letting the medium describe the world around him. And therein lies part of the problem.

Winogrand just looks – and you can’t fault someone for just looking. It’s just a not very interesting looking.

If I really look at Winogrand’s work I can see that he just states what he saw in shot after shot after shot, indiscriminately. Personally, I find there is a real cycnicism in his work. The photographs “describe” his own state of mind – as much as he denies that he (or his state of mind) has anything to do with the act of describing the world through photography. You see, it’s all about how the camera sees the world and not how he sees it. Hence, Winogrand hardly embraces his feelings towards the world and if he does, it is only in a half-hearted manner. For example, he goes a certain way towards the dark (as in the photographs Utah (Wyoming), 1964 and Los Angeles, 1964, both below) and then stops. The other part of the problem is this: what you can also fault is all the hyperbole that is laid over the top of his work by curators and museums – because on close examination the work really doesn’t justify it. It’s actually not that good.

Winogrand states and summarises but doesn’t solve. He just keeps adding to the list occasionally, under duress, ordering it (photographs of women in the book Women are Beautiful, 1975):

“During his Austin years he was preparing two books, ‘Public Relations’ and ‘Women are Beautiful’. Given his method of printing every image on the contact sheet for the selection process, and given his proclivity for the physical act of shooting, no wonder he wasn’t out on the street as much as he’d like. Yes he had to print, select and publish some prints to survive unless he wanted to teach the rest of his life. I don’t believe he wanted to do that. Had there been a way, I believe he would died a blissful death had he been on the streets clicking away and either letting the exposed film rot or letting someone else process and print them, and arrange the books and shows and collect the money. That’s how much he loved the physical act of shooting. 

He felt at home out there, looking for the next image to expose. He was also the boss out there, playing God with his film and deciding where to frame that next battle between form and content, then the next and the next.”1

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Playing God with his film…

In some ways Winogrand reminds me of both the king and the court jester. King because he could frame the battle between form and content ad infinitum and jester because he was the fool, standing in front of people, laughing, smiling, obsequious, running hither and yon to get every shot, any shot. See the video below to understand what I mean. Unlike the photographs in Robert Frank’s The Americans, his is not a poetic understanding of the world for the difference between Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand is that the former’s photographs are undeniably poetic while the latter’s are prosaic aphorisms about the world. In Winogrand’s “describing” the social landscape he photographed is reduced to lists of things: “the dislocation of urban life, the rise of the suburb with its growing alienation, the skepticism of youth, and the collusion of the press and the powerful,” rarely pursued by any obvious means and certainly not through poetic evocation.

I think that Winogrand struggled with the question – do I add to the list or do I order the list? Obviously he chose the former, for if there is no order in life there can be no order in the archive. Hence we are left with the “Unfinished” Late Work, an archive of 250,000 images that have remained virtually unknown. A boon for researchers and curators wishing to position Winogrand’s legacy “revealing for the first time the full sweep of his career… creating a vivid portrait of the artist.”

Even when the artist could not be bothered (so why should we bother).
Even when the images were never seen or acknowledged.
The artist streetwise in his omnipotent isolation.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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“Great photography is always on the edge of failure.”
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“I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs.”
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“I like to think of photographing as a two-way act of respect. Respect for the medium, by letting it do what it does best, describe. And respect for the subject, by describing as it is. A photograph must be responsible to both.”
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“I don’t have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph. I have no preconceptions.”

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Garry Winogrand

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“We quickly learned Winogrand’s technique – he walked slowly or stood in the middle of pedestrian traffic as people went by. He shot prolifically. I watched him walk a short block and shoot an entire roll without breaking stride. As he reloaded, I asked him if he felt bad about missing pictures when he reloaded. “No,” he replied, “there are no pictures when I reload.” He was constantly looking around, and often would see a situation on the other side of a busy intersection. Ignoring traffic, he would run across the street to get the picture.”

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Mason Resnick

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“Form and content are two keys which make a memorable street photograph. Consider “form” as the composition, framing, and technical aspects of a photograph. Consider “content” as what is actually happening in the photograph (whether it be an old couple holding hands, a boy holding two bottles of wine, or a man looking through a peep-hole)… Garry Winogrand shot with a 28mm lens for most of his life [using a Leica M4 35mm and Tri-X film pushed to 1200 ASA], which meant that for the majority of his shots he had to be quite close to his subjects (and in front of them). Therefore Winogrand wasn’t Henri Cartier-Bresson (trying to be invisible) but was actively a part of the action and immersed in the crowds. He would be very obviously taking photographs in the streets and would stick out like a sore thumb.”

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Eric Kim

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Garry Winogrand – The Man In The Crowd

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Garry Winogrand. 'Utah (Wyoming)' 1964

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Garry Winogrand
Utah (Wyoming)
1964
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'Fort Worth, Texas' 1974

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Garry Winogrand
Fort Worth, Texas
1974
Gelatin silver print
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Doris and Donald Fisher and Marion E. Greene
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'Fort Worth, Texas' 1975

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Garry Winogrand
Fort Worth, Texas
1975
Gelatin silver print
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Dr. Paul Getz
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'John F. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles' 1960

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Garry Winogrand
John F. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles
1960
Posthumous digital reproduction from original negative
Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles' 1960

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Garry Winogrand
Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles
1960
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' c. 1960

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Garry Winogrand
New York
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'Elliot Richardson Press Conference, Austin, Texas' 1973

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Garry Winogrand
Elliot Richardson Press Conference, Austin, Texas
1973
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Elliot Lee Richardson (July 20, 1920 – December 31, 1999) was an American lawyer and politician who was a member of the cabinet of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. As U.S. Attorney General, he was a prominent figure in the Watergate Scandal, and resigned rather than obey President Nixon’s order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. (Text from Wikipedia)

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Garry Winogrand. 'Centennial Ball, Metropolitan Museum, New York' 1969

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Garry Winogrand
Centennial Ball, Metropolitan Museum, New York
1969
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'Point Mugu Naval Air-Station, California' 1979

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Garry Winogrand
Point Mugu Naval Air-Station, California
1979
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Untitled-1970-gelatin-silver-print-WEB

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Garry Winogrand
Untitled
1970
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'Venice Beach, Los Angeles' 1979

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Garry Winogrand
Venice Beach, Los Angeles
1979
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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“The first retrospective in 25 years of work by artist Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) – the renowned photographer of New York City and of American life from the 1950s through the early 1980s – will debut at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) from March 9 through June 2, 2013. Jointly organized by SFMOMA and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Garry Winogrand brings together the artist’s most iconic images with newly printed photographs from his largely unexamined archive of late work, offering a rigorous overview of Winogrand’s complete working life and revealing for the first time the full sweep of his career. More than 300 photographs in the exhibition and more than 400 in the accompanying catalogue will create a vivid portrait of the artist – a chronicler of postwar America on a par with such figures as Norman Mailer and Robert Rauschenberg who unflinchingly captured America’s wrenching swings between optimism and upheaval in the decades following World War II.

While Winogrand is widely considered one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, his overall body of work and influence on the field remains incompletely explored. He was enormously prolific but largely postponed the editing and printing of his work. Dying suddenly at the age of 56, he left behind approximately 6,500 rolls of film (some 250,000 images) that he had never seen, as well as proof sheets from his earlier years that he had marked but never printed. Roughly half of the photographs in the exhibition have never been exhibited or published until now; over 100 have never before been printed.

“There exists in photography no other body of work of comparable size or quality that is so editorially unresolved,” says Rubinfien, who was among the youngest of Winogrand’s circle of friends in the 1970s. “This exhibition represents the first effort to comprehensively examine Winogrand’s unfinished work. It also aims to turn the presentation of his work away from topical editing and toward a freer organization that is faithful to his art’s essential spirit, thus enabling a new understanding of his oeuvre, even for those who think they know him.”

The exhibition is divided into three parts, each covering a broad variety of subjects found in Winogrand’s art. “Down from the Bronx” presents photographs taken for the most part in New York from his start in 1950 until 1971; “A Student of America” looks at work made in the same period during journeys outside New York; and “Boom and Bust” addresses Winogrand’s late period – from when he moved away from New York in 1971 until his death in 1984 – with photographs from Texas and Southern California, as well as Chicago, Washington, Miami, and other locations. This third section also includes a small number of photographs Winogrand made on trips back to Manhattan, which express a sense of desolation unprecedented in his earlier work.

Winogrand was known as great talker with a flamboyant, forceful personality, and what he said accompanying his slide shows and lectures was often imaginative and very funny. A number of videos edited for presentation in the exhibition will allow visitors to experience the living Winogrand as audiences have rarely been able to do for 30-odd years. A short selection from Winogrand’s experimental 8mm footage taken in the late 1960s will also be on view.

After premiering at SFMOMA in spring 2013 Garry Winogrand will travel to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (March 2 through June 8, 2014); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (June 27 through September 21, 2014); the Jeu de Paume, Paris (October 14, 2014 through January 25, 2015); and the Fundacion MAPFRE, Madrid (March 3 through May 10, 2015).

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An Epic Chronicler of Postwar America

Born in the Bronx, Winogrand did much of his best-known work in Manhattan during the 1960s, and in both the content of his photographs and his artistic style he became one of the principal voices of that eruptive decade – so much so that influential Museum of Modern Art curator John Szarkowski anointed him “the central photographer of his generation.”

Known primarily as a street photographer, Winogrand, who is often associated with famed contemporaries Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander, photographed with dazzling energy and incessant appetite, exposing some 20,000 rolls of film in his short lifetime. He photographed business moguls, everyday women on the street, famous actors and athletes, hippies, rodeos, politicians, soldiers, animals in zoos, car culture, airports, and antiwar demonstrators and the construction workers who beat them bloody in view of the unmoved police. Daily life in postwar America – rich with new possibility and yet equally anxious, threatening to spin out of control – seemed to unfold for him in a continuous stream.

Yet if Winogrand was one of New York City’s prime photographers, he was also an avid traveler who roamed widely around the United States, bringing exquisite work out of locations that included Los Angeles, San Francisco, Ohio, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Colorado, and the open country of the Southwest. “You could say that I am a student of photography,” he said, “and I am; but really I’m a student of America.” Winogrand’s expansive visual catalogue of the nation’s evolving social scene has led to comparisons to Walt Whitman, who also unspooled the world in endless lists of people, places, and things.

Winogrand’s pictures often bulge with twenty or thirty figures, and are fascinating both for their dramatic foregrounds and the sub-events at their edges. Even when crowded with people or at their most lighthearted – he was fond of visual puns and was drawn to the absurd – his pictures can convey a feeling of human isolation, hinting at something darker beneath the veneer of the American dream. Early on, some critics considered his pictures formally “shapeless” and “random,” but admirers and critics later found a unique poetry in his tilted horizons and his love of the haphazard.

“Winogrand was an artistic descendant of Walker Evans and Robert Frank, but differed sharply from them,” says Rubinfien. “He admired Frank’s ‘The Americans’, but felt the work missed the main story of its time, which in his mind was the emergence of suburban prosperity and isolation. The hope and buoyancy of middle-class life in postwar America is half of the emotional heart of Winogrand’s work. The other half is a sense of undoing. The tension between these qualities gives his work its distinct character.”

After serving in the military as a weather forecaster, Winogrand first began working as a photographer while studying painting on the G.I. Bill at Columbia University (1948–51). During that time, he also studied briefly with Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research. While pursuing his personal work, he began supplying commercial photographs to a number of general-interest magazines such as Life, Look, Sports Illustrated, Collier’s, and Pageant, which were then at the height of their power and reach. His career was further shaped by the decline of those magazines and the rise of a new culture of photography centered in the art world.

“Winogrand worked at a moment when the boundaries between journalistic and artistic photography were less certain than they had ever been, yet it was also a time when the most advanced photographers were consciously abandoning journalistic values,” says Greenough. “The social landscape he photographed – the dislocation of urban life, the rise of the suburb with its growing alienation, the skepticism of youth, and the collusion of the press and the powerful – was of concern to many Americans. Yet Winogrand rarely pursued an obvious means to explicate these ideas, preferring poetic evocation over intelligible journalism.”

Winogrand went on to exhibit widely at prominent museums and achieved renown in his lifetime. Yet despite this recognition, he is perhaps the most inadequately understood of all his contemporaries.

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“Unfinished” Late Work Thoroughly Investigated for the First Time

The act of taking pictures was far more fulfilling to Winogrand than making prints or editing for books and exhibitions – he often allowed others to perform these tasks for him. Near the end of his life, he spoke of reviewing and reediting all of his photographs, but never had a chance to oversee the shaping of his legacy, or even to review much of the output of his later years. Because of his working methods and his lack of interest in developing his film toward the end of his life, he left behind more than 2,500 rolls of exposed but undeveloped film, an additional 4,100 rolls that he had processed but never seen – an estimated total of 250,000 images that have remained virtually unknown.

Furthermore, Winogrand published just five modest books during his lifetime – The Animals (1969), Women Are Beautiful (1975), Garry Winogrand (1976), Public Relations (1977), and Stock Photographs (1980) – that represent only a fraction of his work and are mainly confined to narrow topical frames that don’t suggest the full scope of his importance.

“One reason that Winogrand is only now receiving the full retrospective treatment already devoted to peers of his era, including Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Robert Frank, is that any truly comprehensive consideration of his life’s work requires contending with the practical and ethical issues surrounding the vast archive he left behind,” says O’Toole. “In the absence of explicit instructions from him regarding how he wanted his work to be handled after he was gone, its posthumous treatment has been the subject of ongoing debate and raises provocative questions about the creative process and its relationship to issues specific to the medium.”

“Some argue that what was left behind should be left alone, and that no one should intrude upon the intentions of an artist,” adds Rubinfien. “But the quantity of Winogrand’s output, the incompleteness with which he reviewed it, and the suddenness of his death create a special case in which the true scope of an eminent photographer’s work cannot be known without the intervention of an editor.”

Now housed at the Center for Creative Photography of the University of Arizona, Tucson, Winogrand’s “unfinished” work was initially organized in the years just after his death by several colleagues and friends in preparation for the artist’s first major museum retrospective, held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA) in 1988. Exhibition curator John Szarkowski felt the quality of Winogrand’s work had significantly deteriorated in the last 15 years of his life, and included only a small group of pictures from the mysterious late work in MoMA exhibition.

Nearly 30 years have elapsed since the last attempt to grapple with the complete arc of Winogrand’s career. Benefiting from new curatorial research undertaken for this project, the current exhibition will provide a long-awaited reevaluation of his accomplishments. As one of the first museums to recognize photography as a legitimate art form, SFMOMA has collaborated with the National Gallery of Art – who, like SFMOMA, is known for its photography scholarship – in a multi-year endeavor to spearhead the presentation of this important exhibition and publication.”

Press release from the SFMOMA website

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' 1961

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Garry Winogrand
New York
1961
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' 1963

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Garry Winogrand
New York
1963
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'San Marcos, Texas' 1964

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Garry Winogrand
San Marcos, Texas
1964
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'Coney Island, New York' c. 1952

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Garry Winogrand
Coney Island, New York
c. 1952
Gelatin silver print
Collection The Museum of Modern Art, New York, purchase and gift of Barbara Schwartz in memory of Eugene M. Schwartz
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; digital image
© The Museum of Modern Art/ Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

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Garry Winogrand. 'Fort Worth, Texas' 1974-77

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Garry Winogrand
Fort Worth, Texas
1974-77
Gelatin silver print
Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York' 1968

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Garry Winogrand
John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York
1968
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' 1950

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Garry Winogrand
New York
1950
Gelatin silver print
Collection SFMOMA, fractional and promised gift of Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' c. 1962

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Garry Winogrand
New York
c. 1962
Gelatin silver print
Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'Venice Beach, Los Angeles' 1980-83

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Garry Winogrand
Venice Beach, Los Angeles
1980-83
Gelatin silver print
Garry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

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Garry Winogrand. 'Grand Central Station' 1968

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Garry Winogrand
Grand Central Station
1968
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'Los Angeles' 1964

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Garry Winogrand
Los Angeles
1964
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' 1968

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Garry Winogrand
New York
1968
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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Garry Winogrand. 'New York' c. 1969

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Garry Winogrand
New York
c. 1969
Silver gelatin photograph
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand

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1. Garza, O. C. Class Time with Garry Winogrand. 2007, p.19 [Online] Cited 26/05/2013
www.ocgarzaphotography.com/documents/ClassTimewithGarryWinograndfinal2.pdf

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San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Opening hours:
Open daily (except Wednesdays): 11am – 5.45 pm
Open late Thursdays, until 8.45 pm

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art website

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30
Oct
12

Video: ‘Cottees: There’s a lot to celebrate’ (2012) by GPYR-Melbourne / insidious racism?

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insidious
adj.
Proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects

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There is a lot to celebrate living in Australia, the lucky country, especially if you are a white kid growing up in the perfect world of Cottees advertising. I have been viewing these TV commercials since 1986 and have yet to see an Indian, Asian, Aboriginal or child from a Muslim family in any of them. As far as I can see it is only white children of middle class suburban families that can “seize the day” in Cottee’s vision of contemporary Australia.

I ask my readers, do they think that these adverts promulgate a form of insidious racism? Are these adverts a form of racism by exclusion, rather than one by outright declamation?
Is this exclusion a form of societal system of oppression?

I leave the answer for you to decide.

Perhaps they should have said, “No matter how many white kids end up in your backyard, there’s always enough Cottee’s to go around…”

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“We’re all responsible for naming, and saying no to, racism. We must call it when we see it… Race hate, racism, careless words – can harm entire populations. They can change the way that we live together… Racism can only be resisted, and eradicated, through solidarity, and cooperation. There are no exceptions. History has no bystanders – only participants.”

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Graeme Innes AM, Race Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, August 2011

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Cottees There’s a lot to celebrate (2012)

“This Sunday will see the launch of a new campaign for Cottee’s cordial. Created by George Patterson Y&R Melbourne, the commercial aims to take the brand back to its roots by celebrating the simple goodness of childhood – and the fact that no matter how many kids end up in your back yard at the end of the day, there’s always enough Cottee’s to go around.

Says Troy McKinna, advertising manager at Cottee’s: “We’re hoping the generation of Australians who grew up with classic ‘My dad picks the fruit’‚ ad will share this new Cottee’s classic with the next one.””

CLIENT:
Advertising Manger: Troy McKinna
Brand Manager: Karen Elsbury

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Cottee’s Cordial – Australian TV Commercial (1998)

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Cottee’s cordial ad from mid 90’s

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Cottees Cordial Australian Commercial 1980s

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Cottees Country Blend Cordial (nd)

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Cottees Cordial – Classic TV Commercial (nd)

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03
Oct
12

Exhibition: ‘Joel Sternfeld: Colour photographs since 1970’ at Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 27th June – 7th October 2012

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Many thankx to the Albertina 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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Joel Sternfeld
A Railroad Artifact, 30th Street, May 2000
2000
© Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and The Friends of the High Line, New York

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Joel Sternfeld
Ken Robson’s Christmas Tree, January 2001
2001
© Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and The Friends of the High Line, New York

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Joel Sternfeld
After A Flash Flood, Rancho Mirage, California 1979
1979
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
Wet ‘n Wild Aquatic Theme Park, Orlando, Florida, September 1980
1980
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
The Space Shuttle Columbia Lands at Kelly Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, March 1979
1979
© Courtesy Buchmann Galerie Berlin, Luhring Augustine, New York and  the artist

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Joel Sternfeld
McLean, Virginia, December 1978
1978
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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“This exhibition offers the first survey of the US artist Joel Sternfeld’s work in Austria. The Albertina shows eleven series by the photographer dating from between the early 1970s and 2007. Influenced by William Eggleston, but also by the color theories of the Bauhaus, Joel Sternfeld, who was born in New York in 1944, began to experiment with color photography in the 1970s and soon developed his own style. He brought color to bear on a subject that had a long photographic tradition in the United States: the American social landscape. A critical observer, Sternfeld travelled across the USA for years, capturing the country and its inhabitants in all their peculiarities and contradictions. Most of his pictures explore political and social issues by representing their subjects’ relationship to nature or the landscape around them. Sternfeld’s photographs combine a documentary objective with an artist’s view. Their visual language has its predecessors in Walker Evans and Robert Frank, who were advocates of black-and-white photography, though. Seen against this background, Sternfeld’s photographs are to be understood not only as a chronicle of the last forty years’ American history, but also evidence a development process in the course of which color came to bring forth an entirely specific visual language.

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Nags Head

Next to William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld ranks among the most important representatives of New Color Photography, a quite heterogeneous group of photographers who have relied on color as a stylistic device for artistic photography since the 1970s. A perfectly natural means of expression today, color was frowned upon in artistic photography in those days. While color was used in popular photography, like in the fields of advertising and fashion, traditional artistic photographs were black-and-white. William Eggleston’s exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art New York in 1976, which was regarded as scandalous when it opened, proved to be a landmark event for the recognition of color photography. Dating from 1975, Joel Sternfeld’s series Nags Head clearly testifies to the role of color as a means of artistic expression. Precise color areas are as important for the pictures’ composition as the motifs the photographer encountered on the beach of the town Nags Head in North Carolina.

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First Pictures

Next to Nags Head, two series of color photographs from the 1970s, Happy Anniversary Sweetie Face! and Rush Hour, stand for Joel Sternfeld’s early work. Following in the tradition of street photography, these series explore various scenes of American everyday culture in a humorous vein, capturing them in a seemingly spontaneous and random visual language. Supposed exposure mistakes and blurs as well as angles fragmentizing the subjects suggest an intuitive and dynamic view of the world. The instantaneous character of the photographs manifests itself in the Rush Hour series in a particularly striking manner. Using a manual flash lighting up the faces of the passers-by for his compositions, Sternfeld emphasizes the fleeting moment a photograph snatches from the continuum of time.

Color proves to be key for the composition. Rich and full color areas not only rhythmize and structure the arrangement, but represent pictorial values in their own right, which are not integrated in a homogeneous whole. This kind of photography which connects everyday motifs with the autonomy of color has been influenced not least by William Eggleston, whom Sternfeld got to know in Harvard in 1976.

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American Prospects

Sternfeld shot the series American Prospects while travelling through the United States in a Volkswagen bus for some years. Dating from between 1978 and 1987, the pictures explore people’s relationship to the American landscape as formed and informed by them. The microcosm of often bizarre everyday events that becomes visible here does more than just illustrate man’s problematic use and transformation of the landscape: it also offers a possibility for drawing conclusions on contemporary political and social conditions in the United States.

In American Prospects, Sternfeld frequently renders critical contents by relying on the sovereign use of sublime, vivid color values and contrasts that seem to contradict the depicted serious circumstances. Color, format, and static composition are grounded in Sternfeld’s use of a large-format camera. While he photographed his early series with a small-format camera, which allowed flexible movements and, thus, a spontaneous visual language, the more complicated handling of a large-format camera slows down the picture-taking process. Sternfeld selected his motifs very carefully and precisely planned his pictures’ composition in advance. Both the composition and the general motif of people in a landscape were essentially inspired by solutions of traditional painting like Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s and Jacob van Ruisdael’s.

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Stranger Passing

Photographed within a period of fourteen years starting in 1987, Joel Sternfeld’s series Stranger Passing makes the human portrait its crucial issue. Depicted in situ, the subjects are characterized through their outward appearance, their clothes and poses, and the environs in which they present themselves. The pictures show a wide variety of social groups and milieus and center on different life styles. Maintaining a reserved and detached view throughout, Sternfeld keeps a visible distance from his motifs and does not express a judgment – an artistic strategy already pursued by August Sander in his famous photographic project Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (People of the 20th Century) in the 1920s. But whereas Sander subsumed his models under their professional functions, Sternfeld focuses on representing the portrayed people’s individuality. Their often bizarre (self-) representation visualizes comprehensive social contexts which, in total, offer a manifold and differentiated portrait of American society.

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On This Site

Between 1993 and 1996, Joel Sternfeld photographed crime scenes hidden behind apparently everyday places. By depicting such places of destiny, Sternfeld has retrieved suppressed, concealed, or deliberately buried events for the collective memory and thus dismantled patriotic self-presentations of the US. The pictures reveal a conceptual approach to documentary photography. The comparatively neutral and detached shots show “only” the crime scenes and do not offer any details on the sequence of events. The particulars of the crime are to be found in a text which is part of the work. Image and text provide different contents, which the viewer is asked to put together.

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Oxbow Archive

In Oxbow Archive (2005-2007), Sternfeld has made the scenery his sole subject by photographing an area near Northampton in Massachusetts through the changing seasons. The work explores the tradition of cultural norms and phenomena of US culture: the representation of landscapes in pictures has always been an essential dimension of American identity and cultural self-understanding. Wilderness and pristine nature are frequently depicted in stunning, idealized views – for which Ansel Adams and Edward Weston may be cited as examples. A famous painting by the American artist Thomas Cole from 1836 renders the region shown in Oxbow Archive as a heroic landscape in dramatic weather conditions seen from an elevated point of view. Sternfeld clearly rejects this visual language: he documents the uniqueness of the seasons’ changes beyond the sublime and picturesque of traditional landscape pictures from a low point of view and confronts the viewer with the clearly visible effects of man’s intervention in nature.

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When it changed

After Sternfeld’s early series had already been informed by a socio-critical attitude, the projection When it changed unmistakably shows the photographer to be a documentarist with great political engagement. When it changed comprises fifty-three portraits of participants in a United Nations conference on climate change in Montreal in 2005. A text with prognoses and statements on climate change by scientists from the last twenty years provides a comment on the persons’ often serious and pessimistic faces.

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Treading on Kings

For his project Treading on Kings Joel Sternfeld photographed the protests during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. During this meeting of the eight most powerful industrial nations in the world, which was accompanied by severe clashes between the demonstrators and the police, numerous protesters were wounded and one of the activists, Carlo Giuliani, was killed. Sternfeld’s thirty-three photographs portray the scenes of the confrontation as well as the protesters themselves. Accompanying texts offer statements by various participants of the demonstrations and explain the reasons for their engagement.

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Walking the High Line

Walking the High Line (2000-2001) examines landscape as an indicator of ecologic and social transformations from a new perspective. The High Line is an abandoned railroad track in Manhattan, New York, a little over two kilometers long, which the photographer describes as a motific contrast between apparently untouched nature and urban development. While Sternfeld’s earlier series visualize the colonization of nature by man, the relationship is reverted here. Nature has reconquered an urban space, the only sporadically visible rails hinting at the once busy traffic. In the case of Walking the High Line, the socio-political dimension characteristic of all of Sternfeld’s works has produced concrete results: the disused track was transformed into a public park in 2009 not least because of Sternfeld’s successful photographs.

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Sweet Earth

The series Sweet Earth from 2006 shows Joel Sternfeld pursuing his photographic investigation of the American social landscape. Informed by the atmosphere of the 1990s, of the period immediately following the collapse of the Communist states, the photographs confront us with models of alternative communities. Texts provide us with information on the social experiments and their political, ecological, or religious reasons. By visualizing historical and contemporary utopias, the artist offers a historical survey spanning from nineteenth-century communities to the counterculture of the 1960s and today’s new forms of living together. By confronting the viewer with heterogeneous life plans, Sternfeld not only fathoms the different values of present-day American society, but also questions the background and development of social norms and conventions.”

Press release from the Albertina website

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Joel Sternfeld
Washington D.C., August 1974
1974
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
Summer Interns Having Lunch, Wall Street, New York, August 1987
1987
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
New York City (#1)
1976
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
Young Man Gathering Shopping Carts, Huntington, New York, July 1993
1993
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
A Woman at Home in Malibu After Exercising, California, August 1988
1988
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Joel Sternfeld
A Woman Out Shopping with Her Pet Rabbit, Santa Monica, California, August 1988
1988
© Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, 2012

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Albertina
Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna, Austria
T: +43 (0)1 534 83-0

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am to 6 pm
Wednesday 10 am to 9 pm

Albertina website

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03
Mar
11

Exhibition: ‘Duane Hanson/Gregory Crewdson: Uncanny realities’ at Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden

Exhibition dates: 27th November 2010 – 6th March 2011

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A great double act! Inspired curating puts the work of these artist’s together – everyday Americans with ethereal, theatrical image bites. The mis en scène created in the exhibition space, the tension between sculpture, photograph, frame and space – is delicious. Crewdson is at his best when he resists the obvious narrative (for example, all the traffic lights stuck on yellow in the photograph ‘Untitled (Brief Encounter)’ (2006, see below). Personally I prefer his staged photographs with pairs or groups of people within the image, rather than a single figure. The storyline is more ambiguous and the photographs of people walking along railway tracks always remind me of the Stephen King story filmed as ‘Stand by Me’ (1986) with a young River Phoenix. Either way they are intoxicating, the viewer drawn into these wonderful, dark psychological dramas.

Many thankx to Museum Frieder Burda 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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Installation photograph of the exhibition ‘Duane Hanson/Gregory Crewdson: Uncanny realities’ at Museum Frieder Burda

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Installation photograph of the exhibition ‘Duane Hanson/Gregory Crewdson: Uncanny realities’ at Museum Frieder Burda with Duane Hanson ‘Old Couple on a Bench’ (1994) in the foreground and Gregory Crewdson ‘Untitled (Worthington Street)’ (2006) in the background

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“The works by the two American artists Duane Hanson (1925 – 1996) and Gregory Crewdson (born in 1962) confuse and touch the observer.

Both artists present people in their everyday lives, with hopes, yearnings and broken dreams. People we usually do not notice, aged and marked by reality, by life itself. While Hanson shapes his life-sized figures with a great deal of sympathy, Crewdson rather spreads a gloomy and depressing atmosphere in his pictures of lonely people in their houses, gardens and in streets.

With his realistic sculptures, the American artist Duane Hanson has become a synonym for contemporary realism in contemporary art. Typical motives are average people like  housewives, waitresses, car dealers, janitors. Posture and expression of these figures are very close to reality. The photographer Gregory Crewdson arranges his large format pictures with cineastic arrangements and lets the abyss behind every-day life scenes become visible.

The exhibition at the Frieder Burda Museum presents about 30 figures by Duane Hanson, mainly from the artist’s estate, in dialogue with 20 large format works from the series ”Beneath the Roses“ by the photographer Gregory Crewdson. The photographies are mainly owned by the artist himself.

The curators Götz Adriani and Patricia Kamp are not aiming at a direct confrontation. They are rather presenting two artists who work with different materials, but deal with very similar topics. Both artists, Hanson and Crewdson, are grand when it comes to arranging their art. Crewdson always puts very much effort into the arrangments of the scenes in his pictures, and Hanson always keeps an eye on his close surroundings.

The works of both artists impressively reflect the complexity of the human existence.

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Duane Hanson
Children Playing Game
1979
polyvinyl chloride, coloured with oil, mixed technique and accessories
Collection Hanson, Davie, Florida
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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Duane Hanson
Tourists II
1988
polyvinyl chloride, coloured with oil, mixed technique, accessories
Collection Hanson, Davie, Florida
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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Duane Hanson
Self-Portrait with Model
1979
polyvinyl chloride, coloured with oil, mixed technique and accessories
Collection Hanson, Davie, Florida
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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Duane Hanson
Housepainter I
1984/1988
epoxy resin, coloured with oil, mixed technique, accessories
Collection Hanson, Davie, Florida
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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Duane Hanson
Queenie II
1988
epoxy resin, coloured with oil, mixed technique, accessories
Collection Hanson, Davie, Florida
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010

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Duane Hanson

Duane Hanson (1925–1996) is one of the most influential American sculptors of the 20th century committed to Realism.

The proximity to reality of his lifelike, detailed human figures make for perfect irritation. Despite all the seriousness hidden behind the sociocritical issue, which prompted Hanson to create his protagonists, the figures have a great deal of entertainment value, above all – and it is precisely this that makes them so appealing – due to their occasional gravitational bearing. Featuring twenty-five works, the exhibition presents a representative cross-section of the American’s extensive oeuvre, which comprises a total of only 114 works. The figures enter a dialogue with the large-format photographs by the American photo artist Gregory Crewdson, who has a flair for relating human abysses in a different and very subtle way.

In the early 1950s, after completing his study of sculpture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Hanson was initially guided by the abstract style of art that prevailed during this period. However, this would not lead to a satisfactory result. In 1953, he turned his back on his homeland and spent nearly ten years of his life earning a living as an art teacher at American schools in Germany. It was during this period that he discovered the materials polyester resin and fiberglass, which would become crucial for his future creative work. After returning to the United States, Hanson spent the ensuing years perfecting his artistic skills in the treatment of these materials in such a way that the boundaries between reality and artificial figure seem to blur – where Hanson was never concerned with the mere illusionistic reproduction of reality, but chose this veristic manner of representation as a medium for communicating his concern in terms of content, i.e., shedding light on the tragedy of human lives that hauntingly consolidates in his characters.

In the human figures produced in the early work phase in the late 1960s, Hanson responded to the sociopolitical tension and protest movements of the day. He created sculptures and ensembles that very directly take issue with social hardship, violence, or racism, and he took a stand for the victims of this system, for the people who never had a chance to successfully face the demands made by life.

Influenced by Pop Art, Hanson turned to thematizing everyday American life, frequently switching his observations to a critically satirical attitude that was, however, always guided by compassion. Housewives, construction workers, car salesmen, or janitors – the models for his figures are people in the American middle and working classes in whose biographies the disappointment in the American dream has become entrenched. He often puts his people and all of their small insufficiencies into perspective with ironic kindness, such as, for example, the Tourists, in whom are combined all of the clichés associated with the typical Florida tourist.

Hanson’s participation in documenta 5 in Kassel in 1972 gave rise to his international breakthrough. His figures became more lifelike; they more and more naturally blended into their surroundings. Their gestures, facial expressions, and postures related the emotional and physical burdens of life. The artist concentrated on older people in whose physiognomies one can read the traces of existence, the impact of loneliness, the problems that accompany being old, and their alienation. Hanson was struck by the isolation of this generation by society, a circumstance that has not lost any of its relevance.

Hanson’s interest in rendering the figures as lifelike as possible is surely not rooted in a desire to want to convince the viewer of their “authenticity”; rather, their lifelikeness was meant to move the viewer to experience empathy and concern, thus manifesting Hanson’s humanism. Human values and destinies comprise the focus of his art; he transforms the reality of life into the realism of art and in doing so sharpens our outlook and our view of the world, our fellow human beings, and our own life as well.

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Birth)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2007
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Blue Period)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2005
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Brief Encounter)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2006
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Debutante)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2006
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Forest Clearing)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2006
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (House Fire)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2004
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Kent Street)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2007
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Maple Street)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Merchants Row)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson

Born in 1962 in Brooklyn, New York, Gregory Crewdson is one of the best-known contemporary photographers internationally. In his most important series to date “Beneath the Roses”, which he created between 2003 and 2008, Crewdson explores the American psyche and the disturbing realities at play within quotidian environments. In his dramatically detailed and realistic photographs situated in America’s morbid, small-town milieu, the artist succeeds to stimulate the viewer’s subconscious on various levels. Twenty outstanding works from the series are being placed in a dialogue with sculptures by Duane Hanson. Gregory Crewdson does not spare either effort or expenses for the production of his visual inventions, which are reminiscent of film productions. The stagings are planned and arranged in advance down to the smallest detail and then elaborately implemented in a major logistical and human effort. The final photograph is the result of what is frequently work lasting several weeks, a circumstance that is substantiated by its depths in terms of content and its technical perfection.

Gregory Crewdson works in two distinct ways to create his photographs. On one hand, he works on location in real neighborhoods and townships. On the other hand, the artist works on the soundstage inventing his world from scratch. Before the photographic location productions start, Crewdson drives around upstate Massachusetts looking for interesting settings, which he then has prepared in an elaborate process. In most cases, local residents of the ramshackle towns also play the characters in his work. Crewdson works closely with the art department of the museum MASSMoCA, when shooting his pictures done on the soundstage. The results are much like stills from a movie and reflect his affinity with cinema. Filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, or Steven Spielberg are the inspiration for Crewdson’s uncanny stories, which he seems to freeze in a single snapshot in time.

The construction of this narrative instant demonstrates the artist’s extraordinary talent. Like sophisticated literature does the reader, his works pose a challenge to viewers, as they have to mount the decisive share of the creative effort themselves. A brief, fleeting glance is not enough. Viewers become immersed in the staged scenes full of details and accessories to experience a moment that is intensely real. Fantasy and the powers of imagination and association fashion the visual event in the mind to become a subjective, alternative reality – an uncanny reality.

In his photographs, Crewdson deliberately works with emotions and fears that extend through his oeuvre in recurring, in part very different scenarios. They mirror alienation, absence, shame, sexuality, and loss – human states of emotion that deeply touch the viewer. That the artist focuses on the mind in his works may be due to the fact that, as the son of a psychoanalyst, he experienced insight into the profundity of the human soul very early on. His works can be regarded as metaphors for fears and desires, for the things that take place below the surface, the palpable, as if Crewdson wanted to make visible a new or different level of reality situated somewhere between the conscious and subconscious.

At the same time, the “Beneath the Roses” series can be seen as a psychological study of the American province. The settings show social realities and document the economic decline of a society behind the backdrop of the American way of life. Unsentimental and direct, they reflect working-class life – which allows us to strike an arc to the work by Duane Hanson, whose oeuvre also revolves around the concept of humanity, the facets of which he lends expression to in his silent, introverted figures.

The evolution of “Beneath the Roses” was documented in a series of production stills, original drawings by the artist, and detailed lighting plans. About sixty works from this reservoir are presented in a studio exhibition at the museum in order to illustrate the complex technical process of producing the photographs. Gregory Crewdson completed his study of Street Photography at the Yale School of Art in New Haven in 1988. He returned to Yale in 1993 and has occupied the Chair of Photography since.”

Press release from the Museum Frieder Burda website

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Natural Bridge)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Railway Children)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2003
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (RBS Automotive)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2007
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Shane)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2006
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Sunday Roast)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2005
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Temple Street)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2006
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (The Father)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Trailer Park)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2007
Digital carbon print
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Gregory Crewdson
Untitled (Worthington Street)
from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’
2006
144.8 x 223.5 cm
Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, New York
© Gregory Crewdson, 2010

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Museum Frieder Burda
Lichtentaler Allee 8b
D-76530 Baden-Baden
T: +49 (0)7221 / 3 98 98-0

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
Closed Mondays

Museum Frieder Burda website

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18
Apr
09

Exhibition: ‘Paul Outerbridge: New Color Photographs from Mexico and California’ at the Downtown Central Library, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 28th March – 28th June, 2009

Curated by William Ewing and Phillip Prodger

 

Recently discovered colour images of California and Mexico taken during the 1940s and 1950s by the late visionary photographer Paul Outerbridge, who was considered “a master of colour photography,” will be exhibited at the Central Library’s First Floor Galleries, 630 W. Fifth St., downtown, from March 28 through June 28 2009.

 

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Women by Car, Laguna Beach, California' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Women by Car, Laguna Beach, California
c. 1950
Pigment dyed digital print
16″ x 20″

 

 

“Art is life seen through man’s inner craving for perfection and beauty – his escape from the sordid realities of life into a world of his imagining. Art accounts for at least a third of our civilization, and it is one of the artist’s principal duties to do more than merely record life or nature. To the artist is given the privilege of pointing the way and inspiring towards a better life.”

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Paul Outerbridge

 

 

If Outerbridge only photographed intermittently after 1943, then what photographs they are. Perhaps some of the most important colour photographs of their generation were made after he moved to California influencing the next generation of colour photographers (as noted below in the press release). What else can one say – his aesthetic sensibility is sensational, so far ahead of his time, so prescient of future colour spaces in photography. I know how “no regular income” feels as an artist, but he still had the courage and vision to make the work. I am in awe of the man: the visual complexity but eloquent simplicity of his photographs is simply amazing, simply… his own.

Marcus

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

 

“[Outerbridge] was a designer and illustrator in New York before turning to photography in the 1920s. In 1925, having established himself as an innovative advertising photographer and graphic designer, he moved to Paris and worked for the French edition of Vogue magazine. There he met Edward Steichen, with whom he developed a friendly rivalry. Around 1930, having returned to New York, Outerbridge began to experiment with color photography, in particular the carbro-color process. He focused primarily on female nudes – striking, full-color images that were ahead of their time. The growing popularity of the dye transfer process lead to cheaper color photographs and Outerbridge, who stuck fast to the carbro process as superior in its richness and permanence, saw his commercial work dry up, leaving him without a regular source of income. In 1943 Outerbridge moved to California, where he photographed only intermittently.”

Text from the Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 14/04/2009 (no longer available online)

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Balboa Beach, California' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Balboa Beach, California
c. 1950
Pigment dyed digital print
16″ x 20″

 

 

Paul Outerbridge
Reclining Nude
c. 1937
Pigment dyed digital print

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Motel Bar, Mazatlán, Mexico' c. 1948

 

Paul Outerbridge
Motel Bar, Mazatlán, Mexico
c. 1948
Dye transfer print
16″ x 20″

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Hotel Lobby, Mazatlán, Mexico' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Hotel Lobby, Mazatlán, Mexico
c. 1950
Pigment dyed digital print
16″ x 20″

 

 

As one of America’s earliest masters of color photography, Paul Outerbridge established his reputation by making virtuoso carbro-color prints of nudes and still-lives in the 1930s. As pictures, they are as brilliant and innovative today as when they earned their place as classics in the history of photography.

Outerbridge left New York in the 1940s, choosing to settle in California, and eventually taking up residency in the Mediterranean-style ocean side town of Laguna Beach. Little is known of Outerbridge’s last body of work in the 8 years preceding his death in 1958. But Outerbridge’s recently printed transparencies from the 1950s affirms that he fully understood the possibilities inherent in color photography despite it being the early days of its use in photographic art. Outerbridge went on to make a body of work that presaged the style and imagery of color photographers working a full quarter of a century later.

Employing a 35mm camera rather than the large-format equipment of the studio, Outerbridge captured vivid pictures while on the fly. His images were composed using the same precision of form and color that characterized his 1930s studio work, but, in this series, Outerbridge applied his earlier techniques to the energetic world of the street. This was a new landscape for Outerbridge, who, seeing in the new spectrum of color, depicted the people and places from his adopted Southern California, and, with great relish and sensitivity, from the Mexican towns just south of the border. In the tradition of such photographers as Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Anton Bruehl, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, all of whom made significant photographic forays into Mexico, Outerbridge ventured south from Laguna. In his 1949 black Cadillac, Outerbridge frequented the seaport towns along the Baja peninsula. One of his favorite stops was Mazatlan, on Mexico’s western coast, where he took particular pleasure in surveying the urban architecture, absorbing – and documenting – the city streets teeming with people, the brightly colored topography.

Among the scenes Outerbridge etched onto film: carnival carriages with passengers dressed and bound for a grand party; a group of fashionable men relaxing in an outdoor hotel lobby drinking Cokes and beer while a small orchestra plays on in the afternoon sun; and a lone girl in a lime-green dress and white sweater walking past a gas station whose painted-red details add vibrant flourishes to the scene. Outerbridge was keenly aware that the beauty of everyday objects was also tied to the larger meanings anchored in the social landscape, but he cared less for this fact than for the expression of pure color and form as seen through and by the lens.

These extraordinary pictures recall the 1970s photographs of William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, who strove to codify these same formal and subjective aesthetics into a bold definition of the new color vocabulary. Paul Outerbridge: New Color Photographs from California and Mexico will bring a heretofore undiscovered and unrecognized sequence of photographs that bridges the formal gap between the past and the present. Outerbridge’s visionary handling of color confirmed that he had instinctively known the potential of the color medium, and, luckily for us, he created an astounding body of photographs to prove it.

Text from the Curatorial Assistance website [Online] Cited 19/01/2019

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Gas Station, Mazatlán, Mexico' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Gas Station, Mazatlán, Mexico
c. 1950
Dye transfer print
16″ x 20″

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Self-portrait on Lounge, Oceanside Resort, California' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Self-portrait on Lounge, Oceanside Resort, California
c.1950
Pigment dyed digital print
16″ x 20″

 

 

“Outerbridge, who died in 1958, built his reputation in the early 1920s in New York and Paris making elegant black and white photo abstractions primarily of nudes and still lifes that rivaled those of his peers, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Edward Weston. In the 1930s, Outerbridge mastered the exquisite tri-carbro-color print process and went on to make some of the most important color photographs in art and advertising of that time.

Moving to California in 1943 and taking up residence in Laguna Beach, Outerbridge made his last important body of work throughout California and Mexico. Between 1948 and until his death in 1958 he codified a new language in color photographs that anticipated the work of William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld and others known for their “New Color” work in the 1970s.

“The curious position of prosperous American tourists amid the daily poverty experienced by some Mexicans is one of the recurring themes in the work, but with Outerbridge there is no political polemic,” says co-curator Phillip Prodger. “Outerbridge was thinking of his photographs as jig-saw puzzles made up of many different highly colored pieces, each placed with meticulous care.”

Among Outerbridge’s subjects are carnival carriages with passengers dressed and headed for a grand party; a group of fashionable men relaxing in an outdoor hotel lobby drinking Coke and beer while a small orchestra plays; a girl in a lime-green dress and white sweater walking past a gas station whose painted-red details add a vibrant flourish to the scene.”

Text from the Downtown Central Library press release [Online] Cited 14/04/2009 (no longer available online)

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Model with Satin Dress, Laguna Beach, California' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Model with Satin Dress, Laguna Beach, California
c. 1950
Tricolor carbon print
20″ x 16″

 

Paul Outerbridge. 'Party, Laguna Beach' c. 1950

 

Paul Outerbridge
Party, Laguna Beach
c. 1950
Tricolor carbon print
20″ x 16″

 

 

Los Angeles Central Library
630 W. 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90071
Phone: (213) 228-7000

Opening hours:
Monday 10-8
Tuesday 10-8
Wednesday 10-8
Thursday 10-8
Friday 9.30-5.30
Saturday 9.30-5.30
Sunday 1-5

Los Angeles Central Library 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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