Posts Tagged ‘stanley kubrick

15
Oct
15

Text / exhibition: ‘David Bowie is’ at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 16th July – 1st November 2015

Melbourne Winter Masterpieces

 

 

This text was written for a special LGBTQI themed edition of the peer reviewed journal Fashion, Style and Popular Culture. At short notice, the co-editor asked me to write, and I quote, “a queer focussed review of the Bowie exhibition at ACMI.” When I delivered the piece below, it was rejected as not being academic enough. Apparently they wanted a deconstruction of the exhibition, its layout, construction, themes, lighting, and good and bad points. No mention of LGBTQI issues mind you. What the kind of review they wanted has to do with a LGBTQI themed issue, I have absolutely no idea. If they had known anything about my writing, they would have known they would not get academic speak, but something a little more interesting. Their loss, our gain.

The text focuses on Bowie’s impact on me at the time, as a gay man. Bowie is tight. Singing my all time favourite track of his, Young Americans, Bowie is a vocalist like no other. What a voice. Team that with charisma, soul, style, and all the moves … hands on hips, guitar slung backwards, padded shoulders to die for, cheekbones that you could cut with a knife and a presence that is just luminous. No wonder I loved him as an adolescent, he was my Hero. As someone commented on the YouTube live performance of the song (below), “ain’t there 1 goddam song that can make me breakdown + cry*”

This is a flawed but mesmerising exhibition. Allow three to fours hours at least. If you are a Bowie fan it’s a 100% must see; and if you are an aficionado of contemporary culture, you will be amazed at the sources Bowie draws from to create his art, his personas. It did no harm, either, that Bowie had access to some of the most creative designers in the world for his costumes and sets, but he was the inventive force. What a man, what an artist, not just a man who feel to earth, but a man who changed the world.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to ACMI for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Download the text Reflections on David: In a galaxy all of his own (kb pdf)

 

 

Bowie performing on Dick Cavett Show (4 of December 1974)

 

 

Reflections on David: In a galaxy all of his own

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The year was 1975. In London, six years after that seminal event of early gay liberation, the Stonewall Riots, six years after the landing on the moon, and six years after the release of David Bowie’s single, Space Oddity, I came out as a gay man age 17. At the time I felt a bit of a space oddity myself, troubled by my hidden identity and the double life I was leading. My first act of rebellion was to walk into a newsagent at Notting Hill Gate underground station, pick up a copy of Gay Times, fling the money at the store attendant and run from the place as red as a beetroot. I was so embarrassed.

Things quickly changed. I had been listening to Bowie’s music since my early days in boarding school – The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane – and now, after outing myself, I rocked up to the Royal College of Music with silver hair, wearing the most outrageous satin pink and white bomber jacket, with rings on every finger. I walked down St. Albans high street on a Saturday morning through the market in fake white fur coat and eye shadow. It’s only now, forty years later, that I realise I was channelling my inner Bowie.

This was the era of Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) in England, where we had to gather in people’s lounge rooms to meet other gay men, or once a month at a disco in country Hertfordshire. Or we went to the Pan Club in Luton where drag queens peered imperiously down at us through a grill before they allowed us through the door. The best thing was going to Scandals or Adams night clubs in London, where we danced on illuminated glass dance floors (like in Saturday Night Fever) and wore our army uniforms. We could be whoever we wanted to be. And this was all influenced by the multiple persona of Bowie.

Like an intelligent bower bird, Bowie constructed his different personae through bricolage, building them from cultural signifiers such as German Expressionism, Marlene Dietrich, Sonia Delaunay, Metropolis, Hollywood, Japanese film, JG Ballard and Clockwork Orange, to name just a few. My gay friends and I did much the same. Like Bowie, for us it wasn’t so much about sexuality but about androgyny and the public play of gender (although the two are obviously interlinked). We adored David, a self-educated lad from a poor working class family, initially a Mod, who created his own universe of creatures and characters. Glam yes, but so much more than just putting on a costume like Kiss, David lived and breathed his worlds and we, his fans, believed in him. Not so much gender bender as cultural gender blender.

Critical to this time in my life was the period that followed Ziggy: Young Americans and the Thin White Duke. I got heavily into soul music, going to a basement nightclub behind Bang on Tottenham Court Road, where they played reggae, Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra… and David Bowie. I used to pretend to be one of the back up singers on the song Young Americans: “Young American, young American, she wants the young American.” Bowie is tight. Singing my all time favourite track of his, Young Americans, Bowie is a vocalist like no other. What a voice. Team that with charisma, soul, style, and all the moves … hands on hips, guitar slung backwards, padded shoulders to die for, cheekbones that you could cut with a knife and a presence that is just luminous. No wonder I loved him as an adolescent, he was my Hero. As someone commented on the YouTube live performance of the song, “ain’t there 1 goddam song that can make me breakdown + cry*”. From talking to other gay men, I know that the Young Americans album was also critical for them – all cinched waist, high cheekbones, eye shadow, padded shoulders, flaming hair and soul music.

Australian disc jockey Stephen Allkins observed the same phenomena in Sydney. In a recent interview with me he commented, “My first introduction to the world of David Bowie was in 1975 when I was a 14 year old gay boy hanging out with my gay cousin, coming out unknowingly together. Young Americans was so damn funky and classy and totally different to anything that was happening in the white music world at the time. I couldn’t quite get my head around the way Bowie had gone from Ziggy and Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke and funk in one swoop, but I loved it. It’s hard to put into words how, as everyone else was glamming up, Bowie starting wearing suits and playing with the hottest funk band on the planet. No one else at that time moved or evolved with such speed and ease and he made me believe every look and note. He didn’t copy or just follow a trend to get noticed, he created and influenced several generations of people with his music and visual ideas. I say ideas because what he created visually was more than mere fashion, it became art. Looking back on all he’s done now, all that he did was art – musically, visually and sensually.”

Which leads me on to David Bowie is, an exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne. This is a fascinating but flawed exploration of the life of one of the world’s great artists. To see his early life, influences, and upbringing, and to have access to his personal archives – especially the wonderful sketches and storyboards showing his creative process – is invaluable. One of the strongest elements of the performance is how the exhibition links his art to the many cultural signifiers he used to construct it: from collage to construction. The costumes are magnificent including the additional Australian content, like the Pierrot costume from Ashes to Ashes. To see artefacts such as the original handwritten stanzas of Ziggy Stardust and Fame is as close as many of us will get to the source of greatness.

Much less successful was the thematic layout of the exhibition. Sections on film stars, 1930s, and Berlin cabaret (to name but a few), in non-chronological order, made it difficult to comprehend the development of each character and their place in the flow of time and space. While this assemblage of ideas might mimic how Bowie actually constructed his characters, quickly moving from one to another, and then reviving the same character many years later (for example, Space Oddity‘s Major Tom of 1969 and then creating a sequel in Ashes to Ashes in 1980), the imitative representation, or mimesis, of Bowie’s process in the layout of the exhibition simply did not work. Knowing how important Young Americans was to my own gay history, I searched for about 15 minutes with a guide from the exhibition looking for references to Young Americans and the influence of soul music on Bowie. We eventually found just two Thin White Duke suits tucked away right at the end of the show. In the bowels of the dark, subterranean bunker that is ACMI too many artefacts were crammed into too small a location. The artefacts, the ideas and the art have little room to breathe.

Having said that, this is still a mesmerising exhibition. Allow three to fours hours at least. If you are a Bowie fan it’s a 100% must see; and if you are an aficionado of contemporary culture, you will be amazed at the sources Bowie draws from to create his art, his personas. It did no harm, either, that Bowie had access to some of the most creative designers in the world for his costumes and sets, but he was the inventive force. What a man, what an artist, not just a man who feel to earth, but a man who changed the world. He was REAL, his personae were REAL, his art was REAL. He was an astronaut of inner space and when he looked down the barrel of the lens he spoke to young rebels in an authentic voice. He was our hero and no one else’s. As the singer Sylvester would later say: “You make me feel mighty real.” Chimerical, pansexual David, we love you!

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Dr Marcus Bunyan
October 2015

Word count: 1,390

 

Roy Ainsworth. 'David Bowie in The Kon-rads' 1963

 

Roy Ainsworth
Publicity photograph for The Kon-rads
1963
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

 

David or ‘Davie’ Jones, as he was then known, became heavily involved in London’s burgeoning music scene at a young age. Before leaving school at the age of 16, he had already joined the band The Kon-rads, playing saxophone and singing vocals. Demonstrating the experimental energy that has driven his solo career, Bowie spent the 1960s trying out different musical, artistic and sartorial styles and performing with several different bands. In 1965 he changed his stage name to David Bowie. The exhibition features several objects from Bowie’s early career including sketches of set, costume and poster designs created for his first bands and footage of early performances.

 

Freddie Burretti (designer) 'Quilted two‐piece suit' 1972

 

Freddie Burretti (designer)
Quilted two‐piece suit
1972
Designed by Freddie Burretti for the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ tour
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

 

On 6 July 1972 David Bowie performed Starman, the first single from his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, on BBC One’s Top of the Pops. This pivotal performance was crucial in making Bowie a music star and is acclaimed as a watershed moment which changed rock music and youth culture forever. Appearing on national television with flame-orange hair, make-up, multi-coloured clothing and red patent boots, Ziggy’s otherworldly look and sexual ambiguity created a seismic shift in pop culture. The exhibition features the original suit and boots created by Freddie Burretti and designed in collaboration with Bowie, who took inspiration from the costumes worn by the ‘droogs’ street gang in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange (1971).

 

Ziggy Stardust | David Bowie

 

Kansai Yamamoto. 'Striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour' 1973

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer)
Masayoshi Sukita (photographer)
Striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour
1973
© Sukita / The David Bowie Archive

 

 

Bowie first saw the work of Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto at the exhibition Kansai in London in 1971. He could not afford the original designs so copied the look instead, recruiting friends such as Natasha Korniloff and Freddie Burretti to create cheaper versions of Yamamoto’s signature bodysuits and platform boots. After the success of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie approached Yamamoto and commissioned a set of even more flamboyant stage costumes for the Aladdin Sane tour in 1973. These outfits, inspired by the style of Japanese samurai and kabuki actors, are outrageous, sculptural and eye-catching. The exhibition features several Kansai Yamamoto costumes including the black and white striped bodysuit and a white cloak with Japanese kanji lettering spelling out ‘David Bowie’. A flamboyant suit from Yamamoto’s 1971 exhibition which he gifted to the V&A at the time is also on display.

 

'Red platform boots for the 1973 'Aladdin Sane' tour' 1973

 

Red platform boots for the 1973 ‘Aladdin Sane’ tour
1973
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer) 'Metallic bodysuit' 1973

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer)
Metallic bodysuit
1973
Designed by Kansai Yamamoto for the ‘Aladdin Sane’ tour
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Brian Duffy. 'Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane' 1973

 

Brian Duffy
Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane
1973
© Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive

 

 

“The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) today launched the critically acclaimed exhibition celebrating one of the most influential artists in music, film and video, fashion and performance. David Bowie is comes to ACMI from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) for a strictly limited season from 16 July 2015 as part of the Victorian Government’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series.

Seen by over 1 million people worldwide at sell-out shows in London, Chicago, Sao Paolo, Paris, and Berlin, David Bowie is was conceived by the prestigious V&A in London, where it premiered in March 2013 before quickly becoming V&A’s fastest selling show. This once-in-a-lifetime experience, now in its only Australasian season, is set to take Melbourne by storm.

Drawing upon unprecedented access to objects from the David Bowie Archive, the exhibition charts the extraordinary career of the boy from London who became an iconic artist and cultural innovator. David Bowie is features over 50 legendary costumes, original stage set designs, handwritten lyric sheets, album artwork, rare film, video and photographs, and interviews with key collaborators. Special displays explore the artistic chameleon’s continuing influences as a musician, stage performer, writer and actor.

ACMI Director and CEO, Katrina Sedgwick, says the groundbreaking exhibition is testament to Bowie’s profound and everlasting impact as a true pioneer in music, fashion and culture. “We are thrilled to be hosting the Australian incarnation of David Bowie is… It is an exhibition that not only illuminates the extraordinary breadth of Bowie’s creative genius and his enormous impact over the decades – but it is also a beautifully curated and staged experience that will delight the many thousands of people who will see it in the coming weeks and months.”

The V&A’s curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, from the Museum’s Department of Theatre and Performance, selected more than 300 objects and films for the show. Of the exhibition they said; “We are absolutely delighted to see David Bowie is travel to ACMI. Bowie himself has a long-standing relationship with Australia, including creating the music videos for Let’s Dance and China Girl there. We hope that the exhibition meets the expectations of his extensive Australian fan base.”

The exhibition offers insight into Bowie’s early years and his first steps musical greatness. The creative aspiration of the young David Robert Jones are showcased by early photographs and Bowie’s sketches for stage sets and costumes created for his bands The Kon-rads and The Delta Lemons in the 1960s. Bowie’s first major hit Space Oddity (1969) and the introduction of the fictional character Major Tom inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey granted him critical and commercial success as an established solo artist. His cinematic influences abound with his elaborate storyboards and set design for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974) inspired by Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927).

Excerpts and props from Bowie’s on-screen performance in films including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Labyrinth (1986), Basquiat (1996) and The Prestige (2006) show how Bowie has continually explored different notions of character and drawn together the numerous cultural influences that feed into his work. On display is the original multi-coloured suit worn for the pivotal performance of Starman on Top of the Pops in July 1972. An interactive audio-visual display presents some of Bowie’s most ambitious music videos including DJ (1979) and The Hearts Filthy Lesson (1995). Immersive, large-scale projections show recently uncovered footage of Bowie performing Jean Genie on Top of the Pops in 1973 and excerpts from D.A. Pennebaker’s film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (1973).

Bowie’s collaborations with artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, art and film are explored throughout the exhibition. On display are more than 50 stage costumes including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Burretti, Kansai Yamamoto’s flamboyant creations for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973), and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the Earthling album cover (1997). An area has been dedicated to the monochrome theatricality of Bowie’s Berlin period and the creation of the Thin White Duke persona identified with the Station to Station album and tour (1976). It also investigates the series of experimental records he produced between 1977 and 1979 whilst living in Germany, known as the Berlin Trilogy.

More personal items such as never-before-seen storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics are also featured in the exhibition as well as some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores and diary entries, revealing the evolution of his creative ideas. ACMI is the exclusive Australasian venue for a strictly limited season of David Bowie is. The ACMI season includes a curated program of talks and special events, late night programs, film screenings and live performances.”

Press release from ACMI

 

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Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit designed by Freddie Burretti (1972)

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat designed in collaboration with David Bowie for the Earthling album cover

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

David Bowie and Freddie Burretti (designer)
Bodysuit with graphic print (replica)
‘Ziggy Stardust’ tour and album cover
1972

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Kansai Yamamoto striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973)

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne
Photographer: Mark Gambino

 

 

Exhibition overview

The exhibition offers insight into Bowie’s early years and his first steps towards musical success. Tracing the creative aspirations of the young David Robert Jones (born 1947 in Brixton, London), it shows how he was inspired by innovations in art, theatre, music, technology and youth culture in Britain during the aftermath of the Second World War. Pursuing a professional career in music and acting, he officially adopted the stage name ‘David Bowie’ in 1965 and went through a series of self-styled changes from Mod to mime artist and folk singer to R&B musician in anticipation of the shifting nature of his future career. On display are early photographs and Bowie’s sketches for stage sets and costumes created for his bands The Kon-rads and The Delta Lemons in the 1960s.

This opening section concludes with a focus on Bowie’s first major hit Space Oddity (1969) and the introduction of the fictional character Major Tom, who would be revisited by Bowie in both Ashes to Ashes (1980) and Hallo Spaceboy (1995). Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the single was released to coincide with the first moon landing and was Bowie’s breakthrough moment, granting him critical and commercial success as an established solo artist.

The exhibition moves on to examine Bowie’s creative processes from song writing, recording and producing to his collaborations on costume designs, stage sets and album artwork. Showing how Bowie works within both established art forms and new artistic movements, this section reveals the scope of his inspirations and cultural references from Surrealism, Brechtian theatre and avant-garde mime to West End musicals, German Expressionism and Japanese Kabuki performance. This section traces the influence of these movements on Bowie’s own work, including the evolution of the lavishly produced Diamond Dogs tour (1974), the design of which was inspired by Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927) and George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). The tour combined exuberant choreography and a colossal set design, taking the combination of rock music and theatre to new heights. On display are previously unseen storyboards for the proposed musical that Bowie would eventually transform into the Diamond Dogs album and touring show.

In addition, this section chronicles Bowie’s innovative approach to creating albums and touring shows around fictionalised stage personas and narratives. 1972 marked the birth of his most famous creation; Ziggy Stardust, a human manifestation of an alien being. Ziggy’s daringly androgynous and otherworldly appearance has had a powerful and continuous influence on pop culture, signaling a challenge of social conventions and inspiring people to shape their own identities. On display is the original multi-coloured suit worn for the pivotal performance of Starman on Top of the Pops in July 1972, as well as outfits designed for stage characters Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke. Costumes from The 1980 Floor Show (1973), album cover sleeves for The Man Who Sold the World (1970) and Hunky Dory (1971), alongside fan material, highlight Bowie’s fluid stylistic transformations and his impact on social mobility and gay liberation.

Excerpts from Bowie’s on-screen performances in films including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Labyrinth (1986), Basquiat (1996) and The Prestige (2006) show how Bowie has continually explored different notions of character and drawn together the numerous cultural influences that feed into his work. Footage and photography of recording sessions for Outside (1995) and ‘Hours…’ (1999) as well as handwritten lyrics and word collages inspired by William Burroughs’ ‘cut up’ method of writing that have never previously been publicly displayed, reveal Bowie’s working processes from writing to recording.

This expansive retrospective also celebrates David Bowie as a pioneering performer concentrating on key performances throughout his career. An interactive audio-visual display presents some of Bowie’s most ambitious music videos including DJ (1979) and The Hearts Filthy Lesson (1995). Immersive, large-scale projections show recently uncovered footage of Bowie performing Jean Genie on Top of the Pops in 1973 and excerpts from D.A. Pennebaker’s film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (1973).

An area has been dedicated to the monochrome theatricality of Bowie’s Berlin period and the creation of the stylish Thin White Duke persona identified with the Station to Station album and tour (1976). It also investigates the series of experimental and pioneering records he produced between 1977 and 1979 whilst living in Germany, known as the Berlin Trilogy. Finally, David Bowie is features a display of striking performance and fashion photography taken by photographers including Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and John Rowlands. These professional portraits are juxtaposed with a collage of visual projections illustrating Bowie’s immense creative influence and ubiquitous presence in music, fashion and contemporary visual and virtual culture.

 

Freddie Burretti (designer) 'Ice-blue suit' 1972

 

Freddie Burretti (designer)
Ice-blue suit
1972
Designed for the ‘Life on Mars?’ video
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Music video by David Bowie performing Life On Mars? Taken from the album Heroes

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer) 'Asymmetric knitted bodysuit' 1973

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer)
Asymmetric knitted bodysuit
1973
Designed for the ‘Aladdin Sane’ tour
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Masayoshi Sukita. 'David Bowie' 1973

 

Masayoshi Sukita
David Bowie
1973
© Sukita / The David Bowie Archive

 

Photograph by Terry O'Neill with colour by David Bowie. 'David Bowie with William Burroughs, February 1974' 1974

 

Photograph by Terry O’Neill with colour by David Bowie
David Bowie with William Burroughs, February 1974
1974
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Terry O'Neill. 'Promotional photograph of David Bowie for 'Diamond Dogs'' 1974

 

Terry O’Neill
Promotional photograph of David Bowie for ‘Diamond Dogs’
1974
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

David Bowie – BBC Live – Diamond Dogs & John, I’m Only Dancing (January 1975)

 

David Bowie. 'Photo-collage by David Bowie of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth' 1975-6

 

David Bowie
Photo-collage by David Bowie of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth
1975-6
Film stills by David James
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive, Film stills
© STUDIOCANAL Films Ltd., Image
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

'Cut up lyrics for 'Blackout' from "Heroes"' 1977

 

Cut up lyrics for ‘Blackout’ from “Heroes”
1977
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

'Print after a self‐portrait by David Bowie' 1978

 

Print after a self‐portrait by David Bowie
1978
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Brian Duffy. 'David Bowie during the filming of the 'Ashes to Ashes' video' 1980

 

Brian Duffy
David Bowie during the filming of the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ video
1980
© Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive

 

'Original storyboards by David Bowie for the 'Ashes to Ashes' video' 1980

 

Original storyboards by David Bowie for the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ video
1980
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes

 

 

Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia

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15
Nov
14

Exhibition: ‘Transformational Imagemaking: Handmade Photography Since 1960’ at CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NY

Exhibition dates: 19th September – 13rd December 2014

Artists: Thomas Barrow, Wayne Belger, Stephen Berkman, Matthew Brandt, Dan Burkholder, Darryl Curran, Binh Danh, Rick Dingus, Dan Estabrook, Robert Fichter, Robert Flynt, Judith Golden, Betty Hahn, Robert Heinecken, Robert Hirsch, Catherine Jansen, Harold Jones, Tantana Kellner, Les Krims, William Larson, Dinh Q. Lê, David Lebe, Martha Madigan, Curtis Mann, Stephen Marc, Scott McCarney, Chris McCaw, John Metoyer, Duane Michals, Vik Muniz, Joyce Neimanas, Bea Nettles, Ted Orland, Douglas Prince, Holly Roberts, Clarissa Sligh, Keith Smith, Jerry Spagnoli, Mike & Doug Starn, Brian Taylor, Maggie Taylor, Jerry Uelsmann, Todd Walker, Joel-Peter Witkin, John Wood.

Curator: Robert Hirsch

 

 

“The resurgence of handmade photography in the 1960s had several sources and influences. It looked back to the “anti-tradition” of nineteenth-century romanticism, which accentuated the importance of making a highly personal response to experience and a critical response to society. It drew on contemporary popular culture. Many of the artists engaged in this movement were baby-boomers brought up on television and film, media that often portrayed photography as hip and sexy – eg. the film Blow-Up (1966) – and which drove home the significance of constructed photographic images. In addition, the widespread atmosphere of rebellion against social norms propelled the move toward handwork. The rejection of artistic standards in photography was consistent with the much broader exploration of sexual mores and gender roles that took place in the sixties. It was also consistent with the exploration of consciousness. The latter was encouraged by such counter-culture figures as Ken Kesey who, with his band of Merry Pranksters, boarded a Day-Glo bus called “Further” and took an LSD-fueled trip across the country that echoed Dr. Timothy Leary’s decree “to tune in, turn on, and drop out.” On a broader level, the society-at-large was exposed to psychedelic exploration through Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which youthful audiences saw as a mysterious consciousness-expanding trip into humanity’s future. Finally, handmade photography was supported by the general growth of photographic education in the university. The ubiquity and importance of the medium in the culture at large, as well as pressure from those who championed photography from within art institutions gave credence in the post-war decades to the idea that people could study photography seriously. As new photography programs mushroomed in the universities, they produced graduates who took teaching positions in even newer programs. Many of these young teachers, who had grown up to the adage of “do your own thing,” were responsive to unconventional ways of seeing and working, and they encouraged these attitudes in their students, many of whom turned to handmade photography.

Despite the attractions of handmade photography there were in the sixties, and still are to some degree, emphatic objections to the open engagement of the hand in photographic art. One common objection is that such art constitutes a dishonest method to cover up aesthetic and technical inadequacies. Another comes from those who believe strongly in the Western tradition of positivism. These people tend to reject handmade photography on the grounds that it is unnecessarily ambiguous or irrational in its meanings. Nevertheless, more artists than ever are currently using the flexible, experiential methods of handwork. In addition to opening up an avenue to inner experience, artists find handwork attractive because it promotes inventiveness, allows for the free play of intuition beyond the control of the intellect, extends the time of interaction with an image (on the part of both the maker and the viewer), and allows for the inclusion of a wide range of materials and processes within the boundaries of photography…

[Curator] Peter C. Bunnell’s innovative exhibitions [MoMA: Photography as Printmaking (1968) and Photography Into Sculpture (1970)] demonstrated that in essence photography is nothing more than light sensitive material on a surface. The exhibitions also recognized that the way a photograph is perceived and interpreted is established by artistic and societal preconceptions about how a photographic subject is supposed to look and what is accepted as truthful. The work in the Bunnell exhibitions was indicative of a larger zeitgeist of the late 1960s that involved leaving the safety net of custom, exploring how to be more aware of and physically connected to the world, and critically examining expectations with regard to lifestyles…

In spite of post-modernism’s assault on the myth of authorship and its sardonic outlook regarding the human spirit, artists who produce handmade photography continue to believe that individuals can make a difference, that originality matters, and that we learn and understand by doing. They think that a flexible image is a human image, an imperfect and physically crafted one that possesses its own idiosyncratic sense of essence, time, and wonder. Their work can be aesthetically difficult, as it may not provide the audience-friendly narratives and well-mannered compositions some people expect. But sometimes this is necessary to get us to set aside the ordained answers to the question: “What is a photograph?” and allow us to recognize photography’s remarkable diversity in form, structure, representational content, and meaning. This acknowledgment grants artists the freedom and respect to explore the full photographic terrain, to engage the medium’s broad power of inquiry, and to present the wide-ranging complexity of our experiences, beliefs, and feelings for others to see and contemplate.

Extract from Flexible Images: Handmade American Photography, 1969 – 2002 by Robert Hirsch (2003) on the Light Research website [Online] Cited 14/11/2014. First published in The Society for Photographic Education’s exposure, Volume 36: 1, 2003, cover and pages 23 – 42. © Robert Hirsch 2003

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

 

 

Vik Muniz. 'Picture of Dust' 2000

 

Vik Muniz
Picture of Dust (Barry Le Va, Continuous and Related Activities; Discontinued by the Act of Dropping, 1967, Installed at the Whitney Museum in New Sculpture 1965-75: Between Geometry and Gesture, February 20-June 3, 1990)
2000
From the series The Things Themselves: Picture of Dust
Framed, overall: 51 x 130 1/2 inches
Two silver dye bleach prints (Ilfochrome)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York;/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

Thomas Barrow. 'Dart, Albuquerque' 1974

 

Thomas Barrow
Dart, Albuquerque
1974
Fuji Crystal Archive Print

 

Thomas Barrow. 'f/t/s Cancellations (Brown) - Field Star' 1975

 

Thomas Barrow
f/t/s Cancellations (Brown) – Field Star
1975
Gift from the Collection of Joel Deal and Betsy Ruppa
© Thomas Barrow. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

Barrow scratched through his landscape negatives, calling attention to the materiality of the medium itself and the fact that regardless of how much information is given, reality remains an accumulation of belief, knowledge, and one’s own experience.

 

 

Les Krims. 'The Static Electric Effect of Minnie Mouse on Mickey Mouse Balloons' 1968

 

Les Krims
The Static Electric Effect of Minnie Mouse on Mickey Mouse Balloons
1968
Kodalith Print

 

“Kodak Kodalith paper was a thin, matt, orthochromatic graphic arts paper that was not intended for pictorial purposes. However, when it was used for pictorial expression its responsiveness to time and temperature controls during development enabled one to produce a wide range of grainy, high-contrast, and sepia tonal effects. Its unusual handling characteristics also meant that photographers had to pull the print at precisely the “right” moment from the developer and quickly get it into the stop bath, making each print unique.”

 

Din Q Le. 'Ezekial’s Whisper' 2014

 

Din Q Le
Ezekial’s Whisper
2014
C-print, linen tape

 

Ted Orland. 'Meteor!' 1998

 

Ted Orland
Meteor!
1998
Hand colored gelatin silver print

 

Brian Taylor. 'Our Thoughts Wander' 2005

 

Brian Taylor
Our Thoughts Wander
2005
From the series Open Books
Hand bound book

 

Open Books

I create photographically illustrated books springing from my fascination with the book format and a love of texture in art. My imagery is inspired by the surreal and poetic moments of living in our fast-paced, modern world. I’m fascinated by how daily life in the 21st Century presents us with incredible experiences in such regularity that we no longer differentiate between what is natural and what is colored with implausibility, humor, and irony.

These hard cover books are hand bound with marbleized paper and displayed fully opened to a photographically illustrated two-page folio spread. Each book is framed in a wooden shadowbox and presented as a wall piece. I like the idea of making art that contains some imagery which can be sensed but not seen. The underlying pages contain my photographs, snapshots, and work prints that “gave their lives” for the imagery visible in the open spread. These images lie beneath the open pages like history.1

 

David Lebe. 'Angelo On The Roof' 1979

 

David Lebe
Angelo On The Roof
1979

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, born 1934) 'Small Woods where I met Myself (Final Version)' 1967

 

Jerry Uelsmann (American, born 1934)
Small Woods where I met Myself (Final Version)
1967
Gelatin silver print
25.4 x 32.3 cm (10 x 12 11/16 in.)
© 1967 Jerry Uelsmann

 

Robert Heincken. 'Are You Rea #15' 1968

 

Robert Heincken
Are You Rea #15
1968
Offset lithography

 

David Levinthal and Garry Trudeau. 'Untitled', from the series 'Hitler Moves East' 1977

 

David Levinthal and Garry Trudeau
Untitled, from the series Hitler Moves East
1977
8 x 10 inches
Gelatin silver (Kodalith) print
Courtesy Paul Morris Gallery, New York City

 

My favorite story comes from the early days of Levinthal’s career, when he was a college student working on Hitler Moves Eastwith Garry Trudeau. They worked with childlike enthusiasm, purchasing smoke bombs from a local theater supply shop and growing grass inside David’s apartment to achieve maximum realism. This culminated in a huge explosion of smoke, and the photograph above. Forever making jokes, Levinthal had this to say about the situation: “I’m not even sure we had 911 those days, so that was probably helpful.” He sometimes describes incidents in which things went wrong, but thankfully this wasn’t one of those situations. Instead he successfully produced this photo and began a transition from the early works, which show toys rearranged on his linoleum floor, to photographs that are sophisticated and deceptively real looking.3

 

Joel-Peter Witkin. 'Poussin in Hell' 1999

 

Joel-Peter Witkin
Poussin in Hell
1999
Toned gelatin silver print

 

Douglas Prince. 'Untitled' 1969

 

Douglas Prince
Untitled
1969
Film and Plexiglas
5 x 5 x 2.5 inches

 

Mike and Doug Starn. 'Double Rembrandt with Steps' 1987-88

 

Mike and Doug Starn
Double Rembrandt with Steps
1987-88
Toned gelatin silver print, toned ortho film, wood, Plexiglas, and glue.
108 x 108 inches
Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

 

 

“CEPA Gallery is pleased to announce Transformational Imagemaking: Handmade Photography Since 1960, a companion exhibition to Robert Hirsch’s recently published book of the same title (Focal Press). This extraordinary exhibition features work by some of the most innovative photographers and imagemakers of the mid- 20th century through today; artists who redefined the notion of photography as a medium and left an indelible mark on contemporary photographic practices.

This extensive survey will include more than 140 works by over 40 artists spanning nearly 50 years of artistic practice unified by a curatorial arc rooted in notions that deviate from the purview of traditional photographic practice. Citing Robert Heinecken’s practice as the genesis of conceptual handmade photography, this exhibition charts an intricate universe of artists whose practice dispenses with the self-prescribed limitations of conventional photography in order to mine the boundless potential of the photographic medium as a conceptual conveyance.

Transformational Imagemaking is the culmination of Hirsch’s lifelong exploration into handmade photography and the artists whose practices were formed on the principle of unearthing new possibilities. Hirsch sites the catalyst for the project as an article he published in exposure in 2003 entitled “Flexible Images: Handmade American Photography, 1969 – 2002”. It has since expanded into a comprehensive publication that includes personal conversations with each artist conducted over a six-month period during 2013. CEPA will now elaborate further by mounting an exhibition that features a selection of each artist’s work.

In addition to Transformational Imagemaking, CEPA will also show the complete folio of Robert Heinecken’s seminal series Are You Rea (1966). Considered to be the grandfather of post-modern photographic practices and a major figure of 20th century art, Heinecken was a key figure in promoting new sentiments about photography as an art form, influencing artists such Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, and others. Heinecken’s rebellious spirit challenged conventions about the ways photographs represent the tangible world: “We constantly tend to misuse or misunderstand the term reality in relation to photographs. The photograph itself is the only thing that is real.”

Are You Rea (1966), created by contact printing magazine tear-outs onto photographic paper, are ghostly compositions that layer sexually suggestive images of women with fractured text. This provocative body of work, sexually charged and evocatively ambiguous, reflects an awareness of desire as a commercial commodity that begs us to question the very root of our own desires.”

Press release from CEPA Gallery

 

Keith Smith. 'Untitled' 1972

 

Keith Smith
Untitled
1972

 

Binh Danh. 'The Botany of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum #2' 2008

 

Binh Danh
The Botany of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum #2
2008
From the Immortality: The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War series
Chlorophyll print and resin

 

The chlorophyll process is an organic alternative photography process akin to the anthotype process. However, instead of printing on the crushed extract of fruit or plant matter, the prints are bleached by sunlight directly onto the surface of leaves using a positive. The resulting images are stunningly delicate and beautiful, ranging from haunting silhouettes to crisp definition. Despite the simplicity of the finished product, the process itself can be tedious with plenty of trial and error.

Drawing on the anthotype process, Danh refined a method for securing a positive directly to a live leaf and allowing sunlight to bleach the image onto its surface naturally. He has also addressed a fundamental challenge with natural photography processes; that of fixing the image to prevent further bleaching and deterioration over time. To save his work, Dah casts his finished pieces in a layer of resin allowing them to be enjoyed for years to come.2

 

Dinh Q. Lê  Vietnamese, born 1968 'Untitled' 1998

 

Dinh Q. Lê  (Vietnamese, born 1968)
Untitled, from the series Cambodia: Splendor and Darkness
1998
C-print and linen tape

 

Dan Estabrook. 'Fever' 2004

 

Dan Estabrook
Fever
2004
Salt print with ink and watercolor

 

Robert Fichter. 'Roast Beast 3' 1968

 

Robert Fichter
Roast Beast 3
1968
Verifax transfer with rundowns, stamping, and crayon

 

Robert Heineken. 'Are You Rea #1' 1966

 

Robert Heineken
Are You Rea #1
1966
Offset lithography

 

Chris McCaw. 'Sunburned GSP #676 (San Francisco Bay)' 2013

 

Chris McCaw
Sunburned GSP #676 (San Francisco Bay)
2013
Gelatin Silver paper negative

 

Curtis Mann. 'Photographer, Scratch' 2009

 

Curtis Mann
Photographer, Scratch
2009
Bleached c-print with synthetic polymer varnish

 

Vik Muniz. 'Atlas (Carlao)' 2008

 

Vik Muniz
Atlas (Carlao)
2008
Digital C-print

 

 

CEPA Gallery
617 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14203
T: (716) 856-2717

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday: 9.00 am – 5.00 pm
Saturday: 12.00 pm – 4.00 pm

CEPA Gallery website

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21
Nov
08

‘Klippel/Klippel: Opus 2008’ exhibition at National Gallery of Victoria (Federation Square)

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A magical exhibition of the work of the deceased Australian sculptor Robert Klippel (1920 – 2001) is presented together with a soundscape to accompany the works by his son Andrew Klippel. The exhibition presents two distinct rooms of light and shade and finishes with a singular monumental bronze work No. 709, but it is the first two room that astound. These contain small assemblages and bronze sculpture made in the 1980s – 1990s.

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klippel-a

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‘Klippel/Klippel: Opus 2008’ exhibition sculpture from the first space

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In the first space lit glass cases hover in darkness, containing delicate constructions of found objects, beautifully crafted. Made of plastic and metal, some parts taken from modeling kits, the sculptures morph and weave a delicate narrative, a powerful artistic vision. Mostly totemic in nature they transport the viewer with wonder and delight, the artists vision fully realized: no unnecessary flourishes, no wasted energy on forms that are redundant.

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Opus 2008' exhibition entrance to the second space

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‘Klippel/Klippel: Opus 2008’ exhibition entrance to the second space

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Wandering from the first darkened space we face a curved wall of black with a bright white opening, almost like the mouth of a Nautilus shell. Upon entering we are enveloped in white – walls, floor, stretched acrylic ceiling and stands upon which glass cases sit all being pure white. It is like stepping into the spacecraft from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ – quite disorientating but transformational. In the cases sit small very dark bronze sculptures contrasting with the white. Again mostly totemic in nature the sculptures have great power and presence. Some portray small cities on top of hills. Others intricate machine and figure like constructions. All of the cases are mounted at different eye levels, unlike the first room.

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Opus 2008' exhibition sculptures in the second space

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”Klippel/Klippel: Opus 2008′ exhibition bronze sculptures from the second space

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Opus 2008' exhibition installation view of the second space

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‘Klippel/Klippel: Opus 2008’ exhibition installation view of the second space

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When looking across the gallery space, the boxes and sculpture within create a diorama, almost a tableaux vivant, where you can move the focus of your gaze from foreground to mid to background, all suspended in white. If you can be in this space alone with the work and wander around soaking in the vision of this artist so much the better. The contrast and parallels between the two rooms is striking – here is an artist at the height of his powers commanding his materials and his vision in two distinct bodies of work: one delicate, found, plastic the other solid, dark and essential, both dealing with the essence of human creativity and being, leaving the viewer with a sensory experience long remembered.

The exhibition finishes on 2nd November 2008.

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The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘England’ 1993

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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