Posts Tagged ‘still life photography

07
May
17

Exhibition: ‘The Unsettled Lens’ at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 18th February – 14th May 2017

 

Not a great selection of media images… I would have liked to have seen more photographs from what is an interesting premise for an exhibition: the idea of the uncanny as a sense of displacement, as a difficulty in reconciling the familiar with the unknown.

The three haunting – to haunt, to be persistently and disturbingly present in (the mind) – images by Wyn Bullock are my favourites in the posting.

Marcus

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

 

 

Since the early twentieth-century, photographers have crafted images that hinge on the idea of the uncanny, a psychological phenomenon existing, according to psychoanalysis, at the intersection between the reassuring and the threatening, the familiar and the new. The photographs in this exhibition build subtle tensions based on the idea of the uncanny as a sense of displacement, as a difficulty in reconciling the familiar with the unknown. By converting nature into unrecognisable abstract impressions of reality, by intruding on moments of intimacy, by weaving enigmatic narratives, and by challenging notions of time and memory, these images elicit unsettling sensations and challenge our intellectual mastery of the new. This exhibition showcases new acquisitions in photography and photographs from the permanent collection, stretching from the early twentieth-century to the year 2000.

 

 

Edward J. Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973) 'Moonrise, Mamaroneck, New York' 1904, printed 1981

 

Edward J. Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
Moonrise, Mamaroneck, New York
1904, printed 1981
Photogravure
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Museum purchase with funds provided by Ms. Frances Kerr

 

William A. Garnett. 'Sand Bars, Colorado River, Near Needles, California' 1954

 

William A. Garnett (1916-2006)
Sand Bars, Colorado River, Near Needles, California
1954
Silver gelatin print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art

 

Elliott Erwitt (American, born France 1928) 'Cracked Glass with Boy, Colorado' 1955, printed 1980

 

Elliott Erwitt (American, born France 1928)
Cracked Glass with Boy, Colorado
1955, printed 1980
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Gift of Raymond W. Merritt

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Navigation Without Numbers' 1957

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Navigation Without Numbers
1957
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas V. Duncan

 

 

In “Navigation Without Numbers,” photographer Wynn Bullock comments on life’s dualities and contradictions through imagery and textures: the soft, inviting bed and the rough, rugged walls; the bond of mother and child, and the exhaustion and isolation of motherhood; and the illuminated bodies set against the surrounding darkness. The book on the right shelf is a 1956 guide on how to pilot a ship without using mathematics. Its title, Navigation Without Numbers, recalls the hardship and confusion of navigating through the dark, disorienting waters of early motherhood.

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902–1975) 'Child in Forest' 1951

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Child in Forest
1951
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas V. Duncan

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975) 'Child on Forest Road' 1958, printed 1973

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Child on Forest Road
1958, printed 1973
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas V. Duncan

 

 

“Child on Forest Road,” which features the artist’s daughter, brings together a series of dualities or oppositions in a single image: ancient forest and young child, soft flesh and rough wood, darkness and light, safe haven and vulnerability, communion with nature and seclusion. In so doing, Bullock reflects on his own attempt to relate to nature and to the strange world implied by Einstein’s newly theorized structure of the universe.

 

Ruth Bernhard (American, born Germany, 1905-2006) 'In the Box - Horizontal' 1962

 

Ruth Bernhard (American, born Germany, 1905-2006)
In the Box – Horizontal
1962
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Museum purchase

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993) 'Untitled [dead bird and sand]' 1967

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993)
Untitled (dead bird and sand)
1967
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Gift of the Christian Keesee Collection

 

Edward J. Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973) 'Balzac, The Open Sky - 11 P.M.' 1908

 

Edward J. Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973)
Balzac, The Open Sky – 11 P.M.
1908
Photogravure
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Museum purchase with funds provided by Ms. Frances Kerr

 

 

Edward Steichen, who shared similar artistic ambitions with Symbolist sculptor, Auguste Rodin, presented Rodin’s Balzac as barely decipherable and as an ominous silhouette in the shadows. In Steichen’s photograph, Balzac is a pensive man contemplating human nature and tragedy, a “Christ walking in the desert,” as Rodin himself admiringly described it. Both Rodin and Steichen chose Balzac as their subject due to the French writer’s similar interest in psychological introspection.

 

Ralph Gibson (American, b. 1939) 'Untitled (Woman with statue)' 1974, printed 1981

 

Ralph Gibson (American, b. 1939)
Untitled (Woman with statue)
1974, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Gift of Carol and Ray Merritt

 

William A. Garnett (1916-2006) 'Two Trees on Hill with Shadow, Paso Robles, CA' 1974

 

William A. Garnett (1916-2006)
Two Trees on Hill with Shadow, Paso Robles, CA
1974
Silver gelatin print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art

 

Thomas Harding (American, 1911-2002) 'Barbed Wire and Tree' 1987

 

Thomas Harding (American, 1911-2002)
Barbed Wire and Tree
1987
Platinum print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Museum purchase with funds provided by Mr. Jack Coleman

 

Zeke Berman (American, b. 1951) 'Untitled (Web 2)' 1988

 

Zeke Berman (American, b. 1951)
Untitled (Web 2)
1988
Gelatin silver print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Museum purchase

 

 

In “Untitled,” New York sculptor and photographer Zeke Berman sets up a still life in the Dutch tradition – the artist presents a plane in foreshortened perspective, sumptuous fabric, and carefully balanced objects – only to dismantle it, and reduce it to a semi-abandoned stage. Spider webs act as memento mori (visual reminders of the finitude of life), while the objects, seemingly unrelated to each other and peculiarly positioned, function as deliberately enigmatic signs.

 

Stan Douglas (Canadian, b. 1960) 'Roof of the Ruskin Plant' 1992

 

Stan Douglas (Canadian, b. 1960)
Roof of the Ruskin Plant
1992
Chromogenic print
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Gift of the Christian Keesee Collection

 

 

Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Opening hours:
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Thursday: 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday: noon – 5 pm
Closed: Monday and Major Holidays

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15
Mar
16

Exhibition: ‘Photo-Poetics: An Anthology’ at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 20th November 2015 – 23rd March 2016

 

My apologies, I am feeling very poorly at the moment, so just a small comment on this exhibition.

After the trilogy of 19th century photography, now for something completely different… two consecutive postings on contemporary photography.

In this art, the photograph becomes a conceptual “speech” act, where the artists speak with photographs, working with the context of the image – the image as concept, as talk.

It’s not just that the artists make photographic objects, they push what the medium can do. As the press release observes, “Theirs is a sort of “photo poetics,” an art that self-consciously investigates the laws of photography and the nature of photographic representation, reproduction, and the photographic object.” It is art that requires contemplation and meditation on source by Self. I have included several videos and extra text to illuminate aspects of the work in the posting.

I like the intertextuality that the artists employ when pushing the boundaries of photographic practice and representation, particularly Claudia Angelmaier’s series Works on Paper (2008-) and Lisa Oppenheim’s series The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else (2006).

Marcus

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

 

 

 

99 SECONDS OF: PHOTO-POETICS: An Anthology / Guggenheim New York

 

 

“The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue examine an important new development in contemporary photography, offering an opportunity to define the concerns of a younger generation of artists and contextualize their work within the history of art and visual culture. Drawing on the legacies of Conceptualism, these artists pursue a largely studio-based approach to still-life photography that centers on the representation of objects, often printed matter such as books, magazines, and record covers. The result is an image imbued with poetic and evocative personal significance – a sort of displaced self-portraiture – that resonates with larger cultural and historical meanings. Driven by a profound engagement with the medium of photography, these artists investigate the nature, traditions, and magic of photography at a moment characterized by rapid digital transformation. They attempt to rematerialize the photograph through meticulous printing, using film and other disappearing photo technologies, and creating artist’s books, installations, and photo-sculptures. While they are invested in exploring the processes, supports, and techniques of photography, they are also deeply interested in how photographic images circulate. Theirs is a sort of “photo poetics,” an art that self-consciously investigates the laws of photography and the nature of photographic representation, reproduction, and the photographic object.”

Text from the exhibition web page.

 

Photo-Poetics image

 

Anne Collier. 'Crying' 2005

 

Anne Collier
Crying
2005
Chromogenic print
99.1 x 134 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Aaron M. Tighe
© Anne Collier

 

 

Collier’s photographs offer a straightforward presentation of found images and printed ephemera, and explore themes of appropriation, iconography, and surrogacy… Though implicitly layered with feminist critiques of mass media, Collier’s images of famous women – especially those of other artists, like Cindy Sherman, for example – can also be interpreted as oblique self-portraits. (Text from the Guggenheim artist’s web page).

“Ephemera and mediation are at the quiet center of Collier’s Crying, one of her works in the exhibition. Seen from across the room, “Crying” looks like a photograph overlaid upon a painted surface, or perhaps a portrait integrated within a two-dimensional space. The image, indeed a photo, is divided horizontally; the upper two-thirds are white, the bottom third is black, and on the left-hand side there is a small square close-up of a distraught woman crying. The woman is Ingrid Bergman, and this is the cover of the LP that accompanied her 1943 film For Whom the Bell Tolls. The LP is upright, facing the viewer dead-on, and up close we can see that there are a number of records behind it and that the flat spaces above and below are actually a white wall and black floor. The work is in no way overwhelming; there is nothing bombastic about it. Rather, the thrill of it comes from the reading it requires. Collier deploys her references strategically – this brings to mind abstract painting, Bas Jan Ader’s I’m Too Sad to Tell You, Bergman’s films and unconventional life, and the joy of the collector in the record store. Should that not be enough, it also awakens the empathy centers that begin firing when we see someone cry. Crying is part of a series involving records – others are of The Smiths and Sylvia Plath – but it contains the tensions within all of her work: advertising and fine art, nostalgia and distance, the camera and the eye. Collier has said she is interested in photographing objects that have “had previous lives… been handed and used,” and these rely on a kind of slow intertextuality; the gradual unfolding of meaning and feeling working towards a dizzying remove. It’s disorienting and evocative, a poetics in which the camera is not just the set-up but the punchline, and all the previous lives can be felt lurking beneath the surface.”

Anonymous text from “Woman with Camera: Anne Collier’s Feminist Image Critique,” on the Deutsche Bank ArtMag 88 web page.

 

Moyra Davey. 'Les Goddesses' 2011

 

Moyra Davey
Les Goddesses (still)
2011
HD color video, with sound, 61 min.
Courtesy the artist and Murray Guy, New York
© Moyra Davey

 

 

In the mid-2000s, the moving image took on a renewed prominence in Davey’s work. Inspired by her deep interest in the process of reading and writing, the artist’s essayistic video practice layers personal narrative with detailed explorations of the texts and lives of authors and thinkers she admires, such as Walter Benjamin, Jean Genet, and Mary Wollstonecraft. Davey’s own writing is central to her videos. The transcript of Fifty Minutes (2006), in which the artist reflects on her years in psychoanalysis, was published as a personal essay in the artist book Long Life Cool White: Photographs and Essays by Moyra Davey (2008), and her text “The Wet and the Dry” formed the basis of the narration of Les Goddesses (2011). (Text from the Guggenheim artist’s web page).

 

Erin Shirreff. 'UN 2010' 2010

 

Erin Shirreff
UN 2010 (still)
2010
HD color video, silent, 17 min.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by Erica Gervais
© Erin Shirreff

 

 

Erin Shirreff
UN 2010 (excerpt)
2010
HD color video, silent, 17 min.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by Erica Gervais
© Erin Shirreff

 

 

Shirreff’s work in photography, video, and sculpture reflects on the distance between an object and its representation, exploring the capacities of photography in conveying a sculptural experience.

Since scale and presence were central concerns of much mid-century abstract sculpture, Shirreff often draws on images of such works as she explores the disjunction between photographs and their subjects. Sculpture Park (Tony Smith) (2006), Shirreff’s first video work, features small cardboard maquettes the artist made of five Tony Smith sculptures. Filmed against a black background, their dark forms become discernible only as “snow” (Styrofoam) slowly accumulates on their surfaces. For subsequent video works, including Ansel Adams, RCA Building, circa 1940 (2009), Roden Crater (2009), and UN 2010 (2010), Shirreff photographed printed pictures of her subjects – often landscapes or iconic modernist buildings – under varying lighting conditions in the studio, inputting the resultant images into video editing software. These videos appear at first to be long, static shots of the subjects pictured, but eventually belie their own artifice as the viewer becomes gradually aware of the texture of the image surface. (Text from the Guggenheim artist’s web page).

 

Lisa Oppenheim. 'The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else' 2006 (detail)

 

Lisa Oppenheim
The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else (detail)
2006
Slide projection of fifteen 35 mm slides, continuous loop, dimensions variable
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee

 

 

Oppenheim’s work explores the interactions between an image, its source, and the context in which it is encountered. The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else (2006) originates from photographs of the setting sun taken by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, which Oppenheim found on the image-sharing website Flickr. Holding each photograph at arm’s length in such a way that it aligns with the horizon of the setting sun in the artist’s native New York, the artist reshot the images as the sun set within the frame. Presented as a 35 mm slide show, the significance of seemingly quotidian sunsets shifts with the knowledge of who captured them and where. (Text from the Guggenheim artist’s web page).

 

 

Guggenheim Examines New Developments in Contemporary Photography with Photo-Poetics: An Anthology

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents Photo-Poetics: An Anthology, an exhibition documenting recent developments in contemporary photography and consisting of photographs, videos, and slide installations by ten international artists. With more than 70 works by Claudia Angelmaier, Erica Baum, Anne Collier, Moyra Davey, Leslie Hewitt, Elad Lassry, Lisa Oppenheim, Erin Shirreff, Kathrin Sonntag, and Sara VanDerBeek, the exhibition runs from November 20, 2015 – March 23, 2016, and presents a focused study into the nature, traditions, and magic of photography in the context of the rapid digital transformation of the medium.

Organized by Jennifer Blessing, Senior Curator, Photography, with Susan Thompson, Assistant Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Photo-Poetics: An Anthology offers an opportunity to define the concerns of a new generation of photographic artists and contextualize their work within the history of art and visual culture. These artists mainly pursue a studio-based approach to still-life photography that centers on the representation of objects, often printed matter such as books, magazines, and record covers. The result is often an image imbued with poetic and evocative personal significance that resonates with larger cultural and historical meanings.

The artists in the exhibition attempt to rematerialize the photograph through meticulous printing, using film and other disappearing photo technologies. Drawing on the legacies of Conceptualism and invested in exploring the processes and techniques of photography, they are also deeply interested in how photographic images circulate. Theirs is a sort of “photo poetics,” an art that self-consciously investigates the laws of photography and the nature of photographic representation, reproduction, and the photographic object. The works in the exhibition, rich with detail, reward close and prolonged regard; they ask for a mode of looking that is closer to reading than the cursory scanning fostered by the clicking and swiping functionalities of smartphones and social media. Both the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue are conceived as anthologies, as independent vehicles to introduce each artist’s important and unique practice. #photopoetics

Press release from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

 

Sara VanDerBeek. 'From the Means of Reproduction' 2007

 

Sara VanDerBeek
From the Means of Reproduction
2007
Chromogenic print
101.6 x 76.2 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee
© Sara VanDerBeek

 

 

VanDerBeek’s photographs utilize a variety of formal strategies and references yet remain consistently engaged with issues of memory and the experience of time and space.

VanDerBeek first became known in the mid-2000s for photographs featuring her own makeshift sculptural configurations in which appropriated photos were combined into collages that resounded with personal and political meaning. Constructed in the studio out of found images and pieces of wood, metal, and string, these works, such as From the Means of Reproduction (2007) and Calder and Julia (2006), were created solely for the camera and were disassembled after being photographed. (Text from the Guggenheim artist’s web page).

 

Kathrin Sonntag. 'Mittnacht' 2008 (detail)

 

Kathrin Sonntag
Mittnacht (detail)
2008
Slide projection of eighty one 35 mm slides, continuous loop, dimensions variable
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee and Manuel de Santaren
© Kathrin Sonntag

 

Kathrin Sonntag. 'Mittnacht' 2008 (detail)

 

Kathrin Sonntag
Mittnacht (detail)
2008
Slide projection of eighty one 35 mm slides, continuous loop, dimensions variable
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee and Manuel de Santaren
© Kathrin Sonntag

 

 

Encompassing sculpture, photography, film, and drawing, Sonntag’s work offers a complex analysis of the nature of objects and the division between fiction and reality. Using stools, tripods, tables, and mirrors to create unusual perspectives, her installations strip meaning from readily identifiable objects via photographic experiments within the confines of her studio. Mittnacht (2008) comprises eighty-one slides of found images of paranormal phenomena photographed among the artist’s studio tools and furniture. The supernatural elements are enhanced by their disorienting placement within the studio, which both creates illusions and allows errors and smudges in processing to cast an eerie shadow on certain images in the series. (Text from the Guggenheim artist’s web page).

 

Claudia Angelmaier. 'Betty' 2008

 

Claudia Angelmaier
Betty
2008
Chromogenic print, face-mounted to acrylic
130 x 100 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee with additional funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Aaron M. Tighe, and Rona and Jeffrey Citrin
© Claudia Angelmaier

 

 

Taking art historical masterpieces – and, by extension, art history itself – as her referents, Angelmaier traces the photographic representation of artworks across the pages of textbooks, classroom slides, coffee table monographs, and postcards. Cognizant that major artworks are most often encountered via reproduction rather than in person, she highlights the analogue media that have facilitated the circulation of such images for many decades…

The larger scope of Angelmaier’s concerns is particularly evident in the series Works on Paper (2008- ). Here, the artist photographs the backlit versos of postcards from museum gift shops. The artwork pictured on a card’s front appears muted yet faintly discernible, while the caption information and museum insignia on the back remain fully legible. By foregrounding the text, logos, and barcodes, Angelmaier not only examines the material realities of the postcard, but the social and economic systems both the souvenir and the work it depicts inhabit. (Text from the Guggenheim artist’s web page).

 

Erica Baum. 'Jaws' (from the series 'Naked Eye'), 2008

 

Erica Baum
Jaws (from the series Naked Eye)
2008
Inkjet print
47 x 41.6 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Aaron M. Tighe
© Erica Baum

 

 

Baum takes the printed page as her primary subject, photographing fragments of found language at close range. Commingling image and text, her works often operate simultaneously as both photograph and poem… For the Naked Eye series (2008- ), Baum directs her camera into the partially opened pages of stipple-edged paperbacks from the 1960s and ’70s, capturing slivers of image and text separated by the vertical striations of adjacent pages’ brightly dyed edges. Although the compositions are each the result of a single, unaltered photograph, they operate visually as collages and veer toward abstraction. (Text from the Guggenheim artist’s web page).

 

Elad Lassry. 'Bengal' 2011

 

Elad Lassry
Bengal
2011
Chromogenic print in painted frame
36.8 x 29.2 x 3.8 cm
A.P. 1/2, edition of 5
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee
© Elad Lassry. Photo: Kristopher McKay © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

 

Elad Lassry. 'Untitled (Woman, Blond)' 2013

 

Elad Lassry
Untitled (Woman, Blond)
2013
Chromogenic print in walnut frame with four-ply silk
36.8 x 29.2 x 3.8 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee
© Elad Lassry

 

 

Lassry positions his photographic works as “pictures,” entities that operate simultaneously as both objects and images. In doing so, he shifts their relationship to the viewer, inviting a broader examination of how photographs are seen and understood.

Lassry regularly presents his photographs in lacquered frames that match the colors of his bright, saturated images, or in warm walnut frames in the case of his work in black and white. The artist used this approach as early as 2008, in works such as Wolf (Blue) (2008). The continuity between frame and photo, heightened by the absence of matting, highlights the physicality of the picture without disrupting the illusion of depth in the photographic image. Lassry’s pictures derive from his own studio-based photographs as well as appropriated imagery. In both cases, the images reference the language of advertising and stock photography – and the attendant notions of desire therein. However, the would-be product is either obscured or excluded, removing the sense of purpose that drives such imagery. The artist sometimes employs techniques such as double exposure, blurring, superimposition, or collage that create an unsettling instability within his pictures. In more recent works, Lassry has incorporated sculptural elements, most often silk valances that cover significant sections of the image, as in Untitled (Woman, Blond) (2013), or looping colored wires that penetrate it, as in Untitled (Dolphins, Two) (2014). (Text from the Guggenheim artist’s web page).

 

Leslie Hewitt. 'Riffs on Real Time (3 of 10)', 2006–09

 

Leslie Hewitt
Riffs on Real Time (3 of 10)
2006-09
Chromogenic print
76.2 x 61 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee

 

 

Commingling photography and sculpture, Hewitt’s works often present arrangements of personally and politically charged materials – including historically significant books and magazines from the 1960s and ’70s as well as family photos (not necessarily her own) – that conjure associative meaning through juxtaposition.

In Hewitt’s series Riffs on Real Time (2006-09), snapshots lay atop appropriated printed matter shot against a wood floor or carpet so that the contrasting textures of these layered materials build up and outward toward the viewer. In Hewitt’s various photo-sculptural series, the photographs begin to pointedly inhabit the space of the viewer. Positioned on the floor, their frames lean against the gallery walls, asserting their own materiality and calling attention to the space of the gallery. (Text from the Guggenheim artist’s web page).

 

 

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, Friday 10 am – 5.45 pm
Saturday 10 am – 7.45 pm
Thursday closed

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22
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Irving Penn, Resonance’ at the Palazzo Grassi, Venice

Exhibition dates: 13th April – 31st December 2014

Curated by Pierre Apraxine and Matthieu Humery

 

 

Irving Penn’s platinum photographs fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction. I could think of better things to spend my money on…

I have never been a fan – of his cigarette butts, fruit dishes, vanitas as well as animal skulls and ethnographic photos. There are just too clinically cold and dead for me. Other people may love them, but for work that supposedly investigates the ephemerality and brevity of human existence Penn tightens his essentially reductive approach until the conceptual (and formal) noose strangles the subject.

Irving Penn’s Worlds in a Small Room (where he set up baffles and stood “mudpeople” and other tribespeople), his masks, and his platinum prints of cigarette butts are his claim to fame. They were champoined by the US East Coast and commercial interests. They are not terrible, but I don’t believe they are deserving of their fame – well, they are terrible in a way because they are just sort of mildly pathetic really. The work was deliberately made to attract the limelight too, at least in the vibe I get from them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

Irving Penn: The Enduring Power of Formal Simplicity

“Irving Penn was one of the most significant and prolific photographers of the 20th century whose signature blend of classical elegance, cool minimalism and monumentality still command our attention… Penn’s visual innovations, compositional originality and intensity, his diversity and range, his meticulous perfectionism and his technical precision and insistence on clean spare elegant compositions are his trademarks… A remarkable sixty-year career was filled with amazing commissioned images which could not have been sustained without a relentless sense of precision and unyielding attention to details as well as a restless sense of curiosity… Penn’s approach from the beginning was essentially reductive – he described it as a ‘tightening process – the plastic search.’  He preferred the simple studio backdrop in order to concentrate on preserving the ‘sanctity of the document’… Penn’s legacy is his prodigious insatiable breadth of work blurring the worlds of commerce and fine art. He was constantly questioning the meaning of time, of life and its fragility.

.
Diana Edkins April 2014

 

 

Irving Penn. 'Lion (Front View)' Prague 1986

 

Irving Penn
Lion (Front View)
Prague, 1986
Copyright © by The Irving Penn Foundation

 

Irving Penn. 'Poppy: Showgirl' London, 1968

 

Irving Penn
Poppy: Showgirl
London, 1968
Copyright © by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

 

Irving Penn. 'Cuzco Children' 1948

 

Irving Penn
Cuzco Children
1948
Copyright © by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

 

 

“The exhibition Irving Penn, Resonance, curated by Pierre Apraxine and Matthieu Humery, brings together on the second floor of Palazzo Grassi 130 photographs, taken between the end of the 1940s and the mid-1980s. The exhibition is a collection of 90 platinum prints, 30 gelatin silver prints, 4 colorful dye transfer prints and 17 internegatives, which will be shown to the public for the first time.

It tackles the themes dear to Irving Penn and which, beyond their apparent diversity, all capture every facet of ephemerality. This is true of the selection of photographs from the series small trades, taken in France, England and the United States in the 1950s. It is also the case for the portraits taken between the 1950s and the 1970s of celebrities from the world of art, cinema, and literature. Exhibited alongside ethnographic photographs of the people of Dahomey and of tribesmen from New Guinea and Morocco, they strongly underline the brevity of human existence, whether affluent or resourceless, famous or unknown.

The exhibition path, which encourages dialogue and connections between works that differ in subject matter and period of time, gives prominence to still life photography from the late 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s: they are composed of cigarette ends, fruit dishes, vanitas as well as animal skulls photographed at the Narodni National Museum in Prague in 1986 for the series Cranium Architecture.

This broad overview of Irving Penn’s work puts relatively unknown images side-by-side with the most iconic ones, thereby revealing the particular ability to synthesize that characterizes this photographer: in his work, modernity is not necessarily in opposition with the past and the way he exerts control over every step of the process, from the studio to the printing (to which he dedicates a lot of attention and unprecedented care), enables one to come nearer to the truth of things and people, through a constant questioning of the meaning of time, of life and of its fragility.

 

Irving Penn

Irving Penn was born in 1917 in Plainfield, New Jersey. In 1934 he enrolled at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art where he studied design with Alexey Brodovitch. In 1938 he began a career in New York as a graphic artist – then, after a year painting in Mexico, he returned to New York City and began work at Vogue magazine where Alexander Liberman was art director.

Liberman encouraged Penn to take his first color photograph, a still life which became the October 1, 1943 cover of Vogue, beginning a fruitful collaboration with the magazine that lasted until his death in 2009. In addition to his editorial and fashion work for Vogue, Penn also worked for other magazines and for numerous commercial clients in America and abroad.

He published many books of his photographs including: Moments Preserved (1960); Worlds in a Small Room (1974); Inventive Paris Clothes (1977); Flowers (1980); Passage (1991); Irving Penn Regards The Work of Issey Miyake (1999); Still Life (2001); Dancer (2001); Earthly Bodies (2002); A Notebook At Random (2004); Dahomey (2004); Irving Penn: Platinum Prints (2005); Small Trades (2009); and two books of drawings and paintings.

Penn’s photographs are in the collections of major museums in America and abroad, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which honored him with a retrospective exhibition in 1984. This exhibition was circulated to museums in twelve countries. Irving Penn made a donation, in 1997, to the Art Institute of Chicago of prints and archival material. In November of that year, the Art Institute mounted a retrospective that also toured to 5 museums around the world beginning at The State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.”

Press release from the Palazzo Grassi website

 

Irving Penn. 'Black and White Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett)' New York, 1950

 

Irving Penn
Black and White Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett)
New York, 1950
Copyright © by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

 

Irving Penn. 'Truman Capote (1 of 2)' New York, 1965

 

Irving Penn
Truman Capote (1 of 2)
New York, 1965
Copyright © by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

 

Irving Penn. 'Deep-Sea Diver (C)' New York, 1951

 

Irving Penn
Deep-Sea Diver (C)
New York, 1951
Copyright © by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

 

 

Palazzo Grassi
Dorsoduro, 2 
30123
Venezia
, Italy

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Palazzo Grassi website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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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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