Posts Tagged ‘suburbia

08
Feb
15

Exhibition: ‘Bohemian Melbourne’ at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 12th December 2014 – 22th February 2015

 

Definition

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. (Wikipedia)

A Bohemian is a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.

 

This is a fantastic exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, one of the best I have seen so far in Melbourne this year. I have seen it three times and each time it has been a thoroughly rewarding experience.

  • Visually and intellectually stimulating, with a plethora of artefacts, texts and photographs
  • Excellent curatorship, with the exhibition logically structured in order to cohesively display the history, characters and stories, and strands of creativity and rebellious spirit that make up Melbourne’s cultural life
  • A great hang, with disparate elements and mediums all informing each other, pithy quotes, unique film footage, video, music
  • Not too big, just the right size to indulge your senses and brain power

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One downside was that the exhibition needed a book or exhibition catalogue to flesh out the themes. Hopefully this will eventuate down the track. Also, it would have been nice to see more of what I would call ‘vernacular bohemianism’ – not just the famous people in each era, but the people that lived the life out on the streets, that supported the subcultures that sprung up from the 1950s onwards, but in a small exhibition it is understandable that there was not enough space.

Another perspective is that, in ordering such a diverse group of people who don’t want to be classified, who lived on the edge of society – you remove their cultural and historical ability to be transgressive, to cross moral and social taboos. By naming them as “bohemian” you seek to classify and order their existence and bring them within a frame of reference that is about control, power and visibility. This disciplinary power, Michel Foucault maintains, relies on surveillance to transform the subjects and the exhibition taxonomy is just that… a form of surveillance of the subject as well as a form of ordering it. Under this phenomena of power, dissonance/dissidence is neutralised and human beings are made subjects: through ‘the systematic linking of the categories of power and knowledge to form a hybrid, power-knowledge.’ (Hirst, 1992, “Foucault and Architecture,” in AA Files, No. 26, Autumn, pp. 52-60)

As John Tagg notes in his book The Burden of Representation (and this is what this exhibition does, it ‘represents’ a particular construction of identity as seen from the viewpoint of the establishment, the institution), “when Foucault examines power he is not just examining a negative force operating through a series of prohibitions … We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms – as exclusion, censorship, concealment, eradication. In fact, power produces. It produces reality. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth.” (Tagg, John. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988, p. 87)

Ultimatley, that is what this exhibition does, it produces a reality that many of these bohemians would not have bought into, for they lived outside the fold. It produces domains of objects, institutions of language, rituals of truth that, through their naming, seek to classify and negate the transgressive and subversive nature of many of these people and groups. These people lived in opposition to the tenants and morals of everyday society and that is why we still love them – for their creativity, their individuality, their thoughts and above all their panache, stepping outside the orthodoxies and regi/mentality of everyday life. Against the system, for life.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

“The mania of young artists to
wish to live outside of their time,
with other ideas and other customs,
isolate them from the world,
render them strange and bizarre,
puts them outside the law, banished
from society. These are today’s
bohemians.”

.
Félix Pyat (French, 1810-1889)

 

 

Artist, rebel, hippie, hipster?

Revealing Melbourne’s enduring counter-cultures, Bohemian Melbourne celebrates a who’s who of creative free spirits through their art and the bohemian legacy that has shaped the character of this city. The exhibition shines a light on Melbourne’s cultural bohemians from 1860 to today, tracing individuals who have pushed against convention in their lives and art, from Marcus Clarke, Albert Tucker and Mirka Mora to Barry Humphries, Vali Myers and Nick Cave.

Venture into history’s backstreets and smoky salons to discover the stories of the daring poets, artists, visionaries, rebels and rock stars who changed Melbourne forever. (Text from the website)

 

Marcus Clarke: “A Punk in the Age of Steam”

Marcus Clarke, writer, journalist and later a librarian at the Melbourne Public Library, is generally celebrated as the father of Bohemian Melbourne – although he was more its wild child. After a privileged start in a wealthy English family, which allowed him to cultivate the life of a young dandy and to indulge his passion for the writings of Honoré de Balzac and others, a 16-year-old Clarke suddenly found himself in colonial Melbourne in 1863, thanks to a turn in the family fortune.

Determined to maintain a semblance of the life to which he had become accustomed, Clarke was soon to be found strolling the streets of Melbourne as a flâneur, an observer of the city spectacle. A short-lived post as a bank clerk was followed by a stint on the land as a jackaroo, but by the age of 21 he was back in Melbourne and working as a journalist for the Argus newspaper.

Clarke’s bohemian ways soon attracted other young journalists and writers, and they began to congregate at various Melbourne watering holes, in particular the Cafe de Paris establishing the Yorick Club, the early members of which included fellow writers Henry Rendall, George Gordon McCrae and Adam Lindsay Gordon. The Yorick had a human skull for a mascot and rules that parodied the gentleman’s clubs of establishment Melbourne. Its members gathered in rooms adjoining the office of Melbourne Punch to smoke clay pipes, drink from pewter mugs, recite poetry and generally engage in horseplay. Bohemian society had found a Melbourne home and a creative community was born. (Wall text from exhibition)

 

Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke
1866
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

Bohemian culture in marvellous Melbourne

Marvellous Melbourne, which arose out of the egalitarianism of the gold rushes, gave birth to a strong bohemian culture. Marcus Clarke, the London-born journalist, writer, librarian and professional bohemian, joined the Athenaeum Club and founded in 1868 the Yorrick Club, Australia’s first bohemian club, which became a magnet for men of letters.

He was a dressed-up dandy, a flâneur and a heavy drinker, but had a touch of genius with his novel, For the Term of His Natural Life (1874/75), one of the classics of Australian colonial literature. He was dead by the age of 35, with suicide rumoured but rejected by his actress wife, Marian Dunn, the mother of his six children. Clarke in his behaviour and creative achievement became a model for other Australian bohemians to follow.

Extract from Professor Sasha Grishin. “Celebrating Melbourne bohemians at the State Library of Victoria,” on The Conversation website, 16 January 2015 [Online] Cited 03/02/2015

 

Unknown photographer. 'Marcus Clarke' (detail) 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Marcus Clarke (detail)
1866
Albumen silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

“In 1863, when the young Marcus Clarke arrived in Melbourne, he could have slipped easily into what passed for mannered society in the booming gold-rush city. His uncle was a County Court judge, his cousin a politician, and Clarke himself was granted honorary membership of the elite Melbourne Club. But he chose to turn his back on the bunyip aristocracy. “I am a bohemian,” declared the man who would go on to write the first great Australian novel. “I live, I walk, I eat, drink and philosophise.”

All of which sounds perfectly normal – except, perhaps, for the philosophising – but in reality, Marcus Clarke’s life was far from average. He became a celebrated satirist of Marvellous Melbourne, by turns outraging and titillating 19th-century sensibilities in Australia’s modern metropolis. He befriended fellow intellectuals and bon vivants to form underground literary clubs that didn’t so much turn their backs on as raise an insulting finger to colonial mores. He was a poet and a playwright, a journalist and a novelist, a jackaroo, a wastrel and, above all, quite the tremendous wit.

Clarke’s most enduring gift is his writing, particularly the classic convict novel For The Term Of His Natural Life. But a new exhibition at the State Library of Victoria pays tribute to his other major legacy – that of Australia’s first bona fide bohemian.

“Clarke was an iconoclast, dangerous to know and a dandy about town,” explains historian Dr Tony Moore, author of Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians

“Most people think of him as a venerable old Victorian gentleman, but I characterise him as a punk in the age of steam.” [Marcus: I don’t know why a venerable old Victorian gentleman – he was dead at 35]

Moore, who is a Monash University academic and passionate chronicler of unconventional Australians, was an adviser to the exhibition and worked alongside curator Clare Williamson to create this retrospective of radicals. Melbourne’s roaming free spirits have been corralled together for the first time using material – some of it never previously displayed in public – drawn from State Library archives and borrowed from public and private collections. Viewed en masse, they comprise a rogues’ gallery of some of the country’s most indelible cultural icons…

His [Clarke’s] image adorns the exhibition posters, a larger-than-life bohemian in breeches and knee-high boots with a cabbage-tree hat perched jauntily above his broad, handsome face. Melbourne’s original radical would be thrilled to see that his notoriety lives on, more than a century after his death.”

Extract from Kendall Hill. “Bohemian Melbourne: Exhibition” on the Qantas Travel Insider website [Online] Cited 03/02/2015

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

installation-k-WEB

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Unknown photographer. 'Members of the Ishmael Club' c. 1900

 

Unknown photographer
Members of the Ishmael Club
c. 1900
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975) 'Fifteen of the Founders' 1944

 

Justus Jörgensen (1893-1975)
Fifteen of the Founders
1944
Oil on canvas and gauze mounted on panel
Collection of the Montsalvat Trust

 

 

Montsalvat is the result of Justus Jörgensen’s vision for a collective experience of art and life. Jörgensen had trained in architecture and then in painting with earlier bohemian Max Meldrum. His studio in Queen Street, the Mitre Tavern and the Latin and Chung Wah restaurants were sites for lively discussions in which Jörgensen put forward his philosophies of art, the revival of medieval craftsmanship and communal living. This vision began to take shape in 1934 when he and his wife, Lily, brought land at Eltham; with the assistance of friends and followers, he built Montsalvat, an artists’ colony of studios, workshops and the communal Great Hall.

While Justus Jörgensen rarely exhibited, his great love was painting. This multi-panelled work comprises portraits by Jörgensen of 15 significant figures from the early years of Montsalvat. They are, from top to bottom, left to right:

Ian Robertson – student of Jorgensen who also ran an antiques shop
Leo Brierley – businessman and backer of Mervyn Skipper’s Pandemonium journal
Helen (Nell) Lempriere – niece of Dame Nellie Melba, painter, sculptor, and an earl student of Jorgensen
Norman Porter – friend and student of Jorgensen and lecturer in philosophy
Mervyn Skipper – author, journalist and Melbourne editor of the Bulletin
Helen Skipper – Mervyn’s first daughter, Jorgensen’s partner for many years, and mother of Sebastian and Sigmund Jorgensen
Justus Jorgensen – founder and architect of Montsalvat, painter, assistant to artist Max Meldrum and teacher.
Sonia Skipper – second daughter of Mervyn Skipper, and painter and teacher
Arthur Munday – law student, sculptor and stonemason trained by Jorgensen
William (Bill) Cook – teacher, philosophy and president of the Victorian Rationalist Society
Norman Radcliffe – student and friend of Jorgensen, and philosopher
Ray Grant – student of Jorgensen and philosopher
Edward Goll – internationally renowned pianist and teacher at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
Arthur (George) Chalmers – pharmacist, student of Jorgensen, stonemason and carver, who also planted the first vineyard at Montsalvat

(Label texts)

 

Montsalvat is an artist colony in Eltham, Victoria, Australia, established by Justus Jörgensen in 1934. It is home to over a dozen buildings, houses and halls set amongst richly established gardens on 48,562 m2 (12 acres) of land. The colony of Montsalvat has a detailed history that reflects the life of Jörgensen and his friends and family; there is also a legend behind its name, while its buildings and gardens are steeped in the art and culture of Melbourne and its surroundings.

Visitors can pay a small fee to walk throughout the colony’s historical gardens, artists’ houses/workshops and explore the surrounding buildings. All of the buildings on the site were designed and built by residents with locally available materials, from various sources. The Great Hall offers an extensive network of spaces from extravagant halls and vast exhibition spaces, to small corridors and tiny balconies overlooking the gardens. (Wikipedia)

 

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) Ella Grainger (1889-1979) 'Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger' c. 1934

 

Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
Ella Grainger (1889-1979)
Towelling tunic, shirt, leggings, belt, shoes worn by Percy Grainger
c. 1934
Cotton bath towels, plastic, leather and metal
Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne

 

“In 1932 or 1933 my wife and I took up again this idea of clothing made of towelling and when in Australia in 1934 and 1935 we were amazed by the beauty of the bath towels on sale in Australia – some imported from England, Czechoslovakia and America, but most of them (and among them the most beautiful ones) manufactured in Australia. Here was a chance to show what could be done with the beauty born of machinery – a beauty as rich and subtle, in its own way, as anything made by hand or loom.”

Percy Grainger, c. 1955-56

 

Unknown photographer
Percy Grainger at White Plains, New York
1936
Exhibition graphic from silver gelatine photograph
Grainger Museum collection, The University of Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015, including at left Albert Tucker, Self-portrait with Joy Hester, 1939 (see below)

 

Albert Tucker. 'Self-portrait with Joy Hester' 1939

 

Albert Tucker
Self-portrait with Joy Hester
1939
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

An Interview with Albert Tucker conducted by Justin Obrien in 1997.
Albert expands on his many insights,during the time he spent with John and Sunday Reed and other artists at Heide during the1940’s. An intimate insight into a unique man.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café
1954
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries

 

Unknown photographer. 'Opening of Mirka Café' (detail) 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Opening of Mirka Café (detail)
1954
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy of Heide Museum of Modern Art and William Mora Galleries

 

 

These clips features home movie footage taken by Gertie Anschel (c.1953-1954) with audio commentary by film director Philippe Mora.

Part 1 of 3 features scenes of Melbourne, The Mirka Café and Joy Hester and Gray Smith’s property. Philippe reflects on his childhood and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene. 

 

 

Part 2 of 3 features the property of Roger de Stoop, artist friends and Arthur Boyd at work on his 1956 Melbourne Olympic statue. Philippe reflects on his childhood identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.

 

 

Part 3 of 3 features the Moras, the art gang at a balcony party and late American actor Melvyn Douglas. Philippe reflects on his childhood, parents and identifies key figures of the Melbourne art scene.

 

 

Making Your Own Fun in the 50s

On the surface at least, Melbourne in the 1950s was a rather dour affair. For some non-conformists, such as Vali Myers and Barry Humphries, it was a place to escape rather than a place to be. For others, however, it was a site for creating underground cultures that were largely invisible to the mainstream.

This was no more so than in the case of gay and lesbian, or ‘camp’, culture, as it was known at the time. Homosexuality was illegal in Victoria until 1960, and in the 1950s it was sensationalised in the tabloid press as a subject for mockery if not horror. As a result, homosexual men and women developed alternative bohemian cultures and communities, with their own covert venues, house parties, secret languages and dress codes.

The gala costume arts balls that raised money for mainstream theatre and other arts charities were grand exceptions to the gnerally underground clubs and private parties. They offered rare moments in which camp culture could be expressed in public without fear for reprisal. Theatres and dance companies provided employment for many, and bars, such as the one nicknamed the Snake Pit at the Hotel Australia, and restaurants such as Val’s Coffee Lounge, provided opportunities for the camp community to meet and to mix with others who were outside the establishment.

 

Norman Ikin. 'Vali Myers' c. 1949

 

Norman Ikin
Vali Myers
c. 1949
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

Mark Strizic. 'Barry Humphries in Melbourne' 1969

 

Mark Strizic (1928-2012)
Barry Humphries in Melbourne
1969
Exhibition print from flexible-base negative
State Library of Victoria
Courtesy of the Estate of the artist

 

 

A never seen on broadcast TV programme with Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage made in 1975. Barry Humphries was promoting his film ‘Barry McKenzie holds his own’. Films clips were provided officially by EMI. The interviewer trying to hold things together is Mark Caldwell. The programme was made in black and white.

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with, in the distance, Henry Talbot Portraits of actor Frank Thring 1963, with Thring’s jewellery box and contents in the foreground.

 

It has been said of Frank Thring that he could make most stages or foyers seem small. His larger-than-life personality was almost matched by his frame, often decked out in imposing black and with flamboyant jewellery. Son of Frank Thring snr, founder of Efftee Films and 3XY Radio, Thring jnr earned fame as an actor in London’s West End and in Hollywood films such as Ben Hur, often playing sinister or decadent characters. In the 1950s, he would recite poems laden with innuendo and hold court at the ‘head table’ at Val’s Coffee Lounge. To be welcome at his table was a sign one was part of the ‘in’ crowd. (Label text)

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Arts Ball, Palais de Danse - John Anderson as Sun God' c. 1963-64

 

Unknown photographer
Arts Ball, Palais de Danse – John Anderson as Sun God
c. 1963-64
Gelatin silver photograph
Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

 

John Anderson was first-prize winner at a number of arts balls in the 1960s. His costume shown here reflects the creativity and effort that many put into their outfits. Costumes and headdresses were sometimes so large that Anderson and others regularly hired furniture vans to take them to the ball. One year the van that was transporting Anderson broke down and he completed the journey strapped upright on the back of a ute. His Sun  God costume wowed new audiences when he was invited to take part in a pageant on ice base on the theme of The Kind and I – with Anderson as the King – at the Southland shopping centre ice rink around 1970. (Label text)

But you will go to the ball, you will sweetie!

 

Richard Walsh (editor) 'The Review', Vol. 22, No. 22 Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co., March 1972

 

Richard Walsh (editor)
The Review, Vol. 22, No. 22
Melbourne incorporated Newsagencies Co.,
March 1972
State Library of Victoria

 

Before editing the irreverent Melbourne weekly The Review (Nation Review from July 1972, Richard Walsh edited counter-cultural Oz magazine with Richard Neville and Martin Sharp. Contributors to Nation Review included Max Harris, Bob Ellis, Phillip Adams, Michael Leunig and Germaine Greer. Greer had been part of the Drift in Melbourne, a loose association of artists, students and graduates. Enrolling in a Masters degree at Sydney University, in 1962 she becomes a leading light in the Sydney libertarian Push, an intellectual bohemia of larrikin anarchists. Gaining her PhD at Cambridge University, Greer then published her groundbreaking book The Female Eunuch. (Label text)

 

Ashley Mackevicius. 'Nick Cave' 1973

 

Ashley Mackevicius
Nick Cave
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2006

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Soapbox Circus - The Fabulous Spagoni Family' c. 1977

 

Ponch Hawkes
Soapbox Circus – The Fabulous Spagoni Family
c. 1977
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist

 

Ponch Hawkes. 'Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park' 1979

 

Ponch Hawkes
Melantroppos, Circus Oz, Princes Park
1979
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria
© the artist

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015 with artist Ponch Hawkes work at right

 

Rennie Ellis. 'Mirka Mora in her studio' 1978

 

Rennie Ellis
Mirka Mora in her studio
1978
Colour transparency
State Library Victoria
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

 

Vali Myers (1930-2003) 'Passions' 1981-82

 

Vali Myers (1930-2003)
Passions
1981-82
Pen, black ink, sepia, burnt sienna and watercolour
Vali Myers Art Gallery Trust

 

Vali Myers discovered a love of drawing at an early age. Over the years it became her primary mode of artistic expression in place of contemporary dance. She dedicated her life to her art and would spend up to two years creating each of her intricately drawn artworks. Passions contains many elements that symbolically represent aspects of Vali Myers’ art and life. These include a fox (referencing her pet Foxy), ravens (Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven being one of her favourite poems, a gypsy-like figure playing a violin and, at the centre of it all, a woman with flaming red hair. (Label text)

 

Liz Ham. 'Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building' 1997

 

Liz Ham
Vali Myers in her studio in the Nicholas Building
1997
Gelatin silver photograph
State Library Victoria

 

 

Australian artist Vali Myers moved to Paris from Australia at age 19 where she lived on the streets, danced in cafes, met Satre, Cocteau, Genet and Django Reinhardt. She moved to New York, tattooed Patti Smith’s knee, befriended Salvador Dali and met Andy Warhol and Tennessee Williams.

Vali was a great influence on lots of famous people Tennesse Williams, Jean Cocteau, Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Jean Genet and Kate Bush.

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Bohemian Melbourne' at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Bohemian Melbourne at the State Library of Victoria February 2015

 

 

Australian artist Howard Arkley interviewed by ABC television shortly before his untimely death in 1999.

 

Howard Arkley (1951-1999) 'The Ritual' 1986

 

Howard Arkley (1951-1999)
The Ritual
1986
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
State Library of Victoria

 

Howard Arkley is recognised as one of Australia’s most significant 20th-century artists. He is unique in embracing not only urban culture but also life in suburbia, a space generally shunned or scorned by bohemians, with exception of that other flaneur of suburbia, Barry Humphries. Like many bohemians before him, Arkley lived on the edge and experimented with mind-altering substances, and, like a good proportion of them, his life was tragically cut short as a result. Despite its large scale, comic-book style and pop colours, The Ritual is as much a cool and judgment-free study in composition and the human form as it is in the rituals or ‘habits’ associated with drug use. (Label text)

 

 

State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000
T: (03) 8664 7000

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Monday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Tuesday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
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State Library of Victoria website

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11
May
14

Text / exhibition: ‘Australian vernacular photography’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney

Exhibition dates: 8th February – 18th May 2014

 

Australian vernacular photography. Such a large subject. Such a small exhibition.

With only 27 photographs from various artists (18 of which are shown in this posting), this exhibition can only ever be seen as the runt of the litter. I would have thought such a large area of photographic investigation needed a more expansive exposition than is offered here. There are no photobook, photo booth, Aboriginal, anonymous, authorless, family, gay or marginalised cultural photographs / snapshots. There are no light leaks, blur, fingers obstructing lenses, double exposures – all examples of serendipity and happenstance which could enter into an aesthetic arena.

Vernacular photography1 can be defined as the “creation of photographs, usually by amateur or unknown photographers both professional and amateur, who take everyday life and common things as subjects… Examples of vernacular photographs include travel and vacation photos, family snapshots, photos of friends, class portraits, identification photographs, and photo-booth images. Vernacular photographs are types of accidental art, in that they often are unintentionally artistic.”2 ‘Found photography’ is the recovery of a lost, unclaimed, or discarded vernacular photograph or snapshot.

While all of the photographs in the exhibition are unique images, some are definitely not vernacular in their construction – they are planned and staged photographs, what I would call planned happenstance (after John Krumboltz’s theory of career development). A perfect example of this are the photographs by Sue Ford (Sue Pike, 1963, printed 1988, below), Anne Zahalka (The girls #2, Cronulla beach, 2007, below) and Fiona Hall (Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, October 1975, below) which have an air of ceremonial seriousness that belies their classification as part of this exhibition. My favourites are the fantastic images by Glen Sloggett – witty, colourful, humorous with the photographer “acutely aware of the photographer and photograph’s role in pointedly constructing a narrative around Australian identity and history” – they are nevertheless self-deprecating enough that this does not impact on their innate “found” quality, as though the artist had just wandered along and captured the shot.

The route that the AGNSW has taken is similar to that of MoMA. Residing in the collection and shot by artists, these “vernacular” photographs are placed in a high art context. Their status as amateur or “authorless” photographs is undermined. This exhibit does not present vernacular photographs as just that. As the article on the One Street blog notes, what is being exhibited is as much about what has been collected by the AGNSW, its methodical and historicising classification, as it is about vernacular photographic form: chance, mistake and miscalculation. It is about creating a cliché from which to describe an ideal Australian identity, be it the beach, larrikinism, or the ANZAC / sporting “warrior”, and not about a true emotional resonance in the image that is created by, or come upon by, chance.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

1. “Vernacular photography,” on One Way Street blog 20th October 2007 [Online] Cited 11/05/2014

“What is vernacular photography? Too broad to be understood as a genre per se, it can encompass anonymous snapshots, industrial photography, scientific photography, “authorless” photography, advertising, smut, as well as work that might be perceived as “other” than any of this random list. It could be understood as an oppositional photography – outside technical or artistic histories, yet, especially with the snapshot, it could also be entirely conventionalized, a manifestation of visual banalities, or an image so enigmatic that its meaning or genesis is entirely obscured. It is mistakes & failures as much as it may not be. & how we understand the images may or may not be separate from their initial intents. Is this a category we are making up?
The idea of the vernacular in photography is also an indication of photography as a medium informing the everyday, prevalent, “naturalized.””

2. Szarkowski, John. “INTERVIEW: “Eyes Wide Open: Interview with John Szarkowski” (2006)” by Mark Durden, Art in America, May, 2006, cited in “Vernacular photography,” on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 11/05/2014

 

Words and Photos: Geoffrey Batchen’s Writing About Vernacular Photography

“At first, I was simply interested in bringing attention to a diverse range of photographic objects and practices that had not been much written about. But I soon recognized that these objects represented a significant challenge to the predominant history of photography. This history, dominated by the values ​​and tropes of art history, was not well-equipped to talk about photographs that were openly commercial, hybrid and mundane. Ie: the history of photography ignores most types of photography. My interest, therefore, has become more methodological and theoretical, in an effort to establish new ways to think of photography that could address the medium as a whole. I suggest that any substantial inclusion of vernacular photographs into a general history of photography will require a total transformation of the character of that history…

I suggest that any inclusion of vernacular photography in the larger story, will require a complete transformation of the character of that story; it will require a new kind of history altogether. My writings may have encouraged this idea, but I am just one of many scholars who have been pursuing this goal. Indeed, I would say that this idea is now the norm. The next step is to look beyond this and engage other parts of the history of photography that have been similarly neglected. For example, there are many researchers at the moment that are examining the photographs produced outside Europe and the United States, such as China, Indonesia, and Africa…

Snapshots are complicated objects. They are unique to each maker and almost always completely generic. They happily adopt the visual economy that mediates most photographic practices: same but different. You might say that every snapshot is an authentic copy of a prescribed set of middle-class values and familiar pictorial clichés. That does not make them any less fascinating, especially for people who treasure them. But it does make them difficult to write about…

It is certainly possible to recognize the existence of regional practices of photography. I wrote, for example, about the making of fotoescultura in Mexico, and about a specific form of ambrotype in Japan. No doubt one could claim to see some regional aspects of snapshots made in the United States that distinguish them from ones made in Australia or, say, Indonesia. But the more challenging task is to talk about those things that can’t be seen. For example, snapshots made in Australia and China may look exactly the same to my eye, but it stands to reason that they don’t mean the same thing (after all, access to the camera for personal photos is a fairly recent phenomenon in China). We must learn how to write these kind of differences.”

Interview by LG. “Words and Photos: Geoffrey Batchen’s Writing About Vernacular Photography,” on the LesPHOTOGRAPHES.com website Nd (translated from the French) [Online] Cited 04/05/2014

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 - ) 'City-spaces #28, (John Williams), Sydney' 1976 printed 2012

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 – )
City-spaces #28, (John Williams), Sydney
1976 printed 2012
From the series City-spaces 1975-78
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2012
© Ed Douglas

 

After relocating from USA to Australia in 1973, Ed Douglas spent a few years living in the country prior to taking on a teaching position at Sydney College for the Arts in 1976. The series City-spaces was commenced in Sydney and then developed further when Douglas moved to Adelaide in 1977. Having been schooled in the formal traditions of American documentary photography, Douglas’s images appear like notations of an urban explorer attempting to locate himself in a new country. Seemingly fragmentary, they look at the specificities of the mundane and the ordinary. Close acquaintances such as photographers Ingeborg Tyssen and John F. Williams appear in City spaces #29 and City spaces #28, indicating the personal nature of the series.

Intimately scaled and tonally rich, the black and white images exalt the formal beauty which can be found in the random textures of daily existence. They are also permeated with gentle humour and a sense of quiet drama that unfolds in the strangely misplaced confluences of objects, figures and spaces. Douglas’s interest in the formal and emotional qualities of topography was emblematic of new approaches in documentary photography of the time. His 1983 series of colour photographs depicting the gypsum mine on Kangaroo Island (collection of AGNSW) developed this trajectory further by fusing the aesthetics of abstraction and objective documentation.

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 - ) 'City-spaces #40, Sydney' 1976 printed 2012

 

Ed Douglas (United States of America, Australia 06 May 1943 – )
City-spaces #40, Sydney
1976 printed 2012
From the series City-spaces 1975-78
Gelatin silver photograph
23.6 x 30.7 cm image
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Collection Benefactors’ Program 2012
© Ed Douglas

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 - ) 'Woman hosing, Canberra' 1979

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 – )
Woman hosing, Canberra
1979
Gelatin silver photograph
34.9 x 46.5 cm image
© Gerrit Fokkema

 

Gerrit Fokkema’s photographs of everyday Sydney and Canberra in the early 1980s are examples of Australian photography becoming more self-aware. These decisive snapshots of suburban life reveal an irony and conjure Fokkema’s own history growing up in Queanbeyan. Though captured in seemingly banal settings, the images intrigue, pointing to issues beyond what is represented in the frame. The housewife watering the road and a young tattooed man in front of a car are both depicted alone within a sprawling suburban landscape, suggesting the isolation and boredom in the Australian dream of home ownership. The sense of strangeness in these images is consciously sought by Fokkema, aided by his embrace of the glaring and unforgiving ‘natural’ Australian light.

Gerrit Fokkema’s Woman hosing, Canberra is an affectionate and gently ironic portrait of suburban life in Canberra. Fokkema was familiar with his subject matter, raised as he was in the nearby township of Queanbeyan. After studying photography at Canberra Technical College 1974-77 he became the staff photographer for the Canberra Times in 1975. He held his first exhibition in the same year at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney. His career as a photo-journalist lead him to work with the Sydney Morning Herald in 1980 and participation with several international Day in the life of…. projects between 1986 and 1989.

Fokkema uses the ‘decisive moment’ of photo-journalism to reveal the incidental quirks of ordinary life in this image. The bland uniformity of the streetscape, with its identical archways and mundanely shuttered doors, is punctuated by the absurd proposition of a woman watering the street rather than the adjacent grass. Her presence is the only sign of life in an otherwise inanimate scene, and her actions suggest a kind of strangeness that lies within the normality of suburbia. Many of Fokkema’s images play with such chance incidences and odd juxtapositions, revealing his interest in surrealism and the notion of automatism. Indeed, the repeated archways and the lone figure inhabiting otherwise empty urban space of Woman hosing, Canberra recall the proto-typical surrealist painting, Mystery and melancholy of a street 1914, by Giorgio de Chirico. Fokkema’s image is, however, very much a product of Australia – of its bright ‘available’ light and of the dream of home-ownership. Fokkema has continued to document the Australian way of life. In 1986 he left newspapers to freelance as a commercial photographer and published Wilcannia, portrait of an Australian town. He has since exhibited works based on tender observations of his family members and of family life.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 - ) 'Blacktown man' 1983

 

Gerrit Fokkema (Papua New Guinea, Australia 1954 – )
Blacktown man
1983
Gelatin silver photograph
30.6 x 40.6 cm image
© Gerrit Fokkema

 

The work of Gerrit Fokkema exhibits a particular sensitivity to the uneasiness of people in Australian landscapes, both urban and rural. Fokkema was born in New Guinea in 1954, but raised in Canberra and worked as a press photographer before freelancing from 1986. Although his photographs demonstrate an interest in the formal qualities of landscape, the sense of rhythm his compositions generate also evoke the monotony of Australian space – sweeping terracotta roofs and long straight paths. This monotony is only interrupted by the presence of the human figure, usually isolated, alone and awkwardly out of place. In Blacktown Man 1983, the flat image of the man appears dramatically superimposed on the land and sky of the suburban street. By reminding us of our sometimes uncomfortable relationship with the spaces we inhabit, Fokkema’s work rejects any attempt to romanticise Australian life.

 

John F Williams. 'The Rocks, Sydney' 1973

 

John F Williams
The Rocks, Sydney
1973
Gelatin silver photograph
22.6 x 34.1cm
Purchased 1989
© John F Williams

 

Trent Parke. 'Backyard swing set, QLD' 2003

 

Trent Parke
Backyard swing set, QLD
2003
From the series Minutes to midnight
Type C photograph
109.9 x 164cm
Gift of Albie Thoms in memory of Linda Slutzkin, former Head of Public Programmes, Art Gallery of New South Wales 2006
© Trent Parke

 

 

Australian vernacular photography traces developments in photographic practice from the postwar period through to the present day, with images ranging from documentary or ‘straight’ photography (where the subjects are usually unaware of the camera), through to those that look self-reflexively at the constructed nature of the medium.

The increasing role of photography in the latter part of the 20th century attests to the rising need Australians felt to apprehend the nation, personal identity and society through images. Many of these photographs offer frank perspectives on Australian culture without the romanticising tendencies of earlier photographers. Photographing the everyday became a way of understanding how Australia saw (and sees) itself, with recurrent themes such as beach culture, suburbia, race relations, protest and the role of women among the central concerns of image-makers then and now.

By the 1960s Australian photographers were comparing their work with international peers, thanks to photographic publications and the watershed 1959 tour of The family of man exhibition organised by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Institutional support for photography didn’t come until the 1970s; however those committed to the medium forged on, intent on capturing their visions of Australia photographically. The family of man exhibition toured Australia in 1959 and was enormously influential, with its themes of birth, love and death common to all humanity. However, possibilities for Australian photographers to be noticed were rare until the 1970s due to the lack of institutional support. Nonetheless, photographers from David Moore and Robert McFarlane to the young Sue Ford forged on, trying to find their own vision of Australian life and how it could be represented photographically. This exhibition looks at some of the photographers from then as well as those working more recently – such as Anne Zahalka, Trent Parke and Glenn Sloggett – to consider their various approaches to the depiction of modern Australian life.

In the Australian Photography Annual of 1947, photographer and director of the Art Gallery of NSW Hal Missingham wrote: “In a country supposedly occupied by people indulging in a vigorous outdoor life, where are the [photographic] records of beach and sport… where are the photographs of the four millions of people who live and work in our cities? What are they like – what do they do – what do they wear, and think?”

Text from the AGNSW website

 

Jeff Carter (Australia 05 Aug 1928 - Oct 2010) 'The Sunbather' 1966

 

Jeff Carter (Australia 05 Aug 1928 – Oct 2010)
The Sunbather
1966
Gelatin silver photograph
39.1 x 27.6 cm image
© Jeff Carter

 

“I don’t regard photography as an art form, although I know it can be for others… To me the camera is simply an unrivalled reporter’s tool. It is an aid to getting the story “properly true,”” Jeff Carter said in 2006. Working mainly as a photojournalist, Carter wanted to make images that depicted social reality. He aimed to show the ‘unknown’, those people who are rarely seen. His approach resulted in frank, arguably even unflattering, images of Australian life, such as this of a beach-goer in the 1960s, heralding the changing social mores of the time.

 

John F. Williams (Australia 1933 - ) 'Sydney' 1964, printed later

 

John F Williams (Australia 1933 – )
Sydney
1964, printed later
Gelatin silver photograph
24.3 x 24.3 cm image
© John F Williams

 

Sydney photographer, lecturer and historian John F. Williams has a long and personal interest in the ramifications of the Allies’ commitment to and sacrifice in the First World War which he later explored in his 1985 series From the flatlands. Williams became an amateur street photographer, inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson and the photojournalist W. Eugene Smith. He read The family of man catalogue and saw the exhibition in 1959 but he rejected its “saccharine humanism and deliberate ahistoricism” choosing instead to socially document the raw character of Australia.1

When interviewed in 1994 Williams said: “After the [First World War] you had a range of societies which were pretty much exhausted, and they tended to turn inwards. In a society like Australia which had a poorly formed image of itself, where there was no intellectual underpinning, the image of the soldier replaced everything else as a national identity.”2

Sydney expresses the ‘Anzac spirit’ born in the battlefields of Gallipoli, the Somme and Flanders, a character study of an independent, introspective soldier. With an air of grit, determinedly smoking and wearing his badge, ribbons and rosemary as remembrance, Sydney stands apart from the crowd, not marching with his regiment. Williams embraced the ‘element of chance’ or the ‘decisive moment’ as he documented the soldier in a public place observing the procession. Taken from a low angle and very close up the man is unaware of the photographer at the moment the shot was taken, apparently lost in his own memories. The old soldier represents a generation now lost to history but portraits such as these continue to reinforce the myth of national identity.

1. Jolly, M. “Faith sustained,” in Art Monthly, September 1989, pp. 18-19
2. “John Williams – photographer and historian: profile,” in Sirius, winter, Macquarie University, Sydney, 1994, p. 5

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Robert McFarlane (Australia 1942 – ) 'Happening Centennial Park, Sydney' c. 1968

 

Robert McFarlane (Australia 1942 – )
Happening Centennial Park, Sydney
c. 1968
Gelatin silver photograph
25.9 x 17.6 cm image
© Robert McFarlane

 

Hal Missingham (Australia 08 Dec 1906 – 07 Apr 1994) 'Surf carnival, Cronulla' 1968, printed 1978

 

Hal Missingham (Australia 08 Dec 1906 – 07 Apr 1994)
Surf carnival, Cronulla
1968, printed 1978
Media category
Gelatin silver photograph
38.1 x 26.3 cm image
© Hal Missingham Estate

 

Photographer and former Art Gallery of NSW director, Hal Missingham wrote in the 1947 Australian Photography annual: “In a country supposedly occupied by people indulging in a vigorous outdoor life, where are the [photographic] records of beach and sport…? Where are the photographs of the four millions of people who live and work in our cities? What are they like – What do they do – What do they wear, and think?” This image points to Missingham’s own attempts to answer that question. An interesting counterpoint to the images taken at Cronulla around 40 years later, here Missingham shows a group of young women standing behind a fence watching as young men train to be lifesavers.

Hal Missingham often holidayed at his beach house at Garie in the Royal National Park south of Sydney, not far from Cronulla. In 1970 he published Close focus a book of photographic details of rocks, pools, sand and driftwood. As a beachcomber and observer of beach culture Missingham delighted in his immediate environment. Surf carnival, Cronulla is a quintessential Australian scene, one that frames an important aspect of national identity and culture. As passive observers, the 1960s was a time when many girls were still ‘minding the towels’ for the boys who surfed or competed in carnivals. Barricaded from the beach and its male activity the young women in bikinis are oblivious to the photographer who has foregrounded their relaxed tanned bodies behind the wire as they in turn observe and discuss the surf lifesavers in formation at the water’s edge. Although a beach is accessible for the majority of Australians and is now an accepted egalitarian space where women bodysurf, ride surfboards and compete along with beachgoers from diverse ethnic backgrounds, Surf carnival, Cronulla suggests a specific demography.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Fiona Hall (Australia 1953 - ) 'Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, October 1975' 1975

 

Fiona Hall (Australia 1953 – )
Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, October 1975
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
28.2 x 27.9 cm image
Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1987
© Fiona Hall

 

 

Australian vernacular photography considers how photographers have used their cameras to depict Australian life, and how ideas of the nation have been constructed through photographic images.

Sixteen Australian photographers are represented by some 27 photographs taken from the 1960s to the 2000s. The photographs range from the more conventionally photo-documentary through to later works by photographers positioned more consciously in an art context. A selection of photography books of the period are also on display.

Artists include: Jeff Carter, Ed Douglas, Peter Elliston, Gerrit Fokkema, Sue Ford, Fiona Hall, Robert McFarlane, Hal Missingham, David Moore, Trent Parke, Roger Scott, Glenn Sloggett, Ingeborg Tyssen, John F Williams, William Yang and Anne Zahalka. Each of these artists in their own way interweave personal, documentary and fictional aspects through their images.

The works in Australian vernacular photography expose the sense of humour or larrikinism often seen as typical to Australia through showing aspects of beach and urban culture that hadn’t been imaged so bluntly before the 1960s. The characters that emerge range from leathery sunbathers, beer-drinking blokes and hippies, to beach babes, student protesters and suburban housewives, shedding light on the sense of liberation and self-recognition that arose during this period.

As photography struggled to gain recognition as an art form in the mid 20th century, the influence of exhibitions such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York’s Family of Man, which toured Australia in 1959, was vital in allowing Australian photographers to compare their work to that of their international peers.

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, photographers such as Jeff Carter, Sue Ford, David Moore, Roger Scott and John F Williams worked in a photo-documentary mode that was less about staging a shot or creating formal harmony within the frame than about capturing a moment of lived reality. To this end, such photographs involved minimal intervention from the photographer, both before and after the shutter release. Subjects were often unaware of being photographed and extensive darkroom manipulation was frowned upon, the rawness of prints was supposed to signal authenticity.

This approach resulted in images that seemed to offer a frank perspective on Australian culture, without the romanticising tendencies of earlier photography, which had sought to construct ideals rather than document what was actually there. As artists began to realise what they could do with the camera, so too did the images evolve. By the 1980s and ’90s photographers were making images that showed the subject’s awareness of being photographed, as with Gerrit Fokkema, or presented a harsh, even aggressive perspective on the depicted situations by removing people altogether, as with Peter Elliston. This signalled the increasingly self-conscious role of photographers themselves in the equation, suggesting the influence of post-modern theories of subjectivity and their effect on the images produced.

By the time we reach the 2000s, artists such as William Yang, Anne Zahalka and Trent Parke are acutely aware of the photographer and photograph’s role in pointedly constructing a narrative around Australian identity and history. The exhibition maps out this history and offers unexpected insight into the construction of a particularly Australian vernacular within photographic practice.”

Press release from the AGNSW

 

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943 - 06 Nov 2009) 'Sue Pike' 1963, printed 1988

 

Sue Ford (Australia 1943 – 06 Nov 2009)
Sue Pike
1963, printed 1988
Media category
Gelatin silver photograph
34.2 x 34.2 cm image
Gift of Tim Storrier 1989
© Estate of Sue Ford

 

Sue Ford’s photograph of her friend Sue Pike blow-drying her hair in the kitchen captures the young woman preparing for a night out. Ford often photographed those close to her as well as continually making self-portraits throughout her career. The photograph is domestic and intimate, showing a common aspect of life for young women in the 1960s. It suggests the procedure of preening necessary to go out and find ‘marriage and children’, while the alcohol and cigarette indicates the emerging movement for women’s liberation.

“My earliest “studio portraits” … were of my friends from school … These photo sessions were approached with a ceremonial seriousness, My friends usually brought different clothes with them and during the sessions we would change clothes and hairstyles.” Sue Ford 1987 1

Sue Ford took the majority of her photographs at this time with the camera set on a 1/60th of a second at f/11, a ‘recipe’ she wrote which had more chance of success. Poetic, fragmentary text relating to Ford’s 1961 photo-essay in “A sixtieth of a second: portraits of women 1961–1981” identify the young women’s recipe for flirtatious endeavour – ‘gossamer hairspray’, ‘peroxide’, ‘plucked eyebrows’, ‘big hair rollers to achieve “La Bouffant”‘, ‘Saturday nite’ and ‘Jive’. Sue Pike exemplifies the era of girls preparing for a night out with the boys in their ‘FJ Holdens and Hot Rods’. Staged in the kitchen, probably on a Saturday afternoon, Sue Pike, in a padded brunch coat with hair in rollers plugged into a portable hair dryer, will be a part of the action, the gossip and camaraderie. A further portrait taken in the same year shows Sue Pike metamorphosed as a beautiful bride, carefully coifed ash blonde hair under a white net veil, eyes momentarily shut, traditionally decorated with pearls and posy. Ford suggests in her prose and portraits that there are choices to be made – ‘marriage and children’ or mini-skirts and the Pill, as her old school friends go in different directions.

1. Ford. S. “A sixtieth of a second: portraits of women 1961-1981,” Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, 1987, p. 4

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Anne Zahalka (Australia 14 May 1957 – ) 'The girls #2, Cronulla beach' 2007

 

Anne Zahalka (Australia 14 May 1957 – )
The girls #2, Cronulla beach
2007
Type C photograph
72.5 x 89.5 cm image
Gift of the artist 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Anne Zahalka. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney

 

As part of a generation of Australian women artists who came to the fore in the early 1980s, Anne Zahalka’s practice has always been concerned with questioning dominant myths and cultural constructs. The broad sweep of Zahalka’s oeuvre has often been underpinned by a common strategy: the world in her images appears as theatre where place, gender and national identity are questioned.

Many of Zahalka’s more recent works are located outside the studio though the natural environment can be seen to be equally constructed. In The girls #2, Cronulla beach, the photographer has returned to the seaside, which was the setting for one of her most iconic series, Bondi: playground of the Pacific 1989. The girls was made as a response to the Cronulla riots and after an introduction to Aheda Zanetti, the designer of the burqini. Zahalka “also knew of a documentary film being made following the recruiting of Lebanese men and women into the lifesaving club. It seemed like there was change adrift on the beachfront.”1 The permutations and post-modern anxiety about what constitutes Australian identity seen in the Bondi… series, have spilled out into the real world. But the image of these young Muslim women lifeguards seems to celebrate the potential to transgress accepted value systems.

Anne Zahalka said in 1995: “I am primarily concerned with… representations to do with place, identity and culture. Through the appropriation and reworking of familiar icons and styles I seek to question (and understand) their influence, meaning and value.” Twelve years later, Zahalka continues this line of inquiry with the series Scenes from the Shire. In this image, three Muslim girls wearing Burqinis (swimwear made for Muslim women conceived by Lebanese-Australian designer Aheda Zanetti) are standing cross-armed on Cronulla beach, a lifesaving raft is in the background. Zahalka made this work in response to the Cronulla riots of 2005. The image juxtaposes Muslim tradition with the Australian icon of the lifesaver, suggesting cultural overlap and changing national identity.

1. A. Zahalka et al, “Hall of mirrors: Anne Zahalka portraits 1987-2007,” Australian centre of photography, Sydney 2007, p. 43

 

William Yang (Australia 1943 – ) 'Ruby's kitchen Enngonia' 2000, printed 2002

 

William Yang (Australia 1943 – )
Ruby’s kitchen Enngonia
2000, printed 2002
From the series miscellaneous obsessions
Type C photograph
35.5 x 53.5 cm image
© William Yang

 

William Yang was born in North Queensland, a third generation Chinese-Australian. He is known both as a photographer and for his monologues with slides which he has presented around the world to great acclaim. One of these, Sadness 1992, was adapted for the screen by Tony Ayres and won AWGIEs amongst other awards. A major retrospective of Yang’s work, Diaries, was held at the State Library of NSW in 1998. Through April 24 – June 1, 2003 Yang presented all his monologues at Belvoir St Theatre, Sydney.

Yang has documented various subcultures over the last 30 years and this is reflected in his photographs as well as his monologues. A remarkable storyteller with a unique style, his current work is a synthesis of his ongoing concerns. While these concerns spring very much from his experiences growing up with a Chinese background in far north Queensland, through to his exploration of the gay community in Sydney, the work transcends the personal and becomes a meditation on the subtleties of the ordinary and everyday.

This series of images reflects Yang’s current life of travel and contact with his far flung friends and extended family. Though the subject, at its most superficial, is food, where, when and who is there at the time is of equal importance. Consequently each photograph in the series presents a web of connections and is underpinned with similar intentions to Yang’s other work, regardless of the subject.

“I don’t think I have a great technical attitude but I am interested in people,” William Yang said in 1998. Yang is known for his candid photographs of friends and situations he encounters. The images are usually accompanied by a story about his life, sometimes handwritten on the print itself, sometimes spoken aloud in performative contexts. He uses narrative as a way of locating his images in a particular moment in his personal history as well as social history at large. Yang explores themes around Australian and gay identity in a way that is frank and sometimes confronting. In this work, from a series about food, a chunk of kangaroo meat sits casually atop a laminate bench; other Australian icons such as Wonder White and Weet-Bix are also visible. The work allows for a multiplicity of signs to coexist: the slaughtered Australian mascot, the drab generic kitchen, the processed ‘white’ bread, with the Chinese-Australian photographer observing it all.

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Cheaper & deeper' 1996

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Cheaper & deeper
1996
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.0 x 79.9 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

Based in Melbourne, Glen Sloggett has exhibited extensively across Australia, including a touring exhibition with the Australian Centre for Photography, New Australiana 2001. Internationally, his work was included in the 11th Asian Art Biennale in Bangladesh, 2004 and the 9th Mois de la Photo ‘Image and Imagination’ in Montreal 2005.

Sloggett’s work depicts scenes from Australian suburbia with a startling mix of warmth and melancholy. Devoid of people, his photographs reflect the isolation and abandonment that afflicts the fringes of Australian urban centres. His images don’t flinch from the ugly, kitsch, and bleak. Sloggett says, “No matter where I go, I always find places and environments that are in the process of falling down. These are the images of Australia that resonate most strongly for me as an artist. I want to capture the last signs of optimism before inevitable disrepair.” (Glen Sloggett, quoted in A. Foster. Cheaper and deeper, ex. Bro. ACP 2005) His images of disrepair are infused with black humour and at the same time, affection for Australian suburbia.

From dumpy derelict flats to pavements graffitied with the words ‘mum killers’, Sloggett’s photographs capture an atmosphere of neglect. One classic image depicts a pink hearse, with the slogan Budget burials cheaper & deeper!! stencilled in vinyl on the side window. Another image shows an industrial barrel, on which is scrawled the evocative word ‘Empty’. In a third image, a dog rests on the pavement outside ‘Kong’s 1 hour dry cleaning’ – the bold red and yellow lettering on its window in stark contrast to the cracked paint of the exterior wall, and half-clean sheet that forms a makeshift curtain. These images have a profundity that is at once touching and surprising; as Alasdair Foster has commented, “In a world of rabid materialism and shallow sentiment, Sloggett’s photographs show us that life really is much cheaper and deeper.”

These five works by Glenn Sloggett serve as forms of photographic black humour. Devoid of people and always in colour, his photographs often take mundane elements from the world and make us notice their tragicomedy. This group is rooted in a play with text, where the tension between what is written and what we see is paramount. Sloggett makes comment on Australian life and culture, showing how the fringes of towns and the paraphernalia of the everyday give insight into the Australian psyche.

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Hope Street' 2000

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Hope Street
2000
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.4 x 80.6 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Empty' 2000

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Empty
2000
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.4 x 80.6 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 - ) 'Kong's 1 hour dry cleaning' 1998

 

Glenn Sloggett (Australia 1964 – )
Kong’s 1 hour dry cleaning
1998
From the series Cheaper & deeper
Type C photograph
80.2 x 80.0 cm image
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
© Glenn Sloggett

 

 

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12
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Photography at NOMA’ at The New Orleans Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 10th November 2013 – 19th January 2014

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There are some rare and beautiful photographs in this posting. I have never seen the Kertész (Leger’s Studio 1926 – 1927) with its wonderful structure and tonality nor the unusual Mapplethorpe (Staircase, 1140 Royal 1982). I particularly like the Bellocq (Bedroom Mantel, Storyville c. 1911-1913) with its complex medley of shapes and images.

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

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André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) 'Leger's Studio' 1926 - 1927

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André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985)
Leger’s Studio
1926 – 1927
Gelatin silver print
Image: 3 1/8 x 4 1/4in. (8 x 10.8 cm)
Museum purchase, Women’s Volunteer Committee Fund

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Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934) 'Untitled (Self-Portrait Reflected in Window, New Orleans)' c. 1965

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Lee Friedlander (American, born 1934)
Untitled (Self-Portrait Reflected in Window, New Orleans)
c. 1965
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 x 10 3/4in. (17.6 x 27.2 cm) Mount: 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.5 cm)
Museum purchase through the National Endowment for the Arts Grant, 75.83

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Robert Frank (American, born 1924) 'Canal Street, New Orleans' 1955

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Robert Frank (American, born 1924)
Canal Street, New Orleans
1955
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11 x 13 4/5 in. (28 x 35.2 cm)
Museum purchase through the National Endowment for the Arts and Museum Purchase Funds

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Ilse Bing (American, 1899-1998) 'New York, The Elevated and Me' 1936

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Ilse Bing (American, 1899-1998)
New York, The Elevated and Me
1936
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 15/16 x 11 in. (18.6 x 28 cm)
Museum purchase through the National Endowment for the Arts Matching Grant
© Estate of Ilse Bing

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Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004) 'Louisiana' 1947, printed circa 1975

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Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Louisiana
1947, printed circa 1975
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 5/8 x 14 3/16 in. (24.4 x 36 cm)Paper: 12 x 16 in. (30.3 x 40.4 cm)
Museum purchase, General Acquisition Fund, 80.129

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Theodore Lilienthal (American, 1829-1894) 'Charles Hotel, New Orleans' c. 1867

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Theodore Lilienthal (American, 1829-1894)
Charles Hotel, New Orleans
c. 1867
Albumen print
10 3/4 x 13 13/16 in. (27.2 x 35.1 cm) Mount: 17 x 22 1/4 in. (43.3 x 56.6 cm)
Museum Purchase, 2013.21

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“Featuring masterworks by photographers Edward Weston, William Henry Fox Talbot, André Kertész, Robert Mapplethorpe, and many more, the New Orleans Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition, Photography at NOMA, explores the Museum’s rich permanent photography collection through a selection of some of its finest works from the early 1840s to the 1980s.

The first comprehensive presentation of works from NOMA’s collection since the 1970s, the exhibition includes over 130 of the most important photographs in the Museum’s collection and presents rare and unusual examples from throughout photography’s history. On view November 10, 2013 through January 19, 2014, the exhibition highlights the tremendous depth and breadth of the Museum’s collection and includes photographs made as works of art as well as advertising images, social documents, and more. The photographers featured in the exhibition range from some of the most recognizable names in the field, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, and Lewis Hine, to unknown photographers—reflecting the vast spectrum of photographic activity since the medium’s inception in the 19th century.

“NOMA began collecting photographs seriously in the early 1970s when photography was not commonly found in American art museum collections. Today our holdings include nearly 10,000 works, representing a broad range of creative energy and achievement,” said Susan Taylor, NOMA’s Director. “Our collection has strong roots in New Orleans history. Our city has long been an epicenter for the work of established and emerging photographers and we are delighted to share this aspect of New Orleans history with our audiences.”

“Since its origins, photography has infiltrated every aspect of modern life, from art to war, and religion to politics and many of these applications are represented in NOMA’s extensive collection,” said Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs. “Despite the collection’s long history, it remains one of the best kept secrets in this country. Photography at NOMA is an opportunity to re-examine and bring to the fore the diverse range of works found in the collection.”

Since the 1970s, NOMA has built an extensive collection of photographs that represents a wide range of achievement in that medium from the 1840s to the present. Today the collection comprises nearly 10,000 works with images by some of the most significant photographic artists including Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Ilse Bing, and Edward Steichen, among many others. The collection includes examples that reflect photography’s international scope, from an 1843 view from his hotel window in Paris by William Henry Fox Talbot to a view of Mount Fuji by Kusakabi Kimbei, but it is also strong in photographs made in and around New Orleans by regional and national photographers such as E. J. Bellocq, Walker Evans, Clarence John Laughlin, and Robert Polidori.

Photography at NOMA features works by Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Robert Mapplethorpe, William Henry Fox Talbot, and Edward Weston, among many others.”

Press release from the NOMA website

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Felix Moissenet (American, 19th century) 'Freeman' c. 1855

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Felix Moissenet (American, 19th century)
Freeman
c. 1855
Daguerreotype
Sixth plate, 3 1/4 x 2 3/4 in. (8 x 6.8 cm) Case (open): 3 5/8 x 6 3/8 in. (9.2 x 16.1 cm)
Museum purchase, 2013.22

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Thomas Augustine Malone (British, 1823-1867) 'Demonstration of the Talbotype' December 11, 1848

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Thomas Augustine Malone (British, 1823-1867)
Demonstration of the Talbotype
December 11, 1848
Calotype (Talbotype) negative
7 3/8 x 9 2/16 in. (18.8 x 23.3 cm)
Museum purchase, 2012.90

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Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Staircase, 1140 Royal' 1982

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Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Staircase, 1140 Royal
1982
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 1/5 x 15 1/5 in. (38.5 x 38.5 cm)Paper: 20 x 16 in. (50.6 x 40.4 cm)
Promised gift from H. Russell Albright, MD, EL.2001.120

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William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877) 'View of the Paris Boulevards from the First Floor of the Hôtel de Louvais, Rue de la Paix' 1843

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William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877)
View of the Paris Boulevards from the First Floor of the Hôtel de Louvais, Rue de la Paix
1843
Salted paper print from a paper negative
Image: 6 3/8 x 6 3/4 in. (16.2 x 17.1 cm) Paper: 7 1/2x 9 in. (19 x 23 cm)
Museum purchase, 1977 Acquisition Fund Drive, 77.66

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Paul Outerbridge (American, 1896-1958) 'Groom Detective Agency' 1923

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Paul Outerbridge (American, 1896-1958)
Groom Detective Agency
1923
Platinum print
Image: 4 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (11.5 x 9 cm) Paper: 14 x 11 in. (35.5 x 28 cm)
Paul Outerbridge, Jr. © 2013 G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA

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Morton Schamberg (American, 1881-1918) 'Cityscape' 1916

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Morton Schamberg (American, 1881-1918)
Cityscape
1916
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (24 x 19 cm) Mount: 15 3/4 x 13 in. (40 x 33 cm)
Museum purchase, Women’s Volunteer Committee Fund, 73.231

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Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985) 'A Mangled Staircase (No. 2)' 1949

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Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985)
A Mangled Staircase (No. 2)
1949
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 1/2 x 10 13/16 in. (34.2 x 27.5 cm) Mount: 17 x 14 in. (43 x 35.5 cm)
Bequest of Clarence John Laughlin, 85.118.59

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E. J. Bellocq (American, 1873-1949) 'Bedroom Mantel, Storyville' c. 1911-1913

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E. J. Bellocq (American, 1873-1949)
Bedroom Mantel, Storyville
c. 1911-1913
Glass negative
Plate: 10 x 8 in. (25.2 20.2 cm)
Museum purchase, 73.241

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Lewis Hine. '[Mechanic and Steam Pump]' c. 1930

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Lewis Hine
[Mechanic and Steam Pump]
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image:9 1/2 x 7 in. (24.3 x 17.6 cm)Paper: 10 x 8 in.(25.2 x 20.3 cm)
Museum Purchase

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The New Orleans Museum of Art
One Collins Diboll Circle, City Park
New Orleans, LA 70124
T: (504) 658-4100

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm
Friday: 10 am – 9 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm
Closed Mondays

The New Orleans Museum of Art website

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06
Sep
13

Review: ‘Ian Strange: SUBURBAN’ at NGV Studio, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 27th July – 15th September 2013

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It is disappointing when you invite friends from Melbourne and interstate to an opening and one of them turns to you and says, “Well, what was all the fuss about?” The trick is to go with no expectation and you will never be disappointed and may even be pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, not in this case.

Despite all the years, not to mention money, that have gone into the Crewdson-esque production of this small body of work, what emerges in my mind at least are three interesting and beautiful images (a ying / yang black circle / white circle and a red painted house) and not much else. The three images are outstanding in their psychological excoriation of suburban belonging. Through use of colour and form the images interrogate a sense of home, place, identity and ‘fitting in’ that suburbia promotes, though under the surface there bubbles away the heart of the malcontent (the film American Beauty is a perfect example of this paradigm). In their Zen-like intensity these are incisive, insightful images.

And that’s it. The rest of the exhibition is stocking-filled with a couple more images that don’t really work, a series of stills of a house being set on fire from a film of the same thing. The photos and film of the house being set on fire mean nothing, take me nowhere.* In a word this exhibition is ‘THIN’ to say the least.

While the NGV is to be congratulated for promoting contemporary art, including street art, there has to be at least some basis of depth to an artist’s work, not just the fact that they are “now a noted contemporary artist with a developing international standing.” This is not enough. When you really look at this work it is obvious it needs more matter, more substance. Like a house of cards its foundation is built on shifting sands, foundations that need time to develop and solidify, thoughts that needed greater time to be delineated and teased out. There is no rush with this kind of investigation and that’s what it feels like here – an interesting idea, painted over, over produced and not fully developed to the point where it becomes unmissable, unmistakable.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

* Look no further than Gregory Crewdson’s Untitled (House Fire) from the series ‘Beneath the Roses’ (2004), for the use of a burning building to create an interesting narrative about hope and despair in suburbia.

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. All the installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Ian Strange. 'Corrine Terrace' 2011

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Ian Strange
Corrine Terrace
2011
Archival digital print
Collection of the artist, New York
© Ian Strange

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Installation photograph of Ian Strange 'Corrine Terrace' 2011 taken at the opening of the exhibition © Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photograph of Ian Strange Corrine Terrace 2011 taken at the opening of the exhibition
© Marcus Bunyan

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Ian Strange. 'Lake Road' 2012

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Ian Strange
Lake Road
2012
Archival digital print
© Ian Strange 2013

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Ian Strange. 'Lake Road' (detail) 2012

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Ian Strange
Lake Road (detail)
2012
Archival digital print
© Ian Strange 2013

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“The remarkable work of New York-based Australian artist Ian Strange will take centre stage at NGV Studio from 27 July. Suburban is the culmination of Strange travelling for two and a half years through neighbourhoods in the US. Working on a massive scale across key cities, Strange painted directly on to the surfaces and facades of suburban homes, and in some cases burnt them to the ground, to create a moving statement around Western ideas of home.

These unique interventions staged across the cities of Ohio, Detroit, Alabama, New Jersey, New York and New Hampshire were documented with a film crew and volunteers and will be shared at NGV Studio as part of Strange’s multifaceted photographic, film and installation work.

Cinematic in both tone and scale, Suburban investigates the iconography surrounding the family home and its place in the current economic climate. Through the work, Strange articulates his own conflicted relationship with suburbia he experienced growing up in the Australian suburbs, juxtaposed with living in New York City and the United States. Strange’s exploration of suburban experience articulates a distinctively Australian sensibility to a global audience.

David Hurlston, Curator of Australian Art, NGV, said that Strange was fast becoming recognised, both locally and internationally, for his distinctive practice and, in particular, for this new and unique body of work.

“We are excited to be able to present this ground-breaking exhibition of work by Ian Strange. From his early work as a street artist in Australia he is now a noted contemporary artist with a developing international standing. Strange is one of the most exciting young artists to have emerged from the street art genre in recent times,” Mr Hurlston said.

Suburban considers the status of the family home in the United States and Australia through nine large-scale photographic works and a dramatic multi-channel, surround sound video installation. Carefully selected fragments of the original houses will also be on display in the exhibition as both sculptural objects and social artefacts. Exhibiting artist Ian Strange said that Suburban was a culmination of more than two years’ work.

“This project has been all consuming for the past two and a half years of my life. I wanted to create a body of work that reacted to the icon of the suburban home and to the suburbs as a whole. The suburbs have played an important role in shaping who I am as a person and an artist. The suburbs have always been home, but I have always found suburbia isolating. Suburban is my reaction to that,” Mr Strange said.

Strange’s early artistic career evolved as a teenager growing up in the suburbs of Perth. Here he took on the name Kid-Zoom and from the late 1990s played an active role in Australia’s street art movement. After relocating to New York in 2010 under the mentorship of Ron English, he participated in the now legendary underground exhibition The Underbelly Project, before his first solo exhibition and pop-up show in the Meatpacking district, This City Will Eat Me Alive, which generated critical acclaim and attention from the art world.  Now an internationally recognised artist living between the United States and Australia, Strange has more recently been exploring the notion of home and identity and exhibited in the inaugural Outpost Street Art Festival on Sydney Harbour’s Cockatoo Island with his work Home, a full-scale replication of his childhood house installed in the Turbine Hall.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

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Ian Strange. 'Harvard St' 2012

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Ian Strange
Harvard St
2012
Archival digital print
Collection of the artist, New York
© Ian Strange

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Ian Strange. 'Harvard St' (detail) 2012

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Ian Strange
Harvard St (detail)
2012 
Archival digital print
Collection of the artist, New York
© Ian Strange

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Installation photograph of Ian Strange 'Harvard St' 2012 taken at the opening of the exhibition © Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photograph of Ian Strange Harvard St 2012 taken at the opening of the exhibition
© Marcus Bunyan

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On location in Detroit, July 2012

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On location in Detroit, July 2012
Photo: Jedda Andrews

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Graffiti crosses the picket line

Dan Rule

“Indeed, the works that populate the exhibition hardly fit the stylised representational or textual archetypes that have come to typify graffiti and street art. In this series, average suburban homes are immersed in monochrome-painted gestures and motifs or, in one case, flames. But while they bear a resemblance to impulse vandalism, their effect is allegorical rather than literal. In one work, a home in a Detroit street bears a bold, blood-red ”X”, which could be read as a metaphor for the wave of loan foreclosures and socio-economic turmoil that has supplanted the city’s suburban dream. Another residence is coated in black paint but for an unpainted circular vacuum, a window into the psychological and emotional underpinnings behind the ideal of the weatherboard home on the spacious block.

And that’s precisely the level on which Strange sees the work operating. ”There are some very strong political implications for this work … and I definitely acknowledge that,” he says. ”But I was really careful not to make works that were just about these broken-down suburbs and this ‘ruin porn’ thing. I know that in Detroit they’re really sensitive about that kind of thing, and we were really aware of keeping this project focused on the idea of being a reaction to the icon of the house in the suburbs, rather than a reaction to some of those socio-economic factors.”

Excerpt from the article, July 20, 2013 on The Age website

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Ian Strange Film still from 'SUBURBAN'

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Ian Strange
Film still from SUBURBAN
© Ian Strange 2013

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Installation photograph of Ian Strange film still from 'SUBURBAN' © Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photograph of Ian Strange film still from SUBURBAN
© Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photograph of Ian Strange film stills from 'SUBURBAN' © Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photograph of Ian Strange film stills from SUBURBAN
© Marcus Bunyan

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NGV Studio
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am – 5 pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

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12
Jun
13

Review: ‘Lee Grant / Belco Pride’ at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th June – 22nd June 2013

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In Belco Pride, the photographer Lee Grant comes as close as you are ever likely to come to an Australian version of the American photographer Alec Soth (Sleeping by the Mississippi, Niagara). That is a great compliment indeed.

This is an intelligent, cohesive exhibition which features 5 large colour photographs and a grid of 3 x 9 smaller colour photographs that form a topographical map of a suburb in Canberra called Belconnen. The body of work investigates how humans inhabit a specific place and how that place in turn influences the formation of identity and a sense of belonging and community. These themes are set in the context of a shifting, migratory, multicultural Australian suburb. The photographs are beautifully shot and individually well resolved; these square photographs then go on to form a holistic body that gives the viewer a wonderful sense of the people and place being photographed.

Grant likes to shoot formally and frontally, but that does not mean that there is not subtly and humour present in these photogrpahs. Technically she likes to vary depth of field to emphasise the context of place: in some images, for example Ashleigh in her Formal Dress (2008, below), depth of field is minimal in order to bring focus onto Ashleigh and the texture of her formal dress. The artist also likes to change light conditions from bright sunlight (Alisha and baby Saul, 2009 below), to overcast (Belco Pride, 2008 below) to gathering gloom (George with his model aeroplane, 2008 below); she also likes to push and pull figures and objects within the pictorial frame, from close up to mid-distance to infinity (the rendering of houses for example). This shading of space and tonality adds a beautiful luminosity to the series.

The humour and detail present is also fun: the suits of the sons two sizes too big in The Duot Family (2009, below); the barbed wire looming ominously above the white graffiti  ‘Belco Pride’; the off kilter lamp post in Suburban Hedge (2008, below) being swallowed by the hedge; and the delicious way that the lead from Kiki travels down and trails along the ground to Chucky the dog. There is a real affection and affinity for this place and people that is expressed in these photographs. They are unusually contemplative for this type of photography and that is perhaps a reflection on Grant’s Korean-Australian heritage.

Other work on her website is a mixed bag: the Sudanese Portraits are very successful, reminding me of the work of Mali photographer Malick Sidibé, while Oriental Dinner is interesting but the photographs are a little ‘flat’ due to their subject matter. The Road to Kuvera and Welcome to Vietnam lack the same connection and insight into the human condition that Belco Pride possesses, and this body of work seems to be her strongest so far in terms of an enunciation of her inner vision. Work in progress from The Korea Project again seems to possess an aura similar to Belco Pride so I await new work with interest.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to Edmund Pearce 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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6_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
The Duot Family
2009
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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3_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Cactus Garden
2012
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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8_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Belco Pride
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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4_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Ashleigh in her Formal Dress
2008
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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1_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Suburban Hedge
2008
Archival pigment print
110 x 110 cm
Edition of 4 + 2 AP

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12_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Graffheads
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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31_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Roxy and Jess
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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“Belco’s a hole…. but it’s our hole

I’ve been told that you never truly leave behind the place you grew up. That it remains deep within your experience of the world. Feeling conflicted about one’s place of origin is certainly not unique, but for me, the process of returning ‘home’ and reconciling my perception of place with its banal and vernacular reality was a surprising yet cathartic experience. The photographs in this series express the idea that belonging, connection and identity is deeply rooted in the specifics of one’s inhabited landscape. The landscape depicted here being the 25 northernmost suburbs of Canberra known as Belconnen, or to us locals, as ‘Belco’.

As a photographer, I am interested in the way migrant communities adapt to new environments, particularly in western cultures and much of my work explores themes of identity, belonging and community set often in the context of the Australian suburbs.”

Lee Grant

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“I always believed it was the things you don’t choose that makes you who you are. Your city, your neighbourhood, your family. People here take pride in these things, like it was something they’d accomplished. The bodies around their souls, the cities wrapped around those. I lived on this block my whole life; most of these people have.”

Dennis Lehane

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Lee Grant’s latest exhibition at Edmund Pearce, Belco Pride, explores how belonging, connection and identity is deeply rooted in the specifics of one’s inhabited landscape. The landscape depicted here being the 25 northernmost suburbs of Canberra known as Belconnen, or to the locals, as ‘Belco’.

Lee is a documentary photographer who lives and works in Canberra. She holds a degree in Anthropology and in 2010 completed a Master of Philosophy at the ANU School of Art. Lee has exhibited at the Australian Centre for Photography, the Monash Gallery of Art and the National Portrait Gallery amongst others. She has been a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize, the Head On Alternative Portrait Prize, the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Prize and the Olive Cotton Award. Lee was also the winner of the prestigious Bowness Photography Prize in 2010. Her work is held in the National Library, the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery as well as numerous private collections.

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11_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Kiki and Chucky
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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16_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Nathan & Mac, BMX bros
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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13_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
A View of Suburbia
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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25_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Alisha and baby Saul
2009
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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26_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
George with his model aeroplane
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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27_Lee_Grant_Belco-WEB

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Lee Grant
Ginninderra Creek on a Winter’s morning
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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17_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
The Beehive
2008
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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28_Lee_Grant_Belco_EPG_WEB

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Lee Grant
Lee
2010
Archival pigment print
60 x 60 cm
Edition of 8 + 2 AP

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Edmund Pearce Gallery
Level 2, Nicholas Building
37 Swanston Street (corner Flinders Lane)
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Opening hours:
Wed – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

Edmund Pearce Gallery website

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26
Jun
12

Exhibition: ‘Eugène Atget: As Paris Was’ at Ticho House, the Museum of Israel, Jerusalem

Exhibition dates: 23rd March – 30th June 2012

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Some Atget photographs that I have never seen before makes this posting all the more pleasurable. The pendulous nature of the sea monster, like a leg hanging over the edge of a table (can’t u just feel the weight of it!); the oppressive solidity of the wall on the left hand side of Coin des rues Poulletier et Saint-Louis-en-l’île (c.1915); and the two undated photographs of Saint-Cloud: the dark, spidery presence of the tree in winter and the absolute recognition of the visual escape point in the reflection of trees in pond. Magnificent.

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Many thankx to the Museum of Israel 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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Eugène Atget
Saint-Cloud
Nd

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Eugène Atget
Saint-Cloud
Nd

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Eugène Atget
Bagatelle
1926

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“The photographic oeuvre of Eugène Atget (1857-1927) has become a landmark in the history of the medium, and his works are recognized as an integral part of the canon of documentary photography. His subject matter was Paris with its houses, streets, parks, and castles – interior and exterior details of architecture being transformed by modernity. His fame came decades later; however his enduring legacy in the field is still discernible worldwide. This exhibition of Atget’s photographs of Paris, the first ever in Israel.

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem has announced  the acquisition of 200 photographs by the pioneering French documentary photographer Eugène Atget, gifted by Pamela and George Rohr, New York, and an anonymous donor, New York. These works add an important new dimension to the Museum’s exceptional photography holdings, encompassing over 55,000 works from the earliest days of photography to contemporary times.

Seventy of these newly gifted works will be presented in Eugène Atget: As Paris Was, an exhibition at Ticho House, the Israel Museum’s historic venue in downtown Jerusalem, featuring Atget’s images of Paris from the mid-1890s until 1927. Marking the first ever presentation of the photographer’s work in Israel, the exhibition is curated by Nissan Perez, Horace and Grace Goldsmith Senior Curator in the Museum’s Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography.

French photographer Eugène Atget is recognized internationally for his integral role in the canon of documentary photography. After working as a sailor, actor, and painter for almost thirty years, he embarked on a self-assigned mission to document French life, culture, and history in and around Paris. He chose houses, streets, parks, and castles as his subjects, capturing interior and exterior details of architecture being transformed by modernity. Without any official recognition, this enterprise yielded a massive visual compendium of nearly 10,000 photographs that Atget loosely designated as “documents pour artistes” (documents for artists), created by means of anachronistic technology and an antiquated camera.

“We are deeply grateful to our donors for this generous gift of so important a trove of works by Eugène Atget, a pivotal figure in the history of photography,” said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum. “We are proud to be sharing Atget’s unique vision with Israeli audiences for the first time and in the resonant setting of our historic Ticho House, which also juxtaposes turn-of-the-last century Jerusalem with its encroaching modernity.”

“Atget’s photographs of Paris, including those featured in Eugène Atget: As Paris Was, do not depict the city as a bustling modern metropolis,” said exhibition curator Nissan Perez. “He trained his lens on the older, often decaying buildings and parks. The scenes he captured, mostly devoid of human presence, express desolation and solitude, reminiscent of an empty stage awaiting the actors’ entrance.”

Press release from the Museum of Israel, Jerusalem website

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Eugène Atget
Poupées, 63 rue de Sèvres
1910-11

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Eugène Atget
Hôtel, 1 rue des Prouvaires et 54 rue Saint-Honoré
1912

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Eugène Atget
Coin des rues Poulletier et Saint-Louis-en-l’île
c.1915

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Eugène Atget
Gargouille, cour du Louvre
1902

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Ticho House
The Museum of Israel
Situated in the Jerusalem city center

Ticho House hours:
Sun, Mon, Wed, Thurs
 10 am – 5 pm
Tues 10 am – 10 pm
Fri 10 am – 2 pm

The Museum of Israel website

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24
Dec
11

Exhibition: ‘Robert Adams: The Place We Live, A Retrospective Selection of Photographs’ at the The Denver Art Museum (DAM)

Exhibition dates:  25th September 2011 – 1st January 2012

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Many thankx to The Denver Art Museum 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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Robert Adams
Burning oil sludge, north of Denver, Colorado
1973-1974
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

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Robert Adams
North of Keota, Colorado
1973 printed 1989
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

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Robert Adams
Mobile home park, north edge of Denver, Colorado
1973-1974
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

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“The Denver Art Museum (DAM) is the first U.S. venue for Robert Adams: The Place We Live, A Retrospective Selection of Photographs. The exhibition features more than 200 black-and-white photos spanning Adams’s 45-year career, showcasing the artistic legacy of the American photographer and his longstanding engagement with the contemporary Western landscape. Adams lived and worked in Colorado for nearly 30 years. Many of his most acclaimed images were taken in the Rocky Mountain region and will strike a familiar chord with visitors. The exhibition, organized by the Yale University Art Gallery, will be on view September 25, 2011 – January 1, 2012 in the museum’s Gallagher Family Gallery.

“We’re excited to host the work of one of the foremost photographers of our time,” said Eric Paddock, the DAM’s curator of photography. “Robert Adams’s striking yet quiet photos provoke thought about current economic, political and environmental issues Westerners confront every day. We think visitors will see something very familiar in his work.”

Since becoming a photographer in the mid-1960s, Adams has been widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential chroniclers of the American West. Adams’s photographs and writing insist that the realities of everyday landscapes are as beautiful as idealized scenes from nature. They ask questions about the ways people change and interact with nature, and what it means to live simply and quietly in today’s world. This commitment earned Adams prominence in photography’s “New Topographics” movement of the late 20th century and lends authority to his ongoing work. His photographs of Colorado suburban growth and clear cut forests in the Pacific Northwest, for example, express shock at mainstream social and economic values.

“The Denver Art Museum is pleased to be the first U.S. venue for The Place We Live, showcasing our continued commitment to our photography program,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “Colorado has a rich photography history and we’re excited to have visitors engage with these artworks that provide a narrative to the American experience and take a fresh look at their surroundings.”

Featuring more than 200 gelatin silver prints, The Place We Live weaves together four decades of Adam’s work into a cohesive, epic narrative of American experience in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Each of the photographer’s major projects is represented, from early pictures of quiet buildings and monuments erected by prior settlers of his native Colorado to his most recent images of forests and migratory birds in the Pacific Northwest.

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Biography

Born in Orange, N.J., in 1937, Robert Adams moved with his family from Madison, Wis., to Denver, Colo., at the age of 15. He earned a doctorate degree from the University of Southern California and, intent on pursuing an academic career, returned to Colorado in 1962 as an assistant professor of English at Colorado College. Disturbed by the rapid transformation of the Colorado Springs and Denver areas, Adams began photographing a landscape transformed by tract housing, highways, strip malls and gas stations. “The pictures record what we purchased, what we paid and what we could not buy,” Adams wrote. “They document a separation from ourselves, and in turn from the natural world that we professed to love.” Since 1997, he has lived and worked in Oregon.”

Press release from The Denver Art Museum

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Robert Adams
Lakewood, Colorado
1968-1971
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

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Robert Adams
Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, Colorado
1969
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

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Robert Adams
Denver, Colorado
ca. 1970
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

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Robert Adams
Longmont, Colorado
1973-1974, printed 2007
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

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Robert Adams
Eden, Colorado
1968
Gelatin silver print
Yale University Art Gallery, purchased with a gift from Saundra B. Lane, a grant from the Trellis Fund and the Janet and Simeon Braguin Fund

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The Denver Art Museum
Civic Center Cultural Complex
located on 13th Avenue between Broadway and Bannock in downtown Denver

Opening hours:
Monday Closed
Tuesday – Thursday 10 am- 5 pm
Friday 10 am – 8 pm
Saturday – Sunday 10 am – 5 pm

The Denver Art Museum 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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