Posts Tagged ‘the city

20
Feb
22

Exhibition: ‘Man Ray: The Paris Years’ at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia

Exhibition dates: 30th October 2021 – 20th February 2022

Curator: Dr. Michael Taylor, VMFA’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education

 

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Self-Portrait with Camera' 1930

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Self-Portrait with Camera
1930
Solarised gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York, Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Fund, and Judith and Jack Stern Gift
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

I remember many many years ago (2004) the National Gallery of Victoria held a major exhibition of the work of Man Ray, the first large-scale exhibition of Man Ray’s photography to have been presented in Australia. The exhibition was organised by the Art Gallery of New South Wales where it set an attendance record for photography exhibitions, with over 52,000 visitors, before travelling to Brisbane and Melbourne – which exhibitions did in those days between state capitals, alas no longer.

All these years later I still remember being impressed by the technical, almost scientific element – and elemental – aspect of Man Ray’s photography, the sheer intensity of his images, and their small, jewel-like size. I was less impressed by the lack of feeling the photographs gave me, as though the photographs were scientific experiments which emphasised “his techniques of framing, cropping, solarising and use of the photogram in order to present a new, ‘surreal’ way of seeing” and which, to my young photographic eyes, saw their lush and enigmatic beauty subsumed in an unemotional technical exercise.

Concentrating on his portrait photographs during his Paris years, this exhibition includes more than 100 portrait photographs made by the artist in Paris between 1921 and 1940. “In choosing portraits for the exhibit, the curator’s objective was to present the complete picture of Man Ray’s pantheon of cultural luminaries… “Since this exhibition is all about storytelling, we wanted to highlight the femme moderne and tell the public of their fierce individuality and creativity,” [Michael] Taylor says, explaining that the women’s inclusion makes for a more dynamic and meaningful exhibition. “These are musicians, models and performers whose contributions have been marginalized due to the legacy of colonialism and racism.” … The portraits chosen for “Man Ray: the Paris Years” reflect not only the staggering range of techniques Ray employed during his Parisian years, but also the fascinating people who inhabited his world. “Innovative, groundbreaking, experimental and completely original, Ray’s portraits are unlike the work of any of his contemporaries,” Taylor says.”1

But to my mind Man Ray’s other photography during this period, such as his 1922 album Champs Délicieux which contained 12 Dada inspired Rayographs (some of his first), his surreal photographic solarisations and his portfolio, Électricité (Electricity) (1931) are more expressive and revolutionary avant-garde statements of the creative power of photography than ever his portraits are.

And while his portrait photographs may be experimental and groundbreaking – all about technique – are they good portraits? That’s the key question. To my eyes his portraits have a “lumpy” quality to them, a kind of enigmatic blankness that never reveals much of the sitters personality. The doll-like beauty of Kiki de Montparnasse (c. 1924, below) becomes a later abstract wistfulness both photographs revealing nothing; a tough, shielded Gertrude Stein (at Home) (1922, below) is not a patch on Imogen Cunningham’s engaging, challenging portrait of 1934; and the portrait of Elsie Houston (1933, below) is just plain uncomfortable in its placement of the bandaged head and hand in the pictorial frame.

Apparently, Man Ray “was in league with the surrealists and, in even his most classical-seeming portraits, revealed a predilection for unexpected juxtapositions, visual rhymes and piercing expressions that can transport you instantaneously to the lip of a volcanic unconscious.” Allegedly.

A volcanic unconscious. Who writes this stuff? I often feel I am looking at different photographs than the ones other people are writing about. Again, “Man Ray’s photography doesn’t simply capture the image of a person, or the ghost that inhabits them. It captures the whole of creative expression – the surreal and sorrowful, the conflict and music, the desperation and freedom that comprise the human narrative.” No it doesn’t… I don’t even think he is a very good portrait photographer! Compared to a Weston, Sander or Lange, a Stieglitz, Arbus or Julia Margaret Cameron, Man Ray’s portraits are modestly proficient evocations at best.

“To be ‘done’ by Man Ray and Berenice Abbott meant that you rated as somebody,” wrote Sylvia Beach, owner of Shakespeare and Company, the legendary bookstore and lending library established in Paris after World War I by the American expatriate. You had made it… immortalised in the negative, promoted in the positive. There is the key. To be worthy, to be “fashion” able. After all, Man Ray was running a commercial photographic studio with Berenice Abbott as his assistant in order to make a living. After Man Ray fired her in 1926 Abbott set up her own studio and they became business rivals.

The two most enticing portrait photographs in the posting are both wistful visages of the female: the slightly out of focus, low depth of field beauty of the direct Lee Miller, an ex-lover of Man Ray, staring down the desiring male gaze, like the most glamorous and scientifically symmetrically perfect “mug shot” you have ever seen; and the soft sfumato (which translated literally from Italian means “vanished or evaporated”) background to the contemporary Mona Lisa that is the vulnerable, tender Berenice Abbott surrounded by vanished shadows and evaporated space. “Leonardo has studied the sky, the elements, the atmosphere, and the light. He takes the approach of a scientist, but translates it into the painting with superb delicacy and finesse. For him the painting doesn’t count. What counts is the knowledge,” observes Louvre Curator Jean-Pierre Cuzin.2

Science, knowledge and atmosphere. Only in this portrait of Berenice Abbott does Man Ray take his love of science and knowledge and approach what Preston Duncan observes: “It is through this aperture that we find the abiding sense that, in all the weight, the struggle, the limitations of our physical form, is an ongoing moment of release.”

A final thought emerges in my consciousness. I wondered whether there is a photograph of Man Ray by Berenice Abbott? Not that I can find…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Karen Newton. “Storytelling Portraits,” on the Style Weekly website August 31, 2021 [Online] Cited 20/02/2022
  2. Anonymous text. “…Leonardo’s masterful technique,” on the PBS Treasures of the World website [Online] Cited 20/02/2022

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

 

 

“The story of Man Ray and Paris has been told, but it’s usually been told through the lens – pardon the pun, it’s a photography show – of Man Ray’s innovations; the Rayograph, Solarization, his friendships, and his network. But what about the subjects?” says Chief Curator, Dr. Michael Taylor. “We took inspiration from the photograph on the cover of this show. It’s the first work you see in the exhibition. This is actually Man Ray taking your portrait. In other words, […] even though it’s called a self-portrait, a camera is photographing him, but he is looking at you with his camera. So we started to think about not just telling Man Ray’s story, which is fascinating, but the story of the sitters, the subjects, the models. …

While the primary focus of the exhibit is on portraiture and the radical expressiveness of his subjects – from the vanguards of femme moderne culture to aerialists in drag – there are some detours into avant-garde Rayography and cinema. This diversity of expression is resonant with Man Ray’s professional dedication to dismantling boundaries – those of gender, race, and national identity, as well as artistic traditionalism and aesthetic philosophy. …

Man Ray’s photography doesn’t simply capture the image of a person, or the ghost that inhabits them. It captures the whole of creative expression – the surreal and sorrowful, the conflict and music, the desperation and freedom that comprise the human narrative. It is through this aperture that we find the abiding sense that, in all the weight, the struggle, the limitations of our physical form, is an ongoing moment of release. It confronts us with the fact we are all winging this strange dance, contributing our solitary note to an overture that is entirely improvised, sharing in the simple hope that we may, for an instant, hear the enormity of the score.”

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Preston Duncan. “The View From Paris,” on the RVA website November 3, 2021 [Online] Cited 02/02/2022

 

All the men of the age are there: Igor Stravinsky, James Joyce, Andre Breton, Picasso and Braque. Equally present are the era’s modern women, including Bernice Abbott, the rarely-as-well-photographed Gertrude Stein, Lee Miller and Virginia Woolf. The real stars, however, are the unknowns. Or rather, those unknown-to-us. “Man Ray used photography to challenge the artistic traditions and break boundaries, including fixed gender roles and racial barriers,” says Michael Taylor, the museum’s chief curator, who conceived the exhibition.

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Daniel Cassady. “‘Paris’s glowing milieu spills onto every corner’: Virginia show theatrically tells the story of Man Ray’s fruitful time in the City of Lights,” on The Art Newspaper website 11 November 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Kiki de Montparnasse' c. 1924

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Kiki de Montparnasse
c. 1924
Gelatin silver print
Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, New York
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Kiki de Montparnasse' c. 1929

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Kiki de Montparnasse
c. 1929
Gelatin silver print
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

Alice Ernestine Prin (French, 1901-1953)

Alice Ernestine Prin (2 October 1901 – 29 April 1953), nicknamed the Queen of Montparnasse, and often known as Kiki de Montparnasse, was a French artist’s model, literary muse, nightclub singer, actress, memoirist and painter. She flourished in, and helped define, the liberated culture of Paris in the 1920s.

Alice Prin was born in Châtillon-sur-Seine, Côte d’Or. An illegitimate child, she was raised in abject poverty by her grandmother. At age twelve, she was sent to live with her mother in Paris in order to find work. She first worked in shops and bakeries, but by the age of fourteen, she was posing nude for sculptors, which created discord with her mother.

Adopting a single name, “Kiki”, she became a fixture in the Montparnasse social scene and a popular artist’s model, posing for dozens of artists, including Sanyu, Chaïm Soutine, Julian Mandel, Tsuguharu Foujita, Constant Detré, Francis Picabia, Jean Cocteau, Arno Breker, Alexander Calder, Per Krohg, Hermine David, Pablo Gargallo, Mayo, and Tono Salazar. Moïse Kisling painted a portrait of Kiki titled Nu assis, one of his best known.

Her companion for most of the 1920s was Man Ray, who made hundreds of portraits of her. She can be considered his muse at the time and the subject of some of his best-known images, including the surrealist image Le violon d’Ingres and Noire et blanche (see below).

She appeared in nine short and frequently experimental films, including Fernand Léger’s Ballet mécanique without any credit.

A painter in her own right, in 1927 Prin had a sold-out exhibition of her paintings at the Galerie au Sacre du Printemps in Paris. Signing her work with her chosen single name, Kiki, she usually noted the year. Her drawings and paintings comprise portraits, self-portraits, social activities, fanciful animals, and dreamy landscapes composed in a light, slightly uneven, expressionist style that is a reflection of her easy-going manner and boundless optimism. …

A symbol of bohemian and creative Paris and of the possibility of being a woman and finding an artistic place, at the age of twenty-eight she was declared the Queen of Montparnasse. Even during difficult times, she maintained her positive attitude, saying “all I need is an onion, a bit of bread, and a bottle of red [wine]; and I will always find somebody to offer me that.”

She left Paris to avoid the occupying German army during World War II, which entered the city in June 1940. …

Prin died in 1953 after collapsing outside her flat in Montparnasse, at the age of fifty-one, apparently of complications of alcoholism or drug dependence. A large crowd of artists and fans attended her Paris funeral and followed the procession to her interment in the Cimetière parisien de Thiais. Her tomb identifies her as “Kiki, 1901-1953, singer, actress, painter, Queen of Montparnasse.” Tsuguharu Foujita has said that, with Kiki, the glorious days of Montparnasse were buried forever.

Long after her death, Prin remains the embodiment of the outspokenness, audacity, and creativity that marked that period of life in Montparnasse. She represents a strong artistic force in her own right as a woman. In 1989, biographers Billy Klüver and Julie Martin called her “one of the century’s first truly independent women.” In her honour, a daylily has been named Kiki de Montparnasse.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Man Ray. 'Noire et Blanche' 1926

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Noire et Blanche
1926
Gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 8¼ in. (17.5 x 21cm)
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

As far as I know this photograph is NOT in the exhibition

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Gertrude Stein (at Home)' 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Gertrude Stein (at Home)
1922
Gelatin silver print
7 15/16”H × 6 1/16”W (20.16 × 15.4cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) 'Gertrude Stein, Writer' 1934

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Gertrude Stein, Writer
1934
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 9/16 × 6 11/16 in.
Frame: 22 5/8 x 16 5/8 x 1 3/8 in.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Berenice Abbott' 1921, printed later

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Berenice Abbott
1921, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

In 1926 Peggy Guggenheim, who often lent her financial support to the Paris colony of artists and writers, telephoned Man Ray to arrange a studio appointment to have her portrait taken, not by Man Ray himself, but by Berenice. Afterwards Man Ray was livid, he now realised that Berenice had become a serious business rival, and the next day he fired her. Berenice immediately made plans to have a studio of her own and friends of Berenice stepped forward to help her. When she made arrangements to purchase a view camera – Peggy Guggenheim lent her the money to pay for it. As partial repayment, Berenice later photographed Peggy’s children. In 1926, she had her first solo exhibition (in the gallery “Au Sacre du Printemps”) and started her own studio on the rue du Bac.

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Wallis Simpson with Chinese Sculpture' 1936

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Wallis Simpson with Chinese Sculpture
1936
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Photographed during the year in which her liaison with Edward VIII became public and he abdicated the throne of the British Empire.

 

 

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts announces its upcoming exhibition, Man Ray: The Paris Years, on view in Richmond from October 30, 2021, through February 21, 2022. Organised by Dr. Michael Taylor, VMFA’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education, the exhibition includes more than 100 compelling portrait photographs made by the artist in Paris between 1921 and 1940, featuring cultural luminaries such as Barbette, André Breton, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Duchamp, Ernest Hemingway, Miriam Hopkins, James Joyce, Henri Matisse, Méret Oppenheim, Alice Prin (Kiki de Montparnasse), Elsa Schiaparelli, Erik Satie, Wallis Simpson and Gertrude Stein.

The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Emmanuel “Manny” Radnitzky grew up in New York and adopted the pseudonym Man Ray around 1912. A timely sale of paintings to Ferdinand Howald, an art collector from Columbus, Ohio, provided Man Ray with funds for a trip to Paris, and he arrived in the French capital on July 22, 1921. Although the artist worked in a variety of media over the next two decades, including assemblage, film, sculpture and painting, photography would be his primary means of artistic expression in Paris.

Shortly after moving to France, Man Ray embarked on a sustained campaign to document the international avant-garde in a series of remarkable portraits that established his reputation as one of the leading photographers of his era. Man Ray’s portraits often reflect a dialogue or negotiation between the artist’s vision and the self-fashioning of his subjects. Whether they had their portrait taken to promote their work, affirm their self-image, project their desires, fulfil their dreams or create a new identity, Man Ray’s sitters were not inanimate objects, like blocks of marble to be shaped and coerced, but were instead highly creative cultural and thought leaders who were active participants in the creative act. By telling the stories of his respective sitters and the innovative techniques he used to create their portraits, Man Ray: The Paris Years empowers the subjects portrayed in these photographs and gives them an agency and voice that is not typically realised in monographic accounts of modern artists.

“Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the artist’s arrival in the French capital and, coincidentally, the near-centennial anniversary of the Spanish flu pandemic, Man Ray: The Paris Years will prove to be a visually provocative and especially relevant exhibition,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “This is an opportunity to better understand the lives of his subjects and see Man Ray in a different light.”

“Man Ray used photography to challenge artistic traditions and break boundaries, including fixed gender roles and racial barriers,” said Taylor. “His portraits went beyond recording the mere outward appearance of the person depicted and aimed instead to capture the essence of his sitters as creative individuals, as well as the collective nature and character of Les Années folles (the crazy years) of Paris between the two world wars.”

Man Ray’s radical portraits also capture an important constituency of the avant-garde at this time, namely the femme moderne (modern woman). Adventurous, ambitious, assertive, daring, enterprising and self-assured modern women like American photographers Berenice Abbott and Lee Miller, French artist Suzanne Duchamp and American sculptor Janet Scudder took full advantage of their unprecedented freedom and access to educational and professional opportunities to participate as equals to their male counterparts in the Parisian avant-garde. Although these women came from different classes and economic backgrounds, they shared a collective goal in the 1920s and 1930s to be creatively, financially and intellectually independent.

“Rejecting traditional gender roles and expectations, modern women were interested in erasing sexual differences,” said Taylor. “They often embraced the symbolic trappings and autonomy of their male counterparts including wearing men’s clothes, driving fast cars, smoking cigarettes and sporting tightly cropped ‘bobbed’ haircuts.”

The exhibition also tells the important stories of Black subjects such as Henry Crowder, Adrienne Fidelin and Ruby Richards, whose contributions have often been unfairly relegated to the margins of modernism due to the legacy of colonialism and racism. The artist’s series of portraits of the dancer and singer Ruby Richards, who was born in St. Kitts in the British West Indies and grew up in Harlem, New York, brings to light an important performer whose work with Man Ray has never been acknowledged in previous accounts of his work. Richards moved to Paris in 1938 to replace the legendary African American performer Josephine Baker as the star attraction at the Folies Bergère, and the famous cabaret music hall commissioned Man Ray to help introduce her to French audiences through his portrait photographs.

Many of the subjects portrayed in Man Ray’s photographs were born in Spanish-speaking countries such as Argentina, El Salvador, Peru and Spain, including famous modern artists like Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, as well as the flamenco dancer Prou del Pilar and the pianist Ricardo Viñes. As a state art museum that has free general admission and is open 365 days a year, VMFA is committed to representing the cultural and linguistic diversity of our community. According to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 7 percent of Virginia’s 8.5 million residents speak Spanish at home. This data has informed the museum’s decision to incorporate dual-language labels throughout the Man Ray: The Paris Years exhibition, as well as the audio tour and gallery guide. Recognising that English is not the native language of everyone who visits the exhibition, VMFA is offering content in both Spanish and English to create a more accessible, inclusive and welcoming experience for all of our visitors.

Informed by extensive archival research, this exhibition and accompanying catalogue offers a more complete account of Man Ray’s Paris years by focusing not just on his achievement as a photographer and his superb gifts as a portraitist, but also on the friendships and exchange of ideas that took place between the artist and his subjects in Paris between the two world wars.

Press release from VMFA

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Nusch Éluard and Sonia Mossé' 1937

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Nusch Éluard and Sonia Mossé
1937
Gelatin silver print
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

Mossé was a surrealist artist and performer in a lesbian cabaret.

 

Ray’s double portraits are among his most spellbinding. Two feature Nusch Éluard, the actress, acrobat and hypnotist’s assistant who married the surrealist poet Paul Éluard. One shows Nusch with the openly bisexual actress, singer, surrealist and model Sonia Mossé. Taken in 1937, the photograph trembles with the intimacy and uncanniness of the culminating scenes in Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona,” where the face of Bibi Andersson begins to merge with that of Liv Ullmann. …

To try to square Man Ray’s magical, tender double portrait with Mossé’s subsequent life, as sketched in by Taylor in the catalogue, is to feel the 20th century – stretched to breaking point by the contrary forces of personal liberation and vicious repression – suddenly snap, like the shutter of a camera taking a photograph no one can bear to look at.

Mossé, writes Taylor, was romantically involved with the French dramatist Antonin Artaud. Best known for conceptualising the Theater of Cruelty movement, Artaud had tried to break off their relationship in 1939 “via handwritten malediction” (a letter in which he wrote curses – e.g., “You will live dead” – in an envelope containing drawings and burned holes).

But Mossé would never receive it. War had broken out. And on Feb. 11, 1943, Mossé and her stepsister Esther were denounced as Jews to the Gestapo. They were taken to the Drancy internment camp in a northeastern suburb of Paris and then to the Sobibór extermination camp in occupied Poland, where Mossé was murdered in a gas chamber.

Sebastian Smee. “Glamour, gossip, sex, scandal: Man Ray’s portraits captured Paris between the wars,” on The Washington Post website November 9, 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Igor Stravinsky' 1925

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Igor Stravinsky
1925
Gelatin silver print
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Picasso in His Studio on the rue de La Boëtie, Paris' 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Picasso in His Studio on the rue de La Boëtie, Paris
1922
Gelatin silver print
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

The American Surrealist Man Ray made a number of portraits of Picasso over the years, beginning with this photograph that appeared in the July 1922 issue of Vanity Fair. It was taken on the second floor of Picasso’s apartment at 23 rue de La Boëtie in Paris, where he established a studio in November 1918 and completed many of the Cubist paintings that form the background of this portrait. Man Ray’s portrait brilliantly captures both sides of Picasso’s personality at this time, since the proud and successful artist is also shown to be emotionally distant and seemingly uncomfortable with his newfound wealth and fame.

Text from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Constantin Brancusi' 1925

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Constantin Brancusi
1925
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 10 1/4″ (23.5 x 26cm)
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Ruby Richards with Feathers' 1938

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Ruby Richards with Feathers (installation view)
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Ruby Richards (aka The Black Pearl) was a singer and dancer born in Saint Christopher Island (Saint Kitts) in the West Indies.

In 1938 the dancer and singer moved to Paris to replace Josephine Baker as the star attraction at the Folies Bergère. The famous cabaret music hall commissioned Man Ray to help introduce Richards to French audiences through his innovative portrait photographs.

 

 

Louis Jordan Soundie: Fuzzy Wuzzy

Featuring Louis Jordan and His Tympany Band with dancer Ruby Richards (recorded on New Year’s Eve 1942).

 

Man Ray. 'Ruby Richards' 1938

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Ruby Richards (installation view)
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Ruby Richards with Diamonds' c. 1938

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Ruby Richards with Diamonds
c. 1938
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Michael and Jacky Ferro, Miami
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021)

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Self-Portrait With Adrienne Fidelin' 1937

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Self-Portrait With Adrienne Fidelin
1937
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society, New York/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

He called her his “little black sun.” Born in Guadeloupe, Adrienne Fidelin was the American artist’s partner in Paris before World War II tore them apart. She appears in almost 400 of the renowned artist’s photographs, and in 1937 became the first Black model to be featured in a leading U.S. fashion magazine. However, she was pushed to the sidelines of history. …

Man Ray himself only mentions Fidelin fleetingly in his autobiography. This marginalisation continues today, despite current efforts to recognise the stories of people of colour throughout history…

Adrienne Fidelin was born on March 4, 1915, in Pointe-à-Pitre. At the age of 13, she lost her mother in a hurricane that devastated Guadeloupe, and her father died a few years later. The orphaned teenager joined other members of her family living in Paris in the early 1930s. At the time, the French capital was under the thrall of the Colonial Exposition and obsessed with France’s far-flung colonies. At the Bal Blomet, a cabaret in the 15th arrondissement, the West Indian diaspora and the artistic avant-garde partied to the sounds of Creole biguine music, and Fidelin joined a Guadeloupean dance company.

This is most likely where she and Man Ray first set eyes on each other. She was 19, he was 44. In a diary entry dated December 29, 1934, the artist simply wrote “Ady.” Wendy Grossman discovered this valuable evidence of their first meeting in the Man Ray archives at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The following year, he wrote down her number (“Odéon 79-95”) and photographed her wearing a simple white tank top. The artist and the dancer were inseparable. On May 13, 1937, Man Ray combined their names in a tender Surrealist pairing, writing “Manady” and “Adyman” in his diary. …

On September 15, 1937, a full-page portrait photo of Fidelin taken by Man Ray was published in the U.S. magazine Harper’s Bazaar – a first in segregated America. However, captured “wearing a tiger-tooth necklace, an ivory arm bracelet, and a Belgian Congo headdress, and adopting a seductive pose, Fidelin was presumed to represent the sensual African ‘native’ identified in the article’s title,” writes Wendy Grossman. “The article shows how the Surrealist movement exoticised ‘the other.'”

Man Ray found a partner in Fidelin, but their relationship was asymmetrical. “She stops me from sinking into pessimism,” he wrote. “She does everything: shining my shoes, making me breakfast, and painting the backdrops on my large canvases.” Fidelin also danced in the “negro clubs” on the Champs-Elysées and worked with photographers and directors looking for “exotic girls.” …

The couple was torn apart when the Wehrmacht entered Paris in June 1940. After trying – and failing – to flee to the Côte d’Azur together, Man Ray returned to the United States alone. The lovers continued writing each other for a few months, but the war severely impacted the postal service and Man Ray soon fell in love with another dancer in Hollywood. Fidelin remained in Paris, married another man in 1957, and died in a retirement home a few miles outside Albi in Southern France [February 5, 2004].

Clément Thiery. “Adrienne Fidelin, Man Ray’s Forgotten Muse,” on the Fance-Amérique website February 2, 2022 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Adrienne Fidelin with washboard' 1937

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Adrienne Fidelin with washboard
1937
Gelatin silver print
29.8 x 23cm
Collection Musée Picasso
© Man Ray 2015 Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

As far as I know this photograph is NOT in the exhibition

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'James Joyce' 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
James Joyce
1922
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'James Joyce' (portrait for "Ulysses") 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
James Joyce (portrait for “Ulysses”)
1922
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

If, in the early 1920s, you happened to walk into Shakespeare and Company, the legendary bookstore and lending library established in Paris after World War I by the American expatriate Sylvia Beach, you would have noticed that the walls were covered with photographic portraits by Man Ray and Berenice Abbott.

“To be ‘done’ by Man Ray and Berenice Abbott meant that you rated as somebody,” wrote Beach. The habitues of Shakespeare and Company famously included such somebodies as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In 1922, Beach commissioned Ray (1890-1976) to make a publicity photograph of James Joyce, the Irish novelist whose book “Ulysses” she was about to publish (to her everlasting glory). That same year, Ray photographed Marcel Proust on his deathbed (below).

Sebastian Smee. “Glamour, gossip, sex, scandal: Man Ray’s portraits captured Paris between the wars,” on The Washington Post website November 9, 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Marcel Proust on His Deathbed' 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Marcel Proust on His Deathbed
1922
Gelatin silver print
Mark Kelman, New York
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

“It comes so soon, the moment when there is nothing left to wait for.” ~ Marcel Proust

 

Ravaged by bronchitis and pneumonia, Marcel Proust spent the last night of his life dictating manuscript changes for a section of his famous novel Remembrance of Things Past.

Man Ray did not know Proust, but he had become such an important photographer that mutual friends dispatched him to the celebrated French author’s bedside to make a final portrait two days after his death. The side view associates Man Ray’s photograph with a tradition of postmortem photography dating back to the inception of the medium.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

At the urging of his friend Jean Cocteau, Man Ray rushed to photograph the author of Remembrance of Things Past on his deathbed. In the October / November issue of Les Nouvelles Littéraires, Cocteau wrote:

Those who have seen this profile of calm, of order, of plenitude, will never forget the spectacle of an unbelievable recording device come to a stop, becoming an art object: a masterpiece of repose next to a heap of notebooks where our friend’s genius continues to live on like the wristwatch of a dead soldier.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Elsie Houston' 1933

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Elsie Houston
1933
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

“Houston sang Brazilian folk songs by candlelight in Paris. She moved to New York in 1939, where she performed as a possessed woman muttering “voodoo” incantations and playing the drums. She died in her home in 1943, an empty vial of sleeping pills by her bedside. In Ray’s photograph, her smile is soft. Her head tilts in line with her elongated hand. That hand is adorned with a piece of jewellery in the shape of a spotted disc, which rhymes with her hoop earring and the arches of her eyebrows. The cool, clean contrasts of her white turban and dark clothes make the portrait one of Ray’s finest.”

Sebastian Smee. “Glamour, gossip, sex, scandal: Man Ray’s portraits captured Paris between the wars,” on The Washington Post website November 9, 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Elsie Houston (Brazilian, 1902-1943)

Elsie Houston (22 April 1902 – 20 February 1943) was a Brazilian singer.

Houston figured in the Brazilian literary/art/music scene during a critical time in its history. It was an era of tremendous creative energy. In addition to Mário de Andrade and Pagu, Houston knew others famous members of this artists movement, including the composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, the painters Flavio de Carvalho, Anita Malfatti and Tarsila do Amaral, and the leader of Brazilian modernism, Oswald de Andrade.

Houston moved to Germany and studied with Lilli Lehmann a renowned voice teacher. She then studied with another famed soprano, Ninon Vallin, first in Argentina and then in Paris. Houston’s relationship with Heitor Villa Lobos began in her teens. Houston was definitely a soloist at Villa Lobos’s 1927 Paris concerts. In 1928 she married Benjamin Péret, French surrealist poet, with whom she lived in Brazil from 1929 to 1931. Their son, Geyser, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1931.

By the late 1930s, Houston had moved to New York City. She was a brilliant singer, particularly skilled in the interpretation of Brazilian songs. The New York Times during this era praised for her performances. She was also an active supporter of young Latin American composers, performing early pieces by composers such as Jayme Ovalle and Camargo Guarnieri.

She died in 1943. Her death was listed as an apparent suicide.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Ravel – Sur l’herbe – Elsie Houston (1930s)

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Lee Miller' 1929

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Lee Miller
1929
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

Ray learned from the history of painting as much as from other photographers. He borrowed from Rembrandt’s tenebrism (his dramatic use of engulfing shadow), the slanting light and perspectival structure in Vermeer’s interiors, and the directness of Hans Holbein (strong light on the face, minimal backgrounds). But of course, he was in league with the surrealists and, in even his most classical-seeming portraits, revealed a predilection for unexpected juxtapositions, visual rhymes and piercing expressions that can transport you instantaneously to the lip of a volcanic unconscious.

Ray’s 1929 portrait of Lee Miller is a good example – surely one of the most mesmerising photographic portraits ever taken. What is the source of its uncanny power? It’s not just that Miller – herself a great photographer who for several years was Ray’s lover – is so beautiful; or that her direct gaze is simultaneously so trusting and challenging; or even that her unblemished skin and the symmetry of the whole composition suggest something impossibly pristine and inviolate. It’s because the image is slightly out of focus. The effect of the blur is to slow one’s response, as smoke rings slow the mind – and to trigger a dream state.

Sebastian Smee. “Glamour, gossip, sex, scandal: Man Ray’s portraits captured Paris between the wars,” on The Washington Post website November 9, 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Emak Bakia (Leave Me Alone)
1926

 

 

But you may be less familiar with some of Ray’s other subjects, including Germaine Tailleferre, the female composer who changed her name from Taillefesse, Taylor writes, “partly to spite her father, who refused to support her musical studies, but also because she disliked the connotations of the name Taillefesse, which translates as buttock in English”; Janet Scudder, an American sculptor, whose partner was the children’s author and suffragist Marion Cothren; and Barbette (below), the high-wire performer who presented as a graceful woman, but at the end of her act removed her wig and revealed herself as a man.

Personae like these – and Ray’s always inventive approach to their portraits – make this show more than just a roll call of famous names. They make it revelatory. The show is further enhanced by the inclusion of Ray’s wonderful 1926 film, “Emak-Bakia” (he called it a “cinépoème”), and a portfolio of semiabstract photographs he made for a Paris Electricity Co. marketing campaign. Both are remarkable.

Sebastian Smee. “Glamour, gossip, sex, scandal: Man Ray’s portraits captured Paris between the wars,” on The Washington Post website November 9, 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Barbette' 1926

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Barbette
1926
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society

 

 

Vander Clyde Broadway (American, 1899-1973)

Vander Clyde Broadway (December 19, 1899 – August 5, 1973), stage name Barbette, was an American female impersonator, high-wire performer, and trapeze artist born in Texas. Barbette attained great popularity throughout the United States but his greatest fame came in Europe and especially Paris, in the 1920s and 1930s.

Barbette began performing as an aerialist at around the age of 14 as one-half of a circus act called The Alfaretta Sisters. After a few years of circus work, Barbette went solo and adopted his exotic-sounding pseudonym. He performed in full drag, revealing himself as male only at the end of his act.

Following a career-ending illness or injury (the sources disagree on the cause), which left him in constant pain, Barbette returned to Texas but continued to work as a consultant for motion pictures as well as training and choreographing aerial acts for a number of circuses. After years of dealing with chronic pain, Barbette committed suicide on August 5, 1973. Both in life and following his death, Barbette served as an inspiration to a number of artists, including Jean Cocteau and Man Ray. …

“Barbette,” writes Cocteau,

“transforms effortlessly back and forth between man and woman. His female glamour and elegance Cocteau likens to a cloud of dust thrown into the eyes of the audience, blinding it to the masculinity of the movements he needs to perform his acrobatics. That blindness is so complete that at the end of his act, Barbette does not simply remove his wig but instead plays the part of a man. He rolls his shoulders, stretches his hands, swells his muscles… And after the fifteenth or so curtain call, he gives a mischievous wink, shifts from foot to foot, mimes a bit of an apology, and does a shuffling little street urchin dance – all of it to erase the fabulous, dying-swan impression left by the act.”

Cocteau calls upon his fellow artists to incorporate deliberately this effect that he believes for Barbette is instinctive.

Cocteau commissioned a series of photographs of Barbette by the Surrealist artist Man Ray, which captured not only aspects of Barbette’s performance but also his process of transformation into his female persona.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Ernest Hemingway' 1928

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Ernest Hemingway
1928
Gelatin silver print
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Aldous Huxley' 1934

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Aldous Huxley
1934
Gelatin silver print
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

This photograph was taken two years after the publication of Huxley’s novel Brave New World, a nightmarish vision of the future.

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'La Ville' (The City) 1931

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
La Ville (The City)
1931
From the portfolio Èlectricité
Photogravure, printed 1931
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

In 1931, Man Ray was commissioned by the Compagnie Parisienne de Distribution d’Electricite (CPDE) to produce a series of pictures promoting the private consumption of electricity. The resulting portfolio, Électricité (Electricity), comprises rayographs reproduced as photogravures. Le Monde (The World), a picture of the moon above an electrical cord, suggests that even celestial bodies rely on the CPDE for their illumination; the photogravure Électricité equates the electric charge of the electron with the erotic beauty of a nude female figure; and Le Souffle (Breeze) combines spinning fan blades with the weblike stimuli of electrical current.

Gallery label from The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook, April 16, 2012 – April 29, 2013 on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray. 'Électricité' 1931

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Électricité
1931
From the portfolio Èlectricité
Photogravure, printed 1931
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

Man Ray’s innovations are not excluded. A whole section of the exhibition is devoted to his light-bending portfolio Électricité (1931), a commercial project commissioned by the Paris Electric Company to promote the use of electrically powered household appliances. Comprised of ten “Rayographs” (another name for photograms), the portfolio pulses with kinetic energy. Fans spin with an otherworldly force, a fowl is perfectly cooked as by magic rays, and the Eiffel Tower swims in hi-wattage advertisements.

Daniel Cassady. “‘Paris’s glowing milieu spills onto every corner’: Virginia show theatrically tells the story of Man Ray’s fruitful time in the City of Lights,” on The Art Newspaper website 11 November 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Le Souffle' (Breeze) 1931

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Le Souffle (Breeze)
1931
From the portfolio Èlectricité
Photogravure, printed 1931
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Le Monde' (The World) 1931

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Le Monde (The World)
1931
From the portfolio Èlectricité
Photogravure, printed 1931
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
200 N. Boulevard
Richmond, Virginia USA

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm and until 9 pm Wed, Thu, Fri

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05
Apr
15

Exhibition: ‘Bevan Davies: New York’ at Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, California

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 9th May, 2015

 

Bevan Davies. '94 Greene Street, New York' 1975

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
94 Greene Street, New York
1975
Vintage gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

 

This stunning suite of large format photographs emanates from an esteemed lineage: the early morning light of Atget’s photographs of Old Paris during that cities urban renewal; the frontality of Walker Evans and his photographs of Southern churches (with both artist’s attention to the storefront facade); and the formal qualities of the New Topographic movement and the gridded topos of Bernd and Hilla Becher.

While Eugène Atget photographed the vanishing environs of Old Paris, Davies captures the urban decay of New York City, a city that was undergoing serious urban renewal in the 1970s.

The redevelopment of large sections of New York City and New York State by Robert Moses between the 1930s and the 1970s was a notable and prominent example of urban redevelopment. Moses directed the construction of new bridges, highways, housing projects, and public parks. Moses was a controversial figure, both for his single-minded zeal and for its impact on New York City… The Rondout neighbourhood in Kingston, New York (on the Hudson River) was essentially destroyed by a federally funded urban renewal program in the 1960s, with more than 400 old buildings demolished, most of them historic brick structures built in the 19th century. Similarly ill-conceived urban renewal programs gutted the historic centres of other towns and cities across America in the 1950s and 1960s.” (Anon. “Urban Renewal,” on the Wikipedia website)

In Davies’ project (and essential to his task), is the revealing of detail in these undervalued buildings. An ethereal light radiates, almost pulsates from these night time buildings – all rendered in beautifully ferrotyped prints that display a surplus of detail.

The previsualisation in these photographs is excellent. Notice how Davies pushes and pulls the viewer forward and backward in the image plane by using the device of the footpath to frame his compositions. In an image such as 94 Greene Street, New York (1975, above) – one of my favourite in this posting – the artist frames the image to stop at the edge of the pavement, allowing enough room so that the eye is led into the image. In other images, such as Broadway, New York (1976, below) or 425 Broome Street, New York (1976, below), Davies crops right up to the base of the building, forcing the viewer to acknowledge the geometric, cellular structure of the facade and nothing else. In yet other images, such as Column, Mercer Street, New York (1975, below) or 155 West Broadway, New York (1975, below) the artist pulls back from the building, allowing the pavement to anchor the building’s displacement while emphasising the columns grounding within the scene.

These really are magnificent photographs that bring the silence of the city to the fore front of our consciousness. Without the presence of human beings, the buildings take on a majesty that is usually usurped, overlooked or just plain passed by during the humdrum nature of everyday life.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Bevan Davies. '652 Broadway, New York' 1976

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
652 Broadway, New York
1976
Vintage gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

Bevan Davies. 'Broadway, New York' 1976

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
Broadway, New York
1976
Vintage gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

Bevan Davies. '425 Broome Street, New York' 1976

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
425 Broome Street, New York
1976
Vintage gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

Bevan Davies. 'Walker Street., New York' 1976

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
Walker Street., New York
1976
Vintage gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

Bevan Davies. 'Hudson Street, New York' 1975

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
Hudson Street, New York
1975
Vintage gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

 

Joseph Bellows Gallery is pleased to announce its upcoming solo exhibition, Bevan Davies New York. The exhibition opens on March 14th and will continue through May 9, 2015. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, March 14th, from 6-8 pm. New York will present Davies’ luminous and highly detailed large-format black and white architectural views from the mid 1970’s, along with a selection of his earlier street portraiture from the preceding decade, in the atrium gallery.

Bevan Davies studied photography with Bruce Davidson, at the University of Chicago in early 1960’s and benefitted greatly through mentoring from Diane Arbus later in that decade. After working the street in both daylight and evening hours, photographing people at odds with society, with a hand camera, Davies changed his working methodology to describing the physical environs of the street: the building facades, alleys and streets with a tripod mounted view camera.

This change in subject and approach resulted in Davies most celebrated work. Created in 1975/76 Bevan Davies’ architectural photographs situated themselves wholly within the dictum laid forth by William Jenkins, as “New Topographics”. In fact, Davies writes of his approach as, “an effort being made to let the camera almost see by itself.” This notion was carried further by the late photographer, Lewis Baltz, who in 1976, referred to Davies’ photographs as, “rigorously contemporary, while acknowledging a use of the camera which dates from the inception of the medium.” The New York facades, taken in the early morning hours and devoid of people, describe spaces defined by light and shadow. They depict a specific time and place, as seen by the window dressings and signage, as well as portray a formal grace among the building’s details that are included within Davies’ camera frame. New York is the first comprehensive exhibition of Davies’ photographs in over two decades.

Davies photographs can be found in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Center for Creative Photography, Art Institute of Chicago, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, George Eastman House, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Harry Ransom Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the International Center of Photography.

In 2014, Nazraeli Press released Los Angeles, 1976, a monograph on Davies’ photographs from that region and era. The photographs depict the residential architecture and neighbourhoods through nuanced arrangement and clarity. A forthcoming volume on Davies’ New York photographs is in prepublication.

Press release from the Joseph Bellows Gallery

 

Bevan Davies. '144 Wooster Street, New York' 1976

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
144 Wooster Street, New York
1976
Vintage gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

Bevan Davies. 'View from 475 Broadway, New York' 1976

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
View from 475 Broadway, New York
1976
Vintage gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

Bevan Davies. 'Bond Street, Facing North, New York' 1976

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
Bond Street, Facing North, New York
1976
Vintage gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

Bevan Davies. 'Franklin and West Broadway, New York' 1976

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
Franklin and West Broadway, New York
1976
Vintage gelatin silver print
16 x 20 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

Bevan Davies. '426 West Broadway, New York' 1975

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
426 West Broadway, New York
1975
Vintage gelatin silver print
20 x 16 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

Bevan Davies. 'Column, Mercer Street, New York' 1975

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
Column, Mercer Street, New York
1975
Vintage gelatin silver print
20 x 16 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

Bevan Davies. '11 Mercer Street, New York' 1976

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
11 Mercer Street, New York
1976
Vintage gelatin silver print
20 x 16 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

Bevan Davies. '155 West Broadway, New York' 1975

 

Bevan Davies (American, b. 1941)
155 West Broadway, New York
1975
Vintage gelatin silver print
20 x 16 inches
© Bevan Davies

 

 

Joseph Bellows Gallery
7661 Girrard Avenue
La Jolla, California
Phone: 858 456 5620

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm and by appointment

Joseph Bellows Gallery website

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05
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960-1980’ at the Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition dates: 26th October 2014 – 11th January 2015

 

Bruce Davidson. 'Untitled', from 'East 100th Street' 1966-68

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled, from East 100th Street
1966-1968
Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York and Magnum Photos

 

 

What looks to be another fascinating exhibition. They are coming thick and fast at the moment, it’s hard to keep up!

Marcus

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

 

The American city of the 1960s and 1970s experienced seismic physical changes and social transformations, from urban decay and political protests to massive highways that threatened vibrant neighbourhoods. Nowhere was this sense of crisis more evident than in the country’s three largest cities: New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Yet in this climate of uncertainty and upheaval, the streets and neighbourhoods of these cities offered places where a host of different actors – photographers, artists, filmmakers, planners, and activists – could transform these conditions of crisis into opportunities for civic discourse and creative expression.

The City Lost and Found is the first exhibition to explore this seminal period through the emergence of new photographic and cinematic practices that reached from the art world to the pages of Life magazine. Instead of aerial views and sweeping panoramas, photographers and filmmakers turned to in-depth studies of streets, pedestrian life, neighbourhoods, and seminal urban events, like Bruce Davidson’s two-year study of a single block in Harlem, East 100th Street (1966-68). These new forms of photography offered the public a complex image of urban life and experience while also allowing architects, planners, and journalists to imagine and propose new futures for American cities.

Drawn from the Art Institute’s holdings, as well as from more than 30 collections across the United States, this exhibition brings together a large range of media, from slideshows and planning documents to photo collage and artist books. The City Lost and Found showcases important bodies of work by renowned photographers and photojournalists such as Thomas Struth, Martha Rosler, and Barton Silverman, along with artists known for their profound connections to place, such as Romare Bearden in New York and ASCO in Los Angeles. In addition, projects like artist Allan Kaprow’s Chicago happening, Moving, and architect Shadrach Wood’s hybrid plan for SoHo demonstrate how photography and film were used in unconventional ways to make critical statements about the stakes of urban change. Blurring traditional boundaries between artists, activists, planners, and journalists, The City Lost and Found offers an unprecedented opportunity to experience the deep interconnections between art practices and the political, social, and geographic realities of American cities in the 1960s and 1970s.

 

Organiser

The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960-1980 is organised by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Princeton University Art Museum.

Text from the Art Institute of Chicago website

 

 

James Nares (British, b. 1953)
Pendulum
1976
Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York

 

 

James Nares’s film Pendulum illustrates the extraordinary status of Lower Manhattan during the 1970s, where disuse and decay created both the threat of demolition and the freedom to produce ambitious public art projects. The film shows a large pendulum swinging languidly in largely abandoned streets, suggesting the passage of time as well as the menace of the wrecking ball. Nares created this project by suspending a cast-concrete ball from an elevated pedestrian bridge on Staple Street on the Lower West Side adjacent to his loft. Unlike many neighbourhoods, urban renewal plans never came to fruition for this area, which still retains a connection to this precarious, yet liberating time in New York.

 

Romare Bearden. 'The Block II' (detail) 1972

 

Romare Bearden (African-American, 1911-1988)
The Block II (detail)
1972
Collection of Walter O. and Linda J. Evans

 

 

This monumental collage depicts both a specific, identifiable block in Harlem and also the importance of everyday routines to the city. From the 1960s Romare Bearden used collage to convey the texture and dynamism of urban life, combining paint and pencil with found photographs and images from newspapers, magazines, product labels, and fabric and wallpaper samples. Here Bearden showed the diverse inhabitants of Harlem apartment buildings perched in windows and on fire escapes, sitting on front stoops and street benches. The scene highlights the innumerable ways city dwellers “make do” so that their environments are more functional and liveable, from transforming front steps into a living room to turning sidewalks into playgrounds. While Bearden’s work has strong connections to avant-garde art and American and African histories, his collage technique can also be seen as a form of making do, just like the practices of his neighbours in New York.

 

 

“The American city of the 1960s and ’70s witnessed seismic physical changes and social transformations, from shifting demographics and political protests to the aftermath of decades of urban renewal. In this climate of upheaval and uncertainty, a range of makers – including photographers, filmmakers, urban planners, architects, and performance artists – countered the image of the city in crisis by focusing on the potential and the complexity of urban places. Moving away from the representation of cities through aerial views, maps, and sweeping panoramas, new photographic and planning practices in New YorkChicago, and Los Angeles explored real streets, neighbourhoods, and important urban events, from the Watts Rebellion to the protests surrounding the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. These ideas and images defined not only cities’ social and political stakes in the eyes of the American public, but they also led a new generation of architects, urban planners, and sociologists to challenge long-held attitudes about the future of inner-city neighbourhoods.

Works throughout the exhibition describe this new ideal of urban experience following three main lines of inquiry – preservation, demonstration, and renewal. The first reflects the widespread interest in preserving urban neighbourhoods and communities, including the rise of the historic preservation movement in the United States. The second captures the idea of demonstration in the broadest sense, encompassing political protests during the 1960s, as well as temporary appropriations of streets and urban neighbourhoods through performance art, film, and murals. The third, renewal, presents new and alternative visions for the future of American cities created by artists, filmmakers, architects, and planners. Together these works blur the lines between artists, activists, and journalists, and demonstrate the deep connections between art practices and the political, social, and geographic realities of American cities in a tumultuous era.”

 

New York

The election of Mayor John Lindsay in 1965 represented a watershed for New York, as the city moved away from administrator Robert Moses’s highly centralised push for new infrastructure and construction in previous decades. Lindsay’s efforts to create a more open and participatory city government were often in dialogue with ideas advanced by critic Jane Jacobs, who argued for the value of streets, neighbourhoods, and small-scale change. This new focus on local and self-directed interventions had a wide influence, leading to the development of pocket parks to replace vacant lots and the groundbreaking Plan for New York City’s use of photo essays and graphic design to express goals of diversity and community. In turn, many artists of the period, including Hans Haacke and Mierle Laderman Ukeles, created work that directly engaged with important social and political issues in the city, such as slum housing and labor strikes.

A multifaceted theme of preservation comes to the fore in work by the many artists and architects in New York who documented, staged, and inhabited areas where buildings were left vacant and in disrepair following postwar shifts in population and industry. The historic streets of Lower Manhattan became an integral part of projects by artist Gordon Matta-Clark and architect Paul Rudolph, for example, while low-income, yet vibrant neighbourhoods like Harlem gave rise to important bodies of work by Romare Bearden, Bruce Davidson, and Martha Rosler. James Nares’s elegiac film Pendulum and Danny Lyon’s remarkable photographs in The Destruction of Lower Manhattan are examples of a growing awareness of the struggle to preserve the existing urban fabric and cultures of New York during the 1960s and ’70s.

 

Mierle Laderman Ukeles. 'Touch Sanitation Performance' 1977-80

 

Mierle Laderman Ukeles (American, b. 1939)
Touch Sanitation Performance
1977-1980
Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

 

 

In 1977 Mierle Laderman Ukeles embarked on the multiyear performance piece Touch Sanitation, in which she shook the hand of every one of the 8,500 sanitation workers, or “sanmen,” employed by the city of New York, in keeping with her practice’s focus on labor. After the vilification of sanitation workers during the strikes of 1968, Ukeles’s personal and political camaraderie with the workers took on particular importance; every handshake was accompanied by the words “Thank you for keeping the city alive.” She worked the same hours as the sanmen and followed their paths through the streets of New York. Touch Sanitation was also distinguished by the importance Ukeles placed on the participation of the workers, as she explained in the brochure for the project: “I’m creating a huge artwork called TOUCH SANITATION about and with you, the men of the Department. All of you.”

 

Paul Rudolph. 'Lower Manhattan Expressway, New York City, perspective section' c. 1970

 

Paul Rudolph (American, 1918-1997)
Lower Manhattan Expressway, New York City, perspective section
c. 1970
The Paul Rudolph Archive, Library of Congress

 

 

Known for high-tech buildings in concrete, architect Paul Rudolph began working on a project for Lower Manhattan Expressway in 1965, funded by the Ford Foundation as research and design exploring “New Forms of the Evolving City.” Rudolph diverged from Robert Moses’s strategy for infrastructural projects through a sensitive engagement with the scale and texture of the dense urban fabric of Lower Manhattan. He proposed a below-grade road surmounted by a large, continuous residential structure of varying heights that would protect the surrounding neighbourhood from the pollution and noise of the highway. In many places this terraced megastructure was precisely scaled to the height of the surrounding loft buildings, with entrances and gardens on existing streets, a contextual quality emphasised in his detailed drawings. Rudolph also designed the expressway complex to resonate with established functions and symbols of the city, with tall buildings flanking the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges like monumental gates to the city.

 

Thomas Struth. 'Crosby Street, New York, Soho' 1978

 

Thomas Struth (German, b. 1954)
Crosby Street, New York, Soho
1978
© Thomas Struth

 

 

Thomas Struth’s 1978 photographs in the series Streets of New York City are remarkable representations of a city undergoing dramatic change, from the derelict streets of Lower Manhattan and public-housing buildings in Harlem to the dazzling, mirage-like towers of the newly built World Trade Center. Struth produced these photographs during a residency at the New York Institute for Art and Urban Resources, Inc. (now MoMA’s PS1) from December 1977 until September 1978. As he would later write, “I was interested in the possibility of the photographic image revealing the different character or the ‘sound’ of the place. I learned that certain areas of the city have an emblematic character; they express the city’s structure.” Although these photographs adopt the symmetrical framing and deadpan documentary style of his mentors Bernd and Hilla Becher, they led Struth to ask, “Who has the responsibility for the way a city is?”

 

Chicago

In the 1960s and ’70s Chicago emerged from its industrial past led by a powerful mayor, Richard J. Daley, who prioritised development in the downtown areas. His work to modernise the city resulted in the construction of massive highways, housing projects, and imposing skyscrapers – new architectural and infrastructural icons that were explored by many photographers of the era. The arts experienced a similar boom, with the foundation and expansion of museums and university programs. Growth came at a cost, however, and the art of this period highlights the disparate experiences of local communities in Chicago, including Jonas Dovydenas’s photographs of life in ethnic neighbourhoods and independent films exploring issues ranging from the work of African American community activists to the forced evictions caused by urban renewal projects.

Demonstrations loomed large in Chicago, where artists responded to two major uprisings in 1968, the first on the West Side, following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the second downtown, during the Democratic National Convention. These violent confrontations between protestors and police drew national attention to issues of race relations and political corruption in Chicago and led to an outpouring of new art projects as forms of demonstration, including community murals like the West Wall and an exhibition at the Richard Feigen Gallery condemning Daley’s actions during the DNC. The image of Chicago that emerged in the mass media of this period was one of destruction and resilience, a duality highlighted by contemporary artists like Gordon-Matta Clark and Allan Kaprow, whose work existed in the fragile space of opportunity between the streets and the wrecking ball.

 

Ken Josephson. 'Chicago' 1969

 

Ken Josephson (American, b. 1932)
Chicago
1969
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

 

Still from Lord Thing, directed by DeWitt Beall, 1970

 

Still from Lord Thing, directed by DeWitt Beall
1970
Courtesy Chicago Film Archives

 

 

Lord Thing documents the development of the Vice Lords from an informal club for young men on the streets of Chicago’s West Side, its emergence as a street gang, and its evolution into the Conservative Vice Lords, a splinter group that aspired to nonviolent community activism. The film uses a mix of black-and-white sequences to retrospectively analyse the group’s violent middle period and contrasts these with colour sequences that show the Conservative Vice Lords fostering unity and developing black-owned businesses and social programs during the late 1960s. Together, Lord Thing argues for the agency of African Americans in the face of decades of spatialised oppression in Chicago.

 

Art Sinsabaugh. 'Chicago Landscape #117' 1966

 

Art Sinsabaugh (American, 1924-1983)
Chicago Landscape #117
1966
Art Sinsabaugh Archive, Indiana University Art Museum
© 2004 Katherine Anne Sinsabaugh and Elisabeth Sinsabaugh de la Cova

 

 

Sinsabaugh’s panoramic photographs are among the most distinctive visual records of Chicago, capturing the built landscape with what Sinsabaugh called “special photographic seeing,” achieved with large-format negatives. The Department of City Planning used his photographs in a 1963 planning document to help describe the qualities of Chicago’s tall buildings “as vertical forms contrasting with these two great horizontal expanses [the flat prairie and the lakefront edge].” Sinsabaugh’s panoramas also flirt with abstraction when depicting such remarkable places as Chicago’s Circle Interchange, a monumental coil of highways completed in the early 1960s. Sinsabaugh recalled that for the photographer, like the motorist, freeways provided “an access, an opening, a swath cut right through the heart of the City in all directions.” However, his early thrill at the novelty of these developments soon gave way to an appreciation of their violence, in which entire “neighbourhoods were laid bare and their very bowels exposed.” (Please enlarge by clicking on the image)

 

Alvin Boyarsky. 'Chicago à la Carte: The City as Energy System' 1970

 

Alvin Boyarsky (Polish-​Canadian, 1928-1990)
Chicago à la Carte: The City as Energy System
1970
Special issue of Architectural Design, December 1970
Courtesy Alvin Boyarsky Archive, London

 

 

The concept of the city as organism emerged during the 1960s as a response to the increasingly complex interconnections of technology, communication, and history. One exceptional project in this vein was the British architect Alvin Boyarsky’s Chicago à la Carte. Boyarsky drew on an archive of historical postcards, newspaper clippings, and printed ephemera to trace a hidden history of Chicago’s built environment as an “energy system.” This idea was represented on the cover by a striking postcard image of a vivisection of State Street in the Loop, showing subway tunnels, sidewalks, El tracks, and skyscrapers in what Boyarsky described as “the tumultuous, active, mobile, and everywhere dynamic centre of a vast distribution system.” On other pages, Boyarsky showed images of Chicago’s newly built skyscrapers with newspaper clippings of recent political protests to juxtapose the city’s reaction to recent political protests against the disciplinary tradition of modern architecture in Chicago.

 

Los Angeles

Los Angeles has always been known for its exceptionalism, as a city of horizontal rather than vertical growth and a place where categories of private and public space prove complex and intertwined. During the 1960s and ’70s these qualities inspired visual responses by seminal artists like Ed Ruscha as well as critics like Reyner Banham, one of the most attentive observers of the city during this period. In many other respects, however, Los Angeles experienced events and issues similar to those of New York and Chicago, including problems of racial segregation, a sense of crisis about the decay of its historical downtown, and large-scale demonstrations, with responses ranging from photography and sculpture to provocative new forms of performance art by the collective Asco.

Concerns about the future forms of urbanism in Los Angeles and a renewal of the idea of the city were major preoccupations for artists, architects, and filmmakers. Many photographers focused on the everyday banality and auto-centric nature of the city, such as Robbert Flick’s Sequential Views project and Anthony Hernandez’s Public Transit Areas series. The historic downtown core continued to hold a special place in popular memory as many of these areas – including the former neighbourhood of Bunker Hill – were razed and rebuilt. Julius Shulman’s photographs of new development in the 1960s – including Bunker Hill and Century City – focus on the spectacular quality of recent buildings as well their physical and cultural vacancy. Architects played a strong role in creating new visions for the future city, including an unrealised, yet bold and influential plan for redeveloping Grand Avenue as a mixed-use district shaped by ideals of diversity and pedestrian-friendly New Urbanism.

 

Julius Shulman. 'The Castle, 325 S. Bunker Hill Avenue, Los Angeles, California, (Demolished 1969)' c. 1968

 

Julius Shulman (American, 1910-2009)
The Castle, 325 S. Bunker Hill Avenue, Los Angeles, California, (Demolished 1969)
c. 1968
Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission

 

 

Julius Shulman (October 10, 1910 – July 15, 2009) was an American architectural photographer best known for his photograph “Case Study House #22, Los Angeles, 1960. Pierre Koenig, Architect.” The house is also known as the Stahl House. Shulman’s photography spread the aesthetic of California’s Mid-century modern architecture around the world. Through his many books, exhibits and personal appearances his work ushered in a new appreciation for the movement beginning in the 1990s.

His vast library of images currently resides at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. His contemporaries include Ezra Stoller and Hedrich Blessing Photographers. In 1947, Julius Shulman asked architect Raphael Soriano to build a mid-century steel home and studio in the Hollywood Hills.

Some of his architectural photographs, like the iconic shots of Frank Lloyd Wright’s or Pierre Koenig’s remarkable structures, have been published countless times. The brilliance of buildings like those by Charles Eames, as well as those of his close friends, Richard Neutra and Raphael Soriano, was first brought to wider attention by Shulman’s photography. The clarity of his work added to the idea that architectural photography be considered as an independent art form in which perception and understanding for the buildings and their place in the landscape informs the photograph.

Many of the buildings photographed by Shulman have since been demolished or re-purposed, lending to the popularity of his images.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Asco. 'Decoy Gang War Victim' 1974 (printed later)

 

Asco
Decoy Gang War Victim
1974 (printed later)
Photograph by Harry Gamboa Jr.
Courtesy of Harry Gamboa Jr.

 

 

The Chicano art collective Asco was famous for their No Movies – works that appropriate certain stylistic qualities of the movies while maintaining a nonchalance that allows them to critique the media industry’s role in Los Angeles. Asco’s performances, therefore, function on different registers to engage with current events and issues facing the Chicano community as well as acknowledge the mainstream media’s distorted image of the city. For Decoy Gang War Victim, Asco’s members staged a fake gang shooting then circulated the images to local television stations, simultaneously feeding and deriding the media’s hunger for sensationalist imagery of urban neighbourhoods.

 

William Reagh. 'Bunker Hill to soon be developed' 1971 (printed later)

 

William Reagh (American, 1911-1992)
Bunker Hill to soon be developed
1971 (printed later)
Los Angeles Public Library

 

 

From 1939 to 1990, William Reagh produced over 40,000 photographs of Los Angeles in considerable architectural detail. Reagh is also well known for his specific efforts to document the Downtown area from the 1950s to the 1980s. His collection is now part of the California State Library, and a photography center in his name, the William Reagh Los Angeles Photography Center, is located at 2332 W. Fourth Street.

The William Reagh Los Angeles Photography Center is operated by Grupo de Teatro SINERGIA in partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs City of Los Angeles, and is the only Community Photography Laboratory in the Los Angeles area.

 

Reagh was on the streets: Looking. Lingering. Documenting. He walked Los Angeles and consequently saw Los Angeles — offering a different perspective than the mere suggestion of place so often gleaned in motion or generalised shorthand. He circled neighbourhoods, returned to some locations year after year, charting their evolution. And though, until his death in 1992, he became one of Los Angeles’ most prolific visual documentarians, he didn’t set out to be a photographer, nor was his trove of L.A. images meant to be a formal paean to Los Angeles. A painter and philosopher, by training and inclination, photography was something that he “picked up,” while in the service, a proficiency, that overtime became, at turns, poetic – though he, says his son, would never see it as such. …

His father’s arrival in Los Angeles, coincided with the city’s most vigorous years of growth, as well as its many phases of urban renewal. For years, his day job was work as a commercial photographer – shooting products, catalogues, art collections “whatever the clients called for,” his son recalls. But the weekends were dedicated to solely to prowling Los Angeles, uncovering and documenting its very disparate parts, assembling a sense of the whole.

To say there was a goal, a plan or even an organising thesis to his images, would be to overstate his process, Patrick suggests. His father, he says, was a wanderer who would lose himself within the intricate folds of the city, “wherever his muse led him.” Patrick remembers the meanderings of his father. “He just loved to wander downtown and walk around the streets and shoot. Sometimes it might be a streetscape, sometimes it might be people. He’d often shoot from the hip, hold the camera low. He was very good at taking pictures of people without them knowing. But really, he was so non-threatening, such a friendly guy – even in the seediest of neighbourhoods – he would make everyone feel at ease.”

While Saturdays often meant a solo trek – perhaps crisscrossing the freeways by car, touring surface streets on foot for inspiration – on Sundays, Reagh might take Patrick and his sister along. It was an opportunity to see the city through his eyes – the places he felt were important to document, even if he couldn’t articulate why in words. “Train yards, he loved. Shipyards. Amusement parks, the Pike and Pacific Ocean Park,” Reagh recalls. These were places at the edge of things – of the city or the coastline – and, metaphorically, our imaginations. The transit hubs in particular provided an interesting opportunity to see behind the scenes – an end on one story, beginning of another.

Each setting called for a different set up. “If he was downtown shooting people, he’d have his reflex, or another smaller camera, maybe his Leica. At the train yard or shipyard, he’d bring his tripod and set up his big Speed-Graphic. Back then there were no security guards asking questions: who you were and what you were doing. I would climb on stuff, those piled up streetcars. There was broken glass all over. He’d be off shooting. I’d climb. Back when you could do that sort of thing.” …

Decades later, the work reveals his heart. And what the images, taken as a whole, most eloquently preserve is not just sense of place, but a sense of the city’s humanity, its particular vernacular – its feel, pace, space; its leisureliness, and idiosyncratic visual language. “He was just interested in the passing parade.” says Reagh, “He let the camera do the talking.”

Lynell George. “Sidewalk Stories: The Photography of William Reagh,” on the KCET website January 10, 2013 [Online] Cited 26/11/2022

 

John Humble. '300 Block of Broadway, Los Angeles, October 3, 1980' 1980

 

John Humble (American, b. 1944)
300 Block of Broadway, Los Angeles, October 3, 1980
1980
Courtesy of Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica

 

 

Brought up in a military family, John Humble spent his childhood moving around the country from one military base to another. Humble was drafted during the Vietnam War, then became a photojournalist for the Washington Post before pursuing a graduate degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. His itinerant nature continued when he traveled the world in the early 1970s, going from Europe to the Middle East, then to Africa and Asia in his Volkswagen van. However, since the summer of 1974 Humble has lived in one place: Los Angeles. His traveling instinct did not diminish despite his fixed geographical location; rather, it intensified as he traversed the length and breadth of the city (from the San Fernando Valley and East Los Angeles to Venice and the shores of Long Beach), creating images that explore the postmodern qualities of America’s second largest city. Humble’s desire to capture “the incongruities and ironies of the Los Angeles landscape” results in a compelling body of work where power lines cut across blue skies, freeways divide neighbourhoods and a river bisects the city.

Humble began working with a 35mm camera, favouring black-and-white prints, but in September 1979 he bought his first view camera and switched to colour printing, producing first Cibachrome, then chromogenic prints. In the 1970s colour emerged within the tradition of photography, most notably in the 1976 exhibition Photographs by William Eggleston at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. No longer confined to the commercial domain of advertising, colour photography gained recognition as a valid expression of fine art. For Humble, the choice was clear; to fully capture the realities of the city – what he refers to as “the urban landscape” – colour was essential.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

 

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30
May
14

Exhibition / text: ‘Vivian Maier (1926-2009). A Photographic Revelation’ at Château de Tours

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2013 – 1st June 2014

 

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled' 1954

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Untitled
1954
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“Maier doesn’t have a partner to dance with. She sees something well enough, whereas Lee Friedlander expects something. If there is an idea out there in the ether she grabs onto it in a slightly derivative way. Maier states that these things happened with this subject matter but with Arbus, for example, she meets something extra/ordinary and alien – and goes beyond, beyond, beyond.”

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan May 2014

 

 

The next best thing

The photographs of Vivian Maier. Unknown in her lifetime (nanny as secretive photographer), her negatives discovered at an auction after her death – some developed, all scanned, in some cases cropped, the medium format images then printed. The latest “must have” for any self respecting photography collection, be it private or public. But are they really that good?

To be unequivocal about it, they are good – but, in most cases, they are not “great”. Maier is a very good photographer but she will never be a great photographer. This might come as a surprise to the legions of fans on Facebook (and the thousands of ‘Likes’ for each image), those who think that she is the best thing since sliced bread. But let’s look at the evidence – the work itself.

The photographs can seen on the Vivian Maier Official website and I have spent quite a lot of time looking at them. As with any artist, there are some strong images and some not so strong ones but few reach ‘master’ status. The lighting is good, the use of low depth of field, the location and the presence of the people she photographed are all there, as are the influences that you recite in your mind as to the people her photographs remind you of: Lewis Hine, Berenice Abbott, Lisette Model, Diane Arbus, Helen Levitt, Lee Friedlander et al. Somehow through all this she makes the photographs she takes her own for she has a “rare sense of photographic vision” as Edward Petrosky expressed it on my LinkedIn page, but ultimately they don’t really take you anywhere. It’s like she has an addiction to taking photographs (a la Gary Winogrand), but no way of advancing her art to the next level.

Vivien Maier’s photographs stand out because she hasn’t withheld enough within them. What do I mean by that? Let’s look at some examples to explain what I mean…

Included in the postings are two comparisons: Vivian Maier, June 19, 1961, Chicago IL, 1961 / Lee Friedlander, Stony Point, New York, 1966; and Vivian Maier, New York, Nd 1966 / Berenice Abbott, New York at Night, 1932. As with most of Maier’s photography, she relies on intuition when taking a photograph and a bloody good intuition it is too. This intuition usually stands her in good stead and she almost always gets the shot, but there is an underlying lack of structure to her images. Here I am talking as much about psychological structure as physical structure, for both go hand in hand.

If we compare the Maier with the Friedlander we can say that, if we look at the windows in the Friedlander, every one is a masterpiece! From the mother and son at left with the white-coated marchers, to the central window with the miniature house, dog and tree, to the dark-suited marchers at right. Everything feels compelling, intricate weavings of a narrative that the viewer has to try and make sense of. Each part of the Friedlander image is absolutely necessary for that picture… whereas there are so many things in the Vivien Maier that belong in other pictures ie. a good picture but a lot that doesn’t belong in that picture. Things that should have been held back, by making another image somewhere else. Her narrative is confusing and thus the eye is also confused.

A similar scenario can be observed when comparing the photographs of New York at night by Abbott and Maier. Abbott’s photograph is a tight, orchestrated and muscular rendition of the city which seethes with energy and form. Maier’s interpretation fades off into nothingness, the main arterials of the city leading the eye up to the horizon line and then [nothing]. It is a pleasant but wishy-washy photograph, with all the energy of the city draining away in the mind and in the eye.

One of Maier’s photographs that most resonates with me is September 1953, New York, NY (1953, below). This IS a masterpiece. There is a conciseness of vision here, reminiscent of Weston’s Nude of 1938 with its link to the anamorphic structure of his photographs of peppers. There is nothing auxiliary to the purpose of the photograph, yet there is that indefinable something that takes it out of itself. The dirt of the clothes, under the fingers, the ring on the hand, the shape that no human should be in and its descent onto the pavement, the despair of that descent captured in the angle of the camera looking down on the victim. The photograph has empathy, promotes understanding and empathy in the viewer. Most of us have been there. Other photographs that approach a higher perspective are Maier’s self-portraits, in which there is a conscious exploration of her reflection in/of the world: a slightly dour, serious figure reflected back from the world into the lens of the camera – a refracted identity, the phenomenon of self as light passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another, between living, the camera and memory.

But too often Maier’s photographs are just so… obvious. Did she wait long enough for the composition to reveal itself to her more, god what’s the word, more ambiguously. Maier doesn’t have a partner to dance with. She sees something well enough, whereas Lee Friedlander expects something. If there is an idea out there in the ether she grabs onto it in a slightly derivative way. Maier states that these things happened with this subject matter but with Arbus, for example, she meets something extra/ordinary and alien – and goes beyond, beyond, beyond.

What we can say is that Maier’s vision is very good, her intuition excellent, but there is, critically, not that indefinable something that takes her images from good to great. This is the key thing – everything is usually thrown at the image, she withholds nothing, and this invariably stops them taking that step to the next level. This is a mighty difficult step for any artist to take, let alone one taking photographs in the shadows. Personally I don’t believe that these images are a “photographic revelation” in the spirit of Minor White. What is a revelation is how eagerly they have been embraced around the world as great images without people really looking deeply at the work; how masterfully they have been promoted through films, books, websites and exhibitions; how Maier’s privacy has been expunged in the quest for dollars; and how we know very little about her vision for the negatives as there are no extant prints of the work.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Edward Weston. 'Nude' 1936

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Nude
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

Vivian Maier. 'September 1953, New York, NY' 1953

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
September 1953, New York, NY
1953
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'June 19, 1961, Chicago IL' 1961

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
June 19, 1961, Chicago IL
1961
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Stony Point, New York, 1966' 1966

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Stony Point, New York, 1966
1966
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York' Nd

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
New York
Nd
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898 - 1991) 'New York at Night' 1932

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
New York at Night
1932
Gelatin silver print
12 7/8 x 10 9/16″ (32.7 x 26.9cm)

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York, NY, 18 Octobre 1953' 1953

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
New York, NY, 18 Octobre 1953
1953
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian-Maier-New-York-NY-c-1953-WEB

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
New York, NY
c. 1953
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'St East nº108, New York , NY, September 28, 1959' 1959

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
St East nº108, New York , NY, September 28, 1959
1959
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'New York, NY' 1954

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
New York, NY
1954
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

Vivian Maier was the archetypal self-taught photographer with a keen sense of observation and an eye for composition. She was born in New York in 1926, but spent part of her childhood in France before returning to New York in 1951 when she started taking photos. In 1956, she moved to Chicago, where she lived until her death in 2009.

Her talent is comparable with that of the major figures of American street photography such as Lisette Model, Helen Levitt, Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand. The exhibition presented at the Château de Tours by the Jeu de Paume, in partnership with the Municipality of Tours and diChroma photography, is the largest ever exhibition in France devoted to Vivian Maier. It includes 120 black and white and colour gelatin silver prints from the original slides and negatives, as well as extracts from Super 8 films she made in the 60s and 70s. This project, which is sourced from John Maloof’s collection, with the valuable assistance of Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York, reveals a poetic vision that is imbued with humanity.

John Maloof discovered Vivian Maier’s astonishing photos completely by chance in 2007 at an auction in Chicago. At the time, this young collector was looking for historical documentation about a specific neighbourhood of the city and he bought a sizeable lot of prints, negatives and slides (of which a major part had not even been developed) as well as some Super 8 films by an unknown and enigmatic photographer, Vivian Maier. By all accounts, Vivian Maier was a discreet person and somewhat of a loner. She took more than 120,000 photos over a period of thirty years and only showed this consequential body of work to a mere handful of people during her lifetime.

Vivian Maier earned her living as a governess, but all her free time and every day off was spent walking through the streets of New York, then later Chicago, with a camera slung around her neck (first of all box or folding cameras, later a Leica) taking photos. The children she looked after describe her as a cultivated and open-minded woman, generous but not very warm. Her images on the other hand bear witness to her curiosity for everyday life and the attention she paid to those passers – by who caught her eye: facial features, bearing, outfits and fashion accessories for the well-to-do and the telltale signs of poverty for those who were less fortunate.

While some photos are obviously furtively taken snapshots, others bear witness to a real encounter between the photographer and her models, who are photographed face-on and from close up. Her photos of homeless people and people living on the fringe of society demonstrate the depth of her empathy as she painted a somewhat disturbing portrait of an America whose economic boom was leaving many by the wayside.

Vivian Maier remained totally unknown until her death in April 2009. She had been taken in by the Gensburgs, for whom she had worked for almost seventeen years, and many of her possessions as well as her entire photographic output had been placed in storage. It was seized and sold in 2007 to settle unpaid bills.

Her biography has now been reconstructed, at least in part, thanks to a wealth of research and interviews carried out by John Maloof and Jeffrey Goldstein after the death of Vivian Maier. Jeffrey Goldstein is another collector who purchased a large part of her work. According to official documents, Vivian Maier was of Austro-Hungarian and French origin and her various trips to Europe, in particular to France (in the Alpine valley of Champsaur where she spent part of her childhood) have been clearly identified and documented. However, the circumstances that led her to take an interest in photography and her life as an artist remain veiled in mystery.

Photography seemed to be much more than a passion: her photographic activity was the result of a deeply felt need, almost an obsession. Each time she changed employers and had to move house, all her boxes and boxes of films (that she hadn’t had developed for want of money), as well as her archives comprising books and press cuttings about various stories in the news, came along too.

Vivian Maier’s body of work highlights those seemingly insignificant details that she came across during her long walks through the city streets: odd gestures, strange figures and graphic arrangements of figures in space. She also produced a series of captivating self-portraits from her reflection in mirrors and shop windows.

Press release from the Château de Tours

 

Vivian Maier. 'Self-portrait' Nd

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Self-portrait
Nd
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Chicago' Nd

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Chicago
Nd
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Florida, 9 January 1957' 1957

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Florida, 9 January 1957
1957
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

Vivian Maier. 'Untitled' 1954

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Untitled
1954
© Vivian Maier / Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Chicago, IL, January, 1956' 1956

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Chicago, IL, January, 1956
1956
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Vivian Maier. 'Chicago, August 22, 1956' 1956

 

Vivian Maier (American, 1926-2009)
Chicago, August 22, 1956
1956
© Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

Château de Tours
25 Avenue André Malraux
37000 Tours

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 2pm – 6pm
Saturday and Sunday: 3pm – 6pm

Vivian Maier Official website

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27
May
14

Exhibition: ‘Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 1st February – 1st June 2014

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'Grouped Towers, Chicago Project' 1930

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
Grouped Towers, Chicago Project
1930
Perspective
Pencil on tracing paper
19 x 28 1/4″ (48.3 x 71.8cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

 

A change of pace now… some exquisite drawings in this posting about the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s a pity they can’t build a skyscraper such as the beautiful Mile High in Melbourne, instead of all the non-descript towers that are going up all over the place. At least we would then have a masterpiece on our hands.

Marcus

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

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'Grouped Towers, Chicago Project' 1930

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
Grouped Towers, Chicago Project
1930
Plan of the five towers and shared pedestal
Pencil on tracing paper
13 3/4 x 35 3/8″ (34.9 x 89.9cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'Broadacre City Project' 1934-35

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
Broadacre City Project
1934-1935
Study for a plan of a highway interchange
Pencil and coloured pencil on tracing paper
22 x 35″ (55.9 x 88.9cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal' at MoMA

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal' at MoMA

 

Installation views of the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal at The Museum of Modern Art, New York
February 1 – June 1, 2014
© 2014 The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Photos: Thomas Griesel

 

 

Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal celebrates the recent joint acquisition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s extensive archive by MoMA and Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. Through an initial selection of drawings, films, and large-scale architectural models, the exhibition examines the tension in Wright’s thinking about the growing American city in the 1920s and 1930s, when he worked simultaneously on radical new forms for the skyscraper and on a comprehensive plan for the urbanisation of the American landscape titled “Broadacre City.” Visitors encounter the spectacular 12-foot-by-12-foot model of this plan, which merges one of the earliest schemes for a highway flyover with an expansive, agrarian domain.

Promoted and updated throughout Wright’s life, the model toured the country for several years in the 1930s, beginning with a display at Rockefeller Center. This dispersed vision is paired with Wright’s innovative structural experiments for building the vertical city. Projects, from the early San Francisco Call Building (1912), to Manhattan’s St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Towers (1927-31), to a polemical mile-high skyscraper, engage questions of urban density and seek to bring light and landscape to the tall building. Highlighting Wright’s complex relationship to the city, the material reveals Wright as a compelling theorist of both its horizontal and vertical aspects. His work, in this way, is not only of historic importance but of remarkable relevance to current debates on urban concentration.

Text from the MoMA website

 

Frank Lloyd Wright and his assistant Eugene Masselink installing the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: American Architect at The Museum of Modern Art, November 13, 1940-January 5, 1941

 

Frank Lloyd Wright and his assistant Eugene Masselink installing the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: American Architect at The Museum of Modern Art, November 13, 1940 – January 5, 1941. Photographic Archive. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York
Photo: Soichi Sunami

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'Broadacre City Project' 1934-35

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
Broadacre City Project
1934-1935
Model under construction in Chandler, Arizona, 1935
Gelatin silver print on paper
4 1/4 x 6 5/8″ (10.8 x 16.8cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)
Photo: Roy E. Peterson

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'Broadacre City Project' 1934-35

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
Broadacre City Project
1934-1935
Taliesin fellows working on the model. Chandler, Arizona, 1935
Gelatin silver print on paper
9 9/16 x 7″ (24.3 x 17.8cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'Broadacre City Project' 1934-35

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
Broadacre City Project
1934-1935
Model in four sections
painted wood, cardboard, and paper
152 x 152″ (386.1 x 386.1cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

Frank Lloyd Wright. 'H. C. Price Company Tower, Bartlesville, Oklahoma' 1952-56

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
H. C. Price Company Tower, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
1952-1956
Apprentices working on the model in the Taliesin drafting room. Spring Green, Wisconsin, c. 1952
Gelatin silver print on paper
7 3/4 x 9 1/2″ (19.7 x 24.1cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art presents Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal, which celebrates the recent joint acquisition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s extensive archive by MoMA and Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, on view from February 1 to June 1, 2014. Frank Lloyd Wright (1867- 1959) – perhaps the most influential American architect of the 20th century – was deeply ambivalent about cities. For decades, Wright was seen as the prophet of America’s post–World War II suburban sprawl, yet the dispersed cities that he envisaged were also carefully planned – quite distinct from the disorganised landscapes that often developed instead. Paradoxically, Wright was also a lifelong prophet of the race for height that has played out around the world. Through an initial selection of drawings, films, and large-scale architectural models, the exhibition examines the tension in Wright’s thinking about the growing American city from the 1920s to the 1950s, when he worked simultaneously on radical new forms for the skyscraper and on a comprehensive plan for the urbanisation of the American landscape titled “Broadacre City.” The exhibition is organised by Barry Bergdoll, Acting Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, MoMA, and Carole Ann Fabian, Director, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, with Janet Parks, Curator of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, and Phoebe Springstubb, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA.

On view is Wright’s 1934-35 manifesto project, for what he called “Broadacre City,” which embodied his quest for a city of private houses set in nature and spread across the countryside. He believed that advances in technology had rendered obsolete the dense cities created by industry and immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Distributed along a rectilinear grid, these one-acre homesteads were to be combined with small-scale manufacturing, community centers, and local farming, and interspersed with parklands to form a carpet-like pattern of urbanisation. Visitors encounter the spectacular 12-foot-by-12-foot model of this plan, which merges one of the earliest schemes for a highway flyover with an expansive, agrarian domain. Promoted and updated throughout Wright’s life, the model toured the country for several years in the 1930s, beginning with a display at New York City’s Rockefeller Center. It is juxtaposed with the monumental models and drawings produced of his skyscraper visions: the six-foot tall model of his 1913 San Francisco Call Building; the model of his only built residential tower, the Price Tower, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma of 1952-56; and the eight-foot drawings of the Mile High tower project.

This dispersed vision is paired with Wright’s innovative structural experiments for building the vertical city, which engaged questions of urban density and sought to bring light and landscape settings to tall buildings. His ambitions grew from a 24-story design for the offices of the San Francisco Call newspaper (1913) to the 548-story, mile-high tower he envisioned in Chicago (1956) – a building large enough to house the entire population of Broadacre City. Wright’s proposal for the San Francisco Call Building celebrates verticality: repeated piers emphasise the height, drawing the eye up to a startlingly cantilevered cornice pierced with slots that frame the sky and allow daylight to wash the facades for dramatic effect. His design for the National Life Insurance Company Building (1924-1925) features a tower clad entirely in glass, setting aside the load-bearing frame of the Call Building to experiment with the curtain wall and other new building technologies. The project reveals Wright as a key participant in international debates on the possibility of cladding a tall building with a transparent glass facade, rather than cladding it in ornamental masonry for decorative effect.

An unregulated building boom in the 1920s in New York and Chicago resulted in an unprecedented urban density that Wright described as “congestion.” In response, he devised the Skyscraper Regulation – a set of design rules governing the lateral and vertical growth of American cities. By regulating the location and height of tall buildings, Wright sought to optimise light and views and to minimise the effects of closely spaced tall buildings that were turning urban streets into shadowy canyons. Wright’s Skyscraper Regulation was his last attempt to address the inherited city. He would turn instead to devising a set of regulations for an entirely new and dispersed urban fabric (Broadacre City), in which the unit of the city block was exchanged for the farmed acre.

In 1927, Wright’s design for the financially troubled Church of St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery dramatically transformed the building by having the floors project outward from a single central core plunged deep into the ground. The concrete floors tapered toward the periphery, which he compared to the structural concept of the “taproot” of a tree. This “taproot” structure was finally tested in built form in the S.C. Johnson & Son Research Laboratory Tower (1943-1950) in Racine, Wisconsin. In 1956, Wright unveiled a 26-foot-tall rendering of a gleaming, vertiginously tapered skyscraper – which he said would house 100,000 employees of the state of Illinois. The mile-high tower adopts the “taproot” structure he had articulated 30 years before, in which a skyscraper’s vertical ascent is stabilised by a foundation plunged deep into the ground. Both a polemic and a rationalised proposal for the future of tall buildings, the Mile High marks the definitive return of Wright’s tower to the city. The Mile High embodies Wright’s paradoxical attitude toward the American city: meant to condense the experience of urban life and work within a single telescoping form, freeing the ground for the realisation of Broadacre, holding in tension two idealized images of the city – its extraordinary vertical reach and its extreme horizontal extension.

Press release from the MoMA website

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'National Life Insurance Company Building, Chicago Project' 1924-25

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
National Life Insurance Company Building, Chicago Project
1924-1925
Axonometric view
Coloured pencil on tracing paper
40 x 24″ (101.6 x 61cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. Research Laboratory Tower, Racine, Wisconsin' 1943-50

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. Research Laboratory Tower, Racine, Wisconsin
1943-50
Section
Pencil, coloured pencil, and ink on tracing paper
35 1/8 x 20″ (89.2 x 50.8cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Towers, New York Project' 1927-31

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Towers, New York Project
1927-1931
Aerial perspective
Pencil and coloured pencil on tracing paper
23 3/4 x 15″ (60.3 x 38.1cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Jeffrey P. Klein Purchase Fund, Barbara Pine Purchase Fund, and Frederieke Taylor Purchase Fund

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'St. Mark's-in-the-Bouwerie Tower, New York Project' 1927-31

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Tower, New York Project
1927-1931
Perspective, 1928
Pencil and coloured pencil on tracing paper
28 1/4 x 10 1/8″ (71.8 x 25.7 cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'St. Mark's-in-the-Bouwerie Tower, New York Project' 1927-31

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Tower, New York Project
1927-1931
Section and perspective cutaway of a duplex apartment with balcony and living-room floor plans, 1929
Ink, pencil, and coloured pencil on linen window shade
47 x 35″ (119.4 x 88.9 cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'The San Francisco Call Building Project' 1913

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
The San Francisco Call Building Project
1913
Preliminary perspective
Pencil, coloured pencil, and cut-and-pasted tracing paper on paper
47 3/4 x 23 7/8″ (121.3 x 60.6cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959) 'The Mile High Illinois, Chicago Project' 1956

 

Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867-1959)
The Mile High Illinois, Chicago Project
1956
Perspective with Wright’s Golden Beacon Apartment Building project (1956-1957)
Pencil, coloured pencil, ink, and gold ink on tracing paper
105 x 30″ (266.7 x 76.2cm)
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

 

 

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28
Nov
13

Exhibition: ‘Melbourne Now’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Part 2

Exhibition dates: 22nd November – 23rd March 2014

 

Stephen Benwell. 'Statue' 2012 (installation view)

 

Stephen Benwell (Australian, b. 1953)
Statue (installation view)
2012
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Throughout his career a major preoccupation of Benwell’s work has been the depiction of the male figure. In 2006 he commenced a series of figurative sculptural works that explore issues relating to masculinity, naked beauty and sensuality. These works, initially inspired by eighteenth century figurines and Greco-Roman statuary, have become a significant aspect of Benwell’s recent practice. The artist contributes a group of these evocative male figures for Melbourne Now.

 

 

This is the second of a two-part posting on the huge Melbourne Now exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. The photographs in this posting are from NGV Australia at Federation Square. The first part of the posting featured work from NGV International venue in St Kilda Road. Melbourne Now celebrates the latest art, architecture, design, performance and cultural practice to reflect the complex cultural landscape of creative Melbourne.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the NGV for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan unless otherwise stated. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Please note: All text below the images is from the guide book.

 

 

“Melbourne is a microcosm of the global art world. This is evident not only in its possession of world-class infrastructure, but also in the multitude of tendencies, styles and modes of practice that circulate in its midst. I doubt that there is an underlying formal unity, or even a hierarchy of movements, that holds together and directs the global art world. This then begs the question: does the teeming multitude of art forms in Melbourne suggest that the local scene is an isomorph [a substance or organism that exactly corresponds in form with another] of global chaos, or a unique fragment that coexists with other entities?

The answer is paradoxical. It is our haunted and resistant sense of place that allows for both a form of belonging that is forever seeking to be elsewhere, and a unique aesthetic that anticipates the many returns of a repressed past.”

.
Nikos Papastergiadis. “As Melbourne in the world.” 2013

 

“What the show delivers in spades is a sense of the city as a place of immense creativity and subtle exploration. While non-Melburnians might be tempted to see this as an especially large example of the city’s enduring fascination with itself, when the theme is the city, the inclusion of architecture and design makes sense.

And the result is anything but narcissistic; a turn round the exhibition reveals that although Melbourne features strongly in some works, it is also curiously incidental; at the heart of the show is an examination of urban and suburban, and what it feels like to live in a rapidly changing world where old certainties no longer apply.”

.
Anonymous. “Melbourne Now: this exhibition changes the city’s arts landscape,” on The Guardian Australia Culture Blog, Thurs 28 November 2013 [Online] Cited 25/11/2013

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018) 'Ocean Man' 2013

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (Australian, 1960-2018)
Ocean Man
2013
From the series The Ghillies 2013
Pigment print
120 x 120cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013
© Polixeni Papapetrou/Administered by VISCOPY, Sydney
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Papapetrou’s contribution to Melbourne Now comprises three photographs from her 2013 series The Ghillies. Working with her children as models and using the extreme camouflage costumes that are employed by the military, Papapetrou reflects on the passing of childhood and the moment when children separate themselves from their mothers. Young men often assume the costumes and identities of masculine stereotypes, hiding themselves, and their true identity, from plain sight in the process.

 

Michelle Hamer. 'Can't' 2013

 

Michelle Hamer (Australia, b. 1975)
Can’t
2013
Wool, plastic
52 x 67cm
Collection of the artist
© Michelle Hamer, courtesy Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Hamer’s contribution to Melbourne Now pairs works referencing local signage, Blame and punish the individual, 2013, and Can’t, 2013, with three earlier tapestries from her American series I Send Mixed Messages, 2013. While the contrasting palettes and particular nuances of typography, built architecture and native vegetation point to specific times and places, when amplified and dislocated Hamer’s chosen texts suggest a more universal narrative of perplexity and turmoil. The artist describes these powerful distillations as ‘revealing the small in-between moments that characterise everyday life’.

 

Patricia Piccinini. 'The carrier' 2012 (installation view detail)

 

Patricia Piccinini (born Sierra Leone 1965, lived in Italy 1968-1972, arrived Australia 1972)
The carrier (installation view detail)
2012
Silicone, fibreglass, human and animal hair, clothing
170 x 115 x 75cm
Collection of Corbett Lyon and Yueji Lyon, Lyon Housemuseum, Melbourne, proposed gift
© Patricia Piccinini, courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
Supported by Corbett and Yueji Lyon
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Piccinini’s work for Melbourne Now is The carrier, 2012, a hyper-real sculpture of a bear-like figure holding an elderly woman. With his massive, hirsute and muscular physique, the creature is almost human; there is warmth and intimacy between the mismatched couple. The figures’ relationship is ambiguous. Are they mistress and servant, or simply unlikely friends, embarked on a journey together? It is nice to believe the latter, but hard to forget that humans rarely treat other animals equitably. The carrier investigates what we want from our creations, and wonders about unexpected emotional connections that might arise between us and them.

 

Georgia Metaxas. 'Untitled 28' 2011

 

Georgia Metaxas (Australia, b. 1974)
Untitled 28
2011
From The Mourners series 2011
Type C photograph
60 x 50 x 7cm
Collection of the artist
© Georgia Metaxas, courtesy of Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Metaxas’s contribution to Melbourne Now comprises five photographs from The Mourners series, 2011, which was first exhibited at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, in 2011. These stately portraits show women who have adopted the traditional practice of wearing black, symbolising perpetual mourning, following the death of their husbands. Photographed against plain black backdrops, dressed in their widows’ weeds, these women form an austere and mournful frieze.

 

Stuart Ringholt. 'Nudes' 2013

 

Stuart Ringholt (Australia, b. 1971)
Nudes
2013
Collage (1-52)
29 x 30cm (each)
Collection of the artist
© Stuart Ringholt, courtesy Milani Gallery, Brisbane
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

Expanding the artist’s greater naturist project, Nudes, 2013, is a series of collages featuring images of twentieth-century modernist art objects and nudes taken from soft porn references. In these works, Ringholt complicates the original function of the images as the spectator considers the relationship between the nude and the work of art. Interested in how images can be transformed by simple interventions, Ringholt opens possibilities for new narratives to emerge between the nude, the object and the audience.

 

Richard Lewer. 'Northside Boxing Gym' 2013 (installation view detail)

Richard Lewer. 'Northside Boxing Gym' 2013 (installation view detail)

 

Richard Lewer (born New Zealand 1970, arrived Australia 2000)
Northside Boxing Gym (installation view details)
2013
Charcoal on existing wall, boxing bag, 5.1 sound system
550 x 480 x 480cm (installation)
Collection of the artist
© Richard Lewer, courtesy Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Since challenging fellow artist Luke Sinclair to a boxing match at Melbourne’s Northside Boxing Gym in 2001 (as a performance), Lewer has remained interested in the site, training there regularly and making art about it. For Melbourne Now Lewer presents an immersive recreation of the gymnasium, featuring a large-scale charcoal wall-drawing accompanied by mirrors, sound and a sweaty boxing bag.

 

Hotham Street Ladies. 'At home with the Hotham Street Ladies' 2013 (installation view)

 

Hotham Street Ladies (Australia, est. 2007)
At home with the Hotham Street Ladies (installation view)
2013
Royal and buttercream icing, modelling paste, confectionary, furniture, plinths, pot plants, colour DVD, television, light fittings, heater, icing, video, chandelier, lampshade, fireplace, furniture, television, crockery, cutlery, glassware, fabric dimensions variable (installation)
NGV commission Supported by Melbourne Now Champions the Dewhurst Family
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

The collective’s members are Cassandra Chilton, Molly O’Shaughnessy, Sarah Parkes, Caroline Price and Lyndal Walker. Their practice embraces themes of home life, feminism and craft and explores how collaborative participation in, and contemporising of, these activities creates a distinct cultural community. Their work’s innovative combination of humour and contemporary critique with nostalgic or familiar elements makes it appealing to a wide audience. Often thought of in terms of dysfunction, the share house in their hands becomes a site of creativity, cooperation and overindulgence.

Food is a constant presence in HSL’s work, from recipe swap meets, street art and public art commissions to controversial cake entries in the Royal Melbourne Show. For Melbourne Now the group take baking and icing to a whole new level. Their installation At home with the Hotham Street Ladies, 2013, transforms the foyer of The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia into an icing-bombed domestic wonderland. Their commission for kids invites children and families to photograph themselves within one of the scenes from HSL’s icing- and lolly encrusted share house.

 

Lucy Irvine. 'Before the after' 2013 (installation view)

 

Lucy Irvine (Australian, born Scotland 1980)
Before the after (installation view)
2013
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

For Melbourne Now Irvine has constructed a large site-specific work at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Before the after, 2013, which establishes a dialogue with the gallery building, its architecture and the temporality of the exhibition. Spilling out across the floor, the serpentine form is an interruption of the order of things, a writhing obsidian mass that clings to the interior of the building. At the same time the work is a nuanced meditation on the nature of surfaces and skin. Irvine’s iterative practice argues for value in the gestural, and proposes the act of making as a form of knowledge.

 

Paul Knight 'Untitled' 2012

 

Paul Knight (Australian, b. 1976)
Untitled
2012
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan

 

Paul Knight 'Untitled' 2012

 

Paul Knight (Australian, b. 1976)
Untitled
2012
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Knight’s recent folded photographic works extend his interest in notions of authorship, photographic agency, the relationships between observer and observed, and ideas of intimacy and love. Each scene captures a couple lying together, bodies entwined, in bed – the artist privy to an intense, personal scene of absorption. There is an evident trust between Knight and his subjects, who sleep gently, seemingly unaware of, or perhaps complicit in, his presence. The illusion is ruptured by the folding of the photographic print, which has the effect of sometimes forcing the couples closer together, other times slicing them apart. The fold intensifies the sense of intimacy and draws attention to the physical state of the photograph.

 

Installation view of the series 'Milk Bars of Melbourne', 2010-13 by David Wadelton at the exhibition 'Melbourne Now'

 

Installation view of the series Milk Bars of Melbourne, 2010-13 by David Wadelton at the exhibition Melbourne Now
Photo: © David Wadelton

 

David Wadelton. 'Milk Bar, Jenkens Avenue Frankston North' 2012

 

David Wadelton (Australian, b. 1955)
Milk Bar, Jenkens Avenue Frankston North
2012
From the series Milk Bars of Melbourne, 2010-13
Photo: © David Wadelton

 

David Wadelton. 'Milk Bar, Napier Street, Essendon' 2012

 

David Wadelton (Australian, b. 1955)
Milk Bar, Napier Street, Essendon
2012
From the series Milk Bars of Melbourne, 2010-13
Photo: © David Wadelton

 

 

For Melbourne Now, Wadelton contributes a series of recent photographs of suburban milk bars selected from his vast personal cache. Whereas these shots of corner-store facades – windows jammed with ice-cream, soft drink and newspaper logos, hand-painted typography and scrawled graffiti – echo the Pop paintings that made his name, insofar as they combine ready-made commercial symbols on the same flat, pictorial plane, the photographs’ grey-scale palette and documentary presentation differ from the futuristic aesthetic of Wadelton’s canvases. While the paintings delight in global commercial imagery, Milk Bars of Melbourne, 2010-2013, shows a local culture in terminal decline.

 

Penny Byrne 'iProtest' 2012-13 (installation view details)

Penny Byrne. 'iProtest' 2012-13 (installation view details)

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
iProtest (installation view details)
2012-2013
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

While at first iProtest, 2012-2013, resembles a display of endearing souvenir-style figurines hanging on a wall, its potency is revealed on closer inspection. Each figurine is personalised with details relating to one of the many conflicts driven by mass protests around the world. Nationalism is referenced by faces painted with flags; acts of violence leave bodies dismembered and bloodied; and the cutest figurines are in fact riot police, wielding guns and dressed as clowns. The omnipresent symbol of Facebook is also ingeniously added to the work. Byrne’s crowd of modified figurines explores the way social media has become a significant tool for coordinating protests around the world.

 

Julia deVille. 'Degustation' 2013 (installation view detail)

Julia deVille. 'Degustation' 2013 (installation view detail)

Julia deVille. 'Degustation' 2013 (installation view detail)

 

Julia deVille (Australian, b. 1982)
Degustation (installation view details)
2013
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Informed by a fascination with death, memento mori and Victorian jewellery design, deVille’s work relies on traditional techniques and involves a broad range of animals, precious and semiprecious metals and gems. The artist is a vegan and passionate advocate for the fair and just treatment of animals, and only uses animals that have died of natural causes in her work. By examining death in this distinctive way, deVille urges us to consider our own mortality and the beauty of death and remembrance. For Melbourne Now she has created an installation titled Degustation, 2013, which evokes an ornate Victorian-style dining room, filled with her sculptural pieces and works from the NGV collection.

 

Mira Gojak. 'Transfer station 2' 2011 (installation view)

 

Mira Gojak (Australian, b. 1963)
Transfer station 2 (foreground) (installation view)
2011
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

With Transfer station 2, 2011, Gojak creates a sculptural work of unfurling, freewheeling loops, shaky erratic lines and clusters of blossoming tangles that appears like a drawing suspended in space. A high-keyed palette of cobalt blues, soft pinks and fluorescent yellows activates heavier blackened thickets that punctuate perspectives of uninterrupted space. Suspended from the ceiling by a single line, Gojak’s sculpture is a not-quite-settled upon Venn diagram. Its openness is held still in a moment, together with all the scribbled-out mistakes, digressions and exclusions, stalling or directing the movement and exchange circulating around the forms.

 

Daniel von Sturmer. 'Paradise park' 2013 (detail) with Elizabeth Gower's '150 rotations' 2013 (detail) on the wall behind (left)

 

Installation view of Daniel von Sturmer’s Paradise park 2013 (detail, foreground) with Elizabeth Gower’s 150 rotations 2013 on the wall behind (detail, left)
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The first version of 150 rotations was displayed recently in an exhibition, curated by Gower, that explored the appropriation and use of urban detritus as a visual art strategy by a variety of Melbourne artists. Further developed for Melbourne Now, Gower’s contribution now comprises 150 circular components, each made up of tea-bag tags, price tags and elements cut from junk mail catalogues, which colonise the wall like a galaxy of vibrant constellations. Akin to the light from long-dead stars, the familiar ephemera, which is usually thrown out, recycled or composted, now serves a new purpose and takes on a mesmeric, formal beauty.

 

Daniel von Sturmer 'Paradise park' 2013 (installation view)

Daniel von Sturmer 'Paradise park' 2013 (installation view)

Daniel von Sturmer, 'Paradise park' 2013 (detail)

 

Daniel von Sturmer (Australian, b. 1972)
Paradise park (installation views)
2013
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Von Sturmer’s Melbourne Now commission for kids, Paradox park, 2013, creates a space for enquiry and interaction with art, conceived with a child’s innate sense of curiosity and wonder. Paradox park comprises a large tilted plane with small circular apertures through which a child (or adventurous adult) can push their head in order to view small projections of animated objects atop and below the surface. By placing the viewer’s point of reference inside the work, von Sturmer posits experience itself as a creative act – a unique interplay between viewer and viewed.

 

Melbourne Design Now. Simone LeAmon (curator, exhibition designer) (Australia, b. 1971) Edmund Carter (exhibition designer) (Australia, b. 1983) 'Design in everyday life' 2013 (installation view)

 

Melbourne Design Now
Simone LeAmon (curator, exhibition designer) (Australia, b. 1971)
Edmund Carter (exhibition designer) (Australia, b. 1983)
Design in everyday life (installation view)
2013
Supported by The Hugh D. T Williamson Foundation
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Melbourne Design Now is the first design exhibition of its kind to be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria. A presentation of localised creative intelligence in the fields of industrial, product, furniture and object design, this project comprises more than ninety design projects from forty designers, design studios and companies. Melbourne Design Now celebrates design’s relationship to everyday life and how contemporary designers are embedding unique and serial design production with ideas, meaning and emotion to resonate with the city of Melbourne.

The breadth of design projects in this ‘exhibition within the exhibition’ intends to communicate to the public that the work of Melbourne designers is influencing discourses, future scenarios and markets both at home and around the world. Ranging from cinema cameras by Blackmagic Design to the Bolwell EDGE caravan, eco-design education tools by Leyla Acaroglu to Monash Vision Group’s direct-to-brain bionic eye, and furniture made with ancient Australian timber by Damien Wright to biodegradable lampshades by LAB DE STU, these design projects consolidate Melbourne as one of the great design cities in the world today.

 

Melbourne Design Now Gregory Bonasera 'Palace table' 'Derby pendant light' 2013 Kate Rohde 'Ornament is Crime vessels' 2013 (installation view)

Melbourne Design Now Gregory Bonasera 'Palace table' 'Derby pendant light' 2013 Kate Rohde 'Ornament is Crime vessels' 2013 (installation view)

 

Melbourne Design Now
Gregory Bonasera (Australian, b. 1965)
Palace table
Derby pendant light
2013
Kate Rohde (Australian, b. 1980)
Ornament is Crime vessels
2013
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Gregory Bonasera is a ceramicist with an in depth understanding of the processes utilised in the production of ceramics; a methodical thinker who works more like an industrial designer than a potter to realise his creations and to advise and collaborate with other designers on their projects. Consistently adding new works to his range of innovative functional and sculptural ceramic wares, Gregory casts his creations in fine porcelain and bone china employing a hybrid of state of the art CAD technology with traditional 270 year old ceramic production methods. His works are strongly influenced by natural forms, science, biology, botany and geometry.

Kate Rohde’s jewellery and vessels are created in resin, a signature material that features extensively in her visual art practice. These pieces take a playful, decorative approach, often incorporating elements typical of Baroque and Rococo style, drawing particularly on the decorative arts and interior design of this era. The highly ornate nature reveals, on closer inspection, that much of the patterning is drawn from flora and fauna sources. The combination of the two intersecting interests creates a psychedelic supernature.

Text from the Pieces of Eight Gallery website [Online] Cited 25/11/2013

 

Installation view of Jess Johnson Various titles 2013 (installation view)

Installation view of Jess Johnson Various titles 2013 (installation view)

 

Installation views of Jess Johnson Various titles 2013
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Johnson creates fantastic worlds in images that combine densely layered patterns, objects and figures within architectural settings. Cryptic words and phrases are part of her unique and idiosyncratic iconography. The artist’s drawing and installation practice is inspired by science fiction, mythological cosmology and comic books, and reflects a diverse interest in art, ranging from illuminated manuscripts to folk art traditions such as quilt making. Her contribution to Melbourne Now includes ten new drawings that depict the imagined formation of a future civilisation. These are displayed within a constructed environment featuring a raised podium, painted walls and patterned floor which, together with the drawings, offers an immersive experience.

 

'Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now' (installation view)

'Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now' (installation view)

'Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now' (installation view)

 

Installation views of Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now
Photos: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now reveals the complex web of personalities, factions and trajectories that make up Melbourne’s vibrant contemporary architectural culture. This project asks: What are the ideas and themes that inform Melbourne’s design culture? Who are its agitators and protagonists? How are emerging architects driving new ways of thinking? The project is in four parts:

  • A ‘super graphic’ introduction sampling Melbourne’s contemporary architectural culture
  • A projection space with architectural imagery curated to five themes: representation and the city; craftsmanship and materiality; art-engaged practice; stitching the city; and bio-futures/advanced architecture
  • An incubator/studio environment providing insight into the processes of six leading Melbourne architects: Cassandra Fahey, Make Architecture, March Studio, Muir Mendes, Studio Bird and Studio Roland Snooks
  • An intimate screening room with a video artwork by Matthew Sleeth

Sampling the City is curated by Fleur Watson, with exhibition design by Amy Muir and Stuart Geddes, projection and soundscape design by Keith Deverall, introductory narrative by Watson and Michael Spooner and built environment imagery by Peter Bennetts.

 

un Magazine. 'un Retrospective' 2013 (installation view)

 

un Magazine
un Retrospective (installation view)
2013
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

For Melbourne Now, un Magazine presents un Retrospective – a selective history of artists, writers and art practice in Melbourne since 2004, as featured in the back catalogue of the magazine. Taking inspiration and content from past issues, un Retrospective assembles recent local works of art alongside correlating text – whether original essay, review or interview – from the pages of un Magazine, highlighting the relationships between criticism and practice, writers and artists, that have been fostered in the publication. un Retrospective celebrates ten years of un Magazine and contemporary art in Melbourne while providing a point of historical context within the newness of Melbourne Now.

 

Slave Pianos 'Gamelan sisters' 2013 (installation view)

 

Slave Pianos
Gamelan sisters (installation view)
2013
Photo: © Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Slave Pianos – a collaboration between artists, composers and musicians Rohan Drape, Neil Kelly, Danius Kesminas, Michael Stevenson and Dave Nelson – make historically grounded, research-based installations and performances utilising humour, immediacy and the conflation of ‘high’ and ‘low’ idioms to suggest connections and interrelations between the largely discrete fields of music, art and architecture.

For Melbourne Now Slave Pianos present Gamelan sisters, 2013, a self-governing electromechanical ‘slave’ gamelan, which allows audience members to select pieces from a repertoire of compositions arranged by Slave Pianos via a wall-mounted console alongside related scores. The Gamelan sisters instrument features in Slave Pianos’ space opera The Lepidopters, to be performed in Indonesia and Australia in 2014, which is based on a three part science fiction story set in Indonesia commissioned from American writer and art critic Mark von Schlegell. A comic depicting the first two parts of The Lepidopters, drawn by Yogyakarta-based artist ‘Iwank’ Erwan Hersi Susanto – a member, with Kesminas, of the Indonesian art-rock collective Punkasila – is also presented in the Melbourne Now Reading Room.

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Victoria website

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25
Jun
13

Exhibition: ‘Gilbert & George – London Pictures’ at MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, Duisburg

Exhibition dates: 20th March 20 – 30th June 2013

 

Gilbert & George. 'Dog' 2011

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch) (English born Italy, b. 1943) and (George Passmore) (English, b. 1943)
Dog
2011
© Gilbert & George / Courtesy of the Artist and White Cube Gallery

 

 

I used to think that Gilbert & George’s work was inventive and relevant, that it had something important to say about contemporary culture. These days I am not so sure. It seems all to easy to rip headlines from the tabloid newspapers. Who cares about dog, death, money, school, cute kids, etc… as commented on by these pulp editions. Gilbert & George seem to have become a pastiche of themselves, cartoon cut-outs hovering in contextless backgrounds with staring eyes and gormless faces. “I am contextless, unhappily spinning in the vacuum of my own indolence,” the work seems to be saying. We already know that we are becoming a society of shortened, fractured words and sentences on mobile phones and in newspaper headlines, of absence/presence where people absent themselves from their surroundings while on mobile devices, we know that already… I don’t think it takes mediocre art to point it out. It’s not very insightful (as Gilbert & George used to be).

I think they need a good boot up the bum to get them back to making work that takes the viewer somewhere, that actually challenges people’s belief systems, not some pulp driven comment on contemporary culture. Take a look at their early work if you don’t believe what I am saying: look at how alive the pictures were, how much vitality and energy they had, and how challenging the work was!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gilbert & George. 'Lick' 1977

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch) (English born Italy, b. 1943) and (George Passmore) (English, b. 1943)
Lick
1977

 

1977-queer

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch) (English born Italy, b. 1943) and (George Passmore) (English, b. 1943)
Queer
1977

 

Gilbert & George. 'Money' 2011

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch) (English born Italy, b. 1943) and (George Passmore) (English, b. 1943)
Money
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. 'School Straight' 2011

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch) (English born Italy, b. 1943) and (George Passmore) (English, b. 1943)
School Straight
2011
© Gilbert & George / Courtesy of the Artist and White Cube Gallery

 

Gilbert & George. 'Death' 2011

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch) (English born Italy, b. 1943) and (George Passmore) (English, b. 1943)
Death
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

 

Completed in 2011, “London Pictures” is the title of the cycle created by the London-based artists Gilbert & George, to which the eponymous exhibition in the MKM from March 20, 2013, is dedicated. Taking as their theme the countless newsagent posters collected by the artists themselves over a period of six years, the artists compile a detailed inventory of quotidian human behaviour, which they then submit to their hallmark humanistic gaze, and in so doing, furnish their own perspective on the psycho-social condition of our Western societies. What emerges is an extensive series of images from which the MKM is, for the first time, showcasing 70 individual pictures and affording visitors the opportunity to intensively explore this new phase from the oeuvre of Gilbert & George.

In their “London Pictures” Gilbert & George have collated the newspaper posters, which, not only in London, but across England, garnish the sales stands of the newspaper dealers. Their explicit allusions to the most titillating, violent and bizarre stories of the day are designed to entice potential customers to buy the newspapers. These simple statements of facts promise tales of love and sex, violence and death, wealth and power -themes, which have fascinated humanity since time immemorial, and which expose our endless appetite for sensation, disaster and excess. Gilbert & George have taken 3712 images of these advertising posters, processed the material, arranged it according to themes and fashioned it into 292 carefully-created pictures. Not only are the artists documenting a commonly-used device within the marketing strategies of the Western press, they are also exploring its impact on both the individual and society as a whole, and applying artistic means to articulate their own response to, and perception of, this social phenomenon. “The “London Pictures” should not in the first instance be read as a critique of the media, but perhaps as a critique of ourselves”, explains MKM Director Walter Smerling, adding that: “Gilbert & George borrow the language of the media, place it in a different context and in so doing transform these newspapers posters into a new entity vested with an entirely new content. The careful collation and arrangement of hundreds of headlines (…) forges a platform for reflection which casts the spotlight on to our own complicity, intrigues and problems of existence.”

“The artists of course feature in their pictures: in the background as a pair of quizzical, piercing eyes or as a ubiquitous, immaculately besuited presence, appearing” (…) “as though the artists were psychic manifestations of the city itself, its sense of place and history. The “London Pictures” comprise both a directory of quotidian urban human behaviour – revealing and shocking and violent, in all its sluggish or volatile momentum – and as such the city’s moral portrait: an unflinching audit of modern western society’s relationship to itself, stripped of rhetoric or intellectual disguise.” (Michael Bracewell, author of the catalogue). Yet beyond focussing on the city of London itself, Gilbert & George also cast themselves directly as integral constituents of our society’s media landscape and its psychic condition. Their unrelenting gaze interrogates not only the message of the posters, but is trained at the observer who also becomes an essential part of each and every picture.

Gilbert & George are seeking to portray the “grandeur, mystery and drama” of our Western world. From competitions to find the cutest child to gruesome tales of murder and mayhem – the whole gamut of human experience is represented here and exercises an equally ineluctable fascination on readers in Germany: For as the artists themselves remark, the “London Pictures” and “London Problems” could just as easily be “Duisburg Pictures” and “Duisburg Problems”.

 

Biography

Gilbert (born in 1943 in St. Martin in Thurn, Italy) studied at the Wolkenstein School of Art in South Tyrol, the Hallein School of Art in Austria, and the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, before attending St. Martin’s School of Art in London. There, in 1967, he met George (born in 1942 in Plymouth, UK), who had previously been a student at Dartington Hall College of Art and Oxford Art School. During the 1960s, Gilbert & George expanded the concept of sculpture by making themselves the materials for their art, as Living Sculptures. They declared everyday activities to be art, and provoked opposition by using faeces, urine and sperm as principal motifs in their picture series. They were awarded the 1986 Turner Prize, exhibited in the British Pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale, and has held exhibitions in venues ranging from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1971 and 1996) to Guggenheim Museum, New York (1985), Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris (1997) and London’s Tate Modern (2007). Other major public exhibitions have been mounted in Russia (1990) and China (1993).

Press release from the MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst website

 

Gilbert & George. 'Kills' 2011

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch) (English born Italy, b. 1943) and (George Passmore) (English, b. 1943)
Kills
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. 'Woman' 2011

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch) (English born Italy, b. 1943) and (George Passmore) (English, b. 1943)
Woman
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. 'Cute Kids' 2011

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch) (English born Italy, b. 1943) and (George Passmore) (English, b. 1943)
Cute Kids
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. 'Stabbings' 2011

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch) (English born Italy, b. 1943) and (George Passmore) (English, b. 1943)
Stabbings
2011
© Gilbert & George

 

Gilbert & George. 'Sex Pest' 2011

 

Gilbert & George (Gilbert Prousch) (English born Italy, b. 1943) and (George Passmore) (English, b. 1943)
Sex Pest
2011
151 x 127 cm
© Gilbert & George / Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Salzburg, Paris

 

The British artists George Passmore (L) and Gilbert Prousch (R) pass in front of one of their art work 'London Pictures'

 

The British artists George Passmore (L) and Gilbert Prousch (R) pass in front of one of their art work ‘London Pictures’ as they arrive for a press conference at the museum Kueppersmuehle in Duisburg, western Germany, on March 14, 2013. AFP PHOTO / CAROLINE SEIDEL

 

 

MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst
Philosophenweg 55, 47051 Duisburg
Germany
Phone: +49 (0)203 30 19 48 -10/-11

Opening hours:
Wed 2.00pm – 6.00pm
Thurs – Sun 11.00am – 6.00pm
Bank Holidays 11.00am – 6.00pm
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst website

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05
Jun
13

Exhibition: ‘Harry Callahan Retrospective’ at the House of Photography at Deichtorhallen Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 22nd March – 9th June 2013

 

Harry Callahan. 'Eleanor, Chicago' 1948

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Eleanor, Chicago
1948
Gelatin silver print
© The Estate of Harry Callahan. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

Great to see some early colour photographs from this master.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the House of Photography, Deichtorhallen Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Harry Callahan. 'Eleanor' 1947

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Eleanor
1947
Gelatin silver print
© The Estate of Harry Callahan. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Stephan Brigidi. 'Harry Callahan, Bristol' 1993

 

Stephan Brigidi (American, b. 1951)
Harry Callahan, Bristol
1993
© Stephan Brigidi

 

Harry Callahan. 'Providence' 1979

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Providence
1979
© The Estate of Harry Callahan. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

Harry Callahan (1912-1999) is regarded as one of the most innovative and influential artists in the history of 20th-century US photography. Deichtorhallen Hamburg is taking the artist’s creative intensity, the aesthetic standing his oeuvre enjoys in the context of 20th-century US photography and the fact that 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of his birth as an opportunity to present his oeuvre in an extensive retrospective with over 280 works from March 22 through June 9, 2013. The exhibition is to date the most extensive show of his work, and includes both his black-and-white gelatin silver prints and his colour works produced using the dye-transfer process.

Harry Callahan was one of the first to overcome the prevailing aesthetics of Realism by advancing the New Vision, which László Moholy-Nagy had established in the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and Ansel Adams’ so-called “straight photography” in an innovative, highly sensitive way. Between 1946 and 1997 the Museum of Modern Art in New York alone honoured Callahan’s photographic oeuvre in a total of 38 exhibitions. Together with the painter Richard Diebenkorn, Callahan represented the USA at the 1978 Venice Biennale, the first photographer ever to do so. Nonetheless, in Europe Callahan’s multifaceted work is still considered a rarity in the history of photography.

In addition to photographs of nature and landscapes, Callahan’s oeuvre, spanning a period of nearly 60 years as of 1938, embraces pictures of his daily strolls through cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Providence, Atlanta, and New York. Portrayed frequently in very intense light, his leitmotifs were streets, shop windows, buildings and pedestrians hurrying past. Very early on he regarded photography as a purely artistic medium, and saw himself as an art photographer rather than a representative of applied photography. In later years other works, in which his wife Eleanor and daughter Barbara were the focal point, were superseded by another major experiment: the photographs he took on numerous trips to France, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, and Ireland. His works document the emergence of Modernism, which was taking an ever-greater hold on everyday life. Relating to his three main themes, nature, the familiar figure of his wife Eleanor, and cities, Callahan’s images reflect his life in ever-new references that become increasingly less interwoven with one another. At the same time they trace the social and cultural transformation in the USA discreetly, elegantly, and with a tendency to abstraction, recording the changes as a seismograph does earth tremors. In his images Callahan consistently reflects on both his own and the camera’s way of seeing.

Compiled by Sabine Schnakenberg, the exhibition at the House of Photography continues the series of major photographic retrospectives of internationally renowned representatives of photographic history previously staged at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, including Martin Munkacsi (2005), Lillian Bassman, Paul Himmel (2009), and Saul Leiter (2012). The exhibition is based on loans from two generous lenders, namely the Estate of Harry Callahan together with the Pace / MacGill Gallery in New York, and the extensive selection of Callahan’s images from F.C. Gundlach’s photographic collection, both those on permanent loan to Deichtorhallen as well as those in the collection of the F.C. Gundlach Foundation.

Press release from Deichtorhallen Hamburg website

 

Harry Callahan. 'Atlanta' 1943

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Atlanta
1943
© The Estate of Harry Callahan. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Harry Callahan. 'Detroit' 1943

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Detroit
c. 1943
© The Estate of Harry Callahan. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Harry Callahan. 'Chicago' 1951

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Chicago
1951
© The Estate of Harry Callahan. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Harry Callahan. 'Eleanor, Chicago' 1951

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Eleanor, Chicago
1951
© The Estate of Harry Callahan. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Harry Callahan. 'Providence' 1978

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Providence
1978
© The Estate of Harry Callahan. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

Harry Callahan. 'Ireland' 1979

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Ireland
1979
© The Estate of Harry Callahan. Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

 

 

Deichtorhallen Hamburg
Deichtorstrasse 1-2
20095
Hamburg
Phone: +49 (0)40 32103-0

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm
Closed Mondays

Deichtorhallen Hamburg website

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18
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter’ at Kunst Haus Wien, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 31st January – 26th May 2013

 

Saul Leiter. 'From the El' c. 1955

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
From the El
c. 1955
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“I like it when one is not certain of what one sees.
We don’t know why the photographer has taken such a picture.
If we look and look, we begin to see and are still left with the pleasure of uncertainty.”

.
“It is not where it is or what it is that matters, but how you see it.”

.
“After the age of 75 you should not be photographed.
You should be painted by Rembrandt or Hals, but not by Caravaggio.”

.
Saul Leiter

 

 

How brave was the photographer, occluding most of the colour image in darkness, something that had never been done before and has rarely been seen since. Look at the last three photographs in this posting to understand what I mean.

Considering that Saul Leiter’s colour photography predates William Eggleston and Stephen Shore by a couple of decades, it can truly be said that he is one of the early masters of colour photography. As the curator Ingo Taubhorn comments, The older aesthetic views on the hegemony of black-and-white photography and the historical dating of the first artistic use of colour photography to the early 1970s need to be critically reviewed. Saul Leiter’s oeuvre essentially rewrites the history of photography.”

Well said.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Saul Leiter. 'Nude' 1970s

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Nude
1970s
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Taxi' c. 1957

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Taxi
c. 1957
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

KUNST HAUS WIEN is devoting a major retrospective to the oeuvre of the 89-year-old photographer and painter Saul Leiter. The exhibition, which was developed in cooperation with House of Photography / Deichtorhallen Hamburg, presents the wide range of this versatile artist’s works, including early black-and-white and colour photographs, fashion images, painted photographs of nudes, paintings and a number of his sketchbooks. One section of the exhibition is devoted to Saul Leiter’s most recent photographs, which he continues to take on the streets of New York’s East Village.

It is only in the last few years that Saul Leiter has received due recognition for his role as one of the pioneers of colour photography. As early as 1946, and thus well before the representatives of the so-called “new colour” photography in the 1970s, such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, he was one of the first to use colour photography for artistic shots, despite its being frowned upon by other artists of the day. “The older aesthetic views on the hegemony of black-and-white photography and the historical dating of the first artistic use of colour photography to the early 1970s need to be critically reviewed. Saul Leiter’s oeuvre essentially rewrites the history of photography,” comments curator Ingo Taubhorn.

Saul Leiter has always considered himself both a painter and a photographer. In his painting and in his photographs he clearly tends towards abstraction and two-dimensionality. One often finds large deep-black areas, produced by shadows, taking up as much as three quarters of his photographs. Passers-by are not presented as individuals, but as blurred clouds of colour, filtered through misty panes of glass or wedged in between walls of buildings and traffic signs. The boundaries between the abstract and the representational in his paintings and photographs are virtually fluid. Saul Leiter’s street photography – a genre in which his work is matchless – is, in essence, painting metamorphosed into photography.

In Leiter’s works, the genres of street photography, portraiture, still life, fashion photography and architectural photography coalesce. He finds his motifs, such as shop windows, passers-by, cars, signs and – time and again – umbrellas, in the direct vicinity of his apartment in New York, where he has now lived for almost 60 years. The indeterminateness of detail, the blurring of movement and reduced depth of field, the use of shadows or deliberate avoidance of the necessary light, as well as the alienation caused by photographing through windows or as reflections, all combine to create the muted colour vocabulary of a semi-real, semiabstract urban space. These are the works of an as yet almost undiscovered modern master of colour photography.

 

About Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter discovered his passion for art at an early age and started painting as a teenager at the end of the 1940s. His family did not support him in his artistic endeavours; his father, a renowned Talmudic rabbi and scholar, had always hoped his son Saul would one day follow him in the family tradition and become a rabbi. Leiter was self-taught, but by no means uneducated. He read and learned a great deal about art, so that his knowledge and understanding constantly grew. In this way, he made sure that his own ideas and artistic works were duly related to the historical context.

In 1946, shortly after he had moved to New York, Leiter became acquainted with Richard Poussette-Dart, who introduced him to photography, a medium that appealed to Leiter very much and that he quickly made his own. Leiter soon resolved to use photography not only as a means of making art but as a way of earning a living. He started taking fashion photographs, and thanks to his good eye, his playful sense of humour, and his pronounced sense of elegance, swiftly emerged as an extraordinary fashion photographer. In the 1950s, Life magazine published photo spreads of Saul Leiter’s first black-and-white series. He took part in exhibitions, for example “Always the Young Strangers” (1953) curated by Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art. From 1958 to 1967, Leiter worked for Harper’s Bazaar. Altogether he spent some 20 years photographing for various classic magazines as well as more recent ones: after Esquire and Harper’s he also worked for Show, Elle, British Vogue, Queen and Nova.

 

Saul Leiter. 'New York' 1950s

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
New York
1950s
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Sign Painter' 1954

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Sign Painter
1954
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Graffiti Heads' 1950

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Graffiti Heads
1950
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Shirt' 1948

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Shirt
1948
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Harlem' 1960

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Harlem
1960
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Hat' 1956

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Hat
1956
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Street Scene' 1957

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Street Scene
1957
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

The exhibition chapters

Abstract Painting

Although his photographic oeuvre has dominated his image as an artist, Saul Leiter sees himself first and foremost as a painter. He began his artistic career as a painter, and while working as a photographer he never stopped painting and drawing. Leiter’s passion for art began when he was just a child, even though his ambitions received no support from his family. As a teenager he spent many hours in libraries studying art books. He found inspiration in the paintings of such artists as Vermeer, Bonnard, Vuillard and Picasso, as well as in Japanese graphic art. Leiter, who was self-taught, painted his first pictures in 1940. Most of them were lyrical, abstract compositions that reflected his admiration for the new American avant-garde. His ardent feeling for colour is recognisable even in these early paintings, as is his lifelong predilection for painting small format pastels and watercolours on paper.

After moving to New York in 1946, he sometimes presented his works together with abstract expressionist painters such as Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston. His studio was located on 10th Street in the East Village, which at that time was a neighbourhood very popular with avant-garde artists. Leiter shared these artists’ interest in abstraction and the use of colour, gesture and the element of chance, but he chose a radically different format for his works. Whereas many of his contemporaries, such as Jasper Johns or Franz Kline, painted wall-sized paintings that physically filled the beholder’s entire field of vision, Leiter worked in an intimate, small format. His works were also exhibited at the Tanager Gallery, one of the most important artist-run cooperatives in the East Village at that time. After switching the main focus of his work to photography in the late 1940s, however, Leiter stopped exhibiting his paintings.

 

Figurative Painting

Saul Leiter’s abstract painting frequently unites qualities of intimacy and familiarity with a sense of space reminiscent of an open landscape. Occasionally he also makes figurative sketches. Often these give mere intimations of a face or a body, perhaps a pointed nose, eyes and a mouth. Some of his male figures wear hats, similar to those worn by the religious Jews that peopled Leiter’s world in his youth. Most of these works focus on a single figure; only occasionally do we see a couple, or several figures grouped together. The quality of the line and the subtle suggestion of figures or heads in these paintings are reminiscent of paintings by Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, in which facial features are hinted at through lines and fine shadings of colour rather than being defined by careful modelling.

 

Street Photography

When, in 1947, Saul Leiter attended an exhibition of works by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, he became convinced of the creative potential of this medium. He bought himself a 35mm Leica camera at a bargain and began, without any previous training, to take photographs on the streets of New York. At first he used only black-and-white film, but in 1948 he also started using colour film. His black-and-white photographs exhibit some elements of documentary photography but are nevertheless far removed from a photojournalistic style. Rather, they are subjective observations, often concentrating on a single individual in the big city. Leiter’s complex, multilayered works evoke feelings of alienation, melancholy and tension. Leiter underscores this impression by experimenting with strong contrasts, light and shadow, and asymmetrical compositions containing large areas in which the images are blurred.

Thematically and stylistically, there are great similarities between Leiter’s works and the works of other representatives of New York street photography of the same era, for example Ted Croner, Leon Levinstein, Louis Faurer and later Robert Frank and William Klein, today generally known as the New York School. Their radical new, subjective photography had a psychological component that revealed an unusual sensitivity to social turbulences and the uncertainty felt by many Americans during the years following the Second World War.

 

Colour Photography

Until well into the 1970s, colour photography was used almost exclusively for advertising and fashion magazines. Many photographers considered the vivid colours unsuitable for artistic expression. Moreover, they were unable to develop their colour film themselves, which made it a very expensive undertaking. It was not until 1976 that the Museum of Modern Art in New York gave its first exhibition devoted to colour photography, when it presented “Photographs by William Eggleston”.

Saul Leiter was one of the few photographers who did not reject colour photography. As a painter, he took a particular interest in street photography as a genre in which to experiment with colour film. As early as 1948, at the beginning of his career, he bought his first roles of 35mm Kodachrome colour slide film, which had been on the market since 1936. In order to save money, he often used film that had passed its sell-by date. Leiter particularly liked the resulting pictures with their delicate, muted colours.

The innumerable early colour photographs that Leiter took between 1948 and 1960 are of a unique painterly and narrative quality. They stand in contrast to the works of other photographers, in which colour is often the defining element of the composition. This circumstance, coupled with Leiter’s tendency towards abstraction, links Leiter’s photography with his painting. But in contrast to his painting (and his black-and-white photographs), his colour photographs are highly structured. It is the incomparable beauty of these works that has brought Leiter recognition as one of the masters of 20th-century photography.

 

Fashion Photography

In the late 1950s, Saul Leiter worked successfully in the fields of fashion photography and advertising. From the very first, his style was unmistakeable. His images were multilayered and complex, characterised by soft, impressionistic qualities and cubist changes of perspective. He was given his first commercial assignment in 1958 by Henry Wolf, at that time the new Art Director of Harper’s Bazaar, with whom Leiter became friends. Harper’s Bazaar was one of the leading American fashion magazines, presenting trail-blazing fashion series by photographers such as Richard Avedon or Lillian Bassman.

Subsequently, Leiter was given more and more prestigious assignments, and over the years began to spend almost all his time doing commercial work. Apart from Harper’s Bazaar, his fashion and advertising photos appeared in Elle and Show, in British Vogue and Queen and also in Nova. The amazing thing is that during this period, Leiter managed to retain his own narrative, stylised aesthetic, whereas other fashion photographers favoured a rather brittle, graphic style. In the 1970s, partly due to his own dwindling interest in commercial photography, Leiter received fewer and fewer assignments. In 1981 he gave up his studio on Fifth Avenue and in the following years led a quiet life far from the public eye.

 

Saul Leiter. 'Carol Brown, 'Harper's Bazaar'' c. 1958

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Carol Brown, ‘Harper’s Bazaar’
c. 1958
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Soames Bantry, 'Nova'' 1960

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Soames Bantry, ‘Nova’
1960
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Walking' 1956

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Walking
1956
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Reflection' 1958

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Reflection
1958
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“I spent a great deal of my life being ignored. I was always very happy that way. Being ignored is a great privilege. That is how I think I learnt to see what others do not see and to react to situations differently. I simply looked at the world, not really prepared for anything.”

.
Saul Leiter

 

 

Art critic Roberta Smith wrote in 2005: “Mr. Leiter was a photographer less of people than of perception itself. His painter’s instincts served him well in his emphasis on surface, spatial ambiguity and a lush, carefully calibrated palette. But the abstract allure of his work doesn’t rely on soft focus, a persistent, often irritating photographic ploy, or the stark isolation of details, in the manner of Aaron Siskind or early Harry Callahan. Instead, Mr. Leiter captured the passing illusions of everyday life with a precision that might almost seem scientific, if it weren’t so poetically resonant and visually layered.”

Text from the Lens Culture website [Online] Cited 15/05/2013 no longer available online

 

Saul Leiter. 'Shopping' c. 1953

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Shopping
c. 1953
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Kutztown' 1948

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Kutztown
1948
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Pizza, Patterson' 1952

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Pizza, Patterson
1952
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

KUNST HAUS WIEN
Museum Hundertwasser
Untere Weißgerberstraße 13
1030 Vienna
Phone: +43-1-712 04 91

Opening hours:
Daily, 10am – 7pm

Kunst Haus Wein website

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14
Sep
12

Exhibition: ‘True Stories: American Photography from the Sammlung Moderne Kunst’ at Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

Exhibition dates: 2nd March – 20th September 2012

 

Lewis Baltz (American, 1945-2014) 'Greenbrae' 1968

 

Lewis Baltz (American, 1945-2014)
Greenbrae
1968
from the series The Prototype Works
Vintage gelatin silver print
13.1 x 21.4cm
Sammlung Moderne Kunst in the Pinakothek der Moderne Munich, Acquired in 2011 by PIN. Freunde der Pinakothek der Moderne e.V.
© Lewis Baltz

 

 

You can’t get much better than this to start a posting: Baltz, Friedlander, Winogrand, Nixon, Baldessari, Eggleston and Shore. I recall seeing my first vintage Stephen Shore at the American Dreams exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery last year. What a revelation. At the time I said,

“Two Stephen Shore chromogenic colour prints from 1976 where the colours are still true and have not faded. This was incredible – seeing vintage prints from one of the early masters of colour photography; noticing that they are not full of contrast like a lot of today’s colour photographs – more like a subtle Panavision or Technicolor film from the early 1960s. Rich, subtle, beautiful hues.”

You can get an idea of those colours in the image posted here. Like an early Panavision or Technicolor feature film.

Perhaps there is something to this analogue photography that digital will never be able to capture, let alone reproduce…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Route 9W, New York' 1969

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Route 9W, New York
1969
Gelatin silver print, Baryt paper (card)
20.4 x 30.5cm
On permanent loan from Siemens AG, Munich, to the Sammlung Moderne Kunst since 2003
© Lee Friedlander

 

Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) 'Los Angeles, California' 1969

 

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984)
Los Angeles, California
1969
Gelatin silver print (pre 1984)
21.8 x 32.8cm
On permanent loan from Siemens AG, Munich, to the Sammlung Moderne Kunst since 2003
© Estate of Garry Winogrand

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947) 'View of State Street, Boston' 1976

 

Nicholas Nixon (American, b. 1947)
View of State Street, Boston
1976
from the series Boston Views 1974-1976
Gelatin silver print, Baryt paper (card)
20.3 x 25.2cm
On permanent loan from Siemens AG, Munich, to the Sammlung Moderne Kunst since 2003
© Nicholas Nixon

 

John Baldessari. 'Man Running/Men Carrying Box' 1988-1990

 

John Baldessari (American, 1931-2020)
Man Running/Men Carrying Box
1988-1990
Gelatin silver prints, vinyl paint and shading in oil
Part 1: 121.3 x 118.6cm; Part 2: 121.3 x 146.6cm
On permanent loan from Siemens AG, Munich, to the Sammlung Moderne Kunst since 2003
© John Baldessari

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' 1980

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Untitled
1980
The first of 15 works from the portfolio Troubled Waters
Dye transfer print
29.0 x 44.0cm
On permanent loan from Siemens AG, Munich, to the Sammlung Moderne Kunst since 2003
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

Stephen Shore. 'La Brea Avenue & Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, California' 1975

 

Stephen Shore (American, b. 1947)
La Brea Avenue & Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, California
1975
Chromogenic print, Kodak professional paper (1998)
20.4 x 25.5cm
On permanent loan from Siemens AG, Munich, to the Sammlung Moderne Kunst since 2003
© Stephen Shore

 

 

American photography forms an extensive and simultaneously top-quality focal point in the collection, of which a selected overview is now being exhibited for the first time. The main interest of young photographers, who have been examining changes in political, social and ecological aspects of everyday American life since the late 1960s, has been the American social landscape. They have developed new pictorial styles that define stylistic devices perceived as genuinely American while at the same time being internationally recognised. Whereas Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz and Larry Clark, who are now considered classical modern photographers, have remained true to black-and-white photography, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore in particular have established colour photography as an artistically independent form of expression. The exhibition brings together around 100 works that, thanks to the Siemens Photography Collection and through acquisitions, bequests and donations, are now part of the museum’s holdings. True stories covers a spectrum from the street photography of the late 1960s to New Topographics and pictures by the New York photographer Zoe Leonard, taken just a few years ago.

“A new generation of photographers has directed the documentary approach toward more personal ends. Their work betrays a sympathy for the imperfection and frailties of society. Their aim has been not to reform life but to know it.” With the exhibition New Documents in spring 1967, John Szarkowski, the influential curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, rang in a new era in American photography. Those photographers represented, including Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand in addition to Diane Arbus, stood for a change in attitude within documentary photography that was conditioned exclusively by the subjective viewpoint of an individual’s reality. The object of photographic interest lay in the American social landscape and its conditions. It was less concerned with the natural landscape and its increasingly cultural reshaping than with the urban or urbanised space and how people move within it. In so doing, the New Documentarians rejected any obviously explanatory impetus, turning instead to the everyday and commonplace.

The exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape that was staged in the mid 1970s at the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, represented a countermovement to this subjective form of expression. Their protagonists, including Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Nicholas Nixon and Stephen Shore, also pleaded for a documentary approach and were influenced by figures such as Walker Evans und Robert Frank, but considered themselves rooted in the tradition of 19th-century topographical photography in particular. The prime initiator of this working method, that was expressly not governed by style, is the Los Angeles-based artist Ed Ruscha. Their central aim is a distanced and seemingly analytical depicition, free of judgement; their topic, the landscape altered by mankind. It is the image of the American West in particular, so much conditioned by myths and dreams but long since brought back to reality as a result of commercial and ecological exploitation, that is visible in their works.

The decisive quantum leap to establishing the position of colour photography was made by the Southerner William Eggleston in his exhibition in 1976, also held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the publication of the William Eggleston’s Guide. The harsh public criticism of his pictures was not to do with his use of colour but the fact that Eggleston photographed things and everyday situations – on the spur of the moment and in a seemingly careless manner – that, until then, had not been considered worthy of being photographed turning them into exquisite prints using the expensive and complicated dye-transfer process. In Eggleston’s cosmos of images that is strongly influenced by motifs and the light of the Mississippi Delta, colour constitutes the picture. The “rush of colour” championed by this exhibition led to the comprehensive implementation of colour photography in the field of artistic photography in the years that followed, starting in the USA and then in Europe – and especially in Germany.

An artistic attitude became established at the end of the 1970s that, with recourse to existing picture material from art, film, advertising and the mass media, formulated new pictorial concepts and, in the same breath, opened up traditional artistic and art-historical categories such as authorship, originality, uniqueness, intellectual property and authenticity to discussion. Appropriation Art owes its decisive influences to the artist John Baldessari, who lives and teaches in California. One of its most famous representatives is Richard Prince, who became famous in particular as a result of his artistic adaptation of advertising images. Concept art in the 1960s and ’70s similarly makes use of photography, both as part of an artistic practice using the most varied of materials and as a unique medium for documenting campaigns, happenings and performances. As works by Dan Graham and Zoe Leonard clearly show, the previously precisely delineated boundaries between photography that alludes to its own intrinsically, media-related history and the use of photography as an artistic strategy, have become more fluid.

Press release from the Pinakothek der Moderne website

 

Dan Graham. 'View Interior, New Highway Restaurant, Jersey City, N.J.,' (detail) 1967

 

Dan Graham (American, b. 1942)
View Interior, New Highway Restaurant, Jersey City, N.J., (detail)
1967 (printed 1996)
C-prints
Each 50.6 x 76.2cm
On permanent loan from Siemens AG, Munich, to the Sammlung Moderne Kunst since 2003
© Dan Graham

 

William Eggleston from 'Southern Suite' (10-part series) 1981

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
from Southern Suite (10-part series)
1981
Dye transfer print
25.0 x 38.2cm
Sammlung Moderne Kunst in the Pinakothek der Moderne Munich. Acquired in 2006 through PIN. Freunde der Pinakothek der Moderne e.V.
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

Larry Clark (American, b. 1943) 'Tulsa' 1972

 

Larry Clark (American, b. 1943)
Tulsa
1972
Gelatin silver print
20.3 x 25.4cm (sheet)
Sammlung Moderne Kunst in the Pinakothek der Moderne Munich. Acquired in 2003 by PIN. Freunde der Pinakothek der Moderne
© Larry Clark

 

Judith Joy Ross. 'Untitled' 1984 from the series 'Portraits at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.'

 

Judith Joy Ross (American, b. 1946)
Untitled
1984
from the series Portraits at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. 1983-1984
Gelatin silver print on daylight printing-out paper, shading in gold (print 1996)
25.2 x 20.2cm
On permanent loan from Siemens AG, Munich, to the Sammlung Moderne Kunst since 2003
© Judith Joy Ross

 

John Gossage. 'EL NEGRITO' 1997

 

John Gossage (American, b. 1946)
EL NEGRITO
1997
from the series There and Gone
Gelatin silver print, Baryt paper, screen print on photo mount card
55.4 x 45.0 cm
On permanent loan from Siemens AG, Munich, to the Sammlung Moderne Kunst since 2003
© John Gossage

 

 

Pinakothek Der Moderne
Barer Strasse 40
Munich

Opening hours:
Daily except Monday 10am – 6pm
Thursday 10am – 8pm

Pinakothek der Moderne website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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