Posts Tagged ‘Things are Queer

24
Jan
20

Exhibition: ‘Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan’ at The Morgan Library & Museum

Exhibition dates: 25th October 2019 – 2nd February 2020

Curator: Joel Smith

 

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Self-Portrait Asleep in a Tomb of Mereruka Sakkara' 1978

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Self-Portrait Asleep in a Tomb of Mereruka Sakkara
1978
6 (5 x 7 inch) silver gelatin prints with hand-applied text
© Duane Michals, Courtesy DC Moore Gallery, New York
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

The things-for-which-there-are-no-words

Duane Michals is one of the greatest photographic storytellers of the twentieth century. His parables – seemingly simple stories used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson – resonate, vibrate, with energy, and insight into, the human condition. They are as profound as the air we breathe but cannot see – expressing the invisible, presencing the spiritual. I feel, I know these stories, intimately. Those things-for-which-there-are-no-words.
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Presencing. In 1885, Van Gogh, wrote a letter to his brother Theo: ‘Rembrandt goes so deep into the mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. It is with justice that they call Rembrandt – [a] magician.’ (Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh [letter 534], on or about 10 October 1885, in Leo Jansen, Luijten and Nienke Bakker (eds.,). Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum and the Huygens Institute, Amsterdam, 2009 [Online] Cited 11/10/2019)

The things-for-which-there-are-no-words remain hidden when approached with conceptual thought. They need to be experienced to be known. The currency of this experience, as we have seen, is deeply personal, but in allowing it we can touch on truth, perhaps even the truth.”1

 

There are things here not seen in this photograph. The spirit leaves the body. William Blake and Duane Michals. Enchanted melancholy. The mysterious / music. In swift embrace. In love. In memory. In death. The fluidity of the line of the artist. Things are queer. The world implodes and ravages itself. Paradise is reborn. The letter, and love, from my father that I, also, never did receive. The nature of reality. Truth?

“I’m completely overwhelmed by the nature of our reality,” he is quoted as saying in the exhibition catalog about human evolution. “We’ve been working on this version of man for a thousand years. He lives longer, he’s healthier, but he’s still an unproven product. Still the same greedy little bastard.”

“For Michals, photography is not documentary in nature but theatrical and fictive: the camera is one of many tools humanity uses to construct a comprehensible version of reality. In his imaginative, visually rich photographs, the artist exploits the medium’s storytelling capacity,” says the press release. Isobel Crombie suggests the ‘medium’ of photography has ‘The ability to speak to us across time and to connect to the mind and the heart.’2

When I was young. What was time?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Kim Devereux. “Me and My Muse,” in the NGV Magazine Issue 19 Nov-Dec 2019, p. 55
  2. Isobel Crombie. “One Suggestive Moment,” in the NGV Magazine Issue 19 Nov-Dec 2019, p. 33

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Many thankx to The Morgan Library & Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“I write with this photograph not to tell you what you can see, rather to express what is invisible.”

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Duane Michals 1966 in Johnson, B. (ed.,) 2004, ‘Photography speaks: 150 photographers on their art’, Aperture, New York p. 150

 

“I think photographs should be provocative and not tell you what you already know. It takes no great powers or magic to reproduce somebody’s face in a photograph. The magic is in seeing people in new ways.”

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Duane Michals

 

Duane Michals uses visual narrative, symbolism and metaphysical imagery to interpret the human condition. His photographic sequences have a film-like appearance and represent intangible elements of dreams, imagination, death, time, myth and spirit. A freelance commercial photographer, Michals began experimenting with sequence works in the 1960s, later adding text to illuminate emotion and philosophical ideas and following in the tradition of painters such as René Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico whom he greatly admired. His staged, fictive tableaux vivants are intimate scenes that explore the atmosphere of the invisible and metaphysical…

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

 

 

DEATH

Robert Wiles. 'Evelyn Francis McHale May 1, 1947' 1947

 

Robert Wiles
Evelyn Francis McHale May 1, 1947
1947
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 9 1/2 × 8 in. (24.1 × 20.3 cm)
Purchased on the Goldsmith Fund for Americana
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

On 30 April she visited her fiancée in Easton presumably to celebrate his 24th birthday and boarded a train back to NYC at 7 a.m., 1 May 1947. Barry [Rhodes] stated to reporters that “When I kissed her goodbye she was happy and as normal as any girl about to be married.”

Of course we’ll never know what went through Evelyn’s mind on 66 mi train ride home. But after she arrived in New York she went to the Governor Clinton Hotel where she wrote a suicide note and shortly before 10:30 a.m. bought a ticket to the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Around 10:40 am Patrolman John Morrissey, directing traffic at Thirty-fourth Street and Fifth Avenue, noticed a white scarf floating down from the upper floors of the building. Moments later he heard a crash and saw a crowd converge on 34th street. Evelyn had jumped, cleared the setbacks, and landed on the roof of a United Nations Assembly Cadillac limousine parked on 34th street, some 200 ft west of Fifth Ave.

Across the street, Robert C. Wiles, a student photographer, also noticed the commotion and rushed to the scene where he took several photos, including this one, some four minutes after her death. Later, on the observation deck, Detective Frank Murray found her tan (or maybe gray, reports differ) cloth coat neatly folded over the observation deck wall, a brown make-up kit filled with family pictures and a black pocketbook with the note which read:

“I don’t want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me. Could you destroy my body by cremation? I beg of you and my family – don’t have any service for me or remembrance for me. My fiance asked me to marry him in June. I don’t think I would make a good wife for anybody. He is much better off without me. Tell my father, I have too many of my mother’s tendencies.”

Lizz Buzz. “The Story Behind the “The Most Beautiful Suicide” Picture of Evelyn McHale (1947),” on the Atchuup! website April 23, 2019 [Online] Cited 17/11/2019

 

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Spirit Leaves the Body
1968
Gift of Richard and Ronay Menschel
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'I Build a Pyramid' 1978

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
I Build a Pyramid
1978
6 (5 x 7 inch) silver gelatin prints with hand-applied text
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

ILLUSION

Francesco Salviati (1510-1563) 'Emblematic Design with Two-Headed Horse and Moth' c. 1550-63

 

Francesco Salviati (1510-1563)
Emblematic Design with Two-Headed Horse and Moth
c. 1550-63
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, on paper; framing lines at upper left and right edges in pen and brown ink
Overall: 7 1/2 × 7 3/8 in. (19.1 × 18.7 cm)
Gift of János Scholz
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Satan Smiting Job with Boils' c. 1805-10

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Satan Smiting Job with Boils
c. 1805-10
Pen and black and gray ink, gray wash, and watercolour, over faint indications in pencil, on paper
Overall: 9 3/16 x 11 inches (233 x 280 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902) 'A Cardinal in Profile' 1880

 

Jehan Georges Vibert (French, 1840-1902)
A Cardinal in Profile
1880
Watercolour on paper
Overall: 4 7/8 × 3 3/8 in. (12.4 × 8.6 cm)
Gift of John M. Thayer
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Henry Pearson (American, 1914-2006) '128th Psalm (Study for "Five Psalms")' 1968

 

Henry Pearson (American, 1914-2006)
128th Psalm (Study for “Five Psalms”)
1968
Chinese ink on heavy paper
Overall: 23 1/2 × 18 in. (59.7 × 45.7 cm)
Gift of Regina and Lawrence Dubin, M.D
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'The Illuminated Man' 1968

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Illuminated Man
1968
Gelatin silver print, unique print
Image: 15 5/8 x 22 7/8 inches
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

When Michals arrived in New York from Pittsburgh in the early 1950s, the city provided not only freedom from the strict conventions of his Catholic upbringing, but an opening to worlds of ideas and experiences that extended in all directions. By the early 1960s, he was living with his life partner, the architect Frederick Gorree (who passed away in 2017) and experimenting with the photographic image beyond the single frame, often including handwritten texts.

“Duane cut photography’s umbilical cord,” Smith said about the photographer’s contributions to the medium. “He saw there’s no reason to limit the camera to what you find in the world; it should be part of the history of expressing ideas.” Michals’s 1970 one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art confirmed his significance in establishing a new genre.

In the 1960s, he became interested in Buddhism and meditation, further expanding his artistic concerns. At the Morgan, Michals walked over to a large, eye-popping ink drawing by Henry Pearson, an abstract artist loosely associated with the Op Art movement. Pearson’s “128th Psalm (Study for ‘Five Psalms’)” from 1968, is a light-bulb-shaped form with lines emanating from the center like electrified nerve endings and pulsating out beyond the frame.

“This drawing is pure energy,” he said. That same year, Michals – who had not known Pearson’s work – made “The Illuminated Man,” a photograph of a male figure facing the camera, his head emanating light, suggesting enlightenment. “The Illuminated Man” and “128th Psalm” share the theme of spiritual radiance.

Michals cited a 1937 painting by René Magritte not in the Morgan Collection called “The Pleasure Principle.” It is a portrait of the poet Edward James, a patron of Surrealist art, his head a glowing light bulb. “I only discovered the painting later,” he said, after he had made his own photographic homage, in 1965, in which Magritte appears ghostlike in double exposure, against a canvas on an easel, behind an empty chair. “I was very proud to have had a similar idea to one of my deities,” he said.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'The Human Condition' 1969

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Human Condition
1969
© Duane Michals via DC Moore Gallery
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

“The nature of consciousness is always the central question,” he asserted. In The Human Condition, his panel of six photographs from 1969 begins with a man standing on the 14th Street subway platform; the train arrives and he is bathed in a halo of light; the light becomes a swirl and in the last frame he is swept into a white disc the size of a galaxy passing through the night sky. From the immediate to the universal in six frames.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Bewitched Bee
1986
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

IMAGE AND WORD

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'There Are Things Here Not Seen in This Photograph' 1977

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
There Are Things Here Not Seen in This Photograph
1977
10 15/16 x 13 7/8 inches
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals. From the series 'I Remember Pittsburgh' 1982

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
I Remember Pittsburgh 8
1982
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Ciro Ferri (Italian, 1634-1689) 'Fame Painting a Portrait Held by Religion' 17th century

 

Ciro Ferri (Italian, 1634-1689)
Fame Painting a Portrait Held by Religion
17th century
Brush and brown and white gouache, pen and and brown ink, over black chalk, on brown toned paper
Overall: 11 x 7 9/16 inches (279 x 192 mm)
Purchased as the gift of the Fellows
The Morgan Library & Museum

Design for a frontispiece engraved by Gérard Audran for a volume of portraits of cardinals published by Giovanni Giacomo de’ Rossi

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Giorgio de Chirico, Rome' Rome, 1944

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Giorgio de Chirico, Rome
Rome, 1944 (negative), 1946-47 (print)
Gelatin silver print on paper; mounted to cardstock
Image And Sheet: 7 1/16 × 7 3/8 in.
Gift of Irving Penn, 2006
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Andy Warhol' 1958

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Andy Warhol
1958
Gelatin silver print
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'René Magritte at His Easel' 1965

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
René Magritte at His Easel
1965
77/8 × 97/8 inches (20 × 25.1 cm)
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Florian, Marquis de (1755-1794) 'Red leather portfolio [realia]' 18th century

 

Florian, Marquis de (1755-1794)
Red leather portfolio [realia] – Portefeuille de Monsieur de Voltaire and Donné à Monsieur de Florian
“Voltaire’s briefcase”
18th century
Leather, gold clasp
Stamped on front: “Portefeuille de Monsieur / de Voltaire”; on back: “Donné a Monsieur / de Florian”
Overall: 16 15/16 × 12 5/8 in. (43 × 32 cm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911
Pierpont Morgan Library Dept. of Literary and Historical Manuscripts
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

Voltaire gave this briefcase to the marquis de Florian, the husband of his niece Elisabeth Mignot. Her sister, Marie-Louise Mignot, Mme Denis, was Voltaire’s companion for the last twenty-nine years of his life. With extensive decorative gold tooling. Exhibited numerous times at the Morgan Library as “Voltaire’s briefcase.”

Text from The Morgan Library & Museum website

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Candide, 2019'

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Candide, 2019
2019
Inspired by Voltaire
© Duane Michals via DC Moore Gallery
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

“The things we chose from the collection were so close to what my instincts are,” he said to Joel Smith, the curator of photography at the Morgan, who organised the show with Michals.

The photographer was referring to the kinship between things he chose and the irreverent nature of his own work. “I’m completely overwhelmed by the nature of our reality,” he is quoted as saying in the exhibition catalog about human evolution. “We’ve been working on this version of man for a thousand years. He lives longer, he’s healthier, but he’s still an unproven product. Still the same greedy little bastard.”

To illustrate the point, he reached for Voltaire’s briefcase among the holdings in the Morgan’s collection. It dates from the 1700s and is decorated with gold-leaf filigree on its red leather casing.

Smith recalled that Michals was so “wowed at the thought of Voltaire’s ideas living inside it and amused by the showbiz of its provenance” that he went home and painted a portrait of Candide on an old tintype, adding Voltaire’s bitterly ironic refrain in white block letters: “This Is the Best of All Possible Worlds.” The briefcase and Candide, 2019 are both in the show.

Yet, Michals doesn’t share Voltaire’s bleak view of existence. His own work is often characterised by an iconoclastic wit, imbued with serious metaphysical inquiry – a “curiosity about the nature of reality, in a much more profound sense than just a bunch of atoms.”

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Auguste Rodin. 'Lucifer' c. 1900

 

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)
Lucifer
c. 1900
Pencil and watercolour, on paper
Overall: 9 3/8 × 12 7/16 in. (23.8 × 31.6 cm)
Gift of Alexandre P. Rosenberg
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Egon Schiele (Austrian, 1890-1918) 'Embrace' 1914

 

Egon Schiele (Austrian, 1890-1918)
Embrace
1914
Graphite on wove paper
Overall: 19 1/8 × 12 3/4 in. (48.6 × 32.4 cm)
Bequest of Fred Ebb
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

[Looks at Egon Schiele’s drawing Embrace (p. 22)] There’s so much emotion in this; it’s so immediate. There’s a few things happening: physical entanglement, then you see the look on his face, registering some kind of emotional response. I love the idea: Schiele had no thought that in a hundred years we’d be standing here or how we’d be talking about it. Art is not really about the future.

Duane Michals in Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan exhibition catalogue 2019, p. 21

 

In this depiction of the artist in the arms of an unidentified companion, the jagged, seemingly erratic contours suggest a psychological agitation characteristic of Schiele’s self-portraits. A feeling of tension derives from the position of the artist’s head-turned away from the woman embracing him – as well as from the placement of the couple to the left of the sheet, with the figure of the woman cropped. The resulting asymmetry conveys the artist’s emotional unbalance and emphasises his egocentric character while demonstrating the amazing technical agility he brought to bear to express a wide range of emotions.

Text from The Morgan Library & Museum website

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'A Letter from My Father' 1960

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
A Letter from My Father
1960 (image), 1975 (text)
15 3/4 × 19 7/8 inches (40 × 50.5 cm)
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

The Morgan Library & Museum proudly presents an exhibition combining a six-decade retrospective of Duane Michals with an artist’s-choice selection of works from all corners of the permanent collection. Michals is known for his picture sequences, inscribed photographs, and, more recently, films that pose emotional, conceptual, and cosmic questions beyond the scope of the lone camera image. Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan (October 25, 2019 to February 2, 2020) takes viewers on a tour of the artist’s mind, putting work from his expansive career in conversation with Old Master and modern drawings, books, manuscripts, and historical objects.

The first retrospective on Michals to be mounted by a New York City institution, the exhibition is organised around animating themes in the artist’s work: Theatre, Reflection, Love and Desire, Playtime, Image and Word, Nature, Immortality, Time, Death, and Illusion. It showcases his storytelling instincts, both in stand-alone staged photographs and in sequences. The exhibition also includes screenings of short films, Michals’s preferred medium in recent years.

For Michals, photography is not documentary in nature but theatrical and fictive: the camera is one of many tools humanity uses to construct a comprehensible version of reality. In his imaginative, visually rich photographs, the artist exploits the medium’s storytelling capacity. For example, the six images in I Build a Pyramid (1978) find the artist in Egypt, stacking stones in a modest pile that, from the camera’s perspective, appears to rival the scale of the ancient pharaohs’ monuments. Michals reveals that the scenario echoes his childhood habit of building cities from stones in his backyard in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. In the exhibition, Michals’s staged scenes are juxtaposed with those of his creative heroes, who include William Blake, Edward Lear, and Saul Steinberg. In his dual role as artist and curator he matches wits with writers, stage designers, toy makers, and his fellow portraitists of the past and the present.

Since 2015 Michals has focused his creative efforts on filmmaking, a natural outgrowth of his directorial habits as a photographer. On a screen in the exhibition, three short films are featured amid a cycle of over 200 photographs from the series Empty New York (1964-65), the project through which the artist first recognised his theatrical vision of reality. Michals will host two special programs of film screenings in the Morgan’s Gilder Lehrman Hall, introducing films that have never been screened publicly before.

Illusions of the Photographer revives the format of the 2015 exhibition Hidden Likeness: Emmet Gowin at the Morgan, which The New York Times said “all but redefined the genre” of the collection dive curated by a contemporary artist. The present project is a personal one for Michals, who explains, “The Morgan literally is my favourite museum in New York. I always learn something at the Morgan. I’m so thrilled about this show, because it’s probably going to be the very last time to see me there, with all my resources and touchstones. I’m … archaic, in a way. I’m eighty-seven! I’m of my generation. My references are not at all to what people are talking about today. I’m comfortable there, that’s where I belong – and that’s what I contribute.”

Joel Smith, the Morgan’s Richard L. Menschel Curator and Department Head, says “Duane Michals’s art is contemplative, confessional, and comedic. It transcends the conventional bounds, and audience, of photography. Through narration and sequencing he reorients the camera towards timeless human dilemmas; he derives poetic effects from technical errors such as double exposure and motion blur. His originality and intimacy as an artist come through in the discoveries he brings to light from the Morgan’s collection.”

Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan is accompanied by an 88-page softcover catalogue featuring a wide-ranging interview with the artist and illustrations of seventy works, including his selections from the Morgan’s collection and the previously unpublished 1969 title sequence.

 

About Duane Michals

Duane Michals (b. February 18, 1932, McKeesport, Pennsylvania) is an American photographer who often combines images with text in a format that recalls cinematic storytelling. Michals received his BA from the University of Denver in 1953. He began photographing for magazines in 1960 and became a prolific portraitist of artists such as Andy Warhol, René Magritte, and Marcel Duchamp. His first solo exhibition was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1970. Michals lives and works in New York City.

Press release from The Morgan Library & Museum [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

 

NATURE

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'God Creating the World' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
God Creating the World
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
7 3/4 x 5 1/4 inches (201 x 135 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'God Creates Eve while Adam is Asleep' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
God Creates Eve while Adam is Asleep
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
12 x 9 1/8 inches (305 x 233 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
11 x 8 inches (279 x 203 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'Adam and Eve Perceive their Nakedness' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
Adam and Eve Perceive their Nakedness
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
12 1/8 x 8 3/4 inches (308 x 221 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Paradise Regained
1968
6 silver gelatin prints with hand-applied text

 

 

… He picked up a panel of gouache drawings from around 1900 by French illustrator James Jacques Joseph Tissot titled “God Creating the World,” a biblical morality tale in a series of lighthearted scenes depicting the creation of Adam; then Eve; the two of them frolicking; Eve eating the apple; and their banishment from paradise. The Tissot sequence is among nearly 60 works in his final selection for the current exhibition Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan, through Feb. 2. His pick of drawings, paintings and artefacts resides in dialogue with 38 of Michals’s photographic works – his narrative sequences as well as stand-alone prints, projected images from a series titled “Empty New York,” and several of his recent short films.

He pointed out a link between the Tissot drawings and his own “Paradise Regained,” from 1968: a suite of six images that begins with a well-dressed young couple sitting and facing the camera in an empty apartment. With each frame they get progressively undressed, and more and more plants fill up the space behind them. In the final image, they are naked amid a lush, domestic Eden.

“I had been looking at a lot of Rousseau paintings when I made the sequence,” Michals said, referring to the jungle scenes of the French Post-Impressionist. While he loves the Tissot panel, he admitted, “I’m a raging atheist,” distancing himself from its religious message. “I was a pretend Catholic and then I stopped pretending.” The spiritual dimension of “Paradise Regained” is balanced by the artist’s tongue-in-cheek view of urban life, where men and women only return to a natural state indoors, where everything is unnatural.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Jacob Hoefnagel (1573? - c. 1632) 'Orpheus Charming the Animals' 1613

 

Jacob Hoefnagel (1573? – c. 1632)
Orpheus Charming the Animals
1613
Watercolour and gouache, heightened with white gouache, over traces of black chalk, on vellum mounted to panel; bordered in gold
Overall: 6 9/16 × 8 5/16 in. (16.7 × 21.1 cm)
Purchased on the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Fund 1978
Morgan Family Collection

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Warren Beatty' 1967

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Warren Beatty
1967
Gelatin silver print
8 × 9 15/16 inches (20.3 × 25.2 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Acquisition Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

PLAYTIME

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Things Are Queer
1973
Nine gelatin silver prints
Images: 5 × 7 inches (12.7 × 17.8 cm) each
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

REFLECTION

Wallace Studio, Manchester, New Hampshire. 'Untitled (Mirror)' c. 1880s

 

Wallace Studio, Manchester, New Hampshire
Untitled (Mirror)
c. 1880s
Cabinet card with rounded corners
Mount: 6 7/16 × 4 3/16 in. (16.4 × 10.6 cm)
Print: 5 11/16 × 4 in. (14.4 × 10.2 cm)
Gift of Adam Fuss
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Carlo Galli Bibiena (1728 - c. 1778) 'Interior of a Gallery' 1750s

 

Carlo Galli Bibiena (1728 – c. 1778)
Interior of a Gallery
1750s
Pen and black ink and gray and brown wash
Sheet is framed by an overmount of paper that leaves around 8 5/8 x 11 7/8 inches visible
Overall: 9 1/4 × 12 13/16 in. (23.5 × 32.5 cm)
Thaw Collection
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

John F. Collins (American, 1888-1990) 'Multiple Self-Portrait' 1935

 

John F. Collins (American, 1888-1990)
Multiple Self-Portrait
1935
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 3/4 × 10 9/16 in. (34.9 × 26.8 cm)
Purchase on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'A Story About a Story' 1989

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
A Story About a Story
1989
15 7/8 x 19 3/4 inches (40.3 × 50.2 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

In Michals work, the immediate and the infinite spar. In the show is a single image by a little-known photographer named John F. Collins. The 1935 self-portrait shows Collins looking at us while holding a large photograph of himself; in that photograph he is looking down at the same photograph of himself. In each subsequent picture within a picture, he is looking out, and then into the photograph he is holding, into a spiralling infinity.

It is a striking parallel to Michals’ “A Story Within a Story” of 1989, in which a man leans against a mirror in the corner of the frame and faces a mirror in which his reflection echoes repeatedly as it recedes behind him. “This is a story about a man telling a story about a man. …” starts his text.

He might as well have been describing himself.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

N. Institoris (d. 1845) 'Interior of a Prison' c. 1825-45

 

N. Institoris (d. 1845)
Interior of a Prison
c. 1825-45
Pen and black ink, with gray wash, over pencil, on paper; verso contains slight sketch of a building, in graphite.
13 x 17 1/2 inches (330 x 445 mm)
Gift of Mrs. Donald M. Oenslager, 1982
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Gabriel Pierre Martin Dumont (French, 1720-1791) 'Perspective View of the Mechanical Works and Construction of a Theater. Verso: Sketch of an elevation of a colonnade' 18th century

 

Gabriel Pierre Martin Dumont (French, 1720-1791)
Perspective View of the Mechanical Works and Construction of a Theater. Verso: Sketch of an elevation of a colonnade
18th century
Pen and black ink, with gray wash, over graphite, on paper; verso: graphite
12 1/4 x 14 9/16 inches (310 x 369 mm)
Purchased as the gift of Mrs. Donald M. Oenslager in memory of her husband
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Cour de Rouen' 1898

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Cour de Rouen
1898
Albumen print
Overall: 8 × 6 3/4 in. (20.3 × 17.1 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Louis Faurer (1916-2001) 'Penn Station Lovers' 1946-47, printed c. 1981

 

Louis Faurer (1916-2001)
Penn Station Lovers
1946-47, printed c. 1981
Gelatin silver print
14 x 11 in. (sheet)
Purchased as the gift of Elaine Goldman
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York, Subway Interior' c. 1964

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Empty New York, Subway Interior
c. 1964
Gelatin silver print
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Nancy and Burt Staniar
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Empty New York, Dry cleaners upper East side
c. 1964
Gelatin silver print
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Nancy and Burt Staniar
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
From the series Empty New York
c. 1964
Gelatin silver prints
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Nancy and Burt Staniar
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

TIME

Herbert Matter (1907-1984) 'Alexander Calder hanging mobile in motion' 1936

 

Herbert Matter (1907-1984)
Alexander Calder hanging mobile in motion
1936
Gelatin silver print with additions by hand
5 9/16 × 6 3/16 in. (14.13 × 15.72 cm)
Purchased as the gift of Richard and Ronnie Grosbard
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Saul Steinberg (American, b. Romania, 1914-1999) 'Untitled (Cat and wheel of time)' 1965

 

Saul Steinberg (American, b. Romania, 1914-1999)
Untitled (Cat and wheel of time)
1965
Ink (black, blue, red, green, brown) and pencil on laid Strathmore
19 × 25 in. (48.26 × 63.5 cm)
Gift of the Saul Steinberg Foundation
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

Saul Steinberg defined drawing as “a way of reasoning on paper,” and he remained committed to the act of drawing. Throughout his long career, he used drawing to think about the semantics of art, reconfiguring stylistic signs into a new language suited to the fabricated temper of modern life. Sometimes with affection, sometimes with irony, but always with virtuoso mastery, Saul Steinberg peeled back the carefully wrought masks of 20th-century civilisation.

Text from The Morgan Library & Museum website

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'When He Was Young' 1979

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
When He Was Young
1979
8 x 9 15/16 inches (20.3 × 25.2 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'What is Time?' 1994

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
What is Time?
1994
Gelatin silver print
16 × 19 7/8 inches (40.6 × 50.5 cm)
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

Included in his selection from the Morgan is an amusing drawing by Saul Steinberg, “Cat and the Wheel of Time,” 1965, in which the months of the year, the days of the week, and the hours of the day are written in circles inside a large wheel following a small cat down a hill. “Time has always been central to so much of my thinking,” Michals said. Smith handed him his text and image piece, What Is Time? from 1994, in which an eternally handsome young man holds an old-fashioned round clock to his ear. The text beneath it begins, “Time is the duration of everything, and life is an event, a fluttering of wings … the moment is the interval between now and then and, then, again.”

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

 

The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York, NY
Phone: (212) 685-0008

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Thursday: 10.30 am – 5 pm
Friday: 10.30 am – 9 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm

The Morgan Library & Museum website

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04
Jul
18

Exhibition: ‘I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection’ at Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition dates: 21st April – 8th July 2018

Curator: Christiane Kuhlmann, Curator Photography and Media Art; with Andrea Lehner-Hagwood, Curatorial Assistant, Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Works by Nobuyoshi Araki, Masahisa Fukase, Takashi Hanabusa, Jun Jumoji, Daidõ Moriyama, Masaaki Nakagawa, Bishin Jumonji, Shunji Õkura, Issei Suda, Akihide Tamura, Shin Yanagisawa, Yoshihiro Tatsuki

 

 

Daidō Moriyama. 'Lips from a Poster' 1975

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan)
Lips from a Poster
1975
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Daidō Moriyama

 

 

Much as I love the grittiness and stark contrast of Japanese photography of the 1960-70s – its reaction against the pro-American optimism of The Family of Man exhibition that went to Tokyo in the 1950s, its rejection of journalistic illustration, its I-reality that is not a objective record but a personal story, “a poem composed in photography”, its spirit of ennui, a state of dissatisfaction with the status quo – there is also another, less edifying side to Japanese photography of this period.

Basically, it’s a male view of the world, any world, any reality, but always with the “I” at the front of it, the world of the male ego. A world where women are objectified, bound and gagged in pretty gruesome “erotic” sex scenes (not in this posting, but you can Google them online). No matter that the photographer had permission, these photographs are about male power and the male gaze. Nothing more, nothing less. A world where cameras pry on people having anonymous sex in the park in the dark. Let’s call it what it is, it’s misogynistic and voyeuristic.

The obverse of a concern for the sitter, or the landscape, or the object, can be observed (did you see what I did there… obverse/observe), in that there is a concern with the minutiae of life in extremis, rather than an empathy for it. Maybe that is the Japanese culture. Perhaps this microscopic analysis comes about because of the fast pace of their life, their mixture of state, religion, culture and capitalism, their violent history and the submissive place of women within that society (The traditional role of women in Japan has been defined as “three submissions”: young women submit to their fathers; married women submit to their husbands, and elderly women submit to their sons ~ Wikipedia)

There is something I cannot put my finger on about the power of the photograph to capture a dominance over women, the landscape, people, protests – a suppressed violence against the self?

I’m just thinking out loud here…

Marcus

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

 

The collections of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg include an outstanding and sizeable ensemble of Japanese photographs from the 1960s and 1970s. These works will be on view for the first time in many years in a series of exhibitions. The opening presentation is dedicated to the depiction of humans and perceptions of postwar Japanese society in transformation. A future second exhibition will focus on images of city and countryside.

In the history of Japanese photography, the idea of the “I-photo” is a kind of photographic adaptation of the literary convention of first-person narrative. The photographic image is conceived and employed as a medium articulating the photographer’s self as well as an instrument with which to scrutinise reality. A pioneer of postwar photography, Masahisa Fukase in the late 1960s created photographic series mixing documentary and fictional elements. His central motifs and models were his wife Yoko and their family. Nobuyoshi Araki, the best-known, most prolific, and probably also most provocative Japanese photography artist, launched his career as a fashion and advertising photographer in 1963. The collection contains highly personal photographic notes by him and his wife Yoko, who died early. Fukase, Araki, and the other Japanese “I-photographers” such as Issei Suda, Shin Yanagisawa, and Daidõ Moriyama regard the “I-photo” as a blend of truth and falsification that can elicit an emotional response and disconcert. The aesthetic of the pictures is characterised by hard black-and-white contrasts and lacerated abstract structures. It signals the artists’ rejection of the tradition of classical art photography while also probing the potentials of the medium itself. The Japanese photography scene is highly controversial; the spectrum of themes ranges from erotic depictions of bodies to political statements.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan)
Untitled (l. a. r.)
c. 1970
Lips from a Poster
1975
3 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan)
Stray Dog, Misawa
1971
From the series Hunter
Untitled
c. 1970
9 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Daidō Moriyama. 'Stray Dog, Misawa' 1971

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan)
Stray Dog, Misawa
1971
From the series Hunter
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Daidō Moriyama

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan) 'National Highway 1 AT Dawn 1, Asahi-cho, Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture' 1968

 

Daidō Moriyama (born 1938 Osaka, Japan)
National Highway 1 AT Dawn 1, Asahi-cho, Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture
1968
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
6.50 x 9.72 in. (16.5 x 24.7 cm)
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Daidō Moriyama

 

 

Daidō Moriyama

Daidō Moriyama is one of Japan’s leading contemporary photographers. He studied design and photography in Kōbe before moving to Tokyo in 1961 and deciding to focus entirely on photography. After a stint as Eikō Hosoe’s assistant, he went into business for himself as a photographer in 1964.

Like the art critic Kōji Taki and the photographers Yutaka Takanashi, Shōmei Tōmatsu, and Takuma Nakahira, Moriyama was a member of the group around the influential magazine Provoke (1968-1969). Although no more than three issues appeared in print, its importance in the history of the medium in Japan can hardly be overstated. The Provoke Manifesto declared that photography was capable of registering what could not be expressed in words. The visual style of the photographs Provoke would run was to be are-bure-boke, Japanese for “grainy, blurry, and out of focus” – a specification that still aptly describes Moriyama’s photographs; the same style is evident in his work for magazines such as Camera Mainichi, Asahi Journal, and Asahi Camera.

Moriyama’s inexhaustible signature theme is the city of Tokyo, but he has also worked elsewhere. In an interview, he once said: “For me cities are enormous bodies of people’s desire.” He still prowls the streets day after day, taking pictures of appealing or striking sights, never peering into his small compact camera’s viewfinder. Shots of traffic, of pedestrians and shop windows, of posters and details such as lips, eyes, or plants are recurrent motifs. Hard black-and-white contrasts lend his prints a strangely alien and otherworldly allure, but the depictions always remain anecdotal, as though from a dream. Moriyama’s photobooks may accordingly be read as photonovels of a sort. Japan A Photo Theater (1968) was the first book in this vein he published; his oeuvre has now grown to several hundred photobooks.

The Photographic Society of Japan, whose purpose is to promote photography in Japan, elected him its photographer of the year in 1983. In 2012, he received the Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement of the International Center of Photography, New York, which honors outstanding accomplishments in photography and visual art.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Masahisa Fukase (1934-2012)
Untitled
1971
From the series Yoko
9 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper (Vintage prints)
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Masahisa Fukase. 'Untitled' 1961-1970

 

Masahisa Fukase (1934-2012)
Untitled
1961-1970
From the series Yoko
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Masahisa Fukase, Courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery London

 

 

Masahisa Fukase

Masahisa Fukase completed a PhD at the Institute of Photography at Nihon University, Tokyo, in 1956. He worked as a photographer for advertising agencies and various publishing houses until 1968 and then as a freelance photographer until his death in 2012. His work was included in the 1974 group exhibition New Japanese Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, followed by numerous solo and group shows all over the world. In 1976, he received the annual Ina Nobuo Award, which has been given out by the Nikon Salon in Tokyo since 1976. At the 1992 Higashikawa International Photo Festival, his exhibition Karasu (Ravens) earned him a Higashikawa Photography Award in the Special Award category.

In the 1960s, his photography is largely focused on his own life and that of his wife Yoko. She stars in pictures that show her in all sorts of situations in life, private as well as public. Fukase captures Yoko as his bride, in the nude, during sex, or as a tourist in the street. He is also interested in the passage of time and ageing in general. After separating from Yoko, Fukase started photographing ravens as symbols of loneliness and loss. The photobook Karasu (Ravens) became one of the most coveted works of its kind in postwar Japan; it was first reprinted just last year.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Bishin Jumonji (born 1947 Yokohama, Japan)
Untitled
1971
3 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Bishin Jumonji. 'Untitled' 1971

 

Bishin Jumonji (born 1947 Yokohama, Japan)
Untitled
1971
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Bishin Jumonji

 

Bishin Jumonji. 'Untitled' 1971

 

Bishin Jumonji (born 1947 Yokohama, Japan)
Untitled
1971
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Bishin Jumonji

 

 

Bishin Jumonji

After studying at the Tokyo College of Photography, Bishin Jumonji became an assistant to the photographer Kishin Shinoyama, who had risen to renown with publications about Kabuki theater, erotic depictions in photography magazines, and work in unusual book formats such as flipbooks. Since 1971, Jumonji has worked both freelance and as an advertising photographer. This was also when he began to take pictures for the series on view, Untitled. Shot around Tokyo, the works portray families, day-trippers, a quartet of rock musicians, dancers, or bodybuilders – in short, representatives of modern Japan. The details are chosen so that the heads and faces do not appear in the prints. This underscores the subjective quality of photography as such while also conveying the anonymity of life in the megalopolis.

Otto Breicha had seen the series as early as 1974, when it was featured in New Japanese Photography, a group exhibition John Szarkowski organized at the MoMA in New York. Breicha decided to include it in Neue Fotografie aus Japan, the follow-up show he mounted in Graz in 1977.

In 1990, Jumonji receives the Domon Ken Award, one of the most important Japanese photography prizes. The work of the honorees is showcased at the Ginza Nikon Salon, Tokyo, and the Domon Ken Museum of Photography, Sakata, the first museum in Japan dedicated to photography. Some of Jumonji’s pictures are published in international magazines including the German newsweekly Stern.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Akihide Tamura (born 1947, Yokyo, Japan)
Yokohama, 1966 (l.)
Yokosuka, 1969 (r.)
7 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
From the series Base
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Akihide Tamura (born 1947, Yokyo, Japan) 'Yokohama' 1966

 

Akihide Tamura (born 1947, Yokyo, Japan)
Yokohama
1966
From the series Base
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Akihide Tamura

 

 

Akihide Tamura

Akihide Tamura studied at the Tokyo College of Photography and got his degree in 1967. Even before he graduated, the academy’s director, the photography critic Shigemori Koen, recognised his unusual approach. In 1974, the MoMA in New York featured Tamura’s House series in its group exhibition New Japanese Photography and acquired it for the museum’s collection. Taken over the course of a year – from July to July – the pictures show houses in abandoned landscapes. The alternation of day and night and the cycle of the seasons play a prominent part in the series.

Tamura’s life was defined by the wrenching changes Japan underwent after World War II. His work is an astute photographic record of these metamorphoses. For the series Base (1966-1970), he captured landscapes, people, and combat aircraft and other military planes at several American bases south of Tokyo. In retrospect, he wrote: “When I was a photography student, I knew that the military base existed in a territory that had been created due to the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union and the possibility of a nuclear war. I was shaken by the incredibly beautiful and yet insane fighter jets before my eyes. The contradiction between my fear that the world would vanish in an instant if someone were to push the nuclear button and the exotic and eerie spell the military base cast over me left me perpetually torn.”

The works on view are part of the major cycle Erehwon – the title is the word “nowhere” read backwards – that Tamura worked on between 1967 and 1973. The series combines combat aircraft taking off and hurtling off into the sky, their engines a pair of glowing eyes, with ghostly portraits of children that gradually fade into the dark. The composition reflects the photographer’s mindset, a hard-to-pin-down blend of admiration and fear.

 

 

Diverse and controversial, sometimes mysterious and often at odds with stereotypical ideas about Japan: there is much to discover in Japanese photography from the 1960s and 1970s. The Museum der Moderne Salzburg now presents its extensive and singular collection in a two-part exhibition series.

For the first time in many years, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg puts its collection of c. 600 original prints of Japanese photography from the 1960s and 1970s, which was purchased in the museum’s early years, on display. The series of two shows begins with IPhoto. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection, which presents works that focus on the depiction of the human being and the changes in postwar Japanese society.

“In this exhibition, my vigorous efforts to undertake a thorough review of our collections are bearing fruit, and so I am especially pleased that we are able to present our holdings of Japanese photography – a sizeable ensemble of outstanding works – which have not been seen by the public in a long time. The show also spotlights a chapter in the history of the museum, which started collecting and conserving photography early on. Otto Breicha, the museum’s first director, personally traveled to Japan to meet many of the artists and select works for the projected exhibition,” Sabine Breitwieser, Director of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, observes. Curator of Photography and Media Art Christiane Kuhlmann emphasizes that “this effort to champion Japanese culture and acquire Japanese art for the nascent collection constitutes a pioneering achievement.” “At the time, the primary media in which Japanese photographers presented their pictures were photobooks and magazines,” Kuhlmann notes, “so that vintage prints in the quality and form at our disposal are now hard or impossible to come by. Breicha’s initiative to build a center for contemporary photography in Austria was in part motivated by his experiences in Japan.”

In the early 1960s, Japan enters a period of fast-paced economic growth, becoming a leading technology manufacturer. A quarter-century after the end of the war and the nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan hosts Expo’70, the first world’s fair to be held in an Asian country. Tokyo grows into an enormous megalopolis; construction on an international airport that will connect it to the entire world begins in 1971. These developments mark the definite end of the island nation’s decades-long isolation from the West, bringing rapid changes that affect Japanese society as well. In the 1960s, millions of Japanese citizens rally to protest against educational and land reforms and the security treaty with the former enemy, the United States of America. The Japanese photography scene devises a new and dynamic visual language that reflects the country’s more expansive self-image. Distinctive features include the reflection on perception, the quest for novel ways to express the self, and a revised definition of the photographic medium. Hard black-and-white contrasts and lacerated abstract structures are characteristic of the aesthetic of these pictures.

The idea of the “I-photo” is an adaptation of the term “I-novel,” which designates a genre of first-person narrative fiction in Japanese literature. Conceiving of themselves as authors, the photographers understand the “Iphoto” as the instrument of an exploration of reality. Japan’s photography scene is often highly controversial, with themes ranging from erotic depictions of bodies to political statements. Western observers are bound to find some pictures enigmatic and unsettling; they run counter to how Japan is generally imagined abroad. Yet it was Western art institutions that, in the 1970s, first included Japanese contemporary photography in their programming. Neue Fotografie aus Japan (New Photography from Japan) was the title of the first exhibition in Europe that Otto Breicha mounted in Graz in 1977; with I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg brings back the exhibits from that historic show, though with different emphases. The presentation includes works by the photographers associated with the magazine Provoke (1968-1969) in which reality seems to be dismantled into its constituent elements, as well as by artists such as Nobuyoshi Araki and Masahisa Fukase who pursued their own highly individual creative agendas. Also on display are pictures by the members of the Kompora group, who sought to render a lucid and accurate portrait of everyday life in a clinical visual idiom.

Press release from Museum der Moderne Salzburg

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki (born 1937 Tokushima, Japan)
Untitled
c. 1970
3 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki (born 1937 Tokushima, Japan) 'Untitled' c. 1970

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki (born 1937 Tokushima, Japan)
Untitled
c. 1970
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Yoshihiro Tatsuki

 

 

Yoshihiro Tatsuki

Yoshihiro Tatsuki was born in 1937 in Tokushima, where his family had long run an established portrait studio. He studied at the Tokyo College of Photography (today’s Tokyo Polytechnic University) and graduated in 1958. Initially joining the advertising agency Adcenter in Tokyo as a photographer, Tatsuki went freelance in 1969, working for clients in the advertising, fashion, and publishing industries. In 1965, his series Just Friends and Fallen Angels, which had appeared in the photography magazine Camera Mainichi, earned him the emerging photographer’s award of the association of Japanese photography critics. The works garnered wide attention in Japan. Among his best-known creations are GIRL, EVES, Private Mariko Kaga, Aoi Toki, My America, and Portrait of Family.

Tatsuki has long focused on nude photography, combining traditional Japanese compositional templates with the characteristic poses of Western models. It is hard to tell whether he wants to debunk or cater to the – primarily Western – fantasy of the Geisha as concubine.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan)
Untitled
1971
From the series Sentimental Journey
7 gelatin silver prints on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan) 'Untitled' 1971

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan)
Untitled
1971
From the series Sentimental Journey
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan) 'Yoko, my Love' Nd

 

Nobuyoshi Araki (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan)
Yoko, my Love
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper (Vintage print)
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Nobuyoshi Araki

 

 

Nobuyoshi Araki

Nobuyoshi Araki studied photography and film studies at Chiba University from 1959 until 1963. After completing his degree, he joined an advertising agency; in the spare time left by his work as a commercial photographer, he started developing his own photographic ideas.

1970, the artist declared, would be “The First Year of Araki.” Increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo that prevailed in established photography, he launched a variety of creative experiments. The popular photography that dominated the market in Japan at the time, he thought, traded in illusions and dishonesty, and so he proposed to change the situation and create a new kind of photography that would reveal the true face of a society undergoing rapid change.

In 1971, he was married to Yoko. His documentation of their honeymoon was published as the small photobook Sentimental Journey. The travelogue – several pictures from it are in the Museum der Moderne Salzburg’s collection – opens with a portrait of Yoko on the train. The title and this picture are a reference to Doris Day’s 1945 worldwide hit. The series continues with shots of places, sights, and, again and again, pictures of Yoko, in the street, nude, or having sex. As Araki sees it, the book is a new form of reportage about life. Taking photographs and living, to his mind, are synonymous. In a statement accompanying Sentimental Journey, he writes: “The I-novel comes closer to photography.” The title of our exhibition, I-Photo, alludes to this Japanese literary genre, in which the author’s experiences, rendered in as much realistic detail as possible, form the material out of which a fictional story is wrought.

In 1992, Camera Austria, Graz, hosted Araki’s first solo exhibition in Europe. He is famous for his widely debated photographs of erotic bondage, but also for his photobooks, which now number almost six hundred.

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection featuring the work of Nobuyoshi Araki
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection

 

Exhibition view of I-Photo. Japanese Photography 1960-1970 from the Collection
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Photo: Rainer Iglar

 

Takashi Hanabusa (born 1949 Kobe, Japan) 'Untitled' Nd

 

Takashi Hanabusa (born 1949 Kobe, Japan)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Takashi Hanabusa

 

 

Takashi Hanabusa

Takashi (Lyu) Hanabusa was born in Osaka in 1949. After graduating from the Kuwasawa Design School, Tokyo, he joined the staff of the publishing house that produced the magazine Nippon Camera. In 1971, he became an assistant to the photographer Yutaka Takanashi, whose well-known series Tôshi-e (Towards the City) surveyed Tokyo as the Japanese began to embrace modern metropolitan life.

Hanabusa’s works build on this influence, documenting the city as a mysterious place defined by jarring contrasts between tradition and modernity, high tech and nature. His photographs are marked by deliberately ambiguous particulars, as when faces are obscured by shadows. The shots are framed so as to render bodies in fragments or bring out details in classic Japanese fabric patterns that European beholders cannot place.

Hanabusa has been a freelance photographer and member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society since 1973.

 

Masaaki Nakagawa (1943-2005) 'Selfportait, Against Wall of My Home' Nd

 

Masaaki Nakagawa (1943-2005)
Selfportait, Against Wall of My Home
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Masaaki Nakagawa

 

 

Masaaki Nakagawa

Masaaki Nakagawa completed his studies of Japanese literature at Kōnan University, Kōbe, in 1966. He then worked for various advertising agencies and created fashion shots and reportages for magazines. From 1969 until his death in 2005, he was a freelance photographer in Tokyo and taught at the Kuwasawa Design School.

Otto Breicha described Nakagawa as a storyteller and compared him to the American photographer Duane Michals, whose notion that “things are queer” seems to inform his Japanese colleague’s work as well. Created in series, Nakagawa’s sequences of pictures, rather than aiming for an obvious punch line, appear to move in circles. In the series Self-Portrait against Wall of My Home, the photographer’s shadow looms on the wall, as do things the title identifies as his possessions. Yet the pictures remain vague, almost ghostly, and it is not clear what the focus is on. In this respect, Nakagawa joins the ranks of those conceptual photographers who employ photography as a tool of pictorial analysis, scrutinising the medium’s intrinsic technical-visual potential.

Masaaki Nakagawa was one of the photographers who assisted Otto Breicha during his research in Japan in preparation for the exhibition Neue Fotografie aus Japan.

 

Issei Suda (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan) 'Untitled' 1975-76

 

Issei Suda (born 1940 Tokyo, Japan)
Untitled
1975-76
From the series Fûshi Kaden
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Issei Suda

 

 

Issei Suda

Issei Suda was trained at the Tokyo College of Photography, from which he graduated in 1962. From 1967 until 1970, he worked as a stage photographer for the avant-garde theater ensemble Tenjō Sajiki, which was led by the writer and filmmaker Shūji Terayama.

In the late 1960s, Suda and others opposed to the style championed by the magazine Provoke founded the group Kompora. The label is a typical Japanese compound, a contraction of the English terms “contemporary” and “photography.” The group’s key point of reference was Contemporary Photographers: Toward a Social Landscape, an exhibition held at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., in 1966. Their goal was to create lucid and accurate portrayals of everyday life in a clinical visual idiom. Despite the aspiration to cool objectivity, however, some of their pictures strike Western beholders as no less enigmatic and unsettling.

That is certainly the impression one gets from the works we present, a selection from the series Fûshi Kaden (1975-1976), which was published as a photobook – Suda’s first – by Asahi Sonorama in 1978. The series proposes a visual discourse on tradition and modernity. The enormous tension between Japan’s hyper-modern cities and the deep-rooted traditions lingering in rural areas is a theme that preoccupies Suda throughout his life. For Fûshi Kaden, he crisscrossed the country; many pictures were taken at the traditional festivals known as matsuri. The title is difficult to translate. It is a tribute to a theoretical disquisition on Nō theater penned in the early fifteenth century by one of its leading practitioners, the grand master Zeami Motokiyo. Sketching his vision of the beauty and style of drama, the author compares it to a flower that has not yet fully blossomed. But he also examines questions of inward perception and outward expression in theatrical performance. Issei Suda translates this vision into his mode of photography. The figures in his pictures sometimes seem to be involved in some kind of stage action and yet utterly unaware of it, as though only the photographer knew the director’s script.

Suda was a professor at the Osaka University of Arts and received the Domon Ken Award in 1997.

 

Shin Yanagisawa (1936-2008) 'Untitled' 1972

 

Shin Yanagisawa (1936-2008)
Untitled
1972
From the series In the Street, Toyama
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Estate of Shin Yanagisawa

 

 

Shin Yanagisawa

Shin Yanagisawa, who was born in Tokyo in 1936, was a member of the eminent generation of Japanese photographers who, in the 1960s and 1970s, saw contemporary life in their country with fresh eyes, discovering themes for photography that still inform how we imagine Japan between tradition and modernity. Yanagisawa studied at the Tokyo College of Photography in Shibuya and then worked as a freelance photographer.

He was interested in the changing face of the landscape and the raw reality of nature as well as the many facets of life in the big city. The series Traces of the City (1965-1970) reflects the worldview of an entire generation; as early as 1979, it was the subject of a solo presentation in Tokyo. Yanagisawa also contributed work to numerous group shows, including the famous 15 Photographers Exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art (1974), which featured work by Daidō Moriyama und Yutaka Takanashi as well.

The shots we present are a selection from the series In the Street (1972) and show a group of dancers and performers in costumes that would seem to fit in seamlessly with our vision of traditional Japanese culture. Upon closer inspection, however, dissonant notes creep in, especially when individuals turn to face the camera directly or a flashlight illuminates the situation. They reveal Yanagisawa’s presence as the photographer or, more properly, author of the picture. He has abandoned the position of the uninvolved observer, and although he is not visible in the picture as such, he becomes an active participant in the action before the camera. This approach may be regarded as characteristic of the principle of I-photography.

After concluding his active career as a photographer, Shin Yanagisawa wrote about various aspects of photography.

 

Shunji Ōkura (born 1936 Ushigome, Japan) 'Untitled' Nd

 

Shunji Ōkura (born 1936 Ushigome, Japan)
Untitled
Nd
Gelatin silver print on Baryte paper
Museum der Moderne Salzburg
© Shunji Ōkura

 

 

Shunji Ōkura

A grandson of the Japanese painter Kawai Gyokudō, Shunji Ōkura graduated from Dokkyo High School, Tokyo, in 1956. In 1958, he became an assistant to the photographer Akira Satō while also starting out as a freelance photographer, creating fashion shots for the magazines Fukuso, Wakai Josei, and So-en. Numerous photographs appeared in periodicals such as Camera Mainici, Hanashin No Tokushu, and Sunday Mainichi.

In the photographs in the Museum der Moderne Salzburg’s collection, Ōkura devotes himself to a classic subject of photography: the children’s portrait. These are situation-bound snapshots taken a playground; no posing was involved. It is interesting to note how the photographer embraces the way children see the world. Some parts of the scene are invisible in the low-angle shots or obscured by other objects, while Ōkura’s portraits suggest profound empathy; we feel we get a sense of these children’s fears and anxieties.

 

 

Museum der Moderne Rupertinum
Wiener-Philharmoniker-Gasse 9
5020 Salzburg
Phone: +43 662 84 22 20-451

Opening hours:
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Wednesday: 10 am-8 pm
Monday: closed

Museum der Moderne Salzburg website

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30
Jan
15

Exhibition: ‘Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals’ at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

Exhibition dates: 1st November 2014 – 16th February 2015

 

Exposing your/self

.
Viva Michals! Viva Michals!

Magician, poet, storyteller, philosopher and dreamer.

Not for him the overblown statement (huge prints the size of billboards) but small, dark, rough prints assembled in photo-sequences, often incorporating text, that examine the human condition in every aspect. This is emotional work and Michals has a unique style and voice as an artist. You always know that you are looking at a sequence by Michals, for his signature is that distinctive.

As he says, his work goes beyond description, beyond surfaces, to reveal the subject – not as it looks but as it feels. In his sequences he usually achieves this by posing a question that has no answer, a question that is like a Zen koan…. what is the sound of one hand clapping? The grandfather ascends smilingly to heaven with little wings on his back as the child waves goodbye (if youth knew, if age could); the man as human condition turns into a galaxy; and the spirit leaves the body as it was left before.

Various Michals sequences, such as The Spirit Leaves The Body (1968, below), have a circular construction. Another sequence, Things are Queer (1973, below) is also a circular spatio-temporal enigma where instead of moving forward, the camera and the viewer are pulled backwards in a space-time continuum… where Michals forces you to question what reality really is. These two sequences are my personal favourites, and I had to scour the internet to find images for them as you rarely see them online.

His most famous sequence, the one that you see most often, is Chance Meeting (1970, below) – again an open-ended, intimate but puzzling encounter with a reflection of the self. Michals sequences are full of ghosts, uncommon intimacies, nubile females and delicious males (Michals is gay and has just celebrated his 54th anniversary with his partner). Dealing “with topics such as death, desire, and the passage of time” his work peers inward to examine “his own thoughts and dreams, to blur the lines between photography and philosophy.”

All is not sunshine and light, and I feel that there is a nebulous, obsidian energy hovering not too far below the surface. The photographs have high contrast and the subjects are very closely framed, giving the sequences an almost claustrophobic quality, as though you are having the life, the energy gently yet forcibly manipulated around you. The photographs rarely breathe freely and you feel as though you are almost trapped within their spaces.

Then there is the text. Never used to excess in the sequences (the title does that job alone), the singular images are extended into a longer narrative by biting, poignant words – sentences that utter harsh truths and tell it how it really is. I can’t look at that image, and read that text, from A Letter from My Father (1960/1975, below) without thinking of my abusive father and wondering what happened to his love – whether he hadn’t hidden it, he just didn’t have any to start with. For any child in an adult who has been abused, this image cuts to the bone.

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Michals staged, narrative scenes take us on a journey into his reality, one which “has entered a realm beyond observation.” He poses difficult questions that force us to examine ideas beyond the world of phenomena, beyond the world of surfaces. He challenges our repressed inner lives and our idealised image of ourselves, disturbing the boundaries of personality, ego, and identity.1 He wrestles with Sartre’s noumenal world (the world of the subconscious, dreams), the “being-in-itself” or sometimes simply “the in-itself,” as Sartre calls it (what Kant called the noumenal world), where Sartre does not see man comfortably installed in the world.

“All of us, says Sartre, have a “pre-ontological comprehension” of being-in-itself, that is to say, an opaque, inarticulate, but very real sense of its presence and nature. The world is but a “varnish” on the surface of the being-in-itself; or, changing the metaphor, the world is but a “thin crust” of meaning which we impose upon being-in-itself. Ordinarily this thin crust of meaning conceals the in-itself and obscures our awareness of it, but the anguish of being is always there just below the surface of daily consciousness, and from time to time it breaks through to the surface, presenting being-in-itself without disguise.”2

This is what Michals attunes himself to, an examination of the in-itself, one that impacts on our internal poetic understandings of space and time. In his malleable daydreams Michals proffers a ‘releasement toward things’, the glimpsing of a coexistence between a conscious and unconscious way of perceiving which enables the seeing of the ‘Thing Itself’. As Heidegger observes, 

“We stand at once within the realm of that which hides itself from us, and hides itself just in approaching us. That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the mystery… Releasement towards things and openness to the mystery belong together. They grant us the possibility of dwelling in the world in a totally different way…”3

It is Michals great skill as an artist and a human being that enables us the possibility of accessing some aspect of the mystery of our existence.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

1. As discussed in Magee, Bryan. Confessions of a Philosopher. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1997, p. 405-406

2. Olsen, Robert. An Introduction to Existentialism. Dover Publications, New York, 1962, p. 39

3. Heidegger, Martin. Discourse on Thinking. New York: Harper & Row, 1966, pp. 55-56 quoted in Baracco, Mauro. “Completed Yet Unconcluded: The Poetic Resistance of Some Melbourne Architecture,” in van Schaik, Leon (ed.,). Architectural Design Vol. 72, No. 2 (‘Poetics in Architecture’). London: John Wiley and Sons, 2002, p. 74. Footnote 6.

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

 

 

“Who gives a fuck about what he had for breakfast? These are stylistic ticks. The digital has changed the paradigms of photography. I had an opening in Boston and this woman had a little camera with her and kept exclaiming, ‘Everything is a photograph!’ That’s the problem. The bar has been lowered so much in photography now…”

.
“Photographers tend not to photograph what they can’t see, which is the very reason one should try to attempt it. Otherwise we’re going to go on forever just photographing more faces and more rooms and more places. Photography has to transcend description. It has to go beyond description to bring insight into the subject, or reveal the subject, not as it looks, but how does it feel?”

.
“I don’t trust reality. So all of the writing on and painting on the photographs is born out of the frustration to express what you do not see.”

.
Duane Michals

 

 

Duane Michals. 'Cavafy Cheats Playing Strip Poker' 2004

 

Duane Michals
Cavafy Cheats Playing Strip Poker
2004
12 Gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
5″ x 7″ each

 

This series of photographs was inspired by the poem The Windows by Constantine Cavafy

In these dark rooms where I live out empty days,

I wander round and round trying to find the windows.

But the windows are not to be found –
or at least I can’t find them.
And perhaps
it is better that way.

Perhaps the light will prove another tyranny.

Who knows what new things it will expose?

 

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

Duane Michals. 'Chance Meeting' 1970

 

Duane Michals
Chance Meeting
1970
Six gelatin silver prints
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

 

Duane Michals
Things are Queer
1973
Nine gelatin silver prints
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

Duane Michals. 'Grandpa Goes to Heaven' 1989

 

Duane Michals
Grandpa Goes to Heaven
1989
Five gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC

 

 

“The best part of us is not what we see, it’s what we feel. We are what we feel. We are not what we look at… We’re not our eyeballs, we’re our mind. People believe their eyeballs and they’re totally wrong… That’s why I consider most photographs extremely boring – just like Muzak, inoffensive, charming, another waterfall, another sunset. This time, colors have been added to protect the innocent. It’s just boring. But that whole arena of one’s experience – grief, loneliness – how do you photograph lust? I mean, how do you deal with these things? This is what you are, not what you see. It’s all sitting up here. I could do all my work sitting in my room. I don’t have to go anywhere.”

.
Duane Michals

 

 

“Opening November 1, 2014, at Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA), Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals is the definitive retrospective and the largest-ever presentation of this innovative artist’s work. Drawing from select loans and the museum’s holdings, which constitute the largest single collection of Michals’s output, and spanning six decades, the works in Storyteller include classic sequences from the early 1970s as well as rarely seen images from later in his career.

Born in 1932 and raised in a steelworker family in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Michals broke away from established traditions of documentary and fine art photography in the 1960s when he added handwritten messages and poems to prints, produced multi-image narrative sequences, and experimented with double- and triple-exposures. His work was poignant and unabashedly sentimental, flying in the face of the dominant photographic aesthetics of the time.

Storyteller unfolds in thematic groupings that range from portraiture to meditations on the mind’s interior world; from childhood and imagination to desire and death. Michals’s love of two very different cities, Pittsburgh and Paris, is evident in sections exploring the beauty, quirks, and particularities of these places. He has riffed on, critiqued, and crossed paths with countless artists, including René Magritte, Cindy Sherman, Joseph Cornell, Robert Frank, Andreas Gursky, Andy Warhol, and others, and a section of the exhibition brings to light the admiration and acerbic wit in Michals’s engagements with other creative minds.

“The exhibition is designed to acquaint the visitor with the many themes that Michals explored over more than half a century,” says curator of photography Linda Benedict-Jones. “Well known sequences such as Paradise Regained and Chance Meeting greet the viewer first, followed by engaging and sometimes surprising Children’s Stories. A section called The Mind’s Eye shows Michals’s absorption with photographing things that cannot actually be seen, such as A Man Going to Heaven or The Human Condition. We could not present Storyteller chronologically, because Michals revisits themes often. One theme, Painted Expression, shows how, in two distinct periods of his life – in the early 1980s and again in 2012 – Michals has picked up a brush to apply oil paint to both black-and-white photographic prints as well as most recently to 19th century tintypes, resulting in unique, one-of-a-kind photographic works. His creative energy is boundless and readily apparent when seen in a large retrospective display.”

“I’m a storyteller,” he often states as he begins a talk in public – equally interested in the moments before and after the “decisive moment” (a term coined by famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson). “When I began to do sequences, it wasn’t because I thought it was cool and the latest thing. I did it out of frustration with the still photograph.” He has observed that his practice aims to transcend mere appearances: “I’m not interested in what something looks like, I want to know what it feels like… My reality has entered a realm beyond observation.” This approach can be seen throughout his career, from early, carefully staged sequences, to hand-painted gelatin silver prints and tintypes, revealing the artist’s hand at work long after the image is captured.

According to curator of photography Linda Benedict-Jones, who organized Storyteller, “Duane Michals is a sensitive and provocative artist who has followed his own unique path. His way of staging narrative scenes, then recording them with a 35mm camera, represented a fresh approach to the medium. This, combined with an uncommon intimacy when dealing with topics such as death, desire, and the passage of time, set him apart as an image-maker.”

Storyteller also touches upon Michals’s extensive portfolio of commercial photography and portraiture, which spans several decades, and includes assignments for Neiman Marcus, Esquire, Vogue, and Gap, as well as commissioned portraits of such figures as Nancy Reagan, Sting, and Willem de Kooning.

CMOA, a fixture in Michals’s artistic upbringing, has acquired 139 of his works, ranging from his earliest images made in Russia in 1958 to hand-painted tintypes that he began creating in 2012. Michals, in turn, has always felt an attachment to Pittsburgh, a subject of many of his photographs, and of two books, the sequence The House I Once Called Home (2003) and poetry collection A Pittsburgh Poem (2013). Lending institutions to Storyteller include Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), Musée des Beaux Arts (Montreal), High Museum of Art (Atlanta), and Museum of Modern Art (New York). Even longtime admirers of the artist may be unfamiliar with several of his bodies of work, and an examination of this full range is long overdue: while Michals has been championed in several solo exhibitions throughout Europe in the past decade, this is his first major museum exhibition in North America since 1998.

Storyteller also touches upon Michals’s extensive portfolio of commercial photography and portraiture, which spans several decades, and includes assignments for Neiman Marcus, Esquire, Vogue, and Gap, as well as commissioned portraits of such figures as Nancy Reagan, Sting, and Willem de Kooning.

Presented alongside Storyteller will be the exhibition Duane Michals: Collector, which highlights works from Michals’s private art collection that are promised gifts to the museum. The eclectic array of objects, ranging from 1799 to 1999, and from Francisco de Goya to André Kertész to Mark Tansey, will be united by Michals’s unique take on the artists, the artworks, and their influence on his own practice. Organized by associate curator of fine arts Amanda Zehnder, Duane Michals: Collector will further contextualize his work from an unusually personal perspective.

Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals represents a refreshing, much-needed reexamination of a historically significant photographer. Michals’s pioneering photography infused the medium with a personal, critical approach that translates universally. In an art world that feels at times jaded and detached, his images retain the same moving, affecting impact that they commanded decades ago.”

Press release from the Carnegie Museum of Art

 

 

Internationally-renowned photographer Duane Michals discusses his eight-decade life and career as a self-described “expressionist.” His work is known for its innovative narrative sequencing and iconic use of text and image. During a period when photography looked out to the world around us, Michals redefined the medium by peering inward to his own thoughts and dreams to blur the lines between photography and philosophy.

 

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

 

Duane Michals
The Spirit Leaves The Body
1968
Seven gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

Duane Michals. 'The Young Girl’s Dream' 1969

 

Duane Michals
The Young Girl’s Dream
1969
Five gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'A Letter from My Father' 1960/1975

 

Duane Michals
A Letter from My Father
1960/1975
Gelatin silver print with hand-applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Magritte with Hat' 1965

 

Duane Michals
Magritte with Hat
1965
Gelatin silver print with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Magritte with Hat' 1965 (detail)

 

Duane Michals
Magritte with Hat (detail)
1965
Gelatin silver print with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'This Photograph Is My Proof' 1967

 

Duane Michals
This Photograph Is My Proof
1967
Gelatin silver print with hand-applied text
The Henry L. Hillman Fund, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Young Soldiers Dream in the Garden of the Dead with Flowers Growing from Their Heads' 1995

 

Duane Michals
Young Soldiers Dream in the Garden of the Dead with Flowers Growing from Their Heads
1995
From the series Salute, Walt Whitman
Gelatin silver print
The Henry L. Hillman Fund
Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

 

Lewis Wickes Hine. 'Two 7-Year-Old Nashville Newsies, Profane and Smart, Selling Sunday' 1910

 

Lewis Wickes Hine
Two 7-Year-Old Nashville Newsies, Profane and Smart, Selling Sunday
1910
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Duane Michals
Courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art

 

Duane Michals. 'The Human Condition' 1969

 

Duane Michals
The Human Condition
1969
Six gelatin silver prints with hand applied text
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

Duane Michals. 'Rigamarole' 2012

 

Duane Michals
Rigamarole
2012
Tintype with oil paint
The William T. Hillman Fund for Photography
Carnegie Museum of Art,Pittsburgh
Courtesy of the Artist and DC Moore Gallery

 

 

Carnegie Museum of Art
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

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

Carnegie Museum of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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