Posts Tagged ‘Urban Landscapes

17
Nov
17

Exhibition: ‘Wayne Sorce: Urban Color’ at Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, California

Exhibition dates: 21st October – 30th November 2017

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Vinegar Hill, New York' 1985

 

Wayne Sorce
Vinegar Hill, New York
1985
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

 

These remind me very strongly of the 1970s urban Americana colour work of Stephen Shore. Most of them are successful, well seen, well photographed colour images that evince a certain period in the American cultural landscape.

When they work – as in the formal Vinegar Hill, New York (1985, above) or the more abstract Vinegar Hill, New York (1985, below); the colourful, planar Varick Street, New York (1984); the duo-chromatic L.B. Oil, New York (1984); the magnificently shadowed, geometric Halsted Street, Chicago (1978); and my particular favourite (because of the light), Under the EL, Chicago (1978) – they work superbly. When they don’t work – as in Blankets, New York (1986) or Barbers, New York (1985) – they feel a bit flat.

It’s so hard to put a body of photographs together where each image is strong (but not necessarily the same) as the next and they form a holistic group. Most photographers can put together four images well enough, but the skill is to be able to narrativise a larger body of work, and then do that over a longer period of time. I believe that over the lifetime of a photographic artist, you can count on the fingers of two hands the truly memorable images they will make, if they are lucky. Other images are valuable in their own right…. while others should be quietly singed.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Mike and 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.

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Vinegar Hil, New York' 1985

 

Wayne Sorce
Vinegar Hill, New York
1985
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Varick Street, New York' 1984

 

Wayne Sorce
Varick Street, New York
1984
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Halsted Street, Chicago' 1978

 

Wayne Sorce
Halsted Street, Chicago
1978
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'L.B. Oil, New York' 1984

 

Wayne Sorce
L.B. Oil, New York
1984
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Spiral Fire Escape, Chicago' 1975

 

Wayne Sorce
Spiral Fire Escape, Chicago
1975
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'No Left, Vinegar Hill' 1988

 

Wayne Sorce
No Left, Vinegar Hill
1988
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Dave's Restaurant, New York' 1984

 

Wayne Sorce
Dave’s Restaurant, New York
1984
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'El Platform, Chicago' 1978

 

Wayne Sorce
EL Platform, Chicago
1978
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Bee Gee's, New York' 1984

 

Wayne Sorce
Bee Gee’s, New York
1984
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Fort Dearborn Coffee, Chicago' 1977

 

Wayne Sorce
Fort Dearborn Coffee, Chicago
1977
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'East Chicago' 1977

 

Wayne Sorce
East Chicago
1977
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Chock Full of Nuts, New York' 1984

 

Wayne Sorce
Chock Full of Nuts, New York
1984
Digital chromogenic print
20 x 24 inches

 

 

Joseph Bellows Gallery is pleased to announce its upcoming solo exhibition,Wayne Sorce: Urban Color. The exhibition will open on October 21st and continue through November 30th, 2017. In conjunction with Sorce’s exhibition will be a group show relating to the city as subject.

Urban Color will present a remarkable selection Sorce’s large-scale colour photographs of urban environments taken in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s in both Chicago and New York City. His urban landscapes describe with a formal exactitude, the light, structures, and palette of these cities within a certain era. For Sorce, the urban landscape is both still and transitory; people appear in the photographs as both inhabitants of the city, as well as sculptural forms relating to a larger composed scene.

Sorce’s photographs are held within the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the George Eastman Museum, the Armand Hammer Museum of Art, National Museum of American Art, at the Smithsonian Institution, and the Museum of Modern Art. Complementing Sorce’s exhibition will be a collection of photographs by his contemporaries that describe the city as subject. Work by Bob Thall, George Tice, Bevan Davies, Grant Mudford, and others will be included.

Press release from the Joseph Bellows Gallery

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Under the EL, Chicago' 1978

 

Wayne Sorce
Under the EL, Chicago
1978
Digital chromogenic print
24 x 20 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Blankets, New York' 1986

 

Wayne Sorce
Blankets, New York
1986
Digital chromogenic print
24 x 20 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Barbers, New York' 1985

 

Wayne Sorce
Barbers, New York
1985
Digital chromogenic print
24 x 20 inches

 

Wayne Sorce. 'Greyhound Station' c. 1970's

 

Wayne Sorce
Greyhound Station
c. 1970’s
Digital chromogenic print
24 x 20 inches

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 5pm, and Saturday by appointment

Joseph Bellows Gallery website

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21
Oct
16

Exhibition: ‘George Tice: Urban Landscapes’ at the Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, California

Exhibition dates: 10th September – 28th October 2016

 

An American iconography

George Tice is a master photographer and an exceptional artist. Using a large format 8 x 10 camera this craftsman has created a “deeply-penetrating” photographic record of the American urban landscape, mainly based around the city of New Jersey where he has lived for most of his life.

Tice’s ongoing epic visual poem is at its strongest in his early period, from 1973-74. While his later 1990s work is qualified by simplified imagery and semiotic statements (for example Dorn’s Photoshop, Red Bank, NJ, 1999 and Lakewood Manor Motel, Lakewood, NJ, 1998, below) it is this early work that produces “attentive and quotidian descriptions of the everyday structures and places that define the American cultural landscape.” There seems to be a greater personal investment in these earlier images. Tice’s recognition of subject matter that mere mortals pass by is translated into beautiful, serene, tonal and dare I say, sensual images, that belie the complexity of their previsualisation. You only have to look at two images, Houses and Water Towers, Moorestown, NJ, 1973 and Hudson’s Fish Market, Atlantic City, NJ, 1973 (below) to understand that these photographs are visually complex, slightly surreal, affectionate images of places he personally knows so well. They possess a totally different feeling from the conceptual photography of the German school of Bernd and Hilla Becher. As Sanford Schwartz in The New York Times, on December 3, 1972 noted: “Tice’s pictures… show a remarkable blend of intimacy, affection and clear-sightedness.”

The almost tragic, objective renditions of a post-industrial landscape evidence a poetic intensity that has deep roots in the history of photography. Vivien Raynor, writing in The New York Times, said, “Finding precedents for Mr. Tice’s photography is easier than defining the personal qualities that make it so special. As others have remarked, his tranquil towns, usually deserted, could sometimes be those of Walker Evans updated; his industrial views are not unrelated to Charles Sheeler’s, and, for good measure, the stillness and silence of his compositions link him to Atget, the first great urban reporter.” Tice builds upon the lineage of other great artists but then, as any good artist should, he forges his own path, not reliant on the signature of others. As he himself observes, “… if you learn to see what photography is through one person’s eyes you become fixed in that one way of seeing.”

When I first started taking photographs in 1990, my heroes were Atget, Strand, Evans and Minor White. Looking at art, and looking at photographers, trained my eye. But as an artist, looking at the world is the most valuable education that you can have, for eventually you have to forge your own style, not copy someone else … and the signature that you create becomes your own. You know it’s a Mapplethorpe, just as you know it’s an Evans, or a Tice. Each piece of handwriting is unique. Nobody can teach that and it only comes with time and experience. As Paul Strand said, it takes 10 years to become an artist, 10 years to learn your craft, 10 years to drop ego away and find your own style. This is what the work of George Tice speaks to. He approaches the world with a clear mind, focused on a objective narrative that flips! exposing us (like his film), to a subjective, visceral charm all of his own making.

Marcus

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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.

 

 

“As I progressed further with my project, it became obvious that it was really unimportant where I chose to photograph. The particular place simply provided an excuse to produce work… you can only see what you are ready to see – what mirrors your mind at that particular time.”

“Documenting the place is principally what I do. The bulk of my photographs are of New Jersey. It may have been a subject series, like ice or aquatic plants, that could have been anywhere, but it was done in New Jersey. Most of my pictures are about place. I would say the Urban Landscape work is what is most distinctive about me.”

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George Tice

 

 

George Tice. 'Jimmy's Bar and Grill and Conmar Zipper Company, Newark, NJ, 1973' 1973

 

George Tice
Jimmy’s Bar and Grill and Conmar Zipper Company, Newark, NJ, 1973
1973
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Houses and Water Towers, Moorestown, NJ, 1973' 1973

 

George Tice
Houses and Water Towers, Moorestown, NJ, 1973
1973
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Hudson's Fish Market, Atlantic City, NJ, 1973' 1973

 

George Tice
Hudson’s Fish Market, Atlantic City, NJ, 1973
1973
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Dorn's Photoshop, Red Bank, NJ, 1999' 1999

 

George Tice
Dorn’s Photoshop, Red Bank, NJ, 1999
1999
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Lexington Avenue, Passaic, NJ, 1973' 1973

 

George Tice
Lexington Avenue, Passaic, NJ, 1973
1973
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Palace Funhouse, Asbury Park, 1995' 1995

 

George Tice
Palace Funhouse, Asbury Park, 1995
1995
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Railroad Bridge, High Bridge, NJ, 1974' 1974

 

George Tice
Railroad Bridge, High Bridge, NJ, 1974
1974
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Route #440 Overpass, Perth Amboy, 1973' 1973

 

George Tice
Route #440 Overpass, Perth Amboy, 1973
1973
Silver gelatin print

 

 

“Joseph Bellows Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of photographs by one of the medium’s master photographers, George Tice. George Tice: Urban Landscapes will open with a book signing and reception with the artist on Saturday September, 10th from 6-8pm. The exhibition will continue through October 28th, 2016.

The exhibition will present a remarkable selection of forty exceptionally rare vintage 8 x 10 inch gelatin silver contact prints from the early period (1973-74), of Tice’s ongoing epic visual poem of his native state of New Jersey. These unique vintage prints will be punctuated with larger photographs of some of artist’s most revered and significant images, as well as selections of more recent work from his extended New Jersey portrait.

Renowned for their attentive and quotidian descriptions of the everyday structures and places that define the American cultural landscape, Tice’s exquisitely printed photographs catalog a rich and layered journey that is both personal and universal. In the photographs that comprise Urban Landscapes, Tice defines a sense of America within a tradition rooted in the work of other American masters, namely Edward Hopper and Walker Evans. Tice’s photographs of New Jersey in the early to mid 1970’s describe a particular time and place; however, as the artist states, “It takes the passage of time before an image of a commonplace subject can be assessed. The great difficulty of what I attempt is seeing beyond the moment; the everydayness of life gets in the way of the eternal.” Now, with decades past, Tice’s observations have become even more poignant depictions, everlasting a specific era and landscape, as the artist intended.

As well as being one of the 20th Century’s most prominent photographers, Tice is revered as a master printer, having printed limited-edition portfolios of some of his favorite photographers, among them Edward Steichen, Edward Weston and Frederick H. Evans, as well as other important photographers including Francis Bruguiere, Ralph Steiner and Lewis Hine.”

Press release from the Joseph Bellows Gallery

 

George Tice. 'Tenement Rooftops, Hoboken, NJ, 1974' 1974

 

George Tice
Tenement Rooftops, Hoboken, NJ, 1974
1974
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Steve's Diner, Route 130, North Brunswick, 1974' 1974

 

George Tice
Steve’s Diner, Route 130, North Brunswick, 1974
1974
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Ideal Diner, Perth Amboy, NJ, 1980' 1980

 

George Tice
Ideal Diner, Perth Amboy, NJ, 1980
1980
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'White Castle, Route #1, Rahway, NJ, 1973' 1973

 

George Tice
White Castle, Route #1, Rahway, NJ, 1973
1973
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Strand Theater, Keyport, NJ, 1973' 1973

 

George Tice
Strand Theater, Keyport, NJ, 1973
1973
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Industrial Landscape, Kearny, NJ, 1973' 1973

 

George Tice
Industrial Landscape, Kearny, NJ, 1973
1973
Silver gelatin print

 

 

George Tice in conversation with Paul Caponigro

JPC You had said, “After a time you don’t want to have any photographic influences. It’s okay to be influenced by writers, poets, people in other fields but not okay by other photographers.”

GT You don’t want to be like anyone else. Like all those people who were influenced by Ansel Adams. I don’t think any of them will do better than he did.

JPC Not until they find their own voice. It’s impossible to successfully imitate someone else’s voice.

GT Right. And the natural landscape of the west, that’s not going to be better in the future, as the population increases and much of the wilderness gets erased. Timothy O’Sullivan probably had a better chance at it than Ansel Adams did. But you don’t want anyone to be too great an influence, like an apprenticeship. If I was to begin photography, study it, I wouldn’t want one teacher. I think one teacher is too great an influence. I’d rather have an education based on workshops. You draw some knowledge through every one of them. But if you learn to see what photography is through one person’s eyes you become fixed in that one way of seeing.

George Tice Conversations on the John Paul Caponigro “Illuminating Creativity” web page 07/01/1997 [Online] Cited 09/10/2016

 

George Tice. 'Jahos Brothers Clothing Store, Trenton, NJ, 1973' 1973

 

George Tice
Jahos Brothers Clothing Store, Trenton, NJ, 1973
1973
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Minnie's Go-Go, Route 130, Merchantville, 1975' 1975

 

George Tice
Minnie’s Go-Go, Route 130, Merchantville, 1975
1975
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Lakewood Manor Motel, Lakewood, NJ, 1998' 1998

 

George Tice
Lakewood Manor Motel, Lakewood, NJ, 1998
1998
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Esso Station and Tenement House, Hoboken, NJ, 1972' 1972

 

George Tice
Esso Station and Tenement House, Hoboken, NJ, 1972
1972
Silver gelatin print

 

George Tice. 'Telephone Booth, 3 am, Railway, NJ, 1974' 1974

 

George Tice
Telephone Booth, 3 am, Railway, NJ, 1974
1974
Silver gelatin print

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 5pm, and Saturday by appointment

Joseph Bellows Gallery website

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28
Mar
12

Exhibition: ‘Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story’ at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Exhibition dates:  29th October 2011 – 7th April 2012

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What an astonishing photographer this man was. These photographs are a revelation. African American artist Charles “Teenie” Harris, captured “the essence of daily African-American life in the 20th century. For more than 40 years, Harris – as lead photographer of the influential Pittsburgh Courier newspaper – took almost 80,000 pictures of people from all walks: presidents, housewives, sports stars, babies, civil rights leaders and even cross-dressing drag queens.”

While Harris is most famous for depicting an innovative and thriving black urban community – daily life in Pittsburgh’s Hill District – it is the less figurative, more abstract urban landscape work that I am interested in here. Hence I have put four outstanding photographs that I picked out from the Archive at the top of the posting.

Earlier photographs of the city from the 1940s, such as Large two story home with attic, porch, double entryway, and yard, with young child on steps alone, next to smaller two story home with porches on both stories (c. 1940-45, below) have a touch of Walker Evans about them. Note how in this photograph the eve of the large two story home roof touches the top of the negative (allowing an exit for the eye at the top of the image), beautifully balanced on the left-hand side by the intrusion of the roof of another out of frame building and its shadow cast on the ground. The spatial separation between this roof and the porch of the smaller two story home is critical, as is the punctum of the child standing on the stoop. There are beautiful spaces in this photograph, as the eye plays across its surface, taking in form and detail, light and shade, eventually escaping down the right hand side of the building to the sky beyond.

It is only when we get to the 1950s that Harris really seems to hit his straps in these photographs of the urban landscape. Personally, I can’t remember any other photographs like them. By this time he has developed his own signature, his own voice. And what a voice it is!

In the three remaining photographs at the top of the posting there is a conciseness to his vision of the world, a spatial spareness, even sparseness that is very eloquent. In Construction site with bulldozer (c. 1954, below), possibly a photograph of the site of Belmar Gardens, Pittsburgh’s first black-owned housing cooperative, the landscape is shot from below up a slight incline, bookended with raised bank at left and car at right framing the image plane and holding it together. But it is the space around the central figures as they look off into the distance that is so magical – the blackened, textural ground playing off the cloudless sky with single tree at left. That space in the foreground, between the bottom of the image and the figures is tensioned so well with the distance between the figures and the top edge of the negative: Harris has an intimate understanding of what he wants to achieve in this image – spatially and narratively. The hope of the future.

The same can be said for Three story brick row houses with mansard roofs (c. 1958, below). Again, there is a spareness to his rendition of space and a complexity to his imaging of tone. It is almost like there is a dividing line between night and day, between the city in snow and the city in darkness, the ying yang of existence. Observe the light car is in darkness and the dark car in light; the dark trees, the light telegraph post; the space between the cars which no car could ever fit through; and the smallness of the child walking down the street. Incredible. Again, there is a openness to Harris’ rendition of space in Young men playing sandlot baseball with steel mill in background (c. 1955, below). Let your eyes soak in the open sky; the verticals of dark chimneys, left and light chimneys, right; the building at left perched atop the embankment; the composition of the figures across the middle of the image, reminiscent of a piece of music; the open space of the baseball sandlot at the bottom of the photograph with faint white line delineation and figure at right holding up the edge of the image. This is a master at work.

In this mature style, Harris has no need to fill space with an urban mass or congeries. These are spaces that matter, spaces of matter but these spaces are not empty, negative spaces, but active, fluid spaces, the space of possibilities. He understands what he wants to say so well, he is so confident of his previsualisation of the urban spaces of the city they become uniquely his own – open, engaging, optimistic. This is his voice, his gift, his legacy to the world – for me, not so much the portraits of Afro-American culture, but the spaces of the city as a metaphor for change within that culture. His reading of the landscape is his unique field of vision: in the stillness of these photographs time no longer passes, for the author and for the viewer. His images transcend place and, as such, like Atget before him, he deserves to be recognised as an artist who captured a changing world. Further research on this aspect of his art would seem appropriate.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Download the Book: Teenie Harris Photographer: Image, Memory, History (15.44Mb pdf) by Cheryl Finley, Laurence Glasco, and Joe Trotter with an introduction by Deborah Willis. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011.

I am most grateful to Tey Stiteler for allowing me to pick the photographs I wanted for this posting. This help was crucial as I wanted to talk about the less figurative work in the Teenie Harris Archive. Many thankx to the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Teenie Harris Archive for allowing me to publish the photographs and book pdf in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Teenie Harris
Construction site with bulldozer, two men, including one in front holding child, large tank with hose, and car on right, possibly in construction site of Belmar Gardens
c. 1954
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Three story brick row houses with mansard roofs, and small child on sidewalk of tree lined street with automobiles
c. 1958
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Young men playing sandlot baseball with steel mill in background
c. 1955
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Large two story home with attic, porch, double entryway, and yard, with young child on steps alone, next to smaller two story home with porches on both stories
c. 1940-1945
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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“Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story, the first major retrospective exhibition of the work and legacy of African American artist Charles “Teenie” Harris, will be on view at Carnegie Museum of Art from October 29, 2011, to April 7, 2012.

The groundbreaking exhibition will celebrate the artist/photographer whose work is considered one of the most complete portraits anywhere of 20th-century African American experience. Large-scale, themed photographic projections of nearly 1,000 of Teenie Harris’s greatest images accompanied by an original jazz soundtrack will generate an immersive experience in the exhibition’s opening gallery. Subsequent galleries will present a chronological display of these photographs at a conventional scale, and give visitor access to the more than 73,000 catalogued and digitized images in the museum’s Teenie Harris Archive. The exhibition will offer an examination of Harris’s working process and artistry, and audio commentary on the man and his work by the people who knew him. In addition, the photographs and many of these materials will be accessible on Carnegie Museum of Art’s website.

“Since 2001, our museum has been the repository of the Teenie Harris Archive. This exhibition marks the culmination of a long effort to preserve and document an extensive collection of historically and artistically important images,” says Lynn Zelevansky, The Henry J. Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art. “We are honored to present this retrospective of a photographer whose body of work gives so much to us.”

During his 40-year career as freelance and staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the nation’s most influential black newspapers, Teenie Harris (1908 – 1998) produced more than 80,000 images of Pittsburgh’s African American community. The photographs, taken from the 1930s to the 1970s, capture a period of momentous change for black Americans. His subjects ranged from the everyday lives of ordinary people to visits by powerful and glamorous national figures to Pittsburgh, the nation’s industrial center. From birthday celebrations to civil rights boycotts, the distinctive vision of Harris’s photographs folds into the larger narrative of American history, art, and culture.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris

Teenie Harris grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, a neighborhood once called “the crossroads of the world.” A serious photographer from the age of 18, he started his professional photographic career in 1937 when he opened a studio and began to take on freelance assignments. In 1941, Harris was appointed staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, the nation’s preeminent black newsweekly. His images were disseminated nationally through the Courier, and played a key role in how African Americans visualized themselves.

Like the Scurlock Studio in Washington, DC, James Van Der Zee in New York, and P. H. Polk in Alabama, Harris depicted an innovative and thriving black urban community, in spite of the segregationist policies and attitudes of mid-century America. His images captured daily life in the Hill – weddings, funerals, family portraits, parades, church events, street scenes, graduations – as well as of the great men and women who visited the neighborhood, including Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Robeson, John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lena Horne, and Muhammad Ali. Some of the country’s finest jazz musicians – Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Ahmad Jamal, Sarah Vaughan, and Duke Ellington – were photographed by Harris alongside bartenders, waitresses, and dancing crowds.

The longevity of Harris’s career offers an outlook on historic shifts that took place in the lives of African Americans everywhere. In the era of segregated baseball, for example, Harris photographed two legendary Negro League baseball teams, the Pittsburgh Crawfords (which Harris cofounded in the mid-1920s) and Homestead Grays. Later, when baseball’s color barrier was broken, he photographed African American major league baseball players like Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente along with their teammates. The pride and optimism evident in Harris’s photos of the Double V campaign from the World War II era (victory abroad, victory for racial equality at home), turned to growing moods of frustration and anger evident in images of militant protests in the late 1950s and 1960s. These photographs provide important insights to issues that are still pertinent today.

“Teenie Harris had great empathy with his subjects and a talent for storytelling,” says Lippincott. “His images transcend place. Powerful and personal, they connect today’s viewers with a proud past and a vibrant artistic and cultural heritage. We hope that through this retrospective and traveling exhibition, Harris will be established in the canons of art, history, and photography.”

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About the Exhibition

Nearly 1,000 of Harris’s most striking and iconic photographs will be digitally projected as life-sized images in the opening gallery. The images, organized into seven sections – “Crossroads,” “Gatherings,” “Urban Landscapes,” “Style,” “At Home,” “The Rise and Fall of the Crawford Grill,” and “Words and Signs” – will be synchronized with an original jazz score produced by MCG Jazz, one of the nation’s top organizations dedicated to the preservation, presentation, and promotion of jazz music. A second gallery will feature a chronological installation of small prints of the projected images that will include a referencing system for in-depth exploration of each photograph through a bank of computers and books also located in the gallery. In addition, the computers will provide access to the interactive website that has been created for the show.

At the entrance to the third gallery, a mini exhibition of 12 fine-art-quality 16 x 20″ prints selected by 12 experts will be accompanied by their personal analyses of the meaning, significance, and beauty of the chosen images. This gallery will also feature a large-scale map showing the places Harris lived, worked, and photographed and a multimedia presentation called “Artist at Work” that demonstrates Harris’s technical skill and artistic vision, and shows how newspapers and publishers cropped and edited his work in order to tell a particular story. “Artist at Work” marries audio recordings of the stories and memories of Teenie Harris, as told by his family, friends, colleagues, and models, with a montage of projected images relating to their tales.

In addition to an exhibition-specific website, the museum is collaborating with the University of Pittsburgh Press on an illustrated book offering new and unpublished scholarship about Harris, his work, and his times that will impact the fields of American and African American art, culture, and history.

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About the Teenie Harris Archive

In 2001, Carnegie Museum of Art acquired the Teenie Harris archive from the Harris family and began a multiyear project to preserve, catalogue, digitize, and make the images available on the museum’s website for public view. Few of Harris’s negatives were titled and dated; since the acquisition of the archive, the museum has invited the public to help in the identification of the people, places, and activities in the photographs through a series of museum-based displays of his work, outreach presentations, meetings with oral historians, and online response forms that accompany the continually growing display of images on the museum’s website.

The Teenie Harris Archive Project is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which designated the archive a “We the People” project in the spring of 2007. “We the People” is an initiative to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture. Initial support for the Teenie Harris Archive Project was provided by the Heinz Endowments.”

Press release from the Carnegie Museum of Art website

Teenie Harris Archive website

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Teenie Harris
Man lying with arms crossed and ferns on his lap, in cabin of truck
c. 1940-1945
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Wooden roller coaster, possibly at Rock Springs Park, Chester, West Virginia
c. 1941
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Deserted Alley
1946-1970
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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“Charles “Teenie” Harris had a photographic mission: going beyond the obvious or sensational to capture the essence of daily African-American life in the 20th century. For more than 40 years, Harris – as lead photographer of the influential Pittsburgh Courier newspaper – took almost 80,000 pictures of people from all walks: presidents, housewives, sports stars, babies, civil rights leaders and even cross-dressing drag queens. Now, a new exhibit and online catalog is showing the depth of Harris’ work, an archive showing a major artistic achievement that influenced people around the country.

“His shots of everyday people are amazing. People seem to kind of jump off the page,” said Stanley Nelson, an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and MacArthur genius grant winner who has made a number of acclaimed films on African-American artists, business people, and workers. “They don’t have the sense of somebody kind of looking in and spying on the community. For me his pictures are very unique,” Nelson said.

Harris was a gifted basketball player as a young man, and helped start a Negro League baseball team, too. His brother was Pittsburgh’s biggest bookie, and that gave him access to people throughout the city. But he found his mission at the Pittsburgh Courier, which was distributed all over the country via a network of Pullman train porters. Through the paper Harris had endless opportunities to chronicle daily life and to meet the rich, famous, and powerful. Harris photographed Richard Nixon, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and many musical greats, such as Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington. “That was the black national paper of record at the time,” said Laurence Glasco, a professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh.

Many people stopped by the Courier offices because of its clout with African-Americans, Glasco said. Yet Harris neither pandered to nor looked down on celebrities, he added. “He really didn’t have a cult of celebrity. He wouldn’t cross a street to shake a celebrity’s hand. He was interested in them, but he really saw them as just people. And that really comes out in his photographs,” Glasco said. A young Muhammad Ali, for example, is shown picking up his mother and holding her in his arms. “He had an equal opportunity lens,” recalled Teenie’s son, Charles Harris. “He just liked people.”

The partnership with the Courier was a perfect match, since its reporters and editors were also pushing for equal rights. And true to Pittsburgh traditions, Teenie Harris was a hard worker, on call virtually 24-hours a day. “No matter what time it was, they could call. A lot of times he didn’t sleep,” his son said.

Louise Lippincott, the Carnegie Museum of Art Curator, worked closely with Harris in the last years of his life. “He had a very strong personal desire to complete a positive view of African-Americans and counter the negative stereotypes in the white press. On the other hand, there’s nothing sugarcoated,” said Lippincott. Glasco adds that Harris took pictures of very poor people without exaggerating their situation. “You can look at them and say, ‘These are real people; they happen to be very poor.’ They’re more than those clothes they’re wearing. They were first and foremost a person.” One picture shows a little girl with a big smile sitting on the floor of a newsstand, reading a comic book with a small dog on her lap. A key piece of history that Harris and the Courier covered heavily was African-Americans who served in World War II and returned home demanding that they be accorded rights equal to white soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

“The drive for civil rights really began in World War II,” Lippincott said, far earlier than many imagine. Yet the photographs are more than just a rich trove of mid-century American history. They emerge as art because Harris became a master of composition and for decades took each picture with a large-format camera that had to be hand-loaded with a single piece of film for each shot. “I remember being just shocked and amazed at what an incredible photographer he was. He just had this incredible eye,” said Nelson, who noted that Harris earned the nickname “One Shot” for his ability to deliver an assignment with one photograph.

Many of the pictures show a successful – and happy – black middle class. One young woman is depicted posing on the hood of a 1950s car, with steel mills in the background, while another simply kneels while playing with two small dogs. And even before the civil rights movement, there are many pictures showing black and white children and adults together. Glasco notes that even some controversial pictures seem to defy current expectations of what the past was like. In one, a man in a car has a cross-dressing male companion on each side.

“They’re happy, they’re proud, they’re smiling. It’s a joyful thing,” Glasco said of the men openly dressing as women. At an annual parade in Pittsburgh’s Hill district, one car was often filled with cross-dressers who waved at crowds, he added. Glasco once saw a Harris picture of cross-dressers next to contemporary pictures with the same subject, and was struck by the anger and hostility of the people in the new pictures, and the openness of the people in the older ones.

The Carnegie Museum of Art purchased Harris’ entire collection in 2001, through the Heinz Family Fund. The exhibit at the museum includes almost 1000 photographs, slide shows, and a jazz soundtrack commissioned especially for the show, which is up until next April. It’s also scheduled to travel to Chicago, Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta in the future. People who can’t get to one of those museums can view almost 60,000 Harris images that have been scanned and put online along with audio interviews of people who knew him.”

By Kevin Begos, Associated Press, November 27, 2011 on Boston.com [Online] Cited 21/03/2012

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Teenie Harris
Woman wearing one-piece skirted bathing suit reclining on swimming pool diving board
c. 1940-1945
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Group portrait of two women and two men, woman on right wearing dark dress with wide brimmed hat, in interior with wainscoting and pictures on wall
c. 1940-1945
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Group portrait of eight male boxers, possibly Golden Gloves contenders, lined up in boxing ring
c. 1955
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Teenie Harris
Group portrait of women wearing church choir robes, posed outside in yard, with other houses, garage, and woman in background, seen from above
c. 1938-1945
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Anon
Charles “Teenie” Harris holding camera and standing in front of Flash Circulation office, 2132 Centre Avenue, Hill District
c. 1937
© Carnegie Museum of Art

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Carnegie Museum of Art
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-4080
T: 412.622.3131

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Carnegie Museum of Art website

Teenie Harris Archive website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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