Posts Tagged ‘Willi Ruge

19
Aug
19

Exhibition: ‘Bauhaus and Photography: On Neues Sehen in Contemporary Art’ at the Museum für Fotografie, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 11th April – 25th August 2019

 

PLEASE NOTE: Postings will be limited over the next 2 months as I travel to see photographic prints and exhibitions in Europe: August Sander, Brassai, Kertesz, Josef Sudek, Fortepan and more. Hopefully I will post photographs of my adventures on the Art Blart Facebook page.

 

 

T. Lux Feininger. 'Bauhaus Stage Dessau: 'Light Play' by Oskar Schlemmer with the dancer and pantomime Werner Siedhoff' 1927

 

T. Lux Feininger (German-American, 1910-2011)
Bauhausbühne Dessau: ‘Lichtspiel’ von Oskar Schlemmer mit dem Tänzer und Pantomimen Werner Siedhoff / Bauhaus Stage Dessau: ‘Light Play’ by Oskar Schlemmer with the dancer and pantomime Werner Siedhoff
1928
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek
© Estate of T. Lux Feininger

 

 

“Im Grunde ist es nichts anderes als die Welt seiner Bilder, die in den Bühnenschöpfungen Schlemmers Gestalt gewinnt. […] Es ist eine künstliche, aber auch eine in hohem Maße künstlerische Welt, die ihren Eindruck auf ein formenempfindliches Auge nicht verfehlen wird.” (Curt Glaser: Schlemmers Bühnenentwürfe, 1932). / “Essentially, it is nothing but the world of his pictures that takes form in Schlemmer’s stage creations. […] It is an artificial, but also to a high degree artistic world which cannot fail to make an impression on an eye that is sensitive to form.” (Curt Glaser: Schlemmer’s Stage Designs, 1932).

 

 

A COSMIC posting of all that is good about the Neues Sehen (New Vision) photographic movement (Neues Sehen considered photography to be an autonomous artistic practice with its own laws of composition and lighting, through which the lens of the camera becomes a second eye for looking at the world. This new way of seeing was based on the use of unexpected framings, the search for contrast in form and light, the use of high and low camera angles, etc…. Moholy-Nagy, László, (1932) The new vision, from material to architecture. New York: Brewer, Warren & Putnam).

Alien orchids, dizzying perspectives and superlative light shows. Design, film, photo, collage, photogram, reflection, dance, portrait, fragmentation, architecture, beauty.

I’m in love with Florence Henri 🙂

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Photography, Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting, and to Nick Henderson for the installation photographs. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bauhaus and Photography' at the Museum für Fotografie, Berlin

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bauhaus and Photography' at the Museum für Fotografie, Berlin

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'No title (on the shore)' c. 1929

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
O.T. (Am Strand) / No title (on the shore)
c. 1929
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Die Aufnahme war 1929 auf der FiFo in Stuttgart zu sehen. “Ich habe fast nie einen vorbedachten plan bei meinen fotos. Sie sind aber auch nicht zufallsergebnisse. Ich habe – seitdem ich fotografiere – gelernt, eine gegebene situation rasch zu erfassen. Wenn mich dabei die verhältnisse von licht und schatten stark beeindrucken, fixiere ich den am günstigsten erscheinenden ausschnitt. Das strandbild ist auch auf diese weise entstanden.” (László Moholy-Nagy in: Uhu, 1929) / This photo was on view in 1929 at FiFo in Stuttgart. “With my photos, I almost never have a predetermined plan. Nor however are they the result of happenstance. I have learned – ever since I began making photographs – to grasp a given situation quickly. When I am also strongly impressed by relationships of light and shadow, I record the framed view that seems most favorable. The beach picture was also produced in this way.” László Moholy-Nagy in: Uhu, 1929)

 

Max de Esteban (Spanish, born 1959) 'TOUCH ME NOT: Fleeing the Presence of Death' 2013

 

Max de Esteban (Spanish, born 1959)
TOUCH ME NOT: Fleeing the Presence of Death
2013
Inkjet print
Courtesy of Max de Esteban

 

In Touch Me Not (2013), Max de Esteban focuses on microelectronic de-vices: CDs, plastic boxes, and electronic circuit boards derived from computers. As data carriers that are X-rayed, the metal surfaces and structures do not reveal any information and refuse to be read.

 

Catalogue cover from the exhibition 'Bauhaus and Photography' at the Museum für Fotografie, Berlin

 

Bauhaus and Photography catalogue cover

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Bauhaus and Photography' at the Museum für Fotografie, Berlin

 

Installation views of the exhibition Bauhaus and Photography at the Museum für Fotografie, Berlin

 

Poster for 'Film und Foto' 1929

 

International Exhibition of the Deutscher Werkbund Film und Foto (FiFo) at Städtische Ausstellungshallen

Poster for Film und Foto
1929
Offset lithograph
33 x 23 1/8″ (84 x 58.5 cm)

 

Willi Ruge (German, 1892-1961) 'Self-portrait from earthworm perspective' c. 1927

 

Willi Ruge (German, 1892-1961)
Selbstbildnis aus der Regenwurm-Perspektive / Self-portrait from earthworm perspective
c. 1927
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek
© Erbengemeinschaft Ruge

 

 

To mark the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus, this exhibition opens up a dialogue between contemporary art and the photographic avant-garde of the 1930s.

The Bauhaus is not just a key figure in the history of twentieth-century design and art, but also of photography. How are the innovations that were made then still influencing the evolution of the visual language of today’s photography and contemporary aesthetic concepts? What role does the photographic avant-garde of circa 1930 play for contemporary artists? This exhibition juxtaposes works by artists such as László Moholy-Nagy, Lucia Moholy, Man Ray, Jan Tschichold, Hedda Walther, Florence Henri, Hans Robertson and Erich Consemüller with groups of works by Thomas Ruff, Dominique Teufen, Daniel T. Braun, Wolfgang Tillmans, Doug Fogelson, Max de Esteban, Viviane Sassen, Stephanie Seufert, Kris Scholz, Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs, Antje Hanebeck and Douglas Gordon.

The historical reference point of the exhibition is the Werkbund exhibition Film and Photo, which was shown in Stuttgart, Berlin and Zurich, among other locations in 1929/30. The Berlin leg was put together by the Kunstbibliothek. The Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), who had already made a name for himself with his experimental photographic works, curated one room on the history of photography, and one on the future. The Bauhaus artist was interested in conducting a systematic investigation of Neues Sehen (New Vision) in photography. The historical exhibition, which functioned as a kind of manifesto, intervening in the debates of the time around the position of photography in the hierarchy of art, is reconstructed virtually with over 300 exhibits. Additionally, there will be a recreation of part of the Berlin exhibition. The reconstruction of the original exhibition design will be complemented by numerous vintage prints from the holdings of the Kunstbibliothek and a presentation of films from the 1920s. In combination with photographic works by contemporary artists, the exhibition opens up a dialogue between this historical event and the present moment.

Students from the design department at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences and the faculty of design at Nuremberg Tech offer a glimpse into the future, presenting their own forward-looking designs, which also incorporate digital media.

Text from the Museum für Fotografie website [Online] Cited 03/08/2019

 

David Octavius Hill / Robert Adamson (1802–1870 / 1821–1848) 'Lady Mary Hamilton (Campbell) Ruthven' 1843

 

David Octavius Hill / Robert Adamson (1802-1870 / 1821-1848)
Lady Mary Hamilton (Campbell) Ruthven
1843 / Reprint 1890-1900 by James Craig Annan
Pigment print

 

David Octavius Hill / Robert Adamson (1802-1870 / 1821-1848) 'Newhaven Fisherman'. John Henning and Alex H. Ritchie 1843

 

David Octavius Hill / Robert Adamson (1802-1870 / 1821-1848)
Newhaven Fisherman. John Henning and Alex H. Ritchie
1843 / Reprint 1890-1900 by James Craig Annan
Oil/bromide transfer print or pigment print

 

Eugène Atget. 'Shopfront, Quai Bourbon, Paris, France' c. 1900

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Au Franc Pinot, quai Bourbon, 1
1902
Aus der Folge / From the series L’Art dans le Vieux Paris
Albumen print

 

Atget, der sich selbst als Dokumentarfotograf verstand, wurde auf der FiFo als Erneuerer der Fotografie vorgestellt. / Atget, who saw himself as a documentary photographer, was presented at FiFo as a renewer of photography.

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Photogram (photogram with Eiffel Tower)' 1925 / 1989-29

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Fotogramm (Fotogramm mit Eiffelturm) / Photogram (photogram with Eiffel Tower)
1925 / 1989-29
Reproduction by the artist from the unique specimen, Silver gelatin print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek

 

 

Das Fotogramm war 1929 auf der FiFo in Stuttgart und Berlin zu sehen. Die Motivvorlage ist 1929 in Moholy-Nagys Buch von material zu architektur abgebildet: “spielzeug / durch die bewegung erzeugtes, virtuelles volumen – optische auflösung des festen materials […] spielzeuge sind in vielen fällen die zeitgemäßen plastiken. Sie enthalten oft geistreiche übersetzungen technischer ideen, die meist mehr von dem wesen technischer vorgänge vermitteln als gelehrte vorträge.” / The photogram was on view in 1929 at FiFo in Stuttgart and Berlin. The template for this motif is reproduced in Moholy-Nagy’s book from material towards architecture (1929): “toy / through the virtual volumes generated by movement – optical dissolution of the solid material […] toys are in many cases contemporary sculptures. They often contain ingenious translations of technical ideas, most convey more concerning the nature of technical procedures than learned lectures.”

 

Erich Consemüller. 'Bauhaus Stage Dessau: 'Curtain Play' by Oskar Schlemmer with the dancer and pantomime Werner Siedhoff' 1927

 

Erich Consemüller (German, 1902-1957)
Bauhausbühne Dessau: ‘Vorhangspiel’ von Oskar Schlemmer mit dem Tänzer und Pantomimen Werner Siedhoff / Bauhaus Stage Dessau: ‘Curtain Play’ by Oskar Schlemmer with the dancer and pantomime Werner Siedhoff
1927
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek
© Stephan Consemüller

 

 

In 1927, Consemüller was commissioned by Gropius to photographically document Bauhaus’s activities and people. This resulted in the creation of around 300 photographs documenting the school’s work and environment. “Bauhaus Scene,” a frequently reproduced photograph of his, combines three works by Bauhaus artists in one photo. It depicts a woman sitting in Breuer’s Wassily Chair, wearing a theatrical mask made by Oskar Schlemmer and a dress designed by Lis Volger-Beyer [de]. Other notable photographs of his feature Bauhaus architecture, often with figures interposed.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946) 'Radio Tower Berlin' 1925

 

László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Funkturm Berlin / Radio Tower Berlin
1925
Gelatin silver print

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966) 'Catasetum tridentatum. Orchidaceae' 1922-1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Catasetum tridentatum. Orchidaceae
1922-1923
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“Eines der wundervollsten Fotos, das überhaupt in unserer Zeit entstanden ist, ist die Rengersche Orchideenblüte […]. Hier ist ein fotografischer Bildraum entstanden, der mehr räumlich als plastisch lebendig ist.” (Die Form, 1929) / “One of the most marvellous photographs produced during our time is the orchid blossom by Renger […]. Emerging here is a photographic picture space that is more lively in spatial than in sculptural terms.” (Die Form, 1929)

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Faguswerk Alfeld [Shoemakers' irons, Fagus factory, Alfeld]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation. Fagus-Werk Benscheidt in Alfeld / Flat iron for shoe fabrication. Fagus-Werk Benscheidt in Alfeld
1926
Gelatin silver print

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Gebirgsforst im Winter (Fichtenwald im Winter)' [Mountain forest in winter (spruce forest in winter)] 1926

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Gebirgsforst im Winter / Montane woods in winter
1926
Gelatin silver print

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966) 'Potter's hands' 1925-1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Töpferhände / Potter’s hands
1925-1927
Gelatin silver print

 

Aenne Biermann (German, 1898-1933) 'View into a piano' c. 1928

 

Aenne Biermann (German, 1898-1933)
Einblick in ein Klavier. Scherzo / View into a piano
1928 or earlier
Gelatin silver print

 

Die Aufnahme war 1929 auf der FiFo in Stuttgart zu sehen. / This photo was on view in 1929 at FiFo in Stuttgart.

 

Aenne Biermann (1898-1933) 'Finale' before October 1928

 

Aenne Biermann (German, 1898-1933)
Finale
before October 1928
Gelatin silver print

 

Die Aufnahme war 1929 auf der FiFo in Stuttgart zu sehen. / This photo was on view in 1929 at FiFo in Stuttgart.

 

Jan Tschichold (1902-1974) 'Vice of Humanity' 1927

 

Jan Tschichold (1902-1974)
Laster der Menschheit / Vice of Humanity
1927
Plakat (Raster- und Tiefdruck) / Poster (halftone and intaglio)
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek
© Familie Tschichold

 

 

Das Plakat war 1929 im Raum 1 der FiFo in Berlin zu sehen. “Zu den elementaren Mitteln neuer Typographie gehört in der heutigen, auf Optik eingestellten Welt auch das exakte Bild: die Photographie.” (Jan Tschichold: Elementare Typographie, 1925). / The poster was shown in 1929 in Room 1 at FiFo in Berlin. “In the contemporary world, with its orientation toward optics, among the elementary resources of the new typography is the exact image: photography.” (Jan Tschichold: Elementary Typography, 1925).

 

Jan Tschichold (2 April 1902 Leipzig, Germany – 11 August 1974 Locarno, Switzerland) (born as Johannes Tzschichhold, also Iwan Tschichold, Ivan Tschichold) was a calligrapher, typographer and book designer. He played a significant role in the development of graphic design in the 20th century – first, by developing and promoting principles of typographic modernism, and subsequently (and ironically) idealising conservative typographic structures. His direction of the visual identity of Penguin Books in the decade following World War II served as a model for the burgeoning design practice of planning corporate identity programs. He also designed the much-admired typeface Sabon.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Florence Henri (French, 1893-1982) 'Composition with spools of thread' 1928

 

Florence Henri (French, 1893-1982)
Komposition mit Garnrollen / Composition with spools of thread
1928
Gelatin silver print
© Florence Henri

 

Die Aufnahme war 1929 auf der FiFo in Stuttgart zu sehen. / This photo was on view in 1929 at FiFo in Stuttgart.

 

Max Burchartz. 'Lotte (Eye)' (Lotte [Auge]) 1928

 

Max Burchartz (German, 1887-1961)
Lotte (Eye) (Lotte [Auge])
1928
Gelatin silver print
11 7/8 x 15 3/4″ (30.2 x 40 cm)

 

Max Burchartz (German, 1887-1961) 'Grete W. (eyes)' c. 1928

 

Max Burchartz (German, 1887-1961)
Grete W. (Augen) / Grete W. (eyes)
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print

 

Die Aufnahme war 1929 auf der FiFo in Stuttgart zu sehen. / This photo was on view in 1929 at FiFo in Stuttgart.

 

Charlotte Rudolph (German, 1896-1983) 'Leap (Gret Palucca)' 1928

 

Charlotte Rudolph (German, 1896-1983)
Sprung / Leap (Gret Palucca)
1928
Gelatin silver print
On permanent loan from Österreichischen Ludwig-Stiftung für Kunst und Wissenschaft
© Albertina, Vienna

 

 

Eine ähnliche Aufnahme der Fotografin Charlotte Rudolph von Palucca bildete László Moholy-Nagy 1925 in dem Buch Malerei Photographie Film ab. / This shot of Palucca by the photographer Charlotte Rudolph was reproduced by László Moholy-Nagy in the book Painting Photography Film in 1925.

 

Florence Henri (French, 1893-1982) 'No title (composition with plate and mirror)' 1929 or earlier

 

Florence Henri (French, 1893-1982)
O.T. (Komposition mit Teller und Spiegel) / No title (composition with plate and mirror)
1929 or earlier
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek
© Florence Henri
© Galleria Martini & Ronchetti
Courtesy Archives Florence Henri

 

Die Aufnahme war 1929 auf der FiFo in Stuttgart zu sehen. / This photo was on view in 1929 at FiFo in Stuttgart.

 

Florence Henri. 'Fenêtre [Window]' 1929

 

Florence Henri (French, 1893-1982)
Pariser Fenster / Parisian window
1929 or earlier
Gelatin silver print
© Florence Henri

 

Die Aufnahme war 1929 auf der FiFo in Stuttgart zu sehen. / This photo was on view in 1929 at FiFo in Stuttgart.

 

Walter Funkat (German, 1906-2006) 'Glass spheres' 1929

 

Walter Funkat (German, 1906-2006)
Glaskugeln / Glass spheres
1929
Gelatin silver print
© NRW-Forum

 

Many Ray (American, 1902-1958) 'Rayograph' 1921-1928

 

Many Ray (American, 1902-1958)
Rayograph
1921-1928, print 1963
Fotogramm
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek
© Man Ray Trust, Paris / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

 

 

László Moholy-Nagy and the FiFo

László Moholy-Nagy – Bauhaus artist and pioneer of media art – co-curated the legendary exhibition Film und Foto (FiFo) in 1929, which was set up by the Deutscher Werkbund in the exhibition halls on Interimtheaterplatz in Stuttgart. The FiFo, which subsequently travelled to Zurich, Berlin, Gdansk, Vienna, Agram, Munich, Tokyo and Osaka, presented a total of around 200 artists with 1200 works and showed the creations of the international film and photography scene of those years. Moholy-Nagy curated the hall, which reflected the history and present of photography. His artistic perspective on the history of photography and his efforts to provide a comprehensive overview of the contemporary fields of photo-graphic application were fundamental. At the exit of the large hall, Moholy-Nagy suggestively posed the question of the future of photographic development. On the basis of extensive scientific research, the Moholy-Nagy room was virtually reconstructed with approximately 300 exhibits.

The exhibition Film und Foto took its starting point in 1929 in Stuttgart, but was opened only a short time later in the Kunstgewerbemuseum (today: Gropius Bau) in Berlin. In the inner courtyard of the museum, large partition walls were erected to present the numerous photo exhibits. The hanging concept, handed down through three documentary photos, apparently deviated from the Stuttgart hanging. A corner situation, mainly showing photographs by Lucia Moholy and László Moholy-Nagy, was restored in a 1:1 reconstruction. In this way, the curatorial concept of comparative contemplation, as envisioned by Moholy-Nagy, can be re-experienced.

 

Play with Images

The rooms organised by László Moholy-Nagy at FiFo illustrated the continuity between the formal and optical qualities of photography, as well as the forward-looking influence of technical image media on contemporary culture. Moholy-Nagy’s works were interpretable as exemplifying visual modernism. They comprised close-up portrait fragments, architectural photographs using unconventional perspectives, and playful photo collages. Appearing entirely new at the time were the technical and material qualities of these photographs, as well as the aesthetic principles upon which they functioned. This was true in particular for the boldly configured light spaces of his photograms. These cameraless photographs embodied Moholy-Nagy’s artistic intentions in a very special way, and the medium offered him maximal autonomy in the use of light as a creative resource.

As examples of the photography of the Neue Sehen (New Vision), his works also entered the Kunstbibliothek, which – as the organiser of the Berlin FiFo – also acquired works by other artists from the show. The selection on view here evokes the comparative play with images and with modes of perception and use that was instigated by Moholy-Nagy, while confronting photographs from the 1920s with those from the 19th century. The form of presentation using passe-partouts and frames, prescribed by museum custom, renders the material and formal properties of each individual original print sensuously graspable.

 

A New Way of Seeing: An Homage to Film und Foto

In the exhibition Film und Foto, the camera emerged as the key to an expanded perception of the world, and as a mediator of new modes of seeing. In conjunction with photographic and cinematic experimentation, the New Objectivity and the New Vision came to epitomise avant-garde production. The central role of film for 20th-century culture was now recognised and manifested for the first time. Today, devices that can produce photographs or filmic scenes depending upon the chosen setting are at our disposal. This medial juxtaposition was conceptualised for the first time at FiFo – not coincidentally in 1929, the year sound film was inaugurated. Questions such as: “What is a photograph?” “What is a cinematic image?” “What is a technically produced image?” were investigated. In the Russian room, El Lissitzky hung photographs in open frames that were reminiscent of filmstrips, and ran excerpts from Soviet films on continuous loops from daylight projectors directly adjacent to them. The presentation of both media in both tandem and on equal terms was realised for the first time here in a modern dispositive. The program The Good Film, assembled by Victor Schamoni, ran at the former Kunstgewerbemuseum, today the GropiusBau, and at other Berlin cinemas, establishing cinema as an art form.

 

Daniel T. Braun

Daniel T. Braun describes his pictorial work as performative form re-search. Behind this lies an actionist stubbornness that wrestles unknown facets from the analogue forms of photography. The work group of Rocketograms may serve as an apt example. Following the action forms of action painting, Braun brings light-sensitive colour photographic paper into physical contact with burning pyrotechnics. With the uncommon use of magnesium torches, he refers to undertakings largely forgotten today, which were used for lighting in the early days of photography. In addition, the artefacts created in this way have an emphatically expressive effect. The moment of explosion is inscribed in the unique pieces in a virtually picture-creative way. Referring to Susan Sontag, Braun explicitly directs his goal “not to the creation of harmony, but to the overexpansion of the medium through destructive processes.”

A material-based exploration of light is also reflected in several sculptures, which Daniel T. Braun has transferred into another aspect of being through nuanced lighting and rotations in the studio. In the photographic image, the recorded light traces of the objects develop a strange independence. They seem to elude the observer’s gaze and yet are present in a peculiar way.

 

Max de Esteban

In the photographic works of Max de Esteban we encounter references critical of civilisation. His digital photo collages are designed as visual textures. They are inscribed with a skepticism based on media theory. He already indicates the vertigo that the works can trigger in their titles: Heads Will Roll is the name of a series of works from 2014. Fragments of perception from the media world are transformed into a visual totality. A spectrum of constructive forms and colour surfaces, as handed down from Modernism, is combined with individual motif elements from the image pool of mass media. In the sense of Zygmunt Bauman, the motifs of Heads Will Roll represent the unredeemed world of a “retrotopia”.

In Touch Me Not (2013), Max de Esteban focuses on microelectronic de-vices: CDs, plastic boxes, and electronic circuit boards derived from computers. As data carriers that are X-rayed, the metal surfaces and structures do not reveal any information and refuse to be read.

 

Doug Fogelson

For his series Forms & Records, the American artist Doug Fogelson visit-ed a historically significant site of the New Bauhaus. His analogue black-and-white and colour photographs were taken in the darkroom of the IIT Institute of Design (ID) photography school in Chicago, which was found-ed by László Moholy-Nagy.

Fogelson’s graphically adept pictorial inventions can be understood as an expression of visual archaeology. He uses architectural models, vinyl singles, film and tape strips from the immediate post-war era as found motifs. In doing so, he refers to concepts of recording, designing, documenting and ephemerality in order to find his way back from a historical distance to the basics of form-finding with light. In addition, Moholy-Nagy’s series also refers to suggestions published in 1922 in his essay “New Plasticism in Music. Possibilities of the Gramophone”. The Bauhaus teacher there implements his ideas on the manipulative use of wax records with the intention of creating new sounds.

 

Douglas Gordon

In an obsessive way, the video and photographic works of Douglas Gordon wrestle with the receptive parameters of New Vision. His passionate engagement reveals itself in the leitmotif of the eye. For the artist’s book Punishment Exercise in Gothic (2001), the Scottish Turner Prize winner portrays himself in a black-and-white photograph, which shows his bleached portrait in cut. The fragmented cyclopean gaze is directed straight at the viewer and can be interpreted ambiguously. The motif is based on Max Burchartz’s photograph Lotte (eye), a key image of photo-graphic modernism presented in 1929 at the Stuttgart exhibition Film und Foto. In the book, the artist repeats his self-portrait no less than 118 times.

 

Antje Hanebeck

Antje Hanebeck dedicates her artistic photography to the architecture of post-war Modernism and the present. A moment of the documentary does not apply to her. Instead, she operates with a coarse-grained, tonal black-and-white aesthetic that seems pre-modern in an confounding way. Graphic and photographic elements are subtly intertwined and contrasted with the captured buildings, which retain their strictly constructive character. “Her pictures are picture puzzles, riddles, question marks, which – also – resist any temporal classification” (Hans-Michael Koetzle). This al-so applies to the large-format work Borough (2008). Hanebeck’s motif refers to photographs taken by László Moholy-Nagy in 1928 on the viewing platform of the Berlin Radio Tower. However, her spectacular downward gaze leads to a new irritation of perception. The irritation can only be re-solved by a change of view – a 90 degree turn of the head to the left. Of course, the artist’s intervention is not limited to the formal. “The Borough motif undergoes transformation into a newly created, utopian, urban land-scape through a rotation.” (Ellen Maurer Zilioli).

Behind the poetic name of the work Desert Rose lies the National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel, which is due to open in March 2019. The French star architect develops his representative buildings from various stylistic concepts, including Bauhaus modernist architecture. It is not uncommon for the buildings to be symbolically formulated. In her horizontal-format photographs, Hanebeck exposes a section of the constructive sub-layers of the “desert rose”. She interprets the functional longwall system of the steel pillars as a deeply vital, vibrating fabric.

 

Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs

“The enemy of photography is the convention, the fixed rules, the ‘how to do it’. The rescue of photography takes place through experimentation.” Programmatically, this quotation by László Moholy-Nagy is prefixed in a catalogue on the works of Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs. The Swiss artist duo, who have been working together since 2003, is interested in the shifting of photo-technical boundaries, in a productive confusion of the perception of things and their representation. Onorato & Krebs act inven-tively, ironically and always with analogue means in their image findings. For their work group Color Spins, created in 2012, they have developed their own rotational apparatuses. The dynamic light sculptures, which are captured by colour photography, create a surprising illusionism. With a wink, the figurations recall the famous ensembles that Oskar Schlemmer developed more than a hundred years ago and later performed on the Bauhaus stage in Dessau.

The ephemeral light sculptures of the black-and-white series Ghost from 2012, on the other hand, step in front of the dreary backdrop of a piece of woodland. A disturbing surreality emanates from the appearances. The medium of photography still retains its magical character in the works of Onorato & Krebs.

 

Thomas Ruff

The phg series by Thomas Ruff is characterised by digital processes. They can be interpreted as an homage. The work phg.05_II, in its spiral form, recites one of László Moholy-Nagy’s most famous photograms from 1922. The three-letter abbreviation, which recalls the name of a file format, refers to a contemporary approach to image generation. The process is completely virtualised. Both the generation of the objects and the simulation of the shadows on the paper take place in an immaterial space.

“With phg, Ruff transfers an analogue technique into virtual space – and at the same time questions all attributes assigned to the photogram, such as immediacy and objectivity, as they were relevant to Moholy-Nagy’s ‘Photography of New Vision'” (Martin Germann). But the phg series can also be thought of in the opposite way. By radically erasing the analogue essence of the photogram, but retaining the terminology of the photograms, Ruff redeems a central doctrine of photography for the digital pre-sent. As early as 1928, László Moholy-Nagy brought the doctrine to a formula: “Photography is the shaping of light.”

 

Viviane Sassen

What is photography? Viviane Sassen understands the imaging process as a peculiar “art of darkening”. Umbra (Latin: “shadow”) is the title of her group of works created in 2014. In it, the Dutch fashion and art photographer explores in a number of variations the effect aspects of semi-transparent colour surfaces placed in desert sceneries. For the three-part work Vlei, Viviane Sassen locates square plates of coloured glass in a hollow. In their form and colour, these plates are reminiscent of the abstract paintings by Bauhaus master Josef Albers. The surfaces of the Umbra series are also partly captured in perspective foreshortening. They, too, assert themselves as an autonomous, colour-shaded picture within the picture. Sassen’s arrangements always retain a slight contradictoriness. Moments of realism and abstraction are equally effective in them.

The artist’s book Umbra from 2015 brings together eleven coloured shad-ow motifs in the form of a loose-leaf collection. The motifs once again operate with variations of gaze and reflections. Sassen’s artistic oeuvre often contains feminist references to modernist photography. The work Marte #03, for example, is based on Germaine Krull’s experimental self-portraits.

 

Kris Scholz

In the age of the digital, there can be no question of a demand for ahistoricity, as evoked by the New Vision. This is documented by the series Marks and Traces by Kris Scholz. His large-format colour photographs show worn floors, floor boards, and tabletops from German, Spanish, Moroccan and Chinese studios and art academies. One may initially classify the motifs as pictorial documents. “But just as important is the question of who left these markings and traces. As documents, his pictures ‘fail’ because they hardly provide any information” (Gérard A. Goodrow). The perceptual perspective of the pictures is based on a radically lowered gaze that was already applied by Umbo and László Moholy-Nagy in the 1920s. Scholz also uses stretched linen as a medium for his highly abstract large formats, which, despite their sharpness of detail, are, from a greater distance, perceived as painterly artefacts.

 

Stefanie Seufert

The works of Stefanie Seufert show an architectural reference. Her sculptures from 2016 are titled Towers. Photographic papers serve as the start-ing point for her experimental exploration. In the darkroom, these papers are edited by elaborate folding and exposure processes. From the respective layers and trace-like superimpositions, a materiality of its own is formulated, which the artist consciously expands into space. “Fragile, strangely monumental and oddly alien to themselves, they arise from a folding of the picture, which now occupies a space, encloses a space and suggests the idea of an (interior) space of the pictures themselves” (Ma-en Lübbke-Tidow). As tower-like artefacts, Seufert’s Towers, which are reminiscent of contemporary high-rise buildings, literally stand in the way of the viewer. Like an ensemble of materialised metaphors, they insist on autonomy that includes both alienation and abstraction.

 

Dominique Teufen

The artistic works of Dominique Teufen are characterised by an expansive drive of photography towards the genres of sculpture and architecture. Her group of Blitzlicht-Skulpturen (flashlight sculptures) was created in 2013. The setting follows a strict arrangement. Like architectural models, glass structures composed of shapes of cubes, slabs, and pyramids are positioned on the stage of a black plinth or white table. Something theatrical happens on it. The camera flashes. Reflective surfaces reflect the light onto the walls, catch these light forms again and connect the perspectival surfaces and lines to an illusion: the concrete moves into the background, the light as a sculpture enters the room; as soon as the eye suspects it, only the photograph remains as a witness to its existence. Teufen’s tableaus explore border areas. What already is architecture? What is sculpture? What, in turn, is photography?

In an ironic way, a catalogue of questions opens up in Teufen’s installation Selfiepoint from 2016. The expansive work formulates the invitation to shoot a selfie with the smartphone and thus to practice a central iconic gesture of our time. The backdrop of a mountain landscape quickly turns out to be a whimsically composed mountain of paper. It originated solely from the copier. What remains is a creative desire for self-reflection. Selfiepoint reminds us that the snapshot aesthetics of amateur photography have already been tried out by the students at the Bauhaus. At that time, the students were already playfully exploring new ways of presenting individual and group portraits with the 35 mm camera.

 

Wolfgang Tillmans

To what extent was the Bauhaus politically oriented? With a view to photography, the question still arises today as to the degree to which New Vision can be assigned to an artistic avant-garde of Modernism. Because the latter “aims, beyond the aesthetic, at radical social change […] which hardly applies to the protagonists of the New Vision. They were interested in little more than new perspectives from which they put people and things into the picture” (Timm Starl). The accusation of aestheticism arises. It contradicts the thesis that a reflexive visual process already provides political impulses itself. For the self-conception of contemporary art, however, the integration of political fields of thought and action has gained central importance. Both aspects of the political can be found exemplarily in the work of Wolfgang Tillmans. In June 2016, the artist launched an Anti-Brexit campaign for which he designed a 25-part poster series and called for Great Britain to remain in the EU. Tillmans does not want his project to be understood as an art action. He uses images from his Vertical Landscapes, which is a group of motifs of heavens and horizons. His photo-graphs are used as a form of agitation and placed in a tradition of image propaganda. Think, for example, of the collages by John Heartfield.

An edition realised by Wolfgang Tillmans in 2016 at the invitation of Tate Modern in London acts with a different field of photography. The occasion is the reopening of the Switch House, a brick building apse by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. The sequence of images shows the still empty room areas of the museum on colour photocopies. Even this materiality undermines the auratic charge of the building. In their limited colour spectrum, Tillmans’ pictures produce “patterns and reductions that are literally subtracted from the naturalistic image” (Heinz Schütz). Paradoxically enough, the reproductions are transformed back into unique pieces through alienating colour shifts.

 

Daniel T. Braun (German, b. 1975) 'Overseer' 2003

 

Daniel T. Braun (German, b. 1975)
Overseer
2003
Raketogramm / colour photogram
c.170 x 106 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

 

Daniel T. Braun (German, b. 1975) 'Rafael Shafir' 2006

 

Daniel T. Braun (German, b. 1975)
Rafael Shafir
2006
Raketogramm / colour photogram
c. 260 x 130 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

 

Antje Hanebeck. 'Borough' 2008

 

Antje Hanebeck
Borough
2008
Textildruck im Spannrahmen
230 x 230 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

 

Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs. 'Spin 07 (green brown)' 2012

 

Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs
Spin 07 (green brown)
2012
Colour print
Courtesy the artists & Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf
© Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs

 

Daniel T. Braun (German, b. 1975) 'SBSVI Nr. 6' 2013

 

Daniel T. Braun (German, b. 1975)
SBSVI Nr. 6
2013
C-Print analog
110 x 90 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

 

Kris Scholz. 'Marks and Traces, Caochangdi 1' 2013

 

Kris Scholz
Marks and Traces, Caochangdi 1
2013
Fine art print on canvas
200 x 150 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

 

Kris Scholz. 'Marks and Traces, Chongqing 5' 2018

 

Kris Scholz
Marks and Traces, Chongqing 5
2018
Fine art print on canvas
200 x 150 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

 

Dominique Teufen (Swiss, b. 1975) 'Flashlight Sculpture #3' 2013

 

Dominique Teufen (Swiss, b. 1975)
Flashlight Sculpture #3
2013
Colour print
60 x 90 cm
Courtesy Christophe Guye Galerie, Zürich
© Dominique Teufen

 

Dominique Teufen (Swiss, b. 1975) 'Flash Sculpture # 5' 2013

 

Dominique Teufen (Swiss, b. 1975)
Flash Sculpture # 5
2013
Colour print
60 x 90 cm
Courtesy Christophe Guye Galerie, Zürich
© Dominique Teufen

 

Doug Fogelson (American, b. 1970) 'Forms and Records No. 11' 2014

 

Doug Fogelson (American, b. 1970)
Forms and Records No. 11
2014
Fotogramm
Silver gelatin paper
Courtesy Doug Fogelson
© Doug Fogelson

 

Doug Fogelson (American, b. 1970) 'Forms And Records No 06' 2014

 

Doug Fogelson (American, b. 1970)
Forms And Records No 6
2014
Photogram, light box
© Doug Fogelson

 

Doug Fogelson (American, b. 1970) 'Forms And Records No 08' 2014

 

Doug Fogelson (American, b. 1970)
Forms And Records No 08
2014
Photogram, light box
© Doug Fogelson

 

Doug Fogelson (American, b. 1970) 'Forms And Records No 13' 2014

 

Doug Fogelson (American, b. 1970)
Forms And Records No 13
2014
Photogram, light box
© Doug Fogelson

 

Max de Esteban (Spanish, born 1959) 'HEADS WILL ROLL: Geographies of Permanent Emergency' 2014

 

Max de Esteban (Spanish, born 1959)
HEADS WILL ROLL: Geographies of Permanent Emergency
2014
Inkjet print
Courtesy Max de Esteban
© Max de Esteban

 

Vivianne Sassen (Dutch, born 1972) 'Red Vlei' 2014

 

Vivianne Sassen (Dutch, born 1972)
Red Vlei
2014
Colour print
Courtesy Vivianne Sassen
© Vivianne Sassen

 

Viviane Sassen (Dutch, born 1972) 'Yellow Vlei' 2014

 

Viviane Sassen (Dutch, born 1972)
Yellow Vlei
2014
Colour print
Courtesy Vivianne Sassen
© Vivianne Sassen

 

Daniel T. Braun (German, b. 1975) 'Atmozons & Horizspheres no. 11' c. 2015

 

Daniel T. Braun (German, b. 1975)
Atmozons & Horizspheres no. 11
c. 2015
Photogram / luminogram on colour film
114 × 80cm
C-Print analog, 2+1 AP
© Daniel T. Braun und VG Bild-Kunst

 

Daniel T. Braun (German, b. 1975) 'AZ Nr. 6' 2016

 

Daniel T. Braun (German, b. 1975)
AZ Nr. 6
2016
Photogram on coloUr film / C- Print analog
c. 84 x 120 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018

 

Stefanie Seufert. 'owers Option #2, Just Yellow, Atlas Grey, Dark Aubergine' 2016

 

Stefanie Seufert
owers Option #2, Just Yellow, Atlas Grey, Dark Aubergine
2016
Fotogramm / Colour paper
Courtesy Stefanie Seufert
© Stefanie Seufert

 

Antje Hanebeck. 'CaSO4•2 H2O 46' 2018

 

Antje Hanebeck
CaSO4•2 H2O 46
2018
Pigment print
Courtesy Antje Hanebeck
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

 

 

Museum für Fotografie
Jebensstraße 2, 10623 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 30 266424242

Opening hours:
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12
Apr
15

Exhibition: ‘Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909-1949’ at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 13th December 2014 – 19th April 2015

Exhibition coincides with the culmination of the Thomas Walther Collection Project, a four-year research collaboration between MoMA’s curatorial and conservation staff

The Edward Steichen Photography Galleries, third floor

 

 

OMG, OMG, OMG if we had tele-transportation to travel around the world, I would be at this exhibition in an instant. Please MoMA, fly me to New York so that I can do a proper review of the exhibition!

Not only are there photographs from well known artists that I have never seen before – for example, the brooding mass of Boat, San Francisco (1925) by Edward Weston with the name of the boat… wait for it… ‘DAYLIGHT’ – there are also outstanding photographs from artists that I have never heard of before.

There is so much to like in this monster posting, from the glorious choreography of British ‘Chute Jumpers (1937) to the muscular symmetry and abstraction of Rodchenko’s Dive (1934); from the absolutely stunning light and movement of Riefenstahl’s Nocturnal Start of Decathlon 1,500m Race (August 1936) to the ecstatic, ghost-like swimming in mud apparitions of Kate Steinitz’s Backstroke (1930) – an artist who I knew nothing about (Kate Steinitz was a German-American artist and art historian affiliated with the European Bauhaus and Dadaist movements in the early 20th century. She is best known for her collaborative work with the artist Kurt Schwitters, and, in later life, her scholarship on Leonardo da Vinci). Another artist to flee Germany in the mid-1930s to evade the persecution of the Nazis.

In fact, when you look through the checklist for this exhibition I look at the country of origin of the artist, and the date of their death. There are a lot of artists from Germany and France. Either they lived through the maelstrom of the Second World War and survived, escaped to America or England, or died during the war and their archive was lost (such as the artist Robert Petschow (German, 1888-1945)). For some artists surviving the war was not enough either… trapped behind the Iron Curtain after repatriation, artists such as Edmund Kesting went unacknowledged in their lifetime. What a tough time it must have been. To have created this wonderful avant-garde art and then to have seen it dashed against the rocks of violence, prejudice and bigotry – firstly degenerate, then non-conforming to Communist ideals.

Out of the six sections of the exhibition (The Modern World, Purisms, Reinventing Photography, The Artist’s Life, Between Surrealism and Magic Realism, and Dynamics of the City) it would seem that the section ‘Reinventing Photography’ is the weakest – going from the checklist – with a lack of really memorable images for this section, hence only illustrated in this posting by one image. But this is a minor quibble. When you have images such as Anne W. Brigman’s A Study in Radiation (1924) or Edmund Kesting’s magnificent Glance to the Sun (Blick zur Sonne) (1928) who cares! I just want to see them all and soak up their atmosphere.

Marcus

PS. There is an excellent website titled Object:Photo to accompany the exhibition. It contains sections that map and compare photographs, connect and map artists’ lives along with many more images from the collection, conservation analysis and essays about the works. Well worth a look.

.
Many thankx to the MoMA for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images © The Museum of Modern Art

Note: Images below correspond to their sections in the exhbition.

 

 

“Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909-1949, on view from December 13, 2014, to April 19, 2015, explores photography between the First and Second World Wars, when creative possibilities were never richer or more varied, and when photographers approached figuration, abstraction, and architecture with unmatched imaginative fervor. This vital moment is dramatically captured in the photographs that constitute the Thomas Walther Collection, a remarkable group of works presented together for the first time through nearly 300 photographs. Made on the street and in the studio, intended for avant-garde exhibitions or the printed page, these objects provide unique insight into the radical intentions of their creators. Iconic works by such towering figures as Berenice Abbott, Karl Blossfeldt, Alvin Langdon Coburn, El Lissitzky, Lucia Moholy, László Moholy-Nagy, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and Paul Strand are featured alongside lesser-known treasures by more than 100 other practitioners. The exhibition is organized by Quentin Bajac, the Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, and Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator, Department of Photography, MoMA.

The exhibition coincides with Object:Photo. Modern Photographs: The Thomas Walther Collection 1909-1949, the result of a four-year collaborative project between the Museum’s departments of Photography and Conservation, with the participation of over two dozen leading international photography scholars and conservators, making it the most extensive effort to integrate conservation, curatorial, and scholarly research efforts on photography to date. That project is composed of multiple parts including a website that features a suite of digital-visualization research tools that allow visitors to explore the collection, a hard-bound paper catalogue of the entire Thomas Walther collection, and an interdisciplinary symposium focusing on ways in which the digital age is changing our engagement with historic photographs.

Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909-1949, is organized thematically into six sections, suggesting networks between artists, regions, and objects, and highlighting the figures whose work Walther collected in depth, including André Kertész, Germaine Krull, Franz Roh, Willi Ruge, Maurice Tabard, Umbo, and Edward Weston. Enriched by key works in other mediums from MoMA’s collection, this exhibition presents the exhilarating story of a landmark chapter in photography’s history.”

Press release from the MoMA website

 

The Collection

In the 1920s and ’30s photography underwent a period of exploration, experimentation, technical innovation, and graphic discovery so dramatic that it generated repeated claims that the true age of discovery was not when photography was invented but when it came of age, in this era, as a dynamic, infinitely flexible, and easily transmissible medium. The Thomas Walther Collection concentrates on that second moment of growth. The Walther Collection’s 341 photographs by almost 150 artists, most of them European, together convey a period of collective innovation that is now celebrated as one of the major episodes of modern art.

The Project

Our research is based on the premise that photographs of this period were not born as disembodied images; they are physical things – discrete objects made by certain individuals at particular moments using specific techniques and materials. Shaped by its origin and creation, the photographic print harbors clues to its maker and making, to the causes it may have served, and to the treatment it has received, and these bits of information, gathered through close examination of the print, offer fresh perspectives on the history of the era. “Object:Photo” – the title of this study – reflects this approach.

In 2010, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation gave the Museum a grant to encourage deep scholarly study of the Walther Collection and to support publication of the results. Led by the Museum’s Departments of Photography and Conservation, the project elicited productive collaborations among scholars, curators, conservators, and scientists, who investigated all of the factors involved in the making, appearance, condition, and history of each of the 341 photographs in the collection. The broadening of narrow specializations and the cross-fertilization between fields heightened appreciation of the singularity of each object and of its position within the history of its moment. Creating new standards for the consideration of photographs as original objects and of photography as an art form of unusually rich historical dimensions, the project affords both experts and those less familiar with its history new avenues for the appreciation of the medium. The results of the project are presented in multiple parts: on the website, in a hard-bound paper catalogue of the entire Thomas Walther Collection (also titled Object:Photo), and through an interdisciplinary symposium focusing on the ways in which the digital age is changing our engagement with historic photographs.

Historical Context

The Walther Collection is particularly suited to such a study because its photographs are so various in technique, geography, genre, and materials as to make it a mine of diverse data. The revolutions in technology that made the photography of this period so flexible and responsive to the impulse of the operator threw open the field to all comers. The introduction of the handheld Leica
 in 1925 (a small camera using strips of 35mm motion-picture film), of enlargers to make positive prints from the Leica’s little negatives, and of easy-to-use photographic papers – each of these was respectively a watershed event. Immediately sensing the potential of these tools, artists began to explore the medium; without any specialized training, painters such as László Moholy-Nagy and Aleksandr Rodchenko could become photographers and teachers almost overnight. Excitedly and with an open sense of possibility, they freely experimented in the darkroom and in the studio, producing negative prints, collages and photomontages, photograms, solarizations, and combinations of these. Legions of serious amateurs also began to photograph, and manufacturers produced more types of cameras with different dimensions and capacities: besides the Leica, there was the Ermanox, which could function in low light, motion-picture cameras that could follow and stop action, and many varieties of medium- and larger-format cameras that could be adapted for easy transport. The industry responded to the expanding range of users and equipment with a bonanza of photographic papers in an assortment of textures, colors, and sizes. Multiple purposes also generated many kinds of prints: best for reproduction in books or newspapers were slick, ferrotyped glossies, unmounted and small enough to mail, while photographs for exhibition were generally larger and mounted to stiff boards. Made by practitioners ranging from amateurs to professional portraitists, journalists, illustrators, designers, critics, and artists of all stripes, the pictures in the Walther Collection are a true representation of the kaleidoscopic multiplicity of photography in this period of diversification.

Text from the MoMA website

 

 

Gustav Klutsis. 'Postcard for the All Union Spartakiada Sporting Event' 1928

 

Gustav Klutsis (Latvian, 1895-1938)
Postcard for the All Union Spartakiada Sporting Event
1928
Offset lithograph
5 3/4 x 4 1/8″ (14.1 x 10.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

Gustav Klutsis. 'Postcard for the All Union Spartakiada Sporting Event' 1928

 

Gustav Klutsis (Latvian, 1895-1938)
Postcard for the All Union Spartakiada Sporting Event
1928
Offset lithograph
5 3/4 x 4 1/8″ (14.1 x 10.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

Gustav Klutsis. 'Postcard for the All Union Spartakiada Sporting Event' 1928

 

Gustav Klutsis (Latvian, 1895-1938)
Postcard for the All Union Spartakiada Sporting Event
1928
Offset lithograph
5 3/4 x 4 1/8″ (14.1 x 10.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

Gustav Klutsis. 'Postcard for the All Union Spartakiada Sporting Event' 1928

 

Gustav Klutsis (Latvian, 1895-1938)
Postcard for the All Union Spartakiada Sporting Event
1928
Offset lithograph
5 3/4 x 4 1/8″ (14.1 x 10.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

 

Gustav Klutsis (Latvian, 1895-1938)

Latvian painter, sculptor, graphic artist, designer and teacher, active in Russia. He was an important exponent of Russian Constructivism. He studied in Riga and Petrograd (now St Petersburg), but in the 1917 October Revolution joined the Latvian Rifle Regiment to defend the Bolshevik government; his sketches of Lenin and his fellow soldiers show Cubist influence. In 1918 he designed posters and decorations for the May Day celebrations and he entered the Free Art Studios (Svomas) in Moscow, where he studied with Malevich and Antoine Pevsner. Dynamic City (1919; Athens, George Costakis priv. col., see Rudenstine, no. 339) illustrates his adoption of the Suprematist style. In 1920 Klucis exhibited with Pevsner and Naum Gabo on Tver’skoy Boulevard in Moscow; in the same year Klucis joined the Communist Party. In 1920-21 he started experimenting with materials, making constructions from wood and paper that combined the geometry of Suprematism with a more Constructivist concern with actual volumes in space. In 1922 Klucis applied these experiments to utilitarian ends when he designed a series of agitprop stands based on various combinations of loudspeakers, speakers’ platforms, display units, film projectors and screens. He taught a course on colour in the Woodwork and Metalwork Faculty of the Vkhutemas (Higher Artistic and Technical Workshops) from 1924 to 1930, and in 1925 helped to organize the Soviet section at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. During the 1920s he became increasingly interested in photomontage, using it in such agitprop posters as ‘We will repay the coal debt to the country’ (1928; e.g. New York, MOMA). During the 1930s he worked on graphic and typographical design for periodicals and official publications. He was arrested and died during the purges in World War II.

From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

 

Willi Ruge. 'Photo of Myself at the Moment of My Jump' (Selbstfoto im Moment des Abspringens) 1931

 

Willi Ruge (German, 1882-1961)
Photo of Myself at the Moment of My Jump (Selbstfoto im Moment des Abspringens)
1931
Gelatin silver print
5 9/16 × 8 1/16″ (14.2 × 20.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

Willi Ruge. 'With My Head Hanging Down before the Parachute Opened . . .' (Mit dem Kopf nach unten hängend, bei ungeöffnetem Fallschirm . . .) 1931

 

Willi Ruge (German, 1882-1961)
With My Head Hanging Down before the Parachute Opened . . .
(Mit dem Kopf nach unten hängend, bei ungeöffnetem Fallschirm . . .)
1931
Gelatin silver print
5 1/2 × 8″ (14 × 20.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

Willi Ruge. 'Seconds before Landing' (Sekunden vor der Landung) 1931

 

Willi Ruge (German, 1882-1961)
Seconds before Landing (Sekunden vor der Landung)
From the series I Photograph Myself during a Parachute Jump (Ich fotografiere mich beim Absturz mit dem Fallschirm)
1931
Gelatin silver print
8 1/16 × 5 9/16″ (20.4 × 14.1 cm) (irreg.)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

Willi Ruge. 'Seconds before Landing' (Sekunden vor der Landung) 1931 (detail)

 

Willi Ruge (German, 1882-1961)
Seconds before Landing (Sekunden vor der Landung) (detail)
From the series I Photograph Myself during a Parachute Jump (Ich fotografiere mich beim Absturz mit dem Fallschirm)
1931
Gelatin silver print
8 1/16 × 5 9/16″ (20.4 × 14.1 cm) (irreg.)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

Unknown photographer. 'British 'Chute Jumpers' 1937

 

Unknown photographer
British ‘Chute Jumpers
1937
Gelatin silver print
5 15/16 x 6 15/16″ (15.1 x 17.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

Robert Petschow. 'Lines of Modern Industry: Cooling Tower' (Linien der modernen Industrie: Kühlturmanlage) 1920-29

 

Robert Petschow (German, 1888-1945)
Lines of Modern Industry: Cooling Tower (Linien der modernen Industrie: Kühlturmanlage)
1920-29
Gelatin silver print
3 3/8 × 4 1/2″ (8.5 × 11.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Albert Renger-Patzsch, by exchange

 

Robert Petschow. 'The Course of the Mulde with Sand Deposits in the Curves' (Der Lauf der Mulde mit Versandungen in den Windungen) 1920-33

 

Robert Petschow (German, 1888-1945)
The Course of the Mulde with Sand Deposits in the Curves (Der Lauf der Mulde mit Versandungen in den Windungen)
1920-33
Gelatin silver print
3 3/8 × 4 1/2″ (8.5 × 11.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Albert Renger-Patzsch, by exchange

 

 

Robert Petschow was studying in Danzig as a free balloon pilot in the West Prussian air force. During the First World War Petschow was a balloon observer with the rank of lieutenant in Poland, France and Belgium. Maybe it was the work of a balloon observer which led him to photography, in which he was worked freelance from 1920. His images appeared in the prestigious photographic yearbook The German photograph in which he was presented with photographers such as Karl Blossfeldt, Albert Renger-Patzsch Chargesheimer and Erich Salomon. The book Land of the Germans, which was published in 1931 by Robert Diesel and includes many photographs of Petschow went on to be published in four editions. In 1931 he journeyed with the airship LZ 127, the “Graf Zeppelin” to Egypt. He participated as an unofficial member of the crew to document the trip photographically. In 1936, at the age of 48 years, Petschow joined the rank of captain in the Air Force and ended his work as a senior editor at the daily newspaper The West, a position he held from 1930. For the following years, there is no information to Petschow.

Robert Petschow died at the age of 57 years on 17 October 1945 in Haldensleben after he had to leave his apartment in Berlin-Steglitz due to the war. He left there a picture archive with about 30,000 aerial photographs, which fell victim of the war. His contemporaries describe Petschow as a humorous person and a great raconteur. (Translated from the German Wikipedia)

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Dive' (Pryzhok v vodu) 1934

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Dive (Pryzhok v vodu)
1934
Gelatin silver print
11 11/16 x 9 3/8″ (29.7 x 23.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko. 'Dive' (Pryzhok v vodu) 1934

 

Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Dive (Pryzhok v vodu)
1934
Gelatin silver print
11 3/4 × 9 5/16″ (29.9 × 23.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

Leni Riefenstahl. 'Nocturnal Start of Decathlon 1,500m Race' (Nächtlicher Start zum 1500-m-Lauf des Zehnkampfes) August 1936

 

Leni Riefenstahl (German, 1902-2003)
Nocturnal Start of Decathlon 1,500m Race
(Nächtlicher Start zum 1500-m-Lauf des Zehnkampfes)

August 1936
Gelatin silver print 9 5/16 x 11 3/4″ (23.7 x 29.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Abbott-Levy Collection funds, by exchange

 

Leni Riefenstahl. 'Untitled' 1936

 

Leni Riefenstahl (German, 1902-2003)
Untitled
1936
Gelatin silver print
9 3/16 x 11 5/8″ (23.4 x 29.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Abbott-Levy Collection funds, by exchange

 

Kate Steinitz 'Backstroke' (Rückenschwimmerinnen) 1930

 

Kate Steinitz (American, born Germany 1889-1975)
Backstroke (Rückenschwimmerinnen)
1930
Gelatin silver print
10 1/2 × 13 7/16″ (26.6 × 34.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

 

The Modern World

Even before the introduction of the handheld Leica camera in 1925, photographers were avidly exploring fresh perspectives, shaped by the unique experience of capturing the world through a lens and ideally suited to express the tenor of modern life in the wake of World War I. Looking up and down, these photographers found unfamiliar points of view that suggested a new, dynamic visual language freed from convention. Improvements in the light sensitivity of photographic films and papers meant that photographers could capture motion as never before. At the same time, technological advances in printing resulted in an explosion of opportunities for photographers to present their work to ever-widening audiences. From inexpensive weekly magazines to extravagantly produced journals, periodicals exploited the potential of photographs and imaginative layouts, not text, to tell stories. Among the photographers on view in this section are Martin Munkácsi (American, born Hungary, 1896-1963), Leni Riefenstahl (German, 1902-2003), Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956), and Willi Ruge (German, 1882-1961).

 

Anne W. Brigman (American, born Hawaii 1869-1950) 'A Study in Radiation' 1924

 

Anne W. Brigman (American, born Hawaii 1869-1950)
A Study in Radiation
1924
Gelatin silver print
7 11/16 × 9 3/4″ (19.6 × 24.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Mrs. B. S. Sexton and Mina Turner, by exchange

 

Bernard Shea Horne. 'Untitled' 1916-17

 

Bernard Shea Horne (American, 1867-1933)
Untitled
1916-17
Platinum print
8 1/16 × 6 1/8″ (20.5 × 15.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

Bernard Shea Horne. 'Design' 1916-17

 

Bernard Shea Horne (American, 1867-1933)
Design
1916-17
Platinum print
7 15/16 x 6 1/8″ (20.2 x 15.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

 

Bernard Shea Horne was the son of Joseph Horne, who built a legendary department store in Pittsburgh. The younger Horne retired from the family business when he was in his thirties and moved to northern Virginia to pursue his interests in golf and photography. In 1916 he enrolled at the Clarence H. White School of Photography, in New York, and became friends with one of its teachers, the avant-garde painter Max Weber. Horne produced numerous Weber-inspired design exercises, which he compiled into albums of twenty Platinum prints each. The four prints in the Thomas Walther Collection belonged to an album that he gave to Weber.

In 1917 Horne was elected president of the White School’s alumni association, a post he retained until 1925. In 1918 instructor Paul L. Anderson left the school, and Horne took his place as teacher of the technique class, a job he held until 1926. That a middle-aged man of independent means commuted to the school several days a week from Princeton, New Jersey, where he then lived with his two sons, suggests Horne’s devotion to White and his Pictorialist aims. During these years, Horne played a major role in the White School’s activities. In 1920 he was given a one-person show in the exhibition room of the school’s new building, a show that the alumni bulletin described as “interesting and varied in subject and technique, rich in bromoils, strong in design.” Supportive of the practical applications of artistic photography, in 1920 White joined his school to other institutions, including the American Institute of Graphic Arts and the Art Directors Club, to form The Art Center in New York. In 1926 Horne was given a one-person show at The Art Center, which marked the end of his active association with the school.

Abbaspour, Mitra, Lee Ann Daffner, and Maria Morris Hambourg

 

Jarislav Rössler. 'Untitled' 1924

 

Jarislav Rössler (Czech, 1902-1990)
Untitled
1924
Pigment print
9 1/16 × 9 1/16″ (23 × 23 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel

 

 

Jaroslav Rössler (1902-1990) was one of the Czech avant-garde photographers of the first half of the twentieth century whose work has only recently become known outside Eastern Europe. Czech photography in the twenties and thirties produced radical modernist works that incorporated principles of abstract art and constructivism; Jaroslav Rossler was one of the most important and distinctive artists of the period. He became known for his fusing of different styles, bringing together elements of symbolism, pictorialism, expressionism, cubism, futurism, constructivism, new objectivity, and abstract art. His photographs often reduced images to elementary lines and shapes that seemed to form a new reality; he would photograph simple objects against a stark background of black and white, or use long exposures to picture hazy cones and spheres of light. From 1927 to 1935 he lived and worked in Paris, producing work influenced by constructivism and new objectivity. He used the photographic techniques and compositional approaches of the avant-garde, including photograms, large details, diagonal composition, photomontage, and double exposures, and experimented with color advertising photographs and still lifes produced with the carbro print process. After his return to Prague, he was relatively inactive until the late 1950s, when he reconnected with Czech artistic and photographic trends of that period, including informalism. This book documents each stage of Rossler’s career with a generous selection of duotone images, some of which have never been published before. The photographs are accompanied by texts by Vladimir Birgus, Jan Mlcoch, Robert Silverio, Karel Srp, and Matthew Witkovsky. (Amazon)

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo. 'A Fish Called Sierra' (Un pez que llaman sierra) 1944

 

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
A Fish Called Sierra (Un pez que llaman sierra)
1944
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 1/4″ (24.1 x 18.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection
Edward Steichen Estate and gift of Mrs. Flora S. Straus, by exchange

 

Manuel Alvarez Bravo. 'Somewhat Gay and Graceful' (Un poco alegre y graciosa) 1942

 

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Somewhat Gay and Graceful (Un poco alegre y graciosa)
1942
Gelatin silver print
6 5/8 × 9 1/2″ (16.9 × 24.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Grace M. Mayer Fund

 

Manuel Alvarez Bravo. 'Day of Glory' (Día de gloria) 1940s

 

Manuel Alvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002)
Day of Glory (Día de gloria)
1940s
Gelatin silver print
6 3/4 × 9 1/2″ (17.2 × 24.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Grace M. Mayer Fund

 

Edward Weston. 'Steel: Armco, Middletown, Ohio' October 1922

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Steel: Armco, Middletown, Ohio
October 1922
Palladium print
9 1/16 × 6 7/8″ (23 × 17.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

 

In Edward Weston’s journals, which he began on his trip to Ohio and New York in fall 1922, the artist wrote of the exhilaration he felt while photographing the “great plant and giant stacks of the American Rolling Mill Company” in Middletown, Ohio. He then went to see the great photographer and tastemaker Alfred Stieglitz. Were he still publishing the magazine Camera Work, Stieglitz told him, he would have reproduced some of Weston’s recent images in it, including, in particular, one of his smokestacks. The photograph’s clarity and the photographer’s frank awe at the beauty of the brute industrial subject seemed clear signs of advanced modernist tendencies.

In moving away from the soft focus and geometric stylization of his recent images, such as Attic of 1921 (MoMA 1902.2001), Weston was discovering a more straightforward approach, one of considered confrontation with the facts of the larger world much like that of his close friend Johan Hagemeyer, who was photographing such modern subjects as smokestacks, telephone wires, and advertisements. Shortly before his trip east, Weston had met R. M. Schindler, the Austrian architect, and had been excited by his unapologetically spare, modern house and its implications for art and design. Weston was also reading avant-garde European art magazines full of images and essays extolling machines and construction. Stimulated by these currents, Weston saw that by the time he got to Ohio he was “ripe to change, was changing, yes changed.”

The visit to Armco was the critical pivot, the hinge between Weston’s Pictorialist past and his modernist future. It marked a clear leave-taking from his bohemian circle in Los Angeles and the first step toward the cosmopolitan connections he made in New York and in Mexico City, where he moved a few months later to live with the Italian actress and artist Tina Modotti. The Armco photographs went with him and became talismans of the sea change, emblematic works that decorated his studio in Mexico, along with a Japanese print and a print by Picasso. When he sent a representation of his best work to the Film und Foto exhibition in Stuttgart in 1929, one of the smokestacks was included.

In the midst of such transformation, Weston maintained tried-and-true darkroom procedures. He had used an enlarger in earlier years but had abandoned the technique because he felt that too much information was lost in the projection. Instead he increasingly favored contact printing. To make the smokestack print, Weston enlarged his 3 ¼ by 4 ¼ inch (8.3 by 10.8 centimeter) original negative onto an 8 by 10 inch (20.3 by 25.4 centimeter) interpositive transparency, which he contact printed to a second sheet of film in the usual way, creating the final 8 by 10 inch negative. Weston was frugal; he was known to economize by purchasing platinum and palladium paper by the roll from Willis and Clements in England and trimming it to size. He exposed a sheet of palladium paper to the sun through the negative and, after processing the print, finished it by applying aqueous retouching media to any flaws. The fragile balance of the photograph’s chemistry, however, is evinced in a bubble-shaped area of cooler tonality hovering over the central stacks. The print was in Modotti’s possession at the time of her death in Mexico City, in 1942.

Lee Ann Daffner, Maria Morris Hambourg

 

Edward Weston. 'Boat, San Francisco' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Boat, San Francisco
1925
Gelatin silver print
9 5/16 x 7 9/16″ (23.7 x 19.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Grace M. Mayer Fund

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Tina' January 30, 1924

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Tina
January 30, 1924
Gelatin silver print
9 1/16 x 6 7/8″ (23 x 17.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Grace M. Mayer Fund and The Fellows of Photography Fund, by exchange

 

Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932) 'Acanthus mollis' (Acanthus mollis [Akanthus, Bärenklau. Deckblätter, die Blüten sind entfernt, in 4facher Vergrößerung]) 1898-1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932)
Acanthus mollis (Acanthus mollis [Akanthus, Bärenklau. Deckblätter, die Blüten sind entfernt, in 4facher Vergrößerung])
1898-1928
Gelatin silver print
11 3/4 × 9 3/8″ (29.8 × 23.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

 

Purisms

The question of whether photography ought to be considered a fine art was hotly contested from its invention in 1839 into the 20th century. Beginning in the 1890s, in an attempt to distinguish their efforts from hoards of Kodak-wielding amateurs and masses of professionals, “artistic” photographers referred to themselves as Pictorialists. They embraced soft focus and painstakingly wrought prints so as to emulate contemporary prints and drawings, and chose subjects that underscored the ethereal effects of their methods. Before long, however, most avant-garde photographers had come to celebrate precise and distinctly photographic qualities as virtues. On both sides of the Atlantic, photographers were making this transition from Pictorialism to modernism, while occasionally blurring the distinction. Exhibition prints could be made with precious platinum or palladium, or matte surfaces that mimicked those materials. Perhaps nowhere is this variety more clearly evidenced than in the work of Edward Weston, whose suite of prints in this section suggests the range of appearances achievable with unadulterated contact prints from his large-format negatives. Other photographers on view include Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932), Manuel Álvarez Bravo (Mexican, 1902-2002), Jaromír Funke (Czech, 1896-1945), Bernard Shea Horne (American, 1867-1933), and Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946).

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American, 1882-1966) 'Vortograph' 1916-17

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American, 1882-1966)
Vortograph
1916-17
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 x 8 3/8″ (28.2 x 21.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Grace M. Mayer Fund

 

 

Vortograph

The intricate patterns of light and line in this photograph, and the cascading tiers of crystalline shapes, were generated through the use of a kaleidoscopic contraption invented by the American/British photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn, a member of London’s Vorticist group. To refute the idea that photography, in its helplessly accurate capture of scenes in the real world, was antithetical to abstraction, Coburn devised for his camera lens an attachment made up of three mirrors, clamped together in a triangle, through which he photographed a variety of surfaces to produce the results in these images. The poet and Vorticist Ezra Pound coined the term “vortographs” to describe Coburn’s experiments. Although Pound went on to criticize these images as lesser expressions than Vorticist paintings, Coburn’s work would remain influential.

 

Reinventing Photography – Here Comes New Photographer 

In 1925, László Moholy-Nagy articulated an idea that became central to the New Vision movement: although photography had been invented 100 years earlier, it was only now being discovered by the avant-garde circles for all its aesthetic possibilities. As products of technological culture, with short histories and no connection to the old fine-art disciplines – which many contemporary artists considered discredited – photography and cinema were seen as truly modern instruments that offered the greatest potential for transforming visual habits. From the photogram to solarization, from negative prints to double exposures, the New Vision photographers explored the medium in countless ways, rediscovering known techniques and inventing new ones. Echoing the cinematic experiments of the same period, this emerging photographic vocabulary was rapidly adopted by the advertising industry, which appreciated the visual efficiency of its bold simplicity. Florence Henri (Swiss, born America, 1893-1982), Edward Quigley (American, 1898-1977), Franz Roh (German, 1890-1965), Franciszka Themerson and Stefan Themerson (British, born Poland, 1907-1988 and 1910-1988), and František Vobecký (Czech, 1902-1991) are among the numerous photographers represented here.

 

André Kertész. 'Magda, Mme Beöthy, M. Beöthy, and Unknown Guest, Paris' 1926-29

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary 1894-1985)
Magda, Mme Beöthy, M. Beöthy, and Unknown Guest, Paris
1926-29
Gelatin silver print
3 1/8 × 3 7/8″ (7.9 × 9.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

André Kertész. 'Mondrian's Glasses and Pipe' 1926

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary 1894-1985)
Mondrian’s Glasses and Pipe
1926
Gelatin silver print
3 1/8 × 3 11/16″ (7.9 × 9.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Grace M. Mayer Fund

 

Unknown Photographer. 'White Party, Dessau' (Weißes Fest, Dessau) March 20, 1926

 

Unknown Photographer
White Party, Dessau (Weißes Fest, Dessau)
March 20, 1926
Gelatin silver print
3 x 1 15/16″ (7.6 x 5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Acquired through the generosity of Howard Stein

 

Iwao Yamawaki. 'Lunch (12-2 p.m.)' (Mittagessen [12-2 Uhr]) 1931

 

Iwao Yamawaki (Japanese, 1898-1987)
Lunch (12-2 p.m.) (Mittagessen [12-2 Uhr])
1931
Gelatin silver print
6 7/16 × 4 5/8″ (16.3 × 11.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Abbott-Levy Collection funds, by exchange

 

Gertrud Arndt. 'At the Masters' Houses' (An den Meisterhäusern) 1929-30

 

Gertrud Arndt (German, 1903-2000)
At the Masters’ Houses (An den Meisterhäusern)
1929-30
Gelatin silver print
8 7/8 x 6 1/4″ (22.6 x 15.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

 

Gertrud Arndt (née Hantschk; 20 September 1903 – 10 July 2000) was a photographer associated with the Bauhaus movement. She is remembered for her pioneering series of self-portraits from around 1930.

Arndt’s photography, forgotten until the 1980s, has been compared to that of her contemporaries Marta Astfalck-Vietz and Claude Cahun. Over the five years when she took an active interest in photography, she captured herself and her friends in various styles, costumes and settings in the series known as Masked Portraits. Writing for Berlin Art Link, Angela Connor describes the images as “ranging from severe to absurd to playful.” Today Arndt is considered to be a pioneer of female self-portraiture, long predating Cindy Sherman and Sophie Calle. (Wikipedia)

 

Iwao Yamawaki (Japanese, 1898-1987) 'Untitled' 1931

 

Iwao Yamawaki (Japanese, 1898-1987)
Untitled
1931
Gelatin silver print
8 11/16 x 6 1/2″ (22 x 16.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Abbott-Levy Collection funds, by exchange

 

Hajo Rose. 'Untitled (Self-Portrait)' 1931

 

Hajo Rose (German, 1910-1989)
Untitled (Self-Portrait)
1931
Gelatin silver print
9 7/16 × 7 1/16″ (23.9 × 17.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

 

‘Finally – a house made of steel and glass!’ This was the enthusiastic reaction of Hajo Rose (1910-1989) to the Bauhaus building in Dessau when he began his studies there in 1930. Rose promoted the methods of the Bauhaus throughout his lifetime: as a lecturer at universities in Amsterdam, Dresden and Leipzig, and also as an artist and photographer.

Hajo Rose experimented with a wide variety of materials and techniques. The photomontage of his self-portrait combined with the Dessau Bauhaus building (c. 1930), the surrealism of his photograph Seemannsbraut (Sailor’s Bride, 1934), and the textile print designs that he created with a typewriter (1932) are examples of the extraordinary creativity of this artist. He also contributed to an advertising campaign for the Jena Glass Company: the first heat-resistant household glassware stood for modern product design and is still regarded as a kitchen classic today.

Shortly before the Bauhaus was closed, Hajo Rose was one of the last students to receive his diploma. Subsequent periods in various cities shaped his biography, which is a special example of the migratory experience shared by many Bauhaus members after 1933. After one year as an assistant in the Berlin office of László Moholy-Nagy, Hajo Rose immigrated to The Netherlands together with Paul Guermonprez, a Bauhaus colleague, in 1934. He worked there as a commercial artist and taught at the Nieuwe Kunstschool in Amsterdam. At the 1937 World Exposition in Paris, he won an award for his poster ‘Amsterdam’. After the Second World War, Rose worked as a graphic designer, photographer and teacher in Dresden and Leipzig. He continued to advocate Bauhaus ideas in the GDR, even though the Bauhaus was regarded in East Germany as bourgeois and formalistic well into the 1960s. Rose resigned from the Socialist Unity Party (SED) – in spite of the loss of his teaching position as a consequence. From that time, he worked as one of the few freelance graphic designers in the GDR. Hajo Rose died at the age of 79 – shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg 1879-1973) 'Gertrude Lawrence' 1928

 

Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg 1879-1973)
Gertrude Lawrence
1928
Gelatin silver print
9 7/16 × 7 9/16″ (24 × 19.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Edward Steichen Estate and gift of Mrs. Flora S. Straus, by exchange

 

 

The Artist’s Life

Photography is particularly well suited to capturing the distinctive nuances of the human face, and photographers delighted in and pushed the boundaries of portraiture throughout the 20th century. The Thomas Walther Collection features a great number of portraits of artists and self-portraits as varied as the individuals portrayed. Additionally, the collection conveys a free-spirited sense of community and daily life, highlighted here with photographs made by André Kertész and by students and faculty at the Bauhaus. When the Hungarian-born Kertész moved to Paris in 1925, he couldn’t afford to purchase photographic paper, so he would print on less expensive postcard stock. These prints, whose small scale requires that the viewer engage with them intimately, function as miniature windows into the lives of Kertész’s bohemian circle of friends. The group of photographs made at the Bauhaus in the mid-1920s, before the medium was formally integrated into the school’s curriculum, similarly expresses friendships and everyday life captured and printed in an informal manner. Portraits by Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954), Lotte Jacobi (American, born Germany, 1896-1990), Lucia Moholy (British, born Czechoslovakia, 1894-1989), Man Ray (American, 1890-1976), August Sander (German, 1876-1964) and Edward Steichen (American, born Luxembourg, 1879-1973) are among the highlights of this gallery.

 

Aenne Biermann. 'Summer Swimming' (Sommerbad) 1925-30

 

Aenne Biermann (German, 1898-1933)
Summer Swimming (Sommerbad)
1925-30
Gelatin silver print
7 x 7 7/8″ (17.8 x 20 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Bequest of Ilse Bing, by exchange

 

 

Aenne Biermann (March 8, 1898 – January 14, 1933), born Anna Sibilla Sternfeld, was a German photographer of Ashkenazi origin. She was one of the major proponents of New Objectivity, a significant art movement that developed in Germany in the 1920s.

Biermann was a self-taught photographer. Her first subjects were her two children, Helga and Gershon. The majority of Biermann’s photographs were shot between 1925 and 1933. Gradually she became one of the major proponents of New Objectivity, an important art movement in the Weimar Republic. Her work became internationally known in the late 1920s, when it was part of every major exhibition of German photography.

Major exhibitions of her work include the Munich Kunstkabinett, the Deutscher Werkbund and the exhibition of Folkwang Museum in 1929. Other important exhibitions include the exhibition entitled Das Lichtbild held in Munich in 1930 and the 1931 exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts (French: Palais des Beaux Arts) in Brussels. Since 1992 the Museum of Gera has held an annual contest for the Aenne Biermann Prize for Contemporary German Photography, which is one of the most important events of its kind in Germany. (Wikipedia)

 

Helmar Lerski. 'Metamorphosis 601' (Metamorphose 601) 1936

 

Helmar Lerski (Swiss, born Germany 1871-1956)
Metamorphosis 601 (Metamorphose 601)
1936
Gelatin silver print
11 7/16 × 9 1/16″ (29 × 23 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. The Family of Man Fund

 

 

There can hardly be another name in the international history of photography whose work has been so frequently misunderstood and so controversially evaluated as that of Helmar Lerski (1871-1956). “In every human being there is everything; the question is only what the light falls on”. Guided by this conviction, Lerski took portraits that did not primarily strive for likeness but which left scope for the viewer’s imagination, thus laying himself open to the criticism of betraying the veracity of the photographic image.

… Lerski’s pictures were only partly in line with the maxims of the New Photography, and they questioned the validity of pure objectivity. The distinguishing characteristics of his portraits included a theatrical-expressionistic, sometimes dramatic use of lighting inspired by the silent film. Although his close-up photographs captured the essential features of a face – eyes, nose and mouth -, his primary concern was not individual appearance or superficial likeness but the deeper inner potential: he emphasised the changeability, the different faces of an individual. Lerski, who sympathised with the political left wing, thereby infiltrated the photography of types that was practised  (and not infrequently misused for racist purposes) by many of Lerski’s contemporaries.

… Helmar Lerski’s attitude was at its most radical in his work entitled Metamorphosis. This was completed within a few months at the beginning of 1936 in Palestine, to where Lerski and his second wife Anneliese had immigrated in 1932. In Verwandlungen durch Licht (this is the second title for this work), Lerski carried his theatrical talent to extremes. With the help of up to 16 mirrors and filters, he directed the natural light of the sun in constant new variations and refractions onto his model, the Bernese-born, at the time out-of-work structural draughtsman and light athlete Leo Uschatz. Thus he achieved, in a series of over 140 close-ups “hundreds of different faces, including that of a hero, a prophet, a peasant, a dying soldier, an old woman and a monk from one single original face” (Siegfried Kracauer). According to Lerski, these pictures were intended to provide proof “that the lens does not have to be objective, that the photographer can, with the help of light, work freely, characterise freely, according to his inner face.” Contrary to the conventional idea of the portrait as an expression of human identity, Lerski used the human face as a projection surface for the figures of his imagination. We are only just becoming aware of the modernity of this provocative series of photographs.

Peter Pfrunder
Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

Max Burchartz. 'Lotte (Eye)' (Lotte [Auge]) 1928

 

Max Burchartz (German, 1887-1961)
Lotte (Eye) (Lotte [Auge])
1928
Gelatin silver print
11 7/8 x 15 3/4″ (30.2 x 40 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Acquired through the generosity of Peter Norton

 

Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. 'Anna Oderfeld, Zakopane' 1911-12

 

Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Polish, 1885-1939)
Anna Oderfeld, Zakopane
1911-12
Gelatin silver print 6 11/16 × 4 3/4″ (17 × 12.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Mrs. Willard Helburn, by exchange

 

Edmund Kesting. 'Glance to the Sun' (Blick zur Sonne) 1928

 

Edmund Kesting (German, 1892-1970)
Glance to the Sun (Blick zur Sonne)
1928
Gelatin silver print
13 1/16 x 14 1/2″ (33.2 x 36.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

 

Edmund Kesting (27 July 1892, Dresden – 21 October 1970, Birkenwerder) was a German photographer, painter and art professor. He studied until 1916 at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts before participating as a soldier in the First World War, upon returning his painting teachers were Richard Müller and Otto Gussmann and in 1919 he began to teach as a professor at the private school Der Weg. In 1923 he had his first exposition in the gallery Der Sturm in which he showed photograms. When Der Weg opened a new academy in Berlin in 1927, he moved to the capital.

He formed relations with other vanguardists in Berlin and practiced various experimental techniques such as solarization, multiple images and photograms, for which reason twelve of his works were considered degenerate art by the Nazi regime and were prohibited. Among the artists with whom he interacted are Kurt Schwitters, László Moholy-Nagy, El Lissitzky and Alexander Archipenko. At the end of World War II he formed part of a Dresden artistic group known as Künstlergruppe der ruf – befreite Kunst (Call to an art in freedom) along with Karl von Appen, Helmut Schmidt-Kirstein and Christoph Hans, among others. In this city he made an experimental report named Dresdner Totentanz (Dance of death in Dresden) as a condemnation of the bombing of the city. In 1946 he was named a member of the Academy of Art in the city.

He participated in the controversy between socialist realism and formalism that took place in the German Democratic Republic, therefore his work was not realist and could not be shown in the country between 1949 and 1959. In 1955 he began to experiment with chemical painting, making photographs without the use of a camera and only with the use of chemical products such as the developer and the fixer and photographic paper, for which he made exposures to light using masks and templates. Between 1956 and 1967 he was a professor at the Academy of Cinema and Television of Potsdam.

His artistic work was not recognized by the authorities of the German Democratic Republic until 1980, ten years after his death. (Wikipedia)

 

Maurice Tabard. 'Am I Beautiful?' (Suis-je belle?) 1929

 

Maurice Tabard (French, 1897-1984)
Am I Beautiful? (Suis-je belle?)
1929
Gelatin silver print
9 5/16 × 6 15/16″ (23.6 × 17.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

 

Between Surrealism and Magic Realism

In the mid-1920s, European artistic movements ranging from Surrealism to New Objectivity moved away from a realist approach by highlighting the strange in the familiar or trying to reconcile dreams and reality. Echoes of these concerns, centered on the human figure, can be found in this gallery. Some photographers used anti-naturalistic methods – capturing hyperreal, close-up details; playing with scale; and rendering the body as landscape – to challenge the viewer’s perception. Others, in line with Sigmund Freud’s definition of “the uncanny” as an effect that results from the blurring of distinctions between the real and the fantastic, offered visual plays on life and the lifeless, the animate and the inanimate, confronting the human body with surrogates in the form of dolls, mannequins, and masks. Photographers influenced by Surrealism, such as Maurice Tabard, subjected the human figure to distortions and transformations by experimenting with photographic techniques either while capturing the image or while developing it in the darkroom. Additional photographers on view include Aenne Biermann (German, 1898-1933), Jacques-André Boiffard (French, 1902-1961), Max Burchartz (German, 1887-1961), Helmar Lerski (Swiss, 1871-1956), and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Polish, 1885-1939)

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Daily News Building, 220 East 42nd Street, Manhattan' November 21, 1935

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Daily News Building, 220 East 42nd Street, Manhattan
November 21, 1935
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 × 7 1/2″ (24.4 × 19.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Abbott-Levy Collection funds, by exchange

 

Marjorie Content. 'Steamship Pipes, Paris' Winter 1931

 

Marjorie Content (American, 1895-1984)
Steamship Pipes, Paris
Winter 1931
Gelatin silver print
3 13/16 × 2 11/16″ (9.7 × 6.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Andreas Feininger, by exchange

 

 

Marjorie Content (1895-1984) was an American photographer active in modernist social and artistic circles. Her photographs were rarely published and never exhibited in her lifetime, but have become of interest to collectors and art historians. Her work has been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Chrysler Museum of Art; it has been the subject of several solo exhibitions. (Wikipedia)

Marjorie Content (1895-1984) was a modest and unpretentious photographer who kept her work largely to herself, never published or exhibited. Overshadowed by such close friends as Georgia O’Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz, she was more comfortable as a muse and source of encouragement for others, including her fourth husband, poet Jean Toomer. This text presents her beautiful, varied photographs and provides a glimpse into her life. Her pictures portray a variety of images including: New York’s frenetic cityscape distilled to essential patterns and rhythms; the Southwestern light and heat along with the strength and dignity of the Taos pueblo culture; and cigarettes and other everyday items arranged in jewel-like compositions. The discovery of the quality and extent of her work is proof that an artist’s determination can surmount a lack of recognition in her lifetime. (Amazon)

 

Walker Evans. 'Votive Candles, New York City' 1929-30

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Votive Candles, New York City
1929-30
Gelatin silver print
8 1/2 x 6 15/16″ (21.6 x 17.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Willard Van Dyke and Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., by exchange

 

Georgii Zimin. 'Untitled' 1926

 

Georgii Zimin (Russian, 1900-1985)
Untitled
1926
Gelatin silver print
3 11/16 x 3 1/4″ (9.4 x 8.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

 

Georgii Zimin was born in Moscow in 1900, where he lived and worked for his entire life. Before the Russian Revolution he enrolled as a student at the Artistic-Industrial Stroganov Institute, known after 1918 as SVOMAS (Free state art studios). Zimin continued his studies at VKhUTEMAS (Higher state artistic and technical studios), which replaced SVOMAS in 1920. It was during his time at the school that he published the portfolio Skrjabin in Lukins Tanz (Scriabin in Lukin’s dance), in an edition of one hundred. This set of Cubo-Futurist lithographs from 1922 features costumed dancers in erotic poses, complementing a ballet choreographed by Lev Lukin. This work garnered Zimin acknowledgment by the Academy of Arts and Sciences and marked his affiliation with the Russian Art of Movement group. Throughout the 1920s he showed regularly at Art of Movement exhibitions at GAKhN (State academy for artistic sciences), in Moscow. Zimin also experimented with photography in the late 1920s and early 1930s, producing photograms akin to those made by László Moholy-Nagy and others at the time. Later in life, he served as Art Director of Exhibitions at the Department of Trade and held a post at the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition. – Ksenia Nouril

 

Umbo (Otto Umbehr) 'Mystery of the Street' (Mysterium der Strasse) 1928

 

Umbo (Otto Umbehr) (German, 1902-1980)
Mystery of the Street (Mysterium der Strasse)
1928
Gelatin silver print
11 7/16 x 9 1/4″ (29 x 23.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

 

Trained at the Bauhaus under Johannes Itten, a master of expressivity, Berlin-based photographer Umbo (born Otto Umbehr) believed that intuition was the source of creativity. To this belief, he added Constructivist structural strategies absorbed from Theo Van Doesburg, El Lissitzky, and others in Berlin in the early twenties. Their influence is evident in this picture’s diagonal, abstract construction and its spatial disorientation. It is also classic Umbo, encapsulating his intuitive vision of the world as a resource of poetic, often funny, ironic, or dark bulletins from the social unconscious.

After he left the Bauhaus, Umbo worked as assistant to Walther Ruttmann on his film Berlin, Symphony of a Great City 1926. In 1928, photographing from his window either very early or very late in the day and either waiting for his “actors” to achieve a balanced composition or, perhaps, positioning them as a movie director would, Umbo exposed three negatives. He had an old 5 by 7 inch (12.7 by 17.8 centimeter) stand camera and a 9 by 12 centimeter (3 9/16 by 4 ¾ inch) Deckrullo Contessa-Nettle camera, but which he used for these overhead views is not known, as he lost all his prints and most negatives in the 1943 bombing of Berlin. The resulting images present a world in which the shadows take the active role. Umbo made the insubstantial rule the corporeal and the dark dominate the light through a simple but inspired inversion: he mounted the pictures upside down (note the signature in ink in the lower right).

In 1928-29, Umbo was a founding photographer at Dephot (Deutscher Photodienst), a seminal photography agency in Berlin dedicated to creating socially relevant and visually fascinating photoessays, an idea originated by Erich Solomon. Simon Guttmann, who directed the business, hired creative nonconformists, foremost among them the bohemian Umbo, who slept in the darkroom; Umbo in turn drew the brothers Lore Feininger and Lyonel Feininger to the agency, which soon also boasted Robert Capa and Felix H. Man. Dephot hired Dott, the best printer in Berlin, and it was he who made the large exhibition prints, such as this one, ordered by New York gallerist Julien Levy when he visited the agency in 1931. Umbo showed thirty-nine works, perhaps also printed by Dott, in the 1929 exhibition Film und Foto, and he put Guttmann in touch with the Berlin organizer of the show; accordingly, Dephot was the source for some images in the accompanying book, Es kommt der neue Fotograf! (Here comes the new photographer!). Levy introduced Umbo’s photographs to New York in Surréalisme (January 1932) and showcased them again at the Julien Levy Gallery, together with images by Herbert Bayer, Jacques-André Boiffard, Roger Parry, and Maurice Tabard, in his 1932 exhibition Modern European Photography.

Maria Morris Hambourg, Hanako Murata

 

Umbo (Otto Umbehr). 'Six at the Beach' (Sechs am Strand) 1930

 

Umbo (Otto Umbehr) (German, 1902-1980)
Six at the Beach (Sechs am Strand)
1930
Gelatin silver print
9 3/8 × 7 1/8″ (23.8 × 18.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn. 'The Octopus' 1909

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (American, 1882-1966)
The Octopus
1909
Gelatin silver print
22 1/8 × 16 3/4″
(56.2 × 42.6 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther

 

 

Dynamics of the City – Symphony of a Great City 

In his 1928 manifesto “The Paths of Contemporary Photography,” Aleksandr Rodchenko advocated for a new photographic vocabulary that would be more in step with the pace of modern urban life and the changes in perception it implied. Rodchenko was not alone in this quest: most of the avant-garde photographers of the 1920s and 1930s were city dwellers, striving to translate the novel and shocking experience of everyday life into photographic images. Equipped with newly invented handheld cameras, they used unusual vantage points and took photos as they moved, struggling to re-create the constant flux of images that confronted the pedestrian. Reflections in windows and vitrines, blurry images of quick motions, double exposures, and fragmentary views portray the visual cacophony of the metropolis. The work of Berenice Abbott (American, 1898- 1991), Alvin Langdon Coburn (American, 1882-1966), Germanie Krull (Dutch, born Germany, 1897-1985), Alexander Hackenschmied (Czech, 1907-2004), Umbo (German, 1902-1980), and Imre Kinszki (Hungarian, 1901-1945) is featured in this final gallery.

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
T: (212) 708-9400

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday, 10.30 am – 5.30 pm
Friday, 10.30 am – 8.00 pm
Closed Tuesday

MOMA 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: ‘Mask’ 1994

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