Posts Tagged ‘William Henry Jackson

08
Sep
20

Exhibition: ‘Gathering Clouds: Photographs from the Nineteenth Century and Today’ at George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY

Exhibition dates: 26th July 2020 – 3rd January 2021

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873) 'The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem' April 1852

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873)
The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem
April 1852
Albumen silver print, printed c. 1855
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

From December 1850 to September 1852, John Shaw Smith travelled throughout the Mediterranean with a camera. He used the paper negative process that William Henry Fox Talbot patented in 1841. Shaw Smith masked out uneven tonality or aberrations in the sky with India ink, a common practice at the time, and he introduced clouds into his prints through combination printing. Rather than a cloud negative made from life, however, his second paper negative consisted of clouds hand-drawn with charcoal.

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873) 'The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem' April 1852

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873)
The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem
April 1852
Calotype negative
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Completing a triumvirate of postings about aeroplanes, air, and sky … we finish with a posting on a small but perfectly formed exhibition, Gathering Clouds: Photographs from the Nineteenth Century and Today at George Eastman Museum.

The technical competence of the early photographers, and the sheer beauty of their images, is mesmerising. To overcome the technical deficiencies of early photographic processes – where the dynamic tonal range between shadows and highlights was difficult to capture on one negative – the artists used painted clouds, hand-drawn clouds, and combination prints with cloud negatives made from life. You name it, they could do it to fill a sky!

My particular favourites in this elevated selection, these songs of the earth and sky, are three. Firstly, that most divine of daguerreotypes, a woman by Southworth & Hawes c. 1850 (below). “The heavenly realm had long been represented by clouds in Western art.” Secondly, and always a desire of mine, are the seascapes of Gustave Le Gray. There is something so spatial, so serene about his images. One day I know I will own one. And finally, the surprise that is that most beautiful of images, Marsh at Dawn 1906 (below). You could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out it was by that doyen of modernist photography, Imogen Cunningham, a member of the California-based Group f/64, known for its dedication to the sharp-focus rendition of simple subjects. How an artist evolves over the life time of their career.

I have added text to some of the images from the George Eastman Museum virtual tour, and also added further biographical notes on the artists below some of the photographs. I do hope you enjoy the magic of these accumulated – a cumulus related images.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Gathering Clouds traces the complex history of photography’s relationship with clouds from the medium’s invention to Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents. The exhibition demonstrates that clouds played a seminal role in the development and subsequent reception of photography in the nineteenth century. At the same time, with Equivalents serving as a connection between past and present, the exhibition features contemporary works that forge new aesthetic paths while responding in various ways to the history of cloud photography.

 

Clouds and the Limitations of Photography

In the nineteenth century, clouds were technically difficult to photograph. As early as the 1830s, the medium’s inventors observe that photographic plates were more sensitive to violet and blue wavelengths of light and less sensitive to warm greens, yellows, oranges and reds. In order to record grass and trees in a landscape, photographers had to expose the plate to light longer, which left the sky overexposed; if they times their exposure to record the sky properly, the grass and trees were underexposed. Furthermore, clouds disappeared from even properly exposed skies because blue and white registered the same tonal value  on the plate. Pink and orange skies created enough contrast for photographers to capture clouds, but the yellow hue of the late-day sun made it a challenge to record the browns and greens of the landscape. Cloudless skies are therefore a common feature of nineteenth-century photographs.

 

 

 

Clouds & Combination Printing

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901) 'Woman' c. 1850

 

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901)
Woman
c. 1850
Daguerreotype
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Around 1850, Southworth & Hawes began adding hand-painted clouds to select portraits of women. This was undoubtedly an aesthetic decision, but the association of women with clouds also corresponds with mid-nineteenth-century views of white women and their role in American society. At the time, piety was seen as a virtue bestowed on women by God – a strength upon which men were to draw. The heavenly realm had long been represented by clouds in Western art.

 

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901) 'Woman' c. 1850 (detail)

 

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901)
Woman (detail)
c. 1850
Daguerreotype
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d'Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862) 'Château de Chambord' c. 1855

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d’Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862)
Château de Chambord
c. 1855
Salted paper print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Kodak-Pathé
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d’Avrincourt received praise from his peers for his technical skill and artistic sentiment. The clouds in Baillieu d’Avrincourt’s photographs of the Château de Chambord demonstrate his commitment to both. Perhaps dissatisfied with the relationship of clouds to the tower, he used combination printing to alter the placement of the cloud formation between the two prints.

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d'Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862) 'Château de Chambord' c. 1855

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d’Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862)
Château de Chambord
c. 1855
Salted paper print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Kodak-Pathé
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“We have the sky always before us, therefore we do not recognise how beautiful it is. It is very rare to see anybody go into raptures over the wonders of the sky, yet of all that goes on in the whole world there is nothing to approach it for variety, beauty, grandeur, and serenity.”

.
H. P. Robinson, ‘The Elements of a Pictorial Photograph’, 1896

 

 

At the end of the nineteenth century, Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830–1901) emphasised the significance of the sky in landscape photography. “The artistic possibilities of clouds,” he further noted, “are infinite.” Robinson’s plea to photographers to attend to the clouds was not new. From photography’s beginnings, clouds had been central to aesthetic and technological debates in photographic circles. Moreover, they featured in discussions about the nature of the medium itself. Gathering Clouds demonstrates that clouds played a key role in the development and reception of photography from the medium’s invention (1839) to World War I (1914-18). Through the juxtaposition of nineteenth-century and contemporary works, the exhibition further considers the longstanding metaphorical relationship between clouds and photography. Conceptions of both are dependent on oppositions, such as transience versus fixity, reflection versus projection, and nature versus culture.

Gathering Clouds includes cloud photographs made by prominent figures such as Anne Brigman (American, 1869-1950), Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, 1882-1966), Peter Henry Emerson (British, 1856-1936), Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884), Eadweard Muybridge (British, 1830-1904), Henry Peach RobinsonSouthworth & Hawes (American, active 1843-1863), and Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856-1916). Selections from the group of photographs that Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) titled Equivalents (1923-34) serve as a link between past and present. The featured contemporary artists are Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, 1977), John Chiara (American, b. 1971), Sharon Harper (American, b. 1966), Nick Marshall (American, b. 1984), Joshua Rashaad McFadden (American, b. 1990), Sean McFarland (American, b. 1976), Abelardo Morell (American, b. Cuba, 1948), Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961), Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974), Bruno V. Roels (Belgian, b. 1976), Berndnaut Smilde (Dutch, b. 1978), James Tylor (Kaurna, Māori & Australian, b. 1986), Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953), Will Wilson (American, Navajo, b. 1969), Byron Wolfe (American, b. 1967), Penelope Umbrico (American, b. 1957), and Daisuke Yokota (Japanese, b. 1983).

Text from the George Eastman House website

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884) 'Mediterranean with Mount Agde' 1857

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Mediterranean with Mount Agde
1857
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Eastman Kodak Company, ex-collection Gabriel Cromer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

The seascapes that Gustave Le Gray made between 1856 and 1858 were both praised and panned by his contemporaries. Some faulted the clouds for being too luminous in relation to the sea. One critic maintained that in Le Gray’s photographs, the clouds and the landscape – made on two separate negatives and combined during printing – were untrue to the laws of nature.

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Gioacchino Altobelli (Italian, 1825-1878) 'The Colosseum' c. 1865

 

Gioacchino Altobelli (Italian, 1825-1878)
The Colosseum
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Gioacchino Altobelli used combination printing to achieve a “moonlight effect,” made by photographing the sun (not the moon) behind clouds. Altobelli likely made such photographs with foreign travellers in mind. Inspired by Romantic poets like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Lord Byron, tourists to Rome often visited the Colosseum by moonlight.

 

At the end of 1865 the two painter-photographers divided and Gioacchino Altobelli moved to a studio at Passeggiata di Ripetta n.16 that had been used by the photographer Michele Petagna. A new company was formed “Photographic Establishment Altobelli & Co.” which leads us to assume that Atobelli was working in conjunction with other photographers probably including Enrico Verzaschi.

In the beginning of 1866 Altobelli asked for a declaration of ownership (a brevet) to the Department of Commerce in Rome for his invention of the application of color to photographic images (a union of photography with chrome-lithography). The manager of the Pontifical Chrome-Lithography strongly opposed his application as they are already using such an invention from his own Company. Few months later Altobelli asked for another brevet that is granted him this time, “to perform in photograph the views of the monuments with effect of sky”. His method, similar if not identical to that of Gustave Le Gray, consisted in taking a first photograph of a monument where the exposure was adjusted to highlight the architectural characteristics sought. Subsequently Altobelli took at another time one or more additional photographs exposed to capture strong sky and cloud contrasts. In the dark room Altobelli captured on photographic paper the double exposure of the two perfectly aligned plates – this resulted in a well illuminated monument contrasted with a strong sky that gave the feeling of “claire de lune”. In November 1866 Altobelli obtained the brevet for 6 years. It is probable that he didn’t know that in Venice the photographers Carlo Ponti and Carlo Naya were already using the “claire de lune” technique – moreover they tinted them with aniline giving their prints a beautiful blue tone as if the water of the lagoon was illuminated at night by the moon. However the brevet allowed the painter-photographer Gioacchino Altobelli to have great notoriety in Rome and this helped him to increase his work as a portraitist.

Text from the Luminous-Lint website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1' 1866

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1
1866
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase, ex-collection Philip Medicus
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Within one copy of Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign (1866), George N. Barnard sometimes used the same cloud negative to print in cloudscapes to two different scenes, such as in the example shown here. Moreover, between two copies of the album, he is also known to have used different cloud negatives to reproduce the same scene. In reviews of the album, the cloudscapes received particular attention. One reviewer claimed that the pictures’ clouds conveyed “a fine idea of the effects of light and shade in the sunny clime in which the scenes are laid.” In part because of Barnard’s practice of re-using cloud negatives, however, it is impossible to know whether Barnard even photographed the clouds while in the South.

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1' 1866 (detail)

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1 (detail)
1866
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase, ex-collection Philip Medicus
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

One of the first persons to open a daguerreotype studio in the United States, George Barnard set up shop in Oswego, New York. In 1854 he moved his operation to Syracuse, New York, and began using the collodion process, a negative / positive process that allowed for multiple prints, unlike the unique daguerreotype.

Along with Timothy O’Sullivan, John Reekie, and Alexander Gardner, Barnard worked for the Mathew Brady studio and is best known for his photo-documentation of the American Civil War. In 1864 he was made the official photographer for the United States Army, Chief Engineer’s Office, Division of the Mississippi. He followed Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s infamous march to the sea and in 1866 published an album of sixty-one photographs, Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign. After the war he continued primarily as a portrait photographer in Ohio, Chicago, Charleston, South Carolina, and Rochester, New York, where he briefly worked with George Eastman, the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916) 'Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon' 1867

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon
1867
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, museum accession
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

In 1867, Carleton E. Watkins travelled to Oregon for two purposes; to photograph the state’s geological features, and to document the sites and scenes along the Oregon Steam Navigation Company’s steamboat and portage railway route. This photograph was circulated with and without clouds, suggesting a third function for his Oregon views. The introduction of clouds into the prints staked a claim for the photograph’s artistic potential, in addition to its original scientific and commercial goals.

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Eadweard J. Muybridge (English, 1830-1904) 'Clouds' 1868-1872

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (English, 1830-1904)
Clouds
1868-1872
From the series Great Geyser Springs
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, museum accession
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

Unidentified maker. 'Mount Fuji' c. 1870

 

Unidentified maker
Mount Fuji
c. 1870
Albumen silver print with applied colour
George Eastman Museum, gift of University of Rochester
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Hand-painted Japanese photographs made for Western tourists often played to their prospective consumers’ assumptions and desires. Near the port city of Yokohama, Mount Fuji was readily accessible to foreign travellers, and photographs of the mountain were common. Guidebooks primed visitors to delight in the clouds surrounding the mountain, an expectation to which this photograph – with its hand-painted clouds – caters.

 

Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901) 'Evening on Culverden Down' c. 1870

 

Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901)
Evening on Culverden Down
c. 1870
Albumen silver print
Lent by Patrick Montgomery

 

 

An influential practitioner of combination printing, H.P. Robinson argued that printing in clouds was essential to the photographer’s endeavour to interpret nature. A “properly selected cloud,” he wrote, allowed the photographer to control the composition, thereby rescuing the “art form from the machine.”

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Charles Victor Tillot (French, 1825-1895) 'Vues instantannées, effets de nuages, Barbizon' 'Instant views, cloud effects, Barbizon' 1874

 

Charles Victor Tillot (French, 1825-1895)
Vues instantannées, effets de nuages, Barbizon
Instant views, cloud effects, Barbizon

1874
Albumen silver print
Lent by Patrick Montgomery

 

 

Charles Victor Tillot’s instantaneous views were criticised for being to dark. In addition to practicing photography, Tillot was a painter and exhibited with the Impressionists, whose central concerns were the effects of light and the truthfulness to nature. As a photographer, Tillot was attentive to the play of light both on the clouds – the most fleeting aspect of the scene – and in unaltered photographs.

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'Jahaz Mahal' between 1879 and 1881

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
Jahaz Mahal
between 1879 and 1881
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of University of Rochester Library
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Hindi: लाला दीन दयाल) 1844 – 1905; (also written as ‘Din Dyal’ and ‘Diyal’ in his early years) famously known as Raja Deen Dayal) was an Indian photographer. His career began in the mid-1870s as a commissioned photographer; eventually he set up studios in Indore, Mumbai and Hyderabad. He became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, Asif Jah VI, who awarded him the title Raja Bahadur Musavvir Jung Bahadur, and he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India in 1885.

In the early 1880s he travelled with Sir Lepel Griffin through Bundelkhand, photographing the ancient architecture of the region. Griffin commissioned him to do archaeological photographs: The result was a portfolio of 86 photographs, known as “Famous Monuments of Central India”.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Photograph of the Jahaz Mahal at Mandu in Madhya Pradesh, taken by [Indian photographer] Lala Deen Dayal in the 1870s. The Jahaz Mahal or Ship Palace is part of the Royal Enclave in northern Mandu and dates from the late 15th century. It is a long, narrow, two-storey arcaded range crowned with roof-top pavilions and kiosks, built between two artificial lakes, the Munj Talao and Kapur Sagar. It was so named because from a distance in this setting it resembled a ship. Conceived as a pleasure palace, it housed the harem of Ghiyath Shah Khalji, a Sultan of Malwa who ruled between 1469 and 1500. This is a perspective view of the façade taken from one end, showing a flight of steps ascending to the roof terrace at left and rubble in the foreground. The palace is one of several at Mandu, a historic ruined hill fortress which first came to prominence under the Paramara dynasty at the end of the 10th century. It was state capital of the Sultans of Malwa between 1401 and 1531, who renamed the fort ‘Shadiabad’ (City of Joy) and built palaces, mosques and tombs amid the gardens, lakes and woodland within its walls. Most of the remaining buildings date from this period and were originally decorated with glazed tiles and inlaid coloured stone. They constitute an important provincial style of Islamic architecture characterised by an elegant and powerful simplicity that is believed to have influenced later Mughal architecture at Agra and Delhi.

Text from the British Library website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

Unidentified maker. 'The Roman Forum' c. 1885

 

Unidentified maker
The Roman Forum
c. 1885
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of George C. Pratt

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942) 'Mt. Hood from Lost Lake' c. 1890

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942)
Mt. Hood from Lost Lake
c. 1890
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Harvard University
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Writing in 1883, the poet Joaquin Miller declared that the constantly moving cloud effects around Mount Hood added “most of all to the beauty and sublimity of the mount scenery.” Perhaps Miller’s description of the clouds elucidates William Henry Jackson’s decision to print clouds from drawn – as opposed to photographed – negatives. Jackson might have lacked cloud negatives that communicated motion and vigour and felt compelled to draw them himself.

 

William Henry Jackson (April 4, 1843 – June 30, 1942) was an American painter, Civil War veteran, geological survey photographer and an explorer famous for his images of the American West. He was a great-great nephew of Samuel Wilson, the progenitor of America’s national symbol Uncle Sam. …

The American photographer along with painter Thomas Moran are credited with inspiring the first national park at Yellowstone, thanks to the images they carried back to legislators in Washington, D.C. America’s great, open spaces lured these artists, who delivered proof of the natural jewels that sparkled on the other side of the country.

From 1890 to 1892 Jackson produced photographs for several railroad lines (including the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) and the New York Central) using 18 x 22-inch glass plate negatives. The B&O used his photographs in their exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unidentified maker. 'Plate V' 1896

 

Unidentified maker
Plate V
1896
Chromolithograph
From the International Cloud-Atlas, edited by Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson (Swedish, 1838-1925), Albert Riggenbach (Swiss, 1854-1921), and Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort (French, 1855-1913), published by Gauthier-Villars et Fils (Paris)
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Published in 1896, the International Cloud-Atlas standardised the definitions and descriptions of cloud formations and outlined instructions for cloud observations so that scientists could communicate dependable data across borders. The atlas was illustrated with chromolithographs made after photographs. Photography thus played a central role in overcoming the difficulty of applying language to ever-changing cloud formations. To cloud scientists, photograph was valued not for its perceived objectivity but for its ability to capture minute details in a sea of infinite and transient forms. Photographs helped ensure that cloudspotters everywhere could use a standard vocabulary to describe their observations.

 

Unidentified maker. 'Plate III' 1896

 

Unidentified maker
Plate III
1896
Chromolithograph
From the International Cloud-Atlas, edited by Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson (Swedish, 1838-1925), Albert Riggenbach (Swiss, 1854-1921), and Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort (French, 1855-1913), published by Gauthier-Villars et Fils (Paris)
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Unidentified maker. 'Plate IV' 1896

 

Unidentified maker
Plate IV
1896
Chromolithograph
From the International Cloud-Atlas, edited by Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson (Swedish, 1838-1925), Albert Riggenbach (Swiss, 1854-1921), and Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort (French, 1855-1913), published by Gauthier-Villars et Fils (Paris)
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Alfred Horsley Hinton (English, 1863-1908) 'Day's Awakening' 1896

 

Alfred Horsley Hinton (English, 1863-1908)
Day’s Awakening
1896
Platinum print
George Eastman Museum, gift of the 3M Foundation, ex-collection Louis Walton Sipley. Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“In the photographic rendering of clouds, not as atmospheric phenomena, but as vehicles of beautiful thought, we have to-day something of an indication of how much superior the photograph may be wen made and controlled by an artist mind.” ~ A. Horsely Hinton, 1897

 

Alfred Horsley Hinton (1863 – 25 February 1908) was an English landscape photographer, best known for his work in the Pictorialist movement in the 1890s and early 1900s. As an original member of the Linked Ring and editor of The Amateur Photographer, he was one of the movement’s staunchest advocates. Hinton wrote nearly a dozen books on photographic technique, and his photographs were exhibited at expositions throughout Europe and North America. …

Hinton’s landscape photographs tend to be characterised by prominent foregrounds and dramatic cloud formations, often in a vertical format. He typically used sepia platinotype and gum bichromate printing processes. Unlike many Pictorialists, Hinton preferred sharp focus to soft focus lenses. He occasionally cropped and mixed cloud scenes and foregrounds from different photographs, and was known to rearrange the foregrounds of his subjects to make them more pleasing. His favourite topic was the English countryside, especially the Essex mud flats and Yorkshire moors.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 - d. unknown) 'Winter Evening' 1898

 

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 – d. unknown)
Winter Evening
1898
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“Before printing a cloud negative into any view the worked should always ask himself whether those particular clouds are properly appropriate to the scene, or whether they lend expression to the scene.” ~ Osborne I. Yellott, 1901

Yellott distinguished between two branches of cloud photograph: clouds for their own sake and clouds for printing in. The first he identified as a “delightful hobby,” the pursuit of which would lead to a collection of “pleasing or unusual” cloud formations to be viewed as lantern-slide projections or as cyanotypes in an album. The second, practiced by Yellott himself, required more discrimination: the photographer must carefully select their clouds and camera position.

 

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 - d. unknown) 'Winter Evening' 1898 (detail)

 

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 – d. unknown)
Winter Evening (detail)
1898
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856-1916) 'Cibollita Mesa (South from top of Mesa)' 1899

 

Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856-1916)
Cibollita Mesa (South from top of Mesa)
1899
Platinum palladium print
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Charina Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“… if fortune favours you, you may find a background of such beautiful clouds as only the light clear air of the south-west can produce. All day long these fleecy rolls of cotton-like vapour have tempted you, until you are in danger of using up all your… plates the first day out. You think there never can be such clouds again – but keep a few for tomorrow, they are a regular thing in this land of surprises.”

.
Vroman, 1901

 

 

Vroman never used combination printing to add cloud effects to his celebrated photographs of the SW landscape. Rather, the Pasadena bookstore owner capture both cloudscapes and landscapes on an orthochromatic plate and made prints from this single negative. By the mid-1880s, orthochromatic plates were available and made the photography of clouds and landscape easier.

 

Adam Clark Vroman (1856-1916), a native of LaSalle, Illinois, moved to Pasadena, California, in 1892. He was an amateur field photographer who worked primarily with glass plate photography and was the founder of Vroman’s Bookstore located in Pasadena. His impressive body of photographic work from the late 1890s and early 1900s documents his multiple expeditions to the pueblos and mesas of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, several of these trips alongside Dr Frederick Webb Hodge with the Bureau of American Ethnology. Vroman’s close friendship with the natives, notably the Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo, allowed him to capture intimate images of their daily lives and customs as well as the lands that they inhabited. These photographs provide a stark contrast from common depictions of the time period that portrayed American Indian peoples as either exotic subjects or as savages.

His work during this period also reflects his extreme fondness of the glowing, superior quality of light found in the Southwest region. During these expeditions he worked primarily with a 6 ½” x 8 ½” view camera as well as with 4″ x 5″ and 5″ x 7″ cameras. Between 1895 and 1905, Vroman documented the interiors and exteriors of the Spanish missions in California prior to the restoration of the buildings. He photographed areas in California such as Pasadena, Yosemite National Park, as well as the eastern region of the United States, including Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. Vroman was also an avid art collector with an interest in the crafts of Native Americans and treasures from Japan and the Far East. He spent the last years of his life traveling to the East Coast and Canada, as well as to Japan and to countries in Europe. He died in Altadena, California, in 1916 of intestinal cancer.

Text from the Online Archive of California website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)
1903
Platinum print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Hermine Turner

 

 

Gertrude Käsebier’s addition of clouds, which are absent from the original negative, gives this photograph a meditative quality that parallels the subject’s contemplative state. As a leading Pictorialist, Käsebier viewed photographs as an art form and drew inspiration from the work of famous painters. Perhaps, then, she was aware of painter Joghn Constable’s belief that the sky as the “chief organ of sentiment” in a picture.

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)' 1903 (detail)

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter) (detail)
1903
Platinum print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Hermine Turner

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) 'Marsh at Dawn' 1906

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Marsh at Dawn
1906
Platinum print, printed 1910
George Eastman Museum, purchase
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust. All Right Reserved

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, b. United States, 1882-1966) 'Clouds in the Canyon' 1911

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, b. United States, 1882-1966)
Clouds in the Canyon
1911
Gum bichromate over platinum print
George Eastman Museum, bequest of the photographer

 

Unidentified maker (French) 'Cumulus' c. 1918

 

Unidentified maker (French)
Cumulus
c. 1918
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Unidentified maker (French) 'Mer de nuages' (Sea of ​​clouds) c. 1918

 

Unidentified maker (French)
Mer de nuages (Sea of ​​clouds)
c. 1918
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Equivalent' 1925

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Equivalent
1925
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase and gift of Georgia O’Keeffe
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Equivalent' probably 1926

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Equivalent
probably 1926
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase and gift of Georgia O’Keeffe
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961) 'Reclining Girl and Dog Cloud' 1993

 

Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961)
Reclining Girl and Dog Cloud
1993
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Charina Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum
© 2020 Vik Muniz / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

 

 

Sometimes we see a cloud that’s dragonish;
A vapour sometime like a bear or lion,
A tower’d citadel, a pendent rock,
A forked mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon’t, that nod unto the world,
And mock our eyes with air.

Shakespeare, “Antony and Cleopatra”, (IV, xii, 2-7)

 

Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974) 'Untitled (Reaper Drone)' 2013

 

Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974)
Untitled (Reaper Drone)
2013
Chromogenic development print
Courtesy of the Artist and Altman Siegel, San Francisco
© Trevor Paglen

 

 

Trevor Paglen’s artwork draws on his long-time interest in investigative journalism and the social sciences, as well as his training as a geographer. His work seeks to show the hidden aesthetics of American surveillance and military systems, touching on espionage, the digital circulation of images, government development of weaponry, and secretly funded military projects. …

Since the 1990s, Paglen has photographed isolated military air bases located in Nevada and Utah using a telescopic camera lens. Untitled (Reaper Drone) reveals a miniature drone mid-flight against a luminous morning skyscape. The drone is nearly imperceptible, suggested only as a small black speck [in] the image. The artist’s photographs are taken at such a distance that they abstract the scene and distort our capacity to make sense of the image. His work both exposes hidden secrets and challenges assumptions about what can be seen and fully understood.

Text from the Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Abelardo Morell (American, b. Cuba 1948) 'Rapidly Moving Clouds over Field, Flatford, England, #1' 2017

 

Abelardo Morell (American, b. Cuba 1948)
Rapidly Moving Clouds over Field, Flatford, England, #1
2017
From After Constable
Inkjet print
Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Abelardo Morell

 

 

After Constable, [is] a series of unique visions of the landscape of Hamstead Heath by Abelardo Morell.

In June of 2017, the photographer Abelardo Morell took a pilgrimage to England, visiting the landscape of nineteenth-century Romantic painter John Constable. In the hopes of capturing the spirit of Constable’s work, Morell pitched a tent in the middle of London’s Hampstead Heath. This tent, a constructed camera obscura, projected the surrounding landscape onto the earthen ground through a small aperture at the tent’s top. Describing his camera obscura, Morell stated, “I invented a device – part tent, part periscope – to show how the immediacy of the ground we walk on enhances our understanding of the panorama, the larger world it helps to form.”

Photographing the ground below him, Morell captured both the texture of the earth as well as its vast surrounding landscape: both macro- and micro-visions of Constable’s surroundings, caught in harmony on one plane. With this layering, the photographs blend both image and texture. Always drawn to the dimension of a painting’s surface, Morell sought to emulate texture in his own photographs. In Constable’s romantic visions of Hampstead Heath from the early nineteenth century, the painter captured the english landscape in gestures of tactile, thick paint. With the roughness of the ground underneath the projected sky, each photograph’s plane echoes a painting’s surface.

Text from the Rosegallery website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

James Tylor (Kaurna, Māori and Australian, b. 1986) 'Turalayinthi Yarta (Wirramumiyu)' 2017

 

James Tylor (Kaurna, Māori and Australian, b. 1986)
Turalayinthi Yarta (Wirramumiyu)
2017
Inkjet print with ochre
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Charina Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum
© James Tylor

 

 

This series explores my connection with Kaurna yarta (Kaurna land) through learning, researching, documenting and traveling on country. Turalayinthi Yarta* is a Kaurna phrase “to see yourself in the landscape” or “landscape photography”. In a two year period I travelled over 300 km of the southern part of the Hans Heysen trail that runs parallel along the Kaurna nation boundary line in the Mount Lofty ranges. Combining photographs and traditional Nunga** designs to represent my connection with this Kaurna region of South Australia.

*Yarta means Land, Country and Nation in Kaurna language
**Nunga means South Australian Aboriginal people or person (Nunga language)

Text from the James Tylor website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

John Chiara (American, b. 1971) 'Old River Road: Stovall Road: Oakhurst Road' 2018

 

John Chiara (American, b. 1971)
Old River Road: Stovall Road: Oakhurst Road
2018
Silver dye bleach print
Courtesy of ROSEGALLERY
© John Chiara

 

 

John Chiara is an experimental photographer who makes unique works by directly manipulating photosensitive paper. Chiara always believed that too much was lost in the final photograph because of the enlargement processes in the darkroom. In 1995, he was working primarily with making contact prints with large-format negatives, but in subsequent years he developed equipment and processes that allowed him to make large-scale, colour, positive photographic images without the use of film. The largest of his devices is a field camera that is large enough for Chiara to enter; he attaches the paper to this camera’s back wall and uses his hands and body to burn and dodge the image instinctively. Chiara’s developing process often leaves anomalies in the resulting images, which he embraces.

Text from the Artsy website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

 

George Eastman Museum
900 East Ave, Rochester, NY 14607, USA

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday 11am – 5pm
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

George Eastman House website

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27
May
16

Exhibition: ‘Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World’ at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 19th February – 30th May 2016

 

This looks to be a fascinating exhibition. I wish I could see it.

While Sight Reading cuts across conventional historical and geographic divisions, with the exhibition being organized into nine “conversations” among diverse sets of works, we must always remember that these “themes” are not exclusory to each other. Photographs do cross nominally defined boundaries and themes (as defined by history and curators) so that they can become truly subversive works of art.

Photographs can form spaces called heterotopia, “a form of concept in human geography elaborated by philosopher Michel Foucault, to describe places and spaces that function in non-hegemonic conditions. These are spaces of otherness, which are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and mental, such as the space of a phone call or the moment when you see yourself in the mirror… Foucault uses the term “heterotopia” (French: hétérotopie) to describe spaces that have more layers of meaning or relationships to other places than immediately meet the eye.”1

In photographs, there is always more than meets the eye. There is the association of the photograph to multiple places and spaces (the histories of that place and space); the imagination of the viewer and the memories they bring to any encounter with a photograph, which may change from time to time, from look to look, from viewing to viewing; and the transcendence of the photograph as it brings past time to present time as an intimation of future time. Past, present and future spacetime are conflated in the act of just looking, just being. Positioning this “‘annihilation of time and space’ as a particular moment in a dynamic cycle of rupture and recuperation enables a deliberate focus on the process of transition.”2 And that transition, Doreen Massey argues, ignores often-invisible contingencies that define spaces those relations that have an effect upon a space but are not visible within it.3

Photographs, then, form what Deleuze and Guattari call assemblages4, where the assemblage is “the processes by which various configurations of linked components function in an intersection with each other, a process that can be both productive and disruptive. Any such process invovles a territorialization; there is a double movement where something accumulates meanings (re-territorialization), but does so co-extensively with a de-territorialization where the same thing is disinvested of meanings. The organization of a territory is characterized by such a double movement … An assemblage is an extension of this process, and can be thought of as constituted by an intensification of these processes around a particular site through a multiplicity of intersections of such territorializations.”5 In other words, when looking at a photograph by William Henry Fox Talbot or Timothy H. O’Sullivan today, the meaning and interpretation of the photograph could be completely different to the reading of this photograph in the era it was taken. The photograph is a site of both de-territorialization and re-territorialization – it both gains and looses meaning at one and the same time, depending on who is looking at it, from what time and from what point of view.

Photographs propose that there are many heterotopias in the world, many transitions and intersections, many meanings lost and found, not only as spaces with several places of/for the affirmation of difference, but also as a means of escape from authoritarianism and repression. We must remember these ideas as we looking at the photographs in this exhibition.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

  1. Heterotopia (space) on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 27/05/2016.
  2. McQuire, Scott. The Media City. London: Sage Publications, 2008, p. 14.
  3. Massey, Doreen. Space, Place and Gender. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994, p. 5 in Wood, Aylish. “Fresh Kill: Information technologies as sites of resistance,” in Munt, Sally (ed.,). Technospaces: Inside the New Media. London: Continuum, 2001, pp. 163-164.
  4. Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolisand London: University of Minneapolis Press, 1987.
  5. Wood, Aylish. “Fresh Kill: Information technologies as sites of resistance,” in Munt, Sally (ed.,). Technospaces: Inside the New Media. London: Continuum, 2001, p.166

 

 

'Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World' exhibition sections

 

Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World exhibition sections

 

 

“As its name declares, photography is a means of writing with light. Photographs both show and tell, and they speak an extraordinary range of dialects.

Beginning February 19 the Morgan Library & Museum explores the history of the medium as a lucid, literate – but not always literal – tool of persuasion in a new exhibition, Sight Reading: Photography and the Legible World. A collaboration with the George Eastman Museum of Film and Photography, the show features more than eighty works from the 1840s to the present and reveals the many ways the camera can transmit not only the outward appearance of its subject but also narratives, arguments, and ideas. The show is on view through May 30.

Over the past 175 years, photography has been adopted by, and adapted to, countless fields of endeavor, from art to zoology and from fashion to warfare. Sight Reading features a broad range of material – pioneering x-rays and aerial views, artifacts of early photojournalism, and recent examples of conceptual art – organized into groupings that accentuate the variety and suppleness of photography as a procedure. In 1936, artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) defined “the  illiterate of the future” as someone “ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen.” The JPEG and the “Send” button were decades away, but Moholy-Nagy was not the first observer to argue that photography belonged to the arts of commentary and persuasion. As the modes and motives of camera imagery have multiplied, viewers have continually learned new ways to read the information, and assess the argument, embodied in a photograph.

“Traditional narratives can be found throughout the Morgan’s collections, especially in its literary holdings,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Morgan. “Sight Reading encourages us to use a critical eye to read and discover the stories that unfold through the camera lens and photography, a distinctly modern, visual language. We are thrilled to collaborate with the Eastman Museum, and together unravel a rich narrative, which exemplifies photography’s deep involvement in the stories of modern art, science, and the printed page.”

 

The exhibition

Sight Reading cuts across conventional historical and geographic divisions. Featuring work by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), John Heartfield (1891-1968), Lewis Hine (1874-1940), Harold Edgerton (1903-1990), John Baldessari (b. 1931), Sophie Calle (b. 1953), and Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015), among many others, the exhibition is organized into nine “conversations” among diverse sets of works.

 

I. The Camera Takes Stock

Photography’s practical functions include recording inventory, capturing data imperceptible to the human eye, and documenting historical events. In the first photographically illustrated publication, The Pencil of Nature (1845), William Henry Fox Talbot used his image Articles of China to demonstrate that “the whole cabinet of a … collector … might be depicted on paper in little more time than it would take him to make a written inventory describing it in the usual way.” Should the photographed collection suffer damage or theft, Talbot speculated, “the mute testimony of the picture … would certainly be evidence of a novel kind” before the law.

A century later, Harold Edgerton, an electrical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, used the pulsing light of a stroboscope to record states of matter too fleeting for the naked eye. Gun Toss, an undated image of a spinning pistol, is not a multiple exposure: the camera shutter opened and closed just once. But during that fraction of a second, seven bright flashes of light committed to film a seven-episode history of the gun’s trajectory through space.

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877) 'Articles of China' c. 1843, printed c. 1845

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877)
Articles of China
c. 1843, printed c. 1845
Salted paper print from calotype negative
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

In The Pencil of Nature (1845), the first photographically illustrated publication, Talbot used Articles of China to demonstrate that “the whole cabinet of a … collector … might be depicted on paper in little more time than it would take him to make a written inventory describing it in the usual way.” Should the collection suffer damage or theft, Talbot added, “the mute testimony of the picture … would certainly be evidence of a novel kind” before the law.

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882) 'Historic Spanish Record of the Conquest, South Side of Inscription Rock' 1873

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882)
Historic Spanish Record of the Conquest, South Side of Inscription Rock
1873
From the album Geographical Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

In 1873 O’Sullivan joined Lieutenant George Wheeler’s Geographic Survey in New Mexico and Arizona. At El Morro, a sandstone promontory covered with ancient petroglyphs and historic-era inscriptions, the photographer singled out this handsomely lettered sentence to record and measure. It states: By this place passed Ensign Don Joseph de Payba Basconzelos, in the year in which he held the Council of the Kingdom at his expense, on the 18th of February, in the year 1726. Nearby, the rock record now bears another inscription that reads T. H. O’Sullivan.

 

Harold Edgerton (American, 1903-1990) 'Gun Toss' 1936-50

 

Harold Edgerton (American, 1903-1990)
Gun Toss
1936-50
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

Edgerton, an electrical engineer, used the rapidly pulsing light of a stroboscope to record states of matter too fleeting to be perceived by the naked eye. This image of a spinning pistol is not a multiple exposure: the camera shutter opened and closed just once. But during that fraction of a second, seven bright flashes of light committed to film a seven-episode history of the gun’s trajectory through space.

 

John Pfahl (American, b. 1939) 'Wave Theory I–V, Puna Coast, Hawaii, March 1978' 1978

 

John Pfahl (American, b. 1939)
Wave Theory I-V, Puna Coast, Hawaii, March 1978
1978
From the series Altered Landscapes
Chromogenic development (Ektacolor) process prints, 1993
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

In this sequence, Pfahl twisted the conventions of photographic narrative into a perceptual puzzle. The numbered views appear to chronicle a single event: a wave breaking on the shore. Close inspection, however, reveals that the numeric caption in each scene is made of string laid on the rock in the foreground. The exposures, then, must have been made over a span of at least several minutes, not seconds – and in what order, one cannot say.

 

 

II. Crafting A Message

The camera is widely understood to be “truthful,” but what photographs “say” is a product of many procedures that follow the moment of exposure, including page layout, captioning, and cropping of the image. During World War I, military personnel learned to interpret the strange, abstract looking images of enemy territory made from airplanes. Their specialized training fundamentally altered the nature of wartime reconnaissance, even as the unusual perspective unique to aerial photography introduced a new dialect into the expanding corpus of modern visual language. An Example of an Annotated Photograph with Local Names of Trenches Inserted (1916), on view in the exhibition, shows that the tools of ground strategy soon included artificial bunkers and trenches, designed purely to fool eyes in the sky.

In László Moholy-Nagy’s photocollages of the late 1920s, figures cut out of the plates in massmarket magazines appear in new configurations to convey messages of the artist’s devising. Images such as Massenpsychose (Mass Psychosis) (1927) propose a new kind of visual literacy for the machine age. To contemporary eyes, Moholy’s collages seem to foreshadow cut-andpaste strategies that would later characterize the visual culture of cyberspace.

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, b. Hungary, 1895-1946) 'Massenpsychose' (Mass Psychosis) 1927

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, b. Hungary, 1895-1946)
Massenpsychose (Mass Psychosis)
1927
Collage, pencil, and ink
George Eastman Museum, Purchased with funds provided by Eastman Kodak Company

 

To make his photocollages of the late 1920s, Moholy-Nagy cut figures out of photographs and photomechanical reproductions and arranged them into new configurations that convey messages of his own devising. By extracting the images from their original context and placing them into relationships defined by drawn shapes and volumes, he suggested a new visual literacy for the modern world. In this world – one in which images course through mass culture at a psychotic pace – a two-dimensional anatomical drawing acquires sufficient volume to cast a man’s shadow and a circle of bathing beauties cues up for a pool sharp. To contemporary eyes, the language of Moholy-Nagy’s photo collages seems to foreshadow strategies common to the visual culture of cyberspace.

 

Unidentified maker. 'An Example of an Annotated Photograph with Local Names of Trenches Inserted' c. 1916

 

Unidentified maker
An Example of an Annotated Photograph with Local Names of Trenches Inserted
c. 1916
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum

 

During World War I, aerial photography progressed from a promising technological experiment to a crucial strategic operation. As advances in optics and engineering improved the capabilities of cameras and aircraft, military personnel learned to identify topographic features and man-made structures in the images recorded from above. Such training fundamentally altered the significance and practice of wartime reconnaissance. At the same time, the unusual perspective unique to aerial photography introduced a new dialect into the expanding corpus of modern visual language.

 

PhotoMetric Corporation, 1942-74 'PhotoMetric Tailoring' c. 1942-48

 

PhotoMetric Corporation, 1942-74
PhotoMetric Tailoring
c. 1942-48
Gelatin silver prints
George Eastman Museum

 

In an effort to streamline the field of custom tailoring, textile entrepreneur Henry Booth devised a method for obtaining measurements by photographing customers with a special camera and angled mirrors. The system was said to be foolproof, making it possible for any sales clerk to operate it. The resulting slides were sent to the manufacturer along with the customer’s order. A tailor translated the images into physical measurements using a geometric calculator, and the company mailed the finished garment to the customer.

 

 

III. Photographs in Sequence

Photography’s debut in the late 1830s happened to coincide with the birth of the modern comic strip. Ultimately the narrative photo sequence would lead to the innovations that gave rise to cinema, another form of storytelling altogether. Exact contemporaries of one another, Eadweard J. Muybridge in the United States and Étienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904) in France both employed cameras to dissect human movement. Muybridge used a bank of cameras positioned to record a subject as it moved, tripping wires attached to the shutters. The result was a sequence of “stop-action” photographs that isolated gestures not otherwise visible in real time. Beginning in 1882, Marey pursued motion studies with a markedly different approach. In the works for which he is best known, he exposed one photographic plate multiple times at fixed intervals, recording the arc of movement in a single image.

 

Étienne Jules Marey (French, 1830-1904) 'Chronophotographic study of man pole vaulting' c. 1890

 

Étienne Jules Marey (French, 1830-1904)
Chronophotographic study of man pole vaulting
c. 1890
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Exchange with Narodni Technical Museum

 

Exact contemporaries, Muybridge and Marey (the former in the United States, the latter in France) both employed cameras to dissect human movement. Muybridge used a bank of cameras positioned and timed to record a subject as it moved, tripping wires attached to the shutters. The result was a sequence of “stop-action” photographs that isolated gestures not otherwise visible in real time. Beginning in 1882, Marey took a markedly different approach. In the works for which he is best known – such as the image of the man pole-vaulting – he exposed a single photographic plate multiple times at fixed intervals, recording the arc of movement in a single image. In Marey’s chronophotograph of a man on a horse, the action reads from bottom to top. The convention of arranging sequential photographic images from left to right and top to bottom, on the model of written elements on a page, was not yet firmly established.

 

William N. Jennings (American, b. England, 1860-1946) 'Notebook pages with photographs of lightning' c. 1887

 

William N. Jennings (American, b. England, 1860-1946)
Notebook pages with photographs of lightning
c. 1887
Gelatin silver prints mounted onto bound notepad paper
George Eastman Museum, Gift of 3M Foundation; Ex-collection of Louis Walton Sipley

 

With his first successful photograph of a lightning bolt on 2 September 1882, Jennings dispelled the then widely held belief – especially among those in the graphic arts – that lightning traveled toward the earth in a regular zigzag pattern. Instead, his images revealed that lightning not only assumed an astonishing variety of forms but that it never took the shape that had come to define it in art.

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Industriebauten' 1968

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007) Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015) 'Industriebauten' 1968

 

Bernd Becher (German, 1931-2007)
Hilla Becher (German, 1934-2015)
Industriebauten
1968
Gelatin silver prints in presentation box
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

The photographs in this portfolio were made only a few years into what would become the Bechers’ decades-long project of systematically documenting industrial architecture in Europe and the United States. The straightforward and rigidly consistent style of their work facilitates side-by-side comparison, revealing the singularity of structures that are typically understood to be generic.

 

 

IV. The Legible Object

Some photographs speak for themselves; others function as the amplifier for objects that can literally be read through the image. In her series Sorted Books, American artist Nina Katchadourian (b. 1968) composes statements by combining the titles of books drawn from the shelves of libraries and collections. Indian History for Young Folks, 2012, shows three books from the turn of the twentieth century that she found in the Delaware Art Museum’s M.G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings. The viewer’s eye silently provides punctuation: “Indian history for young folks: Our village; your national parks.” Though at first glance it appears merely to arrange words into legible order, Katchadourian’s oblique statement – half verbal, half visual – would be incomplete if divorced from the physical apparatus of the books themselves.

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870) Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848) 'The Artist and the Gravedigger (Denistoun Monument, Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh)' c. 1845

 

David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870)
Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848)
The Artist and the Gravedigger (Denistoun Monument, Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh)
c. 1845
Salted paper print from calotype negative
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Alvin Langdon Coburn

 

Hill, his two nieces, and an unidentified man pose for the camera at the tomb of Robert Denistoun, a seventeenth-century Scottish ambassador. Contemplative poses helped the sitters hold still during the long exposure, even while turning them into sculptural extensions of the monument. Hill puts pen to paper, perhaps playing the part of a graveyard poet pondering mortality. Above him, the monument’s Latin inscription begins: “Behold, the world possesses nothing permanent!”

 

Robert Cumming (American, b. 1943) 'Submarine cross-section; feature film, "Gray Lady Down" - Stage #12, March 14, 1977' 1977

 

Robert Cumming (American, b. 1943)
Submarine cross-section; feature film, “Gray Lady Down” – Stage #12, March 14, 1977
1977
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Nash Editions

 

In the Studio Still Lifes he photographed on the backlots of Universal Studios, Cumming sought to portray the mechanisms behind cinema vision “in their real as opposed to their screen contexts.” Admiring yet subversive, his documents use strategies native to the still camera – distance, point of view, and clear-eyed testimony – to translate Hollywood’s familiar illusions into worksites where “marble is plywood, stone is rubber, . . . rooms seldom have ceilings, and when the sun shines indoors, it casts a dozen shadows.”

 

Nina Katchadourian (American, b. 1968) 'Indian History for Young Folks' 2012

 

Nina Katchadourian (American, b. 1968)
Indian History for Young Folks
2012
From Once Upon a Time in Delaware / In Quest of the Perfect Book
Chromogenic print
The Morgan Library Museum, Purchase, Photography Collectors Committee

 

In her ongoing series Sorted Books, Katchadourian composes statements by combining the titles of books from a given library – in this case, the M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings at the Delaware Art Museum. Though her compositions are driven by the need to arrange words in a legible order, Katchadourian’s oblique jokes, poems, and koans would be incomplete if divorced from the cultural information conveyed by the physical books themselves.

 

 

V. The Photograph Decodes Nature

As early as 1840, one year after photography’s invention was announced, scientists sought to deploy it in their analysis of the physical world. Combining the camera with the microscope, microphotographs recorded biological minutiae, leading to discoveries that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to obtain by observing subjects in real time. Similarly, the development of X-ray technology in 1895 allowed scientists to see and understand living anatomy to an unprecedented degree. Such innovations not only expanded the boundaries of the visible world but also introduced graphic concepts that would have a profound impact on visual culture. In other ways, too, nature has been transformed in human understanding through the interpretive filter of the lens, as seen in Sight Reading in the telescopic moon views of astronomers Maurice Loewy (1833-1907) and Pierre Henri Puiseux (1855-1928) and in the spellbinding aerial abstractions of William Garnett (1916-2006).

 

William Garnett (American, 1916-2006) 'Animal Tracks on Dry Lake' 1955

 

William Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Animal Tracks on Dry Lake
1955
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased on the Charina Endowment Fund

 

After making films for the U.S. Signal Corps during World War II, Garnett used GI-Bill funding to earn a pilot’s license. By the early 1950s, he had the field of artistic aerial landscape virtually to himself. This print, showing the ephemeral traces of wildlife movement on a dry lake bed, appeared in Diogenes with a Camera IV (1956), one in a series of exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art that highlighted the great variety of ways in which artists used photography to invent new forms of visual truth.

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942) '"Tea Pot" Rock' 1870

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942)
“Tea Pot” Rock
1870
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Jackson made this photograph as a member of the survey team formed by Ferdinand V. Hayden to explore and document the territory now known as Yellowstone National Park. Hayden’s primary goal was to gather information about the area’s geological history, and Jackson’s photographs record with precision and clarity the accumulated layers of sediment that allow this natural landmark to be fit into a geological chronology. The human figure standing at the left of the composition provides information about the size of the rock, demonstrating that photographers have long recognized the difficulty of making accurate inferences about scale based on photographic images.

 

Dr. Josef Maria Eder (Austrian, 1855-1944) Eduard Valenta (Austrian, 1857-1937) 'Zwei Goldfische und ein Seefisch (Christiceps argentatus)' 1896

 

Dr Josef Maria Eder (Austrian, 1855-1944)
Eduard Valenta (Austrian, 1857-1937)
Zwei Goldfische und ein Seefisch (Christiceps argentatus)
1896
From the book Versuche über Photographie mittelst der Röntgen’schen Strahlen
Photogravure
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Eastman Kodak Company; Ex-collection of Josef Maria Eder

 

As early as 1840 – a year after photography’s invention was announced – scientists sought to deploy it in their analysis of the physical world. Combining the camera with the microscope, microphotographs recorded biological minutiae, leading to discoveries that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to obtain by observing subjects in real time. Similarly, the development of x-ray technology in 1895 allowed doctors to study living anatomy to an unprecedented degree. Such innovations not only expanded the boundaries of the visible world but also introduced graphic concepts that would have a profound impact on visual culture.

 

Dr James Deane (American, 1801-1858) 'Ichnographs from the Sandstone of Connecticut River' 1861

 

Dr James Deane (American, 1801-1858)
Ichnographs from the Sandstone of Connecticut River
1861
Book illustrated with 22 salted paper prints and 37 lithographs
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Alden Scott Boyer

 

These photographs, which depict traces of fossils discovered in a sandstone quarry, illustrate a book written by Massachusetts surgeon James Deane, who was the author of texts on medicine as well as natural history. Published posthumously using his notes and photographs as a guide, the volume is an early demonstration of photography’s potential as a tool of scientific investigation.

 

 

VI. The Photograph Decodes Culture

The photograph not only changed but to a great extent invented the modern notion of celebrity. Modern-age celebrities live apart from the general public, but their faces are more familiar than those of the neighbors next door. Since the mid-nineteenth century, viewers have come to “know” the famous through accumulated photographic sightings, which come in formats and contexts that vary as much as real-life encounters do. In four images that would have communicated instantly to their intended viewers in 1966, Jean-Pierre Ducatez (b. 1970) portrayed the Beatles through closeups of their mouths alone. The graphic shorthand employed by Jonathan Lewis in his series The Pixles is of a more recent variety, but he, too, relies on the visual familiarity conferred by tremendous celebrity. Each print in the series reproduces the iconic art of a Beatles album cover at life size (12 x 12 inches) but extremely low resolution (12 x 12 pixels). Like celebrities themselves, perhaps, the images look more familiar to the eye at a distance than close-up.

 

Unidentified maker. 'U. S. Grant' c. 1862

 

Unidentified maker
U. S. Grant
c. 1862
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882) 'A Council of War at Massaponax Church, Va. 21st May, 1864. Gens. Grant and Meade, Asst. Sec. of War Dana, and Their Staff Officers' 1864

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882)
A Council of War at Massaponax Church, Va. 21st May, 1864. Gens. Grant and Meade, Asst. Sec. of War Dana, and Their Staff Officers
1864
From the series Photographic Incidents of the War
Albumen silver print stereograph
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Albert Morton Turner

 

Modern celebrities live apart from the general public, yet their faces are more familiar than those of the neighbors next door. Since the mid-nineteenth century, viewers have come to “know” the famous through accumulated photographic sightings, which come in formats and contexts that vary as much as real-life encounters do. First as a Union hero in the American Civil War and later as president, Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) lived in the public imagination through news images, popular stereographs, campaign buttons, and ultimately the (photo-based) face on the $50 bill. Grant was even a subject for Francois Willème’s patented process for generating a sculpted likeness out of photographs made in the round – an early forerunner to the technology of 3-D printing.

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970) 'Abbey Road' 2003

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970)
Abbey Road
2003
From The Pixles
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, By exchange with the artist

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970) 'Please Please Me' 2003

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970)
Please Please Me
2003
From The Pixles
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, By exchange with the artist

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970) 'Rubber Soul' 2003

 

Jonathan Lewis (British, b. 1970)
Rubber Soul
2003
From The Pixles
Inkjet print
George Eastman Museum, By exchange with the artist

 

Synecdoche is a poetic device in which a part stands in for the whole. (In the phrase “three sails set forth,” sails mean ships.) In four images that would have communicated instantly to their intended viewers in 1966, Ducatez portrayed the Beatles solely through close-ups of their mouths. The graphic shorthand Lewis employs in his series The Pixles is of a more recent variety, though he, too, relies on the visual familiarity conferred by tremendous celebrity. Each print in the series reproduces a Beatles album cover at life size (12 x 12 inches) but extremely low resolution (12 x 12 pixels).

 

 

VII. Meaning is on the Surface

Photographs are not just windows onto the world but pieces of paper, which can themselves be inscribed or otherwise altered in ways that enrich or amend their meaning. The group portrait Joint Meeting of the Railway Surgeons Association, Claypool Hotel, Indianapolis (1920) is contact printed, meaning that the negative was the same size as the print. After the portrait sitting, the photographer appears to have presented the developed film to the sixty-four sitters for signing during the three days they were assembled for their convention. The result is a document that unites two conventional signifiers of character: facial features and the autograph.

 

Gravelle Studio, Indianapolis (American, active 1920) 'Joint Meeting of the Railway Surgeons Association, Claypool Hotel, Indianapolis' 1920

 

Gravelle Studio, Indianapolis (American, active 1920)
Joint Meeting of the Railway Surgeons Association, Claypool Hotel, Indianapolis
1920
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased as the gift of Peter J. Cohen

 

Panoramic group portraits such as this are made using a banquet camera, which admits light through a narrow vertical slit while rotating on its tripod. This image was contact printed, meaning the negative was the same size as the print. The photographer appears to have presented the developed film to the sixty-four sitters for signing during the three days they were assembled. The result is a document that unites two conventional signifiers of character: facial features and the autograph.

 

Keith Smith (American, b. 1938) 'Book 151' 1989

 

Keith Smith (American, b. 1938)
Book 151
1989
Bound book of gelatin silver prints, thread, and leather
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

This unique object unites the arts of photography, quilting, and bookmaking. The composite image on each right-hand page appears to be made of prints cut apart and sewn together. In fact, Smith began by printing patchwork-inspired photomontages in the darkroom. He then stitched along many of the borders where abutting images meet, creating the illusion of a photographic crazy quilt.

 

 

VIII. Photography and the Page

News of the world took on a newly visual character in the 1880s, when the technology of the halftone screen made it practical, at last, to render photographs in ink on the printed page.

Among the earliest examples of photojournalism is Paul Nadar’s (1820-1910) “photographic interview” with Georges Ernest Boulanger, a once-powerful French politician. The article’s introduction explains that the photographs were printed alongside the text in order to provide evidence of the encounter and to illustrate Boulanger’s dynamic body language during the conversation.

 

Stephen Henry Horgan (American, 1854-1941) 'Shanty Town' April 1880

 

Stephen Henry Horgan (American, 1854-1941)
Shanty Town
April 1880
Photomechanical printing plate A Scene in Shantytown, New York, c. 1928
Lithograph
George Eastman Museum, Gift of 3M Foundation; Ex-collection of Louis Walton Sipley

 

Paul Nadar (French, 1856-1939) 'Interview with Georges Ernest Jean Marie Boulanger' 1889

 

Paul Nadar (French, 1856-1939)
Interview with Georges Ernest Jean Marie Boulanger
1889
Le Figaro, 23 November 1889
Photomechanical reproduction
George Eastman Museum, gift of Eastman Kodak Company; ex-collection Gabriel Cromer

 

Among the earliest examples of photojournalism is Nadar’s “photographic interview” with Georges Ernest Boulanger, a once-powerful French politician who had fallen out of public favor by the time this was published. The article’s introduction explains that the photographs were printed alongside the text in order to provide evidence of the encounter and to illustrate Boulanger’s body language during the conversation.

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874–1940) 'Italian Family Looking for Lost Baggage, Ellis Island' 1905

 

Lewis W. Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Italian Family Looking for Lost Baggage, Ellis Island
1905
Ellis Island Group, 1905
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee

 

In an effort to counter American xenophobia in the early years of the twentieth century, Hine photographed immigrants as they arrived at Ellis Island, composing his images to stir sympathy and understanding among viewers. He understood the importance of disseminating his photographs and actively sought to publish them in newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets. The white outline in the photograph on the right instructs the designer and printer where to crop the image for a photomontage featuring figures from multiple portraits.

 

Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954) 'La Poupée' (Puppet) 1936

 

Claude Cahun (French, 1894-1954)
La Poupée (Puppet)
1936
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

John Heartfield (German, 1891-1968) 'Hurrah, die Butter ist alle!' (Hooray, the Butter Is Finished!) 1935

 

John Heartfield (German, 1891-1968)
Hurrah, die Butter ist alle! (Hooray, the Butter Is Finished!)
1935
Rotogravure
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

This is one of 237 photomontages that Heartfield created between 1930 and 1938 for the antifascist magazine Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (Worker’s Pictorial Newspaper). It is a parody of the “Guns Before Butter” speech in which Hermann G.ring exhorted German citizens to sacrifice necessities in order to aid the nation’s rearmament. The text reads: “Iron ore has always made an empire strong; butter and lard have at most made a people fat.” Heartfield combined details from several photographs to conjure the image of a German family feasting on tools, machine parts, and a bicycle in a swastika-laden dining room, complete with a portrait of Hitler, a framed phrase from a popular Franco-Prussian war-era song, and a throw pillow bearing the likeness of recently deceased president Paul von Hindenburg.

 

Unidentified maker. 'Certificate of Marriage between Daniel W. Gibbs and Matilda B. Pierce' c. 1874

 

Unidentified maker
Certificate of Marriage between Daniel W. Gibbs and Matilda B. Pierce
c. 1874
Tintypes in prepared paper mount
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Graphic cousins to one other, these wedding certificates are equipped with precut windows for photographs of the bride, groom, and officiant. The portraits, in partnership with the printed and inscribed text on the forms, contribute both to the documentary specificity of the certificates and to their value as sentimental souvenirs.

 

 

IX. Empire of Signs

The plethora of signs, symbols, and visual noise endemic to cities has attracted photographers since the medium’s invention. Their records of advertisers’ strident demands for attention, shopkeepers’ alluring displays, and the often dizzying architectural density of metropolitan life chronicle sights that are subject to change without notice. The photographer’s perspective on contemporary social life – whether it is anectodal, as in John Thompson’s (1837-1921) Street Advertising from Street Life in London (1877), or haunting, as in Eugène Atget’s (1857-1927) Impasse des Bourdonnais (ca. 1908) – is embedded in each image.

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Street Advertising' 1877

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Street Advertising
1877
From Street Life in London, 1877
Woodburytype
George Eastman Museum, Gift of Alden Scott Boyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Street Advertising' 1877

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Impasse des Bourdonnais
c. 1908
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, Purchase

 

Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904-1971) 'At the Time of the Louisville Flood' 1937

 

Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904-1971)
At the Time of the Louisville Flood
1937
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum

 

The plethora of signs, symbols, and visual noise endemic to cities has attracted photographers since the medium’s invention. Their records of advertisers’ strident demands for attention, shopkeepers’ alluring displays, and the often dizzying architectural density of metropolitan life chronicle sights that are subject to change without notice. The photographer’s perspective on contemporary social life – whether it is ironic, as in Margaret Bourke-White’s image of a line of flood victims before a billboard advertising middle-class prosperity, or bemused, as in Ferenc Berko’s photograph of columns of oversized artificial teeth on the street – is embedded in each image.

 

Ferenc Berko (American, b. Hungary, 1916-2000) 'Rawalpindi, India' 1946

 

Ferenc Berko (American, b. Hungary, 1916-2000)
Rawalpindi, India
1946
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman House, Gift of Katharine Kuh

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'New York 6' 1951

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
New York 6
1951
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of Richard and Ronay Menschel

 

Alex Webb (American, b. 1952) 'India' 1981

 

Alex Webb (American, b. 1952)
India
1981
Chromogenic development print
George Eastman Museum, Purchased with funds from Charina Foundation

 

 

The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street
New York, NY 10016-3405
Tel: (212) 685-0008

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Friday: 10.30 am – 9 pm
Saturday: 10 am to 6 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm

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26
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 1st October 1, 2013 – 5th January 2014

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The J. Paul Getty Museum puts on some amazing exhibitions, and this is no exception. For me the strength of this artist lies in his black and white work. I am not so enamoured with the camera obscura, unexpected juxtapositions of objects or tent-camera images. They seem prosaic and lack the magic of the black and white work.

The artist’s distinctive take on domestic interiors and family life is beguiling. Damp footprints on a bathroom floor with the most glorious light; the dark maw of a open paper bag; toy blocks ascending skywards; jumble of letters on a monolithic refrigerator door; the shadow of a house made into a house (amazing!); and the portents of darkness to come as Brady looks at his shadow. You cannot forget these images, they impinge on your consciousness. As for the colour images, they seem insignificant, superfluous when compared with these resonances.

Marcus

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

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Paper Bag' 1992

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Paper Bag
1992
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Curiouser and Curiouser' 1998

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Curiouser and Curiouser
1998
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Lisa and Brady Behind Glass' 1986

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Lisa and Brady Behind Glass
1986
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Toy Blocks' 1987

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Toy Blocks
1987
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Refrigerator' 1987

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Refrigerator
1987
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Footprints' 1987

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Footprints
1987
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchased with funds from the Friends of Photography, 2012.213
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Laura and Brady in the Shadow of Our House' 1994

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Laura and Brady in the Shadow of Our House
1994
Gelatin silver print
Image: 45.7 x 57.2 cm (18 x 22 1/2 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Abelardo Morell, 2004.139
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Book of Revolving Stars' 1994

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Book of Revolving Stars
1994
Inkjet print
Image: 45.7 x 57.2 cm (18 x 22 1/2 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Light Bulb' 1991

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Light Bulb
1991
Gelatin silver print
Image: 45.7 x 57.2 cm (18 x 22 1/2 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Comer Foundation Fund, 1994.40
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Camera Obscura: Houses Across the Street in Our Bedroom, Quincy, MA' 1991

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Camera Obscura: Houses Across the Street in Our Bedroom, Quincy, MA
1991
Gelatin silver print
Image: 79.2 x 103.2 cm (31 3/16 x 40 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Two Forks Under Water' 1993

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Two Forks Under Water
1993
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Book with Wavy Pages' 2001

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Book with Wavy Pages
2001
Gelatin silver print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Lent by the artist, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Motion Study of Falling Pitchers' 2004

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Motion Study of Falling Pitchers
2004
Gelatin silver print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, obj. 210881
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Brady Looking at his Shadow' 1991

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Brady Looking at his Shadow
1991
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchased with funds from Bert and Cathy Clark, 2012.214
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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“Over the past 25 years, Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) has become internationally renowned for photographs that push the boundaries of the medium while exploring visual surprise and wonder. Throughout his career, he has looked at things with a fresh vision and investigated simple optics in myriad forms. Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door, on view October 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, traces the artist’s innovative work as he has continued to mine the essential strangeness and complexity of photography. The exhibition was organized by The Art Institute of Chicago, in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

“Abelardo Morell is one of this country’s great contemporary photographers whose very distinctive achievement is celebrated in this first major survey of his work,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The exhibition also celebrates the growth of the holdings of Morell at three major museums, which have recently been augmented through the generosity of Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, who have promised significant groups of works by the artist to each institution’s permanent collection.”

Morell came to the United States as a teenager. He attended Bowdoin College in Maine, and later completed an MFA in photography at Yale University. In 1986 he began creating large-format pictures around his home, examining common household objects with childlike curiosity. As a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, he experimented with optics in his teaching and initiated a series of images in which he turned entire rooms into camera obscuras, capturing the outside world as projected onto interior surfaces. These visual experiments and endless exploration of the medium are at the heart of the work on view in the exhibition.

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From a Child’s Perspective

The earliest photographs in the exhibition date from the mid-1980s, when the birth of his son, Brady, led Morell to a radical shift in his work. Looking inward at his own family life, Morell found novel subject matter in domestic interiors. He set aside his hand-held camera in favor of a large-format view camera that necessitated a more deliberate style and elicited a wealth of tactile detail from his subjects. Of this shift, Morell writes: “I started making photographs as if I were a child myself. This strategy got me to look at things around me more closely, more slowly, and from vantage points I hadn’t considered before.” This technique can be seen in Refrigerator (negative, 1987; print, 2012), where Morell portrays a common refrigerator as a giant monolith with jumbled letters on it, evoking the preverbal vision of a child. This concept recurs in Toy Blocks (negative, 1987; print, 2012), where toy blocks photographed from a steep perspective on the floor are made to seem like a mysterious Tower of Babel, as they might to a small child.

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Camera Obscura Experiments

The basis for all photography, the principle of the camera obscura (Latin for “dark chamber”) has been known since antiquity. In 1991, Morell began transforming entire rooms into cameras by covering the windows and inserting a small hole. He used a second camera to photograph the superimposition of the outside world as projected onto various interiors. Morell started by making black-and-white pictures in his own home before traveling before traveling in search of other compelling subjects for his uncanny, disorienting images. Morell made a pilgrimage to photograph Lacock Abbey, the country house of William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877), one of the inventors of photography. Talbot’s era was an ideal model for the camera obscura work, as the general interest in a variety of intersecting subject matter at that time mirrored Morell’s own interest in uniting science, art, philosophy, and religion.

In 2005, Morell turned to creating camera obscura works in color, eventually incorporating technical refinements that made his photographs less raw and immediate and more explicitly constructed. In View of the Brooklyn Bridge in the Bedroom (2009), bold red sheets serve as a reminder of the bed as a site of intimacy, contrasting with the public space of the Brooklyn Bridge. This strange juxtaposition also evokes a dreamlike state, as the outdoor image floats just above the bed.

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Tent Camera Images

In 2010, following the example of 19th century photographers such as Carleton Watkins (American, 1829-1916) and William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942), Morell set out to capture the grandeur of the American wilderness. At Big Bend National Park in Texas, he began experimenting with a portable tent camera featuring a periscope lens on top, which projected the scene outside onto the ground. Morell found it appealing that what was overlooked because it was underfoot – something so common and shared – formed the backdrop for these images. In Tent Camera Image on Ground: El Capitan from Cathedral Beach, Yosemite National Park, California (2012), Morell followed Carleton Watkins’s path into Yosemite, where he used the tent camera to create a landscape that is no longer fresh and pristine, but set against such modern visual disruptions as bike tracks in the dirt.

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Additional Experiments

Also on view in the exhibition are additional visual experiments employed by Morell, including a simulation of Eadweard Muybridge’s early use of stop-motion using a water pitcher and wine glass, as well as optical curiosities like dappled sunlight under trees, which Morell said results from hundreds of “tiny cameras” that form in the minute spaces between leaves. While in residence at two museums – the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1998, and the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven in 2008 – Morell created photographs that involve unexpected juxtapositions that explore how the presentation of art affects its meaning. By moving sculptures and paintings in close proximity to one another, he created what he called “an impossible conversation” between works of art. In Nadelman/Hopper (negative, 2008; print, 2012), he positioned a bust by Elie Nadelman (American, 1882-1946) in front of a painting by Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967) for a composition in the vein of Surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico (Italian, 1888-1978).

“Morell is driven by his unflagging intellectual curiosity and his love of the medium of photography,” said Paul Martineau, associate curator of photographs and curator of the exhibition at the Getty Museum. “His work is grounded in the past, but it also contains an unexpected twist that causes us to reexamine what we think we know. I am delighted to be able to share this unique collection of photographs with our visitors.”

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Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door is on view October 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition was on view at the the Art Institute of Chicago from June 1 – September 2, 2013, and will be on view at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta from February 22 – May 18, 2014. The exhibition is curated by Paul Martineau, associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Elizabeth Siegel, associate curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Brett Abbott, curator of photography at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, where it travels after the Getty. Funding for the exhibition catalogue was provided by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Generous in-kind support for the exhibition was provided by Tru Vue Inc. and Gemini Moulding Incc.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Nadelman/Hopper, Yale University Art Gallery' 2008

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Nadelman/Hopper, Yale University Art Gallery
2008
Inkjet print
Image: 61 x 76.2 cm (24 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Tent-Camera Image On Ground: Rooftop View Of The Brooklyn Bridge' 2010

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image On Ground: Rooftop View Of The Brooklyn Bridge
2010
Inkjet print
Image: 76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Yates' 2012

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Yates
2012
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 76.2 cm (22 1/2 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Grand Canyon from Trailview Overlook' 2012

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Grand Canyon from Trailview Overlook
2012
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 76.2 cm (22 1/2 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View' 2012

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View
2012
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 76.2 cm (22 1/2 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Upright Camera Obscura Image of the Piazzeta San Marco Looking Southeast in Office' 2007

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Upright Camera Obscura Image of the Piazzeta San Marco Looking Southeast in Office
2007
Inkjet print
Image: 61 x 76.2 cm (24 x 30 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist in memory of David Feingold, 2013.1
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Camera Obscura: View of the Brooklyn Bridge in Bedroom' 2009

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Camera Obscura: View of the Brooklyn Bridge in Bedroom
2009
Inkjet print
Image: 79 x 101.6 cm (31 1/8 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by Richard and Alison Crowell, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser and anonymous donors in honor of James N. Wood
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Camera Obscura Image of Santa Maria della Salute in Palazzo Bedroom, Venice, Italy' 2006

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Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Camera Obscura Image of Santa Maria della Salute in Palazzo Bedroom, Venice, Italy
2006
Inkjet print
Image: 101.6 x 76.2 cm (40 x 30 in.)
Lent by the artist, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 9 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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26
Sep
13

Exhibition: ‘Un/Natural Color’ at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA

Exhibition dates: 7th July – 29th September 2013

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

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Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Un/Natural Color' at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Un/Natural Color' at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Un/Natural Color' at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

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Installation photographs of the exhibition Un/Natural Color at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

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“This exhibition looks at the powerful relationship between color and memory by considering photographs and the ways in which their unique color palettes evoke specific moments of the historical past. From the pastel hues of 19th-century hand-painted portraits, to the vibrant colors of late-1930s Kodachrome transparencies, and the faded, shifted tones of snapshots from the 1970s, different kinds of color reproduction are closely associated with the time periods that they most frequently represent. Each experiment in color photography was originally meant to convey a sense of the natural hues of the world, but as our expectations for realistic representation have evolved, these earlier technologies for representing color have also taken on new meaning. Today, the distinctive colors found in many vintage photographs speak as loudly to contemporary viewers about the period in which they were made as the content that they render visible. The exhibition suggests that the aesthetics of color are closely related to the evolution of photographic technology over the past 100 years, and encourages visitors to rethink the significance of color in contemporary photography through the lens of its multi-colored past. This exhibition was organized by Kim Beil, an art historian who teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz.”

Text from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art website

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Jack Delano. 'Barker at the Grounds of the Vermont State Fair, Rutland' 1941, printed 1983

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Jack Delano
Barker at the Grounds of the Vermont State Fair, Rutland
1941, printed 1983
Dye transfer print
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of the Bruce Berman and Nancy Goliger Berman Collection

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Jack Delano. 'At the Vermont State Fair, Rutland' 1941, printed 1985

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Jack Delano
At the Vermont State Fair, Rutland
1941, printed 1985
Dye transfer print
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of the Bruce Berman and Nancy Goliger Berman Collection

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William Eggleston. 'Farm truck, Memphis, Tennessee' 1972

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William Eggleston
Farm truck, Memphis, Tennessee
1972

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2006.73.1-WEB

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Leroy Grannis
Greg Noll Surf Team at Duke Kahanamoku Invitational, Sunset Beach
1966, printed 2005
C-print, ed. 1/9
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum purchase with funds provided by Janet and Michael G. Wilson

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“Un/Natural Color, an exhibition of color photography from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s (SBMA) permanent collection, illustrates the history of color photography since the 19th century and examines how the shifted or faded colors of old photographs can evoke moments in the historical past. Responding to the widespread use of nostalgic filters in popular photography and social media apps, such as Instagram and Twitter, this presentation enables visitors to see first-hand the historical processes that inspired the aesthetics of these digital manipulations. Despite their reputation for preserving memories and stopping time, photographs themselves are susceptible to material changes over time. These changes are often most visible in the radical color shifts seen in old photographs, from the characteristic pink hue of snapshots from the 1950s to the yellowed borders and cool cast of prints from the 1970s. These changes also serve to complicate any simple belief in the ability of photography to faithfully represent the natural colors of the world.

While the exhibition includes a number of experimental early processes, including the chromolithographically-derived Photochrom process as well as an early Autochrome, the bulk of the imagery is drawn from the decades following the pivotal invention of Kodachrome, the first color slide film, which was made commercially available in 1936. Because this film, as well as Kodacolor negative film (1942), was sent back to Eastman-Kodak for processing, photographers’ control over their imagery was greatly reduced, leading many art photographers to resist the transition to color until decades later.

Un/Natural Color includes rarely-seen color work by two notable documentary photographers of the Depression era, Jack Delano and Marion Post Wolcott. Both worked for the Farm Security Administration (a government program associated with the New Deal) and made limited use of color film while on assignment documenting the effects of the Great Depression on rural American. Very few (if any) of these images were reproduced in the popular press, however, owing to the difficulty and cost of reproducing color photographs, and to color photography’s overwhelming association with commercial advertising at this time (as in Elmar Ludwig and Edmund Nagel’s image of the popular resort chain, Butlin’s).

The art establishment at large expressed little interest in color photography until the mid-1970s, following the inclusion of color work in two groundbreaking exhibitions: Stephen Shore’s vernacular landscapes in New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY (1975) and the solo exhibition of William Eggleston’s color photography at the Museum of Modern Art, NY (1976). Both of these important photographers are represented in Un/Natural Color, as well as work by photographers exploring similar uses of color to record everyday American scenes, including Jeff Brouws, Jim Dow, and Joel Meyerowitz.

Prior to the 1970s, some tentative forays into color photography were made by art photographers primarily known for their work in black-and-white (notably Harry Callahan), but color was more often derided for its populist associations and was typically allied with either snapshot photography or advertising and Hollywood. The negative connotation that color photography had acquired over the years in the art world was critical to its adoption by photographers like Shore and Eggleston, who used it to challenge conventional expectations for photographic art and to force viewers to look with new eyes at the familiar world around them.

An image such as Greg Noll Surf Team at Duke Kahanamoku Invitational, Sunset Beach by Leroy Grannis highlights the powerful ability of color photography to summon a unique historical moment. It is not just the classic haircut and short surf trunks sported by the surf legend, Greg Noll, that situates this photograph in the 1960s. Color photography at this time typically recorded color in a highly saturated, though fairly uniform manner, leaving some aspects of this photograph looking flat, rather than mimicking the subtle modulation of tone that is more commonly associated with the perception of depth by human vision.

The characteristic manner by which different color processes represent the colors of the world, as well as the changes that such color photographs suffer over time, are powerful indicators of the photograph’s history. When we look at color photographs, all of these markers are brought to bear on our interpretation of their subjects, leading us to question: what is natural color anyway?”

Press release from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art website

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Roman Freulich. 'Gloria Swanson' Nd

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Roman Freulich
Gloria Swanson
Nd
Dye transfer print
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of Judith Caditz, Allan M. Caditz, Ellen Joan Abramson and Norman Abramson

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1986.22.22-WEB

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William Edwin Gledhill
Amanda Duff
1935
Dye transfer print
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of Keith Gledhill

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Elmar Ludwig and Edmond Nagele. 'The Indoor-Heated Pool, Butlin’s Mosney' Nd

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Elmar Ludwig and Edmond Nagele
The Indoor-Heated Pool, Butlin’s Mosney
Nd

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William Henry Jackson. 'Colorado Railway Mountain View' 1898

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William Henry Jackson
Colorado Railway Mountain View
1898
Photochrom
Santa Barbra Museum of Art, Museum purchase

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2010.6.3-Jackson-WEB

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William Henry Jackson
Colorado Grand Canyon of the Arkansas
1898
Photochrom
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum purchase

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Saul Leiter. 'Snow' 1960

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Saul Leiter
Snow
1960

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Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11 am – 5 pm
Thursday Evenings 5 – 8 pm

Santa Barbara Museum of Art website

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06
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now’ at the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Exhibition dates: 21st September 2012 – 13th January 2013

 

Unknown artist (American), 'Providence Panorama from Grosvenor or Bannigan Building' c. 1900

 

Unknown artist (American)
Providence Panorama from Grosvenor or Bannigan Building
c. 1900
Six cyanotype prints
RISD Museum: Mary B. Jackson Fund

 

 

I hope you enjoy this HUGE posting. There are some rare photographs and little known artists. I have kept the photographs in the sections of the exhibition as explained by the accompanying wall text. Three essays from the catalogue investigating history, landscape and photography can be found as pdfs below, essential reading for anyone interested in the subject (especially the first two essays):

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to  the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design for allowing me to publish the text and most of the photographs in the posting (the others I researched myself). Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“An understanding of landscape theory therefore suggests that not every photograph of land is a landscape, and not every landscape necessarily features the land. The standard definition points to places – places in the world, or places seen in pictures – which take on the quality of a thing. But “landscape” is probably better understood as that set of expectations and beliefs – about both the environment and the conventions of its representation – that we project upon the world. These conventions and expectations are subject to historical change and are culturally specific…”

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Douglas Nickel. ‘Photography, Perception, and the Landscape’ 2012 in ‘America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now’ catalogue, p. 26

 

“Once continental expansion had reached its limits, however, and no existential threats to white settlement remained, American landscape images began to reflect a new criticality – at turns romantic and realistic – that persists to this day. Indeed, for the last century, landscape photography has consistently mirrored Americans’ anxieties about nature, or rather its imminent loss, whether due to industrialisation, pollution, population growth, real estate profiteering, or bioengineering. Alternately portraying nature as a balm for the alienated modern soul or a dystopian fait accompli, modern and postmodern photographic landscapes mark a progressively disquieting understanding of humanity’s relationship to the natural universe.”

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Deborah Bright. Photographing Nature, Seeing Ourselves 2012 in America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now catalogue, p. 32

 

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942) 'Gardiners River Hot Springs, Diana's Baths' 1871

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942)
Gardiners River Hot Springs, Diana’s Baths
1871
From U.S. Geological Survey of the Territories
Albumen print
RISD Museum: Jesse Metcalf Fund

 

 

In this photograph William Henry Jackson captures the painter Thomas Moran, who was also part of the 1871 survey team. Shot from slightly below and at a distance, the photograph emphasises the textures of the mineral deposits in the foreground, while Moran’s figure seems dwarfed by the rock formations around him. Jackson often included figures in his photographs to impart a sense of scale. This inclusion of a single figure also heightens the impression that the photograph has captured a moment of discovery, the first contact between intrepid explorers and an uncharted land.

 

Carleton E. Watkins. 'Cape Horn, Columbia River' 1867

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Cape Horn, Columbia River
1867
Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund.
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

Cape Horn, Columbia River exemplifies not only the fine detail characteristic of Carleton Watkins’s images, but also his close attention to pictorial structure. Unlike many of the photographers represented in this gallery, Watkins worked independently of industrial concerns or government sponsorship. To make images that would appeal to an audience more familiar with traditional art forms, Watkins borrowed long-established conventions of landscape paintings, in particular carefully modulated lighting effects and harmonious compositions. Like the painters he emulated, Watkins depicts the West as a romantic wilderness and place of spiritual refuge.

 

William H. Bell. 'Perched Rock, Rocker Creek, Arizona' 1872

 

William H. Bell (American, 1830-1910)
Perched Rock, Rocker Creek, Arizona
1872
From the album Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian
Albumen print
Jesse Metcalf Fund. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

Surveying the Field

At the end of the American Civil War photographers turned their lenses toward both the wild territories of the West and scenic tourist destinations in the newly established national parks. Although these images are now commonly exhibited in art museums, they were not originally considered art objects, nor were the photographers who made them considered artists. Instead, many of the photographers represented here were hired to document the projects of governmental agencies and the progress of federal survey expeditions to the western territories. Others produced images for the growing tourist market or recorded the construction of tracks through the country’s interior for railroad companies. The majority of these images were published in governmental reports and presentation albums.

The albumen prints produced in America through the 1880s were made from glass-plate negatives created by the laborious process of coating glass plates the size of the prints with a thick photosensitive solution called collodion. These plates had to be prepared on-site, exposed, and developed before the collodion dried, so photographers traveled with portable darkrooms. The prints were made later in a studio by placing paper coated with albumen (solution suspended in egg whites) under a glass-plate negative and exposing the paper to sunlight. By contact printing on this glossy surface, the image was recorded in minute detail.

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882) 'Water Rhyolites, Near Logan Springs, Nevada' 1871

 

Timothy O’Sullivan (American, b. Ireland, 1840-1882)
Water Rhyolites, Near Logan Springs, Nevada
1871
From the album Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian
Albumen print
RISD Museum: Jesse Metcalf Fund

 

 

Timothy O’Sullivan and William H. Bell, official photographers on survey expeditions through Nevada and Arizona from 1871 to 1873, disavowed the traditional conventions of landscape painting in favour of unadorned observation. Spare and anti-picturesque, O’Sullivan’s radical views – depicting the western territories as foreign-looking, even hostile – accorded perfectly with the interests of those invested in seeing these empty territories studied, secured, and settled. One scholar has postulated that O’Sullivan’s photographs were intentionally crafted to look like products of technology – optically precise, printed on glossy albumen papers – a look that stood for industrial progress within a milieu that valued the machine-made over the handmade. In Perched Rock, Rocker Creek, Arizona and Rock Carved by Drifting Sand, Below Fortification Rock, Arizona, the two photographers treat unusual rock formations like specimens, isolating them from the surrounding landscape to be examined and measured.

 

 

Luminous Realms

Kodak’s introduction of the handheld camera in 1888 made photography an affordable and popular leisure-time amusement, creating a generation of amateur photographers seemingly overnight. At the same time, photographers with artistic ambitions feared that the mechanical, point-and-shoot approach of the new “button pressers” would jeopardise the medium’s elevation to the status of high art. In response, this group of artists – who called themselves Pictorialists – emphasised the photographer’s expertise and embraced labor-intensive processes to create expressive and impressionistic images. Many favoured platinum prints because of their wide range of tones, soft contrast, and matte surface – qualities of more traditional artistic media such as drawings and etchings. The Pictorialists’ landscape photographs are especially evocative. Rather than capturing a particular place and time, they transformed the landscape into a backdrop for human emotions and actions through visual effects and the inclusion of figures.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Morning' 1905

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Morning
1905
From Camera Work, No. 23, July 1908
Photogravure
RISD Museum: Walter H. Kimball Fund

 

Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979) 'Footprints in the Sand' 1931

 

Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979)
Footprints in the Sand
1931
Platinum print
RISD Museum: Museum purchase with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts

 

 

Laura Gilpin portrays the Colorado sand dunes in the soft-focus style of the Pictorialists, but the reductive forms of her composition are strikingly modern. The sinuous lines of the wind-sculpted dunes are echoed in the subtle patterning of the figure’s footprints. His presence not only provides a sense of scale, but suggests that the human impact on the landscape can be small, fleeting, and beautiful.

 

 

Abstracting Nature

In the 1920s, photographers began to question whether Pictorialism was the style best suited to win acceptance for photography as a fine art. On the east coast, Alfred Stieglitz, who had formerly championed Pictorialism, became its most vocal critic. In northern California, a group of photographers who would come to call themselves Group f/64 developed a new style. Opposing the soft focus, painterly approach, the f/64 photographers embraced a hard-edged, sharp-focus machine aesthetic. Optical reality was transformed into surface pattern, rhythm, tone, and line in prints precisely detailed on glossy, gelatin silver papers. Indeed, f/64 refers to the smallest aperture on their large-format cameras, which resulted in sharp focus from foreground to background.

This period revitalised landscape photography, with many photographers looking to views of nature as a place to escape from the problems of urban life. These photographers captured instants of intensified vision that only the camera offered, creating the photograph mentally before it was realised physically. Whether majestic views of dramatic natural features or abstracted details of quiet settings, these images expressed metaphysical, ethical, or personal reflections on humankind’s relationship to nature.

 

Ansel Adams. 'Half Dome, Blowing Snow, Yosemite National Park, California' c. 1955

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Half Dome, Blowing Snow, Yosemite National Park, California
ca. 1955 (printed 1970s)
Museum purchase with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts
© 2012 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

This photograph depicts the iconic tourist destination of Yosemite as sublime and untouched. By removing any evidence of human impact, Ansel Adams allows us to escape (at least temporarily) from the intrusions of culture. High contrast adds visual drama to an already majestic view, capturing the textures of the rock wall and the light filtering through the blowing snow. Throughout his life, Adams embraced the notion that nature could provide the harried, urbanised citizen of the modern age with a place of spiritual refuge. A long-time member of the Sierra Club, he was a devoted and vocal advocate for wilderness conservation and his photographs were crucial to the conservation effort.

 

Arthur Rothstein (American, 1915-1985) 'Father and Sons Walking in the Face of a Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma' 1936

 

Arthur Rothstein (American, 1915-1985)
Father and Sons Walking in the Face of a Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma
1936
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gilman Angier

 

 

In 1936 Arthur Rothstein traveled to the Oklahoma panhandle, the area of the country most affected by drought, wind, and erosion. In his image (above) he captured one of the few families in the area that had not yet abandoned their farm. His portrayal of the farmer and his sons fighting to make their way home through the elements can be read as a larger statement about the struggle between man and nature. Rothstein’s dark, low contrast print further conveys the oppressive atmosphere of the dust storm.

 

Harry Callahan. 'Eleanor, Chicago' c. 1952

 

Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Eleanor, Chicago
c. 1952
Gift from Harry Callahan ca. 1953 Wayne Miller
© The Estate of Harry Callahan, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

Aaron Siskind. 'Martha’s Vineyard, 114B' 1954

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Martha’s Vineyard, 114B
1954
Gift of Mr. Robert B. Menschel. Courtesy Aaron Siskind Foundation
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

In Martha’s Vineyard 114B, Aaron Siskind focuses on two small rocks nestled in a stone wall. As Siskind explained, he “began to feel the importance of how these rocks hovered over each other, touched each other, pushed against each other.” He likened this contiguity to family relationships, especially that between mother and child. He believed that the pair of rocks pictured in the photograph would – consciously or not – evoke emotions in the viewer, and that these emotions were both deep-seated and universal. In his depiction of the landscape, he found metaphors for what he called “human drama.”

 

Frederick Sommer (American, 1905–1999) 'Arizona Landscape' 1943

 

Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Arizona Landscape
1943
Gelatin silver print
Promised gift from the collection of Marc Harrison

 

 

Frederick Sommer’s photographs of the Arizona desert, made between about 1939 and 1945, omit the horizon line to create an overall field of pattern where scale and orientation are confounded. The vast space of the desert is pulled to the surface of the image, making the work less a landscape and more an independent construction. Sommer intently considered much of his work before executing it. He might study an area of the desert for days before deciding how to take the picture and then spend weeks in the darkroom perfecting the print.

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'View of Easton, Pennsylvania' 1936

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
View of Easton, Pennsylvania
1936
From the portfolio American Photographs II
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift of James Dow

 

 

By compressing distance and flattening perspective, Walker Evans collapses the two cityscapes of Easton, Pennsylvania, and Phillipsburg, New Jersey, into one plane. Evans’s aesthetically neutral style seems to depict the world without the intervention of the photographer’s point of view. At the same time, he forces the details of every building and smokestack to the surface of the image, making the plight of the cities and their inhabitants – the Depression had crippled the shipping and manufacturing industries that were the lifeblood of both towns – impossible to ignore.

 

Jack Warren Welpott (American, b. 1923) 'White Sands' 1977

 

Jack Warren Welpott (American, 1923-2007)
White Sands
1977
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift of Aaron Siskind

 

Joe Deal. 'Colton, California' 1978

 

Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999-2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Colton, California
1978
From the portfolio The Fault Zone 1981
Portfolio of 19 gold-toned gelatin silver prints
Museum Purchase: Georgianna Sayles Aldrich Fund and Gift of James D. and Diane D. Burke
© The Estate of Joe Deal, courtesy Robert Mann Gallery. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

Joe Deal. 'Chatsworth, California' 1980

 

Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999-2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Chatsworth, California
1980
From the portfolio The Fault Zone 1981
Portfolio of 19 gold-toned gelatin silver prints
Museum Purchase: Georgianna Sayles Aldrich Fund and Gift of James D. and Diane D. Burke
© The Estate of Joe Deal, courtesy Robert Mann Gallery. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

Joe Deal. 'Indio, California' 1978

 

Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999–2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Indio, California
1978
From The Fault Zone 1981
Portfolio of 19 gold-toned gelatin silver prints
RISD Museum: Museum Purchase: Georgianna Sayles Aldrich Fund and Gift of James D. and Diane D. Burke

 

Joe Deal. 'Santa Barbara, California' 1978

 

Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999–2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Santa Barbara, California
1978
From The Fault Zone 1981
Portfolio of 19 gold-toned gelatin silver prints
RISD Museum: Museum Purchase: Georgianna Sayles Aldrich Fund and Gift of James D. and Diane D. Burke

 

 

Inspired by conceptual art, Joe Deal generally developed his work in series, choosing a particular location and adhering to a strict visual formula. As in The Fault Zone, his landscapes were typically square in format, viewed from above, lacking a horizon, and empty of people. Edges and divisions in nature and the landscape fascinated him, and the fault lines in California, though invisible on the surface, in many ways define that landscape. Using maps from the Los Angeles County engineering office that indicated where the fault lines were apt to be, Deal looked for sites that would metaphorically suggest volatility. The first image in the series is the only one that was actually taken on the San Andreas Fault; all others symbolically represent the fault lines with torn or disrupted terrain.

 

 

Topographic Developments

By the time the landmark exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape opened in 1975, the accelerating degradation of the environment had become an inescapable reality. Inverting the Ansel Adams principle of exclusion, the exhibit voiced the belief that the landscape could no longer be portrayed as a refuge from the ills of industrial life: any consideration of the modern environment had to include both wilderness areas and the vacant lot next door.

The New Topographics photographers captured recently constructed tract homes, industrial parks, and highway culture with medium and large format cameras. As aesthetically neutral as real estate snapshots, the photographs showed the facts without offering their opinions about the rapid development they recorded. Seemingly stripped of expressivity, their photographs have the appearance of objective or “topographic” renderings rather than subjective impressions. In emphasising the landscape of the American West and experimenting with anti-Romantic landscape imagery, these photographers looked back to the works of 19th-century survey photographers and to Walker Evans’s documentary style.

 

Lewis Baltz. 'Model Home, Shadow Mountain' 1977

 

Lewis Baltz (American, 1945-2014)
Model Home, Shadow Mountain
1977
From the portfolio Nevada
Gift from the Collection of Joe Deal and Betsy Ruppa
© Lewis Baltz. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

In Nevada, Lewis Baltz alternates unbuilt views with home construction, trailer parks, and roads in a documentation of a rapidly changing landscape in the desert valleys surrounding Reno, an area he once described as “landscape-as-real-estate.” Baltz, like Joe Deal and Harold Jones, whose works are on view in this gallery, developed projects as portfolios, believing that a single photograph cannot capture a complete portrait of a place. In Baltz’s series, a multifaceted, occasionally contradictory image of Nevada emerges through the accumulation of photographs.

 

Thomas Barrow. 'f/t/s Cancellations (Brown) - Field Star' 1975

 

Thomas Barrow (American, b. 1938)
f/t/s Cancellations (Brown) – Field Star
1975
Gelatin silver print
Gift from the Collection of Joel Deal and Betsy Ruppa
© Thomas Barrow. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

Barrow scratched through his landscape negatives, calling attention to the materiality of the medium itself and the fact that regardless of how much information is given, reality remains an accumulation of belief, knowledge, and one’s own experience.

 

Harold Henry Jones. 'With Emmet' 1978

 

Harold Henry Jones (American, b. 1940)
With Emmet
1978
From the portfolio Tucson
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist in honour of Joe Deal
© 1986 Harold Jones. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

Harold Jones moved to Tucson sight unseen in 1974. The Tucson Portfolio documents his first years living in, exploring, and adapting to this unfamiliar landscape. In an accompanying text he relates his initial impressions of the Southwest, a landscape he had only seen in Westerns and “in the background of Roadrunner cartoons.” It was, he writes, “white bright and oven hot. Driving through the spiney leafless plants of the desert gave me the impression of being on an ocean floor – except someone had removed the water. A primordial landscape in a sea of light. Shocking and enchanting, at the same time.”

 

Frank Gohlke (American, b. 1942) 'Near Crowley, Texas' 1978

 

Frank Gohlke (American, b. 1942)
Near Crowley, Texas
1978
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift from the Collection of Joe Deal and Betsy Ruppa

 

Lee Friedlander. 'Atlantic City, New Jersey' 1971

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Atlantic City, New Jersey
1971
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Museum purchase with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts

 

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984) 'Utah' 1964

 

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984)
Utah
1964
From the portfolio Garry Winogrand, 1978
Gelatin silver print
Gelatin silver prints RISD Museum: Gift of Frederick J. Myerson

 

 

In the 1960s nature was apt to be viewed from a car window or in a rear-view mirror rather than from a hilltop. The large-format magisterial views of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston were replaced by a 35mm “grab-shot” style that captured the flux and contradictions of modern life with a fresh immediacy. Photographers were among the restless peripatetics crisscrossing the continent on new interstates and side roads, retrieving evidence of the “Americas” they found. The grainy, gritty aesthetic matched the sensations and energy of this environment.

 

 

America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now accompanies a major exhibition of that title tracing a history of photographs of the American landscape primarily through the collection of the RISD Museum. The show takes a broad look at the ever-evolving definition of American landscape photography – from seemingly pristine views of nature captured with 19th-century view cameras to images of the decaying contemporary urban streets composed from Google Street View. The RISD Museum’s collection of American landscape photography begins at the end of the Civil War in 1865, when photographers traveled west with government survey teams and railroad companies to record the country’s extraordinary natural features and resources. Ever since, the landscape has remained a compelling subject for photographers who have revealed through their images our nation’s ambition and failings, beauty and degradation, politics and personal stories.

The Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design announces its major fall exhibition, America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now, a broad panorama of our country’s topographies and correlating narratives that reveals a nation’s ambitions and failings, beauty and loss, politics and personal stories through about 150 photographs spanning nearly 150 years. “The landscape has inspired and challenged artists since the earliest days of our nation,” says Museum Director John W. Smith. “The remarkable works in this exhibition not only capture photography’s evolving relationship with the landscape but also trace the larger narrative of America itself.”

From the earliest images in the show, it is clear how purpose guided style. Carlton Watkins’ 1860s painterly and atmospheric views of the sublime landscape portray the wilderness as a place of spiritual renewal and a refuge from urban problems. In contrast, Timothy O’Sullivan, employed for the government’s geological surveys in the 1870s, made purposefully spare and anti-picturesque images that seemingly provide proof of empty territories needing to be studied, secured, and settled.

In her essay for America in View’s accompanying catalogue, photographer Deborah Bright, chair of the Fine Art Department at Pratt Institute, suggests that some of the historical shifts in environmental consciousness seen in the photographs “illuminate how the works also reflect changing conceptions of landscapes as bearers of cultural meaning.” Ansel Adams, whose mid-20th-century views of nature’s majesty and vastness represent many people’s ideals of American landscape photography, omitted human impact on the land. Widely used by the Sierra Club, his stunning images of untouched wilderness encouraged conservation in the face of an increasingly industrial society.

By the 1970s, artists including the late RISD provost and photography professor Joe Deal saw that the environment entailed both wilderness and the vacant lot next door. Their “New Topographics” imagery depicts recently constructed tract homes, industrial parks, and highway culture – inverting Adams’ exclusion. “‘Landscape’ is probably better understood as that set of expectations and beliefs… we project upon the world,” explains Brown University art historian Douglas Nickel, in the catalogue. “Not every photograph of land is a landscape, and not every landscape necessarily features the land.”

The past 20 years reveal a return to romantic views of the landscape, even in its degraded state, often including figures to create narratives. Justine Kurland’s landscape under an overpass shows a stunning place of fantasy and escape. RISD alumnus Justin Kimball explores fantasies of finding wilderness in public parks – where instead we find others seeking the same.

Press release from the RISD website

 

Barbara Bosworth (American, b. 1953) 'Niagara Falls' 1986

 

Barbara Bosworth (American, b. 1953)
Niagara Falls
1986
Gelatin silver print
Private collection

 

Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967) 'Old Hanford City Sites and the Columbia River, Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington' 1986

 

Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967)
Old Hanford City Sites and the Columbia River, Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington
1986
Toned gelatin silver prints
Promised gift of Dr. and Mrs. William G. Tsiaras

 

Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967) 'Alluvial Fan, Natural Drainage near Yuma Proving Ground and the California Arizona Border' 1988

 

Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967)
Alluvial Fan, Natural Drainage near Yuma Proving Ground and the California Arizona Border
1988
Toned gelatin silver prints
Promised gift of Dr. and Mrs. William G. Tsiaras

 

Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967) 'Aeration Pond, Toxic Water Treatment Facility, Pine Bluff, Arkansas' 1989

 

Emmet Gowin (American, b. 1941) (RISD MFA 1967)
Aeration Pond, Toxic Water Treatment Facility, Pine Bluff, Arkansas
1989
Toned gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Mary B. Jackson Fund

 

 

Emmet Gowin’s carefully constructed prints of strip mining sites, nuclear testing fields, large-scale agriculture, and other scars in the natural landscape seductively draw us in to examine what these lushly patterned and toned images represent. Predating Google Earth, these photographs are shot from the air and provide information about the environment that questions our role as stewards of the planet. A master darkroom printer, Gowin makes images come alive through hand-toning. Each print is transformed from grayscale into hues ranging from warm highlights to cool shadows, emphasising the illusion of three-dimensionality.

 

David T. Hanson. 'Coal Strip Mine, Power Plant and Waste Ponds' 1984

 

David T. Hanson (American, b. 1948)
Coal Strip Mine, Power Plant and Waste Ponds
1984
Museum Purchase: Gift of the Artist’s Development Fund of the Rhode Island Foundation
© 1984 David T. Hanson, from the book Colstrip, Montana by David T. Hanson (Taverner Press, 2010). Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

Terry Evans (American, b. 1944) 'Terraced Plowing with a Grass Waterway' 1991

 

Terry Evans (American, b. 1944)
Terraced Plowing with a Grass Waterway
1991
From the series Inhabited Prairie
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift of Jan Howard and Dennis Teepe in honor of Joe Deal

 

 

Neither the striking abstract design of the terraced field nor the effectiveness of this type of farming are what interests Terry Evans. She is drawn to the specific place and how the marks on the land, as she has said, “contain contradictions and mysteries that raise questions about how we live on the prairie. All of these places are beautiful to me, perhaps because all land, like the human body, is beautiful.”

 

Justine Kurland (American, b. 1969) 'Smoke Bombs' 2000

 

Justine Kurland (American, b. 1969)
Smoke Bombs
2000
From the series Runaway Girls
Colour chromogenic print
RISD Museum: Mary B. Jackson Fund

 

 

The neglected space under a New Jersey highway overpass was an ideal spot for three girls to act out Justine Kurland’s fictive story about fugitive teenagers. The figurative grouping recalls pastoral scenes in historical paintings so that the danger of the girls’ pursuit in this dicey no-man’s land is temporarily suspended in the hazy romantic fantasy of escape. The strong light streaming across the scene and the overall beauty of the composition suggests a desire to pursue the sublime even in the most degraded landscapes.

 

Justin Kimball. 'Deep Hole, New Hampshire' 2002

 

Justin Kimball (American, b. 1961)
Deep Hole, New Hampshire
2002
From the series Where We Find Ourselves
Gift of the artist in honor of Joe Deal
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

Deep Hole, New Hampshire captures light filtering through the trees as a dozen young men and women distribute themselves among rocky outcroppings, poised for adventure in the water below. The composition recalls the quiet drama of Thomas Eakins’s 19th-century painting of nude swimmers. This reference drew Kimball to the picture as it played out in front of him, along with the palpable sense of elation in the youths’ encounter with the landscape, no matter the deteriorating state of the site due to its heavy use. Kimball’s series Where We Find Ourselves explores the fantasy of finding wilderness in state and national parks, where we only find other people looking for it, too.

 

Alec Soth. '2008_08zl0031' 2008

 

Alec Soth (American, b. 1969)
2008_08zl0031
2008
Mary Ann Lippitt Acquisition Fund
© Alec Soth
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

Where We Find Ourselves

Current representations of the American landscape reveal a continually fraught relationship with the environment. Recent landscape photography reflects its history while constructing new notions of what such an image can be. Some artists continue to see the landscape as a place of refuge or spirituality. Others focus on its more disturbing psychological impact, even haunted with battle scars. Some pick up from the 1970s New Topographics approach with a more pointed investigation of environmentalism, documenting and questioning the impact of industry and development on the natural world. Still others have found that with the introduction of the figure the landscape can act as a stage, albeit one charged with political and social resonance.

Notable shifts have also been driven by new processes and techniques. The photographs of the last several decades are predominantly in colour and are much larger than their precedents. While many artists working today use digital technology, their motive is rarely to alter or fabricate imagery but instead to have easier and better control over how these larger images are presented. Surprisingly, many of today’s photographers are using large format cameras very similar to those of the 19th century to create negatives or digital files capable of being enlarged to the scale of contemporary work.

 

Steven B. Smith (American, b. 1963) (RISD Faculty 1996-present) 'Coolers, Ivins, Utah' 2007

 

Steven B. Smith (American, b. 1963) (RISD Faculty 1996-present)
Coolers, Ivins, Utah
2007
From the series Irrational Exuberance
Colour inkjet print
RISD Museum: Gift of Heather Smith in honor of Joe Deal

 

 

Steven Smith’s subject matter follows in the tradition of the 1970s New Topographic artists. What differentiates Smith’s view of a recently suburbanised desert from his predecessors is the humour with which he captures the extravagant building in this arid place. In this image, from the aptly titled series Irrational Exuberance, fluorescent-coloured coolers, like the red rocks, become part of the landscape, even creating their own waterfall.

 

Joe Deal. 'Kite, Chino Hills, California' 1984

 

Joe Deal (American, 1947-2010) (RISD Provost 1999-2005, Faculty 2005-2009)
Kite, Chino Hills, California
1984
From the portfolio Subdividing the Inland Basin
Gift of the artist
© The Estate of Joe Deal, courtesy Robert Mann Gallery. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

Joe Deal often found his picture at the border between the built and unbuilt landscape. The driveway makes for a convenient spot to fly a kite, surrounded as it is here with a bit of open space remaining in a new development. In the distance to the right the residential growth that will soon cover this piece of land is visible through the atmospheric smog. In the distance to the left are still untouched hills. The inclusion of people – evidence of a rapidly exploding community near the intersection of the Pomona and Orange freeways – marks a shift in Deal’s photography to embracing the landscape as a site for narrative.

 

Uta Barth (German, b. 1958) 'Field #14' 1996

 

Uta Barth (German, b. 1958)
Field #14
1996
Colour chromogenic print
RISD Museum: Gift of the Buddy Taub Foundation, Jill and Dennis Roach, Directors

 

 

Uta Barth radically softens the camera’s focus to remove all signs of historical specificity and to saturate a flat industrial-looking non-place with a dream-like atmosphere. As such she creates a generic landscape as viewed through a heavily fogged window, with an uncanny sense that is deeply familiar.

 

Henry Wessel (American, b. 1942) 'Night Walk, Los Angeles, No. 28' 1995

 

Henry Wessel (American, b. 1942)
Night Walk, Los Angeles, No. 28
1995
From the series Night Walk: LA
Gelatin silver print
RISD Museum: Gift of Mark Pollack

 

Millee Tibbs (American, b. 1976) (RISD MFA 2007) 'Self-Portrait in the Fog' 2009

 

Millee Tibbs (American, b. 1976) (RISD MFA 2007)
Self-Portrait in the Fog
2009
From the portfolio Self Portraits
Colour inkjet print
RISD Museum: Gift of the artist in honor of Joe Deal

 

Robert Frank. 'U.S. 285, New Mexico' 1955

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
U.S. 285, New Mexico
1955
Silver gelatin photograph

 

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Installation views of America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now at the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

 

Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
224 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903
Phone: 401 454-6500

Opening hours:
Tuesdays – Sundays 10am – 5pm
Thursdays 10am – 9pm
Closed Mondays

Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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

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