Tag Archives: Metropolitan Museum Of Art

The Americans List: A Salute to Robert Frank

Photographers the world over need no introduction to Robert Frank’s seminal 1950s work The Americans, an exploration of the American ideal from his outsider’s perspective as a Swiss émigré. Taken on a series of road trips around the country, the resulting intuitively-sequenced images —produced with funding from a Guggenheim fellowship—reflect both the dark undercurrents and poetic beauty of American culture.

Originally published in Paris in 1958 and the U.S. a year later, the book’s hallowed pages—containing a mere 83 images—have become one of the most referenced and revered photographic works. Many of the individual frames reside firmly in the collective memory of contemporary photographers who consciously and subconsciously reference the images on a daily basis.

Three years ago, an extensive retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art provided a fascinating and exhaustive insight to The Americans. The show, entitled Looking In, also inspired and facilitated photographer Jason Eskenazi’s recently published appreciation, The Americans List.

In 2009, Eskenazi—himself the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship—was working as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Every day for two months, even on Mondays when the exhibition was closed to the public, he stood in close proximity with the work, studying it compulsively, attending special events and asking questions of MET curator Jeff Rosenheim.

While guarding the show, Eskenazi started to ask photographers he knew—famous or not—about their favorite images from the show. Over the next two years, Eskenazi compiled their answers, along with their explanations and thoughts about the work. His compilations eventually evolved into his own book, published this month by Red Hook Editions. In the foreward, Eskenazi writes:

The Americans is probably the one book that connects more photographers than any other, so while guarding the show, I saw many photography colleagues enter. I began asking them what was their knock-out favorite image. Though many said it was too hard to choose and many images were important to them I insisted. I discovered that many of the answers revealed much more about the photographers themselves.”

The Americans List assembles selections by 276 photographers from Joel Meyerowitz (Canal Street – New Orleans. plate #19) and Joseph Koudelka (Covered car – Long Beach, Califonia. plate #34) to Eskenazi’s own personal favorite (Men’s room, railway station – Memphis, Tenn. Plate 52). Eskenazi considers the book a present to the photographic community and a homage to a great living photographer.

Guarding the exhibition also afforded Eskenazi the opportunity to meet the legendary photographer, first at the exhibition opening and then at Frank’s house in New York City, where he asked Frank to confirm the long standing rumor of his own favorite photograph from The Americans (San Francisco. Plate 72).

Eskenazi quit his day job at the end of the Looking In exhibition and has since returned full time to his life as a photographer. “I became very intimate with the work,” Eskenazi says. “It brought me back to life. And Frank was very moved by the book when he was recently given a copy in Nova Scotia.”

Clark Winter

Nova Scotia
September, 2012

Jason Eskenazi is a Istanbul based photographer. See more of his work at JasonEskenazi.com.

The Americans List is published by Red Hook Editions and available through the photo-eye bookstore.

David Maisel, Terminal Mirage 2

David Maisel, Terminal Mirage 2

David Maisel

Terminal Mirage 2,
vicinity of the Great Salt Lake, Utah, 2003
From the Terminal Mirage series
Website – DavidMaisel.com

David Maisel was born in New York City in 1961. He received his BA from Princeton University, and his MFA from California College of the Arts, in addition to study at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. Maisel was a Scholar in Residence at the Getty Research Institute in 2007 and an Artist in Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts in 2008. Maisel’s photographs, multi-media projects, and public installations have been exhibited internationally, and are included in many public collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Victoria & Albert Museum; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; the Yale University Art Gallery; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others. His work has been the subject of four monographs: The Lake Project (Nazraeli Press, 2004), Oblivion (Nazraeli Press, 2006), Library of Dust (Chronicle Books, 2008), and History's Shadow (Nazraeli Press, 2011). His newest book, Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime, will be available in Fall 2012. He lives and works in the San Francisco area.

Ron Galella: America’s Most Famous Paparazzi Photographer

Ron Galella, America’s most famous paparazzi photographer, likes to say he owes his career to the U.S. Air Force. After studying art in high school, Galella was working with ceramics after graduation when the Korean War broke out in June 1950. Rather than being drafted for combat, he decided to enlist for an arts-related position in the Air Force. Though he’d never studied it before, Galella discovered photography to be the closest discipline to fine art. After the war, he pursued the medium academically, studying photojournalism at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, which introduced him to the world of Hollywood.

“That’s when I got hooked on celebrities,” says Galella, who would reinvent celebrity paparazzi culture over the next few decades through his relentless style and candid portraits. “Being in Hollywood, I figured I’d see what these stars look like.” The young lensman crashed premieres, introduced himself to celebrities and even took an acting class to overcome his shyness about rubbing elbows with Hollywood’s A-List.

Though he’d photograph countless stars throughout his career, including Madonna, Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando, Galella’s favorite subject would become First Lady Jackie Kennedy. “She was my muse, my golden girl,” Galella says. “She was my ideal subject for many reasons—she did not pose, she was active, and for the most part, she would ignore my camera.” Even later restraining orders issued against Galella would not deter his obsession with the notoriously private Kennedy.

Galella has largely stepped out of the spotlight over the last 20 years, since he and his wife moved to New Jersey in 1992. But he continues to cover prominent culture events from the annual Tony Awards to this year’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala (for the record, he thought singer Beyoncé was best-dressed). “The paparazzi culture has changed drastically,” he says. “When I did it, you had the great freedom to shoot—no fans, no security, no publicists. And I don’t miss it too much because I have the gold in my files.”

Ron Galella is an American photographer. More of his work can be seen here. A new book of his work, Ron Galella: Paparazzo Extraordinaire!, is available from Hatje Cantz publishers.

Harlem Revisited: A New Look at Dawoud Bey’s New York Portraits

Present-day Chicago is not Harlem in 1979. Present-day Harlem isn’t even Harlem in 1979. But at the Art Institute of Chicago’s new exhibition Dawoud Bey: Harlem USA, some things have stayed the same. The show comprises the 25 original prints from Bey’s noteworthy 1979 exhibition of the series at the Studio Museum in Harlem, plus five previously unpublished prints from the same era.

Dawoud Bey

Smokey, 2002

The impetus for Harlem USA, which was made throughout the 1970s, was Bey’s visit to the Harlem on my Mind show at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969; it took him ten years to start and finish the work. And although the images in the show don’t superficially resemble Bey’s later work—they are small, made with a handheld 35mm camera, impromptu and monochromatic, unlike the later work seen at right—the photographer says that the series contains the seeds of his later work. “They gave me my initial sense of how to engage people in front of the camera,” Bey told TIME in an email. “I first learned how to translate the physical experience of the human subject into compelling photographic form during the years I spent making pictures in Harlem.”

He is not the only one who sees the thread running through his work. Matthew Witkovsky, a curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, says that some artists show from their first work a strong sense of who they are and what they want to do. Bey, according to him, is one of those lucky people.

Dawoud Bey

A Boy in Front of the Loews 125th St. Movie Theatre, Harlem, NY, 1976

And Witkovsky says that the photographs, though they remain unchanged, are still fresh. “[Bey] managed to take that ability that cameras have to give you total specificity and imbue it with some kind of other-time-other-place quality,” he says, pointing out an example: in Bey’s picture of a boy outside a movie theater, seen at left, the clothes are quintessential 1970s but the pose is a classic contrapposto. “It’ll always be timely,” says Witkovsky, “because it’s a little bit out of time.”

Bey, who now lives in Chicago, says the photographs themselves are not the only constant. “My feelings about the work haven’t really changed,” he says. “I am still concerned with trying to make resonant photographs of ordinary people.”

Dawoud Bey is a Chicago-based photographer and professor. See more of his work here.

Dawoud Bey: Harlem USA will be on view at the Art Institute of Chicago from May 2 – Sept. 9. The Renaissance Society in Chicago will also present a retrospective of his work, entitled Picturing People, which includes the later work featured in this post, from May 13 – June 24.

I Spy: Photography and the Theater of the Street

Subway Portraits, 1938-1941 (c) Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Robert Frank, Walker Evans, Bruce Davidson, Harry Callahan, Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Beat Streuli explore the comedy and drama of life in public spaces in I Spy: Photography and the Theater of the Street, 1938-2010 on view in the West Building at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC April 22 – August 5, 2012. Nearly 90 works by masters of the genre, many culled from the gallery’s collection, showcase everyday urban life as subject and source of inspiration.

Walker Evans’ grainy black and white images from Subway Portraits, 1938-1941, feature prominently in the exhibition and provide a compelling counterpoint to Bruce Davidson’s multitude of rich kodachromes from the monograph Subway (Aperture 2011). [A very different project from Davidson’s current and exciting endeavor documenting the “Nature of Los Angeles.”]

Work by Robert Frank, one of the pioneers of the genre with photos “snapped seemingly mid-stride,” some have said, has also been featured in a similar retrospective exhibition and accompanying photobook, co-published by Aperture and The Bronx Museum of the Arts in 2008, Street Art, Street Life: From the 1950′s to Now.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s work is also featured in The New York Times Magazine Photographs, edited by Kathy Ryan (Aperture 2011).

Subway, 1980-1981 (c) Bruce Davidson

I Spy: Photography and the Theater of the Streets
Exhibition on view:
April 22 – August 5, 2012

National Gallery of Art
Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC
(202) 737-4215

 

Last Exit: Pictures

Perpetual Photo No. 210, 1989 © Allan McCollum

Exhibition on view:
March 12–April 12, 2012

Blondeau Fine Art Services
5, rue de la Muse
Genève, Switzerland
41 (0)22 544 95 95

Challenging ideas of originality, a group of appropriation artists share the common thread of relating to images in a newfound way. Earlier exhibition’s, Pictures (Artists Space, New York, 1977) and The Pictures Generation (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009) pioneered the way for ‘appropriationist’ practices, advocating the importance of painting as a medium and the borrowed, sampled, and recycled aspects of our visual culture.

Last Exit: Pictures, curated by Lionel Bouvier, seeks to articulate the can of worms ‘re-presentation’ tends to open. Understanding the picture itself, whatever the sources used, becomes inherently important rather than attempting to absorb an alternate or lost reality beyond the image. Despite generational or aesthetic differences, the heart of this exhibition is to display pictures in every state: appropriated, displaced, painted, re-photographed, and combined.

Featured artists: Troy Brauntuch, Jack Goldstein, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, Allan McCollum, John Miller, Steven Parrino, Richard Prince, David Robbins, David Salle, Laurie Simmons, Alan Vega, and James Welling.

Allan McCollum contributed to Words Without Pictures. Louise Lawler is featured in Aperture issue 145. Laurie Simmons has an Aperture published book, Walking, Talking, Lying, she is featured in The New York Times Magazine Photographs, and has a print available. James Welling is featured in Aperture issue 190 and contributed to Words Without Pictures. Aperture, in association with the Cincinnati Art Museum, will publish a survey of James Welling’s work in Spring 2013.

Robin Schwartz, Elijah’s Tail

Robin Schwartz, Elijah’s Tail

Robin Schwartz

Elijah’s Tail,
, 2010
From the Amelia’s World: Animal Affinity series
Website – RobinSchwartz.net

Robin Schwartz earned a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from Pratt Institute and her photographs are held in several museum collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The Aperture Foundation published Schwartz’s third monograph, Amelia’s World, edited by Tim Barber. Images from this series were exhibited in Various Photographs, an installation curated by Barber for the New York Photo Festival and 100 Portraits—100 Photographers, a digital exhibition of current portraiture. Schwartz was a finalist at the Hyeres 2010 Photography Festival in France. She recently presented the Amelia Series at The National Geographic Magazine’s Annual Photography Seminar in Washington D.C.

California Dreaming In 1964: Arthur Tress’ San Francisco

In the summer of 1964, Arthur Tress, a world traveler at all of 23 years old, took a bus from Mexico to San Francisco to visit his sister Madeleine. Tress’ journey had taken him from Paris to Egypt, where the young photographer shot images of a country evolving under former President Gamal Nasser. “I began thinking of it intellectually as a visual anthropology,” Tress told TIME, “to try and hint at the different layers of culture that were existing simultaneously.”

Tress took this same approach with him to San Francisco, trying to create a collection of images that would reflect the old and new aspects of the city. “I was thinking as a kind of amalgam, all these little bits and pieces, almost as if you’re making a collage—a symphony of the city,” he says.

The summer of 1964, it turned out, was a fascinating time in San Francisco. The beatniks had left; it would be three years before the Summer of Love would come to the City by the Bay. The country was still reeling from the Kennedy assassination, and Tress arrived just in time for the 1964 Republican Convention, where Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater was transforming the conservative movement. In August, The Beatles returned to the U.S. for their second American tour, and San Francisco saw its first Civil Rights marches, challenging the status quo. “I didn’t photograph the demonstrations so much as the people watching the demonstrations,” Tress says. “They were kind of frozen in this very beautiful Northern California, light. Almost like a stage set. I was focused on different kinds of people—more liberal; more conservative; different classes of people in one photograph.”

The images Tress made that summer went on display in California and Mexico, but were then largely forgotten. He went on to garner acclaim for his staged surrealism, showing collections at museums such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of Art, as well as the Center for Contemporary Photography in Chicago and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. When Madeleine died in 2009, Tress found the cache of prints from his youthful summer among her possessions. The collection, Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964, will be shown at the Fisher Family Gallery of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco from March 3 to June 3, 2012, and James A. Ganz, curator of the Meuseums’ Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts has published a book of Tress’ prints along with an interview with the photographer.

The photographer says that the viewer can see a youthful Tress, “trying to go beyond mere photojournalism and make a larger statement about changing American values and culture” in the images. He certainly succeeded, capturing history as it moved across fault lines during one summer in San Francisco.

Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964 is on view at the Fisher Family Gallery of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco from March 3 to June 3, 2012.

Nate Rawlings is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @naterawlings.