Tag Archives: Moca

Photographers-Turned-Directors: Susan Bright’s Favorites on MOCAtv

In July 2012, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA) asked me to compile a playlist of videos directed by photographers for their new online series, MOCAtv. Launched last week, MOCAtv bills itself as the “Global Contemporary Art Channel,” providing a wide range of content related to the arts. Looking to see if photographers’ skills translated into music videos was one of the most enjoyable commissions I have ever had.

My personal interest in music videos is mainly autobiographical. I was a teenager in the 1980s—the heyday of the music video. Videos were crucial to bands’ identity; it was really the only way, apart from photography, that an image was disseminated to the world. MTV was the dominant force, but if you grew up in Britain, it was the quaintly titled BBC show Top of the Pops that was one of the only ways to see them.

Looking back at these videos has evoked amazing memories, but at times, I view some videos with a new perspective and appreciate them now because of who made them and how they look. For example, the mesmerizing Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer was always incredible – but now that I know it was directed by the great British fashion and portrait photographer Terence Donovan, all I can see are the similarities to his later photographs of the 1980s with their strong, almost aggressive, female glamour.  It’s interesting to note where the photographer’s hand is so apparent and successful, and elsewhere, when they lose something of their signature flair by having a moving camera instead of a still shot.

Like many, my introduction to music came via my older brother. Always one step ahead of me, he had very sophisticated taste. My first concert was Souxsie and the Banshees when I was 14. Somehow I managed to persuade him (and more miraculously my parents) that I should go along with him and a gang of heavily hair-sprayed goths. It was not the music that I particularly remember, but the amazing beauty of this particular strand of post punk music. From that moment I was addicted to live concerts and the performance of dressing up.

I knew about New Order due to my brothers liking of Joy Division. I saw them perform that summer and their shortened remix of Blue Monday (1988) is like a backing track to those heady months, which were incredibly hot and renamed by many of my contemporaries as ‘the summer of ale.’ I was 18.

When I was asked to put this playlist together I couldn’t believe that I had never seen the video. I was so delighted that it was done by William Wegman. It is full of lovely references for me. Wegman is an artist who manages to have conceptual credibility and respect in the art world and also make calendars with puppies. I can’t think of any one else who manages such success in both commercial and art worlds with such ease and lack of compromise on either side. His ABC video Alphabet Soup featuring Fay, Batty, Chundo and Crooky is my favorite gift to all new parents; my daughter’s go-to bedtime book is Wegmonolgy and my brother has Weineramas. It’s like all good things in my life are condensed into this one video.

A year after Blue Monday, New Order released Run and asked Robert Frank to direct it. This video combines many different kinds of video techniques into one film. It has both live footage and a narrative. It also uses still photographs many times. Nothing is really explained but it has that coldness, disconnect and mystery which is so crucial to a Frank photograph. The song is not the strongest, but you are held utterly by the video. The ending is pure Frank: it stops on a still photograph where everyone is looking in different directions and the scene is chaotic but happy. In two takes he goes closer in to the black-and-white photograph with a woman clutching a book titled listen to god. About two seconds of existential anxiety almost lost as the song fades out.

Staying in the 1980s is Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, directed by Herb Ritts. This song, which came out in 1989, was reinserted into popular culture when it was used in a scene of Wild at Heart by David Lynch. The video is trademark Ritts. The female body (Helena Christensen) is Amazonian—sexy, strong and very much associated with the 1980s before the AIDS crisis (although of course the AIDS crisis had very much gripped huge swaths of society by this time). It’s crisp, clean and erotic. He shoots from many angles so the body, although always sensuous, can also become abstracted. This photographic technique, which Ritts has become so famous for, was most eloquently played out in a photograph of five of the most famous supermodels gathered together naked (Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood, 1989) their limbs lending graphic strength and dynamism to the composition of the picture.

Die Antwoord, I Fink U Freeky directed by Roger Ballen (2012) practically went viral among photography circles recently. The video starts with “Die Antwoord in Association with Roger Ballen.” This is the first time I have seen musicians and the director on equal footing, especially when the band has a much bigger global presence than the photographer.

Ballen has lived and worked in South Africa for most of his life. His work is a swirling mix of reality, fantasy, documentary and personal investigation. He photographs in the poorest white areas of South Africa, and his work is immediately recognizable for its disturbing almost nihilistic qualities, which are confusing in terms of ethics and morals of representation. This video is like a zooped up, hammy musical journey through his work and is so well suited to the band, who have a trickster element to them. They are the perfect artistic combination.

Another South African photographer, Pieter Hugo, has directed Spoek Mathambo, Control which was originally recorded by Joy Division and has again been introduced to a younger generation through the biopic of Ian Curtis in the film Control by Anton Corbijn (who has also done a large number of music videos). Again this has similar elements to the Ballen video in that reality has been pushed to appear fantastical. Of all the videos selected it is the most ‘photographic,’ and you can really see Hugo’s skill in using backdrops to create scenes. If you were to go through freeze framing it each scene could work beautifully as a photograph. It reminds me of his Nollywood series about the horror film industry in Nigeria. For this he took costumed actors and put them into the street causing a tension between reality, fantasy, horror, staging and theater. This video has all of those elements and similar references to the genre, but was filmed in a township in Cape Town. It’s the best cover of Control I have ever heard, making it absolutely belong here in South Africa and not the North of England.

Music videos act as lightening rods to memories. Headier than photographs they possess the most potent Proustain links to the past. When they are at their very best, like the ones I have mentioned here, they are like stills come to life. Photographers can offer a particular way of looking at the world. When that coincides with a similar musical vision the results can be spectacular.

Susan Bright is a New York-based writer and curator. You can see more of her work here

View more of MOCAtv’s programming on their YouTube channel.

Shared Vision: A Conversation with Sondra Gilman, Celso Gonzalez-Falla, and Mitch Epstein

Flag, 2000 (c) Mitch Epstein

In the mid-70s, Mitch Epstein was exhibiting some of his earliest work, some of the images first to elevate color photography into the realm of fine art, joining the ranks of Stephen Shore and William Eggleston. Right around that time, Sondra Gilman, who, along with her husband Celso Gonzalez-Falla, has been repeated ranked among the top photo collectors in the world by ARTnews, purchased her first photograph.

She had “tripped over a [Eugène] Atget show” at MoMA, she tells New York Social Diary in an interview (accompanied by dozens of images of the collection at home in their Upper East Side townhouse), and “literally had an epiphany.” She ended up buying three $250 prints at a time when photographs “had no value.” Since then, the couple’s collection has grown to several hundred vintage prints, and their value, surely to no one’s surprise today, has grown astronomically.

Marcelle Polednik, Director MOCA Jacksonville, Celso Gonzalez-Falla and Sondra Gilman at a walkthrough of Shared Vision during Aperture’s Armory Brunch 2012.

On Wednesday, April 11, 2012 Aperture Foundation presents a conversation with Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla alongside Epstein, whose work features prominently in the Shared Vision collection (at Aperture through April 21, 2012). This ambitious exhibition, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville, curated by Ben Thompson and Paul Karabinis, brings together their most iconic images reflecting the diverse nature of an entire century of photography. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by MOCA and produced by Aperture, including historical context for each image and photographer as well as curatorial remarks.

Epstein, who won the Prix Pictet in 2011, the Berlin Prize in Arts and Letters in 2008, and the Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Award in 2004, also appears in the New York Times Magazine Photographs, edited by Kathy Ryan, and Aperture issue 168. A former student of Garry Winogrand at Cooper Union in the early ’70s, his work has since landed in the collections of the MoMA, the Whitney, the Getty Museum, SFMOMA, and Tate Modern in London. While his projects often start as independent explorations or excursions, he has a strong inclination to “engage with issues beyond self-reflexive ones,” he tells BOMB in a lengthy interview about how some of his latest projects including American Power, progressed from an editorial assignment, to a print series, to a book.

Watch a great video shot at Tate Modern of Epstein discussing his latest series and exploring what makes a strong photograph. Check out photos from our the walkthrough of the Shared Vision exhibition with Marcelle Polednik, Director of MOCA Jacksonville and the collectors, and the VIP walkthrough during last weekend’s AIPAD Photography Show. And find images of the installation as well as an index of the work on view at DLK Collection.

Shared Vision: A Conversation with Sondra Gilman, Celso Gonzalez-Falla, and Mitch Epstein
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm
FREE

Aperture Gallery and Bookstore
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
New York, New York
(212) 505-5555

From the Desk of a Work Scholar: Opening Reception at Shared Vision

540true
thumbnails
under
359true
true
800http://www.aperture.org/exposures/wp-content/plugins/thethe-image-slider/style/skins/frame-white
  • 5000
    fade
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide1

  • 5000
    fade
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide2

  • 5000
    fade
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide3

  • 5000
    fade
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide4

  • 5000
    fade
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide5

  • 5000
    fade
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide6

  • 5000
    fade
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide7

  • 5000
    fade
    false
    60
    bottom
    30

    Slide8

All photos by Aperture Foundation Work Scholars. The deadline for the summer session application is April 15.

——-

Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla’s collection of iconic photography drew a crowd to Aperture Gallery Tuesday night for the opening reception of Shared Vision presented by MOCA, on view through Saturday, April 21, 2012.

The exhibition, featuring work by Robert Adams, Eugène Atget, Minor White, Walker Evans, Loretta Lux, Sally Mann, Richard Misrach and more, was culled from one of the world’s best private collections of photography by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville, a cultural resource of the University of North Florida, curated by Ben Thompson, MOCA’s curator, and Paul Karabinis, assistant professor of photography at UNF. It’s also accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog published by MOCA and produced by Aperture Foundation, featuring a selection of images from the collection, historical context and curatorial remarks.

Of course, the show wouldn’t be complete without the help of our many  indispensable Work Scholars.  Regan Hillman shares what her experience behind the scenes was like.

——-

As the Exhibitions Work Scholar, I had the great opportunity to handle and hang this amazing selection of photographs from Sondra and Celso’s collection.

Exhibitions Work Scholar Regan Hillman

The process of getting the exhibition on the wall included many steps.  First, paper cut-outs of the works, scaled to one-seventh of the original size (including the frame) were organized into their respective sections and arranged on paper walls also scaled to one-seventh of those at our gallery in Chelsea.  Because we could move our paper replicas into different orders and arrangement, this mock-up version helped us to get a visual of how the photographs would look when installed.  After a paper layout was completed, I made a virtual rendering of the space in a computer program that allows you to build a space using the measurements of the gallery and import the pictures onto the walls.  While the paper mock-up could be moved around easily, the virtual rendering from the computer program gave us a sense of how the space would look in three dimensions.

To prepare the text for the exhibition we worked closely with the Design and Copy Editing departments to produce captions and an extensive gallery guide.  Then the many, many crates and boxes containing the exhibition arrived.  The hanging process, though tedious, went smoothly with the help of our installation team.  I loved walking into the gallery each morning and seeing another section hanging on the wall.

It was extraordinarily rewarding to see the process through from beginning to end.  What had started out as multitude of one-inch square images on a checklist, eventually—with much work and deliberation—became an exhibition: visually engaging, full of information, and with a wealth of original examples from the history of photography.

 

Regan Hillman is a pursuing a Master’s degree in Art History at CUNY Hunter College.  She received her B.A. in Painting and Art History at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.  She plans to write her M.A. thesis this summer on modern and contemporary painters who have made stained glass windows for Gothic cathedrals. When not busy at Aperture or school, Regan enjoys exploring her Brooklyn neighborhood and the green expanses of Prospect Park.

Art Platform-Los Angeles

The Lucie Foundation will have an exhibit booth at Art Platform-Los Angeles this weekend, Oct. arizona lawyer . 1-3, 2011 in Downtown Los Angeles, with images showing off the contemporary L.A. art scene. A preview will be held on Sep. Home Security Systems Valencia, CA . 30 from 3-5 p.m. and will be followed by a benefit party for HAMMER Museum, LACMA, and MOCA.

Art Platform is an art fair that is designed to show the culture of Los Angeles through contemporary art and hopes to recognize the L.A. art scene by bringing together all art enthusiasts locally and internationally. Art Platform-Los Angeles and Pacific Standard Time: ART in LA 1946-1980 are launching together this weekend with 60 other cultural institutions as a collaboration to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene

Please visit Art Platform for more information, including times, directions, and how to purchase tickets.