Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Zoe Leonard at The Museum of Contemporary Art LA

Running until March 25, Zoe Leonard: Survey is the first large-scale overview of the artist’s work in an American museum. The exhibition at MOCA looks across Leonard’s career to highlight her engagement with a range of themes, including gender and sexuality, loss and mourning, migration, displacement, and the urban landscape. More than it focuses on any particular subject, however, Leonard’s work slowly and reflectively calibrates vision and form. Using repetition, subtle changes of perspective, and shifts of scale, Leonard draws viewers into an awareness of the meanings behind otherwise familiar images or objects. A counter-example to the speed and disposability of image culture today, Leonard’s photographs, sculptures, and installations ask the viewer to re-engage with how we see. 

New York based,  Zoe Leonard (b. 1961) is among the most critically acclaimed artists of her generation. Over the past three decades, she has produced work in photography and sculpture that has been celebrated for its lyrical observations of daily life coupled with a rigorous, questioning attention to the politics and conditions of image making and display. 

Leonard has exhibited widely since the late 1980s and her work has been included in a number of seminal exhibitions including Documenta IX and Documenta XII, and the 1993, 1997 and 2014 Whitney biennials. She has spent most of her adult life living in New York City, whose built environment has been the subject matter of much of her work such as sidewalks, storefronts, apartment buildings, chain link fences, graffiti, and boarded up windows. From her earliest aerial photographs to her images of museum displays, anatomical models, and fashion shows, much of Leonard's work reflects on the framing, classifying, and ordering of vision. She explains in a recent interview: "Rather than any one subject or genre (landscape, portrait, still life, etc), I was, and remain, interested in engaging a simultaneous questioning of both subject and vantage point, the relation between viewer and world — in short, subjectivity and how it informs our experience of the world."

You can go to the MOCA website HERE.

On November 6 2016, New York's High Line Art hosted an afternoon of readings and performances in response to Zoe Leonard’s "I want a president" (1992), which was on view on the western pillar of The Standard, High Line, through March 2017. 
In the video linked HERE Zoe Leonard reads her text I Want a President (1992).

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

onestar press, Paris, presents new works from Daniel Gordon

The ever inventive, not to mention ground-breaking, Paris based onestar press present a series of 31 new photographs from New York based artist Daniel Gordon. 

onestar says this: Objects as seen through the prism of Daniel Gordon’s lens are never as simple as they appear. The NY based photographer teams with onestar press, presenting 31 new works in a series entitled Au Bon Marché, literally hand-picking a selection of his sculpted paper fruits, vegetables and objects and isolating each to highlight their singularly crafted details. It is evident from first glance that these 31 new works go beyond photography with the artist’s ever constant triangulation of painting, collage and cut out; they are digitally sourced, printed, sculpted and analogue photographed before re-emerging as digitally composed images that are pigment printed and paired with watercolor stained wood frames. From Cezanne, to Seurat and Matisse, Daniel Gordon emerges from his photographic practice with a new way of looking, removing the glass that separates a viewer from the photograph to define a new, unique tableau conceived as a whole also including the colored frames as components of the works. The title of this new series Au Bon Marché was inspired by the artist's recent visit to Paris and the history of Le Bon Marché, one of the first modern department stores that was inaugurated in 1838. 

Daniel Gordon is best known for producing large colour photographs that operate somewhere between collage and set-up photography. His work, as described by The New York Times, "Involves creating figurative tableaus from cut paper and cut-out images that Mr. Gordon then photographs. In addition, he seems motivated by a deeply felt obsession with the human body and the discomforts of having one." He has exhibited his work in solo exhibitions at Zach Feuer Gallery, Wallspace, and Leo Koenig, Inc., Projekte in New York City and Claudia Groeflin Gallery in Zürich, Switzerland. Gordon has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Saatchi Gallery in London, Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois, and he was included in MoMA PS1's Greater New York 2010. He is the author of Portrait Studio (onestar press, 2009) and Flying Pictures (powerHouse books, 2009).[10] His work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gordon was a guest lecturer at Sarah Lawrence College in 2009.

You can go to the onestar press website HERE. And Daniel Gordon's website HERE.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Bill Brandt at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London

There is still a chance to see BILL BRANDT VINTAGE WORKS which shows at Michael Hoppen's London Gallery until January 19.

Bill Brandt [1904 - 1983] was a German born photographer who immigrated to the UK in 1933. Although he travelled throughout Europe he adopted Britain as his home and it was here that he produced his finest work. Known for his incisive depictions of the British, both high society and the working class, his distinctive, highly contrasting portraiture and landscapes were frequently shown in magazines such as Picture Post, Lilliput and Harper's Bazaar where he was a regular contributor. His early photojournalism work gave way to a more abstract vision as his career developed. Brandt's influence on the photography world started in the 1960's when he embarked on a journey to find a new visual language. By using a wide-angle lens often with a distorted foreground he was able to produce a series of remarkable graphic images of both interior and exterior nudes on the Sussex and Normandy coast. Brandt's signature photographic style of highly textural objects contrasted with the flattened perspective of the images created a uniquely oblique approach.

 In 1976 I learnt how to retouch a black and white photograph with a pencil, a magic marker and some beer. My teacher was none other than the photographer Bill Brandt who was a regular visitor to his friend John Hedgecoe who was head of department at the Royal College of Art. I was at the college and asked to bring some prints to a pub opposite the photography department in South Kensington. I will never forget Bill showing me how he retouched his prints using the simple items above.  I have long been an admirer of his work.

And though I knew most of it well having bought most of Brandt's key books - Perspective of Nudes - Shadow of Lights - London in the Thirties, etc.. I was delighted and honoured to be given the opportunity to work within the Brandt archive and curate an exhibition of works that are maybe less well known. Within this time capsule, we found wonderful early prints and nudes, which highlighted Brandt's inquisitive mind and his energetic search for a new way of photographing these well-trodden subjects.  

 Brandt is one of the few British photographers whose work has been widely seen and collected around the world. His substantial shows at the V&A (2004) and at MoMA in NY (2013) cemented an already illustrious reputation as a fine art photographer and great documentarian. His street photographs of the industrial north of England, his sublime winter landscapes and his insightful studies of the English at Home placed a spotlight on a country that had produced few photographers of this calibre.   

With this exhibition we will be offering some rare and beautiful vintage prints directly from Brandt's family collection. With this carefully selected body of work we are providing experienced collectors an opportunity to view photographs never previously offered for sale and at the same time giving new collectors the opportunity to acquire masterpieces which rarely come on to the market. - Michael Hoppen 

Michael Hoppen Gallery,  3 Jubilee Place • London • SW3 3TD / Website HERE.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Bára Kristinsdóttir - Life is Everywhere

Icelandic photographer Bára Kristinsdóttir kindly sent me her bookwork It All Has a Story which was self published last year in an edition of 300 copies. The book is in memory of Elias Guomundsson (1937 - 2017) and the pictures were made in the workshop of Nylon Coatings in the Icelandic district of Garðabær. The book is beautifully conceived and photographed, the reader is left with an overwhelming feeling of the impermanence of all things.

Bára Kristinsdóttir says this: The pictures in the book are symbolic of a vanished world... The screw, the snagged, worn chair - all have a story. But who should tell them all? And where do the stories that are never told go? Things we have around us but rarely give attention... We hardly see them, yet they have roles, they matter. And someone has built these things, with care... The person who has built them matters, and has a story. This story has to be told. Screw, snagged, worn chair. And the man. It adds something to our life...thinking about all the people who have been sitting in the worn chair. And gradually, we realise that life is everywhere. There is something really good about that thinking. 

Bára Kristinsdóttir studied photography in Gothenburg. She has had several solo exhibitions and participated in numerous group exhibitions both in Iceland and abroad including the Reykjavík Museum of Photography, Scandinavia House in New York and Frankfurt Kunstverein. Bára has also worked regularly for the New York Times. She is the founding member of the Association of Icelandic Contemporary Photographers, FÍSL. Bára founded and has run Ramskram, which is an exhibition space for contemporary photography.

You can go to Bára Kristinsdóttir's website HERE.

Friday, January 11, 2019

John Gossage and Guido Guidi at SAGE Gallery, Paris

If you happen to live in Paris or plan on visiting, there is still a chance to see the Gossage / Guidi show at SAGE Gallery. The show opened in November and runs until February 9.

Sage says this: We are proud to present an important group of vintage photographs by John Gossage and Guido Guidi which is part of a 25 years dialogue between the two friends. As Guido claims, John Gossage and him are brothers who, as neither of them know the language of the other, speak only "photography".  When you look at their work you immediately understand why. Their work is always about the importance of what goes unnoticed, about what remain unseen until they call your attention to it. They both resonate with a rare emotional, esthetical and poetical purity. As Guido Guidi said : « The spirit lies in simplicity not rhetoric.

SAGE Paris 1 bis, avenue de Lowendal, 75007 Paris, France. Gallery website HERE.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Gerry Badger - takes a reactionary tack

Last October in Denmark for the superb Aarhus Photobook festival (link HERE) I was able to have several extended conversations on the nature of photography with Gerry Badger. Gerry is probably the most informed writer and commentator on the medium I have ever come across. His views are stridently opinionated and not to be easily dismissed. Gerry divides photography practice into two opposing camps. On one hand authentic hard-won work coming from the artist's heart and head. And the other pretentious wow look at me, ego based, I want to be famous sort of work. Needles to say I'm with Gerry and go 100% with the authentic.

I came across a piece on Gerry Badger's website (you can go there HERE) which further develops this debate. In essence Gerry firmly supports documentary or straight photography. And I agree, for two reasons, First, there is more than enough magic and mystery in the world on our doorsteps, to keep all of us shooting for several lifetimes. Second, the contrived and the overly conceptual mostly seems to come pre-loaded with a goodly dose of ego and pretentious posturing. Don't get me wrong here, there is a lot of rubbish documentary work being made just as there is some worthy highly conceptual work.

In a preamble to a piece on Michael Schmidt's bookwork Waffenruhe Gerry expands on these thoughts: 
For the serious photographer with a confirmed belief in the artistic worth of ‘straight’ photography – the so-called ‘poetic documentary’ mode – these are trying times. More than ever, most of the world seems to think that the simple photograph is not enough. The photographic artist who still stubbornly works within the broad tradition of Atget or Weston, even Frank or Friedlander, is deemed wilfully anachronistic, a member of a mutated, almost extinct species. 

 The straight photographer certainly is an endangered species. Reviled either openly or covertly, and frequently passed over in favour of those utilising the medium for conspicuously more grandiose ends. These days, the straight photographer’s nominally modest, ‘unambitious’ tend to be swamped by the serried ranks of vainglorious photofabrications and moronic pieces of minimalist conceptualism masquerading as the ‘real thing.’ For example, in a recent exhibition shown in France and England, Another Objectivity, the work of the American ‘New Topographer’ Robert Adams – relatively smallscale, subtle, complex – looked like a fish out of water amidst the welter of overblown, vacuous variations on undergraduate themes that were purporting to make us ponder issues of ‘art’, ‘culture’, and ‘representation.’ Adams – unfashionably, daringly – seemed more concerned with life than with art. 

 Of course, I an deliberately oversimplifying the issue. I also wish that is were unnecessary to take such a reactionary tack, but I feel that a little revisionism is in order. An artist’ medium should not be the ground for value judgements and ideological conflict. The art, yes – the medium itself, no. Yet that is precisely what has happened, and what is happening with photography. Certain ideological applications of photographic processes, namely, where the primacy of the photograph is denigrated and challenged, are held to be superior to the documentary utilisation of the medium. The photo-hybrid – photopainting, photosculpture, the ubiquitous conceptual photo ‘piece’ – is seen as the only valid notional approach. There are signs of active discrimination against the straight photograph and the plainly veristic practice from both within and without the photographic enclave. 

Yet, so many of those seeking to ‘extend the boundaries of the medium’, and refute the ‘hegemony of the documentary’, are fooling themselves. Whether deliberately or unknowingly (often the latter I suspect), they would seek to deny photography’s salient strengths and replace them with a diluted academicism. Much of what they trot forth as shining examples of the medium’s cutting edge are simply tired old ideas (intellectually kosher ideas, to be sure) wrapped in glossy new packages and bound with accompanying rhetoric. Invariably – lots of rhetoric.

I write this rather bitter preamble by way of a new book by one of Germany’s leading photographer – Michael Schmidt. I have been cheered immensely by the appearance of Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), and hope that it might rekindle the spirit in any straight photographer whose faith might be waning. For Schmidt confirms that photography certainly can be enough, a medium rich in allusion, visual surprise, and narrative quality when utilised by an intelligent mind’s eye. Furthermore, Waffenruhe reiterates a fact that has long seemed blindingly apparent to the more discerning photographer, that photographs must be put together like words, or individual movie frames, in order to sing their full song. It advocates persuasively that the most effective form of presentation for the straight photograph is probably the book. A vessel for the poetically juxtaposed sequence of images, the book becomes the primary artwork, rather then the necessarily less concentrated row of prints on a gallery wall.