Monday, March 25, 2013

Harry Callahan - retrospective at Deichtorhallen, Hamburg

Harry Callahan, Chicago, c. 1951
 HAMBURG.- Harry Callahan (1912-1999) is regarded as one of the most innovative and influential artists in the history of 20th-century US photography. Deichtorhallen Hamburg is taking the artist’s creative intensity, the aesthetic standing his oeuvre enjoys in the context of 20th-century US photography and the fact that 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of his birth as an opportunity to present his oeuvre in an extensive retrospective with over 280 works. The exhibition runs from March 22 through June 9, 2013.

The exhibition is to date the most extensive show of his work, and includes both his black-and-white gelatin silver prints and his color works produced using the dye-transfer process. Harry Callahan was one of the first to overcome the prevailing aesthetics of Realism by advancing the New Vision, which László Moholy-Nagy had established in the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and Ansel Adams’ so-called “straight photography” in an innovative, highly sensitive way.

Between 1946 and 1997 the Museum of Modern Art in New York alone honored Callahan’s photographic oeuvre in a total of 38 exhibitions. Together with the painter Richard Diebenkorn, Callahan represented the USA at the 1978 Venice Biennale, the first photographer ever to do so. Nonetheless, in Europe Callahan’s multifaceted work is still considered a rarity in the history of photography. In addition to photographs of nature and landscapes, Callahan’s oeuvre, spanning a period of nearly 60 years as of 1938, embraces pictures of his daily strolls through cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Providence, Atlanta, and New York.

Portrayed frequently in very intense light, his leitmotifs were streets, shop windows, buildings and pedestrians hurrying past. Very early on he regarded photography as a purely artistic medium, and saw himself as an art photographer rather than a representative of applied photography. In later years other works, in which his wife Eleanor and daughter Barbara were the focal point, were superseded by another major experiment: the photographs he took on numerous trips to France, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, and Ireland.

His works document the emergence of Modernism, which was taking an ever-greater hold on everyday life. Relating to his three main themes, nature, the familiar figure of his wife Eleanor, and cities, Callahan’s images reflect his life in ever-new references that become increasingly less interwoven with one another. At the same time they trace the social and cultural transformation in the USA discreetly, elegantly, and with a tendency to abstraction, recording the changes as a seismograph does earth tremors. In his images Callahan consistently reflects on both his own and the camera’s way of seeing.

A 256 page catalogue with texts by Julian Cox, Peter MacGill, Dirk Luckow and Sabine Schnakenberg, supports the exhibition. You can find it on Amazon, HERE.

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