Thursday, June 29, 2017

Duane Michals retrospective at Fundación Mapfre - Barcelona

Duane Michals - Magritte with hat

Duane Michals has long been one of my favorite and most admired photographers. Michals is his own person, his work is original, loaded and clearly the man has a sense of humour and a big heart. What's more he is outside the system and what better place to be.

Duane Michals' show at Fundación Mapfre runs until September 20. Jonas Cuénin writing in the Eye of Photography has this to say: The American photographer Duane Michals is the subject of a retrospective exhibition on view until September 20th at Fundación MAPFRE’s Casa Garriga i Nogués exhibition space in Barcelona.
Working, teaching, chatting or just living: whatever he’s doing, Duane Michals is a man with a big heart which has always made him a photographer unlike any other, totally committed to authenticity and the extraordinary. Love of the imaginative, love of whimsy, humanity, knowledge, curiosity, and humor: now eighty-one, this child of a hardscrabble family from McKeesport, Pennsylvania, seems to have inherited a state of mind like no other, a unique blend of absolute intellectual freedom and the omnipotence of dreams. There’s no resisting his vehemence, his bulwark against facility or the mockery that shields a humility success has never compromised. He wields provocation like a schoolkid dealing with a teacher, laughing at the world and other people, but never contemptuously: just mischievously, throwing down the gauntlet to the rules and regulations. “Doctor Duanus”, as he likes to call himself, combines a gentle gaze and a muted voice with a fondness for plain talk. He uses words to accompany his wonderment at simple things: and the result is a poetry of the everyday that segues into a theater of the fantastic when, to add a touch of romance, he mutates into a street clown or an actor in a drama. It’s almost as if the atmosphere of Georges Méliès’ films was back, and with it a hankering for tales of the marvelous. There’s a part of Duane Michals that is neither photographer or artist, two words almost banished from his vocabulary but something else: a being beyond any pigeonholing, a kind of kid-style magician.

You can read the full article HERE.
Duane Michals - Hockney

Gregory Crewdson at Photographers' Gallery London

Gregory Crewdson - The Motel, 2014

This is the first UK exhibition of Cathedral of the Pines, a new body of work by acclaimed American artist Gregory Crewdson, and it is also the first time The Photographers’ Gallery has devoted all three of its gallery spaces to one artist.
With this series, produced between 2013 and 2014, Crewdson departs from his interest in uncanny suburban subjects and explores human relations within more natural environments. In images that recall nineteenth-century American and European paintings, Crewdson photographs figures posing within the small rural town of Becket, Massachusetts, and its vast surrounding forests, including the actual trail from which the series takes its title. Interior scenes charged with ambiguous narratives probe tensions between human connection and separation, intimacy and isolation.

Crewdson describes this project as ‘his most personal’, venturing to retrieve in the remote setting of the forest, a reminiscence of his childhood. The images in Cathedral of the Pines, located in the dystopian landscape of the anxious American imagination, create atmospheric scenes, many featuring local residents, and for the first time in Crewdson’s work, friends and family. In Woman at Sink, a woman pauses from her domestic chores, lost in thought. In Pickup Truck, Crewdson shows a nude couple in the flatbed of a truck in a dense forest—the woman seated, the man turned away in repose. Crewdson situates his disconsolate subjects in familiar settings, yet their cryptic actions—standing still in the snow, or nude on a riverbank—hint at invisible challenges. Precisely what these challenges are, and what fate awaits these anonymous figures, are left to the viewer's imagination.

Crewdson's careful crafting of visual suspense conjures forebears such as Diane Arbus, Alfred Hitchcock, and Edward Hopper, as well as the influence of Hollywood cinema and directors such as David Lynch. In Cathedral of the Pines, Crewdson's persistent psychological leitmotifs evolve into intimate figurative dramas.

Visually alluring and often deeply disquieting, these tableaux are the result of an intricate production process: For more than twenty years, Crewdson has used the streets and interiors of small-town America as settings for photographic incarnations of the uncanny. Working with a large crew, he plans his images as meticulously as any movie director.

The exhibition opened June 23 and runs until October 8.

Gregory Crewdson - The Haircut, 2014

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

THE LAMENT - my new bookwork now available direct from Dewi Lewis Publishing

Dewi Lewis Publishing has just released my new photobook THE LAMENT.

Dewi says this about the book: Harvey Benge’s new book, THE LAMENT, is his eighth bookwork published by us. It continues his investigation into the nature of things through a celebration of the democracy of images. Questions are asked though few answers given. These are places we have all been, if only in the mind.
As with all Benge’s projects, THE LAMENT is partly fiction and partly autobiographical. The pictures mine the unusual and the perverse. They make strange connections and exploit the unexpected. Nothing is as it seems, though we nevertheless sense that there is a truth in everything. Mystery prevails and it is up to the viewer to bring his or her own life experience to the reading of the work.
THE LAMENT deals with loss, change and the inevitability of impermanence. All thoughts, emotions and circumstances that each and every one us have experienced and have dealt with in our lives. There is sexual misadventure too. Yet despite the apparent angst, Benge isn’t about to slit his wrists anytime soon: a wry sense of humour runs through the work and if you look hard enough you might even spot a sense of optimism.

Hardback, 96 pages, 85 photographs, 290 x 200mm

You can order direct from Dewi Lewis Publishing HERE.

Here are some spreads from THE LAMENT

Sunday, June 25, 2017

FOUND - photographs from the 1940's that tell an uncomfortable wartime story


When recently in the delightful Tuscan town of Sansepolcro I came across two small photographs tucked away in a envelope and offered at a local flee market stall. I've always been on the lookout for found pictures, they become a souvenir of a visit as well as having a charm all of their own. These particular photos, so small they fit in the palm of a hand and printed on paper with a decal edge, spoke of something strange and uneasy. Probably made in the 1940's, the images depict a group of Italian men (and a boy) ripping into the Chianti. Not an unusual occurrence except here there are German soldiers sharing the fun. Bizarre. Here are the pictures, see for yourself.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Michel Houellebecq - writes and photographs, beauty and brutality

Michel Houellebecq - France #014, 2016

In a June 16 piece in Artsy, my favorite online art resource, writer Michael Robbins talks about the photographs of controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq.

There’s a description in the French writer Michel Houellebecq’s best novel, The Map and the Territory, that recurs to me often. Jed Martin, a painter and photographer who gets entangled with the famous novelist Michel Houellebecq, is walking down a Parisian boulevard:
"A Casino hypermarket and a Shell service station were the only perceptible centers of energy, the only social propositions likely to provoke desire, happiness, or joy. Jed already knew these lively places: he had been a regular customer of the Casino hypermarket for years, before switching to the Franprix in the boulevard de l’Hôpital. As for the Shell station, he also knew it well: on many a Sunday, he had appreciated being able to go there for Pringles and bottles of Hépar."
I have never been to Paris, but I too already know these lively places. So do you. Fungible temples of the commodity “as a force aspiring to the complete colonization of social life,” to quote Guy Debord. For most of us, such spaces are dead zones, not worth noticing, pit stops and way stations. (I never noticed the chintzy chandelier hanging from the ceiling of the deli I frequent almost daily until, thinking about Houellebecq’s work, I took a good look at the place.) Houellebecq’s protagonist sees these spaces as the only throbbing hearts in a diseased social body. Of course this means that contemporary society—French, but the idea extrapolates—is idiotic and brutal. Jed finds an oddly comforting beauty in it nevertheless.

Houellebecq’s camera discovers a depopulated—almost no people appear in any of the shots, even those of huge public housing blocks—and often depressing world. But like his novels, his photographs reveal the wit and allure of total disenchantment, the quirky loveliness of what Debord called “an insufficiently meaningful world.” Giant concrete letters spell out “EUROPE” in front of a desolate, monochromatic car park. A hotel corridor—darkened glass doors in the middle distance, blue lights spaced evenly along wood-paneled walls—is drenched in an eerie greenish-red glow. It can take the viewer a second to realize the corridor isn’t quite empty: Ghosts of guests flicker in the frame, leaving an impression of the universal tourist costume of jeans, sandals, book bag. It’s a simple but effective trick of exposure. In this pleasant field of corporate light and angles, people are an afterthought.

Occasionally I come across photographs I wish I had made. These stunning images made by Houellebecq most certainly are in that category...

You can read the full article HERE. And while you are at it, why not sign up for Artsy's regular mailings. You will not be disappointed.

Michel Houellebecq - France #002, 2017

Michel Houellebecq - Tourisme #014. 2016

Monday, June 19, 2017

Auckland - Back!!

Back in Auckland after five weeks in Europe - London, Paris, Rome. First outing a group show at Auckland City's public artspace - North Art. I'm showing my 2011 work, Auckland Apple. Shown here in conversation with Billy Apple in a photograph made by William Dart.