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Review: Midcentury Experimental Photos at 'Texas Bauhaus' at PDNB

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014
DATE: January 29, 2008

Ten years ago, Burt Finger, the owner of Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery, received a phone call from a woman who invited him over to see her mother's photographs. Art dealers often receive such calls, and the prospects are not often very promising. But when Mr. Finger arrived at the woman's home, he found the walls filled with remarkable abstract photographs taken mostly in the 1950s.


They were the work of Ida Lansky, and the research Mr. Finger and his gallery did with Ms. Lansky's archive has resulted in the exhibition "Texas Bauhaus," which is currently at the Dallas gallery after its first showing in 2006 at the El Paso Museum of Art.

Carlotta Corpron, Nature Dancer, 1944 Courtesy
PDNB Gallery.
 
In the early '50s, Ms. Lansky was working on a degree in library science at Texas Woman's University in Denton when she took Carlotta Corpron's photography workshops and got hooked. Ms. Corpron, who had her own retrospective exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum in 1981, was devoted to the theories of the Bauhaus, the radical German art school that promoted a union of art, design and architecture.

When the Nazis closed the Bauhaus in 1933, many of its teachers relocated to Chicago and opened the New Bauhaus, which became over time the Institute of Design. Years before Ms. Lansky enrolled in Ms. Corpron's classes, her teacher had brought to Denton such Bauhaus luminaries as Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Gyorgy Kepes. Their theories that a photograph should be about the play of light and not the objects photographed flew in the face of the social documentary and new objectivity that formed the American mainstream, and they along with Ms. Corpron made North Texas a surprising stronghold for mid-20th-century experimental photography.

"Texas Bauhaus" includes work by Ms. Corpron, Ms. Lansky and Barbara Maples, another participant in Ms. Corpron's workshops. Walking through the exhibition, you see a clear line of influence as each of the three women brings her own sensibility to processes developed in Germany in the '20s.

Ida Lansky, Colony, c. 1950s Courtesy
PDNB Gallery.
 
 
Some of the photographs appear to be multiple exposures, but control of the photographic moment and not manipulation of the negatives is at the core of their practice. It is often difficult to know exactly how a particular image was produced.

Photograms, a camera-free method of producing images by placing objects directly on photographic paper, play a part in each artist's work. Light boxes, at the time a recent device developed by Nathan Lerner, tightly controlled how an object would be presented by isolating it in a neutral setting under directional lighting. Within the light box, mirrors might be used to multiply the image, or the final print might be reprinted in reverse to create a diptych.

For a process known as reticulation, the negative was soaked in water until it began to break up, creating an eerie sensation that solid objects were alive with organic movement.

Both Ms. Lansky and Ms. Maples did some work with architecture and interiors, but for the most part the three worked in the studio with props. Ms. Corpron's Nature Dancer (1944) is nothing more than a splayed Chinese cabbage, but her photograph has the elegance and drama that recall contemporary images of Martha Graham and other modern dancers.

Eggs, seashells and small sculptures also appear in their work, but the object photographed would often be difficult to identify without the titles. Ms. Maples, with such titles as Plastic Boxes, Plastic Jars and Paper Form, is the most informative, although throughout the exhibition there are enough untitled works or those identified merely as "abstractions" that you often have little idea exactly what you are looking at.

Staying true to their Bauhaus roots, however, Ms. Corpron, Ms. Lansky and Ms. Maples are never so much concerned with what they are photographing as how they are doing so, and trying to guess what has gone into each image is somewhat like worrying over how a magician does his act. It is better to sit back and enjoy the show.

All three create images that are at times sensuous, amusing or dramatic. They are equally capable of dissolving physical objects into displays of light and shadow or bringing order to seemingly random piles of stuff. Ms. Lansky used interlocking asbestos tiles, a children's toy of the day, to build puzzlelike architectural models. Ms. Maples crumpled paper with great finesse. For her Flowing Light images, Ms. Corpron left the camera shutter open to create complex spirals and rushing lines of light.

In today's digital world, we are accustomed to photographs that have been manipulated into high-tech wonders of both scale and sophistication. "Texas Bauhaus" shows the roots of those impulses in work that could have been produced in the studio or on the kitchen table.
By Charles Dee Mitchell
For The Dallas Morning News

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Press Release: The AIPAD Photography Show Miami Reports Strong Sales and Attendance, Upbeat Reviews. First Time AIPAD Miami Show Considered a Stunning Success by Collectors and Media

Posted By Administration, Thursday, January 24, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014
DATE: January 24, 2008

The AIPAD Photography Show Miami closed on Sunday, December 9 to strong sales and attendance and glowing reviews. Presented by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers for the first time in Miami, the Show offered museum quality contemporary and modern work from 43 of the world's leading photography art galleries. The AIPAD Photography Show Miami, which ran from December 5 – 9, was held in a tented venue at NW 31st Street and North Miami Avenue in the Wynwood Art District. Nearly 8,000 top collectors, curators, artists, media and museum groups attended.


The Invitational Preview on Tuesday evening, December 4, drew numerous luminaries and notables from the world of art, finance, real estate, fashion and entertainment. Celebrity attendance at The AIPAD Photography Show Miami included Calvin Klein, Kelly Klein, actor and singer Mandy Moore, writer Jay McInerney and legendary musician Lou Reed whose photographs were on view at Steven Kasher Gallery, New York. Prominent collectors and artists in attendance included Martin Margolis, Elliott Erwitt, Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor, Arthur Tress, Donald Staton and Philippe Garner. Curators from major museums across the country and internationally were well represented.

"It was a resounding success and we are already making plans for next year's show," noted Robert Klein, President, AIPAD, and President, Robert Klein Gallery, Boston. "As The New York Times "T" Magazine reported, The AIPAD Photography Show is "A must for top specialists."

The AIPAD Photography Show Miami was memorable for strong works by top contemporary artists including Mike and Doug Starn, Edward Burtynsky, Chuck Close, Richard Prince, Jen Davis, Patrick Demarchelier, Lisa Holden, Mona Kuhn, David Lachapelle, Alex S. MacLean, Richard Pare, Luis Gonzalez Palma, Richard Prince, Neal Slavin, Bruce Weber, William Wegman, Joel-Peter Witkin and many more. In addition, work from important 20th century artists included Diane Arbus, Eugene Atget, Lillian Bassman, Imogen Cunningham, Robert Doisneau, Franti_ek Drtikol, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Horst, André Kertész, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, Bert Stern, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston.

Sales Highlights
Dealers reported strong sales of both contemporary and modern work. Alex Novak at Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, Ltd., Chalfont, PA, said, "It was a excellent show that looked the best of any show in Miami except for Art Basel Miami Beach itself and drew a good group of local national and international collectors and curators." The gallery sold 26 works including six Lisa Holden chromogenic prints, including one for $18,500, a 1928 Edward Steichen silver print for $50,000 and six prints from the 1930s and 40s by Helen Levitt from $9,000 to $18,000 each. Overall sales totaled nearly $400,000.

Barry Singer Gallery, Peteluma, CA, was thrilled by sales of major work by Rrichard Prince and Cindy Sherman to a major industrialist and a Swiss collector. HackelBury Fine Art Limited, London, sold a number of prints priced from $4,000 to $25,000 by Stephen Inggs, Richard Caldicott, and Malick Sidibé, who won a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale this year.

Michael Shapiro Photographs, San Francisco, reported a "good level of interest from serious collectors" and sold 22 works, among them a W. Eugene Smith gelatin silver print for $110,000 and a Harry Callahan gelatin silver print for $22,000. Silverstein Photographs, New York, had an excellent fair with sales of two prints by Edward Weston in the $50,000 range, nine prints by Randy West of his iconic blades of grass for $5-6,000, and a set of prints of manhole covers by Marvin Newman went for $24,000. In addition, six tiny prints by André Kertész made from 1912 to 1925 were sold for $10,000 each.

Scott Nichols Gallery commented on "the tremendous interest from all over the world" at The AIPAD Photography Show Miami. Wach Gallery sold Ansel Adams's Half Dome, Orchard and Winter, Yosemite National Park, c.1935, for $32,000, two sets of Robert Glenn Ketchum's Choose Joy, 2007, for $24,000 and $28,000, and a set of Berenice Abbott New York images for $32,000. Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, noted it was "a very well presented show" and sold more than a dozen works including Nicholas Murray's 1938 portrait of Frida Kahlo for $8,000.

Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, said "the show looked terrific" and lost count after selling more than 30 prints by Julie Blackman in the $2,200 to $4,200 range. Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, sold four prints by Arno Rafael Minkkinen from $10,000 to $25,000 among others. The transgender world of the 1970s captured by Jerry Silverthorn was of interest at Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery, Dallas. Eight prints went for $5,000 each.

The AIPAD Photography Show New York
The AIPAD Photography Show New York
will return to the Park Avenue Armory from April 10 through 13, 2008.

AIPAD Background
Founded in 1978, The Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) represents more than 145 of the world's leading galleries in fine art photography. AIPAD is dedicated to creating and maintaining the highest standards of scholarship and ethical practice in the business of exhibiting, buying and selling photographs as fine art.

# # #

For further press information or visual materials, please contact:
Nicole Straus Public Relations
Nicole Straus, 631/369-2188 (tel), 631/369-3953 (fax), 917/744-1040 (cell), pr@aipad.com
Margery Newman, 212/475-0252 (tel), 917/608-6306 (cell), pr@aipad.com




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Review: Bertien Van Manen at Yancey Richardson : A Hundred Summers, A Hundred Winters

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 18, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

DATE: January 18, 2008

 

Traveling through the former Soviet Union between 1990 and 1994, the Dutch photographer Bertien van Manen used an automatic camera to snap pictures of people in and around their homes. The photographs were collected in a book of the same title as this show (now out of print), but they were never exhibited in New York. Viewed today, her portrait of a society in transition is a welcome counterpoint to the oligarch-dominated public image of the New Russia.



Ms. van Manen may have undertaken her journey in the spirit of Robert Frank, but the seductive proximity of her photographs is more reminiscent of Nan Goldin. Many of them appear to have been taken in bedrooms, or beds in communal living rooms. As in a separate series on French immigrants, Ms. van Manen also pays close attention to still lifes of domestic clutter — family portraits, lace doilies, postcards pinned to faded wallpaper — all of which gives her photographs a collagelike presence.

St. Petersburg, (Two Soldiers Running), 1991, 16 x 20 inch

chromogenic print, Edition of 10. Courtesy Yancey Richardson

Gallery

 

The series does not shy away from the sheer gloominess (to a Western eye) of post-Soviet life: an elderly woman curled up next to a radiator in a railway station, a rickety gray Ping-Pong table in an uninviting recreation center. More often, however, Ms. van Manen captures brief flares of exuberance: men and women standing naked in the snow outside a bathhouse, or a boy playing the accordion at a gypsy camp.

In a photograph taken toward the end of the trip, a bearded man tosses his baby high into the air. It is tempting to interpret this sunlit infant, limbs extended and dramatically foreshortened, as a national symbol. Ms. van Manen's casually intimate camerawork, however, pulls the scene back down to earth.
By Karen Rosenberg
For The New York Times

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Review: Bertien Van Manen at Yancey Richardson : From the Soviet Fray

Posted By Administration, Thursday, January 10, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

DATE: January 10, 2008

 

How depressing. "A Hundred Summers, A Hundred Winters," the exhibition of Bertien van Manen's photographs at the Yancey Richardson Gallery, portrays life in the territories of the former Soviet Union. Ms. Manen shoots in color, in contrast to Jason Eskenazi, whose "Wonderland: A Fairytale of the Soviet Monolith," seen last year, covered much the same material in black-and-white, but both bodies of work expose the awfulness of three-quarters of a century under Communist rule: Every physical object is worn, and the people — not all, but most — appear spiritually depleted. Mind you, it is the subject matter that is depressing; the photographs are exemplary.


 Novokuznetsk, (Two Boys), 1991, 16 x 20 inch chromogenic
print, Edition of 10. Courtesy Yancey Richardson Gallery

"Novokuznetsk (Two Boys)" (1991) is a marvelous illustration of the psychological lassitude that seems to be a chronic affliction of the Russian people. The two boys of Novokuznetsk, a city of roughly 600,000 in south-central Siberia, are seen from mid-chest up, and look squarely at the camera. The boy in front wears a newsboy-style cap and an inner jacket of bright lavender and aqua under his outer jacket of dark blue. Both boys have characteristically Russian features and look intelligent, capable, and attractive. Ms. Manen used a flash that blanched their pale, Slavic, wintertime complexions so that they stand out from the dark greenery behind them. The boys are in their late teens, as much young men as adolescents, and their expressions — especially that of the boy in the foreground — are drained of emotion. There seems only to be a long, enduring sorrow, the psychic equivalent of Siberia's permafrost. Only the tiny white dots that can be seen in the centers of each of the four eyes, the reflections of Ms. Manen's flash, hint at some small spark within.

Ms. Manen is a Dutch photographer — better known in Europe than she is here — with a long and distinguished list of exhibitions, books, prizes, and articles to her credit. She has the same eye and feel for domesticity as the masters of the Northern Renaissance, as well as their curiosity for how others live their lives and their generosity toward human weaknesses. The 20 pictures at the Richardson Gallery are all 16-by-20-inch chromogenic prints, many of which display a northerner's preference for muted earth tones. But, of course, there is no bourgeois amplitude for her to show off; mostly just people coping with what history dealt them.

"Kazan (Vlada on Bed)" (1992) is a girl of about the same age as the boys in "Novokuznetsk." She sits hunched over on the edge of her bed wearing only a camisole, her left arm draped listlessly in her lap, and her right arm balanced on her right thigh so that the hand covers the bottom half of her face. Again, Ms. Manen's flash has blanched Vlada's skin, making it as anemically white as the bed clothes behind her. Fine black hairs are visible on her forearms and shins. A small Japanese print of a kabuki actress or geisha is tacked to the wall, a marker of formal beauty. Vlada stares at the camera, but her mind seems lost in trying to figure out if it is worth getting up and actually getting dressed.

There are several pictures with no people in them. "Apanas (Vera's Laundry)" (1993) shows the torn sheets and other items hanging outside on a clothesline, frozen solid. "Kluvinko, Siberia (Recreation at Brickmaking Yard)" (1992) shows a ping-pong table that seems barely able to stand as the only object in a room with a concrete floor, bare concrete walls, and two black iron doors, one of which is padlocked. "St. Petersburg (Birds in Room)" (1991) shows a small room with a naked lightbulb, its casement window open so the flock of pigeons that have covered the chair and chest with their droppings can fly in and out. "Kazakhstan Sovkhoz (The Red Flag)" (1992) mocks the Dutch genre of ample larders and tables of heaped game with a pyramid of empty metal serving bowls stacked in the kitchen of a communal farm.

Not all is drear. In "Apanas (Michael and Pjotr after Bath-House) Siberia" (1994), two men stand in the ice and snow wearing only their skivvies, and pouring buckets of water over their heads; they seem pleased with themselves. In "Vachtan (Irina in the Snow)" (1991), an attractive young woman just come from a bathhouse stands in the snow and, in the harsh glare on Ms. Manen's flash, naked except for a cross on a silver chain, she smiles. "Novokuznetsk (Volodja and his Baby)" (1994) is playful, but fraught; Volodja has tossed the naked infant high up overhead, higher than it seems a prudent parent would. Ms. Manen clicked the shutter with the baby at the top of his trajectory, where he seems suspended in air, his arms outstretched in a gesture that incorporates the iconography of Jesus both as an infant and as a martyr on the cross. The religious reference is not out of place. Volodja has a full beard like the one in the picture on the wall behind him of a mitered figure, apparently a venerated priest or saint. Above that is painted the esoteric symbol of one of Russia's mystical sects, and above that a conventional icon. We are somewhat appalled at the baby's exposure to peril, but hope that he — like all the people in straitened circumstances in Ms. Manen's sympathetic pictures — comes down safely. As for Russia, only a miracle can save it.

Until February 16 (Yancey Richardson, 535 W. 22nd St., between Tenth and Eleventh avenues, 646-230-9619).

By William Meyers
For The New York Sun

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