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NEA finds California tops in artists

Posted By Administration, Thursday, June 12, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Among United States cities, greater Los Angeles ranks as the urban center with the most working artists and California is the top state by the same measure, according to a new report from the National Endowment for the Arts.


The study, titled "Artists in the Workforce, 1990-2005" and being released today by the federal arts agency, reveals that San Francisco, followed by Santa Fe, N.M., ranks above Los Angeles-Long Beach in terms of percentage of artists in the labor force -- but that in sheer numbers, the L.A. area ranks at the top of the list, with 140,620 working artists.

Even in terms of percentages, Los Angeles-Long Beach ranks above New York City, which came in fourth.

The rest of the list, in descending order: Stamford- Norwalk, Conn.; Boulder-Longmont, Colo.; Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.; Danbury, Conn.; Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Lompoc, Calif.; and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash.

"I say this as a Californian and an L.A.-born Californian: Californians need to put their artistic inferiority complex behind them," NEA Chairman Dana Gioia told The Times. The research also indicates that, for the 1990-2005 period, the West and the South have seen the greatest growth in artists by state.

The survey shows that nearly 2 million Americans identify themselves as working artists and that as many as 300,000 more report secondary employment as artists. Gioia said the number of working artists, representing 1.4% of the labor force, is only slightly smaller than the number of active-duty and reserve personnel in the U.S. military (2.2 million). While the number of artists doubled from 1970 to 1990, it has remained constant as a percentage of the population from 1990 to 2005.

For the survey, "artist" encompassed workers in both nonprofit and commercial arts fields, including the entertainment industry. The survey included photographers (7%); producers and directors (7%); writers and authors (9%); architects (10%); fine artists, art directors and animators (11%); and performing artists (17%). A whopping 39% identified themselves as designers.

Gioia said that the purpose of the study was to educate decision-makers about the importance of artists to the global economy. "People believe that most artists are unemployed. This is wrong. They are extremely entrepreneurial."

"I think what troubles me most is how many artists are not unemployed but under-employed," he added. "Schools have mostly eliminated the arts from education. It seems to me a big failure of imagination not to use the considerable skills of artists in the American public sector."

By Diane Haithman
For The Los Angeles Times

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Aristocracy of Talent for an Egalitarian Art

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 6, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

From the daguerreotype to the cellphone snapshot, the history of photography has unfolded as a series of miracles, each of which has profoundly altered our understanding of the time-space continuum. As the innovations become familiar, the photographs become miracles in another way, as connections to a past we've never seen.


"Framing a Century: Master Photographers, 1840-1940," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, manages to operate in the gap between both kinds of miracles, innovative and talismanic. It presents the history of a medium as well as history itself.

This exhibition appropriates a model usually reserved for painters, old or modern masters. Organized by Malcolm Daniels, the curator in charge of the Met's photography department, "Framing a Century" recounts the medium's 100 years with a succinct cavalcade of big names, substantial bodies of work and significant historical impact.

The show singles out 13 photographers, representing each with 10 to 16 mostly stunning images. It begins with the innovations of the British gentleman William Henry Fox Talbot, and concludes with the homespun classicism of the American Walker Evans, the studio experiments of Man Ray and, finally, the breathtaking moments captured by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Brassai, geniuses of the street. In between are the landscapes of Roger Fenton, Gustave Le Gray and Carleton E. Watkins; portraits by Nadar and Julia Margaret Cameron; and views of 19th- and early-20th-century Paris and France by Charles Marville, Édouard Baldus and Eugène Atget.

If this sounds exclusive, it is. Photography, developed by a combination of artists, scientists, businessmen and hobbyists in Britain and France, starting in the late 1830s and early '40s, has an unusually populous and egalitarian beginning that is a fitting prelude to the images that deluge us today.

You may want to quibble about some absent masters. Where are Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand and August Sander, for example? But this show has a second mission, which is to celebrate the 2005 acquisition of the glorious Gilman Collection of 8,500 photographs. Originally intended as a gift to the museum, it was partly given and partly purchased. More than half the images in this exhibition are from the collection; they demonstrate how well it dovetails with the photographs the museum already owns.

Trimming photography's narrative to 13 overachievers has its merits. The new technology galvanized the artists seen here — 12 men and 1 woman — to exploit its possibilities in terms of their own visions and own purposes. All used the camera to find bigness in themselves, in the new medium and, above all, in the world.

Arranged in a generally chronological manner, the show — like photography itself — proceeds from stillness to motion, from landscape and ruin to city, from people frozen in studio poses to people on the move. The camera's first great subjects were nature and architecture, which were ubiquitous, interesting and relatively motionless, important in the early years when cameras were heavy, and the slice of time required to make an image was at its thickest.

The earliest image in the show is a facsimile of Fox Talbot's primitive "photogenic drawing," or photogram, from around 1835, of a frail sprig of fern barely visible on a field of slate-gray light-sensitive paper. (The original cannot be shown because any exposure to light would destroy it.) The remaining 15 Fox Talbot images — landscapes, figure groups and his famous Dutch Masterish "Open Door" — show him pushing the medium from rudimentary to sophisticated in a few short years. His final image, from 1858, is a photogravure of dandelion seeds, fluff and all.

Mr. Daniels has arranged the show in a kind of pyramid of conversations conducted among the show's galleries, its artists and their individual works. His selections strive to show each photographer's range. Fenton, for example, veers from Victorian to protomodern. He sentimentally places a kneeling, praying woman at the center of his image of the ruin of Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire, yet his images of the old Kremlin or a railroad siding in Balaklava in the Crimea anoint him as perhaps the world's first photojournalist. The two sides of his sensibility meet in an image of the interior of Salisbury Cathedral dimly illuminated by shafts of daylight.

In the first gallery the peripatetic Fenton is joined by the more focused Le Gray, who concentrates mostly on the trees of the Forest of Fontainebleau and on tossed seas and skies, and Watkins, who had eyes only for the American West in its rugged, untrammeled glory. National topographies and sensibilities are contrasted here.

An image of a reclining woman by Fenton, dressed to the nines in exotic Middle Eastern garb, hangs next to one of a woman, completely nude, by Le Gray. British mores vs. French? Maybe. That both subjects seem at pains to avoid looking at the camera clarifies why the full-frontal stare of Manet's painted nude, "Olympia," from 1863, was so deeply shocking.

In the second gallery Nadar's often stark, unforgiving portraits of Parisian men about town face the more idealized and mostly female subjects of Julia Margaret Cameron; they tend to be pale beauties, too passive and too contemporary for comfort. This idealization reaches its height in her photo illustrations for Tennyson's " 'Idylls of the King,' and Other Poems"; the example here is a well-acted costume-drama involving quite a bit of chain mail. And Nadar's portrait of Eugène Pelletan, a critic, seems like a precursor of a Hollywood portrait of a handsome, slightly dangerous leading man.

In the gallery devoted to the work of Baldus, Atget and the lesser-known Marville, the beauty of Paris, old, new and in transition, takes over. Marville captures old streets both before and during Baron Haussmann's redesign, as well as the relative calm and intimacy of a man lying on sun-dappled ground beneath a chestnut tree.

Outside the city Baldus records history-laden architecture and Lyon flooded, in addition to rugged coastlines that are commensurate with Watkins. Back in Paris, his head-on image of the Imperial Library at the Louvre reduces the Ancien Régime to a series of mesmerizing formal contrasts: smooth and textured, round and flat, shadowed and light, horizontal and vertical.

Atget is drawn to store windows and the shimmering ponds of Saint-Cloud and Versailles. His most surprising image, from 1924-5, shows three prostitutes in the doorway of a brothel on Rue Asselin in Paris. It might almost be by Cartier-Bresson.

In the last two galleries the images reflect modern developments. One was the hand-held camera, which made picture taking a kind of instinct or reflex, as evidenced by Walker Evans's subway photographs, Cartier-Bresson's amazing succession of "decisive moments" and Brassai's evanescent views of Paris at night. (At the Corvisard Métro stop Brassai catches a pillar's shadow that looks suspiciously like Alfred Hitchcock's famous profile.) The other was the conviction that photography was an experimental art, born of a machine, pursued in the studio and characterized by a silvery, even icy artifice.

This show unfortunately lacks a catalog, but Mr. Daniels's text labels provide capsule biographies and note technological developments and popular reaction. He points out for example that Fenton's photographs of the Kremlin were the first images the British public saw of Russia.

All the images in this show at one time or another were firsts, as information and as experience. It is the gift of this exhibition and its 13 masters that we are able to feel some of the shocks that their work initially delivered. And if not all of these efforts began as art, they certainly are that now.

By Roberta Smith
For The New York Times

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Anne d'Harnoncourt, Who Led Philadelphia Museum, Dies at 64

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Anne d'Harnoncourt, who revivified the Philadelphia Museum of Art and maintained the intellectual standards of its program of exhibitions, died on Sunday night at her home in Philadelphia. She was 64.


The cause was cardiac arrest, the museum announced. She was director and chief executive at her death.

Ms. d'Harnoncourt leapt to the front rank of the American museum leaders when she was named its director in 1982, becoming the only woman to head a museum with an annual budget of more than $25 million. Under her leadership, the museum presented a number of important exhibitions, notably retrospectives of Constantin Brancusi in 1995, Paul Cézanne in 1996 and Barnett Newman in 2002.

Ms. d'Harnoncourt also oversaw the reinstallation of the museum's European collections, the renovation of 20 of its galleries of modern and contemporary art and the acquisition of a nearby Art Deco building, which opened in September, to help solve the museum's growing space problems.

As the only child of René d'Harnoncourt, the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1949 until he retired in 1968, Ms. d'Harnoncourt came in contact with art, artists and museum professionals at an early age. Born in Washington and raised in Manhattan, she attended the Brearley School and went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree from Radcliffe and a master of arts degree from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London 1967.

After working as a curatorial assistant in the Philadelphia Museum of Art's painting department, she took a position as an assistant curator of 20th-century art at the Art Institute of Chicago. There she met Joseph J. Rishel, an assistant curator of European painting, and now senior curator of pre-1900 European painting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The two married in 1971, and that same year Ms. d'Harnoncourt was named associate curator of 20th-century art. Mr. Rishel survives her.

In 1972, she accepted a position as curator of 20th century art at Philadelphia. A Duchamp specialist, she helped organize a retrospective of his work in 1973 that traveled to the Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. She also helped the museum build a comprehensive collection and archive of Duchamp's work.

In 1982 Ms. d'Harnoncourt was offered the position of director in Philadelphia and set about injecting a new sense of life and purpose into a somewhat sedate institution. A specialist in modern art, she helped build the museum's contemporary collections, acquiring works by Jasper Johns, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin and others. By breeding and temperament, however, she was resolutely old-fashioned and provided a stark contrast to the new breed of wheeler-dealer museum director.

"She was in many ways a model director," Philippe de Montebello, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said on Monday. "She came out of the curatorial ranks, and she was a scholar. She made bold, imaginative acquisitions and really put the museum on the map."

Elizabeth Cropper, dean of the Center for the Advanced Study of the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and a longtime friend, said: "She was steered by respect for and love of art. In a very complex world, she was guided by simple axioms and values."

Standing six feet tall, Ms. d'Harnoncourt had an imposing presence. With a regal bearing and a vocal delivery that recalled Julia Child, she exuded "the no-nonsense appearance of a girls' hockey team captain," Dinitia Smith wrote in The New York Times. Many found her cool and aloof, even inscrutable. "I would prefer to say thoughtful and dignified," Ms. Cropper said.

During Ms. d'Harnoncourt's tenure, the museum won an important court victory in 1989 allowing it to integrate the more than 1,200 European paintings left by the lawyer and collector John G. Johnson in 1914 into its overall holdings, a move that had been prevented by the terms of the Johnson bequest, which put restrictions on the works' display. That decision made possible a wholesale reinstallation and a more coherent presentation of European art from the 1400s to the late 19th century, at a cost of $12 million.

Ms. d'Harnoncourt led the museum through two capital campaigns, one from 1986 to 1993 that raised $64 million, and a second from 2001 to 2004 that raised $246 million. These campaigns allowed the museum to embark on an ambitious program of expansion and renovation: the $90 million acquisition and renovation of the Art Deco office building across from the museum was the first phase.

As the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, it houses the museum's collections of prints, drawings and photographs; costumes and textiles; modern and contemporary design; and library and archives. A coming $500 million expansion by Frank Gehry is to be constructed 30 feet beneath the Philadelphia museum's east plaza.

Ms. d'Harnoncourt stayed put in Philadelphia despite keen interest from other top institutions. It was widely reported that she was courted for the top job at the Museum of Modern Art in the 1990s — "There was strong interest in whether I would be interested," was the way she put it to a reporter — and at the National Gallery in Washington. In 1997 she was named chief executive as well as director of the Philadelphia museum.

One of her recent achievements was a matter of local pride. In the fall of 2006, Thomas Jefferson University, a Philadelphia medical school, said that it would sell "The Gross Clinic," an 1875 masterpiece by the Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins, to the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas.

To prevent the sale, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts had 45 days to match the selling price of $68 million. Ms. d'Harnoncourt went into high gear, saying, "It's a painting that really belongs in Philadelphia — his presence still resonates here."

In the end she prevailed, in part by selling an Eakins painting and two oil sketches to the Denver Art Museum and the Anschutz Collection, also in Denver. (The Fine Arts academy had also sold an Eakins painting from its collection.)

"We're heaving a deep sigh," Ms. d'Harnoncourt said when the Eakins deal was concluded. "This is it. Now we can celebrate."

By William Grimes
For The New York Times

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'Conscientious Projector: Photographs by Maria Teresa Fernandez'

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 30, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

In an upstairs hallway at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, a small show of photographs by Maria Teresa Fernandez focuses on the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border that begins a couple of hundred feet out in the Pacific and ends about 60 miles inland, near El Centro, Calif.


That's a lot of territory to cover, and rather than documenting all parts equally or presenting a historical overview of the politically charged barrier, Fernandez zeros in on details: little incidents that might seem insignificant but that accumulate to form a knot of narratives by turns tragic, defiant and touching. Of the 84 color prints that make up the accessible exhibition, all but eight are close-ups -- tightly framed pictures that bring visitors nose to nose with the fence and arm's length from the often poignant mementos left beside it by people whose lives it has affected.

None of Fernandez's photographs are titled, dated or labeled. Four short wall texts provide a bit of background, leaving the snapshot-style pictures, arranged in six loose groups, free to tell their stories. Fernandez is not a sociologist or an activist but a poet, an artist whose goal is to capture various facets of the human drama that unfolds at the fence.

It all begins innocently enough, with nearly abstract shots of the fence's piecemeal patchwork of recycled materials and painted-over portions, which form accidental compositions. Algae, barnacles and rust create a wide range of surface textures. In several images, the crumbling metal, worn thin and turned orange by the salty air and water, contrasts dramatically with the cloudless blue sky it reveals through jagged holes.

The next cluster of pictures is the largest and most forlorn. In it, the Mexico-born, San Diego-based artist documents some of the many memorials that have shown up along the fence's south side.

Some are humble: ad hoc, on-the-run gestures to lost and fallen love ones, such as a pair of old boots hung from the fence or a simple cross marked with a man's name or, more often, "no identificado."

Others are elaborate, resembling altars or shrines festooned with votive candles and overflowing with offerings of fruit and flowers as well as personal treasures. Bold graphics and figurative images -- including piles of skulls, fleeing people and dazzling landscapes -- are painted on the fence as mural-style backdrops. A few, made by anonymous artists armed with spray paint and brushes, turn the surface into a ground for illusionistic paintings of doorways to an Edenic land of freedom and plenty.

The third group of images depicts the remnants of large, well-organized protests: coffin-shaped boxes, hundreds of water bottles, and billboard-style messages decrying the social injustice and economic inequity represented by the fence.

The fourth group of photos turns away from such unofficial, DIY additions to the fence to portray its authoritarian features. Sun-bleached images of steel and concrete reinforcements, military-style border patrols, construction and repair crews, towering light posts and surveillance cameras show a Godforsaken, Orwellian landscape.

The last two groups of pictures return to the heart of Fernandez's project: the anonymous men, women and children whose lives are divided by the fence. One group shows close-ups of hands -- pressed against the fence or clinging to its chain-link sections. They are among the only works that seem posed, and they come off as greeting-card clichés.

In contrast, the last group is haunting. It depicts couples, families and friends gathered on both sides of the fence as if they were all on the front porch or around a picnic table, casually chatting on a weekend afternoon. Many bring folding chairs, coolers and portable stereos and try to pretend that the steel pilings of a 12-foot-tall fence don't separate them. Fernandez captures the absurdity of the situation and the adaptability of the people, giving heart-wrenching form to both, especially in her images of lovers who drape sheets over themselves -- and through the fence -- for a little privacy.

Fernandez's eight panoramic photographs, which reveal the vastness of the fence as it snakes across the land, amplify the absurdity of it all. They provide just enough big-picture context to make the up-close and intimate pictures all the more potent.

By Dave Pagel
For The Los Angeles Times

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Cornell Capa, Photographer, Is Dead at 90

Posted By Administration, Saturday, May 24, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Cornell Capa, who founded the International Center of Photography in New York after a long and distinguished career as a photojournalist, first on the staff of Life magazine and then as a member of Magnum Photos, died Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 90.


His death, of natural causes, was announced by Phyllis Levine, communications director at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan.
In Mr. Capa's nearly 30 years as a photojournalist, the professional code to which he steadfastly adhered is best summed up by the title of his 1968 book "The Concerned Photographer." He used the phrase often to describe any photographer who was passionately dedicated to doing work that contributed to the understanding and well-being of humanity and who produced "images in which genuine human feeling predominates over commercial cynicism or disinterested formalism."
The subjects of greatest interest to Capa as a photographer were politics and social justice. He covered both presidential campaigns of Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s and also became a good friend of Stevenson. He covered John F. Kennedy's successful presidential run in 1960, and then spearheaded a project in which he and nine fellow Magnum photographers documented the young president's first hundred days, resulting in the book "Let Us Begin: The First One Hundred Days of the Kennedy Administration." (He got to know the Kennedys well; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis would become one of the first trustees of the I.C.P.)
In Argentina, Mr. Capa documented the increasingly repressive tactics of the Peron regime and then the revolution that overthrew it. In Israel, he covered the 1967 Six Day-War. The vast number of picture essays he produced on assignment ranged in subject from Christian missionaries in the jungles of Latin America to the Russian Orthodox Church in Soviet Russia during the cold war, the elite Queen's Guards in England and the education of mentally retarded children in New England.
His work conformed to all the visual hallmarks of Life magazine photography: clear subject matter, strong composition, bold graphic impact and at times even a touch of wit. In his 1959 essay about the Ford Motor Company, for example, one picture presents a bird's-eye view of 7,000 engineers lined up in rows behind the first compact car all of them were involved in developing: a single Ford Falcon.
"I am not an artist, and I never intended to be one," he wrote in the 1992 book "Cornell Capa: Photographs." "I hope I have made some good photographs, but what I really hope is that I have done some good photo stories with memorable images that make a point, and, perhaps, even make a difference."
Mr. Capa had three important incarnations in the field of photography: successful photojournalist; champion of his older brother Robert Capa's legacy among the greatest war photographers; and founder and first director of the International Center of Photography, which, since it was established in 1974, has become one of the most influential photographic institutions for exhibition, collection, and education in the world.
It was because of Robert Capa that Cornell became a photographer. Not only was he Cornell's mentor, along with Henri Cartier-Bresson and David (Chim) Seymour, but it was on his brother's coattails that Cornell first became affiliated with Life magazine. In 1947, Cornell's three mentors founded Magnum Photos, the agency he would join after his brother Robert was killed on assignment in Indochina in 1954.
"From that day," Mr. Capa said about his brother's death, "I was haunted by the question of what happens to the work a photographer leaves behind, by how to make the work stay alive."
The I.C.P. was born 20 years later, in part out of Mr. Capa's professed growing anxiety in the late 1960s about the diminishing relevance of photojournalism in light of the increasing presence of film footage on television news. But, also, for years he had imagined a public resource in which to preserve the archives and negatives of "concerned photographers" everywhere. In this regard, his older brother's legacy was paramount in his thoughts when he opened the I.C.P., where Robert Capa's archives reside to this day.
Born Cornel Friedmann on April 10, 1918, in Budapest Hungary, he was the youngest son of Dezso and Julia Berkovits Friedmann, who were assimilated, nonpracticing Jews. His parents owned a prosperous dressmaking salon, where his father was head tailor. In 1931, his brother Robert, at 17, was forced to leave the country because of leftist student activities that had caught the attention of officials of the anti-Semitic Hungarian dictator, Admiral Miklos Horthy. In 1935, his eldest brother, Laszlo, died of rheumatic fever.
Growing up, Cornell had planned to be a doctor, and, upon graduating from high school in 1936, he joined Robert in Paris to embark on his medical studies. But first he had to learn French. Robert, who had become a photojournalist in Berlin before settling in Paris, had befriended two other young photographers, Cartier-Bresson and Seymour. To support himself, Cornell developed film for Robert, Henri and Chim and made their prints in a makeshift darkroom in his hotel bathroom. Soon enough, Cornell's interest in photography grew, and he abandoned his longtime ambition to be a doctor. He also adopted his brother's new last name, a tribute in variation to the name of the film director Frank Capra.
In 1937, Mr. Capa followed his mother to New York City, where she had joined her four sisters. When Robert came for a visit and established connections with Pix, Inc., a photography agency, he helped get Cornell a job there as a printer. Soon after, Cornell went to work in the Life magazine darkroom.
In 1940, Mr. Capa married Edith Schwartz, who, over the years, assumed an active role in his professional life, maintaining his negatives and archives, and also those of his brother. They had no children, but she provided a home away from home for hundreds of the photographers they came to know over the years. Mr. Capa wrote that Edie, who died in 2001, "deserves so much of the credit for whatever I have accomplished."
After serving in the U.S. Air Force's photo intelligence unit during World War II, Mr. Capa was hired by Life magazine in 1946 as a junior photographer.
"One thing Life and I agreed on right from the start was that one war photographer was enough for my family," he wrote. "I was to be a photographer for peace."
The historian Richard Whelan wrote in the introduction to "Cornell Capa: Photographs" that Mr. Capa "often quoted the words of the photographer Lewis Hine: 'There are two things I wanted to do. I wanted to show the things that needed to be corrected. And I wanted to show the things that needed to be appreciated.' " That is what Mr. Capa dedicated his life to doing.

By Philip Gefter
For The New York Times

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A Businessman's View of Mid-American Life

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 23, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

It's not a fine-art photograph, but it looks as if it could be: a man stands in front of a new single-story brick and cinder-block building holding open one of its glass and metal doors as though to invite us in. Large paper letters on the inside of the storefront windows spell "Open." Yet what this new business is open for remains a mystery. There are no other signs on the building, and no products are visible through the glass.


Made by Bill Wood Jr. (1913-73), a commercial photographer who operated in Fort Worth from 1937 to the early 1970s, it is a bland yet curiously affecting image. It conveys hope and optimism, but it seems empty, lonely and anxious.
That is the unintentionally disquieting effect produced by many of the 210 black-and-white photographs that make up "Bill Wood's Business," a fascinating, compact exhibition at the International Center of Photography. The show was organized by the independent curator and writer Marvin Heiferman and Diane Keaton, the actress, photographer and photography collector who 20 years ago bought 20,000 negatives left over from Mr. Wood's defunct enterprise. Recently she donated the trove to the center.
The Bill Wood Photo Company developed pictures, sold equipment and supplies, and offered Mr. Wood's services as a photographer. He did it all: babies, pets, weddings, dead people in their coffins, retirement parties and recitals. For local businesses he photographed grocery store displays, new cars, new houses, oven knobs and prayer books.
Ms. Keaton and Mr. Heiferman admit that Mr. Wood was not a great artist. Proficient but unimaginative, he shot each subject straight on with his large-format camera, achieving lucid yet unremittingly banal images. There is no evidence that he had any higher artistic ambitions. The portrait that emerges from Mr. Heiferman's catalog essay, based partly on conversations with Mr. Wood's two daughters, is of a hard-working businessman, joiner of clubs and family man who strove only to satisfy his costumers' needs.
In fact, after Ms. Keaton acquired the negatives and started printing them, she says in the exhibition catalog, she found herself disappointed. Mr. Wood did not turn out to be an unknown genius like Mike Disfarmer, the Depression-era Arkansas commercial photographer who made extraordinarily intense studio portraits. A 1976 book on Mr. Disfarmer was partly what had inspired her to take a chance on this Fort Worth journeyman.
"I didn't know what to make of it," Ms Keaton writes about the Wood archive. "Everything looked ordinary, maybe too ordinary, more like odd or funny, but not really funny, sort of flat."
Mr. Heiferman ventures that the interest of Mr. Wood's photography is not in its aesthetic quality or personal vision but in what it represents: "a comprehensive and detailed cross section of midcentury, middle American, middle-class life." But that doesn't really explain what is so beguiling about the pictures.
Mr. Heiferman gets closer to the truth when he observes how uncomfortable many of Mr. Wood's subjects look. Two trumpet players in identical blazers and bow ties look so nervous you'd think they were posing for a police lineup. The image of a supervisor stiffly lecturing his attentive staff on custodial routines is like a still from a zombie movie. The smiling girl photographed outdoors wearing her dental retainer is poignant just because she is so awkwardly guarded. Intimacy was not Mr. Wood's forte.
What is captivating and often funny is the gap between what he evidently meant to do and what he did. It appears that he meant to create reassuring images for his customers, pictures that affirmed their identities, values and world. Today, however, it looks more as if he captured feelings of absurdity, unease, alienation and grief.
An image of five old people watching television in a nursing home seems so sad you wonder why Mr. Wood made it. So does the weirdly desolate image of a man in a hat standing at the edge of a wide, sun-baked parking lot occupied by just five cars. A deserted children's playground under a blank drive-in movie screen is an enigmatic dream.
Some of Mr. Wood's pictures could be mistaken for the work of more sophisticated artists. The laconic, sometimes deadpan modernism of Robert Adams and Bill Owens comes to mind. There is an impressive, formal austerity and psychological suggestiveness in Mr. Wood's image of the dark corner windows of a gas station with folding chairs and an empty desk inside and cars on the street reflected in the glass.
All of this raises questions about how Mr. Wood is represented by this exhibition. As Mr. Heiferman acknowledges in his essay, it is not clear which pictures he considered his best professional efforts. Many of the images that will interest sophisticated viewers might have been outtakes that he filed away and never used.
Were he still alive, he might like the idea of viewing his work as a form of documentary history. But to value his photographs of grocery store displays or car showrooms as a kind of vernacular Pop Art would probably strike him as incomprehensible.
Selecting just 210 out of 20,000 images and arranging them in two wall-covering grids as the curators have done might also be mystifying to Mr. Wood. The way they are displayed — printed the same paperback book size and in identical black frames — has the effect of absorbing the many disparate images into a single photographic essay on the American social landscape. It creates the illusion of a broadly integrative, authorial vision that Mr. Wood probably did not possess. (It is worth noting, too, that a second photographer, Reginald C. Phillips, worked for Mr. Wood from 1948 on, which means some of the pictures in the exhibition might not be Mr. Wood's.)
It might be argued that the exhibition is a work of contemporary art — a kind of big collage — created by Ms. Keaton and Mr. Heiferman out of raw material left by Mr. Wood.
Ultimately, however, whether you attribute it to the curators, to a latent outsider genius in Mr. Wood, to the magical nature of photography or to all of the above, the exhibition conjures a haunting, dryly soulful visual poetry.

By Ken Johnson
For The New York Times

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J. Paul Getty Museum puts 'August Sander: People of the Twentieth Century' and 'Bernd and Hilla Becher: Basic Forms' in focus.

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

AUGUST SANDER (1876-1964) envisioned his never-completed encyclopedic inventory of the German populace as totaling more than 500 photographs divided among seven sections comprising 45 categories. The deeply absorbing J. Paul Getty Museum show "August Sander: People of the Twentieth Century" follows the broad outlines of his classification system. In this selection of 127 portraits from the Getty's tremendous collection of 1,200-plus works by the photographer, it is as if Sander called roll and the spectrum and spectacle of humanity stepped forward.


Aged peasant woman, effete student, fiery-eyed painter -- all here. Dwarfs in their Sunday best, here. Elegant and self-possessed member of parliament, here. Waitress, composer, coal carrier, bohemian -- all here. Persecuted Jew, here. And SS chief, also here, posed in full, daunting regalia and photographed without any visible irony shortly after Sander's project had been curtailed and his son jailed for agitating against the Nazi government.
Sander never could have finished his collective portrait, even if the Nazis had not put a hostile end to his efforts. He brought order, precision and a spectacularly sensitive eye for character to his self-appointed task. But that task was as elusive as it was expansive.
He announced his aim to compile an archive of images portraying "Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts" (People of the 20th Century) in the late 1920s, more than two decades into his career as a commercial portrait photographer based largely in Cologne. In 1929, he published a 60-image preview of the larger project called "Antlitz der Zeit" (Face of the Time). "Every person's story is written plainly on his face," he asserted in a radio address two years later. "More than anything, physiognomy means an understanding of human nature."
Sander's career became firmly established just in time to be undone by the National Socialist regime, which countered his vision of a heterogenous society with one of idealized racial purity, lethally enforced. The true "Face of the Time" had to be suppressed: Sander's book was banned, confiscated, and the printing plates were destroyed. Sander moved to the countryside, where he continued to accrue negatives for his perpetually ongoing project while shifting his professional persona to that of landscape photographer.
Every archive is, inevitably, also an editorial. Sander's reflects his belief that civilizations followed patterns of development, sophistication and decay, a notion popularized in Oswald Spengler's "The Decline of the West" (1918). He organized his photographic material according to such a progression, moving from farmer to banker to blind man and beggar, from archetypes of earthbound solidity to the dregs of urban industrialization. Much is omitted along the way (he gave notoriously short shrift to the Weimar Republic's liberated, newly enfranchised woman), but Sander took in the gritty evidence of Germany's economic distress as avidly as its cultural florescence.
He posed his subjects to deliver maximum information by economical means, without flourishes. Every subject is in sharp focus, and nearly all stare directly at the camera in honest declarations of the self.
An image of a girl inside a carnival wagon, reaching her arm through a window to place the key in the lock of the door that confines her, is an entire parable in a single frame. Many of the pictures could yield whole novels. At least one actually did: "Young Farmers," an iconic triple portrait, inspired Richard Powers' fascinating 1985 "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance," in which the young men are described as having "dropped their obstinate masks of individuality and taken up the more serious work of the tribe."
Every Sander subject oscillates between those obligations to represent the unique self and the generalized type. Sander's ambition and the medium's unnerving defiance of temporal laws enable us to lock eyes with these diverse souls. The effect is staggering, sobering, heartening.
Theme and variation are also in dynamic interplay in an adjacent show in the Getty's galleries: "Bernd and Hilla Becher: Basic Forms." Both shows were curated by the Getty's Virginia Heckert, who worked with Judy Annear of Australia's Art Gallery of New South Wales on the Sander.
The Bechers, German photographers who married in 1961 and worked collaboratively until Bernd's death last year, built a portrait archive of their own, only not with human subjects. They photographed industrial structures such as blast furnaces, water towers and silos, each from a uniform distance in flat, neutralizing light.
Whereas Sander categorized his subjects by occupation, class or other social affiliation, the Bechers developed typologies according to function, displaying their photographs in grids that emphasized formal similarities and distinctions. Sander was a chief influence on their work, as were other so-called "New Objectivity" photographers of his era, particularly Albert Renger-Patzsch and Karl Blossfeldt.
The dispassionate, mug-shot uniformity of the Bechers' approach has been described as minimalist, and the pictures do read as unsentimental examinations of geometric form, all linear struts, wheels and planes. At the same time, a sense of deeply felt social history -- nostalgia, even -- courses through the work, a preservationist impulse to record forms every bit as mortal as their human counterparts.
Pairing the two shows makes visual and art historical sense and takes great advantage of the museum's deep holdings, but their points of connection feel conspicuously unexamined. Even the most rudimentary compare-and-contrast exercise would deliver loads of interesting overlaps having to do with seriality, typology, the archival impulse and the questionable concept of photographic objectivity -- not to mention the massive influence of both bodies of work on subsequent generations of photographers, from Diane Arbus to Thomas Ruff. But wall texts are mute on the synchronism, and the exhibition brochures no more illuminating.
Sander, of all artists, would have appreciated a view that took in both shows.
"Photography is like a mosaic that becomes a synthesis only when it is presented en masse," he wrote in 1951. Just as each of his subjects gained meaning as a representative of a type, each portrait he made took on greater significance as part of his broad, brilliant, unfinishable enterprise.

By Leah Ollman
For The Los Angeles Times

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Met Director Will Become Professor at N.Y.U. Institute

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

The mellifluous voice of Philippe de Montebello will next be heard in classrooms at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, where he will become the first professor to teach the history and culture of museums.


Mr. de Montebello, who has been the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 31 years, announced in January that he would step down around the end of the year, or as soon as a successor was found.
His new job is to be announced Tuesday night at a dinner celebrating the institute's 75th anniversary. In addition to teaching at N.Y.U., he will advise the university on its plan for a new overseas campus at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
"It's a wonderful new chapter," said Mr. de Montebello, who earned his master's degree in art history at the institute. "It's something I've always wanted to do."
Mr. de Montebello, who turned 72 on Friday, said he planned to teach full time. But rather than lecturing on what might seem most obvious — how to run a museum, for example, or the history of 15th- and 16th-century French and Netherlandish painting, his scholarly area of expertise — he said he would cover the history of collecting and connoisseurship and the evolution of museums, including the central issue of how the museum's mission can be defined in today's world.
"I see this as an entire second career for Philippe," said Mariët Westermann, director of the Institute of Fine Arts and vice chancellor for N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi.
"Over the years I've gotten to know Philippe not just as a museum director but as an intellect," she said. "About a year ago we got talking about what might happen next with the institute and with him. It was so fortuitous."
As an adviser on the Abu Dhabi project, Mr. de Montebello will help shape the new campus's visual arts offerings. The first liberal arts campus to be established in the Middle East by a major American research university, it is being paid for and built by the Abu Dhabi government. Students are expected to begin enrolling in 2010.
"That's the icing on the cake; it's a part of the world I love," Mr. de Montebello said. "I will teach a shortened version of my course there in a couple of years."
Ms. Westermann said the visual arts curriculum at Abu Dhabi would be "very important," especially because of the ambitious program to build museums in the emirate. Both the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Louvre plan to open satellite institutions in a new cultural district there over the next few years.
Mr. de Montebello's appointment as a professor will become effective either in January 2009 or upon the arrival of his successor at the Met. In addition to teaching, Mr. de Montebello said, he intends to continue lecturing before the public. He will also be a consultant to museums abroad that he declined to name, advising them on modernizing their institutions.

By Carol Vogel
For The New York Times

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Rauschenberg Got a Lot From the City and Left a Lot Behind

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 16, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Robert Rauschenberg, who died Monday at age 82, is part of the cultural mythos of postwar New York. He regularly exhibited new work here for more than 56 years, which must be some kind of record. It extended from his first solo show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1951 to the debut of his 2007 "Runts" series at PaceWildenstein in Chelsea in January. Mr. Rauschenberg was there, amid throngs of admirers, for the opening.


Many of the materials for Mr. Rauschenberg's found-object wizardry came directly from the sidewalks, gutters and trash bins of New York. Most of the images he used were lifted from its magazines and newspapers and mirrored the look and pulse of urban life. It is fitting that so much of his art made its way into the permanent collections of the city's museums.
These works number more than 500. True, many are prints, but printmaking, mixed with other mediums, was perhaps the central strategy of his art, with found photographs (or his own) functioning as his signature brushstroke. His penchant for overlapping and clustering transparent images constituted an indelible style.
New York's Rauschenbergs summarize his most influential innovations as well as his volcanic, sometimes compulsive productivity. There are examples of the multimedia hybrids he called combines and the transfer drawings that used solvent to fuse the mechanically reproduced and the handmade. And there are demonstrations of his distinctive seen-from-above spatial tilt, christened by the art historian Leo Steinberg "the flatbed picture plane." It redefined pictorial space as radically as one-point perspective.
These works, and their credit lines, also say a thing or two about the collecting habits and histories of the museums themselves. Little-known fact: The Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim are co-owners of an early 1950s gold leaf Rauschenberg, bequeathed to them in 1974. Here's what's on view right now, as well as a sense of what's in the vaults and what will be brought out of storage or rearranged to honor the artist in the coming weeks.
Museum of Modern Art
In New York, MoMA is Rauschenberg Central. It owns nearly 300 works, many of them prints, and usually has at least a dozen major efforts on view. The current ones include several recently acquired masterpieces from the 1950s that subvert the very concept of masterpiece. The homey proto-combine that is "Bed" uses real sheets, pillow and quilt as canvas and defines the flatbed picture plane as something you can sleep in. "Rebus" builds a narrative from seemingly nonsensical sequences of found images and abstract elements. "Factum II," by being a near-copy of "Factum I" (in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles), challenges the notion of the unique, inspired artistic touch.
Eight drawings from "Thirty-Four Illustrations for Dante's Inferno" (1959-60) are also on display. Mr. Rauschenberg's first full-on exploration of the transfer technique, they recast Dante's journey in shadowy contemporary terms. The compositional finesse of these works is writ large in "First Landing Jump," a majestic 1961 combine painting that has one wheel — a car tire — planted firmly on the ground.
The Modern plans to mark Mr. Rauschenberg's death by consolidating these and other works into a single gallery sometime next week.
Whitney Museum of American Art
Like the Modern, the Whitney began collecting Rauschenbergs in the early 1960s; by now it owns nearly 60. Its first acquisition, in 1961, was "Summer Rental + 2," a collage painting from 1960 and third in a series of four very similar works that loosely extend the conceit of the "Factum" pair. Ten years later Mr. Rauschenberg gave the museum "Yoicks," from 1953, one of his most irresistibly exuberant works and one of his first to use fabric as a bold visual element. Green polka dots on yellow alternate with or succumb to slathered bands of red and yellow paint, paying irreverent homage to Abstract Expressionism while presaging works by Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Larry Poons and Joan Snyder.
"Yoicks" is often on view; it has been joined by the 1955 "Satellite," a dense, almost claustrophobic combine painting with a stuffed pheasant patrolling its top edge, and "Blue Eagle," another combine.
Guggenheim Museum of Art
None of the Guggenheim's Rauschenbergs are on view right now, but the museum plans to mount a selection soon. Although there are only slightly more than 30, about half of which have been acquired since 1990, they form an idiosyncratic but often choice group.
To one extreme are several examples of the artist's "Cardbird" multiples, the exacting, editioned trompe l'oeil-like copies of cardboard assemblages that seem antithetical to his interest in the cheap, the found and the improvised. To the other are slight but rare works given by Mr. Rauschenberg's foundation around the time of his 1997 Guggenheim retrospective.
One is the appropriately titled "Untitled (Hotel Bilbao)," an early "Shirtboard" collage, made from materials gathered in North Africa, where Mr. Rauschenberg traveled with Cy Twombly in 1952. Another is a small untitled transfer drawing from 1952, made six years before Mr. Rauschenberg is thought to have taken up the technique, albeit without solvent. This puts a new chronological wrinkle in his pervasive interest in simple, direct, one-on-one printing processes and in basing his art on things found rather than made.
The Guggenheim also owns half of what must be considered an apotheosis of these interests, Mr. Rauschenberg's 32-foot-long silkscreen painting "Barge." Sadly for New Yorkers, it is currently on view at the Guggenheim Bilbao, which owns the other half.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is a latecomer to the New York Rauschenberg sweepstakes. Although it owns more than 60 prints, it did not acquire anything bulkier until the combine painting "Winter Pool," from 1959, entered the collection. This ever-startling work consists of two narrow but rather colorful canvases flanking an old wood ladder, suggestive of a weathered swimming dock. The arrangement warps space in several ways, creating a feeling of submersion while bringing an arctic slice of white wall into the picture.
The museum reeled in this work just in time for its opening of "Robert Rauschenberg Combines" in December 2005. Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, that exhibition was among the greatest devoted to Mr. Rauschenberg's work during his lifetime.

By Roberta Smith
For The New York Times

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Spontaneity Was the Medium and the Message

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 16, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Since Polaroid announced in February that it would stop manufacturing instant film and that supplies would run out next year, artists like Chuck Close and Lucas Samaras have been passing through stages of grief. Nothing, they say, can replace the Polaroid — awkward, dated, a little sleazy, but miraculous nonetheless.


The beloved instant photograph could not have hoped for a better sendoff than the Whitney's exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe's Polaroids. During his 20s, between 1970 and 1975, Mapplethorpe made more than 1,500 photographs with Polaroid cameras. This may surprise viewers who are more familiar with his posed and polished studio photography of the '80s.
"Polaroids: Mapplethorpe" offers some 100 examples drawn largely from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, including portraits, still lifes, erotica and works that fall into more than one of these categories. All the themes of Mapplethorpe's mature work — the body as a site of pain and pleasure, the ideals of classical beauty, the celebration of alternative lifestyles — are here, but rendered in a more spontaneous medium.
As Mapplethorpe once said, "If I were to make something that took two weeks to do, I'd lose my enthusiasm. It would become an act of labor, and the love would be gone."
Sylvia Wolf, the show's curator in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, writes in the catalog that Mapplethorpe "learned how to see photographically with the Polaroid camera." The growth was personal as well as artistic. Mapplethorpe's earliest Polaroids date from 1970, around the time he was beginning to explore his sexual identity.
His early self-portraits are frankly autoerotic, taking full advantage of the Polaroid's seamy associations (from the days before cellphone cameras). Instead of leafing through pornographic magazines to find a desired pose, as he had for earlier collage-based works, Mapplethorpe could simply create it himself.
This being the Whitney, the exhibition does not include some of the more provocative images that appear in the catalog. It's too bad, because it interrupts sequences of shots and plays down the Polaroid's seductive function.
A card from Mapplethorpe's 1973 opening at the uptown Light Gallery made the connection explicit. Invitees opened cream-colored Tiffany envelopes to find a protective sleeve for Polaroid film, printed with the words "DON'T TOUCH HERE." Inside was a self-portrait made by positioning a Polaroid camera at crotch level across from a mirror. A strategically placed paper dot added a touch of false modesty.
The Polaroid technology was inherently collaborative, in that models could see and respond to the results of the photo session. This is particularly apparent in shots of Mapplethorpe's friend and roommate Patti Smith. The ever-aloof Ms. Smith crosses her arms, hugs her knees and thrusts her hands into her pockets, but there is a sense that she might crack a smile.
The romantic and creative relationship between Mapplethorpe and the collector Sam Wagstaff, which began in 1972, inspired some of the most intimate photographs in this exhibition. A series of three subtly erotic Polaroids, mounted on paper and separated with thin bands of colored pencil, shows Wagstaff rinsing his hair and shaving his chiseled jawline in the bath.
Mapplethorpe often created special mountings for his Polaroids, though only a few examples are at the Whitney. One such 1973 work combines four images of the Warhol superstar Candy Darling, each surrounded by pastel-painted plastic. Another, also from 1973, features a grid of six Polaroids in which racy portraits of Mapplethorpe and David Croland, his friend and one of his early lovers, alternate with photographs of a public sculpture.
In works made the following year, Mapplethorpe continued to depict the nude body — athletic but not necessarily male — as classical statuary. Several Polaroids show dancers and performers posing next to columns and on pedestals. In one photograph of a male dancer from 1974, taken opposite a mirror, Mapplethorpe can be seen crouching with his camera in the lower right corner.
In other photographs Mapplethorpe and his models wear masks, harnesses and other sexual accessories, but even these pictures have a cold, flesh-as-marble sensibility. More shocking, in a way, is a photograph of two men ("Charles and Jim") kissing in a bathhouselike setting. In the catalog Ms. Wolf compares this image to Warhol's taboo-defying film "Kiss."
By the mid-'70s, Mapplethorpe had gained access to the upper echelons of creative society and was able to make a living by taking portraits. His Polaroids from this time form an impressive social archive: Ozzie Clark, Clarissa Dalrymple, Henry Geldzahler. In these pictures Mapplethorpe seems to have used the Polaroid as if it were a more conventional camera. Only the shots of Marianne Faithfull, cradling a cup of tea, and Helen Marden, veiled by a leafy branch, possess the immediacy of Mapplethorpe's earlier portraits of Ms. Smith.
In 1975 Wagstaff gave Mapplethorpe a Hasselblad 2 1/4-inch camera. It was the end of Mapplethorpe's affair with the Polaroid. By then he had outgrown it.
The photographs of the early '70s show us that Mapplethorpe did not emerge fully formed as a photographer of "the perfect moment." How might his art have developed without the Polaroid? We can only guess, but it is difficult to picture young artists approaching their camera phones and Webcams with anything like his sense of wonder.

By Karen Rosenberg
For The New York Times

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