Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shows at the Light Gallery

In 1971, Tennyson Schad opened Light Gallery in New York City. It was one of two galleries devoted solely to photography open at the time. What distinguished Light Gallery was it's aim of representing exclusively contemporary photographers. In time, the gallery showed Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Frederick Sommer, Paul Strand, Robert Mapplethorpe, Garry Winogrand and many more.

The other historically important thing about Light Gallery was that it produced quite a few current gallery directors including Laurence Miller, Peter MacGill, Robert Mann and Harold Jones.

Here are some samples of announcements for exhibitions held at the gallery:













Thanks to Jeffrey Ladd for this post. You can see his work here and here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lee Friedlander at the Corcoran

For the nation's bicentennial--1976--the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., commissioned eight photographers to shoot in and around the United States' capitol. Over the course of the year, the work was exhibited at the Gallery, two artists at a time. In conjunction with the exhibitions, eight booklets were produced, one for each artist's work. Lee Friedlander was one of the photographers and here is the booklet produced of his work for the show.

The project is described in greater detail on the second spread.

24 pages, including covers, saddle-stitched; 8 x 8 inches.

Front cover

First spread

Second spread

Third spread

Fourth spread

Fifth spread

Sixth spread

Seventh spread

Eighth spread

Ninth spread

Tenth spread

Eleventh spread

Back cover

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Jonathan Saunders, who contributed this post. His work can be found at www.iliketotellstories.com.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Andre Kertesz, Part 2

Here are a couple of graphically interesting items from Andre Kertesz's recent history.

The first is from a show of his distortions that was shown at the James Danzinger Gallery, NYC, in 1997. What made this particularly interesting is that these were made before the better known "Nudes" (see Distortions, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.)

I've included a notice about the show from New York Magazine. If, as the notice says, there were 12 prints, then the gallery managed to get almost half of the images onto the announcement. He and his model seem to be having a grand time which is, of course, not the issue with his female distorted nudes.

Following that is the announcement for a show mounted in 2003 at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery, NYC. The Silverstein Gallery has consistently exhibited interesting and historically significant bodies of work. Further, they reintroduced Mark Cohen to the art world. They presented a landscape show in 2004 called Topographics: Photographs from 1844 to the Present that is the best landscape show I've seen since the Between Home and Heaven exhibit at the Smithsonian in 1992. (Both shows by the way produced good accompanying books.) Besides which, the front and back images are very cool. (Incidentally, the Silverstein Gallery represents the Kertesz's estate.)

The block of text, while visually annoying, is a pretty good overview of his career. I promise nothing, but I'll try to put together a selection of his House and Garden work at some point.

And finally, a sweet nothing...

(Heavy, glossy card stock, 14 x 7 inches, folded twice
to produce a 4.75 x 7 inch announcement)


Opened once

Fully opened


New York Magazine
November 10, 1997

(Stiff card stock, 15 x 7 inches, folded twice to produce
a 5 x 7 announcement)


Opened once

Fully opened


(6.5 x 3.5 inches)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Odds and Ends, Part 2

Postcard (7 x 5 inches)

(6 x 6 inches)

Postcard (7 x 5 inches)

Oversized postcard (8.5 x 6 inches)

Bookmark (2.25 x 8 inches)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Road to Victory, 1942

In 1942, Beaumont Newhall was called up to duty with the Army Air Corp, eventually to serve as an analyst of photographic aerial reconnaissance. He had been curator of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, since it's inception in 1940.

It took a bitter fight, but Ansel Adams (vice-chair of the Department) and Newhall convinced the trustees that Nancy Newhall, Beaumont's wife, was the best choice as curator in his absence. Still, they wouldn't give her but an "Acting Curator" title and paid her half what her husband had earned.

Throughout the 3 years she served as curator, Nancy Newhall had to repeatedly defend against the closing of the department. Overall budget-cutting at the museum was one problem (alleviated for the Photography Department by several donations by David McAlpin) but the other problem was that Adams' and the Newhall's curatorial vision was at odds with the times. At the time, photography was seen as a democratic medium while as their philosophy argued for differentiating between photos on aesthetic grounds. This included important members of the museum's staff and Board of Trustees who saw the presentation of photography in more populist terms. Ironically, on account of the Newhall's attempts to define photography by the same criteria as the other arts, the museum was accused of snobbery.

The most outspoken critics outside the museum were Edward Steichen and Tom Maloney. (Maloney at the time was editor of Camera Craft magazine and the U.S. Camera books.) Steichen, who had a couple of powerful allies on the board, was asked to guest curate a couple of exhibitions of war-related photography which Nancy Newhall had no say in and wasn't consulted about. Steichen's view was that photography could be used for propagandistic purposes in the service of the war effort. As he has been quoted saying: "When I first became interested in photography...my idea was to have it recognized as one of the fine arts. Today I don't give a hoot in hell about that. The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself." (Sounds like a definition of art to me.)

The first of the shows was Road to Victory: A Procession of Photographs of the Nation at War which opened May 21, 1942 and closed after October 4, 1942. What follows is the June, 1942, issue of the Museum of Modern Art's Bulletin, describing the show. Note the credit for Steichen on the cover: "Directed by..." In Ansel Adams and the American Lanscape, Jonathan Spaulding notes that "Steichen, who had done frequent work for the studios, brought the visual impact of the big screen and the dream factory's penchant for sensationalism to the once staid gallery."

The text was written by Carl Sandburg, the poet (and Steichen's brother-in-law.) The show was designed by Herbert Bayer--former Bauhaus member who had become quite successful in the U.S. as a graphic designer--and was influenced, like the leading designers of Fascist Germany and Italy, by the design idiom El Lissitzky had created for Soviet exhibits. Steichen curated the photos. "Together," says Spaulding, "Bayer and Steichen devised a show of spectacular visual impact."

I'll let Spaulding describe the scene for us. (Sandburg's text is reproduced in the Bulletin.)

Clicking on the images will make them larger.


Spead 1

"The display began with images of the land...Entering the exhibition the viewer would have seen panels of buffalo and Indians followed by the first of the series of murals, an immense 12 x 16-foot view of Bryce Canyon, Utah. On the panel nearby was the first block of Sandburg's text: 'In the beginning was virgin land and America was promises...'"

Spread 2

Spread 3

Spread 4

"Next were panels showing farms and ranches, corn and wheat fields to the horizon, cattle herds, and combine harvesters. Following these were images of industrial America and huge murals of government reclamation projects--Shasta Dam, Hoover Dam, the TVA. The natural forces of the land had been harnessed by decent, hardworking folk. Americans possessed the strength to defend their virtuous nation. Now the 'arsenal of democracy' was at work."

Spread 5

"After witnessing this stirring of the slumbering giant, the viewer would move to a panel of an isolationist 'America First' meeting that quoted their slogans, 'It can't happen to us' and 'We've got two oceans protecting us.' Immediately following was a dramatic photograph of tbe U.S. destroyer Shaw at Pearl Harbor exploding in a tower of flame, shrapnel, and black smoke. Hanging in front of this picture was one of the Japanese ambassador, Kichisaburo Nomura, and the Japanese peace envoy, Saburo Kurusu, 'rocking with laughter.' Opposite, seeming to stare grimly at them, was an image of an old Texas farmer, who was quoted as saying, 'War--they asked for it--now, by the living God--they'll get it.'"

Spread 6

Spread 7

"There followed a series of panels of the gathering American forces, fighter and bomber formations, and a huge mural enlargement of the battle for the Marshall Islands, with the text, 'Smooth and terrible birds of death--smooth they fly, terrible their spit of flame, their hammering cry, 'Here's lead in your guts.' Loads of death, tons on tons of annihilation, out of the sky and down down on the enemies of the free world.'"

Spread 8

"The exhibition came to a close with 'a final mighty climax,' a mural, 12 feet by 40 feet, of a vast sea of armed and marching men. Accompanying it were panels showing mothers and fathers from different parts of the country."

Spread 9

Spread 10

Spread 11

Back cover

The show was wildly popular and traveled to San Francisco, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and London. "In its overheated rhetoric and heavy-handed imagery, the show was typical of the wartime propaganda that began to issue from both the public and private sectors. The strange combination of sentimentality and vicious war fever evidenced in the Road to Victory was hugely appealing to the public and drew unprecedented crowds from the first days of its opening. It was not simply the general public that was impressed. Reviews from across the journalistic and political spectrum chimed in their praises." (Some of the quotes are reproduced on spread 10, above. One to note is from the Daily Worker, who found it "the most sensational exhibit of photographs that ever was shown in these parts. What a country to fight for!")

Adams and the Newhalls hated the exhibit and thought that it did not belong in a museum of art. At the time Adams was working on photographs to be turned into murals by the Interior Department. They were never produced but it is interesting to note that "for all his ranting against it, Adams was profoundly influenced by the success that Steichen had achieved...That kind of public outreach had, after all, become [Adams'] highest ambition...He wanted to achieve an emotional impact without sacrificing the integrity of the photographic print. He wanted to communicate ideas and persuade public opinion without falling into sentiment and propaganda."