September 14th, 2018   Art | Theaster Gates: Back to Black

Photographs by Isaac Sutton



The Black Image Corporation

Osservatorio
Fondazione Prada
Milan | Italy
20 September > 14 January 2019



Chicago’s Mayor has called the artist, Theaster Gates, ‘…a civic treasure on a par with Chicago’s skyline and downtown museums.’ Quite an accolade for the son of a roofer whose father bequeathed him his tar kettle – a gift not lost on Gates, for whom tar has become a key element in his painting and sculpture work, as in the centre-piece of his Black Madonna exhibition, currently on show at Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland.

Having studied urban planning and city design, as well as religion and ceramics, Gates spent 15 years making pots, an activity through which, he says, ‘you very quickly learn how to make great things out of nothing … [and] start to learn how to shape the world.’

Gates, whose Rebuild Foundation bought up condemned buildings in the deprived, predominantly African American South Side district of Chicago and refurbished and repurposed them as community facilities: apartments, a library, workshops for artists, a black cinema – he financed each project by selling artworks made from the scrap material from the previous renovation – led Art Review to refer to him as, ‘The artist who does more outside the gallery than within.’

Photographs by Moneta Sleet Jr



Adept at turning preconceived ideas about himself and his work on their heads, for his show at Fondazione Prada Osservatorio Theaster Gates has created a time-capsule of a seminal period in black magazine publishing, within the gallery space. Having dug deep into the Johnson Publishing Company’s 4-million-strong image archive from its ground-breaking Ebony and Jet magazines, that includes photographs of positive everyday events and of the complex realities black Americans faced in the USA during the post-war years, Gates displays his emotive selection on an interactive structure. Elsewhere, furnishings and interior design elements from the company’s mid-century modern Chicago offices, known as the Ebony/Jet Building – a designated Chicago Landmark – are arranged as a comfortable environment, where visitors can browse through original copies of Ebony and Jet.

Former deputy sheriff Isaac Sutton (1923 > 1995), who photographed the first group of images above, became a staff photographer at JPC, and worked there for 42 years, developing intimate friendships with some of the most famous names in show business.

Moneta Sleet Jr (1926 > 1996), whose images appear immediately above, who began working for Ebony magazine in 1955, was the first African-American man to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 – for his photograph of the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. Among many others, he photographed Muhammad Ali, Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, and Billie Holiday.

Appropriately, The Black Image Corporation is on show at Milan’s Fondazione Prada Osservatorio, located within the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, built between 1865 and 1967, which was damaged by bombing in 1943 but is now fully restored.

Photos Moneta Sleet Jr and Isaac  Sutton, courtesy Fondazione Prada Osservatorio


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September 7th, 2018   Photography | Harry Gruyaert: Fifty-Fifty

Belgium, Antwerp. Carnival, 1992



Roots by Harry Gruyaert
Gallery Fifty One
and Fifty One Too
Antwerp | Belgium
11 September > 3 November 2018



Belgium, Antwerp. Zoo, 1975



Colour is very important to photographer Harry Gruyaert, so why is a good deal of the work in this show black and white? The truth is complex and personal.

When Gruyaert (b 1941), having studied photography and filmmaking, upped sticks, leaving his home town of Antwerp in 1962, because he found the place so dull that he couldn’t bear to be there any longer, looking for visual stimulation, he moved to Paris. Nine years later, having spent time in India, Japan, Morocco and New York – where he discovered the vibrant hues of pop art and thereafter shot exclusively in colour – he developed a morbid fascination with his native country. Deciding to return as often as he could in order to record the banality of Belgian life in all its diversity, he found to his frustration that he could only see Belgium in black and white. It was some years later, when he had become more deeply engrossed in the project, that he felt able to begin shooting in colour.

Belgium, Banneux, 1975



Belgium, Boom, 1988



Belgium, Province of Limburg, 1975



Shot between 1970 and 1992, the substantial body of photographs Gruyaert produced – humour is to be found within it but not much joy – tell the story of his relationship with the land and the people he rejected through the eye of a detached voyeur, obsessively observing all that he was no longer a part of.

Although the colour allows for more complex, painterly compositions – of which Gruyaert is a master – and the viewer is conscious of an obvious time shift towards a more affluent decade – occasionally lifting the mood – little separates the content of the colour and black and white images.

Belgium, Brussels. Palais des Beaux Arts-Museum, 1981



Gruyaert, who continues to live in Paris, and insists he is not a photojournalist, nevertheless joined Magnum Photos in 1982. In the early 1970s, while he was living in London, he produced his TV Shots, a series of photographs of distorted colour television images, resembling pop art paintings. Half documentary photographer/half fine artist, Gruyaert’s images in Roots contain as many clues to his struggle with the conflicting strands of his own creativity – contradictions to which he freely admits – and his feelings about his nationality during the 70s and 80s, as they do to the cultural identity of Belgians living in Belgium in the same period.

The monograph Harry Gruyaert was published by Thames and Hudson in 2015. Retrospective exhibitions of the photographer’s work were held at Paris’s Maison Européenne de la Photographie in 2015 and at the Fotomuseum Antwerp in 2018.

The colour images included in Roots by Harry Gruyaert (first published in book form in 2012, and recently republished), are being shown in Gallery Fifty One while, simultaneously, the black and white prints will be on view at Fifty One Too.

All photographs by Harry Gruyaert, ©Harry Gruyaert, courtesy Gallery Fifty One.
All images are archival pigment prints, printed later


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August 31st, 2018   Art | Shizuko Yoshikawa’s Concrete Zen

Yoshikawa’s
series painting,
m93 strange fabric
– breathing field 13
,
from 1997



Shizuko Yoshikawa
By Gabrielle Schaad
Edited by Lars Müller
with an essay by
Midori Yoshimoto

Lars Müller Publishers
Text in English,
Japanese and German.
248 pages, 236 images,
hardback.
Available now



Lars Müller Publishers’ beautifully-designed books all bear a strong family resemblance that is generally consistent with Josef Müller-Brockmann’s classic Swiss design style, and this one is no exception. As Lars and Josef’s surnames both include ‘Müller’, I had always assumed that they were father and son, uncle and nephew, or, perhaps, brothers. Suspicious of nepotism, I was, therefore, sceptical about reviewing this monograph on the work of Müller-Brockmann’s wife, Shizuko Yoshikawa – an artist I’d, personally, never heard of – that Lars Müller has edited and written the very reverential introductory text for, as well as published.



Concrete relief
works completed
by Yoshikawa
in Zürich locations
in 1983 (left)
and 1972 (right)



Relief work,
fs 74 colour
shadows/2×5

from 1979



Untitled painting
by Yoshikawa
from 2016/2017
in tempera
and pearl acrylic
on canvas



Shizuko Yoshikawa was born in Japan in 1934. Aged 27, she and her husband, an economist, relocated to Germany in 1961, where she studied at the legendary, Bauhaus-inspired Ulm School of Design (Hochschüle für Gestaltung) and came under the spell of Josef Müller-Brockmann (1914 > 1996), her typography teacher, for whom, two years later, she left to work for, as a freelance designer, in Zürich, Switzerland. In 1967, after her divorce, he would become her second husband.

Despite not having completed her course at Ulm, the school’s holistic, multidisciplinary teaching methods that emphasised the importance of sociology, psychology, politics, economics, philosophy and systems-thinking alongside aesthetics, and went far beyond the Bauhaus approach of simply integrating art, craft and technology, had a significant effect on her.

Driven and independently-minded, from the late 60s, Yoshikawa, fusing influences from Ulm with Japanese Zen sensitivity, began her transformation from graphic designer to visual artist and by 1972 had produced her first large-scale, wall relief sculptures for one of suburban Zurich’s public spaces. Since then, as an exponent of Swiss Concrete Art – a movement founded by De Stijl’s Theo Van Doesburg in 1930, of which Max Bill, who had taught at The Bauhaus and been the first rector of the Ulm School, and who Yoshikawa had come into contact with in Zürich, had become the flagbearer in the 1940s – she has come to be revered as one of Switzerland’s most important contemporary artists. While much of her oeuvre consists of series paintings, her spatial design in, on and around buildings – sadly, under-represented in this book – has been a constant feature of her work.



Posters by Josef
Müller Brockmann
and Yoshikawa,
from 1994 (left),
and posters by
Yoshikawa from
1974 and 1978, right



Yoshikawa’s
series painting,
m466 strange
fabric – flying
,
completed in 1995



Lars Müller, born in Oslo in 1955, is a Norwegian citizen, who, as a young boy, was relocated to Switzerland (coincidentally, in 1963, the same year that Yoshikawa arrived there) and studied graphic design in Zurich from 1975 to 1979. When Müller founded his publishing house in Baden, Switzerland, in 1983, focusing on books on architecture, design, typography, art, and photography, he and Josef Müller-Brockmann, his former, exacting teacher and mentor, became close friends. I was very relieved to discover that they were unrelated and that my fears were totally unfounded. I am grateful to Lars Müller for introducing me to Shizuko Yoshikawa’s paintings and sculptures, which have been regularly exhibited in Switzerland, as well as in Japan, Sweden, Argentina and the USA and astonished that, to date, her work has been largely ignored in the UK.

Lars Müller PublishersShizuko Yoshikawa is guaranteed to broaden the artist’s international audience.

All pages from the book, courtesy Lars Müller Publishers


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August 17th, 2018   Auction | Art for Change

Catherine Opie
Surfer for One Drop, 2018
Pigment print.
Estimate $80,000 > 120,000



Art for One Drop
Phillips
New York City | USA
Charity Auction
21 September 2018
7pm EDT / 12 am GMT,
Public Viewing
15 > 21 September



Nate Lowman
Smells Like Water, 2018
Oil on canvas.
Estimate $40,000 > 60,000



Ai Wei Wei
Wave Plate, 2014

Porcelain, from a series
of unique variants.
Estimate $140,000 > 190,000



One Drop founder, Guy Laliberté, who co-founded Cirque du Soleil in 1984, is aiming to transform 200,000 lives via the charity auction Art for One Drop.

‘Art,’ says Laliberté, who has become a major collector and whose wider ambition is to bring positive change to the global water crisis, ‘is very powerful and can be used to change the world in a positive and impactful way.’

The eagerly-awaited sale featuring a diverse selection of specially-created and recent works that Laliberté has persuaded world-renowned contemporary artists, including Ai Weiwei, Gabriel Orozco, Christopher Wool, Jenny Holzer, Olafur Eliasson and Tracey Emin to donate will raise hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be used to provide access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene to vulnerable communities in Latin American.

Nicolas Party, 2018
Sunset

Pastel on canvas.
Estimate $60,000 > 80,000



Olafur Eliasson
Tidal Pool Star, 2018

Coloured glacial-rock-flour
glass (light green),
coloured glass (red, yellow)
and driftwood.
Estimate $40,000 > 60,000



Tracey Emin
I Listen To The Ocean
And All I Hear Is You
, 2018

Neon.
Estimate $150,000 > 200,000



In 2007, moved by the shocking statistic that a child died from a water-borne disease every 8 seconds, Laliberté set up One Drop as a global not-for-profit organisation with a clear objective of delivering long-term impact and sustainability. Over the past decade, it has financed 13 international development projects in the water sector, in the process earning itself world-renowned accolades, including the prestigious UNWater Award for Best Practices and the International Water Association’s Innovation Award.

Collaborating with hundreds of artists across the world, One Drop assists and encourages them to bring about change within their own communities. It is also working with several international and local partners to help enable governments to reach the United Nation’s goal of ensuring access to water and sanitation for all by 2030.

The Art for One Drop charity auction will take place at Phillips in New York, where the works can be viewed in advance but bids can also be placed online.

All images courtesy Phillips, One Drop and the artists


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July 27th, 2018   Photography | Ursula Schulz-Dornburg in Transit

Erevan – Parakar
(from the series:
Transit
Places, Armenia
), 2004

Gelatin silver print.
Städel Museum,
Frankfurt am Main



Ursula Schulz-Dornburg:
The Land In-Between
– Photographs from 1980 to 2012
Städel Museum
Frankfurt am Main | Germany
Until > 9 September 2018



From Medina to
Jordan Border
(from the series: From
Medina to Jordan
Border), 2003
Gelatin silver print.
Archive of the artist



Ursula Schulz-Dornburg just keeps on going. One of Germany’s most well-respected and well-travelled photographers, who was born in Berlin in 1938, has traversed Europe, the Middle East and Asia for more than forty years in pursuit of border landscapes, places of transit and relics of past cultures. Her images are a vigorous demonstration that where you go, what you do there and what you bring back are far more important than where you come from.

Based in Düsseldorf since 1969, Schulz-Dornburg rebuffs the comparisons her work draws with that of the ‘Düsseldorf School’ of photographers that grew up in the city around Bernd and Hilla Becher and includes, among others, their former students Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth, and with which she is often associated. But the superficial similarities between her work and the Bechers’ (who never taught her) – extended series of analogue, black and white images, shot with the same lens and from the same angle, and often devoid of people are difficult to shrug off. Describing herself as a campaigner and activist, however, Schulz-Dornburg insists that her photography, unlike theirs, has always been political. Her training as a photojournalist in Munich from 1959 to 1960, and having been born into a family of architects, she says, have been the most important and enduring influences on her images.

Valley of the Tombs
(from the series:
Vanished Landscapes,
Palmyra, Syria), 2010
Gelatin silver print.
Städel Museum,
Frankfurt am Main



Vanished Landscapes,
Iraq, Marsh Arabs
(from the series:
Vanished Landscapes,
Iraq, Mesopotamia), 1980
Gelatin silver print.
Private collection, USA



While Schulz-Dornburg is interested in the marks humans have left behind in the landscape in the course of lengthy historical processes, as well as in recent political changes of the kind brought about, for example, by the Gulf Wars (between 1980 and 2003) her work has a parallel with that of the Dutch photographer Marie-José Jongerius, who has explored America’s ruination of its western landscape, via its unquenchable thirst for water. Although the end results look entirely different, Schulz-Dornburg’s approach to her subject matter is also reminiscent of Canadian Edward Burtynsky’s strategy of producing ‘idyllic’ photographs of recycling yards, mines, quarries and refineries that represent his search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion.

Kronstadt (from the
series: Kronstadt), 2002
Heliography.
Archive of the artist



From Medina to
Jordan Border

(from the series: From
Medina to Jordan
Border), 2003

Gelatin silver print.
Archive of the artist



To date, her travels have taken her to such diverse destinations as the Tigris in ancient Mesopotamia, Iraq (1980), the Sulawesi area of Indonesia and the hermitages along the route to Santiago de Compostella, Spain (1996). Many of her projects have been published as books or catalogues to the swathe of over 50 solo exhibitions, from Italy’s Venice to Santa Monica in California, she has had since 1997. One of the series of Soviet-era bus stops she began photographing that year in Armenia and continued documenting until 2011, was recreated by the architects Herzog & de Meuron for a project in Burgos, Spain in 2007 that ran until 2012.

With some 250 works, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg: The Land In-Between – Photographs from 1980 to 2012 at Städel Museum is the first-ever comprehensive institutional survey of the photographer’s oeuvre.

All photographs by and © Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, courtesy Städel Museum


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July 20th, 2018   Sculpture | Brancusi On and Off the Pedestal

Endless Column,
version 1, 1918
Oak.
Museum of Modern Art,
New York.
Gift of Mary Sisler.
Photo Thomas Griesel



Constantin Brancusi Sculpture
Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
22 July 2018 > 18 February 2019



During the Roman period, when sculpted figures were first elevated on columns, those represented were imbued with ‘untouchable’, divine status, and rendered remote. Albeit his birds are positioned high up, in the early 20th-century, Constantin Brancusi (1876 > 1957) brought sculpture back down to earth; his heads of children and sleeping women are set low down and his portrait pieces are designed for viewing at eye level.

Fish, 1930
Blue-grey marble
on three-part
pedestal of one
marble,
and two
limestone cylinders.
Museum of Modern Art,
New York.
Acquired through
the Lillie P
Bliss Bequest
(by exchange).
Photo Imaging
& Visual
Resources
Department, MoMA



Pedestal design having remained pretty much the same for 2000 years, the arrival of Brancusi’s revolutionary innovations that transformed sculpture’s relationship to the space it inhabits, and how the viewer experiences it, caused a sensation. Serving simultaneously as components of the artwork and as their support, each of his pedestals – made from wood, limestone, or marble – became an integral element of his finished pieces, raising or lowering them to heights that suit their subject matter.

Young Bird, 1928
Bronze on two-part
limestone pedestal.
Museum of Modern Art,
New York.
Gift of Mr and Mrs
William A M Burden



While, Brancusi generally treated the pedestal as a secondary element, in Endless Column, version I, 1918, it became the sculpture itself. It consisted of a single symmetrical element – a pair of truncated pyramids, one upright, the other inverted – repeated to produce a continuous vertical structure that Brancusi called his  ‘column for infinity.’ He would afterwards repeat the concept at larger scales and in different materials, to serve as an architectural element and for free-standing monuments. Endless Column paved the way for future sculptors to relinquish pedestals altogether and facilitated their taking sculpture in a wide variety of different directions.

With his friend Man Ray, who introduced him to the medium, Brancusi made films that stand as a testament to his desire for his work to be experienced in the round, in relation to an environment and to other things. Rarely seen, a number of his films will be shown alongside 11 sculptures by the artist that form part of the Museum’s holdings, displayed together for the first time, in the forthcoming exhibition Constantin Brancusi Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art.

All works by Constantin Brancusi, © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Images courtesy Museum of Modern Art


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July 13th, 2018   Travel | Trompe L’oeil / Costa del Sol

Trompe L’oeil 1



Trompe L’oeil Plants & Flowers
Photographs by Pedro Silmon
Estepona | Spain



The Blog has been on holiday



Trompe L’oeil 2



Trompe L’oeil 3



Trompe L’oeil 4



Trompe L’oeil 5



Trompe L’oeil 5



All images © Pedro Silmon 2018


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June 22nd, 2018   Photography | Who was Who in 20th Century Art

Jeff Koons, 1993
Vera Isler
© VG-Bildkunst,
Bonn 2018



Artist Complex.
Photographic Portraits from
Baselitz to Warhol
Museum für Fotografie
Berlin | Germany
29 June > 7 October 2018



Most of us know what Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso looked like. But, until the Renaissance, when the likes of Michaelangelo began surreptitiously inserting images of themselves into their own paintings, few outside their close circle of family, friends and patrons were able to identify them. That isn’t to say that people wouldn’t have been curious, however, the situation changed little until the invention of photography in the 19th century, when the first photographs of artists such as Edgar Degas, were produced. Coincidentally, the photographic portraits included in this forthcoming exhibition at Berlin’s Museum für Fotografie are restricted to the period from 1917, when Degas died, to the year 2000.

Would you recognise the German artist George Baselitz? If you saw a picture of Sonia Delaunay would you know it was her? A portrait of Jean Arp is included in this exhibition but do you know what his equally-talented wife, the artist, painter, sculptor, textile designer, furniture and interior designer, architect and dancer, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, looked like?

Alberto Giacometti,
Paris 1960,
Christer Strömholm
© Christer Strömholm /
Strömholm Estate



Marina Abramovic, 1994,
Thomas Adel
© Thomas Adel



Not content to admit that the images going on show will simply satisfy visitors’ superficial curiosity about the 20th century artists whose work they are familiar with but whose faces they may not know, the curators of Artist Complex are at pains to explain that their aim is to establish that what an artist looks, or looked like, matters. Taking the idea of the artist as often being associated with ingenuity, creativity and freedom of composition and linking it to the theories of Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, who defined a ‘complex’ as ‘a structure of feelings, thoughts and memories that determine our thoughts and actions,’ might be over-intellectualising things just a bit, though, when, in many cases, the artists’ complex and/or debauched lifestyles and their interactions with peers would have had an equally-influential effect upon their own appearance. The personality and point of view of the photographer, as well as the relationship between the photographer and the artist – for example, that between Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe – undoubtedly had a very significant bearing on the resulting portraits, too.

Jean Arp, 1958,
Pablo Volta
© Pablo Volta



Georg Baselitz, 1989,
Jérôme Schlomoff
© Jérôme Schlomoff, 1988


Featuring around 160 works, Artist Complex. Photographic Portraits from Baselitz to Warhol at the Museum für Fotografie features portraits of world-famous artists such as Salvador Dalí, Frida Kahlo, Jeff Koons, Marina Abramović and Max Beckmann, as well as some less-familiar names, produced by a broad range of international photographers including Berenice Abbott, Brassaï, Henri-Cartier Bresson, Gisèle Freund and Arnold Newman, and again, some more obscure ones. All of the portraits on show are from the extensive collection of Angelika Platen, who is well-known in Germany for her own photographs of artists.

All images courtesy Museum für Fotografie and The Platen Collection


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June 15th, 2018   Books | Marcel Breuer: Godfather of Brutalism

Breuer in the fourth-
floor gallery at the
Witney Museum of
American Art, 1966



Marcel Breuer:
Building Global Institutions
Edited by Barry Bergdoll
and Jonathan Massey
Lars Müller Publishers
368 pp / 345 images,
Paperback,
English text,
Available now



Concrete wall of the
Conference Building
and Secretariat
of UNESCO’s Paris
headquarters



The Witney Museum
of American Art, from
the corner of Madison
Avenue and East
Seventy-Fifth Street



Based around a series of scholarly essays drawing on newly available documents held in the Marcel Breuer Digital Archive at Syracuse University, this book contains a great deal of awe-inspiring architectural photography. Some of the images of Breuer’s sculptural buildings are splashed across spreads, while others are included in what might be described as mood boards for 20th century reinforced concrete buildings, or, if you will, brutalist modernism, which is currently enjoying a surge of renewed interest.

By the early 1960s,
Marcel Breuer &
Associates were
involved in numerous,
major international
projects, such as these
in The Netherlands



Breuer (1902 > 81), originally from Hungary, was one of the first students at the Bauhaus and went on to become a teacher there. After its closure, he practised briefly in the UK before emigrating to the USA in 1937, where he further developed the innovative concepts that would make him one of the world’s most influential and sought-after architects. With the recent reopening of Breuer’s Whitney Museum of American Art building (completed 1966) as the Met Breuer in New York, a wider audience has been introduced to and are gaining new insights into the large-scale buildings he built and the cities he planned from the 1930s onwards.

Bell Banner and
church, St John’s
Abbey Church,
Minnesota, USA



In-depth examinations of Breuer’s most famous projects, such as St John’s Abbey, Minnesota, USA (1953, with later additions), UNESCO House, Paris, France (1953), Bronx Campus, New York, USA (1959 > 61) and IBM Research Centre, La Gaude, France (1960 > 62) are all included, however, some of his less-well-known work is also covered in detail. For example, one essay documents how, in 1936, while he was based in London, Breuer collaborated with FRS Yorke to design a model of an ‘ideal’ town – The Garden City of the Future – that would later influence the architecture and planning of post-war British New Towns as well as the monuments of Brasilia.

Innovative high-
and mid-rise housing
developments in
France produced by
the company during
the 1960s and 70s



Presented almost entirely in black and white, and with images in every shade of grey – like the colour of the material the buildings shown inside are constructed from – Marcel Breuer: Building Global Institutions from Lars Müller Publishers is a bold and uncompromising, compact book package. It must be said, however, that some of the smaller drawings suffer and become almost meaningless as a result of being reproduced too small.

All pages from the book courtesy Lars Müller Publishers


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June 8th, 2018   Exhibitions | Roland (Don’t Call me an ‘Artist’) Topor

Monkey Hammer
on the Chin
, 1972

Lithograph.
Galerie KK Klaus
Kiefer, Essen



Roland Topor
Panoptikum
Museum Folkwang
Essen | Germany
29 June > 30 September 2018



Schlusschor, 1991.
Theatre poster for
Münchner Kammerspiele

Offset print.
Deutsches Plakatmuseum
im Museum Folkwang



Dark but sharply witty, Roland Topor’s pen and ink drawings, sometimes with a flat wash of colour added, focusing on the relationship between the sexes, the absurdities of human existence, and the futility of endeavour was the visual equivalent of literature. During the 1970s, he produced many illustrations for Elle (France), and, from 1971-1995, regularly for The New York Times. Alongside prominent international contemporaries such as Milton Glaser and Tommy Ungerer, Topor’s work was a mainstay of the illustration annuals, eagerly pored over by art students of the period, and would influence a whole generation of magazine illustrators, who came to the fore over the next couple of decades.

Topor (1938 > 1997), however, never restricted himself to illustration. Having trained at the Beaux-arts de Paris in the 1950s, he vehemently rejected being pigeonholed as an ‘artist’. His illustrations had first appeared, in 1958, in the dada- and surrealist-flavoured Bizarre revue but he would go on to become a successful novelist, playwright, actor, costume and stage designer, filmmaker, songwriter and television writer. Few have enjoyed such success across so many diverse areas of creativity.

The Tin Drum, 1979.
Film poster

Offset print,
Deutsches Plakatmuseum
im Museum Folkwang



Suzanne’s Wobble, 1977.
Ink pen and coloured pencil.

Sammlung Jakob
und Philipp Keel



You’re a real
moron, Samuel
, 1968
Ink pen and coloured pencil.

Sammlung Jakob
und Philipp Keel



Of Polish-Jewish origin but born in Paris, Topor spent the early years of his life hidden from the Nazis in South East France. Roman Polanski, from a remarkably similar background, made a film adaptation of Topor’s novel The Tenant (Le Locataire chimérique, 1964 – extended and republished 2006) in 1976, casting himself in the lead role. In 1979, Topor was himself cast in the role of Renfield in Werner Herzog’s film Nosferatu the Vampire. Meanwhile, in 1965 his animated short film Les Escargots, created with animator René Laloux, and incorporating a scene in which a giant snail snatches a scantily-clad woman through her bedroom window and drags her inside his shell, had won the Special Jury Prize at the Cracow Film Festival. His feature-length animated film La planète sauvage (The Fantastic Planet, 1973) earned him a special prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.

Wilful, 1978.
From the series Three
Images of Success
.

Lithograph.
Sammlung Jakob und
Philipp Keel



Topor’s predilection for exposing the hidden meaning of myths and fables was a legacy of his Polish roots. He combined it with his surrealist influences from Rene Magritte, and the sort of stinging political criticism that has lived on in France since the Revolution to devastating effect. Between 1961 and 1966, he worked on the satirical journal Hara-Kiri from where many of the staff went on to form Charlie Hebdo. Rather than a humorist he, reportedly, considered himself a ’smart-arse’ or ‘piss-taker’ and, in 1983, was responsible for creating the popular French TV series Téléchat, which parodied news broadcasts. United Dead Artists published a large format book ReBonjour (Hello again) of Topor’s – often erotic – linocuts, in 2010.

If you missed Topor: a Vision of the World at Paris’s Bibliothèque nationale de France last summer, try to see Panoptikum at Museum Folkwang, which, with a selection of 200 works, including films and costume designs, provides an overview of the diverse output one of the most adroit and adaptable creative minds of his generation.

All images by Roland Topor © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018, courtesy Museum Folkwang


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