Archive for July, 2013

Photography | Martin Parr at his Peak

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Martin Parr – Souvenir
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Zürich, Switzerland
Until 5th January, 2014


Above, Switzerland, The Matterhorn, 2012
From Autoportraits

Switzerland, Zurich, 1997
From Think of Switzerland


Switzerland, St. Moritz Polo World Cup on Snow, 2011
From Think of Switzerland


Switzerland, Zermatt, 2012
From Think of Switzerland


Switzerland, Zurich, Opera Ball, 2013
From Think of Switzerland


To use a hackneyed phrase like ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ can sometimes be useful, and in this instance – as I’m currently very busy with other things and, regretfully, don’t have much time to write – particularly apposite. Suffice it to say then, that renowned and highly influential member of the world-famous Magnum Photos cooperative, photographer Martin Parr’s images of Switzerland, above, along with a broad selection of his formidable body of distinctive, often amusing but always searingly incisive reportage work, produced in Great Britain and internationally, is currently on show in Martin Parr – Souvenir, at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich.

All photographs by Martin Parr
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Architecture | Collage City in 3D

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Cut ’n’ Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City
Metropolitan Musem of Art
New York City, USA
Until 1st December, 2013

When Pablo Picasso pasted an actual Italian stamp on to a painting of a letter, he really started something. Earlier artists had made occasional use of the technique and it had appeared in popular art, but La lettre (1912) was probably the first deliberate use of collage in fine art.

Dictionaries define collage as an ‘Art form and technique, incorporating the use of pre-existing materials or objects attached as part of a two-dimensional surface’, which is how most of us think of it. This exhibition at MoMA uncovers how the visual language of collage, springing from its early 20th century roots, has come to dominate contemporary architectural representation, and how it has impacted three-dimensional buildings.

Picasso’s cubist colleagues, Juan Gris and George Braque, also experimented with collage, and the next couple of years, leading up to World War I and the Russian Revolution, would see Kazimir Malevich, the Futurist movement and the Dadaists each adopting the technique and using it to suit their own purposes, with very diverse results. The Berlin Dada group – which included Helmut Herzfeld/John Heartfield – with whom the young Mies van der Rohe interacted, used photographs and newspaper cuttings to make raw political, satirical, and socially critical statements. Van der Rohe adapted the technique to function, not just as a tool for expressing his architectural ideas, but also as an aid to exploring and developing them. He placed colour reproduction prints of paintings as well as photographs in his renderings of the new interior spaces made possible by steel and glass construction, not merely as decorative elements, but to represent non-load-bearing walls or divisions. His early painters of choice were Bauhaus artists Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky: later – the Bauhaus, of which he was the final director, having been closed by the Nazis, his having emigrated to America in 1937 – in Museum for a Small City, Interior Perspective (1942-43) including, perhaps pointedly, Picasso’s Guernica (1937).

From the mid-1950s, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Richard Hamilton, among others associated with pop art, made extensive use of collage. Installation artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who in the 1970s, and later, in their preparatory drawings for projects often involving large architectural structures, such as Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin (1971-95), also sought the immediacy of incorporating collaged elements. Meanwhile, architectural critics Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter’s book Collage City (1978), which proposed a city of fragments from the past, present and future, taking inspiration from working examples in existing cities; some rational, some disordered, juxtaposing and layering smaller designs into a whole – a post-modern composition – allowing the city to create itself, was an urban manifesto for the medium.

Contemporary architects who have used collage methods to communicate their ideas and architectural landscapes include such luminaries as Zaha Hadid and particularly Rem Koolhaas, whose architecture itself, for example, the interior of the distinctive, futuristic, asymmetrical, faceted form of the Casa da Musica, in Porto, Portugal, incorporates gold wood-grained walls and traditional blue and white tiled areas complete with antique furniture.

The intention of the organisers of Cut ‘n’ Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City is to demonstrate that collage is much more than a continuation of drawing practices and that, via direct evocations of lifestyle or inventive connections to surrounding cultural conditions, as an architectural tool, this wide-ranging medium is capable of mixing high and popular references and offers a dynamic, inventive connection to cultural context, providing the means for architects to draw reality onto their projects from their earliest conception. These days, though, digital technology makes it all so much easier – and, unless you want them, there are no visible joins.

Images from top
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,
Convention Hall project, Chicago,
Interior perspective, 1954
Cut-and-pasted reproductions, photograph,
and paper on composite board
Mies van der Rohe Archive, gift of the architect
©2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Ralph Schraivogel
Archigram 1961–74
Silkscreen
Museum für Gestaltung, 1995,
Exhibition poster
Gift of the designer

Paul Citroen
Metropolis, 1923
Gelatin silver print
Thomas Walther Collection
Gift of Thomas Walther
©2013 Paul Citroën/Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / PICTORIGHT, Amsterdam


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Book | The Sensational Bridget Riley

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings, 1961-2012
Texts by John Elderfield, Paul Moorhouse
and Robert Kudielka
Published by Ridinghouse in association with
Holzwarth Publications and Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
Hardback, 86pp

When the opportunity came up of my reviewing the book/exhibition catalogue Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings, 1961-2012, I had to think twice about it. While I loved the black and white stuff she did in the 1960s, I’d never cared much for her coloured paintings. Happening upon her giant wall drawing Composition with Circles 7, especially created for the longest wall of the Sunley Room at London’s National Gallery in November, 2010, I was pleased at what I hoped was her triumphant return to black and white. I made several return visits to wonder at the work’s overwhelming calm simplicity and strength. However, opening the website for Berlin’s Galerie Max Hetzler – where the work shown in the book is being exhibited until July 18th – for which the paintings have been photographed in situe on the white gallery walls – I became excited. It looked great! There was a delay before the book arrived, and I remember emailing the publisher, concerned, asking if it was on its way – packages sent to my address, have a habit of going astray. An intern had forgotten to send it.

As if to signify the gravitas of the work they contain, the covers of art books can be understated, rather sombre, sometimes dull. This one, brightly striped with horizontal bands of greens, oranges, yellows, blues and pinks (a detail of Burnished Rose, 2012) is cheerful, inviting, inclusive. Even if it didn’t have BRIDGET RILEY in bright yellow embossed into it – oddly, off-centred – it wouldn’t be too difficult to guess whose work is inside. The end papers are bright orange, backed with egg yolk yellow on the side facing the half-title, which sports cooler, mid-grey type. This being a joint production, published by Ridinghouse in collaboration with Holzwarth Publications and Galerie Max Hetzler, the introductory pages (as well as the notes, etc, at the back) appear first in German, then in English, sparingly illustrated with just a few black and white photographs of the artist. The first, a sensitive (2012) image of Riley, at 81, looking far fitter, younger, even trendier than might be expected of a woman of her age, is followed by a contact sheet sheet from 1961, in which she is seen in various poses – relaxed, comfortable, sometimes smiling, in front of the camera – at her London studio, standing between and in front of two works completed the same year, Movement in Squares and Horizontal Vibration. A shot of her, taken around the time the painting was completed, blurred to suggest movement and vibration – the effect her works have on the retina – shows the artist against, and to an extent merging into The Morely College Mural, 1973, which fills the entire background.

I haven’t read her writings, but towards the end of his introduction, John Elderfield quotes Riley as saying, ‘I work from nature, although in completely different terms…’ a statement she had gone on to clarify with, ‘… it’s the recognition of the sensation without the actual incident which prompted it.’ And, perhaps in explanation of her approach, that is all that needed to be said. More pragmatic than Elderfield – and without lecturing us – in his essay, Paul Moorehouse informs us that, as early as the mid-1960s it was clear that looking at a black and white work by Riley entailed being responsive on several levels – visually, perceptually and emotionally, and that conscious of having reached this stage, she had felt ready to explore colour. the writer describes the genesis of the stripe paintings and Riley’s recurrent preoccupation with the stripe format which, despite her explorations in other directions – triangles, zigzags, discs, ovals and curves – has endured for more than fifty years. By virtue of his close observation of the development of different formations of stripes and colours in Riley’s paintings, and their varying effects on the way the eye sees them – and subsequently the brain perceives them – Moorehouse provides us with an enlightening and indispensable guide to the artist’s intentions, explorations and power to astonish.

The selected works, 14 in all, including some studies and finished pieces in pencil and gouache on paper, fall roughly two-thirds of the way through the book. Many of them are horizontal in format and, to take advantage of the possibilities of scale afforded by the book’s 30 x 24 cm size, break across the gutter, thereby disturbing and distorting the strict linear pattern of the stripes. To avoid this problem and to demonstrate greater sensitivity to the paintings, had I been asked to design this book, I might have recommended a landscape format.

Completing the neat, slim-volume package, Robert Kudielka’s chronology of Bridget Riley’s life and oeuvre, reads like a compact biography, supplying a wealth of concise detail, and putting her works into clear historical context.

Top
Chant 2, 1967, Bridget Riley
Emulsion on linen

Bottom
Lux, 2011, Bridget Riley
Oil on linen

Images ©Bridget Riley, 2013. All rights reserved
Courtesy Karsten Schubert, London


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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Interview | Peter Dench, Photographer

Friday, July 5th, 2013

mouth2mouth interview
peter dench | photographer

As an observer of contemporary human behavior, especially, though not exclusively, that of the British, Peter Dench, 41, is a master. Accomplished reportage photographer and sometime film maker, he occasionally does portraits and advertising, working predominantly in colour. Dench wears a straight face, but there’s a twinkle in the sharp eye that looks through his camera, tightly composing just enough of the available elements to distill the essence – and often the humour – of any situation he is presented with. Brought up in Weymouth – known locally as The Muff, he tells us – he attended university in Derby, relocating immediately afterwards, in 1995, to London, making the city his base. The long list of prominent magazines Dench has worked for includes: Esquire, GEO, GQ, Guardian Weekend, Liberation, NEON, New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Observer Magazine, STERN, The Condé Nast Traveller, The Sunday Times Magazine, TIME, and Tatler. He has also produced work for: Barclaycard, Barclays Bank, The British Heart Foundation, Danish Bacon, FIFA, and Weetabix. His accolades include a World Press Photo Award and solo exhibitions, among them: LoveUK, and England Uncensored at the 2011 Visa pour l’Image festival, France.His forthcoming book, Suited and Booted, is published on 18th July, 2013, by Café Royal Books.

Where did you study photography?
Mostly down the pub, but academically at the University of Derby, where I was awarded a First Class (Hons) Degree in Photographic Studies

Did you assist another photographer before striking out on your own?
On graduating there were two schools of thought; assist, or try to strike out on your own. I opted for the latter. In retrospect, both routes seemed to take me and my contemporaries the same amount of time to achieve solo success. I did, however, on occasion, assist Steve Pyke when his full-time assistant started to get his own commissions

Observer or voyeur, how would you describe yourself?
Is there a difference? I would lean towards upfront-and-personal-voyeur.

Where does your wry sense of humour come from?
Growing up in a largely working class seaside environment and watching The Benny Hill Show on TV.

Often with your reportage work, it would appear that your subjects are unaware of your presence. Brandishing a medium format camera, how do you achieve relative invisibility?
I just hang around long enough for my, and the camera’s presence, to become part of the scene.

Your much-admired Football’s Hidden Story images are keenly observed, but are without your signature sense of humour, which I suspect was down to a restriction within the brief. Did you find it difficult to adapt to working in that way?
Humour is an important tool that can be used to deliver a serious message. For the Football’s Hidden Story images, humour didn’t seem appropriate, the content and characters delivered a powerful and straightforward enough message.

I’m intrigued by the Private Galleries on your personal website, which require a log-in and password to enter. What’s inside?
The best unseen photographs I’ve ever taken. I wish! Nothing! It was set up as a quick a way of sharing edits with picture editors, away from the public eye. before the days of Dropbox, etc.

Do you think you’re type-cast by art directors and picture editors?
By some. Others have the ability to see further capabilities.

Is there a type of work that, given the opportunity, you would love to do?
The photographers I admire, and have lasting friendships with are more ‘frontline’ – Tom Stoddart and Marcus Bleasdale, for example. I would like to think I’m capable of doing that sort of work, but realised early in my career that I was too much of a coward – probably down to the Italian one eighth of me.

Has any photographer, past or present, had a significant influence on your approach to photography?
Grant Scott, a photographer, art director and educator, has constantly suggested key directions throughout my career.

At times, your work has been compared to Martin Parr’s. What are the key features that separate your respective photographic styles?
Parr drinks tea, I drink heavily, is perhaps the main difference. Stylistically, I would suggest Parr is a collector of images, a documentary photographer while I try to tell more of a ‘journalistic’ story.

Magnum remains the home of the world’s best reportage photography. Was it a conscious decision, on your part, not to become a Magnum photographer?
The journey of a photojournalist is a long and exciting one; you make friends and antagonise others along the way; you start to see where your work would fit, and where you would feel comfortable. Reportage by Getty Images for me, feels like family, it feels like home. Plus, Magnum would’ve rejected me years ago!

Your images are almost always in colour, yet your new book for publisher Café Royal is in black and white. How did that come about?
There wasn’t the budget to produce it in colour.

What’s next?
Definitely a pint, probably depression. Oh, and the in-print paperback of the collected Dench Diaries, around 45,000 words across 100 pages of highs, but mainly lows, of a sometime working pro photographer. Not to be missed!

Images from top
The English Club, London, 2001

Champney’s, Piccadilly, London, 1998

Rainforest Café, Piccadilly, London, 2002

Kabaret Club, Kensington, London, 2000

Blackpool, 2007

Farnborough, 2002

Basingstoke, 2004

All photos ©Peter Dench
From Suited and Booted
Cáfe Royal Books
Published 18th July, 2013
28 pages, 14 x 20cm
Black & white, digital
Numbered edition of 150


Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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