Archive for October, 2014

Books | Horst, Photographer of Nature

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Photographic pattern, (unidentified)



Horst: Patterns from Nature
By Martin Barnes
Merrell Publishing
Hardback + jacket
104 pages
50 duotone illustrations



Its title deviating by only the replacement of an apostrophe and an s with a colon, a new publication Horst: Patterns from Nature focusses in on a little-know series of photographs, nine of which appeared in the final pages of the 1946 book, Horst’s Patterns from Nature, augmenting them with a large number of mainly previously unpublished works made around the same time. The book is an expanded version of an essay by distinguished author Martin Barnes that appears in the main catalogue for the current exhibition, Horst, Photographer of Style at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, edited by Susanna Brown, and as such complements the exhibition, while considerably widening our knowledge of the photographer, his methods, and the breadth of his oeuvre.

Photographic pattern, (Calladium)



Photographic pattern, (Xanthosoma Lindenii)



Barnes’ short introduction, succinctly places the esteemed German-born photographer, the former Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann (1906 >1999) – who later took the name Horst P Horst – into historical context. He provides us with an insight into how, starting out as an architectural draughtsman in Le Corbusier’s Paris office in 1930, taught photography by his lover, the great George Hoyningen-Huhené, Horst rose quickly to recognition and fame, becoming friends with Marlene Dietrich, Nöel Coward and Coco Chanel. Barnes describes how, Horst fled German conscription and was spirited away by Vogue to America, becoming a US citizen in 1943. Best known for his slick studio-lit fashion and beauty images – the sexy Mainbocher Corset (1939) perhaps the most well-known – there is evidence to suggest, Barnes explains, that Horst embraced natural light and organic forms towards the end of World War II, as a way of associating himself with such untainted pre-war German cultural figures such as Johan Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 > 1832). Goethe’s definition of art: ‘Art is Nature seen through a temperament,’ is quoted by Alexander Lieberman, a Horst collaborator and art director of American Vogue from 1943 to 1962, in his blurb on the back flap of the dust jacket of the 1946 Patterns book. The front of this jacket is shown inside the new book, as well as a number of the double page spreads that appeared in it. For comparison, examples of work as they appears in books by other revered, early to mid-twentieth century photographers of nature are included, notably by Edward Weston, Paul Strand and German teacher and photographer, Karl Blossfeldt (1864 > 1932), who Horst acknowledged as an important influence.

Via repetition and mirroring techniques, and some influence from surrealism – Horst also collaborated with Salvador Dali – he pushed nature into the realms of semi-abstract pattern. Helpfully, by showing a succession of images – first the single original shot, then a group of four of these fitted together, the top ones a mirror image of those below, followed by a complete picture made up of sixteen images arranged on the same basic principles, Barnes demonstrates how the complete final images were made up. Some of these, in the run of plates, which make up over two thirds of the book’s content, are very graphic, while others are much softer, prettier, almost dream-like. Somewhat reminiscent of the images one sees in a kaleidoscope, but in square rather than circular format, not all of them are constructed solely from close-up shots of plants. For some the photographer has stepped back, thus changing scale in order to include, for instance, large palms trees, or palm fronds together with architectural details, or sections of a wicker chair.

Photographic pattern, (Prunus Pennsylvania Bark)



Photographic pattern, (Palm Trees)



Horst’s Kodak negative album of 1946, fits into the palm of the hand, and is reproduced at actual size in the new book, along with one of the negatives and a representative selection of the contact prints it contains. Barnes discovered that the negatives used to make the original large prints are not the same as those chosen for the construction of the complex patterned images that became the subject of the new publication. Ever the modernist, despite his respect for classical influences, Horst said of these: ‘[They] are photographs shown in simple repeat. The resulting patterns are immediately applicable to industrial fields, such as textiles, wallpaper, carpets, plastics, glass, ceramics, china, leather, bookbinding and jewellery.’ He went on to explain that they were also a demonstration of how modern design can be achieved through modern means. It’s possible that some of them may indeed have made it to a production line somewhere, but, so far, Barnes has been unable to uncover any evidence of this having happened.

Horst: Patterns from Nature is the end-result of inspired and painstaking investigative research by Martin Barnes, who, as it happens, is also Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A. The images in this book are as surprising as they are beautiful. While the text in photography and art books can sometimes feel like unnecessary padding, here the writing is an integral and indispensable element of the package. Merrell Publishers are pretty choosy about what publishing projects they get involved in, and with obvious relish have gone to town on this slim volume’s production values, reproducing all of the images in exquisite quality duo-tone, spot-varnished on heavy matt coated paper.

All images from Horst: Patterns from Nature
All images © Conde Nast / Horst Estate



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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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Design | Vitra: the Swiss Connection

Friday, October 24th, 2014

The new Hopsack colours for the Aluminium Group (1958) by Charles & Ray Eames
Photo Marc Eggiman



Everything is Connected
(Vitra Home Collection)
Edited by Florian Böhm + Annahita Kamali
Published by Vitra AG & Gestalten
190 x 250mm
304pp, full color
English text
September 2014



There are few words in this book – just a two-page introduction by respected German author and lifestyle journalist Eckhart Nickel – plus short, factual captions to the pictures. And that’s the point. The theory behind its concept is that the carefully selected images included, their arrangement and juxtapositions, are all that is required to convey the ‘essence of connectivity’ – which, rather than the images themselves, is the subject matter.

Like the best modern household accessory, the package feels good in the hand and is easy on the eye. Perfect bound, the cover has french flaps that give it something of the feel of a hardback, but without the preciousness. Modest in format and 29mm thick, the book has a reassuring blockiness about it. Everything is Connected is not really for the Noguchi coffee table, its solid weight and the tactile, off-white linen cover, with a network diagram running around it that might have been scrawled by a laid-back philosopher, suggest a compact, scholarly text book. Flopping open effortlessly, it invites you to sink down with it into your Charles & Ray Eames (1956) Lounge Chair, and to swing your feet up on to the matching ottoman – both available from the Vitra Home Collection, for which this book is something more than just a clever marketing tool.

A group of nuns during the shooting of the Eames Office filming of Herman Miller at the Brussels World’s Fair, 1958. Right: Special edition of Panton Chairs at St Bartholemew’s Church in Chadovice, Czech Republic, 2006
Photos © 2014 Eames Office LLC, and Filip Šlapal



Environmental Enrichment Panels (1971) Alexander Girard
Photo Florian Böhm



Child’s room with the Hang it all, 1950. Right: Bistro Table (2009/10) Erwan & Ronan Bouroullec, Eames Plastic Side Chair DSW (1950), Charles and Ray Eames’ Hang it all (1953), .06 (2005) by Maarten Van Severen
Photos © 2014 Eames Office LLC, and Florian Böhm



Simply and cleanly laid out, there’s an inviting no-fuss feel about the inside pages. Less a photo book, more a Vitra furniture family album, there’s a lot of cosy nostalgia going on. Everything included has a certain familiarity about. There are lots of images of and references to the mid-century moderns – Charles and Ray Eames particularly – with, and working on, the designs for their own furniture, plus pictures of their homes which contain furniture by other designers they admire. There’s an amusing shot of Sir Norman Foster, Vitra chairman Rolf Fehlbaum and an unnamed other, all with bald heads, all lying or crouched face down on the floor, inspecting the underside details of the Airline Seating System (Foster, 1998). It faces a spread from graphic designer Tibor Kalman’s 2001 book, Chairman Rolf Fehlbaum, showing film director Billy Wilder relaxing on the Soft Pad Chaise (Charles & Ray Eames, 1968). There are pictures of furniture, fabrics and decorative Environmental Enrichment Panels (1975) by Alexander Girard, the latter produced for the exhibition Nelson / Eames / Girard / Propst: The Design Process of Herman Miller, 1975. A multiple-exposure photograph of Werner Panton sitting, or lying in various positions on his Living Tower (1968), is paired with a shot of Issey Miyake sitting in Shiro Kuramata’s delicate High The Moon (1986) nickel-plated rib mesh armchair, followed by Konstantin Grcic’s almost indestructible, steel grid Landen outdoor seating (2007). Of the more current designers, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby are also not left out, and of course Jasper Morrison, who has been working with Vitra since the early 1990s. Vitra acquired the Finnish company Artek in 2013, so Alvar Aalto is also included.

The book is a triumph of picture research and editing, and once you start flicking through the pages it’s immediately apparent how the idea works. Distinct themes run over a spread or more. Sometimes the connection is obvious, while elsewhere a degree of horizontal thinking is required from the reader / viewer. The more you study the content the more discernible the links become, and you recognise that the themes are not isolated but continue without interruption, from almost any single point to another. Once familiar with how it works you start discovering your own connections. But it would be wrong to infer from its title that this book tells the complete story of connectivity in furniture design during the period the it covers – a world that is infinitely broader and more complex, and extends way beyond its scope.

All images from Everything is Connected, Edited by Florian Böhm & Annahita Kamali, © Vitra & Gestalten, 2014



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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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Art | Egon Schiele: Egon Schiele

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Self-Portrait as Kneeling Nude, 1910
Black chalk and gouache on paper
Leopold Museum-Privatstiftung, Vienna, Austria



The Radical Nude
The Courtauld Gallery
London, United Kingdom
23rd October 2014 > 18th January 2015



Standing Nude with Stockings, 1914
Black chalk and gouache
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, Germany



If you like Egon Schiele’s work, there’s no better time than right now to see a great deal of it. No less than three exhibitions of the Austrian artist’s work are currently showing around Europe and in America, respectively, while Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude, opens at the Courtauld Gallery in London next week, and is claimed be the first ever museum show in the UK devoted entirely to the artist. A fact that, if true, is a shocking oversight.

Revered today as not just a central figure in Austrian expressionism, but as one of the most important artists of the early 20th century, Egon Schiele (1890 > 1918) had his first solo exhibition at Vienna’s Galerie Miethke in 1911. Just seven years after, he and his pregnant wife, infected by the Spanish flu epidemic that swept across Europe during 1918, tragically died. Despite Schiele’s short life, however, he produced a prodigious amount of work, and the mere fact that his oeuvre can sustain so many simultaneous exhibitions – Egon Schiele: Beginning and End, at the Egon Schiele Museum, Tulln, Austria, Egon Schiele: Portraits at the Neue Galerie in New York, Egon Schiele – Jenny Saville, at Switzerland’s Kunsthaus Zürich, in which 35 paintings by Schiele are juxtaposed against 16 large-format works by the British artist, Jenny Saville (1970-) – pays tribute to its superb quality and breadth.

Two Women Embracing,1915
Gouache, watercolour and pencil
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest



In 1906, judged a failure at the village school because all he wanted to do was draw pictures, the fifteen-year-old Schiele was sent to Vienna to study art, where he was immediately accepted at the city’s prestigious Academy of Fine Arts. Soon after he met Gustav Klimt, one of the most prominent members of the Austrian Secession, and was adopted as one of the great artist’s protogés. 1909 saw four of Schiele’s pictures accepted for the Internationalen Kunstschau / International Art Show, organised by a committee headed by Klimt. At this point Schiele made the decision to leave the Academy and to set up his own art group, the Neukunstgruppe / New Art Group, with eight others, of which he was both president and secretary. His work beginning to draw international interest, he was invited to join the Sema artists association in Munich, which numbered Paul Klee among its members. Schiele also exhibited at the Goltz Gallery in Munich with Der Blaue Reiter / The Blue Rider group whose prominent members included Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky.

In 1912, Schiele was arrested and charged with the kidnapping of a minor – the charge was later dropped – and 125 of his erotic drawings were confiscated. ‘Hindering the artist is a crime,’ he wrote after being forced to spend three days in prison for his alleged dissemination of immoral images.

Erwin Dominik Osen, Nude with Crossed Arms, 1910
Black chalk, watercolour and gouache,
Leopold Museum-Privatstiftung, Vienna



His first exhibitions outside of the Austro-Hungarian empire, in Rome, Brussels and Paris came in 1913. Between 1915 and 1917, he saw military service in Prague – during which he continued to take part in exhibitions. Released from service, Gustav Klimt having died, Schiele took responsibility for organising the 49th Wiener Secession exhibition for which he also produced the poster. The event was an enormous success, and earned him many commissions from Viennese society.

Sharply focussed, Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude homes in on some of Schiele’s most radical, inspirational and influential works. The Courtauld Gallery exhibition includes more than thirty items – oil paintings, watercolours and drawings – all of them nudes, assembled from international public and private collections. Their frank content draws comparison with some of those Schiele almost certainly influenced, for example, Lucien Freud, albeit Freud’s nude figures were mostly set against some sort of background, whereas Schiele’s were not. Freud’s nudes would surely have been a better choice for comparison than Jenny Saville’s, for the Zürich show.

Images courtesy The Courtauld Gallery



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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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Photography | The Fine Art of Protest

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Gilles Caron
Daniel Cohn Bendit in front
of the Sorbonne
, Paris, 6th May, 1968

Silver print on barium-coated paper, 2014
Estimate €3000 > 4ooo



Protest! Art+Design 1960-1980
PIASA
Paris | France
Exhibition 24th > 28th October 2014
Sale 28th October 2014



The Magnum co-operative was founded in Paris, in 1947, by a small group of gifted and sought after documentary photographers, who wanted to continue working independently, but recognised the negotiation advantages of being part of a group. The accepted norm, at the time, was that the copyright for commissioned photography belonged to the clients. Magnum protested vociferously and set out to change all that. Insisting that the copyright of their members must remain their own property, the group triggered a worldwide resistance movement among photographers. Succeeding years saw the re-drafting of international copyright laws that nowadays guarantee statutory protection for the copyright of a photographer’s work.

Jean-Pierre Laffont
Wanted, Washington, 9th August, 1974
Digital print, 2014
Estimate €1000 > 1500

Who, in the immediate post-WW II years, having lived through a prolonged period of conflict, strife, death and destruction would have imagined that the great expansion of the art market that arrived with the economic boom years of the 1980s, would see contemporary reportage photography – scenes of conflict, of strife, even of death and destruction – become seriously accepted as an art form, and sold as such for substantial sums of money, through galleries and auction houses across the globe? Magnum’s efforts of some three decades before, ensured that a significant part of the money earned from these images was paid to those responsible for their creation, and the same is true now.

Jürgen Schadeberg
Demonstration against the
Falklands War, London, 1982
Ink-jet print on Hahnemühle
paper,
made by the photographer, 2014

Estimate €2000 > 3000

Patrick Chauvel
Girls of the IRA, Belfast,
Northern Ireland, 1969

Digital print on Hahnemühle paper
Estimate €2000 > 2500

Dominated by sculpture, ceramics, posters and prints, cartoons and drawings, and including magazines, books, and furniture, the 295-item list of lots included in Paris-based PIASA’s forthcoming Protest! Art+Design 1960-1980 auction, also contains a number of documentary photographs from the era.

The 1960s and 1970s were periods of profound political and social change, prompted by a new libertarian élan and a burning desire to change the world. These years saw the rise of the feminist, ecology and anti-militarist movements, as well as the emergence of postmodernist ideas in design and architecture. In what is in essence a curated sale, PIASA have brought together a diverse collection of lots representing French and international political radicalism to anti-design, taking in along the way, punk, the feminist movement, and nouveaux realism.

Patrick Chauvel
The beginning of the end, Tehran,
Iran, 11th December, 1978
Digital print on Hahnemühle paper, 2014
Estimate €2000 > 2500

Doàn Tinh Cong
Pathfinders, Vietnam, 1970
Digital print, 2014, on Hahnemühle paper
Estimate €2000 > 2500

Sharing protest as inspiration, but not always immediately recognisable as such, work by artists such as Christo, Christian Boltanski, Yoko Ono, and Joseph Beuys are just a few of those represented. French artist, Annette Message’s Le barbu d’Annette Messager, la femme tatouée, 1975, consists of four photographs of female pubic hair with cartoon-like male faces seemingly tattooed onto the area of the belly above. Tawaraya, is a scaled-down boxing ring designed by Masanori Umeda for the Italian postmodern Memphis group in 1981, estimated price €15,000 > 20,000.

A loose selection of powerful, and almost entirely black and white documentary photographs by, for example, Ian Berry, Gilles Caron and Jean Pierre Laffont, falls somewhere in the middle of the catalogue. Hemmed in by the ironic and the arcane, these images, created by those with a mission to show the world what protest in many of its forms actually looked like, were never produced as art, but are certainly fine, and well worthy of the high prices attached to them by the copyright holders.

Sadly Magnum’s strict copyright policy, prevents us from using any of their photographers’ images with this post.

Images courtesy PIASA



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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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Art | ZERO

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Piero Manzoni, Achrome, 1961
Fibreglass wool in artist’s box
Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift, Manzoni Family, 1993, 93.4225
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS) / SIAE Rome




ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s
Guggenheim Museum
New York City | USA
10th October 2014 > 7th January 2015




However much we deplore them and the death and destruction they represent, wars are often the catalysts for new developments in art. Wars, in terms of art, therefore, have a positive as well as a negative value. Before them comes the art of anger, protest and propaganda; during, the art that strives to represent the truth of the situation – from whichever viewpoint the artist is in sympathy with – after, comes the art created out of the need to move on; an experimental period, which can be a tremendously productive one.

Otto Piene, Light Ballet (Light Satellite) (top)
and Light Ballet (Light Drum), 1969
Chrome, glass, and light bulbs
Moeller Fine Art, New York
© Otto Piene
Photo courtesy Moeller Fine Art, New York




Born in the decade when the US government, in its bid to lead the way in the ‘conquest of outer space’ called its pioneering satellite program ‘Vanguard’, ZERO (1957 > 1966) was established in Europe by Düsseldorf-based artists Otto Piene and Heinz Mack. Piene explained that by naming the group ZERO, their aim was to suggest ‘pure possibilities for a new beginning, as at the countdown when rockets take off… the zone in which the old turns into the new.’ It would focus on light, movement and space, while closely examining the relationship between man, nature and technology.

In a disfigured country, still reeling from the shockwaves of World War II, in which Germany had been at the epicentre, the core group, later joined by another German, Günther Uecker, fostered connections among artists but stressed individual authorship. It was to attract a related network that would span continents, linking artists in Germany, Italy and The Netherlands to others in Brazil, Japan, and North and South America. ZERO sought to annihilate all forms of representation within art in order to celebrate the possibilities inherent in ‘nothingness’: to move beyond the confines of the canvas and so attempt to penetrate the mysterious concept of the fourth dimension. Fire, earth and air would figure prominently in their artworks. Through connected artists such as Yves Klein – who also became a member of French art movement Nouveau RéalismeJean Tinguely, and Lucio Fontana, ZERO would re-define painting, explore the monochrome, and serial structures, and produce artworks made from flames and smoke, filling whole galleries with their environmental works, they would turn to the deserts and skies as viable sites for art. Highly influential, one 1961 show, ZERO: Edition, Exposition, Demonstration, held both inside and outside Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf, in which performers marked out a ‘Zero zone’ with white paint around other participants, blew bubbles and launched a balloon into the night sky was witnessed by artist Joseph Beuys – who had his first one man show that year and started to give action-performances in 1963 – and Nam Juin Paik, Korean founder of video art.

Yves Klein, Untitled red monochrome (M 63), 1959
Dry pigment in synthetic resin on board
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift, Andrew Powie Fuller and Geraldine Spreckels
Fuller Collection, 1999, 2000.28
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / ADAGP, Paris




Lichtraum; Hommage à Fontana / Light Room: Homage to Fontana (1964) , being shown for the first time in the United States, in the forthcoming Guggenheim exhibition ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s > 1960s, is an installation containing a projection of a painting by Lucio Fontana, and individual contributions by Mack, Piene, and Uecker, as well as the only two works produced in collaboration by the trio. The piece is particularly significant as an expression of the genesis of the group’s philosophy. In 1949, Fontana, the man who later dismissed Jackson Pollock – generally regarded as the most forward-thinking painter of the early 1950s – as merely ‘post-impressionist’, had written, ‘I assure you that on the moon… they will not be painting, but making spatial art.’ ‘Spazialismo,’ as he christened his own movement, established in 1947, he explained, ‘would be an art contained in space in all its dimensions.’ In 1956 > 57, also anticipating the ZERO movement’s aims, another Italian artist and later group member, Piero Manzoni had determined to find a means of expressing the power of the subconscious via the creation of completely subjectless work that emphasised the surface and materials as the only focus of the piece.

In his book, Space Age Aesthetics (2009), author Stephen Peterson tells us that in the year of Lichtraum’s creation, philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote ‘There is no longer any sense in talking about the artist’s being ahead of his time. Our technology is, also, ahead of its time,’ which could be taken to signify, whether or not it was true, that the writing was already on the wall for ZERO’s demise that followed, two years later, in 1966.

Heinz Mack, New York, New York, 1963
Aluminium and wood
Private collection
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo Heinz Mack




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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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