Archive for September, 2018

Art | Theaster Gates: Back to Black

Friday, September 14th, 2018

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

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Photography | Harry Gruyaert: Fifty-Fifty

Friday, September 7th, 2018

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

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

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