Posts Tagged ‘Bill Brandt’

Photography | Bill Brandt

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light
The Museum of Modern Art
New York City, USA
Until 12th August, 2013

Enormously influential, Bill Brandt’s work was the backbone and beating heart of mid-20th century British photography. His high-contrast, pioneering explorations, ranging across every aspect of the medium from reportage and portraiture to nudes and landscape, are indispensable to the notion of Britishness during that era.

Yet Brandt (1904-83) was German-born and had cut his heels in Man Ray’s Paris studio before moving to the UK in the 1930s, where he quickly became established as a documentary photographer of the extreme social contrasts prevalent in his adopted country. He photographed London’s glitzy West End, the suburbs and the slums. He recorded everything that went on in the life of a wealthy home: cocktail-parties in the garden; formidable parlourmaids laying elaborate dinner tables and preparing baths for the family, then he took his camera a working-class family home, where several children shared the same bed while their mother sat knitting in the corner of the room.

But Brandt has said that by the end of World War II, his main themes had disappeared, that documentary photography had become ‘fashionable’. His reaction was to change his style completely and return to the ‘poetic’ aspect of photography that had inspired him in his Paris days. While the earlier, gritty output would inspire later photographers such as Don McCullin, the new work – nudes, portraits, landscapes – made him an ingredient as essential to the establishment of British modernism as the sculptures of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, and the paintings of Ben Nicholson.

Bringing together over 150 works from an artist who sited influences as diverse as Eugène Atget (1857-1927) and Orsen Welles (1915-1985), MoMA’s Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light retrospective exhibition analyses each chapter in Brandt’s 50 year career.

Bill Brandt photographs from top
Jean Dubuffet, 1960
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Modern Art
John Parkinson III Fund

Bombed Regency Staircase, Upper Brook Street, Mayfair, c 1942
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Modern Art
Acquired through the generosity of Clarissa Alcock Bronfman

London, 1954
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Modern Art
Acquired through the generosity of Clarissa Alcock Bronfman
and Richard E Salomon

Evening in Kenwood, c 1934
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Modern Art
Acquired through the generosity of David Dechman and Michel Mercure,
and the Committee on Photography Fund
All images © 2012 Bill Brandt Archive Limited

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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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All Categories | Past Forward

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Christian Marclay – The Clock
New York City, USA
Until 21st January, 2013

David Bowie Is
Victoria & Albert Museum
London, UK
23rd March – 28th July, 2013

As we look forward to the David Bowie Is retrospective at London’s V&A in 2013, Christian Marclay’s film, The Clock, ticks away the remainder of 2012 at MoMA in New York, where it opened last week.

Completed in 2010 – already three years old – a monumental icon of contemporary art, The Clock, for which Marclay won a Golden Lion for best artist at the Venice Film Festival in 2011, is cleverly constructed from 24 hours-worth of clips from the past 100 years of cinema, almost all including a clock or a watch. Perhaps the film and the Bowie show can be taken as signs of the times. Certainly, referencing and re-assessing the past was a theme during 2012 and indications are that the trend is set to continue.

If we pause to consider, true innovation is a pretty rare thing and, while there’s no current lack of it, the flow remains uneven by nature. In comparison, art and design history – recent and ancient – is vast and has left an enormous, carefully refined legacy, much of it eminently worthy of our attention, reconsideration and reinterpretation, some of it recyclable.

Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum reopens its doors in April 2013 following an ambitious 10-year renovation programme. Already launched, the very forward-thinking Rijks Studio initiative, makes a digital collection of 125,000 items from the museum’s historical collection accessible to all for free. Members of the public are invited to create their own works of art by downloading high-resolution images and using them in a creative fashion, copyright free.

Editor of the British edition of Harper’s Bazaar, Justine Picardie is the author of several acclaimed books including Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life (HarperCollins, 2010). Talking about her first proper issue (January, 2013), she explains her preoccupations with Chanel, Vreeland, Dior, et al, as an exploration of how understanding the past is a way to move forwards. And it’s important to get it right. Opinions differed on the October launch of Hedi Slimane’s debut collection for Saint Laurent – the label’s original inspirational concepts still present, but updated and made inimitably Slimane’s own, were seen by some as underwhelming.

The (London) Royal Academy’s Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 ran over into January, 2012. Reviewing it, The Guardian reminded us that the Russian avant garde which emerged out of the futurist cafés and cabarets of the mid-1910s was probably the most intensive and creative art and architectural movement of the past century. Sergei Tchoban (with partner Sergei Kuznetsov) of SPEECH Techoban/Kuznetsov, designed the astonishingly futuristic and much-praised Russian Pavilion that caused such a stir at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale in August. The entirely QR-coded environment – an homage, conscious or otherwise, to the square: architectural cornerstone of a few thousand years standing, but currently out of favour in a world of curvilinear structures – addressed the country’s future while referencing early 20th century influences. Italian Futurism, 1909-44, will run at The Guggenheim in New York from in 2014. When it appeared, in 1909, the original Futurist Manifesto, that had inspired the Russians, called for the demolition of museums and libraries; Foster + Partners recently mooted $300 million renovation of the New York Public Library in Manhattan, intended to begin with the eviction of 1.2 million books, provoked more adverse reaction than it bargained for. Similarly, London’s uncompromising tall and dynamic Shard, inaugurated in July, caused an immediate sensation, but earned a chilly reception from some quarters for its apparent lack of sensitivity towards the existing cityscape.

Steeped in ancient tradition, the Olympic Games has brought the modern world some its most daring, groundbreaking and well-considered architecture, product design and graphics. The London 2012 Games – modest in terms of scale by comparison to recent predecessors – didn’t fail to deliver more of the same. Among other items, the event’s Olympic torch designed by Barber Osgerby, was buried in a time capsule as part of the ground breaking ceremony for the new Design Museum that will be installed in the former 1962-built Commonwealth Institute, after its rigorous but nevertheless sympathetic redevelopment by John Pawson. Elsewhere, Herzog & de Meuron, architects of the Beijing 2008 Olympics‘ astonishing ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium, and designers of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 (with Ai Weiwei), recently completed the Parrish Art Museum at Southampton on Long Island. ‘Our design for the Parrish is a reinterpretation… of the traditional house form,’  said Jacques Herzog, ‘…something very specific, precise and also fresh.’

This month at Christie’s in New York a lacquered and painted wooden screen made by Eileen Gray in the 1920s, sold for over $1.8 million. Paris, where Gray spent most of her life, hosts a retrospective of her unique work at the Pompidou Centre, starting in February. American photographer, Man Ray, also spent the greater part of his life in Paris. Man Ray’s Portraits is at London’s National Portrait Gallery in February, while Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light will run from March to August at MoMA. It takes Inspired curating with a new and interesting perspective, combined with creative presentation to make exhibitions and events based solely on archival content current and vital.

Frieze Masters was launched in October by Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, co-founders of Frieze. The new fair, coinciding with, and within walking distance of Frieze London, in Regent’s Park, was based on the idea of applying a contemporary approach to selling pre-21st-century art, from ancient to modern. The inaugural six-day event, in which 90 galleries from 18 countries took part, was attended by around 28,000 international visitors and was a massive hit. Sales were brisk; one of the most significant reports was of widespread contemporary collectors’ interest in historical work and vice versa. Not surprisingly, Frieze Masters will happen again in 2013 and is set to become a regular fixture.

The apposite title of the V&A’s forthcoming show, David Bowie Is, recognises that the David Bowie phenomenon, so influential over the past 40 yearts, is important historically but also as a source of inspiration for today’s and tomorrow’s innovative thinking. Set in motion, sequences from it cast out on to the internet, it’s unlikely that The Clock will ever stop.

Images from top
Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997,
Frank W Ockenfels 3

Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with
David Bowie
© Frank W Ockenfels 3, 1997

Video still from The Clock, 2010, Christian Marclay
Single-channel video with sound, 24 hours
©Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

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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Photography | Photographs, Photographs

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Sotheby’s, New York, USA
3rd April, 2012

Christie’s, New York, USA
5th April, 2012

So, these days you have no money problems.

That’s great to hear.

Sorry, I couldn’t really hear what you said… You want to do what?

To buy some photographs?

To buy a lot of photographs.

You want to create a collection.

But you know nothing about photography.

Oh, I see, that’s why you’re calling.

Uh huh. Yeah.

It’s kind of you to say so but really, I’m no expert.

OK. Perhaps I can help you, there.

Yes, you see, rather conveniently, there are a couple of auctions next week, both in New York, at Christie’s and at Sotheby’s, respectively – somewhat confusingly, each called ‘Photographs’ – in which a large quantity of work from those photographers regarded by the real experts as photography’s all time greats, is on sale.

You like the sound of that? Good.

You’ll be completely spoiled for choice. There are 350 items in the Christie’s sale, 204 at Sotheby’s.

No, no. I know you can. I understand that you can afford it. That’s not the problem. You can’t just buy everything, that’s all. It would just be crazy! Besides, I’m sure you’d prefer to be seen as a discerning sort of person – someone with a bit of taste – who doesn’t just throw their money around but on the contrary, has a keen eye for investment value.

That doesn’t bother you?

But surely, you don’t want to end up with a load of crap that you can’t offload on some other sucker, later.

Well, for one thing, in practical terms, you’ll have a fair number of duplicate prints, albeit each with different attributes: signed/unsigned, number within edition, etc. Then there’s condition to consider: excellent/very good/good/poor.

Yeah, you know some of the stuff is pretty old.

Old, you know, O-L-D. Early stuff…

Well, from my recollection, for instance: there’s a picture in the Sotheby’s sale taken by a guy by the name of Edward S Curtis. It’s called An Oasis in the Badlands. American. It’s of a Native American chief on horseback – very iconic but, in my opinion, his style often verges on the kitsch. It was photographed in 1905.

You didn’t know photography was that old? Well, here’s a surprise: it’s a hell of a lot older! The first permanent photograph was an image produced in France in 1826.

Kodak! Nooohhh! Much earlier than Kodak.

Anyway. Can I suggest you stick to one genre?

You don’t know what a genre is?

Well. Look. Let’s keep it simple. What about just buying landscape pictures? There’s tons of great stuff by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston you might like.

Yes, it’s all black and white.

You think black and white landscapes are boring. OK, there are some in colour by William Eggleston, who’s not really my cup of tea, but perhaps we should forget about landscapes.

Nudes? Yes, there are quite a few nudes. But, wouldn’t portraits be good? There’s a remakable Chuck Close, self-portrait called 5C – made from five unique, large-format, overlapping Polaroid prints – several Richard Avedon’s and some by Irving Penn, and loads of others at both venues.

Yeah, Avedon and Penn do nudes, too. Penn’s still life is amazing! A print of his Still Life with Grape and Moth, being sold by Christie’s is one of my all-time favourites. Then there’s…

Of course! Of course, nudes are certainly worth thinking about. However, how about starting to collect early modernist photography; Lásló Moholy-Nagy’s Alpenveilchen (Photogramm) will be in the Sotheby’s sale and his Scandinavia, shot in 1931 is at Christie’s. Christie’s are also selling Fire Escape, an amazing Alexander Rodchenko, photographed in 1927.

You don’t like ‘funny’ names.

No, no, nudes are certainly a possibility.

Flower pictures might be good, too, though. There’s the the Moholy-Nagy Alpenveilchen, I just mentioned – to you and me that’s a cyclamen – and Alma Levenson’s voluptuous Auratum Lily is at Sotheby’s. But there are a whole group of Robert Mapplethorpe’s flower pictures up for grabs in that sale, too.

Yes, he does do nudes.

So, if I understand you correctly, it’s just nudes, then, that you want to go for?

Er… interesting idea… and I must say, there are some very tastefully shot images of that variety by among others: Ruth Bernhard and Bill Brandt, included in both sales.

OK, yeah, I think I get it. You’d prefer more erotic stuff.

Female, I suppose?

I see. No preference. In their infinite variety, right? Big names as well as less well-known photographers – even a few with ‘funny’ names?

Well, it’s great that you’ve made a decision.

Yes, of course. It’s your money; I wouldn’t dream of telling you how to spend it. Glad I was able to help. Let me know how you get on but… er… could I ask a little favour in return?

I’m sure you’ll understand that… I shouldn’t really be seen… you know, to be associated with that sort of material. So I’d be grateful for your discretion… as a man of the cloth… I…

Photographs, from top
Sotheby’s Lot 192
Daido Moriyama How to Create a Beautiful Picture 6: Tights in Shimotakaido, 1986
Oversized, signed in pencil on the reverse, framed, printed later
Estimate $15/25,000

Christies Lot 105
Robert Mapplethorpe Back, 1986
Gelatin silver print
Signed, title, date, number 2/10 in ink and copyright credit reproduction limitation stamp (on the reverse of the flush-mount)
Image: 23 x 19 1/8in. (58.5 x 48.5cm.)
Sheet/flush-mount: 24 x 20in. (61 x 50.8cm.)
Estimate $10,000 – 15,000

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Photography | Big Nudes

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Le Imaginaire du Nu
Hotel Drouot, Paris. Exhibition 27th & 28th June 2011. Sale 28th June

Nudes, especially as a subject for books, exhibitions and auctions, are big right now, especially in France. Not that the nudes themselves are huge in proportions, you understand, with the possible exception of the amazons in high stilettos in Helmut Newton’s classic, Big Nudes (1990) that is among a list of 10 books on this particular génre of photography selected for La Lettre de la Photographie by photographer and collector, Bruno Mouron, prompted, almost certainly, by the huge up coming auction and exhibition L’imaginaire du Nu at Hôtel Drouot in Paris.

Early daguerreotypes and prints will be sold back to back with photographs from the beginning and middle of the 20th century: Bill Brandt, Robert Doisneau, Horst, Krull, Man Ray, Willy Ronis and contemporary works by, among others, Araki, Bourdin, Ralph Gibson, David Hamilton, Sam Haskins, Horvat, Lindbergh, George Platt-Lynes, Jeanloup Sieff, Bert Stern and Joel Peter Witkin. The majority, as might be expected, are images of women but male nudity is also represented in pictures by, for example, Bruce of Los Angeles and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Interesting to note, though, that despite the current vogue, we’re already halfway through the year and Mapplethorpe’s Nudes 2011 calender, which includes graphic black and white images of both males and females of our species is still available from Te Neues.

Pamela Hanson, Carla Bruni, Vogue Hommes, 1994, top
Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, 1935, below

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Photography | Outta Sight

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Night Vision: Photography After Dark

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City,USA, until 18th September, 2011

As I child I was scared of the dark, of the imaginary and the real that lurked within it. So afraid was I that every night I slept with the blankets pulled up over my head and risked a spanking as punishment for wetting the bed that was my sanctuary. Then I grew up. Then I went to pubs, followed by nightclubs and often found myself walking home – sometimes staggering more than a little, in an advanced state of inebriation – the eight miles or so from the city to where I lived. The darkness in the city never frightened me. If I became detached from the crowd I had begun the evening with, comforting noises seeping out from the bars and clubs – American soul music (Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye), British rock (David Bowie, Roxy Music) – and looking in through the plate glass windows of the bustling open-late eateries let me know that I was not alone. The further I walked, the more the lights dimmed, the less I could see, the more the familiar ghosts from my childhood reared up from the dark shadows that gradually grew and deepened around me. Once, at around 2 am, a friend took me via a short cut that reduced our walking time by about five minutes. He had not mentioned beforehand that it passed through a graveyard. He was not letting on but I knew he was as afraid as I was. Then all at once we started singing: She says baby ev’rything is alright, uptight, out of sight. Baby, ev’rything is alright, uptight, clean out of sight. And, well, it somehow just was…
©Pedro Silmon 2011

Highlights of the Met’s exhibition include classic 20th Century, black and white, night photography by Berenice Abbot, Bill Brandt, Brassaï,Robert Frank, André Kertész, William Klein, Weegee and Diane Arbus, among many others.

Image above by Sid Grossman (American, 1913–1955)
Image title:
Mulberry Street, 1948
Gelatin silver print. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1990 (1990.1139.2). © Estate of Sid Grossman/Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC

Are you frightened of the dark?
Do you want to tell us about it?

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