Friday, January 31, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What Is a Photograph? At ICP, NYC

Mariah Robertson, 154 (detail) 2010

On view at the International Center of Photography from January 31 through May 4, 2014, What Is a Photograph? explores the range of creative experimentation that has occurred in photography since the 1970s.
This major exhibition brings together 21 emerging and established artists who have reconsidered and reinvented the role of light, color, composition, materiality, and the subject in the art of photography. In the process, they have also confronted an unexpected revolution in the medium with the rise of digital technology, which has resulted in imaginative reexaminations of the art of analog photography, the new world of digital images, and the hybrid creations of both systems as they come together.
“Artists around the globe have been experimenting with and redrawing the boundaries of traditional photography for decades,” said ICP Curator Carol Squiers, who organized the exhibit. “Although digital photography seems to have made analog obsolete, artists continue to make works that are photographic objects, using both old technologies and new, crisscrossing boundaries and blending techniques.”
Among those included in the exhibition is Lucas Samaras, who adopted the newly developed Polaroid camera in the late 1960s and early 1970s and immediately began altering its instant prints, creating fantastical nude self-portraits. Another artist who turned to photography in the 1970s was Sigmar Polke. Although better known as a painter, Polke explored nontraditional ways of photographing and printing, manipulating both his film and prints in the darkroom and often drawing and painting on his images.
More recently, Liz Deschenes has used camera-less photography in a subtle investigation of nonrepresentational forms of expression and the outmoded technologies of photography. And, James Welling has created a heterogeneous body of work that explores optics, human perception, and a range of photographic genres both abstract and representational.

The Artists

In a January 23rd piece in the New York Times writer Philip Gefter opened up the dialogue.
He spoke with What is a Photograph? curator Carol Squiers who ventured that the show does not answer the question, it poses the question. An open ended question.

Gefter also talked with Quentin Bajac, chief curator of photography at MoMA, NYC, about changing practices. The shift of focus from fact to fiction, and all the gradations in between, is perhaps the largest issue in the current soul-searching underway in photography circles. Questions swirl: Can the “captured” image (taken on the street — think of the documentary work of Henri Cartier-Bresson) maintain equal footing with the “constructed” image (made in the studio or on the computer, often with ideological intention)?
You can read the complete New York Times piece HERE.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Barbara Kruger, Gerhard Richter and me...

When I was in Cologne last November I visited the Museum Ludwig. As always a pleasure, and this time to see the completely fresh presentation of their collection under the eye of new Director Philipp Kaiser. The show, Not Yet Titled: New and Forever at Museum Ludwig, stressed process, shedding new light on familiar works.

There was also a show of Louise Lawler's work, Adjusted, which finished this last weekend. Louise Lawler's pho­­to­­graphs of works of art in mu­se­ums, pri­­vate col­lec­­tions, at auc­­tions, or in stor­age em­pha­­size the as­pects that we usu­al­­ly fail to no­tice. They show just how much the mean­ing of art is shaped by its con­­text, sur­round­in­gs, and ar­range­­men­t and that there is no im­­par­­tial way to pre­sent art.

In the museum's large project space was an installation by Barbara Kruger, a series of untitled serigraphs made in 1994 / 1995. My photographer friend Linn Seeger made some pictures me in the installation and of course we couldn't pass up the chance of getting up close to Gerhard Richter's 1966 work Ema.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Damien Hirst and Domenico Beccafumi with thoughts from Robert Hughes


On yesterday's artdaily mailing a portrait, head of a bearded man made by 16th century Sienese master, Domenico Beccafumi  was placed next to a portrait of Mickey Mouse made by Damien Hirst. This juxtaposition forced a strange and somewhat bizarre comparison.

I wondered what the late art critic supremo Robert Hughes might have had to say. In a piece written in the quardian, September 2008, Hughes said this:

Hirst is basically a pirate, and his skill is shown by the way in which he has managed to bluff so many art-related people, from museum personnel such as Tate's Nicholas Serota to billionaires in the New York real-estate trade, into giving credence to his originality and the importance of his "ideas". This skill at manipulation is his real success as an artist. He has manoeuvred himself into the sweet spot where wannabe collectors, no matter how dumb (indeed, the dumber the better), feel somehow ignorable without a Hirst or two.
Actually, the presence of a Hirst in a collection is a sure sign of dullness of taste. What serious person could want those collages of dead butterflies, which are nothing more than replays of Victorian decor? What is there to those empty spin paintings, enlarged versions of the pseudo-art made in funfairs? Who can look for long at his silly sub-Bridget Riley spot paintings, or at the pointless imitations of drug bottles on pharmacy shelves? No wonder so many business big-shots go for Hirst: his work is both simple-minded and sensationalist, just the ticket for newbie collectors who are, to put it mildly, connoisseurship-challenged and resonance-free. 

Hughes never took any prisoners. Some notable quotes:

The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.

The new job of art is to sit on the wall and get more expensive.

One gets tired of the role critics are supposed to have in this culture: it's like being the piano player in a whorehouse; you don't have any control over the action going on upstairs.

Hughes on Caravaggio: Popular in our time, unpopular in his. So runs the stereotype of rejected genius.

So much of art – not all of it thank god, but a lot of it – has just become a kind of cruddy game for the self-aggrandisement of the rich and the ignorant, it is a kind of bad but useful business.

You can see the artdaily mailing in its entirety HERE and also the guardian story HERE.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Photobook collecting, some thoughts from Tom Claxton

In a recent recent piece on AMERICAN PHOTO, writer Dan Abbe talks with photobook collector Tom Claxton. It's an informative read covering items such as, why collect, organzing a collection, hunting for books and so on...

In 2011, The Guardian published an article that detailed the photobook's rise as a collectible item and introduced a number of important books in the field. What’s surprising about this article is that it did not appear in the Guardian's Culture section—instead, it ran in Money, and introduced photobooks as an investment opportunity. The security of this investment might be questionable, but the medium is certainly experiencing a boom. It's probably an exaggeration to say that zines are on the market for thousands of dollars, but only just: Cristina de Middel's self-published book The Afronauts, which came out last year, is already being sold for thousands of dollars. In this kind of environment, how should one put together a photobook collection? I talked to New York-based collector Tom Claxton to find out. Claxton, who introduces his books on his site Claxton Projects, is an ideal person to evaluate the state of collecting: his own collection now runs close to 7,000 books. But despite the "silly money" moving around the photobook market, he stresses that the foundation of a collection is less a prospector’s eye—he says nobody is actually buying those copies of The Afronauts, anyway—and more a passion for the medium. 

You can read the full text of the story on AMERICAN PHOTO, HERE

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Sochi Project - Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen, the fine art of collaboration

Rob Hornstra - Kodori, Abkhazia, 2009
Point 15 in my previous post itemises collaboration, a strategy that I've discovered returns the most unexpected rewards. The ultimate collaboration in my view is that of photographer Rob Hornstra and writer Arnold van Bruggen. And add to that the finesse and vision of Utrecht based designers Kummer & Herrman.

Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen have been working together since 2007 to tell the story of Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. They have returned repeatedly to this region as committed practitioners of “slow journalism,” establishing a solid foundation of research on and engagement with this small yet incredibly complicated region before it finds itself in the glare of international media attention. As van Bruggen writes,
Never before have the Olympic Games been held in a region that contrasts more strongly with the glamour of the Games than Sochi. Just twenty kilometers away is the conflict zone Abkhazia. To the east, the Caucasus Mountains stretch into obscure and impoverished breakaway republics such as North Ossetia and Chechnya. On the coast, old Soviet-era sanatoria stand shoulder to shoulder with the most expensive hotels and clubs of the Russian Riviera. By 2014 the area around Sochi will have been changed beyond recognition.
Hornstra’s photographic approach combines the best of documentary storytelling with contemporary portraiture, found photographs, and other visual elements collected over the course of their travels. Van Bruggen contributes a series of engaging stories about the people, the land, and its turbulent history. Together, the images and texts unpack the complex, multivalent story of this contested region, shining a harsh light on Vladimir Putin’s claim that, “The Olympic family is going to feel at home in Sochi.” Designed by long-standing collaborators Kummer & Herrman, The Sochi Project book, website and exhibition: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus is the culmination of this five year project.

There is an in-depth interview with Rob Hornstra in DAZED, HERE, it backgrounds the story of how Russian authorities rejected Hornstra's visa application and have barred him from entering the country for the next five years.

And you can go to The Sochi Project site HERE, for a complete overview of the project in text, images and video clips.

You can also obtain a copy of The Sochi Project - An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus, published November 2013, by aperture, HERE.

Rob Hornstra - Adler, Sochi region, Russia 2011

Monday, January 6, 2014


Here is a list of 33 Ways To Stay Creative. It's not my list. I found it somewhere OUT THERE. If I knew who'd made it I'd give them a mention. With thanks. Most of the ideas are simple and common sense and that's why we tend to forget them. At least I do. Now I'm going to move directly to point number 32...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

THIS LONG CENTURY - a repository of the evolved imagination...

John Stezaker

THIS LONG CENTURY is a continuing index of people working across a range of highly imaginative fields. To date 240 individuals are represented each with a link to a page which spells out their creative trajectory. There are passing thoughts, recommendations and personal observations in fields as diverse as art, design, photography, literature, science and theory. What's more some of my favorite photographers are represented.

You can have a look HERE, you will not be disappointed.

John Gossage

Lucas Blalock

Todd Hido

Mark Steinmetz

Friday, January 3, 2014

EXCERPT MAGAZINE - Issue #6 now on-line


Excerpt Magazine is a free online publication dedicated to photography and the moving image. Based in Australia and covering the world, Excerpt has an emphasis on original content and creating an accessible platform for thoughtful insights and exchanges. By constructing new formats and presenting ideas from multiple contributors, Excerpt aims to be important, relevant and fun.

Excerpt Magazine’s Issue #6 Life, Death and Bureaucracy is well worth a look HERE, where you can download a pdf.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Clive Phillpot - Booktrek


I've just started reading Clive Phillpot's wonderfully focused and erudite book(work) Booktrek which contains his selected essays on Artists' books since 1972.

Only a few pages into the book Phillpot made this simple but profound observation: What can be so beautiful when things are changing, is that one cannot fully understand what one has in one's hands. or indeed what is happening. To lose that confusion later is almost sad.
Mystified or...given surprises by coming across puzzling Artist's books...opportunities for people to get that wonderful moment of not understanding. 

Surely to surprise, perplex and mystify is central to making a bookwork work, be it an Artist's book or a photobook.

Clive Phillpot has been a tireless advocate for the artist's book for more than 40 years--both as a critic, curator and editor, and in his tenure as director at the library of The Museum of Modern Art in the late 1970s, where he built the library's collection of artist's books and mapped out the field with influential essays that traced its ancestry and distinguished it from seemingly similar genres such as the livre d'artiste. As he has delineated the genre: "Artists' books are understood to be books or booklets produced by the artist using mass-production methods, and in (theoretically) unlimited numbers, in which the artist documents or realizes art ideas or artworks." Also collaborating with Printed Matter and Franklin Furnace, among other places dedicated to the medium of the book, Phillpot helped raise awareness of artists' books, endowing them with the critical credentials to enter the collections of museums. Booktrek gathers for the first time Phillpot's essays on the definition and development of artists' books from 1972 to the present--historical texts, manifestos, catalogue entries and essays on works by Ed Ruscha, Sol LeWitt, Dieter Roth and Richard Long. Booktrek will prove an invaluable reference for all those interested in the evolution of the artist's book, and offers a crucial account of the genre's ascent.

Booktrek was published by  JRPRingier in September 2013. It's a soft back publication, 160 pages. You can find it on Amazon HERE.

First post for 2014, more pictures from home...


Here are a few photographs I made yesterday, January 1st. I wandered around the suburb of Balmoral which is not too far from where I live here in Auckland, that is when I'm not in Paris.