Nikki S. Lee
Ralph Eugene Meatyard
E. J. Bellocq
The exhibition features works by Max Becher & Andrea Robbins, Nayland Blake, Nancy Burson, Wendy Ewald, Mike Kelley, William Kentridge, Barbara Kruger, Nikki S. Lee, Paul McCarthy, Cindy Sherman, and Gary Simmons; curated by Maurice Berger. In association first film festival devoted to the issue of whiteness. Ralph Eugene Meatyard: photographs. Fascinated by the uncanniness of ordinary life, Meatyard made mysterious staged images using his friends and familyâ€”often involving masks and abandoned spacesâ€”that are familiar and disturbing at the same time. Bill Owens: Leisure.Owens' photographs belong to an American aesthetic tradition of art that explores the intersection of everyday life and theatricality. The Mysterious Monsieur Bellocq: the exhibition is part of the New Histories of Photography series, life and work of this elusive master.
White: Whiteness and Race in Contemporary Art
December 10, 2004 â€“ February 27, 2005
What would it mean to look at race in relation to the concept of whiteness? Until recently, discussions of race in America have focused exclusively on the experience, history, and representations of people of color. By contrast, the implications, power, and construction of the racial category termed "white," are largely invisible and unconscious. White: Whiteness and Race in Contemporary Art, an exhibition at the International Center of Photography (1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street), on view from December 10, 2004 through February 27, 2005, proposes that considering whitenessâ€”white skin, white privilege, and even questions about what constitutes whitenessâ€”is crucial to a fundamental shift in the way we think and talk about race.
"In mainstream American society and culture, whiteness remains an ever-present and unexamined state of mind and body, a powerful norm so pervasive that it is rarely acknowledged or even named," says guest curator Maurice Berger. "By refusing to mark whitenessâ€”to assign it meaningâ€”we are also refusing to see a vital part of the interpersonal and social relations of race. In the end, any discussion of race that does not include an analysis of whiteness will be, at best, incomplete."
The works represented in White: Whiteness and Race in Contemporary Art make whiteness visible and thus available to examination and discussion. Some tackle the subject head on; others handle it more subtly. No matter the approach, they offer refreshing and thought-provoking ways of thinking about race. At the same time, the exhibition affords viewers the opportunity to see work by major contemporary artists through a new and provocative lens. The exhibition features works by Max Becher & Andrea Robbins, Nayland Blake, Nancy Burson, Wendy Ewald, Mike Kelley, William Kentridge, Barbara Kruger, Nikki S. Lee, Paul McCarthy, Cindy Sherman, and Gary Simmons.
In Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self, a major exhibition that was presented at ICP one year ago and is now touring the country, co-curators Coco Fusco and Brian Wallis demonstrated how powerful myths of race have been constructed and reinforced through photography. White: Whiteness and Race in Contemporary Art continues that discussion in a focused exhibition that is both engaging and necessary.
Works in the exhibition
Max Becher and Andrea Robbins's German Indian Series (1997-98), portraits of Germans who attend festivals dressed up as Native Americans, examines fascination with and appropriation of racial otherness. Nayland Blake's Invisible Man (1994) addresses the mutability and complexity of race, drawing on the artist's biography and children's tales. In Untitled (Guys Who Look Like Jesus) (2000-01), Nancy Burson set out to create a photographic portrait of contemporary conceptions of Jesus Christ. Including both portraits of men who answered a casting call for people who look like Jesus and a composite of representations of Christ in Western art, Burson investigates the meaning of the white, European-looking version of godliness. Wendy Ewald's White Girl's Alphabetâ€”Andover, Massachusetts (2002), a project created in collaboration with teenage subjects, represents a poignant, humanistic exploration of the vulnerabilities and ambivalence that underwrite both whiteness and femininity. William Kentridge's Drawings for Projection Series: Johannesburg - 2nd Greatest City after Paris; Monument; Mine; Sobriety, Obesity, and Growing Old (1981-91) is a series of short films that explores the complex and often fragile realities of white power and black subservience in apartheid-era South Africa. Barbara Kruger, in a work specifically commissioned for the exhibition, creates a large-scale photomural on the arbitrary and provocative nature of the words we use to define race. In Nikki S. Lee's The Yuppie Series (1998), the Korean-born artist infiltrates and documents the world of mostly white, economically privileged Wall Street professionals, meticulously adopting her colleagues' code of dress, behavior, and living habits, revealing them as definable and anomalous. Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley's Heidi (1992), an hour-long video, challenges the myth of the wholesome white middle-class family. Cindy Sherman's early series of photographs Bus Riders (1976/2000), depict the artist masquerading as bus passengers, in a range of racial and class "types" that include some of the earliest attempts by a visual artist to see whiteness as both a racial category and a stereotype. In another series, Untitled (2000), Sherman fixes her lens on white women, moving through a range of often stereotypical character types, from female executive to WASP matron. Gary Simmons's Big Still (2001), an enormous, whitewashed moonshine still, is a monument to the world of white poverty â€” the hillbillies and "white trash" of depression-era America â€” that has been erased from mainstream history and culture.
About the curator
Maurice Berger is a Fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics of the New School for Social Research in New York and Curator of the Center for Art and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. His articles have appeared in many journals and newspapers, including Artforum, Art in America, The New York Times, Wired, and The Los Angeles Times. He is the author of the critically acclaimed White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999), which was a finalist for the 2000 Horace Mann Bond Book Award of Harvard University. He is the author of eight other books: Labyrinths: Robert Morris, Minimalism, and the 1960s (Harper & Row, 1989), How Art Becomes History (HarperCollins, 1992), Modern Art and Society (HarperCollins, 1994), Constructing Masculinity (Routledge, 1995), The Crisis of Criticism (The New Press, 1998), Postmodernism: A Virtual Discussion (Georgia O'Keeffe Research Center/CAVC, 2003), Masterworks of the Jewish Museum (Yale, 2004), and Museums of Tomorrow: A Virtual Discussion (Georgia O'Keeffe Research Center/CAVC, 2005).
White: Whiteness and Race in Contemporary Art is accompanied by a 117-page catalogue edited by Maurice Berger, published by the Center for Art and Visual Culture, and distributed by Distributed Art Publishers (DAP). In addition to a curatorial essay by Berger, the book contains essays by Wendy Ewald, Artist in Residence, John Hope Franklin Center, Duke University; David R. Roediger, Babcock Professor of Afro-American Studies and History at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and Patricia J. Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law, Columbia Law School.
In association with White: Whiteness and Race in Contemporary Art, The New School will host the first film festival devoted to the issue of whiteness. White: A Film Festivalâ€”organized by exhibition curator Maurice Bergerâ€”will explore the ways that whiteness as a racial concept has been represented in American films over the past half-century. Like its companion exhibition, it will examine work that focuses on white attitudes, sensibilities, and behavior in relation to such issues as racial purity, interracial love, economic class, masculinity, power, and racial prejudice. The Center for Art and Visual Culture (in cooperation with participating institutions) will publish a brochure that will include film credits and synopses, as well as an essay by the curator. Among the films to be shown are: Imitation of Life (1959), To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), The Watermelon Man (1970), White Dog (1982), Hairspray (1989), Bamboozled (2000), and Far From Heaven (2002). The festival is scheduled to take place at the Tishman Auditorium of The New School, from Friday through Sunday, February 18-20, 2005. It will be co-sponsored by the Center for Art and Visual Culture, University of Maryland Baltimore County, as well as The Vera List Center for Art and Politics and The Wolfson Center for National Affairs at The New School.
White: Whiteness and Race in Contemporary Art was organized by the Center for Art and Visual Culture, UMBC, Baltimore, Maryland. Generous support for the exhibition comes from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, The Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, Inc., and the Maryland State Arts Council. The New York presentation received additional support from Richard and Ellen Kelson.
Ralph Eugene Meatyard
On view from December 10, 2004 to February 27, 2005
The photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard (1925-1972) defy convention. They have been called visionary, surrealistic, and meditative. Fascinated by the uncanniness of ordinary life, Meatyard made mysterious staged images using his friends and familyâ€”often involving masks and abandoned spacesâ€”that are familiar and disturbing at the same time. Highly original and deeply emotional, Meatyard's expressionist style and use of staged scenes foreshadows the work of many contemporary artists, such as Francesca Woodman, Cindy Sherman, Sally Mann, and Justine Kurland. The most comprehensive exhibition of his photographs to date, Ralph Eugene Meatyard will be the first major New York City showing of this work. The exhibition will be on view at the International Center of Photography (1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street) from December 10, 2004 to February 27, 2005. The selection of over 150 photographs was made by Guy Davenport, scholar, poet, and friend of the artist.
Meatyard was an optometrist by profession who shot on weekends and printed his photographs in a makeshift darkroom in his home. From his thousands of images, he would select only those he considered his best, making just one or two prints of each negative. His strict attention to technique and consistency in print size achieved the aesthetic effects of photography he was seeking â€” a world seen through a full tonal range from black to white; intentionally strange, yet familiar and approachable.
From 1953 until his untimely death in 1972, Ralph Eugene Meatyard explored what he called the "photographic." His earliest work from the mid-1950s includes a documentary project on Georgetown Street, a primarily African American neighborhood in Lexington, Kentucky. He then began an experiment that continued off and on throughout the 1960s with the more technical and formal aspects of the camera, using long exposures to record light reflecting off water, extreme focus for his "no-focus" images, and low depth of field for his "Zen twigs" series. By 1960, he was regularly making photographs of his three children in abandoned rural Kentucky mansions and in the forests surrounding them. Highly imaginative, even surrealistic, the photographs evoke a world not normally acknowledged with the human eye. They suggest the complex emotions associated with childhood, intimacy, loss, and destruction. These images, which form the largest component of the exhibition, are what Guy Davenport has called "charming short stories that have never been written."
The visualization of the passage of time played an important role for Meatyard in all of his photographs â€”from long exposures to the maturation of his children, from timeworn buildings to the changing light gracing the natural world. For one of his last series, titled "Motion-Sound," he made pictures by moving the camera gently, creating multiple exposures of woodland scenes that suggest visual sound patterns.
Meatyard's engagement with photographing people is evident in a number of portraits he made of a circle of local writers with whom he developed great friendships, including Davenport, Thomas Merton, Wendell Berry, James Baker Hall, and Jonathan Greene. These friends not only provided intellectual inspiration and support, but often acted as collaborators in other projects. Meatyard also made a significant number of self-portraits in many of the same settings in which he photographed his friends and family.
About the artist
Meatyard was born in Normal, Illinois in 1925 and moved to Lexington in 1950, after serving in the U.S. Navy and studying at Williams College and Illinois Wesleyan University. He went to work at Tinder-Krauss-Tinder, an optical firm, which also sold cameras and other photographic equipment. That same year he bought a camera to photograph the first of his three children. Meatyard spent the rest of his life in Lexington, where he worked as an optician at his shop Eyeglasses of Kentucky and photographed in his spare time. His membership in the Lexington Camera Club in 1954 led to an enduring friendship with his photography teacher, Van Deren Coke. In 1956, summer workshops at Indiana University brought him in contact with such influential photographers as Henry Holmes Smith, Aaron Siskind, and Minor White. These interactions paved the way for Meatyard to launch his own photographic vision. Solo and group exhibitions soon followed across the country. His prodigious career ended in 1972 when he died of cancer.
Acclaimed writer and intimate friend of the photographer Guy Davenport made the selection of images, and Cynthia Young, ICP Assistant Curator, organized the exhibition. Ralph Eugene Meatyard will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by and interview with Davenport. The catalogue will be published by ICP / Steidl and released in December 2004.
Guy Davenport (born 1927) is a poet, artist, illustrator, short-fiction writer, essayist, literary critic, and noted translator. After attending Merton College, Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, he received a PhD from Harvard University with a thesis on the work of Ezra Pound, and then taught English at several universities. His work has garnered such prizes as the O. Henry Award for short stories, the 1981 Morton Douwen Zabel award for fiction from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Leviton-Blumenthal Prize for poetry, and a 1990 MacArthur Fellowship. Davenport lives in Lexington, Kentucky.
This exhibition was made possible with support from Frank and Mary Ann Arisman, Christian K. Keesee, and Richard and Ellen Kelson.
Bill Owens: Leisure
December 10, 2004 â€“ February 27, 2005
Owens' photographs belong to an American aesthetic tradition of art that explores the intersection of everyday life and theatricality. Like the paintings of Edward Hopper, the photographs of Walker Evans and Diane Arbus, and the short stories of John Cheever and Raymond Carver, Owens' photographs find unexpected beauty and mystery within the American vernacular. This collision between normality and strangeness transforms the American landscape into a place of wonder and anxiety.
Gregory Crewdson, in his introduction to Leisure
In the late 1960s, Bill Owens began photographing residents of the new suburban developments in the San Francisco Bay area town of Livermore, where he lived. His first photo-book, Suburbia (1972), was an instant classic. Now, more than thirty years later, the International Center of Photography (1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street) will present Bill Owens: Leisure, a selection of largely unknown photographs from that body of work. The photographs for Leisure were mostly taken between 1978 and 1983, and would have been the fourth book in the Suburbia series. It remained unpublished until now.
These photographsâ€”shot in both black-and-white and colorâ€”show middle-class Americans engaged in a myriad of leisure activities, from sports to shopping to eating. Owens demonstrates a clear affection for suburbanites as he mildly teases them for pursuing the tainted pleasures of the American consumer lifestyle. While others might criticize the denizens of suburbia for their materialism and emptiness, Owens seems to marvel at the carnivalesque wonder of it all as he uses stark documentary images to peel back the layers of a world familiar to millions of Americans.
About the Artist
Born in 1938, Owens first became interested in photography while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica. On his return to the United States in 1966, he enrolled in a visual anthropology course in San Francisco and began taking pictures. Starting as a documentarian, Owens was particularly drawn to the work of the 1930s documentary photographers of the Farm Security Administration (F.S.A.), such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans.
In 1967 Owens landed a job as the staff photographer on a local newspaper, the Livermore Independent. From Monday to Friday he worked in 35mm, recording the town's goings-on, and on Saturdays he shot his personal images with a Pentax 6x7 and a Brooks Veriwide 6x9. While working full-time for the paper, he began making the first photographs for the Suburbia series, working from a well-defined shooting script. Some of his subjects were people he had photographed for the Independent; some were relatives and friends; some were people who responded to the advertisements Owens placed, looking for people who would be amenable to being photographed at home.
When it was published in 1972, Owens' Suburbia sold a staggering 50,000 copies in three editions. It has since been recognized as one of the 101 most important photography books of the twentieth century. Owens went on to produce two more books, Our Kind of People (1976) and Work: I Do It For The Money (1978), and he received numerous awards and accolades. But, in the late 1970s, before finding a publisher for his fourth bookâ€”this one focusing on Americans at leisureâ€”Owens abandoned photography. In 1982 he founded the highly successful Buffalo Bill's Brewery in Hayward, California, which he operated until 1996. He is also the founder and publisher of American Brewer magazine.
This exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated 120-page book, edited by Robert Harshorn Shimshak. With a foreword written by Sofia Coppola and an introduction by Gregory Crewdson, Bill Owens: Leisure will contain 94 black-and-white photographs and 24 color photographs. The book will be published by Fotofolio in October 2004.
The exhibition is organized by ICP Chief Curator Brian Wallis.
The Mysterious Monsieur Bellocq
December 10, 2004 - February 27, 2005
First of all, the pictures are unforgettableâ€”photography's ultimate standard of value. And it's not hard to see why the trove of glass negatives by a hitherto unknown photographer working in New Orleans in the early years of this century became one of the most admired recoveries in photography's widening, ever incomplete history.
Despite the great renown of his unforgettable portraits of prostitutes in the early twentieth century demimonde of New Orleans, very little was knownâ€”until recentlyâ€”about the legendary photographer E. J. Bellocq (1873-1949). The International Center of Photography presents the exhibition The Mysterious Monsieur Bellocq to highlight the discovery of new photographs and new information about the life and work of this elusive master. The exhibition is part of the New Histories of Photography series conceived in collaboration with the George Eastman House in Rochester, and will be on view at the International Center of Photography (1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street) from December 10, 2004 through February 27, 2005.
Bellocq's photographs first came to public attention through an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970. Photographer Lee Friedlander had originally discovered the 8 x 10 inch glass negatives in an antique shop in New Orleans. Friedlander made his own prints from the negatives using turn-of-the-century printing techniques and old printing-out paper. The plates were exposed to the printing-out paper by indirect daylight for anywhere from three hours to seven days, then the paper was given a toning bath to achieve a vintage look. At the time, John Szarkowski, then director of photography at MoMA, noted "Since none of Bellocq's prints exist to serve as models, the result might be regarded as a collaborative work."
No real information was then known about the maker of the plates, so Szarkowski and Friedlander relied on interviews with various New Orleans denizens who remembered Bellocq. This speculative oral history, freely embroidered by Szarkowski in the exhibition's catalogue, presented Bellocq as a skillful primitive, who "discovered secrets" but was unaware of the importance or beauty of his work. To amplify this myth, Szarkowski cast Bellocq as a "hydrocephalic semi-dwarf, a good subject for a caricaturist, who cultivated the company of prostitutes," an image of the photographer that was perpetuated in the Louis Malle film Pretty Baby (1978) and persists to this day.
In fact, Bellocq was a well-recognized and somewhat dapper commercial photographer in New Orleans, who practiced his trade from at least 1900, when he was twenty-six. Among his clients were a prominent shipbuilding company and the Catholic Church of New Orleans, where his brother was a priest. His photographs of prostitutes were taken around 1912 at various locations near his studio in Storyville, the New Orleans red-light district. Prostitution was legal in Louisiana at the time (until 1917, when the U.S. Navy enforced a crackdown), and Storyville was a popular neighborhood for nightlife; the area is also famous for the New Orleans jazz musicians who played there. Bellocq's intention was probably commercial rather than personal; evidence suggests that he intended the pictures of prostitutes for a guidebook to the local brothels.
Bellocq photographed the prostitutes not as brazen streetwalkers, but simply and respectfully. The images are primarily single portraits, taken inside the brothels, with the women appearing quite comfortable. Young, old, thin, heavy, clothed, unclothed, seductive and relaxedâ€”the women are at ease with themselves and with their sensuality. These were not however, the proverbial "pin-ups" or reminiscent of French postcards. The women in the photographs seem to lack self-consciousness, suggesting a warm relationship between Bellocq and the sitters. He did not glamorize or objectify his subjects; instead, he gave us a singular perception ofâ€”and a lens intoâ€”the quiet and the seductive world of Storyville.
The The Bellocq exhibition consists of fourteen prints from the Permanent Collection of the International Center of Photography and the George Eastman House. Three of these are recently acquired rare early prints made prior to Friedlander's acquisition of the negatives, and possibly during Bellocq's lifetime. The rest are prints made by Friedlander from the original negatives.
The Mysterious Monsieur Bellocq, organized by ICP Chief curator Brian Wallis, is presented in collaboration with the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York. It is the eighth in the series "New Histories of Photography," made possible by the generous support of The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated brochure.
Image: Bill Owens
International Centre of Photography
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