French architect Henri Labrouste (1801–1875) may not be an instantly recognizable name, yet he is one of the most influential precursors of modern architecture. Most well known for two luminous library reading rooms built in Paris in the 1800s, the Bibliothèque nationale de France (1838–50) and the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève (1859–75), Labrouste has been long admired by both modernists and postmodernists for his innovative embrace of then-new technologies, like cast iron and gas lighting. Read more
Throughout the run of Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925 (December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013) we invited contemporary artists to pick a work and say briefly what they find most compelling about it. Read more
MoMA’s new book Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light by Sarah Hermanson Meister, curator in the Department of Photography at MoMA, is a fresh look at the work of an iconic British photographer. The exhibition currently on view isn’t the first time MoMA has presented Bill Brandt’s work to the public—the last Brandt retrospective was in 1969. Since then, the Museum’s perspective of Brandt’s work has evolved into a more complete consideration of the nuances and variations in Brandt’s own photo-historical approach.
Brandt’s photography is traditionally presented in thematic groupings at the artist’s own request, but this view alone simplifies a body of work that is multifaceted and far-reaching in style, influence, and subject matter. Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light is the most comprehensive overview of Brandt’s work to date, and it attempts to create a coherent trajectory across five decades of his career.
Beyond the 160 tri-tone reproductions of his photographs, the book features a rich appendix that illuminates different aspects of Brandt’s oeuvre. A section on Brandt’s photo-stories from 1939 to 1945 reproduces spreads from the publications in which they originally appeared, and a detailed survey of his methods for retouching his photos is especially fascinating in today’s world of digital cameras, smart phones, and instant photo filters. Brandt often spoke about how important the retouching process was in his work, and by looking at the various tools and techniques he used to edit and perfect his final images, photo conservator Lee Ann Daffner’s illustrated glossary dives deep into Brandt’s working process. As discussed in a prior INSIDE/OUT post, Dating Brandt, the same negative can look completely different depending on when Brandt retouched it.
Though his influences, subject matter, and technical approach shifted over his long career, Brandt never lost what Meister describes as “his obvious delight in the uncanny aspects of the everyday.” Her introductory essay opens with a quote from Brandt on the role of a photographer:
I believe this power of seeing the world as fresh and strange lies hidden in every human being. In most of us it is dormant. Yet it is there, even if it is no more than a vague desire, an unsatisfied appetite that cannot discover its own nourishment….This should be the photographer’s aim, for this is the purpose that pictures fulfill in the world as it is to-day. To meet a need that people cannot or will not meet for themselves. We are most of us too busy, too worried, too intent on proving ourselves right, too obsessed with ideas, to stand and stare.
Bill Brandt took the time to “stand and stare” in many different ways. Whether through juxtapositions of class structure, wondrous nudes, inventive portraiture, or unearthly landscapes, Brandt’s far-reaching inspirations and approaches generated arresting imagery that still holds magic and wonder today.
For more on Brandt’s expansive career, preview a free PDF sample of the exhibition catalogue.
Without question, one of the most popular works in the Dieter Roth exhibition Wait, Later This Will Be Nothing, is the seasonally appropriate Bunny-dropping-bunny (Karnickelköttelkarnickel). With Easter just around the corner, jelly bean eggs and chocolate bunnies seem to be everywhere, including here in the galleries at MoMA. Read more
Exhibiting Fluxus: Decomposition Contained in Wait Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth
The title of the exhibition Wait Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth befits a number of the works on display that are slowly decomposing in front of spectators’ eyes. This post is dedicated to one particular pocket-sized perishable—Roth’s Pocket Room (Taschenzimmer) from MoMA’s Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection. In 1968, Dieter Roth—who challenged the boundaries of printmaking and publishing by integrating cheese, fruit, sausage, chocolate, and other organic materials into the process—released an unlimited edition comprising a banana slice on stamped paper tucked inside of a plastic container small enough to fit into the owner’s pocket. Read more
Pulled from Dieter Roth’s masterpiece, Snow (1964/69), the title of MoMA’s latest book initially reads as something of a dare to stick around: Wait, Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth. Whether from the curiosity to see how it ends or the desire to possess something fleeting, this call to action sparked our appetite to consume Roth’s editions slowly in order to savor what might not last. Read more
Exhibition research often takes curators to archives, museums, private collections, and galleries. These are usually pristine spaces, where voices are hushed, light levels are low, and temperature and humidity are carefully controlled. But I experienced something very different as I investigated the work of Dieter Roth (Swiss, born Germany. 1930–1998), featured in the current exhibition Wait, Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth. Read more
Fluxus currents flow throughout the exhibition Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde, not only in the graphic scores discussed in my last blog post, but also in a section devoted to the experimental art collective Hi Red Center. Read more