Monthly Archives: December 2008

Michigan connection brings Karsh’s portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso to the DIA’s photography exhibition

Yousuf Karsh, Georgia O’Keefe, 1956 (printed later); gelatin silver print. Gift of Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh in honor of Governor James and Mrs. Janet Blanchard, © Estate of Yousuf Karsh.

Georgia O’Keeffe, 1956, by Yousuf Karsh. Gift of Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh in honor of Governor James and Mrs. Janet Blanchard, © Estate of Yousuf Karsh.

While serving as U.S. ambassador to Canada from 1993-96, former Michigan governor James Blanchard befriended Armenian-born photographer Yousuf Karsh, who operated a successful portrait studio in Ottawa, Canada. In honor of Gov. Blanchard and Mrs. Blanchard, Karsh and his wife Estrellita donated to the DIA two portfolios of Karsh’s most famous portraits of notable individuals from the arts, sciences, and politics in 1991. A selection of the portraits are now on view in the exhibition In the Company of Artists at the DIA.

In perhaps one his most famous photographs, Karsh traveled from his studio in Ottawa to Abiquiu, New Mexico, to capture American painter Georgia O’Keeffe for a portrait around 1956. He later wrote that he had hoped to find in her “some of the poetic intensity of her paintings.” Instead Karsh found “the austere intensity of dedication to her work.” He made a quiet portrait of the distant O’Keeffe during a moment of repose in her home.

The exhibition includes Karsh’s images of Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, and Isamu Noguchi on view through February 15.

Yousuf Karsh, Pablo Picasso, 1954 (printed later); gelatin silver print. Gift of Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh in honor of Governor James and Mrs. Janet Blanchard, © Estate of Yousuf Karsh.

Pablo Picasso, 1954, by Yousuf Karsh. Gift of Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh in honor of Governor James and Mrs. Janet Blanchard, © Estate of Yousuf Karsh.

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Robert Frank in the Motor City

What a great pleasure it was to see a number of Robert Frank’s photographs from Detroit in 1955 published in Saturday’s Detroit News . The images are from Frank’s historic travel to Detroit on a Guggenheim fellowship to make pictures for his now-classic photo book The Americans. Apparently, LeDuff has gotten to know Robert Frank well in recent years, and he penned another interesting article about the photographer during a visit to China for Vanity Fair earlier this year.

I had a rare opportunity to meet Robert Frank back in 2004 while a number of his photographs from the DIA were on loan to the Storylines exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. Robert had fond memories of Detroit, eventhough he spent a night in a downtown jail over a misunderstanding regarding his used car. All and all, he knew Detroit had a reputation as a tough city, but  found it a “real and unique” place and one of the most inspirational American cities for his photo essay.

Robert Frank (at left) and British artist Richard Hamilton at the Tate Modern, London, UK, 2004

Robert Frank (at left) and British artist Richard Hamilton at the Tate Modern, London, UK, 2004

Many thanks to Charlie LeDuff for giving Robert’s work some visibility on the front page of our local paper, so few people realize Frank spent time photographing throughout Detroit.  The Detroit Institute of Arts is fortunate to have over fifty photographs from Frank’s 1955 visit to the city, and the museum looks forward to featuring this work in a special exhibition during our 2009-2010 schedule.

In the Company of Artists Photography Exhibition – Andy Warhol

Michelle Andonian, American (born 1958), Andy Warhol in Detroit, 1985 (printed 2008); ink jet print. Gift of Michelle Andonian in honor of Joy Hakansen Colby (T2008.136), © Michelle Andonian.

Michelle Andonian, Andy Warhol in Detroit, 1985 (printed 2008); ink jet print. Gift of Michelle Andonian in honor of Joy Hakansen Colby, © Michelle Andonian.

In November 1985, Andy Warhol traveled from New York to Detroit promoting his new publication America with a scheduled stop at the DIA for a special book signing. Warhol took time for an interview with Colby and staff photographer Michelle Andonian joined them along with Warhol’s assistant Christopher Makos. The group had breakfast on the top floor restaurant of the Ponchatrain Hotel where Warhol took in the view of the city (he later remarked in his diary that Detroit was so sprawling, it reminded him of Los Angeles).

At one point in the conversation, Warhol referred to Detroit’s most recognizable riverfront architecture as “that interesting sculpture over there.” Taking a cue from the world’s most famous pop artist, Andonian suggested a quick portrait with the so-called “sculpture” – the Detroit Renaissance Center – as a backdrop, and Warhol agreed.  The photograph is a recent gift from the artist to the DIA’s permanent collection and currently is on view in the exhibition In the Company of Artists.

This portrait along with over 90 others will be on view in the exhibition through February 15, 2009.

Year in Review – Photography@the DIA 2008

In closing out my fourteenth year here at the DIA, I was most excited in 2008 to see the renovation and reopening of the Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography on July 9, 2008. The DIA was fortunate to have for the gallery’s inaugural exhibition Kenro Izu’s Sacred Places. Organized by the Peabody Essex Museum from The Lane Collection in Boston, over 50 platinum prints were on view featuring mostly ancient sites in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Visitors viewing photographs by Kenro Izu in the exhibition Sacred Places at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 2008, photograph by Eric Wheeler for the DIA

Visitors viewing photographs by Kenro Izu in the exhibition Sacred Places at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 2008, photograph by Eric Wheeler for the DIA

Students viewing photographs of Tibet by Kenro Izu in the exhibition Sacred Places, 2008, photograph by Eric Wheeler for the DIA

Students viewing photographs of Tibet by Kenro Izu in the exhibition Sacred Places, 2008, photograph by Eric Wheeler for the DIA

The gallery saw a good amount of traffic over our summer months and into the fall, but  two highlights of this exhibition were  Kenro’s lecture to a standing-room only audience in early September as well as our first-ever online photo competition (see detroitssacredplaces.wordpress.com and flickr.com/groups/detroitssacredplaces/pool for details) that saw over eighty entries by primarily Detroit-area photographers featuring their imagery of Detroit’s “sacred places.”

The DIA showed its first permanent collection photo exhibition in seven years when In the Company of Artists opened on November 19 (it will be on view through February 15, 2009).  As with most permanent collection exhibitions, new acquistions are on view for the first time in this exhibition. The department of prints, drawings and photographs received several gifts from some very generous donors in the Detroit area. Of particular note is a 19th-century albumen print showing painter James MacNeill Whistler in his Paris studio around 1892. The photograph was donated by Detroit-area collectors Leonard and Jean Walle who also loaned a number of works to the exhibition from their collection of rare 19th-century photographic portraits.

Whistler in His Paris Studio at 106 Rue Notre Dame des Champs, 1892, by Dornac Studios (Paul Cardon)

Whistler in His Paris Studio at 106 Rue Notre Dame des Champs, 1892, by Dornac Studios (Paul Cardon)

In addition to works on view in the photo gallery throughout the second half of 2008, the DIA also installs rotations of contemporary photography in the Asian galleries as well as the contemporary art galleries and contemporary African American art galleries.  Works by Toshio Shibata (on loan from the Museum of Modern Art, NYC), Abelardo Morell and Edward West currently are on view and new rotations occur about every three months.

The DIA hosted a number of photo-related programs including lectures by photographer and historian Deb Willis, Getty Museum associate curator Virginia Hecket on the schools of German Photography, and a film screening of Black, White and Gray and discussion panel celebrating the life and career of Sam Wagstaff (see metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=12875 for Glen Mannisto’s essay about the event).

The DIA is looking forward to 2009 upcoming exhibitions including Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky opening in late April and a related May 17 lecture with Karen Sinsheimer, exhibition organizer and curator of photographs at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. A January 22 lecture with artist Ari Marcopoulos is also scheduled at 7 p.m. in the DIA’s Lecture Hall.

Students Shine in Focus Hope Photo Exhibition

Photography has been a way for Detroit-area teens to express themselves in the amazing program Annette Vanover has fostered at Focus Hope over the years. With the help of a grant from the Skillman Foundation, Vanover launched a three-year hands on photography curriculum in 2006. Recently, 21 students comprised the first graduating class from the organization’s EXCEL program.  The students’ work is now on view in at the Focus Hope Gallery  through March 27, 2009.

I first got to know Annette while working with Chicago-based artist Dawoud Bey (who, incidentally, launched his own blog site this year – whatsgoingon-dawoudbeysblog.blogspot.com) on a DIA-sponsored residency project at southwest Detroit’s Chadsey High School in 2003-04. Her understanding of the arts, particularly photography, as a tool for a young individual’s development of self-awareness and insights to those around them was, and continues to be, an inspiration. 

Portraits of Chadsey High School students by Dawoud Bey, 2003 (photo by Eric Wheeler for the DIA).

Portraits of Chadsey High School students by Dawoud Bey, 2003 (photo by Eric Wheeler for the DIA).

Annette and other committed individuals like Terry Blackhawk director at InsideOut, a literary arts program active in Detroit public schools, have stayed strong and active even through tough economic times here in the city. For location & hours on the Focus Hope exhibition and more information, see www.focushope.edu & www.insideoutdetroit.org

Ari Marcopoulos on YouTube

I just viewed Ari Marcopoulos on YouTube in a recent interview where he shares his thoughts on photography and life – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieaP5-LxECg

Save the Date – Lecture&Book Signing with Ari Marcopoulos, Jan. 22, 2009

Please join us in the DIA’s Lecture Hall, Thursday evening, Jan. 22, 2008, at 7 p.m. for a special presentation entitled, Making the Familiar Art, by photographer Ari Marcopoulos. The DIA will have Ari’s recent publications available and a book signing will follow his lecture, which is free and open to the public.

Ari Marcopoulos, Sonoma, 2008

Ari Marcopoulos, Sonoma, 2008

Years ago, Marcopoulos visited Detroit with his dad and took in a baseball game at the now-demolished Tiger Stadium.  He is looking forward to visiting the city again and may even craft a special custom zine for the event at the DIA.

Marcopoulos currently lives in northern California, but originally moved to New York City from Amsterdam in 1979. Early on, he worked for Andy Warhol, assisting on an occasional photo shoot. He quickly developed a reputation as an insider around downtown Manhattan art circles giving him access to writers, painters and musicians. He frequently made their portraits and recently several were acquired for the DIA’s permanent collection of photography. The photographs are on view in the exhibition entitled In the Company Artists through February 15, 2009.

Ari Marcopoulos, American (born 1957), Andy Warhol, 1981 (printed in 2008); gelatin silver print. Museum Purchase, Graphic Arts Council Photographic Fund (2008.51.1), © Ari Marcopoulos courtesy The Project.

Andy Warhol, 1981, by Ari Marcopoulos, . © Ari Marcopoulos courtesy The Project.

More recently, Ari’s work, including both still photography and video, has focused on the diversions of youth, its subculture and pastimes, especially the lifestyles of skate and snow boarders, musicians, his teenage sons, and their experiences as contemporary urban dwellers.

Ari Marcopoulos, Alice, 2007, from The Chance is Higher. © Ari Marcopoulos.

Alice, 2007, from The Chance is Higher, by Ari Marcopoulos. © Ari Marcopoulos.

Ari’s lecture will help to kick off the New Year at the DIA and its line-up of interesting programs and exhibitions for 2009. For more information, check out www.dia.org.