Category Archives: Exhibitions

The First 100 Years of Photography – Exhibition to Open Sept. 2@the DIA

Julia Margaret Cameron, Enid from Idylls of the King, 1874

Julia Margaret Cameron, Enid from Idylls of the King, 1874

On September 2 the DIA opens a new exhibition, Photography – The First 100 Years: A Survey from the DIA’s Collection. Taking a look at the early years of photography and its development as a new art form, the DIA presents a survey of 90 works from its collection. Included are a number of notable rare works from the 19th century as well as iconic imagery from the 1920s and 1930s. Photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Margaret Bourke White, Dorothea Lange in addition to 50 other pioneers and great innovators of the medium are on view in the exhibition which runs through January 3, 2010.

Unknown Photographer, Soldier and Companion, 1861-65, tintype.

Unknown Photographer, Soldier and Companion, 1861-65, tintype.

One of the highlights from this exhibition is a tintype portrait of an African American couple from the 1860s. The process, a photographic image made on metal, appeared in the 1850s.  The DIA was fortunate enough to acquire it back in 2001, when it went on the auction block with other items from the collection of Jackie Napoleon Wilson, a Detroiter who developed an important and rare collection of 19th-century portraits of African Americans over the years. The exhibition moves onward from the 19th century with sections devoted to the pictorialist, modernist and social documentary eras. Photography – The First 100 Years kicks off a new and exciting season of photography exhibitions this fall 2009 and into spring 2010 at the DIA – here’s the round-up:

Avedon Fashion Photographs 1944-2000– opening October 18, 2009 through January 17, 2010. The DIA will host the first large-scale fashion retrospective since Richard Avedon’s death in 2004. Organized by the International Center for Photography, New York, the exhibition includes 181 images – many are well-known photographs – in addition to magazines and other interesting ephemera that illustrates the long and legendary career of one of America’s most successful and interesting photographers.

Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs 1955 opening March 3 through July 4, 2010. This exhibition includes over 60 black-and white photographs taken by Robert Frank in Detroit. Made during his travels through the U.S. photographing for his book The Americans, Frank observed Detroiters as they lived and worked at mid century in the U.S. In this rare body of work, many of which will be on view for the first time at the DIA, Frank documented the day-to-day lives of Americans as he tried to mingle with assembly line workers at the Rouge Factory, took in a movie at the Gratiot Drive-In, and experienced public life on Belle Isle and in the streets of Detroit. All were part of the Detroit experience as Frank perceived it over fifty years ago.

Advertisements

Photography@DIA – Future Programs & Exhibitions in 2009

Many thanks to Michelle Stamler for posting recently on her involvement with Roeper High School photo students and the DIA. I am looking forward to their visit later this month at the DIA to view Of Life and Loss and talk about their work inspired by this exhibition. I did not expect such an overwhelming response to this exhibition. There is a constant stream of visitors in our galleries everyday.  And it seems that this very powerful group of photographs speak to a very diverse group of visitors on so many different levels with great emotional impact and resonance. I was fortunate to have exhibition curator Karen Sinsheimer deliver the most-illuminating lecture on Of Life and Loss this past Sunday to over 100 people in the DIA’s lecture hall.

Penny Picture Display, Savannah, 1936, by Walker Evans

Penny Picture Display, Savannah, 1936, by Walker Evans

The DIA is moving forward with our other photo exhibitions and programs for the year. This past week I have been busy working with interpretive educator Madeleine Winslow on an upcoming exhibition Photography-The First 100 Years. Although the exhibition does not open until September 2, 2009, plans for installation and development of interpretative materials for the gallery take place months and sometimes years in advance. Madeleine and I hope to get some feedback from our visitors in the gallery with a reader response table focused on the work of Walker Evans one of the featured artists in the exhibition. We plan to set up some online opportunities to hear your thoughts as well.

Avedon Fashion preThe exhibition Avedon Fashion Photographs 1944-2000 will also open at the DIA on October 18. 2009. I was fortunate to get an advance copy on the catalogue with essays by exhibition curators Carol Squiers and Vince Aletti. The authors have given their undivided and thorough attention to this very productive and influential period of the photographer’s career in fashion editorial work that appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue  and in later years for the Versace campaign beginning in 1980 and eventually as staff photographer for The New Yorker. The exhibition opened last week at the International Center for Photography, New York, and a sneak peak of some of Avedon’s fashion work can be found at the New Yorker Online – Here at the DIA, the exhibition will get four-star treatment in our special exhibition space with an elegant installation and some exciting programs and events to soon be announced.

Detroit Area Education Focuses on Traditional and not-so-Traditional Photographic Media in 2009

The DIA has always been a haven for young artists, going back decades in its support their work with outreach projects, exhibitions and behind-the-scenes tours. Many thanks to my colleague Madeleine Winslow for blogging recently on the successful photo project she and her department managed in conjunction with the exhibition Of Life and Loss.alabel

In the past week, the DIA also opened the annual Detroit Public Schools exhibition in its 72nd year! The exhibition was exiled to the main branch of the Detroit Public Library during our renovation over the past few years, but has returned to the DIA and can be found in our new Gibbs Learning Center gallery where small exhibitions will be featured in addition to our regular drop-in workshops and other hands-on programs for young and old. We hope to add a cyanotype class and other photography inspired offerings in the studio this fall.

loose_canonAlthough I never tire of the great collections and exhibitions here at the DIA – and I am totally unbiased in saying so 🙂 – I got a chance to see art outside of the DIA this week. Lens-based media (photography, film and video) along with mixed media installation work are currently on view in the 2009 MFA graduate student exhibition Loose Canon at the Cranbrook Museum of Art. Earlier this week, Liz Cohen – artist in residence at the Cranbrook Academy of Art – invited me to speak with some of her second year MFA photography students about their work in this year’s show. Liz is new to Cranbrook having recently moved to the Detroit area from Arizona. Her class has visited the DIA several times this year looking at special areas of the collection and talking to the DIA’s curatorial staff about art and museum practice. Speaking with artists is my all time favorite pastime, so I was happy to entertain a little diversion and take some time away from the DIA to travel to Cranbrook this past Wednesday .

kellys-installation-detail

Ritual for Money, detail, 2009, by Kelly Frank

Particularly memorable was the conversation I had with Kelly Frank, who was my former photo student at College for Creative Studies in 2004. Interdisciplinary practice (cross media work) has become a hallmark of the Cranbrook program in recent years, and Kelly has taken on performance and installation developing a thoughtful piece entitled “Ritual for Money” inspired in concept by Native American ritual and the esoteric knowledge of wealth and success written about in Rhonda Byrne’s best-seller The Secret.

I have written before that Detroit, particularly the art scene here, seems to persevere in tough times. It was no more evident this past week as the creative spirit seems to be upon us with great energy and geniune passion. Young artists who share their creativity probably have no idea of how uplifting it can be for the obscure individual to come into contact with their work through a visit to a museum. I hope some of them may read this, because I have to thank you along with our Detroit-based art educators who would never think of giving up on culture in this city.

High school students share their perspectives

I jumped in to help out with the exhibition Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky during the last phases of development. I was immediately struck by the artists’ visually and emotionally compelling images that captured Jewish experiences in Poland at different points in time. Their photographs share the theme of memory—both how we remember the lives that once were and the void that remains when they’ve passed.

            The theme of memory applies to us all. Every time I see a photograph of my grandmother, I remember how she taught me to sew—with skill, patience, and a quiet persistence. She’s gone now, but her sewing machine remains—a durable reminder of her special talents. Her memory lives on in the stitches that help construct the garments I sew today.

We all have our own ways of thinking about memory, a fact evidenced by photographs taken by area high school students in conjunction with Of Life and Loss. I was moved by the images we received. As an educator, I’m constantly striving to find ways to make art relevant—searching for those kernels of meaning that will resonate. The results of the student photography project are those kernels – they are moving, insightful, striking, and evocative perspectives on how memory manifests itself in the everyday. Through the discerning eye of each individual student, the intricacies of remembrance emerge.

I was particularly intrigued by the fact that three different students (from two different schools) chose to take photographs of swing sets. Similar to the two photographers featured in the exhibition, the photographs by these three students focus on similar subject matter, but with distinct points of view.

In one, two swings sit empty in a black and white image of an elementary school playground. The student discusses her memories of “soaring through the skies” and her feelings of invincibility. The empty swings remind the viewer of more innocent days.

In another image, a single, broken swing hangs by a metal ring. The student recalls that “Unbroken playgrounds were scarce.” For this artist, the broken swing represents the memories that “children around Detroit hold.” The image captures the collective experiences of many urban youth.

In a third image, a series of swing sets cast linear shadows on the concrete and asphalt playground of a middle school. For this student the swings bring back memories of “swinging the shoes from our feet across the blacktop.” To her, these swing sets represent “the good ol’ days,” suggesting a loss of what once was.

These are just a few of the many student photographs that can be seen in conjunction with Of Life and Loss. Be sure to look for the students’ work when you come. A running slideshow presents the photographs accompanied by a booklet that contains artist statements. Thank you to the photography students and teachers from Dearborn High School, Renaissance High School, and Roeper High School. Your work is proof that art matters.

Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky

Nat Gutman's Wife, Warsaw, 1938, by Roman Vishniac, © Mara Vishniac Kohn courtesy the International Center of Photography

Nat Gutman's Wife, Warsaw, 1938, by Roman Vishniac, © Mara Vishniac Kohn courtesy the International Center of Photography

Late last week, DIA staff finished the installation for the exhibition Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky which opened this past Sunday, April 19.  Sometimes for me, looking at photographs can be like stepping back into the past – or stepping into a time machine – I witness people who may no longer exist as well as the places where they once lived. This was exactly the experience I had when crates arrived at the DIA several weeks ago filled with 90 photographs from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. I saw first hand the work of Roman Vishniac, who photographed Jewish communities in Poland in the 1930s along with the work Jeff Gusky, who photographed remnants of those communities in the late 1990s. The images are powerful transmitters of traditions and history.

Before World War II, over 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland – their traditions, religion, and customs evolved and were preserved in the country for nearly five centuries. By the end of the 20th century, these communities had nearly vanished with their population diminishing to about 20,000 in recent years. Creating a very large visual record of this life, Roman Vishniac photographed the ghettos in Warsaw and Kazimierz as well in other cities in the 1930s. Gusky, although initially unaware of Vishniac’s extensive work in Poland, returned several decades later in the 1990s to capture the former ghettos, abandoned synagogues, and desecrated cemeteries, many which have been subject to neglect or vandalism. Although taken sixty years apart, their images share themes of memory, life, and loss. The photographs are evidence of people and places that once were, and what remains in their absence.

Corridor in Kazimierz, Former Jewish District, Cracow, 1996, by Jeffrey Gusky, © Jeffrey Gusky

Corridor in Kazimierz, Former Jewish District, Cracow, 1996, by Jeffrey Gusky, © Jeffrey Gusky

Photographs like those in Of Life and Loss preserve historical moments, memories and life experiences for future generations. This is largely due to the dedication of individual photographers who capture in-depth ordinary moments or nondescript places. In a photograph these encounters are transformed by personal perceptions, and we acquire the ability to see and experience life through the eyes of a photographer. We grasp some aspect of the world that had somehow escaped our attention.

To further enhance our audience’s experience at the DIA, there are listening stations in the gallery, where visitors can hear personal stories by individuals who have survived the Holocaust in Poland. The audio is courtesy of the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus, in Farmington Hills, Michigan. In addition, just outside the gallery is a monitor and brochures where visitors can view photographic work made in response to this exhibition by local high school students.

Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky is on view through July 12 in the Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography at the DIA. The exhibition is organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. In Detroit, the exhibition is sponsored by *Bill and Karen Davidson. 

*In blessed memory.

Avedon Fashion Retrospective Comes to DIA this Fall

avedon-books-1The DIA will bring fashion work by acclaimed photographer Richard Avedon to the walls of its special exhibition space this fall 2009. The exhibition, organized by the International Center for Photography, New York, is the first major retrospective of Avedon’s fashion photography since his death in 2004. It will feature many iconic works from his amazing and unprecented sixty-year career as well as magazines, proof sheets and other emphemera that illuminate the artistry and refinement of this stunning photographic genre.

The exhibition will open on October 18, 2009 and run through January 17, 2010. The DIA is developing an interesting slate of related programs and events as well as our members’ previews that will kick off on Friday evening October 16 and continue through Saturday, October 17 – details to be announced!

Future Photography Exhibitions at the DIA to Focus on the Permanent Collection

 
Migrant Mother, 1936, by Dorothea Lange

Migrant Mother, 1936, by Dorothea Lange

Although the DIA announced last week a 20% reduction in full and part-time staff, I will be staying on in my usual role as associate curator to work out an ongoing schedule of exhibitions in the Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography. Over the next two years, the department of prints, drawings and photographs will offer a slightly reduced schedule of six rather than the usual 12 exhibitions from our permanent collection. It’s all part of an effort to scale back operations a bit, but still provide a meaningful museum experience for our visitors.
 
Of these six exhibitions,  three  photography exhibitions are in development,  the first which will open this September with works surveying the  first 100 years of photography. Rare 19th-century prints, pictorialist and modernist works, along with a section devoted to the documentary tradition, will feature many classic images from the history of photography and individuals including Alfred Steiglitz, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Edward Weston, and Julia Margaret Cameron among others. Art may be the best reprieve in tough times like these, so stay tuned for upcoming exhibition dates, programs and maybe even a few surprises.  
Broken Stained Glass Window, Wielkie Oczy, 2001, by Jeffrey Gusky (copyright Jeffrey Gusky)

Broken Stained Glass Window, Wielkie Oczy, 2001, by Jeffrey Gusky (copyright Jeffrey Gusky)

As part of our previously scheduled program of exhibitions, the museum will open Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of  Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky, which is traveling from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. It will be on view beginning April 19, 2009. I’ll be posting on this exhibition again in the upcoming weeks.