Category Archives: Lectures

May 17th DIA Lecture – The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky

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Karen Sinsheimer, curator of photographs, Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Next Sunday, May 17, 2009@2PM, Karen Sinsheimer will be discussing work in the exhibition Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky. It will be Karen’s first visit to the Detroit area from California where she works as curator of photographs at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Karen spent two years developing the exhibition, working directly with Jeffrey Gusky, Mara Vishniac Kohn (Roman Vishniac’s daughter), and Maya Benton, director of the Vishniac archive at the International Center for Photography, New York. The lecture is open to the public and free with museum admission.

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Michigan Photo Collectors Show Solidarity with the MiPHS

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The February/March 2009 issue of The Photogram arrived in my office recently and editor Janice Schimmelman has again found some interesting writers to contribute articles about their fascinating collections. The Photogram is the newsletter of the Michigan Photographic Historical Society (MiPHS) and the group has been around the metro-Detroit area since 1972. DIA patron and photo collector Len Walle introduced me to the group several years back.

For those readers who are interested in 19th-century photography, vernacular photographs and historical ephemera, the MiPHS and its membership have been active advocates of the medium sponsoring lectures, The Photogram, and their annual “Photographica” show and sale that specializes in historical camera equipment and other ephemera.

MiPHS board member Doug Aikenhead will give a lecture titled: “The World in Your Mailbox: Real Photo Postcards from the Early 20th Century” at 1:30 P.M. on Saturday, February 28, 2009 at the University of Michigan’s William L.
Clements Library, 909 South University Ave., Ann Arbor. The event is free and open to the public.

Larry Fink – A Young Painter in the Studio of Moses Soyer

Moses Soyer’s Studio, NYC, c. 1957/1958, by Larry Fink.

Moses Soyer’s Studio, NYC, c. 1957/1958, by Larry Fink.

I first heard Larry Fink lecture at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit back in the early 1980s. At the time he was photographing praying mantises in his backyard, but I distinctly remembered him mentioning his travels with beatniks and his interest in bohemian life as a kid in the 1950s.  When he took this photograph, Fink was only 16-years old, and a very young student studying painting with the artist Moses Soyer in New York City. The photograph is part of the exhibition In the Company of Artists in its final weeks at the DIA (closing on February 15). If you have never had the chance to see Larry Fink lecture now is the time to catch him at Kalamazoo College on February 16.

From the Curator’s Desk – The Chance Is Higher

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A number of Ari Marcopoulos’ books arrived at the museum this week in plenty of time for his lecture/book signing on Jan.22. So I finally got my hands on a copy of his book The Chance Is Higher which was published in 2008 by Dashwood Books.

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The book includes reproductions of large-scale photocopies that Ari made from his original photographs  – portraits of his family, friends, and acquaintances interspersed with city views, graffiti,  still life, and nudes; he even includes a few older portraits of Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat. An eerie and mesmerizing image of a skull – a tattoo on the back of a shirtless boy  – floats beneath the embossed title and a fine pattern of cross-hatch found on the cover of this book. This texture gives it an inky flattened sheen like a faded tattoo, but it is reminiscent of a well-worn tapestry or an aged mezzotint. Strangely welcoming, a ghostly continuum follows. The imagery is steeped in memory, informed by urban iconography and the more intimate personal world and perceptions of the photographer.

The Chance is Higher (inside spread) by Ari Marcopoulos

The Chance is Higher (inside spread) by Ari Marcopoulos

The images may well be faithful reproductions of Ari’s grainy black-and-white photocopies. When I first looked through the pages of The Chance Is Higher, I experienced an aesthetic throwback to the 1970s, when experimenting with a xerox machine to make a homemade comic book, zine or flyer for a friend’s rock band required some pocket change and a trip to the local library or post office to make copies. Until Ari revived it, somewhat formally for this series and the book (he has used xeroxing for years to design his other books and zines), the photocopy was an old-school but treasured method of reproduction reserved for low-brow, albeit creative endeavors. It is ingeniously recaptured here with a remarkable amount of refinement and even a low-key elegance.

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.

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.