Tag Archives: Brad Iverson

A Few Recent Acquistions – All About Detroit – Then and Now

Untitled (six boys and boy with bicycle in background, neg#22), around 1910, by Wendell Hotter (1889-1955), Gift of Brad and Ellen Iverson

Untitled (six boys and boy with bicycle in background, neg#22), around 1910, by Wendell Hotter (1889-1955), Gift of Brad and Ellen Iverson

As summer comes to a close, I thought to share with readers a number of recent acquisitions that are notable because of their interesting ties to Detroit. The first, comes out of the tradition of vernacular photography. Back in June, Brad and Ellen Iverson gifted a number of prints to the museum that Brad had made from old negatives dating to the early 20th century. Vernacular photography is a growing area for collectors, and several museums including the National Gallery of Art have organized exhibitions around some of the work that falls into this category. You’ve probably seen these pictures in those old remnants from the pre-digital era – the forgotten family photo album. Or maybe you’ve stumbled across boxes of pictures in local flea markets or even garage sales.  If you take the time to forage through them, these photos will stop you for a second or even longer – maybe its a curious composition, an unusual pose, or something else unique or peculiar that you can’t quite put your finger on.

Untitled (Herbert Hotter and Girlfriends, Detroit, Michigan), about 1910. Gift of Brad and Ellen Iverson

Untitled (Herbert Hotter and Girlfriends, Detroit, Michigan), about 1910. Gift of Brad and Ellen Iverson

 

Over the years, Brad researched the work and discovered Detroiter Wendell Hotter was responsible for taking the photographs seen here. Hotter dabbled in photography over the years making portraits of friends and family, as well as businesses and a few local landmarks around the city. The photographs date from around 1910 to 1930 and are evidence of some faraway personal slice of history and the people and places that existed over a century ago.

Another recent gift that relates to our local cultural history, more so from the underground and certainly eclectic, was created by the collaborative team The Upholsterers (Brian Muldoon and Jack White), who, in addition to their forays into upholstering and fine art editions, have pretty well-known reputations around town and elsewhere as musicians (Brian is a drummer with The Muldoons; Jack plays with The White Stripes and more recently has been on tour with a new muscial project The Dead Weather).

The Upholsterers Makers of High Grade Suites, 2000. Gift of Michelle Andonian

The Upholsterers Makers of High Grade Suites, 2000. Gift of Michelle Andonian

Made around 2000, Brian and Jack put together about 500 official editions that include multiple pieces: business cards, a fabric sample along with a three-panel story board of Brian and Jack refurbishing a vintage chair.  But the whole piece really fronts as an elaborate jacket for an old-school 45rpm vinyl disk with rare recordings by the duo. Incidentally, photographs on the cover and the inside story board were taken by Steve Shaw an old college photo buddy of mine who also happens to be a fellow DIA staffer and guitarist for The Fondas.

Past summers have seen other Detroit-related material finding its way into the collection. Last year, local photo guru Bill Rauhauser presented the museum with a large and coveted gift of his most memorable work. The photographs document the city from 1950 through the 1980s. And in 2006 collector James Duffy, well known for his support of many Detroit artists, bestowed over 400 black-and-white photographs to the DIA. Duffy took the pictures around 1976 to document old storefronts and businesses mostly on Detroit’s eastside. It’s likely you will see these treasures in upcoming exhibitions at the DIA and in future posts.

DIA’s Bulletin Looks at Portraiture from Delacroix to Mapplethorpe

Published annually, the DIA’s Bulletin was released last week (copies are available in the museum shop) with articles devoted entirely to the topic of portraiture. The focus of the 2009 issue came as a suggestion from George Keyes, our recently retired chief curator and former curator of European paintings at the DIA, who also brought a successful survey of Van Gogh’s portraiture to the DIA several years back.

Bulletin

Looking to “probe the elusive nature of portraiture, highlight its ability to engage and intrigue, and heighten general interest in this genre” – the nine contributing authors have presented their research on variety of DIA works from as early as the 15th century as well as the “virtuoso carving” found in British portrait sculptures, Delacroix’s Portrait of Doctor Francois-Marie Desmaisons, and the self-portraits of Lovis Corinth.

A Young Woman, 1460s-70s, by an associate of Desiderio da Settignano. Gift of Mrs. Edsel B. Ford in memory of her husband.

A Young Woman, 1460s-70s, by an associate of Desiderio da Settignano. Gift of Mrs. Edsel B. Ford in memory of her husband.

 

Throwing my own hat into the ring, so-to-speak, I included a short article about Robert Mapplethorpe’s portrait of Sam Wagstaff from 1979. By the late 1970s, Wagstaff and Mapplethorpe had carved a unique and perhaps unprecedented place for themselves in the world of art and photography. Mapplethorpe was gaining recognition for his portraits of artists, collectors, writers and musicians. Wagstaff had become a serious collector of photographs. Prior to this, Wagstaff had a somewhat brief but memorable connection to the Detroit art community and the DIA where he served as a curator of modern and contemporary art from 1969 to 1971. He had little to do with photography at the time, but his interest in the medium was sparked after seeing the work of Enrico Natali in 1969. While on staff at the DIA, he also received an letter of introduction from a relatively unknown New York-artist named Robert Mapplethorpe.

The recent documentary film Black, White + Gray A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe investigated the lives of the two men, but the details of Wagstaff’s early foray into photograph collecting are not well known. While moving files and office records during our recent renovation, I discovered Wagstaff’s correspondence with our retired curator of prints, drawings, and photographs Ellen Sharp. Further research filled in some of the blanks, particularly from his papers from our library archives (unearthed with the kind assistance of DIA librarian Maria Ketcham) as well as from the Smithsonian, where the Wagstaff papers are currently held (and now digitized online) in the collections of the Archives of American Art. These sources were invaluable in uncovering the late collector’s visionary passion for photography when the rest of the art world was not all that interested in the medium.

I was fortunate to find an old photograph from the Willis Gallery, ca. 1974, where Brad Iverson snapped a quick picture of Wagstaff talking to arts reporter Joy Colby – Mapplethorpe is seated in the background. Wagstaff had his own Polaroid work up in the exhibition called Art Images along with photographs by Mapplethorpe, Judy Linn, Iverson and about seven other artists.

Joy Hakanson Colby interviewing Sam Wagstaff with Mapplethorpe at left in the background, Willis Gallery, Detroit, 1974. Photo: Brad Iverson
Joy Hakanson Colby interviewing Sam Wagstaff with Mapplethorpe at left in the background, Willis Gallery, Detroit, 1974. Photo: Brad Iverson

Many thanks go out as well to Susanne Hilberry, Brad Iverson, and Anne Marie MacDonald for sharing their reminiscences about this fascinating man and a very interesting era in the history of Detroit and it very special local arts scene of the 1970s.

In the Company of Artists – Last Chance to See the Exhibition

 
Jean Michel Basquiat, 1987, by Ari Marcopoulos
Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1987, by Ari Marcopoulos

Sunday, February 15, 2009, is the last day to see In the Company of Artists at the DIA. During the run of this exhibition, I had the good fortune of spending time with some of the photographers who, through their wonderful portraits, helped make this exhibition such a success.  If you’ve been reading this blog in past weeks, you will already know that Ari Marcopoulos was in town for a lecture in January. He was absolutely thrilled to see his entire portfolio of artists’ portraits  in the exhibition. This photograph of Basquait is a particular favorite of mine. Whenever I see photographs of this artist, it sends me back in time to New York City and the East Village art scene that was so vibrant during the 1980s. Although I never had an opportunity to meet the artist, I almost feel as if I’ve been in his studio when I look at Ari’s work.

Yesterday, Detroit photographer Brad Iverson stopped by the DIA to see the exhibition. We had lunch in the cafe, and I absolutely love hearing him reminisce about his conversations and memories of Detroit artists, their work and exhibitions from the Cass Corridor era in the 1970s. When I visited Brad back in the summer, he had been digging through his archives, and we looked through his many photos of Detroit. I found out during my visit, that he had spent quite a bit of time photographing painter Allie McGhee over the years and one of these portraits is in the exhibition. Apparently, the two met when Detroit collector Gill Silverman commissioned Brad to create a series of portraits of Detroit artists. Brad and Allie became fast friends and jogging partners over the years. I was excited to get the news that Brad has a few book projects in development, and hopefully, I’ll be seeing his work compiled in a publication soon.

unknown-american-active-1860-90-artists-club-ionia-county-michigan-1870-85-albumen-print-leonard-and-jean-walle-collection

Artists' Club, Ionia County, Michigan, ca. 1870-85, by an unknown photographer, from the Leonard and Jean Walle collection.

Although the portraits of contemporary artists have fascinated our visitors, a number of people have remarked to me about the interesting selection of works on view from the 19th century. I am indebted to Len in Jean Walle for sharing a few treasures from their collection with the DIA.  They have been kind enough to invite me to their home where we have spent hours viewing their rare photographs. I remember one visit with the Walle’s last summer, when I first saw this photograph of group of women artists from Ionia, Michigan. I still wonder who these women were, and I’m sure their paintings can be found in the homes and attics of their relatives and friends.

Plans for our next photography exhibition are taking shape and on April 19, 2009, Of Life and Loss: The Polish Photographs of Roman Vishniac and Jeffrey Gusky will open in the Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography.

Vishniac, Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Cracow, 1938, gelatin silver print, Collection of Mara Vishniac Kohn

Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Cracow, 1938, by Roman Vishniac, Collection of Mara Vishniac Kohn