Tag Archives: Exhibitions

DIA opens exhibition of photographs by André Kertész

Melancholic Tulip, 1938, by André Kertész, © Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

André Kertész (1894-1985) brought a fresh eye along with his own perception of time and place to the art of photography. He worked intuitively – from the heart – most often without preconceived notions of the outcome of his photographs. His attention to light and composition was unique in his time.

Recently the Detroit Institute of Arts opened the exhibition An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs 1914-1969, which celebrates the artist’s work from over five decades.  The exhibition, drawn primarily from the DIA’s permanent collection, surveys his long and impressive career with 60 black-and-white photographs taken in Hungary, Paris and New York.

André Kertész was born in Budapest, Hungary, and obtained his first camera at the age of eighteen. He frequently photographed in his native countryside, and found meaningful subject matter in the landscape and among local farmers, family and friends. During World War I (1914-18) Kertész joined the Hungarian army and continued to take photographs, although he did not depict the horrors of war and instead made casual photographs of fellow soliders.  The DIA is fortunate to have a selection of these early photographs which are on loan from the Museum of Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Shadows of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1929, by André Kertész © Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

But Kertész is largely known for his photographic work made in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. Looking to prove himself as a serious photographer, he moved to the city in 1925. There he captured famous artists, writers and other creative individuals he met, but he became best known for his photographs of the city, mostly made on foot while he wandered around in neighborhoods, parks and other public spaces as a solitary observer. Kertész found great success in Paris. His workwas  included in exhibitions and was published frequently in magazines.

Melancholic Tulip, 1938, by André Kertész © Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

In 1936, Kertész moved with his wife, Elizabeth, to New York. He made the  photograph Melancholic Tulip just two years after their arrival around 1938. Using distortion mirrors, a technique he had experimented with in Paris, he created it as a self-portrait representative of his disillusionment over a stalled photographic career and difficult transition to life in America. Although he only intended to stay in the U.S. for a short time, the outbreak of World War II made his return to Paris impossible.  It was a difficult period for the artist, and he had problems making professional connections in New York.

Washington Square, New York, 1954, by André Kertész, © Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

Eventually he signed a contract with House and Garden magazine, to photograph interiors and architecture from 1947-62. His personal work diminished, but the DIA has a few photographs from these years including photographs of Washington Square Park, a frequent and familiar subject that he captured from the height of his 12th floor New York City apartment. It was not until he retired from the magazine in the early 1960s that he returned to his personal work with a renewed enthusiasm. He also finally achieved recognition that had alluded him for years when a renewed interest in his work led to international exhibitions and publications.

Just in time for the holidays, An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs 1914-69 is now on view in the Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery of Photography and will run through April 10, 2011. The exhibition is free with museum admission.

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Summer 2010 Wrap Up – Recent Photo News@the DIA

 As summer comes to a close, and we push through our annual August slow down, it’s no doubt our visitors are wondering what’s been going on at the DIA. Through African Eyes closed earlier in the month. The exhibition was carefully packed up and is now en route to the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. A few select photographs from the DIA’s collection by West African photographer Sedyou Keita and South African artist Zwelethu Mthethwa will travel with other exquisite and very unique African treasures from museums around the world.

DIA special exhibition galleries in transition, August 2010

In the meantime, our special exhibitions galleries are presently in overhaul mode as we prepare for the November 21, 2010, opening of Fakes, Forgeries and Mysteries which will feature about 50 re-evaluated permanent collection works of all media and from many cultures.  The exhibition explores the methods used by museums to examine and authenticate works of art. One photograph will be on view – a dubious Man Ray rayogram (also known as a photogram) that experts believe is a copy, but you’ll have to come to the exhibition to learn more about this.

André Kertész circa 1980, by Bill Rauhauser, © Bill Rauhauser 2010

With the Robert Frank photo exhibition closing in July, and our main photo gallery down for most of the year, behind the scenes preparations are ongoing for an upcoming season of new programs and more exhibitions in development. The Albert and Peggy de Salle Gallery is now under wraps for a fresh paint job and cleaning but will open again to the public on November 24, 2010, with An Intuitive Eye: André Kertész Photographs 1914-1969. Largely a permanent collection exhibition, we were fortunate to find the artist’s lesser known, but critical early Hungarian photographs which will be on loan from University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor. From the DIA’s collection, we’ve included Kertész’s iconic work from Paris in the 1920s and 1930s in addition to late work he made throughout New York City after 1940. The exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s work at the DIA and coincides with the 25th anniversary of his death in 1985. 

Philip Gefter scheduled to lecture at the DIA Friday, Nov. 19, 2010

Our stellar department support group – The Forum for Prints, Drawings and Photographs – will host a series of artist’s lectures this fall as well as an encore presentation by Philip Gefter on the work of  André Kertész. Gefter traveled to Detroit and the DIA this past June for a talk on Robert Frank, and we so enjoyed it, we asked him back again! Join us for his  lecture and a special preview of An Intuitive Eye at 7pm on Friday, November 19, 2010. The exhibition will open officially to the public on Sunday, November 24, 2010, and is free with museum admission.

Hall of Thirty-Three Bays, 1995, by Hiroshi Sugimoto, © Hiroshi Sugimoto

 On the publications front, DIA editor Judith Ruskin and I have finalized texts for an upcoming issue of the DIA’s Bulletin – the first dedicated solely to the medium of photography (the DIA’s Bulletin has been in publication since 1919). Ongoing research and interest in our growing collection by several colleagues across the nation led to the development of this journal. The issue will feature essays on permanent collection works including Victorian era photography as seen in the cyanotypes of Anna Atkins and examine the pre World War II era of pictorialism in the work of Paul Anderson. Also highlighted are contemporary photographs including work by Lewis Baltz, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Greg Crewdson and the young women of the so-called Yale School who rose to fame in the late 1990s. MFA, Boston, colleague Karen Haas was even kind enough to take time away from her research as curator of The Lane Collection to pen a very interesting article on a series of 1955 photographs made by Robert Frank for an essay on train travel for Fortune magazine. The Bulletin is due out sometime in September 2010 and will be available in our museum shop.  

One highlight from the summer was an email from writer and film producer Mary Dejarlais asking if I would take part in the upcoming documentary film based on the life and photographic work of Detroit native Bill Rauhauser, who recently celebrated his 92nd birthday. As a former photo student of Bill’s at the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, back in the 1980s, it was an absolute pleasure to share what I remembered about him as a mentor and creative spirit. And so few people know about his efforts to establish the DIA’s photography collection early in the 1960s. Bill still supports the DIA and attends events and exhibitions. News about the film’s première and accompanying biography will get posted here as soon as I get word from the producers, but we may see it screen locally in September 2010. Desjarlais is also the author of a biography about Bill to be published this fall.  

Robert Frank finds “Gods Factory” at the Rouge and uncovers American Life in Detroit – photo exhibition opens at the DIA today

Belle Isle - Detroit, 1955, Museum Purchase, Ernest and Rosemarie Kanzler Foundation Fund, Forum for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Purchase Fund, and General Art Purchase Fund © Robert Frank, from The Americans

Robert Frank (born 1924) was the first photographer to make the city of Detroit along with Ford workers and the assembly line a serious subject for the camera and the basis for his groundbreaking work in America in 1955. The photographs are representative of how he, a young European man, found Americans living and working at mid-century. Fascinated by our culture, but also critical of what he saw and experienced, Frank looked under the surface of American life and pushed the aesthetic boundaries of the medium unlike anyone before him.

The automobile, in particular, was something he saw everywhere in the U.S., and one of his foremost priorities when considering subjects for his book The Americans was to come to Detroit to “do the story on the factory” as he told me in a 2001 interview. Select images from his travels to the Motor City and elsewhere were preserved in this legendary book and numerous other Detroit photographs appeared in his other publications as well including The Lines of My Hand (1972) and Flowers Is (1985). These images and other unknown, rare photographs are the subject of Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs 1955 opening today at the DIA.

Entrance to the Ford Motor Company Rouge Factory tour in Dearborn, Michigan

Last fall, I spent the better part of an afternoon over in Dearborn, Michigan, at the site once referred to by photographer Robert Frank as “God’s factory.” It’s known to us locals as the Rouge (the Ford Motor Company River Rouge plant). Back in the 1950s when Frank traveled there, Ford was at the height of production, and the Rouge was a major tourist destination for people from all over the world.

Entrance to Dearborn Assembly Plant on the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, Dearborn, Michigan

On the official Rouge tour today you can spend about two hours soaking up car culture while viewing vintage automobiles and historical film footage of the old factory and its assembly lines. The entire complex can be seen from an observation deck as well as workers and assembly line production from an overhead catwalk in the adjacent Dearborn Assembly Plant. The assembly line was up and running when I was there, and the guide mentioned that two shifts a day were producing about 1,100 Ford F150 trucks daily. It was an encouraging sight.

Assembly Plant, Ford, Detroit, 1955, Founders Society Purchase, Coville Photographic Fund © Robert Frank

But the Rouge today is a far cry from what Robert Frank saw when he was here in ’55. Now, modernized manufacturing and environmental incentives have brought state-of-the art technology to the complex and the worker’s daily routines along with honey bees, acres of sunflowers, indigenous plant life, and 454,000 square feet of sedum implanted on the factory’s thriving green roof. So, about the closest we can get in the present to the factory’s glorious and gritty past is what Frank has found there and photographed over 50 years ago.

A few years ago and through the good graces of Ford employee Don Russell (who managed the installation of the largest green roof in the world at the Rouge in 2003), I spent some time touring the buildings where Frank photographed. Visitors can no longer see them on the current public tour (original tours of the plant began right after it opened in 1927 and continued through the early 1980s with access into the original complex). Frank photographed in the B Building where motor assembly took place and in final assembly areas of the plant where the Ford Fairlane and its V-8 engine were made, but these old production sites and their Albert Kahn-designed buildings were demolished in recent years.

Assembly line - Detroit, 1955, Founders Society Purchase, Coville Photographic Fund © Robert Frank from The Americans

This exhibition has been in development for many years, and my research goes back to the early 1990s when I first discovered the material at the DIA while working as an intern in the department of prints, drawings and photographs. I studied Frank’s work in-depth at his archive in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where I found about 50 proof sheets from his trip to the Motor City. Detroit was a boom town, and the Ford factory was at the height of production with around 60,000 employees who could build one car per minute.

A large gift of Frank’s Detroit photographs came into the collection in the 1980s, and in subsequent years additional works were purchased. These acquisitions have contributed to  DIA’s  establishment of a rare and remarkable body of work by this legendary and influential artist. Many prints are unique, and even though select photographs have been on view over the years, this is the first time all of the work can be seen in a single exhibition. Over sixty photographs will be on view in the special exhibition galleries near Rivera court (the de Salle Gallery of Photography will be temporarily closed  but reopen with an exhibition of Andre Kertesz’s work in the late fall).

Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955, will be on view through July 3, 2010. Check back here or at the DIA’s website for announcements regarding upcoming special programs related to the exhibition.

Robert Frank and his Detroit experiences on view in DIA photo exhibition opening March 3

Detroit River Rouge Plant, 1955, © Robert Frank

Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955 opens at the DIA this Wednesday, March 3. I thought readers might want a quick look at a few of the photographs in the exhibition (there are over 60 works – all from the DIA’s permanent collecction) which will be on view in the special exhibition galleries just off Rivera court where the Detroit Industry murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera have been on view since 1932.

View of the DIA's Rivera court and Diego Rivera's Industry murals from 1932

View of the DIA's Rivera court and Diego Rivera's Industry murals from 1932

Both men found inspiration for their work at the Ford Motor Company River Rouge plant (known as “the Rouge” to locals) in Dearborn, Michigan.

Frank spent several days photographing at the Rouge in 1955. About a third of the exhibition includes Frank’s rare imagery from inside the huge complex. He also visited Belle Isle, the Gratiot Drive-In (found in Roseville, Michigan, and now demolished), as well as other familiar haunts around the city. Frank came to Detroit to photograph “how Americans live and work” – several of the Detroit images were reproduced in his book The Americans and appeared in later publications he created. The photographs were part of a larger group of nearly 27,000 images he took traveling across the U.S on a Guggenheim fellowship.

Summer Slow Down? Never a Dull Moment for Photography@DIA

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Detroit area high school students view their work at the DIA, May 2009

In the weeks leading up to summer, you might think that my desk would see a little bit less action – a few less phone calls and maybe a day with one less email. But the success of our current exhibition Of Life and Loss has kept me and many DIA staffers and volunteers busy with tours and special programs. In late May, I was fortunate to spend some time with the young minds responsible for the works on view just outside the photo gallery. I spoke with a group of Roeper and Dearborn High School photography students and discussed the exhibition with recent guest blogger Michelle Stamler, a dedicated instructor of photography at Roeper. In early May as well, the Detroit-area chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women toured the exhibition with me and more groups will visit later in June with the Jewish Federation. Our veteran docent and photo collector Barbara Goldsmith will be on hand to enrich their experience as well. Of Life and Loss has been a quiet yet powerful exhibition with its images speaking volumes to our audience. It has drawn many visitors to the DIA. The exhibition will be on view through July 12, 2009.

More summer news came recently in an email from Detroit-area photographer Bill Schwab regarding his upcoming Photostock 2009.   Bill has fostered the workshops and programs at Photostock for the last four years and envisions the event growing upcoming years. It’s great to see Michigan on the map with a weekend dedicated to the medium. So if you are heading north at the end of June and find yourself near Petoskey, there is an interesting evening lined up with photographer Shelby Lee Adams in conjunction with Photostock.shelbyleeposter

And the Richard Avedon exhibition continues to occupy everyone’s minds here at the DIA. Even though the DIA will take a brief break from special exhibitions in the upcoming months, DIA staff continues to work on programs and the research & installation of upcoming exhibitions. Although the public sees a seamless transition from one exhibition to the next, the planning and execution of our exhibition schedule often takes many months and sometimes even years. blog

I have been working for the past several weeks with architect and exhibition designer Frank Arvan to create an exciting presentation of Avedon Fashion Photographs this fall. Frank has been responsible for the design of several DIA exhibitions including Monet to Dali and American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell. We have plotted out the exhibition carefully with special attention given to Avedon’s work laid as it has developed decade by decade and with highlights that include a “Paris by Night” section as well as a gallery devoted to Avedon’s vintage engraver’s prints made from 1955-58.  It is just the start of a busy summer for photography@the DIA – I’ll be blogging soon on upcoming acquistions and other programs and events in the near future.

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!

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.