Tag Archives: Photographs

This Blog Has Moved!

Untitled from Beyond Borders: Latino Immigrants and Southwest Detroit by Carlos Diaz, (c) 2011

Join me and other DIA staffers at our new blog – blog.dia.org. In upcoming months, I’ll be posting on photography exhibitions and related programs at the DIA. In the meantime save the date for our next photography exhibiton Detroit Revealed: Photographs 2000-2010 which opens to the public on Sunday, October 16, 2011 and mark your calendars for an evening lecture with Peter Galassi on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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.

DIA shines a light on Robert Frank’s “Exile on Main Street” right here in Detroit

DIA installation view - Detroit Movie House, 1955, © Robert Frank

My best guess is that Robert Frank took the photograph at right while wandering around somewhere in downtown Detroit along Michigan Avenue. The DIA was lucky enough to get the original, large-scale photographic masterpiece (about 2 x 3 feet) on loan from the artist for the current exhibition Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955. It is likely he took the photograph, Detroit Movie House, in front of The Loop Theater when he passed through town in July, 1955. Better to see this in person, as this installation view doesn’t do it justice.

The PR overload surrounding the recent re-release of The Rolling Stones’ 1972 Exile on Main Street reminded me as well that Robert was responsible for photographs appearing on original album. On a recent tour of the exhibition, my friend and favorite Detroit rocker Danny Kroha mentioned that Detroit Movie House had actually appeared on the inside cover.

Detail from the inside album cover for Exile on Main Street, 1972, © Rolling Stones Records; Collection of W.M. Watson.

I caught Keith Richards in a rare appearance on late night tv plugging the new Exile super deluxe box edition. But I recently dug up the original from my brother’s vinyl collection, and revisiting it was like discovering a strange old relic. In an age of obsessive multi-tasking, the act of solely listening to records and looking at album covers and liner notes is a distant, lost art for most of us. It’s a shame too because through Exile on Main Street, I saw the photographs of Robert Frank for the first time. And it wouldn’t be until years later that I would find out about his films, including Frank’s documentary about The Stones, as well as his book The Americans.

1961 cover for the New Lost City Ramblers with photo by Robert Frank; courtesy http://www.folkways.si.edu

More music trivia on the Robert Frank front came courtesy of Mr. Kroha, who remembered that Frank took the cover photograph for The New Lost City Ramblers album back in 1961. The band continued to use his photographs for a number of other albums and later compilations. I wasn’t surprised since by the 1950s, Robert had established close ties to musicians as well as writers, painters and other photographers who lived in New York City and elsewhere. In fact, Ramblers’ band member John Cohen shot stills for a number of Frank’s films over the years – there’s one on view in the exhibition from the set of Pull My Daisy, a film Robert made with writer Jack Kerouac in 1959.

Readies guitarist Danny Kroha setting the record straight about Ford's versus Oldsmobiles

Readies guitarist Danny Kroha setting the record straight about Fords versus Oldsmobiles; photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kroha

Robert Frank loaned a few other  photographs to the exhibition including a picture of a broken down car, presumably his 1950 Ford Coupe which failed in downtown Detroit. But the photo actually shows a 1947 Oldsmobile – the grill was a dead give away and confirmation came from a quick web search on iPhone in the gallery. I later double checked with Robert and heard back that the automobile was, indeed, not the artist’s, who mentioned, “my car wasn’t that nice.”

Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955, is open and free with museum admission through Saturday, July 3, 2010.

Save the dates for spring photography programs at the DIA and around town

Drive-in movie—Detroit, 1955, © Robert Frank, from The Americans

SAVE THE DATES! – The DIA will present upcoming programs in conjunction with Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955.

Friday, June 4, 2010, 7:30 p.m. in DIA’s Lecture Hall, author Philip Gefter will present a lecture – Robert Frank and the Beat Generation.

Philip Gefter believes that Robert Frank split the century in half in terms of his legendary and groundbreaking photographic work of the 1950s. His influence was felt by all who followed him. Join him as he discusses the work of Frank and his relationship to Beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac among others. Gefter will also be on hand after the lecture to sign copies of Photography After Frank, a book of essays recently published by Aperture.

Gefter was on staff at The New York Times for over fifteen years, both as the Page One Picture Editor and Senior Picture Editor for Culture, and wrote regularly about photography for the paper. He produced the forthcoming documentary, Bill Cunningham New York about the New York Times fashion photographer. Currently he writes about photography for The Daily Beast, and he is at work on a biography of Sam Wagstaff for W.W. Norton.

This program is free with museum admission and sponsored by the Forum for Prints, Drawings and Photographs. For more info about the auxiliary, follow us on facebook at  www.facebook.com/DIAFPDP or check in on our activities at the DIA’s new website.

Saturday, June 12, 2010, 4:00 p.m., DIA’s Detroit Film Theater will present An American Journey by French director Phillipe Séclier. I highly recommend this film having seen it last fall at the Film Forum in New York – a documentary with often breathtaking cinematography, it is illuminating, humorous and takes a different look at Robert Frank and the making of his book The Americans. Made in 2009, An American Journey travels back to the cities, towns and rural communities that Frank immortalized in The Americans. He even traveled to Detroit’s most famous public park Belle Isle to find the place where Frank took photographs.

Speaking with many individuals who knew and know Frank, the director included commentary by artist Edward Ruscha, publisher Barney Rosset, photographers John Cohen and Raymond Depardon, and curators/critics Vicki Goldberg, Sarah Greenough and Peter Galassi who discuss the inspiration and complex artistic methodology that fueled the Swiss-born Robert Frank in his American journey. The film is free with museum admission. For more information about this film and the DFT film schedule – it’s all at www.dia.org/detroitfilmtheatre.

Of note as well is photographer Andrew Moore’s lecture this Friday, April 30 at 7 p.m at Oakland Community College. Moore just released a new book of his work entitled Detroit Disassembled and will appear at the OCC for a lecture and book signing sponsored by Book Beat.

Robert Frank installation nearly finished – Detroit Experiences opens tomorrow March 3.

 

Museum staff at the DIA is finishing installation this afternoon and Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955 will open tomorrow. Here’s a few photographs from behind the scenes.

DIA Lighting technician Grant West getting a perfect five foot candles of light on each photograph

Collections Care Specialist Doug Bulka at the reading table.

 

A peak midway through the gallery

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.

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.