Tag Archives: Sam Wagstaff

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.

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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.

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.