We look at so many images today that often the value of individual photos decreases with the abundance of them. That’s why it is such a pleasure to spend time with Roy DeCarava’s black and white photographs at The Underground Museum. His images have a meditative beauty to them. They catch your eye and hold it. There is a richness to his compositions, his use of textures and light.
While at The Underground Museum, also take a moment to look through a copy of De Carava’s book collaboration with writer Langston Hughes, The Sweet Flypaper of Life in the book store. The images in it influenced artist Kahlil Joseph’s film Flypaper (2017), which was recently shown at MOCA. Kahlil Joseph’s brother, artist Noah Davis, who sadly passed away in 2015, founded The Underground Museum with his wife, artist Karon Davis, in 2012.
Graciela Iturbide, celebrated as one of Mexico’s most prolific and distinguished photographers, observes with patience and exhibits her world with beauty, serenity and dignity. Born into a conservative family in Mexico City, Iturbide decided to create her own path, leaving a traditional domestic life to pursue the arts. During her studies in cinematography at the Universidad Nacional Autonama de Mexico, she became the achichinle (the assistant) to Manuel Alvarez Bravo, the distinguished Mexican photographer who later became a lifelong mentor to Iturbide. In their time together, Álvarez Bravo constantly reminded Iturbide to pause and observe, asserting Hay Tiempo (There is Time). This patience to allow the moment to unravel and reveal itself echoed the notion of a Mexican poetic tempo, which is present throughout Mexican art, literature and life. Iturbide came to understand and employ her mentor’s slow, observational process as she photographed many cultures and spheres.
Although Iturbide has photographed all over the world, she is widely known for the photographs she has taken in her native Mexico. While many twentieth-century photographers had documented Mexico through an outsider’s lens, shining light on poverty and politics in a neocolonial gesture, Iturbide reached beyond the document, photographing the poetic essence embedded in each moment. With Hay Tiempo in mind, she evokes a lyricism in her careful observations. In the late 1970s under an assignment for the INI (Instituto Nacional Indigenista), Iturbide photographed the Seri tribe, focusing her lens on Mexico’s indigenous population which was often overlooked and marginalized. In these portraits, the deep cultural and spiritual history of indigenous peoples exists alongside the influences of colonialism and an encroaching globalism. Then, in 1979, the celebrated Mexican artist Francisco Toledo invited Iturbide to photograph his native city Juchitan in the southern state of Oaxaca, where she encountered the strength and independence of the Zapotec women. In this indigenous, matriarchal community, the women live economically and socially independent lives in a stark contrast to the customs of westernized Mexico that Iturbide grew up within. Iturbide’s photographs, equally grounded and imaginative, portray the power and spirit of each individual. Their direct presence in the image exhibits the persevering dignity of the indigenous people in a post-colonial world. Iturbide’s photographs of Mexico show not only the diverse and rich cultural history of her nation, but also the resonance of Iturbide’s own artistic community, which invited and encouraged the photographer to explore her own nation in its multiplicities of experience.
Agnés Varda passed away last Friday (3/29) at the age of 90. The French film director, photographer, and artist was known for her work in the French New Wave film movement as well as her unique documentaries.
If you have a Los Angeles library card (or are a member of another library- many cities are included) you can stream several of her films using Kanopy including-
Cleo From 5 to 7, a fictional real-time portrait of a singer in Paris in the sixties who is waiting on the results of her cancer biopsy.
Jane B. Par Agnés V., an “imaginary bio-pic” of real life actress, fashion icon, and muse, Jane Birkin
Kung-Fu Master!, Jane Birkin plays a woman in her 40s who falls in love with a 14 year old boy (played by Varda’s son Mathieu Demy)
Cinevardaphoto, is composed of three short films exploring the photographic medium- one is a portrait of woman who collects teddy bear photos and the exhibition she creates from them; in the second Varda revisits a photograph she made on the beach of a man, a child and a dead goat- it includes a discussion of the work with the participants, including the boy from the photo who is now a man; the third is comprised of pictures and footage from a trip to Cuba made during the revolution’s early days
Daguerreotypes, a documentary about the shops and shopkeepers of Rue Daguerre, where Varda has resided for more than fifty years
Faces Places, which she co-directed with the artist JR, was her second to last film and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The charming film follows Varda and JR as they travel throughout France in his truck, photographing people and creating murals along the way. This film can also be seen on Netflix.
Varda gave a Tedx Talk last year on “how three ideas central to the life of an artist – inspiration, creation, and sharing – have shaped her career over seven decades of filmmaking.” It’s a great example of how inspiring she herself was, as an artist and as a person.
William Eggleston, Tennesee (image via Metropolitan Museum of Art)
There are two great photography exhibitions happening in New York. William Eggleston’s Los Alamos, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is comprised of seventy-five of his dye transfer prints from color negatives made between 1965 and 1974. The color in these images is incredible as is his ability to evoke feeling from work that is deceptive in its simplicity. Enhancing the exhibition are a series of quotes from the artist located on various walls, which offer a glimpse into his process and philosophy.
The Museum of Modern Art’s Stephen Shore exhibition includes work from his entire career- his start as a teenager meeting with Edward Steichen, time spent with Andy Warhol at The Factory, his large format images from around America, and finally his work in Israel and his current Instagram. The body of work is impressive and where Eggleston’s work feels like it’s creating a dreamworld from the mundane, Shore’s work seems to present things as they are in true documentary form. Pictures of meals and hotel rooms force the viewer to look at things they usually take for granted in a new way. Not to say that there aren’t images like the large format work, that present an idealistic beauty. Also included, and especially charming, are his stereographs- presented at a small table the images become three dimensional as you peer through the viewer.
Stephen Shore, Amarillo, Texas, July 1972 (1972) Image courtesy 303 Gallery
Stephen Shore, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California, August 13, 1979 1979. image courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art
Gordon Parks was an incredible photographer whose influence continues to be felt in photography today. He had a long creative career that also expanded beyond photography to include writing several books, composing music, and directing films- the most famous being Shaft.
The Gordon Parks Foundation recently hosted the exhibition ELEMENT, which focused on several of the photographs that inspired Kendrick Lamar’s video from his album DAMN, seen below. The photo pictured above can be seen as part of the exhibition of Gordon Parks’ work I Am You Part 2 at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. It is from his series Segregation Story for Life magazine which focused on the daily lives of three black families in Alabama in 1956.
Carrie Mae Weems currently has two exhibitions in Chelsea at Jack Shainman Gallery’s spaces. Included in the work at the 24th Street space is All the Boys (2016), in which slightly blurred images of young black men wearing hooded sweatshirts are placed next to text panels that include information, some of it redacted, about the black victims of police violence. While those images are more subtle, the most affecting piece in the exhibition is the video All The Boys: Video in Three Parts. It includes some of the cell phone footage from several of the recent deaths of black men at the hands of police, including Eric Garner and Philando Castile, and is incredibly difficult to watch. This is interspersed with funeral scenes, the dreamlike image of a man running on a treadmill with a clock in the background, and Weems’ calm voice speaking over the scenes.
In the 20th Street space are images that will be more familiar to those aware of Weems’ previous work Roaming and Museums and is an interesting contrast to the work in the other gallery. In Scenes & Take (2016), she places herself, with her back to the viewer, on the sets of various successful television shows created by and starring black people, including Empire and Scandal. She then includes commentary in text on the side of the images.
In a recent interview with the New York Times she mentions the reasoning behind this focus on Hollywood-
I decided to go and stand in spaces where I think significant transformations are taking place in television as a way of pointing, trying to understand the role of black actors. Directors like Lee Daniels and Shonda Rhimes are laying the foundation for what can be imagined within the context of American culture. Most people go for their programming to paid television, so there’s an economic shift. Network television has been left to poor people.
Currently at Kopeikin Gallery are Eleanor Macnair’s delightful Play-Doh recreations of famous photographs (I’ve included the original photos for comparison, they are not in the show). In the second part of the gallery is Michael Lange’s serene series Wald/Fluss (Forest/River).
WALD | Landscapes of Memory forest in Germany (image courtesy of Kopeikin Gallery)
For his current solo exhibition Choreograph at Regen Projects, James Welling combines his images of architecture and landscape (common in his previous work), with photographs of dancers to create beautiful dreamlike worlds. Welling once studied dance at the University of Pittsburgh before stopping after a year to go to CalArts, and his continued love of dance is evident in the work.
The process for the creation of these layered images is explained in the press release–
To create these works Welling photographed over a dozen dance companies in New York, Philadelphia, Ottawa, and Los Angeles. The dance photographs were then merged with photographs of architecture (buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcel Breuer, and Paul Rudolph) and landscape imagery (western Connecticut, southern Florida, and Switzerland) in Photoshop’s fundamental red, green, and blue color channels, which are basic to all color photographs. The resulting electronic files were altered by the artist using Photoshop’s Hue and Saturation layers to create complicated, multi-hued photographs, which were then printed on rag paper using a 10 color Epson Stylus Pro 9900 inkjet printer.
For more information on how he achieved the look of the photos in Photoshop, there is a booklet at the front desk that contains a breakdown of the color channels and a list of each color adjustment layer.
Photo by Robert Capa of Private Huston S. Riley at Omaha Beach
Today, June 6, 1944, is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, when Allied (American, British and Canadian) troops invaded a 50 mile area of the Normandy coast in France. The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history and contributed to the Allied victory in the war.
Photojournalist Robert Capa was there, and took one of the most famous pictures from that day. It was one of only eleven images from the ten rolls of film he was able to bring back that survived, due to an accident in the darkroom when they were being processed.
The Vanity Fair article link below is a great portrait of Capa and also details his experience on D-Day.