Minggu, 30 Januari 2011

Milton Avery

There’s more photography to come, but in order that my blog posts don’t become monotonous I am going to mix it up with some features on mid-century painters. I’m intending to look at some of the artists associated with Abstract Expressionism, followed by artists (sometimes erroneously) associated with Pop Art.
And in no particular order…I’m starting with Milton Avery, mainly because his colourful semi-abstracted landscapes are in the same area that I’m currently working in, albeit in a very different style.
Milton Avery (1893 – 1965) was born at Sand Bank, New York. After studying for a while at the Connecticut League of Art Students in Hartford under Charles Noel Flagg and at the Art Society School there under Albertus Jones, Avery worked in manufacturing and with an insurance company until 1924. He moved to New York in 1925 and married the artist Sally Michel, an illustrator, a year later.
He had his first one-man show as early as 1928 at the Opportunity Gallery in New York. The decades that followed saw him show work at numerous exhibitions mounted by New York galleries and American museums. Milton Avery's preoccupation with French Fauvism and German Expressionism led him to develop a simplified formal idiom distinguished by clarity of line and an expressive palette. Whereas Avery's early figurative drawings and paintings from the 1930s attest to affinities primarily with the work of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, by the 1940s he was discernibly close to Henri Matisse.
As the American upholder of Matisse's colouristic doctrine, Milton Avery developed the French artist's decorative colour surfaces into subtly toned colour zones, thus breaking the ground for the Colour Field painting of Mark Rothko (see blog post July 2010) and Adolph Gottlieb (blog post to come), both of whom were friends of his. Even though his style was close to abstraction, Milton Avery nonetheless clung to representation throughout his entire career. Classical motifs and subject matter in portraits, still lifes and coastal landscapes were his main thematic areas and genres.
Prolific as a painter, graphic artist and ceramist, Milton Avery received numerous awards from American art institutions before he died in 1965 although he only really became famous posthumously. He is now acclaimed as one of the most influential American C20th artists.

 1936 Vermont Hills

 1940 Gaspe - Pink Sky

 1944 Autumn

 1944 Bridge to the Sea

 1945 Three Cows on Hillside

 1952 Breaking Sea

 1952 Shapes of Spring

 1953 Advancing Sea

 1953 Excursion on the Thames

 1954 Green Sea

 1954 White Wave

 1955 Spring Brook

 1957 White Moon

 1958 Green Sea

 1958 Offshore Island

 1958 Onrushing Wave

 1958 Sea Grasses and Blue Sea

 1959 Black Sea

 1959 Boathouse by the Sea

 1961 Blue Bay and Dunes

Jumat, 28 Januari 2011

Michael Wolf photography The Transparent City

In the second part of my posts on Michael Wolf’s urban photography I’m taking a look at his The Transparent City series.
In 2006 when arriving in Chicago, Wolf took the elevated train into the city at dusk and was struck by the transparency of its architecture. After having worked in Asia for many years, Wolf saw Chicago as providing the opportunity to continue his study of city life in a radically different context. Shooting from public rooftops over the course of several months, Wolf adopted a similar visual approach to his architectural work in Hong Kong. However, the transparency and monumental size of Chicago’s buildings give a very different result: the city is far less dense than Hong Kong, thereby creating a greater sense of depth to the images, while the transparency of its glass skyscrapers causes the life within them to seep out.
The Transparent City surveys the density and magnitude of Chicago's skyline. Wolf's large-scale prints reveal the enormity of its skyscrapers at the same time they enable us to observe intimate and private goings on within individual apartments and offices. By cropping out traces of street and sky Wolf constructs an abstracted and endless world of windows, lights and reflections. He has created a group of photographs that remain familiar and at the same time fantastic.
From Aperture magazine:
“This is Wolf’s first body of work to address an American city. Whereas prior series have juxtaposed humanizing details within the surrounding geometry of the urban landscape, in The Transparent City, his details are fragments of life—digitally distorted and hyper-enlarged—snatched surreptitiously via telephoto lenses: Edward Hopper meets Blade Runner. The material resonates with all the formalism of the constructed, architectonic work for which Wolf is well-known, but also emphasizes the conceptual underpinnings of his ongoing engagement with the idea of how modern life unfolds within the framework of the ever-growing contemporary city.”

Rabu, 26 Januari 2011

Michael Wolf photography Architecture of Density

I really like Michael Wolf's urban images - they're about as abstract as you can go with 'straight' photography - often simplified into formal vertical and horizontal shapes and rendered in muted colours, I see them as a sort of abstract expressionist version of photography.
Wolf was born in Germany in 1954, raised in the United States and Canada, returning to Germany to study photography before spending the vast majority of his career in Asia.
In his best known series on Hong Kong’s highly compressed, often brutal architecture, Architecture of Density, Wolf uses the city’s sky-scraping tower blocks to great effect, eliminating the sky and horizon line to flatten each image and turn these façades into seemingly never-ending abstractions.
The formalism and deadpan approach of Architecture of Density echoes the work that emerged from the Düsseldorf school of Bernd and Hilla Becher (see earlier post). Like the work of Andreas Gursky (see preceding post) or Thomas Struth, Wolf’s photographs reveal a desire to document and connect with the world around him, but with a contemporary visual approach.
I’m showing examples of Wolf’s work in two blog posts – the first with images from the Architecture of Density series, the second from The Transparent City series, dealing with images from Chicago.

Wolf has lived and worked in Hong Kong since 1995. Stimulated by the region's
complex urban dynamics, he makes dizzying photographs of its architecture.
One of the most densely populated metropolitan areas in the world, Hong Kong
has an overall density of nearly 6,700 people per square kilometer. The majority of
its citizens live in flats in high-rise buildings. In Architecture of Density, Wolf
investigates these vibrant city blocks, finding a mesmerizing abstraction in the
buildings' facades.

Some of the structures in the series are photographed without reference to the
context of sky or ground, and many buildings are seen in a state of repair or
construction: their walls covered with a grid of scaffolding or the soft colored
curtains that protect the streets below from falling debris. From a distance, such
elements become a part of the photograph's intricate design.

Upon closer inspection of each photograph, the anonymous public face of the city
is full of rewarding detail- suddenly public space is private space, and large
swatches of color give way to smaller pieces of people's lives. The trappings of the
people are still visible here: their days inform the detail of these buildings. Bits of
laundry and hanging plants pepper the tiny rectangles of windows - the only
irregularities in this orderly design.

In 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle called Wolf's work in Hong Kong "most
improbable and humanly alert". In previous series, Wolf described the vernacular
culture of the street. His early vision of the region dwelt on personal aesthetic
gestures left in back doors and alleyways, such as makeshift seating in the streets.
In these photographs, small tokens of human presence took precedence over
monumental architecture. Wolf continues to explore the theme of the organic
metropolis- that which develops according to the caprice of its citizens as much as
the planning of its architects. In Architecture of Density, his vision has evolved to
evaluate the high-rises that shape the spatial experience of Hong Kong's citizens.
Wolf finds in each building a singular character, despite its functional purpose and
massive form.