Robert MacPherson (Scottish, 1811-1872)

Column Base of Antoninus Pious, Vatican, Rome, 1850-70
Albumen print
Gift of Marilyn W. Grounds, 1981.42.18-19

 

        Robert Macpherson’s pair of albumen prints, titled Column Base of Antoninus Pious, Vatican, Rome (c. 1850-70) depicts two sides of a column base found in the Vatican in Rome. Originally erected as an honorific column by Antoninus Pious’s adopted sons, the full column – fourteen and three quarters meters tall and almost two meters in diameter – and base were rediscovered in 1703 and excavated in Rome.[i] In 1764, unsuccessful attempts were made to restore the column shaft, but eventually parts of the column were used in restoration of other findings.[ii] The column base, however, was restored in the early 1700s and moved to the Cortile della Pigna in the Vatican, where Macpherson would have seen it.[iii] Reliefs decorate three sides of the base and the dedication of the column is inscribed on the fourth side.[iv]
        Relocating to Rome from Scotland in 1840, Macpherson began his artistic career as a painter, relying on atmospheric perspective to depict vast landscape scenes. As both Ann McCauley and Marjorie Munsterberg speculate, Macpherson began photographing sculptures in Rome perhaps to make a better living than painting afforded him.[v] Thanks to his personal and social connections to the Vatican, Macpherson gained access to the Vatican’s collections by 1855, of which the Column Base of Antoninus Pious is a part, several years before other photographers and firms – such as James Anderson and Alinari – were granted access to the collections.[vi] In choosing to photograph canonical Greco-Roman sculptures popularized by eighteenth century art historians such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Macpherson hoped to appeal to an audience of classically educated students, connoisseurs and antiquarians – an elite public probably wealthy enough to afford Macpherson’s lavish published photographic album, Macpherson’s Vatican Sculptures.
        The two photographs of the Column Base of Antoninus Pious were included in this album, which was one of the first systematic photographic records of a museum collection. It included albumen prints of one hundred and twenty eight sculptures and six interiors in the Vatican. Macpherson also published a relatively inexpensive guide to the galleries at the same time that he published the expensive album. The guide was illustrated with drawings by Macpherson’s wife and contained explanations written by Macpherson. It was intended to appeal to an audience of middle-class tourists, while the album, in conjunction with the written guide, was to be purchased by a wealthier public.[vii]
        In both photographs, Macpherson positioned the column base in the center of the image and used a frontal, eye-level view. Each side takes up the full photographic frame with very little space visible on each side of the base. Because the façade of the side occupies the full space in each of the compositions, these photographs do not relay any information about the column base as a three-dimensional structure, or how it operates in space. The viewer is unable to place the structure spatially; there is no indication of scale or spatial setting. The reliefs pictured in the photographs could exist anywhere – on a building façade, column base, or as ornamentation inside a building, for example. The title of the photographs is the only clue that alerts the viewer to the type of architectural object at which he or she is looking.
        The first photograph presents a relief sculpture depicting the apotheosis of Antoninus Pious and his wife, Faustina. An angel, whose wings extend nearly the full length of the plane, carries Antoninus and Faustina on its back. Two figures sit beneath the angel and its cargo, looking up at the angel as he exalts the couple, making them divine. In the second photograph, a relief sculpture depicts a funerary rite on the flat plane of the column base. Men riding horses encircle a group of men dressed as soldiers, each carrying a shield and some sort of weapon. Here, three-dimensional space is represented only in the intrinsic three-dimensionality of a relief. The circle of men creates a two-dimensional circle around the central figures, all existing in the same spatial plane, rather than extending illusionistically behind the central figures.
        In his two views of the column base, Macpherson utilizes several techniques commonly seen in photographs of sculpture of the time. A black background behind the column base isolates the relief from its surroundings and highlights the subject of the photograph. Such use of a neutral or black background in photographs of sculptures emphasizes the form and silhouette of the sculpture being photographed, and this model of depiction was common in photographs of the time period. A peek into the Alinari archives, for example, affirms this style immediately; most (if not all) of the photographed sculptures in that collection stand before a dark, neutral backdrop.
        Additionally, Macpherson used dramatic lighting to enhance the shadows cast by the relief figures, which emphasizes their three-dimensionality. For antiquarians studying photographs and engravings of such sculpture at the time, this issue was an important one. As McCauley has explained, although photographs more readily and clearly exposed the surface details of a sculptural object, engravings more effectively illustrated the three-dimensional qualities of such objects.[viii] In using dramatic, artificial lighting created by draperies and reflectors, Macpherson sought to heighten the shadowy effects of the reliefs and thus expose their three-dimensionality. Macpherson’s creation of this artificial light was unusual; often, photographers would have to shoot their sculptural subjects using the natural light in the galleries.[ix] Comparing Macpherson’s photograph of the funerary relief to a photograph of the same side taken by James Anderson around 1890 illustrates this difference. The shadows cast by the relief figures in Anderson’s photograph are less severe and dramatic than those in Macpherson’s, most likely largely due to Macpherson’s lighting techniques.
        Writing about nineteenth century photographic reproductions, Joel Snyder has described their “rhetoric of substitution,” an idea that comes heavily into play in Macpherson’s individual photographs and album as a whole.[x] Designed to “reconstruct” or “simulate” a visit to the Vatican by a mobile viewer, Macpherson’s photographs take the place of the actual objects being photographed and claim to embody the experience of seeing a particular sculpture in real life in a portable photograph.[xi] Macpherson’s photographs accomplish this replacement because of their formal qualities as well as their situation next to one another in Macpherson’s album. Macpherson’s strong lighting dramatizes the shadows cast by the relief sculptures, indicating their three-dimensionality using a two-dimensional medium.  Similarly, the slightly lower point of view of Macpherson’s photographs monumentalizes the column base and reveals the molding on the top and bottom of the pedestal, seen continuing around the sides of the block on the right and left of the base. Finally, Macpherson’s presentation of the two photographs together in his photographic album gives the viewer an even stronger sense of the base’s three-dimensionality, simulating the experience of walking around the column base.
        In his introduction to the album, Macpherson stressed that his photographs were taken of the original sculptures and not casts.[xii] In highlighting this, Macpherson hoped not only to provide an organized, true-to-life guide to the galleries for a wealthy tourist (or, in lesser detail, for a tourist of the middle class), but also to give the sedentary viewer a look into the galleries from the comfort and privacy of a home. This portability was important for the connoisseurship and study of artworks; rather than having to view these many sculptures in a public, crowded, rather visually busy space, the owner of Macpherson’s album could see the same sculptures through the “transparent” lens of the photograph in private, and from a great geographical distance. Macpherson’s photographed column base and its reliefs, then, are not just photographs, but rather act in place of the sculpture itself, allowing the viewer (in some way) to access the sculpture without ever seeing it in the flesh.


Cate Hughes (OC ’13)



[i] Samuel Ball Platner, “Columna Antonini Pii,” in A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (London: Oxford University Press, 1929), accessed October 10, 2012,  http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/_Texts/PLATOP*/Columna_Antonini_Pii.html.
[ii] James Grout, “The Column of Antoninus Pius,” in Encyclopaedia Romana, accessed October 10, 2012, http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/romanforum/antoninuspius.html.
[iii] Platner, “Columna Antonini Pii.”
[iv] Grout, “The Column of Antoninus Pius.”
[v] Anne McCauley, “Fawning Over Marbles: Robert and Gerardine Macpherson’s Vatican Sculptures and the Role of Photographs in the Reception of the Antique,” in Art and the Early Photographic Album, ed. Stephen Bann (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2011), 92.
[vi] McCauley, “Fawning Over Marbles,” 113.
[vii] Ibid., 99.
[viii] Ibid., 93.
[ix] Ibid., 101.
[x] Joel Snyder, “Nineteenth-Century Photography of Sculpture and the Rhetoric of Substitution,” in Sculpture and Photography Envisioning the Third Dimension, ed. G. Johnson, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 33.
[xi] Stephen Bann, “The Photographic Album as a Cultural Accumulator,” in Art and the Early Photographic Album, ed. Stephen Bann, (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2011).
[xii] McCauley, “Fawning Over Marbles,” 99.

Bibliography

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)Statues, St. Cloud, ca. 1920Vintage gold-toned albumen printYoung-Hunter Art Museum Acquisition Fund, 1996.3
 
        The 1920 photograph, Statues, Saint Cloud taken by Eugene Atget is a vintage gold-toned albumen print, acquired by the Allen Memorial Art Museum in 1996 from the Berenice Abbott Collection, Museum of Modern Art.  The photograph depicts two statues from the Parc de Saint Cloud located just outside Paris.[i] Just one of many photographs the artist took at Saint Cloud after he began working there in 1904, the photograph displays statues that flank the top of the Grand Cascade of the park; although the caption of the photograph does not supply precise attribution.[ii] The photograph was printed from a glass plate negative and bears some evidence of retouching, a process consistent with much of Atget’s other work.[iii] In the composition Atget uses a low vantage point, photographing the sculptures from underneath and to the rear and side, an angle that creates a strong difference in scale between the large foreground figure and the relatively smaller background statue. The vantage point combined with the lighting creates strong shadows that sweep across the backs of the statues. A viewer confronted with this work understands that he or she is seeing a photographic reproduction of sculptures, yet the photograph also unsettles the appearance of these works. Statues, Saint Cloud shows how the photography of sculpture enacts a dual viewing experience. The viewer is tempted to believe that what he or she is seeing is the sculpture itself, much as he or she would if confronted with the work directly. However, the mediation of the photographer becomes apparent in the photographic process, disrupting the myth of technological objectivity and giving legitimacy to photography as an autonomous art form.        When searching for answers about meaning, we are often tempted, some might say erroneously, to turn first to the artist’s biography.[iv] A risky endeavor under any circumstance, a biographical reading becomes especially tricky with Atget. Born in 1857 near Bordeaux and orphaned at the age of five he grew up primarily  with his maternal grandparents until he became a sailor sometime in the 1870s. After his return to land he moved to Paris and began to pursue, largely unsuccessfully, acting.[v] Around 1880 he took up photography and pursued it commercially, selling his work to painters as studies they could use in their compositions. Around 1889 he started to concentrate on photographing views of old Paris. This shift in focus coincided with many Parisians’ rising interest in preserving the traditional face of the city, allowing Atget to make a living selling these prints.[vi] Beyond a timeline of his major life events relatively little is known about the artist. This lack of information has often, in discussions of the man and his work, been translated into an aura of mystery that ends up dominating much of the discourse around his photographic practice.        Atget himself did not see his photographs as art; therefore, he made no formal statements about the intent of his work.[vii] In the dearth of an artist’s statements, in which the photographer might have reflected upon his work, one may turn to projects in which he was involved to better inform us of his goals. During his career as a photographer Atget took countless photos of Paris and the estates of the old monarchy that surrounded it.[viii] His almost obsessive recording of the minutia of his environment combined with his constant engagement in the mediating potential of photographic technology positions his work somewhere in the gap between art and documentation, a separation with which a scholarly consideration of photography is endlessly grappling.[ix]        At the time that Atget was working, Paris was undergoing a tremendous amount of change socially, politically and aesthetically following the new urban development and expansion under Napoleon III at the hands of Baron von Haussmann.[x] The rapid changes to the cityscape inspired groups attempting to, in the words of the Societe de l’Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts Appliques, “safeguard the age-old and rightful pre-eminence of our artistic industry,” to form.[xi] These groups sought Atget’s collaboration, aligning him with a documentary style interested in historical record and preservation.[xii] While his work capturing small, decorative remnants of antiquated Paris plays a larger role in his legacy and its scholarly discussion than his photography at Saint Cloud, his approach to these “mundane” objects as monuments allows the consideration of the seemingly divergent subjects of his work to converge.[xiii] Turning his camera on the two statues could perhaps be read as a simple interest in immortalizing these monuments if it were not for the effect of photographic technologies on his subject. As is frequently noticed, Atget was always cognizant of the camera’s mediating affect.[xiv] In the photograph the vantage point animates the sculpture, and runs counter to a purely encyclopedic interest in cataloguing the art in the garden. If an objective document were Atget’s goal, then, the statues might have been shot from a head-on, frontal vantage point, which would give the viewer a clear understanding of the sculpture’s composition. Because the vantage point and lighting combine to mask many of the sculptural details of the original statues, the photograph seems to be an art object in its own right and not just a record.        Though Atget himself never declared an allegiance to any particular aesthetic school, his work became popular with the Surrealists and is often discussed in the context of Surrealism. If, as Christopher Masters claims, the Surrealists employed the “use of chance” to “fuse the conventional, logical view of reality with unconscious, dream experience in order to achieve a ‘super reality,’” then pointing to Atget’s identity as a flaneur who wanders the streets to capture elusive, dream-like moments, can help establish a Surrealist connection.[xv] Like many of his other garden photographs, Statues, Saint Cloud disrupts “logical” reality with its off-balance angle and soft lighting that lets the statues slide organically into the natural setting.[xvi] Yet to read this as straight Surrealism forces Atget into a paradigm that he did not choose, and indeed actively resisted.[xvii] Instead, it could be beneficial to let the Surrealist connection give, in the words of John Fuller, “richer insights into his work…as opposed to treating him purely as a documentarian with inadequate technique.”[xviii]        Without relying on a Surrealist classification one can discuss the photograph’s complexities and contradictions from a variety of angles. The photograph simultaneously records, preserves and participates in history. By photographing sculpture, Atget has chosen a subject that is a historical monument and fully present in the current, and presumably future, time. The reproductive act adds another temporal layer to the already complex relationship sculpture has with time. In taking the photograph Atget keeps the temporal referent (the sculpture), but freezes it in one moment. That moment can then be disseminated widely across space and time, placing the viewer in a ghostly triangle of past, present and future.[xix] Spatially, while most of the other photographs taken at Saint Cloud incorporate a much fuller sense of setting, Statues relies solely on the tree line and architectural detail to locate the viewer. Like the other garden prints that Atget produced during his career, the space is hauntingly devoid of a human presence, making the statues the closest thing to an animate subject in the frame, causing an apt comparison between his compositions and, as William Howard Adams has written, “an empty stage set.”[xx] Atget’s choice of subject and photographic technique: the isolated and unidentified statues, the off-center vantage point, the extreme shadows; all encourage an atmosphere of being permanently caught in limbo. The photograph elicits a series of dichotomies: between art and documentation, subjective expression and objective fact, and dreamlike states and the real. As Atget shows us, these differences are encountered again and again when mechanical reproduction is deployed on sculpture.  Nora Beamish-Lannon (OC ’13) 
[i] “Provenance Record for Statues, Saint Cloud,” Curatorial Exhibition File, 1996.3. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin.[ii] William Howard Adams, Atget’s Gardens: A Selection of Eugène Atget’s Garden Photographs (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979), 10.[iii] “Undated Note on Atget’s Printing Techniques,” Curatorial Exhibition File, 1996.3. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin.[iv] Borcoman, James, Atget (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1984), 10.[v] Borcoman, James, Atget, 10-11.[vi] Hambourg, Maria Morris, “Atget, Eugene.” In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T004771 (Accessed September 18 2012).[vii] Frits Gierstenberg, Carlos Gollonet and Francoise Reynaud, Introduction to Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 11.[viii] Guillaume Le Gall, “The Eye of the Archaeologist: Eugene Atget and the Forms of the Old City,” in Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 17-18.[ix] Roxana Marcoci, “The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today,” in The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010), 12.[x] Borcoman, Atget, 17.[xi] Josiane Sartre, Introduction to Atget, Paris in Detail. Editorial Direction by Suzanne Tise-Isore and Translated by David Radzinowicz. (Italy: Flammarion, 2002), 8-9.[xii] Josiane Sartre, Introduction to Atget, Paris in Detail. Editorial Direction by Suzanne Tise-Isore and Translated by David Radzinowicz. (Italy: Flammarion, 2002), 6, 10.[xiii] Guillaume Le Gall, “The Eye of the Archaeologist: Eugene Atget and the Forms of the Old City,” 22.[xiv] Molly Nesbit, “The Use of History,” Art in America 74 (1986), 74.[xv] Christopher Masters, “Surrealism.” In The Oxford Companion to Western Art, edited by Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/opr/t118/e2545 (Accessed October 9, 2012).[xvi] TF Editores. Eugene Atget: Old Paris (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 221-235.[xvii] Nesbit, “The Use of History,” 72.[xviii] John Fuller, “Atget and Man Ray in the Context of Surrealism,” Art Journal 36 (1976): 138. http://www.jstor.org/stable/776161. (Accessed September 18 2012).[xix] Geoff Dyer, “On Atget,” in Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 34-5.[xx] Adams, Atget’s Gardens: A Selection of Eugène Atget’s Garden Photographs, 10.
Bibliography

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Statues, St. Cloud, ca. 1920
Vintage gold-toned albumen print
Young-Hunter Art Museum Acquisition Fund, 1996.3

 

        The 1920 photograph, Statues, Saint Cloud taken by Eugene Atget is a vintage gold-toned albumen print, acquired by the Allen Memorial Art Museum in 1996 from the Berenice Abbott Collection, Museum of Modern Art.  The photograph depicts two statues from the Parc de Saint Cloud located just outside Paris.[i] Just one of many photographs the artist took at Saint Cloud after he began working there in 1904, the photograph displays statues that flank the top of the Grand Cascade of the park; although the caption of the photograph does not supply precise attribution.[ii] The photograph was printed from a glass plate negative and bears some evidence of retouching, a process consistent with much of Atget’s other work.[iii] In the composition Atget uses a low vantage point, photographing the sculptures from underneath and to the rear and side, an angle that creates a strong difference in scale between the large foreground figure and the relatively smaller background statue. The vantage point combined with the lighting creates strong shadows that sweep across the backs of the statues. A viewer confronted with this work understands that he or she is seeing a photographic reproduction of sculptures, yet the photograph also unsettles the appearance of these works. Statues, Saint Cloud shows how the photography of sculpture enacts a dual viewing experience. The viewer is tempted to believe that what he or she is seeing is the sculpture itself, much as he or she would if confronted with the work directly. However, the mediation of the photographer becomes apparent in the photographic process, disrupting the myth of technological objectivity and giving legitimacy to photography as an autonomous art form.
        When searching for answers about meaning, we are often tempted, some might say erroneously, to turn first to the artist’s biography.[iv] A risky endeavor under any circumstance, a biographical reading becomes especially tricky with Atget. Born in 1857 near Bordeaux and orphaned at the age of five he grew up primarily  with his maternal grandparents until he became a sailor sometime in the 1870s. After his return to land he moved to Paris and began to pursue, largely unsuccessfully, acting.[v] Around 1880 he took up photography and pursued it commercially, selling his work to painters as studies they could use in their compositions. Around 1889 he started to concentrate on photographing views of old Paris. This shift in focus coincided with many Parisians’ rising interest in preserving the traditional face of the city, allowing Atget to make a living selling these prints.[vi] Beyond a timeline of his major life events relatively little is known about the artist. This lack of information has often, in discussions of the man and his work, been translated into an aura of mystery that ends up dominating much of the discourse around his photographic practice.
        Atget himself did not see his photographs as art; therefore, he made no formal statements about the intent of his work.[vii] In the dearth of an artist’s statements, in which the photographer might have reflected upon his work, one may turn to projects in which he was involved to better inform us of his goals. During his career as a photographer Atget took countless photos of Paris and the estates of the old monarchy that surrounded it.[viii] His almost obsessive recording of the minutia of his environment combined with his constant engagement in the mediating potential of photographic technology positions his work somewhere in the gap between art and documentation, a separation with which a scholarly consideration of photography is endlessly grappling.[ix]
        At the time that Atget was working, Paris was undergoing a tremendous amount of change socially, politically and aesthetically following the new urban development and expansion under Napoleon III at the hands of Baron von Haussmann.[x] The rapid changes to the cityscape inspired groups attempting to, in the words of the Societe de l’Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts Appliques, “safeguard the age-old and rightful pre-eminence of our artistic industry,” to form.[xi] These groups sought Atget’s collaboration, aligning him with a documentary style interested in historical record and preservation.[xii] While his work capturing small, decorative remnants of antiquated Paris plays a larger role in his legacy and its scholarly discussion than his photography at Saint Cloud, his approach to these “mundane” objects as monuments allows the consideration of the seemingly divergent subjects of his work to converge.[xiii] Turning his camera on the two statues could perhaps be read as a simple interest in immortalizing these monuments if it were not for the effect of photographic technologies on his subject. As is frequently noticed, Atget was always cognizant of the camera’s mediating affect.[xiv] In the photograph the vantage point animates the sculpture, and runs counter to a purely encyclopedic interest in cataloguing the art in the garden. If an objective document were Atget’s goal, then, the statues might have been shot from a head-on, frontal vantage point, which would give the viewer a clear understanding of the sculpture’s composition. Because the vantage point and lighting combine to mask many of the sculptural details of the original statues, the photograph seems to be an art object in its own right and not just a record.
        Though Atget himself never declared an allegiance to any particular aesthetic school, his work became popular with the Surrealists and is often discussed in the context of Surrealism. If, as Christopher Masters claims, the Surrealists employed the “use of chance” to “fuse the conventional, logical view of reality with unconscious, dream experience in order to achieve a ‘super reality,’” then pointing to Atget’s identity as a flaneur who wanders the streets to capture elusive, dream-like moments, can help establish a Surrealist connection.[xv] Like many of his other garden photographs, Statues, Saint Cloud disrupts “logical” reality with its off-balance angle and soft lighting that lets the statues slide organically into the natural setting.[xvi] Yet to read this as straight Surrealism forces Atget into a paradigm that he did not choose, and indeed actively resisted.[xvii] Instead, it could be beneficial to let the Surrealist connection give, in the words of John Fuller, “richer insights into his work…as opposed to treating him purely as a documentarian with inadequate technique.”[xviii]
        Without relying on a Surrealist classification one can discuss the photograph’s complexities and contradictions from a variety of angles. The photograph simultaneously records, preserves and participates in history. By photographing sculpture, Atget has chosen a subject that is a historical monument and fully present in the current, and presumably future, time. The reproductive act adds another temporal layer to the already complex relationship sculpture has with time. In taking the photograph Atget keeps the temporal referent (the sculpture), but freezes it in one moment. That moment can then be disseminated widely across space and time, placing the viewer in a ghostly triangle of past, present and future.[xix] Spatially, while most of the other photographs taken at Saint Cloud incorporate a much fuller sense of setting, Statues relies solely on the tree line and architectural detail to locate the viewer. Like the other garden prints that Atget produced during his career, the space is hauntingly devoid of a human presence, making the statues the closest thing to an animate subject in the frame, causing an apt comparison between his compositions and, as William Howard Adams has written, “an empty stage set.”[xx] Atget’s choice of subject and photographic technique: the isolated and unidentified statues, the off-center vantage point, the extreme shadows; all encourage an atmosphere of being permanently caught in limbo. The photograph elicits a series of dichotomies: between art and documentation, subjective expression and objective fact, and dreamlike states and the real. As Atget shows us, these differences are encountered again and again when mechanical reproduction is deployed on sculpture.


Nora Beamish-Lannon (OC ’13)




[i] “Provenance Record for Statues, Saint Cloud,” Curatorial Exhibition File, 1996.3. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin.
[ii] William Howard Adams, Atget’s Gardens: A Selection of Eugène Atget’s Garden Photographs (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979), 10.
[iii] “Undated Note on Atget’s Printing Techniques,” Curatorial Exhibition File, 1996.3. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin.
[iv] Borcoman, James, Atget (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1984), 10.
[v] Borcoman, James, Atget, 10-11.
[vi] Hambourg, Maria Morris, “Atget, Eugene.” In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T004771 (Accessed September 18 2012).
[vii] Frits Gierstenberg, Carlos Gollonet and Francoise Reynaud, Introduction to Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 11.
[viii] Guillaume Le Gall, “The Eye of the Archaeologist: Eugene Atget and the Forms of the Old City,” in Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 17-18.
[ix] Roxana Marcoci, “The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today,” in The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010), 12.
[x] Borcoman, Atget, 17.
[xi] Josiane Sartre, Introduction to Atget, Paris in Detail. Editorial Direction by Suzanne Tise-Isore and Translated by David Radzinowicz. (Italy: Flammarion, 2002), 8-9.
[xii] Josiane Sartre, Introduction to Atget, Paris in Detail. Editorial Direction by Suzanne Tise-Isore and Translated by David Radzinowicz. (Italy: Flammarion, 2002), 6, 10.
[xiii] Guillaume Le Gall, “The Eye of the Archaeologist: Eugene Atget and the Forms of the Old City,” 22.
[xiv] Molly Nesbit, “The Use of History,” Art in America 74 (1986), 74.
[xv] Christopher Masters, “Surrealism.” In The Oxford Companion to Western Art, edited by Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/opr/t118/e2545 (Accessed October 9, 2012).
[xvi] TF Editores. Eugene Atget: Old Paris (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 221-235.
[xvii] Nesbit, “The Use of History,” 72.
[xviii] John Fuller, “Atget and Man Ray in the Context of Surrealism,” Art Journal 36 (1976): 138. http://www.jstor.org/stable/776161. (Accessed September 18 2012).
[xix] Geoff Dyer, “On Atget,” in Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 34-5.
[xx] Adams, Atget’s Gardens: A Selection of Eugène Atget’s Garden Photographs, 10.

Bibliography

Clarence Kennedy (American, 1892–1972)Her Left Hand in Profile, from The Magdalen, Santa Trinita, Florence, pl. 42 from Magdalen Sculptures in Relief; Studies in the History and Criticism of Sculpture, VI, 1920sVintage gelatin silver printGift of Paul F. Walter (OC 1957), 2008.36.158.29
 
        In the early 1920s, Clarence Kennedy (1892-1972) began developing a series of photography portfolios for use in academic study. The portfolios, titled Studies in the History and Criticism of Sculpture, of which there are seven volumes, presented a series of unique views of sculptures that were meant to serve as comprehensive documents of the object. Kennedy included both full-length images of the sculpture he was photographing, but also, as he termed them, “‘details’ of ‘details of details’.”[i] A self-proclaimed “scholar-photographer,” Kennedy recognized a substantial lack of ‘suitable’ photographs available for use by art historians when studying sculpture. He used these photographs when lecturing in art history at Smith College, where he taught for forty-four years. His intimate, detail-oriented photographs represent an important break from the more popular images taken for art historical study at the time. Photographic firms like Alinari often photographed images from a single vantage point and set the sculpture against a black background. Comparatively, Kennedy’s photographs orient the viewer to specific elements that he or she may miss when viewing the sculpture in person.        Kennedy’s photograph, Her Left Hand in Profile, from The Magdalen Sculptures in Relief, shows a detail of Desiderio Da Settignano’s Magdalen sculpture, located in the Santa Trinita in Florence, Italy. As the title suggests, this photograph depicts the left hand of the wooden sculpture. The photograph is organized so that the hand occupies the right center of the frame with light illuminating the top of the hand. The location of the light suggests that the sculpture is lit from the right side of the image. The rich shadows accentuate what appear to be sculpted fabric folds across the left side of the picture plane. This photograph gives us little information about entire sculpture. Other images of The Magdalen, are necessary to understand the complete object. However, Kennedy frames the sculpture from a distance in several of the remaining photographs included in this folio.[ii] Kennedy himself organized the portfolio into what he deemed was a cohesive order. The photographs in volume six, from which this photograph is taken, include: exterior shots of the Santa Trinita in Florence, the church’s relief molding, like the photograph on display to the right, details of other figural reliefs in the church, and a selection of photographs capturing details of the Magdalen. This organization is meant to stabilize and direct the viewer’s understanding of the artistic elements in the Santa Trinita. Kennedy believed that the photographer’s function was to, “bring out… the character of the forms as the sculptor left them, complete and valid in their own right.”[iii] To bring out this character, Kennedy believed, his process needed to be systematized as a science.        Kennedy wrote extensively on suitable photographic conditions and the equipment needed to produce a photograph worthy for its content. He emphasized lighting, framing, and printing to describe the way the photograph of a work of art should appear to the viewer.  Kennedy claimed that his contemporaries were not attentive to issues of detailed documentation. However, he recognized the difficulty of lighting a sculptural object in a museum setting. Unlike his contemporaries, Kennedy found little blame in a museum curator’s inability to correctly illuminate an object because he believed that it was the photographer’s task to ensure that the viewer never missed the beauty of the object.[iv] Kennedy said that a constant problem with photographs of art was with the equipment. To remedy this problem, he built his own camera, “of a size that today seems mammoth,” wrote Beaumont Newhall in an exhibition catalogue of Kennedy’s work at Smith College in 1967. The camera was 11 by 14 inches and produced two negatives at once, each negative measuring 7 by 11 inches.[v]  Using such large negatives, Kennedy could produce images that were intensely detailed and crisp. These large negatives allow the viewer to see the textural surface in Desiderio’s sculptures. Notice the details of the knuckles and the veins in the Magdalen’s hands. Kennedy’s fastidious lighting strategies aided his ability to produce highly precise images. Mary Bergstein described Kennedy’s process for lighting the sculptures he photographed: “…the aperture was closed down to a minimum and left open for long periods of time while a hand-held light was directed over the surface of the sculpture.”[vi] The result of this meticulous control is rich images that interior illumination would never allow. Even when he relied on natural lighting, Kennedy was equally as scrupulous in his methods: Newhall noted Kennedy’s tendency to light the objects with natural light using reflectors and curtains to illuminate areas, which would not regularly be available to viewers.[vii]         Kennedy described his photographic techniques as scientific and objective. This allowed for the clear, understandable images. However, scholars have argued against Kennedy’s claims to the scientific objectivity of his photography. Many say that his rich attention to detail and ‘obsessive’ strategies of lighting created images that are more appealing to observe than the actual sculpture. If this is the case, the photographs of sculptural objects have, themselves, become art objects, a fact that can be attested to by their display in this museum. Mary Bergstein has similarly described how Kennedy’s detailed process can be compared to the process that Desiderio himself went through when carving the sculpture – the painstaking detail given to highlighting the object’s surface.[viii]  To these objections Kennedy replied, ““I have never been worried by [these] charges…For in every case there is in my memory a clear recollection of the appearance of the work itself as it looked at the time the negative was made—far more lovely than any image on paper could ever be.”[ix] But how do we as present-day viewers weigh Kennedy’s claim to documentary accuracy with the photographs themselves? Kennedy’s use of lighting and framing animates the detail of the Magdalen’s hand, so that it takes on a humanized ‘life’ of its own. Decontextualized from the rest of the sculpture by Kennedy’s close-to framing and cropping technique, the hand is pictured here as a separate, enriched entity that exists alone. Geraldine Johnson describes the objects documented in Kennedy’s photographs as, “[actors] appearing before the viewer-reader on a hushed and darkened stage.”[x] The hand is dramatized using the photographic effects of the camera. The textural detail of the hand reflects Kennedy’s attention to ‘scientific’ study of art, but the emotional content of the image––or how through lighting and framing it seems to come to life––suggests Kennedy’s artistic agency in depicting this sculpture: the photograph is more than a mere document of Desiderio Da Settignano sculpture, it has become an art object in its own right, bringing the sculpture to life.[xi]  Taylor Hoffman (OC ’13) 

[i] Geraldine R. Johnson, “(Un)richtige Aufnahme’: Renaissance Sculpture and the Visual Historiography of Art History,” Art History 22(Summer 2012): 1-40.[ii] The complete portfolio is a group of unbound individual images that measure approximately two feet by nineteen inches. The large size aids in their use as photographs for study - the size allows the image to be sharper and more distinguishable. They can be separately handled and arranged for teaching comparisons. Folio six includes forty-six prints of which this is number forty-two.[iii] Clarence Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” Magazine of Art 212, Volume 30 (April 1937): 212-218. [iv] Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” 212. [v] Beaumont Newhall, “Clarence Kennedy,” in Photographs by Clarence Kennedy  (Northampton, Massachusetts: Smith College Museum of Art, 1967), 12.[vi] Mary Bergstein, “Lonely Aphrodites: On the Documentary Photography of Sculpture,” The Art Bulletin 490, Volume 74, No. 3  (September 1992): 475-498.[vii] Newhall, “Clarence Kennedy,” 13.[viii] Bergstein, “Lonely Aphrodites,” 490.[ix] Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” 212.[x] Johnson, “(Un)richtige Aufnahme’,” 23.[xi] Wolfgang M Freitag, “Early Uses of Photography in the History of Art,” Art Journal 122, Volume 39, No.3 (Winter 1979-80): 117-123.
Bibliography

Clarence Kennedy (American, 1892–1972)
Her Left Hand in Profile, from The Magdalen, Santa Trinita, Florence, pl. 42 from Magdalen Sculptures in Relief; Studies in the History and Criticism of Sculpture, VI, 1920s
Vintage gelatin silver print
Gift of Paul F. Walter (OC 1957), 2008.36.158.29

 

        In the early 1920s, Clarence Kennedy (1892-1972) began developing a series of photography portfolios for use in academic study. The portfolios, titled Studies in the History and Criticism of Sculpture, of which there are seven volumes, presented a series of unique views of sculptures that were meant to serve as comprehensive documents of the object. Kennedy included both full-length images of the sculpture he was photographing, but also, as he termed them, “‘details’ of ‘details of details’.”[i] A self-proclaimed “scholar-photographer,” Kennedy recognized a substantial lack of ‘suitable’ photographs available for use by art historians when studying sculpture. He used these photographs when lecturing in art history at Smith College, where he taught for forty-four years. His intimate, detail-oriented photographs represent an important break from the more popular images taken for art historical study at the time. Photographic firms like Alinari often photographed images from a single vantage point and set the sculpture against a black background. Comparatively, Kennedy’s photographs orient the viewer to specific elements that he or she may miss when viewing the sculpture in person.
        Kennedy’s photograph, Her Left Hand in Profile, from The Magdalen Sculptures in Relief, shows a detail of Desiderio Da Settignano’s Magdalen sculpture, located in the Santa Trinita in Florence, Italy. As the title suggests, this photograph depicts the left hand of the wooden sculpture. The photograph is organized so that the hand occupies the right center of the frame with light illuminating the top of the hand. The location of the light suggests that the sculpture is lit from the right side of the image. The rich shadows accentuate what appear to be sculpted fabric folds across the left side of the picture plane. This photograph gives us little information about entire sculpture. Other images of The Magdalen, are necessary to understand the complete object. However, Kennedy frames the sculpture from a distance in several of the remaining photographs included in this folio.[ii] Kennedy himself organized the portfolio into what he deemed was a cohesive order. The photographs in volume six, from which this photograph is taken, include: exterior shots of the Santa Trinita in Florence, the church’s relief molding, like the photograph on display to the right, details of other figural reliefs in the church, and a selection of photographs capturing details of the Magdalen. This organization is meant to stabilize and direct the viewer’s understanding of the artistic elements in the Santa Trinita. Kennedy believed that the photographer’s function was to, “bring out… the character of the forms as the sculptor left them, complete and valid in their own right.”[iii] To bring out this character, Kennedy believed, his process needed to be systematized as a science.
        Kennedy wrote extensively on suitable photographic conditions and the equipment needed to produce a photograph worthy for its content. He emphasized lighting, framing, and printing to describe the way the photograph of a work of art should appear to the viewer.  Kennedy claimed that his contemporaries were not attentive to issues of detailed documentation. However, he recognized the difficulty of lighting a sculptural object in a museum setting. Unlike his contemporaries, Kennedy found little blame in a museum curator’s inability to correctly illuminate an object because he believed that it was the photographer’s task to ensure that the viewer never missed the beauty of the object.[iv] Kennedy said that a constant problem with photographs of art was with the equipment. To remedy this problem, he built his own camera, “of a size that today seems mammoth,” wrote Beaumont Newhall in an exhibition catalogue of Kennedy’s work at Smith College in 1967. The camera was 11 by 14 inches and produced two negatives at once, each negative measuring 7 by 11 inches.[v]  Using such large negatives, Kennedy could produce images that were intensely detailed and crisp. These large negatives allow the viewer to see the textural surface in Desiderio’s sculptures. Notice the details of the knuckles and the veins in the Magdalen’s hands. Kennedy’s fastidious lighting strategies aided his ability to produce highly precise images. Mary Bergstein described Kennedy’s process for lighting the sculptures he photographed: “…the aperture was closed down to a minimum and left open for long periods of time while a hand-held light was directed over the surface of the sculpture.”[vi] The result of this meticulous control is rich images that interior illumination would never allow. Even when he relied on natural lighting, Kennedy was equally as scrupulous in his methods: Newhall noted Kennedy’s tendency to light the objects with natural light using reflectors and curtains to illuminate areas, which would not regularly be available to viewers.[vii]
        Kennedy described his photographic techniques as scientific and objective. This allowed for the clear, understandable images. However, scholars have argued against Kennedy’s claims to the scientific objectivity of his photography. Many say that his rich attention to detail and ‘obsessive’ strategies of lighting created images that are more appealing to observe than the actual sculpture. If this is the case, the photographs of sculptural objects have, themselves, become art objects, a fact that can be attested to by their display in this museum. Mary Bergstein has similarly described how Kennedy’s detailed process can be compared to the process that Desiderio himself went through when carving the sculpture – the painstaking detail given to highlighting the object’s surface.[viii]  To these objections Kennedy replied, ““I have never been worried by [these] charges…For in every case there is in my memory a clear recollection of the appearance of the work itself as it looked at the time the negative was made—far more lovely than any image on paper could ever be.”[ix] But how do we as present-day viewers weigh Kennedy’s claim to documentary accuracy with the photographs themselves? Kennedy’s use of lighting and framing animates the detail of the Magdalen’s hand, so that it takes on a humanized ‘life’ of its own. Decontextualized from the rest of the sculpture by Kennedy’s close-to framing and cropping technique, the hand is pictured here as a separate, enriched entity that exists alone. Geraldine Johnson describes the objects documented in Kennedy’s photographs as, “[actors] appearing before the viewer-reader on a hushed and darkened stage.”[x] The hand is dramatized using the photographic effects of the camera. The textural detail of the hand reflects Kennedy’s attention to ‘scientific’ study of art, but the emotional content of the image––or how through lighting and framing it seems to come to life––suggests Kennedy’s artistic agency in depicting this sculpture: the photograph is more than a mere document of Desiderio Da Settignano sculpture, it has become an art object in its own right, bringing the sculpture to life.[xi]


Taylor Hoffman (OC ’13)




[i] Geraldine R. Johnson, “(Un)richtige Aufnahme’: Renaissance Sculpture and the Visual Historiography of Art History,” Art History 22(Summer 2012): 1-40.
[ii] The complete portfolio is a group of unbound individual images that measure approximately two feet by nineteen inches. The large size aids in their use as photographs for study - the size allows the image to be sharper and more distinguishable. They can be separately handled and arranged for teaching comparisons. Folio six includes forty-six prints of which this is number forty-two.
[iii] Clarence Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” Magazine of Art 212, Volume 30 (April 1937): 212-218.
[iv] Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” 212.
[v] Beaumont Newhall, “Clarence Kennedy,” in Photographs by Clarence Kennedy  (Northampton, Massachusetts: Smith College Museum of Art, 1967), 12.
[vi] Mary Bergstein, “Lonely Aphrodites: On the Documentary Photography of Sculpture,” The Art Bulletin 490, Volume 74, No. 3  (September 1992): 475-498.
[vii] Newhall, “Clarence Kennedy,” 13.
[viii] Bergstein, “Lonely Aphrodites,” 490.
[ix] Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” 212.
[x] Johnson, “(Un)richtige Aufnahme’,” 23.
[xi] Wolfgang M Freitag, “Early Uses of Photography in the History of Art,” Art Journal 122, Volume 39, No.3 (Winter 1979-80): 117-123.

Bibliography

Richard Long (English, b. 1945)Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968Photo offset lithographEllen H. Johnson Bequest, 1998.7.71

        In an excerpt from his book Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks; Seven, Eight, Lay Them Straight, Richard Long asserts that “a good work is the right thing in the right place at the right time,” in other words, it is “A crossing place.”[i]  In his photograph exhibited in this show, Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, Long presents exactly this. Through the action of walking, Long has created the subtly striking impression of two lines intersecting on an outstretched grass field. To create this work, Long marked the land with traces of his presence by walking on the grass.[ii]  The documentation of this presence, though, is represented by Long’s notable absence from the photographic frame.  It is mostly through Long’s absence that the viewer is made aware of the ephemeral processes he has endured in order to create his art.        The ephemeral and transitory are constant themes in Long’s work from 1968 to the present; these definitions of time become especially evident in his walk sculptures, text-based works and maps. Long has observed that  “time is the fourth dimension of [his] art” and “the medium of [his] art is walking (the element of time).”[iii] While walking, Long is concerned with experiencing solitary moments in time and ultimately establishing “a crossing place”; through these transient experiences, Long aims to establish a harmony between himself and the eternal nature that surrounds him.  Although Long is primarily occupied by his interactions with nature in the present moment, his ‘marked site’ works ultimately rely on photography as a mediator, without which his work could not be fully realized.[iv]  The dichotomy between the ephemeral present and the fixed photographic moment raise a number of challenges for Long and his contemporary land artists, especially when it comes to exhibiting their outdoor works indoors.  Long reconciles this dichotomy by distancing himself from his photographs and using them consciously and cautiously.        In Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, Long displays an expansive, flat meadow, covered with a smattering of white flowers.  The meadow has been marked by two thick lines, that diverge to form the shape of a diagonal ‘X.’  These marked lines appear to be the result of a grazing, mowing, or simply, a flattening of the meadow. They are precisely straight and appear to be of approximately the same length. The photograph frames the marked ‘X’ so that the point of intersection is positioned slightly to the left and above center of the frame. Long has cropped the composition to hide the horizon line, emphasizing the limitlessness of the meadow, which appears to extend beyond the frame. The photograph’s vantage point thrusts the viewer into the plane of the image in which the thicker, more vertical line rushes forward. This line presents a path to the viewer, incorporating him or her into the image with a wide angle that grows gradually narrower as it stretches towards the top of the frame.        The title of this work, Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, marks Long’s emphasis on the documentary role the photograph plays in presenting the sculpture. The title reveals the following: in 1968, in a field in his childhood home of Southern England, Long walked in two diagonally intersecting lines, left a mark, and documented the results.[v]  Long called the result of this ephemeral mark a ‘walk sculpture,’ a designation for sculpture that links him to a broader group of artists who were each invested in, as Rosalind Krauss has termed it, an expansion of sculpture.  Although the primary work in question is Long’s ‘walk sculpture,’ the photograph hung in this show should not be taken as an impartial reproduction of the sculpture itself; instead it is a ‘documentation’ that includes practical information such as the location (England) and the date (1968) of this walk.  This choice of title marks a very conscious use of photography, which is at once pragmatic and cautious.   Long is constantly aware of the ‘constructed’ nature of his photographs but he neglects to discuss their pictorial nature.         As much as the documentary photograph of this walk sculpture begs to remain neutral, it ultimately cannot.  In his interviews and comments, Long positions himself at an arms length from his photographs.  He does not call himself a photographer and he insists that his photographs are “facts” and “second-hand” representations utilized only in order to present his remote sculpture to the public.[vi],[vii] Although Long’s documentary photographs are often very direct and simple, they nonetheless embody more than pure documentation.[viii]        Long claims that he takes the most basic approach to photographing his sculptures – “I just step back and point the camera and try to get it in focus” – yet his photographs raise questions about composition: why do his various photographic documentations use a range of styles?  Why is every sculpture of Long’s not photographed from the same vantage point?  In Walk Sculpture Documentation, why does Long chose a particular painterly vantage point that summon the viewer into the meadow?  Clearly, there is a certain degree of artistry involved in the process of photographing his work’s that Long neglects to acknowledge. That said, Long is not oblivious to the pitfalls of using photography to display his art, he confesses that there are certain locations and situations that require a specific vantage point in order to “complete the work.”[ix]  Long also admits that photography “has the tendency to enhance distance and remoteness: what you see in a photograph is in the past time and somewhere else.  They are still, frozen images.”  In a sense, Long is reluctant to rely on photography to disseminate his artworks “out there.”  This is evidenced by Long’s discussion of photography in interviews as well as his choice to jump between mediums in order to most accurately convey his experiences.         Long is not alone in his struggle to accurately articulate and pass on the “essence of his experience.”[x]  Long was one of a number of European and American “land artists” who began to create, as Krauss termed it, “sculpture in the expanded field” in the late-1960s and ‘70s, using the earth as their primary material. Many of Long’s contemporaries also put a strong emphasis on the processes involved in creating their art as opposed to the final product itself. Inherent in these artists’ work was intrinsic immovability and impermanence of sculpture, and their reliance on photography to capture and share their sculptures. These artists approached photography with mixed feelings of rejection, distrust, pragmatism and indifference.[xi]         With a minimal and simplistic approach to documenting his outdoor land art, such as his walk sculpture in England in 1968, Long conveys a sense of “place” and of “being there.”[xii] Long’s photograph invites the viewer into the world of the work, drawing them into the marked English meadow.  As much as he may want them to be, Long’s photographs will never be perceived as mere facts.  As Long himself realizes, “a photo work necessarily becomes art in a different way than the original sculpture.”[xiii]
Emily Weber (OC ’14)
[i] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 236.[ii] Amanda Boetzkes, The Ethics of Earth Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010), 18.[iii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.[iv] Rosalind Krauss, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.” October 8. (Spring 1979): 41.[v] Amanda Boetzkes, The Ethics of Earth Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010), 17. [vi] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 236.[vii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 9.[viii] Michael Lailach, Uta Grosenick, Land Art, (Köln: Taschen, 2007), 70.[ix] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 9.[x] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 134.[xi] Michael Lailach, Uta Grosenick, Land Art, (Köln: Taschen, 2007), 11.[xii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.[xiii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.
Bibliography

Richard Long (English, b. 1945)
Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968
Photo offset lithograph
Ellen H. Johnson Bequest, 1998.7.71


        In an excerpt from his book Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks; Seven, Eight, Lay Them Straight, Richard Long asserts that “a good work is the right thing in the right place at the right time,” in other words, it is “A crossing place.”[i]  In his photograph exhibited in this show, Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, Long presents exactly this. Through the action of walking, Long has created the subtly striking impression of two lines intersecting on an outstretched grass field. To create this work, Long marked the land with traces of his presence by walking on the grass.[ii]  The documentation of this presence, though, is represented by Long’s notable absence from the photographic frame.  It is mostly through Long’s absence that the viewer is made aware of the ephemeral processes he has endured in order to create his art.
       The ephemeral and transitory are constant themes in Long’s work from 1968 to the present; these definitions of time become especially evident in his walk sculptures, text-based works and maps. Long has observed that  “time is the fourth dimension of [his] art” and “the medium of [his] art is walking (the element of time).”[iii] While walking, Long is concerned with experiencing solitary moments in time and ultimately establishing “a crossing place”; through these transient experiences, Long aims to establish a harmony between himself and the eternal nature that surrounds him.  Although Long is primarily occupied by his interactions with nature in the present moment, his ‘marked site’ works ultimately rely on photography as a mediator, without which his work could not be fully realized.[iv]  The dichotomy between the ephemeral present and the fixed photographic moment raise a number of challenges for Long and his contemporary land artists, especially when it comes to exhibiting their outdoor works indoors.  Long reconciles this dichotomy by distancing himself from his photographs and using them consciously and cautiously.
        In Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, Long displays an expansive, flat meadow, covered with a smattering of white flowers.  The meadow has been marked by two thick lines, that diverge to form the shape of a diagonal ‘X.’  These marked lines appear to be the result of a grazing, mowing, or simply, a flattening of the meadow. They are precisely straight and appear to be of approximately the same length. The photograph frames the marked ‘X’ so that the point of intersection is positioned slightly to the left and above center of the frame. Long has cropped the composition to hide the horizon line, emphasizing the limitlessness of the meadow, which appears to extend beyond the frame. The photograph’s vantage point thrusts the viewer into the plane of the image in which the thicker, more vertical line rushes forward. This line presents a path to the viewer, incorporating him or her into the image with a wide angle that grows gradually narrower as it stretches towards the top of the frame.
        The title of this work, Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, marks Long’s emphasis on the documentary role the photograph plays in presenting the sculpture. The title reveals the following: in 1968, in a field in his childhood home of Southern England, Long walked in two diagonally intersecting lines, left a mark, and documented the results.[v]  Long called the result of this ephemeral mark a ‘walk sculpture,’ a designation for sculpture that links him to a broader group of artists who were each invested in, as Rosalind Krauss has termed it, an expansion of sculpture.  Although the primary work in question is Long’s ‘walk sculpture,’ the photograph hung in this show should not be taken as an impartial reproduction of the sculpture itself; instead it is a ‘documentation’ that includes practical information such as the location (England) and the date (1968) of this walk.  This choice of title marks a very conscious use of photography, which is at once pragmatic and cautious.   Long is constantly aware of the ‘constructed’ nature of his photographs but he neglects to discuss their pictorial nature.
        As much as the documentary photograph of this walk sculpture begs to remain neutral, it ultimately cannot.  In his interviews and comments, Long positions himself at an arms length from his photographs.  He does not call himself a photographer and he insists that his photographs are “facts” and “second-hand” representations utilized only in order to present his remote sculpture to the public.[vi],[vii] Although Long’s documentary photographs are often very direct and simple, they nonetheless embody more than pure documentation.[viii]
        Long claims that he takes the most basic approach to photographing his sculptures“I just step back and point the camera and try to get it in focus”yet his photographs raise questions about composition: why do his various photographic documentations use a range of styles?  Why is every sculpture of Long’s not photographed from the same vantage point?  In Walk Sculpture Documentation, why does Long chose a particular painterly vantage point that summon the viewer into the meadow?  Clearly, there is a certain degree of artistry involved in the process of photographing his work’s that Long neglects to acknowledge. That said, Long is not oblivious to the pitfalls of using photography to display his art, he confesses that there are certain locations and situations that require a specific vantage point in order to “complete the work.”[ix]  Long also admits that photography “has the tendency to enhance distance and remoteness: what you see in a photograph is in the past time and somewhere else.  They are still, frozen images.”  In a sense, Long is reluctant to rely on photography to disseminate his artworks “out there.”  This is evidenced by Long’s discussion of photography in interviews as well as his choice to jump between mediums in order to most accurately convey his experiences. 
        Long is not alone in his struggle to accurately articulate and pass on the “essence of his experience.”[x]  Long was one of a number of European and American “land artists” who began to create, as Krauss termed it, “sculpture in the expanded field” in the late-1960s and ‘70s, using the earth as their primary material. Many of Long’s contemporaries also put a strong emphasis on the processes involved in creating their art as opposed to the final product itself. Inherent in these artists’ work was intrinsic immovability and impermanence of sculpture, and their reliance on photography to capture and share their sculptures. These artists approached photography with mixed feelings of rejection, distrust, pragmatism and indifference.[xi] 
        With a minimal and simplistic approach to documenting his outdoor land art, such as his walk sculpture in England in 1968, Long conveys a sense of “place” and of “being there.”[xii] Long’s photograph invites the viewer into the world of the work, drawing them into the marked English meadow.  As much as he may want them to be, Long’s photographs will never be perceived as mere facts.  As Long himself realizes, “a photo work necessarily becomes art in a different way than the original sculpture.”[xiii]


Emily Weber (OC ’14)




[i] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 236.
[ii] Amanda Boetzkes, The Ethics of Earth Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010), 18.
[iii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.
[iv] Rosalind Krauss, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.” October 8. (Spring 1979): 41.
[v] Amanda Boetzkes, The Ethics of Earth Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010), 17.
[vi] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 236.
[vii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 9.
[viii] Michael Lailach, Uta Grosenick, Land Art, (Köln: Taschen, 2007), 70.
[ix] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 9.
[x] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 134.
[xi] Michael Lailach, Uta Grosenick, Land Art, (Köln: Taschen, 2007), 11.
[xii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.
[xiii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.

Bibliography

Eleanor Antin (American, b. 1935)100 Boots on Their Way to Church, 1971Gelatin silver printEllen H. Johnson Bequest, 1998.7.6
 
        Upon first glance, Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots on their Way to Church is a quizzical, even confusing, sight to behold. Rendered in black and white film, the photograph depicts a generic suburban landscape, accented by an unusual detail – a long, winding line of black rubber boots that extends across the picture plane. Emerging from the lower left-hand corner of the photograph, the line of boots stretches from a protruding concrete path in the foreground and off into the distance, eventually cutting across a wide lawn to reach the front doors of a large white church in the background. Arranged in pairs placed roughly one in front of another, the alignment of the boots mirrors that of footsteps; as each boot is positioned next to and slightly in front of another one. As it winds across the landscape, the line of boots resembles that of a marching military brigade, due to its repetitive and consciously staggered arrangement. The precise organization and plentiful supply of boots indicates that they were not left behind by accident or scattered without purpose; these boots were strategically placed amidst this otherwise mundane setting by a force that is absent from the composition.        Yet as curious as the line of boots appears, it is the church, as the largest and centrally positioned element of the composition, which dominates the landscape. There are few other discernible landmarks in the photograph; a few one-story buildings are visible on either side of the church, as well as a parking lot inhabited by a single automobile.  Each building’s appearance is indistinct; each is white and un-ornamented, lending a sterile quality to the setting. Against the distinct arrangement of the boots, the blandness of the boots only serves to further emphasize the mysterious air of the photograph. The composition and subject matter of the photograph prompt numerous questions, such as: where was the photograph taken, and why? Where did these boots come from? What do the boots represent, and what purpose do they serve?        Yet the photograph does not provide answers to these important questions.  As a fragment of a larger conceptual series, 100 Boots on their Way to Church remains opaque to the viewer when beheld as an isolated photograph. In order for the photograph to be understood, it must be considered within the larger context of the series, and Antin’s career. Highly personal and even autobiographical, Antin’s oeuvre is characterized by narrative, and a penchant for the dramatic. In its diverse and often multiple mediums – ranging from consumer goods to elaborate theatrical performances – Antin’s body of work reflects her fascination with personae, or other selves, as a way of exploring and challenging notions of identity. While Antin’s multidisciplinary practices cannot be classified in a single category, much of her work – particularly the projects she made in the late 1960s and the early 1970s – can be best understood as operating in dialogue with artistic and social movements of the time, with conceptual art, pop, Fluxus, and second-wave feminism. One of Antin’s best-known early works, 100 Boots – the larger series to which the Allen Memorial Art Museum’s photograph belongs – demonstrates the strong influence of conceptual art and performance art, and Fluxus on her work. As a narrative that revolves around an anthropomorphic object, the series also exemplifies Antin’s interests in storytelling, and her predilection for casting consumer goods as physical representations of identity.        Conceived in 1971 as a series of fifty-one photographic postcards, 100 Boots was meant to recall the style of a picaresque novel, albeit in a slightly unusual manner.[i] Through elaborate staging and dramatization, the protagonist – 50 pairs of black rubber boots – is made to enact scenarios that Antin describes in her titles as ranging from the mundane (100 Boots on their Way to Church; 100 Boots at the Bank), to the emotive (100 Boots Doing their Best) and the radical (100 Boots Trespass). Antin employed photography to document these quasi-performances because each of these scenes required traveling to a site, arranging, and rearranging the boots in different configuration. Antin’s photographs lend a permanent air to these ephemeral artistic acts that occupied a realm between installation and performance.         In the 1960s and 1970s, artists like Antin increasingly used photography to document their action and installation-based, as well as process-driven, works. Photography quickly became an instrumental tool for these artists, as they sought a means by which they could effectively document ephemeral, transitory, and performative artworks.[ii] Cheap and reproducible, photography was a tool to disseminate their art to a wide audience.  In realizing 100 Boots, photography provided Antin with an effective, and cost efficient means of widely distributing her art, while also allowing her, as she claimed, to avoid the “blank white walls of New York galleries.”[iii] A resident of New York City, Antin moved to southern California in 1969 with her husband and son to escape what she and many other artists perceived to be the stifling and exclusionary climate of the New York art scene in the late 1960s. Yet the move – while liberating, and rewarding in the form of a newfound artistic freedom – placed Antin at a considerable geographic distance from many of her most important professional contacts in New York, and initially forced her to frequently travel across country for business. Mail art, a medium heavily used by (though not invented by) members of the Fluxus movement, offered a solution to the problem of geography, and further enhanced the promise of wide spread dissemination of her work provided by photography.[iv]         From 1971-1973, Antin circulated postcards of 100 Boots to a lengthy list of contacts across the United Stated, Canada, and South America, strategically staggering the release of each installment to correspond with the needs of the narrative.[v] The series culminated in the transplanting of 100 Boots to New York, where he (Antin gave the series a singular, masculine identity, referring to it with the pronoun “he”) was to be featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. After riding the ferry and visiting New York landmarks such as Central Park and Herald Square, 100 Boots retired to his own room at MoMA, complete with a mattress, AM radio, and postcards of his recent urban adventures.[vi] The final postcard, 100 Boots Go On Vacation, was mailed in July 1973, signifying the official end of the now-infamous hero’s journey. As part of the exhibition, Antin arranged on an adjacent wall a complete set of the postcards in a linear fashion, encouraging that the photographic records be read as a story.        By recreating the narrative in the MoMA exhibition, Antin reaffirmed the importance of context in understanding each element of 100 Boots. It is this context that is missing from the AMAM’s 100 Boots on their Way to Church, since it is not installed here as a series. Yet even in isolation, the spectral composition of 100 Boots on their Way to Church lends a human quality to its subject, and alludes to the mysterious persona of the character Antin created. The photography acts as a record of Antin’s performance project; it serves as evidence of her artistic output, and underscores the significance of photography as a highly effective tool for both documentation and dissemination.  Dessane Cassell (OC ’14) 

[i] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, (Philadelphia and London: Running Press, 1999), 4.[ii] Darsie Alexander, “Reluctant Witness: Photography and the Documentation of 1960s and 1970s Art,” in Work Ethic, by Helen Molesworth (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2003), 53.[iii] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, 4.[iv] Ina Blom, “Ray Johnson: The Present of Mail Art,” last modified January 2008, accessed October 8, 2012, http://www.rayjohnson.org/Ray-Johnson-The-Present-of-Mail-Art/.[v] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, 4.[vi] Ibid, 7.
Bibliography

Eleanor Antin (American, b. 1935)
100 Boots on Their Way to Church, 1971
Gelatin silver print
Ellen H. Johnson Bequest, 1998.7.6

 

        Upon first glance, Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots on their Way to Church is a quizzical, even confusing, sight to behold. Rendered in black and white film, the photograph depicts a generic suburban landscape, accented by an unusual detail – a long, winding line of black rubber boots that extends across the picture plane. Emerging from the lower left-hand corner of the photograph, the line of boots stretches from a protruding concrete path in the foreground and off into the distance, eventually cutting across a wide lawn to reach the front doors of a large white church in the background. Arranged in pairs placed roughly one in front of another, the alignment of the boots mirrors that of footsteps; as each boot is positioned next to and slightly in front of another one. As it winds across the landscape, the line of boots resembles that of a marching military brigade, due to its repetitive and consciously staggered arrangement. The precise organization and plentiful supply of boots indicates that they were not left behind by accident or scattered without purpose; these boots were strategically placed amidst this otherwise mundane setting by a force that is absent from the composition.
        Yet as curious as the line of boots appears, it is the church, as the largest and centrally positioned element of the composition, which dominates the landscape. There are few other discernible landmarks in the photograph; a few one-story buildings are visible on either side of the church, as well as a parking lot inhabited by a single automobile.  Each building’s appearance is indistinct; each is white and un-ornamented, lending a sterile quality to the setting. Against the distinct arrangement of the boots, the blandness of the boots only serves to further emphasize the mysterious air of the photograph. The composition and subject matter of the photograph prompt numerous questions, such as: where was the photograph taken, and why? Where did these boots come from? What do the boots represent, and what purpose do they serve?
        Yet the photograph does not provide answers to these important questions.  As a fragment of a larger conceptual series, 100 Boots on their Way to Church remains opaque to the viewer when beheld as an isolated photograph. In order for the photograph to be understood, it must be considered within the larger context of the series, and Antin’s career. Highly personal and even autobiographical, Antin’s oeuvre is characterized by narrative, and a penchant for the dramatic. In its diverse and often multiple mediums – ranging from consumer goods to elaborate theatrical performances – Antin’s body of work reflects her fascination with personae, or other selves, as a way of exploring and challenging notions of identity. While Antin’s multidisciplinary practices cannot be classified in a single category, much of her work – particularly the projects she made in the late 1960s and the early 1970s – can be best understood as operating in dialogue with artistic and social movements of the time, with conceptual art, pop, Fluxus, and second-wave feminism. One of Antin’s best-known early works, 100 Boots – the larger series to which the Allen Memorial Art Museum’s photograph belongs – demonstrates the strong influence of conceptual art and performance art, and Fluxus on her work. As a narrative that revolves around an anthropomorphic object, the series also exemplifies Antin’s interests in storytelling, and her predilection for casting consumer goods as physical representations of identity.
        Conceived in 1971 as a series of fifty-one photographic postcards, 100 Boots was meant to recall the style of a picaresque novel, albeit in a slightly unusual manner.[i] Through elaborate staging and dramatization, the protagonist – 50 pairs of black rubber boots – is made to enact scenarios that Antin describes in her titles as ranging from the mundane (100 Boots on their Way to Church; 100 Boots at the Bank), to the emotive (100 Boots Doing their Best) and the radical (100 Boots Trespass). Antin employed photography to document these quasi-performances because each of these scenes required traveling to a site, arranging, and rearranging the boots in different configuration. Antin’s photographs lend a permanent air to these ephemeral artistic acts that occupied a realm between installation and performance.
        In the 1960s and 1970s, artists like Antin increasingly used photography to document their action and installation-based, as well as process-driven, works. Photography quickly became an instrumental tool for these artists, as they sought a means by which they could effectively document ephemeral, transitory, and performative artworks.[ii] Cheap and reproducible, photography was a tool to disseminate their art to a wide audience.  In realizing 100 Boots, photography provided Antin with an effective, and cost efficient means of widely distributing her art, while also allowing her, as she claimed, to avoid the “blank white walls of New York galleries.”[iii] A resident of New York City, Antin moved to southern California in 1969 with her husband and son to escape what she and many other artists perceived to be the stifling and exclusionary climate of the New York art scene in the late 1960s. Yet the move – while liberating, and rewarding in the form of a newfound artistic freedom – placed Antin at a considerable geographic distance from many of her most important professional contacts in New York, and initially forced her to frequently travel across country for business. Mail art, a medium heavily used by (though not invented by) members of the Fluxus movement, offered a solution to the problem of geography, and further enhanced the promise of wide spread dissemination of her work provided by photography.[iv]
        From 1971-1973, Antin circulated postcards of 100 Boots to a lengthy list of contacts across the United Stated, Canada, and South America, strategically staggering the release of each installment to correspond with the needs of the narrative.[v] The series culminated in the transplanting of 100 Boots to New York, where he (Antin gave the series a singular, masculine identity, referring to it with the pronoun “he”) was to be featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. After riding the ferry and visiting New York landmarks such as Central Park and Herald Square, 100 Boots retired to his own room at MoMA, complete with a mattress, AM radio, and postcards of his recent urban adventures.[vi] The final postcard, 100 Boots Go On Vacation, was mailed in July 1973, signifying the official end of the now-infamous hero’s journey. As part of the exhibition, Antin arranged on an adjacent wall a complete set of the postcards in a linear fashion, encouraging that the photographic records be read as a story.
        By recreating the narrative in the MoMA exhibition, Antin reaffirmed the importance of context in understanding each element of 100 Boots. It is this context that is missing from the AMAM’s 100 Boots on their Way to Church, since it is not installed here as a series. Yet even in isolation, the spectral composition of 100 Boots on their Way to Church lends a human quality to its subject, and alludes to the mysterious persona of the character Antin created. The photography acts as a record of Antin’s performance project; it serves as evidence of her artistic output, and underscores the significance of photography as a highly effective tool for both documentation and dissemination.


Dessane Cassell (OC ’14)




[i] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, (Philadelphia and London: Running Press, 1999), 4.
[ii] Darsie Alexander, “Reluctant Witness: Photography and the Documentation of 1960s and 1970s Art,” in Work Ethic, by Helen Molesworth (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2003), 53.
[iii] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, 4.
[iv] Ina Blom, “Ray Johnson: The Present of Mail Art,” last modified January 2008, accessed October 8, 2012, http://www.rayjohnson.org/Ray-Johnson-The-Present-of-Mail-Art/.
[v] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, 4.
[vi] Ibid, 7.

Bibliography

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949)New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling, 1980Type “C” color photographFund for Photography in honor of Ellen H. Johnson, 1982.97
 
        Laurie Simmons’s New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling is a 6 inch x 9.5 inch color photograph of a miniaturized bathroom set in which a doll kneels amongst the toy toilet, sink and bathtub. The work is part of Simmons’s Early Color Interiors series of 1978-1979, created at the beginning of Simmons’s career, when she had recently graduated from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and moved to New York City.[i] Simmons was not a trained as a photographer; self-taught, she began to use photography to distance herself from artistic traditions that she felt were not inclusive of female artists: “In college, I enrolled in a photography course, thinking I might like to learn. I walked in and said, ‘This isn’t art, I won’t waste my time on this.’ Later, I realized that in order to find a voice for myself as a woman artist, I had to reject painting and sculpture, so photography became interesting in a new way.”[ii]  Photography was a fairly new artistic medium; with a history of only about one hundred years, it was set apart from the heavily masculine traditions of painting and sculpture. For Simmons, the newness of photography was liberating, and allowed her to experiment with her art without being burdened by the history of a medium.        Photography was a locus of experimentation in the 1970s and 1980s, and Simmons’s photography is influenced by Conceptual art practices that were being exhibited in New York City at this time. In her essay “Reinventing the Medium,” Rosalind Krauss discusses photography as becoming a “theoretical object” through the work of Conceptual artists. Artists like Robert Smithson and Edward Ruscha were championing photographic techniques such as photojournalism and “brutishly amateur photography” that created a non-art experience, and “critiqued the unexamined pretentions of high art.”[iii] Krauss describes these photo-conceptual art practices as deconstructive. Conceptual artists were removing photography from its academic and commercial context, and means of questioning the nature of art itself.        Simmons addresses the role of Conceptual art in the formation of her own work in an interview with fellow artist Sarah Charlesworth: “Conceptual art just exploded for me…I was smart enough to know to wait until I could figure out what was going to be my artwork…It’s a very tempting place to work, to pick up where somebody has left of and start from there.”[iv] Simmons’s work thus does not simply adopt the methods of Conceptual artists, but develops them to a unique purpose. Her photographs appears artificial and amateur in the spirit of Conceptual art, but she departs from her predecessors by using their techniques to examine cultural representations of women in the media-dominated visual culture of post-war America.[v]        New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling presents a critique of cultural representations of women by creating a world within the photograph that parodies the stereotype of a 1950s housewife. The title New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling provides a simple description of the content of the photograph, however it leaves the subject matter somewhat ambiguous. Judging solely by the title, New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling could be an image of a flesh-and-blood woman. In reality, the subject of the photograph is a doll: a figural stereotype of a 1950’s housewife, complete with high heels, a brightly printed dress with cap sleeves, and a bobbed haircut. The doll kneels within the miniaturized bathroom set, in a gesture of domestic labor. Simmons’s use of a doll and a hand crafted set to create this image constructs the female subject as a possession. The viewing experience is informed by a power dynamic between viewer and subject, with the viewer in a position of control over the female subject through its presentation as a familiar object of possession.        The doll’s diminutive position is reinforced by the inauthenticity of the bathroom. The room is not imaged as a world onto itself, one that allows the viewer complete immersion. Rather, it resembles a movie set that has been taken out of the context of its film. There is a large gap between the vertical panels that are the wall of the bathroom, and the horizontal plane that is the floor. A bright light shines through this gap, illuminating the space of the bathroom in a highly unnatural way. The boundaries between the set and the natural world are clearly visible, enhancing the constructed nature of the space. As a result, the doll also seems less natural. Her “doll-ness” – her role as a stand-in for the human housewife – is emphasized by the unnatural space she occupies.        The vantage point of the photograph further highlights the objective nature of the doll. The camera lens approaches the doll from above, so that the scene appears true to life in scale. The viewer is not approaching the image on the same level as the doll, as if the photograph was an opening onto the dolls world. Instead, the viewer approaches the image as one would a dollhouse, from above, looking in. This vantage point has the effect of further objectifying the doll, and enforcing the owner-possession dynamic between the viewer and the subject.        The photograph constructs the doll as diminutive not only to the viewer, but also to the other objects within the space of the image. A miniature toilet, bathtub and sink occupy the bathroom along with the doll. The three appliances parallel the three vertical walls, confining her to a corner of the space. The doll kneels on the floor, with a hand on the bathtub as if turning it on. The gesture parodies the stereotype of a 1950s housewife as completely absorbed by domestic labor, a slave to her appliances. The kneeling gesture reduces the doll to the size of the surrounding objects. This positioning of the doll denies her any power over the appliances. Rather, the appliances exert power over her. The doll’s kneeling gesture is one of subservience.  The bathtub is dictating her gesture, in the same way that the positioning of the appliances control her location in the space. The doll is denied any potential power over the surrounding objects by being photographed with her head turned away from the camera. With her face obscured from the viewer, the doll is further dehumanized, and becomes an object amongst objects.        New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling stands as a critique of the 1950s housewife stereotype as an objectifying and reductive role for women. The doll is constantly under the control of external forces, both in her dollhouse world, and in the viewer’s world. The hand of the artist exerts total control over the dollhouse world. Simmons has manipulated the position of the doll so as to parody the 1950s housewife’s slavish devotion to her appliances, and in doing so has reduced the doll to the same objective status of the appliances. The mediation of the artist is referenced by the visibly constructed nature of the set. The image makes clear that this is not a world onto itself, but is a hand-made set that exists in the natural world. This power of the artist over the subject/object of the doll is symbolically transferred to the viewer, who approaches to image from a high vantage point that allows for an understanding of the doll as a doll, and thus a possession.        Simmons has effectively created a simulacral world in New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling. A simulacrum is a material image that bears a surface resemblance to the thing it references. The doll is a simulacrum of a stereotypical 1950s housewife, and the photograph itself is a simulacrum of the doll in her dollhouse. Both the idea of the housewife and the idea of the doll are communicated through the image, though the material object of both housewife and doll are left behind. Jean Baudrillard’s theory of the simulacra dictates that through the process of simulation, simulacra creates its own reality separate from the thing it represents: Reality itself founders in hyperrealism, the meticulous reduplication of the real, preferably through another, reproductive medium, such as photography. From medium to medium, the real is volatized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of the lost object…[vi] The doll is thus designated as a sculptural object because it has been removed from its role as an everyday object, and situated within the framework of the photograph. The construction of a separate reality in the photograph transforms the everyday objects of the dollhouse into sculptural subjects.  Alex Kelly (OC ’13)
[i] “Early Color Interiors: 1978-1979.” Laurie Simmons, artist website. Accessed 28 October, 2012. http://www.lauriesimmons.net/photographs/early-color-interiors/#.[ii] Laurie Simmons, interviewed by Sarah Charlesworth, New York City, 24 February, 1992. Laurie Simmons / interviewed by Sarah Charlesworth, ed. William S. Barton and Rodney Sappington. New York: Art Resources Transfer, Inc, 1994, p. 5.[iii] Krauss, Rosalind. “Reinventing the Medium”. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 25, No. 2, “Angelus Novus”: Perspectives on Walter Benjamin (Winter 1999), pp. 289-305; p. 295. Accessed through http://www.jstor.org/stable/1344204.[iv] Interview with Sarah Charlesworth, pp. 6-8.[v] Linker, Kate. “Reflections on a Mirror,” in Laurie Simmons: Walking, Talking, Lying.London: Aperture Foundation, Inc., 2005, p. 8.[vi] Baudrillard, Jean. “The Hyper-realism of Simulation,” in Art in Theory 1900-2000. Ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1993, pp. 1018-1020, p. 1018.
Bibliography

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949)
New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling, 1980
Type “C” color photograph
Fund for Photography in honor of Ellen H. Johnson, 1982.97

 

        Laurie Simmons’s New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling is a 6 inch x 9.5 inch color photograph of a miniaturized bathroom set in which a doll kneels amongst the toy toilet, sink and bathtub. The work is part of Simmons’s Early Color Interiors series of 1978-1979, created at the beginning of Simmons’s career, when she had recently graduated from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and moved to New York City.[i] Simmons was not a trained as a photographer; self-taught, she began to use photography to distance herself from artistic traditions that she felt were not inclusive of female artists: “In college, I enrolled in a photography course, thinking I might like to learn. I walked in and said, ‘This isn’t art, I won’t waste my time on this.’ Later, I realized that in order to find a voice for myself as a woman artist, I had to reject painting and sculpture, so photography became interesting in a new way.”[ii]  Photography was a fairly new artistic medium; with a history of only about one hundred years, it was set apart from the heavily masculine traditions of painting and sculpture. For Simmons, the newness of photography was liberating, and allowed her to experiment with her art without being burdened by the history of a medium.
        Photography was a locus of experimentation in the 1970s and 1980s, and Simmons’s photography is influenced by Conceptual art practices that were being exhibited in New York City at this time. In her essay “Reinventing the Medium,” Rosalind Krauss discusses photography as becoming a “theoretical object” through the work of Conceptual artists. Artists like Robert Smithson and Edward Ruscha were championing photographic techniques such as photojournalism and “brutishly amateur photography” that created a non-art experience, and “critiqued the unexamined pretentions of high art.”[iii] Krauss describes these photo-conceptual art practices as deconstructive. Conceptual artists were removing photography from its academic and commercial context, and means of questioning the nature of art itself.
        Simmons addresses the role of Conceptual art in the formation of her own work in an interview with fellow artist Sarah Charlesworth: “Conceptual art just exploded for me…I was smart enough to know to wait until I could figure out what was going to be my artwork…It’s a very tempting place to work, to pick up where somebody has left of and start from there.”[iv] Simmons’s work thus does not simply adopt the methods of Conceptual artists, but develops them to a unique purpose. Her photographs appears artificial and amateur in the spirit of Conceptual art, but she departs from her predecessors by using their techniques to examine cultural representations of women in the media-dominated visual culture of post-war America.[v]
        New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling presents a critique of cultural representations of women by creating a world within the photograph that parodies the stereotype of a 1950s housewife. The title New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling provides a simple description of the content of the photograph, however it leaves the subject matter somewhat ambiguous. Judging solely by the title, New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling could be an image of a flesh-and-blood woman. In reality, the subject of the photograph is a doll: a figural stereotype of a 1950’s housewife, complete with high heels, a brightly printed dress with cap sleeves, and a bobbed haircut. The doll kneels within the miniaturized bathroom set, in a gesture of domestic labor. Simmons’s use of a doll and a hand crafted set to create this image constructs the female subject as a possession. The viewing experience is informed by a power dynamic between viewer and subject, with the viewer in a position of control over the female subject through its presentation as a familiar object of possession.
        The doll’s diminutive position is reinforced by the inauthenticity of the bathroom. The room is not imaged as a world onto itself, one that allows the viewer complete immersion. Rather, it resembles a movie set that has been taken out of the context of its film. There is a large gap between the vertical panels that are the wall of the bathroom, and the horizontal plane that is the floor. A bright light shines through this gap, illuminating the space of the bathroom in a highly unnatural way. The boundaries between the set and the natural world are clearly visible, enhancing the constructed nature of the space. As a result, the doll also seems less natural. Her “doll-ness” – her role as a stand-in for the human housewife – is emphasized by the unnatural space she occupies.
        The vantage point of the photograph further highlights the objective nature of the doll. The camera lens approaches the doll from above, so that the scene appears true to life in scale. The viewer is not approaching the image on the same level as the doll, as if the photograph was an opening onto the dolls world. Instead, the viewer approaches the image as one would a dollhouse, from above, looking in. This vantage point has the effect of further objectifying the doll, and enforcing the owner-possession dynamic between the viewer and the subject.
        The photograph constructs the doll as diminutive not only to the viewer, but also to the other objects within the space of the image. A miniature toilet, bathtub and sink occupy the bathroom along with the doll. The three appliances parallel the three vertical walls, confining her to a corner of the space. The doll kneels on the floor, with a hand on the bathtub as if turning it on. The gesture parodies the stereotype of a 1950s housewife as completely absorbed by domestic labor, a slave to her appliances. The kneeling gesture reduces the doll to the size of the surrounding objects. This positioning of the doll denies her any power over the appliances. Rather, the appliances exert power over her. The doll’s kneeling gesture is one of subservience.  The bathtub is dictating her gesture, in the same way that the positioning of the appliances control her location in the space. The doll is denied any potential power over the surrounding objects by being photographed with her head turned away from the camera. With her face obscured from the viewer, the doll is further dehumanized, and becomes an object amongst objects.
        New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling stands as a critique of the 1950s housewife stereotype as an objectifying and reductive role for women. The doll is constantly under the control of external forces, both in her dollhouse world, and in the viewer’s world. The hand of the artist exerts total control over the dollhouse world. Simmons has manipulated the position of the doll so as to parody the 1950s housewife’s slavish devotion to her appliances, and in doing so has reduced the doll to the same objective status of the appliances. The mediation of the artist is referenced by the visibly constructed nature of the set. The image makes clear that this is not a world onto itself, but is a hand-made set that exists in the natural world. This power of the artist over the subject/object of the doll is symbolically transferred to the viewer, who approaches to image from a high vantage point that allows for an understanding of the doll as a doll, and thus a possession.
        Simmons has effectively created a simulacral world in New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling. A simulacrum is a material image that bears a surface resemblance to the thing it references. The doll is a simulacrum of a stereotypical 1950s housewife, and the photograph itself is a simulacrum of the doll in her dollhouse. Both the idea of the housewife and the idea of the doll are communicated through the image, though the material object of both housewife and doll are left behind. Jean Baudrillard’s theory of the simulacra dictates that through the process of simulation, simulacra creates its own reality separate from the thing it represents:

Reality itself founders in hyperrealism, the meticulous reduplication of the real, preferably through another, reproductive medium, such as photography. From medium to medium, the real is volatized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of the lost object…[vi]

The doll is thus designated as a sculptural object because it has been removed from its role as an everyday object, and situated within the framework of the photograph. The construction of a separate reality in the photograph transforms the everyday objects of the dollhouse into sculptural subjects.


Alex Kelly (OC ’13)




[i] “Early Color Interiors: 1978-1979.” Laurie Simmons, artist website. Accessed 28 October, 2012. http://www.lauriesimmons.net/photographs/early-color-interiors/#.
[ii] Laurie Simmons, interviewed by Sarah Charlesworth, New York City, 24 February, 1992. Laurie Simmons / interviewed by Sarah Charlesworth, ed. William S. Barton and Rodney Sappington. New York: Art Resources Transfer, Inc, 1994, p. 5.
[iii] Krauss, Rosalind. “Reinventing the Medium”. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 25, No. 2, “Angelus Novus”: Perspectives on Walter Benjamin (Winter 1999), pp. 289-305; p. 295. Accessed through http://www.jstor.org/stable/1344204.
[iv] Interview with Sarah Charlesworth, pp. 6-8.
[v] Linker, Kate. “Reflections on a Mirror,” in Laurie Simmons: Walking, Talking, Lying.
London: Aperture Foundation, Inc., 2005, p. 8.
[vi] Baudrillard, Jean. “The Hyper-realism of Simulation,” in Art in Theory 1900-2000. Ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1993, pp. 1018-1020, p. 1018.

Bibliography

James Casebere (American, b. 1953)The Library II, 1980-82Gelatin silver printFund for Photography in honor of Ellen H. Johnson, 1983.38
 
        Classifying James Casebere as belonging to a single artistic movement is a fruitless endeavor. His photographs draw from a number of different artistic concepts and groups, from Surrealism – Casebere “uses a medium that ostensibly documents reality to record images of fantasy,” thus he defamiliarizes the familiar – to Constructivism – the artist emphasizes a transparent process, stressing the materiality of his work.[i][ii] Casebere also has compared his photographic practice to the performance-based, Conceptual strategies of Vito Acconci, Dennis Oppenheim, and Mary Miss who he admired for being interdisciplinary artists who “moved into the realm of architecture.”[iii] However, when examining his process, all categorization falls aside, leaving Casebere in a realm of his own. To make his photographs, the artist creates architectural models, often replicas of institutionalized, repetitive, and ritualized spaces including storefronts, prison cells, and suburban houses, out of “paper, mat board, and plaster”[iv] He then photographs the models and disposes of them. Often Casebere replicates specific architectural locations, or, as in Library II (1980-1982), one photograph in a two part series where Library I of 1980 is a detail shot, he designs archetypal institutions that “suggest habitable spaces subtly contaminated into fiction.”[v][vi] As a result of his process and style, each architectural element is simplified until the model functions as “social signs of this public space,” rather than as a claim to the space itself.[vii]        Casebere’s process of creating generic architectural spaces acts against the medium of photography, which captures and concretizes moments in time. Additionally, his models are meant to be impermanent; they are solely created for the click of the camera, with their imminent destruction in mind. Since his photographs depict fabricated spaces, Casebere’s process undermines broader conceptions that photography is a medium that documents truth, and objectively captures reality. It also works against traditions of architecture, a medium with strong claims to longevity, through its use of the sculptural model. The model in architecture functions as a rough draft sculpture of a plan that will be actualized into a long-lasting reality. Casebere’s models, however, are never carried out. Thus, the very nature of Casebere’s process is in opposition to the two mediums it harnesses.        Library II presents a toy library. Its miniaturization sets up a dollhouse-like tone. The architectural elements are obvious replications of, rather than functional, forms. The pillars are adhered to the base with plaster that differs in color from the ground and poles. The thick and boxy study carrels are made of foam. He also highlights the photograph’s materiality by leaving the imperfections untouched. For example, the jagged edges in the material Casebere cut to create this space are visible in the archways directly across from the viewer, as well as in the wobbly banisters. Its materiality clearly reveals that this photograph is not of an actual library, but rather, a manipulatable toy-like replica. Casebere himself claimed that the objective in revealing the construction is to “allow the viewer to step back and have a certain critical distance of the experience.”[viii] Casebere’s transparent approach to the architectural model emphasizes the photographic medium, thus distancing the work from the real and projecting the viewer into this miniaturized, fantastical space. Though many of his other works are almost impossible to decipher as models, Casebere is clearly not claiming Library II to be a replication of a real space. Instead it conjures a dream-like fantasy through its imperfect representation of reality.        Casebere also uses light to distort a perception of the real and hint at possibilities beyond this space. The only clear light source is the window in the top left register, leading the viewer to assume that there are windows behind each door. Other than this blaring, white light, the rest of the work’s color contrast seems to emanate from a light source from above. The doors both above and below the balcony, which are slightly ajar, suggest a continuation of the library, but the harsh lighting also confuses an understanding of them. Deeply cloaked in shadow and muddled by the shadows they cast, the doors are difficult to decipher in terms of their direction. Unless seen from a close vantage point, the photograph makes it unclear as to whether the right doors are hinged on the same side as the others.        Photographic reproductions of this original photograph eliminate these distortions. The digital reproduction used to illustrate this image on the artist’s website is a much lighter rendering that does not distort the depth perception in the same way. Perhaps it has been Photoshopped, as Casebere demonstrates using a program to edit his photographs on YouTube.[ix] In the reproduction, the confusion of space that is seen in the original through the shadows, which hide architectural elements, is removed. Conversely, the digital reproduction on the website of the Allen Memorial Art Museum depicts an even darker image than the photograph in the gallery. In this illustration, the triangular light cast on the bottom right corridor is indistinguishable and blurry. Because of photography’s potential to be digitized and reproduced online, Library II takes on a separate identity beyond the museum. Casebere’s choice to digitally publish a lighter version of this photograph begs the question: which photograph should be considered accurate? Or are they each to be counted as individual objects?        The dream-like quality of Casebere’s photograph is amplified by his use of black and white photography, which stresses the materiality of the photograph all the more. The black and white contrasts contribute to the sterile, fantastical quality of the library. As Casebere explains, “black and white had more to do with memory and past.[…]And I think black and white adds a certain level of abstraction.”[x] The lack of color then goes a step further to undermine the photograph’s claim to the real as it functions as a mode of abstraction to widen the rift between reality and fantasy.[xi] By using a historical photographic medium, Casebere also calls attention to the materiality of the photograph. While color would assimilate this photograph to real life, black and white distances the work from the viewer and from everyday experience. The scene exists apart, in a separate realm of representation.        This fantastical tone is further distorted through the elision of human activity. There are no people and most importantly, no books represented in this model. Although the photograph depicts a library, it is curiously empty. The only sign of human interference in the photograph, besides the assumption that someone must have built this institution, is the angle of the chair at the carrel second from the left. This cocked angle suggests someone scooted the chair out and did not push it back in before leaving. As the only indication of action in this otherwise eerily static model, this chair holds significance in the photograph, which presents a space of abandonment and ruin, thereby decontextualizing and disassociating the viewer from an institutional space. After all, what is a library without a human to use it? This unnerving emptiness causes the photograph to actually assume an almost apocalyptic, nightmarish tone.        This idea of desolation also informs a discussion of the function of repetition in Casebere’s photograph. Indeed, photography as a medium is rooted in duplication and a habitualized process. Casbere intentionally illuminates this grounding by choosing subjects that also belong to discourses of replication and ritual practice. A library is an institutionalized space that demands certain conventions and rituals of its subjects: a patron checks out a book and then returns it on a specified date. These habits are universal, crossing geographical boundaries, stressing the library’s utilitarian function as a common, democratic resource. What does it mean, then, that Casebere’s Library II is empty? It is devoid of the books and people that define a library, suggesting that Casebere is presenting a ruin or a monument of this orderly space. The artist also tests the notion that a library is a building deeply rooted in order and serialization. The serial, repeated forms of rows of bookshelves, groups of tables, and computers, exemplify the conventions of duplication and systems of the institution, including the Dewey decimal system and the borrow-and-return pattern of exchange. Yet this subject matter of order and seriality is undermined by Casebere’s photograph, which stresses disorder through the haphazard arrangement of the carrels and through the uneven, jagged edges of the material. In this way, the photograph acts as a simulacrum, or “a copy without an original […] based on difference and repetition.”[xii] In other words, the meaning of the work comes from the empty replication itself.        The encounter of the functionless library also complicates a stable reading of Library II. The viewer is presumably placed on the opposite balcony, yet the height at which it is placed in the Ripin Gallery forces the viewer to strain his or her neck upwards, upsetting a comfortable, seamless encounter. In reconciling the viewer’s physical relationship to the work, it is important to also note the photograph’s architectural structure, which lacks of a clear entrance or exit point from the library, begging the question: how does a viewer enter this space? The way in which Casebere structures our access to the scene suggests that the viewer enters this eerie, almost apocalyptic scene in an unsettling dream. Because of the replication of architectural forms and the placement of the viewer inside of the space, the viewer continues to construct the library for him or herself. Thus, the viewer takes the place of the camera and actively participates in this duplicative impulse through making sense of the symbols by filling in the spaces beyond that are intimated by the photograph. Thus, Casebere allows the viewer to claim partial authorship of this photograph.[xiii] While he provides the paired-down model and frames it through photography, it is the viewer who understands it and therefore activates it as a symbol by filling in the details and continuing to create the space. Either way, an encounter with this photograph, though documenting a facsimile of reality, is mediated through an uneasy unreality.        Ultimately, Library II undermines both architecture and photography by making visible the contradictions that each medium adheres to—underscoring the radical critiques that arise from the tensions between photography and sculpture. Casebere reduces architecture to functionless signs, suggesting that it is the societal structures, and not the physical structures, which dictate purpose. He also attacks photography’s claims to reality by employing the medium’s own techniques to point out its very artificiality. 
Julia Melfi (OC ’15) 
[i] Carol Diehl, “James Casebere at Sean Kelly,” Art in America, (December 2007, Vol. 95 No.11): 155.[ii] Roberto Juarez, “James Casebere,” Bomb (Fall 2001, No. 77): 31.[iii] Juarez, “Casebere,” 31.[iv] Hal Foster, “Uncanny Images,” Art in America, (November1983, Vol. 71): 202.[v] “James Casebere,” artist’s website, accessed September 15, 2012, http://www.jamescasebere.net.[vi] David Frankel, “James Casebere,” ArtForum (March 2002, Vol. 40 No. 7): 109.[vii] Foster, “Uncanny Images,” 203.[viii] Juarez, “Casebere,” 31[ix] Yamazaki, Rima “James Casebere on Landscape with Houses,” YouTube. 17 May 2011. 15 Sept. 2012.[x] Juarez, “Casebere,” 30.[xi] Juarez, “Casebere,” 30.[xii] Foster, “Uncanny Images,” 203.[xiii] Diehl, “Casebere at Sean Kelly,” 155.
Bibliography

James Casebere (American, b. 1953)
The Library II, 1980-82
Gelatin silver print
Fund for Photography in honor of Ellen H. Johnson, 1983.38

 

        Classifying James Casebere as belonging to a single artistic movement is a fruitless endeavor. His photographs draw from a number of different artistic concepts and groups, from Surrealism – Casebere “uses a medium that ostensibly documents reality to record images of fantasy,” thus he defamiliarizes the familiar – to Constructivism – the artist emphasizes a transparent process, stressing the materiality of his work.[i][ii] Casebere also has compared his photographic practice to the performance-based, Conceptual strategies of Vito Acconci, Dennis Oppenheim, and Mary Miss who he admired for being interdisciplinary artists who “moved into the realm of architecture.”[iii] However, when examining his process, all categorization falls aside, leaving Casebere in a realm of his own. To make his photographs, the artist creates architectural models, often replicas of institutionalized, repetitive, and ritualized spaces including storefronts, prison cells, and suburban houses, out of “paper, mat board, and plaster”[iv] He then photographs the models and disposes of them. Often Casebere replicates specific architectural locations, or, as in Library II (1980-1982), one photograph in a two part series where Library I of 1980 is a detail shot, he designs archetypal institutions that “suggest habitable spaces subtly contaminated into fiction.”[v][vi] As a result of his process and style, each architectural element is simplified until the model functions as “social signs of this public space,” rather than as a claim to the space itself.[vii]
        Casebere’s process of creating generic architectural spaces acts against the medium of photography, which captures and concretizes moments in time. Additionally, his models are meant to be impermanent; they are solely created for the click of the camera, with their imminent destruction in mind. Since his photographs depict fabricated spaces, Casebere’s process undermines broader conceptions that photography is a medium that documents truth, and objectively captures reality. It also works against traditions of architecture, a medium with strong claims to longevity, through its use of the sculptural model. The model in architecture functions as a rough draft sculpture of a plan that will be actualized into a long-lasting reality. Casebere’s models, however, are never carried out. Thus, the very nature of Casebere’s process is in opposition to the two mediums it harnesses.
        Library II presents a toy library. Its miniaturization sets up a dollhouse-like tone. The architectural elements are obvious replications of, rather than functional, forms. The pillars are adhered to the base with plaster that differs in color from the ground and poles. The thick and boxy study carrels are made of foam. He also highlights the photograph’s materiality by leaving the imperfections untouched. For example, the jagged edges in the material Casebere cut to create this space are visible in the archways directly across from the viewer, as well as in the wobbly banisters. Its materiality clearly reveals that this photograph is not of an actual library, but rather, a manipulatable toy-like replica. Casebere himself claimed that the objective in revealing the construction is to “allow the viewer to step back and have a certain critical distance of the experience.”[viii] Casebere’s transparent approach to the architectural model emphasizes the photographic medium, thus distancing the work from the real and projecting the viewer into this miniaturized, fantastical space. Though many of his other works are almost impossible to decipher as models, Casebere is clearly not claiming Library II to be a replication of a real space. Instead it conjures a dream-like fantasy through its imperfect representation of reality.
        Casebere also uses light to distort a perception of the real and hint at possibilities beyond this space. The only clear light source is the window in the top left register, leading the viewer to assume that there are windows behind each door. Other than this blaring, white light, the rest of the work’s color contrast seems to emanate from a light source from above. The doors both above and below the balcony, which are slightly ajar, suggest a continuation of the library, but the harsh lighting also confuses an understanding of them. Deeply cloaked in shadow and muddled by the shadows they cast, the doors are difficult to decipher in terms of their direction. Unless seen from a close vantage point, the photograph makes it unclear as to whether the right doors are hinged on the same side as the others.
        Photographic reproductions of this original photograph eliminate these distortions. The digital reproduction used to illustrate this image on the artist’s website is a much lighter rendering that does not distort the depth perception in the same way. Perhaps it has been Photoshopped, as Casebere demonstrates using a program to edit his photographs on YouTube.[ix] In the reproduction, the confusion of space that is seen in the original through the shadows, which hide architectural elements, is removed. Conversely, the digital reproduction on the website of the Allen Memorial Art Museum depicts an even darker image than the photograph in the gallery. In this illustration, the triangular light cast on the bottom right corridor is indistinguishable and blurry. Because of photography’s potential to be digitized and reproduced online, Library II takes on a separate identity beyond the museum. Casebere’s choice to digitally publish a lighter version of this photograph begs the question: which photograph should be considered accurate? Or are they each to be counted as individual objects?
        The dream-like quality of Casebere’s photograph is amplified by his use of black and white photography, which stresses the materiality of the photograph all the more. The black and white contrasts contribute to the sterile, fantastical quality of the library. As Casebere explains, “black and white had more to do with memory and past.[…]And I think black and white adds a certain level of abstraction.”[x] The lack of color then goes a step further to undermine the photograph’s claim to the real as it functions as a mode of abstraction to widen the rift between reality and fantasy.[xi] By using a historical photographic medium, Casebere also calls attention to the materiality of the photograph. While color would assimilate this photograph to real life, black and white distances the work from the viewer and from everyday experience. The scene exists apart, in a separate realm of representation.
        This fantastical tone is further distorted through the elision of human activity. There are no people and most importantly, no books represented in this model. Although the photograph depicts a library, it is curiously empty. The only sign of human interference in the photograph, besides the assumption that someone must have built this institution, is the angle of the chair at the carrel second from the left. This cocked angle suggests someone scooted the chair out and did not push it back in before leaving. As the only indication of action in this otherwise eerily static model, this chair holds significance in the photograph, which presents a space of abandonment and ruin, thereby decontextualizing and disassociating the viewer from an institutional space. After all, what is a library without a human to use it? This unnerving emptiness causes the photograph to actually assume an almost apocalyptic, nightmarish tone.
        This idea of desolation also informs a discussion of the function of repetition in Casebere’s photograph. Indeed, photography as a medium is rooted in duplication and a habitualized process. Casbere intentionally illuminates this grounding by choosing subjects that also belong to discourses of replication and ritual practice. A library is an institutionalized space that demands certain conventions and rituals of its subjects: a patron checks out a book and then returns it on a specified date. These habits are universal, crossing geographical boundaries, stressing the library’s utilitarian function as a common, democratic resource. What does it mean, then, that Casebere’s Library II is empty? It is devoid of the books and people that define a library, suggesting that Casebere is presenting a ruin or a monument of this orderly space. The artist also tests the notion that a library is a building deeply rooted in order and serialization. The serial, repeated forms of rows of bookshelves, groups of tables, and computers, exemplify the conventions of duplication and systems of the institution, including the Dewey decimal system and the borrow-and-return pattern of exchange. Yet this subject matter of order and seriality is undermined by Casebere’s photograph, which stresses disorder through the haphazard arrangement of the carrels and through the uneven, jagged edges of the material. In this way, the photograph acts as a simulacrum, or “a copy without an original […] based on difference and repetition.”[xii] In other words, the meaning of the work comes from the empty replication itself.
        The encounter of the functionless library also complicates a stable reading of Library II. The viewer is presumably placed on the opposite balcony, yet the height at which it is placed in the Ripin Gallery forces the viewer to strain his or her neck upwards, upsetting a comfortable, seamless encounter. In reconciling the viewer’s physical relationship to the work, it is important to also note the photograph’s architectural structure, which lacks of a clear entrance or exit point from the library, begging the question: how does a viewer enter this space? The way in which Casebere structures our access to the scene suggests that the viewer enters this eerie, almost apocalyptic scene in an unsettling dream. Because of the replication of architectural forms and the placement of the viewer inside of the space, the viewer continues to construct the library for him or herself. Thus, the viewer takes the place of the camera and actively participates in this duplicative impulse through making sense of the symbols by filling in the spaces beyond that are intimated by the photograph. Thus, Casebere allows the viewer to claim partial authorship of this photograph.[xiii] While he provides the paired-down model and frames it through photography, it is the viewer who understands it and therefore activates it as a symbol by filling in the details and continuing to create the space. Either way, an encounter with this photograph, though documenting a facsimile of reality, is mediated through an uneasy unreality.
        Ultimately, Library II undermines both architecture and photography by making visible the contradictions that each medium adheres to—underscoring the radical critiques that arise from the tensions between photography and sculpture. Casebere reduces architecture to functionless signs, suggesting that it is the societal structures, and not the physical structures, which dictate purpose. He also attacks photography’s claims to reality by employing the medium’s own techniques to point out its very artificiality.


Julia Melfi (OC ’15)




[i] Carol Diehl, “James Casebere at Sean Kelly,” Art in America, (December 2007, Vol. 95 No.11): 155.
[ii] Roberto Juarez, “James Casebere,” Bomb (Fall 2001, No. 77): 31.
[iii] Juarez, “Casebere,” 31.
[iv] Hal Foster, “Uncanny Images,” Art in America, (November1983, Vol. 71): 202.
[v] “James Casebere,” artist’s website, accessed September 15, 2012, http://www.jamescasebere.net.
[vi] David Frankel, “James Casebere,” ArtForum (March 2002, Vol. 40 No. 7): 109.
[vii] Foster, “Uncanny Images,” 203.
[viii] Juarez, “Casebere,” 31
[ix] Yamazaki, Rima “James Casebere on Landscape with Houses,” YouTube. 17 May 2011. 15 Sept. 2012.
[x] Juarez, “Casebere,” 30.
[xi] Juarez, “Casebere,” 30.
[xii] Foster, “Uncanny Images,” 203.
[xiii] Diehl, “Casebere at Sean Kelly,” 155.

Bibliography

Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, b. 1961)Ball on Water (Pelota en el Agua), 1994Cibachrome printGift of Cristina Delgado (OC 1980) and Stephen F. Olsen (OC 1979), 2002.21.2
 
        A pregnant moon hangs low in cloud-streaked sky; a pearl floats forward from its resting place in the cosmos; a ping pong ball, abandoned and silent, sits half-submerged in a reflective puddle. These metaphorical readings, each describing an object with a distinct sense of scale, emphasize the disorienting optical effect of Gabriel Orozco’s (b. 1961) Ball on Water (Pelota en el agua). At first glance, the viewer cannot immediately name not only the experience the photograph produces but also, more problematically, its precise subject matter. Can the white sphere fit into the palm of one’s hand, or is its diameter more comparable to that of a planet? Regardless of scale, one must look to the explicitness of the work’s title to conclude that the photograph’s content is a ball on water, a simple object unadorned with a specific context or narrative. Printed through the silver bleach-dye process of cibachrome, the photograph glows with an ethereal spectrum of blue hues. Fading from darkness to light—from the corners to the center of the print, where sunlight is reflected—the photograph adopts a reverse-ombré effect, allowing light and shadow to dictate where the viewer’s eye moves. As a result of this dramatic lighting, the ball seems disconnected from the wisps of clouds in the background, as a semi-circle of shadow creates an almost collage-like effect; has the artist somehow sharpened the focus of the ball’s edges, allowing it to assume a cut-out appearance? The photograph produces a strange effect of coincident nearness and distance: the spherical form seems to simultaneously come towards and drift away from the viewer. Does this image—a smooth globe against a spread of whirling clouds—occur in reality, or does it compose some kind of strange hallucination, a suggestion of the surreal and the expansiveness of human consciousness?        These sprawling questions, in the context of Orozco’s eclectic oeuvre, do not necessarily call for concrete, unified answers; rather, the questions themselves reveal a self-conscious ambiguity. While seemingly inaccessible and perhaps off-putting to the viewer, this ambiguity stresses the thematic opaqueness that characterizes much of Orozco’s photographic work. As art historian Jean Fisher writes, his work “does not surrender itself instantly to the analytic demands of language. Rather its immediate appeal is to the emotions and sense [of the viewer], producing a somatic resonance often approaching the synesthetic.”[i] In other words, the viewer is not expected to arrive at a neatly packaged conclusion but should instead allow and accept the emotive experience that develops from looking.        Throughout the span of his artistic practice, Orozco has engaged with myriad media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and installation—often combining two or more forms to explore the potential metamorphoses and limitations of each one.[ii] Describing his photography as an extension of his sculptural works, he finds ways to decouple sculpture from its formal foundation in pure mass and weight.[iii] Instead, he focuses on a sculpture’s conceptual underpinnings and spatial configurations within its broader environment. A found object is no longer a legible shape or mere mass of atoms in space; rather, the found object reincarnates as a heightened version of its former self, reenergized as something dynamic and absorbent of its surroundings. As the artist, Orozco facilitates this transformation, or self-realization, from simple to complex, from closed to open, from physical to cerebral.        In Ball on Water, for example, Orozco captures a three-dimensional object through two-dimensional representation, stripping the object of its original materiality and tactility. Rendered non-functional—like a ritual vessel that cannot carry wine—the pictured ball stands in as a visual signifier of what was, a reminder of something lost. However, Orozco frequently reframes loss in terms of resilience and possibility: a puddle, he has said, “may be something disappointing, something to be avoided, a topographical accident, a bit of urban disorder, an accumulation of time, an imperfection. But it is also a space where something marvelous may happen.”[iv] In this case, he sees urban debris, raw and neglected, as candidates for sculpture—that is, if manipulated by a sharp eye and well-applied intuition.  Fueled by his curiosity, Orozco “makes minimal interventions in the life of the object,” as Fisher writes, “sufficient to extend the form and context of the materials without either disturbing the reality that attracted the artist in the first place, or closing off the imaginative space of the viewer.”[v] These interventions, subtle yet profound, underscore the artist as both spontaneous and meticulous, his constructions sometimes haphazard, sometimes highly staged.        To fully appreciate Orozco’s photographic-sculptural work, one must understand his artistic practice, a nebulous process informed by wanderlust and impulse. Abandoning the traditional artist’s workspace of the studio, he roams around Mexico City, New York, and Paris, rearranging plastic bags on barbed-wire fences, or circling through alleyway puddles on an old bicycle.[vi] Nomadic and multilingual, he does not settle for singularity or consistency, instead occupying the spaces in between nations, languages, media, and interpretations. Moreover, he accumulates and borrows from a range of aesthetic strategies, including European Fluxus or Italian arte povera of the 1960s.[vii] As Fisher argues, these strategies nevertheless stem from “conditions of lived experience in Latin American societies, and therefore spring from a sensibility and life-world not wholly appropriable to Euro-American categories.”[viii] Orozco’s work, therefore, seems to come from a sense of personal heritage and, as he emphasizes, from a fascination with “the border between control and abandon, between the urban and the organic, the edges of the city where ‘order’ is growing and clashing with the ‘disorder’ of nature.”[ix] His hybridized work, suspended in a moment between order and chaos, echoes the instability that distinguishes the artist’s practice.        Exploring the stability of the sculptural object is neither unique to Orozco nor unprecedented in the history of art. In the Conceptual photographic movement of the 1960s and 70s—embodied by the work of John Cage, Bruce Nauman, and Douglas Huebler—deskilled photography, unwilling to engage in sophisticated techniques or post-production editing, served as a record of the object’s presence.[x] In other words, as in Ball on Water, the sculpture does not exist without the photograph, and the photograph does not exist without the sculpture. This dependent relationship, manifest in the documentary photographs of Nauman’s performances for example, complicates a pertinent question: does the photograph, the only surviving evidence of a sculpture, performance, or installation, become an artwork in its own right, or does it maintain its status as a record of what was or what happened? For Orozco, who has no formal training in photography and does not apply distorting effects to his negatives, this issue does not resolve neatly.[xi] As Benjamin H.D. Buchloh notes in his 2004 essay entitled “Cosmic Reification,” Orozco’s images eschew “the high resolution generated by advanced digital camera and printing techniques,” as well as the “extreme care and preparation in the preliminary phases of image selection and production.”[xii] Without highly skilled technique, can the artist’s snapshots genuinely be considered artworks—or, conversely, is it precisely this lack of skill, this rejection of “high art,” that imbues his photographs with artistic legitimacy and integrity?        In his own words, Orozco sees photography as “a shoebox… a container I use to transport what I pick up in my interactions.” He says, furthermore, “I value the plane of the photograph in its description of the three dimensional and its possible space for storing time. I turn to the photograph as a sculptural space.”[xiii] It is photography that immortalizes his physically ephemeral sculptures and serves as testimony to his interventions with urban environments. Orozco’s intimate interactions with objects become, through photography, publicized and accessible to the viewer, his works testaments to “the precarious status of the sculptural object between private fetish and public spectacle,” as Buchloh writes.[xiv] He grants the viewer admission into his meditative encounters with objects, even allowing the viewer to adopt the experience as his or her own. In this sense, the viewer enters into the picture plane to contemplate, or even possess, the object as one instilled with interpretive possibilities. Through collapsing together sky and earth, photography and sculpture, sophistication and humility, Ball on Water turns an entirely trivial pairing of street occurrences into a breathtaking image of something weightless, something that carries one’s imagination.
 Sarah Konowitz (OC ’13) 
[i] Jean Fisher, “The Sleep of Wakefulness: Gabriel Orozco (1993),” trans. Isabelle Marmasse, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 18.[ii] Museum Label for Gabriel Orozco, Ball on Water (Pelota en el agua), 1994, (New York: Guggenheim Museum of Art, Permanent Collection), accessed October 30, 2012, http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-full/piece/?search=Ball%20on%20Water&page=&f=Title&object=98.4632.[iii] Joanna Lowry, “Gabriel Orozco,” Photoworks 14 (2010): 42.[iv] Gabriel Orozco, “Lecture (2001),” trans. Eileen Brockbank, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al, (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 89.[v] Fisher, 24.[vi] “Loss & Desire: Gabriel Orozco,” in Art 21: Art in the Twenty-First Century (Season 2), DVD, dir. Deborah Shaffer (Alexandria, Virginia: PBS Home Video, 2003).[vii] Fisher, 21-22.[viii] Ibid, 22.[ix] Orozco, 93.[x] Jeff Wall, “ ‘Marks of Indifference’: Aspects of Conceptualism in, or as, Photography,” in The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography, 1960-1982, ed. Douglas Fogle (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Walker Art Center, 2003), 32-44.[xi] Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Carrie Lambert-Beatty, and Megan Sullivan, “To Make an Inner Time: A Conversation with Gabriel Orozco,” October 130 (2009): 183.[xii] Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, “Cosmic Reification: Gabriel Orozco’s Photographs,” in Gabriel Orozco, 75-96 (London: Serpentine Gallery, 2004), 75.[xiii] Orozco, 101.[xiv] Buchloh, “Gabriel Orozco: The Sculpture of Everyday Life,” trans. Isabelle Marmasse, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 40. 
Bibliography

Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, b. 1961)
Ball on Water (Pelota en el Agua), 1994
Cibachrome print
Gift of Cristina Delgado (OC 1980) and Stephen F. Olsen (OC 1979), 2002.21.2

 

        A pregnant moon hangs low in cloud-streaked sky; a pearl floats forward from its resting place in the cosmos; a ping pong ball, abandoned and silent, sits half-submerged in a reflective puddle. These metaphorical readings, each describing an object with a distinct sense of scale, emphasize the disorienting optical effect of Gabriel Orozco’s (b. 1961) Ball on Water (Pelota en el agua). At first glance, the viewer cannot immediately name not only the experience the photograph produces but also, more problematically, its precise subject matter. Can the white sphere fit into the palm of one’s hand, or is its diameter more comparable to that of a planet? Regardless of scale, one must look to the explicitness of the work’s title to conclude that the photograph’s content is a ball on water, a simple object unadorned with a specific context or narrative. Printed through the silver bleach-dye process of cibachrome, the photograph glows with an ethereal spectrum of blue hues. Fading from darkness to light—from the corners to the center of the print, where sunlight is reflected—the photograph adopts a reverse-ombré effect, allowing light and shadow to dictate where the viewer’s eye moves. As a result of this dramatic lighting, the ball seems disconnected from the wisps of clouds in the background, as a semi-circle of shadow creates an almost collage-like effect; has the artist somehow sharpened the focus of the ball’s edges, allowing it to assume a cut-out appearance? The photograph produces a strange effect of coincident nearness and distance: the spherical form seems to simultaneously come towards and drift away from the viewer. Does this image—a smooth globe against a spread of whirling clouds—occur in reality, or does it compose some kind of strange hallucination, a suggestion of the surreal and the expansiveness of human consciousness?
        These sprawling questions, in the context of Orozco’s eclectic oeuvre, do not necessarily call for concrete, unified answers; rather, the questions themselves reveal a self-conscious ambiguity. While seemingly inaccessible and perhaps off-putting to the viewer, this ambiguity stresses the thematic opaqueness that characterizes much of Orozco’s photographic work. As art historian Jean Fisher writes, his work “does not surrender itself instantly to the analytic demands of language. Rather its immediate appeal is to the emotions and sense [of the viewer], producing a somatic resonance often approaching the synesthetic.”[i] In other words, the viewer is not expected to arrive at a neatly packaged conclusion but should instead allow and accept the emotive experience that develops from looking.
        Throughout the span of his artistic practice, Orozco has engaged with myriad media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and installation—often combining two or more forms to explore the potential metamorphoses and limitations of each one.[ii] Describing his photography as an extension of his sculptural works, he finds ways to decouple sculpture from its formal foundation in pure mass and weight.[iii] Instead, he focuses on a sculpture’s conceptual underpinnings and spatial configurations within its broader environment. A found object is no longer a legible shape or mere mass of atoms in space; rather, the found object reincarnates as a heightened version of its former self, reenergized as something dynamic and absorbent of its surroundings. As the artist, Orozco facilitates this transformation, or self-realization, from simple to complex, from closed to open, from physical to cerebral.
        In Ball on Water, for example, Orozco captures a three-dimensional object through two-dimensional representation, stripping the object of its original materiality and tactility. Rendered non-functional—like a ritual vessel that cannot carry wine—the pictured ball stands in as a visual signifier of what was, a reminder of something lost. However, Orozco frequently reframes loss in terms of resilience and possibility: a puddle, he has said, “may be something disappointing, something to be avoided, a topographical accident, a bit of urban disorder, an accumulation of time, an imperfection. But it is also a space where something marvelous may happen.”[iv] In this case, he sees urban debris, raw and neglected, as candidates for sculpture—that is, if manipulated by a sharp eye and well-applied intuition.  Fueled by his curiosity, Orozco “makes minimal interventions in the life of the object,” as Fisher writes, “sufficient to extend the form and context of the materials without either disturbing the reality that attracted the artist in the first place, or closing off the imaginative space of the viewer.”[v] These interventions, subtle yet profound, underscore the artist as both spontaneous and meticulous, his constructions sometimes haphazard, sometimes highly staged.
        To fully appreciate Orozco’s photographic-sculptural work, one must understand his artistic practice, a nebulous process informed by wanderlust and impulse. Abandoning the traditional artist’s workspace of the studio, he roams around Mexico City, New York, and Paris, rearranging plastic bags on barbed-wire fences, or circling through alleyway puddles on an old bicycle.[vi] Nomadic and multilingual, he does not settle for singularity or consistency, instead occupying the spaces in between nations, languages, media, and interpretations. Moreover, he accumulates and borrows from a range of aesthetic strategies, including European Fluxus or Italian arte povera of the 1960s.[vii] As Fisher argues, these strategies nevertheless stem from “conditions of lived experience in Latin American societies, and therefore spring from a sensibility and life-world not wholly appropriable to Euro-American categories.”[viii] Orozco’s work, therefore, seems to come from a sense of personal heritage and, as he emphasizes, from a fascination with “the border between control and abandon, between the urban and the organic, the edges of the city where ‘order’ is growing and clashing with the ‘disorder’ of nature.”[ix] His hybridized work, suspended in a moment between order and chaos, echoes the instability that distinguishes the artist’s practice.
        Exploring the stability of the sculptural object is neither unique to Orozco nor unprecedented in the history of art. In the Conceptual photographic movement of the 1960s and 70s—embodied by the work of John Cage, Bruce Nauman, and Douglas Huebler—deskilled photography, unwilling to engage in sophisticated techniques or post-production editing, served as a record of the object’s presence.[x] In other words, as in Ball on Water, the sculpture does not exist without the photograph, and the photograph does not exist without the sculpture. This dependent relationship, manifest in the documentary photographs of Nauman’s performances for example, complicates a pertinent question: does the photograph, the only surviving evidence of a sculpture, performance, or installation, become an artwork in its own right, or does it maintain its status as a record of what was or what happened? For Orozco, who has no formal training in photography and does not apply distorting effects to his negatives, this issue does not resolve neatly.[xi] As Benjamin H.D. Buchloh notes in his 2004 essay entitled “Cosmic Reification,” Orozco’s images eschew “the high resolution generated by advanced digital camera and printing techniques,” as well as the “extreme care and preparation in the preliminary phases of image selection and production.”[xii] Without highly skilled technique, can the artist’s snapshots genuinely be considered artworks—or, conversely, is it precisely this lack of skill, this rejection of “high art,” that imbues his photographs with artistic legitimacy and integrity?
        In his own words, Orozco sees photography as “a shoebox… a container I use to transport what I pick up in my interactions.” He says, furthermore, “I value the plane of the photograph in its description of the three dimensional and its possible space for storing time. I turn to the photograph as a sculptural space.”[xiii] It is photography that immortalizes his physically ephemeral sculptures and serves as testimony to his interventions with urban environments. Orozco’s intimate interactions with objects become, through photography, publicized and accessible to the viewer, his works testaments to “the precarious status of the sculptural object between private fetish and public spectacle,” as Buchloh writes.[xiv] He grants the viewer admission into his meditative encounters with objects, even allowing the viewer to adopt the experience as his or her own. In this sense, the viewer enters into the picture plane to contemplate, or even possess, the object as one instilled with interpretive possibilities. Through collapsing together sky and earth, photography and sculpture, sophistication and humility, Ball on Water turns an entirely trivial pairing of street occurrences into a breathtaking image of something weightless, something that carries one’s imagination.


Sarah Konowitz (OC ’13)




[i] Jean Fisher, “The Sleep of Wakefulness: Gabriel Orozco (1993),” trans. Isabelle Marmasse, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 18.
[ii] Museum Label for Gabriel Orozco, Ball on Water (Pelota en el agua), 1994, (New York: Guggenheim Museum of Art, Permanent Collection), accessed October 30, 2012, http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-full/piece/?search=Ball%20on%20Water&page=&f=Title&object=98.4632.
[iii] Joanna Lowry, “Gabriel Orozco,” Photoworks 14 (2010): 42.
[iv] Gabriel Orozco, “Lecture (2001),” trans. Eileen Brockbank, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al, (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 89.
[v] Fisher, 24.
[vi] “Loss & Desire: Gabriel Orozco,” in Art 21: Art in the Twenty-First Century (Season 2), DVD, dir. Deborah Shaffer (Alexandria, Virginia: PBS Home Video, 2003).
[vii] Fisher, 21-22.
[viii] Ibid, 22.
[ix] Orozco, 93.
[x] Jeff Wall, “ ‘Marks of Indifference’: Aspects of Conceptualism in, or as, Photography,” in The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography, 1960-1982, ed. Douglas Fogle (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Walker Art Center, 2003), 32-44.
[xi] Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Carrie Lambert-Beatty, and Megan Sullivan, “To Make an Inner Time: A Conversation with Gabriel Orozco,” October 130 (2009): 183.
[xii] Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, “Cosmic Reification: Gabriel Orozco’s Photographs,” in Gabriel Orozco, 75-96 (London: Serpentine Gallery, 2004), 75.
[xiii] Orozco, 101.
[xiv] Buchloh, “Gabriel Orozco: The Sculpture of Everyday Life,” trans. Isabelle Marmasse, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 40. 

Bibliography

Robert MacPherson (Scottish, 1811-1872)

Column Base of Antoninus Pious, Vatican, Rome, 1850-70
Albumen print
Gift of Marilyn W. Grounds, 1981.42.18-19

 

        Robert Macpherson’s pair of albumen prints, titled Column Base of Antoninus Pious, Vatican, Rome (c. 1850-70) depicts two sides of a column base found in the Vatican in Rome. Originally erected as an honorific column by Antoninus Pious’s adopted sons, the full column – fourteen and three quarters meters tall and almost two meters in diameter – and base were rediscovered in 1703 and excavated in Rome.[i] In 1764, unsuccessful attempts were made to restore the column shaft, but eventually parts of the column were used in restoration of other findings.[ii] The column base, however, was restored in the early 1700s and moved to the Cortile della Pigna in the Vatican, where Macpherson would have seen it.[iii] Reliefs decorate three sides of the base and the dedication of the column is inscribed on the fourth side.[iv]
        Relocating to Rome from Scotland in 1840, Macpherson began his artistic career as a painter, relying on atmospheric perspective to depict vast landscape scenes. As both Ann McCauley and Marjorie Munsterberg speculate, Macpherson began photographing sculptures in Rome perhaps to make a better living than painting afforded him.[v] Thanks to his personal and social connections to the Vatican, Macpherson gained access to the Vatican’s collections by 1855, of which the Column Base of Antoninus Pious is a part, several years before other photographers and firms – such as James Anderson and Alinari – were granted access to the collections.[vi] In choosing to photograph canonical Greco-Roman sculptures popularized by eighteenth century art historians such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Macpherson hoped to appeal to an audience of classically educated students, connoisseurs and antiquarians – an elite public probably wealthy enough to afford Macpherson’s lavish published photographic album, Macpherson’s Vatican Sculptures.
        The two photographs of the Column Base of Antoninus Pious were included in this album, which was one of the first systematic photographic records of a museum collection. It included albumen prints of one hundred and twenty eight sculptures and six interiors in the Vatican. Macpherson also published a relatively inexpensive guide to the galleries at the same time that he published the expensive album. The guide was illustrated with drawings by Macpherson’s wife and contained explanations written by Macpherson. It was intended to appeal to an audience of middle-class tourists, while the album, in conjunction with the written guide, was to be purchased by a wealthier public.[vii]
        In both photographs, Macpherson positioned the column base in the center of the image and used a frontal, eye-level view. Each side takes up the full photographic frame with very little space visible on each side of the base. Because the façade of the side occupies the full space in each of the compositions, these photographs do not relay any information about the column base as a three-dimensional structure, or how it operates in space. The viewer is unable to place the structure spatially; there is no indication of scale or spatial setting. The reliefs pictured in the photographs could exist anywhere – on a building façade, column base, or as ornamentation inside a building, for example. The title of the photographs is the only clue that alerts the viewer to the type of architectural object at which he or she is looking.
        The first photograph presents a relief sculpture depicting the apotheosis of Antoninus Pious and his wife, Faustina. An angel, whose wings extend nearly the full length of the plane, carries Antoninus and Faustina on its back. Two figures sit beneath the angel and its cargo, looking up at the angel as he exalts the couple, making them divine. In the second photograph, a relief sculpture depicts a funerary rite on the flat plane of the column base. Men riding horses encircle a group of men dressed as soldiers, each carrying a shield and some sort of weapon. Here, three-dimensional space is represented only in the intrinsic three-dimensionality of a relief. The circle of men creates a two-dimensional circle around the central figures, all existing in the same spatial plane, rather than extending illusionistically behind the central figures.
        In his two views of the column base, Macpherson utilizes several techniques commonly seen in photographs of sculpture of the time. A black background behind the column base isolates the relief from its surroundings and highlights the subject of the photograph. Such use of a neutral or black background in photographs of sculptures emphasizes the form and silhouette of the sculpture being photographed, and this model of depiction was common in photographs of the time period. A peek into the Alinari archives, for example, affirms this style immediately; most (if not all) of the photographed sculptures in that collection stand before a dark, neutral backdrop.
        Additionally, Macpherson used dramatic lighting to enhance the shadows cast by the relief figures, which emphasizes their three-dimensionality. For antiquarians studying photographs and engravings of such sculpture at the time, this issue was an important one. As McCauley has explained, although photographs more readily and clearly exposed the surface details of a sculptural object, engravings more effectively illustrated the three-dimensional qualities of such objects.[viii] In using dramatic, artificial lighting created by draperies and reflectors, Macpherson sought to heighten the shadowy effects of the reliefs and thus expose their three-dimensionality. Macpherson’s creation of this artificial light was unusual; often, photographers would have to shoot their sculptural subjects using the natural light in the galleries.[ix] Comparing Macpherson’s photograph of the funerary relief to a photograph of the same side taken by James Anderson around 1890 illustrates this difference. The shadows cast by the relief figures in Anderson’s photograph are less severe and dramatic than those in Macpherson’s, most likely largely due to Macpherson’s lighting techniques.
        Writing about nineteenth century photographic reproductions, Joel Snyder has described their “rhetoric of substitution,” an idea that comes heavily into play in Macpherson’s individual photographs and album as a whole.[x] Designed to “reconstruct” or “simulate” a visit to the Vatican by a mobile viewer, Macpherson’s photographs take the place of the actual objects being photographed and claim to embody the experience of seeing a particular sculpture in real life in a portable photograph.[xi] Macpherson’s photographs accomplish this replacement because of their formal qualities as well as their situation next to one another in Macpherson’s album. Macpherson’s strong lighting dramatizes the shadows cast by the relief sculptures, indicating their three-dimensionality using a two-dimensional medium.  Similarly, the slightly lower point of view of Macpherson’s photographs monumentalizes the column base and reveals the molding on the top and bottom of the pedestal, seen continuing around the sides of the block on the right and left of the base. Finally, Macpherson’s presentation of the two photographs together in his photographic album gives the viewer an even stronger sense of the base’s three-dimensionality, simulating the experience of walking around the column base.
        In his introduction to the album, Macpherson stressed that his photographs were taken of the original sculptures and not casts.[xii] In highlighting this, Macpherson hoped not only to provide an organized, true-to-life guide to the galleries for a wealthy tourist (or, in lesser detail, for a tourist of the middle class), but also to give the sedentary viewer a look into the galleries from the comfort and privacy of a home. This portability was important for the connoisseurship and study of artworks; rather than having to view these many sculptures in a public, crowded, rather visually busy space, the owner of Macpherson’s album could see the same sculptures through the “transparent” lens of the photograph in private, and from a great geographical distance. Macpherson’s photographed column base and its reliefs, then, are not just photographs, but rather act in place of the sculpture itself, allowing the viewer (in some way) to access the sculpture without ever seeing it in the flesh.


Cate Hughes (OC ’13)



[i] Samuel Ball Platner, “Columna Antonini Pii,” in A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (London: Oxford University Press, 1929), accessed October 10, 2012,  http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/_Texts/PLATOP*/Columna_Antonini_Pii.html.
[ii] James Grout, “The Column of Antoninus Pius,” in Encyclopaedia Romana, accessed October 10, 2012, http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/romanforum/antoninuspius.html.
[iii] Platner, “Columna Antonini Pii.”
[iv] Grout, “The Column of Antoninus Pius.”
[v] Anne McCauley, “Fawning Over Marbles: Robert and Gerardine Macpherson’s Vatican Sculptures and the Role of Photographs in the Reception of the Antique,” in Art and the Early Photographic Album, ed. Stephen Bann (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2011), 92.
[vi] McCauley, “Fawning Over Marbles,” 113.
[vii] Ibid., 99.
[viii] Ibid., 93.
[ix] Ibid., 101.
[x] Joel Snyder, “Nineteenth-Century Photography of Sculpture and the Rhetoric of Substitution,” in Sculpture and Photography Envisioning the Third Dimension, ed. G. Johnson, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 33.
[xi] Stephen Bann, “The Photographic Album as a Cultural Accumulator,” in Art and the Early Photographic Album, ed. Stephen Bann, (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2011).
[xii] McCauley, “Fawning Over Marbles,” 99.

Bibliography

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)Statues, St. Cloud, ca. 1920Vintage gold-toned albumen printYoung-Hunter Art Museum Acquisition Fund, 1996.3
 
        The 1920 photograph, Statues, Saint Cloud taken by Eugene Atget is a vintage gold-toned albumen print, acquired by the Allen Memorial Art Museum in 1996 from the Berenice Abbott Collection, Museum of Modern Art.  The photograph depicts two statues from the Parc de Saint Cloud located just outside Paris.[i] Just one of many photographs the artist took at Saint Cloud after he began working there in 1904, the photograph displays statues that flank the top of the Grand Cascade of the park; although the caption of the photograph does not supply precise attribution.[ii] The photograph was printed from a glass plate negative and bears some evidence of retouching, a process consistent with much of Atget’s other work.[iii] In the composition Atget uses a low vantage point, photographing the sculptures from underneath and to the rear and side, an angle that creates a strong difference in scale between the large foreground figure and the relatively smaller background statue. The vantage point combined with the lighting creates strong shadows that sweep across the backs of the statues. A viewer confronted with this work understands that he or she is seeing a photographic reproduction of sculptures, yet the photograph also unsettles the appearance of these works. Statues, Saint Cloud shows how the photography of sculpture enacts a dual viewing experience. The viewer is tempted to believe that what he or she is seeing is the sculpture itself, much as he or she would if confronted with the work directly. However, the mediation of the photographer becomes apparent in the photographic process, disrupting the myth of technological objectivity and giving legitimacy to photography as an autonomous art form.        When searching for answers about meaning, we are often tempted, some might say erroneously, to turn first to the artist’s biography.[iv] A risky endeavor under any circumstance, a biographical reading becomes especially tricky with Atget. Born in 1857 near Bordeaux and orphaned at the age of five he grew up primarily  with his maternal grandparents until he became a sailor sometime in the 1870s. After his return to land he moved to Paris and began to pursue, largely unsuccessfully, acting.[v] Around 1880 he took up photography and pursued it commercially, selling his work to painters as studies they could use in their compositions. Around 1889 he started to concentrate on photographing views of old Paris. This shift in focus coincided with many Parisians’ rising interest in preserving the traditional face of the city, allowing Atget to make a living selling these prints.[vi] Beyond a timeline of his major life events relatively little is known about the artist. This lack of information has often, in discussions of the man and his work, been translated into an aura of mystery that ends up dominating much of the discourse around his photographic practice.        Atget himself did not see his photographs as art; therefore, he made no formal statements about the intent of his work.[vii] In the dearth of an artist’s statements, in which the photographer might have reflected upon his work, one may turn to projects in which he was involved to better inform us of his goals. During his career as a photographer Atget took countless photos of Paris and the estates of the old monarchy that surrounded it.[viii] His almost obsessive recording of the minutia of his environment combined with his constant engagement in the mediating potential of photographic technology positions his work somewhere in the gap between art and documentation, a separation with which a scholarly consideration of photography is endlessly grappling.[ix]        At the time that Atget was working, Paris was undergoing a tremendous amount of change socially, politically and aesthetically following the new urban development and expansion under Napoleon III at the hands of Baron von Haussmann.[x] The rapid changes to the cityscape inspired groups attempting to, in the words of the Societe de l’Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts Appliques, “safeguard the age-old and rightful pre-eminence of our artistic industry,” to form.[xi] These groups sought Atget’s collaboration, aligning him with a documentary style interested in historical record and preservation.[xii] While his work capturing small, decorative remnants of antiquated Paris plays a larger role in his legacy and its scholarly discussion than his photography at Saint Cloud, his approach to these “mundane” objects as monuments allows the consideration of the seemingly divergent subjects of his work to converge.[xiii] Turning his camera on the two statues could perhaps be read as a simple interest in immortalizing these monuments if it were not for the effect of photographic technologies on his subject. As is frequently noticed, Atget was always cognizant of the camera’s mediating affect.[xiv] In the photograph the vantage point animates the sculpture, and runs counter to a purely encyclopedic interest in cataloguing the art in the garden. If an objective document were Atget’s goal, then, the statues might have been shot from a head-on, frontal vantage point, which would give the viewer a clear understanding of the sculpture’s composition. Because the vantage point and lighting combine to mask many of the sculptural details of the original statues, the photograph seems to be an art object in its own right and not just a record.        Though Atget himself never declared an allegiance to any particular aesthetic school, his work became popular with the Surrealists and is often discussed in the context of Surrealism. If, as Christopher Masters claims, the Surrealists employed the “use of chance” to “fuse the conventional, logical view of reality with unconscious, dream experience in order to achieve a ‘super reality,’” then pointing to Atget’s identity as a flaneur who wanders the streets to capture elusive, dream-like moments, can help establish a Surrealist connection.[xv] Like many of his other garden photographs, Statues, Saint Cloud disrupts “logical” reality with its off-balance angle and soft lighting that lets the statues slide organically into the natural setting.[xvi] Yet to read this as straight Surrealism forces Atget into a paradigm that he did not choose, and indeed actively resisted.[xvii] Instead, it could be beneficial to let the Surrealist connection give, in the words of John Fuller, “richer insights into his work…as opposed to treating him purely as a documentarian with inadequate technique.”[xviii]        Without relying on a Surrealist classification one can discuss the photograph’s complexities and contradictions from a variety of angles. The photograph simultaneously records, preserves and participates in history. By photographing sculpture, Atget has chosen a subject that is a historical monument and fully present in the current, and presumably future, time. The reproductive act adds another temporal layer to the already complex relationship sculpture has with time. In taking the photograph Atget keeps the temporal referent (the sculpture), but freezes it in one moment. That moment can then be disseminated widely across space and time, placing the viewer in a ghostly triangle of past, present and future.[xix] Spatially, while most of the other photographs taken at Saint Cloud incorporate a much fuller sense of setting, Statues relies solely on the tree line and architectural detail to locate the viewer. Like the other garden prints that Atget produced during his career, the space is hauntingly devoid of a human presence, making the statues the closest thing to an animate subject in the frame, causing an apt comparison between his compositions and, as William Howard Adams has written, “an empty stage set.”[xx] Atget’s choice of subject and photographic technique: the isolated and unidentified statues, the off-center vantage point, the extreme shadows; all encourage an atmosphere of being permanently caught in limbo. The photograph elicits a series of dichotomies: between art and documentation, subjective expression and objective fact, and dreamlike states and the real. As Atget shows us, these differences are encountered again and again when mechanical reproduction is deployed on sculpture.  Nora Beamish-Lannon (OC ’13) 
[i] “Provenance Record for Statues, Saint Cloud,” Curatorial Exhibition File, 1996.3. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin.[ii] William Howard Adams, Atget’s Gardens: A Selection of Eugène Atget’s Garden Photographs (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979), 10.[iii] “Undated Note on Atget’s Printing Techniques,” Curatorial Exhibition File, 1996.3. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin.[iv] Borcoman, James, Atget (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1984), 10.[v] Borcoman, James, Atget, 10-11.[vi] Hambourg, Maria Morris, “Atget, Eugene.” In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T004771 (Accessed September 18 2012).[vii] Frits Gierstenberg, Carlos Gollonet and Francoise Reynaud, Introduction to Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 11.[viii] Guillaume Le Gall, “The Eye of the Archaeologist: Eugene Atget and the Forms of the Old City,” in Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 17-18.[ix] Roxana Marcoci, “The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today,” in The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010), 12.[x] Borcoman, Atget, 17.[xi] Josiane Sartre, Introduction to Atget, Paris in Detail. Editorial Direction by Suzanne Tise-Isore and Translated by David Radzinowicz. (Italy: Flammarion, 2002), 8-9.[xii] Josiane Sartre, Introduction to Atget, Paris in Detail. Editorial Direction by Suzanne Tise-Isore and Translated by David Radzinowicz. (Italy: Flammarion, 2002), 6, 10.[xiii] Guillaume Le Gall, “The Eye of the Archaeologist: Eugene Atget and the Forms of the Old City,” 22.[xiv] Molly Nesbit, “The Use of History,” Art in America 74 (1986), 74.[xv] Christopher Masters, “Surrealism.” In The Oxford Companion to Western Art, edited by Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/opr/t118/e2545 (Accessed October 9, 2012).[xvi] TF Editores. Eugene Atget: Old Paris (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 221-235.[xvii] Nesbit, “The Use of History,” 72.[xviii] John Fuller, “Atget and Man Ray in the Context of Surrealism,” Art Journal 36 (1976): 138. http://www.jstor.org/stable/776161. (Accessed September 18 2012).[xix] Geoff Dyer, “On Atget,” in Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 34-5.[xx] Adams, Atget’s Gardens: A Selection of Eugène Atget’s Garden Photographs, 10.
Bibliography

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Statues, St. Cloud, ca. 1920
Vintage gold-toned albumen print
Young-Hunter Art Museum Acquisition Fund, 1996.3

 

        The 1920 photograph, Statues, Saint Cloud taken by Eugene Atget is a vintage gold-toned albumen print, acquired by the Allen Memorial Art Museum in 1996 from the Berenice Abbott Collection, Museum of Modern Art.  The photograph depicts two statues from the Parc de Saint Cloud located just outside Paris.[i] Just one of many photographs the artist took at Saint Cloud after he began working there in 1904, the photograph displays statues that flank the top of the Grand Cascade of the park; although the caption of the photograph does not supply precise attribution.[ii] The photograph was printed from a glass plate negative and bears some evidence of retouching, a process consistent with much of Atget’s other work.[iii] In the composition Atget uses a low vantage point, photographing the sculptures from underneath and to the rear and side, an angle that creates a strong difference in scale between the large foreground figure and the relatively smaller background statue. The vantage point combined with the lighting creates strong shadows that sweep across the backs of the statues. A viewer confronted with this work understands that he or she is seeing a photographic reproduction of sculptures, yet the photograph also unsettles the appearance of these works. Statues, Saint Cloud shows how the photography of sculpture enacts a dual viewing experience. The viewer is tempted to believe that what he or she is seeing is the sculpture itself, much as he or she would if confronted with the work directly. However, the mediation of the photographer becomes apparent in the photographic process, disrupting the myth of technological objectivity and giving legitimacy to photography as an autonomous art form.
        When searching for answers about meaning, we are often tempted, some might say erroneously, to turn first to the artist’s biography.[iv] A risky endeavor under any circumstance, a biographical reading becomes especially tricky with Atget. Born in 1857 near Bordeaux and orphaned at the age of five he grew up primarily  with his maternal grandparents until he became a sailor sometime in the 1870s. After his return to land he moved to Paris and began to pursue, largely unsuccessfully, acting.[v] Around 1880 he took up photography and pursued it commercially, selling his work to painters as studies they could use in their compositions. Around 1889 he started to concentrate on photographing views of old Paris. This shift in focus coincided with many Parisians’ rising interest in preserving the traditional face of the city, allowing Atget to make a living selling these prints.[vi] Beyond a timeline of his major life events relatively little is known about the artist. This lack of information has often, in discussions of the man and his work, been translated into an aura of mystery that ends up dominating much of the discourse around his photographic practice.
        Atget himself did not see his photographs as art; therefore, he made no formal statements about the intent of his work.[vii] In the dearth of an artist’s statements, in which the photographer might have reflected upon his work, one may turn to projects in which he was involved to better inform us of his goals. During his career as a photographer Atget took countless photos of Paris and the estates of the old monarchy that surrounded it.[viii] His almost obsessive recording of the minutia of his environment combined with his constant engagement in the mediating potential of photographic technology positions his work somewhere in the gap between art and documentation, a separation with which a scholarly consideration of photography is endlessly grappling.[ix]
        At the time that Atget was working, Paris was undergoing a tremendous amount of change socially, politically and aesthetically following the new urban development and expansion under Napoleon III at the hands of Baron von Haussmann.[x] The rapid changes to the cityscape inspired groups attempting to, in the words of the Societe de l’Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts Appliques, “safeguard the age-old and rightful pre-eminence of our artistic industry,” to form.[xi] These groups sought Atget’s collaboration, aligning him with a documentary style interested in historical record and preservation.[xii] While his work capturing small, decorative remnants of antiquated Paris plays a larger role in his legacy and its scholarly discussion than his photography at Saint Cloud, his approach to these “mundane” objects as monuments allows the consideration of the seemingly divergent subjects of his work to converge.[xiii] Turning his camera on the two statues could perhaps be read as a simple interest in immortalizing these monuments if it were not for the effect of photographic technologies on his subject. As is frequently noticed, Atget was always cognizant of the camera’s mediating affect.[xiv] In the photograph the vantage point animates the sculpture, and runs counter to a purely encyclopedic interest in cataloguing the art in the garden. If an objective document were Atget’s goal, then, the statues might have been shot from a head-on, frontal vantage point, which would give the viewer a clear understanding of the sculpture’s composition. Because the vantage point and lighting combine to mask many of the sculptural details of the original statues, the photograph seems to be an art object in its own right and not just a record.
        Though Atget himself never declared an allegiance to any particular aesthetic school, his work became popular with the Surrealists and is often discussed in the context of Surrealism. If, as Christopher Masters claims, the Surrealists employed the “use of chance” to “fuse the conventional, logical view of reality with unconscious, dream experience in order to achieve a ‘super reality,’” then pointing to Atget’s identity as a flaneur who wanders the streets to capture elusive, dream-like moments, can help establish a Surrealist connection.[xv] Like many of his other garden photographs, Statues, Saint Cloud disrupts “logical” reality with its off-balance angle and soft lighting that lets the statues slide organically into the natural setting.[xvi] Yet to read this as straight Surrealism forces Atget into a paradigm that he did not choose, and indeed actively resisted.[xvii] Instead, it could be beneficial to let the Surrealist connection give, in the words of John Fuller, “richer insights into his work…as opposed to treating him purely as a documentarian with inadequate technique.”[xviii]
        Without relying on a Surrealist classification one can discuss the photograph’s complexities and contradictions from a variety of angles. The photograph simultaneously records, preserves and participates in history. By photographing sculpture, Atget has chosen a subject that is a historical monument and fully present in the current, and presumably future, time. The reproductive act adds another temporal layer to the already complex relationship sculpture has with time. In taking the photograph Atget keeps the temporal referent (the sculpture), but freezes it in one moment. That moment can then be disseminated widely across space and time, placing the viewer in a ghostly triangle of past, present and future.[xix] Spatially, while most of the other photographs taken at Saint Cloud incorporate a much fuller sense of setting, Statues relies solely on the tree line and architectural detail to locate the viewer. Like the other garden prints that Atget produced during his career, the space is hauntingly devoid of a human presence, making the statues the closest thing to an animate subject in the frame, causing an apt comparison between his compositions and, as William Howard Adams has written, “an empty stage set.”[xx] Atget’s choice of subject and photographic technique: the isolated and unidentified statues, the off-center vantage point, the extreme shadows; all encourage an atmosphere of being permanently caught in limbo. The photograph elicits a series of dichotomies: between art and documentation, subjective expression and objective fact, and dreamlike states and the real. As Atget shows us, these differences are encountered again and again when mechanical reproduction is deployed on sculpture.


Nora Beamish-Lannon (OC ’13)




[i] “Provenance Record for Statues, Saint Cloud,” Curatorial Exhibition File, 1996.3. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin.
[ii] William Howard Adams, Atget’s Gardens: A Selection of Eugène Atget’s Garden Photographs (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979), 10.
[iii] “Undated Note on Atget’s Printing Techniques,” Curatorial Exhibition File, 1996.3. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin.
[iv] Borcoman, James, Atget (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1984), 10.
[v] Borcoman, James, Atget, 10-11.
[vi] Hambourg, Maria Morris, “Atget, Eugene.” In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T004771 (Accessed September 18 2012).
[vii] Frits Gierstenberg, Carlos Gollonet and Francoise Reynaud, Introduction to Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 11.
[viii] Guillaume Le Gall, “The Eye of the Archaeologist: Eugene Atget and the Forms of the Old City,” in Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 17-18.
[ix] Roxana Marcoci, “The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today,” in The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010), 12.
[x] Borcoman, Atget, 17.
[xi] Josiane Sartre, Introduction to Atget, Paris in Detail. Editorial Direction by Suzanne Tise-Isore and Translated by David Radzinowicz. (Italy: Flammarion, 2002), 8-9.
[xii] Josiane Sartre, Introduction to Atget, Paris in Detail. Editorial Direction by Suzanne Tise-Isore and Translated by David Radzinowicz. (Italy: Flammarion, 2002), 6, 10.
[xiii] Guillaume Le Gall, “The Eye of the Archaeologist: Eugene Atget and the Forms of the Old City,” 22.
[xiv] Molly Nesbit, “The Use of History,” Art in America 74 (1986), 74.
[xv] Christopher Masters, “Surrealism.” In The Oxford Companion to Western Art, edited by Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/opr/t118/e2545 (Accessed October 9, 2012).
[xvi] TF Editores. Eugene Atget: Old Paris (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 221-235.
[xvii] Nesbit, “The Use of History,” 72.
[xviii] John Fuller, “Atget and Man Ray in the Context of Surrealism,” Art Journal 36 (1976): 138. http://www.jstor.org/stable/776161. (Accessed September 18 2012).
[xix] Geoff Dyer, “On Atget,” in Eugene Atget: Old Paris, ed.TF Editores (Madrid: Fundacio MAPFRE, 2011), 34-5.
[xx] Adams, Atget’s Gardens: A Selection of Eugène Atget’s Garden Photographs, 10.

Bibliography

Clarence Kennedy (American, 1892–1972)Her Left Hand in Profile, from The Magdalen, Santa Trinita, Florence, pl. 42 from Magdalen Sculptures in Relief; Studies in the History and Criticism of Sculpture, VI, 1920sVintage gelatin silver printGift of Paul F. Walter (OC 1957), 2008.36.158.29
 
        In the early 1920s, Clarence Kennedy (1892-1972) began developing a series of photography portfolios for use in academic study. The portfolios, titled Studies in the History and Criticism of Sculpture, of which there are seven volumes, presented a series of unique views of sculptures that were meant to serve as comprehensive documents of the object. Kennedy included both full-length images of the sculpture he was photographing, but also, as he termed them, “‘details’ of ‘details of details’.”[i] A self-proclaimed “scholar-photographer,” Kennedy recognized a substantial lack of ‘suitable’ photographs available for use by art historians when studying sculpture. He used these photographs when lecturing in art history at Smith College, where he taught for forty-four years. His intimate, detail-oriented photographs represent an important break from the more popular images taken for art historical study at the time. Photographic firms like Alinari often photographed images from a single vantage point and set the sculpture against a black background. Comparatively, Kennedy’s photographs orient the viewer to specific elements that he or she may miss when viewing the sculpture in person.        Kennedy’s photograph, Her Left Hand in Profile, from The Magdalen Sculptures in Relief, shows a detail of Desiderio Da Settignano’s Magdalen sculpture, located in the Santa Trinita in Florence, Italy. As the title suggests, this photograph depicts the left hand of the wooden sculpture. The photograph is organized so that the hand occupies the right center of the frame with light illuminating the top of the hand. The location of the light suggests that the sculpture is lit from the right side of the image. The rich shadows accentuate what appear to be sculpted fabric folds across the left side of the picture plane. This photograph gives us little information about entire sculpture. Other images of The Magdalen, are necessary to understand the complete object. However, Kennedy frames the sculpture from a distance in several of the remaining photographs included in this folio.[ii] Kennedy himself organized the portfolio into what he deemed was a cohesive order. The photographs in volume six, from which this photograph is taken, include: exterior shots of the Santa Trinita in Florence, the church’s relief molding, like the photograph on display to the right, details of other figural reliefs in the church, and a selection of photographs capturing details of the Magdalen. This organization is meant to stabilize and direct the viewer’s understanding of the artistic elements in the Santa Trinita. Kennedy believed that the photographer’s function was to, “bring out… the character of the forms as the sculptor left them, complete and valid in their own right.”[iii] To bring out this character, Kennedy believed, his process needed to be systematized as a science.        Kennedy wrote extensively on suitable photographic conditions and the equipment needed to produce a photograph worthy for its content. He emphasized lighting, framing, and printing to describe the way the photograph of a work of art should appear to the viewer.  Kennedy claimed that his contemporaries were not attentive to issues of detailed documentation. However, he recognized the difficulty of lighting a sculptural object in a museum setting. Unlike his contemporaries, Kennedy found little blame in a museum curator’s inability to correctly illuminate an object because he believed that it was the photographer’s task to ensure that the viewer never missed the beauty of the object.[iv] Kennedy said that a constant problem with photographs of art was with the equipment. To remedy this problem, he built his own camera, “of a size that today seems mammoth,” wrote Beaumont Newhall in an exhibition catalogue of Kennedy’s work at Smith College in 1967. The camera was 11 by 14 inches and produced two negatives at once, each negative measuring 7 by 11 inches.[v]  Using such large negatives, Kennedy could produce images that were intensely detailed and crisp. These large negatives allow the viewer to see the textural surface in Desiderio’s sculptures. Notice the details of the knuckles and the veins in the Magdalen’s hands. Kennedy’s fastidious lighting strategies aided his ability to produce highly precise images. Mary Bergstein described Kennedy’s process for lighting the sculptures he photographed: “…the aperture was closed down to a minimum and left open for long periods of time while a hand-held light was directed over the surface of the sculpture.”[vi] The result of this meticulous control is rich images that interior illumination would never allow. Even when he relied on natural lighting, Kennedy was equally as scrupulous in his methods: Newhall noted Kennedy’s tendency to light the objects with natural light using reflectors and curtains to illuminate areas, which would not regularly be available to viewers.[vii]         Kennedy described his photographic techniques as scientific and objective. This allowed for the clear, understandable images. However, scholars have argued against Kennedy’s claims to the scientific objectivity of his photography. Many say that his rich attention to detail and ‘obsessive’ strategies of lighting created images that are more appealing to observe than the actual sculpture. If this is the case, the photographs of sculptural objects have, themselves, become art objects, a fact that can be attested to by their display in this museum. Mary Bergstein has similarly described how Kennedy’s detailed process can be compared to the process that Desiderio himself went through when carving the sculpture – the painstaking detail given to highlighting the object’s surface.[viii]  To these objections Kennedy replied, ““I have never been worried by [these] charges…For in every case there is in my memory a clear recollection of the appearance of the work itself as it looked at the time the negative was made—far more lovely than any image on paper could ever be.”[ix] But how do we as present-day viewers weigh Kennedy’s claim to documentary accuracy with the photographs themselves? Kennedy’s use of lighting and framing animates the detail of the Magdalen’s hand, so that it takes on a humanized ‘life’ of its own. Decontextualized from the rest of the sculpture by Kennedy’s close-to framing and cropping technique, the hand is pictured here as a separate, enriched entity that exists alone. Geraldine Johnson describes the objects documented in Kennedy’s photographs as, “[actors] appearing before the viewer-reader on a hushed and darkened stage.”[x] The hand is dramatized using the photographic effects of the camera. The textural detail of the hand reflects Kennedy’s attention to ‘scientific’ study of art, but the emotional content of the image––or how through lighting and framing it seems to come to life––suggests Kennedy’s artistic agency in depicting this sculpture: the photograph is more than a mere document of Desiderio Da Settignano sculpture, it has become an art object in its own right, bringing the sculpture to life.[xi]  Taylor Hoffman (OC ’13) 

[i] Geraldine R. Johnson, “(Un)richtige Aufnahme’: Renaissance Sculpture and the Visual Historiography of Art History,” Art History 22(Summer 2012): 1-40.[ii] The complete portfolio is a group of unbound individual images that measure approximately two feet by nineteen inches. The large size aids in their use as photographs for study - the size allows the image to be sharper and more distinguishable. They can be separately handled and arranged for teaching comparisons. Folio six includes forty-six prints of which this is number forty-two.[iii] Clarence Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” Magazine of Art 212, Volume 30 (April 1937): 212-218. [iv] Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” 212. [v] Beaumont Newhall, “Clarence Kennedy,” in Photographs by Clarence Kennedy  (Northampton, Massachusetts: Smith College Museum of Art, 1967), 12.[vi] Mary Bergstein, “Lonely Aphrodites: On the Documentary Photography of Sculpture,” The Art Bulletin 490, Volume 74, No. 3  (September 1992): 475-498.[vii] Newhall, “Clarence Kennedy,” 13.[viii] Bergstein, “Lonely Aphrodites,” 490.[ix] Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” 212.[x] Johnson, “(Un)richtige Aufnahme’,” 23.[xi] Wolfgang M Freitag, “Early Uses of Photography in the History of Art,” Art Journal 122, Volume 39, No.3 (Winter 1979-80): 117-123.
Bibliography

Clarence Kennedy (American, 1892–1972)
Her Left Hand in Profile, from The Magdalen, Santa Trinita, Florence, pl. 42 from Magdalen Sculptures in Relief; Studies in the History and Criticism of Sculpture, VI, 1920s
Vintage gelatin silver print
Gift of Paul F. Walter (OC 1957), 2008.36.158.29

 

        In the early 1920s, Clarence Kennedy (1892-1972) began developing a series of photography portfolios for use in academic study. The portfolios, titled Studies in the History and Criticism of Sculpture, of which there are seven volumes, presented a series of unique views of sculptures that were meant to serve as comprehensive documents of the object. Kennedy included both full-length images of the sculpture he was photographing, but also, as he termed them, “‘details’ of ‘details of details’.”[i] A self-proclaimed “scholar-photographer,” Kennedy recognized a substantial lack of ‘suitable’ photographs available for use by art historians when studying sculpture. He used these photographs when lecturing in art history at Smith College, where he taught for forty-four years. His intimate, detail-oriented photographs represent an important break from the more popular images taken for art historical study at the time. Photographic firms like Alinari often photographed images from a single vantage point and set the sculpture against a black background. Comparatively, Kennedy’s photographs orient the viewer to specific elements that he or she may miss when viewing the sculpture in person.
        Kennedy’s photograph, Her Left Hand in Profile, from The Magdalen Sculptures in Relief, shows a detail of Desiderio Da Settignano’s Magdalen sculpture, located in the Santa Trinita in Florence, Italy. As the title suggests, this photograph depicts the left hand of the wooden sculpture. The photograph is organized so that the hand occupies the right center of the frame with light illuminating the top of the hand. The location of the light suggests that the sculpture is lit from the right side of the image. The rich shadows accentuate what appear to be sculpted fabric folds across the left side of the picture plane. This photograph gives us little information about entire sculpture. Other images of The Magdalen, are necessary to understand the complete object. However, Kennedy frames the sculpture from a distance in several of the remaining photographs included in this folio.[ii] Kennedy himself organized the portfolio into what he deemed was a cohesive order. The photographs in volume six, from which this photograph is taken, include: exterior shots of the Santa Trinita in Florence, the church’s relief molding, like the photograph on display to the right, details of other figural reliefs in the church, and a selection of photographs capturing details of the Magdalen. This organization is meant to stabilize and direct the viewer’s understanding of the artistic elements in the Santa Trinita. Kennedy believed that the photographer’s function was to, “bring out… the character of the forms as the sculptor left them, complete and valid in their own right.”[iii] To bring out this character, Kennedy believed, his process needed to be systematized as a science.
        Kennedy wrote extensively on suitable photographic conditions and the equipment needed to produce a photograph worthy for its content. He emphasized lighting, framing, and printing to describe the way the photograph of a work of art should appear to the viewer.  Kennedy claimed that his contemporaries were not attentive to issues of detailed documentation. However, he recognized the difficulty of lighting a sculptural object in a museum setting. Unlike his contemporaries, Kennedy found little blame in a museum curator’s inability to correctly illuminate an object because he believed that it was the photographer’s task to ensure that the viewer never missed the beauty of the object.[iv] Kennedy said that a constant problem with photographs of art was with the equipment. To remedy this problem, he built his own camera, “of a size that today seems mammoth,” wrote Beaumont Newhall in an exhibition catalogue of Kennedy’s work at Smith College in 1967. The camera was 11 by 14 inches and produced two negatives at once, each negative measuring 7 by 11 inches.[v]  Using such large negatives, Kennedy could produce images that were intensely detailed and crisp. These large negatives allow the viewer to see the textural surface in Desiderio’s sculptures. Notice the details of the knuckles and the veins in the Magdalen’s hands. Kennedy’s fastidious lighting strategies aided his ability to produce highly precise images. Mary Bergstein described Kennedy’s process for lighting the sculptures he photographed: “…the aperture was closed down to a minimum and left open for long periods of time while a hand-held light was directed over the surface of the sculpture.”[vi] The result of this meticulous control is rich images that interior illumination would never allow. Even when he relied on natural lighting, Kennedy was equally as scrupulous in his methods: Newhall noted Kennedy’s tendency to light the objects with natural light using reflectors and curtains to illuminate areas, which would not regularly be available to viewers.[vii]
        Kennedy described his photographic techniques as scientific and objective. This allowed for the clear, understandable images. However, scholars have argued against Kennedy’s claims to the scientific objectivity of his photography. Many say that his rich attention to detail and ‘obsessive’ strategies of lighting created images that are more appealing to observe than the actual sculpture. If this is the case, the photographs of sculptural objects have, themselves, become art objects, a fact that can be attested to by their display in this museum. Mary Bergstein has similarly described how Kennedy’s detailed process can be compared to the process that Desiderio himself went through when carving the sculpture – the painstaking detail given to highlighting the object’s surface.[viii]  To these objections Kennedy replied, ““I have never been worried by [these] charges…For in every case there is in my memory a clear recollection of the appearance of the work itself as it looked at the time the negative was made—far more lovely than any image on paper could ever be.”[ix] But how do we as present-day viewers weigh Kennedy’s claim to documentary accuracy with the photographs themselves? Kennedy’s use of lighting and framing animates the detail of the Magdalen’s hand, so that it takes on a humanized ‘life’ of its own. Decontextualized from the rest of the sculpture by Kennedy’s close-to framing and cropping technique, the hand is pictured here as a separate, enriched entity that exists alone. Geraldine Johnson describes the objects documented in Kennedy’s photographs as, “[actors] appearing before the viewer-reader on a hushed and darkened stage.”[x] The hand is dramatized using the photographic effects of the camera. The textural detail of the hand reflects Kennedy’s attention to ‘scientific’ study of art, but the emotional content of the image––or how through lighting and framing it seems to come to life––suggests Kennedy’s artistic agency in depicting this sculpture: the photograph is more than a mere document of Desiderio Da Settignano sculpture, it has become an art object in its own right, bringing the sculpture to life.[xi]


Taylor Hoffman (OC ’13)




[i] Geraldine R. Johnson, “(Un)richtige Aufnahme’: Renaissance Sculpture and the Visual Historiography of Art History,” Art History 22(Summer 2012): 1-40.
[ii] The complete portfolio is a group of unbound individual images that measure approximately two feet by nineteen inches. The large size aids in their use as photographs for study - the size allows the image to be sharper and more distinguishable. They can be separately handled and arranged for teaching comparisons. Folio six includes forty-six prints of which this is number forty-two.
[iii] Clarence Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” Magazine of Art 212, Volume 30 (April 1937): 212-218.
[iv] Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” 212.
[v] Beaumont Newhall, “Clarence Kennedy,” in Photographs by Clarence Kennedy  (Northampton, Massachusetts: Smith College Museum of Art, 1967), 12.
[vi] Mary Bergstein, “Lonely Aphrodites: On the Documentary Photography of Sculpture,” The Art Bulletin 490, Volume 74, No. 3  (September 1992): 475-498.
[vii] Newhall, “Clarence Kennedy,” 13.
[viii] Bergstein, “Lonely Aphrodites,” 490.
[ix] Kennedy, “Photographing Art,” 212.
[x] Johnson, “(Un)richtige Aufnahme’,” 23.
[xi] Wolfgang M Freitag, “Early Uses of Photography in the History of Art,” Art Journal 122, Volume 39, No.3 (Winter 1979-80): 117-123.

Bibliography

Richard Long (English, b. 1945)Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968Photo offset lithographEllen H. Johnson Bequest, 1998.7.71

        In an excerpt from his book Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks; Seven, Eight, Lay Them Straight, Richard Long asserts that “a good work is the right thing in the right place at the right time,” in other words, it is “A crossing place.”[i]  In his photograph exhibited in this show, Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, Long presents exactly this. Through the action of walking, Long has created the subtly striking impression of two lines intersecting on an outstretched grass field. To create this work, Long marked the land with traces of his presence by walking on the grass.[ii]  The documentation of this presence, though, is represented by Long’s notable absence from the photographic frame.  It is mostly through Long’s absence that the viewer is made aware of the ephemeral processes he has endured in order to create his art.        The ephemeral and transitory are constant themes in Long’s work from 1968 to the present; these definitions of time become especially evident in his walk sculptures, text-based works and maps. Long has observed that  “time is the fourth dimension of [his] art” and “the medium of [his] art is walking (the element of time).”[iii] While walking, Long is concerned with experiencing solitary moments in time and ultimately establishing “a crossing place”; through these transient experiences, Long aims to establish a harmony between himself and the eternal nature that surrounds him.  Although Long is primarily occupied by his interactions with nature in the present moment, his ‘marked site’ works ultimately rely on photography as a mediator, without which his work could not be fully realized.[iv]  The dichotomy between the ephemeral present and the fixed photographic moment raise a number of challenges for Long and his contemporary land artists, especially when it comes to exhibiting their outdoor works indoors.  Long reconciles this dichotomy by distancing himself from his photographs and using them consciously and cautiously.        In Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, Long displays an expansive, flat meadow, covered with a smattering of white flowers.  The meadow has been marked by two thick lines, that diverge to form the shape of a diagonal ‘X.’  These marked lines appear to be the result of a grazing, mowing, or simply, a flattening of the meadow. They are precisely straight and appear to be of approximately the same length. The photograph frames the marked ‘X’ so that the point of intersection is positioned slightly to the left and above center of the frame. Long has cropped the composition to hide the horizon line, emphasizing the limitlessness of the meadow, which appears to extend beyond the frame. The photograph’s vantage point thrusts the viewer into the plane of the image in which the thicker, more vertical line rushes forward. This line presents a path to the viewer, incorporating him or her into the image with a wide angle that grows gradually narrower as it stretches towards the top of the frame.        The title of this work, Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, marks Long’s emphasis on the documentary role the photograph plays in presenting the sculpture. The title reveals the following: in 1968, in a field in his childhood home of Southern England, Long walked in two diagonally intersecting lines, left a mark, and documented the results.[v]  Long called the result of this ephemeral mark a ‘walk sculpture,’ a designation for sculpture that links him to a broader group of artists who were each invested in, as Rosalind Krauss has termed it, an expansion of sculpture.  Although the primary work in question is Long’s ‘walk sculpture,’ the photograph hung in this show should not be taken as an impartial reproduction of the sculpture itself; instead it is a ‘documentation’ that includes practical information such as the location (England) and the date (1968) of this walk.  This choice of title marks a very conscious use of photography, which is at once pragmatic and cautious.   Long is constantly aware of the ‘constructed’ nature of his photographs but he neglects to discuss their pictorial nature.         As much as the documentary photograph of this walk sculpture begs to remain neutral, it ultimately cannot.  In his interviews and comments, Long positions himself at an arms length from his photographs.  He does not call himself a photographer and he insists that his photographs are “facts” and “second-hand” representations utilized only in order to present his remote sculpture to the public.[vi],[vii] Although Long’s documentary photographs are often very direct and simple, they nonetheless embody more than pure documentation.[viii]        Long claims that he takes the most basic approach to photographing his sculptures – “I just step back and point the camera and try to get it in focus” – yet his photographs raise questions about composition: why do his various photographic documentations use a range of styles?  Why is every sculpture of Long’s not photographed from the same vantage point?  In Walk Sculpture Documentation, why does Long chose a particular painterly vantage point that summon the viewer into the meadow?  Clearly, there is a certain degree of artistry involved in the process of photographing his work’s that Long neglects to acknowledge. That said, Long is not oblivious to the pitfalls of using photography to display his art, he confesses that there are certain locations and situations that require a specific vantage point in order to “complete the work.”[ix]  Long also admits that photography “has the tendency to enhance distance and remoteness: what you see in a photograph is in the past time and somewhere else.  They are still, frozen images.”  In a sense, Long is reluctant to rely on photography to disseminate his artworks “out there.”  This is evidenced by Long’s discussion of photography in interviews as well as his choice to jump between mediums in order to most accurately convey his experiences.         Long is not alone in his struggle to accurately articulate and pass on the “essence of his experience.”[x]  Long was one of a number of European and American “land artists” who began to create, as Krauss termed it, “sculpture in the expanded field” in the late-1960s and ‘70s, using the earth as their primary material. Many of Long’s contemporaries also put a strong emphasis on the processes involved in creating their art as opposed to the final product itself. Inherent in these artists’ work was intrinsic immovability and impermanence of sculpture, and their reliance on photography to capture and share their sculptures. These artists approached photography with mixed feelings of rejection, distrust, pragmatism and indifference.[xi]         With a minimal and simplistic approach to documenting his outdoor land art, such as his walk sculpture in England in 1968, Long conveys a sense of “place” and of “being there.”[xii] Long’s photograph invites the viewer into the world of the work, drawing them into the marked English meadow.  As much as he may want them to be, Long’s photographs will never be perceived as mere facts.  As Long himself realizes, “a photo work necessarily becomes art in a different way than the original sculpture.”[xiii]
Emily Weber (OC ’14)
[i] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 236.[ii] Amanda Boetzkes, The Ethics of Earth Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010), 18.[iii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.[iv] Rosalind Krauss, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.” October 8. (Spring 1979): 41.[v] Amanda Boetzkes, The Ethics of Earth Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010), 17. [vi] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 236.[vii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 9.[viii] Michael Lailach, Uta Grosenick, Land Art, (Köln: Taschen, 2007), 70.[ix] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 9.[x] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 134.[xi] Michael Lailach, Uta Grosenick, Land Art, (Köln: Taschen, 2007), 11.[xii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.[xiii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.
Bibliography

Richard Long (English, b. 1945)
Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968
Photo offset lithograph
Ellen H. Johnson Bequest, 1998.7.71


        In an excerpt from his book Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks; Seven, Eight, Lay Them Straight, Richard Long asserts that “a good work is the right thing in the right place at the right time,” in other words, it is “A crossing place.”[i]  In his photograph exhibited in this show, Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, Long presents exactly this. Through the action of walking, Long has created the subtly striking impression of two lines intersecting on an outstretched grass field. To create this work, Long marked the land with traces of his presence by walking on the grass.[ii]  The documentation of this presence, though, is represented by Long’s notable absence from the photographic frame.  It is mostly through Long’s absence that the viewer is made aware of the ephemeral processes he has endured in order to create his art.
       The ephemeral and transitory are constant themes in Long’s work from 1968 to the present; these definitions of time become especially evident in his walk sculptures, text-based works and maps. Long has observed that  “time is the fourth dimension of [his] art” and “the medium of [his] art is walking (the element of time).”[iii] While walking, Long is concerned with experiencing solitary moments in time and ultimately establishing “a crossing place”; through these transient experiences, Long aims to establish a harmony between himself and the eternal nature that surrounds him.  Although Long is primarily occupied by his interactions with nature in the present moment, his ‘marked site’ works ultimately rely on photography as a mediator, without which his work could not be fully realized.[iv]  The dichotomy between the ephemeral present and the fixed photographic moment raise a number of challenges for Long and his contemporary land artists, especially when it comes to exhibiting their outdoor works indoors.  Long reconciles this dichotomy by distancing himself from his photographs and using them consciously and cautiously.
        In Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, Long displays an expansive, flat meadow, covered with a smattering of white flowers.  The meadow has been marked by two thick lines, that diverge to form the shape of a diagonal ‘X.’  These marked lines appear to be the result of a grazing, mowing, or simply, a flattening of the meadow. They are precisely straight and appear to be of approximately the same length. The photograph frames the marked ‘X’ so that the point of intersection is positioned slightly to the left and above center of the frame. Long has cropped the composition to hide the horizon line, emphasizing the limitlessness of the meadow, which appears to extend beyond the frame. The photograph’s vantage point thrusts the viewer into the plane of the image in which the thicker, more vertical line rushes forward. This line presents a path to the viewer, incorporating him or her into the image with a wide angle that grows gradually narrower as it stretches towards the top of the frame.
        The title of this work, Walk Sculpture Documentation, England, 1968, marks Long’s emphasis on the documentary role the photograph plays in presenting the sculpture. The title reveals the following: in 1968, in a field in his childhood home of Southern England, Long walked in two diagonally intersecting lines, left a mark, and documented the results.[v]  Long called the result of this ephemeral mark a ‘walk sculpture,’ a designation for sculpture that links him to a broader group of artists who were each invested in, as Rosalind Krauss has termed it, an expansion of sculpture.  Although the primary work in question is Long’s ‘walk sculpture,’ the photograph hung in this show should not be taken as an impartial reproduction of the sculpture itself; instead it is a ‘documentation’ that includes practical information such as the location (England) and the date (1968) of this walk.  This choice of title marks a very conscious use of photography, which is at once pragmatic and cautious.   Long is constantly aware of the ‘constructed’ nature of his photographs but he neglects to discuss their pictorial nature.
        As much as the documentary photograph of this walk sculpture begs to remain neutral, it ultimately cannot.  In his interviews and comments, Long positions himself at an arms length from his photographs.  He does not call himself a photographer and he insists that his photographs are “facts” and “second-hand” representations utilized only in order to present his remote sculpture to the public.[vi],[vii] Although Long’s documentary photographs are often very direct and simple, they nonetheless embody more than pure documentation.[viii]
        Long claims that he takes the most basic approach to photographing his sculptures“I just step back and point the camera and try to get it in focus”yet his photographs raise questions about composition: why do his various photographic documentations use a range of styles?  Why is every sculpture of Long’s not photographed from the same vantage point?  In Walk Sculpture Documentation, why does Long chose a particular painterly vantage point that summon the viewer into the meadow?  Clearly, there is a certain degree of artistry involved in the process of photographing his work’s that Long neglects to acknowledge. That said, Long is not oblivious to the pitfalls of using photography to display his art, he confesses that there are certain locations and situations that require a specific vantage point in order to “complete the work.”[ix]  Long also admits that photography “has the tendency to enhance distance and remoteness: what you see in a photograph is in the past time and somewhere else.  They are still, frozen images.”  In a sense, Long is reluctant to rely on photography to disseminate his artworks “out there.”  This is evidenced by Long’s discussion of photography in interviews as well as his choice to jump between mediums in order to most accurately convey his experiences. 
        Long is not alone in his struggle to accurately articulate and pass on the “essence of his experience.”[x]  Long was one of a number of European and American “land artists” who began to create, as Krauss termed it, “sculpture in the expanded field” in the late-1960s and ‘70s, using the earth as their primary material. Many of Long’s contemporaries also put a strong emphasis on the processes involved in creating their art as opposed to the final product itself. Inherent in these artists’ work was intrinsic immovability and impermanence of sculpture, and their reliance on photography to capture and share their sculptures. These artists approached photography with mixed feelings of rejection, distrust, pragmatism and indifference.[xi] 
        With a minimal and simplistic approach to documenting his outdoor land art, such as his walk sculpture in England in 1968, Long conveys a sense of “place” and of “being there.”[xii] Long’s photograph invites the viewer into the world of the work, drawing them into the marked English meadow.  As much as he may want them to be, Long’s photographs will never be perceived as mere facts.  As Long himself realizes, “a photo work necessarily becomes art in a different way than the original sculpture.”[xiii]


Emily Weber (OC ’14)




[i] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 236.
[ii] Amanda Boetzkes, The Ethics of Earth Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010), 18.
[iii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.
[iv] Rosalind Krauss, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.” October 8. (Spring 1979): 41.
[v] Amanda Boetzkes, The Ethics of Earth Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010), 17.
[vi] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 236.
[vii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 9.
[viii] Michael Lailach, Uta Grosenick, Land Art, (Köln: Taschen, 2007), 70.
[ix] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 9.
[x] Richard Long and R. H. Fuchs, Richard Long (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1986), 134.
[xi] Michael Lailach, Uta Grosenick, Land Art, (Köln: Taschen, 2007), 11.
[xii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.
[xiii] Richard Long, Richard Long: Mirage (London: Phaidon), 1998, 10.

Bibliography

Eleanor Antin (American, b. 1935)100 Boots on Their Way to Church, 1971Gelatin silver printEllen H. Johnson Bequest, 1998.7.6
 
        Upon first glance, Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots on their Way to Church is a quizzical, even confusing, sight to behold. Rendered in black and white film, the photograph depicts a generic suburban landscape, accented by an unusual detail – a long, winding line of black rubber boots that extends across the picture plane. Emerging from the lower left-hand corner of the photograph, the line of boots stretches from a protruding concrete path in the foreground and off into the distance, eventually cutting across a wide lawn to reach the front doors of a large white church in the background. Arranged in pairs placed roughly one in front of another, the alignment of the boots mirrors that of footsteps; as each boot is positioned next to and slightly in front of another one. As it winds across the landscape, the line of boots resembles that of a marching military brigade, due to its repetitive and consciously staggered arrangement. The precise organization and plentiful supply of boots indicates that they were not left behind by accident or scattered without purpose; these boots were strategically placed amidst this otherwise mundane setting by a force that is absent from the composition.        Yet as curious as the line of boots appears, it is the church, as the largest and centrally positioned element of the composition, which dominates the landscape. There are few other discernible landmarks in the photograph; a few one-story buildings are visible on either side of the church, as well as a parking lot inhabited by a single automobile.  Each building’s appearance is indistinct; each is white and un-ornamented, lending a sterile quality to the setting. Against the distinct arrangement of the boots, the blandness of the boots only serves to further emphasize the mysterious air of the photograph. The composition and subject matter of the photograph prompt numerous questions, such as: where was the photograph taken, and why? Where did these boots come from? What do the boots represent, and what purpose do they serve?        Yet the photograph does not provide answers to these important questions.  As a fragment of a larger conceptual series, 100 Boots on their Way to Church remains opaque to the viewer when beheld as an isolated photograph. In order for the photograph to be understood, it must be considered within the larger context of the series, and Antin’s career. Highly personal and even autobiographical, Antin’s oeuvre is characterized by narrative, and a penchant for the dramatic. In its diverse and often multiple mediums – ranging from consumer goods to elaborate theatrical performances – Antin’s body of work reflects her fascination with personae, or other selves, as a way of exploring and challenging notions of identity. While Antin’s multidisciplinary practices cannot be classified in a single category, much of her work – particularly the projects she made in the late 1960s and the early 1970s – can be best understood as operating in dialogue with artistic and social movements of the time, with conceptual art, pop, Fluxus, and second-wave feminism. One of Antin’s best-known early works, 100 Boots – the larger series to which the Allen Memorial Art Museum’s photograph belongs – demonstrates the strong influence of conceptual art and performance art, and Fluxus on her work. As a narrative that revolves around an anthropomorphic object, the series also exemplifies Antin’s interests in storytelling, and her predilection for casting consumer goods as physical representations of identity.        Conceived in 1971 as a series of fifty-one photographic postcards, 100 Boots was meant to recall the style of a picaresque novel, albeit in a slightly unusual manner.[i] Through elaborate staging and dramatization, the protagonist – 50 pairs of black rubber boots – is made to enact scenarios that Antin describes in her titles as ranging from the mundane (100 Boots on their Way to Church; 100 Boots at the Bank), to the emotive (100 Boots Doing their Best) and the radical (100 Boots Trespass). Antin employed photography to document these quasi-performances because each of these scenes required traveling to a site, arranging, and rearranging the boots in different configuration. Antin’s photographs lend a permanent air to these ephemeral artistic acts that occupied a realm between installation and performance.         In the 1960s and 1970s, artists like Antin increasingly used photography to document their action and installation-based, as well as process-driven, works. Photography quickly became an instrumental tool for these artists, as they sought a means by which they could effectively document ephemeral, transitory, and performative artworks.[ii] Cheap and reproducible, photography was a tool to disseminate their art to a wide audience.  In realizing 100 Boots, photography provided Antin with an effective, and cost efficient means of widely distributing her art, while also allowing her, as she claimed, to avoid the “blank white walls of New York galleries.”[iii] A resident of New York City, Antin moved to southern California in 1969 with her husband and son to escape what she and many other artists perceived to be the stifling and exclusionary climate of the New York art scene in the late 1960s. Yet the move – while liberating, and rewarding in the form of a newfound artistic freedom – placed Antin at a considerable geographic distance from many of her most important professional contacts in New York, and initially forced her to frequently travel across country for business. Mail art, a medium heavily used by (though not invented by) members of the Fluxus movement, offered a solution to the problem of geography, and further enhanced the promise of wide spread dissemination of her work provided by photography.[iv]         From 1971-1973, Antin circulated postcards of 100 Boots to a lengthy list of contacts across the United Stated, Canada, and South America, strategically staggering the release of each installment to correspond with the needs of the narrative.[v] The series culminated in the transplanting of 100 Boots to New York, where he (Antin gave the series a singular, masculine identity, referring to it with the pronoun “he”) was to be featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. After riding the ferry and visiting New York landmarks such as Central Park and Herald Square, 100 Boots retired to his own room at MoMA, complete with a mattress, AM radio, and postcards of his recent urban adventures.[vi] The final postcard, 100 Boots Go On Vacation, was mailed in July 1973, signifying the official end of the now-infamous hero’s journey. As part of the exhibition, Antin arranged on an adjacent wall a complete set of the postcards in a linear fashion, encouraging that the photographic records be read as a story.        By recreating the narrative in the MoMA exhibition, Antin reaffirmed the importance of context in understanding each element of 100 Boots. It is this context that is missing from the AMAM’s 100 Boots on their Way to Church, since it is not installed here as a series. Yet even in isolation, the spectral composition of 100 Boots on their Way to Church lends a human quality to its subject, and alludes to the mysterious persona of the character Antin created. The photography acts as a record of Antin’s performance project; it serves as evidence of her artistic output, and underscores the significance of photography as a highly effective tool for both documentation and dissemination.  Dessane Cassell (OC ’14) 

[i] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, (Philadelphia and London: Running Press, 1999), 4.[ii] Darsie Alexander, “Reluctant Witness: Photography and the Documentation of 1960s and 1970s Art,” in Work Ethic, by Helen Molesworth (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2003), 53.[iii] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, 4.[iv] Ina Blom, “Ray Johnson: The Present of Mail Art,” last modified January 2008, accessed October 8, 2012, http://www.rayjohnson.org/Ray-Johnson-The-Present-of-Mail-Art/.[v] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, 4.[vi] Ibid, 7.
Bibliography

Eleanor Antin (American, b. 1935)
100 Boots on Their Way to Church, 1971
Gelatin silver print
Ellen H. Johnson Bequest, 1998.7.6

 

        Upon first glance, Eleanor Antin’s 100 Boots on their Way to Church is a quizzical, even confusing, sight to behold. Rendered in black and white film, the photograph depicts a generic suburban landscape, accented by an unusual detail – a long, winding line of black rubber boots that extends across the picture plane. Emerging from the lower left-hand corner of the photograph, the line of boots stretches from a protruding concrete path in the foreground and off into the distance, eventually cutting across a wide lawn to reach the front doors of a large white church in the background. Arranged in pairs placed roughly one in front of another, the alignment of the boots mirrors that of footsteps; as each boot is positioned next to and slightly in front of another one. As it winds across the landscape, the line of boots resembles that of a marching military brigade, due to its repetitive and consciously staggered arrangement. The precise organization and plentiful supply of boots indicates that they were not left behind by accident or scattered without purpose; these boots were strategically placed amidst this otherwise mundane setting by a force that is absent from the composition.
        Yet as curious as the line of boots appears, it is the church, as the largest and centrally positioned element of the composition, which dominates the landscape. There are few other discernible landmarks in the photograph; a few one-story buildings are visible on either side of the church, as well as a parking lot inhabited by a single automobile.  Each building’s appearance is indistinct; each is white and un-ornamented, lending a sterile quality to the setting. Against the distinct arrangement of the boots, the blandness of the boots only serves to further emphasize the mysterious air of the photograph. The composition and subject matter of the photograph prompt numerous questions, such as: where was the photograph taken, and why? Where did these boots come from? What do the boots represent, and what purpose do they serve?
        Yet the photograph does not provide answers to these important questions.  As a fragment of a larger conceptual series, 100 Boots on their Way to Church remains opaque to the viewer when beheld as an isolated photograph. In order for the photograph to be understood, it must be considered within the larger context of the series, and Antin’s career. Highly personal and even autobiographical, Antin’s oeuvre is characterized by narrative, and a penchant for the dramatic. In its diverse and often multiple mediums – ranging from consumer goods to elaborate theatrical performances – Antin’s body of work reflects her fascination with personae, or other selves, as a way of exploring and challenging notions of identity. While Antin’s multidisciplinary practices cannot be classified in a single category, much of her work – particularly the projects she made in the late 1960s and the early 1970s – can be best understood as operating in dialogue with artistic and social movements of the time, with conceptual art, pop, Fluxus, and second-wave feminism. One of Antin’s best-known early works, 100 Boots – the larger series to which the Allen Memorial Art Museum’s photograph belongs – demonstrates the strong influence of conceptual art and performance art, and Fluxus on her work. As a narrative that revolves around an anthropomorphic object, the series also exemplifies Antin’s interests in storytelling, and her predilection for casting consumer goods as physical representations of identity.
        Conceived in 1971 as a series of fifty-one photographic postcards, 100 Boots was meant to recall the style of a picaresque novel, albeit in a slightly unusual manner.[i] Through elaborate staging and dramatization, the protagonist – 50 pairs of black rubber boots – is made to enact scenarios that Antin describes in her titles as ranging from the mundane (100 Boots on their Way to Church; 100 Boots at the Bank), to the emotive (100 Boots Doing their Best) and the radical (100 Boots Trespass). Antin employed photography to document these quasi-performances because each of these scenes required traveling to a site, arranging, and rearranging the boots in different configuration. Antin’s photographs lend a permanent air to these ephemeral artistic acts that occupied a realm between installation and performance.
        In the 1960s and 1970s, artists like Antin increasingly used photography to document their action and installation-based, as well as process-driven, works. Photography quickly became an instrumental tool for these artists, as they sought a means by which they could effectively document ephemeral, transitory, and performative artworks.[ii] Cheap and reproducible, photography was a tool to disseminate their art to a wide audience.  In realizing 100 Boots, photography provided Antin with an effective, and cost efficient means of widely distributing her art, while also allowing her, as she claimed, to avoid the “blank white walls of New York galleries.”[iii] A resident of New York City, Antin moved to southern California in 1969 with her husband and son to escape what she and many other artists perceived to be the stifling and exclusionary climate of the New York art scene in the late 1960s. Yet the move – while liberating, and rewarding in the form of a newfound artistic freedom – placed Antin at a considerable geographic distance from many of her most important professional contacts in New York, and initially forced her to frequently travel across country for business. Mail art, a medium heavily used by (though not invented by) members of the Fluxus movement, offered a solution to the problem of geography, and further enhanced the promise of wide spread dissemination of her work provided by photography.[iv]
        From 1971-1973, Antin circulated postcards of 100 Boots to a lengthy list of contacts across the United Stated, Canada, and South America, strategically staggering the release of each installment to correspond with the needs of the narrative.[v] The series culminated in the transplanting of 100 Boots to New York, where he (Antin gave the series a singular, masculine identity, referring to it with the pronoun “he”) was to be featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. After riding the ferry and visiting New York landmarks such as Central Park and Herald Square, 100 Boots retired to his own room at MoMA, complete with a mattress, AM radio, and postcards of his recent urban adventures.[vi] The final postcard, 100 Boots Go On Vacation, was mailed in July 1973, signifying the official end of the now-infamous hero’s journey. As part of the exhibition, Antin arranged on an adjacent wall a complete set of the postcards in a linear fashion, encouraging that the photographic records be read as a story.
        By recreating the narrative in the MoMA exhibition, Antin reaffirmed the importance of context in understanding each element of 100 Boots. It is this context that is missing from the AMAM’s 100 Boots on their Way to Church, since it is not installed here as a series. Yet even in isolation, the spectral composition of 100 Boots on their Way to Church lends a human quality to its subject, and alludes to the mysterious persona of the character Antin created. The photography acts as a record of Antin’s performance project; it serves as evidence of her artistic output, and underscores the significance of photography as a highly effective tool for both documentation and dissemination.


Dessane Cassell (OC ’14)




[i] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, (Philadelphia and London: Running Press, 1999), 4.
[ii] Darsie Alexander, “Reluctant Witness: Photography and the Documentation of 1960s and 1970s Art,” in Work Ethic, by Helen Molesworth (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2003), 53.
[iii] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, 4.
[iv] Ina Blom, “Ray Johnson: The Present of Mail Art,” last modified January 2008, accessed October 8, 2012, http://www.rayjohnson.org/Ray-Johnson-The-Present-of-Mail-Art/.
[v] Eleanor Antin, 100 Boots, 4.
[vi] Ibid, 7.

Bibliography

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949)New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling, 1980Type “C” color photographFund for Photography in honor of Ellen H. Johnson, 1982.97
 
        Laurie Simmons’s New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling is a 6 inch x 9.5 inch color photograph of a miniaturized bathroom set in which a doll kneels amongst the toy toilet, sink and bathtub. The work is part of Simmons’s Early Color Interiors series of 1978-1979, created at the beginning of Simmons’s career, when she had recently graduated from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and moved to New York City.[i] Simmons was not a trained as a photographer; self-taught, she began to use photography to distance herself from artistic traditions that she felt were not inclusive of female artists: “In college, I enrolled in a photography course, thinking I might like to learn. I walked in and said, ‘This isn’t art, I won’t waste my time on this.’ Later, I realized that in order to find a voice for myself as a woman artist, I had to reject painting and sculpture, so photography became interesting in a new way.”[ii]  Photography was a fairly new artistic medium; with a history of only about one hundred years, it was set apart from the heavily masculine traditions of painting and sculpture. For Simmons, the newness of photography was liberating, and allowed her to experiment with her art without being burdened by the history of a medium.        Photography was a locus of experimentation in the 1970s and 1980s, and Simmons’s photography is influenced by Conceptual art practices that were being exhibited in New York City at this time. In her essay “Reinventing the Medium,” Rosalind Krauss discusses photography as becoming a “theoretical object” through the work of Conceptual artists. Artists like Robert Smithson and Edward Ruscha were championing photographic techniques such as photojournalism and “brutishly amateur photography” that created a non-art experience, and “critiqued the unexamined pretentions of high art.”[iii] Krauss describes these photo-conceptual art practices as deconstructive. Conceptual artists were removing photography from its academic and commercial context, and means of questioning the nature of art itself.        Simmons addresses the role of Conceptual art in the formation of her own work in an interview with fellow artist Sarah Charlesworth: “Conceptual art just exploded for me…I was smart enough to know to wait until I could figure out what was going to be my artwork…It’s a very tempting place to work, to pick up where somebody has left of and start from there.”[iv] Simmons’s work thus does not simply adopt the methods of Conceptual artists, but develops them to a unique purpose. Her photographs appears artificial and amateur in the spirit of Conceptual art, but she departs from her predecessors by using their techniques to examine cultural representations of women in the media-dominated visual culture of post-war America.[v]        New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling presents a critique of cultural representations of women by creating a world within the photograph that parodies the stereotype of a 1950s housewife. The title New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling provides a simple description of the content of the photograph, however it leaves the subject matter somewhat ambiguous. Judging solely by the title, New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling could be an image of a flesh-and-blood woman. In reality, the subject of the photograph is a doll: a figural stereotype of a 1950’s housewife, complete with high heels, a brightly printed dress with cap sleeves, and a bobbed haircut. The doll kneels within the miniaturized bathroom set, in a gesture of domestic labor. Simmons’s use of a doll and a hand crafted set to create this image constructs the female subject as a possession. The viewing experience is informed by a power dynamic between viewer and subject, with the viewer in a position of control over the female subject through its presentation as a familiar object of possession.        The doll’s diminutive position is reinforced by the inauthenticity of the bathroom. The room is not imaged as a world onto itself, one that allows the viewer complete immersion. Rather, it resembles a movie set that has been taken out of the context of its film. There is a large gap between the vertical panels that are the wall of the bathroom, and the horizontal plane that is the floor. A bright light shines through this gap, illuminating the space of the bathroom in a highly unnatural way. The boundaries between the set and the natural world are clearly visible, enhancing the constructed nature of the space. As a result, the doll also seems less natural. Her “doll-ness” – her role as a stand-in for the human housewife – is emphasized by the unnatural space she occupies.        The vantage point of the photograph further highlights the objective nature of the doll. The camera lens approaches the doll from above, so that the scene appears true to life in scale. The viewer is not approaching the image on the same level as the doll, as if the photograph was an opening onto the dolls world. Instead, the viewer approaches the image as one would a dollhouse, from above, looking in. This vantage point has the effect of further objectifying the doll, and enforcing the owner-possession dynamic between the viewer and the subject.        The photograph constructs the doll as diminutive not only to the viewer, but also to the other objects within the space of the image. A miniature toilet, bathtub and sink occupy the bathroom along with the doll. The three appliances parallel the three vertical walls, confining her to a corner of the space. The doll kneels on the floor, with a hand on the bathtub as if turning it on. The gesture parodies the stereotype of a 1950s housewife as completely absorbed by domestic labor, a slave to her appliances. The kneeling gesture reduces the doll to the size of the surrounding objects. This positioning of the doll denies her any power over the appliances. Rather, the appliances exert power over her. The doll’s kneeling gesture is one of subservience.  The bathtub is dictating her gesture, in the same way that the positioning of the appliances control her location in the space. The doll is denied any potential power over the surrounding objects by being photographed with her head turned away from the camera. With her face obscured from the viewer, the doll is further dehumanized, and becomes an object amongst objects.        New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling stands as a critique of the 1950s housewife stereotype as an objectifying and reductive role for women. The doll is constantly under the control of external forces, both in her dollhouse world, and in the viewer’s world. The hand of the artist exerts total control over the dollhouse world. Simmons has manipulated the position of the doll so as to parody the 1950s housewife’s slavish devotion to her appliances, and in doing so has reduced the doll to the same objective status of the appliances. The mediation of the artist is referenced by the visibly constructed nature of the set. The image makes clear that this is not a world onto itself, but is a hand-made set that exists in the natural world. This power of the artist over the subject/object of the doll is symbolically transferred to the viewer, who approaches to image from a high vantage point that allows for an understanding of the doll as a doll, and thus a possession.        Simmons has effectively created a simulacral world in New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling. A simulacrum is a material image that bears a surface resemblance to the thing it references. The doll is a simulacrum of a stereotypical 1950s housewife, and the photograph itself is a simulacrum of the doll in her dollhouse. Both the idea of the housewife and the idea of the doll are communicated through the image, though the material object of both housewife and doll are left behind. Jean Baudrillard’s theory of the simulacra dictates that through the process of simulation, simulacra creates its own reality separate from the thing it represents: Reality itself founders in hyperrealism, the meticulous reduplication of the real, preferably through another, reproductive medium, such as photography. From medium to medium, the real is volatized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of the lost object…[vi] The doll is thus designated as a sculptural object because it has been removed from its role as an everyday object, and situated within the framework of the photograph. The construction of a separate reality in the photograph transforms the everyday objects of the dollhouse into sculptural subjects.  Alex Kelly (OC ’13)
[i] “Early Color Interiors: 1978-1979.” Laurie Simmons, artist website. Accessed 28 October, 2012. http://www.lauriesimmons.net/photographs/early-color-interiors/#.[ii] Laurie Simmons, interviewed by Sarah Charlesworth, New York City, 24 February, 1992. Laurie Simmons / interviewed by Sarah Charlesworth, ed. William S. Barton and Rodney Sappington. New York: Art Resources Transfer, Inc, 1994, p. 5.[iii] Krauss, Rosalind. “Reinventing the Medium”. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 25, No. 2, “Angelus Novus”: Perspectives on Walter Benjamin (Winter 1999), pp. 289-305; p. 295. Accessed through http://www.jstor.org/stable/1344204.[iv] Interview with Sarah Charlesworth, pp. 6-8.[v] Linker, Kate. “Reflections on a Mirror,” in Laurie Simmons: Walking, Talking, Lying.London: Aperture Foundation, Inc., 2005, p. 8.[vi] Baudrillard, Jean. “The Hyper-realism of Simulation,” in Art in Theory 1900-2000. Ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1993, pp. 1018-1020, p. 1018.
Bibliography

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949)
New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling, 1980
Type “C” color photograph
Fund for Photography in honor of Ellen H. Johnson, 1982.97

 

        Laurie Simmons’s New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling is a 6 inch x 9.5 inch color photograph of a miniaturized bathroom set in which a doll kneels amongst the toy toilet, sink and bathtub. The work is part of Simmons’s Early Color Interiors series of 1978-1979, created at the beginning of Simmons’s career, when she had recently graduated from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and moved to New York City.[i] Simmons was not a trained as a photographer; self-taught, she began to use photography to distance herself from artistic traditions that she felt were not inclusive of female artists: “In college, I enrolled in a photography course, thinking I might like to learn. I walked in and said, ‘This isn’t art, I won’t waste my time on this.’ Later, I realized that in order to find a voice for myself as a woman artist, I had to reject painting and sculpture, so photography became interesting in a new way.”[ii]  Photography was a fairly new artistic medium; with a history of only about one hundred years, it was set apart from the heavily masculine traditions of painting and sculpture. For Simmons, the newness of photography was liberating, and allowed her to experiment with her art without being burdened by the history of a medium.
        Photography was a locus of experimentation in the 1970s and 1980s, and Simmons’s photography is influenced by Conceptual art practices that were being exhibited in New York City at this time. In her essay “Reinventing the Medium,” Rosalind Krauss discusses photography as becoming a “theoretical object” through the work of Conceptual artists. Artists like Robert Smithson and Edward Ruscha were championing photographic techniques such as photojournalism and “brutishly amateur photography” that created a non-art experience, and “critiqued the unexamined pretentions of high art.”[iii] Krauss describes these photo-conceptual art practices as deconstructive. Conceptual artists were removing photography from its academic and commercial context, and means of questioning the nature of art itself.
        Simmons addresses the role of Conceptual art in the formation of her own work in an interview with fellow artist Sarah Charlesworth: “Conceptual art just exploded for me…I was smart enough to know to wait until I could figure out what was going to be my artwork…It’s a very tempting place to work, to pick up where somebody has left of and start from there.”[iv] Simmons’s work thus does not simply adopt the methods of Conceptual artists, but develops them to a unique purpose. Her photographs appears artificial and amateur in the spirit of Conceptual art, but she departs from her predecessors by using their techniques to examine cultural representations of women in the media-dominated visual culture of post-war America.[v]
        New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling presents a critique of cultural representations of women by creating a world within the photograph that parodies the stereotype of a 1950s housewife. The title New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling provides a simple description of the content of the photograph, however it leaves the subject matter somewhat ambiguous. Judging solely by the title, New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling could be an image of a flesh-and-blood woman. In reality, the subject of the photograph is a doll: a figural stereotype of a 1950’s housewife, complete with high heels, a brightly printed dress with cap sleeves, and a bobbed haircut. The doll kneels within the miniaturized bathroom set, in a gesture of domestic labor. Simmons’s use of a doll and a hand crafted set to create this image constructs the female subject as a possession. The viewing experience is informed by a power dynamic between viewer and subject, with the viewer in a position of control over the female subject through its presentation as a familiar object of possession.
        The doll’s diminutive position is reinforced by the inauthenticity of the bathroom. The room is not imaged as a world onto itself, one that allows the viewer complete immersion. Rather, it resembles a movie set that has been taken out of the context of its film. There is a large gap between the vertical panels that are the wall of the bathroom, and the horizontal plane that is the floor. A bright light shines through this gap, illuminating the space of the bathroom in a highly unnatural way. The boundaries between the set and the natural world are clearly visible, enhancing the constructed nature of the space. As a result, the doll also seems less natural. Her “doll-ness” – her role as a stand-in for the human housewife – is emphasized by the unnatural space she occupies.
        The vantage point of the photograph further highlights the objective nature of the doll. The camera lens approaches the doll from above, so that the scene appears true to life in scale. The viewer is not approaching the image on the same level as the doll, as if the photograph was an opening onto the dolls world. Instead, the viewer approaches the image as one would a dollhouse, from above, looking in. This vantage point has the effect of further objectifying the doll, and enforcing the owner-possession dynamic between the viewer and the subject.
        The photograph constructs the doll as diminutive not only to the viewer, but also to the other objects within the space of the image. A miniature toilet, bathtub and sink occupy the bathroom along with the doll. The three appliances parallel the three vertical walls, confining her to a corner of the space. The doll kneels on the floor, with a hand on the bathtub as if turning it on. The gesture parodies the stereotype of a 1950s housewife as completely absorbed by domestic labor, a slave to her appliances. The kneeling gesture reduces the doll to the size of the surrounding objects. This positioning of the doll denies her any power over the appliances. Rather, the appliances exert power over her. The doll’s kneeling gesture is one of subservience.  The bathtub is dictating her gesture, in the same way that the positioning of the appliances control her location in the space. The doll is denied any potential power over the surrounding objects by being photographed with her head turned away from the camera. With her face obscured from the viewer, the doll is further dehumanized, and becomes an object amongst objects.
        New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling stands as a critique of the 1950s housewife stereotype as an objectifying and reductive role for women. The doll is constantly under the control of external forces, both in her dollhouse world, and in the viewer’s world. The hand of the artist exerts total control over the dollhouse world. Simmons has manipulated the position of the doll so as to parody the 1950s housewife’s slavish devotion to her appliances, and in doing so has reduced the doll to the same objective status of the appliances. The mediation of the artist is referenced by the visibly constructed nature of the set. The image makes clear that this is not a world onto itself, but is a hand-made set that exists in the natural world. This power of the artist over the subject/object of the doll is symbolically transferred to the viewer, who approaches to image from a high vantage point that allows for an understanding of the doll as a doll, and thus a possession.
        Simmons has effectively created a simulacral world in New Bathroom/Woman Kneeling. A simulacrum is a material image that bears a surface resemblance to the thing it references. The doll is a simulacrum of a stereotypical 1950s housewife, and the photograph itself is a simulacrum of the doll in her dollhouse. Both the idea of the housewife and the idea of the doll are communicated through the image, though the material object of both housewife and doll are left behind. Jean Baudrillard’s theory of the simulacra dictates that through the process of simulation, simulacra creates its own reality separate from the thing it represents:

Reality itself founders in hyperrealism, the meticulous reduplication of the real, preferably through another, reproductive medium, such as photography. From medium to medium, the real is volatized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of the lost object…[vi]

The doll is thus designated as a sculptural object because it has been removed from its role as an everyday object, and situated within the framework of the photograph. The construction of a separate reality in the photograph transforms the everyday objects of the dollhouse into sculptural subjects.


Alex Kelly (OC ’13)




[i] “Early Color Interiors: 1978-1979.” Laurie Simmons, artist website. Accessed 28 October, 2012. http://www.lauriesimmons.net/photographs/early-color-interiors/#.
[ii] Laurie Simmons, interviewed by Sarah Charlesworth, New York City, 24 February, 1992. Laurie Simmons / interviewed by Sarah Charlesworth, ed. William S. Barton and Rodney Sappington. New York: Art Resources Transfer, Inc, 1994, p. 5.
[iii] Krauss, Rosalind. “Reinventing the Medium”. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 25, No. 2, “Angelus Novus”: Perspectives on Walter Benjamin (Winter 1999), pp. 289-305; p. 295. Accessed through http://www.jstor.org/stable/1344204.
[iv] Interview with Sarah Charlesworth, pp. 6-8.
[v] Linker, Kate. “Reflections on a Mirror,” in Laurie Simmons: Walking, Talking, Lying.
London: Aperture Foundation, Inc., 2005, p. 8.
[vi] Baudrillard, Jean. “The Hyper-realism of Simulation,” in Art in Theory 1900-2000. Ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1993, pp. 1018-1020, p. 1018.

Bibliography

James Casebere (American, b. 1953)The Library II, 1980-82Gelatin silver printFund for Photography in honor of Ellen H. Johnson, 1983.38
 
        Classifying James Casebere as belonging to a single artistic movement is a fruitless endeavor. His photographs draw from a number of different artistic concepts and groups, from Surrealism – Casebere “uses a medium that ostensibly documents reality to record images of fantasy,” thus he defamiliarizes the familiar – to Constructivism – the artist emphasizes a transparent process, stressing the materiality of his work.[i][ii] Casebere also has compared his photographic practice to the performance-based, Conceptual strategies of Vito Acconci, Dennis Oppenheim, and Mary Miss who he admired for being interdisciplinary artists who “moved into the realm of architecture.”[iii] However, when examining his process, all categorization falls aside, leaving Casebere in a realm of his own. To make his photographs, the artist creates architectural models, often replicas of institutionalized, repetitive, and ritualized spaces including storefronts, prison cells, and suburban houses, out of “paper, mat board, and plaster”[iv] He then photographs the models and disposes of them. Often Casebere replicates specific architectural locations, or, as in Library II (1980-1982), one photograph in a two part series where Library I of 1980 is a detail shot, he designs archetypal institutions that “suggest habitable spaces subtly contaminated into fiction.”[v][vi] As a result of his process and style, each architectural element is simplified until the model functions as “social signs of this public space,” rather than as a claim to the space itself.[vii]        Casebere’s process of creating generic architectural spaces acts against the medium of photography, which captures and concretizes moments in time. Additionally, his models are meant to be impermanent; they are solely created for the click of the camera, with their imminent destruction in mind. Since his photographs depict fabricated spaces, Casebere’s process undermines broader conceptions that photography is a medium that documents truth, and objectively captures reality. It also works against traditions of architecture, a medium with strong claims to longevity, through its use of the sculptural model. The model in architecture functions as a rough draft sculpture of a plan that will be actualized into a long-lasting reality. Casebere’s models, however, are never carried out. Thus, the very nature of Casebere’s process is in opposition to the two mediums it harnesses.        Library II presents a toy library. Its miniaturization sets up a dollhouse-like tone. The architectural elements are obvious replications of, rather than functional, forms. The pillars are adhered to the base with plaster that differs in color from the ground and poles. The thick and boxy study carrels are made of foam. He also highlights the photograph’s materiality by leaving the imperfections untouched. For example, the jagged edges in the material Casebere cut to create this space are visible in the archways directly across from the viewer, as well as in the wobbly banisters. Its materiality clearly reveals that this photograph is not of an actual library, but rather, a manipulatable toy-like replica. Casebere himself claimed that the objective in revealing the construction is to “allow the viewer to step back and have a certain critical distance of the experience.”[viii] Casebere’s transparent approach to the architectural model emphasizes the photographic medium, thus distancing the work from the real and projecting the viewer into this miniaturized, fantastical space. Though many of his other works are almost impossible to decipher as models, Casebere is clearly not claiming Library II to be a replication of a real space. Instead it conjures a dream-like fantasy through its imperfect representation of reality.        Casebere also uses light to distort a perception of the real and hint at possibilities beyond this space. The only clear light source is the window in the top left register, leading the viewer to assume that there are windows behind each door. Other than this blaring, white light, the rest of the work’s color contrast seems to emanate from a light source from above. The doors both above and below the balcony, which are slightly ajar, suggest a continuation of the library, but the harsh lighting also confuses an understanding of them. Deeply cloaked in shadow and muddled by the shadows they cast, the doors are difficult to decipher in terms of their direction. Unless seen from a close vantage point, the photograph makes it unclear as to whether the right doors are hinged on the same side as the others.        Photographic reproductions of this original photograph eliminate these distortions. The digital reproduction used to illustrate this image on the artist’s website is a much lighter rendering that does not distort the depth perception in the same way. Perhaps it has been Photoshopped, as Casebere demonstrates using a program to edit his photographs on YouTube.[ix] In the reproduction, the confusion of space that is seen in the original through the shadows, which hide architectural elements, is removed. Conversely, the digital reproduction on the website of the Allen Memorial Art Museum depicts an even darker image than the photograph in the gallery. In this illustration, the triangular light cast on the bottom right corridor is indistinguishable and blurry. Because of photography’s potential to be digitized and reproduced online, Library II takes on a separate identity beyond the museum. Casebere’s choice to digitally publish a lighter version of this photograph begs the question: which photograph should be considered accurate? Or are they each to be counted as individual objects?        The dream-like quality of Casebere’s photograph is amplified by his use of black and white photography, which stresses the materiality of the photograph all the more. The black and white contrasts contribute to the sterile, fantastical quality of the library. As Casebere explains, “black and white had more to do with memory and past.[…]And I think black and white adds a certain level of abstraction.”[x] The lack of color then goes a step further to undermine the photograph’s claim to the real as it functions as a mode of abstraction to widen the rift between reality and fantasy.[xi] By using a historical photographic medium, Casebere also calls attention to the materiality of the photograph. While color would assimilate this photograph to real life, black and white distances the work from the viewer and from everyday experience. The scene exists apart, in a separate realm of representation.        This fantastical tone is further distorted through the elision of human activity. There are no people and most importantly, no books represented in this model. Although the photograph depicts a library, it is curiously empty. The only sign of human interference in the photograph, besides the assumption that someone must have built this institution, is the angle of the chair at the carrel second from the left. This cocked angle suggests someone scooted the chair out and did not push it back in before leaving. As the only indication of action in this otherwise eerily static model, this chair holds significance in the photograph, which presents a space of abandonment and ruin, thereby decontextualizing and disassociating the viewer from an institutional space. After all, what is a library without a human to use it? This unnerving emptiness causes the photograph to actually assume an almost apocalyptic, nightmarish tone.        This idea of desolation also informs a discussion of the function of repetition in Casebere’s photograph. Indeed, photography as a medium is rooted in duplication and a habitualized process. Casbere intentionally illuminates this grounding by choosing subjects that also belong to discourses of replication and ritual practice. A library is an institutionalized space that demands certain conventions and rituals of its subjects: a patron checks out a book and then returns it on a specified date. These habits are universal, crossing geographical boundaries, stressing the library’s utilitarian function as a common, democratic resource. What does it mean, then, that Casebere’s Library II is empty? It is devoid of the books and people that define a library, suggesting that Casebere is presenting a ruin or a monument of this orderly space. The artist also tests the notion that a library is a building deeply rooted in order and serialization. The serial, repeated forms of rows of bookshelves, groups of tables, and computers, exemplify the conventions of duplication and systems of the institution, including the Dewey decimal system and the borrow-and-return pattern of exchange. Yet this subject matter of order and seriality is undermined by Casebere’s photograph, which stresses disorder through the haphazard arrangement of the carrels and through the uneven, jagged edges of the material. In this way, the photograph acts as a simulacrum, or “a copy without an original […] based on difference and repetition.”[xii] In other words, the meaning of the work comes from the empty replication itself.        The encounter of the functionless library also complicates a stable reading of Library II. The viewer is presumably placed on the opposite balcony, yet the height at which it is placed in the Ripin Gallery forces the viewer to strain his or her neck upwards, upsetting a comfortable, seamless encounter. In reconciling the viewer’s physical relationship to the work, it is important to also note the photograph’s architectural structure, which lacks of a clear entrance or exit point from the library, begging the question: how does a viewer enter this space? The way in which Casebere structures our access to the scene suggests that the viewer enters this eerie, almost apocalyptic scene in an unsettling dream. Because of the replication of architectural forms and the placement of the viewer inside of the space, the viewer continues to construct the library for him or herself. Thus, the viewer takes the place of the camera and actively participates in this duplicative impulse through making sense of the symbols by filling in the spaces beyond that are intimated by the photograph. Thus, Casebere allows the viewer to claim partial authorship of this photograph.[xiii] While he provides the paired-down model and frames it through photography, it is the viewer who understands it and therefore activates it as a symbol by filling in the details and continuing to create the space. Either way, an encounter with this photograph, though documenting a facsimile of reality, is mediated through an uneasy unreality.        Ultimately, Library II undermines both architecture and photography by making visible the contradictions that each medium adheres to—underscoring the radical critiques that arise from the tensions between photography and sculpture. Casebere reduces architecture to functionless signs, suggesting that it is the societal structures, and not the physical structures, which dictate purpose. He also attacks photography’s claims to reality by employing the medium’s own techniques to point out its very artificiality. 
Julia Melfi (OC ’15) 
[i] Carol Diehl, “James Casebere at Sean Kelly,” Art in America, (December 2007, Vol. 95 No.11): 155.[ii] Roberto Juarez, “James Casebere,” Bomb (Fall 2001, No. 77): 31.[iii] Juarez, “Casebere,” 31.[iv] Hal Foster, “Uncanny Images,” Art in America, (November1983, Vol. 71): 202.[v] “James Casebere,” artist’s website, accessed September 15, 2012, http://www.jamescasebere.net.[vi] David Frankel, “James Casebere,” ArtForum (March 2002, Vol. 40 No. 7): 109.[vii] Foster, “Uncanny Images,” 203.[viii] Juarez, “Casebere,” 31[ix] Yamazaki, Rima “James Casebere on Landscape with Houses,” YouTube. 17 May 2011. 15 Sept. 2012.[x] Juarez, “Casebere,” 30.[xi] Juarez, “Casebere,” 30.[xii] Foster, “Uncanny Images,” 203.[xiii] Diehl, “Casebere at Sean Kelly,” 155.
Bibliography

James Casebere (American, b. 1953)
The Library II, 1980-82
Gelatin silver print
Fund for Photography in honor of Ellen H. Johnson, 1983.38

 

        Classifying James Casebere as belonging to a single artistic movement is a fruitless endeavor. His photographs draw from a number of different artistic concepts and groups, from Surrealism – Casebere “uses a medium that ostensibly documents reality to record images of fantasy,” thus he defamiliarizes the familiar – to Constructivism – the artist emphasizes a transparent process, stressing the materiality of his work.[i][ii] Casebere also has compared his photographic practice to the performance-based, Conceptual strategies of Vito Acconci, Dennis Oppenheim, and Mary Miss who he admired for being interdisciplinary artists who “moved into the realm of architecture.”[iii] However, when examining his process, all categorization falls aside, leaving Casebere in a realm of his own. To make his photographs, the artist creates architectural models, often replicas of institutionalized, repetitive, and ritualized spaces including storefronts, prison cells, and suburban houses, out of “paper, mat board, and plaster”[iv] He then photographs the models and disposes of them. Often Casebere replicates specific architectural locations, or, as in Library II (1980-1982), one photograph in a two part series where Library I of 1980 is a detail shot, he designs archetypal institutions that “suggest habitable spaces subtly contaminated into fiction.”[v][vi] As a result of his process and style, each architectural element is simplified until the model functions as “social signs of this public space,” rather than as a claim to the space itself.[vii]
        Casebere’s process of creating generic architectural spaces acts against the medium of photography, which captures and concretizes moments in time. Additionally, his models are meant to be impermanent; they are solely created for the click of the camera, with their imminent destruction in mind. Since his photographs depict fabricated spaces, Casebere’s process undermines broader conceptions that photography is a medium that documents truth, and objectively captures reality. It also works against traditions of architecture, a medium with strong claims to longevity, through its use of the sculptural model. The model in architecture functions as a rough draft sculpture of a plan that will be actualized into a long-lasting reality. Casebere’s models, however, are never carried out. Thus, the very nature of Casebere’s process is in opposition to the two mediums it harnesses.
        Library II presents a toy library. Its miniaturization sets up a dollhouse-like tone. The architectural elements are obvious replications of, rather than functional, forms. The pillars are adhered to the base with plaster that differs in color from the ground and poles. The thick and boxy study carrels are made of foam. He also highlights the photograph’s materiality by leaving the imperfections untouched. For example, the jagged edges in the material Casebere cut to create this space are visible in the archways directly across from the viewer, as well as in the wobbly banisters. Its materiality clearly reveals that this photograph is not of an actual library, but rather, a manipulatable toy-like replica. Casebere himself claimed that the objective in revealing the construction is to “allow the viewer to step back and have a certain critical distance of the experience.”[viii] Casebere’s transparent approach to the architectural model emphasizes the photographic medium, thus distancing the work from the real and projecting the viewer into this miniaturized, fantastical space. Though many of his other works are almost impossible to decipher as models, Casebere is clearly not claiming Library II to be a replication of a real space. Instead it conjures a dream-like fantasy through its imperfect representation of reality.
        Casebere also uses light to distort a perception of the real and hint at possibilities beyond this space. The only clear light source is the window in the top left register, leading the viewer to assume that there are windows behind each door. Other than this blaring, white light, the rest of the work’s color contrast seems to emanate from a light source from above. The doors both above and below the balcony, which are slightly ajar, suggest a continuation of the library, but the harsh lighting also confuses an understanding of them. Deeply cloaked in shadow and muddled by the shadows they cast, the doors are difficult to decipher in terms of their direction. Unless seen from a close vantage point, the photograph makes it unclear as to whether the right doors are hinged on the same side as the others.
        Photographic reproductions of this original photograph eliminate these distortions. The digital reproduction used to illustrate this image on the artist’s website is a much lighter rendering that does not distort the depth perception in the same way. Perhaps it has been Photoshopped, as Casebere demonstrates using a program to edit his photographs on YouTube.[ix] In the reproduction, the confusion of space that is seen in the original through the shadows, which hide architectural elements, is removed. Conversely, the digital reproduction on the website of the Allen Memorial Art Museum depicts an even darker image than the photograph in the gallery. In this illustration, the triangular light cast on the bottom right corridor is indistinguishable and blurry. Because of photography’s potential to be digitized and reproduced online, Library II takes on a separate identity beyond the museum. Casebere’s choice to digitally publish a lighter version of this photograph begs the question: which photograph should be considered accurate? Or are they each to be counted as individual objects?
        The dream-like quality of Casebere’s photograph is amplified by his use of black and white photography, which stresses the materiality of the photograph all the more. The black and white contrasts contribute to the sterile, fantastical quality of the library. As Casebere explains, “black and white had more to do with memory and past.[…]And I think black and white adds a certain level of abstraction.”[x] The lack of color then goes a step further to undermine the photograph’s claim to the real as it functions as a mode of abstraction to widen the rift between reality and fantasy.[xi] By using a historical photographic medium, Casebere also calls attention to the materiality of the photograph. While color would assimilate this photograph to real life, black and white distances the work from the viewer and from everyday experience. The scene exists apart, in a separate realm of representation.
        This fantastical tone is further distorted through the elision of human activity. There are no people and most importantly, no books represented in this model. Although the photograph depicts a library, it is curiously empty. The only sign of human interference in the photograph, besides the assumption that someone must have built this institution, is the angle of the chair at the carrel second from the left. This cocked angle suggests someone scooted the chair out and did not push it back in before leaving. As the only indication of action in this otherwise eerily static model, this chair holds significance in the photograph, which presents a space of abandonment and ruin, thereby decontextualizing and disassociating the viewer from an institutional space. After all, what is a library without a human to use it? This unnerving emptiness causes the photograph to actually assume an almost apocalyptic, nightmarish tone.
        This idea of desolation also informs a discussion of the function of repetition in Casebere’s photograph. Indeed, photography as a medium is rooted in duplication and a habitualized process. Casbere intentionally illuminates this grounding by choosing subjects that also belong to discourses of replication and ritual practice. A library is an institutionalized space that demands certain conventions and rituals of its subjects: a patron checks out a book and then returns it on a specified date. These habits are universal, crossing geographical boundaries, stressing the library’s utilitarian function as a common, democratic resource. What does it mean, then, that Casebere’s Library II is empty? It is devoid of the books and people that define a library, suggesting that Casebere is presenting a ruin or a monument of this orderly space. The artist also tests the notion that a library is a building deeply rooted in order and serialization. The serial, repeated forms of rows of bookshelves, groups of tables, and computers, exemplify the conventions of duplication and systems of the institution, including the Dewey decimal system and the borrow-and-return pattern of exchange. Yet this subject matter of order and seriality is undermined by Casebere’s photograph, which stresses disorder through the haphazard arrangement of the carrels and through the uneven, jagged edges of the material. In this way, the photograph acts as a simulacrum, or “a copy without an original […] based on difference and repetition.”[xii] In other words, the meaning of the work comes from the empty replication itself.
        The encounter of the functionless library also complicates a stable reading of Library II. The viewer is presumably placed on the opposite balcony, yet the height at which it is placed in the Ripin Gallery forces the viewer to strain his or her neck upwards, upsetting a comfortable, seamless encounter. In reconciling the viewer’s physical relationship to the work, it is important to also note the photograph’s architectural structure, which lacks of a clear entrance or exit point from the library, begging the question: how does a viewer enter this space? The way in which Casebere structures our access to the scene suggests that the viewer enters this eerie, almost apocalyptic scene in an unsettling dream. Because of the replication of architectural forms and the placement of the viewer inside of the space, the viewer continues to construct the library for him or herself. Thus, the viewer takes the place of the camera and actively participates in this duplicative impulse through making sense of the symbols by filling in the spaces beyond that are intimated by the photograph. Thus, Casebere allows the viewer to claim partial authorship of this photograph.[xiii] While he provides the paired-down model and frames it through photography, it is the viewer who understands it and therefore activates it as a symbol by filling in the details and continuing to create the space. Either way, an encounter with this photograph, though documenting a facsimile of reality, is mediated through an uneasy unreality.
        Ultimately, Library II undermines both architecture and photography by making visible the contradictions that each medium adheres to—underscoring the radical critiques that arise from the tensions between photography and sculpture. Casebere reduces architecture to functionless signs, suggesting that it is the societal structures, and not the physical structures, which dictate purpose. He also attacks photography’s claims to reality by employing the medium’s own techniques to point out its very artificiality.


Julia Melfi (OC ’15)




[i] Carol Diehl, “James Casebere at Sean Kelly,” Art in America, (December 2007, Vol. 95 No.11): 155.
[ii] Roberto Juarez, “James Casebere,” Bomb (Fall 2001, No. 77): 31.
[iii] Juarez, “Casebere,” 31.
[iv] Hal Foster, “Uncanny Images,” Art in America, (November1983, Vol. 71): 202.
[v] “James Casebere,” artist’s website, accessed September 15, 2012, http://www.jamescasebere.net.
[vi] David Frankel, “James Casebere,” ArtForum (March 2002, Vol. 40 No. 7): 109.
[vii] Foster, “Uncanny Images,” 203.
[viii] Juarez, “Casebere,” 31
[ix] Yamazaki, Rima “James Casebere on Landscape with Houses,” YouTube. 17 May 2011. 15 Sept. 2012.
[x] Juarez, “Casebere,” 30.
[xi] Juarez, “Casebere,” 30.
[xii] Foster, “Uncanny Images,” 203.
[xiii] Diehl, “Casebere at Sean Kelly,” 155.

Bibliography

Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, b. 1961)Ball on Water (Pelota en el Agua), 1994Cibachrome printGift of Cristina Delgado (OC 1980) and Stephen F. Olsen (OC 1979), 2002.21.2
 
        A pregnant moon hangs low in cloud-streaked sky; a pearl floats forward from its resting place in the cosmos; a ping pong ball, abandoned and silent, sits half-submerged in a reflective puddle. These metaphorical readings, each describing an object with a distinct sense of scale, emphasize the disorienting optical effect of Gabriel Orozco’s (b. 1961) Ball on Water (Pelota en el agua). At first glance, the viewer cannot immediately name not only the experience the photograph produces but also, more problematically, its precise subject matter. Can the white sphere fit into the palm of one’s hand, or is its diameter more comparable to that of a planet? Regardless of scale, one must look to the explicitness of the work’s title to conclude that the photograph’s content is a ball on water, a simple object unadorned with a specific context or narrative. Printed through the silver bleach-dye process of cibachrome, the photograph glows with an ethereal spectrum of blue hues. Fading from darkness to light—from the corners to the center of the print, where sunlight is reflected—the photograph adopts a reverse-ombré effect, allowing light and shadow to dictate where the viewer’s eye moves. As a result of this dramatic lighting, the ball seems disconnected from the wisps of clouds in the background, as a semi-circle of shadow creates an almost collage-like effect; has the artist somehow sharpened the focus of the ball’s edges, allowing it to assume a cut-out appearance? The photograph produces a strange effect of coincident nearness and distance: the spherical form seems to simultaneously come towards and drift away from the viewer. Does this image—a smooth globe against a spread of whirling clouds—occur in reality, or does it compose some kind of strange hallucination, a suggestion of the surreal and the expansiveness of human consciousness?        These sprawling questions, in the context of Orozco’s eclectic oeuvre, do not necessarily call for concrete, unified answers; rather, the questions themselves reveal a self-conscious ambiguity. While seemingly inaccessible and perhaps off-putting to the viewer, this ambiguity stresses the thematic opaqueness that characterizes much of Orozco’s photographic work. As art historian Jean Fisher writes, his work “does not surrender itself instantly to the analytic demands of language. Rather its immediate appeal is to the emotions and sense [of the viewer], producing a somatic resonance often approaching the synesthetic.”[i] In other words, the viewer is not expected to arrive at a neatly packaged conclusion but should instead allow and accept the emotive experience that develops from looking.        Throughout the span of his artistic practice, Orozco has engaged with myriad media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and installation—often combining two or more forms to explore the potential metamorphoses and limitations of each one.[ii] Describing his photography as an extension of his sculptural works, he finds ways to decouple sculpture from its formal foundation in pure mass and weight.[iii] Instead, he focuses on a sculpture’s conceptual underpinnings and spatial configurations within its broader environment. A found object is no longer a legible shape or mere mass of atoms in space; rather, the found object reincarnates as a heightened version of its former self, reenergized as something dynamic and absorbent of its surroundings. As the artist, Orozco facilitates this transformation, or self-realization, from simple to complex, from closed to open, from physical to cerebral.        In Ball on Water, for example, Orozco captures a three-dimensional object through two-dimensional representation, stripping the object of its original materiality and tactility. Rendered non-functional—like a ritual vessel that cannot carry wine—the pictured ball stands in as a visual signifier of what was, a reminder of something lost. However, Orozco frequently reframes loss in terms of resilience and possibility: a puddle, he has said, “may be something disappointing, something to be avoided, a topographical accident, a bit of urban disorder, an accumulation of time, an imperfection. But it is also a space where something marvelous may happen.”[iv] In this case, he sees urban debris, raw and neglected, as candidates for sculpture—that is, if manipulated by a sharp eye and well-applied intuition.  Fueled by his curiosity, Orozco “makes minimal interventions in the life of the object,” as Fisher writes, “sufficient to extend the form and context of the materials without either disturbing the reality that attracted the artist in the first place, or closing off the imaginative space of the viewer.”[v] These interventions, subtle yet profound, underscore the artist as both spontaneous and meticulous, his constructions sometimes haphazard, sometimes highly staged.        To fully appreciate Orozco’s photographic-sculptural work, one must understand his artistic practice, a nebulous process informed by wanderlust and impulse. Abandoning the traditional artist’s workspace of the studio, he roams around Mexico City, New York, and Paris, rearranging plastic bags on barbed-wire fences, or circling through alleyway puddles on an old bicycle.[vi] Nomadic and multilingual, he does not settle for singularity or consistency, instead occupying the spaces in between nations, languages, media, and interpretations. Moreover, he accumulates and borrows from a range of aesthetic strategies, including European Fluxus or Italian arte povera of the 1960s.[vii] As Fisher argues, these strategies nevertheless stem from “conditions of lived experience in Latin American societies, and therefore spring from a sensibility and life-world not wholly appropriable to Euro-American categories.”[viii] Orozco’s work, therefore, seems to come from a sense of personal heritage and, as he emphasizes, from a fascination with “the border between control and abandon, between the urban and the organic, the edges of the city where ‘order’ is growing and clashing with the ‘disorder’ of nature.”[ix] His hybridized work, suspended in a moment between order and chaos, echoes the instability that distinguishes the artist’s practice.        Exploring the stability of the sculptural object is neither unique to Orozco nor unprecedented in the history of art. In the Conceptual photographic movement of the 1960s and 70s—embodied by the work of John Cage, Bruce Nauman, and Douglas Huebler—deskilled photography, unwilling to engage in sophisticated techniques or post-production editing, served as a record of the object’s presence.[x] In other words, as in Ball on Water, the sculpture does not exist without the photograph, and the photograph does not exist without the sculpture. This dependent relationship, manifest in the documentary photographs of Nauman’s performances for example, complicates a pertinent question: does the photograph, the only surviving evidence of a sculpture, performance, or installation, become an artwork in its own right, or does it maintain its status as a record of what was or what happened? For Orozco, who has no formal training in photography and does not apply distorting effects to his negatives, this issue does not resolve neatly.[xi] As Benjamin H.D. Buchloh notes in his 2004 essay entitled “Cosmic Reification,” Orozco’s images eschew “the high resolution generated by advanced digital camera and printing techniques,” as well as the “extreme care and preparation in the preliminary phases of image selection and production.”[xii] Without highly skilled technique, can the artist’s snapshots genuinely be considered artworks—or, conversely, is it precisely this lack of skill, this rejection of “high art,” that imbues his photographs with artistic legitimacy and integrity?        In his own words, Orozco sees photography as “a shoebox… a container I use to transport what I pick up in my interactions.” He says, furthermore, “I value the plane of the photograph in its description of the three dimensional and its possible space for storing time. I turn to the photograph as a sculptural space.”[xiii] It is photography that immortalizes his physically ephemeral sculptures and serves as testimony to his interventions with urban environments. Orozco’s intimate interactions with objects become, through photography, publicized and accessible to the viewer, his works testaments to “the precarious status of the sculptural object between private fetish and public spectacle,” as Buchloh writes.[xiv] He grants the viewer admission into his meditative encounters with objects, even allowing the viewer to adopt the experience as his or her own. In this sense, the viewer enters into the picture plane to contemplate, or even possess, the object as one instilled with interpretive possibilities. Through collapsing together sky and earth, photography and sculpture, sophistication and humility, Ball on Water turns an entirely trivial pairing of street occurrences into a breathtaking image of something weightless, something that carries one’s imagination.
 Sarah Konowitz (OC ’13) 
[i] Jean Fisher, “The Sleep of Wakefulness: Gabriel Orozco (1993),” trans. Isabelle Marmasse, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 18.[ii] Museum Label for Gabriel Orozco, Ball on Water (Pelota en el agua), 1994, (New York: Guggenheim Museum of Art, Permanent Collection), accessed October 30, 2012, http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-full/piece/?search=Ball%20on%20Water&page=&f=Title&object=98.4632.[iii] Joanna Lowry, “Gabriel Orozco,” Photoworks 14 (2010): 42.[iv] Gabriel Orozco, “Lecture (2001),” trans. Eileen Brockbank, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al, (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 89.[v] Fisher, 24.[vi] “Loss & Desire: Gabriel Orozco,” in Art 21: Art in the Twenty-First Century (Season 2), DVD, dir. Deborah Shaffer (Alexandria, Virginia: PBS Home Video, 2003).[vii] Fisher, 21-22.[viii] Ibid, 22.[ix] Orozco, 93.[x] Jeff Wall, “ ‘Marks of Indifference’: Aspects of Conceptualism in, or as, Photography,” in The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography, 1960-1982, ed. Douglas Fogle (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Walker Art Center, 2003), 32-44.[xi] Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Carrie Lambert-Beatty, and Megan Sullivan, “To Make an Inner Time: A Conversation with Gabriel Orozco,” October 130 (2009): 183.[xii] Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, “Cosmic Reification: Gabriel Orozco’s Photographs,” in Gabriel Orozco, 75-96 (London: Serpentine Gallery, 2004), 75.[xiii] Orozco, 101.[xiv] Buchloh, “Gabriel Orozco: The Sculpture of Everyday Life,” trans. Isabelle Marmasse, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 40. 
Bibliography

Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, b. 1961)
Ball on Water (Pelota en el Agua), 1994
Cibachrome print
Gift of Cristina Delgado (OC 1980) and Stephen F. Olsen (OC 1979), 2002.21.2

 

        A pregnant moon hangs low in cloud-streaked sky; a pearl floats forward from its resting place in the cosmos; a ping pong ball, abandoned and silent, sits half-submerged in a reflective puddle. These metaphorical readings, each describing an object with a distinct sense of scale, emphasize the disorienting optical effect of Gabriel Orozco’s (b. 1961) Ball on Water (Pelota en el agua). At first glance, the viewer cannot immediately name not only the experience the photograph produces but also, more problematically, its precise subject matter. Can the white sphere fit into the palm of one’s hand, or is its diameter more comparable to that of a planet? Regardless of scale, one must look to the explicitness of the work’s title to conclude that the photograph’s content is a ball on water, a simple object unadorned with a specific context or narrative. Printed through the silver bleach-dye process of cibachrome, the photograph glows with an ethereal spectrum of blue hues. Fading from darkness to light—from the corners to the center of the print, where sunlight is reflected—the photograph adopts a reverse-ombré effect, allowing light and shadow to dictate where the viewer’s eye moves. As a result of this dramatic lighting, the ball seems disconnected from the wisps of clouds in the background, as a semi-circle of shadow creates an almost collage-like effect; has the artist somehow sharpened the focus of the ball’s edges, allowing it to assume a cut-out appearance? The photograph produces a strange effect of coincident nearness and distance: the spherical form seems to simultaneously come towards and drift away from the viewer. Does this image—a smooth globe against a spread of whirling clouds—occur in reality, or does it compose some kind of strange hallucination, a suggestion of the surreal and the expansiveness of human consciousness?
        These sprawling questions, in the context of Orozco’s eclectic oeuvre, do not necessarily call for concrete, unified answers; rather, the questions themselves reveal a self-conscious ambiguity. While seemingly inaccessible and perhaps off-putting to the viewer, this ambiguity stresses the thematic opaqueness that characterizes much of Orozco’s photographic work. As art historian Jean Fisher writes, his work “does not surrender itself instantly to the analytic demands of language. Rather its immediate appeal is to the emotions and sense [of the viewer], producing a somatic resonance often approaching the synesthetic.”[i] In other words, the viewer is not expected to arrive at a neatly packaged conclusion but should instead allow and accept the emotive experience that develops from looking.
        Throughout the span of his artistic practice, Orozco has engaged with myriad media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and installation—often combining two or more forms to explore the potential metamorphoses and limitations of each one.[ii] Describing his photography as an extension of his sculptural works, he finds ways to decouple sculpture from its formal foundation in pure mass and weight.[iii] Instead, he focuses on a sculpture’s conceptual underpinnings and spatial configurations within its broader environment. A found object is no longer a legible shape or mere mass of atoms in space; rather, the found object reincarnates as a heightened version of its former self, reenergized as something dynamic and absorbent of its surroundings. As the artist, Orozco facilitates this transformation, or self-realization, from simple to complex, from closed to open, from physical to cerebral.
        In Ball on Water, for example, Orozco captures a three-dimensional object through two-dimensional representation, stripping the object of its original materiality and tactility. Rendered non-functional—like a ritual vessel that cannot carry wine—the pictured ball stands in as a visual signifier of what was, a reminder of something lost. However, Orozco frequently reframes loss in terms of resilience and possibility: a puddle, he has said, “may be something disappointing, something to be avoided, a topographical accident, a bit of urban disorder, an accumulation of time, an imperfection. But it is also a space where something marvelous may happen.”[iv] In this case, he sees urban debris, raw and neglected, as candidates for sculpture—that is, if manipulated by a sharp eye and well-applied intuition.  Fueled by his curiosity, Orozco “makes minimal interventions in the life of the object,” as Fisher writes, “sufficient to extend the form and context of the materials without either disturbing the reality that attracted the artist in the first place, or closing off the imaginative space of the viewer.”[v] These interventions, subtle yet profound, underscore the artist as both spontaneous and meticulous, his constructions sometimes haphazard, sometimes highly staged.
        To fully appreciate Orozco’s photographic-sculptural work, one must understand his artistic practice, a nebulous process informed by wanderlust and impulse. Abandoning the traditional artist’s workspace of the studio, he roams around Mexico City, New York, and Paris, rearranging plastic bags on barbed-wire fences, or circling through alleyway puddles on an old bicycle.[vi] Nomadic and multilingual, he does not settle for singularity or consistency, instead occupying the spaces in between nations, languages, media, and interpretations. Moreover, he accumulates and borrows from a range of aesthetic strategies, including European Fluxus or Italian arte povera of the 1960s.[vii] As Fisher argues, these strategies nevertheless stem from “conditions of lived experience in Latin American societies, and therefore spring from a sensibility and life-world not wholly appropriable to Euro-American categories.”[viii] Orozco’s work, therefore, seems to come from a sense of personal heritage and, as he emphasizes, from a fascination with “the border between control and abandon, between the urban and the organic, the edges of the city where ‘order’ is growing and clashing with the ‘disorder’ of nature.”[ix] His hybridized work, suspended in a moment between order and chaos, echoes the instability that distinguishes the artist’s practice.
        Exploring the stability of the sculptural object is neither unique to Orozco nor unprecedented in the history of art. In the Conceptual photographic movement of the 1960s and 70s—embodied by the work of John Cage, Bruce Nauman, and Douglas Huebler—deskilled photography, unwilling to engage in sophisticated techniques or post-production editing, served as a record of the object’s presence.[x] In other words, as in Ball on Water, the sculpture does not exist without the photograph, and the photograph does not exist without the sculpture. This dependent relationship, manifest in the documentary photographs of Nauman’s performances for example, complicates a pertinent question: does the photograph, the only surviving evidence of a sculpture, performance, or installation, become an artwork in its own right, or does it maintain its status as a record of what was or what happened? For Orozco, who has no formal training in photography and does not apply distorting effects to his negatives, this issue does not resolve neatly.[xi] As Benjamin H.D. Buchloh notes in his 2004 essay entitled “Cosmic Reification,” Orozco’s images eschew “the high resolution generated by advanced digital camera and printing techniques,” as well as the “extreme care and preparation in the preliminary phases of image selection and production.”[xii] Without highly skilled technique, can the artist’s snapshots genuinely be considered artworks—or, conversely, is it precisely this lack of skill, this rejection of “high art,” that imbues his photographs with artistic legitimacy and integrity?
        In his own words, Orozco sees photography as “a shoebox… a container I use to transport what I pick up in my interactions.” He says, furthermore, “I value the plane of the photograph in its description of the three dimensional and its possible space for storing time. I turn to the photograph as a sculptural space.”[xiii] It is photography that immortalizes his physically ephemeral sculptures and serves as testimony to his interventions with urban environments. Orozco’s intimate interactions with objects become, through photography, publicized and accessible to the viewer, his works testaments to “the precarious status of the sculptural object between private fetish and public spectacle,” as Buchloh writes.[xiv] He grants the viewer admission into his meditative encounters with objects, even allowing the viewer to adopt the experience as his or her own. In this sense, the viewer enters into the picture plane to contemplate, or even possess, the object as one instilled with interpretive possibilities. Through collapsing together sky and earth, photography and sculpture, sophistication and humility, Ball on Water turns an entirely trivial pairing of street occurrences into a breathtaking image of something weightless, something that carries one’s imagination.


Sarah Konowitz (OC ’13)




[i] Jean Fisher, “The Sleep of Wakefulness: Gabriel Orozco (1993),” trans. Isabelle Marmasse, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 18.
[ii] Museum Label for Gabriel Orozco, Ball on Water (Pelota en el agua), 1994, (New York: Guggenheim Museum of Art, Permanent Collection), accessed October 30, 2012, http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-full/piece/?search=Ball%20on%20Water&page=&f=Title&object=98.4632.
[iii] Joanna Lowry, “Gabriel Orozco,” Photoworks 14 (2010): 42.
[iv] Gabriel Orozco, “Lecture (2001),” trans. Eileen Brockbank, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al, (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 89.
[v] Fisher, 24.
[vi] “Loss & Desire: Gabriel Orozco,” in Art 21: Art in the Twenty-First Century (Season 2), DVD, dir. Deborah Shaffer (Alexandria, Virginia: PBS Home Video, 2003).
[vii] Fisher, 21-22.
[viii] Ibid, 22.
[ix] Orozco, 93.
[x] Jeff Wall, “ ‘Marks of Indifference’: Aspects of Conceptualism in, or as, Photography,” in The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography, 1960-1982, ed. Douglas Fogle (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Walker Art Center, 2003), 32-44.
[xi] Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Carrie Lambert-Beatty, and Megan Sullivan, “To Make an Inner Time: A Conversation with Gabriel Orozco,” October 130 (2009): 183.
[xii] Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, “Cosmic Reification: Gabriel Orozco’s Photographs,” in Gabriel Orozco, 75-96 (London: Serpentine Gallery, 2004), 75.
[xiii] Orozco, 101.
[xiv] Buchloh, “Gabriel Orozco: The Sculpture of Everyday Life,” trans. Isabelle Marmasse, in Gabriel Orozco by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, et al (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art; Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Museo Internacional Rufino Tamayo, 2000), 40. 

Bibliography

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