November 2008


From the Wet Plate Collodion Forum, I learned that Quinn Jacobson is thinking about holding a wet plate workshop webcast on Skype.  This would be geared to those who might not have the time to travel long distances to attend a workshop and would be interactive so that participants may ask questions in real time.  You can contact Quinn by email if you’re interested:  quinn@studioQ.com or (better) through a form on his website.  He moderates the forum as well; but you will need to register and be approved before you can post any comments.    

 

Quinn Jacobson

             

First, the most important thing is that this would be interactive. In other words, participants would be able to ask questions and make comments. I think I can have up to 24 people on a Skype feed.

 Secondly, the participants would be able to SEE everything from making chemistry, pouring plates, making exposures, development, varnish, etc. and see all of the equipment and details. I’m even thinking about doing a feed from my dark room or dark box to show development techniques and how to judge properly exposed images.

This would be designed for people who can’t get to a workshop but have access to Skype and a high-speed internet connection. I would offer my workshop guide (PDF) and participants could follow along as I show my techniques on making chemistry, flowing a plate, making an exposure, developing a plate,  and varnishing a plate.

So, if you have any interest in something like this, or know someone who does that can’t get to a workshop but wants to see the process and learn how to make the chemistry, please let me know.

I haven’t figured a cost for it yet, but it will be very affordable to “attend”.  First things first, in that order, I need to see if there is any interest and secondly, find a good date/time to do something like this. Remember, I’m on Central European Time (CET) and need sun to make images, so it would have to be a Saturday or Sunday beginning at 0800 or 0900 and would probably last several hours.

Just throwing this out there, your thoughts are appreciated. 

 

                                                                                                                          — Quinn

Yossi Milo, one of my favorite galleries in Manhattan, will participate in the PULSE Miami Contemporary Art Fair (December 3-7).   I’ve seen work by two of the artists representing Yossi at the event,  Sze Tsung Leong and Loretta Lux.  Leong is perhaps the best landscape photographer working today.  Last summer, I viewed some of his large format color prints from the gallery’s  flat files.  Those prints are part of his series History Images, which Steidl published as a book under the same title.  The work is a stunning depiction of China during rapid urbanization, as ancient aspects of the culture seemed overwhelmed by contemporary structures. Moving to Lux, the press release for PULSE speaks of her digitally manipulated portraits referencing Velasquez and Goya.  Her work could also be seen as a more innocent version of Balthus with a twist of Magritte:  generally restrained palette occasionally bursting with bright color, stillness and spare composition, yet with a psychological tension and eerie quality that linger.   You will not pass quickly from one of her photographs to the next.  They tend to keep you invested.  The descriptions below are from the gallery press release.
                                                                

 Shanghai by Sze Tsung Leong

Shanghai by Sze Tsung Leong

 

Sze Tsung Leong’s ongoing series of color photographs, titled Cities, depicts urban overviews from around the world.  The artist uses repetition in composition and viewpoint to reveal parallels and differences between the disparate constructed environments of various cities.  The artist’s book History Images was published by Steidl in 2006, and a catalogue for his ongoing series Horizons was published by the gallery in 2008.  Sze Tsung Leong was born in Mexico City in 1970 and currently lives and works in New York.

 

 

 

lorettalux


Loretta Lux creates imaginary portraits which address the idea of childhood as a paradise lost.  The artist utilizes photography, painting and digital imaging to execute her compositions, creating scenarios of isolation and distance that occur in an ambiguous time and space while referencing paintings by Old Masters, such as Bronzino, Velasquez and Goya.

Loretta Lux was awarded the 2005 International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award.  Her work is included in numerous museum collections, and a travelling retrospective of her work has been exhibited in venues such as the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico; and the Fotomuseum den Haag, The Hague.  Loretta Lux was born in Dresden in 1969.

 

At Pippin Home in Chelsea just off 17th Street, I came across a great assortment of vintage postcards neatly filed in drawers in the back of the store.  The pastel colors and elegant handwriting on the postcard of the South Haven, Michigan lighthouse caught my attention.  It is dated October 2, 1906 and is stamped in the lower right corner as hand colored.  


Lighthouse at South Haven, Michigan
 

Nothing dramatic is happening in this communication.  The sender, Ellen, is confirming receiving a letter from her friend, Edna (last name I cannot decipher) from rural North Manchester, Indiana, and promises to write soon.  The card was postmarked in South Haven at 4:30 p.m. on October 2, 1906 and arrived in North Manchester, Indiana (129 miles to the south) at 11:30 a.m. on October 3, 1906. Postage was one cent.

Finding an old postcard with text is like finding a message in a bottle washed up on the beach.  This postcard was printed by The Rotograph Company here in New York; and its return to the city of origin seems appropriate. 

As I was looking through the drawers, I thought of Ray Johnson, who used correspondence with his friends as one medium of his art, while at the same time questioning the preciousness of the art object itself.  It was his work that served as the point of departure for my own Historical Amnesia line of postcards. 

 

Reverse side of South Haven, Michigan Lighthouse postcard.

 

Using Google Earth, I did a fly over of South Haven along Lake Michigan and found that the lighthouse structure is still intact and appears almost exactly as it did in the 1906 image.  I pulled a recent photo of the lighthouse that had been marked at the site.

 

Screen Shot from Google Earth Fly Over

Screen Shot from Google Earth Fly Over

I am pleased to have my work included in Sanlun Yishu, a mobile gallery project designed and curated by two American artists currently living in Beijing:  Lee Somers and Elisabeth Pellathy.  Art selected for the project will be transported through the city in a Sanlun (a compact three-wheel motorized vehicle).  In various neighborhoods, the driver will stop and set up viewing opportunities for the public, many of whom might not ordinarily visit galleries.  Somers and Pellathy envision Sanlun Yishu as a way to bridge art and everyday life, which I find very appealing.  The project is made possible with a grant from the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

 

From the  Sanlun Yishu website:  Shifting art viewing from a passive to active interface with the community, Sanlun Yishu creates a space for interactive art. Instead of paying a fare, participants take a work of art with them and make a creative contribution of their own.  This transaction is the basis of a conversation between artists and passengers, examining urban life from multiple perspectives, forging unlikely connections across the globe. 

 

Sanlun Yishu

 

General Information

Artists are asked to submit their work to Sanlun Yishu in the spirit of collaboration. No work will be bought or sold while in the mobile gallery. It is a purely non-profit, public and global art project to promote contemporary art-awareness.

Works selected for exhibition will be reproduced in editions specified by the artist in dimensions appropriate to the vehicle. These reproductions will be taken by the passenger/participants in Beijing, who will in turn leave a creative response or a piece of ephemera in exchange for the work. These responses will then be forwarded electronically to the artist, who may choose to continue collaboration with this feedback.

Selected results of these dialogues will be published in a catalogue and exhibited in a Beijing gallery at the end of the project. When the exhibition is completed all work-specific feedback will be mailed to the artists for their keeping.

All participants will be invited to show their original work or works pertaining to the project at a gallery in Beijing at the end of the project. Details will be provided as they become available.

 

Vehicle

三san (three) 轮lun (wheel) 车che (vehicle) – a versatile, cheap and compact  tricycle made from modified motorcycles or bicycles. Small yet mighty, the workhorse of Beijing moves everything from lumber to passengers.  Often employed as a low-budget, local taxi.

三san (three) 轮lun (wheel)  艺术yishu (art) – a mobile gallery, a custom-made sanlun che housing an exhibition of print, drawing, sound, and video selected specifically for this context.  The primary function is to facilitate personal interaction with art for an audience outside the scope of the traditional gallery.

The sanlunche is one of the most popular ways of getting around the city. Our project, Sanlun Yishu, will retrofit the standard sanlunche, turning it into a mobile gallery. This gallery will house artworks from people around the globe working in various media and carry them into the stream of daily transportation.

Wanda

 

Dear Bryan,

I like art.  But I just don’t get modern stuff at all.  Take installation art. Now, that stuff looks down right weird. Is it supposed to look that way?

Last week I had a cabinet maker that come to install new cabinets in my trailer. They look real beautiful. Now, to me that’s art. But maybe I’m confused.  Is my cabinet maker an installation artist? 

I hope you can clear this up for me.

 

Wanda Owens

Fingerville, SC

 

 

Dear Wanda, 

You are not alone.  Artists today often make work that most people wouldn’t understand without some explanation – if not a fine arts education.  In other words, they are making work for less than 5% of the population.  The ideas behind the work have become more important than whether the work is, in fact, beautiful.  

About your cabinet maker:  if you didn’t feel compelled to ask him the real meaning of his work, then he’s probably not an installation artist.  On the other hand, he could easily morph into one by ripping your cabinets out of the wall and putting them into a gallery exhibition along with a proper statement.   The artist might even go as far as to make a reproduction of your trailer.  Follow?  If not, read up on Marcel Duchamp.  He’s the guy who started all of this by putting a urnial in the Louvre and calling it art.  Basically art was whatever he designated as such.  Anything goes.

 

Bryan Hiott

New York, NY

 

P.S.  It’s entirely possible that your cabinets are more beautiful than the work you might find in some galleries and at just a fraction of the cost.

William Eggleston is even more colorful than his groundbreaking photographs.

By Rebecca Bengal

New York Magazine, Nov 2, 2008

William Eggleston

William Eggleston

‘Bill Eggleston has a show at the Whitney?” asks a woman at the bar of the Lamplighter Lounge in Memphis. She practically spits out her Budweiser. “I hate his shit!” Sam Cooke is on the jukebox, which plays real 45s; place mats are spread along the wood veneer, and the complimentary matchbooks are from D&D Bail Bonds in Wichita Falls, Texas. The bartender, Shirley, slices potatoes in the kitchen. A young couple are making out at a back table.

“I’m from in the same town as him,” says another woman, who hails from Sumner, Mississippi. “I know his cousin Maudie. She’s a photographer, too.”

“I like Weegee’s photographs,” the first woman cuts in. And again: “Bill Eggleston at the Whitney?”

There’s a snapshot of William Eggleston at the back of the Lamp, displayed by a vase of unnaturally colored silk flowers, a dish of peppermints, and a cutout of James Dean. If this sounds like an Eggleston photograph, it’s close. That same day, in fact, the Lamp turns up in a box of proofs at the Eggleston Artistic Trust. There in supersaturated color is the EAT MORE POSSUM sign.

Eggleston has a precarious relationship with the Lamp, one of his favorite haunts. In fact, he’s barred from entering. “I got really drunk one time,” he admits, “and I threw a hamburger at Shirley, who had just made it. But we’re still friends.”

Shirley concurs. “He calls me up every now and then, asks how I’m doing, and I say, ‘Good,’ ” she says, fond but firm. She is pleased to own an Eggleston photograph at home and proud of his success, but, like the Lamp’s regulars, her feelings for her famous neighbor are complicated. “I like Bill, but he can’t come in here. Will you be sure and tell him I said hello?”

The consummate insider-outsider, Eggleston remains aloof in the many worlds he inhabits-including the art circles of New York and the dive-bar culture of Memphis. Those intricate relationships will be on full display at the Whitney when his first comprehensive retrospective, “William Eggleston: Democratic Camera,” opens Friday-his most prominent return to the city since his MoMA debut in 1976.

We met recently at the offices of his archive, a few miles east of the Lamp. As always, he’s dressed sharp: off-white lace-up oxfords, dark tailored pants, an undone bow tie over a blue oxford shirt monogrammed with a large orange B. “Got it at a yard sale. It had my name on it: B, for Bill.” He laughs. Eggleston has been known to wear the occasional knee-high Austrian riding boots and, according to Lamp regulars, “Zorro capes.” “Sometimes, yes,” he says. “It’s comfortable, and it looks good.”

In 1967, when Eggleston arrived in New York from Memphis bearing a box of slides that would redefine photography, he was an anomaly. Not only was he one of the first photographers to wholeheartedly embrace color, but he embraced exactly what made color photography so controversial in highbrow circles: He treated the commonplace as art. Eggleston shot “democratically,” meaning anything-parking lots, shopping centers-was a worthy subject. “I thought I was doing the right thing, put it that way,” he says now. “And if someone told me something otherwise, I just put it aside.”

 

Eggleston Images

 

He was soon befriended by a small “club” of artists-equally groundbreaking photographers Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand. “Though our work was different, we felt that we were compatriots,” Eggleston says. “Somehow I knew we were, attitude-wise, doing the same thing.”

Eggleston’s 1976 MoMA show launched his career and proved a turning point in the history of photography. Scorned at the time for being vulgar and banal, the show has since been revered for exactly those reasons. The exhibit was accompanied by a cheekily titled book, William Eggleston’s Guide, misread by many as an artistic travelogue to his native South. In truth, it was a Michelin guide to Eggleston’s singularly heightened way of seeing: His use of supernatural dye-transfer color, which implied that the ordinary was not at all so. His startling compositions directed viewers to look as closely as his camera, to recognize the grace, violence, and humor implicit in the mundane. A dog walking down a street. A fire burning in a barbecue grill. A red ceiling.

The New York art world became fascinated with Eggleston’s southernness, and he, in turn, immersed himself in the scene, setting up house in the Chelsea Hotel with Warhol star Viva. But he never really became a New Yorker. Eggleston maintained a life in Memphis and a marriage to his wife, Rosa (with whom he has three children), while openly having other relationships.

Evidence of this double life shows up in the Whitney retrospective, which highlights the museum premiere of Eggleston’s foray into filmmaking. Stranded in Canton is a full-length video vérité, shot in New Orleans and Memphis and navigating a seventies Delta netherworld of quaalude-popping dentists, soliloquizing transvestites, cryptologists, geeks, bluesmen-a southern equivalent of the Chelsea. His parallel lives, he says, are necessary: “It does get confusing sometimes. But each of these things allows the other. It creates a state of mind.”

During his time in New York, Eggleston would roam the city with cameras, but he rarely shot pictures. “Those streets were Garry Winogrand’s world,” he says. Since then, his style of working has loosened so that he never knows where he will end up each day. A few years ago, he returned to New York and photographed a crushed-car lot in Queens. Recently he completed a Fondation Cartier commission to photograph Paris. “Years ago there, working in black and white, heavily under the influence of Henri Cartier-Bresson, I just didn’t see any pictures,” he says. “Now, once I start working, it’s no different from anywhere else in the world. Sometimes I have to ask, ‘Are we in Paris?’ ”

The Whitney retrospective certainly demonstrates Eggleston’s mastery in depicting the place of a place. But it is equally possible to see the show as just the opposite: a career-long meditation on how the particular can reveal the abstract-the composition of light and its reflection.

It’s four o’clock, and Eggleston, sitting on the stoop outside his office, smokes another in a long line of cigarettes. The late sun striking the cars in the lot recalls his first real color photograph: a bag boy pushing a row of carts. “This is beginning to be my favorite kind of light,” he remarks, his words precise but elegantly drawn out. “It brings out a spectrum that appeals to me, warmer colors that I don’t always notice at other times. It’s like when a thunderstorm moves through and the light changes swiftly from cold to warm.”

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