Saturday, 26 February 2011

Robert Delaunay

Effel Tower 1911

Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) is seen as a pioneer of abstract art in the early 20th century and the inventor of Orphic Cubism. He was one of the most influential artists in Paris and very interested in the emotional effects of pure colour. He fused this interest in colour with the “loose geometry that he borrowed from Analytical Cubism” (Lynton, N., 2003 p.67) and used it to represent the modern city. Norbert Lynton suggests that “the large tilting planes in his paintings oppose and compensate for each other, each suggestion of space and movement being countered by another (2003 p.67).

The Red Tower 1911-12

For Delaunay the "master-image of culture was the Eiffel Tower, which he viewed with real ecstasy as an ecumenical object, the social condenser of a new age" (Hughes, 1991 p.36).  He wanted, it was argued that Delauney "wanted  a pictorial speech that was entirely of this century", the twentieth century, "based on rapid interconnection, changing viewpoints aand an adoration of 'good technology' and the Tower was the supreme practical example of this in the daily life of Paris" (Hughes, 1991 p.38).

Delaunay's "friend and collaborator, the poet Blaise Cendrars, remarked in 1924 that:

No formula of art known up to now can pretend to give plastic resolution to the Eiffel Tower. Realism shrank it; the old laws of Italian perspective diminished it. The Tower rose over Paris, slender as a hatpin. When we retreated from it, it dominated Paris, stark and perpendicular. When we came close to it, it tilted and leaned over us. Seen from the first platform it corkscrewed around its axis, and seen from the top it collapsed into itself, doing the splits, its neck pulled in...
(Hughes, 1991 p.38).

In works like The Red Tower 1911-12, "Delaunay could realize the sensations of vertigo and visual shuttling that Cendrars described. The Tower is seen almost literally, as a prophet of the future" (Hughes, 1991 p.38). For Deaunay the Tower "became his fundamental image of modernity: light seen through structure" (Hughes, 1991 p.38).

Dealuney's work has had a great impact on modern art and on the general vision of modernity. Here we have can see his studies of the Eiffel Tower and how they  would go on to inform the work of Thomas Kellner. 


Hughes, (1991) The Shock of the New London: Thames and Hudson

Lynton, (2003) The story of Modern Art London: Phaidon

Friday, 25 February 2011

Thomas Kellner

Eiffel Tower 1997 

The photographer Thomas Kellner produces work that represents his subjects in fragments like the cubists.  Kellner discusses his approach to panoramas in an article for Art in America (1999). He began his panoramas in 1997: “I had been thinking about doing a panorama of the country's entire border for many years, but couldn't figure out how to do it. Finally I came up with a solution: split it up into single situations. I fabricated special cameras that would photograph with eleven pinholes on one negative” (Kellner, 2003 p. 32). 

He later visited Paris and “decided to photograph the Eiffel tower”, that emblem of modernity. It was quite an appropriate choice of subject since he admired and had studied the work of Delaunay. Although at time when Kellner wrote his article in 2003, he was not using digital technologies, there is something in his process that corresponds to the nature of project 3. In fact his prints are not large prints at all, but contact prints. He makes the observation that “the bigger the image gets (that is the more film I use), the more the building itself disappears; the more you begin to see the picture itself rather than a image of something” (2003).

 Washington D.C. The White House (2004)

Houston Texas, Oil Refinery 2006 

He ends his article with this: I have gone on to photograph other icons of our culture that we all know well. A year after New York's World Trade Center was attacked; I am still thinking about the parallels that my pictures have with that tragedy.  These buildings, like the Twin Towers, have become metaphors for a culture in fragments (Kellner, 2003). The “culture in fragments” is the essence of the visual material that is to be produced for project 3. 

Kellner, T. “All to Pieces: Fragmented Monuments” Aperture no. 170 (Spring 2003) p. 32-7

Doug Hall

Doug Hall Thoughts of the Neighborhood Watch 1995

“To Scrutinize the City at close range is to see it as fragments”

 Neighborhood Watch 1995, grid consisting of ten prints (1 chromogenic print, 9 digital iris prints) total dimension: 16.3 x 175 cm.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Michael Wolf: 3

Michael Wolf's Talk, part 3/3 from Aperture Foundation on Vimeo.

In the third and final segment of Michael Wolf's talk, he takes several questions from the audience.

Topics include the arts culture in Hong Kong, Wolf's views on ethics and photography, legal issues regarding his work, and his conceptual decisions regarding how he depicts buildings and people.

Coinciding with the exhibition at Aperture Gallery and the release of its accompanying monograph, The Transparent City, Michael Wolf gave a talk on November 10, 2009. His large-scale color photographs of downtown Chicago’s buildings and their inhabitants examine public versus private space in the context of 21st-century urban life.

Michael Wolf: 2

In this clip of Michael Wolf's talk at Aperture, he begins with talking about his background in photography and how he started his career. Describing his process from studying with Otto Steinert in Germany, his editorial work to the development of his artistic career when he decided to move to Hong Kong.

Wolf explains how he develops his topics conceptually and how China's unpredictability has inspired him many series including dilapidated hybrid chairs in the streets; local artists reproducing art works and how these fake works affect the value of art; toy factory workers and a massive installation of children's toys made in China; as well as a series documenting Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic.

Coinciding with the exhibition at Aperture Gallery and the release of its accompanying monograph, The Transparent City, Michael Wolf gave a talk on November 10, 2009. His large-scale colour photographs of downtown Chicago’s buildings and their inhabitants examine public versus private space in the context of 21st-century urban life.

Michael Wolf: 1

In this excerpt of Michael Wolf's talk at Aperture, he describes his aesthetic of photographing architecture in both Hong Kong and Chicago. By not including the sky in his images of buildings, the scale becomes much more ambiguous and the images have a more awe-inspiring feel to them. Wolf talks further about how the images work both as a graphic abstract depiction of the buildings and an incredibly detailed portrait of them depending on the distance you view them from. Taking these ideas of scale, he also speaks about his decision to digitally enlarge the minute details of the buildings, creating pixelated portraits of the inhabitants inside these buildings.

Notes on the Presentation

In the cases of Baudelaire and Benjamin's ‘flaneur’ and Benjamin’s ‘derivear’ we see models for urban observing

These models involve physical interaction with the environment

With “digital technologies words, virtual spaces are instantly accessible (and) can be distorted and reconceptualised”.

“…one becomes a flaneur of virtual space; the distant invisible viewer”

“The controller and manipulator of information” Doug Hall, Thoughts of the Neighborhood Watch 1995

Notes on the presentation

Picasso’s collages: “The Collaged City”

The modernist dream of the café as a(n effective and radical) medium of discourse

The cubist idea of representing any sight as a sum of glimpses

“For the Cubists (influenced by Cezanne) the visible was no longer what confronted the single eye, but the totality of possible views taken from points all around the object (or ) person depicted” (Berger, 1972 p.18)

To represent our knowledge of an object and compress it into one moment- one synthesized    (Hughes or Berger: collage/montage/mosaic not synthesis) view.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Man Ray: The Return to Reason

Man Ray’s ironically Le Retour à la raison (‘Return to Reason’) is one of a few films made by a Dadaist. The other film-makers associated with the movement include Hans Richter and Rene Clair. Man Ray’s film was shown as part of the ‘Soiree du couer de à barbe’ which marked the demise of the movement in Paris in 1923.
Man Ray applied his rayogram to cinematography. I did not place Man Ray with the other abstract filmmakers featured in the blog because the quality is not related to painterly forms (Ruttmen, Richter, Fishinger) but a direct physical action on to the film and a process that relates to material nature of film. The abstract quality relates to the films “mechanics, materials, chemistry and techniques of cinematography” (Le Grice, 1977, p.34). The emphasis therefore is upon the physicality of the medium.

Le Grice, M., Abstract Film and Beyond, Cambridge, Mass, London, UK: MIT Press