Hexbyte – Glen Cove – News
Craig F. Starr GALLERY
NASA invited the artist Robert Rauschenberg to Cape Kennedy, Fla., for the launch of Apollo 11, the first manned spaceflight to the moon, in July 1969, hoping that the experience would inspire him to commemorate it in art.
Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was predisposed to take on the project. His use of existing photographs made him very much an artist of American public life and history. Case in point: the portrait of John F. Kennedy that appears in his “Buffalo II,” a 1964 silk-screen painting that was recently auctioned for a record $89 million. Rauschenberg had a longtime interest in both flight and technological innovations, including the magical solvent-transfer process that produced the pale, drifting images of his “Thirty-Four Drawings for Dante’s ‘Inferno’” (1959-60) and that was replicated in his silk-screen paintings. In both cases, the layered, translucent motifs float in space, defying gravity and orientation.
Rauschenberg’s time at Cape Kennedy (its name was restored to Cape Canaveral in 1973) yielded “Stoned Moon,” a suite of 33 lithographs produced by the print publisher Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles. But he wanted to make an artist’s book about the project, to be titled “Stoned Moon Book.” All the parts were assembled, but it was never issued.
These parts now form “Robert Rauschenberg: Stoned Moon, 1969-70” at the Craig F. Starr Gallery, a revealing little show of 22 works that have been rarely exhibited and never all together. They include four solvent-transfer drawings and four larger photo-collages for the book’s covers and endpapers, complemented by the “Stoned Moon” suite’s two largest lithographs, which wryly mix NASA images with those of Florida tourism campaigns.
But most engaging — and least familiar — are layouts of 11 pages for which the artist collaged photographic images and lines and blocks of typewritten text in angular, vaguely Russian Constructivist compositions. The words juxtapose Rauschenberg’s poetic observations — typed completely in capital letters, like old telegrams — with the more ruminative prose of Henry T. Hopkins (then the director of the Fort Worth Art Center, which is now the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth). For example, in “Stoned Moon Book, Page 7,” the artist declares: “IN ONE DAY APOLLO 11 HAD DIGESTED ME. I WAS SOME OF ITS MUSCLE.” On the same sheet, Hopkins evocatively frames a picture of the burned-out command module of Apollo 1, where a flash fire killed three astronauts in January 1967, with the words “Three who lived with the possibility/and found the reality.”
Throughout, Rauschenberg establishes parallels between the technologies of NASA and those of printmaking, as well as between the collaborative natures of both endeavors. Several works contrast images from Cape Kennedy with views of Rauschenberg — a rare presence in his art — at the Gemini G.E.L. print studio.
The 11 collages of “Stoned Moon Book” link poetry and fact, language and pictures and personal and public experience, creating an unusually sharp portrait of the artist. Luckily, the exhibition’s catalog will publish all this material for the first time, along with a perceptive text that Michael Crichton (1942-2008) wrote about Rauschenberg and the project. It exists only in a hand-corrected manuscript, and will be reproduced as such. ROBERTA SMITH
Robert Rauschenberg: Stoned Moon, 1969-70
Through July 26 at 5 East 73rd Street, Manhattan; 212-570-1739, craigstarr.com.
Matthew Marks Gallery
As the official photographer of the Venice Biennale from 1954 until his death in 1973, Ugo Mulas had extraordinary access to the contemporary-art world. After the 1964 Biennale, when Robert Rauschenberg won the Golden Lion for his paintings, Mulas’s artistic interests extended to American shores. Intrigued by the new generation of artists, he began to travel to New York, photographing a thriving scene.
The lavish book that resulted, “New York: The New Art Scene” (1967), inspired this show at Matthew Marks. Marked-up galleys for the book are on view in display cases, as well as photographs of a moody, gritty New York. The exhibition focuses especially on six luminaries: Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Barnett Newman and Marcel Duchamp, a longtime New York resident who was being rediscovered by this generation of artists.
Mulas didn’t speak English, but he was a canny interpreter of art and the process of making it. Some of the best photographs here function like portraits, even when the artists are not in the frame. Fragments of comic strips pinned to Lichtenstein’s studio wall echo his Pop paintings. Mr. Johns, map in hand, paints a picture of it on canvas, while Duchamp, a chess aficionado, sits before an empty chess board in Washington Square Park. A photograph of Thanksgiving dinner in Rauschenberg’s studio suggests the art world’s familial aspect; the police breaking up a dance party at Warhol’s Factory reflects its more debauched one.
Mulas’s project, true to its day, celebrates Great White Men. It does include, however, photographs of modern-dance pioneers like Trisha Brown and Deborah Hay, and of the sculptor Marisol, as bit players rather than protagonists. (Ms. Brown is shown nursing a baby rather than choreographing a dance.)
The show has also been organized to capture the New York of the 1960s, as well as to resonate with current events: A 1965 vintage print showing a billboard of the Statue of Liberty that reads “Keep America Strong” feels like a slap in the face. Mulas found his own vibrancy in the New York art scene. MARTHA SCHWENDENER
Ugo Mulas: New York — the New Art Scene
Through Aug. 16 at 522 West 22nd Street, Manhattan; 212-243-0200, matthewmarks.com.
The Morgan Library & MUSEUM
Among Others: Photography and the Group
In his “Poetics,” Aristotle identifies the innovation that gave birth to true drama 2,500 years ago: increasing the number of actors onstage, first to two, then to three. One person may be enough for a narrative. With more than one, you have action.
“Among Others: Photography and the Group,” at the Morgan Library & Museum, presents a cross section of multiple-figure imagery from the 1860s to today, exploring the drama produced when a photographer puts two or more people in the same frame. It includes both on-the-street reportage and choreographed portraiture, and mixes high-art images by August Sander, Irving Penn and Susan Meiselas with vernacular photography and snapshots. You won’t find much to tie it all together. Best to do as you would with any crowded scene: Focus on individual prints here, and examine the various ways that figures inform and influence one another within a single shot.
Most early photographs of multiple figures were static portraits; a Civil War-era salt print here, made by Mathew Brady’s studio, features dozens of men, presumably nurses, posing stiffly before an improvised hospital. Unposed photographs of groups became viable as shutter speeds decreased in the late 19th century — Erich Salomon used a concealed camera to photograph unsuspecting statesmen at a 1932 disarmament conference — while posed imagery could become more theatrical. A mass military portrait from 1947, shot by Eugene Omar Goldbeck from a 110-foot-high platform, features more than 20,000 new recruits who together appear to create the winged-star insignia of the United States Air Force. It’s technically proficient but undeniably kitsch, and the grouping of black airmen to outline the star’s borders appears more than a little distasteful.
A photo-montage here by an unnamed Soviet photographer, made some time in the mid-1950s, portrays a dozen fur-hatted soldiers and women in head scarves grinning in front of the 600-foot-tall Stalinist wedding cake that is Moscow State University. Their intersecting gazes and midstride stances suggest a new generation moving forward, but these Russians never stood outside this building and probably never met one another. Sometimes you have to make the drama yourself. JASON FARAGO
Among Others: Photography and the Group
Through Aug. 18 at 225 Madison Avenue, Manhattan; 212-685-0008, themorgan.org.
‘Issues: A History of Photography in Fashion Magazines’
In the spring of 1965, the photography critic and author Vince Aletti bought a fresh copy of the April issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Mr. Aletti was taken by the cover. It featured a rare color portrait of the model Jean Shrimpton by the celebrated fashion photographer Richard Avedon. Wearing a pink helmet and a blue lenticular patch over her right eye, she gazes directly ahead. The image so roused Mr. Aletti’s youthful imagination that shortly after the purchase, he began to collect fashion magazines obsessively.
“For some time now, I’ve measured the years by September issues,” Mr. Aletti, 74, writes in the introduction to his new book, “Issues: A History of Photography in Fashion Magazines” (Phaidon, paperback, $95).
This gorgeous and glossy big black book, shaped like a magazine, chronologically lists 100 fashion magazine issues, drawn from Mr. Aletti’s personal collection of more than several thousand titles. Marshaling a curatorial eye, Mr. Aletti uses the selected spreads and covers to explain how the iconic images and the photographers who created them — Helmut Newton, Steven Klein, Collier Schorr and newcomers like Ethan James Green — have defined the last century in photography.
A serious fashion photography book, “Issues” is a necessary corrective to the genre’s presumed superficiality. Fashion pictures incorporate all types of photography, from still life and documentary to portrait and landscape, while codifying our collective ideas surrounding sex, race, beauty and gender. The book begins with several issues of Harper’s Bazaar from the late 1920s. Each publication features chic, romantic black-and-white shots by Adolf de Meyer, who is credited with bringing fashion photography to America as Vogue’s first staff photographer. Then Mr. Aletti steadily moves through the ages, noting Irving Penn’s sublime portraiture and Clifford Coffin’s debt to René Magritte’s brand of Surrealism in Coffin’s pre-Pop pictures of models in bathing suits and monochromatic swimming caps, sitting on sand dunes in the June 1949 issue of Vogue. Later he lists the Autumn/Winter 1999-2000 issue of Vogue Hommes International Mode, highlighting the Nigerian photographer Samuel Fosso’s character-driven self-portraits, which capture what it means to stylize self-determination.
In the pages of Mr. Aletti’s book, a visual history of the evolution of image-making unfolds. Although photography was first used in the 19th century as a tool of realism, to document daily life without flourish, technological advances and movements like Pictorialism have developed it into the sophisticated medium it is today. As “Issues” shows, the art owes a great debt to fashion image-makers, who powerfully create fantasy, capture mood and constantly reinvent the possibilities of photography itself.ANTWAUN SARGENT