Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Robert Frank

ROBERT FRANK  Swiss, born 1924
Indianapolis, 1956
Gelatin silver print
Bequest of Robert C. May  1993.13.10

by Robert Frank is one of the 70 photographs in the WIDE ANGLE: American Photographs exhibition at the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, on view now through April 27.

When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice
—Robert Frank

The photographer best known for capturing the feeling of America in the 1950s, from city streets to small towns, was the Swiss-born Robert Frank. Influenced by Walker Evans and his seminal book American Photographs, Frank crisscrossed the country between 1955 and 1957, traveling with his wife Mary (with whom he is pictured in the portrait section) and two young children, and shot 28,000 photographs. Although it is now widely considered a masterpiece, the resulting book, The Americans, was poorly received at the time. Critics derided the dark, seemingly random glimpses of popular culture.

One person who immediately understood the work was Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac. In his introduction to The Americans, Kerouac wrote: “That crazy feeling in America when the sun is hot on the streets and the music comes out of the jukebox or from a nearby funeral, that’s what Robert Frank has captured in tremendous photographs taken as he traveled on the road around practically forty-eight states in an old used car (on Guggenheim Fellowship) and with the agility, mystery, genius, sadness and strange secrecy of a shadow, photographed scenes that have never been seen before on film.”

Frank’s “snapshot” aesthetic had a strong influence on a generation of street photographers.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Photographer Catherine Opie exhibition and lecture at the University of Kentucky

This Friday, February 7, 2014 at 4 pm, photographer Catherine Opie will visit the University of Kentucky campus to open her exhibition at the Art Museum and to lecture at the UK Student Center’s Worsham Theater.

Catherine Opie’s early work examines concepts of masculinity and feminity in lush color portraits of transgender individuals, cross-dressers, and pierced practitioners of sadomasochism, many of them her friends in the subcultures of Los Angeles’s gay and lesbian community. The series that immediately followed featured black-and-white studies of the Los Angeles highway system; subtly toned platinum prints emphasizing the formal beauty of line, form, and space.

In many ways, Opie can be considered a documentarian of America’s subcultures, whether she is making portraits of individuals who are part of a social or cultural group, or images of urban architecture that defines a community and the people who inhabit it. “I am an American photographer,” she has said. “I have represented this country and this culture. And I’m glad that there is a queer, out, dyke artist that is being called an American photographer.”

Her work is also strongly informed by art historical traditions. The large seascapes on view at the Art Museum are from the series 12 Miles to the Horizon. They are both meditative and visually stunning. They evoke color field painting as well as notions of the sublime in painting, in which nature provides an awe-inspiring spectacle that goes beyond mere beauty to provide a spiritual experience. At the same time, she plays with the notion of sunrise and sunset as photographic clich├ęs. Opie set interesting artistic restrictions on herself in this series, made while she traveled on a freighter from Busan, Korea, to Long Beach, California, at the invitation of the shipping company Hanjin. She photographed at sunrise and sunset daily, and made sure the horizon line perfectly transected the composition, helping to create a mood of balance and calm as well as a formal relationship between all the works. She also created her own artist’s log of the trip, designing and printing the paper in advance, and recording her thoughts, whether in the form of doodled drawings or writing.

Catherine Opie’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan. In addition to a Guggenheim retrospective, Catherine Opie: American Photographer, her work has been featured in recent solo exhibitions organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Aldrich Museum in Connecticut, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, The Saint Louis Art Museum, the Photographers’ Gallery in London, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and the Long Beach Museum of Art. Opie was the 2013 recipient of the Julius Shulman Excellence in Photography Award and was awarded a United States Artists Fellowship in 2006. She is a professor of photography at the University of California in Los Angeles.

CATHERINE OPIE, Sunset #1, 2009, C-print
Courtesy of Regen Project, Los Angeles
Copyright: Catherine Opie