Category Archives: Part 4

Reflections on Part 4 — Photography

Part 4, photography, gave me a chance to explore my love for this medium, and better understand why a photography isn’t considered Art, a topic I’m sure I won’t let go of, but will revisit. There were many challenges I found when researching, then writing about photographers work, as I felt like the bodies of work, such as a photo book, hold more truth, than one photograph, and without having that book in front of me, the pictures on the screen felt temporary.  It’s tricky discussing what you think of a photograph without knowing the larger context. There were many photographers mentioned, some blurred into each other, many whose work I didn’t resonate with, such as the land artist, self burial, and the first woman on the moon.

The portion of Part 4 which I loved, was looking at the photography of Robert Frank, Alec Soth, and Paul Graham, on documenting journeys. I realize this is only an introduction to photography, but I thought it a shame photojournalism wasn’t touched upon, and would have been a far more interesting subject, than say, landscape photography. I did find new photographers such as Mitch Epstein, whose work powerfully portrayed a sense of place, capturing remarkable details in India and Vietnam.

I felt inspired to research photo labs in HCM, and found a tiny little shop, full of young budding Vietnamese photographers who sell and develop film. We have two amazing film cameras, an automatic Yashica T4, with a Tesser lense, and a Contax. I have taken a few landscape photographs for project 3, and took inspiration from Bernd & Hilla Bercher’s water towers, although mine are not of industrial buildings, I do love the precision of framing/distance/lighting in reproducing like images in a grid. Will have to wait for the photographs to be developed.

I have tried to tie photography with other creative projects, such as my clothing I make and paint, and even got a model to help. Being inspired by the light and colour of Vanitas paintings, here a few pictures from the photo shoot.

Photography is an essential tool to any creative practice, as it documents and shares work to a larger audience, whether online, in a magazine, or a book. Without it, geographically speaking, it would be almost impossible to view the work otherwise.

It’s important not to view a camera as simply a tool, because the same elements of art apply when framing, lighting, lines, compositon/balance, texture, line, perspective, and form, are paramount.

Photography is a form of self expression, the way each of us see the world around us, what stands out, the smallest detail, the larger picture, do we see linearly, or directly. Do we have a personal relationship with a place that no one else can see, or does a photograph of someone you love, in that second, remind you of what you thought in that moment?

I really enjoyed researching an writing about Louise Lawler’s work, a modest feminist who has taught me to stand to the side of arts influence, never letting the ego of an artist work depicts it’s importance, but instead ask the questions no one is asking.

I will continue to take photographs and update my learning log until the end of this course, and always photography as a tool of self expression, to show the ways I see.

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Assignment 4

Assignment 4

Creative Arts Today

Louise Lawler
Photography and its relationship with the art world.

louise lawler 5

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By Alyssa J. Maddalozzo

Photography’s role in the art world has been questioned since the invention of the camera. Are pictures just an imprint of light, or are the a tool used by an artist, to create art? In this assignment we were asked to explore an artist who uses photography as an element of their practice, which isn’t often that apparent. I have decided instead  to research a photographer whose art would not exist if her photograph were not conceived. I want to demonstrate the necessity of the camera, the relationship it has between her creative aspects, and the message it conveys.

Louise Lawler is a photographer from the “Picture Generation” whose work has transcended images, words, sound, scale and perception. Lawler interrogates where art is located, it’s place — how it is seen, by looking at art, as the subject.

In 1981, Louise Lawler took a photograph of a match book printed with the words “why pictures now.” Nearly 36 years later, the photograph is the title of her new exhibition at MoMA which reviews her work in the present moment, retrospectively, by re-appropriating her own photographs. There is little doubt that Lawler thought the question she had asked in 1981 needed to be asked again.

Louise Lawler’s art would not exist without her camera. Her early work consisted of photographing iconic works such as Pollock and Warhol in unconventional ways, focusing on the location of the piece, standing to the side and changing the view, by shifting the power and questioning the influence of the original art work.  Lawler’s titles talk back to the viewer, challenging their relationship with art, as individuals. Lawler’s presence in the art world, although often in the background, has never been questioned, but has been championed as an unsung feminist and activist.

The question is, what differentiates Lawler from other photographers, whose work wouldn’t be considered art?

Lawler’s inclusion in the “Picture Generation” has had a great deal to do with the context and the titles of her photographs, with hints of  Deconstructionists ideas (literary criticism that questions traditional assumptions about certainty, identity, and truth). Because Lawler’s titles make you consider a larger context, they critique the art world, and challenge the subject of Art.  Her photographs are considered art because she is an artist, and proves this through many collaborations with artist of the time, in many exhibitions such as Winer and Janelle Reiring commercial gallery Metro Pictures in Soho.

By photographing her ready-mades, such as printed matchbooks and napkins, she echoed Duchamp, at the same time revealing the vulnerability of famous male artists, such as Jasper Jones, photographing his monogramed bed-spread, otherwise known as a liberal neo-dada, she questions his class and taste.

Lawler’s photography is about art, but if it wasn’t, would her photography be considered art? Did she find a loop-hole in the art world?  Her art would not exist without her camera, but the photograph would not be considered art, if not correlated with the art world.

Lawler’s relationship between the creative aspects of her art is one of reciprocation, how one interprets the other. Lawler invites the viewer to question how they see corresponding realities, by enlarging a photograph to a monumental scale, them reducing the same image the peep-hole size in form of a paper weight. She reforms her image in different formats including mechanical reproduction of tracings, for example:

Pollock and Tureen (Traced) – Louise Lawler, 1984/2013


Lawler conveys many messages through her photographs and art. Her distorted photograph called “Pollyanna (adjusted to fit, distorted for the times)”  has changed 4 times since 2007 – 2017. The newest version is a comment on fake news, and how politics today are distorting the truth.

 

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Pollyanna (adjusted to fit, distorted for the times), 2007/2008/2012/2017
adhesive wall material
variable dimensions

 

She invites us the stand to the side of a painting, to release us from its circuit of influence, seeing how ego, power, and money influence commercial art.  She frees the viewer from the icon, shifting our focus to a larger context such as women’s role in a male dominated (art) world, the value of art, and the location in which we see it by looking past the usual borders.

in which she gives special attention to all the connecting tissue that holds and frames it: walls, floors, hallways, storage units, workers’ hands.”  The New Yorker

Lawler invites you into her work unpretentious by acknowledging “but does anyone, know anything by comparison.”

So why Pictures now? Lawler’s new exhibition is based on the present, but echos the past.  She has caught up with the digital age by demonstrating  how her pictures have changed into images, reforming them to be seen again, differently, in beautifully aesthetic ways.

Lawler’s work portrays time and place within a history of reception, for example, Lawler’s photograph “War is Terror” a response to Bush’s “War on terror,” bringing it to the now. The photograph is of a framed portrait of Julia Margaret Cameron hanging above a bed, she is one of the earliest woman photographers to receive critical acclaim, born 1869. Her niece Julia Jackson, is mother to Vanessa Bell, the painter, and the anti-war author, Virginia Wolf.  Lawler uses contemporary photography by placing an emphasis on the matriarchal lineage of a family of powerful women.

 

Daniel Crimp sums up Lawler’s art by saying:

Lawler’s work since 1981, however, has demonstrated that photographs can be used more effectively than, say, a matchbook to make us see art—and art as an institution—differently. What Lawler’s photographs have shown is that institutional critique not only may be leveled at the impulse toward making pictures—“Why pictures now?”— but can take the form of a picture.

Perhaps Lawler was considered an artist because her subject, to begin with, was art,  photography was merely the tool she used to communicate.  She has proven that although she was a photographer first and still is, she went on to explore many different forms of media including sound and vision, and messages such as feminism, anti-war and politics, always staying present by reciprocating the past. Lawler never gave the art world a reason to question her role as an artist, because she always stayed a step ahead. Lawler’s work answers the question, not if photography is art, but why photography is art, with pictures, and being a consistently great artist who has reinvented her art since 1981 until now.


 

Indirect Answers Douglas Crimp On Louise Lawler why Pictures now, 1981. available at

https://www.academia.edu/5599619/Louise_Lawlers_Why_Pictures_Now [22-9-17]

The Tate, Lawler – Foreground available at http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/lawler-foreground-p79771 [20-9-17]

Museum of Modern Art, Louise Lawler, available at https://www.moma.org/artists/7928?locale=en [17-9-17]

Metro Pictures, Louise Lawler, available at http://www.metropictures.com/artists/louise-lawler?view=slider [23-9-17]

Whitney Museum, America hard to see, http://stevegiovinco.com/all-photographs-new-whitney-museum-america-is-hard-to-see-steve-giovinco/ [29-9-17]

Philosophy basics, Deconstructionism Movement http://www.philosophybasics.com/movements_deconstructionism.html [22-9-17}

Louise Lawler | HOW TO SEE the artist with MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci

The Pictures Generation, 1974 1984 at The METROPOLITAN MUSEUM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftvSK-nx9WQ&t=207s

Thoughts about Louise Lawler

When I first was looking for an artist to write about for assignment 4, I wanted to find someone who was a photographer first, to question again what makes an artist, their medium (tool) or them, themself? I was put off that we were not asked to write about a photographer, but instead write about an artist who uses art as a tool for creativity.

After some research I came upon the “Picture Generation” and in particular a women artists, whose work explores the way we see art, questioning art itself, as well as the institution, and those involved, which at the time of the 80’s was male heavy.

Louise Lawler came into the lime light with her ambiguous photographs of famous art works, paying more credit to their surrounding, than to their content. The context of how we see them, frames differently with walls, or floors or homes as the borders, instead of a perfect rectangle/square postcard which we normally see them.

Her titles hold equal importance, which she seems to be talking back to the viewer, asking us to question everything.

She made it as a women photographer, but I wonder if, if she didn’t have the access to these homes, because of her artists friends, would her photographs be still considered art, if they didn’t hold important art works as their subject?

She is well known for collaborating with many artist, and has not held a solo exhibition in New York until now.  Is she extremely modest, or has she relied of the work of others to bring her photography up to the high brow status to be accepted as one a women artist, and two, a women artist who has used photography as her main tool of creativity.

I do not believe she intentional thought this, again, I believe it’s the institution of art who only allowed Louise to flourish because of her subject matter, which at the beginning, was cleverly taking the piss out of the art world, and the men (who were her friends) involved.

Of course not all her work includes feminism and art, she goes on to explore more modern-day questions such as war and politics no drones, war is terror, grieving mothers.

The reconstituting of images is really where he strengths are. She has inspired so many artists to re-think the typical gallery images and challenge ways of presenting work.

While researching Lawler, I was inspired by her photograph of Warhol’s round Marilyn.

all-art-photography-whitney-museum-steve-giovinco_DSC4417_1
Louise Lawler, Does Marilyn Monroe Make You Cry?, photograph in “America Is Hard to See,” Whitney Museum

This photograph was taken by Lawler at Sotheby’s auction house, with the auction card/price tag next to the piece. I’m not sure if it’s message about buying/selling art, the cost of art, or simply the title, Does Marilyn Monroe make you cry?

At Lawler’s new exhibition at MoMA, WHY ART NOW, she replicate the same photograph (which is in turn the same size at the original round Marilyn) on the opposite side of the room, with the title “Does Andy Warhol make you cry?”

 

In the fashion and inspiration of Lawler, here is my take on her photograph, by taking picture of her Warhol being sold by Sotheby’s, again Lawler’s photograph (which is under copyright) being auctioned again – lots sold at twice the expected amount!

No image available, sold to the highest bidder.

Here is another photograph of my computer screen of an auction of shoes, which the title “New Shoes, blue shoes, red and pink shoes, tell me what would you choose if you were to buy” #5 of a limited edition

Expensive red shoes

Here is another photograph of my computer screen, looking at an image on the New Yorker’s website about Lawler’s photograph of Warhol’s priceless screen prints, sitting on the floor. I really loved the colours of key board and pop art.

Keyboard and Pop Art

Exercise 3

Exercise 3 asks you to think about views, taken from ground level, from above — birds eye view.

The two images, one of a rural area and the other of a city, have the same tilt of the lens, angled downward. They each survey the land, demonstrating divisions either of hedges, or roads, cross sections.  One is in colour, the one of the country side, showing plowed dirt fields in contrast to one green field in the corner. The view is from a Castle, a tower perhaps.

The cityscape is in black and white, it feel cold and impersonal, with no detail standing out amongst the sprawl of buildings and streets.

Looking at John Davies photograph of Agecroft Power station, the images would change significantly if it were taken from ground level, as I don’t believe he’d capture as much information in one frame without compromising the composition. The angle at which the 4 towers are inline creates scale and depth. The cylinders would look different from below and may not show the smoke billowing in the same way. If the photograph were to be taken any closer you’d lose the framing of the trees for scale, and if it were taken further away, any details in the background would diminish.

 

Here are some photograph I have taken of landscapes, although narrow landscapes, cityscapes, from above, from different angles, and view points.

 

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It was quite funny taking photographs in a very popular place… an art gallery with levels of containers, creating different view points.

Notes on Louise Lawler — Assignment 4

New exhibition is called “Why Pictures Now” – was an early title for a photograph she took in 1981 of a matchbox in an ashtray with the title writen on it

  • NOW -present moment
  • PICTURES Louise came from the “Pictures Generation” – Artist Space (still and moving images and appropriation to reveal function of represention)
  • Why – always questioning
  • Digital vs film – Image and pictures are now different – what happens to pictures in a digital age?
  • challenges retrospective impulse
  • reformating her own images (original photographs)
  • questioning the viewers relationship with the image
  • re-appropriating her images
  • looking at ART as the subject – pictures about pictures
  • interrogating where art is place/location/ where it is seen – as a subject
  • how one medium interpretes each other
  • ex. Jasper Jones – monogram bed sheets denotes class + taste (his art resists the notions of taste as an artist) –
  • how museums auction houses place the work in context of presentation, history of how it is received
  • considers a larger content – history of reception
  • how individuals relate to the perticular of the work – eye of the beholder
  • using identical images with different titles – asking the viewer how they feel – ex. Warhols round Marilyn. “Does Marilyn/Warhol make you cry”?
  • criticises the art world – in a humorous way / witty/ sly feminist work of ‘Bird calls’ – twitters names — male patrionic artist of the time.
  • modest – Lawler resisted a solo exhibition until now
  • feminist/political/anti war values – no drones, war is terror, greiving mothers
  • uses microscopic to monumental scaled to fit – willfully distorting – deconstruction s
  • twisted photogragh ” Pollyanna adjusted to fit – distorted for times – alternative facts discourse – post truth era, to fit the reality in which we live.
  • concise images – beautifully constructed
  • how lighting can distort the work / how casual art work on the floor, oppose to hanging on the wall makes us feel different
  • aesthetics of presentation and image – highly visually exciting
  • generosity towards other artists – always incorperating others into her work
  • has a direct dialogue with her photographs – reinventing them with tracings mechanical reproduction
  • the importance of the arrangement of pictures
  • multi voiceness – resonated, one or others speak together at the same time
  • Lawler talks back at you
  • reciprocated titles
  • feminist viewpoints – how we value what we see ex bird calls
  • corresponding reality – confirm, realised and released
  • “emotion of freedom” R.H.Q
  • slight shift of focus
  • change of vision – EGO POWER of a famous painting (regarding male artists of the time “Standing to the side of its circuit of influence” R.H Quaytman
  • “But does anyone know anything by comparison” L.L.
  • “Art world is a hallucination” R.H Quaytman
  • Commercial art / institutional context
  • “Human life – it’s all about the different – un-particular” L.L

Next we explore to what extent photography is neccesary in Lawlers work, the message Lawler is trying to convey, the relationship between the creative aspects of her work, relating in back to the themes time and place.

Research point — the New Topographics

Humans vs Nature

Documenting Landscapes through photography TIME/PLACE…

The American landscapes seen through the lenses of Gohlke, Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, Lewis Baltz and Nicholas Nixon shows us the beginning of change, which now looks trivial in comparison to what these places captured from the 70’s, look today.

William Jenkins, curator of a group show of American landscape, would have foreseen these images as just the beginning, knowing they would hold much value in the details they’d present in the future.  A man altered landscape which now, unfathomable, was once nature, desert, forests.

I am reminded by this where I live in HCM, a little branch of the city, which was once mangrove forests, swap land, palms and rivers. There was a similar area, just down the road, which is now sub-divided into plots for high rises. The streets are unfamiliar, only after 4 months, the dirt lanes are not pot hole ridden memories of the old route into town.

These mangrove plants were alive and well just last week, and now it’s like a grave yard of plants

I now wish I had taken more photographs to document the quick changes and expansion of concrete and infrastructure. I have a friend who has lived here for 13 years, and tells me when the area was full of villages, similar to the Mekong delta, where you could row through the waterways, sharing them with water buffalo.

I really enjoyed Mitch Epstein’s series on Vietnam, and although it was shot in the 90’s, it looks as though it was the 60’s, demonstrating, how still today, they seem to be decades behind (which is painful listening to 90’s hits such as Celine Dion, and Brian Adams).

I also really enjoyed Epstein’s series on tree in New York, which is a real comment on human’s relationship with trees, they almost take on a life of their own, the grandeur overshadowing any tiny, insignificant person.

Fay Godwin’s “Our Forbidden Land” is a beautifully shot series, acknowloging the fact that there is so much nature which is cut off from humans, fences keeping you away from views, landowners with shot guns, and gates with “KEEP OFF’ signs. Are we only allowed in parks? Why are we restircted, what harms does walking do, enjoying the world around us.  Sure there are publc bridal ways, but why there are so much we cannot see.

Any photo work which documents the past, gains value year after year. These ideas which look at humans relationship with the environment, will only become more relevent with global warming, big companies, polution, urban sprawl, and continued consumption, and discarding.

Exercise 2 — reviewing holiday snaps

  • Pick out any images that seem to give you more than just a record of place – images that take you right back there. What are the special qualities of these images? Of course, it’s impossible to isolate the technical elements of the photography from how you felt at the time, what you were doing, who you were with, but try and decide whether the images you’ve selected have anything in common.

These images are from my trip to Sapa April ’16.

When ever I take pictures, even holiday snaps, I consider the lighting, colour, composition and balance. These photos are more of a documentation of the tribal textile the Dao and H’mong practice, from the growning and spinning of hemp, to the weaving, dying and embroidery.

All of the images belong to a series, a story, so they have much in common, as to the women of the Hill Tribes in Northern Vietnam, who are living  the save traditions as their ancestors.

 

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I have asked my friend Sarah, who wasn’t there to review then to record her response;

The pictures are so colourful! The sequence really tells a story and the pics aren’t too staged which makes them feel more ‘authentic’ than normal holiday snaps. I get an idea of the whole day including the lunch you had! They really make me want to go and see the place for myself.

 

Exercise 1 – Landscape Photography

Landscape photography in a dense city such as Ho Chi Minh is a right task, unless you are in an apartment building high up, or on a bridge, or on the banks of the river where it bends.  It’s also very flat.

~Make two images of the same subject, one from afar with the telephoto setting on your camera/lens, the other from close to the subject with the widest setting on the camera/lens.

 

 

Landscape photography can feel very impersonal, without saying much about the subject matter. I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest form, unless there’s so much to photograph, you couldn’t possibly imagine capturing it all.

Exercise 4 – Photography and Time

Is photography simply providing an authentic record of the artwork – photographic evidence, or as a part of artwork itself?

You can’t have one without the other, is my answer.

To start with “documenting journeys” I believe art photography, by these photographers, Paul Graham, Robert Frank, Alec Sloth, Stephen Shores is true art. It’s not travel photography, or photo journalism, it’s a series of photographs which as a collective alongside the words of the photographer, turned into a photo book or photo essay creates something whole. You can say one photograph can’t be art, but what about a series, with accompanied words, titles, laid out in a book with balance and composition, or displayed in a gallery.  To say Robert Frank is not an artist is wrong, but perhaps to be a photographer, in the truest sense, means more than being an artist.  Why has art become elitist? Everyone uses different tools, it’s within the context of the work we should look, not at the medium.

I believe the same could be said for photo journalism, when journalists where on the front line, when they were risking their lives, and when the photos are taken in a non-documentary fashion, but in a humane one, depicting truth and realism.

The turn of the digital revolution diluted this medium in a way which can never be recovered, but instead gets worse with every new smart photo and app. I’d like to know when photography stopped being considered art, or was it ever? The arguments against are more now than ever.

It reminds me of craft vs art, or fashion vs design? Why has we got these categories which defines one from the other.  Has one side got a higher price tag than the other?

Photography is a necessary partner in land art for documentary reasons, but this doesn’t mean the artist doesn’t use this tool to manipulate the art, controlling what the viewer sees. How is that photograph then presented in form at a gallery/ museum, is it large, or small, framed, or projected. The ways of seeing change within the surrounded of that photograph.

The sequence of photography is the same, in Keith Arnatt’s Self Burial, the progression of images, slowly being deeper into the ground, can only be made sense of in a presentation of photographs, a contact sheet, a depiction of change in time.

Any art seen in a controlled environment is subject to the variable including the space, lighting, colours, words, and noise.  A photograph is not the art piece, it’s only a vessel to bring forth the whole.  The same as a photobook, it’s but a vessel to show the work, the journey, the time.

Photography and land art

Photography plays an essential roll in land art documentation, but I do not think the photography itself is the art. Land manipulation with the use of photography frames and filters would alter what/how the artist would like the viewer to see his work. The artist can choose the time of day, the weather, the lighting/colours, in order to portray the work.

I do not believe that the photograph is simply an after thought, but must be considered at the beginning of the project, with a sense of perspective, especially in Richard Long’s case, where he uses the whole landscape, including the mountains in the background, as a part of his composition.

Hamish Fulton – named as the walking Artist, uses photography in a more creative way, sometimes only to photograph the sky or ground once, with no relation to the whole landscape, only snipets of time. His strength is as a visual artists, using printed words on images.

Robert Smithson is one of the most famous land artist, Smithson’s Ways of Looking at the Land, by  Charlers Hagon on the New York times says this about his use of photography in his art:

“Smithson approached photography with a remarkable formal openness; included here are both positive and negative photostats, as well as collages and conventional prints. Photography served him primarily as a form of documentation, but this valuable exhibition makes clear how central and varied a role the medium played in his work”.

 

 

 

Hagen, Charles. “Review/Photography; Smithson’s Ways of Looking at the Land.” New York Times, 31 Dec. 1993. Academic OneFile, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=ucca&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA174725425&it=r&asid=e126a2a096d2e54944a014104c734a54. Accessed 17 Sept. 2017.