Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum, Berlin

I recently traveled to Berlin where we visited two exhibitions at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum. The first, and one of the best I've been to lately, was PACIFIC STANDARD TIME: Art in Los Angeles 1950–1980. This time and place was central to the first wave of feminism, and the exhibition included many seminal works in the women's movement. The show was divided into three parts. The first titled Crosscurrents, displayed work from over 50 artists including Judy Chicago. The most impressive piece in this section was Edward Kienholz's room installation of old fashioned radios, whose varying sounds were activated by pedals. It was most successful when multiple people were interacting with it from different parts of the room. The radios were attached to old fashioned tables by a clear glue which was poured over each one. One was in an aquarium, one was attached to a dismembered mannequin arm, and in the center there was a group set up with washboards and Nazi medals. Here the radios stood in for men while the washboards represented women during the war. The medals, which were given to women who could produce four or more children for the Nazi party, were hung over them.
The second part, titled Greetings from L. A. , was packed full of over 200 important objects, many of them from the feminist movement. Photographs from Eleanor Antin's 100 Boots were on display as well as a series of text typed on notecards by Martha Rosler.
 This part also included video, photo and text documentation of the Womanhouse project run by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro at the California Institute of the Arts Feminist Art Program.
There was so much work packed into this section that it was really hard to take it all in. One of the last pieces in this section was a room installation by Bruce Nauman in which the viewer walked around a square room with a cube of walls in the center and surveillance cameras and video screens on the corners. As the person turned the corners, they could see a glimpse of themselves if they looked back at the video screen behind them.

The third section of the exhibit was  dedicated to Julius Shulman's photographs of modernist architecture.

The second exhibition we visited was Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915–1935. It included works of the early avant-garde by El Lissitzky, Gustav Klutsis and Alexander Rodchenko among others. These works, which were revolutionary in the world of visual arts also held great influence over the Russian revolution.
This exhibition also discussed the innovative town planning and communal housing at the time. This was displayed through vintage photographs as well as beautiful photographs taken by Richard Pare in 1993 of the decaying buildings.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Young German Photographers and the EPEA

Two new photo shows opened recently at Hamburg's Deichtorhallen. The first was Young German Photography, an annual competition for graduate students final year projects. Seven were chosen and there was quite a range of approaches.

Miriam Schwedt exhibited a series of lithographs.
These images were so beautiful in their quality of light and subject matter, I thought the rising tides looked like mountaintops. There were a few images of construction machinery which I felt could have been left out as they didn't fit with the rest of her work.

Luise Schröder had an interesting approach and she displayed a video of her process. She laid out a pile of old photo books and subjected them to the four elements, water, fire, wind and earth.
 From the debris she created images that looked like this.
The pictures were large scale, which meant the original images were blown up to many times their original size, losing image quality. I would have preferred smaller images, or perhaps framed bits of the debris. The transition to digital reproductions could, however be a comment on how the digital world is a fifth element.

Sara-Lena Maierhofer did a series exploring the phenomenon of the imposter. She analyzed the identity of the con artist Clark Rockefeller through unexpected photographic journey. Here are some of her findings.

The other work was less interesting to me, but I was impressed to see that five of the seven photographers were women.You can see more work from this and past exhibitions here.

The second show was the European Photography Exhibition Awards. The organization appointed twelve photographers to create work concerned with “European Identities”, providing them with grants and photography workshops to aid in creating the photo essays. 

Gabriele Croppi's created surreal scenes of a past era in his stark black and white architectural photographs.
Hannah Modigh's eloquent series on adolescence showed awkward and private moments of young adult lives. It was very personal and raw, but her soft colors and the lush surface of the papers she printed on gave it a nostalgic aura.
Marie Sjøvold's subject was motherhood and she explored the altered world view which a woman with a newborn child experiences.