What Else It Is
June 22nd, 2018 – August 31st, 2018
Van Deren Coke
Clarence John Laughlin
Ralph Eugene Meatyard
Dodo Jin Ming
Nancy Newhall/Anni Albers
Photography’s evolution away from concrete or discrete subject matter was inevitable as it developed as an art form. Begun in the 1940’s, and flourishing during the Post War years, the Abstract Expressionist movement in painting, with its emphasis on the spontaneous and subconscious creations, took hold in America. Artists such as Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Clifford Still and Mark Rothko promoted this anti-figurative aesthetic that philosophically resonates with the tenants of the Bauhaus.
From the early 1930’s to the mid 1940’s schools in America like Black Mountain College headed by John Andrew Rice and Theodore Dreier and The New Bauhaus/Institute of Design in Chicago, headed by László Maholy-Nagy, continued their aesthetic approach that stressed the importance of design and the integration of a variety of subject areas. Teachers and students such as Anni Albers, Harry Callahan, György Kepes, Barbara Morgan, Nancy Newhall, Arthur Siegel, and Aaron Siskind, began to produce photographs with the emphasis on the design elements of shape and form, tone and texture, rather than concrete subject matter.
Alfred Stieglitz, who dedicated his life to photography’s acceptance as an art form, while promoting the works of other artists in his renowned New York galleries, was a pioneering photographer himself. From 1925 to 1934 he produced a series of photographs entitled, “Equivalents”. These 4×5 inch photographs are recognized as the first photographic images intended to be free of subject matter and literal interpretation. Many consider them to be the first completely abstract photographic works of art.
After serving in World War II Minor White moved to New York City, spending two years studying aesthetics and art history at Columbia under Meyer Shapiro. His friendship with a circle of influential photographers, including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and Walter Chappell, was instrumental in his artistic development. Hearing Stieglitz’s idea of “Equivalents” from the master himself was crucial to his post-war work and his own developing philosophies about imagery and what constitutes subject matter. His statement, “One does not photograph something simply for what it is but for what else it is” articulates his approach. His photographic works, teachings and writings, opened up a new understanding of photography as an “interpretive medium”, one capable of expressing our innermost thoughts and feelings rather than a medium for record making.
Two protégés of Minor White, Paul Caponigro and Walter Chappell, not only adapted Minor’s teachings but shared his philosophies about the mind and other levels of consciousness. This manifested in their photographic works culminating in Chappell’s development and use of electricity to produce his unique and highly regarded Metaflora photographs and the visually profound images seen and crafted by Paul Caponigro.
Numerous other photographers furthered our understanding of photography’s artistic potential, both in past and present. Approaching the medium as an interpretive one Minor White stated, “The camera records superbly, it transforms better.” Photographers such as Van Deren Coke, Clarence John Laughlin, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Dodo Jin Ming, Andres Serrano and Edmund Teske, in their images, illustrate the essence of Minor’s words.
Some of these extraordinary images on display will be familiar; others are one-of-a-kind rarely seen photographs that Scheinbaum & Russek have assembled specifically for this exhibit.